January 31, 2007

Waiting For Waiting For Birdy

I have finally allowed myself to begin re-reading Catherine Newman's Waiting For Birdy. I have been eyeing it on the shelf, putting off reading it the way you would put off eating the last Dove bar in the freezer, knowing that once it's gone you won't have it to look forward to anymore.

When I read it, I laugh until I cry. I don't mean that I laugh until my eyes water, I mean I CRY: my lip heads up toward my nose, my nose scrunches up toward my eyes, my eyes squeeze to a squint and tears come pouring out, and I'm making a peculiar sob-laugh sound that reminds me of those old movies where someone needs to give the girl a good hard slap to help her get a hold of herself. Usually it ends with me coughing and gagging and needing to set the book down for a little while to recover, explaining to an alarmed Paul, "It's just so funny" and weeping some more into my handkerchief.

I didn't want to re-read it too early in the pregnancy, but pregnancy is the perfect time for reading it so I didn't want to put it off too long and miss it, either. I thought I'd wait as long as I could, ideally until I was in the stretch where it feels like I've been pregnant for a million years and there are still a million years left to go. And here we are, right in that place.

I can't help but oversell the book, even though I know that's exactly the sort of thing that, when someone else does it to me, makes me read the book too critically, thinking, "Well, it's good, but I don't know why she made such a huge fuss about it." It would have been better if you'd discovered it on your own, as I did. I don't remember how I found the column "Bringing Up Ben & Birdy" on BabyCenter--maybe it was mentioned in one of the newsletters BabyCenter sends out, or maybe I was just browsing the site as I sometimes do obsessively when I'm pregnant. In any case, I found it. And within 24 hours I was tapping my foot impatiently, waiting for the book to be shipped to me from Amazon.com as I read through years of archived columns, taking breaks only to email everyone I knew to say "Have you read this?" It was like finding religion, and I was the intrusive new convert who couldn't stop talking about her experience.

All right, that's enough of a break. I'm going back to reading it now.

Halfway Through the Bag Already

One day short of 2 weeks with no car, and I have the car back. To celebrate, we went to the mall, because what says "Oh my god, that stupid truck cost us $900" better than going out to spend more money? This is an outing I don't usually attempt since William has to be back for kindergarten after lunch and the mall is 35 minutes away. But I had such a high cabin fever, this seemed like exactly the sort of emergency mega-outing that could bring that temperature down.

This plan makes the morning a little challenging, but I managed it: two children showered, four children dressed, four children breakfasted, one child to the bus stop, diaper bag packed, three children jacketed and in the car and on our way by 8:25. We were in sight of the driveway of the mall when I heard an urpy sound from the back seat. Elizabeth had thrown up all over her coat, her hat that fastens under her chin, and her car seat.

For a brief moment I thought maybe we could still go ahead with the outing. We were so close. I have a roll of paper towels in the minivan; I could clean her up and we could just go on. Then the smell hit me and brought me back to reality like the world's most vile smelling salts. I did clean her up somewhat, but of course we had to turn around and go right back home. With the windows open.

So! Instead of spending the morning shopping for clearance stuff and having lunch out, I spent 1 hour and 10 minutes driving, with a 10-minute break in the middle to wipe up barf with paper towels. Then I spent half an hour washing barf off a car seat and spritzing Febreze everywhere, and although I'm grateful I noticed the barf had seeped way down into the inner workings of the car seat, I...have no end for this sentence. Then I spent half an hour bathing Elizabeth, letting her splash, bathing her again--remembering the last time she threw up, when the smell lingered in her many-times-shampooed hair for days. (Until I finally put Febreze on it. What?) Then I put Elizabeth's coat and hat and clothing and also my coat into a washing machine of soap and hot water to soak for awhile, and berated myself for not buying the Febreze-laced fabric softener I saw a few weeks ago at the store. Oh, fine, so it was expensive, but just think how glad I'd be to have it right at this moment, with a washer-load of barf-scented clothing and the memory of previous times when the clothes had to be washed again and again and again before the smell was gone--and in fact one sleeper still emits its subtle cologne if it gets damp. (Barf-scent removal suggestions? Please comment.)

I will say this: it was a very, very good thing that I had the foresight to hide a bag of miniature Reese's Peanut Butter Cups in the closet.

January 30, 2007

Enjoying The Anticipation Is Taking Too Long

I shouldn't have said yesterday that I would be wearing each of these four maternity shirts 30 times before the baby was born. At the time, I was thinking about how that made the purchase a good value. This morning as I was putting on the blue one, I thought, "I will have to wear it 29 more times, and each of the other three shirts 30 times each, before this baby is born." It sounded like forever.

I have been trying to enjoy this pregnancy and not hurry it along, but hurrying things along is in my nature. I am always impatient for the next upcoming event--and then, when the event is done, wishing I'd enjoyed the anticipation more. I'm only able to enjoy the anticipation after-the-fact: thinking later about how much fun it was to wait. I can't enjoy the waiting itself.

I should be patting my tum and thinking about how great it is to feel like I'm always working on something important even if I'm lying on the bed reading a People magazine. I should be relishing the project of going through baby name books and choosing a name. I should be wanting this to go slowly, since after Paul's reaction to this pregnancy, I'm lucky to have it at all. Instead I'm measuring, measuring: how many weeks are left, how many months are left, how many shirt-wearings are left.

Check Engine, Check Credit Card Limit

I felt a little dizzy yesterday, but if you think I'm going to Google "pregnancy" and "dizzy" you should Google "crazy" and "you must be." I am still jumpy from the time I looked up "pregnancy" and "headache."

We have a minivan and a truck, and Paul normally drives the truck to work. The truck's "check engine" light came on the week before last, and so he is driving the minivan and I am stuck with no vehicle. I was thinking it would only be for a few days, but now we are well into Week Two and I am trying to suppress hallucinations of caterpillars covering the walls. Last night I took the truck to the repair place (we are procrastinators even when desperate, and then we had to wait a bit for an appointment), and this morning they called. It was this kind of call: "Well, the 'check engine' light came on because of an exhaust leak, which we can fix for $370. And while we were in there..." and I tune out until the end of the sentence, which is, "...and all that would come to an additional $1100 or so."

I hate this kind of thing, where people are telling me about things that will cost money, and I don't know if I'm supposed to believe them or not. Maybe they're sitting around on the other end of the line taking bets on whether the sucker is going to do the 100,000-mile replacements at 75,000 miles just because they used the "concerned" tone of voice. Or maybe the "belts" and "pumps" (or whatever it was I wasn't listening to) really are going south, and I'll be sorry when something snaps at 70 mph and Paul is killed in the resulting pile-up and inferno, all because I thought I was being so savvy.

Well, we're fixing the exhaust leak. And then we're going to do the 60,000-mile check/replace thingie we inadvertently blew off 15,000 miles ago because we can't seem to keep track of these things. And maybe we can get them to fix the quirk where the "door ajar" light beeps at us alarmingly every 15 seconds even though the doors are firmly shut. But I'm not replacing the belts 25,000 miles earlier than the maintenance schedule says to. See what they've driven me to? I'm checking maintenance schedules. This is not how I want to live my life.

January 29, 2007

21 (and a half) Weeks

I am 21 weeks pregnant, and it seems like all of a sudden the tum is getting bigger. It surprises me every single time, how long it takes for the tum to be of Public Recognition size. It seems weird to spend half the pregnancy looking "kind of fat." But now, finally, I am starting to look pregnant. I was crabby when I went to a social thing the other night and no one guessed I was pregnant, and everyone acted surprised when I announced it. Considering I was wearing a snug top, I had thought it would be instantly obvious to everyone. Instead, they evidently assumed I'm just normally this bulky shape. Paul tried to reassure me by saying that everyone probably did guess that I was pregnant, but no one wanted to be the one to say it and have me respond that I wasn't. It's true that I myself often don't comment on an unknown tum unless it is covered with a t-shirt that says "Baby!" with a down-pointing arrow.

Speaking of t-shirts, I'm so glad I bought those four maternity shirts the other day. I spent about a week putting them in an online shopping cart and taking them out again, thinking, "Am I really going to spend nearly $50 on four shirts I'm only going to wear for four months?" But as soon as I started wearing them, I wondered why I hadn't spent the money earlier to improve the amortization. Even so, I'll wear each shirt about 30 times. I should be good and sick of them by May.

