Puppy Update

I don’t have anything much to say, mostly because the kids are currently in the tub, and I’m only mostly sure they’re not drowning (kidding, kidding…. I can see them.)

First off:  I forgot how NOT-FUN potty training is.  Does anyone remember how long it takes to potty train a puppy?  I’ve had her a week and we’re about halfway there, but seriously – it’d be nice to turn my back once in awhile.

Anyways, I’d give you TONS AND TONS of really cute photos, because seriously – Artemis is one of the cutest puppies I’ve ever seen, but the truth is that black dogs are kind of impossible to photograph.  I go to take a picture of her, and it just looks like some kind of dark, amorphous blob holding a ball in its mouth.

Also, I only have a cell phone to take a picture, and by the time I get it out and take a shot, it’s usually a picture of a dark, amorphous blob’s tail exiting stage left.

I did, however, manage to get a couple today, so here you go:

(About three minutes after I left the breeder’s.)

(She’s an old pro at car rides now.)
We are pretty lucky to have a dog like her – we definitely got pick of the litter – and I’m not just saying that – that’s what the breeder told me.  
The only downside I’ve found thus far with her is that she’s smart.  Like, really smart.  I know that sounds like a good thing, but I was secretly hoping for a middle-of-the-pack intelligence.  Dumb dogs are easier, and you can be a little lazier about training them.   We’re looking into clubs near us so we can start training her to hunt – I like dog training, The Bean likes hunting (I want to hunt elk, but ducks don’t interest me at all), and Artemis wants a job, so it seems like it will be a good fit for everyone. 

She’s 15 pounds at just shy of 8 weeks – that’s a three pound weight gain in one week.  Yeesh.  Provided I keep her slim and limit her food, she should mature around 75 pounds or so.

Anyways, I know this is the world’s most boring post, but I did give you puppy pics, so hopefully it wasn’t a complete waste of your time. 
Hey, as a reminder – NaNoWriMo’s almost here!  Is anyone else doing it with me?
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Owning Chickens is Awkward

The chickens are awesome.

I’m getting 2-3 eggs a day right now.

My pets make me food….. and when they cease to make me food, they will become food.  They are the most perfect pets ever.  Also, they eat slugs, so I no longer have to worry about stepping on any of those creepy unbelievably gigantic slugs that the Pacific Northwest seems to breed. The chickens are pretty tame now.  They’ve gone from being completely unhandled to following me around the yard, begging for food.

On a side note – did you know that I’m an extremely popular person?  No matter how hard I try I can’t manage to sneak outside without two little boys, two cats, and now three chickens revolving around me like some kind of really loud, awkward solar system.   On Friday I’m going to add a puppy to the mix.  I miss my solitude some days, but at least my self esteem is doing well. 

So, back to the chickens…. Yeah.  The chickens are getting tame.  They seem to like it here, and they like me.

They really like me.

And by like me, I mean they REALLY like me.

They trail me around whenever I’m in the yard, clucking and complaining, and if I turn around to pay attention to them, they, uh…

Well, I’ll just be blunt:  They assume the position.

Yes, that’s right.  Every time I turn around to pay attention to one of my new chickens, she crouches, flares her wings, and looks over her shoulder at me, waggling her little chicken eyebrows suggestively.  I know chickens can’t speak, but I can hear it clear as day:  

Hop on, Sailor.

Do you have any idea how incredibly awkward it is to try to carry on a conversation with your neighbor while three chickens flutter around you, desperately begging for sex?

I mean, don’t get me wrong— I’m flattered.  It’s always nice to be admired, and I do love my chickens. 

I just don’t LOVE my chickens, you know?

Something Dumb

Years.

For years we’ve been doing the right thing.

We got married on a Friday for under $300, and we stayed in a discount hotel room for our wedding night.  Saturday morning was the Bean’s hard class and he didn’t want to risk falling behind, so we didn’t even take the weekend off.

We rented a duplex that shared a backyard with hoarders.  We could have afforded better, but it was the wise financial decision….. right up until we found out that even though we were paying the landlord he wasn’t paying the bank, and the bank foreclosed on our little home.

We could have afforded a small apartment, but it wasn’t nearly as smart as moving in with my parents and sharing the rent.  We took two bedrooms, they took a bedroom and the garage, and we split the yard.  They cut us a great deal on babysitting so I could go back to work.

