Thursday, January 31, 2008

Take your mom to work

Last night I got to accompany Eliza to her AWANA meeting, since the neighbors who usually take her were sick. I'd actually wanted to go for a little while, but I'm usually on my way home from work as she's on her way there. I've been curious, because she's always on cloud nine when she gets home ("How was it, Eliza?" "It was GRAND!"). Honestly, I think part of it is the opportunity to go and do something on her own, with a carload of girlfriends. But being there last night with her was neat, because it felt sort of like Take Your Daughter to Work Day, except that she was the veteran and I was the newbie. She showed me where to go, etc., and it was like I got a glimpse of a little world she's been part of, but I haven't -- which is rare! As the evening progressed she surprised me a bit by acting quite comfortable and even speaking up to participate (she's usually VERY shy in a group). I realized that for her, it's not about entertainment value or a big show (which it wasn't) ... but rather, that atmosphere was just her size -- small groups (5-6 kids), encouraging (but not over-the-top exuberant) adults. Oh, and there were goldfish and animal crackers. And, she clearly felt good about her Bible memory verse accomplishment -- it's like, finally, it's not Ian but I, ELIZA, the MIDDLE CHILD, who am showing my stuff and getting the kudos! (Can you tell I stress about this issue?)

Anyway, I felt blessed, like I'd been given a divine gift -- an opportunity to enter my daughter's world and share what's important to HER. It reminded me that the Lord has His ways of taking care of my children and meeting their needs, and it's not always dependent on me. Plus, it was a one-on-one -- well, the car ride, anyway -- and you know how I feel about that!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008


Okay, trying not to freak about this, but ...
This site lets you plug in your address and find out the names, addresses, even pictures of any and all registered sex offenders in your area. And that's just the registered ones. Fortunately, my immediate neighborhood, like a one-mile radius from our house, only has three or four (it's sad that I have to say "only") but once you get beyond our quiet little quadrant of the map, yikes!
There is so much to think about as a modern parent, which I guess really means, so much to pray about.

Monday, January 28, 2008


We started back up with our weekly co-op today, and whew, not a day too soon. I've recently realized what a creature of routine I am, how I rely on the outward trappings of routine to give us forward momentum. During the breaks between semesters, when co-op's out and other activities are on hold, I kind of fall apart. I know most homeschool moms just love to hang out in their pajamas and spend cozy times at home, lots of it, but I guess I'm a maverick because I really like to have somewhere to go. Of course, now that I have three children, I do appreciate the value of a day with no regular commitments, a wide-open invitation to get out the paints or the popcorn or maybe even talk the kiddos into a spontaneous outing. But those days are more welcome when they're not ... every day.

I actually discussed this very issue, my tendency to restlessness and need for some level of outside activity, with my mom this weekend during our delightful lunch at The Steeping Room. Did I mention my mom is in town? Well, sort of, anyway -- she's staying out in Elgin, a.k.a. "out in the country," with my in-laws, with the express purpose of getting some much-needed rest. But we've wangled our way into some time with her now and then, and Saturday was our day to have lunch, buy some pants for Ian, some curtains for the girls' room, etc. I managed to make it, oh, five minutes into the lunch, to the point when she said, "So how are YOU doing, honey?" before dissolving into tears. Yay me! That seems to be my function in life lately. Test the absorbency of disposable paper goods.

So back to the co-op thing. The nice thing about this co-op is that, while I'm pretty involved, as the treasurer and with my required parent-volunteer hours, there are some weeks when all I need to do is drop off the older two, collect a few checks in the hallway, and then, o rare and precious opportunity, the morning is ours -- just Caroline and me. I really enjoyed spending the time with her this morning, even though it was short and she did spend a chunk of it playing in the bathroom sink while I put away laundry. I guess I just always feel like I'm at my mothering best when I'm one-on-one with the kids (don't we all do better when we can focus?). She really hammed it up for me, too. I had laid out on the craft table a bunch of National Geographic pictures of various ocean animals, and she took the tour, she got inspired. She grabbed a green pencil and Ian's sketchbook and began creating her own marine life. It's pretty amusing to watch that girl draw. She gets all serious, very purposeful, and after scribbling something unidentifiable to the adult eye, finally looks up and proudly pronounces it, "a mommy fish and a baby fish!" Or whatever. You can almost see the smoke pouring out her ears. It's wonderful.

