Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Loving the Heart of America (KC 2017)

When I was a kid, my grandparents would take my older cousins to Kansas City for a shopping weekend.  It seemed like a foreign land--somewhere very far away, but worthy of the trip if you were a pre-teen in search of new school clothes and a grandparent looking for a bonding experience.  As I grew up, I knew plenty of people who would trek down to KC for various athletic events, shopping, and some good BBQ.  But for some reason, I have never been there.  When a high school friend moved to KC years ago, I had good intentions of visiting her but again, it seemed so far away and almost unattainable.  But this summer, after reconnecting with her on RAGBRAI, we promised to get together more often and for once we actually stuck to that!!

Here's the story of the way it happened:
I follow one of my favorite author's (Jodi Picoult) on Instagram and saw that she and her daughter had created a stage adaptation of one of the books they co-authored.  The show was set to debut in September in KC so this felt like the perfect reason to finally road-trip down I35.  (That sounds like Bess isn't enough of a reason which is totally not true....) The kids and I left after lunch on Friday and came back Sunday and in typical Spahnville fashion, we packed plenty into 48 hours.

On Saturday, Bess took us on a driving tour of KC-- where we crossed into the state of Kansas and Charlie shouted, "Mom!  Now I've been in NINE states!" She showed us different areas of the city, and pointed out several spots along the way.  We stopped at the WW1 memorial, let the kids explore a little, and promised Charlie that his papa would be more than happy to bring him back to actually go inside the museum someday.

Bess also showed us a cool little park with the best climbing structure and zip line--where they could have stayed for another hour....

And we met a Spark friend for coffee...

That afternoon, Bess and Tom treated us to Joe's BBQ which was pretty f'ing amazing.  (Worthy of that f-word.)  If you go, be sure to order the burnt ends because oh-my-goodness, Anna and I could have eaten the entire container.  After the girls went down for a nap, Charlie and Tom watched the Iowa game-- but had to celebrate in silence so as not to wake the girls.

After the girls woke up, we headed downtown to Crown Plaza where we watched artists create chalk-art, got the kids' faces painted, listened to live music, and ran though sky walks.  My little rural kids just love these small pleasures that cities provide.

We also checked out Union Station and rode a "real-live-train"!  (It was actually the KC streetcar but same-diff)  The kids thought standing up was about the coolest thing we could have done, and honestly, I think we could have ridden this thing for hours.  Bess, if you're reading this, let's plan on riding the whole loop next time because I think they'd be all for it.  Maybe twice. (Can we put wine in a sippy cup?)

That night, Bess and I went out for appetizers and caught the show.  The play, Between the Lines, ended up being really good and if it ever makes it   when it makes it to Broadway/ Off-Broadway, you will definitely need to see it.  I can't decide if it was the fact that I was having a girls' night out, the wine, the good food, the catchy tunes, or a really good theatrical performance but sometime during the show, I leaned over to Bess and whispered, I'm having so much fun!! I don't want this night to end!   Things got even better when we spotted Jodi Picoult in the lobby and snagged a few minutes and a photo with her.

The next morning, Bess made the best pancakes I've ever had.  (Seriously, this girl needs to open up a pancake shop and I will tell everyone to go there.)  We played on scooters outside, went to the park again, and ate pizza downtown (giving the kids another opportunity to ride the street car).  Anna was exhausted and slept for almost three hours after we finally gassed up the car and got on the road.

Our little trip was short but so so sweet.  And as I was driving, half listening to Moana and half reflecting on things in my head, I realized that while summer is over, our little Spahnville adventures are not.  And we'll continue to pick up and take off (or stay home and take it in) whenever the urge strikes.... after all, life is lived in the adventure, right?  <--hmmmm..... is it really?  Perhaps this is a future blog post?   Thank you Bess and thank you KC!! We promise we'll be back!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

A Letter to my Second Grader

My super amazing cousin (I always wished she was my older sister because I never had one and always thought she was the coolest and prettiest person I ever knew) has the neatest tradition in her family.  When her kids graduate from high school, she and her husband take that child on an international trip.  The trip is not for the whole family, but rather, something special for just that child.  When she did this with her oldest daughter, I looked at Mason and told him to start saving our pennies because we're gonna have a new tradition when Charlie graduates!

