June 30, 2008

Group Effort: It's Time!

Good morning! and welcome to the Group Effort Pay it Forward! In case you have been SKIMMING, here is what's happening:

1) A whole bunch of us are starting fresh new Pay it Forward contests, all together, all at the same time. Anyone may join in. (Email the URL of your contest to swistle at gmail dot com so I can add you to the list.)

2) All the contests will end Friday July 4th. Keep checking this post for more contests: I'll keep posting them here as more start up.

3) Each winner will get a gift in the mail. Each winner will then continue on the grand tradition, holding his or her own Pay it Forward contest. Typically such a contest starts with a photo of the received loot, so we can all snoop nosily.

I will link below to all the contests, adding more as more start. Please feel free to click right on down the list, entering every single one: that is in fact what we have in mind here. Please feel free to enter even if you are also throwing a contest: this has the potential to create fun little loops.

If you win more than one contest, you can throw a single Pay it Forward contest of your own, choosing one winner for each time you won. OR, you can accept one winning and ask the other bloggers to choose a new winner.

A few people wanted to enter the contest, even though they don't have blogs. For those, I will draw additional winners from my own Pay it Forward contest. The blogless participants are:

1) Dynamita, who lives in LONDON, and that immediately makes me wonder about COOL LONDON STUFF.

2) My good brick-and-mortar friend Lee.

3) Andrea, who lives in AUSTRALIA, and that immediately makes me wonder about COOL AUSTRALIAN STUFF.

4) Libby, who once thought I was British and therefore was immediately on my good side.

And now here is a list of blogs running Pay it Forward contests (I'll keep adding to it as people keep emailing me) (hint: the ones toward the bottom of the list have been up for less time, and therefore have fewer entries and a greater chance of winning):

Parking at Home
Mimi All Me
My Little Monkey
and the duck said...
The New Girl
All Dressed Up
Twists and Turns
Incubation Nation
Our House
Everyday Life
Andrea Unplugged
Alice's Wonderland
Messing With Texas
Cerebral Palsy Baby
Sublime Bedlam
Smiling Mama
Splendid Sustenance
The Creamery
Move Along - There's Nothing to See Here
It's Not About That Anyway
Just a Bunch of Silliness, Really
3 Giraffes
Life of a Daycare Girl
Eleanor Q.
Midwest Mom
As Many as We're Given
Keeping Up With the Laughlins...
Emblita's External Monologue
Honest and Truly!
Everyday Bailey
Totally Serial
It's My Life
Get Up and Play
Clueless but Hopeful Mama
Sunday School Rebel
Tina Hearts Adam
Emily is Enceinte
Yes, I Would Really Like to be Thin
Amelia Sprout
A Little Left of Lost
Random Rantings
Mommy Daisy
Under Construction
The True Adventures of Axel and Outlaw
Blondie Speaks
This? Is Not the Life I Ordered!
No Whey, Mama
Life in the Fast Lane
A is for Beautiful
Learning to Love Life in a Tiny Town...
Swistle: Baby Names
The Princess of Quite a Lot
Jennifer's Mommyblog
Today is a Different Day
My Life
Thank You For Not Being Perky

Enter, enter! And don't forget to enter mine as well, by leaving a comment on this post. You can say anything: "Me, me!" "I hereby enter," "ENTERING," "You are a goddess to me," whatevs. If you need help coming up with something, you can tell me if you know how to swim. Okay, go!

June 28, 2008

Get Ready, Get Set....And When You're Ready and Also Set, GO!

Now don't be NERVOUS about the Group Effort Pay it Forward! This will be easy and fun, you will see! And don't be worried that you will throw a contest and no one will show up: I will be linking to all the contests here, and I suspect that large masses of people will be clicking right down through the list, entering one contest after another; at least, that's the PLAN.

Here is what you will do if you want to participate and you have a blog:

1) You will begin to write a post. You will write that you are doing a Group Effort Pay it Forward contest. You will say what that is. You can copy and paste my description, or you can write something that's shorter and makes better sense. Up to you.

2) You will spell out the rules: you will mention that the contest ends on Friday July 4th. You will say that the way to enter is to leave a comment. If you feel like it, you will come up with a thing people can say in their comments ("Do you prefer Coke or Pepsi?" "What do you think is my most charming quality?" "Who's cuter, Hugh Grant or John Cusack?").

3) You will post the post, either Monday June 30th or Tuesday July 1st.

4) You will email me at swistle at gmail dot com, and you will send me the URL of your contest post so I can include it in the list.

(If you want to participate but DON'T have a blog: Email me at swistle at gmail dot com and tell me you want me to draw you a random winner from MY Pay it Forward drawing. And I will say yes.)

And then you are done with the first leg! See? That was not so scary! And now you have plenty of time to work on the second leg. The second leg is even less scary, because there are no deadlines. But the second leg has more words, because it has more interesting things to discuss. People with blogs, start with step 1; people without blogs, start with step 3:

1) Sometime after the contest ends (maybe within minutes, maybe not until you return from vacation), you will assess your comment section. Open a random number generator. Tell it to generate 1 random integer, with a value between 1 and the number of comments you have that came in before the deadline, and format it in 1 column. Click "get number." That's the number of your winner.

2) Write a new post. Announce the winner. Say that their prize will be going out soon. Make a little joke about how long it will probably end up taking you. If the winner left an email address, email the winner and ask for his/her mailing info. Otherwise, in your post instruct the winner to email you with his or her mailing info. Mention your email address.

3) Decide what to send as the prize. The prize can be anything. Anything! It can be something you made, or something you bought. It can be an assortment of random stuff, or it can be things on a theme. It can be something from your regift shelf. Whatever is most fun to you.

