Tips and Tricks

Shaving Time

Happy Friday everyone! And Happy Belated World Vegetarian Day, which was this week (October 1). I found this handy HuffPo article with 22 new vegetarian recipe ideas to share, and I’m definitely going to try the pumpkin mac n’ cheese and the sweet potato pizza this weekend, which is the only time I can really plan ahead and pre-cook things for the week to save time after work. We’ve been doing a great job at eating out less, and encouraged by our success I am now trying to tackle a few other areas where I waste time and money. Though we’ve saved a lot through inertia of not having to buy formula and being able to serve Georgia table food, I feel there’s always more I can do to save my sanity.

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Not going to lie: I sometimes multi-task bathtime by giving her a bottle in the tub and cleaning down surfaces with baby wipes while she plays.

What do you do to streamline life? I’ve always been a lover of efficiency, but nothing has made me more organized and adept at shaving time off of things that used to eat up my entire day than having Georgia. To think that I used to shower and blow dry my hair every single day before work, and spend 15 or 20 minutes putting on makeup! To be honest, the post-partum body changes from having Georgia were another tool for me to simplify my life, too, because I was forced to eliminate anything that didn’t work for me and to reduce my wardrobe to the key essentials. In turn, it has allowed me to feel OK about buying things that really do work for us, even if they are a little more expensive (case in point: the convertible car seat we just bought, which was more expensive than other models but is so simple to install that I don’t know how it took someone this long to invent it. Anyone who’s wrestled one of these things into a cab or rental car will feel me on this). So how else do I, a not-so-new-but-still-frazzled mom, shave time in my daily life?

Prep the night before

I make Georgia’s food and bottles and lay out her clothes every night before bed. This means chopping fruit, bagging up crackers, cheese and yogurt, slicing meatballs or shredding rotisserie chicken and packing it all in her lunch bag. Even just taking 5 minutes to pour whole milk into her bottles and sippy cups saves you from a hectic morning. That way, when we are running out the door, I just grab leftovers or an Amy’s Frozen Organic Meal for my lunch, take her day care bag out of the fridge, and then buy a breakfast sandwich & coffee or myself on the way to the train after school drop-off. This is the one meal I routinely eat out; everybody has one. If I do make my own breakfast, it’s either a smoothie, a slice of casserole, egg muffins or an overnight yogurt and oatmeal fruit parfait.

Hungry Girl’s Overnight Oatmeal Parfait

Develop some go-to second day hairstyles

Shop online

This is a biggie for me. From getting our diapers and wipes every six weeks from The Honest Company, to ordering gifts, toiletries, toys and craft supplies from our Amazon Prime membership (free 2-day shipping! Instant streaming for those nights in with a sleeping toddler!), we try to minimize our trips to any store because we have one car and zero shared days off per week. We also recently joined Costco, so that we can really stock up and not have to make extra trips to Target or the grocery store for another 12-pack of toilet paper or seltzer, and I’ve recently been considering checking out other subscription product membership services such as Fabletics, PopbasicStitch Fix and Dollar Shave Club (which I am dying to try; I feel like we spend so much money on razors). I even order stamps from the postal service by mail now, and I long ago switched almost entirely to shopping online for clothes (both ours and Georgia’s), especially via consignment sites like ThredUp, Kidizen and my favorite place for well-priced trendy baby duds, Old Navy and Gap. (And if you try any of the services above, I’d be tickled if you use my referral links!)

Get off social media

Seriously. If you need more convincing, read on. You can’t spend more time with your family, your hobbies and your home improvement projects until you minimize screen time. And this is coming from a blogger who manages websites and social media platforms for a living!

Minimize your beauty routine

This happened out of necessity both while I was pregnant (read: exhausted) and after Georgia came along. Of course in those first few weeks you don’t wear any makeup, good clothes or basically anything clean or flattering; about a month in, though, you start to want to venture out, and realize this can only happen if you drastically lower your standards for your appearance and/or consolidate a few aspects of your morning routine. I did this in a few key ways: eliminating steps, and buying products that do double duty.

