January 30, 2009

CPSIA Giveaway #1: Winner!

The first giveaway has ended! The winner of the first giveaway for a Whimsical Walney shirt is Chaya, who left the January 27, 2:13 a.m. comment. Chaya, email me at swistle at gmail dot com and I'll connect you to Whimsical Walney.

Third Cup So Far

Dr. Maureen is showing her pay-it-forward loot and starting a new contest, and because I am SO DIM, I forgot to post about this until the DAY the contest ends, but Maureen is merciful and says she'll accept comments even after the deadline. Well, not FOREVER. But within reason. And I REALLY suggest you enter, because one of the things in the prize package is going to be a Small Secret that we will be using soon to play a game! And that's all I'll say for now.

This is one of those "All the coffee in the world couldn't..." mornings. But I'm an optimist, so I'm trying the coffee anyway.

I've started getting up BEFORE Paul so that I can have some hot water. Upside: hot water! And not having to rush through my shower because Paul used 35 minutes of our shared 40 minutes of getting-ready time! Downside: getting up at five o'clock in the morning, and having my early rising wake the children Every Single Time, so that by eight o'clock I have already logged THREE HOURS of Cherishing Every Moment. Well, 2 hours and 45 minutes, since Paul is technically in charge of the children while I'm getting ready.

It's unpleasant, and I haven't adjusted yet to losing the 45 minutes of sleep, but I know, I know, some of you would consider five o'clock SLEEPING IN, and also it's worth it to avoid starting every day trying to figure out whether my husband doesn't love me or if he's just an inconsiderate jerk.

I'm still eating baked oatmeal nearly every morning, and this has led to a canned pineapple kick at our house: the recipe only calls for a little bit, so I was having the kids help me finish off the can before it went bad, and now they're eating canned pineapple as part of their food rotation. And by the way, not to embarrass anyone, but a Certain Baby has had Certain Issues very much assisted by the addition of pineapple to his diet.

Where was I? Oh, yes, the pineapple. Canned pineapple is packed in unsweetened pineapple juice, and do you know I was POURING IT DOWN THE SINK? I just wasn't THINKING about it. I'm used to canned fruit being packed in syrup, I guess, and I'm used to draining cans of tuna, legumes, etc. But pineapple juice is YUMMY and made of JUICE! And I have a Certain Baby who is supposed to drink more juice! And also I will note that SOME people enjoy the taste of pineapple juice mixed with vodka after a long day. And stores SELL pineapple juice! For money! But you get about 6 ounces of it FREE in a can of pineapple! This has been a very exciting discovery.

January 29, 2009

CPSIA Giveaway #3

This morning I performed my Wifely Duty, and you can just stop that snickering right now because what you are thinking of is not even in the marriage vows, or at least not the ones I vowed. What I vowed is to continue to be Paul's wife in sickness as well as in health, so when he woke up making babyish groany "I have a perfectly ordinary headcold but I'm acting more like it's the end stages of terminal cancer" sounds, I brought him Dayquil and water in bed instead of buying him a one-way ticket for Bucking Fabyville. I rewarded my devotion with a slice of cake in a size known as "Have a little CAKE, why don't you."

Today is our third CPSIA giveaway. (Here's the first and the second.) Charming Maeve is going to give away THREE prizes, one baby shirt of the winner's choice (I THINK my favorite is "One state, two state, red state, blue state," but it's a tough call) to each of THREE (U.S.) winners, so that TRIPLES your chance of winning. To enter, leave a comment on this post by Monday, February 2, 2009, 4:00 p.m. U.S. Pacific time, and I'll choose (THREE) random winners.

For all of us who DON'T win, Charming Maeve is offering free U.S. shipping on all tees, including women's tees (also available in my favorite one state two state version). She warns that she has to manually update inventory, and she'll try to keep up but it's possible there will be Disappointments if the orders come in quickly. And once CPSIA takes affect on February 10th, she won't be able to sell the baby shirts anymore, so move fast.


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There is still room in the schedule for a few more giveways, so if you're an artist/crafter affected by CPSIA or wanting to show support for those affected by CPSIA, email me at swistle at gmail dot com and let me know what you'd like to give away. Don't be intimidated by the awesomeness of the prizes so far. The prize can be tiny. I'll handle the giveaway here, and then let you know who to mail the cool swag to.

January 28, 2009

CPSIA Giveaway #2

Oh, good morning!! I am drinking my coffee kind of strong today!! I can't find my eyelids!!

Today is our second CPSIA giveaway. Yesterday I was trying to figure out a scheme for winning this one myself, because it is by Amy Quarry. Do you remember the package I won from her back in September? ZOMG, as I believe I said at the time. She sent a dress and warmies (leggings made from sweaters) for Elizabeth, both of which are TEH CUTEST, and she sent a bunch of other things (hair thingies! wall thingies! key thingies! thingies to keep thingies in!) that made me marvel afresh at people who are artistic: How do they DO that? How do they know exactly what will look perfect with what? It baffles and impresses me.

Amy isn't directly affected by the new CPSIA thing (because she's Canadian, not because she's an outlaw), but she says she thinks it's crazy and wants to offer her support. The prize will be a surprise package customized for the winner, but you can check out Amy's style at her main place, and at her Etsy shop. She's one of the artists at goodEGG, and you can read her blog, which is about her funny sweetie little girl as well as about projects.

So! Leave a comment on this post by Sunday, February 1st, at 4:00 p.m. U.S. Pacific time. Because I am SO VERY ETHICAL (well, and because Amy would recognize my mailing address), I'll choose a random winner rather than creating a fake identity and winning the contest myself.


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There is still plenty of room for other giveways, so if you're an artist/crafter affected by CPSIA or wanting to show support for those affected by CPSIA, email me at swistle at gmail dot com and let me know what you'd like to give away. Don't be intimidated by the awesomeness of the prizes so far. The prize can be tiny. I'll handle the giveaway here, and then let you know who to mail the cool swag to.

January 26, 2009

Crafters Painters Sewists I <3 Artists

Perhaps you have heard of this thing where the United States, in an admirable effort to lower the bad stuff like POISONOUS LEAD in children's products, is passing legislation that, unfortunately, is also going to make it difficult or impossible for some of the art/craft people to stay in business. The painful thing about this is that often the artists/crafters hand-make BECAUSE safe products are important to them, and hand-making is their way of ensuring that.

