Monday Montage: Maiden Voyage

I have been thinking for a while now that I would like to add another day to my scheduled blog posts. The problem was that I couldn’t decide on what I should do with it. Then the other day, I was out and about and I started texting my Mom pictures of the things I saw as I went about my day. The pictures I sent her were not of tourist attractions or monuments, they weren’t even that clear, they were just blurry idea’s of what I was seeing at that moment. I realized that I wanted people to see what I see normally while we are traveling, not just the “sights”.

I am hoping that this will this give you, my wonderful readers, a chance to see more of what I see of the places we go. My photography skills leave much to be desired at this point, but bear with me, a by-product of the Monday Montage will be that it will make me take more pictures every day and because of that hopefully my smartphone photography will improve.

So here it is, the maiden voyage of Monday Montage. I hope that you enjoy seeing our journey as well as reading about it on Wednesday and Friday. Thanks again for following along on our adventures!

Our neighborhood park

Our neighborhood park

Wuxing Street on a rainy day

Wuxing Street on a rainy day

My favorite breakfast place down the street from our house. These ladies make the best cheese dan bing (a savory crepe, a slice of american cheese and an egg rolled up and covered in miso syrup) around.

My favorite breakfast place down the street from our house. These ladies make the best cheese dan bing (a savory crepe, a slice of american cheese and an egg rolled up and covered in miso syrup) around.

An advertisment I saw while walking. Did you know that everyone shops here while wearing pink wigs?... Neither did I!

An advertisment I saw while walking. Did you know that everyone shops here while wearing pink wigs?… Neither did I!

The Core Pacific Living Mall at night

The Core Pacific Living Mall at night

The Best Way to Cool Down: Taipei Water Park

We have been blessed with wonderfully hot days since we have landed in Taiwan. If you have read some of my earlier posts, you would know that this is the kind of weather we were looking forward to for our whole trip. I love hot weather, either humid or dry, and my body craves the sunshine. I am a much nicer person when I am getting my Vitamin D naturally from the sun.

One of the reasons that we love hot weather, is that we love to cool down in the water. I personally am not the most adventurous in the water sport area, but I love laying in the sun and being able to enjoy a cool dip to cool off when needed. Chad and Zoë and true water people, they would do anything and everything in the water. I am glad that they have each other to run around with while I work on my tan.

The best place that we have found in Taipei to have fun in the water and sun is Taipei Water Park. Costing only 50 NTD per adult during the period from September 1 to June 30 (during the summer it is 80 NTD) it is by far the cheapest water park I have ever been to. And because of this, we don’t mind going more than once a week when the desire hits us.

Zoë is Ready to Go Swimming!

Zoë is ready to go swimming!

Just a side note: I would highly recommend heading to the park on a weekday unless you want to share the pools with a million… ok, more likely, hundreds of kids and their parents.

We always start out in the wading pool that is located right as you walk in the entrance. Basically it is two fountains, one shaped like a gigantic birthday cake and the other a massive stone hill looking thing, connected by a shallow pool. Z loves to play in the water and we just watch her as the water is pretty shallow, her favorite things to do are steal other kids toys and walk around the birthday cake.

The Birthday Cake Fountain

The Birthday Cake Fountain

The Stone HIll Fountain

The Stone HIll Fountain

Once we have tired of returning toys that Z has scavenged to the correct kids, we head to the “Water Country Park” or what I call the Double Dare pool.

For those of you who have no idea what I mean by Double Dare, it was a television game show for kids on Nickelodeon that ended with an amazing and messy obstacle course. I always wanted to be on that show… it was so awesome looking.

The Water Country Park area looks like a water obstacle course. The numerous slides and huge jets of water shooting from all over make it very wet and, in my opinion, a little overwhelming. I think that means that I probably would have lost if I had been on Double Dare, so maybe it is a good thing I never competed in it. Chad and Zoë love this pool, although Z is a little reticent of going down the slides. The whole pool is pretty shallow at about 2 feet deep so it is pretty safe for toddlers on up to us old young adults.

Water Country Park, or as I call it Double Dare Pool

Water Country Park, or as I call it Double Dare Pool

If your kids get sick of the pools, there is also a playground. It has a water system so there are sprinklers going all the time above the equipment and from the ground as well. It is a fabulous way for kids to play and stay cool in the summer heat. I kind of wish all playgrounds had this option in the summer.

