The Time I Went B-A-N-A-N-A-S

Yesterday was a bad day. A really, really bad day. I basically failed at life yesterday.

My sister-in-law, Carlie, recently sent me a song that has become my anthem. I have this song on repeat for much of the day, and I'm telling you that if you watch this video, and watch it all the way to the end, you're gonna straight up pray that sinner's prayer. Okay, maybe you won't, but that is the impact that Miss Tasha Cobbs has on me when she's singing this song. This song, it is my anthem.

Plus, my voice sounds a lot like hers.

I can not overstate how this has become my battle cry. "I am empty before you, fill me up God." 

I don't know how it is possible to feel so empty, and also so full of my own self. I am empty, and yet, I am stuffed. I am stuffed with selfishness, with fear, with stress, with rage, with pride, with self-loathing, with a desire for control, and more than anything else, I am stuffed with a desire for relief. I am stuffed sick of my self, and at the very same time I feel completely empty. So, I listen to this song on repeat and I let Ol' Tasha usher Jesus into my empty places, and I let him sweetly pour me out, all of that junk that is in me, I beg him to let it spill out so that He alone can fill me up. 

I know that this sounds ridiculous if you have never encountered Jesus as a living leader and active forgiver. But, for me... this song is like being in a spiritual spin class. Where the instructor is leading me into an excercise that I lack the motivation and discipline and know-how to do on my own. Listening to this song has been a spiritual excercise, and the incredible voice on that woman is walking me through the process of opening up inside, and letting a holy fire burn out whatever is left in me, so that I can be an empty vessel that God, in his mercy, can fill to overflowing.

Yesterday was a bad day. Yesterday, I was empty. And I am realizing now that "empty" just means that I am actually full - of all the wrong things. So, yesterday I was stuffed. And I lost it. I absolutely lost my mind. I have a new respect for the phrase " go bananas" because I truly and completely went bananas. Ironically, about 14 bananas were actually involved in this particular incident. I won't go into the whole mess of the thing, but let's just say that lives were saved by the fact that bananas are a soft fruit. If we were talking pineapples, I'd be in jail right now.

It wasn't pretty y'all. My entire dining room was a battle scene, the evidence of our struggle was everywhere. The floor, the table, most of the chairs, the walls, all of it, was caked with smashed banana, and my heart was caked with shame. And while I was on my knees, face down, sobbing in the literal and figurative mess of my life, I heard Tasha Cobbs still playing on my phone. It was at 3:56 into the video and in the song she is begging God to fill her up. 

Fill me up, God

Fill me up, God

Fill me up, God

Thirty times in that section of the song, the phrase, my anthem, is repeated.  

"Somebody ask him," she sings, "I need a fresh annointing... Somebody ask him, fill me again. I need more of you. I've been running on empty. I need you to fill me again. We cry out for more. More of your spirit is what we need. More of your annointing, more of your glory, fill me up. That's what I really want, that's what I really need. I'm so tired of me, I need more of you. I gotta have more of you. "

A couple weeks ago, I was the key-note speaker for a weekend retreat. Next week I go to Michigan for two speaking events, and when I get back home, I have even more events lined up, or maybe not after I publish this post. Either way, I am not selling out arenas or anything, none of these events are necessaily huge or impressive. But, I stand before people and I tell them about my life, I tell them about the wisdom in the Bible, the truths of scripture, but ultimately... I only ever say one thing, that Jesus is the bringer of hope and redemption. That is my only message.

Sure, I write and speak about my life. I talk about parenting a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder. I talk about being a multi-racial, adoptive family. I talk about racism. I talk about the violent end to my brother's life, and my response to his death (#AdamsActs) with you all. I share my family's personal experiences - my daughter's current health struggles, my mistakes and my struggles, about throwing down with bananas, cross-country road trips, general shenanigans, and all the in-between stuff. But, all of that sharing is just a pouring out. It's just an attempt to overflow what God is doing, has ALWAYS done, in my life.

I have nothing to say, I have nothing to write, that isn't about redemption.

People often tell me that I should write a book. There are even times where it feels like it could actually be a dream realized. But the question remains - what would my book be about? 

