November 30, 2009

Mysterious Rolls of Film: Developed!

Do you remember my late mother-in-law's Mysterious Rolls of Film? They are back from the developer!

Roll 1: Only 6 photos on the roll could be developed. They were of flowers and flowering trees in her yard/neighborhood.

Roll 2: Couldn't be developed.

Roll 3: (a) My sister-in-law's college graduation, which was in 2000. (b) A visit to us, also in 2000: Rob was about 18 months old, and I was just about to find out I was pregnant with William. Some of the photos were damaged with red and yellow streaks.

So! You know what is difficult? Choosing a winner for the box of gift-closet clutter, from a bunch of answers that were partly right, partly wrong. That is perhaps something I should have taken into account before setting the rules of the contest.

In my opinion, there were eight people who got closer than anyone else, with some mental point-subtracting for incorrect guesses among the correct ones and some mental point-adding for particularly detailed correctness.

1. AlienBea: "Three different film speeds (right?) suggests three different cameras, so these could be years apart. I'll bet at least one is a holiday gathering with family, maybe one will have baby pictures of one of your children, and maybe one roll will be of the time she went on a yen to take artistic nature photos."

2. Jess: "I think that they are hiding a hidden part of your mother in law that will be revealed and you will be shocked and astounded.

one roll of artsy farty stuff (tree? bridge? flower?)
one roll of a vacation (black socks and short shorts on the males involved)
one roll of a randon high school graduation (who is that kid that keeps popping up in these pictures?)"

3. Emily: "I'm guessing one holiday gathering, one vacation, and one of your kids."

4. Fran: "I am going to go with
1. vacation with husband #2
2. pictures of her house and yard
3. the oldest roll will be unable to develop"

5. Kylene:
"1. Random landscape photos.
2. Visits with her grandchildren
3. Some event she went to, like a lecture or a concert or somesuch."

6. Lawyerish: "I am thinking the majority of the photos will comprise (1) garden/flower shots; (2) her craft/knitting projects; (3) a family gathering (probably the 70th anniversary)."

7. Mama Bub: "I'm going to guess a graduation, along with random shots of the house, newly planted gardening, pets and grandchildren."

8. SaLy: "I think one roll will be double exposed. One will be photos of her garden/yard. One will be photos of you and your family."

So then I took eight little scraplets of paper, wrote the numbers 1 through 8 on them, tossed them up into the air and tried to catch one. I caught the number 6, so that's Lawyerish! I'll be emailing you, Lawyerish, to get your mailing info!

November 28, 2009

Shopping Post: Henry

This year the three younger kids are all getting pajamas as one of their Christmas presents. They need pajamas anyway, but I got them "special" ones (Mario for Edward, kitty for Elizabeth, dinosaur for Henry) so they'll find it thrilling and I also found it fun to buy them fancy jammies. Here are the dinosaur pajamas I got for Henry:

OMG, do you LOVE them? Baby Gap! 50% off! Still $14, even so.

Now I'm turning my attention to toys. Tonight I'm shopping for Henry, age 2-and-a-half. Join me, won't you? *trill of music* *door opens invitingly before you*

(All photos yoinked from, which is where I was doing my shopping.)

Crayola Beginnings Color Me a Song. I don't know if he'd like this or not. He does like to color. He does like music. This thing apparently plays music based on how fast the child scribbles. I'm not sure I want to encourage him to, like, scribble faster per se. But maybe it would be a ton of fun. Or maybe it would be super annoying. I can't tell. About $20.

LeapFrog Tag Junior. We have a regular Tag, and Henry likes it but has a little trouble managing it. This looks much easier to manage, and I love hunting down the books (periodically I find them at 75% off at Target, and they also make good gift idea things). But I am soooooo lazy, and what happens is I buy a new Tag book and then I mean to upload it to the Tag thingie but I keep putting it off until the children are no longer interested in the subject the book is based on. Maybe I would reform if I had a toddler reminding me every few seconds. About $30.

Fisher-Price Kid-Tough Digital Camera. I let the four oldest kids use my actual digital camera: it's not a super-fancy/expensive one, and they're all careful to use the wrist strap, and that way I can upload their photos whenever I upload mine. BUT. Henry. Is not as good at being careful. It is not his fault he's only two. But he sees the other kids using my camera and he really! wants! to use! the camera! Sometimes I let him, but sometimes I've also lost my mind, and sometimes I get fingerprints all over the lens, and sometimes he drops it and now you have to press really hard on the button to make it take a photo. And so sometimes I find this kind of camera more appealing, and my camera was not expensive but this one is less expensive by several multiples. We have the Fisher-Price Kid-Tough portable DVD player (it was "as-is" at Target for $20 and I haven't found a single thing wrong with it) and it has been dropped FROM THE TOP BUNK and is still working fine, so I'd be ready to put down money for the camera if I knew he'd use it and not still pine to use mine. About $45.

Oh! The Melissa and Doug Slice and Bake Cookie Set! My mom has this at her house, and all three littles LOVVVVVE it. They cut cookie dough slices, bake them on a cookie sheet, then put frosting on them. I totally recommend this for the age 2-5 range, and longer if you have a child who particularly likes to pretend-bake. About $14.

Green Toys Tea Set. Speaking of my mom's house, she also has a tea set Henry loves to play with. She lets him use real water in it. He is not very tidy. I'm not getting him a tea set. $17ish.

LeapFrog Fridge Phonics. We already have this, but if you're looking for something for a toddler/preschooler this would be GREAT. The unit and the letters go on the fridge, and if you put a letter into the unit it sings a little song about the letter. I SWEAR this (plus the tied-in DVD) is what taught the twins their letters and letter sounds, and the song manages not to annoy me (the frogs in the video are another story). About $15 (and about $10 for the video; they'd make a nice set).

