April 30, 2007

Sick In Bed

Do you know where I've been this weekend? Sick in bed! That's right: actually in bed, sick. I had a bad cold last week, and then Friday night things went downhill fast: chills, fever, burning throat, hurting all over. On Saturday morning my parents took all the kids, and Paul took me to the urgent care office that has weekend hours. "Upper respiratory infection" does not seem adequate to describe how crappy I felt and still feel, and so I'm not sure there has been a correct diagnosis, but I am willing to give it a little time. After all, on Saturday morning I wasn't sure I could wait the one hour until my appointment, whereas today I am sitting at my computer complaining, so clearly things have improved.

I haven't been this sick since I had strep throat several years ago, and that time was a real bummer because Paul had it too, and so neither of us could stay in bed. Since then, Paul has been "sick enough to stay in bed" (that is, run-of-the-mill headcold) about a zillion times, and I have been "sick enough to stay in bed" (that is, sick enough to stay in bed) zero times. So this was an interesting opportunity for me to see just how things would run without me, and how things will run without me when I'm in the hospital having the baby.

Here is what happens. Paul does a good job in general: children are dressed and fed and alive, and they have fun. But even though I think of myself as a crappy housekeeper, it is clear from even two days' absence that I must be doing certain levels of cleaning that keep things from falling apart. After two days without me, the kitchen floor is covered in crumbs, and there are chunks of food that fell under the high chairs without being cleaned up. Dishes have been done and even put away, but they are gritty and/or greasy, and they are in the wrong cupboards. My pink-and-white spring towels have evidently been used to clean up some sort of industrial accident. The twins' teeth haven't been brushed. They had pizza one night and no one's clothes have been stain-treated. Rob and William played outside in the mud twice, and their caked, muddy clothes are sitting in the hampers, chunks of mud sifted all the way down through the rest of the clothes. Saturday's mail is sitting on the counter. Elizabeth had a dreadlock that took me fifteen minutes to pick out this morning, because that's what happens if her hair isn't combed three or four times a day.

But I did get to stay in bed. And there were only about two total interruptions of the "Where do we keep the...?" variety. And there was not one single "Oh, do you want to go in there to be with Mommy?" And those are valuable things indeed.

In some ways it's nice to know that things don't go perfectly without me. It makes me feel as if the work I do for the family is important, useful work that improves the quality of our lives. On the other hand, it's irritating to see how quickly so many things fall apart if I don't handle them, as if I'm somehow the only person equipped with the magical powers necessary to hang up wet towels. I remember this being the same in the workplace: it's nice to be missed, but annoying to come back to piles of work that no one else seemed able to figure out how to do--especially the things a hamster could have done.

Also annoying, both in the workplace and in the home: having to congratulate co-workers or a husband for managing to do even a small fraction of what you usually do. I made it a point to thank Paul several times for handling everything. My intent was to set a good example for the next time HE stays in bed all weekend and I have to handle everything. It is hard to tell, though, when I'm "setting a good example" and when I'm "reaffirming that all of this is my job and he's a total hero to handle anything at all."

April 27, 2007

Question: 2-in-1 Shampoo Conditioners

I hate to admit it, but I'm starting to find "standing up in the shower" over-tiring. I'm looking for ways to reduce the time I spend in there, and with my pregnancy-oily hair, it's the daily shampoo/condition that's bugging me most. Is there any such thing as a worthwhile "2-in-1" shampoo/conditioner, or do they all have problems? I don't think I've tried one since high school. (Pert Plus!)

Girl Clothes Follow-Up

When I posted the other day about girl clothes, and about how much fun I was having buying all these cutie little mix-and-match things from the spring clearance sale at The Children's Place, there were requests for photos. Another post about baby clothes? You don't have to ask me twice.

First, a photo of most of the haul. I've put an x over a skirt I returned. Do you know what that skirt was made of? Linen. I ask you. LINEN. Across what is roughly the top row of the haul, you can see a pink striped polo shirt (I later also bought it in blue), a white crochet-trim bodysuit, a pink floral hoodie, a blue embroidered hoodie, a round-collared white shirt, and a round-collared blue shirt (I later also bought it in pink). Across what is roughly the bottom row you can see a pink floral skirt, yellow pedal pushers, pink pedal pushers (I later also bought them in denim), a blue crochet-trimmed body suit and blue floral skirt, blue tights, a pink-and-white striped cardigan, and the returned linen skirt. If you look carefully you can also see in the lower right hand edge two little baby hands about to start yanking things off the bed. And if you are very sharp-eyed indeed, you will notice that my tum makes a guest appearance along the bottom edge.

Clearly we need a runway model to show a few sample outfits. Here is Elizabeth wearing the striped polo in blue. She is wearing jeans because it was too cool that day for pedal pushers, but you get the idea of what the shirt would look like with the denim pedal pushers or with denim shorts:

Here is Elizabeth wearing the round-collared shirt in dark pink, with the pink floral skirt:

Here she is in the pink-and-white cardigan:

And finally, in the blue floral skirt and the blue embroidered hoodie:


I'm so pleased with all the purchases. Everything seems made for a toddler who wants to PLAY. The floral skirts have built-in shorts underneath, and the whole skirt/shorts unit is made of a stretchy material. The shirts, too, have some stretch to them, so they don't bind her when she tries to move around. The hooded sweatshirts have nice big zippers and the polos have nice big buttons, so I'm not messing around with eensy little things. The round-collared shirts have flower-shaped buttons, which I think is a nice touch.

And everything was $2.99, $3.99, or $4.99, plus I had a 15% off coupon. Nice. I'm kind of thinking I might buy some of my favorite things in bigger sizes for next year, but I'm not sure if I'll enjoy repeats or not.

April 26, 2007

Bone Marrow Donation

I want to draw your attention to Linda's post about bone marrow donation. I'm already on the registry, but realized after reading her post that I hadn't updated my address information with them for years.

I'm planning to be an organ donor later on, but what I like about bone marrow donation is that you don't have to be dead to do it. It's not even like donating a kidney, where you have a spare but might feel nervous about losing it, in case you need it later. Your body will make more bone marrow, and meanwhile you can save somebody's life with something you can easily manufacture more of.

It's a great idea, and a great way to do a lot of helping without having to donate, say, tons of time or bushels of money. And it isn't as if they'll be calling you ever other week for more marrow: as I understand it, matches with non-family-members are rare. You register just in case you could be a one in a million for somebody else. Follow the links in Linda's post for more information, or go directly to The National Marrow Donor Program.

One thing I'm afraid may talk some of you out of it is that there's a fairly substantial fee to get on the registry: the site says it varies from $52 to $96, and that's a nice chunk of change for a lot of us. They mean it, though, when they say that depending on where and when you join, some or all of your costs may be covered. When I joined, there was a local boy who needed a transplant, and his church and community raised multiple tens of thousands of dollars to cover the cost of anyone who wanted to join the registry, so my joining was totally free. I believe they also have certain limited funds to cover the costs of people who want to join but can't afford it, or can only afford part of it. Here's more information about the cost. I hope you won't let it be a hurdle, because my guess is that there are ways around it and that it would be worth contacting them to ask them to direct you to those ways.

Untumfortable

Bleah. Yesterday I had a tickle in my throat, and today I'm sick. I kept waking up all night, feeling hot and sweaty and sore, and then trying to cough out my ribs. If there were any fairness in the world, pregnant women would be immune to illness. Don't we have enough physical misery as it is?

This illness has come at a bad time, since it was only a day or two ago that I thought, "Okay, NOW I'm getting uncomfortable." Turning over in bed takes planning. Getting out of bed is tricky. It's harder to breathe. If I drop something on the floor, and there are no children around to pick it up for me, I can nearly weep. Putting on my socks and shoes takes mental preparation and strength of character. My legs feel like they're going to pop right out of their ill-fitting sockets. And now I'm sick, too. That is your cue to say something sympathetic--perhaps involving the imminence of your arrival with cookies?

I have tried to explain to the two resident toddlers that they need to take it easy on me today. Just as newborns need a "wait 5 minutes" button, toddlers need a "give me a break today" button. Instead, they have been particularly trying, and it is only 8:30 in the morning. At breakfast, they'd hold out their bowls to me, making fussy "take this away from me" noises; I would take the bowl and they would scream; I would give it back and they would go back to the "eh! eh! ehhhhhhh!!" and then throw the bowl overboard in frustration so that cheerios scattered in a wide arc across the kitchen floor. I had planned to give them some freedom time after breakfast, but instead I put them in their playpen and switched on Blue's Clues and ran away into the computer room.

The happy thing is that today I am 34 weeks. When I was pregnant with the twins and worried about premature delivery, the OB said that 34 weeks was a "magic week" for babies--that starting at 34 weeks, the chances of serious problems were getting so low, a "happy outcome" was very likely indeed. So hitting 34 weeks is another of those pregnancy milestones I look forward to.

Even if it weren't a milestone week, every week is a milestone week at this point. It's 34 weeks! That means there are only 5 weeks left! Holy crap, 5 weeks! That's 35 days! A month and 5 days! Okay, that's starting to sound long again. It's 5 weeks! It would not be too early to address baby announcement envelopes! It would not be too early to launder eensy little blue outfits, and little side-snap shirts, and teeny hats, and pack them all carefully into bureau drawers alongside the tiniest diapers ever! Maybe I will work on one of those tasks this morning. (*sound of toddlers fighting*) Or maybe I will hide out in here all day.

