School has finally gotten underway for everyone, so we should all be in the same boat: fundraisers! I have yet to find a fundraiser that appeals to me. Some are dumber than others (a discount card for 10% off oil changes? Thanks but no). In our elementary school we get the usual fundraiser with a catalog of miscellaneous crap: awful chocolates, hideously expensive wrapping paper (who cares if it’s reversible! Only one side shows!), odd jewelry and various kitchen doo-dads (a special tupperware for half an onion! Because a ziploc isn’t fancy enough for my fridge).

Last year the fundraising people got down and dirty. They decided to give the kids dorky little rubber duck keychains–one for every $10 of products sold. Here’s the catch: there were about a dozen different styles of ducks given away each day, and each day the duck assortment changed. AND the kids were allowed to wear their duck keychains to school on a lanyard during the entire two week period of the fundraiser.

Suddenly my kids were pestering relentlessly: “Today was the cupcake rubber duck and they only have ten of those! Tomorrow they’ll have the vampire rubber duck! I really want the camo rubber duck most of all and maybe they’ll have that on Thursday! Pleeeease mom, can’t we go selling around the neighborhood?”

No. No you may not. Because I don’t think I’m too good to do any job except one: door-to-door peddler. It is not happening. And I sure as heck am not about to buy the stupid junk in that catalog. No way will I write a check for a tacky resin plaque that says “Dance like no one is watching”,  or a polarfleece throw with my dog’s breed embroidered on it.  And this means that my children will be the only ones with no rubber ducks hanging from their little necks, it appears.

So that was last year. This year I thought I would outsmart the school and buy my own assortment of rubber ducks and beat them at their own game. I found them for less than 25¢ a piece online! Oooh, I was so excited for this.

The kids came home last week waving their fundraising packets. “Mom, mom, this is so great!” they exclaimed as they dumped their backpacks in the entry hall. “This year they have rubber frog keychains instead!”

Curses! Foiled again!

Arabella FInn back to school

Isn’t it so exciting to get ready for the kids to go back to school? Normally I start out super organized and ready for the school year. All the kids’ lockers and lunch boxes are cleaned out and ready to go–normally. But this year it didn’t really happen like that. This year started out with a little more mayhem. I told the kids to go clean out their lockers. I didn’t bother to check them, though, so who knows if they did it. I’m just too knackered to really care all that much. My oldest two kids are knee-deep in preparations to go to Brazil for a couple of years so it’s not like my brain can handle organizing everything and everyone at the same time.

Maybe I just have no energy left for mothering. Maybe I had this finite amount of caring inside of me and I used to much of it when the kids were little. I squandered all my caring and effort on matching clothes and finding attractive hair accessories and now I’ve depleted my parenting resources. Instead of viewing my energy as something renewable, like solar power, I should really be considering all my parental interest as fossil fuels. Once they’re gone, they’re gone!

Yesterday at Back to School night one of the parents raised his hand and said he’d like to see the class do a Science Fair or Wax Museum (which is a really obnoxious thing that the schools do around here. Every single third grader dresses up as a historical character* and does a little two minute presentation and all the parents walk through the “wax museum” and the “statues” magically come to life and give us their two minute presentation. All at the same time, over and over again to all the parents who come through and press the kid’s “button”. It sounds cute but really it’s a pain and you can’t hear any of the kids because there are 125 third graders mumbling all at the same time.)  The dad went on to elaborate on how great it is and how it teaches the kids to speak in public blah, blah, blah. I raised my hand and said, “can we vote on that? Because I hate those things.” The mom in front of me turned around and gave me a fist-bump. Another beleaguered soul, I can tell.

On the last day of school way back in the[del]Pleistocene Era[/del] first week of June I instructed my kids to clean out their backpacks and lunch boxes and all that stuff. I naively assumed that they followed my instructions. Can you believe I was such an idiot? Fast forward to three weeks ago when I was looking for a lost library book (one of my favorite past-times). I knelt down and looked under the bookshelf in the living room. The library book wasn’t there but I did find Jasper’s really fancy bento lunchbox. And what do you suppose was inside? The ham and cheese sandwich that he hadn’t bothered to eat was a pile of maggots. Yes, writhing maggots everywhere. My first reaction was to throw everything out. But I wanted Jasper to be very aware of the consequences of hiding his lunchbox and letting nature take its course. So I informed him that we would be continuing to use his maggoty lunchbox. (Sans insect pupae, of course.) Naturally he was thrilled.

