God answers prayer. Taking Dad home.

 

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The last time I wrote, I begged for your prayers for my dad. I humbly asked that, together, we would knock on heaven’s door and ask God to take my dad home. As I write this, I realize God answered that prayer less than one day later. Less. than. one. day. later.

My mom, sisters, and I spent the last day by his side. I took photos of Dad’s hands with mine. I contemplated taking photos of him and with him, but decided against it. He didn’t look like himself anymore. There was no reason to record that image of him in my mind. He wouldn’t have wanted that. I also didn’t want my children to accidentally stumble upon those images. So, pictures of his hands it was.

We had stayed with him until 2 am. Mom snuck in bed with him for the first time, and I covered her up before we left. My sisters and I drove the ten minutes home and I fell asleep immediately, exhausted from the long day. Then, the phone rang at 5:40am. I didn’t even know whose phone it was. Monica came out of the bedroom and told us we had to go quick. It was time.

Panic set in. All four of us felt the buzz in the air. It was fear, excitement, butterflies in my stomach. I rushed to put on the clothes I had taken off only three hours earlier. They were the first I saw. They would do. Marcela was ready. So was I. The two of us got in my car and drove.

Less than ten minutes later we pulled into the parking lot of Pax Villa Hospice. Mom was sitting on the ground leaning on the building. “How is he? What happened?” I asked.

“He’s gone.” Her face was calm, but her eyes were red. Her hand shook as she held the cigarette to her lips.

I ran in. What I experienced when I walked into his room will forever be etched into my memory. The room was quiet, quite opposite of what it had been for the last nine days. The oxygen machine had been turned off. It seemed brighter in there, too. On the bed lay the still, lifeless body of the man who loved me my whole life. His hands had been placed on his chest. It looked wrong for them to be there because all the days before that they rested by his side. Without thinking, I touched them with my right hand. They were not warm anymore. Tears filled my eyes. I then slid my hand to his side. I felt his chest just under his arms. Still warm. I barely missed it, I thought.

I looked at his face. This, too, looked wrong. This face didn’t belong to my dad. His skin was much too smooth. The color wasn’t right. His jaw was open. I realized then that Marcela was standing next to me. She, for some reason, was trying to close his mouth and it wasn’t working. After many days of being this way, it couldn’t be moved. She found a small washcloth or some other small white towel and, again, tried to force it shut. “No,” I said. “You will break it.” I heard my own voice and realized how frantic I sounded.

Monica and Jessica showed up at some point. Mom came back in, too. Before I knew it, we were all gathered around him, holding hands, and praying. I prayed aloud, thanking God for taking him home. Thanking him for ending his pain. Thanking him for loving him and for the life Dad lived. My sisters prayed, too. Then mom pulled out a small black pouch from under his pillow. One by one, she pulled out beautiful crystal keychains and handed each of us one. I noticed the crystals were shaped like angels. I had noticed the black pouch before. Once when the chaplain had come to pray with us Mom had put the pouch in dad’s hands. I didn’t know the pouch had been under dad’s pillow all along. Mom explained that these little keychains were a gift to us. They had been with dad, in his hands, and blessed by the chaplain while he had prayed. Now we could have a little piece of him. We were all so thankful for the little gift.

Dad didn’t want anyone to see him after he died. He had asked mom and all his daughters to please have him cremated immediately. Thankfully I had made the arrangements for that earlier in the week and we didn’t have to think about that. The staff at hospice called the funeral home and they came. They showed up with a stretcher and went in his room once we were all out. After a few minutes they came out again. The bed obviously had my dad’s body on it, but it was covered with a navy blue blanket. When I saw them wheeling it out I caught myself in that frantic state again. Tears and a crazy voice. This was the last time I would ever be around my daddy here on earth. I couldn’t keep it together. It was too much. I watched as the stretcher was taken out to the parking lot and then loaded into the hearse.

And that was it.

My dear father-in-law pulled into the parking lot just then. He lovingly held my mom as she cried in his arms. Then he did the same with me. The sweet nurse who had cared for dad for the last nine days embraced us all. He was just arriving for his daytime shift at 7am. We will forever be grateful to him for his kindness. Hospice nurses are wonderful.

