March 30, 2009

Oh My God!

Perhaps you've noticed I say "OMG" a lot. In my head I mostly pronounce it "Oh em gee" or "Ohmg" (like the meditative "om," but with a g-sound at the end). It's a writing thing: I don't say "Oh my god" out loud very often, and when I do I often say "Oh em gee" to show I am aware I am not 16.

I don't allow my kids to say "Oh my god," and it was a little tricky to explain to them WHY. I had to give it some thought.

If we belonged to a religion that had as one of its commandments that we shouldn't use our deity's name frivolously, then I could use that as my reason: it breaks a commandment, it's a sin, so we don't do it. But we DON'T belong to such a religion, so for us it's not commandment-breaking or sinning.

If the expression were "Oh your god," I suppose we'd want to be careful not to say it around people who had a god, in case they winced at someone else breaking the rules of their religion. I wouldn't order pork sausage while out to lunch with someone I knew belonged to a no-pig-eating religion, either, because I wouldn't want to make them wince---even though, of course, there'd be nothing at all wrong with me eating pig, since I don't belong to that religion.

But no, the expression is "Oh my god," so it shouldn't offend anyone else: it's totally clear I'm not talking about their god. At most, they might think, "My goodness, she certainly has a lenient god!"

It's like saying "Oh my stars!" even though we're not referring to any particular stars, and even though we don't personally own any stars, and even though there might be a religion that reveres the stars and doesn't want to speak lightly of them in colloquial expressions. We don't belong to that religion, so we're allowed to say "Oh my stars" without sinning or breaking rules or being disrespectful to someone else's stars. If I were friends with a star-worshiper, I'd avoid the expression, because why create tension when it would be just as easy to substitute the harmless "Oh my god" instead?

Or it's like "Oh my sainted aunt!" You don't have to have an aunt to use that expression, let alone one who's been officially sainted. If you DID have an aunt who was a saint, using the expression wouldn't be saying anything disrespectful about her---but it's possible you'd choose not to say it anyway, just to avoid confusion. (Your sainted aunt: "What?" You: "Oh, no, nothing, Auntie!")

I couldn't use "because it's a swear," either. A swear is a "bad word." A swear is a word like "sh*t" or "f*ck": you can't really say those words in a context where they're not bad words. But "oh" and "my" and "god" are neutral words, and their meaning is derived from context. If you're not using the name of your god frivolously, you're not swearing. In fact, even if you ARE using the name of your god frivolously AND that's against your religion's rules, you're STILL not swearing: you're sinning and/or and you're breaking a commandment, but you're not using bad words. One of the funniest things I've read lately is that Lora's son refers to Jesus as "that guy with a bad word for a name."

So if it's not a religious rule they're breaking, and it's not a swear, why am I telling the kids they can't say it? It's because I think they're too young to use good judgment with that phrase, or to give an explanation for their usage of it if an explanation is demanded of them. Obviously no one should be monitoring someone else's religious compliance, especially if the monitor doesn't even know the monitoree's religious situation, but we all know of people who DO feel the urge to do volunteer police work, and I don't want my children confronted by such people if I can help them avoid it.

I don't let the kids say "crap," either: "crap" isn't a swear, but it's in the Careful Zone. I say "crap" comfortably as a sassy sort of word, but I wouldn't say it in front of my child's teacher, or in front of my grandparents, or in a job interview---unless I was using it deliberately and with some thought behind it and I intended the impact I'd know it would have.

I don't think my kids have that kind of judgment yet. In fact, I am pretty goddamned sure they don't, so what I've told them is that "Oh my god" and "crap" is language they can choose to use or not use when they're older and can weigh the impact of it. Until then, it's "Oh, man!" and "Dang it!"

March 29, 2009

Third Postcard From Swistle's Mom

So! I DID transfer the blog yesterday, as I said I would. I can't believe I followed through, but the evidence is right before my eyes. Anyone encountering trouble with the updated version? Anything look weird or not working or whatever? Not that I'd know how to fix it.

Third and last Grand Canyon letter from my mom:
Hi Kidz,

We had a nice final excursion today to an unmarked destination point D and P [friends who'd been there before] found in a guidebook.

On the way we stopped at a regular look-out point where there were more ledges -- however, fortunately with a sloped shelf that would break one's fall after a hundred feet or so, as you see.

Anyway, back to D's unmarked destination. We only found it by following the guidebook instructions, which were to first find a particular Park sign and then to measure with odometer 1.25 miles past it. We then pulled into a totally unmarked little flat dirt area -- beyond which was a locked gate with a sign saying "Use of site by permit only," which would certainly have kept me away, but the guidebook said, "Your hike starts at the locked gate." So we proceeded along a dirt road (well, a dirt swath wide enough for cars).

We walked on this road for a mile through woods so clean and quiet it reminded me of the Woods Between the Worlds. [That's another Narnia reference.]

At the end we came to a small clearing right up against the canyon rim -- with picnic tables, grills, etc. The guidebook says that after May 15, there might be weddings going one here, since the site is available for such things for a fee. No weddings today, but I have one question for people who have weddings in this spot: How does one keep children from going off the ledges?
THIS one, for example. I will say that beneath this ledge -- out of sight -- was like a STEP -- another horizontal rock sticking maybe 12" out beyond the ledge you see at my feet. However, beyond THAT was a several thousand-foot sheer drop-off. This type of drop-off was all along the whole picnic site -- no signs, no rails, no nothing. I'm picturing children racing madly about.

Say kids, why don't you go climb that tree there -- the one hanging out over the bottomless abyss?

Or how about a nice game of tag? That rock over there could be Home Free.

Well, anyway, I did spend a fair amount of time thinking how inappropriate the site was for a big family wedding. I showed Dad where I felt the 8-foot chain-link fence should be installed before any child allowed on the site.

