August 31, 2007

Handmaiden

You would think that, as a mother of five, I would be immensely relieved to have two of the five off to school all day. But I am not.

Part of it is nothing but practical: Rob and William can be given tasks as if they were little remote-controlled cleaning machines--albeit extraordinarily inefficient ones I'd return to the store if I'd bought them for this purpose. All summer I could say, "Get the dustbuster and vacuum under the high chairs" or "Put all those toys back into the playpen" or "Put this dishtowel in the laundry," and they would do it. I must have been giving out orders casually all day long without even noticing: with Rob and William back in school, the floor is littered with toys and towels, cereal and socks. It's oppressive and depressing.

Also, they voluntarily played with the twins, and they did it more than I'd realized, because now I'm scraping bored twins off every surface. Rob could even lift a twin out of a crib--so if Henry was nursing when Edward and Elizabeth woke up from their naps, Rob could go get the twins up and give them cups of juice. Now it's a choice: do I listen to Henry cry, or do I listen to the twins crying? Choose your own soundtrack!

And Rob and William could be trusted to watch the twins for short periods of time, like when I needed to pee or when the laundry needed to be cycled. A few days ago, while I was changing Henry's diaper, Edward somehow magicked out of the ether a brown permanent Sharpie marker and used it to color on my yellow recliner. Yesterday he did the same with a black Sharpie, and also crayoned a clipboard. He must be squirrelling away any unattended weapons of destruction, then waiting for his opportunity to strike.

But it isn't just the convenience of having minions to do my bidding. Another part of it is something I haven't experienced since William was a new baby and Rob was a toddler: the unpleasant feeling of being trapped in a house where no one speaks your language. Without me knowing it, Rob and William were fulfilling some of my need for sentient companionship, for people to talk to--even if all they were saying was "HE HIT ME!" "NO I DID NOT!" and all I was saying was "Settle down now, I mean it" and "You are TOO WILD, go to your rooms for fifteen minutes." Now I'm here all day with people who can't even tell me what they want, or understand when I tell them what I want. I feel like the only intelligent life on this planet, handmaiden to the apes.

My Planet

August 30, 2007

Congratulations!

Semi-Desperate had her cute cute cute baby boy! Go say congratulations!

Weight

I have been exercising for one month. I have done it three times a week, faithfully. I have died at least ten times. My posture is improving, and I feel new muscle-type feelings here and there. And I am UP TEN POUNDS from where I was a month ago. OMG NO PONIES.

Sure, I've eaten the occasional post-jogging pan of brownies. But before I started exercising, it was a post-pan-of-brownies pan of brownies, so it's not like I'm eating MORE now. Brownies + exercise is better than just the brownies, RIGHT?

I'm not going to weigh myself for awhile. Is this because "health is what really matters, not numbers"? NO. It's because if I know my weight is going THE HELL UP, I am going to stop exercising. It's the NUMBERS I care about, not some theoretical "health" (huge air quotes). And while muscle may weigh more than fat, it doesn't weigh TEN POUNDS more after ONE MONTH.

Also, who am I kidding? Clearly I am going to be weighing myself, like, TWICE A DAY. Because, holy crap! This situation must be closely monitored! A watched pot does not boil, and a watched scale had better not go up--unless it wants to go down, very quickly, in the direction of the pavement below the window.

Here is another issue: the day I started exercising was the day I started the mini-Pill. Shall we blame the mini-Pill? But then what if I go off it and the weight stays?

August 29, 2007

YES I WOULD, KENT

Whenever I am getting overwhelmed, and my voice is getting increasingly shrill as I tell Paul all the things that are overwhelming me, he quotes one of our favorite lines from The Simpsons:

Kent Brockman (news anchor): So, professor, would you say it's time for everyone to panic?
Professor: Yes I would, Kent.

Paul condenses it down to "Would you say it's time to panic?," asked in a soothing, affectionate, backing-away-to-get-the-tranquilizer-darts tone of voice. Today I am leaning towards YES I WOULD, KENT.

Suddenly I am overwhelmed. Everything was fine, and now everything is not. I am so far behind on photos, I don't want to think about it or talk about it, and let's not think or talk about laundry, either. My friends are wondering if we're still friends. My mother-in-law is coming in two months, give or take a month, and I don't see any way to get the house cleaned for that visit. Books, movies, and magazines are piling up. My toenails need painting, a present needs wrapping, my hair needs cutting and coloring, brownies need to be made and eaten. I need to tell you about the dream I had about David Boreanaz. And now Henry wants to nurse again. YARRRRRGGG!

See? The toenail polish situation is dire. DIRE.
Also, will someone please replace hideous plaid loveseat kthanx.

August 27, 2007

Try Something Different Day

First, you must go congratulate Becky Fay, who had a BABY, a cute little NEWBORN baby who makes MY baby look like a huge hulking TODDLER, practically. Oh, newborns. You are like crack to me.

Henry, practically a toddler

Today must be Try Something Different Day, because I have been MIXING IT UP all morning. First, I was bored by the idea of jogging (heck, I've done it TWELVE WHOLE TIMES, no wonder I'm suffused with ennui), so Rob and William and I did Tae Bo instead. That is to say, we flailed around with a Tae Bo DVD playing in the background--it's difficult to get the hang of it at first. I used to do Tae Bo a number of years ago, but then during my pregnancy I switched to Denise Austin ("Come on, I KNOW you can do it! You're doing GREAT! Can't you just FEEL your muscles WAKING UP to a GREAT NEW DAY?"), who offers a milder, less sweaty workout. After William was born, I thought I should start Tae Bo again, but I couldn't face watching that same one ("We did it in one unrehearsed take, so you can wincingly anticipate our mistakes every! single! time!") so I ordered a different workout. And then never did it, not even once. Until today!

Then, during my shower, I tried something NEW with my shampoo and conditioning procedure! Check it: I used the L'Oreal Vive Pro Nutri Gloss shampoo (which I bought because the bottle is gorgeous pink and because Erica promised it would give me shampoo-commercial hair), but--wait for it--didn't use the conditioner. Then, after I towel-dried my hair, I put in a small quantity of the conditioner as if it were a leave-in conditioner. I am waiting on the edge of my seat to see how this turns out. It could go either way!

THEN, I parted my hair on the other side! Yes! Normally I part it on the high left, and today I parted it medium right! I KNOW! But I said to myself, "Self, if you're not living Xtreme, you're not living."

Several of you commented yesterday on our big-ass clock. It is indeed enormous. In fact, it is so enormous, we lived for months mentally changing the time by an hour, because we couldn't get ourselves to take the thing down to change it for "fall back." Fortunately, "spring ahead" came along and now the clock is right again! Problem solved! I said, PROBLEM SOLVED.

August 26, 2007

Foyer Problem

I read a lot of your blogs, and what I've noticed is that most of you have better decorating sense than I do. Furthermore, some of you are like, "I whipped up some new curtains this weekend!," which is, to me, like saying, "I popped over to the moon for a minute!" And so it is to you I turn for advice, hoping that on your path to the moon you discovered other, simpler decorating ideas.

We live in a raised ranch. The picture below shows the inside of our unused front door, which is between the top floor of the house (the "where we live" part) and the bottom floor of the house (the "where we do laundry and store boxes of crap" part).


There is a shelf of videos and DVDs there right now, but that's just to keep them out of the grasping paws of my fourthborn. They won't live there permanently.