I'm feeling more tired, more inclined to sit or lie down, more inclined to nap in the afternoons, more inclined to go to bed a little early, more inclined to stay in bed until someone's really crying. I'm eating all the time, or else thinking about what I am about to eat.

I get little rushes of energy, which a recent post about not-cleaning accidentally inspired me to start using for cleaning. The other day I moved the loveseat and removed four thousand toys and crayons and game pieces from underneath, then vacuumed up two dustbusters' full of dust and dirt. Paul said, "Would you like me to take all those dustbunnies and help you build a nest with them?"

I get a frequent, unpleasant "can't breathe" sensation. Sometimes it helps to walk around a little, if I've been sitting. Sometimes it helps to sit, if I've been moving around. I've had this with all my pregnancies, and nothing cures it except childbirth. One of the happiest feelings after the baby is born is "I can breathe!!" Oh, yes, and "The baby is born!," of course.

There are lots of baby movements now. Some of them are general "moving around" feelings, and some are distinct little bappy kicks: bap! bap! bap! BAP! If you have not yet experienced pregnancy, these feelings are just as mesmerizing and gross and thrilling as you might imagine. I get this combined feeling of wonder and ick: "There's a real live BABY in there! My baby!" and "Oh my god, something alive is INSIDE MY BODY."

We are still stuck on boy names. Nothing emerges from the pack as a name for Our New Boy.

We will need to buy a car seat--we got rid of the ones we used for the twins, thinking we were Done. And now there's that whole Consumer Reports thing, where their recent car seat test needs to be redone. Probably I'll go ahead and buy a Graco, since that's what we used for the twins, and since that's a seat Consumer Reports has liked in previous tests. I usually spend about a third of the pregnancy agitating about which car seat to buy: different stores often carry the car seat in a different fabric, and the fabric choice seems like The Most Important Decision In The World while I am pregnant. (Afterwards, when the car seat cover is really only a difficult-to-wash cloth backdrop for the baby to yack milk and have astonishing blow-out diapers on, it seems less important.)

It seems as if this pregnancy is going very quickly. I'm already looking forward to the food at the hospital, which is truly excellent. Big huge chickeny caesar wraps, and still-warm brownies. Fresh-fruit cups, which you are allowed to order more than one of. Cinnamon french toast with butter and a little cup of warmed syrup. Turkey sandwiches piled so high with turkey you almost want to take a little of it out, with pickle wedges on the side. Most important: someone else making it, and bringing it to me after I pick up the phone by my bed and ask them to. It's almost worth the entire pregnancy and recovery, just for that food. I always cry when I go home and the food part is over. See? I told you I was always either eating or thinking about eating. Right now I'm doing both, since I am also eating a bowl of ice cream with hot fudge sauce.

1:10 Flight to Paris

It is 1:10 in the morning, and I am still up because one or the other of the twins has been crying since my bedtime more than two hours ago. Sometimes both of them have been crying at the same time, and what I would like to know is, Why am I dealing with this by myself? How is it possible for Paul to be a good human being and still sleep through this? I don't recall him sleeping through the creation of these children, and yet he is actually snoring as Elizabeth cries in her crib on the other side of the wall.

I'm not sure why they're crying. It reminds me of how lucky we are that usually they don't--usually we put them to bed and they sleep until morning. But what is their deal tonight? First Edward cried, and when I went in to soothe him it woke up Elizabeth, who hates having anyone in her room when she's sleeping. So I settled Edward, but then Elizabeth was all riled. And then I got her back to sleep, right before Edward woke up again, which of course woke her back up. And up. And up. And up. And two hours later I have put her in her crib again, mostly because I am out of ideas. She thinks some good ideas would be to let her roam around and maybe do a little coloring, perhaps have a little snack. I think there is only one good idea, and that is for her to go to sleep. To this end I have tried: (1) having her cry it out; (2) having her come into our bed; (3) having her cry it out; (4) rocking her in the recliner out in the living room; (5) letting her sit on my lap in the recliner while I bitched to my journal; (6) having her cry it out. We are on that last one now.

To be honest, there is a hidden item between numbers 5 and 6: "giving her a dose of Benadryl." I know it's not a good idea to dose a kid up with medicine for my convenience. At 12:30 in the morning, I don't know it as much.

...Suddenly I am picturing someone dosing up a child thrice daily and saying, "But Swistle does it!" I am picturing law suits, liability, my own personal feelings of guilt and responsibility. This is what happens in my mind at this time of night: everything turns into a court case. So let me rush to say that I do this hardly ever. And that you should definitely consult your child's pediatrician before giving any medication for any reason.

And then I will say, just a teeny whisper into your ear and nothing that could be caught on hidden recording device, that Benadryl really does seem to do the trick in these situations. Well, for some kids: I've heard of unlucky mothers who finally resorted to it, only to find that their own personal children reacted to Benadryl as to a shot of espresso. That's the sort of thing that could make a mother seriously consider ordering that single one-way plane ticket to another country. There are red-eye flights, and you're up already anyway.

January 27, 2007

Rules for Tasting Hot Fudge Sauce

In case you have not yet had a chance to develop Hot Fudge Tasting rules for your household, I offer ours for your use:

1) You are allowed to dip a finger into the cooling hot fudge sauce, though you would be advised to check first to make sure it is not still molten.

2) You may dip that finger only one time.

3) Your finger must be clean to begin with.

4) If you are going back for another taste, you must use a new finger.

5) Be careful to leave at least one finger clean, for turning on the faucet afterward. A thumb is good for this purpose, since it is not very good for dipping anyway.

January 26, 2007

Housenotcleaning

I don't like to say that my house is disgusting and that I only clean it when I start seeing creepy faces in the patterns of mold on the shower curtain. What I like to say instead is that I live a life of the mind. Nice, huh? I worked pretty hard on that. I like how it communicates a certain superiority, as if the reason I don't clean is that I am preoccupied with higher things, as opposed to that I don't like to.

Floors are my biggest struggle. Vacuuming enrages me, the way I always have to be yanking the canister behind me, or finding another outlet because I'm out of cord. Then the nozzle thingie doesn't fit under the furniture, or it does fit but I can't put it under there because there are so many little toys and marbles and so on that will get sucked up into the vacuum cleaner, but now I have to move the furniture and clean up all the little toys first, and oh forget it. And mopping! You're supposed to vacuum first, then mop. But by the time I've done any vacuuming at all, my face is red and I feel like I'm about to start throwing chairs across the room, so I'm not getting out the bucket and the mop and perhaps moving the heavy pine table and chairs because otherwise I'll slop the mop all over them and surely that's not good for the finish, and oh forget it.

The method I use for cleaning my house is this: Ignore it until I freak out. I go on cleaning binges that leave corpses in my wake, and then neglect everything for another year. The cleaning binges tend to coincide with visits from my mother-in-law, who still remembers a time 30 years ago when an acquaintance implied that her house was not kept as well as it could be. She gets red in the face and her voice gets loud as she tells me the story for the hundredth time since I met her.

Paul, I know, would prefer the house to be a little cleaner. But his mother did him a grave disservice when she taught him that sparkling cleanliness is the only right way to live but also that his personal efforts need never enter into it, and I don't see it as part of my wifely duties to keep him in the style to which his mother foolishly accustomed him. I have had to remind him of this periodically over the twelve years we've been together: if he would like the kitchen floor washed, I see no reason in the world that he can't wash it. The floor is not bothering me.

I have also tried to be sure to teach my own children in a way that will not make them a curse on their future partners: that certain levels of cleanliness are pleasant but not necessary to sustain life; that there are things I would rather do than clean and that that is a fine choice for a person to make; and that men and women are equally able to clean. I worry, though, that example is more important to a child's learning than lecture. Paul is certainly capable of cleaning, but he learned from his parents that women clean and men never do, and a dozen years of me carefully explaining otherwise hasn't changed him. If I teach the kids that cleaning duties are not assigned based on genitals, but they see me doing all the cleaning that gets done, it's hard to see how we're not just repeating the training that has given me some of the worst fights of my marriage.

