May 31, 2011

Henry's Birthday Makes Me Think of Post-Twins Spacing and Caboose Issues

Henry is four! Here he is with a sword he made out of Tinker Toys, and the giant forehead mosquito bite that prompted me to reschedule his portraits:

Good call.

I don't generally do much Kid Birthday Talk here (oh, Kid Birthday FRETTING, sure, but I mean I save the developmental lists and sentimentality for my own journal, where even _I_ generally find them boring), but I'm a little different about Henry because he seems like a Blog Baby: he was BORN here. And today, when he turns 4 while the twins are still 5, it seems a little crazy to look back at when he was born: those little toddler twins, and then bringing a baby home before their 2nd birthday. But there he was. Henry. If there'd been two of him, I'll bet we would have made the local paper: "Two Sets of Twins Under Two!"

Here we are, right before he arrived:

Tired much?

This is a picture I didn't want to keep because I thought I looked so dreadful. Now I'm so glad I made myself keep it, because I care about "having a picture of me pregnant and holding my toddler twins" more than I care about "my neck wrinkles and double chin and pinkish pregnancy skin and pulled-weird neckline and tensely-clenched hand." Those neck wrinkles aren't going to get any SHALLOWER over the years, anyway.

And then a few days later I was back in my chair:

With a slight change.


And then less than two weeks later, the twins' 2nd birthday, which I must have BAKED CAKES for while recovering from a c-section:

Yeah, I don't really remember it. Good thing I have photos.


Henry's birthday also feels different to me because he's the caboose child: every birthday he has, the train pulls further away from the station. And sometimes that seems like a very happy, light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel kind of thing, and other times it seems like a very sad, midlife-crisis-inducing kind of thing. Because this is great:



But it means no more this:

May 29, 2011

The Year of Magical Thinking; LIFE Wedding Book; Good Hair

I am finally reading The Year of Magical Thinking. Paul is wondering why I keep clinging to him tearily when he is just walking past me in the kitchen.

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Speaking of books, if you have not yet purchased LIFE The Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, I advise you NOT to. I pre-ordered it before there was even a description of it, still caught up in the unexpected happiness of re-watching the wedding three times when I'd thought I'd only be half-interested in seeing it ONCE. I figured that if it was by LIFE it would be pretty much guaranteed to be good. I imagined page after page of gorgeous photos, like other LIFE books I've read.

Or maybe I'm misremembering that the other books were by LIFE? Because in fact the book is almost worthless. It's something like 125 pages, and about a dozen of them are about the wedding. All the rest is regurgitated photos of Diana, and of Will and Catherine as children, and of Kate in the sheer dress AGAIN FTLOG. And you know, that kind of thing is interesting TOO, but in a book ABOUT THE WEDDING, I want it ALL and ONLY about the WEDDING, and I want photos of EVERY MOMENT.

Furthermore, the writing quality is...iffy. Iffy AT BEST---as in, I kept TRYING to read it, and kept thinking, "No, never mind; I will just look at the photos." Really, VERY disappointing. I put it in the library donation pile so at least maybe someone ELSE won't have to pay money for it.

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I did not think that a CHRIS ROCK documentary about black women's hair was going to make me burst into tears not once, not twice, but MANY TIMES----but there it is. And this was BEFORE I started reading The Year of Magical Thinking. (Though, now that I think of it, AFTER the wine.)

May 28, 2011

Soup, BlogHer, Nerd 5K, Fleenus Try-Traps

I'm having soup for breakfast. It is a perfectly cromulent breakfast, but now I am onion-scented and it does seem too early for that.

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This is the time of year when I start panicking if I've made the wrong decision and should quick buy a ticket for BlogHer '11 before they sell out.

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Listen, do you kind of want to get in on the whole "bloggers who run!" thing, but you are pretty sure you are genetically incapable of EVER getting in on the whole "I was feeling lazy, so I just did a short 10 mile run today!" thing? Reading and Chickens is doing a Nerd 5K for the socially-awkward, can-I-just-wear-my-jeans?, wanting-to-die-after-1-minute-of-running among us. Here's the FAQ. The 5k will be run, or walked, or pretended-to-run-it-while-actually-sitting-at-home at the same time on the same day wherever you are, so we don't have to make eye contact with anyone or worry that anyone is looking at us. I don't know if I'm doing it or not: I'm in the stage of fretting and considering and making lists of pros and cons---which, if I know me, will last until it is too late to join in. But at this point I am favorably INCLINED toward the idea, and will consider it as I'm dying during my 1.5-mile walk.

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Henry calls Venus fly-traps "Fleenus Try-Traps." If you tell him the actual pronunciation, I will cutchoo.

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Please help me boss Sara into naming her baby girl Penelope Rosalie. There is a poll, so you can boss her there if you don't want to leave a comment.

On the review blog: review of a custom-decorated (with stickers) toothbrush and toothpaste for kids, with a $100 Visa gift card giveaway. Through June 9th.

May 27, 2011

Dead Birds

The other morning I was driving over to my mom's house, and there was a bird standing in the road, right in the middle of my lane. And I thought, "It's funny how these birds always LOOK like they're going to get hit in exchange for their nonchalance, and then they fly away at the last minute"---and within a few seconds later I was driving over the part of the road with the bird on it, yet without having seen a bird take flight at the last second, and there was a thunk, and when I looked behind me there was a dead bird in the road. It must have flown up JUST as I got to it, and then gotten hit by the front of the car before it got high enough. And the dim thing is that if it had just NOT FLOWN, it wouldn't have gotten hit. This is like the worst fable ever.