Then, somewhere along the line (Glennon Doyle maybe?), I read a letter a mother had written to her child on the first day of school.  And while I had good intentions of writing Charlie a letter on his first day of kindergarten, I never got around to it--but I did do it last year.  And when I finished his letter last year I went to the bank, put a $100 bill inside the envelope, sealed it closed, and tucked it in the safe-deposit box.  I thought of the trip we'll take him on someday (right now, he wants his trip to be Tokyo!) and how fun it would be to hand him 12 letters, written throughout the years, each with a little spending money inside.  So, a new tradition has been made.

Two nights ago, I sat down to write Charlie's letter.

August 22, 2017
9:35 pm

Dear Charlie, 

Tomorrow morning, I will head into your bedroom and open the blue room-darkening curtains.  I’ll tousle your hair and give you a kiss on the cheek and say, “Good morning, Buddy!” And you’ll curl deeper into your covers, surrounded by your menagerie of stuffed animals.  (Current bedmates are Puppy, Bunny, Rainbows, Rainbows Jr., Smokey, and some song bird that makes noise.). You’ll mumble something about being tired (we tried in vain to be in bed before 8:30, I swear we did) and roll over.  I will try my hardest to remain patient and un-phased by your inability to wake up in the morning.  On my third attempt to rouse you, I’ll lay down my trump card:  “If you want a donut before school, you should probably get up so you have time to eat it.”  And we’ll be up and moving. 

Tomorrow morning, you will begin life as a second grader.  In some ways, this is hard for me to believe but in more ways, it’s hard for me to accept that you’ve only been in our lives for seven years.  How is that possible?  You are a central force in this family and I cannot even remember it before you were in the picture.  In seven years, I’ve watched you grow from a tiny 7 pound baby into a 52 pound little boy.  Your adorable chubby cheeks have been replaced by strong cheekbones with freckles peppering the bridge of your nose.  The same teeth that kept you up at night from the time you were only 4 months old have been replaced by slightly crooked, sturdy, adult teeth.  The little blonde whisps of hair are gone, and now short brown hair (highlighted with purple or yellow or gold and styled into a “faux-hawk” on special occasions) remains.  You’ve changed so much in seven short years and while many mothers lament the fact that their children are growing up, I can honestly say that every year with you has been better than the last.  

I’ll always have a special place in my heart for your baby days (what mother wouldn’t?), but watching you grow and mature has been my favorite thing on this parenting journey by far.  I love hearing you giggle as you read books to yourself and understand a new joke that wasn’t even explained by your parents.  I love watching you figure new things out— like Lego creations or mind-bending puzzlers.  I love your imagination— the running game you play at night after supper which is understood only by you, the games you create with a mandala board and football cards and a dice, the “magic” you perform on my flowers with a bent stick and a wave of your hands.  Each of these things, though simple and normal and ordinary, takes my breath away a little bit.  

While Daddy and I seem to harp on you to grow up and be mature and act responsibly and “think before you do that already!”— we also secretly love some of the things that remind us of how little you still are.  The fact that your hand slips into mine so easily anywhere we are— in public or private, the way you pronounce “ambulance” like “am-blee-ints”, the total lack of modesty you seem to have, are just a few.  As a parent, sometimes it’s so hard to remember how young you really are; how very few days you have actually spent on this Earth— and yet, we really do expect you to have a lot of answers (and coping skills and decision making skills and money awareness and gratitude….) and we are frustrated when you don’t have them.  This year, my personal mom-goal is to really be mindful of the moment we are experiencing.  I know it won’t be all perfect and rosy, but I’d like to do better at just accepting where we are in the actual moment— instead of waiting until it has passed and adding a cherry on top in my memory bank.  

