February 28, 2007

Digging Ourselves Out, Day 5

Today I thought I would tackle the twins' closet. They were playing in their room anyway, and that way I could supervise them and also get the closet done. Oh, ha ha ha. Ha. That worked as great as you might imagine.

Here's the closet Before. This is just the left half of it. As you can see, I have helpers.

Unlike my other clutter projects so far, this closet contains mostly items that really do belong there. However, clearly we have a "stuff it in and worry about the 'where' later" problem going on. We also have a "too much stuff" problem and a "time to put away the pink receiving blankets" problem.

This is a multi-day project, and today's part was to see if I could do something about all the clothes I've been cramming onto the bottom two shelves. The twins are unfortunately blocking your view of one of those shelves, but it looks pretty much exactly like the one above it: completely full of disorganized fabric and plastic.

I like to buy clothes on clearance (have I mentioned I like Target clearance?), and put them aside for future sizes and seasons. "Aside" means, apparently, cramming them anywhere. All the sizes are mixed together, and what good does that do me? The twins will be entering college and I'll still be finding 2T stuff in the back of this closet. Some of the stuff was still in store bags, some of it in some small boxes (an earlier attempt at inflicting order), most of it just stuffed anywhere it would fit ("fit").

I got two boxes and put them on the changing table, labeling one of them "2T" and one "3T." I put anything 4T or above in a pile nearby--I wasn't sure what size box I'd need for that. By the time I had most of the stuff off of the two shelves and into boxes, I had this on my hands:

They were mad because I wouldn't let them take down everything else off the shelves, nor would I let them put things into or take things out of the diaper pail even though I kept opening and shutting it enticingly as I got rid of plastic store bags and ancient receipts.

Time to wrap it up for the day. I put the three new boxes on the floor of the closet. The 2T box is overflowing, but the other two are about the right sizes, with room to add more things. You can only see two of the boxes in this photo; the third box is behind the sliding closet door, more onto the right half of the closet.

It doesn't look a whole lot better, I realize. There's no gasp factor here. But there is some empty space on the bottom shelf, and the shelf above it looks fuller than it is because of a big winter coat and also because of me not doing any organizing yet: all I did today was take things off. Also, some bags of extra school supplies came tumbling down when I removed the wads-of-clothing support system they were leaning on.

It's difficult not to get discouraged, comparing this project to the kitchen table and the bureau: those two projects, it made such a difference spending even 10 minutes on them---whereas I spent about half an hour on this closet and barely made a dent. But this closet has been driving me crazy, and I was worrying as the twins outgrew their 18-month and 18-24-month stuff, and I knew I'd need the 2T and what would I do then? So this is good work, and worth doing, and we will hold our applause until the end--which will probably be in about six weeks, at this rate.

For you: Today's assignment, should you wish to follow me down this dark and dreary road, is to pick a closet or cupboard and spend at least 10 minutes on it. Tidy, purge, reorganize--whatever it needs. If you get to a point where you think, "But I need a set of matched organizing containers, or I can't go on!," don't stop. Find something you can make do with for now (I found an old diapers box, a old moving box, and a Rubbermaid bin), and replace the containers later.

Other People's Children

Sarah of No Whey, Mama has another question for us. She wants to know what we think of the idea of earning a little extra money by taking care of other people's children in your own home, when you're at home taking care of your own kids anyway. She'd like to know if anyone's tried this, either as a full-time or part-time thing, and how it turned out. You can read the whole question over at her site.

I've considered this myself, from time to time. It seems like such a win-win thing: I'm here anyway, I'm watching children anyway, why not earn a little money? I always come down on the "no" side, mostly because I worry that I would get into it and then not want to do it anymore and have trouble getting out of it. Also, when we have playdates over here, I usually find I dislike other people's children, even if they're very nice children.

Swistle's Tips For Pregnant Sleep (None Of Which Are Currently Working)

Put a vaporizer in your bedroom. I prefer the scalding-hazard (warm mist) kind over the mold-hazard (cool mist) kind, but either kind will work if it makes a gentle bubbling sound, the sound of someone taking care of you when you're sick. Paul said last night, "Can't we just use the sound machine?," but I prefer the illusion that a magical sleeping mist is floating out into the room. Also, the moisture seems like it would be good for pregnancy congestion.

Do a Sudoku puzzle while lying in bed, just before turning out the light. I find they distract me from anything my mind might want to turn over and over and over and over, without being the kind of puzzle that might add to that churning mill--for example, the kind of puzzle Paul sometimes does, which can leave both of us lying awake thinking, "What the hell is a 5-letter word for 'he ignited their hopes'?"

Turn pillow sideways from its usual orientation, then fold in half. I like to have the fold near my neck and the ends toward the top of my head, but it can also be nice to have the ends near your neck and the fold near the top of your head. This is good for pregnancy congestion and also for pregnancy heartburn.

Use lavender-vanilla "sleep" lotion from Bath & Body Works. Not lavender (too sharp), not vanilla (too sweet), but lavender-vanilla, from the aromatherapy section. Put it on your collarbone/breastbone area as if it were Vicks VapoRub, and tell yourself you're inhaling something with magical sleep-inducing properties. Try not to lie there in the dark suddenly wondering whether this might be one of those dangerous herbal things.

If you are feeling icky in no particular way, just icky, especially if it's "wake up in the middle of the night feeling icky," do this: (1) pee, (2) chew two peppermint Tums, (3) drink a cup of water, (4) brush teeth, (5) pee again if you already need to, and (6) go back to bed.

If it's on your medical provider's approved list, take a Benadryl.

Window-shop online. I think these would make really cute birth announcements, don't you?

Have sex. HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA! See? A good laugh can relax you, leaving you more ready for sleep.

Before bed, have a mug of hot milk. It sounds repulsive, but it's yummy if you add a little vanilla and a little honey. Don't overheat the milk or it really does get repulsive; heat it not to boiling, but just to "nice and hot." Sip it down, then brush teeth and go right to bed.

Blog. At least you're getting something done, since you're not sleeping anyway. And it would be a shame to waste a quiet house.

February 27, 2007

Quick Question: Zipper Fix

I have a sleeper here (it's William's, not mine) with a zipper that has come un...threaded(?) on one side. That is, the zipper pull is sliding up and down freely on one of two zipper...ladders, but without being connected to the other ladder. The zipper doesn't appear to be broken (no zipper teeth missing, no splits in the ladder), just disconnected. Can this be saved, or is it toast? I mean, I'm not going to replace the zipper; I'm wondering if it can be rethreaded so that both ladders are in the pull, and if so, how, or if I should toss it out. I tried to cram the disconnected ladder into the pull, but it looks like the ladder is too thick to go in like that. It's a brand-new sleeper, and I don't know if the zipper was like this when we bought it or if William unthreaded it the first time he was putting it on.

Male Post-Partum Depression

Gather around, everyone, because today we have a question to answer. The writer and I agreed she would be anonymous for this, but other than a couple of identifying details, I'm leaving her question as she wrote it, because I think she wrote it so perfect:

I have a motherhood-related question for you. Did your husband get the baby blues or even postpartum depression? I had the blues for the first two weeks or so, but my husband was great. He just stepped in there like a champ and took care of both of us. He talked me down from ledges and held me while I cried. He fed, diapered and held the baby whenever she needed it.

Once I hit the three week mark, I finally came to terms with my new life and made new routines and found peace and even happiness in being a mother. At the same time, my husband seemed to take two steps back. He got depressed and antsy. He started getting short with the baby when she cries and only takes care of her when asked. And often, it's with sighs and eye rolling. It's like he wants nothing to do with us anymore.

I tried talking to him about it, but he just insists that he's tired. Well, I find that odd since I now feed the baby at 100% of her feedings so that he can get a full night's sleep for work. He denies that he's depressed, but I know there's a problem. I want to scream at him to get some help so that he can help me. I want another parent in this house. Being on duty 24/7 is getting really old really fast.

All right, I have been thinking and thinking about the concept of a sort of male postpartum depression. What an interesting topic. I tried to remember if Paul had had any sort of "down" time after the births of any of our babies, and I don't remember anything in particular. I finally asked him, and he said he doesn't think he did, but that he doesn't find the idea of it surprising. Although women have hormonal and physical reasons for postpartum depression, some of postpartum stuff is adjusting to the new way life is, and also adjusting to the lessened sleep, and also adjusting to all the new stresses and heavy emotional love responses to the new baby. Plus a guy might struggle with the no-sex-for-6-weeks and maybe even jealousy of the wife's interest in the baby. If a guy were to be negatively affected by all that, I wouldn't be surprised.

BUT--if he seems like he's copping out on the parenting thing, that sounds like a job for a trusty iron skillet. Failing that (it would leave him unconscious, and then he'd be no help at all), I don't know what I'd do. I guess I'd keep bringing it up. I mean, he does have to change this, and I have no ideas beyond (1) iron skillet and (2) nagging. Paul can be a little dense, and I'm surprised at how often I have to lay things out for him in surprisingly "for dummies" terms. A guy might need it explained to him that (1) he is not doing his share, and (2) he has to, without you telling him to do it, and (3) otherwise, you will indeed employ the skillet.

