October 30, 2009

Hat Recommendation

May I recommend a hat for all your hat-related needs? I was shopping for winter hats for my fifth grader and my third grader, because the fifth grader EVIDENTLY no longer wants to wear the multicolored ones with fleecy spikes and tassels I'm so fond of, and so of course the copycat third grader had to pipe up with the same opinion. We went to Target and we looked in the boys' section, but those hats failed to please the judges, and also even the size 8-14 was pretty snug (pediatrician, examining Henry: "Have ALL your kids had such ENORMOUS HEADS?"). We went over to the men's section to see if those would be too big, and they weren't. But they were, like, $12.99, and I hate paying that much for a non-cute hat that will no doubt be lost in November. Then we saw these:

Edward, Rob, Henry, William, Elizabeth

The hats are $2.99 each, and they're stretchy and fit EVERYBODY, from fifth-grade Rob down to 2-year-old Henry. I bought six: one for each kid, plus a spare to reduce the morning fighting over who gets which color (everyone will get a choice, rather than the last hat-chooser getting stuck with the last hat). It comes in wine red, orange, yellow, green, royal blue, plum, black, grey, and brown. I still want to buy the brown one, and the kids might talk me into getting wine red and black too. At one of our local Targets these hats were on the opposite side of the display rack that held the more expensive men's hats; at another Target the hats were on a different rack altogether (but still in the men's department).

A Brief Note to Etsy Peeps

Hey, Etsy peeps. I had a thought. What if I reviewed a bunch of Etsy peeps' stuff on the new review blog, in time for holiday shopping? I've wanted to do that before, but on this blog I have an ad that prevents me from accepting things for review. On the new review blog? No ad. And I am super in favor of people doing their gift-buying on Etsy. So....would that be good? or useless?

Edit: Oooo, wait. I have thought of a Big Fret. What if an Etsy peep sends me a sample---and I DON'T LIKE IT?? It's one thing to give an honest negative review about a manufacturer's item, but about an ETSY PEEP'S item? I'm not sure I could do it.

Oh, here's another problem: what if the Etsy peep only makes things that are way too expensive to send a sample of? Like, I was looking at the Etsy shop of commenter Angie and OMG SO GORGEOUS, and obviously she is not going to send a TWO HUNDRED DOLLAR QUILT for a review---so what do we do, in that case? We fret, right? Good, because I am ALL OVER THAT.

October 29, 2009

When Did You Know if You Liked Girls or if You Liked Boys?

Earlier this month, Sam (pronounced KEER-sten) wrote a post about her son Chicken (pronounced SOO-doe-nim): Chicken is thirteen and knows if he likes girls or if he likes boys, but sometimes when he mentions it he gets a reaction like he's too young at thirteen to know that information.

I am very interested to know if my kids like girls or if they like boys, and I would like to know how much more time I have to wait to find out. So my question for today is: How old were you when you knew?

My mom says I had boyfriends as early as kindergarten (I do hope Alfie still regrets dumping me), but my own personal memory of actual attraction starts in third grade. I liked boys. I didn't even have that early stage a lot of girls have where they develop a few crushes on girls or female teachers: I went right to crushes on boys and never stopped. So for me, the answer was clear at age 8 or 9. By age 13, it couldn't have even been raised as a topic of discussion, it was so set. BOYS BOYS BOYS BOYS BOYS. Boys!

But I know people develop at different rates, and I had classmates who didn't show any interest in boys OR girls even in high school, and I also know a lot of people are more of a mix and so need more time to figure it out, so I'd like to get a bigger sample than just me and Chicken. How old were you when you knew what was what?

October 27, 2009

First BlogHer Review Post

I have posted my first paid BlogHer review, and I hope it will reassure anyone who wondered if a review could be both paid and non-butt-kissing. But now I have Nervous Tummy (TM Tess) and wish I had spent more time emphasizing the positive, rather than emphasizing the MONEY part so much and at such length. I even did MATH PROBLEMS. For SEVERAL PARAGRAPHS.

Well. Perhaps you would be willing to click your little mice all over the whole post so that Sonicare will not regret this entire arrangement. Perhaps you will win the $100 Visa gift card for your merciful actions. (I am kind of excited to think of one of you winning it!) And for those of you who like Stuff About Big Families, there's a photo of seven toothbrushes in a cluster. Thrill!

Also, has it been about a million years since I posted a photo of Henry? I thought so.

Celebrating first review post with fast food

October 26, 2009

Reader Question: Sleep Issues 2

C.A. writes:
Would you help a devoted reader and write about some baby stuff (which I know you love)?? I just had my first baby on August 21st. She was 5 weeks early so we spent 11 days in special care in the hospital, but now she is home, gaining weight fast, is strong, and doing well. I know everyone tells you having a newborn is hard and you don't sleep, but dude. Nothing prepared me. Can you talk about your tips for dealing with the constant feedings and the no sleep? She won't sleep in her cosleeper next to us, she wants to be held or near us, and we're terrified of killing her in bed in our sleep. She's not even a fussy baby and still we don't sleep. It's so bad I can't imagine doing this again, and we definitely want(ed) more kids.

How did you do it? How in GOD'S NAME did you do it with older kids to care for, too? Did you just never sleep? Did you sleep in shifts? And what about the breastfeeding? How did you work it all out, especially nights? And when oh when does it get better?

OMG, I SO sympathize. There is NOTHING like Newborn Night Craziness to send a person screaming into the sea. Or backyard, whatever. Here's a post I wrote about it when I was going through it with Henry: Newborn Sleep Survival Plan. And here's the post I wrote when someone else asked me about it: Sleep Issues. The second title looks more dull but is more worth reading because I didn't write it while suffering newborn sleep deprivation myself, and because it involves ninjas.

And here are some BASIC TIPS in quick-reading format, because my guess is that you have about 15 seconds before the baby needs you:

1. I promise it will get better. I PROMISE. (Note: I am not authorized to make this promise.) This is temporary and will pass like a storm, leaving you blinking in the sunlight and thinking "What the HOLY F just happened here??" Even if your baby is one of those kids who has never! ending! sleep! issues!, the postpartum time is the only time when your body is so beat-up and exhausted and when your mind is so circuit-blown by the new baby and its existence and its birth.

