Sunday, October 30, 2016

When Anxiety Rears its Head

So many times I begin to take for granted our normal, smooth, everyday life. And then there are times that jump out and sucker punch you in the gut. That's what Saturday felt like.

This guy and I had a day to hang out together at Six Flags. The littles were home with a sitter (because Fright Fest is a bit much for them), Olivia had a friend with who would ride the big rides and go to the haunted houses with her, and Braeden and I got to just spend time. This was the last day we were going to be using our season passes, and since Braeden didn't want to ride anything except the carousel, we were people watching, going to the hypnotist, and seeing a musical show.  We used our dining plan for food and it was a great day.

But the park gets scary after 6, people dressed in costumes show no mercy no matter your age and he was scared when we came a few weeks ago.  So we decided to leave the park before 6. Originally we were going to just sit in the car and watch a movie, but he wanted to spend the allowance he had just gotten. So I let him talk me into going down the road to the huge outlet mall.  Mistake.

I'm not sure what triggered him: the size, the people, the excitement of the stores there, or a combination of many, but within five minutes his demeanor and our day went from smiling and happy to growling and angry. The next two and a half hours were basically hell. It caught me so off guard. I kept trying different strategies to help him. He did not want to leave. But finally I did have to walk out ... And pray he followed. It took a while but he finally did.

We waited a while in the car before the girls were done. Putting a movie in began to help him come back down but even with them in the car on the way home it took about 30 minutes for him to somewhat even out. 

Not long ago we went to see Braeden's doctor. He told us that if Braeden didn't already have the anxiety diagnosis he would probably diagnose him with ptsd instead as it paints a clearer picture. 

I'd have to agree.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Being the Good

Liam learned a wonderful lesson today. There was even more to our story though that he had no idea of.  

Today he and I went grocery shopping while the rest stayed home.  We went to our local aldi*s because money is tight and my budget stretches far there.  As we were checking out, I noticed a gentleman shopping in his electric wheelchair.  He had a worn plastic bag on one arm of the chair and a well used backpack between his feet. He was utilizing his right arm to reach the needed groceries, maneuver his chair, and precariously balance his items in his lap, while his left arm stayed by his side unable to be used.  Many shopped around him, either oblivious to or unwilling to acknowledge his need.

As we finished checking out, I asked Liam (already knowing his answer) if he'd like to go help the gentleman while I finished checking out and bagging our items. He was shy but happy to help. He asked and the man was glad for the assistance. Liam took one of our quarters to get a cart and unload the items from the man's lap into the cart. He then aided him in finding his last few things. After checking out we both helped him load up. I knew there was no car in the lot for him. He would be driving his chair back home, and there are no close residences to the store. I could only imagine how long it would take. In the spitting rain developing outside.

His items were not going to fit. In my cart we had one reusable bag left that we hadn't needed to use. Our largest one, Mickey front and center, which usually gets filled first and today just hadn't even been used. Only God.

We filled his plastic bag and our reusable bag. The gentleman protested saying the bag was ours but Liam spoke up and assured him we had plenty. I love that he'll be able to use it more than just today.  I love that Liam had such a great experience helping others.  

We need more good in the world. 
We need to start truly 'seeing' one another.
It starts with us. One person at a time.

Thursday, June 16, 2016


It's finally summer! That time when I get to transition from full time teacher and mom to just full time mom. I love having time to sleep in, lounging through lazy days, catching up on organizing things around the house, and spending time with the kids and friends.

This year unlike others, the end snuck up on me. It came fast and hard both at school and at home.  Usually I begin in April planning for the next school year: classroom layout, schedule, new ideas. I look at the students I'll potentially have, what worked this year, what didn't, how I can make it better. With all the issues this year with our state budget, local budget cuts and money saving 'ideas', personnel changes, etc, it was a tougher year than most.  Before I knew it it was mid May.  But I feel we have a great plan in place and some real positive changes that I'm excited to implement come August.

Each of the kids did so well this year!

Liam had a good year (in my classroom!) and learned and grew and flourished in ways I was privileged to be a spectator to.  

Braeden and Olivia both had great years. Olivia struggled with having been on home bound so long from her illness in January, but she fought hard to come back strong. 

And Braeden excelled again at the amazing school he's able to be a part of.

