Posts Tagged ‘parenting’

Bad Manners At Taco Bell

My youngest son has a good friend with terrible manners.  He’s a nice 14 year old boy, kind and generous to  a fault, but this kid almost seems proud of his bad manners.

After I spent twenty dollars at Taco Bell for fried chicken tacos, quesadillas and tacos made out of Doritos, Sandor said, “Thanks Mom, that was awesome.”

Then he shoved his friend, Jake.  “Say thank you, chicken butt!”

Jake shoved back”What ever.”

I’m pretty sure I sighed and rolled my eyes.  We’d been through this before. “Alright Jake, I’m not unlocking the car and were gonna stand here in the parking lot until you say thank you.”

He smiled at me, his shaggy hair nearly covering his eyes. Then he looked at the ground and mumbled something I literally couldn’t understand.

“Nope,” I smiled at him. I was playing hardball. “Not good enough.”

Sandor didn’t even mind me calling his friend out.  Jake’s terrible manners made him a little crazy.

Finally, Jake looked at me. I didn’t know if he was gonna flip me off or say something nice. “Thanks for the food.”

“Perfect,” I said as I gave Jake a big bear hug.

We have a serious rule in our world about good manners. Sandor is the youngest of four and the rule is pretty well etched in stone. If you are rude or disrespectful, you can’t come over. But I understand some parents don’t have the same obsession, so if I like the kid, and I like Jake a bunch, I try to work with them. I figure it’s “my house my rules.” And when Sandor goes to hang at a friends house, their parents get to make the rules.

Once everyone was buckled up I turned off the radio.  “Jake, good manners will make your life way easier.”

“How? My friends like me for my jokes, they don’t care.”

Sandor said, “Dude, you’re not that funny.”

Jake and I both ignored the comment. “Here’s the deal Jake, if you have good manners teachers will like you more. That’s makes your life better. If you have good manners parents like you more. Then you get invited to go to more cool places. Cause in the end it’s my call, not Sandor’s, who we invite over or take to the movies or laser tag or whatever.”

“Yeah, we took Sam to Florida with us because he had good manners,” Sandor added.

“And think about this,” I was on a roll with a class A lecture. “If you get pulled over by the police, and you will get pulled over and you have good manners there’s a way better chance he’ll let you off with a warning. If you’re a punk with bad manners he’s gonna definitely give you a ticket.”

At that point I made myself stop, even though I wanted to keep on going. I was on a roll. I turned up the radio and let the boys ignore me for a while. But I was still thinking.  It’s easy to teach good manners if you start when your child is young. Then people praise them for having good manners and the circle starts rolling.  But once a kid turns into a teenager it get’s tougher.  They resist. Jake almost seems to think good manners make him seem weak.

Maybe if we explain how good manners can benefit them, kids will understand. Maybe.

I got out of the car to let Jake out at his house. He was about to climb out of the back seat when I said, “Thanks for coming over, Jake.”

He stopped. He knew it was a trap. Then Sandor leaned over and whispered something to him. Jake got out of the car and mumbled, “Thanks for having me over.”

Then he gave me another sheepish smile and a hug.

Now, if I can just get my son to stop burping like a monster in front of me.


I’m trying to figure out if people actually read my blog…..so…

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Kids, These are Some Of The Things That Really Piss Parents Off

asleepAdults, you don’t need to read this cause you already know the answers.  Kids, I thought I’d throw you a bone and tell you just a few of the things that really make your parents mad. These aren’t  the things that make us slam doors repeatedly, scream and break our favorite coffee mugs. These are the little things that make us sigh loudly, and lock our bedroom door because we don’t want to look at you.

When we ask you to water the plants, the cat and the dog in the morning.  We text you a reminder in the afternoon then come home from work to find you asleep on the couch. The cat, the dog and the plants are all dead, shriveled up from lack of water.  That actually happened. One of my kids had a parakeet and we watched it fall off this roost in the cage.  Birds need water.  We buried it’s colorful little body in the yard.

clogsWe really hate when we buy you nice new shoes and you smash down the back part and wear them like clogs.  Seriously, you’re so lazy you can’t put your shoes on all the way? Those are the shoes you “really really wanted”, so I paid sixty bucks for them, knowing you would outgrow them in a few months. Now they are clogs. Damn it, that pisses me off.