2. It works out okay with other kids, too. I don't remember HOW, but here I am, so it must have worked out. I think it's that by the time you have a second baby, the little squaller you're looking at now will be so familiar to you, and also she may be TALKING, and also I'll say again the part about her being FAMILIAR to you by then. Because I think that's what makes the difference: right now you're caring for a tiny stranger, but you'll only have one tiny stranger at a time.

3. For sleep, my philosophy is Do Whatever Is Necessary. In my own experience, I didn't find that any of the first-couple-months stuff created lasting issues. At the TIME I'd be thinking "Oh no, he can't sleep in his car seat---then he'll ALWAYS want to sleep in his car seat!" but that did not come to pass. Generally in the "nursing every 2 hours" stage I sleep in a recliner with the baby on me (I fall asleep nursing, so that's the pose) and a nightlight nearby so I can see well enough to nurse if the baby wakes. Or I put the baby in a bouncy seat or in a swing or in the carseat or ANYWHERE THE BABY WILL SLEEP. But of course this philosophy works only if there ARE places the baby will sleep, or if a "whatever is necessary" EXISTS to do. Otherwise---well, see #1.

4. One of my sleep mottos is "Every little bit helps." This helps me with the INTENSE FRUSTRATION of jussssst getting sleepy and then the baby wakes up. I think firmly to myself: "That five minutes was still worth it." Or if I'm thinking, "I shouldn't go back to bed---the baby will wake up in half an hour," I do it anyway: every little bit of sleep helps. I also doze while nursing.

5. It helped me a lot to play The Sims during my pregnancy, because then after the baby was born I was used to the idea that a character could live in a 24-hour world, not paying much attention to The Right Time To Do Things. So I'd sleep a couple of hours, then be up a couple of hours, then sleep an hour, then be up a bunch of hours, then eat at 11:00 at night. SURVIVAL. Survival is the only goal. Schedule comes later.

6. There is no One Right Way to handle the Newborn Night Craziness. Different things work for different people at different times. You can pick and choose from whatever sleep tips anyone gives you, but don't be discouraged if what they think is SO OBVIOUSLY THE ONLY RIGHT WAY doesn't work for you at all.

7. I PROMISE. (This is not a guarantee.)

Grocery List

Jenny in MD wanted to see the whole list from this post. I think if you click on it you can see it larger.

Some of the weirder things on the list are household words for things. We call ground turkey "turko," for example, and I'd be hard-pressed to tell you why. And "petted eggs" means the ones from "cage-free certified humane" chickens, because we picture the chickens being loved and petted (NO ONE NEED DISILLUSION ME ON THIS) and so of course the eggs would also be loved and petted. "LH" is Paul's nickname for me, so "LH milk" is skim milk. "Baby milk" and "baby yogurt" just means "the kind the kids drink/eat." "Pink cereal" is what the kids call strawberry shredded wheat.

I would like to point out that when he put guacamole-mix powder on the list over in Produce, he wrote it as "pow." So I was even less open to the argument that "Lysol disinfecting wipes, 80 ct, on sale for $2.99 - get 2" was INSUFFICIENT INFORMATION for him to come home with the correct item.

October 25, 2009

I'm Not Complaining. I'm Just Saying.

On the grocery list:

Before he left (on the chore which, I will point out, he chooses to do because he prefers it to the alternative of staying home with the children): "Paul, I put something unusual on the list this week: it's Lysol wipes, and they're on a good sale so I put down two. But they're not for us, they're for the kids' classrooms, so if they come in different varieties or whatever, it doesn't matter which kind you get. And if they only have one left, still get it, and I'll just give it to the teacher of our more difficult child."

He came home with:

"They only had one left?"


"You only got one. So they only had one left?"

"It didn't say two on the list."

"It does. And? I also told you about it beforehand. Remember? For the classrooms? Two schoolchildren? Two classrooms? The joke about the more difficult child? Remember?"

*digging in trash for list to prove me wrong*

*finding list*

*looking at it for a minute to think of a way it is my fault*

(triumphantly, as if winning) "Oh, see, it's because you put the 2 BEFORE on this one but AFTER on this one!"

An expanded view of that part of the list, so you can see what he means:

But notice, he DID manage to see the "2" before the jelly doughnuts, AND he got the glazed ones.

Well, I guess you cannot notice that, because I had already eaten one of the doughnuts by the time I took the picture.

And to think this is with only 14 years of training! Who KNOWS what peaks of competency we will eventually reach!

Free Yard Sale

So this idea DOES need more explanation than the title? Okay, I will give it.

We have a yard, and it is in an excellent location for yard sales: visible from a semi-main road, semi-visible from a main road. We've had a couple of standard yard sales there. The more successful one, I spent hours and hours gathering/sorting/pricing things and laying them out attractively, and we spent most of the day sitting outside monitoring it and not getting the things done we'd usually get done, and we made $75. VERY DISCOURAGING. (The less successful one, it was drizzling and we made $7.)

So now what we do is once per summer we put stuff out on our lawn with a big "FREE" sign, and people come and take it away for us. Usually the first few cars of the morning take about half of it, and the rest of it gets picked at over the rest of the day. If we do it during peak yard sale season it goes particularly quickly, no doubt because people are taking the stuff to sell at their own yard sales.

This has ended up being a much more satisfying way to do things. It's much, much easier: I don't have to fret about the condition of things or whether something might be broken or missing a piece; I don't have to put things out nicely; it doesn't have to be monitored; I don't have to decide how to price things; I don't have to deal with people trying to bargain me down to 75c from a dollar; I don't have to do math in my head; I don't have to sit there feeling frantically self-conscious while other people poke critically through my stuff.

I like to peek out the window at people and make up little fantasies about what they're taking and why. I pretend that the person taking the baby stuff is pregnant and has been lying awake nights wondering how she was going to afford the things she needs. I pretend that the person taking the kitchen canisters has been looking for those at antique stores for YEARS, to replace the ones from her childhood. It can be very gratifying to make this stuff up, and far better than imagining that other people are going to make MILLIONS by having a proper yard sale with it.

Our free yard sales have been much less impressive since we (1) had our porch made into a dining room and (2) started using Freecycle. The porch is where we used to dump all the stuff waiting for the day we did the yard sale, but we don't want to put all that stuff on the dining room table instead. (For one thing, the dining room table is ALREADY covered in stuff.) And with Freecycle, we tend to get rid of stuff as we have it, as opposed to saving it. Still, with a big pre-mother-in-law-visit purge, we get out the old sheets and put out a nice spread.

