December 31, 2012

New Year's Eve

Rob first asked to stay up for New Year's Eve way back when he was 7, and the twins were about a year and a half old, and I was pregnant with Henry.

Looked pretty much like this all the time, but with a second toddler too.

Yeah, it was more like that. With me barfing nearby.

(That first photo, by the way, is an argument for "Keep photos of yourself, even if you hate them and can't bear to look at them and have to hide them because if you have to look at them you won't be able to help shredding them." I hated that picture so much when I first saw it, I thought Paul must secretly dislike me to have taken it. Now I love it and am so grateful to have it, and I don't care whether it's flattering per se.) (But Paul really does need to learn about not photographing from up under someone's chin.)

Anyway, I almost couldn't bear the idea of staying up when I COULD BE SLEEPING. I first tried to talk Rob out of it, with the argument that he didn't want to stay up. It was boring, I said. Nothing happened, I said. It was 30 seconds of watching a ball drop on television. It was a long wait in the middle of the night, and then it was over in one minute. I was not going to want to party, or play games, or in fact interact at all. I might even doze in the chair. He would be basically on his own for hours and hours, and he would have to be quiet and not wake up his father or siblings. It would be BORING, I said. He did NOT WANT TO, I said.

Well, but he did. So I let him, figuring I probably COULD manage such a sacrifice for just one night, but saying he had to stay in his room until 9:30, and then IF he was still awake when I came to get him, THEN he could stay up. I added further cautions about how it was not worth it and he would be disappointed and he would be sorry he'd tried it.

He was not sorry. He was not even very tired.

The next year was even worse. I was spending my days with two 2-year-olds and a nursing infant, and continued to be unable to bear the idea of staying up until midnight when I COULD BE ASLEEP.

Tiiiiiirrrrrrrrd


Especially since, at midnight, I would have to face the excruciating dilemma of "Do I go ahead and just stay up until what will likely be a 12:30 feeding---but then maybe end up sitting awake and grinding my teeth and crying with despair at 1:00, 1:30, 2:00, as the baby DOESN'T awaken as expected and I count the time I COULD have been sleeping but now with every passing minute it would be crazier and crazier to go to bed? Or do I go to sleep at midnight, possibly to be awakened by a baby riiiiiiight as I'm drifting off, throwing me into Night Mother Rage? Or do I wake the baby early to nurse before I go to bed, feeling stupid for waking a sleeping baby AND maybe not successfully nursing anyway, only to face the same dilemma at 12:45 instead of at midnight?"

God, the small-baby nights can be unpleasant. But we did it anyway: Rob and I stayed up for New Year's again. I seem to have blocked out what I did about nursing. Isn't memory merciful sometimes?

The year after that, William wanted to stay up too. I had the same rule, now for two children instead of one: if they were awake when I came in at 9:30, they could stay up for New Year's.

They both made it. William just barely.

I'm not sure which year it started feeling like a party instead of an ordeal. I think it took me a couple of years to recover from night-nursing and to feel again as if I could imagine staying up late without suffering. It was probably two New Year's Eves ago, in 2010, when Henry was 3 years old and Rob and William were 11 and 9. Instead of making them stay in their rooms, I let them just stay up and play video games and watch TV. Instead of deliberately making it no fun in the hopes that they would not want to do it anymore, I bought Festive Snacks: pizza rolls, Doritos, M&Ms, soda for them and champagne for me.

I still made it a low-interaction event: I would like to spend my New Year's Eve filling out the next year's calendar, being on the computer, reading a book, doing some puzzles, writing in a journal---not playing with children. But if the children would like to play nearby, that is fine.

And last year and this year, I've even looked forward to it. The boys and I plan ahead of time what snacks we would like to eat (my favorite is the boneless buffalo wings; I am also fond of champagne). We go out together on a special shopping trip to obtain those snacks, in case another snack idea needs to be considered on the spot (this year it was ranch-flavored chicken fries: we were intrigued) (edited to add: ick).

Paul has started watching a movie with them in the early evening, to give me some time to recharge before the evening ahead. (Paul himself hits the hay at 10:00 sharp. He is not tempted by our offers of snacks and Ryan Seacrest and grumpy tiredness the next day.) This year they're all watching the first Harry Potter movie while I sit in the computer room, typing and looking through old photos.

