Don't Lick the Minivan: And Other Things I Never Thought I'd Say to My Kids

( 2 )


As a woman used to traveling and living the high life in Bangkok, Leanne Shirtliffe recognized the constant fodder for humor while pregnant with twins in Asia’s sin city. But in spite of deep-fried bug cuisine and nurses who cover newborn bassinets with plastic wrap, Shirtliffe manages to keep her babies alive for a year with help from a Coca-Cola deliveryman, several waitresses, and a bra factory. Then she and her husband return home to the isolation of North American suburbia....

See more details below
$19.45 price
(Save 22%)$24.95 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (18) from $1.99   
  • New (8) from $4.87   
  • Used (10) from $1.99   
Don't Lick the Minivan: And Other Things I Never Thought I'd Say to My Kids

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$13.99 price
(Save 43%)$24.95 List Price


As a woman used to traveling and living the high life in Bangkok, Leanne Shirtliffe recognized the constant fodder for humor while pregnant with twins in Asia’s sin city. But in spite of deep-fried bug cuisine and nurses who cover newborn bassinets with plastic wrap, Shirtliffe manages to keep her babies alive for a year with help from a Coca-Cola deliveryman, several waitresses, and a bra factory. Then she and her husband return home to the isolation of North American suburbia.

In Don’t Lick the Minivan, Shirtliffe captures the bizarre aspects of parenting in her edgy, honest voice. She explores the hazards of everyday life with children such as:

The birthday party where neighborhood kids took home skin rashes from the second-hand face paint she applied.
The time she discovered her twins carving their names into her minivan’s paint with rocks.
The funeral she officiated for “Stripper Barbie.”
The horror of glitter.
And much more!

Shirtliffe eventually realizes that even if she can’t teach her kids how to tie their shoelaces, she’s a good enough mom. At least good enough to start saving for her twins’ therapy fund. And possibly her own. Shirtliffe’s memoir might not replace a therapist, but it is a lot cheaper.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Teacher and blogger Shirtliffe delivers an account, first set in Thailand and later in Canada, of the sometimes humorous, sometimes standard-issue adventures of life with twins. From helping one kid unstick his tongue from an icy surface to nicking the other's finger while trying to clip her nails, many of Shirtliffe's familyhood tales have already been widely broadcast via parenting essay collections and the visual media at large. Some of the most distinctive passages spin the cultural gap between the author's family and their Thai neighbors into comic gold. Others revolve around twin-specific interactions, offering a peek into the closest variety of sibling communication, a type that encompasses old-married-couple laughter as often as it does warring farts. The problem, though, is that though the events are believable, and may warrant a warm smile of camaraderie from those who've personally endured the wacky-normalcy of parenthood, they're simply humorous-enough; they don't stand out. Shirtliffe is at her brightest when she goes for bold, leaving behind safer, ho-hum observations in favor of a sneakier, more subtle wit. (May)
Kirkus Reviews
An entertaining look at raising twins. Humor blogger Shirtliffe, who writes for the Huffington Post, the Calgary Herald and other publications, opens the door to her family life with a droll take on parenting twins from pregnancy through kindergarten. Pregnant in Thailand, during her fifth month, she felt like "a walking Astrodome"; by week 37, she writes, "I'd been weighed by two Thai nurses whose combined mass equaled one of my thighs." After a year in Bangkok, Shirtliffe and her family traveled from Thailand to Alberta, Canada, where life with their children took on the inevitable roller-coaster ride of new parents and toddlers. Anecdotal reflections on breast-feeding, car trips, airplane flights, fingernail cuttings, and "poo and puke" are just some of the many moments Shirtliffe recalls in detail. Numerous parenting tips include "on long trips, let your children eat whatever processed crap you can get your hands on," pretend you're on Survivor since "to help you survive raising children, you need to 'outwit, outplay, outlast' them each day," and "as long as your child isn't the worst in his class, he will succeed. If he is the worst, drink more wine." Amid the humor are frank confessions of Shirtliffe's dips into postpartum depression and her frequent assessment of her ability to be a good mom to two normal kids. But with the help of her husband, family members and friends, the author remembers that "it is all a stage: the small stuff (like sleeplessness and toxic diapers) and the big stuff (your child's dependence and even your life), and the most important thing to do is laugh." Mostly witty commentary on the common ups and downs of being a new parent, times two.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781620875261
  • Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing
  • Publication date: 5/22/2013
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 825,628
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Leanne Shirtliffe is an award-winning humor blogger. She writes funny stuff for the Huffington Post, Nickelodeon’s, and the Calgary Herald. When she’s not stopping her twins from licking frozen flagpoles, she teaches English to teenagers who are slightly less hormonal than she is. She lives with her husband, their kids, and dust bunnies in Calgary, Alberta.

Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt


And Other Things I Never Thought I'd Say to My Kids


Skyhorse Publishing

Copyright © 2013 Leanne Shirtliffe
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-62087-526-1




When I got knocked up, my husband Chris and I had been living in Thailand for three years, teaching at an international school. It took what seemed to be the majority of our first year in Southeast Asia for me to find someone who could cut my hair so that it didn't look like I'd been welding while standing in a bathtub full of water. Bangkok's humidity meant that pieces of my hair flipped in every compass direction, like they were trying to escape my head.

I found a woman with curlier and nicer hair than mine.

"Who does your hair?" I asked.


Soon, I hunted down Franck, a French expat living in Bangkok whose name rhymed with "honk." Franck knew how to cut hair, even if his methods were unorthodox. For part of the appointment, he'd sit on his stool-with-wheels and encircle you, not unlike a kid who's discovered his parents' twirly office chair. For the end of the haircut, he'd rise and ask you to stand up, finishing off his magic while standing.

He had a good thing going. He charged Parisian prices in a developing country; desperate and frizzled expatriates emptied money from their wallets. After I became his client, a dozen of my colleagues followed.

I'd been seeing Franck for three years when my love for him temporarily faded.

"Allo, Leanne," he said, holding the last syllable of my name as French men do. He was always good-natured. Then I watched as his eyes squinted at me, bringing me into focus against the blinding Thai sun.

He walked over. "Your hairrr," he said. "Your hairrr look like sheet."

"What?" I said, even though I'd heard perfectly well. "My hair does not look like sheet, does it?"

"Ah. But it does. It look like sheet. Who cut deess?"

"You did."

"Non. Not I. I did not cut deess." He inspected the ends.

"You did. Two months ago."

"Some-ting happened den. Tell Franck de trute." He led me to his chair, which might have been electrified given what just transpired.

"Seet," he said. "And tell me."

I sat. "Well, I'm pregnant."

"Aha. So dat eez it. Dat explains it."

"It does?"

"Bien sur. Your hair look like sheet because you're pregnant. De body changes. De hair changes."

"But I thought your hair was supposed to look better when you're pregnant."

"Ahh, Leanne. Most women, yes. But you? Non."

"Can you make me look less like sheet?"

"I try," he said. He must have noticed my pout. "But pregnancy is good, Leanne, non?"

"It's good, Franck. It's good."

He motioned for his assistant to wash my hair.

"But please don't tell anyone," I said. "Other than my husband, you're the only one who knows."

"Leanne, I won't tell anyone your hair look like sheet."

"No, Franck," I said. "Don't tell anyone I'm pregnant. No one knows."

Franck smiled. "Pas de problem."

There are things that turn my stomach more than a French man telling me I look like sheet and more than pregnancy. But being knocked up is still high on my list. It's not so much the pregnancy; it's my memory of being pregnant with twins in Thailand.

While Bangkok might be called the City of Angels, it sometimes felt more like the City of Smells. The spectrum of stenches presented a multitude of problems for pregnant me, not the least of which was eating fried rice without upchucking refried rice. I stumbled along the sidewalks, climbing two-foot curbs and dodging vendors who were hawking a variety of smelly goods ranging from deep-fried bugs to papaya with chilies. If those didn't turn my stomach, the hawkers promising pirated Celine Dion CDs or sex would.

Most days I ate at a street stall. Having lived in Bangkok for years, I knew which portable eateries were safe. Usually I'd inhale chicken fried rice or pad thai. Sometimes, however, eating held the same level of enjoyment as getting a pap smear with a frost-laden metallic torture device.

Chris often joined me for lunch, anxious to escape the world of books he lived in as the school's librarian. He'd watch me play with the remainders of my food and shift in my plastic chair. I looked over to the propane-powered barbecue on which the vendor was cooking mystery-meat-on-a-stick. I said to Chris, "If I smell any more charred flesh, I'm going to puke up my pad thai."

