December 31, 2011

2010 Resolution Evaluation; New 2011 Resolutions

New Year's Eve parties came about, I'm pretty sure, because if you eat an entire box of boneless chicken wings on your own, you won't have room for Doritos and powdered doughnuts. With friends over, you can have some of everything! Without feeling silly about how many boxes/bags you opened! And without, just for example, drinking the entire bottle of champagne yourself!

Remember these resolutions?


Ha ha, me neither! I had them hanging up by my computer so I'd remember to look at them and do them, but then when we changed the house all around they got lost I think, because I don't know AT ALL where they are. ...Oh. Here they are. They were in one of the deeper piles on my desk.

1. I will be less of a self-conscious sissy about hair dye. FAIL. I bought burgundy hair color, but I didn't use it; I researched REALLY bold colors (pink, blue) but didn't buy any. Instead I continued to fuss about roots and timing, and about the hassle of getting dye on towels and pillowcases, and about what strangers at the grocery store would think about it. I did use a boxed blond color for summer, and I liked it okay, but another reason I didn't use the burgundy was that I really liked the boxed blond when it grew out beyond looking just rooty: I liked the mix of my own hair color and the lighter blond, and I didn't want to lose that phase by using a new color.

2. I will try to keep up with my digital photos. FAIL. I kept up for a few months, but then the Snapfish uploading tool broke and I got discouraged. I looked into switching to another service, but didn't. I did finally catch up by doing about four months of photos all at once, but then I've let it slip again.

3. I will persist long enough with the fish tank to know if it's something I want to pursue. SUCCESS. Knowing I was going to persist experimentally took off some of the pressure to LOVE IT OR GET RID OF IT AND MAKE THE DECISION RIGHT THIS SECOND, and I do find I like the tank and want to keep it. I don't have an urge to get a larger tank, though.

4. I'm going to act with less inhibition on generous impulses. SUCCESS, but with a note. I did quite a few things this year where previously I would have gotten into a knot about it, and it was fun. BUT, the note is that I thought more about it, and I think it's NOT such a good idea to keep acting on such impulses: it seems to set up situations where the recipient feels uncomfortable and/or burdened, and wonders if they should reciprocate, and feels awkward if they don't want to. It can actually make people feel BAD, and that's not what I'm going for, obviously.

So while I'm still going to act on such impulses when it's fun and also seems like it can't set up bad feelings (one-time things, or buying a cute shirt for my niece, or buying something for Paul, or sending in something for the assistant teacher instead of just for the teacher), I'm trying to channel some of the generous impulses towards good-works-type impulse-buying. For example, I saw a great deal on Lands' End backpacks and lunchboxes ($10 down from $40 and $4 down from $12, respectively, plus 40% off so it was $8.40 per backpack/lunchbox set), and I bought several sets to donate to a local food/clothing pantry that tries to provide backpacks and school supplies in the fall to kids who need them.

I also found out that our lower elementary school has trouble keeping a supply of clothing on hand for accident-clothing-change replacements, so now I have my eye out for some 75%-off clothes to donate, and I've already sent in two packages of 75%-off underpants and three pairs of pants and three shirts---all of which were low-priced but CUTE, unlike the enormous "Dopey" shirt (INAPPROPRIATE IMPLIED-MESSAGE ALERT) and rolled-up sweatpants they sent Elizabeth home in when she needed a change of clothes NOT THAT I'M STILL STEWING ABOUT IT.

This has been FUN for me. And this type of buying takes away my worry that I'm overdoing it and maybe making someone else feel uncomfortable and obligated, while still using a character trait I enjoy and think is worth cultivating.

5. Buy or make Bath & Body Works lavender-vanilla conditioner. SUCCESS. I bought a bunch of bottles on eBay and now I have enough to feel like I can use it any morning I want to.


This year's resolutions:

1. I'm putting "Don't be such a sissy about hair dye" back on the list.

2. The thing I said above, about channeling the generosity impulse into good-works-type generosity. I'm thinking it could be really fun to use my clearance-hunting impulses for this: if I find a winter coat or backpack for one of the kids on 75% off, couldn't I buy two and donate one? If I find a bunch of great basic long-sleeved cotton-knit shirts at the irresistible price of $1.74, but my kids already have too many shirts, couldn't I have the fun of buying a rainbow of them anyway, but then donate them? YES! Yes, I COULD!

3. Send at least one Any Soldier package. I even bought a bunch of stuff that would be good for packages, I just haven't done anything about it because of "Who to CHOOSE" decision-paralysis.

4. Buy food for the food pantry bit by bit, when I'm grocery shopping anyway. Our grocery store has huge bins right at the front of the store for donations, so all I have to do is (1) remember to buy extras of a couple of the non-perishables I'm buying anyway each week (extra box of pasta and extra jar of sauce, or extra jar of peanut butter and extra box of crackers) and (2) have the bagger bag them separately so I can drop them into the bin on the way out. ...Actually, that sounds like a hassle. Okay, so my resolution is to figure out a way to do it but without it being so much of a hassle, and then do THAT. I think this has the potential to make grocery shopping a little more fun, if I can figure out how to do it easily.

5. Do 30 minutes of housework in a particular room on a rotating basis each weekday. I started this in December but it's not off the ground yet. And I'm concerned that this might be more discouraging than useful, because of the way earlier rooms might already be back to their usual states before I'm several rooms further down the list. But when I tried it, I found it was useful for doing not just regular housework chores (dusting, vacuuming) but also for doing things I'd been putting off (cleaning out all the stuff that rolled under the TV table, put away a clutter pile in the dining room, cleaning the bugs out of light fixtures). It was like instead of thinking "Ug, I don't want to do that, I'd rather check Twitter," I was thinking "Well, I have to be in here cleaning anyway, I might as well do THAT." I made a list of all the rooms in the house, and I just looked at the list each day after lunch to see what that day's room was.

6. Buy a couple of cute tops. They can be t-shirts, even, but then they need to be embellished in a cute way.

7. Find a conditioner that works well for Elizabeth's hair without smelling like grown-up-lady perfume OR Kool-aid.

8. Try to move one number on the scale (like from a 2 to a 3 on a scale of 10, for example) on giving hugs and pats and hair-ruffles and so forth. I don't think in terms of physical touch, so I think I don't give enough of it to the kids.

9. Order a bottle of expensive French perfume. (Good idea, AndreaUnplugged!)


What are you resolving this year? And if you're not making resolutions and think they're stupid, be SURE to tell us all about it. (I'm sorry. It's the champagne talking.) (No, I'm not sorry AT ALL! Ha ha ha ha ha!! -The Champagne.)

