September 29, 2011

Skinny Pants; The Girl My Boyfriend Cheated on Me With, Revisited; Gift Card Plan

I accidentally bought Rob a pair of skinny pants. Ha ha ha, he looked so funny! And he's mostly clueless about what he wears, he just takes the top pair of pants and the top t-shirt from his drawer, so he didn't even notice that he was wearing nearly-skin-tight stretch corduroys all day. With loafers and athletic socks and a polo shirt, I am not even kidding you. Paul and I were exchanging snort-suppressed glances all day. I put the pants in the donation bag as soon as I saw them come through the laundry. Luckily they were on clearance---and besides, the day of snorting was totally worth the price.


Do you remember me telling you about the girl my boyfriend cheated on me with in high school? She's the one I felt some pity for because when we ran into each other last summer she was wearing a Winnie-the-Pooh t-shirt, and I've seen her a number of times since then and she is NEVER wearing such things, she is ALWAYS wearing cute clothes (not ANNOYINGLY cute, just basic cute---like, cute capris and a pretty cami with an unbuttoned casual-but-fitted shirt over it), so I felt sorry for her because it was probably Desperation Laundry Status at her house and she borrowed a shirt from her oldest child or from her High School Memories box or something, and then THAT'S the day she runs into the girl whose boyfriend she messed around with. Embarrassing.

ANYWAY, her daughter is in William's class this year. As I discovered when I went to Parent Night last night. Oh, HI.


I was thinking about how many gift cards I was going to want to buy at Christmastime this year, with all five kids in school. Well, really FOUR kids, because Rob is in middle school, and once a child has half a dozen teachers I don't do holiday teacher gifts anymore. So it's six teachers total: one for William, one each for Elizabeth and Edward plus a teaching assistant shared between their two classrooms, and two for Henry. Plus two bus drivers. Plus we have an excellent mail carrier and I like to give her a gift card too.

That's nine gift cards. Which made me feel like ditching the whole thing, until I realized it's about twelve weeks until Christmas and I usually go to Target once a week. If I add a gift card to my cart each time I go, the cost will be more evenly spread out, and I'll be less likely to get overwhelmed by it. Plus, I won't hold up the line by getting my giant heap of small-amount gift cards charged up. I'm glad to have thought of a solution, because it IS something I WANT to do.

One problem I noticed today: they don't have the holiday-themed gift cards out yet. But they did have a pretty butterfly one, which sounds like it would look spring-like but I don't think it does, and so I chose that.

See? It's not holiday, but I don't think it looks ANTI-holiday. If I squint, it looks like two Christmas ornaments! Or a bikini top. Festive!

September 27, 2011

Can't Get a Date

Have I ever steered you wrong with book/movie recommendations? If so, never mind. But if NOT, then may I suggest Can't Get a Date? (Is this ONLY available on Netflix? Surely not! And yet. And that's the disc I watched, with six episodes. So if you don't have Netflix, NEVER MIND AGAIN.)

Here is what it is: it's a show about people who are totally and perfectly charming people, and yet can't get a date because they are accidentally representing their awesome selves as non-awesome. There are six of them, and I would date ANY ONE OF THEM except that they are all gay and so none of them would have a flip's interest in me. Okay, and also Mandy is too crazy for me and Robert is too uptight but WHATEVER, what I mean is that every single one of them made me feel like why CAN'T they get a date when they are SO AWESOME?? Including Mandy and Robert, because MY taste in laid-back guys has NOTHING to do with other people's intrinsic dateability.

And the real star of the show is the voice-over narrator guy, who asks the hard/funny questions and gets the hard/funny answers and also can I date HIM? because he would probably be my first choice, despite being (1) faceless and (2) kind of unflinching, hard-truth-wise and (3) maybe also gay? it's hard to tell.

Anyway. I laughed. I cried. I had another drink and stayed up way past bedtime for pretty much the first intentional time since having children (i.e., staying up because someone is barfing doesn't count). So you might like it too.

Everyone Can Go Back to School Tomorrow

We have a virus going through our house. Henry got it first: he was kind of tired and dazed and quiet, which should have tipped me off but I was just grateful, and then he got a fever of 103, and he said his throat hurt so I thought "Oh please not strep, please not strep"---and then the next day he was fine. No fever. No sore throat. No quietness.

I wondered at first if maybe the fever killed it off before it took root? or something? We go by what our pediatrician says, which is basically "Fever is good! Make friends with it! Invite it to come over and play! Unless it gets Unspecified Too High, at which point you should panic and freak out and we'll reproach you for not panicking earlier!" (Note: they do not reproach us, except in my head when I am fretting.) The pediatrician's nurse said she draws the line at 102: before 102, let the fever do its work; at 102 and above, medicate if the child is uncomfortable, or let it go if not. My own line is "Try to medicate before they start fever-barfing." (This is a difficult line to find.)