Chad and Zoë saying hi from a tunnel at the playground

Chad and Zoë saying hi from a tunnel at the playground

I know that I have concentrated a lot on what the park has to offer for the children, but there is tons for adults to do, too.

For one thing, you can sunbathe near the Double Dare pool, I saw a couple of girls doing that the other day. I wish I would have known about the park when we lived here before. Not only can you sunbathe all day long for cheap, but they have lockers, bathrooms with showers, and most importantly a snack bar. The snack bar also has live music (or so their sign says) and serves all sorts of beverages (yes, I also mean beverages with alcohol). It could be quite the hang out actually.

If you are into learning about the history of the water system in Taiwan, you can go to the water museum, which I honestly have not had a chance to see yet, but seems pretty cool from what I have read.

And if you are into photography, or want to have pictures taken of you, there are tons of beautiful areas that would be a perfect backdrop.

Not the best picture, but there are tons of pretty spots in the park

Not the best picture, but there are tons of pretty spots in the park

Taipei Water Park is a great place for everyone. I would highly recommend spending a day there whether you are visiting Taipei or staying for a while. It really is the best place to cool day on a hot day.

P.S. This upcoming Monday (9/30/2013) will be the first post of my Monday Montage (cue “Eye of The Tiger”). Make sure to check in or follow so you don’t miss it!

Wednesday Write-Up: Perspective Plays a Part

Last night my good friend and I were walking around Da-an Park here in Taipei. We were chatting about our experiences living here, she has lived here for 8 years and has really made it her home. I brought up how different it was this time around for me. I told her that I hated living here for a good portion of the time we were here. I mentioned how I used to think that the locals were always rude and I would glare at them for staring at the “fat foreigner”. Yes, that “fat foreigner” was me…well that was the way that I saw myself. And this time around, I feel warmth and curiosity coming from the same stares. I have had people go out of their way to help me and make me feel at home here. How different this time in Taipei has been.

She made the point that the way we feel about ourselves affects our perspective while living in a foreign country. That living somewhere where we are alone and have no safe familiar places leaves us open to our insecurities (these are not her exact words as my memory leaves much to be desired, but the overall meaning of what she said).

This really hit home for me and I think can be useful no matter where we live, but especially while traveling, our perspective about ourselves can make or break a place. My insecurities almost ruined Taipei for me last time, I thought everyone was talking about me, making fun of me, or just plain wanted me to go back to where I came from. As this time around proves, that was all in my own head. I have been shown nothing but kindness and generosity for the Taiwanese this time around. And even if someone says something to me that would be considered rude by western standards (like the lady that told me my tattoos were poison and that’s why the Bible says they are a sin) I am able to handle it with confidence and with grace. These remarks are culturally driven, not a sign of disliking me (or so I hope.)

I admit that there have been some times along this trip, where my anxiety gets the better of me and I worry that I have offended someone with my brash american ways. I have had mini panic attacks about how much to tip a server, or if not giving the european air kiss to each cheek made the other person feel awkward. Chad often shakes his head at the way I over-think sometimes. I am still susceptible to the cultural difference insecurities, but have not found myself falling into the “I Hate Myself and Everyone Else Has To Hate Me Too” mode. This is one of the reasons that I have met some wonderful people along our trip and have been able to truly experience the places we have visited.

So the moral to this post I guess, is try not to let your unhappiness with the way you look or feel about yourself ruin your travels (or daily life for that matter). Your perspective changes everything! I know that my saying “change your attitude about yourself” is so easy to write and extremely difficult to actually do. I honestly do not have a cure-all for how to gain more confidence. The only thing I can attribute my ability to see myself in a better light, is knowing that God loves me and has washed me clean. If I am worthy of His love, than does it really matter how the people of the world see me? I realize that not all of you have a relationship with God, and if you choose not to believe, then I still have faith that you can find a way to accept and love who you are. I simply wanted to share what has changed me.

So while you are traveling, whether it is for a day, week, month or indefinitely, try to remember that what you put out there, you will get back. Your mind is powerful and has the ability to change a place. Have confidence in yourself and the places you go will open up for you.

 

P.S. Starting Monday 9/30/2013, I will be adding another weekly post on And Three To Go! I am so excited! Make sure to follow so you get the Monday, Wednesday, and Friday posts.  

