Sunday, December 28, 2008

Waiting, Waiting, Waiting

I think I am about to lose my mind. Rob & I have had a hell of a time trying to talk to each other for pretty much the whole past week. I miss him so bad, just sucks. *sigh* Oh well, some communication is much, much better than none. I'm just so glad we were able to come home for Christmas. It makes it easier to deal w/ our family being apart. I just wish Rob had someone there for him. Not long til we get to our new home. I am sad to leave my family, but excited to be going to Germany again.
I have been a bad blogger. I have been understandably distracted w/ Christmas & family. But I am ready to blog today. Yea!
Mom, Zach & I made bento style lunch today. Yummy. It has been just enough of a break that the kids enjoyed it as well. Well, the 2 that are here. Robin is visiting w/ his best friend while he can. I'll post the pic next time.
Here is Zach with his Birthday pie - Thank you mother. I was looking at cakes & she said what did he want. I said wasn't sure what kind of cake he wanted & she said maybe he wanted something else, like a pie or cookies or something. So he wanted apple pie. So for the first time I made birthday pie. Yeesh. I guess I have to give up on talking to Rob today. I hope he can at least e-mail me & let me know what time to talk tomorrow. I really hope he got my e-mail. I hope everyone is having a great holiday season & til next time, God Bless.

Thursday, December 25, 2008


Good Morning & Merry Christmas to everyone.
I would post some pics this a.m., but my camera is MIA. I would ask Ivy, but everyone is still asleep. What is wrong w/ these people, don't they know it's Christmas & Santa has been here. yeesh. So, there are 8 people in this house & 4 of them are 18 & younger & I am the only one awake. Have been up for an hour, walked the dog, made coffee, preheated the oven & nada. I wish Rob was here, then I'd have more company than just the animals. I hope everyone is having a wonderful Christmas & I will write more later.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Bah Humbug

Argh. There is a reason I usually get my Christmas shopping done way ahead of time. I am done b/c I CAN NOT handle one more bit of shopping. I hope the kids aren't let down. Also, today was Zach's birthday & I wasn't able to get his present, b/c places are sold out of it. I need to rest & refresh & remember what Christmas is really all about. I'm more upset than Zach. Will just order & have sent straight to Germany. Merry Christmas & I'll write more later.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Safe & Sound

Finally have arrived in NC. A rough, tense drive & ended up in a smoking room, (eeewwww,) last night. But we are home safe & sound. The wieght of the move is off my shoulders. Everything is packed & on it's way, the house is cleared & signed over to the army, so now it's time to enjoy the holidays w/ family. I am believing we'll have a smooth time settling in. I was a bad granddaughter, & forgot to call grandma to let her know we were here ok. She was a worried wreck b/c of the mountains. Finally did call though. Unfortuanately have to wait til tomorrow to let Rob know we're here. I'm a bit fuzzy headed today, so will say goodnight & leave you w/ Ivy's pics of her wonderful retro fashions. Her special needs friends had thrown her a going away party before we left & gave her some very cool retro clothes, a candy bouquet & bear. I wonder if there will be any special needs kids for her to help there. Any how, here's the picks & ttfn.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Happy Holidays 2008

Happy Holidays 2008

This has definitely been a year to show us that God works in mysterious ways. Things happen that at first glance seem to be negative after time & reflection turn out to be a blessing, although I'm still waiting to see the positive of some ;) We received orders for Germany early on last year. It took some real mental adjustment as we thought we were approaching retirement. Now with the economic climate, it is a relief to be secure. There is a housing shortage in Bamberg, (our destination,) so the kids & I had to stay back while waiting for something to become available. Rob deployed to Iraq for a year in September. Our wait for housing should be done by mid December, so we are going home for Christmas before we move. We're looking forward to living in Europe again, now that the kids are old enough to really appreciate it. I am back to being a stay at home mom. We felt it was best for everyone for me to be able to focus on the family. I was very surprised by how even the boys really like having me home. I have rediscovered my love of cooking & the kids are reaping the benefits. I have also found it is much easier to be eco-friendly when you are not constantly rushing around. Rob enjoys calling me a tree-hugger. I am so very thankful for the internet so that Rob & I can talk most every day. It makes it much easier than previous deployments. We found homes for all but Sera & Catamia. We felt those 2 would do ok with the move & new environment. May God bless you & keep you now & all year.

