October 30, 2010

House Update

We have sent our first email to my sister-in-law, suggesting she keep the house (and the car, which it turns out she and Paul already arranged for her to keep) as her share of the inheritance and we keep the cash/stocks as our share. WE SHALL SEE. I did manage to talk Paul out of fixing the roof for her, but he is still being family-weirdness about the whole thing. I was reduced to saying that it is NORMAL for a grown adult to have to pay for housing, and so if she has to get a home equity loan (i.e., a MORTGAGE) to pay for repairs on her house, that will be part of a NORMAL LIFE that includes paying either rent or mortgage, and her mortgage payment will be VASTLY lower than OURS---and he STILL was acting weird about it, like maybe she shouldn't have to make either housing payments or car payments or ANYTHING? I don't know.

And if she declines the house, the next step is to say, "Okay, then, let's sell it." Maybe some contractor will buy it and do that thing where they fix it up fast with odds and ends of tile and flooring and cover everything with a thick coat of paint in Rental Cream. But I hope it doesn't come to this, because the thought of trying to EXTRICATE the sister-in-law from the house gives me a headache.


Review blog stuff:

In which I have an idea about controlling teenager cell phone use, despite not having any teenagers to test the idea out on. Each comment left on this post donates $.50 to DoSomething.org.

Similasan, through November 18, about soothing and cheering sick children. Giveaway: $100 Visa gift card.

Ragu, through tomorrow, in which the Thistles taste-test two versions of pasta sauce. Giveaway: $100 Visa gift card, plus a link to another sweepstakes where you can win a huge cooking gift basket.

The TWELFTH and LAST Kellogg's giveaway, through November 1, about breakfast rituals (like a special Christmas breakfast or special birthday breakfast). Giveaway: $100 Visa gift card.

October 28, 2010

Ahhhhhhh Target Therapy

I went to Target today for some therapy. I've been a bit of an emotional mess the last few days, and also my jaw is getting sore from the clenching. So it was good timing for a successful/fun Target trip:

This is the crowning glory, so I should really leave it for last but I can't wait. I've been wanting this John Derian print ever since I first saw it for $24.99. Then I saw it for $17.48 and didn't buy it. Then I saw it for $12.48 and didn't buy it. Today I saw it for $6.24 and I BOUGHT IT.

This is the crowning glory as far as Elizabeth is concerned: rainbow-sparkle Hello Kitty shoes. These weren't even on clearance, but they were on sale for $10 down from $14.99. I can't even explain why I bought them. Oh, of course I can: (1) rainbow (2) sparkle (3) Hello Kitty.

For Henry, a new dinosaur shirt, not on sale but only $5.00, and my policy on dinosaur shirts is "Buy them." And pants on clearance 50% off, $5.00.

I did not want a little pot of lip balm for $3.44 when I could get something very similar for a dollar. But for $.84, yes I will try antioxidants/E/aloe/chamomile/mint, thank you.

Boring but satisfying: $2.54 tape refill for my chicken, marked down to $.63.

Not a huge clearance, but I have trouble resisting girl stuff: pink patent leather shoes, $6.98 down from $9.99.

Four new hand towels, $.98 each down from $3.99 each.

My favorite shower gel, $2.50 down from $5.00.

Not even on sale, but I'm hoping these foot supporty thingies will help my shins to hurt less when I walk/jog. I have arches that totally flatten when I stand up, and these supports have low, medium, and high snap-ins so you (or rather _I_) can choose the one that feels best.

This set of 4 bowls was only $1.99 to begin with, but it's pleasing to get them for $.48: we have another set (the yellows/greens set) that we used as berry-picking/outdoors bowls last summer, but there are 7 of us and only 4 bowls, so it's nice to have more.

October 27, 2010


Tonight I was out on my walk/jog (or as Erica puts it, my "wog") and a woman getting her mail said, "I just have to tell you, I see you every day when I'm coming home from work, and I think, 'I wish I had her determination.'"

Well, goodness. That's pleasing, isn't it?

It does take a certain determination to exercise FOR HEALTH, ANYWAY when the body isn't responding with aesthetic changes, and in fact increases appetite considerably to compensate for the Worrying EXERTION. It takes a certain---and I am just going to come out with the word, even though it's about myself---BRAVERY, to expose one's not-aesthetically-perfect body to teenaged boys who drive by in cars yelling out the windows "YEAH, RUN FATTY RUN!!"---and to people who don't yell it, but think it. It takes a certain deliberately-put-on-despite-not-feeling-it thickness of skin not to give up when it is made ABUNDANTLY CLEAR that it nauseates people to see fat people even WALKING ACROSS A ROOM---let alone EXERCISING, my GOD, the SWEAT and the JIGGLING, GROSS!!! Why don't they just STARVE themselves like NORMAL people??? It does indeed take DETERMINATION to keep exercising when people are saying that if other people were being HONEST they'd be THIN. It takes a certain OOMPH to continue exercising when other people assume that if you're fat, you never exercise and you don't know how to eat right.