October 24, 2009

Three Minutes Fifteen Seconds of a Different Message Than the Usual

It was because I was searching Temerity Jane's blog for more information about her wig collection that I found this video. Here's the post where she writes about it. Feel happy with Temerity Jane and me!

Hi, Wyoming! You are So Great!

I have been playing with Google Analytics, something I rarely do because I don't understand ANYTHING on that site and never will. But totally by accident I found out how to do a map that shows how many visitors this blog got from each state in the last month. You know where I am WILDLY UNPOPULAR? Wyoming and North Dakota. So I thought I'd do something to even out the stats a little. Something that might appeal to people from Wyoming and North Dakota, because clearly I have been ALIENATING PEOPLE FROM WYOMING AND NORTH DAKOTA.

I'm going to start with Wyoming, because even taking into account that Wyoming has the fewest residents of any state, it is disproportionately unfond of me. For example, in the last month I have had 10 visits to my site from Wyoming. Nebraska, which has about 3 times the population of Wyoming, has visited 300 times---30 times as many visitors from a state with 3 times the population. Wyoming HATES me.

So! Yellowstone! That's a great park, yeah? Really awesome! Tourists should totally go there, and then they should spend lots of money while in the state, and they should send me postcards because I would treasure them!

And can I get a shout-out for coal and whatever has to be done to get it out of the ground? Sounds like hard work!

Go, Casper Ghosts! Go, Wyoming Calvary! Go, Wyoming Cowboys and Wyoming Cowgirls!

Did you know Dick and Lynne Cheney are BOTH from Wyoming? It's true! So is Buffalo Bill! So is Jackson Pollock, he of the splatter paintings! Also: William Henry Harrison! Not the 9th president of the United States, no. Apparently it is a common name.

And you know what the coolest shape is for a state to be? Largish and nearly rectangular! It is way easier to fill in those places on the map, you can't deny THAT. Not like all those skimpy twisted little northeastern states!

You know what else is great? Being north of Colorado! Wooo!

Wyoming may not like me, but as I read their Wikipedia entry I am liking THEM more and more. Did you know they win first prize for "Feminism Before It Was Cool"? Yes! They were the first state to acknowledge the right of women to vote, and the first to have women on a jury, and the first to elect women to several different positions of political power I've forgotten in the time it took me to get back here from Wikipedia. This is why they are called The Equality State, and that's something I never knew and/or never knew the reason behind and/or was too busy writing notes to my boyfriend to hear when it was told to me in class.

Also, did you know they have a State Dinosaur? It's the triceratops. That is AWESOME.

October 23, 2009

Saved as Drafts

Posts currently saved as drafts, because they seemed like less of a good idea after I wrote them but I didn't quite want to delete them:

1. A post trying to kiss up to people from Wyoming, because I was playing with Google Analytics and found out I am super-unpopular there---even taking into account the low population.

2. A post in which the only part that is written is the title, which is "Free Yard Sale." It was going to be about how every year we hold a free yard sale in our (wait for it) yard. But after I wrote the title, I felt like I'd already explained the whole concept.

3. A post I meant to finish LONG AGO, with a question from a reader about newborn sleep issues. That newborn is now...let's see...two months old.

4. A rant post about things that bug me. All the things in the list are things I have already ranted about on other occasions.

5. A post about how using my Wii Fit is like going to confession ("It has been 3 days since my last workout"). I am not Catholic. What do I know about what going to confession is like?

6. A post about whether elementary-school-aged boys should be allowed to wear nail polish if they want to.

7. A post containing partially-written childbirth stories. They kept getting out-of-hand lengthy. Like, novellas.

8. A post about what an obedient person I am. Who cares?

9. A post containing links to postcards I was buying for Postcrossing after asking you guys for suggestions and getting some great ones. I don't know why I never posted this. Looks like I forgot.

10. A post about Jimmy, only half-written before I ran out of steam with those adolescent-diary posts.

11. A rant about how I much I dislike it when people assume that a family with 5 children NEEDS a 7-bedroom house or tons of other stuff people didn't expect to have a few generations ago when they had more children and fewer bathrooms. Never posted because I kind of like it when people say, "And you only have one bathroom??????" as long as they say it in the impressed way instead of in the "I'm calling Child Protective Services" way. And besides, now we have two bathrooms.

12. A rant about how on the children's television show Arthur, Arthur is in third grade before he ever sees his parents bicker. Er?

13. A post about the time I went to my primary care provider to ask if I could be switched to a version of the birth control pill that would make me feel less crazy, and he said I should "do the adult thing" and get my tubes tied. I thought I'd probably already written about that enough times. And besides, then I went to my OB who said there DEFINITELY WAS a birth control pill that made many women feel less crazy, and he gave me a prescription for it, and then he had a highly gratifying conversation with his nurse in which the two of them rolled their eyes at how dumb my PCP was.

14. Yet another post in which I discuss my various methods for dealing with depression-like moods. Repetitive much?

15. A list of things that changed the way I felt about other things (example: Britney Spears's behavior changed the way I felt about Kevin Federline).

16. A post about how Paul is not a "fixer" the way many men are, but I AM. That is, if you vent to me, I might forget that I'm not being asked to offer a solution. I didn't post it because I actually would rather not draw your attention to that flaw.

There. That brings us back to fall of 2008.

October 21, 2009

Just Like That! Except With Death

This is hardly a fresh observation, but let me join the legions who have said it is WEIRD when you run into someone you went to high school with. And it gets weirder with every year.

Yesterday Paul and I were out on a date, and a woman came up to me and said we'd gone to school together, and I didn't recognize her AT ALL which was as awk as I'd feared in my many times imagining such a scenario, but fortunately I ABSOLUTELY recognized her NAME and knew exactly who she was and THEN recognized her, and all my her-related memories clicked into place, and everything was fine although of course still awk because AWK SITUATION.

I'm in my mid-thirties, and so at this point my high school self is less than half my age. I looked up my old classmate in the yearbook when I got home, and both of us have really left our high school selves behind. Those senior pictures look like CHILDREN. Thin, smooth-faced children. With late-eighties/early-nineties hair (I have bagel bangs!).

