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SUMMARY- Join Carly and Em as they discuss birthing and raising Ziggy, how to ignore the well meaning advice from anyone who won't be there at 2am with you, how to listen to your baby and meet their needs, and how finding what works for your little one can feel like finding the secret.

You can find Em on Instagram, @OfficiallyEm, Patreon and her gardening Instagram page, @TheCoastalGoodlife

Full Episode Transcript: 

Carly:
The Beyond Sleep Training Podcast- a podcast dedicated to sharing real tales of how people have managed sleep in their family outside of sleep training culture because sleep looks different with a baby in the house and because every family is different there is no one-size-fits-all approach to take.
I’d like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which this podcast is being recorded, the Kalkadoon people, I pay my respects to the elders of this nation and the many other nations our guests reside in from the past, present and emerging. We honour Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the unique cultural and spiritual relationships to the land, water and seas as well as their rich contributions to society including the birthing and nurturing of children.

Carly:
Welcome back to the Beyond Sleep Training Podcast. Today’s guest is an amazing online presence. Her name is Emily Holdaway, but many of you probably know her by a few other names. She was originally from the page Raising Ziggy, which is where I first got to know Em, and since then she’s moved on to the name Official Em, or Emalitza is another name that some people might have seen around the traps. Em has been a really breath of fresh air online for her honesty and ability to tell the raw truths of parenting with babies and young kids in the house while also being able to share in the beauty and the strength and courage it takes to also follow your heart during that time. So, I feel really lucky that we’ve got Em on today. So, welcome Em.

Emily:
Oh, thank you. Thank you so much, Carly. And it’s really cool to be here. Yes, the name thing. I’ll just quickly touch on that. When the internet first turned up, I was 15 and my mum said like you can’t use your real name on the internet because it’s full of dodgy strangers. And they used to call me Emalitza little pizza, because my name’s Emily, but Emalitza little pizza with pepperoni. And so I… that’s , I used it on the internet and that’s what I’ve used for the last 21 years.

Carly:
Starting to date yourself. I’m with you. So, yeah, it’s fine. That’s awesome. So, Emalitza was where you first came onto the internet?

Emily:
Yeah, and then I… and in Raising Ziggy, the whole reason the page was called Raising Ziggy was I didn’t set out to write… to be a parenting blogger or anything like that. I was just sharing... I was sharing day-to-day on my normal Facebook page and my friends were saying, ‘Write a blog. Write a blog. I need to hear this.’ And so, when my partner and I were talking about writing a blog I wanted the name to encapsulate what it was. I didn’t want to be How to Mum because you just… you just don’t. And so, we… we settled on, or I settled on Raising Ziggy because that’s what we were doing. We were raising Ziggy, and the story that I told through that page always came back to raising Ziggy. It wasn’t about telling other people how to do it. It was sharing what we were doing as we were doing it.

Carly:
I love that though. It’s exactly what I think was the beauty of the page too, because you could share your raw truths with them being your truths. They didn’t have to resonate with everybody in your audience. You know, I think that’s where you were able to keep your honesty, and I really appreciated it because I saw a lot of myself in a lot of the stories that you were writing as well. So, that was really refreshing. So, I guess for our episode today I want to hear, before you had Ziggy, how were you thinking you were going to be handling sleep in your family?

Emily:
Bro, it wasn’t even a conversation. Like, before we had Ziggy we could sleep. Like, who talks about sleep? We talked about what school we wanted him to, or her to go to, because we… we didn’t know.

