February 29, 2012

Cancer Vixen

I just finished reading Cancer Vixen.

(photo from Amazon.com)

Paul got it for me from the library, and I didn't think I'd like it. The cover art doesn't appeal to me at all, nor does the title, nor did the premise: shoe-brand-discussing, name-dropping, "oh no I gained an entire pound" fashionista-who-uses-the-word-fashionista gets cancer, but pulls through it with style and expensive lip gloss.

As you have no doubt cleverly surmised, instead I loved it. LOVED it. It was not only highly entertaining (romance! family! humor!), but also highly informative: here's what happens when you get cancer; here's what the various treatments are like; here are some things I hadn't expected. If I get cancer myself, I will buy a copy of the book and work my way through it the way I used to work my way through week-by-week pregnancy books.

Boy, I haven't made that sound real appealing, have I? And I understand if it doesn't sound like something you'd like: I LOVE graphic autobiographies by female author-artists, and yet this sat on my book pile for two weeks because I didn't want to read about cancer treatments (or shoe brands). I thought it would be boring, depressing, scary, and annoying. Instead I finished it, walked directly to my computer, ordered a copy to be sent to our local library (Paul had had to request it from another branch), ordered a copy of the author's other book (Just Who the Hell is SHE, Anyway?) to be sent to me, and then wrote this post.

February 28, 2012

This Means War

We were so glad to have all your input about movies! It threw things into a bit of a panic, because we'd been almost for sure planning to see Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (my sister-in-law and sister-in-law's sister were having an Oscar party the next night and hadn't seen that one yet), but the comments about it were so amusingly damning, it made us reconsider (though we also thought it might be very funny to see it with that mindset: I could picture us dying from stifled laughter during an exceptionally dull scene). But then the whole thing came down to a time-related choice, so our choices were Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, which we were pretty sure was going to be dullllllllll, and This Means War, which we were pretty sure was going to be dummmmmmmmb.

We finally had to flip a coin. A literal coin, which we actually flipped in order to choose our movie for us. The coin chose This Means War (the movie the poll also chose), a movie we were considering only because my sister-in-law read a review in Entertainment Weekly that was something along the lines of it being contrived fluff from beginning to end and yet highly enjoyable anyway for some unidentifiable reason.

And YES. What a good explanation! It's a movie I would have rejected from the poster: Reese Witherspoon in a little black dress standing sassily between two arms-folded hot guys in suits. ...Here, let me find it for you:

Not a promising introduction.
(photo from IMDb.com)

The plot is that two guys are competing for Reese Witherspoon's character. The gimmick is that both guys are CIA agents, so they have access to, like, spy helicopters and driver's license records to help them win the competition. Plus, they're both hugely wealthy and connected.

What made me really, really like the movie is that I felt like it was tongue-in-cheek. The action scenes seemed like they were for pure fun and didn't take themselves seriously: all guy fantasy stuff, with dangling off skyscrapers, leaping from car to car in a car chase, smash-falls onto tables/cars, tonnnnnns of shooting (often while simultaneously firing off witty remarks). The competition for the girl felt like it was funny in part because it was totally inappropriate to be competing in that way. Even the invasions of her privacy seemed like we ALL KNEW it was WILDLY WRONG, which made it very funny to me: it was so unapologetically over-the-top, it was funny in a way mild spying might not have been. And the guys are clearly meant to be enjoyable for the female audience (visually, but also to laugh at / roll eyes at / recognize types).

Downsides, let's see. Well, none of the three of us girls liked the romantic resolution (which seemed to take itself seriously after a whole movie of unserious), and there was a completely cheesy/condescending line there that still bugs me days later. (I did like the SECOND part of the romantic resolution.) And there were parts of the guys' characters/histories that seemed like they were there for pure emotional manipulation: oh, he had a tragedy in his past, that's why he's SUCH A CAD now, perhaps he can LEARN TO TRUST AGAIN. I also think they tried to overdo the whole "Reese Witherspoon as gawky nerd-type" thing, while still putting her in 6-inch heels in EVERY SCENE, including the one where she is BY HERSELF MAKING POPCORN IN HER APARTMENT, WEARING NO PANTS. And there are some moments of passion that immediately took the movie from "Oh, I should see this with my parents, they'd love it!!" to "NO WAY I AM SEEING THIS WITH THEM" in, like, one second. (That countertop looked COLD, and the careful posing on it looked...carefully posed. And the later casual reference to "five times" made me roll my eyes right out my ears.)

I think it helped tremendously to go into it thinking "contrived fluff." And it also helped that we went into it expecting to enjoy NEITHER movie option. And it helped that I think both guys are pretty cute, and that I like Reese Witherspoon. I really did enjoy it all the way through, though I'd be a little embarrassed to recommend it.