April 25, 2007

PSA: Evenflo Triumph Convertible Car Seat Cover Removal Instructions

Commenter Marcie has brought it to my attention that Evenflo does not post on their web site the instructions for removing the goddamn cover of the Triumph 5 (or Triumph V, if you are ancient Roman) toddler car seat. My recent experience has shown me that it is NOT WORTH IT, that you might as well throw the whole car seat away and purchase a new one, preferably made by a company that has realized that children are messy and barfy and gross. But if you MUST remove it, you will need the instructions, and I have it within my power to provide those. I consider it my public duty to do so; thus, this public service announcement.

First of all, I will help you find your lost instruction manual, if there is any hope of doing so. You will be tearing the house apart looking for it, thinking to yourself, "But I ALWAYS save these things! ALWAYS! Am I LOSING MY MIND??" No! It is Evenflo! They have lost THEIR minds, and you merely turned yours over to them for safekeeping! When you received the car seat, the owner's manual warned you that your child would face SERIOUS INJURY OR DEATH if you didn't put the owner's manual where Evenflo told you to, and so you obeyed, and now you can't find it because it is in a place you would never think to look. Go out to your car, assuming that's where you keep your car seat. Look at the car seat, and you will see in the center of the cover a label that warns you about things--probably something about proper installation. At the bottom of that label is an almost unnoticeable remark about the instruction manual being located behind the something-something. "Something-something" will not be anything that makes sense. Don't worry! Just listen to the sound of my voice and I will guide you through. That warning is printed on a FLAP of cover. LIFT the flap. The flap has a POCKET on the back of it. The owner's manual is IN THE POCKET. Intuitive, right? That's EXACTLY where you'd look for the manual, isn't it?

So maybe now you have your manual in your hand, and you can find the seat pad removal instructions all the way at the end of it. In that case, we can now part as friends, and good luck to you on your life's journey. Otherwise, if you are empty-handed and sad because your car seat flap pocket was empty, fear not! Here are the instructions, with my clarifying comments in brackets.

Removing the Seat Pad of the Evenflo Triumph Safety Seat
  1. Give up. It's too hard, and not worth it.
  2. Okay, fine. Have it your way.
  3. Unfasten all eight (four on each side) seat hooks. [These are the little plastic hooks that keep the cloth cover stretched onto the car seat frame. And thanks, Evenflo, for noting that I will need to remove the seat pad for cleaning! I though you were the ones who hadn't realized that!]
  4. Remove the eight screws on the back of the seat back cover with a Phillips head screwdriver. Be sure to save the screws for when you reinstall the cover. [This is where I actually did give up. I couldn't get even the first screw out, it was so tightly in there. And there were EIGHT. And I was already nearly in tears from not being able to find the manual, and now discovering that it was going to be so hard to remove the cover. Also: DUH about keeping the screws. Oh, I was going to throw them away!]
  5. Remove two plastic retainer clips [these are on the lower back of the car seat after you remove the panel; they look like big flat sideways plastic staples], then push both harness clips [I can't tell what the hell those are, it just shows a picture of someone pulling something out of the place where the retainer clip was] through the opening in the seat height adjuster [oh my god, are you losing your mind with confusion? just throw the stupid seat away!] to the front side of the seat.
  6. Pull the harness clips [between the cover and the car seat frame] through the harness adjuster cover [the slots where you can choose a height for the straps], headfoam [the foamy padding between the cover and the frame] and seat pad [the cover].
  7. Remove the seat pad from the seat shell. [Holy crap, is it actually OFF? Does this WORK? Write to me and tell me.]

To Reinstall Cover
  1. Follow instructions in reverse.
  2. Give up in tears.
  3. Kick car seat down driveway, screaming at it.
  4. Dismember car seat corpse in dead of night; stuff furtively into opaque trash bags.
  5. Go out and buy new car seat.

April 24, 2007

Now Is Not The Time

Just as you should not grocery shop when you are hungry, there are certain times it is a bad idea to think about what kind of impact a new baby might have on your family. If it is, for example, dinnertime, and you are worn out and regretting your raised voice with the older children earlier, and you are at the grocery store even though you're too tired for this because you are out of the very elements of life itself (milk, bread, bananas), and you are with a toddler who is mangling a loaf of bread and yelling because you won't let her do the same to the irritatingly expensive grapes, and you forgot the bread and had to go back several aisles for it, and your lower back feels sore and you're aware that you're waddling, and your pants are hitching down and your shirt is hitching up even though you've yanked them up/down respectively twenty times in this aisle alone, and when you get home you are already ten minutes late to give the twins their dinner and yet you still have to put away all the groceries, and your possibly worthless husband is playing videogames with the two older kids as you stagger your pregnant self up and down the stairs with heavy bags contemplating whether having to ask him for help would also mean you'd have to hurt him badly, and when the groceries are put away it is now twenty-five minutes late to feed the twins, and they complain about everything you offer them, and when you brush their teeth one of the twins bites you and the other twin swats the toothbrush so that your glasses are covered with speckles of toothpaste, and as you haul each twin to bed you can barely carry their heavy squirming bodies and there are still more than five weeks of getting bigger and more sore than this---THIS is not a good time to consider what life will be like when the new baby arrives.

Recipe: Swistle's Soup

One of the main reasons we bought our new freezer is because I thought it would be nice if I made a bunch of food ahead of time, to eat after the baby is born. One of my main problems post-partum is food: I despair if there isn't anything good, and I get homesick for the maternity ward, which, inexplicably, has AWESOME food: big warm chocolate chip cookies, and chicken caesar wraps with tons of fresh dark lettuce and almost too much perfect white-meat chicken, and cinnamon french toast with butter and syrup, and bowls of cut-up fresh fruit. Coming home to choices like bowl of cold cereal or PB&J sandwich can make me crash into tears and despair.

The problem is this: I still don't like to cook, even if I know it's for my own future benefit. I do like to bake, so our freezer is filling up with cookies and brownies. And while that's nice, and cookies and brownies are good for morale, I need to be focusing more on easy, nutritious food or else I'm going to be sitting there weeping, eating an entire bag of frozen brownies and getting the sugar shakes.

I do have one recipe I make pretty regularly, and I've frozen two half-batches of it so far. It makes a nice big amount and so it feels worth it, and it freezes well, and it's quick and easy to heat up, and it's heartening when you're feeling sad and like nobody loves you and like you should move in to the maternity ward where they do love you. I like it with a couple of slices of a nice chewy bread, toasted and then buttered and sprinkled with garlic salt.

Swistle's Soup
  • 1 pound or so of ground beef or ground turkey (I use ground turkey, which at our store comes in 1.3 pound packages, and I use the whole package)
  • 28 oz can crushed tomatoes (I like Contadina)
  • 15 oz can tomato sauce (I like Contadina)
  • 4 c. water
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 16 oz package frozen mixed vegetables (I like Birdseye classic blend: carrots, beans, peas, corn)
  • 8 oz frozen broccoli (I like to thaw it a little and then snip it with kitchen scissors into smaller pieces)
  • 1 envelope Lipton Onion Soup mix
  • 2 t. salt (or to taste--I love love love salt so maybe start with less than I use)
  • 1 t. crushed red pepper (optional, for spicier soup)
Fry up the ground meat and drain off as much grease as you can. Put the meat into a big pan--at least 6 quart or you'll be a sorry, sorry cook later on. Add everything else and stir it. Heat to boiling, then reduce it to a simmer and cover it. Let it simmer for half an hour, stirring it occasionally if you feel like it. It's okay to eat right away, but I think it's better reheated the next day.

One thing I like about this recipe is that it's flexible. You don't have to use broccoli and classic-blend vegetables, you can instead use up the little half packages of vegetables nobody liked as side dishes, or fresh vegetables that are in danger of going bad in the fridge, or a bag of Italian blend vegetables if you're feeling really wild and crazy. Last summer William grew some green bean vines but didn't want to eat the green beans, so I snipped some up into my soup every time I made it. Oooh, and lima beans are good.

Not exactly a great recipe for a breastfeeding mother, though, is it? Dried onion. Broccoli. Spicy red pepper. Oh, well.

Incidentally, if you do Weight Watchers Core Plan, this soup is a freebie. Well, unless you get all tight about how many grains of that 1 tsp. of sugar are in each portion.

April 23, 2007

Another Baby (Or Not), and Another (Or Not), and Another (Or Not)...

Perhaps it was putting the cart before the horse to discuss baby spacing before we discussed whether to have more babies at all. Certainly this is what Paul says whenever I bring up the topic of spacing.

Paul and I have, as I briefly mentioned in the Baby Spacing post, a "take it one baby at a time" philosophy: that is, we didn't decide ahead of time how many babies to have, we just considered after each one whether or not to have another. Looking back at our results, it is a comical philosophy. First, that we would call it "one baby at a time" and then have twins; and second, that this last baby was a complete surprise following a decision to stop having babies. Go, us!

After Rob was born, we did in fact discuss stopping right there. I nodded, and I mentioned many reasons why stopping with one was a good idea, and I agreed with all Paul's reasons why stopping with one was a good idea, but I never seriously considered it. There are many advantages to stopping with one, it's true. And it would have taken a forcible hysterectomy before I would have done so.

I think it is both lucky and unlucky to have a drive to keep having more babies. On one hand, it takes a lot of the worry out of it: I may or may not have freaked out repeatedly during this pregnancy about a FIFTH CHILD HOLY CRAP, but my natural inclination is to have more-more-more-'til-they-take-my-uterus-away, so for the most part I've been thrilled, and I've been thrilled about every pregnancy. And I haven't spent much time agonizing about whether we should have more children or not--so far I'm always on the side of yes. Which is good! And makes my life simpler!

But on the other hand, when is this going to stop? Will I have more children than I can handle, more children than is right for our family, just because of this presumably hormonal drive to keep having one (or two) after another? Am I going to be eighty years old and still pining for more babies? It is beginning to look that way.