Sometimes we know you are rolling your eyes at us and thinking “what ever” in you mind. but we just can’t catch you doing it. But we know, we can feel it deep in our bones, what you are saying and doing.

Here’s one that really makes us crazy.  I tell you he seems like a good guy when he asks you out and you say “he’s just a friend, and he’s way too nice.” Then you date some dumb ass  misogynistic jerk who breaks your heart. Or boys, I tell you she’s a manipulative sleaze and you are completely surprised when you find out she’s been going out with the entire offensive line behind your back.

This happens all the time.  You ask to stay over with a friend. You tell me, “if you’ll let me I’ll help you with all that yard work when I get home.”  But you stay up till 4am at  your friends house, then come home and immediately fall into a death like sleep on the couch.

It’s my fault because I spoil you, but when I wash your clothes, make a nice neat stack and tell you to put them away, then find them behind your bed, on the floor or worse. I want to light myself on fire  when I tell you to clean up your room and  you just throw the clean clothes into a hamper and I find them, still folded, waiting to be washed again.

And then there are the obvious ones. We buy you new clothes but you still wear the old worn out stuff that’s stained and makes you look like you live in a box under a bridge.  There are the days we fix a really nice dinner, your favorite in fact, but you filled up on a Cheetos and Hot Pockets, so you don’t eat anything.

So, there you have it boys and girls, a partial list of the stuff you do that really pisses parents off. Now that you know, maybe you’ll stop. Or, perhaps you already know how bat poop crazy you’re making us. Perhaps you’re trying to make us insane so you can put us away. Then’ll you’ll stay up all night, eating Hot Pockets, rolling your eyes and killing all my plants.


Texting and the Dead Goat

goatA couple of weeks ago I saw a guy get his nose spread across his face like peanut butter by a wicked spin heel kick at a Taekwondo tournament. It was an inspiring and bloody mess. Lexie missed the astonishing kick because she was checking her texts.

While we were driving to the mall, Sandor and I watched a mother deer and her three tiny spotted fawns bound across the street, right in front of our car. Sandor and I  squealed and gasped as though having some kind of happy seizure but Lexie and her friend, missed it because they were texting.

Not long ago Sandor missed seeing a dead goat on the side of the road because he was playing with Lex’s phone.  Every little boy  wants to look at the bloated body of  a dead goat!

You get the idea and I’m just as guilty. Last week as Sandor was reading to me, telling me about the Basset Hound with the longest ears in the world (over a foot long according to the Guinness Book of World Records). He was waving his hands around talking about this dog, when my phone lit up. And I checked my text. The text from a co-worker said, “it’s raining here”.  And while I was reading that text Sandor wandered off because
I wasn’t paying attention to him anymore.

Kids text each other from the deer stand in the middle of the woods and entire families sit in the bleachers during football games staring at their phones. Yes, they manage to see the big plays but then they miss the coach when he high fives their son, they miss seeing their boy sitting alone and dejected on the bench, because he missed a big tackle.  We are all missing out on the moments that give life flavor.

As long as teenagers are texting or waiting for their phone to go off and make their butt buzz, they aren’t really engaged in life. If they are texting while they watch tv with the family, are in the car or sitting at the bus stop, they are in two different places at one time and they are missing the show.

I hate writing off an entire generation but, I think it’s too late for the teenagers and twenty year olds(sorry guys, you can’t be saved). The dye has been cast, so we might as well move on. But as parents we might be able to help our younger kids. Before you give them their first phone, make some rules for texting and make sure they apply to you as well.

1. No texting when you’re eatting with another person.

2. No texting when you are involved in an actual activity, like deer hunting, skydiving or wake boarding. Enjoy the moment, even if it’s a quiet one.

3.  If I’m driving NOBODY gets to text in the car. (you don’t want to miss seeing that dead goat)

Technology has gotten ahead of us.  Once upon a time we thought it was  a good idea to put cocaine in Coke-a-Cola and to give it to depressed middle aged women. We thought cigarettes were actually good for us. Doctors believed mercury baths were a great way to cure stds or venereal diseases (yup it cured the disease alright  but it also killed the patient).

After a while we figured out mercury and cocaine were actually BAD for us. Maybe that’s the case with of texting. We have an amazing technology but we don’t actually know how it will effect us socially, intellectually or physically in the future.