I'll tell you right up front that I know VERY LITTLE about this. I have to have "CPSIA" written on a piece of scrap paper next to me or I can't remember the letters, and I don't know what the letters stand for....okay, fine, that's too embarrassing, I'll look it up. It's Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act.

As I understand the situation, the CPSIA thing didn't set out to hurt artists and crafters; it's more that it didn't set out to protect them, either, and so the new regulations, intended for large businesses, also affect, for example, a person with a hobby room who makes baby blankets out of carefully-purchased organic cotton, and a person with a workshop who makes baby toys out of carefully-purchased dangerous-chemical-free wood and paint. Do I have that basically right? Is that about the gist of it?

Okay! So, do you remember the Whimsical Walney t-shirt giveaway we did last June? Well, she can't stay in business because of this CPSIA thing, so all her stuff is 50% off until February 9th when she's shutting down. You can visit her at Whimsical Walney to see all her cute Use Your Words and Flags of the World kid shirts.

But also. To, uh, commemorate the CPSIA issue, we're going to be doing a series of giveaways. If you're a business affected by CPSIA and you're getting rid of inventory (um, I hope it's clear I mean inventory NOT saturated with lead or whatevs, but rather inventory that is nice and safe but can't be sold unless you pay for an expensive test to prove it), or if you're an artist/crafter NOT affected by the new act but wanting to show support for those artists/crafters who ARE affected, email me at swistle at gmail dot com and let me know what you'd like to give away. I'll do a giveaway every day or two until popping slows to 2-3 seconds between pops I run out of things to give away, or until we get to February 9th, which is the last day non-CPSIA-tested things can be sold.

Whimsical Walney is first up: leave a comment on this post by Friday, January 30th at 4:00 p.m. U.S. Pacific time, and I'll use a random number generator to choose a winner. The prize is one Whimsical Walney shirt, your choice of any still in stock.

January 22, 2009

MAY CAUSE BLINDNESS

My dad I figured out my camera, so now I have a photo of the Medium Ash Brown hair!

Tilted-down face makes 95% reduction in under-chinnage, but 50% increase in forehead size.



Oh, wait, I was supposed to be showing you the 50% increase in Morose.



Next topic. We need to talk about something, and it has to do with what to do with your EYEBROWS if you dye your hair darker.

The haircolor box says NOT to use the haircolor on your eyebrows or you WILL GO BLIND. But let's say you were all, "What does it matter if I can see, if all I can see is that my eyebrows don't match my hair?," and so you played it dangerous and put the stuff on your eyebrows. But it didn't even WORK! So you RISKED BLINDNESS for NOTHING!



In that case, I'll tell you what you SHOULDN'T do. DON'T buy a box of Just For Men Mustache and Beard Color. I thought you said you WEREN'T blinded the first time! Can't you see that it's for MEN and MUSTACHES and BEARDS? It is not for girl eyebrows! Just because it talks about how perfect it is for coarse, resistant facial hair doesn't mean it's for YOUR coarse, resistant facial hair, or that eyebrows are coarse and resistant and facial! Don't be stupid!



Besides, it's still hair dye, and just like other hair dye, it can cause PERMANENT BLINDNESS if you get it in your eyes. So it is CLEARLY marked that you should NOT use it for your eyebrows! So don't!



You might as well not even read further unless you're a MAN intending to use this product AS INTENDED.

Okay, guys, you know how haircolor kits have to be mixed all at once and then you can't use the stuff after an hour or it'll explode or whatevs? The beard and mustache kit is different. It has two little tubes, and you can mix exactly the amount you want on the little tray.

Lipstick for scale. MAN lipstick.



The whole process takes 10-15 minutes, so if I were a man I'd do this about 15 minutes before I'd normally get into the shower, and I'd already be wearing a bathrobe so I wouldn't have to pull a pajama top over my head with this stuff on my beard/mustache.

The instructions say not to use the little tubes to mix any more potion after 3 months, but the reason is "to ensure highest level of quality." That's insufficiently persuasive. Maybe if it were "because after 3 months this stuff will chaw its way through the plastic tubes and melt a hole in your linen closet shelves"---but it isn't, is it, it's just about highest possible levels of quality, which, pfff. And let's say I knew someone who was using it on, uh, a small mustache---yeah, not eyebrows but a mustache, a slightly-graying mustache exactly the size of two eyebrows, and that she he said she'd he'd been using the same box for nearly two years. Also, just as a total non sequitur, my mother is not blind in EITHER eye. Nor am I.

It comes with a wee little brush, which is just perfect for using on your eyebrows tiny eyebrow-shaped mustache. Maybe you want to put your non-brush-holding hand protectively over your eye. No reason.

ONLY do this to a MUSTACHE. Not an eyebrow! Eyebrow shown only for illustrative purposes, with eye-safe conditioner instead of hair dye, just so you can see what the brush would be like if I HAD a mustache, which I don't.



You (the man) would wait 5 minutes. This is a good opportunity to manfully clean the little tray and brush and put them back in the box for the next time your mustache is looking too gray or too blond or whatever.


Don't worry if when you next look in the mirror the extra potion has made the skin around your mustaches look kind of weird.


But next time you might want to keep the potion more IN THE LINES, just because nobody needs facial fuzz to be darker.

After 5 minutes, you (you're still a man) can get into the shower and rinse. You should be VERY CAREFUL not to get let the rinse water SLOSH UP into your eyes. Maybe you should squeeze your eyes very tightly shut. You should use a mild shampoo to wash your mustaches, and it's a good idea to have that shampoo bottle where you can find it while groping around with your eyes tightly squeezed shut, because seriously, don't open your eyes while rinsing or shampooing or re-rinsing the dyed parts. Just in case the water sloshes UP. Be really careful, men.

Just For Men is sold at Target for $6-7. Or maybe it isn't, how would I know? I'm not a man, nor do I have a beard or mustache, nor do I want to be PERMANENTLY BLIND. My mother, who also doesn't know where such a thing might be sold, says that if she were just guessing, she might guess that Walgreens also had a selection. But she adds that she really wouldn't know.