It's more common, and probably better, to do a little more agonizing. Should there be another? If so, how old would we be when the nest was finally empty? Do we want to struggle to afford another daycare cost, a bigger car, all those braces and glasses, another break in my career? Do we want to split our attention like this? Has it been too long since the youngest was born? Am I getting too old for this? Do we really want to start all over again with night feedings and potty training? Don't we want to do something with our twenties/thirties/forties other than rear children?

Or so I've heard. As I said, I don't do a whole lot of this kind of agonizing, except late at night when I ought to be sleeping. Except for periodic freak-outs, I mostly think that everything will work out, that things like expenses and potty training seem bigger when viewed from a distance, that probably in the long-term view of things it doesn't really matter if we have one more or two more or three more, that in any event I want more children and will be sorry if I don't get them, and that I, personally, am more likely to regret not having children than to regret having them. This is not true for everyone.

Let's see, where were we? Oh, yes! I was saying that after Rob was born, I faked like I was willing to consider having only one child, and used the time Paul was talking about it to think about when we should stop using birth control and what we should name the second baby. And, as I wrote in the Baby Spacing post, we had William 2 years and 2 months after Rob.

When I was pregnant with William, I made lists of pros and cons for having a boy or having a girl. One thing on my list of boy pros was that it was more likely that Paul would lean toward having a third child. Another thing on my list of boy pros was that we'd face less criticism if we did have a third: people seem more understanding if you have two boys and they assume you're "trying for a girl" than if you have a boy and a girl and you're "pushing your luck" / "contributing to the population problem."

As I expected, Paul was willing to have a third. Since the 2 year 2 month spacing worked for us before, our goal was to space the next one in that same range. Then Paul's employer went out of business and Paul couldn't find a new job, and I got a job. Periodically we would think about getting pregnant on schedule anyway, but that seemed like a bad idea even to me. I was upset, though, at the delay, and increasingly tense about it. When Paul found a new job, we had to wait three months for his health insurance to start, and then it took three more months before I was pregnant.

I conceived right around the time we would have been conceiving our fourth baby, if we'd kept to the same spacing schedule. When we found out we were having twins, it seemed funny--like it was that fourth baby plus the third baby we'd had to delay. As if the babies were backed up in the pipes because we'd had to wait.

When I was pregnant with the twins, it became apparent to me from a series of discussions on the topic that all along Paul had been thinking we could "take it one baby at a time" up to a maximum of four babies. This was not a limit I had understood. I spent that pregnancy half-elated to be having twins, half-upset that this meant everything was my "last" so much sooner than expected: last pregnancy test, last positive pregnancy test daze, last baby-naming, last delivery, last newborn, last nursing, last tiny baby clothes, last all of it. And since it was twins, I was pretty sure I wasn't going to be doing much quiet, melancholy, live-in-the-moment basking, either. I was sadder than I'd have expected, and I also felt like I shouldn't go around being sad. When you have four children, you don't get much sympathy if you go around whining about how you'll never get to have any more.

Plus, in many ways I agreed with Paul. Four seemed like a good place to stop. Four is a nice-sounding number. You can have four children without people thinking you belong to a weirdo cult. Four car seats fit comfortably in a standard minivan. Two older and two younger is a nice arrangement. There were many reasons why four was the right place to stop. One reason it wasn't: I didn't want to. But as I've mentioned, I may never want to stop. It seemed that I would need to resign myself to that.

After I weaned the twins, I got a prescription for the Pill. We've used other, less reliable methods in the past, because it didn't really matter if there was a whoops, but now I wanted something that wouldn't let me have that flicker of hope every month. I didn't want to go as far as a permanent procedure for either of us, but I was willing to take the Pill. I was supposed to take it on the first Sunday following the first day of my next period. I put it in my sock drawer and waited for my period. Which was due any day. Any day now. ANY. DAY. NOW. ...Where the hell is it? And here we are. I still have an unused pack of pills in my sock drawer.

A couple of you have asked if this is it, if this is my last pregnancy. As I replied in the comments section, the pregnancy before this one was my last pregnancy. So it's difficult to say for sure. Paul has threatened to get The Snip, but he doesn't even make his own dentist appointments: if I don't set it up, I don't think he'll do it.

Personally, I'd like to go for an even half-dozen. We're already in it for five, might as well have six. Paul says really, truly, this is it, we are done--but he loves babies, and he may find that when we're not quite so inundated by them he starts to feel a hankering for a fresh one. Stay tuned, that's all I can say.

In the meantime, tell us all how you've been making decisions about whether to have more children, or when to stop. I'm hoping we can do this without making each other feel icky. There are tons of really good, positive reasons for having zero kids, one kid, two kids, however many kids, and Mr. Rogers and I think we can say those reasons in ways that don't make other people feel icky for having different reasons or making different choices, or having different circumstances that allow for different reasons and different choices. (Or selling anything bought or processed, or buying anything sold or processed, or repairing anything sold, bought, or processed.) (You didn't catch the reference?)

Also, can we have an understanding that it is okay to stop having children because you don't WANT any more? I think people feel like they're not supposed to say that, but I think it's a totally legitimate reason, don't you? It's sensible.

As before, write as much as you want in the comments section (it's bottomless, I believe), or if you'd prefer, write your own blog post about it and put a link in the comments section. Readyyyyyyyy....GO!

April 22, 2007

Again With The Sandals

There were some mixed reactions in the comments section to some Dr. Martens sandals I ordered and then cancelled when I realized they were in fact men's sandals. Some people agreed with me that they were girly, and also that they were pretty. Other people agreed that they were girly, but thought they were kind of ugly. Other people thought they looked like men's sandals. Other people were unpleasantly reminded of girly ex-boyfriends. Here's a photo of the sandals to refresh your memory:


I went back and forth. Would the Dr. Martens people think I was crazy if I ordered the sandals a second time after making that pitiful plea that they cancel my order? Did I even want the sandals anymore after LoriD's comment about the sandals being "Girly in an 'I'm going on a hike to eat granola with a baby on my back' kind of way"? LoriD, you wound me with the sword of truth. As soon as you said it, I realized it was true.

So now I am considering a different pair. I usually avoid backless sandals, because I don't like to have to clench my toes to keep sandals on, nor do I like the way they sproing up to slap the soles of my feet with every step. But my cousin has this pair and she assures me that there is no toe-clenching or sole-slapping with these. It seems to me that slip-on sandals would be perfect for right now, when I no longer bend at the waist.

Of course I would treasure your input. Are these better than the girly-man ones? Or are they just as hike-and-granola (*wince*)?

April 21, 2007

Baby Spacing

Tessie and I want to talk about spacing babies, and the rest of you are welcome to join us. I feel obligated to warn you that this is one of my favorite topics in the whole world. I will try to edit this post so that it is not the length and breadth of eternity, but I can't really promise anything.

I will go first, by reviewing the spacing of my own children and how that's worked out. Settle in: there are a lot of them.

Robert was born first. Our plan was to take things one baby at a time and not plan ahead of time to have a certain number, but to see how things went. I'm not sure how many minutes after Rob's birth it was when I started planning the second baby. Perhaps it was while I was still pregnant.

Paul and I spent Rob's babyhood discussing what would be the right spacing between the first and second children. Through questioning and observing, we decided that there was no clearly "right" spacing: too much depends on unknowns such as the personality types of the children. Some siblings love being close in age and some hate it; some siblings love a bigger gap and some feel like they grew up as strangers. We had to choose something, though, and what we decided on was something in the 2-1/2 to 3 year range. That seemed close enough for companionship, far enough to let us breathe a little between children--and far enough to have the first one be a little more house-trained and independent before the second one came along.

I, like so many women before and after me, thought it would be a good idea to have a running start. It was as if I thought that by allowing extra months to conceive, I would use up all my "no luck" months and then get to conceive the first month I actually wanted to. Was I trying to pull one over on Fate or something? Fate thought that was pretty funny. I stopped using birth control four months before the 2-1/2 year spacing time, and got pregnant right away. So our first two children are 2 years 2 months apart.

That spacing has advantages and disadvantages, as do all spacings. It's close enough that Rob doesn't remember a time before William was born, and he doesn't remember William's arrival. Rob was also young enough (and was of the personality) that he didn't seem jealous or sad about the new baby. If he'd been older, perhaps he would have better understood the significance of a new sibling, but as it was, we might as well have acquired a new noisy kitchen appliance. He ignored William. We didn't see any trauma, and we were looking hard.

For the first few years, even a 2-year spacing is too far apart for the kids to have much in common unless the older one is nurturing and wants to do baby things with the baby. A 1-year-old is doing entirely different things than a 3-year-old. Even at ages 6 and 8, Rob is clearly significantly older than William. They can play together, but they're a kindergartner and a second grader.

Our plan was to have a third baby with approximately the same spacing, since the 2 years and 2 months worked well for us. Then Paul's employer went out of business, he was out of work for a year and a half, and I got a paying job. People say things like "There's never a 'perfect time' to have a baby"--but there sure are times that can be avoided, and this was one of them. When he found a new job, we waited 90 days for his health insurance to take effect, and then it took three months for me to get pregnant. The twins were born when Rob was 6 and William was 4.

That gives us two more spacings to look at: the 6-year and the 4-year. Rob had not been happy about us having another baby, probably because he considers William a pain in the butt. Two babies was even worse. Until they were born. He loves the twins. They bug him and follow him around and hit him enthusiastically in the face, and he loves them. When he gets home from school he goes to find the twins and play with them and let them flop on him. He talks to them in the higher-pitched voice adults use with small children.