The answer is redemption. The answer can only ever be redemption.

Because I am empty, and yet I am stuffed. And I am the worst. And I lost my head and I went crazy and I let myself lose sight of who God made me to be. And so much banana was involved. And still, somehow, God still lets me speak to rooms full of people. God still lets me tell you my story. He lets me tell you his story.

Please don't tell me how amazing I am in response to this. Please. If there is ANY good thing in me, anything at all that is inspiring, or encouraging, or worthy of admiring in me then you must know, that is not me at all. I am on the floor covered in fruit. I am dry, and empty, and still sickly full of my self, my shame and my sin. But, still, he uses me. I am not amazing, I am broken and he redeems me for his purpose. And that is the miraculous power of the living God that I serve and rely on. Because if, even for a second, I take my eyes and my hope off of Him... I instantly become part of the broken mess. 

And every time I go to write, or speak to other people there is nothing I am more aware of than my own lack. My shortcomings, my limitations, my total and complete depravity are never far from my mind. The day I lose the awareness of my own need for redemption is the day I have no business writing or speaking to anyone again.

Yesterday was a bad day. A really, really bad day. All of us can relate to that. Anyone parenting a difficult child, or does life with somone who has mental health issues, may be able to relate to some degree. Those of you parenting a child with disordered attachment... you have a banana battle story of your own, I'm certain. And as I kneeled down, filthy and sobbing and ashamed, I begged God - out loud and in front of my empty, hurting child - to fill me up.

"Fill me up God, Fill me up God, Fill me up God"

I do not deserve to write or speak to so many people. I am not worthy to speak a single word about a Bible that I can so easily disregard in a moment of anger or exhaustion or emptiness. But,

That. Is. Redemption.

That in the unlikliest places, that at the unlikliest times, in the unlikliest people, God chooses to fill, to forgive, to heal and to sort it out for good. And as long as he continues to redeem me and fill me and give me another go, I will simply never shut up about it.

 

 

Burnt Hair, the Hospital and a Rogue Set of Googlies

So much crazy has gone down in the past 72 hours. 

For starters, Windpocalypse 2017 came at us like a wrecking ball, and I mean that in the most literal sense possible. The greater Rochester area, but particularly our town of Irondequoit, just started vomiting trees all over the place. In the words of my four year old son, Jay, "it's insame."

The past few days feel like everything in my life was shoved into an enormous version of that game Barrel of Monkeys, shaken up and then spilled out all tangled and confusing and somehow dangling precariously from one flimsy limb. So, now you all get to experience the literary version of these things being spilled out, in a random, haphazard and somewhat tangled order. Here are the events that transpired over the course of the past 72 hours:

-One ancient tree exploded into the street and landed directly at the end of our driveway, crushing nobody, but if it had fallen in literally any other direction, one of our houses would have been decimated.

Our house is the white one. Jay is by the stump, for perspective.

Our house is the white one. Jay is by the stump, for perspective.

View of wreckage from attic window.

View of wreckage from attic window.

I picked up these 7 crazies from school to discover the driveway completely blocked - this pic was taken because,for a brief moment, one of them was certain they could move the tree.😂

I picked up these 7 crazies from school to discover the driveway completely blocked - this pic was taken because,for a brief moment, one of them was certain they could move the tree.😂

-A thousand other ancient trees were uprooted, landing on countless homes, cars, a mail truck, a school bus, etc.

Photo from Democrat & Chronicle

Photo from Democrat & Chronicle

Photo from Democrat & Chronicle


Photo from Democrat & Chronicle

Our friends' house is under there. :(

Our friends' house is under there. :(

And our old church, impaled by its own steeple.  

And our old church, impaled by its own steeple.  

-Many of these trees took powerlines down with them and we have been without power since 1:30pm on Wednesday.

Photo from Democrat & Chronicle

Photo from Democrat & Chronicle

-I got called into the school because one of my children used magnet letters to write “nipples” on the magnet board. (Before you judge, I should note that he did not learn that word at home. I am not mature enough to use correct anatomical language with my children, so ‘nipples’ is not a word he learned at home. In my house, we say “googlies,” like normal people.)

