Hard Day

This was a hard day. 1) Before leaving for Edward’s colonoscopy, I snapped at Henry and said mean things. 2) Then, on the way to the colonoscopy, I missed a turn in a big city, and ended up in a tunnel that took us somewhere else. 3) Then, Edward’s colonoscopy showed almost for sure that his medication is not adequately treating his Crohn’s Disease. 4) Also, during his colonoscopy we changed presidents.

But it wasn’t all bad. 1) I apologized to Henry when I got home, and I think I can handle things better next time. 2) The GPS helped me find my way back to the right route, and I’d allowed 45 minutes’ padding because I hate city driving, so we still arrived on time. 3) Edward’s GI doctor has a plan (biopsy results, then MRI, then we talk again), and seems chill about moving on to another medication. 4)

Fraught Week

A week with an appointment at a children’s hospital is always a bit FRAUGHT (Edward is having a colonoscopy to check on the status of his Crohn’s Disease; we’ve been through this before, but the prep is still unpleasant, and it is still stressful to deal with the procedure / the city driving / having a child put under anesthesia / etc. ), but also it is scheduled for the same day as the presidential inauguration. So you can guess my mood. And by “mood” I mean blood alcohol content.

Also this week, I took Rob to the first medical appointment he’s had since turning 18, and it was all different: they gave HIM the permission forms to sign, and they had him sign his own HIPAA. After the appointment, he’s the one who received an email with the link to his online patient profile. And his new prescription isn’t in my online pharmacy account, BECAUSE HE IS A LEGAL ADULT AND SO HAS BEEN AUTOMATICALLY REMOVED FROM MY ACCOUNT. It is all very odd, considering he still lives at home and I’m paying all his medical expenses and picking up his prescriptions and telling him to unload the dishwasher and so on.

Also this week, there was an envelope in the mail confirming Rob’s draft registration. He can now be drafted into the military. The draft has always seemed nutty to me, but looking at my 18-year-old child it seems nutty beyond imagination. (“Nutty” is the best word I could come up with here without going off the rails, and I am not happy with the lighthearted whimsy of it, but the more-accurate words seemed to trigger multiple-paragraph rantings.) And did you know that boy children aren’t eligible for college financial aid unless they have registered to allow their government to decide whether or not they have to go fight in a war and kill people and maybe be killed? Well. The upside is that the next war will likely be nuclear, so there will not be time or need for a draft.

I will feel a countdown timer in my head from now until he turns 26 and is no longer on the draft list. I have added it to the list of Special Birthdays, alongside Kindergarten 5, Double Digits 10, and Sweet 16.

Vote on the Movie 2001: A Space Odyssey

On New Year’s Eve we watched 2001: A Space Odyssey. It was my third time seeing it, and it was even worse than I’d remembered. The background sounds were nearly intolerable. It needed Stephen-King-novel levels of editing/chopping. And the major plot elements seemed divided into two types:

1. Super, super obvious insights that were presented as if they were profound. Like when someone is on drugs and starts saying things that seem MIND-BLOWING but are…not. Even if accompanied by a banging drum and a discordant choir.

2. Stuff where someone involved in the making of the movie confused “things that do not make sense” with “things that are very, very deep and profound”—either because he/she personally confuses those things, or because he/she thought the VIEWER would confuse those things and find the result impressive. Like when someone is writing or reading poetry, and thinks that the more baffling/random it is, the more meaningful/deep/profound it is.


Anyway. That was my individual opinion of the movie. I found it just about intolerable, and I never want to see it again OR be in the house while others are watching it.

In expressing this view to the people I live with, I found that Elizabeth could not have agreed more. She did not see why this was the sort of movie her father felt she HAD to see, when it was clearly annoying, boring, and faux-deep. The male persons in my household, however, wanted to argue with me. What EXACTLY did I think was, quote, SO OBVIOUS, endquote? How did I KNOW that some inexplicable parts WEREN’T actually profound? They wanted me to prove to them the unproveable (i.e., that something does not make sense), starting from first principles. Hm, what a tempting offer, but no thank you. I mean, if you say “And also, so-and-so was a terrible actor,” and someone replies, “He was SUPPOSED to be a terrible actor! That was the POINT!,” then what more can the two of you say to one another to achieve peaceful understanding?

