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A Birth Story – Part 1

“I’d like you to go in for an ultrasound next week as the baby is measuring pretty large.”

I never missed a checkup during my wife’s first pregnancy.  To say I was completely in the moment would be a massive understatement.  We were in the “appointment every week” stage, somewhere around 37 weeks.  The doctor pushed around on my wife’s stomach and declared that he could feel the head facing down and had us push on my son’s butt near my wife’s chest.  He then wrote us a prescription for a second ultrasound to get a more exact size.

I was giddy.  I get to see the baby again 😀

A week goes by and we head into the ultrasound place.  My hopes were dashed a bit as the tech said we wouldn’t see much because the baby is too big (this seems pretty obvious now since the paddle obviously can’t zoom out to the whole stomach).

My wife, at times, becomes…talkative.  This is greatly exacerbated when she is nervous.  So as the tech is scanning the top of my wife’s stomach close to her chest (where my son’s butt was supposedly sitting), my wife was busy rattling on about what the doctor said.

“He said the baby is head down and was able to feel him down there, and he said his butt is where you are looking right now, I am glad he is head down…”

Meanwhile I am looking at the screen at what was, without a doubt, a head and it most certainly was NOT down.  When my wife finally left some open air, the tech dropped the news.

The baby was breach, and was huge which would almost certainly rule out any kind of inversion.  We were having a c-section. While this was far from being the worst news parents ever got, it left us feeling cheated.

We weren’t going to have an interesting birth story.  I wasn’t going to get my chance to make a ton of mood-lightening jokes.  No middle of the night vending machine runs during the marathon birthing session.  No threats about how the misery she was in was all my fault.  No cutting the cord.

And worst of all…no Bill Cosby Himself references.  I was going to buy salad spoons and pull them out at just the right time, just after my Johnny Bench impression.  When the doctor declared he saw the head, I was going to tell him “Well go get it!”  And I was going to do my best manly breathing “ZIFF WOOF WOOF WOOF, PUUUUSH..PUUUSH!!!”

But..there would be none of that.  We felt like and still feel like we missed out on a life experience that we will now never have.

But, there were some perks to a scheduled c-section.  First, we got to pick our son’s birthday.  We had 3 choices, and we went with November 19th, which just so happened to be my dad’s birthday.  It also worked out best for my vacation time cause it landed around Thanksgiving.  We also didn’t have to deal with her being past her due date.

In the days leading up to the c-section we decorated our house for Christmas.  We cleaned the house top to bottom, probably the last time it was ever that clean.  We had our bags packed, we made and froze some food, and actually found ourselves bored waiting for the baby (certainly the last time we were ever bored).

The night before the c-section, we watched Wall-E.  We were quiet, as usually happens right before a major event.  We had talked daily about how our life will change, how amazing it will be to have a little baby to hold, and even about what kind of parents we wanted to be.  But by the night before, we had nothing else to say.  We just couldn’t wait to hold our little boy for the first time.  At least, that is all I thought about.

Later I found out my wife was extremely nervous, nearly terrified, of being cut open.  I regret not realizing that as I would have liked to ease her worry.  But such is life.

Continue to A Birth Story Part 2…

Local dad has three kids, you won’t believe what he almost forgot!

Everything!

Since becoming a dad one thing has been a constant, new memories.  The kids do something every day that is worth remembering.  The problem is that much of my head is filled with 8 billion other child rearing details like how many times did the baby poop today and was it squishy, runny, or in tiny balls.

Since the brain tends to eject minor details like a Star Destroyer ejects garbage before entering hyperspace, many of those sweet moments you’d love to look back on are gone.  I can already see myself sounding like my dad in the future, recounting the same 5 stories about my childhood eliciting the same “yes I know I know you’ve told me this a million times” from my kids that I say to him.

I’d like to avoid that.

A large reason I started blogging was in hopes of capturing some of those moments for myself and my kids.  I also overshare on facebook in hopes of not forgetting the small moments.  But, the blog is public and it doesn’t really work for “Today Sarah and Kaylee hugged for the first time.”  Nor does it work for “Today was the day the urologist finally declared that I am officially shooting blanks.”    Facebook is terrible for searching and sorting so finding anything past yesterday is about impossible.