I asked the family to each write a paragraph about the past year, so here it is, unedited…

“Well this past year has been a little different for me. I went from my nice office job at Ft. Leonard Wood to a brand new unit in Germany. Thought that i was going to retire, but how many chances does one get to go to Europe and explore? So me and Heather talked about it and decided that this would be a good thing for us and the kids. they are old enough to remember it this time around and Ivy can see the Country that she was born in. The unit that I am in is a brand new unit and they are still not sure how or what Military police do in their unit. We are all learning together so that makes this deployment to Iraq a little different. For the first time in my career as an MP i am not out driving around in the local area. I am on the base and doing what MP's do in the states, drive around and give people tickets. Well I hope that every one has a good Christmas and a very merry New Year.”

“Over the past year I got my drivers license & grew out my hair a little until November. It is pretty fun to drive around in my opinion. The reason I cut my hair was because it kept getting in my eyes, & in the wind it would hurt my eyes. Zach would give me weird looks when it was fall because I was warm while he was wearing coats.”

“Over the past year, I let my hair grow out & get longer. My friend Chelsea & I went out for a little while. I have grown tall, so now I’m taller than my mom. Robin, mom, & Ivy call me a reptile because I don’t sweat as much as them.”

“This year I became a junior in Girl Scouts. I was in the Christmas Parade dressed up as a Peanut Butter Patty. I help the special needs kids in my class. This year was awesome except for my daddy leaving. “

Friday, December 12, 2008


If my house wasn't topsy turvy right now, would get a pic. of the moon. Very cool looking tonight. Stayed up extremely late last night getting house ready for today. So was exhausted by the time the packers left. Had to take a nap. Spent a cpl hours rearranging the boxes they finished. Needed living space. No need to be blocked in. Waiting for someone to complain, running the mower to use up the gas. Tomorrow will drain oil & clean grill. Have to get it done as they are predicting ice again for sunday. Spending too much money, as usual. Just not up to trying to cook tonight, so ordered pizza. yeesh. It's been so long, forgot how expensive it is. The special needs teachers & kids threw a tea for Ivy & gave her some presents today. She sure will miss them. I'm hoping there will be special needs kids she can work w/ in Germany. I am very proud of her, she wants to be a special needs assistant when she grows up. A very compassionate girl. The mower is annoying me too. ick. You know, if was actually mowing, would have died halfway through the yard. Well, that is all for tonight. TTFN.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


Yikes, they sart packing us tomorrow. Feel like my head's about to explode. I can't wait til This is out of my hands. Once I have my stuff gone & housing signed over will breathe easier. Today I was a complete spaz & forgot about the house keys. I'm so use to having them w/ the car keys. Well hadn't put them w/ the rentals keys yet & realized I was locked out when I got home from the store. Had 1 min. til Rob time & had to go get someone to let me in. I will say they were pretty quick & very pleasant. Too much on my mind lately though. I hate moving. Blech. I have been shedding things like animals shed hair. I leave what ever I have all over then have to figure out where it is. Such as lunch, drink, hairbrush, planner, whatever. Need to finish up straightening so they can pack tomorrow. Peace.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Rentals ?! & cool site

Ken gave me & Ivy a ride up to St Louis to pick up the rental today. The kids had a snow day toay. Not actually snow, just ice. For the most part the roads were fine, not sure why they didn't just have a delay. Ended up having a nice mommy daughter day though. The boys had no interest in going w/ us, so was just Ivy & I. After picking up the rental just had to stop at Target, but then also saw that across the street there was a Hobby Lobby :D Couldn't help myself, it had been 6 months since I had last been in a craft store, so spent waaaaaayyyyyyy too much time ther, but had a good time, then kept it short at Target. I miss having stores around to browse. Any who, the rental. It's nice, but costs more than I had originally was quoted online b/c for some reason my reserved vehicle was not available. What is the point of reserving a car, then calling to check if they don't have it when you get there. Ugh. Ended up getting an SUV instead. Mercury Mountaineer. It is nice, but really had been shooting for less money. Of course, nothing ever runs completely smoothly, esp. during a move.
I found the coolest site today through one of the blogs I follow. It is called Dumpr, & you can create all kinds of cool photgraphic effects. Even better, it's free. Love the sketch & 70's looking effect. Not sure which I like better. Well, it's late & still have a ton of stuff to accomplish tomorrow, so ttfn.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Workin' on the 'puter

