On wishes

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Growing up, my dad took great pride in his lawn care.  He still does.  There is lime involved, and spraying of things, and a particular pattern of mowing. Blowing the seeds off of dandelions was discouraged.  I used to think that the way folks take care of their lawn said something about them.  Now that we have three kids and a busy schedule, I’m not nearly so judgey!

There’s this house we drive past sometimes, and their yard is filled with dandelions.  Lots of random things are setting out in their yard and it’s not often maintained.  On my best days, I wonder about what their life is like-how many kids they have, how the parents are fairing, what difficulties they’re facing.  On my very human days, I don’t think so charitably.

On our most recent trip past this house, my thoughts were on the less charitable side.  The dandelions had turned white with seeds and the lawn looked nearly snow-covered.  And then from the back seat our youngest exclaimed, “Mom!  Just LOOK at all those WISHES!  I would LOVE if that was my yard!  I would wish and wish and wish!”

Sometimes we need our kiddos to challenge our perception and our perspective.  Where I crave order, they often crave beauty and whimsy.  When I see dandelions now, I see them through a different lens.

On the nearness of summertime

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Well, we are at the most wonderful time of the year.  I can smell summer vacation and I am like a hound dog after a rabbit.  But that rabbit, man.  There are so many things between me and it.  I also know that while the rabbit will be awesome, there will be some work once it comes.  I have been desiring to pace out my housework and be sure to allow myself downtime because once summer is here, aloneness will be a thing of the past.  And if you know me, you know I tend to pace my housework out pretty well to begin with so… Let’s just say that in order to motivate myself to run the sweeper today I put my coffee cup on the other side of the kitchen and worked my way to it.  I also told myself I could only write and do my study time AFTER all of the work was accomplished.  You would think that time spent with God would motivate a body but with the way my mind works, it just makes me want to sit and not move from the spot and dwell in that place.  But here I am so we know the laundry is going and the floors and clean and so are the dishes.

Last night our middle daughter declared to us that she has her prom outfit planned.  There will be a three yard long white train, substantial heels (8 inch), and a red velvet carpet.  There was a reenactment down to the exiting of the limo (of course) and the entrance to the prom itself.  It was glorious.  Our youngest daughter is planning on being a rock star right now and as I was organizing her closet, she informed me of the show she has planned out.  It is fairly impressive- above mentioned middle sister will be descending on a wire while our baby wears silver sequins and belts out “This Is Amazing Grace” and also “I Just Wanna Be Me,” an original tune penned by the sisters.  She wrapped up her vision casting by saying, “Mom, do you think I can do this?  Can I weally, weally be a wock star?”  I just old her it was a lot of work and it would be neat if she could be.  If the dream needs crushed, we can do that a little later.

Our oldest girl is falling more and more in love with reading and I cannot even tell you how much this thrills me.  She’s currently reading The Giver and last night she didn’t want to put it down to go to bed.  She struggled with reading, but in 4th grade it all clicked for her.  We cyber-schooled her that year and the first book assignment they gave was Because of Winn Dixie.  That was the book that did it.  Now I’m trying not to be too eager with all of the other books I had set aside for her, but she does currently have the Little House series and a set of Newberry books next to her bed.  I’m hopeful that this will be something that occupies her over the summer.

Here we go, friends.  That wascally wabbit of summertime is right around the corner.  I cannot wait.  How about you?

On the year that was this week

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Oh my gracious.  I know we have all been in this place.  It is the weekend and when I look back at the beginning of the week I feel like I am looking at my very own toddler years because that’s how long ago it seems.

Our oldest hurt her knee in a soccer game last week on Friday and by Sunday night I had made up my mind to get her to the doctor on Monday morning.  Then our middle girl woke up clutching her ear on Monday morning and she got to come along for the ride.  An ear flush and some antibiotics for her, plus a day with my mom since I had to take the other child to an orthopedic clinic for what our family doctor thought to be a MENISCAL TEAR.  Thank the Lord it wasn’t that-just some ligament or tendon that attaches something to something that was strained and inflamed.  It still hurts but rest and ice is all it needs.  Which is good, because this particular child needs to be active and a long recovery time from anything would have possibly sent me over.the.edge.