This same week, another former classmate died. It reminds me of when I was in my early twenties and a friend of mine got pregnant, and it was the first time I'd realized that I was now the age when I could do that TOO. I know that seems like it should have been obvious, especially since by that age I'd already been married and divorced and also technically could have been getting pregnant for a good decade, but it was still like a light going on as to the ACTUAL FACT of it. I could have an ACTUAL BABY!!!! It was like that. But, um, with death.

October 20, 2009

His/My Way Vs. Right/Wrong Way

Oh, I DO get SO TIRED of the old idea that men are doing a PERFECT JOB at chores, just IN THEIR OWN WAY, and that women are ONLY complaining because the men don't do the chores IN THE SAME WAY the women would. Oh, yes. Clearly. If my complaint is that when Paul does dishes there is STILL FOOD ON THE DISHES, obviously my problem is that I'm a control-freak who insists he do the dishes My Way instead of his Perfectly Good Alternative Way.

Listen. I totally understand this control-freak argument if, say, a man likes to do the dishes with a sink full of wash water and a sink full of rinse water, and his wife is all over him wanting him to have a sink full of wash water and then a thin stream of running water in the other sink. OBVIOUSLY that is unreasonable: he has His Way and she has Her Way, and why would she be trying to force him to do it Her Way? Ridiculous! The dishes come out clean either way, so why would one adult be nagging another adult?

But why ON EARTH would anyone try to apply that to situations where it doesn't even slightly apply? I complain that Paul goes to the store and comes home with pumpkin pie filling instead of pumpkin, and people say it's wrong of me to demand he do things my way, or they say I should accept that he does things differently than I would. This is not a My Way vs. His Way issue EVEN A LITTLE TINY BIT. This is him making a mistake.

If Paul puts our child's homework in the recycling bin, must I SAY NOTHING because he is doing things HIS WAY? No. He is doing things THE WRONG WAY. The argument people are looking for is the one where I complain because Paul puts the recycling in all willy-nilly instead of neatly stacked, or where I fuss because he likes to take the bin out on Tuesday night and I think he should take it out Wednesday morning.

In those cases, there's His Way and My Way, and both ways result in Success: recycling is in the recycling bin and is brought to the curb on time. It BAFFLES me that people want to apply this to cases in which His Way results in the papers being strewn across the yard, or placed in the regular trash, or left on the floor in another room, or not brought out to the curb on time. I'm supposed to consider that "his way of doing things" and not say anything about it because it's not fair to force him to do things "my way"? Ridiculous!

There are two completely different situations here, which some people try to relate. The first is a situation of His Way vs. My Way. That's the one where we have all now been THOROUGHLY CHASTENED that we are never ever ever supposed to say ANYTHING to ANYONE about their inviolable right to do things exactly as they feel like doing them, no matter how stupid or inefficient, because after all it DOES result in the chore being done.

The second is a situation of Right Way vs. Wrong Way. I think grown adults should be able to do things (HOWEVER they choose to do them) in a way that results in the chore being DONE. And if they don't manage to do so, I CERTAINLY DO speak up. I am in a partnership with an adult, and I expect the other partner to act that way. I am not in a 1950s sitcom where The Man bumbles around screwing things up and The Little Woman rolls her eyes and says, "Men! They're just like CHILDREN!" before backing her car out through the garage door.

October 19, 2009

Or Possibly Yes

Today I am reasoning with myself about Paul.

When he puts away the muffins, and he chooses from the large pile of gallon-sized zip bags one of the ones I use for muffin mix (visibly coated with white powder) (also LABELED IN PERMANENT MARKER), so that all the muffins in the bag are finely dusted with baking soda and flour and spices unrelated to themselves, does this mean he is blind as well as stupid? No.

When he reorganizes the basement, and now the boxes of handmedowns are in "the order he grabbed them" rather than in order by size, and when in fact he has made TEETERING STACKS of boxes so that if I need the size 4-5 long-sleeved shirts for Edward I first need to lift off FIVE BINS, the top one of which is higher than my head, does this mean Paul is a bad husband and father? No.

When he tidies up by putting a whole bunch of papers into the recycling bin without bothering to glance at what those papers ARE, and when some of the papers are Rob's homework and some are my Dunkin' Donuts coupons, does this mean I should divorce him and file for full custody? No.

When he goes to the store and comes home with weird specialized versions of things we buy in their normal versions ALL THE TIME (golden flaxseed meal instead of regular, large elbow macaroni instead of regular, canned pumpkin pie filling instead of canned pumpkin), does this mean my life is nothing but one long torment? No.

When I come home from the store where I have been purchasing the grocery items they "didn't have" (which are all right where they usually are), and he says, "Oh, I need Tabasco sauce," does this mean the only solution is human sacrifice? No.

October 18, 2009

In a WHO You WHAT?

My mom and I were at the store and we saw a plaque in the clearance section, and neither of us could make heads or tails of it. It is unfortunate that neither of us has a camera-equipped cell phone, but I copied it down exactly, punctuation and capitalization and centering and all, and maybe one of you will have an insight that will make my headache go away. Here it is:

in a


you find a
second left

I mean, what? What does that MEAN? It seems like we should have a "best answer" contest or something.

October 17, 2009

Once Again, Walmart Charges Me More

It has long been my feeling that even though I am willing to pay a "Target tax" ($1.99 for an item at Target instead of $1.87 for the same item at Walmart), that overall I save money by shopping at Target. This is for two reasons, no three reasons, no FOUR reasons:

1. Target has sales. Target's everyday price might be higher than Walmart's, but their sale price is lower.

2. Target has good clearances. Target's everday price might be higher than Walmart's, but their clearance prices are way, WAY lower.

3. Cheapness is partly reputation---not necessarily deserved reputation. The FEELING is that Walmart MUST be WAY cheaper because they have a carefully-constructed reputation for it and because they are SO unpleasant in so many ways, but an actual item-by-item examination reveals that some items are a little cheaper and some are a little more expensive and basically they're not cheaper. This is something I've been meaning to do a post on (comparing the prices at Walmart and Target of all the things I buy), but the research involved makes me feel like dying.

4. Walmart is a bunch of cheaters. The price marked on the shelf is lower than Target's, but the price that rings up at the register is not. Or, the item will be marked "20% more free!" but will ring up at a price about 20% higher than regular price. EVERY store (of COURSE including Target) makes errors at the register, but in general the errors even out: some are in the store's favor, some are in the customer's. Walmart's don't balance out, and this has been true at all three Walmarts I've lived near and shopped at regularly, in three different states.