Since New Year’s Eve, I have mentioned this movie several times in mixed groups. In EVERY CASE SO FAR, the female people in the group have been of basically my point of view, and the male people in the group have been more aligned with the male people in my household. People have been placed variously on the spectrum, of course, and have had various intensities of feelings. But IN GENERAL, and even with this extremely small sample size, I have seen enough to make me want to do a poll.

Update: So, this is frustrating, but I can’t make the poll work. It wouldn’t format correctly. It insisted that people log in as a WordPress user, even though I unchecked that box when setting up the poll; each time I returned to the poll settings, that box was re-checked. The poll was a nice width on my main page, but if you clicked through to the address of the post itself, it was about one word wide so you couldn’t even tell what you were voting for.

I’m very discouraged. All I can think of is having free-form voting in the comments section, but that’s nowhere near as helpful: we can get 800 votes in a poll when we’d get 25 comments, because it’s way way easier and more fun to vote than to comment. Also, doing it in the comments section is going to make everyone more likely to argue: it’s less provoking to see the numbers and percentages than to see someone saying an opinion in their own words. Also, there are people who cruise around the internet looking to fight about their pet topic: if I get 50% comments in the comments section saying “YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT, IT’S THE BEST MOVIE EVER, YOU’RE JUST TOO STUPID TO UNDERSTAND ITS BRILLIANCE,” but the poll shows only 1% of voters say they liked the movie, it’s a good indicator I have stumbled upon one of those topics. If all I have is the 50% comments section with no 1% poll, I’m going to get discouraged about humanity.

Cleaning Out My Sock and Underwear Drawer

I don’t know how you can guard your heart against a title like that one.

Today’s task: finish listening to last week’s The 451 podcast while cleaning out a drawer that no longer closed: my sock and underwear drawer. Here it is at the beginning of this project, and I am sorry to say I had to look HARD at the before and after pictures to tell which one was which, so visually-speaking this is not going to be one of those giant catharsis projects:

My socks and underwear used to fit easily in two of the smaller drawers above. Let’s not waste time discussing WHO should have fewer socks/underwear, let’s just say that as I began this project, the much larger drawer I had moved them into could no longer open or close beyond what you see there, unless it was getting toward Laundry Day.

I took out the drawer and dumped everything out on the bed:

This left a nearly-empty drawer, containing only a back-up bottle of perfume I bought when it was discontinued (L’Artisan Tea for Two):

Here is the underwear sorted into “pairs I will wear” (left) and “pairs I hate” (right):

Here are the socks sorted into seven piles. Starting at the top left and going down the left hand side, it’s ankle socks, trouser/dressy socks, novelty socks, and knee socks. Starting at the top right and going down the right hand side, it’s crew/boot socks, singleton socks I needed to think about, and singleton socks that could go right into the trash :


I should not have shifted the point of view so often in this series, nor should I have put the underwear I like back in the drawer before taking this picture, nor should I have put the things I got rid of further away so that they looked smaller—but I did do all those things, so here we are. Farthest from the viewer are the things I got rid of: the underwear I hate, almost all of the novelty socks I like but never wear, almost all of the trouser/dressy socks, two pairs of ankle socks I don’t like, and the crew/boot socks I don’t like or don’t wear. Nearer the viewer is the unfortunately-still-large quantity of things I’m keeping; the largest piles are ankle socks, crew/boot socks, and white crew socks. Then some little piles: three pairs of trouser/dressy socks for the rare occasions I need them; two pairs of novelty socks for the rare occasions I wear them; and I put the two pairs of knee socks in a big plastic baggie with the ankle brace I wear them with, and put that back in the bathroom closet.

