May 30, 2007

No Laundry Left

I can tell I'm not firing on all....eight? is it "eight"? cylinders.....is it "cylinders?" Hey, what's that expression I'm looking for that means I'm not exactly running at full mental capacity? This afternoon I was hungry, and I had a nice heaping bowl of vanilla ice cream with Keebler "Bug Bites" (glazed cinnamon graham crackers in appetizing insect shapes) broken into it--and then I suddenly realized I never had lunch. I got all distracted, I guess, and then when I was hungry I looked at the clock and thought "Snack time!" It was convenient that I didn't realize this until after the ice cream was down the hatch, wasn't it?

Whatever Paul has, they gave him an antibiotic for it, so I'm glad he stayed home, and I told him so in a grudging tone of voice. I do wish he'd found out some of the little details such as what he has and whether it's safe to be near a newborn with it, but he's got a call in to the nurse now because of what I can only assume was intense pressure from me--all I remember is all the light leaving the room and there was a voice like thunder, and then suddenly he was making the call and also hiding behind the microwave cart.

Around lunchtime, Edward's cough got worse and he was digging at both ears, and Elizabeth started coughing the way Edward was yesterday. I was reluctant to go back to the pediatrician after yesterday's "Whooping cough? Pfff. This isn't even a cold" session with Robert, but I thought, what if we get up tomorrow and he's even sicker? So I just took them both in, and they both have colds. Well, it was worth two co-pays to be able to tell the disapproving maternity nurses that what our children are hacking all over the brand-new baby is only cold germs and not plague.

Now, let's see, when will I be back again to tell you about the baby? It seems to me like it will be a million years from now, on the other side of an unfamiliar galaxy, and yet if everything goes as expected I should be back home on Sunday afternoon. I've scheduled a session of "weeping with homesickness for my quiet, immaculate, food-serviced hospital room" for right after I get home, but after that I should be free. Er, assuming I work up the nerve to ask Paul if he can watch all five kids so I can go blog. Maybe we should plan to meet up Sunday evening, after (four of) the kids are in bed.

Hey, that's a good thing to think of. As soon as I thought of Sunday evening, I started thinking of a sweet little BABY and how much fun it would be to post his beautiful-in-a-mother's-eyes-if-not-technically-in-anyone-else's photo--as opposed to what I've been thinking of most of the day, which is having a tube put into my spine, and the way they always call in these offensively burly guys to lift me from one table to another, and the way the nurse asks Personal Bathroom Questions in front of Paul. Our Sunday night arrangement is way better to think of.

Wednesday: Diseased Family and Last Day Before Baby

I took Rob to the pediatrician yesterday, and the pediatrician said he doesn't see how it can possibly be whooping cough. Then he retracted that statement, saying that whenever he says something like that, he can almost guarantee the test will come back positive just to show him doctors shouldn't get too full of themselves. (Ha ha. Thanks for giving my child WHOOPING COUGH with your HUBRIS.) He thinks it's probably not even a cold, just seasonal allergies. But in any case, the test results for whooping cough won't be back until Thursday afternoon or Friday morning. This is me, not freaking out about the minuscule risk that we might expose a zero-day-old baby to whooping cough.

Now Edward and William are coughing. Listen, I am this close to kenneling these children for the next week. If the rates were reasonable I might throw Paul in, too: this morning he said he hadn't wanted to tell me but he's had a sore throat for two days and today it's worse. He stayed home from work, which is actually good timing because he can help with the kids while I bump around the house like a spastic bumblebee.

Normally he wouldn't go to the doctor for a sore throat, but I am getting really jumpy about all this illness and I said he had to. I believe my voice got a little shrill. I'd been up since 4:30 (couldn't get back to sleep after third pee of the night) dealing with the existing situations (note to Rob's teacher about the doctor appointment; email to my in-laws explaining that if they send me last-minute crucial contact information at 8:00 tomorrow morning, as they have done twice before on my c-section date, I will not be here to receive it), and I was in no mood to add yet another complication. If he's contagious, he can stay home tomorrow with all the children and I will go off to the hospital free and easy and not give any of them a single thought.

I feel queasy and fluttery. This day is the one day of the entire pregnancy that doesn't seem long. I gave the twins baths, and I'm on a second load of laundry. I don't have much I need to do, but I want to have plenty of hours to let that truth be felt. I want to be able to go into one room and then another, seeing the empty laundry baskets, the empty trash cans, and the fresh sheets. I want to visit my muffin stockpile in the freezer. I want time to go over my hospital bag list twenty extra times to make sure I'm not forgetting anything that will make me unable to have the baby after all, and I want to re-read the hospital pamphlet so I won't forget not to get up at 3:00 a.m. and eat a steak. Oh my god, what if I lose my mind and accidentally eat BREAKFAST in the morning? What THEN? I need to re-read the pamphlet right now.

May 29, 2007

Baby Stuff

Lisa was wondering what new baby things were out there, and what I've bought for the new baby so far. You want more talk about baby things? Welllllllll....OKAY.

The twins were our last babies for sure, so we got rid of their infant car seats, so I needed to buy a new infant seat for this baby. I chose a Graco Snugride in the Devon pattern (what? fabric pattern is a crucial issue). I also bought itsy bitsy baby socks: I like the six-packs they have at JCP because they have good thick ribbing and seem to stay on the baby's feet better than some, although socks and baby feeties are natural enemies. I bought a couple of packs of Carter's onesies, because most of our onesies were shot after four children; Carter's and Old Navy are my favorite onesies because they're softer and stretchier than Gerber, and hold up better as handmedowns (our Gerber ones got all droopy). I've also bought a number of tiny little blue outfits, most decorated with puppies, when I found them on clearance. The socks and onesies we actually needed, but I have no excuse for the outfits. We have tons of boy clothes, especially in the sizes that don't get a lot of wear.

One of my most-used baby items is a vibrating bouncy seat. Some babies hate these, but all of mine so far have wanted to marry it. Our bouncy seat broke when the twins were just outgrowing it, so I bought a new one: a light blue Just One Year one, on clearance of course at Target (this is the version that replaced it; it's very similar to the one I have).

Something I saw while buying the car seat is this hot little number: the Graco SnugGlider car seat swing frame. You put the car seat right into it, making your car seat into a swing. But it is $50, which seems steep for that little frame: it comes in a box the size of two shoeboxes end to end. If this new baby loves him a swing, though, I will reconsider buying it; my excuse will be the trip we're going on when he's about 3 weeks old, and how handy it would be to have a portable baby-quieting device along for the hotel.

I've been hearing a lot about the Bumbo and how awesome it is, and it's something I'm considering for when this baby is a little older. My babies are always a little late on the physical development (I'm sure it's because they're too busy learning physics and calculus), so something that helps the baby sit up a little earlier would be nice. With so many children roiling around the house, I wouldn't want to be a baby lying vulnerably on a blanket.

I'm still looking for a perfectly sized diaper bag. Regular diaper bags are too big; I didn't even need one that large when I had twins. The one I use now is called a "short trip" diaper bag, and with careful packing it holds four diapers, one of those slim boxes of diaper wipes, two sippee cups, two bibs, and a baggie of snacks, plus it has a couple of compartments I use for things like acetaminophen, a plastic bag (in case I need a Grossness Containment Chamber), and a small bottle of hand sanitizer (which, according to my alert, "finger on the pulse of mass forwarded email" mother-in-law, I should stop letting the children drink). This bag is perfect for a couple of toddlers, but not big enough for what I now will need to add: a fresh baby outfit for after he poops/spits all over himself, a few baby diapers, and a folded-up blanket for concealing scandal during nursing.

Chime in, all you pregnant people and new parents: what great new baby products have you found? Give me an excuse to go out shopping. Um, in a few weeks.

Tuesday: Pre-Op and Whooping Cough

The buzz is gone. It left when I went to bed, which gives support to Trena's theory that loopiness can be the baby cutting off the blood supply to the brain. It was fun while it lasted.

This morning I'm crampy, as I have been for a couple of days, fueling my constant "Labor?.......labor?.......labor?......" soundtrack. I'm also feeling less excited and more nervous. I've been so impatient for the c-section date, counting weeks and days and saying things like "This is the last day of the calendar week before the calendar week the baby will be born in! Yay!," and now there are two days left and I am feeling a little queasy.