In between dry heaves I hosed the box out and then did what I call “Texas fumigation”: placed the lunchbox in a black garbage bag and then placed the bag on the hot black asphalt for a few days (this is also a great way to kill lice on bed linens and stuffed animals. For extra death, put the stuff in the car which has been left out in the sun). I let the 104º weather do the dirty work of killing all the vermin.  Then the lunchbox got a soak down of clorox and two trips through the dishwasher’s sanitation cycle. There were a few suspicious stains left but nothing smelled amiss so the lunchbox has been put back into action.

I meant to throw all the other lunchboxes and backpacks though the washing machine before school started too. Fail. Everyone showed up with accessories covered with stains. And I forgot to take pictures of most of the children too. Because I am that organized.

When I went to put Jasper’s lunchbox in his backpack I realized that it was still full of everything from his last day of class. Another fail. So I dumped it out on the stairs, put his new stuff inside and sent him out the door. See? I wasn’t kidding.

Jaspers crap on stairs

Naturally I spent the rest of the day in bed with a giant Mtn. Dew, watching Mr. Selfridge.

So you might see why I have already sort of given up before we even got started. Although to give myself credit, the kids did all have fresh haircuts and new shoes.


York just graduated from High School over the weekend. It was . . . how shall I put this? Less than interesting?  I’m certainly glad he graduated.  I know high school was a big pain and we are very proud of York for making his four years there a success (he was voted Most Talented and Class Clown. Guess which one I’m more proud of?). But there are very few more boring events than graduation. Do we really need several perky girls talking about how fantastic they are and how their futures are going to be so awesome!!!!!!?(And yes, it was all girls in York’s grade. Out of the top ten students, only one was a boy. Naturally.) These are probably the same girls who wouldn’t dream of talking to most of the kids in their grade only a week earlier.

Instead of a bunch of boring speeches, how about an elaborate musical number, complete with a rotating stage and ostrich feathers? Now that would be entertaining!  And instead of just announcing the grads (all seven million of them), how about pre-recording each one introducing themselves with a little personality and verve, like they do at the beginning of the Miss America Pageant?  (“Representing the Lakeline Villas Apartment complex, my name is McKenzie Kay Larson!”)

Nowadays they have the graduates wear medals and tassels of different sorts. I guess it’s so that the kids all feel better about themselves, like it’s the Olympics or something. One of the medals means “I’m graduating!” For real. You get it just for showing up. As if the cap and gown didn’t tip everyone off.  Sadly, nobody knows what all the different accoutrements mean. There’s no explanation in the program. All I can assume when I see a graduate walk by with a bunch of medals and tassels is that she must be a really high-strung, Type-A person.

Naturally York couldn’t find his mortarboard when it was time to leave for the graduation. I asked him if he had it earlier  and he said, “no, my gowns been lying on the floor all week and I haven’t seen it.” Oh, super; wrinkled shiny polyester. But he had a cap by the time he walked across the stage so he must have found it. Or maybe they have extras for just such an occasion.

Because graduation ended at almost 11:00 pm (don’t even get me started!), we were pooped and York was antsy to get on with his Marvelous Future, he agreed to pose for one–and only one–picture with us. Naturally he used his his-ultra fake smile that he reserves for all the most important occasions.

York Graduation


Let me include one of his senior portraits where he looks a whole lot better. If you know us in real life, you’ll be getting your announcement soon! I like to wait til after the event (just kidding, I didn’t get them done in time.)

York grad serious-1-2-Edit



Somehow in the raising of children you oftentimes start traditions that you didn’t mean to start. Of course these traditions usually end up being a complete pain but heaven help you if you try to abandon them. Thus we ended up with the Annual Buying of the School Supplies. Think Running of the Bulls in Pamplona but with children, not bovines. And in Target, not Spain.  Back when the kiddles were first starting out they went to a lovely little private school in Salt Lake City called Carden Memorial School. It was so wonderful and I am only now realizing what a blessing it was to attend there. The school was very picky about what products the students used so the cost of the school supplies was bundled into tuition and all we did was show up on the first day with nothing but a backpack. Everything else was provided. The notebooks were lovely little things imported from France and the crayons were some kind I’ve never seen before. It was all so nice.