This came on the heels of discovering YET ANOTHER bird in our house, killed by our cats. They are killing one pretty much every day now, despite me stringing MULTIPLE JINGLE BELLS on their collars. And on one hand I am settled with the idea of this being the natural order of things, and even with the idea that the thinning out of the slower/dumber birds makes the bird species stronger---but neither of these concepts leaves me settled with the part where that same morning there was a bird foot, JUST a bird foot, on my carpet. And a wing, JUST a wing, in the hallway. It makes me hate our cats, and of course I've long since stopped putting out food for the birds.

Anyway, that same day, when I hit and killed a bird with my car after spending part of my morning hating our cats as I cleaned up their recent kill, I drove past the same spot just a few minutes later on my way home, and the bird was gone. So, I mean, one possibility is that it got nipped up by some other animal, or got hit by another car in a way that flung it off the road (though the car would have had to be way out of its lane to manage that). But you know what I think is most likely? I'll bet what actually happened, rather than my theory of it flying right in front of my car at the exact wrong time, is that it flew up AFTER my car was already ABOVE it, and it bonked its head really hard and got stunned, like birds sometimes do when they fly into a window but not hard enough to kill themselves. And then it lay there in the road for awhile, recovering itself. And then it sprang up and flew off. (Hey, now you could TOTALLY use this in a fable!)

May 24, 2011

Middle School Dress Code

Every year we receive two perky messages from the school about what the children are wearing. One comes in December, when we are reminded that "Gone are the days of heat waves and sandals!!" and the other comes in May, when we are similarly prompted to look out our windows and observe changes in the weather. I am annoyed EVERY TIME, even though I KNOW there is a need for such notices. No, I KNOW. Do not tell me I would be surprised: I would NOT be surprised, because I ALREADY KNOW.

But my own children are NOT wearing flip-flops in the snow, or bikini tops and short shorts as soon as it hits 70 degrees, and so I don't like to have someone CHIRPING at me about it as if "we" forgot to take "our" "meds" this morning. I wish there were a practical way to send these notices only to those who need them. NO, I GET IT, THERE IS NO PRACTICAL WAY. But are we also in general agreement that the people who NEED to be told that their children should not wear flip-flops in the snow are NOT going to be affected by a school-wide chirpy little notice? "Oh! The school is right: flip-flops and snow DON'T go together! Silly old me, I'd forgotten the days were getting shorter and Old Man Winter was on his way!"

This is Rob's first year of middle school, and HA HA HA HA HA! Oh, I do feel SO SORRY for the middle school staff. I can picture their weary postures, and the way they go home to their spouses and say "You would not BELIEVE how much RIGHTEOUS ANGER an 8th-grade girl can manufacture over the definition of the word 'crop top.' No, you would not believe it. No, don't even try, just...bring me a bottle of wine and a funnel."

I can HEAR in the newsletter that the middle school staff does not WANT to make a dress code. They want to say, "Wear REASONABLE clothing, please, and let's get on with the day." But no: the children push and Push and PUSH, until the staff is FORCED to say things such as "Shoulders of tops must be at least three (3) inches wide." I'm sure that in the beginning they were thinking, as I am, "What's wrong with a tank top?" And many VERY HEADACHEY days later, it's "three inches" and then needing to spell out that "three" = 3.

This one seems to me to come from the calm that only psychiatric medication can provide: "Necklines of shirts should provide thorough coverage of the chest area." THOROUGH! When the writer of that line was in college headed for a career in academia, did he or she think they would be spending time forming that sentence? And would he or she consider changing "chest area" to "chestal region," because that would be way funnier. And then, in the part about the shoulders of tops, I think we should say "shoulderage."

"Undergarments cannot be visible at any time." I'll bet the first draft included "FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, PEOPLE" and a long scream.

"Pajama/lounge pants are not permitted" seems like it is just ASKING for trouble. Does this mean yoga pants? But those are perfectly reasonable pantsage! Is it NO soft pants at all? "All pants must have a snap and a zipper and belt loops, and be made of a sturdy fabric such as canvas or denim; more than 2% spandex is not permitted"? Mark my words, there will be such changes in the next memo!

This is why schools end up thinking to themselves, "You know what? We are done. UNIFORMS." Which only leads to MORE rules. "Waistbands of skirts must not be folded over." "Uniform elements must be the appropriate size, neither slouchy nor skin-tight." "Knee socks must be within one (1) inch of the knee." "Hooker-style thigh-high lace-up boots may not be worn." "Lip balm may not be worn, because we are not talking to ONE MORE middle-school girl about the difference between 'balm' and 'gloss'." "Parents should be advised that their children are a huge pain in the ass. Thank you for your consideration."

May 23, 2011

Cute Boy Dreams; Sunk Cost Book; Book I Liked

I dreamed last night that a VERY CUTE boy was interested in me. Unfortunately, when my dream mind discovered that the boy was 18, it did not do what _I_ would have done in ITS shoes, which would have been to assume _I_ was also 18. No. Instead my dream mind said to me: "Hey. Hey, wait. *counting on fingers* Aren't you nearly TWENTY YEARS older than that? I don't think this is AT ALL appropriate. Not at ALL. Seriously. Ick. And...wait. Aren't you also MARRIED? We need to stop this right here." Then my dream mind went and fetched Paul and had him take away my glass of champagne and make a pointed remark about my "boyfriend"---with heavy quotes, just like that, and not a very pleasant tone of voice, either.

Thanks a lot, dream mind. This reminds me of once when I was on a diet and I dreamed that I was very tempted by a bunch of candy but didn't eat it. Come on, now, that is TOO STRICT.