Today I had my pre-op at the hospital, to which I had to drag three children. Lucky anesthesiologist, asking me important medical questions over the din of Edward naming everything he sees (and continuing to name it again and again until I repeat it back to him), and Elizabeth protesting the whole concept of the stroller. Meanwhile I was signing the paperwork, which says basically that I know I could die during the c-section, and that if that happens I totally understand. Sign here.

Tomorrow, then, will be my last day of being able to do anything. On Thursday I have to leave the house at 5:50 in the morning, so Thursday is not a day to be finishing up the laundry or baking a final batch of muffins. All there will be time for on Thursday is gathering up the last-minute things: my pillow, my journal, the book I'm reading; my face lotion and my brush. Main fret: that I will forget to set my alarm, or that it will not go off. For my last c-section, I set three alarm clocks and a kitchen timer.

The school nurse called and asked me to come get Rob, and I did. The school nurse wants me to have him tested for whooping cough. WHOOPING COUGH. Do you think it's okay if I choose not to freak out about this? I feel as if I am at full freak-out capacity, and can't add one more issue. Not only is whooping cough dangerous to small children and especially not-yet-vaccinated newborns, but if Rob has it he can't come to the hospital when the baby is born, and he is so excited to do that, and he would be so disappointed, and also, frankly, it would be a hassle to figure out what to do with him instead. So I am just going to pretend that all this can possibly be is a cold, and that I am taking him to the pediatrician this afternoon just to be a completely responsible person who pursues every possibility. Because I think that is in fact the case: I think he is very unlikely to have whooping cough, and that all the appointment will do is set my mind at ease. So I would like to set it at ease now, instead of spending the whole afternoon pacing and worrying. And I would like not to think about the school nurse, who, when we picked up Rob, asked if any of the other kids were coughing, and when I said no, but that Elizabeth had a runny nose, said soberly, "Yes, that's how it starts."

May 28, 2007

Buzzed

I don't know if any of you have experienced a good prescription painkiller, or perhaps the similar feeling--from what I've heard--produced by certain non-prescription substances. The feeling is familiar to me from postpartum, when the lovely lovely pills put a barrier between me and the other feeling, the one where I'm imagining my baby as an old man and weeping because life is so very fleeting, and then thinking about how I have made a terrible mistake to get married and have children, and then thinking about how I will never be able to cope with this new workload because it is too much and I have really gone too far this time. Then it is time for my painkiller and I see why people who have lives that are genuinely unhappy--rather than made temporarily unhappy by hormonal adjustments--might resort to such substances without the authorization of a physician.

Tonight I have that painkiller feeling, but with nothing to explain it. I was washing the dishes, and my hands and the bridge of my nose started feeling...tingly. And I felt distant from what I was doing, and inclined to admire the soap bubbles and wash the dishes more slowly to appreciate the roundness of the plates and the sparkly way the water was running over them. BUZZED. But why?

When I am 38 weeks pregnant, I attribute everything to possible labor. Crampy? Maybe I'm in labor! Lower back a little sore? Maybe I'm in labor! Not hungry? Maybe I'm in labor! Feeling buzzed for no reason? Hey, it COULD be labor.

Underneath the "whoaaaaaaaa! look at my hands!" feeling, I started getting stressed: if it were labor, I'd still have last-minute things I'd need to do--but darned if I could make myself do anything except look at the pretty bubbles. Then, suddenly, I was galvanized. I separated out the "fun things for the kids to do while waiting around at the hospital" stuff from the "fun things for the kids while Paul is trying to handle all four of them at home" stuff. I packed up a few more things that can be packed up now, such as batteries and a tiny screwdriver for the little games that will certainly run out of batteries ten minutes after we get to the hospital. I put a book of Sudoku puzzles in my hospital bag, and remembered to include a pencil.

And I calmed the hell down, because it's not labor. Early labor feels very little like "yummy painkillers!" and very much more like, "Ouch ouch ouch damn it this hurts!"--as I remember it from my firstborn, anyway.

Now I'm lethargic again, but still with that strange high feeling. I think I'll go sit in the recliner and admire the weave of the fabric until Thursday.

May 26, 2007

Question: Tubal Ligation During C-Section, And The Cut-Off Date For Deciding To Do It

Paul and I are having a little disagreement, and I'm hoping to add people to my side.

I have heard that if you want to have a tubal ligation at the same time as your c-section, OBs usually have a cut-off date for making that decision. That is, they are not going to allow a 39-weeks-pregnant woman to come hobbling in all swelled up and miserable and say, "Tie those tubes! I'm never having another baby!"

When I heard this, it made perfect sense to me. Many a woman has decided late in pregnancy (or in my case, in the barfing early part of pregnancy) that she never wants to go through this again. Then the baby is here, and the swelling recedes, and time goes by, and a baby starts to seem like a great idea again.

Furthermore, I think I have heard of this "decision cut-off" many times, and from many sources. Unfortunately for my argument with Paul, I could only think of one specific friend who had claimed to have this situation with her OB, and I'm fuzzy on the details because it has been a long time since she told me about it, and she and I aren't friends anymore so I can't call her and ask her. Paul seems to think that every time I hear a fact, I should write down the time, date, and people involved, and then get the document notarized.

You would think that Paul would not care if I claimed incorrectly that some OBs had a certain week before which you had to say you wanted a tubal ligation during your c-section. But he cares very much, it appears, very much indeed. He immediately started plugging terms into search engines, and then saying confidently that he could not find one single reference to any such thing. He demanded, as I've mentioned, to hear my sources--ideally with telephone numbers so that he could interview them himself.

It threatened to turn into a fight, except that I had just eaten a large bowl of chocolate ice cream with crushed oreos (the ice cream microwaved just a few seconds because I read the idea on Jonniker's site--and it is delicious, by the way), and I was feeling mellow, and also I am far too large to storm out of the room, and so I wasn't rising to his challenges, and so eventually he rolled his eyes and went back to playing a computer game, on which he vented his crabbiness instead of doing it at me, to which I say good deal.

I then did a little more searching myself, but all I found were references to a 30-day waiting period in general--that is, unrelated to pregnancy, just that many states and health plans require non-pregnant women to wait 30 days after making the decision before having a tubal ligation.

So here is what I need from you. Ideally, I need first-hand stories about you and about your personal OB, and about your personal OB telling you that he or she would need to know before Week X if you wanted a tubal ligation at the same time as your c-section or else he/she wouldn't do it. If you are without personal stories, secondhand stories are also good. In fact, I'll even take, "I heard one time that some girl..." stories.

Also, in case any of you were wondering what Paul was wondering, this is not something I'm even remotely considering for myself. It was that I wanted to use the cut-off date as an example in an email, and then I got disproportionately interested in the subject when I couldn't quickly find the information I was looking for. Then I made the mistake of mentioning my search difficulties to Paul, and here we are.

May 25, 2007

Things That Are NOT Nesting

Taking down the vinyl shower curtain liner and throwing it away, then putting the fabric curtain and the shower curtain rings into a long soak followed by a vigorous wash cycle, then wiping down the shower curtain rod, then putting the shower curtain back up with a brand-new liner. That is just good housekeeping.

Buying four 12-packs of toilet paper. That is just being prepared.

Baking one hundred and forty-four muffins and freezing them. That is smart meal-planning.

Insisting to Paul that the oil in the minivan must be changed before the 31st. That is sensible automobile maintenance and will prolong the life of our vehicle.

Keeping up with the laundry so relentlessly I am almost but not quite washing individual pairs of socks. That is merely an improvement over the usual Mt. Laundry situation.


Do you think that nesting is biological? That is, do you think it's motivated by the various chemicals of pregnancy, and/or that it is connected to the nearness of labor? Or do you think nesting is a result of the natural restlessness that comes with intense waiting, and/or the sensible realization that after the baby comes there will be less time to devote to baking and cleaning?

Not a Big Fan of Romeo and Juliet



I've been listening to this song by Akon, and in fact I am listening to it right now and so I thought you might like to listen, too. The first couple of times I heard it, I was in the car and I liked the song but...I'm too old for it. At my age, when I hear "Nobody wanna see us together" lyrics, I don't think, "Yeah, old people are against young love! because old people are bitter and have never known what Real Love is! and so they don't want to see anyone else happy!" anymore. I think, "Well, why don't they want to see you together? Is it really a matter of young love, or is it more like outstanding warrants, or two pregnant ex-girlfriends, or that you're all slumpy and disrespectful and can't keep your pants up, or that you're cheating on her incessantly and other people think that's not a good sign even though you keep saying it doesn't mean anything, or...?"