But then we had too many kids and couldn’t afford tuition so off we went to a Charter School. This meant buying all the supplies ourselves. So off we went with six children under age ten to Target with four separate lists of products to buy. It was mayhem, to say the least. I was probably in tears by the time we left. But the kids had  grand old time. And the next summer it had already been established as a tradition. Kids have this weird way of assuming that any activity they really like is now a tradition even if they’ve only done it once. And we sucker parents, eager to create as many magical traditions and memories as possible, completely give in. Every single time. How else do we explain naughty leprechaun shenanigans on St. Patrick’s Day, $20 tooth fairy gifts or making a fancy birthday poster every single year (am I right, Tiffany)? So now we find ourselves at Target every August, trying to navigate the bins of pencils and post-it notes. I’m so dreadfully jealous of the moms who buy those pre-made kits of all the proper school supplies that are tidily wrapped, waiting on their child’s desk the night of the Open House. I suggested those to my children last year and they were all writhing on the floor by the time I’d finished the question. How dare I suggest they not pick out their very own scissors!

So it looks like tomorrow night will be the magical night we head over to our home away from home Target. I will commence to dig through the jillions of folders to find exactly the right ones (plastic, pockets, brads) in all five colors (“gosh dangit, how are the red ones gone already???”). I will explain to my children the nuances of a Pentel Hi-Polymer eraser vs. Pink Pearl (Pink Pearls are crap. I don’t care what the list from the school says), a pencil box vs. a pencil case. (“no, a box is much better. You can open it and see everything at once. With a soft case you have to constantly dig around inside. I know it doesn’t come in turquoise but you’ll thank me, I swear.”),  and the debate which isn’t even worth debating: Crayola vs. Rose Art (spend the extra 10¢ and get Crayola for Pete’s Sake. Rose Art’s quality is an insult to humanity. I do prefer Prang watercolors to Crayola,though, truth be told.)

As someone who is not a teacher, I am flummoxed by the huge amount of dry-erase markers that are required. Why do they cost so much more than regular markers? It’s a pile of noxious chemicals. Just make more!  And what’s so special about manila paper. Are you telling me that a ream of legal sized printer paper is not quite good enough?

Now that we’ve got older kids we have to do two big shopping trips. The elementary schoolers need everything by late summer or it will all be sold out. The older kids have to go to school before their teachers tell them what is needed. So we’ve got to scrounge around the leftovers during the first week of school hoping to find the elusive five-subject notebook. If you go to the school supply section in late August it looks like the bottled water aisle the day before a hurricane. There’s nothing there but a couple of Monster High folders and a pack of highlighters.  Then we’re left to search for notebooks at places like Walgreen’s. And that just feels all wrong.

So I’m girding my loins and mentally preparing myself to run the gauntlet tomorrow evening. Pray for me.

I don’t suppose I need to tell you about all the drama that conspired when I was trying to fix up India’s Homecoming dress. When you are Mormon you can almost never find a formal dress that is modest enough. Since all high school girls are out to look as trampy as possible, that’s what designers cater to. India went out shopping at the mall and had zero luck. She finally stopped by Ross and found a dress that was semi-modest and only cost $17. But it was about 5 inches too short and had no sleeves. While I personally don’t have a problem with sleeveless dresses, their are a lot of Mormons who do. The technical rule is that “shoulders must be covered”. Some people read into that and decide that a girl must be able to wear a hanes t-shirt underneath for it to be qualified as modest. But I have a more liberal view. Ultimately I left the choice up to India who decided that the dress needed some small sleeves; she wants to be a good example for all the younger Mormon girls. Which meant more work for me. And then there’s the whole skirt-length issue (who are these parents who let their daughters out of the house looking so slutty?) But I’m just sewing my way to a mansion in Heaven, right?

After finishing the version 1 of “India’s Modest Homecoming Dress” I realized that it looked terrible. The fabric I chose to add on–a lovely organza–was simply too stiff and made the skirt look preposterous. So at 2 pm (she had to be at the football stadium, fully dressed at 6:30) I went back to the fabric store and started at square one. I guess the Lord was throwing me a bone because I found some matching lace that looked pretty darn good. I managed to modestize the dress, do India’s hair and makeup and have her out the door on time. Phew! If I had actually been using my brain I would have bought a second dress at Ross and cannibalized it so the fabric would have matched perfectly. But like most days I forgot to turn my brain on.

