Saturday, October 31, 2009

Reverse Trick Or Treat

Happy Halloween, Everyone!

Today I would like to offer you both, a trick and a treat.

First, the trick. This year, we are practicing Reverse Trick-or-Treating. See, at church (here we go) I picked up five of these cards with little bits of chocolate attached. When the kids go from door to door with their bags of candy and their UNICEF boxes, they are supposed to hand one of these cards back as a "Thank You."

Steve hates this idea. He sees it as pushing our ideals and being "hippie dippie." But the cards say nothing about God, nothing about our church. Instead, they are about Free Trade - October is Free Trade Awareness month, among other things. It explains that many chocolate products we buy come from cocoa supplied from farms involved in Forced Child Labor, and it encourages people to consider buying Fair Trade Chocolate in the future. I like it. But I can see how it does push "hippie dippie" ideals. What do you think?

Second, the treat:

I made a jack-o-lanters a couple of weeks ago. My best, ever. It was from a kit marketed for 6-year-olds. My level, it turns out. Of ocurse, by now the teeth have turned in and it looks like a lunatic Granny-with-no-dentures. Still scary, but in a very different way.

And we are off to Trick-or-Treat. Andy refuses to wear his costume without flailing around in tears. He will have to go as "Naked Baby" or maybe as "Screaming Baby." We'll see. Maybe once the candy starts being deposited in his Elmo Bucket he'll forget he's wearing a cape?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Is There A Cream For This?

I can't tell you why, but my job has become much more difficult as of late.

This morning was chaos. The boys have been waking up earlier and earlier, despite the fact that the time change hasn't even happened yet! I don't know what we'll be doing this time next week - waking up before bedtime? Possible.

Despite the early wake time, Nick and Nate were very helpful, and even motivated, to a point. They both got themselves dressed right away, with no help from me. But then I told Nick to make his bed, and he informed me that I was supposed to change the sheets today - even at five, Nick knows Thursday is change-the-sheets day. And then Nate informed me that his pull up leaked last night. And I started stripping the beds. Andy was still in his PJ's, and I thought this would be a good time to encourage him to undress himself. So I did. And he did - he took off his pants and his wet diaper, and I sent him off to get a new one as I kept changing the sheets.

The next thing I hear, over the sound of Nick and Nate playing with Bakugan and ignoring my repeated directions to go brush teeth, is Andy shouting "Poop! Poop! Poop!"

And what can I tell you. There's a reason the kid is still in diapers. I just wish he'd have figured it out earlier so that he wasn't in his room, with the rug. He gets some points for traveling to the bathroom, but not many, as I then had to also clean up the hall.

By the time I got to the bedroom I had a choice - I could get dressed, or the kids could wear shoes, but there wasn't time for both before the bus. Thank goodness the boys have two parents. I threw on some clothes and Steve helped Nick get ready and stayed with the youger two while I walked Nick out.

I like waiting for the bus with Nick because we can talk, and Nick tends to be silly and adorable. I got down to his height and explained that I had been frustrated because I was doing all the cleaning up. "There are five people in this house," I said. "And I am cleaning up for five people, and doing laundry for five people, and cooking for five people, and picking up five people's things off the floor every single day."

Nick threw his arms around my neck. "I love you, Mom!" And I hugged him back.

Then Nick pulled away and pointed at my face. "Why do you have wrinkles in your forehead?"


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Toy Purge

I got this book called "Too Many Toys" by David Shannon. It's a bout a boy who has too many toys, and his mother decides to get rid of some of them. The boy in the book has a LOT of toys. "Does this remind you of anyone?" I ask, waiting for the obvious response.

"Logan!" Nick didn't even hesitate. Well... not the response I was hoping for. Logan has a lot of toys. And I'm not getting into a who-has-more fight. But Logan has a playroom. We do not.

Our home has gotten completely out of control. When the boys don't pick up their toys, I have a habit of boxing them up and putting them away, to be returned when they show be they can pick up their toys. We've never really gotten that far. I had four boxes stored in the basement, and every floor was scattered with spare parts. I had no more boxes to put them in.

So, knowing that birthdays and Christmas are right around the corner, I decided to go through them all.