February 26, 2012

Opening a Bottle of a Very Nice Vintage

I am this very hour returned from an Overnight! Of! Fun! with my brother, sister-in-law, and sister-in-law's sister, and I am half-surprised to be alive. I am not sure if you have already noticed this about my temperament, but I am anxious and morbid by nature. My natural reveries, if left unchecked, are along the lines of "What I would do if there were an intruder/fire and I couldn't save all the children at once" and "How long could we survive with only the items already in our house" and "What things around the house would be poignant to everyone if I were to die unexpectedly." So whenever I go away for an overnight and need to drive for a full! hour! on the scary! highway!, my thoughts as I pack my overnight bag are mostly along the lines of this being the last memory the children will have of me.

Nevertheless, here I am, still among the living. And I have come to a fresh realization that I am a country mouse, or actually a town mouse, whatever, but what I mean is not a city mouse. (I think "country mouse" can have negative connotations because of the "mouse" element, so it's important to remember that the mouse from the city was ALSO a mouse.) I say this because I got trapped in a city driveway. Trapped. In a city DRIVEWAY. Completely stuck. I kept slowwwwly backing the car out, and then another car would slam on its brakes and lean on the horn for a good 10 seconds to punish me for wanting to use a road I couldn't see, and then I'd scurry back into the driveway. After trembling and trying not to cry for a minute, I'd realize there was no other option: I HAD to back out of the driveway. So I would creeeeeep back out again, and there'd be the screech of brakes, and I'd scurry back in. My brother, my YOUNGER brother, had to come out and RESCUE ME, including patting my shoulder and then DRIVING AND RE-PARKING MY CAR FOR ME while I went into the house and tried to resume normal breathing.

Well. Anyway. I do enjoy VISITING the city, because it is so pretty and there are so many cool buildings, and because it is so nice to be able to walk everywhere (NOT DRIVE) (PLEASE DON'T MAKE ME DRIVE) (THERE ARE ONE-WAY STREETS OMG SAVE ME) on big wide sidewalks, and there are all these restaurants that serve delicious unfamiliar foods, and there are crosswalks with pedestrian signals so you don't have to wait for traffic to voluntarily stop for you. And there are movie theaters! And so many take-out options! And stores I've heard bloggers refer to, like Urban Outfitters! And there are TEA SHOPS!

I had a second revelation this visit (the first one was about being a town mouse, in case you have lost track), looking at my nearly-3-year-old niece and my nearly-6-month-old nephew: THIS is how we bottle it. THIS is how: by spending short amounts of time with other people's children. I often wish I could have saved some of that overwhelming/frustrating/anxious/boring/endless time with my small children, because it seemed like everyone kept telling me to enjoy it and I KIND OF was and also I COULDN'T enjoy it when that baby would NOT let me put him down for EVEN ONE SECOND and I needed to PEE and I was so TIRED and I smelled like baby barf and I was so hungry but it was time to feed the baby again and I was ruining my toddler's life because I couldn't spend any time with him anymore and this baby was probably the biggest mistake I'd ever made but I love him so much and he's growing up way too fast and one day he'll get old and die waaaaaaaaaaaah!

My point is that it's hard to enjoy that, but that once it was over it became a place I'd like to VISIT. I'd like to pop in, pick up tiny infant Rob, and enjoy the way he would! not! rest his head on my shoulder when I held/burped him, instead of having to fret that it meant he would never love anyone and would end up rocking and keening on the streets (one-way CITY streets) as an old man. I'd like to go back and squeeze 4-year-old William and fuzz his fuzzy head and snuggle his snuggly self and write down more of the funny things he used to say, without worrying that the newborn twins were depriving him of everything he needed. And so forth.

Visiting a niece and a nephew is like getting to go back for a visit. It is of course not exactly the same---but since we can't have that, this is as close as I've found, and I will take it. I squeeze my baby nephew's satisfying baby shape, and I play "Hi! Hi! Oh, HI! Hi! Hi, baby! Hi!" with him, and appreciate the cuteness of his kicky feet and bunchy keeks and feetie sleeper, and it reminds me of my own babies. And I watch my niece playing, and I admire her little ponytails and her baby teeth and her funny dancing, and I am so amused by how every single thing she says is so cute AND so funny in phrasing and tone and pronunciation, and it reminds me of my own babies.

But it's a VISIT, and I don't have to potty-train anyone or get up in the night with anyone or worry about which preschool to choose or feel like I can't put a baby down for even a second or figure out how to fill an endless day or wonder if we're doing enough / too much tummy time or ANYTHING. It is ALL GRAVY. I assume this is what people mean about grandchildren later on.

February 24, 2012


I think we should have a poll. My sister-in-law, my sister-in-law's sister, and I are planning to go see a movie this weekend. What should we see? Oscar-nominated Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy? Oscar-nominated animated shorts? Rampart? This Means War, which my sister-in-law says got an intriguing review in Entertainment Weekly (the gist was that it was contrived fluff the reviewer nevertheless completely enjoyed)? Chronicle? Something else that's still playing in theaters?