As I already said, I started showering every other day, taking advantage of simple buns, dry shampoo and (let’s be honest) hats, and by picking up multi-tasking products like this Benefit blush that doubles as eye shadow, or this blush that doubles as a lip stain. This concealor can cover up under-eye circles and blemishes, and then I just swipe some mascara and I’m good to go. At night, I reach for a do-it-all makeup remover and cleanser that can handle tough mascara, like these Kat Von D wipes (amazing). I take my skin care routine seriously, so whenever possible, I wash with Cetaphil (can double as baby wash in a pinch!), tone with witch hazel wipes (good for you-know-what after childbirth, plus bug bites, cuts & scrapes) and moisturize with Olay Regenerist. In the shower, I share my Honest shampoo and body wash with Georgia, and we also both use the Honest conditioning detangler now that she’s got some wavy, crazy hair. Finally, if I need to polish my nails in a hurry, I’m a huge fan of this Sally Hansen insta-dri fast color (like literally dry in 30 seconds, and has a huge color selection).

A couple other quick tips: diaper rash cream can also be used to dry up a breakout; Rosebud salve can tint your lips, tamp down flyaways and frizz, and soothe your cuticles, dry elbows and paper cuts; and things like dryel and febreeze fabric freshener can really cut down on the time and expense of all those trips to the dry-cleaners.

Work out in short bursts

I wouldn’t get any exercise at all if I tried to make it to an actual yoga class twice (or being real here, even once) every week. I also suck at getting up early enough to exercise before my unpredictable child decides to start her day, which can happen any time between 6 and 7:30 a.m., so that’s out. What’s a girl to do? Well, I’ve come up with a couple creative solutions, and they all revolve around cramming shorter workouts into more days per week.

I try to grab a snack when G is eating dinner around 5:45, then it’s digested by the time she goes to bed between 6:30 and 7, and this fuels me for a quick workout after her bedtime and before my own dinner. We do a long walk every weekend together, then twice a week, we walk home one mile from her daycare. Once a week my office hosts a short yoga class in one of our conference rooms, which I don’t always make it to, but which is great to have. See if your company is willing to do the same!

Cook in bulk

This goes for big things like making stuffed shells, chili or a huge batch of risotto so there’s plenty of leftovers throughout the week, all the way down to slicing and mixing Georgia’s daycare meals on Sundays so I can grab and go in the mornings. We bought (and labelled) a ton of food containers that we can stock up on weekends and just plop into her daycare bag every other day when she goes. I also like to pick up a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store one night, then make the leftovers into chicken salad for Mark to have for sandwiches throughout the week. Since we often eat dinner separately, he either buys his on break from work, or I make a huge pan of shepherd’s pie or spaghetti carbonara for him to take every day (and I pretend like he’s having a side salad with it, but probably it’s more like a side soda).

This week, to get Georgia more veggies in her diet, I bought a pre-cut butternut squash at Costco and then roasted and mashed it with a touch of pumpkin butter. She devoured it, and the whole thing lasted us an entire week!

Last but not least, keep baby wipes in every single corner of your house — preferably fragrance free and eco-friendly — and use them to do everything. I’ve washed my walls and baseboards, wiped down kitchen counters and the high chair, dusted the car interior, freshened up the sink and toilet, and even cleaned all my vinyl siding before Georgia’s birthday party this summer, using just baby wipes. They are also amazing post-workout when you don’t have time to shower, and I’ve grabbed them in a panic when the cat has gotten sick or walked through something gross and tracked it into the house. I honestly don’t know how I ever survived without them.

So what did I miss? I know there are some great life hacks out there waiting to be discovered and shared. I’d love to hear about them.

Special thanks to Dollar Shave Club for reaching out to us to create this post!

Baby & Toddler · Pregnancy · Tips and Tricks

Maternity Fashion

Now that I only have a couple weeks to go, I’m realizing that I am really going to miss being pregnant. Don’t get me wrong: I’m anxious for the foot swelling, heartburn and frequent potty breaks to stop, but there’s also a part of me that can’t believe my baby will be here any day, that I have to learn to breastfeed, and that pretty soon I won’t have a little buddy kicking, hiccuping & rolling over inside my belly all day!

36 weeks.
36 weeks.

I really enjoyed shopping for maternity clothes, too, so when I finally had to stop buying them in order to focus on nursing wear and baby’s layette a couple months ago, I felt bummed. I like to think I’ll be pregnant again someday, but one never knows what life has in store!

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37 weeks. Mid-heat wave.