Anyway, I would have been patting fever on the back in a congratulatory manner, except then Rob and Elizabeth got 103 degree fevers and sore throats, and Rob's was 1/10th of a degree from being 104, and they were red-faced and miserable and didn't want to watch television, and both of them fell asleep on chairs in the living room. And they both felt better the next day---and that's when William and Edward got 103-degree fevers and sore throats. And Paul came home from work early with a 103-degree fever and a sore throat, and THAT'S when I got a little alarmed, because kids get fevers all the time but adults often don't. So I googled it, and all I could find were reassurances that adult fevers under 101 were nothing to be concerned about, except of course if it's the first sign of cancer, so don't be ridiculous! Okay, thanks! I'll come back when I'm wondering about an adult fever under 101!

Today EVERYONE IS HOME. Paul is home from work. None of the kids are going to school: two of them are probably well enough, but I didn't want to be like "Oh, hi, I'm calling in THREE of my children with high fevers and sore throats, but here are the other two for you okay bye see you after school!" The good news is that everyone's pretty much fine today: even the sicker kids' fevers are down to "just a little warm," throats are no longer sore, or else sore but not getting worse. Requests for juice, water, applesauce, toast---those continue. It's the kind of sick where everyone is kind of enjoying being sick. Except me, the only one not sick and so HANDMAIDEN TO ALL.

This morning I escaped to the grocery store. We were running low on toast and apple juice and MIND-ALTERING SUBSTANCES. I took my sweet time. I walked down every single aisle. I also got a cup of coffee, which I've never done before because I don't get how it's supposed to work: it's a non-lidded styrofoam cup, and I don't know how to walk around with that while pushing a cart. Today I was willing to sacrifice the time it would take to play out that experiment. And it turns out I'm right: you kind of just have to stand there drinking it. I did manage to walk around, but I was pushing the cart with one hand and my waist, and there were a couple of times that clarified why I so often see coffee spilled all over the plastic seat and handle.

I came home reluctantly, with milk and eggs and juice and applesauce and bread and apple cider doughnuts and Kit-Kats and wine.

September 25, 2011

Some Mild Whining, Accompanied by Insignificant Fears and Disappointments

I am a little disappointed, because as soon as Miss Grace wrote this:

I realized what I had on my hands here was a perfect excuse for a giveaway. So this morning I went rushing back to Target---and there were no more owl quilts. Nor were there any of the turtle quilts I'd dithered over and decided not to get and then changed my mind about when Stimey mentioned them.

So then on the way home (it was not really on the way) I went to a SECOND Target, and that Target had a few owl quilts and one turtle quilt, but still at full price. I even carried them all over to the price checker just to be sure.

So. Perfect chance for a giveway, thwarted. Plus, there was no other good clearance. I came home with a box of laundry detergent.

I also bought Elizabeth a pair of leggings because she has to wear pants twice a week for gym class and she haaaaaaaaaaates pants and her jeans don't fit her comfortably, so we'll try these. They're the kind that are kind of like sweatpants except a banded waist and bootcut ankles instead of elastic-cinched. But I'm pre-agitated because according to the school dress code, which I had to sign a paper saying I'd read and agreed to follow, "lounge pants and pajamas" are against school policy. And I ASSUME this policy is in place to prevent 8th grade girls from wearing low-slung pajama pants to school and NOT to prevent 1st grade girls from wearing non-jeans pants to gym class, and I further assume that NO ONE is going to (1) care or (2) call me out on this---but I don't really KNOW these things, do I, not ANY of them, so I'm mildly fretterpated and imagining conversations with the principal.

Also, Henry was sick over the weekend: his fever got up to 103.1, which is where even I start raising my eyebrows a little and wondering what the heck. And then...nothing really happened. His fever went down, and he didn't develop any other symptoms. But then today Rob has a fever, and just now William said he was so sleepy and did I think he should have a nap before dinner. So. Sick house time. I shouldn't be surprised: we have children in FOUR different school buildings now. We are going to get EVERYTHING.

And I chaperoned a field trip last week, and now I want to send a bunch of photos to the preschool because someone did that one year when I DIDN'T chaperon [this spelling bugs me too, I assure you, but spell-check and the dictionary both tell me it's the primary spelling even though "chaperone" looks better AND makes more sense] and I LOVED getting a couple of pictures of my kid on a field trip. But Snapfish is having an upload problem, and I emailed them about it and they say it's a known problem and they're working on it---but it's been several weeks and I am getting impatient and fretful.

And also I recently watched a movie and read a book, and both were sub-par. So as you can see, I have a hard life.

September 24, 2011

Owl Quilt; Practical Bath Mat; Your Duet With Jerry Seinfeld

I've had my eye on a quilt at Target for ages.

This quilt.
(photo from

Today I saw clearance stickers dotted all over that department, but I didn't get all excited because I hadn't seen clearance stickers there before. (That is, it was likely to be a 15% or 30% clearance, and Elizabeth already HAS a quilt so I wouldn't be able to justify it until 75% off and might as well not even get excited by the first sighting of clearance stickers.)