Here is the trash can, afterward, though it was half-full when I started this project:

Here is the drawer, afterward, and brace yourself for a disappointing picture of a still-quite-full drawer:

I do wish I could TELL that I had half-filled a trash can. But look, it closes:

And even though it doesn’t LOOK a lot emptier, I can now rummage around in there, which I could not do before. And sometimes I need to do a first pass before I can get rid of more stuff. It would also help if I would rotate my clothes seasonally: I wear the ankle socks in warm weather and the crew/boot socks in cold weather. But I do not rotate my clothes seasonally, so.

Where Do the Kids Do Their Homework?

Hi Swistle!

I’ve been reading you sort of obsessively for many years, have five kids (including surprise boy/girl twins!), and finally have a question I don’t think you’ve addressed yet in the blog:

Where do your upper-elementary, middle- and high-school kids do their homework? We’re a year or so away from needing to use real beds for the toddler twins (our youngest), and when we do that we’ll reconfigure the two shared bedrooms to make them single-sex. We’ve been mulling a loft bed with a desk underneath for our first-grader, but if having five babies in five years taught me anything, it’s that the purchases that seem *so* useful at point of sale are often the ones we’re reselling on Craigslist three years later because…well, by then, everything has changed.

So do your kids have designated workspaces? Personal or shared desks? Are they in their bedrooms, or elsewhere? Do any of them work on their beds or at the kitchen table? I went to high school in the era of AOL dial-up and beige desktops, but while I used my computer a fair amount, I never sat at the desk for anything I didn’t have to type.

Of course, by the time my oldest (now in second grade) goes to high school, they might be stepping into algebraic equations via hologram, but I like doing the research regardless. Thanks for any and all insights.


Oh, this IS an interesting question!

My original plan, back before any of the kids were doing homework, was to have desks in the rooms. That’s what I had when I was growing up. Though, did I use my homework desk for homework? Heck, no: I used it to hold my frosty eye shadows, my frosty lipsticks, my curling iron, my assortment of hair sprays, and my Charlie and Chantilly perfumes. To do my homework, I sat on my bed. But I still had it in my mind that bedrooms should have homework desks.

Then we had our third and fourth and fifth children, and there was no longer space in any of the bedrooms for desks. The one desk I’d already bought (back when we had two kids and they each had their own room) now lives in our computer/office room, holding up a computer.

So! Now we have a 12th grader, a 10th grader, two 6th graders, and a 4th grader, and where the kids do their homework is “all over the house.” There’s no set place for it, though there are favorite/usual places. NOBODY likes to be in their rooms, they ALL have to be right smack up in the grills of everybody else, but a kid will SOMETIMES do homework in a bedroom if they are sent there by a parent (“No, you CANNOT insist that everyone else be absolutely silent so that you can concentrate in the middle of the living room!”) or if it’s after bedtime.

The two older boys often do their homework at the dining room table, which has become their office: their computers live there and their textbooks live there, so that’s pretty much where they live too. (We eat at our dining room table once a year, on Thanksgiving.)

The three younger kids tend to do theirs at the coffee table in the living room. It’s a nice big wide coffee table with short stools around it. (The kids also eat meals there.)

Sometimes a kid will perch on a stool at the kitchen counter to do homework.


This seems like the kind of question where it’s interesting to hear how a bunch of different households handle it.

Book: The Course of Love

I finished a book last week that I am still thinking about a lot, and I think it may have changed/improved my ideas about marriage, and I felt like it was just a really good book to have read, and so I will recommend it to you as well:

(image from Amazon.com)

The Course of Love, by Alain de Botton

It’s a novel, kind of, but it’s more a study of the concept of marriage using a fictional couple as illustration. And in fact, I think you might enjoy it more if you go into it thinking of it as a non-fiction book. It can get a little lofty/preachy, but not too often, and not to such an extent that I couldn’t overlook it; you can tell the author put a ton of thought into the topic and sometimes he just gets a little carried away, that’s all.

