March 31, 2011

What a Mammogram is Like (Get Your Refrigerator Ready)

I have a little cold, and if I thought the universe was a sentient prissy jerk (and that I myself wasn't part of that same universe, a la "There's only one everything"), I would theorize that this cold was my payback for being happy about my good test results from my physical: nice low cholesterol, everything normal with thyroid and blood sugar and so forth---I don't really know everything they tested, but they made a whole bouquet of little bottles when they were drawing blood, and everything was normal/low/high where applicable. So, in good health for now according to the standard markers, though heading for the time of life where we all start getting things and it's a matter of what do we get in THE DRAW.

I also had my first mammogram. If you are a little nervous about your first mammogram, as I was, I will tell you how to get a good idea what it's like. Go into your kitchen, or I guess it doesn't have to be YOUR kitchen but I do recommend it for privacy reasons. Take off your shirt and bra. Then take one mammo, and lean it into the open freezer, or refrigerator if you are shorter or have one of those freezer-on-the-bottom fridges---whatever's at the right height for you.

Now you are going to start to close the door, slowly. You will need to reach in and pull/stretch the mammo into the fridge or freezer pretty firmly, or else it'll just pop out as you close the door. You know that unflattering "orange in a sock" image people use? The orange should be fully into the fridge, with the door closing on only sock. You are right if you're suddenly thinking that the "orange in a sock" analogy never really worked, and that this can't work either and the orange will HAVE to be squashed.

Continue closing the door until you are ALMOST in pain: you should have a slight panicky feeling about impending pain, combined with an impulse to pull yourself out of the situation, combined with the strong feeling that pulling back at this time would lead to a worse feeling. There will also be a scraping feeling as the edge of the door travels tightly across the skin surrounding the mammo. Now hold still. Hold still, hold still, hold still---30 seconds. Open the door. Whew! Do it once more on this side, then twice on the other side. Done!

It was not as bad as I'd feared, though I was glad as usual to have been pessimistic and anxious about it, if only for that delightful "Hey, THAT wasn't so bad!" feeling afterward.

March 28, 2011


My mom took the little kids for a couple of hours this morning, and after I dropped them off at her house I drove from there to have my bloodwork and peework done, which I realize is not the MOST exciting way to spend some child-free time, but on the other hand it is super nice not to have children knocking into trays of sterile tubes/needles.

Anyway, so this is just to explain why I was driving past my own house, and when I DID drive past my own house I saw a Suspicious White Van parked across the street, with some guy Taking Notes while looking at my house, so I got all anxious---until I saw it was a van for a home security company, and the guy was in uniform, and he wasn't looking at my house, he had just responsibly pulled over to take a cell phone call. But this gave me such a good marketing idea for home security companies: sit around in unmarked vans looking Suspicious. Better yet, since you're sitting there pretending to track people's schedules for robbery purposes, you could use that time to actually track their schedules; then, break in when no one's home: don't take anything, just dump out a bunch of drawers and sweep the mail pile off the counter and make a scary mess. They'd call for an alarm system right away! Well, and I guess they might not call YOUR company, but perhaps some sort of arrangement could be made with other home security companies and the calls would even out.

Or possibly that's a terrible idea. It was FASTING bloodwork and then I got a large coffee afterward.

For some reason, perhaps because of the words "terrible idea," this reminds me of the children and how they're in difficult stages right now. You know how there's that time when you have a newborn, and the newborn goes to sleep at your bedtime or even AFTER your bedtime so you feel like you just never, ever, EVER have any time that you're not feeding or holding or comforting a baby, and after you finally put the baby down it's only to climb into bed and you know you'll be awakened to immediately pick up the baby again, and the cycle of your days seems endless and exhausting? And then the newborn starts gradually going to bed earlier and earlier so that FIRST you actually have some time to brush and floss without having to hand the baby to someone else, and THEN it starts being you have a good half hour to refill your water cup for the next day or to open a baby gift, and THEN it's like a full hour and you start to feel like WHEEE SOME FREE TIME, and then the baby starts going to bed at 7:00 and you think "OMG I HAVE MY LIFE BACK"?

Well, it is going in the opposite direction now, is my point. Our two oldest are staying up later and later, and unfortunately they are not yet to the stage of life where we're so lame they can hardly stand to be in the same house with us unless they have headphones to block us out, so instead they are yammering yammering yammering at us all evening. And we DO appreciate this time with them, but we would ALSO appreciate some time to look at a computer or television or book or magazine WITHOUT having our attention jerked away EVERY TEN SECONDS JUST LIKE THE ENTIRE REST OF THE DAY.

I get up at about 5:40 a.m., and there is ALWAYS at least one child up before 6:00, and more often three. So at 8:00 that night, fourTEEN hours later, I am really really really really DONE with dealing with children. And yet it's still half an hour until the two big kids go to bed. And by the time we're done with "Did you brush your teeth?" "Oh yeah, I forgot" and tucking in and so forth, it's more like 8:45. And we go to bed at 10:00, so that means it's one hour until it's time to floss. Oh, sure, one hour is nice! I mean, that's the WHEEEE SOME FREE TIME marker when there's a newborn. But because we're going the other direction, it feels like the walls are closing in rather than finally giving way a bit, and I'm starting to GET BACK some of that "My life is an endless cycle of drudgery and exhaustion" feeling that can happen at bedtime when a person is tired and cranky and didn't get to read her book.

Some of this can/could be solved by the very solutions that are springing to your mind as you read this. We could make them start getting ready for bed a little earlier so that we are DONE tucking them in at 8:30. We could consider earlier bedtimes, and maybe they could read in bed instead of being up with us---but they are 10 and 12 now, and they already read in bed after 8:30, and 8:30 seems like a reasonable bedtime. I suppose we could tell them they could only stay upstairs if they were perfectly silent and talked neither to us nor to each other nor to the cats. The main issue here is not that things need to be changed, it's that we have children in an awkward stage as far as our free time is concerned---a stage that, as with those early newborn weeks, I hope will naturally adjust until we have a more pleasing quantity of free time again.

With the long train of children we have, this may take some time: just as the older two start wanting to spend their time wearing earphones and/or mooning around in their rooms instead of talking with their parents and getting all giddy and unpleasant, the younger three will be needing later bedtimes than their current 7:00. Already Elizabeth would be ready for a later bedtime: she's always awake until after 8:30, reading in her room because we can't think of any fair way to give her a later bedtime without giving the same to Edward---Edward who has dark undereye circles at about 5:00 in the afternoon and who falls asleep by 7:01. (We've thought of doing it all sneaky-like by waiting until he falls asleep and then letting her stay up, but that doesn't work for us: the other kids can't be trusted not to spill it.)

So really this is like when you complain to a guy, and he starts trying to solve it and you say "No, no, don't try to fix it, I just wanted to tell you about it and complain a little." Which is not to say a "Here's how we solved it!" would be unwelcome, if you DID solve it and if it doesn't involve moving to a different house where everyone gets his or her own room.

March 25, 2011

TIPS TIPS TIPS. Well, Three Tips.

