June 30, 2009

Bad News: These are the Best Years

I know we've been over this and over this and over this, but it comes up fresh for me every time it happens and I feel the need to go over it yet again: I was in the store the other day with the kids, and a woman in line ahead of me told me that these were the best years of parenting and I should enjoy them.

When elderly ladies say that to me, I find it easier to let it roll off---though I did once get into a total fret when I was postpartum and TWO old ladies said it to me on one single outing, and I went home almost FRANTIC to Paul, grabbing his shirt and saying, "DO you think these are the best times?? DO you?? Because I am JUST BARELY HOLDING IT TOGETHER" and he thought it over and said, "I think these are the best times to remember," which I think he's exactly right about and now I translate it that way whenever an elderly lady seems to be telling me that it's all downhill from here.

Where was I? Oh, yes. The woman in the store. She wasn't old. She said she had teenagers, and I'd guess she was maybe ten years older than me. I've been in a funk over it for several days now, thinking it's not bad enough, apparently, to be overwhelmed and counting hours and feeling like I'm trapped: I can also now look forward to a future of beating myself up for not enjoying it more.

Part of it was the timing: the children were so demanding and giddy and intolerable on that particular errand, I'd gone over to the luggage section and looked dreamily at the suitcases, fantasizing about buying a nice big set, big enough to last me SEVERAL WEEKS. I'd also fantasized about running the shopping cart "accidentally" into the butt of one or both of my older children to see if THAT would be as funny as BREATHING and WALKING seemed to be. So it was not a receptive moment for hearing that these were the glorious days I would one day long for.

Part of it was her age: as I said, I can handle this kind of thing more easily from someone very elderly. But someone who's only ten years older than me? Surely she can still remember being my age and having children the ages of mine. Surely she can remember all the old ladies telling her to cherish every moment, and surely she can remember how she felt about that. So if SHE is telling me these are the best years, when she has the same information ringing still in her own ears---well, either it's TRUE and it really is a steady downhill roll into the Swamps of Suckitude followed by death, or else I should have shoved her "accidentally" in the butt with my shopping cart.

June 28, 2009

Hats, Cups

Yeah. Just hanging out. Chilling on the windowsill. Diaper hat and my brother's Leapster 2. You know. Your typical Sunday.


Do you remember the measuring spoons from this shopping post? I love them so. I've been looking and Looking and LOOKING for the matching measuring cups, and finally found them at Home Goods (not a grocery store). So obv I cleared them out.


One set for me, one for my sister-in-law, and the rest for future Swistle Care Packages.

I don't think I can choose just one set to keep. Which set is your favorite? (Rob points out that if I want to, I can now make five single-color sets.)

They also had more measuring spoons, so I bought those too.

June 26, 2009

Three Things You Should Read, According to Swistle

(This is for Whimsy's blogdrought-remedying sprinkler system.)

1. Daisy Owl: "Cake". And then I suggest clicking the link marked "first" (as opposed to "prev" or "rss" or "random") and reading all of them from the beginning. Dinosaur atoms. Everywhere.

2. Dr. Maureen: "The Chicken Game: The Rules". I love funny Q&A stuff like this, and also it is about the chickens. Plus: Dr. Maureen had a BABY yesterday! Yay, Dr. Maureen! Yay, baby!

3. The Mom Slant: "Just keep swimming, just keep swimming". I love Julie's calm, measured reasoning on all sorts of topics. I never feel like she's trying to stir things up, even when she discusses hot stuff.

June 24, 2009

Continuing With the Updates

You guys, my friend Astarte (we went to high school together so I should probably get her to sign a confidentiality agreement regarding all the miniskirts and skanky stockings I used to wear) took a jewelry-making class and is making all kinds of pretty sparklies these days. She's having a giveaway for one of her bracelets.


Now, back to the updates.

Baby Food Muffins. The ones I made with the old jars of carrot turned out well, but when I used some "tropical fruit blend" that nobody liked, the muffins came out edible but overly moist, and all the chocolate chips sank to the bottom. Some baby foods are probably made with more water than others, and also probably have less fiber for Muffin Structural Support.