Also, this year the twins are the same age Rob was when he first stayed up. They have been given the option to join us. Elizabeth is ALL IN. She won't have any trouble staying up: sometimes when we go to bed, we have to tap on her door and say "Lights OUT, Elizabeth." Edward is uncertain: he usually has dark under-eye circles by 6:00 p.m., and he is asleep 5 minutes after he goes to bed, so he doesn't know if this will work. Either way, we have plenty of snacks.


Edited to add: They did it!

(William is not taller than Rob; Rob is standing down several steps.)

December 30, 2012

Spam Blog Take-Over; Candleholders; Cousins Once Removed

If you subscribed to the feed of another blog I used to have, you may have noticed that the address (which I politely gave up when I was done with it) has since been taken up by a spammy fake site. So if you ever linked to that old blog in a blog post and/or in your blogroll, your blog is now linking to spam! Yay! Aren't people LOVELY? Any time a chance to bottom-feed opens up, people RUSH IN to take that chance! No opportunity too low!

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I bought something. Two somethings. They are hard to photograph in the morning lack-of-light, so perhaps I should have waited for later, and perhaps I could have dusted that shelf first, but bygones.



You can still perceive their loveliness, right? Even with the shadows and poor lighting and the dust? They're candleholders. I got them at Home Goods. Each one can be adjusted to take a variety of candle sizes/types. They came in other colors, too; I saw a turquoise one, a bronze one, and one other color I forget. Cream or white, I think. (The little metal birds were a gift from a friend. The thermometer/hygrometer belonged to my grandparents.) It bothers me a TEENSY bit that the smaller one has blue jewels and the larger one has clear jewels, but I think of it as good psychological exercise.

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Two of my girl cousins (sisters to each other) are both pregnant at the same time (both for the first time), and I am quite excited. It's fun to have babies to look forward to and buy little baby things for. And I love the idea of sisters pregnant at the same time. My second-cousin and I had overlapping pregnancies once and we had SO MUCH FUN emailing back and forth about it. And of course I am looking forward to hearing the NAMES! And one baby is a boy, and the other baby will hopefully give up that information this coming week!

And it's fun that the two baby cousins will be so close in age. I wish I'd been closer in age to my own cousins. One girl cousin is four years older, so she was kind to me but she was always at a completely different stage of life. My other four girl cousins were all born when I was in the 10-15 range, so we're a half-generation apart and they were always little kids to me, and I've always been ancient to them. I'm closest to my second-cousin, probably in large part because we're almost the same age.

My own kids are stepping-stairs with their cousins: my kids are 13, 11, 7, and 5, and their cousins are 3 and 1.

Are you close in age with your cousins? If you have kids, are they close in age with theirs?

December 28, 2012

Caterpillars vs. Butterflies

Leeann is right: it's been awhile since I've written about the kids or put up photos of them. It's gotten difficult to talk about them: Rob made me self-conscious and nervous by asking a lot of questions about my blog, so now I know he could theoretically read anything I write here. Is there any way to say "Some days I hear other people talking about how much they want children and I think 'No, no, don't do it, save yourself while you still can'"---in a way that your children can safely read it?

I don't think they're LIKELY to read it, though. My mother saved a box of all her journals, fantasizing about how she would let her daughter read them one day---and when that magical day finally arrived, I read part of one and was completely uninterested in reading more. Repelled, even. It seems reasonable to assume my children would feel the same way about reading my journals. Still, the idea that they could do it so easily, and with a search feature---it's off-putting.

A general summary of how things are going right now is that as the children get older, I am getting out of the stage I basically like (not all of it, of course, but in the sense that I was glad I'd made the decision to have kids), which is babies and little kids (like, up to pre-adolescent). And as we get out of that stage, I am not very happy about it (even though I felt like I was ready to be done with it), because I don't like the stage that's happening now.

I realize it's ridiculous, because it's not like the literature doesn't explain how this works, but I feel like I signed on for one kind of life and got another kind of life. It's as if I thought long and hard about a pet, and decided after much research and reflection to get a pet caterpillar. It's not that I don't like butterflies, but that's not what I wanted. Now I'm stuck taking care of a pet that's completely wrong for me.

And what can I do about it, right? Nothing, that's what. It's the very thing that's so scary about deciding to have children in the first place: there's no way to know if you'll like it or not, and if you DON'T like it, there's no way to take it back. I can read the pamphlet and understand that the butterfly stage will arrive---but there's still no way to know if I'll like it or not. And if the caterpillar stage had gone so much better than feared, why wouldn't the butterfly stage be the same way? But it isn't.

