February 28, 2009

Mr. Pickles Goes Back to Target

Well, when Mr. Pickles (or possibly Mr. Pickles's brother Mr. Pickles) wants to go back to Target, I'd like to see YOU try to say no to that fluffy little face.

Mr. Pickles tries to get a pickup game going. He's been trying to kick that ball for, like, ten minutes now.

Mr. Pickles is looking out the window because he doesn't seem to have a functional side-view mirror. Or a windshield.

Mr. Pickles tries on shoes: "How do I look?"

Mr. Pickles inspects the North Pole. "Still at the top," he reports.

Mr. Pickles spots a deal. "OMG!" he says, "Only $1.74! And aren't these the spaghetti-stain-colored towels you were hoping to find more of??"

Mr. Pickles is confused. Is this a 4-seater chicken toilet? Or what?

Mr. Pickles tries to blend in when a Target employee comes by. We're not sure we're allowed to be taking photos in here.

Mr. Pickles considers pen options in the dollar section. He likes the whale ones, especially because he thinks those are the ones Black Sheeped has, but eventually he selects the butterfly/grass combo.

Dr. Maureen has set up a group on Flickr for The Chicken Game photos: The Flickr Chicken Game Group. Anyone is welcome to join.

Cloth Napkins

Last night we had a DATE, a cloth napkin date, and I totally stood you up. I hope you didn't cancel other plans and sit at home waiting. My plan was to play on the Wii for a little while and then choose the winners, but then after I played the Wii I started messing around on Facebook, and before I knew it I'd sent, like, 18 flowers to Stacie and it was time for bed.

I went to Target again yesterday and I scored MORE cloth napkins, so I'm going to have TWO cloth napkin buddies. The first name the random number thing chose was Sarah of No Whey, Mama, so she'll get the napkin heap shown in the post. Then the second person is Kim of Laments and Observations, and she'll get the napkins I found at Target yesterday.

Okay, now I have to go finish my post about Mr. Pickles's second trip to Target.

February 27, 2009

Tips for Getting Labor Started

No niece-sighting as yet. Anna's due date was the 24th, and here we are on the 27th. I am TOTALLY AWARE (I had an OB who was BIG on this concept) that the baby is "on time" up to TWO FULL WEEKS after the due date. But in that case, they shouldn't call it the "due date." Library books are not "on time up to two full weeks after the due date." Bill payments are not "on time up to two full weeks after the due date."

So anyway. Let's make a list of all the ideas we know for getting Baby to make her long-awaited appearance. Remembering, of course, that my PARENTS (Anna's IN-LAWS) read this blog, and so perhaps we want to ixnay the exysay ones. And besides, I seem to remember people making those suggestions to ME when I was 9 months pregnant, and I seem to remember thinking they were Not Funny.

Okay, so here's my only tip. I had a friend who, when 9 months pregnant with her first child, went out and ate a huge steak dinner. She said she ate so much steak she felt like barfing. She went into labor that night. So when she was 9 months pregnant with her second child and getting impatient, she deliberately went out and ate a huge steak---and she went into labor the next day.

February 26, 2009

Mr. Pickles Goes to Target

Mr. Pickles Goes to Washington Target:

We arrive

We scope out the 75%-off clearance sections. Swistle buys some more cloth napkins and a runner rug. Mr. Pickles sees nothing he likes.

Mr. Pickles advises acquiring some of this Starbucks Frappuccino coffee drink in dark chocolate peppermint and in dark chocolate raspberry, even though it is only 50% off. Swistle, who is nearing the end of her patience with the children and feels the need of chemical support, agrees. She swigs one (a peppermint) as soon as they get to the car. It is delicious, and Swistle wishes she'd bought more. Mr. Pickles suggests a return trip tomorrow.

(These photos also at The Chicken Game Flickr Group.)

February 25, 2009

Environmentalism, Swistle-Style

This post gets really LONG because I wanted to show you something and also give away a giftie, but in order to show something I had to explain it, and then I had to explain why I was explaining it, and then I had to explain why I was giving a giftie, and before I knew it it was one of those posts where you can scroll and Scroll and SCROLL. Maybe go potty before you start reading, or go get a sustaining snack.

I've been wanting to write about ENVIRONMENTAL STUFF for awhile, but I've felt shy about talking about it with you. My efforts are likely to be eye-rollingly pitiful to some of you, and teeth-grindingly self-righteous to others of you.

But then I thought, well, isn't that true for ALL of us and our efforts? We're ALL of us somewhere on the Environmental Righteousness Spectrum, with some people doing better than us and some people not doing as well. We all have some areas where we're all exemplary and awesome, and other areas that could get us shot by an environmental extremist.