Then I was looking up the song online to see who it was by, and I discovered that the song is being picked up here and there as a gay love song instead of the teenage love song I'd been hearing it as. Seen in that light, I can love the song. Maybe not every lyric detail works out, but I sure am a lot more inspired by lyrics of facing opposition and of fighting for the right to be together if I'm thinking of, say, gay marriage, as opposed to high school romance.

May 24, 2007

Baby Registries and Baby Gifts

Before I begin this post about baby registries, I would like to make an announcement: ONE! WEEK! LEFT! Thank you.

Registries are most useful for the first baby, because there is so much crap you need/want all at once. But first-baby registries tend to be...silly. It's no one's fault: you're pregnant for the first time and you go into a big baby store and what are you going to do? Basically click the "one of everything, please" button on the scanner. Tiny leather slippers for $29.99? Click! $5.00 Johnson's baby shampoo that you could get at Target for $2.50? Click! In utero flashcard set? Click! $24.99 receiving blanket that is exactly like the pack-of-4-for-$7.99 type except that it's rolled up and tied with a natural canvas bow? Click! White bibs? Click!

I think we can use many of our wedding registry questions here. For example, what did you put on your baby registry that you later used as an example to mock your own naivete? What did you register for that turned out to be pure genius, whether you knew it would be or not?

Registry or no, what did you get a ton of? What did you not get any of? Everyone told us not to buy anything in newborn sizes because we'd get inundated with it, but apparently everyone had heard about that because we got no newborn stuff and a ton of things in sizes like 18-24 months and 2T, which I then had to find a storage system for, and which then often turned out to be the wrong season when the baby finally hit that size. We also got four million hand-knitted baby blankets. Four million, seriously.

Did you find that parents gave you better, more practical gifts than non-parents? I found that some of my non-parent friends wanted to give me gifts long after it was too late. One non-parent friend visited when the baby was a month old, and she complained that I already had a car seat--she'd wanted to buy me the car seat. Um...I needed it...earlier than this--but thanks for the thought.

Did you get anything dreadful? We got a set of religious children's books for a religion we don't belong to, but I wouldn't call that "dreadful," just presumptuous and annoying. I am trying to think back, but I don't think we got anything that was "homemade toilet paper holder" bad.

What were your best baby presents? I'm thinking here mostly of things you didn't register for but that surprised you with their usefulness or sweetness. My brother gave my first baby a copy of a book he and I both loved to scraps as children--he'd had to search online and pay a million dollars for a copy, because it was long since out of print. One of Paul's co-workers gave us a Baby Morgan mini-blankie, which Rob still sleeps with, and in fact we bought four more of them as spares--and good thing we did, too, because the whole company went out of business and you can't even get them anymore.

Gift certificates were especially awesome for a baby present, because we didn't really know what we'd need. We got the basics (crib, car seat) ourselves, but we were looking at everything else and thinking, "Well, do we need a frontpack? Do we need a bouncy seat? A mobile? A swing? A playgym?" We didn't know. Gift certificates let us go out later and buy what we had figured out we wanted.

And what about non-first babies? Did you register? Did you get anywhere near as many presents? We got presents from what seemed like the entire world for our first baby, and then a little smattering for the second--but that seemed appropriate. It's almost like the difference between a first wedding ("set up a household" level of gifts, even if you've been living on your own for years and years) and a non-first wedding ("She can still use the crock-pot we gave her for the first one, even if she's cooking for a different man" level of gifts). First-baby gifts are to get you set up with all the stuff you need to move from non-parents to parents; non-first-baby gifts are mostly from people who love to shop for baby stuff.

A final note on baby gifts. Two of you have emailed me to ask if I have a baby registry or if you can send me a gift for the new baby. You are so, so nice, and also pretty and skinny and you have great hair and everyone secretly copies your fashion choices. But this is our fifth baby, and Paul thinks we already have twice as much baby stuff as we should (hello, it was on clearance), and besides, I can't give away my secret identity: even Paul doesn't know my real name isn't Swistle. But I am touched, and I thank you.

May 23, 2007

Wedding Gifts, Day Three--And Why Not?

Oh, man, I loved the wedding present stories! The regifts with the original to/from card still in the boxes! The yard sale crap that cost more than a nice new present would have cost! The fake wooden book with a gold Jesus on it! The homemade toilet paper holder! The guess-a-size lingerie! The painted ice skate with a fake bird in it! Three-foot-long wall hangings of The Last Supper! The book helpfully advising you to consult the Lord before resorting to the divorce you'll inevitably want! The suggestion that the colors you've registered for can't be what you had in mind! Ha ha ha ha ha ha wheeeeeeeeeeeze!

It's nice to know that people still get a ton of candy dishes, vases, and unusable silver/crystal. My mom caught a case of Registry Envy from my cousin, and is now fretting about all the silver/crystal she and my dad got almost forty years ago and how much better it would have been if they could have registered for other things. Presumably things in avocado green and harvest gold covered with little smiley faces and daisies, things that would at this point be even worse than the crystal and silver, and would in any case be broken or worn out by now. Just saying.

I've heard that thing about knives being a bad gift. I heard the "it cuts your love" thing for weddings, and that for non-wedding situations it means you want to sever a relationship. (What I usually do is stop returning calls, rather than dropping big bucks on a set of knives and hoping they get the expensive hint--but to each her own.) The year after I heard about the knife-gift symbolism, I gave my mother-in-law a set of knives for Christmas. She really did need them; the symbolism was merely a bonus. In fact, it seems like knives would make a nice wedding gift for a couple you thought shouldn't be getting married. You'd have the satisfaction of the symbolism, as I did with my mother-in-law, and yet you'd be getting them a genuinely nice gift so you'd look like a nice person with good taste. Wicked.

Those of you who wish you had matched flatware, allow me to direct your attention to the Amazon.com kitchen sale, which is on until May 28th and includes some bitchin' flatware sets. I think my favorite is the Oneida Banbury service for 12 for $49.99 down from $180.00, with free shipping--but it's hard not to be tempted by the Reed & Barton service for 8: what little girl doesn't dream of her first game-bird-themed flatware set?

So. Onward. Two people have suggested that the next discussion be about baby registries. Babies and registries? You barely need to touch my wrist, let alone twist my arm. I’ll do a post on that soon, so be thinking about the topic and composing your comments.

LYKWTAMBYTWAWTTO Day!

Hi, and welcome to Let Your Kids Watch TV All Morning Because You're Too Wired And Want To Talk Online! Day!

Yesterday, our mail carrier delivered a package...to the side of the road. It was a large but lightweight package, and he left it next to our mailbox, in the dirt by the side of the road. I don't think they're supposed to do that, are they? He's not our usual carrier; our usual carrier always brings the packages to the porch. I was almost mad enough to call the post office and complain, but then I was like, "Do I really want to follow through on this?," and my answer to myself was, "No, I want to see if there is any fudge left." So I went out to the road and brought in the package before someone could steal it, and then I ate the rest of the fudge.

Did you catch the Amazon.com toy sale? It's a little frustrating because so many of the things in the sale category are not, in fact, on sale (apparently because they have only certain quantities available at the sale price, and then the item reverts to its usual price but somehow stays in the sale category--VERY ANNOYING), but if you're all wired up and in the mood to shop, it's the perfect opportunity to browse pages and pages of nothing you're interested in. I did find a bunch of little handheld toys for Rob and William to play with at the hospital while they're waiting for the baby to be born, and maybe those toys will even arrive before I go to the hospital, but it is not likely.

Yesterday I had my pre-op appointment with the OB. My PRE-OP. Because there are only EIGHT DAYS LEFT UNTIL MY OP. The OB and I discussed things such as whether I can have the epidural out earlier than usual, since I hate that "dead weight from the ribs down" feeling, and also, if you can imagine, that "tube in my spine which could leave me permanently paralyzed if I move wrong" feeling. I wanted to ask about this before, but I didn't want to be one of those patients who thinks she knows better than the entire medical community. Finally I thought of a good way to ask about it: instead of asking if I "could" have the epidural out early, I asked if it "worked" to have the epidural out early. See, then he can be Expert Doctor, and perhaps then he won't feel like showing me how much pain I could theoretically be in. He said that after the surgery was over, he could either do a "walking epidural" (the nummy narcotic part of the recipe without the numbing part), or he could take the epidural out entirely and do oral medication (again, that would be the nummy narcotics). Furthermore, it turned out he's a big fan of shorter epidurals, because then the patient can move around sooner and that's good for circulation and healing, so now he loves me even more! Which is good, because when someone is going to cut me open with a scalpel, I like as much love and goodwill in the room as possible.