January 25, 2007

Bread Ends

Remember sniglets? I spent all yesterday trying to remember that word. The first book of them caused a sensation; I remember everyone leafing through it and saying, "YEAH! There SHOULD be a word for that!!" After that, when the dozens of sequels came out, I remember thinking, "Actually, we don't really need a word for that, and that's why we don't have one."

I can tell I'm feeling a little nervous about the financial implications of five children, because I have started using bread ends. I know it's wasteful not to use them, but I don't like to eat them, and I remember when I was a child I thought a sandwich made with a bread end was a sad sandwich indeed, and so I haven't been giving them to the children either. We have a lot of birds in our yard, and so I would fling the bread ends out under the trees, thinking of how happy I was making the little birdies. That is, until I read an article saying, in essence, please don't feed the birds because it's bad for them and means they don't go south when they should and then they'll die and it'll be totally your fault. But I still flung the bread ends out.

But now I have been toasting the bread ends and giving them to the twins for breakfast, and since they're eating them without complaint I guess I should have been doing this all along. I still find the bread ends depressing to look at, but I admit they look better when they're toasted and buttered. And think of all the millions and millions of dollars I'm saving!

HOT HOT HOT Tips!

Hi! Today I have two tips for you that, if you were struggling in these areas as I was, will have you falling down on your knees in gratitude! And, if you were not struggling in these areas, will have you thinking that I am the reason tech support always starts by asking you if your computer is plugged in.

First tip involves cans of frozen orange juice concentrate. They have little plastic strips around the end, and you pull off the strip and then you can pry off the metal lid. I always had to really pry, so that it would come off suddenly, flinging out slaps of orange juice concentrate onto me, the counter, the cupboards, etc. Or at least there would be that cringing feeling of waiting for that to happen as I had to pry harder and harder and harder. Well! It turns out that if you hold the can firmly on the counter and pull straight UP on the strip as you're pulling it off, the lid comes off way, way, way more easily! I = genius!

Second tip involves making sandwiches in a family of so many children you don't know what to do. I still make Rob's lunch for him (perhaps my next tip, after I go mad from making so many sandwiches, will be "Have your second grader make his own goddamned lunch"), and every morning the sandwich-making part of it overwhelms me. I hate making sandwiches, and it has to be done every morning, and I don't like the smell of peanut butter first thing, and it seems like it's the hardest thing to find time for. By the time lunch comes around, I don't mind it so much, and in fact I often thought to myself, "It's too bad I can't make Rob's sandwich now, when I'm making the other kids' sandwiches." And this is where my genius idea comes in. What I do now is, every day at lunchtime I make three sandwiches: one for the twins to share, one for William, and one to put in a plastic sandwich box and put into the freezer. The next morning, I can pop the sandwich box into Rob's lunch. It feels so much better to do it this way, especially on the busier mornings when I feel like I'm going to be very lucky not to be in my pajamas at the bus stop.

Furthermore, I have accumulated a little stash of freezer sandwiches, because if I make a sandwich unexpectedly (such as if Rob is still hungry and there is no more dinner, or if the twins eat their shared sandwich and want another), I make a second one at the same time. Not only does this give me another sandwich to put in the freezer, it lessens the "Oh, god, I thought I was done with sandwiches for the day, and now I have to make another sandwich" feeling. I never mind an activity as much if it feels efficient, which is probably why I have so many children, and probably why I didn't feel that twins were that big of a deal: as long as I'm feeding one child, I might as well feed five; as long as I'm changing one diaper, I might as well change two; as long as I'm reading to one baby, I might as well read to two; etc.

January 24, 2007

Oh, Fudge

If there is no milk in the house, and you are without a car for the day so you can't go to the grocery store, and you are thinking, "Well, that's no big deal: I will eat my own weight in vanilla ice cream, and that will fill my calcium requirement"--then let me be the voice of your own future self saying to you, "Nooooooooooooooooo!"

When I am not pregnant I like ice cream, but it doesn't occur to me to buy it. When I am pregnant, however, I bring more home every time I go to the grocery store. The other day I was having a bowl of it with some Magic Shell ice cream topping left over from the end of the school year when we did a little sundae celebration with the kids, and I idly glanced at the nutrition information on the bottle of Magic Shell. Do you know what Magic Shell is made of? DEATH.

Still, I wanted chocolatey topping, so today I made some fudge sauce. My homemade version may not be a health food but at least I can make it with LESS DEATH. And it was so, so tasty, I had three bowls of ice cream with it. Okay, four. Four bowls. Four bowls in the afternoon, plus one more just now after dinner. And so I can personally testify, not only as your future self but as my own present self, that it is a poor idea indeed.

One Size Or Else

I am feeling pretty cute today in my new maternity t-shirt. I'm wearing the Blue Violet one, which is very little Blue but plenty of Violet, and the purpley wonder of it is like a promise of all the lighthearted goodness of spring: fluffy squirrels and tender flowers and flocks of storks. After months of pigment-dyed men's shirts, one in dark blue, one in dark green, the girly purple color keeps surprising me in the mirror. I put on some blush this morning, because it seemed like perhaps I was female after all.

Something I approve of about this shirt is that it comes in a nice range of sizes. I have had the impression, sometimes, that a woman is allowed to be fat or pregnant, but not both. It is the same with height: you may be fat or you may be tall, but you may not be both. If you are fat and tall and pregnant, woe to you, you freak of nature, and how on earth did you manage to get yourself pregnant anyway?

See, now there I have gone from happy to crabby in maybe four seconds total. Clothes-shopping can do that to me, and in fact memories of clothes-shopping can do it. In this case there is also a piggyback memory of my mother-in-law saying that women in any of those predicaments should simply make their own clothes. She said it in a shrill voice, and it is one of the many areas of life in which she can't understand why I don't do things her way, and I don't understand why she doesn't shut up about it since clearly I'm not going to. And so you see, this is a labyrinth of crabbiness, and I think we should back away from the entrance, don't you?

Let's go instead into the labyrinth of cuteness:

January 23, 2007

St. Jude's & Other Good Uses For Money (Like Pretty Clothes)

Okay! Eight of you commented on my "$1-to-charity-per-comment" Delurking Week entry, and I thank you very much. (I'm sure St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital thanks you, too. I love them because they don't require payments for medical treatments from families who don't have insurance.) I rounded it up to a nice even $20, because of my pro-lurker stance and also because it is not St. Jude's fault that this blog is relatively new and not yet very commentlicious.

Here is a question I always have when mailing an envelope to a charity that puts "No postage necessary" in the stamp location: If I stamp it anyway, does it mean they don't have to pay postage, or does it mean I'm wasting my stamp? What about the envelopes that say things like "Your stamp increases your support"--does that mean I have to pay the stamp, or just that it helps them out if I do?

Awhile back I mentioned that I have been making some very good purchasing decisions recently, and I am ready to reveal another of them to you. I bought an atomic clock, and it is atomitastic. It self-sets! It doesn't gradually get less and less accurate! It only occasionally mis-sets and tells me it's the year 2028! I do love it so so much. I bought a second one, and it is freaky-cool to see them ticking off the seconds in absolute unison. And when we had the time change awhile back, they automatically adjusted for that. Of course, in an apocolyptic scenario where the National Institute of Standards and Technology no longer broadcasted the time, my clocks and I would be screwed. This is why I still have some regular battery-operated clocks for back-up.

My new maternity t-shirts have arrived, and they are pretty nice. They look way better than my old ones, and the colors are prettier than I'd thought they'd be. Here are the ones I bought, in case you're pregnant and want to be twins with me: JCP Duo Maternity Solid Scoopneck Tee. I bought it in Blue Violet, Brilliant Green, Firebrick, and Provencial Blue, but it also comes in Black and in White.

January 22, 2007

Half-Assed

Today I did half-assed work at my mothering job. I let the twins watch television while I lay down on the bed and read a book. I should have given them a bath this morning, but instead I milled around on the internet. For lunch I gave them cheese cubes and graham crackers. I let William watch a boiling rice steamer with no rice in it for an hour, because I knew that if I let him do so, he would stop asking me to play with him. When Rob came home from school, I sent him and William outside to play, not for the healthy physical benefits but because I didn't want to talk to them right now.

