November 29, 2012


I had to learn AGAIN yesterday the lesson I have already had to learn a thousand times: That if I am being reduced to slumped-shoulder teary-eyed despair by all hundreds of things that need doing everywhere around me, it will actually HELP to actually DO some of those things. I don't know why it feels as if it's pointless, when I've learned so many times that it WILL HELP.

Yesterday after I refilled the soap dispenser, and picked the disposable flosser up off the floor and threw it away, and refilled the cat food container, and washed the pan soaking in the sink, and got out the Christmas address labels, I felt much MUCH better---even though I hadn't scooped the litter box, done any laundry, done any Christmas cards, or done any of the other hundreds of things that had been bringing me down.

I'd only made a FEW, SMALL improvements, each of which took only a few seconds or at most a couple of minutes, but those helped cut down on the number of things I was seeing every time I went into those rooms. The pan in the sink was only one thing, but it was catching my eye EVERY TIME I WENT INTO THE KITCHEN, and so it had felt like a dozen things, and so washing it was like getting a dozen things done. And every single time I went into the bathroom, I was seeing the stupid flosser on the floor, and then a couple minutes later thinking "Oh, the stupid SOAP dispenser!," so those two things felt like a dozen things, and taking care of those two things felt like getting two dozen things done.


Another recent set of lessons includes "Things That Will Burst Into Flame, FOOMPH!"

William has been engrossed in a series of wax/candle projects/experiments. Recently he's been melting down free candles (he got a bunch from a place we have in town that's like a Freecycle Hut: leave anything you don't want, take for free anything you do want) and pouring the wax into a large fish bowl with wicks dangling down into it. It's looking pretty neat, all stripey.

Anyway, you know what bursts into flame? Wax that got accidentally dripped on a stove burner and down into the little drip-pan underneath. First it just smoked a bit, and I thought, "Well, sure, this is what happens to anything that spills on the burner. It smokes a bit and then it's gone." But then: FOOMPH!! and there were flames, and I stood there staring at them and then slowwwwwwly got a cup of water and slowwwwwly poured it onto the flames, wondering why I was moving so very slowwwwly.

The other thing that bursts into flames: parchment paper in an oven set to broil. I was making a toasted cheese sandwich, and I took the pan out of the oven to flip the sandwich over and I noticed the paper was getting kind of brown, and then I put the pan back into the oven and FOOMPH!! The box of parchment paper has anticipated this, and has a temperature-limit listed---but I had been thinking "parchment paper = aluminum foil" for so long, I wasn't thinking about it anymore.

Oh, one more thing that bursts into flames: crunchy taco shell in a toaster oven. I only needed one or two and it seemed silly to heat up the whole oven for that, so I put them in the toaster oven. And they were doing very nicely, and then FOOMPH!!! I read the box, incredulous, and sure enough: "Do not use toaster oven due to possible risk of fire."

November 27, 2012

Cough Cough Cough Cough Cough Cough Cough Cough Cough Cough Cough Cough

Every year I seem to get something where first I'm sick for awhile and then I just cough and cough and cough and cough and cough. It's a dry cough that kicks itself off, like a bouncing ball: the first cough irritates my throat so I cough again, which irritates my throat so I cough again, and so on. And it's way worse when I lie down. I've tried every cough medicine on the shelf, and the only thing that works is knocking myself out with a sleeping pill.

I went to the doctor and she said it's "probably viral." Well. Thank you. That's useful information. She also gave me a prescription for codeine cough syrup, which I thought was going to be AWESOME because it's a CLASS-C NARCOTIC and that sounds SEEKABLE, but it didn't seem to do anything for the cough OR make me feel even lightly kite-like. (But DID make me feel like I was going to throw up. Free bonus.)

Alexa told me a mixture of equal parts whiskey and honey would make a nice cough syrup, so I stopped on the way home for a bottle of whiskey. This is when I learned there are KINDS of whiskey---that "bourbon" and "scotch" are not separate liquors like vodka and gin but are in fact WHISKEYS. This has been an educational day. But isn't there a song that goes "One bourbon, one scotch, and one beer?" and not "Two whiskeys, and one beer"? So the liquor store clerk should not have looked at me SO weird. NOT EVERYONE SPECIALIZES IN LIQUOR, LIQUOR CLERK.