Still.

We lived with my parents for three years, right at the start of our marriage.

It was the right thing to do.

When the time came to trade in my old car with almost 200,000 miles for something better, I daydreamed about trucks.  I knew they were completely impractical… but on the other hand, a Honda Element wasn’t.  I researched, and plotted, and planned, and drooled about a late model orange Honda Element with a cute little camping package…..

But I got a plain brown Honda Civic instead.  The Bean was able to finagle a great price on them through his work, it was cheaper with better gas mileage and a nicer warranty, and it was the financially smart thing to do.

We could have afforded a horse lease while I was living in California.

Instead, we saved our money – it just made good financial sense.

While our peers were going out to dinner, and movies, and on vacations, and bought new clothes and hired baby sitters….we went to work.  And school.  And home.  Then we went right back to work and school, and then we did it all over again.

I’m not complaining – it was the smart thing to do, and because we made the right choices, tiny little smart choices over and over, it’s why we were able to jump right in and buy a house when we moved here, instead of renting somewhere.

When The Bean traveled up here to the Portland area in January on a whirlwind trip to meet his accounting firm as well as to look at houses, I desperately wanted to come with him.  I wanted to meet the state, and see the area, and help choose my very first house.

It would have cost several hundred dollars extra – so we decided it wasn’t the smart thing to do.  It wasn’t financially wise.

Etc, etc, etc, etc…. You get the point.

With one or two exceptions, when it came time to make a decision, we have always made the right choice – the smart choice, the financially sound choice.

This is my first winter in the Pacific Northwest.  Except for the times when I put on layers of waterproof everything on all three of us, I’m going to be trapped inside with two hyperactive little boys, learning how to deal with grey skies and rain.  I have plenty of things I need to take care of.  The last thing I need to push me over the edge of sanity is a puppy, no matter how cute.

No matter how fuzzy.

 

No matter how adorable.

Even if I did want a puppy, there are plenty of animals needing homes.  With the exception of horses, I’ve never paid a penny to acquire an animal.   Every cat I’ve ever owned, every dog that’s been a part of my life – they’ve all been “free” – as free as owning an animal can be, that is.

Why would I plunk down money on a purebred animal when pedigree has never mattered to me?

 

It’s not like I’m going to do field trial competitions, or show a dog. Sure, you get the chance to know more about the animal and the bloodlines they’re coming from, but do I really need to dump money on a luxury like that?

With all of the free dogs on Craigslist, why would anybody pay money for a well bred one, even if the stud dog is pretty magnificent?

It’s not like we’re a duck hunting family. That kind of talent would just be a waste.

Pretty is as pretty does….. and I can barely remember to brush my hair in the mornings, so show conformation would also be a waste on me.

If we want a purebred,  we don’t need to go hunting for a breeder……. even if there does happen to be a truly great one within driving distance who has an impeccable reputation for producing quality, calm, intelligent Labradors.

I mean, sure there’s a difference in energy level between an field-bred, American-style Labrador and a calmer British-bred Labrador…. and there’s also the difference in head style, with those British labs having big, beautiful, blockheads that look like they’re straight out of a painting….. but that’s just icing on a cake.  Pretty doesn’t make a dog, and there are plenty of Labrador rescues teeming with young, child-friendly dogs all over the Pacific Northwest.  Admittedly, most of those dogs are going to need some heavy training to learn how to be good house pets, but I’ve done it before, and I can do it again.

Sure, it’d be nice to know the family history of a pup, but I’ve managed just fine in the past with whatever rescue dog I’ve acquired, so why change that now….. Even if the puppies’ mother has big, soft, soulful eyes like this:

Even if she is mellow, and sweet, and looks like she’d be your best friend for life:

You can find a great dog anywhere.  There’s no reason to pay money – that’s just…. that’s just silly.  It…. It doesn’t even make any sense.

 

But sometimes…. sometimes you just have to do something a little crazy.

A little zany.

A little dumb.

When the Bean and I were discussing the possibility of adding to our family, he said something that resonated with me.

“Becky, we’re going to have this dog until we’re in our forties.  Why not get the dog we really want?”

The more I thought about it, the more I realized how right he was.

Why not?