But then I saw some guy with four quilts in his cart, and that's an unusual thing to see, so I did a really fast sidle into the aisle: zoooooooop! And the owl quilt WAS 75% off. So I yoinked one into the cart (I resisted the urge to get caught up in the moment and take two or three) and it came home with me. It is adorable. I love it. There are hedgehogs and squirrels and owls and mushrooms and rainbow-striped trees, and the whole thing reminds me of something I might have had on my 1970s childhood bed. (What I actually had on my 1970s childhood bed was a white bedspread covered with little tiny white balls forming boring white patterns. I didn't like it. Which means in another 25 years I'll be scouring antique stores for one.)


We needed a bath mat for the downstairs bathroom, a bathroom that is mostly used by the boys. The bath mat goes in the small space between the shower and the toilet. I went with a color that could have been named Pee Yellow. It seemed practical.


I dreamed the other night that ONE OF YOU was singing a duet with Jerry Seinfeld. Jerry was sitting fully-dressed in a bathtub for his part, and YOU were singing your part in an adjacent room, also fully-dressed and looking very pretty standing in a sunbeam. I woke up thinking you would LOVE this story, but then I forgot about it until hours later when I was driving along and suddenly remembered it. But I couldn't remember any more WHICH OF YOU it was singing with Seinfeld, and that seems like a CRUCIAL ELEMENT of delighting you with this story.

September 21, 2011

Getting Smoke Smell Out of a Stuffed Animal; Timing Charity for Better Incentives; Sweets Placement Error

Let's say that I ordered a replacement lovey for Elizabeth on eBay, and that now I vividly understand why sellers are so quick to say so when they are a smoke-free household. Let's further say that this is a LARGE stuffed animal (so that I'm not sure Febreze would get down deep enough) and not machine washable. What would we say I should do in this situation? Right now I have it sitting outside in the sun.


We give the same annual donation to St. Jude's no matter what, but I always time it so I send a check right after they send us a notepad and a sheet of address labels, because I use those things and want to encourage them to continue that method of trying to get money out of me. I never send them a check right after they send me a sad photo with a sad story, because that makes me go "ACK ACK ACK" and try to put those things in the recycling immediately so I don't accidentally see/read anything, and I DON'T want to encourage them to continue THAT method of trying to get money from me.


Upon further testing and reflection, the coffee-mug cupboard is not the right place for the stash of sweets. First thing in the morning, I open the cupboard to get a mug and it's "HI, REMEMBER US?? THINK OF US ALL DAY LONG, HOW 'BOUT!"

September 19, 2011

How Did You Meet?

After reading this post ("I think we, as a society, have taken the ideas of 'fate' and 'taking the time to find that special someone' too far. And by 'too far' I mean 'nearly to the end of my childbearing years'"), I thought again about something I've thought of before, which is HOW DO PEOPLE MEET PEOPLE AFTER THEY'RE NO LONGER IN SCHOOL?

I didn't realize it at the time, especially with all the adults telling me to LIVE MY LIFE and ENJOY MY YOUTH and NOT SETTLE DOWN TOO SOON and NOT TRY TO GROW UP TOO FAST---but school is pretty much the only time of life when a person is surrounded by a pool of many single people of one's own approximate age. THE ONLY TIME. After that, it's workplaces, where people of varying degrees of age, intelligence, ability, and marriedness gather in varying degrees of randomness (i.e., if you work at Twooters, your coworkers will be of a more homogeneous type than if you work in a large office building).

I hedged my bets by finding TWO husbands in school. But what if instead of making a study of getting married, you used school as a time to distinguish yourself academically? What then? WHAT OH WHAT THEN?

Here is the information I am trying to elicit from you: where/how did you meet your significant other, especially if it was not in school? (But also if it WAS in school, because I don't know about you but I hate to be left out of answering such questions. And besides, the number who met someone outside of school means nothing if we don't have the number who met in school.)

It doesn't even have to be Your One & Only: if you met someone and had what you'd consider a solid relationship with that person, anything where the two of you felt like you were making a go of it (even if that relationship eventually wrecked), where/how did you meet that person? You can list several/many people, if applicable. _I_ would, if YOU were writing this post: I'd say I met three different Serious Relationships, and all three were in school. Then I would probably add that, since then, I'd met mayyyyyybe one eligible guy in one of my many jobs but he was married, plus one available guy I would have been interested in dating because he was super cute/nice, but he had a child and a volatile relationship with his ex-wife and was 10 years older than me and wouldn't have been a good match anyway.