Keelung Night Market: Not Recommended for Toddlers

Disclaimer: I do not consider myself someone who caters to her child. Of course, there have been changes to the way I live since having my little bundle of joy, but I strive to continue my life as it was. There are very few things that I feel are not suitable for me to bring Zoë to (hence this trip of ours). An example of something I would not include Z in would be taking her to the movie theater, I would probably be unable to pay close attention to the whole film, so why waste the money. Another example would be taking her to a dance club, it’s just not easy to dance well while holding a toddler, although at least the loud music would cover the sound of any tantrum she may throw. May have to reconsider that one… Regardless please remember this as you read the post.

On Monday, we decided to check out the Keelung Miakou Night Market. It was a particularly hot day in Taipei and we thought that Keelung, a town just northwest of Taipei, would be cooler. We also wanted to experience more of Taiwan and Keelung is close and relatively easy to attempt without prior planning.

In all honesty, I was unaware that there was a famous night market in Keelung until we recently watched an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s show “The Layover” that highlighted it as the best night market in the Taipei area. I had high hopes for this epicenter of Taiwanese street food.

We hopped on the train at Taipei Main Station that ends in Keelung. The tickets cost about 40 NTD and they have trains leaving every 15-20 minutes.

Be aware-there is a train that goes to another destination that says it stops in Keelung, but actually passes it and you will end up on the train for 6 hours or so instead of 40 minutes. The correct train will be the one that has it’s final stop in Keelung.

Keelung is a port town, and quite often there is a cruise ship in town filled with mainland Chinese people ready to experience Taiwan. What this means is that Keelung is a tourist mecca, they are set up and prepared for an influx of tourists at any moment. The night market is no different, that is if you are used to massive amounts of people squished in a small street. Personal space is truly a foreign concept.

We arrived and made our way towards the Miakou Night Market. It was a 15-20 minute walk from the station straight down the road the station lets out on and is on the right. It was impossible to miss. The smells, sights, and sounds were overwhelming. There was every type of Taiwanese street food that I could think of. We walked through it all once slowly, taking it all in, traversing as best we could through the crowds. Then we turned around and decided to try some of the food offered.

Anthony Bourdain ate food from this stall, and the line proved it!

Anthony Bourdain ate food from this stall, and the long line proved it!

One of the food stalls at Keelung Night Market

One of the food stalls at Keelung Night Market

We started with a famous Taiwanese dish, the oyster omelette. The omelette’s are made with canned shelled oysters, eggs, and tapioca starch and covered in a ketchup type sauce. Chad and I sat down and dug in, but neither of us could finish it. The texture was slimy, and was actually rather tasteless. It is not often that I am unable to power through a plate of food, but this dish left me feeling a little nauseous. We decided after that to go with things we knew and also things that could be easily carried as I wanted to get out of there. The crowds, the heat, and having a toddler with us just got the best of me.

Zoë and I making our way through the crowd

Zoë and I making our way through the crowd

There are always a couple of options that parents have to take their children places. The child can walk, ride (usually in a stroller), or be carried.

Letting Zoë walk could have easily been disastrous, people did not look where they were going, but at what was around them. She could easily have gotten trampled and hurt, if not worse. Also, the people were very excited to see a child with blue eyes and blonde curly hair, and we could have easily lost her in a crowd of people that mobbed her to take her picture.

Using a stroller would have been impractical, if not impossible. That is unless Humvee makes a stroller/tank that could part crowds of people in its way. (Not a bad idea actually, maybe I should contact Humvee…)

Carrying a 30 plus pound squirming child is like carrying a large heat blanket meant to test your patience, fortitude, and strength. It is like Navy SEAL Hell Week… or so I’ve heard. It is easier when done for a short period of time, and it helps when it is not 90 degrees outside.

We carried Z. Between the heat, the people crowding to take her picture, and the constant pressure of thousands of humans surrounding me, I couldn’t take it. I got a little cranky. Lucky for me, Chad is an understanding husband, and we left the market.

On our way back to the train station we stopped at a large pier with a bunch of wooden sculptures that apparently were slides according to all the children in the area. We let Z run around and play. She had a blast, there is nothing so wonderful than seeing her smile, play and laugh. That was the highlight of my evening in Keelung.