December 28, 2011

A Dilemma Involving Messing With Schedules; Calendars

Today's dilemma involves a local jumping-around-on-inflatable-stuff place, which has school-vacation hours of 3:30-5:30 for "free jump" ("free" as in "no need to have a structured birthday party, you can just jump around," not "free" as in "doesn't cost $8.50 per child"). I could take the five children as a special holiday treat. It would cost $42.50, which is a large amount of money---but worth it if this creates a Favorite Childhood Memory. It would burn off some of the astonishing energy that is accumulating from being at home all day with many siblings and a stockingful of chocolate. But it's at 3:30-5:30, and the kids usually eat at 5:00, and this place is 40 minutes away from our house. Plus, it's $42.50.

********

From previous years' experience, I know that not everyone is as excited about calendars as I am. Every time I ask, hands clasped in girlish glee, what calendar everyone is buying THIS year, about 75% of you say "Uh, I just get a free calendar from the pharmacy" / "Uh, I don't use a paper calendar. That's kind of 1990s of you." But I am not squashed by your lack of enthusiasm! If anything, it fans the flames! I just posted this year's Calendar dither and I hope that if you and I are of like minds about the awesomeness of calendars, you will go leave a comment about what calendar YOU are getting. It's one of my top favorite comments sections of the entire year.

December 27, 2011

Life as a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Book

So. The Kite-Runner. Kind of a downer, huh? And I only read the graphic novel version. But it certainly helped put the issue with Paul's sister into perspective, so...score one for a soul-debilitating glance how unthinkably awful life can be!

Christmas went well. It was really loud, and there was a lot of crowd-management involved. I was inclined to glaze off, thinking of the quiet Christmases of the household where I grew up, wondering idly what my adult life would be like now with two or three children instead of five, not-that-I'd-want-to-give-any-of-them-up, wait-which-would-you-be-willing-to-take-ha-ha.

Actually, I can tell you exactly what it would be like: I'd be sitting here writing about how Christmas went well, but how I'd been inclined to glaze off wondering what my adult life would be like now if we'd had those other children I'd wanted. There would probably be some mooning and some age-speculation ("Maybe one would have been 6 this year, and another would have been 4...").

One of my gifts from my parents was Million Little Mistakes by Jennifer McElhatton. I'd read Pretty Little Mistakes a couple of years ago, and although I had many little complaints about it, I got so into it that after reading through a dozen or so adventures, I ended up reading it methodically---making sure I followed every single choose-your-own-adventure path possible in the whole book. I've seen what happens if I go to college and then become a drug dealer; now let's go back to the beginning and see what happens if I get married and then become a waitress!

Hey, did you already figure out where I was going with this, you smarty? I do wish I could do my life like a choose-your-own adventure book. Not to SWITCH to something else, but just to see how things would have gone and then come back to my real life. I'd like to see what it really would be like to have two or three children; I'd also like to see what it would be like to have the half-dozen I'd had in mind. (Or no, I guess I wouldn't, since then I'd miss that baby when I went back to my real life.) (Well, maybe as long as we're counter-reality fantasizing, we could add a thing where we wouldn't be affected by that. It would be fun to just SEE other possible children and relationships, but without the heart-hurt afterward.) I'd like to go back and see what would have happened if I'd gotten a different degree: accounting or elementary ed or secondary ed or nursing instead of business. I'd like to see how things could have gone if I'd done more extracurriculars in high school, or made different friends. Maybe I'd want to see what would have happened if I'd stayed with my first marriage. I'd even try the path where I didn't go to college but instead got a real estate license and married my high school boyfriend, just for interest's sake.

If life was a choose-your-own-adventure book, which path would you re-do first? I think I'd start with the different degree, since "What will I do when all the kids are in school?" is currently heavy on my mind. But the "different guy" paths are perhaps more INTERESTING.

December 24, 2011

Christmas Lights

I have a timely question for you! Actually it is a series of questions. Here we go.

Do you prefer colored lights or white lights? (This is whether or not you yourself put any up.)

And because it seems that mixed marriages must lead to compromises: which kind do you in fact have, if any? If desired, include details such as large or small lights, LED or whatever the non-LED kind is called, flashing or twinkling or running or steady.

And which kind did you grow up with, if any?

And finally, WHY do you prefer what you prefer?---and I hope we can answer primarily by saying what we DO like about our preferred lights, rather than by saying what we DON'T like about our NON-preferred lights, to keep this from being an unfestive rumble. (But it may be NECESSARY to express a preference in terms of a non-preference, in which case perhaps it can be said with Holiday Lovingkindness rather than with Scoffing Scorn.)


I have long preferred colored lights (the steady non-LED kind), and I think it is partly because that's what I grew up with, and partly because I generally like things that are rainbow/sparkly.

BUT, recently my parents got a pre-lit tree with WHITE lights, and now I am torn. When I went tree-shopping, I preferred the white-light trees to the colored-light trees, because I felt like they looked so natural and starry and lovely. And when we go on our annual Christmas Light Drive, I find the VARIETY is my favorite part: first a house with all white lights everywhere; then a house with those 1970s-looking big-bulbed lights, the ones the size of nightlights (did you know you can use those bulbs as nightlight bulbs? green and blue and yellow are especially pretty); then a house with running lights; then a house with some of those big light structures. But that makes it kind of hard to decide what to have at my own house.

December 22, 2011

Fish Executioner

Elizabeth's mystery illness was strep. She didn't have a rash; she didn't have a sore throat; all she had was day after day of fever and misery. I was a little crazy-eyed from worry and compromised sleep, and I think the pediatrician only did the strep test as an excuse to leave the room for a few minutes.

********

There was a suspect in the Snail Mystery reported earlier this week: a mosquito fish, brought home by William after a school project. This little fish, as I discovered when I looked it up online to see if it could go in the aquarium with our other fish, is a bit of a super-breeding menace/pest. But I thought with just one, it would be fine in our aquarium and would be unlikely to cause a population issue. Plus, what else to do with it, now that it had been brought home? But I noticed it seemed to keep NIPPING at the other fish. Nip. Nip. Nip. The other fish were skittish and kept clenching their fins and darting away. The snail would flinch and tuck in its feelers.

When the snail's empty shell was discovered, I came to the conclusion that the most likely explanation was that the mosquito fish's constant nipping had finally driven the snail to run away from home to get a little peace. I can identify.

As the afternoon of the empty-shell discovery progressed, I noticed the mosquito fish seemed even more aggressive---as if encouraged by its recent success at driving away the snail. As if it had developed a TASTE, as it were, for causing other fish to run away from home.