Let's have a poll over to the right (below the ad). [Poll closed; see results below.] And give the reason for your vote in the comments if you can, because that can be so helpful for determining if we should take the advice or not ("I think you should watch X because it's SUPER TERRIFYING! I barfed for WEEKS!" "I think you should watch Y because it made me really think about how awful the world is and how there's nothing we can do about it!").

Poll results:

February 23, 2012

Warning Sign; Bathroom Dreams; Dr. Suess

I've had a policy at my house for awhile, which is that if I decide to drink in the evenings, I have to keep laundry cycling the whole time. I like the built-in safety of this: if I get caught up on laundry, I'll know there's a problem.


I've been having dreams night after night about moving to a new house. After it got to the point of incredulous laughter ("AGAIN??"), I looked it up on a dream interpretation site, where I found that it means I'm going through a big life change/re-evaluation, which, no kidding.

But also, in that same category, I found a bunch of stuff about what it means if you dream about bathrooms, especially if there are no doors on the stalls and/or the toilets are filthy and overflowing. The dream-interpretation sites have INTERPRETATIONS for that, along the lines of your psyche is clogged or you need more privacy in your life.

But do you know what it actually means? It means your body needs to pee, and your body doesn't realize it's dreaming so it's about to wet the bed, and your brain is frantically scrambling for ANY reason why your body CANNOT PEE right now. That's what it means. So that kind of calls the whole dream-interpretation thing into question for me.


Dilemma: Elizabeth's spelling challenge words this week include "Dr. Seuss," but the teacher has spelled it "Dr. Suess." It's spelled that way in more than one place, so it's not just a typo. I'm not inclined to teach her to spell it incorrectly, but if I teach her to spell it correctly, she may get it marked wrong. ...Actually, I guess this isn't much of a dilemma, since the Worst Case Scenario is that she doesn't get ONE possible BONUS point on her spelling test.

Still. It's making me a little grouchy. I understand the source of the misspelling (it's a hard name, even more so because the common nickname Sue is pronounced like the first sound of Seuss), and everyone makes mistakes (you'll note I don't blog about every "bring in their Valentine's" and casual typos on every single memo/newsletter)---but this PARTICULAR word seems like a misspelling an elementary school teacher would be especially/professionally familiar with and therefore extra careful to avoid if she knew she had an issue with it. She'd think, "Oh, yes, Seuss---that's a tricky one, and I can never remember how to spell it. I'd better make sure I've got it right, before I add it to the spelling words list!"

February 21, 2012

Question About Yellowstone National Park

Swistle's Dad writes:
We're suddenly starting to plan for a Northwest road trip this May, to include Yellowstone National Park. I don't know if you'd want to ask this on your blog, but we're looking for advice on being in Yellowstone either May 9-10 or May 30-31. Does that three weeks make a big difference in weather? Do the crowds start picking up at the end of May, or not until later? Is stuff still closed or inaccessible in early May? Etc. Just an idea if you're desperate for a topic.

February 18, 2012


I'm wearing Charlie perfume today. That stuff brings me right back to high school---but in the good way, not in the "OH GOD NOT THIS DREAM AGAIN!" way.


Yesterday Henry was playing outside and broke a window. At least two children saw him do it, and no one told us. These are children who normally tattle such offenses as BREATHING TOO LOUD and "He's thinking I'm stupid!!"---but when it's something we really would like to hear about, nothing. So cold air poured in all night. Little belated Valentine's Day gift for you, there, gas company.


If you are browsing your sad empty weekend RSS reader, I suggest MO Mommy's post Mutualism, which contains this excellent line:
People always say, "BE YOURSELF! Don't worry about what others think! BE YOU!" But what if being me INCLUDES caring (and caring deeply) about what others think? THEN WHAT?
and this one:
The internet can make people feel anonymous, make them feel it's ok to say things for the sake of an argument, when the argument itself misses the whole point.

Or, Marie Green was talking on Twitter about The Trephine's post Some Divorce Advice From Me to You. It's got advice if you're getting a divorce, if you know someone getting a divorce, if you're not planning to get a divorce, if you're not even married. It's part serious, part funny, part insightful---one of my favorite combinations:
Plus, anytime anyone asks about your ex and how it’s going, you can say, “Oh, he/she is great. A++++++++, would divorce again.” Oh, come on, that’s funny.

Or you might like to read Bebehblog's post Opening Up, on the serious subject of psychiatric medications, but also funny:
Some days I wondered if I was crazy for NOT having postpartum depression. And then when things started to feel out of control I wondered if I was just exaggerating so I could fit in.

February 17, 2012

Swistle's! Pharmacy! TIPS!!