The one disappointment we had is that there was a cool platform-like point of rock sticking out (no doubt where the bride and groom stand for the significant moment) that I wanted to explore, but unfortunately, some RANGERS were out there having some kind of class. We waited probably a half hour longer than we would otherwise have stayed, hoping they'd go so we could go explore, but they never budged.

Last thing we did was to walk out and watch the sunset from the trail. The wind had picked up, and we huddled back against the rock side of the trail. People were coming up the trail just under the wire before darkness -- it was nice -- not crowded at all.

The sun was setting from behind a big cliff, not over the canyon itself, but it was still pretty -- cold and eerie in a nice way.

Nice day. We're off first thing tomorrow.

Love, Mom

March 28, 2009

Second Postcard From Swistle's Mom

I'm going to have to update this blog to the new version of Blogger. I've been putting it off a LONG time because I don't actually HAVE to---but it's time. So if the blog doesn't seem quite right for a day or two or three or FOREVER, that's why. Sigh. Let's see if I actually DO it now that I've SAID I'll do it.

I got another note from my mom about their trip to the Grand Canyon. (First note is here.)

Hi Kidz,

We had a great morning exploring. We took a shuttle bus along the rim. It was still early, so not crowded -- the bus was only about half full. You can get off at any stop and then just get on a later shuttle -- they run every 15 minutes or so. We got off at a stop where no one else got off, and we found we were the only ones there. It was great -- silent on the trail.

We stayed and strolled around maybe a half hour and then hopped a shuttle and rode on. By the time we got back to the starting point, there were already long lines of people waiting to catch the shuttle, so timing is everything.

It's just so odd how the land goes along perfectly flat, and then just drops off. I keep imagining what the first settlers must have thought when they came upon it. Dad suggests, "Like, whoa." [Swistle suggests: "Oh sh**."]

One thing that surprises me very much about the canyon is the ledges. The trails aren't real narrow -- maybe 3 feet across -- but there aren't railings and the drop-offs are frequently sheer and of the sort that if one were to step off it would be certainly fatal. Families walk along with little children running ahead and peering over without anyone seeming to be the least alarmed. You may think I'm exaggerating and the drop-offs must not be QUITE that sheer or deep, but ask Dad -- one slip and that would be that. [Next sentence contains Narnia reference:] There were several spots where I thought about the cliff Eustace fell off of -- the kind where there'd be a long time to think about one's error if one stepped off. Eventually one would BUMP along, but there wouldn't be any stopping for a real long time.
Here, for example. The trail goes through that rock tunnel on the left. To the right the trail edge drops off exactly like what is visible to the right in the photo. And it's about as far down as if one were on a tall building. I watched children no older than the twins running ahead of their parents on this very stretch. Not to mention slightly older children pushing and shoving and arguing as they walked along, no parent in sight. I admit MY technique would be a little extreme in the opposite direction -- without a word of discussion, I would scoop the children up, put them into their car seats, and leave the park.

It's hard -- impossible, really -- to photograph a ledge that one is standing on, because with the camera pointed down, the cliff edge looks horizontal. One has to show something in the distance and say, "It's LIKE this." Okay, the trail often runs along the very edge of places LIKE this one:

When we FIRST got on the trail, I would think as I approached it, "What an optical illusion! Haha! It looks like the trail is running right along a sheer cliff!" Then I'd look over and freeze, like Eustace. It's one of those ledges where the upside of falling off would be you wouldn't need to bother to retrieve the body.

The trail is horizontal, I'm happy to say -- not sloped. The trails are very nice -- flat and with a little line of stones running along the ledge. But I'll say this -- if I took a class of my students on this trail, I would return with fewer children than I started out with. The trails are very good: wide .... flat ... secure. But disconcerting to think, "Haha ... looks like if you stepped off the trail you'd go straight down, haha!" and then find out that's exactly what would happen like for maybe a couple thousand feet.

One sees mule droppings all along the trail (and there's a mule pen at the top for the mules to wait in for the daily mule train), and as we walked along we imagined being up on a mule. I notice the mule prints tend to be about 6" from the ledge (and signs say to let the mules pass on the drop-off side). No. Thank. You.

By the way, the Q&A poster on mule rides has the Q "Do mules ever trip and fall?" with the answer being Very Seldom. But yes, it has happened. But that so far no human has ever been killed. Only the PACK mules have actually, well, plummeted through space. They said they use particularly steady ones for humans. So don't worry.

Another thing I think about is that story a couple years back about the woman who was posing on a ledge for her husband to take a photo of her when she stepped back and fell. Of course one assumes her husband gave a little push, but looking at the ledges, one realizes how very little push would be needed, and how confident he would be that she wouldn't live to tell on him (which she didn't). It actually surprises me that people are trusting enough to pass strangers on the trail, since the smallest push from anyone along at least half of the trail would have fatal result. One thinks of these things. Well, SOME of us think of these things!

Love, Mom

My favorite parts:

1. "It's one of those ledges where the upside of falling off would be you wouldn't need to bother to retrieve the body."

2. "I'll say this -- if I took a class of my students on this trail, I would return with fewer children than I started out with."

3. "I notice the mule prints tend to be about 6" from the ledge (and signs say to let the mules pass on the drop-off side). No. Thank. You."

March 27, 2009

Postcard From Swistle's Mom

Where do we stand on the issue of legalized medical marijuana for people stuck in a house with snotty-nosed, coughing, crabby, screaming children? We're pro, right? I know we're pro when it's barfing, obv, but it's pro for snot, too, right?

