September 29, 2007

Pretending to be Amused When Actually I am Enraged

One of these women is a "plus-sized" model! Guess which one! If you click the picture you can see it larger.

For guessing purposes: there is a back row of six standing models, a middle row of four models sitting on a step, and a front row of three models sitting on the floor.

I'll reveal the answer later.

Click photo to see it PLUS-SIZED

Attempt The First

Listen, I am not DIETING. I'm just thinking all the time about food and when to eat it.

Here is one of my many food issues (do any of us have fewer than, like, a dozen?): I don't plan what I'm going to eat ahead of time, and so by the time I’m thinking about what I'm going to eat, I'm on the prowl. My mind flickers over the possibilities (carrots and salads are quickly psshh'd aside) and latches tightly to "shortbread cookies with vanilla ice cream." YES.

So here is what I'm trying. Let's call this Attempt The First. I'm deciding ahead of time what the next thing I eat will be, and then when I'm hungry I eat it. So in the morning, I have a glass of water, because of nursing and because that’s a good way to begin anyway. Then I go about the day, and when I get hungry, the first thing I plan to have is coffee with Splenda and fat-free half-and-half. Don't tell me what they do to make it fat-free, because I don't want to know. I assume someone lost a soul over it.

Then, while I'm drinking the coffee, enjoying the way my knee now feels like jittering up and down rapidly, I decide what I'll eat next. I don't like bananas, but they're filling, and they're a good choice for earlier in the day when I have less food despair. So let's say I choose banana. I finish the coffee and go back to whatever I was doing. As I get hungrier, I think, "When I want something to eat, I can have a banana"--and I may have it whenever I want it, but I see if I can go just a LITTLE longer. Normally, pushing it too long would make me grab something like ice cream, but because I have in my mind that it will be a banana, it makes me feel it MUST be a banana. (This part may fail later. We'll have to see.)

I get hungry enough, and I eat the banana. While I am eating the banana and the hunger is low again, I decide what I'll eat next. Two scrambled eggs, say. And so I start again: I MAY have the eggs immediately if I want them--but I see if I can go a little longer. When I'm hungry, or feel like my resolve is weakening with regard to the bag of chocolate chips in the cupboard, I eat the eggs.

And so on.

In a bigger-picture way, I am allowing brownies. I don't PLAN to eat the brownies, the way I plan the banana. But I say to myself, "Oh, yes, you MAY have brownies! Yes, you may! But see if you can wait a LITTLE LONGER before baking them!" This is the kind of thing that may come crashing down on my head ("Nope! Can't wait!" *GLOM*)--or perhaps it will keep me from rebelling against my own rules the way I usually do with diets.

I'm on my third day of this, so it's too early to say if it will work long-term or even short-term, but it's working great for these first few days of trying not to eat QUITE so much.

September 28, 2007

Keeping It Alive

So this was me, yesterday morning:

Swistle: "It's been getting kind of heavy and grim around here, what with all the mother-in-law talk, and all the teary rage and diets and exercise and psychiatric medication. Let's do something lighter! How about posting one of the Asking Swistle For Advice emails I've been meaning to post? We can all work together, sharing ideas and helping each other out as fawns romp in the grass nearby and the little birdies sing sweetly in the trees!"

And so I posted a question asking for good ways to fit children's baths into the routine. I had expected the comments to be a combination of tips and experience, maybe some funny stories about grubby kids.

I'd thought there might be a little fuffle about the fact that Shelly works and her husband stays at home with the kids: I thought we might get some people saying that her husband should be handling it, and some people saying that in their household the working parent does baths as a way to carve out time with the kids.

I had not expected that we were going to get the comments that were more along the lines of DO IT MY WAY OR YOU SUCK AS A PARENT! Had you? I was completely surprised! I thought I knew the "hill to die on" issues, and I didn't think baths were one of them. And the personal attacks! People saying that other people's children smelled bad or were germy! Yeek!

Result of Swistle's attempt to take it down a notch? Now we all have another thing to add to our list of things to be scared other mothers are judging us about! Swistle: Keeping the Conflict Alive!

Also: Keeping Ear Hats Alive:

September 27, 2007

Reader Question: Keeping Grubbiness at Bay

Oh my god! What is HAPPENING in here? Diets? Exercise? Psychiatric self-analysis? *brushing frantically at walls, shoving things under carpet, brushing off hands and walking away briskly*

Let's turn our attention instead to the problem of grubby children.

The bathing! There is so much of it, and still it is not done often enough. Rob and William are old enough to take showers, and that helps. Three mornings a week (Mon-Wed-Fri) I wake them up a little earlier and toss them in. But they linger so long, and I am not sure they are really getting themselves clean--as evidenced by the fact that NEITHER BOY noticed we were out of their shampoo.

The twins get a bath once a week, twice if they're lucky. Sometimes it's a nice long play-bath; more often it's that one of them wakes up soaked through, and I think, "I can't fix it with wet wipes this time" and I do a 2-minute quick bath. WHOOSH, twin into water. WHOOSH, soapy scrubbie. WHOOSH, twin out of water. Once a week is Not Enough, but more often is not working out.

I wash Henry over the sink every two or three days. When he's mid-clothing change (so, in just a diaper, or in a diaper and the outgoing onesie), I wet his hair down under the faucet, lather it up, put a little lather on his face and neck. Rinse hair under faucet; dry with clean dry washcloth or handtowel. Wet corner of handtowel, use to wash his face and neck. If his hands feel sticky, I run them under the faucet too; ditto for feeties. Back at the changing table, use another wet corner of the handtowel to do a quick once-over of his tummy, back, arms, legs. This seems like enough, but when I DO give him an actual bath in the tub he seems cleaner.


I was glad to find I was not the only one struggling with the problem of keeping up with all this washing. Shelly of Notthedaddy writes:

I have two children, ages 5 and 10 months, and I have a hell of a time keeping them bathed. The older one is a girl and can take showers with me. However, I'm the working parent and I take my showers at 5:15 am, not a time that she is available to shower. The younger one is a boy and screams bloody murder if I put him in water. I'm still giving him sponge baths on the kitchen counter. I realize that babies do not have to be bathed every day, and I'm actually aiming for about every third day with him, but Supergirl is definitely reaching the point where she needs a shower every day. Do you have a system by which you keep your five clean? My husband, who is fabulous with the little ones on almost every front (and a stay at home dad), somehow doesn't help out on bathing at all. It has completely fallen to me. And completely fallen, most of the time.

I told her you guys would totally know what to do about this--which is lucky for me, because I've got nothing.

This is the Post I Should Have Titled "Self-Medicating"

I'm up at 4:00 a.m., which is SO SMART. Elizabeth woke me, and then I couldn't go back to sleep. I tried for more than half an hour, and I just got more and more wakeful. I'm thinking about stuff.

I'm thinking about my weight, which went down 5 pounds right after I stopped taking the mini-pill, but then stayed where it was. And then started creeping up little by little again. I'm getting that "this isn't my body" feeling--like I'm ENCASED in my body. That's usually my cue to take action.

And I'm thinking about diets, which are stupid and only work short-term. And about "lifestyle changes," which are also diets. And about how there should probably be an actual lifestyle change around here, NOT (*maudlin tone*) "so I can live to see my kids grow up" (it's relatively uncommon to die in one's thirties for being overweight) but because my food intake has gotten pretty crappy and it's causing me to envision the kind of clogged pipes they show on plumbing and cholesterol-reduction commercials. BUT MOSTLY BECAUSE I WANT TO BE THINNER AND LOOK PRETTIER. I don't really care about my health here, though of course that will help to motivate me when I am frantically scraping to remember why I am not eating something I want to eat. If I were eating crap but I were still THIN, we would not be having this talk right now. Possibly we are not having this talk anyway. Possibly when morning light hits, I will think this is a dumb idea. It's so easy to strike out on a new diet when I'm not feeling hungry.

And I'm thinking about Zoloft, which I'm on the fence about: on one hand, I feel like I Need Something. On the other hand, breastfeeding! and the accompanying worrying about future scientific studies that will make me regret current decisions! And also, I'm not sure I want to start taking a longer-term medication for what I think may be a short-term issue centering on my mother-in-law's upcoming visit.