I determined that this could not go on. I did my research. Did you know it is surprisingly complicated to euthanize a Problem Fish? This must put fishing boats to a great deal of shame, since they let tens of thousands of fish flop in the air on deck, rather than following complicated and no-kidding-SURGICAL options required for individual house-based fish.

Still, I was not going to let the fish die uncomfortably, even if this fish may have caused great discomfort to others. Most likely it has not given its heart over to evil, but is just being a fish.

I found a method I could imagine using, and readied my equipment. A plastic container I didn't mind throwing out if necessary, filled with ice water. A plastic baggie, containing a scoop of familiar water from the fish's own aquarium, to submerge in the ice water at the proper time. A little spade, for digging a proper grave after the deed was done.

I got the large disposable plastic cup I use for various aquarium-maintenance tasks, and I opened the lid of the aquarium. The fish all came to the top, expecting to be fed. I deftly scooped out the suspect and brought him to the kitchen where I had set up the execution chamber.

As I fussed with my supplies, the fish flipped. He flipped himself six inches out of the cup, into the air, onto the counter. As I looked on, a little scream rising in my throat but frozen there (The Bad Death of Eduard Delacroix going through my mind), he flipped again, into the sink, where there was a large pile of melting cubes of coffee creamer from a failed experiment.

I felt the need to act decisively, but I am not a quick thinker by nature and prefer to have more time to fuss with supplies and wrestle with issues. Overcoming those obstacles of temperament and hoping I would not regret that override, I turned on the in-sink disposal. And very quickly and mercifully, the fish knew no more.

Evaluating the incident afterward, I feel it went about as well as it could have. I don't know how a fish would feel about it, but I myself would prefer the fast "not even knowing what hit it" death of the in-sink disposal over the slow, opposite-of-boiling-the-frog method of having my body temperature lowered until I went into a coma and died. I prefer the former method even more strongly if the latter method is going to involve being scooped by a fumbling, grossed-out human hand out of a pile of frozen coffee creamer.

December 19, 2011

Snail Mystery Solved; Virus Mystery Continues

We had a mystery at our house: our snail disappeared from the aquarium. We realized we hadn't seen him for awhile, and then we peered and peered and couldn't find him in the tank. After much peering, Paul rummaged the plants and other fish-furniture around, but nothing. We wondered if he might have crawled out through the hole in the lid around the filter? Or could he have been hooked out by a cat paw through that same small opening? Or could he be buried down in the gravel? Or...?

Today I partially solved the mystery. Driven crazy by the idea that there could be a dead, rotting snail OUTSIDE the aquarium, I used a high-powered flashlight to freak the fish completely out---but also to let me do a leveled-up peering of the inside of the tank, where I found the snail very well camouflaged between some similarly-colored rocks and the side of the fake broken Grecian urn.

The shell was empty. I think it's safe to conclude that he moved to a farm where he'd have more room to run.

********

I'm wishing quite hard for a laptop right now: Elizabeth is still sick and has been very clingy. Sometimes she just wants me to sit NEAR her, in which case I would rather be type-type-typing than half-watching Teen Titans or My Little Pony. Paul's been doing everything else, though (all other kid-care, all dishes and food prep, bringing me the remote or the thermometer or another cup of water or a snack or a new box of kleenex, finding more shows Elizabeth might want to watch), so I'd probably feel a little self-conscious sitting there with a computer. It looks more worthy if I'm reading a non-fiction paperback or something.

I think it's possible she was ALSO having an allergic reaction to something the day I took her to the doctor, but I think it's more likely she was in the early stages of a virus. Yesterday her fever got to 104.5 and Paul said, "I think we might actually need to take her to the emergency room." But we didn't. Instead we gave her more ibuprofen and we fretted and, as she dozed on me, my mind teased me by playing through various Extremely Regret-Filled Sample Scenarios.

Last night she and I slept in the living room, so that she'd sleep mostly sitting up (she's congested and snarfy, especially when she lies down) and so that I would sleep lightly and could keep an eye on her. I also find that such measures help me switch more quickly into the mode of EXPECTING not to get more than a little sleep here and there, which makes the nights far more tolerable. If I'm in my bed in the dark, I feel injured indignation at having my sleep disturbed; if I'm curled on the couch with the Christmas lights on, I'm grateful for each nip of sleep.

December 17, 2011

Various Forms of Mental and Physical Torture

I have a weird mind-exercise for you to try. Start by thinking about how old, approximately, your grandparents were when they died, if they have died. You might have to take an average, and feel free to err on the side of the older ones. Mine were all "in their early/mid 80s." Then figure out what decade you're likely to die in, if you live about as long. So if you were born in the 1970s, and your grandparents lived to be in their 80s, you're likely to die in the 2050s. If you're lucky.

It's an exercise that is currently making me feel short-circuited. If I'm fortunate, I will die in the 2050s. That is when I will likely die, but no one would be shocked if it were the 2040s instead. And my parents are likely to die in the 2030s, but no one would be shocked if it were the 2020s. Again, that's if we're all very lucky. It is already the twenty-teens. I think it's time to panic, don't you?

I may be a little short-circuited to start with, because last night was the worst night we've had since we had a newborn in the house---and maybe the worst night we've had since we had newborn TWINS in the house.

In the evening, Elizabeth's eyes got very watery and itchy, and her eyelids got pink and a little puffy-looking. I gave her benadryl, but if anything it seemed to make it worse. She fell asleep in my lap, crying. She's 6 years old, so it's been awhile since that's happened. When she was fully asleep, I put her in her own bed. Later, Paul and I went to bed---but I already suspected we were in for it, because she'd cried several times in her sleep between the the time I'd put her down and our bedtime.

Indeed, we were in for it. About 15 minutes after I fell asleep (known as the "Hell Phase" of the sleep cycle), she started crying in earnest. I got her and brought her to our room, where she cried and sniffed and groaned, either awake or asleep, about every 15 minutes all night long, and asked for cold washcloths for her face. At 1:30 I got up to go to the bathroom and couldn't believe it was only 1:30. I felt like I was in a weird fugue thing, where I was constantly drifting off and then getting immediately yanked awake, and the night was going on forever.

At around this time, Paul moved to Elizabeth's empty room.

On one hand, this was very smart: he was getting more agitated by her agitation than I was (I was more despairing/worried than agitated), and that wasn't helping; and if one of us could be more rested the next day, that would be nice for the household; and there was no reason to have us both up if the task only required one person.