4) Ship it. I'm only familiar with U.S. shipping, but if you're in the U.S. and you're mailing something heavy but small, flat rate is a great option. You can also consider ordering something from a site that will ship it for you for free: if you have Amazon Prime, for example. If your winner is from a different country than yours, talk with them ahead of time about what they might have to pay customs on, or what things shouldn't be shipped.

There! It is a lot of words, but that is only because I am so wordy! The steps themselves are easy: (1) say what you're doing, (2) pick a winner, and (3) mail them something fun!

New Subscription Thingie; Target Trip

Do you notice anything...different about me? Over there, under the ad. There's an email subscription thingie. I got it because Sundry's aunt is having some trouble with her email notification service, and I told her in a know-it-all tone of voice that Blogger didn't even HAVE such things. Then I was like, "Maybe I'd better check my facts? I'm just saying." So I did, and I found a way it COULD be done, so then I had to eat my words. And also: had to add an email service thing.

Let's consider it to be in Test Mode for the time being. This is because whenever I publish a post, I then go back and edit a typo, and then I republish. Then I notice an awkward phrase, and I go back and fix it, and then I republish. And then I see another typo, and so I fix it and republish. And if this is going to lead to everyone receiving four, no five, no SIX emails saying I have the SAME new post, then that is not going to work out for any of us.

Plus, it looks like it might send out updates at a specific time each day, rather than right after the post is posted, and what good is THAT? So I don't know. I may want to take this one down and put up a new one, and then you'd have to resubscribe, and really it might not be worth the hassle. Why not wait and see if it works out first, is what I would do.

I went to Target yesterday with Rob and William and Henry because---get this---Rob and William ASKED TO GO. My genes are presenting! So while my mom had playtime with the twins, I took the other three kids to the store.

We got this little guy. He's a trash can, and he was 75% off. I love his little front claws, and his satisfied "just ate some yummy trash" expression. I'm thinking he would make a good compost bin. Right now we're using big yogurt containers, which are ugly.

I bought ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY POUNDS of cat litter. They had 40-pound bins for $10, and normally the 28-pound bins are $10. You cannot believe how heavy the cart was to push around with these things in there.

I let Rob and William each choose a notebook, and together they chose a package of pens. I'm hoping this will reduce the whining they do when I make them write in their journals each day during summer vacation.

This Dial Mandarin Grapefruit handsoap was on sale for $1. I hope I like it as much as the Softsoap Grapefruit handsoap I bought on sale last week, which I LOVE.

I bought a few more reusable Target bags, which I love so much I want to run off to Vegas with them. They fold up into cute little squares that snap closed, but they expand into flat-bottomed, comfy-handled fabric bags with several times the capacity of a usual plastic Target shopping bag. And they have a darling decoration of birdies and trees on them! And they're only $1.50 each! Love.

I don't even know what I'm going to do with these fabric-covered bins. I just knew as soon as I saw them that they were going home with me. They were 75% off, so they were $3.24 each (down from $13 each).

Stack of six aqua plastic cups for a grand total of 48 cents. I can't remember if that was 50% off or 75% off---they weren't expensive cups to begin with. We only have two big plastic cups, and Paul is always using one when he comes home from work, putting it in the sink, and then using the other one at dinner, which means I either have to wash a cup or use a small cup. NOT NO MORE.

I thought these earrings were pretty. And you know, every time I see purple stuff now I think of Jess Loolu and wonder whether she'd consider it real purple or not. I couldn't get a good picture of these, but they have eggplant-colored enamel sunk down into the valleys of a gold design. They were 75% off: $1.74 down from $6.99.

June 27, 2008

Group Effort, Part 2

Let's talk more about our Pay It Forward Contest, Group Effort Edition! I wanted to give all of you HUGE KISSES when I saw how many people were joining in! Suddenly it feels like we haven't had enough FUN for awhile, and now we ARE going to have fun!

Or maybe the feeling is that I haven't had enough BROWNIES for awhile ( <--total lie ) and now I AM eating brownies ( <--truth ). I made a big batch of them yesterday, with Andes mint chocolate chips. Mmmmmmmmmmm. Mmm. Mmmm-mmm-mmm. They're so fudgey, I think the correct term is "underdone." They slip down pretty easy, and I don't know how much chocolate and sugar I've had so far, but my cheeks are rosy and there are large inroads made into the 9x13 pan.

Anyway! Several good issues have been raised!

Issue the First: Zesty Jenny wanted to know if having the contests next week means we need to have a prize ready by then. No indeedy, and in fact although you MAY have a prize ready ahead of time, I prefer to go shopping after I know who won. More fun! Also, if you show the prize at the beginning of the contest, it kills some of the thrill: for me, part of the fun of winning Jess Loolu's contest was wondering what surprise might be arriving in the mail.

Issue the Second: The New Girl wanted to know what the protocol is for package contents---price range, theme, etc. I think what's so fun about this kind of contest is that the prize is totally up to you. Some people enjoy doing a theme. Some people do one single item. Some people do a bunch of random little things. I myself am in the "things I found at Target while thinking of the winner" group. If you'd like to see two sample prizes, you can go over to Melessa, who won my last contest: she posted a picture of the random-stuff prize I sent her, and also a picture of the theme prize she was offering.

As for price range, I think it's "whatever is still fun." If you start getting stressed about the cost, that = not fun. I think a prize can be something you go out and buy, or it can be half a batch of cookies, a couple of used paperbacks, and a bottle of moisturizer that wasn't right for you. (In fact, I think sometime later we should do a "Redistributing Clutter" Pay it Forward, where we all get rid of some of the stuff in our houses that we don't want but it's too good/expensive to throw away.)

Issue the Third: Nowheymama reminded me that next week contains the July 4th weekend, and a lot of people might be going out of town before the contest is over. I think that's still going to be okay: as long as we start the contests early in the week (June 30th or July 1st), and have them all end on the same day (July 4th itself), it's fine if we're not there in person for the end of the contest. When we return from vacation we can pick winners and shop for prizes---no hurry.