And I'm thinking about exercise, which is disappointing me results-wise. My heart and lungs might be getting all awesome and fit, but I'm not noticing exterior improvements. I want EXTERIOR IMPROVEMENTS. I have exercised faithfully three times a week for two months, and I haven't had a single less-than-three-times week: I sometimes whine about skipping a session because I'm too mad/sad, but I always make up the session the next day. And yet all I am doing is getting bigger.

So that's me, at what is now 5:00 in the morning: Weight. Diets. Zoloft. Exercise. Hm, I wonder why I'm not dropping off into dreamyland? My theory is that I'm self-medicating my mother-in-law/new-baby stress with food (how FASCINATING and DIFFERENT), and that I'm doing it too much for the exercise to keep up. I think the food HAS been helping, but since it's also hurting, it's time to try something else.

I'm about to launch into a discussion about the "something else" I'm doing, and it's something I don't recommend. I have an old bottle of Zoloft in my underwear drawer, and I'm going to start taking it. I think this is a TERRIBLE idea! You should ALWAYS have medical supervision for medication. ESPECIALLY if you're pregnant or breastfeeding and the bottle has a sticker on it that says "Do not take if pregnant or breastfeeding." And especially with PSYCHIATRIC medication, where the effects on your health and mental states should be monitored so you don't flip the hell out. And if the medication is also EXPIRED, you are a CRAZY PERSON if you take it.

BUT. I've taken this before. If anything, it had too LITTLE an effect on me, and it didn't affect my health. And right now, my plan is to take it until my mother-in-law's visit is over, and then stop. I thought I was coping pretty well with life in general; then we got close to her visit and I started melting down.

The bottle contains 100 mg tablets. I remember that when I went on it before, the doctor started me at 25 mg for a week, and then went to 50 mg. So last night I bit off one-half of a half tablet. I'm going to do that for four days and then go up to 50 mg. I have enough to last me until the end of October, when I will carefully go back down to 25 mg daily, then 25 mg every other day, then 25 mg every third day--because going off Zoloft last time made life temporarily lose its color, and it helps to KNOW that that will happen, but it also helps to wean slowly.

Maybe I will chicken out in the next day or two. Maybe I will call the doctor after all, and spend a $20 co-pay for him to try to talk me into counseling. We'll see. I mean, if YOU said YOU were going to do this, I'd be all up in your comments section saying, "Oh, hey, I don't know about this. I think it would be better to call the doctor. I mean, that Zoloft is older than the twins--it might not even WORK."

Also, I am going to eat a little better. I don't even want to say words like "diet," because my brain hears "diet" and my brain says "HUNGRY." But I want to be thinner, and dieting is the way to do it.

If that doesn't suck the happy out of the room, I don't know what does.

Edited to add: I should have said specifically that I welcome your input and insight. I know how it is to be reading a post thinking, "Is she just venting here and my advice would get called 'assvice' and be all irritating? or is she looking for feedback?" You may proceed with feedback! Personal experience, insight from a distance, whatever.

September 26, 2007

Miscellaneous Updates: Ear Suits, Avon, Holiday Tips Blog, Zoloft. Also: Target Baby Clothes Clearance

If you missed yesterday's baby ear suits, you might still be able to get one: they're back in some colors and sizes (and they go in and out, so maybe keep checking if you don't see what you want) at L.L. Bean, and you can still use that free shipping code (7420440). They're $12.95 now instead of $9.00, but it's better than bitter, bitter disappointment.

The Virtual Avon Party went great! LeAnna's so grateful and excited. And so am I--you guys were awesome to do that for her. I think the specials/promotions change every two weeks, so I'm going to keep checking http://leannawilson.avonrepresentative.com/ (notice they've added the A to her name finally, if you've bookmarked the one without the A), and of course I hope you'll keep checking it, too, but probably I will not mention it real often because geez, how many times can I mention Avon before you get bored and wander off? But I might not be able to resist telling you if I bought some neat stuff, because it is fun to talk about shopping, and also because it was SO ENORMOUSLY FUN to have you emailing me saying, "I bought this! I bought that! I bought a bunch more things too!"

Kara's holiday tip sharing blog has an address! It's at http://www.maybepaintedpink.blogspot.com. It's still in pre-content/testing stage, but you can go look at it and say, "Oooooooh! Ahhhhhhhh!" at the design, and you can bookmark it or at it to your RSS thing. Also, remember to email Kara (k a r a m a r i e @ g m a i l dot c o m) with holiday tips, especially Halloween tips: easy/cheap costume ideas? fun Halloween party games? good school party treats? recipe for candy corn rice crispy treats? EMAIL HER.

I'm feeling better than I did earlier, though things still seem stressy and grim. I did six loads of laundry, and that helped. But I'm eying the expired Zoloft I've been hoarding for some reason since 2004, and I'm considering taking it. There's enough to last me at a low dose until after my mother-in-law leaves. I know from my pharmacy job that the "expiration date" on the bottle is a maximum of one year after the prescription is filled--but that the date on the bottle used to dispense the medication was likely much later.

One thing that worries me is that I rely on my stressy panic to power me through big tasks. If I'm not static with anxiety, maybe I won't do the kind of cleaning binge that's required here.

I'm also nervous because I'm breastfeeding. As Marie so perfectly put it, I'm worried I'm messing up Henry's brain chemistry FOREVER!!

But I'm also worried that I'm going to crumble and fall before this visit takes place, or perhaps during it. And I'm not opposed to a little pharmaceutical relief during stressful times. I do wish I were only medicating MYSELF, though.

Let's change the subject, because I'm feeling stressed again. Oh, I know! I went to Target a couple of days ago (I went in the evening, all by myself, and even the SMELL of Target calms me right down), and they had a ton of baby/toddler summer clothes on 75% off. I bought shirts! shorts! dresses! We've talked before about how it's tough to buy ahead for little kids, but at 75% off I'm more willing to gamble. Elizabeth is in 3T shirts and 18/24m shorts this summer, so I bought 4T tops and 3T shorts. If the 3T shorts are too big, she'll probably wear them the summer after next.

I also bought a few things for right now: there were some shirts that were too cute (and too cheap) to resist, even though they were only in Edward and Elizabeth's current size:

I think they were $1.24 (Elizabeth's) and $1.74 (Edward's). Plus, Edward is wearing some coordinated dark green-brown shorts that were something like $1.94, and Elizabeth is wearing jeans that were $2.44. NOT BAD.

Here is what to remember from this post:
  • You might still get an L. L. Bean ear suit, if you want it.
  • You might get 75% off Target summer clothes, if you want them for next year.
  • Don't forget about Avon! Because I probably won't remind very often.
  • You need to email Kara with Halloween ideas.

Self-Medicating

This has been a morning spent hovering on the teary side of rage.

Cat barf. Blow-out diapers. Mildew in the wipes container.

Elizabeth's new, bigger-size pants falling down around her ankles.

Hating the thought of exercise. Trying to renew enthusiasm by trying something new: jump-rope! Jump rope hits coffee table; move coffee table. Coffee-table hits end table; move end table, then move coffee table; see crud under end table but stay on task. Jump rope now hits ceiling. SCREW THIS. Decide not to exercise. Decide "some is better than none," and start jogging around the house. Bugs swooping. Shorts riding up. Guys working across the street. SCREW THIS. Take shower. Feel like failure: "Ooo, TWO WHOLE LAPS around the WHOLE HOUSE! Why not train for IRON MAN next?" Feel discouraged that after 2 months of exercise, attitude continues to go downhill.

Called hotels for mother-in-law. First place said, "For THIS October?" Children got too loud for phone.

Bathroom vanity drawer broken.

Flies and maggots near trash bag on the porch. Oh my god.

Dryer buzzer goes off. Laundry is all finicky stuff like socks that need to be matched. Use unmatched sock to dab at tears. Force self to knock it off: it is only 9:00 in the morning, Self.

New pretty dishes arrived. They're clearly stamped "Made in Columbia." They were advertised as "Made in England." I'm exchanging them--and I'm already anticipating a second set arriving, ALSO stamped "Made in Columbia."

I made fudge and didn't stir it long enough, so it crystallized wrong. IT IS THE END OF THE WORLD.