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I recently gave up on a book after 220 pages, which I think may be unprecedented for me. Despite being very familiar with the concept of sunk costs (that is, that the amount of time I've spent reading the book is irrelevant to the decision about whether to KEEP reading it, since I can't get that time back either way), I have trouble putting it into practice. And besides, with a book, it MIGHT pay off to continue reading it. Though, admittedly, probably this is more true at 50 pages than at 220.

It was bugging me because there was a ton of foreshadowing to keep the suspense going, but then the foreshadowed events were never as big a deal as they'd seemed like they'd be. Plus, most of it was made up. Which is to be expected of fiction, of course, but in this case the narrator was also making up a story: imagining what things were like for his parents before he was born, when he hadn't been told those stories. So then I felt like I was reading fiction about fiction: the story wasn't even true within the covers of the book.

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But then I read a book I liked very much: You Know When the Men are Gone, by Siobhan Fallon (photo from Amazon.com).



It is a TEENSY bit "you civilian wives have no idea how good you've got it," and I'm not sure anyone can make that kind of statement about anything (parenting, working, location, relationships, lifestyle choices/non-choices of any sort) without it being kind of annoying. And since NO ONE experiences ALL life circumstances, it's also kind of a duh thing to bring up: we ALL live a way that only other people who live the same way would understand, and ALL those ways include some things that would be considered disadvantages---and other things that would be considered advantages. If the book had instead JUST told the stories, without adding the little preachies about how much better things are for civilians, I would have received the message ANYWAY, but without feeling prickly about it.

Another problem is that it's short stories, which I hadn't realized when I checked it out of the library. And while I partly love short stories, I also partly hate them: they leave me stranded just when I've gotten fully invested in the situation. But these particular stories overlap each other a little, which I LOVE, so. Still, there are a couple where I thought, "No. You can't just leave it without any sort of ending and and call it done."

Boy, it sounds like I DIDN'T like this book, doesn't it? But I DID. I liked it in an "I NEED TO SEE WHAT ELSE THIS AUTHOR HAS WRITTEN" way. (Nothing, sadly.) It is just, when I like a book, I don't want to talk it up too much because then you're BOUND to be disappointed, and also I want to make sure I mention the things I DIDN'T like so that when you read it you don't say "She liked THIS?"

May 21, 2011

Meat, Links

This morning I went to wake Elizabeth up and she wasn't in her bed. She was fine: she'd just gotten up quietly and gone to the living room---which is atypical for her, obvs, or I would have cottoned to what was going on a little sooner. But those seconds of first thinking "That's funny: she's so buried under her covers I don't even see her," and then "Actually...she's so burrowed in, it doesn't even look like there's room for her under there, nervous ha ha," and then "Okay, okay, she's NOT under there, she might have just gone in to our bed after I got up," and then "SHE PROBABLY JUST GOT UP QUIETLY, THAT'S ALL, THERE IS NO NEED TO PANIC ABOUT THIS"---well, it was a little draining, and I found my hands were a little shaky by the time I saw the back of her head in the living room.

NOTHING CAN HAPPEN TO THEM, is the problem with having children.

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Rob, eating a taco: "Mmmmmmm, BEEF!" Paul: "...It's turkey." Another meat education fail. (It would be a more understandable fail if we didn't, every taco night, send either Rob or William to the downstairs freezer with instructions to bring up a package of ground turkey.)

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Rachel AKA Doing My Best AKA Crappy Day Present Sender has started a blog, and one of her entries is the Crappy Day Present backstory, plus instructions!

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Elsewhere:

On the baby name blog, one of the hardest naming issues I've ever attempted to answer: what to do when you're marrying someone who has a hyphenated surname.

On Milk and Cookies: our favorite cheap but good brand-name stuff. Like, not generic, but not La Mer either. I'm taking notes from the comments section.

On the review blog: review of a custom-decorated (with stickers) toothbrush and toothpaste for kids, with a $100 Visa gift card giveaway. Through June 9th.

May 20, 2011

Spam Filters, Astonishing Realizations, Y: The Last Man

I have recently been plagued--PLAGUED--by spamments. There IS a spam filter on Blogger, and I KNOW spam filters are not an exact science and require delicate tweaking and will nevertheless make the occasional mistake---but I don't see how ANY spam filter would let people BLATANTLY named "generic [drug for men's Personal Regions created by scientists who could be using that time to create non-stupid birth control]" comment freely. The upside is that when I have to click over to delete the comment, I revisit old posts I forgot I even wrote. I'm thinking of it as a little Swistle Archives Tour.

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Henry, amazed: "I was born ON my BIRTHDAY??"

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I finished the fifth and final book of the Y: The Last Man series, and I was a little disappointed. I really really really liked the series, and I'm still glad I read it, but it feels like it was supposed to be a couple of books longer but then the budget ran out and they were instructed to wrap it up fast.

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I have been frustrated ever since we bought our minivan six years ago, because if there is enough weight on the front passenger seat, a "passenger seatbelt" warning light will flash throughout the entire trip. Sometimes even my purse will set it off. It only JUST occurred to me that I could just...buckle the seat belt. It sits flat against the seat, so it doesn't keep me from putting stuff there.

May 17, 2011

Ouchie Lip; Irritable Yet Justified Sensitivity; Lucky

My lip has an ouchie split place, and I think the blame can be placed entirely on opening my mouth wide enough for huge floofy bites of the kielbasa-and-greens salad, which I've been eating day after day as if the fields will run out of greens.

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I'm reading a book in which a new character was described right away as African-American. We'd met many characters already, and none of them had been described in corresponding terms. That is, we had not met "Liz, a short Caucasian girl of mixed European descent" and "Anne, a plump Japanese-American girl." Just this one character, who was "Marissa, a tall and beautiful African-American girl."