Plus, different things make sense for different people. It makes sense for me to use handkerchiefs: I'm not grossed out by them, I prefer the feel of them on my poor little nose, I like the durability of them (hate kleenex shreddies. hate.), and I have year-round environmental allergies that give me a box-a-week tissue habit otherwise. For me, handkerchiefs are easier, cheaper, and preferable---and that's before we even get into any environmental benefits. But that doesn't mean it makes sense for YOU to use handkerchiefs. I don't even think of it for you!

In fact, I'm GREAT about other people's environmental stuff. Like, you might feel shy about discussing the way you use the backs of your kids' old school papers as scrap paper, because you're worried someone will say, "Um, yes, but you drive to Target every other day just to buy plastic stuff. You're hardly the Mother Teresa of the environment." You won't hear that from ME, though. I have several thoughts about that kind of thing:

1. "Driving and buying plastic and reusing paper" is better than "Driving and buying plastic and NOT reusing paper."

2. Reusing paper helps to cancel out some of the driving and buying plastic. Even if it doesn't make a huge impact, see #1.

3. Doing some things can lead to doing other things. If you get in the habit of reusing paper and notice it's easy and satisfying, it may have a positive impact on other behaviors. You might start CARPOOLING to Target, for example. Whereas if you think, "I drive and buy plastic, so I might as well not bother to reuse paper," you might after awhile start thinking you might as well not recycle milk jugs either.

4. People get discouraged if nothing is ever good enough. If nothing counts except Perfection, why do anything less? And yet, see #1. SOME action is better than ZERO action or ANTI-action.

So! This is all to explain why I bought cloth napkins at Target this past weekend. I don't know if it's going to work out, but I'm willing to give it a try. I'm always more willing to do environmental stuff when it's (1) fun and (2) pretty and (3) involves shopping.

I'd been thinking I shouldn't bother with cloth napkins because they need to be ironed, and suddenly I thought, "....Wait. I don't HAVE to iron them if I don't mind them being wrinkly." And I really don't mind them being wrinkly. Plus, Target had a bunch of pretty ones on 75% off, and you know how I feel about 75% off ("It's free; take whatever you want"). Some of them were the exact color of spaghetti/pizza stains, which seems perfect!

I'd also been worried that maybe cloth napkins were in the category of "Things that cancel out their own positive environmental impact." I know a lot of people use paper plates because their feeling is that the impact of the manufacture and use of paper plates is less serious than the impact of the dishwashing. It could definitely be the same with napkins, and I have no idea which is better, and I'm not motivated to research it because I don't have strong feelings about it either way, and also because I have a feeling there are strong arguments for both sides of this. I come down on the side of washing things and reusing them, but that's partly because that's my preference (pretty ceramic plates! pretty embroidered hankies! and now pretty fabric napkins!). If it turned out I was wrong and actually it was better to use paper plates and paper tissues (and now paper napkins), I wouldn't have any crow to eat: I could just be like, "Oh! Neat!" After all, I use disposable diapers and I've been known to THROW AWAY underwear that has had a Disheartening Accident in it, so I'd be a fine one to try to act like I was standing solidly on the reusability platform.

Where was I? Oh, yes! Don't you want to see the pretty pretty napkins??

Only the vertical items are napkins; the horizontal items are dishtowels I bought because, uh. Because they were 75% off, and pretty. Don't those little orange clearance tags just make your heart LEAP UP?

Notice I got TWO identical piles of the cloth napkins. I bought four 2-packs of the embroidered orange ones (aren't those EXACTLY the color of pizza/spaghetti stains??), two 4-packs of the pretty light yellow ones that are my favorite shade of yellow and will almost certainly be covered in ugly stains within a week, and two 4-packs of the green shiny ones that don't seem like they could possibly be absorbent enough but might be better at repelling stains because of it.

This is because I'm going to SHARE. I was standing there dithering and dithering about the napkins ("WANT! ...But good? Or not? And WHICH ones?"), and then I got the idea of getting TWO batches and doing a giveaway so I could do this with a BUDDY. A cloth napkin buddy!

Giveaways make me feel shy, because I know a lot of people see them as cheap tricks to get comments, but I don't see comments that way (as currency or something), and I love giving presents and I love shopping and I love getting other people to do the same thing I'm doing. Plus, I get a little money for that ad over there to the right, and I like to spend it on doing fun stuff like giving presents.

So if you don't want to enter, you can still leave a comment if you want to---just say you're "not entering, but...". And if you want to be my cloth napkin buddy, say so, and if you want to you can say why. And this weekend or maybe Friday night, yeah probably Friday night, why don't we just say Friday night?, I'll pick one random person and mail them....um, a box of clearance cloth napkins that match mine (but not, er, each other). Woooooo!

