December 31, 2007

Calendar

One of my favorite tasks between Christmas and New Year's is choosing a calendar. I wait until they're 50% off, and then I choose whatever appeals most. This year it was Beatrix Potter. Last year, it was Patience Brewster. The year before that, Fun with Dick & Jane.

For this coming year, it's a mistake: I bought what I thought was a vintage ads calendar, but what I failed to notice is that the ads are actually inspirational messages. I don't like inspirational messages. Inspirational messages make me want to HIT the person who wrote them, then give him a screaming baby and a toilet brush and stand over him hitting him some more and demanding to know how he feels NOW about "cherishing every moment."

I would be interested to know how you choose your calendar each year, and what you've got lined up for 2008. I seem to be back in the market.

December 30, 2007

The Sixth Day of Christmas: 75% Off Target Day!

You guys = hilarious. I felt so much better reading all your funny remarks about my boyfriend.

For this year, we used our old, non-pre-lit fake tree, which fortunately I had not yet donated as I'd planned. The old tree is much smaller and didn't have room for all my ornaments. Also, it had to have lights put on it, which fortunately Paul handled, perhaps remembering last year's weeping and swearing.

For next year, I don't know. I suppose my heart will heal with time. Especially if I see a nice fake tree at 90% off, as I did last year. I wish I'd bought my tree THEN, since then I would have lost only $10 instead of $25. But there is no sense dwelling on the past.

Today my boyfriend brought over a big old heart-shaped box of 75% off. (Which one is better: the one I used, or "held over his head a stereo of 75% off"?) My mom and I went shopping at TWO Targets, and I couldn't help but be mollified. I bought:



Some pretty ornaments. The fluffy one clips to a branch.





A baby's-first-Christmas ornament for Henry. Could I photograph it without it reflecting my GREEN SHIRT and PINK HAND and GREY CAMERA and BLACK CAMERA STRAP? No. The ornament is actually plain silver, and the bow and shoes are light blue. The child is not mine; her photograph came with the ornament.





Pretty tissue paper, gift tags, and a bag.





A box of chocolate peppermint cookies. Oh dear, an entire stack of cookies is missing! I, um, should have checked more carefully before buying them!





Two rolls of wrapping paper. Usually I wait for 90% on wrapping paper (because there's usually plenty left, and because I already have too much), but I was feeling feisty.





Some cloth ribbon, in case I want to try the idea I saw EVERYWHERE this year about wrapping presents in reusable pieces of fabric. (My friend Mairzy thinks the idea was in Family Fun magazine.)


I also bought some paper plates with Christmas birds on them, but I forgot to take a photo of them before storing them in the little cabinet over the refrigerator, which is so difficult to get to it might as well not even count as a cabinet. And I bought some tape, but I thought you could take a pass on seeing that.

Different Target stores do their markdowns on different days, so yours might still be at 50%. I'm planning to keep checking for 90%, which is the best serenading-outside-my-window of all.

December 29, 2007

My Boyfriend Target and I Had a Fight

Considering how often I speak of my love for Target (to the point of saying "Oh my Target" when I want to avoid taking names in vain), and considering how often I speak of their clearances and urge you to partake of them also, and considering I thought I might name one of my children "Target" in Target's honor, and considering the way I call their competitor Suckmart/Hellmart/Lamemart and am willing to pay more money to shop at Target because I hate the alternative so much, and considering how often I have talked about going there for the therapy and the soothing Target-scented air---considering all these things I say that may have given you the idea that Target is perfect in every way, I think it is only fair that I should tell you about a bad experience I just had with them. Plus, I'm crabby about it and want to vent. And it's the weekend, so there's nothing else for you to read anyway.

I bought a Target brand Christmas tree last year, on clearance. I set it up this year and it gave me two vibrating electric shocks (the vibrating kind are the dangerous kind) that left me patting my hair to see if it had Einsteined. I took it the hell down (the tree, not my hair, which absorbed the shock in the same way it absorbs all light and color, pulling them down deep below the surface where they will never be seen again), and I contacted Target (remember Target? that was what I meant to talk about, not my hair), saying that I wanted to find out what my refund/replacement options were.

At first I thought Target was being their usual wonderful self, because I had an email back from them within a few hours (and this was on the weekend), begging me for more information and asking me to get back to them as soon as I could so they could help me. I had the box and everything, so I could give them every scrap of information they asked for. UPC? DCPI? Dimensions? Got it! (It's a Target brand 7.5-foot clear-lighted pre-lit Slim Cashmere Pine, in case you were wondering.)

It appears they were only worried about lawsuits. When they found out we had sustained no injuries, they thanked me for my helpful information and dropped out of touch---no answer to my question about a refund/replacement. If they had said, "Sorry, no," I would have been disappointed but at least I could have moved on and bought a new tree. Instead, I was stuck waiting, not wanting to buy anything if I was going to have a replacement soon.

I got back in touch several times, asking. I got either no response or a "thank you for contacting us, now what was the situation again?"-type response.

Finally, after Christmas, I expressed my disappointment with the way they were handling things. I suggested that perhaps I should have specified that we wanted to find out about a replacement tree BEFORE CHRISTMAS.

I got an email back thanking me for my "feedback" (my theory: customer service has macros that automatically turn words such as "bitch fest" into words such as "feedback") and saying there was nothing they could do for me, and that perhaps I would like to contact the manufacturer. Who is in Hong Kong. And has a non-loading web site. Oh, yes, I am QUITE SURE I will be getting a replacement tree mailed to me from Hong Kong any day now!

