Rally Night!

Tomorrow is my Community’s first Rally Night, so I can’t tell you what the Leadership Team has planned today.  Thankfully, I no longer am in charge of planning those events.  But I have been in the past, and I have been to every Rally my Service Unit/Community has held for the past 9 years, starting from the one where I signed my daughter and I up for Girl Scouts.

For Parents New to Girl Scouts

Rally night is recruitment night.  This is your BEST opportunity to join Girl Scouts, because this is when the local group administrators (all volunteers, by the way) are trying to add girls all at once.  We try to do it right at the beginning of the school year, because the Girl Scout Membership year starts on October 1, and ideally new Troops should be able to get started as close to that date as possible.

So when I say BEST, what do I mean?  Are there prizes for signing up during Rally Night?  Mmmm, not usually in my neighborhood.  Unless, by prizes you mean pencils and stickers for the girls and flyers, booklets, and paperwork for the parents. *grins*  Your area might be different, though.  However, this is when new Troops are formed.  So if you want your daughter to be starting at the same time as everyone else in the group, earning the same badges, doing the same service, having the same fun – join at the same time as everyone else.

The more girls we have signing up at a Rally, the larger the pool of potential volunteers, i.e. parents, grandparents, and guardians.  A Troop can’t exist without the volunteers to lead it.  Depending on your Council, and depending on the activities your girls want to do, each Troop needs at least 2 leaders, a first aider, a camper, a Cookie Manager, and a Treasurer.  That is either 6 parents who each do their part, or 2 parents who will be burnt out by the end of their Daisy years.

If you are a parent* who is reading this and would like to have your daughter join Girl Scouts at a Rally, to misquote an African proverb, “It takes a village to run a successful Girl Scout Troop”.  You need to be involved in your daughter’s Girl Scout career beyond just shuttling her back and forth.  I’m not saying you have to be the leader, though I can vouch for how rewarding it is.  Identify your own strengths: what can you help teach group of girl your daughter’s age?  The more parents who embrace Girl Scouts as a time to spend WITH their daughters, the better off their daughters’ experience will be. (and the smoother Rally Night will go!!

* I say “parent” because although I mean “parents/grandparents/guardians”, that just doesn’t flow as nicely. *grins* The typical Girl Scout volunteer is the girl’s mother, but just within my own Troops, I have had volunteer assistance from dads, grandmothers, grandfathers, and aunts.  If you care about the girls, we will welcome your help!

girl-kaleidoscope-blue_horizontalFor Girls New to Girl Scouting

This is it!  This is your BEST chance to get started in Girl Scouts.  You won’t get any swanky prizes that you can hold in your hands, maybe a pencil that says “Girl Scouts” on it (last year, we had cool color changing ones!).  Instead, you will get something even better: a Girl Scout Troop!  Whoever you are, wherever you live, whatever you look like, whatever you believe – there is a Troop out there for you, and we would love to have you.

For Those Brave Souls Who Volunteer

I would hug each and every one of you, if I could.  I’ve hugged plenty of my local new leaders.  Because you are about to take on a hard, rewarding, amazing journey with your daughter/granddaughter/beloved girl.  I promise that you will get as much out of this as you put in, and so will your girls.  If you are starting as a Kindergarten Daisy Troop, you will get to watch your girls grow and blossom and evolve into powerful, capable young women. You will watch as they take over the leadership, as they take ownership, bit by bit.

And because no leader should ever be left behind (again, misquoting), I’m going to give you as much help as I can, from troop management ideas, craft ideas, activity ideas, and just the real life workings of running a Girl Scout Troop.  Next week, look for a post on what happens/should happen After the Rally.

And If You Are In Charge of Running Rally Night

First of all, I feel you.  Been there, done that.

Second, I am starting a monthly newsletter starting tomorrow, and the first one is FOR YOU.  In addition to some free printable goodies, there’s a list of the top 7 ways to form Troops that FAIL after Rally Night. *grins*  Sign up tomorrow, and you can tell me if you have seen any of these particular techniques used at your local Rally nights on my Facebook Page.

Oh, and if you need a quick activity for the girls at your Rally Night, here’s a neat Fortune Teller/Cootie Catcher printable from the Girl Scouts of West Central Florida (click on the thumbnail to embiggen):

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Why Form a Multi-Level Troop?

