May 31, 2008

Like Yesterday

Remember this?:


Henry
May 31, 2007
8:35 a.m.
8 pounds 2 ounces
21.5 inches long





Awwww! Newborns! Love! But they are so rude, changing so much in just one year!

May 30, 2008

Why I Hate Wallllmart

The employee pep rallies they have, the degrading ones where the employees are forced to "Give me a W! Give me an A!" etc., clapping and yelling how much they love working at Wallllllmart, every single day. How many days could you do that before you brought in a squirt gun and started using it?

They raise a price briefly, then "rollll it back" and brag about it: "We're rolllling back prices allll over the store!" Uh huh. Those crackers WERE $2, until a week ago when you marked them up to $2.47. Then you rolled them back to $2. Wow, you do rock.

If something is marked "rolllled back," it's highly likely it'll ring up at the pre-rolllled-back price. I've shopped at three different Walllllmarts in three dramatically different parts of the country, and they've all been the same. If it says "$1.50! Was $2.78!" it might ring up at $1.50 or it might ring up at $2.78. I try to keep an eye on things when they're being rung up, but I'm usually distracted by the kids.

If something is "30% more free" on the packaging, Walllllmart will often have it at a higher price---i.e., the extra is NOT free. If the 10-ounce one is $1.00, and the "30% more free!" 13-ounce one is $1.25, that is not 30% free, that is 30% for 25 cents. I know not everyone is good at math, but I have tried to explain this to SEVERAL Wallllmart employees (including, in one case where I was there without children and highly determined, the STORE MANAGER), and NONE of them understood what I was talking about, except for ONE perfume-counter worker who instantly grasped the situation---and then couldn't get her manager to understand. (Her manager kept saying, "Yes, but see this is a THIRTEEN-OUNCE. That's why it costs more. It's a larger size." And she and I would say in unison, "But is says the part that makes it 'larger' is supposed to be FREE.")

It is often difficult to find the prices on things. Shelf tags will be missing.

When you can find prices, the unit prices are unhelpful. One kind of vegetable oil will give the price per ounce, one will give the price per liter, one will give the price per gallon, and one will give the price "per each."

They will be out of something for months at a time. On every visit, the shelf space will still be there, empty. They are unable to tell me when---if ever---they will be getting more. It is out of their hands: they are merely conduits for the Delivery Gods. They'll be getting a truck in on Thursday; I could check back then. I understand that they don't have stone tablets telling them of each Twix bar that will be delivered and at what minute of what day. But I would like them to DO something about it if they haven't received a shipment of Twix in three months. The empty shelf space is not good for either of us.

The employees put pallets and carts in all the aisles, so that you can get trapped: every way out is blocked, and the only way out is the way you came---halfway across the store. In an emergency, where they run out of pallets, they will fling their own bodies in front of your cart.

Their bags rip. Sometimes the clerk goes through a couple ripped ones just bagging things up. The others rip in the car, or while I'm carrying things into the house. I once had three glass jars of jam fall to the basement floor as I carried the groceries down to put them away. Astonishing mess.

Their bags shed choking-hazard-sized ovals of plastic, just perfect for a baby to inhale. I panic every time I forget to bring my reusable bags with me and have to use those horrible dangerous plastic bags. Other stores use plastic bags and manage not to shed those little shapes.

If I hear it called "Walllly's World," as if it's a fun and happy amusement park, I'm getting out the squirt gun.

Reminder

If you want to enter the raffle to raise money for the Preeclampsia Foundation, you have today and tomorrow and that's it: Preeclampsia Awareness Month will be over, and you will be out of luck! Shannon is running the raffle, and she has made a gorgeous baby quilt I want to CHEW ON, it is so gorgeous. And after she chooses a winner, she'll send me the remaining names and I'll choose another winner. I forget what I offered, but I think it was a choice of either a treat or a book. Plus, I tend to use a flat-rate box/envelope and fill up the empty space with miscellaneous crap from my house. Bonus!

May 29, 2008

Education

The term is not "magic bullet," it's "magic pill." That makes a lot more sense, doesn't it? Compare: "There's no magic bullet for weight loss" vs. "There's no magic pill for weight loss. "Magic bullet" IS an existing term, but it is used to describe, for example, the way a medical treatment might be able to zip in and kill JUST the bad bacteria, without harming the good bacteria: a magic bullet, weaving into the middle of a crowd of hostages and killing just the bad guy. It is NOT used to describe the concept of "an effortless way out." That is when you use the term "magic pill": You can't just take a magic pill and make the problem disappear. Magic PILL. No one is SHOOTING AT the problem and hoping for good results.


When people make fun of the "hot fudge sundae and a diet Coke" combination, that's the same as saying that if you spend money it's stupid and contradictory not to spend more. I mean GEEZ! Why would you spend money AND not-spend it? If you're spending some, you might as well keep spending, even if you don't want to! If you buy a couch, you have to buy a new bed, DUH! ...And this is all assuming the diet Coke means what those people assume it means, which is that the person is "dieting" and therefore being a stupid moron by eating ice cream. I drink diet Coke because I prefer it. I hate regular Coke: it's way too sweet, it never seems cold enough, and it's not thirst-quenching. But I guess I should drink it anyway EVEN THOUGH I DON'T LIKE IT, if I'm eating ice cream: if you eat ONE item with fat and calories in it, you are DUTY-BOUND to eat the maximum possible fat and calories with all other choices you make. That makes NO SENSE.


And speaking of making no sense, "giving 110%" ALREADY made no sense, but now it's getting worse: people are saying "giving 150%" or "giving 200%"---because apparently now 110% doesn't sound like enough. AAAAAAGH. The most you can give is 100%, just as the most you can fill a glass with liquid is 100%. In fact, even "giving 100%" is a huge exaggeration: I suppose there might be occasions where someone would literally be giving 100%, but those times are rare.

May 28, 2008

Father's Day Gift Ideas and Diet Update

I am still feeling low and sad and crabby and like everything is the end of the world: "My computer is running slow! Slowwwwwwwwwwwwwww! *flops listlessly in chair*"

Today I'm trying a depression-combating method I read about a long time ago and periodically call into service: drinking 1/4th cup of coffee every hour, as if taking medicine. It's supposed to give you a more even keel than if you drink a huge honking mug in the morning and try to coast all the way to bedtime.


If you are at a loss in re Father's Day gifts, Sundry and I each wrote a post of ideas over at Milk & Cookies. Here's hers, and here's mine. I'm chalking that up as our good deeds for the month: looking for Father's Day gifts is borrrrrr-ring.


Okay! Marie Green thinks it is time for a diet update, and I agree.

The diet and I are in a fight, but still together. I'm doing a modified Weight Watchers Core. Core basically says that if it's sugar or fat or in any way baked (crackers, bread), you barely get any of it (you have a Treats Budget you can use on those items), but you can have as much as you want of the approved food list, which is surprisingly long and inclusive. It's an excellent diet for a nursing mother, because it lets you have huge heaping helpings of nutritious stuff like chicken and vegetables and brown rice and fruit and eggs and milk and so forth, while leading you away from the ice cream and the candy and the cake.

The reason I call it "modified" Core is that I don't follow it exactly. My diet is more "based on actual events" than "the true story of." I think Weight Watchers, along with the rest of the dieting world, has gone too far on the anti-carb spectrum. I think, for example, that 100% whole wheat bread is a GOOD food, not an EVIL food. So I don't use my Treats Budget for it if I eat it. For some people, this would not be a good modification: they'd eat a whole loaf of bread right off the bat. But I don't even like bread all that much, and find I only crave it when it's forbidden, so it's a good modification for me: if I can have it, I'll barely ever eat it. If I can't have it, I'll keep sneaking it.

Another sample modification: you're supposed to use the Treats Budget for the frosting on Frosted Mini-Wheats. SCREW THAT. If I am eating SHREDDED WHEAT, I don't really care if it has sugar on it. I'm not going to sit there eating a whole box. So this, too, works for me: if I have to count the frosting, I won't eat the shredded wheat and will instead lose control with a bag of chocolate chips; but if I DON'T have to count the frosting, I'll eat the cereal and pull through the hard times. I'm not in this diet for UTTER RIGHTEOUSNESS.