William considers himself allied with Rob as one of the "older kids." He likes the twins, too, but I think it's mostly because Rob does and William followed his example. If William had been the oldest, and then a four-year gap before the next baby, I think William would have been jealous and would have felt left out. Four years old is old enough to resent a new baby and to partially understand the impact on the family and the loss of attention. And William is, personality-wise, less independent and more lovey than Rob, which I think makes for a more difficult acceptance of younger children. Even at age 2, Rob seemed to enjoy the "big kid" status that younger siblings give older siblings.

Now we're having another. This new baby will be born when Rob is 8, William is 6, and the twins are a couple of weeks away from turning 2. Rob has been excited all along, and my guess is that he'll be even fonder of this baby than he was of the twins, since this time he knows he likes babies. I'll be interested to see if William at age 6 will be similar to Rob at age 6, and if he'll be more naturally inclined to like this baby even without Rob's example.

If the twins are anything like Rob was at age 2, they'll be a cross between oblivious and annoyed: not understanding that the new baby is a person, and irritable that they can't be on my lap because the new baby is there--but not with any deeper knowledge of the new baby as interloper, just the same annoyance they'd feel if I had a box on my lap, or a book taking my attention.

But as I said, these things are so affected by the particular child. My brother and I were 2 years apart and we played together all the time, whereas Rob and William are the same spacing but don't get along well. Rob definitely likes babies better the older he is, but maybe William would have been happier with a baby born shortly after he was. The twins might incorporate this new baby as an honorary triplet, or they might close ranks against him--or maybe Edward will bond to the new baby and Elizabeth will separate even more from Edward.

I would be interested to hear your experiences with baby spacing: what you grew up with, what you've done with your own children and/or what you plan to do, what you've heard is good/bad, what you've always thought would be nice. Go ahead and write a book in the comment section, or write your own post and put a link in the comment section. Tessie and I, we want to hear everything you've got.

And soon I think we should discuss a different but related topic: deciding whether or not to have another baby, and deciding when to stop.

April 20, 2007

Blogsickness

I have one of those RSS thingies that tells me when a blog has been updated, and I have over seventy blogs on that list. There are a few I read with intense concentration, and there are a lot I skim just to keep up or just in case someone talks about one of my favorite topics (baby names! brownie recipes! planning and spacing of babies! ANYTHING of babies!).

The problem with reading so many blogs is that it can give me something I've been thinking of as "blogsickness." It's when I've been reading blogs and then suddenly I feel fed up with all blogs, with all writing, and with everything that everyone has ever said or thought since the beginning of time. That's when I know it's time to go sit in the recliner and read a People magazine, or maybe go to bed.

I think usually it's when I read too many posts about the same topic, or too many posts about topics I've read too many posts about before. I'm not sure, though, because I don't think there's strict cause and effect here, or any one specific trigger. I think sometimes it's that I sit down at my computer in a mood that makes me likely to develop blogsickness. It's never that I read one specific post (or one specific blog) and get blogsickness.

Do you get this, too? If you do, what do you think causes it?

April 19, 2007

More Complaining, And Also More Brownies

It turns out I have more to complain about.

1) Elizabeth has been in A Mood, although Paul points out that after two weeks we need to stop referring to it that way. She doesn't like her clothes either on or off, she doesn't want to be held or not held, she doesn't like any food or drink and she doesn't want us to take it away. She screams. And when she's affectionate and happy, she expresses it by biting, and by lovingly slamming her skull into my face.

2) The baby is hurting me with all the moving around. Seriously, this is stupid: I have to make this baby INSIDE MY BODY? That's ridiculous. What a stupid, stupid idea.

3) I need to eat something. There is nothing Good To Eat. If I don't eat something good soon, I am going to LOSE IT.

4) This house smells like diaper pail. A stuffy diaper pail.

5) I finished the last disc of Sports Night. Now there are no more.

6) I'm going to have to put that car seat back into the car. I hate doing this. It's going to be worse with the tum in the way.

7) Our new hospital co-pay is FOUR TIMES our old one: from $250 for just the mother, to $500 each for mother and newborn. I am reminding myself that $1000 for a c-section, 3-day hospital stay, and newborn care is a huge bargain, and we are very very lucky to have insurance. But we were even luckier when we had it for $250.

8) Rob's regular teacher is out for a month for surgery, and didn't come back as scheduled because her recovery hasn't gone as quickly as hoped. Rob's substitute teacher told the class that the reason she's not back is because she won't come back until they all understand fractions. Rob won't believe me that it is a joke, and he wants his regular teacher back very badly, and he is getting upset with the classmates who don't understand fractions. I think this is a sucky joke for the substitute to make. I don't know whether to send in a note about it, or just let it go since the regular teacher will be back soon.

9) I like Jif peanut butter, which costs more than twice as much as the store brand I make the children eat. Paul, because of some stupid reason like that "I didn't tell him," has been feeding my secret jar of Jif to the children. So when I went to get the jar just now, it had only teeny scrapings in it.

Okay! Onward!

I'm baking brownies. Do you know what I've noticed about good brownie recipes? They are expensive. Three sticks of butter! Entire box of baking cocoa/chocolate! Two tablespoons of vanilla extract!

Today I'm trying the Alton Brown recipe Shannon contributed. I've modified it a little bit, by taking out instructions such as "sifted," except for the brown sugar because this is the first time in my life I have seen brown sugar listed as an ingredient when it isn't supposed to be packed. But I took out all the other sifteds, because the day I sift my flour is the day I was born in the 1920s, and I don't really care if it's hurting my recipes. And I didn't sift the brown sugar, either, I just left the instruction in.

Alton Brown's Cocoa Brownies, modified certainly for the worse by Swistle
(here's the original recipe for you purists who like to do things "correctly" and "so they turn out right")

4 large eggs
1 c. sugar
1 c. brown sugar, he says "sifted" but...whuh?
8 oz. melted butter
1-1/4 c. cocoa
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 c. flour
1/2 tsp. kosher salt

Butter and flour an 8-inch square pan. Preheat over to 300 degrees F. In a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the eggs at medium speed until fluffy and light yellow. Add both sugars. Add remaining ingredients and combine. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes. They're done when a toothpick inserted into the center of the pan comes out clean. Remove to rack to cool. Resist temptation to cut into brownies until they're mostly cool.

***

I managed to let them cool before eating them, mostly because I've been so crabby and sulky I didn't want anything that might make me feel better. Now I've eaten one, okay two, and I can make my report.

These brownies are in a different league than other brownies I've made. I was a little crabby about 1-1/4 cups of cocoa in an 8x8 batch (the last ones I made had only 1/3 c. of cocoa), but I did say "more chocolatey" so I don't know what I thought I was whining about. Not only are these way more chocolatey, they're much thicker, too: about half again or even twice as thick as the brownies I'm used to.

These are so dense and rich, I wasn't tempted to eat my usual long strip of samples. I had one, okay two, and then I haven't felt the urge to nibble. They're heavy, and they're dark. I suspect that people who like dark chocolate would like these brownies even better than I did. They're very, very good, but I would save these for special occasions. They're not the right kind for eating mindlessly out of the pan while watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer. These are the cheesecake of the brownie world.

A note on the kosher salt. It's a weird choice. Kosher salt, for those of you who can't proudly whip a box out of the cupboard, is the kind that's in little chunks. Typically it decorates large soft pretzels. When you are eating a brownie made with kosher salt, you will periodically crunch down on a small nugget of salt. I'm not the only one who thinks that's strange, right? William took a bite of his brownie and said, "Hey! I tasted one of those SALTS!" It was yummy, the way chocolate-covered pretzels are yummy, but I think next time I would try the recipe with regular salt.

Baking time is 45 minutes, but I left them in for 52 minutes and the center is still wetter than I'd like. Alton Brown notes that brownies usually bake for an hour, but he likes his brownies really moist. I like them less moist than that, and so I'm going to try a full hour next time.

Grim! Happy! Grim!

I've been feeling that special pregnant woman blend of "can't quite breathe, can't quite digest, can't quite get comfortable." The baby is moving around in a way that feels gross. Companionable, but gross. At this stage, I can tell the baby has BONES. When he pushes out from behind my ribs, it occurs to me once again how weird it is to reproduce like this. NO ONE should have access to behind my ribs.

The OB told me at my last visit that I need to stop going around blabbing to everyone that everything goes a lot faster after 30 weeks, because he says that point of view is "...unusual." He says for most women, the last 10 weeks are the slowest. Oh. I'm trying to figure out how many first- and second-trimester women I've confidently reassured that things pick up speed later. Two million? Three? It is possible that many of them are greatly pissed with me. I didn't mean to! I thought it was true! I find those earlier weeks so tedious and slow, but at 33 weeks I feel like things are going at a good clip, and the end is in beautiful, beautiful sight.

Which is good, because other things look a little grim. I tried to get the cloth cover off Elizabeth's car seat so I could, you know, wash the barf off it, and I finally had to resort to reading the instruction manual. I'll skip over the next part, which is where I go through every page saying, "Where! is! the goddam! part! about! removing the goddam cover!!!" and then spend five minutes complaining in a shrill, angry, panicking voice to Paul that every single page says, basically, "WARNING!! YOU ARE GOING TO USE THIS CAR SEAT INCORRECTLY NO MATTER WHAT YOU DO, AND SOMETHING TERRIBLE WILL HAPPEN AND IT WILL BE COMPLETELY YOUR FAULT!!"