It just sort of set the tone for my week, though.  The month of May is basically me in a state of panic feeling like I forgot a field trip/permission slip/class party that will now ruin my child’s life.  Jon Acuff recently tweeted that “May is sneaky busier than December,” and I absolutely agree.  It’s killin’ me, smalls.  I am the parent who would love to keep all of the children home for the rest of the school year and skip all of the end of year stuff.  It may come as no surprise to you that I was in the top 3 for “biggest case of senioritis” my graduating year of high school.

Then I wrote this blog post on infertility and Mother’s Day and it took off and while I love it, it’s also kind of scary to have your words out there for so many to see.  My hope in sharing my story at all is that readers will see that there has been a beautiful healing and strength brought by Jesus and that He would be greater in any of it than me.  I will still be celebrating my mom this Sunday because she’s put up with enough crap from me and deserves it!  (see: breakups, Alaska trip, and ages 12-22)

Also, friends-here’s our reminder that we need to give ourselves a mess of grace and know that our kids make their own choices.  I know there’s a momma reading this who is up to her ears and over her head with at least one of her darlings.  Take care of yourselves.  We ALL want do-overs, we ALL want a very specific ending, but just do the next right thing.  That’s it.  Baby step it, just like Dr. Leo Marvin would commend you to do.

The weekend holds soccer and sub delivery and lots of rain, apparently.  We kicked it off with our 5 year old daughter’s soccer game, where she dribbled the length of the field and knocked some sweet boy over who stood in her way.  Not even a glance over her shoulder and she headed towards the goal.  We roasted marshmallows around the campfire and hung out in the hammock and did other soccer-y things in the backyard and our oldest baked cookies.  It was all very idyllic until one of our daughters got smacked in the face with a flaming marshmallow. I became supermom by breaking a piece of our aloe plant off and applying it to the burn victim. (Moms, if you do nothing else this week-get yourself an aloe plant.  Because when you use it, your children will be in AWE.)

That’s all from over here.  I hope you have a fantastic weekend filled to the brim with family and non-flaming marshmallows and whatever fills your hearts up to the top.

On Mother’s Day and infertility

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I want to share a bit of my story here, because it’s Mother’s Day week.  This week is a messy week for a lot of women-we are all either a mother, a daughter, or both… and those are complicated labels to wear.  My husband and I spent a few years trying to get pregnant.  I charted my temperatures and knew when I was ovulating and we saw a specialist.  We are a case of unexplained infertility.

Apparently, right around the time a woman gets engaged (at least in church circles), every other woman (and lots of men) feel as though they have the right to know when you are planning on having babies.  After fielding these questions for a few years, I just started saying, “Well, we’re trying!”  That was an awkward answer, but it’s an awkward question.  Making babies and having babies? It’s a pretty personal thing.

I received tip after tip on how to get pregnant and stay pregnant from many well-meaning people.  People who were not invited in any way to speak into my life began telling me how often to have sex, when to have sex, and many things that I will not write here because they would make you straight up BLUSH-and lots of these things came up at family functions or in the church lobby.  For the most part, I was able to process these through the “I know they care about us” lens but there were times…

The thing that was the hardest and hurt the most was being told we didn’t have enough faith, or that there was a sin that needed to be unearthed and repented of in order for my womb to produce life.  NOPE.  No thank you.  I am no longer here for that, but I was for too long and I’ll tell you that it messed with my heart and my head for a long time.

There are a lot of women who have gone a lot further in the fertility process than I did.  My husband and I always wanted to adopt and knew that we were going to, and we never wanted our future children to feel like they were a last option.  My moment of truth came when I was laying on a cold stainless table in a scratchy gown and having dye injected into my ovaries.  It was awful and there were issues and the doctor told me we could stop.  I felt like every ounce of responsibility for bearing children was on me and I did not want to disappoint my husband.  But he leaned over me and said, “Laura, this is your body.  You do NOT have to do this.”  He could have said so many things, he could have hesitated, he could have looked disappointed, but he didn’t-he looked like he loved me and he trusted me and it gave me what I needed to say no more.  We held hands on the way to the parking garage after that, and decided to pursue adoption.

We had a private domestic adoption that failed-from a phone call to buying supplies to tears because the baby’s extended family stepped in to parent-all in a week or two. That was another kind of pain. We started the foster care process after that and the rest is history.