The trouble I'm having is with the little windows. I like the little windows, but we get strong, STRONG sunlight at the front of the house, and it heats that entryway to, like, a billion degrees. Plus, I just put some of the kids' portraits on the wall (these are from before the twins were born, and I only just now got around to it), and the sun shines brightly upon them, and lo it worries me.

Some of you are probably thinking, "Duh, put up curtains." But so far in my (admittedly lethargic) searches, I haven't found narrow little curtains like that. They're all regular-window-width. I didn't see any short little curtain rods, either. (Oh, fine: I only looked at Target and Wa1mart. That's still "searches," plural.)

Maybe some of you are thinking, "Well, why don't you sew some?" Ah ha ha ha. I can sew a button, but that is IT--as long as you don't count the elastic-waisted four-tiered skirts I made in seventh grade home ec and would never be able to remember how to make now, even if anyone had a need for such a garment, which, surely not. And I don't have a sewing machine, and if you ask if my mom has one I can borrow I will lie to you and say she most certainly does not. I don't know how to use it anyway. And if you say I have to, well, I'll just never get around to doing it, and the portraits will be sun-bleached and it will be your fault.

Is there a clever decorating trick I don't know about for little door-flanking windows like these? Is there perhaps something clever I could do with the heaps and heaps of unused twin-sized flat sheets I've squirreled away for no other reason than not wanting to throw away large pieces of perfectly good hemmed fabric? Or do you know of a source for doorside curtains and cute little shortened curtain rods?

Keep in mind when making suggestions that I am an inherently lazy person. If the suggestion is, "I think there's some sort of thing that you can put on windows to keep the heat out but still get the light in, but I don't know what it's called or where to find it," my eyes will read "hard work" and skip on past. You would need to say it more like, "There's this stuff called X and I found it at Y.com, and I've figured out the measurements you'd need and put it in your online cart for you and all you need to do is enter your credit card information and click the 'buy now' button."

August 25, 2007

Hungover, Blog-Style

This morning I am feeling hungover, blog-style. "Did I really write about...CHILDBIRTH CHOICES last night?," I think to myself, holding my head and hoping the answer is no. "I didn't use...excessive punctuation, did I? Oh god----did I use CAPS LOCK? Tell me I didn't use caps lock."

Let's talk about something else, fast. Let's talk about something we can all agree on, which is the pain and misery of a new exercise program. I did three weeks of Couch to 5K, but the fourth week I went off-program to save myself from quitting: I went the same distance I was going on a typical Couch to 5K day, but I ran and walked at will.

This worked a lot better for me. When I was timing my jogging/walking, I was spending the jogging sessions thinking "Oh god! No more! I can't do any more! I'm dying! HOW many more seconds??" and the walking sessions thinking, "Oh no, look how fast the time is going! Oh, that's so unfair! Oh no, I have to run in just ten more seconds! Oh, I can't face it!"

When I jogged and walked at will, I spent the jogging sessions thinking, "Look how long I'm jogging! I wonder if I can go a little farther? Look, I'm still going!" and the walking sessions thinking, "I'm still too wiped out to jog again yet, but I think I'll be ready soon. Okay, I'm almost ready! Okay, I'm ready!" Big improvement, morale-wise.

But will I kick my own butt the way the Couch to 5K program was kicking it? This is the question.

August 24, 2007

How the Baby Comes Out, and Why I Don't Need Crappy Advice on How It Should Be Done

I was reading today's Purple is a Fruit, and it resonated with me so strongly that I went on to leave a Long and Impassioned Comment. Linda put her point so well, I got a little carried away. You know how you get that rush when you read something that is exactly what you feel but phrased so much better than you ever could have phrased it?

And now I keep THINKING about her post, and I want to talk about it more, but hitting "refresh" constantly in Linda's comment section isn't enough to satisfy me, and Paul is begging me not to talk about it anymore, so I will talk about it here. You'll need to click the link to Purple is a Fruit first, so you know what we're talking about, and also so you can read Linda's delicious, delicious words. (I once read an interview with an actor who said his least favorite word was "delicious" used for anything other than food. Now I think of that every time I use the word. Well-played, Actor Whose Name I No Longer Remember But Who Has Eternally Affected My Vocabulary.)

Back now? Okay!

During my first c-section, a medical situation was discovered. The OB talked with me about it afterward, and said she was sorry to tell me that this meant I would need to have c-sections from now on, that I would not be a candidate for a VBAC, and that in fact for future pregnancies I would need to be carefully informed about what I should do if I went into labor unexpectedly so that I wouldn't, for example, DIE. I don't want to be all Dramatic about it, but I do want it clear that this medical situation is not something like, "Oooooogk, natural childbirth is ICKY!"

I would also like it clear that the precise nature of the medical situation is my Private Medical Information. It's not that I won't tell, it's that I don't have to if I don't feel like it. I'm not required by law to disclose that medical situation to the general public as proof that I really do need to have c-sections. "All right, then," I picture The General Public saying, after inspecting my Proof of Need certificate and satisfying themselves that I do in fact have what they'd consider a valid excuse. "We'll let you have your c-section...THIS time."

And yet I've noticed that if I say, "I'm having a scheduled c-section" without telling all about the medical situation that requires it, sometimes other people assume that I'm only having a c-section because I don't understand my options. They think perhaps I have not considered the possibility of a VBAC, or that my OB is pressuring me into a repeat c-section because OBs just LOVE c-sections and want to strip women of their Natural Childbirth Powers. Or they think perhaps I am unaware that c-sections involve risks, unlike natural childbirth which is natural and risk-free and has been done for millions of years in complete safety. Or they want to tell me how if I have a c-section I'm basically saying I don't care about my baby's health. Perhaps I am unaware of the DRUGS the baby will be exposed to, both during and after the surgery! Drugs which no one has considered might affect the baby, and so have been prescribed with no thought for the baby's well-being!

Listen: if I say, "I'm having a scheduled c-section," I want it to be assumed that I am a mentally-fit adult capable of making decisions based on research I have ALREADY DONE and don't need to be instructed to do. I especially dislike it when the "research" other people want me to do is only in the one particular area the other person thinks I should be agreeing with. My lack of agreement with their point of view must mean I'm IGNORANT OF THE FACTS, as opposed to having an EQUALLY VALID OPINION based on the SAME AVAILABLE INFORMATION.

Which reminds me that I ALSO hate when the other person assumes that I'm being some sort of spineless patsy and agreeing with my Medical Establishment Doctor when I should instead be insisting on my right to do things in an unsafe way--which the other person, without a medical degree of any sort, tells me IS safe, without knowing my reason for having c-sections. Oh! Okay! I'm SURE my doctor is wrong and YOU'RE right! I shouldn't let my DOCTOR "push me around," but I SHOULD let YOU do it! And perhaps you will also DELIVER THE BABY, since you are SUCH AN EXPERT!!

And here's my final point. If I DIDN'T have a medical reason other people would consider "acceptable," if my reason WERE "Oooooogk, natural childbirth is ICKY!," it would STILL be my business to choose what method of giving birth was right for me, and I would STILL want other people to assume I was a mentally-fit adult capable of doing research and coming to my own conclusions.

Portrait Session

Generally my view on studio portraits is that there isn't much point before 6 months old. I'm not opposed to earlier pictures, but the baby always looks all...wadded up in them. And my babies are always a little special with their physical development, so they're still fully floppers at, for example, 2.5 months, which is when I was hit with an overpowering urge to duck into JCP for a spontaneous walk-in appointment, and I did not resist.