In a related issue, Janice asked about being out of town during the two START dates. See if your blog platform ("blog platform"? Is that really the term I need here?) lets you submit posts for delayed posting. Blogger, which is what I use, lets you set the date/time in the future, and then the post won't post until that date/time. You can get a Pay it Forward Contest Announcement all set to go before you leave and set it to post on Monday.

Issue the Fourth: Misty asked if I'd handle the scheduling, and I was all like, "YES I will boss that train!"---but then I realized we're probably in different time zones and different countries and so I can't over-boss here. What I suggest is that all the contests begin on either Monday June 30th or Tuesday July 1st, and end on Friday, July 4th, and I'm talking about U.S. dates. Specific end-TIME is whatever you want. I'm planning to go with noon Pacific Time.

Issue the Fifth: Tina is wondering about a random number generator. I use Random.org. Actually, NOW I use a program my cool computer-geek brother wrote for me, but it is customized for me and so the rest of you sadsacks without cool computer-geek brothers will just have to cope with Random.org. Which is a nice random number generator, too, just not as nice as mine.

Issue the Sixth: In fact, Tina and Barb bring up a good point in general, which is that not everyone is familiar with Pay it Forward contests and maybe there could be a quick overview rather than the assumption that everyone knows what I'm talking about, especially considering that I myself did not know what I was talking about until Jess Loolu's contest.

So! Pay it Forward contests! They have kind of a dumb name, but it is what they are called and we are too late to vote on it. The way they work is that a blogger says he or she is having a Pay it Forward contest, and a bunch of people enter by commenting on that post (I like to give a lightweight optional question to answer; last time I asked if your skin was dry, oily, or combination). The blogger uses a random number generator (or scraps of paper in a hat) to select a random commenter, and sends that commenter a surprise box (contents completely up to the blogger) in the mail. The recipient of the surprise box must then post a Pay it Forward contest on his or her OWN blog, and choose a random commenter to win it, and send a surprise box to that commenter. Then THAT winner....and so on.

So! Did I cover everything? If you're in on this, get your post ready for Monday or Tuesday of next week. Next week, when you've posted it, email me (swistle at gmail dot com) the URL and I'll put it in a list of all the Group Effort Pay it Forward contests, which I'll post on Monday or Tuesday with my own Pay it Forward contest---adding to it as more contests are emailed to me.

If you don't have a blog but you want to be in on it, email me (swistle at gmail dot com) and I'll add you to my own contest and choose you a winner from my commenters.

June 26, 2008

Group Effort

I am looking for summer project. No, no! Don't give me any! Heavens! No, what I mean is that I'm looking at my existing project list and assigning a few of the projects to this summer: I need things to do when the children are doing THEIR summer projects, to give a feeling of solidarity.

Anyway, my summer projects so far are pretty grim and involve things like "clutter removal" and "labeling photos," and I need something more fun to do. First MzEll and I were fondly remembering the Pay It Forward contest, and then I read something on the same topic over at Alice's, and so I thought maybe we could do more of that.

In fact, when I say "we" I mean WE. As in, WE. Wouldn't it be fun to start a WHOLE BUNCH of Pay It Forward threads all at the same time? Like a Pay It Forward BOMB! It's hard to get involved in one, normally, because you have to WIN one. But not if you START one.

So anyway! I'm going to do one. And if you want to do one, too, I'll link to yours over here. We'll have a whole LIST of Pay It Forward Contests going on at the same time for people to enter! They can just click down the list, entering one after another! And we'll just go ahead and make it totally allowed for all the contest-givers to blatantly enter each other's contests, so maybe we'll get a neat looping effects going! And meanwhile there will be the fun of shopping for the Pay It Forward packages, and the fun of gifts arriving in the mail! I think this could be just the thing!

Summer is not the BEST time to do this, since it rules out mailing melty things like chocolate---but I think this problem is MORE than compensated for by the benefits of presents arriving when it is about as far away from the Winter Gifty Holidays as it is possible to get.

Do you have to have a blog to win, or to throw a contest? No sirree! I have workarounds for both of those issues, so worry not! If you want to throw a contest but don't have a blog, I can pick an additional random number when I'm doing the drawing for my contest, and that can be your winner. If you win a contest and don't have a blog, the contest-running person can choose a second number from their contest to be the person you send a gift to, and then that second person would carry it from there. Well, my explanation does not please me with its clarity, but trust me that it would work!

Let me know if you want to participate, and we'll coordinate contest timetables! I'm thinking...next week? We could post all the contests early in the week to give plenty of time for everyone to find them and enter them, and have all the winners later in the week. You can leave a comment saying you want in on it, or you can email me (swistle at gmail dot com).

June 25, 2008

I Got Questions. You Got Answers?

Have you watched the show The Wire? One of my brother's friends says it's "the greatest work of art ever made". He adds: "I am not even kidding." But I'm one episode into it, and mostly it seems to be about swearing. If you've watched it, tell me: how long did it take for you to know if you liked it or not?

You see how on the main page of Milk & Cookies each post cuts off partway through, and you have to click to read more? My mom wants that on her Blogger blog but can't find a way to do it. I poked around, but I don't even know what to call that "click to see all of it" thing, except in the context of feed readers where it's called a partial feed, and that's not what she wants. She wants a full-feed, but her posts are really long so she wants only the first part of each one to show on her main page, rather than having her main page be a million miles long.

When I was little, my parents severely limited our TV/movie watching. This turned us into clueless little weirdos, in my opinion. Social interaction among children is like social interaction among adults: adults talk about TV shows and movies they've watched, and so do children. This doesn't mean I'm going to force-feed the kids every violent/inappropriate show their peers are allowed to watch, but it does mean I want them to have general cultural literacy in the things their peers know about. But! How do I know what their peers know about? I don't! And so I am asking you: what do boys in the age 7-10 range watch? Last I checked, it was The Smurfs. So I need an update, stat!