Rob has strep, so now I am the only one of the seven of us who hasn't had it this winter. Waiting for his prescription, I thought of some Swistle's! Awesome! Pharmacy! TIPS!! It's one of my favorite things, when someone has worked in a certain field and can give Insider Info.

1. Wait for it. It's not always possible, of course, but if it IS possible, waiting for the prescription (rather than leaving and coming back) is the best way to reduce the largest number of pharmacy issues. (Plus, waiters get bumped ahead of come-back-laters.) Most problems that halt a prescription in its tracks (insurance info not up to date, insurance won't pay because they don't realize this is a dose change or a replacement for a spilled bottle, person not in the computer or can't be found in the computer) can be fixed in about 2 seconds if there's someone there to help solve the mystery.

2. Don't expect them to call you with these mysteries, or with anything else. They almost never will, even if they say they will. Instead, you will find out when you arrive to pick it up. I'm not going to defend this, because I am very frustrated when I'm the customer and it happens to me; I'm only going to tell you it's the way it IS. It's the sort of situation where it's better to work with reality than keep struggling futilely against it. If your insurance persistently causes problems and you're sick of showing up only to have someone say, "Um, that'll be $193.50" and then have to wait while they call the insurance or fill the prescription they didn't fill because it wouldn't go through, or if your pharmacy techs keep saying, "Um, we haven't filled anything for him before?" because they mistyped your child's name, I recommend calling before leaving the house to make sure the prescription is ready and the insurance went through. You shouldn't have to do that. But this brings us back to the subject of reality, and of working with it.

3. If it's a refill, call it in ahead of time and pick it up later---like, the next day. On the spectrum of prescriptions, highest sympathy/speed/priority go to prescriptions written that same day for antibiotics, or for painkillers for someone recently injured; lowest sympathy/speed/priority go to refills that could have been called in but weren't, or prescriptions written two weeks ago and brought in 15 minutes before closing time, and now the customer is saying they should have taken their pill this morning but didn't. This is the perfect time for that "A lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part" sign, and will cause the resentment that inevitably comes from being forced to compensate for someone else's choices while suppressing the related feelings. It's not a good idea to get resentment simmering in someone preparing something you will be swallowing.

4. I think that the absolute most common pharmacy complaint I heard while working there is "WHY does it TAKE so long?" A prescription goes through roughly five steps of checks and re-checks and processing, some of which are to keep you from dying from a drug interaction, and some of which are to keep you from having to pay full-price for the medicine, and some of which are to make sure you have the instructions you need for taking the medication. Those are nice things, I think we can agree on that.

The more important reason it takes so long, however, is that you have to wait your turn. Most prescriptions are called in by a doctor or by a customer, or are dropped off to be picked up later---so there can be fifty prescriptions lined up and not a single visible customer waiting. A 20-minute wait means the pharmacy cut you ahead of a bunch of people who were there first but the pharmacy is willing to gamble they won't show up in the next 20 minutes. A 30- to 60-minute wait means several people have already been cut into line and there isn't room for another.

Which brings me to another tip: Having the doctor call it in doesn't necessarily help. I think the image is of the doctor phoning the pharmacist directly, and the pharmacy springing into immediate emergency action knowing the customer is ON THE WAY! Whereas actually the prescription is put at the end of the line. And sometimes, the doctor chooses to leave a message on the pharmacy's voice mail instead of pressing 4 to speak to the pharmacist directly, and sometimes those messages don't get checked for awhile. And sometimes the doctor puts the prescription in a pile to have the nurse call in later. It's a system riddled with flaws and solvable issues, I agree. After working in a pharmacy, I usually choose to bring the prescription in myself, or else when the doctor says "I'll call this in" I say "Tell them I'm on my way."

5. Know your insurance. Ha ha, I'm just kidding: it's not possible to know your insurance. I've read our handbook again and again, STRAINING to understand, and I still get surprised all the time by what they will/won't cover. By "know your insurance" I mean "realize that insurance can be confusing and kind of unpleasant, and that the bills are submitted by one computer talking to another, so even if they WEREN'T unpleasant, things are likely to get screwed up."

Here are the most common insurance issues:
  • Usually a covered medication is covered only every X days. So, for example, if you take a daily pill, and your insurance covers it, the most likely is that they will pay for it again when you have 5-8 pills left. If you try to be smart and prepared and fill your birth control prescription a week or 10 days in advance, they might reject the claim.

  • This also means that if there is something irregular about the time you're refilling it, it would be a good idea to mention this to the clerk so he/she can override the insurance's rejection. If I knew that a customer was doing an early refill because they spilled their medicine in the sink, or because they were going to be traveling, or because they needed a second bottle for school, those were all problems I could fix. If I didn't know, all I could do was write "Insurance says too soon" on the bag.