As a side note, were you trying/hoping to meet someone at the time, or no? I know it's classic to say things like "As soon as I decided I would be happy being single, THAT'S WHEN IT HAPPENED"---but for an outsider it's a little hard to tell if that decision was genuine or if it was a FAKE-OUT, a RUSE to trick the fates after hearing many other people claim to have met significant others that way. And/or if it's a retroactive delusion, like when Rob says "Oh, great: on the ONE DAY I can sleep in, I wake up early," when actually he is just really bad at scientific observation and statistical record-keeping.

September 18, 2011


Paul went to the library and the thrift shop yesterday, and came back with proof of his love:

Interesting/pretty china, and a book about sociopaths.
Yeah baby.

September 16, 2011

Good Life; Snail Cat; How to Use Powdered Creamer in Iced Coffee

I am really living the good life right now. The older four kids got on the bus and then I took Henry to preschool, where I got into the teachers' good graces by signing up to drive for a field trip BECAUSE I HAVE ENOUGH TIME NOW THAT I DON'T MIND DOING IT. Then I went to the library, BY MYSELF, but it wasn't open yet, so I drove to McDonald's and got a LARGE coffee and a sausage McMuffin, which I ate (without sharing) in the library parking lot listening to the radio and not having to entertain anyone. By the time I was done, the library was open, and I browsed in a leisurely, meandering way, not feeling like I needed to grab WHATEVER and get out of there before children started running/yelling. On the way home I stopped at Subway and got a foot-long turkey sub to share with Henry when he's out of preschool, because of the five children he's the only one who'll eat pretty much anything I eat. Then I came inside and a nice cat jumped on my lap, and I'm sitting here listening to her purring and the clock ticking, thinking, "OMG DOES THIS MEAN I'M GOING TO HAVE TO GET A JOB NOW??"


Speaking of the cat, look at this silly girl:

I've never had a cat do that before. She curled her tail around her body, then leaned down until her forehead was resting on the puff of her tail, and then went to sleep.


Every morning I make a full pot of coffee in my 4-cup coffee pot. I drink one mug in the morning, and in the afternoon I pour the rest over ice and have iced coffee. For MONTHS now I've been struggling with the problem of how to get flavored creamer into the iced coffee, because powdered creamer only dissolves in hot liquid.

The simplest and best solution is to use liquid creamer, but I don't use it fast enough so I always waste most of the bottle---and also, I like to have several choices of flavors. So I've been microwaving a small (1/4th cup?) amount of the coffee in that morning's old mug, and then adding powdered creamer to THAT, and then pouring that over the ice with the rest of it. That works really well, but it's a bit of a fuss.

Hershey's syrup and Nestle Quik both stir in nicely to cold liquids, but that's only chocolate flavor, no creaminess. This was okay when I could add a slosh of whole milk, but nobody at our house drinks whole milk anymore. (It does still work well if, for example, I get a coffee at a drive-through and don't finish it and put it in the fridge for later, because that already has some creamer in it and then I just add the chocolate.)

It was only today that I realized I could stir powdered creamer into the entire pot of hot coffee.

September 15, 2011

Frustrating Emails; A Depressing Look at the Capacity for Evil in Any of Us

I am in such an agitated mood this morning. First, I got yet another solicitation from Google Ads. But Google Ads BANNED ME FOR LIFE a few years ago. I spent a long time composing a reply to the most recent one. I explained the situation, and then asked that if they weren't going to tell me why I'd been banned, and their form letter was correct that there was no appeal for this lifetime ban, that they at LEAST take me off the mailing list imploring me to join the club I'm not allowed to join.

I worked pretty hard on it to get the right tone and to use the right words and to not make it anything I'd be embarrassed later to have written. Then I noticed it was a no-reply email address.

Then I got an email from Amazon about their latest deal from a business that is not Amazon. I was pretty sure I'd already "managed my subscriptions" to remove messages about deals from their partners, but I thought maybe I hadn't done it right so I clicked that link again. No: I'd done it right, but this one was categorized as an ELECTRONICS offer, not a PARTNERS offer. Because it was an electronic item offered by a partner, I guess. It's not like this is RUINING MY LIFE, all I had to do was delete the email, but it's just kind of IRRITATING on top of an ALREADY-BAD mood.

Then, I've been continuing to mull over an article excerpt I read somewhere that said The Help was a bad book because it made it seem as if only bad people owned slaves. I thought that was an extremely good point, and not something I would have noticed, and I was glad to have had it pointed out.

But this morning I started working out why I didn't think it was right in an all-the-WAY-right way. And why, if it WAS right, I came away from the book feeling horrible and embarrassed and stricken---as opposed to thinking "Whew! At least _I_ wouldn't have been like THAT," as you'd expect me to think if the mis-portrayal had been effective.