I am not usually particularly sensitive to these things, I don't think: when someone else points them out I am immediately on-board, but often they go right past me without catching my attention. Well, unless they are blatant like in the 1960s Shocking Interracial Romance book my mother-in-law once lent me because it was her FAVORITE BOOK OF ALL TIME (ick alert: she gave her children the same names as the two hot-romance main characters), where the author couldn't mention the guy without using adjectives to describe his skin color.

But here's a riddle I couldn't solve, as an example of my usual lack of noticing: What is wrong with the sentence "He was in love with his neighbor's wife"? Take yer time. (The answer is that unless his neighbor's wife lives elsewhere, SHE IS ALSO HIS NEIGHBOR. He is in love WITH HIS NEIGHBOR. The sentence as written implies that the man of the couple is the only real neighbor.) [Edited to add: After all the comments about commandments/adultery connotations, I should add that the original puzzle was "He murdered his neighbor's wife." I changed it to be less gruesome, but perhaps I should have changed it to "He respected his neighbor's wife" or something.]

But anyway, this one caught my attention and bothered me, but maybe it is because I felt like I needed to pee at the time. And also, I started this section with "I'm reading a book..." but actually I'm not reading it anymore, because it was making me feel hopeless and weary with all its cutting social critique that didn't suggest any alternatives/solutions to what it was cuttingly criticizing.

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I dreamed last night that my mother-in-law was alive (although I would say it like this: "ALIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIVVVVVVVVE!!!") and visiting us and making arch remarks about things she thought I should take action on. I woke up feeling tired and headachy and full of suppressed impotent rage---but then relieved and grateful all over again. I really am very, very, very lucky to have been spared the path where she lived into her late 90s like her mother did, and I think of it often. And I'm using it as a reminder to try VERY HARD not to be a person whose death makes other people feel relieved and grateful and lucky, but if I keep being so irritable WE'LL SEE.

May 16, 2011

Little Rant Before Bed, So I Will Not Mentally Compose it Instead of Sleeping

I am a little DISCOURAGED today. I have another UTI (and if you want to ask me why I always, ALWAYS feel the need to share this particular diagnosis with you, I have NO ANSWER to that question), and having a UTI is like being nauseated or like having a backache: it is really hard to focus on ANYTHING ELSE. And furthermore, when I feel like I badly need to pee, I also feel IRRITABLE, and I have been feeling that way since yesterday afternoon, so I have a lot of irritable stocked up.

I'm also discouraged because I thought THIS TIME the doctor would do something about this, because LAST TIME she said that NEXT TIME we'd do something about this, and I was hoping "do something" would mean "give you a fill-as-needed prescription"---but instead she did NOT do something about this and said NEXT TIME we would.

Furthermore, our insurance doesn't want to pay for the entire cost of the lab work, and I don't even blame them: according to the doctor, the lab work is to find out if the strain is resistant to the antibiotic they prescribed. I can see how that would be important in some situations, but in MY case, I think it's one of the many markers of What Is Wrong With Health Care. It's $450 for that lab work. I pay $150; my insurance pays $300---money it collected from us and from everyone else paying in. TO FIND OUT IF IT'S THE RIGHT ANTIBIOTIC. Which we could also find out for free, by waiting.

And it's just ROUTINE, it's just AUTOMATIC that this amount of money is spent, EVERY TIME I go in for one of these. I'm picturing that money as little dots on a map, little $300 symbols pinging pointlessly out of insurance accounts across the nation as each person with a UTI pees in a cup. And on a personal level, I am seeing those little $150 symbols pinging out of my bank account every time it's my personal cup.

And perhaps you are wondering why I don't just decline to have this test done, to which I reply with a blank look, because I am wondering what it might be like to live that way. I even totally worked up my courage once and resisted the lab work for several back-and-forth dialog exchanges with the doctor, explaining (1) that I thought the test was unnecessary and (2) that I was willing to take the risk of not having that test done and (3) that it was not an amount of money I considered unimportant, and the end result was that she continued to argue back at me and so the lab work was done, so I don't really want to talk anymore about it and you are just going to have to chalk this up to a temperament component that looks unlikely to change. Maybe the day will come when I can handle more than three volleys of the ball while arguing with a medical professional about her medical opinions vs. my "this is what SEEMS like it would be the case" opinions, but that day was not today. Oh, I can do it in my head, sure! But whenever I imagine applying that script to an actual conversation with an actual doctor who will then respond to what I said rather than blushing and stammering and agreeing with my finely-put point, it does not work out.

May 14, 2011

Good Points

After reading Frustration (about something my eldest son Rob did to make me cry with the frustration of not being able to hit him with a stick), Mar commented:
Seems like my N has a very similar personality when he's at his most...challenging. I'm always sad when people ONLY see this..challenging side.
Quick ! write something to redeem Rob in the eyes of your readers!

GOOD THOUGHT. I know that EVEN THOUGH I understand that someone might only blog about a spouse when the spouse is being awful, or about life when they need to vent, I NEVERTHELESS sometimes get the impression that someone is married to a total pinehole or having a rotten life. And Rob, while he has his pinehole/rotten moments like any other human being, is not ALL BAD.