He picked up his empty bamboo skewer and mimed stabbing himself in the chest. I laughed.

"Feel better?" he asked.

"I feel like I'm going to puke with a smile on my face."

That day I didn't, but on other days stray dogs lapped up my second-hand offerings, adding me to the food chain.

Things didn't become much more routine when Chris and I went to my ob-gyn guy, also known as a doctor. Given that my first trimester had included some bleeding and bed rest, I panicked at any abnormality. Whenever our doctor did an ultrasound, I just wanted him to say the word "normal." Or, as he said in his accented English, "nor-maall" (rhymes with "sore gal").

Every few weeks, we would come armed with a paranoid couple's list of concerns and he would answer, "Nor-maall, completely nor-maall."

At one appointment, I pulled out my scroll of questions. I looked at the doctor and asked, "Is it normal to have mushrooms growing out of my armpit?"

His forehead creased. "Mushrooms?"

I raised my arm. I'd worn a sleeveless blouse, anticipating this moment. Chris shifted, unfazed at my colony of fungi. The doctor wandered over and laughed. "Those aren't mushrooms," he said. "They're polyps."

"They're what?"

"Polyps. Or skin tags. They come, they go. Nor-maall."

"So, they're not mushrooms?"


"Then I shouldn't stir fry them?"


"Never mind."

When we arrived home, Chris imitated me, "Doctor, I've grown a third eye and there are radishes sprouting from my ears."

"No worries," Chris continued his impression, "it's nor-maall."

There are a lot of things that were nor-maall in Thailand that wouldn't have been in North America. The Thais have some great superstitions. One is that it's bad luck to get your hair cut on Wednesday. Another is that twins are incredibly lucky. Boy/girl twins are even luckier. And if the boy is born first—as William was in our case—you're going to start crapping gold bricks. Even if we didn't go all Midas-like, several Thai maintenance staff members asked Chris to buy lottery tickets for them. They gave him money; his job was to select the tickets. Chris would have had an easier job crapping gold bricks than picking a winning lottery ticket from the blind man with the rebar cane who approached the outskirts of the school campus daily.

At some point during my pregnancy, Chris received an email from a Thai woman in the accounting department at work. He showed it to me when he arrived home.

It read:

"I have asked my aunt to look for the good day for your children to be born. I gave her your and your wife birthday and she comes up with the following day and time:

* May 22 or 24. Time: 6:00 AM to 1:00 PM

* June 5. Time: 6:00 AM to 9:00 PM

* June 6. Time: 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM

* June 12. Time: 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM.

Best Wishes."

I reread the email. I used my fingers to count how many weeks I'd be pregnant by those dates. I also used my toes and every other countable thing nearby.

I paused to process this epistle.

"Let me get this straight. So the accountant got her aunt to do some woo-woo on our unborn babies?"


"And we're supposed to give this to our doctor?"

Chris nodded. "She said it also has something to do with the moons."

"OK. But we're not giving this to our doctor, are we?"

"He's Thai. He'd likely say it's nor-maall."

"We're still not giving him the list," I said.

"You win."

"Good. You know, if our babies are born on those dates, it'll be freaky." I shifted in my chair. "But if they're not, we can blame the moon for everything they do wrong for the rest of their lives."

Which is precisely what we've done.


Some babes are born in the back of a taxi; some babes are conceived in the back of a taxi. Our daughter was named in the back of a taxi.

We had just taken the Skytrain, Bangkok's version of Jetson-transit, to an English-language bookstore and picked up a baby name book. Chris suggested we take a taxi home, which meant we were stuck in one of Bangkok's infamous 24-7 traffic jams.

Having been married for four years, we'd had every conversation we ever needed to have twenty-six times. So I made up a game. I'm annoying like that.

Taking the baby name book out of the bag, I said, "Pick a number between one and three hundred ninety-two."

"Seventy," Chris said.

I flipped to page seventy. "Now we each have to find a baby name we like." We scanned the names and critiqued each other's choices.

Three turns later, I said, "Three hundred seventy-seven."

I thumbed through the pages. We both said, "Vivian."

"I think we just found a girl's name," I said.

The next day, the name discussion continued. Miraculously, we were no longer in the taxi, but at home.

"How about the name 'Humphrey'?" Chris asked.

I looked at him in shock and said, "You're kidding, right?"

He said, "No, I like Humphrey."

"No way."

"But I like it. I really do."