I find that kind of thinking very agitating and frustrating. I'm a slowwwww thinker, so there's all this time of me "feeling like something is wrong but not being able to figure out WHAT IT IS, or HOW TO SAY IT," and that kind of thing leaves me snappish and irritable because I'm working so hard at it but I'm not finding an answer, or I FEEL an answer but can't ARTICULATE it, or things keep legitimately interrupting my focus to ask for breakfast or to be brought to the bus stop. It riles me up unpleasantly as I sort it out---and especially as I imagine the whole new task of trying to communicate the thoughts to anyone else, and then imagine having to listen to them knock those thoughts down Facebook-fight-style.

But here's a piece of what I came up with through much wrinkle-browed effort, and will now wrinkle-browedly try to communicate without screwing it up:

I was remembering the book Switch (I reviewed it here, after the part about Rob Lowe), which is a book basically about getting people (including yourself) to do what you want them to do. One sample challenge was a situation in another country, where they wanted old men to stop paying young women for sex: it was spreading disease like crazy. They didn't think a moral campaign would work, nor a health campaign.

Instead they made a series of ads featuring a sleazy old guy who preyed on young women, and they gave him a name I've forgotten but it started with F. So in these ads, F____ would be pursuing a young woman and looking pretty foolish and unattractive doing it, and then someone in the young woman's life (a friend, a relative, the waitress at the restaurant) would say to the young woman, "Oh, gross, you wouldn't hang around with an icky old F____, would you?" And this name-starting-with-F became a cultural term, so that old men who pursued younger women were associated with this sleazy character, and younger women felt like it would be gross to go along with that, and their behavior actually changed as a result.

Were these ads fair? Did they accurately represent the older men as ridiculous icky sleaze-bags, and the younger women as creatures to be pitied and rescued from their own dimness? Of course not! The real-life old men and the real-life younger women had multi-layered personalities like everyone else---and they were an assortment of good/bad just like everyone else. Some of them were sleazy, but many (maybe most) of them were perfectly nice people, and probably attractive too.

The idea behind the ads was this: if people think to themselves, "Hey, perfectly nice and attractive people do this," they feel comfortable doing it themselves. But if it is widely agreed that only a weak person drinks too much, only a heartless jerk has affairs, only a poorly-brought-up person thinks it's okay to shoplift, and only a bad parent slaps a child, only an ignorant unlikable person would be racist---then it becomes harder to participate in that behavior without compromising my sense of self, and my sense of self MUST include the information that I am a basically good person, and so my inclination is to avoid those behaviors or to feel very uncomfortable if I participate in them.

This is, I think, something that is done in many areas where we as a culture have agreed that something is wrong, but haven't figured out how to get everyone on board behavior-wise. In television and movies and books, then, we see these behaviors deliberately associated with icky people to make it unappealing---just like in an obvious children's television show. Wife-abusers are shown as mouth-breathing cavemen in sleeveless t-shirts (despite how many of them are bright and wear nice suits and go to church), in order to try to make people think "Ick. Is THAT how that comes across? I don't want to be like THAT. I would rather be associated with that pretty girl." Not this always WORKS, or never BACKFIRES, but that's the idea.

I'm talking here about the messages we receive from ENTERTAINMENT---the ones where we're not supposed to NOTICE that our behavior and attitudes are being influenced and that our characters are being worked on. Associating bad behaviors with bad people is a way to get the behavior we want out of people. But certainly in non-entertainment arenas the information that good people owned slaves, and that smart well-dressed men beat women, and that some cultures have made a project out of obliterating other cultures, should be explicitly stated and fully accepted, and everyone who studies the subjects should understand it, and it should be emphasized carefully in schools and discussions.

In fact, I think we should take it further: not only do we need to realize that any of us, if we'd lived in that time, could have been perfectly comfortable owning slaves, we need to realize that any of us, ANY of us, could have been comfortable with it, if we had lived in that particular set of circumstances. ANY of us, no matter what our skin color or nationality, could have gone along with it: not just "us, if we'd been our ancestors, but also "us, if we'd been our ancestors' persecutors." That ANY group of us could enslave or kill or discriminate against any other group of people, and that this is why it's so important that we all learn on many levels and by many methods how terrible such behaviors are.

So, basically, two thoughts:

1. If what we want is to influence behavior, it can help to use fiction to connect a bad guy with a bad behavior.

2. It's important for us to understand that, born into the right circumstances, most of us have a capacity for the kind of wrongdoing we considering astonishing in historical people. And it isn't only the descendants of the wrong-doers who need to consider their potential for evil, itt's every single one of us. History has shown that wrongdoing isn't based on skin-color or nationality, but on humanness.

September 14, 2011

Third Cat

Periodically we stop at the animal shelter to browse the cats. This time we came home with one.


She's about four years old, and she has a good Shelter Story: she was found with a wee little sign around her neck that said her name was Madeline/Madeleine/Maddie (all three names were on the sign in various places) and please take good care of her. We're going to change her name, but we don't know what it will be yet. I'm campaigning for Sally. (Or Lydia or Silvie or Phoebe or Hillary or Ginny or Linny or Bonnie or Heather or Angela or Ivy. You'd never guess it, but I find names interesting and important.)