Anyway, I think Alexa was thinking a tablespoon or whatever, but I think I'll start with a cup each and sip at that until I can't remember why I was sipping it.

Also, my lower eye lid has been twitching for weeks. WEEKS. Is that something I can die from? Because I've gotten kind of distracted by the cough and haven't fretted about the twitch for awhile.

There! Isn't it EXACTLY like having lunch with an old lady, except no lunch? Now YOU talk about all YOUR physical woes, and then we'll split an entrée!

November 21, 2012

Sick/Whining; How to be a Woman

May I just flat-out WHINE to you for a minute? I am sick. SICK. Body aches, chills, breathing that makes a sound. Feeling unable to go all the way downstairs to get something. Not QUITE at the level of sickness that my friend Tiffany and I call "wishing for an anvil to fall on my head," but close.

I was telling the children that periodic illness is very good for one's character, because it (1) puts regular daily non-sick life in a new light and (2) makes one more sympathetic to other people's illnesses. But I don't want a refresher in those lessons RIGHT NOW, when I am supposed to be humming cheerfully in the kitchen while making mashed potatoes and cranberry jello, thinking happily about how so many of us are making the same sorts of recipes at the same time. I don't want to be making a doctor appointment this morning in case I have something contagious and we have to postpone/cancel Thanksgiving. I am not in an open, lesson-learning STATE right now, so the lessons are wasted. It's almost as if no one is in charge of such things and they just happen randomly.

Anyway. All the time I've spent on the recliner wrapped in a huge blanket has allowed me to finish this book I bought ages ago:

(photo from

How to be a Woman, by Caitlin Moran. It's the kind of funny that makes me want to buy it for my sister-in-law (the good one) and my sister-in-law's sister (also a good one)---except it's also kind of page after page about masturbation and pubic hair and porn, which seems awkward at Christmas.

I liked it, but I wished my library had had it, because it's not a book I feel the need to OWN. (I'm going to donate it to the library.) It has a lot of good points, things I felt like underlining and/or quoting. I bought it after reading this interview with the author, and it held up to what I expected, so the interview would be a good way of seeing if you too might like the book.

November 19, 2012


I spent part of the weekend with my brother's family, and we had so! much! fun! My niece is three years old and getting so SOCIAL and CUTELY ARTICULATE, and my nephew is one and such a nice squeezy baby.

Here is my question: Did your family growing up pronounce the word aunt like "ont" or like "ant"? My family said it like ant and so did Paul's, but my sister-in-law's family says ont and that's true of most of my friends' families as well. We moved when I was in second grade, so I wonder if that explains my classmates teasing me a bit about it in elementary school: "ANT? That's a BUG!"

We are doing a combination: we say Ant Anna for my sister-in-law (because Ont Anna is harder to say), but my niece calls me Ont Swis.

Let's have a poll over to the right to show us the rough proportions [poll closed; see results below]---but I'd also like hearing more detail (what your spouse's family does, what you do now, whether things changed when you moved to a new area) in the comments section.

November 15, 2012

Skechers; Cadbury/Dove; The Orchardist

I would like to find the same perfect pair of Skechers lace-up boots I wore for basically the entire 1990s. They were soooo comfy---and also, as I'm sure you can imagine, HOTT with my flannel shirts and rolled-up jeans.

I ordered a pair that looked like the closest available thing---and less than an hour after they arrived, I was standing in line at FedEx to return them. They were like walking around in a pair of watermelons, except drier.


When I first tried a Cadbury ice cream bar, I thought, "This is just like Dove! But less expensive! Yay!" But just now, I ate the last of the Cadbury ice cream bars and still wanted more ice cream bar, so I ate a Dove ice cream bar right after it---and I liked the Dove way less. I preferred not only the Cadbury chocolate but also the Cadbury ice cream. It was surprising.

This will require further testing: I'll need to eat the two kinds in the opposite order, too.


(photo from

I saw The Orchardist on the New shelf at the library and thought it looked promising (nice quiet orchard, two young pregnant girls softening the heart of hermit), but then I got to the part of the book jacket where it says " arrive in the orchard with guns, and the shattering tragedy that follows will...." So, okay, no thank you.