Oh, one more thing and then I'm off. We finished painting our bonus room this weekend! We're totally kicking ourselves for not taking a "before" picture, because it was such an artifact of the '70's before: walls that were basically yards and yards of dark fake-wood paneling. And dark wood trim. And vinyl flooring, covering partially with carpet (well, that's staying, for now.) Get the picture? But even though the walls turned out more like Peach (or as Tim put it, "'80's Telephone") than the taupe I had envisioned, we now have a transformed room, thanks to the help of some industrious friends. I'd post a picture but it still looks like a bomb went off in here. Let's just make that a coming attraction.

Friday, January 25, 2008

In Mourning

Tim woke me up this morning with the kind of look on his face that told me EXACTLY what was going on. I knew immediately, maybe because it's one of those things I sort of low-grade worry about every night. Remember Fluffer, the lost black hen we lost and found a couple weeks ago? Well, this morning she was killed by a hawk, right there in our backyard. We could hear the other hens squawking and keening and basically making a fuss, even though they never treated her right anyway, and when Tim went out the perpetrator was just flying away, leaving a limp, black feather body in one of the garden beds. It's kind of surprising that this has never happened before, since there's been a hawk in the neighborhood for over a year now, but I guess (s)he just got tired of waiting for mice and rabbits and saw a stray black something scurrying around on her own and decided to swoop in to get our morning started off on a note of grief and misery for all. I think I shed just as many tears as my wee folk.

She's buried in the garden bed, now, and the kids have decided to mark her grave with a memorial stone this afternoon. Sigh. This is why we would never make it as farm family.

OK, now on a totally silly note, if I could just lighten the mood a bit (since I won't be receiving a sympathy card in the mail this time from the Animal Hospital) ... I was just reading an article in Time Magazine about the chemistry of love (they had several articles on The Science of Romance in last week's issue). OK, did you that the length of your ring finger reflects your testosterone level? Try this with me: compare the length of your ring finger to that of your index finger. The longer your ring finger is compared to your index finger, the more testosterone you have bubbling around in your brain (or wherever it bubbles ... but let's not get into that). That in turn correlates with math, musical, and mechanical ability. Well, I was able to form a quick hypothesis and instantly prove myself correct. My ring finger is ... noticeably SHORTER than my index finger. So there you go. Deficiencies explained. I wonder whether this also explains my difficulty with being assertive and, basically, with navigating any kind of conflict situation without crumbling or apologizing for, you know, the fact that the sky is blue. Isn't that all tied into testosterone? Huh.

I should go check out my dear son's fingers. And I think Eliza's look just like mine. Finger stretchers, anyone?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

New machine

As a result of the computer-related fiasco of last week, I have now made, let's see, I guess just three, but it feels like more, trips to the Apple store, where the hiring criteria seem to be: are you male? are you white? are you thirty-five or under? These worker bees in navy blue T-shirts buzz around you, attending to you every need, and if you don't have any need, they'll help you manufacture one, so that suddenly a repair turns into a $600 purchase turns into an $850 one. (I so did NOT buy the cherry-colored iPod I coveted, just for the record.) Turns out that Old Faithful was completely fried, it would have cost my firstborn just to get it up and running again, and therefore (we're SO SORRY to inform you) it REALLY would be much more prudent to just BUY A NEW COMPUTER -- FROM US! So, tax refund, come to me quickly, because I have already shelled out a healthy piece of your bulk on a Mac Mini, plus 3 years of AppleCare.
It's sitting on my desk, right now, up and running and being used by ... my husband. I hear it's really fast and positively delightful in every way. :-)
Oh, and get this: they gave me back my old computer, and when I inquired as to whose responsibility it was, theirs or mine, to recycle the thing, the guy at the desk (just for the record, his T-shirt did NOT say "Genius") actually said the following to me: "Well, whenever I get rid of my old computers, I just throw them into the dumpster." OK mister, guess what? It looks like the next customer in your queue is ... Al Gore! And he has a little slideshow to show you! Take it away, Al!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Happy Birthday Paul!!!