[Edited to add: And of course Mr. Pickles the Chicken will be included with the napkins.]

February 24, 2009

The Chicken Game

So. Finally. My friend Maureen has posted about The Chicken Game. Finally the great Shroud of Mystery regarding Tiny Chickens and Their Purpose can be lifted. It is a great day for all of us. Please, friends, enlighten yourselves. (Edit: Maureen also did a follow-up post for frequently asked questions, and here's the info on the Flickr group.]

Two rounds of The Chicken Game at The Swistle House:

In Swistle's jewelry box

In Swistle's medicine cabinet

Obviously you are going to want to leave now for a craft store to find your own chickens, but HOLD UP. There are ALSO a couple other ways to obtain a chicken of your very own:

1) Win a Swistle Care Package. I've sent out a chicken in each of the last three packages I mailed, so THREE of you have chickens already. I'll put a chicken in the Happy Niece Day Package, too, and in the next few care packages as well, until I run low on chickens.

2) Beg Maureen. She has a few extra chickens and is not afraid to use the postal service to help her spread her Message of Chickens.

3) Or, yeah, go to a craft store. The chickens are sold in little tiny clear plastic rectangular boxes, twelve chickens to a box, and if I remember correctly they cost $1.99. You and 11 friends can play The Chicken Game for only 16.5 cents per family, plus applicable tax!

February 22, 2009


Oh my, I do love the January/February sales. They're nearly over, and my house has an overstuffed feeling that makes me not mind them being nearly over. But it's a GOOD overstuffed feeling, a STOCKED UP feeling. I bought, like, twelve pairs of jeans for Elizabeth in sizes 4 and 5, all 75% off at Target. Maybe twenty pairs of shoes for assorted children, for now and for later, all 75% off at Target. I bought Valentine's Day tissue paper at 90% off---and you know, that stuff is RED so it looks JUST PERF at Christmastime.

Long underwear shirts for Paul, who works in a chilly office: 50% off. Heavy flannel shirts for Paul, $10 each down from $60 each, though that $60 starting price seems too high: they seem more like $30-40 shirts to me. Tights for Elizabeth, 75% off. Four boxes of Christmas cards that play songs, $1 per box down from over $20 per box (for 5 cards! those are EXPENSIVE cards). A bird calendar for next to my desk, $1. Sweaters at The Children's Place, $5.99 each. Three pairs of kid winter boots, 75% off. Four sets of king-sized sheets, 75% off ($12.48-14.98 per set).

Okay, just listing the practical stuff like this is REALLY BORING. Pictures are better, and I'll do pictures of the FUN things instead.

Plastic kid dishes, 50% off. TOO CUTE. I loved the Target Valentine's Day stuff this year. Under the owls it says "Owl love you forever." OWLMG.

Funny little girl-robot change purse, also from the Target Valentine's line. 75% off.

I love this mug so much, it gives me heart flutters. There is a BIRDIE perched on the HANDLE. Another find from the Target Valentine's line. 75% off.

How about this: if I DON'T say "from the Target Valentine's Day line," you can just assume it IS, because that's where I really cleaned up the last few days. Turtle plates, 75% off.

I bought this frame for a picture of my niece WHENEVER SHE DEIGNS TO GRACE US WITH HER PRESENCE. I loved this frame so much, I bought it when it was only 50% off. (*pause for my mother to roll her eyes*)

Um. Valentine's Day dishtowels and washcloths and oven mitts. Bought sparingly at 50% off, then lost control at 75% off. I justified it by figuring they'd be great for Swistle Care Packages. Because nothing says "I love you and appreciate you and care about you" like out-of-season clearanced holiday merchandise.

Oh, these were SUCH A GREAT FIND! I bought myself two sets of these Trudeau measuring spoons, like, a YEAR ago at Home Goods (where I DO NOT buy groceries). They were only $1.99 per set and I thought they were gorgeous so I bought them, and then they turned out to be my favorite measuring spoons EVER and I always reach for them first. So then I thought I'd go back and buy more (Home Goods had a huge selection in many color choices) and they were already all GONE. Thus began my feverish year-long quest, a quest that grew more and more despairing with time, especially when my sister-in-law wanted measuring spoons for Christmas. And then, yesterday, there were three sets in two color choices. I bought all three sets. (SIL Anna! Which set do you want? You can have your pick!)

These are MOUSE PADS that are also NOTE PADS. I was a LITTLE disappointed, because I thought each page had two lists, but actually the lines go all the way across the pad, like this:
Still, it's so useful. It has the days of the week and I put schedule stuff over on that side, and then I use the righthand half for miscellaneous notes.