Fisher Price Smart Fit. This looks kind of like the Wii Fit? But for little kids? Henry's still too young for it but the twins might like it and Henry could grow into it. About $40.

Fisher-Price Spike Jr. Henry loves this whenever I let him play with it while we're shopping at Target, but I'm not sure it has enough play value for the price. It makes a yawning kind of roar (not overly scary), then stomps around, then chuckles like "Ha ha, I would totally not eat you in one quick snap if I were real." About $40.

Mr. Potato Head Silly Suitcase. He has this already and loves it. About $17.

Alex Tub Tunes Water Flutes. I think he'd like these: he likes music, he likes baths. And I think the older kids would like it, too. About $12.

This, by the way, is the amusing present he's getting from my parents: the Fisher-Price Little Mommy Gotta Go doll. He flipped out over it in the store and so my mom bought it---which is, I assume, why store managers don't much mind if kids play with the toys in the store. This doll has SIXTY different things she says, many of them related to peeing and using the potty ( <--- TODDLER PROPAGANDA ALERT). And may I inquire why this toy is available in three different girl versions but not even one boy version? About $50.

November 27, 2009

Shopping Post: First of Many

This evening I'm looking through the "Birth to 24 Months" of's toy section, looking for something for my 9-month-old niece. I'm not finding many Awesome! Deals! but I'm finding some good toys so I thought I'd do a Shopping Post while I was at it. All photos are yoinked from Amazon. The prices are what they are as I click (rounded, because do any of us care if it's $10 or if it's $10.28?)---Amazon is pissing me off a little by changing prices every 10 minutes so WHO KNOWS what the prices are by the time YOU click.

Um, perfect much? This is the best thing I found. It is the Busy Zoo Activity Center, and it's $57 down from $100, and I could have it shipped free which I would not expect for something nearly SEVENTEEN POUNDS. But I already bought part of Niestle's present and was looking for something more in the $10-$20 range, and also this is a big thing to buy for someone else's household. I'd get this for my own kid, though, if I had a kid the right age. This would be perfect for a tummy-time-aged baby, perfect for a sitting baby, perfect for a pulling-to-standing baby. And I'm always looking for toys with lots to do but NO PIECES TO SCATTER AND LOSE.

I've mentioned the Melissa and Doug Shape-Sorting Clock before. I like it because it's fun for kids who like clocks AND kids who like puzzles AND kids who like numbers. This is a nice price, too: $10 down from $15. This is best for the kind of household where someone finds all the pieces before putting a toy away, rather than the kind of household where eventually the toy has two pieces in place and the others are scattered across four or five rooms. Ahem.

The Melissa and Doug Picnic Basket ($15 down from $20) is a strong contender. Jonniker has a 9-month-old daughter and mentioned that this was on Samantha's wish list, reminding me that the 9-month-old stage is big on putting things in and dumping things out, with an emphasis on dumping things out and perhaps also an emphasis on fussing until someone ELSE puts them back in.

Jonniker and I are also both considering the Manhattan Toy Put and Peek Birdhouse for the 9-month-olds we know. This toy is not on any kind of sale at all as of posting (still $22), but OMG TEH BIRDIES.

My mom has the LeapFrog Fridge Farm and we have the similar LeapFrog Wash & Go, and they're both GREAT. Too old for my niece, I think, but a lot of fun for toddlers. If you put the animals/vehicles together correctly it sings one song, and if you put them together crazy it sings a silly song. They're called "Fridge" because they have strong magnets to attach both the unit and the pieces to the refrigerator, which is nice if you're trying to get TWO SECONDS to pour a stiff drink get dinner ready.

The Radio Flyer Wagon! $30 down from $50 AND free shipping!

The Skwish doesn't look like much for $12, but it was one of the most enduring and played-with baby toys we owned. Durable, too: made it through five babies without looking worse for wear. It's a teether! It's a rattle! It's a hypnotizing toy for Mommy to play with!

The Winkel is a similar choice: why oh why is it TWELVE DOLLARS? It seems like it should be about FIVE! And yet it is worth EVERY DOLLAR, and I saved mine after the last kid outgrew it because otherwise I'd end up spending ANOTHER twelve dollars if I ever had another baby. It was the first toy my firstborn reached for, and they all teethed vigorously on it. Silly name and not cheap, but worth it.

Speaking of silly names, Melissa and Doug's, um, Jumbo Knob Puzzles. There are a whole bunch of these (pets, barnyard, vehicles, etc.--just search for Melissa and Doug and, um, jumbo knob) marked from $15 down to $9. Although, now that I'm looking more closely, I see that other sellers have the starting price at $9-10, so that $15 starting price may be a teeny bit overstated.

These Nest and Stack buckets look terrific: a shape sorting toy AND a nesting/stacking toy. Plus, I'll bet the larger buckets would make good barf buckets later on! A bit small perhaps. Well, let's not turn our minds to it.

November 24, 2009

When Should You Reveal the Truth About Santa Claus to Your Kids?

Mary writes:
I've been reading your blog for a while now and I think you may be just the person to help me with this question. My oldest is 7 and in 2nd grade. Last year this little s*^t (I mean precious little girl) in my son's class told everyone that there is no Santa. When she said that, in first grade, my son spoke up and said that there is one, he eats breakfast with him every year. (St. Nick's breakfast event) Anyway, I think over the past year the conversation has come up again and he has said to me, in front of our other children, that he knows that Santa, or The Tooth Fairy, or sometimes it's The Easter Bunny, etc... is really your parents. I try to quiet him when he brings it up and try to convince him otherwise because I feel like this is just WAY too young for him to not believe and it makes me very sad.