But clearly we need more opinions and stories here. Anyone have a similar experience, or know someone who did? Anyone have any advice? Remember, the comment area has plenty of room, and you should feel free to use up as much of it as you need.

Also remember that this is a dearly beloved husband, not some jerk with a history of being a problem. I don't think we'd want to overdo the mercy, such as in a mommy-and-baby class I took with my firstborn, where another mother was weeping about how her husband didn't help with any housework at all or do any nice thoughtful things for her, and the instructor told her that men might have trouble adjusting to a new baby, and that the way to deal with this was to not expect him to do any housework, and to do more nice thoughtful things for him. But nor do we want to overdo the "Kick that pinehole to the curb!!"

February 26, 2007

Digging Ourselves Out, Day 4

Today's Digging Ourselves Out project is to go read Sundry's post about hiring a housecleaning service and also read the comments, and then spend the rest of the ten minutes thinking about doing the same thing. If it isn't something you can afford, just daydream. If you already have a housecleaning service, think about how awesome it is and how smart you are for having it.

Then, if you can, answer the question I left in Sundry's comments: If you have a housecleaning service, do you feel weird having someone else in your house? Because for me, that's one of the main problems. I'm not worried about someone stealing, I'm worried about someone, you know, being in my house. It makes me feel invaded just thinking about it. What I want to know is, is that something most people feel but you get used to it? or is it that if you feel it, you're probably not going to get over it and should just scrub your own kitchen floor?

Also, a comment I didn't leave but want answered: What does a cleaning service do if there is clutter coating every service? How can they dust the coffee table if they can't get to it?

School Vacation Week

It's Day One of school vacation week, and I was going to get you all to feel sorry for me about that--but then my parents came and took all four children out to lunch with them, and here I am alone in the house, and how am I supposed to make you feel sorry for me now? I'm going to go back to working the school vacation week angle. I can always delete this first paragraph, and you'd never even know I had this time By Myself In The House.

School vacation week makes me wonder why I ever had children in the first place. Of course, if I hadn't had children, I'd be at work right now, probably doing twice the work because I'd be covering for all the people who had children out of school, and I'd be wondering why I hadn't had any kids yet and oh my god I'm in my THIRTIES and TIME IS RUNNING OUT.

I took everybody to Target this morning. Smart move, dumbass. I was thinking it would be fun to let Rob and William each choose something they don't usually get to have (fruit snacks shaped like Legos! thrilling and bound to disappoint!) to celebrate school vacation week, and also we were running low on diapers. I did get the diapers, and the gummy Legos, but I also felt like everyone was noticing how poorly I was controlling my roiling cloud of children. A clerk I didn't recognize said, "Hey, you've got an extra kid today!," which made me realize how often I use Target as an escape. They probably all know me there: the woman with twins, who can't seem to keep it together and is always buying tons of clearance crap and candy, and is so distracted she never even looks at the clerks' faces. "Did you see her today?," they probably say to each other in the break room. "Does she not understand about birth control or what?"

We also bought a 10-pound bag of bird seed. I'd mentioned casually to Rob and William that you could put peanut butter on a pinecone and then roll it in birdseed and then hang it on a tree like an ornament, and that the birds would come and eat from it. To me, this was an interesting story about crafts that happen to other people. To them, this was the most amazing idea they ever heard and CAN WE DO IT RIGHT NOW?? So when I saw a sack of wild bird food at the store, I bought it. But now we have a problem, and it is pinecones. I am not even sure this is the right time of year to find them, or if we have pinecone-shedding trees in our area. Now we are going to have to go on a walk to find pinecones. Hey, can this craft be done with something other than pinecones?

Edited to add: I forgot to tell you about my gigantic find at Target! Simply Shabby Chic sheets, 75% off. I bought three sets of twin and one set of king. I would have bought more king, but it was the only set left.

February 24, 2007

Worn Out and Stressy

The children have worn me out. William says everything ten times, and in a silly voice, and it seems as if he never ever stops talking. He follows me around the house, flopping. Rob keeps asking if we can talk about something, can we spend some time together, can you play with me now? It's pitiful and annoying at the same time. Elizabeth hasn't taken a nap in the last two days, and she won't leave her shoes on, and she gives back almost everything I offer her to eat. Edward keeps getting into the diaper pail, the electronic equipment, the pencils--anything gross, delicate, or stabby. Lifting two heavy toddlers in and out of their high chairs overwhelms my tired body and my sore tum. Both twins are sick with colds that have turned into fevers and coughs. Their noses are double-double the disgusting.

Paul and Rob needed haircuts, so they went downtown and got it done. I started thinking about the cost of five boy haircuts every two months, plus Elizabeth's and mine, and I started feeling like we can't really afford all these children after all. We will have to donate several of them to Goodwill. I am not sure that will be tax-deductible.

The thought of haircuts led me to the thought of braces. Glasses. Car insurance for teenaged boys. What about our retirement? What were we thinking, having even ONE child? Oh, sure, "they're worth it." I'll tell myself that when I'm living rough, eating out of dumpsters, having given all our worldly goods to pay for the needs of our throng of children. At least we won't have to worry about the cost of extracurricular athletic programs: this morning William referred to something he saw in a book as a "hockey bat." It was a golf club.

I don't know why I thought this was a good day to balance the checkbook and work on the bills. Now I am agitating about our electric bill and our heating bill, and how much worse they will be when we have five children taking showers every day. What will we do about the bathroom situation? We have one small bathroom for seven people. This is not going to work out, and we are foolish to attempt it. The boys will need to start peeing in the shrubbery. I will give them showers in the driveway, with the garden hose.

Earlier, when the twins had been running free and the living room was trashed, and the twins were both crying because I'd taken them out of their mess, and I was cleaning it up even though most of it was on the floor and it's uncomfortable to bend over like that now, I had this sudden vision of what it would be like to add a newborn to this. A fussing newborn who wanted to nurse for a leisurely hour while the twins were tantruming. Am I some kind of idiot, that I would allow this to happen? FIVE children? FIVE?? We can't even come up with a name for this new child, because we have named too many children already.

Also, speaking of five, just five Reese's miniature peanut butter cups ("serving," my ass) have 210 calories. What kind of world do we live in, where this can be the case?

February 23, 2007

Quick Question: New Stephen King Novel

Can anyone who has read Stephen King's new book Lisey's Story tell me if there is any reason to continue plowing through it if I have become bored and exasperated after 50 pages? My sister-in-law says she once heard someone say, "Stephen King wouldn't be a bad writer if he had an editor," and I think that is accurately reflecting my current feelings. He wrote in 50 pages what should have taken 5, and he is really overdoing his parenthetical italics again. But if you tell me it is worth it, or that it picks up soon, I will give it another shot.

Drawer Pulls, and a Diaper Wipes Recipe

Last night Paul got out a drill and finished the drawer-pull-replacement project. On one hand I am grateful to him for fixing a problem. On the other hand it is so typical of him to come along for the fun part at the end: he didn't just drill bigger holes, he also installed the new pulls. Installing the new pulls is the best part.

Well. Moving on. Here is the bureau first with the old pulls (white, black-screwhead center), and then with the new (brushed antiqued coppery brown metal):


An unanticipated happy thing is that the new pulls coordinate almost exactly with the frame of a mirror we have above the bureau. But I am still not certain these are the Right Pulls. They seem small. I like them better than the old pulls, but maybe big loopy rings would be even better?

This morning I have been doing very boring tasks indeed. First, Elizabeth broke the household record for "how soon after getting dressed will Mommy have to change an item of clothing due to pee" by being soaked through when I picked her up out of her crib and cuddled her. So both crib sheets got changed, and both twins got baths. Then as I was dressing the babies, I noticed I was using the last diaper, so I refilled the bin. Then I thought I'd better make more diaper wipes, considering we'd been out of them since yesterday and I was starting to push my luck. YAWN. This motherhood gig: so rewarding, so fulfilling.

Those of you who would have need of a homemade diaper wipes recipe have probably already run into this one. Nevertheless, I will post it here. When I first encountered this recipe, it was presented not only as a way to save a few pennies, but as a way to custom-make your own wipes if your baby happened to be sensitive to commercial wipes, or if you wanted to better control the ingredients. I grew to prefer them, and so even though they're a small hassle to make, they're worth it to me. But I also keep the commercial kind on hand for times when I've run out of the homemade kind and don't get around to making more right away, and also for in the diaper bag.

First you need the right container. I bought mine at Walmart. It's a Rubbermaid Servin' Saver, 3 quart. It's a squarish cylinder shape. I have four of them, because it's less trouble to make these wipes if you make a bunch at once.

Next you need the right paper towels. Apparently they have to be Bounty Big Roll. I tried a couple of other kinds (I was assuming that the recipe was put out by Bounty, and that the kind didn't actually matter) and they turned into pulp. I get the regular sheet kind, but maybe select-a-size would be good, too, I don't know. Depends on how customized you want your diaper wipe experience.

Use a big sharp knife and cut the roll of paper towels in half so you have two short rolls. Wiggle and twist the inner cardboard tube until it comes out (it usually brings part of a paper towel with it in a little tufty fountain; that's fine). In the container, combine 1 tablespoon of baby oil, 2 tablespoons of baby shampoo, and 2 cups of water. I don't think exact measurements are crucial. If I'm in a hurry, I just pour in a slog of baby oil and two slogs of baby shampoo, then put in two bathroom-sink cups of water. Swish it around with your hand to mix it, then put a half-roll of paper towels in. Put the lid on, wait about 15 seconds, turn the whole thing upside down, and let it sit for half an hour or so. Then turn it right side up and use wipes by pulling them out from the center.

