Mental Exercise

I made a total mess of an Old Navy order. Just messed up at every turn, so that I ended up paying shipping on a single item, then hours later realizing I never even checked for other colors and placing a second order that, if I’d combined it with that single item, would have eliminated the need to pay shipping; then realizing too late that maybe I could have CANCELED the first order BEFORE placing the second order; then the very next morning there was a better coupon than when I ordered.

Well. This is one of those situations that is probably worth ten dollars just for the excellent practice Letting Insignificant Stuff Go. Let’s say I spent even TWENTY DOLLARS more than I had to, it’s still fine. I will get the items I want (THE LIGHTWEIGHT HOODIE. I love it SO MUCH), and I would rather HAVE the items than NOT have them because I couldn’t make myself get over the $7 shipping mistake and the “not being psychic and knowing the prices would be lower the next day” mistake. (This almost happened. I almost didn’t place the second order, because of the shipping I’d ALREADY PAID AND COULDN’T GET BACK. Because if I didn’t place the second order, then it still made sense that I’d had to pay shipping for the first one. That is what passes for LOGIC around here.) AND ALSO: I see that the color I wanted most is out of stock this morning in my size, so if I HAD waited, I would have MISSED it.

And not even two weeks ago I was KICKING myself for not ordering more of the lightweight hoodies while I still could, and wondering if maybe I could find them on eBay, and if you had said to me, “Well, actually I have two of them, brand new, in your size, but you’ll have to pay $5 each more than you paid for your first one…,” I would have said “GIVE THEM TO ME RIGHT NOW, WHO CARES ABOUT $10???” Having a couple colors inexplicably come back into stock in my size is GOOD news.

So. Everything is really FINE, and there is no need to compare “What could have been” to “What is,” especially when “What is” is NOT VERY MUCH WORSE THAN “What could have been.” We are not talking here about a tragically-missed opportunity for love or happiness, we are talking about ACCIDENTALLY PAYING A LITTLE MORE THAN I HAD TO FOR SOME CLOTHING.

Tree Update; Man Pants; Cello Update; Thanksgiving Timing

The trees that were bothering the neighbors are COMING DOWN! It is quite exciting to watch. I have been running around inside the house like a hamster in a cage, looking out first one window and then another. Side note: when I went over to let the neighbor know when the tree guys were coming, she made a remark about how she was sorry to lose the shade. There are times when one just has to close one’s eyes very briefly.

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I know I have written about this before, but I am having trouble with pants for Rob. It started as soon as he left the boy sizes, which go 8, 10, 12, etc., up to as high as 20—and then suddenly it’s waist/inseam. Before, I could always buy pants ahead on clearance/sale, maybe $6-12 per pair. Now, who KNOWS what his waist/inseam will be, so I just have to wait and buy right after each growth spurt. I just paid $24 each for two pairs of pants and I’m feeling a little sick. And there’s no reason to think these will even work as handmedowns: the other boys could have totally different waist/inseam measurements! I am trying to be chill about this: this is not a weird amount of money to spend on clothes. But I’m also still checking Goodwill (and Target clearance) EVERY TIME, to see if I can build up his pants supply at a nicer price.

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We’re bringing Rob’s cello back to the store. It seems like so much fuss and hassle had to occur to find out it wasn’t a good fit for him—but I’m glad I did it, because I can picture this otherwise being one of those adulthood parent-blaming regrets where he’d imagine he would have been AWESOME at the cello IF ONLY his parents would have gone to a TINY bit of trouble to help him find out.

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I wish Thanksgiving were a couple weeks earlier. November 13th this year, for example. I feel like I can’t focus on Christmas until after Thanksgiving, but by the time Thanksgiving is over it feels like time to panic.

Thanksgiving Vegetable Side Dishes

I would like to talk about Thanksgiving vegetable dishes. I make mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, and corn, but would like to add a couple more vegetabley things. The past few years, I’ve made roasted root vegetables, cutting up pretty potatoes (purple and red ones) and carrots and sweet potato and coating them with oil and spices and baking them, and those are good but the children don’t like them and I’m only so-so on them and wouldn’t mind trying something different this year. I don’t like the green beans with fried onions dish, and neither does Paul; I’ve seen several references to a better version, but we dislike the original so much, I’m not motivated to try even a MUCH better version of it.

I tried searching online, but I always find that frustrating and exhausting: too many recipe sites trying to get clicks, not enough actual people saying “This is the dish we make every year.” I thought maybe we could collect a reference supply of Thanksgiving vegetable side-dish recipes in the comments section—for picking something this year, but also for looking at in later years when we’re in the mood to try something different.