On the other, more muscular, more resentful hand, this was bailing on parenting duties and leaving it all to me. And the night continued to be dreadful, so I had plenty of time to think about it. And around 2:00, Henry cried, and Paul didn't hear him because the monitor is in our room. So I went down and handled Henry, who was having ear pain (did I mention the antibiotic he went on last week for his ear infections and strep didn't work, and he's started a new, stronger one but it still hasn't worked either?) and also wanted to come up to our room. So then in addition to Elizabeth waking every 10-15 minutes, Henry was waking to talk in his sleep and/or kick Elizabeth and/or be kicked by Elizabeth.

Paul slept beautifully until morning. I woke up feeling like I'd lost my mind, or wished I could: a straightjacket would be so COZY and RESTFUL. And sure, there was a time when I would have taken a night like this in stride, or at least in stumble, but I'm out of condition: it's like taking a former marathon runner who hasn't run in several years, and asking her to just hit the track like before kthanx. I have become accustomed to nights that are briefly interrupted, 1-2 times/night max. I have become unaccustomed to nights that are interrupted every 15 minutes and include wonderings about whether my next idea for dealing with it is a good one or will RUIN EVERYTHING.

Elizabeth woke up in the morning looking like I felt: puffy swollen red-purple eyelids/undereyes, splotchy face, crying and miserable, very low fever (99.8 as measured at the doctor's). I took her to the Saturday hours at another branch of our pediatrician's office, and the doctor said it's an allergic reaction to something. I started speculating: her new jacket? the tiny live pine tree on the dining room table? the assorted nuts-in-shells she was cracking? some other holiday-related thing? The pediatrician said we could drive ourselves crazy trying to figure it out, and for now let's concentrate on trying to stop the reaction: claritin, antihistimine eye drops, benadryl. We did that all today and she's still feverish (102 by my thermometer) and blotchy this evening.

So, current state of mind: "Is tonight going to be like last night? Wait, did the doctor NOTICE she had a fever? Doctors rarely even look at the notes the nurses took. Or maybe it makes sense that an allergic reaction would have a fever, since the body thinks it's fighting something. But 102? Or maybe our thermometer is wrong. I know he said not to drive myself crazy trying to figure out what it is...but WHAT IS IT?? What if it's the cats? What if it's the nuts? She's never had a problem with peanut butter, but these were tree nuts. But hasn't she had tree nuts before? I'm sure she's had tree nuts before. We have a tree-nut tree IN OUR YARD. Maybe she never had enough before. Maybe it's only a contact allergy and so she's having a problem because she she rubbed her hands in her eyes after using the nutcracker, but wouldn't have had a problem from EATING the almonds/walnuts/acorns. Maybe she HAS had this before but it's one of those 'more each time' reactions so it's never been this bad before. Maybe next time it would be...let's not think about that. What if it's not an allergy but an illness? What if this is something we don't get resolved this week, and it sweeps through the household / ruins Christmas? Why is Henry still having ear pain after four doses of the new/stronger antibiotic? What if this also means the antibiotic hasn't handled the strep and he's still contagious? And Edward's anemia---EVERYONE IS FALLING APART." Etc.

I think in general it's understood that if someone tells you all about a situation and doesn't say they DON'T want input, it means they welcome your input on it. Or at least, that's what _I_ understand, both when I'm the teller and when I'm the hearer. But in case it would be better to say things outright: I welcome your input.

And/or, I welcome your telling me when you're expecting to die. Maybe we can share a nursing home before that happens, if our Death Decades aren't too far apart.

December 15, 2011

Stockings Plan

We're doing the stockings a little differently this year. In previous years, I've kept an eye out all year long for clearanced little things (glow bracelets! kazoos! kaleidoscopes! cute pencils!). I have a box in the closet marked "Stockings," and anytime I found a good deal on a pack of party favors or on another small toy, I'd put it in the box. Then I'd fill in the gaps with things bought at regular price (Silly Putty, Slinkies) and candy.

The kids haven't all outgrown that stage, but neither can I split a 6-pack of something among them anymore. The older two, particularly, have seen pretty much every party favor there is. Every time I saw a clearance, I thought, "Yeah, but we already have some of those around from a previous year."

So here is my plan this year: Each child will get 1-2 books in the stocking, plus candy, plus granola bars and little bags of chips and other snack-type things. Done. I like this so much, I think I'll do it from now on. It was fun to choose the books (plus, a lot of them were buy-3-get-1-free), and easy to buy the snacky stuff.

Here are the books we got, if you are interested:

Rob - TCL/TK Pocket Reference (Paul assures me this will be a big-thrill item for one of Rob's current hobbies. I can't picture it.)

William - Diary of a Wimpy Kid, book 6

Elizabeth - Judy Moody & Stink: The Holly Jolliday, Katie the Kitten Fairy

Edward - Garfield's Jolly Holiday 3-pack, The Captain Underpants Extra-Crunchy Book o' Fun

Henry - Christmas Alphabet Pop-Up, Minerva Louise on Christmas Eve


Holiday-theme books will add to our collection of Christmas books and get packed away with the Christmas decorations. Other books will end up on the communal shelves. I tried when possible to get books that I knew more than one kid would want to read: my goal is to have a quiet but fun activity for them to do over the exciting days of/after Christmas, when sometimes the fun and excitement and treats get to be a bit much.

It bothers me a little that Rob and William only have one book each, while the littler kids each have two. But it feels more WORTH IT to buy books for the littler kids, because they are still in the "read a book many times, then swap with siblings, then swap back and read it many more times" stage, whereas Rob and William are in the "read it once, then return it to the library" stage. For the older kids, the book gift is more like "So you don't have to keep borrowing Paul's" and "So you don't have to wait your turn at the library," respectively. Also, four of the littler kids' six books will get packed away with the Christmas stuff, but the bigger kids' books won't. But still, I might buy another book each for Rob and William if I think of one and/or get motivated to look.

I am quite irritated with Paul, by the way. Last night I was folding laundry while he was doing the twins' storytime, and gradually the words he was reading pushed aside my meandering thoughts. "What...what are you reading?," I asked, and he held up THE JUDY MOODY AND STINK BOOK WE'D ORDERED. He'd gotten it from the library. He weakly tried the "I didn't know / You didn't tell me" defense, which I easily slapped down with an "I EMAILED YOU, SO THERE IS A RECORD OF YOU KNOWING, SO YOU CAN JUST DROP THAT RIGHT NOW."

Then, later, he said, "Oh good, I got an email from the library and the new Wimpy Kid book is ready for us to pick up!" I didn't even need to speak: I went straight for the sustained incredulous stare.

What do you put in stockings, in case I want to snitch some more ideas? (Or in case Paul comes home with a big back of chips and candy for the kids, along with the rest of the books on the list.)