Cost information: Around here, a 2-pack of Bounty Big Roll paper towels sells for about $3.30. Each roll makes two containers of wipes, so a 2-pack is enough for four containers at about 83 cents each. Each container is 90 wipes. Then you'd have to add a little for whatever the cost is of the oil and soap you use. I like to use store-brand baby oil, the kind with something nice like aloe, and Johnson's Baby Shampoo or Baby Magic. Choosing those parts is the benefit of this recipe as far as I'm concerned: it's nice to choose a scent I like (Johnson's lavender baby shampoo is nice), and it's nice to be able to add more oil in winter, or more/less water if the wipes seem too dry/wet.

Something that raises the cost in our household is that Paul can't seem to wrap his mind around the "paper towels" concept, and instead thinks of the wipes as toilet paper. He pulls out a big long loop, maybe five or six wipes in a big handful, and uses that for a diaper change. If he needs a second wipe, he takes out another big handful. He claims this is because it's "impossible" to rip off a single sheet, but I can personally testify that it is indeed possible, and that once you get the hang of it you can easily do it one-handed.

February 22, 2007

Digging Ourselves Out, Day 3

Today's assignment, for those playing along at home, is to find a small home-improvement task that you've been putting off, and do it. I'm talking about something along the lines of what I chose, which is to finally replace the drawer pulls on the bureau. You could also spackle nail holes, or touch up a teeny paint job, or hang a picture, or pick stickers off the wall--something like that.

I bought the drawer pulls a year or two ago, but when I brought them home and tried to take the old drawer pulls off, I discovered that each one had a nut on the back of what I'd thought was a screw, and that when I tried to unscrew the screw-that-must-in-fact-be-a-bolt, the nut was tightening. Instant despair. Instant giving up. I explained the problem to my dad, who, after a pause in which he was probably wondering where he'd gone wrong with my upbringing, explained that all I had to do was grip the nut with pliers while unscrewing the bolt. Here's how I heard it, though: "All you have to do is...[static]...[some sort of tool]...[something I've never done]....[static]."

This morning I tackled it. I went downstairs, found a tool that brought to mind the word "pliers" ("Does it look like I could pull out a loose tooth with it?"), found a screwdriver, and removed those drawer pulls. It was not easy: those things were installed well over 30 years ago, and they did not want to evacuate the premises. One--probably the one I tightened and tightened and tightened before realizing about the nut--chipped mightily before finally coming loose. But they were out!

And here let us pause along with our brave worker, as she realizes that she has closed each drawer after removing the pulls--to get it out of the way and because it looks tidier that way. Let us turn discreetly away as bad words are uttered. Let us return after she has figured out a method of using screwdriver and pliers to gently pry open each drawer.

And let us turn away again as she realizes that the bolts for the new drawer pulls are much fatter than the old bolts, and that they will not be persuaded to fit no matter how much she clenches her teeth and tries to force them. In fact, let's allow a curtain to fall gently over this whole scene: drawers sloppily open, nuts and bolts and old drawer pulls in a heap on the previously tidy bureau top, new bolts and drawer pulls abandoned in their too-fatness, ten minutes long since over. We will return tomorrow for part 2 of this particular project.

Deliveries, And Another Meme

The freezer! It arrived! The delivery guys only dropped it once! Paul immediately put an entire box of Pop Ice in there, to see how long it would take it to freeze when it wasn't spread out into sheets that slide out of the freezer every time you open the door. We also seem to be storing the energy-usage information in there for some reason. I need to go to the grocery store so I can fill up the rest. Isn't it the loveliest thing you've ever seen? All that shiny white space.

I am anticipating another delivery today: a baby name book I pre-ordered back in October when I found out I was pregnant. It's the new book by Satran and Rosenkrantz, who also wrote Beyond Jennifer & Jason. I really need it, too, because we're stuck on names. Henry is the frontrunner right now, but I happen to know that my parents hate that name, and so even though I know they'll get used to it, I'm reluctant to use it. We've pretty much knocked every other name off the list.

Alienbea tagged me for a meme! Yay! I tag Black Sheep.

1. What is your main cell phone ring-tone? It's a ringing sound. It's boring, but it gets my attention. I had it on music at first, but then I'd just be humming along to it without realizing it was my phone.

2. What is your default avatar? My...what?

3. What station is your car radio permanently tuned to? We have six pre-sets. The one I always try first is an alternative station, the kind with a disrespectful DJ and a limited playlist. Then I have two stations that play more popular music, and sometimes they're good songs and sometimes I'm sick of them. (The other three pre-sets are Paul's, and I don't like any of them.)

4. What is your computer desktop image? One of the twins' one-year portraits. Look at those toesies!

5. Is there something you wear every single day? I wear a uniform, practically: jeans, maternity shirt, hoop earrings.

6. I wish I had a tracking device on: Rob's shoes: every morning it's a hunt. Also, William's stuffed platypus: every evening it's a hunt.

7. What page does your internet browser open with? Google.

8. This item never leaves my car/purse: Maybelline Cola Slushie lipstick. Well, it leaves my purse when I'm putting it on. But then it goes right back in. Lipstick, I've noticed, tricks other people into thinking you're pulled together, even if your hair needs washing and you have baby snot on your shirt.

9. What TV show do you never miss? We're doing TV on DVD right now, because we always miss all of them.

10. What phrase do you hear yourself repeating too often? "Did you HEAR me?"

February 21, 2007

Digging Ourselves Out, Day 2

This makes for a lot of posts in a single day, but my goal is to keep this Digging Out stuff separate from regular posting. We are not a Cleaning Blog.

I have been thinking about the whole 15-minute thing, and I think we ought to ditch it in favor of 10. Not only does 15 remind me of Someone Whose Name Or Insect Species We Will Not Mention, but it's too long. I was trying to get geared up to do my 15-minute thing, and I thought, "Ug, 15 minutes." Yesterday when I cleaned my kitchen table, I set the timer for 10 minutes, and only added another 5 halfway through when I started feeling frenzied. But I was done after 11 minutes, and I spent the remaining 4 minutes picking labels off the Target bowls I decided to keep, which doesn't count.

So! We're only one day into this, I think we can make a change. It's 10 minutes now. You may of course spend longer on it if you want to, or you may do two 10-minute things, but I'm thinking of it as 10 minutes = success. I'm not setting a timer anymore, either, unless it seems fun or motivating to do so.

Today I am turning my attention to another flat-surface-clutter problem area: the bureau in our bedroom. This bureau is one my parents bought before I was born, using a faux-finish kit (possibly referred to at the time as a "groovy-finish" kit) to paint it a hip green with happenin' brown streaks. It looked ugly to me when I was growing up, but now it looks good to me--a combination of sentiment, old age, and the return of similar shades of green. The knobs have to go: they're the white kind with black screws, seen on every single cabinet door from the 1970s. I have replacement knobs purchased and in the drawer of that bureau, but haven't gotten around to replacing them yet. (See how I made that sound as if it's been a matter of days? In fact I bought the knobs at least a year ago, maybe closer to two.)

One thing that's not entirely fair about doing this surface is that I knew it would be one of my first tasks, and so I cleared a couple of things the day before yesterday. I know I shouldn't have, but at the time I told myself I was only doing what I should be getting in the habit of doing anyway, which is clearing clutter as I go. I fold laundry in our room, and I often leave piles of clean dishtowels and washcloths folded on top of that bureau; I removed two teetering piles yesterday. I nearly put them back just for realism, but clutter had already closed in over the spaces they'd vacated and it was too late.

So here is a Before picture:


Items found on this surface (or nearby) included:
  • both halves of a baby monitor, neither half of which we're using
  • two add-on panels for the baby gate, neither of which we're planning to use
  • a baby sun hat Elizabeth never wore and is now too big for
  • an extension cord
  • a Target bag embarrassingly full of clearance Valentine's Day candy
  • two votive candles
  • the tube of Lansinoh I lost when the twins were still nursing
  • half of a plastic Easter egg
  • a whole lot of books, plus one more hiding under the bureau

And here is the After:
Much better. It would be better still if I could think of another place to keep that jewelry box, but I can't.

Two Quick Questions: "Computer Ate My Email" and Mr. Rogers

Question the first: If someone emails you saying, "I wrote you this whole super-long email but then my computer ate it, oh I am so mad!," do you tend to believe that this is true, or do you tend to believe they want credit for doing something they didn't in fact do, plus an excuse for now being too discouraged to write a good email?

Question the second: I find Mr. Rogers very appealing, and I have affectionate childhood memory feelings for him and for his whole show. I was talking to another girl about it, and she said, "Eeee, he's kind of creepy." She's about 10 years younger than me, in her early-to-mid 20s. My theory is this: people who were watching PBS as children in the '70s feel affection for Mr. Rogers; people who weren't even born until the '80s think he's creepy. The question is not so much a question as a survey: If you are in one of those two groups, say which one and say whether you like Mr. Rogers or think he's creepy.