I made two piles: one to keep, and one to give away. (Honey Bear!) But two weren't enough. I had to make one to throw away, for broken and unusable toys. And then another, for toys the boys weren't excited about anymore but that I refuse to give away, ever.

I lined up all the stuffed animals and told each boy they could pick ten. I tried not to feel hurt as they selected McDonald's give aways and left adorable bears behind. Then I let myself select ten, too. Then I selected a couple more, because I knew the boys hadn't chosen well. And still, a huge box of stuffed animals waits to be given away, some of them really cute.

I think this was harder on me that it was on the boys. I can throw away toys when they are broken, but I have a really hard time giving things away. Especially when they were given to the boys from someone other than myself. And almost all of our toys were gifts. So what if a really nice puzzle of the US is missing a few states? Do we really need Iowa?

So... we still have a lot of toys. But I have thrown out a bunch. I'm going to go through them tomorrow with the boys and we're going to find a home for everything. With any luck, it will at least be a little bit easier to pick everything up, since the toy bins won't be overflowing.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Defender of the Fridgiverse

Steve and I just managed to sit the boys down for afternoon TV (The Thomas Movie, much to Andy's delight.) We walked into the kitchen talking about grown-up things, when I stopped and screamed softly at the sight of the block boxes, I mean the containers that the blocks go into, and an empty cardboard box some diapers came in, and a small plastic wagon, all stacked in front of the fridge, blocks pouring out onto the floor.

"Nathan!" I called out calmly, pushing the wagon against the wall. "You have to clean up the mess you made."

Nick looked up from his spot in front of the TV, and to my surprise, claimed the mess. "Oh, That's Voltron!" he cried, rushing over. "Hey! Who took his lifesaving sword?"

It was very imaginative. Still, I never thought "Do not build Voltron in front of the fridge" would need to be one of our house rules.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Joke's On Me

The boys are into Knock Knock jokes. Nick is getting the hang of it, and understands that some things are funny, and some things are not. Nate just shouts out anything. Who's there? R2D2! Ha ha HA!

Today was kind of a crazy day. The house is a mess. Football on TV, so I was grumpy. The kids have been super whiny and grumpy because they've been getting up at 5am for the past week. It's reached the point where I don't know what to do because there is so much to do and even being in my house is irritating. When I do try to do something productive, like clear the kitchen counter, the boys begin smashing their fingers in drawers, bumping their heads on counters, and Andy takes that time to feed the dog, or remove the tuna steaks from the counter, or rifle through the knife drawer.

So this afternoon I decided to forget about it all. I took the boys outside and sat on the rocking swing listening to Nick cry on the hammock and yell at Nate to "Leave me ALONE! Get AWAY from me!" while Nate hit the hammock with a bat.

Andy sat next to me, eating cheesy puffed rice cakes out of the bag. Suddenly he looked up and me and said "Knock knock! They errr!"

It was the funniest joke I had heard all day.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Spitting Into The Wind

If you haven't done so already, you should go read my last post and the comments. Now.



Nobody is punching Zalewski in the face! I just needed to get that out of the way. Don't worry, Zalewski, Jamie would never punch anyone. Linda might, but not while Jamie was watching.

Zalewski read my blog post! How odd and bizarre. I have to admit, even though the internet is a huge place, I find myself thinking I'm writing letters to myself more often than I should. I can't always remember that family and friends read this blog (sometimes). So it shocks me that someone I have never met would find my rantings on his article. I am flabbergasted. But, you know, it's a small world, 6 degrees and all that. So. I should have known better.

How sad and embarrassing to not have caught the humor in the piece. Is this what I am reduced to? Someone with no sense of humor? Joyless? Like Annette Benning in "American Beauty" but with a not-as-great body, no job, and longer, rattier hair? My apologies to Zalewski for not getting it and for jumping on the defensive train. Even before reading the entire article, I might add.

I think one of the reasons I did NOT get it, is because there are people out there who judge. Simple as that. Everyone has an opinion, it is always different from yours, and the worst offenders of the "My Way Is Right" campain are other parents. When Nick was 4 months old two other mothers watched me try and calm his wailing self and asked "When is his naptime?" You should have seen the looks they gave me when I said "He doesn't have one yet." It was the same as the looks on some parent's faces when the boys mention they had McDonald's.