Pens. Remember how I was all, "I don't care how much they cost, I want GOOD PENS!" Then I went and stood in the pen aisle with my print-out of the comment section, and I bought nothing. Instead, I'm going to wait until those things start going on back-to-school sales, and buy several different kinds then.


Interfering Clerks. With time, I still feel good about my reaction. Sometimes in such situations I later curse my wimpiness, but in this case I didn't. If it happened again, I would write a letter to the manager explaining what had happened.


Henry's Birthday Presents. We got him half a dozen dinosaur shirts from various stores, the biggest haul being from Macy's where I found FOUR. He loves them. Now if he's not wearing a dinosaur shirt, he wants to know WHY. We also gave him a large softish plastic brachiosaurus from Target, which was a hit.

Snuggling his brachiosaurus


The Dolls. You realize they don't LIVE in their unders on the sofa but were only there because I had just unpacked them from the bins? Yes. We don't have enough spare seating in this house to use it for dolls. I got rid of nine of them (#s 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12), plus a big bin of doll clothes, giving them to a friend of my mom's who brings dolls to places such as shelters. I found it too overwhelming to do the whole thing all at once, so I did a "first sweep" and got rid of the ones I was most sure I didn't want anymore. It's been several weeks, and now I think I'm going to get rid of the rest of the dolls, plus most of the clothes. I might keep ONE doll, because Elizabeth has a doll and we might want to play dolls together. I'll also keep enough clothes for the two dolls.


Books. Short review of Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell: I liked it, but as usual with Gladwell's books, it seemed like an article expanded to book-length: the basic idea is very interesting but doesn't take long to communicate, and then the rest of the book is examples and restating.

Short review of the Duggars book: Bleah. I'd thought I'd be interested in the organizational stuff, but instead I was alternately bored and annoyed.

The other books went back to the library unread (though I got halfway through Certain Girls by Jennifer Weiner) because I ran out of renewals.


American Psycho. SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! I liked the whole book until the end, which was one of those "What do you think REALLY HAPPENED?" endings, which I HATE. I'm still kind of pissed whenever I think of it. If you read the book, what did YOU conclude? That he did all that stuff, or that he was delusional?


Georgie. Georgie is hanging in there. His coughing is more frequent, and his side-breathing is now evident even to me. Sometimes when he's coughing I start panicking and I think I should take him to the vet THIS VERY DAY and end his suffering. But in between coughing fits, he seems happy and fluffy and comfy and young, and it seems ridiculous to be considering ENDING HIS LIFE over some COUGHING. It is hard to know what to do, and I'm encouraged by how many of you said that when it was Time, you Knew.


Heath Insurance. Our health insurance did change, but there was a happy surprise: our monthly contribution is indeed more than our mortgage payment, but the deductible I was so upset about doesn't apply to regular stuff like office visits and prescriptions---it only kicks in with the more expensive stuff like hospital stays and medical equipment. THEY COULD HAVE SAID SO.


Cloth Napkins. Still going well, except that once I get on a Quest I have trouble Stopping, and so we have more cloth napkins than we can possibly use, and also enough napkin rings for a reunion of the extended Duggar family.


The Other Kind of Reusable Napkins. Can you believe I have NOT YET TRIED THEM? I bought a whole bunch and there they sit, unused. I WILL try them. I WILL. I just...haven't yet. It's a hurdle! And they're so pretty, I don't want to ruin them! ...Except that if they get ruined, I get to choose more pretty designs...

June 22, 2009

Assorted Updates (Updated)

I'm always, like, "Hey, let's talk about this!" and then I get everyone's input and I make my decision and I never mention it again because it's not on my mind anymore. Let's see which threads I've left loose.

The Scale. I ordered the one Jess recommended, the Newline Well Balance. It's supposed to arrive tomorrow.

* * * * * * * *

The Toddler. I cannot even describe how scattered and distracted I continue to be. It's not just Henry, who has added biting, smacking, and lashing-out-with-a-fork to his repertoire. I feel like I am the CENTER of a WHEEL, and ALL SPOKES LEAD TO ME. EVERYONE has to talk to ME, so each of THEM is having ONE conversation but I am having FIVE. It is NO WONDER my mind feels like a metaphor for something else.