Please note that the black satin baby speedo is not something I dressed him in, but rather the photographer's idea. I believe she wanted to remove the obviously way too big sleeper I'd unwisely dressed Henry in that day, not realizing I was going to be struck by the portrait bolt.




August 23, 2007

Swistle Quiz Answer Key

The Tally
(I didn't mean to advertise medication--that pen is stolen a souvenir from my pharmacy job)


1) Do you think I wear glasses? contacts? neither? About a fourth of you guessed correctly that I wear glasses; I wore them part-time until my early 20s, when I had to start wearing them all the time and switched to contacts. I wore contacts until my first pregnancy, when I kept falling asleep with the contacts in. After the baby was born, I appreciated the way glasses could be put on in one second and didn't require enzyme treatments. I've never gone back to contacts, and now I feel weird without glasses on: glasses are part of "what I look like" and my face would be "wrong" if I went back to contacts. I have a restriction on my driver's license and must wear them to drive: the tester said, "Read line 4" and I said, "There isn't a line 4." There was a line 4.


2) What color do you think my hair is? How long do you think is it? Bonus point to Bethany for being freakishly correct with this description: "Mousy brown, used to be chin length, but now it's grown out to a little past shoulder length and you keep meaning to get a haircut."

I gave one point to about 40% of you for any of these answers: dark blonde, sandy blonde, brownish blonde, dirty blonde, honey blonde, mousy brown, light brown--but I awarded an unofficial secret bonus half-point for words such as "honey," and deducted an unofficial secret half-point for words such as "dirty." About 30% of you thought I was a brunette. About 20% of you thought I was a blonde. The rest of you guessed redhead, or tried to cheat with double guesses.

My hair is a color my mother calls "wheat" and my mother-in-law calls "dishwater." I myself prefer "amber waves of grain." It is somewhere in the murky area between blonde and brown and couldn't correctly be called either blonde or brown. I like to color it lighter and/or redder, but it is not currently dyed. I don't have any grey hairs yet, though surely with five children it is only a matter of time.

About 70% of you guessed correctly that it is shoulder-length, and you each got an additional point. About 20% of you thought it was longer, and about 10% of you thought it was short. If I could figure out how to get to the salon it would be jawline-length and I would wear it tucked behind my ears. Since it's longer, I wear it in a sloppy french twist.


3) Do you think I have bangs? 60% of you correctly guessed no and got another point. I had bangs for 30 years. I grew them out (is "growing out bangs" in one of the nine circles of hell? if it isn't, we need ten circles) when I was pregnant with the twins, because I have a huge double cowlick and need to gel/blowdry/curl/hairspray bangs to keep them them from sticking up Something About Mary-style, and I thought I might not be up to that after a night with two newborns.


4) What color do you think my eyes are? Nearly 40% of you guessed green or hazel and got another point. They're hazel, like an army green. About 25% of you thought I had blue eyes; about 30% of you thought I had brown eyes. Three of you got an unofficial secret bonus half-point for guessing grey, just because I like the sound of that.


5) How many times do you think my ears are pierced? Not even one single person guessed correctly that I have four piercings in each earlobe. I used to use all four, then just two, now just one. I wear earrings every day unless I'm, say, in the maternity ward. More than half of you thought I had one piercing in each ear; about a third of you thought two piercings in each ear; and the rest of you thought zero, three, seven (!), or an uneven number such as 2 in one ear and 3 in the other.


6) Do you think I have any non-ear piercings, or any tattoos? Over 55% of you guessed correctly that I have no other piercings and no tattoos. 35% of you thought I had a tattoo; I want a tattoo badly, but don't know what to get or where to put it. Not even 1% thought I had other piercings; I'd like to get my eyebrow pierced now that I've grown out my bangs, but I'm not sure I want to gross out my mom.


7) How tall do you think I am? 15% of you guessed correctly that I'm 5 feet 9 inches tall. According to Wikipedia, the average U.S. female is 5 feet 4 inches tall, so over 90% of you guessed that I was taller than average--but only those of you who were on the exact inch get a point.


8) Do you think I have siblings? Where do you think I am in the birth order? The only way to get a point for this question was to correctly guess that I am an oldest child, as nearly half of you did: for scoring purposes, I ignored information about how many siblings and whether they were sisters or brothers. I have one brother. He's two years younger than I am. I was very interested to see that a third of you thought I was a middle child; just under 10% thought I was the youngest, and just under 10% thought I was an only. Let's talk later about why you thought so, because birth order is a favorite topic of mine.


9) How old do you think I am? I'm 33 years old, and 30% of you got a point for guessing that. 45% of you thought I was older. 25% of you thought I was younger, but some of those votes were clearly kiss-ups.


Jen gets a bonus point for thinking I'm British. I'm not, but I liked her thinking that I was.

Not including bonus and unofficial/secret points, there was a maximum score of ten points: one point for guessing glasses, one point for guessing hair color, one point for guessing hair length, one point for guessing no bangs, one point for guessing eye color, one point for guessing number of ear piercings, one point for guessing that I had no other piercings or tattoos, one point for guessing height, one point for guessing I was an oldest child, and one point for guessing my age. Most people got 3 or 4 points.

August 21, 2007

Swistle Quiz: Mental Pictures of People We've Never Seen Edition

  1. Do you think I wear glasses? contacts? neither?
  2. What color do you think my hair is? How long do you think is it?
  3. Do you think I have bangs?
  4. What color do you think my eyes are?
  5. How many times do you think my ears are pierced?
  6. Do you think I have any non-ear piercings, or any tattoos?
  7. How tall do you think I am?
  8. Do you think I have siblings? Where do you think I am in the birth order?
  9. How old do you think I am?

August 20, 2007

I Earned TWO Pans of Brownies

So I was like, "Whine whine whine," and you were all, "Don't blow this, bitch You can do it, sweetie!" First I thought, "You know, I could say I ran, and they would not even know." Then I tried to reason that I'd rent a workout video from Netflix to do instead of the running, and then of course I wouldn't be able to do it until it arrived so I could relax tonight, and tomorrow, and the next night, and perhaps the rest of the week. Then I thought, with the grim stillness that descends on me when I realize a toddler has barfed in the car and there's no one to handle it but me me me, that all of you who said I'd better just go and do it were probably right.

And so I pulled in strength from my two inspirations: some guy Tessie and I would like to hit in the face, who said that no one ever came back from a workout saying, "Gee, I wish I hadn't done that" (perhaps some of you with sports injuries would like a word with him?); and Matthew McConaughey, who says "Every day I try to be photographed showing off my oiled and certainly not gay muscles break a sweat," and I went and I ran.

I didn't try to follow a day in the program but instead just walked and jogged at will. I switched to walking whenever I started wondering which god was the one I should pray to for a Mercifully Fatal Bolt From Heaven. When I caught my breath and started thinking, "Hmeh, I'm an agnostic anyway," I switched back to jogging.

I'm glad I went. People talk about endorphins, and I assume what they mean is the wave upon wave of smugness and relief.

Monday

I accidentally returned an $8.00 Old Navy t-shirt in a $4.80 Old Navy t-shirt wrapper, so I lost $3.20. Will you please tell me this is not the end of the world? Because I am having the kind of morning (two diaper disasters before breakfast, I should really sift the cat box, my hair is stupid) where such an error can FELL me.