Then a couple of bloggers recommended it, so FINE. I read it. I really liked it. It is the kind of book that makes me wish wistfully/unrealistically for the old-style life (satisfying manual labor, not having or needing many possessions, cooking simple meals, etc.)---and simultaneously makes me strongly appreciate NOT having to live that life (hard manual labor, not having many possessions, outhouses, laundry in the river, 2-day trip to get to another town, orphans getting sold to whorehouses, people dying all the time of normal things like illness and childbirth, etc.).

There is indeed a tragedy in the orchard, but it helps to be prepared for it. When the men showed up with guns, I quickly leafed ahead and got the gist of it, and then kind of skimmed. It's not gory, just sad. I was more bothered by the parts where the author could have told us what happened to a character (before or after they appear in the story) but chose not to. I got the message that in real life, the hardest part can be the not-knowing---but I'm familiar with that concept already, which is why when it's fiction and I CAN know, I WANT to know.

I didn't entirely love it. There was a lot of time spent on Della, and I couldn't understand the way her mind worked at all; she never made sense to me. Or sometimes characters did things that didn't seem to me to fit with what we knew of them so far. Or sometimes the drama was so underplayed, I couldn't figure out what had happened. And there are no quotation marks. And sometimes the author seems to lose herself a bit in the beauty of her own words.

I feel like what happened is that the author had about ten books' worth of story and had to make it fit into one volume. I would love if eventually there was an entire book for every character: one book about Caroline Middey, one about Elspeth/Elsbeth (I returned the book so can't check the spelling), one about Clee/Cree (why don't I remember which it is?), one about Angelene's adulthood. I really wanted MUCH MUCH MORE of this book.

November 13, 2012

Giant Reese's Peanut Butter Cups

This school year is worse than last school year, schedule-wise. Last year, I had 3.5 hours three times a week with no kids, and I told myself sternly that I could spare 30 minutes (which is 60, including preparation and clean-up) for exercise on those days, and I did. This year, I have 2 hours five times a week, which is almost the same number of hours but doesn't feel like it. Am I willing to spend half the day's child-free time on exercise, even three of the five times per week? No, it turns out I am not. Do I instead invest that time in increased sugar consumption? Why, yes I do. So I am feeling marvelous all the time, as you can imagine.

Speaking of which: every year for the last three holiday seasons, I have seen at Target GIANT novelty Reese's peanut butter cups. The first year, I marveled but did not buy, and later I rued it. So the second year, I determined to try some, so I put them on my wish list and I hinted to Paul, but he did not buy them for me. So the third year, I was definitely going to buy some for myself, but they were $10/package and I knew they'd go on sale for $8/package, so I waited---and they sold out before they went on sale, and I rued again.

This year I saw them at Target and they were already on sale for $8, so a pack came home with me.

I'm not sure this fully communicates the vast novelty size.

That's better.

William felt it was important to compare the size of a single peanut butter cup to a quarter. Edward, meanwhile, loses the battle with his self-control.

I cut one cup into eight pieces. It didn't make nice tidy wedges, but close enough. I had Paul advising me that I should have warmed the knife first, but I don't think that would have helped.

Here's what 1/8th peanut butter cup looks like. It's about an ounce, which means it's approximately the equivalent of 1 and 1/3rds regular peanut butter cup.

Our family consensus was that the proportion of peanut butter to chocolate was done very well (though it requires careful bite-strategies to make sure it STAYS right), and that this was a very fun novelty sort of thing. I can imagine starting a tradition of buying one package each year---maybe having it on the Friday after Thanksgiving, to kick off the Christmas season.

November 12, 2012

How to Take a Single Serving of Medicine in the Diaper Bag

Today Paul is taking the twins out for most of the day, and I needed to send a dose of medicine with Elizabeth for an annoying cough. I didn't want to send the whole bottle, because that's messy and heavy and I am not 100% ready to give dosing responsibility to Paul, who always jokes things like "I'll just give her a swig, is that okay?," and also because it's happened before that I've sent off a bottle of medicine and then I need it at home, or it gets left in Paul's car and he drives off to work with it the next day, or whatever. Hassle.