Rob is almost 14, and he'll be going to high school next year. Elizabeth's Brownies troop has their meetings there, so I've been in the building a few times; it's the same building where I went to high school, so that's freaky. I had what was probably a mild-but-actual panic attack the first time I took her in there: there were several dozen high school kids hanging around (there was a sports event going on in the gym), and I was looking at them and thinking about how extremely stupid and powerful they are at this stage. It's like when a small child's mobility exceeds his brains, so he can move all over the house looking for ways to kill himself---just like that, but with cars and sex and alcohol, and with future career/family happiness on the line. Why was I worried about my stupid baby, when I could easily make him safe by putting him in a playpen or strapping him into a high chair?

Meanwhile, I feel like I live my life constantly on the verge of being drawn into a bewildering confrontation. Rob can be so nice and so companionable, working side-by-side with me in the kitchen getting dinner ready---and then five minutes later I feel like I have to stay calm and think fast so the troll under the bridge will be tricked into letting me pass. I dislike confrontations. I especially dislike confrontations where I am making complete sense on a very simple topic, and yet what I'm saying has no effect on the other person at all---a person who is suffering the delusion that HE is making complete sense. It's like some sort of game: can I get out of this conversation alive AND without getting exasperated to the point of temper AND without crying later in private? If this were my spouse instead of my child, I would be secretly siphoning money out of the checking account in preparation for escape.

And then, most of the blogs I read by other parents of teenagers are self-conscious about writing too, or else only cover the good stuff. So I see basically a series of snapshots of the "nice and companionable working side-by-side in the kitchen" part of life, and it feels like everyone else's teenagers only do that part, and also are SO GREAT AND FUN AND AWESOME to hang out with, while mine is defective and I'm screwing the whole thing up. It's like having a newborn and having mixed feelings about the experience, but finding nothing but bloggers writing about how over the moon they feel, and how they were always meant to be mothers, and how they feel fulfilled like never before---and it's either all true, which is terrible and discouraging, or else all of it is lies because those mothers don't want their babies to grow up and read the blog and feel bad. Either way, USELESS.

William is 11 and in the 6th grade, and I see him as the next of four more train cars coming unstoppably down the track. Or as the next of four more cocoons forming on the twig, to avoid introducing a second metaphor. He's grown much taller and he needs deodorant, which are like Signs of the End Times for childhood. He's mostly still the same kid he was in elementary school, but with weird outbreak moods: I'll ask him to wipe up the honey he spilled while making a sandwich, and he will go dark and moody and STOMP and SLAM as he does it, with me absolutely perplexed. Is it not fair that I asked him to do it? HE spilled it! Who ELSE should clean it up? And I asked perfectly pleasantly! Why do we seem to be in the middle of a Scene, then?

The twins are 7, and in the 2nd grade. One of the huge upsides of having lots of kids and/or wide spacings is that the kids in one stage make me appreciate the kids in a different stage exponentially more than I would have otherwise. When Rob was a second grader, I wasn't seeing him as adorable and sweet and little-kiddish the way I currently see the twins with the contrast of middle schoolers. I wasn't noticing that I could still pick him up or pull him onto my lap, and mentally calculating how many more months that might last. ...Well, actually, that's because Rob even as a NEWBORN didn't want to be picked up. But with William, say: I didn't appreciate 2nd grade William in the same way I currently appreciate the twins, because when William was in 2nd grade, the twins and Henry were tiny, so William was a big kid (and I did appreciate him in that way, because of having littler kids). The twins, though, are 2nd graders and still caterpillars, and the butterflies make me notice this. They're in an exasperatingly forgetful/disorganized stage, but who cares? They're only 7! Look how cute!

And Henry! Henry would be making me wring my hands with worry and despair if I didn't have the middle-school kids. He can be so WILD and ROUGH and HEEDLESS, and I feel like I have to tell him everything a million times. But it's like when you have your second newborn, and instead of thinking "I'VE MADE A TERRIBLE MISTAKE AND I'M DOING EVERYTHING WRONG" like with the first baby, you think, "Eh, this is just a stage. It can be hard, but it'll be over soon."