My parents are on a vacation to the Grand Canyon. Here's a letter from my mom, for those who want to participate virtually in the splendor:

Well. We're at the Grand Canyon. We've been to the rim and walked along it, and taken a little trail down into it a bit, and it is indeed large and view-riffic.

But the crowds! The teeming masses of humanity! The bumper-to-bumper cars inching along mile after mile! I'm far more amazed at how crowded it is than I am at any grandness.

Checking in to our enviable "deep-within-the-national-park" lodge room was like finding a seat for the Super Bowl. We found the last possible parking space in a vast parking lot and walked with throngs of people to the registration center, where we joined a line pouring out the door. Forty-five minutes later we reached the registration desk (with four clerks, like in a TJ Maxx except WAY slower) who told us our room wasn't ready yet. Since it was 4:30, we wondered when it would be ready .... by bedtime, we hoped? She didn't know, but said to check back in 30 minutes. We asked if we would need to go through the line again and she said "yes." So we asked if we should just go to the end of the line again now since it was at least a 30-minute line, and she said yes. We actually went away for an hour before we tried again, but we did go through the line again, when finally our room was ready.

Everywhere we've been so far has been filled with throngs of people (including one very tall man I keep seeing again and again who has passed us about 5 times and I've noticed him because he's wearing a micro-mini skirt and has shaved bare legs). We've checked into our room and are now going to walk back to Grand Central Station where they have an over-priced but convenient mega-mall-type food-court.

Love, Swistle's Mom

Can't you just SEE the stunning vistas? the astonishing beauty of nature?

March 26, 2009

Reader Question: Fear of C-Sections

Mar writes:
It seems like you might be able to help me with something that's been on my mind. My husband and I are THINKING about a third baby. I'm about 85% there; husband is 100% on board with the idea. Most of the "cons" about having a new baby are completely eclipsed by the presence of New Baby! in the "pro" column, except for one: THE IDEA OF A THIRD C-SECTION FILLS ME WITH DREAD. (There's no option here of a vbac - uterus is wacked.)

Dread is the only way to describe it - I'll be thinking about all the wonderful sparkliness of a new pregnancy, beautiful belly, new baby, calling our families to announce the arrival and the name, introducing the baby to the big brothers, etc., but THEN - thud.. I remember how it feels to head into the hospital for a scheduled section. Reporting at the crack of dawn, nurses treating me like i'm there for [insert banal surgerytypeprocedure that's the opposite of birth], painful epidural with no natural adrenalin to help me through it, and that terrible look of fear on my husband's eyes over his surgical mask when he is finally allowed into the operating room. Anticipating the recovery doesn't bother me so much, but the time before and immediately after the surgery (EXCEPT for that magic that comes when the ob finally digs out the baby) is just...dreadful to contemplate.

From your posts surrounding Henry's birth, it seems like you just sailed through this without a hiccup. What is your secret? Is my dread just weird and misplaced (because what is literally a three-hour (maximum adventure) (from check in to delivery) is NOTHING compared to the crazy goodness of a new baby? Is there something you focus on to calm you and redirect you? Do you have tips/suggestions for making the experience less "surgical" more "major life event"? or when going in for a section are you a) just plain excited for the whole event or b) recognize it without inquiry as just a means to an end?

I don't think my dread is enough to keep us from having a third, but it does kind of dampen my enthusiasm a little. Does any of this sound familiar or am I crazy?

One reason I don't dread it TOO much, I think, is that I've had very good c-section experiences. My first one was the worst because it was after a tiring labor (um, as opposed to a refreshing and invigorating labor), and also because I didn't know what to expect and I hate that. Even so, it was a good experience overall, especially because of the Relief Factor of being done with labor. The surgery went well, I recovered well, I healed well. I was up and walking around (slowly) the next morning. The nurses warned that the breastfeeding "cradle hold" might bother the incision area, but it didn't.

My second one, the whole pregnancy I was thinking, "Yay!! I don't have to go into LABOR this time!!" and that was such a happy thought. Then I got to the week of the c-section and went "Ack! I have to have surgery!" Well, but it went great again. The epidural was more uncomfortable to get without the distraction of contractions, but I was also getting really excited about seeing the baby, and I had a nice nurse who brought me a heated blanket and let me squeeze her hand. And again, the surgery went well, I recovered well, I healed well.

My third c-section was my twin pregnancy, and I think I would have done it MYSELF if need be, I was so desperate to be done with that pregnancy. I was so uncomfortable, I didn't even CARE, and also it was so funny and exciting to be in the operating room with the TWO little newborn stations and TWO pediatric nurses and so forth. And the twins were so big and healthy (7 pounds 4 ounces and 8 pounds 2 ounces), it was a party atmosphere, with the OB actually WHOOPING as he pulled out each one. I was even MORE familiar with the procedures this time, and felt like I could almost relax into it, knowing each thing that would happen and when.

And my fourth c-section was especially fun for me because I hadn't been expecting to be back again, and certainly not so SOON.

I shouldn't portray this QUITE so unicorny. During one of the c-sections (the third), the anesthesia wore off (or "ran out" or whatever the correct verb would be for "ceased to work"). Then it wore off (or whatevs) AGAIN when I was in recovery. And after another c-section (the fourth), the epidural drip came disconnected and had made a nice big puddle under the bed before anyone figured out that my "normal post-surgical discomfort" was more like PAIN. However, and this is just my own personal experience and doesn't mean it's the same for anyone else, I found this pain to be significantly less than the pain I had experienced even in EARLY labor, so for me this didn't dampen things much.

And, like you, I have a wacked uterus. So part of my happiness and not-minding-the-c-sections, I think, is this feeling of wonder: like, because I live NOW instead of back THEN, I get to have babies. It's like this amazing medical thing to me, that I can participate in childbearing ANYWAY.