Macy grew like crazy. She has continued to amaze me with all she does.  She made many friends, learned an incredible amount of 'kindergarten' skills as well as transitioning to English and just loves all she participates in.

Our family had a big year in many ways, with lots of ups and downs. Looking forward to just 'being' this summer.  And excited to see what this next year brings!
Sunday, May 15, 2016


Yesterday was Olivia's biological brother's high school graduation.  She hasn't seen him in years. We couldn't remember exactly how long it's been but we think at least 7 years. This was the most recent picture I could find...

We lost touch after that.  Although we still had his address and phone number, I wasn't pushing her to keep up correspondence and she didn't feel like doing so.  Not too long ago she was able to reconnect through texts and has been texting since.  When he asked her to come to his graduation she was on the fence about what the best decision was. Was this the best way to do a first time meeting after so long?  But in the end, with an amazing friend offering to watch the kids, she knew how important this day was for them both.

Olivia was extremely nervous and anxious, especially in the week leading up to the ceremony. She slept little and worried and wondered how it would all play out.

I think I was almost as anxious myself. A lot of big emotions playing into this trip and visit.

We both were pretty nauseous through the day but overall it went very well. She wasn't able to see him face to face until a while after the ceremony. He stalled coming to meet her because he was just as nervous. Although we weren't able to stay long, it was a good first visit.  They look and act so much alike! 😊

After leaving I felt a tremendous release.  I don't think I even realized how very much I was in a fog of nerves and anxiety myself over this past week. I felt buoyant and a million times lighter and re energized.

The ride home for Olivia was spent processing the day and cycling from nerves to relief to joy and then finally to a place of grief and sadness. 

She misses him terribly and I suspect has pushed those feelings aside for so long, not wanting to subject herself to grieving repeatedly things that are out of her control.  He was her caretaker. Her guardian. Her confidant. Her protector. The one constant, good part of her life in those early formative years.

And she will hopefully use this as a stepping stone to a new and strengthened relationship.

Sunday, May 08, 2016


Mother's Day is always a hard and bittersweet weekend. Big feelings for my kids who are reminded yet again that they are 'different.' Yes I am their mom. Yes they love me. But they have another mom too that I know they bring to mind especially on this day set aside for mothers. They wonder where she is, how she's doing, even who she is and what she likes. They feel torn in loyalty, though they shouldn't. They are afraid of upsetting me, though they don't need to worry.  

And I think of these moms as well. Of the sacrifice, the loss, the grief they most likely feel. I know this can't be an easy day for them either. So much loss. So much heartache. All for a holiday that should be a celebration. An occasion to be happy and joyful, yet for so many these expectations fall short.

So this year I'm working on my focus. Trying to refocus on that celebration. On the ones that made me a mom. On the friends who support me and make me a better mom.  And I'll guide my kids and their hard feelings through the mix of it all.

Happy Mother's Day to you, whatever your circumstance, no matter your situation.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

When the hard leaves you without words

I hear it's a full moon tomorrow.  Maybe that explains my melancholy mood the past 48 hours or so. Or perhaps there are explanations of another sort. Either way, I despise being stuck in the mire, unsure of how to break the spell and climb back out.

Olivia has a biological sibling whom she hasn't seen in years and only began communicating with again the past few months. Watching her navigate this relationship and reacquaint herself with her sibling has been a mixture of emotions. I needn't worry, she's doing beautifully.  

This past Sunday she was asked to come to this sibling's high school graduation. Unfortunately they live 2 1/2-3 hours from us depending on traffic. And because she hasn't seen them in so long she was thinking their first visit would be just with her and I (we've been discussing a visit halfway for a while now). But I'm a single parent, and that's over five hours of just driving, and it's not easy to leave all 3 of mine with anyone other than one certain sitter, especially for that long.

So we had some hard conversations where I was not liked very much nor understood.  I explained that if our sitter could do it then yes I'd love her to go more than anything, but if not then we could still attempt to go, but we would have to take one of the boys with and try still to find someone to watch the other two.  She was not happy. 😒

We asked our sitter immediately but I knew she was out of town and we most likely wouldn't hear back for a while.  