There is not a lot of positive feedback for people who exercise but do not as a result of it become thin and "fit." The reaction at first is HIGHLY FAVORABLE ("Oh good, you're finally working on that problem!") but if the weight doesn't come off, the reaction can be aptly described as "Um, points for trying, I guess?"---with the obvious assumption that the person must be eating fast food six times a day to counteract the fitness that would otherwise present itself in the form of an Awesome Bod.

I guess what I'm saying is two things:

1) I'm pissed that "rockin' abs" is considered wayyyyy better than "determination."

2) I'm nevertheless so pleased to get praised for "determination."

October 26, 2010

Reader Question: What's a Day With a Baby LIKE?

Lauren writes:
I was feeling pretty calm about this whole pregnancy thing (especially now that the barfiness has mostly passed) until I read the information packet from my midwife, wherein they recommend we check out of the hospital and go home (accompanied by the midwife) within 2-3 hours of delivery. All of a sudden I realized WE HAVE TO TAKE THIS BABY HOME. And I have no idea what life will look like after that happens. I understand that at first you're just feeding and changing and sleeping and trying to stave off a nervous breakdown, but I have no idea what the days look like after the first weeks or months are over. I've asked a few friends and they've all said they don't really remember. What do you DO all day long? What does a typical day look like? Is there even such a thing as a typical day? It tends to be the unknown that freaks me out, so I feel like if I can visualize this a bit, I will feel a lot better about the whole situation.

Back when Rob was a baby, I wrote little monthly updates on him in my journal: what he was eating, how he was sleeping, a sample day, etc. These updates were draining and boring and time-consuming to write, but it was ALL WORTH IT FOR THIS MOMENT.

So let's see, we are looking for information about the stage AFTER the Newborn Craziness. Shall we say...3 months? (I'll use photos of 3-month-old Henry for decoration, because I've got those digital already whereas Rob's would need scanning.)

One thing you will notice right away is that I WAKE THE BABY UP in the morning. This was not because I was crazy, but rather because Paul and I shared a car and if I wanted the car I had to drive him to his car pool pick-up.


6:00-6:25 a.m. wake baby up, change him, nurse him on one side

6:25-6:50 a.m. baby and I take Paul to his car pool

6:50-7:00 a.m. nurse second side

7:00-8:00 a.m. play with baby, then give him his play gym and put him on the bathroom floor while I take a shower

8:00-9:00 a.m. baby fell asleep while playing, so he naps in bouncy seat

9:00-9:15 a.m. baby wakes up with blow-out diaper and needs major change

9:15-9:40 a.m. nursing

9:40-9:45 a.m. tummy time until crankiness

9:45-10:15 a.m. ran errand; baby fell asleep in car

10:15-11:50 a.m. baby napping at home still in car seat

11:50 a.m. - 12:15 p.m. woke baby up so I could change and nurse him before baby group

12:15 - 3:30 p.m. baby group (one nursing and one changing) [note from Swistle: was baby group really THREE HOURS? That seems unlikely. It was probably 2 hours plus driving time and I forgot to write something else down, like maybe my lunch, or maybe he napped starting at 2:30 instead of 3:30 or WHO KNOWS.]

3:30 - 4:30 p.m. baby napping

4:30 - 5:30 p.m. baby changed, nursed, played with...

5:30 - 6:00 p.m. oh never mind, the day is too complicated and the summary ends up too inaccurate.

6:00 - 6:30 p.m. pick up Paul at car pool

6:30 - 7:15 p.m. take turns eating dinner and holding baby

7:15 - 7:45 p.m. baby bath

7:45 - 8:00 p.m. nursing

8:00 p.m. baby to bed


See how I lost hope around 5:30? I remember how I'd keep trying to guess how long something had been but then that wouldn't seem right at all and nothing added up and FORGET IT. But I'm still glad to have it, because it's a lot closer than what I would have been able to recreate at this point. I see I tried again the next day, and I'm glad I did or I would have thought I always woke the baby up in the mornings:


5:00 - 5:10 a.m. baby laughing and silly during diaper change

5:10 - 5:30 a.m. nursing

5:30 - 5:40 a.m. baby snuggling with Paul while I rinse diaper and scoop cat box

5:40 - 5:50 a.m. baby crying and uncooperative for tummy time

5:50 - 6:25 a.m. ?

6:25 - 6:50 a.m. taking Paul to car pool


And that's where I gave up that day.

In fact, that "?" at 5:50-6:25 probably sums up "a day with a baby" better than any other part. SO MUCH of the day is "getting interrupted"---like, if someone had followed me and done the documenting for me, it probably would have been stuff like:

8:45 - 8:46 a.m. fold several pieces of laundry

8:46 - 8:48 a.m. have to stop because baby is crying to be changed

8:48 - 8:49 a.m. fold several pieces of laundry

8:49 - 8:50 a.m. move baby from bouncy seat to bed where I'm folding laundry

8:50 - 8:52 a.m. search fruitlessly for baby's binky

8:52 - 8:53 a.m. change toys on baby's play gym

8:53 - 8:54 a.m. fold several pieces of laundry

8:54 - 8:55 a.m. pick baby up and pat him; does he need to eat yet?