The house was freezing this morning (I left the windows open all night), but I hate to turn on the heat when later it's going to be overly warm in here and I'll be puffing up. So William and I baked muffins, which raised the temperature a couple degrees of pumpkin-spicy goodness. Highly recommended tactic. And now the freezer is seriously out of room for muffins. Really: no more muffins.

I paid bills today, and it was exciting to think that the next time these bills are due, the baby will be here. Also, I paid a few of the smaller, more annoying ones a few months ahead, so that I wouldn't have to mess with them soon after the baby was born. For example, we have this one credit card that we only use for a small monthly automatic billing thing, and I should really switch that to another card but I never feel like messing with it. And so this little bill arrives each month, and sometimes I put it aside because it's a pain, and it has an unusually short time between bill date and due date, and so sometimes I end up having a heart attack because it's overdue and the late fee is more than double the entire amount of the bill. Anyway, I paid that for the next four months, so screw you, tiny little pain-in-the-butt bill!

May 22, 2007

Wedding Presents 2: Whudja Get? Toasters and Cross-Stitches

You guys are fulfilling my wildest dreams with this wedding present discussion. It is such a relief to have people to talk about these things with, and it is a relief to Paul, too, I'm sure.

I started writing comments on your comments, but there were too many comments I wanted to comment on and I gave up. But I especially loved the idea some of you mentioned, to take something from the registry and make it more personal: adding recipes to cookware, etc. I LOVE that idea, and I wish I had consulted you creative people before sending off two cake pans in a box. At the very least I could have put in a cake mix! Ooh, or I could have gotten them the little cake-decorating kit I like so much! Well, next time.

The story of the KitchenAid mixer that was fulfilled from the registry but then never showed up--that haunts me. What could have happened to it? Did it just get checked "fulfilled" by total accident? Did someone buy it but then change their mind and keep it themselves? Did they have it shipped and it got lost in the mail and they're still miffed about not getting a thank-you note? Terrible to think of!

Oh, and I love the idea of registering with a charity! You know how at the end of a lot of registries you can also select a gift card option, with a little pull-down menu so people can specify how expensive a gift card? It would be great to have something similar at the end of a registry, with one or two charities.

All right, so we have discussed registries, now let's talk about non-registry-related wedding present stuff.

When my parents got married, they got many toasters. Many toasters. I can't remember how many, that's why I'm saying "many" twice like that, to communicate that there were more toasters than they could possibly use, but without getting corrected by my parents in the comments section.

When we got married, people joked about how many toasters we'd get, but we didn't get a single toaster. What we got a lot of were sets of cloth placemats with coordinating cloth napkins and napkin rings. I can't remember how many we got, but it was lots. So many, it got to be increasingly funny every time we opened another set. They were beautiful, and such a good gift idea, but I'm saying that was our "ha ha toasters."

So first what I want to know is what was YOUR toasters? What did you get lots of, and what did you get none of?

Next, what did you get that you didn't expect and wouldn't have asked for, but it turned out to be awesome? Someone gave us a set of Chicago Cutlery steak knives, and we never eat steak so I thought we wouldn't use the knives, but they're perfect for non-steak cutting jobs, and they came in a handy little holder that sits right on the counter, and I use them every single day. They're one of our very best gifts, and I never would have known I wanted them.

Another surprising and pleasing gift was a big box of Christmas stuff, mostly an assortment of ornaments. Our wedding was a couple of months before Christmas, and we didn't have much for a Christmas tree, so it was fun to get a "starter set" like that.

Next, what did you get that was a total failure, or really comically bad? Someone gave us an enormous (the size of a poster) cross-stitch with our names and our wedding date and clearly a whole lot of work done on the border--and there were two errors. My name was spelled wrong, and the date of our wedding was wrong. Ha ha ha ha ha! I mean, what do you do with that?

We also received a kit of wedding materials (book, inspirational plaque, daily devotional, etc.) put out by a well-known religious figure of a religion we don't belong to. Thereafter, we received regular mailings from this religious group, and when I say we strongly disagree with the political and social stances of this group, I am understating to keep things pleasant. I am an expert at writing thank-you notes, but this one was my greatest challenge.

Oh dear, that ends things on a negative note, doesn't it? Let's reflect instead on the funny cross-stitch! Ha ha ha! And now tell me all your wedding present stories: your toasters and your cloth napkins, your steak knives and your Christmas ornaments, your cross-stitches and your thank-you-note challenges.

May 20, 2007

Late Night

I am having the kind of night where, after being sleepy all day, I am lying awake in the dark thinking about (1) my chipped filling, (2) the upcoming birth of this baby and whether the name we've chosen is no good and we need to start all over from scratch, and (3) how for millions of years people have lain awake in the dark just like this, worrying all their worries, thinking all the fretful things that keep a person awake at night--and now all those people are dead.

Wedding Presents 1: Registries

My cousin is getting married next month, and I have been having fun looking at his registry. I love registries. Not only do I love peering at the things someone else likes and wants, I love choosing what I'm going to buy. I weigh each option for symbolism and practicality. Bonus points are given for items I own and like, or approve of in general, or want for myself. Points are docked for items that I am almost certain they are never going to use, or items I suspect they would choose a much much cheaper version of if they were paying for the items themselves. Shopping and knowing they'll like it and judgmental thoughts! It's win-win-win!

Now that I've chosen my cousin's gift (I got them the cake pans I want for myself), I feel sad. All that's left now is the endless revisiting of their registry to see what other people have bought, and that fails to satisfy. I want more: more wedding present talk, more registry talk.

I have two main things I'd like to discuss. I'm worried that if I put both into the same post, some people will answer one and some will answer the other, and we won't get a deeply satisfying discussion going. And so my plan is to separate the two topics: we keep everything straight that way, and I get twice as much talk about wedding presents.

The first topic is wedding registries. If you had one, what are you glad you registered for, and what do you now look back on as foolish? What do you wish you'd registered for? Did you have a whole bunch of registries, or just one? Did you get most of what you registered for, or just a smattering? What approximate percentage of gift-givers used your registry, and what approximate percentage didn't? What do you think are the most important items to register for?

Next up will be the non-registry aspects of wedding presents, such as what did you get ten of, what did you get none of, what did you get that you didn't expect, etc. But for now, stick with registry issues and decisions, happy and sad.

May 19, 2007

Muffin Recipes: Pumpkin Spice and Banana Chocolate Chip

All this talk about muffins, I think we'd better have some recipes.

My recipe for lemon poppyseed muffins is to put them on the grocery list. I've experimented with various lemon/orange poppyseed recipes, and for me they always come out too dry, and the flavor is never intense enough. The flavor thing is especially irritating because I'll add, say a tablespoon of lemon extract (not cheap) and also dried lemon zest (not cheap), and I'll even break down and grate some fresh zest, and the lemon flavor is still barely perceptible. So! Swistle Says: If you want lemon poppyseed muffins, buy a mix, or buy a package of already-made from the bakery.

But if you want Pumpkin Spice Muffins? Stay right here:

Pumpkin Spice Muffins
1 and 2/3 c. flour
1 c. sugar
1 t. baking soda
1/4 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
2-3 t. pumpkin pie spice (or, see below)
2 eggs
1 c. canned pumpkin
1 T. grated lemon peel (or, see below)
1/2 c. butter, melted
1/2 c. chopped walnuts (optional)
you can also put in 1/4-1/2 c. golden raisins, but I never have

Preheat oven to 350F. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spice. In a medium bowl, combine eggs, pumpkin, lemon, butter, and walnuts. Add contents of medium bowl to large bowl and stir just until mixed. Spoon batter evenly into 12 greased or papered muffin cups, and bake 20-25 minutes until golden brown.

Pumpkin pie spice alternative: 1 and 1/2 t. cinnamon, and about 3/4 t. (I just do a well-rounded 1/2 t. so I don't have to screw around with a bunch of measuring spoons) each of ground ginger and ground cloves. The exact quantities don't seem to matter much.