January 20, 2009

Crabby Morning

I have so many really great emails from friends, sitting there in my inbox like little jewels, waiting for me to....I guess I wouldn't be answering a jewel. Well, so that's perfect then! I'm too distracted to focus on them, because Paul left for work angry this morning, and even though he wasn't angry at ME, it was still a poor way to start the day.

I was already a little crabby with him because he once again hogged the hot water, and I don't know how he can continue doing that even after I've explained that the way I see it, he's weighing out the hot water in his hands, saying, "I will divide this between my sweetheart and me, and I will do it in the way I think is most fair"---and then he takes 85% of it for himself, so what does that mean about how he feels about me?

And so I was doing some nice careful breathing (through my SHIVERS), and also reminding myself that Paul is not someone who Thinks Symbolically, and even when I point out the symbolism to him he doesn't see it that way, so I need to not always take it so personally, because it doesn't mean he doesn't love me, it just means he's an oblivious fathead.

But because he also hogged the available showering TIME (AS PER USUAL), I got out of the shower kind of late---so he was already a teeny bit late for work when he went out to his car, realized he'd forgotten something, and then realized he'd locked himself out and couldn't ring the doorbell because he'd wake the couple of children who were not yet awake, and didn't have his key because it was already in the ignition of the car, way down the driveway.

His knock was kind of irritable, and when I opened the door for him he made an irritable remark about the stupidness of our whole door-locking system, and I just let that go because I'm familiar with those kinds of feelings and know it doesn't do any good to have someone telling you reasonably that maybe you're just a little crabby about something else and perhaps we don't need to go rushing out to buy a new door this very morning.

(Although perhaps we WILL need to buy a new door if someone keeps SHUTTING it so IRRITABLY. I'm just saying.)

Well, and then he got back out to his car and realized he'd forgotten something else, and a swear word was launched into the fresh morning air, and I had to do some fast thinking. When people around me get angry, I catch it like I'm a lightning rod. And then it has to be redirected at something, and I'd prefer that not be the case when it's just me and the kids in the house, because then a cat is going to get shoved with a foot or a tray of cookies is going to get eaten. Or TWO trays.

You know how worry can morph rapidly into anger? Like when someone is late and you're picturing them in a car crash and imagining how you'd probably have to be sedated when the doctor came out of the operating room with the bad news, and then they waltz in all perky and "Oh, am I late?," and you think maybe you should be sedated NOW lest there be bad news SOON? I wondered if that might work in the opposite direction too, so I tried to change my budding anger into worry. "He's crabby, and he's late, and now he'll be a little bit later, and so he probably won't drive safely," I told myself. "He could easily Never Come Home." Not quite enough. "This could be The Last Time You See His Face." Better. "Later, you'll remember every moment of this morning. This LAST morning." There!

Meanwhile he was stomping through the house to get the thing he forgot, and then stomping past again and shutting the door too hard behind him, and I tried harder to picture him in a hospital bed all hooked up to tubes and machines. Then he REVVED out of the driveway and I added some pitiful bruises to his unconscious face. And put out a stick of butter to soften for cookies.

January 18, 2009

Reader Question: Sleep Issues

I am trying out a chocolate-chip cookie variation, and so far it seems Very Good, but the problem is that, as my dad says, pretty much ALL chocolate-chip cookies are good when still warm, so the real test is a FULLY-COOLED chocolate-chip cookie, and ideally a chocolate-chip cookie the NEXT DAY. But I am having some trouble saving the cookies for that long. Also, I feel kind of sick. Also, we seem to be running low on milk.

Let's change the subject.

Sara writes:
I am hoping that you, in your infinite mommy wisdom, can help me. I have a 3 year old and a 4 month old, and I am at my wits end with regards to sleep. In fact, sleep or lack therof is the reason that we have 3 1/2 years between our daughters.

Kelly, the baby, slept great for the first three weeks and then was done sleeping in long stretches during the day. I didn't like it, but she was sleeping 8 hours a night and taking little catnaps. She would fall asleep in my arms, and sleep maybe 15 minutes once I put her down. Since then, she has stopped sleeping that long at night and won't nap at all unless she is in someone's arms. She wakes up immediately regardless of where we put her--crib, pack n play, car seat, swing, etc. In the last two weeks, she has refused to sleep anywhere but our arms at night as well.

We are possibly dealing with both a milk allergy and reflux, so I don't want to just let her cry too long. We went through this with our first daughter, wound up co-sleeping and it took years to get her to sleep on her own. In fact, she still comes into our bed! I'm not against co-sleeping, but I can't have both kids in the bed. Kelly really doesn't like her bouncy or swing, so I don't know if I should look for a different bouncy that she might sleep in. I am hoping that since you have 5 kids, that you have some really good sleep advice! Do you or your readers have any suggestions? I am exhausted and cranky!

However, if you don't want to deal with this while wallowing, I understand that too! But you could look at this as another good point--hopefully, you are getting more sleep than I am! :o)

Thanks a lot!


I've been letting this percolate in my inbox for DAYS now, hoping that some Wisdom will occur to me, or that at least I'll be able to come up with an Impressive Fake.

Fail.

Sleep issues are SO HARD. There are many reasons WHY they're so hard:
  • What works for one family doesn't necessarily work for another family.

  • What works for one kid in a family doesn't necessarily work for another kid in that family.

  • What works one week may not work the next week.

  • What is a tolerable situation one week may not be tolerable the next week.

  • A child may grow out of a sleep issue--only to grow into another sleep issue.

  • Sleep problems typically happen during the evening, when you've been dealing with crap ALL DAY LONG and all you want is FIVE MINUTES of free time; or they happen in the middle of the night, when you're not really awake, and your body and brain are weeping for sleep and asking you if you are crazy being up at this hour. These are not Peak Form times for consistent, reasonable parenting policies to be implemented.

  • Your STUPID HUSBAND is just LYING THERE like he doesn't even HEAR the SCREAMING. I mean, OMG, what if there was a BREAK-IN, with GUN FIRE, would he even KNOW? NO, he WOULDN'T, I'd be ALL ALONE dealing with the NINJAS and things, and he'd just keep SNORING. As soon as I get this baby back to sleep, I'm DIVORCING HIM AND MARRYING A NINJA.