I’ll do a post soon on what we learned while registering for baby stuff, but for now I want to share the tips I picked up over 9 months of pregnancy while shopping for maternity wear. Obviously I’m very focused on what works for petites, but a lot of my advice goes for any mama-to-be. And, as always, I LOVE hearing your comments and ideas.

First trimester

It took ages for me to “show” in an obvious way, but somehow I put on what felt like a spare tire the instant I took a positive home pregnancy test. I felt pudgy immediately, so all my skinny pants went right to the back of the closet. Then, once morning sickness kicked in around 7 weeks, anything constricting made me doubly nauseous and had to go. So, to feel more comfortable, I transitioned to leggings, jeggings and dresses/skirts very early on. As I got closer to 12 and 13 weeks at the end of my first trimester, I phased in some (borrowed) pants and dresses one size larger, since I needed the looser waist but not a full belly panel yet. Two helpful things at this stage: a belly band, so you can stay in your “regular” jeans without letting everyone know you had to unbutton the waist to sit down, and maternity hosiery. Yes, hosiery.

The BeBand. Helpful in the first trimester, and I’m told post-partum as well.

Everyone laughs at me when I talk about preggo pantyhose, but they were a total lifesaver for me when it was still cold enough out that I needed to wear tights or nylons every day to work but couldn’t suffer through the tight waistband without getting sick. They helped me eke a couple more weeks out of my regular (one size larger) skirts and dresses before I had to give ’em up for maternity clothes.

Two recommended brands for maternity hosiery: Assets, the lower-cost version of Spanx (made by the same company and sold in Target and on Amazon) and Motherhood Maternity. I bought a couple full-length hose in black and nude for winter, and then shorts like these were helpful for smoothing out the bumps under lighter-weight dresses come summer.

I also found that I outgrew my regular bras extremely quickly. This was due in part to my cup size changing (woohoo! I’ve always been a 34A!) and also partly to the unexpected way your rib cage broadens ever so slightly during pregnancy (boo, that makes me feel fat). I wasn’t prepared for that physical change, which made most of my button-down work shirts impossible to wear past 8 or 9 weeks. Also, having been smaller-chested my whole life, I hadn’t ever dealt with needing meaningful support for the twins … but pregnant boobs are a whole other matter, and they can’t handle a flimsy bra. Sore, achy and expanding, they need a bit of help and TLC. I lived in sports bras, especially overnight, and then started wearing the Genie Bra, which was a godsend. I’m still wearing them at 38 weeks.

I bought mine at Target, but later found even better prices (3-pack for $19.99) at Burlington Coat Factory.

KEY ITEMS AND TIPS FOR MONTHS 1-3

  • Buy maternity stuff early and often so the options are there as soon as you need them. Sign up for every free e-mail list and/or store credit card available for places you like. I carry a Banana Republic credit card, which can be used at Gap & Old Navy too, and I got on frequent-buyer lists for those stores plus Destination Maternity. Do it and watch the coupons flow into your mailbox.
  • Be aware that smaller sizes (4 and under) sell out extremely quickly when it comes to maternity wear, so if you see something you like and it’s available in your size, just buy it. Be further aware that “petite” maternity clothes are usually just sizes 0 through 4, not clothes tailored for petite bodies like you might expect. So be prepared to get a few things hemmed.
  • Grab plenty of sports bras for sleep & sturdier bras for everyday in a cup size larger. Buy these as soon as you find out you’re pregnant so they’re on hand the minute your girls need extra support. The swelling and soreness can be staggering.
  • Leggings and jeggings. Maternity options (I liked Old Navy’s, both under- and over-the-belly) are great and cheap.
  • A couple of skirts and dresses one size larger than you normally wear.
  • That said, buy maternity clothes in your regular size. Don’t listen to sales people and relatives who tell you that you need to “go a size up.”
  • 1-2 elastic waist sweatpants/shorts or fold-over yoga pants for lounging (and exercise, if you’re feeling up to it). Fold-over yoga pants can take you from week 1 to 40 and into post-partum.
  • Long tanks and shirts for layering & covering any pooch.
  • Invest in some new, comfy underwear. You’ll find yourself wanting things that are seamless, with good coverage, and which aren’t too flimsy or tight or stringy. Cotton is best. Plus, you don’t want to stretch out your nice stuff! My absolute, hands-down favorites: these from Gap, with a couple close runners-up from Destination Maternity and Target.