So, if you’re reading this and you have babies I would ask this of you…before you offer advice to others on how or when they should have babies, check yourself.  Is your desire to be helpful truly rooted in looking out for the best interest of another?  Why do you feel it so important for your timeline to be the one that is followed?  I’m saying this in great love-but please know that you can trust God with the women in your life.  Pray for them. When you’re at a baby shower, be aware of the women who are seem too quiet or uncomfortable.  Sit with them and talk about something other than babies.  And if they look near tears, help them find a way out.  Or at least offer another cupcake or SOMETHING.

If you’re reading this, and you are not able to conceive I want you to know this: You are a fully formed human being who has great worth and value because you bear the image of God.  Your worth and value as a woman is not determined by your ability or inability to get pregnant.  I am sorry for your pain.  I know this pain-the comparison, the announcements you sit through, the baby showers you attend, the times when everyone is passing the baby and you just want to skip it.  You are not a terrible person.  There is healing to be brought for your hurt.  It is a process, and sometimes a long one.  I’m praying you are able to be honest with God about how much it hurts and walk that pain out of the darkness and into the light.  I’m not telling you this to rush you, merely to offer some hope. For those of you who have experienced miscarriage or stillbirths, I cannot speak into your pain-I have not felt this-but my heart is greatly moved towards you and I am so, so sorry for how hard this is.

As with any other day of the year, Mother’s Day has a mess of tangled emotions associated with it.  Let’s do our best to be aware of each other and offer more kindness (which many times means less words).  Jesus sits with the brokenhearted so that they may be made whole-may we do the same.

 

on why we shouldn’t be colorblind

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I want to share an experience with you that changed me.

A while back, some adventurous friends of ours asked my husband and I if we wanted to go out for dinner with them.  We said yes.  The night of the dinner, our friend told us we were going to eat at a great middle eastern place that had super high ratings on Yelp.  We were looking forward to this time out with friends, and some great new food.  We drove down near Philly and found the spot, a tiny little place tucked into the bottom of a tower of condos.  I should mention, this was around the time the tensions over allowing Syrian refugees into the US was really heating up.

The four of us walked in to the restaurant and I quickly realized we were the only white people present.  The front dining room was full of men and women dressed in traditional Muslim garb, and some dressed in more western style clothes.  It felt like all eyes were on us as we walked through the entire dining room to a back room, where we were seated. I believe there were a few empty tables in the front, but we were not seated there.

Our server was a very kind young woman who turned out to be the daughter of the chef, who turned out to be the owner of the restaurant, who turned out to be a man who immigrated from Syria many years ago.  The food was amazing, and hearing the stories from the owner and his daughter were my favorite part.  I am so grateful they shared a little of themselves with us that night.

I hear the statement so often, “I’m raising my kids to be colorblind.”  Or, “When I look at him/her, I don’t see color.  I just see a person.”  And with respect, I would like to submit that being colorblind is a.) not something anyone is really capable of and b.) it is not what God intended.

The life experience of a black woman in America is different than that of a white woman.  And if I deny her blackness, I deny who God has made her to be.  The life experience of a Syrian woman is different than mine.  I cannot deny that, it is who she is.  I can see the inherent worth in each and every human, created by God in the image of God.  Each image bearer has a unique life experience, and many times the color of someone’s skin dictates this.

What we do when we say we are colorblind is avoid the issue.  We avoid the differences and we shoot for sameness, but we were not created for sameness.  And if, in our differences, there are things that are revealed to me about my own heart or my own heritage that are hard and uncomfortable, I need to sit with that.  I need to listen to the person who is not the same as me and hear about their life and shove down the hackles that rise in defensiveness.  Because hackles that stay raised become shackles that will lock me up if I am not self-aware and seeking God.

I am committed to listening, to God and to the stories of my brothers and sisters who bear His image.

If these walls could talk…

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We’re closing in on 12 years of marriage over here.  12 years! And it’s got me all nostalgic.

We’ve walked through infertility, foster care, adoption, ministry life, depression, various moves and lifestyle changes. We were recently out at the cottage our (then) family of four lived in for a season.  Our oldest looked around and wondered how we all lived there.  It is small, for sure.  And when I told her they were smaller and somehow it worked, she just took it all in.  I imagine she was replaying moments-good and bad-that we lived out in those walls.  Then she took the dog and tromped through the woods with her, leaving it all behind.