Let's talk about running. I don't really want to, but let's talk about it anyway. I should have run yesterday, and I did not. The last three weeks, when I've not-run on a running day, the result has been a frantic feeling of MUST RUN NEXT DAY. This time, no. This time, more of a furtive feeling. Like maybe I can look away and pretend I didn't notice I didn't run yesterday, and maybe I can pretend I don't notice when I don't run today either. I am curious to know what will happen this afternoon at Running Time.

On the bag of Raisinets, it says "Good to Remember: The USDA Dietary Guidelines recommend eating 2 cups of fruit every day. The raisins in each serving of Raisinets come from 1/2 cup of grapes." Way to work the USDA system, Raisinets! I like the way you think!

August 19, 2007

Verbs I am Sick of US Weekly Magazine Using

shined
packed on
feasted
rocked
snapped up
canoodled
ballooned
splurged
gorged
gushed

August 17, 2007

More Pink Cowgirl Boots, More Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies, More Running

In addition to the Bad Sleep phase I mentioned earlier this week, Elizabeth is also going through a Hitting People In The Face stage. Fortunately for her, she is ALSO-also going through a Pink Cowgirl Boot phase.


Today I tried making the Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies as brownies. Cookies involve a lot of cycling pans in and out of the oven, not to mention a lot of manufacturing of little lumps of dough that keep accidentally detouring to the mouth. So I dumped the whole batch of dough into a greased square brownie pan and cooked it for 38 minutes at 325 degrees F, and let's just say the whole pan of them is gone already. I need to tinker with the recipe (it should be moister), but there is potential here for greatness.

Third day of Week Three. I couldn't finish the second 3-minute jogging segment: after 2 minutes I'd stopped thinking I was going to die and started hoping. I think this means I'll repeat Week Three next week, since this time it isn't just "I don't see how I can possibly do more," it's "I didn't successfully complete this week's assignment and need an extension."

By the way, I have a genius idea to share. I've been struggling with the timing of these jog-walks, since I have to do it when Paul is home--which is when the weather is hottest and the traffic near our house is bad. That is not the genius idea. THIS is the genius idea: this morning when it was cooler, Rob and William and I did laps around our house. I put the twins in their playpen, and Henry was napping. Every time we were in one of the walking segments, either Rob or William walked inside to check on the babies. Also, I had the baby monitor clipped to my waistband--though I realized after we came in that since the other end of the monitor was in Elizabeth's bedroom, it wasn't doing me much good monitoring the twins in the living room.

Regardless of the genius factor (and the word “genius” sticks in the throat after relating that little tidbit about thinking the baby monitor would magically monitor the babies wherever they were), it is utterly discouraging to do laps around your house. Well, around my house, anyway--maybe your house is exciting to run laps around. Mine made me feel like a hamster in a wheel, only less fun than that. More like running around and around a house for no reason.

August 16, 2007

TIPS TIPS HOT TIPS

1) If you think you see an ant disappear under the toilet seat as you go into the bathroom in the middle of the night, why not trust your eyes and check things out? There is nothing to be gained in this situation from doubting your own sanity.

2) I don't use top sheets or mattress pads for children's beds. I use a waterproof mattress cover, a fitted sheet, and a couple of blankets that wash easily (the vellux ones are nice because they dry quickly). This can make the difference between losing my mind with martyred despair when the sheets need changing again---and just going in and changing the sheets. Especially if the child in question sleeps on the top bunk.

3) I have a "crunchies bin." It's a plastic lidded container, and we put all the smidges of crunchy leftovers into it: someone's five remaining goldfish crackers, someone else's half-bowl of uneaten dry Cheerios, a broken-up half graham cracker, etc. We end up with an ever-changing mix of Cheerios, Chex, Kix, Kashi, goldfish crackers, graham crackers, etc. We sprinkle a little of it on the highchair trays as appetizers if the twins are impatient for a not-yet-ready dinner. I also use it as breakfast for the twins when they wake up starving but I have to nurse the baby to stop the terrible, terrible screaming: pour crunchies into bowls, put bowls on coffee table--easy as feeding a couple of cats.

4) When a baby has a blow-out I can't face rinsing out in the sink as I usually would, I immediately put the clothes all by themselves in the washing machine on "low" and "pre-wash." After the cycle finishes, I spritz on stain treatment (if it's even still necessary, which it often isn't) and put them in the laundry basket for the next load. I file this under "Keeps Me From Losing My Mind" rather than under "Does My Part for the Planet." What? She's a mother, she'll understand.

5) I only like coffee when it's nice and hot, and it always gets icky and cold before I've had more than 1/4th mug of it. So now what I do is pour 1/4th mug and drink it down. A little later, I get another 1/4th mug. It feels a little lame to do it this way, but it also feels NICE AND HOT.

6) When someone gives me clothes as a baby gift, I like to take a picture of the baby wearing the outfit and send it to the person who gave us the outfit. If you want to do the same, it's a good idea to take the photo as soon as the child is dressed, rather than waiting for a better time, better light, or a better mood. For lo, the child is about to cover the outfit in barf and poop, and then you will have to start all over with remembering to dress the child in the outfit and take a picture.

7) People don't notice how cluttered your house is if it smells like cookies baking. And they don't say anything about how cluttered your house is if their mouths are stuffed full of cookie.

August 15, 2007

Sleep Problems

Elizabeth is having one of her "Bad Sleep" stages. She goes through one of these periodically. And no matter how fine and handleable they seem to be when we're looking back on them from one of her Good Sleep stages, and no matter how reasonable we feel about them during the day, they always seem crazy and unmanageable at night.

Here is our daytime philosophy: These things pass regardless of how we handle them, so let's aim for what keeps us calmest/happiest and gets us the most sleep.

Here is how we feel at night: NOTHING IS WORKING! EVERYTHING WE DO IS WRONG AND WILL HAVE SERIOUS LONG-TERM CONSEQUENCES! WHY CAN'T WE AT LEAST CHOOSE ONE METHOD AND BE CONSISTENT, RATHER THAN DOING WHATEVER OUR NIGHT-ADDLED BRAINS RANDOMLY SELECT FROM OPTIONS WE HAVE NOT DISCUSSED OR APPROVED??

In one of Elizabeth's previous Bad Sleep stages, I ended up rocking her to sleep in the recliner for about an hour each late-evening (she would go to bed at 7:00 as usual, but wake crying at 10:00 or 11:00). I worried I'd form bad habits, rocking her like that, but it worked to put her to sleep so I did it, and a couple of weeks later she stopped waking up in the night and I thought, "What was the big deal about rocking her to sleep for a few nights, if that's what she wanted and needed?" Did I feel that way while I was rocking her? No.

This time the problem is that she's waking repeatedly in the night and crying. Sometimes, as Paul and I lie in bed pretending to be asleep so the other one will have to deal with her, she will go back to sleep after a minute or two. Sometimes she will not, and will escalate into frantic screams. Sometimes if I go in and snuggle her and reassure her and put her back in her crib, she will cry for only a minute or two and then go back to sleep; sometimes she will go into the frantic screams. Sometimes we bring her to our bed, where she lies quietly but doesn't go to sleep but can't be put back in her crib either (see: frantic screams). Sometimes she goes to sleep in our bed beautifully, but then gets up at 5:30 a.m. when Paul does. Sometimes SHE sleeps great in our bed, but I can't, because I'm lying awake wondering if we're handling her sleep problems ALL WRONG.