1. Distributing Children's Vitamins

If you hand out children's vitamins that vary in color/shape within the bottle, and if you have the problem we have, which is of children clamoring for a specific shape/color and/or of all the children wanting the same shape/color so that that shape/color gets used up first, I will tell you how I solved this problem: I shake vitamins out into my hand, and the very first MATCHING SET I get is the vitamin everyone gets. I don't think this would work as well if all five were on the same vitamin, but the littles have one type and the bigs have another so it works great. The vitamins we use are ones that vary in color but not in shape, so I shake out vitamins into my hand until I get two purples or two oranges or two pinks, and then that's what the bigs get. Then I do the same for the littles: I shake out vitamins until I get three that match. This stops the "OOO OOO, can I have orange??" and also stops the problem of them eating all the orange ones and then complaining about it until 66 vitamins later when we open a new bottle. It also takes the blame off me: hey, it's FATE that decides today's vitamin color, not ME. (I could also just shake out one vitamin at a time and say that's the vitamin that child gets, but this led to "NO FAIR, he ALWAYS gets orange!!")

2. Peeing Without a Stepstool

If you have a small boy who needs to use a public restroom and only wants to do it standing up but also still needs a step stool, try having him stand on your feet: you stand at the toilet as if YOU were the boy who was about to get to pee without the Public Toilet Seat squeamishness issue even entering into things, and then have him stand on your feet. This still won't be enough for smaller small boys, but works for the ones who need a little boost. And you don't have to stand there dangling a child in the air over the toilet while your arm muscles complain.

3. Inexpensive Non-Leaking Children's Lunchbox Bottles

I've tried a bunch of different reusable lunchbox bottles and they ALL LEAK. I have been SO FRUSTRATED. Then I thought, "...Hey. These reusable bottles are sold empty. But little bottles of water and juice are sold FULL: they CAN'T leak, or the transportation/stocking issues would be a nightmare." I first bought the little 8-ounce bottles of bottled water, and they DIDN'T LEAK. But they were also made of thin, easily squashed/crumpled plastic. So then I bought these:

(photo from the listing, where they
probably cost a million dollars when in stock)

They're Mott's 8-ounce apple juices, and I buy these at Target, though only two of my three within-driving-distance Targets carry them. They cost about $4 for an 8-pack, which is more than I'd want to pay for a disposable product (for field trips I send juice boxes), but think of them as an 8-pack of reusable lunch box bottles, only 50 cents each (which is what our school system charges for a carton of milk, which is what inspired me to start this whole quest). I peel off the paper label and I write the child's name on the bottle and the lid in permanent marker, to make it clearer to school staff that the bottle is meant to be reused. The bottles are surprisingly sturdy and they don't leak. (We've had occasional problems this year with the twins, because they don't always get the concept of the screw-top needing to be threaded correctly, in which case of course the bottles WILL leak.) The kids reuse them until they lose them: in several years of using these, I've only had one bottle taken out of commission for breaking, and it was the lid that cracked.

March 24, 2011

List Reduction

Boy, writing all my stressies to you guys definitely helped me reduce the list. Well, and also it's several days later now, so some of those things were solved by the passing of time. But MOSTLY YOU.

1. I had my physical/pap/Tdap, which I hated but then it was over. Now I have to go get a mammogram, my first, which makes me feel like I'm getting old. I also have to get bloodwork and peework done. So I'm not done yet, but the part I really dreaded is over, and it's a relief to be getting these things tested and/or taken care of. And she didn't lecture me about my weight, which is one of the fears that makes me reluctant to go to the doctor.

2. I made the call to the vet about Mouse's Final Appointment, and I'd hoped I wouldn't cry on the phone but I did, and I'd hoped I wouldn't choke up to the point of being unable to speak but I did, and I'd hoped I wouldn't make an inappropriate joke about how it would be nice if a cat had one of those pop-up turkey timers that would let you know when it was Time To Make The Final Appointment but I did, and it nevertheless went fine. I reminded myself afterward that this is a routine part of the vet's job, and that she too probably worries about how to handle these phone calls: how much sympathetic talk and how much practical, saying too much or saying too little, knowing whether or not to talk when someone else is choking up. The appointment is tomorrow morning, and it will be fine. Mouse has been a good cat, and it's hard to let a good cat go---but on the other hand she's also been peeing all over my new carpet, which makes it a little easier.

Poor old thing
(there's a heating pad tucked into the towel)

3. My mother assured me that although there is indeed a frustratingly large financial impact from their recent medical drama, it's not as bad as I'd feared (I'd been under the mistaken impression that one entire hospital stay would not be covered), and they are able to handle it, and it just means I won't be able to buy an indoor lap pool with a future inheritance.

So if you're wondering what to get me for Christmas...

4. I told Paul I couldn't face calling the car place again, so he stopped by there on his way home from work, and they told him they'd found the problem, and the part has been ordered and should be here tomorrow, and the car should be ready by tomorrow afternoon, and we won't be charged for any of it.

5. I'm trying to do a small house-reorganization thing each day, and not get overwhelmed by how big The Whole Project is. Today I cleared all the junk off the bureau in our room, putting it where it actually belonged (most of it was stuff from the previous room). That meant I could get my jewelry boxes out of the dining room and into our room, which reduced (1) the mess in the dining room, (2) the mess in our room, and (3) some of the living-out-of-suitcases feeling.

March 22, 2011

Ultra Light Natural Blonde

I tried the peperoncini beef recipe everyone is trying. I thought it was pretty good, and would make it again. Paul thought it was MANNA FROM HEAVEN EXCEPT BETTER THAN THAT BECAUSE MANNA WAS PROBABLY ACTUALLY QUITE PLAIN AND BREADY.


Last night I put a hair-dye adventure on Twitter. I will summarize, this time with photos.

(Also, out-of-date Twitter avatar, much? I think that was about twenty pounds ago.)

Here is a picture of my Starting Hair. But I think this photo makes it look lighter and more golden than it is. Paul says my hair is light brown and I don't like it when he says that (although I liked it better when I realized his tastes generally run to brunettes), but at LIGHTEST it's "dark blonde" (see Twitter avatar). I think the flash gave it some undeserved lightness and goldenness: see how the front strands that didn't catch as much flash are more ashy?

And here is my box of hair dye:

Isn't that a pretty color?

I can already tell this is not going to end up the way I'd hoped.
Also, I don't recognize myself without my glasses, do you?

(This is the point at which Twitter started telling me the mission was doomed. TOO LATE FOR THIS WARNING.)

This is while it is still WET.
Normally my hair looks slate-grey-brown when wet.

I slept with a towel on my pillow, and took a photo as soon as I got up, because I didn't want to shower and then have to wait for it to dry AGAIN before I could take a photo. So my hair is a little MASHED looking. However, I think indeed it is safe to say that the box color has been non-achieved:

But I wouldn't call it a DISASTER, either: it's not the orange/trashy I'd feared, and if I'd wanted a sort of reddish medium/dark blonde, I would have been quite pleased. And I keep boxes of dark ash blonde hair dye in the house, so it would be easy to go back.

Here it is the way I usually wear it, and with my glasses on, and in more natural light:

Look, I am peeking at you with my partially-obscured peripheral vision.
Or perhaps I am noticing the bit of hairline I missed in the front.