Here's my dilemma. Do I keep what I'm doing and risk that each time he brings it up, it puts thoughts into my 6 year old kindergartner, and their 3 younger sisters that cause them all to not believe at an early age. The benefit of this is maybe 7 year old will come around, maybe he's really not ready to let go of the beliefs but just trying to see how we react, so we keep him believing for just one more year. OR, do we take him aside, explain it all and tell him to Shut the F up already in front of the others(of course we would never say it that way). The sad part of this is we lose his innocence and wonder at Christmas. The good side is we can shelter the others from giving this up too soon.

SO..... if all that made sense, what would you do?

We weren't sure, as our firstborn approached the age when he could understand the Santa Claus myth, if we were going to introduce it or not: Paul grew up believing in Santa Claus, but my parents told me right away that it wasn't true (a minister and a Christian school teacher? they don't want to confuse children about the supernatural). I was instructed never---NEVER---to reveal this to other children (because you can't tell which kids still believe), and I didn't.

We started out telling Preschooler Rob about Santa Claus, but he is the sort of child who had better be a successful rich lawyer who gives his parents cruises for Christmas when he grows up or all this arguing is going to be even more annoying. He was immediately skeptical, and he was THREE. We lacked the strength of conviction, so we fumbled through a few questions about how Santa can get to all the houses in one night and then both of us were like, screw this. It was WAY too much work and we felt so foolish pretending to believe it. Also, we didn't like the idea that later we'd have to say, "Surprise! We've been totally lying to you for YEARS! That guy you love so much doesn't even EXIST! Merry Christmas!" We've instructed the kids very, very firmly to NEVER tell other children---even the fifth-grader gets reminded each year, just in case. They are wide-eyed about this sacred duty to protect others.

So, clearly, the Santa Claus story didn't work out at our house and I have no good answers. Does this mean I won't offer my baseless advice anyway? Of course not! I'm giving you all this background info, though, to demonstrate clearly that it would be better to give more weight to the advice of commenters who DO have actual experience with this.

It sounds to me as if your second grader already DOES know it's not true, and he is looking for your parental confirmation that he correctly understands the situation. Since he IS correct, and since his unconfirmed understanding is causing wobbles in the story for the rest of the family, I would vote for your plan of taking him aside, revealing the truth, and asking him to play along and not reveal what he knows to the others (or to kids at school).

If you think he may still WANT to believe, you could say to him tenderly and with a Significant Tone of Voice, "Do you really want me to tell you?" He may think it over and decide he WOULD rather participate in the belief for another year (and therefore stop questioning it in front of his siblings), but without you having to actively lie to a child who's asking to be told the truth---which is where I worry that the Santa Claus thing could start causing actual trust issues.

Now. Would some of you who know what you're talking about please take over?

November 23, 2009


1. I dreamed last night that I was in labor, walking around the hospital in a johnny and robe. The baby was a boy and we hadn't named it yet, so I was thinking of names. I liked Frederick, but I'd prefer not to repeat any initials ( <----TEASE). I was wondering if we'd use Oliver, since that was our favorite boy name last time but we hadn't used it because (1) we had a cat named Oliver, and (2) my mother-in-law wouldn't have let that go. I thought maybe Oliver Frederick. I was thinking it was kind of fun that we'd have to announce the baby's birth without knowing his name, but I was also thinking we probably should have given this some thought earlier.

2. I'm in a sad, grim mood this morning. I'm planning to go to Target. I think I'd feel better if I bought Henry some cute new pajamas.

3. If you have an Etsy shop, you should email me (swistle! at! gmail! dot! com!) so I can go look at it. I'm doing a series of Etsy Love posts over at the review blog before the holidays (WirlyGrrl made me a Swistle painting and SugarChills has a face slime giveway ending Wednesday), but I also keep a list of Reader Etsy Shops because I write a lot of Etsy-stuff posts over at Milk and Cookies: if I'm writing about, say, neat Etsy stuff for back-to-school, I like to start with my list before exploring the Huge Wide World of Etsy.

4. Do you know, I actually got a little WEEPY over my mother-in-law last night? Not because I miss her or because I'm sorry she died (I continue to feel huge relief, and a happy feeling about how this changes my imagined future), but because I felt sorry for her. I was remembering when she was visiting, and she wanted me to come along while she bought Christmas presents for the kids so I could help with sizes. And it was kind of a nice outing, and she was so pleased at the success of the mission, and she had NO IDEA she wouldn't be alive at Christmas. I mean, some of this is clearly a case of "It is Margaret you mourn for," because it's given me this unpleasant "ANY of us could die at ANY TIME!!" feeling. But part of it is genuine pity for her specifically. She was a very difficult woman but I don't think she knew it, and she was happy with her life, and early-sixties is a sadly early check-out time.

5. I saw the movie Up this weekend, and that dog Dug makes me want a dog.

6. I'm trying Cover Girl lip stain after reading a good review on Live Well Spend Well. I think I will like it better in summer, when my lips are not so chapped. Also, I found the same thing Kori found: the two colors I tried are super! bright! One of the shades I got is called Flirty Nude, which I thought was an amusing color name (by the time someone is nude, is "flirty" the right term?) and it is not nude AT ALL, it is a bright coral. Right now that doesn't look good compared to the silvery-plum shades I wear in the fall, but in spring and summer I'm going to try the coral again.

7. Inspired by Aibiffity, Black Sheeped, and Zoot, I've been trying the no-shampooing thing. When yesterday my hair seemed like it needed some cleansing, I tried using apple cider vinegar as shampoo. All day, every time I turned my head, I caught a whiff of the refrigerator-pickled cucumber slices my family ate in the summertime when I was little. Today I used actual shampoo, to remove the smell of the apple cider vinegar.