This excerpt is from a section about why the author thinks art (such as this book) should take more time to explore what ordinary married life is like:

The ordinary challenging relationship remains a strangely and unhelpfully neglected topic. It’s the extremes that repeatedly grab the spotlight…and so it is hard to know what we should make of, and how lonely we should feel about, such things as immature rages, late-night threats of divorce, sullen silences, slammed doors, and everyday acts of thoughtlessness and cruelty.

He goes on to say that ideally art should be showing this to us, but unfortunately it doesn’t do it often enough or well enough. And so:

We hence imagine that things are far worse for us than they are for other couples. Not only are we unhappy, we misunderstand how freakish and rare our particular form of unhappiness might be. We end up believing that our struggles are indications of having made some unusual and fundamental error, rather than evidence that our marriages are essentially going entirely according to plan.

And I think the book accomplishes its goal to show one such example of one such marriage. I didn’t while reading it identify with all or even most of the aspects of the marriage in question, but of course I wouldn’t: it’s only one example, and the argument is that we need LOTS of examples. And I didn’t necessarily find all the same insights remarkable, but of course I wouldn’t: the author is also only one example of what a person might go into marriage expecting, and what that person might have to learn the hard way. The book ends up being more of a template: here is an EXAMPLE of a marriage, here are some of the KINDS of things that can go wrong, here is the SORT of wrong expectation a person might have, here is the SORT of thing a person might have to learn. From the one example, the author brings up many broader topics that could apply to any marriage.

It can get a little bit depressing to think of one’s spouse feeling so desperately miserable and as if they made the wrong choice to be with us. I found I was happier if I concentrated mostly on the ways in which I myself identified with the story, and not on the ways Paul might identify.

College Applications; Resolutions

Rob’s college applications have all been submitted, and now we wait. He got one acceptance already, to Texas A&M, which was thrilling. I’d hoped it would mean we’d hear back sooner than expected from ALL the colleges, but it looks as if all the others notify more like March or April.

It’s strange to be in the 2017 of “Class of ’17,” after having it sound so far away when we first figured out what year he’d graduate. Now here we are: the year he graduates high school, the year he goes off to college, the year he turns 18 and registers for the draft and to vote. It’s a year of stress and change and lots of exciting stuff. It’s funny to think what an effect the college he chooses could have over the rest of his life: it could be where he meets the person he’s going to marry; it could be where he makes lifelong friends. It could be that he’ll love that area of the country and settle down there. The particular programs and professors could steer him in an unexpected career direction. The people he hangs around with could change his interests and views and the genetic make-up of my grandchildren. It’s heady stuff.

And I’m going to get to put together care packages, which I love to do.

Well. New subject: resolutions. I like to make a few, but not the eat less, exercise more, lose weight kind of resolutions, which discourage me even to THINK about: January is grim enough without adding that kind of thing. The closest I come to that category of resolution is, for example, deciding I don’t eat enough fruits/vegetables and resolving to eat one more fruit or vegetable per day: specific, manageable, achievable, kind of fun, kind of interesting, makes me feel perky rather than grim. Or I can picture resolving to try a new activity, like saying this year I am going to try Zumba, or this year I am going to try that ballet-based exercise class I keep hearing about. This year my resolutions are:

1. Learn one new practical skill. It doesn’t have to be BIG. Paul has been working on this concept for the last few years; I forget what he calls it, but something like adding arrows to his quiver. He’s learned some metalwork and some woodwork and some gardening, and now he’s learning ham radio. I might want to take a nursing assistant course, or maybe re-learn how to can, or maybe learn to crochet, or maybe something else. I could re-take CPR training, or learn how to make a button-hole, or re-learn how to make bread. Ooo, or it might be fun to learn to make flour from grain! I’m unlikely to NEED that skill, but that is not really the point.

2. Figure out where podcasts are found and how to move them onto a device and how to listen to them. I keep hearing about podcasts, but I don’t get how it works. This is acquirable knowledge, and I am going to acquire it.