MEMORANDUM

TO: Whom it should concern
FROM: Swistle, and anyone else who would like to be included
RE: Hormones and moods

Even in hormonal situations such as pregnancy, post-pregnancy, and menopause, women continue to experience normal life and react to it normally. Maybe a woman is angry because of hormones, or maybe she is angry because you have once again left your dirty dishes all over the counter and gone off to play on your computer. Maybe a woman is crying because of hormones, or maybe she is crying because there was a sad part in the book she was reading. Maybe a woman is crabby because of hormones, or maybe she is crabby because she is in a crabby mood such as any other normal human being might periodically experience in the course of normal existence.

If you are not personally equipped with Hormone Vision that allows you to tell the difference between a hormone-based mood and a non-hormone-based mood, it is best to assume that the mood is non-hormone-based. And in fact, even if you are equipped with Hormone Vision, does it matter which kind of mood it is? Is it helpful to speculate aloud that the mood may be hormonally motivated, or to communicate by your attitude that you think the feelings presented to you may be safely dismissed? No, it does not: it does not matter, and it is not helpful, and if you don't want a frying pan to the face you'd better knock it the hell off.

February 20, 2007

Digging Ourselves Out, Day One

From the comments on the Housecleaning post, I think we are clear on two things:

1) There is at least some interest in a Dig Ourselves Out project.
2) None of us want to involve The Fly Lady.

Hey, I'm with you: The Fly Lady has some good ideas, but she's more of a "I want to suck away your entire life" cult than a cleaning program. So! Let's get started. I should warn you that anyone who is saying, "Oh, yes, I am such a slob, I only do a big thorough whole-house cleaning once a week" is going to be appalled by the level at which we are starting. This is more the "Vacuum? Yes, I think I vacuumed last fall. Or was it the fall before that?" level of cleaning.

Today's project is to choose a cluttery problem area and spend 15 minutes cleaning it. I know, I know, Someone Else does "15-minute" cleaning projects, but 15 minutes just happens to be a nice amount of time to spend, and so we are going to adopt that number without worrying too much about where else we might have heard it.

The cluttery problem areas in my house are so legion, it was difficult to choose one, but I chose the kitchen table. Here is what the table looked like Before:


And here is a partial list of things I found while cleaning it:
  • a sleeper with a broken zipper
  • two strawberry-shaped drinking glasses full of pencil shavings
  • a bag of bowls I bought at Target and hadn't decided yet about keeping
  • baby congratulations cards from when the twins were born (June 2005)
  • a block of wood
  • toy plastic lump of green peas
  • paperwork for the truck
  • 2 bins (plus 1 pile) of baby books (I read to the twins while they're in their high chairs)
  • 2 flashlights
  • a metal pint-sized ice cream holder

And here is what the table looked like After:



Better, yes? It's not totally clear, but theoretically people could eat at this table now, and you can see much more of the vinyl leaf-patterned tablecloth I put on there in the fall of 2005. The baby cards are still there, but going through those is outside the scope of a 15-minute project window. I've reduced the baby books to one bin, and put the others in the babies' room, to be rotated when I can't stand even one more repetition of the ones on the table.

Now it is your turn! Go forth, and conquer a patch of clutter! Maybe you don't have anything as bad as at my house, but you could tackle a pile of old mail, or a junk drawer, and if necessary reduce the time to 10 minutes. Go at your own pace, people.

February 19, 2007

Bad Housekeeping Day

I am not having a good housekeeping kind of morning. William and I made cookies, and they were supposed to be Choc-Oat Chip, but when I went to get out the baking cocoa, there were only scraps in the bottom of the container. Paul went to the grocery store last, so I asked him about the baking cocoa that had been on the list. He said, "Oh, yeah. I didn't know what baking cocoa was." O. Kay. No, don't ask a clerk, or call me on your cell phone, or look in the baking aisle and see if anything is labeled "baking cocoa"--please, don't trouble yourself.

So William and I made Oat Chip, no Choc. And the cookies came out all flat and greasy-looking, which is mystifying to me because I can be depended on to make cookies successfully: it is very unusual for me to be shaking my head at a cookie sheet and thinking, "What has occurred here?" They taste good, but scraping them off the cookie sheet was like trying to remove dried melted slug from the sidewalk, not that I have ever attempted such a thing, so I suppose what I mean is that it was like I would imagine such a task to be like, not that I have spent much time imagining it, either.

While the second batch was in the oven, the dryer buzzer buzzed. I went down to get a load of clothes, and discovered that they had purple marks all over them from some mystery source. I got increasingly frantic and tense as I took each item of baby clothing out of the basket (the rugby shirt I bought Edward yesterday, which he hasn't even worn yet; Elizabeth's favorite kitty shirt; the blue shirt with white sleeves I never know if I should put it in with whites or with colors), seeing which had been possibly ruined and wondering why why WHY?

I assumed that at some point I would discover the culprit item that had stained everything, and that it would be an item that would allow me to put the blame for this disaster firmly on some other member of my household--ideally Paul, who could be berated and made to feel my pain, rather than one of the children, who would have to be patiently instructed and educated. But nothing ever turned up: I put away the whole load of clothes, and there was no crayon, no skein of embroidery floss, no marker, nothing. And now my mind turns to the load of white laundry currently in the dryer. Oh, no no no no no.

Also, I need a good reliable recipe for oatmeal chocolate-chip cookies. Anyone got one? Email to swistle at gmail dot com, and maybe I'll post them and we can have a little bake-off.

My First Meme Tag

Semi-Desperate Housewife tagged me for my very first meme! I tag Aoife of Farrago.

It's called "The ABCs of Homemaking." Let's not dwell on whether that's the kind of thing we homemakers find stimulating, let's just answer the questions.

Aprons- Y/N? No. I do own several: a vintage grandmotherly half-apron with red rickrack, a large blue striped canvas one, a plain white one. But I never wear them, I just allow them to take up valuable cupboard space.

Baking- Favorite thing to bake? Cookies. Bars.

Clothesline- Y/N? As if.

Donuts- Ever made them? We made them a few times when I was a child, but I've never made them myself as an adult. I seem to remember they weren't very good. Or maybe they were good, but too much trouble.

Everyday- One homemaking thing you do every day? Think about how I ought to clean more.

Freezer- Do you have a separate deep freezer? As of this coming Wednesday, yes!

Garbage Disposal- Y/N? No, and I want one so badly, because Paul can't seem to remember that we don't have one, and is always trying to stuff bits of raw chicken, vegetable trimmings, etc., down our sink. We have our own compost heap in the u-bend.

Handbook- Y/N? What? Like a cleaning manual I use? No.

Ironing- Love it or hate it? Iron is a vitamin supplement and a useful building material, that's ALL. I do own an iron, given to me by my mother. It lives it its box, and I have removed it twice: once when we had a houseguest who needed one, and once when Paul had an interview and his shirt looked rumply.

Junk Drawer- Where is it? Kitchen, the smallest drawer. Also, on every flat surface in the entire house.

Kitchen- Design and decorating? We have a crappy 1960s kitchen with tons of floor space and about 2 square feet of counter space. The counters are that awful 1960s gold-flecked stuff, though, so I guess the less of it the better. The cabinets were dark pine, and since the kitchen is dark anyway, it was way too dark; when we moved in I painted the cabinet doors and drawer fronts glossy white. It looks...weird. But it's lighter. I always mean to repaint them a better (but still light) color, but I never get around to it. The walls are the same "apartment cream" as the rest of the upstairs. I keep meaning to repaint that, too.

Love- What is your favorite part of homemaking? I guess I like baking best.

Mop- Y/N? Um. Yes! Oh, yes. Clearly I mop. Who wouldn't? I mean, it would be really bad not to. So obviously I do.

Nylons- Wash by hand or in the washer? On the very few occasions I wear them, I handwash them and fling them over the shower curtain rod to dry.

Oven- Do you use the window or open it to check? Look through the window, then open it. Because I never learn. It seems like it would work to look through the window.

Pizza- What do you put on yours? Those yellow hot peppers; black olives; sausage; pepperoni; cheese; sauce. And I mean that Paul does it, since he's the one who makes pizza. But those are the toppings I request.

Quiet- What do you do during the day when you get a quiet moment? Computer, or read a book.

Recipe card box- Y/N? Yes. Also books.

Style of house- It's a raised ranch. When we moved in, the basement was unfinished, but my dad built two bedrooms and a family room down there after the twins were born, and now we call it "the downstairs."

Tablecloths and napkins- Y/N? Assuming you could see the surface of the kitchen table under the clutter (and that would not be a safe assumption to make), you would see a leaf-patterned vinyl tablecloth. You might think I was just a little late changing it from this past fall, but actually it is there from the fall of 2005. We usually use paper towels instead of napkins.

Under the kitchen sink- Dish soap, hand soap, small appliances (see "counter space, lack of"), trash bags.

Vacuum- How many times a week? Per WEEK? I'm not able to answer in those terms.

Wash- How many loads do you do a week? An endless number. ENDLESS. Well, probably six or seven. I'm not sure. I'll try to do better about keeping track for the next meme.

Xs- Do you keep a list of things to do and cross them off? Sometimes. And we have a white board in the kitchen for tasks that we don't want to forget (like getting the oil changed).