8:55 - 8:56 a.m. change shirt baby spit up on

8:56 - 8:57 a.m. fold several pieces of laundry

8:57 - 8:58 a.m. find a chewing toy for baby

8:58 - 8:59 a.m. maybe binky is in the car?

8:59 - 9:00 a.m. try to nurse baby; baby not interested

9:00 - 9:01 a.m. fold several pieces of laundry

And so on. And then I would try to record that in the schedule, and it would have to be:

8:45 - 9:00 a.m. ?

More reports and opinions and rememberings, please: What's a day with a baby (after the crazy newborn stage) LIKE, would you say?

October 23, 2010


This feels "too personal for internet," but it seems SO ESSENTIAL for advice-giving purposes on the SIL/house situation. I've seen the appraisal on Paul's mother's house, and it's $25,000. That's in as-is condition and includes the land.


Oh, I am SO enjoying your input on the SIL/house situation. Each and every comment is like a soothing salve. A balm! Some sort of medicated ointment!

And it's SO helpful to hear all the different angles laid out so clearly.


Cat love continues:

He's resting his head on her fluffy tail.
Her back paws are getting all up in his grill,
but he doesn't mind.

Much different body language in this scene.
Mouse's body language communicates:
"I should NOT have to share my favorite chair
but DANGED if I'm going to be kept off of it."
Feather's communicates oblivion of any political issues,
but on the other hand she's keeping her tail to herself.
Possibly her paw pads are chilly.


Review blog stuff:

French Toast school uniforms: for kids whose schools require uniforms, but also for kids who can wear white/navy polos or navy/khaki pants or cute plaid skirts. The giveaway is two tops and two bottoms, and there are plenty of plain khakis and navy sweaters and white polos in sizes 2T-20 if your kids don't have to wear uniforms (mine don't, and yet I am totally planning an order of peter pan collars and plaid scooters). LAST DAY TODAY!

Similasan, through November 18, about soothing and cheering sick children. Giveaway: $100 Visa gift card.

Ragu, through October 31, in which the Thistles taste-test two versions of pasta sauce. Giveaway: $100 Visa gift card, plus a link to another sweepstakes where you can win a huge cooking gift basket.

Kellogg's, week 11 of 12, through October 25th, about good meals eaten in bowls. Giveaway: $100 Visa gift card.

October 22, 2010

Let Me Run Something By You

Okay, I've been thinking. The house Paul owns with his sister is in very poor shape. VERY poor shape. When Paul went there for the funeral, he said he was advising his sister to move out for SAFETY, and he estimates nothing's been repaired or maintained since his dad left his mom two decades ago. Let that sink in a minute. TWO DECADES. Furthermore, it's in an area of the country with extremely low cost-of-living, and real estate prices are very low anyway there.

So let me run something by you: Would it be CRAZY to just GIVE his sister the house? On one hand, this is wildly unfair to us. On the other hand, it is ALSO wildly unfair to have her live there year after year, possibly driving the house's condition even further into the ground, while sending us bill after bill for half the repairs (including, for starters, REPLACING THE ROOF), and then eventually we sell it and after taxes and agency fees get enough money to mayyyyyybe make up for the money we contributed to repairs.

If we give her the house, we can cut it loose: we don't have to worry about taxes, or repairs, or insurance, or ANYTHING. She can live there without us having to be connected to it, and she can pay for the repairs herself. We never have to think about it again. And, Paul can stop thinking of me as a Heartless Money-Hungry Fritch for suggesting his sister NOT live there rent-free while we pay half for repairs.

If the two options were (A) sell the house and split the cost, or (B) give her the house, I would obviously not even be considering Option B. But instead the two options seem to be (A) grind my teeth to nubs with frustration as she lives there for free and we PAY money into an asset we may or may not ever see half of, IN ADDITION to paying to maintain our OWN house, or (B) give her the house.

Tell me what you think. This is a good time for frankness. Paul and I have been having tense email exchanges all day, and I suspect a decision will soon be made because neither one of us wants to talk about it any more than we have to.

Tax Question

Oh, hey, can I pick the internet's collective brain? Does anyone know the tax implications of owning half a house in another state? Because Paul's sister is apparently just going to continue living in their mom's house for free, but charging us half for repairs, and TRUST ME THAT I TOTALLY AGREE WITH WHATEVER YOU ARE GOING TO SAY ABOUT THAT AS LONG AS IT'S EXTREMELY NEGATIVE AND USES WORDS LIKE "CRAZY" AND "STUPID," BUT I HAVE TRIED TO GET PAUL TO HANDLE THIS AND HE IS DECLINING TO DO SO, SO WE HAVE TO DEAL WITH THINGS AS THEY ARE RATHER THAN AS THEY SHOULD BE.

I know when I do OUR taxes, there are several house-related things, but it's a house in our own state and we own it and we don't share it with someone else (well, except the bank). What about this other house, which we don't live in and share ownership of? There's no mortgage on it.