June 23, 2008

Annual Birthday Party Dilemma

We don't do "friend parties" in our family. We invite my parents over for presents and cake, but that's it. We tried a friend party when Rob turned 5, and it was so unpleasant I don't know if we'll ever do it again. MAYBE when the kids turn 10 or some other special birthday. Maybe.

Occasionally Rob or William will get invited to a classmate's party. They go. They have a nice time. Everyone knows that "not everyone gets invited to every party," so I don't worry that we don't reciprocate by inviting that child to a birthday party.

But ONE family invites William every single year. The birthday boy is someone William went to preschool and kindergarten with, and we see the family every year at the pool for swimming lessons. This is the situation that's starting to make me feel uncomfortable. Year after year, William goes to this other child's party, but we never invite that child to a party of William's.

We don't know the parents well enough for them to know we don't have friend parties, and it's awkward to drop it into the kind of small-talk conversations we have with them. One thing I've considered doing is asking the mom for some advice about friend parties, and then explaining by saying we've never done one. That would ease my mind a little: I don't want her to think we have any reason for not inviting her son.

In the meantime, what we've done is send a good present. I spend about half again what I would usually spend.

I've wondered, though, if this year we ought to decline the invitation? I don't know if they might be asking us because they feel obligated (their son always asks William at the pool if he can come to the party), and if they'd be relieved if we declined? Or if declining would be like saying, "Not only don't we invite your son, we also don't let our son go to your son's party." Plus, the one time we DID throw a friend party, I was wringing my hands over the possibility that people wouldn't want to come.

The other child's birthday is coming up, so I'm facing the usual decision.

June 22, 2008

Hello. I Love You.

Here are some of my recent favorite posts:

Bub & Pie writes about how "living life to its fullest" doesn't have to mean physical risk-taking.

Bossy gave me a little panic attack with these two pictures: first this one and then this one.

Jonniker is talking about this interesting phenomenon: when you like/love someone, and THEY like/love someone YOU CAN'T STAND.

Firegirl is discussing Unusual Crushes.

Kirida has me going around pointing to things and saying "Awesome. Not awesome. Awesome. Awesome. NOT awesome. Try a little harder, maybe someday you'll be awesome."

Screamy Thing and her mom "being meerkats" totally made my day.

And if you're feeling in an advice/input/feedback-giving mood, you can head over to Ms. Sassy Pants and talk to her ex-SIL, who is guest-posting about fertility issues. She's ASKING for feedback, so you don't have to worry that you're giving unwelcome commentary.

June 20, 2008

The Spider and the Fly

We have a spider that lives between the screen and the glass of the window over our kitchen sink, and I tolerate her (even though I am a huge sissy re spiders) because she is a smallish, classic, Charlotte-shaped spider: almost more like a drawing of a spider than an actual, hairy-legged, fast-moving spider. She has graceful little legs, and she just hangs out in the corner there, industriously wrapping up little bugs and putting them in her pantry for later. I watch her as I'm doing the dishes.

The other day there was a fly in the kitchen, and it landed on the screen, so I opened the screen a little and quickly closed the window, so the fly could eventually bumble its way out. It flew near the spider, and that spider moved so fast and so alarmingly, I actually opened the window and saved the fly. I saved the gross, probably diseased fly, who given half a chance would litter the house with maggots. But the way that spider moved was so horrifying, and so evocative of my reptilian-brain feelings about spiders, that I acted fast and without thinking it through. I felt so sorry for that fly, seeing that same-size-as-herself spider coming at her like that. So if you notice a slight increase in the fly population of the planet, I'm afraid I'm to blame.

June 19, 2008


Those of you who have Netflix know that you can put your queue into several separate queues. For example, in our household we have the 3-out-at-a-time plan, so we have three queues: one is MY queue, for cool DVDs such as Firefly and Gilmore Girls; one is PAUL'S queue, for movies no one would want to see; and one is our JOINT queue, for the one in a million movie we both want to see, and also for the kids' movies. When PAUL returns one of HIS movies, he gets the next movie from HIS queue. When I return one of MY movies, I get the next movie from MY queue. This keeps things fair and orderly, and Paul and I are both firstborns so we appreciate this.

Why can't we just do an ABC pattern in one main queue, so it goes mine, Paul's, kids', mine, Paul's, kids', etc.? Well, for one thing it's a pain to have to do that, especially if you want to reorder your movies: if I'm watching all the DVDs of The Wire, and suddenly I want to watch The Chorus, I have to change every third movie all the way down the queue. For another thing, the ABC pattern means that slowpokes get unfair benefits: if I'm taking forever to watch movie A, and Paul and the kids both return their movies, I get my next A movie when I haven't even finished my first one. Meanwhile, Paul has to wait for HIS next movie until I return MINE. Unfair. So the multiple-queue system is awesome.

Netflix is canceling that feature. They reassure us that it is to improve the site for all their customers. OH YES. I can TOTALLY see how taking away a feature EVERYONE LOVES improves things for everyone! Yes, it's totally clear to me now!

Paul is threatening to completely cancel our Netflix account. I can't see doing that, because we don't have cable so this is how we watch ALL TV AND MOVIES. But I am SERIOUSLY PISSED and LOOKING FOR TROUBLE. Well, or looking for other options.

[Edit: I was looking for a way to write to Netflix to throw a freakin' FIT politely complain, but I kept getting routed to a phone number, and with five children in the house I don't use the phone AT ALL. Kristin found the way to the email form, so I'm including her instructions here: "At the very bottom of the page in teeny tiny print, click 'contact us'. Then under 'Requests and Suggestions' click 'suggestions' and it'll give you an email form." THANK YOU, Kristin. I wrote, and I suggest anyone else who hates this change write too.]