* * * * * * * *

End-of-Year Teacher Gifts. I had the kids write their usual "What I remember about this school year" letters. I also contributed $5 to a collection taken up by the room mother for one teacher's gift.

As always when I do these teacher gift posts, I am simultaneously so grateful for and so sorry for some of the input I get about teacher gifts from teachers. On one hand, I can imagine how frustrating the gifts can be, and I think it's good to point out that if _I_ only like one in twenty fragrances at Bath & Body Works and find ALL the others BARFY, the odds of choosing a good one for a teacher are slim. I also think it's good to remember that in general, it's good to buy a gift for a teacher as if the teacher were a REAL PERSON, someone who would prefer Good Chocolate to Chocolate-Flavored Candy just like the rest of us would.

On the other hand, I am almost flattened with discouragement hearing about baked goods thrown directly into the trash, non-giftcards referred to as "useless junk" or "crap gifts," and the term "even as little as $10" (as if $10 is a tuppence, merely a thought that counts) brought up ANYWHERE AT ALL. In fact, I find those comments lead me to this train of thought:

1. It really is unfortunate that teachers get so much stuff they don't want/need.

2. It's too bad the gifts can't be merely Representative Tokens of Appreciation (the way Teacher Appreciation Week is representative of the entire year), and that the teachers can't compensated in some OTHER way for the work that they do, perhaps by their EMPLOYERS, perhaps with CURRENCY so that they could buy what they DO want/need.

3. OH WAIT.


So here's what I'm doing:

* $10 or $15 Target giftcards (one per classroom teacher---nothing for assistant teachers, art teachers, music teachers, gym teachers, computer teachers, secretaries, directors, principals, assistant principals, student teachers, room mothers, cleaning staff, cafeteria workers, lawn maintenance team, head of the PTA, because OH MY BEEZUS THIS IS GETTING RIDICULOUS) at Winter Holiday

* a letter from the child at end-of-year, telling the teacher all the things they remember/liked during the school year

* a Target giftcard for the bus driver: $10 per child of mine riding her bus

* throughout the year, contributing disinfecting wipes, boxes of tissues, baked goods (I hope they're not thrown away when they're specifically requested), paper towels, hand soap, disinfecting hand gel, Box Tops for Education, and anything else the teacher or PTA requests during the year for the school and for school events

* * * * * * * *

Well, now I'm all distracted by teacher gifts and am no longer in the mood to discuss pens, or clerks who think it's okay to reprimand my child, or the recent failures of muffin recipes using baby food. Hee! It is the downside of reheating leftover topics!


Edit 06-23-2009: I think MOST teachers are NOT icky about teacher gifts and that it's just a vocal minority that says those mean things that get me all anxious. I kind of wish I hadn't posted my little rant, because I think my attack on the vocal minority comes out sounding like an attack on All Teachers. Plus, it's the kind of post that makes people nervous because it makes indirect references: SOMEONE is in trouble, but WHO?? (And yet I don't have anyone in particular in mind, and can't remember who posted which comments, and just sort of came up with representative TYPES of comments from all previous teacher-gift-related posts.) Considering how much I hate such posts myself, I don't know why I succumbed to my pique.

June 18, 2009

Weighing Options (Heh)

In our life together so far, Paul and I have owned six scales. We haven't liked a single one of them, and also they start wonking out after a year or two.

Our current scale has been working for me but not for Paul. I admit it's given me a few strange readouts, but then it always gave a better answer the second try, and I don't think stepping off and stepping on again is such a huge inconvenience. Also, I admit I've seen it doing its "calculating....calculating....calculating..." thing when no one was standing on it, but big deal. It's only a LITTLE like a machine is coming to life and watching us while we're vulnerable and unsuspecting.

So I wasn't ready to pull the plug. Scales are hard to choose, and boring to spend money on. I sometimes think scales are a Bad Idea anyway. But just now Paul made an exasperated sound from the bathroom and then announced: "That's it. We need a new scale." His claim: the scale is not working. I wanted to ask if "not working" meant "telling him he weighs more than he thinks he weighs," but before I could weigh (heh) the advisability of this possible line of inquiry he added that the scale is now literally non-functioning. My suggestion that the scale needed a new battery was met with a snort, and with the declaration that he didn't care if it DID need a new battery, it wasn't getting one, because it was a dumb scale to begin with. (I hope it didn't hear him say that.)