October 19, 2010

Zazzle Deal

Doing My Best pointed out this great Groupon deal: $50 worth of Zazzle stuff for $25. I'm subscribed to Groupon but haven't done any of the deals yet and am not quite clear how it works, but I've processed that you only have one day to buy the coupon, and I guess you pay up front and then redeem it later?

Anyway, I guess I will learn how to do it, because I need more stuff with my name on it. And if you've been thinking YOU need stuff with YOUR name on it, this is the moment.

AND there's free shipping on $50+ through October 28st with code FREESHIPFORU. I don't know if it works if your $50 worth of stuff costs $25, though.

October 18, 2010

Second Fret: Edward and Kindergarten

Second school-related fret (first fret here), I will tell it to you:

My first two kids went to preschool. Rob did a LOT of preschool (3-year-old preschool, 4-year-old preschool, plus Summer Preschool ages 3, 4, and 5) because he had assorted developmental things such as articulation delays, suspected Asperger's/autism, unusual fears, poor motor skills, etc., etc., and the pediatrician AND the speech therapist AND the pediatric neurologist ALL said he'd benefit from as much peer group stuff as possible.

William did less: just 4-year-old preschool. He didn't have any of the issues Rob had, and also he'd had a sibling his whole life, and also when he was three years old Paul was out of work and I was supporting us on $8.50/hour, so preschool was out of the question that year anyway.

The twins had no preschool. It's $300/month for 3-morning/week preschool here. Times two, is $600/month. That's hard to justify, or even to WANT to justify, particularly for children who have one built-in peer plus three other children in the house.

So the twins started kindergarten cold, in an area where preschool is common (and of course daycare is very common too). Elizabeth is doing great, making friends left and right. She knows everyone's name in her class, in Edward's class (there's a door between the classrooms, and the two classes do some things together), and on their bus. She's confident and having a wonderful time.

Edward got referred for speech delays AND social skill delays. I know---I KNOW---this is no big deal. He registered on a screening, that's all. And Rob was in speech therapy for more than three years, so I know it's not scary, and it's even the same therapist as before so I know her.

And the social skills thing, maybe it's kind of early for them to be leaping on it, or maybe it's nice they're on top of things, or really I think it's both. Won't hurt to get right on it, and nice to have him get a little help if he's just a bit shy or slow to start.

Nevertheless, it feels like someone yoinked him off the production line for quality control issues. It's like they're saying something's wrong with him---and that it's something obvious, something they can see at first glance.

And I am fretful because now I'm second-guessing previous decisions: Elizabeth clearly DIDN'T need preschool, but maybe Edward DID. And this is a pointless fret, because we can't go back and change it, nor could we have seen both outcomes ahead of time and chosen the best one. We chose what we thought was the right and sensible decision---and for all we know it WAS right. Maybe preschool wouldn't have helped ANYWAY, and we've saved $6,000 that we can now set aside for later therapy. But maybe it would have been PERFECT. And round and round I go.

And we had the option to put the twins in the same classroom. We went back and forth, back and forth, and finally decided to go with the school's default of separating twins. This has worked great for Elizabeth, but maybe Edward would have done better if there was a familiar (and bossy) face to help him out. Or maybe not, because then maybe he would have depended on Elizabeth too much, or maybe this would have made Elizabeth thrive less than she has, or maybe the teacher would have seen his introversion as even more of a "problem" in the face of Elizabeth's extroversion. But again: we couldn't see both outcomes ahead of time, and possibly it wouldn't have been any better the other way anyway.

October 16, 2010

I Thought I Was Dying But I Was Dyeing

Yesterday morning in the shower I noticed the fronts of my thighs just above the knees were blue-greyish. Then I noticed there were blue-greyish patches along my hips. I mean, you'd assume a Terrible Diagnosis, wouldn't you? Because I did. Something grim about circulation, I assumed. I'd been lying on my stomach while I slept, and didn't I read something in a suspense novel about blood...pooling? in a corpse? I was planning to finally call my doctor for a check-up. Which indeed I should do, just for general health, but later in the day I realized the blue-grey tint was from my new jeans. I'd washed them before wearing them, but they ARE a very dark wash. Dark enough to color the handkerchief I keep in the pocket, which is how I figured it out.


I am opposed to camouflage stuff for children. Because I'm opposed to thinking about children being in wars. I know. I KNOW. But that's how it is: I see camouflage for children and I picture my babies in the woods with guns and NO NO NO.

And that it why it was 11.75 years before I bought anything camouflage for a child of mine, and it's because Rob MUST have rainboots for his 6th-grade camping trip, and there were NO rainboots in big-kid sizes ANYWHERE, and then I found them FINALLY at Target, and the two choices were (1) camouflage or (2) black with skulls. I paid full-price, for something camouflage, for a child. Note it.