The blog and Facebook certainly don’t work for one of the most perplexing issues facing parents everywhere…kids artwork.  We have two Costco wipe boxes filled with artwork, a table overflowing in the stuff, and bits and pieces stashed everywhere.  Each piece is shoved somewhere with the tired mantra “we really need a solution for this.”

Well, a solution dropped in my lap about a month ago.  Memfy.com.  I know, another silly-named web app (it grows on you).  This app though aims to solve exactly all of the issues I’ve been experiencing.

Memfy is memory tracking website.  It is simple and quick, which means you can hop in, record your memory, and hope right back out.  It’s power is in its ability to sort and search.  It also has the ability to export all of your data to PDF, so even if you decide to move on one day, you don’t lose all that information. Another feature I love is that it’s completely private by design, which encourages the oversharer in me to write memfies only for myself without feeling like I have to make it interesting to anyone besides my family.

I’ve already forgotten so much.  I can’t remember most of my son’s little moments from when he was a toddler anymore.  My wife and I have both had those: “Remember when Jack used to…?” moments, with the other person having no memory of it.  I have no idea where any of my kid’s first teeth came in or what their first words were or when the first time it was I dropped them off the bed!

I am afraid of losing more and more of my little moments.  That is why I have started to make Memfy a part of my daily life, to capture memories, both the new and those old ones I don’t wan to forget.

I will write up another post detailing some of the ways I am using Memfy to capture my memories to help you get started.  But…do get started TODAY.  Don’t let the wonderful moments slip away.

Memfy.com is free.  To get the most out of it though, I highly recommend the premium version @ $4 a month as it allows you additional categories, which makes sorting and searching much more effective.  From now until November 1st you can save $10 by helping to fund them on their indiegogo campaign.  They are working hard to create a mobile app, which would be the ideal way to use the service  (It does work in mobile browsers, including uploading pictures).

What is a memory you are afraid you might forget?

The Keys to Sibling Friendship

Since having our second child, nothing in this world brings overwhelming joy to my heart more than seeing my kids interact with one another.  Lately, most of the focus goes from older siblings towards Sarah, the 15 month old, which frequently causes a bad case of heart-exploding-itis.  

Sadly, the older two have grown apart, especially over the summer where they have very little time away from each other.  They are more worried about finding transgressions to whine about than finding ways to have fun together.  This becomes very clear when Jack talks about his sisters.  Sarah can do no wrong, Kaylee can do no right.  It’s sad really.

So I wasn’t surprised when they got into a huge fight shortly after Jack got home on his second day of school

It seems that he is learning site words, and each day he gets a new paper key with a new site word.  He cuts out the key, colors it, and the teacher puts it on a huge key ring for him.  The first day he brought it home he treated it like a treasure, which means Kaylee HAD TO HAVE IT.  Within seconds she was running across the room with the single paper key in hand, with Jack running full tilt after her whining all the way.  She stole it no less than 4 times that night.

This has continued any time the keys come out, the fight continues.  Fast forward to yesterday, Jack asked in desperation “why does she keep stealing my keys?”  I explained, gently, “it’s because she sees how much you like them and she wants to have some too.”  I then suggested, as an afterthought, “you could see if your teacher would let you bring some home for Kaylee.”

As is typical, I then completely forgot that conversation ever happening.  When I got home from work, Jack ran up to me excitedly to show me…3 paper keys, all colored in, with Kayllee (sic) written across the back. He told me that he asked his teacher for extra keys to take home for his sister.   

BOOM!!!  That is the sound of my heart exploding.  I was impressed that he thought of his sister and equally impressed at his lack of fear in asking an authority figure a question like that.  As a shy kid growing up, I couldn’t imagine doing that.  And lastly I was genuinely proud of him.  And as if that wasn’t enough, when I got down to his level to say to him “I am really proud of you for thinking of your sister, and doing something to make her so happy” he said, with genuine excitement “YOU ARE?  Oh Thank You!” and threw his arms around me to put an exclamation point on the whole thing.

I love that kid.

