Category Archives: Family

Get Active With Your Sons- The Active Family Project

On Monday, I had the pleasure of attending an event with other parents about ways we can stay active and play with our kids, even with our busy schedules.

The Active Family Project provides moms, from sources like its Play Council, with family-friendly tips and advice. Brought to you by Merck Consumer Care, Inc., this health and wellness initiative is designed to help moms overcome their worries about doing it all and truly be at their best by being active and enjoying time with the ones they love.

The event was sponsored by Merck Consumer Care and TV personality and The View co-host,  Elisabeth Hasselback was there to share her tips for getting your family active by playing and making the most of family time. Elisabeth shared how she and her husband Tim, make time to play with their three children despite their busy schedules. Elisabeth also talked about the importance of moms setting a good example of health and well being.

05/06/2013 Active Family Project

One of the challenges we face as parents is making the time to connect and have fun with our kids. Our days are filled with schedules, to-do lists, preparing meals, laundry, work, deadlines and appointments and by what’s left of our day we try to cram with  quality time. Isn’t time we made family time a priority instead of an afterthought?   The time we spend with our children give us insight into their lives, their needs and how we can support them. Spending time with our children whether it’s 15 or 60 minutes provides us teachable moments.

As moms of boys, we know the importance of playtime!  Boys need to run, jump, and play to expend all their energy. Whether we’re playing cars chasing monsters or playing freeze tag,  we are bonding with our sons and being physically active.  Some of the best times I’ve had with my sons are when we’re playing and laughing together.

It doesn’t require much to have fun with our boys- just a great imagination and a lot of energy. You can play indoor games  such as  “Hide and Seek” or “Don’t Fall in the Water”- using your bed as a raft and rocking back and forth as if you’re about to fall on the floor.

If you live in the city, make the most of your neighborhood parks.  Here in NYC, there’s always something going on. If you need help with finding activities, The Active Family Project Activity Finder is a great resource.  Visit the Activity Finder at www.activefamilyproject.com.

To get you started, join me and other parents who have taken the pledge to get active and enjoy playtime with our family  by celebrating the first annual National Family Playdate  on May 11.  Be sure to share your playtime experiences with other moms on the Active Family Project Facebook page: www.facebook.com/activefamilyproject.

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Let’s make a commitment to be active, healthy and happy families!

“I received product samples and a $100 gift card from Merck Consumer Care, and any opinions expressed by me are honest and reflect my actual experience. This is a sponsored post for SheSpeaks/Merck Consumer Care.”

 

 

Iron Man 3: How Fathers Create Their Sons In Their Own Image

He was cold, calculating, never told me he loved me, didn’t even tell me that he liked me, so it’s a bit hard for me to digest that he said the whole future is riding on me thing, you’re talking about a man who’s happiest day of his life was shipping me off to boarding school.
  ~Tony Stark, Iron Man 2

There is one thing that can reduce a powerful man to a little boy. It’s the need to gain his father’s favor or approval. We see it with powerful men who work tirelessly to live up to a father’s legacy of fulfill a father’s unfulfilled dreams. Whether his father is living or deceased, these men yearn for an  “Attaboy” or a pat on the back.

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Maybe the dad withholds praise from his son to keep him motivated or he disapproves of his son’s choices in life.  Unfortunately, what the father perceives as motivation, the son sees as criticism.  Howard Stark wants his son to excel but he pushes  Tony to his breaking point.  Instead of seeing his son for the brilliant young man he is, Howard sets exceptionally high expectations for Tony.  In father’s eyes: Son is not living up to his potential. In son’s mind: Dad will never be satisfied with me.

They say every superhero is complicated.  Tony Stark is no exception. Behind the “iron mask” Tony Stark has managed to suppress the pain and disappointment in not having a better relationship with his father.   He becomes a man of contradictions wanting to save the world but incapable of saving himself from his anger and pain. Despite being wealthy, successful and intelligent, Tony Stark can not live up to his father’s expectations. He creates a double life for himself and tries desperately to balance the dysfunction in his life.  He seeks security through women and expensive toys.  The money and the sex does little to bring him any real satisfaction.