I try to make myself see the entire butterfly stage that way, but I'm not finding that to be possible. It feels as if the entire pregnancy/baby/little stage is over, which it really IS, and that the butterfly stage stretches into the entire future, which maybe it does. Just as some people really don't like the baby/little stage, I may be someone who doesn't like anything else.

December 26, 2012

Christmas Report

We're still drinking our coffee "holiday style," right? At least until the kids are back in school?

How did the holidays go for you, or are they still going on? My family celebrates on Christmas Eve (I don't know if that comes from the Dutch ancestry or from the long line of ministers/farmers or from a combination of both), so we've already had The Day of Presents/Celebration followed by The Day of Playing With Presents, and now we are on The Day of Flopping Around Feeling Cabin-Feverish.

I never quite caught the holiday spirit this year, but that's okay. Things were nice anyway, and I managed to do the things I wanted to do to make sure the children still had enough Christmas. I found it motivating to think things like, "They can't do Christmas for themselves; it's something you need to do for them, like buying their clothes and making their meals." I ended up doing MORE Christmas things this year, because I had to actively think about it.


Gingerbread houses (made out of graham crackers) (two separate stations because aaaacccckkkk so many children reaching):





Christmas cookies (gingerbread men purchased from grocery bakery, circles sliced from roll of Pillsbury cookie dough) (maximum three kids at a time, because otherwise aaaaackkk):





Tree-decorating (which turned out to make things EASIER for me):





And presents:






I'm pleased with how things went, and looking forward to the new year. The annual calendar post is up at Milk and Cookies, and also a Christmas loot report.

How about you? Are you pleased with how things went?

December 21, 2012

When Does It Feel Like Christmas? (If You Celebrate Christmas, That Is. Because Otherwise It Probably Never Feels Like Christmas.)

My mom and dad watch the show The Closer, and my mom was telling me about a funny part in an episode where the people on the show have to handle a big mass-murder thing right at Christmas. The guy doing one autopsy after another looks up from the corpse he's working on and says something like, "You know how there's always that moment where it suddenly Feels Like Christmas? Yeah. This year, not so much."

My mom's real point, besides trying to get me to watch the show, is that she heard that and thought to herself, YES, there IS always a moment where it suddenly feels like Christmas, so she was asking if it felt like Christmas to me yet, and I said not quite yet but almost.

There are a few times when I generally notice it Really Feeling Like Christmas:
  • When I've successfully sent the kids off to school on that last day with all their cards for bus drivers and teachers (a project that frazzles me and is so satisfying to complete)

  • When the kids come home from their last day of school before Christmas vacation

  • The night before, when I'm reading in the living room and I keep admiring the Christmas tree and thinking about how excited the kids will be in the morning (that excitement is more appealing and sweet in thought than in action)

  • When we go on the Christmas Eve Light-Viewing Drive

There are also little sub-points, where it feels like Christmas but doesn't Feel Like Christmas: when I'm doing Christmas cards; when Christmas cards start arriving in the mail; when we put up the Christmas lights; when I'm actively shopping for Christmas gifts; when I'm wrapping Christmas gifts; when radio stations start playing Christmas music; when I re-read the Maeve Binchy Christmas short stories; when it seems appropriate to buy egg nog.

When does it usually feel like Christmas to you?

December 20, 2012

Christmas Books Follow-Up

For all my talk about my stack of Christmas books to re-read every year, I think in recent years I must have been reading only the Maeve Binchy: this year I'm getting to all of them, and most of them are not even familiar.

Right now I'm reading the two Miss Read books (Village Christmas and The Christmas Mouse), and I am reminded that this was the trajectory of my Miss Read reading: (1) the author was recommended to me; (2) I liked the books and read a whole bunch; (3) I requested the Christmas books for my Christmas book pile; (4) I found out my mother-in-law was a Miss Read fan; (5) I never read Miss Read again.

Reading them this year, I can see why my mother-in-law liked them so much: they're just bursting with older ladies who know what's best for everyone. A chunk of each book is devoted to the rich fulfillment found in hard work, pinched criticism of others' behavior, and regular church attendance; a larger chunk is devoted to how young people have all these crazy parenting ideas that need to be firmly corrected by the grandmothers---and how very, very grateful the parents and children will be for these firm corrections in their lives.

In short, there are ways in which my late mother-in-law lives on.