And, to be fair, probably the look on my face when the teacher casually mentioned that the "heathy snack" a classmate's mother had prepared was chocolate covered rice-krispie treats, or anytime we get an invitation to a birthday party at Chuck-E-Cheeze.

See, we all judge, as parents. It's really hard not to. Because every path that isn't ours is one we have elected not to take. We judge in defense of our own choices. I'm not saying it's right, I'm just saying we do it. And I've noticed, and I'm sensitive to it. And that caused me to over-react to this totally amazing article on children's books - a different subject almost entirely, which I should probably go back and re-read with these new glasses on my brain.

In conclusion, I would like to quote my sister Emily in wondering which goes best with humble pie: sheepish ice-cream or decaffeinated gratitude?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Hands To Myself

The other dayI happened to read this New Yorker Article and I have to say it hit me the wrong way.

This was the clip I read from Mike Daisey's site:

Children’s books, parents, and discipline : The New Yorker:

So what should you do when a child throws a tantrum? Many parents, determined not to be cruel or counterproductive, latch on to pre-approved language from books. Walk through a Manhattan playground and you’ll hear parents responding to their dirt-throwing, swing-stealing offspring with a studied flatness. A toddler whirling into a rage is quietly instructed, “Use your words.” A preschooler who clocks his classmate is offered the vaguely Zen incantation “Hands are not for hitting.” A kid demanding a Popsicle is given a bland demurral: “I’m sorry, but I don’t respond to whining.” (The preferred vocal inflection is that of a customer-service representative informing an irate caller that the warranty has, indeed, expired.) The brusque imperative “Say ‘please’!” has been supplanted by the mildest of queries: “Is there a nicer way to say that?” The efficacy of this clinical approach has not been confirmed by science, but it certainly feels scientific, in part because the parents conduct themselves as if their child were the subject of a peer-reviewed experiment.

I bristled immediately.

I have had a few days to cool down, reflect, and gather my thoughts. I have decided not to take the article personally. Because, actually, it's a very good article.

I disagree, however, with a lot of what the author says. I agree, children's books have changed. The characters are different. But where Zalewski finds bratty children in need of discipline, I find active and highly imaginative children who act before they think. He thinks the things these children say are cheeky. I think they are innocent comments that happen to be funny. And also, I like these books. They are not boring. The kids in the books, be they monster or pig, act more like the real children I have encountered in my life than, say, Little Bear or Caillou, both of whom I would like to banish from my home.

Zalewski is right about one thing. Walking through a park in the city, or almost anywhere, and you'll get the above scenario. He's right about the emotionless distance, the toneless quality in many parents voices as they repeat these seemlingly meaningless phrases. "Use your words." "You get what you get." "This isn't a choice." I say each of them hundreds of times a day.

But please don't judge too harshly. Perhaps Zalewski has no children, or perhaps he has one, a very calm, silent, do-as-you're-told type who never pushes limits. Or perhaps he has a child that magically eats everything he should and has a schedule that ensures she's never late for a nap. Because sooner or later every child throws a tantrum, pushes back, and expresses discontent in a way that is inappropriate for the adult world.

Maybe that woman who is staring off into space as her child screams for a popscicle is actually counting the glasses of wine she will consume once she has put her child to bed. Maybe that odd, disconnected tone of voice that mother is using as she says "we do not hit our friends" is actually a vallient effort to cover up waves of rage at her hyperactive four-year-old. Perhaps, if she didn't turn into a robot, someone would have to call social services.

My point is, parenting is hard. These tactics exist for a reason. Yes, sometimes their points are lost. But at others they really do work. No parent is perfect, and we're all, most of us, doing our best to raise our kids and not go crazy.

And if that means I can pick a story about a pig that fibs during her Summer Vacation Oral Report, then I'm going to go ahead and do that. I don't think my kids are any worse off for it.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Not Tonight

I have a headache.

I tried to write a serious post for tonight, but I got too carried away, and I didn't want my point to get lost, so I'm putting it off.

Instead, here's a photo of Andy turning off the lights.

Monday, October 19, 2009

American Girl

I don't know why I get half the catalogs I get in the mail.