I completed the bare minimum of tasks required to avoid getting fired. Everyone got something to eat at breakfast time and at lunch time. Everyone wore clothes. I got Rob off to school on time. I did a load of laundry because Paul was on his last pair of pants. I talked to William about not scalding himself with steam. I set the television to PBS Kids. But I did nothing that would put me up for a promotion, or that would lead others to consider me for an award. I would not be able to describe myself in an interview as a self-starter. I would not want social services or our pediatrician sitting behind one-way glass, observing my work.

I don't recommend this as a regular way of life, whatever job you're in, but I will say that occasional half-assedry is underrated as a coping mechanism. In my pre-motherhood working life, I would periodically have a day when I felt I should get extra credit for showing up to work at all, and would spend much of the day writing letters to friends, going to the bathroom and just sitting there thinking, making lists of motivating reasons to lose weight, chatting with co-workers, offering to go on coffee runs, etc. Work done: minimal. Guilt felt: minimal. I try to bring this philosophy to my new career as mother: the occasional day of uselessness is no big deal.

Tirrrrrrrred

This morning I'd planned to give the twins a bath, but I'm too tired. I remember this pregnancy tiredness: it's like wearing a shawl of "sit down! sit down!" It feels so much better to be sitting and resting. I remember one of the books I read when I was pregnant with twins said something like, "Don't stand if you can sit, don't sit if you can lie down." Mmmmm, lying dowwwwwwwwn.

I was surprised that the post on our baby name candidates didn't generate more comments. One reason we've always kept the candidates a secret with previous pregnancies is that we've assumed everyone would have a strong opinion and want to share it with us. We've worried about hearing bad things we can't forget. For example, during my last pregnancy we were considering the name Genevieve for the female twin, and I confided the name to an acquaintance, and she said, "Oh, that's such a great name! Like in a romance novel! I can just picture her with long flowing red hair and green eyes!" And the name was ruined. I had been picturing the brave, pleasant dog in the Madeline books, but now whenever I thought of the name I thought of trashy paperbacks. (Perhaps at first glance the dog association does not seem to you like an improvement, but in that case you will have to trust me.) Anyway, my guess is that the name post didn't generate many comments because the names are kind of boring. It isn't like our list is Maverick, Benito, Ajax, Apollo, Cosmo, and Oleander. Or maybe it's that you guys are really polite and I should have you as friends instead of those romance-novel-reading losers.

The "check engine" light came on in the truck Paul drives to work, so he took the minivan. I hate being stranded like this. I don't have anywhere I planned to go today, but as soon as I can't go anywhere I have a million ideas. Plus I'm stuck with all these unpleasant thoughts about how would we get to the emergency room, how would we escape the zombies, etc.

January 21, 2007

Shopping

I have been shopping. I had forgotten how exciting it is to shop during a pregnancy. Each item I considered or purchased, I was thinking, "This! This for the new baby!" Each item I buy makes the baby more real to me. One reason I like knowing before the birth if the baby is a girl or a boy is that I can shop like this, and then at home I can gaze at the little unfamiliar items, picturing them on an unfamiliar baby.

I bought two Carter's sleep-'n'-plays, blue with puppies, one in size 0-3 months and one SMALLER than that, if you can imagine something so wee: size "newborn" is what babies wear for about a week after they're born, but YOU try to resist the weensy little things. I also bought two six-packs of teeny-tiny socky-wockies. Two four-packs of onesies, one pack all white and one pack decorated with puppies. PUPPIES. Two fish-shaped teething rings, because he will not have any TEETH.

For myself I ordered four maternity t-shirts. I had a clothing crisis a few nights ago, when I had a social event to go to and nothing good to wear. I've been wearing jeans and a men's t-shirt, but that's so casual it looked like I was coming to the event straight from scrubbing the toilet. I put on my maternity clothes, and it became clear to me that those items are seriously too big. If I hadn't saved them I'd be wailing for their loss, but since I did save them I can see they're not going to work. I should have known, since at the end of my pregnancy with twins those shirts were still roomy. I finally wore the maternity jeans with a non-maternity-but-good-'n'-stretchy semi-nice shirt, and all evening I was hiking the jeans up and the shirt down. Stylish! So I ordered the new shirts.

Part of me is fretting a little about spending money, but most of me is thinking that shopping is one of the most fun things about being pregnant. And whatever part of me is left is thinking of making a pan of fudge.

January 20, 2007

Incensed

For home-scenting purposes, I like incense--the tame, pretty scents like lavender and jasmine, not the serious ones like patchouli and sandalwood. The other day I was noticing that incense is, you know, SMOKE, and I wondered idly if it might be bad for the lungs. I Googled it, expecting to be told to not be so silly. Instead I found that I might as well have been scenting my home with a busy traffic intersection, or by lighting up a pack of Marlboros: cancer-causing chemicals, asthma-causing particles, AND pregnant women have a greater risk of having a child with leukemia. EXCELLENT. I have like $40 worth of incense, and it's all in the trash. I have a favorite lavender kind that I've been deliberately breathing in when I felt tense or anxious, because it's supposed to be calming. I'M NOT SO CALM NOW.

To distract me from thinking about the leukemia thing, I'm looking for other, preferably NON-LIFE-THREATENING ways to make my house smell nicer. We have a cat litter box and a diaper pail, and so we need a nice, regular de-smellifying routine. I like scented candles, but I worry about the flames: not only are there cats and children running around, but I'm a little absent-minded these days and can picture myself forgetting about the candle altogether until I smell something smoky and notice that the room where I left the candle is now a pleasantly-scented pile of ash.

January 19, 2007

Problem Solved; Also, Last Chance to Cost Me a Buck

I think my little crisis has (mostly) passed. Thanks to those of you who reminded me that some people say stupid things for no good reason, and that it's better to remember one's own personal life philosophies than to automatically absorb everyone else's. I am just a little too pregnant to see things in a balanced light right now.

One thing that helped was remembering when I was pregnant with the twins and reading a lot of twin-rearing books. All of them were like, "Um, you are totally going to need to hire round-the-clock help because twins are so, so hard." Then they added, "And by the way, most twins are born early and have tons of problems, and also you could end up on bed rest for months." Thanks, twin books! I had a totally uncomplicated pregnancy that went full-term, and the twins were born as big as singleton babies, and we've managed to take care of them without outside help, but thanks to the twin books I did it all with a hefty dose of anticipatory worry that came to nothing! Yay me for believing everything everyone else says as long as it's bad news!

Anyway. I think if four children including a set of twins feels like no big deal, then probably five children including a set of twins isn't going to be a whole lot worse. And if they're a real problem when they're older, I'll send them to boarding school. There! *brushing hands briskly* Problem solved.

Twins are being extra cute, which helps. If I carry one twin out of the room, they wave good-bye to each other. Also, this morning they were sitting side by side looking at a book together and pointing to things and looking at each other for reactions: "Whoa! I wasn't expecting that ending, were you?" And Edward likes to hold his blankie and lean his head on Elizabeth, and even though she hates it and makes loud protesting noises, it still looks really cute, especially because he's so oblivious to her objections. Even though she doesn't like him snuggling on her, she'll alert me if he cries: she looks at me with wide eyes and raised eyebrows, pointing to him and saying her sound for his name.

By the way, last chance to post a comment on Delurking Week to make me send a dollar to St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital. I think there are something like nine comments so far, which is a little pitiful.

Freak-Out: Too Many Children

I went to a gathering of former co-workers last night, and one of them freaked me the hell out. He and his wife have six children, ranging in age from 8 to 22, and he was saying, "Five children, huh? Let me give you some advice: don't have a sixth." He was telling me stories of how difficult it is to have so many children, so many issues, so many expenses. They lock the pantry because otherwise the boys eat a week's worth of groceries in an afternoon. Someone always needs something expensive: braces, new glasses, lessons. There is nothing worse than a 13-year-old girl.

This conversation caused it to occur to me that perhaps having lots of children is easier when it's lots of babies than when it's lots of teenagers. I've been humming along thinking, "What's the difference, really, between three children and four, or five, or even six? It's just more of the same thing." I've even pushed this philosophy with Paul, who, if you remember, had a crisis over the discovery of this most recent pregnancy and had to be talked down. I wasn't just saying I thought five would be fine and not much different than four, I really did think so.