We’re gearing up for Rally Season in my Council.  Signing up new Girl Scouts, forming new Troops – this is what September is all about for Girl Scouts.  GSUSA has started making Registration really easy using its online tools, and I’m going to let you talk to the staff and other volunteers at your own Council to figure out any issues you might have with registering for Girl Scouts online.

But let’s talk Troop structure.

PICT0041.JPGSingle Level Troops

This is by far the most common Troop structure in my area.  And judging by the way the Volunteer Toolkit tools work from GSUSA, across the country. What this means is that your Troop only has girls from one grade in it.  These Troops typically start at Kindergarten, and the girls just move in lockstep: Kindergarten to First to Second, Daisy to Brownie to Junior.  Single Level Troops tend to be have between 6 and 18 girls in them, with 2 Leaders.  More if you’re lucky.

The big advantage to this structure is that everyone is literally on the same page.  You have one level of girl, all doing the same activities, earning the same badges.

Multi-Level, Multi-Troops

This one is hard to summarize in a neat little heading.  But what I’m talking about is what used to be fairly common, though I don’t know that it still happens.  Using made up Troop numbers to make it clear, when you begin Girl Scout, your daughter joins Daisy Troop 101.  After two years, she bridges to Brownies, and then changes Troops to Brownie Troop 102.  Again, after two years, she flies up to Juniors, and then changes Troops again, this time to Junior Troop 103.

This structure has the same advantage as a Single Level Troop, everyone in the Troop is the same level.  It also has the advantage of connections with Troops of different levels for those all important Leadership opportunities (Junior Aide, LiA, Volunteer in Training, Service to Girl Scouting Bars, etc.).

The disadvantage, of course, is having to learn a whole new Troop number every time you change levels.  And if you are the Leader, you tend to stay with the Troop (level) rather than your daughter.  Which is a plus if you just LOVE working with Brownies!  And a minus if you just LOVE doing new things! 🙂

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Cadettes and Brownies making hummus together, for Snacks and New Cuisines badges

Multi-Level Troops

And then, the reason we’re here: multi-level Troops.  These can be so hard, and yet so rewarding at the same time.  Here are some situations in which multi-level Troops make sense:

  • Sisters.  You have more than one daughter, and you know that your local Community/Service Unit is going to look to you to run a Troop for each of them.  Or you just can’t imagine having two or three or more Troop meetings to shuttle your daughters to.
  • Church/School Based Troop.  This is the scenario I have seen multi-level Troops in most often.  All of the girls at a particular church or school (usually private) are put into the same multi-level Girl Scout Troop, which is supported by the church or school.
  • You can’t say no to girls who want to be Girl Scouts.  This is my situation. After 8 years as a Leader, I could not look at those eager 6th and 7th graders and tell them they couldn’t join my 8th grade Troop, they couldn’t be Girl Scouts.  There were only 4, so they couldn’t form their own Troop.
  • You think a multi-level Troop has so much to offer the girls.

This last one, most people will not actually have it as a reason they started a multi-level Troop, but I want you to consider it.  In a multi-level troop:

  • you typically have way more girls than in a single level troop.  More girls = more parents = more possible volunteers to help you out.
  • the older girls have easy access to Leadership opportunities.  Juniors need to earn heir Junior Aide?  Create a schedule which allows each Junior to help the Daisy portion of the Troop for 3 meetings (and make life a little easier for the Daisy Leader).  Don’t want to run that Junior Journey? Have the Ambassadors do it, with help from the Cadettes and let them earn their ViT and LiA in the process.
  • younger girls SEE what older girls do every meeting.  Last year, my Daisies were so bummed because they could not spend the night at camp with the rest of the Troop.  But, now that they have bridged, they know that is one of the things they get to do, and they know from the Brownies and Junior who DID spend the night, that it is totally worth it.
  • girls see how connected the skills they are learning are, they see the progression that we feel is so important. They see that while they may only be crawling now, if they stick with it, they will be running in no time.
  • you can stay with your daughter as a Leader, as she climbs from level to level.  Or you can choose to stay with your level.  Or both.  My Father-in-Law was his daughters’ Leader until they got to middle school, when he decided to stay as the Junior Leader and let them start scouting without him as a safety net.