  • If a medication is more expensive than usual, most insurance companies will set up hoops. For example, the doctor might need to call them and tell them YES, he/she really DOES mean the prescription he/she wrote. Or they might want you to take a cheap medication first. Or they might just deny it until you or the pharmacy clerk calls them and says "Hey, remember what YOU'RE supposed to do? You're supposed to PAY for this." Since most of the time we don't know how much medications cost, I recommend thinking of any new medication as a potential hassle.

  • A very common thing for someone with a rejected claim to say is that their insurance company "won't let them have" a medication their doctor wants them to have. A clarification is in order here: the insurance company WILL let the customer have the medicine, it just won't PAY for it for them. The customer will have to pay for their own medicine, but of course they may have it.

8. Some pharmacies are not well-run or well-staffed. I can talk all day about how customers have to realize blah, or should understand snah, but there are pharmacies where you can go in with your prescription for antibiotics and wait for an hour when they said it would be 15 minutes, and then get the wrong medication and have them tell you your insurance won't cover it when actually the pharmacy just didn't make sure they had the info entered correctly, and then ring you up wrong and also say they already gave you back your insurance card when they didn't---and it can pretty much happen that way every single time. I had co-workers who were...well, let's not use words like "incompetent" or "rude," let's just say that not everyone works in the field to which they are best suited. In those situations the only real tip is "Switch pharmacies," which is (1) a tip you could come up with without a former pharmacy technician, and (2) not always practical.

February 15, 2012

YOU Use the Internet TOO??

Going through the kids' valentines, I kept getting startled at something I'd SEEN ON THE INTERNET. Like, I JUST saw the "I dig you" favors on She Likes Purple, and there was one in Henry's valentines bag! And someone else used Etsy candy bar wrappers! And someone else did that idea where you take a picture of your child holding out his/her hands, and then spear a lollipop through the photo hands like they're holding it!

I was so amazed! I was like, "How did all of YOU find the internet??" For all I go around assuming everyone is online, I guess I assume no one is online. My life could be TEEMING with bloggers and I wouldn't even know it!

February 14, 2012

Tips Requested: Returning an Animal to the Shelter

I'd like to access the brain of the internet, if I may. I have the sad task of returning a cat to the shelter whence she came. The other cats will not accept her, nor does she want to have anything to do with even their friendly overtures. The other cats have now begun relentlessly tormenting her and preventing her from using any of the litter boxes. (Every time I scoop a box, the other cats come RUNNING because they think she's trying to sneak a pee.) When she walks from one room to another, she has her tail tucked and she walks slowly and carefully, looking around constantly and expecting to be attacked---expectations that are periodically confirmed. She is not living a happy life right now.

We've consulted with the vet and various online resources, as well as studying all the pamphlets from the shelter, and we've tried a number of expensive and non-expensive solutions with results that seemed promising at first but have all come to naught. This is not working. It's a bad match. Which is sad because we love her and want to keep her.

The sad part is entirely ours: when I feel like this is too hard a task, it is comforting to imagine her in a house where she can go where she wants and not have to worry about being attacked; where she can go to the bathroom without the equivalent of someone slamming open the door while she's mid-pee. The shelter is a no-kill shelter (the kind that charges you to bring in an animal, and sometimes doesn't have room for new admissions), and they do a wonderful job of taking care of animals in both short-term and long-term care. (Our adoption contract specifies that we have to return her there if we don't keep her.) She's a wonderful cat, and I think she'll get taken quickly: she's great with children and with people she doesn't know, and she's a sweetheart, and she's pretty.

Here's the part of the internet's large and extensive brain I'd like to access: Do you have any tips for bringing an animal to the shelter? That is, as a former pharmacy technician I could suggest you not say "What takes so long? Don't you just have to grab a pack off the shelf??" (answer: "No"), and as a former daycare caregiver I can say we definitely believe that babies poop in the car on the way to daycare but that we believe it more if the parent then changes the diaper, and as someone who has done some dating I can explain that "It's not you, it's me," "I hope we can still be friends," and "I LOVE you, I'm just not IN love with you" should be avoided. What I'm hoping is that some of YOU have inside information about animal drop-offs. What's good/bad to say? What will communicate our good-person status and remove some of the disappointed-in-you disapproval from the faces? What will make it clear that this is a decision we agonized about and tried many things to fix, rather than that we are people who went "Meh, this didn't turn out to be 100% easy and awesome so never mind it's just an animal"?

February 13, 2012

Biological Set-Up

I changed my screen saver to a slideshow of all the photos in iPhoto. On one hand, this has been a GREAT idea and TONS of fun: it's common for me to end up surrounded by children and Paul, all of us watching the computer screen and saying "Ohhhhhhh, that's WILLIAM! He's HENRY'S age there!" and "Ohhhhh, Elizabeth, look at you in your little DRESS! Awwww, your hair was still so short then!"