Katie has this Civics Test linked on her blog. There was an article in the Tampa Tribune.
"The average score for all 2,508 Americans taking the following test was 49%; college educators scored 55%."
I did better that that, but am not to thrilled w/ my score. 63.64% I still don't know which questions I got wrong. It didn't show.
I've been trying to get all computer work done today. With them starting to pack friday I have got to get stuff done & out. All presents for teachers & such I want out, so not accidentally packed, same w/ cards. Tomorrow Ken is driving me up to St. Louis to pick up the rental car. So won't be stuck. It's not like I want to go out much, but there is a big difference btwn choosing to stay home & being stuck there.
Ivy has been super hyper the past 2 days. Partly my fault, got her the iPod & she's loving it. Also, she was chosen to be part of a special assembly thing for school. Whiskers. Still not completely sure what it is, but know it has to do w/ being responsible & the group is going to sing at an upcoming assembly. Had her last IEP meeting here today, her teacher & speech teacher both told me again how much they'll miss her. We've made good friends here. Here she is in her new skirt, it turned out pretty cute. The weather got COLD!! It's hailing, hopefully will be ok to get car tomorrow.
It's late & my stupid cutter thing isn't working right, cutting wobbly line. So having to cut everything by hand. Wrist is really aching. Also didn't getto talk to Rob today, not sure what happened, but won't be able tomorrow either since going to get rental. :( I finally got photos loaded from other day.

my flamingo's died. fell down & lost their heads.
hoofin it quick & beat.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Exhausted - Mentally & Physically

I did it to myself. Was running late to my appt today, so really booked it. 2 miles or so in 20 min. Walking. I am not in good enough shape for that to work. ick. Got Ivy her Ipod today, she is thrilled. Will be a major relief for the traveling & living out of suitcases. Everyone can now go off in their own little world & get a semblance of privacy. The packers came by today to get a loose inventory/idea - what ever. Anyway, they requested to start pack up on friday. Yikes. Said ok, but leave out tv, & sewing machine. It's all going super quick. My wrist is still bugging me & I'm getting tired of wearing this brace, keeps hitting things on the computer & turning stuff on. Ugh. I did take some pics today, but forgot where the camera is (I think it's in w/ all my paperwork, but too tired to go digging.) Hope everyone is well. TTFN

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Houdini Dog & Other Things

I don't know how she does it, but Sera keeps taking off her diaper. She doesn't do it all the time, but when she gets in that mode, have a heck of a time keeping it on her. Danielle was a doll & took Ivy to the parade today. Aren't the girls just the cutest cookies you ever did see? I had been planning to go, but then realized it interupted my Rob time. Might've gone ahead & sent Rob an e-mail, but we will be hard pressed to talk these upcoming weeks. Esp when we leave. Will have many days where we just can't talk :( We'll sure miss the friends we've made here. Esp Danielle & Marissa. Wish we could take them w/ us. & Mrs. Wendy. My wrist has beeen acting up again, dug out the old wrist brace a cpl days ago, still aching though. I know these posts are short, but there is too much going on right now. I will keep trying my best though. TTFN

Saturday, December 6, 2008


Well, the best way home & back is a round trip rental car. At first was looking at turning in in NC but that turns out to cost more than keeping it til the flight, then was only a bit more to get this week rather than right before we leave, so cool beans. It's only just now 8pm, but I'm beat.
One last thing though; Katie asked the other day a cpl of questions reguarding the pig eggs. 1st, pigs b/c I loaned out my chicken mold ;) 2nd I use the Tovolo Ice cream sandwich maker as an egg press. Boil eggs, peel while hot & place in mold. Secure lid, (in this case w/ rubber bands,) & place in cold water bath for 10 min. After that they will retain their shape. It's super cool. Love you all, g'night.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Hoofin' It

Well, thank God. The truck sold, so now we are hoofin' it or if absolutely necessary, can take a cab :( I'm very thankful to have sold the truck, basically for asking price, just minus repairs suggested by Seeger Toyota. So a good deal all around. I'm happy. Now need to see about rental to get home.