This represents a moment of shopping lunacy. It was 75% off and I DON'T EVEN KNOW WHAT IT IS, I just liked it very much. The serving suggestion was to put a bunch of them in a big bowl, but I hung it from the corner of my desktop shelves.

This was so exciting. WHICH OF YOU has this shower curtain??? It's brown toile with blue birds, and it looks pretty bleah in the package but WONDERFUL in action. I saw it on your blog and IMMEDIATELY loved it. I looked for it, and I found it on clearance for $10, and suddenly I felt all nervous about spending money because we don't actually NEED a shower curtain. Ours is 8 years old but perfectly fine. I decided I'd buy it when it went on 75% off. Then I got home and wondered what kind of fool I was: neither of us LIKE our shower curtain, and we bought it only because it went with the old aqua fixtures we no longer have, and I LOVE the bird one. So I went back THE NEXT DAY and there were NONE LEFT. I searched at THREE Targets and there were NONE.

Then today I went back to one of those same Targets, and they had five of them. At $5 each. I bought one. I almost got carried away and bought two, but regained my senses in time.

I love this. LOVE IT. 75% off at Target. It looks like one of the upholstery fabrics I kind of wanted to get for our new couch, so it made me feel happy to have it in picture form. It's the first picture I've put up in our dining room.

February 18, 2009

Retro Vent

The other day I was on the prowl in Target's Valentine's Day clearance section, and I bought some heart-shaped balloons for the children. Um, may I suggest NOT buying them, if you have the opportunity? Because it turns out that if you tip the balloon and look at the top of it, it resembles something other than a heart. Something more like large, perky boobage. And in fact, as it deflates, it develops NIPPLEAGE.

In my household, the line between Noticing and Not Noticing is right between Rob (4th grade) and William (2nd grade). Rob took one look at a balloon and said, "Um, isn't that kind of...inappropriate?" But William, even when the balloon was tipped toward him at a demonstrative angle at chest height, still didn't know what Rob was talking about.


I hope I am not the only one (and in fact I KNOW I am not the only one, and am using this only as a convenient sentence-starter) who is visited by Conflicts of the Past. I can get all worked up about something that happened in SECOND GRADE. "That's what I SHOULD have said to that bitch," I think to myself, thinking bitterly of my 8-year-old opponent.

Useless. But I can't help it. Some of us are living Banks of Old Fights and others of us are not---and just TRY tearing down that kind of edifice, if you have one. Those vaults are made to LAST.

Recently I've been stewing about something that happened more than a dozen years ago, so at least it's within my adult life as opposed to when I was in my single digits. Still, this is a retro vent and I do hope you'll bear with me.

Oh, this is so dumb. Well, no, it isn't. It ISN'T dumb. I really am still very, very mad and hurt (but mostly mad) about it. I've told you a little about my first marriage, so you know it didn't end well. He and I agreed to get a divorce, and we agreed on how all the stuff should be divided up, and we both helped each other find and move into our new places, and then he hired a mean lawyer and sued me for marital desertion (or was it abandonment?) so I received many unpleasant lawyer letters even though there was nothing about the divorce that needed to be disputed.

That's not what bugs me, though: I wanted a divorce, so even though he went the Unpleasant Divorce Lawyer route instead of the $19.99 Do-It-Yourself Kit route I'd suggested, I got what I wanted and he had to pay for the unpleasantness he evidently wanted because I'm sure that lawyer wasn't cheap.

What makes me SIMMER WITH RAGE is that my ex then got our marriage annulled. By the Catholic Church. When neither one of us was Catholic, nor was our marriage in the Catholic Church. And he was able to do this without my consent, and in fact against my STRENUOUS OBJECTIONS. I wrote many, many letters to the Catholic Church, insisting that my former marriage was REAL and VALID and did not meet the requirements for annulment.

Finally a secretary sent me a little note saying, basically, "Um, off the record for a moment---you realize that 'annulment' is just the way the Catholic Church gets around their 'no divorce/remarriage' rule?" Yes, I knew this. I DID NOT CARE. Even if it doesn't actually mean the marriage is invalid and never happened, that's what it SAYS IT MEANS. I'm not playing GAMES, even with my BAD MARRIAGE. Which DID HAPPEN and WAS VALID and did NOT meet the requirements for annulment. ...Sorry, I don't seem to be able to get out of this loop.

The annulment went through. According to the Catholic Church, which was not in any way involved with the marriage or its participants, the marriage was invalid and never happened. My ex is free to marry a Catholic girl as if he were a never-married man. This makes me so angry I can barely talk about it. It's so stupid I can barely stand it.