Rob was 5 when I found out I was having twins, and his response was a sarcastic "Great. TWO of them." He was not particularly fond of his 2-years-younger brother William, so the prospect of EVEN MORE younger siblings failed to please. But then as soon as the twins were born he was affectionate and sweet with them, and started saying things like, "When do you think we can have ANOTHER baby?" He was very happy when I was expecting Henry, and wanted to talk a lot about what did we think the new baby would be LIKE, and he's been affectionate and sweet with Henry too, as with the twins. He'll say, "Hey, Henry, do you want to go PLAY OUTSIDE with me?" and then they'll go racing out together, a 12-year-old and a 3-year-old. Periodically he'll mention that he thinks we should have another baby in our family.

Oh, I just remembered a Rob-related story. After the twins were born, Paul and I weren't planning to have any more children. So when Rob asked when we could have another baby, I said no, there wouldn't be any more babies. I'd have to look up exactly what he said, but he was dumbstruck and indignant, saying something like what about the fifth one, the boy? He said it EXACTLY as if it had been a long-standing, much-discussed plan---as if for years we'd been saying that our family would be boy, boy, girl, boy, boy, and now we were suddenly saying we wouldn't have that last baby after all. So then it was neat when we DID have an unexpected fifth child, a boy.

Anyway, back to the Rob Praise. He's a good talker. He asks questions of the sort a person WANTS to answer, and then he listens, and then he asks more questions of the "Is it like....?" variety that keep the conversation going and show he's been listening. And I don't have to worry as much that he'll be upset about something and won't tell me about it---like William, who will suppress it and cry privately over something COMPLETELY FIXABLE, with me not even knowing he was unhappy about a decision I'd made casually.

He says hello when he comes into a room, and says things like "Goodbye, I'm going to the bus now, have a good day, see you later, bye!" when he leaves in the morning. And when he comes home he'll say "How was your day?" or "Did you have a good day?"

He's naturally helpful, in that he will start pitching in without being asked. If it's a task he doesn't know how to just pitch in with, he'll ask if he can help. If I come home from errands and start bringing in bags, he'll put his shoes on and come out to help without anyone saying anything. And this isn't because we've trained him to do it, which is why I used the word "naturally": it's the sort of thing that, after he started doing it on his own, I thought, "Hey, we SHOULD HAVE been training him to do this. And we should train WILLIAM to do this TOO."

He also says "thank you" a lot. We did train that one, but we also trained the other kids and it's Rob who does it without being prompted or reminded. I'll come home with something even kind of boring, like a new plain shirt I got him on clearance, and he'll say, "Hey, thanks!" with enthusiasm. Or if he's out of some food item he likes, and I go to the grocery store and come home with it, he'll say, "Yay, string cheese! Thanks!"

He opens doors for me, and for strangers.

We passed one of his teachers at the grocery store and didn't recognize her at first because she was out of context, and as soon as he realized who it was, he asked if he could go say hi---and then he bounded over to her, greeted her nicely, pointed me out so the teacher and I could exchange a wave, and then said bye and bounded back. Polite and friendly, but without inundating her with child-interaction during her school-free hours.

He likes to go shopping with me, and is a pleasant companion: chatty and helpful.

He doesn't notice much or care much if other people don't like him. This is a trait I unsuccessfully work on acquiring, and so I'm glad he has it.

Also, he's tall and he has lots of eyelashes.

So. Even though I feel like he will drive me LITERALLY MAD with the arguing and the firstborn justice issues and the ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS HAS TO BE RIGHT, he does have his good points too.

May 13, 2011

Frustration

So now Blogger is back up, but Twitter is down. This has been a disorienting couple of days. At least it was not both at the same time! APOCALYPSE.

I posted a new review yesterday:
ARM & HAMMER® Spinbrush® MY WAY! ™ Toothbrush
and Orajel ® MY WAY!™ Kids' Toothpaste---and a $100 Visa Gift Card Giveaway
---and if you are wondering if I was required to write those things in all-caps with exclamation points, that would be a big AFFIRMATIVE! (Also, the names must not be broken between two lines; thus the awkward formatting.) Anyway, I tell you this not only because part of my contract involves telling you about it, but also because when Blogger went down it lost all the comments---so if you commented on the post after it went up mid-day Thursday but before Blogger went down later in the day, you'll need to re-comment to be entered.

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Rob made me so angry the other day, I could barely talk about it. Paul had checked Rob's homework as usual, and had made Rob re-do a math worksheet on which Rob (1) hadn't done the problems the way he was supposed to, (2) hadn't shown his work the way he was supposed to, and (3) had gotten the wrong answers. And Rob had better grow up to be a stunning trial attorney who works either for justice or for our exceedingly comfortable retirement years, whichever, because ROB CANNOT BE WRONG. Does he seem to be wrong? NO, YOU ARE WRONG. Can you prove him to be wrong? NO, THERE IS ANOTHER EXPLANATION. Can you calmly and quietly explain to him that everyone is wrong sometimes, and that in this case it is his turn? NO, HIS EARS ARE NOT HEARING YOUR IMPOSSIBLE CONCLUSION IN RE HIS WRONGNESS.

So. Rob maintained despite all evidence to the contrary (written instructions at the top of the sheet; the provably wrong answers) that he was doing it the way he'd been taught AND that he DID have the right answers. It was obvious his ears were no longer connected to his brain: during the time he should have been listening to Paul's admirably patient explanations, it was clear that all he was doing was compiling his next argument to explain why he COULD NOT be wrong, whatever the evidence seemed to be. After MANY (again, admirably patient) attempts, Paul finally sighed and said all right, Rob could continue to believe he was right if he wanted to, but Paul was nevertheless telling him that he must redo it the way the instructions said, and with the work shown, and with the correct answer at the end. Rob FUMED the entire time.