  • A belted trench is expandable in front and conceals the belly for quite a while. This is good for keeping things mum, but bad when you’re on the subway and just wish everyone could tell you’re pregnant so they’d give up their seat before you throw up all over them.
  • Don’t be afraid to move into maternity wear, especially underthings, as soon as you need them. You’ll be a million times more comfortable. There’s no correlation between gaining too much over the entire pregnancy and needing maternity stuff early on. I had to shift into maternity jeans and pantyhose even before 12 weeks, but I’ve gained a healthy 20 pounds so far with just a couple weeks to go. Just avoid tops & dresses with side ruching if you’re keeping the news under wraps at work.
  • If you have bad morning sickness like I did, diversions are your friend. Think textured and fun-colored tights, pretty scarves, long necklaces and lip color that pops. These distract from a sickly pallor.

Second trimester

Truly, this is the golden time. You are finally showing, so nobody thinks you’re just eating too much pasta anymore, and you probably aren’t so big that things such as bad balance, swollen ankles and heartburn are plaguing you yet. You’ve likely stopped making a million trips to the bathroom and thus are sleeping better, so your “glow” is in full swing & maternity clothes are looking GREAT on you. Enjoy it while it lasts.

This is when I really started rocking my full maternity wardbrobe, and was glad I’d bought most of the pieces early. Here’s my punch list of essentials:

  • Jeans, skinny and boot-cut
  • Dress pants, at least 1 pair black (I got 2, one tailored for heels and one for flats, plus a gray pair)
  • Leggings, at least 1 pair black
  • Tights, 1 black and one sheer
  • 1-2 tunics, ideally 3/4 sleeve for versatility
  • 6+ shirts (cover the basic colors, then go for stripes or patterns)
  • 5+ tanks (I like these and these)
  • 6-8 dresses that can be layered with sweaters and cardigans in winter and spring, then worn alone in warm weather
  • At least 1 pencil skirt (Gap makes a nice one) that works for office or casual (I needed more for work, so I bought blue, gray and black).
  • 2 or 3 maxi dresses (they look adorable with denim jackets, they hide cankles and they conceal inelegant seating positions)
  • Exercise tank, pants & jacket
  • 2-3 pairs of shorts (I got denim and white; gray or khaki would have been my next choices. I only really needed 2 because I only wore them on weekends).
  • Use what you already own when it comes to cardigans, jean jackets, belts and coats, unless you’re hitting your third trimester in winter. The “maternity versions” are not cut that differently.

Third trimester

It’s here before you know it. Suddenly you’re more awkward than you bargained for, and outfits are less about what’s pretty than what’s easy to put on, easy to sit in, and comfortable for puffy legs, sore backs and itchy bellies. Demi panels probably aren’t too comfortable for you anymore, but full panels may irritate your stretched-out skin. It can be a battle. Sometimes under-the-belly options actually start to feel better. My recommendation is to wear whatever is comfortable and don’t try to hold yourself to any pre-pregnancy standard (or even what you could wear in the second trimester). And take seriously any doctor’s recommendation to put your feet up, wear compression socks, etc. Probably the worst part of this trimester won’t be looking bad, but having to work hard to get dressed every day. You won’t be able to bend over very well, and clumsiness will have reached new levels. Check out this ingenious product one woman designed to overcome this awkward phase:

Undergarments you can put on lying down!
Undergarments you can put on lying down!

Work

3-4 skirts, 6-8 dresses and maybe 2-3 pairs of pants should give you enough outfit combinations if you’ve been stocking up on accessories, tanks and cardis all along. That may sound like a lot, but by waiting for markdowns or buy-one-get-one sales, I nabbed several of my dresses and skirts for $10 or $15 each. I picked up a few more chic pairs of flats since I found heels uncomfortable once I started showing and my balance went off, and again I made good use of maternity nylons and compression trouser socks underneath it all. Since I was pregnant December through August, I relied on long sweaters and flowy blouses early on, transitioning to maternity skirts and pants by February and then mostly maternity dresses from April onward since I was always running hot. Other than when we had a series of heat waves, running hot was kind of nice after years of toting a pashmina everywhere because I’d always be cold! Key for me was making sure I had one “public speaking” dress for days when I had to give a presentation, teach or otherwise get up in front of people. For me, that was this Gap dress:

Exercise

I already did an extensive post on prenatal fitness, but I’ll just reiterate that there ARE good maternity exercise clothing options out there, and they aren’t pricey either. I made good use of my existing elastic-waist pants until I was about four months along, when they started to roll down in the middle of Zumba class (oops!) Then, I picked up a full-panel pair of capris from Motherhood Maternity, plus a couple maternity tanks made of moisture-wicking material from Old Navy. Leggings rounded out my fitness wardrobe for gentler classes or at-home yoga & walking around the neighborhood.

Shoes

Don’t push it here if your back is hurting, no matter how far along you are. Things can go from bad to worse really quickly if you ask too much of your body or ignore what it’s trying to tell you. With pregnancy, there’s no such thing as “powering through!” I thought just because the shoe still fit on my feet, it wouldn’t cause problems, and learned the hard way that this is how pregnant women end up with hammer toes, calf cramps and blisters. Key pieces:

  • Roomy walking shoes/sneakers
  • low work heels
  • plenty of cute flats
  • flat boots for winter/rain
  • If summer, pretty sandals with room for your feet to grow a bit. Make sure the heel isn’t too high (like a low wedge). I love Bare Traps.
  • some micro liner socks for when your feet get bigger and start to rub the inside of your existing shoes.
Some of my favorite purchases: Bare Traps (top), Payless flats (left), sock liners from DSW, and Skechers GoWalk slip-on sneakers (no socks required).
Some of my favorite purchases: Bare Traps (top), Payless flats (left), sock liners from DSW, and Skechers GoWalk slip-on sneakers (no socks required).

Sleep

Want to know what I did? I got some hospital scrubs at a uniform supply store (Army-Navy outlets will have them, too) and just let the waist out bit by bit as I got bigger. They can be tied anywhere that’s comfortable for you, which cannot be said of some other pajamas that will pinch right where your full bladder is. I also used my husband’s undershirts to sleep in (granted, he’s 6’4″ so they’re like a nightgown on me) or just stuck to under-the-belly cotton shorts and a sports bra. Pregnancy turns you into a furnace and our bedroom already runs hot because of the way our house is built, so there were no footy fleece PJs for me. If you’re struggling with heartburn or back pain, invest early in a full-length body pillow made for pregnancy. For $50, it will change your life.

Weekend

In the winter, I wore leggings and jeans with flats or low boots. My favorites were my skinny pair from Old Navy, a versatile boot-cut pair from Gap, and these black leggings with a full panel, which had great support and smoothed out the bumps nicely. In the summer, I wore a few non-maternity skirts that had foldover waists, as well as shorts, and this fabulous Old Navy bathing suit for beach days.

Things I didn’t have to deal with

  • Special occasions. I’m not sure how I got away with not having any weddings during this gestation, but boy do I feel lucky!
  • Winter. And thank God — maternity winter coats are hideously expensive.
  • Travel. Because instead of a babymoon, we had to remediate mold from the inside of our bathroom walls. However, A Cup of Jo has some great tips on planning your babymoon, from picking a location to packing well.

PREGNANT BEAUTY

And by this I mean, “shortcuts to getting ready when you need 12 hours of sleep” and “minimizing your routine NOW before the baby comes.”

Moisturize. Not just your belly and your chest, which are so prone to stretch marks, but the rest of your body and your face as well. Hydrating your face well can help keep hormone-induced breakouts at bay, and slathering lotion on the rest of your body is a good habit to get into so you aren’t caught off-guard by the intense itchiness that can come on without warning when your baby decides to have a growth spurt. All that stretching can make you want to scratch yourself to death, and it can show up overnight!

Eucerin’s smoothing repair lotion has a pregnancy-safe AHA in it, which promotes moisture retention while gently exfoliating. It’s also fragrance free and extremely soothing. I used it all 9 months and didn’t get a single stretch mark.

One thing that just came on the market which I should have tried: sprayable lotion. When I think of all the acrobatic maneuvers I performed every morning just to get cream on my legs when I couldn’t bend over anymore…..