-The first thing I did after the power went out was spill a canister of white sugar all over the floor. You really do need a vacuum for that sort of situation. This is the one single thing that is stopping me from becoming Amish. Mama needs a vacuum because no birch broom is gonna cut it when you have wall-to-wall sugar carpet. And my hair would never stay under those little bonnets. And also I love nail polish, it keeps me sane. Okay, whatevs, maybe being Amish wasn’t ever really in the cards for me.

-Tom found a secret hidey-door on our fireplace with a battery compartment for just such an emergency. Not the sugar emergency, but the power outage. So, we have a toasty fire in one room that has allowed us to stay in our house, despite the dropping temperatures.

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-On a churchlady dare, I gave Tom such an epic kiss that he forgot to put the car in park and I closed the car door on my own knee while Tom just watched the car roll away with his eyes glazed over. #skillz

-We have moved all of our food from the luke-warm fridge, to the front porch, which feels super classy. Nothing says “I have no dignity left” like a huge ziploc bag of chili on the front stoop.

-London was in the hospital for a procedure to confirm Celiac Disease as well as further testing on her thyroid. Her thyroid levels have continued to elevate and each test proves a little more concerning than the last. The GI doc just called to inform us that while we are still waiting for all the lab results to come in, her TSH is, once again, higher than the last test.

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-She was a champ at the hospital and in recovery, and groggily requested sushi on our way home. So, high thyroid levels aside, she’s pretty much acting like herself.

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-They are calling the power outage a “multi-day event” as if it some sort of special occasion and, Lucky us! We made the guest list!

-The kids are actually having a blast living pretending to be Amish (there’s still a chance for them) and love living by candlelight while we remain one of 92,000 people who initially lost power in Rochester.

-In other news, that may or may not be related to the children enjoying the candlelight, Marlie set her hair on fire.

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Guys… do you recall the title of my last post? Please Excuse My Mental Breakdown? Yeah, I think that post may have been a little premature because what in the actual heck is going on!? All of this has been so crazytown, I really have no choice but to laugh.

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(Except about London’s poor precious baby thyroid, if you laugh about that I will cut you.)

In times like these – and in complete transparency, my life always seems to be “times like these” – I feel really elderly. I don’t feel like the 35 year old spring chick that I am. I feel a thousand. I feel like one of those skittish, old, maniacal women who laugh way too hard and for way too long, and then the laughing takes a fast curve into spontaneously crying, and all this while feeding so many birds for some reason. That’s me. I’m a thousand and I’m “insame” and I’m here cackling away in the candlelight with all the birds, but I am one sugar-granule-on-the-bare- foot away from snapping.

Poor Tom. Yesterday he had to calmly explain to me why he felt it was actually for my benefit that he talk to me “like a mental patient.” Say goodbye to your magical makeout sessions mister.

In all seriousness, as hectic as the past 72 hours have been (and the preceding 35 years) I haven’t actually lost my mind. That is how I know that Jesus is real. That is how I know that when life comes crashing down, sometimes all at once, he is steady and at the center of it all. And I honestly do not know how I would do each day without him, without the hope that this life isn’t all there is. I really believe that this life, and all its trouble, are temporary. That London will not suffer forever. Even if she suffers for her whole life, it won’t be forever. Even if every 72 hours looks as wild as these ones did, it won’t be forever. It is this awareness that keeps me going. Apart from my hope in a God that sustains us (sometimes with front-stoop chili) I would not make it through another day, let alone come through it laughing.  

We will eventually get our power back. Marlie’s hair will eventually grow back. We will eventually get to the bottom of London’s strange set of symptoms. Eventually, I will be mature enough to explain to my kids what these so-called “nipples” are. Until then, we are just going to say that where we are at right now – even if it is the center of windpocalypse 2017 – is the best place to be, because it is where He has put us. And I don’t want to be anywhere else.

Unless somewhere with less sugar is available.

 

 

 

 

Please Excuse My Mental Breakdown

I am sort of the queen of hastily published, crappy first drafts. I know you are supposed to read your work, then re-read, edit and have it edited by a discerning second set of eyes. But... yeah... that's not how I do things. This is a blog, and a mediocre one in comparision to the zillion other blogs out there, and if that was my process I would never write. In fact, I write infrequently (in part) beacuse I feel like that should be my process. 