Today is the 26th anniversary of the birth of my first little, now my "big little" brother Paul. (I say "big little" because even though he'll always be younger than I am, I have to reach up to hug him now!) Happy, happy birthday to someone who is a very expressive and talented writer, a caring brother, a devoted and loving husband, a deep thinker and reader with a wide-ranging curiosity, a sweet uncle, a seeking man of God, and just an all-around dear person.

Sending you lots of love and thoughts of Baskin-Robbins ice cream cake (and maybe Charlie Browns)! :-)

Monday, January 21, 2008

My latest strategy

I wanted to post about a small success we've had lately, mostly for my own sake, because if I can put some of our successes into words, it helps me to not be so focused on all the stuff that gets me down during the day (which mostly stems from my need for sense of achievement or accomplishment -- yeah, after seven and a half years, I'm still trying to let go of that).

We took about 4 weeks off of any kind of formal "schooling" around the holidays. In getting ready to ramp up again, I sat down with Ian and had one of those "what do you want/what do I want" kind of discussions. What does he want? More Legos. What do I want? A positive, cooperative attitude when it comes to tackling our (very gentle) academic agenda for the day. So ... introducing the Punch Card System! We agreed that every time Ian does an assignment, be it a bit of math or his OT-required exercises, with a cheerful attitude (meaning no groans, no eye-rolling, no comments about how it's "Not FUN," etc.) he gets a hole punched in his index card. Five punches, he gets 20 minutes (his suggestion) of computer time. Ten punches, the card becomes a Lego Buck. He gets to decide how many of those he wants to save up, depending on what set he wants.

OK, I know you may be thinking, learning should be its own reward, right? I shouldn't be dangling material stuff in front of him to get him to learn? Well, I struggled with that whole idea for a while and I finally decided, you know what? Sometimes, some of us need a little boost to get us to the point where we can be intrinsically motivated. If the thought of earning Legos get him to bite his tongue before whining about math (and I'm telling you, I work hard to make math interesting around here!), then he may find that the whining was just a bad habit, not a true reflection of his feelings, and that as he forms new habits and achieves competence, math (or writing, or stretching) may not be so bad after all. It's demoralizing to work with a reluctant student, especially when you're also trying to fend off an interrupting toddler, and I just can't do 100% child-led learning -- we need some structure to our day, and I think that's part of education -- and I think this system makes more sense in our relationship than me snapping at him or giving him the if-you-were-in-school lecture ... so. Here we go. So far, pretty good.

I'm also coming to realize that I have to just make up my mind about what I want and require of him, and just stick to it without worrying about whether he's lovin' it. I've had this long-held ideal that homeschooling will be just this constant love-to-learn-fest in which my kids ooze enthusiasm about every book and activity I present to them. Okay, then there's reality. But I struggle with it, because of my difficulty with making decisions and my tendency to second-guess myself. Resolution: Let go of some of that perfectionism, accept that some moments will be more golden than others, and don't worry that I'm somehow "messing them up" if I don't choose the "right" educational approach. It's tough, because there are so many opinions out there about how to homeschool, just as there are many opinions about how to parent. I've really been trying to bring this to the Lord more and more, asking Him to show us what our path should be and to release me from my need for approval, either from my children or from some imaginary critic who sits on my shoulder and says things that I would so easily shoot down if a friend told me she was struggling with the same.

OK, so that said, we did have a pretty good day today, partly because (here's that need for achievement!) I got a ton of stuff organized in the kids' rooms. The girls' room is still very much in progress, but I reupholstered the headboard this weekend, and moved their clothes today, among other things, so that was pretty energizing! Even on a nasty, rainy day! Oscar from next door didn't have school due to MLK Day, so the kids were all fairly occupied with Legoes and such for an unusual amount of time, and the boys even ran around for a while in the cold rain doing who-knows-what (spying on me, apparently -- o the excitement!). We read our story Bible during breakfast, we made slime with cornstarch and water, which was both "awesome" and "nasty" (pretty much synonymous, I guess), we read a couple chapters of Dr. Dolittle, we worked on our product chart -- basically a multiplication grid -- using jellybeans as manipulatives and, uh, brain fuel, we watched Blue Planet, we did chores and stretches, and other than that, it was just play, play, play all day.

The Wedding ...