Grated lemon peel alternative: I hate grating my own zest, so I put in a t. of lemon extract and maybe half a t. of dried lemon peel--but I think just the extract would be sufficient.

I always double the recipe because I love these muffins and they freeze so well.

Here's another favorite (the kids like these best):


Banana (and/or Pumpkin) Chocolate Chip Muffins
2 extra-ripe bananas, peeled and mashed (or, see below)
2 eggs
1 c. dark brown sugar, packed
1/2 c. butter, melted
1 t. vanilla
2 and 1/4 c. flour
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. cinnamon
3/4 c. chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F. In a large bowl, combine bananas, eggs, sugar, butter, and vanilla. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and chocolate chips. Add contents of medium bowl to large bowl and stir just until mixed. Spoon batter evenly into 12 greased or papered muffin cups, and bake 25-30 minutes.

Banana alternative: Two bananas is roughly 1 c. of banana. Sometimes I use one banana and 1/2 c. canned pumpkin. Sometimes we don't have any ripe bananas, so I use no banana and use 1 c. of pumpkin instead. It doesn't seem to affect the flavor much: the cinnamon and chocolate overwhelm the banana/pumpkin.

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Speaking of muffins, do you have a disher? It looks like this:


(Also pictured: our genuine 1960s gold-flecked countertop, covered in knife cuts from previous owners who evidently did not own a cutting board.)

This particular disher is a #20, and it is exactly right for muffins. (Note: the recipes above will make more like 14-16 muffins using a #20 disher. So when I say "exactly right," I mean "I love it and don't know if another size would be better or not, because I know nothing about disher sizes except for the one I have.") It has improved the quality of my life, since I hate trying to fill the cups "evenly" and pre-disher-days I always ended up pinching a little batter from this one to that one in an effort to make them exactly perfect, and also getting muffin batter all over the edges of the muffin pans from glopping batter off the mixing spoon.

I thought of this disher the other day while answering Shauna's post about gift-giving. It's an example of one of the times Paul got me something he thought I'd want--not something I asked for--and it's been a huge success. He's a fan of Alton Brown, and apparently Alton Brown is a fan of dishers. Alton Brown uses the #20 disher for cookies, which makes big cookies. And who can argue with big cookies? I rest my case: you need a disher.

May 18, 2007

What "Muffin Problem"?

This is the sight that caused Paul to say--very, very gently--that he thought we now had...enough muffins in the freezer.


There are twelve muffins in each bag. Eleven bags.

Later, Paul asked if I'd like him to go outside and gather up some twigs and soft bits of yarn for me, or if I had enough already.

May 17, 2007

Weeping and Railing

I am getting seriously difficult to live with. It is mostly general crabbiness and general being sick of pregnancy, but it is a far-reaching thing, encompassing tone of voice and quality of complaints. Last night I was. . .I think "weeping and railing" is the phrase I want here.

It started with a tooth. I hate going to the dentist, but a year ago I went. I had four fillings done. We don't have dental insurance, so including the exam and the x-rays, this was no small commitment. One year later, my tooth is chipping away around one of the fillings. What this says to me, in my current frame of mind is:
  1. Dentists deliberately do bad work so that you will need to return.
  2. They will keep doing more and more work until you have no teeth/money left.
  3. If I hadn't gone last year, I wouldn't have this problem now.
  4. My teeth will all be gone by the time I'm 40. And I'll have spent tens of thousands of dollars on them by then.
  5. I'll have to get dentures, and I won't be able to eat anything I want anymore.
  6. THEN I'll miss biting into an apple, even though I have a whole pile of apples in the fridge right now that I cut up if I want to eat them. Later I'll think, "Why oh WHY didn't I bite into apples when I could??"
  7. Dental work costs so much, it's a luxury service. It's unfair of them to promote it as a basic essential.
  8. Oh my god, how are we going to afford dental work for a family of seven?
  9. I wish we had dental insurance.
  10. Even if we did, it wouldn't cover enough.
  11. Life sucks.
  12. I'm going to have to make an appointment and just shut up and pay them whatever they tell me to, but for when? Before the baby? After the baby?
  13. What if I wait, and then it gets suddenly way worse when I'm, say, in the hospital?
  14. Is it starting to hurt now? I THINK IT'S STARTING TO HURT NOW!
  15. How are we going to pay for this, considering Paul just had $3000 of dental work done, and now we'll have a $1000 hospital copay because of the stupid insurance increase?
  16. Etc.
Anyway. This morning I called and made an appointment. For four days after the baby is born. And now I'm thinking I should ask them to do work on my BRAIN while I have my head under a bright light anyway. What was I thinking? I'm barely going to be WALKING at that point. Sure, Paul will be home that week, which is why I made the appointment for then, but we'll have to load all five children into the minivan so he can drive me a mile to the dentist's office, and then he'll have to do it again to pick me up.

Oh, so I was saying that it was tooth agitations that set me off last night. It was right before bedtime, so I thought, "I won't think about the tooth now. There's no point. It will only keep me awake." So I tried to think about other things. And what I thought about was how I should really get up the courage to ask the OB/anesthesiologist about having the epidural taken out the night of the c-section rather than mid-day the next day, because I hate not being able to move, but I'm probably too chicken to argue about it, and maybe I'd be wrong about that idea anyway and would be writhing in pain in the middle of the night with the doctor shrugging and saying, "Well, you insisted." And about how the only thing that has worked for the pain afterwards is Perc0cet, but last time I got a rash and so they said I can't take it anymore, but now what will I take? Vic0din and Tylen0l 4 and Demer0l have all failed me. And then I thought about how we need to get the oil changed in the minivan, like, two thousand miles ago, and how Paul and Rob need haircuts, and about how we need to install the infant car seat rather than just having the box taking up half the minivan. And I thought about how mad I was at the Target automated refill system, which left a message on our answering machine WHILE I WAS AT TARGET PICKING UP A PRESCRIPTION to tell me I had a prescription I needed to pick up within 3 days or they'd return it to stock, and how because of HIPAA they can't tell me over the phone what prescription it is or anything, and Target is 20 minutes away and I really don't want to go twice this week, and CRAP. And about that program we watched on TV that showed scarily blank-faced children staring at a TV screen as the voice-over explained that by letting our children watch TV and play video games we were bringing them up to relate only to technology and not to other people.

Paul is good at times like this. Just for starters, he doesn't argue with a pregnant woman on a tear. He doesn't say in an exasperated voice, "Well, why don't you just do something about it instead of complaining and fretting?" He says, about the dentist, "Don't worry. Make the appointment. It will be fine. This is what money is for." And if I refuse to be comforted, and I burst into tears and go on about everything we've spent money on in the last year, and how it means we have NONE LEFT, he doesn't say I'm being irrational, or say, "Well, if you hadn't spent money on ____," or think I'm attacking his earning power. He says, "I know," understandingly not patronizingly, and then says, "Oh, did I tell you the cute thing Edward did earlier?" and tells five funny/cute child stories in a row. He says, "Why don't you close your eyes and think about how not sleepy you are." He tidies the blankets. He lets the window stay open even though he's freezing, because he knows I'm overheated and short of breath and the cold fresh air helps. Furthermore, last night he went to the grocery store to get some mid-week things (we are always out of milk and fruit), and he came home with not one but two pints of Dove ice cream for me, and he had to guess at the flavor I'd want because I've only ever bought the bars, not the pints, and he picked the flavor I would want more than any of the others.

This skill of Paul's (not the pint-picking, but the whole "letting the storm blow over without fighting it" thing) is a good thing, because I am aware that I am becoming impossible, and that it is almost certainly because I am at full-term as of today--but that doesn't mean I can force myself to be rational about it. And since next up is the postpartum period, it's not as if things are going to improve anytime soon.

May 16, 2007

Wednesday

I want to send you over to Shauna today, because I love the topic of gift-giving and she is working it. I want to read lots of people's answers to her questions.

Also, I meant to say about the free bone marrow registration post from the 14th: spread the word.

Also, I would like to say that I am tired of my maternity shirts. And that I have hit that point where even though it's unlikely and not really something I should be hoping for, I keep thinking how great it would be if I went into labor and we could get this over with. I've only gone into labor one time, with my first pregnancy, when my water broke at 37 weeks 6 days. How come that has never happened with the other pregnancies? I always make it to my 38- or 39-week c-section date, even when I was carrying twins. That's good, of course that's good, and genetically lucky, and I am grateful. But.