Here's how I'm self-medicating:
Sample-size of expensive, perfumed face moisturizer.
Comfy undies.
The grainy fudge.
Complaining to you.
This:



Also, I feel heartened at the thought of Black Sheeped's new site, which is going to be a "Steal holiday ideas from each other!" site. Cheap and/or easy Halloween costumes! Teacher gifts! Handmade cards! Gifts children can make that don't suck for the recipient! My mind is buzzing with ideas to submit--but also with the desire to STEAL STEAL STEAL. So I hope you will start sending Kara ideas right this minute. More information on the new site, and also an email address to send ideas, is in the second half of the post I linked to earlier in this paragraph. Hup hup with the Halloween ideas. NOW NOW NOW GO GO GO. *wipes motivational brow*

September 25, 2007

Ear Snowsuit

Pretty, pretty Mir drew my attention to this awesome deal: for today only (and only until they run out), L.L. Bean is selling this ear outerwear suit for $9.00. I have the coordinating hats and coats (a gift from my aunt) for the twins--I posted photos last year.

I am thinking of buying the ear suit for Henry--except usually for babies I do a "hat and thick blanket" combo that is SO easy. But $9.00! I hope some of you who have babies or are expecting babies will buy it!

I like "natural" (brown) best, and might have to cave and buy it. I have an L.L. Bean credit card, so shipping is free. (Mir says you can also get free shipping with code 7420440.)

Oh fine, I caved! I bought it in brown for Henry. If I change my mind, I'll put it on the gift shelf--I almost bought two just because it would make a cute baby gift.

October Part Two

  1. Anyone sick of talking about my mother-in-law yet? I SURE AM.
  2. AND YET I CANNOT STOP.
  3. This is why the Zoloft, on another pre-visit occasion.
  4. Well. I made Paul email her and ask when she was coming.
  5. That is a lie, to make myself look like I Took Charge of My Destiny.
  6. It was actually his idea to email. He hadn't read my blog, either. He just did it.
  7. Should we take a moment to appreciate Paul? He may dump a cup of dry cereal and crackers into the non-disposal-equipped sink instead of walking an equal number of steps to the trash, but he did email his mother without me telling him to.
  8. Unless you count "wringing hands and crying and fretting for weeks" as "telling him to."
  9. Anyway, she DID know when she was coming.
  10. The plans were all made; she just hadn't told us.
  11. Information = power.
  12. She's coming "around October 15th."
  13. That's better than "this coming week."
  14. That's better than "the entire month."
  15. She didn't say when she was leaving. She did say she doesn't have to be back to work until November 5th.
  16. That would leave time for a 2.5-week visit. That's how long she likes to stay.
  17. After 1 week, that's when I typically feel like I can't stand another minute.
  18. If she stayed one week, I would probably feel like her visits were almost pleasant.
  19. A week is how long it takes her to feel comfortable in her sense of self, and start spreading that sense of self into every corner of our lives.
  20. She has not looked into hotels.
  21. She asked us to research it.
  22. CALM! BLUE! OCEAN!
  23. Also, I think I should probably delete all this in a week or so, don't you?

September 24, 2007

October

  1. My mother-in-law is coming for a visit "in October." That's as specific as she's been.
  2. She has taken the entire month of October off from work. She did tell us that much.
  3. I've been hyperventilating ever since.
  4. She says she is planning to drive to see us. A drive from her house to ours would be two days for mad crazy college-student types who could take turns driving, or three days for an adult who wanted to eat and pee and sleep as well as drive.
  5. In the past, she has said that she doesn't think a visit under 2 weeks is "worth the plane ticket." I shudder to think what length visit is "worth" six days round-trip of driving, hotels, gas, and meals out.
  6. She says she is planning to stay in a hotel while she's here.
  7. It is my firm, unwavering belief that she said the hotel thing under the assumption that we would say, "Oh, don't be silly, of course you'll stay with us."
  8. That's what we said last time.
  9. Paul says we're not saying it this time.
  10. Later I brought it up again to Paul, and he said, "We are NOT asking her to stay with us, are you crazy?"
  11. This hotel thing has thus been decided by her and by him, but who do you suspect will get blamed for it? That's what I think, too.
  12. The nearest hotel is a 20-minute drive from our house, and it's $145 per night for the cheapest room. That's $2,030 if she stays her usual two weeks. There's also a motel 1 minute away, and it's the kind of place that has people sitting in lawn chairs in the parking lot, smoking cigarettes and drinking beer at 8:00 in the morning as children wait for the bus nearby. I don't know how much it costs. It seems like if I call and ask how much a room is, they might say, "By the night or by the hour?"
  13. I think it's really likely she'll show up here with no reservations made and then wait until about 10:00 at night to say, "Oh, what's a good hotel around here?" If she does that, I'm recommending the scuzzy place.
  14. One reason I haven't mentioned this hotel thing before is that I don't think she actually WILL stay in a hotel. I think she will work it so that she will "have to" stay with us. So I don't want to get all familiar and relaxed with the hotel idea.
  15. My parents gave me a gift certificate for cleaning services back when the twins were born, and I'm finally going to use it. I need to arrange this, and for all I know it could be too late already. But I don't want to set it up until I know when she'll be here, so I can have the house cleaned the day before.
  16. What kind of nutjob doesn't tell people when she's coming? Obviously we need to KNOW.
  17. Several times last month and this month she said she'd tell us as soon as she knew what her plans were. So I'd feel like an idiot asking. Paul says, "She said she'd tell us when she knew. So she must not know."
  18. She SHOULD know by now.
  19. It is seriously fruitcakey if she hasn't made plans.
  20. It's also seriously fruitcakey if she has made plans but hasn't told us.
  21. Oh god, do you think she hasn't told us because she plans to come for the entire month?
  22. Let's not think about that. Let's not even THINK about that. Let's think about the calm blue ocean instead. Calm blue ocean, calm blue ocean.
  23. Does she realize it's only one week until October? I CERTAINLY REALIZE IT.
  24. Is this a SURPRISE visit or something?
  25. BEEZUS CRIBBONS. It is not unreasonable for me to want to know when I am having houseguests. For the love of pete! (See how I am toning down my language? If I used the big guns now, what would I use when she's actually HERE?)
  26. I keep thinking I'll just email her. I'll say, "October is a week away now--do you know when you're planning to be here?" But whenever I've asked her a question, I've ended up sorry. She uses it as an opportunity to tell me what to do, or she gives me another information-free response, or she doesn't respond at all.
  27. In Paul's family, secrets are power.
  28. Have I mentioned he didn't introduce me to his family until after we were married?
  29. He made it seem like purely a logistical issue, but now I think he was smart as well as handsome.
  30. He's also a lucky son-of-a-bitch I didn't have the marriage annulled after I met his parents.
  31. Do you like how this list came out to 31, just like the number of days in October? Also, October 31st is Halloween! Ooooo, SCARY!

September 21, 2007

So Happy! (Caffeine Edition)

The title of this post was "So Discouraged," but that was before my HCI (Hot Coffee Injection) and now I am more like, "Hey, let's do laundry! and bake brownies! and have an autumnal soup for lunch! and let's think of something fun for The Virtual Avon Party--like, I wonder if I could do a little giftie (lip balm?) for the first five orders?" I've been emailing LeAnna all morning. She is probably getting very, very sorry she ever told me about this Avon thing.

When not under the influence of coffee (note to self: buy larger coffee pot), I've been feeling whiny and stressy. The one time I went on psychiatric medication, it was a few weeks before a mother-in-law visit, just like this. I didn't realize it was the stress of the impending visit--I thought I was just suddenly unable to cope with life.

So many things "need" to be done before she gets here. I think about what actually ought to be done (clean bathroom, hide birth control and journals, put away usual dishes), but before long I'm thinking the only way to start is by getting rid of fully half of what we own, since otherwise there is too much clutter for me to work on the cleaning.

And that may be completely true about the clutter, but it's not going to happen before she gets here, and I need to face that. The water stains on the ceiling are not going to get painted. The WALLS are not going to get painted. The thirty layers of clutter are going to be moved to other locations, but not disposed of. The house will still be our house, and that is absolutely fine and reasonable. I'm working on an "If you don't like it, bite me" attitude, so far with little success. (How come "Be yourself" only applies if you're The Cultural Ideal? Hand-wringing, neuroses-packed, under-medicated over-thinkers should be able to be themselves too!)

The day before yesterday, I began freaking out in earnest. I kept wanting to tackle some of the big messy areas, but even after one single project (I cleaned out the children's craft cupboard--way to prioritize!), I felt like I was way behind on my usual skimpy housework. Laundry: teetering! Litter box: in violation of health codes! Bathroom: smelling like pee!