Dear Swistle,

You spoke, and we listened. We are keeping Profiles. Thank you for all the calls and emails telling us how important Profiles are.

We are sorry for any inconvenience we may have caused. We hope the next time you hear from us we will delight, and not disappoint, you.

-Your friends at Netflix


June 18, 2008

Ways in Which Age Continues its Journey of a Thousand Miles

I'm in my mid-30s, and my skin is showing signs of becoming more...delicate. I like the word "delicate" here, rather than the word "crepey."

I don't lose weight as easily or as quickly as I used to. And when I do lose weight, my skin is saggy rather than springing back immediately.

I made fun of a slang expression by acting as if I didn't understand what it meant. This immediately reminded me of my grandfather pretending to think the word "cool" was meant literally. Har har, old person.

Lip hair. A couple of chin hairs. Nose hair seeming more intrusive. I'm still holding out for these being a pregnancy/nursing side-effect, but I'm losing hope. The worst is a couple of long freaky white hairs that grow in the area between my eyebrow and my hairline---and I usually don't find them until they are more than an inch long. *Shudder* I think, "Oh, hey, I have a cat hair on my face," and I brush it away and it does not brush away.

Upper arms are looking more matronly. Also, recently they've gotten redder? What is THAT about?

My mom and I were discussing another family, and gradually we became aware that the grandmother in that family was not, in fact, my mother's peer as we'd been assuming while talking, but in fact only about 10 years older than me. A grandmother! Ten years older than me!

The Girls prefer increasingly wide/padded straps.

I see more veins in my legs. A few of them are varicose. I try not to think about it.

I see more little tiny veins on the sides of my FEET, like a pattern of reddish-purple lines. This is something I associate with my grandmother's old-lady feet, and so I find it upsetting.

My default term for teenagers is "kids." If I try to correct it, I come out with the even-worse term "young people." YOUNG PEOPLE.

The skin on my face seems to be shifting downward. Just a little. But enough so I've started giving myself wrinkles from peering at it in the mirror.

My hands look older. More veiny, more wrinkled. Rougher, even with lotion.

I keep turning on lights for people who say they can see just fine. I remember my grandparents doing the same for me.

Is my hairline receding? Maybe just a little at the temples?

June 17, 2008

Stopped Up

I'm so sorry, but this is going to be about constipated babies. If you would really rather not talk about it---and who could blame you?---perhaps you could give me some advice on handheld vacuum cleaners instead. Or maybe you'd like to just click out of here completely and pretend this never happened. I'd understand. I mean, constipated babies or handheld vacuums? What kind of choice is THAT?

A certain baby whose first initial is H and whose second initial is Enry is the first of my babies to have trouble with constipation, as, unbelievably, I have discussed on another occasion. I'm not keen to discuss the particulars of how I know he's constipated and not just straining the way babies often do, and so you are just going to have to take a look at my resume (babysitter, daycare infant-room teacher, mother of five) and believe that I know what I'm talking about and am not a newbie wringing my hands over an imagined problem. Um, like you'd insist on hearing the particulars anyway.

I have now brought the problem up TWO TIMES at the doctor's office, once at his 9-month check-up and once at his 12-month check-up. And clearly I should be more firm and less of a chicken, but I keep thinking they are going to take into account (1) my experience and (2) the way I don't bring things up if they're not problems, and that then they will think, "Hm, we should deal with this."

But no. They tell me to reduce bananas and cooked carrots, to increase prunes and white grape juice, to make sure he gets plenty of fluids, and to give him plenty of fiber. They say, "Does he seem to be uncomfortable?" and I say "He wakes up in the night screaming," and they say, "Hm." Then they say, "Well, try prune juice. Prune juice will clear him right up." And this is where I should say, "I once gave him nothing all day except stewed prunes and prune juice and I noticed NO EFFECT, so I think it's time to move from dietary changes to This is a Real Problem," but instead I lose hope and flop gently to the floor, defeated.

NEXT TIME, I swear I'm going to press the issue, and in fact I'm thinking I'll call and make him an appointment for what the nurse once referred to as "a constipation work-up." But in the meantime, if you know things that work, please do share. Milk of Magnesia? Cod liver oil? Flax seed oil? (I've given him flax seed meal.) Creamed corn? Extra vitamin C? I tried him with glycerin suppositories (I can really see why people fear parenthood, can't you?), but the nurse said not to use them too often or the baby starts to need them every time.

I'm looking for both kinds of assists: things that will help PREVENT the problem, and also things that will help clear the problem up once it has occurred. (And although I seemed to be scoffing at dietary changes two paragraphs ago, I do definitely want to hear those as well.) I promise not to be reckless and use ideas blindly, but we have a Nurse Line we can call, and I find it works a lot better if I'm saying "Can I give the baby ____?" (nurse says yes or no and tells me the dosage) than if I'm saying, "What can I give the baby?" (nurse says I'd have to ask the doctor).

Don't worry, Henry. I will delete this post before anyone your age knows how to use Google.

[Follow-up: What worked for us was:
1. grapes
2. pineapple chunks
3. flax seed oil (I cut open a capsule each day and squeezed the oil into yogurt or whatever
4. but mostly the grapes and the pineapple chunks
5. oh, and oranges]

June 16, 2008

Mom Style

If you grew up with a mother figure, what do you remember about her clothes and accessories and make-up and such? I remember:
  • nylons in plastic eggs
  • one pair of black strappy high heels (I broke them when I was 12 years old)
  • a navy blue bikini with an anchor emblem on it
  • one fancy red dress
  • liquid eyeliner
  • home perms
  • Emeraude perfume
  • a necklace of little white birds on a silver chain
  • a "Flat is Beautiful" t-shirt
  • a pair of tan running shoes

June 14, 2008


So all of a sudden I was like, "Huh. I don't think I've seen any new posts by Tessie recently." So I went directly to the blog (usually I wait for something to appear in my RSS reader), and I found I'd missed A WEEK AND A HALF of posts. Well, WHAT THE CRAP?