So now I have to take my brand-new tree to the dump, labeled DANGEROUS just in case anyone sees it and thinks, "Hey, Christmas tree! Score!" And Target gets to keep my money. And the manufacturer is safe in Hong Kong, where I cannot reach them to poke them with the pointy, shocky end of the tree as I would so enjoy doing.

Now I am in the market for a Christmas tree. I wonder how this experience will influence my purchasing decision? Target saved themselves $25, but bought themselves a heaping helping of bad feeling. And from their BEST GIRLFRIEND, too.

December 28, 2007

The Fourth Day of Christmas

So I was all, "Wah wah, Christmas is over and I am glum," and Emblita brought it to my attention that there is such a thing as THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS. And I totally think we should jump on that, don't you?

I think that is practically the WHOLE reason we feel glum after Christmas: ALL that build-up, and then over in a flash. Twelve days---now that's more like it.

So let's see, today is The Fourth Day of Christmas, is that right, Emblita? And a little visit to Wikipedia does not reveal any particular traditions for each day, other than the exchanging of calling birds, French hens, etc., which I am fresh out of. (Rob, this morning: "Is a partridge a BIRD or a FRUIT?")

This means we're on our own. I'm open to anything, as long as we can have at least one "75% Off Target's Christmas Stuff" Day.

December 27, 2007

Christmas Postpartum

Oh, you must go see Caley's darling new Christmas Eve baby! And get this: she named him OLIVER! (If you go to the comment section of the Namer's Remorse post, you can actually SEE her choosing it.) Oliver is my favorite boy name, and it has been my goal to talk someone into using it. Hmm.....should I choose a new name now, or just a new pregnant woman?

I'm sitting here in a daze, drinking coffee in an attempt to animate my pajama'd limbs. There's a baby tiring of floor time. There are two toddlers who are going to leak through their nighttime diapers soon if I don't do something about it. There's a third-grader who will sleep late and then not be able to get to sleep tonight. There's a first-grader who wants me to tell him what he should make out of Model Magic.

But Paul is at work and it's the postpartum stage of Christmas. The "unpacking after the trip" stage of Christmas. The "morning after" of Christmas.

The presents are opened and must somehow be incorporated into the household. The glitter is back to looking tacky. The wrapping supplies must be packed up and put away. The house will look bare and plain, and the whole long winter stretches ahead.

I got a running start on this stage by feeling even as Christmas approached that the whole celebration was a little nuts. We hang little sparkly doodads on a TREE we bring into our HOUSE? We all go out and buy things for each other and hide them in decorated paper? The whole holiday is basically about swapping things? I felt like an anthropologist trying to puzzle out the strange ways of an ancient culture.

And indeed, that's what most of our Christmas traditions are: the strange ways of an ancient culture. "Christmas" is just the most recent name for a longstanding idea that winter could use a little glitter and booze to give it some life and hope. The current name was chosen by Christians who couldn't participate in the established pagan winter holiday but didn't want to give up the fun, either. Rename it! Give it religious significance! Then you can celebrate it! It was a clever workaround and the name was catchier than Pagan Winter Holiday, and it stuck.

Well, whatevs. We are not a religious history blog, nor are we truly anthropologists. Nor are we entirely sure when the word "anthropologist" can stand alone and when it needs an adjective such as "cultural" or "nutritional" in front of it. All we know (and can we drop the plural pronoun now? thanks) is that after Christmas is over, it seems like we still need glitter and booze.

The happy anticipation? Gone. The excuse to bake and eat? Gone. The pretty paper, the pretty ornaments, the pretty Christmas lights? Gone. The excuse to spend a little more? GONE GONE GONE. Now is the season for bills and for clean-up, and for commitments to diets that are going to be FOR REALS this time. It's no wonder we feel accompanying seasonal emotions.

December 26, 2007

PRESENTS!

Lookee my presents!



The picture I wanted so badly from Black Sheeped's Etsy shop. The light caught the protective plastic funny so the mat looks faded/splotchy but it isn't. (Kara Marie, it is EVEN MORE WONDERFUL in person. I'm so relieved Paul was the one who bought it! Whew!)





This cute 3-pack of L'Artisan perfumes. MMMmmmmm, FRENCH!





Pretty pretty earrings I started hinting about after seeing them over at Shannon's blog.





Books books books, because I love books and our local library is small.





This awesome "secret hiding place" book Paul made. He'd filled it with those round, gold-wrapped Ferrero Rocher chocolates, but, um, I eated dem.


Whadja get?

December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas


It's so good to know I'm not the only one up this early, and that grown-ups everywhere are dragging themselves out of bed and pulling themselves along the floor soldier-style, trying to make it all the way to the coffee pot. And it's also good to know that, statistically speaking, it's unlikely I'm the only one who did ALL the shopping for ALL the children, mother-in-laws, father-in-laws, sibling-in-laws, teachers, mail carrier, bus driver, etc., and ALL the wrapping of those presents, and ALL the sorting and carrying and distributing, only to hear her husband ask 10 minutes before celebration time if he can help. Um, YES, you can go BACK IN TIME and participate when I ASKED you to, or at least JOIN IN THE CONVERSATIONS about what to get people, instead of SIGHING like I was asking you to LEVEL THE LEANING TOWER OF PISA.

*Ahem* I mean, MERRY CHRISTMAS!

December 23, 2007

Christmas Schedule

El-e-e was asking about how people schedule Christmas, and Pann was writing about how when you have holidays at your own home for the first time it can be tricky to know what to do. So I'll tell you how we do it in the Swistle Family, which includes Swistle, Paul, and kids; Swistle's Mom and Swistle's Dad; and Swistle's Brother and Swistle's Sister-in-Law.