Anyway, here's what I do: I measure a dose into one of those little sample-size liquor bottles. Yes, I suppose it DOES look a little odd to be pouring a child a shot (though I feel like most parents would nod understandingly and wonder only why I wasn't pouring another for myself), but I generally administer it in the privacy of the bathroom, or in the car, or from behind a large fast-food soda cup. Plus, I bring a dosage cup so that the child is not actually seen drinking DIRECTLY FROM a liquor bottle.

First I measure out a dose of the medicine I want to bring with me. Then I pour it into a little liquor bottle.

Usually I peel the label off the bottle to make it look less seedy, but this particular label was leaving a ton of sticky residue and I didn't have time to mess with that so I just left the label on. I have a tiny little funnel that makes it easier to get the medicine into the bottle, but I've also just carefully poured it.

Then I rinse out the little dosage cup, put the cap on the little liquor bottle, and label a baggie with what's in there. I also put down when to give it: I've been surprised at how easily I can forget what time I gave the last dose. Sometimes I'll add a note about exactly how much medicine it is ("two teaspoons" or whatever), if I plan to have the medicine along for an extended amount of time---if, for example, I were making an emergency single-serving of Benadryl to keep with me.

The baggie is for easy labeling and also for in case of leaks, but it's also because AFTER the dose of medicine is given, the dosage cup will be sticky and I might not have an opportunity to rinse it.

I put the bottle and the dosage cup into the baggie, and the baggie into the diaper bag.

I HAVE worried about various open-container laws. But it seems like the odds of me being pulled over on a particular trip, AND of the officer deciding to search the diaper bag, AND of the officer not believing me (or believing his/her eyes or nose) that it's cough medicine or Benadryl in the bottle, AND of the officer thinking that what he/she has mistaken for 2 teaspoonfuls of liquor (1/3rd of an ounce) is worth making a fuss over---even if ALL those things went wrong, a test of the substance would vindicate me. I imagine myself in court saying to the judge, "You see, your honor? I was telling the truth ALL ALONG." Music swells, courtroom cheers, officer looks mortified and starts stammering, judge apologizes fervently that the state has so flagrantly wasted the time of an innocent citizen, etc.

November 10, 2012

Inherited Housecleaning

My brother and I grew up in a very, very, very tidy household. The family joke is that if you put your book down to go to the bathroom, you'd return to find the book on a shelf with a bookmark in it. My mom worked more than full-time but kept up with the housework constantly whenever she was home (full table/counter/stove wipe-down and floor-sweeping every night after dinner, for example, and constant clutter-clearing), and also did a huge multi-hour house-cleaning every single Saturday.

Fast-forward a bit, and my brother keeps a very tidy household, and mine is a constant mess. I'm sure we could both find ways to attribute these results to our upbringing no matter what our original household had been like: just as one person can say "My parents always kept sweets around so I got in a terrible habit" at the same moment another person is saying "My parents never kept sweets in the house so I grew up constantly sugar-seeking," we too could frame our reactions as either complying with or reacting against our house-cleaning training. I think if we'd grown up in a messy household, we'd just switch sides: he'd be reacting against, and I'd be a result of. It's very easy to blame parents either way for everything, which is so very pleasing and useful until we are the parents.

What I'm curious about is your own set of experiences: What was the cleaning/cleanliness situation in the household you grew up in, and how clean do you keep things now? And have you been considering your own cleaning system either a result of, or a reaction against, your childhood training and experience?

November 8, 2012

Young Adult; The Chocolate Money

I wish I could use the same verb for watching a movie as for reading a book, because what I want to say is that recently I verbed a movie and a book that both struck me in some of the same ways. Both shocked me at some parts, and some awful things happen in both, and I wouldn't know whether to recommend either one---but on the other hand they've both stuck with me.

(photo from

The movie was Young Adult (Netflix link). Parts of it seemed SO GOOD, and I thought Charlize Theron did such a good job, and I got a crush on Patton Oswalt, and I approved of the basic messages of the movie. And it was refreshing to the point of riveting to see trichotillomania shown all casual-like (she's scalp and I'm eyebrows/eyelashes, but that's like saying someone smokes a different brand of cigarettes).

But there are some agonizing scenes where someone ruins a party or says something very very inappropriate/awkward/mean. And the character sketches are good and well-accomplished but depressing. But in the end I was glad I'd seen it, and there were quite a few funny moments. I don't know. I'm not really recommending it, but I'm bringing it to your attention in case it looks good to you.