Paul keeps asking WHY am I SO sad/crabby. So I made him a list:

Husband: The Snip and resulting emotional stuff; temporary layoff if government shut-down takes place; still a contractor instead of a regular employee, despite repeated employer promises to change this

Parents: scary medical drama followed by resulting scary financial drama

Rob: orthodontic appliance keeps breaking and I have to keep calling about it and taking him out of school for appointments; pre-teen issues such as backtalking and disrespectful arguing that pushes my buttons in a way that makes me think I'm not going to do a good job parenting the teen years

Will: the birthday party (now over); several years' worth of progress reports mentioning problems with focusing, starting to make me feel like we need to do something about it

Elizabeth: storming off, slamming doors, screaming---at even SMALL things

Edward: my mom read a book about dyslexia and now thinks Edward and William have it

Henry: constantly talks about video games and shooting; starting preschool in the fall; doesn't obey until the nth time he's told

All kids: I'm not remembering to teach them everything they need to know; they should have been born to a family that could manage them better; summer camp dithering (choosing which ones, and it's SO EXPENSIVE and involves so much hassle); upcoming dental visits without dental insurance; video games becoming a problem again

Mouse (the cat): dying, vet thinks probably cancer (and says treatment wouldn't make sense for an underweight 16-year-old cat with other health issues already); in the meantime, using the entire house as her litterbox; vet is going to call to check in, so I'm constantly jumpy about the phone maybe ringing

Benchley (the cat): repeatedly going into the neighbors' yards (they don't want him to, and expect us to...tell him not to, I guess); harassing Mouse; vet says he's "chunky" and has really bad teeth for his age ($$)

Fish: acting weird

Minivan: I finally got the broken-off door handle (parking lot incident) replaced, and it doesn't work from the inside---but we only just discovered that (kids always get out on the other side), and it's been AGES so I feel dumb calling about it and asking the place to redo it (they'll think we just broke it again, because how would we not know about this for 8 months?)

Car: check-engine light took $1200 to fix, and then it was still on when we got the car back; place can't figure out what's wrong after 3 days (5 including the weekend); we've been managing with one car for 2 weeks now, getting rides from my parents every day to get the twins to kindergarten; we have to pick up the car today no matter what (parents can't drive tomorrow), and what if they charge us for all the labor involved in not being able to fix the problem? and now we'll need to somehow get it to the bigger city place, which will mean a 2-car hour-long round-trip for each pick-up and drop-off

Doctor: I have to go tomorrow for a physical, and my doctor has trouble with English, and I have trouble with doctors already (scared, worried about communicating issues effectively); also, my call to make the appointment was an enormous catastrophe, so that I'm still having furious imaginary conversations with the receptionist two weeks later (we can't really switch doctors or I WOULD HAVE, because that is an easy solution to think of)

Taxes: not done

House: the chaos of the rearranging; everything that still needs to be done; "living out of suitcase" feeling while those things remain undone; constant small repairs cropping up that we don't deal with; constant cleaning needed

That no-carb book I read: resulting food stress

Other books: three in a row with totally unsatisfying endings, plus one I couldn't even get through at all, plus one about a fat woman, which portrayed her as going to the grocery store, bakery, and fast-food places DAILY and constantly shoving massive quantities of food into her mouth (the Hollywood idea of what fat people need to do to stay so fat)

The world: full of constant disaster and constant cruelty

Other: possible impending UTI (and the possible impending argument with the doctor over me not wanting to pay my $150 share of a $500 lab test that checks only to see if she's prescribed the right medicine---which, presumably, we would know FOR FREE in a couple of days); all the phone calls I've had to make for so many of these things


Then I didn't give him the list. Instead I said, "Because every single area of my life has something either sad or crabby happening. That's why."

However, that left out several important things:

1. It's Cadbury Egg season

2. My brother and sister-in-law are having another baby, and it's a BOY

3. Maeve Binchy's new book due to arrive in today's mail

4. The peperoncini roast EVERYONE HAS BEEN MAKING is in the crockpot

5. Chunky, bad-teethed, plush warm cat sitting on my lap and purring and giving me love-eyes

March 19, 2011


We put the nursery valances on Freecycle. I got those when I was pregnant with Rob, from one of the parents at the daycare I used to work at. Her in-laws bought her a new nursery set for her second baby, and she still had the set for her first baby (the baby I took care of at the daycare), so she gave it to me. It was sepia with a pattern of antique toys. At some point I gave away the quilt, and then the bumper and sheets, but the valances were still up. When we moved the rooms around, I took them down.



My buddy Kelsey is doing the March of Dimes Walk this year. Three years ago, Kelsey was on hospital bed rest for a month; her son Michael was born at 31 weeks. I did my college internship for the March of Dimes, and they can take credit for my subsequent years of folic acid purchases. They're good peeps, and if you want to donate some money toward their quest to reduce premature births, I hope you'll donate it through Kelsey's walk fund. (Here's her post on the topic, for more info/background.)

I found JJust Kidding's post about handling a meltdown extremely satisfying, I think because it ran the whole gamut of maternal emotions and then put in some well-placed curse words and a Sylvia Plath reference. ("Ran the whole gamut of emotions," by the way, is a phrase I'm using in a copy-and-paste sort of way. I don't know what a gamut is, but from hearing the phrase in other contexts I think I'm using it correctly here. However, this is probably how phrases like "for all intensive purposes" get going.)

Look at this awesome leaf-print quilt made by Melissa and her daughter.

Two Shoes Studio is doing a postcard project, so you KNOW I signed right up. She's sending postcard-sized ART, and you can see the cute fluffy little chick she just did, which has a facial expression that amuses me, and you can also see the postcard _I_ received, which is even better in person.

The Diniwilks has a PSA about removing the headrests in a Honda CRV to make room for the car seat, which you'd think would not be interesting to read unless you had (1) a Honda CRV and (2) a car seat that didn't fit right with the headrests---and yet I read the whole thing, rapt.

From the review blog: La Crème coffee creamer review, with a $100 Visa gift card giveaway. Ends March 31.

March 14, 2011

The Fates Will Find Their Way; The False Friend

I am cranky at a book. It's The Fates Will Find Their Way by Hannah Pittard, and it's probably not the book's fault.

Isn't the cover pretty? It makes me want to paint some of those colors on walls.
(photo from

The thing is, I like books WRAPPED UP. I want loose ends TIED, and I want mysteries EXPLAINED. I like to know WHAT REALLY HAPPENED. Which reminds me: I'm cranky at another book, too. It's The False Friend, by Myla Goldberg.

(photo from

If a book uses a BIG MYSTERY (in both books, a missing girl) for its momentum, then at the end I want to know the whole story. I don't agree with readers who say "Well, but in REAL LIFE we wouldn't know!" This is not real life, this is fiction, and I want to know. If I don't get the answer, that says to me that the author didn't know either: she just wrote it all mysterious-like to make it suspenseful, but she took the lazy way out and didn't find a way that all those clues could make SENSE. I once emailed Jodi Picoult to DEMAND the answer to a mystery she left unsolved in one of her books, and she emailed me back that the ending is what we make of it. NO. The ending is what the AUTHOR makes of it. That is the author's job. My job is to read it.

The Fates Will Find Their Way is distinctive for two reasons:

1. It is written in first person plural (we thought this, we did that). This is such an unusual style, I was constantly thinking of the only other book I've read that used this style (Then We Came to the End, by Joshua Ferris, a book I thought I hated for the first fifty pages, after which I loved it). It is a VERY STRANGE style.

2. Even more distractingly, it's a female author writing on behalf of a group of boys/men. I ALMOST ALWAYS hate this. My attitude is "You have failed to acquire authorization to represent this point of view." You'd think I'd feel that way about ALL books with non-author narrators ("Who are you to write as if you were Mary, Queen of Scots??"), but I don't: it's the male/female thing only. I think it's because that is SUCH a minefield already, what one sex assumes the other sex is thinking and feeling. I feel it less with a female author and a male narrator, of course, because I'm not personally offended when a woman makes assumptions about how a man's mind works---but I still think, "Hey." And I wince if it seems personal/private and negative. Since this particular female author is writing for a whole GROUP of men, I was even more sensitive to it: by attributing thoughts/feelings to a group as if there was consensus to support her claims, it was more serious than if she were claiming it only for one character.