We start "after naptime." The quotes are because this holds true even if no one in the family is young enough to nap. We start at 2:30 or 3:00, after everyone is showered and coffeed and dressed and breakfasted and lunched and napped, and no one has to come to the celebration feeling gritty and tangled and exhausted while it's still dark outside. Perhaps most importantly of all, we can go ahead and eat candy without worrying about breakfast.

First, everyone opens stockings, all at the same time. There is exclaiming and snacking and chatting and calling out, "Where did you GET this?" (one year my brother gave me a bar of Total Bitch soap---best stocking stuffer EVER).

When the chatting and snacking die down, we do the Child Gift Exchange: children take turns opening their presents and handing out the presents they have chosen for adults. There is much exclaiming and chatting and removing packaging and inserting batteries and reminding to say thank you, and the adults can continue to snack out of their stockings.

At this point it is time for a break: the kids are wound up, and the adults are worn out from the children's excitement and from too many bites of chocolate Santa. It's around 5:00, so it's time for a light dinner. At our house we have Swistle's Soup with garlic bread. (This soup is actually BETTER as leftovers, so it's good for making ahead of time and not having to cook on Christmas.)

After dinner, the children change into pajamas and we go out on a Christmas Light Drive: just weaving around the neighborhood saying, "Ooooo, I like those!" and "Yick!" to our hearts' content. We listen to Christmas music in the car.

Back home, it's 7:00 and the children go to bed. Littler children go to sleep. Older children may stay up and read new books, but they have to stay in bed.

Because now it is time for the grown-ups to relax. The wine is brought out. Everyone changes into pjs or into comfier clothes. There are no children running wild. The snacking from stockings continues, and the gift-opening begins. We go around the circle, taking turns. Lots of chatting and exclaiming.

After gifts, the adults have a late dinner of worstebroodjes, which are basically pigs-in-blankets but oh so much more delicious. Also, a red jello salad and a green jello salad.

It is so pleasant. We can genuinely enjoy the children's gifts, and give the children a lot of attention. We can genuinely enjoy our own gifts, too, and not have to try to squeeze them in between the children's hyper enjoyment of theirs. We can talk without shouting.

Here is the part we don't know yet, because the oldest child in the family is only a third-grader: at what point does a child cross over into the adult group? We're playing it by ear, but we're thinking Rob is close to being ready. I think the most important part is that the child has to be old enough not to dominate the evening, and to get pleasure from watching people other than himself open gifts.

December 21, 2007

Teacher Gifts

I have been way over-stressed about teacher gifts this year. From the way I have been fretting and storming (did you see my rantlet in the comment section of a Maybe Painted Pink post? oh good, don't go look), you would think I was under the impression that the gift I give teachers is what will MAKE OR BREAK their Christmas. "This gift from Rob's mom is CRAP," the teacher would say. "Christmas is RUINED." She'd go home weeping, shaking her fist at the sky. She'd snap at her children, sulk on the couch all through Christmas morning, and cry in the bathroom during Christmas dinner. She would go back to school in January, but the light would be out of her eyes and she would be considering going back for a degree in architecture instead. And who would be to blame? SWISTLE.

It is my own fault I feel this way. After years of having a wonderful time choosing gifts for teachers, I thought I'd go online to find some fresh ideas. And what I found out is that all the gifts I was giving were considered total crap.

I was pleased to find I was not bottom of the barrel. I give good-brand candles, good-brand soaps, good-brand chocolates--better and much more expensive than what I buy for myself. As one of my teacher friends cheerfully put it when I turned to her hoping she'd say the reports online were by an unrepresentative sample of rogue teachers (she did not), I'm at "the good end of the Bad Gift Spectrum." Oh good.

December 20, 2007

High School Poetry; Baby Names I Liked in 1995

You are asking to see one of my high school poems, but do you really understand what you're asking? HIGH SCHOOL POETRY. Did you not read Mary's comment about how awful high school poetry is? "Emotion, writ large (and poorly)," she says, and OH HOW RIGHT SHE IS. My primary emotion in high school was imagining myself in deep, conflicted, star-crossed love with boys I stared at in study hall and never talked to.

Plus, to select a poem to post, I would have to go through that folder (I'm sorry to say that "& Such" means "& Stream-of-Consciousness Essays"), and probably read more than one poem during the selection process. I did TRY, okay? I went through it a little, looking for a poem that would be humorously humiliating without being genuinely embarrassing. But GEEZ, Former Self! What the CRAP?

There was a poem written so that the first letter of each line spelled out the name of one of the cute boys I liked to stare at; there are two stanzas, one for his first name and one for his last name. Another poem claims that love and sadness are very different emotions, then ends "...or are they?"---ellipses, italics, and all.

There is what I believe is intended to be some sort of ballad, describing the love between a young girl and a soldier who, in a stunning surprise twist, dies in the war. There is a reference to "the neverending ballet with the stars," and a little notation that perhaps "with" should be "of." (I don't think the trouble here was prepositional.) Later on, I wonder in a margin if "like a cloud in the sky" would be better as "like a shadow in the night." (Answer: no.)

I speak hand-claspingly of "love on a summer's day," not that I had any idea what that would be like. I explain in one poem that "when our eyes / meet / it is magic." (Free tip for high school poets: It is not REAL POETRY if the line breaks make sense.) I point out earnestly that activities such as "dancing with children" and "picking flowers" and "looking at the stars" should be pursued, whereas MONEY on the other hand is unimportant. (Number of times I danced with children in high school: zero. Number of times I earned money babysitting them: seven bersnillion.)