December 12, 2011

Grousing/Simmering

At Dunkin' Donuts, I like the #1 coffee combo: it's a coffee and two doughnuts. I like that it's what I would order anyway: a doughnut for Henry, a coffee and a doughnut for me. And it's exactly the right price: expensive enough to feel like a treat, inexpensive enough to be doable.

But HERE IS THE THING. The conversation I had with the clerk when I ordered it this morning is a variation of the conversation I have EVERY SINGLE TIME. I don't order the combo often enough to know whether it includes a medium or a large coffee, and it doesn't say on the picture that shows the combo.

Me: "I'd like the #1 combo, please."

Clerk: "Medium or large coffee?"

Me, anticipating this issue from previous experience: "Whichever comes with it."

Clerk, thwarting my anticipation: "Well, you can get it with either a medium or a large."

Me, thinking I may have misremembered the situation: "Oh! Is it the same price either way?"

Clerk: "No."

Me, waiting for her to clarify: "..."

Clerk, filing my waiting under "In Vain": "..."

Me, a little exasperated: "Okay, then, whichever one is included in the price up there."

Clerk: "Well, that price doesn't include the tax. Just so you know."

Me: "OH MY GOD GIVE ME MY SHEEP-FREAKING COFFEE."

Me, reality-version, in a tone beginning to sound a little tight: "Okay. Yes. Yes, I know."


And you might think, well, maybe Swistle just got an inexperienced clerk. Or perhaps the clerk is kindly giving Swistle all her options, so that Swistle may make the choice that best fits Swistle's lifestyle/preferences. But NO, I have an ALTERNATE THEORY.

Here is my theory: since the combo comes with the medium coffee, as I discovered afresh on this occasion, the question is meant to upgrade the customer without the customer realizing. It's INTENTIONAL: the customer is supposed to think she has a choice between a medium and a large coffee for the combo price, and think "Well, LARGE then, why not!" And then it rings up higher, but maybe she also bought a couple of other things so she doesn't even notice, or maybe math has never been her strong suit so the tax (JUST SO YOU KNOW) always throws her anyway and she chalks it up to that, or maybe she sees what happened but they're already mixing the coffee and she'll just know for next time, no big deal. We have to be on our guard EVEN IN A DOUGHNUT SHOP, and not just against the delicious, delicious doughnuts.


As long as I'm grousing, I went to the post office this morning. It's lucky I was fortified with coffee (MEDIUM) and a Boston Cream doughnut, because although I would not say the experience qualified as "a nightmare," it was a long and exasperating wait. And furthermore, the length/exasperation could be BLAMED on people. It wasn't just, "Well, it's busy this time of year, you just have to be patient," it was one woman COMING TO THE COUNTER WITH THREE BAGS OF WRAPPED PRESENTS AND HER ADDRESS BOOK, I AM NOT EVEN KIDDING YOU. I am NOT. EVEN. kidding you.

Another customer had a pile of little packages, and each one needed different things, but he hadn't thought it out in advance, so the clerk would say, "Do you want delivery confirmation on this one?" and he'd have to think it over, maybe discuss his options a bit, consult about the price at various levels. Sure, what the heck, insurance on this one. This one, no, just delivery confirmation. This one, both. He will need to see his packages again, so that he can fill out the trillion little forms.

Another customer was mailing several international items and hadn't filled out the COLOSSAL PAPERWORK.

(Some of this situation can also be blamed on the nice clerks at our post office, who err on the side of being a little TOO nice when they ought to be saying "If you want to step over here to fill those out, I'll just go ahead and help the next person, and then you can step right back up when you're ready.")

Now, SOMETIMES, and for SOME PEOPLE, this kind of exasperating crap is UNDERSTANDABLE and NECESSARY. Maybe an elderly lady needs to mail a present, but she's begun her long sad slide into dementia and she can't figure things out anymore, nor does she realize she can't figure it out, and I am willing to wait in line without sighing or rolling my eyes while the postal clerk kindly assists her, and in fact I am GLAD as a member of society to see her being kindly assisted, even though my arms are kind of breaking here. And not everyone KNOWS about customs forms, and the forms are CONFUSING, so the first time they try to mail something they probably hold up the line a bit, and that's not going to happen very often and so that's fine too. It is NOT fine when it's people who didn't bother to get their stuff ready ahead of time because "other people having to wait" is a meaningless/insignificant concept for them.

And I know, I KNOW ALREADY, that I can't tell for sure from the outside what sort of category each customer falls into (THOUGH I CAN MAKE A PRETTY GOOD GUESS), which is why I continue to wait patiently and sans-sighing NO MATTER WHAT. But I will tell you what: statistically speaking, there are not that many people who actually need that kind of help, so I know I'm likely to be statistically correct when I hold that pleasant smile on my face but simmer invisibly.

December 10, 2011

Assorted Holiday Talk

Christmas Eve is two weeks from today! You're welcome for the adrenaline!

I put the lights on the Christmas tree yesterday, and I got them right the first time. That has never happened before.

Well, there was ONE glitch: I somehow accidentally purchased one string of twinkle lights. I went with it, figuring the kids would like them and it would be fun to try them. I like them when I'm just looking at the tree while walking past it, but when I'm sitting in the living room reading a book and enjoying the tree, it DRIVES ME CRAZY. I have to block the twinkle section with my book. They're like "TWINKLE! TWINKLE! TWINKLE! WE'RE TWINKLING! WE'RE CHRISTMAS LIGHTS AND WE'RE TWINKLING! HI! HI! TWINKLE! HI!!!" I still like them, but next year I'm putting them not-on-the-tree. Maybe on a railing, or around a window.

When @vandeblogger posted on Twitter about making one of the Christmas Bake Sale / Cake Walk cakes, I realized that the school never asked me to bake for the Holiday Fair this year. I'm relieved/offended/grateful/confused.

My plan to buy a Target gift card each time I went to Target worked BEAUTIFULLY. I barely even NOTICED, and didn't get paralyzed by adding up the total amount and thinking "WHY DO WE EVEN BOTHER WITH CHRISTMAS???"

One of my favorite Christmas things now is sending holiday postcards on Postcrossing. I especially love doing the stamps: it's my chance to buy the Hanukkah and Kwanzaa and holy angel stamps I like but don't want to confuse my relatives with, and international postcards need TWO first-class stamps (plus a 10-cent one) so I get to mix up some interesting combinations. But I feel dumb working on them while my Christmas cards sit completely untouched on the dining room table.