But of course, it doesn't REALLY matter that it was annulled. It's not like we WANTED to be married to each other and some third party told us they had dissolved our marriage without our consent: we WANTED the marriage dissolved and so we voluntarily divorced, and I would LOVE IT if the marriage had never happened. I should be GLAD it was annulled. When it comes up in conversation that I was married before, I can lower my eyes and say, "It was a very brief marriage, back while I was still in school. It was annulled." This sounds so much prettier than "We got a divorce."

But I'm still so mad I could SPIT. Partly I'm angry at my ex, and I'm hurt by the way he wanted to make it that our marriage was NULL. Not "over" but "never started." Partly I'm angry at the Catholic Church, for doing the annulment, and for thinking they had the right to do that.

All right, I'm done for now. You DO do this, right? You have old stuff you're still not done being mad about?

February 15, 2009

The New One is Red

So, what's up? Having a good weekend? GUESS WHAT, WE BOUGHT A NEW COUCH!!! Do you know why this is so exciting to me? Because this is our old couch, which is actually not a couch but a loveseat:

This is a handmedown from my parents, and it's been ours for 9 years. It has not always looked so terrible, of course. Well, sure, the upholstery has always been that ugly---and you don't need to worry about hurting my parents' feelings, because they thought it was ugly, too. They bought it because it is near-impossible to find high-backed couches with wings and buttons and slim arms, and so when they found one they didn't really care what the upholstery looked like.

But although the upholstery has always been burgundy/camel/what-IS-that-shade-of-blue plaid, it has not always been QUICKSAND on one side, and it has not always been RIPPED in the front with stuffing and frame waving hello, and there have not always been TOWELS sticking out of it (a futile attempt to prop up the caving cushion), and there have not always been little rips under each button. That's been more recent, like say for the last...er, three years? Maybe four?

And this is how we operate: after years of Meaning To, today we got into the car, drove to a furniture store, drove to another furniture store because the first one didn't open until noon, made one lap around the floor, picked a couch, picked one of the two standard fabrics rather than going through the fabric samples, and went back home.

Whenever we do something like that, I wonder why we didn't do it LONG AGO, but it's as if it doesn't WORK until we get to The Moment. We went couch-shopping a few years ago and just sort of dithered around the store making negative remarks and worrying about fabrics, then went home feeling discouraged and crabby.

This time, it was like looking for something to eat when you're literally starving: you're not picky, because the alternative is so much worse. The new couch is not The Couch of My Dreams. It was on clearance, so you know it wasn't one that had won Popular Favor. The back is not as high as we'd like. It's firmer than we'd like. It has visible legs instead of a skirt, which I guess means I'll have to start cleaning under there more often than before each annual mother-in-law visit. It's upholstered in a fabric that's Okay, but not one I would have chosen if it hadn't been one of the two choices that didn't require additional dithering.

But sometimes that's what I PREFER. While I was waiting for the salesguy to fill out the astonishing levels of paperwork (I am just BUYING A COUCH, not ADOPTING A CHILD), I was looking idly through the racks of fabric samples. I saw about a HUNDRED that made my heart pound with love. I can't handle that kind of decision, especially when it involves taking into account elements such as durability, and price, and whether it would show grubbiness, and imagining what it would look like on an entire couch rather than on a small square of fabric, and how it would look to us in ten years when that shade of green is no longer in style and nobody likes birds anymore.

I get overwhelmed when I have too many choices, and furthermore I find it makes me a pickier person. Give me four choices and I'll choose one easily and feel satisfied with my choice; give me two hundred choices and I'll get all whiny about that not being the EXACT shade of blue-green I had in mind and shouldn't that pattern be a TIDGE larger? When I look for what I Really Want, nothing is good enough so I give up and buy nothing---or I buy something and then fret endlessly that I should have chosen something else. When I try to buy a couch rather than Fulfill My Soul's Upholstery Destiny, I get the job done.

Let's take one more look at the old couch. Well, not just one more look, because it will be 4-6 weeks until the new couch arrives. But one more look HERE.


And here's the new one, except you'll have to imagine it in RED, which looks COMPLETELY DIFFERENT:

Also, the pillows will never be arranged tidily again.

February 13, 2009

Home Goods: Not a Grocery Store

You know what I had for breakfast this morning? Dill pickle cashews (thanks a lot, TESS, now I'm going to have a $5/day HABIT) and coffee with chocolate creamer in it. Set breath phasers to "stun."

I sense you being TACTFUL about me planning to include a calendar towel in the Guess the Birthdate package. This is only because you have not SEEN this calendar towel. OMG it is so cute. Observe:

Speaking of so cute, yesterday I bought a mug as a gift for my sister-in-law, and I love it too much to give it to her so I'm keeping it myself. Before you judge me, look at the mug:

So pretty! It has dear little STRAWBERRIES all over it, and since "The Strawberry" is the nickname my sister-in-law and my brother use for their baby-to-be, this is now my AUNT mug! I found it at Home Goods; if I go back there in time and they still have more of the mugs, I'll get another one for my sister-in-law and maybe also get one to include with the Guess the Birthdate package. I can wrap it in the calendar towel!