Monica asked Mom where Dad’s favorite place to eat breakfast was. It was a small Mexican restaurant close by. I remembered he had asked me to pick up tacos from there when he was at rehab not long ago. I couldn’t find the place and never did. Tears filled my eyes at that thought. We decided to go there. Someone mentioned Dad must be enjoying his first morning in heaven. Surely he was having his coffee and cookies right about then. The thought brought a smile to my face.

Dad passed away on June 23. He had his first stroke on March 23. His medical battle was exactly 3 months long. Coincidence? I don’t think so. I believe God had his hand in Dad’s life. Although he struggled those three months, I am thankful for the extra time with him. If God had taken him after the first stroke on March 23, we would have been so much more devastated. It would have been a shock to our family to have him taken so suddenly. Instead, God, in his loving kindness, prepared us and showed us his hand all along the way. We watched Dad decline. We watched him lose his abilities. We understood that, when the time came, he needed to go home. We didn’t want him to suffer. We didn’t want him to be in pain anymore. And goodness, how hard to be in a body that didn’t work and without being able to speak! My poor daddy!

I miss him very much. I’m grateful for the times in the hospital and rehab those last 3 months. I spent more time with him then than I had in the last several years.

And my mom, well, she is amazing. I watched her during the 3 months, too. She loved Dad unconditionally. She was always there for him. Although she continued to work, she stayed with him overnight in hospitals, spend all her time in rehab, and took care of him that entire time. I have beautiful memories of her selflessly helping him dress, walk, and eat. One time she was walking him to the bathroom and sang a song as if they were dancing the whole way. The two of them were always happy and positive. And yet, when he suffered, she suffered right alongside him. These days, she is the one hurting. She is the one who misses him every second of every day. Please pray for her. Pray that God would comfort her and guide her as she moves forward. I miss my dad, but I can’t imagine how much she must miss him. I know Dad is in heaven, rejoicing, with no more pain or suffering, but Mom is still here. She is suffering the loss of her husband and the life she had. I hurt for her more than I hurt for myself.

Lord, comfort her. Guide her. In Jesus’ name. 

We had a beautiful celebration for Dad. His motorcycle friends reserved the Chapel by the Sea at South Padre Island and over fifty bikes drove the hour and a half to give their dear Arturito his last ride. After a sweet service in which people shared funny stories and memories of him, we released his ashes out on the open road at the beach. It was what he would have wanted. Maybe I’ll write about that another day.

I could go on forever. I’ve been typing for over an hour and my face and eyes are red from all the crying. This is the most I’ve cried since June 23. I guess I needed to get this out. (I apologize for grammatical errors. I’m not going to reread this one!) Thanks for the prayers for our family. We love and appreciate every one of you!

It’s not Goodbye… Just See you later.

 

 

 

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Today is day 8 in hospice care for dad. God is giving me a precious gift at this moment, a clear blue sky in the break of the heavy storm I’ve lived in for the last 12 days. My heart wants to express in words what it is feeling. And so, here I am, writing.

As I sit in this room with my dad declining, watching my dear mother nap crookedly in a hospital grade recliner, I can hear my dad’s breaths. He is sleeping comfortably. We are continually reassured that he feels no pain or discomfort. The medications are making him comfortable in his final days. We sit at his side, waiting. We wait for God’s sweet mercy to take him home to heaven.

Let me explain what has happened. My dad’s first stroke happened March 23. He was released a couple of days later, only to have another more intense stroke on March 28. My sweet dad has not been home since. He has been shuffled from hospital to hospital, having complication after another. He had infections, internal bleeding, you name it. Then when deemed well enough to progress he was taken to rehabilitation centers, only to get sick and end up at the hospital again. It’s been a rollercoaster. It’s been frustrating, upsetting, and leaves us all feeling helpless.

Dad is a fighter. He always works hard, does therapy with a positive and willing attitude. His personal goal was always to get healthy so he’d be able to go back home with my mom, his dear, dear love.