So scale-questing it is. Here is the thing: I don't want to have to do this again anytime soon, so what I'm most looking for is DURABILITY and NON WONKING OUT. Perfect accuracy is not important to me, as long as it gives me the general idea for those kid medications where I have to weigh the child to determine the dosage.

But PAUL wants perfect accuracy, and in fact he would like it to measure to the TENTH OF A POUND, which I think is stupid since drinking an 8-ounce cup of water changes a person's weight by FIVE tenths of a pound.

And so we need The Perfect Scale. It must be:
  • reliable
  • non-wonking
  • inexpensive
  • fun to buy
  • accurate to a tenth of a pound
  • non-sentient/plotting
Other helpful info: a scale you have that you hate, so we won't buy it.

June 17, 2009

Atmosphere

If you normally don't read over at Milk and Cookies because you're kind of bored by all the shopping talk, perhaps today will be your day: I'm talking about PLANTS! And also: the plant post CAME TO ME IN A DREAM! I dreamed I was writing it, and so then later, I....well, I wrote it. As you can see.

Or maybe plants are as boring to you as watching plants grow, in which case let's get back to the shopping talk.

I had something unusual happen the other day: I went to a Target I'd never been to before, and...I didn't enjoy it. I think they must not have been piping in the same life-restoring air the other Targets have, because it didn't smell soothing. The walls were painted (or possibly stained) a too-dark shade of grey. The ceilings seemed lower, and the departments seemed smaller, and the music was depressing. The fluorescent lighting was too dim, and some of the lights were flickering. The employees seemed exhausted and beaten down, as if trapped in a twilight zone situation, working the same workday again and again. The clearance areas were sparse, and not very reduced. I felt weird and skittish, and then discouraged and plodding. I bought hardly anything: a pack of card stock (50% off), a 3-pack of Wonder Pets unders (30% off), and a package of lightbulbs (rang up higher than expected, and by then I had soaked up too much atmosphere to do anything about it).

So now if any of you say, "Meh, I don't get what the fuss is about Target," I will nod understandingly rather than reeling back in shock and horror. I will imagine you at the grey, flickering, plodding Target.

Yoo Hoo!

Hey, Kathi A! You won Erin's contest!

June 16, 2009

Recipe Needed: Chocolate Brownie Coconut White-Chocolate-Chip Cookies

Heads up: we have a cookie emergency here, people. Sally writes:
I have a cookie emergency! Ok, not really but I have an upcomming event and I really want to take a cookie that I CANNOT find a recipe for. [Swistle note: This = emergency.]

The cookie - A brownie cookie from the bakery of my local supermarket. But not just any brownie cookie - a moist and delicious brownie cookie made with coconut and white chocolate chips that is SOOOO good. I started with the obvious and asked at the bakery for a recipe but it seems they get them shipped in frozen and merely bake them in the store. I tried the store's website (Hy-Vee) and got nowhere so I turned to the internet at large. I found brownie cookie recipes and coconut brownie recipes but nothing in the middle. I'm ready to start experimenting but I don't really know where and this is where you come in.

I know you are a master of the baked goods in general and brownies in particular so I ask you: Have you ever made or eaten such a cookie as I have described? Generally speaking, is a brownie cookie made of different ingredients than a brownie or just baked in a different form? I suspect merely adding coconut and white chocolate chips to a brownie cookie recipe will make it too sweet and possibly too moist to hang together. Thoughts? Helping me with this project will result in a LOT of goodwill coming your way from me and my family . . . plus you will have a DELISH cookie to add to your repertoire that freezes really well and you know what that means - cookies on demand!

It is hard to match a good bakery cookie. Our grocery store bakery makes a caramel coconut chocolate chip one that I have tried IN VAIN to even APPROXIMATE.

I have one recipe for brownie cookies. Betcha we could modify it to include coconut and white chocolate chips (I think my first try would be to add 3/4 cup of each, in place of the chocolate chips), but also betcha it wouldn't much resemble the cookies you have in mind.

Let's spread wide the net! Do any of you have a recipe for chocolate/brownie coconut white-chocolate-chip cookies?