Remember that I’m not a very experienced or enthusiastic cook, so don’t feel shy about a recipe that’s opening two cans and combining them, or heating up a frozen vegetable and topping it with something from a jar: I’m looking for YUMMY and what people LIKE, so although the dish certainly CAN be something impressive or surprising, it NEEDN’T be. If you make green beans with slivered almonds, that recipe will be brand-new to me: I’ve seen it in pictures, but never made it. If you’re thinking, “Oh, but this is too simple to even count as a recipe” or “Well, everyone already knows how to add slivered almonds to green beans,” THINK AGAIN, FRIEND. In fact, if you don’t make recipes per se but instead cook several kinds of frozen vegetables and leave it at that, I want to know that too: I seriously only thought of that possibility just now. But if it IS a fancy or complicated or impressive or surprising recipe, that’s good TOO. I think what we want here is ALL the good recipes.

And for Thanksgiving especially, I don’t give even one single thought to nutrition or calories or whatever: we want YUMMY and we want AUTUMNAL, and those are the only two requirements.

What Pieces are in the See’s Candies Silver Box?

I like to know what’s in a pre-packaged See’s assortment, but they don’t list every single piece in the box—quite possibly because it’s not always the same, so perhaps I will need to get several of each box JUST TO BE SURE. See also:

What Pieces are in the See’s Candies Milk Chocolates Box?
Which Pieces Are in the See’s Candies Chocolate and Variety Box?
Which Pieces Are in the See’s Candies Soft Centers Box?
Which Pieces Are in the See’s Candies Assorted Chocolates Box?

I hadn’t yet tried their Silver Box, so I got that this time. It’s half a pound, and this is the description: “Rich dark and creamy milk chocolate confections include creams, nuts, chews and more.” Well, that is just a SAD description. That doesn’t even list a single specific piece! Here’s what was in my Silver Box:

Butterscotch Square
California Brittle
Caramel (2)
Chelsea
Dark Almond
Dark Butterchew
Dark Chocolate Butter
Dark Molasses Chip (3)
Milk Bordeaux
Milk Cocoanut
Vanilla Nut Cream
Walnut Square

Check the Custom Mix section for descriptions: the names aren’t always very helpful. “Caramel,” for example: would you guess from that name that there are almonds in there? No. Or you’d guess “Dark Almond” probably had almonds in it, but you wouldn’t necessarily know it was an almond cluster rather than, say, something with almonds IN it.

It looks as if Dark Molasses Chip is overrepresented with three pieces in just one half-pound box, but two Molasses Chip together are about the size of one piece of chocolate.

Of those twelve types, four are kinds I always or nearly always include in a Custom Mix. Two are kinds I might not think to order, but am very happy to see. One is a kind I like okay, four are kinds I think are meh but I’ll eat them without complaining. And one is the kind I will throw in the trash if no one else wants it.

I think the assortment could use a fruit cream and a non-chocolate item (Polar Bear Paw, maybe, or Scotch Kiss, or Apricot Delight) for balance, but otherwise I think it was good. The Custom Mix is still a better deal for me, but I think the Silver Box would make a really nice gift—and in fact it’s a likely choice for Paul’s sister’s Christmas box this year.

Driver’s Ed

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGuess what we are doing at our house? HATING LIFE, yes.

I don’t think it makes ANY SENSE AT ALL that Rob is going to transform from “Someone who doesn’t know how to drive” into “Someone who knows how to drive,” even if it seems to work for tens of thousands of new drivers each year. I don’t think it makes any sense to LET him drive, either: driving is DANGEROUS. One false move and all that expensive orthodontic work is wasted.

It feels very uncomfortable to be in the passenger seat. I can do NOTHING if things go wrong: I have no steering wheel, I have no brake. All I can do is verbally direct: “Stop sign.” “Signal.” “See how this is two lanes here? You can barely see the paint anymore, but the center one is for left turns.” Every time he accelerates more/less than I would have, turns more/less than I would have, brakes more/less than I would have, I can FEEL it—and it feels like when the road is icy and you lose control of the car. Woooooooo sliding out of control.

I had imagined Paul doing the 50 hours of driving-with-a-parent required by our state, but Rob said he wanted me to teach him. This is flattering the way it’s flattering when a sick, crabby toddler only wants mommy: it’s nice, but mommy wouldn’t mind so much if that same toddler only wanted daddy, so mommy could go play on her phone or maybe take a shower.