I think the idea is that certain foods give some people problems, so Weight Watchers has made sweeping rules for that. But there are a lot of foods that I know are not problems for me (my problems are sweets and sweet fats, not potatoes and whole wheat bread), so I change it.

Right NOW, though---I mean, I am eating out of a bag of chocolate chips AS I TYPE. There are chocolate chips IN MY MOUTH. And I don't think I can call that a "modification." I'm finding that with the diet, as with any relationship, I have times when things are going well and times when things are not going well. "Hang in there anyway" is one of my mottos for this diet. Yes, I am eating chocolate chips right now, but I don't have three bags of candy waiting for me in the other room. SOME improvement is better than NO improvement, and perseverance is still worthwhile.

May 26, 2008

Color Me Swistle

My mom likes Marshall's, so we went there on Saturday. I don't usually like Marshall's: I'm always finding things that I like ALMOST enough to buy, but either I don't like them QUITE enough or they're just a LITTLE more expensive than I want to pay. Or it's a brand I've never heard of, so I'm thinking, "Is this a ritzy bar of soap marked way down, or is this a cheap bar of soap that is made to LOOK like a ritzy bar of soap marked way down?" Or I'll find something I like, but it's in every size but the one I need. I find the whole store depressing.

But look what I found there on Saturday!


It's a set of purse accessories: business card holder, lipstick case, and there's also a round compact (not shown) that my mom has because the enamel piece had come unglued and she's gluing it back on for me. (SPOILED MUCH?)

Do I NEED these? No. But the whole set was marked down to $5, and they're satisfyingly heavy, and I....well, it was like my heart reached out for them and grabbed them with grabby little hands. I just WANTED them as soon as I saw them, so they came home with me. I'm going to have to get business cards now, I guess.

And do you notice something about the COLOR of those items? They're Swistle-colored! (= same as the color of the blog background, for those of you reading this in an RSS reader!)

May 24, 2008

There's a Brownie Recipe at the End

Um, hi. CRABBY MUCH? I told you I was hormonal. I mean, what in the blue blazes do I care about how other people mange their blogging hobbies? Do I give two shakes of a lamb's tail? NO I DO NOT.

Seriously! How does it affect me if people choose to focus on promotion rather than on creating something worth promoting? NOT AT ALL, that's how! Do I even notice who's doing it and who's not? No! Did I even know those promotional sites existed before LAST NIGHT? No! So what is in MY bonnet? How come I'm STILL making crabby remarks? I mean, look at that sentence about "promotion rather than creating something worth promoting." BIT-CHY.

And would I want someone else flouncing in telling ME how to handle MY blog hobby? Certainly not! Some people think ads are stupid, and what do I have over there?---->
A big old ad, that's what! Do I want someone saying, "Ads are stupid! What are you, a writer or a BILLBOARD? What are you doing, blogging or SHILLING FOR CAPITALISTS?" No! So what business do I have flouncing around saying that the promotion websites---which, as I say, I spent all of five minutes learning about---are stupid? None, that's what! NONE!

Furthermore, did I even take a few minutes to make sure I was making my alleged "point" clear? No! It was near bedtime, so I just dashed it off and went away in a snit. NICE. So now it's like I'm flinging dirt around at everyone who has ever hoped---utterly naturally---to attract more readers to their blog, and has taken perfectly ordinary steps to do so! NICE. And who was it who just finished saying that when you vent, you have to make sure the shrapnel will not hit innocent bystanders? THAT'S RIGHT.

Sigh. So here is what I am: sorry if you got hit by annoying little bits of my vent shrapnel. Because I didn't mean you. And I can say that with 100% certainty and 0% lying, because I had literally NONE OF YOU in mind, nor have I ever noticed your blog-promoting activities with narrowed eyes, nor do I care what blog-promoting activities you participate in. You know who I had in mind? An imaginary person, possibly based on my pyramid-scheme-participating high-school boyfriend: someone grasping at anything that looks like fame or fortune, no matter how stupid and useless. Someone who doesn't understand that attention for the sake of attention is meaningless and stupid. Yes, that sounds just like him. Well, or like Paris Hilton. And they don't sound anything like you, now do they? And so I should have been a little more careful before I started yelling at them, now shouldn't I?

So let's kiss and make up! I've got fudge AND brownies! The brownies turned out really awesome, too:

Kiss and Make Up Brownies
3/4 cup (1.5 sticks) butter
5 squares (5 ounces) unsweetened baking chocolate
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and butter a 9x13 pan. Melt butter and baking chocolate in a large saucepan. When melted, remove saucepan from heat and use saucepan as a mixing bowl. Add sugar, then add eggs and vanilla. Then add flour and salt. Then add pecans. Do not eat all the batter; instead, put it into buttered pan and then onward into the oven. Bake for 28 minutes. Remove from oven. Let cool (HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA---just a little joke there! Do not burn tongue on pecans.).

May 23, 2008

I Don't Know What You're Talking About [Edited with Clarification]

I have had three---THREE!---emails this week from readers, asking me what I think of sites such as Techsquirrelrati and Skirtaroo and TripOver and Del.i.cacy and Dugg.

Here is what I think: I think I don't know what you're talking about. Are they...for promotion of your blog? That's what it looks like, when I go to them and try to figure out what they're for. They seem to exist solely for promotion and tit-for-tat trading of promotion.

And so here is what I think: I think it depends why you're blogging. Are you blogging as a hobby, or are you blogging as your latest get-rich-quick scheme? Are you a writer, or are you "promoting your brand"? Are you a blogger or a networker? Are you enjoying the act of writing, or are you trading virtual business cards and doing virtual lunch sometime? I'm not saying you can't be/do both, but if you're spending most of your time scrabbling for FAME! and RECOGNITION! and you're trading in comments as if they're currency*, and promoting things that don't deserve to be promoted in the hopes that someone will do the same for you----then it looks like those sites are exactly what you need to do that.

[*Clarification: I don't mean regular commenting, which is when you read a post by a blogger you like, and you feel like leaving a comment so you do. I mean like when bloggers act as if people OWE THEM comments, or MUST comment, or are in any way obligated to comment. Or when people act as if comments are currency: I commented on your blog, so now you have to comment on my blog, and if you DON'T, I'll stop commenting on YOURS. This ends up with people reading blogs they DON'T EVEN ENJOY, just so that they'll get comments in return from people who don't enjoy THEIR blogs. Dumb!]

Um, not that I have an opinion on this. Or that I think there's a right and wrong here, or that you should do what I do just because I say so. Um, clearly. Especially considering I spent all of five minutes on researching what these sites are about. For all I know, they're actually about using blogging to save starving children.

MOMMY NEEDS SOME PEACE AND QUIET

This has been the kind of day where I am just one tiny step away from squeezing upper arms. It seemed like every time I turned my back to help one child, the other two children got into mischief.

Edward cried loudly, like he'd been stabbed, and so I went rushing to help him---only to find that he had dropped his crayon (as well as, it seems, knocking over a large pile of books and paperwork) and couldn't reach it. While I got Edward's crayon, Henry tipped over the cat water. He was lying in the middle of this puddle. Cat water grosses me out, so I gave Henry a bath. He splashed me a lot, and he cried when I took him out because he wanted to stay in.

While I was giving Henry a bath, Elizabeth stomped in the cat water puddle. Edward stepped on my notebook and did the twist, so that it got all mangled. I cleaned up the cat water puddle, and Henry continued to cry angrily in his restraints high chair. Then he started sucking on his fingers, and he gagged himself and cried some more. Meanwhile, Edward colored on a permission slip I needed to fill out and get back to the school. And Elizabeth kept talking! talking! talking! talking! to me, until I asked her to please go play, and she stood there with her lip out, sulking. Like this, but a month later and in the kitchen (the photo is from April and the hallway):


When she felt better, she started telling herself the story, "Mommy say, 'Be why-it!' Because we being too yowd. And den I tomp in the cat water. And make big mess!"