So then I got nervous, and started going through my reader. Erica is near the top, and I thought, "Well, I haven't read anything by her in awhile, but she's on a blogging hiatus so that's probably not a problem with the RSS reader." But then I thought, "Well, why not check?" So I checked. OH HAI: I've missed a week and a half of posts. What! the! CRAP???

Also near the top of the reader is Kara, and I thought, "Hey. I don't remember seeing Friday Questions." So I went directly to the blog, and what did I find? I found AAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!, that's what I found, because there were more missed posts!

What the crap, Bloglines? Now I have to go look through every single blog in my RSS reader MANUALLY, like it's 2001 or something. Why do I even HAVE a reader, if there is going to be a MASSIVE FAIL like this? Why not WRITE LETTERS BY CANDLELIGHT??

Not Locked

This morning I felt a little bad for using a Poor Tone of Voice when I said to Rob that the bathroom door was not locked. He was trying to get in, and I knew there was no one in there, so I KNEW it could not be locked. And I was right, it wasn't, but it was stuck in such a way that he was not able to open it and it did seem locked, so it was not the right moment for my educational seminar on Logic & Reason: When a Door Can (and Cannot) Be Locked from the Inside.

If our roles had been reversed, I would have said something like, "Rob. I open that door many times a day with no problem. So if I say it's locked, I don't think you should jump to the conclusion that I'm suddenly for no reason unable to figure out how to open the door; I think you should assume there must be some Unusual Problem with the door." But did I follow that very sensible advice myself? No. He opens the door many times a day with no trouble, but when he says there's a problem I went into eye-rolling "he's suddenly for no reason unable to figure out how to open the door" mode. NICE.

To be fair, this is a child who will repeatedly answer in the affirmative, even when I know it should be negative and am giving him plenty of opportunities to reconsider. He'll be looking for his shoes, and I'll say, "Did you look for them under the couch?" "Yes." "Really, you looked under the couch?" "Yes!" "Are you sure you looked under the couch? Because I'm pretty sure I saw your shoes there earlier." "YES! I'm SURE." "Maybe you looked under there another time, or maybe you THOUGHT you looked under there but actually..." "I looked. under. the couch." "Rob, look under the couch." "*HEAVY SIGH* Okay, fine, but I DID LOOK..........Oh, HERE they are!"

We've even had a similar "locked door" problem with the front door, which has a tricky latch. He'll say, "I can't unlock the door!" and I'll say, "It WAS unlocked---now you've locked it!" And he'll say, "No, I turned the latch the other way and NOW it's locked," and I'll say, "No, it isn't, just turn the knob harder," and he'll say, "NO, it's......oh."

Rob once told me that his favorite thing was to say something back to someone else until they ran out of things to say and he won. Way to tip your hand, buddy. And also: NO KIDDING.

June 13, 2008

Also, Reconsider Your Name

Dear The Children's Place,

First of all, I'm not sure you took into consideration the problems with giving yourself a name starting with "The." It's tricky, isn't it? I mean, do I really have to write "Dear The Children's Place"? That looks ridiculous. But "Dear Children's Place" isn't right. I suppose "Dear TCP" would work, but not everyone knows you as TCP. It's puzzling. If this were a real letter actually sent to you, I would do "Dear Madam or Sir," but since this is a blog post, that's insufficient information for the readers. "Dear The Children's Place" it is, then.

Secondly, considering that three of my last four orders from you have been shipped even though some of the items I ordered were "unfortunately" "not available," do you think it is perhaps time to make modifications to your inventory system? As I see it, there are two good options here:

1) Fix it so that it doesn't let me order things that are not in stock. Considering that things in my cart often go out of stock as I'm shopping, it seems you have systems in place for this already. Perhaps you could make them WORK. You say you "try very hard" and that you "sincerely regret"---but a 75% failure rate means UR DOIN IT RONG. You KNOW there is a problem, and I know you know, so we both know you need to fix it somehow. Your allegedly sincere regret is an insufficient solution.

2) Or, you could contact me BEFORE you ship the items, to let me know that your inventory system has failed ONCE AGAIN, and to give me the option to cancel or modify my order. It is not fair to ship the order and THEN say "O SORRY ITEMS UNAVAILABLE KBAI!!!" Sure, I could return everything else, but (a) that's a hassle for ME and I'M not the one who SCREWED UP here, and (b) I'd lose my shipping fees. Sometimes the item that's unavailable is the reason I placed the order, and the rest was just stuff I added in as long as I had to pay shipping anyway: I didn't really want an order of six pairs of socks sent to me. Other times, if I'd KNOWN you were out of stock in green, I would have ordered the orange. Now that a week has gone by, the orange is also out of stock.

In short, your currents system sucks. That's right: I said SUCKS. And I mean it. Get it together, you cheeseheads, because I LOVE your clothes and I LOVE your sales, and I would like to continue to dress my daughter and any future nieces in 99% TCP clothing until they're out of your biggest sizes. KTHANXBAI!!!

Love, Swistle

June 12, 2008

Dreamy Dream House

I dreamed Sundry and I bought a Blogging House, a big Victorian, and all the blog world peeps could come and hang out. We had big handmedown-type couches and chairs EVERYWHERE, and computers EVERYWHERE, and big throw rugs on the wide-board hardwood floors. People were flopping around and chatting and eating, and wandering from room to room, and complaining about how their writing was going, and saying "I am soooooo hungry for a brownie right now," and we had a crafts services table or whatever those huge long tables of snacks and foods and drinks are called on movie sets.

