June 29, 2011

Unfair

I just had a total FIT about feeling like I spend so much time cleaning up (1) messes I didn't make, which (2) I would get blamed for. That is, if someone came to my house and saw all the CRAP all over the floor, they'd be like "*raised eyebrows* Not much of a HOUSEKEEPER, is she?" And yet---did I make those messes? NO I DID NOT. So which makes more sense: blaming ME for not cleaning up the messes? or blaming THE PEOPLE WHO MADE THE MESSES? It is intolerably unfair.

June 28, 2011

Catchy! Happy! Music Video!

This song is DOMINATING MY MIND:



(Click it now so it plays while you're reading. That way if you're bored by it and/or don't like it, you haven't wasted any ((additional)) time waiting for it.)

And now it's okay for me to like it (despite several nauseating phrases in the lyrics), because now I know it's NOT Justin Bieber singing it. I don't know WHY I thought it was Justin Bieber, but I was SURE of it, so I must have heard a DJ saying it about the PREVIOUS song or something. Anyway, every time I heard it I found it so catchy and cheerful/sweet-sounding---and yet listening to a 16-year-old sing about "only having tonight" and "the way you make love" made me feel like barfing. Then I looked the song up and found it was not by Justin Bieber but by The Plain White T's. Now I still cringe at such phrases, but it makes such a big difference that everyone singing the song is LEGAL and doesn't look like one of my son's middle school classmates. (And as Annabelle pointed out when I complained about it on Twitter, such songs are WAY IMPROVED if you think of them as "long-distance relationship" songs rather than "one night stand" songs.)

Plus, watch the video a few times and see if you can figure out which band member is cutest. I change about every 10 seconds. Like, Tim Lopez (lead singer on this one) has a really excellent smile and is the obvious choice even though I am usually not drawn to blond guys and even though he TOTALLY looks like a guy who'd be successfully singing his one-night-stand love song at every stop on the tour. Mr. Eyes in the background there (Tom Higgenson) is another possibility with cute-Beatles-type charm (plus the aforementioned good eyes), and then Dave Tirio (blond back-up singer) looks like a sweetie but doesn't get enough screen time for a good analysis, and we barely see De'Mar Hamilton (drummer) or Mike Retondo (guitar, hat, beard) at all. Well, it's hard to choose. We'd need to join that fun-looking beach party (refreshingly low on beer-commercial-type people---it's not that there are NO long-haired girls in bikinis, but there are also a ton of cute vintage tops, cardigans, hats, flower pins, skirts, headbands, and hair that looks like it could go into the water) and give each one a chance.

June 27, 2011

The Problem of Re-Tweets; Mental Turmoil; Pineholery

Ug, I had a Mental Turmoil Morning, waking around 3:00 to pee and then lying in bed suffering from weary mental churning. The dumb thing was, a lot of it was OTHER PEOPLE'S mental churning, a rehashing of stories I inadvertently tap into via stressy Facebook statuses and stressy Twitter posts---or, and this drives me a little bonkers, stressy RE-posts and RE-tweets. I like to keep up on the stresses and frets of people I know, but not with the endless endless crank-it-to-11 RE-tweeted fights and indignations of strangers. One re-tweet to spread awareness of the issue for people who would want to know what's going on so they can get involved: SURE, of COURSE, I'm even GRATEFUL for that sometimes. But a constant re-tweet stream of EVERYTHING EVERYONE TWEETS ON THE TOPIC? No. NO.

I never know what to do in those situations when it's chronic, do you? I don't want to unfollow the re-tweeter, because I DO like THEM. But by following them, I'm also automatically following a bunch of other people I DON'T like and DON'T want to hear from, and/or hearing a ton about issues I don't want to be involved with and/or have a strongly opposite opinion on but don't want to argue/think about anymore. It's a problem.

So anyway, that was one of the mental churning categories. Another is one of those pointless, can't-do-anything-about-it ones, which is such a good use of sleep time. Our STUPID TOWN keeps voting for cuts in education expenses, and they toe the state line of Meeting Only the Absolute Minimum Requirements For Everything, which would already be annoying enough, except that this is the THIRD YEAR IN A ROW our school system has failed to pass state tests. But my GENIUS CO-RESIDENTS, most of whom are probably voting for education cuts on basis of "MY kids are already grown! Why should _I_ pay to educate other people's kids?" (that's right, I built that straw man right in front of you), keep voting every year for more cuts! because they don't see the connection! possibly because they were educated in this school system! And what I would like to know is, WHY IS THE CUTTING-EXPENSES OPTION ON THE BALLOT?? "Would you like to pay MORE in tax money, or LESS? Your choice! Check box."

*pant pant*

I also kept mentally working on a post I'm trying to do about how a nightmare about needing to run for our lives made me feel so so so lucky that we can just...live in our house and keep our things there, and go shopping for things we need without fighting off other looters, and not have to spend our entire day foraging for enough food to keep our kids alive, and not have to get in a knife fight to get an antibiotic. I don't think the post is writeable, though. You know how you can get comfort by telling YOURSELF to be grateful that your life is so much better than if you had problems A, B, and/or C, but if someone ELSE tells that to you it's just about the most pineholish move ever, assuming as it does that only the most miserable and worst-off person in the entire universe is allowed to complain (and even THEY should feel lucky they're NOT DEAD)? So. That's the trouble with the post: even though I've spent two days so far feeling wonderful feelings of relief that we have electricity and don't have to reduce our belongings to what we can carry, it's hard to tell YOU about it without sounding insufferably preachy and pineholey. PineHOLY, as it were.

June 25, 2011

License Plate, Catchy Song, Failed Slogan, Nevertheless I Appear in Photographs

GZUZFRK is a pretty clever license plate. (Jesus Freak. I spare you having to ask, if you needed to.)