The next day, Rob presented us triumphantly with a signed note from his teacher (he emphasized this to us: "SIGNED") saying that he was supposed to show his work and do the problems the way he'd been taught. He had evidently explained to her that his parents were doing exactly what the teachers had said they might, which was to try to make him do math The Old Way. When, as you know if you've been following along, Paul was NOT trying to do: he was telling Rob he had to do the problems not "the way Paul learned in school" but "the way shown at the top of the paper." AND, Paul had been TELLING HIM TO SHOW HIS WORK.

Not only is this blisteringly embarrassing to me to think of Rob telling the teacher that we were forcing him to do what we were NOT forcing him to do (and then having her SIGN A NOTE to that effect) (and I can't think of any way to explain to her what actually happened, without looking crazy/defensive/over-reactive AND making HER feel embarrassed), but our theory that Rob's ears are entirely disengaged at such times was demonstrated with excruciating clarity. I don't know how Paul kept his temper, because I started CRYING with the effort not to BEAT ROB WITH A STICK and then perhaps send him to his room until the next school day, when I would shove him ahead of me into the classroom and force him to tell his teacher what had ACTUALLY happened, and give her a SIGNED note saying that SHE may now beat him with a stick.

But all Paul did was sigh and explain AGAIN. To which Rob said, "OHHHHHHHHHH... _I_ thought you meant..." (that was when I started crying with frustration).

And you know how everyone expresses exasperation at the "Just wait!" people, and yet the "Just wait!" people continue to say "Just wait!"? I can feel them out there, so tempted to tell me what small potatoes this incident is in comparison to what is to come as my 12-year-old gets into his teens, closely followed by his four siblings.

I always wonder what it is such people hope to accomplish with that kind of talk. Do they want us to give up on this whole child-rearing endeavor, and leave home and/or kick the children out so we won't have to deal with the horrors that await us? Do they want us to go back in time and not have children? Are they hoping to plunge us into ineffectual and pointless despair as we contemplate upcoming years of Ever Worse? Are they imagining that we are somehow so blind and delusional, we believe that our current complaint represents the worst we will or could encounter? Do they want us to imagine them rubbing their hands together with poorly-hidden happiness at the thought of our upcoming surprise and distress?

May 10, 2011

Two Household Issues

We had two household crises: (1) The upstairs toilet clogged, and even after vigorous plunging was only flushing half-heartedly (i.e., the water went down, but not the toilet paper), and (2) The dishwasher stopped cleaning the dishes, even though it sounded like it was running normally.

In time-honored tradition, I first made two unfounded accusations:



Then, this past weekend, Paul purchased some sort of toilet device and used it to discover a BRANCH flushed down the toilet. So it WAS the children's fault, but not in the way I thought: Henry had flushed his "sword," by, he assures me, "accident."

Less success with the second crisis: we switched back to regular dishwasher detergent, but there is still food all over the dishes (and splashes of food/milk untouched on the inside of the dishwasher door), so we are hand-washing. Another branch, this time crammed in the dishwasher water-sprayer? STAY TUNED.

May 9, 2011

Book Review: Death Match

I just read and loved a book I NEVER would have chosen except that BOTH my parents read it and liked it:

Death Match, by Lincoln Child
(photo from Amazon.com)


The cover does not appeal to me, nor does the title, and also I think more than 95% of the books I read are by women because I generally don't identify with either the writing style or the subject matter of male authors. I would not have even picked this book up to skim the inner flap, is what I am telling you.

Furthermore, the book has flaws. There is a time or two when the protagonist does something and I think, "It is 100% clear he should be doing something different, so this is obviously just a way for the author to give us information he wants us to have and/or force the plot into a particular shape." And there are some other places where, afterward or at the time, I thought, "But why would they....?" and "But wouldn't they...?" and "Wait, but if it was the night before, the child would have been..." and "Surely any sensible person would have realized that the information could have been...?" and "But couldn't he have just NOT set it up that way?" and "Well, and it would have to cost WAY MORE than that."

But WHATEVER, because the PREMISE is one of the most lock-on fascinating ones I've heard of in a long time. And you might THINK I am spoiling it when I tell you the plot, but I am not: I will tell you what my mother told me when I thought SHE was spoiling it, but then when I read the book I thought no, she wasn't.

The premise is that there is a dating service that has a 100% success rate: it costs $25,000 PER PERSON to join, but there's a full money-back guarantee and no one has ever used it---or even needed to be matched a second time because the first one didn't work out. (The cynical reader might notice that every single person who uses this agency is not only attractive and intelligent and emotionally/mentally-well-balanced, but also marvelously multi-talented, and with many interesting interests. We will not spend too much time, however, wondering about couples who are kind of dim and dull; we will just assume they didn't make for as good reading.) Matched couples are remarkably, blissfully happy. As one or two of the employees at the agency says, people left on their own choose each other for the wrong reasons and eliminate potential partners for the wrong reasons; the agency matches people who at first think the match was a total mistake, and then within minutes see the perfection of it.

Then the couples start committing joint suicide, and a psychologist/detective is called in to find out what is going on. The book is not only his attempt to figure things out, but also lots of interesting discussion about how the agency works, and the tests they use to establish compatibility.

***SLIGHT SPOILERS FOR THOSE WHO LIKE TO BE PREPARED FOR UPSETTING SCENES INVOLVING CHILDREN***
The opening scene is a little traumatic, because a small child (old enough to sit in a high chair, not old enough to speak) has SEEN her parents kill themselves. But we don't join the scene until it's over (we just figure out that she would have had to have seen it), and the child is safe and unharmed and of course too young to really know what's happened. In another scene, it is mentioned that one of the women who committed suicide was pregnant.
***END SLIGHT SPOILERS***

A potential downside of this book is you may find yourself looking sideways at your significant other, wondering if you chose him/her for the wrong reasons and if you are not in fact particularly compatible. One character in the book says that even though he's had a long and happy marriage with his wife, he would have cut off his own arm to have a relationship like the one he's seen of a couple matched by the dating service. Food for thought, and not necessarily a meal that sits well. But it has been a long time since I had to take a book to another room because I HAD to keep reading it and couldn't tolerate any distractions at all.