I do what makes me feel least like screaming and sobbing. Sleep with child in recliner? Sure! Rock child to sleep while watching trashy television? Sure! Allow child to sleep in our bed despite our usual preference for non-co-sleeping? Sure! Put child in crib and close door, then sit in living room writing resentful entries in my journal while she cries? Sure! When one method starts making me feel fed-up, I try something else. I wouldn't say that any method "works," exactly--it's more like what passes the time until the situation resolves itself.

This time, though--NOTHING IS WORKING! EVERYTHING WE DO IS WRONG AND WILL HAVE SERIOUS LONG-TERM CONSEQUENCES! WHY CAN'T WE AT LEAST CHOOSE ONE METHOD AND BE CONSISTENT, RATHER THAN DOING WHATEVER OUR NIGHT-ADDLED BRAINS RANDOMLY SELECT FROM OPTIONS WE HAVE NOT DISCUSSED OR APPROVED??

August 14, 2007

Peppermint Brownies and Peppermint Frosting

I promised--promised--I would post this Peppermint Brownies recipe to help ease El-e-e's chocolate mint pregnancy craving, and WHERE THE HELL HAS IT BEEN? Lolling indolently in my recipe box, too fat to move, that's where.

Peppermint Brownies
24 small (1.5-inch) peppermint patties (13 oz bag)
1.5 cups (3 sticks) butter, melted
3 cups sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
5 eggs
2 cups flour
1 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

My god, can you believe those ingredients? Don't think about it. Just avert your eyes as you preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and grease a 9x13 pan. Ha ha, this recipe actually clarifies that you should remove the wrappers from the peppermint patties! Yes, go ahead and do that so you don't FORGET and put them in WRAPPED.

Mix together the melted (unwrapped!) butter, the sugar, and the vanilla. Add eggs and mix until well-blended. Add salt, baking powder, cocoa, and flour; blend well (and CAREFULLY, remembering that cocoa powder wants nothing more than to live on your walls and ceiling).

Put 2 cups of batter in a bowl and set aside. Put remaining batter evenly in pan. Arrange patties in a 4x6 pattern over batter (not touching the pan) and press down so that tops of patties are roughly level with batter. Spread reserved 2 cups of batter over top.

Bake 50-55 minutes or until brownies begin to pull away from sides of pan. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Top with Peppermint Frosting if your heart can take it.

Peppermint Frosting
4 tablespoons butter, softened
generous 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
generous dash salt
2 and 2/3 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons milk (little more if necessary)

(The weird measurements are because I got this from another recipe which was for an 8x8 baked item, so I increased the quantities but they didn't come out nice and even.)

Cream butter, peppermint extract, and salt. Gradually add half the powdered sugar, creaming until light. Add remaining sugar, and the milk. Beat until smooth.

Still Not Enough

If around 7:30 yesterday evening you thought you heard a train going past, CHUG-a-chugga-CHUG-a-chugga, and then thought, "Wait, we're not near train tracks," then perhaps you were hearing ME, heaving and panting as I jogged THREE ENTIRE MINUTES WITHOUT STOPPING. Week Three is jogging 1.5 minutes, walking 1.5 minutes, jogging 3 minutes, walking 3 minutes, repeating all four things. I will tell you, I did not think it was possible to do it. The only reason I even TRIED is that I remember I thought one single minute was my absolute upper limit and then was pleased (you realize I am using that word in a loose, careless way, as you might say you were pleased when the inquisitor moved from "sharps" to "blunts") to find that I could do 1.5 minutes if I gave up any foolish sentimental attachment I had to my lungs. Going to 3 minutes involved additional sacrifice, including watching a carload of teenagers drive by FOUR TIMES, knowing they were almost for sure making cruel remarks from the fleeting shelter of their perfect bodies. I started a motivating refrain of "BITE me...BITE me...BITE me" with each left-right.

This morning I was looking up maternity tees for Linda, who posted about needing something for the in between stage where you're not ready for a canopy-for-two but you need something more spacious than your usual shirts. I recommend the Duo t-shirts on JCPenney.com: I purchased them in the smaller of the two sizes I fall between, and they were perfect for early/mid pregnancy--and frankly, I'm still wearing them now, more than 2 months post-partum. Anyway, I found the ones I bought (I liked the scoopneck, but they also have crewneck and v-neck), and I saw they were on clearance for $3.99, and that they had the new colors on sale for $9.99. And suddenly I was seized with the impulse to buy some "for next time." I squelched that urge as quickly as I could--which is to say, it is not yet squelched.

I don't understand this drive I have to have more More MORE children. I don't even particularly enjoy the ones I have, based on how much time I spend hiding from them. And there is so little chance of having another: Paul states emphatically, "We are NOT having ANY MORE babies." And yet--

I went to the grocery store a couple of weeks ago to get more pints of Dove, and I saw a baby about Henry's age, all smooshy-cuddly sleeping on its daddy's chest, little mouth open, little legs folded up and little bottom sticking out. I got a sharp, nauseating pang of wanting a baby, a kicked-in-the-ovaries feeling. And I have a baby already, right now. This is the kind of thing that makes me fear for my future happiness--and for Paul's, since he has so many years ahead of hearing about it. Fertility has been more than generous with me, and yet I can't seem to get my fill of this:

August 13, 2007

Good Ads

This morning Elizabeth woke up saying "Boo? Boo? Boo?" She was exceedingly pissed when I told her she had to take a bath before she could wear her boots. Her theory was that she could wear them into the tub and that would save time later. She did not stop bitching about it until she was dressed and wearing the boots. Then she flounced around in them saying "Boo! Boo! BOO!!!" and forcing her brothers to admire them.

When I bought those boots I also bought a bottle of I Am A Sucker For Good Advertising. I'd seen ads for All Small & Mighty 3X concentrated laundry detergent (note to agency: now try concentrating name of product), but I was always like, "Big deal, so it's 'concentrated,' who cares? I'm not exactly spraining my arm pouring in the non-concentrated stuff." Then they totally got me with a new ad, one that showed how much plastic they save when they can make the bottles smaller, and how much fuel they save when they can fit more bottles on a truck. OHHHHHHHHHH. NOW I get it. It's an environmental thing, not a "Look, we can make it cuter!" thing. Immediately I started thinking Their Way: it is stupid to package and ship water just so the bottle looks like a better value; it is smart to give my money to All. I don't know if the plastic bottle is better for the environment than the cardboard box I was buying before, but I HAD TO HAVE the cute All.

Another ad that electrified me like that was one for a line of Biore skin care products. This was a little over eight years ago, when Rob was a newborn, and I saw an ad that started by explaining how to use the easy, few-step system, and then said (as best as I can remember--this is eight years and five children ago), "There. You look beautiful. Tired, but beautiful. Kiss the baby for us." I STILL choke up thinking about it! It was so sweet! Biore is so TENDER! Biore thinks I'm beautiful even when I'm all post-partum and crazy-haired! Biore LOVES MY BABY! And then, the model DID look "tired, but beautiful": she had an ethereal look, pale and with lovely violet undereye circles, and her smile was small and Mona Lisa-ish and TIRED but HAPPY. AND--get this--the products were called "Face The Day." Is that just about the best name you've ever heard? Our local stores didn't have the Face The Day moisturizer, so I ordered it online, PAYING SHIPPING (I hate to pay shipping and almost never do). Man, that was a good ad.