... was lovely. Very small ceremony, held in the bride's home, and kicked off by her falling down three stairs while making her way to the entrance of the room. In the moment of anticipation, we could see her fiance's face light up upon seeing her, then hear this thumpety-thumpety-thump-"HELP!" Imagine fifty faces looking shocked and uncertain and you'll get the picture. But as soon as Luis leaped to the rescue and the photographer jumped in and started snapping pictures, there was sort of a collective sigh of relief and audible group snicker. She was fine, and reported that it cured her of her case of jangled nerves, because really, things can only get better from there, right?

I bawled my way through my little speech and then tried to make do for the remainder of the ceremony on the one Kleenex someone handed me while I snivelled about how much my kids loved Grace (and you know, if someone takes care of your kids like that, they always have a special place in your heart). Her mom and siblings also spoke, each very touching and humorous, and there was joy a'plenty to go around.

So guess where my kiddos were this whole time? Brace yourselves -- they had spent the night with their grandparents!!!! Yes! All three of them! Unless you count my stint in the ICU with double pneumonia right after Caroline was born, our only night without kids happened right before Eliza was born, almost five years ago. WIth my mom in town, staying with my in-laws to get some much-need rest, we dared to broach the possibility of blessing the three grandparents with the presence of their three charming grandchildren. It was so ... niiiiiice. I missed them, of course, but mostly I was just very grateful for the short respite. And the report was good on all counts (even Caroline's sleeping), so yahoo!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Wedding Bells are Ringing

Soooo tirrreeeeddddd ... I really need to hit the hay but I wanted to touch base. My computer has been out of commission for a few days (I mean seriously out of commission, as in I can't turn it on) and I just took it to the Apple Store today and found out that oh hurray, I get to shell out 192 bucks to get the power supply fixed just so I can turn the thing on again. Great. The "Mac Genius" who was examining me politely informed me that he hadn't worked on a computer "this old" (i.e. six years old! ohmygosh! a dinosaur!). Um, isn't that what being a genius entails? You're not a genius if you only handle the easy stuff! (I didn't point that out to him, but I wanted to.)

There's so much to write about, so many temptations to detail you on the trials of the last week, but I will focus on something immediate and positive and then head to bed. My good friend Grace is getting married this Saturday, and her fiancé, Luis, is staying at our house -- sleeping in the bottom bunk in Ian's room, bless his soul. It's all kind of weird and ironic how things turn out because the whole reason I came to know Grace is that she was sort of expecting to marry, sort of pre-engaged to, someone else, someone who is, uh, close to me (and is not my husband ;-)). When that didn't pan out, we stayed friends through the long months of sadness and I prayed often for her to meet the person who would be right for her. There were several prospects but no one she was really interested in, until she met Luis while staying in Mexico last summer. Now here he is, staying at our house! I think she is hugely brave and adventuresome (and okay, a little panicked at times) for going off to marry a man who will move her to an apartment she has never seen in Mexico City, where she will need to learn Spanish pronto. She wants Tim and me to speak at her wedding, and I have no idea what to say at this point so I guess some beseeching for divine inspiration is going to be necessary. Not that I have nothing to say to/about her, but there is the whole aspect of what to say IN PUBLIC that is brief, maybe witty, and meaningful, and not lame or embarrassing or meandering. Huh.

On that note, she and I and two of our mutual friends (three of us already married) got together tonight at a tearoom for dinner (chick food!) and sort of a send-off slash "welcome to the fold" kind of thing. I hope it was a blessing to her, but honestly, it was just what I needed! LOL! To be able to spend some time with friends, including one from California and one longtime one I don't often get to see, and just talk and connect and speak in complete sentences and, if I may be frank, not really speak of children at all (although husbands, yes ... but in a nice way) -- ah, it was lovely. Lovely in a similar and yet different way from when I used to have monthly-or-so gatherings in Simpsonville, our last place of residence, with the moms from my old playgroup, and we just knew each other's kids and husbands and foibles and kids' quirks had HISTORY together -- my goodness, that was so nice. Hey gals? Remember that weekend away we were going to take, until I got pneumonia and gave birth to #3? I'd still love a rain check! :-)

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Happy Tuesday

"LOST: Black chicken. Looks rather like a wet mop. $10 Reward. Call 380-9427."