I started making sandwiches. The twins started clamoring for taste! taste! taste! and jostling each other on the stepstool. Henry was still fussing. I thought he'd stop when I gave him his sandwich, but he didn't. He ate, but he kept up with the fussing as well. He is a multi-tasker; this challenge is no problem for him. Steam...pressure...rising!

But now, finally, it is naptime---although I hear Henry talking to himself and that's a bad sign, and Elizabeth WILL NOT STOP TALKING TO ME. Oh, I'm sure (*makes sarcastic flappy-mouth gesture with hand*): later when I'm begging her to talk to her old mother I'll be wishing I'd spent more time listening to her precious voice. But right now, OMG! Mommy's ears are FULL! Mommy would like to have THIRTY SECONDS in which she is not tending to some sort of situation that is messy and/or loud! Mommy would like to stop referring to herself as "Mommy" because that is weird and annoying!

Anyway. Here we go into the long weekend. And am I looking forward to it, as if it will be a time of rest and relaxation and fun, rather than a time that will make me long for my usual weekday routine? You betcha!

May 21, 2008

Solution to the Plastic Baby Bottle Problem

I haven't been completely oblivious to the whole polycarbonate BPA plastic baby bottle controversy, but since I don't use bottles I haven't been losing sleep over it, either. My mother, however, is a think-outside-the-box problem-solver, and she was ON IT.

Okay, prepare for genius: if you were using Avent bottles (the bottles have bisphenol-A but the nipples are silicone and apparently still fine to use), you can use a glass SMUCKERS JAM OR JELLY JAR as a baby bottle. I know, right??


It's the 10-ounce and 12-ounce glass jars that work, NOT the 18-ounce jars. Take out the jam (or KICK it out!), remove the label, wash the jar and lid (keep the lids), put baby formula in the jar, and put the Avent nipple/collar on the top! (My mom says that when you screw on the top, it'll kind of stop and then you need to give it another little turn---almost like you're locking it on.) OMG, glass baby bottle! Safe! Except for possible shards of glass if you drop it! But CHEMICALLY safe!

Now, my mother would like you to know that this was NOT tested on animals. No, we use only real human babies for our experiments. My mother obtained access to a baby who was accustomed to Avent baby bottles, and we arranged to secretly replace the baby's usual bottle with Folger's crystals my mother's glass-jam-jar system instead. The baby was suspicious, but unable to tell the difference.


For ounce markings, pour a measured amount of water into the jar and use a permanent marker to mark the outside of the jar at the water line. We haven't done any dishwasher testing, but in hand-washing experiments the marker was only just starting to wear off after two days' constant use (we had only one jam jar at the time). For those of you who do not enjoy math: 2 tablespoons is 1 ounce, 1/4 cup is 2 ounces, 1/2 cup is 4 ounces, 1 cup is 8 ounces. You could also fill a plastic baby bottle to each ounce marking, pour that water into the glass bottle, and mark it that way.

The jam sells for, like, $2 per jar, so this is economical, too! Dishwasher safe! BPA-free! Pure, all-natural, organically-grown glass! Reduces worrying by 95%!

Now, what are you going to do with all that JAM? Empty it into plastic containers, probably. Also, the Smucker's site has recipes! Jam meatloaf with jammed potatoes tonight, dear!

(And do I need to point out to you smart people that you should check with your pediatrician before implementing a new system? People haven't used glass jars in so long, who KNOWS what we should be aware of.)

Weaning

You guys, I hope I am not going to be too much of a DOWNER around here over the next few weeks. I'm starting to wean Henry, and I have learned from experience that this is a hormone shift to be faced with teeth clenched and elbows out. I KNOW that it is temporary, and I KNOW that it has happened before and I have come out on the other side, but BEEZUS the mood swings! Even taking the process slowly just means the mood swings last longer.

Yesterday evening I was sitting with Elizabeth while she fell asleep (sleep issues with her AGAIN), and I started thinking about how I was in the prime of life, and about how it won't be long before my little mirror-time frettings about whether my skin is or is not getting saggier, and whether that wrinkle is or is not deeper than before, are going to be totally MOOT as the skin basically starts melting off my face in folds.

And then I was thinking about how one day my CHILDREN would be showing signs of aging, and this is when I started thinking, "Hey. Self. Remember how this happens when you're weaning? Maybe you should STFU and go self-medicate with some bakedy stuff or something." But I was stuck there in a darkening room, quiet and cool and not a baking pan in sight.

So my mind continued. My mind informed me that one day Paul and I would be dead. I was a little sad, of course, but it's not like I hadn't realized that. It's one of the reasons I like having a big family: my kids will have each other. So my mind told me something I hadn't realized, which is that one day my children would start to lose their siblings. And the immediate mental image I got of this future situation is what told me I'd better stock up on baking cocoa and mint chocolate chips.

This is totally par for the course for me: when I'm weaning, I tune into the "Your Children Will One Day Get Old and Die" channel. This is not a subject there is any point thinking about. There is no sense at all in sitting around thinking heavy thoughts such as "In 100 years ALL of us will be dead," is there? IS THERE?

No. Because that is the way things go. It is only because I'm in a "good for the preservation of the species but bad for my psyche" mothering mode as well as under the influence of the weaning hormone cocktail, that I am plagued with such thoughts now. I am not mourning, am I, that my great-grandfather grew old and died? No, I am not. Am I mourning it for the species in general? No. Only for my dear babies, and OF COURSE I would not want to think of it in their case. The word "duh" comes to mind.

I have already been to the kitchen while writing this, to mix up some peanut butter and powdered sugar and oats in a bowl and eat them. It is a fortifying mixture: the fast boost of sugar and fat; the lingering comfort of protein and fiber.

May 20, 2008

Pay it Forward Contest Winner!

There were 138 comments on the Pay it Forward Contest. I used a random number generator, and the random number generator chose ME! No kidding. It chose my answer to someone's question about whether they could still enter if they didn't have a blog (answer: yes).

So I spoke sternly to the random number generator and asked it politely to see if it could perhaps choose a VALID ENTRY this time, and it chose Melessa! Congrats, Melessa! Email me (swistle at gmail dot com) with your address and I'll get a package on its way to you!

May 19, 2008

Pay it Forward Contest

It seems almost too SOON for a contest, doesn't it? We JUST HAD contests. We are still a little WRUNG OUT from contests. Nevertheless, we are having another contest! Because I won Jess Loolu's pay-it-forward contest, and now it is my turn to send a package!

First, let's take a look at the awesome package Jess Loolu sent me:


That is a polka-dotted terry sundress for Elizabeth and a set of extremely cool gift-tags (I'll use one on the package!). Both items from, as Jess puts it in the pretty card, "your boyfriend Target."

It will not be easy to measure up to the glory that was that package; I love BOTH items SO MUCH. But I will try! And as I mentioned in the post about my date with Paul, I have one item, an item PAUL-APPROVED for cuteness. It is this tube-shaped pencil tin:



I think you can see it larger if you click on it. Inside the tin are a dozen colored pencils with those same little pictures on the sides---and the pencils are rounded-triangular, so they don't roll away. ALSO, the cap has a lion's face on it! Oh, it is so cute! Do you see in the photo how my hand is sort of CLUTCHING the tube, like I am unwilling to let it go? THAT IS NO ILLUSION.

And that is just the START of the package I am assembling! Who knows what else I will put in there? WHO KNOWS?

So now let's talk about the rules, and how this thing goes. If you want to win the contest, you will leave a comment in this post's comment section before Tuesday, May 20th, noon, United States Pacific Time. You don't have to say anything in particular. You can say "hi!" You can say, "I like squirrels." You can say, "Roses are red / Violets are blue / I want to win this contest / So let me." It does not matter what you say---and there is no sense either kissing up or working the pity angle, because I'll use a random number generator to pick someone, and the random number generator's mathematical heart is unswayed by kissing-up and pity. UNSWAYED!