May 7, 2011

Crappy Day Present Report

Yesterday I was having a crappy day for no reason. I woke up, and the day was already crappy despite the tulips blooming and nobody barfing and the car out of the shop and basically everything going just fine. But there was no more Easter candy, and when I woke up I thought I was waking up at about 2:00 in the morning but in fact it was 5 minutes before I had to get up and yet I still fell back to sleep so I woke up feeling all weird and sleep-interrupted, and furthermore I've been reading more volumes of the Y: The Last Man series so I'd been having bad dreams about being trapped in a bathroom with killers outside, and as soon as I woke up I remembered I'd forgotten to thaw muffins and ANYway it wasn't all that bad a day and yet it WAS.

I poked around for awhile trying to fix it. Good breakfast. Favorite lavender-vanilla conditioner and body wash. Extra coffee. Sitting and reading more Y: The Last Man instead of getting going on the laundry. Still I remained cranky and wan.

Then I remembered what I hardly ever seem to remember on the days that are crappy because I am feeling too crappy to think of things that would make me feel better: I have Crappy Day Presents. And at first I tried to talk myself out of opening one, because I didn't have a good reason for having a crappy day, and also because a characteristic of this kind of crappy day is a certain sullenness and resistance toward improving it---as if being able to improve it with a present would mean it hadn't REALLY been a crappy day. I shook that right off.

And I also remembered that when I wrote about Crappy Day Presents before, some of you asked for follow-ups to give you more ideas for sending your own CDP boxes, so...look what Mean Living (more of a Twitter girl these days AHEM languishing blog) sent me:

THINGS ARE LOOKING UP ALREADY



I should have waited for good lighting to take the pictures, but I knew those mini Cadbury Eggs were not going to make it to the good lighting (they are half-gone as I write this post) so you get one with too much flash, and one dark and not completely in focus.

Can you believe that cross-stitch? Mean Living is all "Please excuse all the flaws" and I was all "OMG you MADE this? out of, like, THREAD??" Look at the BIRDY. Look at the SWEET LITTLE FLOWERS, which gradually change from darker to lighter as the row goes along. And do you see what it says? "TODAY'S GOAL: Do not go slap out of my mind." And the thread it's written in MATCHES MY BLOG. I think I should put it by the coffee pot. Or next to my alarm clock.

May 6, 2011

Cat, Clothes, Meat, Labor, Lucky

I nearly came home with another cat yesterday. She was perfect: 6 years old, a grey-and-white fur pattern we've never had before, had lived with other cats before, and she passed The Henry Test (tolerating with aplomb his sudden loud sounds, lunges, awkward hugs, and fur-ruffling pettings, but also stepping confidently away from him when she'd had enough).

But I didn't bring her home. Instead I talked my mother's ear off all the way home about how it was like when you date someone who seems so perfect and list-checking-off in every way, you WISH you were passionate about them, but you're just NOT. I thought she was a great, great cat, probably perfect for our family, but I didn't feel like I couldn't leave the shelter without her.

And we are NOT having more than three cats, so I thought I'd prefer to leave the Third Cat position empty, in case I encountered a cat I felt I couldn't live without. It's fun to acquire a new cat, and our current cats are ages 1 and 2 so it's likely to be a LONG TIME before we replace them (just did math: HENRY COULD BE OUT OF HIGH SCHOOL OMG)---and we just got them in the past year, so maybe it would be nice to spread out the cat-shopping fun a little. But I also feel a little weird and regretful about it: we could given that great cat a home, but chose not to because of a weird and misapplied dating analogy. It helps that our shelter is no-kill AND has a high turnover: she WILL be adopted, and soon, just not by us.

********

I used that trip to the shelter to motivate myself to get rid of four more kitchen-trash-sized bags of clothes. (Connection: donation dumpster at shelter.) A lot was Henry's outgrown stuff, but there was also a bunch of clothes I bought for Elizabeth that she just Won't Wear, and I might as well pass them on to a little girl who Will. And some curtains I've saved for over a decade because they were perfect in our apartment even though they don't work in our house. And five pairs of rain boots that are too small for anyone who lives here. And several pairs of near-new shoes that kids didn't like/wear for whatever reason. And a long skirt I think of myself as being just about to wear, but I don't wear it, EVER. And two pair of wide-legged jeans I trip in. And some shirts the bigger boys are wearing that were a good deal but I don't like them; they'd be fine as handmedowns, but I DON'T LIKE THEM, so I'm not storing/saving them and then seeing them again later. And about six pairs of brand-new jeans I bought for Elizabeth before it turned out she wears jeans about once a month. And some baby blankets.

********

Henry, encountering a slice of turkey: "Is this fish made out of HAM?" Meat education fail.

********

I dreamed last night that I was in labor, but it was a pleasant dream because it was labor as I'd IMAGINED it would be (tight squeezing pain over entire tum area---like a Braxton-Hicks but with pain) rather than as it actually WAS (internal small-focus stabbing-knife-gas-pain-type feeling), and I felt like I was handling it.