The David Sedaris book is new to me this year (I got it for Christmas last year), and I found some of it perfect and some of it not at all right for me. His job as a mall elf, yes; spoof Christmas letters in which something terrible happens to a baby, no. Christmas whore, yes; Christmas morgue and Christmas TV executive, less so. But I am the same about my Augusten Burroughs book, so perhaps I will just get used to The Parts I Skim.


I would like recommendations, if you have them, for other books to read at Christmas. I think the Christmas Book Stack needs refreshing, and I'm going to the library this afternoon. So far on my list I have Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher, recommended by Nowheymama. What else?

December 14, 2012

Christmas Books Reading List

On the post Christmas Propelling, I mentioned my Christmas books reading list, and then Becky and Betsy both asked about the other books on that list, so here they are:



The only one that is important to me that I read every year (i.e., I look forward to it as a significant part of Christmas, and will rearrange things to make sure there's time to read it) is Maeve Binchy's This Year It Will Be Different. I love it so much, and the stories are so familiar to me now that I start getting weepy and sentimental just OPENING THE BOOK, and I just really love it.

I don't know whether to recommend it to others, though. You know how people are like, "Oh, I read Anna Karenina every year and I just LOVE it so MUCH!," and then you read it and you think "OMG this is so incredibly awful and depressing and there are so many Russian names to keep track of I can't STAND it, I want to DIE"? You know how that is? Well, I love Maeve Binchy, but when I have recommended her in the past, it has sometimes happened that the recipient of the recommendation has referred to her books as "so depressing." Whereas I find them uplifting and satisfying and if anything a little overly undepressing ("Hey, everything works out right! Again!")---but that is how some people feel about dark Russian novels that have words such as "doomed" and "tragedy" in the descriptions, so clearly there is a certain element of crapshootage to the book-recommendations thing. And it would be hard for me to say that stories involving hideous and unspeakably-rude stepdaughters, sad affairs with married men, and canceled weddings were not A BIT on the doomed/tragedy side, if someone were to read This Year It Will Be Different and then call me out on that. And I don't know if I loved it quite so much the first time I read it. And so forth.

ANYWAY. It's my favorite Christmas book. And in fact I will buy a copy for someone. Leave a comment that specifically mentions it if you want to be included in the drawing; I think you ought to be able to comment on a post without being entered into a contest. My goal will be to get you a hardcover edition, because I think it's much nicer, but this means a gamble with a used copy from an Amazon Marketplace seller---speaking of crapshoots. They're always like, "NEW condition! BRAND-NEW!!" and then it arrives all dinged and scuffed. Which I wouldn't have MINDED if it had been LISTED that way.

So, as I was saying, This Year It Will Be Different is the one that's every year. Then I have Augusten Burroughs's You Better Not Cry (Amazon search results lead me to a $21.99 hardcover, but I see there is also an $8.80 bargain-priced hardcover so I linked to that), which I discussed in the Christmas Propelling post linked to above. This year I also have a new one in the pile: David Sedaris's Holidays on Ice. It has other holidays in it besides just the winter ones.

Two others on the pile are Miss Read books. They're a little hard to find, but I see there's a single volume that has both that can be bought used starting at about $4.00 (they say starting at a penny or two, but that doesn't take into account the four dollars shipping). There are in the "pleasant little tales of a quiet village" category, very nice for reading in a room with Christmas lights and maybe a fireplace.

And the last is Christmas Stories. This one includes stories by famous English-class authors: Dickens and Chekov and Updike. I shouldn't really have it in the pile, because it is the one I leaf through a little bit if I've read all the others. But it has such a pretty binding and I love seeing it with the other books.

All right, so that is the Christmas Book pile. And remember to mention in a comment if you want to try the Maeve Binchy book. I'll pick a name soon, in the hopes of getting the book there before Christmas (although there's no hope of it if it's a book-rate option, which can take weeks). How about...Monday. I'll pick someone sometime on Monday. (U.S. mailing addresses only, as usual---I have Amazon ship it directly.)

(Also see: Christmas Books Follow-Up.)

Edited to add: The winner is Sarah Filchak. I'll email you, Sarah!

December 13, 2012

Tree Decorated!

The tree is decorated! The tree is decorated!



Does it look a BIT as if someone stood back six to ten feet and FLUNG ornaments at the tree? This is because I crossed "Christmas will not be good unless the ornaments are pleasingly arranged" off this year's list right after I crossed off "Christmas will not be good unless all seven names are signed on the Christmas cards."