Driving along now, I’m hyper-aware of everything I know to do without knowing I know it. How do I know it’s safe to go this time, and not safe to go that time? How do I know what to do when I make a mistake? How do I know what to do if I’m trying to merge and the traffic won’t let me? WHAT IF I FORGET TO TEACH THESE THINGS TO ROB?? Well. I suppose he will learn, just like we all do. *Alanis Morissette’s “You Learn” starts playing softly in background* NO MUSIC IN THE CAR YET, ROB.

Also, I would like to remark that 50 hours is A LOT OF DRIVING. We could drive from one side of the country to the other and still not be done, depending on the coastline at the start/finish lines. I’m seriously considering doing a road trip, just to get hours done.

Plan for Today

Goal: Keep two 7-year-old boys happily entertained for 2.5 hours

Actual goal: Do as little of the entertaining as possible

Bonus: Have something to send home with the other little boy

Bonus: Play into Thanksgiving/autumn/Veterans theme

 

Available resources:

  • bag of autumn-colors M&Ms
  • empty cardboard egg carton
  • empty paper towel tube
  • the great outdoors
  • common art supplies (crayons, paper, scissors)
  • common kitchen supplies (sugar, flour, food coloring)
  • about 20 minutes of parental motivation/energy
  • coffee

 

Minutes until other little boy arrives: 13

Appealing ideas so far: Zero

Wait, one appealing idea: “Send boys outside to play; sit in kitchen with book, coffee, and bag of M&Ms.”

Fine; Crohn’s Disease Update; More Talk Than You Might Expect About a Specialist; City Driving

It’s interesting that the word “fine” can mean extra special (fine china, fine dining), or okay/normal/maybe-not-quite-okay (I’m fine, it’s fine), or tiny/precise (fine tuning, ground fine), or a penalty (pay a fine), AND THAT IS NOT EVEN ALL THE THINGS IT CAN MEAN. It is also interesting that I dropped a peanut M&M and it went RIGHT DOWN the front of my shirt. This tells me I need to sit up straighter. Although then I wouldn’t have caught the M&M.

Yesterday Edward had an appointment with the pediatric GI specialist, and things are continuing to go fine with the Crohn’s disease. I like how the specialist always makes it clear that this is the state of things for Right Now: we have not “fixed it” by finding the right medicine or whatever, and things could change at any time, and things that work now are Things That Work Now but not necessarily Things That Work Later. Which sounds discouraging, but actually he’s a cheery doctor. “Great!,” he says. “This is what I like to see! It looks like the 6-mp is keeping him in remission right now, and that’s what we aim for. Excellent. I’ll see him in the spring if everything continues this way—but if there are any changes, any changes at all, call us right away.” I feel like he’s optimistic but on the alert.

Also, he’s the kind of doctor who looks at the file BEFORE coming into the room, which is rare in my experience. He says things such as, “Remember when we talked back in May, I told you that Edward’s blood test showed he does not have immunity to varicella? We’ll be testing for that again today.” I hate when I have to remind a doctor of something that is an ongoing/current issue, and then they look back in the file to find it because they weren’t remembering about that at all and so wouldn’t have addressed it at this appointment except that I brought it up. Even though I know perfectly well doctors can’t possibly keep all the details of every patient in their minds, I like them to have a system in place that lets them remind themselves of ongoing-issue details. A system that is NOT “Wait for the patient’s mother to bring it up, and then have no idea what she’s talking about.”

Well. That was kind of a lot of talk about the specialist. Let’s talk some more now about city traffic, because it makes me soooooo sad. I just hate it. I hate it so much. People keep HONKING, and who can tell what the honking MEANS? Do they realize a honking sound does not communicate anything except displeasure or possibly greeting? It doesn’t communicate ANY OTHER INFORMATION, not even “who I’m honking at.”

I am not usually claustrophobic, but I have to breathe carefully to avoid feeling that way when three lanes of traffic are crammed into two-and-a-half lanes, all crammed between two rows of 50-story buildings, with pedestrians and bicyclists inches away from the cars and everyone breaking the rules willy-nilly. Then an ambulance tries to get through. It is MADNESS. I think I could LIKE city living if I didn’t have to DRIVE in it. But after driving in it, I don’t think I’d want to WALK in it, either.

Celebrity Women and Whether They’d Steal Other Women’s Guys

I have recently caught Paul sneaking around behind my back with POLITICAL BOOKS. I used the car he usually uses, and on the seat was a political book. Then I was looking for index cards on his bookshelf and saw several more. None of them are what I’d call mainstream politics. I hope he’s not cracking up on me.