And! If you win! You must pay it forward! In this context, that means you must assemble a package and mail it to someone else.

Now go comment if you want to be entered. If you need help deciding what to say, why don't you tell me if your face is dry, oily, or combination?

May 18, 2008

I Need More Over-the-Counter Medications to Throw Blindly at the Problem

Elizabeth and Edward asked Paul to read them a book, so Paul read Henry to them: he folded Henry in half, then opened him up flat. "Once upon a time, a baby's head. Then, the baby's tum. Finally, the baby's feet. The end!" (*closes Henry*)

Henry was some kind of MESS last night. He kept waking up during the evening, which was perplexing because he doesn't normally DO that. He's got a molar coming in, so I gave him a dose of tylenol and put him back to bed. But he kept waking, like every hour. And his nose was running and he was rubbing his eyes itchily, so I thought, "Allergies?" So I gave him some benadryl. But he kept waking up!

So at our bedtime, I took Henry and a big blanket to the recliner, and I rocked him and rocked him, and soothed him and sang to him, and put him in different positions that seemed cuddly and/or comfy and/or good for stuffy noses. He would settle in and start dozing, so I'd start dozing, and then he'd wake up and cry some more. For two and a half hours. I kept trying to move him to his crib when he was dozy, and he would cry the most pitiful cry you have ever heard, and we would go back to the recliner.

I mean, what the heck, Henry? I nearly called the 24-hour nurse line, because this was so out of character for him I wondered if something might be Seriously Wrong. But at around 1:30 I thought, "He seems MORE dozy than the previous dozes," and that time when I put him down in his crib he stayed down.

And then Edward was up at 6:00, so let's just say I am a few diapers short of a jumbo pack this morning. In lieu of content, I will leave you with THIS, which Paul has started USING in our CONVERSATIONS (our computer desks are next to each other).

May 16, 2008

Options

Option one: Start watching The Hills and American Idol.
Option two: Cancel my subscription to US Weekly.


May 15, 2008

Date

Last night Paul and I went on a date, the main goal of which was to research a piece of computer equipment. So we got the boring task out of the way first, and then it was WOOOOOOOO PARTYYYYYYY!!!!! by which I mean we went to Chili's and then browsed for awhile at Border's. That's our favorite date.

At Chili's we ordered the Fried Cheese appetizer, and why oh why do they make us SAY that? "Would you like anything to start?" "Yes, we'd like the FRIED CHEESE." The FRIED CHEESE never comes with enough dipping sauce, which is a constant heartache to us. We ask for a double serving of dipping sauce---but really, even a double serving of dipping sauce is not enough dipping sauce. We need more like a VAT. We always end up morosely dipping the FRIED CHEESE in salsa.

I tried something new: Firecracker Tilapia. I love fish and never cook it, and Paul hates fish, so it's an excellent thing for me to have at a restaurant. The Firecracker is a CRAZY FLAVOR. It's spicy-hot ("actual discomfort to mouth" level), but also tastes like.....cinnamon roll? It's sweet and also hot and also a very peculiar flavor. I really, really liked it, and I really liked TRYING it. I tend to stick to the two chicken dishes I know I love (the Monterey chicken and the Cajun chicken on penne), but trying something new was surprisingly.....fun.

We talked for awhile about something Paul is trying to figure out at work, by which I mean HE talked and I tried to look bright and affectionate so no one would be using US as an example of the sad married couple with nothing to say to each other anymore. He was explaining a computer concept that sometimes eludes the people asking for a task to be done: he says it's like, one woman can make a baby in nine months, but that doesn't mean nine women can make a baby in one month.

And I don't know what else he said, because I was busy inside my mind thinking OMG WOULDN'T THAT BE GREAT??? The worst things about pregnancy are that (1) it takes so long and (2) it TAKES so LONG. If nine of us got together (and in my mind I was already assembling a team) and each of us were pregnant for one month for the first person's baby, and then had a little break, and then another month to give the second person a baby, and then a little break, and so on---well, I'm just saying. I think he should be working on making THAT happen, instead of working on whatever little "project" they seem to think is so important.

I kept bringing up how agonizing certain things would be if we were on a first date (the way the FRIED CHEESE strung wayyyyyyyy out long after a bite; I dropped my fork and it spattered sauce; the silence that fell at the end of one topic; the time we couldn't understand what the waiter said), and Paul kept saying, "I don't even want to think about the horror that is dating." So I cheerfully picked a shred of broccoli out of my teeth, even going in with the floss when we got to the car, and he went right ahead and burped in the open air, and we held hands which felt weird because usually we're holding kid hands.

At Border's I bought another copy of this journal, which I think is so cool/fun and which they only had one copy of left. I figured I'll give it as a baby gift or a wedding gift or a birthday gift or something.

We also bought a dinosaur ABC book for Elizabeth's birthday (it has a pronunciation guide in the back, which is crucial), and I bought something for the pay-it-forward package---more on that later, probably Monday, but I will say this: it is SUPER CUTE, and I want to keep it for myself, and I might! Even PAUL agreed it was super cute, though he declined to use that specific adjective.

Then we drove home arguing vigorously on the same side of an issue: we think those electronic book-reading things should be usable at LIBRARIES. That is, you should be able to check out an electronic book that then disappears after 2 weeks. This way, we could all read Harry Potter at the same time, and maybe without having to actually drive to the library. Libraries struggle endlessly with an approaching-infinite number of books and a not-even-in-the-universe-of-infinite amount of space, and this way they could have ALL the books without taking up space. We think this is GENIUS, and now we are going to sit back and wait for it to happen. We don't want to hear about profits: libraries give out books NOW without charging, so we see no difference if it's electronic, except that it's easier and costs less to taxpayers and works better.

We got a little heated on the topic. There were lots of "I KNOW, RIGHT?"-type statements. Then we thought, actually this could already be a fully-realized dream, and we just don't know because we're a little behind the times. (For scale: we have not yet seen Juno. Or Titanic.)

May 14, 2008

Reader Question: Teacher Gifts

Dear Swistle,
(I just can't call you by your real name yet, I love you as Swistle :) ...I'm sorry!)
I need help! Here is my dilemma... as you know and have chronicled many times we are coming up quickly on end of the year teacher gifts...but wait! I have a tricky, tricky situation and need your readers' help. My daughter is in school for the first time this year and has had a precious, perfect, we shall never see the likes of this again, teacher. The same teacher who left a few weeks ago to have her first baby and made us all cry our eyes out with undying love and affection. (My daughter actually sobbed on my lap in the parking lot!) So we gave her a gift (Body Shop) wrote the principal a raving letter about her and gave her a copy, and created homemade coupons to help babysit at any time (she had expressed an interest in this help). The end.

But no.

Now we have end of the year in four weeks and multiple quandaries.
  1. Her substitute teacher has been lovely and just so happens to be my neighbour. So no token gift will do.
  2. Her chaplain (sweet private school) has a husband who is dying and has gone above and beyond to still be with, and love, these kids and we want to show our thanks.
  3. Her librarian (also teaches them twice a week) is a great friend and has been so, so kind to both of my kids.
  4. The two office ladies have gone above and beyond because my daughter has food allergies and has needed some (alot!) extra office help.
  5. Then there is the Spanish teacher (a doll), the music teacher (my daughter loves her), the PE teacher and the lovely lunchroom ladies who have watched over her so she doesn't die from her severe food allergy.
  6. And the wonderful, wonderful principal who has guided us all the way through and will continue to now for my son and daughter next year.
  7. Thank God there is no bus driver...that would be me. (I only bus them, though, so no chance of regifting here.)
My budget, however, as my husband is starting grad school next month and already is working more than one job, is only fifty dollars! (Which I should probably pay you for reading this and be done with it.) But - What do I do???
The dollar store candles seem so tacky, the homemade cards so not enough... I could maybe go up to $75 for everyone and eat beans for a few nights :).
Does anyone, do you think, have the powers to make me look as thankful as we are to that many people? Do you have any help? I'm sorry that this is such a hashed over question each year, but what would you do if you were me? To make matters worse I truly love gift giving, so this is a true expression of my heart and it has actually kept me up at night thinking.
I feel so cliché.
Thank you in advance.... Liana

This is SO TIMELY, Liana, because I was just thinking about teacher gifts this past week for a post I was working on over at Milk & Cookies. And so I am clear in my mind on this issue.