The first instruction for taking off the pad is to remove the eight Phillips-head screws from the back panel. That's just wrong. WRONG. We chose this car seat because it's the top-rated Consumer Reports convertible seat, but I think Consumer Reports needs to add a ratings column for ease of laundering. I'm all for safety, and I would choose the same seat again for safety reasons, but holy freaking crap, I couldn't even get the screws unscrewed, and maybe that was for the best since there were about twenty instructions after that, including more warnings about how I would certainly put the seat back together wrong and it would cause SERIOUS INJURY OR DEATH!! I resisted kicking the car seat, but I did "bump into it" on my way past so it would tip over. I tackled it with upholstery cleaner and a washcloth, and then I put it outside to dry and air out. But I am not what you'd call happy about it.

Edited for this correction: Tessie asked what car seat it was, and in looking up the details I see that we do not in fact have the top-rated seat as I'd remembered, though we have one of the top three. The seat we have is the Evenflo Triumph 5, and the top-rated seat is the Evenflo Titan 5, which, as an added bonus, is an estimated $40 cheaper than the Triumph (at the time of the May 2005 rating). But: the twins outgrew the weight limits on their infant seats before they were old enough to be front-facing, and the weight limit for rear-facing was higher for the Triumph 5 than for the Titan 5. (This might not be the case any longer--it was well over a year ago that we bought these, and all I can find now is "deluxe" versions of the Titan 5.)

April 18, 2007

How Did She Get Barf On The INSIDE Of Her Skirt?

Elizabeth threw up in the car again today, 5 minutes from our 35-minute-away destination, just like before. I have concluded, based on the number of times this has happened (six or seven, but it feels like ten million) that it is carsickness. I am a genius medical scientist; please award me my honorary degree. It took me awhile to figure it out because although I get carsick and so does Rob, I've never actually barfed from it, nor have I ever had a child who barfed from it. Well, until now, when clearly I do have such a child.

Luckily, this time I was prepared. After the fourth trip baptized in barf, I put a "Barf Kit" in the car: paper towels, complete change of clothing, bottle of Febreze, bottle of soapy water, empty plastic bags. So although I had to pull over on the highway to clean up the worst of it with paper towels and baby wipes, afterwards I drove on to the mall, knowing I could clean her up completely when we got there. With the Barf Kit, the trusty Barf Kit, thank goodness I have the Barf Kit. ...Where the hell is the Barf Kit? Oh, yes: hanging on the doorknob at home, where I put it after the last time I had to replenish the supplies. Please award me another honorary degree for genius.

It's true that I can collapse under this sort of overwhelming obstacle, giving in to the landslide of despair and self-pity, weeping with frustration as I drive all the way back home to spend my morning removing the residue and smell of barf from various surfaces and feeling so very sorry for myself. But when it is raining and I nevertheless obtained a good parking space in the covered parking, and when I have driven 35 minutes to get there, and when The Children's Place is having a good clearance sale I want to re-peruse--well, then I may find an inner steel that can carry me through the next two hours of wandering through the mall in a nearly visible cloud of barf smell.

So! Anyone know how to make a carsick child NOT barf? Because that would be even better than remembering to bring the Barf Kit.

April 17, 2007

Freaking Out In All Its Many Forms

Go say congratulations to Devan over at All D's: she's produced the world's cutest baby boy for the second time in a row, and he is wearing a little froggy outfit that will make you FREAK OUT and go to OldNavy.com and try to order it immediately and FREAK OUT again when it is no longer available.

I am freaking out over baby clothes to keep me from freaking out over the $3000 worth of dental work Paul needs. THREE. THOUSAND. DOLLARS. Of dental work. Could there be a more boring way to spend money? There goes the ENTIRE tax refund, part of which we'd planned to spend on a new couch. Ours is broken so that it is more like a hammock--if the hammock fell down, pulling the anchoring trees with it, and you sat on the resulting heap. We'd also planned to do something about our windows, which are from the 1960s and many don't even have storms on them, and some of them whistle you a haunting melody when the wind blows, and all of them ensure that we will never die of carbon monoxide poisoning. While window upgrades are not "fun" per se, they are more exciting than dental work.

And speaking of freaking out, because apparently I still am, Paul's company is changing health insurance plans. Right now. When I am six and a half weeks away from giving birth. And they regret to say they have no information about maternity benefits, nor about covered OBs, nor about cards or new ID numbers, "at this time." The last time they switched providers, it took two months for us to get our new information. And perhaps you have had this experience and know how happy health care providers are to take your word for it that you have insurance but that you just don't have any cards or numbers.

This reminds me of a funny story, not funny-ha-ha, more like funny-burst-a-blood-vessel. Eight days before I delivered my firstborn, Paul's company changed insurers. To an insurer who would not cover my OB. And who charged a $1000 copay (the old company charged $50) for hospital visits, one copay for me and one for the new baby. Nice, yes? It's been more than 8 years and I am STILL freaking out about that one.

Brownies tonight, I think. Lots and lots of brownies.

April 16, 2007

Girl Clothes

Oh, I have been having so much fun buying clothes for Elizabeth! She has only older brothers, and so we have to start from scratch on her wardrobe. I do love handmedowns: the way a shirt can be used for one, two, three, FOUR boys, the original expense of it divided smaller and smaller as each boy grows into it. But I also love to shop for baby clothes, and I love new things.

This is why I need to whisper very quietly that I was a little disappointed when an extremely nice and generous woman I know gave us three enormous plastic bins of baby girl clothes when I was pregnant with the twins--clothes all the way up to size 18 months. Disappointed? Even a little? Oh, how ungrateful! Oh, how very ungrateful of me! And I was also happy, and I did thank her earnestly and sincerely and I truly meant it. But my secret inner heart had wanted the excuse to shop for baby girl things. My secret inner heart had been pretending to be so very burdened by the necessity of going out and buying EVERYTHING PINK IN EVERY STORE WITHIN 100 MILES OF OUR HOUSE. So although my practical, frugal self was delighted with these piles and piles of free, gorgeous baby clothes, my secret inner heart was kicking pebbles sulkily and getting in trouble for having a bad attitude.

I have tried to be patient over the years. I have said that I don't care if I have boys or girls, and I stand by that claim--but I have never said that I don't care if I shop for boy clothes or girl clothes. I have managed to find cuteness in boy clothes: the jeans, the little t-shirts, the overalls, the sneakers--but I have not found anything like the joy of buying Elizabeth's first over-the-top frilly dress, satiny pink with puffed sleeves and layers and layers of skirt, the top layer threaded through with pink satiny ribbons and little pink fabric roses, and a matching pink satin headband with a pink fabric rose on it. In size newborn.

Notice I said we had girl handmedowns up to size 18 months. Notice that Elizabeth is now about 22 months old. For this coming spring and summer, do you know what we have for her to wear? NOTHING. Well, we did have nothing. Remember my online shopping trip the other day? When I was supposed to be shopping for poor Rob? Four crochet-trimmed bodysuits. A flowered skirt. A skirt with a wide band of lace. Two cardigans. A pair of tights.

And do you know where I went yesterday? To The Children's Place store in our mall. They had a bunch of the stuff that the online store had been out of stock of. Which is my excuse for an embroidered zip-up hoodie. Three pairs of pedal pushers. Two shirts with cutie round collars and little puffed sleeves.

Everything coordinates. You can put this shirt with those pedal pushers and that hoodie, or you can put it with that skirt and this cardigan. It is a wonder to behold. Boys and girls are both wonderful. But girl clothes are better.

April 15, 2007

Question: UTIs And Vitamin C

Jonniker has me thinking about UTIs (thanks, Jonniker!), and that reminds me of a question. One of my friends said she heard that if you take a vitamin C tablet after every time you have sex, it can help prevent urinary tract infections. Something about the vitamin C being acidic in the bladder and urinary tract, and the acidity killing off bacteria or whatever awful demons cause a UTI. Is this the kind of crazy thing that people say but it doesn't actually work, or is it the kind of crazy thing that saves a girl from wanting to amputate her entire lower half a couple times a year?

April 14, 2007

Someone Else's Future

This is not my first marriage. I was married once before. It was a long time ago, when I was still in school. It lasted less than a year. We didn't have any children, a fact that makes me wish I were religious so I'd have a deity to thank every day for the rest of my life.

It ended badly. It's likely he believes to this day that I left him in order to be with someone else. What actually happened is that I left him in order to get the hell away from him. I can understand why he would prefer his theory.

The greatest relief I have ever felt in my life was when I got out of that marriage. I have never wondered if I did the right thing. I have never regretted it. It was one of the best decisions of my entire life.

We haven't been in touch since we separated. About once a year, I feel curious about what's going on with him. I wish we had mutual friends who could fill me in; instead, I have Google. I rarely find anything informative. A big shock was the year a minor celebrity with his same name died, and so when I searched I got pages of obituaries and memorials.

Last night I searched. I found a blog. It's his wife's.

The blog is for their work, so personal details are scarce. Still, there are some. There are also some photos. I looked through every single post. I learned that he is living with his wife in the country he'd wanted us to live in, and that they are doing the work he'd wanted us to do. They have a son, and they've given him the name that he and I had agreed on. This reminds me of a book I read where a woman's groom ditched her a couple of months before the wedding; she kept her dress and all her church/catering reservations, and just found a new groom.

The peek I got into the life he had in mind for us made me so grateful for my own life, I don't even know how to adequately express it. My mouth is dry and my jaw is tingling with nausea, and I have the feeling you have when you wake up from a terrible dream and you just want to pet everything in your house because it's there after all. Paul may drive me nuts with his inconsiderate thoughtlessness (this morning he read in the shower even though he knows that means there won't be enough hot water for my shower) and his periodic idiocy (how many times is he going to stuff food down the drain?), but at least we have the same rough idea about how we want to live our lives, and about what we want to be doing in the future. We have roughly the same principles and ideals, roughly the same ideas of what's right and what's wrong, roughly the same goals for our children's upbringing. The thought of being bound to someone whose principles and ideas were in fact repellent to me makes me feel like I can't get enough air.