Tuesday morning I heard from her. She wasn't able to sit for us. I had to break the news to Olivia. She then had to try to explain to her sibling who I know doesn't understand, and ask if they could possibly get us three tickets instead of two. I know how hard that may be. I know that's asking a lot. But I hate for her to not be able to go now that she's been asked and especially because her sibling had shared what an amazing accomplishment this is when there were times they didn't think they'd make it.

We still haven't heard if 3 is a possibility. But I just can't drop her off without knowing anyone to go to the ceremony alone.  And I struggle with not being enough or doing enough.

Not a couple of hours later I received a speakerphone call from Braeden's teacher and school social worker. He had made some concerning comments at school and we had a pow wow (luckily they called when I actually had some time to talk) - over his intentions, their responses, how he handled it all, and the plan moving forward.  And I again was struggling with not feeling like I was enough.

This same day I was messaging with a fellow adoptive mom who recently came home with their child. And she's struggling. And my heart goes out to her in so many ways because I've walked those trenches. And I have no perfect words. Just prayers. Is it enough?

And I struggle to pull myself up, and out, and back from the edge. And I pray. Because I know deep within that God is enough. I will never be enough. And that's ok.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Ten Months

Hard to believe it was ten months ago today that Olivia and I, barely over being dreadfully sick in Haiti at the tail end of our trip, made our way from Miami to Chicago and finally home as a family of five.

It's been such a roller coaster since with highs and lows and times of just coasting along at breakneck speeds and slow lulls.  

My mind still has a hard time wrapping itself around the fact that she has fit so seamlessly into our lives.  It's hard to remember a 'before'.  Hard to determine which memories she was present for at times of reminiscing.

I'm so amazed by her. 
By her resilience.
By her capacity for love, for attachment, for family.
She is going to be a world changer!!!

Sunday, April 10, 2016


JIf you haven't heard of etsy, and I know there are some out there, you must check it out!!!  Etsy is an amazing online marketplace where people create and sell almost anything you could dream up. From novice doll clothes makers to couture clothing creators, beaded bracelets to hand forged silver, rustic benches to amazing coffee tables, you can find it all.

Etsy is where I often turn for creative and unique pieces. It's where I purchased Macy's birthday shirt...

And also where I splurged on her wire name and pink cake stand...

After receiving the cake stand by mail, I messaged the seller to let her know it had arrived and how much I loved it.  I then ended up sharing a bit of our story letting her know the special way I had planned to use it and for such a monumental occasion.

She in turn wrote that she would love to send us fondant cupcake toppers free!!  I was overwhelmed and couldn't believe it!   But come they did and we had just over three DOZEN amazing toppers to use for the party!!  I missed pictures of all of the designs but here are a few...

Like I said... Amazing!!!

They were a huge hit and fit the party so well!!! I can't thank her enough!!

Go check out Pretty Party Details on Etsy and give her some love! 

Birthday Blessings

We were so excited to finally be able to plan a birthday for Macy where she would be here!  

We celebrated her THIRD birthday at her Rainbow party without her...

And then her FOURTH birthday at her Frozen party without her...

And her FIFTH birthday on Easter of last year at a mini princess party with just us four...

Until finally we were able to have a full blown princess party with a princess to celebrate!

We were so blessed to have about 30 friends (in my little tiny house) who came to celebrate with us!  

Each of these friends has become our family and we were rich indeed with all of them here to say happy birthday to our Macy!


My heartbreaks for my boy who yearns to know more about his birth parents.

A seemingly perfect day can be interspersed with these kind of reminders that his loss and grief are never far from the surface.

An Amazing First

Our special girl turned SIX on Tuesday!!!  While that's a big deal on its own, this was also her first birthday home with our family, but even more importantly, the first birthday she's ever celebrated independently.

While growing up at her orphanage, I'm not sure how or if they recognize individual birthdays. Each summer though they have one large birthday celebration for all of the kids.  While I'm glad they were able to do that, I can't imagine that means much other than a day of fun for all.

When we received Macy's referral, she was two. Our family celebrated her third, fourth, and fifth birthdays while thinking of her from afar.

We knew that this birthday would be a special one for all of us.

And we planned this amazing photo shoot as a start.  Cake smash and all!!!

I wanted her to have access to experiences so many have and take for granted.  All of those fun firsts.