On the other hand, it's been a TERRIBLE idea and has led to TONS of morose brooding and even LEAKING TEARS. What has been the POINT of all this child-rearing work, when they all just grow up into unrecognizable, smelly, messy-lived ADULTS like all the rest of us? Rob already bears almost zero resemblance to his childhood self; the two don't even seem CONNECTED in my mind. One was my baby/toddler/child Rob, and then that ended---and now a new person is here, coincidentally named Rob.

What has been the point of all the money and time and stress, when what we're getting out of it is people who grow up and feel superior and critical ("I'LL never do X like MY parents did!") and wish they didn't have to visit us? YES, it's true that when I think of any mistake that my parents made (NOT THAT THEY EVER MADE ANY, or that they read this blog), my mind immediately adds that every human parent by absolute unavoidable definition will make their own batch of mistakes based on their own temperament, and that it is not only unreasonable/ridiculous but also very unpleasant and whiny and immature to require one's own parents to have been the first unflawed human beings. (It will not surprise you that this mature viewpoint came to me more firmly when I was myself a parent, with my own behavior up for future review and criticism.)

And YES, it's true that not only do I not feel obligated/stressed about visits to my parents, I in fact deliberately moved to a house three-tenths of a mile away from theirs because I WANTED TO, even though I hate the weather here and loved it where we lived before. So it's not like I think every child grows into an unappreciative and distant adult. BUT. It's not like they grow into a darling cheek-squeezable cutie-pie whose attempt at saying Mommy comes out like "Bah-boo," either. I've been leafing through my journals and seeing how there are TONS of cute things to record about the early years, and then it drops off pretty sharply. The only things I write about Rob now are things like "Rob got his braces on today" and "Rob is now the same height as me." There's no impulse to photograph his widdle toes. (Also gone: the incredible exhaustion/frustration/"Please let no one touch me for TEN SECONDS" of those widdle-toes years. But that's been replaced, with no accompanying toesies.) (And it's not like I want the toesies years back, or to live them again/instead. I don't know what I want.)

I've been upset, as you know, about the end of the child-bearing years, and I'd been soothing myself by thinking about how there are still lots of things to look forward to, among them grandchildren. But now I think "Sure. And then the grandchildren also grow up into adults."

Everything is feeling very BIOLOGICAL IMPERATIVE to me right now, like all the good parts have just been a set-up.

February 10, 2012

The Soothing Mental Benefits of OpportunityThink

This morning's preschool time benefited greatly from OpportunityThink. It's NOT that the whole time was used up by errands. No.

Instead, it's that I had the opportunity to call the pediatrician about William's ouchy ear without having to say, "Henry, I'm on the phone. Shh, honey. Honey, SHHHH. Sweetheart, I am ON. THE. PHONE."

Then I had the opportunity to take William to the pediatrician without having to say, "Henry, sit in the chair, please. Henry, remember what we talked about, about how you need to be quiet so Mommy can hear the doctor. Oh, honey, get off the floor. Off the floor, please. Honey, OFF THE FLOOR, oh that is gross, you are having a bath in hand sanitizer when we get home."

Then I had the opportunity to sit in the pharmacy waiting area with a book and without having to say, "Henry, sit in the chair, please. Henry, IN the chair. Feet OFF the chair, please. No, we are not buying that. Honey, remember we don't talk about other people when they can hear us. Seriously, stop that. No, we are not buying that. I said NO, Henry. Sit IN the chair. ON your butt, please. Okay, it was funny the first three times, but now stop saying 'butt.' Quiet voice, please. Just a few more minutes. Because we have to wait our turn. Honey, just be patient please, we are almost done."

Then I had the opportunity to take William into the school office without saying, "Henry, hold my hand. You have to hold my hand. Stop careening, please. Shhhh, sweetheart, children are trying to learn. Okay, stop saying 'butt' now. CAREFUL, honey. That's HER pencil. Leave that there, please. Don't touch that, please. Oh, god, don't LICK that please, are you kidding me?"

Then I had the opportunity to go to the grocery store without saying, "Fine, you can walk, but you have to watch where you're going. Watch where you're going, honey. Henry, you almost smashed right into that lady's cart. No, I'M going to hold the list. No, we're not buying that. No, we're not buying that. No, we're not buying that. Because we don't need it, now be quiet for a minute so Mommy can concentrate on this decision. Honey, shhh a little. You really can't keep saying 'butt,' sweetheart. Do you need to go into the cart? Okay, then stay on OUR side of the aisle. OUR side, honey. No, no candy. No, no doughnut. Honey, we are almost done, please be patient."

Then I had the opportunity to put away the groceries without saying, "You can have something to eat after I put away the groceries. AFTER I put away the groceries. Honey, I JUST answered that question, you need to LISTEN. I don't think you ARE going to die if you have to wait a few minutes, no. Why don't you play a computer game? Sweetheart, I'm trying to go down the stairs, you need to get out from under my feet or we're both going to get hurt. Put that down, please. Let me past, please. The faster I can get this done, the sooner you can have a snack. No, that's for with lunch tomorrow. Honey, you are driving Mommy crazy."