Her smiling face always makes me happy

Her smiling face always makes me happy

So my advice to the parents out there that want to see the Miakou Night Market in Keelung is to get a babysitter. Go by yourselves, sans kid(s), and join the crowds, eat the street food, and enjoy the experience. It is embarrassing to say that I had to throw up my hands in defeat and walk away from this, but I feel that I need to be completely honest about all that we do on our travels. Even if I fail at being able to be the best traveler and am just me.

To the parents out there that have achieved super-parent status and have enjoyed taking your small child(ren) to the Keelung Miakou market, my hat is off to you. And if you want to leave hints and help on how to make it more child accessible, please leave it in the comments. I may be just stubborn enough to try it again.

Wednesday Write-Up: And Now a Post about Nothing In Particular

I do not know why I am having a hard time knowing what to write today. I have plenty to write about this week, but choosing just one thing is not working for my brain. Maybe it is the fact that for some reason, Zoë woke up two times last night thinking it was morning and wanting to play, and I am tired. Maybe it is because I am over-thinking it. Maybe it’s because it is raining outside and that automatically makes me lazier. Where are you sunshine!?!?
All these excuses reasons aside, I have decided to do what is easiest for me and just tell you what is new and exciting in my life here in Taipei. Why choose one subject, when I can inundate enlighten you with everything I have been enjoying!
Three weeks ago I started attending Bible Study Fellowship here in Taipei. I joined the study back in California a couple of years ago, and have loved the time with other women of faith, as well as the opportunity to learn more about my God and His Word. The current study is of the book of Matthew and so far I am finding it fascinating. It is such a trip for me to be able to continue participating in BSF while I am here in Taipei.
This week is the Mid-Autumn Festival here in Taiwan, so everyone has a four day weekend starting tomorrow. This doesn’t really affect Chad and I, except that more of our friends are available to hang out. Hooray!
I am very excited for tomorrow night because we are going to have dinner with a family that I have been wanting to see since we arrived here. I gave Angela and Andy private english lessons when we lived here five years ago and grew close with their whole family. I have kept in contact with them through Facebook and I am ecstatic to be able to see them again!
Chad and I have been scouring the internet to find an inexpensive flight to get to Thailand. It turns out the price of flights to Bangkok have increased since we were here last, who would have thought… Anyways, I am getting excited to be in Thailand again. Mostly, I am drooling in anticipation of the excellent food there… and of course the beauty of the landscape, the friendly locals, and the wonderful shopping are a plus, too. Food always comes first, am I right?
Despite my anticipation for what is to come, I will be sad to leave our friends and everything else that makes Taiwan so wonderful. But I have another month here to enjoy, so I am taking every advantage. I wonder if Chad would agree that I should have girls nights out every other night? Hmmm…

We need your help! We are considering Hua Hin, Thailand for a place to settle for a few months. Have any of you been there before, or know someone that has? I have read up on it on the internet, but getting information from someone you know is worth its weight in gold! Or if there is anywhere else that you think is a must-see please leave a comment and let us know why! Thanks!

Tamsui Terrific

When the weather report in Taipei says that there will be no rain, you learn to take advantage. This time of year (ok, any time of year really) there is a chance that you will have rain for days on end. Last Monday was one of those days for us.

Chad had the fabulous idea to take the trip to Tamsui (formerly known as Danshui) on what turned out to be a beautiful, sunny day with temperatures of about 88º F and low humidity. It was perfect!

Chad, Zoë, and I hopped on the metro and within 45 minutes we alighted in Tamsui. This lovely town is easily reached by taking the red metro line to the Tamsui stop (it’s the terminal stop in that direction).

Tamsui has a diverse and interesting history which includes being controlled by the Portuguese, Dutch, and the French in the 17th and 18th centuries. You can see remnants of the different cultures in the architecture of many of the buildings.

We walked out of the metro station and took an immediate left into the tourist area of the town. The roads and alleys in that area are all one outdoor market lined with street food, carnival type game booths, little shops with souvenirs and novelties, and tea stands. We walked into one of the alleys and immediately noticed that one of the children’s clothing stands looked as though they rented out strollers that looked like the Little Tykes car. We decided to rent Z one, what a great way to entertain a two year old while walking around! Not only did Z love love love it, but it only cost 100NTD (under $4 US) for the WHOLE DAY!!! Back home you can’t even rent a stroller at the mall for less than $5 US. The whole afternoon and evening, Z “drove” her car and was actually happy to be contained.