November 20, 2009

Letters From Yesterday's Shopping Trip

Dear Swoopy Lane-Changer,

Oh hi! It's me again! Are you noticing how even though I am staying in my lane in my boring old minivan and you are impatiently zig-zooming and nearly causing accidents and making everyone feel tense with your unconcealed impatience and your racy little car, we're still seeing each other at every single traffic light? I'M sure noticing it.


Dear Pedestrians,

Would you mind taking some responsibility for your own personal safety? I am very good at stopping for you when you are in crosswalks. I am very good at driving slowly and staying well away from you when you are walking in parking lots. Lucky for YOU, I am also good at stopping for you and staying away from you when you are crossing 20 feet down the road from a crosswalk, or walking slowly up the center of the parking lot aisle while talking on the phone, or crossing with a stroller without even glancing up to make sure I see you---but I fantasize about stopping the car and giving you a firm lecture about physics including a little visual with a toy car and a grape.

For God's Sake,

Dear Elderly Gentleman,

Oh, sorry, am I caring for the next generation in the same store where you wanted to shop all by yourself? I'm super sorry that the species not only has to continue after YOU were born but ALSO needs to shop for toilet paper on a weekday morning!

Staying off your lawn,

Dear Children,

You want to keep whining? Fine, we are canceling Christmas.


Dear Single Man,

Look around you at this food court. There are tables for 2, 4, or 6 people. You are sitting by yourself at a table for 6, even though there are tons of tables for 2 or for 4 and only four tables for 6, three of which are occupied by families with several children. Use your head, Fred.

Four of us joining you in five minutes if you haven't left,

Dear Food Court Janitorial Staff,

I appreciate your work, and I understand that the food court is a neverending stream of mess-making customers and that you need to keep working the whole time to make things run smoothly. Still, I want you to stop sweeping at our feet while we're eating. It's icky, and it brings conversation to an awkward halt, and it makes me feel like you're making a rude point.


Dear Lady With the Cart,

Listen, I totally understand the accidental series of events that ends up with your cart in the middle of the aisle and you looking at something over at the other end of the aisle. I've done that myself a time or two, when someone was in the way and I just needed to grab something and then I got distracted by a decision, and then there was I and there was my cart. But hi! I have been standing here really obviously with a passel of LOUD children: you can't possibly have failed to notice us, but you're just standing there considering the pretzels. Let me give the script: YOU say, "Oh, ha ha ha, sorry about that, I was off in my own little world!" and I say, "Oh, ha ha ha, don't worry about it, I do it all the time!" Then you MOVE YOUR CART OUT OF THE MIDDLE OF THE AISLE.

Love and also MOVE IT SISTER,

Dear 89 Dollars,

Goodbye, sweethearts. I hope you have a good life in your new home.

Love, Mother

November 18, 2009

The Earth Will Continue to Go Around the Sun

I was in a Poor-Quality Mood this morning, so I drank some coffee and took the three littles with me to Target. Seriously, you cannot fathom how talkative the littles were. They were so perky, and so talkative, and so all-talking-at-once, and so CONSTANT AND ENDLESS, other shoppers kept laughing out loud.

This led to some distracted shopping, apparently, and I have had an opportunity to practice one of the Life Skills I am forever trying to acquire/develop: Not Freaking Out Over Small Unimportant-in-the-Long-Run Things.

I bought what I thought was a new indoor/outdoor thermometer, the kind that has a probe outside and a readout panel inside so you can look at a panel in the kitchen and see what the temperature is outside. But somehow I spent $10 on something that attaches to the outside of a window so it can't be in any sunny window which is inconvenient, and it only does the outdoor temperature, and it only goes down to 14 degrees, and the battery case is so stupid I BROKE IT trying to open it. This is okay. It was a mistake. It is sad that I didn't realize the mistake before slicing the packaging open, but it is not necessary to spend any time fretting about it.

Also, I needed to buy a new telephone, because ours makes a EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE sound piercingly and intermittently ever since a child dropped it, but I got all flustered by the options (our old one is a corded wall phone and the ones in the store all looked like space communicators) and I chose a corded one that had caller ID! How convenient! And of course YOU smart people know it only had caller ID if the person who purchases the phone has caller ID, which we don't. If I'd known this, I could have bought that one that cost $10 less, but I didn't know this until the phone was fully installed. And this is okay. Ten dollars here and there is not a big deal, even if this is now TWO ten dollar mistakes in one shopping trip.

And then I bought some vitamin D tablets, and I was all, "How come this brand is $4 and this brand is $8? That's dumb! I'll get the $4 ones!" How is it that someone who used to work in PHARMACY failed to notice that one was a lower DOSE than the other? Well, that is fine. It is fine that I bought the lower-dose tablets. I can just take two, or three, or whatever, and next time I will remember to buy the right strength, and the earth will continue to go around the sun.

Have I mentioned recently how much I admire those of you who do these "the earth will continue to go around the sun" calculations AUTOMATICALLY, without having to explain it to yourself each time? I do. I do admire you.

November 16, 2009

Mysterious Rolls of Film

On one hand I don't want to DELUGE you with contests, especially since there's going to be a steady stream of them on the review blog, and a steady stream of "last day!" reminders, and pretty soon it's going to seem like all! contests! all! the time!---but on the other hand, meh, free stuff around the holidays, that's not so bad, and besides, I like to.

I've been doing a good job clearing out my gigantic, packed Gift Closet, but it still needs significant work. I can get rid of some toys in one of the toy drives around the holidays, but I don't think The Little Children want cloth napkins, stationery, cute notepads, dishtowels, mugs, measuring cups, Elvis fridge magnets, etc. This is where you come in, because I need someone to send a box of clutter to (or, if you're outside the U.S., a flat-rate envelope of clutter to).