I’ve often thought about what a marriage would be like if one person converted to a religion the other person had no interest in at all, or if one person converted away from a religion both had belonged to. I suspect similar disruption could be expected with political conversion, though in this case it appears to me he’s going more-extreme third-party rather than oppositional-party. More like if both spouses belonged to the same religion, but one of them became more extreme about it.

Well. Speaking of threats to marriage, my mom and I had an interesting conversation yesterday about female celebrities. I’ll start by saying that we’re aware that this discussion was based on:

1. our personal/subjective feelings/impressions
2. of the public images
3. (which may have very little connection to the actual selves)
4. of people we don’t know at all
5. and sometimes we aren’t even all that familiar with the public images either.

In other words, it’s SUCH an unfair discussion. But it was really fun.

Also, I should point out that this would be the same for MALE celebrities, but that we were evaluating the female ones because both of us are heterosexual and female. This silly game could just as easily be played as “Celebrity Men and Whether They’d Steal Other Guys’ Women” or “Celebrity Women and Whether They’d Steal Other Women’s Women” or whatever.

It started when I mentioned that I had thought of Heidi Klum as very different from most of the other Victoria’s Secret models, because she doesn’t look at all SULTRY to me. She looked like she is nice, and friendly, and would definitely go on to be a wife and mother. (Not that you have to be nice and friendly to be a wife and mother. Not that married mothers are nicer and friendlier. Not that the sultry models aren’t just as likely to marry/mother, and not that that would have to be connected/unconnected to THEIR niceness/friendliness. But I’m trying to convey a general feeling of traits Heidi Klum projected that I would not expect to see combined with Victoria’s Secret modeling.)

I was trying to think of a way to describe what I thought she was the OPPOSITE of, and my mom came up with the perfect example of Megan Fox. Megan Fox looks like she would seduce your husband just for the fun of it, using mean comments about you as one of her seduction techniques; then afterward she’d shrug and say it wasn’t HER fault if you couldn’t keep your man’s attention. While causing all this intense drama, she’d continue to tell everyone that she really liked guys better than women because there was no DRAMA with guys. Heidi Klum would be careful not to flirt with someone else’s husband, and would deliberately not wear sexy clothes if she was coming over to your house, and you could totally be friends with her.

This led to thinking of further examples. Gisele Bundchen is obviously on the Megan Fox side of things, though I see her as less sultry and more obviously “She will eat pizza and drink beer and watch sports while dating, but as soon as the relationship is solidly locked down we’ll see the guy in People magazine talking about how she’s cut sugar and fat and dairy out of his diet completely, and also he does Pilates now.”

Scarlett Johansson seems like she’s toward the middle, but more toward Megan Fox: she wouldn’t SET OUT to steal someone’s husband—but if it came to that, what was she supposed to do about it? Gwen Stefani would be threateningly cool, but falls more toward Heidi Klum: I feel like she might sort of flirt, but not in a serious way. Taylor Swift might bat her eyelashes a little at the boys, but she’d be hanging out in the kitchen with the girls. Kate Hudson might be a little annoyingly smiley and perky, and might enjoy a little attention for it, and might do cartwheels in your yard and then scream with laughter when her skirt flipped up, but wouldn’t be hoping to mess up anyone’s relationship, and she’d have plain cotton undies on. Kate Winslet would barely even talk to someone else’s guy, just to play it safe, and would be chilly with anyone else’s guy who tried to flirt with her.

MOST female celebrities seem to me to fall into the Heidi Klum half of the spectrum: definitely appealing, maybe even a little bit accidentally too flirty, but without raising hackles. I’d think that would be a challenging image to maintain unless it came mostly naturally.

Plague Inc.; Giant Branch; Fox Christmas Ornaments; NaNoWriMo

Nearly our whole family has been playing a game on our phones called Plague Inc. You start with a simple bacteria, and you continue to customize it to be more dangerous; the goal is to use it to successfully extinguish all human life. It leads to hearing family members say some pretty disturbing things: “Ooo, great, everyone in China is dead!,” “YES, I infected Canada!,” etc. Last night I said to Paul, “That game makes me feel so unsettled and queasy—so why do I keep wanting to go back and play it again?” and he said “Because it’s fun. Also, because you know diseases don’t really work like that.”

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A giant branch came down in our yard last night (missing the fence and the house completely: it’s just lying neatly in the yard as if it walked there), which makes me even gladder we’ve hired a tree guy to come take down some trees. Imagine how pissed our neighbor would have been if that branch had come down on THEIR side of the fence.