I never moved, growing up.  My parents built the house I grew up in the year before I was born.  I lived there until I moved in with a friend for a year, when I was 24.  I didn’t go to college, so I didn’t even have that experience.  My husband and I have moved 4 times in our 12 years-always in the same county, but to vastly different homes.  When we were dating there was a song we loved that called us to repent of the American dream-the house, cars, picket fence-and to live differently.  I loved the idea, but I HATE moving.

Our first place was a teeny, tiny two bedroom rental behind a restaurant and truck stop.  The only window we could use for an air conditioner went into the garage (which was an addition) so we had to open the garage door whenever we used the a/c.  It had a little yard, though, and for this country girl, that made a world of difference.

Our next place was a wonderful home for us.  It was a townhouse right outside of the city-the location was meh but it’s been the only house we’ve had that I could paint the colors I wanted to and make it ALL mine.  It was actually huge-an end unit with a finished basement and a laundry room on the first floor.  I often said that if we could have just plopped it on an acre we would have never moved.  I will always have a fondness for my dreamy yellow kitchen with it’s soft white curtains.  It’s where we brought our oldest two girls home.  Our 12 year old learned to ride bike in that cul de sac an we took walks almost every day over the summer through the neighborhoods around us.  It was a great place, and it sold in under two weeks.

Next was the cottage-we had a few reasons for moving there, one of which was that the girls would have the entire camp meeting to roam through.  The yard at the townhouse was half the size of our current kitchen, and these girls needed space.  My father-in-law purchased the cottage and we rented it and moved in, the same week we finalized our adoption for our older girls…and one week before our littlest came home.  My first memory of the cottage is seeing two other members of the camp meeting taking care of the road after some snow and ice-one was driving his pickup and the other was sitting on the tailgate with a bucket of salt, spreading it as they went. It was a quirky neighborhood, but somehow it suited. We had some wonderful years there-brown water and all.  It’s where we brought our youngest home, where she took her first steps, where we spent many hours on the front porch or playing shuffleboard in our front yard because it was there.  We see now that God had us there so we could be ready for this next season.

We’re living with my husband’s grandparents now, in their home.  It’s plenty big, a rambling rancher on over an acre.  The backyard is my dream come true.  We can see for miles from the back porch, and the sunsets are unmatched.  Our current living room is a bedroom, a small one.  It’s an interesting arrangement in lots of ways, but we fully believe it’s where God has called us and it’s His best for us in this season.

I don’t know what the next chapter will bring.  I don’t know if this will be our last home, our last move, or if there are more to come.  I think back to those two twenty-something kids (we were SUCH kids), listening to a song about abandoning the pursuit of this American dream, and I am very fond of them.  Because we’ve grown into these adults, with children, in our late thirties, who still believe in all of that.  I am also a little nervous at times because I don’t know what is yet to come.  Every now and then, more so in difficult times, I get this longing for a “normal” life (whatever that is).  And then I realize we’re too far into this one and there’s no turning back!  Ha!

There are lots of reasons why we haven’t done much to the inside of the house we’re living in now.  Some of it is financial, some of it is that we want to honor Grandma and Grandpa by keeping it what they planned it to be, and some of it is lack of how-to.  There are times when I feel the ache of it, the desire to put my own imprint on this home in tangible ways.  But the Lord uses that desire to remind me that the intangible is much more important.  It’s a reminder of where the Kingdom truly lies-not in countertops or painted cabinets or finishing the basement.  It lies in loving the people inside these walls.

Walking imperfectly through the imperfect, with the grace to carry all of us.  Our walls will hear laughter and yelling, they will see tears and rejoicing.  They’ll see loving and forgiving and all of the emotions under this sun.

I’m praying for all of our walls today-whatever emotions they’ll see-that we would all (this writer and the readers alike) see God for the faithful Father He is.  He loves each of us immensely.

On making some time

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It had been a month and a half of pushing through to the finish line.  We knew I would be exhausted and he would be exhausted, but we also knew it was for a season.  After the Easter holiday passed, my husband headed away for a few days for a planning retreat with a few other youth pastors, and then he came home.  He had lots of calendar things he wanted to run by me, but after our last planning meeting (the one where I may have freaked out and said something like I feel like all I do is listen to other people tell me their schedules and then work my life around them) he asked me this time, “Hey, I have some calendar stuff.  Is this something we can talk about over breakfast or should we just let it go for now?”