I was in the kitchen working on some experimental chicken recipe for a post; I had a laptop on the counter and I was typing in my notes as I encountered problems, and there were several people sitting at the kitchen table and calling out suggestions. And Sundry was measuring JB for an article she was doing on the subject, and he will be either pleased or totally squicked to hear that he was measuring Impressively. Jess Loolu was looking online at purple shoes, with all of us walking past the screen and saying "OOOOO, cute!" or "No, too casual," and most of us had fancy coffees in hand, and people were always coming in or going out and yelling, "Hey, do I use 'its' or 'it's' here?"

And then I woke up. Paul had accidentally failed to completely latch the outside door when he left for work, and that door is faulty so it was hanging wide open, and several flies had gotten in, and also it was just creepy to find that the door had been open while I was asleep. Then I discovered that a cat had thrown up on my upholstered computer chair.

In case you have been wondering, "I wonder what is the opposite of having a cool Blogging House with bloggy friends hanging out and eating and chatting?" it's "Cat threw up on computer chair, and there are flies."

June 11, 2008

Winner of the T-Shirt Giveaway!

You guys, my brother WROTE ME A COMPUTER PROGRAM to choose winners for giveaways! It is so awesome: I type in some code and then I put in the url of the blog post, and the program bustles into the comment section, chooses a random winner, and tells me who it is and what their comment was. It also adjusts for multiple comments from the same person: like, if you comment and then have to leave a second comment to correct something or add something, it counts those two comments as one entry rather than as two. SMART MUCH?

I used it for the first time on the Whimsical Walney t-shirt giveaway. And the program chose Fine for Now! Yay! I'll email you right now to put you in touch with Dana at Whimsical Walney, and she'll get your shirt out to you!

And speaking of Dana, she wrote me to say that she felt sorry for all the losers the commenters who didn't win:
Your readers have been so great I want to offer them a 15% discount on the Use Your Words shirt(s) of their choice. If they email me between now and June 25th at wewantwalney AT whimsicalwalney DOT com, mention you, and tell me which shirt(s) they want, I will send them an invoice through PayPal (they don’t have to have an account to use their credit card) that reflects the 15% discount. (I will be shipping everything first class.)

So you get all that? EMAIL her (instead of using the cart on the website) with your order between now and June 25th. MENTION Swistle in the email. And she'll take 15% off, because you are so great. It's the Greatness Discount.

This was so fun, as usual. I love giveaways. I hope I don't overdo giveaways so that you start thinking, "Meh, another giveaway, is that ALL she does now? Where is the COMPLAINING? And what about the WHINING? Oh, for the days of whining! What I wouldn't give for a good WHINE!"

June 9, 2008

I Love Giveaways. I Think Giveaways are Fun.

Let us say that you are doing a giveaway, because you think giveaways are fun. And let us say that the first step of that giveaway is to take a photo of your one-year-old son Henry modeling a shirt. You are in luck, because I have photo tips customized for your EXACT SITUATION!

Do not use a location that by its very nature obscures the design of the shirt.

Remove distractions from the room.

Do not say, "Yay! Pretty shirt!"

Do not say, "Look at your SHIRT? What's on your SHIRT?"

Do not suggest the child channel Kate Moss.

Do not schedule photo shoot too close to naptime.

Do not hire a child in the "everything goes in my mouth" stage of development.

Do not hire a child who appears to have crafty plans of his own for this session.

Improve your odds by taking 200 photos. You're bound to get one usable one.

Now, for the giveaway part. The shirt is from Whimsical Walney, and it's a "Use Your Words" shirt. Henry's is the "Soy Bombero." I took French and Latin, but Paul took Spanish and he says that means "I'm a firefighter"---a boy firefighter. That same picture is also available in "Soy Bombera," which is "I'm a firefighter"--a girl firefighter.

I went back and forth about what size to order: the sizes up to 18 months are ringer-style (pretty colored trim) bodysuits, but Henry is long-torsoed and I wondered if the bodysuit style might not fit---but on the other hand he's not quite in 2T for regular shirts. Well, it worked out great: the 2T is "room to grow in" and not "comically huge" as I'd feared. (For reference: he's 23 pounds, 31 inches tall---with short legs.)

The shirt is SO YUMMY. You know how a lot of gorgeous-picture t-shirts are printed on icky shirts---like, 3-pack-for-$5 shirts? This is a thick, nice, soft t-shirt. And the weird thing is that you can't FEEL the picture. Like, you might expect it to be a plasticky overlay or a stiff painty area, but if you just FEEL it you can't tell where the picture is: it's just as soft as the rest of the shirt.

If you would like to enter the contest for a free Use Your Words t-shirt from Whimsical Walney (if you don't have kids, this would make an excellent baby gift for your childed friends), go look at the picture choices and then come back here and leave a comment saying which one you want. I'm afraid you're going to have a tough time---or at least, I did. My favorite was the firefighter (duh), but it was a tough call between that and La Zanahoria ("carrot"). Or Soy Piloto ("I'm a pilot"). Or El Papalote ("kite"). Or La Sandia ("watermelon") or Soy Pescador ("I'm a fisherman"). Well, or La Fresa ("strawberry") or La Alcachofa ("artichoke"). I mean, GEEZ! How many opportunities have you had to get children's shirts with artichokes on them? NONE, right?

The contest will run through Wednesday, June 11th, at 9:00 a.m. U.S. Pacific time. I'll use a random number generator to choose one person, and that person will get the shirt they chose in their comment. Yay! (And good luck getting a photo of the child wearing it---SHEESH.)

June 7, 2008

Textured Finish

When I was shopping for the new refrigerator, I narrowed it down to two options. They were very similar, but one came in a absolutely smooth white glossy finish, and the other came in the textured white I was more familiar with as the owner of a refrigerator that was made before some of you were born.

The salesperson said the glossy smooth kind was more current. I wondered if it would get all scratched up and crappy looking, and she said no, she didn't think so, "unless you put a lot of magnets on it or something." Which is kind of funny, considering my fridge:

Front: photos of friends' children, school reminders, children's drawings, timer, coupons, Leap Frog alphabet magnets set plus two supplemental lowercase letter sets.