I recently read a report that teens make far less eye-contact now because they are so accustomed to looking at their damn cell phone.

Once, my son Jack, said, “nothing really important ever gets said in a text,” and he’s absolutely right. It can all wait. Don’t let texting blind you to the beauty, tragedy and taste  of life and stay away from the mercury baths.


No Smoking Crack In The Living Room!

mary and jackThe youngest child,the baby in the family really does have a charmed life.   By the time the third or fourth or sixth kid comes along parents are old and exhausted.

Making up rules and laying down the law takes a ridiculous amount of effort. So we lighten up a little, then we lighten up a lot.

When Jack and Mary were little I was a beast, a fun, silly, loving  beast, but a beast nonetheless. Rooms had to clean, vegetables had to be eaten, and if anybody messed up my favorite punishment was the bathtub.  I made them sit in timeout in the bathtub. I’d say things like, “just stare at the grout for ten minutes then well talk.”

And my temper was epic back then. I had volcanic explosions, things were broken, lots of things, like boom boxes and Swiffers. Stuff that cost me money to replace, but I couldn’t control myself.  I didn’t tolerate whining, eye rolling, bad attitudes, laziness, back talk. Once when Mary and Jack whined about a happy meal toy I threw their brightly colored cardboard boxes, food and toy out the window. They were shocked and speechless but nobody every complained about a toy again. (Even back then I didn’t believe in spanking.  I was way to creative for that.)

Sandor is ten now and the boy has it good.  Being explosive and having nuclear meltdowns  takes a lot of energy. I’m more inclined to talk to him, to analyze the situation and sort things threw. Yeah, I still get really mad sometimes but I can’t remember the last time I broke anything.  If he makes all A’s he gets thirty dollars, but if he walks in with a B, I say something lame like. “You better fix that grade young man, you understand?”

For years I was a category five hurricane, now I’m a downgraded tropical storm.  His room is a mess, he sometimes listens to music he shouldn’t, he and his friends stay up too late on the weekends and sleep in their clothes. Still, I have rules and he sticks to them. He has excellent manners, knows how to shake hands like a man, always makes the honor roll and he actually likes vegetables.

But I’m pretty sure he gets away with stuff I never would have put up with fifteen years ago. But my one rule still stands for Sandor and I’m not backing down. “No smoking crack in the living room!”

(Hey, if you like hampoland do me a favor. donate to my daughter’s fundraising efforts. I’ve never figured out how to make money on this blog so you can help us out.  There’s only 39 hours left to contribute so hurry and any donation, no matter how small, is appreciated.  And her video is pretty funny too.http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/representing-america-in-european-taekwondo-championship?c=home )

When You Are Mean To Your Kid, You Look Pathetic

kidPlease, stop being mean to your kids in public. I don’t care if you are a redneck in Wal-Mart or picking up a espresso in Starbucks. You look and sound like a witch when you are rude or snarky to your own child in public. Mean moms are the worst.

Seriously, do you think anyone wants to invite you over for a beer or a spin class when you treat your child with absolute disdain in public? Do you think the cute 26 year old guy with  sideburns and massive biceps wants to spend any time with a woman who is mean to her kids? Here’s what he’s thinking, ‘if she’s mean to her kids she’ll probably be mean to me too”.

And consider this, when you are mean, tense, rude or short with your child, I’m pretty sure, you look at least ten years older. It’s true, mean people looker older than nice ones.

Don’t yell at your three year old, don’t roll your eyes and hiss at your six year old when they touch the gum at the grocery store, don’t swat them on the back of the head or I’m going to inject myself into the situation. That’s right, I’m going to call you out in public and you’re going to get even more angry.

Ok, so you’re busy texting and talking and trying to decide what shade of hose you really need. Yeah, that stuff is pretty important, but don’t act like a spoiled thirteen year old when your child interrupts because he really has to go to the bathroom.

Smile, for God’s sake. He needs you. And don’t make the “I’m such a martyr ” sigh. Don’t make that noise that tells the world you are overworked and exhausted. Lot’s of moms seem to specialize in that noise. Cut it out.

Kids are irrational, moronic  they don’t understand anything, they need everything, they are demanding and rude and pushy and insane….cause they are babies. They are supposed to be that way.