Both books deal heavily with teenager stuff: teenage emotions, teenage cruelties, teenage traumas. The Fates Will Find Their Way deals CONSIDERABLY MORE with teenage sexuality than I would like to read about (this was one of the parts where I repeatedly thought the author should not be writing on behalf of the opposite sex); The False Friend put more emphasis on teenage cruelty. Both books made me feel uneasy about my own children entering this age.

Both of these books held me absolutely riveted, and neither one of them paid off in the currency I prefer to tender. If you LIKE books that reflect real life, in that they leave you hanging and you never find out what happened (I've seen reviewers saying they liked the food for thought, or enjoyed the way it made them reflect upon the mysteries of life and how little we know about the Truth, etc., etc.) (though, I find it possible to THINK without the element of CONFUSION present), then BY ALL MEANS you should read these because they were GREAT until they omitted their satisfying-resolution, mystery-finally-revealed endings.

March 13, 2011

Party Stats, Knee Socks for the Plump of Calf, Yellow to White

THE PARTY IS OVER. It is done! Everything was fine! Although I am still STEEPING IN EMPATHY for a boy who was still there when everyone else had been picked up, saying to me, "I'm sorry" and "You can just go and I can wait here." *HEART CLENCH* This made me wish SO PROFOUNDLY for the knack of putting people at their ease in awkward situations. I TRIED, but he was still unhappy and embarrassed. I would have used that skill on his mother, too, when she arrived saying "I'M SO SORRY. I'M SO EMBARRASSED" (she hadn't changed her watch for the time change).

For statistical use: we sent out ten invitations; we got five RSVPs, all yes; we got a sixth RSVP-yes the night before, apologizing for forgetfulness and asking if it was still okay and saying she totally understood if it wasn't (full mercy awarded); we also had one where we didn't get an RSVP but it was William's best friend and she told him yes verbally, and it would have been such a colossal disaster if she COULDN'T come we would have expected an enormous kerfuff in that case, so anyway we felt confident she'd be there.

The three who didn't RSVP didn't come to the party. Of the four possible RSVP screw ups (RSVP yes but don't show, RSVP no but show up; no RSVP but show; no RSVP but no show), that one is the easiest to let slide---but GEEZ I wish they'd have RSVP'd a "no," because then we could have invited other kids to take those slots (the party package allowed 15 children maximum, and was still the same total price even if there were fewer children), because there were several that William had a very hard time deciding among. (William decided to invite all his siblings, so that's the other four, plus William himself counts as one, if you're doing the math.) I wish I could have come up with a good way of spelling out the "please tell us if you can't come so we can invite a second-stringer" thing on the invitations. Well. Anyway. It's OVER, and that's the important thing.

Cake statistics: William wanted chocolate cake with vanilla frosting, so I made one 9x13 chocolate cake with vanilla frosting and one 9x13 yellow cake with vanilla frosting. Of 12 party guests, 10 wanted the yellow cake. THIS BLEW MY MIND.

You know what is working pretty well? "You can't play with your presents until you've written your thank-you notes."


If you are both FULL and TALL (particularly FULL) of calf, but you want to wear knee socks, I recommend the "over the knee" style. Target has some at 75% off right now, and I bought some to wear under my air cast. The over-the-knee kind go right up to just under my knee, the way regular knee socks are supposed to. However, may I advise against the argyle? It seems the argyle is knit to look correct only on the unfilled sock; it would warp even on a narrow calf, but on my own calf there is comical warpage. Stripes! Stripes are good! And the diamond pattern (non-argyle, just teal/white/navy diamonds) works okay too.


You are wondering how we went from intense yellow to white paint for our room. It was something like this:

Step 1: Swistle dithers for hours over various shades of blue, green, yellow, etc.

Step 2: Paul says he wants bright yellow.

Step 3: Swistle dithers for hours over various shades of bright yellow, feeling anxious about how yellow will go with the quilt, and also feeling anxious about how yellow allegedly causes anxiety and depression.

Step 4: Paul sighs discontentedly when shown Swistle's preferred bright yellows, and says he wants the ones Swistle can't tolerate. Then he says the most important thing is that SWISTLE chooses what SHE wants. But SHE was trying to choose what HE wanted.

Step 5: Swistle goes into paint-color-choosing shock.

Step 6: Paul says he's buying the paint on the way home from work the next day, and Swistle needs to tell him what to buy. Swistle declines to reply.

Step 7: Paul emails from work: he's bringing home a paint color, and if Swistle doesn't tell him which one he will close his eyes and choose one at random.

Step 8: Swistle emails back: "White. The same Sea Salt I felt the paint clerk showed insufficient enthusiasm for when I chose it for the dining room."

Step 9: Paul emails back that this makes no sense and that Swistle should choose what SHE WANTS. What was that bright yellow she liked, again?

Step 10: Swistle emails back that yellow was what PAUL wanted, and that the ideal color with the quilt is a shade of Swistle Blue, but Swistle now associates that color with Swistleness and doesn't want it in the bedroom, and also she likes green but there are no greens she wants, and also WHITE IS WHAT SHE WANTED TO BEGIN WITH, OH CAN'T WE GET WHITE? It will look right with the quilt AND with the pictures, AND will still look good if we change to a different quilt!

Step 11: Paul comes home with a gallon of Sea Salt and paints the bedroom with it. It's great. Paul takes out the old icky carpet and Swistle makes the children wash the floor.

Step 12: This is not part of the paint-choosing process, but anyway we move our bed into that room and sleep there for the first time last night, and Swistle lies awake thinking THIS HAS ALL BEEN A TERRIBLE MISTAKE and she wants her old room back because THIS IS ALL WRONG and SHE HATES EVERYTHING.

Step 13: Swistle takes a sleeping pill and feels better in the morning, especially when it turns out we get morning light in our new room, which we didn't get in our old room.

March 12, 2011

It is Saturday So it is Time for Links

I'm reading The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, and probably I should have put it back on the shelf as soon as I realized it was an Oprah's Book Club choice: those are INEVITABLY depressing and full of traumatizing events from beginning to end. But now I'm more than 250 pages into it and feel like if there IS some ray of happiness anywhere in the story, I MUST find it: I'm too invested in the characters to leave them stranded in an Oprah book.


You know what color we're painting our room? White. You heard me.



From the review blog: La Crème coffee creamer review, with a $100 Visa gift card giveaway. Ends March 31.

From the Milk and Cookies blog: green Etsy earrings, which is not an overly specific thing to write about.

From the baby name blog: The father likes the names Branch and Jimmy; the mother likes the names Henry and Corbin.

At Whoopee, I recommend I Would Hate to Go Out With Me. My favorite part is the portrait of the overwhelmed father. I think she should totally sell custom versions of that: people could submit an order with their own Custom Stressy Things and Custom Male Hair Patterns. Or perhaps you would like to read A Cautionary Horse Story, in which the Dalai Lama stops some poo-kicking horses.

March 10, 2011

Air Casts and Shocking Yellows

Do you remember two months ago when I fell down the stairs with my foot still caught on the rubber dinosaur that caused the fall, so that it got left behind me and I landed on top of my ankle? No, probably not---I mean, _I_ had to look it up. Anyway, that foot has been SLIGHTLY hurty and SLIGHTLY swollen ever since. But I couldn't quite get up the resolve to go to the doctor about something that was only SLIGHTLY bothersome, and besides, I couldn't think of anything bad it could be. But then it started hurting and swelling a little more, and I noticed a bony bump up higher on my calf, so I finally went to the doctor this week.