And it seemed lame to have a "Win My Gift Closet Clutter!" contest, but as it turns out I had another guessing game to play ANYWAY, so let's put them together.

Among my dear departed mother-in-law's possessions, Paul found three rolls of undeveloped film. The rolls don't match---that is, they're all Kodak, but they're different film speeds and different exposures so they probably aren't three rolls of the same event, they're probably three separate purchases. We are having them developed; I'm mailing them off today (YES I am too lazy to bring them to Walmart WHAT OF IT).

The pictures could be of her second wedding, which occurred nearly 10 years ago (the second husband died a few years later). They could be of the dog the new couple took in, which has since died. They could be of the cats, past or present. They could be of a child's graduation, or of a church event, or of holiday celebrations with the second husband's grown children. They could be of one of her visits to us, or they could even be of the one time we went to visit her as newlyweds. They could be photos of things she meant to sell, or photos of her new car, or photos of her daughter's new haircut. They could be of her trip to see her parents for their 70th wedding anniversary (I kid you not: 70 YEARS). They could be a bunch of pictures of clouds or sunsets or of the destruction caused to her town one year by a tornado.

The contest, which will be open until I get the email saying they're available to view online, is this: WHAT IS ON THOSE ROLLS OF FILM?

November 14, 2009

Pocket Money

If I may be a little birdy whispering in your ear, a little birdy who has no personal stake in whether you listen to the whispers but is whispering only out of a desire to do good and spread happiness/cash, I would mention that the Sonicare chance to win $100 Visa gift card expires tomorrow. To enter, you leave a comment about your family's dental care. Please stop yawning. You can also click over to the other 9 Sonicare reviews to get 9 more chances. It's 6 weeks to the winter holidays, that's all I'm saying about $100 Visa gift cards.

Or there is a FIVE hundred dollar Visa gift card for saying "how you simplify your life"---perhaps you simplify it by having INSUFFICIENT $500 VISA GIFT CARDS.

Oh, I know: you never win anything. But do you ENTER? And do you enter enough times to make it a statistical likelihood that you will win, rather than a special fate-directed fluke? That is the key to winning.

November 13, 2009

I Hope You Get a Big THING of Riches

I would like to start this day by announcing that I feel very, very strongly that all of you who are suffering through Kids Up In The Night should find yourselves rewarded a thousandfold. I think of myself as remembering what that time was like, and I DO remember ("hell"), but it's easy to get dazzled by a false overlay of "Oh, that darling birdy little newborn I had then!!" And I do hope I will never get so dazzled by the overlay that I will be like the older ladies in supermarkets who inform exhausted, crusty-eyed, crazy-haired mothers that they should be enjoying every moment, but it seems like it must be unavoidable because why else would ANYONE get to that point?

Anyway, perhaps it is obvious that a child woke me many times last night? And that if anything can banish an overlay, it is Fresh Experience? And that even after only ONE NIGHT of this (and it's the CUMULATIVE effect that REALLY butchers the morale), I nearly put A&D Ointment in my hair instead of hair gel?

Waking up again and again gave me such DREAMS, too, such as that Jennifer Aniston had many other people totally in her power, and also that I was a Chinese immigrant.

November 12, 2009

"Thanks, Mom!"

I totally get why ONE manufacturer might be kind of pissed when ANOTHER manufacturer reduces product size of a competing product without calling attention to it, and then lowers price WITH calling attention to it. And I can see how the first manufacturer might want to call attention, then, to the second manufacturer's sneaky change. But this is a ridiculous way to do it:

AH HA HA HA HA HA!! More "thanks Mom!"?? What the? First of all, did we time travel to the 1950s? Secondly, even IF "we moms" collected perky thanks every time we served peanut butter, those thanks would have only to do with how many servings were served, not with how many jars were required to create those servings. Are we doing unit pricing in "thanks" now?

November 11, 2009

Adding (a Pet) to the Family

I am ready to get a new cat. As you may remember, we had three cats, and three was Too Many. Then two of them died in the last few months, and now we have one, and one is Too Few. So I have an estimate of what the perfect number of cats may be for our household.

The dilemma is this: our remaining cat, Mouse, is 14. We're not sure how she'd react to an, um, new friend. Perhaps we should let her live out her remaining time in peace, and then adopt two cats together. Or perhaps we should overlap, so our cats aren't all the same age like they were this time. Or perhaps she WOULD like another kitty in the house.

Another issue is that I think it should be Paul's turn to choose. The first two cats were mine before Paul and I were together, and although we took Mouse in together, it was really because I wanted her and Paul gave in. So my idea is that this time Paul should make most of the cat decision, which means I don't want to go out Cat Browsing and get all attached to somebody. I am very interested to see what kind of cat he would choose.

Another issue is that I would rather adopt an adult cat. They're harder to find homes for, so I'd feel good about that, but my real reason is that getting a kitten is like playing the Cat Lottery, whereas when you adopt an adult you have a pretty good idea of the cat's personality. When Rob and William and I went on a tour of the local animal shelter, we saw a whole bunch of adult cats and they varied so much! There was the enormous male who was bumping against our legs and was sooo friendly, and there was the little wiry male who bit me. There was the standoffish fluffy female and there was the bossy tiny female. I definitely preferred some over others. But Paul and the kids all want a kitten.

Another thing is that it might be nice to put the decision off and see if a cat comes our way. There have been several times when we've been unwilling to adopt an additional cat and someone has been looking for a home for a really nice one. Or once, we had a super-sweet stray starving outside our door, and we found a new home for her but I wished at the time that we had an empty cat slot available for her.