Perhaps first you ask your pediatrician, and your pediatrician says something like, "Don't let her fool you: babies don't need to wake up in the night after they hit 12 pounds"---or whatever. And you go home thinking, "Okay, now I'm not fooled, Baby. You don't fool ME, Baby! No more FOOLING AROUND, Baby!" And yet the baby does not care that you are not fooled, and your new, non-fooled attitude has no effect on whether she wakes up in the night. And now you wish you were married to your pediatrician so you could divorce him/her, and you also feel like you can't bring it up again, since your pediatrician will think there's no helping someone who would be fooled by a baby.

So then you turn to your friends, and you might get some very comforting responses. It'll be things like, "OMG, we had the SAME problem and then we just did X! And he's been sleeping through the night ever since!" And so you will face bedtime with fresh confidence that night, because now you know to do X. And you will try X, and it won't work AT ALL. And you'll tell your friend it didn't work, and she'll think it must be because you're doing it wrong. And you'll be mad, but you'll also wonder, "OMG, am I doing it wrong??"

You'll ask another friend, and she'll describe a plan that sounds really unappealing to you. Or maybe it sounds good, but then when you try it you hate it. But from then on you won't be able to complain to her: she'll shrug and act like you are CHOOSING to deal with the lack of sleep since you're CHOOSING not to handle it the Right Way. And you'll be mad, but you'll also wonder, "OMG, should I be doing it that way?"

PLUS, sleep is such a hot topic! It's just about the hottest one there is! Bring it up and you've got a brawl! Some people will be accusing other people of ABUSE and NEGLECT, or of SPOILING and PERVERSION, or of BEING FOOLED BY A BABY. Srsly! People will be coming up with alarming and imaginative descriptions of how the baby is feeling or what the baby is thinking, and you will end up SOBBING with empathy. You haven't had enough sleep to deal with this.

So, okay. Let me go read your letter again, because I seem to have gotten off on my own here, and although I am using the pronoun "you" liberally, I don't seem to be talking about you at all. Oh yes! You wanted wisdom. Well. Er. Dear, dear. Okay. Here is everything I've got. This is ten years' experience right here:

  1. When we are not getting enough sleep, the Right Way is whatever gets us the most sleep.

  2. As soon as we start getting more sleep, we start feeling differently about what The Right Way is. Then we have to make changes. Sometimes these changes suck as much as the original sleep problems; sometimes they're easy. It isn't predictable. It especially isn't predictable based on someone else's experience.

  3. It can be comforting to think things such as, "She will not want to sleep in our bed when she's in high school." It's not really comforting if someone who's getting plenty of sleep says it to you, though.


Would anyone else like to commiserate with Sara?

January 15, 2009

Hair Dye; Cute Shoes; Giveaway Winner

Today was an eventful day. I debuted my new hair color, which I would like to show to you but I can't figure out how to get my new camera hooked up to my computer. I mean, I CAN figure out how to hook it up, and I HAVE hooked it up, but my new camera and my computer do not seem to be hitting it off, and no actual hooking up is occurring.

So I have a camera CHOCK FULL of photos where I'm tilting my head in various ways trying to find the angle that will make my jawline appear Sharp and Tight rather than Plump and Pillowy, but I can't show any of them to you yet. You will just have to take my word for it that Medium Ash Brown was a significantly better choice for my complexion than Tempted Peach. Medium Ash Brown more closely resembles my natural No Particular Color (my mother calls it Wheat; my mother-in-law calls it Dishwater), while being a significant enough change that it was fun and interesting---thus satisfying the intended wallowing goal (specifically, wallowing goal 2A).

Furthermore, the darker shade has increased Morose Appearance by, say, 50%. It is much easier to look pale and sad with darker hair. Even Paul noticed: tonight we were both working in the kitchen, and I reached a waiting point in the cooking process and sat down on a stepstool for a moment to contemplate the weight of woe, and he said, "Could you sit morosely over here instead? I need to use the counter."


I also went to Target in search of Parker's shoes for Elizabeth, and TOTALLY SCORED, finding about ten pairs of shoes (assorted styles/sizes, including two pairs of The Parker) at 75% off.


AND I chose a winner for the Daily Grommet giveaway. The amusing thing is that the random number generator first chose SarahO, whose comment was: "Okay, I'm not actually entering the contest. But, I just wanted to to say that I bought the CARES travel harness when my daughter was 2. Can I just say that it is the BEST thing ever?? I love it!" So...I made it choose again, and it chose Nikki Page, which was an excellent choice because Nikki's comment started with: "Okay, I really could use the CARES Airline seat for an upcoming trip so I'll jump." Email me, Nikki, and I'll connect you to the goods!


AND I started a tally of frame votes, and we'll have to wait and see if I finish that tally or if I just make up numbers to support the frame choices I like best. Also, isn't it weird to have the site a different color? It's been the same shade of blue since the very first entry, and now suddenly it's....cream? What the hay? Or is it "What the hey?" You know, I've never written that out before.

January 14, 2009

Do-Over!

Today Wendy is right: it's impossible to choose a frame if the site background color is not the same as the wall color. So I've taken down the Tiffany Swistle Blue temporarily, replacing it with the cream color of our walls.

Frame

One thing I'm doing recently is finding ways to make "five children" seem Right and Complete. I look at this year's Christmas picture and admire the way five children space out so nicely with two adults (big kid, adult with little kid on lap, little kid, adult with little kid on lap, big kid). I consider our car, which I love, and which seats seven. I consider the fundraising brick I filled out, which had enough room for seven names but not for eight.

My friend The New Girl recently sent me a giftie of a very pretty journal for writing wallowing thoughts in. With it she sent a notecard, and the notecard had a picture on it of four eggs in a nest. Which gave me the idea of looking for a picture with FIVE eggs.

I documented my search in today's Milk and Cookies post. (And by the way, if you have us in a feed reader, you may have noticed that it's not working anymore. That got knocked out of kilter by the site upgrade, so you have to resubscribe to the feed.)