There are so many great reasons to start a new multi-level troop, and reasons to make your single level troop multi-level.

Do you have a multi-level Troop?  Why did you decide to lead a multi-level Troop?

Sit-Upons, Version 3.0

situpons

You might think that Sit-Upons are so ho-hum.  I mean, it’s a great way to teach a Daisy how to “sew” by lacing through pre-punched holes, but really?  Does anyone use them? I don’t know about using them, but I know that the girls love making them.  And as they get Older, they like making cooler versions.

Here’s a link to a well done tutorial on your basic Sit-Upon.  Version 1.0, if you will.  Make New Friends has a tutorial for what I like to think of as Version 1.1: a faster, easier version that can actually be completed during a meeting, without taking the WHOLE MEETING.  I like the Version 1.1 using reusable grocery bags and duct tape.  The best part of Version 1.1? They’re much easier to carry, because the bag has a handle already integrated in it.

IMG_7022When my daughter’s Troop were Cadettes, my Co-Leader and I came up with what we liked to call Version 2.0 Sit-Upons.  You take you basic Sit-Upon: a piece of vinyl tablecloth, wrapped around a piece of 1″ foam, secured with duct tape.  But, you clip one corner of the foam, and then cut an “X” into that corner of the tablecloth wrapper; so that you have a flat corner to your Sit-Upon.  Then you get our your hammer and grommeting tool!  Pop a big old grommet in that corner, and you have an easy way to attach your Sit-Upon to your belt, your trail bag, your backpack, whatever.

IMG_7023Now that they are Seniors/Cadettes.  We are going with Version 3.0.  The bucket version.  A friend of ours has a lot of cats.  A LOT.  And therefore goes through a LOT of cat litter.  Enough that we were able to acquire 20 buckets from her at no cost. Not only are these way cheaper than buying paint buckets at the local home improvement store, but we also liked the fact that they are square, rather than round: easier to cut the supplies to fit.  Vinyl tablecloths should be purchased seasonally, as in right after a particular holiday season so that they are 60-90% off.  I picked up these nice pastel plaid ones at Joann’s after Easter.  And if you are a Troop Leader without a good stock of duct tape, then your craft box is low on supplies! 😉

Sit-Upons, Ver. 3.0

Supplies per sit-upon:

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  •  1 bucket, kitty litter or paint
  • cardboard, cookie boxes work great
  • 2″ foam, or thicker or thinner depending on your budget
  • vinyl, flannel backed table cloth
  • clear packing tape
  • duct tape
  • construction adhesive
  • paper towels
  • cleaner

The first thing you are going to want to do is cut your foam, cardboard, and tablecloth to size.  Your cardboard should exactly fit the top of the lid, making sure to leave room around the edge for opening and sealing the bucket.  Your foam can either be the same size as the cardboard, or even a little bigger.  The tablecloth should be the size of your cardboard, plus 2x the thickness of your foam, plus 3-4″ to pull around to the bottom.  Our cardboard was 8″ square, with the corners trimmed to fit the box.  The foam was also 8″ square, no trimming necessary.  Our pieces of tablecloth were 15″ square (8″ + 2×2″ + 3″). You can pre-cut all of this stuff as we did, or not.  If you are going to be doing a lot of stuff at the meeting, definitely pre-cut.  If you are going to be doing this with Daisies or Brownies, definitely pre-cut.

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Assembly

Step 1: You are going to place the tablecloth with the vinyl (pretty) side face down.  Then center the foam on the tablecloth, and place the cardboard on top.

Step 2: Using packing tape, tape down the four edges of the tablecloth to the cardboard, making sure to keep it taut.  Then pull the excess fabric in the corners down, and tape to the cardboard (see the picture).  Your cushion is complete!

Step 3: Run a line of construction adhesive along the edge of the lid and in the center.  This part should be done by and adult, or a careful Older Girl.  Please be careful with construction adhesive, it is seriously goopy, and hard to get off of things.  Notice the flattened cardboard box we are using as a work surface so that none of it got on anything important?

Step 4: Center the cushion on the bucket lid, vinyl (pretty) side up, and set down carefully onto the construction adhesive.  Once it is placed correctly, squish it down to get maximum coverage.

IMG_7024At this point, caution the girls against slamming their elbow into the cushion, or stomping it with their foot, because they will then get a big hole in the tablecloth which they will then have to patch up.  Yes.  Even your high school girls.

