February 27, 2008

Tax Deductions, Dinosaur T-Shirts, Recipe for Corn Starch Muck

Paul is crabby with his RSS reader. He's saying to it, "No, I'LL tell YOU when to 'mark as read' KAY-THANX!" Apparently it keeps marking things as read when he hasn't even clicked on them yet, and that is highly annoying. He shouldn't give it such a hard time for malfunctioning, though: he should just be glad his RSS feeder is there with him, rather than on someone else's computer. TEE HEE.

This afternoon I supervised the making of a baking-soda-and-vinegar "volcano." AND I made a big batch of Corn Starch Muck for the kids to play with. AND I've been dumping my used coffee grounds into a gross little baggie every day because William says he needs " a cup of grinds" for another messy project. Pls send mothering medal kthanx.

Have you ever made Corn Starch Muck? I believe "Magical Mixture" is its preferred name. You take corn starch, maybe half a box, and mix it with jusssst enough water to moisten it and stick it together. You get this weird play clay that will break like chocolate if you snap it suddenly, but will dribble like liquid through your fingers if you hold it still. Freaky! And messy! (Play with it in a bowl, and put the bowl on newspapers. And maybe put the newspapers outside. Perhaps in another state.) But fun for kids. Seriously, they'll be out of your hair for hours, and then you give them wet washcloths and make them clean up the drying white powdery clumps and flakes all over the floor, and that buys you another hour.

I filed my taxes (*smug expression*) and this year I have too many children for the form. I use TurboTax, so I don't fill in actual forms with an actual writing implement, but I saw on the print-out that it had to file a separate form for additional dependents, because the main form only has room for four.



Those of you who have been hanging out around here for awhile know my feelings about Walllmart, which is that it is the kind of place where you take a deep breath, run in, do your shopping as fast as you can, and get the helll out. But look what I found there:


DINOSAUR SHIRTS. Marked down to only $2 each! Elizabeth LOVES dinosaurs; I got her one of each shirt, but then got some for Edward too so they could coordinate.

February 26, 2008

About Last Night

I am feeling a little shy this morning after spending the night dreaming about David Boreanaz. I mean, not only did I cheat on my boyfriend John C. McGinley, but I know David Boreanaz is YOUR boyfriend. I'm really sorry. Nothing really "happened," if that helps. And whatever DID happen, he seemed distracted so I'll bet he was thinking of you.


Yesterday was a busy day, and I was glad that I at least got one load of laundry through the washer and dryer. I put the basket on our bed to fold later, and forgot all about it.

Fast-forward to bedtime. I'm tossing my dirty clothes into the laundry, and Paul says, "Oh, wait. That's clean laundry in that basket. I put it there to keep it safe." He and the kids were playing on the bed earlier, and he remembered how much I hate it when clean laundry gets strewn around the room. So he put the basket WHERE WE KEEP DIRTY LAUNDRY IN LAUNDRY BASKETS. And so of course for the rest of the day I'd been tossing wet washcloths, baby-food-saturated baby bibs, etc., onto the clean clothes.

The look in my eyes must have been presenting an Idiot Award, because Paul started trying to do that thing guys do when they get in trouble for being idiots: he said in an injured voice that next time he wouldn't try to save the laundry, but would just leave it on the bed where the children could throw it all over the room. His tone was of someone who had tried and tried to do right, but had been thwarted by scoffers and ingrates and nitpickers and control freaks at every turn, until now he was ready to lie down and give up this heavy burden of unappreciated righteousness.

I explained as if to a slow child that the issue here was not that he shouldn't keep the laundry safe, but that he shouldn't be an IDIOT (*pause to raise eyebrows for emphasis*) by putting it "for safety" (*eyebrows*) in the dirty laundry pile, where it was in fact LESS SAFE than on the floor. And happily, the pants he wanted for the next day were right on top, under two wet washcloths and a peached baby bib, so I could demonstrate with a visual aid---so helpful for slow learners---that this was really more HIS problem than MINE.

Idiot. Makes me feel a whole lot less guilty about the whole David Boreanaz thing.