How did you get your pets? Of the three we had, two I adopted as kittens from a shelter, and one was a stray left behind by people who moved out of our apartment complex.

November 8, 2009

Shipping Furniture

Oh hey LISTEN. It looks as if we are going to be inheriting a 12-person dining room table and a huh-YOOG sideboard. If we are not going to decline to inherit it, we would need to transport these items about 1500 miles. Have you ever shipped just a couple of pieces of furniture? How did you do it? How much did it cost? It seems like I HAVE heard of people doing this kind of thing.

Okay. Okay. Everything is Going to be FINE.

Okay. Okay. I am already feeling WAY BETTER than several hours ago. The main thing is that Paul called with an update, and I don't know if you know this about me yet but I tend to PANIC ABOUT THE UNKNOWN, and so while I was here PANICKING ABOUT THE UNKNOWN he was making totally normal and reasonable arrangements with his normal and reasonable sister, and nobody is spending $35,000 on a funeral and everyone is aware that it would be more pleasant to keep that money for themselves and everything is fine.

AND! Someone thought of organ donation! Which I am so glad about, because even though I am an ADAMANT SUPPORTER OF ORGAN DONATION, even I didn't think of it in the shock of the moment. But thank goodness someone else did, so that was taken care of.

They're going with the least expensive burial option because it turns out two things were widely known about my mother-in-law (who, it must be said in her favor, tended to make her views WIDELY KNOWN): (1) she thought cremation was icky (and had bought a plot already), and (2) she thought it was stupid to spend more than the minimum on a funeral. One Budget Funeral, coming right up! AND this is one of those small-town places where everyone in a church takes their business, so there was no slick high-pressure stuff---more like "Okay then! Hey, Frank, it's one Neighborhood Special, no sides!"

ALSO, though so far it appears there is NO WILL NO WILL OMG NO WILL, she did have two small life insurance policies, one of the kind you get free if you have your account at a certain bank and one of the kind you sometimes get as part of your employment benefits. The two policies together will probably cover the funeral.

Also, Paul and his sister turn out to be able to figure things out JUST AS IF THEY WERE ADULTS, and are systematically going through their mom's house tossing junk out and deciding what they want to keep, and so far no one is fighting or biting, and everyone's being all matter-of-fact and just sort of taking care of what needs to be done, rather than sitting around going "huh?" which is what I was picturing.

Also, there was one person we COULD NOT REACH (she was on vacation and no one knew if she even HAD a cell phone) and we REALLY NEEDED TO REACH HER (it's my mother-in-law's only sibling), and I was a complete genius and thought of seeing if her kids were on Facebook, and they were, and I messaged them and within an hour she was calling Paul and his sister. So (1) I was a genius and my efforts were lauded, and (2) I felt like I was HELPING, which made me feel better and less useless.

Also, I caught up on the laundry a bit, and it turned out that even our king-sized quilt fit into the washing machine, so I could stop the endless circular fret-thread about how was I going to take it to a laundromat. And in fact, this little barf situation was for the best because that water was DARK. Kids have been jumping on this quilt with their shoes on for several years.

The children are still sick, but things don't seem quite so grim as they did this morning with no shower and a poor night's sleep and a huge pile of barfy laundry in the hallway and not knowing what was going on in another state. Now it seems more like, "Oh, the kids are sick. Guess they'll have to watch SpongeBob all day while I mess around on the computer."


I hope you will forgive me if I am so crabby and touchy you want to slap me with a sheet of plywood. I am just...just....ACK.

Okay, so first of all, I am trying not to interfere with the family's plans for my mother-in-law's body, but on the other hand I am so worried they're going to spend tens of thousands of dollars on stuff none of them care about just because they'll keep saying "Okay, okay, okay" to everything mentioned to them with NO IDEA how expensive things are, and have I mentioned we have after years of savings only JUST saved up enough for Rob's impending braces? And so the idea of spending, say, five times that much, on the disposal of a dead body, and possibly having to take out a home equity loan to pay for it, is...uh. ACK. Basically ACK. And yet just try even GENTLY suggesting that it would be cheaper to light the body on fire and go have a beer, and everyone gets all SQUIRRELLY.

And then, Paul is gone for at least a week, and I've had to put on wool socks AND an additional comforter just to match his furnace-like qualities, and also I am moping around feeling mopey about things I find of his such as this:

He took Rob with him, so I'm fretting about Rob missing so much school, and worrying that his teacher will think this means we don't think his education is important, and I'm worried Something Will Happen on the long car trip.

Also, I have NIGHTMARES about needing to pack rapidly for something, and so packing for their trip was stressful, and it has also been stressful to gradually become aware of all the things I forgot: Paul's undershirt, Rob's belt, Paul's pajama pants, Rob's toothbrush, etc. It's especially frustrating because everything I forgot for one person I remembered for the other, so it's not like I forgot about the need for such items, it's more like I LOST MY MIND. But all right, I can reassure myself: all these things can be purchased at store. It is no big deal. Breathe, breathe.

Meanwhile, back at the home front, William's fever has gone away as of several days ago, but now he is in the stage of Endless Coughing. And the other three children have all---ALL---developed fevers in the 102s and 103s. And when Elizabeth has a fever, she barfs, and so at 1:00 in the morning I was taking all the bedding off MY BED (mattress pad, sheets, down blanket, quilt, extra blanket for furnace replacement) because she came upstairs for what was apparently the express purpose of barfing on it, and also taking off all my own pajamas because ditto, and also thanking goodness we had about eight boxes of baking soda in the pantry, and also WASHING THE WALLS and let's leave it at that.

I mean, are you getting this? I am here by myself with four children, three of whom are sick, one of whom is BARFING sick. The house reeks and I'm trapped. TRAPPED! And meanwhile, decisions that could strongly affect my financial future are being made FAR AWAY and WITHOUT ME. ACK!