Last Saturday morning, something changed. Dad was found unable to speak, with the left side of his body completely paralyzed, and the right shaking/trembling uncontrollably. He had lost the ability to swallow. He had previously lost most of his vision, and we didn’t know how much of it was left after this. Dad had suffered another stroke overnight. This one has been the worst yet.

And now here we are. Doctors told us there was nothing we could do. If we give him blood thinners, he will bleed internally, they said. If we don’t he will continue to have strokes and ultimately one of them will take his life. There is no way to treat him. Hospice was offered. Here we are. Twelve days after the BIG stroke.

My heart is heavy. It’s broken actually. Seeing my dad go through this is excruciating. Seeing my mom watch him go through this is worse. I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to be by their side since this started 12 days ago. My amazing husband is holding down the fort at home with our kids as a gift to me. He is gifting me with the time and freedom to be present for my dad’s last days on this earth. I’m so grateful.

And yet, with that gratefulness comes guilt and pain, too. I should be with my kids, I think. This is hard on them, too. And the cycle of pain for all of us affected is ever-present. Only God is able to heal and comfort our hurting hearts.

It’s been hard explaining this situation to our kids, ages 10, 7, and 5. We explained that their sweet Tito is not going to get better. That this body here on earth is not working, and that Jesus will soon take him home to heaven. It’s not ‘Goodbye,’ I tell them. It’s just ‘See you later.’ All of this because we have the hope that we will be in heaven with God forever because of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

So today, this 8th day of hospice care for Dad, I seek your prayers. I humbly ask that you join me and my family as we pray for my dad. For our All-Loving, All-Knowing, Powerful God to take him to a place where there is no more suffering or pain. A sweet, sweet place where there will be no more tears. I place where he can dwell with him forever and ever. And best of all, a place where all who believe in Jesus can also dwell someday in his presence.

Those Who Died in Christ

13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep [k]in Jesus. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive [l]and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a [m]shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive [n]and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.

Ian’s adventure continues…

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While the rest of the Cloudwalkers are heading home today, Ian is not. He and a friend are staying in Tanzania a few more days. The reason he is staying is the only reason I am jealous of him taking this trip.

In June 2009, when Emma was three years old and Jack only 6 months old, we started sponsoring two children through the organization, Compassion International. For six and a half years we have sent them $76 each month, a small amount for us that we are sure makes a big impact in their lives. We have corresponded with them, sending letters and photos of our family. Even better, they have written to us and sent us photos of them, too. I love talking to our kids about our two kids, Phoebe and Elinathan. We often wondered what they were doing, eating, playing, and prayed for their health and safety. Above all, we prayed that they would hear about Jesus and believe.

Fast forward six years. Who would have ever thought that Ian would be visiting Tanzania??? We sure didn’t expect it! And yet, God had plans for Ian to climb Kilimanjaro, in Tanzania, where Phoebe and Elinathan live!!! There was no way Ian would be in their home country and NOT SEE them. NO WAY! So, he is staying behind. He is on his way right now. He and his friend have taken a plane to the opposite side of Tanzania, to the plains of Shirati where our sweet kids live. I am so so so excited for him!!! I wish I could teleport and meet them, too.

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We bought them soccer balls for Ian to give them as gifts. He is also bringing them each a photo frame with a pic of our family. Someone suggested that he take a pic with them while he is there, so we can mail it to them afterward. I think it will be so neat for him to meet these kids… to see where they live… for them to know that we are a real family and really care about them. I truly can’t wait to see photos of him with them!

So, all of that to say, keep up the prayers for Ian. He said the runway they landed on was dirt. They had to slow down because of cattle on the road. Pray for safety.

I’ll update soon.

My Reflections on Ampuversary #3.

I am a creature of memories. My life has been shaped by my experiences. I am who I am because of what I’ve gone through. The same is true for you I’m sure.

I learned something about memories a while back. We tend to remember events in our lives if they are extremely emotional. That is, we remember things if they make us really, really happy, or really, really sad. Or any other strong emotion for that matter. Events that are just kinda bland and meaningless tend to go unremembered. But if we attach real emotion to events there’s a good chance they will be remembered and marked in our memory clearly.