There is the confession that I have "a heart that beats." Good thing I saved these poems, so I'd remember what I was like! I had a beating heart, I'd almost forgotten! Also, evidently I thought that a woman in love (such as myself) would run to her boyfriend (such as the boy I stared at in English class) "like a zephyr." Hi, English vocab list! Did I realize that zephyrs do not typically trip over their own pant legs?

I invited one lucky young man to "come fly with me." I'm not sure what I had in mind, but I can tell you it was NOT what the young man would have thought I meant. (I believe I may have been thinking of the scene where Lois Lane flies with Superman.) There are references to "broken dreams" and "forgetting to dream." There are "tears running down the windowpane," and, oddly, "a palavar of sorrow." A...what?

Some of them are written in PINK INK. I mean---GAH!

Let's talk instead about the baby names in that post, and what I think of them a dozen years later. To review: the girl names were Fenchurch, Sophie, Molly, Quinn, Madeleine, Philippa, Ivy, Jill, Grey, Noel, Maizie, and Leaf; and the boy names were Jack, Joe, Sam, Luke, Milo/Miles, Leo, and Ross.

I don't actively dislike any of the names. I still like Ivy and Jill and Madeleine for girls. I still like Milo/Miles, Leo, and Joe for boys, and in fact all three of them were strong contenders when I was pregnant with Henry.

I still like most of the other names, too, but now some of them are starting to sound out of date. Jack and Sam, which seemed so fresh 'n' sassy in 1995, are more usual now. And I wouldn't use Grey or Leaf or Fenchurch, because that didn't turn out to be our naming style. Maizie now makes me think of Maisy the mouse. (Also: grain.) I still like Sophie, but now would probably go for Sofia instead. Philippa is too hard to spell--I can't remember if it's two Ls and one P or one L and two Ps or...? It's like Eliot/Elliot/Elliott/Eliott.

December 19, 2007

Christmas Card Scoring / Rating System

  • Card received: +5
  • Card received before December 1st: -1
  • Card received after December 25th: -1
  • Card is pretty, and looks nice on wall: +3
  • Card is glittery: +1
  • Card does not contain card, but only letter, so there is nothing to put up on wall: -3
  • Card is e-card: -5

  • Card includes photo or is photo card: +5
  • More than one photo: +2 each additional photo
  • Photo is non-Christmassy so will look good on fridge all year: +1
  • Photo is Christmassy so increases holiday feeling of card: +1
  • Red-eye causes family to appear possessed by evil Christmas spirit: -1
  • Photo was taken on beach this past summer in summer clothing, so family looks chilly against winter pattern of card: -1
  • Photo includes dogs with glowing eyes who seem poised to eat humans: -1

  • Card includes letter: +5
  • Letter is informative and interesting: +3
  • Letter describes child as "amazing" or "already an avid reader at age 3!": -3 each
  • Letter is so braggy and saccharine-cheery, I wonder why I associate with these people: -3
  • Letter is so very braggy and saccharine-cheery, it crosses over into comical and becomes fun to read aloud in an unkind tone of voice: +2
  • Letter is a sermon disguised as a Christmas letter, and contains pious hopes for our country, for mankind, and for me personally: -5
  • Letter mentions details of gross surgery: -1 or +1, depending on entertainment value
  • Letter contains thinly-veiled family gossip: +3
  • Letter contains information that should have been told earlier: -2

  • Card includes check: +5
  • Large check: +10
  • Card includes announcement of pregnancy: +10
  • Card from Christmas Card Friends contains surprising news of baby born since last card sent: +10

December 17, 2007

In Which I Prove That I am Good at Math, and Also That I Save EVERYTHING

I was going through a box in the basement, looking for my childhood address book. I found it in a box that also contained this:


That is a MATH MEDAL, baby. So if anyone wants to talk about whether pregnancy is 9 months or 10 months, or how to figure out how many months pregnant you are when you're 28 weeks along, or what the difference is between a child who is "4 months old" and a child "in his 4th month," you just come talk to me. Me + math = medal.

Also in that box I found a baby name list from 1995. I was 21 years old.

Girl names:
  • Fenchurch (it's from the fourth book in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy trilogy)
  • Sophie
  • Molly
  • Quinn
  • Madeleine
  • Philippa
  • Ivy
  • Jill
  • Grey
  • Noel
  • Maizie
  • Leaf

Boy names:
  • Jack
  • Joe
  • Sam
  • Luke
  • Milo/Miles
  • Leo
  • Ross



I also found this:


Poems. From when I was in high school. I think we'd better just back away slowly, don't you?

December 16, 2007

Contradictions

Don't keep asking me what the baby needs. You're his father, you can go through the checklist as easily as I can. Food? Diaper? Sleep? Attention? New chew toy? Figure it out, genius.

Ask me what the baby needs when you don't know. I'm with him around the clock, and there's no shame in asking the expert. You're acting as if you think listening to a woman would sap your manhood. Ask for some help, genius.

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Buy me something special and romantic from time to time. Come home with flowers. Tell me you couldn't resist buying me those earrings. Bring me a bakery cake just as a treat out of the blue.

Oh my god, we are hemorrhaging money! You can't just go spending willy-nilly on non-essentials or we won't make the mortgage! I know you think this is romantic, but it won't feel romantic when I'm balancing the checkbook later!

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Don't tell me every time you change a diaper. What are you expecting, fireworks? I don't tell you every time I change a diaper.

Tell me when you change a diaper. How can we work as a team when we're not both up to date on what's been done and what hasn't? I feel like an idiot when I go to do a routine diaper change and find a totally dry, fresh diaper.