Now it seems as if our family of four children, with its convenient twins at the end to prevent one youngest child being left alone with the parents at the end, was the ideal family, and that we've screwed it up. In fact, it seems like we should have stopped at two like most people. Two children would have been a happier life. We'll never be able to afford the expenses of five. We'll never be able to rear them right, because we'll never have enough time and energy to teach everybody everything they need to know. We'll be one of those families social services keeps an eye on because we're so disheveled and disorganized and our kids don't even know simple things like not to drip pee all over the toilet seat.

Time to talk myself down. The first thing that comes to mind is that it's common for parents to be the doom police to other parents. I remember when I was pregnant for the first time and very excited about it, there were a lot of people who said things to me such as, "Yeah, it's really exciting when you're pregnant," and "Just wait until he's born: you'll never sleep again, you'll never go out again." Then he was born, and it was okay. There were some difficulties and adjustments and midnight crises and so forth, but nothing as bad as I'd been led to believe. When I said so, those parents changed track: "Sure, it's easy now, wait until he's a toddler." He became a toddler, and it still wasn't as bad as predicted. So the other parents changed again: "Sure, one is easy; wait until you have two." I had a second, and it wasn't as bad. And so on, and so on, and so on: every time I say something's not as bad as I'd feared, there's someone to tell me that that's because I'm a naive fool who hasn't yet experienced real parenthood. So my first possibly reassuring thought is that it could be the same in this situation: older children do come with their own set of difficult parenting situations, but it won't be as bad as the other parents are making it sound.

I'm remembering, too, that when Rob was a baby, Paul and I would freak ourselves out by wondering what it would be like when he was five years old. We would get upset about the whole idea to have children, because what were we going to do with a five-year-old? We didn't like five-year-olds. We liked newborns. Now we were totally screwed, because he wasn't going to stay a newborn and then we'd be stuck with a five-year-old. But by the time Rob was five, of course, it was fine: he'd gotten there one hour at a time, and we liked him just as much as when he'd been a newborn--more, in fact. My guess is that freaking myself out about the kids being teenagers is just as silly.

My last thought, and the most important one to me, is that it's not as if there's anything to be done about it now. Short of selling some of the children on the black market, I'm stuck with them. I'm a mother of five, and it's not as if I can go back in time and try it again with two. So there is no sense getting all upset about making bad decisions, especially since I don't even know if they were in fact bad. Maybe I will always be glad I had lots of children; maybe it's what I want, even though it isn't what someone else wanted.

January 18, 2007

Naming Rights

My apologies to those of you who are thinking, "Oh my dear god, enough with the baby names," but I have another name-related thing to discuss. Semi-Desperate Housewife's comment on the post "Boy Names" brings up an interesting topic: names that someone you know has already used for their baby.

I have been wondering what the etiquette is for this, and I have not yet found anything standard. There are some people who would say it is never okay to use a name that anyone you know has used, not even if you're not related and you live in different states and you're not really in touch. There are people on the other end of the spectrum who think it's okay for cousins to have the same name.

I'm in the latter group: if a sibling of Paul's or mine named a baby the same thing we'd named one of our babies, I'd think that was fun. But I'm aware that not everyone is at this end of the spectrum with me, and so I like to be careful--and I get tense if someone I know is considering a name we'd consider, because I'm worried they'll use it and then I'll wonder if we're "allowed" to use it or not.

What do you think, and what have you heard are the rules? Ask first? No one owns a name? First come, first served? Does it depend on the popularity of the name; i.e., no one can say "Hey, Emily is our name!" but it would be out of line to use the name Apollonia right after your friend did? Does it depend on your connection to the other person; i.e., the closer the relationship, the more off-limits the name? If a friend or relative uses a name you wanted to use, how could you broach the topic to find out if they'd be okay with you using it too? Is there ever such a thing as having "dibs" on a name you haven't yet used but would want to use some day?

January 17, 2007

Baby Names: A Study

I hope Shelly won't mind that I'm totally pilfering her excellent comment (from the post "Boy Names") for this new post. She wrote:

I like nearly all of the names you have listed, with Henry my favorite (as if my opinion matters). Why is it so hard? & what do you do if you have namers remorse?? We sort of do b/c we didn't want to name our 4-month with an ultra popular name, but I fear we did, though we spelled it differently. It's such a fine line between wanting to have a unique name but not wanting to look like you just randomly threw syllables together just to be different.

I've been thinking of this all afternoon, ever since I read the comment. It brings up so many interesting issues.

Issue the first: Avoiding an overly popular name. One reason I love The Baby Name Wizard (both the book and the blog) is that she gives the heads-up on which names are getting too hot to handle. But her book also gave me some of the most reassuring baby-name-choosing advice I've ever had, which is that it's not necessarily a bad thing to choose a popular name: it's popular because lots of people like it, and that means lots of people will like your baby's name. You wouldn't necessarily want to go with Hortense or Herbert just to avoid popularity. I also like to keep in touch with The Social Security Administration's list of baby names, since that's a great way to see which names are rapidly shooting up in popularity even though you hardly ever hear them: you can type in a name and it'll tell you the popularity rank of that name every year since 1991. Sometimes I use it to avoid popularity, and sometimes I use it because I actually want a more common name.

Issue the second: And that brings me to namer's remorse. We didn't name our second son William, as you know from my post on pseudonyms, but it would have been a better choice than what we DID name him, since there were three children with his same name in his preschool class. There are two with that name in his kindergarten class. Holy crap, we had no idea. We thought we were choosing a boy name that was common, yes, but in a one-per-classroom way, not in an everywhere-you-turn way. We can't totally regret the choice, because now the name is HIM; he IS that name. But on the other hand, I've winced many times over the years since he was born, wondering if we should have chosen something different. You can legally change the baby's name if the remorse sets in right away, but pretty soon it's too late and you just have to give a shrug and a wry look and say "We had no idea!"

Issue the third: The point Laura Wattenberg (The Baby Name Wizard's author) makes about how you don't necessarily want to choose an unpopular name brings me to the issue of whether or not I would want the opinions of other people on the names we're considering. The answer is YES. For example, I'm pleasantly surprised to see that two people already have voted for Henry, because it's a name I worry about using in case it gives too many people the feeling of "old man name." Other people's opinions are an important part of which name we choose, and so I'm glad to have input.

Issue the fourth: Why is choosing a baby name so HARD? Shelly, my empathy buckets RUNNETH OVER. I think the reason it's so difficult is that it's so important, and because there are so many choices. Sometimes I wish I were part of a group that had specific naming rules, such as that the baby had to be named for a relative or a saint, because it would narrow things down a little. You have to choose how popular a name you want (three in her class with the same name? or mocked because her name is so crazy?), and what style of name you want (flowery? androgynous? classic?), and whether you want to name her after a family member. And of course, most people have to make all these decisions with another person--sometimes a person with whom you can't even agree on a thermostat setting. It only gets harder with subsequent babies, since then the names you choose can't be too similar to what you've chosen (if you choose Owen, you probably won't want to choose Ewan) or too different (if you choose Matthew, you probably won't want to choose Jett).

If anyone else would like to chip in here on choosing names, please do. Tell how you chose, or what factors were most important in your decision, and whether you regret any of your choices. Tell about your own name, how your parents chose it, whether you liked it or didn't.

Sturm Und Drang: Extreme Motherhood Edition

I was getting out all the tiny boy handmedowns from the basement. Usually this is a task that fills me with a disbelieving, fascinated happiness: "There will be a real baby, and it will be in this house, wearing these clothes!" Instead I got a jolt of nauseated doubt: "I don't even think I want another baby. I don't think I even like babies. Why would I want to start all over again with another baby, getting up in the night, nursing, changing those numerous blowout diapers, dealing with an infant who cries or looks neutral but never smiles? And I'll be sore and puffy, and I'll be so tired, and I'll know that when all I want is some quiet and some time with nobody touching me, Paul will be thinking about when can we have sex again. And all this will be happening with not only a new baby in the house, but two toddlers, plus two older children home from school all summer. Oh my god."