ANYWAY. So it has been my opinion that Target costs me less money for the way I personally shop: that is, for the particular things/brands I buy, and for the things I buy on clearance, and for how unwilling I am to drag a cart full of children over to Customer Service to fix a bunch of 24-cent pricing errors.

But today I would like to add "The Example of the Luvs Diapers" as YET ANOTHER reason I think Target costs me less money and Walmart's reputation for cheapness is not fully deserved. Normally I buy all diapers at Target, the store brand ones for daytime and Luvs brand for nighttime. Today my mom and I were running errands and we needed to go to Walmart for yarn, and we weren't planning on going to Target, and I was nearly out of Luvs at home, so I thought I'd better get a box while I was there. I don't like giving Walmart my money, but I felt a little guiltily pleased to be "forced into" paying $15.97 for a box of Luvs instead of Target's $17.99.

Then I got home and OH WHAT HAVE WE HERE.

Target's box is on the left. Walmart's is on the right.

Allow a former math medalist to walk you through the math, or perhaps you can join me at the riveting conclusion in the next paragraph. Walmart charges $15.97 for 70 diapers, so to find the per-diaper price we divide $15.97 by 70, and the answer is 22.814 cents per diaper. Target charges $17.99 for 80 diapers, so to find the per-diaper price we divide $17.99 by 80, and the answer is 22.488 cents per diaper.

Per 100 diapers, Walmart charges $22.81 and Target charges $22.48. Target...charges...LESS. That's a pretty small price difference, and in fact I consider that "the same price." But the issue here is not that Walmart and Target have a similar price on Luvs; the issue here is that Walmart has their own package size, which is smaller than the standard but not enough smaller to be obviously smaller, and that they charge "less" for it. The impression shoppers receive---even MATH MEDALIST shoppers who notice prices---is that Walmart's prices are lower. Which would be fine IF THEY WERE. But I'm adding a fifth reason to my list:

5. Walmart has their own sizes on certain things. This gives the impression that they charge less, when in fact they are charging more.

October 16, 2009

A Little Knowledge is of Questionable Use

Do you know, I was two classes short of having a minor in economics but I still didn't understand until THIS WEEK that one of the arguments against chain stores is that they send the community's money elsewhere. I got that a few days ago in a flash of insight (or possibly from a commercial on the radio I didn't know I was listening to) as I was driving along mulling. I am in my MID-THIRTIES.

I think part of the problem is that when there are so! many! emotional! arguments! against something, it distracts from the PRACTICAL stuff---and if I hear too much emotional stuff, I generally start assuming there ISN'T much of a practical angle. Like, I am actually NOT sympathetic when I hear that the chain stores are going to put "the mom-and-pop stores" out of business. I think "mom and pop" is an excessively provocative term, considering that chain and non-chain businesses alike are owned by all kinds of people, some nice and some not, some parents and some not, and their motivations tend to be the same: make money.

I DON'T feel like making voluntary donations to keep a smaller company artificially profitable when a larger company can do the same thing more efficiently. And in my experience, small-business customer service varies just as much as chain-business customer service: some are great, some are crap, and not much seems to have to do with whether they're owned by "mom and pop" or by an international conglomerate. Sometimes you get a jerk, and sometimes you don't; sometimes a company has good policies, and sometimes they don't.

But finally I heard it in more economics-minor terms: that all the money the citizens spend at the chain is therefore going out of state. If it were spent at a small, local store, the money would presumably be spent by the local owners at other local establishments; then those other local owners would spend THAT money at other local establishments, and thus the money goes around and around, profiting the locals and also profiting the local government as they take their cut with each changing of hands. OH! I see!

It's not so clear-cut even then, of course. For one thing, the branch of the chain is still located HERE, so they have to pay taxes here. I think. Don't they? Or is there something about paying income taxes only where you're incorporated or whatevs? Still, property taxes, surely. And of course they employ local people, which means the company takes some of their out-of-state money and spends it back HERE. But still, I GET IT: I am in my mid-thirties and I see why smaller local stores can be better for a community.

What I DON'T get yet is how "seeing why smaller local stores can be better for a community" makes any difference once the chains are already here and the local stores are already gone. At THAT point---and that's the point most of us are at---it's hard to know what use this knowledge is.

I AM willing to pay a small/reasonable "tax" to shop "a better way" (which is why I'm willing to consistently pay $1.99 at Target for something that is $1.87 at Walmart, or buy the $4.75 partially recycled paper instead of the $3.50 non-recycled), but I'm looking around and I don't see many options for the "spend local" idea. Non-chain groceries? Only from the farmer's market, and that's only certain things and only a few months a year. Non-chain Tylenol? Nothing but a overpriced-beyond-small/reasonable convenience mart, and also of course most of the money still goes TO TYLENOL, which is NOT local. Books? YES! But...again, much of the money still goes to the out-of-state publishers/authors, and also, the difference between local and Amazon goes beyond what I am willing to pay in the "small contribution to the larger good" category. Gifts? YES! But that's a small part of the budget, and also what about Etsy? I love Etsy. Most of Etsy isn't local.

You can see how all this might make a Target girl feel...compromised.

October 15, 2009


I have some MALE FRIENDS AND FAMILY who read this blog, so I like to be very careful to let everyone know what they're getting into if I'm about to write about something Personal. So be warned: This post contains discussions of Kegels, which are exercises for the girly-bits. And that is ALL this post contains, so you are safe to bail.

Last chance to leave the room before I start using various v-words.

At my last GYN appointment there was a pop quiz on Kegels. I failed. My grade didn't surprise me any more than failing grade on a physics pop quiz would have surprised me, because Kegels are not in my repertoire of party tricks.

I'll bet our female ancestors were NEVER ONCE asked to exercise their pelvic floors. They may have had to deal with famine, log cabins and mud huts, crop failure, polio, assorted pestilences, but they were never asked to find a muscle by "stopping the flow of urine." I have tried this, and it was unhelpful.

But now I am the owner of an actual pamphlet telling me I must do Kegels or else rue it later. The pamphlet takes a threatening tone with me, and I resent it. It shows me a drawing of a woman awkwardly carrying a large bag of groceries as she frantically pushes open the door of a public bathroom. THIS COULD BE YOU, the pamphlet implies. Wait, she has already checked out? This scenario would make more sense to me if she had a cart.