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Creepers and Zombies and Spiders…oh my. Minecraft – Friend or Foe

It’s the dead of night.  I am standing in the middle of a field, unable to see more than a few feet in front of me.  Other than the clothes on my back…I have nothing.  Suddenly from the darkness I hear a sound like a rattle snake.  I look around, I can’t see anything. I squint into the darkness, I think I saw something move.  Then, suddenly…

BOOM!!!!

I am thrown back, 4 of my health hearts are gone, and my real heart is in my stomach.  “What was that!!” I shout.

“That was a creeper!!!” says my 5 year old son excitedly.  “He tried to blow you up!”  Apparently he did.  The next 10 minutes are spent running away from skeletons shooting arrows, jumping spiders with red glowing eyes, and zombies groaning at us from all around.  We each died several times before night finally lifted.  I was left wondering “what the hell?”

That was my first experience playing Minecraft with my son.  He on his Kindle Fire and me on my HP Touchpad.  It become pretty clear pretty quick that we had no idea what we were doing.

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Can you spot the creeper?

Learning through research and trial and error

This was a rare opportunity for both my son and I to learn something together as we obviously had no clue how to play this game.  I decided to involve him in the process I always use when trying to get a grasp on something I know absolutely nothing about.

We got online and googled things like “how do I survive the night in Minecraft?”  We searched for tutorial videos.  We watched people that are incredibly too good at the game to see how they did.  At each step we got back into the game and tried what we learned.  Before long we could survive the night easily, craft all manner of items, build a home, defend ourselves, and go on adventures.

This gave Jack a framework for learning something new.  Research it and then try it to see what works and what doesn’t.  Since we took on this challenge he has asked me to google things for him, he has sought out videos to learn things, and seems to enjoy figuring tough problems out.

Planning

Minecraft, in Survival Mode, starts you off with absolutely nothing.  You have about 10 minutes to go from nothing, to having a shelter to keep you safe from the nasties at night.  We learned through trial and error what the right order of things was.  Cut down trees, build a crafting table, build a wooden pick axe, dig out an open space in a mountain, get inside, block off your exit with dirt.  From there, you begin preparing to further create your world.

When you die in minecraft, you lose everything you’ve made.  Some of which requires rare materials which could have taken you hours to find.  So anytime you leave your home, you have to prepare like you would if you went out in the forest in real life.  Gather and cook food, build armor, build weapons, create signs and torches.  Each of those items requires exploring of caves and mining, it requires gathering of resources, and building other items.  All of that planning has to be done or else you risk dying and losing your precious stuff.

Now I can say things like “before we do X, we need to make sure we plan it out and are prepared, just like when heading on an adventure in Minecraft.  

Teamwork

It’s a lot of work building a world.  We quickly learned that to get things done faster, we need to separate duties.  So while I am carving out a living space, he is out cutting down trees.  While I am gathering wheat, he is smelting iron.  We stay near enough to each other at all times so we don’t get separated and if the other person gets attacked we can help.  Rarely are we in each other’s way.  In today’s world, effective teaming is an extremely important skill, one that I believe we are fostering when working together in Minecraft.

Making

OK, this one is a biiiiit of  stretch, but I do believe there are lessons here for Making.  Maker Culture is something I hope to encourage all of my children to take part in.  Learning to DIY is an extremely valuable art, something we’ve lost in the last couple of generations.  Everything in Minecraft has to be built from a collection of materials.  So if nothing else, it plants the seeds of “everything comes from something.”

Creativity

In the creative mode of Minecraft, you can literally build anything.  It’s very similar to playing Legos…except you never run out of blocks.  You can build everything from the Starship Enterprise to a working 8-bit computer.  My son has built some pretty crazy looking buildings and several rollercoasters that apparently pigs love riding in.  It is an opportunity to imagine something in your mind and produce it in front you, which can’t be a bad thing.

Dangers

Addiction.  This game is lack little boy crack cocaine.  I’ve seen him play the game for hours, just building random crap.  He will have days where every single thing he talks about ends up having creepers brought into it.  Seriously: “Daddy, Sarah I were playing and I was making her laugh by hiding under a blanket. And then a creeper came, and it tried to blow us up, but I said ‘Hey! you Creeper, get out of here!”