3. I’m going to send some money to NPR. Rob won an Alexa in a computer contest, and on the advice of my sister-in-law I started asking Alexa to tell me the news each morning while I was making coffee and getting breakfast. She (the Alexa) gives me an NPR news summary, and it is exactly the amount of news I want. I keep forgetting to go online and give NPR some monetary appreciation.

2017: Calendars and Basic Life Skills

I have forgotten what I came in here to write about. Oh! I remember! I chose two of our calendars for 2017: the one for my kitchen, which will be Smithsonian Seed Catalogues, and the one for next to my computer, which will be Cats in Color. I’d been hoping they’d go down in price after Christmas but they did not, and then I started getting anxious about wanting to have the kitchen one all set up before January 1st, and also I was worried they’d go out of stock, so even though I didn’t know which one would be for which room, I went ahead and ordered both. I made my final kitchen vs. office decision based on square size: the Smithsonian one has bigger squares with more writing room, which I need for the kitchen calendar; the one next to my computer only rarely needs anything written on it. I also impulse-bought this page-a-day calendar called It’s Different Every Day: A Non-Boring Calendar for 2017.

But! A further complication is that Elizabeth still has the option to choose the Cats in Color calendar for HER room, in which case I would order something else for next to my computer. …This story is less interesting now that I see it typed out. ONWARD ANYWAY.

I have seen a lot of talk about how awful 2016 was and how people can’t wait for it to be over, but I have been increasingly anxious as the final days run out. I’m returning to some of my inclinations to shop ahead and stock up. There are a few large purchases we’ve made recently, such as a new dryer to replace the one that had to run each load twice to dry it, which make me feel happy to have reset the timer on when we will next need to replace those items. I’m not likely to get rid of clothes right now, despite the usual New Year’s urge to clean things out. In general I’m making purchases now rather than delaying them, and keeping duplicate items rather than donating them.

My friend Miss Grace was asking on Twitter about solid life-skills for hard times. Like, her husband is a chef who can take a pig from alive to bacon, and her brother is a doctor, so both of them would have useful skills even if things suddenly got a lot more primitive. Blogging would not be so useful. Nor would Target end-cap clearance shopping. Those are my main skills. Can I build a shelter? No. Can I hunt? No. Can I garden? No. Can I even start a fire without matches? No. Am I quick-thinking in an emergency? No. I do know what to loot from a pharmacy, is that a skill?

Awhile back, after I’d quit my eldercare job, Paul suggested I might want to take the 6-week nursing assistant course ANYWAY. My first answer was of course I didn’t want to, what would be the point of that NOW? But then I was thinking more about it, and one of the main things I wanted from that job was EXPERIENCE and KNOWLEDGE, so in that context it makes sense to take the class: I’d still like to learn the correct way to do the things I struggled with (boy, I still resent my employer for not training me but putting me in those situations anyway), and now that I’ve tried them WITHOUT the education, I think the education would be much easier to understand/incorporate/apply. I’d anticipate a lot of “Oh, so THAT’S how I was supposed to do it!!” light bulb moments.

Also, that course would add to my Basic Life Skills—not a lot, but some. I’d learn the body mechanics of supporting/helping another person without hurting myself, and I’d learn to be a good assistant to a nurse. I may not be good at quick thinking, but if someone else is thinking quickly I’m good at taking orders from them. If a clinic were set up and needed help, I could be useful doing the bathing/changing/moving, to free the nurses to use their higher training on other things.

Well. The whole life-skills thing is interesting to think about. Long ago I used to make jam, and I believe I remember enough of the basics to do that again. I said above that I don’t know how to garden, but I did work in a plant nursery for a year so I know some basics about planting things and propagating from cuttings/seeds (but in an artificially sterile/controlled environment). I can take care of children from newborns on up. I’ve made some of my natural anxieties work for me by channeling them into the acquisition of useful books (survival manuals, edible plants, basic first-aid) and supplies (camp stove, matches, water purifiers). I can do basic haircuts. I can…sew a button back on.