In the evening we took all the kids, plus my sister in law who was in town (and her sister, and her niece) and went to the high school football game. During halftime Mister walked India out onto the field, along with the other Homecoming Royalty. The King and Queen are chosen from among the Princes and Princesses and crowned at the game. They gave us no idea ahead of time who would win. Some of the kids (the football players and cheerleaders) got really huge cheers from the crowd when they walked out which made me kind of sad inside because how can normal people like India compete against that? I mean, I would take India over a cheerleader any day. No offense to you cheerleaders and football players out there, but I would be pretty disappointed if one of my kids chose that path. Here in Texas it’s considered The Best Thing In The World. It really is like becoming royalty. And although we know a couple of great cheerleaders and football players, for the most part they are bratty jerks. It’s the culture that reinforces that behavior. It’s especially sad since you know a lot of those people peak in high school.

Anyway, Mister and India walked out with the other royalty. Eventually the king was announced and it was India’s boyfriend! Which meant that most likely that India would be the queen. But not necessarily. I mean, it would be super awkward to have another girl be the queen but it certainly is a possibility.  But then the announcer boomed over the loudspeaker, “and now the moment you’ve all been waiting for: the 2013 Homecoming Queen is  . . . . . [he waited about 30 seceonds]. . . . India!”

She won!!! I almost passed out! Never in my imagination would I have guessed that India would be a Homecoming Queen. Don’t get me wrong, as a child she is pretty much the ideal. She’s obedient and studious and never complains. She’s also funny, kind, pretty and incredibly smart. But those sorts of qualities rarely are acknowledged in high school.  And add to that the fact that she’s a choir girl (the choir president, to be exact) and her boyfriend is in the marching band; not exactly your typical Queen and King. But there aren’t two kids at school who are nicer and who deserve it more.

As we left the game she was a little hestiant to walk by “the cool kids”. When I asked her why, she replied, “they’ll probably say ‘Why did India win?'”. I stopped and looked and her. “India, you won because the most people voted for you. You have every right to be Homecoming Queen. And if anyone even suggest that you don’t deserve to win just look them in the eyes and say, “talk to the crown!”

India queen cropped

PS. Of course my iphone is a piece of crap that won’t focus anymore so I have only the most terrible shots from the actual Homecoming game. (And I forgot the charge the battery of my good camera.)  So I had to rely on some of the other parents who have it more together than I do. Story of my life.

Homecoming royalty 2013

P.P.S. The ultimate bummer is that the Homecoming King had a band competition in Houston the next day and she had to go to the dance all by herself.

Not gone gone. Just gone to school. And not a moment too soon. I’ve been stacking up errand to do once they went back and I’m just barely making a dent in my list. Today I need to go buy a new microwave and have a meeting with my Relief Society Presidency. We’ve got over a dozen little kids between us, so it’s nice to get together without many people tattling and begging for snacks while we try to discuss the needs of the women at church. I also need to mop the floor, but I’ve been putting that off for . . . well, let’s just say “a while”.

This year promises to be an exciting one since I have three High Schoolers. Fortunately they can either drive or ride their bikes where they need to go, so it’s not quite as hectic as having a bunch of toddlers and preschoolers. Although it seems like about five minutes ago when they were that little. I remember those days of having four children, none of whom were in school yet. Each day stretched like a barren desert of nothing to do but change diapers and clean up crayons/spilled cereal/tupperware lids that the baby threw out of the drawer again.  Now my days are full of lists and places to go. I have to say that I like it a lot better the way it is now.

 photo bfa3ddb4-3ed9-47b2-8094-8027fb946c14_zps36e34e83.jpg

Arabella is my lone Middle Schooler. She’s in 7th grade and seems to be my most well-adjusted, socially decent child so far. At last as far as 12-year-olds are concerned. She’s my first child who really cares what they looked like at that age. Probably a lot of parents moan and groan about a child who always wants her hair and nails to look nice, but after a steady diet of children who are happy wearing silky basketball shorts day after day, I’m pretty excited.