Here is the thing, the most important thing to keep in mind: teacher gifts were never intended to represent our actual level of gratitude. And thank goodness, right? I mean, how could we possibly thank them that much? We'd have to give them the ACTUAL CHILD.

Teacher gifts are meant to be TOKENS. Token is the very word. This does not change even if the teacher is THE LADY BEEZUS HERSELF, gracious and good and pure and kind.

And so how DO you represent your actual level of gratitude? That is the job of The Letter. You pour out your ever-loving heart. Don't worry about being too sappy: if you feel it, you say it. Don't worry about making it too long: if you appreciated it, write it down. The Token is merely a decoration for The Letter---a way of saying, "Here, let's make this a little prettier."

As for the tokens, you can pick what you think is best. I'd go with a $10 gift card to a local take-out or coffee place for the chaplain, a candy dish of Lindt truffles for the office ladies and principal all together, a $5 coffee gift card plus a plate of baked things for each of the other people.

Or, if you know some of the other parents, or have access to a way to send home letters with each child, one thing you could consider doing is managing a "pool our efforts" gift project. It is a ton of work, but it is one of the only ways a teacher gift can be something beyond a token. What you do is, you ask each family to pitch in the money they would have spent on a teacher gift. Then you get one big thing from all of you. A big gift card (maybe to somewhere like Target) is a great gift. If ten families each give $5-10, that's a nice $50-100 gift card right there. The problem, of course, is that not everyone will want to participate, and some people who SAY they want to participate won't come through, so it can be a hassle. But when it works, it's a great way to give a teacher a more significant present than usual.

If not, though, tokens are RIGHT. Put the gratitude into the letters.

May 12, 2008

Why Stop With Dusty When You Can Add Sticky?

Swistle, age 2. Baby powder.



Edward and Elizabeth, age 2. Powdered sugar.

May 11, 2008

Oh. Is it Sunday?

Oh. I guess I should have posted about Mother's Day today, and done the psych clinic tomorrow when we were all about to take our Mother's Day feelings and turn them into inappropriate actions.

Well, how about Mother's Day post ALSO, since one of my presents for Mother's Day is more computer time while Paul watches the children?

Paul always asks me what I want for Mother's Day, which is very wise. I wanted more time by myself; I wanted to make mint brownies (Paul said he'd make them, but I like baking and it's something I miss when I don't do it); and I wanted drawings/cards from the kids (Henry was excused this year on account of smallness).

You might think I'm all sacrificial about not wanting a big gift, but I don't want to have to think of a gift on Father's Day. I want instead to train our children to buy me things later, when they're grown and rich. I read aloud to them from People magazine articles in which rich young singers buy houses and cars and nice cosmetic surgeries for their mamas.

Paul also asked if I wanted him to make tacos for dinner (yes) and if I wanted him to download another episode of that show you guys recommended, Big Bang Theory, which I think he was hoping would have cuter, buffer, cooler guys in it---I mean because there was the strong implication that he resembled those guys.

Rob's card says: "Dear Mom, I hope that you have an awesome Mother's Day and that you know how much it means to me when you do the following things. (A) Buying and cooking food for me (B) Keeping our house cleen (C) Taking care of me when I'm sick and (D) Helping me get ready for school every Day. Happy Mother's Day! Love, Rob".

Ha ha! First of all, "the following things," with a list. Second, the touching obliviousness of a child: Paul does the grocery shopping and almost all the cooking, and since when is our house clean? Oh, wait, he says "cleen."

William's card says: "My mom is special becaus she plays with me. She bakes with me. She goes to store with me."

That does pretty much sum up my life. It's nice of him to refer to that as "special."

Edward brought me three pages of scribbles, and Elizabeth said hers wasn't ready yet so she wouldn't give it to me, but I'm told it says "Uncle Erik" on it (her own idea).

Mint brownies are in the oven.

Here is what I like about Mother's Day: it comes before Father's Day. I think of it, in fact, as a TEMPLATE for Father's Day. Is the father in your household being kind and solicitous today, and taking your various wants into account? Is he making the children behave the same way---ideally far away from you? Did he keep them quiet so you could sleep in? Is he looking at you with affectionate eyes and not letting you do the dishes? Then keep that in mind when it is his turn for a day of appreciation. Is he instead clearly trying to fill the Mother's Day Obligation slot with the minimum required item so he can move on to his usual Sunday schedule of napping and messing around on the computer? Then keep THAT in mind for June.

Psych Clinic: Feelings vs. Actions

I was talking with some of my friends about something, and it turned into a really interesting discussion so I thought I'd bring it up here.

My contention was that there is "having a feeling" and there is also "acting on a feeling." I think sometimes the two things get confused: someone has a feeling and then says or does something that hurts or angers other people, and then wants to get away with it by saying they "can't help the way they feel." I say it's not an issue of "how they feel" but rather of "what they chose to do about it."

This is not to be mistaken for repressing or denying a feeling. No one is saying you can't fully appreciate all your feelings in all their glory. What we're talking about here is the decision to TAKE ACTION: saying how you feel, or acting a certain way because of the feeling. The action should sometimes be repressed or denied, if it is a wrong way to behave. You might feel like slamming someone to the ground, but you can fully experience that feeling without (a) slamming someone to the ground or (b) telling someone you feel like slamming them to the ground---both of which are actions, not feelings.

I thought we could come up with some more situations that contain examples of when it's "Feeling a Feeling" and when it's "Acting on a Feeling"---and when those actions are the good kind or the bad kind.

One of my friends came up with an excellent example about a baby shower she was invited to---that was taking place two weeks after she (my friend) had had a miscarriage. Another friend came up with another excellent example about her husband, who thinks they should share ALL their feelings with each other, in the name of "being honest." And my example had to do with venting about a friend's parenting method.

So let's look at all three examples, broken down into segments: The Feelings, some examples of actions that are appropriate ways to act on those feelings, and some examples of actions that are NOT appropriate ways to act on those feelings.


Baby Shower After Miscarriage

The Feelings: extreme sadness and disappointment over the loss of your baby; having a hard time focusing on anything else; jealousy of someone whose baby did not die; anger that your baby died; anger at people who are complaining about pregnancy symptoms; worry that this will keep happening

Rightly Acting on the Feelings: the friend it happened to had the good idea of not attending the shower but sending a gift (it isn't normally necessary to send a gift if you don't attend a shower, but in this case it's a particularly excellent gesture because it communicates that the staying-away is not from resentment of the other woman's happiness or a desire to reduce it); crying and talking with a friend you aren't angry at (that's a good way to filter for the ones who would be injured); crying and talking with your spouse; writing in a journal or talking to a therapist

Wrongly Acting on the Feelings: (1) attending the shower and spending the whole time slumped in a chair, non-smiling, running out of the room in tears, making everyone else feel terrible, sucking all the attention to yourself, or (2) not attending the shower, as in the "Rightly" section, but telling many, many people, including all the other shower attendees and also the guest of honor herself, allllllll your feelings on the subject, including the parts about being angry at pregnant women and resentful of their happiness


The feelings of jealousy, sorrow, anger and even the feeling of "not being able to be near someone else's happiness" are all normal, totally normal. The problem comes when people use those feelings as weapons to break down someone else's happiness or to draw attention belonging to others onto themselves. But of course talking about it with a spouse, or with a close friend who would not be injured (that is, NOT a pregnant friend, for example), or with a therapist, or with a journal--those are all good and appropriate ways to work through the feelings. And not attending the shower is not only perfectly understandable to anyone with half an empathy clue, but also a good way to prevent bad behavior.