What was I saying? Oh, yes, so I did find a picture of five eggs in a nest, and I'm going to buy it, and furthermore I'm going to have it matted and framed at the same time, because if I don't, I know perfectly well the print will sit in its cardboard-lined envelope for YEARS while I don't take it to the frame store.

So I thought I'd just, you know, pick the frame I liked best. AHA HA HA HA HA HA HA! You know what happens when you start playing around with mats and frames? You create a bizillion wonderful options, and you can't choose one and let the others go. Observe:



A


B


C


D


E


F


G



H


I



J


K


L


M


N


O


P


Q



Light blue mat? Medium blue mat? Darker blue mat? Gold frame? Silver frame? Light green frame? White frame? Brown frame? Brownish-gold frame? Plainish frame? Ornate frame? AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!

Poor Kara Marie, who is not only an artist but an artist who has worked in a framing shop, offered to help me. Can you imagine the regret she must be feeling right about now? So I thought I'd call in reinforcements for her. HELP.

I can tell you a couple of things:

1. The most important thing to me is the eggs. I want the eye drawn to the eggs.
2. That's all I got!

January 13, 2009

Hoop

Every so often I get offered something to give away. Typically the giveaway requires the reader to jump through a hoop. I don't like to make you jump through hoops (oooh, unless they're ON FIRE! That's AWESOME!)---but I don't like to say "no" to free stuff on your behalf, either. "Oh, no," I see myself saying with a dismissive wave of my hand. "They don't need anything. They're fine."

So if the giveaway looks good to me, and if the hoop seems easy and not too tricky (or it's ON FIRE), I sometimes do it---and this is one of those times. So if you're all "OMG HATE THESE," it's safe to skip, because that's all we're doing today. Item one on the agenda: the giveaway pack. Item two on the agenda: the hoop.


The Giveaway Pack:
Bunnytail Outdoor Blanket ($48 retail value) AND a set of Kipiis Bib Clips ($25 retail value) AND a CARES Airline Travel Restraint ($75 retail value)


The Hoop:
These things are offered in the hopes that you will check out a site called Daily Grommet. It's a site that finds clever thingies like the three in the giveaway pack (the travel restraint is basically a 1-pound folding child's car seat for airplanes, which, OMG). You're supposed to click over there, browse around a little, and then come back here (HERE, not THERE) and leave a comment saying what you like about the site, or what you'd change, or any feedback/reactions/suggestions. In exchange for being a little feedback machine, you get entered into a drawing for the giveaway pack---and the random number generator is blind to whether you were complimentary or critical. And remember: leave the comment HERE. On THIS post. Before Thursday, January 15th, at noon U.S. Pacific time.

January 11, 2009

Poetry for a Midlife Crisis

I ruined my body having children
My body would have been ruined by age anyway
And then: death.
Halfway there!

I found a chin hair. It was a quarter-inch long by the time I found it
As I was looking for more, I saw the beginnings of Neck Crepe
And my nose isn't getting any smaller
And I guess it's time to get a nostril-hair clipper.

I saw an ad that said parentheses didn't belong on my face. Stupid ad.
Is my hairline further back than it used to be?
When I go grey it probably won't be the pretty kind.

I wasted my youth having children.
I wasted my youth not having children.

I wasted my college education
I should have spent the money on something else
Or someone else could have used that education.
All I really took away from it was an "MRS" degree
Well, two MRS degrees
So I guess I wasted one of those, too.

I should have married someone older than me
Instead of the same age
Then I wouldn't look older than him.
Thanks a lot, Mother Nature
You nasty ageist bitch
You're not getting any younger either.

January 8, 2009

Wallowing

One school of thought teaches that if you're feeling blue, you should be especially careful to exercise regularly and eat healthy foods. A healthy body leads to a healthy mind. Comfort should come from nutrition and endorphins and healthy inner emotional healing, and also from the support of good friends. Need to ramp it up a little? Try meditation. Or therapy.

I prefer the "wallowing" method. I will tell you how it's done. There are four basic components: Eating, Shopping, Diversions, and Brooding.


1. Eating

A. Caffeine things and sugar things and fat things. For maximum impact, take together. One of the nice things about normally taking your coffee with skim milk and Splenda is that in these sad times you can upgrade to heavy whipping cream and tons of sweetened flavored creamer. Wheeeee!



B. Supplements that let you feel like you're Taking Medicine---and may also incidentally help with mood and energy. I like fish oil, acidophilus, cod liver oil, iron, B-complex, vitamin C, flax seed oil, calcium with vitamin D, valerian root----er, not all at once, though taking a nice assortment each day gives me the happy feeling of being an Invalid. (I first checked with my doctor AND pharmacist, OF COURSE, and wouldn't advise taking supplements unless you first check with your own health care provider, especially if you actually ARE taking medicine.)



C. Salt things and fat things. For maximum impact, take together. It doesn't have to be Cheetos and Sour Cream & Onion Pringles---you could also do Doritos and cashews, or Chex Mix and Ruffles, or whatever is best for YOU. Customize your wallow.




2. Shopping


A. Unnecessities. If financially possible, buy yourself some little things you don't really need. I focus on COMFORT and FUN. I find hair color particularly good, since the "Who cares?" attitude that accompanies a blue mood helps me get over the fear/change hurdle. I also bought a fleece throw blanket to snuggle in.



B. Fun versions of normally-purchased items. I find scented things particularly helpful. Vanilla-lavender (shown in the previous picture) is supposed to be soothing, and I do find it soothing. I have the shampoo, the conditioner, the body wash, and the lotion, and when things are grim I use them ALL. I probably have a visible lavender cloud around me. (Not recommended for situations where other people have to breathe your aura.) Grapefruit is supposed to be mood-lifting and energizing, and I find it so, and also find it thirst-producing. I hate Target's Method grapefruit stuff, but I love the Softsoap kind.


C. Inexpensive fun-but-useful stuff. I bought a whole bunch of 75%-off ornaments and cards and ribbon and gift tags. I spent a long time dithering pleasantly over choices. They cost money, but not MUCH money. And they're not really "necessary," but we WILL use them. I also bought a bunch of clothes for the kids on various season-end clearance sales, for next year, and a few things for right now. It improves my mood to have something new to put on a baby in the morning.