Ada and Jasper are in elementary school. Ada bounces out of bed, excited to go to school every day. She loves everything about learning. Jasper, on the other hand, tells me he hates school because now he can’t sleep in anymore. The ridiculous thing is that he never slept past 7:30 so he’s not waking up that much earlier. But now it isn’t his choice and I guess he’s a little peeved about that.

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At any rate, we’re trying to get used to our new schedule and figure out our groove. It’s a little tricky with so many kids going in so many directions, but we’ll get it ironed out soon enough. If not I will just spend the day in bed recovering from the controlled chaos of the school year.


I went to see that new Jackie Robinson movie yesterday. I snuck out in the middle of the day and went to the fancy theatre that has super cushy recliners. It was all fine and dandy until I spilled an entire Coke Zero on my pants. But I’m a tough broad so I just ignored the soaking wet denim. I was actually wearing a raincoat but do you think I spilled the Coke on that? Of course not.

The movie was good, if formulaic. It’s always so crazy to see how racist people used to be. (I’m sure there are still incredibly racist normal people–normal, as in “not skinheads”–but it’s got to be pretty underground.)  When I see movies like 42 or The Help it’s very hard to understand that’s how things were for black people not that long ago. Part of me wonders if was really that bad because how could people have been so hateful because of someone’s skin color?

I grew up in a different environment than most white people, I guess.  Detroit, where I was born and raised, is mostly black. I lived in the first suburb north of the city. It was lower- to middle-class and was probably the first stop when people wanted to move on up from Detroit proper. I would say that the schools I went to were pretty evenly split between black and white, especially as I entered my teen years. Unlike the South, though, there really was no sort of “us vs. them” mentality. The most popular boys in my fifth grade class were Jahmod (A black kid) and Jason (a Jewish kid). (Oh yeah, there was a huge Jewish population in our town too. Which meant white Christians were totally the minority. We loved Jewish kids because that meant we got a whole bunch of Jewish holidays off of school too; not just the regular Christian ones.) Being Mormon and white? Super minority. I was pretty much the only one in middle and high school.

The mall closest to our house was called Northland and was the first modern shopping mall in America.  I remember going there and being the only white person I’d see. It didn’t make me feel uncomfortable or weird; it just was the way it was. I took Mister to that same mall when we went back to visit Detroit for my dad’s funeral back in the early 90’s. Man, did he almost have a heart attack! Being from Portland, OR, he was never exposed to many black people. He thought for sure someone was going to attack us. I just laughed and told him how I’d been shopping there dozens of times by myself at night. I can only blame the media for giving him the idea that young black men are all thugs; how else would he have developed that opinion?

We had lots of black people at church. Our bishop was eventually a black man, as were some of my primary teachers and Young Women Leaders. Our ward spread deep into Detroit and we had a real variety of members.Not just blacks but some members of Arabic descent too. It all seemed completely normal. I don’t recall the race card ever being mentioned.

When I look back on the relations between blacks and whites growing up, I wonder if maybe I was just clueless. But I remember blacks and whites sitting at the same tables at lunch; blacks and whites going to dances together and hanging out. Maybe our town was unique or maybe I just remember things differently, being a white girl.


*Yep, that’s me, Jennie Hildegard Davis, in the third row of the school picture; rocking the braces and feathered bangs. Viva Eighth Grade!


It’s Red Ribbon Week. Oh joy. I love to rant and rave about how stupid it is (you can read about it here). There is no way that having weird hair/crazy socks/wearing pajamas is going to keep my kids off drugs. That’s the whole point of red ribbon week, right? To get kids not to take drugs? But this year I’m not feeling quite so irate. It’s true, I did find myself at The-Store-That-Must-Not-Be-Named at 11 pm on Monday buying slippers (“Give drugs the slip!”). But even so, I just kind of shrugged it off.  Today the kids are supposed to wear a shirt with a sports team logo. You might think that’s a no-fail category but when you have a houseful of nerds who don’t like sports, that’s a tall order.  Ada likes the University of Texas Longhorns so she always has something burnt orange to wear. However, Mister and I are BYU alums. It’s not so easy to find BYU shirts in Austin.  And don’t even suggest for a second that we own clothing items from a professional sports team. The mere thought is hilarious.

Yesterday the kids were all talking about the various plans about what to wear for crazy sock day. Jasper mentioned that the Principal of the school never wears anything for red ribbon week, not even a funky hat. “Yeah, she’s not very festive,” Arabella noted. But Ada drew the most obvious conclusion, “I think it’s because she takes drugs.”