An internal war rages inside Tony because he feels he will never receive what he wants: His father’s approval.  While Howard Stark focuses on his legacy and Stark Industries, Tony focuses on winning his dad’s love. The “Cat in the Cradle” relationship between father and son proves to be damaging to Tony’s self-esteem despite his attempts to cover it up with self-glorification. His drive for becoming a superhero is more about proving his father wrong and proving himself worthy.

This need to win over his father keeps Tony in a perpetual state of boyhood, no matter how accomplished or successful he is in life.  The connection between father and son is powerful and a father must keep in mind that his son defers to him as he transitions into manhood. A father’s approval or disapproval of his son can make his son feel unworthy and insignificant. His son may spend his life chasing success, fame, wealth or power just to prove to his dad that he is just like him or better.

The father/son relationship is the least nurtured in a family.  In the Stark family, the message is clear: Achievement takes precedence over emotional connection.  The result of a broken father/son relationship is that the son never fully develops as a man. He longs for praise and adoration.  What Tony Stark fails to realize is that as much as he wants to set himself apart from his father, he is very much like his father.  While his father built an emotional armor, Tony built a real armor.  Until a father hands his son his ” spiritual birthright”, a son spends years in the “waiting place”, waiting for dad to give him a wink and say, “Attaboy!” Fathers need to understand that withholding approval from their sons creates feeling of resentment, shame or inferiority. Our goal in raising boys is to help them become happy, healthy, confident, and successful men. This starts with fathers and sons connecting, communicating and breaking the cycle of  unhealthy relationships.

This post is part of the Building A Better Man: Iron Man 3 The Upgrade Yourself Review Series

Please read:

Part I:  Who Does She Really Love: The Man or the Machine by  Victory Unlimited Show

Part II: The Blueprint of a Man by The Style Gent

Part IV: How to Dismantle an Iron Man by Victory Unlimited Show

Part V:  May 9: Live Discussion of The Upgrade Yourself Series on the Dr. Vibe Show- 9pm Est

Raising a Son With Special Needs by Elizabeth Traub

 

 

Ethan

Ethan

 

To learn that you have a special needs, handicap, deaf child is the most powerful journey I have ever been on. Ethan, who is almost 11 years old is an amazing young man. Life is very normal and easy with him. It was not always that way.  He was born with a condition
called “Enlarged Vestibular Aqueduct”.  I could see early on that “something” was not quite right.  Only I was unsure of that “something”. He never startled as an infant, slept 20 hours a day, and fixed his eyes on me. I used to say, “I have birthed an Einstein.”

When Ethan was 5 months old, his condition was confirmed. This news came to me, while we were shopping in a fabric store. He was in an infant front pack and there I was standing at the check-out counter crying my eyes out. My husband called me with this news. Ethan has these stunning blue big eyes and that sweet baby just looked into my crying face with a drooling smile.  His world was perfect and mine had just been shattered. I immediately began asking myself questions. No family history, what happens next?  He was already learning how to do baby signing so I thought this was going to be easy.  The moment I realized that my baby could never hear me singing to him is when hard really started.  It was that moment when I cried almost every day for many years.

I was angry. I was mad at God. I questioned my healthy lifestyle. Was I too lean, should I have forced myself to swallow prenatal vitamins?  Did I do this to my baby?  My thoughts were all consumed daily of his care, his appointments, and  his therapy.  I  was depressed and ate myself into 85 extra pounds.  I cried every day and I was distracted away from the care of my husband and family. I tried to work through the loss of that hope I had for this beautiful boy.  I was desperate to find a reason that did not reflect on my mothering. I was lost and alone.

I was angry that my husband went off to work each day leaving me to endure the challenges.  That little baby boy grew into a toddler that was angry and frustrated. He could not hear my voice around a corner. When he could not see me, his volume was loud.  When he wanted something he was even louder. Car rides were intolerable.  I was angry and felt I was doing all the work with therapy. I thought my husband should be more involved. He worked 10 hours days at a demanding job. His energy was gone before he pulled into the driveway at night.  Even though my husband was grieving, at that time I was only thinking of myself.

One afternoon I called his office and said, “I need some drugs, depression drugs, coping drugs.” I had never been on any kind of medication, so I did not know what I needed.  He kindly spoke into me, “This is situational and you are going to be fine.” That evening he showed up with my favorite wine to have when I couldn’t cope. This was his way of saying, “I know it’s hard & we are going to get through this.” Just having permission to sip a glass of wine at 10am was enough of a drug. Funny thing is over a years’ time I might have done that once.