********

I have "Our God is an Awesome God" going through my head. I'm imagining God clapping along lightly with his fingertips and a sarcastic expression on his face as I hum it. "ORLY?," he says. I reply by humming with increased cheerful vigor "He REIGNS from heaven aBOVE!" It's CATCHY.

********

"Recycle Your Memories" is not a good slogan for a consignment shop. I recoiled. RECYCLE my MEMORIES?? How about "Sell Your Sentimental Feelings For Cold Hard Cash"? Speaking of catchy!

********

Things have been a little adrenalizing on the baby name blog this week: the mother's mother doesn't like the name, and makes it repeatedly clear---what would YOU do, and I mean in REAL LIFE where you're talking to your ACTUAL ACTUAL REAL-LIFE EXISTING MOTHER, not in a fantasy life where you take your glasses off dramatically and then address the court with a dignity and intelligence that causes your opposition to fall back in awe?

********

I have noticed that pretty much only thin bloggers show photos of themselves---especially full-length photos where you can't just tuck knuckles under the chin and hope it helps. It's gotten to the point that, in general, I can figure out a blogger's size based on nothing else but the photos. Do they regularly show photos of themselves? Then they are thin. Is it never, or only with children blocking their bodies, and/or the knuckles under the chin? Then they are plump.

This is silly, and it gives us a severely skewed idea of what percentage of the people we know and like are thin. I would maybe like to meet some of you at a blogger conference some day without wearing a refrigerator box that hides my entire body. Here is a photo of me full-length, at an angle I feel is flattering (baby steps) to my Hip Width as well as to my Rear Awning:


My dad took this picture. In it, I'm taking a photo of Henry, and am not thinking about my picture being taken. As you can see, I am plump and I have cut my hair too short. Nevertheless, I appear in mirrors and in photographs.

June 24, 2011

Wind, Peppers, Regimen, Estate

Swistle: "I dreamed we were getting married."
Paul, without glancing up: "You can't trap the wind, baby."

********

Our yard is divided into little gardening plots. Without really thinking about it, earlier in the spring I flung the last of the winter supply of sunflower seeds for the birds out over an area that included part of Paul's garden. When a whole bunch of little two-rounded-leaves plants that looked just like sunflowers came up in that area, I tried to cover my mistake by transplanting them to my own garden plot. Yesterday Paul asked why I'd planted peppers in my garden plot---and wondered why his own peppers weren't coming up.

********

I'm trying to motivate myself to do some sort of plan with the kids this summer. My mom used to do a Summer Regimen with us: we had a list of things to do each morning, including a couple of worksheets, some sit-ups and push-ups, a journal entry, and a cleaning chore. On one hand I hated the regimen (including the word "regimen," which was pronounced with an exaggerated zh sound in the middle), but on the other hand it made the rest of the day feel so much more vacationy: it was like still having school, but only having it for an hour and a half a day with no homework.

********

Paul's mother's estate is still not settled (it's been one year and seven months, which I gather is not incredibly long in estate-settling terms). The last we heard, the lawyer said back in January that everything was just about all set, and that all that was left was for the estate to file the taxes so anything due/refunded could be handled by the estate. Silence since then is making me fret: WHO filed the taxes? It wasn't supposed to be US, was it? We don't have anything we'd need to file them; Paul's sister is the executor, unwise a choice as that seems. Was it supposed to be Paul's sister but she just finked out because she didn't feel like it? Were the taxes filed by Paul's sister or the lawyer, but the lawyer just knows that "several months" in estate time is like being on hold on the phone for a few seconds so there's no reason to update us? Will we get a packet in the mail any day now because everything is going just fine?

Oh, yes, obviously we could ask the lawyer. Except it's not "we," it's "Paul" who would have to ask the lawyer. And I suppose I could ask Paul to do that, but perhaps you can wincingly imagine how money-hungry and unfeeling it looks for a wife to casually inquire about her disliked mother-in-law's estate. And although I AM curious if there will be any money, my main concern is the disparity between "when I thought this would be wrapped up and we would in no way be attached to that situation" and "now." I KNOW estates can take a long time to settle, I KNOW they can---but the lawyer said all that was left was the taxes, and tax time is long over, so...PLEASE FREE US FROM THE HOUSE/SIL ALBATROSS KTHANX.

June 23, 2011

Mortified

Today I planned to take Rob to a library event for teens. I was out on errands and forgot all about it, arriving home to Rob saying, "Um, the library thing?"---20 minutes after it had started. I was mortified: this taps into several horrors at once, including Horror of Being Late and Horror of Not Following Through (we'd r.s.v.p.'d) and Horror of Forgetting Something Until After It Starts. It was hard to decide which was worse: showing up late, or not showing up. I took him there anyway, despite my instinct to hide and cower and pretend it hadn't happened. And it was great: the librarian said they were counting on late-shows anyway for some other reason, and Rob had a great time, and I felt so good about our decision.

********

Another parent in Edward's class called me to find out which teacher Edward had for 1st grade. But she didn't say her child was in Edward's class, because she didn't know Edward was a twin, so she just said that "our kids" were in kindergarten together. So at one point, when she asked who the first grade teacher was, I had to say, "Oh, um...was your son in Edward's class, or in Elizabeth's?" and she said, a little confused, "...Edward's." And later I realized she'd at one point said the name of Edward's and her son's kindergarten teacher, so I could have avoided the whole awkward thing by a method known as Figuring It Out From Other Clues, if I hadn't been so nervous about talking on the phone that all my brain function was concentrating on Not Dying. But she is probably not even thinking of that now, while I'm replaying it and cringing.

********

Another parent called shortly afterward to find out the same thing, and I didn't answer the phone because I was putting Henry to bed. I should have just called her back, especially after the relative success of the call I'd taken (it went really well except for that one awkward moment). But I couldn't do it, so I found her email address and emailed her back. "Crutch" has come to be a disdainful word, but that fails to take into account its usefulness in the case of a bum leg.