Yard- Who does what? Paul does anything that gets done. Frankly, our yard is a little embarrassing.

ZZZs- What is your last homemaking task for the day? Doing anything that will make me feel crazy if I see it not-done first thing in the morning. Or meaning to.

February 18, 2007

Lookee My Plates!

This is the very thing I was looking for! I know I said I was looking for plastic heart-shaped bowls, but this is what I meant. I found these Valentine's Day compartment plates at Target today for 75% off--so, $1 each. Can you just imagine a little row of heart-shaped toasts in the bottom compartment, and conversation hearts in the heart-shaped compartment, and then some other things I'll think of later in the other compartments? Won't it be great?

I was dithering in the store because I needed to buy five, of course, but I was also thinking, "...or do I need six?" This "...or do I need n+1?" problem is something I'm looking forward to resolving someday, but it is not yet resolved, despite the fact that I asked Paul this weekend if we could have just one more teeny baby after this one and he specifically said no. After all, he also said no to any more than four, and look where we are now. These things happen.

So anyway, I didn't want to buy five plates and then later on need to toss them all and start over because we were one plate short. My mom came up with the brilliant plan of buying seven plates: that's enough for the whole family to eat from, if Paul and I want to eat out of little plastic compartments, and then those two extras double as two spare plates for "these things happen." If any thing did happen, I could buy two new, different plates for Paul and me, so Paul and I would match and the kids would all match each other, and we'd still have one extra kid plate in case of any thing else happening. Paul and I aren't going to eat off those compartment plates anyway and I think we all know it.

February 17, 2007

Assorted Items Of Business

Kelsey was wondering if I get an email when someone comments, and yes! I do! It is great, because even if someone is going through the archives and wants to comment or ask a question on something from way long ago, I get an email that the new comment is there. Since otherwise I would spend hours a day combing obsessively through old posts ("Did anyone comment on this one? How about now? How about NOW?"), this is a service that is keeping me off psychiatric medication. Thanks, Blogger!

You know what I don't get, and I wish I did? Email addresses. I mean, I wish it only if you volunteered it as you were commenting, I don't mean that I wish I could spy on your personal information (although if I could, I would totally find out if you had any ice cream in your freezer, because we just ran out...somehow). Sometimes someone asks a question, and as we've established, it's not common or practical for people to go running back to check the comment sections of every blog they've commented on just in case the blogger left a reply. Several people have recommended I switch to a new thingie for comments, but sigh flop groan. I can't face it. It's so easy to go with Blogger's, even though it fails me in this regard. If you ever have a question that you want to make sure you get an answer to, but you also think other people would be interested in the question/answer, you could leave a comment and also email me at swistle at gmail dot com. Then I'd answer you personally from my email address, and also answer in the comment section. Gee, this is a great post so far, as mesmerizing as going over the minutes of last week's meeting.

Hey, you know what I bought at 50% off at Target? Heart-shaped paper plates, for next year's Valentine's breakfast of heart-cookie-cuttered toast with red jam (not pancakes). I'd wanted to find heart-shaped plastic bowls, but the only heart-shaped bowls were large and ceramic, like candy dishes. I'll keep an eye out, but for now the plates are good. I got paper napkins, too, with a heart pattern.

Remember my new freezer, that was supposed to be delivered Friday and keep me from running out of ice cream? It was not delivered Friday. Our delivery window was 8:30-10:30, and at 12:50 they called to say that they weren't doing any deliveries that day because the weather had kept a manufacturer's truck from getting to them with the appliances. Well, that's a totally understandable reason. And are they asking me to believe that they didn't realize until midday Friday that they would not be doing any deliveries? I think they could have called a little sooner, like before I spent all morning waiting anxiously, not daring to pee in case the doorbell rang, cooped up with three children because I couldn't leave the house. But as my dad pointed out, at least I didn't have to take a day off work to wait and then have this happen. Indeed, that would have been way more annoying. I'm still crabby about the ice cream, though.

February 16, 2007

Housecleaning

I know it was very recently that I was claiming to be satisfied with my current policy of not doing much housework. The problem is that writing it out like that made me think more about it, and when I thought more about it I started noticing it more, and when I started noticing it more I started feeling a little frantic under the weight of all this clutter and dirt.

And so I suppose what I am saying is that I am going to try to dig myself out. I suppose I am saying that I am intending to do a little housework after all. This is a terrible drag. Those of you who already keep your houses clean will not be impressed with my meager, flailing efforts, and those of you who don't keep your houses clean will feel betrayed by my apparent attempt to cross to the other side. But fear not, allies! My intention is not to turn this house into a sparkling masterpiece, or to spend hours (or even "hour") a day working on keeping it that way. My intention is to try to beat back the actual health and fire hazards, and then do the minimum necessary to maintain those safety levels.

If anyone else would like to join me, perhaps we could form a Dig Ourselves Out brigade. And perhaps those who are already living in cleanliness could contribute tips and motivating thoughts.

I'm starting with the few things I remember from a brief fling I had with The Fly Lady a few years ago. I still appreciate many of her main tenets, but at the time I got tired of the motivational seminar tone, and also of what I perceived to be an ever-increasing level of commitment to cleanliness: first it's "You can do this in just 15 minutes a day!" and before you know it it's 15 minutes of this plus 15 minutes of that plus 15 minutes of this plus 15 minutes of that plus 15 minutes of...and so on.

Here are some of the things she said that I remember, and still like:

1) It's better to do a little of something than none of it. That is, a single wet paper towel swiped across the counter is better than not cleaning the counter at all because you don't have time to do it perfectly and completely.

2) Even just 15 minutes of work a day will make a significant difference over time.

3) If it oppresses you, toss it out.

4) Don't start a load of laundry if you don't have time to see it all the way through to the bitter end.

5) Don't try to dig yourself out all at once.

Today I spent a little time cleaning some of the edges of the kitchen. It bothers me the way dirt and crumbs and fuzz accumulate on the floor under the little ledges of the cabinets and stove and refrigerator, and so I spritzed and wiped, spritzed and wiped, until all the muddy fuzz was gone. I was surprised at how much nicer the entire kitchen looked to me when this small task was done. I am a housecleaning whirlwind! Gather 'round and admire my tiny progress!

February 15, 2007

Peanut Butter Recall

Thanks to Erica at All Dressed Up for the news about this peanut butter recall. Apparently the CDC thinks it's the source of an outbreak of salmonella poisoning. Hey, that's all I need is a new food to get freaked about. I already have to wash the whole kitchen down with bleach if I glance at a package of raw chicken.

Deciding Whether Or Not To Be A Mother

Today we have an excellent question from Kara of Baa Baa Black Sheep. Kara writes:

I have a strange-ish question. It is this: What makes women know they are ready to be mothers? I mean, I know often it is unplanned, but if that's not the case, what's the thought process? Do you think women ever really feel ready? It's a topic that comes up frequently among my girl friends (I have one who is literally terrified of labor, to the point of saying "I look at your hips and I think 'surrogate!'", and I thought I'd ask you. I'd like to hear your input.

Well! You know how people have topics you don't want to get them started on because they will never shut up? This is one of my topics! I am so interested in the whole "family planning" process: how people decide whether to have children, and how many, and what kind of spacing, and when to stop, etc. I could talk about it all day long, and then start in on it again first thing the next morning, until you wish you'd never asked.

Anyone who feels like answering, please pitch in. If you've had a baby, or more than one baby, or if you're putting it off, or if you've decided not to have children at all, speak up--I am dying to know your answer. And don't feel the need to make it short and comment-length--the comment section has tons of space, so fill it up with essays if you want to.

I will go first, because I can't help but notice that this is my blog. For me, it was like catching a virus. I was going along, la-la-la, thinking I might want children someday or maybe I wouldn't, and then suddenly I was consumed with wanting a baby. I think the trigger was when an old friend of mine got accidentally knocked up. She was the first of all my friends to get pregnant, and her pregnancy was like an amazing revelation to me: "WE are of the age to have BABIES! I could have a baby!" It was exactly like flipping a switch from "stand by" to "on." The switch is still on, and I am starting to look for ways to flip it the hell off, because this is getting nuts.

Mine was the "baby fever" method of deciding to have a child. It's a lucky way to decide, I think, because it makes the usual fears seem almost insignificant. I was worried about labor, and I was worried that I would have a baby and then regret it but be stuck with it, and I was worried that I was having a baby too young, and I was worried that having a baby with Paul would tie me to him more permanently than marriage, and I was worried that I would go into labor in a snowstorm and have to deliver the baby myself onto trash bags laid out on the living room floor--but all those fears were minuscule compared to the WANT BABY WANT BABY WANT BABY WANT BABY soundtrack endlessly looping in my head. I read pregnancy books, took a class on fertility (want to talk about cervical fluid? I'm your girl!), bought baby clothes in the sneaky manner usually reserved for buying heroin, and was sad to see my period every month. This is all before we'd even started trying to conceive.

I don't think this is a particularly common way of deciding to have a baby. It seems to me that at least in my group, it's more common to wonder about it, to not be sure, to keep waiting to see if it becomes more clear, to start worrying about running out of time, to finally have to take a chance one way or the other. Tell me....I mean, tell Kara: How was it for you? Did you waffle? Did you leap? Did you change your mind? Did you feel pressure because of age? relatives? partner?