Happy Girl Driving Her Car

Happy Girl Driving Her Car

We walked and Zoë drove down the walking path down the river and came upon the ferry that has routes to Tamsui Fishermans Wharf and Bali. We decided to take it to the fishermans wharf instead of walking (walking takes about 45 minutes). The ferry is a large speed boat, costs 75 NTD a person to get to the wharf (15 NTD for Zoë, but only on the way back for some reason), and we were able to take Zz’s car with us. 

We arrived at the dock near a fantastic looking walking bridge called the “Lovers Bridge.” There were a couple of restaurants with outdoor seating along the pier and then we came upon a strange looking arcade called “Bubble Sea World”. We decided to stop so Chad and I could play some games Z could try out some of the arcade games. She ran around for a bit and when we made to leave the teenage guy working there gave Zoë a little 2013 planner book. She was so excited and got right in her car to read it while she drove. We are training her to be a safe driver already.

Playing Whack-A-Mole Photo By Jennifer Mitchell

Playing Whack-A-Mole
(c) andthreetogo

Playing the Drums

Playing the Drums
(c) andthreetogo

We made our way over the Lovers bridge and walked through a little building that had kiosks selling dried fruit, iron eggs, and other Taiwanese fare. There is a large park on that side of the bridge, but we didn’t see a playground so decided to just head back to the ferry and go get some dinner.

Lovers Bridge

Lovers Bridge

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We took the ferry back and walked around the market running through all the alleys in the area. We decided to eat at a chain restaurant called “Easy House” because Zoë wanted french fries. After her being sick and having the seizure, and because she was being so good driving her car around that whole day, we were admittedly spoiling her a lot little bit.

Easy House  has numerous locations through Taipei. As we went to order from their diverse menu, we realized that they are a vegetarian restaurant. I love that Taiwan has so many options for vegetarians. I myself am not one, but I usually go without meat in my meals and enjoy the creativity that goes into vegetarian/vegan food. Chad and I ordered a fried sampler platter (obviously we were spoiling ourselves too) and an amazing veggie burger. The EZ Burger was not just a normal veggie burger, it was a soft fresh bun stacked with two fried eggs, two burgers, two different types of lettuce, cheese, tomatoes and a sauce that was downright delicious. The thing must have been 8 inches tall! Chad and I split it and we all left feeling full and satisfied.

After dinner, Zz hopped back into her car and we made our way back to the metro station. We took our time and enjoyed the fact that we were finally at a market at night. We stopped along the way and Chad won Z a toy shooting balloons. We went and bought some souvenirs for friends back home. It is hard to describe the fun and free feeling of walking down an alley lit by neon and fluorescent lights, past all the people selling their wares, and their voices yelling at you to come see what they have for you in Mandarin. It is almost overwhelming all that you can see, eat, drink, and buy. At night it just feels amplified and surreal.

We returned the car stroller with just a little fuss from Z and hopped back on the metro to go home.

Spending the day in Tamsui made us feel like we were traveling again. Being in Taipei so far has been like being back home for us, so doing something like taking an afternoon to see the sights reminded us what we are doing and why we are doing it. We are on an amazing journey to see the world. I am excited for all the travels to come and being able to share them with you. 

Wednesday Write-Up: Who’s Afraid of Heights?

We are back in the travel mode and are taking every opportunity to explore our surroundings while we are still staying in Taipei. Yesterday we decided to take the afternoon and check out Maokong. Maokong is a suburb of Taipei, set … Continue reading

Birthday Greetings

So Friday (today in the US, yesterday here in Taiwan) was my 34th birthday and I admit, I have been remiss about writing my blog post. Chad and Zoë have showered me with attention and many meals at wonderful places (because honestly is there anything better for a birthday then good food?). 

We are now on our way out for a dinner with our friends here in Taipei. I will have to tell you all about our trip to Tamsui in next Fridays post. I promise, barring some sort of emergency (God forbid) I will not put another post off for a long time. 

Have a great day all! Thanks again for reading and sharing in our lives and our journey!