She is the sweetheartiest cat I have ever met. The shelter has "interview rooms" where you can spend time with any cat you might be interested in adopting, and most cats (even the really sweet snuggly ones) spend most of their time exploring the room and sniffing all the corners, because that is the cat thing to do. But not this cat. She stayed right on my lap, snuggling in and wanting skritches. She was a cat that WANTED TO GO HOME RIGHT NOW PLEASE.

You don't understand: I'm not MEANT for shelter life.
I don't BELONG here.

She doesn't mind being picked up, even by children. This next picture was taken about 5 minutes after she came to our house, when by all rights she should have been skittish and freaked-out:

Doot-da-dooooo, just dangling my paws

I like to bring kids with me to the shelter, not only because it's a fun thing to do with kids but also because if I find a cat possibility, the children's presence is essential. A cat that doesn't flinch when Henry makes a sudden loud sound, that doesn't object to being scooped up inexpertly and unexpectedly, is a cat that will likely do well in our household.

She is not, perhaps, the sharpest kibble in the bag. She leapt up onto the windowsill of a closed window, an action that made a sound like this: "Scrabble scrabble scrabble!!! ...THUNK."

That was ONE HUNDRED PERCENT intentional.
(And thank you for opening the window.)

September 12, 2011

The Local News

I just finished The Local News, and if I had to give a quick review I'd call it "compelling and squirmy." It's about a high school girl whose high school brother vanishes. At first it hits a really good introspective note, with the girl talking interestingly about the weird feelings involved in sustaining that level of anxiety over time, and the different ways the different family members handle it---and about what it's like when the missing person is kind of a cruel dumb jerk.

The Local News, by Miriam Gershow
(image from

But then a certain distance in (1/4th of they way? 1/3rd?), I started saying aloud, "Okay, if something doesn't HAPPEN or CHANGE in the next ten pages, I'm giving up and skipping to the end." I think a pretty big chunk could have been snipped out of the middle---but on the other hand, I DIDN'T give up and skip to the end, so maybe not. If I were trying to spin it positively, I'd say it gave a good idea of what it would be like to be IN that situation where you had to sustain that kind of anxiety even though nothing was happening.

It's a book for adults, I think, but it has a young-adult theme. I found I identified way more with the parents, but then I was cringey because I was having to look at what _I_ considered "them doing pretty well, considering," but from the point of view of someone doing a good job of pointing out how kids don't really see it that way---or how it doesn't really matter if the parental behavior is totally justified, it's still harming the kids.

It also spends plenty of time visiting the stupidness and carelessness and meanness and bumbling mistakes of high school kids.

Another big cringe for me was the way I saw how "supporting a family in crisis" can look from the point of view of someone in that family. Fundraisers, candlelight vigils, kind words, cards from strangers: I saw them all from a point of view I wasn't comfortable seeing them from. I already second- and third- and fourth-guess so much, adding this kind of material sends me for a bit of a spin. But on the other hand, I felt like it was done in a way that let me appreciate the added perspective without feeling attacked and accused for good intentions.

And this is a huge thing for me: the story line resolved.

So! In short! I don't know if I recommend it or not. It wasn't the cheery/entertaining kind of book, it was the thought-provoking kind---but so many of the thoughts it was provoking were kind of downers. But I was glad I read them. So.

September 9, 2011

The Pledge of Allegiance

There is a Facebook thing (and also an email-forward thing) going around the bugs the crap out of me, and I know I need to be MUCH more specific than that. It's the one that talks in all-caps about how schools no longer have children say the pledge of allegiance. This is reportedly because schools are SCARED of OFFENDING someone. And you're supposed to REPOST IF YOU DON'T CARE ABOUT OFFENDING SOMEONE.

LEAVING ASIDE the issue of whether this would be SUCH AN OUTRAGE, or whether the cause could be correctly diagnosed as "fear," or whether it's good or bad to care about offending people, there is a problem: at my kids' schools, they DO still say the pledge of allegiance. They say it every single morning. And on Parents' Night, they had the parents say it, too---complete with the non-original "under God" part, for those of us worried that the rule about separation of church and state is being enforced.

So I think of this silly repost/forward as being nothing but fear-mongering: let's drum up an INDIGNANT MOB over something that HASN'T EVEN HAPPENED. So many Facebook things and email forwards ARE like this: they state something HORRIBLE, and no one re-posting/forwarding it checks first to see if it's, you know, TRUE.

But I DO check. And just because MY kids' school still says the pledge of allegiance each morning doesn't mean EVERYONE'S does, or even that MOST schools do. Ours could be a fluke. And so I would like to take a little poll if you wouldn't mind. Over to the right, if your kids go to public school in the U.S., please tell me if your school system DOES or DOES NOT still say the pledge of allegiance. (It doesn't have to be daily.) And if your child's school DOESN'T say it, could you leave a comment about what the deal is (like, is it CARING ABOUT OFFENDING SOMEONE, or is it some other explanation), so that we can figure out the source of this rumor? (And so we make sure they aren't false-no votes, like when the school is not in the U.S., or when it's a private anarchist academy.) [Poll closed; see results below.]