And part of it is that by nature, I'm more inclined ANYWAY toward c-sections. I like the calm and the predictability and the schedule, and the soothing way it all seems to be just another day's work for everyone.

I make it a more "special occasion" by talking it up. I think sometimes the hospital personnel get so accustomed to the procedures, and it's so much a part of their usual jobs, they forget it's special too. If I say to the nurse, "I'm so excited! I can't believe I'm about to see my BABY!" and if I say to the OB, "Oh, this is such a happy day!" and so on, I find they usually respond and get into it a little more.

Paul doesn't go in with me. He gets pale and sick if one of the kids gets a papercut, so he waits at the newborn nursery. I think this takes a lot of pressure off of me: I can close my eyes or say "Oof" or whatever, without having to worry how it will seem to Paul. The first two c-sections, I went in by myself; the second two, I brought my mom. Both ways were nice; when I didn't have my mom, a nurse stood with me so I didn't feel lonely. Plus, everyone feels super sorry for the woman whose husband is such a wuss, so I get everyone on my side early in the hospital stay.

One of my best tips for "things I'm dreading" is to think: "There will come a time when this will be over and I will be looking back on it with relief." It's so comforting to think of Future Me ALREADY THERE, happy and Done.

I also like the Oblivion approach, which involves saying "La la la!" and not thinking about it until the hospital wristband is in place and it's too late to panic much.

March 24, 2009

Successful Marketing

I have two songs going through my head: puh-puh-puh-puh "Poker Face" by Lady Gaga (I love the dogs at the beginning: they're all, like, "What. Evs," sniffing the air and almost YAWNING as a leather-clad, masked, dripping, intensely slack-mouthed woman comes crouching-and-posing out of the water)---and why don't I just start a new paragraph for the other song going through my head, because I have lost my grip on this sentence and we might as well start fresh. I'll wrap up by saying I liked the song better before I saw the video, which just about SPRAINS something trying to be sex-XAY.

The other song is "Be Happy," from, um, Wow Wow Wubbzy. One of my kids came home from school with a two-episode disc (yay, marketing to children! through schools! without asking parents first!), and ALL FIVE kids were SILENT except for the LAUGHING. It was GREAT. I immediately put two more discs on my Netflix queue.

What I like about the show:

1. The SONGS. OMG, I would totally listen to a CD of them in the car, even if the kids were not with me. I thought at first they were sung by my boyfriends Angels and Airwaves, but no.

2. It's PBS-ish even though it's not PBS. It's relationships/feelings/life, like Arthur and Clifford and Caillou.

3. Some of the life lessons are really good, such as "People are different, and they like different things and feel different ways."

What I don't like about the show:

1. Some of the life lessons are dumb. Example: "Be yourself and you will be a success at everything and everyone will like you!" Or the lesson in the song that's going through my head, which is that the solution to being sad is to be happy instead. It's so easy!

2. I find the characters' voices a little irritating. Wubbzy, male, is voiced by the same person who does Emily Elizabeth's goody-goody voice on Clifford. Widget, female, has what seems like a fakey, put-on accent (I'm allowing for the idea that it could be the voice actor's actual accent, but if it is, it doesn't SOUND it), and she says "little buddy" too often.

3. As with many children's shows, the example set by the characters is "If you feel left out or hurt, sulk self-pityingly until people pay attention to you." The characters say things such as, "SIGH, I guess they don't need ME anymore" in re lifelong friends who have spent all of 10 minutes playing with someone else. Then they go off and sit sadly alone, but well within view so they attract attention.

Overall, I like the show. I'm buying both discs I linked to above, to give to Henry for his second (SECOND!) birthday in May, because at some point the cost of keeping them for WEEKS from Netflix ADDS THE HECK UP. And I've had Pirate Treasure on my Netflix queue for ages (it didn't release until today, which is why it's on my mind; also, THE SONG THE SONG THE CATCHY CATCHY SONG), and now I have to send a movie back pronto so I can get it.

Edited to add: "Pronto"? Who SAYS that?

March 22, 2009

Care Package From Japan!

I referred to this once before...somewhere...but anyway I did a care package exchange with Lisa of It's Pretty Okay. Oh, here it is: #4 in this overly perky post. Lisa is in a military family living in Japan, so to me this meant:

1) I could use the APO/FPO flat-rate priority boxes, which cost only $11.95 to mail no matter how heavy they are, instead of the usual $40-$60 for international mailing.

2) Cute stuff from Japan, SQUEEE!

And to her it meant:

1) Famous Dave's barbecue sauce

And so it was agreed. Both of us got a little nervous about it (we both worried that the packages we were assembling were lame), but I think it went REALLY WELL, don't you, Lisa?

You can go over to Lisa's blog to see what I sent her.

And now I'll show you what was in the box Lisa sent me!This is the box when I first opened it and fluffed a few things out of the way of other things.

These are the WEEest little cookie cutters you have ever seen! The big green square? Is, like, 3/4ths inch square. You can use these to make the cutest ever kid meals. Paul used them last night to cut slices of cheese for the kids, and it was ADORBS.

I could not---COULD NOT---get a picture that shows this great purse to advantage. Here it's flung over the high chair tray, and I swear this was the best photo I got of it.

Ice cream scoop and coffee spoon. Lisa says the ice cream scoops in Japan are TEH BEST.

Snackies! With little Japanese characters and pictures all over them!

Stickers! Origami paper! Activity books! Stationery!

Close-up of some of the stickers, because I thought they were soooooo cute.

Bendy giraffe straws and clothespins. Lisa says the clothespins in Japan are also TEH BEST.

Dream Toothpicks! Adorable container, and also another of the things that are TEH BEST. Look at the cute carved tops!