May 15, 2007

Grapes

Here is something Paul cannot master, no matter how many times we have calm and reasonable discussions about it: when to buy grapes, and how many of them to buy.

If they are awesome grapes, firm and with that frosty opaque look, and they are at a good price per pound (say, $1.29), he should buy LOTS. If they are crappy grapes, soft and with sour, already wrinkling skins, and they are at a bad price per pound (say, $2.79), he should buy NONE. Of course, there are many tricky places in between these two situations. There are awesome grapes at the high price end, and there are crappy ones at the low price end, and there are pretty good ones at the sort of high end, and there are decent ones at the sort of low end, etc.

So before he goes to the grocery store, I try to explain the continuum once again. Good grapes don't have to be cheap, but he should buy smaller quantities as they get more expensive. Cheap grapes don't have to be as good as expensive grapes, but we won't eat many if they're not good.

He comes home from the store with gross, browning, wrinkled grapes at $3.19 a pound. At least he only bought a pound and a half of them (I would not have put it past him to buy five pounds, remembering the "we eat a lot of grapes" but not having room in his brain for the "not if they suck"), but still: $5 worth of grapes? When they're no good? That's a lot of money on bad grapes.

If I'd done the shopping and the grapes were $3.19 a pound, I would have bought them only if they were glorious, perfect grapes--and even then, I would have bought about half a pound of them, just to tide us over; and in certain moods I would have bought not one single grape, on the principle that grapes should not be $3.19 a pound. In any case, at $3.19 a pound, anything less than perfect puts us in the No Grapes shaded area of the graph.

I realize this is a significantly more complicated situation than the "get out a fresh roll of toilet paper when the old one is getting close to being used up" one (which he has also failed to master). I don't expect him to make exactly the same call I would make, to the dollar or to the pound, and it would be ridiculously controlling if I did, especially because sometimes he's right where I would have been wrong: he comes home with 3 pounds of expensive grapes that turn out to be worth every single penny because of their amazing deliciousness, and in fact prove that I am in some cases overly thrifty to the point of missing out on the joys of life.

But I think that in general, he should be able to understand that "expensive" and "yucky" belong on one end of the grapes graph, and "cheap" and "perfect" belong on the other end, and that things change gradually as you move around within the range of possibilities. Balances tip. Judgments must be made. Sometimes grapes are purchased and sometimes they are not. Sometimes quantities are large and sometimes small.

Seven paragraphs on grapes? Well, I meant to tie it in with his overall inability to make shopping decisions (buying chips not on sale and from the most expensive store, buying things without even looking at prices, etc.), but I seem to have run out of steam.

May 14, 2007

Free Sign-Up For The Bone Marrow Registry

Awhile back I talked about bone marrow donation. I mentioned that the cost of getting on the registry might discourage people from signing up, but that if you were willing-but-moth-walleted you should contact the National Marrow Registry about the various opportunities to sign up for free. For example, I signed up for free when a local boy needed a transplant and there was a big drive paid for by his church and family.

Anyway, Tessie has drawn my attention to their current drive: from now until May 21st, it's free to get on the registry. Go over to the National Marrow Registry right this minute and do it. It'll save you $52+, and it's a good thing to do.

Monday: Pediatrician, Ice Cream, Earrings, 2-in-1s, Mother's Day

Good morning! Two weeks and three days left! I've gone from feeling as if it's too early to do things to feeling as if it's too late to do things. I'm so tum-heavy and immobilized, what I work on now is the exhausting task of finishing all the ice cream before the baby gets here. I only have three more appointments left: one more routine OB appointment, one pre-op with the OB, and one pre-op with the anesthesiologist. And there are three half-gallons of Breyer's. I think I can make it.

Last night William was up crying and saying his ear hurt, so this morning we're headed for the pediatrician. I hope he does have an infection, because that means we'll have to go to Target to pick up the prescription, and I can do a little shopping while we wait. Also, the other possibility is that he has so much wax in his ear it's causing him pain, and that's grosser, harder to fix, and more seemingly indicative of neglect and filth, so I'm voting for the infection and the cruising of clearance end-caps.

Thank you to everyone who gave input on the 2-in-1 shampoo/conditioner issue. I've bought five different kinds, and I'm trying each one for a week; I'll do a report when all the results are in. I recommend this experiment to anyone waiting out the last few weeks of pregnancy. It's fun and it's distracting, and it leaves you with a bunch of 2-in-1s for after the baby is born and you feel like you have about 30 seconds to shower before the baby's crying drops you to the floor in a seizure.

You know what else I recommend for the last few weeks? EARRINGS. From the neck down there is nothing to buy: it's not worth it to buy more maternity clothes at this point, and shoe shopping is pointless if your feet are larger, wider, or puffier than you hope they'll be after the baby is born. But earrings! You can still buy and wear pretty earrings. Target has about a zillion pretty pairs that cost in the $6 range. I'm trying not to go completely nuts.

Mother's Day sure is a busman's holiday, isn't it? I was reading blogs last night and this morning, and so many of us spent the day collecting our paper cups of dandelions and then doing laundry and wiping down the counters. I discovered that my little Mother's Day gift to myself was getting to do today everything I didn't do yesterday. I read a column a few years ago by a mom who wrote, basically, screw the sweet little cups of weeds, I want to see some WORK done around here. She got such negative feedback from people saying she should appreciate the loving gestures, but I get her point: sometimes the way to show love to a mother is by not expecting her to do all the crap work.

May 13, 2007

Happy Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day, all you mothers!

Happy nausea, shortness of breath, needing to pee every five minutes, heartburn, stretch marks, permanent tummy softness, permanent rib expansion, and let's not discuss labor and delivery.
Happy doing it again a year or two or three or more later.

Happy not knowing why they're letting you just take the baby home from the hospital when you have no qualifications whatsoever and probably can't be trusted to do anything right.
Happy on-the-job training.

Happy worrying that the baby isn't breathing.
Happy waking the baby up checking.
Happy feeling like a Reader's Digest joke about motherhood.

Happy worrying that you don't love the baby.
Happy worrying that you no longer love your husband because you love the baby so much.

Happy thinking you'll go insane.
Happy thinking you already have.

Happy cleaning up poop.
Happy cleaning up barf.
Happy not minding it as much when it belongs to your own child.
Happy still gagging.

Happy feeling like you're doing everything wrong.
Happy feeling like you're figuring things out.
Happy feeling like no, you're still doing everything wrong.

Happy wondering if you should be worrying more.
Happy wondering if you should be worrying less.
Happy wondering if there are things you don't know you're supposed to be worrying about.

Happy toddler years.
Happy teenage years.

Happy first day of school, waving goodbye, crying all the way home, fretting all day.
Happy first day back the next year, thanking god the summer is over.

Happy crayon drawings all over the refrigerator.
Happy finger prints all over the walls.
Happy learning more about cleaning supplies than you ever wanted to know, between this and the whole poop/barf thing.

Happy never being able to hear bad news about children again.
Happy feeling like you have an automatic bond with all other mothers.

Happy worrying about dentist bills, orthodontist bills, glasses, sport fees, new clothes.
Happy investing in the future of no one you'd rather spend money on.
Happy still wishing there was more money and that children didn't use up so much of it.

Happy crying at weddings. Happy crying at births.
Happy moving up from mom to grandma. Happy watching it start over again.

Happy Mother's Day.

May 12, 2007

Reasonable Requests

I remember learning in a high school psychology class that the average person can keep about seven things in mind at the same time. Add an eighth and one of the first seven gets knocked out.

I'm reminded of this when Paul seems able to retain only a very small number of household instructions. If I say, "Do not put food down the sink. We do not have a garbage disposal," he will stop putting food down the sink. If I say, "Please take out the trash when it's full, rather than standing in the trash can to compress the trash so tightly that it can no longer be removed without ripping the bag," he will start taking the trash out instead of stomping it. But then if I say, "You can't just rinse a cup when you're done drinking out of it and put it in the drying rack, you have to use actual soap and washing motions," he will wash his cup--and then scrape food off his plate into the sink.