We limit him to 1 hour a day of game time on his tablet (although that is likely to get cut in half when he starts kindergarten).  Even with that rule in place, enforced by software on his tablet, he still tries to get extra time frequently throughout the day. 

Laziness.  Video games are an extremely easy source of entertainment.  While there is a lot of benefits, the biggest concern to me is it makes it harder to enjoy other forms of entertainment.  I’d like to see him draw more, build more legos with physical bricks, and do more pretend play with cars, trains, and figures.  

Wasted Time.  I look back at the incredible amount time I spent playing video games, and this is back in the days of 8 bit graphics…oh wait..  Ok, Minecraft is 8-bit graphics, sure, but it’s also a lot more involved than Atari Boxing.  I would give anything to have spent some that time learning how to program, learning electronics, or just practicing math.  

Conclusion

I don’t mind him playing Minecraft and if I am being honest, I rather enjoy our time playing together. There really are some benifits to playing the game.  I feel that if we keep him limited in his play time while providing plenty of importunity for engaging play, then there is nothing to fear from Minecraft.  

I have embraced it as a hobby for him and nothing makes him happier than Minecraft time with dad.  I know how he feels as I still look back fondly at my time playing the Atari 2600 with my dad.  I remember playing Atari Boxing, Atari Basketball and Breakout with my dad like it was yesterday.  

My ultimate goal: to get my wife to play Minecraft with my son.  It’d be like chocolate ice cream and M&Ms falling from the sky for my son.  No pressure honey 😉

Do you any of you play Minecraft with your children?  Do you have any stories about when Minecraft seemed to teach your kid(s) a thing or two?

The DadWars have begun

Look out mommy wars, dad wars are about to begin.  

Stay at home moms versus working moms is a battle that has been fought in blogs, opinion pieces, news shows and social gatherings.  We dads have just sat on the sidelines, keeping our mouths shut because: “you didn’t carry a baby in your body for 9 months.”  Damn biology.  

But, dads aren’t on the sidelines anymore.  With the number of Stay At Home Dads (SAHDs) ever increasing there has been a battle brewing just beneath the surface.  

Dads aren’t what they used to be.  We aren’t afraid of changing diapers anymore, breaking the baby, or being emotionally vulnerable with our children.  We are basically smellier, and typically, more physically rough, moms…with penises, and a hairy butt.

To prove this to yourself, the next time you are at a store, look around and you will see almost as many dads as moms.  You will see dads entertaining the kids, freeing mom to shop.  You will see dads there alone with multiple kids.  You will see dads like me chasing their giggling kids around the store, pleasing some, pissing off others.  We are there, you just have to look around to see.

All was well and good in the world of dads, until the SAHDs became “a thing.”  We were all equal.  We were just…dads.  Now, the SAHDs are ruining everything.  The news doesn’t care about working dads, only the bon-bon eating stay at home dads.  As if somehow being unable to make more than their wives makes them special.

The SAHDs apparently spend their days watching sports, working out, and sleeping in while their kids run wild.  When they decide to take care of their children, it’s only to take them to a park to try and hit on the lonely SAHMs, which always works because they have time to work out…bastards.  

Meanwhile, they act superior with their SAHD-only play groups. They think their kids diapers don’t stink.  The go on news shows and talk about how difficult it is caring for multiple children all-day long…boo-freaking-hoo.  Get a job bitch!

The real men, the ones that actually provide for their families because they have to, want to bitch-slap the smug smile off their faces.  Nothing more than a bunch of sissies with feminist sugar mammas neutering them.  

Oh yeah!  And they have itty bitty testies.  

 I, for one, am tired of the BS.  If the tiny-testy-dads think they are so special, then they should try balancing a demanding job while being an involved father.  They should try leaving their kids, who cry every time we walk out the door…every…damn…day.  Then you tell me who should get to go on news shows.

In closing, dad wars isn’t real.  Modern dads just want to spend as much time with their kids as possible.  The working modern dads who meet a SAHD will almost always express their wish to do the same, but will be happy for the SAHD.  We dads are just happy to see dads being good dads.  Seriously though, look around the store and enjoy all the dads you see with their kids.  We are out there and we love it.