It was an unpleasant few minutes. The only way through this kind of feeling, I think, is a combination of (1) waiting it out, and (2) remembering that I've had this feeling about previous babies and now wouldn't want to exchange even one of them for store credit. Right now, this new baby is unknown to me, a theoretical baby. Soon his existence and safety will be just as essential to my continued happiness as all the other children's. It is hard to comprehend this now--but then, the whole mother love thing is hard to comprehend. How can it be that people who didn't even exist a few years ago are now so important to me that if they died I would want to die too? That's ridiculous. Nine years ago I was living just fine without a single one of them.

One of the things that appeals to me so strongly about pregnancy is the way it so radically alters the world. An entire person appears as if from nowhere. And your life as the mother of this person will be completely different than if you had gone down the path where that baby never was. But this appealing magnitude and importance is also what freaks me the hell out, as well it should. Creating a new person is no small thing, and it shouldn't feel like it is. It feels better to focus on the thrill of it, but it seems natural that the thrill of it is paired with the near horror of it.

When I find myself focusing on the "What have I done?" side of things, I find it useful to pull the camera back. What I am really doing here is continuing the species. Reproducing. This is a totally ordinary--even banal--activity. Eat, sleep, bear young. No big deal.

Or it helps to fast-forward. In twenty years I'll be well into my 50s. I'll be fretting about what to wear to my son's wedding, and I'll be trying not to tell women with tiny screaming children that these are the best years of their lives. I'm not going to care anymore about the morning sickness or the worries about spacing or the worries about who has to share which toys, and my guess is that one child more or less isn't going to seem like a big difference at that point. My guess is that I'll be struggling to remember that we'd only planned to have four. My guess is that it will seem unthinkable that we wouldn't have had this boy, too.

January 16, 2007

Boy Names

Okay, people, let's get to work naming this boy. Now that I know I need boy names and not girl names, I feel fresh enthusiasm for the task. This despite our boy name list, which is PITIFUL. I asked Paul, "Do we have ANY boy name candidates?," and he said, "No."

We actually do, but it is a far from stellar list. Most of them, we've rejected repeatedly with previous boys, and so the names have a worn, tired feeling to us. Others have serious flaws. Here's the list, with their problems:

Alan: We're afraid this is too old and not old enough: 1950s names are not a great choice right now. Also, might be geeky. I like it partly because of the character known as The Brain on the TV show _Arthur_ (his actual name is Alan). I also like it because of Alan Alda, but he doesn't help with the geek factor. (Nor does The Brain, I suppose, but I find him so appealing I can't see it that way.)

Charlie: Both of us dislike the name Charles, but don't want to use Charlie as the given name. And I don't think the name Charles would grow on us.

Henry: We're worried that this one was a late-'90s mini-hit that is now Over--without being Over enough to have regained its classic status. Also, until the late '90s, I thought this name was the epitome of geeky and old, and I'm not sure I'm past that. My mother was horrified when I mentioned the name (during my first pregnancy), and with each pregnancy since has worried that I will use it. I think she'd get used to it, but I hate to torture her on purpose.

Leo: This is the frontrunner as far as I'm concerned, but Paul is still thinking of it as a blatant reference to Leonardo DiCaprio. I'm more worried about all the references I've seen lately to how great it is with the name Max, since I'm heartily sick of the name Max and other names of that sort, such as Sam and Jack. (All three of those names--Max, Sam, and Jack--were on my list in 1998 when I was pregnant for the first time. I think the reason I'm so sick of them now is that I thought of them as such Awesome Fresh New Ideas when I thought of them, and then experienced the crashing disillusionment of discovering that we all think of great names at the same time. Were Emma, Isabelle, Ava, and Abigail also on that list? Why, yes they were.)

Oliver: We have a cat named Oliver. We've had him our entire married life. I think that's too much to get past. Plus, we often call the cat Olive, and I think that's a bad sign for the boy's name.

Elliot: We don't like the way it can be Eliot, Elliot, Eliott, or Elliott. Also, we're both sort of so-so on the name to begin with.

Riley: Really, really, really like it. And it is a vile clash with our surname.

Miles: I don't know. It's a noun. It sounds plural.


Oh, man, is there any hope? I'm looking through The Baby Name Wizard hoping to add to the list, but I just don't like anything. Boy names are so b-o-r-i-n-g.

Another Boy!

Another boy!

I think girls are more fun to dress and more fun to name, and I prefer the traditional girl toys. What I like about boys is the thought of when they're older, and presumably kinder to me than the girls would be. Also, lower wedding costs. On the down side: smellier.

I remember when I was expecting my second, I was really hoping for a girl (our first was a boy), because I wanted a largish family and didn't want people to think we were only having more kids because we were "trying for a girl."

When I was pregnant with the twins, I was hoping for two girls: I wanted to dress them alike sometimes, and also I thought that made a nice balance of two boys and two girls.

This time around, I wasn't sure what to hope for. Another girl, so Elizabeth would have a sister? Another boy, so she wouldn't have to have a sister? Another girl, to make the boy/girl balance more even? Another boy, to let Elizabeth keep her "special only girl" status? Another girl, to save her character from the serious special treatment problem?

I didn't really think of it only in terms of what would be best for Elizabeth. I also considered the fun of getting to re-use girl clothes (I am so sick of all our boy clothes, after seeing them three times now), the room distribution problem (easier if she can share with another girl? or easier if she can be put in the smallest room because she gets her own?), and that Rob and Will were hoping for a boy.

For me, one of the biggest reasons for wanting a girl was that I wanted the experience of a single-birth girl. I've had the single-birth-boy experience twice, and I've had the boy-girl-twins experience, but I've never had the experience of having a single female baby.

I think it is starting to sound as if what I wanted this time was a girl. In fact, I was unsure what I was hoping for. One reason I was hoping the ultrasound could tell us the sex of the baby is that I wanted to stop wondering what I was hoping for.

January 15, 2007

It's a...

...BOY!

The ultrasound technician was completely certain: she used the word "definitely" three times, and in previous pregnancies the best I've gotten is "95% sure"--and usually more like "75% sure."

We're so symmetrical! Boy boy girl boy boy. (Elizabeth is 1 minute older than Edward. That counts!)

Elizabeth hates sharing a room with Edward; she will be very glad that she doesn't have to share a room with the new baby. Edward will go with the new baby, and we will turn our current small computer room into a room for Elizabeth.

Holy crap, it's a BOY! Finding out is such a shock to the system. It's a little like seeing the second pink line on the pregnancy test: you have to reorganize your whole brain to deal with the new information.

Pre-Ultrasound Fretting

I was up late last night, all agitated about things I knew wouldn't bother me so much in the morning. It started with a cold, the kind that settles with a heavy gunky feeling in where I imagine my lungs to be, and I spent some time worrying about whether I would go see the doctor (and then he would say, as he did last time, "Suck it up, buttercup: it's a cold," and I would feel like a whiny hypochondriac) or not (and then it would turn out to be a horrible virus that would hurt the baby). While I was awake anyway, I started worrying about names for the new baby. Here we are halfway through the pregnancy and we have no frontrunners. That led me to worry about the ultrasound tomorrow (today): what if they can't see if the baby is a boy or a girl? Then we'll have to choose TWO names. When I was pregnant with the twins and had an ultrasound in the 18-20 week range, two technicians looked very carefully, and neither technician could even guess on either baby. Then I started worrying that I'd forget that I had an appointment and I'd miss it.

I feel better now in the morning light, but I'm still worried they won't be able to tell me if the baby is a boy or a girl. It would be so disappointing to have to wait.

January 14, 2007

Color Me Clearance

I've been paging through books on choosing paint colors: our house is done in mostly Apartment Cream throughout, with a few Model Home Inoffensive Pastels to break up the monotony, and the number of smudges and chips is reminding me on a daily basis that it is getting to be time to repaint. One book assured me that choosing colors was no more difficult than choosing an outfit. The author didn't understand how a woman could put together skirt, blouse, jacket, hose, shoes, belt, earrings, and necklace, but not feel able to choose colors for a room.