Speaking of Home Goods, I had a customer service experience there yesterday that BLEW MY MIND. I had a coupon for a dollar off a bag of Lindt truffles, so I got a bag of Lindt truffles and I handed over the coupon. And the clerk acted like she had never seen or used a coupon before. She called over the supervisor. The supervisor had never seen or used a coupon before, either. She looked at both sides of the coupon as if I'd handed her something in a foreign language. She read the "To the retailer" section aloud carefully: "Lindt will reimburse you the face value of this coupon..." and then she said, I am NOT KIDDING, "But we're not Lindt!" OMG!

I gave up immediately, because there are certain situations that are just obviously not going to improve, and because I'd already been prepared for the idea that they might not take coupons. Plus, I've worked in retail, so I don't get rude or huffy with clerks. I said oh, no biggie, that was fine, just take the truffles off the order. And the clerk acted as if I'd hit her in the face (stood stock-still, then with GREAT effort started taking the truffles off the order), and then she WOULD NOT LET IT GO. In the next few minutes she told me:

1) That never in her ten years working there had anyone ever tried to use a coupon.

2) That she didn't even know what to DO with a coupon.

3) That they'd have to call the Home Office to find out what to do if this bizarre situation every presented itself again.

4) That they were not a GROCERY store.

5) That maybe I could use it at a grocery store. She could give me directions to the nearest one.

6) That if I'd found the coupon AT Home Goods, of course they'd have honored it. But I hadn't, had I, I'd BROUGHT IT IN with me, right? (She said this like I was trying to get away with something, as opposed to following Standard Coupon Procedure.)

7) That she had worked at Macy's before this job, and that Macy's wouldn't have taken a coupon either.

8) That they were not a GROCERY store.

9) That it wasn't that they "didn't take" coupons, but rather that they weren't, you know, a GROCERY store.

So! PSA! Home Goods is not a grocery store, despite what you may have believed! Also: they have cute strawberry mugs!

February 11, 2009

A Game While We're Waiting for Baby

As of yesterday, we're officially in my sister-in-law's "due month" (38-42 weeks)---which is the term my first OB used in a futile attempt to keep her patients from focusing on the due date. All it does for me is give me up to TWENTY-EIGHT days to think "BABY? BABY? BABY? BABY? BABY? BABY?"

On one hand I don't want to try your patience by having a contest so soon after all the giveaways. We are not some sort of daily sweepstakes blog. On the other hand, I'm jittery and I'm looking for distractions and I'm thinking a lot about the BABY? BABY? BABY? and it's fun to make care packages, so here's what we're going to do. We're going to play a game I love, which is called "Guess the Birth Date." (You may think you can also Guess the Rules, and you would be right.)

Guess the day my very first NIECE! will be born. If more than one person guesses correctly, I'll pool the correct guesses and choose one randomly. The prize will be a Happy Niece Day Celebratory Swistle Care Package, contents as yet undetermined. A little spruce tree kit? An owl notebook? Lip balm? A monkey apron? Mint brownies? Goodness knows! But for sure it will include a small toy chicken for The Chicken Game, because Dr. Maureen introduced me to it (the game and also the chicken, whose name is Mr. Pickles), and you may want to play too. I also might send you the 2009 dishtowel calendar I just bought two of, because I love mine far more than I ever expected to love a dishtowel calendar, and perhaps you will feel the same way.

Here are some details you may find useful in coming up with your guess, now that you're all hot to win that dishtowel:

1) The due date is February 24th.

2) This is my sister-in-law's first baby.

3) Her OB has already warned her that she (the OB) doesn't like to induce until 1 or even 2 weeks past the due date.

Okay, now guess! One guess per person. The deadline is the birthdate.

February 10, 2009

Highly Successful Operation

I had a surprisingly enjoyable trip yesterday morning to one of those places that sells bird feeders and small trees and potting soil and flower pots and big bags of powdered manure. It's not one of my usual haunts, but you remember my little spruce sprouts (scroll way down on that one to see their baby picture) that were getting so big I was going to need to buy them their own pots soon? Well, the day had arrived. They'd ceased to thrive in their cramped little shared starter pot, and it was time for a transfer. So that's what I was doing at the seed-soil-manure store: looking for spruce real estate.

One reason the errand was so enjoyable is that I was there without anyone else: my mom took the three littles for the morning, and the two bigs were at school. I just kind of BROWSED AROUND, without having to tell anyone not to eat the manure. I spent a long time considering various flower pot possibilities, and the only one making alarming ceramic-clinking sounds was ME.