My wedding day and the birthdays of my children are among my greatest memories so far.The other big dates for me are the day we took Ian to the emergency room and the day he had his legs amputated. {Ian asked me why I don’t have such a strong connection to the date he had his fingers amputated… I’m not sure why. The legs are a bigger deal to me for some reason.}

The anniversary of Ian’s leg amputations is July 11. Tomorrow. On the first ampuversary (anniversary) we were at the beach. It was something unreal and totally unexpected. I’d thought we wouldn’t be able to go to the beach anymore. Who knew Ian could wear them in the sand and water? I’d assumed prosthetic legs couldn’t get wet… Thankfully, I was wrong about that. We spent a few days at our friends’ condo enjoying life’s simple pleasures. We played in the sand building castles and searching for shells. We ate some of the best peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, chips, and popsicles on the patio for lunch. At night we took our flashlights and went hunting for crabs. Those are the things I remember. Probably not the most memorable activities to most people, but to me, that year after such a challenging time, there was nothing better. I remember going to sleep at night so full of gratefulness I couldn’t keep it in. Just the thought brings tears to my eyes. That was the first ampuversary.

Last year for the second ampuversary we timed a road trip to California for that exact week. We were at the San Diego Zoo on the 11th. We visited many places and made more of the memories I love. We visited the gorgeous cold beaches of La Jolla, rode the carousel and ate delicious seafood at the windy Seaport Village, and took a city tour which included a ride on a vehicle that traveled on the road and water. The kids got a kick out of that one. Sweet Luke fell asleep while we were driving and woke up when we were on the water looking at seals. He was a bit confused but overjoyed. The trip ended with three days at Disneyland, truly the happiest place on earth.

Tomorrow is the third ampuversary. I really wanted to plan something special and fun for us to do, but I failed. We will be home. We will be together, no less grateful than we were two years ago. It will just be less of a memory for me, and I’m struggling with that. I’d always wanted to be doing something memorable on July 11 every year. Since moving in to our new house two weeks ago, life has been a bit crazy. The kids have been staying up until crazy times at night, which means they are sleeping in until crazy times of the morning. We are still getting comfortable and settling in. Maybe we can do something extra special next year.

As I think about where we were three years ago, I can’t help but get a bit sad. Ian and I were headed to bed at this time, knowing our alarm would be waking us up at four o’clock in the morning. I would drive Ian across town to the surgery center where he would voluntarily have his legs amputated below the knee at six. That would be the last time he would walk on his own feet. I would sit in the waiting room praying for everything to turn out okay, anxiously waiting to see him again. Everything would go smoothly as planned. I would cry only when he slept in his room afterward, not wanting him to see me cry. The reality of his newly shortened legs in too-short black casts was too much to bear. The next two days would be the hardest, most pain filled days he’d have since everything began… and to this day.

Here we are now three years later and this is what I know.

1. We are not where we were. We are in a better place, a much easier place. Life is now normal for us again even though that looks a little different. God has continued to love us and guide us each step of the way.

2. God is still who He is. Father. Creator. Loving. Patient. Kind. Faithful. Peaceful. Powerful. All-knowing. Provider. Teacher. {Insert any other descriptor here.} God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. I’m so glad. Even when all else in this country or the world is shaky or messed up, I know He will not change. I find great comfort in that.

3. He is not done with us. Yikes! I wish I knew what that means, but I don’t. If we are still here, there must be more for us to do… More for us to pour into each other and the people around us… More for us to learn… More for us to accomplish through him and for him.

Lord, I’m willing.

 

Are there any memories that shape who you are? Are they positive or negative? I’d love you to share them!

 

 

 

5 Reasons Why Daddy is Better Than Mommy.

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It’s Father’s Day weekend. (Ian calls it ‘Father’s Month’ actually.) I’ve been thinking about all the things I love about him and how he loves our kids, and I’ve come up with a conclusion. Our kids like him better than me, and I’m okay with that. I’m willing to bet this is case in most other families, too. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong on any of these points.