********

I took a writing job. Then, after I accepted it, a detail was added: it would involve talking on the phone. I spent two hours telling myself I am not totally unable to handle a phone call: look, I just talked to someone on the phone a few minutes ago, and I only made one blunder and it was of the sort probably she is not even thinking about now. A normal working person can occasionally handle working on the phone, even if it's a corded phone that won't reach to the computer. This is not impossible even if it feels impossible. Perhaps my mother could babysit all the children or something; I could email her and figure out a schedule, and then go buy a cordless phone.

Then I thought of the situation instead as one in which I wouldn't be involved at all if it had mentioned phone work to begin with. Only one child was home when I took that other phone call, and even so it was a struggle to talk while keeping him quiet. And...I don't WANT to take a job that involves the telephone, and that seems like an okay thing to choose, like choosing not to work in fast food. So I chose not to take the job, since it was a different job than the one I'd accepted. It's hard to tell when something is "backing away from a fear" and when it's "knowing one's limitations / not accepting a contract that changed after it was signed."

Dyeing a Child's Hair Pink

This started with Saly mentioning that she might color Lucy's hair pink for the summer---maybe just the ends, for easy trimming-off before school started. That's when I put the Manic Panic Cotton Candy Pink in my Amazon cart. When I'd had enough time to think/fret about it, I ordered it. It arrived in the mail yesterday, and Elizabeth and I started in on it as soon as she got home from school.

Ideally, hair should be bleached before Manic-Panic-ing. Not only does this let you start with a white canvas, it apparently makes the hair more porous and thus more willing to absorb and hold the color. But I didn't want to bleach Elizabeth's hair, at least not until we'd experimented with NOT bleaching.

First I washed her hair in the sink, using a clarifying shampoo and no conditioner.

Damp hair, checking out the jar of Manic Panic


I combed it and divided it first into two sections as if I were going to do ponytails, and then divided each of those two sections into two sections. Four sections total, if you follow me.

I took gloopy pinches of the color with my fingers and smooshed it into the hair. This is the step I would do better next time: I'd get a brush so I could paint it on, and I might put the hair into the baggies (or onto pieces of plastic wrap) FIRST, rather than trying to cram gloopy hair into the baggies post-glooping with my gloopy hands.

I used about a third of the jar, because I'd read online that people generally use one or two full jars on a whole head of hair, and I was doing just the bottom half of a child's hair. I was glad I'd read that, because it encouraged me to make sure there was a lot of color on the hair.

When the hair seemed gloopy enough, I put each section into a plastic baggie (non-zip type) and then used a hair elastic to make a ponytail that included the baggie.

It's hard to tell in the photo, but it was a surprisingly pretty effect---like a hair tutu


I'd read that heat helps to set the color, so I used a blow-dryer on the baggies until she complained about the heat---a minute or so on each baggie. We did this three or four times during the waiting process.

The jar says to leave the color on for 30 minutes, but apparently nobody does that: the people giving tips online leave it on overnight or even for a day or two. We left it on for about four hours, until bedtime. Then we took off the baggies and I rinsed her hair in the sink, and blow-dried it so we could see the color right away.









It's SUBTLE, which was a little disappointing and also a relief. If it had been clown-pink, I probably would have felt alarmed. As it is, it's definitely visible but I don't think it would immediately catch the eye of a passerby.

This was super fun and I want to try it again and maybe do a streak in my own hair. I'll be interested to see how long the color lasts, especially since she has swimming lessons most of the summer. I'd also like to try a Kool-Aid dye as recommended by Erica (here's the tutorial Erica linked to: How to Dye Hair With Kool-Aid). We would have started with that, in fact, but our grocery store doesn't carry the non-sugared-already Kool-Aid, and I haven't quested for it at other stores yet.

June 19, 2011

Overwhelmitude

Recently I've been trying to find ways to boost myself out of feeling overwhelmed. For example, I'll remind myself of the many times I've had to learn that it can be so much easier to remove the source of overwhelmitude than to continue to be overwhelmed by it. Like when a pile of Christmas card supplies (admittedly a daunting pile of things that needed to be put away in places all over the house) got knocked off the table onto the dining room floor by a child (admittedly an annoying and unfair situation), and I let it sit there for literally MONTHS before spending (again literally) less than five minutes to clean it up. And then I sat there thinking about how that messy heap had oppressed me almost every day. What a bargain that was: probably hours and hours of oppression to save myself five minutes! which eventually had to be spent anyway!

So. Today I felt all motivated, ready to start TACKLING things instead of letting them fester. And I thought, "I have some time! I'll clean the bathroom! It oppresses me many times a day!" So I started cleaning it, and I am continuing to be literal when I say that in the first five minutes of unpleasant cleaning (it was hot and stuffy in the bathroom, and of course I hate/resent cleaning it or else I wouldn't be putting it off), FOUR CHILDREN knocked on the door saying they needed to go to the bathroom.

I gave patient "I'm cleaning in here---use the downstairs bathroom" replies to the first two children, but then made the classic error of dealing with a SERIES of individuals as if they are all the SAME individual (an example of this is when a clerk treats a customer as if that single customer needs something explained to them for the thousandth time, rather than being the thousandth person to need it explained), and I snapped at the third child and yelled at the fourth.

Later, the fourth child asked me if I was still crabby, and I said yes, but added that at this point I was more crabby about having been crabby: I'd had time to come up with and feel bad about the clerk analogy. But I was ALSO still PLAIN crabby: my goal was so reasonable, and the interruptions were so reasonable (though FOUR children needing to go to the bathroom in the same five-minute interval is not QUITE in need of the word "so" before the word "reasonable"), and yet together those two reasonable things caused a situation that felt completely unreasonable and impossible to handle, which is another way to say OVERWHELMING.