I don't know how to tell this author that every day I wear: (1) one of two pairs of nearly identical jeans, the only difference being that one pair has, mysteriously, red pocket linings, invisible from the outside; (2) one of three t-shirts, two in muted blue and one in muted green; (3) white socks; (4) orange/khaki/white sneakers; (5) one of three pairs of gold hoop earrings. Every day. I don't think this qualifies me to pick out a piece of fruit, let alone colors for a house.

One problem I have is that I decorate in a style I call "75% Off At Target." If I commit to a wall color, I drastically cut down on which things from the clearance section will look right in that room. Plain cream gives me more options. It also helps me showcase how tall my children are: just consult the smudge line. It gets a little higher each year.

I do envy those homes I see where the bold colors in one room flow in beautiful contrast and harmony into the next room: oranges into yellows into blues, so lovely. I don't know how anyone knows which colors to choose; those little rectangles on the strips from the paint department are far too small. I read a great idea about buying a pint each of the colors you like, painting pieces of poster board, and pinning them up on the wall so you have larger samples to consider. But how do you narrow it down to the point where you know which ones to get pints of?

And To The Republic For Which It Stands

Holy crap, am I the only one who hadn't realized that the United States is a republic and not a democracy?? I don't know how I missed it, since it's right there in the Pledge of Allegiance, but I did, and there it is, and maybe we can move on now from how little I was paying attention when I was droning that pledge in elementary school.

There is so much talk out there about democracy, I guess I just assumed that's what we were. I was getting exasperated about how supposedly democracy means we all make the decisions together and yet sometimes it seems as if a small group, or even a group of one, is making huge decisions against the wishes of a larger group, and there's nothing the larger group can do about it except be dragged along. That's when I discovered the republic situation.

I don't know if I feel better or if I feel worse. It's nice to have things make more sense ("Oh, I see, the reason it seems like we have no say in this is that we DO have no say in this"), but on the other hand it makes me feel even more helpless. Not only do we as individuals hand over decision-making power to other people, we don't have much choice when it comes to which individuals we can hand it to.

Baby Gate Success

Sometimes I feel like I'm making one purchasing mistake after another (a conditioner than makes my hair look greasy, a shirt that looks bad on the kid I bought it for, a toy that is so loud I have to put masking tape over the speaker to dull the sound), and other times I am on a roll. Recently I have been on a roll.

A purchase that improved the quality of my life this week was a baby gate for the playroom/nursery doorway. The twins' room is also the playroom, and when I was in there with them we had to have the door closed. I couldn't hear the phone, and I couldn't hear if Rob or William needed me unless they really yelled. If I needed to leave for a minute to pee, I felt as if I was leaving the twins too alone. Plus, Edward just learned to open the door, and he can really take off down the hallway.

So this past week I bought an awesome "one-hand open, closes automatically behind you" baby gate (on clearance, $15 down from $60 at Target) that changes everything. When I'm in the playroom with the twins, I don't feel cut off from the rest of the house. When I step out for a minute, which I do more often now that I have a gate, I can still see them and hear them. In fact, William and I took down all the Christmas decorations while the twins were in their playroom, because I could see them from the living room. Genius.

Did you catch that last part, that I actually took down the Christmas decorations? And it wasn't even three weeks after Christmas! Go, me!

January 12, 2007

Mr. Blogger's Bloggerhood

Every year I get a phone call from a university doing a study on...well, I'm not totally sure, because it's one of those studies where they don't tell you exactly what they're looking for, because they don't want you tailoring your answers to skew their results. They seem to be looking for changing attitudes toward various media. They ask me how I feel about newspapers, books, television, the Internet, etc., and how much time I spend per week with each thing, and how much I trust the information I receive from each source.

I remember the first year I participated in the study, in I think 2002, they asked me if I had a blog and I said, "A what?" The next year I said, "No," and I said it in that dismissive tone of voice you'd use if someone asked you if you had a Delorian. "Clearly not," my tone of voice said. This year I'll be saying, "Why, yes! Yes I do!"

I am so glad that blogging got started around the time I became a stay-at-home mother. I don't need a lot of contact with other people, but I do need some, and reading other people's blogs helps. It makes me feel like there are other people out there, and I'm not all by myself here in this parenting thing. It gives me other things to think about as I do laundry and wash dishes and change diapers: I might be thinking about the latest Ask Beth question, or about some funny thing Sundry said, or about Semi-Desperate Housewife's exciting pregnancy news, or about how much Baa Baa Black Sheep reminds me of my adored sister-in-law, or about how Catherine Newman always manages to articulate things so perfectly, or about how much I hope Farrago has good news soon, or about how awesome I am that I can do html links without looking it up now, or WHATEVER, but in any case I'm thinking about people other than myself and situations other than my own, and that seems like a good thing for anyone. It makes me feel like I know people, like I have contact with other people, and I'm not going to act like that's pathetic because I don't think it is: Internet contact is contact.

I don't know how people handled the isolation of motherhood without the Internet. I suppose they were just less isolated. I have this mental picture, probably not even real, of mothers talking over the fence and dropping in for coffee. Maybe they really did that. I can't picture being un-shy enough to do that, but I can see how desperation could drive the shyness out. I'm grateful not to have that desperation, and I give credit to this international bloggerhood: we talk over our virtual fences, we drop in for virtual coffee, and ideally none of us lose our minds.

Halfway

I saw the OB on Wednesday, and he freaked me out by looking at my file and saying, "So! You're halfway through." Halfway through?? How did we get here already?

On Monday I have an ultrasound. I'm hoping to find out if the baby is a boy or a girl. The name hunt is so difficult this time, I don't want to have to find two names if I can look for only one.

January 11, 2007

Delurking Week

Hey, did you know there was such a thing as Delurking Week? I had never heard of it, and now I am feeling chastened about all the blogs I read and don't comment on. I knew of the term "lurking," but didn't realize it was considered sub par behavior. I guess the negative connotations of the word should have tipped me off.

Some blogs I don't comment on because I'm not sure I should. There are a few I stumbled upon accidentally (like I was doing a Google search and something on that blog happened to match), and sometimes I feel like I'm looking in somebody's windows and maybe they'd rather I didn't tap on the glass. Other times, it seems like the group of commenters already knows each other, or are in some major way different from me, and I feel like I'd be an intrusive outsider if I butted in with my remarks.

Anyway, I am totally stealing this idea from Courtney, but she says she's stealing it from someone else so really I'm balancing out the universe by stealing it from her: To celebrate Delurking Week, I'll donate one crisp new dollar bill to St. Jude's Children's Research for every comment I get on this post. (The idea about using the donation to count towards my monthly good deed, I'm stealing from Beth. I'm also stealing from her the fine print about how it doesn't count if one person comments 40 times.)

Edited to add: It occurs to me only now, a day later, that Delurking Week is a manipulative attempt to force people who would rather not comment, to comment. Do you think that's true? That's it's really just a way to flush out silent readers, and not in fact a holiday of joy and celebration? Well, hm. As an introvert and a lurker myself, I feel more allegiance to the lurkers than to the ones who want to expose them. So let's make two changes. Change the first: Anonymous comments that reveal no personal information whatsoever (e.g., "Hey! You owe St. Jude's a dollar!") are totally allowed. Change the second: I'll add the $1-per-comment to a certain amount I'll send ANYWAY, say in the $10-20 range, so that allows for 10-20 lurkers to not comment and still get their dollars sent. How's that? Better?

January 10, 2007

Dye

I want so badly to color my hair. My natural color is difficult to describe, and in fact that's why I like to impose other colors upon it. My mother, who loves me and has never given me any reason to think I am less beautiful than the superest of supermodels, calls my hair color "wheat," and let's go with that, despite the fact that my hair lacks the golden waves usually associated with grain. It sounds better than "mouse" or "dishwater," and it will give you a lingering impression of health and goodness even as I explain that actually what we're talking about is a flat ashy light-brown color that absorbs light and looks almost dark brown (but without the richness and depth of brown) in photographs. Even "ashy light-brown" is too positive a way to describe this color. If it sounds like a description on a box of hair dye, it is the wrong idea.