I wasn't sure how she'd do at almost six years old. But as you can see she was all in.

This girl deserves more than I can ever hope to give, but this was a beginning.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Single Parent Confessions

(Only recently... With the stress of medical questions and concerns)

(Also titled... Late night ramblings of a crazy person :). )

* It gets lonely. Especially at night after the kids are in bed.

* I can more clearly understand the concept of being hyper vigilant. I feel on edge most of the time watching and waiting for signs of 'relapse.'

* Money, while never bountiful previously, has taken on a new meaning. A new feeling of long term insecurity at not having a large savings account to supplement possible future needs and time off work.

* Doctors, once trusted as sources of knowledge and healing, are currently viewed behind a veil of distrust and judgement. Which makes for a scary place to be.

* Friends are held in a state of fragility, with unreasonable insecurities put upon their bonds.

* The need to be busy is hard to quench when not at work. Keeping distracted from my thoughts at times is overwhelming.

* Prayer has become stronger in the face of needing to rely even more on God to alleviate the fear that can threaten to spill over.

* Finding and reading new Bible verses and quotes on positivity has proven helpful.

* A good laugh is worth a million dollars.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Older and Older

Seems daily life keeps on moving through ups and downs! And right when Olivia was dealing with being sick... Both boys' birthdays snuck right up on us!

I can never get over the fact that another year has passed once those birthdays come. They give me pause to reflect on each child's precious journey and all they've been through to get to this point. 

Liam turned TEN this year! TEN!?!? I can hardly stand it!

This little wisp of a boy who blew into our lives one evening in an emergency situation.  A nine month old who couldn't sit up or crawl and was making just one sound. And one week later was sitting, standing, and crawling, and his progress though slow continues to amaze me.

Ten is a big birthday year in our house. We don't do big parties but at five, ten, and sixteen we break the norm and go all out. At ten the kids also get a one on one trip with just mom; their choice.  And they get a pet.  

Liam chose to have his two best friends for a party at Chuck E Cheese this year and has looked forward to it ever since he turned nine!  Unfortunately it was right when Olivia was sick. Grandma was still here so she stayed with Olivia while the rest of us went. Poor Olivia cried and cried when she realized she was going to have to miss his party. 

Liam's trip will take place this June. He decided on a Disney trip so we will all travel to Florida to spend time at Grandma's and while there Liam and I will leave for four days for his special trip.

As for the pet... Well I'm not sure he's quite ready for that. I finagled my way out of it for now. So we'll see. 

On his birthday he chose summer sausage, cheese, crackers and cherry cola for his dinner. The kid cracks me up!

And then eight days later it was Braeden's turn! Luckily in between Olivia had her spinal tap so she was feeling herself again!  

Braeden turned twelve and he had a hard time this year. A lot of big feelings regarding family. Birthdays while joyous can bring up a lot in kiddos from hard backgrounds and this was no exception. A few nights holding a sobbing boy and daily anxiety on top of that. 

He chose wings, sweet potatoes, and butterbeer for his dinner!

It's amazing to see these two boys becoming young men before my eyes. I'm not sure where the time is going but thank God for all of the special times we've had and all I can see Him doing in their lives.
Sunday, February 14, 2016

Being Right

Many people rule their lives it seems by always having to "be right."  They have to have the final say, can't open their mind to other points of view, choose not to look into another idea or solution, and will defend their concept or position to the death.

I admit that at times I can get caught up in that as much as anyone.  But I like to think that for the most part that is NOT how I choose to function.  Does that mean I won't defend myself if I believe that I'm on the right track with a student or that I will "back down" if a certain 14 year old doesn't remember that she was asked three times to do something that still has not been done, no. :)  But I always try to see others' perspectives, their way of looking at a problem, another way to complete a job or view a solution or see our world.

Being right can also be a tough place for many.  I am positive there are times that people find out information and then wish with all they have that they WEREN'T right.  When the crew on the Titantic realized that the unsinkable ship was going down and they needed to begin evacuation, there were many who still disagreed.  Many who would not listen, would not, could not, dare to believe that this majestic boat was really sinkable.  But those who began to help passengers to safety were right.  The Titanic WAS sinking, and as much as they most likely wished to be wrong, they were right.