This year, you seem semi-excited for school.  Your teacher is young and excited and willing to try new things.  She’s eager and patient and so soft and loving— a perfect match for you.  After open house, your spirits seemed to lift and you went home to pick out the perfect 1st day of school outfit.  I asked you what you were most excited about this year and your response was so typical of a 2nd grader, I had to laugh. (Recess, lunch, and snack.  And maybe reading Captain Underpants in school) 

Tonight, as I write this, I’m thinking about what I’m most excited about for you, and I think it's the fact that you will probably start having real childhood memories this year-- ones that you'll remember even as you grow up.   I remember my second grade year like it was yesterday.  My teacher was Miss Kruger (one of my all-time favorites) and both Kelly and Joellen were in my class.  When I was in 2nd grade, my grandfather designed the addition to our school and was a guest speaker about being an architect.  I wet my pants in 2nd grade when I couldn’t get my snow pants off quick enough and I hid in the stall of the bathroom until someone found me…and then eventually Papa showed up with dry clothes, a giant hug, and a piece of hard butterscotch candy.  When I was in 2nd grade, my classmates and I huddled around a tv on a cart at the front of the room and watched “The Challenger” shuttle launch…. and we were too young to really understand why exactly Miss Kruger was softly crying as she turned the tv off and decided to resume reading “Charlotte’s Web”. 

This year, you are going to grow in so many ways.  “Researchers” say that 2nd grade is the time of the most growth.  On average, kids grow physically, mentally, and emotionally more in 2nd grade than any other year.  I have no doubt that this will hold true for you as well.  As you go through second grade, you will be asked to create goals and plans and work to achieve them.  Daddy and I will support you in every new venture you dream of.  We will work on flash cards and read before bed.  We will build rockets and make science projects out of magnets and balloons and plates of water.  We will attend music programs and choral readings and be the first to volunteer when your teacher asks for someone to come read to your class.  

But more importantly, Daddy and I promise to be the people that we hope you look up to.  We want you to learn in school and take academics seriously, but we both feel that at the end of the day, it’s much more important to be a good person.  As you go into your second grade year, please remember to use the sweet, caring, heart that you were given.  Please notice those children on the playground who are sitting alone or don’t know what it’s like to play with a true friend.  Please remember that school is hard for many kids, be patient with your classmates who may need extra help in certain areas, and be willing to offer help if they ask for it.  Please keep a grateful heart and remember that many children do not have a house filled to the brim with books (blame ours on your mama), most have not flown on a plane to a different part of the country, many do not have a refrigerator and pantry filled with healthy food.

I know that you already recognize these things, which confirms my belief in the person you already are.  As you enter those school doors tomorrow, with your Star Wars backpack slung over both shoulders and your cold lunch all ready to go, please remember the three things I will tell you every day for the next 180 days:  

“Be kind.  Try your hardest.  Know I love you.”  

You’re gonna do great. 


First Day of School 2017-2018

Okay. It's official.  I can no longer deny that summer has officially ended because school has officially begun.  And you know what?  Despite all my anxiety about letting go of summer and moving forward, I'm doing fine.  Not great yet, but I'll settle for fine at the moment.

You know how we Spahns like any excuse to buy donuts, right?  Well, the first day of school definitely justifies them.  (Right now, Charlie always goes for long johns and is especially crazy for the ones with filling inside--which make me want to gag but I probably loved them when I was seven too.  Anna just eats the frosting off whatever we give her so she's not picky in that way.)

I just love scrolling through Instagram at the beginning of a new school year.  I love the tradition of photos on front stoops or near the trees in the yard.  Sometimes kids are posed on little benches or props and I gotta admit that I love it all.  Growing up, I remember taking first day of school pictures every year (although the photos remain safely packed away in some Rubbermaid tote in my parent's basement), always on the front porch, proudly wearing new back-to-school clothes with a backpack slung over my shoulders.  Now, I love taking these photos of Charlie and noticing how much he's growing and changing right before my eyes.  And ask my husband, when I took this photo yesterday, the words that followed were, "Oh my gosh!  You are getting so big!!"

First day of school for both of us.  Grade 2 for him and 16th year "school-counseling" for me!  (I started when I was 16) 

Charlie's classroom teacher is using "flexible seating" this year which means that she has no desks and kids are given several choices about where they would like to sit instead.  For someone like Charlie, this might be challenging-- but we are 100% okay with challenges, and he's super excited about trying it out.

And seriously, these two!  I asked if I could get a quick picture and this is what they gave me.  Apparently even though they are best friends and everyone in the whole world knows it, they can't let it be known.  And they tried to refuse to smile.  (They both are terrible at that game)

Oh, and in Parkersburg the mascot came to visit our assembly.  (Which just so happened to be my counseling counterpart.  We thought this was a good photo of the counseling department!)