February 14, 2007

Valentine's Day. It Is Today.

I don't know why, every Valentine's Day morning, I think it's a good idea to make heart-shaped pancakes. It seems like such a loving and maternal and "simple pleasures" thing to do, but actually pancakes are a hassle and a mess. As soon as I get started, I remember this.

Rob and William come into the kitchen and they're completely in my way every time I turn around, and the presence of hot pans and hot syrup is making me jittery with visions of emergency-room burns and permanent scarring, and they keep asking me questions when I'm distracted and trying to keep up with the bubbling pancakes and boiling syrup, and so I start speaking sharply to them and before long they've stopped their happy talking, and not long after that they go out into the living room, and there I am in the kitchen by myself, having ruined another potentially pleasant childhood memory. Why would I speak lovingly to them on Valentine's Day, when the real point of Valentine's Day is PERFECTLY-MADE PANCAKES?

There are drips of batter everywhere, and everything gets sticky with syrup, and meanwhile the children are asking for more and I'm standing there frustrated and starving with half a bowl of batter still left to pour. The twins are inexplicably crying and refusing to eat their pancakes, and their crying seems so ungrateful when I'm working so hard and getting so frustrated.

By the time all the pancakes are made, the children are done eating and I eat a couple of pancakes standing up at the counter before starting right in on the surprisingly large pile of dishes, feeling like the Valentine's Day Martyr, spreading her message of what true love is about: sacrifice and resentment, and loving gestures delivered with sharp words and a crabby attitude.

And as I've said, I do this every year. It would be more in my style of mothering to buy some pretty heart-shaped plastic bowls and serve breakfast cereal in them, and have heart-shaped paper napkins too, and we would all talk happily about what a fun surprise that was and whether they could use the bowls again later for soup, and I would say YES! and it would be a great treat. So why do I keep doing the pancakes? It doesn't matter how often I remind myself that we are all different kinds of mothers and we all have different strengths, I keep trying to work with other mothers' strengths: I try to be the one who whips up a picturesque and entertaining breakfast, when my strength is shopping for fun stuff. Next year, I'm buying the bowls.

Anyway.

Yesterday we talked about Valentine's Day Past, and today as promised we will talk about Valentine's Day Present. What are your plans? Anyone going on a hot date? Anyone staying in and getting a pizza? Anyone turning into a Kitchen Bitch over stupid pancakes?

February 13, 2007

Valentine's Day. It Is Tomorrow.

It does us no good to pretend that Valentine's Day is not tomorrow: we all know that it is, so we might as well talk about it. I've heard complaints that Valentine's Day is a "Hallmark holiday," but Valentine's Day got started in the Middle Ages, so that complaint is right out. Sweetest Day and Boss's Day, though, I'm totally with you.

My best Valentine's Days have been when I was single. I'd get together with a friend or two, and we'd pretend to be sad and depressed while we watched romantic movies, ordered pizza, and ate out of a large heart-shaped box of chocolates. Fun. Once--and this was the best of all--I didn't have a boyfriend, but I got a heart-shaped balloon from a secret admirer, and I never did find out who sent it. Secret admirer + movies/pizza/chocolate = Best Valentine's Day Ever.

The Valentine's Days with a boyfriend or husband have always been letdowns. There was the high school boyfriend who gave me a red plush teddy bear with "I Wuv You" on the tummy. The college boyfriend who gave me a bracelet from a gumball machine. The husband who said on Valentine's Day afternoon, "Oh, uh....hey. Do we do Valentine's Day?"

Nevertheless, I am fond of the holiday. I like heart-shaped boxes and the chocolates inside them, and I like pretty Valentine's Day cards, and I liked the card exchange when I was in elementary school, and now I like helping Rob and William with their card exchanges. One of my friends sent me a Valentine's Day card a couple of years ago, and I thought that was a nice thing to do and so now we exchange them each year, and I do the same with my other favorite friend.

Tell me about your Valentine's Day history. Best? Worst? Tomorrow I plan to ask you about THIS Valentine's Day and what your plans are, but for today let's talk about the past.

Baby Girl Hair Question

Beth has posted my question in today's Diary of a Playgroup Dropout, and if you guys have any advice about handling/managing/cutting/taming baby girl hair, go on over there and chip in. You don't even have to have a baby girl--you can just have been a baby girl yourself at one time, or have known baby girls, or have heard something about difficult hair in general.

Also, if you know anything about a good child's conditioner, please speak up. All I can find are ones that smell like gross fruity candy. I'd like one that smelled like regular baby shampoo, or even just like non-gross-fruity-candy.

I first found Beth's column on ClubMom when Linda at Purple Is A Fruit linked to this column: "Would Somebody Shut Me Up Already?" and I've been reading every since. Good stuff.

February 12, 2007

Ear Hats

Perhaps you are in the market for the kind of baby hat that will cause strangers to fall backwards into store shelves, scattering products and clutching their hearts?


You are in luck! Such a hat is on clearance at L. L. Bean: Take me to those ear hats and right quick. As seen on the Swistle Twins! Limited quantities available! Certain colors already sold out in certain sizes! Twins are modeling "Lake" (Edward) and "Pink Lilac" (Elizabeth).

Freezer!

Guess what I bought this weekend? A freezer! The act of blogging about it apparently filled me with fresh resolve. I went into the store, looked at the freezers, chose one, and it'll be delivered Friday. It is an upright, even though those cost more to run, because I am not temperamentally suited to a chest freezer, and would always be "just this once" taking out the topmost items rather than the ones that were oldest. It's a self-defrosting one, even though those too cost more to run, because I am at peace with myself the way I am, and I know I would never ever defrost the freezer, and eventually I would have one cubic foot of freezer space surrounded by many cubic feet of frost. I had been fretting about what size to choose, but the cost per year of running the three different sizes was basically the same (a $5/year difference between the smallest and the largest), and the largest was on sale for less than the cost of the medium-sized one, and so I bought the largest one. Yay, me! Before the baby is born I will be able to make all those yummy recipes you guys sent in.

February 10, 2007

New Rule, Because Evidently It Needs To Be Made

I have a new rule for inclusion in the Rulebook For Parents, and I assume someone is compiling such a volume because it is clearly needed. The new rule is this: No parent may set up an activity for children that requires supervision, and then bail. For example: I may not set up Rob and William with fingerpaints, as if I am some sort of Fingerpaint Fairy bestowing favors, and then say to Paul, "See you later! I'm going to the store!"

Notice how cleverly I avoid implicating Paul as the rule-breaker when I use this example. It almost seems as if I could have broken the rule myself, and was now feeling remorse. But in fact what happened was that Paul set the twins loose in the house with cups of orange juice and crayons, and then took off on a walk with William.

The twins get very little time loose in the house: they spend most of their time in their room--which is also their playroom--and the large play yard in the living room. This is because they are still destructive, mindless animals, and because they get into trouble in two different directions at once. When they are out, they require intense supervision, ideally by two adults so that one can stop Edward from pulling the tape out of a videotape while the other stops Elizabeth from pulling out handfuls of crayons and throwing them under the couch. And do you think the twins are normally allowed to have cups of sticky, sticky orange juice while they are running free? No. No, they are not.

Certainly no one would want to be the one to re-cage the twins after someone else has promised them time to roam freely. You might as well set up an air raid siren--no, two air raid sirens--right inside your house, and let them whoop until your teeth fragment and skitter to the floor. And so I was trapped: the door closed behind Paul, and Elizabeth dropped her cup. Moments later, Edward upended the crayon bin. Moments after that, Elizabeth tripped and hit her mouth and started screaming, and Edward used the ensuing fuss as an opportunity to escape into the kitchen and start emptying cupboards. If I had come up with the twin freedom idea, I would have been cursing myself; as it was, I was cursing Paul. Paul was conveniently not there to receive the curses.

I don't think I should always have to be the one issuing edicts around here, and yet that is the way it happens. Some of us seem to instinctively understand the rules, and others of us seem to need them spelled out. Writer of the rulebook, please take note.

Secret Blogs...Revealed!!

Apparently you guys were just tapping your fingers impatiently through all the posts on baby names and recipes, dying for me to ask you instead what TV shows to watch.

I've watched Six Feet Under on DVD already; I found it almost too upsetting at times, but wonderful. The last episode had me sobbing--not just crying a little but snorting and heaving and choking. I think I watched the last part of it three times, and then had welling tears every time I thought of it for the next few days. And, um, also right this minute, writing about it.

On another topic, I told some people in my real life about my blog. It was a total secret before, and now it's a mixed secret: I told Paul and my parents that the blog exists, but that they may not read it. This may have been a mistake. But I am not good with secrets, and I was starting to slip and have to cover it up, and also I wanted to be able to tell Paul and my parents when something awesome happened ("CATHERINE NEWMAN commented on my blog!!" "SUNDRY reads my blog!!").