Things for the kids (what? the stickers weren't for me?): pens that you write in invisible ink that only shows up when you shine the other end of the pen on it, a puzzle, a "Miraculous Ruler," etc.

March 21, 2009

Beauty Treatment

I went to the Urgent Care clinic this morning for a UTI beauty treatment, and already I am feeling a lot less like flinging my poor afflicted body off a ledge prettier. This paragraph takes a huge confident stride into TMIville, I realize. Sorry. (Not really sorry. I feel too much better to feel sorry.)

The BEST thing about an, er, beauty emergency that occurs right after closing time on Friday afternoon is that I am forced to go to the weekend Urgent Care, which means Paul is home and I don't have to bring any children with me. There are only so many times I can say, "PLEASE don't lick that" before I lose my borderline-germphobic mind.

Today I brought a BOOK to read in the waiting room! And I didn't have to explain ANYTHING to ANYBODY, other than "what I was there for" to "who I was there to see," which is okay because everyone involved was a consenting adult and nobody said "But WHY?"

Then, of course, I had to fill the prescription, and what could be more convenient than the Target pharmacy? And when they said, "10-15 minutes," I said, "Oh dear no, TAKE YOUR TIME" and went browsing around in the near-total silence of both my ears and my mouth, broken only by the sound of OTHER people's whining children, which is like the sweet relief of listening to a phone you don't have to answer.

I bought some Girl Scout Cookie ice cream, and the cutest little baking sheet EVER (it's for a toaster oven and it is SO WEE), and there wasn't really anything on clearance but I looked at the picked-over remains, and I considered a shirt for Elizabeth, and then with HUGE reluctance I went and paid for my prescription.

I wanted to take the first pill right away, but I was already at my car before I remembered that, so instead of going back inside to the drinking fountains I went to Wendy's and got a fish sandwich combo, which I know will totally gross out some of you but MAN I love fast-food fish. And I took my first health-restoring pill with a big drink of diet Coke, followed by a french fry from a packet I didn't have to share.

Then I drove home in a quiet car. Best time I've had in weeks. I should have a beauty treatment more often.

March 20, 2009

Post-Workout Snack

My Wii Fit's daily fitness tip for me was that I should have protein and sugar after a workout. So I put TONS of pecans on my sundae.

(Paul looked at it and said, "Don't we have cherries?")

March 18, 2009

Target SCORE

This morning I went to Target with the three littles, which is a crazy plan but I thought I was going to go crazier if I stayed in the house with them one more day. Plus, I had a prescription to pick up, and the automated voice system gets cranky if you don't pick up within ten days.

I'm sooooo glad I went, because TOTAL SCOREAGE. I'm just showing one of each item, but in some cases I got two so I'd have one to keep and one for a future Swistle care package.

Four different cute notebooks, assorted sizes. Pack of cute notecards, stack of cute round paper, another pack of cute notecards, and gift tags. Re the gift tags: I already HAVE those gift tags, because Jess Loolu gave them to me back when we did the very first pay-it-forward package (on this blog, I mean, not, like, in the history of the world). And I love them, and I use them sparingly to make them last. So I'm happy to have another set, either to use myself or to give away in a future care package.

Box of recipe cards. Sheet of Elvis stickers. Another box of gift tags, this time solid-color.

Three more cute notebooks. I love notebooks.

Hello Kitty napkins, cute oval notecards, pretty stationery, pink argyle post-it cubes (center), and three more cute notebooks (because of love of same).

Princess napkins. Two slightly different (one is circles; the other is squares) sets of mod birthday candles. Pack of flower stickers (also got Hello Kitty and those little animals with huge eyes, but I must have forgotten to take a picture of those). Cute pens. Cute mechanical pencils. Cute non-mechanical pencils.

Arts and crafts stuff. A kit that makes custom bouncy balls. Assorted coloring kits of the "no mess" and "color with water" varieties. A...hover launcher. And a set of double-ended crayons.

Large birthday gift bags, birthday-themed tissue paper, and three rolls of wrapping paper (2 birthday, 1 all-purpose). This is particularly awesome timing because we have a birthday party to go to on Saturday. I like to do up the package, but not when it's $4 for the gift bag and $1.50 for the tissue.

EVERYTHING was 75% off. It was MADNESS. I had to take both twins out of the cart so I'd have room for all the STUFF. Now I want to go to the other Target in our area so I can scrounge for more stuff.

Now. Sometimes when I have a huge score, there is complaining that other people's Targets are not as good as mine. And that may very well be. In fact, the situation might be that you and I share a Target, and I am stripping it clean before you get there. But if this is not the case, I have a few tips to help you make your Target the very best Target it can be:

1. Go SOON. I did some HEAVY PICKING at my Target today, and there were two other women doing heavy picking as well. If you wait until Saturday, or even until Friday, there might be nothing left.

2. Go to the ENDCAPS. The endcaps are the ends of the aisles that face the walls rather than facing the main aisles. NEW stuff goes on the caps near the main aisles; CLEARANCE stuff goes in mixed heaps on the caps near the walls.

(click picture to see it larger)

There might also be good clearance mixed in with the non-clearance stuff on the shelves, but it's less likely.

3. Be patient and persistent. Sometimes a Target has NOTHING, and sometimes it has TONS. And sometimes, like in the case of my brown toile bird shower curtain, NO Targets had them, and then there was a big pile at one of the Targets I'd already checked. So I think sometimes they consolidate.

4. In fact, how about just going to Target every day? That'll do it.

March 17, 2009


In the mood for a pissy irrelevant rant? OH GOOD ME TOO.