June 15, 2009

Mr. Pickles Visits Walmart

Mr. Pickles would like to point out that before there was a Rollback, there was a Rollforward: these were $2.50 for ages, then $3.18 for a couple of weeks, and now just LOOK how they're ROLLING BACK PRICES! They just KEEP ROLLING THEM BACK!



Mr. Pickles does not consider this an acceptable "clearance" price. Target had these for $1.07. Now THAT'S a clearance price.



Nor is this an acceptable "clearance" price, particularly since Mr. Pickles just saw this same game on clearance at Target for $4.74.



Here is something that particularly aggravates Mr. Pickles: when an item is available and available and available, and then suddenly not available---not because of being discontinued, but because of, apparently, PURE WHIM. Walmart used to have the big cans of Contadina crushed tomatoes, but now they have only the puree. Mr. Pickles doesn't know how he's supposed to make chili without Contadina crushed tomatoes.



And THIS situation. One of the MAIN REASONS Mr. Pickles comes to Walmart is to buy these huge bottles of Tabasco sauce. They've been out of stock for weeks, with this empty shelf space just SITTING here. WTF. Mr. Pickles's spouse uses Tabasco like a beverage, and after the current bottle, and the next bottle, there is only one bottle left.



Fine, Mr. Pickles caves. He will buy the smaller sizes. But how can he compare the unit price when one size is unit-priced in ounces and the other is unit-priced in quarts? Nice workaround to a pesky legal requirement, Walmart.



Rolling back from $2.50 to $3.00. Mr. Pickles thinks someone forgot that step one of the "Rollback" was supposed to be Our Little Secret.



Well. Okay. This is pretty hard to complain about. This stuff usually costs over $3.00. Mr. Pickles buys five.



Mr. Pickles checks his receipt carefully. It is like a game, finding Today's Errors. Only one error this time: the balloons were marked $1.00 but rang up as $1.25. Mr. Pickles has seen worse.



[For more photos, join us, joiiiiinnnnnn ussssssss!]

June 12, 2009

Toddler

I am so SCATTERED! My mind is ALL OVER THE PLACE. My mental to-do list is about 5 seconds: if I don't write something down immediately, it's GONE FOREVER.

I blame Henry. I can't believe the changes around here. Elizabeth, observing Henry for a few minutes this morning, exclaimed, "Isn't he a bad baby!" Er, not that I'd say so. But when a child keeps trying to climb INTO and OUT OF his high chair; when a child can open baby gates; when a child can climb out of a play yard; when a child drags chairs so he can get to high places; when a child takes flying leaps toward unsuspecting parents; when a child CLIMBS A LAMP, FOR THE LOVE OF TARGET, things are getting kind of DIFFICULT.

I don't think any of my previous children were this, um, ADEPT, or perhaps they WERE and I just didn't write it down before the 5 seconds were up so I've forgotten. We never needed doorknob protectors before. No one ever opened a baby gate without being specifically taught to do so. No one stood on the sill of the bay window and took a flying leap toward me as I sat reading on the not-so-very-nearby recliner, alerted to the situation only by the sound of an older child saying, "No, Henry, don't jump!"

Well. So. Where was I? It's been more than 5 seconds since I started this post, so I'm sitting here looking confused and wondering what my original intent was before I started talking about how Henry will be lucky to have all his teeth and limbs as an adult, and so will I.

Oh, yes, I remember: I DID write it down, but then forgot I'd done so. Here it is. I was going to whine about how I had to cancel a get-together with a friend today because the weather promised one thing and delivered another, so now I'm sulky and at loose ends, wondering if I should eat ALL the leftover cake or just SOME of it.

But was that really all I was going to say? I can't remember. ....AAAAAA, don't jump, don't jump! *twitch twitch*

Quick

I only have two seconds to write this, because a closed computer-room door separates me from a climbing, gate-breaking, button-pressing Henry, but YOU only have, like, an HOUR to enter Erin's pay-it-forward contest!

June 10, 2009

Quick Poll: End-of-Year Teacher Gifts

Question: If you have kids in school, do you give the teachers an end-of-year gift? And if so, what do you give and what is the approximate value? I'll put a poll over to the right to get an idea of general answers, but we'll also discuss in the comment section.