As you might expect, there have been mixed reactions to my sudden revelation. Paul was a little crabby, especially when I made him actually literally promise not to look for the blog or read it--but also made him listen to stories of blog happiness. My mom, who is the kind of mom who would walk right past an open diary, was just "Oh! How nice!" My dad is more, "If it's a public blog, it should be public"--that is, he should get to read the whole thing, because everybody on the internet gets to. My argument is that it isn't really public. Sure, it's on the internet, but it's anonymous. If it weren't anonymous, I wouldn't be writing as frankly as I write. And to my parents, I'm not anonymous. Therefore, they can't read it. We've worked out an arrangement: I'll send him links to the entries he may read, as long as he promises not to go poking around in the rest of the site. I can't write if I'm thinking, "Oh, my dad's going to be reading this--better leave out the part about pelvic rest."

Semi-Desperate Housewife had a post awhile back on this general topic--basically, who knows about your blog, and how does it affect your writing, and do you leave things out because of the people you know are reading, and do you now regret telling people about the blog?

February 9, 2007

Television Series

I never manage to remember what's on TV or when, and so what I like to do is rent DVDs of TV shows that are no longer on the air. It's an instant-gratification way to snork down entire series: no waiting a week for the next episode, no waiting all summer for the next season.

But here is the problem: it does me no good to rent DVDs of TV shows that are still currently producing episodes. I accidentally got started on Gilmore Girls and now I've seen through season 6 but I have to wait ages before season 7 will be on DVD.

What I need are recommendations for good television series that are no longer being made, so that I can watch the entire series now, with no waiting.

February 8, 2007

Holy Crap, I'm Totally Famous

In case you guys don't read Purple is a Fruit--and I find that very hard to believe, considering what obviously good taste you have in blogs--you should go over there now because I AM MENTIONED.

And to those of you visiting me because of that mentioning: hi! And I wish I hadn't just posted a whole mess of recipes, because now you'll be thinking, "Oh, I see, it's a recipe blog," and you'll just move on past. Try scrolling way, way down, where we've been discussing druggie pregnant women! and making out with Tom DeLonge of Angels and Airwaves! and baby names (still time to vote)! and choosing a freezer! and, um, another recipe!

Placenta Previa

I had an OB appointment today (I'm at 23 weeks), and he went over with me the results of the ultrasound I had in mid-January. Apparently the ultrasound shows I may have placenta previa.

I've been doing a little frantic online research, and so far it's setting my fears to rest. For one thing, I was thinking that placenta previa could lead to placental abruption (where the placenta pulls away from the uterine wall, depriving the baby of things it needs), but I was mistaken in that. Also, it appears that it's fairly common to hear after a mid-pregnancy ultrasound that you have placenta previa, but then to find later that the problem is no longer there. I have an ultrasound in 4 weeks to check to see if "migration" has occurred. The OB said the placenta doesn't literally migrate (here he made a wing-flapping gesture) but that as the uterus expands it can turn out that the placenta was never over the cervix to begin with and only appeared to be.

If it hasn't migrated, the ultrasound will determine how far over the cervix the placenta is. I'll have to be alert for any bleeding (as if I'd be blase about that otherwise), and there's an increased risk of early hospitalization and premature birth. Women with placenta previa have to have c-sections, but I have c-sections anyway so that's no big deal.

The most alarming thing to Paul, of course, is that if I do have placenta previa, I'll be put on, um, "pelvic rest."

Recipes To Make For New Mothers

Here are the results of my call for recipes. Thanks everybody who sent one in! If now you're thinking, "Oh, shoot, I meant to send in my awesome recipe and I totally forgot," don't despair--go ahead and send it in, and I can always post "More Recipes To Make For New Mothers."

Black Sheep says: "I've got a fun recipe here for white chili, or spicy chicken soup. If you don't load it up with cheese it's quite low-cal, and has lots of fiber and chicken soup goodness. This freezes/refrigerates super well. Just don't freeze it with the cheese in! It gets all weird and...goopy if you do that."

Black Sheep's White Chili

1 tbsp. olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 (4 ounce) cans chopped mild green chilies (you can also use fresh, and get the hotness level you like)

2 tsp. ground cumin
1-1/2 tsp dried oregano, crumbled
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (I use a ton more than this, because I like things to burn)

3 cans (16 ounce) white beans (great northern) undrained
6 cups chicken stock or 3 cans canned chicken broth (put in more if you like soupier soup, this amount will make it fairly chunky)

4 cups chopped cooked chicken
Grated monterey jack or mozarella

Heat oil in large pot over medium high heat. Add onions and saute until translucent, about 10 minutes. Stir in garlic, then chilies, cumin, oregano, and cayenne pepper and saute 2 minutes. Add undrained beans and stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and add chicken. Simmer as long as you want (within reason).

Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with sprinkle of cheese. (Or just fill a bowl with cheese and add a little soup, as my sister does.) (Also good with tortilla chip garnish!)

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Aoife says: "I like tuna casserole. The one I like the most involves one box of Kraft macaroni dinner, one can cream of mushroom, frozen peas (and other frozen veggies - this is an easy recipe to add veggies for kids) one can (or two if you like) of tuna, butter, and some sort of crunchy like french fried onion or potato chips."

Aoife's Tuna Casserole

Cook elbows per box directions. In separate pan, heat soup with a HALF can of milk or water and the cheese powder. Drain pasta, set in casserole dish. Add tuna and frozen veggies to sauce mixture and stir to shred it all up. Pour sauce on tuna, mix it up. (Freeze at this point)

Bake at 350-400 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour (i play fast and loose with times and temps since its not actual baking, but heating). Add crispies about 15 minutes before its done. Then its ready to eat.

Another good concoction involves white rice, cream of chicken soup, canned mushrooms, shredded cheese, frozen peas (again), left over chicken (or fresh since its for a friend! )... combine and bake. Add just a half can of milk to soup mixture. You can add one egg to make it stick together better.

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Tessie, a new mom herself and a fellow enthusiast of bringing food to other new mothers, sent in seven recipes, for which I was very grateful because this recipe idea was making a pretty skimpy post until she came along. I was picturing all the other bloggers elbowing each other and whispering about how I couldn't get more than TWO people to send in recipes.

Tessie's Tater Tot Hotdish

1 ½ lbs. lean hamburger
1-2 stalks of celery
1 medium chopped onion
1 can each cream of mushroom and cream of chicken soup
½ can milk (soup can)
½ lb. Velveeta
1 32 oz package tator tots

Brown the hamburger with chopped celery and onion. Drain fat. Put this in the bottom of a casserole dish. In the same pan, mix the soup and milk until lumps are gone and pour over hamburger. Cover the top with slices of Velveeta. Cover this with a single layer of tator tots. Bake uncovered in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes.

**This is my favorite Minnesota hotdish!

**Some crazies like to add green beans, corn, etc. I don’t but go for it, if you want


Tessie's Swedish Meatballs

4 eggs
1 cup milk
8 slices white bread, torn
2 lbs. ground beef
¼ cup finely chopped onion
4 tsp. baking powder
1-2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
2 Tbsp. shortening
2 cans each cream of chicken and cream of mushroom
1 can evaporated milk
Parsley

In a large bowl, beat eggs and milk. Add bread; mix gently and let stand for 5 minutes. Add beef, onion, baking powder, salt, and pepper; mix well (mixture will be soft). Shape into 1 inch balls. In a large skillet, brown meatballs, a few at a time, in shortening. Place in an ungreased 3 quart baking dish. In a bowl, stir soups and milk until smooth; pour over meatballs. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Sprinkle with parsley. Serve over noodles or rice.

*If you don’t want to brown the meatballs in oil, put them on a baking sheet and brown them in the oven for 20 minutes or so. If you don’t want to make the meatballs from scratch, you can use this same sauce with frozen store-bought meatballs (not Italian seasoned).


Tessie's Easy Chili Hotdish

1 can (40 oz) chili with beans
1 can (4 oz) chopped green chilies
1 can (2 ¼ oz) sliced black olives, drained
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
2 cups Cool Ranch Doritoes, crushed (I use almost the whole bag)
Sour cream

Combine all ingredients except sour cream. Transfer to a greased baking dish. Bake, uncovered at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until bubbly. Top with sour cream.


Tessie's Easy Hotdish

1 box macaroni and cheese, prepared as usual
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 tsp. poultry seasoning
Salt and pepper
½ cup celery, chopped
¼ cup onion, chopped
2 cups cubed, cooked chicken
½ to 1 pint sour cream with chives

Mix the above ingredients together and cook until heated through.

*I like to use the Shells and Cheese or “Deluxe” kind of mac and cheese


Tessie's Chicken and Rice

1 box Uncle Ben’s Long Grain and Wild Rice
Butter
3-4 chicken breasts
Flour
1 envelope Lipton Dry Lemon and Garlic or Savory Herb with Garlic soup mix

Cook the Uncle Ben’s rice until about half done. Put rice and remaining liquid in a baking dish. Flour the chicken breasts and brown them in plenty of butter. Put on top of the rice. Add Lipton Soup and about 2/3 cup water to the chicken breast drippings. Heat to a boil, mixing well. Pour soup over chicken breasts. Cover and bake at 325 degrees for at least 30 minutes.