So, Internet, meet Artemis:

The breeder, Merganser Labradors, breeds some of the most incredible Labradors I’ve ever seen – and I did a lot of internet research once we started dreaming bigger, beyond Craigslist.  They have a fantastic reputation on the internet forums for producing healthy, intelligent, British-type blockhead  Labradors with brains, beauty, and a steady temperament. 

I hope you’ve enjoyed the photos on this post, because they all came to me from the breeder’s incredibly talented husband, and they’re probably the best photos we will ever have of our new little girl.

She’s coming home in a week and I have to admit, I’m pretty excited.  Aside from my little car and this house, I don’t think I’ll have ever owned anything quite this nice.

What Every Chicken Owner Should Know

Look, I’ve read the “Backyard Chickens are awesome” literature.

I’ve scanned the forums.

I’ve joined the Facebook pages.

They discuss shavings versus sand, and how to build nesting boxes, and other mundane details like that.  They’re useful, but the truth is nobody seems to talk about what owning chickens is REALLY like, so I thought I’d let you know:

  1. Chickens are lazy.  I mean, LAZY.  My three hens get up about dawn, industriously scratch around for an hour or so, and then go stand in a corner of the yard and recover.  After a little relaxing, they’ll scratch around for a bit longer, then retire back into the coop for a nice, long, three hour nap.

    They’ll get up, eat some more, and then go to bed right about dusk to sleep for the next 12 or so hours.

    Dude. 

    You guys are chickens.  I give you food, water, shelter, and absolutely nothing to do.  You don’t run.  You don’t fly.  All you have to do is lay the occasional egg.  You don’t even have to sit on it, either.  All you have to do is poop it out somewhere and I’ll run along behind you, cleaning it up.  So, what’s with all the sleeping and resting?  I am chasing around two young children all day, and you don’t see me taking naps all day long…

    Also, in other news, I am jealous of my chickens.

  2. Chicken sh*t.

    No, it’s not chicken poop.

    Dogs poop.  They poop two or three times a day in neat, easily-spottable piles that are simple to clean up.

    Chickens…. sh*t.

    Like, all day long.

    I MEAN, ALL DAY LONG.  Maybe that’s why they’re so tired all the time – if I had to run to the bathroom and poop 4,312 times a day, I imagine I’d be a little worn out, too. 

    Have you ever had one of those moments where you wish you could go back in time to the way you were in the past, when you were young, and innocent, and life was still full of surprises and promises?

    This is kind of how I feel about the chicken sh*t.  I guess I always imagined that chickens would poop just like every other bird in the world seems to poop:

    See?  Bird poo.  It’s white, kind of watery, and if you stepped on it, you probably wouldn’t even notice. 

    Dear prospective chicken owners:  OMG, PLEASE PAY ATTENTION TO ME.  THIS IS NOT HOW CHICKENS POO. 

    This is a chicken poo:

    I’ve seen medium-sized dogs that left behind smaller piles than that.

    Now, imagine this…. only each hen does it about four thousand times a day, wherever the heck she wants.

    It’s like having three non-potty-trained chihuahuas running around my yard, and their only mission in life seems to be winning a competition about who can nap and poop the most.

    There has got to be some kind of way to harvest this output.  I feed my chickens a little bit of chicken scratch each day,  a couple of baby carrots as a treat, and in return they gift me with one or two eggs and 2-3 pounds of poo each day.

    That….. that isn’t even mathematically possible.  How are they doing that?  Cognitively I understand that this is impossible…. and yet I have the evidence…. the fresh evidence on the bottom of my shoes, the tops of my shoes, all over the kids’ shoes.  Don’t even get me started on what I find in the chicken coop each day.

  3. If you own a cat it is impossible to leave the house without bringing some cat hair with you on your clothes.  I don’t care if you pull your outfit out of a dry cleaning bag, get dressed in a hermetically sealed chamber, and walk through a vacuum tunnel out the front door – the second you get to work, you will find yourself covered in cat hair.

    The same holds true with horses, only in their case it has to do with dirt:  there is no such thing as “I’m just gonna stop by the stables and drop off a board check on my way to work—- I won’t get dirty.” No matter how careful you are, even if you never actually get within fifty feet of your horse, you’ll still slip back into your car, glance down, and discover that you are trailing hay, horse hair,  dirt under your fingernails, and the foamy green flecks from a horse sneeze.  You can’t stay clean.  It’s impossible.  If you try to convince me otherwise, I’m going to call you a liar.