And we actually… the… the decision to have a child was one that we talked about probably more than what we’d do when that child arrived. My partner and I, when we first met… when I first met AJ, I was coming out of quite a toxic, traumatic relationship, and I was very antsy. The whole idea of the nuclear family. I was anti the idea of a relationship. I said to him when we first started going out, like this is going to be a bit of bump and grind mate, but it’s not going to go any further than that. And then when it went further than that I straight from the get-go said to him we’re not doing the kids thing. Kids had never been in my future that I saw for myself. [5:00] And… and I put that out there on the table quite early on in our relationship that if kids were something he saw in his future, then he was with the wrong person for that future. And I held onto that for eight years. So, we… we were together for eight years and we were a childless couple. We had a great time as a childless couple. And then, you know, you evolve and… and life changes a little. And I went into therapy. I went back into therapy to really get to the bottom of why I was so against having children and… and did a… did a lot of work there. Now, AJ says… Aje says that we decided to have kids because I’m a white female and he’s a Māori male and his life expectancy is shorter that mine. And so, we had kids so I wouldn’t be alone, which sounds really callous and wasn’t… wasn’t the fact at all. I wanted to have kids because I needed to leave a legacy behind for the environment. Because I… I remember the conversation. We were at the lights on Bader Street and Normandy in Hamilton, and we were talking about the state of the planet. And this is going to give your listeners an idea of Em before kids. And I was like, ‘F$%^. The planet’s f$%^ed. No one… no one’s consciously consuming. No one’s consciously having babies. We don’t need more people on the planet, we just… we can’t have kids.’ And then I said, ‘Oh, but if the people who are about this stuff stop having kids, then the planeteers die out. Right?’ So, it was not the most romantic journey to parenthood and… and we talked about stuff like wanting our child to go to this amazing primary school where they could climb a tree. We didn’t think about the newborn days. It wasn’t… it… it wasn’t there for us. We didn’t know it was something to even consider. We… we spent a lot of time looking at births. We went to antenatal classes. We did birth prep. And then we went home with this baby, and… and he didn’t sleep. He just… he didn’t sleep. Oh my god, I’m going to cry. And like, what I had seen of babies was reserved to Home and Away and Shortland Street, where they use a real child for the briefest amount of time possible because behind the scenes to get a real-life baby on TV is a big hassle the time that they book starts from they leave the house to when they get back to the house. So, they had this really short window of opportunity on TV. So, they’re always putting the baby in the cot where it goes to sleep, or the baby’s in a pram and it’s asleep. But it’s because it’s not a baby. Right? It’s a doll. Like, a doll. And that was my… that… that… that was my benchmark for what babies did. You know, I’d watch Full House and they’d put the twins upstairs and then come back downstairs and continue on with their day and those twins just were really happy up there. And like… like, I bought a cot before Ziggy was even born. I used to walk past this second-hand shop on the way to work every day in our little row of shops on Bader Street, and it was… it was like a baby second-hand shop, and she always had stuff in the window. And she had this cot in the window. It was like $85, and I was like, three and a half months pregnant, if that. And I bought it because we needed it. Right? Like, obviously. Everyone knows you need a cot. And… and then he just didn’t sleep. He did not do what I thought babies were gonna do. And he cried.

Carly:
So, you got the full baptism of fire.

Emily:
Oh. Ziggy was… F#$%, I remember we had this song that we used to sing. We used to just like walk, pace the lounge, and our lounge is tiny. And we’d… we’d hold him and we’d pat his bum and we’d just sing the song that said that mummy loves you and daddy loves you and nanna loves you and… like, it only had four lines that were on repeat, it was probably all our brains could manage, just to try and soothe him because he was so unsettled in… in the evening. You know, we had that purple crying or witching hour, or whatever you want to call it. A few weeks in we went to a friend’s house to help them do something, and AJ – they handed around this big cookie jar – and AJ [10:00] sat there on their couch and started bum patting the cookie jar, because it was just such a movement that we had become so accustomed to.

Carly:
He was on autopilot. It’s kind of like rocking the trolley when you’re doing the shopping with no baby. Or you get your sway on too. I used to get the sway on when you’d stand still, and you make everyone seasick even though you’re not holding the baby, but you’d still get your jig on. So, this… so, this is newborn Ziggy. Did… did he calm down?

Emily:
This is newborn…

Read more about the newborn period

Carly:
Or was it very much like, was this just brand new Ziggy? Or was something going on? How was breastfeeding for you? Was that working, or was it… how… what was going on?