I gave blood this past week. I even made an APPOINTMENT, and still waited over an hour to start the donation process. That is...discouraging, I must say. I read the entire People magazine I brought with me, and the section of newspaper I found, and then I sat there feeling anxious about how close I was to the people sitting in the chairs next to me. I don't know if I can be discouraged altogether, like so that I would STOP donating blood, but if I MAKE AN APPOINTMENT? Doesn't it seem like? And I asked about it, and she said it was always that busy. Well, then...I mean, if I might make a suggestion: preparing for that many people? As opposed to a longer wait-time for people who are already volunteering THE BLOOD FROM INSIDE THEIR BODIES? I don't begrudge it, I'm GLAD to give it, I even get a nice little high from it, but if I have a 5:00 appointment I'd like to...have a 5:00 appointment. Or, like, 5:30 at worst. Not 6:10 for STARTING the part where you answer questions about whether you've been to Europe or dated hookers. I had to pee SO BAD by then, because I'd been so diligent about drinking extra water beforehand as instructed.

But, all that time sitting there waiting, I came up with a new idea for what I might want to do for a job once Henry is in school. Phlebotomist? I need something with a short training time.


I dreamed last night that I cut my own hair and was very happy about it. It's so long now, I can't wear it in my preferred French twist but have to bun it. And it gets tangled and it hurts to comb it, and Paul hasn't given it the attention I'd expect a guy to give long hair, so I thought I WOULD cut it: I've cut it myself once before, and it DID turn out fine. And then THIS MORNING Paul said admiringly, "Your hair is so shiny and multicolored!" And I said, "I'm going to cut it" and he said "Don't change ANYTHING!"


Review blog stuff:

Oh, you DO want to see the twins in their adorbs French Toast school uniforms! Plus, the giveaway is two tops and two bottoms, and there are plenty of plain khakis and navy sweaters and white polos in sizes 2T-20 if your kids don't have to wear uniforms (mine don't, and yet I am totally planning an order of peter pan collars and plaid scooters). Through October 23rd.

Similasan, through November 18, about soothing and cheering sick children. Giveaway: $100 Visa gift card.

Ragu, through October 31, in which the Thistles taste-test two versions of pasta sauce. Giveaway: $100 Visa gift card, plus a link to another sweepstakes where you can win a huge cooking gift basket.

Kellogg's, week 10 of 12, through October 18th, about breakfast secrets. Giveaway: $100 Visa gift card.

October 14, 2010

Book Review: Love in Mid Air

I just finished reading a book I didn't expect to like, in which I was so engrossed I forgot to even look at the author's photo until I'd completely finished the book. It's called Love in Mid Air, and it's by Kim Wright.

(My scan of my plastic-protected library book is not excellent, but it is better than Amazon's weirdly low-quality picture.)

I got the book thinking it would be about a woman who has a meet-cute affair with an impossibly ideal man. And it IS about that (is he also RICH? Why, yes he IS!). And there was more raunch than I like: I don't need the couple to lean out of the screen so I don't even have to see them kiss ooo icky, but I also don't need several-page sex scenes so descriptive they include the word "cervix."And furthermore, while reading it I was frequently reminded of my own, um, "novel" that I wrote for NaNoWriMo: there's a certain slapdash, anything-goes feeling to the writing, which in my own case was achieved by thinking "It does not matter what happens with the plot or what the pacing is or how likely this is, I just need to get 50,000 words in 31 days, so WRITE, write like the wind, and seize upon any idea that will generate more words!"

BUT. Something about the book---and it's something that INCLUDES that anything-goes style, which she pulled off in a way I did not---was highly appealing. I've read so many books over the years, sometimes I feel like I've already read everything. I yawn and think, "So will it be ending A, in which she finds her Ideal Man is not so ideal after all and ends up staying with her husband? Or ending B, in which she leaves her husband and we're supposed to believe the new guy is the man she was meant to be with all along? Or perhaps 'surprise' ending C, in which she ends up realizing she can live on her own without a man?" Which is why QUALITY WRITING becomes so important: if there are, as my English teacher said over and over again, no new plots and no new characters, then only the WAY the story is told matters. And yet this book DID surprise me, and furthermore it surprised me REPEATEDLY.

Just the other day my family was all together and my brother mentioned the astonishing scene near the end of Serenity (I won't spoil it if you haven't seen it), where something happens that makes you realize this movie is not going to play by the Movie Rules, and you can't assume ANYTHING. (There's a similar moment in the book Passage by Connie Willis.) This book was like that for me, though on a smaller scale: there were two or three places where I thought, "Huh. I see: I can't think in terms of option A and B for this one. And where IS she going with this??"

Anyway. I liked it. It has elements of fluff, in that it is not a heavy-going intellectual kind of book and there is a feeling of "female fantasy life" to it. And as I said, it has SEXXX. But it also has SUBSTANCE and SURPRISE, and I found I really liked the way it went.

First Fret: Rob and Middle School and Sinking/Swimming

My school-related frets: let me share them with you.