August 12, 2007

These Boots Are Made For Screaming "MIIIIIIIIIIIINE!!!!!"



Perhaps wearing them with rolled-up denim capris is a Fashion Uh-Oh, but these dark pink cowgirl boots are on clearance at Target for $3.74. Don't be fooled by the very similar new-design dark pink cowgirl boots that just came out at $14.99: it's only the ones with tall skinny flowers on them that are marked down. I bought them for Elizabeth in size 6, 7, 8, and 9, and I am not even usually into cowboy-type stuff.

August 11, 2007

Boys For Sale, Week Two Running Report, Angel DVD Reminder, Cookie Recipe Variation Report

I have really, really, REALLY been trying to enjoy this summer with Rob and William--especially with William, because this is the year William starts first grade, and I learned with Rob that first grade is when kids take a giant step away.

But I am NOT enjoying this summer with Rob and William, and do you know why? It is because I don't like my children anymore, apparently. They are loud and obnoxious, and they have two modes: (1) giddy and (2) bickery. They are either saying, "Imagine if, like, a strawberry crashed into the wall and went [*loud spitting sound*]!!!" and then laughing wildly until they fall over, and then saying it fifty more times, laughing just as much each time, getting higher and higher pitched until I feel like covering my ears and screaming, or else they are saying in teeth-clenched irritation, "Give me that thing." "WHAT thing?" "THAT thing." "WHAT thing?" "ROB!!BERT!! GIVE IT TO ME!" "OW!! Mommy, William hit me!!" "It was an ACCIDENT!!" "NO IT WAS NOT!!" Or, worst of all, they are doing this sort of nauseating baby talk, and using it to say nonsense. They are as annoying as a flashing banner ad plus a car alarm plus a shirt that needs to be tugged down every 5 minutes.

We did all three days of Week Two of the running program. We thought we might die, but we did it. We've had a little trouble with knowing when we're supposed to stop doing sessions of jogging. Like, if you alternate jogging and walking for 20 minutes as instructed, you do jogging, walking, jogging, walking, jogging, walking, jogging, walking, jogging, walking--and there are 2.5 minutes left. Should you jog for 1.5 minutes and then only have 1 minute of walking before you're done? Or should you walk that whole last 2.5 minutes to cool down? We've been jogging 1 minute and then walking the last 1.5. I'm sure a real runner would be making air quotes all over the place: "Oh, you want to know how long you should 'cool down' after 'all that running'? [*gigantic eye roll*] Gosh, are you sure this is 'Couch to 5K' and not 'Couch to Iron Man'?"

I don't know how we're going to be able to do Week Three, which goes up to 3 minutes of jogging. [Real Runner rolls eyes so hard he/she risks popping them off their tethers entirely.] We're going to try it, but if necessary we're going to go up one 30-second increase at a time: a week of 2-minute jogs, a week of 2.5-minute jogs, and then, MAYBE, a week of 3-minute jogs. We'll see. [Real Runner has to consume sports drink to replenish electrolytes lost from disdain.]

Comment here if you're interested in getting Swistle's Angel DVDs, season 1, watched once, mailed to you free of charge so that you will get addicted and I will have more people to talk about it with out of nothing but love. For those who are unfamiliar with the show, it is about a tall handsome broody vampire with vulnerable eyes and a long leather coat. He used to be evil but now uses hair product and works on the side of Good for 42 minutes once a week. I'm looking for (1) names of people who want the DVDs and (2) suggestions on how to decide who gets them, especially if it's something fun.

I tried the cookies with mint extract and regular chocolate chips, and they are good. If the ones with mint chocolate chips are a 10, the ones with extract and regular chocolate chips are maybe an 8.5, maybe a 9. They lack the "little bursts of mint" effect, but retain the overall chocolate/mint excellence.

August 10, 2007

Angel Season One Giveaway

I have Angel season one on DVD. I have watched it, and I really liked it a lot, but I don't plan to watch it again. I'd like to pass along the contagious Joss Whedon virus find a good home for it. It occurs to me that I could infect give it to one of you.

But how to decide who gets it? I suppose you could tell me sob stories of how pitiful and deserving you are, but that would be barfy and boring that would be sad.

A contest? Maybe, if there's a fun idea for one. A drawing? Meh. Insufficiently fun.

This assumes that more than one person would be interested in having it.

Chocolate Mint Chip Cookie Emergency!

El-e-e has brought to my attention a Serious Situation regarding the Chocolate Mint Chip Cookies recipe I posted the other day: mint chocolate chips are only available seasonally, and this is not the season.

It's true that I bought mine during the Christmas season. I bought many bags, because I was so enchanted by their existence. In fact, I had six bags, and what do you mean, "Why the past tense?"

So many bags on hand is why I had not yet noticed that none of you would be able to make the recipe unless your grocery stores were of a particularly exemplary sort; if I had known, I would not have teased you so cruelly.

Okay! Okay! Let's all remain calm. Luckily, LoriD has solved the problem: she added 1/2 teaspoon of peppermint extract (make sure you get peppermint, not mint) and used regular chocolate chips. You may want to adjust the chocolate chip quantity: the mint chocolate kind are 1 and 2/3 cup bags, the regular chocolate kind are 2 cup bags, and I thought it was best with more like 1 and 1/4 cups.

LoriD also tried Crisco instead of butter. I tried it myself, and I think the butter is significantly better-tasting in this recipe. I'm going to try the mint extract variation as soon as I get some more butter in the house.

August 8, 2007

Beth, Semi-Desperate Housewife, Harry Potter (No Spoilers), and Pi

Beth is pregnant! So exciting. I like to know a lot of pregnant people so I can daydream about their pregnancies, waiting excitedly for the baby to be born and thinking about what I would name it if it were up to me. (Any takers for Millicent? Paul won't let us use it.)

Speaking of pregnancy and babies, I heard from Semi-Desperate Housewife's mother. I've been a little worried about SDHW and hoping her baby boy stays put a little longer. (And also: waiting excitedly for the baby to be born and thinking about what I would name him if it were up to me.) Here's what her mom says:
I happened to click on your names from my daughter SDHW's post and saw that I could email you. There were only a couple of you who I could find the emails for. Just wanted to update you on her situation. She woke up Sunday morning so incredibly dizzy that she couldn't move without vomiting. She ended up in the hospital on IV fluids by Sunday afternoon. They did a CAT scan Monday morning because she wasn't getting better, but that turned out all clear. Baby is just fine, too. The diagnosis is that she has some weird viral inner ear infection that is affecting her equilibrium. Basically, she can't move without vomiting and hasn't been able to keep hardly any food down since Saturday. She came home Monday evening, but is totally confined to bed and is so dizzy that she just can't move and needs a lot of help walking to the bathroom, etc. We even have to keep Addy away from her because the jostling about of a toddler makes her so sick. This is apparently viral and will run its course in anywhere from days to weeks. PLEASE pray that it is only for a couple more days and that baby boy stays put until she is feeling more normal. Labor at this point would be torture!!! I know you check her post frequently, so thought I'd give you an update.
HER MOM :)

UG! And YIKES. Like it's not hard enough to be late-third-trimester pregnant, without also barfing from the smallest movement and worrying about pre-term labor. SDHW's husband is going to be posting an update soon, too, on SDHW's blog.