I am crafting & sewing like there's no tomorrow, but I can't post any of it as it's Christmas presents & I don't want the recieving parties to be privvy to their presents. (You know who you are.) I did get Ivy's pants hemmed though & turned a pair of hand-me-down jeans & a too small skirt from goodwill into an adorable skirt.

I'm very annoyed w/ the Army. Can't fly out of Greensboro & the ppl who were getting my tickets & passports were quite rude about it too. Could've avoided being snotty, oh well. So will have to make our way back to St Louis to fly out. I need to find a good deal on a nationwide rental or on plane tickets.

Nothing else to add right now, take care & TTYL

Fell Asleep

I missed last night, fell asleep on the couch. I have no idea when, woke up at 4:50am & hadn't made lunches or wrote in here, so got up & did all that. Today I sell the truck, so won't have my own mode of transportation anymore. Still need to find decent rental to go home. I picked up our orders, passports & tickets yesterday & started the ball rolling on the move. We get packed out the 15th & 16th, final inspection on the 17th, we'll leave straight after school on the 19th. It is soon. So I have to get all sewing & Christmas stuff done before it is time to go, yikes. I'll write again tonight, hopefully won't crash again. TTYL.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

It's late

Ok, it's very late & I have a busy day ahead of me. Today I was bad & stayed in. slept most of the morning, but have been working on Christmas presents since this afternoon. We now have housing, hence my busy day tomorrow. So am going to innitiate the move tomorrow, Esp w/ the High School, b/c the guy who wants the truck will be here Fri. Today the weather reflected how I felt perfectly, blah. The ton o' crafting for Christmas I have to get done quick.
doggy lovin
snow = pretty rain = :(

soup I made last week. Yummy, used 15 bean mix, did not use their spices. can tomatoes, sausage, cooked & diced, onion & garlic, basil salt & pepper. celery, not sure what all else. The simmer forever.

yesterday's bento:

half a mini bagel w/ veggie cream cheese, zuccini slices, grapes & small brownie.

half a hard boiled egg, 7 little smokies, carrot & squash, baby bel guoda. cranberry/raspberry apple sauce.

today's bento:

peanuts, chocolate/peanut butter chips, fruit gushers, baby carrot halves.

mini bagel w/ veggie cream cheese, zuccini sticks, hard boiled egg & colby jack cheese.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

late night thought

Was reading my blogs before bed & once again was struck by how useful this one is. Life Lessons of a Military Wife. If you are a military spouse or know one, especially a new one, please check out or direct that person to this blog.


I am in my usual monthly grump. Feel prickly, & sleepy. Oh well, the joys of womanhood. The truck is garnering amazing responses. Should have it sold in no time. I'll be glad when all this, (truck, clearing, move,) is over & done w/. Starting to feel overwhelmed, but what else is new. I have a huge jumble of projects in the works. Christmas presents, so can't show y'all much. I need to get the sewing & printing stuff done before we pack out. I hate thinking too much about the move, makes me feel almost ill. The snow is gone. Didn't last long at all.

I just wasted the last hour or so watching YouTube videos. I blame Zach. He sent me one by Mike Mozart of Jeepers Media & I was hooked. Soooo funny. If you want to get a giggle & can restrain yourself from watching too too much, head on over & check it out.
The book fair stuff is running late, hopefully can set up tomorrow. I do have to get my sewing & crafting done while I can. I know these posts have been less than satisfying lately - sorry. Might have to go invest in a good chocolate bar, or maybe double my dose of prozac. Either way, have to cheer up. Really want to decorate to get in the season, but is just stupid w/ move so imminent. Oh well. Have a good night & should be better tomorrow.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Monday monday

The truck will be sold within a week. I am sure. Have recieved a bunch of emails & 2 serious inquiries. One looking into a loan & another w/ cash. So super dee duper. I am so tickled! Went pants shopping for Peanut today, found the perfect fitting pants, (still need hemming,) but perfect around the waist. Lee Riders - fit innovations. They are so cool. Even got a pair of khaki's for her for new school. Worked today on Christmas presents. Tomorrow going to go give a hand at the library, book fair. Feeling short tempered w/ the kids & have heart burn, so going to keep it short today & go find my happy place.