I get to wear an air cast for two weeks. I'm not sure why, though: the doctor I saw speaks English only partially, and I was already in High Anxiety mode (social contact! uncertainty! doctors! stress about correctly communicating the exact nature of the problem! stress that it was silly for me to be at the doctor for this! stress that they would do a dozen tests my insurance wouldn't pay for and then say "Huh! Looks fine!") so I had trouble listening ANYWAY. She also told me to take three ibuprofen four times daily, but it doesn't HURT enough for that, so I don't really want to take a whole bunch of ibuprofen for nothing---but did she mean to bring the swelling down? I'm not sure. THIS IS WHY I HATE GOING TO THE DOCTOR. But I have my air cast on. I have to wear it with lace-up shoes, and normally I wear mary janes, so I feel weird.


Next, if you think choosing paint colors is about as exciting as watching those paint colors dry, then you can safely skip the rest of the post: that's all there is, is more dithering about shades of yellow. There's no third section with something more interesting in it.

You may remember my nice understated yellows (and for those of you who thought they looked like bandaids, I direct you to Favorite Paint Colors (THANK YOU OH BRILLIANT ONE), where she has a photo of a room done in Manila Tint, the most bandaidy of the colors, which on the wall is a very pleasant non-caucasian-flesh-toned yellow (and in fact, too yellow for me to like it).

ANYWAY, it's a moot point because Paul says he doesn't want a warm soft muted yellow (I tend toward brownish ones that have words like "honey" and "pollen" and grain" in them), he wants a SHOCKING INTENSE YELLOW. He said "Like the orange in our bathroom, but yellow." The orange in our bathroom is almost NEON in some lights.

Well. The thing is, it turns out I like yellow less the clearer and more crayon-like it gets. But HE doesn't like lilac, and he nevertheless pushed us to use the glowing lilac _I_ liked in our computer room, just because _I_ liked it. So I am inclined to Go With This---especially since even though I'm not crazy about yellow, if we're GOING to do yellow I prefer shocking over pastel. However, I would like to steer us away from Child's-Paintbox Yellow and toward something more like College-Team-Colors Gold. Here's a screen shot from, where you can use their ColorSmart program to try colors on walls. This one is called Twenty Carat 310B-6, and don't scroll too far because I want you to first see this one alone without the yellow that comes after it:

I vastly prefer that sort of color to bright crayon yellow, which to me is more like this (Vibrant 370B-6):

(And if you're thinking, "Wait, WHAT?," it might be that we have different impressions of colors but it's even more likely that our monitors have different color calibrations: these colors on Paul's computer looked SO DIFFERENT he had to use my computer. ((We tested which person's computer was "right" by plugging in colors we've already used. His computer showed our bright orange as a sort of pinkish melon.)) )

That second one makes me feel depressed (I know, I know, who feels "depressed" in the face of SUNSHINE YELLOW? I don't get it either), and it looks like a nursery or a classroom or a library children's room to me---one in which the painter underestimated the impact of the yellow they were choosing. The first one, I can live with and maybe even like: it looks orangey compared to the second one, but of course the second one would not be present for comparison so no problem. But I showed them to Paul, and indeed the second one is what he has in mind, and he made a subtle dissatisfied/resigned face at the first one.

March 8, 2011


First you need a little background information, which is that the computer room is off the hallway, and the door swings open into the computer room. The frame around that door has been weird since we moved in: it comes gradually unpried, but hammering it back down doesn't seem to help, and some parts WON'T hammer down, and some parts pry up AS you hammer other parts down, so there's always weird gaps and we're aware that something is amiss or warped or something, but neither of us is much of a fix-it type.

So, okay, what happened was that I was very crabby with the constant interrupting (not "We need basic care!" interruptions, but more the "He said I was THREE but I'm FIVE!" and "He's THINKING that I'm a baby!!" interruptions), and I told the children I was going to shut the door so I could finish proofreading, but I didn't SHUT it so much as SLAM it with a SHOVE, and the part of the frame that's been kind of broken suddenly broke significantly MORE, so that the door went a little bit through the frame the wrong way, toward the hallway, and got completely wedged: I couldn't pull it back toward me at all.

I said to the children that this is one of many reasons we don't slam doors, and I asked them to try flinging their little bodies against it. That didn't work either, though they enjoyed it and wanted to keep trying. I tugged on the doorknob some more, but no. Elizabeth said the little gold thing was in the way, and I said "Do you mean the little gold square right next to the door knob?" and she said yes, but I still wasn't confident we were talking about the same thing so I drew a little picture and slid it under the door and she said yes that was the thing.

See how that would be? The door pushed through the frame, and then that little thing clicked across the edge of the frame and held the door where it was, so I couldn't pull it back toward me. I turned the doorknob back and forth, but Elizabeth reported the little thing didn't move. I asked the kids to try pushing the little thing in, but they said it wouldn't move. I tried moving the lock on the doorknob from unlocked to locked and back again; no effect. So I tried taking off the doorknob. First I used the tip of a scissors, but then I thought to check my desk and sure enough I had a little flathead screwdriver I hadn't put away the last time I'd used it, so yay for being kind of untidy.

But after I took off the doorknob, the little thingie was still sticking out, still preventing the door from being pulled back toward me, and still unmovable. I looked to see if the hinges had screws I could remove, but no, not on my side of the door.

I sat back and evaluated the situation. On the up side, I wasn't shut away from any infants or toddlers: all three children would be fine and could understand the situation. I was also indoors, and could talk to the children easily through the door. I would not need to resort to, say, having a child call the fire department, and having firefighters break me out (*CRINGE*).

Also, I had on my side of the door my computer AND the remains of my box of Russell Stover Bloopers. Also, I'd given in to the siren song of the leftover fried rice at 10:00, so I wasn't going to be uncomfortably hungry. I also had a full basket of dirty laundry I could pee in if necessary: the last year or so of dealing with cat-peed bedding has made this seem like a normal thought to have. In fact, it was a little tempting not to even try real hard with the door. "Oops, guess I'll have to play on my computer and eat chocolates all day! Sorry, children!"

On the down side, it was less than an hour until time to start lunch so the twins could go to kindergarten. They would have to miss kindergarten. Cheesing, yes; disastrous, no. But I wouldn't be able to call them in absent, because there is no phone in the computer room.

Oh! I didn't have a phone, but I had EMAIL! I could email my parents! They are right up the street! It would be embarrassing to say that I got stuck because I had a flash of temper and slammed a door, but they DO remember my teenaged years so... Plus, I'm telling YOU ALL, so clearly I'm not THAT excruciatingly embarrassed. And my dad could PUSH the door into the room even if I couldn't PULL it, and he could probably figure out what to do with the little doorknob thingie too. ...Oh wait. My parents are gone all day to an appointment. I could email Paul, but it's more than an hour's drive and then we'd lose half a day of his pay.

This is where I spent some more time yanking with renewed effort on the doorknob, wondering if I could channel panic into some extra strength. (No.) I also fiddled some more with where the doorknob used to be, seeing if I could figure out how to remove or tamper with the mechanism that was keeping the little doorknob thing in its locked position. (No.) I also used the screwdriver and a pair of scissors to see if I could pry the door back in my direction at all. (No.) I also flung myself at it for awhile, to see if I could push it all the way through to the hall. (No.)