Next example.

Friend With a Different Parenting Method

The Feelings: frustration when someone close to you has a radically different way of doing things; anger at a friend for saying things that seem critical or illogical; frustration at not being able to change a situation; frustration at a smug or critical attitude; frustration that your own point of view is misunderstood and/or considered inferior

Rightly Acting on the Feelings: ranting to your spouse; writing in a journal; talking with a friend who has a similar parenting method to your own; thinking things out and reminding yourself that there is no sense trying to change someone; reminding yourself that the situation can be seen differently from different angles (for example, your methods may be equally frustrating to your friend); reminding yourself that different methods work for different families; keeping the peace by keeping your mouth shut; realizing that arguing will go nowhere and will only make things unnecessarily unpleasant and you will be very sorry you said anything at all

Wrongly Acting on the Feelings: taking your anger at your friend and flinging it outwards in an attack aimed at everyone who uses a similar parenting method; venting your frustration publicly in a way that makes people who don't agree with you feel like they have to agree with you because you're "just venting"; saying hostile things that apply not only to the person you're actually angry with but also to many who are listening; acting as if it's okay to say hateful things just because you feel them when you're worked up; implying that the other person's method is wrong just because it disagrees with yours


Next example.

Sharing All Your Feelings With a Spouse

The Feelings: irritation; frustration; intense anger; occasionally wondering if you married the wrong person; occasionally feeling like you don't love your spouse anymore; occasionally wondering if you would be happier if you got a divorce; in moments of extreme agitation and anger, wanting to physically hurt your spouse

Rightly Acting on the Feelings: talking about it with a friend or therapist; cooling down; going for a walk or going shopping or going to another room; going to bed and seeing how things look in the morning; trying to solve the problem by saying what you'd like changed; telling your spouse you're so frustrated and angry about whatever it is; reminding yourself that marriages have ups and downs; blogging about it on a blog your spouse and his friends and relatives don't read

Wrongly Acting on the Feelings: physically hurting your spouse; telling your spouse you feel like hurting them; telling your spouse you wish you'd never gotten married; telling your spouse you want a divorce (when you don't literally want one); saying you don't love your spouse anymore; saying you hate your spouse; saying you wish your spouse was dead; telling your spouse's relatives or friends about the fight in the hopes of getting them on your side; blogging about it on a blog your spouse and his friends and relatives read


To sum up!

The FEELINGS are natural and normal. The ACTIONS are separate from the feelings.

The FEELINGS don't have to take other people into consideration: you don't need to think, "I shouldn't feel this way" or "I should feel this other way" (though I do think it's a good idea to keep a grip on how feelings relate to reality). The ACTIONS do have to take other people into consideration: you should think, "How is what I am about to do/say going to affect other people, and is that the effect I want, and is that the effect I should try to create?"

The FEELINGS are what they are. If you feel bitter and angry and hostile and resentful, you can try to talk yourself through it, and you can acknowledge where it's not rational, but that's about it. This is when the concept of "owning the feelings" comes into play: we can (and I think should) try to realize it when a feeling is irrational or unfair or not based in reality, and we acknowledge that and try to move on, and/or we wait for time to pass and dull the feelings. The ACTIONS can definitely be changed or modified to fit the situation: we should not use our feelings as an excuse to hurt other people, nor should we confuse "can't help the feelings" with "can't help the actions." We should not excuse our actions by saying that the actions are our feelings. They are separate, and we are responsible for our actions.

We are not responsible for our feelings. Feelings HAPPEN. We ARE responsible for what we DO with the feelings, and for how we EXPRESS our feelings, and to whom we express them, and in what context. We are responsible for how much we milk it. We are responsible for how much damage we do to others in the pursuit of making ourselves feel better.

Yay, psych clinic!

May 8, 2008

Bad Spell

The last few days I've been so tired and weak-limbed, I actually Googled "weak limbs" to see what disease I might have. I imagined how I'd break the news to all of you that I would soon be in a wheelchair: I'd be gentle and clear, resigned and stoic, and you would all admire my poise in the face of tragedy. I would become The Face of Whatever It Was I Had. It turns out that the main reason for weak limbs is "tiredness," and the second reason is "stress," and probably I will not need a wheelchair (or A Face) for either of those.

Today I was so tired, though, I lay down for awhile during naptime, and I would have gone to sleep except I had a wakeful companion who wanted me to read her dinosaur books and discuss our respective barrettes. And I thought to myself, "I must be really unusually tired, because I NEVER lie down during the day. Well, except when I'm pr--................" *long, calculating pause*

This is the kind of time I am so happy to have my cheap pregnancy tests. Sometimes even just having the tests in the house and knowing I could take one immediately is enough to remind me that the statistical chances of a positive are very low. But if I DO feel anxious to have an answer, I don't feel as stupid if the answer is "no" when I've only spent 80 cents---whereas I DO feel stupid, TREMENDOUSLY stupid, when I've spent 7 dollars. (Of COURSE the answer was no.)

I think one reason I've been so tired and frustrated this week is that Elizabeth has stopped taking naps. Some of you have wondered how I find so much time to blog, and one of my main time sources is that all three housechildren take a 2-hour-minimum nap at the same time each day. That's at least ten hours per workweek right there. But now Elizabeth has outgrown naps. And although she is a pleasant, perky, cheerful little grown-up of a companion, she is persistent about her interest in interacting with me Every! Single! Second!

Can I get even ONE SENTENCE of blogging done, even after setting her up in a comfy chair with her stuffed elephant and her pool noodle and her tiny chickie and her stack of dinosaur books and Mommy's Favorite Blanket and her green dinosaur socks and her pink fluffy hat? NO. Because she wants to discuss what she is reading, and she wants to ask questions, and she wants to confirm that that is an apatosaurus, and she wants to talk about how I got all those things for her, and she wants to talk about how we need to be quiet because the little boys are napping and about how she is a big girl now who does not take naps. So she and I have been doing things together, and it IS nice to have some one-on-one time with her, but this is having a cumulative effect as if I were working 13-hour shifts every single day with no lunch breaks---OH WAIT.

And then my third-grader lectured me for flushing an ant down the toilet (the toilet was flushing anyway, and I efficiently tossed the ant in), saying that the food chain depended on ALL species, and what if ants were endangered, and how did I KNOW they weren't endangered, and what if they were endangered NOW because of ME killing them? It was around 5:30 p.m. that he started this conversation, and that's when my mental fortitude is low and I am just barely able to concentrate on breaking off chunks of banana for Henry, and I am not prepared to discuss the significance of alternate food sources for species higher-up on the chain. Rob then mentioned panda bears and polar bears and how THEY were nearly extinct from people killing them, so I promised that if either a panda bear or a polar bear came into our house, I would refrain from flushing it down the toilet.

This reminds me of when I was babysitting a 5-year-old girl who told me that coffee was poison. Cute. Go to bed early, then, and maybe I won't need to poison myself in the morning.

Well. In happy, productive news, I got the two Swistle Care Packages mailed off to the prize-winners. Ha ha: I'll bet they think I was KIDDING about emptying the contents of my junk drawer in there! But I used flat-rate boxes and I had plenty of space, and I saw the opportunity to jettison a whole BUNCH of crap. Bye-bye, crap! Have fun in your new homes! Bye-eeeeeeeee!

And tonight I'm making fudge for the Teacher Appreciation Day buffet tomorrow, and I'm going to watch Gilmore Girls while eating half of the double-batch I'm making, so I don't see how this bad spell can persist.

May 7, 2008

Life With Paul

We're watching a TV commercial in which people are eating fast food in the car, and the TV asks us: "When did THIS become a sit-down dinner?" Paul answers the TV: "The assumption in your question is unwarranted. UNWARRANTED!"

Paul is teaching the kids The Binary ABCs: "Zero, one. Now I know my zero ones! Next time won't you sing with me?"