Rob. Sixth-grader. MIDDLE SCHOOL. I don't think I need to say more than that, because that is already plenty of fretting right there, but the more immediate problem is that he is getting some bad grades and making bad excuses. Like, when he got his first D on an English paper, he said, "I didn't realize what was expected," and I thought, "Good: he's learning now that he can't get away with slapdash anymore." But then he got his second D and he tried to hand me the same excuse. Oh dear me no. I don't mind a kid getting Ds anywhere NEAR as much as I mind a kid pulling a constant "It's not my fault."

So he and I had what I have seen amusingly referred to as a "come to Jesus" talk, and he was suppressing an embarrassed smile when I spelled out the concept that "Didn't realize" is a one-time-use excuse, so I hope that means he knew it was and won't keep doing it. And it's only October, and maybe he will now get it together. But I worry that he WON'T: we all like to think of our kids as excelling! and succeeding! and exceeding expectations for the sheer love of doing a good job! and yet a lot of kids NEVER DO. My father-in-law, in his late 60s, is STILL talking about how his grades didn't represent his sheer genius. And look at Jessica Simpson's parents, who claim that she got bad grades because she was SO academically gifted she was BORED in class (*wipes away tears of laughter*).

And MOST of his grades are still As and Bs, so THAT'S good. But it's like, As in the classes he's naturally good at, and Ds in anything that requires him to lift his pinky finger. I feel like this is a sink-or-swim transition for him: either he will fall in with expectations, or he won't, and I can lecture him night and day but HE has to start doing the work, and all I can do is wait around and see if he does or not. Not everyone ends up a Good Student, and Good Studentism is not the be-all and end-all anyway, and it's his life, and there really is still plenty of time to improve things even if he doesn't do so in sixth grade, and cliche aphorism truism cross-stitch.

I was going to list all the other frets, but I think they should be their own posts or this is going to be Too Much.

October 9, 2010

Breast Cancer Awareness, and What It's For

I said again and again on Twitter that this year I was NOT going to join in to the breast cancer awareness fuss. "I said, and said, and said those words. I said them. But I lied them." (That's Dr. Seuss.)

And so I am about to make a blanket objection. The trouble with blanket objections is that, at least for ME, when _I_ read a blanket objection, and I've done the thing the blanket objection is about, I feel slapped. Even if I don't think the person making the blanket objection is talking about ME PERSONALLY, they ARE talking about something I PERSONALLY did, and so they DO mean me, whether they intend to mean me or not, and my face burns with embarrassment, which then makes me feel upset and angry and like slapping back.

That's not good. I don't want to cause that feeling in you. And yet here we are, and I am going to try to do it without the slapping sensation. And although I have just said it is totally understandable to take something like this personally, it's also true that I'm not thinking of one person in particular, or even several people in particular: I'm thinking of posts on Twitter that have been re-tweeted thousands of times and sentiments I've heard expressed again and Again and AGAIN by TONS of people. If you think I'm quoting you or specifically addressing you, I can tell you for absolutely sure that I'm not---that if I'm saying something you said, it's because hundreds or thousands of other people said it the same way.

So. ON with it. There are three breast-cancer-awareness-related sentiments I'm objecting to:

1. Oh come on, is anyone seriously claiming they aren't AWARE of breast cancer?

2. Making dumb fake-sexy posts on Facebook and Twitter isn't going to cure breast cancer.

3. MONEY and TIME are needed, NOT "awareness."

My first objection applies to all three, and it is the tone in which these statements is delivered: the intention is to slap people down. It's not just exasperation, it's not just making a point: it's contempt. The eyes are being rolled; the words "DUH" and "YOU IDIOTS" are implied; the hope is that the person reading those words will burn with embarrassment. That's not nice, is it? And it does nothing to improve or change things, it only causes anger and other divisive feelings.

And now I will explain what breast cancer awareness is FOR, since to me all three of those statements indicate NOT knowing what it's for.

Let's back away from breast cancer for a moment, and think about a company that makes deodorant. The company hires an advertising agency to advertise the deodorant, and that agency produces ads both in print and on television. Do we say, "THAT'S stupid. Like we don't already KNOW deodorant exists?? Come on, the company doesn't need to make people AWARE of deodorant---they need MONEY and PROFITS!"

No. The reason we don't say that is that we know what advertisements are for. Advertisements bring the product to the front of the consumer's mind. If the product is in the front of a consumer's mind, the customer is going to recognize the product when he or she sees it, and may be influenced to purchase. Advertising is not what the company needs, but it LEADS to what the company DOES need, which is money. It leads to it SO EFFECTIVELY, the company gladly spends hundreds of thousands of dollars, or even millions of dollars, on advertisements. That's how connected "bringing something to the fronts of people's minds" and "money" are: VERY connected.

Furthermore, marketers have discovered something very important, which is that if you can get a consumer to take even one TINY step toward the product, the consumer will defend that step by making a HUGE step toward the product in allegiance. Can you get the consumer to click a box on a pop-up survey? Can you get the consumer to scratch off a little panel to see if they've won? Can you get a person to change their Facebook status? Then you, the marketer, have made a HUGE stride toward getting the consumer involved with your product. And a consumer who feels involved will feel loyalty, and loyalty will lead to dollars.