*This freezes and reheats really well. As you know, I am a huge fan of cheese, so I add a layer of cheese slices to the top of mine (Velveeta is always best)

**Sometimes I also add a can of cream of chicken soup to the Onion soup and water if you want it creamier


Tessie's Deviled Chip Hotdish

1 (7 oz) package small shell macaroni, cooked
16 oz. Sour cream
1 small can deviled ham
1 egg
1 bag potato chips, crushed
½ lb. Bacon, fried and crumbled
3 cups shredded sharp cheddar
1 medium onion, chopped

In a medium bowl, beat the egg. To that add the sour cream and deviled ham. Mix till smooth. Combine the sour cream mixture and the cooked macaroni. In a casserole, layer ½ of the macaroni mix, followed by ½ of the cheese, ½ of the chips, ½ of the bacon, and ½ of the onion. Repeat, starting with the noodles. Bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes or until bubbly.

**I know what you’re thinking, but I swear, this is one of the tastiest hotdishes…just try it!


Tessie's Hot Tuna Sandwiches

1 can tuna
3 hard boiled eggs, chopped
¼ lb. Velveeta, cubed
½ cup mayonnaise
2 Tbsp. onion, chopped
2 Tbsp. olives, chopped
1 Tbsp. sweet pickle relish
12 buns

Combine all ingredients (except buns). Spread filling in buns. Wrap in aluminum foil and bake 30 minutes at 250 degrees.

*You can freeze these before you bake them; then just pull one or two out when you need them and throw them in the oven.

February 7, 2007

Nyquil And Other Drugs

I made muffins this morning with William, and I was letting him stir even though I hate to because I like to have it done Right and Efficiently and My Way, but I let him do it because it is good practice for him and it is also good practice for me in controlling my controlling nature. So he was stirring, and of course he accidentally made a perfect lever out of the spoon and there was a geyser of flour, and luckily it was a small geyser and not like the one that went all over both of us and the floor and the cupboards the other day. A little did still get on my face and glasses and shirt, but I cleaned up relatively easily and managed not to say anything crabbier than a gentle "Please be more careful with your stirring" which was the kind of parenting triumph I wish was being observed from behind one-way glass because I think it's an accomplishment deserving of at least an approving little checkmark in a notebook.

So later I took William to kindergarten, and when I got home I put the twins to bed and finally got a chance to pee in peace, and when I was checking myself out in the mirror afterward I noticed I had flour ringing one nostril. Evidently I was insufficiently thorough with my clean-up. How many of the teachers and other parents think I use drugs now, do you suppose?

I'm sure it didn't help the picture that I have bloodshot eyes today. Paul is sick, and when Paul is sick I have to use all my inner strength not to kick him out the door. He is such a baby. I was queasy for three months and had a hacking, gagging cough for about a month of it but couldn't take any good drugs (e.g., flour) and he was all, "Yeah, so you said. Does this mean we're not going to have sex again tonight?" But he gets a totally normal minor cold and he's groaning on the recliner, going to bed early, taking huge slugs of Nyquil, picking fights with me about comment sections and then bailing with "I can't deal with this, I'm too sick," and saying, "I might not go to work tomorrow so don't wake me if I'm still here in the morning." Oh my freakin' stars, he should feel lucky I was still here in the morning.

As it turned out, he did go to work and he said he slept really well last night. That was news to me, since from my point of view what he did all night was snore deeper and louder until he jerked awake and thrashed into a new position, often elbowing me in the spine as he did--every 1-2 minutes. Tonight I'm keeping the rubber mallet by my side of the bed, just in case the Nyquil needs a little "help" knocking him out again.

I slept poorly, not only because of the thrashing and snorting, but also because Paul had turned the heat up 2 degrees warmer than usual (because he's siiiiiiiiick), and I've been liking it about 2 degrees cooler than usual, and so the 4 degree difference was roasting me slowly over open flames. And I would like to know what has happened to all the awesome "Logan Huntzberger is my boyfriend" and "Tom DeLonge's lips belong to me" dreams I was having before, because now I'm getting mostly dreams about looking for a bathroom, being late for a flight and I haven't packed yet, and having futile unsatisfying fights with former boyfriends.

In happier pregnancy news, I can now feel baby movements from outside my tum. I was sitting in the recliner reading a book (Twisted by Jeffery Deaver--really good if you like suspenseful, twist-ridden short stories) and I had my hand idly on my tum just to check and I could feel the kicks against my hand. I love this stage, but now I'm not going to get anything done because I'm just going to sit in a chair all day trying to feel more of them.

February 6, 2007

Comment and Run

Paul and I just had an argument about comment sections of blogs. He said that "everyone on the whole Internet" agrees with his point of view, which is that posting a comment and then never going back to the comment section to see if anyone else has commented on your comment is like going to a party wearing ear plugs. He says the comment section is where people discuss the post, and that it is weird to leave a comment and then "leave the room," as it were.

I say that the comment section CAN end up being a conversation between commenters, and that it's interesting and neat if it does, but the real point of a comment section is to comment to the blogger--more like listening to a speech and then going up to tell the speaker what you thought of it afterward; and I say that he's thinking of chat rooms when he makes his party analogy. I generally leave a comment and then don't return, unless it's the kind of post that leaves me wondering what other people will say about it, too. Paul says that my approach is antithetical to the whole concept of blogging/commenting.

What say you all? Do you return to the comment section of a post you commented on (1) always, (2) sometimes, (3) never? Do you think it's weird or rude not to? Do you think of the comments section as being for (1) comments, (2) conversations, (3) both but more of one than the other?

Some Of These Things Don't Matter (But Size Is Still An Issue)

I mentioned recently that Paul and I got so overwhelmed by choosing A Good Diamond, we skipped the engagement ring altogether--a decision I still regret, by the way. Today it is my job to research large freezers, and this reminds me of the diamond thing, and if you will just be patient I will say why.

We'd like to buy a big freezer because already we cram our refrigerator totally full after every grocery shopping trip, and we go through a surprising number of loaves of bread (which we like to freeze until we use them), and we like to stock up on meat when it goes on sale, and so it seems as if we are always on the verge of disaster. One day I came home with the groceries and there seriously wasn't room to put them into the freezer, and we had to make some emergency dinner plans (menu theme: "Using as Much Stuff From the Freezer as Gastronomically Possible") and also take all the ice cube trays out for a couple of days to make room. And this is only going to get worse as the four boys--four boys!--turn into teenagers and start eating a bag of groceries as a snack.

Another good reason to buy a big freezer is that every time I have a baby (and this happens surprisingly often, it seems), I think about how, when I come home from the hospital, my number one source of despair is food. I must eat, and yet there is nothing to eat. I want hot food, but am too tired and overwhelmed to make any. Good food improves my morale so enormously, it makes total sense to arrange for it ahead of time. So, as I say, every time I have a baby I think to myself, "You know what I should do, is before the baby is born I should make a whole bunch of single-serving containers of hearty, easy foods like chili and turkey-vegetable soup, plus a whole bunch of muffins and cookies." But I can't do that, because we don't have enough freezer space.

I see I have now explained why we need a freezer, when what I meant to be explaining was what freezers had to do with engagement rings. The reason I am procrastinating on this freezer decision is that I feel like I'm going to make The Wrong Choice. I'm going to get the one that costs more money per month to run than it should, and I don't know how many cubic feet we need and will probably get too many and that will be a waste of electricity and money, and I'll buy a brand that isn't the best brand to buy. And all these things cause me to hem and haw and stall on the freezer decision, just as we did on the diamond decision when we were worried we'd pay too much for a diamond that was too flawed or the wrong color or something. We worried that our ignorance (which was only compounded rather than relieved by our decision to purchase and read a book on choosing a diamond) would cause us to be suckered into a bad decision, and so we didn't risk being suckered. And so I have no pretty-sparkly, and I don't know how our decision could have been badder than that.

It is in these trying times that I depend on my friend Mel. I was in exactly this kind of stalling cycle when I was pregnant with twins and realized we seriously needed a minivan now, and we couldn't really swing a new one but I was worried about buying a used one because what if we paid too much? and what if we chose the wrong make or model? and what if it turned out to have problems? and should we buy that optional warranty or is that for suckers? and are we supposed to try to talk them into coming down on the price? And I turned to my friend Mel, who said, "Listen, the reason you're worried you're going to get screwed is that you are going to get screwed to some extent, but you have to have a minivan, so just buy one and hope for the best."

I can't even say how unlikely I would have been to come up with that philosophy, and I am grateful to Mel for adding it to my Soothing Thoughts repertoire. As I understand her point of view, it's that there are certain situations in which it is near impossible to eliminate all the bad things that could happen, but it doesn't improve things if you wait around wringing your hands. You can go back to school for that double degree in automotive science and the art of negotiation, or you can buy the stupid used car and hope it's not a crapmobile and that you only paid a little more than you should have.

In the case of the freezer, it helps me to realize that the things I'm worried about don't really matter. Let's say the one I choose costs more to run per month than the freezer I "should have" chosen. Will I even know that it does? And even if I did know, would that money make the difference between long-term happiness and long-term misery? Let's say I choose a brand that should have been my second choice, and so the freezer doesn't last as long as another brand's freezer would have. I'm not going to know, and it's not going to matter. If I get screwed a little bit on this purchase because I don't happen to be a freezer expert, it is not a big deal. And there are millions of people all around the world who don't give it any thought at all but instead just go into a store and choose the one they like best and don't worry.

Oh, the sweet, sweet relief of things not mattering! I don't have to make the perfect choice on every single point, I can just choose a freezer and move the hell on! But I still don't know what cubic footage I need.