Paul can work with metal and wood (and has a lathe and a bunch of other tools/equipment), and can weld, and is learning to be a ham radio operator, and has attempted a garden several years in a row and is learning from that (and one year we got a MIGHTY crop of butternut squash). He’s a computer guy, so if there are computers to be managed/fixed/networked/firewalled/secured, he can do that.

What basic life skills do you have? Were you a Scout? Do you have medical knowledge/experience? Can you manage livestock: milk cows, care for chickens, etc.? Are you good at gardening? Do you know how to preserve food by drying or canning? Can you sew and/or knit and/or patch and repair and alter? Are you good at finding ways to stretch supplies or make things work in creative ways? Are you good at building and/or repairing? Can you fix/maintain machines? Can you use weapons? Can you hunt/trap animals, and process the meat? Can you build/maintain a fire, and/or cook over one? Can you speak other languages? Can you teach? Can you think of other things that seem like useful life skills?

Annual Calendar Post, 2017 Calendar Edition!

Time once again for one of my favorite posts of the entire year. I need one calendar for the kitchen, one for next to my computer, one for Elizabeth’s room, one for each of the two boy bedrooms, and possibly one for Paul’s office. One thing that’s interesting this year is that we switched the boys’ rooms around: last year we had a big and a little in each room, leading to difficult calendar-choosing; this year the bigs are in one room and the littles in another, which I hope will make things easier. Another thing to consider is that if all goes according to plan, partway through the year Rob will be leaving his room and going somewhere he may not even WANT a wall calendar.

(image from Amazon.com)

Every Day’s a Holiday. This one was a finalist last year for one of the boy rooms. I am torn about whether or not I can stand to have a child tell me every day that it is National Moose Day, or National Handkerchief Day, or whatever.


(image from Amazon.com)

Do It All, Secret Garden. For the kitchen calendar, I definitely want a good picture: I don’t want one of those calendars that sacrifices the picture for more writing room. But…..I also like lots of writing room, so. This one has a small strip of picture, plus extra writing room, plus a pocket at the bottom for things like party invitations.


(image from Amazon.com)

Masha D’yans. Pretty and sweet. I consider it each year, and have not yet chosen it.


(image from Amazon.com)

Lang Around the World. I dig the moody, rainy, international vibe. I dig less the smaller writing squares.


(image from Amazon.com)

Farmer’s Market. I had this one year and liked it so much that Paul bought me two prints by the artist.


(image from Amazon.com)

Rigel Stuhmiller’s Farmer’s Market. Another farmer’s-market-based calendar, but in bolder colors.


(image from Amazon.com)

Surrealscapes. I don’t like surrealism, but the older boys do and might want this for their room.


(image from Amazon.com)

Master of Illusion. We had this in one of the boy rooms one year and it was popular.


(image from Amazon.com)

Goats in Trees. Immediate reaction: YES. Second reaction: But for twelve months?


(image from Amazon.com)

Trees. Maybe I want just the trees, sans goats. There is something enduring and above-it-all about a tree.


(image from Amazon.com)

Wolf Kahn. I like the look of this, and also the description of it as tranquility in violent colors. But so many of the pages look basically the same: whole bunch of thin trunks.


(image from Amazon.com)

Fractal Cosmos. Contender for bigger boys’ room.


(image from Amazon.com)

Tiny Houses. I would not want to LIVE-live in a tiny house, but I would like one just for me in my back yard.


(image from Amazon.com)

Fantastic Cities: A Coloring Calendar. As of posting, this is only $2.42, perhaps because so many people thought what I thought, which was “Oooo, I would LOVE this, if someone ELSE would color it for me!” Then I thought, maybe I could put a keyrack next to it, with colored pencils tied (or super-glued) to strings attached to each hook, and we could all work on coloring it throughout each month? That might be fun.


(image from Amazon.com)

A Colorful Year. This one isn’t as cheap, but has the advantage of variety: I’m not sure I’d want to color cities all year long.


(image from Amazon.com)

Feathered Friends. Jess thought I would like this one and she is very correct. Top contender.