Try dry shampoo. Most likely, your hair will be thicker, so you can get a second or third day out of a blowout. I used this tactic to grab some extra sleep!

Pay for pedis. Eventually you’ll have no choice because you won’t be able to reach your toes, but I found that this $25 worth of pampering made me feel a zillion times prettier. Just don’t get the massage part in your third trimester because rubbing the pressure point between your heel and ankle can bring on contractions.

File nails daily. They grow so fast, you really have to in order to keep them looking neat. Or, do I what I did occasionally — get a manicure and have them trimmed very short with a polished, pretty nail color, so you get a break from all that maintenance. This helps keep a good shape to your nails, too. I liked having a manicure to feel professional whenever I had to get up and talk in front of people and knew the bump was distracting.

Invest in a good razor. You’ll be shaving a lot more often, if you’re like me! I ended up getting those razors with the shaving cream built in, like Schick Intuition. It was just easier.

STORES

I was willing to shop anywhere that had stylish clothing that fit me, within my budget. I saw no need to pay full price for anything when you can sign up for friends & family programs for free at almost every store on this list. There’s always a sale somewhere if you wait a day or two!

My favorites:

Old Navy. Always having a sale at some point! Their rewards rack up really fast, and their prices are super reasonable to begin with. I got several dresses here that could switch between work and play, plus my two favorite lightweight sweaters. I know I said to just use your regular cardigans, but every now and then you’ll have a day when you want to be able to pull something cozy around the belly. Here is that cozy something:

Also comes in black; I have both.

Motherhood Maternity. People criticize this store for being lower quality than they’d like. I disagree — I had no issues with their stuff, got great compliments on their dresses (most of which are priced below $40) and was actually able to find professional pants in several colors, hemmed for my height. When it got hot, this is where I went for cute shorts that didn’t break the bank.

$34.98

Gap Maternity. In my opinion, great for basics like tanks, leggings and jeans. Prices can be steep for non-sale dresses and skirts, especially since similar styles can be found elsewhere (Old Navy, Target) for less.

Not bad

  • Ann Taylor Loft Maternity. Styles offered were great-looking. But everything I ordered from here went back — why? Three reasons: 1) Pricy. They had the worst sales of all the retailers I shopped. 2) Small sizes (4 and under) sell out instantly — and I mean by 8 a.m. on a Sunday morning when new inventory comes in or a sale is on. 3) Poor fit. Their so-called “petite” maternity items are no such thing, and the one pair of cropped black pants I purchased from here required $20 in hemming to fit properly. I shouldn’t have bothered for the limited use I got out of them.
  • Liz Lange for Target. They don’t carry a lot of variety at any given time — maybe three dresses, two styles of tank top in a few colors, and a handful of shirts and pants — but when you hit on something flattering, it’s good quality and priced well. I got my workout jacket here as well as a couple work dresses.
  • Asos. I just wish I’d discovered this website earlier in my pregnancy. Very reasonably priced for on-trend stuff.
  • Baby Depot/Burlington Coat Factory. Their stuff is pretty cheap, I’m not gonna lie. But for weekend t-shirts or lounge wear, you can’t beat it. They carry a smallish selection of maternity wear right next to their baby department, which is worth a look as well.

Didn’t have much luck

  • Consignment stores. They almost never get in a good selection of clothes for sizes 0 and 2.
  • H&M Maternity. Cute stuff, all of it way too casual for what I needed.
  • The plus-size department. Obviously. Why do sales people suggest you look here when you ask if a department store carries maternity clothing? Mark and I could never get over this.

Throughout my 9 months of pregnancy, I shared my favorite preggo finds on a Pinterest “maternity fashion” board. Check it out and follow me!

Pinterest copy

If you want a chuckle, check out this article on the 12 things you miss most during pregnancy. One thing on the list that I definitely agree with is the ability to wear cute shoes. Even before my feet got too swollen to fit into any of my shoes (seriously — I literally have been wearing black Old Navy flip flops for two months straight) I found that heels were too totter-y, anything strappy cut off circulation, and half the rest just looked different (a.k.a., unflattering). It remains to be seen how much my feet will shrink back down to normal size after I give birth, but I’ll keep you posted. A wise husband (mine) once said, “don’t worry if your feet are permanently bigger. Won’t it be exciting to get to buy some new shoes?” CHA-CHING!