Then the pamphlet feels it has bullied me enough, and it takes a mollifying, patronizing tone. "Kegel exercises don't require special clothing or equipment," it reassures me, but I hadn't been worrying about that. What kind of "special clothing" could there possibly be---let alone equipment? The pamphlet goes on to tell me that "no one can tell you're doing them, so they can be done almost anywhere." Oh, I am so sure.

But here is the final straw: after assuring me that Kegels don't require special equipment, the pamphlet says: "Eventually, special weights that you place in your vagina may be recommended to help make your Kegels even more effective." I would rather--FAR rather--pee my pants while carrying a bag of groceries.

October 12, 2009

Think of Her as Kevin Federline

This visit, I've had an insight into my mother-in-law's behavior. By profession, she works in a home for adults with severe developmental disabilities. I think this has given her an inflated sense of her own intelligence and competence. I think it has also given her certain habits of interpersonal behavior (i.e., telling adults what to do) that have carried over inappropriately into other, non-work relationships. And then let's say that first one a second time: I think it has given her an inflated sense of her own intelligence and competence.

I would also like to take a minute to speak badly of her former husband, my father-in-law. He doesn't get much press time because he's absent, and there aren't many good anecdotes about absence. One reason I put up with my mother-in-law is that as much as I dislike her, I approve of what she's doing: she's regularly traveling a long distance at considerable expense in order to visit her grandchildren. We never visit her, so she comes to us. I may feel like drugging her tea, but I like the concept of her visits, and I hope that if I drive my future daughters-in-law batcrap crazy (and I think statistically it's likely to happen with at least one) they will nevertheless support the concept of me visiting my grandchildren. And I hope I'll drive them nuts more in the "buys WAYYYYY too much crap we don't want or need" category rather than in the "rolls her eyes and does jazz hands until homicide seems like a viable option" category.

My father-in-law, on the other hand, hasn't ever visited. We let him know about each child's birth, and he doesn't respond. I send a packet of photos every month, and he doesn't respond. I send periodic email updates on how we're doing and how the kids are doing, and he doesn't respond. I send an annual Christmas package (this is something I go back and forth on, also annually) and he never responds. The only time we hear from him is every couple of years when he emails me to tell me about his journey to find himself, and to place blame on everyone and everything except himself for his inexplicable behavior (it was a childhood brain illness! it was his upbringing! it's because everyone spreads lies about him!). Then he disappears for another couple of years.

You know how at first it was so appalling that Britney Spears married that pinehole Kevin Federline, and then pretty soon it was like, "I never thought I'd say this but Britney Spears is making Kevin Federline look good." My father-in-law is the Britney Spears to my mother-in-law's Kevin Federline.

October 11, 2009

MIL Report, Day 8

My mother-in-law has the greatest respect for a former co-worker, EVEN THOUGH the former co-worker is a Mormon. Despite being a Mormon, that former co-worker is a real good person in many ways!

My mother-in-law didn't vote for Obama, herself, not because she's racist. She thinks it would be GOOD to someday have A Black in office! Just not THIS PARTICULAR Black. The fact that she didn't vote for him reflects positively on her: she is SO AWARE that Blacks = People Too, she can even distinguish one from another!

I was looking for a puzzle piece. She said archly that if I cleaned under my couch she thought I'd find a WHOLE LOT of missing things.

I brought up a bag of chocolate chips from the supply in the downstairs pantry, which is located in the part of the basement reserved for storage and workshop. She commented she'd noticed I wouldn't need to buy chocolate chips for a good long time, heavens no! When was she inspecting the pantry, I wonder?

I came home from the store. She asked what AMAZING BARGAINS I'd found today. Jazz hands and rolling eyes.

She said she needed to know where our hand mixer was. I guess I don't expect her to keep a mental inventory of everything in our kitchen, but I think we've had the "We don't have a hand mixer" conversation more than half a dozen times now, so I'd expect it to sink in eventually. Instead, when I said "We don't have a hand mixer," she made this face:

Except her eyes were way buggier, and rolling around in her head, and she swung her face from side to side in addition to clapping her hands to the sides of it, and she made a loud strangling sound. I said, "Yes, I don't know how, but somehow we've managed to survive all these years without one. It's a wonder any of us are alive." I said it like I was being funny. I was not feeling funny.

During dinner, she said out of the blue that she'd once been to this restaurant where they had "Lumpy mashed potatoes" on the menu. She couldn't figure out WHY anyone would WANT lumpy potatoes. That is just NUTS. Why would you BRAG that your mashed potatoes had lumps? She supposed it proved they weren't from a box, but LUMPS? Bleah! ...Do I need to specifically say that at this dinner we were eating mashed potatoes and that they contained the occasional lump, or do you know my MIL by now?

October 8, 2009

Report, Day 5

Marie asked if knowing I could blog each thing my MIL said made it easier to deal with. YES. In fact, it makes it like a GAME. She says something and I think, "Yay!" and I jot it down. If she goes too long without saying anything good, I start getting anxious: "I'll have nothing to tell them about! I'll have to say she's being fine and there's nothing to report!" It reminds me of the fun of blogging dieting/exercising/cleaning stuff: shared sorrow is doubled joy.

And so dawns Day 5. Ah, Day 5. Day 5 is when, if she were staying a week, I'd be thinking, "I THINK I can make it. Just two more days." The time she came for 2.5 weeks, I was thinking...well, I was thinking some dark, dark thoughts, and they involved shovels and moonlit fields and mysterious disappearances. For this visit, when there are 10 days but only if I count the arrival day, when she didn't arrive until after lunch, and the departure day, when she's leaving early in the morning---and I DO INDEED count those days, not with other houseguests but with her---I'm pretty sure I can make it but goshy-gee 7 days would be better.

Day 5 is, I think, the day she settles in. She's not feeling nervous or awkward anymore.

1. I bought Elizabeth two 2-packs of belts (on 75% off!) at Target, not because the child NEEDS four more belts but because I couldn't decide between the two 2-packs (and because they were 75% off!). My mother-in-law had several things to say on the topic of belts, in addition to saying every 10 minutes or so, "Swistle! [Child] needs those pants pulled up again!":

1a. I was saying the problem was that if I made Elizabeth's belt tight enough to keep the pants up, it would bisect her. MIL: "Yes, well, the day will come when we'll all be looking back and saying remember when Elizabeth had no hips?" Er, no. I don't think we WILL be doing that. And I think that anyone who DOES choose to say such a thing can say hello to that shovel I mentioned earlier.