I love him.

So we went to a cute little breakfast place and we took our calendars with us, just in case.  We got reacquainted with each other and then I was ready for the schedules.  At the outset, he said, “Where are we going to work some time in for you?”  So we plotted our months and we looked at his days off and we made some time for me, too.

Today (the day I’m writing this, not necessarily the day it posts) is my day.  Earlier today we had a conversation about my very intense desire to move our washer and dryer upstairs and my equally intense desire to get a new washing machine. And I started CRYING over this. PEOPLE.  I am not someone who cries over things like this.  I will cry over hurting kids, or racial tensions, or Jesus stuff.  But over a laundry nook and washing machine?  Good grief.

So now I’m sitting here in a Panera and doing the writing thing and the reading thing. And with some space, I’m able to see that the tears were less over the thing I cried over and more over the need for some space from the walls of our home.

I guess there’s no grand point to this post other than to say that no matter who you are or what you do, it’s really good to be aware of your limits.  Make some time to take care of yourself.  Also? Thanks to my husband, the guy who cares for me better than I could have ever dreamed of when we said “I do” almost 12 years ago.

 

On momming

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There are some positions in life that receive acclaim, accolades, adoration, and reverence.  There are callings that hear the applause of many, attract large crowds, beg for the spotlight.

And then there is the mother.  The thing about being a mom is that most of what we do isn’t entirely valued until it doesn’t get done.  We can listen to the endless chatter of a child for an entire car ride, but as soon as we ask for a minute of silence our very love for said child is questioned.  We can do all of the laundry and fold it and SOMETIMES even put it away…but one random Thursday when the child’s black leggings-no, not THOSE black leggings, the other ones-are still dirty the earth is tilted and we have flown TOO CLOSE TO THE SUN.  And did you know that if screen time is missed for one day or even TWO DAYS IN A ROW, lives are over.

Mommas, listen up.  We have made it to April.  The school year is nearly over and if you are still handing things in on time, you are the 1%.  Get yourself a pedicure or a new book or something that makes you smile.  We are in a season where all three of our girls are playing soccer and they all have different schedules and what I really feel like doing is throwing all of the cleats and shin guards and socks up in the air and letting them land in whatever bag they land in.

The other day I asked one of my daughters where her Book-It calendar for the new month was and when she said she doesn’t have to do it anymore I was ready to buy personal pan pizzas for the whole crowd.  We are nearing the end of the year.  We are running the race, pressing on toward the prize… we have done our due diligence with homework and filled and emptied our carts on Zulily during homework helping time to the best of our ability.

So, keep on keeping on.  I was just listening to my girls over on the BigBooCast and Melanie dropped this nugget of wisdom…I feel as though it applies to all of us at this present time.  She said, “We shoot for superior and land on mediocre.” For myself, right now, in certain areas of my life?  I am even ok with aiming for mediocre.

Aim where you will, fellow laborers.  We may not win prizes or have a following other than our children when we are trying to go to the bathroom, but we are in the business of keeping humans alive and helping them to grow up. Way to go, us.  WAY.TO.GO.

On packing and taking meals and a sundry of other topics

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Hey again!  Something our family is super blessed by is generous parents.  Every year we go with my family to our cabin in upstate PA for a week, and we are also gifted with another week away by my in-laws.  Throughout the year we’ll do a few weekends away as a family as well, either with my husbands family or with mine.  Because of these trips, I’ve learned a few things.  I thought I’d share them with you!

One thing that I have done off and on is packing outfits in gallon sized ziplock bags for kiddos under age 10.  This eliminates the “is it clean/is it dirty” guesswork when we’re away with a huge crew or have limited storage space, like when all 5 of us have to share a bedroom.  This also ensures that we don’t go through more clothes than necessary-one bag per day unless there’s an emergency.  I have zero packing tips for an adolescent girl because she’s packing her own things at this point and I feel like whatever we try would just become a jumbled pile of chaos much like all of the feelings.