    Chicken sh*t.  So, yeah.  I don’t have a lot of experience with chickens, so maybe it’s just me, but I cannot venture into that backyard without getting covered, head to toe, in chicken sh*t.

    I thought I had managed it one time – I slipped out the front door, tiptoed carefully through the grass to the coop, lifted the door and gave them some fresh water.  I tiptoed back to the house, checked my shoes, and cheered.  I’d done it!  NO CHICKEN POO!  YAAAY!All was well until I sat down on the couch to watch a little television, and….sniff, sniff..… I knew that smell.

    I went to look in the mirror, and sure enough – chicken sh*t.  In my hair.  It was piled up there like the world’s ugliest hat, or maybe some kind of really, really low-budget toupee.  Lovely.

    It turns out that I had used my head to prop open the door, and one of the chickens had left a giant, fresh turd spackled to the wall, just waiting for me and my freshly-washed hair.

  4. Chicken eggs:  You know they lay them, and still – it’s just a complete shock to walk out there in the morning and discovered your chickens made you breakfast while you slept.  It’s completely awesome.

    Also, double yolks… how awesome is that?

    The only thing that’s kinda gross is when you go out there to collect the eggs, and it’s still hot from being inside the chicken…. as well as kind of slimy.  And that’s when you realize—eww.  I’m about to eat something that was inside this chicken’s vagina only a few moments ago.

    I let my eggs sit in the fridge for a day or two before I eat them.  It helps me forget where they’ve been.

  5. Stupid:  Chickens are STUPID.  We all kind of knew this – they don’t exactly have the world’s biggest heads.  That said, they range in stupidity.  Moaning Myrtle (so named because she keeps up a constant stream of complaining, no matter how nice her conditions are)  is actually pretty bright for a chicken.  She comes when called, she understands that I bring food, and she was the first one to understand how to use the chicken coop ramp.

    Tanesha, on the other hand…. well, she’s blonde.  And dumb.  She’s really dumb, even for a chicken.   I sincerely hope the Craigslist lady I had the misfortune of emailing never googles and finds this, because her feelings will probably be hurt when she finds out I named the stupid chicken after her.

    Tanesha gets confused by simple things – like, for instance, if she is an inch off the ground.  If you pick her up and make her stand on your hand, she’s too stupid to jump down, even though she desperately wants off your hand.  It’s confusing.  I mean, she’s up there, and the ground’s aaaaaaalll the way down there.  What’s a chicken to do?

  6. Speaking of eggs….. MOANING MYRTLE LAID A VELOCIRAPTOR EGG.  I’m not joking.  I’m pretty sure my chicken just attempted to recreate dinosaurs, or at the very least, branch off and give birth to some kind of lizard or turtle.  I went out there two days ago, and in addition to Martha Stewart’s neat, pristine little egg…. there was a creepy little monstrosity of an egg.  Apparently chickens going through puberty need to take a couple of practice runs at laying eggs – and one of the examples of a starter egg is a “soft shelled” egg.

    “Soft shelled” sounds so cute, and innocent.  It sounds like something you might take a picture of, and hang in a little girl’s room next to a poster of a basketful of kittens.

    It’s not. 

    It was a leathery, horrible, wrinkled egg that looks like it was composed of human skin, was pliable to the touch, and it must have been fresh because as the day went on (I had it on the counter to show The Bean when he came home from work), it shriveled and hardened up until it was so creepy I had no choice but to throw it away.  I eat eggs.  I don’t eat human-skin covered dinosaur fetuses.

    Today she didn’t even bother with an egg.  She just squatted and splatted out a yolk on the shavings. 

    It’s just…. it’s just creepy.  Also…. come on, chicken. You have one job.  Lay an egg.  That’s it.  Now you’re suddenly too lazy to even bother putting a shell on it?  REALLY?

  7. The smell.  I’m sure it comes as no surprise to you, what with all the chicken sh*t and all, but chickens kind of stink.  I’m not saying they’re not worth it, but…. you might as well know the truth.  Chickens smell like chickens, and there’s no getting around that.

  8. Once you have chickens it is MANDATORY that you keep your yard absolutely pristine.  What does it look like when you have a couple of tools or kid’s toys left out in your yard?  It’s not that bad, right?  Now imagine the same scenario, only you have three chickens wandering around those items, pecking at them, scratching, and pooing all over the place?