And here’s my final tip, don’t spank a crying child and expect him to stop crying. She’s going to cry more if you hurt her. And again, you’re making your self look bad and everyone standing close to you is thinking that poor kid has such horrible, mean, stupid mom.

Blues Fest and Cat Shows….. How to Raise Brave Party Kids

I have a theory.  If you take your kids to weird places, odd and unusual events, likegGraffiti parties, Cat Shows, crawdad cookoffs and music festivals  they will be better equipped to handle all sorts of bizarre and strange situations in life.  They will become more flexible and well behaved. If  you take kids to different types of  events,  different cultures won’t make them freak out or cause them to melt down. I know so many kids who go into  spoiled-kid-anaphylactic-shock when they have to deal with something unfamiliar. They point, stare and whine, they get picky, rude, grouchy and insulant. 

Start hauling them around when they are just two or three so by the time they are seven they will be fun and well behaved and you can take them anywhere. They will learn to suck crawdad tails, eat crepes, smelly cheese and home made rootbeer.

Tonight, I took Sandor and Lex to the Blues Fest downtown.  Sandor didn’t know if he really wanted to go, but I said get in the car.  He didn’t know what to expect (he went to the jazz and blues fest last year but 9 year old boys forget everything). I didn’t let him bring an I-Pod or game because I wanted him to actually pay attention to the Blues Fest, I wanted him to listen to the music, watch the musicians, eat the yucky fried food and watch old hippies dance with bluesy abandon. 

Since the kids were toddlers I’ve been dragging them to Amish quilt festivals, zydeco concerts, art galleries, documentary festivals, black history celebrations, cheese making parties, donkey basket ball games,  farmers markets, poetry slams, football games and rock concerts. I do it because it’s fun and I think it’s good for them. As a result they usually know how to handle all kinds of situations. When we go out they don’t whine too much, they relax and have fun. As soon as the band started the first big blues song Lex and Sandor were up on the floor dancing together. Sandor even did his moonwalk.

So please, don’t make the mistake of keeping your kids at home just because they don’t think they want to go to the Topiary Festival or Polo Game. You’re the parent, tell them to get in the car and give it a try.  Be brave, take them to stuff, weird stuff and relax. If it doesn’t work out….you can always leave. And try again next weekend.


Say “Yes” To Your Kid….Then Clean Up the Mess

This weekend I realized one of the keys to being a good parent is so simple.  “Say yes more than you say no.” 

Kids ask for stuff all they time and they ask for permission, they ask you to watch them, or listen to them constantly. Learn to say yes more than you say no.

This weekend Sandor said, “Can I do an experiment?”

“Yes.” I cringed a little becomes sometimes his “experiments” mean mixing a little bit of everything in the kitchen in a bowl (including cat food and ketchup) and the result is disgusting.

This time he wanted to do something he’d seen Bill Nye do on Youtube.   “Can I empty the big bottle of Sprite into the old milk jug, fill it up with hot water then stick it in ice water?”

If we lost the Sprite I would dump two dollars worth of soda down the drain. It’s bad for us any way so I said, “Sure, go for it.  But you have to try to do it all by yourself.”

He made a huge mess, used up all the ice cubes, the Sprite went flat but he was excited about science.  It was worth the trade.

When he asks “can I pump the gas”, I know the stop for ten dollars worth of regular will take twice as long and he’ll ask me nine or forty two questions in the process but when he pumps the gas for me he…1. Feels like a man, 2. Learns to do man stuff, 3. Thinks about gas and mechanics, 4. He’s learning to be more independent.

It’s easier and quicker to say no but then he just sits in the car and learns how to drool then suck it back up real fast before I get back to the car.

When they ask if they can catch the lizard, say yes. When they ask if they can kiss it…say sure. When they ask if they can throw rocks in the mud puddle say yes, unless you are headed to church. “Can I try to eat this bowl of jello without using my hands?”  “Yes you can.”. And when they say, “Can I roll down the window and scream as loud as I can”. Say sure…then consider joining them. It actually feels really good.

I’m not suggesting it’s ok to say yes when he asks to eat Ho Ho’s for breakfast or dig up a bunch of worms then cut them all in half. As parents we have to say no sometimes. 