Another Community Meeting

So, one of the biggest issues I have with my two troops is that they are in two different, but neighboring Communities.  My newer Troop’s Community already met this month, but my older Troop’s Community had it’s first meeting of the year last night.  I didn’t send out an email asking parents to come to this meeting, although I am thinking that it might be a good idea.

My two Communities are actually quite different, even though they share a border, geographically.  Brazos Valley, my original Community, is more of a suburban, stay at home mom kind of area – which you would think leads to more volunteers.  But actually, most stay at home mom’s are already committed up to their eyeballs, because everyone assumes they sit home all day eating bonbons just waiting to be asked to take on that volunteer role that gives them a reason for living . . . wait. 😉 Annnnnyways, between driving their daughters to sports practices, music lessons, religious studies, dance classes, tutoring sessions, and volunteering in the PTO, as a room mom, as a coach – stay at home moms are usually as over scheduled as their children in this Community.  By the time new Troops are being formed at the end of September/beginning of October, they are ready to start saying “no”.

Heart of the Brazos, on the other hand, is further out with more farming communities and double income families.  More girls come in with Financial Aid in this Community, and parents have even less time because after working all day, who wants to teach a dozen 6 year old girls how to make friendship bracelets?

But they have very similar monthly meetings.  Our Council would like us to play games, and have ice-breakers at Community meetings, but that really doesn’t work in Brazos Valley – there was nearly booing when it was brought up.  Heart of the Brazos is trying to do a little bit more of that, but not anything extreme.  Mostly, our Community meetings run like this:

  1. Welcome, sign in, grab an agenda and any other handouts
  2. Council News
  3. Upcoming Community Events
  4. Any special speakers (Council reps, Destinations travelers, Council Delegates, etc.)
  5. Ask for volunteers for “blah”
  6. Close (Brazos Valley does door prizes)

IMG_7031Last night was no exception – except that they didn’t have a printed agenda for us. Since I had already heard most of the news from Council at the Heart of the Brazos Meeting, I really only needed to take notes of Brazos Valley specific stuff.  Which there wasn’t a lot of yet.  Rally Night, and Fall Product are the big things for the next three months.  We did get our Troop’s small stuffed hedgehogs from last year’s Cookie Sale (finally) – pretty cute aren’t they?  I also got our next garage sale approved by the Leadership Team after the meeting was over (that’s our Council’s official form for money earning event requests). And I actually won a door prize, I picked the duct tape collection, since my girls decimated our stock at the last meeting . . . 😉

Does your Community/Service Unit have meetings like ours?  Do you do more games and songs, like a Troop meeting?

Cadette Safety Award Meeting

Last night was my Cadette/Senior Troop’s first meeting of the year.  One of the awards that the Cadettes voted on earning this year was the Cadette Safety Award, and I thought that would be a great way to start the year.  We had a couple of girls sign up to run the meeting, and the emails were flying fast and furiously over the past two weeks as they prepped.  I made a point of thanking them for their wonderful communication with me, and how they used me as a resource, like Wikipedia, rather than as the person who tells them how to do it.

Opening

The girls were so excited to get started, they almost forgot to do the Pledge, Promise, and Law. 🙂 But one of the audience girls reminded us, and after the appropriate amount of facepalming, we did our normal opening.

img_7002Main Activity – Cadette Safety Award

  1. Babyproofing a room – the girls went around the table discussing ideas for making a room safe for younger children.  There was much groaning about the door handle locks their parents used to have.
  2. Water safety – they went around the table again, this time reading out safety guidelines from this handout and explaining why they thought that was an important guideline.  Then they talked about reaching assists and what could be used as an object to help with one.  No one opted to get on the floor to role-play. *grins*
  3. Teaching younger girls about being lost and stranger danger – since this troop is not as multi-level as the other troop, instead of actually teaching younger girls, they talked about how they would teach younger children, and specifically mentioned that this could be something they talk about with younger siblings, or with younger Troops they work with while earning their LiA’s and Service to Girl Scouting bars, or at camp, when we usually share a space with a younger troop.
  4. Emergency Prep – the girls talk about what a 72 hour kit is, why we need one, what kind of emergencies we should prepare for in our area, and why a deck of playing cards is important.  Many of the girls barely remember Hurricane Ike, which rocked our area 8 years ago and had our neighborhood without power for nearly a week. We talked about sheltering in place, and the girls then made deluxe sit-upons, what my Co-Leader and I are calling Version 3.0 (look for a tutorial later this week).  These can be used at camp, but can also be used as a shelter in place style 72 hour kit.  The girls were each given a card with items to be placed the kit listed on it, which was then laminated to the inside of the bucket lid with packing tape.
  5. Bullying – while the girls were crafting their buckets, they also talked about bullying, and created their anti-bullying pledge.