The other night, I abandoned that mosty-self-imposed pressure, and I went with my own process. Which is very scientific. 

Step 1: Have feelings.

Step 2: Tell everyone what they are.

Step 3: Panic when people start reading about the feelings.

Step 4: Live in deep and immediate regret.

Step 5: Have new feelings (which trigger some sort of vulnerability amnesia).

Step 6: Repeat steps 1-5 and continue to produce crappy, unbridled first drafts until someone makes you stop, or arrests you. 

That's it, that's my process. If you don't like it, you can arrest me. A mental health arrest would probably make the most sense, and given my last post it is probably quite obvious that a stay in some sort of facility would feel like a vacation and I welcome it. So go ahead a make the call. I dare you. Nay, I beg you. 

Alright, now that we've set the standard super low, I apologize for the mental breakdown that I published the other day. But, I am only a little sorry because after 4,000 reads, I feel semi-confident it reached the suffering mamas I was hoping to reach, and it met them right where they were - mid-breakdown of their own, no doubt. So, while I am a little sorry, and a lot embarassed, I am not even that sorry because the best thing for a child with RAD is to be loved and supported by a parent who has all their faculties. And the longer one is parenting a child with RAD, the less in-tact their faculties become.

I'm only a loose 30% sure I am using "faculties" in the correct context here, but we already discussed our writing standards and what you can expect here. Just be glad I'm not yelling swears at you for questioning me. Understand? Good.

So, here's what took place to bring me to the hysterical crescendo that was my written tantrum the other night. It's hard to know where to start, because well... my own birth makes the most sense as a starting point, but that feels a little heavy on the backstory. So, let's just start with the holidays. The holidays are like Baggagefest '08 for anyone with RAD kids. It is all kinds of trigger. There are gifts and parties and treats and all the other things that kids with attachment issues will sabotage because they don't believe they deserve good things. This, combined with the extra-special contradiction of demanding all the good things and an attitude of entitlement to all the good things, makes for a good time had by all. And by all, I obviously mean nobody within 6 square miles of us. 

Fast forward through the holidays. (I wish this were a real thing we could do but it's actually just a saying we use to reduce the backstory in crappy first drafts). We barely get through the holidays, and I'm still having PTSD flashbacks to our Christmas break. One particular low-point included the children vomiting all over the marble floors of city hall during a big family reunion photo session. We were dealing with RAD stuff, and normal big family with lots of kds during flu-season stuff. And then there was London.

As some of you may remember she had a rare blood disorder as a baby called Transient Erythroblastopenia of Childhood. So, when she starts to look pale and thin and worn down, we take it pretty seriously. We noticed that she had been looking and acting sick for a couple of months, and we did the routine bloodwork to ensure that the TEC was not back. It wasn't, but she continued to be very pale, acting more tired at school and at home. She was not herself, and her appetite was waning. She has a never-ending incurable rash on her leg, she has lost 6 pounds in four weeks, her thyroid levels were elevated and I discovered a few gray hairs on her head. 

She is seven years old.

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In the midst of everything swirling around me in my normal life - holiday preparations, parent-teacher conferences, hosting family and friends, general parenting and care of five kids, Christmas shopping and cooking and hosting and the subsequent cleaning, all the vomiting, and the subsequent disinfecting, four January birthdays in our house, and the subsequent poverty - there were all the RAD behaviors, and then this slow-motion awareness at the center of all of the peripheral chaos, that London was not okay. 

I spent whole entire days in various doctor's offices watching them draw vial after vial of blood for tests that would give us inconclusive results. Until nine days ago when we were told that she came back as a strong positive for having Celiac Disease. (Feel free to punch a bagel in the face right this very minute in her honor.)

While we still don't have all the answers as to what is causing what, it looks like having a serious, genetic autoimmune disorder go untreated for great lengths of time can apparently cause your thyroid to poop its pants a little. The jury is out on the gray hair, but we are still looking at this from every angle. But, the bottom line is that we are beyond relieved that she has something that (while a huge dietary undertaking) is managable and not something more sinister or life-threatening.