I do a lot of gift-idea posts at Milk and Cookies, in case you're getting frantic. Needless or perhaps needful to say, many of the posts that claim to be gifts for BOYS or for GIRLS are in fact for EITHER boys or girls; typically the boy/girl reference is only because the person I was buying for when I wrote the post was either a boy or a girl.

Gorgeous toy gift ideas (mostly baby/toddler)
An assortment of toys I've already played with (mostly preschool and young school-age)
Gift ideas for a 15-year-old girl
Gift ideas for 9-12-year-old boys
Gift ideas for 11-year-olds
Gift ideas for a 10-year-old
Gift ideas for a 10-year-old
Gift ideas for a 9-year-old girl
Gift ideas for a 9-year-old boy
Gift ideas for 6-year-olds
Gift ideas for a 5-year-old

An assortment of unusual gift ideas (teens and grown-ups)
Favorite craft gifts for kids
Knight and castle gifts
Dinosaur gifts
Non-toy gift ideas for children
Storybook treasury gifts

Gift ideas for an elderly person you don't know very well
Gift ideas for people you don't like
Gift ideas for people who don't want anything
Gift ideas for people having financial problems
Big looking, small costing gift ideas
Gift ideas for someone who doesn't have room for more STUFF
Gift ideas for pretty much absolutely anyone

December 5, 2011

Christmas Tree Acquired

I finally bought a Christmas tree! I don't love it! It's not pre-lit!

Here's what happened: I went on, I am not kidding, TWELVE tree-shopping trips. I couldn't find anything I liked as much as each tree cost. Nearly the whole family wanted colored lights (Elizabeth wanted white, and I was undecided), but I couldn't find any colored-pre-light trees I liked as much as the white-pre-lit trees. It was as if the fake tree industry thought that people who wanted colored lights would also want shiny, plasticky-looking, unrealistically-green trees, whereas people who wanted white lights would want their tree to look like a real tree. Or else I'd find a tree I liked, but the lights were weird: red, yellow, purple, and white lights, for example.

Also, it was making me super nervous that the lights were only guaranteed for 2 years: a fake tree only saves money over a real tree if I can use it for more than 5 years, and there were display trees that already had whole sections of lights out. My parents' pre-lit tree has had no trouble with the lights and it's been years---but for every story like that, there's another "THIS HAS BEEN A NIGHTMARE. A CHRISTMAS-LIGHT-THEMED NIGHTMARE" review on some website. And contacting customer service to see about getting lights replaced under warranty is not as easy as buying a new string of lights. (Let's see how I feel about this while I'm putting up the lights.)

So, I bought a $60 non-pre-lit tree that was on sale for $50. It's this one, from Target, and I see online it's on clearance for $42 with free shipping over $50, so if you find $8 more of stuff that qualifies for free shipping, you'll get the same tree I got, plus $8 more free stuff, without having to lug anything in and out of the store/car. Bitch.

That picture they have up of the tree---how do the "artists" who designed that photo hug their children with a clear conscience?

(photo from Target.com)

Don't they go home and feel like their dogs are looking at them reproachfully? The tree I brought home is a perfectly nice tree, and in fact looks MORE like a real tree----but the tree in that photo is COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. There are NO branch gaps in that photo. It is perfectly filled in from stem to stern. Here is a picture of the actual tree:



And that's with Paul working for about an hour setting it up last night, making sure each branch was nicely splayed out to reduce gaps.

There is nothing wrong with branch gaps! I LIKE branch gaps! That is where the ORNAMENTS go! I wouldn't even WANT that tree in the first picture: each ornament would have to rest diagonally along the exterior surface of the cone, because there is no place for hanging DOWN as nature intended. But I still object on principle to them acting as if that's a photo of the tree I bought, because it obviously is not. The tree they photographed is ANOTHER TREE ENTIRELY. The branches CANNOT PHYSICALLY BE ARRANGED like the tree in their photo. Even if they took all the branches from the back of the tree and tied them to the front of the tree, they could not achieve that "photo" of the "tree."

Anyway. Here is what makes me happy with this purchase:

1. It cost the same as the cut tree we bought last year, which we were unhappy with for a variety of reasons. So if next year I find a fake tree I like better, we will financially be no further behind than if we'd bought a cut tree again this year.

2. There are always people on Freecycle.org looking for Christmas trees, so I don't even have to fret about issues of waste: if we don't want this tree next year, we can feel happy about donating it to someone else who wants it.

3. I was really, really, really sick of looking for a Christmas tree.

December 4, 2011

Gift-Buying / Twin Name Input Needed: Moisturizers for Aging Skin / Unexpectedly Early Twin Boys

How's that for a complicated post title?

Your input on measuring cups and colored pencils and manga-drawing books was SO HELPFUL! I bought Paul the Williams-Sonoma measuring cups and spoons set (if it's a success, I'll buy him the odd-size cups/spoons set next year), and also an adjustable measuring cup for measuring stuff like peanut butter. For Rob I bought the Prismacolor colored pencil set especially for Manga and the book Draw Your Own Manga: All the Basics. (CRAP, he looked over my shoulder while I was linking to that and said "Oh, yay!" Sigh.) Everything cost more than I'd planned to spend---but that's what I like about input: it gives me the confidence to spend more to get The Right Thing.

I have thought of another thing I need advice on. On my mom's wish list is "moisturizer for aging skin." She says that moisturizers that used to be too moisturizing in her 30s/40s now soak in like drops of water into a sponge, so what I'm looking for here is either:

• what YOU love, if you are in your 60s or so

• and/or what your MOM or GRANDMA loves, if your mom/grandma is 60s+

• but NOT what you love if you are in your 20s or 30s or 40s (MAYYYYYbe if you're in your 50s), because that is what I want to know for ME, but not for NOW


This is a category where you should not be shy about mentioning things that are very expensive. Yes, it's true I am a fan of inexpensive stuff; and yes, I spend $9 on Oil of Olay only because my $7 Dove was discontinued. But for a gift, and for when I am myself older, I am planning to SPEND, baby. So tell me what's BEST, not what's CHEAPEST. Even if it's out of range, I'll file the info away for when I suddenly inherit money from an elderly great-uncle I never knew I had.


And while you are in the mood to offer help and advice, may I direct you to tonight's post on the baby name blog, which is for twins due in February but born yesterday, and in need of names unexpectedly soon?

December 3, 2011

The Gift of Fear, by Gavin de Becker

When I wrote about fear and violence, people thought I might like to read more books about fear and violence. I didn't want to read MORE about fear: I'm scared enough ALREADY, and I was still recovering from the flu-like symptoms of the Sam Harris article I'd read. But I am susceptible to such pressures, and so eventually I put both The Culture of Fear and The Gift of Fear on my library list.