Then I had the opportunity to write this post without saying, "Just give Mommy a few minute to write, please. Please let Mommy concentrate. Listen, you were totally happy playing with your knights until the instant my butt hit the chair, and then you wanted to talk to me. Yes, butt, I know, very funny. Yes, very funny. Okay, stop saying 'butt' now. Okay, you can sit on my lap, but please be quiet. Honey, I can't concentrate, and if I can't concentrate I can't finish this. Sweetheart, could you please go play something else? Stop doing that. Stop doing that. That's why I told you to stop doing that. Can you pick that mess up now, please? Henry. Henry, come on, I just want FIVE minutes. Five minutes is not unreasonable. Why don't you draw Daddy a picture? It's spelled b-u-t-t. Oh, how nice, yes, now let Mommy concentrate. Honey. Sweetheart. Yes, I see it. Okay, now let me just finish this and then we can read your book."

And now I have the opportunity to go pick up the little booger from preschool.

February 9, 2012

How to Hard-Pause a Game on a Mac (How to Get Back to Your Desktop Without Quitting)

This is one of those posts that will be extremely boring to everyone except the people who, like me, are searching EVERYWHERE online for the answer, and are finding nothing but a bunch of sites where someone has asked the question and has received a bunch of answers that are useless. USELESS.

So. This is in answer to the question: If you are playing a game on your Mac, and the game takes up the entire screen, and you want to go back to your desktop but you don't want to have to quit the game to get there, how do you do it? And the answer is: command-H.

The mnemonic is that H is for Hide; you're hiding the window with the game in it.

This was such frustrating information to find. I was getting so tired of having to quit/re-launch Sims every single time an email came in or I wanted to check something online, but I couldn't find the answer to what seemed like an easy question. I found one million answers to how to do it in WINDOWS and/or on a PC, but not on a Mac. And there were even questions where the person SPECIFIED it was a Mac, and asked NOT to receive answers for PCs, and people were STILL saying "I dunno, man, but on my PC it's ____"---and then falling into bickering irrelevant arguments about which PC keyboard was the "standard" one! And this was ON A SITE ABOUT MAC PROBLEMS!! So when I finally did find the answer, I wanted to put it where I (and possibly others) could find it, when it's been awhile since I've played Sims and I've completely forgotten and can't believe I didn't write it down.

February 8, 2012


I've been so wan. More like "wa," because I'm too wan to say wan. In fact, more like sitting in a chair not saying wa either.

Part of it, I think, was trying to read The Flame Alphabet, which had a premise I could really identify with: the sound of children's voices becomes toxic for adults. But the book itself was so grey and heavy and nauseating and confusing, I didn't even get halfway through it. (Lionel Shriver's review is pretty much exactly the way I felt about it.)

Furthermore, in the book there are many conversations with the contemptuous, argumentative early-teens daughter of the household, and let's just say I can FULLY identify with that but don't feel like seeking out more exposure to it. I'm leaning heavily these days on Empty Nest Feather's post Desk Cleaning, which is only partly about desk-cleaning and has given me a new private nickname for Rob ("Mr. Eye-Rolling Contempt"). I'm also leaning on her post The Last of the Teens, which gives me some hope that I won't be this miserable for the next fifteen years.

This morning William was apparently doing the verbal equivalent of "I'm not touching you, I'm not touching you," and Rob suddenly EXPLODED with rage. The reaction was understandable but not allowed, and I told him so, and told him he needed to take a break from his computer turn. Then, because I sympathized with his position, I lectured William at length within earshot of Rob, discussing pointedly how much I sympathized with Rob.

Rob sulked ostentatiously for twenty minutes or so. As I helped get another child ready for school, he asked why William was allowed to "just get away with it." I explained what should already have been clear, which is that William ALSO got punished: William's punishment was the lecture, while Rob's was a break from the computer---and also that although William's behavior was indeed obnoxious, it wasn't against the rules in the same way "screaming out in rage" was. I reiterated my empathy, and also reiterated that he could not react that way even if it felt justified. He claimed justification = appropriate. I remained calm (and to my tremendous credit, did NOT later use this as an opportunity to ask if in that case it was appropriate for me to smack him in the mouth), and said that part of my job was to civilize him: that he could not yell out like that in school or in his future workplace, and so he needed to learn not to do it.