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Listen, I am not the only one with the magical powers required to pick up a gallon of milk. Could YOU be the one to go out for toilet paper occasionally?

I can't believe you're leaving me home with the children again. Don't I get enough of this during the week?

December 14, 2007

Gifts For Nice People, Too; Saving Electricity; Behind the Vent; Hired Plow

Oh, dear, yesterday's post was confusing, wasn't it? First I say these are gifts I give to pineholes, and then I make a list of gifts you want. What are you to think?

Well, they ARE good gifts! I give these things to people I like, too. But in the case of pineholes, the gifts are good only to reflect well on me. I don't care if he likes them or not, and THAT'S what makes them "gifts for pineholes." Does he like to do puzzles? Does he need/want a fluffy throw? Who knows, who cares? It's a Good Gift, and I am giving it to him to fill in the Gift Slot, but with the care/love ABSENT.

I've been renewing my efforts to turn off lights that don't need to be on. (Oh, hi! Subject change!) It does not come naturally. I was feeling all proud of myself as I turned off three lights on my way to the kitchen for another cookie. Then I saw the fridge was partly open. Way to save the environment through care and attention, dimwit.

This morning I caught Edward putting the letter K from our alphabet puzzle into the return-air vent. I rescued it and asked him if he'd put anything else down there. He said "Yeh." I said, "What?" and he said "J." I wasn't sure he knew what he was talking about, but I thought it was worth getting the screwdriver out and seeing what was what. Behind the vent I found SEVENTEEN letters from the alphabet puzzle, a plastic lid, and a lens from our google-eye glasses.

The hired plow that plowed the driveway of our across-the-street neighbors plowed the snow into OUR front yard. That's...not right, right? I don't even actually deep-down mind it (it makes a good natural fence between the front yard and the road, and also it's just SNOW), but I mind IN PRINCIPLE. Paul saw the guy plowing snow into our yard, so he went outside and did a few minutes' shoveling in our driveway, just to communicate, "Hey, we're here and we see you." While Paul was out there, the guy didn't put any snow in our yard. Then Paul went inside and the guy immediately plowed a big load of snow into our yard (leaving big humps of snow in the road, too) and drove off. NICE.

December 13, 2007

Christmas Gifts for Assholes

It doesn't have to be Christmas, but that's the holiday I happen to be shopping for.

Every year I struggle with this problem. I need to find a gift for my father-in-law, and I need it to communicate "You are a neglectful father/grandfather and you are also an ungrateful, unpleasant, self-absorbed pinehole---but your bad behavior doesn't negate my thoughtful gesture, and I'm going to BE thoughtful in This Season Of Giving whether you like it or not, dammit." It's complicated.

It should also be a NICE present. It's tempting to send him fake vomit or an aluminum bedpan or a 20-pound package of gummi frogs---but a bad gift reflects badly on the giver not the givee (or "recipient," WHATEVER), and I don't want to be put in a bad light when I'm being so sweet and generous.

Here are some ideas we've used in the past, in case you have a similar person to buy for this year:

1. Subscription to Consumer Reports magazine. It's a smart, useful magazine, and it costs $26 for the first subscription (12 issues) and $18 for each additional subscription, which is handy if you have more than one pinehole on your list. We also like to give The Skeptical Inquirer, which is $20/year (6 issues--which is good because each one takes about 2 months to get through).

2. Potentially interesting books that flatter his intelligence: Harmonograph or any from that series; or once we got him a book about the history/use of the abacus, and it came with a small abacus

3. Puzzle books that flatter his intelligence and give him something to do with all his empty hours now that he's turned his back on his family: The Puzzlemaster Presents is a good one (we got him volume 1 last year, and volume 2 this year), and I myself would like a copy of this Sudoku book that's spiral-bound so you don't have to curl the pages and break the binding

4. Tavern puzzles, which are challenging and also very cool-looking; I've ordered several times from BrainPuzzles.com for Paul, too, and can recommend both the site and the puzzles

5. Books that indulge his navel-gazing tendencies, such as The Book of Myself: An Autobiography in 201 Questions or List Your Self: Listmaking as the Way to Self-Discovery, which are pretty fun books (I got a second copy of each for myself. WHAT? I have a CUTE NAVEL.)

6. A nice fleecy throw blanket---this year I got him this Pinzon one, because it's the Gold Box item today and was only $10 (down from an alleged $40). Bonus: a throw takes up a lot of space and so makes a bigger-and-better-looking gift than, say, two books.

December 12, 2007

Tree Topper

I am wondering: What is on the top of your tree? Is it the same as what was on the top of your family's tree when you were a child? If you are partnered, is it the same as what was on the top of your partner's family's tree when your partner was a child? (You know what the English language needs? A gender-neutral singular pronoun appropriate to use for people. "It" is insufficient for our needs.)

When I was a child, my family topped the tree with a big huge fabric bow. When I was living on my own, I tried the big bow for a few years but it didn't suit. Then we bought a little fairy at a craft fair and tried her for a few years, but she was too small for the job. This year I am trying this:


Why, yes it IS a giant green glittery butterfly, more seasonally-appropriate for SUMMER. I'm OPEN-MINDED about tree-toppers, okay? Also, Christmas trees sure look sad and clashy and wirey if you (1) use the flash (2) in daytime.

I don't even know what Paul's family used as a tree-topper. Is that....wrong? (Edit: I emailed him at work to ask him, and he doesn't know either, so I consider myself fully exonerated. Assuming I know what "exonerated" means. Like, totally cleared of all blame, is what I'm hoping it means.)