I keep waiting for it to be okay to write about Harry Potter without worrying about spoilers, but it occurs to me that day will never come. I'm thinking of how I'm only watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel NOW, so I'm STILL not happy if I stumble upon spoilers (though I can hardly blame people at THIS late date).

So how about this, instead. If you would like me to tell you which HP7 death I don't accept, you can email me and I'll tell you. There is one I in fact DENY. It DID NOT happen, that is my feeling about it.

This is the big hotness at our house right now:



Yeah. We know how to rock it.

Swistle's Lunch--Because I Think You Do In Fact Care

Really good sandwich: a "hearty" bread (quotes to indicate that it should be the kind that looks nutritious by being full of lots of little bits, rather than the kind that is actually nutritious and doesn't taste good), deli turkey, Caesar dressing, lettuce, and white corn tortilla chips to add salt and crunch. Mmmmmmmmmm.

August 7, 2007

Dressing a Baby

So what you are telling me is that Old Navy shirts are plenty long, they're too short, they're long at first but then they shrink to be too short; they run a bit small, they run true to size; they stretch out and look floppy, the material is flimsy, they're really nice and they last for years. I ordered four perfect fit tees in two different sizes. Then I also ordered four graphic tees, because I liked them. Whatever doesn't fit, I'll return. Whatever I keep, it sounds like I'd better line-dry.

AND I ordered two more packages of bodysuits in size 3-6 months for poor Henry, whose mother does not seem to know how old he is and so last time ordered sizes like 6-12 and 12-18 months. And I ordered a 99-cent flag tank top for Elizabeth for next year.

Now let's turn our attention to issues other than what I am shopping for. Let's talk about what someone else is shopping for. Sarah asks for our help:
Ok, I know this is going to sound ridiculous, but can you help me figure out what a baby wears?! Currently, my 15 week old son is wearing rompers (today is his first day at daycare so I put him in what I call an outfit, but at home with me, he'd be in onesies!). That's fine. But what about when the weather is colder? He'll be about 6 months then - am I really supposed to dress him in full on outfits (pants, shirt, sweater, etc?) - who can afford that?! Do they make wintery rompers or are they just pj's. What's wrong with wearing pj's to daycare (joking...or am I?). I just spend more money than I care to admit at this Old Navy sale (all for next summer if I planned the sizing correctly - who knows) - but what I really need help with is what you dress a baby in realistically, and where I can find said clothing for not too much money (garage sale is good in theory but a lot of work for slim pickings). Resale shops are ok. Old Navy sales are great.

There are two questions here:
  1. Is there a baby dress code?
  2. Can it be met without selling my body on the streets to raise funds?
I will say how I do things, but I'm hoping you will say, too, since I want to steal your ideas. Unless one of your ideas is the body-selling thing.

Babies can be dressed a number of different ways, from onesies/pjs around the clock up to coordinated pants/shirt/shoes/socks/hat/bib ensembles. I dress little-ittle babies in the same stuff day and night: Henry wears sleep 'n' play type outfits (footed sleeper things sold in 2-packs or 3-packs for about $10 but regularly available on sale or clearance) day and night, and I change the outfit when it needs it, not "in the morning" and "before bed."

When a baby is a little older, I start changing the baby into pajamas at night as part of the bedtime routine. At that point I usually find the baby looks "too babyish" in sleep 'n' plays, and that's when I start dressing him in soft one-piece outfits. When the baby is older still, I start dressing him in jeans/shorts/overalls and shirts.


Now. How to buy the clothes without spending too much. I have changed my clothes-shopping methods over the years. When Rob was born, we lived in an area chock full of consignment shops. I could go into one and come out with a huge pile of nearly-new stuff for practically nothing. So that's basically what I did: I shopped consignment shops.

When Rob was ten months old we moved to an area without such good consignment shops. I persevered with what was available, but when Rob started needing 2T I noticed the stock dropped wayyyyy off: suddenly there were only pilly sweatpants and worn-out character t-shirts. And then William was born, and going to consignment shops with a toddler and a baby was getting rough.

Luckily, by this time I had discovered Target clearance racks. Clearance rack stuff was cheaper than consignment shop stuff, and of course it's new which is nice since it's going to end up being handmedowns (consignment shop jeans have already been worn by 1 or 2 children, so that's 1 or 2 fewer who can wear them at my house). I started buying clothes end-of-season at 75% off. It didn't always work (sometimes there wasn't much in his size or I wouldn't find the clearance until almost everything was gone), but in general I could get a nice assortment of things for Rob that way. I wasn't sure even what I liked him to wear, so I was willing to try things if they were cheap enough.

I also bought AHEAD: if I found some nice basic solid-color t-shirts at $.94 each, I'd buy them in his size 2T but also in 3T, 4T, and 5T. This helps a lot with the "nothing left in his size" problems: if you're looking three years in a row for 5T stuff, you're likely to have a nice stash by the time the child needs it. I kept boxes in his closet labeled 3T, 4T, 5T, etc., to make it easy to keep things sorted. When he went up a size, I pulled out a new box.

When Rob was in kindergarten, I opened up the next box of clothes and found he had only two long-sleeved shirts in that size. I had to scramble to find more shirts for him to wear, and that's when I started finding the fun in buying some of his stuff on sales as well as on clearances, and on more expensive store clearances: not just the $1.74 Target clearance shirt, but also the $4.99 Target sale shirt and the $6.99 Baby Gap clearance shirt. What I do now is buy a lot on clearance ahead of time, but then fill in the gaps (including the "fun to buy a few more things" gaps) with sales while the child is actually wearing that size.

When Elizabeth was born, I made a new policy for girl clothes. The policy is this: "This is the only time in my life I will be buying baby girl clothes for my own girl, and I don't want to be sorry I missed it."


I still buy things on sale, on clearance, and ahead--because I love to do that. But I buy her more than she needs, and if something is only 30% off I might still buy it, not waiting for 50% or 75% off. I've even bought a few things at *hushed tone* full price.

I think the keys to dressing a baby affordably are (1) buying clearance and (2) buying ahead. You can get a baby a cute, extensive wardrobe that way, and it's a fun shopping hobby--especially with online stores, which mean you don't have to hit the mall twice a week to keep up with deals. It's easier when the child is a little older and going up one size per year rather than one size every time you step out to get the mail.

So spill it: what does/did your baby wear, and how do/did you buy it on the cheap?

August 6, 2007

Oh No: Week Two. But: Brownie Cookies to Boost Morale!

Paul took Rob and William swimming yesterday, so I didn't have my running partners. I went out on my own, and learned this: children make excellent shields. When I run with the children, I don't worry that the neighbors are looking at me, because I am certain they are instead trying to figure out what we're running away from so slowly. When I run with the children, people are too busy trying not to hit us with their cars to notice if my rear is, or is not, jogging more than I am. When I run with the children, I look like I'm participating reluctantly in some sort of Family Fitness Fun!! program, not like I think I am Getting Ripped. When I run with the children, the sound of questions ("What's the difference between a cul de sac and a dead end?" "How many more seconds?" "Are you GLAD or NOT GLAD that we're doing this?") drowns out the sound of gasping and swearing.

Running still felt easier without them, though, perhaps because my heart rate was not already elevated from seeing a child jog aimlessly toward the center yellow line or carom off a mailbox. I'd planned to repeat week one, but as an experiment tried a week two session. Week one's sixty seconds of jogging was a nearly insurmountable eternity of jogging, but ninety seconds turned out to be just as nearly insurmountable--and then there's 2 minutes of breathing walking instead of 90 seconds, and that's worth the additional suffering.