February 24, 2008

While You Wait

My RSS reader has been painfully empty the last week or so. If you, too, are hitting refresh every few minutes, perhaps you'd like to go visit my brick-and-mortar friend Astarte, who started up a blog after I wore her down with my incessant nagging. Astarte and I have been friends since high school, and she is my go-to girl when I'm FREAKING OUT about something.

And you could go visit Katie and see her exciting news.

You could go tell me what kind of expensive face stuff I should buy before Paul has time to regret his offer (I don't think he knows how much face stuff can run to).

You could go give an opinion on a baby name. Nobody likes Lawson? I knew such a cute boy in high school named Lawson (hi, Jonathan!).

You could go fill out Sarah's funny Would You Rather? survey.

You could go tell another of my brick-and-mortar friends, Mairzy, what mental image you get when you think of someone nice. (Dark blonde hair and green eyes, right?)

You could go see this tea and tell me if you think it's worth risking. It looks kind of yummy, but I'm not sure I want to buy 100 teabags without trying it first.

There. That'll keep us busy for a few minutes while other people compose their posts to entertain us.

February 22, 2008

Our Failings as a Species, and How They Relate to Parental Complaining

One of my friends and I have been emailing about something, and we're stuck, and we're hoping other people can help us figure out what is going on. I'm going to cut a big chunk out of one of her emails, because I think she does a good job explaining what we're wondering:

Why is it that when you are young and married, and you are out with other young married couples who have children (and you don't have children), and they spend the whole evening complaining about their children (which, okay, whatever, some of it is funny, some of it is sobering when they get serious about how. bad. their. lives. have. turned. out. because of offspring--this conversational tone is awkward, yes?), do they have to follow every paragraph with a question like, "Oh, I bet you guys have changed your minds, right? You're never gonna have kids, you didn't know what it was like!" or "We're really opening your eyes, aren't we?" or "I bet we've ruined any chance you'll ever have kids!" Why do they say these things so smugly? Why do they seem so horrified at their lives, and yet act superior because we don't have children? What is this smugness?

And I know I haven't had a child, so I haven't experienced it and don't know from experience all of the stuff. Obviously. But why do people have to complain and complain and complain, and tell you how awful it is, and how hard it is, and THEN freak out if you even consider NOT having children? And why do people call that selfish?

Maybe, my main question is, why do so many parents complain so much, when, duh! You are responsible for the complete well being of a tiny human! These conversations make my skin crawl.

I have been thinking and thinking on this topic: Why DO Parents Say Things Like That? Because I am totally familiar with what she is describing, and I can't quite pin down what happens. Here is what I THINK happens:

1) New parents think that they are the only ones to ever have negative feelings about parenting, or about their children. (I don't know how this happens, since we hear it all around us, but it does seem to happen.)

2) In a group of new parents, where everyone wants to talk about parenting the way a group of engaged people want to talk about wedding plans, someone finally tentatively broaches their negative feelings. Everyone else is so relieved, they're practically high from it.

3) Searching for more of that high, parents bring up negative things more often. When that high becomes insufficient, they get more and more negative, saying bolder and bolder things. People who actually dislike the entire parenting experience (as opposed to the people who enjoy parenting but also enjoy complaining) start getting more confident and vocal.

4) And when parents realize they've been talking that way in front of non-members, as it were, they suddenly get self-conscious. They're torn: on one hand, they kind of WANT to tell you the sucky stuff, because they've been working the whole "Nobody tells you it'll be like this" angle (true or not), and because they want credit for dealing with something so diffcult. On the other hand, they know it sounds awful when they describe it this way, and they don't literally mean all of it, and they think you'll think they're bad parents, and they wonder if they've gone too far and will talk you out of having kids. Also, when they look at non-parents, they remember their own non-parent selves and feel embarrassed about whatever opinions they might have had back then. CONFLICTED!

5) So then they get even stupider, and talk more when they should be talking less.