And other projects continue to accumulate. I overdid it at The Children's Place (I haven't told you about the online order I placed after my success at the store), and I need to lay everything out and see what I'm keeping and what I'm taking back. Elizabeth's shoes are too small and her jeans are too short, so I need to dig out the next sizes. The rechargeable batteries for my digital camera are crap, or else the recharger is broken, and in either case I need to handle that so I can take more than ten photos before the batteries give out. The minivan needs an oil change.

How to fit in the Extra Pre-Mother-in-Law-Visit Cleaning when I can't even keep up with the regular stuff? And I know, I should be all, "Who cares what she thinks?," but I'm just NOT. (I think the people who say they don't care what other people think DO care what other people think: they want them to think they don't care what other people think.)

Anyway. Once I get overwhelmed like this, my natural inclination is to huddle in my recliner, keening and throwing candy wrappers on the floor. At the very time I should be springing into action because there is so much to do, that is when, perversely, I can't face doing a single thing. Each thing I attempt to do seems like the least important or the least manageable, or it feels like something else has to be done in order to make it possible to do this other thing, or I feel like I can't possible do it until I have a System, ideally with Matching Containers and a new house to put them in.

The only way to face this state of mind is to pick anything--ANYTHING--that seems doable, and do it. Thus the craft cupboard. My mother-in-law is unlikely to be affected by the state of the craft cupboard, but having it cleaned up is still better than NOT having it cleaned up. And it made me feel like I was making progress.

Yesterday I did the front hall closet. Again, not as high up the priority list as, say, chiseling dust off the bookshelves. But I did it, and having it done is better than NOT having it done. (I spent the twins' entire naptime doing it, so it BETTER be better than not.) I also scooped the litter box and got out Elizabeth's bigger jeans. And this morning when Elizabeth woke me at 5:00, I used the opportunity to order more camera batteries. Is each task like pulling out my own teeth? Yes. But each one makes me feel a little better than I felt when I had all of it still to do.

Also: worse. Because I'm still stressed, and I'm getting increasingly tired, and I didn't exercise yesterday even though I was supposed to. I wanted to tell myself that cleaning out the closet qualified as exercise, but even I'M not falling for that one.

September 20, 2007

Virtual Avon Party! Right This Minute! Until at Least September 24th, in the Comment Section of this Post!

Okay! *brisk clap-clap* Feedback on Avon has been positive, and I'm gearing up to place my order. Anonymous mentioned that an Avon seller's first few orders get them the most commission, so my thought is that we'd have the greatest impact if we all ordered during the same couple of early-on ordering periods. Lee says she's supposed to submit her orders every 2 weeks, and the next one is due by September 25th--let's say Monday the 24th, just to be sure. And if you miss that one, the next deadline is October 9th (8th to be sure). Operation Buy Avon From Lee--COMMENCE! (First act of business: better name for operation.)

Here is the web site: http://leannawilson.avonrepresentative.com/

If you go there and place an order, you can have it shipped to you for $3 flat-rate (use coupon code SHIP3), which is an especially good deal if you are ordering lots of heavy bottles of shampoo or bubble bath.

Here's what I did: from the site's home page (which is where the link above brings you), I clicked "shop." Then in the left-hand menu, about two-thirds of the way down, I clicked "Promotions." That brings you to a big picture, and a hard-to-see pull-down menu below the picture. The pull-down menu contains a bunch of good deals--choose one and then click the hard-to-see box that says "Go." For example, people were saying nice things about the "Anew" line, and right now it's buy one and get the second one for $5. And since some of the Anew stuff is already on sale (like, the Skin Optimizer is $10 down from $22--I don't know what optimized skin would be like, but SIGN ME UP), things get even cheaper.

The promotions change each 2-week ordering period, I think, so if you don't see anything you want this time, maybe the October 9th deadline will be better. In fact, LAST week, when I obviously SHOULD have ordered, the perfumes were "buy one for $15, or two for $6 each." So, actually literally less money to order two. But I missed it because I was dithering on a second choice, trying to decide solely based on the written description if I wanted Summer White or Be Kissable. (The first choice was Soft Musk, which I wore in high school and might hate now but wanted to try again anyway.) Oh, here's a similar example this week: the Avon Solution skincare things are 2 for $9.99. So you can buy ONE for $12.50, or you can have TWO for $9.99. Hmm, TOUGH CHOICE.

Those of you who were all happy about Avon bubble bath will be glad to see it is on sale 2 for $9.99 in the 24 oz size, or 4 for $15 in the 16 oz size. --Hey, look at me, hawking Avon! Picture me presenting a sparkling bottle on one open palm. I'm gesturing to it! I'm smiling! My teeth are doing that "ding!" sound as they gleam! I'm serving small clever snacks!

After you browse languidly through the specials, you can click on "makeup" and you'll get a fresh menu on the left that will include "makeup specials" and there are more deals there. Repeat with skincare, bath & body, etc. Those don't include all the specials, though, for some reason: when I then clicked on "eyes," I found specials that weren't with the other make-up specials. Basically you have to look at every single thing, is what I'm trying to say here.

Here are some of the things I'm thinking of getting (I tried to link, but the links didn't go to Lee's site specifically, and there was a "find a representative!" button):

The Skin Optimizer

The Soft Musk I might not like anymore but sure liked back in high school. (Can I be remembering that I had the coordinating deodorant? Surely not!)

From the "any 3 for $5" page (four whole items to choose from! go nuts!), I'm thinking of getting 1 Avon Basics Vita Moist Face Cream, 1 Avon Basics Hand Cream in Silicone Glove, and 1 Foot Works Bonus Size Therapeutic Cracked Heel Relief Cream. I don't even have cracked heels (not that you asked--thanks for CARING), but that sounds nice for the feeties.

Avon Basics Care Deeply with Aloe Lip Balm

Beyond Color Plumping Lip Color SPF 15 with Double the Retinol (ooo, DOUBLE the retinol!), in Sienna and in Twig ("Twig"? Yes, thank you, I would like my lips to resemble a small dry BRANCH).

Beyond Color Plumping Lip Conditioner SPF 15 with Double the Retinol, in colorless (24% more lip plumping!)

Dew Kiss Lip Dew (but dewn't)

Moisture Therapy Intensive Moisturizing Lip Treatment (I love lip balm)

Instant Manicure Dry Nail Enamel Strips, in Reddy To Go (what? that's not slutty)

Ultra Color Rich Lipstick Sheer Spring Shades, in Sheer Sangria

Healthy Boost Skintrition Moisture Lotion (if they had to invent a word, it's GOT to be good!)

Speed Dry Nail Enamel, in Delicata

Heavenly Soft Eyeshadow Trio, in Plum and in Nude.


This is getting lame. I think I'll stop.

Here is something I didn't order: "body yogurt." Gross! It's probably wonderful, but doesn't it sound disgusting?

Remember if you order to use SHIP3 to get $3 flat-rate shipping! Also, tell me what you order, because I am going back and forth on EVERYTHING and may want to copy you.

September 18, 2007

New Dishes

My mother came this morning to take all three housechildren for a few hours. How many seconds do you think elapsed between the time her car pulled out of the driveway and the time I was tearing into a pint of Dove Butter Pecan Pleasure? I don't know exactly; it was all one smooth movement, from waving goodbye to digging with a spoon.

-+-+-+-

I would like to own Better Dishes, and since my mother-in-law is visiting soon, the timing is good to buy them now. To be better than our usual dishes, all the new dishes would need to do is match: my current dishes are a "one of this, two of that" assortment because I have a commitment problem combined with a butterfingers problem, and any set where the plates match the bowls and/or each other is going to be an upgrade. However, as I was browsing I awarded sets extra points if they were dishes I thought most people would think of as "good dishes": more expensive, more dramatic, more breakable than what you'd use every day.

I looked at Wal*lame*mart and at Target, and I also looked at Amazon.com. The dishes I bought were at Amazon: service for four was $50 down from $200 (Swistle + clearance = TRULUV4EVA), and they're a type I've always liked when I've seen similar kinds in antique stores. They're English; they look fancy-pants to me; they're blue and that's my mother-in-law's favorite color. I like them, I'll be excited to use them--but I don't mind them living in a box in the basement most of the time. They are the perfect "good dishes."

Are you prepared to evaluate--and to agree with me, I hope, since they are already ordered? Here is a picture:

And you can also go visit them at their Amazon.com home. Here are the points on which to evaluate them:

1) Are they "the good dishes"?