I didn’t know how to communicate my needs, which made it hard on friendships.   We had a fourth child, I was tired, and it was too hard to even think of my own needs.  Ethan was loud; people could not be around him. Friends were uncomfortable. and play dates that were scheduled over a few hours were cut very short. Slowly friends dropped off  and I was very much alone. I felt isolated and accepted this as my journey and cross to bear. I was tired of having to explain over and over that he is deaf. It was exhausting. No one understood him. I felt I had to educate each person.  I had few friends who could tolerate Ethan. Not even my closet of friends would come hang out in my home. I had to learn to have grace and understanding for them. It was not easy.

What I had to do was re-frame my thinking and my process. One day I realized that my identity and my structure of life must change. Ethan is a hard child.  Hard is what grows us into something. I grew into a deeper, caring and understanding of the human soul. I took that time, leaving my job, work I loved, to understand and grow this boy into a functioning and healthy life.  I embraced Ethan, right where he was. The therapist told me that deaf children have problems with balance, especially climbing and parks. I took that boy to the park almost daily. I was told swimming is hard and scary for toddlers who are deaf. He had swimming lessons.

Nothing about being deaf would hold Ethan captive in what he enjoyed.  Having people express their discomfort & recognize the challenge in this journey. Doing this by asking questions to draw others out in their process.  I began to trust others, and venture out with girlfriends. My husband encouraged many evenings out with friends, so I could have a break.  I had to acknowledge my own needs.  Most important was realizing that my life could not be dictated or defined by a special needs child.

Insights I learned with a special needs son:

  1. Ethan’s normal is not my normal. It’s okay to cry and it’s going to be hard to figure all this out.
  2. People that have not had a special needs child will not understand you. Take no offenses.
  3.  You must take time away for you with alone time or girlfriends.
  4. Don’t allow the circumstance of a special needs child dictate how you run the household. The entire family is important.
  5. Have one on one mom dates w/each child away from the challenges. Today, almost eleven years later those one on one mom dates continue. Imagine with five kids how many dates I go on. Even my 23 and 25 year old look forward to those dates. You must stay connected with all your children no matter how much extra time or work.
  6. Your husband will handle this very different than you. Embrace his journey.  Regardless of how tired, mad, disconnected you are with your man, treat him well. I am reaping the rewards and honoring and respecting my husband in those hardest and darkest of days.

No one  signs up for the journey of a special needs child.  Each has a story that is very different.  My hard may look different than your hard. I would walk through this journey again to have that boy named Ethan in my life. He is that boy who sings, and can’t carry a tune. Who loves airplanes and history. His had Cochlear Implants that allow him to function beautifully in a hearing world.  His story is still being written and he has much favor in his life. I am blessed to be his mother.  That little baby an infant in my arms now as a boy hears me sing.  We sing together.

 

Elizabeth Traub is a Portland, OR mom of 5. She has spent the past 20 years working as a consultant with business start-ups, and existing
businesses. For 15 years, she has also mentored & coached women to live in the design of their dreams and passions. You can find her online at Hung Out To Buy www.hungouttobuy.com  and Girlfriends Hub www.girlfriendshub.com.

 

 

 

 

 

Walking in the Eye of the Storm With My Son

Storm

The best thing about a new year is that it’s like a reset button, you get to start anew.  I’m happy that I am not looking back at last year with resentment or anger. As the saying goes, “I can be bitter or I can be better”. I know I made mistakes, missed some steps and pretty much didn’t live up to my words.

I can’t help but reflect on how much I learned in in a year. It was a year of surprises, joy, pain, and grief.

The year was difficult for my oldest son and I felt helpless because I didn’t know how to help him. If you’ve ever had to deal with a child’s depression, then you know how many sleepless nights and restless days I had. I worried about him whenever he was not in my presence and I worried about what he might do if I wasn’t around. I wanted to save him but didn’t know how. On top of all of this, my husband had just returned from his third deployment and shortly after my father passed away. It didn’t make for a peaceful life or home.