After writing yesterday about how I was overwhelmed and trying to fix it by reducing unnecessary perfectionism, I employed my "Well, what CAN you do?" tactic to get myself to do the next thing I really did want to get done: decorating the tree. I couldn't seem to make myself decorate the tree, but I COULD bring up the box of ornaments from the basement and put it in the living room.

From there, nature took its course: children came home from school and descended upon the box. The ornaments were applied two, three, even five to the tip of a single drooping branch. But the ornaments were ON THE TREE.

And, bonus: the children felt as if they had participated in a happy holiday activity. I can picture them later in life reflecting on my awesome laid-back mothering: "She let US do it, however we wanted! She didn't get all uptight about things that didn't matter!" Yeah. That's how it happened.

December 12, 2012

Soothing Holiday Words

I am speaking soothingly these days into my own ears: "No, no, shhhhhhh, it's fine, you ALWAYS think there's too much to do before Christmas, and it ALWAYS works out JUST FINE."

A soothing mantra, I've found, is "No one really cares." I used this most recently to help me dial back the perfectionism with the Christmas cards this year: I genuinely enjoy sending them so I don't WANT to skip them (I know I COULD skip, but I don't WANT to), but it absolutely works to write "Love, Swistle" and call it a day. No one really cares; no one will say, "Awww, but she usually writes 'Happy holidays and a very happy New Year!' first, and then writes the names of all seven family members! How are we going to have a happy holiday/year without Swistle WRITING that we should have one?"
 
And just because I OWN tons of cute gift wrap and ribbons and gift tags doesn't mean I have to USE them. Some years it's fun to do that, making a pretty assortment of wrappings under the tree and figuring out interesting combinations of coordinating/contrasting ribbon/tags. Other years I want to use a roll of gift wrap until it's gone, and then start on the next one and use IT until IT is gone, and I want to use a sharpie to write to/from on everything. No one really cares which way I do it. No one will say, "Awww, last year my three presents were in three different papers! This year they're all in the SAME paper! Christmas is RUINED!"

And it would be NICE if I had each of the three younger children make cards for their teachers. It would be NICE if I made the little plates of treats for the mail carrier and our neighbors. It would be NICE if I got some extra snapshots printed to send with the card to my great-aunt. It would be NICE if I arranged a gingerbread-house-making activity. But I'm not going to this year, and no one will deep-down care.

(This would be the opposite of soothing on the years that I am getting everything done.)

December 10, 2012

If It Were Contagious, I Would Breathe on You in Exchange for a Small Fee

ANOTHER thing I've had to learn again and again (I'm picking up this post as if it's been in the forefront of all our minds since then) is that if I am thinking things such as "It's really just a matter of making Good Choices---not giving up ALL treats, of course not, but having them MODERATION," it means I have an infection, and the infection is near my brain. Last time I think it was ear; this time it's sinus.

I hope you won't think less of me when I say that once I'd looked it up online and learned that most routine/moderate sinus infections clear up without antibiotics (and that in fact many of them don't respond to antibiotics), I decided to cruise along with the infection for awhile. It is hard to give up this little temporary time of "I just have to watch PORTION SIZES, that's all!" and even "Oops, it's 3:00 and I just realized I forgot to have lunch!"---and meanwhile the pounds leaving one by one.

December 6, 2012

Christmas Propelling

This video propelled me RIGHT INTO Christmas spirit: it's Jimmy Fallon, Mariah Carey, The Roots, and some little kids, wearing Christmas sweaters and using classroom musical instruments to do "All I Want For Christmas Is You."




And I NEEDED a little propelling. The tree is not up. Nothing is wrapped. I still have many things to buy and mail. The Christmas cards are not done. (Although that is PARTLY not my fault: the photos I ordered were done wrong so I had to re-order them.)

I HAVE done my annual re-read of the first Christmas book on the pile (You Better Not Cry, which I read first because the stories are not, er, traditionally Christmas-enspiriting) (stomach pumped, boyfriend dying of AIDS, house flooding, waking up in a hotel room with a stranger, etc.). I usually like to bask in the lights of the tree as long as humanly possible, so it is a little stressful to be wasting day after day: here I am, reading about the Christmas when Augusten Burroughs found himself on the street after a 2-day alcoholic blackout, and there are NO CHRISTMAS LIGHTS. And the children are agitating because we have a "Candy canes may only be eaten when they can be harvested from a tree" rule, and the TREE IS NOT UP. There the candy canes sit, tantalizing in their boxes, and the parents do not seem to REALIZE the enormity of this issue: they're all "Eh, maybe tomorrow? Maybe this weekend?" when asked when the tree WILL be up! As if days without candy canes is NO BIG DEAL!