September 16, 2007

Shopping Trip: Baby Clothes and Pretty Earrings

The Children's Place is having one of their good sales. Did I basically walk into a TCP store, hand over my wallet, and say "ONE OF EACH FROM THE TODDLER GIRL SECTION KTHANX!!!" Yes, I did. And now I am planning to place an additional order online (their shipping is $5 flat-rate; flat-rate shipping makes me h-a-double-p-y), to get a few things that were out of stock in Elizabeth's size at the store today.

A little TCP color terminology first, so we all know what we're talking about:

flora = dark pink
mud = brown
rubble = brown
winter white = not quite white-white
fern = green
robin = medium blue

(Best TCP color name ever, in my opinion, was "cupcake" for a yellow-cake-mix yellow.)

I bought the lace-trimmed long-sleeved bodysuit in flora and winter white.



I bought the appliqued raglan tee in flora, fern, and robin. I tried to choose just one, or even narrow it down to just two, but couldn't. Part of it was because I was disappointed that many other long-sleeved shirts were out of stock in the size I was looking for. (Because, duh, we are going into long-sleeve weather right this minute.) Part of it is that these shirts are even cuter in person: they have the girly-girly-tough-girl look of a flower tattoo.





I bought the graphic tee (short sleeves, for next year) in...um...I don't want to tell you how many different ones I bought. As I said above, I was still miffed about missing out on long sleeves. Several of the ones I bought weren't on the web site anymore, so I couldn't get pictures of them anyway, even if I were willing to admit how many I bought. Here are a few (I also got the little sister shirt, since it's equally true):





I bought the belted cord cargo pants in fern, flora, and rubble. They have cute floral embroidery on the pocket.





The prairie twirl skirt in flora:



The yoga skort in flora (I wanted it in mud, but it was sold out):



And I wanted so, so much more! And I will place an online order for some of it! And then have to go back to the store for additional things I found online while ordering the "some of it," but were out of stock online! And then perhaps will find more previously unnoticed things in the store and will have to place another order online!

I also remembered the new boy in my life, and bought Henry a shirt:



I also bought Henry a hat that is so astoundingly cute on him, I will have to provide you later with photographic evidence--but he is sleeping right now so you will have to take my word for it. I didn't even like the hat (I don't like it now, looking at it off the baby again), but I let my mom put it on him just for fun, and then I paid full price for it. I'll just wait a moment and let that sink in: FULL. PRICE. Here it is, the sporty cord hat that wrung full retail from Swistle:



Oh, dear, did some of you have to scroll past ALLLLLLLLL those baby clothes to get to the earrings? Here they are, finally. I bought six--SIX--pairs at Target, all on 75% off--so, like, $2-something or $3-something or $4-something per pair.




The upper left and upper center are so far my top favorites; I almost always like hoop styles best of all. The upper right are great, too. The lower left are a little more dangley than is wise, but I like them anyway. The lower center are going on the gift shelf because the stud part of the earring sticks out too far for my poor unattached earlobe, so the stud points down at an angle. The lower right I haven't tried on yet, but I thought they were so pretty. Most beautiful of all: the stacked red-orange clearance stickers, a siren song to so many of us.

Find any great deals lately? Hello, hello? Oh, I see, you've gone to TCP and Target. Okay bye! Write when you get back!

September 15, 2007

If I'm Crazy, At Least I Have Company

When I asked if you thought it was crazy that I wanted to buy separate dishes for my mother-in-law's visit, I admit I was hoping for "no." In fact, I was worried that someone might not only say yes, but recommend a specific medication. And yet, every single time someone did in fact say yes it was crazy, I laughed with delight. Actual audible laughter, not just LOL laughter. Or maybe this kind of laughing is called "cackling."

I also laughed at those of you who took it up a level, and now I am a little more in love with all of you and wish I had married YOU instead. Lori D. thinks the dishes should be not only separate but also ugly and chipped. Tessie thinks I should incorporate a subliminal message into the glaze. (Tessie suggests "There's no place like home." I'm thinking, "Go home, you crazy old bat.") Marie Green and Shoeaddict remind me to use old sheets so I can throw them away (or burn them? do I hear any votes for burning?) after she leaves. Nikki thinks I should give my mother-in-law paper plates while the rest of us use fine china (and then I could burn the plates out in the backyards afterwards, while she watches from inside). T with Honey brings up excellent points about using Lysol sprays and Clorox wipes when sharing a bathroom with such a person. I like the way she thinks, and I already have some of that antimicrobial Febreeze for the furniture. Caley wins first place for suggesting I buy an entirely separate HOUSE to live in while my mother-in-law visits.

Jess (and now we have more than one Jess, so this is Du Wax Loolu Jess...or Jess Loolu...or Jess Du Wax...) wonders if I worry that my mother-in-law will find this blog. YES I DO KENT. In fact, often after I do a mother-in-law vent, I take the post down after a few days. I realize it's still "out there" on the Internet, but it makes me feel like it isn't. I mean, imagine how doomed I could be. And this kind of thing happens all the time. She wouldn't even have to be looking for me, she could just be thinking, "Hm, I don't want to bother Swistle for her Chocolate-Crusted Pumpkin Cheesecake recipe, since I've already asked for it twice and then lost it twice. I'll just Google it!" And then she Googles "Chocolate-Crusted Pumpkin Cheesecake," and oh HERE it is! And look, the person who posted it has twins too, just like my daughter-in-law! Huh! And what are the odds that all her other children are born in the same years as my grandchildren? Huh! --This could easily, easily happen. So I always decide not to discuss her ANY! MORE!--but then before I know it, I'm doing it again.

JMC brings up an excellent point about the children commenting on the new dishes; I'd been thinking that what I should do is buy the dishes as soon as possible so they're familiar by then. CAQuincy thinks that in a pinch I could also get away with blushing prettily and saying we bought the new dishes specially for grandma's visit. Way to work the truth, Carrie. Tina points out that even if I can easily incorporate the dishes into the household for this visit, I have a long-term problem if I want to keep bringing them out for future visits. Good point. I think we'd better refer to these as "the good dishes," don't you?

Kristin H. and Karly and Devan and Samantha Jo Campen and Nowheymama want to know Paul's thoughts on the dishes idea. I haven't yet exactly mentioned it to Paul. And since Paul is a conflict-avoider, I thought what I might do is just buy the dishes and have them in the cupboard already when he comes home from work, and hope he'll guess what's up and decide not to ask. He sees why she drives me crazy; what he doesn't understand is why I can't ignore her like he does. Sorry, charlie, you get what you married.

Omaha Mama wants to know why I don't ASK her when she's coming. It's because she is WILY, and JUST as I am thinking of asking for information, she says something like, "I'm still figuring out the dates! I'll let you know when it's settled!" Then more weeks go by, and JUST as I'm thinking that ANY REASONABLE PERSON would have told us by now, she throws us another crumb: "I'm still trying to arrange things with someone else I'm visiting, but I'll let you know soon!" Paul's family values secrecy for the sake of secrecy. When I see this trait emerge in Paul, I get out the biiiiiiiiiiiig iron skillet and whack-a-mole it right down again.

Shelly Overlook wants to know if this is a literal contamination issue (i.e., is my mother-in-law GRODY) or if it's more of a mental contamination (i.e., is my mother-in-law a crazy old bat). It's the crazy old bat thing. She is intensely critical and bossy, and she has reached her 60s without ever realizing that people can do things different ways without one of them being "an idiot" or "crazy." She follows me everywhere I go, including pulling up a chair and sitting behind me if I go to my computer. She says unanswerable things--the kind that, if I answer, I look like an oversensitive weirdo who has to argue about every little unimportant thing. She asks if I think William's speech impediment is because he grew up hearing Rob's (William does not have a speech impediment; Rob had an articulation delay). She expects me to cook her breakfast while she stands next to me at the stove, telling me what to do differently (numbers of mornings I went along with this: one). She sits in a chair all day "helping" me by saying things like, "Swistle! The baby's crying!" and "Swistle! You missed a spot!" She tells us stories about other women who don't take care of themselves and who don't care how they look and who wear jeans every day and who can't keep house and who can't cook and who don't properly care for their guests.