(We have a "building" theme this year, hence the construction garb.  And when I almost reached for plain socks, I reminded myself of one of the many perks of working in an elementary school--
saying yes to crazy whenever given the opportunity.)
I'm excited to begin a new school year and see what is in store for us.  There are so many changes within my building and our new reconfiguration, but change is exciting and change promotes growth. I love being on the cusp of something great-- and have a feeling that's right where I am.  Cheers to a great year!!

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Summer Catch Up: Swimming Lessons and Flynn Staycation

July 10, 2010

My childhood memories of swimming lessons include three main things: 
  1.  Riding the "Y" bus after school (which I sometimes hated especially when I had to sit next to this one older kid with really stinky breath.)
  2.  Being one of only a handful of elementary students who knew how to use a combination lock 
  3.  My huge pink towel that my mom had personalized by sewing on a small piece ofcounted cross-stitch that said: KARAH BOMGAARS in all caps. 

I could go into a long story about how I breezed through the Y swimming lesson levels (except for Seahorse; I had to take that one 3 times because that was the class where you had to perfect The Front Crawl) and then took some of the upper ones extra times just to continue taking them....but I will refrain.  What it boils down to is this:  I loved swimming as a kid and still love it as an adult (although I don't really like how cold it is at first...).  I dreamt about my kids loving the water as much as me and they are well on their way!  

I have to credit some of their love for the water and most of their ability in the water to Miss Kim-- who teaches swimming lessons out of her backyard in Des Moines.  Whenever I mention that we drive to DM for swimming lessons, I get a raised eyebrow look of surprise and I feel the need to justify it. In four days, Kim teaches what most Y lessons teach in an entire year.  But more than that, taking lessons in Des Moines gives us an excuse to hang out with Sara and her boys for four days.  It's a little stay-cation and knowing we're super close to home makes it that much easier---just in case we find ourselves in severe meltdown mode and need to sleep in our own beds for a night. :) 

Sara set up their inflatable slide and despite five older boys playing, jumping, and running around on it, Anna wasn't ever ready to get off.  Sadly, she got off long enough to run through the grass and step on a ground wasp--giving her quite the sting on her toe.  In typical Anna fashion, she cried for a few minutes and then was ready to brave the slide again.  

We also watched Vincent play baseball-- but the word "watched" is used rather loosely.  Partly because this was 7 year old kid-pitch, where most everyone got hit by the ball (but they got candy at the end if they got hit! Seriously.) and watching a slushy melt into the sandy ground was more entertaining.  Mostly Charlie played in the dirt with Sebastian and some other kids while Anna walked to the bathroom fifty million times.  And her mom had to go with her every time.  Awesome. 

It was so hot and our Yeti's were only filled with water.  But we thought we looked cute.  

Ice Cream treats with the neighbors before bed that night...

Traveling with my kids is great but bedtime is never easy.  I've never been able to decide if it's really hard or if it's just that by the time bedtime comes, I'm totally exhausted and don't have an ounce of patience left-- which makes it so hard.  But Anna curled into Charlie as he read books to her and I forced myself to focus on that moment, not the hard part that was inevitably coming (and did). 

We had a perfect day to relax at the pool after lessons-- Anna took relaxing poolside quite literally. 

For some reason, Charlie had it in his mind that we were going to Build-a-Bear to celebrate swimming lessons.  When we found ourselves at the mall to eat lunch one day, I guess it just sort of happened.  Honestly, it was not my intention but how can you turn down a super expensive stuffed animal?!

On our last morning, the three of us spent a little time at the Urbandale library (which has a great kid section if you're looking for a new library) before hanging out at Walker Johnston park (one of our favorites).  We grabbed McDonald's and ate, played, explored until everyone was definitely ready to be home.

 Swimming lessons/ Staycation....such a great thing to do in summer.

And just in case you need some video to brighten your day....  here you go. :)

Wednesday, July 26, 2017


About two weeks ago, I was lying on the couch after the kids were in bed, watching old Office reruns and trying to read the book that I haven't been quite able to get into.  In an effort to be productive without have to try to keep reading, I sent a random text to a high school friend about the possibility of us getting our families together.  We texted back and forth, but with little success in figuring out logistics...and somehow RAGBRAI came up.  As in, "Are you doing any days of ragbrai?"  And when the answer was "no"....we ended up deciding that riding a day of RAGBRAI might just be the perfect way to catch up--- without the kids.