Unpacking from these trips is my least favorite thing.  What this normally looks like in our house is our oldest helping to cart all of the things in, our middlest cleaning out the van as soon as that’s done, and our youngest avoiding lots of it until we realize she’s not helping and then I make her help me with the little odds and ends that get brought in.  We also have the two oldest girls unpack their bags and help get laundry started.

On  different note, I like to take meals to folks when I can, because it’s a tangible way to serve that is in my wheelhouse-I love cooking and I have to be home a lot.  More and more I’m running into dietary restrictions and I’ve come to love Danielle Walker over at Against All Grain.  I have her Meals Made Simple cookbook and her recipes are always easy to follow and a sure success.  She’s also  great follow on Instagram!

This winter has really seemed so long, and even in spring we’ve had lots of grey days.  I’m finding that I’m relying so much on regular time in Bible study and also using lots of good essential oils.  I’m currently working through the first 11 chapters in Genesis with a group of ladies at church.  We’re using a study by Jen Wilkin.  It’s the second study of hers that we’ve used and I really love it.  Great exegetical work, and it simply allows the Word of God to speak.  As far as oils, I’m diffusing a lot of lemon and also a blend called Serenity by doTerra.  I like to mix their Breathe blend with eucalyptus at nighttime, especially during allergy season.

This world seems to have gone crazy lately and while there are lots of great worship songs I am enjoying, I am also REALLY enjoying my 80’s Love Songs on Pandora.  Bon Jovi and Debbie Gibson are my JAM.  90’s Country comes in a close second (I’m looking at you, Joe Diffie and Mark Chestnut).  I will shout from the mountaintops over and over until all of ya’ll are listening to The Big Boo Cast.  These ladies are legit who I wish I could hang out with.  So I do, whenever they release a new episode.  So should you.

What are you loving right now?

On Seth Meyers at the gas pump and many other important things

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Well, I’m somewhat successfully taking a break from social media right now, but it’s very hard for me.  Also, my husband has been away for the last few days.  This makes the no social media thing difficult because it’s just me and the kids and the grandparents and soccer and laundry so last night I had a salted caramel truffle blizzard from the DQ and watched all of the Instagram stories I wanted to and there was no shame.  I thought if I posted that I was on a break from social media it would help me to stay off but it turns out shame is a terrible motivator and I am a new person in Christ so whatever.

Can I just say that I really dislike those gas pumps with the news and weather streaming on them?  Every.single.time. they start talking to me I jump.  Can I not be alone with my thoughts at the gas pump?  This is a societal breakdown, people.

I am thrilled that after about four false starts I think we will actually have spring here in Pennsylvania.  No more snow and bring on all of the flower planting and mulching and weeding. Here’s the thing about being slightly ADHD… I transplanted a lot of great perennials last year but I’m not sure exaaaaaactly where they are so while I want the kids to help with the weeding, I also don’t want them to pull out my daisies or coneflowers.  If you drive past our house and think it’s very unkempt, we still live here but I’m trying to see where the actual flowers are.

Since hubs is away, I fixed a simple dinner for Grandma and Grandpa and took our girls to Panera one night after I picked our oldest up from soccer practice.  I like to order from the kiosk so that I don’t have to have awkward interactions at the actual register, but  when I opened up my little screen, everything was different.  Panera changed things and didn’t even give me a sign to warn me about it.  I was slightly befuddled and my girls went from being amused to embarrassed to amused again as they watched me try to figure things out.  I am only 37 but technology needs to CHILL a little.

Also, we were just away at a cabin for a long weekend with my husband’s extended family and it was pretty great.  21 kiddos 12 and under, and I can count on maybe two fingers the number of conflicts those kids had.  They went sledding and played kickball and held the babies and played Barbies and foosball and air hockey and board games and coordinated a Top Chef-like competition featuring the traditional Trinidadian peanut punch and also had a small dance recital (about 3 times a day).  I mostly drank coffee and seltzer and read and slept and chatted with family.  It was DELIGHTFUL.

I’m basically avoiding laundry at this point so I should probably get to it.  This will automatically post to my social media places but I may or may not be checking them. I took the break from social media because I needed to evaluate my usage and consider what changes need to be made, but I feel like I got my answers pretty quickly.  Now I’m wondering-do I need to wait it out the whole month or can I log back in and make my changes? I was trying to think about this at the gas pump but was rudely interrupted by Seth Meyers.