Carmen apparently has the same mother-in-law, since hers snoops too. Mine wants to know what sizes we wear, to give her some details about "other people" for her next discussion of people who shouldn't be so out of shape in their 30s, and to see if I color my hair, and to see if I waste money on brand-names, and to see if I buy too far ahead (her opinion: "yes"), and to see how I stack my towels (her opinion: "interesting!"). Also, she prides herself on how little she packs--and this means she only brings enough clothes for a few days, so she has to have a way to do her laundry sneakily with ours, so she practically rips the clothes off our bodies to make laundry she can "help" with. Other things she prides herself on: how early she gets up; how quickly she can shower; how she doesn't need coffee; how clean she keeps her house; how little weight she gained while pregnant; how cheaply she can knit a sweater that sells for a ridiculous price; how she told the salesclerk so.

Okay, enough about her. I need to be able to go to sleep tonight. And I'm sure while she's here I'll need to vent about her, and then you can vote on whether she's actually as annoying as I think she is or not. Katie is predicting an implosion, and I wonder every single time she visits if this will be the time I actually do implode. Each time, I make it to the last day of her visit, gasping and panting and not QUITE holding the large chopping knife. But each time it is a closer call.

September 14, 2007

VOTE! Crazy or Not Crazy?

I don't think I've mentioned it before, but I have a little Contamination Issue. That is, if I handle raw meat, even through plastic, what I'd really like to do afterward is hit a switch that would lightly spray the entire kitchen, including me, with bleach. Except that wouldn't be quite thorough enough, because it wouldn't reach under my fingernails, inside the trash can where the meat wrapper is, the undersides of the cabinets where meaty air molecules may have drifted, etc.

Well, big deal, a lot of people have issues with raw meat--and with all the news stories on e coli this and salmonella that, it's hardly surprising that some of us have gotten overly yicked out.

Less common is that I feel the same way about my mother-in-law. After she visits, I don't like to sit in the chair she sat in, use the dishes she used, touch surfaces she touched. While she's on her way to the airport, I'm busy using products that contain abrasives and/or antibacterials and/or bleach. The effect lingers: two years after a visit during which she happened to use one plate more than any other, I still feel woogy about that plate. I've never used it. It makes me think of her every time I see it.

This is too bad, because I liked that plate. I like ALL my dishes, which are a "buy one here, two there" mixed set. So what I was thinking is that I would box them all up during her visit "sometime next month" (two weeks until October and she still hasn't said when in October she'll be here, or for how long), and instead use a set of dishes I would purchase to use only during her visits. Not expensive dishes, just one of those $25-50 service-for-four (the kids eat off plastic dishes so we don't need more than that) boxed sets. I saw a set of black dishes at Wal*yick*mart, on clearance for $11.50; my mom thought the symbolism of the black made them the best choice.

But before I get carried away with dish symbolism, what I want to know is this: Does this plan sound a little...crazy to you? (If your mother-in-law is "an awesome lady!!" and "pretty much my second mom!!," you may need to imagine someone else using your dishes.)

September 13, 2007

Why I Stopped Taking the Mini-Pill

1) In the nearly 6 weeks since I started taking it, I've gone up 13 pounds. I realize these results aren't typical--because if they were, no one would take the mini-Pill. When I researched it, I found that although many places said weight gain was not verified as a side-effect, many places also said that the chemical in the mini-Pill can cause water retention and also cause increased appetite. (Hi! How is that not weight gain?) One site assured me that the increased appetite would go away when the Pill was stopped. Oh, yes? And will the weight go, too, or do I get to keep that as a souvenir?

The weight feels weird. It feels puffy, soft. This doesn't feel like the kind of weight I gain when I eat too much (brownies, what?), and I've had plenty of experience with that kind of weight.


2) Statistically, theoretically, scientifically, the mini-Pill is about as effective as the Pill--especially if you are good about taking it at the same time each day, which I am. Anecdotally, the mini-Pill is nowhere near as effective. And if you get pregnant while taking it, there's an increased risk of birth defects. That makes me uneasy.


3) There is some question in pharmaceutical circles about whether the mini-Pill might lose some of its effectiveness on women who weigh more than 150 pounds. Something to worry about when I should be sleeping.


4) There is no evidence in decades of data that the teeny bit of medication in the breastmilk negatively affects the baby. I fret about it anyway.


5) If I got pregnant, Paul might think I deliberately failed to take the Pill. He knows I want another baby, and he knows I know he's unlikely to go with that. I can tell him a million times that I would never trick him into having another baby, but I worry a part of him might not believe me.


6) I think that since he's the one who doesn't want another baby, he should be the one primarily responsible for the birth control, or at least for half of it.


7) Also, even though I do want another baby, I don't want another baby yet.


8) And was I just imagining that I was sweating more? Because gross.


9) Ever since my friend's OB recommended it to her, I've been taking a vitamin C tablet after sex to prevent UTIs--even though apparently my friend's OB is the only one who's ever heard of this. And, I read a long time ago that vitamin C can interfere with the effectiveness of the Pill. I don't even know if this is true, but I have carefully stored this possibly-false information all these years. All this is the long way to say that I've worried that I am taking vitamin C at exactly the wrong moment for the mini-Pill to do its job. [Edited: I've looked this up online, and now believe the whole "vitamin C makes the Pill less effective" thing was an untrue adolescent rumor, which I cleverly put into Permanent Memory Storage. I did find stuff that said you shouldn't take more than 100 mg vitamin C per day while on the Pill, and/or that you should take more, because the vitamin C increases estrogen and turns the Pill higher-dose, which can cause problems and/or help, depending on the situation. But I'm tired of researching now.]


All these things contributed to the decision, and I stopped taking it at the end of last week. But! If I go off it and my weight issues continue, I may go back on it. I had reasons 2-7 and 9 before I went on it, and I still went on it. It was the weight thing that...um. You know. Tipped the scale.

Speaking of which, in the 36 hours after my last pill dose wore off, I dropped 5 pounds. I was glad to see that, because I was getting pretty crabby when I would complain and people would say, "Oh, actually it's a myth that the mini-Pill causes weight gain." The auto-translator in my brain informs me that that means, "Nope, it's all you, Fattykins. Why not try laying off the brownies?"

So, now what? Now the birth control decision gets to be made all over again. This time the decision is condoms and spermicide, even though I hate both for many, many reasons. The good news: 12 condoms and 10 spermicide applicators together cost the same as a month of the mini-Pill, and I can assure anyone who could possibly want assurance about such a thing that we will be saving money, if you get my gist. Especially after a trip to the store with two 2-year-olds and a 3-month-old. That is enough birth control for two months right there.

September 12, 2007

Vacuuming

Damn it, if I keep doing this Pilates floor stuff, I'll have to vacuum, and am I not suffering enough already? I hate to vacuum--HATE IT--and I can't tell you the last time I did it. Actually, now that I think about it, I can tell you: I bought the vacuum cleaner in October 2005 before my mother-in-law came for a visit, and I used it once and then chucked it in a closet. I use a dustbuster for spot-vacuuming, and that's it.

Some of you are appalled, I can see it from here. You're picturing snowdrifts of pet hair and hillocks of Cheerios. But I swear it isn't like that. I read blogs by people who say they vacuum every day or every other day, and I wonder--are your vacuum cleaners possibly sneaking out at night to litter your floors with tidbits, just so they (the vacuum cleaners) won't be out of a job? or because they're lonely for your company?

Or, perhaps your eyesight is better than mine. I'm telling you, the floors look worse every day for a week, and then they don't get much worse than that. Periodically I go around with the dustbuster and vacuum the edges of the room where things accumulate, and the centers where the Cheerios are. That's good enough.

But today, with my sweaty palms on the carpet, I felt differently about the whole issue. I don't know why anyone buys lint rollers, when a sweaty palm will attract every cat hair and cracker crumb in the entire house. Seriously, vacuum cleaner salespeople could take me with them door to door and have me do Pilates/yoga on people's carpets to horrify them with how much stuff their current vacuums leave behind.

After I finished half an hour of the DVD (I didn't do the entire thing because I didn't want to, and because my hands were grossing me out), I crept downstairs to hunt the vacuum cleaner. It's been allowed to run wild in our house for two years now--could it still be domesticated? I brought it upstairs cautiously. Several minutes later, I located the cord, which was secreted in the creature's hide, and pulled it out. I plugged the cord in. I warned the twins, who were looking in astonishment at this foreign tableau: "Don't worry: this is a 'vacuum cleaner'! It's going to make a loud sound, but it's okay! It...'cleans the floors'!"