December 11, 2007

Steal, Lose, Deal

If your toddler son were given a free See's chocolate lollipop and you were not given one, and if he slobbered it for awhile but then got distracted and forgot about it, you'd give it a quick rinse and finish it yourself, right? No brainer, right?

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I'll say this: Any political candidate whose support-raising phone call wakes up a napping child AUTOMATICALLY LOSES MY VOTE.

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I have to stop browsing Amazon's toy sales, because they are DRIVING ME WILD. I bought a 2-pack of Melissa & Doug dress-up puzzles for $5.99! A Fisher-Price Alphabus for $6.90! This cute little Leapfrog stacker for $2.99! A My Little Pony 3-pack (shout-out to 1983!) for $4.50! A whole bunch of assorted Cube World things that Rob and William want but that I'd thought were not something we could afford! The Leapfrog lowercase letters pack for our fridge phonics! Leapfrog caterpillar for $5.99! I am in 7th Shopping Heaven! Must! Stop!

Swistle Reader Mall

A few days ago I asked if you made and sold stuff the rest of us could buy. I'm putting the list below, and I have been SO SCATTERBRAINED recently that if you think to yourself, "Um, does she know she spelled my name wrong / put me down as the wrong business / omitted me / forgot my url / called my shop the wrong name?," the answer is NO and you should email me (swistle at gmail dot com) and I will fix it. I didn't mean to leave out anyone who emailed me or left a comment, so if I DID leave you out, it was an oversight, not a deliberate exclusion.

And if you too are scatterbrained these days and you think to yourself, "Oh, shoot, I forgot to send in my shop info / say that I wanted a link to my blog / mention a discount," I can change that too. Here's the list:


Handmade Things:

Black Sheeped (Kara Marie) of Baa Baa Black Sheep has an Etsy shop KaraRee

Melissa H. of Under Construction has an Etsy shop Haworth Handmade

Lauren's friend Nora has a shop Snuggle Bug Blankets and Gifts

Wendi has a shop Contemporary Candles

Sarah has an Etsy shop In the Heartland, From My Heart

Anita's friend has an Etsy shop Junk Posse

Nikki of My Husband Calls Me Weird has a shop Delvii Creations (mention Swistle and she'll take $5 off your order)


Hard to Catagorize:

Trena of You, Me and a Baby does blog design at Trena B. Designs (mention the name Swistle to her and she'll give you 10% off)

Be Inspired Always has self-published a book: JillianCurtis.com

Samantha Jo Campen founded a pet shelter that has a shop


Direct Marketing:

My friend Lee sells Avon

Mommy Daisy sells Pampered Chef (if you find something you want on the site, email her to order: mommydaisy at gmail dot com)

Jen sells Tupperware

Jennifer of Bebe Nino sells Creative Memories

Linda sells Usborne books

December 10, 2007

Christmas Spirit, Currently in Flux

I am having a little trouble getting the CHRISTMAS SPIRIT going around here.

I finally set up the tree, a beautiful pre-lit fake I bought last year at 75% off. It took me ages to fluff up all the branches and put all the ornaments on. Then the tree gave me two nasty electric shocks--not the snapping kind you get from scuffing your feet on the carpet, but the vibrating kind that leave you doing a mental check to make sure all systems are still go.

So the project that had been oppressing me since Thanksgiving, the one that took several hours of work BUT AT LEAST IT WAS DONE---had to be all undone again, and there was our living room looking all naked and grim the way it shouldn't look until after New Year's. Paul was scrambling around cooking me dinner and offering to do the dishes, so I know I must have been thunderclouding it there for awhile. If I remember correctly, I suggested canceling Christmas.

Now we have our old, puny, non-pre-lit fake tree up, which Paul put up while I was out shopping, and also he put up the lights. This made me feel as if we could go ahead and have Christmas after all. Still, I'm sad about the gorgeous tree.

This is the tree that tried to take me down. Pretty, though.

Also, we have received one (1) Christmas card so far. I like to put all the cards up around a doorway, and that doorway is looking PRETTY PITIFUL with one little card stuck to it. It is TWO WEEKS UNTIL CHRISTMAS EVE, people! Get with the cards! ...Oh, what about MY cards? Still not out. Waiting for photos. *cough*

December 7, 2007

Quick! To the Shoes!

Heads (feet) up! I just posted over at SundryBuzz about a great deal on shoes. Two examples:


Sundry has a big readership, so I'd move fast if I were you.

December 6, 2007

Window Shopping in the Comments Section

I've already placed three Avon orders with my friend Lee, partly because it is fun (I love having new stuff to try) and partly because it makes me feel good that some of my money is going to someone I love and know and want to support.

That got me thinking: maybe it would be fun for US to buy from OTHERS OF US, if you see what I mean. And if it's not fun for YOU, it will at least be fun for ME.

If you make stuff and sell it, or if you have a friend or family member who makes stuff and sells it, email me: swistle at gmail dot com. We're getting pretty close to Christmas here, but I think there's still time for this if we move fast. I'm planning to use roughly this format:
See? Like that. So if you want to submit a shop, let me know your name/nickname (ideally the name you use to comment, so people will recognize you), the name/url of your usual blog if you have one, and the name/url of your shop. If it's, like, your mom's shop or your best friend's shop, tell me that too so I can put that in. (It doesn't have to be Etsy; it just happened that my only two examples were both Etsy.)

I'm going to talk to Kara about maybe posting the resulting list of shops on Maybe Painted Pink, too, so let me know if that's not okay for your shop.