I think the SMUGNESS she describes is basic "We know something you don't know" smugness. Like when someone has been to another country and keeps bringing up how they do things there. Or when someone has been on a missions trip. Or when someone has worked in a job you've never worked in. Or when someone has had something awful happen to them. Or when someone has done ANYTHING where (1) they now know more than you, and (2) they want you to know that there is NO WAY you can know the same thing unless you go through the same thing. Man, you can't even BEGIN to understand. And so now we're going to explain it to you AT LENGTH, even though we JUST SAID that there's NO WAY you could understand, because there is NO REASON you shouldn't be able to do this too.

Married people do this to non-married people. Graduates do it to students. War veterans do it to civilians. Exercisers/dieters do it to non-exercisers/non-dieters. And, as we've noticed, parents do it to non-parents. Parents also do it to other, less-experienced parents: parents of two children do it to parents of one child, parents of toddlers do it to parents of babies, and parents of teenagers do it to parents of toddlers. Kind of makes the human species look bad, doesn't it? We want credit for being more awesome than you, and we also want you to know that you have no excuse for not being this awesome too.

Anyway, that's my theory: we do it because of one of our strengths as a species (our eagerness to bond with each other and to empathize with each other) combined with one of our failings as a species (our eagerness to one-up each other and be superior to each other).

That's not quite as . . . useful a theory as I'd like to have, though, so please add your voice to the discussion and maybe we can hammer this out a little better.

February 20, 2008

Diet, Day 24

When Valentine's Day candy was 75% off, I reminded myself that the COST of the candy is IRRELEVANT: the CALORIES are not 75% off.



But today it was NINETY percent off.

February 19, 2008

Diets: The Baby's and Mine


Last night, Henry woke up twice to nurse. I like to think of myself some sort of Natural at getting up in the night, but it's actually that I adjust well: if he wakes me up when he hasn't been waking regularly, I'm a sleepwalker. I woke up in the recliner an hour or so later, with a sleeping baby sprawled across me. I tried to put him in his crib, but no: now he wanted to nurse. So I nursed him, fell back to sleep, woke again with the baby sleeping on me. He again explained that he'd been robbed of his opportunity. Some nights, I write myself an I.O.U.

In other news which MAY OR MAY NOT be about Henry, I called the doctor to ask what constipation remedies were safe for an 8-month-old someone who may or may not be 8 months old. This is my first baby to have this problem, so this is all new territory for me.

I talked with the nurse, and she said they don't recommend things like milk of magnesia until the child has been seen by the doctor. She said that I should try changing the child's diet first, starting by taking out applesauce, bananas, rice, and carrots, and adding prune juice, white grape juice, more fruits and vegetables, more fluids, and more grains.

So, fine. But how to get the juice into him? He just spits when I give him a sippee cup. I've never even offered him a bottle, because lengthy and frustrating experiments with his siblings showed me it was easier not to bother with it.

On the other hand, Henry is the easy-goingest, laid-backest baby I have ever had. His life philosophy is "Sure! Whatevs!" So I got an Avent bottle (those are the ones the breastfed babies used in the daycare where I worked), and I put some prune juice into it, and Henry fumbled for a minute and then latched on like a champ and drank it right down.

Conclusion: slightly-warmed prune juice is A GREAT IDEA. I'll say no more.

As long as we've all lost our appetites anyway, this seems like good timing for a diet update. I am having a teetery couple of days, almost forgetting I'm ON a diet. Like, this morning I was all, "Hey, this would be a good day to bake cookies!" Then I had a very grim remembering, and it was SO grim, I felt like the only compensation was to go ahead and make the cookies. (I haven't.) (Yet.) (But I AM eating an enormous bowl of sugar-free fat-free pudding at 10:00 in the morning.)

But I am still on it, and my weight is still going down---more slowly, of course, but ever downward. I notice I've been feeling perkier and more energetic and like I'm better able to cope with things. I even washed the kitchen floor, and if that doesn't smack of losing weight directly from the brain, I don't know what does.