I am thankful for Craigslist. What a wonderful innovation.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Woooo Hoooo!

Couple of bites on the truck, the one I talked to is very interested. I think we'll have it sold in no time. So cool. Then can rent a nice station wagon or van to go home. Ahhh, room. It has been snowing off & on all day. Not sticking as of 2:23pm. Supposed to snow tomorrow as well. It' nice & cold, so going to finish off soup tonight. Yum! Rob's internet is stinky today & we kept getting kicked off. :(

Worked on my usual pile 'o stuff today. (I swear it procreates overnight.) I can never seem to make the clutter disappear. There is always something I need to go through. Had a great time at Danielle's party last night. The only problem is that now, there is too much I want. I have to be good though. Trying to get the kids interested in buying something for me for Christmas ;)


Crud, it's LATE! I still have to make lunches & sat here spacing it. Have been sorting through crafts stuff. Got my stuff gone through, but got side tracked in craft supplies. Ah, sweet addictive crafts. Esp. origami. I love origami. Esp using recycled catalogs w/ purty pics. Have you ever made the chinese wishing stars? Folding Trees has a great tutorial.

I am thankful for free catalogs. I love home window shopping, esp here where there aren't many shops. I know I can look at stuff online, but I really like having something physical to hold. (Now before you feel too bad for the companies, I do occasionally buy stuff.)


Friday, November 28, 2008

fleece socks

I have been looking all over the web for a free fleece sock pattern, but can not find one w/ pattern pieces or quite what I'm looking for. I did find this... nice tutorial, no pattern though. I for one, really need a pattern. I tend to make a mess without one. As most of y'all know there is no sewing or crafting place around here. No where to buy patterns, (damn you Wal-Mart for getting rid of the sewing section.) So, I found a PDF pattern for sale on Etsy & the transaction was nice & smooth, had the pattern in my email when I woke this morning.
The computer had m in a fit again today. The desktop as I said has been having issues. The disc drive is all wonky, bu when the boys were messing w/ it, trying to fix it, they unplugged the printer from te computer. I have been going nuts today trying to figure out what is wrong w/ this thing. Really, throwing a lovely little fit, esp after buying all new inks. Then happened to notice cord was loose, tugged at it & it came right up. not connected. grr. *sigh* I'm ok now.
The weather must be bad in the dessert tonight, no contact at all from Rob & theonly reason that would happen is if his internet was down. I just hope he didn't frustrate himself too bad.
Tonight is Danielle's Pampered Chef party, So I'm looking forward to a nice evening. Iplanon relaxing when I get home, so am going to go ahead & post this. Good day one & all. :)

Late Night Updates!!!

Ok, so excited, couldn't wait. I am already getting nibbles about the truck. Yipee!!

Also, on a sad note, just found out they are canceling Pushing Daisy's & Eli Stone :(
Damn you ABC!!!

I hate computers - sometimes

Our home computer is having an epileptic fit. I have no clue what is wrong with it, I never use it. It works as our network hub & the kids use it, & that's it. I use my laptop. Can't stand to sit still at the desk. I have been a lump today. Folded some laundry & addressed the stack of boxes & a bit of computer work. Bunch of super cool shows on HGTV. I'm going to miss that channel. Ivy has her friends over tonight. Gotta let her be w/ her buds while she can. Not much to say. Peace.

I am thankful for hot & cold running water. One of those things you don't think about much, but w/ Rob being in the dessert, it makes me aware of how lucky we are to be able to take long hot showers, & give the dog a bath. She would be pretty ripe otherwise.

Have a GREAT day & ttyl

PS - finally listed the truck on craigslist, check it out & if you have any suggestions, let me know.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Drink Can Tinwork

Drink Can Tinwork

Thank you Atomic Shrimp

Soft drink cans are easily recyclable as scrap metal, but I fancied trying something a little more direct - a simplified form of tinwork.
All that's needed for this project is a strong pair of scissors, a cork-backed table mat, a pointed object (a scriber or just a ballpoint pen), a little bit of tape and some fine abrasive paper.
Plus of course an empty aluminium drink can - this one contained 'Emerge' - an energy drink containing caffeine and taurine, with a flavour and aroma that perfectly reproduces the experience of drinking something fizzy and anonymously fruity next to a public urinal.
First, I cut the can down one side, then cut carefully around the ends.
Extreme care is required here, as the edges of the thin metal are sharp and jagged.