He claimed that at school it would never happen, because teachers "have the time" to make sure it doesn't; they don't have to "choose their battles," they can deal with ALL of them. What a nice little dig, putting in references to recent calm responses I've made to his snotty interrogations, and using verbal air-quotes. That's when I became no longer calm. I had been deliberately and repeatedly sympathetic/empathetic; I had doled out a very light and understanding punishment; I had calmly explained the ideas behind the rules. And now Mr. IRRITATING McASININE was saying that it was MY FAULT that he had yelled. And this AFTER he has REPEATEDLY told me that the teachers are NOT consistent and DO choose their battles and DON'T always enforce the rules for everyone, with me offering REPEATED sympathy, discussion, and soothing explanations that defended the teachers without failing to legitimize his precious adolescent FEELINGS!

It is very, very unpleasant, after deliberately avoiding choosing a spouse who would force me to live my life with this kind of crap, to end up living with it anyway.

February 3, 2012

Spite Charity

Recent events have reminded me to tell you about my very pleasing and successful concept of Spite Charity. The idea is this: when someone (or a group of someones) pisses you off on the subject of a cause you care about, donate money to the side of the cause you prefer. Did your grandma spend the entire holiday grousing about how in her day no one did any of this ridiculous recycling, and she for one was going to continue stuffing her milk cartons into the non-see-through trash bags? Did you have to listen to your nutcase uncle talk about how a certain ethnic group is none too bright but they ARE good-looking, he'll give them that much? Did a Facebook friend post a completely untrue and unfair political remark about a candidate you support? There's a non-profit organization for that---and it can be a real thrill, writing that check.

Furthermore, it can lead to increased peace of mind: instead of feeling like you're flailing futilely/weakly against a relentless tide of unpleasant and unshakable opinions, you can feel like you are funding the armies of goodness and righteousness. It's like sneaking a box of guns across enemy lines, behind the back of the person talking to you, while appearing attentive and respectful to what they're saying.

Now, it is possible that you have so many friends and Facebook friends and relatives and acquaintances and co-workers and Twitter friends who are, shall we say, outspoken about things, that right now you are thinking you really like this idea except that it will bankrupt you. In that case, I recommend the tally-mark system. Put up a piece of paper up in a convenient place (or tuck it in a drawer or keep it in your purse if seeing it all the time will rile you, or if other people will make things awkward for you by asking about it), and divide it into sections, one section for each topic that makes repeated appearances. Choose a corresponding charity to represent each topic. Each time you clench your teeth over a remark, add a little tally mark to the appropriate category.

Each mark can be worth whatever fits your budget; for example, perhaps each mark can be worth a dollar, and when you hit twenty marks you send a check for $20 to that category's charity. Or each mark can be worth 25 cents, or five dollars, or whatever comes out right for how many remarks you hear and how much money you'd like to give. You could also copy the swear-jar system, and mark up a group of jars. Each time a remark bugs you, put a quarter in the corresponding jar.

Not only will either of these systems keep track of your spite charity donations for you, you will have refreshed appreciation for how much crap you maturely listen to without clawing at anyone's face.

February 1, 2012

In Support of Meaning Well

Yesterday I wrote about yet another "Enjoy every moment!", and I am still incredulous whenever I hear people saying that, when it seems so widely known that people go home and weep in despair after hearing it.

I will say, however, that at least it's a comment that's kindly meant. The person saying it might not be aware of how such a thing sounds from the point of view of someone in the trenches (HOW COULD THEY NOT? Did no one ever say it to THEM?), but they are TRYING to communicate good will and happy wishes. I think, if we reached, we could even spin it as a sort of blessing, rather than as an instruction: like, I WISH for you that you'd be able to enjoy every moment. Even though that's an unreasonable wish and can make a mother feel like she is failing in even more ways that she'd realized, it's still meant WELL. It's not meant to hurt feelings, or to cause the mother to feel like a failure, or to sound idiotic---even if it does all three of those things.

There is a lot to be said for meaning well, and in fact I think things should be said about it more often. Each situation needs to be evaluated individually, of course, but in general if the person talking to you has shining eyes and a happy face, or sad eyes and a caring face, or if it's a person who cares about you and doesn't generally try to hurt you, then they are most likely choosing what they think is a PLEASING thing to say, and that is a social inclination I'd rather encourage than repress. It would also be nice to encourage the inclination to assume positive things about what is meant, rather than leaping to the worst possible thing the person's words could be twisted to mean, so that a person who is trying hard to say the right thing now feels that there is nothing at all safe from horrible assumptions of bad intent, and that everyone is just waiting to LEAP on a misstep and punish it relentlessly.

Which is not to say people shouldn't try to improve their niceness-intended to niceness-received ratio. "But I was trying to be NICE!" is no justification for "You'd be so pretty, if you lost some weight" or "You're too thin!" Keeping our ears open (and using the "How would I feel if it were me?" centers of our brains) is how we learn not to say such things; for many things (especially those outside our own experience) it makes sense we'd need to have it explained, but we shouldn't need it explained twice: once we know that the received message is not what we're trying to send, of course we wouldn't want to keep sending it.