February 17, 2008

Baby Food Recipe Adventure: Prunes

I don't want to embarrass anyone, but SOMEONE in our household is the first baby of my five babies to suffer from constipation. I'll say no more about that, except that luckily the child in question is still eating anything fed to him on a spoon, so I can easily get him to eat prunes. Not that that's helping all that much, but onward to the story, which is that after spending a dollar for two tiny containers of Gerber prunes, I noticed the ingredients:



So not only is this a very simple recipe, but there is MORE WATER THAN PRUNES. At 50 cents per 2.5-ounce container, that is DISPLEASING. (For comparison, at that same price per ounce a standard jar of applesauce would cost over nine dollars.)

But I've never made my own prune baby food, and prunes seemed kind of TOUGH to put in the blender. Undaunted, I called out an old trick from my bakery days: to revive tough raisins and keep them moist in bakedy stuff, put them in a big bowl and soak them in boiling water for awhile.

I put the prunes in a pan.



I poured boiling water over them.


I let them soak. Oh, gross.



After an hour or so, I poured the water off into the blender, leaving the prunes in the pan.



I pressed the prunes with a fork, looking for pits. They were supposed to be pitted, but I don't totally trust that.



And sure enough. A pit. This is one of THREE I found. (That's not typical.)



I added the slightly squished prunes to the prune water in the blender.



I cranked it up to eleven. (Actually: four.)



Well, darn it. I used too much water. It's like soup. I'm not willing to do the whole soak routine again, so I just added regular non-soaked prunes this time, squeezing each one lightly to check for pits (found one more).



Well, darn it. Now it's too thick. Sigh. Adding water.



I poured it out into ice cube trays.



This is how many it made.



Ice cube trays into freezer.



That evening, I ran hot water over the bottom of each tray...



...and then cracked the cubes out onto a paper towel.



Then the cubes go into a plastic ziploc freezer bag.



When you want to make some for the baby, put a couple of cubes into a little container (I use the Ziploc 1-cup).



30 seconds in the microwave. Your microwave may vary.



Voila. Delicious prune puree. For a baby whose name need not be mentioned.

February 15, 2008

Heads Up! Candle Clearance

I'm posting on SundryBuzz today about this sale: Illuminations Jar Candles. Those SundryBuzz readers are BUYERS, so I'd go quick if I were you. (I ordered MINE before even POSTING, just to be sure.)

February 14, 2008

What I Did During Naptime

Swistle: Baby Names

Happy Valentine's Day (HAPPY, I said!)

The crappiest Valentine's Day present of all is the single, perfect, long-stemmed red rose: it's cheap and it's painfully trite, but you have to pretend it's BETTER and more MEANINGFUL than something more expensive or more thoughtfully chosen.

One of my best Valentine's Day gifts ever was THIS, from Paul:


We only had four kids then, and he got each of them dressed in a coordinating outfits (white shirts for everyone, blue pants for boys, pink pants for girl), and took their photos holding letters (L O V E) he'd cut out and painted. Then he got prints made of the photos and went out shopping for a frame, and he chose the frame I would have chosen over any other.

So, awesome: lots of work, lots of thought, and also showing he knows me (the frame style, and also knowing I am the kind of person who would want the children to be in order of age).

But the REAL best part was later that day, when he said, "OH DAMMIT! I meant to give you that for MOTHER'S DAY!"

February 13, 2008

Bolster: Support, Fortify, Strengthen, Sustain, Reinforce

Our Kelsey is in the hospital for pre-term pregnancy complications. Our Samantha is just home from the hospital and on bed rest for the same thing. Would you be darlings and go leave them a bolstering comment or two?

February 11, 2008

Cats

You want to know about my CATS? Oh, they'll LOVE that. It's very little attention and love they've seen since we brought home the first of our five unusually large, loud, furless kittens. ...Sorry, I hate cats' eye view, too. What's next? Talking about "their humans"? Referring to the cats as our "furry children"? It's a slippery slope, my friends: one day it's "furless kittens" and the next day it's "My cat walks all over me!" sweatshirts.

We have three cats, all acquired in ignorance of our creature-saturated future. The first one was Ge0rge. (You are going to think I am a PARANOID FREAK for disguising my CATS' names, and listen, I agree. But on the other hand, I feel like my mother-in-law is EVERYWHERE. The walls! They have eyes and ears! And horns!)