I bought four cute little pots with attached saucers. It was difficult to choose the colors. There were three pink ones, one yellow, one blue, two light green, and three speckled yellow. I tried various combinations. I wanted BOTH yellows, but they clashed, and not in an ugly-chic way but in a way that made both colors look bad. There wasn't four of anything, nor did "one each of four different colors" look good in ANY combination. Finally I got two speckled yellow and two light green and felt well-satisfied. ---Ha ha! I'm totally lying. I'm second- and third- and FOURTH-guessing the decision, fretting about maybe making another trip to the store to reconsider options. I LOVE the two speckled ones: they look just like pear skin. But the light green ones, I'm not sure about, and I'm not sure how well they go with the pear-colored ones. I wish there'd been two blue ones, or four speckled ones.

Operating theater

You can see their old cramped apartment in crayon green on the left, and their new swanky digs on the right. Also, I hate to embarrass the plants, but look at the length of those ROOTS. I have a feeling the new homes will only be temporary. I wonder when baby spruce trees can be transplanted outside? Probably not when they're still small enough for the lawnmower to run over them.

February 9, 2009

Winner of the Rachael Rossman Giveaway!

Oh hai! Remember the one last giveaway, for the Rachael Rossman painting? Me, too, suddenly! The winner is Erin of Mama Said No!. Yay, Erin! I'll email this evening to put you in touch with Rachael!

A few people emailed me to find out how much the name paintings cost if you DON'T win a contest, and I emailed Rachael and she says they're $5.00 per letter. You can email her at RachaelRossman at earthlink dot net for more info or to arrange an order.



I am trying to learn to like it black, which---character-building, or exercise in futility? It's not so much a NUTRITION thing, although my "coffees" were getting to be more and more like heated, melted, coffee-flavored ice cream, as it is a CONVENIENCE thing. It is a fair amount of fuss to mess around with....okay, fine, so it's not all that much fuss to spoon in some flavored coffee creamer. But I was also adding about 1/3rd mug of milk, and I heated that separately in the microwave first, nice and hot but not so hot that it boiled and got an icky skin on it, and then I added the coffee, and then the flavored coffee creamer, repeat for each cup, TRUST ME IT WAS A LITTLE FUSSY.

Seems like we should make some small talk to catch up. Did you, uh, have a good weekend? I DID NOT. I was in a crappy mood for some reason NO NOT PMS, JUST BECAUSE I AM "EXPECTING A VISITOR" DOESN'T MEAN I "HAVE PMS," and in fact finally I decided that if I was going to feel so foul anyway, I might as well get some HOUSEWORK done. So I...well, I MOPPED. The FLOORS. And I CLEANED THE TOILET.

And of course everything is already dirty again, which just proves my usual contention that cleaning only leads to more cleaning, and that not-cleaning makes more logical sense. But, fine, the top of the toilet tank is still clean, and that does look pretty and shiny I'll admit. And the floors do FEEL a little nicer under the sock feet. And it was awesome that RIGHT AFTER the floors were dry, the cheese slid off an english muffin pizza onto the floor, and I just picked it up and put it back on the pizza. For about one full minute there, YOU COULD EAT OFF MY FLOORS. And one of us DID! (Not me, though. I gave it to one of the kids.)

February 5, 2009

Positive Stories About Single-Child Families

Beth writes:
I'm particularly interested in your ongoing contemplation about family size/spacing. I have one perfect (I think) little girl and I think my husband and I feel DONE! I've never particularly wanted a big family, and now that she's here. . . we just don't feel like we'd like another. We feel complete and well balanced and happy.

Of course this solicits many negative comments from friends and strangers alike, and I wonder if you might ask your readers sometime how they feel if they either are only children or if they have only children. . .

I'd like to hear some positive stories about "only-ies". . .we feel fine about our choice, but it's tough sometimes to hear about her "need" for a sibling!

This is such a great idea. I, too, would love to hear Happy Only stories. I hear a lot of negative feedback on my end of the family size spectrum, and I know the only-child peeps get a lot of negative feedback on their end of the spectrum, too. Socially acceptable family size seems to be "No fewer than 2 children, no more than 3 children."

So let's hear some GOOD STUFF about having just one child, or about being the only child. And I'm hoping we can do it without it turning into a bashing of OTHER size families.

February 4, 2009

One Last Giveaway

As promised yesterday, we're having one more giveaway even though the CPSIA scare has been postponed. I was really glad that the donor was willing to still give this prize, because it's such a fun one: the artist Rachael Rossman has offered one of her Name Paintings! If you read Dooce, you've seen Rachael's work there.