September 7, 2011

There is Money in This Recurring Letdown; It Was NOT in Fact Mine

It has happened to me twice in the last year that I've felt like I finally figured out how to eat less, finally got it straightened out so that NOW I know how to do it---and then found out that I had a hidden infection raging in my head somewhere. Five or six days on antibiotics and I have lost my new-found knowledge. Oh come back to me, brief sweet window of simple easy eating!

I think we could market this. Let's think how.

(Also, if you know someone who's like, "You just have to DO IT. You just have to CHOOSE to eat right," she should probably have a doctor check her ears/throat/sinuses. Ten days of Augmentin should clear that annoying little problem right up.)


SarahLena linked earlier today to this Steve Burns video you should probably watch when you have a spare 17 minutes. (That's a daunting length, isn't it? What I do is I think, "I will watch 30 seconds of it, that's all." By then I'm either hooked and it no longer seems daunting, or else I close it feeling like I got a sample of what someone was referring to.)

He mentions that he got a lot of fan mail, like FROM LADIES, and that Nickelodeon filtered most of it for him, but that they let one get through. It became evident that his funny story was going to involve this letter, at which point I started thinking "Please not mine, please not mine, please not mine."

It's 17 minutes of my favorite kind of talking: something that wasn't funny at the time but is funny now, some self-deprecating humor, some stuff he thinks about, some little hints about why he left the show (a twinges-when-it-rains injury for so many of us), some interesting discussion about parts of his job I hadn't thought about, etc. *Happy sigh.* My favorite line, if you watch it, was "And I thought: 'Believe it or not, this is the only game you have, man'."

September 6, 2011

State of Wonder

I have just finished a book I think you should try, and there are problems with the recommendation. I will list them.

1. The title and the design of the book are uninspiring beyond what I can emphasize. The expression "You can't tell a book by its cover" may or may not be true (I'd say it's one of those expressions that sounds so true, people generally believe it without evaluating it for trueness), but this book's cover misleads: the title is dull and unmemorable and non-evocative of the contents (even after reading the book, I can't call the title to mind without peeking); the cover is pretty but dull and unmemorable; BUT THE BOOK IS NEITHER DULL NOR UNMEMORABLE.

State of Wonder, by Ann Patchett (photo from

2. There are some distressing scenes of the sort I would feel betrayed by if the book had been unqualifiededly recommended to me. Have you read The Poisonwood Bible? Remember the various jungle horrors? Snakes, vines, endless insects, malaria, hallucinations, contaminated water, determined zealots, dying children? It is not as bad as that. But there is some similar material. Here is the REAL major problem: if I had read it unwarned, I would have felt betrayed when I read it---but if I HAD been warned, I would NOT have read the book. AND I WANT TO HAVE READ THE BOOK.

3. There is a very tense labor/c-section scene. And another. There is a scene where things look dramatically grim for a child. There is an injury to an infant. I want to give you spoilers, because I would myself have wanted spoilers. But I don't know if YOU would want spoilers. I've heard that for some people, spoilers spoil a book, rather than allowing them to read it without dying.

4. If I'd read the inside of the book jacket, I would have had NO INTEREST in the book. NO INTEREST. The second sentence would have made me all but certain I wasn't interested; the third sentence would have sealed it. I HATE this kind of book. Or so I'd thought. If I tell you what the book is about, you might think, "Bleah, I hate that kind of book." You might not read it. You might read it but indeed not like the book. WHAT IF YOU DON'T LIKE THE BOOK?? What if you WOULD have liked it, but because of something I say you don't read it??

This book was a problem for me, because it had already been my turn on the hold list but I'd run out of time to read it and had had to return it unread. I put myself reluctantly back on the hold list, my number came up again, but I couldn't get to it until only a week of the check-out period remained. I thought, "I will just START it. It looks so dull, I probably won't like it. Then I'll be able to return it and let the next person read it." I got three pages into it and said to Paul, "I have bad news. I think it's a great book. I will have to finish it."

Luckily I was able to finish it in three days. When I finished reading it, I burst into tears and I cried for a couple of minutes. I will try to define the type of crying, because this sort of thing seems important: it was crying for a wonderful book, for a wonderful story, for a complete package that worked from beginning to end, and for an author who PULLED IT OFF. It was also crying for what a STUPID title and STUPID cover, which MIGHT HAVE MADE ME MISS IT ENTIRELY. It was great crying, and I wanted to do more of it but Paul finished the dishes and took off his headphones and I didn't want to be crying in front of him.