So, this is Ge0rge, who in actual life has an o and not a zero in his name:


We adopted him from a shelter when he was a kitten. Ge0rge is not my preferred kitten style: he was frisky and sunshiney and hypering up and down the walls of his cage. He would run right up our bodies and sit on our shoulders.

The kitten I picked out more my style: sniveling, clinging, cowering. That was OIiver, who normally has a lowercase L instead of a capital I, and who normally does not have a mysterious red scuff on his nose:


OIiver is also a shelter cat, chosen painfully from a litter of four very similar kittens. His mother was also in the shelter, and I still wish I'd taken her, too. She was a very nice cat. And then maybe OIiver wouldn't spend so much time sucking his own paw. Plus, it turns out I don't like kittens, even if they're in my preferred style.

And so the third cat we adopted was a grown cat. She was a stray in our apartment complex, a knocked-up teenager. Someone else took her in (technically, she took herself in: she walked right into their apartment without asking) when she needed a place to have her kittens, and then we took her when her kittens were old enough to be given away. I thought it would be sad to separate her from the kittens, but you should have seen her shaking off the shackles.

We named her Amelia, but called her that about three times before we nicknamed her M0use, and we've never called her anything else since then. You wouldn't know it to look at her now, but when she was younger she was thin and almost all white, with huge ears. So the nickname seemed less silly back then.

February 10, 2008

Mairzy and Swistle Would Like to Know: Doll Names

My friend Mairzy and I first bonded over baby names. In fact, I'd say that if you include the "Hey, Mairzy! Hey, Swistle!" and the "See ya, Mairzy! See ya, Swistle!" as part of the conversation, our first chats were roughly 95% baby names. About right, Mairzy?

It's still our favorite topic. We both own tattered copies of The Baby Name Wizard (Maizy's is more tattered: she generously loans hers out, whereas I hoard mine like miser's gold), and we like to page through them together, calling out opinions. Anyone seeing us in a coffee shop would assume that both of us were pregnant--and certainly we go into name overdrive when one of us IS. But baby names are not a pregnancy topic for us: they're an ALWAYS topic.

We are interested in EVERYONE'S baby names. We have heard it many times, but we are still surprised when people say they "just chose" a name, as if it were not an activity involving piles of baby name books, hundreds of discussions, and multi-page lists. Not because it's "necessary" to do it that way, but because it's SO FUN. If choosing a baby name is a no-big-deal, boring task...perhaps you'd let US name your baby?

Here is what Mairzy and Swistle would like to know today: What did you name your dolls when you were a child? This is not limited to literal dolls---you could include stuffed animals or pets---but what we're looking for here is your budding baby-naming skills. Not relevant: descriptive names ("Fluffy" for a stuffed cat) and jokey names ("Fred" for a hamster--unless you really did think that was an awesome boy name you'd use for a future child).

I had two dolls I gave names to. My first was a baby doll, and I got her the Christmas I was five. I named her Jeanette Isabella after my favorite Christmas carol. Later I changed her name to Sarah; later still, I changed her name to Nina. My second doll was a Cabbage Patch Kid, and I named her Megan.

Mairzy had two dolls she played with a lot. She named them Anna Nicole (she notes: "not Smith") and Katherine.

We are not sure what these names Tell Us, but we are Very Interested all the same!

February 8, 2008

With-It (or Not) and Slipping (or Not)

I sure enjoyed all your comments about how awesomely organized I am. Perhaps I should just keep it to myself that THIS is my "coats and backpacks and boots" organizational system:



And that THIS is my "bathroom drawer" organizational system:



And speaking of not being entirely with-it, last week I was in a big panic because WE HAVE NO BREAD OMG WHAT WILL WE DO?? and it seriously didn't occur to me until today that we have a BREAD MACHINE. We can make bread RIGHT HERE ON THE PREMISES. (We only use our bread machine as a (1) counter-space reducer and (2) pizza dough maker.)