Emily:
We… Oh, this was before I was even blogging. I didn’t start writing about Ziggy till he was about four or five months old. Breast… breastfeeding, so we had really, really quickly, I had an amazing pregnancy. Like, I never got morning sickness, I was walking to work every day. I was walking around a lake up until like two days before I gave birth. The pregnancy, mint. Birth, mint. Had a beautiful birth centre. Water birth, pushed him out into my arms, hands. Brought him out, I was like, ‘Wow, you’re so ugly but I love you.’ All of that was so perfect. And then we went home. Breastfeeding – in the birth centre breastfeeding was okay and everyone was like, ‘Wow, your milk’s here really fast’, and like my boobs, which have never been very impressive were all of a sudden amazing. Holy shit, pregnancy, booby boobs. But… but I took him home and I… feeding him was so painful. And in the beginning my… my midwife and my… my mum and people I spoke to just said, you know, it’s a bit sore. Just push through, it’ll be okay. It’s a bit sore. But it was like… like toe curling, clenching, crying through feeds. And I got mastitis, and I was in bed, two, three o’clock in the morning. You know that really lonely time where your partner’s asleep and you’re awake with your baby that won’t sleep and your boob hurts and you feel so lonely. And I posted about how I felt and my sore boob on my personal Facebook page, and one of AJ’s cousins actually said, ‘Em, have you checked Zig for a tongue-tie?’ I was like, I don’t even know what a tongue-tie is.

Carly:
Yeah. What is that? Yep.

Emily:
What is that? So, I started… I googled symptoms of a tongue-tie, and except for the bleeding, cracked nipples, because my… my nips were mint. It was just everything else, that the spluttering, the fussy feeding, the pain. Everything I could tick off as a symptom of a tongue-tie. So, we made an appointment and we got him snipped. I have before and after picture of Ziggy’s latch, and he went from this like sucking a straw to this full, open mouth gulp. And… and that… that fixed it. I mean Zig feed until like, I don’t know, he was three and a half or something like that.

Carly:
Well done you.

Emily:
Yeah. Yeah. But it… it didn’t… it didn’t fix – I’m air quoting here – it didn’t fix the sleep.

Carly:
Was he… was he, even though he was still waking, was he more settled? Like, did it calm any of that distress that you were seeing in the early days that may have been, you know, the struggle of trying to be able to latch and get enough milk? Or do you think even then he was still actually… it was just the way he was at the time?

Emily:
I don’t… I remember, like I remember the before and after of the snip being how he fed, and I remember the pain going from being agonising to disappearing. It was pain-free. But what I… the… the change to our sleep happened when he was four months old. So, we had Zig in the bedroom with us in a bassinet, and when he woke up I’d get him out of the bassinet, I’d feed him, I’d bum pat him, I’d do everything possible until he went back to sleep again, and then I’d gingerly place him back into the bassinet with some more bum pats. And from Ziggy waking up to feeding to going back to sleep probably took like an hour, and then we did that every two hours. And during the day he catnapped. He was a thirty minute catnapper, a forty minute catnapper. [15:00] If I was holding him, if he was like on my chest on the couch, then he’d sleep for ages. But I couldn’t do anything. You know, I couldn’t… I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t have a nice shower. And so, by about four months old with this baby that was waking up all the time, and Aje and I were just rolling with it. Like, we were just he’s… he’s really upset, let’s just hug him, let’s just uppy him. Our whole headspace to it was we just need to hug this baby. But I was so tired that I had got to the stage of slurring my words and I didn’t feel safe to drive, I didn’t… I didn’t… like my cognitive functions were not what they should have been. And so, I went and stayed with my nanna just to sort of, I don’t know, have her in my life for a little while.

Carly:
Some respite. Have a break.

Emily:
Have some rest and, yeah. And I went to stay with my nanna, and finally when I got to nanna’s house I realised that she didn’t have a bassinet, and she didn’t have a cot. She just had the double bed in a spare room, right? And that Zig would have to be in the bed with me. And I was terrified because all I’d ever heard of having my baby in the bed with me was that I’d kill him basically, and you just did not do that. But I did it. I… I have the picture of the smiling Ziggy in the bed, and I slept in the same bed with him at four months old, and when he woke up to feed, he just had a feed and then he rolled over and he went back to sleep, and I went back to sleep. And he still woke up all night, but he only woke up to feed and then the whole process was like fifteen minutes instead of an hour. And I woke up in the morning and I felt refreshed. I felt like I had actually managed to sleep.