And sometimes I think we so “no” because it’s a reflex. We don’t actually think about the request we just understand life will be easier, cleaner and quicker if we say no….to everything. Eventually kids stop asking if they can do science experiments, they already know the answer. Instead they give up and watch tv for hours on end.

But slow down on the nos just a little.  Slow down and say ‘yes”, even though it’s going to be messy and take time. When you say” yes” your child starts to understand things, when you say “yes” they begin to understand it’s ok to ask questions, to wonder and to be curious.

Great things can happen…when you say “yes.”

100 Dollar Jeans and Snotty Little Girls…….. Brilliant Parenting That Didn’t Come From Me!

    Sometimes people do really smart stuff. Sometimes they do stuff that makes them look smart than me. I can’t believe it.But it’s true and kind of wonderful.

   Two days ago my 23 year old daughter Mary called. She is the nanny for three beautiful, affluent little girls. The girls have a lovely home and their parents have great big important jobs.

   Unfortunately, the girls, who are 6, 8 and 10 say really ugly things to my Mary. She is paid well but that doesn’t make up for their remarks.   Generally, the girls are lovely and well behaved, but sometimes they say horrible things like, “You have to clean up our mess, our mom pays you to clean up after us.”
  And “you’re just a employee”.
   This kind of language, directed at my daughter, makes my hands shake. Mary has tried every known form of “nanny discipline”…from lectures to time outs, explanations as to why the words hurt her feelings and taking away everything good like ice cream and movies.

The girls just don’t seem to care. When Mary called for advice I didn’t know what to say, I was out of ideas. All  I could tell her was, “Use the scary calm voice, remember when you were little? My shouting didn’t scare you nearly as much as my calm voice.”

“Oh God, you were freaking  terrifying,” she said,

Two days ago Mary called, squealing. She  took a tiny notebook to work. When the oldest daughter said, “we don’t have to listen to you, you’re just a baby sitter,” Mary took out the notebook, wrote down the words, verbatim, dated the entry, then read it back to the ten year old.
“Is that what you said?” she asked pleasantly.
And hour later the youngest daughter said, “Do it yourself” when Mary asked her to put her dishes in the sink.
Again, my daughter wrote down the child’s words and read them back.
Later in the afternoon, when it happened again, the oldest daughter said, “What are you doing with that book?”
Smiling, Mary explained, ” I’m writing down the mean stuff you say and tonight when your parents get home, you get to read them out loud, to your folks.”
The girls freaked out. A conversation and negotiations began. Mary won.

#2. Last Christmas my friend Amelia had a problem.  Her daughter asked for a pair of blue jeans that cost nearly one hundred dollars.  Amelia is a thrifty woman, she’s a brilliant folk artist who can whittle a monkey out of a peach pit. She recycles and donates used clothes to shelters.  A one hundred dollar pair of jean makes my friend physically ill.

So, Instead of caving in and giving her daughter a pair of ridiculous jeans, she wrapped up a one hundred  dollar bill, lots of pretty paper and bows.  When her beautiful daughter opened the box she was hysterically happy.  Amelia explained, “if you want to buy the jeans, go right ahead, I just couldn’t do it myself.”

Of course once her daughter got to the mall she ended up buying three pairs of pant and two shirts with the crisp one hundred dollar bill.  Amelia and common sense win.

And finally, when Ameila’s other child was stuck in an apartment lease with three other terrible dope smoking kids there seemed no hope.  She couldn’t get her kid out of the year long lease unless the other three tenants signed off on the move.  They didn’t want to do that cause they didn’t want to pay more or find a new roommate.

My brilliant friend sat down with the three strung out hipsters and cheerfully explained, “Here’s the deal. If you don’t let my kid out of this lease I’m moving in, in his place. And all I’m going to do is sit around, watch tv, burp and whittle.”

Guess who moved out the next day. No one ever yelled, screamed or cursed.  Amelia and cleverness win again.

I love these three stories because they prove great parenting doesn’t have to involve spanking and screaming. Just be smart and friendly.

Rude, Texting, Teens…Our Country Is Lost


Teenagers, they are rude and selfish, withdrawn and distant. That’s what adults think all the time. It seems kids  have lost the ability to carry on a conversation. Or, maybe they can, but they just don’t want to make the effort. So they text and hide behind long swoopy hair when surrounded by adults.