That was the sign that Ian dictated to me this morning ("your handwriting is neater, Mom") for him to post on the telephone pole at the end of our street. We had some minor excitement of the negative strain when we couldn't locate our favorite backyard hen, Fluffer. We searched the bushes, behind the rain barrels, all over the place, finally determining that either a hawk had finally gotten her or she had (improbably) run off. But of course, when we arrived home from the day's outing, there she was, strutting around the pen like nobody's business. What's up with that?!?!

We actually had a good day today, and I hate to sound so surprised about that, but my moods tend to be so scenic that having a day on a relatively even keel is always an appreciated pleasure. First of all, I am trying very hard to learn to let go of my compulsive need to feel like I have accomplished something. There is absolutely no way to satisfy that tyrant, since I end up either feeling guilty that I haven't spent enough quality time (with! visible! results!) with the kids, or feeling guilty that I've not done much real "work" for the day. Even as I type this I realize how ridiculous a conundrum the whole thing is, but I've struggled with it for, oh, about seven and a half years, and I hate the way it saps the joy out of parenting. Anyway.

So the other thing was that I have been making use of my new planner (love it! loved getting it for 50% off at Borders!) to really keep track of my to-do's (aside from the household to-do's, for which I use and like the Motivated Moms planner). If I try to keep it all going in my head it's like an amateur juggler dropping tennis balls all over the place. But when it's on paper, it's out of my notoriously unreliable short-term memory and onto my list, where it can be gleefully crossed out. Result: two objects of months-long procrastination are, as of today, no longer with us. For one, I made a dentist appointment for this Thursday. It's beyond ridiculous how long I've been putting that one off, for the silliest of reasons (well, there is the child care issue, but that's not insurmountable really). I can't even admit here how long it's been since I've been to the dentist. It's just not fit to put in print. :-)

Second, the kids and I finally packed up the books we sorted out months ago and took a trip over to the new Children's Medical Center to donate them to the library they keep for their young patients. The kids were iffy about going (yeah! a trip to the hospital! high five, Mom!) but when we arrived at this magnificent place and they saw the huge Rube Goldberg machine in the front lobby, all was more than well. They probably watched those balls run here and there for almost an hour, pausing only for few minutes to give their stack of books to the library lady. For me, it was all about instilling altruism. For them, it was all about those zipping, zooming balls.

The only downside of the experience was that when we finally emerged from the hospital, I could NOT FIND MY VAN. It was completely pathetic! We wandered around the parking lot with me in a mild panic because when I was, like, nine, I saw this movie about Alzheimer's Disease and the first symptom the main character had was not being able to find his car in the parking lot. Apparently that scarred me for my life because every single time I can't find my car, and let me tell you, people, it's happened more than once, I think of that movie and consider going for a brain scan.

Fortunately, my four year old found the car for us. What a relief ...?

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Look who ...

... has entered the blogosphere!

What a pair of (adjective) (plural noun)

So the kids (meaning Ian and Eliza, with agreeable laughter from Caroline) just got into Mad Libs yesterday. It actually made for a roaringly successful car activity, with me taking dictation from the front (and them getting grammar review sneaked into them). And it is abundantly clear to me that there is a universal Mad Libs phenomenon, and it starts really young. It's called, Let's Think of All The Grossest Words Mom will Allow Us to Use and then Use Them Over and Over and Over ...
So, our adjective repertoire includes (and seems to be limited to): stinky, smelly, bloody, and fat.

Some things never change!

Friday, January 4, 2008

'Tis a Gift ...