Back to breast cancer awareness. Is breast cancer awareness month intended to teach people that breast cancer EXISTS? Of course not. Does anyone think that by using a racy Facebook status they are making HUGE STRIDES toward a cure? Of course not. Would ANYONE IN THEIR RIGHT MIND disagree that money was needed more than awareness? Of COURSE not. But awareness is not literally "awareness," it is ADVERTISING. We're accustomed to advertising in the product world, but it's not as familiar to us in the fundraising context so we don't always recognize it.

Breast cancer awareness is intended to put the concept of breast cancer in the fronts of our minds. I already know that breast cancer exists, but I often go days or weeks without thinking about it at all. In October, however, I think about it every day: I keep seeing statuses, or pink stuff at the store, or big signs, or advertisers trying frantically to use the concept to sell their products. This is GOOD. Because when a concept is in the front of my mind, I am more likely to put it in the front of my wallet---even if I neither purchase something pink nor change my status (though doing either of those things makes me even more likely to pony up the dough).

When people participate in non-cure-related activities such as purchasing pink pens or changing their Facebook status, they are, even if unwittingly, building loyalty to a product, a product that requires financial support. Loyalty is good. Loyalty results in more money than lack of loyalty does.

And does anyone think that someone participating in a Facebook status game is doing that INSTEAD OF writing a check? YES, money and time are what is needed---but that doesn't mean awareness thwarts those goals, or takes away from them, or substitutes for them. And in fact, it works IN SUPPORT OF those goals. Slapping people down for their participation---especially when, if nothing else, those people have good intentions---works AGAINST those goals.

Links and Etc.


Two posts I liked this week:

Indigo Girl's post on embryo donation---I'd heard of the issue, but hadn't ever known anyone who personally had to make a decision about it.

Problem Girl's post on the name Stian (pronounced "stain"), with the extremely funny edits.


Baby name blog stuff:

I was surprised there weren't more people who'd had a dream about naming a baby.


Review blog stuff:

Similasan, through November 18, about soothing and cheering sick children. Giveaway: $100 Visa gift card.

Ragu, through October 31, in which the Thistles taste-test two versions of pasta sauce. Giveaway: $100 Visa gift card, plus a link to another sweepstakes where you can win a huge cooking gift basket.

Kellogg's, week 9 of 12, through October 11th, about tips for making the morning routine go more smoothly. Giveaway: $100 Visa gift card.


October 7, 2010

Heads Up!

SQUEE DEAL ALERT: Angel, complete series, $51. CHRISTMAS IS NIE. Or niegh, or nei, or what IS it? NIGH! It's nigh.


I was filling out a field trip permission slip and writing the accompanying check, and something was bugging me that bugs me every time: at our school, the parents who act as chaperons on field trips have to pay for their own tickets.

That seems so unfair to me. I can't chaperon right now, and if I could I wouldn't want to because it seems like a huge and boring and stressful duty (not to mention expensive for those parents who also help by driving), and so I really appreciate it that other parents are willing to. Those parents are helping the school, and the school NEEDS them to help in order to take the field trip, but the school can't pay their $8 admission ticket to some historical site? That seems wrong.

So what I did was, I wrote a check for my child's ticket, and I wrote a separate check to sponsor one chaperon. Then I reconsidered: that would put the teacher in a tricky situation, because which chaperon will she choose, and that's unfair to the other chaperons. I took the check out, planning to contact the teacher and ask what would be best.

But now I am thinking a little bigger. I'm considering contacting someone in administration instead. Because what makes more sense than "one parent writes one check for one chaperon" is for the field trip forms to always contain an option to sponsor a chaperon. I get a little twinge (along with a little rush of guilty relief) every time I check the "I will not be able to chaperon" box, and I'll bet other parents do too, so that seems like the perfect moment for us to see a "I would like to sponsor a chaperon" checkbox. The money donated could then be divided among the chaperons, so that they get at least a discounted ticket---and possibly there would even be extra money, which could be put toward future field trips.

October 5, 2010

What is WRONG With You Today?

1. I switched from sandals to shoes, and my shoes are bothering my feet: they feel tight and overly warm, and my feet feel sore.

2. I changed exercises, and managed to make my shins owie.

3. I've had a headache every day for three days in a row.

4. It's only Tuesday.

5. I'm fretful and upset about Marie's situation.

6. I'm reading a book that has a sad baby plotline.

7. Among the blogs and tweetstreams I read, there's been a sudden outbreak of sadnesses.

8. There's no candy in the house.

9. Two of the children have runny noses. That never leads anywhere good.

10. Mouse's peeing issues.

11. Rob's school does a one-week sleepaway camp for sixth graders. It's this month. I'm worried and fretful about obvious stuff, but also cranky about the supply list, which lists a million things we don't own and then emphasizes that we should NOT be buying new things for this trip, but rather sending old stuff. Oh, sure, I'll send his OLD sturdy waterproof hiking boots and one of our many daypacks!