Although I've learned again and again from examples like the one where it was so relatively easy to pick up and put away the Christmas card stuff, I've ALSO learned again and again from examples like today's attempt to clean the bathroom: it really WASN'T worth it.

June 18, 2011

Psychologically Encouraging Dream; Inadvertent Theme; Some Links

I dreamed awhile back that I went to the doctor because I was feeling so tired, and she discovered I was pregnant. She did an ultrasound since I had no idea when I could have conceived (and was, in the dream, counting backwards to Paul's snip) (fun fact: at the time of the dream, it had been fourteen weeks), and she said I was fourteen weeks along (which means conception would have been two weeks AFTER the snip, but my dream brain is apparently oblivious to such obstetrical details) and she also told me that the baby was a girl (she added "Every so often I can tell this early!"---my brain's solution to the problem of how she could possibly know). I wonder if you were able to follow that in spite of all the parenthetical remarks.

In the dream I first got a rush of happy excitement, then a rush of anxiety about telling Paul. Then I thought I'd like to get a paternity test done when the baby was born---not because Paul would kick up any fuss, but because if _I_ were Paul and _I'D_ had a snip and MY wife were pregnant, I would...well, I imagine I'd get a certain peace of mind from having the test done, but I sure as no longer shootin' wouldn't want to ask for it or imply there was any need for it.

And then in the dream I thought, "Oh. But I LIKED Henry being the baby of the family. And I LIKED Elizabeth being the only/special girl."

********

If you're trying to severely reduce sugar in your diet, and you do really well for awhile but then one day a doughnut and a candy bar go RIGHT DOWN, seemingly before you've even had a chance to evaluate the wisdom of such a move---are there any disaster-moderating things to do next? I'm thinking along the lines of "Quick, eat some protein to moderate the insulin impact!"---smart sciencey stuff like that.

********

Elizabeth wanted cupcakes as her birthday dessert. I'd seen other people bringing in cupcakes to school with the child's age piped onto the cupcakes, so I did that for Elizabeth's. It turns out that "six-year-old party" = "inadvertent Mark of the Beast theme".

*******

From Miz S, a post I think she should send to a teacher magazine for publication, it's so perfect. If there are teacher magazines. I'm kind of assuming there are teacher magazines. There SHOULD BE teacher magazines. Anyway, I read it twice through, riveted and emotional. It wasn't even the POINT of the post that got to me, it was more the way it gave me one of those neat brief glimpses into what it's like to be someone else.

From Jive Turkey, a post about whether we can avoid doing unto our children what our parents do unto us. She hits that perfect mark of thought-provoking and introspective, mixed with little shots of comic relief.

A longer essay from Shit My Dad Says---special for Father's Day. That guy makes me laugh until I cry.

Lakeline linked to a post from PajamasMedia, a kind and compassionate set of tips for how to avoid appearing crazy on the internet (when you really ARE crazy).

June 17, 2011

Cake Mix Divided By Three = A Pan of Mini Cupcakes (or 8 Regular Cupcakes)

Now that my brother and sister-in-law and niece and sister-in-law's sister live relatively near, I periodically drive down for an overnight. The three grown girls do a fun outing in the afternoon (last time we went to a tea shop for afternoon tea! with tiered platters and everything!) while my brother and niece drudge around and go to a playground or something (NO nice china at the playground, NOR wee crustless sandwiches). Then after niece's bedtime the four grown-ups stay up and eat pizza and cupcakes and drink wine and feel sorry for my sister-in-law who is pregnant and not drinking wine. Then in the morning we finish off the cupcakes with breakfast.

The first time I brought cupcakes, it was impulsive: I was making two one-layer cakes for a school bake sale, and I thought, "Hey, I could make two different flavors of cake AND make mini-cupcakes for the overnight with the extra." So I did.

But since then, a bake sale hasn't coincided with an overnight. And when I tried freezing some mini-cupcakes long-term, I found they didn't do so well. So this is my solution: I divide each cake mix into three. Then I make 1/3rd mix each of two different kinds.

(This picture shows a pile of four cake mix baggies
plus one bag of thawing leftover frosting,
so it is not an ideal illustration.)



I divide the mix into thirds for two reasons: (1) the cake mixes I use call for 3 eggs, and it is tricky to divide into a number of parts different than the number of eggs; (2) one-third cake mix makes almost exactly one pan of 24 mini-cupcakes.

One-third cake mix would also make about 8 regular cupcakes. So if you sometimes want to make cupcakes at your house, but you don't want a whole cake mix of them, this would be perfect.

Now, I realize this SEEMS like a hassle, and it IS a little teeny BIT of a hassle---but it only has to be done every THREE overnights and, once done, it results in much LESS hassle. And, I divided two cake mixes AND baked a tray of mini-cupcakes from each one in only part of one evening (I don't think I even started until 8:30 or so), with long breaks while the batches were baking.

Speaking of hassle, don't miss this step: write the ingredients/instructions on the baggies BEFORE BEFORE BEFORE putting cake mix into them. Before! It is so much easier to write on baggies when they're flat than when they're plump with mix. I didn't remember that this time with the first mix, so my handwriting is a little woopy.

When figuring out 1/3rd of a mix, the most important measurement to know is that a cup is 16 tablespoons. And--stay with me, now--this means a quarter-cup is 4 tablespoons, and a third of a cup is 5 and 1/3 tablespoons. Do not get overwhelmed; do not worry that you don't have a 2/3 tablespoon measurement. Everything will be fine.