 

 

 

Super Simple Soapy Slip’n’Slide

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The back story

Last summer I took my kids to a community day event which promised bounce houses, rock climbing walls, and other fun.  We got there early, all ready for a great time.  Parked the car, took a bus up to the event, went to buy tickets…shit, forgot to get money out of the ATM machine.

Back on the bus, back to the car, off to the ATM, back to the bus, back to the booth, buy the WAY overpriced tickets.  The kids run excitedly to the activities…they were too short for all of them.  The disappointment was palpable.  Back to the booth, refund, back on the bus, back to the car.

There we sit, completely dejected.  Then…an idea!  I took them to the store and bought their first slip’n’slide.   And look, it comes with a belly raft thing for going super fast.  We will ressurect the day!

We get home, I get the thing setup, and it becomes obvious that this thing is crap.  It’s not much wider than the kids.  The sprinkler thing along the sides shoots everywhere except on the slide.  They have fun with it, but it wasn’t very long lasting.

After that, I swore I would build my own and really have fun.

The research

I started doing research on every DIY slip’n’slide out there.  They all looked completely awesome.  They also all looked completely too huge for my yard.  They also mostly required at least a small hill to really work well.  Plus, most of them would not be easy to store (pool noodles were a common ingredient).  I began to feel dejected again.  Having only 20 feet of length in my yard, I started to think I was destined for a boring slide.

Then I stumbled on a blog post, which I very regretfully lost now, about an extraordinarily simple design…a “why the hell didn’t I think of that” design.  It’s completely ideal for a small yard, doesn’t require a hill, works perfectly for adults and children, and was incredibly simple.

The build

You only need 4 things:

  1. Plastic Sheeting of at least 4 mils thickness.  Clear is recommend as black will burn your skin the hell off
  2. Stakes to hold the sheeting down.  The blog recommended landscaping nails, which was quite frankly a horrible idea.  The next time I am buying tent pegs.
  3. Baby shampoo or soap, lots of it
  4. A garden sprinkler

It should be obvious what to do from here: Lay out the plastic, add the pegs to hold it on the ground, turn on the sprinkler, squirt copious amounts of soap on the plastic (I used 25% of the bottle on the first go around) and send your kids and yourself sliding across the plastic.

The results

I don’t say this lightly: The 3 hours we spent on that slide was the most enjoyable time I have ever had with my kids. All 4 of us slid across that thing for hours, belly laughing the whole time.  The key is to try and come up with different ways to slide.

We put our slide at one end, they’d go down the slide and zip across the slip n slide.  I put them in pool floatie rings and pushed them across the slide.  We held hands and all went together.  The kids would lay on their bellies and I’d push them down the slide.  They went on bellies, backs, and knees.  I’d add a new heavy layer of soap and we’d try to race across the slide, falling numerous times and laughing.

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If you are squeamish about minor injuries, you may not have as much fun.  There were a couple crashes and a couple head bumps when they fell.  These were all shaken off quickly and back to play.

The lessons learned

While the setup is very straight forward, there were some things that are worth knowing.

The sheeting was tricky to find as there are a million sizes and mils.  I was in a huge hurry so I didn’t want to order it online.  I finally found what I was looking for, a 20′ x 25′ sheet of 4 mil plastic at Walmart.  I will probably get 1 or 2 more uses out of it before it has too many tears.  Next time I will go with this 6 mil sheeting from amazon.

Landscaping nails are like huge REALLY pointy huge staples.  I found a couple had gotten pulled up and were pointy side up.  That would have been an instant trip to the ER had someone fell on them, so I won’t use them again.  I am looking for good tent pegs now.

Your grass won’t like this one bit.  After a day out in the sun, there was some serious yellowing going on. The grass recovered after a few days, and my yard looks like crap anyway, so it didn’t bother me much.

The more baby soap the better.  It just adds to the fun.  Reapply frequently.

 Final Thoughts

This ended up being a little more than I had expected.  Since I didn’t have a sprinkler I ended up spending around $50 on it.  I’ll need to spend another $40 on better plastic and tent pegs.  But, that is less than the price of 1 amusement park ticket…and this was 10 times as fun and we’ll get continued use out of it.

Up next will be to invite some of their friends over to enjoy the fun.