I figured out that the line inside a circle must mean on/off, but not until after mistakenly pressing the cord-retract button. I turned on the vacuum cleaner--and wooo, look at me, I'm vacuuming, just like a housewife! Wooo! Forward and back and forward and back and SMILE and forward and LOOK HAPPY and back!

And gradually I remembered all the reasons I hate to vacuum. I run out of cord, or I get tangled up in it, or the vacuum cleaner does. The floor is too covered in furniture to be vacuumed. There is too much crap scattered around, and periodically I hear a "clink clink!" that probably means I've vacuumed up something important. The handle is too short (no, I am not "too tall," it is too short), so I have to stoop, and my back starts hurting. The little attachments keep popping off the handle and keep popping off the handle and keep popping off the handle until I want to cry. The canister gets caught on something, and when I yank on it to free it, the cord comes out. And as soon as I start, the "change bag" light comes on--even if I have just changed the bag. Goddamned vacuum cleaner. Hate you.

Anyway. I did the living room carpet, and the living room hardwood. I did the kitchen linoleum and the little kitchen throw rug. I did the hall hardwood, but then I stopped because I ran out of cord, and when I went to plug it in somewhere else, I was overcome with despair at the thought of doing even one! more! minute! of vacuuming. Besides, I didn't want to go too far on what is after all only our second date.

Now I'm all skittish about the floors. After the twins' lunch, I was carrying Edward down the hall for his nap and I noticed he was shedding crumbs off his shirt and I was all, "Noooooooooooooooo!" and whipping out the dustbuster to get every last one off my clean, clean floor. I think this is the problem with regular housework: if you do it, you get into a constant struggle to keep it done. The best it can be is right after you do it, and every other minute of your life you're aware of it looking not-best. Whereas if you don't do it, it always looks pretty much the same and you're free to concentrate on other things, such as baking brownies or watching episodes of Angel.

Baby Names and Surprise Pregnancies

You guys. You are killing me recently with all the hot hot hot baby news 'n' names! We have to spread this out, okay? One at a time, or we'll use up all our fun stuff at once!

First Jen's baby needed a name, and now El-e-e is letting us help name her baby, too. Oh me, I do love baby name discussions. I'd like someone to use the name Oliver, please, and someone else should use Ruben. For girls, how about Millicent or Beatrix? Or, okay, fine, how about Annabel? Genevieve? Elodie? Imogen? Brindle? Clarissa? Meredith? Celeste? Penelope? Fiona? I have so many favorite girl names available! Please, take what you need--The Fates thought it would be amusing to give me four boys to name, and only one single solitary girl.

If all that baby-namin' weren't enough, there are two new surprise pregnancies in our midst: Giselle (who will have a 4.5-year-old and an 18-month-old when the new baby arrives), and Devan (who will have a 3-year-old and a 13-month-old when the new baby arrives). Congratulations, you two, and thank you, because there are few things I like better than surprise pregnancies--even my own, which, one year ago, was still several days from occurring and three weeks from discovery. The nice thing about other people's surprises is that I don't have to contribute to the barfing or the worrying, and I can fully concentrate on the screaming and the whooping and the "OMG YOU ARE KIDDING ME!!!"

September 10, 2007

Retraction

The Swistle Channel would like to issue a retraction of a statement issued earlier today that the 2ish-year (infant/toddler combo) spacing is the most difficult. The statement should have read that all spacings are equally impossible, and that the real question is why anyone would want to have children at all. Thank you.

We now return you to your regularly-scheduled procreation plans.

This Can't Be Done, This Can't Be Done, This Can't Be Done

Mayday, mayday! Send backup! This sucks!

All summer, I said I thought things might actually be harder when the boys went back to school, but I didn't mean it. I was saying it like I could say things might actually be worse once I lost weight (saggy skin, over-amorous husband, needing to come up with money for new clothes, etc.): sure, there'd be downsides, but obviously it would be better overall. But NO! It actually IS worse. WORSE! To have FEWER children!

The mornings last FOREVER. I feel like I'm running a daycare. Somebody's always crying or whining. Nobody can be left for TWO SECONDS without there being permanent marker on the furniture. I get to my absolute limit of the boredom-frustration cocktail--and I look at the clock, and it is 9:00 a.m.

AND, I am trying to keep up with the exercise thing, but I'm about to lose my mind trying to fit it in. And while I'm doing the workout DVD, the twins are yelling and Henry is blowing out of his diaper and the cat is meowing to go out and FOR THE LOVE OF PETE CAN'T I HAVE TWO SECONDS HERE TO DO SOMETHING I HATE??? Like that.

But I've been wondering: Why IS this so difficult? It was not this difficult when the twins were born, and Henry is a nice easy baby as babies go. I have given this a lot of thought in the long, long hours of the workday and worknight, and here is my conclusion: there is something magically difficult-licious about the combination of toddler and infant.

This would explain why I remember the days of Toddler Rob and Infant William as a time of chanting "This can't be done, this can't be done, this can't be done,"--but I don't feel that way about the days when I had double the number of children, two of whom were newborns. Because when the twins were born, I had a 6-year-old and a 4-year-old, not toddlers. They were old enough to understand and follow instructions. The 6-year-old could make cereal or sandwiches. They could both take showers. They could both get themselves dressed and undressed. Neither of them spent much time crying, or shouting things I couldn't interpret, or asking for what? what? oh my freaking stars above, WHAT DO YOU WANT???

I am re-thinking my views on baby spacing. I have been thinking all along that the "Toddler Rob and Infant William" time was difficult because it was hard to go from one child to two. I still do think that was a big part of it--but now I am thinking another big part was some sort of nasty chemical reaction caused by combining toddler and infant. In my experience, a close spacing pays off later--but it is not "later" yet, and the comparative joy of the wider spacing is still fresh in my mind.

September 8, 2007

I Love You All

It seemed like this was a particularly brilliant week for all your blogs. I kept reading things and thinking, "I have to SHOUT THIS FROM THE MOUNTAINTOPS!!"

Black Sheeped's post "Post in which I finally discuss my feelings on baby-making" reminds me so much of my own thoughts before I had children.

Bub and Pie's post "My Family Values" is probably one a lot of people are going to link to. The "my job"/"not my job" format appealed to me, and I felt like the post focused some of my unfocused thoughts about parenting.

Amazing Trips's post "Calgon, Take Them Away" made me literally laugh audibly (LLA), and captured some of the crazy I've been feeling around here lately.

Learning to Love Life in a Tiny Town's post "Funk" made me wonder if we're all in sync because of the moon or the season or a blogging virus or something.

Hello, Self's post "Kiddie Coaster" reminded me of the great fears of pregnancy, and the longing for a little window so I could peek in and see if things were okay.

Messing With Texas's post "You Are Smart; I am...Not Intelligent: Version 1 of...??" made me LAUGH, and also made me remember the one time I went on a plane trip with a child...*shudder*

MO Mommy's post "Unforgivable" brings up a very important design flaw. I mean, WTH?? They must be doing it on purpose, but why oh why? Is it that they HATE us?

Ms. Congeniality's post "This Too, Shall Pass" made me hope that 1985 will sit down and have a little talk with my children, too, when the time comes.

Purple is a Fruit's post "Damning Evidence" is like every time we go to the pediatrician. Elizabeth refused to WALK at her 2-year check. Edward started screaming when the nurse marked his height on the paper with her pencil, and he didn't stop until I was writing a check for the co-pay.

Under Construction's post "Blocks, compliments of our cherry tree" blew out entire circuit panels in my differently-craft-abled brain.


And I'll bet I thought your post was totally amazing, too, and the only reason I didn't include it is that it was after 1:00 in the morning and I didn't know what the hell I was still doing up. So go ahead and include a link in the comments section to the awesome post I didn't include because I was asleep.

September 7, 2007

Because I Keep Going Back to Check the Comments and Being Disappointed

I can't believe that with all the baby name fans around here, practically no one is leaping on the opportunity to tell Jen what to name her baby.

Swistle's Chocolate Mint Brownies


Here it is, finally! The cookie recipe I tried as brownies but said would need more tweaking before they'd be perfect. Now they're perfect. I used Andes Creme de Menthe baking chips instead of mint chocolate chips, since as we discovered, mint chocolate chips are only available seasonally. Even the Andes chips aren't available at my grocery store, but I can find them at Wal*hate*mart.