I tried The Culture of Fear first, but after two page-sides I didn't read any more. It was all questions, and I could answer all of them. Why oh why are we more afraid of airplane crashes than car crashes, when car crashes are more likely? Why oh why are we so bad at estimating the statistical likelihood of bad things happening to us? Yes, yes, I took Psych 101 too.

I put it into the library return bag and turned to the next book with a feeling of impending relief: I could perhaps dismiss this one just as briskly, and then I could turn my attention to more pleasing subjects. Yes indeed, the book opened with a Very Scary Story. I'm not reading this stuff, I don't need more scaredness, I can safely ditch it.

...But I skipped ahead, to AFTER the scary story, and within half a page I was reading it with no intention of stopping. And I just finished reading the whole thing, and here is my conclusion: it SEEMS like the book will be scary and will make you more scared, and that it will make you think about things you don't want to think about--but I ended up feeling a REDUCTION of fear (which is his goal/intention), as well as a dose of logic to counter future fears. There are occasional scary illustrative anecdotes, but you can skim/skip them if you want.

His main points:

1. It is very unlikely that anyone would want/try to hurt you.

2. If they DO want to, there are signals they're likely to send you first.

3. Here are the signals.


I found that within the first chapter I felt FORTIFIED against guys who seemed like they were just trying to be nice and yet gave me the creeps. The author says that a decent man will not approach a woman in a scary situation (deserted stairwell, dark parking lot), or try to convince her to accept help or whatever after her first "No"---and that if he IS a decent man but just beyond-clueless, he needs to be taught by your reaction that his behavior is scary. Before reading this book, I would have been the woman getting more and more anxious as I tried to be gracious and not look like a weird freak-out. Reading it was like that scene in The Matrix where people get teaching programs uploaded to their brains: I am SCHOOLED.

For those of us who are often fretful and anxious, he lets us know that we are indulging ourselves in magical thinking: we've unconsciously noticed that the things we worry about don't happen, statistically speaking, and so we unconsciously start to see a false correlation: if we worry about bad things, bad things don't happen! Meanwhile, such thoughts make us more vulnerable to the few things that actually could hurt us, since we're in the habit of thinking we're being silly by worrying. Already I've noticed a difference in my anxious thoughts: when one occurs to me, I try to evaluate it for legitimacy---and the thought "This is magical thinking" is embarrassing enough to help knock the thought out for a bit. I'm not sure if even over the long-term I'll be able to learn to effectively evaluate legitimacy, but it seems worth practicing.

Unlike in The Sociopath Next Door, the author doesn't point out a problem but leave it pointed-out-but-unsolved: he gives specific tests for determining the actual danger-likelihood of situations, and then specific instructions for how to handle them. (He claims not to like checklists, but BOY he likes acronyms.) I found that while/after reading it I would think "ALARMED THOUGHT AS I RECOGNIZE A DANGER SIGN!!!" followed by "Wait. Does this person meet any of the qualifications for actual danger? No."

My favorite new term is "Scriptwriter." It applies to people where you feel like it doesn't matter what YOU say, they go right on with the script in their head. I've noticed this in issue-based arguments: I can argue with what someone has just stated, but it bounces right off them and they go right on with their next point. Or someone is upset with me and I think "I just need to explain/clarify what I meant and then this will all be over," but instead everything I say adds fuel to their fire and they don't seem to be hearing me at all. It's a Scriptwriter: the person IS NOT hearing what you're saying, and it's safe to disengage from the discussion knowing nothing can be accomplished.

Now I'm going to say a whole bunch of complaining/critical things, so many that it will make it sound as if I didn't like / don't recommend the book. So keep in mind that I DID love the book and DO think you all should read it, and that sometimes it takes a disproportionate amount of space to mention small complaints/criticisms.

I did feel as if what he was trying to teach other people was something that came naturally to him---and that as with all things that come naturally to us, it's hard to teach someone else. "Here's how to draw perfect life-like portraits!" It reminded me of people who say they think people should "just be" less anxious: it first reveals to us that they don't suffer from that problem themselves, and secondly that the problem they DO suffer from is a lack of empathy and a lack of understanding about temperament. He thinks we should just learn which situations are genuinely dangerous---but I don't think he realizes that a good part of that may be something not everyone can acquire. He gets a little frustrated, I think, that we're not getting it. "Just draw it so it looks exactly her nose!!"

I also thought he was lacking some science/statistics for his anecdotes. He tells us the times when he thought danger was likely and it DID happen, and times when he thought danger was unlikely and it DIDN'T happen---but he leaves out times when he thought danger was likely and it DIDN'T happen, and times when he thought danger was unlikely and it DID happen. He might think this makes him more credible (because it seems to portray a 100% success rate), but it made me question his credibility completely (because I know he CAN'T have a 100% success rate, so it makes me wonder how much he's leaving out).

And his stories about other people's encounters seemed to contain a self-proving "duh" element: If they felt a pang of fear and checked things out and found them okay but they weren't okay, DUH they didn't look hard enough. If they felt a pang of fear and thought it was real but it wasn't, DUH they were letting their imaginations run away with them. Whatever the outcome, the implication was that if it went well it was because they were following the author's ideas, and if it went poorly it was because they weren't.

In particular there was a story about a mother waiting with her son pre-surgery who kept having "CANCEL THE SURGERY" flash into her mind. She ignored that, and of course her son died in surgery. But...when Elizabeth was going to have her tonsils out, I REPEATEDLY had that same thought flash into my mind, and I didn't cancel the surgery, and Elizabeth is fine. Again, the self-proving: if her son had been fine, this anecdote wouldn't be in the book, or would be in the book as an example of us misinterpreting anxiety as actual danger; because he died, it seems as if it proves the author's point about listening to signals. But what percentage of the time are those signals right? A very small percentage, is my guess. And not always something we can evaluate for legitimacy: in this anecdote the doctor was incompetent, but how can I evaluate that as I wait with Elizabeth in pre-surgery? I can still kind of get his point, but it's undermined by the absolutely zero chance that I would in this case cancel the surgery and interview the doctors (at which point they would confess to me that they were covering for another doctor's problems), and by the high likelihood that both I and my child would be feeling/acting weird and uncomfortable in a pre-surgery situation whether the doctor was incompetent or not.