November 6, 2009

Startling News

So let's see, what's new around here.

William had a fever and a cough last weekend but is mostly better now. And this morning Edward woke up with a runny nose and now has a fever, and so I am back in the land of "Do I let the fever do its virus-frying work? Or is this high enough that I should try to bring it down?"

Also, I got two cute sweaters at Goodwill for $1.99 each: a triceratops sweater for Henry and a Baby Gap zip-up rainbow-striped jacket/sweater for Elizabeth. I wish Goodwill wasn't so far from our house.

Also, I made both brownies and fudge in one day, and I forgot the salt in the brownies and I overcooked the fudge, so dang it.

Also, my mother-in-law died. I know. I am completely shocked. It was very sudden, and now I can stop worrying about the fact that she had no health insurance and at any time could have developed a bankrupting health problem. And now Paul will be gone for a week, so if you're stalking me could you keep an eye out for dangerous criminals around the house? Kthanx.

This is just about the most awk of all awk announcements, isn't it? I mean, what are you supposed to say, if you know I am not flattened with grief, but on the other hand death is often a shock and it would be kind of icky if the comment section were...well, it would be icky. So here we are stuck, looking at each other with eyebrows as high as they can go, speechless. Let's just read each other's minds, and then clink our glasses together and take a big quaff in memory of my mother-in-law. *Quaff*

November 4, 2009

Not on the Ballot

Here are some of the things I think there's more than one way to think about, and everyone can make their own decisions---no agreement necessary from one person to the next:
  • what to eat
  • how and where a baby should sleep
  • bottle-feeding vs. breastfeeding
  • what religion to follow
  • public school vs. private school vs. homeschooling
  • whether to participate in advanced education
  • alcohol consumption, yea or nay
  • premarital sex, yea or nay
  • whether to use birth control
  • whether to have children
  • whether to marry
  • fixed-rate vs. variable-rate mortgage
  • how clean to keep the house
  • a good name for a baby

Here are some things I think there's more than one way to think about, but that a community needs to make a decision about as a whole---not deciding "right" from "wrong," but just deciding for consistency what can be done when:
  • driving age
  • truancy age
  • drinking age
  • marrying age
  • voting age
  • speed limits
  • public park curfews

Here are some of the things I think there is only one way to think about and are not open for community vote, because human beings have not been given that kind of power over other human beings:
  • whether skin color changes a person's rights
  • whether ethnic origin changes a person's rights
  • whether sex changes a person's rights
  • whether sexual orientation changes a person's rights

(As Craig Ferguson says whenever he makes a controversial remark: "I LOOK FORWARD TO YOUR LETTERS.")

Acid Moods

I've written before about the ways I cope with mild depression (need I say that if you have a doozier depression, you should not consult ME, a blogger with zero qualifications of any kind, but should instead consult someone who possesses ACTUAL MEDICAL KNOWLEDGE?):

1. A Pitiful List
2. Day Sadness
3. Easy, Inexpensive Ways to Feel Better

Sunshine and lights, coffee and warm food, skin contact and cuddling, small purchases, funny stuff, things that smell nice, music, fish oil and vitamin D---those are the basics.

But I haven't yet figured out how to deal with acid-in-the-stomach moods. Today I am obsessing senselessly about an altercation I had with a clerk yesterday: my mom and I found a rack of stuff marked "$4 and under," and we asked the clerk to price-check something from that rack that was marked $7. Even though the clerk was standing right at a register, she wouldn't check the price, saying the price marked was correct. So we pointed out the sign on the rack, which she felt was irrelevant, and then there was a discussion about whether a store could have a display marked "Everything $4 and under!" that was more than half full of items marked higher than $4, with my position on the subject being "No" and her position on the subject being "I'm sorry, ma'am, but we don't print the signs and we don't mark the prices and we don't have anything to do with anything including checking prices at all, so we are not responsible for any illegal and fraudulent errors our total lack of involvement may cause." I may be paraphrasing both positions.

[Notice I'm not mentioning the name of the store, and it's because I shop there regularly and I have never ever had any sort of problem even remotely like this before. So I don't want to slam the whole chain just because a single problem with a single clerk. I plan to shop there again and everything, I just plan not to go to the particular location with this particular clerk, because now the whole store feels tainted by this encounter. But there is another location I can go to instead.]

Anyway. The real trouble is what home remedies to use on this acidy, stewing, unpleasant mood. When I feel like this, treats don't really help, nor do any of the "be nice to self" things that can help with a depressed mood. Coffee might help, but also might backfire considerably, adding acid and adrenaline to a situation already steeped in it. Tranquilizers or drinks just make me tired and sullen in addition to crappy and acidy. Sometimes I work on chores, because if I'm going to be a miserable bear to live with no matter what, I might as well be getting the laundry done while I'm at it. I try to eat good foods, because I've found that sugar can make this kind of mood worse.

But that's all I've got. Tips appreciated, as long as they're not "Just don't think about it" or "Just don't let it bother you," both of which are the equivalent of "Just be a different person! It's so easy!" What little things do you do/use to shake yourself out of a bad mood of this sort?

November 3, 2009

Natural Conclusions

Yesterday evening Paul had me feel his forehead for fever twice, which means it is time once again for him to be a colossal baby. Today he is staying home from work, parked on the couch groaning and asking weakly for things, and I am trying not to be deeply resentful at the way when he is sick he "stays home from work," whereas when I'M sick.... Well, there is no sense going down this path.