This makes us think they are dysfunctional and possibly stupid. Futhermore, we become worried about the future of our country.  If our children can’t speak intelligently what will happen to America? Will incoherent skate board punks fill the Senate?

First, you have to remember, every generation of teenagers has  been seen as troublesome, dangerous and rude.  I can still see my brother, with his long swoopy hair and shredded jeans as he headed off to Woodstock. Why would he want to talk to adults, they were so old.

I was trying to explain this situation to my 15 year old, Lexie, (who is actually very good at talking to almost anyone with ears) when I realized, most teenagers are actually pretty decent creatures. They simply don’t know what to say to adults who are not part of their world. They can’t talk to them about music or school or most movies.

After “how are you?” kids are at a loss, things get quiet and awkward so they start looking at the cell phones. A fourteen year old boy can’t say so a fifty year old man, “How’s your wife? How are the kids, has your 401K tanked yet?” So, what’s he supposed to do?

If a kid or teenager is stuck at a table or in an office with an adult, I came up with three questions they can ask and the old person will think they are wonderful, insightful and smart.

1. “So, what profession are you in?”  “What do you do for a living?”  Ask about work.

2.”Oh, you’re a teacher(cop, architect, ditch digger) “What’s your favorite part of being a….(dentist,  rodeo clown, CPA, hair band lead singer)?

3. “What did you do before you were a …..(porn star, lawyer, boogie board champion)?

Three questions, that’s all they have to remember and adults will think they are brilliant and destined for greatness. 

And guess what? Lex tried my system with a 45 year old man I introduced her to at a non-profit event and discovered he was an interesting guy!

He was just really really old.

*comment or email me at hampoland@gmail.com, or you can text me if you feel the need 501 545-8372. Thanks!

I Have To Shut Up and Let My Kids Make Mistakes.

As a parent one of the hardest things to do is NOTHING. By nature I am a fixer of problems.  I just can’t help myself.  I like fixing things. I’m good at fixing problems and it makes me feel good.

But we aren’t supposed to fix all our children’s problems. We are supposed to let them figure stuff out on their own, so they learn and remember. BUT THAT’S SO HARD! It means I have to shut up and watch my children make mistakes. Gross.

When my daughter gets her stipend from the college she is too generous. She wants to spend her money on everyone. She wants to buy me a new phone, she helps her friend pay to get her belly button pierced…again. Yes, it’s so sweet, but damn it, she shouldn’t do that. The child will be broke again, very soon. That money is supposed to last her all semester. I know this and so do you. But I only let myself caution her once. She’s an adult; it’s her money. She has to learn to budget. She does this every semester. I could fuss at her, warn and lecture her, but then she’d simply stop answering the phone when I called. She would delete the texts I send. So, I try to keep my mouth shut.

My son lets almost every kid in 3rd grade “borrow” toys. He stuffs his back pack with foot balls, action figures and trading cards.  I constantly tell him it’s a bad idea and he can’t do that because he will  loose all his toys. The other kids will lose, break or simply not bring his toys back. He always thinks I was being selfish.  He has faith his boys would return his stuff.

Finally, I let him take one of his very favorite Nerf guns to school so Justin could borrow for the weekend.  Justin brought it back on Monday, but he’d lost all the bullets and their was a crack in the barrel.

I knew exactly what would happen but I had to let my son learn the hard way before  he actually understood. And it only cost me a Nerf gun.

And then there are the boyfriend and girlfriend mistakes. Holy cow, as a parent, we can see the train wreck a week in advance. We can tell when the new “date” is too clingy or too selfish. We know the kid is a punk the second he refuses to make eye contact. We know the new girl friend is a little skanky and self absorbed because she talks about STDS at the dinner table, she doesn’t want to to sit down to talk to the family and the girl acts as though babies and little kids have some strain of herpes and she doesn’t want to catch it.

We see and understand the signs. I generally let myself give two or three girlfriend/boyfriend warnings then I have to make myself  SHUT UP.  I can’t fix the problem, they have to figure out for themselves that they don’t like dating guys with rattle snake neck tats and pathetic handshakes. 

I’m a fixer who’s not allowed to fix things. So I take a deep breath, say a little prayer and try not to bang my head on the wall over and over again until they leave the house.

* Hey, write to me, I want to know what you think. hampoland@gmail.com