(image from Amazon.com)

Hamilton. I suspect a TON of people will have this calendar next year.


(image from Amazon.com)

Super Mario Bros. Contender for the littler boys’ room.


(image from Amazon.com)

Pusheen. We had this one in the kitchen just a couple of years ago, but I think I’d be ready to see it again. We all liked it so much. Or maybe it would be a good one for Elizabeth’s room.


(image from Amazon.com)

Hot Dudes Reading. Well…OKAY!


(image from Amazon.com)

Unlikely Friendships. In the right mood, this kind of thing can fill me with teary hope for all of humankind.


(image from Amazon.com)

The Art of Brushstrokes. Looking at the back of this one gave me a pleasantly doped feeling, so this is definitely a contender.


(image from Amazon.com)

On This Day in History. This is one both older boys wanted last year, but neither younger boy wanted it. I might want it for the kitchen this year, for the perspective. But perhaps that would be grim.


(image from Amazon.com)

Fat Cats. Contender for Elizabeth’s room. She appreciates a nice fat cat.


(image from Amazon.com)

A Walk in Paris. This is so charming. And you know, I think fully half of the appeal is the title. If they’d just called it Paris, I would have scrolled (strolled) right past. But A WALK in Paris is lovely.


(image from Amazon.com)

New York in Art. I love this idea. Frequently I will like an artist but not enough to have that same artist up all year. This is all different artists. I wish I felt more of a connection to New York.


(image from Amazon.com)

Steal Like an Artist. I think Rob would like this one. Each month has a drawing/saying for anyone working on a project—it doesn’t have to be art.


(image from Amazon.com)

Codex Seraphinianus. You have got to look at the back of this calendar. I think I should get this for the older boys’ room, or for Paul’s office: they all really liked the book.


(image from Amazon.com)

Modern Art. A nice assortment, but it seems as if there are always a couple of pages I actively don’t want.


(image from Amazon.com)

A Zesty Year of Boynton.


(image from Amazon.com)

World Travel Classic Posters. I love this style, and I’m in the mood for something international. Scroll down to the “Customers who bought this also bought…” section for a lot more options with this same look.


(image from Amazon.com)

Pets Rock. Guinea. Pig. Pope.


(image from Amazon.com)

Brady Bunch. So first of all: no. But I find I am happy it exists.


(image from Amazon.com)

Bloom County. Oh, I am SO pleased to see this. I had a Bloom County calendar in high school. I think this might be the winner for next to my computer.


(image from Amazon.com)

Art of the Heart. I am usually take-it-or-leave-it about Heartsy McLoveLove stuff, but this year I’m into it.


(image from Amazon.com)

Smithsonian Seed Catalogue.


(image from Amazon.com)

Blue and White. I love this idea. I would love to see more calendars in other color combinations.


(image from Amazon.com)

Cats in Color. Strong contender for the kitchen (everyone would like it) or Elizabeth’s room.


(image from Amazon.com)

Albino Deer. This is so surprisingly specialized.


(image from Amazon.com)

Embroidered Nature. These pictures are of things made with EMBROIDERY.


(image from Amazon.com)

Plastic Classics. Artworks recreated with found plastic objects. It seems to me there are more than the usual number of interesting ideas for calendars this year.


(image from Amazon.com)

Mid-Century Modern Wallpaper. I’ve twice had a vintage-wallpaper calendar, and both times found it very satisfying.


(image from Amazon.com)

Prints and Patterns. This is similarly appealing, but less vintage.



As usual, I long for you to tell me about the calendars you have purchased, or will purchase.

Gift Ideas for 9-Year-Old and 11-Year-Old Boys

I may never find a good way of titling these posts. I want to make them easy to find so you don’t have to sort through two hundred posts all titled “Gift Ideas” to find a gift for one particular age group, but I DON’T want to imply that the gift ideas are, for example, “boy toys” and not for girls, or that they are “girl toys” and not for boys, or that something is right for ANY 11-year-old when some 11-year-olds might be too young or too old for it. WELL WHATEVER. This is a post about what my 9-year-old boy (Henry) and 11-year-old boy (Edward) want and/or what they are getting.