A little bit one way or another isn't likely to make a huge difference. If I come out with something like 1 and 2/3rds tablespoons, I do a tablespoon and then almost a second tablespoon---I don't try to get it exact (though I do write it as exact as possible on the baggie, so I know what I'm aiming for with the estimate). And you COULD do it exact: a tablespoon is three teaspoons, so you could do one tablespoon plus two teaspoons. And here's an easy way to do 7 tablespoons: measure half a cup, and then scoop out one tablespoon.

I did the math on two mixes last night, so I will put those measurements here---and if I think of it, I'll do different mixes each time and add THOSE measurements here later.

Pillsbury Moist Supreme Classic Yellow (for 1/3rd box of mix)
1/3 cup water
1 egg
approx. 1 and 2/3 tablespoons vegetable oil (or 1 T. plus 2 t.)
350 degrees F for 11-12 minutes minis, 19-23 min reg cupcakes

Betty Crocker Super Moist Chocolate Fudge (for 1/3rd box of mix)
approx. 7 tablespoons water (1/2 c. minus 1 T.)
1 egg
approx. 2 and 2/3 tablespoons vegetable oil (or 2 T. plus 2 t.)
350 degrees F for 11-13 minutes minis, 20-25 min reg cupcakes


So, I write all that on the baggies. Then I get out my little up-to-two-pounds scale, and I divide the cake mix evenly into two baggies, using the original bag the cake mix comes in as the third baggie. It ends up being about 6 or 7 or 8 ounces of cake mix per baggie, but I just kept shaking out little bits of mix until the two baggies each weighed the same as the bag I still had in my hand. This SOUNDS like a huge headache, but it takes about one minute. (If you don't have a small-weights scale, you could measure a quarter-cup or half-cup or tablespoon at a time evenly into three bowls until you run out of mix.)

Then I make the first batch of cupcakes from the original bag, and I put the two written-on baggies in the pantry for next time. Next time I plan to buy a different mix (maybe an orange? a spice? a lemon?) and divide THAT, and then use the new mix plus one of the previously-sampled ones.

If you make two different kinds of frosting, and frost half of each cupcake flavor in each, you have FOUR different kinds of cupcakes: for example, 1/4th of the cupcakes are yellow cake with vanilla frosting, 1/4th are yellow cake with chocolate frosting, 1/4th are chocolate cake with vanilla frosting, and 1/4th are chocolate cake with chocolate frosting.

June 14, 2011

Agitated Fretting, Followed by a Good Link

I hope you won't mind if I agitate fretfully to you for a couple a few seven paragraphs about a stressful morning, none of which is a Big Deal but all of which is otherwise going to have to be vented to Paul the minute he walks in the door and I try not to do that. And if you DO mind (and I don't blame you one bit: YOU just walked in the door TOO), you can skip down to the bottom where there's a link that made me cry in a more positive sort of way.

This morning the twins had their 6-year-old check-up. Edward has lost several pounds in the last year, and he was none too plump to begin with. Elizabeth has gained only half a pound in the last year. Both of them seem healthy, but these new measurements mean their height and weight percentiles have drifted apart to a point that caused the doctor to hem and haw throughout the appointment, wondering if/what he should do. Because on one hand: both children look/seem fine. But on the other hand: unexplained weight loss is one of red-light-alert markers of Issues. But back to the first hand: it can also be a normal part of growth. But back to the other hand: Edward is a little pale and has under-eye circles, and it's hard to know if that's He Gets It From His Mother, or if it's More Markers. And both of them are a little PICKY with the eating, so perhaps a nutritional thing? Hem, hem, haw, haw.

The pediatrician finally came down on the side of "I'm sure they're both fine, but..." and he sent Edward for blood work. (Elizabeth did gain SOME weight, and her percentiles didn't gap as much further as Edward's did, and she doesn't have under-eye circles, so for now he's not sending her.)

Have you...accompanied a child for a blood-draw? Oh dear mercy. I should have known from the expression on the technician's face, which was the look of someone hoping the kidney stone at least passes quickly if it can't pass painlessly. I'd mistaken it for "not having a good day," but no, it was the face of experience.

In case you have a similar event in your future, Edward would like you to know that it hurts more than a mosquito bite and it was very scary and it went on much longer than he expected. I too was surprised how long it went on, and how many adults (three) it took to keep still even a child who is TRYING to hold still. I think if I had to do it again, I'd prepare the child by saying things like "It will seem like it's going to go on FOREVER, but it will not, and the more you can hold still, the faster it will go and the less it will hurt; it may seem very scary and weird, and it IS scary and weird, but it's also fine and it's what's supposed to happen, and I will be right there with you, and I have had this done too and it was weird but fine." (I would also put in more solid information about what exactly would happen, but I'm sparing those of you who would rather not think about it.)

Afterward, I made it worse by being too shaken to remember I'd said BEFORE the appointment that on our way out AFTER the appointment we could get a package of Doritos from the vending machine to eat with lunch. We were all the way home, and Edward almost halfway back to normal, when he realized. So instead we had lunch at Wendy's, and something is going wrong with the Wendy's near us so the order was screwed up in three different ways, one of which was the "Assembling everything else right away even though there's a 5-minute wait on one item, which means everything else gets cold/melted" error, and that added to my frazzled/unsettled feeling.

ALSO, Elizabeth got to skip the blood draw but she got referred to an ENT for her enlarged tonsils, which do look alarming. I'd never noticed them until the dentist mentioned them, and even I could tell something wasn't right: they take up nearly her whole throat. So I had to call the specialist and make an appointment, and that meant having to work through a suspicious receptionist who seemed to think I might be trying to SNEAK IN a visit to an ENT. And she kept asking me questions like "Do you have our business card?" which, why/how would I have their business card? And then she said I needed to call my insurance company to get a referral, and I said I had a referral, and she said no the other kind of referral, and also I would need to call my insurance company, and I said okay and thank you very much and wished an oxygen mask would drop out of my phone at times like this.