(photo from

The book was The Chocolate Money, by Ashley Prentice Norton. Dear god. This is the kind of book where I kept looking at the author's photo thinking two things: (1) This book is heavily based on her actual experiences, I'm sure of it; (2) She is just self-aware enough to realize she's been damaged by these experiences, but not self-aware enough to realize just how badly. Also, the author photo has her ostentatiously wearing ripped jeans with heavy jewels, like "Look how quirky!" It turns out she's a Rockefeller heiress, and her mother isn't speaking to her after reading the book.

I kept thinking I was going to stop reading, because I found it so many parts gross and disturbing, and because so many people were doing so many devasting-emotional-impact things to each other, and I was afraid those parts would linger with me, and I think some of them will. But the thing is, I also thought it was good. I didn't ever think "She only got this book deal because of who she is"; I thought, "Whoa. Ouch. Ick. Oh, dear." It reminded me a little of Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld---but it was as if Ashley Prentice Norton said to Curtis Sittenfeld, "Oh, you think YOU depressingly and painfully exposed the disgusting underbelly of the rich and privileged? Nice try, OUTSIDER." Again, I'm not really recommending it---more like exclaiming "dear god!" in front of you and, when you say "What?," telling you why I exclaimed.

November 6, 2012


This seems like a good day to have my coffee in my Will and Kate mug.

I'm also wearing my bleach-fireworks shirt, for probably the last time (fabric is finally disintegrating from being worn/washed a million times).


I am having a touch of the blues. They are of the "Some day all my lovingly-acquired possessions are going to be dumped in some yard sale or consignment shop, where strangers will look at them and say 'meh' and/or make mocking remarks" variety.

This is the flip side of one of the things I like about shopping at consignment store, which is the feeling of giving someone else's lovingly-acquired possession a loving new home. It can backfire, as seen here.

That reminds me, though, to show you one of my recently/lovingly-acquired possessions:

I've been questing for a bureau for Elizabeth's room, and found this old bureau at a consignment store. It had been marked down, like, THREE TIMES, yet it is gorgeous (cream and gilt and all curvy and shapey) and has drawers that are dove-tailed front AND back. And it goes very nicely with Elizabeth's bed frame, another consignment-shop find. And also with the little bookshelf, which we assembled from a box from Target.

November 4, 2012

Fall Back; Get Low; B Vitamins

It took a year for this to work out---but then today it did, EXACTLY AS PLANNED. This morning I caught myself saying, "Let's see, it's going to be LIGHTER in the morning now, right? Or wait, let's see, we..."---so I went directly to the computer and printed out my own Fall Back Printout (I actually DID get around to making a Google Doc for it, so you can print it out too) and put it on the fridge so that NO ONE has an excuse to start ANY sentence with "Wait, we set the clocks BACK an hour, so..."


(photo from

Last night I watched Get Low (Netflix link), and I greatly enjoyed it. It's a slow-going movie; it took me awhile to get into it. It's the kind where there's something we don't know, and we get the story verrrrrry gradually; at first I found this frustrating, but after awhile I was willing to wait. Bill Murray was in it, and he was my favorite kind of Bill Murray: underplayed, with a lot of tiny voice things and tiny expression things that I found hilarious (but difficult to explain to the children why I was laughing). At the end there's some cathartic crying. And there are a lot of interesting things to think about afterward (including "Wait, I thought they were going to tell stories. Why didn't they tell the stories? I wanted to hear the stories").


I am confused about B vitamins. I went to the store to buy B1, and they had B6 and B12 and B-complex, but no B1. I went home to look online, and found that B1 is usually sold as thiamine. B3 is sold as niacin, and B9 is sold as folic acid.

Isn't that strange/neat? Some B vitamins are known by names, and some by numbers. ...That seems less remarkable/interesting now that I type it out.