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I was at Target yesterday, buying some barely-reduced Halloween candy and admiring the Christmas ornaments, and even though I need NO MORE ORNAMENTS, and in fact really need to go through and get RID OF some ornaments, I came home with two ornaments:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

My thinking on the subject is that soon the fox trend will be over, so I need to seize it while I can. There will be only a limited number of months/years to easily acquire fox possessions, and MANY years to get rid of others to make room for them.

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Rob is doing NaNoWriMo this year, which is particularly fun for me because I did NaNoWriMo back when I was pregnant with Henry, to distract me from first-trimester queasiness. I’m not sure why Rob, who has never really liked writing, was suddenly interested in trying this, but he’s doing it.

In totally unrelated news, the girl he wanted to go to the movies with likes writing and is doing NaNoWriMo. And speaking of that, the two sets of parents did decide to let them go to the movies together. Purely by coincidence, her parents wanted to see another movie in the same theater at the same time, so that worked out well.

How to Wish Someone a Happy Birthday on Facebook

One of the reasons I generally DON’T wish people a happy birthday on Facebook is that it’s a struggle coming up with something good, especially in public. If I’m the first or even second or third person, I feel good with “Happy birthday!” If there are twelve “Happy birthday!”s already, plus a bunch of witty remarks, I sit there thinking for too long, then feel like I tried too hard. If I DO come up with something good, it’s hard to re-use it publicly for someone else’s birthday: if I’d put it in an email, no one would have known I used the same cute/clever line for everyone. Not that I do that.

I thought I would compile a list of how OTHER people solved this problem:

“Happy birthday!” The classic. Upside: no one thinks you’re trying too hard.

“Happy birthday!” + intensifier. Examples: “Happy happy happy birthday!” “HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!!!!”

“Happy birthday!” + fancier. Examples: “Happiest of birthdays!” “A very happy birthday to you!” “HaPpY BiRtHdAy!~*~!”

“Happy birthday!” + sillier. Example: “Happy cake-and-presents day!” “Herpy berfderf!” “Happy Bmas!” “What the haps, homebirth!”

“Happy birthday!” + sticker or other birthday-card-type picture. This is one of my new favorites. It’s DECORATIVE, but I don’t have to think of something clever. Example:

Screen shot 2014-10-31 at 9.23.58 AM

“Happy birthday!” + name/nickname/endearment. Examples: “Happy birthday, Margaret!” “Happy birthday, sunshine!” “Happy birthday, Bundlebuns!”

“Happy birthday!” + instruction/wish regarding enjoyment of day. Examples: “Happy birthday! Have fun today!” “Happy birthday! Hope it’s great!”

“Happy birthday!” + instruction for specific suggested celebration technique. Examples: “Happy birthday! EAT CAKE!!” “Happy birthday! PARRRRRRRTAY!!” “Happy birthday! WINE TIME!”

“Happy birthday!” + compliment. Examples: “Happy birthday, pretty lady!” “Happy birthday, sweet friend!” “Happy birthday, hottttie!” “Happy birthday! You’re wonderful!”

“Happy birthday!” + affection. Example: “Happy birthday! I love you!” “Happy birthday! I’m glad you were born!”

“Happy birthday!” + teasing. Example: “Happy birthday to you and your manly beard!” “Happy birthday! Where’s the usual selfie??”

Joking reference to age, flattering/neutral. Examples: “Happy 29th birthday!” “Congratulations on the 13th anniversary of your 29th birthday!”

Joking reference to age, unflattering. Examples: “Happy birthday, old man!” “Happy birthday! Don’t light the house on fire with all those candles!”

“Happy birthday!” + apparent reference to in-joke. Examples: “Happy birthday! Don’t forget that elephant!” “Happy birthday! Hope it’s flurbastic!”

“Happy birthday!” + nostalgia. Examples: “Happy birthday! I can’t believe my baby girl is 28!” “Happy birthday! I remember when you were born! What a wonderful day!”

Pretending to sing. Example: “Happy birthday to you! / Happy birthday to you! / Happy birthday, dear [name], / Happy birthday to you!”

Piling it on. Example: “HAPPY BIRTHDAY, beautiful wonderful friend!!! ~*~*~ Have an AWESOME day, you DESERVE IT!!! Eat lots of cake! Have fun! I LOVE YOU!!!! xoxoxo”

 

And of course there are tons of triple combinations: “Happy birthday! Have a great day! I love you!” and “Happy 29th birthday, Margaret! Always remember the PALamo!!” “Hey, beautiful, it’s your birthday!! EAT CAKE!” In fact, now that I’ve listed it out, I don’t know what my problem is: this is not so hard.