Something nice and unexpected happened yesterday. I received a card in the mail from my high school Spanish teacher, one of the most inspiring, energetic, passionate teachers and people I've been privileged to learn from in my life. I had for junior and senior year, and she not only never gave me a hard time when I'd accidentally lapse into French because I was taking both at the same time, but she also made Spanish language and literature come alive for me -- I still remember reading 100 Years of Solitude and the poems of Garcia Lorca, all in Spanish, and then writing reams of silly parodies with my friend Elizabeth, which our teacher eventually found out about and loved. She was one of those people for whom you were on your best behavior because you simply didn't want to lose her good opinion. Anyway, I haven't seen her since I visited campus on a trip home my freshman year in college, but last summer I made a [small] donation to the alumni fund in her honor. She wrote lamenting her lateness in thanking me (as if that mattered!) and letting me know in the warmest of terms that she still thinks of me, and of my sister, and would love to know how we're doing. She also said that she and other faculty members look back on the early 1990's as the best time at the school, and judging from recent events and publications, I think I understand why. So, I was so thrilled to hear from her, and now I need to write back to her and fill her in on the last 13 years of my life! So, unlike my classmates, I am not entering my work in the Cannes Film Festival, reviewing books for the New York Times or writing books to be reviewed by same, becoming a partner in a Manhattan law firm, anchoring a TV news station, working as chief resident at a Boston teaching hospital, or influencing policy on Capitol Hill. I am married with three children, and I stay home with them, and I even (gulp!) homeschool them! Of course I am happy with my choices, or maybe I should say content with them, and I wouldn't trade for a minute, but every time the alumni magazine comes in the mail, I launch into full-on reflective mode. Maybe because I never really bought in to the worship of education and success that was so paramount in the world I lived in for those four years, it always seemed like a bit of a borrowed lifestyle even then -- and even more so now. I got an excellent education in many respects, but some would look at the life I'm living now and accuse me of wasting it. And they could be right. By the standards of the world, and particularly the world of the Northeast prep school crowd, I have not been a success. My daily challenges tend to run not toward deconstructing Kafka or Nietzsche but along the lines of convincing a two year old to let me help her with her seatbelt and not to eat an entire jar of fish oil capsules when she is dead set on doing so.

And yet, because I have tasted a bit of that world, I know firsthand that none of that -- education, power, money, outward success -- truly satisfies. As high schoolers, my classmates were groping with the big questions about the meaning of life, and I wonder whether they still do, or whether their pursuits have muffled that seeking. At that age, I already had come to know the One who is "the way, the reality, and the life," and to know that He does satisfy, that He does fill that hole inside that nothing else can. So I was different then, and knew it, and am still different now, and know it now. Once every few months, I get a message from the past, via magazine or handwritten note, and the issue is grappled with, and settled, again. Though it may not always look like it, truly we are blessed with life abundant.

I wonder what my teacher will think.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Woman Versus Tent

You don't have to know me for more than, say, thirty minutes, to figure out that I am NOT mechanically inclined. And being married to a mechanical engineer who has an innate mastery of all things, well, mechanical has only spoiled me out of developing any spark of such ability that may have been latent in my childhood. So, when my kids ask me to do something like erect a tent in their room, it is with considerable gritting of teeth than I bend (literally) to the task at hand.

I have the distinct feeling that a hidden camera recording of me spending half an hour wrestling a pop-up tent into the small space not taken up by their bunk bed and toys might well be posted on America's Funniest Home Videos -- or, I suppose, the 21st-century equivalent, YouTube. It'd be like that Miss South Carolina video that was being bandied about as a shocking example of beauty without brains (apparently I'm deficient in both).

Happily, the tent is NOW up, I'm about to reward myself with chocolate, and all three kids are gleefully romping about. Was it worth it? Well, I'm sitting here in a quiet, peaceful room writing this, am I not?

Oh, and by the way, about the Korean child. We were all set to host a fourth-grader for two months, for reasons of broadening our kids' cultural horizons. And, um, okay, there was money involved. This was through the tutoring center where I work one afternoon a week. But we just found out two days ago that he will NOT be arriving tomorrow after all, since his parents objected to the fact that we had younger children. So, all our painting and remodeling and whatnot need not have happened ... but then again, the girls are excited about their "new" room, and there was major decluttering going on, so that's all good. And we're disappointed, but also, to be very honest, at peace with the fact that it was just not God's timing for us to do this, for reasons we may never know. Maybe when Ian's a little older ...

OK my time is up! I'm being summoned to see something "truly amazing!"

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Congratulations Peter and Phoebe!

My brother just got engaged!

Aren't they adorable? He's #4 out of the 5 siblings and is currently in medical school in San Diego. And he's worn that stocking cap for years! Not continuously, of course. :-) Apparently Phoebe thinks it's part of his charm. I think she has good taste.
Not sure when the big day will be, but I serendipitously stumbled across a major clearance sale and I already have my outfit! Eliza is in raptures, of course, at the thought of a new "wedding dress" (At the rate my siblings marry, she's had a new one every year for three years now). I haven't exactly broached the subject to Ian as he tends to break out in hives at the thought of a button-down shirt. :-)