So! This morning I brought the Christmas tree box up from the basement! It is a small step, but it is a step!

December 3, 2012

Two Twitter Things: One, Twitter May Be Following You Around the Internet; and Two, A Reason People May Seem to Be Ignoring You on Twitter

Oh, coffee with egg nog and whipped cream. Why have we stayed apart so long??

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I learned two things about Twitter recently.

The first thing I learned accidentally, while looking for something else in my account settings (in Twitter, click the little gear symbol at upper right, then choose Settings in that pull-down menu): I learned that there was a box checked (which I hadn't checked) saying that Twitter would "Tailor Twitter based on my recent website visits." That is, Twitter would track my internet usage, in order to "customize" Twitter to that usage. They'd "protect my privacy," of course, while following me around the internet and recording that information in order to use it. Oh! I see! No, thank you! UNCHECK BOX!

The second thing is what I was actually looking for when I stumbled upon the first thing. It had gradually started occurring to me that I was not seeing tweets from protected accounts I didn't follow, EVEN WHEN THAT PERSON HAD @-REPLIED ME. That is, I knew I wouldn't see protected tweets if I wasn't following that person, but I HAD thought that if a person with a protected account deliberately contacted me by using my Twitter name, I WOULD see THAT tweet.

BUT NO. I wonder how many people know this, because I didn't. I wonder how many people have talked to someone on Twitter and then felt ignored when they didn't get an answer, not realizing that the other person couldn't see their tweets? Because it's REASONABLE to think they WOULD see the tweet! And Twitter doesn't, like, reject the tweet, or warn the user at the tweeting moment that the person they've @-replied doesn't follow them so won't see the tweet!

Here's a screenshot from Twitter:



It's that last bullet point. If you have a protected account, and if you directly talk to someone on Twitter, and that person doesn't follow you, THEY CAN'T SEE YOUR TWEET.

This explains why I have felt so confused, looking at Twitter conversations that seem to actively include me and yet I can't see half of the tweets. Sometimes I'll see someone else answering someone who seems to have asked me a question---but I can't see the protected account, so I don't know what the question was.

DID YOU KNOW ABOUT ALL THIS?? Because I did not.

December 2, 2012

Christmas Notes

Leaving myself notes is turning out to be VERY HELPFUL. Last year I felt like I'd remember most of the Thanksgiving stuff, but I put all my plans and recipe print-outs into a folder anyway. This year when I got them out, I didn't really remember any of it. And I kept thinking things like, "Uh oh. I must have thought I'd remember that recipe for roasted vegetables, but I don't! ...Oh, here it is in the folder! Whew." The best were my menu-list notes such as "5 pounds PLENTY" after potatoes, and "next time, 3 dozen" after rolls.

This morning I got out my Christmas notes, which were much less organized because CHRISTMAS is much less organized. Here are some of them:

1. "Watch Christmas shows and read Christmas books EARLIER." I keep thinking I should wait until it's really close to Christmas, to maximize the Christmassiness of those activities. But instead I ended up feeling stressed and thinking "I STILL HAVE TO WATCH/READ THOSE"---when I'd spent several weeks of December WANTING to watch/read them but making myself wait. Silly! Plus, reading them earlier gets the holiday spirit going earlier.

2. "Eat all the candy canes BEFORE Christmas." Nobody likes them after Christmas, so the deliciousness must be almost entirely Christmas-anticipation based.

3. "Buy one gift card per Target trip for a few months." (I wrote about this idea here.) I need to write this on the calender in September instead: by the time I get out the Christmas Notes, it's too late to remind myself of this.

4. "Remind kids about politeness/gratitude." I keep thinking incorrectly that their training on that is complete. They still really need a refresher before opening any presents.

5. "Divide stocking stuff beforehand." Every single year I think it'll be fun! and festive! to divide the stocking stuff right before it's time to fill the stockings. Every single year I end up sweaty and frazzled and rushed, ripping open bags of candy and dividing them all into five piles and trying to remember where I put the Silly Putty. This year I'm dividing it ahead of time into bags I can then just pour into each stocking.

6. "BRING FLASK."