Paul puts Elizabeth into her pajamas, then says to me, "Exoskeleton installation complete."

He's teaching the children to "robot dance": "Shake what your manufacturer specified!" "Shake it until you require service!"

May 6, 2008

Questions Answered, and Teacher Appreciation Week

Today at "Work It, Mom" I'm answering the following questions:
  • Are you and Linda S. the same person?
  • Where are the cute Target earrings??
  • Are these your kids' real names now, or still the pseudonyms you use on your Swistle blog?
  • You are so pretty! I thought you'd be fatter!
  • Is your mother-in-law going to find you online now?
  • How did you come up with the name "Swistle"?
  • Is it okay if I still call you Swistle?


This week is Teacher Appreciation Week. William's school is having a Teacher Appreciation Breakfast. Some parents are sending muffins, some are sending juice or fruit or bagels or quiche; some are sending plates, napkins, or plastic flatware. It is a huge effort requiring many people's involvement and a ton of organization, emails, and phone calls. And what does it give the teachers? They don't have to make their own toast/cereal. For one morning.

It seems to me there are better and more efficient ways to show appreciation to teachers.

For starters, we could pay them as if their jobs involved SHAPING CHILDREN'S ENTIRE FUTURES.

We could follow up by agreeing to NEVER SAY AGAIN, "Oh, you're a teacher? Must be nice to get out at 3:00 and have your summers off!"

We could vote, when given the opportunity to do so, for more educational funding. It is a good value---unlike some of the other things our taxes are paying for.

We could offer to help out. If we can't go in during the day, or if we'd rather have a thousand never-healing paper cuts than serve on the PTA, we can offer what we CAN do: sending stuff in for bake sales or parties, purchasing an item for the classroom, donating scrap paper from the office, arranging a class field trip tour of our super-amazing workplace chocolate factory, whatevs.

We could acknowledge that most parents consider their own children to be above average, and that statistically-speaking we can't all be right.

We could occasionally send in something when it's NOT Teacher Appreciation Week. A little baggie of wrapped dark chocolates, maybe. A small bag of gourmet popcorn. Or, sure, an apple.

We could send our kids to school with a good night's sleep and a good breakfast---at least to the best of our ability (some of the little buggers fight us every step of the way).

We could write an occasional note telling teachers how much we appreciate the work they do. Mention a specific thing you noticed, or mention something general. Mention something flattering your kid said about the teacher. Mention how much you liked this month's newsletter. It can feel awkward to write a note to someone you've met only twice all year, but that's okay: the teacher is not expecting Shakespeare from you, nor is the teacher going to grade your penmanship.


I am grateful for teachers every time I put my older two kids on the bus and wave good-bye with an insultingly-large grin on my face. I am grateful for teachers whenever I babysit someone else's kids for a few hours (and all I'm doing is keeping those kids ALIVE, not trying to TEACH them anything). I am grateful for teachers during every school vacation. I am grateful for teachers every time my kids come home with some new information and I think, "Oh yeah! I forgot to tell them about that!"

I don't think we can say enough nice things about people who, year after year, take a fresh group of TWO DOZEN children belonging to OTHER PEOPLE, children who will NOT EVEN BE CARING FOR THEM IN THEIR OLD AGE, and try to improve the quality of their lives. Thanks, teachers! Super-big MWAH.

May 5, 2008

Pity Prize Update and Also a Raffle

I am sorry to say that my planned Pity Prize Contest (for people who were ineligible for the name or photo contests because of already knowing my name or what I looked like) is not going to work. I know! So sad! But I tried it a number of different ways and couldn't get it to work right. So it's off. What a terrible tease! And as a group, you Pity-Prize-eligible people were so pitiful already!

BUT! I have something else we can all do if, like me, you are still kind of hepped up on contests. Our Shannon is doing a fundraising raffle for Preeclampsia Awareness Month, which is THIS month so the timing is just excellent! You can go over to her post to get the details on how to enter the raffle, but look at the PRIZE:





There are better/larger/more photos on Shannon's blog. It's a HANDMADE QUILT. I LOVE those colors and fabrics! I have already entered to win, so you are going to have competition if you want it too.

Don't be shy when the Preeclampsia site seems to imply that the minimum donation is $25: click "other" and enter whatever you want. I myself donated significantly less than $25. I imagine you could donate $3, and that would still put the Preeclampsia cause ahead of where it was without you, plus it gets you three chances at the quilt.

And I will add another prize to the raffle. After Shannon draws for the quilt winner, she'll send the names to me and I'll draw another winner for your choice of:

A) my favorite baby name book, or
B) one gruesome or mommish mystery book, or
C) cookies or fudge or brownies

May 4, 2008

Photo Contest Winner!

Do you know, you could do NO WRONG with your guesses on the Photo Contest.

If you guessed me, I was astounded by your near-psychic abilities. If you guessed someone else, I thought, "Well, how could anyone know? It's a shot in the dark!" If you were uncertain and you waffled a little, I felt a warm kinship with you: I always want a back-up guess, too, or at least I want to make it clear I KNEW I didn't know for sure. If you were confident, I admired your confidence---even if you were WRONG.

I do wonder now if A and I (I mean, the A photo and I-the-Swistle, not I-the-photo-designation) are related somehow. Several of you thought I should inquire if she were in fact the true genetic mother of my children, and I'll get right on that after I finish with the contest stuff. Also, I'm going to ask her about her glasses, because I notice everyone's glasses were cooler than mine.

Okay! The winners! There were 208 entries total:

A: 54 votes, roughly 26%
B: 0 votes
C: 12 votes, roughly 6%
D: 5 votes, roughly 2%
E: 8 votes, roughly 4%
F: 6 votes, roughly 3%
G: 11 votes, roughly 5%
H: 61 votes, roughly 29%
I: 2 votes, roughly 1%
J: 40 votes, roughly 19%
K: 5 votes, roughly 2%
L: 3 votes, roughly 1%
M: 1 vote, roughly 0%

Fun fact: B, who got FEWER VOTES THAN DREW BARRYMORE, is the only person in the line-up who's a blood relative of mine!

I lined up those 61 correct H guesses and used a random number generator to select the winner. The random number generator chose Banana. Yay, Banana! You win a Swistle Package containing a treat of your choice (fudge is probably most durable in the mail, but I can also do brownies or cookies), plus your choice of a book: either a baby names book or a gruesome/mommish mystery book, and perhaps some assorted junk I find around the house other thing. Email me at swistle at gmail dot com with mailing info and choices.



Honorable mention:

BRash, who made the big photo clump that was such a huge improvement over the lonnnnnnng column of photos I did. Thanks, Bethany---it was WAY better that way.

Marilyn C. Cole, who called my skin "luminous." (I love you, Marilyn.)

Susan, who was so certain of her (correct) guess, she had to come back and do a second comment to tell me how sure she was. Good call on the lipstick, Susan!

Jonniker who KNEW IT IN HER VERY SOUL (and was right!).

Emblita, who cleverly noticed that several of the others looked "corporate." Well-spotted, Emblita! Several of the others WERE IN FACT corporate!

Linda who said I "seriously look 16 years old." Why, thank you, Linda! I believe it might be my LUMINOUS SKIN.

Drowning in Laundry who remembered I had a double cowlick (!) and saw it in the photo (!!) and told me to go eat some brownies (OKAY!!!). It took me SO LONG to get a picture that made it look like I should go eat some brownies. Artful posing. Many, many self-portraits, experimenting with which angles made me look cuter and which ones highlighted my lowlights.

Banana, who also noticed the double cowlick. Seriously, you people are SO OBSERVANT.

Cari, who said it was "the porcelain skin of a goddess" that gave me away. Keep talking, Cari!

Fine for Now, who did THIS:
OMG, this is so hard! Okay, based on the pictures of your children I think that you could be (in no particular order) A, C, E, F, H, J & K.