Read more about Safer Sleep

Carly:
Yeah. You got… you actually got some cycles in.

Emily:
I got some cycles, and I didn’t know anything about cycles back then. I just… I just… he didn’t leave our bed for the next two years.

Carly:
And why would he when it was working so well? Like, it got you some sleep, because that’s the name of the game, isn’t it? Everybody needs that sleep and rest, and that level of fatigue you got to before discovering that you could share sleep, that is dangerous and brutal for you. Isn’t it?

Not sure where to start on your journey beyond sleep training?

Emily:
Yeah.

Carly:
I got to that point too before I discovered it. Did you know anything about the safety measures? Like, you were saying like you were kind of aware that you weren’t meant to share sleep with your baby. Did you know anything about reducing risk at that time?

Emily:
No bro. I… I had nothing to do with the parenting thing. I had no… pre-Zig my… the scene I hung out with was I’d go to my mate’s after work and we’d get stoned and repeat. We played beer pong. We’d… we’d drink. We’d smoke. I basically left school at 17 and then was rowdy for the next 13 years. And then the day… the day we found out that we were pregnant – and I say, I’m including AJ in this – the day I peed on that stick and there were two little pink lines I quit smoking and I quit smoking and… there, it was… that was the transition. You know? And so, when I… when we had Zig we didn’t have any parent friends. We didn’t have any… I wasn’t in any parenting groups on… on Facebook. Like, all my friends revolved around weekends and parties and sessioning. Or I worked with them, and I wasn’t at work anymore. I had one…

Carly:
And you don’t know what you don’t know.

Emily:
Nah. I had one workmate who had a baby around the same time as me. And so, you know, that… that sort of brings you together. And I remember going around to her place when our little people were maybe two months old, and we were having a cup of tea in the lounge and she said to me, ‘Oh, I’ve just got to go and put… I’ve got to put my son to bed.’ And so, she picks up this little one, and she walks into the nursery, and he’s drowsy but awake. And she puts him into the cot, pats his bum and comes back out to the lounge. And I looked at her and I’m like, what the f$%^ was that? She’s gone, ‘Oh, he’s just going for his sleep.’

Carly:
I had one of those friends too. It’s true. It’s for real life that some babies really do just do that. But yeah.

Emily:
They do that.

Carly:
But they’re actually the exception to the rule though. Like, I know a lot of babies now, and those ones are definitely [20:00] like the smallest minority. Hey?

Emily:
Yeah. They are. But at the time you feel like that’s what a baby should do. And…

Carly:
Yeah. It’s the gold standard, surely.

Emily:
… and so I didn’t have… Yeah. I didn’t really have a friend that could empathise with what I was going through because it’s like, but it’s not how – like I just put him down and he went to sleep. Right? Like, come on, Em. Sort it out.

Carly:
Yeah. Yeah, yeah. It’s like going to lunch, when people could just put their kid in the pram and pull the hood shut, stick a dummy in, the kid’s asleep. I’m like, what kind of magic potion did you deliver there? Like… that’s not how babies do that. Do they?

Emily:
I was… I was so desperate to get Zig to sleep properly I even went along to a sleep seminar by like a well-known sleep person here in New Zealand, because it was free, right? And me and… me and the friend who’s baby’s awesome. And we… we went along to this sleep seminar with this well-known New Zealand author, and f%^& it was awful. She said… she said that your body is a mattress, and if a mattress can’t do it then you shouldn’t be doing it, because what are you teaching your child to rely on? You know, can a mattress bum pat your child? No. Then why are you bum patting your child? How will they ever sleep on a mattress if you’re teaching them that they need to rely on bum pats. And, oh, and she said, ‘Well, you know, you could breastfeed them to sleep, but is that a habit you want to be stuck doing forever?’ And everything…

Carly:
Oh. Babies last forever.