12. Henry is in a particularly difficult stage, with lots of bursting into tears over very little, and lots of repeating questions he JUST asked me but now asking them in a whinier tone---and then, when I tell him I said no and stop asking me, saying, "WHY? Why, Mommy? Why should I?" *headache pounding*

13. Two phone calls I need to make.

14. "Hey, Mommy?" "Hey, Mommy?" "Hey, Mommy?" "Hey, Mommy?" "Hey, Mommy?" "Hey, Mommy?" "Hey, Mommy?" "Hey, Mommy?" "Hey, Mommy?" "Hey, Mommy?" "Hey, Mommy?" "Hey, Mommy?" "Hey, Mommy?" "Hey, Mommy?"

15. The underwire is coming through my bra, and poking me in the armpit.

What's wrong with YOU today?

October 3, 2010

Author Photos

Last night I woke up at 3:00 and sleep didn't come back. And why---WHY---would my self thwart myself like that? Sleep is good! Sleep is nice! Four in the morning is not a time to be sitting in a recliner with a cat and a book, however pleasant a way that might be to spend the time during the day.

Anyway. Coffee.

I'm reading a book right now that I'll officially recommend to you if it finishes as well as it has begun and middled: The Good Psychologist by Noam Shpancer. I am mesmerized, MESMERIZED. I just love it and love it. Not only am I enjoying the plot, I'm finding the content literally therapeutic. Like, I am LEARNING PSYCHOLOGICAL TRUTHS and HAVING PSYCHOLOGICAL INSIGHTS. Or rather, being led like a willing and placid lambie to those truths and insights. You could read this book as therapy, is what I'm saying, and yet it's entertaining and it's fiction, not textbooky.

Plus, the author photo is pleasing to look at. I like a good author photo. Things that can make an author photo NOT a good author photo include but are not limited to: author putting her hands unnaturally at her face to hide a double chin; author using her upper arms to make her boobs look bigger; author looking like she had the photo taken at Glamor Shots; author perceptibly airbrushed. (I read mostly female authors. For men the pitfall list is less defined, and goes something like "Looking like a jerk.")

Good author photos are harder to make lists about. The EFFECT of a good author photo is that I feel like I know and recognize and like the author, and I want to keep looking at him or her periodically as I'm reading. The photo should coordinate with the style of the book. I shouldn't feel as if the author is trying to show us his/her most flattering angle, even if he or she IS in fact doing so.

One of my favorite author photos is this one from Suzanne Finnamore's book The Zygote Chronicles (I've deliberately linked to the unavailable hardcover rather than to the available paperback, because book cover art is IMPORTANT and the hardcover captures the book whereas the paperback does not), taken by Kate Powers:

And another good one is Noam Shpancer's, taken by Mia Lewis:

The more of the book I read, the more I like the photo, which is another sign of a good author photo.

Follow-up: I REALLY liked the book. I officially recommend.

October 2, 2010

Car Business, Cat Business, Review Business

I like to put these, uh, "special interest" topics together, since not everyone is special-interested.


Car business:

You remember the dealer who said the minivan needed $4500 of work, despite running beautifully and not showing any symptoms of anything being wrong? My since-before-blogging friend Firegirl is a car girl, married to a car guy and friends with other car guys. AND, I have a dad who is the kind of person who READS MANUALS. My crack team of Car People looked over the estimate and said "PSHAW." Firegirl suggests saving up for the timing belt and water pump, but all the rest of it is stuff that gets fixed WHEN IT BREAKS, not FOR FUN. So that's a relief.


Cat business:

Update on the cat-peeing-on-the-bed situation. Several of you suggested ideas such as closing Mouse into the bathroom, or closing our bedroom door, and it all seemed too overwhelming: we can't keep our door closed at night because we need to be able to hear the kids; if we try to keep anything closed during the day, the kids will open it and forget to re-close it.

But there was a load of cat-pee sheets that kicked me over that edge and made me willing to try it: she peed on a pile of CLEAN sheets I hadn't even PUT ON THE BED yet. So at night, Mouse is in the bathroom in her beloved linen closet, and we shut the door; during the day, we shut the door to our room. It doesn't work consistently (the kids DO open the door and then leave it open), but "closing door sometimes" turns out to be less opportunity for peeing on our bed than "closing doors never"---see also "frustrated perfectionism, and the importance of thwarting that tendency."

Not only has there been significantly less peeing on our bed, today she came into the living room and JUMPED ONTO MY LAP and PURRED, and we haven't seen that kind of thing in awhile.

Also, in addition to the litter box we put in the linen closet, I've put a bowl of kitten food in there (more calories than regular cat food), and she's gained a little weight, which is VERY GOOD considering she's been at less than half her usual weight.


Review blog business:

This week just the eighth of twelve Kellogg's posts, through October 4th, for another $100 Visa gift card, this time a comment about weekend mornings and how they differ from weekday mornings. Comments have (unsurprisingly) been falling off as the series progresses, which means if you DO comment you have a greater chance of winning.