Every time I prayed to God to relieve my son of his pain and relieve me of my worry, the problem intensified.  Therapy helped but there was still that nagging feeling that all was not well.  I finally learned that it wasn’t my stubbornness or resistance to let go of control that was the problem, it was my refusal to take the journey with my son. It was my fear of walking through his pain, my fear of facing his daily emotional anguish, my fear of seeing the world through his eyes. I was so afraid of my son’s pain that I wanted to move past it instead of live through it.

God didn’t let me off that easy. I had to take the journey with my son in order to understand his pain and to get him the help he needed. Fortunately, God took the journey with both of us and showed us the way.

I can’t say that I don’t worry about my son anymore or that the fear doesn’t creep up on me whenever I see him sad.

Although he’s much better now, I still check in to make sure he’s ok.  I have to take that journey with him as often as he needs me to.

I pray that God gives me the strength to make the right decisions, be more patient, and to trust my instincts. I’m sure I’ll fumble through 2013 too, but I’ll emerge a better and stronger mom as a result of it.

Image Courtesy of Flickr

What I Learned From My Sons

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They say when the student is ready, the teacher arrives. This saying definitely can apply to parenting. As a mom, I often get caught up in wanting to teach my sons important life skills and instill core values that I miss my own learning opportunity.

The problem is that I become so distracted with wanting to make sure my sons are a happy, healthy and successful, that I miss opportunities to just enjoy them. There are days I am so busy balancing my business and personal life, that my life resembles a sitcom without a laugh track.  That’s when I wish that conflicts could be resolved in 22 minutes and kids would learn a valuable lesson in less than 20 minutes.

Some nights, I am so tired, that I can’t even remember what happened during the day. It is on those nights, that I beat myself up and doubt my parenting skills.   I think about how my toddler has tantrums in public and my teen son has moody days and wonder am I really raising great men?

My sons are not a brand, they’re kids. Imperfect kids who help me to see life through their eyes. My sons just want to spend time with me. My little one just wants me to read bedtime stories, dance to Yo Gabba Gabba and play with his Thomas the Tank Engine trains.  My teen just wants me to listen and engage in a conversation when he’s ready to talk.  It’s the simple things that mean a lot to them. While looking for life changing moments, I may miss life affirming moments because of my preoccupation with being a “good mom” and raising “good kids”.

Being a parent means you learn just as much as you teach. Parenting is more than life lessons and teachable moments. Parenting is receiving hugs and kisses unexpectedly. Parenting is watching your child sleep and you feeling so much love for them, it overwhelms you. Parenting is sticky fingers and fart jokes. Parenting is love in action.

As a parent, I’ve learned not to take people, time or opportunities for granted. My children remind me of this daily.

 

 

 

 

Lessons Learned From 3 Deployments


ArmyHats
Half of my heart is deployed
.-  Author Unknown

No  matter how much you and your family prepare for a deployment, you are never quite ready when the day arrives.  The last few minutes you spend together will be etched in your memory until your loved one returns home.

I don’t know how my family got through three deployments but by the grace of God, we made it, barely unscathed.  The experience has changed us in different ways and has helped us to see each other differently. Here are some valuable lessons we learned:

1. You can’t make up for lost time

No matter how many family vacations we planned, we never could forget the hole that was left in our lives for a year. As we laugh and share memories, we’re reminded that someone wasn’t there to see, feel, or touch that moment. Pictures and videos are nice but nothing is more precious than the real life experience.You can try to include your loved one in the conversation, but then you’ll see the the sadness and the hurt in their eyes that tells you that you can not relive moments in life. That moment had passed and it’s time to move on.

2. Words will be left unspoken

Modern technology made our 3rd deployment easier because we  were able to use Skype and video chat. However, in those snippets of conversation, there were things we didn’t share because they seemed  insignificant and I didn’t want to worry my husband. You’re concerned about their emotional, mental and physical well-being so you stay quiet even inside you’re screaming from being so overwhelmed.

3. You will have selfish moments

Even though you understand that your loved one is in a more dangerous and unpredictable situation, you have moments when you want someone to tell you everything will be okay. You want to be comforted, consoled and nurtured. Some days I just needed a kind word or a hug to get me through the day and then I remembered that my husband spent each day worrying about whether he will come  back home safely.