For instance, for the past year we have received the American Girl magazine. If you are unfamiliar with American Girl, you need to check it out, because if I told you, you wouldn't believe me.

I consider getting American Girl magazine an insult, of a kind. Somebody rubbing it in. Not only do I not have a little girl to buy one of these dolls for, but I also never had one of my own.

My sisters did - I know Emily did. I think she got Molly, the WWII doll. But Emily was never that into dolls. I was, alas, too old to be into dolls when these first came about.

But now, we get this magazine, and I pour over it, looking at each overpriced item, at each outfit for each doll, and I wish I had a reason to get them. I don't feel I can justify buying any of it for any of my sons.

And alas, this American Girl's magazine announces that my favorite doll, Kirsten, is going to be retired. This is the last time she is featured. I don't know why she's my favorite. Probably because she's from Sweden and celebrates Christmas with one of those candle wreath thingies on her head. And has loopy braids. I was horrified. How could they do this! She was one of the original three! But then I realized that Samantha, another original, was also missing from the line-up. When did this happen? How could it?

Anyway, I considered buying myself a Kirsten doll, just because. Then I decided that I didn't really want her, I just liked the IDEA of her, and all of her cute accessories. And maybe I was sad because, when I look through that catalog, I remember what it was like to be a little girl. Maybe THAT is what I'm really missing. Being a little girl, with a new doll.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Maturing Early

If this year were a person it would be one of those really thin guys that looks young for his age. He goes to buy beer when he's thirty five and gets carded. But when he hits forty five he suddenly ages thirty years and looks like he's sixty.

Because we didn't get much of a summer this year. It was a rainy spring until August. And now it seems fall is over and we're into winter, at least judging from the snowflakes the size of dinner plates falling from the sky. It's like someone is having a massive pillow fight in the clouds.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Favorite Sweater

Nick dresses himself in the morning, sometimes before I can get a look at what he's picked out. I am not a fashionista, and frequently my own outfits are eclectic and strange, but Nick can outdo me. He looks fine in this picture, though. He loves the sweater, and would wear it every single day if I let him.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Time For

It snowed last night.
It's October.
It's not even Halloween yet.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Days Like This

This was taken a little over a week ago. It was so warm that I took the boys out to play in the backyard and I read my book in the grass.

Today was cold.

Once again I had to sort through the winter coats and snowpants and boots.

Andrew has, of course, grown out of the baby snowsuit that all three kids have used. So I boosted him into the next size up, and gave him the Thomas boots that Nate wedged his feet into last year.

Nathan got Nick's boots from last year, which fit him quite well. His jacket from last year was so tight it could hardly zip. So he got Nick's red snowpants and jacket.

Nicholas was the only one that could still fit into his things from last year. But since I had to give his things to Nate, I went ahead and got Nick a new coat, new boots, and new snowpants. But I got them one size up, figuring it would make more sense to have different sizes. Nick's boots fit. Nick's coat is kind of cool, a little big, but doable. Nick's snowpants are about a foot longer than his legs. Hmm.

I figure they'll work out. I'll just roll them up. Maybe we won't get a lot of snow this year.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Spoonfull Of Somthin'

While we were in New York we had the good fortune of being taken to see Mary Poppins, the Broadway Musical.

I could say a lot here. I have always had a soft spot for Broadway musicals, and I enjoy a love/hate relationship with all things Disney, meaning I feel I should dislike it, but usually all I can do is tamper my expressions of enjoyment. I like the movie Mary Poppins - it was the first movie I remember seeing, and we were either on vacation in Puerto Rico or on a boat. (I was very small.) I also enjoyed the Mary Poppins books by Dr. P.L. Travers - yes, there were books, and there were a few of them, and I read them all.

The musical seemed to be an odd mash of the movie and the books, with new songs, old songs in different contexts, and a few moments of baffling choreography. It included a giant parrot head umbrella, Mary flying over the audience, a man walking on the ceiling, and statues coming to life. I enjoyed myself, I have to admit, but probably not as much as I would have if I hadn't been wondering what the forces in charge had been thinking.

When Winston and I saw the movie when we were little, his favorite song was the one about the tuppin. You know, "Feed The Birds, Tuppin's a bag?" We had no idea what a tuppin was, but we liked the pigeons. That song was still in the show. I'm not sure if it was nostalgia or the song itself that made me cry.