The Best Bookstore For Kids in Taipei

I have been to many bookstores in my lifetime. I love to read and now that I have a daughter, I love reading to her. I strive to have many books for her to choose from, although she usually sticks to the same one over and over and over…

When we lived here before, Eslite bookstore (Store website in Chinese here or information in English here) was a place where we could find hundreds, if not thousands of English books, which was unlike any other bookstore that we found in the city. I was excited to take Zoë to the childrens section to check it out, so she and I ventured there last week.

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(c) andthreetogo

Eslite has over 40 stores now in Taiwan and was the first 24 hour bookstore in Taiwan at their Dunhua Road, Taipei location. Z and I took the metro to the Taipei City Hall stop (on the blue line) and walked a few minutes to the entrance of the Eslite building. This branch, the Xinyi branch, is now their flagship building and boasts of 8000 m2 of shopping, food counters, and of course their bookstore.

We entered the building and walked through the high-end clothing sellers and went up the escalators to the 4th floor, which is where the children’s area is.

The wonderful thing about the Eslite building is that each floor has the same kind of vendors, so finding something like a specialty soap is easy because you can choose from numerous shops selling that product on the same floor.

The floor with the childrens books also houses all the vendors for child appropriate crafts, toys, and baby supplies. Once you get off on this floor with your child, be prepared to run after them. There was so many products that Z wanted to take home and crafts that she, ok, I wanted to do.

After running around the shops for a while, Z and I made our way into the book area. The layout is organized and decorated well. I unfortunately do not have pictures of this part as photos are not allowed (per a large sign as you enter the area).

There is a small section of English books, as well as toys, crafts, and art supplies. Many parents and grandparents were just sitting and reading to their children or grandchildren. Zoë and I also sat and read a couple of books and then we looked around at the crafts and art supplies.

Reading By Herself Photo Taken By Jennifer Mitchell

Reading By Herself
(c) andthreetogo

The products that they offered are often American or from another western country and are well made and the price shows it. I did find a clearance area though that had many learning tools, books, and puzzles for reasonable prices.

An amenity that makes this floor of the building amazing for parents, is that they have a breastfeeding and baby changing area. It is clean and has a water cooler for formula, a hand washing station with specialty soaps and lotions, high chairs, private breastfeeding rooms and a diaper changing area. This is worth its weight in gold. As we have traveled a nice diaper changing area has been hard to find, so I practically cried with joy that I didn’t have to change Z’s poopy diaper while she stood in a dirty toilet stall.

Not the Best Picture, But the Best Baby Changing Area I Have Found in Taipei Photo Taken by Jennifer Mitchell

Not the Best Picture, But the Best Baby Changing Area I Have Found in Taipei
(c) andthreetogo

Zoë and I had a wonderful time together at Eslite Bookstore and I hope to take her back again soon to make some of the painted pottery, or read some more books to her. It is a great way to spend time with your little one, especially if you want to keep them out of the heat. It was another wonderful mommy-daughter day thanks to Eslite!

Wednesday Write-Up: Playing Catch Up

Today I am writing two posts. I know it is insane (seriously, don’t try this at home), but I have been given a day to catch up with you all and I am taking it!

It has truly been some stressful and trying few weeks and I am happy to announce that Zoë and I are both on the mend and doing well. (You can read the full details about what happened to me here, and to Zoë here, if you haven’t already)

Zoë has been fever free since Saturday and my tailbone is just a bit sore still. Huzzah!!!

Honestly though, I don’t even care about my tailbone, I could be walking around on an un-casted broken leg and not notice. I am just incredibly thankful that Z is healed and seems unaffected by her seizure.

Life has pretty much resumed to normal, except that we are on an island called Taiwan and are on a long-term trip through the world! Chad and I are able to now start planning what to do next and where to go. There is such excitement in finding a place to visit that looks perfect. I think we may have found that in Thailand! We are planning on checking it out this month (more details to come on that).

We also have decided to really start using our time here in Taiwan wisely and seeing and doing all that we can before we leave here in October or November. This past few weeks has prompted us to move again if anything else. And that just goes to show you, that there are silver linings and all that cliché crap wisdom.

I will fill you all in as our plans seem more set, but until then, I am off to write my second post today. Make sure to read it!

P.S. Thank you again for all your prayers and good thoughts for Z and I!