I called the insurance company and had to dial THREE TIMES before I got into the system, because I kept messing up (OMG SO MANY "For ___, press 8" menus, with the options spoken SO SLOWLY and none of them what I needed), and then I finally got through to someone, and she was nice as toast, I don't think I've ever spoken to a nicer insurance person. But still. I didn't have the address of the ENT doctor I'd made the appointment with, and after she very nicely went to see if she could look it up, I realized I DID have at least a PARTIAL address (street and city) that would have been helpful. And then I didn't have the ENT doctor's first name, and didn't know how to spell his last name, and ack. And then she confirmed that it was fine to see him, and she was wrapping up the call when I said, "Wait, and do I need some sort of...other referral?," and OH YES INDEED I DO. And to get this referral, I had to CALL BACK the pediatrician and ask for it. Meanwhile, of course I was thinking I DID have "a referral from my pediatrician," since I had a piece of paper that said across the top "Thistletown Pediatrics Referral". Could this perhaps be made a little less confusing SOMEHOW?

********

Perhaps because of being rather TENDER from this morning's events, I started crying IMMEDIATELY after clicking through a link Paul sent me to Dear Photograph. People line up a photo against the real life background. I don't know why that's so very, very touching, but it just IS. I suppose it's in the category of "Time: Oh How It Flees." I don't think the "Dear Photograph" format for the captions works (wait, WHO is writing WHAT to WHOM?), but the photos themselves are great.

June 11, 2011

Doughnut Cake (or Donut Cake, If You Must)

Sometimes, as when the previous day has included Doughnut Debauchery, I will make a drink composed of a cup of V-8 juice and two rounded tablespoons of flax seed meal. (You can add an ounce or two of vodka, if this is instead an advance measure taken in anticipation of a different sort of debauchery.) I will stir it up and drink it down quick like medicine: it's thick to begin with, and it's not exactly what I'd call tasty, and the flax seed meal will start soaking up the liquid if you let it sit around, so it's not a SIPPING drink.

Paul, this morning, watching me make and drink it: "I'm sorry, that is too nutritious. I can't eat my leftover doughnut after watching that."

The doughnut situation happened because we celebrated the twins' birthdays, and Edward chose a Doughnut Cake as his cake. Doughnut Cake (or Donut Cake, if you must) is an accidental invention. We think it started back during one of my pregnancies when I was craving doughnuts, but we're not sure. All we remember is that the first time we had one was on one of my birthdays, when as my birthday dessert I said I didn't really want a cake, I wanted DOUGHNUTS. So then Paul went out and got doughnuts, and he arranged them on a plate in a roughly cake-shaped stack. The idea caught on; I'd say we've had Doughnut Cake at someone's birthday at least once a year since then.

For the top layer, I use three iced doughnuts, either with or without sprinkles, ideally matching. It gives it a "frosted" look. (Iced doughnuts should not be put into the underlayers: the frosting gets friendly with the doughnuts above. Additional iced doughnuts must wait in the box, or on a separate plate/platter.)

The other important element of Doughnut Cake is that, when the candles are blown out and it is time to eat it, the doughnuts should be cut into quarters---or halves at most. One does not "eat a doughnut" from a doughnut cake; one cuts off a quarter doughnut here and a quarter doughnut there until one's tum cries out for mercy. The sampling of many flavors is crucial to the Doughnut Cake experience. (People who only like one flavor of doughnut are ALLOWED to just "eat a doughnut." But the rest of us avert our eyes.) The doughnuts need not all be cut up at once; it is better to cut into each doughnut as needed.

This year I made a slight change to the construction of the cake, based on what happened last year: last year, the top layer of doughnuts kept slipping or threatening to slip---and when the top layer has LIT CANDLES in it, that is a bad idea. So. Shorter doughnut cake. The rest of the doughnuts stay in their box, to be brought from the kitchen after the candles are blown out.



...Oh, hey, I checked, and it turns out I have PHOTO DOCUMENTATION of last year:

Teetery-looking layers with lit candles in them


Hey, what happened to one of the flaming doughnuts?
And look, another is sliding down in the opposite direction.
Why is Mother continuing to take photos
instead of saving this party from a fiery end?

June 9, 2011

New Mixer

Today I needed to make Elizabeth's birthday dessert (she chose yellow cupcakes with strawberry frosting) (I love that "yellow" is an actual flavor of cake), so it seemed like the perfect moment to stop being shy with the new mixer.

I wouldn't say I was sorry to see the old mixer go...but I've had it a lonnnnng time, so it's a little poignant. My first husband and I bought it with money we got for our wedding, so that makes it about 17 years old. Please don't say, "Oh, I was in third grade when you bought your mixer!" No, it's not any better if it's fourth grade. Really, that sort of remark never works out well.

After that marriage ended and I graduated from college, I got a job in a bakery, working with the big mixers the countertop ones are smaller versions of. Part of the reason I got that job is that I knew how to use a Kitchenaid mixer: the big ones are the same, you just have to put your arms all the way around the bowl to get it off the stand, and then lift with your legs. I've never quite understood how to make "lift with your legs" work, so I always had an ouchie back with that job. Also, I picked up some habits that work well in a bakery but not so well at home, such as just FLINGING flour across a counter to evenly flour it before working with dough. (Bakery: There's flour all over the place anyway, and someone else comes in after to clean the floors. Home: Tag, you're it.)

When Edward was about three years old, he was climbing on the counter (NOT ALLOWED) and started to fall. He grabbed the mixer to steady himself, and he and the mixer both went down. We were very lucky they fell in different directions. The noise the mixer made when it hit the floor, combined with Edward's shrieks (which turned out to be panic rather than pain) had me re-evaluating what a "good outcome" was.