Unfortunately, not everyone today agrees with the message of the song. Especially the Statue of Liberty Ferry folk.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Watch this video. All of it. At the end, I ask Nick what the best part of his day was. He answers "Getting my keychain."

We went to see the Statue Of Liberty. I have been to see it before, but I was a small child, and I remember not being able to go up to see it because the line was too long and we were going to miss the ferry back and also Emily was crying.

I hadn't been down to that end of the city for years. We were a full block past the big block of cranes that I pointed out to the boys before I realized that this was the World Trade Center site.

Seeing the Statue itself was an experience. First of all, pack light, and be prepared to wait in lines. You know how you go through security at the airport? Well, you do that to get on the ferry. And again to get into the inside of the statue, should you choose to purchase the entry and stand on the line again. I had gotten the tickets to go in, but we were fooled into standing on the line outside, not realizing there was a huge line inside as well. Filled with 100 high school students on a class trip. Joy.

The security is ridiculous. Winston said there have been threats to blow it up. I'm thinking the threats were probably from someone that had gone through the security line. Not only did we have to stand on line a second time, but I had to check my bag. The locker was a dollar for two hours, which I assumed would be plenty of time, and it was done by fingerprint recognition.

The second line took us about an hour to go through. The stupid security gates were those poofy ones that blow air on you. I'm not sure why. Somehow this is supposed to find out if you've touched a bomb. I think they should be able to also let us know if we've got cancer.

After the security lines, there are 156 steps to walk up to get to the top. Of the pedestal. Not inside the statue. You can buy tickets to get to the crown, but you need to purchase them 4 months in advance. I would totally go up! But I would prefer not to be carrying Andrew next time.

Once we got up there, the view was amazing. But the wall came up to my chest, which meant that Nick and Nate were jumping up and down, seeing nothing on their own. Lillian and I had to lift them up one at a time. And each time I put Andy down he wailed, so it was quite a time.

When we finally made it down to the ground again, I went to retrieve my bag. But the fancy shmancy security system that took my fingerprint to secure my bag refused to recognize my fingerprint to open the locker and let me get my bag. It backfired. A lot. I used every single finger on both hands. I tried rolling my finger. I tried holding it further up and to the side. Lillian offered suggestions as I kept punching in the locker number and getting a "No Match Found" message. Is this the same software that matches up criminal fingerprints? Because it seems to work a lot better on "Criminal Minds."

All in all, in was a wonderful day. And we didn't even have time to see Ellis Island. It really is a pity that the security measures take so much pleasure out of the experience, and even act as a deterrent. Not to terrorists, but to tourists.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Guess Where We Went?

I went down to New York for the long weekend with Lillian and the boys. It was a good trip, which left us all exhausted. I am walking around my house like a zombie, waiting for it to be time to make dinner so that we can get it over with and head to bed, or even just sit on front of the TV with my brain on "pause."

Friday, October 09, 2009

The Bare Truth

Andrew is learning how to do more and more things.

He can push the stool from the bathroom to the light switch so that he can turn the lights off. And on. And off. And on. He can put his clothes in the hamper. He can help me put away groceries.

And he can undress himself.

The other morning he climbed into my bed, and I reluctantly got up, waving him out of my room as I blindly groped for my robe and socks.

When I got to the bedroom, he was wearing only his PJ top. He had taken off his pants, AND his diaper. He had put his diaper in the diaper bin in the bathroom. The scraping noise I had heard in my sleep wasn't Nathan getting a drink of water, it was Andy, pushing the bathroom stool over to the toilet so that he could stand on it to pee.

He never actually pees, by the way, he just stands there, aiming.

Which, I suppose, was better than what happened later that day, when I told him I'd meet him in a moment to change his diaper, but he had already removed it and was sitting on the bath mat. Which, under the circumstances, was not so great. Because his bum was not so clean.

And sometimes he just takes his clothes off because. Maybe because he knows how cute he is in a diaper, and senses that this may not always be the case.

Thursday, October 08, 2009


Nicholas just walked into my bedroom, an hour after I tucked him in, to tell me that Frank was in his bed and wouldn't get out.

"Just push him off!" I said.