November 1, 2012

Teen Titans Raven Costume; Jedi Luke Skywalker Costume

I want to make a note for next year: glow stuff is THE BEST HALLOWEEN IDEA EVER. I got a pack of 15 glow bracelets in the Target dollar section for, as you might suspect, a dollar, and I also bought three glow necklaces and a pair of glow glasses. The glow glasses were not a great idea (Paul wore them and looked awesome, but he said they messed with night vision), but the rest of it was great: the kids were SO INCREDIBLY MORE VISIBLE than the kids without glow stuff on. Each kid wore a bracelet on each wrist, and a bracelet on each strap of their trick-or-treat bag, and if I'd thought of it I would have put a bracelet on each ankle as well. (Next year I'll spend TWO dollars on glow bracelets!) Taking motion photos outdoors at night rarely goes well for anyone, but this gives the GIST of what two kids look like in the dark if they're wearing some glow stuff:

I had some costume triumphs this year. The best one was Elizabeth's costume: she wanted to go as Raven from Teen Titans, and I didn't want to spend $40 on the costume + shipping. Here's what Raven looks like (I would like to credit this image, but it is ALL OVER THE PLACE uncredited, so here it is with thanks and credit to whoever it belongs to):

Looking at Raven, I'd say her most important feature, costume-wise, is that cloak. I looked into buying just a cloak, but that was in the "might as well just buy the costume" league of expensive. My mom offered to sew one, but that looked like it was going to end up more expensive and time-consuming than would be worth the savings.

Here's what we did: I bought a $4 one-size-fits-most blue rain poncho (the kind that comes in a little packet) and cut up the middle allllmost to the top (leaving the neck opening intact). I also ended up cutting a long strip off each side to make the sleeves shorter. It was PERFECT.

She's trying to look crabby like Raven

For the jeweled belt/brooch, we happened to find some of those big-version flat glass vase-filler things at a consignment store (if I'd thought of using those glass things before seeing them at the consignment shop, I would have looked at a craft store). Paul happened to have four flat round metal things to hot-glue the big red glass things to, but if he hadn't had those I would have used cardboard painted with gold paint. (And if we hadn't found the big red glass gems, I would have used circles of red paper, maybe with saran wrap over it for shine.) Then I hot-glued the glass-on-metal-circles to an old belt, which she wore backwards so the buckle wouldn't show. (There was originally another round thing on that belt, but it fell off and got lost at school.) I glued one more glass-on-metal to a clothespin, which I clipped to the top of the cape-cut as a brooch. (I colored the exposed part of the clothespin with a blue Sharpie.)

She wanted a black leotard, but those are not cheap. Instead I had her wear a black turtleneck and dark navy skirt. She wanted slouchy purple boots; I had her wear her dark turquoise ones. Raven's skin is grey, so she's also wearing grey tights and grey gloves we already had (both from Target: tights $4, gloves in a pack of three pairs for $2). I used a $1 tube of white face paint to make her face pale-but-not-clown.

The main disappointment was the hair: Raven's is blue-purple (it looks VERY PURPLE in the image above, but it's described as midnight blue), so I bought a $2 can of purple hair spray. It says clearly on it "Cap indicates color." No, it does not:

It was PINK. Bright pink! The cap is DARK PURPLE! Well. We got over it, but it was disappointing.

(She was compensated by the fact that it DID NOT WASH OUT. So she gets to go to school today with pink hair! Whereas I consider that a second disappointment with the product.)

Also a little disappointing: we forgot to put her jewel sticker on her forehead, which a brother helpfully pointed out when it was too late to do anything about it. But our PLAN was to use a jewel from a Sticky Mosaics set she has; if that wouldn't stick, I would have used a washable red marker to draw one on.

The other costume struggle-ending-in-success was William's. He wanted to be Luke Skywalker, but JEDI Luke Skywalker. Which basically looks like a guy wearing black/brown clothes. Since William is 5'4", I thought we were already pushing the trick-or-treat thing without also making it look like he didn't bother to dress up. So I made him look more dressed up with a belted brown towel, and I felt like he REALLY DID suddenly look much more in-costume:

(I evened up the ends of the towel after seeing this photo)

The other crucial element was, of course, the sword, which glowed in the dark. It was $8 at Target, but then that was the total cost of the costume. I have been informed that it is The Wrong Color, but there were two color choices, red and blue, so I got blue.

This outfit showed me that Doing Something almost always looks better than Not, even if the Something doesn't really make Sense. That is: even though the towel is not an accurate representation of any part of a Jedi costume, he still looked MUCH MORE like a Jedi with it than without it.