4. Ask for help

I always was proud of  myself for always being self-sufficient and independent. I now realize that what I saw as independence was really foolish pride. Going through a deployment can be lonely and isolating. However, no one will know that you need help, if you don’t reach out.  I struggled with asking for help until asking for  help was no longer an option but a necessity. 

 5. Children may be resilient, but are they’re still fragile

My husband  missed pivotal years in our older son’s life. He was deployed when our son started kindergarten, and missed 2 of the 3 middle school years. Although my son was fine, he struggled, especially in middle school. I was not so quick to  recognize that there was any problems because I believed that he was fine. He finally told me all that he was feeling and thinking during that time. I thought I was giving my son all the support he needed, but I didn’t. You can’t take or granted that your kids are fine just because they don’t show any signs of distress.

6. Becoming a family unit again can be awkward

Everyone has to remember to go back to their respected roles and there can be an imbalance of power. Kids may forget that there is another parental authority and you may forget to share the responsibilities. After being a single parent for such a long time, it can be a challenge to let go of control.

7. Be patient

I think I rushed my husband into  assimilating into civilian life. I didn’t allow him time to adjust and I wasn’t always patient with him. He also had to learn to be patient with us. Although we were doing our best to help him transition into our lives and activities, there were times we fell  back into our habit of doing things our way without explaining them to him. It’s been 7 months since he’s been home and we’re still learning to be patient with each other.

8. Don’t dismiss PTSD

Some veterans may not recognize or want to admit that they are suffering from PTSD. They are so eager to get back to the normalcy of life, they may deny that they need help  and support. It has to be an ongoing conversation and all partied must make the commitment to pay attention to any signs.

9. You’ll  always wonder what happened during the deployment

Deployments leave a gaping hole in your relationship because there are things that will never be shared with you and even if you ask questions, you’ll never get an answer. During the deployment,my husband  was committed to a mission and was  not  at liberty to share any details with me.

10. You put things in perspective

As I scrambled to get our home ready for my husband’s return, I didn’t reflect on the families whose loved one was returning home. I didn’t stop to acknowledge that for  every soldier that was returning home, there are many who lost their lives. I didn’t think about the children who had lost a parent and would not be able to share any milestones with them. You don’t know what you take for granted until you see that familiar face in uniform walking towards you. It’s then that you finally exhale, not realizing you’ve been holding your breath for so many months.

 

Are All Boys Created Equal?

BoyHoldingSomething

Recently another mother informed me that she was so grateful for my site and the resources I share. What most poignant thing she said to me was: “Thank you that you creating this site for black mothers and sons.” I politely corrected her that I created the site for all moms of boys. She then said: “Why?” “Not all boys are created equal.”

Her response made me think about my mission and what I wanted most to accomplish with Raising Great Men. I stand by my mission to: Leave a legacy of compassionate, respectful and responsible men. As a mom of two black boys, I can not dismiss the fact that my sons will face challenges because of their race but I refuse to allow race to be the adversary that prevents them from accomplishing what they want to in life.

I’m not naive and as one who has dealt with racism, I know that unfortunately, my sons will encounter prejudice and stereotyping because of their race. My sons may face racial profiling and job discrimination. I know that at some point my sons will be judged by the color of their skin and not the content of their character. As I tell my teen son, this is life and it’s what you choose to do with these adversities that strengthen and empower you. Which takes me back to the the title of my post: Are all boys created equal?

If we are to examine this question, shouldn’t we go beyond race?  Moms of boys are going to have unique concerns and worries about their sons based on their family dynamics, their son’s character and personality, their son’s health, their socioeconomic status, their neighborhood and other factors. Different things keep us up at night but at the end of the day we all want to make sure our sons have the tools they need to have a happy, healthy and successful lives. Moms of boys have been tasked an important mission: to raise future men, husbands and fathers.  We learn to appreciate our sons’ boyness, their sense of adventure and sense of humor. We forge ahead with this task with faith and courage that our best intentions will prevail.

When Trayvon Martin was killed, I saw moms of all walks of life express their sympathy for his family, especially his mother. These mothers banned together to support a mom who was experiencing one of their worst fears: losing a child.

Yes, all boys are not created equal but what matters is that they have loving parents who guide, nurture and empower them so it doesn’t matter.