May I suggest my favorite post-run snack? Try half a batch of these babies and feel the suffering ease.

Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies
2/3 cup butter (1 stick plus a scant 3 tablespoons), softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 cup flour
approx. 1 and 1/4 cups mint chocolate chips*

*OR: use regular chocolate chips and add 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract (make sure it's peppermint, not mint) to the batter when adding the vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cream butter and sugar; add egg and vanilla and mix well. Add baking soda and salt and mix well. Add cocoa powder and flour very carefully or you will have cocoa powder on more surfaces than you thought possible; cocoa powder is not bound by the laws of physics and I have found it coating the underside of the base of the mixer. Add mint chocolate chips. You can put in a full bag (which is about 1 and 2/3 cups), but I thought it was better with fewer (I know--I'm as surprised as anyone). Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for 8-9 minutes; err on the side of underbaking, because they'll set up more after they come out of the oven.

The first time I baked them, they almost didn't change shape from the dough balls they started out as. The second time, I mixed them a little more thoroughly and made the dough balls a little smaller, and they flattened out like cookies. Both times they tasted excellent.

If you make this recipe, you will want to kiss me or curse me, but your mouth will be too crammed to do either one. These are like mint-chocolate-chip brownie cookies. Last night Paul went to bed early because he wanted to stop eating the cookies and couldn't think of any other way.

August 4, 2007

Questions: Old Navy Women's Sizes

I'm thinking of ordering a couple Old Navy perfect tees. I've never bought Old Navy for myself before. If you've purchased Old Navy women's clothing, did you find that it fit large? small? or true to size? I wear two different shirt sizes depending on the brand, and I'm not sure if I should order the larger size or the smaller one.

A second question: How's the shirt length? I'm tall, and it's common for shirts to be too short.

August 3, 2007

Shopping at Old Navy; Running on Coffee

I had such a good online shopping trip this morning! Old Navy is having one of their stuff-and-save sales, which are my favorite: 20% off everything, even clearance. You have to have an Old Navy card to get the deal, but I highly recommend having one anyway, because if you do you can also get free shipping (use coupon code SPECIAL--they don't go out of their way to remind you) on $50+.

When I shop at The Children's Place I tend to buy mostly girl stuff, but when I shop Old Navy I buy almost all boy stuff. I bought Rob and William some pigment-dyed polo shirts (all three colors) and dark-tint jeans. I also bought a whole pile of long-sleeved bodysuit three-packs for Henry: I had those for the twins and they're so soft and so nice under overalls or for extra warmth under a long-sleeved outfit. What I don't understand is why I only bought them in size 6-12 and size 12-18. What was I thinking? I should have gotten 3-6 for this fall. And when he's in 12-18 months, it'll probably be summertime. Well, I lost my mind, that's all. But I lost it in cute colors! I got the gray combo (brown, gray, white) and the blue haze combo (dark blue, light blue, white), and also plain white. They have cute girl colors, too. Damn it, why didn't I get them in size 3-6? I think I forgot how old my baby was, I think that's what happened. Oh come on, like I can be expected to remember EVERYTHING.

I did buy one shirt for Elizabeth, a green floral one. I don't even know if I like it; I just couldn't resist $1.99 plus another 20% off.

Rob and William and I did our third day of running. We might repeat Week One next week, because we were still struggling. When I say "struggling," I mean "begging the gods to spare our lives." It definitely helped, though, to take your advice about running heel-first, running slower, lacing our shoes less tightly (I was thinking they were supposed to be MORE tight for running), and stretching more afterward. Also helpful: drinking a leeeeeetle too much coffee beforehand; and, once we were at the halfway point and heading back home, reminding myself that there was a pan of brownies waiting for us. (I'm running for my health!)

Maybe I should just place another order with Old Navy. It's really bothering me that I didn't get the bodysuits in 3-6 months. And maybe I should have gotten the uni combo (yellow, light green, white) too. I wonder if the stuff-and-save code can be used more than once? I wonder if I can find a full $50 worth so I can get the free shipping? Well, it's only $5 flat-rate if I can't. I hate this kind of thing! I'm going to be agitating about this all day, and then I'll finally decide to just DO it--and they'll be out of stock.

Grr. Well, if any of you buy anything, tell me what you bought and maybe I'll love it and want it and be happier about placing another order.

August 2, 2007

Alumni Newsletter

Stacie over at The Twinkies had a clever idea: First write a nauseatingly perky paragraph about your life, the type of paragraph you see in alumni newsletters. Then write a franker, funnier one. Here are her paragraphs. And here are mine:

Swistle and Paul welcomed their fifth bundle of joy this May: baby Henry joins older siblings Robert, 8; William, 6; and twins Elizabeth and Edward, 2. Swistle is a stay-at-home mom and loving every precious minute of it! What a privilege to see the miracle of childhood close up, and in so many versions, and for so many hours a day! Paul can barely stand to leave for work in the morning, knowing that his happy family is farther behind him with every mile he drives.

If you people hold our old college friendships in any regard at all, you will get your asses on a plane and come HELP US. For the love of god, we are dying here. There are children on every surface, like those news stories you see about old ladies who have so many cats the entire house is disgusting. The squalor, it is unthinkable! The diapers alone will bury us! Bring food! Bring cleaning supplies! And bring a car, so you can drive away with one or more of our excess children! Toddler twins AND a newborn, do you understand what I am saying here??

Stacie is making this a new meme--and with new memes, the way to get them going is to threaten everyone with bad luck and/or ancient curses if they don't participate ask everyone to consider themselves tagged.

Dear Boys:

To The Boys:

We totally notice it when you haul out "I love you" and "You're beautiful" only when you are also panting and groping. We totally notice. Furthermore, we hate it. Get a clue, morons.

Love, The Girls

Fisher-Price / Mattel Recall

Huge Fisher-Price / Mattel recall due to lead paint:

http://www.service.mattel.com/us/recall/39054_IVR.asp?prod=

It took me a few tries to get to the site because it's so busy right now.

August 1, 2007

Parades/Medals

I did this week's second day of running yesterday, and what I would like to know is, where is my parade? There is nothing--NOTHING--quite like the smug and self-congratulatory feeling you can get from doing some truly revolting exercise. It feels GREAT! Today I am strutting around thinking, "I exercised yesterday! Yes indeed! That was me, out there exercising!" Even through this fog of righteousness, one thing remains painfully clear: it still feels better NOT to exercise. The after-exercise is great, but so is the after-going-to-the-dentist: if it feels so good to be DONE, we are not talking about an enjoyable experience.

The second day was worse than the first. My shins hurt from the first time, which tells me I'm probably doing something wrong, and they did not feel better when I ran on them. The weather was miserable. The boys were less enthusiastic. And in the back of my mind I was hearing all the people who said they ENJOYED it! And that it got EASY! But we did it, and I'm glad.

While I was counting out how many more minutes of hell remained to me, I had a thought. In the comments section, there was a discussion of how FAST you need to be running/walking. And what I think is that your speed doesn't matter. I think all that matters is how trampled you're getting. If you're running along at 15 miles an hour but you feel all free and breezy (test: are you using words such as "enjoy" and "easy"?), you need to pick up your pace. If molasses is gliding past you but you're seeing a tunnel of light and hearing beloved ancestors calling your name, you need to slow down. We will not be passing out medals for speed, only for misery.