And speaking now of pizza (are you enjoying these smooth, well-organized segues?), I had a little diet crisis yesterday. I took Rob to a doctor appointment and afterward I let him choose a treat from the vending machine. And I was doing FINE, just hanging out and watching him choose something, feeling proud of myself for being so patient as the minutes ticked by. Until I saw the strawberry Pop-Tarts. The kind with sprinkles. Oh how I love Pop-Tarts! And 80 cents later (what a rip!), I had the package open and was eating half a Pop-Tart in the elevator. And part of me was saying, "OMG WHAT ARE YOU DOING?? PUT THAT DOWN!! OMG ARE YOU CRAZY?," and a louder part of me was saying, "MMMMMMMmmmmmmm!"

After half a Pop-Tart, I was calmed down enough to start thinking that really I should toss the rest out. I didn't feel like I HAD to have it anymore, so I shouldn't eat it. But...the WASTE! And it would be so yummy! AND THEN: I dropped the package into a puddle. Not on purpose, completely by accident. I stood there staring at it, unbelieving---surely it could still be saved? Surely the 5-minute rule means the water was not filling the package? I was in denial, but soon had to admit that the Pop-Tarts were gone, really gone. THAT made the decision, didn't it? It was like losing 60 cents, right there. But today, looking back, would I pay 60 cents to NOT have eaten 1.5 Pop-Tarts? Yes. So: good deal.

Then I further played with fire by stopping at a drive-through on the way home for Rob to get lunch. And I let him get more than he'd be able to eat, already in the back of my mind planning to eat the extra, so as not to waste it. (Really, it would only be the Financially Sensible thing to do.) And the smell of the chicken nuggets nearly DROVE ME WILD in the car on the way home. And then he did, in fact, eat all of it, so I had soup. Pls send medal kthanx.

February 7, 2008

How the Hell Do You Do It? Here's the Hell How.

I am having the kind of day where three children woke up wet and had to be bathed right away, and where toddler twins are hitting and biting and saying "NO YOU GO 'WAY!!!" to each other, and I've already had one discipline issue of the "Do I really have to handle this or could I just pretend not to notice?" type, and the laundry is doing THIS:


And this reminds me of the comment Susan left in the comment section awhile back:

Okay, can you please tell me how you manage to cook and clean with 5 kids, esp 5 young kids?! i do not know how you manage it, without, like, a maid and nanny. even if your housework standards are low, i know your kids still get dinner, have clean clothes, and i can see from photos your not drowning in chaos, so some cleaning must be done.

HOW THE HELL DO YOU DO IT?!? please teach me. i am in your hands. i bet others would like to know, too.


Susan is right to assume that although my first response would indeed have been that I DON'T cook or clean, HAR HAR, I do in fact do some basic meal preparation and some cleaning. I don't LITERALLY let the children rummage in the cupboards for cereal to eat off the floor.

...very often.


All day, but especially during Our Morning Routine (6:15-8:05), I rely on a system of MESHING activities: I get one thing going that can maintain itself for awhile, and then I get another thing going. It's like the plate-spinning trick. Or like getting the washing machine going before you start cleaning the bathroom. (How's THAT for a depressing example?) Then you and the washing machine are BOTH working.

So, for example, the first thing I do is get breakfast on the table, even if the baby is crying the entire time, because then any child who isn't doing something else can be eating. And if the baby is NOT crying, I also get the coffee pot going so it'll be ready later.


I get one older child into the shower, because once I start the water, they can handle it all the way through to showing up at the table fully dressed. I nurse the baby while three children eat, then fourth child joins them. I get the twins dressed either BEFORE this (if they wake up before baby) or AFTER (if they wake up after baby). I assemble lunches.


Sometimes I have coffee and cereal out on the counter for myself to eat as I'm assembling the lunches.

Then I shower while the big kids supervise the little kids.

The whole routine takes an hour and fifty minutes, and at the end of it we have six dressed people, at least five fed people, and at least two showered people. Also: two lunches assembled, two backpacks packed, two kids in outerwear. I have a list by the door of everything that needs to be IN the kids' backpacks and everything they need to have ON, and so I can say, "Okay, get ready for school now," and they can do it without any of us forgetting anything.