    Voila! Instant white trash!  You can almost picture the sagging, rain-rotted mattress leaning against the wall of the house and the too-skinny dog on the chain, can’t you?  They may not be there yet, but between the chickens and the stuff laying in your yard, everyone knows it’s just right around the corner

    Yeah.  Once you have chickens, your sloppy yard days are a thing of the past – at least, they are if you want to hold your head up around the neighbors.

  9. Dirty: CHICKENS ARE DIRTY.  I didn’t realize this at first.  I kept those chickens locked up in their coop for a week.  The guy I bought them from told me “a couple of days”.  I wasn’t taking any chances – I kept them locked up in a tiny little area for a week just to be sure, and on the seventh day, right before I set them free, I clipped their wings.  HA.  Take that, chickens.  You’re mine…. mine, I tell you!  Let’s just see you try and run away, now.

    Where was I?

    Oh, yeah.  Dirty chickens.  For a week straight I’d been cleaning the chickens daily, sometimes even twice a day,  keeping the shavings fresh and clean, removing all of their millions of poos, replacing the damp shaving with pristine, piney-smelling new ones. 

    What did they do the second I set them free?

    All three chickens ran down the ramp and immediately dove into the dirt, scratching, fluffing, and rolling like I’d been depriving them of some basic chicken need for filth.  Tanesha and Moaning Myrtle busied themselves in the dirt with a frantic frenzy, but Martha Stewart at actually stopped mid-fluff to turn around and stare at me indignantly before returning to her rolling.  “Do you see what a terrible job you’ve done taking care of us?  Now we have a week’s worth of filth to rub into our feathers all at once.  Damn you and your cleanly ways.”

    Note to self:  Next time provide chickens with filth-infested, poop-spackled coops to provide ultimate happiness.

  10. Companionship:  There is something incredibly soothing about sitting in the back yards, watching chickens peck at nothing.  Maybe it’s because I come from Okie stock.  I don’t know – whatever it is, it makes me happy to see them.  Even better, after only a week of owning them, even though they’d never been handled before, they follow me around the yard, clucking in subdued, inquiring little voices.  I’m trying to teach them tricks – and by tricks, I basically mean I’m trying to teach them to come to me when I call.  We’ll see if they actually get it – their heads are pretty small, so I’m not really hopeful.  Even if they don’t, when I go out tomorrow they’ll great me with some soft, worried complaints, some funny little head bobs, and maybe even an egg or two, so it’s worth it.

It’s definitely worth it, chicken sh*t and all.

Next Time

He was gone.

He wasn’t in the backyard where I’d left him to play, five minutes before.

“Mama, I go pet the chickens, pwease? I be really nice to them.  Pwease?”

“Your brother is in the middle of trying to go down for a nap,” I had said, over the cries drifting in over the baby monitor.  “You know – the nap he needs because you went into his room at six in the morning and woke him up?”

DragonMonkey hung his head in feigned embarassment for the prescribed amount of time, then repeated, “I go be nice to chickens, please?  I not chase them.  Please?”

“Fine,” I had with a sigh, wincing at the indignant shrieks coming over the monitor.

I had led him down the stairs to the side yard, closing the gate behind him with a final admonishment.  “I need to stay inside until Squid settles down – you are NOT to chase the chickens, and you are NOT to open this gate.  If you need anything, just call me. I can hear you from the living room.”

“Yes, Mama,” he said obediently, edging towards the chicken with a predatory sidle.

I was going to pretend I didn’t see that.  It was only 10:30 in the morning, but I was already going to pretend I didn’t see that.

Five minutes later, Squid’s “I-don’t-need-no-stinking-nap” howls slowly wound down, and he dropped off to sleep.  I’d glanced out the living room window a couple of times during my wait, watching Matty as he did his best to refrain from running, following the chickens around with a tortilla chip in his hand, trying to force them to eat it.  This time, however, I couldn’t see him.

The chickens (Martha Stewart, Moaning Myrtle, and Tanesha) were pecking slowly around the yard, relaxed.

Where was he?

I slipped on my sandles and headed down to the side yard. 

He wasn’t there.

“DragonMonkey?” I called.

Silence greeted me.