I sure am glad I'm not in the public eye right now: my house and family couldn't live up to that kind of scrutiny. One of the things making me all crabby about the octuplets story is the way news sources (by which I mean celeb mags, obv) bring up insignificant parts of Nadya Suleman's life as if they were evidence against her. Some things matter, some things don't---and the fact that her children don't have bed frames DOESN'T MATTER. It's just something that sounds bad if you don't think it through (sample: "Wait, does it MEAN anything bad if a bed doesn't have a frame?").

Though my children's beds all have frames (whew, I'm a fit mother!), one of my friends DELIBERATELY puts her children's mattresses on the floor---even though her living-in-the-household husband (and father to their non-fertility-treatment-conceived children) makes a kajillion dollars and AFFORDING or FINDING ROOM for the bed frames is not at all a problem. She prefers it because it makes falling out of bed a non-issue and because her husband is a doctor and says mattresses on the floor are better for spine development.

I guess, though, that my friend's children should be taken away from her, because "mattresses on the floor" = "unacceptable living conditions." In what country would that be, where having a nice clean firm mattress on an indoor, non-vermin-infested floor, under a non-leaking, solid roof, in a heated house where no insect nets are needed over the beds, is neglect and abuse?

The clutter, too. The photos of the clutter in her house are not that different from what a photo would look like of MY house, if someone visited unexpectedly during the day, except that her carpets looked cleaner. And oh dear, because is toy clutter now a sign of parental unfitness? If so, I am in TRUH-BULL. And I have one fewer child in the house than she does, so I have less of an excuse!

Now I'm hyper-aware of what a celebrity-mag review of MY living conditions could look like. This morning, if a reporter had stopped by unexpectedly and at a poor moment, she could have reported:

1) A child with a dirty diaper, crying in a playpen.
2) Toys all over the floor.
3) Laundry piled high in three different bedrooms.
4) Unmade beds; sheets on one bed not changed for more than 2 weeks.
5) Child still in pajamas after breakfast.
6) Child with hair still ratty in the back from sleeping.
7) Breakfast dishes still on table, including sippee cup of room-temperature milk.
8) Crumbs on the floor. Partially-eaten GRAHAM CRACKER on the floor.

Man, doesn't that look awful? And yet I assure you, the children are loved and well cared for, and the hair did eventually get combed, and I got to the diaper as soon as I noticed it, which did not take long TRUST ME (what did that child EAT??).

And oh god, please let her not bring a photographer with her to document:

1) The scunginess around the back of the toilet.
2) The dust build-up in the corners.
3) The dishes in the sink.
4) The dish on the counter, with an elderly cat eating off it.
5) The toy clutter, oh my dear Target, the toy clutter.
6) The area under the couch, which is probably 3 inches thick.
7) The scunginess around the faucets.

Oh, no: are they going to have someone dig into my past, too?

1. A marriage that lasted less than a year.
2. A year in therapy to resolve anxiety issues (FAIL).
3. Several cigarettes while UNDERAGE.
4. Bottle of vodka while UNDERAGE.
5. Took Percocet after c-sections---AND ENJOYED IT.
6. When Paul lost his job, we ACCEPTED UNEMPLOYMENT CHECKS.
7. We had all our children while we were covered by health insurance, which means OTHER PEOPLE helped pay for our children's births.
8. We send our children to public schools, which means OTHER PEOPLE help pay for their education.

It makes me so FURIOUS that anyone would use any of these things to judge someone's ability to PARENT. Seriously, a child can live in GENUINE SQUALOR and still be loved and well cared for---but a nice house with wall-to-wall, running water, indoor plumbing, a good roof, several bedrooms, and a mattress for everyone is NOT squalor. "Clean" clutter (that is, not heaps of rotting food and fly-covered diapers, but just blocks and other toys) on the floor means nothing except that a household has children in it. Unemployment and disability checks show a faulty character only if you are NOT unemployed/disabled when you accept them.

OTHER ISSUES ASIDE, a person's ability to parent successfully can't be judged by their furniture and other material possessions, or by their interest in housecleaning. Thank god.

March 14, 2009

Weekend Diversions

Get Up and Play is having a baby guessing contest for a prize package. I LOVE baby-guessing contests!

Life is Good (who won my recent baby-guessing contest for my niece) is having a contest for a spring pick-me-up package (including cloth napkins and napkin rings!).

Want Not is having a contest to win some EXTREMELY EXPENSIVE (SIX dollars!! EACH!!) cloth napkins!

March 13, 2009

Be Yourself!

I get pretty frustrated with the themes of children's TV shows. Not frustrated enough to turn off the TV and interact with the children myself, but pretty frustrated. Major themes:

1. You can be anything.
2. You should always be yourself.
3. If you are unsuccessful, unhappy, or unliked, it is because you're not believing in yourself and/or being yourself.

So there will be an episode where a character tries to be "cool," and instead this results in them being clumsy and wrecking stuff for other people, and other people get angry and don't like it. So the character acts like himself/herself instead, and everyone loves him/her.

Lesson: Be yourself and everyone will love you! Second lesson: If you're clumsy, or if people don't like you, this means you're not being yourself. If you were being yourself, everything would go right and everyone would love you.

And since you can be anything you want to be, if you're being something OTHER than what you want to be, you are a failure. Never mind that almost everyone wants to be the president or an astronaut or a ballerina or a writer or an actor, and almost nobody wants to be the other 9,999 out of 10,000 jobs: if you are not What You Want To Be, you're probably not being yourself.

I think this is really dumb. But of course I WOULD, since I never did become a ballerina.

March 11, 2009


White = terrible clothing color for children.

March 10, 2009


I am having kind of a perky, excited kind of day. MANY REASONS.

1. I ordered about one (1) million dollars' worth of reusable pads and now I am VERY KEEN to try them out and to tell you what I think of them. (Yes, I will warn you before I start to tell you so you have a chance to avert your eyes. Hello, male college friends! Hello, Dad! Hello, squeamish girls!)