See? You see now why I have been slowly building up to a mental breakdown? Because everything felt like it was falling apart. My oldest daughter, Annalee, became a teenager, then she broke her arm during a track race (which she finished like a total boss, btw) but the break went through the growth plate and they have to closely monitor it in order to prevent surgery.

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My youngest, Jay, is still adjusting to his new hearing aids (and by that I mean, he is chewing his ear molds like gum when we aren't looking.)

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And we are just trying to keep our heads above water on this RAD stuff. Then you throw in a gluten rash and no good pizza or soft bread for life? It's enough to make anyone crazy.

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Here is what I do regret about my mental breakdown. I regret not reminding any and all of you who are in the thick of it, that it isn't always this low. It's not always this bad. There are times, however brief and however infrequent, where I am dellusional enough to believe that maybe we have turned a corner on this RAD stuff. Of course we never do, but there are small rests and there are little breaks in the chaos... just enough to let the light peek in for a moment. Just enough to make us hope again. 

So, that is my real regret. Not adding one more reminder. So here it is.

11) There is always hope. Even if it doesn't get better forever. Even if this is as good as it gets. There will be little bright spots - not because your child successfully manipulated someone with their deceptive charm - but because one teacher believed you. Or because one friend met you for lunch so you could sit in Panera and cry until you had a snot mustcahe. Or because you found a blogger who lacks a sense of appropriate boundaries and is crazy enough to say what you can't.

There will be those bright spots and Jesus knows when you need them most and he will deliver them to you in his mercy and good timing. Let's just hope they come before you publish that first draft. 

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This is an actaul candid photo of me, caught in the wild, begging for my way. All signs of a mental breakdown were there, and ignored by those closest to me. I blame Tom, who probably gave me my way while in this state. Like an enabler.

To All the Other Haggard Moms Parenting a RAD Child

There is nothing so painful as unrequited love. And there is no love as powerful as a parent's love for their child. So when you love your child and he does not, can not, love you back... it might be the most heartbreaking scenario of them all. 

At least that is how I am feeling now... that (apart from losing a child) there is no pain I can fathom like having a living child that you cannot reach. 

Unrequited attachment, unabsorbed love.

And the world takes the salt of misunderstanding and rubs it into the proverbial wound. All kids lie, they say. Or steal, or hurt others, or themselves.

All kids want control. All kids say hurtful things.

All kids... 

He is not all kids. He is my kid. And I know him best. I know what makes him sicker. I know that treating him like "all kids" is one of those things.

I am exhausted. I am fed up. I am done explaining to people that yes, a child can be traumatized inside a womb. Google it. I am tired of trying to convince people that an unborn baby who develops in a bath of cortisol (stress hormones) instead of bonding chemicals will not respond to life or love in the same way as a typically developed child. I am all done explaining how exposure to different substances may harm a child's ability to bond and connect. I will not keep explaining that my child is both brilliant and unable to choose wisely. I will not keep asking for support only to be questioned or accused or dismissed. I am done.

Except that I'm not. I'm never done. As much as I freakin want to be done... I am not even close.

We are on four different waiting lists for various supports and schools and services. We have four siblings who are confused and wounded and are trapped between knowing that they must forgive, and their natural instinct to protect themselves from a person that causes them pain. 

I cannot describe the sight of a small, furious, hurting sister shaking her fists with the totality of her exasperation. The helplessness in her eyes, matched by my own.

 And all I can say is "I know baby. Me too." 

I cannot take away my son's pain. I can not make him feel unabandoned. I am not enough to fill in neurological gaps or heal his amygdala. My love is not that big. My love is not enough. YOUR love is not enough... so don't try to be his friend, or tell me to love him where he is at. I do. It's all I have done. And it isn't working. And I will keep doing it because there is nothing else to be done. But, all I can do is still not enough. 