I'm afraid I already bought Melissa H.'s last set of wooden buttons, and also one of only two clothespin-doll-making multi-pack kits. I was pretty sure they'd go fast, so I got to them first. SO SELFISH. Now I am nagging her to post some of her cute baby bibs--maybe sweet coordinated assortment sets of three? Hmm.

I also asked for Kara's "Rain Study" for Christmas, and it sold shortly after I mentioned it not very casually to Paul (I believe I was clutching his upper arms as I spoke), so I'm hoping it's MINE MINE ALL MINE.

December 5, 2007

Results: Christmas Card Photo Vote

I'm having my second cup of coffee (heavily sweetened/lightened with chocolate creamer---MMMMmmmmmm) and going through all the comments on yesterday's Christmas card photo vote. It is so, so fun to get all this input. I am getting hooked, and soon I will need you all to accompany me on Target trips, where I will put to the vote such issues as "Do you think I would ever use these cute canape plates? They're 75% off!" and "Do you think Edward has enough brown-based shirts, or should I get him one more? It's 75% off!" And you, if you have learned your lines, will say, "75% off? That's basically FREE! How can you go wrong?"

You have CHANGED MY MIND on the photos. When I put them up for the vote, I had already mostly decided to use Option Five. I had some reservations, but basically that was the decision. Now I am going with Option One. Here are the things that swayed me most:
  • the negative reactions to the bed--even though lots of people also said pshaw to that concern
  • the comments about how Elizabeth looked sad, and especially the ones about how she looked excluded from all the loving cuddling--even though people also said she looked funny and cute and only-girl-ish
  • the comments about how everyone seemed so HAPPY in Option One (happy is one of my primary choosing factors)
  • the thing about everyone in Option Five being in socks except for Edward, which I hadn't noticed
I was briefly intrigued by the suggestions that I could (1) photoshop out the bed, (2) see if black-and-white lessened the obviousness of the bed, or (3) do a collage of good pictures of each child individually, but I got (4) overwhelmed by the idea of doing anything except sending away for prints--and maybe buying a decent couch before next year's photo (our current couch is a burgundy/camel/blue plaid with a big rip in it).

So not only are you influencing my Christmas cards this year, you're also influencing my furniture decisions. (Also, I DID get the canape plates. AND the shirt. Okay, two shirts.)

If you HAVEN'T voted yet, it's not too late: I may still be swayable.

December 4, 2007

VOTE! Christmas Card Photo

You have seen the bad, now it is time to vote on five that didn't come out so bad. I've invested as much tooth enamel as I'm willing to, so there won't be any more sessions and these are the final five options:


Option One
(l to r: William, Elizabeth, Henry, Rob, Edward)
The good:
  • Great of William, great of Rob.
  • Fine of Elizabeth and Edward.
  • Acceptable of Henry.
  • The older four all look happy.
The bad:
  • Only one child is looking at the camera.
  • It's hard to see in a smallish photo, but Elizabeth looks strained because she's laughing with her teeth clenched.
  • Also, Elizabeth is holding a marker.
  • It's acceptable of Henry, but it would be nice for it to be GREAT of Henry, since this is his first Christmas card photo.
  • Edward has his hand in his mouth, and he's squinting.
  • I didn't dress them specially for the picture, so they're just in whatever they happened to be wearing.



Option Two
(l to r: Edward, Rob, Henry, William, Elizabeth)
The good:
  • I like the arrangement and think it's interesting to look at.
  • It's fine of Edward, Rob, and Elizabeth.
  • It's cute of Henry.
  • Everyone's looking at the camera.
  • They're wearing clothes I deliberately selected.
The bad:
  • The clothes I deliberately selected don't work. The red shirts blend into the chair. The orange shirts match in a jarring way: "Why do these two children match?" The brown dress is a different shade of brown than the brown in the shirts.
  • It's bad of William.
  • Edward's hand is in his mouth and he's pointing.




Option Three
(l to r: Edward, Elizabeth, Rob, William, Henry)
The good:
  • The arrangement is a little jumbled, but I find it pleasing to look at.
  • It's great of Edward and Rob.
  • It's good of Elizabeth.
  • It's acceptable of William.
  • Everyone but Henry is looking at the camera.
The bad:
  • The clothes still don't work.
  • Henry is posed weirdly and has his hands in front of his face and his legs splayed out and his jeans are pulled up funny.
  • William is poking Henry.




Option Four
(l to r: Henry, William, Elizabeth, Rob, Edward)
The good:
  • I think this kind of arrangement works way better than the ones in the chair, where children were spilling out of the confines.
  • I chose the clothes deliberately, and this time I think they work: not as matchy as I might like, but not clashing or drawing attention.
  • It's terrific of Henry.
  • It's very good of William, Elizabeth, and Edward.
  • It's acceptable of Rob.
  • It's cute to have the older boys holding the younger boys, and the Elizabeth on her own in the middle.
The bad:
  • They are looking in three different directions.
  • William's smile is kind of forced.
  • Rob looks kind of weird. And I like the older children to look as cute as possible, since younger children are pretty cute even if they're not at their cutest.
  • Elizabeth isn't as cute as she could be, and last year she was the one who got sacrificed in a photo that was great of everyone else, so this year I'd like her to be really cute.
  • It's on our BED. Is that okay? To have OUR BED in the Christmas card photo?