"I tried but he won't go!" Nick replied.

So I went in to find Frank clinging to Nick's pillow, his body covering the whole thing, claws out.

Part of me wants to be angry at Nick. Be Agressive, Boy! Just shove him off!

Then again, that tactic doesn't work for me, either.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Keep Me In The Dark

On numerous occasions I have expounded on the pain and torture of having children who are early risers. Some people view this as irony, others retribution. In any case, for years I have had to make a daily choice to get out of bed and tend to my children or to ignore the sounds of screaming or my house being torn apart.

But something has changed.

More and more often I am getting out of bed at seven. SEVEN! I mean, I used to only sleep that late on weekends! The kids are sleeping later, and if they aren't they are at least quiet for a good length of time.

And I am still having trouble pulling my lazy self out of bed. I suppose I am getting spoiled, or maybe just stubborn. I shuffle along, doing exactly what we have done every morning for the past three years. We change diapers, we have breakfast, we get dressed, and there is a lot of convincing and cajoling and reminding and rushing during this whole process.

But now that we are sleeping almost an hour later each day, we are running out of time. I find myself in my nightgown with five minutes before the bus is due to arrive, the kids running around with sticky fingers and no shoes, and Andy will pick that moment to remind me he needs a diaper change.

Of course. Now that they let me sleep late, we shouldn't be, and can't.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Cleaning Up

A few years ago I hired a maid service.

At first I had them coming every week, but then I cut it back to once every other week, mostly because the weather was inconsistent and they would cancel on Monday, reschedule for Friday, and then return the following Monday, and I figured... Why?

Then I cut back again. To every three weeks. My reasoning this time was that I do not love the job that they do. I can often spot spilled coffee splotches on the floor after it has been mopped, and they never seem to wash around or outside the toilets. Since I live in a house of three small boys and a large boy (face it - does it make a difference?) this is a must. I think I do a better job.

So I have designated one day a week as "Clean The House Day!" This is the day I clean the house. These days it is Tuesday. I vacuum the whole house, mop the kitchen and the bathrooms, and clean the bathrooms. I don't always get to do it all.

It helps that Andy is obsessed with the vacuum. He loves it. He knows where it is kept, and he pulls it out whenever he can. If I leave it out, he will try to use it. A couple of times he has even managed to plug it in.

It would be more helpful if the older boys would pick up their toys. But they don't. They think about it, but usually end up fighting or deciding they don't care if you put all the toys in the trash. Today I brought out a bin and started putting toys in it. "These toys are going on the High Shelf because you did not pick them up!" I said, using my Big Voice.

The boys did not seem concerned. Nick even walked over to me. "Let me help you, Mom!" he said, and started picking up toys and placing them in the bin.

Which was right next to the toy box. Which was where I had asked him to put the toys in the first place.

Someone, please, help me to understand.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Yea! Gym!

Andrew loves gym class. Whenever we pull in the driveway he shouts "Gym!" from the his carseat. He frets until his teacher comes to fetch the class, and then he runs right up to her, less than six inches between them, his head almost at ninety degrees so he can see her face.

The class is really cute. All of the kids are under two, so the moms follow them around and point out each activity. "Climb the ladder!" "Jump! Jump! Jump!" "Walk on this red beam! This one!"

In between each circuit we sit in a circle and count to ten, clapping. It's a way to focus the kids, to transition them from one activity to the next. But they don't know that. The kids LOVE it. They run right over and clap enthusiastically, their little hands clapping two or three times per number.

I don't know which one of us is more exhausted by the end of the class.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

They're BAAACK!

They were here a few years ago.

Most people call them Harmless. Still others refer to them as Practical.

And really, how could something so small be a bother?

But where one may be magical to watch crawl on your finger, hundred are cause for a breakdown.

The Ladybugs are Back.


Friday, October 02, 2009

Stand Off

Nate is upstairs crying, loudly, in his bed.

We were all warm and cuddly, and I read stories and tucked him in, and then, moments before I left the room, he said "I want a stuffy!"

(A stuffy is a stuffed animal, folks.)

I said, "OK, get one."

He said, "No. I want YOU to get me one."

I said, "No. You need to get it yourself."

And then the wailing mess we have upstairs.