Emily:
… and forever. And then then she’d say to parents that, you know, you might be trying some new thing, but if you haven’t tried for six weeks then you really haven’t given it a good go. And it… it was just her whole thing was having a super, super strict routine so that the baby knows what to expect because, you know, when you’re two months old you can look at the clock. And that your body as… as a mum wasn’t there to provide comfort is what it felt like. Like, don’t… don’t rock and don’t sway and don’t breastfeed, and for the love of god don’t bring your child into your bed. And it was so… everyone’s just nodding. Like, oh, yeah, that makes sense. And it just made no sense because if your little baby is crying and then you hug them and they stop crying, then obviously that’s what you need to do. Right? And that’s…

Carly:
Absolutely.

Emily:
If you’re sleeping  in the same bed as them and… and you’re doing that safely and you’re not under the influence of anything and you’re breastfeeding and you’re waking up with them and you’re in that rhythm together, then that’s what you do. And there was no one out there saying to do that. Not that I found.

Carly:
So, you were… when you were listening to this and, like were these thoughts straight in your mind? Or do you think at the time your… you swallowed some of the Kool-Aid? Or did you immediately go, hang on a sec. This isn’t making sense.

Emily:
I was so f#$%ing anti. I was listening to everything she said like, you’re just talking bullsh$%. You don’t have a Ziggy.

Carly:
I love you, Em. I love that. See, that’s the kind of, you know, I was missing that part of the puzzle. That’s the kind of thing that I would have swallowed whole and taken it on for just another sign that I’d built all these sleep crutches with my child. I would have… well, I did. I went down that track. So, I love that about you. You were able to hear that in the thick of it all and call bullsh$%. That’s skilful, lady.

Emily:
I call…. I call bullsh$% on it because she didn’t know Ziggy, and she was not in our house every night, and she didn’t see what worked and what didn’t work. And… and I knew what worked. And I knew that all the eat, play, sleep in the world wasn’t going to work. He was just so different to my expectation of what a baby was going to be. We brought the pram because, you know, that’s another thing you buy. Right? You buy a cot. You buy a pram. We bought a pram. I had it all in my head. I’d been walking to work every day for months. I… because when I quit smoking I had to… my workmates didn’t know I was pregnant, but luckily I found out I was pregnant on the 12th of January, and so I kind of like New Year’s resolutioned it. Oh, look at me. I’m having a health kick. I’ve quit smoking. I’m going to work, [email protected]#$ing walk to work every day. And… and so, and my kid, once my baby was born I was going to continue walking. I was going to have my latte in my takeaway cup, and I was going to have my nice [25:00] activewear and my shoes. I was going to push my baby in a pram down by the river. I got from my house to the Bader Street shops and Ziggy was screaming. Oh my god, the kid was screaming. He just did not want a bar of the pram. And I toughed it out. I was like, no. We’re here. We’re doing this. We’re going to walk around the skate park. And he just cried. And he cried the next time I tried. And so I gave the pram away because it wasn’t working. It wasn’t working. So...

Carly:
Did you find a solution that did?

Emily:
Yeah. Yeah. I was…

Carly:
I can hear voices there.

Emily:
My… my lovely partner’s just bringing me lunch. Thank you, darling.

Carly:
Oh, how nice is that. Score. Oh, what a legend.

Emily:
Ah, he’s such awesome.

Carly:
Where’s mine?

Emily:
There have been some craziest conversations happening. For all the listeners, we’re in our second lockdown here in New Zealand, and we’ve got two young kids and we’re both at home. So, yeah. But back to that. Did I find something that worked? Yes. So, I was really fortunate that I was living in Hamilton. And Hamilton is a decent sized city in New Zealand, and so there were lots of available parenting things that I started finding out about. We have a La Leche that meet every month. And it was La Leche I went through first because I was having the mastitis and the tongue-tie and the breastfeeding issues. And then at La Leche they said, have you heard about babywearing, mate? We’ve got… ooh, I just got goosebumps. Hamilton had the biggest babywearing meet in New Zealand run by amazing volunteers. And so, I hadn’t heard of babywearing. I had seen it, like abstractly I’d seen like some beautiful picture of this lady in this flowy wrap and that looks super hippie and woo, and I don’t know what to do with it. I got given a stretchy wrap when Ziggy was born. Like a… like a Moby Wrap. And I just tied myself in knots and gave up. So, but then at… at the four months I went along to my first babywearing meet and I sat right at the back of everyone. I was really… I was tired, but also quite shy and uncertain. I didn’t know anyone there. And so, when the meet started everyone is this big rush to grab like the best carriers and to get the great carriers. And one of the volunteers noticed that I was still sitting there, and she said, you know, ‘Can I help?’ And I just burst into tears. ‘My baby won’t sleep.’ She’s like, ‘Ah, yes. None of our babies sleep.’