Option Five
(l to r: William, Henry, Elizabeth, Edward, Rob)
The good:
  • It's terrific of Henry and Edward, and Edward was SO DIFFICULT to get good pictures of. He kept ducking at the last second. At one point I gripped his upper arm in a manner not compatible with the spirit of Christmas.
  • Pleasing symmetry: older boys tilted very slightly out, younger boys tilted in, girl perfectly straight in the middle.
  • Elizabeth's pose is typical of her, and it's cute the way her toes are pointed in and her hands are folded. She's not smiling, but I think her expression is cute anyway. So earnest.
  • It's good of William.
  • Henry's "NEW!" shirt is showing.
  • William is holding Henry's foot in a cute way.
  • Rob and Edward look cuddly, and I like how Rob's hands are positioned. He looks like such a big brother. You'd never guess that Edward kept slamming the back of his head into Rob's chest and chin.
  • EVERY SINGLE CHILD is looking at the camera. Isn't that one of the signs of the apocalypse?
The bad:
  • It's not great of Rob. His teeth ARE prominent, but they're not THAT prominent. And his smile isn't characteristic. It's not BAD of him, but it's not as cute as he is. Compare to Option One, which is more typical of him.
  • It is, as I say, on our bed. Which, meh?

I think there are two kinds of votes that are useful: own-conclusion votes, and reactive votes. So first I think you should choose your favorite, and vote for it without reading any comments. THEN, if you have sufficient time and interest, read the comments and see if it changes your opinion at all--and if it does, say so. My mom and I find that sometimes we each choose a favorite, but then when we hear the other person's favorite we change our minds--or become stronger in our convictions.

Some Bad Press for Old Navy, Because They are Pissing Me Off

I have been having trouble with Old Navy recently. The last time I ordered with them (edit: several months ago), they sent me the wrong color onesies, then sent me a replacement that was identical to the first incorrect order, then sent me a second replacement that was ALSO identical to the first incorrect order (SERIOUSLY???), then "accidentally" credited my card and "unfortunately" "couldn't" send another replacement. They suggested I might like to re-order the onesies at the current price, which was higher than the price I'd paid the first time, plus of course paying the shipping I'd gotten for free the first time.

Then this time (edit: several weeks ago) they sent me my order missing two shirts, then implied that I must have given them the wrong address (but the other shirts--in the same package the missing ones were supposed to be in--made it, so...?), then said they'd re-send the shirts but that they would have me sign for them "to ensure proper delivery" (whuh?), then told me to re-send them my shipping address, then said that "unfortunately" the shirts were out of stock and they'd credited my card. But I went to the site and the shirts were NOT out of stock. I re-ordered them because I really wanted them, but I'm super mad that I had to do so. So in short, I am getting pissed. The methodical form-letter apology at the beginning of each email (apologizing for "any inconvenience" I "may have experienced") is not mollifying me.

I LOVE Old Navy clothes for boys, and consider them one of my two sources for boy clothes (the other source is Target, but you knew that). I shop there every two or three months, getting big heaps of cute boy jeans and cute boy shirts. I don't WANT to stop shopping there. I have FOUR boys, and I think Old Navy has the cutest boy clothes, and mail order is very very convenient, and I like the clothes a lot and am always happy with the look and feel and quality of them. But these hassles--and the crappy, crappy customer service--is making me feel desperate. It is getting to be like trying to make a relationship work with a bad boyfriend.

December 3, 2007

More Christmas Card Photo Attempts

We are still working on getting a Christmas card photo.

From left to right:
  • Edward leaning in, obscuring Henry
  • Rob talking, and blending in to chair
  • Elizabeth squashed, and singing
  • William listening to Rob, and blending in to chair


From left to right:
  • Edward, Henry, Rob, and Elizabeth tuned out
  • William picking nose


From left to right:
  • Elizabeth with weird expression
  • Rob mid-yawn but still trying to smile
  • William looking cute
  • Henry blocking his face with his hand
  • Edward sticking his fingers down his throat

December 2, 2007

Help Wanted, Your Royal Awesomeness

I am going to start with the assumption that you are already reading Maybe Painted Pink. And if you're not, I don't need to know about it---just start reading it now and we'll forget all about this little talk.

Anyway, Kara Marie is just about dying under the weight of all the awesomeness of that blog (have you seen the things you can do with old Christmas cards?), and she needs some HELP. And I happen to know an awesome person (YOU, silly!) who would be perfect for this.

Here's what Kara says:
If anyone would like to help with the recipes category, or the craft category, or has lots of ideas, or gets some sort of enjoyment out of editing/proofreading posts, or has tons of fun decoration knowledge, or knows how to find good deals on stuff, or is a Googling master, ANYTHING, let me know if you'd like to be a part of Maybe Painted Pink. I want this blog to be as fun and helpful as possible, and the reader emails/posts are AWESOME. I'd love to have some regular helpers. karamarie at gmail dot com.
She is not KIDDING AROUND. If you would like to help but feel a little shy, or think someone else would do a better job so you shouldn't even email, DON'T BE SILLY. Email her and tell her what you've got.

December 1, 2007

One Scary and One Gross

Would you like to have the crap scared out of you in a cerebral and totally non-gory way? Dr. Who (2007), season 3 disc 4, the episode called "Blink." (Netflix has it.) I don't like scary movies because they are too scary (Harry Potter? TOO SCARY), but Paul made me watch this and I lovvvvvvved it. He said, "You are going to think this will be TOO SCARY, and it IS scary, but it is the kind of scary you like."

I won't think less of you if you opt out of this next paragraph. It contains nothing you need to know. It is a gross anecdote, that's all. I was putting a fresh filter in the coffee pot this morning, and I noticed the filter compartment could stand a little rinse. And one of the things that needed to be rinsed out was a spider. A dead spider. A . . . boiled spider. I'll pause while you barf. I managed not to, but only because my brain is slower than it used to be and I had time to go to my Happy Place before the pieces clicked into place.