June 9, 2009

So Very Tired

This week Henry has shown that he is able to:

1) Climb out of his playpen
2) Open the bathroom door
3) Open the baby gate at the top of the stairs
4) Fall down the stairs

June 5, 2009

Henry's 2-Year Portraits

So. I had Henry's 2-year portraits done at JCPenney.

First, let's review Henry's personality. He's a sturdy, climbing, copying-older-siblings kind of guy; cheery and stubborn; tackling people, flinging things, getting into things; getting angry and yelling when thwarted; leaping onto people and saying "MMMMmmmmmm!" as he cuddles into their bruised bodies. THIS kind of thing:


Here is what I was expecting the portrait studio problem to be: overabundance of exuberance; getting into things; refusing to stand still; running around; being loud; playing games where he turns around suddenly just as the camera clicks.

Here is what the problem in fact WAS: clinging to Mother with all his claws; using his feet to climb higher; face crumpling; whimpering, "No, no, no. I not like it, camera. No, no want it, pictures."

After a few minutes of this, a guy photographer came in and started doing silly stuff. Henry appreciated the effort but declined to get out of my arms---even if I sat right next to him. Finally I asked the girl photographer, "What do you...DO...in situations like these?" and she indicated the guy photographer and said, "I call HIM!" I said, "So we've already used our emergency option?" and she said, "Yes!" We both laughed and groaned a little.

Then I asked if we could just...take the picture with him on my lap. I mean, it would look weird with a "parts of Mommy" background rather than the nice white one she'd chosen, but at least we'd HAVE a picture. It's not like we're shooting a national ad campaign here: if the lighting is nice and the facial expression is characteristic, the background can be weird.

Well, so that's what we did. And she got some really good pictures, too, especially considering the circumstances. She even got one of the two of us together in an "on purpose" way instead of in an "oops, part of Mommy got in that shot" way.


That's just how he was. See how his knee is up? He's CLIMBING me. And I'm all pretending I don't care about my hair.


As he got more comfy, she had me lean back a teensy bit, and she went in from a side angle and zoomed way in:

This is the one I considered his "main" picture. It's not entirely characteristic (he's holding his mouth and chin oddly), and part of my arm is in the background, but it had the elements I was looking for in a photo: the child is holding still and looking not entirely unpleasant.



I got some of this one, too: it's sad, but it's cute.



Too sad: look at the downturned mouth corners and the Anxiety Eyebrows.



This one I love a LOT, because it looks JUST like him. But it looks "JUST like him" if he's "JUST been told that everyone but him is going to visit the zoo, have a picnic, and get ice cream cones afterward."

June 3, 2009

Pens

OMG I have HAD IT. NONE of my pens write nicely. I HATE the scratchy gel ones. I HATE the skippy ballpoints. I HATE any pen that doesn't make a smooth, even, consistent line. The finepoint permanents are lovely but they lose their fine points too soon, and also they soak through thinner papers.

HELP ME. Tell me which pens to buy. I don't even CARE anymore what they cost, if they will just WRITE NICELY.

June 2, 2009

One at a Time, Please

Here is what I'm working on this week:

1. Serious potty-training. It is time, I really mean it, we are seriously doing this even if we completely soak every inch of the house in the process, I don't care anymore about "child-led" because my children are apparently FOLLOWERS.

2. Looking for more Dinofours books for Elizabeth's current obsession. I can get them used for 1 cent each on Amazon---but then it's $3.99 shipping EACH, which seems...unreasonable, especially if I order them all from the same seller. I wish I could find more at our library book sale section: that's where I got the few we have now, at 3/$1.

3. Experimenting with hot fudge sauce.

4. Doing laundry: our washer and dryer were out of commission for a week (we're putting in a second bathroom! See also: potty training), so although I could use my parents', we still have astonishing piles of dirty laundry. (See also: potty-training.)

5. Implementing new "If All Five of You Talk at the Same Time I Will Run Screaming Into the Sea" policy. I've always done a lot of correcting on this subject ("One at a time, please" and "Wait, Edward: someone else is talking"), but I am turning it up to 11. Because seriously: the sea is calling my name, and that makes SIX talking all at once.