I turned my attention to the window. I could easily remove the screen and climb out. But we have a raised ranch, also known as a split foyer; whatever you call it, the gist is that the first floor is 1.5 stories off the ground, not the usual 1. And right under our window is the branchy remains of a shrub: not enough to support a descent, just enough to make it dangerously impaley.

One window over, our ladder leaned against the house. I spent a little time wishing I'd slammed the door to THAT room. Then I told the twins to get on their coats and boots. We spent fifteen minutes with me leaning out the window trying to move the ladder using remote twin-power, but it was a total failure: it was too heavy and bulky for them, and they couldn't really move it using the anti-having-a-ladder-fall-on-them positions I was advocating.

I looked at the clock. It was 20 minutes until I would need to start the pre-kindergarten routine. I had to decide: were we staying home from kindergarten and having a weird afternoon where I would have the children forage for what food they could manage to get for themselves? Or was I going to confirm my long-standing theory that if I REALLY WANTED TO I could break a locked door down just like in a movie---with the understanding that I would do some serious damage to the frame, since I would be pushing the door OUT (the way it doesn't usually swing at all) instead of IN like in the movies.

I tested my theory. Slamming into it worked a little, but not enough. I remembered that kicking was better for those of us with our body strength concentrated lower. I kicked, then kicked higher and harder, then kicked higher-still and harder-still, and I broke the whole frame out of the wall and I was out.

I emailed Paul at work and he asked why I didn't just take the pins out of the hinges. "Pins"?

March 7, 2011

Important Decisions

This is the part of choosing paint colors that makes Paul say "I KNOW WHAT! LET'S JUST USE THAT LILAC COLOR YOU LIKED!":

But they are all so very DIFFERENT

(Here's the quilt I'd love to have work with the walls; good idea, Rah!)

March 6, 2011

More Party Stress

I have either a strong case of denial, or a strong case of disorganization, or a strong case of avoidance, or perhaps some sort of unholy trifecta situation, because William's big birthday party is a week from today and I haven't even sent out the invitations.

I'm appalled, and yet "being appalled" did not have its usual mobilizing effect: even though I started being appalled a week ago today (when I thought, "OMG, the party is in two weeks and I haven't even sent out the invitations!"), it was only yesterday that we printed out the invitations, and only today that we put them in envelopes and bought the stuff for the favor bags. "Panic" was apparently required for this.

One of the major immobilizing issues for me has been this: The school has in previous years (though not this year, I don't think) reminded parents that invitations can't be handed out at school unless everyone in the class is invited---but I don't have the addresses of William's classmates, so....? I could have William get each address, and I guess that would be the only option, but doesn't that draw EVEN MORE attention to the party? I see what the school is trying to do here, but I'm not sure they've thought this out.

What I did was lecture William for an entire 20-minute car ride on the importance of kindness and discretion. We discussed that he should hand over each invitation as inconspicuously as possible, with a quiet "Not everyone is being invited, so..." And if any classmates confronted him about not being invited, he could blame us, saying "My parents would only let me invite a certain number of people," which should be said in kind and regretful tones, not defensive and angry ones.

But this has brought to my attention another problem: I can't call parents to nag them about RSVPing, because I DON'T HAVE ANYONE'S PHONE NUMBER EITHER. Which I guess is just as well, since William won't be handing out the invitations until tomorrow, and that doesn't really give enough time for a decent RSVP window followed by another batch of invitations and a second decent RSVP window. Anyone who gets invited on, say, Friday, is going to think either, "Oh, I see: second string" or else "Who issues invitations two days before a party??"

But then, what about the thank-you notes? I suppose those too will have to be brought discreetly to school. ACK.

March 5, 2011

What to Write on a Postcrossing Postcard; Also, Links

As I've mentioned perhaps meepillion times before, I like to do Postcrossing. It started as a way to cull and cultivate my postcard collection ("Why do I keep buying postcards when I never SEND them? And how can I get postcards from ____ without traveling there?"), but it has turned into something I'd be reluctant to admit to friends: pre-buying new postcard sets on; storing the cards sorted into clementine crates so I can find the right one for each recipient; sheet after sheet of stamps so I can use, say, a Ronald Reagan, a Shelter pet cat, and an American clock, instead of the boring 98-cent stamp; etc.... *drifts into postcard reverie*

DomestiKook and I were discussing one of the BIGGEST THINGS about Postcrossing, which is "What do you WRITE on the postcard?" It's to a total stranger and you'll never write to them again. Some people write "Happy Postcrossing!"---which has led a surprising number of people to put in their profiles that they want the sending to "WRITE something, not just 'Happy Postcrossing'!"

I will tell you what I do. I write: "Hello! I'm [age], married, with 5 children and 3 cats. We live in the [adjective describing size] [adjective describing area of country] state of [name of state]. -Kristen" (sometimes I accidentally start to write Swistle).

If I have lots more space or feel more chatty, I might add something about our state: "We're known for [food item], [character trait of residents], and [scenic attraction]." Or "This postcard is of ________." If the recipient has expressed a liking for something I like, I'll say, "Oh, I like ____ too!" If they've described their cats in surprising detail (age, sex, coloring, temperament, fur length), I'll describe my cats in similar detail. You could also write "I'm a [profession]," "I can't have pets where I live now but when I can I'd like to have a ____," "I like to [athletic activity] and watch [type of movie] movies," "My favorite authors are ______," "My favorite celebrities are ________," "We've been married for ____ years," "We used to live in ____," "I was born in ____," "My ancestors came from [country] in [year]."

Paul thinks this is kind of boring, but I like it when I receive postcards that say those sorts of things.

Some people like to write secrets, and that can be fun too. I got one that said "I will tell you a secret: I'm in love with my best friend. I'm going to tell him this afternoon!" (My reaction was more "NOOOOOOooooooooo!" than "Yay, I'll bet it's going to work out great for them!") (I've read He's Just Not That Into You.)



From the review blog: La Crème coffee creamer review, with a $100 Visa gift card giveaway. Ends March 31.

From the Milk and Cookies blog: letting a child wrap a gift, without losing your mind and half a roll of wrapping paper.

From the baby name blog: Can you use the name Natalie for a baby who wasn't born at Christmastime?

From Hilarity in Shoes, I suggest two posts: Two Times a Bridesmaid in which she does NOT kill rabbits with her mind, and Whine School / In Lieu of a Revelation, in which a professor refers to Canada as "a purely agricultural society."

March 4, 2011

Cake From Scratch: Crazy Cake

There is a recipe from Paul's side of the family called Crazy Cake. It is not actually called Crazy Cake, but it's something similar to that, and I am genuinely concerned about the likelihood of someone from his family Googling it. They all seem to think it ought to be called Jesus Cake, and could be checking to see if the President has yet answered their petition to make a whole national holiday in honor of it. Plus, I enjoy the crazycakes association here.

My mother-in-law passed the recipe to me proudly when I married Paul; I tactfully refrained from mentioning I'd already made it for him three times in the two and a half years we'd been dating and living together. I still have to make it once a year for Paul's birthday, and I consider it an enormous act of sacrificial love. It's funny how one's OWN handed-down family recipes carry generations of meaning, tying us to our ancestors through simple rituals---whereas the family recipes of one's greatly-disliked in-laws are a burden and also stupid.

Paul's family likes to say EVERY SINGLE TIME THEY MAKE THE CAKE, "If it was any more moist, it'd be pudding! HAR HAR HAR!!" First of all, GROSS. Secondly, please imagine the pleasure involved in removing a circle of almost-pudding from a cake pan. Every year I grimly use the Crisco and the flour, or the Pam baking spray, or the WD-40, or whatever I think MIGHT make the cake came out of the pan without breaking, and every year I end up patching with frosting AGAIN.