One reason I don't often mention my divorce is that people think divorce is such a terrible, sad thing. They're thinking of their own marriages, and how awful it would feel to have those marriages end. That's not the right way to think of it. If you're a liberal agnostic Democrat, imagine being married to a missionary for the Religious Right. If you're a conservative Christian, imagine being married to a gay Wiccan abortion doctor. Now imagine getting out of it. The marriage was a terrible, sad thing; the divorce was wonderful. I am reminded of this when I see what could have been my future.

April 13, 2007

Caution, Mornings, Brownies, Devan

Don't do this: When your baby wants to admire her freshly-formed ponytails in the mirror, don't carry her over there so that you see your own saggy, tired, undereye-circled, blotchy, aging face and your own blah, dirt-colored hair which somehow manages to be both dry and oily, right next to her smooth, rosy-cheeked, perfect complexion and bright eyes and shiny beautiful blonde hair in darling springy little ponytails. Don't do that.

Today's plan was to write a post about how our mornings go in this house. I might fall apart in the last two hours before the kids' bedtimes, but I am great with mornings. I have systems. I can juggle ten things at once. I can get someone into motion on one thing so that he's done just as I've finished what I need to do for his next step. I remember everything. I can fit things together to get twice as much done as if I'd done it in a different order. I may have four children, but I've also got rhythm. I was going to describe that rhythm in a shruggingly modest way that would make you admire me all the more.

It was probably because I was absorbed in composing this tribute to my own awesomeness that the morning went so badly. We still managed to get to the bus stop on time, but three minutes before we were supposed to be there, I was in my pajamas with wet hair falling in my face and no glasses on, and Rob couldn't find his shoes, and the twins were crying about something. The morning was filled with a series of small hitches, minor things like yogurt spilled on someone's shirt, a broken toy missing a choking-hazard-sized piece that should probably be found before a twin choked on it, a wet bed that required an unexpected clean-up and shower, a slow eater tiny bite taker.

William said he couldn't find his cereal bowl, which I had recently put out for him. He said it was not on the table. I asked him to check to see if I left it on the kitchen counter. No, he said. Considering he had told me not five minutes before that he couldn't find his chair, and I had gone in and found it in plain sight less than five feet where it usually is, I was suspicious of his story and went to look for myself. No bowl on the table. No bowl on the counter. It was a clattering sound that turned my eyes in the correct direction moments before I would have considered checking myself into some sort of institutional program: the twins had somehow (how?) managed to hook the bowl into their playpen with them, and they were sitting on the floor together, companionably crunching cereal. Luckily, William eats his cereal dry.

Everything worked out fine in the end, and Rob got on the bus with his lunch and his backpack and all his clothes, but I am no longer in the mood to discuss my awesomeness.

Let's talk about the awesomeness of brownies instead. And the awesomeness of all of you, sending me recipes just because I wanted them. You--and brownies--are awesome! And right now the awesome smell of brownies is filling the air, because William and I baked a batch this morning.

I started with Julia's recipe. What caught my attention was that it was similar to my Unsatisfactory Recipe, but with butter instead of shortening, cocoa instead of baking chocolate, less flour, less baking powder...well, actually, not all that similar. But similar in the basic formula. And I had all the ingredients, that was a big selling point. Here's her recipe, for those of you baking along at home:

Julia's Best Brownies
1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, melted
1 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/2 c. flour
1/3 c. baking cocoa
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease 9-inch square baking pan. Stir together butter, sugar and vanilla in bowl. Add eggs; beat well with spoon. Stir together flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt; gradually add to egg mixture, beating until well blended. Spread batter evenly into prepared pan. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until brownies begin to pull away from sides of pan. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Cut into squares.

***

If you want the recipe exactly as she put it (with optional/alternate ingredients), it's in the comments section on the recipe request post. I copied it here but then modified it so it's the way I baked it: I used butter not margarine, and I'm not using nuts or any other add-ins for the first batch of each recipe, to make the comparison more fair.

I had a little trouble with the "cool completely in pan" step, if that implies "before eating a long strip of 'samples' off one edge." These brownies are significantly better than my recipe. They are still less chocolatey than I'd like, but I don't taste that stale flavor that was bugging me, and the edges aren't too cooked when the middle is too moist, and the buttery goodness is a step up from shortening. They're moist and yummy, and if there are any left I plan to do the vanilla ice cream test with them tonight after dinner.

I'm thinking today about Devan, who went in this morning for an induction. I always get attached to people who are pregnant at the same time I am. I'm hoping she has a fast, easy, miraculously painless labor, and that little cartoon bluebirds perch on her shoulders and sing her sweet songs, and that butterflies flutter beautifully around the room pinning up lovely silk sashes, and that she swears at her husband only enough to remind him how lucky he is that normally her disposition is so sweet. Best of luck, Devan!

April 12, 2007

Recipe Request: Brownies

Devan at All D's has got me in the mood for brownies, and I don't like my recipe. My complaint is that it's not very chocolatey, and I think there's a funny stale taste to them, and the middle is often too moist when the edges are too done. Here it is:

Swistle's Unsatisfactory Brownie Recipe
2 oz. unsweetened baking chocolate
1/2 c. shortening
2 eggs
1 c. sugar
3/4 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla

In a small saucepan, melt chocolate and shortening.

In mixer, beat eggs. Mix in sugar and melted chocolate/shortening. Add dry ingredients. Add vanilla. Pour into greased 8x8 pan. Bake 350 for 20-25 minutes.

***

I don't like my recipe. I want your recipe. Send it to me, or post it in the comments. I usually get, like, one response to these recipe requests, but this is a pregnant woman emergency, people. I must have chocolate brownies, and I must have them now. Also, frosting is nice but what I'm looking for is the basic chocolate brownie recipe, nothing fancied up.

Online Shopping Trip

Rob has suddenly outgrown all his clothes and for the last week or two has been going to school looking like a child whose mother doesn't love him: pants revealing two inches of sock, coat revealing two inches of wrist. Usually I buy things on clearance ahead of time, and so then all I have to do is open the box in the closet and there's a whole new size--but this time it didn't work out that way, and he has two pairs of pants and no coat. I'm going to have to do a little full-price shopping, I guess, which makes me feel a little excited and a little crazed: when you are accustomed to 75% off, full-price is like dressing the child in woven diamonds--but on the other hand, it's thrilling to get a full selection of colors and styles, and thrilling to buy something for now rather than for some time in the future. Plus, it's not like I'm talking $100 pants here--I like Old Navy and Target.

I am large of tum and sore of back these days, so I was shopping online last night, and I found an awesome sale over at The Children's Place (click in the red "Spring Sale, $4.99 and under" box at the bottom of their page). Apparently everyone else found it, too, because the site was sooooooo slowwwwww. I actually got a BOOK so I'd have something to do between clicks: I'd click on an item I wanted to see, read for a minute or two until the page loaded, click on the order button, read for another minute until it showed that it had been added to the cart, click on the back-to-shopping button, read for another two minutes, etc. It was frustrating, too, because the page would finally load and the item would be out of stock, or I'd choose the size and click to add it to my cart, and I'd get the "sorry, out of stock" message. I think I did very well not to rip up the keyboard with my teeth.

Meanwhile, it was getting closer and closer to the time I really have to shower and go to bed, so that was affecting my decision-making skills. I was tempted to ditch the whole order in a panic. Instead, in a sudden spine-straightening burst of practical impulsiveness, I glanced at the cart, thought, "Yes, I want everything here," looked at the total, thought, "Yes, that seems reasonable," and just clicked the damn button already.

I was worried that--as with many late-night impulse decisions--I would feel remorse in the morning, but no! I woke up with a song in my heart, thinking of that package on its way to me. I was almost spraining my shoulder patting myself on the back for being so clever as to override my natural tightwad instincts and place the order. And, lest you notice that ominous past-tense verb and think it means I've since had reason to regret it: No! I have not! I am still happy!

In fact, the only downside of this entire story is that there is not one single thing in the order for Rob. No, it is mostly for the twins, with a few things thrown in for William. I couldn't find anything in Rob's size that (a) I liked and (b) was in stock in his size. Good sale, though.

April 10, 2007

Tending Violet

Are you guys reading Tending Violet? The link is in my short list to the right; a new column comes out on Friday nights or Saturday mornings. Joyce has a daughter Violet who's just a couple of months older than my twins, and I think Joyce writes about this age perfectly: the ups, the downs, the charms, the frustrations. This week's column is especially right-on, I thought, and also brings up that feeling a lot of us have sometimes about how we're shedding options like winter fur as we spend these years bringing up our children--and how it might be even worse later on when we're not bringing up the children anymore. Geez, I made it sound like a real downer--way to plug, Swistle. I just mean she Gets It: she doesn't oversell the joys and wonders, and she doesn't downplay them either; and she's thinking of now, and Before, and also Later, and I like to think of those things too.

As I anticipate the little newcomer, I like to re-read Joyce's older columns from when Violet was just born--like this one that helps me remember what it's like to have a newborn, or this one that does the same thing but in such a funny and tender way it makes me feel all emotional: weepy and also laughing and also just about dying from the baby cuteness. Some of the columns can be hard to read because they can bring back so vividly those crazy feelings a new baby seems to bring home from the hospital in a package for you to open gradually over the next few months; others will make those of you who don't have children want to go out and get knocked up right this very second. I've been enjoying the mix for nearly two years now, and wondered if you might enjoy it too.