2. On this post about cloth napkins and napkin rings, my friend Maureen commented that she'd found some great clearance napkin rings at Kohl's, and that she WOULD have bought ME some except she wanted them all for HERSELF. So, I don't know, it depends on how you define "friend," but I count "giving the heads-up on an obscure shopping thing even if she DOESN'T SHARE," and I went to Kohl's this weekend and bought not one, not two, not three, not four, not AND SO ON napkin rings, but TWENTY-TWO napkin rings for 39 cents each down from $3.99 each, and $3.99 is a ridiculous price for a single napkin ring but WHATEVS because 39 cents is perfect. So now I am SWIMMING in napkin rings and I suppose you might be wondering why I would need 22 of them for my family of 7, but HELLO, I might suddenly CHANGE PERSONALITIES and start throwing HUGE DINNER PARTIES. And maybe someday we really will have the Dreamy Dreamy Dream House and I'll need napkin rings for everybody! Actually, it's because I bought one of each kind for our household, and then I bought duplicates to send out whenever I send out cloth napkins in the future, in case I do that. Plus, OKAY FINE I got caught up in the excitement. 39 cents!

3. I won my first Want Not contest, and notice how I use the word "first" like I'm planning on winning many, many more. (I totally AM planning that.) I won five coupons for free tubs of "decorator" Clorox wipes, which is TOTALLY AWS because my kids' teachers are always begging for Clorox wipes and then I go and look at the price and I'm like "Whoa," so instead I buy the tissues and the hand soap they also beg for, but it'll be nice to send in the expensive stuff for a change. PLUS I am getting a reusable tote, and I totally love reusable totes, and I am also getting an APRON, and the apron MATCHES the tote, so I am going to be totally stylin while doing my shopping.

4. I am having So! Much! Fun! doing a care package swap with Lisa of It's Pretty Okay. Lisa lives in JAPAN, so there was no frocking way I was mailing a package all the way there (it's like $50 to mail a SMALL package that weighs less than a CAT) (not that I'd mail a cat, even though I have extras), but it turns out that because she's in a military family I could use the APO/FPO flat rate box which lets you ship a nice satisfyingly big box for less than twelve dollars. To JAPAN!! So Lisa and I are exchanging surprise care packages, and I am feeling all happy about it. It was fun putting together a package, and it will be fun RECEIVING a package. Lisa and I both struggled with some Package Performance Anxiety ("What if she hates this? What if she's sorry she ever agreed to do this??"), but we overcame it and went instead for the THIS IS SO FUN! attitude.

5. Amazing Trips (a TRIPLET blog, not a travel blog as I assumed the first time I saw it a couple of years ago) (and by the way, in child math, triplets are twice as many children as twins) is doing a raffle for a KitchenAid mixer. I just entered and OOOOOO I WANT TO WIN SO BAD. I love love love my KitchenAid mixer, but the other day Edward pulled it down off the counter (!!!) and luckily for Edward's head it fell not on Edward's head but on its speed lever, but that was kind of unlucky for the speed lever. Also, the whole thing is out of alignment now and doesn't mix like it used to. And also-also, it's white, and I want pink or light blue or maybe spring green. So I'm tempted not to tell you about the raffle, because the fewer people who enter, the better chance I have of winning. But my chances are so slim anyway I LOVE YOU SOOOO MUCH, I'm telling you about it anyway.

6. Two and a half cups of coffee. So far.

March 8, 2009

Reusable Pads: YES! I AM Actually Writing About This!

Oh, hey. I have kind of an embarrassing question to ask. I thought about just not asking it, but I really do need input. I'm preparing to make an expensive purchase and I think it's better to get recommendations about these things. But...this involves feminine hygiene products. So if that kind of thing squigs you out, now's the time to take a powder.

I cannot believe it was almost TWO YEARS AGO that I read these two posts by Jonniker talking about the, er, Diva Cup. And The Keeper. And The Moon Cup. Each of which, if you're not familiar with the names, is a little cup that is inserted into the tampon region for the tampon purpose, but unlike a tampon it is reusable. You, ah, empty/rinse it out periodically during the day.

The comments on those posts were some of the funniest I've ever read. By the time the discussion was over (it took a long time to die down), I was definitely planning to buy one of those things. I totally get how some people are grossed out but I'm just NOT grossed out even a little bit (I did the Fertility Awareness Method for YEARS, and that involves checking your cervical fluid), so ANYWAY it seemed like a good match for me. But I was pregnant at the time (!) and then I was nursing, and I didn't have much incentive to buy anything of the sort.

And now it has been two years. And I realized there is another reason I haven't made this purchase: I HATE tampons. I use pads. I'm not saying I LOVE pads, but they don't bother me either. So you know what makes more sense for me to try? Launderable pads.

You're a little worried, aren't you, that this means I'm going Environcrazy. Next I'll be eschewing launderable pads in favor of LEAVES from the BACKYARD. Would it be reassuring if I mentioned that I use an entire flush of the toilet to dispose of a bug? It's true. Also, I don't turn my computer off at night because it's too much trouble to push the on button in the morning.

In fact, I'm a little worried that the only reason I'm interested in this at all is that when I was searching for cloth napkins on Etsy I accidentally found a bunch of THE CUTEST reusable pads EVAR in this shop. I mean! Will you look at this?

Pink paisley, forthuhluvuhguh. And this!:

I WANT. I almost bought them without even investigating if they're any GOOD. I mean, do they leak? Do they stain? Do they shrink? Do they fade? These are the questions a person should be asking herself, rather than "Are they cute?"

Anybody still reading? If so, and if you have experience with this sort of thing, can you tell me what to look for or where to buy? I know I could also theoretically make my own, but that would involve theoretical sewing abilities, and really I am MUCH better at shopping.