Friday I took Olivia to meet with a neurologist at the same hospital we've been going to, to help look at getting answers to what has been, and is, going on with her.  The neurologist looked over all of the tests that were done and spoke with one of the doctors we've been working with.  This doctor, like the others, still doesn't want to admit that her recent episode is in any way related to Olivia's hospitalization over the summer.  Even though she had the exact same symptoms.  Even though she's never been through anything like this any other time.  Even though both times it took a spinal tap to end those symptoms.

And I'm pretty sure I know why.  I'm pretty sure I know what she has. 

This most recent appointment?  The doctor did at least confirm that this is something REAL.  That whatever is happening is NOT just "in her head."  So that's a positive.  However, she's still guessing at what it could be.  She gave us a possibility and asked me to research it at home.  Recommended we still move forward with our referral to the other hospital in April (WE WILL BE).  And dismissed, just like the other doctors, the condition that I think Olivia has.  Dismissed it because of ONE factor.  One factor that I had read does not have to be at the number that these doctors do.  Because Olivia's "number" was the high end but "normal".  And yet the guess she gave me... does not hardly fit AT ALL. 

Do I WANT to "be right?"  NO!  Believe me, this is NOT about being right.  I do NOT wish to be "right" on this.  If I thought in the least that this doctor's recommendation was spot on... I'd run with it.  Because what she thinks... no big deal.  Managable.  Common.  Treatable.  What I think it is... what I'm pretty darn SURE it is... Not easily managable.  Rare.  Hard to treat with some patients.  But it fits.  And I don't WANT to just jump onto another diagnosis because it was given by a doctor, or because it's "better".

Because I don't WANT to be right. 
But I know I am.
And I wait and watch and hope that Olivia doesn't relapse before SOMEone helps us.  Before SOME doctor is willing to look seriously at this and provide a strong plan and treatment.
And my days and nights are spent trying not to worry.  Trying to distract myself as much as I can.  And trying to find something else it could be so that I'm NOT right.
Sunday, February 07, 2016


Whenever my kids at home or school use the phrase 'that's not fair' I always come back with letting them know that they're using 'fair' wrong. Many seem to think of fair as meaning everyone should get the same, but really it doesn't. Fair means everyone gets what they need. 

Honestly I can remember a couple of extreme lows in my life where I've thought 'it's not fair' so I do understand where they're coming from when they say that.  And this is another of those times.  I know that God can use trials for His good.  I've seen Him bring beauty from ashes.  But really, my Olivia has been through so much in her 14 years and I say it's not fair.

Born with HIV.
Living daily with HIV and worrying about the stigma of that.
Hard first three years in two living situations.
Foster care.
Separation from her brother.

Then last summer and her vaccine reaction and hospitalization.  Missing her favorite week of camp. Taking a couple months to build up her activity and health again.

Four weeks ago it all went downhill yet again.  She was hospitalized yet again.  She had a horrible headache that once started did not end for even five minutes, nausea, confusion, light and noise sensitivity, unsteadiness in her walking, reflux like symptoms, ringing ears.  Two days of this and she was hospitalized where they ran many tests.  They found nothing.  They did not see a correlation to the events of last summer, even though she hasn't had headaches any other time.  

So they claimed stress and anxiety and sent us home.  Home?!  Where her symptoms did NOT change but in fact grew worse over time.  They didn't call.  Didn't offer suggestions, except to send breathing exercises for anxiety through email.  I emailed constantly.  I researched relentlessly.  I lost many nights of sleep... And still am... I finally found what I thought was "it."  All the symptoms FIT.  And looking back at her hospitalization over the summer, which I kept telling them was related, her same symptoms: headache, confusion, altered state, all ended the day she had a spinal tap.  Maybe coincidence.  But it fit what I found.  At the time we didn't pay that any attention because so much was happening, so many tests were being done.  But that's the day she got better with those symptoms.  Yet they said no.  It couldn't be.  It didn't fit.

They finally decided, with all of my emailing, to do a spinal tap because that was one test they had thought of doing in the hospital but hadn't.  And I was now glad they hadn't, because if they did it would again have been overlooked as the solution.  They scheduled it for this past Thursday.  And on that day... after being on home bound from school because she couldn't leave the house... after missing activities at church and school... all the symptoms she had... headache that never ended for even five minutes the three and half weeks prior, light and noise sensitivity for 3+ weeks, ringing ears for 1+ weeks, cold head, sore back, all gone.  GONE.  Immediately gone.