Carly:
And did you hug her and go ‘Yay, finally, someone.’

Emily:
That’s why we have a babywearing community, my dear. And she… we went to the carrier table and there weren’t many left. All the buckle carriers were gone, and all the adjustable carriers were gone. But there was a Meh Dai, which is a fabric carrier that you sort of tie around. And she showed me how to do it and it was amazing. And… and Ziggy was comfortable because he was on me. And then so I took it… I took it home and I stood in front of the mirror, and I put my baby in the carrier and he fell asleep. And then I walked outside to like my garden with two hands that I could do things with in my garden. And I stood there.

Carly:
Ah, the freedom.

Emily:
Yeah. Yeah. I have pictures from that day. I have a selfie and I’m smiling, and I just felt like I’d found the secret… to… to Ziggy. You know? Yeah.

Carly:
That’s pretty magical. Now, I’m just looking at our time, and we’re coming up to our thirty minutes for the episode. So, I’m wondering because I… we haven’t even got on to hearing about your second little fellow yet. So, would you be… well, would you like to come back and have another episode with me?

Emily:
Yeah, I’d love to. I would love to.

Carly:
Amazing. So, well, we might finish off this episode then by hearing your tip that you’d like to share with our listeners. If you could give one tip, what would it be?

Emily:
Oh, my Ziggy tip. My Ziggy tip would be to block out the well-meaning, well-intended advice from anyone who’s not in your house at two o’clock in the morning, and just listen to your baby. Just listen to what they’re [30:00] saying, and that… and… and what they say might just be crying, but if they stop crying when you hug them do it. But also, if you’re pregnant and you’re listening to this, have these talks before bub gets here. Talk… talk to your partner about how… how to share… how to share that, because that’s something that Aje and I really found quite challenging. We’ve got better now. But have those conversations before you’re sleep-deprived.

Carly:
If you can, I think that sounds like really sage advice, Em. So, thank you so much for coming along for the episode today, and I’m really looking forward to doing another session with you. And thank you to everybody who’s listened along. If you’re enjoying the show, if you could drop us a review in show notes that would be… in show notes? In the listening app that you’re on today. And I was going to say, in show notes I’ll be sure to be dropping all of Emily’s handles. So, where we can find you. Do you want to give the listeners a quick rundown? Where can they find you, Em?

Emily:
You can find me mainly on Instagram. I’m on Instagram under Officially Em, and I’m also on Patreon as Officially Em. Through Patreon I have a Facebook community and close friends’ Insta stories. I also have a garden page. So, if anyone is looking for escape and you don’t actually want to watch something that’s parenting related, The Coastal Good Life, it’s gardening, mulching, and having fun in the garden.

Carly:
I love it. That’s amazing. Alright. Well, I’ll make sure I get those links off Em so we can put them in the show notes for everybody listening along. And looking forward to talking to you again very soon, Em. Thank you so much.

Emily:
Thank you, Carly.

Carly:
I really hope you enjoyed the podcast today the information we discussed was just that information only it is not specific advice if you take any action following something you've heard from our show today it is important to make sure you get professional advice about your unique situation before you proceed whether that advice is legal, financial, accounting, medical or any other advice. Please reach out to me if you do have any questions or if there's a topic you'd really like us to be covering and if you know somebody who'd really benefit from listening to our podcast please be sure to pass our name along also check out our free peer support group the beyond sleep training project and our wonderful website www.littlesparklers.org. If you'd like even more from the show you can join us as a patron on Patreon and you can find a link for that in our show notes if listening is not really your jam we also make sure we put full episode transcripts on our little sparklers website for you to also enjoy and fully captioned YouTube videos as well on our Little Sparklers channel so thanks again for listening today we really enjoy bringing this podcast to you.

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