I’d love to hear if anyone else has tried this setup and hear your stories of fun.  Thanks for reading.

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My Daughter, the button pusher

I always heard about how kids are experts at pushing their parents buttons.  I guess they hone in on what agitates parents the most in order to hold some power over them. “You didn’t give me a cookie yesterday, even when I said please, so yes I looked right at you while purposely spilling my juice on the floor.”  Jack, our eldest, never really went out of his way to piss us off.  He might do something he shouldn’t, but it wasn’t out of malice.

My 2.5 year old daughter on the other hand is extremely good at it.  She can send my wife from mildly annoyed to full blown fury with one prissy bat of her eyes.  I fear, like seriously, FEAR the teenage years in my house.

       Poor Jack

My poor son is hopelessly outmatched.  She knows EXACTLY how to piss him off.  She’ll be sitting next to him while he plays his tablet, the perfect picture of the sweet little sister.  Then…completely out of the blue, she will pop up and smack his screen.  If he ignores her, she does it again.  If he reacts with a whine, she smacks it a bunch of time real fast, yells at him, and then starts laughing.

He will be happily playing with his trains and again she’ll just sit there and watch or even play along when, unprovoked, she will just sliiiiiide her foot over just enough to knock the train off the track.  This instantly turns him into a whining mess, then she’ll look at me and , no kidding, will put on a look of innocence and say “Jack crynin.”  I wonder why.

The sad reality is, he never pushes her buttons.  His only beef is when he wants to play by himself and she interrupts that.  He never goes out of his way to get a rise out of her.

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Girl’s got attitude!

      Only one is immune

Her button pushing ways don’t really work that well on  me.  Sure, she gets me fired up, but its more over general toddler behavior, not because her “attitude” as it were.  Her eye rolling usually cracks me up.  She gives me a nasty “NNNOO!” while looking sideways, doing her best to be a total shit and I have to hold back a laugh.  When she purposefully misbehaves, I don’t reward it with anger.

She does have one weapon that she is always improving upon.  Like the velociraptor in Jurassic Park, she’s always trying different angles.  She hones it.  She fine tunes it.  Sometimes, she finds a chink in my armor and files that away for future reference.  She is on her way to perfecting that daddy-daughter super-weapon…Cuteness and Sweetness.

      She’ll have you wrapped around her finger

I’ve heard it since the day she was born, how “that little girl will have you wrapped around her finger!” I’ll admit, I’ve gotten woven around there a few times, but I owe it to her to not be the dad that always gives in.  I don’t want a daughter who is so spoiled by her daddy that she expects life to be handed to her on a silver platter.  She needs to make mistakes, even painful ones, so she can grow into a strong, confident, and brilliant woman.  I want her to know that she can tackle anything in life on her own.  The hard part is striking the right balance between building independence and letting her know that, no matter what, I will be here for her.

Another reason I strive for that balance is respect.  Shortly after Kaylee as born we were at a store and there was a ~19 yr old girl working at the register.  We were buying some small shovels for the kids and mentioned to the girl that “yeah, these would even be good to keep in the car in case it snows.”  This girl says “I don’t really need it, I’ll just call my dad and make him shovel me out.”  At first I thought “sounds like a really good dad.”  But after we left it started nagging at me.  I want to be there to help my daughter, if she hurt her ankle and needed to get out to a job interview, I’d be over in a second to dig her out.  But, I really don’t want her first thought to be “I’ll just make my dad do it.”  I want her to appreciate me, not take advantage of me.  I want her first thought to be how she’d take care of it herself, then look to my help if she needs it.

So far I’ve managed to be in control of my faculties, only letting her extreme cuteness win the day when I want it to (mostly that is). It’s getting trickier all the time.   She’s learning the posture: the angled head, sweet smile, bright eyes and the slight back and forth twirl.  And she’s learning the talk: the falsetto “Petty Peeeeease daddy, I have it?”  Honestly, even if she didn’t “pour it on” I would still struggle as my children’s happiness is by and far the most important thin in my life.

I fear the day is not far in which she gets something out of me I had not planned on giving in on.  I will continue the good fight and I hope that she will only win when I want her to.

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“Ok, I guess you can jump in the puddle”