The older kids go off to the bus stop, and then the rest of my day is pretty flexible: it doesn't really matter what time we have lunch, for example.

When we do have lunch, I make extra sandwiches. I put them in the freezer for the older kids' lunches the next day. That's why I used the word "assembled" above: I found it stressful to try to make sandwiches in the morning, so now I take sandwiches out of the freezer and just make the snacks. If I have a little left in a box of crackers, I put that in a baggie and put it aside for a future lunch.


I usually have three tasks in mind for each day. One of the three tasks is always laundry, whether I actually put a load in or not: laundry ALWAYS needs to be done. The other tasks might be to take out the trash, or to wipe off the counters, or to make a batch of baby food, or to make soup, or to scoop the cat box, or to write a letter, or to change sheets, or pay the bills that don't get auto-paid, or some other thing. I might get to these things or I might not; typically I get to two of them.

When the older boys come home, I work on their homework with them. I try to schedule the rest of the day so that I'm not in a huge flurry of activity when they come home, since they bring that huge flurry of activity home with them already.

Other than that, I don't have challenging goals. I don't try to keep the house CLEAN-clean: I take care of the worst areas as they bug me. I don't try to do crafts other than coloring--but I didn't much like crafts even when I had only one child. I don't try to grocery shop: Paul does that on the weekends. I don't try to cook dinner: Paul cooks for the kids when we have a nursing infant, and we cook our own meals after the kids go to bed.

I'm sorry, this is so LONG and so BORING. But, you know, it IS that way!

The keys to it, I think, are:

1) Mesh activities. Get one thing going that can sustain itself, while you go on to the next thing. There should be as little "standing around waiting for mommy" as possible.

2) Separate what really must be done now from what can wait. A soaking wet child really must have a quick bath before getting dressed---but as much as I'm itching to change the wet sheets, those can wait until after the older kids leave for school.

3) Employ even sub-par resources. The two older boys are slow and messy, but they CAN help. If I'm in a rush, it's like having extra hands. Maybe it takes them three times as long to pack their lunches, but it is possible for them to do it.

4) Get up early enough. I used to get up at 6:30, but found I always ended up raising my voice near leaving time. Setting my alarm for 15 minutes earlier SUCKED, but it made all the difference in how pleasant our morning was.

5) Grab opportunities. Some mornings, the kids wake up earlier than usual. When they do, I'll have both older boys take showers, instead of just one. I might give a littler child or two a quick bath, or I might change sheets. If I'm waiting for soup to heat up, I don't stand there reading a book (PAUL), I do a few dishes. (Note: I'm not talking about opportunities such as naptime, or the kids watching TV. I use those for computer stuff, not chores.)

6) Don't try to do too much. I can't tell you how important it was to me when Paul went back to work after Henry was born and said, "If all six of you are alive when I get home, I will be impressed." I do what doesn't send me over the Cliff of Despair, and everything else can wait until the kids leave home for good. Assuming they ever do.

February 4, 2008

First Weigh-In, and Diet Treat/Dessert Recipes

In case you are not already sick of me talking IN EVERY COMMENT SECTION ACROSS THE LAND about my favorite baby name book, I'm reviewing it today over at SundryBuzz.

Elizabeth's vocabulary is developing rapidly. This weekend she pointed at me and said "YEAVE ME 'YONE!" (Leave me alone.) Then she pointed to the enormous laundry pile and said, "YOU DO YAWN-HEE!" (You do laundry.) NICE. How 'bout a little "I yuv you"?


First weigh-in today! I'm down three (and a half) pounds. I love the first week of a diet, when my system is all "WHUH??" It's harder to get excited later on when it's a half-pound loss, or no loss at all, or even a little bump up.

Isn't it weird how some diets stick and some don't? I've been on so many half-day diets, where my resolve fails before I even get to lunchtime. It's too early to celebrate this one's success, but even getting past the 3-day point is a big deal to me.