I read the Bible so I know that God IS enough. I know that. But, right now... it's looking a lot more like

God + an unreasonable amount of time + so much pain in the interim = enough

I know that I sound hopeless. I know that all this is raw and scattered and probably sounds dramatic. But of one thing I am sure, there is at least one set of eyes on the other side of this screen that are filled with dysfunctionally relieved tears. One set of eyes that are seeing their feelings put into words, maybe for the first time.

So, I am writing to her. To the isolated, discouraged, helpless mom who's love is unrequited:

Hey. What's up? Thanks for somehow finding my blog. (Probably at 3am.) What you are going through is really, really hard. For you, and even harder for your child. You probably chose adoption because you wanted to be the family that helps to complete a child and now you are realizing that - surprise! - your family is being torn apart instead. Listen. Here are some things I need to hear on a regular basis and sometimes I have to say them to myself. 

1- You are not alone. There are a crap ton of us out here going through this, but most of us are too ashamed of ourselves, or too protective of our kids, to talk about it. There are a lot of anonymous blogs, but be careful, people are angry and exhausted and they sometimes bash their children. That's not okay, and it's not helpful for you.

2- You didn't cause this. (Unless you are an abusive dirtbag and you did cause this.) You didn't cause this.

3- Nobody, literally nobody, will understand what you are going through unless they are also a parent of a RAD kid. Social workers, psychologists, attachment therapists, adoption specialists, respite providers, felllow adoptees, friends, family... they all have their place, and they may even be excellent and able to help. They will not understand. Unless they are raising a child with RAD, or have done so in the past, they simply won't get it. 

4- A lot of people won't believe you. They probably will eventually, but until then, there will be a lot of advice and suggestions and have you tried's. There will be a lot of judgement. There will be a lot of people who try to "rescue" your child by loving on him, because they can't understand that you have done that, and it wasn't enough.

5- Get a door alarm and a video monitor. You need sleep, and peace of mind, and you need both of these to have a snowball's chance at either of them.

6- It's okay to go away. You need respite. Your other children need respite. Your hurting child needs respite. You all need to breath, and it's really okay to make room for it. It's not just okay, it's necessary.

7- Find a Lexi. A Lexi is a faithful friend, a champion for your self-care, a devoted caregiver, and defender of the weak and a giver of good gifts... like breaks from your child and cups of hot coffee. She doesn't have to be named Lexi, but mine is, and I couldn't do this without her. 

8- He can't love you. It's not that he won't, it's that he can't. He might want to love you, or he might actually love you, in his way, but he can't show it. He can't stop protecting himself from your love. Your love is scary to him, but it's also all you've got. And when you run out, it's okay to fake it. 

9- This is probably going to be the hardest thing you will ever do, and the biggest fight you will ever fight. You will probably not see results for a really long time. You might not ever see results. You must keep going. You signed up for this, even if you didn't know it at the time, and it is your job to keep going. And it's going to break your heart over and over and over. 

10- I know baby, me too. 

Travel Dance Video: Bestiemoon Take Deux

So, I have sat down multiple times to write about our amazing trip to France. If you don't know what I am talking about, let me get you up to speed. My friend Melissa is a world traveler. She has friends and connections all over the place, enough airline points to make you hate her just a little, (except you can't because she's so stinkin' generous with them), and she doesn't take no for an answer. So, she essentially manhandles me into taking epic vacations with her. It's a terrible friendship and this whole post is basically a cry for help. 

Okay, for realsies... the trip was fabulous.  The only reason I haven't written about it yet is because Melissa and I are going to tell the story together on video because I promise it will be so much better that way. We were in Paris for a few days, then popped over to Finland for a few days, then back to Paris, then to Provence (where my world changed and I got in touch with my roots in a major way) then back to Paris for the last few days. I ate croissants to celebrate the life and memory of my beautiful friend Karolin who commanded me to go to Paris and have fun. So we had the most fun.

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And, we danced. 

We danced all over Europe. Usually at inappropriate times. We danced with new friends and perfect strangers and our French and Finnish hosts. 

And we made a video of it. Because I secretly want us to host our own travel show and making an absurd travel dance video seemed as good a means to that end as any.

What you are about to experience is a bit of an early Christmas gift. So, Merry Christmas to all and to all a You're Welcome.

Love, Tom, Melissa and Lara