We knew the route was traveling from Spencer to Algona-- roughly 60 miles and while it would be hard, we could ride 10 miles an hour and still get there before suppertime. Mason thought I was crazy, and I admit that I did too....but I knew I could do it even if it would be a little painful.  So Bess and I decided that we would do day 2 of the ride-- assuming that we could both coordinate childcare and mentally train (because it was really too late to physically train). Over the course of the next week, Bess and I texted back and forth-- mostly reciting our new mantra: "We'll be fine! What could possibly go wrong?!"  (Also, RAGBRAI is known for a lot of pie on the route---and I have been known to like pie.)

By Sunday it was go-time.  We dropped our vehicles off in Algona and then headed to Spencer with my parents.  We drove right to the bike store to get Bess' tires checked and look into a bike rack for me.  While she took her bike in to the store, we left mine on the rack out on my dad's truck.  Meanwhile, I looked at racks and luggage bags and decided it would be easier to have my bike inside so I'd know what would fit.  Dad went out to grab my bike and almost immediately came back in.  His stride was quick and he had a look on his face that I couldn't quite read.
      "Karah.  We have a problem.  You're missing a tire.  We must have lost it on the road on the way here."  I let his words sink in but I couldn't quite comprehend them.  What did that mean? What had happened?  It was lost? Gone? Fell off??  So the four of us scrambled out of the store to check out my bike and sure enough, the wheel was gone.  But we quickly decided that it had been stolen, not just dropped.  After all, rear tires don't just fall off.  My mind raced as I thought about the implications of this....was I done? Not riding? S-O-L?  I was instantly sad, then mad... and Dad was really mad.

Then, something shifted like bike gears in my brain and I accepted the fact that I needed a new wheel.  The only problem was that they don't make the same wheel anymore and the owner of the bike shop wasn't sure the new model would fit my bike.  Ugh.  But long story short: They had a wheel that fit and set me up with a new wheel, a new tire, new tube, and components.  Sweet expensive story!  But here are my positive thoughts about this whole crappy situation:

1.  The whole bike didn't get stolen.  That would have really grinded my gears.  (Get it!?)
2.  A perfectly great replacement wheel fit my bike frame.
3.  If this was the worst thing that we were to experience, then I'd take it!
4.  This made us remember that anything can happen and while trust is great, we might want to not trust too much on this ride.
5.   Someday, we'll look back on this and chuckle.  I'll wonder what happened to that wheel, but I'll still chuckle.
6.   Also, we made a funny IG story about this but I forgot to save it in time.  Just picture my mom giving her best "Mad face" at the camera.  That alone should make you smile.

On Monday morning we woke up and Mom made us a breakfast for champions--even though we were too nervous to eat much.  My parents decided to ride us out of town so we grabbed our bikes and were off!

But not without taking photos first!!


Stopping to let cars pass on Hwy 18 near Dickens. 

Our first stop: About 13.1 miles in and just before the turn to head down the Gillet Grove hill!  Stopped to pour powdered Gatorade in our water and use the porta-pots.

Next stop: Photo opportunity with the "Sorry about Steve King" people.  Near Silver Lake, IA.

First Town: Ayrshire Iowa!!  24 miles in and feeling awesome! Stopped for bathroom break, light yoga in the park, and an egg on a stick which was pretty good.

....oh, and a photo in front of a big ol' tractor!

We didn't have any plans on stopping until we saw a sign that said, "See a Baby Llama!!".  Bess was in front of me as we passed the sign and I yelled, "I kinda want to see the llama!!"  She glanced back and hollered, "Let's stop!"  so we pulled over, saw the baby llama with his mama and bought a monster cookie while we were at it.

Next stop: Curlew, IA.  Never heard of the town before but it was rocking'!  A line three blocks long wound around the park for "Mr. Porkchop" meat.

Bikers dismounting and walking their bikes through Curlew.

Next Stop: Mallard, IA (home of the friendly ducks). Stopped for lunch (soft shell tacos and strawberry smoothies) and a little rest.  Never knew it would feel so good to take off my helmet and bike shoes!

Bess finally found a hose with free water-- thanks to the Mallard Fire Station. :)

Next Stop: West Bend, IA
We loved these people, shouting "Welcome to West Bend!' at the tops of their lungs.  The guy was the best but he was wearing a president Reagan shirt and we didn't know how we felt about that.