1. Daddy is more fun.

My kids love me, I’m sure of it. But, there is just something about their Daddy I can’t compete with. When Emma was a baby, I used to rub lotion on her skin after a bath, massaging gently as I went. When Ian did it, he didn’t rub gently, no. He held the bottle of lotion a couple of feet above her and squirted it while making silly tooting sounds. Even as a little baby, she knew. She knew Daddy was more fun. She giggled so much more for him. Her smiles when he came home at the end of the day confirmed it, too.

Sports are fun by definition. Ian has always enjoyed sports. Because of Daddy’s love for sports, Jack has always loved to play with balls, too. Soccer, basketball, football, bouncy balls… if it is round, he loves it. When Ian got sick one of his biggest worries was whether he’d be able to play sports with the kids. “How am I going to throw a football around? Will I be able to play with the kids in the backyard?” We didn’t know how it would work, but we knew he’d figure it out.  Like everything else, he’s been able to play sports with the kids. Last year Ian even coached Jack’s soccer team. (Amazing, I know.)

Ian wrestles with them. He tickles them so much I’m afraid they’ll wet their pants sometimes. Still, all three of them beg to be tickled. They love it. They love him. Daddy is more fun than Mommy.

2. Daddy knows everything.

Recently I overheard a conversation between Ian and Jack. It moved me to tears.

“Daddy, I’m so glad you’re my daddy. You know all about everything.” This is true. Ian knows a LOT of useless information (and some useful stuff, too) If he doesn’t know something, he is quick to Google it. When the kids ask me something and I don’t know the answer (i.e. is the sky really blue? what does it mean to be double jointed? what is the biggest animal in the ocean?) I always defer to Ian. “Oh, I don’t know, guys. That’s a good question for Daddy. Let’s ask him when he gets home.”

You see, I want them to look up to their daddy. I want them to love and admire him, to think he is the best thing since sliced bread. And they do. He is the coolest, best dad in their eyes.

His knowing everything leads me to my next point.

 

3. Daddy is a great teacher.

He is patient, kind, and loving when he teaches the kids about anything. Ian wants the kids to know anything and everything, and he loves being the one to teach them things. He is constantly explaining the rules of some sport to Jack (currently it’s basketball.) He is showing Emma how to program code by making it fun… we will probably have several computer geeks in the family soon! Luke loves asking Daddy about different kinds of airplanes and their engines. When he sees an airplane in the sky he asks, “Daddy where is that plane going?” Ian opens an app on his phone and says, “That one is on its way to Mexico City.” Or Dallas. Or Frankfurt. Daddy always knows and wants to teach them what he knows.

4. Daddy is unstoppable.

When I asked Emma what she likes about Daddy, she said, “I like that even though he doesn’t have fingers or feet he still does everything he wants.” Ian is unstoppable. What an example and lesson for our kids to carry with them forever! They are learning that even though things are hard sometimes, they are not impossible. If Daddy can accomplish what he has, they, too, can accomplish anything they set their minds to.

Ian’s been through a tough experience in life, and yet, for every obstacle that’s been set before him, he has attacked it and succeeded. So you are a computer programmer with no fingers? No problem for Ian. You want to run again after you’ve lost your legs? Of course you do, Ian. You want to drive your daughter to school all by yourself? The sky’s the limit.

Ian is climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa later this year. He is truly unstoppable!

5. Daddy is their hero.

All the cheesy t-shirts that say ‘Daddy is My Superhero are right.’ Daddy is, without a doubt, my kids’ hero. The boys want to be just like their Daddy. I remember a day back when Ian wore the stiff braces on his wrists before he had his fingers amputated… he had left the braces on the coach and sweet three-year-old Jack walked over and put them on himself. “I’m Daddy,” he said with a big smile across his face. Tears filled my eyes. I realized Jack didn’t care that Daddy was going to be different. He loved him because he was HIS Daddy.

Emma thinks Daddy is her hero because he is the ultimate authority in everything. He knows everything, decides everything, can fix everything, the list could go on and on. She loves her daddy-daughter dates with Ian, and I know she is learning how a man should treat her because she is seeing how her daddy treats her. The bar is set high.