D. Totally boring necessities in large quantities. If the sensation of "putting things in a cart and paying for them" is comforting, but the sensation of "worrying later about the cost" is NOT, I buy things we DO need but not yet. This gives me some of the satisfaction of shopping, but without spending money I'll wish I hadn't spent. Plus, I find the "stocking up" feeling comforting. I especially enjoy buying pretty postage stamps, and brown sugar, and toilet paper.



Non-perishables we didn't need yet but will eventually use.




3. Diversions


A. When I'm wallowing, I like to choose a task that has the appeal of Symbolic Melodrama---but is also genuinely useful to have done. My task right now is going through the boxes and boxes and BOXES of stored baby clothes, getting rid of the ones we no longer need for anyone (anything youngest-boy Henry has outgrown; anything only-girl Elizabeth has outgrown). I've found this an excellent opportunity to brood and wallow in self-pity. The girl clothes are going to my soon-due niece, which is very satisfying. I don't suppose anyone would be interested in boy handmedowns?



B. Spending time with a diverting hobby. Blogging, for example. Or painting, or reading, or baking, or whatever. Baking is good, if you like baking, because it provides you with an additional source of fat and sugar for the Eating component, and also makes the house smell nice as mentioned in the Shopping section. Plus, you can shop for the supplies.

C. Planning fun things to look forward to. I'm looking forward to my niece; I didn't PLAN her but certainly she is one of the most exciting things I have ever looked forward to in my WHOLE LIFE. Plus, I can also put her in the Shopping category, because buying small pink clothes is one of the best soothing balms I know of. I'm also planning a Swistle Love care package giveaway for Valentine's Day, because I love sending care packages and also it lets me shop. And I'm fantasizing about when the kids are older and Paul and I can dump them all in my parents' basement and go on a trip to the town in Washington where we got married and had our first baby.

D. Movies and TV and books. Careful with this one: there's a fine line to....hoe. Tread. Whatever. You want to nurse the wallow here, so you don't want to accidentally get anything too feel-good that makes the world look like a good place again (Nanny McPhee, My Fair Lady). On the other hand, you don't want to nurse the wallow right over the edge into actual mental illness, so let's not get anything where a dog dies or where the filmmaker's goal is to reveal the dark underbelly of the human condition. Some good movie choices: Four Weddings and a Funeral, Singles, When Harry Met Sally. Some good TV choices: Friends, Sports Night, Gilmore Girls. Some good book choices: Firefly Summer or Light a Penny Candle, both by Maeve Binchy---or really just about anything by Maeve Binchy; the PostSecret books; Suzanne Finnamore books; Elizabeth Berg books, although not the recent "other time period" ones she's been writing; the Found books/magazines. What we're looking for here is light but moody---humor and broody in the right proportions.

E. New fun things. The aforementioned hair-coloring would be a good idea. Or if you haven't tried Postcrossing, a wallow is the perfect time for it: it lets you look forward to mail delivery each day, and also you can shop for postcards and pretty stamps.



4. Brooding

A. I like to spend some time sitting in a rocker-recliner, wrapped pitifully in a throw blanket and gazing into nowhere, thinking of all the things that Won't Be. Allow a few thoughts to sucker-punch you---but not too many, we're going for a good balance here. Wallowing, maybe a teeny bit of weeping, but not descending into genuine despair.

B. I don't know if this is the same for you, but if someone else tells me I shouldn't be sad because other people have it worse, I feel like doing some bitch-slapping and/or sarcastic air quoting. Or perhaps hooking one leg around the backs of their legs and giving them a swift shove. "Oh, I SHOULDN'T feel bad?," I'd say, making heavy air quotes around the "shouldn't." "How very helpful!! You're absolutely right! I'm magically cured!! Shouldn't = doesn't!" Then I'd do a little bitch-slapping.

Or, "Oh, other people have it WORSE? So I'm sure YOU have never wanted something that NOT EVERYONE has. You've never wished you could come up with the money to pay your rent---lots of people don't even have roofs over their heads. You've never wished for a better job---lots of people would be happy to have ANY job AT ALL. You've never wished for a romance---lots of people DIE without EVER EXPERIENCING LOVE. You've never wished your husband would pick up his own goddamned underwear---SOME people's husbands are DEAD. You've never said you're hungry---lots of people are LITERALLY STARVING." Then the swift shove, and perhaps a little creative kicking.

But if _I_ tell MYSELF this sort of thing, it's helpful. It gives perspective, which is comforting. ...It's not very NICE, though, is it? I mean, essentially what I'm doing is making myself feel better by comparing other people's lives unfavorably to mine. I'm in essence saying "At least I'm not one of THOSE sad sacks. Compared to THOSE people, my life suddenly looks GREAT." Ick. Well, still. It can help make me feel happier with what I have, while hitting the perfect wallowing balance: I feel better, but I also reflect broodingly on all the sadnesses of the world I'm so far lucky not to be sharing.



There! I believe you now have all the information you need to start your own Wallow. Good luck, and good wallowing!

January 6, 2009

Helpful Thoughts

When I think about the No More Babies Decision of 2008, the things that come immediately to mind are the sad things, or the things that won't now go as I was thinking they'd go, or the things I won't get to look forward to. These are not helpful thoughts to have.

I was so grateful for all the great and comforting comments I got on that post. One of the many I've thought of again and again was Giselle's: she pointed out what her mother had pointed out to her (and what her grandmother pointed out to her mother): that there will always be a Last Baby, no matter how many you have.

This helped me separate out "sadness over no more babies" from "sadness over no sixth baby." In my Sad List, many items are sixth-child specific, but many others are things I'd be just as sad about after a sixth baby, or after a seventh, or after an eighth. And as we math geniuses know, if something is present on both sides of an equation, you can strike it out. If something is the same whether we DO or DON'T have another child, then it is...well, irrelevant, in a sense. Irrelevant, at least, to the decision of whether or not to have another child.

I choose not to apply this math when I think of things that make me feel better: even if they'd be just as comforting after a sixth baby as after a fifth, I'll take them now.

1. No more pregnancy nausea. It's like having the stomach flu for three months. I'm not sorry to kiss it goodbye, and in fact I'm not going to kiss it.