Furthermore, his lead story niggled at my mind. He tells about a woman who had been raped, who realized when her attacker closed her window that he intended to kill her (because why would he mess with her window if he was actually going to leave her unharmed as he had just claimed?). But my question is: Wouldn't he have closed her window before raping her? (Maybe he thought people would ignore rape sounds but not killing-with-a-knife sounds?) This bothered me throughout, and I felt similar issues with other anecdotes. They seemed overly obvious---which undermined their realness. I think the author hasn't realized what my children haven't realized: that presenting a 100%-in-favor-of-yourself/obvious story is actually LESS believable than a mixed story where you admit some error/doubt. His stories may in fact be true just as he's telling them, but I had to constantly battle thoughts of "Wait, that doesn't sound quite...true."

His attitude about violent children and children who grow up to be violent is like this: "I'm NOT saying parents are to blame for violent children...but all violent children have violent parents, and if you don't want violent children you shouldn't be violent to them DUH." And the problem is that the parents who were/are violent will not be reading this and thinking "Oh my goodness! I never realized! It's all my fault!"; and meanwhile the parents who are NOT violent to their children-who-nevertheless-turned-out-violent will take it to heart and feel even more blamed than they already feel, as well as perhaps wishing they WERE violent so they could deal out a beating or two to this guy. It reminds me of the school notices that come home sharply rebuking all of us for the actions of 1% of parents: the 1% doesn't care and isn't going to change their behavior because a memo tells them to, and the 99% gets hurt and upset and resentful at spanked even though they're being good.

He also does that thing that made me reject the first book: offering an incredulous "Why oh why??" that I feel has a reasonable answer. For example, he wonders why oh why a man would carry a gun and say it was so he could help others in an emergency, but not carry a trach tube. And when the man says he could never cut into someone's throat, de Becker mocks him for being perfectly willing to put a bullet into someone instead. But I think that IS reasonable: there is a huge difference between being willing to injure someone who's attacking us, and being willing to injure someone in a medical crisis. I would feel comfortable using a knife to cut a rapist, but that doesn't mean I feel comfortable performing an appendectomy or even a mole removal. These are completely different things, and it's not fair to accuse someone of being irrational if they're willing to do one and not the other. I get his point that we should try to rationally consider things---but it was hard to get past the way he made it seem like he was someone who seriously couldn't tell the difference between two very different kinds of intervention to two very different kinds of people. A better example would have been to tease someone for carrying a gun but not learning the Heimlich Maneuver.

One final objection: he interviews a stalker and asks him what the stalked person should have done differently, in order to avoid being stalked. But all the other anecdotes illustrated that it doesn't matter what the stalked person does: whatever they do, the stalker incorporates it into their excuse for stalking: "She was cold to me! She's a monster who must be destroyed!" "She seemed to be encouraging me! She's a tease who must be destroyed!" "She's perfectly nice! She's an impostor who must be destroyed!" It's Scriptwriting again: it doesn't matter what the stalked person does, the stalker goes on with their script.

Let's see, is that everything? Overall: GREAT book, and I want to go work for this guy, and I kind of love him, and I think he made very good points, and I feel like he taught me some very doable and easy methods for evaluating for actual danger. I think I'll be temporarily extra-jumpy, and only time will tell if the ideas WORK---but already I feel LESS fear rather than MORE fear. I think I'd like to own a copy of the book so that I can refer to it as needed. But I mention all my objections because I hate to think of you reading the book and thinking "She didn't object to this kind of arrogant attitude?" "Wait, does she think the parents are to blame??" "Did she not notice how he seems to think it's reasonable that a child who was one time shoved into a heater (perhaps by accident; it isn't clear) would grow up to shoot his parents in the head?"

December 1, 2011

Gifted vs. Ahead

I was folding laundry and mulling someone who recently mentioned his gifted childhood, when actually he didn't seem real bright to me. Kind of dim, in fact. And this is something that has happened fairly regularly over the years: someone works into the conversation that they were in a gifted program in school, and I think, "...Huh."

I have come up with a theory, and it is this: that there is Gifted and that there is Ahead, and that schools and tests have trouble telling them apart (and/or that maybe it's not possible to tell them apart early on). Which leads to many, many people being categorized as Gifted (not only in academics but in music and dance and sports and so forth), and then later suffering the unpleasant feeling of things not having panned out.

(I think there are other issues involved, too, such as Potential vs. Application, and Aptitude vs. Motivation, and Abilities vs. Interests, but here I'm only talking about the Gifted vs. Ahead thing.)

When I worked in the infant room of a daycare, we sometimes had a baby who would walk at, say, 9 months. This would make the other babies' parents feel a little funny: their babies were not measuring up; their babies were not getting a fuss made over how advanced they were.

But was the early-walking baby GIFTED? No, just temporarily ahead of the other babies. That baby was not going to maintain that gap between her physical abilities and the physical abilities of the other babies; it's just that she got there first, and then all the other babies caught up. Perhaps there will be a few star athletes among the early walkers and then we will say "Ah! The ability was evident even early on!" But the majority of the early walkers will later be only regular walkers, indistinguishable from the average and late walkers, and there will also be star athletes from the late walkers and we just won't remark on it because it won't seem significant then.

I think it can be the same with academics: sometimes the school system calls a child "gifted" when that child is just ahead of the other children at that point. A child who is reading at a 12th-grade level at age six is not likely to maintain that 11-year gap all her life: it's more likely she is AHEAD, and soon the others will catch up. It IS likely she (like all the others at her reading level) will still be a better/faster reader than many of her adult peers, but it will not be as startling a gap, nor will it be likely to have as big an impact on her adult life as it did on her elementary school life.

The problem, I think, is that a child who is told she's eleven grades ahead at age 6 gets the feeling that she is eleven grades ahead FOR LIFE. But soon there isn't "eleven grades ahead" to BE: we don't say that a 24-year-old is reading at a 35-year-old level. And this leads the adult version of the gifted child to feel a certain dissatisfaction with life: wasn't she...GIFTED? So why has the gap for the most part vanished? Where did the all the fuss and all the discussions of potential disappear to? It's because all she was was temporarily ahead.

Or it's because there was a misunderstanding about what gifted means. A child growing up with bright parents might think that gifted means EVEN BRIGHTER, or in a class of their own---when actually it means being part of a large group that is brighter than the average of the general population, an average they may have assumed is higher than it is. It's still good news, but what it means is that they get to have the kind of college-educated job they were already assuming they'd get, rather than a job that requires few mental skills. What they might have been thinking of as an ordinary and non-gifted life IS the gifted life: being able to communicate in both spoken and written word; valuing knowledge and education; being able to think things through; being able to read well and enjoy reading; being able to analyze and critique; being able to take a stab at helping the children with their homework (although I am grateful for Wikipedia, because I am more than a little fuzzy on 7th grade history) (and rules of grammar) (and what IS that lattice-math thing they're doing??).