I am not sure I can adequately express how frustrating this has been over the dozen or so years Paul and I have shared a household. It isn't as if I'm a difficult, controlling person making up complicated, arbitrary rules. I think the things I ask him to do are intuitive, or at least easy to remember once mentioned. I think a normal person should be able to retain the information that if you put sticky brown soda in a cup and then you put your germy mouth on the edge of that cup, a little swish with cold water is not "washing" the cup. I think a normal person should be able to remember that information even if I then add new information, such as that if your shoes track huge clumps of mud down the hallway, you should clean that mud up rather than leaving it there.

But apparently he can't. Before we were married, I got as far as calling around to find out the cost of studio and 1-bedroom apartments, thinking that probably I shouldn't stay with a man who was going to drive me so crazy. After we were married but before we had children, I wondered if I should be willing to help him pass on his genes. Post-children, I've again and again felt despair, like I'm shackled permanently to someone who would whistle in a clean-conscience way as he peed into a kitchen sink filled with dishes. (In the interest of fairness, I should say that he does not in fact do this. As far as I know. But then again, I didn't realize until recently that he wasn't washing his cups.)

There comes a point where it is useless to continue trying to change someone. I think I reached this point ten years ago or more, but I can't make myself stop trying. It just seems so REASONABLE that he should learn these things, and so UNREASONABLE that I should have to keep mentioning them in my kind and patient and trying-hard-not-to-be-shrill-or-naggy voice.

May 9, 2007

Question: Frontpack Baby Carriers

I have realized that I am in a pickle if I want to leave the house after the new baby is born. I have a double stroller. I have two toddlers. Where does the small baby go?

I could put the infant car seat in one of the two stroller slots, but then I have a walking 2-year-old. I don't know about your 2-year-olds, but my 2-year-olds are not of the sort who trail behind me placidly like Mary's little lamb. Mine are the sort who need complicated restraint systems, and, in a perfect world where such things were not so unfairly frowned upon, muzzles.

So the toddlers will go in the stroller, and then I suppose I need a frontpack carrier for the new baby. I have tried frontpack carriers with every baby so far, and every time I have been sorry after about 5 minutes. My back starts aching, and soon it is the predominant sensation in my universe. Perhaps it is because I am tall? Perhaps it is because I am "long-backed" (a nice way of saying "short legs for her height")? Perhaps it is because I have crappy posture? Whatever the reason, frontpacks have, to date, been a failure. But I don't see any way around it other than (1) buying a triple stroller, which, no, or (2) not leaving the house.

Whenever I mention frontpack infant carrier failure, people mention the Baby Bjorn. It's wonderful, they say. It doesn't hurt your back, they say. It is comfy-comfy-comfy, they say. It makes you coffee in the morning and brings it to you in bed, they say. It is well worth the eighty-for-god's-sake-dollars, they say.

This is where you come in. Are you a Bjorn Againer? Or do you recommend a different frontpack? Or have you found they're all terrible, and you personally would vote to put the new baby in the stroller and put a muzzle and leash on one of the toddlers?

It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

Sorry to spring a Christmas song on you like that, but it's going through my head incessantly and I want company. Besides, I've thought of it as more of a back-to-school song ever since I heard it in that commercial where the parents are springing through the store tossing school supplies into the cart while the children drag sullenly behind.

The song is going through my head right now because for me, this is the best part of the whole pregnancy. Every time I look at the calendar to see what appointments I'm forgetting today, I can see "PRE-OP" and "C-SECTION" way at the end of the month. I bought the car seat this weekend, and it struck me that I did that none too soon. When Edward is on the changing table, I sometimes crick the drawer open a little to peek at those teensy sleepers waiting for the new baby. I could pack my hospital bag this very afternoon and no one would accuse me of jumping the gun; in fact, a few of you are probably thinking, "She doesn't have her bag packed yet??"

I'm tired and I'm sore, and it takes serious resolve for me to do an errand. When I stand up, it takes me half a dozen steps before my body remembers how the walking thing works. I change positions often, and none of them let me breathe normally. But the whole pregnancy has had its discomforts, and at least these discomforts are accompanied by the thought of only 3 weeks and 1 day left to go, as opposed to, for example, the morning sickness at 7 weeks, which was accompanied by the thought of 32 weeks left to go.

Earlier in the pregnancy, I tried not to think too often about how much time there was left. Now I think of it many times a day, with relish. "Three weeks and one day!," I thought this morning. This is the Christmas Eve of pregnancy, and for me it lasts from 30 weeks until the c-section at 39 weeks. Next up: Christmas, which is on May 31st this year. Then: the post-holiday blues, which start the day I get home from the hospital.

May 7, 2007

A Year Ago Today, A Year From Now

One of my favorite games to play during pregnancy and child rearing is "A Year Ago Today, A Year From Now." I made that name up on the spot. Great, yes? You'd better agree, because I am too tired and pregnant and sore to think any better than that.

I will demonstrate how to play. Let's say you are not pregnant right now. Assuming current ovulation and a fast conception and also that you are female and of child-bearing age (this game allows all such assumptions), one year from today you could have a 3-month-old baby. A baby who doesn't even exist as you think about it now! Isn't that crazy, that you could do that, that you could change your life so much in a year?

I was thinking of this tonight as I was looking at the calendar and realizing that the next time we turn the page, I'll have a fifth child. One year ago, I wasn't even pregnant; in fact, I was almost five whole months away from missing my period and taking a pregnancy test. I was still breastfeeding the twins, who hadn't yet had their first birthdays or started walking; they were still babies. How can things have changed so much in just one year?

One year from now this baby will be about to have his first birthday. He's not even born yet as I'm typing, but in one year he'll already be shedding babyishness like summer cat fur.

Hey, this would make a good question for a mini-essay comments section, wouldn't it? Or you can do your own post and link to it in the comments section. Where were you a year ago, and where do you think you will be a year from now?

May 6, 2007

Wife As Social Secretary

Here is something I have noticed about my mother-in-law, and I am wondering if this problem is universal: she expects ME to handle all the communication between our house and hers. If she feels she hasn't heard from us recently enough, she complains to ME. If she thinks we're going to forget to send a relative a birthday card, she reminds ME. If she wants to ask ridiculous questions of the "Has the baby been born and you just haven't told me?" variety, in order to highlight her pitiful state and our shameful neglect, she asks them of ME. Paul is totally in the clear, totally exempt; for some reason she considers it the daughter-in-law's responsibility to handle these things.

That's stupid, obviously. But I can understand why she leans on me for this, since if Paul had his way we'd be totally estranged from both his parents. It is in fact my own fault in some ways that this situation has come about, but I couldn't stand watching Paul fail to send birthday cards, Father's/Mother's Day cards, Christmas gifts, or letters/emails of any kind--and so I started doing it. I see it as a kindness to them that I am willing to handle that communication, and I think she should be grateful to me and pissed at him. Instead, she not grateful, and in fact she is pissed at me for not doing more, and he retains Perfect Child status. In fact, the only thing that makes him less than Perfect is that he married an insufficiently dutiful wife who doesn't take care of her in-laws as she should.

May 4, 2007

Give This Topic The Finger

What I hate most about the work/home so-called "mommy war" is the very fact of its existence. Well, that and the stupid term "mommy war," which is as condescending as "mommyblogger."

I'll bet most of us believe that there are lots of good choices on the work/home spectrum, and most of us could imagine making different choices than the ones we made. I'll bet most of us don't think that other people should necessarily make the same choices we made, any more than we think other people should get the same haircut. Sure, there are a few people who think there's only one way to do things, but we don't like those people, do we? Nor do we care what they think. Losers.

But then some stupid new study comes out, a study that will probably be overturned within a year. Or somebody abrasive gets on the radio with an all-the-way-to-one-side point of view. Or there's a TV special designed to get people all upset because it's so very good for ratings. And here is the part that surprises me every time: women line up on one side or the other as if obeying the command to fight at the sound of the bell. Women who felt attacked raise up their defenses. Women who felt vindicated get all smug.

Dumb! All of it is dumb. Here are some things I think we can all agree on: We don't want to be told by other people how we should live our lives. Right? We don't want people shoving their way into our houses and saying that the choices we've made are stupid or wrong. Right? We don't want to be told that the only way to do it is someone else's way. Right? And we don't want to fight about this stupid topic anyway. Right? So why do we turn against each other when those study/radio/TV people open their fat yaps? Why don't we instead turn as one whole united body and give those fat-yapped people the finger. New study? The finger! Abrasive radio personality? The finger! Television program pretending to be concerned and unbiased? Two fingers! Then we can turn away, a solid row of backs not interested in anything as stupid as a war we didn't start and don't want to fight.