Swistle's Perfect Chocolate Mint Brownies
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 egg
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup flour
1 and 1/2 cups Andes Creme de Menthe baking chips

Cream butter and sugar. Add cocoa powder. Add egg, water, and vanilla. Add salt and flour. Add baking chips. Bake in a lightly buttered 8x8 pan, 325 degrees for 38-39 minutes. TRY to let them cool before eating them, because they really are much much yummier that way. You'd think they'd be better all warm and melty, but I have lots of experience in this area and I think you should trust me. Okay, fine, have one warm brownie. But then hands off until they're cool!

Do you know how many batches of brownies I made before settling on this recipe? Neither do I. But I tried it with baking soda and with baking powder, with no water and 1 tablespoon water and 2 tablespoons water, with 1/2 cup of butter and with 2/3 cup of butter, with the whole bag of Andes chips and with 1 and 1/4 cups and with 1 and 1/3 cups, with the pan greased and not greased.

All of them were good, so don't be nervous to try other variations. I like having a partial bag of the baking chips left over to nibble on, but it was also good when I dumped in the whole bag.

Now, COOKIES take quite awhile to make, with all the cycling of hot pans and forming of little lumps of dough. But BROWNIES, you can find time for more easily, which is why I modified this recipe just for you, kiss kiss! I timed it and these took me 15 minutes from "putting mixer on counter" until "putting pan in oven." And that included having to microwave the butter because I forgot to put some out to soften, and having to run downstairs to the storage shelves for a bag of flour.

September 6, 2007

Surprisingly Common Baby Names

I was lecturing my childless sister-in-law about baby names, explaining bossily which names she may and may not use for her hypothetical future children, and then anxiously explaining that I was kidding and actually thought that people should use the names THEY want and not let other people boss them around, and then going back and saying, "But seriously, don't use _____." I was hoping she would give up the goods on her favorites, but it did not work. She holds her cards close, my sister-in-law.

At one point during the discussion, she said, laughing, "Braden is a NAME?" Well. YES. And in fact, if you were to combine all the spellings (Braden, Brayden, Braeden, Bradon, Braydon, Braedon, Bradyn, Braiden, etc.), you'd see it was in fact a fairly common name, and getting more common all the time. But it was the first my sister-in-law had heard of it.

This reminded me of the times I've heard people say, "When we used the name we didn't know ANYONE with that name. But then suddenly EVERYONE was using it." I think the trouble is that most people don't pay much attention to baby names--and don't know many babies--until they start having babies themselves. Then during pregnancy they hear a name that sounds so fresh and new--oh, BRADEN! what a great name!--and it's just the cutting-edge sound they were looking for. And then it's a surprise to find so many Bradens out there already. Even if you DO know a lot of babies, you might not know the ones being named Braden.

The other problem is that as a culture we all tend to turn toward the same names at the same time. What sounds fresh and new to one person is likely to sound fresh and new to a whole lot of other people, too. When William was in preschool, there were two Emmas, two Abigails, and two Isabellas in his class. Also: two Williams.

I am very interested in baby names, and I'm a big fan of the Social Security baby name site (you can track the rising/falling popularity of a name for each year since 1992 [edit: thanks to Lucy who pointed out it goes back way farther than that now: back to 1880. Pardon me while I go play on the site all day]), so finding a second William in William's class was no shock to me. After all, the name hit the top ten the year William was born, and had been headed steadily in that direction for years. But the mother of the other William was upset, saying that when THEY used the name there were NO Williams but NOW there were Williams EVERYWHERE. The mother of one of the Isabellas told me the same thing about Isabellas.

Here is what I'm wondering: how many people does this happen to? Did it happen to any of you? Did you choose a name thinking it was highly unusual, and then find out it was common? There's nothing wrong with common names: I like them for many reasons, and in fact I deliberately choose them (I liked the name Henry back when I was pregnant with Rob, but wanted it to be more common before I used it). But I would think that if what you wanted was something unusual, it would be upsetting to find it wasn't.

And here's my second wondering: Has it happened to any of you more than once? Or was it "once bitten, twice visiting the Social Security name site"?

Good thing we like common names, or we'd have been a bit peeved about the "Henry" thing.

September 5, 2007

New Exercise Goal

Okay! *brisk clap* New exercise goal! The new plan is to continue to exercise three times a week for about half an hour--but to gather a selection of choices so I will be less bored/discouraged. I've got jogging/walking as one possibility (not "to 5K" anymore, but just jogging and walking for half an hour), and then I added a Tae Bo DVD, and this morning I tried a new DVD: Crunch Super SlimDown Pilates Yoga Blend With Ellen Barrett. Sounds like a cereal, doesn't it? Or a trail mix, maybe.

I'd never tried pilates, and in fact I was saying it "pie-LAY-tees," so saying "pih-LAH-tees" feels like saying vahz instead of vase. I'd tried yoga only once, and quit after about 5 minutes of irritating music and irritating spacey white chick who was clearly under the mistaken impression that getting in touch with her ancient spiritual side made her less of an irritating spacey white chick. Um, no offense, irritating spacey white chicks!

This DVD was way better. The instructor is nice, and she didn't irritate me, and her instructions were clear and had to do with the exercises rather than anything I was supposed to be doing with my mind or anything I was supposed to be "becoming one" with. You know how some instructors seem as if what they're saying and doing represents the entire contents of their brains? Ellen Barrett seems more like this is her job and even her life's work, but that she could probably participate in other activities or say other words.

The difficulty level was perfect: I couldn't do all of the exercises, but I felt reasonable hope that I'd be able to if I kept working on it--and I could do enough of them that I didn't feel like I'd wasted 30 minutes squinting at the screen trying to figure things out without getting any actual exercise.

I would like to point out that I am awesome for persevering with this, especially since my weight! it continues to climb! This is so wrong! I am clinging to what Black Sheep said in the comments section of the post on weight--that exercise is still good, and that it is still making my heart and lungs happy, even if it is making me spit death at the scale. Fie on you, scale! Pistols at dawn, you bastard!

September 4, 2007

Signing Time

Have you seen any of this Signing Time with Alex and Leah stuff? It is a huge gigantic hit at my house. I'd never heard of it, but when I went on a trip back in June, I needed something for Edward to watch on the hotel TV in the morning while I was getting ready, and I turned it to old reliable PBS, and this show was on--and pretty soon I wasn't getting ready anymore, I was watching the TV with Edward.

I don't know what it is about this show, but it's so mesmerizing, and its characters so likable, that our entire family is now learning sign language signs. Elizabeth has a speech/articulation delay, and the signs have saved us from several difficult situations already. She doesn't say the "ck" sound in words (she can say it separately), nor does she say the "r" sound correctly, so a word like crackers comes out more like "ah-ahs." She was working up to a blue fit over it until she learned to knock on her elbow while saying "ah-ahs": now we understand her immediately.

But that's not really the main reason we're learning it. The main reason we're learning it is that it's fun. Paul and I once tried to learn sign language (long ago, before we had kids), but we got so bored, and we didn't retain the signs very well. This show is different, and we find we remember most of what we learn. Well, especially because the kids want to watch the DVDs a billion times.

The show isn't on all the PBS channels yet, but the Signing Time site has a link you can click to see if it's in your area. You can also order the DVDs, either on the Signing Time site or on Amazon.com. BE AWARE: the first three DVDs have been re-released to match the later DVDs, so make sure you get the "revised edition."

My mom has a set of the flash cards and she says they're GREAT: glossy and wonderful and easy to use. Our library has three of the board books and they're great too: large for board books. I like the DVDs best, though, because I think the show is magic (um, not to oversell it or anything). The books and flash cards are good for reviewing what you've learned on the show.

Edited to add: the show/cards/books all use ASL (American Sign Language). Many "baby sign" programs use made-up signs and aren't intended for use after the child is talking competently; the Signing Time stuff teaches real ASL, the kind a deaf person would actually use. Children can talk baby talk in sign language just as they do in spoken language, but the show teaches the real signs and then shows a bunch of kids and adults doing the sign various ways, from a babyish version to a kid version to a grown-up/master version.

Also, the show teaches mostly individual words, not sentences.

September 2, 2007

Fake Smile Test

This is a fun test to take: http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/humanbody/mind/surveys/smiles/. It tests whether you can tell a fake smile from a real one. I got 14 out of 20 correct.