We walked around the Grotto for a few minutes, amazed by this place that took 42 years to build--entirely by hand.  We found souvenir rocks for the kids and jumped back on our bikes.  We had 10 miles to Whittemore and then another 10 to Algona.  We were almost there!!

By this time, we were 50 miles into our journey and we had only seen one sign advertising pie-- and by the time we came along, it had been sold out.  I was bummed and discouraged until I saw a tent with a banner reading, "The Pie Lady"!  The kids manning the money set me up with some delicious apple pie that maybe tasted even better because I had to wait for it.   (As it turns out, "The Pie Lady" is actually from Gladbrook and had just been in Grundy at our town festival a few weeks earlier.)

(A note on the pies: After seeing the Pie Lady at mile 50, we saw pie after pie after pie stand for the next 20 miles.  So first 50 miles---no pie.  Last 20 miles--- lots of pie.  But by mile 50 I was starting to only think about sitting barefoot in a camp chair with a cold beer that has an alcohol content of 8.5%.... pie was starting to pale in comparison.

Final town: Whittemore, IA.  We bought cold water and ate shot bloks before beginning our final leg-- straight into the wind on our way to Algona.

About five miles out we saw a slice of watermelon placed on the side of the road.  About a block farther, another watermelon slice.  We kept pedaling and saw another... then another and another and by the time we had reached the tent selling watermelon, we were halfway off our bikes with $2 ready to had over for some of the delicious fruit we never knew we loved so much!

Final town: Algona, IA
The last leg was definitely the hardest-- especially as it ended on a long hill running into town.  Speaking only for myself, this was one of the hardest parts of the trek.  But we had made it-- we were there!!  (And only about two miles away from our destination where we could really sit and relax for the rest of the night.)

Our celebration landed us at Train Wreck Winery where we enjoyed sangria and conversations with random people.  Bess was wearing a KC t-shirt which sparked several conversations-- note to self: Wear something recognizable like S&R or UNI or Loras to get the conversations rolling.

How the day unfolded in an Instragam Story: 


If you've every kinda-wanted to do this ride, I encourage you to do it.  I'm not the hugest bike riding fan but I realized that part of the reason is because I always ride alone.  Riding with a huge group of people, all connected by a common goal, was really magical.  The people we met were amazing.  Iowa nice is a real thing.  So is drafting.  (And that is nerve-wracking but freaking awesome)

This ride was magical in so many ways.
1. It came about from a random text.  The universe knew we needed some time with each other.

2. Bess and I haven't spent this much time together in over 20 years.  Yet we picked up right where we left off and never once were at a loss for words.

3.  Re-connecting with people who know your past is just magical.  There is something so special about the people who were in your life during such formative years--like high school and college-- that they'll never be forgotten.

4.  The physical ride was challenging but achievable.  And now that it's over, it has definitely reignited something inside of me that's been missing for a long time.

5.  We had the perfect weather trifecta: Sunny and 70-80 degrees, no wind, flat terrain.

If I had it to do over again, I would make sure to:
1. Take my bike with me wherever I go and definitely not leave it unattended in a back alley.

2.  Buy an actual legit cargo bag for the back rack.  Untangling bungee cords and rifling through a nylon bag every time I needed chapstick or sunscreen or money was a total drag.

3. Get matching tanks or jerseys with my ride partner(s) because looking cute is important.  But also, I loved seeing the groups or teams of people and knowing they all belonged together.

4. Train more than a few days and probably ride more than 10 miles.  My legs never once hurt (still haven't) but my knees, wrists, and neck are different stories.

5. Have candy or stickers or something fun to toss to the kids along the side of the road who come out to cheer us on.  I have to think about the perfect thing for this....

6. Print a map of the route beforehand.  We had a general idea of the towns and distances between but it would have been nice to have something concrete to refer to.

7. Check ahead for ride highlights.  For instance, we missed the "Swine Cuddles" and "Dunk Tank" in Whittemore and those are two things I would have definitely participate in had I known they were there.

8. Make a music playlist.  People didn't appreciate the Hamilton soundtrack like I had hoped.

9.  Get a kick-stand or figure out how people lean two bikes up against each other without them falling....

10. Lead Yoga for Bikers at one of the towns.  I think I need a banner.....