Room Arrangements

Last night I was plagued with bad dreams (do you suppose it had anything to do with this?), and finally, about an hour before my alarm would have gone off (assuming the twins would have allowed me to sleep that long--a very bold assumption indeed), I gave up and got up. The dreams were bad enough that everything was looking grim and scary to me (Our shower--MENACING! My toothbrush--DISTURBING!), and as I was wetting down my hair and getting dressed, I realized I would need to pull out the big guns: blue chrome eyeliner. But blue chrome eyeliner doesn't look right on a "natural look" ("lazy about make-up") face, so I added blue eyeshadow. Nothing says "everything's fine now" like a little daytrip to the '80s.

I was crabby all yesterday, and I couldn't explain it to Paul. Everything was fine. No one had done anything to piss me off. In fact, I'd had a good day, industrious and successful. I was just crabby. I didn't know if it would be adequate to say to him, "It's the third trimester, that's all." Especially since I've spent six months saying, "It's the first trimester, that's all," and "It's the second trimester, that's all."

Speaking of trimesters, this past weekend we finally got around to doing something we should have done months ago: we rearranged the kids to make room for the new baby. Before, Rob and William were in the two small bedrooms downstairs, and the twins shared the large bedroom (which doubled as their playroom) upstairs. We moved Elizabeth down to one of the small bedrooms--because as the only girl she's the only child who definitely gets her own room--and we moved William up to the large bedroom. The new baby will move in with William and Edward.

It's not one of the arrangements we originally considered, but it's the one that involves the least moving things around. We put bunk beds in the large bedroom, so when Edward is ready for a Big Kid Bed he can move into the bottom bunk and the new baby can move into his crib. (The new baby has an up-to-30-pounds bassinet he can use until then.) When the new baby is ready for a Big Kid Bed, we'll need to reconsider arrangements again, but this gives us two and a half years or so before we need to think about it.

Elizabeth needed her own room anyway: she's the one who wakes up at the slightest sound and cries for 45 minutes before going back to sleep. Rob values having his own room, and really didn't want to share, and we hoped we'd be able to let him have his own room as much as possible: he's the oldest, and needs a place to go where he can shed all the younger children clinging to him like adoring, staticky socks. We'd worried that William wouldn't want to lose his own room, and wouldn't want to share with babies, but he was happy about it. He hasn't really enjoyed his own room: he gets lonely and sad. Also, Edward is his favorite sibling, and he refers to the new baby as "Edward 2," so apparently everyone's happy.

In the meantime, this gives me an empty bureau to move freshly-laundered teeny tiny baby dressings into, any time I feel like it! And it gives me a GIRL room to decorate! Heady stuff. Too bad I'm barely able to go up and down stairs anymore. No wonder I'm crabby.

April 9, 2007

Sandal Follow-Up--With VOTE!

Dr. Martens canceled my sandal order, which I thought was mighty decent of them considering it says all over the site that orders cannot be canceled, that it is impossible to cancel orders. That unfortunately, once placed, an order is returnable but not cancelable.

I feel relieved and disappointed, both, which just goes to show you how difficult I am to live with. I was in a blind panic when I discovered the sandals were men's sandals, but after Nance said in my comments section that they'd be the right size, I felt happy about them. I mean, clearly I like the sandals, because I ordered them. I'm glad to have the mess tidied up (and what if they were too wide? or too mannish after all?), but sad not to have the sandals.

Also, it's still bothering me that the sandals look so girly to me. I didn't even look to see if they were men's or women's, even though I was doing that routinely with all the sandals, because that's how unmistakably girly they looked to me. I'd like your input on this. Don't worry that I won't love you anymore if you say, "Um, those are definitely men's sandals," I want your real opinion. I will put a photo of the sandals below, and you tell me honestly if you would think they were men's, women's, or either.


Note the little heel. The cute curve of the sole. The pretty stitching. But no--don't let me influence you. Tell me what you REALLY think.

April 8, 2007

Question: UK Shoe Sizes

Here is what happened. I went to the Dr. Martens website. I found some cute sandals on a great clearance. With joy in my heart, I ordered them. I went back to the product info page so that I could copy the url and send it to everyone I knew, announcing my shopping triumph. That's when I saw the one little word that, if I were a cartoon character, would have sent my eyes baROOOOOOOOOONgah-ing to the screen: "Mens." I know, I know, they should put an apostrophe between the N and the S, but that is not what made my eyes do that thing. And guess what? No such thing as order-canceling: they claim that the order goes directly to the warehouse, and that they have no contact with the warehouse, nor do they even know where the warehouse is, or if it even exists.

So here is what I am wondering, wise and worldly readers. Are UK sizes the same for men and women, unlike US sizes? That is, will I be able to wear these sandals, with only you and me and the entire Dr. Martens community knowing they are technically for men, because a UK women's 7 is the same shoe as a UK men's 7? Or is it like US sizes, where a women's 8 and a men's 8 wouldn't be even close to the same size, and now I will have to pay the return shipping?

I am wringing my hands anxiously, awaiting your reply.

April 7, 2007

If You Don't Like Memes, This Post Is Safe To Skip

Shelly at Scenic Overlook tagged me for this Three Things meme. I do what Shelly says. She is one fierce-looking purple M&M chick.

Three Things That Scare Me:
1. house fire
2. choking
3. deep water (it's the "me dangling above" part and the "things below" part--not the fear of drowning in it)

Three People Who Make Me Laugh:
1. Roz Chast
2. Mitch Hedberg
3. Sundry

Three Things I Love:
1. postcards
2. L'Artisan perfume
3. babies, and the naming of them, and the buying of clothes and equipment for them, and the taking pictures of them, and the snuggling and sniffing of them, and the anticipation of them, and the planning of them, and the not-planning of them

Three Things I Hate:
1. W@lmart
2. insurance problems
3. morning sickness

Three Things I Don’t Understand:
1. why my mother-in-law thinks I should cook breakfast for her every morning when she's visiting
2. what the word "ironic" means
3. what our homeowners' policy DOES cover, and why it goes up so much every year considering we never make claims on it and considering it keeps covering less

Three Things On My Desk:
1. Chapstick Lip Moisturizer
2. an empty cup that once held ice cream
3. someone's very nice pen--who did I accidentally steal it from?

Three Things I’m Doing Right Now:
1. agitating about something minor and stupid that doesn't matter
2. listening to a Schoolhouse Rock album
3. thinking about when I'm going to eat those Cadbury Creme Eggs (I went into the other room after typing that to see if it was "creme" or "cream," and the answer turned out to be "eating one right now")

Three Things I Want To Do Before I Die:
1. have lots of grandchildren
2. help someone deliver a baby who arrives unexpectedly and is totally fine
3. write the kind of detailed will that assigns small, thoughtful items to people important to me ("My diamond stud earrings to my dear friend Lee, who...")

Three Things I Can Do:
1. make fudge from scratch
2. swim
3. chart my cycle like a trained professional

Three Things I Can’t Do:
1. use a sewing machine
2. play an instrument
3. put on mascara without my eyelashes feeling unpleasantly sticky with each blink

Three Things I Think You Should Listen To:
1. Blink-182
2. Consumer Reports
3. the nagging feeling that maybe you'll regret saying something you're about to say

Three Things You Should Never Listen To:
1. media personalities who drive your blood pressure up
2. interviews with authors or actors whose work you admire
3. anyone trying to scare you about something they also happen to be selling the expensive solution for

Three Things I’d Like To Learn:
1. how to put up the goldanged Christmas lights evenly
2. how to stop agitating about things that don't matter
3. which things are worth saving in large boxes in the basement for years and years, and which things aren't

Three Favorite Foods:
1. pizza
2. "chicken in a creamy sauce" dishes
3. Pong Wok chicken, eaten at China Express and never found anywhere ever again

Three Shows I Watched As A Kid:
1. Sesame Street
2. Mr. Rogers
3. 3-2-1 Contact

Three Things I Regret:
1. not dating Jonathan
2. being too scared of the CPA exam to try for it
3. buying so many 39-cent stamps (I was celebrating finally using up all my 37-cent stamps)

Three People I'm Tagging (no pressure, just if it seems like fun to do):
1. Shauna at Pass the Chocolate
2. Trena at You, Me and a Baby
3. el-e-e at hello, self

April 6, 2007

Swistle Deals With Yet Another Difficult Email!

I mentioned a few days ago that I was agitated about an email from my father-in-law. Paul's parents split up when Paul was in college; evidently it was (a) a relief and (b) a long time coming. I've met Paul's dad once, and he's....he's a...he's a difficult man. He's in his sixties now, but pretty much all he does is self-analysis. His only topic of conversation is how his journey of self-discovery is going, or why it's everyone else's fault that his life turned out the way it did. He even has a theory about a childhood illness that he claims made him into a different person than he was "supposed to be." There's no reason to believe he ever had such an illness, or that he was ever anyone other than the asinine idiot he has carefully nurtured over the years.

The first evening I spent with Paul and Paul's parents (they're divorced, as I said, but amicable enough to get together for an evening when Paul and I visited briefly on our honeymoon), Paul's dad sat in silent state of what turned out to be self-pity--the entire evening. Paul and his mom were prepared: Paul's mom knitted, and Paul had a book. I'm still angry with Paul (it's been nearly ten years) for not preparing me. There I sat like an idiot, trying to fill the silence with perky remarks no one responded to. I should have wished everyone good night and left the room, but I was too paralyzed by the intense discomfort of the situation.

Paul's dad contacts us once every year or two. Sometimes it's a one-time email/call, sometimes there's a flurry of them. Then they cut off abruptly, and we don't hear from him again for another year or two. He doesn't respond when we let him know about the birth of a new grandchild. Sometimes he'll contact us six months later to complain about how bad he feels for not responding. He's made no contact with any of his grandchildren, or shown any interest in them at all. They are not him, so he's not interested.