"I don't care if it was your grandfather's name and he died in the war saving the lives of three children who went on to win the Nobel Prize for something. It's horrible."

"Come on."

"Look," I said, "I'm carrying the babies, so I have veto power. If you name our son Humphrey, I'll kill you."

Chris shrugged. I grabbed the baby name book and opened to Humphrey.

"It means peaceful warrior," I said.

"See? That's nice."

"What the hell's a peaceful warrior? It's a bloody oxymoron. I think the second meaning is beat-me-up-at-school."

"You know, any name can be made fun of."

"No, it can't," I said. "Some names are above that."

"Try me," Chris said.


"Give me a name. Any name. I'll make fun of it."

"OK, how about Zack?"

With a delay of 0.03 seconds, Chris sang, "Zack, Zack, rhymes with butt crack."

I tried another one. "Michael."

"Mike, Mike, you're a dyke."

"You've made your point," I conceded. "But I still hate Humphrey." I looked back at the book. "After the meaning, it says 'see also Onofrio and Onufrey.'"

"See what?" Chris asked.

"Onofrio and Onufrey," I said. "They're names that are similar to Humphrey. So there we go," I said, dropping comfortably into sarcasm, "if our babies are boys, we can name them Onofrio and Onufrey. Or Ono and Onu for short."

I smirked.

This time, Chris conceded. "OK, you've made your point."

Thankfully, we didn't need to register our babies' names to attend prenatal classes at Bangkok's most prestigious hospital. It was the first of three classes that some childless administrator had scheduled over the supper hour, the time of day your blood sugar crashes. When your circulatory system has nearly twice the normal blood volume, that sugar crash can be akin to free falling off a cliff. Chris and I walked into the hospital, foolishly bypassing Starbucks, and took the elevator to the ninth floor. We took a glass of sugary orange drink. Nutritional content was overrated.

After checking in, we sat on the floor in a conference room that was devoid of chairs. With seven couples against one wall and seven against the other, I wondered if we'd play a game of Red Rover as an icebreaker. A lone projector sat in the middle of the floor, like a cactus popping out of a desert. A young Thai woman—who was so small that she'd make Angelina Jolie look like she ate McFood daily—smiled, bowed, and started the PowerPoint. I squinted, trying to differentiate the white font from its pale yellow background, and I ended up wondering if my bad vision meant I had sudden-onset gestational diabetes.

When PowerPoint #1 was finished, a woman from public relations took us on a guided tour of the ward. The first things we saw were the high-end maternity suites, complete with a bedroom, a living room, and a full-size fridge.

"Where are the nor-maall rooms?" I asked.

"In the other hallway," she said. "We won't be seeing them."

Next she took us to a delivery room, showcasing the overhead light dimmer.

"Turning down the lights," she explained, "takes away the pain."

Who knew it was that easy? "Remind me to give birth in the dark," I whispered to Chris.

We returned to the chair-less conference room. After introducing the physiotherapist, the tour guide informed us that we were about to experience her favorite part. This highlight consisted of three minutes of yoga lessons, including the following instructions: "Breathe in, breathe out, shut your eyes."


Excerpted from DON'T LICK THE MINIVAN by LEANNE SHIRTLIFFE. Copyright © 2013 Leanne Shirtliffe. Excerpted by permission of Skyhorse Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents


Introduction: A Rambling Preamble, or How This Came to Be, xiii,
A word to the reader, or more precisely, 452 words to the reader, xiii,
get that train off your penis, xv,
Part One: Pregnancy and Birth, or Is This Really Happening?, 1,
So the accountant got her aunt to do some woo-woo on our unborn babies?, 3,
We're in trouble if our doctor doesn't know how women do it, 9,
you thought telling me I have good stats for a football player would be funny?, 15,
Do you think it's heretical if I refer to myself as the Trinity?, 19,
Why do so many people say stupid things to pregnant women?, 23,
Can you imagine if Tarantino made a film about pregnancy and birth?, 27,
The Sappy Files, Part 1 (or Why My Kids' Future Therapists Should Be Kind), 30,
Part Two: The First Twelve Months, or The I-Barely-Remember Year, 33,
Please take these crying things away, 35,
Follow that car. My babies are in there, 39,
Can you stop selling boob-show passes to our guests?, 45,
Do you think they dropped our babies into a big vat of soup?, 53,
you spit at the taxi driver while pushing the stroller?, 59,
How long were those drunken women holding our babies?, 64,
We travel with our own dual airbags, 72,
I'm screwing up our kids, 81,
We're scarring them for life, 82,
The Sappy Files, Part 2 (or Why My Kids' Future Therapists Should Believe I'm Somewhat Sane), 86,
Part Three: The Toddler Years, or Reasons to Start a Therapy Fund, 89,
We need to outwit, outlast, outnumber our kids, 91,
I'm swearing my way to cleanliness, 97,
Would you put your penis away?, 104,
Mommy will sneeze like Donald Duck if you pick up your toys, 109,
you don't need clothes to be a dancer, 117,
The Sappy Files, Part 3 (or Why My Son's Future Therapists Should Adore Him), 124,
Part Four: Preschool, or Who Taught You That?, 127,
Eating kids' Halloween candy is a community service, 129,
We can use the money from the kids' account to pay the credit card bill, 136,
Did you pee on Minnie Mouse on purpose?, 145,
You can buy a baby at the hospital, 149,
It's not an ice cream truck, it's a vegetable truck, 154,
Hop on Pop, if you know what I mean, 159,
Who told you that you should breathe through your mouth when daddies poo?, 171,
The Sappy Files, Part 4 (or Why My Kids' Future Therapists Should Believe I Don't Need to Be Committed. Yet.), 176,
Part Five: Kindergarten, or Why I Had a Breakdown, 181,
I put the mental in environmental, 183,
A homeless princess and a lion preparing for a flood, excellent choice of costumes, 191,
Her puke ruined the new car smell, 196,
Did you actually lick the tire?, 202,
Do you want to come to Stripper Barbie's funeral?, 207,
If you can't stop laughing, think of something sad, like dead puppies, 214,
I can't cope anymore, 222,
The Sappy Files, Part 5 (or Why My Daughter's Future Therapists Should Adore Her), 225,
Part Six: Beyond Kindergarten, or Putting the Fun in Dysfunction, 227,
Stop using your straw to suck up spaghetti, 229,
You can't shoot people in church, 237,
He put the hose down the vent and turned on the water, 243,
The next time you come out of that room, you'd better be bleeding, 252,
I love the sound of vacuuming up LEgo in the morning, 257,
I'll smuggle some Pinot grigio in the kids' water bottles, 263,
The Sappy Files, Part 6 (or Why My Kids' Therapists Should Have a Drink, unless They're Alcoholics, in Which Case Don't. Blame. Me.), 271,
The Post-Amble, or The Sappy-File Finale, 273,
The Final Sappy File (or Why I Need to Laugh), 273,
Acknowledgments, or People I Didn't Forget to Thank, 275,
Resources, or High Tech-y Stuff, 277,
Index, or A Completely Unhelpful but Accurate Classification, 279,

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 2 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 25, 2013

    I'm not finished yet, but it doesn't matter.  For every parent a

    I'm not finished yet, but it doesn't matter.  For every parent anywhere in the world: read this book.
    Outrageous, funny, heartfelt and so so true.  Leanne Shirtliffe's voice is pitch-perfect, reflecting the joys, anxieties,
    frustrations and wonder of parenthood.  As a grandparent of twins, I can so relate to the tales of supernatural communication
    between the identical spawn; it makes me want  become a kid's birthday party clown - just for the the visceral thrill of
    creating nightmares.  Only for those that deserve it, of course.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 28, 2013

    I LOVED IT! Leanne gives a refreshingly honest take on pregnanc


    Leanne gives a refreshingly honest take on pregnancy, delivery, flu shots, piano lessons,
    and all things arts and crafts (hint, she hates crafts and has banned glitter from the home).

    And the trips! Road trips and plane trips galore, with hilarity ensuing on each leg of their journeys.
    These aren't your run of the mill two hour drive to the beach or a quick three hour plane ride kind of trips,
    they are drives across Canada and flights across oceans. With twins!

    In addition, it's filled with "Parenting Tips". Here's my favorites:

    Parenting Tip: When you ask your children a question, the reply "nothing" means they're guilty.
    Either investigate or hide.

    Parenting Tip: A regular routine of brushing and flossing is essential the three days before your
    children's dentist appointments if you want to appear to be a good parent.

    In summary, this book is heartwarming and hilarious, and smothered with sarcasm. I highly recommend!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)