(image from Amazon.com)

Pokémon Deluxe Essential Handbook. I wonder what vast number of children are receiving this for the holidays this year? At our house, it’s going to Edward, but others of us will also be interested in perusing it. I hope this is the newest version; I notice with concern that it was published in summer of 2015. There may be a hotter, more-recent version that I am unaware of.

We’re also getting him a Google Play card so he can buy a whole bunch of Pokéballs on the old Android phone that no longer works as a phone so the kids play games on it.

Do you already have Munchkin? I HATE this game, but Paul and the kids LOVE it. The house is FULL of shouting and laughing when they’re playing it. Anyway, Henry loves it more than anyone and will pitifully play it against himself if no one else can play it right then, so his aunt and uncle are buying him Munchkin Apocalypse, a stand-alone game that can also serve as an expansion pack for the original:

(image from Amazon.com)


Edward saw this “I may be nerdy but only periodically” shirt, and loves it with all of his little nerd heart:

(image from Amazon.com)


He also wants this SmartLab Toys programmable rover:

(image from Amazon.com)


Henry loves toy weapons, camouflage gear, soldier/knight costumes, etc. This is a category I have zero interest in discussing the pros/cons/whys/why-nots of, except to say that it is going to blow his mind that I finally let him having something camo:

(image from Target.com)

It’s thermal underwear, but the kids wear them as pajamas. He can also wear them while firing the Nerf guns my parents are getting him:

(image from Amazon.com)

Nerf N-Strike Modulus Blaster

(image from Amazon.com)

Nerf N-Strike Elite Rough Cut 2×4 Blaster

I am sorry to see those are both only available from third-party sellers, for considerably higher prices; I wonder if Target has them in stock? Or I would just search “Nerf gun” on Amazon and see what else pops up: they all look pretty much the same to me.


Henry wants this Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual, but I don’t think we’re going to get it for him:

(image from Amazon.com)

I like to get each kid a book at Christmas, but $30 is more than I like to spend on the book gift, and our library has this one. On the other hand, he has way fewer ideas on his wish list than Edward does, and he likes to use the Monster Manual to come up with ideas for stories and games, so maybe that could count as one book gift + one toy gift.

Paul suggests getting him Coding Games in Scratch, but really Edward and Elizabeth are the ones who use Scratch. Maybe this would get Henry interested too.

(image from Amazon.com)


And of course if we did not already own it, I would be buying them my friend’s book, which is perfect for this age group:

(image from Amazon.com)

(There, that is like six mentions out of a total planned ten thousand, so we are getting there!)


Edward wants a remote-controlled helicopter:

(image from Amazon.com)

My parents bought these a few years ago for Rob and William, and they were a huge success. You have to go into it assuming a limited life span: they are more durable than they seem like they could be, but they do eventually break if you keep crashing them into things, and you will inevitably keep crashing them into things. I considered the amount of play we got out of them before they broke to be well worth the price.


Edward also wants this Circuit Maze game:

(image from Amazon.com)

We will probably get it for him. I think of ThinkFun as a near-guaranteed-success brand.


And now a list of the video games Edward wants. Rob has recently allowed his old 3DS to be used by younger siblings, and so Edward wants a bunch of 3DS games:

(image from Amazon.com)

Luigi’s Mansion Dark Moon

(image from Amazon.com)

Pokémon Omega Ruby

(image from Amazon.com)

Pokémon Sun

(image from Amazon.com)

MarioKart 7


I am getting each boy the same radio alarm clock I got for Elizabeth, but theirs are black instead of white like hers:

(image from Amazon.com)


Ever since getting one of those Origami Yoda books from a free-book fair at school, Edward has been patiently folding paper, so I got him this Money Origami kit and I hope it’s good:

I did not spend $15 on it; I found it at Marshalls for something like $7.99.