1b. We were at a store and Elizabeth saw a belt she liked and asked if we could buy it. My MIL said to her, "I know a certain little girl who has puh-LENty of belts, considering she can only wear one at a time!"

2. My MIL wanted to go to Walmart to buy the kids their Christmas presents, to avoid shipping costs. (She takes stuff to one of those mailing stores. I don't think she realizes they charge A MILLION DOLLARS MORE than the already-expensive post office.) She suggested she get clothes, because "HEAVEN KNOWS they don't need any more TOYS."

3. Yesterday evening the topic of milk came up (no, I don't know how it came up---what am I, a court reporter?), and she said she just never could stand the taste of it, didn't like it as a child and didn't like it any better now. I said my mom didn't like it either, but that I did like it, and that I was hoping that would help me avoid the osteoporosis my mom's side of the family has had trouble with. My MIL: "Oh, I think that's more a problem with petite women, and I really don't think you qualify." Me: "...Uh...I... [*mind searching desperately for ANY response*] ...Well, both my grandma and my mom..." Mother-in-law, interrupting me to repeat herself: "I'm just saying, that's really only slightly-built women who have trouble with that, and I really don't think you qualify." Me: *picks up a notepad and pen and wrote it down*

3b. Have I mentioned before the way she will repeat her first point nearly verbatim, as if making a second point? Well, she does do that. She'll make her point, and if you argue with her, or if you make your own point, she'll repeat her own point JUST AS IF she is refuting your point or shoring up her own argument, but she is saying THE SAME THING. It is nearly impossible to continue the argument without following her lead and repeating your own point a second time.

October 7, 2009

Report, Day 4

I sat down to write a MIL Update, but then suddenly I was, "...Wait. Do I write about MIL stuff here?" I can't remember. I think what I do is write it, and then delete it later? Hm. I need to leave myself some notes or something.

I will start with the boring part, which is that the visit is going Fine so far. It nearly always DOES go fine for the first few days, before she gets comfortable. I still don't like her, I'm not enjoying the visit, but I'm not SUFFERING. And it REALLY HELPS that this time we're doing things the way we usually do them (and looking like experts at it even though she disapproves) rather than doing things the way she would approve of them (and looking like total incompetents). All right, now for the venty examples:

1. Rob and William came home from school. SHE ASKED THEM if they'd done their homework, then reported to me: "I just got the old 'I did my homework on the bus'" and rolled her eyes. Which, um. I checked, and they HAD done their homework on the bus, and also? Why is she getting involved in this AT ALL?

2. Rob and William wanted to learn how to knit, so she taught them. My mom taught William last year; he hasn't knit since then but picked it up quickly. Rob has never knit before. After no kidding LESS THAN AN HOUR she pulled me aside and said, "William may make a knitter. Rob? No"---with a pfff and a totally dismissive tone. NICE. He's TEN YEARS OLD and this is his FIRST TIME KNITTING. And he was DOING IT: he has two inches of knitted stuff already.

3. We went to the store and she kept speaking firmly to the children. I wrote "sharply" there first, but it wasn't quiiiiiite sharp. BRISK, though, and authoritative. "Edward! Stop that! Come here and hold my hand! Come on now, you didn't get hurt!" And I gave Henry things to play with, and he was doing NO HARM and she kept taking things away from him. After I several times gave them back to him, she started instead lunging as if to take them, then correcting herself, then saying to me, "We'd better take those away from him, don't you think?" I'll repeat: NO HARM was being done to the items. And they were things _I_ was buying.

4. First she made several "funny" remarks about my bargain shopping. "Oh, Swistle and her 75% off!" with a little head waggle and widened eyes and jazz hands. Then, later, she told a lonnnnng anecdote about her stupid sister who always buys stuff she doesn't need and doesn't like "but it was ON SALE!"---using "stupid sister" tone of voice. The "but it was ON SALE!" chorus was repeated half a dozen times as her stupid sister was stupider and stupider about her purchases, which---and I'm sure this was pure coincidence---my mother-in-law remembered had been 75% off. This for purchases made back when she and her sister lived at home with their parents, and in her sister's early homeowning days nearly 50 years ago.

5. At the table, in "I am repeating the tone of someone I saw on TV" voice: "Americans eat FAR too much salt!" (For the FIRST TIME EVER I pulled off the kind of response I always MEAN to give when she makes such pronouncements: I said "Mmmmmmmmmmm....salllllllllt.") This WHOLE salt thing is because she personally has high blood pressure and has been personally instructed to cut down on salt. ALL AMERICANS need to obey her medical instructions, because what SHE does is THE ONLY WAY TO DO THINGS. If she were diagnosed with diabetes, we would ALL need to have insulin shots and Americans would eat FAR too much sugar. If she were diagnosed with cancer, we would ALL need to have chemotherapy treatments and Americans get FAR too little radiation.

6. Now she's self-diagnosed herself allergic to eggs, too. No salt, no fat, no caffeine, no tomatoes, no eggs.

7. Regarding her cousin's panic attacks, she told me: "I said to her, 'Now there is just NO REASON for you to have a PANIC attack! WHY would you panic? You are JUST going to the GROCERY store!' I mean, for Pete's sake!"

October 6, 2009


This has to be QUICK: I have 10 minutes before my mother-in-law is UP IN MY GRILL.

ONE! Because it was the LEAST important thing on my To Blog list, I have written another disclosure post. Oh hai. I can haz prioritiez?

TWO! William's best friend is a girl. He saw some inexpensive charms at Hallmark where you can click the two halves of a heart together, and he found his own name AND his friend's name on heart halves (it's lucky his best friend is a girl, because only girl-boy halves fit together), and he wanted SO BADLY to get them each a necklace with both names on it, so I allowed it.

Now I'm feeling a little awk. Should he be giving jewelry to a friend in third grade? Will her parents think that's weird? So what I'm asking you is: should I have asked the mom first, or should I have sent a note to her about it the day William gave his friend the present? Does it change things if he brought the necklace in today and I neither asked first nor sent a note?

October 3, 2009

Well Then, Which Was the One With the Party?