Edward was just shaken and scared, but the mixer hasn't been right since then. The back of it has to be held on with duct tape, and it's still very loud and vibratey unless you put pressure on the wound. The beater doesn't quite line up with the bowl anymore, so there are missed spots and scraped spots. And the knob that lets you change speeds got bent straight down; in order to change speeds, you have to sort of TWIST it as you move it---and it can slip suddenly. Going from speed 1 to speed 8 all at once is...not good for most things you might have in a mixer.

Paul and I agreed it needed to be replaced, but it still worked okay so there was no rush. I couldn't decide on a color. Pink was my long-standing favorite.

(photo from Amazon.com)

But over the years the attitudes of some other women toward the color pink had made me feel self-conscious about liking it. It's rare to hear someone express dislike of, say, green, in the spit-on-the-floor way they might express dislike of pink. And that made me second-guess my like of it, which then made me mad because the whole "girls have to like a certain color because other people say so" is exactly the kind of principle the hate-pinkers are generally AGAINST. And also, mad because spitting on what other people like is mean, and pointless, and poor for the development of one's character. And also because, what about Ice?

(photo from Amazon.com)


And what about Green Apple? I LOVE green. I SAY pink is my favorite color, but when I'm choosing stuff I more often choose green.

(photo from Amazon.com)


And what about Buttercup? I love that shade of yellow.

(photo from Amazon.com)


But then pink went on one of those one-hour deals, for the best price I've ever seen it (and I've been watching it for YEARS). That made the decision for me, and I bought it. (I'm glad I didn't realize that Ice was going on the same deal an hour later.)

So here is my old mixer, with its subtle and barely-visible duct tape repair:



And here is my new:


I'm second-guessing it, of course (maybe I should have gotten the green! no, the yellow! no, the green! no, the blue! no, the green!), but it's good to have the decision made (and the cupcakes too).

June 3, 2011

Fights That Would Seem Silly to Someone Outside the Relationship

As you have already seen if you follow me on Twitter, Paul and I had a huge fight about whether .333... = 1/3. (Why WOULDN'T you follow me on Twitter, when it can keep you UP TO THE MINUTE on such things?) This was a fight in which my concluding argument was to break a laundry basket.

I just...you know? You live for 16 years with another person and there are certain arguments that turn it up to eleven just like THAT. For some couples it's money, or unwise extramarital flirting, or what kind of Christmas tree is "right." Until now, I thought the only such fight topic Paul and I had was the Monty Hall problem. We CANNOT DISCUSS IT.

But what I hadn't realized is that the Monty Hall problem was only an EXAMPLE of the real, ROOT issue in our marriage, which is "Theoretical Math" vs. "Actual Reality." And when he tried to apply Theoretical Math to Actual Reality in the .333... vs. 1/3 thing, and then stood there asking calmly if I wanted him to show me the references that backed him up...well, that's when it was clear to me that the only form of self-expression that would accurately represent my reply to that question was to smash something UP.

We can talk ALL DAY LONG about how IN A MATH PROBLEM you sometimes have to use .333... to represent 1/3rd, and that it's the closest decimal equivalent of 1/3rd, and I will AGREE with that all throughout that same long day---just as I will agree that, with rounding, .345 is 35%. But if you say it IS THE SAME---well, we are going to lose a laundry basket in this argument.

May I demonstrate briefly? First, remember that putting "..." after a number means "into infinity"---and so, ".333..." is a short and convenient way to express a decimal point followed by a line of 3s that goes on FOREVER. And now, my point: .333... plus .333... plus .333... is .999... . Whereas 1/3 plus 1/3 plus 1/3 is 1. DIFFERENT. As Shriekhouse said, ".333... is infinite. 1/3 is finite. That's about as big a difference as you can get!" Exactly. For the problem in question, we were finding out information about a group of 12 having lunch, and 4 had tuna sandwiches. Is 1/3 (4 people) the SAME as .333... (3.999... people)? No. Close? Yes. Close enough for many math problems? Yes. SAME? NOT UNLESS WE CARVE A LITTLE SLICE OFF THAT FOURTH PERSON.

For another demonstration, imagine this problem on a math test, and two students answering the question in these two ways:


Which student is THEORETICALLY right (and about to get a note from the teacher to stop smartypantsing around and just give the right answer), and which student is ACTUALLY right?

Not following this? NO MATTER. The takeaway here is that SWISTLE IS RIGHT AND PAUL IS WRONG. And that if Math agrees with Paul, then MATH IS ALSO WRONG, and you may think I am kidding but I AM NOT. Giving "being backed into a theoretical corner" precedence over "reality" is "ridiculous," and I don't really care if a whole bunch of Smarty McSmartypants say it isn't. EINSTEIN HIMSELF could arrive at my house bearing "references," and I would break a laundry basket for HIM, too. I will DIE ON THIS HILL, even if ALL OF MATH wants to fight on the other side of the battle.

Antiangie wondered "Do you ever wonder if people who aren't married to scientist/engineer/computer types have this type of 'discussion'?" Which brings up an interesting conversation topic.

My last boyfriend (aka my first husband) and I had our two hugest recurring fights over (1) applied pacifism and (2) thank-you notes. As in, those were the fights horrible and passionate enough that they could have ended our relationship. And my high school boyfriend and I had near-relationship-ending fights over (1) how he spoke to his co-workers at the fast-food restaurant where he was a shift manager and (2) the logical likelihood of get-rich-quick schemes working.

I do hope you will tell me the seemingly-silly-to-an-outsider NUCLEAR HOT BUTTON issues in your current/past relationships (it doesn't have to be a romantic relationship, because family relationships can be JUST AS KRAZY), while I find all the shards of that laundry basket (those suckers SCATTER, man).

June 2, 2011

Fish, Memo, Coping Thoughts

Our last female adult platy fish died last night, and now the male platy that always swam around with her is hiding almost motionless in the low plants. He always seemed a little dim even for a fish; I think maybe he doesn't know how to swim around unless he's following someone else.