Troop Business

I kind of snuck in and spoke to the girls for 10 minutes while they were crafting to do Troop Business: updating them on our money earning efforts, discussing whether they would use a Google Hangout for outside of meeting discussion, voting on whether we should celebrate our Silver Award recipients on our own or with the whole Community, and reminding them that they will need to sign up to run 2 meetings, if they haven’t already.

Closing

After the duct tape free for all (OMG – have you seen the GALAXY DUCT TAPE?!?!  This is apparently the coolest duct tape to my girls at the moment.  And they did not like me bringing the s’mores duct tape because it made them hungry.*grins* Good thing I didn’t buy that mac and cheese duct tape.), we closed the way we always do: friendship circle, “Make New Friends”, and a friendship squeeze, started by the two girls who ran the meeting.

Trying to earn this award?  Here’s the 72-hour kit handout I created using ideas from the ready.gov website:

72hourkit

Planning Meeting

Well, that went well!

Yesterday was my new Troop’s first meeting of the new school year, the planning meeting I was telling you about.  I didn’t really have a plan, just a list of to-do’s in my head and a stack of printouts.  So here’s what we did:

Opening

We always open with the Promise and the Law, and this time I had newly printed copies of the Promise and the Law in each of the Level Binders I made, so even the new girls could read them.

Badge Voting

After welcoming back all of our returning girls as well as the new girls joining the Troop, we did a quick round of introductions. We ended up having 2 Daisies, 2 Brownies, 2 Juniors, 4 Cadettes, and 1 Senior attending the meeting – a good representation of our Troop.  I had the girls split by Level and asked my new Level Leaders to have the girls vote for their favorite 4 Badges out of the 8 I picked, while I spoke to our one Senior and told her about what I have planned for her this year.  I was so excited that this worked out!  It’s the first time I was able to hand off an important part of the program to other people with confidence.  And according to my Level Leaders, the girls were able to agree quite easily, or with just a bit of negotiations.  I’m really happy that the Brownies want to earn the Bugs Badge!

Service Voting

I also had a bunch of different service project ideas that I brought all the girls together for. A few ideas were really popular, a lot were not popular at all – which was expected.  They got really excited by the towel and blanket drive for the local animal shelter idea.  Because I have yet to meet a girl who didn’t want to help animals . . . and maybe have the opportunity to go to a shelter and play with the puppies/kittens. 😉

Information Dump

After all of the voting was done, I gave the girls (and moms) a quick data dump of upcoming events our Community is planning, so that they could get an idea of what the Troop will have the opportunity to do.  I specifically mentioned the upcoming Community Campout in the Spring, which I will not be able to attend – because my other troop will be at their Community Campout at another camp!

Bridging Activities

Then I gave the moms the forms that needed to be updated each year (Health Forms, etc.) and had them fill those out while the girls and I had a round table discussion about each of the different levels for bridging purposes – one of the benefits of a multi-level troop.  I was really glad to have some girls who had transferred in from another Troop (or Council), because otherwise, the girls in my Troop just don’t have a lot of experience in being a Girl Scout yet – just a year, and in some cases much much less because the girl joined toward the end of the year.

Closing

Our Troop always closes with a Friendship Circle, singing “Make New Friends”, and then a friendship squeeze.  The part I loved most this time was when my brand new Brownie Leader asked if adults were allowed to join in.

They’re going to make it.  They’re really going to make it.

Diversity training from ten year olds

I was listening to a piece on NPR regarding a new blog project, Code Switch. It is going to be discussing race and how we talk about it, among other things. As usual, my mind started drifting and crunching what I was listening to, and I started thinking about the ways I think and speak about race, and how I have thought and spoken in the past.  I was born in the 70s, and grew up in the 80s, in the suburbs of Houston, Texas.