Everyone has their own weak spot, and mine is SWEETS. I almost feel I can't be happy in life unless I can be constantly grazing out of a sack of chocolates. Here are a few of the, um, sensible choice treats and desserts that have been pulling me back from the edge of the cliff:

1) Sugar-free fat-free Jell-o pudding, particularly the Chocolate Fudge flavor (the regular Chocolate tastes flat to me). I eat it with Lite Cool Whip, which makes it sweeter and more dessert-ish. It's even better if you crumble up some graham crackers on it: tastes like one of those graham-cracker-crusted pudding pies.

2) Chai tea made with milk. Fill a coffee mug half-full of skim milk, then the rest of the way with water. Microwave for 2 minutes, or until hot but not boiling. Put in a chai tea teabag. Wait for awhile, maybe do some dishes or something. Remove teabag and stir in some Splenda. The milk and Splenda take the tea out of tea category and into the hot chocolate category, and the warmth and caffeine are heartening.

3) Kellogg's Frosted Mini-Wheats, especially the strawberry and vanilla flavors. I eat them dry, with a glass of milk on the side: this maximizes the sweetness impact. The wheat makes them righteous, and also filling.

4) Mint milk. Fill a glass with skim milk. Add a few drops of peppermint extract. (Seriously, don't overdo the extract or it'll taste like toothpaste.) (And don't accidentally buy Mint instead of Peppermint--ICK.) Then add a little vanilla extract (I like the cheap artificial stuff for this), maybe half a teaspoon. Then a couple of spoonfulls of Splenda. This drink has the SPIRIT of melted mint chocolate-chip ice cream.

5) Sugar-free Jell-o with crushed pineapple. Use just about any flavor of Jell-0, but I particularly like the citrus ones. Add about half of a big can of crushed pineapple. The Jell-o and pineapple are both sweet; the pineapple gives the Jell-o some substance, and makes it more nutritious and filling. Add some Lite Cool Whip and you might find your will to live returning.

6) Sweet popcorn. Pop it with just a little oil, and then sprinkle it with a little salt and a lot of Splenda. It's surprisingly yummy--I eat this even when I'm NOT dieting.

February 2, 2008

Jury Duty and Things Unsaid

Yesterday's mail brought the news that I've been excused from jury duty. On one hand, I'm SO RELIEVED. On the other hand, SO DISAPPOINTED! If I'd had all your comments and input BEFORE mailing them my crazy-person letter, I would have asked for a deferral rather than an excusal, or whatever the terms are.

Well. Onward to a totally awesome idea. I'm copying And You Know What Else, who was copying Bright Yellow World, who gives credit to Musings of a Semi-Coherent Mind, and that's as far back as I'm taking it. What you do is, you make a list of things you haven't said to people in your life. Each one should be directed at someone in particular. You don't say who you're saying each thing to, and you don't give a ton of backstory---you just say it. Like so:

1) We're not friends anymore. I don't understand why you don't understand.

2) You are so stupid, I'm embarrassed I dated you for so long.

3) You glue yourself to whoever tells you who you are. Is there any part of you that is YOU, or are you nothing more than a personality parasite?

4) I wish we'd dated. Even if it hadn't worked out, at least I would have known.

5) I'm so sorry you died. I think about you a lot. I don't know why you left without telling me you were going.

6) Do you seriously think I'm stupid enough to believe that you stopped calling because I was "too good for" you? Wow, you're a real saint, to be so self-sacrificial for my benefit. Whatever, pinehole. Before I was even out the door, you were on the phone to a girl who would put out. If you seriously believe you came out of that situation holding the flag of chivalry, you're more delusional than I thought.

7) I don't understand why you dropped out of touch. I thought you were the one who was more invested in our friendship.

8) I have dreams where I am hitting you as hard as I can, again and again, and the only thing I feel sorry about is that my dream-arms can't hit harder.

9) Maybe I should have formally ended our friendship, but I didn't know what to say. "You're a bad friend and a toxic person"? That didn't seem...constructive.

10) Neither of us made a choice to believe what we believe, and I think you'd feel better if you knew that.

11) Ever since I said those things to you, I have been feeling like a total idiot. But it's been so long, and I don't know how to take them back.

12) Dude. What was WITH you? I still don't get it.