Photos of kids, decorative magnets, kitchen utensils hanging from magnetic rack.

Grocery list, school information, commonly used phone numbers, magnetic basket holding pens and pencils and batteries, baggie for box tops, decorative magnets, magnetic notepad, recall notice about one of our cars, and a little cluster of magnets in case we have something else we need to put on the fridge.

So I got the textured finish.

June 6, 2008

Same as the Old One Except 22 Years Younger

If you're wondering what happened to the downer post "Emotionally Messy," I took it down. Because GEEZ. But I can summarize it for those of you who missed it:
  1. I am still a little...off, emotionally-speaking.

I was looking through my old journals to get the information I needed for the post about milestones, and since walking happened around the same time as weaning, I kept encountering the exact same sentences again and again, in 2000 and in 2002 and in 2006---about how I was soooo irritable and sooooo moody and soooo emotional and how if it didn't stop I was going to ask the doctor for a prescription. And then evidently it gets better and there's no mention of it until the next baby is weaning.

I find it helps to spend money. And so it was good timing for our 22-year-old refrigerator to shuffle off its condenser coils (I think appliances can SMELL economic stimulus checks), because normally I would be so cheesed to have to buy a new one, but instead I was skipping like a schoolgirl. Well, plodding like a mother with a double stroller.

I hope it works out, because it was an exceptionally smooth and easy purchase. My dad (he's the family expert on What's the Best Thing to Buy) did all the research and told me the two he recommended, and then I went in and lucked into a salesperson who was laid-back and non-pressurey, and I just chose a refrigerator and bought it and the end.

Look. It's my new fridge. White. Fridge-like.

I ruined my high, though, by taking the twins to have their pictures done. Generally I go around recommending the JCP Portrait Studio all over the place: I left Sears for them, and have never been sorry. And I'm still really happy with the pictures they take. But the last two times I've been there, they've gone way over the top trying to push all their expensive portrait options. I keep saying, "Oh, no, thanks, I always just order sheets," and they KEEP SHOWING ME MORE OPTIONS. And then cooing over their own work, like, "Ooooo, that's so CUTE! How can you resist??" With me actually not having any trouble resisting.

Today she actually pulled out, "Awww! You HAVE to get that one! You'll never get these moments back again!" Um, true, but this creation you're showing me represents only THIS moment, of YOU trying to SELL ME STUFF while my children fight in their stroller and I am clearly itching to get out of here. And since I just bought prints of all three of those poses, I don't see why I now ALSO need to buy them clustered on the same page, with a fake-paint-splashes background and "We love you Mommy!!" written in a stupid font. I mean, frankly I think the particular combinations you're putting together there look tacky, but I don't want to say so because after all this is your CAREER here.

Then, when I'd persevered and gotten ONLY what I wanted (I just said, "Okay! Now! I need a 10x13 of that one, and..."), she put on an Excited Tone of Voice and said I'd ordered enough sheets to qualify for a SPECIAL PACKAGE DEAL! The special package deal? I could spend TWICE AS MUCH for the same pictures! AND I'd get a FREE 8x10! Has she lost her mind? Do they not pay them enough to afford food, and she has gone all dizzy and confused with hunger?

I realize it's that they HAVE to do this, and not that they get any personal joy out of pressuring me. Probably they have bosses breathing down their necks saying "SELL SELL SELL!" Perhaps there are nasty attack animals in the back room, and anyone who doesn't meet a certain hourly quota has to spend "quality time" in the cages. But the thing is, if they don't knock it off, they are going to lose what they DO sell me. You know what I need, is a little sign I can hold up silently, with a bored flick of the wrist, after the first few vocal repetitions of the same words: "No, thanks. I just buy the sheets." Maybe the bottom half of the sign can be a white board, so I can add rude endings as needed.

June 4, 2008

Well Within Normal Range

Henry had his one-year check-up this morning. I was a little worried he was going to get a Bad Baby sticker: he still doesn't pull to standing or even TRY to pull to standing, and he's only just starting to get onto his hands and knees (he army crawls).

I don't know why I worry, since ALL my kids have been like this, and in fact Henry is earlier than some of the others: Rob didn't crawl until a year old, and Elizabeth didn't pull to standing until 14 months. And sure enough, the pediatrician says Henry is well within normal range.

I actually DON'T worry much about their development; what I worry about is OTHER PEOPLE worrying. "I'll bet he's walking all over the place now!" they say. And then when I say, "Oh....uh, no, he's just crawling," they get a funny expression and darty eyes, like, "OOoooo, dear, that's not good. Should one of us...tell her so?"

Have you noticed this: People talk about the milestones their babies reach early, but they're a lot quieter about the ones they reach "well within normal range"---also known as "late." A baby who walked at 10 months? Everyone including the deli clerk has heard ALLLLL about it. The babies who walk at 17 months are just as normal, but we don't need to bore the deli clerk with all the little details.

This greatly affects people's perceived statistics: if you hear a lot about babies walking at 10 months, 11 months, 12 months, you might even think it's SCARY and ALARMING and NEUROLOGICALLY SIGNIFICANT if a baby isn't walking at 13 months. And yet it isn't: none of my kids have walked before 14 months, and one didn't walk until 17 months, and all of them have been still been within normal range for those things. And this is why I am telling you about it (you over there---quit yawning!): to improve the perceived statistics.

June 3, 2008

Pay it Forward Follow-up

If you didn't win the Pay it Forward contest and you're still kind of cheesed about it, you can go to winner Melessa's contest and try to win that! (Also, you can see what I sent her, if you're voyeuristic like that.)

Giveaway Thataway

Those of you who like giveaways will want to head over to SundryBuzz: I reviewed a digital reader (it lets you read books on a little handheld electronic thingie), and I'm giving it away to a randomly-chosen commenter.