What I like to do is add red or blonde. Typically I use the demi-permanent Natural Instincts, even though they wash out disappointingly fast, because I am too scared to commit to a permanent dye, and also because the permanent dyes are worse for lazy people who color irregularly and might not get around to taking care of those roots, and also because I once used a lovely soft blonde and on me it looked like crayons (note to self: they really mean it when they say that the color you choose "works with" your natural color and may yield different results than shown; also, my natural color is a poor co-worker). I once used a rich dark brown, which was super fun until it failed to wash out after hitting the dull-brown stage, and then I read the box and found that it wasn't recommended for my shade of hair. Crap.

Right now what I want, as I gaze into the mirror at my light-and-happiness-absorbing hair, is something bright and metallic and obviously fake. As soon as this baby is born and I'm awake and focused enough to read instructions on a box, I am so there.

Do Good at Playgroup Dropout

If one of your resolutions this year was to do some good stuff for other people, check out Playgroup Dropout's column for today: Do Good. What I like about her idea is the way it allows for small acts of good stuff. As Beth mentions, it's easy to feel as if there's no point doing anything if you can't do a lot--but small stuff adds up.

January 9, 2007

Name Controversy

Paul and I normally sort of agree on baby names. Even if one of us is saying "bleah," it's a mild bleah, and it's in reaction to a name the other person doesn't love anyway. The most common situation is that one of us really likes a name and the other one sort of likes it but not enough to use it, not that one of us really likes a name and the other one hates it with the intensity of an imploding star.

However, last night I brought up a name I liked. It was a name I had been thinking of all day with a starry-eyed feeling. The name had never before occurred to me, but once it did I thought, "Why is no one using this name? It's a GREAT name! Sure, it sounds like an old lady, but that wouldn't linger on a cutie baby girl! And the sound is so pretty! Definitely this name should be dug up and reused!" Shyly, I mentioned it to Paul. Who TOTALLY shot it down: no discussion, no thinking it over, no "hm, not bad but I don't love it," just POOF into a million tiny shards, absolutely no way would he ever even consider it.

I thought I would ask you what you thought of it. Because of Paul's reaction, though, I am feeling a little tentative about putting this name I like so much in front of a possible firing squad. So first I want you to get yourself into the right mindset. This is a highly unusual name, and it is one of the most old-ladyish old lady names there is. However! I think it falls into the same category as other old-lady names such as Emma, Ava, Violet, and Lily: names that used to be elderly but are ready for reuse. This one just hasn't been noticed yet.

You have to picture the name on a little girl, let's say she's about three years old and has ponytails. And then I recommend saying the name over and over until it stops sounding like it needs a walker and all you hear are the bare sounds of it. Okay? Ready? Open minds, everyone? Here's the name: Millicent. Discuss.

Clothes

This is such an awkward stage for clothing. I've been wearing 2-sizes-too-big jeans with an XL men's t-shirt, and it's not going to do the job much longer, but when I put on maternity clothes this morning I looked ridiculous: the soft panel of the pants came up nearly to my bra and kept falling down, and the shirt looks like a pretty triangle I can spin out into a circle when I twirl.

Part of the problem is that my maternity clothes are a little too big for me. When I was pregnant with the twins, I read a tip that said that even though normally you buy maternity clothes in your usual pre-pregnancy size, with a twin pregnancy that won't be big enough and you should buy a size larger. Sure enough, by the end I was in a huge pair of men's pajama pants, because the jeans were too small. The shirts were larger and DID still fit, but perhaps that's why with a single-baby pregnancy (and only an 18-weeks pregnancy at this point) they look comically large.

"And what of the Christmas decorations?," you are asking. "Surely when you went down to the basement to bring up the maternity clothes, you brought down at least one box of decorations." Let me answer that with another question: Wouldn't Christmas lights be pretty for Valentine's Day?

January 8, 2007

Tom DeLonge

It was a grim morning indeed when I woke from an excellent dream to the sad realization that not only did I not have unlimited kissing access to Tom DeLonge, I probably never would have unlimited kissing access to Tom DeLonge, or even limited kissing access. Plus, it is grey and bleh outside, and there is so much laundry to do, and so much of that laundry smells like pee, and speaking of pee I should attend to the cat box today. Oh, god. If I could be sure of getting back into that same dream, I would call a sitter and then go back to bed.

January 6, 2007

Dream Guy

I've read that many pregnant women have unpleasantly vivid anxiety dreams: baby is born a monster, baby has been misplaced, etc. So I realize it may cause some resentment when I say that my pregnancy dreams are that Logan (Matt Czuchry) from The Gilmore Girls is my boyfriend.

Even in the dream I'm incredulous, but what can I do? He doesn't seem to mind the weight problem, the pregnancy, or our age/income/background difference, so why should I? It's not always Logan; sometimes it's Angel (David Boreanaz) from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Or Steve Burns from Blue's Clues.

January 5, 2007

Chocolate-Chip Pumpkin Muffins

You probably thought nothing could top the Chocolate-Crusted Pumpkin Cheesecake recipe, and you're right, but I do have another contribution for your developing "pumpkin + chocolate" recipe collections. This one is partly my own invention (that is, I used an existing recipe but made some significant modifications and substitutions), and it is Chocolate-Chip Pumpkin Muffins. I like to double the recipe so I can eat an entire dozen before anyone notices.

Chocolate-Chip Pumpkin Muffins

1 c. canned pumpkin
2 eggs
1 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. butter, melted
1 t. vanilla
1/2 t. salt
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. cinnamon
2-1/4 c. flour
3/4 c. chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together pumpkin, eggs, brown sugar, butter, and vanilla. In a separate bowl, mix together salt, baking powder, cinnamon, flour, and chocolate chips. Combine contents of two bowls and mix. Spoon into 12 papered muffin tins. Bake 25-30 minutes.

January 4, 2007

First Haircut

I cut Robert's hair for the first time just before he turned a year old, and I cut William's hair for the first time even sooner than that--I think he was 9 or 10 months old. But Edward's has been so skimpy, it didn't need to be cut until today, when he is just short of 19 months old.

Mid-haircut photography is by Robert, and should have been by William: Robert is 2 years older but less skilled with the lens. Robert took about a dozen pictures that showed only the edge of the razor and two square inches of hair. The two below were the only ones that showed any face.

Here is Edward after the first swipe of the clippers, before he yet knew what was going on:




Here he is when he has understood that something is happening, and that it is not something he cares for:




And here he is afterwards, a sober but tidier-looking baby:


January 3, 2007

Code Names

I would like to discuss baby names with you guys, but I realize there is a big problem: I have been using pseudonyms for my children on this blog. Part of what makes a name a "good name" is whether it goes well with the names of the other children in the family, and that's not something you'd be able to look at. Who could blame you for suggesting that the next baby be Anne or James, when you are staring at a Robert, a William, an Elizabeth, and an Edward?

Clearly I have made a misstep on the blogging path, and now what do I do? Change all the names to be the real ones? Choose better pseudonyms?

I suppose what I am really wondering is how much personal information is appropriate to use online. Plenty of moms use their children's real names, and plenty of moms go for code names, and I went with code names to be on the safe side, but now I'm feeling more like maybe it doesn't matter.

If you blog, how did you decide whether or not to use real names for yourself and for members of your family?

January 1, 2007

Resolved

Last year I made no resolutions. I had 6-month-old twins, and thought I had enough on my plate without resolving to...put less on my plate, or whatever.

Now I have toddler twins and I'm 17 weeks pregnant. I'm not making any resolutions this year, either.

Generally I like making resolutions. A good friend and I try to make interesting ones we're likely to keep: one year I resolved to play the stock market for a whole year with monopoly money to see if it was something I wanted to invest real money in, and she resolved to choose a signature scent for her house and buy the necessary products to keep it smelling nice. Another yet we both resolved to learn to knit, to see once and for all if we were actually going to keep doing it or if we'd just forget how again.

But ever since I had kids, I notice my resolutions take on a more dismal quality. I resolve to yell less. To play with the kids more. To keep the house cleaner. To set a better example by eating more vegetables. Blech. I don't think I want to add that kind of failure to my life. It's just as well I'm taking another year off: perhaps I can spend the time thinking of better resolutions.

2007

My oldest child did manage to stay awake until 10:30, so he came upstairs and we watched the ball drop at midnight. He didn't seem to even remember that I'd yelled at him an hour or two earlier. Here's to short memories and fresh starts---Happy 2007, everyone.