Same chin as kids: A, C, E, F, H
Same eye shape as kids: A, C, E, F, J, K
Same coloring as kids: E, F, H, K
Similar teeth as kids: A, E, K
Similar nose as kids: A, C, E, F, H

Based on this, similarities appear in picture:

A = 4x's
C = 3x's
E = 5x's
F = 4x's
H = 3x's
J = 1x
K = 4x's

Through gut feeling alone I think you are probably E, H, or K and based on your descriptions alone I would go with C, H, or J.

Most people are voting for A, and H, with J the third most.

I am going to go with E, because of the skin color, chin, nose, eyes and teeth.

:o)

Can you believe the EXHAUSTIVE RESEARCH? I really WANTED you to be right, Fine for Now! I even wondered briefly if you WERE right: you had proved it so scientifically, perhaps I was E!



...Huh. It looks like mostly I gave honorable mentions for kissing up. This is only going to encourage you to kiss up the next time we have a contest. OH WHAT A PITY.

May 3, 2008

Name Contest Winners!

Well! Time for Name Contest results! (Has everyone figured out that the words "Contests over!" in this post are a LINK that leads to the answers? Good!)

You should see my SPREADSHEET. One hundred and eight-six rows! EIGHT columns: commenter, date/time of comment (so I could easily find each one later), five columns for guesses, and a column for notes I wanted to make to myself. This would be awesome if I knew what to do with a spreadsheet other than entering the data into it. I tried to make some sort of chart that would show the clumping of name guesses, but it kept telling me I didn't have enough data, and I kept saying, "I have NINE HUNDRED AND THIRTY names! How much data do you NEED?"

Anyway. Of all those 186 sets of guesses, only ONE PERSON guessed (1) my name (2) in its correct spelling (3) in the first-guess position. El-e-e, my girl, GOOD GUESS! El-e-e wins the grand prize, which is this bag by Amy Quarry, whose gallery and online shop make grown women weep and wish to move to Canada.


This bag is not available in Amy's online shop. If it had been, I would have gotten there first and bought it right out from under you before you even knew it existed. Now I have to make a new plan, involving befriending El-e-e and then stealing her purse. Congratulations, El-e-e, and thank you again, Amy, for that super prize.

There was one person who guessed the correct spelling in the second-choice slot, and there were two people who guessed the close-but-not-quite spelling "Kristin" in the first-choice slot. Those three people tie for first prize; yay, Kelsey, Barb, and Semi-Desperate Housewife!

Because Kelsey also had my middle name (Nicole) among her guesses, she wins the personalized name doily donated by ktjrdn from her Etsy shop Crocheted by Katie. Here's a sample so you can drool, but Kelsey will get to choose what name she wants:



Thank you, Katie! What a great prize!

Barb wins win a Swistle Package of a treat of your choice (fudge is probably most durable in the mail, but I can also do brownies or cookies), plus your choice of a baby names book or a gruesome/mommish mystery book, and perhaps some assorted junk I find around the house other thing.

Semi-Desperate Housewife wins a teensy Swistle Care Package (treat or book) and the elephant onesie Elizabeth donated from her Etsy shop Elephant Ears. Oh it is so cute! Take a peek:



Thank you, Elizabeth! It's darling!

There were 14 people who guessed either "Kristen" or "Kristin" in the third-, fourth-, or fifth-guess positions:
  1. Andrea
  2. Melissa
  3. ElizasMom
  4. -R-
  5. Five Froggies
  6. Erin of the April 29th, 12:35 p.m. comment
  7. Linda
  8. Betty M
  9. Pseudostoops
  10. Jeff
  11. Emily of the April 30th, 2:04 p.m. comment
  12. Maggie
  13. Shoeaddict
  14. Lettie

Fourteen! Linda and Emily also guessed my middle name, so they win the two remaining prizes. I wrote names/prizes on scraps of paper and paired them randomly.

Emily wins a single card of her choice from Courtney's Etsy shop A is for Beautiful. Oooo, I like this one:


Thank you again, Courtney!


Linda wins the hair button from Mrs. M's Etsy shop La La Lollipop. This is the pink gingham fabric Mrs. M used for Elizabeth's:

Thanks, Mrs. M!

All winners, will you please email me at swistle at gmail dot com, and I'll get you connected with the awesome people who donated prizes. Thank you so much, Katie and Courtney and Amy and Elizabeth and Mrs. M!

Coming soon: photo contest winners!

May 2, 2008

Contests Over!

Contests over! ( <--This is a link! You should click it! The answers are thataway!)

Now. I am going to have a little lie-down (this has been an Exciting Week), and then I am going to figure out who WON.

Prize Update the Fifth!

Also: psych! Because you totally thought this was the End Of Contest post, didn't you? Not QUITE yet---but soon!

Total cutie Mrs. M is donating a hair button from her Etsy shop La La Lollipop (I like to say that name!). She sent me a pair of teeny hair buttons for Elizabeth, and they are SO CUTE: monogrammed, fabric-covered buttons attached to a hair elastic so it can be worn as a ponytail holder. EVERYTHING Mrs. M does is SO CUTE, and she's big into monogramming, and I LOVE personalized things. (If we lived closer, I would TOTALLY have her monogram my dishes for me.)

Here's a sample of a hair button, though of course you would choose your own fabric and initials:


Thanks, Mrs. M!

May 1, 2008

Contests Almost Over!

Reminder! The contests end Friday morning, May 2nd, U.S.A. time. Because I can't be more specific about the time (there are mornings when I get to my computer pretty quick, and there are mornings I have to dig myself out of a household of wet sheets and spilled cereal and children who must be bathed immediately), it would be smart to think of tonight as the deadline. Don't dally! The minute I post on Friday morning, any comments that come in after that time won't be entered in the contests.

(I briefly posted the Pity Prize Contest, then realized that the comments for that one were nearly guaranteed to give hints about what my name was, or wasn't. I'll re-post that contest sometime after the others are over.)

Prize Update the Fourth!

There is now ANOTHER prize! Dearest Elizabeth is donating an elephant onesie (that's decorated with an elephant, not made for an elephant) from her Etsy shop Elephant Ears---and if you want something from that shop, you better get it before I do, because I'm mulling over a few things right now. Maybe one of those jingling fabric toys (I like the one in pink/yellow/green). Maybe a vintage-style baby bib (my favorite is the Alexander Henry Kleo). Oooo, or wouldn't a coordinating fabric toy and bib make a great baby gift? I'd get it in "Michael Miller Disco Dots," which reminds me of my boyfriend Target. I'm also kind of hankering after (or is it "hankering for"?) (or is it "have a hankering after/for"?) (or is it "not using words unless you know how to use them in a sentence"?) the vintage items like the floral juice bottle.

Oh, were we talking about something for YOU? Here's a picture of the elephant onesie you might win:


This is the girlish one, but you could also choose a boyish or neutral one. Elizabeth has sizes from 0-3 months up to 9-12 months.

Is this some of the most fun I have ever had in my entire life? (Answer: YES.)

Prize Update the Third!

There is ANOTHER NEW PRIZE! Amy Quarry is donating this spectacular creature, which she made with her own two hands:



Amy has an online shop where you can buy some of her cool stuff (I like the Mod Graphic small handbag and the Little Birdy wall quilt the best), but you really have to visit her gallery for general salivating over projects past and present.

Now I am trying to figure out a way to enter my own contest, then act all suave about winning it. "My, what a coincidence!," I'll say. "How embarrassing!" Then I'll flounce off with the handbag, leaving a trail of envy in my wake.

Thank you, Amy! MWAH!

Prize Update the Second!

Darling girl Courtney has donated another prize for the contest: your choice of one of the individually-sold handmade cards on her Etsy shop A is for Beautiful (that is such a cool name).

I am of course drawn immediately to the baby cards. This one is my favorite:


She also has cards for weddings, birthdays, holidays, encouragement, thank-yous, the whole works! Made by hand but less expensive than Hallmark! (Raise your prices a little, Courtney!)

Thank you, Courtney! MWAH!