I had to recopy the recipe onto another card because my mother-in-law's version was so excruciatingly annoying. When I first made the recipe, I was working in a bakery. I was pretty sure that "IMPORTANT: Beat EXACTLY 2 minutes BY THE CLOCK!!" was not a legit instruction. I removed about five such instructions, which left me with "Mix everything together. Bake 350 for 35-45 min." These modifications caused no change in the resulting cake, confirming my opinion that my mother-in-law had a greatly inflated idea of her own special cooking skillz.

I have over the years become accustomed to the taste of the cake, so that I can now eat a piece for celebration's sake and not mind it. I gradually increased the cocoa from 2 tablespoons to 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) which helped some, as the chocolate cake now has a chocolate flavor instead of just a chocolate color. The frosting is still a struggle: it's so greasy it soaks into the cake. At least it's BUTTER grease: I would have expected it to use Crisco.

I once asked why it was called Crazy Cake. It turns out it's because the CAKE is chocolate, but the FROSTING is white!! Get it? GET IT? Me neither. I guess a few generations back it was pretty wild.

You may have the recipe if you want it. I don't see why you would, though, considering how excellent cake mixes are. I often convert recipes to grams and ml and so forth, but I don't have the heart for it with a recipe I don't even recommend you make---and surely all of you have the same access to Google I do. Put "1 cup in ml" or "1 cup in grams" or "1 teaspoon in ml" in the search field and it will convert it for you. "T." is tablespoon; "t." is teaspoon; "c." is cup.

Crazy Cake

2-2/3 c. flour
2 c. sugar
1/2 c. baking cocoa
2 t. baking soda
2 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
3/4 c. vegetable oil
2 T. vinegar
2 T. fake vanilla
2 c. cold water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two round cake pans. Mix all the ingredients together; beat on high for about two minutes. Bake 35-45 minutes. Cake is done when you can say that if it were any more moist it would be pudding, or when a toothpick to the center comes out clean.

Crazy Cake Frosting

1 c. milk
5 T. flour
1 c. (2 sticks) softened butter
1 c. sugar
1 t. vanilla

In a small saucepan, combine and heat milk and flour, stirring constantly over medium heat until it thickens creepily and is basically smooth. Cool completely.

In a mixer, combine the butter and sugar and beat for two minutes. Add the flour/milk mixture which is now thickly skinned-over and congealed and gross, and beat for another two minutes, or longer if the pieces of milk-flour skin haven't yet blended in (but you might have to pick some of the stubborn ones out). Add vanilla.


I changed the cake recipe from "vanilla" to "fake vanilla," because NO recipe should use a full ounce of vanilla when vanilla is so expensive, if you CAN'T EVEN TASTE IT. For the frosting I usually use the real vanilla.

Also, notice this is an egg-free cake recipe. The first time I made it, I thought that must be a mistake. And maybe it IS a mistake, who knows. But it DOES make it a nice recipe for someone with egg allergies, especially if they make a different frosting.

March 3, 2011


I saw a flock of robins today. A whole FLOCK. I've seen more than one robin at a time before, but always scattered, as if they weren't TOGETHER-together and instead just happened to be occupying the same yard. I don't think of them as flockers. I hope this means we are having an EXTRA GOOD spring.

(I looked it up, and apparently they DO flock, but mostly at night---they split up during the day. Also, Robin's Egg Blue is a very pretty color.)


I remember at some point mentioning that my favorite piece in the Russell Stover assortment box is the Roman Nougat, and then I got all excited because I found out I could order a WHOLE BOX of JUST Roman Nougats online, but then they were out of stock. Anyway, they finally came back into stock, so I ordered a whole box of dark and a whole box of milk (I HAD to, to get free shipping, and also I couldn't decide which ones I preferred). (And incidentally, it turns out that the See's Rum Nougats have kind of spoiled the Roman Nougats for me, but let's not let that ruin the story.)

WELL. Before I hit "place order now," I noticed an OUTLET section, and in the outlet section was a box of "Bloopers": a 3-pound box (it says "48 ounce," but there is a cross-wiring in my brain that ALWAYS makes me think 48 ounces is 4 pounds) (oh, I'll bet it's because 48 inches is 4 feet) (anyway, 3-pound box is clearer) (well, unless you usually think in terms of kilograms, in which case it's like one and a third kilograms) of chocolates that look funny but taste fine, in a random assortment based on what got picked off the line by Quality Control that day.

I was immensely curious about this. I wanted to know HOW badly malformed they were, and also I was intrigued by the idea of the GAMBLE: it could be 2.5 pounds of molasses chews (least favorite) and .4 pounds of truffles (second least favorite) and .1 pounds of vanilla creams (love)! OH WHAT WOULD IT BE? Also, I liked the thought of the workers picking them off the line, pick pick pick, like in videos of factories, gloved hands working fast, hair in white paper caps, serious focused expressions. So I ordered a box.

It was with high anticipation I awaited the arrival. Finally the day came.

Thanks for the cow theme, there.

Here it is!

Inside view

As you can see, Bloopers are just tossed into the box all willy-nilly, so they look scruffed-up from chocolate-on-chocolate action. The defects vary: a few were lightly squashed, but mostly it seems to be either misshapenness (supposed to be round, but had a lumpy part; supposed to be rounded oblong, but too low and rounded), or filling peeking out (convenient for picky picking!).

It appears from the way I arranged the photos that I opened the box of Bloopers right away, but in fact I waited more than a week. I was NERVOUS. (Also, I had some clearance Valentine's Day candy I was still working my way through, which is how I unfortunately found out the Roman Nougats were now just Fine.)

And...I lucked out. It appears that the ones with a cream filling are most likely to be misshapen or have little bits oozing out of them, or maybe they were just working on creams that day, because almost the whole box is creams, and creams are my favorites. I've had about ten that are either maple-walnut or walnut creams and it looks like it's over a pound of just those, so I can picture someone else being TOTALLY DISMAYED (ack, nuts! ack, maple! ack, creams!) but I love those ones so I could hardly be happier.

I've also had several caramels, and one lemon cream, and one vanilla cream, and I see several that are Roman Nougats, and I gave Paul a coconut (I like coconut but he loves them) and a truffle. I ALSO saw one that was definitely a molasses chew (filling peeping out), and I wish they looked different on the outside than the Roman Nougats because I just know I'm going to bite into one by accident. (In some assortments the molasses chews have white stripes, and in some they don't. In this box, they don't---and two of the maple walnuts DID. What the? I wonder if sometimes they forget to turn on/off the striping machine? I think I need to go work in their factory to find out the answers to these questions.)

There are no nut ones. I mean, there's the walnut creams and maple-walnut creams, but there aren't any nut clusters. It might be that they weren't working on them that day, or it might be that those are harder to get wrong because they are lumpy by nature.

March 2, 2011

Why We Get Fat

Henry has an ear infection, and as I was taking him to the doctor yesterday I realized I haven't been to the doctor a single time with the kids this entire winter. And it doesn't make me nervous to say this out loud (or in this case to write it out loud), not only because I don't believe in the idea that words of that sort have an actual impact on actual reality via an actual jinx mechanism (who would have put such a mechanism in place? and why? and what would be the logistics of implementation?), but also because it's now March, and March is spring.