********

Driving home from the library, THREE people are lucky I'm such a fearful defensive driver. First, a guy in a car pulled out of a side street, right through his stop sign and into my path. I had to come to a complete stop to avoid hitting him. He didn't even flinch. A little further down the same road, a bicyclist traveling on a street perpendicular to mine flinged at full speed into the crosswalk from a sidewalk behind a building where I couldn't see him, without stopping before entering the crosswalk, and without even glancing to see if a car was there. Third, a child (8-10 age) ran across the road without looking, not in a crosswalk.

May 2, 2011

School Portraits, Now in New Unnecessary Springtime-Fresh Version!

Our school system has started taking school pictures TWICE a year, once in fall ("The Classic") and now also once in spring ("The This Makes Us a LOT of Money, So How About We Do It Twice as Often").

I object. School pictures are ONCE A YEAR. Those cut-out frames, with a place for each grade's photo, have ONE PLACE PER GRADE. People who say "My fourth grade school photo" mean THE ONLY ONE TAKEN IN THAT GRADE.

I don't object TOO stridently, though, because all I have to do is "not buy any." At worst, it's a second day of the year I have to make sure the kids have haircuts and are wearing clean clothes, so that no one will think I am a parent who forgot Unnecessary Second School Picture Day.

Still, I am irked. Not STRIDENTLY irked, but irked, on principle. These photos are so much more expensive than a package deal at JCPenney's, for which I can print out a $7.99 coupon any time I want and get a 20-minute custom session where they try to get the facial expressions I'd like to have immortalized, rather than having my child stand in line and get a 6-second custom session where 3 seconds involve being told to stand stiffly and 2 seconds involve being asked to smile like they don't mean it. I do the school pictures each year rather than doing the $7.99 deal because (1) I HATE having to take kids to have their pictures taken, and (2) I HATE dealing with the sales pitch for additional shots afterward, and (3) school pictures are sooooooo tradiiiiiitional. But they are NOT sooooooo tradiiiiiiiitional TWICE a year.

I AM glad this year, though, because even though I didn't fill out the order form for photos, they sent home a proof sheet to try to tempt me to change my mind. And they did a little mock-up of what the child would look like against each of the eight background choices, which include, and I am not even kidding, "Floating Upright in Outer Space Posing for a Photo," "Standing Out in a Freezing Winter Field in Springtime Short Sleeves," "Standing in the Ocean, Apparently, With a Tropical Island Behind Me But I'm Wearing a Sweater Because Spring Was Late This Year," "In Some Sort of Mansion, I Guess, or Maybe a Museum," and "At a BASEBALL GAME, FTLOG." So I have free, tiny, stiffly-posed, insincere-expressioned photos of the twins in all these places now, and that was WELL WORTH the minor inconvenience of making sure they didn't have peanut butter on their shirts that day.



(I believe if you click the photos you can see them larger. But not MUCH larger, because they ARE tiny.)

May 1, 2011

Shopping Trip

The star of today's shopping trip: a new toaster. We've needed a new one for awhile: our old one is a 4-slot toaster we got from Freecycle that takes so long the bread has time to GO STALE. But I couldn't justify the cost of a toaster when we technically already had one. This toaster finally motivated me to make the purchase. For one thing, it's stainless steel, so now I can enjoy noticing every fingerprint like everyone else.


But wait, there's more! Gone are the days of spending tortuous long hours manually coiling the cord! This baby winds it up FOR you with the press of a button! Space-age!


Also, there is a COUNTDOWN TIMER, so you know when your toast is about to pop up! Now Mother won't totally screw up breakfast for her family by serving ill-timed toast!


But this is my favorite feature: a big dent, so it was $9.00 instead of $36. And it's not even as dramatic as it looks in the picture.

(Look! I already have fingerprints to wipe off!)


I also bought this handheld solitaire game. I wanted it at $14.99, but no. I saw it at 30% off and 50% off, but no. At 75% off ($3.74) it was MINE, BABY.



Nailpolish. Two-dollar nailpolish, so maybe it won't be any good, but I thought the color had potential.


The last time I bought the "beauty bar" bar soap I use on my face was when I found a bunch of 8- or 12-packs of it on 75% off, maybe...ten years ago. To my surprise, when I used up a bar and went to get a fresh bar, I was actually OUT OF SOAP. I thought I must be mistaken, but it appeared to be true: I would need to PURCHASE soap. I bought Ivory because I'd recently read in a celebrity magazine that some celebrity's mother told her to ONLY use Ivory soap on her face. When I was buying the soap I was remembering that it was Elizabeth Taylor, but when I was taking this picture I remembered that I think it was actually Jennifer Lopez. That is...not quite as pleasing, but she does have beautiful skin too.

(One bar already in the shower.)


Cute Easter eggs for next year's egg hunt, 90% off, so 50 cents. I also got some candy, but let's just gloss over that.

(Package-ripping courtesy of Henry, who was bored in the cart.)


New Target-brand bandaids. The hearts/flowers set is nice, but the other set is even better: one is cute giraffes/monkeys/elephants, and another is rows of purple penguins. (The third is teddies.)



These were YESTERDAY'S shopping trip, but whatevs. Elizabeth likes to wear dresses and skirts (with four boys, I say "OMG THANK GOODNESS"), and she's been wearing her velvet-top-and-huge-poofy-gold-skirt Christmas dress once a week to kindergarten, and it really was not made for that many launderings, so I was looking forward to post-Easter dress clearances. I got one really-almost-TOO-dressy pink dress that would work as a flower girl dress and has beading and many layers of fabric under the skirt; one yellow eyelet sundress; and one brightly flowered sundress. All 75% off.

(It really is difficult to take nice photos of clothes.
See also: eBay, where even awesome-condition cute brand-name clothes
look awful when photographed flat on someone's bed.)