And they haven't called to check on her. They haven't inquired in any way as to how she's been since.  And she's fine. She's back to her completely normal, healthy, 14 year old self.

So now I gear up for the next part of this battle. Because although she's better NOW, this is only the beginning. Someone has to listen. Someone has to help me get to the answer. Because I cannot, will not, wait six or five or four months for this to happen yet again with no answers.  And when someone does finally listen, we will have a new diagnosis, a new condition that we will have to navigate, more for Olivia to learn about her body.  And though they'll never admit it, it's another effect of that stupid vaccine.  It all started at the same moment that I will forever kick myself over.  

And if she has what I suspect she does, it's a serious, lifelong condition. 
And she's 14.
And it's so not fair.

I want her to be able to get back to 'normal'.
I want to not go day by day worrying she's going to get a headache and what that could mean. 
I want to go to late night movies with my friend again instead of spending hours researching medical symptoms and diagnoses.
I want to let her go to sleepovers and camp and out with friends without worrying how she is.
I want to plan vacations and concerts and Chicago trips without wondering if we can carry them out or if we'll be in the hospital.
I want...

For it to be fair...

Because life has NOT been fair to my girl.
And she deserves so much better. 
So much more.
Sunday, January 10, 2016

Toothless Wonders

It's been tooth losing season 'round these parts the last couple of weeks!

First Liam on our way to Florida...

Then Braeden while we were in Florida...

And finally MACY lost her FIRST every tooth just yesterday!!!!

And woke up saying "Where's my money?!?!"  Doh!

How Time Flies

Three years ago today I opened an email that would forever change my life.

And saw this face for the very first time.

We celebrated as a family the fact that we now knew WHO we were adopting.

And we were blessed to be chosen to be hers.

Three years later she is finally home.

And we are loving every minute of it.

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About Me

I am a single mom to four amazing kids; each of whom just happen to have been adopted. The first three were adopted through foster care, and we just completed an international adoption from Haiti. Our family has grown through adoption and I am all the more blessed to know each of my children. I worship a mighty God, teach Special Ed, love bargains, and am inspired by Pinterest... come along with us for the ride!

Olivia - 14

Olivia - 14

Braeden - 11

Braeden - 11

Liam - 9

Liam - 9

Macy - 5

Macy - 5

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What you should know about HIV

-HIV can NOT be spread through casual/household contact. HIV is not spread through hugging, kissing, shaking hands, sharing toys, sneezing, coughing, sharing food, sharing drinks, bathing, swimming or any other casual way. It has been proven that HIV and AIDS can only be spread through sexual contact, birth, breastfeeding and blood to blood contact (such as sharing needles). - HIV is now considered a chronic but manageable disease. With treatment, people who are HIV+ can live indefinitely without developing AIDS and can live long and full lives. - People who are HIV+ deserve to be treated with love, respect, support and acceptance as all people do. Additional information on transmission of HIV can be found on the Center for Disease Control website:

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Orphan Crisis

• 147 million orphans in the world
• 50 million orphans in Africa 
• Every 14 seconds a child is orphaned by AIDS
• 16,000,000 have been orphaned by AIDS
• Every week, AIDS claims as many lives as American fatalities in the Vietnam War
• 854 million people do not have enough to eat
• Malnutrition is associated with the deaths of 5 million children under the age of five
• Every 2 seconds an orphan dies from malnutrition

Hence the title of my blog

Little Did I Know

Little did I know that the road would be so rocky
Little did I know that the trip would take so long
Little did I know that my heart could hurt so much
Little did I know that God is never wrong

Little did I know that love could be so powerful
Little did I know that a dream so far could go
Little did I know that God would place the right ones
Little did I know that my heart, so large, could grow

Little did I know that a dream has it’s own timing
Little did I know that this day would finally come
Little did I know that four souls would be sent to guide me
Little did I know that they would choose to call me mom

But God knew all along and He had a plan to follow
God knew all along that my dream would soon come true
God knew all along that we five should be together
God knew all along that I’d share it all with you