Official Spring isn't until March 21ish, but I think it should instead be divided this way in my area of the world, both for ease of use and for making sense: winter is December, January, and February; spring is March, April, and May; summer is June, July, and August; and fall is September, October, and November. I'm tired of having to say to a questioning child, "Well, yes, it's warm/cool and rainy and the tulips are coming up, but it's still TECHNICALLY winter," or "I know, it's snowing and we're making paper snowflakes and it's almost Christmas and we're singing 'Winter Wonderland,' but TECHNICALLY it's still fall." Dim. I reject the jinx AND the equinox!

I just finished reading a book that has made me feel a little shaky and unstable:

Why We Get Fat, by Gary Taubes
(photo from,
though probably they got it from somewhere else too)

It has seemed pretty clear to me that any food-group-eliminating diet is for weight-loss only---that it might work for weight loss, but that that doesn't mean it should be seriously implemented long-term, any more than a "grapefruit and egg" diet is supposed to be implemented long-term. It makes SENSE that eliminating a whole FOOD GROUP is dangerous ground.

But THIS book is saying it's not about eliminating a food group, it's that something SHOULDN'T BE A FOOD GROUP AT ALL. Like, okay, I don't have a dog, so already I'm on not-safe-for-analogy-making ground, but am I right that I regularly hear of dogs who need to be fed less in the way of table scraps? Like, maybe some dogs can handle the regular scrap or two, or even LOTS of scraps, but other dogs get all fat and the vet has to caution the owners to cut it back, and still others are practically killed by their old-lady owners relentlessly feeding them from the table? Let's just assume I HAVE heard this, and that it is VETERINARY FACT that table scraps are not a food group for dogs: they're able to eat the food (it's not like eating plastic wrap) (although I've heard dogs do eat any number of such things), and their bodies recognize it as food and so forth, but it's not something they should be making a little food pyramid about and saying they ought to get 3-6 servings a day from that group. I mean, if dogs could talk. And hold a pen. And I'm sorry I seem to be comparing us to dogs.

So anyway, that's more what this author is saying: it's not about "Don't eat carbs, and you'll lose weight YAY!!," it's more like "Certain foods are not appropriate for human consumption by a segment of the human population that can't process them appropriately."

The first half of the book is VERY HEADY STUFF. It says, basically, "Have you noticed that some thinnish people can lose a little weight through relentless and perpetual effort, and so can some fattish people, but that basically thin people are thin and fat people are fat and the "Lost Half Their Size!!" people are not available for interview a year later? And have you noticed that you can 'eat less and move more' until you are doing NOTHING but working on your body, and yet you are still fat, while other people, who spend nowhere near as much time or effort on it, are standing around rolling their eyes about how lazy you are and how you probably feed yourself through drive-throughs, and meanwhile you suspect this whole system is screwed up and that people are being icky to each other with ZERO SCIENTIFIC BACKING? Yes, well, you're totally right. Some people can process carbohydrates correctly, and some people can't."

The second half is more about the studies and the science---though it's not strict halves at all, and there are plenty of studies in the first half and heady stuff in the second half. But first he establishes his "Things are MESSED UP" point, and then he turns to the "Here's what you can try" point. And, as you have guessed, and as I became increasingly and cringingly aware he was going to do, he cuts out the carbohydrates. Not ALL of them (in fact, you're still supposed to eat multiple cups of vegetables a day), but pretty much. But he's not saying, "EEEEWWWWW, they make you all FAT and GROSS!," he's saying, "Heart disease, insulin levels, screwing with the way your body decides how much fat to store."

The very end of the book is the weakest part, but he knows it: he's asking for more research to be done on this topic, because so far there isn't enough: there's research showing what WON'T work for some people (eating less and moving more, eating low fat, etc.), and there's scientific reason to believe that this WILL work for those same people---but we don't have enough to go on yet. And so he has to kind of peter out at the end: here's what he thinks, here's what the studies DON'T show, here's the anecdotal evidence, here's the scientific evidence---now sadly YOU will have to figure out how to implement it for the way your own individual body works (no carbs? some carbs? saying "carbohydrates" instead of "carbs"?), because everyone who could be working on this is too busy shaming people into eating less fat and fewer calories so they won't be such COWS.

I'm not at all sure it CAN be implemented. In the beginning of the book he's very sympathetic toward people who can't stay on diets, and he says people are always talking about "will power" but that that's not it AT ALL and it's cruel/stupid to say it is. But then at the end, talking about implementing the meat thing, he's more like, "Well, it's hard, but you'll have to use will power." I appreciate the candor (I am immediately and deeply suspicious of any diet plan that suggests it will be EASY! and FUN! like that 12-page compare/contrast English paper the teacher tells you to "have fun with!"), and I also thought his analogy to cigarette use was helpful, but...I still look at the plan and think, "Oh, I, um, I'm not sure this...I mean, that's really..."

And although he went a LONG way to convincing me that he was right, it is VERY HARD to completely give up long-standing beliefs. I LIKE the food pyramid. I am ATTACHED to the idea that "lean meat, whole grains, plenty of fruits and vegetables" is a boring cliché BECAUSE IT'S TRUE. I don't really WANT to believe that people who switch to "heart-healthy" diets don't make any difference in their risk of heart attack. I want to continue thinking that what makes sense is that eliminating entire food groups is a bad idea. It's really difficult/unpleasant when I've been SURE of something, to find out I shouldn't have been so sure and that actually I didn't know anything about it beyond the posters on the wall in kindergarten.

Plus, I'm only so-so on meat. I like it okay, but I don't think, "WOO-HOOO, ALL THE BACON I CAN EAT!!!" I don't even remember the last time I ate bacon, and we cooked pork chops this weekend for THE FIRST TIME IN MY ADULT LIFE. try this eating plan, I'd have to be convinced of it from a medical/science sort of perspective---not because it appeals. And meanwhile my brain is resisting it and saying "BUT THE FOOD PYRAMID!! The GRAINS!! The MILK!! The VEGETABLES!!"

I don't know how this will pan out. I suspect some time will go by while I process this information, and then I will suddenly get motivated to try it, because I have been increasingly fretful and incredulous about my weight as the years have gone by, and if someone is offering me a plate of hope, I'm likely to think, "Well, sure, why not? I can always order something different next time." Right now, though, I'm still thinking about it---and recommending the book, if only because it's a fun, heady read and has a lot of thought-provoking stuff written by someone who writes like a good writer and not like a transcript of a motivational seminar.

March 1, 2011


After being canceled twice (once because the doctor's mother-in-law died the night before, and once because the doctor had to take his first sick day in ten years), Paul's Snip Appointment finally went through.

The next day I asked how he felt, and he said "tender." He says he keeps feeling as if he should move carefully so it doesn't suddenly zap him, but that so far it hasn't zapped him. He says he feels overall a bit sore, but not IN PAIN. Also, I'd angrily fantasized that the urologist would prescribe him a huge bottle of narcotics even though after my c-section my OB sent me home with 1.5 days' worth---but he got no narcotics at all, which I found grimly satisfying even though it robbed me of indignation, not to mention of the leftover narcotics.

For those of you whose menfolk might want to know what the experience is like, Paul says during the procedure it felt like the non-painful sensation immediately following a strong impact to That Area, where nothing hurts yet but it is obvious there will soon be a great deal of pain---but then without the pain ever arriving.

Which is also how the experience feels to me: right now it's the non-painful sensation immediately following a strong impact. I think it might be that, just as with the surgery, the pain won't ever arrive. The baby I wanted was the baby we could have decided to have two years ago; it's too late to have that baby. I don't have the same feeling about having another baby NOW, when my youngest is about to turn four and I'm in the second half of my thirties.