Also, I am trying not to anthropomorphize this situation and make him a grieving widower, but it's a little trickier than it would usually be because he ONLY followed her: that is, the other male would follow ANY female platy and didn't seem to know the difference, but this one ONLY followed this particular female platy. Normally I would be thinking "Do I get a new female platy, or do I just continue the slow natural discontinuation of the fish project?"---but I'm not sure getting a new female platy would even help. Isn't that...sadder than you'd expect?

********

On a school memo to parents: "Volunteers: Please leave younger siblings at home. THANKS!!" Oh, okay, I will just leave a younger-than-a-kindergartner sibling at home, alone or with the other stay-at-home parent because it makes sense there would be two of us home during the day!

I think it's reasonable to ask volunteers not to bring children. But that should have been made clear BEFORE signing up the volunteers: I saw the memo asking for volunteers and it didn't mention siblings. Also, that is an obnoxious/unrealistic way to phrase the post-sign-up request. "Leave them at home"?

********

A dog pooped on our lawn, and notice how carefully I have edited that from its original version, which was "Someone let their dog poop on our lawn." Not only is the original version dissatisfying for its singular subject with plural pronoun, but it's also aggressively accusatory and could be completely unfair. I was so upset about the nearly-unfaceable task of having to clean up that poop (despite being fine with diapers, cat box, other people's kids' diapers), I had to use my Coping Thoughts to come up with situations in which it was not as big of an outrage as I was imagining (I use the same technique in mannnnnny situations). I came up with several:

1. This was a dog that got out of its yard unexpectedly. The owners had no idea it pooped on our lawn, and would be mortified if they knew.

2. The owner was walking the dog and stood talking to another walker while standing in front of our house. So intense was the conversation, neither of them noticed the dog. Later, the owner wondered why the dog hadn't Succeeded on this walk, and spent part of the evening fretting about it and hoping there wouldn't be an Accident later on.

3. The person walking the dog was doing it as a favor for the owner, who was suddenly hospitalized with a very bad illness. The dog-walker doesn't own a dog and was also completely distracted by worry about the dog's owner, and so didn't think to bring any clean-up equipment. When the dog went on our lawn, the dog-walker was mortified but had no way of dealing with it.

4. This dog is extremely reliable: for a decade, he has pooped one time per day, never more, never less. The owner therefore brings only one clean-up bag. This time the dog pooped twice. The owner was shocked, amazed, and mortified, and intends to bring an extra bag on the very next walk to clean up our yard---but I cleaned it up first, which will make the owner even more mortified.

June 1, 2011

Frog Frustration

The levels of frustration I've experienced trying to install LeapFrog applications on my computer have been UNRIVALED. ...Well, perhaps the levels of frustration I felt when a baby cried jusssst as I was dropping off to sleep after the third feeding of the night, MAYBE that rivaled it.

I am not kidding when I say I have spent TWO SOLID HOURS trying to set up the Leapster 2 we got Henry for his birthday. I installed Connect, and it informed me that I need to install Adobe Flash Player, and then when I said "okay" it got those two installations tangled so that they were rapidly flickering between two error messages and I had to force the computer to shut down.

Then, when I tried installing the flash player FIRST and THEN doing the Leapfrog thing, it has told me that another user is running Connect, and I need to have that user log in and close the application. THERE ARE NO OTHER USERS ON MY COMPUTER. Okay, actually there are two other users, so that my dad and Paul can get into the computer if they need to---but neither of them DO get into my computer, and certainly neither of them has tried to install Connect, and I couldn't have accidentally installed Connect as them because I don't know their passwords.

I searched the error message and found instructions for fixing it---but the things I am supposed to remove from a folder are NOT THERE. Neither is the folder. I did a system-wide search for the folder and the items; not there.

I tried deleting ALL Leapfrog stuff from my computer and starting over. TO NO AVAIL.

The Leapster 2 told me I needed to click Eject to disconnect it, but there is no Eject until Connect is installed, which it will not do because another user is supposedly using it. AIIEEEEEEEEEEE.

It lost my tabs and re-sized my browser window. Meanwhile, Henry is crying because I told him he could play his new birthday Leapster, and he is now 4 years old so he is a very big boy and very patient, but even a very big and patient 4-year-old can only wait SO MANY HOURS.

I've done ZERO work this morning: no baby name post, and it's lucky I already wrote my Milk and Cookies post but I do still need to proof it and post it [edit: okay, posted it, so now you can tell me what face moisturizer to try]. The children are not dressed. The dishes are on the table. Because I have spent ALL MORNING on this, and it is still not even CLOSE to being done. I am about ready to kill someone with my bare hands. Perhaps the Application Installing Please Wait lady:

(photo from Leapfrog.com)

Her hands are in NO WAY at the correct angle to be typing on that keyboard, and she would NOT be smiling if she was installing that Leapster 2.


Edited to add: FOLLOW-UP. Holy dice on a cracker. Okay, the key turned out to be this help page, which contained this information in case you can't see it or the link no longer works or whatever:



I'd been searching for these documents and couldn't find them. Then I noticed my search settings were on "this Mac" instead of "[name of my Mac]," or possibly the other way around, but anyway it was like I had two entire computer systems, and one of them had this set of documents and the other didn't, and so I deleted them and everything worked fine---if by "fine" you mean "it still took another hour of sweating, swearing, and entering wayyyyyy too much personal information."

I'd decided to just have him play with it WITHOUT doing the initial connecting to the computer (it's not that it needs to be connected every time---just the first time to set it up), but then it nagged him every time he turned it on, and two of the four functions couldn't be used. So I guess I'm glad I persevered but JEREMY PIVEN that was an ordeal.