Well, there you go.

Back to school today. All the things I did:

Had kids set out clothes.

Got up early to shower and do makeup. Accidentally put on red lipstick (the 16 hour kind. Which meant I had to do the rest of my makeup decently too). Red lipstick requires a certain mindset. Which I do not have today. Today I should have worn pale, boring pinkish brown.

Made a lovely breakfast. Cinnamon roll pancakes (recipe courtesy of Our Best Bites). So jam-packed with ooey-gooey-sugary goodness that I’m sure all the kids are now in comas.

cinnamon roll pancakes

All the things I forgot:

To label everybody’s backpacks, lunchboxes and waterbottles. I was madly labelling with my sharpie this morning while my children were all talking to me at the same time. Consequently I either misspelled their names or wrote my name on everything out of habit. Way to go!

To get stupid folders with brads. I looked for these everywhere. I truly did. But I might as well have been looking for leprechaun’s gold.

To find Jasper’s pencil case. And give everyone an eraser. Every year I get worse at organizing school supplies, not better.

To read scriptures. Fortunately Mister picked up a ton of slack today. I am so not used to being organized. By next week we’ll have a routine down but this week is going to be mayhem.


And just like that my house is quiet. I’m much too frazzled to be sad. I was kind of sad last night. But only because I had to set my alarm. I couldn’t even remember how to do it.  I always wake up before my kids and get ready. But not this summer. This summer I slept in every day and it was the best two and a half months of my life. But the party is now over. At least the morning party. But the new party will be beginning at 8:30 when the last child walks out the door.

Babies first day of school
Two in Elementary School this year.

(Adelaide-2nd grade, Jasper-1st)

kids first day school

Two in Middle School and two in High School.

(India-11th grade, Finn-8th, York-10th, Arabella-6th)

You guys. YOU GUYS. YOU GUYS!  Last week. It was a killer.  As in “poor me I was a crying, mean zombie by the end of it”.

It was the last week of school. Normally it is a busy week; all the concerts and whatnot.  But this year it soared to heights of awfulness. Not just one but two concerts that were over two hours long. (Hey, school choir/band directors: I don’t want to see two hours of pretty much anything, not even my own children.)

We also were lucky enough to get to attend not just Kindergarten Graduation but also Fifth Grade Graduation. About two months ago I got peeved letters from people on various graduation committees threatening to cancel graduation if there was not more parental help. I tried to let them know by not volunteering that I would be perfectly happy to never go to any sort of graduation ever again. They did not get the message.

Also happening last week: The following items broke at our house: a pitcher from Pottery Barn that I was very fond of; a white ceramic mixing bowl that I was very fond of; a gorgeous apothecary jar that I paid big bucks for back when they were uncommon and you could only find them at fancy shops; and all the ceramic balls inside of said apothecary jar (I was very fond of all of it.) Also broken: our deep freezer which decided to completely defrost as I was walking out the door to Fifth Grade Graduation (only $500 to repair! So I got a new one off of Craig’s List for $200 instead).

There is just something about stuff breaking that makes me feel utterly defeated.

And then there was the realization that I had completely forgotten to do any sort of teacher gift. The kids all had really great teachers this year and I wanted to give them something nice. Normally I sew something but there was no way I had that much stamina this year. So I decided to give them homemade loaves of bread with homemade jam. To me that seems lame but hopefully they thought it was nice. We missed giving goodies to two of our favorite teachers because they left early so I kept two loaves of bread and stuffed my face with it. When I’m emotionally drained I try to fill the emptiness with lots and lots of carbs. And it worked!  I felt so much better!

And then there is the whole Relief Society President thing. It’s very emotionally demanding. Last week was especially hard.  Just a lot of people needing a lot of comfort. And I am not a naturally comfort-giving type. I actually found myself suggesting a new lipstick to one sister. Like that is going to help anything. But hey, it works for me! Never underestimate the power of lipstick.

And lets throw in a couple of recitals, Kung fu exams, a birthday party, and a few church meetings too, just to liven things up.

So you might say I was pleased to not set my alarm on Sunday night. Eight hours of sleep has never felt so good. I was hoping for an entire week but I’ll take what I can get.