2. No more OB appointments. It's a 35-minute drive, a 20-minute wait, a 5-minute "wham, bam, measure you ma'am," and then another 35-minute drive---and the babysitting arrangements get more challenging each time.

3. I can get rid of clothes as Henry/Elizabeth outgrow them. Those clothes take up a LOT of space in the basement.

4. Our city is doing a fundraiser, the kind where you can have whatever you want engraved on a brick that then is used in a public walkway. I wanted to get all our names on it, but it seemed sad to do that if we might later have another child whose name wouldn't be on the brick. Now I can go ahead and order the brick. (Shut up. I am TRYING here.)

5. I don't have to worry anymore about miscarriage, Down Syndrome, toxoplasmosis, Fifth Disease, placental abruption, uterine rupture, or any of the other things I worry about during pregnancy.

6. I can see the caboose: as we pass through each of the less-pleasant stages with Henry (the mobile-but-brainless early toddler stage, the potty-training stage), I can wave goodbye to them. See you later, stages. Bye, stages. Soon we won't have to have a baby gate, or outlet covers, or car seats, or strollers, or...okay, I'm getting sad again, let's move on.

7. I can move on to the next stage of life. I may be sorry to leave this one, but that doesn't mean I don't also look forward to the next one. I can start thinking about what job I might get after the kids are in school, and how nice it will be to have that second income for braces and glasses and sports equipment and college and all the other expenses of older children. I can start thinking about what interesting projects I might divert my Baby Energy to. I can start thinking, as some of you mentioned, about grandchildren. (OMG.)

8. I can better appreciate the children I already have: if I'm not looking ahead to the next baby, I have more attention to focus on the babies there already are.

9. I don't have to worry that if I complain to Paul or act overwhelmed, he'll use it as evidence in the court of whether or not to have more children. If the household dips briefly into chaos/squalor, as it so often does, I don't have to panic that Paul is RIGHT THIS SECOND deciding "That's IT! NO MORE!"

10. Paul can talk more freely about how cute the children are or how happy he is to have them, without worrying I might use it as evidence in the court of whether or not to have more children.

11. I can take medicines and supplements and vodkas and so forth, without thinking about how someone else's body will be affected.

12. I can buy myself treats and little gifties, and I can buy cute little baby outfits for my soon-due niece, justifying the purchases as bandages and ointment for my sad heart.

January 5, 2009

Lucky

I had an Emergency/Survival Packing dream last night. Do you have these? I have regular packing dreams, too, the kind where I'm going on vacation and forgot to pack so I'm trying to cram things into a suitcase, but I also have a more stressful variety where I'm packing because we're about to have to hide out in the woods for awhile. That's the kind I had last night. Furthermore, we were babysitting someone else's little girl and I knew I'd need to take care of her, too. I set out a backpack for each child, and I was trying to decide which things were most important/essential. Flashlights? Bug spray? Canned/dried food? Change of socks? Blankets?---knowing that each child could only carry a small amount, and not knowing how much time I had to think this over before we'd have to flee our house.

I woke up still planning. A small shovel would be useful. Matches? Vitamins? Flashlights? Spare glasses? Sunscreen? We sure don't have much survival gear at our house: no tent, one sleeping bag, no camp stove, no emergency radio. Most of the stuff we DO have would be worthless as soon as the batteries wore out. If we actually had to hoof it into the woods, we'd spend our entire day just trying to find enough food---and I don't think we'd manage it. We could probably keep warm enough at night as long as it was the hottest part of summer.

Anyway, it was a really bad dream. All day today I've felt SO LUCKY. We don't have to choose the few things we can take with us in a backpack: we have a whole house to put things in. We don't have to forage for food: we can go to the grocery store. We don't have to wash our only clothes in a murky river: we have bureaus, and so many clothes I can't always get the drawers closed. There's no one chasing us. There's no one trying to kill us. We only need bug spray for when we go out to play. We can bitch about c-section rates instead of worrying about maternal mortality. We can bitch about breastfeeding/formula instead of worrying our babies will starve. We can worry about not having enough money to make the rent instead of not having any shelter at all. Even the very poorest people in this country don't get expired food or holey clothing, even though we'd be knifing each other for those things after a week of genuine need.

Preachy much? I know---but that's not how it seemed when I was saying it to myself in my head, instead of saying it here to other people. Same with how it's totally different to advise oneself to have a little perspective, or to calm down, or to see things from the other person's point of view, or to ask one's own self to consider whether one might be wrong---versus telling someone else the same thing.

Anyway, instead of feeling preached to when I said those things to myself, I felt so much relief. To be worrying about whether I need psychiatric medication to feel happy, instead of worrying that I might not be able to keep the children alive. So relieved to be driving to the store to buy things, rather than digging in a garbage can and worrying about being hurt or killed by other starving people. I know those are exaggerated ideas, but everything feels so precarious: just as most of us would be in serious financial trouble within a month or so of losing income, most of us would be in serious STAYING ALIVE trouble within a short time of losing the electricity and grocery stores.

This doesn't say anything BAD about us: of course we are adapted to our environment. It's a waste of time and energy to learn/know unnecessary skills, so no one should give anyone else any grief for not knowing how to can food or darn socks or kill a squirrel with their bare hands and cook it over a campfire. We can't all learn to do everything.


[This was published in January 2009. Then I opened it in February 2013 to check something, and somehow it unpublished and lost all the comments. SIGH.]

January 4, 2009

Swistle's Favorite Muffin Recipe

Dr. Maureen asked me a few days ago for a muffin recipe, and I remembered about it this morning while I was making muffins. I have a flexible recipe I use for a couple different kinds of muffins. It comes from one of those fundraising cookbooks where many people contribute recipes, and the contributor of this recipe says it originally came from the Shedd's Spread Country Crock Classic Muffin Recipes Book, but I've messed with it some to make it work for several varieties. Here's the "base" recipe:


Dry:
3-1/3 cups flour (regular, not self-rising)
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-6 teaspoons spices (optional)
1-1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional)

Wet:
4 eggs
2 cups mashed stuff
2 sticks (1 cup) margarine or butter, melted
extract (optional)
1 cup nuts (optional)
1/2 to 1 cup dried fruit (optional)


You'll need two big bowls. I mix the dry ingredients in the big plastic bowl we use for big batches of popcorn. I mix the wet ingredients in the largest glass mixing bowl from a set of three mixing bowls.