Every time I've had to talk to Paul's dad on the phone, I've ended up sickened by his excuses and his self-pity. He talks ONLY about himself. He takes EVERYTHING personally. When we had newborn twins and sent out a general email to the whole family and all our friends saying that we were going to let the answering machine pick up calls because it was too hard to talk on the phone right now, he professed himself "very hurt" by this, and said he felt "rejected." He feels so very, very victimized and sorry for himself over the break-up of his family, even though it's clear that he was the main problem. He says he shouldn't be held accountable for his bad behavior (he used to disappear for hours or days; he would give everyone the silent treatment for hours, days, or weeks; he would be "emotionally unable" to either work or help out around the house; he had at least one affair), because he "wasn't emotionally able" to deal with marriage and family. Whatever, jerk.

ANYWAY. He got in touch again last week, by email. This time he tells me that the reason he's not in touch is that he doesn't know who he can "trust." He says that when he gives updates on his life, they get "twisted" and people put "spin" on them to make him look bad. I don't know what the hell he could be referring to. He says that he would like to have a relationship with Paul, but feels rejected by Paul. He explains the various elements of his personality that make it so very hard for him to keep in touch with his own children unless they jump up and down saying "Yay! Yay! You're talking to me, I'm so very very excited and grateful!" He explains once again that his IQ is very very high, and that a psychologist told him he functions at a lower level than his IQ, and that there "must be a reason for that." Note: I've never noticed that he seems particularly intelligent. Mostly he seems paranoid and mentally unstable.

He didn't send this email to Paul, only to me. It is clear from the email that what he wants is for me to comfort and reassure him. He wants me to tell him that I totally understand why he's chosen to estrange himself from his children and grandchildren. He wants me to tell him he's totally wrong and that Paul is LONGING for a relationship with him, and that I will talk to Paul and explain his dad’s actions in another light so that reconciliation will be possible. He wants me to tell him that yes, he's very very smart and such a good boy in every way. Well, screw that. He's a total loser, and I can't stand him, and at this point I don't even want him to have a relationship with the kids because that would be so much work for me and would involve so many explanations to the children about why Grandpa suddenly dropped out of touch for a year. And also, he's right: Paul doesn't want a relationship with him.

I worked really hard on my reply email:

Hey, Pinehole Dear Phil,

Surely you must realize I'm not going to tell you that you did the right thing by choosing to estrange yourself from your children and grandchildren for what appear to me to be purely selfish reasons. Surely you must realize that at this point, nobody cares what you do or what you say. Your family doesn't waste breath discussing you one way or another, and if you think people are "spinning" your words to "prejudice others against you," I suggest you get your medication adjusted. The only prejudice people have against you is the prejudice you yourself have inspired with your words and your actions. I barely know you, and no one has had to "spin" anything for me to understand what it means that you drop out of touch for years at a time. And don't try to get my sympathy in any way: I may be only the daughter-in-law so you feel safe talking to me, but those are my babies and my husband you're ignoring, and they matter infinitely more to me than you do. If you think I'm going to take your side over theirs, you are seriously whacked. I'd give up your life to save one of their fingers.

You're so worried that everyone is saying bad things about you, and you consider yourself "out of the loop." In your needs-more-medication imagination, Paul and his mom and sister dance happily in a field of flowers holding hands, while poor poor Phil is all alone through no fault of his own with no one to care about him. Leaving aside the issue of who it was who left his family behind and then chose to rarely contact them ever again except to explain how bad they make him feel, I can tell you that Paul doesn't contact his mother or sister, either. I'm totally in charge of all contact with his family. You can imagine how much I love this, considering what a bunch of crazies you all are. You imagine, I suppose, that I'm constantly emailing Paul's mother and having long cozy chats with her on the phone, while sending you only the "bare minimum" of a huge monthly pile of photos of the grandchildren you don't show any interest in, plus every two weeks a long chatty email keeping you updated on our lives which you also don't show any interest in. You will be glad to know that the emails and photos I send to you--the ones you never acknowledge in any way--are the exact same ones I send to Paul's mother. There, do you feel more "in the loop" now?

You talk about how bad you feel for being out of touch, but then you immediately start making excuses for it. All the excuses end up being about other people. Listen, pinehole, I couldn't care less if you were in touch or not. In fact, I prefer it when you're out of touch. When you call or write, I am agitated for days, wishing I was the kind of person who would say to you after a long period of listening to your complaints and excuses, "Hm, no, it sounds to me as if this is all your own fault, and that you're being a total jerk as usual." Instead I say, "Mm-hm, mm-hm" which I think implies that you've found a sympathetic ear. Then I'm angry at you and at myself. I have thought more than once that it will be a relief when you die and I no longer have to wonder if I should send you yet another Christmas package that will go completely unacknowledged.

Because you are a difficult and probably crazy person, I've had to come up with an actual formal policy regarding my willingness to communicate with you. After years of thought, and many times considering if I should just break off communications altogether because you're not my father and I don't see why I should have to carry the burden that is you, I have come up with a policy that keeps me from going quite so nuts. It is this: As long as you keep us updated with email address and mailing address changes, my intention is to continue sending you the exact same emails and photos and cards I send to Paul's mom, just as I have been. I'm the daughter-in-law, so I don't have any emotional stake in whether or not you're in touch beyond the necessary address updates. Frankly, it's easier for me if you're not.

You are way too old to be talking deeply about your journeys of self-discovery. This is appropriate during late nights in high school and college, and maybe even into the early twenties, but then never after. Not only does no one care this much about another person's psyche, you don't have a very interesting psyche to begin with. In fact, it appears that all you have in there is a big tangle of psychological analysis: you've been self-analyzing for so long, that's all that's left of you--if there was ever anything more than that to begin with, which my experiences with you have led me to doubt.

You say you feel that various things have led to you not living up to your real potential. You know what? I think your real potential was pretty limited to begin with. But certainly at this point, it is too late to be worrying about it. It's too late for you to do anything "when you grow up." It's also too late to care about your IQ. Your IQ might have been an interesting test result when you were in elementary school, but it's meaningless now. Your incessant bragging about how high it is only makes me want to argue with you and make scoffing noises and show you many bullet-pointed charts that demonstrate how little evidence there is that your IQ was even high to begin with.

You made your choices during the time you were with your family, and you've made your choices since then, and it is useless to try to blame the results of those choices on other people. Oh, you feel like Paul and his sister don't want a relationship with you? Quelle surprise. Who WOULD want a relationship with someone as self-absorbed and as self-pitying as you? Considering your only topic of conversation with your children is why they can only blame themselves for your departure and why they can only blame themselves for your lack of communication since then, and considering you only have this conversation with them every two years or so when you choose to contact them, and then you sulk because you don't think they seemed happy enough to hear from you, what the hell would make you believe that anyone would want a relationship with you? You're a total waste of apartment space as far as I'm concerned.

Normally, I like to believe that most people do okay as parents: some may be better than others, but there aren't many failures. You, though, are an actual failure. Yes, I mean it: you are a failure as a father. You failed. You did more harm than good. You set a terrible example of adulthood. You did not take care of your children, and you interfered with the care others tried to take. It is a tribute to the strength of the human spirit that your kids came out as well as they did. I mean, there are times when I get very frustrated with Paul, but he's a normal human being and my frustrations with him are on that level. My frustrations with you run more toward a knife and a scary ee!-ee!-ee! sound as you take a shower.

If you want my opinion--and from experience I know you don't want it unless it confirms your own sense of rightness and wrongedness--I think you could benefit from a several step program. (1) Go see a psychiatrist. Tell him or her your worries about people twisting your words. Tell him or her your philosophy about family relationships. Get some good medications for a change. (2) I usually don't like it when people say "Get a life," because they seem to mean "Get one more like mine," but in your case I think the instruction could be applied to mean something less critical and more elemental. Stop thinking about yourself all the time. Stop wondering about your feelings all the time. Get out of your Mire Of Phil and do things that matter to people other than to you. Get a job, maybe. Get some friends who aren't taking you on purely as a charity case. (3) Stop being such an ass. We're all sick of it. (4) Give up on a relationship with Paul. People say "it's never too late," but they're just being starry-eyed dimwits: there is a point of "too late," and you've passed it. You'd have to change more than humanly possible for him to think you're not a total waste of time. (5) Stop bragging about your IQ and your potential. Nobody cares, and nobody believes you. You wasted your life; too bad. (6) Stop asking me to support your unsupportable decisions. I don't like you any more than Paul does; and in fact, considering I have no conflicted familial feelings, I probably like you a whole lot less.

Be sure to leave instructions in your crazy-person apartment so that someone will contact us when you die. Other than that, I don't see any reason we need to hear from you again.

Sayonara, Loser Love, Swistle

***

Some of you may have noticed that I had to do some subtle editing to my original email before sending it. Most of the editing was because I realized I didn't want to engage with him in any of the areas he wanted to engage in: I didn't want to talk about how he thought other people were saying bad things about him, I didn't want to discuss whether his children would want a relationship with him, and I didn't want to talk about how I understood his lack of contact or response over the years. Nor did I want to get an email back from him in response to any of those topics. It's not as if my opinions on the topic are going to make him realize the errors of his ways and become a better person. All I'd be doing is creating strife and unpleasantness.

All I really wanted to communicate was two things: (1) I send you the same stuff I send to your ex-wife so don't imagine you're missing out, and (2) I don't really care if you're in touch or not. On a read-between-the-lines level, I hope that my lack of response to the rest of his email communicates that I don't care about his IQ, his excuses, or his justifications for his bad behavior.