You know what book I thought of out of the blue the other day? Fifteen, by Beverly Cleary, the part where Janie is trying to knit a pair of argyle socks for boyfriend Stan and has to take out the stitches over and over again.

What I would like to know at this point, a good 25 years later, is how did I identify so strongly in the 1980s with a book in which the protagonist calls her father "Pop" and irons a dress before a date? And yet I did, and in fact I would go so far as to say it is the book that, more than any other, created my dating expectations. When I was fifteen years old myself, I arrived on the doorstep of dating fresh-faced and in an ironed dress (ironed turned-up-collared shirt, whatever), waiting for an ID bracelet. None of the boys I dated had ID bracelets, and why not? Bring sexy back, boys.

I also read Forever... by Judy Blume, and I read it at age 14 when it was getting passed around by the girls in my grade with the interesting sections pre-dog-eared, and yet that one didn't influence my views of dating. I read it with the same interest I read the sack of paperback romance novels my babysitting employer recommended to me, but didn't think to apply any of them to anything in my own life. It seemed to me that the book ended kind of abruptly: relationship, relationship, more relationshipping, off to camp and the sad necklace and the end. I was like, "Huh? How come they broke up? They seemed to be getting along so nicely." I do still remember what Michael's, er, little friend was named, do you?

I was interested in the idea of The Transition Into Womanhood but did NOT want to discuss it with my eager-to-discuss-it mother, so I think I read Judy Blume's Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret a dozen times. The discussions of various feminine hygiene product possibilities. "We must, we must, we must increase our bust" exercises. The friend writing "I GOT IT!" on a postcard and then crying in the bathroom when she really did get it. The grandmother saying that if Mohammad wouldn't come to the mountain, the mountain would have to come to Mohammad---and did they go on a shopping trip into the city? The big religious decisions she felt she should make. The...party with BOYS, and the girl with epilepsy? Or, no, I think that was another book.

October 1, 2009

In Which I Swear THREE, no FIVE, no EIGHT Times!

Rob and I went to the Fifth Grade Open House this week, and I seriously had to dry-swallow a TRANQUILIZER after seeing a little group of fifth grade boys going through a set of student-written poems displayed on the hallway wall and mocking each of them line by line. The poems were fill-in-the-blank style, and ranged from "I wish we were having pizza for lunch today" to "I wish my mom still lived with us" and "I wish there didn't have to be so much fighting" and "I wish my cat were still alive." The little group of assholes boys read the personal stuff aloud in stupid voices, and spent extra time on the poem written by a student with Down Syndrome. Fifth grade is, apparently, the year when self-revealing poetry should no longer be posted publicly.

So I was in a sensitive and not-yet-fully-tranquilized state of mind when, on the way home, Rob said, "I think I'm the chosen one." And I was glad it was dark, because SNORT. Chosen One. Hee! But I asked what he meant, and he said that every year, he's the one on his bus and in his classroom that the other kids choose to pick on. Oh. So he's noticed.

I was really glad I'd taken the tranquilizer, if this was going to be the evening's topic. It's hardly original to whine about "not sitting at the Popular Kid lunch table" (OMG, REALLY??? You and I were BOTH in the 99% of non-most-popular kids??? We can go to intensive psychotherapy together!!!), but my own unpopularity in school reached "counselor twice a week" levels, followed by "moving to a different school" levels, so this is not a shruggy "kids are kids" issue for me.

Rob asked if I had any strategies for dealing with it, and I was like, "Dude, you are asking the WRONG PERSON." The counselor gave me MANY strategies, and what I learned from employing all those strategies was twofold: (1) It is impossible to persuade people to like you if they don't, but especially if those people are in mob form, and (2) Adults, even adults who are experienced, educated experts in this area, know JACK SHIT about children and their social relationships. I'm going to repeat that, because I write a swearish post about once a year and when I do I like to make it count: JACK. SHIT.

Here's a school picture of me from that bad time. I don't like to look at it, and not only because of the overbite and the always-painful appearance of fashion from previous decades:

Is that the fakest of all fake smiles? Not only does the smile not reach the eyes, it doesn't even reach the LIPS. And I have bags under my eyes. Can you see from that picture that the meanness was constant? It did. not. stop.

This incessant meanness contained a valuable lesson for me, but I think I could have learned it a little later and a little gentler: that the world is liberally sprinkled with assholes who KNOW they are assholes and nevertheless persist in being assholes. They are GLAD to be assholes. They consider it their DUTY to be assholes, and to ladle out meanness wherever they see a lack. Children sometimes outgrow it. Grown-ups rarely do.

Does it make you want to start speaking very brightly and without blinking, as it does me? "Goodness, it must be WONDERFUL to have such a SINGULAR PURPOSE in life! There are so many people who harm others unintentionally, but YOU! You do it DELIBERATELY! That is how you SPEND YOUR LIFE, being mean to others and finding opportunities to do it! How does that make you FEEL, knowing that that is WHO YOU ARE?"

Well. I do have a survival tip, which I am happy to share: find the one kid less popular than you, and be friends with that kid. This doesn't generally result in a highly satisfying friendship, since it's a friendship based on nothing more than where a person is located on the Popularity Scale. But then, that's no different than the kind of friendship people are looking for when they pine for friendship with the popular kids.

And sometimes the most important thing is having someone---ANYONE---to pair up with when the teacher says to pair up (pairing up is an excellent opportunity for children to remind other children where they live on the popularity scale), and someone to sit with at lunch, and someone to go out to recess with, and someone to pretend you don't care about the meanness with. It's more of an alliance than a friendship.

My intended point is that I don't know if I have anything to offer Rob here or not. On one hand, OMG I am the perfect parent for this because I totally get it. Furthermore, I am more than willing to make changes to help: I will drive him to school if the bus is too bad; I will switch him to a new school if this one gets too bad; I will homeschool him if I have to (I am temperamentally a poor fit for homeschooling, but I would be ABLE); I will never ever tell him that he should just stop caring what other people think---what a stupid, ignorant, ridiculous thing to say.

And on the other hand, I am of no use to him. I never figured it out myself. My parents turned it around for me by putting me in a tiny private school where there were four children in my grade. I saw those fifth grade boys making fun of their classmates' poems, and the only strategy I could think of was kicking them hard in the shins and then running away and crying---maybe telling the teacher.