I think Daddy is the superhero in every family, don’t you? Kids gravitate to Daddy when he comes home from work. Kids beg for Daddy to read them just one more book at bedtime. Or five more minutes of wrestling in the living room. Or to fix their beloved broken toy. Anything, really. Anything to spend more time with Daddy.

I don’t think this is just at our house. It is probably the case in every home with a daddy. This Father’s Day tell your Daddy how special he is. Make sure he knows you love him for all he does for your family and your kids. Hopefully we can do a good job in our house, too.

WE LOVE YOU, IAN! YOU ARE THE BEST DADDY IN THE WORLD! WE ARE BLESSED TO HAVE YOU!

the orange creature on the kitchen floor.

We moved into our apartment last Friday. Already we are ready to move out. It’s just kinda stale and bland here, and the constant stomping coming from above is getting really old. Of course, it also makes us aware that we may be stomping on our floor, too. (So sorry people downstairs!)

A couple of nights ago as we were having dinner in our little kitchen, Ian noticed something.

“What is that on the floor?”

I got up and went to the area across from the sink. There, on the floor, was a small orange creature. I couldn’t tell exactly what it was… Was it a lizard? Or a weird salamander? Or HALF of a salamander? Whatever it was, it was gross. It jumped.

OH, MY GOODNESS! IT’S GOLDIE!!! Jack’s beloved Beta fish! I looked up into his bowl on the counter above. No Goldie in there.

“THAT’S GOLDIE!” I heard my own high-pitched hysterical voice. The kids froze.

Ian, being the calm and awesome one that he is, said, “Pick him up and put him back.”

I pondered that for about half a second and replied, “I can’t. I just can’t.”

So he got up and grabbed a paper towel. He carefully laid the paper towel on Goldie, who was now squirming, and tried to grab him.

I looked away.

But then I just had to look. I had to see what would happen.

I saw Ian try once, and fail. He tried again, and didn’t grab him that time either. I started to wonder if I should try to get Goldie myself. After all, I’M THE ONE WITH FINGERS.

Thankfully, I didn’t have to. Ian finally grabbed Goldie and quickly dropped him back into his bowl. We all gathered around and watched to see what would happen next.

“He might not make it, guys,” I said. “He was out of his water too long.”

—–

Let me just say, Goldie is a miracle fish. He jumped out of his bowl somehow and landed himself on the floor. Then, he was out of his bowl for a while… I’d say at least a minute or two. Then, he was grabbed/pinched/squeezed and thrown back in his bowl. And he survived it all.

My kids were really concerned for Goldie. He wasn’t swimming as quick as he did before. When I dropped some food in the bowl he seemed to be swimming in the wrong direction, maybe like he couldn’t control which direction he was going. The boys insisted on praying for Goldie so he would get better. Thankfully two days later he is still alive and looking good. 🙂

What a story to tell! Does anyone have any other funny, silly stories like this? Share away!

 

where I’ve been lately.

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So I’ve been a little absent lately. Life is busy around here. Soccer has started again. Our oldest just completed her first science fair project. And on top of it all, we’ve been busy selling a house. Wait. What?

Yes! We sold our house!

We are actively, aggressively, passionately (insert any other adverb that means urgent) searching for a new one. The perfect one. Because we are homeless. Our house has sold and we have to be gone in 6 weeks… I mean 5 weeks. Yes, its 5.

All of that to say, please pray that we would find a new home in the next week or two. This is the biggest purchase we will ever make, and we want to be wise in our decision. We want our home to be a place where we can gather family and friends, where our kids can invite their own friends, where we can make memories as wonderful as the ones we have made in our sweet first home. There are so many feelings associated with leaving this first home. Sadness to be leaving it, but also gratefulness for all the good times. We brought all three of our children home here. We brought Ian home after his illness here. So much life has happened in these walls. It has been as close to perfect as it could be. Now that the time has come, we pray for the next one to be just as perfect for us.

I’m excited for the next chapter for us. Will you keep our house hunt in your prayers?

 

Love,

denisse