March 7, 2009

Labor: The First Thing

You've probably noticed already how no one can say WORD ONE about a childbirth experience without LOTS of other people chiming in. There's a certain "flock of chickens" charm to it. I notice it most often with a new mother who is trying to tell her childbirth story, and she gets to say only about half a sentence at a time because all the other mothers keep jumping in to say how that half a sentence is or is not the same as how their labors went. It's automatic and unpreventable, and it MATTERS NOT if you have heard these stories MANY TIMES BEFORE: you will hear them again anyway.

I was thinking about this yesterday when I saw Jonniker's Twitter update about how she was off to Labor & Delivery because her water had broken with a weird pop first thing that morning---and I was irresistibly compelled to EMAIL HER to tell her that OMG, that's how MY first labor started over ten years ago WE ARE PRACTICALLY SISTERS!!! Now I'm picturing that weird little email sitting in her inbox while she's, you know, GIVING BIRTH, and unaware as yet of this AMAZING COINCIDENCE. Maybe I should see if I can find out the number of her hospital? Or I could just contact the local news.

Well. Anyway. Here is the question I have for you today: If YOU have ever gone into labor, how did it start? What was the FIRST THING? Feeling funny? A contraction? Water breaking? Did it wake you in the middle of the night, or was it first thing in the morning, or were you going about your day, or were you at a doctor appointment? Did you know right away that it was labor, or did you look back afterward and say, "AH yes! That WAS labor!"

If you've never gone into labor but are eager to join in the discussion (I myself feel a little sad if there's a question and I'm not eligible to answer it), you could also write about what was the first thing that happened in your mother's labor with YOU, or the first thing that happened in a friend or relative's labor. Everyone can play!

March 6, 2009

Mood Enhancer

1. Giant 2-cup-capacity Starbucks mug.
2. Enough coffee to fill it about halfway.

3. Milk or milk-like product.
4. Chocolate syrup or powder: lots.
5. Peppermint extract: just a few drops or it'll taste like toothpaste.

6. Refrigerate.
7. Sip from all day long.

March 5, 2009

Cloth Napkin Report

I am happy and surprised to report that so far the cloth napkin experiment has been an unexpectedly smashing success. I was thinking the best possible outcome was "Yeah, I guess I'm willing to cope with this hassle, especially because it's so fun to buy cloth napkins"---but in fact the outcome is "OMG WE LOVE THESE." So fond of them are we, in fact, that if they were shown to be WORSE for the environment than paper napkins, we would furtively continue to use them and I would have to switch them over to one of my examples of how we all have things we do that could get us shot by environmental extremists.

The ones that turn out to be perfect for the kids are the "cocktail" napkins. They're smaller and more manageable than the regular kind. There were two sizes of cloth cocktail napkins: one was the size of a folded paper cocktail napkin (5 inches square?) and I didn't get any of those (for one thing, they were WHITE). The other size FOLDS to the size of a folded paper cocktail napkin, so it's more like 10 inches square which is perfect. (The regular size of cloth napkin is 20 inches square, which is HELLA GENEROUSLY large.)

My next shopping quest (and I do love having a shopping quest: even if I buy only cat litter and toilet paper, the shopping trip is still fun because I had something fun to look for) is napkin rings. I bought two sets of four at 75% off, but each set is matched. Paul chose one of the wooden ones for his napkin, and I chose one of the metal ones for my napkin, but now we're out of Different Rings. So I'm going to keep looking for more. There are always a lot of them on post-Christmas clearances, and I am patient. Well, no, I'm not patient (you should have seen me FREAKING OUT for information about my newly-born niece), but I'm patient about bargains.

I also love Devan's idea of making some, and I'm going to see if I can get some big chunky gaudy beads for mine. And I also-also love the idea Jac left in the comment section about looking on eBay for old personalized napkin rings. I went looking but found that the ones I wanted (silverplate engraved "Beatrice," for example) are the ones that are covered in bids and going for $40 each, whereas the ones I would pay NOT to own (geese with country-blue ribbons around their necks) are ending with no bids.

March 2, 2009


Oh my dears. Look what we have:

It is Niestle. Niecele. Niecstle. Niecestle. Niece-stle. Neestle. I guess Niestle is the best one. Perhaps I should have thought this out ahead of time, rather than making it part of the birth announcement. (Bethtastic gets credit for this nickname, which BLEW MY MIND with its wonderfulness.)

This is my niece. She is 19 inches long, and she weighs 7 pounds. She is so glorious, I am blinded. I had to use the little "home-row bumps" to find the right keys on my keyboard. Only through blurriness can I see her beautiful wahing mouth. Her tiny beautiful hands. Her lovely squinched eyes of indignation.

She was born on March 1st at 11:11 p.m., which is very tidy. I like her already.

If I've counted correctly, and it IS hard to count with blinded eyes of love, 14 of you guessed March 1st:

  1. Amy of WriteBrained
  2. Mimi of Mimi All Me
  3. Siera of Take me as I am
  4. Salgavin
  5. Fiona Picklebottom of Move Along - There's Nothing to See Here
  6. Julie of Life is Good
  7. Saly of Incubation Nation
  8. Emily R of Righters' Writings
  9. Tess
  10. Janet of From the Planet of Janet
  11. Sally of Kingston Duo
  12. Alison of Laugh Until Your Cheeks Hurt
  13. Stacy
  14. Jennifer of Guinea Pig Paperie

I used a Random Number Generator to choose a winner, and it chose #6: Julie of Life is Good. Email me (swistle at gmail dot com) with your mailing info, Julie, and I'm going to start putting things into a box!

Congratulations, Erik and Anna! Really nice work there!