You may have noticed I rarely have a good word to say about Paul. One of the main reasons for this---and forgive me for lifting the veil here---is that reading praise about someone else's spouse is borrrrrrrrrring. Bad things are win-win: either the readers feel happier about their own spouses' flaws in comparison, or they feel relieved that they are not the only ones yoked to boneheads. Good things, on the other hand, are lose-lose: either the readers feel unhappier about their own spouses in comparison, or else they are bored.

Another main reason is that I think you and I know each other well enough by now that you'd assume I wouldn't live with someone for fifteen years if I didn't kinda like him. I've left a marriage before so I'm clear on that option, I'm toward the pragmatic end of the spectrum on such things, and I have a good life insurance policy on him. If Paul were truly defined only by his shopping dumbheadedness and his pathetic babyish illnesses---or even if that were the larger part of him----I don't see any reason I'd stay with such a cheesehead, and I'm pretty confident that's a conclusion anyone can draw. In fact, it seems like a natural conclusion that he must be pretty awesome in other ways for me to put up with the dumhbhead/baby crap.

Another main reason is that non-annoyances don't start writing themselves in my mind. If Paul is being a pinehole, a new post springs into being naturally: I compose it as I'm angrily doing the dishes he left, or as I'm going to the store to get the eggs he didn't get, or as I'm lying awake pretending to be asleep. Whereas if he's not doing anything annoying, if life is going on as usual, posts do not compose themselves. And to return to the first point, they'd be pretty dull if they DID compose themselves: "Paul did the dishes without leaving food on them this time. Also, he went to the grocery store and came home with the things on the list. Also, a child brought homework back to school without me first having to fish it out of the recycling bin."

Well, I've hidden in here long enough; I'm going to have to go back out there. PITY ME.

November 2, 2009

Two More Things About Knitting

1. I finished the Thing! I wore it with my coat this morning as a demi-scarf---or, as the other mom at the bus stop less charitably but more amusingly called it, "a Dickey scarf."

Oh, this? Yes, I just whipped it up over the weekend! ...What do you mean, "Where's the rest of it?"

Now I am starting a new Thing. I am using Lion Brand yarn again, this time a fuzzy kinked pink yarn called, if I remember correctly, "Cotton Candy." (A child helpfully removed all the paper wrappings from my yarns for me.) I cast on 50 stitches; my plan is to make a wider, shorter Thing than last time. When I have finished it, I want to try a baby hat.

2. Virginia Ruth wanted to see some samples of Rob's knitting. My mother-in-law taught him when she was here a few weeks ago.

The one on the left is Rob thinking he could maybe make a sweater for a stuffed animal by knitting two sweater shapes and attaching them together. On the right is him practicing making stripes.

My mother-in-law taught him to cast on and bind off, and he made these Tetris shapes later that night when he was supposed to be sleeping. My mother-in-law thought this was meh. Paul and I thought it was BRILLIANT. He has knitting and binding off IN THE SAME ROW!

It was hard to take a picture of this, but it's a side view of a square of knitting with a rectangular flap coming out of the middle. Rob wanted to see if that would work. Mother-in-law said that wasn't really the way it was supposed to work. Paul and I thought it was BRILLIANT.

This is Rob's "sampler scarf"---he did a little of all the stitches he knew how to do, so there's some knitting and some purling and some cabling and whatever else he knows. It's about 4 inches wide on average.

November 1, 2009

Four Things

1. This was Henry's first year trick-or-treating; he went as a fydah-fydah (firefighter). A very REFLECTIVE firefighter.

It is not a whole lot of fun bringing five children trick-or-treating. There is a lot of playing The Manners Police ("What do you say?" "Do you remember what to say?" "What do you say NOW?" x 5), and there is a lot of fretting that a child will get lost in the dark. But it does mean there are five bags of loot to pick through after the kids go to bed. We searched first for razor blades, unwrapped/opened candy, and religious detritus. Razor blades 0, unwrapped/opened candy 0, religious detritus 2 (1 roll of smarties with scripture verses on the wrapper, 1 tract about "the treat that lasts forever," complete with the prayer you should pray in order to "trick-or-treat at God's door." Jesus: He won't give you cavities! Or get stuck in your teeth! Or get eaten by your parents after you go to bed!).

2. On Friday afternoon, William was tired and kept saying so. He went to bed an hour and a half early. He woke up two hours later with a nightmare, and he was feverish and coughing. Yesterday he was dizzy and had a fever that got in the high 103s whenever the ibuprofen started wearing off. This morning he was around 101 and feeling much better. I have to call the school tomorrow to let them know: they're keeping track of all children and staff who miss school for flu-like symptoms.

3. Rob taught me how to knit. I should clarify that this was probably my dozenth time learning. I don't know why I am learning again, except that Rob was so! keen! to teach me.

I am making A Thing. It started as 22 stitches across and has without my intentional interference varied from 22-28 stitches, mostly 26. It is too wide and short for a scarf. It is too narrow and long for a blankie. But ohhhhhhh it is soft! I'm using Lion Brand "suede" yarn in a pretty variegated color that is a lot prettier when it is not against the backdrop of my berry-colored shirt, and I've almost finished a skein. (I did my first Thing in Red Heart yarn because I'd heard that's a good yarn for beginners, but for my second Thing I chose a yarn I liked.) Rob keeps saying, "NOW do you like knitting?" and I keep saying, "Nope! Still difficult yet boring!" But I do like petting the yarn.

4. The cat has been acting bonkers. She follows me around, making the cat equivalent of yippy-little-dog sounds. MEW! MEW! MEW! MEW! She is frantic. She bumps against my legs, tripping me and getting stepped on. Her food is fresh and full; her water is fresh and full; her box is fresh and scooped; she's been petted and snuggled; WHAT DOES SHE WANT?? I am on the verge of taking her to the vet just because surely it must be SOMETHING.