And I am white.

I mean, White.  I have never been Caucasian, except on government forms.  I have never been Anglo.  Unlike my parents, I was never really a Gringo, even when we lived in South America, because I was too busy being “bebé”.  I can’t pass for anything but White, as I wear my grandmother’s Irish parentage pretty clearly with translucent pale skin, an abundance of freckles, and hair that started strawberry blonde and ended, as my husband once told me, as raspberry brown.

And for me, that is where the race discussion has always ended.  If you grew up as a White girl in the South, but the DEEP South, in the 80s; then that is where the conversation ended.  “I am White.”  We were told that everyone was the same, so we shouldn’t point out differences.  It’s not nice.  It’s not polite.  It’s not true.  What was communicated to me, on a much deeper level, was that we still had to pay for the sins of our forebears who we never met.  For slavery, for the ludicrousness that was “separate, but equal”, for the invention of a thousand ways to say “you’re not White, so you’re not good enough”.  Pointing out that someone was not White was equated with being a racist in my mind.  The weight of hundreds of years of racial inequality was pushed onto the shoulders of an elementary school child.

And it still paralyzes my speech.

And I know that by now, you are wondering – “What the heck does this have to do with Girl Scouts? I mean, nice story and all, but seriously what does this have to do with my Troop?”  Because today’s kids are different.  They are so amazingly, unbelievably different.

My troop is teaching me how to talk about race.

They don’t realize it, and they wouldn’t believe it if I told them.  My daughter has the advantage of going to a school far more balanced than any of the schools I went to, and of having a Girl Scout Troop that has girls whose parents are from India and Pakistan, girls whose parents are African American and Hispanic, girls who are blonde and blue eyed, and girls who belong to almost every major religion on the planet – not just the mega church down the street.

It has always seemed like the kids who weren’t White were allowed to talk about race beyond a single word.  In the 80s, the conversation in the African American community over the relative darkness of a person’s skin was such an intense discussion that it even became a huge part of movies.  But now the girls in my Troop who would have been called Black in my day, say that that is a negative word and would like to be called African American, and the South Asian girls freely use the adjective “brown” to describe themselves, and my daughter is not scowled at when she joins in the conversation and uses the same words.

As I would have been.  Or at least, I felt I would have been.

We have to talk about diversity in our group – HAVE to.  We have girls who are Christian, who are Muslim, who are Hindu, who are still searching.  We have girls who are athletes and girls accepted into the Gifted and Talented Academy.  We have cheerleaders and hikers and video game nuts and artists and girls who are just really really good at being a friend.  So we have to talk about diversity when we discuss camping meals, and when we talk about when we are going to do activities (Sunday mornings are out, but so are Friday nights for similar reason).

I have to talk about race to the parents, as well.  My childhood taught me that I don’t get to decide what race another person is.  Only that person gets to decide that (or their parents, in the case of my Troop).

When my Troop was Daisies, we got a new girl whose parents were from India and Pakistan, the first in our Troop.  I had to ask her mom how to classify her (we are partnered with our local United Way, which means we are required to keep track of racial diversity), because on the forms I only get the choice of White, African American, Asian/Pacific Islander, and Hispanic.  Her mother told me that they often have this problem of classification.  They prefer to be known as South Asian when you have to have a non-religious, semi-geographical, group name.  But the forms don’t have this option.  So they choose either White or Asian, neither of which is right.

I have to have discussions with the girls who are mixed race, and find out which of the races their parents would like me to mark, because I can only mark one.  And it is a hard conversation to have with a mom who wants her daughter to identify with both of the rich cultures represented in her as fully as possible, to figure out some way to be both African American AND White, or African American AND Hispanic.  And that mom, who decided to marry the man she wanted to marry regardless of the taboo and who is constantly having that internal monologue of “how to I raise my children to be both”, has to understand that I love her daughter for who she is, for both sides of her, and for all the sides of her that are not related to her race.  But I have to reduce her to a number to be counted.  A number which defines her and insults her.

It was easier when I was a kid.  Everything – and everyone – was black and white.  But I think my girls are never going to get the same paralyzing fear of saying the wrong thing and coming across as a racist that I have.  And I think that maybe, by the time I am proudly giving them their Gold  Awards, neither will I.