Maybe he’d slipped past me to go to the bathroom?  I went back up the stairs and into the house, looking in both bathrooms.

He wasn’t in the bathroom.

He wasn’t in the living room.

He wasn’t in the playroom, or his bedroom, or my bedroom.  He wasn’t in the laundry room.

He wasn’t in the basement.

I checked the yard again, going as far as to look inside the chicken coop.

Nothing.

“DragonMonkey?!”  My voice was taking on a shrill, frantic tone.  This wasn’t funny.  This wasn’t funny at all.

I dashed back into my house, exchanging my sandles for tennis shoes I slipped hastily over my bare feet.

I jogged to the end of the drive, calling for him.  “DragonMonkey?  DRAGONMONKEY?!”

Silence.

I ran back up the drive, and did a circle around the house.  “DRAGONMONKEY?!”

Silence.

I noticed that the gate from our yard to the field was ajar, and gave an angry sigh.  Had he gone up there without my permission?  I was going to let him have it when I found him up there.  I jogged up the hill, ignoring the burn in my calves, and out into the open field.

I was greeted by the sight of long, waving yellow grass, a couple of buzzing flies, but no three-year-old. 

“DRAGONMONKEY?!”  The sound of my own voice, thin with fear, ratcheted my heart rate up even more.  “”DRAGONMONKEY!  ANSWER ME!  RIGHT NOW, YOUNG MAN!”

Nothing.  I saw nothing, I heard nothing.

Forget fear.  I was past fear.  What I was feeling was raw terror – every mother’s worst nightmare slowly unfolding in front of me.

Twenty minutes, y’all.

Twenty minutes is how long I looked for him, called for him.

I should have called the police after the first ten minutes, but I didn’t want to stop long enough to find my cell phone.

It was the longest twenty minutes of my life.

Finally, FINALLY, I heard him answer.

“Over here, Mama!” he called cheerfully from several houses down, thin legs scratched from the brush as he made his way down a hillside.  “I go mountain climbing up, now I going mountain climbing down!”  His voice was tiny and faint from hundreds of yards away, but I nearly sagged with relief when I heard it.

“GET OVER HERE, DRAGONMONKEY!  YOU’RE IN BIG TROUBLE!”

I’ll fast forward past how tightly I hugged him to me when I finally pulled him into our yard.  I’ll fast forward past the lecture I gave him in a shaking voice, and the way he sensed my genuine fear.  I’ll shoot right past the way I lied to him about “Great Big Evil MonkeyMen” who lurk in the shadows of the hillsides around our house, hoping to terrify him into never doing it again, even if it means he’ll have nightmares until he is thirty.  I’ll fast forward past me dragging him back in the house and telling him he was never allowed outside by himself, never,  ever, ever again.

I’ll fast forward to about five minutes later, where I sat on the couch, still shaking, trying to let go of the adrenaline still coursing in my veins.  DragonMonkey was safely hidden in my bathroom, using the toilet. 

I could have lost him.  He could have walked into the street, or stumbled into traffic.  He could have been snatched up.  He could have tripped, and fallen into a creek and drowned.  I was lucky.  I was damned lucky.  I was…

CRASH!

I was really mad. 

He was supposed to be going poo.  The last time I checked, going poo didn’t involve the crash-boom-bang of solid objects flying around the bathroom.

Stomping down the hallway, I threw open the door to the bathroom.  The DragonMonkey stood there, pantsless, standing ankle deep in a pile of unwravelled dental floss.  At the sound of the door hitting the wall, he jumped, forgetting to hide the can of hairspray behind his back.

“What are you doing?!”

He raised the now-empty can up, guiltily, and gestured at the bathroom. “I spway the bathroom.”

“You what?” 

“I spway the bathroom.”  He held it up, and gestured at the countertop, depressing the button which made a faint spluttering noise.  “Like this.”

“STOP THAT!” I said, grabbing the canister out of his hand and setting it down on the now-sticky countertop….which matched the sticky toilet, the sticky floor, and the sticky tub.  The entire bathroom was covered in a tacky, greasy “All-day, Natural Hold!” film.

I stared at him for a moment, taking in the mess, and the dental floss, and his half-naked self, and tried to count to ten.

Next time.

I swear, if he ever runs away from home again, next time I’m not going to look for him quite so hard.