I think this is a PRETTY SQUEEISH prize, and I don't know WHY I even DO these giveaways when all they do is make me ENVIOUS of the winners. But your happiness is my happiness, etc., etc., so let's do this thing!

The prize is one Name Painting, with, obv, your choice of name. (Tease: the real name of one of my kids is one of the samples.) She'll paint it to match room decor and interests, too, so, like, you can do a kid's name in pinks and princesses or in greens and sports or in pinks and sports, or whatever. You could also do it with a surname---it seems like that would make a good gift for parents or grandparents who are hard to buy for. Maybe not in the princess theme, then.

To enter, leave a comment on this post before Sunday, February 8th, at 4:00 p.m. U.S. Pacific time. (Need something to say? You could guess which name is the one that's the name of one of my kids, but I'm not saying if you're right or not so that's kind of an over-tease and maybe you just want to say your favorite color instead.) I'll choose one random winner to envy.

February 3, 2009

More Winners!

Oh, whoops, I forgot to draw winners for the second CPSIA giveaway! Part of the reason is that we got a Wii Fit, and I have been VERY BUSY voluntarily allowing a cyber-character to ask me passive-aggressively, "Doesn't it feel good to use muscles you don't usually use?" And I've been busy feeling crabby every time I look at the little Mii person representing me, which the game has kindly fattened up to my "real" proportions, as opposed to the proportions I gave it when I designed it, making as it did so a little sound effect like in old comedies when two fat men bounce tummies. Thanks, Wii Fit, for keeping me honest! Also: see you in hell!

And I've been a little distracted because of THIS: the whole CPSIA thing has been kicked a year into the future! And perhaps by then it will, you know, WORK RIGHT. Or else I'll meet you back here and we'll do some more indignantly supportive giveaways, how about that?

And now the third CPSIA giveaway has ALSO ended, so we have tons of winners to pick! Random number generator, TO MY SIDE!

The winner of the Amy Quarry giveaway is Cheryl! Cheryl, I'm emailing you and Amy to put you guys in touch.

Now we need THREE winners for the Charming Maeve contest. The three winners are:

1. Shannon of Living in the Grey!
2. Chez Bacon, of the January 29, 11:09 p.m. comment!
3. Becky, of Totally Serial!

Shannon and Becky, I yoinked your email addresses off your blogs already. Chez Bacon, email me (swistle at gmail dot com) and I'll put you in touch with Charming Maeve.

Soon I will be posting one more contest for a giveaway I can't resist doing even though the CPSIA crisis is temporarily averted, because I love the prize so much and the donor has agreed to give it away ANYWAY which is really nice of her. But this means doing more typing, and the kids will be up in MINUTES demanding cereal and clothes and combing and so forth, so that will have to wait for now.

In the meantime, Carrie at Barely Controlled Chaos is doing her own CPSIA giveaway for her Crafty Tuesday feature, and you should totally check it out because I saw her stuff and it is KEY-YOOT. She makes reusable shopping bags and kidlets (kid-sized reusable bags) that make you feel like getting all environmental so you can be cute too.

February 2, 2009

Vitamin Management

Every morning I get out the kids' vitamins. All five kids take a daily multivitamin, and Rob also takes a calcium supplement because he doesn't drink milk. I'd already streamlined the process somewhat by using the same bottle for anyone who takes the same dose: for example, Elizabeth and Edward both use Elizabeth's prescription until it runs out, and then they both use Edward's. Rob and William do the same. Henry is the only one who doesn't share.

So that's...four little bottles every morning, which is not exactly the sort of chore that RUINS MY LIFE, but it's a minor hassle and I have found a pleasing improvement to the situation: I use one of those weekly pill reminder boxes. Last night I put in each compartment two square vitamins (E and E's), two round vitamins (R and W's), and a calcium supplement (R's). This morning I opened the M compartment, tipped the pile into my hand, and went around the table handing them out. Henry's doesn't fit into this system yet because his is a liquid, but soon he'll take a chewable and fit right in with the rest of the crowd.

Not only is this a little quicker, it solves the fuss over who gets which color vitamin: they get whatever is in the box, and I made everyone's the same color for each day: four orange vitamins for today, four pink ones for tomorrow, etc.

That reminds me, though, of something we started doing early on to reduce the color-choice fuss. When Rob was a toddler, he wanted to CHOOSE, but that led to problems with (1) running out of one color before the other colors, and (2) long agonizing decisions while I stood there holding out my hand with the vitamins in it. So what I started doing was dumping out a little pile of vitamins into my hand, and giving him the one there was the most of. If I had 4 purples, 2 oranges, and 1 pink, he got a purple. If I had the same number of two different colors, I'd dump out a couple more vitamins, or put back a few. This method encourages the colors to come out even, too, which is pleasing to those of us who are firstborn and mathy.