What are your thoughts?

 Image Courtesy of Fickr

#MomsofBoysChat- Reducing Holiday Stress with Leslie Hendry

Christmas

The holidays can be a stressful time for some people. Whether it’s family issues, losing a loved one, buying gifts, it can be overwhelming.  This Friday 10pm Est on #momsofboyschat on Twitter,  join Leslie Hendry, Founder of AzaWhistleKids as we chat about helping you reduce holiday stress.  Leslie Hendry is a former lawyer who discovered yoga and meditation after leaving the “good life” in New York City.

Aza Whistle Kids creates games and stories that teach kids life skills including cleanliness and focus through activities based on yoga and meditation principles. They also help people of all ages create a less cluttered environment and less cluttered thinking.

Follow Leslie at @azawhistle.

Special thanks to Energems and Mama Mio for our giveaways for the chat!

Energems supplements are bite-sized, hard-coated gems made with real milk chocolate. They contain caffeine, B-vitamins and a unique energy blend.  I just tried Energems and love the taste as well as the benefit of b-vitamins.  Energems are great for busy moms on the go an perfect for running around during the holidays. Follow them at @energems
Mama Mio is giving away their Eye Know Moisturizing Eye Serum ($39)! This serum nourishes, lifts and brightens the entire eye area for a fresh look! This jam-packed serum tackles dehydration, dark circles, puffiness, crow’s feet, wrinkles, and saggy baggy-ness, leaving you looking bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Follow @Mamamio
See you on the chat!

Image Courtesy of Flickr

 

Is Your Man Living Up to His Potential?

Man's potential

The other day I asked my husband: “Do you think you’re being the best man you could be?” He thought about it for awhile and responded “No”.  I appreciated his honesty and it opened up a discussion in which we both were able to share without judgment or shame.  It gave me the opportunity to express how I was feeling and to let go of any resentment I felt towards him.  I was more sympathetic to his adjust to civilian life following his recent deployment.

I know that getting angry and being critical (a sad attempt to motivate him) was causing us to have more arguments and creating an unbalance in our marriage and family.  Asking him this simple question (and giving him time to respond) gave him a safe space to be honest about what he needed to do in his life. It also brought an awareness to what I can and can not control.

We need the men in our lives to flourish because they are the role models for our sons. It is important to me that my husband sees himself through God’s eyes. If he loses hope and faith, our sons lose hope and faith.

As women, sometimes we see that the men in lives have either lost their way or are discouraged and we feel the need to steer them in the right
direction.  It’s not our job to make our men be their best, they have to  want to do it on their own. We have to be sensitive to their vulnerability but we can’t be responsible for their actions and  behavior. Your partner needs to have his own purpose in life. What we can do is address our concerns and have realistic expectations of them.  When we start dictating to them how they should think, behave and feel, we stop being partners and start becoming mothers.

I know and understand my role as wife . I’m here to hold my husband accountable and to support him when he is not thriving.

 

What Kind of Parent Do You Want to Be?

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"There is no such thing as a perfect parent so just be a real one."- Sue Atkins

I often wondered what would happen if the real families were like sitcom families. Wouldn't it be amazing if we could resolve conflicts and discipline issues in 30 minutes or less? Unfortunately, the real world doesn't give us a laugh track or writers to ease the challenges of parenting.

Once we are initiated into parenting, we are left to our own defenses.  We seek parenting advice from books, experts, family and friends and often get unsolicited advice from strangers. After years of muddling through and having snippets of success, we realize we're as clueless during the teen years as we were during the toddler years.

Very few of us will admit our parenting mistakes or that sometimes we don't know what we're doing. We want to give the impression that we have it all under control, until our kids prove us wrong.

I didn't give much thought to my parenting style until I asked my son what he thought of me as a parent. The wonderful thing about asking kids for their opinion is that they'll always be brutally honest. The truth was difficult to hear, but it gave me the opportunity to see myself through my son's eyes.

It helped me to realize that my parenting wasn't as fluid as I thought. If your parenting style is rigid and unchanging, you're in for a rude awakening. Your role changes along with your child's developmental stages. You go from guiding to delegating to collaborating. It's easy to think about what kind of parent you want to be but much harder to live up to the goal.

What kind of parent are you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo Source: Flickr