May 3, 2007

Teacher Gifts

As the end of the school year approaches, I am turning my mind to the subject of teacher gifts. I enjoy buying gifts, but usually I know the teacher only in her teacherness--nothing personal that would tell me what she might truly like for herself. This means I buy the "hostess gift" type of present: things that most people like or can find a use for, such as candles, soaps, chocolates. I try to go for good stuff in those categories: Yankee and Crabtree and Lindt. But my goal is "nice treat" as opposed to "compensation for year spent with room full of brats": I aim for about $10 per classroom teacher, $5 per assistant teacher.

Here are a few things I never give. (1) Plants. I don't like giving someone something they have to take care of. (2) Any gift such as an ornament with the child's face on it, a craft made by the child, or a framed piece of the child's artwork. These are thrilling to parents only. (3) Teacher-themed gifts, such as wooden apples with "#1 Teacher!!" painted on them.

Other people might be avoiding the things I choose, for equally good reasons. A teacher might be diabetic or dieting. A teacher might not be able to use scented items, or might not like the particular scent. A teacher might have sensitive skin and only be able to use particular types of soap. I think of my ideas not as "safe" but as "safer": they may still fail, but they're a better bet than the 8x10 glamor shot of my child's face, and they're easier to regift if they're not right. On the other hand, one year I was looking online for ideas and I found a teachers' message board where teachers had written things like, "I have all the scented bath crap I can ever use!" and "Yay, more candles."

I'm always looking for more "do" and "don't" teacher gifts, so weigh in. You don't have to have school-aged children to give an opinion on this. If you're a teacher, do a whole post on it! Even if you have to hurt my feelings a little with words like "scented bath crap."

May 2, 2007

You Take The Good, You Take The Bad, You Take Them Both And There You Have

William came out of his room this morning and said, in the voice of a child who has just realized there is a surprising gap in the chain of what he knows, "What starts the baby inside? I mean, it starts from nothing!" He did a lightning-bolt clap to emphasize the word "nothing."

At the time, I was trying to persuade the twins to eat their breakfasts rather than using them to test the theory of gravity, and I was responding to Rob's third polite request from the couch where he is nested in with a fever this morning, but this is one of those drop-everything moments when the question at hand is too important to let slip by. Also, it was just a few days ago that an anonymous commenter asked if I'd do a post on this very topic, so secretly I was delighted to get more material for what had been looking like it would be a skimpy post. The anonymous commenter speculated that I had a lot of experience with this, but in fact I'd only discussed the Whole Scoop with Rob so far.

I've read funny anecdotes about parents who panic and tell the entire story, complete with tangents about the Kama Sutra and birth control options and sex for love / not for love, only to find that the child wanted to know something more like "Babies are usually born in hospitals." So my approach when a child asks a question is to answer it in a distant, general way and work toward specifics as the child keeps asking. The first time Rob asked me a question, what he wanted was reassurance that the baby was not growing in the same tummy where food went, and when that matter was settled he was contented. The next time, he was curious about how the baby grew, but he was looking for information about the umbilical cord and the breathing/dining/peeing conditions, and wasn't yet looking for specifics about conception. I think he was five when he wanted access to the classified files.

William has been present for some of my conversations with Rob, but I wasn't sure how much he'd listened to. He's six years old, and I think of that as old enough to hear the whole truth if he wants it, but it's still young enough that he might not want to know yet. I asked if he remembered about sperm and eggs, and he said he did but I reviewed it anyway at the "sperm comes from the daddy, eggs come from the mommy, and a sperm and an egg combine to start a baby" level to see if that was all he needed, but no. He said, "But how DO they GET to combine?" and that's when I realized I was going to have to use words like penis at 8:00 in the morning.

I have a book I like to use to brush up on the basics before I explain it to a child. You'd think all this information would be clear to me by now (unless you were one of the many people who greeted the news of this pregnancy with a cautious "You know how this keeps happening, right?"), but it can be helpful to review it in simplified terms. This is the same book my mom used when she was explaining the truth to Young Swistle: Where Did I Come From?, by Peter Mayle. The illustrations show the whole naked thing, but in a friendly way that isn't too embarrassing for those among us who might feel a little embarrassed. It's a good book to use for your own education before you have to explain elements of the process, and a good book to read aloud to a child who's ready for the whole story.

For older children like Rob, who can read to themselves and might be starting to feel embarrassed about asking questions, I like It's So Amazing!, by Robie H. Harris. This book goes into a lot more detail than Where Did I Come From?, including topics such as adoption, different kinds of families, and good/bad touches. It sticks mostly to boy parts and girl parts and reproduction, though. The format is comic-book style, with a bird and a bee who have different feelings about learning more about this topic (the bird is interested, the bee would rather not know). There are some good diagrams of internal reproductive systems; I don't like to admit it, but I learned a thing or two myself.

May 1, 2007

Plagues And Follow-Ups

My mother-in-law just emailed me to remind me to get my rest now because I "sure won't get any after the new baby arrives!" Thanks, mother-in-law! Because as everyone knows, it's really easy to rest and relax and put your feet up when you have only four children! Also, I certainly wouldn't have anticipated that I'd get less rest after the baby arrived, so it's a good thing she warned me! She had two whole children, so I guess she's the voice of experience guiding the newbie daughter-in-law on this mothering path!

I'm in a super crabby mood today because guess who's home sick? Why, yes, it's Paul! Yes! He has a headache and feels chilly! So he's going to stay home from work! He's like those children who see a sibling stay home from school and suddenly they're sick and need to stay home too. And although I am technically up and around, I spent most of yesterday lying down whenever I could, and feeling sick when I couldn't, so I'm not really prepared to play Nurse Swistle around here. And then Edward woke up with red cheeks and a cough, so it's beginning to look as if I'm going to have to take things out on my mother-in-law. "YES," I'll write to her; "I WILL get lots of rest while caring for my ENORMOUS AND SICKLY family at 8 months pregnant and still on antibiotics! Thank you for telling me to or I might not have done it!"

(long gap of time)

Elizabeth woke up, and I went down to get her, and she'd thrown up in her crib. What do you think is next, boils or locusts?

I bathed her, and cleaned up her crib, and put all the barfy stuff in the washing machine with some baking soda, and got Robert off to school with the muffins he's bringing for the Teacher Appreciation Week buffet, and now it is just past 9:00 in the morning and I am about ready to call it a day.

Okay! *brisk clapping* Let's find something to talk about other than the sickness hovering over my household like some dark dooming cloud!

Oh, I have something good! It's the first day of May! And the c-section has been scheduled for May 31st! So we are in the month the baby will be born, and that is happy news. I saw the OB yesterday and he wasn't worried about the infection or about the amoxicillin or anything, and he's a big worrier so it made me feel better to see him so casual about it. I also asked him a bunch of dumb questions (dumb in that I knew the answers but wanted him to tell me again) and he didn't even flinch. He's a nice OB.

And let's do some follow-ups. First, the sandals. I hope it will not be disappointing that after all that fuss, I didn't get either pair. I think the story here is that although I love the whole idea of Dr. Martens, the sandals are not in fact my style. Granola is delicious, and hiking is good for you, but who hikes in sandals? You'd get ticks between your toes.

Second, remember my dilemma about those earrings I got from Target and then found hadn't been rung up? I didn't want to get all goody-two-shoes about it, but on the other hand I thought that if I just kept them I might have an icky feeling every time I wore them. I came up with a solution that some of you wisely pointed out could turn Seinfeld-esque: I was going to sneak the earrings back into the store, then casually purchase them with the rest of my stuff. And many of you kindly offered to bail me out / send me a nail file / testify as to my innocence if the store security caught me with the earrings and thought I was shoplifting them. Anyway, the plan went fine, no pratfalls or unlikely explanations: I brought them into the store tucked under the diaper bag, and then I bought them on my way out. Whew.

Now go say congratulations to Shannon, who had her new baby girl on Sunday! Shannon was supposed to wait and have her baby on the same day I was having mine, but apparently she abandoned our agreement for the sake of the baby's health or something. Whatev. Congratulations, Shannon and baby Elise!