Er, not to oversell it. Which brings me to the last problem:

5. One crucial element to my enjoyment of the book was that I went into it not even remembering why I put it on my hold list, not knowing what it was about, and not expecting to enjoy it. I looked at the cover, I looked at the title, I didn't bother to read the inside of the jacket, and I thought, "Let's get this over with." You can't recreate that experience after I've told you about it like this. I have ruined it by recommending it.

The Unbearable Irritatingness of Hardboiled Eggs

This morning I have been brought nearly to tears by the difficulty of peeling hardboiled eggs, and I both DO and DON'T want to ask for ideas. Because you know how it is: the ideas tend to be 70% Things Everyone Already Knows To Try ("Put them in cold water right after they're done boiling!"), 20% Things That Have Already Been Tried After Googling But Didn't Work ("Add vinegar / salt / dragon's tears to the boiling water!" "Crack the shell slightly right after boiling!" "Peel them under running water!"), 9% Things I'm Not Going To Do Even If They DO Work ("Don't store them in their shells!," incantations/chanting, that thing where you BLOW the egg out of the shell and I am not kidding), and 1% Ideas Not Yet Known To The Asker But That STILL Don't Work When Tried.

It seems to me that the way a hardboiled egg peels or doesn't peel must rely almost exclusively on Element X, because I get the same eggs at the same store every week, and I cook them the same way each time, and some of the boiled eggs peel like dreams, like DREAMS, with the children gathering around to oooh and ahhh as the shell comes off in two large neat pieces, and some of the boiled eggs peel like NIGHTMAAAAAAAAAAAAARES, with little picky bits flaking off and taking chunks of white with them until the egg is a nasty pitted mess and no one wants to eat it. If there was one good solution that worked every time for everyone, that would be the only solution going around.

It reminds me of ice cubes, and the way some of them pop out of their plastic trays beautifully and cleanly and with only a slight twist of the tray, while others require a strong twist and then break into shards. (My brother did a whole study on this phenomenon once. I should see if he's willing to tackle eggs.)

September 5, 2011

Mug; Enthusiastic Sharing of an Enjoyed Video in the Hope That Others Will Feel the Same

I have a new mug that I love enough to feel a little surprised by it, because why feel so strongly about a cup? But there it is.

I first saw it at Marshalls, AND it was on clearance, AND the last one left---and then I noticed it had a huge crack down the side. Dang it.

Then my mom and I went to another Marshalls another time, and there it was. On clearance ($3), last one left, but no crack!

I love the appearance of it, of course, and that's a lot of the explanation for my passion (that shade of green! the pairing of that shade of green with the black-and-white! the shape of the handle! the slight flare-out at top and bottom of the mug!). But I also love the hand-feel (comfy handle with little thumb-rest on top; nice balance) and lip-feel (rim the right thinness and right angle), and those are crucial for long-term mug enjoyment.


Maybe you saw Title of the Song (here's the lyrics version) when it was going around before, but when Paul played it this morning I found I had forgotten it and was ready to hear it again:

"Regret over the lateness of my epiphany." "Naïve expression of love." "Repetition of the title of the song (can you hear the title?)." "Drop to my knees to elicit crowd response." I love all of it.

One of the best parts is the comments section. "Pointless comment about how I came here via Metafilter." "Continued glorification of the video. Realization that in all likelihood someone else has probably made a similar comment. Declaration of how little I care if it is the case! Repetition of my glorification."

September 2, 2011

So Much Going On!

I feel like there is SO MUCH GOING ON, even though a lot of it is over:

1. Elizabeth's tonsillectomy (over) and the resulting difficulty she's having with articulation (not over)

2. Paul's trip to DC, and the change in plans that had to be made because of Hurricane Irene (over)

3. Buying school supplies, and school starting (about three-quarters over)

4. Nephew being born (over as of this past Tuesday, yet ongoing because of wanting to visit and bake stuff and find a good present)

My sister-in-law's sister took this great picture

5. A visit from my aunt, and my uncle's death after a very long and painful illness

6. Edward's anemia, which I assume is mild or else they would have made a bigger deal of it, but I think of it at every meal

7. Our life insurance premium due the day after I write my annual check in memory of the boy who took me on my first date, who died when we were 30

8. My high school boyfriend has left his wife and two children and "wants to talk" (fat.chance.)


10. I have a massive, advanced ear infection that I didn't even know I had. I saw the doctor this morning because my teeth were hurting and my ears were itching, and she says there is to be no Messing Around: if after 24 hours on the antibiotic I feel any worse, I have to go to Urgent Care and not wait for Tuesday to make an appointment

11. My youngest baby starting preschool next week

12. A friend's marriage is teetery

I've kind of jumbled those all up, the serious and the less-serious. They're all jumbled up in my mind, too: I feel like I have so much to do and think about and remember! I don't feel STRESSED, really---but I do feel WIRED. I've had to cut wayyyyy down on coffee, because I feel like my baseline is at the 2-cup point right now, before I've had a single sip.