Then I opened out the side into a flattish sheet and gave it another trim to remove the worst of the jagged points.
It's always a bit surprising how much material such an apparently small cylinder yields - I think it's just not all that easy to intuitively estimate the circumference of a circle.

I taped the metal down flat onto the cork back of a table mat, then used a piece of fine abrasive paper to remove the printing.
It isn't strictly necessary to remove the paint from the can, but it does make forming a pattern easier later on.

Then I used the scriber (and later, an ordinary ballpoint pen) to mark out a decorative pattern on the metal.
- Pressing just hard enough to crease the material, but not hard enough to puncture or score it

Once the design has been pressed into the metal, it tends to prevent it recoiling back into a cylinder - the work can be removed from the cork board.
I've decorated this one with a simple pattern consisting of geometric shapes, swirls and spirals - but obviously other designs are possible.
It may even be possible, with a little care and skill, to reproduce a picture in beaten relief style.

I cut the piece to shape with the scissors...

Then folded in the corners, to create a box shape.
Again, great care is needed here to avoid cuts from the sharp edges.

The end result is a little metal box with an embossed pattern.

Not bad for a first effort - I'd do a few things differently next time, such as leaving an extra bit on the edge and folding it over inwards, so the box doesn't have any exposed sharp edges.
It Gets Better

I found a way of getting the design to stand out in sharper relief.
I traced the entire design as normal, then (before any folding) flipped over the metal and using the same kind of embossing technique, traced around the raised pattern elements from the other side - following the inside and outside edges of all the raised elements.
Then I flipped it over and re-traced the original design once more. The result is a much clearer, bolder embossed design.

And Better...

It was also pretty simple to make the box with turned-over edges that were not so sharp - by leaving an extra tab on each side
The diagonal scored lines (marked in red) are embossed from the front surface of the work - enabling the corners to be folded inwards.
The lines scored to enable the edge flaps to be finally tucked in are marked in blue on this diagram - they're embossed from the back, like most of the other work, but I found it necessary to make them from a pair of closely-spaced parallel lines - as the thin metal tends to snap if creased into a really tight fold.

And Better Still

Finally, it's quite easy to tweak the measurements for a second box so that one fits snugly over the other.
I found that by reducing the central square region by about a quarter inch and increasing the height of the sides by a similar amount, the resulting box was just small enough to push inside the other as a base.
Remember which way up it's going to be when you're applying the designs though.

I lined my box with a little scrap of tapestry-style fabric, held in place with all-purpose glue.
Felt or velvet would also work just as well - I think it's even possible to get self-adhesive versions of these, which would probably be ideal.


I didn't get a chance to post yesterday. Even with the joint effort of me & the kids, did not get done packaging cookies for Rob & his friends until about 12:30am. So there went my determination to get the boxes mailed before Thanksgiving. One of these days I'll get organized, I can't seem to be on time for anything. Rob has a tendancy toput some things off, but he always gets us on time. Keeps me from being perpetually a day late & a dollar short. I have a small fortune in packages to send to Rob tomorrow. The pie is done, but had a small accident, looks awful but will taste great. The turkey is in the oven & the sides are ready to go, so am able to work on other things. I found Katie's blog today, super cool. The big turkey day dinner came out wonky this year. Tasty, but not picture matierial. Started the rolls too early, poor Ivy, mama set her up for failure there. Didn't mean to. The rolls rose waaaaayyyyyy to much. Sera was silly yesterday. Stole my seat, I said "scootch" & she only moved a bit to the right. Had to pick her up to move her. Silly puppy. But I think she was sleepy. Look at that face. We wen tto the commissary yesterday for a few things, & look what they had. My favorite peppermint ice cream. I was so excited, the kids started teasing me. Now that we've eaten & the kitchen is clean, Ivy & I are chilling on the couch & the boys are upstairs on the electronics. Enjoy your Thanksgiving no matter where you are & who you're with.
I'm thankful for my friends & family & their health & well being. God has truly blessed us.