You'll also need two 12-cup muffin tins, lined with muffin papers or else greased (and maybe floured? I don't know, because I always use muffin papers in spite of Alton Brown's "We're not making CUPCAKES" stinging in my ears). I also use a mini-muffin pan for any extra batter, and then I put three mini muffins per small ziploc and put them in the freezer to use as lunchbox snacks.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Mix the dry stuff in the dry bowl and the wet stuff in the wet bowl, and then add the wet bowl to the dry bowl. You can also do it the other way around, which makes clean-up easier because then only one bowl is covered in muffin batter, and the other just needs the dust rinsed out. But if you want to do it that way, switch your bowls: use the bigger bowl for wet ingredients and the smaller one for dry.

Fill the muffin cups about 3/4ths full (or use a disher---Paul gave me this one as a gift and it IMPROVED THE QUALITY OF MY LIFE). Distribute extra batter evenly among the cups, or use it to fill the mini-muffin cups about 3/4ths full. Bake for 20-25 minutes (in my oven, 23 minutes is perfect); if you have mini muffins to bake, put them in when there are 13 minutes left on the timer. It takes me about 10 minutes to do the dishes, so I put the muffins in, then wash up, then put in the mini muffins.


Now! Variations! The kids' favorite, and so the one I make most often is chocolate chip. I've used chocolate chips and chocolate chunks successfully, but my current favorite is to use mini chocolate chips: it fools my dim children dear children into thinking there's more chocolate than there is, and it means even the mini muffins have a nice distribution of chocolate. (I keep the bag out so I can sprinkle a few more into the batter if needed when scraping the bowl at the end.)

When I make chocolate chip muffins, I use mashed banana and/or canned pumpkin for the "2 cups mashed stuff." The smaller (1-pie, I think it's 15 ounces) can of pumpkin is close enough to 2 cups (it's a little skimpy, so if a kid abandons half a banana at breakfast you can add that in too), or you can scoop 2 cups out of the larger-sized can and freeze the rest in 1- or 1/2-cup baggies/containers (if you use thawed frozen pumpkin later, put it in the microwave with the butter/margarine you're melting, to improve the texture/stirability of the pumpkin). Two bananas are roughly 1 cup, so you can use 4 bananas, or you can use 2 bananas and 1 cup pumpkin, or you can use 1 banana and 1-1/2 cups pumpkin, or you get the idea. I base it on how the bananas are doing that day, because it's such a good way to use up browning bananas---but I prefer the pumpkin for nutrition.

Where was I? Oh, yes! So for Chocolate Chip muffins, I use banana and/or pumpkin. For spices I use 1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, which keeps the non-chocolate muffin material from being too bland, but isn't enough cinnamon to make them assert a cinnamon flavor. I use 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract, and I don't use any nuts or fruit.

Another favorite is Pumpkin Spice muffins. In that case I generally use all pumpkin, but it's still fine to use all/some banana. For spices I use 3 teaspoons cinnamon, 2 teaspoons ginger, 1 teaspoon cloves---or you can use 5-6 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice. For extract I use 2 teaspoons of lemon extract, which is kind of expensive so you could cut it down to 1 teaspoon, but don't cut the lemon out entirely (because it's so good for the flavor, not because it's literally essential); you could use grated lemon zest (the colored part of the peel) instead, if you have that more readily available. I like to use walnuts or pecans (but the kids hate nuts so I don't often get to make them this way), and I don't use any dried fruit but the original recipe suggests golden raisins, and I suppose those would be okay.

January 1, 2009

Resolved: Catch Up on Celebrity Gossip

Oh, hi! It's 2009! And I keep writing it 2006, except for just now in this sentence when I meant to write "2006" but instead first typed "2009." Dear, dear.

I had to stay up to see midnight because Rob and William wanted to stay up. I made us chocolate chip cookies, which was a terrible mistake because then the children were sleepy + sugared, which = giddy. Anyway, it turned to 2009, and was that really, really awkward to have Taylor Swift standing there with the Jonas Brothers? No, I mean, WAS it awkward? I seem to remember a bad break-up recently between one of them and her---and goodness, I hope that wasn't the new girlfriend standing with the Jonas Brothers. And also, is "Taylor Swift" really Taylor Swift's name? Because it looks odd when I type it out. Also-also, it looked like everyone was really, really cold. Really. Also really.

I did my usual New Year's Eve activity, which is transferring things from the old calendar (when I bought it I thought it was vintage cafe signs, but it turned out there were hidden "inspirational" messages on the signs that had me barfing/snorting the whole year) to the new calendar (want to be calendar twins? I got Better Homes and Gardens Vintage Covers). And I did my new New Year's Eve tradition, which is to try to make it to midnight without snapping at the giddy, giddy children. (Fail.)

This morning I am tired, although at least unlike the past four years I'm not nursing or pregnant, so I can chuck back the stimulants without worrying about flippers/naplessness. First I tried the righteous way and had nutritious, wholesome baked oatmeal for breakfast, with skim milk. Then about half an hour later I thought "This isn't working" and had a Dove bar chaser from my stocking. I'm thinking next I'll have an iron pill and a B-complex washed down with a cup of heavily-sweet-creamered coffee. Awwwww yeah.

Oh! Resolutions! Okay, I'm on it!

1. I resolve not to press down so hard with my pen. The Sharpie Ultra Fine markers are great until I've used them about three times. Then they're too mashed to be considered Ultra Fine.

2. I resolve to use the pretty new Swistle-colored stationery my brother and sister-in-law bought me for Christmas. I will use it in care packages!

3. I resolve to consider buying myself the Bath & Body Works lavender-vanilla conditioner, because it's been languishing on my wish list for three years, and now it's been discontinued so I'll have to buy it on stupid eBay.

4. I resolve to learn how to spell "lavender" and "calendar." (I always write "lavendar" and "calender.")


There! That's my year's work cut out for me!