Author Archives: Swistle

Reader Question: Gift Ideas for a 13-Year-Old Girl

Hi Swistle, I’m hoping you and/or your readers can help. My daughter turns 13 this month and I am at a TOTAL loss as to what to get her.

This is a hard age I feel like. My mom wanted to get her an iPhone and I told her NO. I’m trying to hold out as long as possible, because once you cross that line, there is no going back. Besides, Sophie is not really home alone (I pick her up from school every day and continue my work day at home), and she literally only has one friend and so…it’d be pointless. Not to mention that we have – let me count – SEVEN digital devices already in the home for TWO people.

Sophie doesn’t like to travel. Or Shop. Or do scary things. Or do adventurous things. Or have any desire to get her ears pierced. Or her nails done. We just moved in here in May, so she just redid her room. She’s not really into American Girl Dolls anymore; she doesn’t really play. I’m at a complete and total loss, and so is she as far as giving ideas. HELP??!!?

Let me know,

Much appreciation,



I love cool coincidences, and this email came in THE DAY AFTER I CHOSE A GIFT FOR A 13-YEAR-OLD GIRL. Also, I’ve been working on ideas for Christmas, because the three eldest kids are getting really hard to buy for, and one of those eldest kids is a girl of approximately this age. So I would love to collect some ideas.

Here is what I bought for someone else’s 13-year-old girl, on the advice of her friend Elizabeth:

(image from

An OPI mini nailpolishes set. It was not a Hello Kitty one, but similar, with six different colors. I found it at Marshalls for $6 on a post-Christmas clearance last year and bought two, one for Elizabeth and one to set aside for a future birthday party she might attend, and finally the birthday party presented itself. This might not work for Sophie, since she’s not into having her nails done, but I list it anyway in case it might help with someone else’s 13-year-old girl.


(image from

Paint-by-Sticker book. I am a little concerned about giving a potentially frustrating craft to someone entering the peak door-slamming years, but on the other hand it will happen at someone else’s house, so. Also, the easier ones are marked “for kids!,” which I suspect would be displeasing to a 13-year-old. I do recommend having someone TELL the 13-year-old girl that there are grown adult women who found the craft so hard they wanted to cry, because that seems to set expectations at the right level.


(image from

Would she like Thinking Putty? There are a ton of kinds to choose from: iridescent, heat-sensitive, magnetic, metallic. But I recommend this only for a Very Careful child. One of my children got some into one of his dresser drawers and onto one of the recliners, and this stuff is TERRIBLE with fabric.


Duct tape crafts are still pretty popular at my kids’ middle school. Can anyone recommend a particular book of duct tape crafts that their child used/liked? If so, I can add a link here later.


(image from

Does she like puzzles? Elizabeth has this Ravensburger Happy Animal Buddies one. For her, it’s difficult enough that she needs to work on it with a grown-up or else she gets discouraged—but puzzles are one of the things I like to do with her, so that’s okay. If she wants to do one on her own, she does a 100-piece one; I looked for the ones we have and like, but I’m not seeing them. We have a bunch of Crocodile Creek 100-piece puzzles, but I’m not seeing many of those at all; it looks like they’ve switched mostly to smaller numbers of pieces. Ravensburger is a brand we liked, and Mudpuppy, and Springbok. If I were buying her one now, I’d get her this Mudpuppy Forest Friends one.


Here are a few of the things I’m considering getting for Elizabeth for Christmas:

(image from

Clip-in colored hair streaks. She keeps mentioning wanting a colored streak in her hair, but she’s indecisive, and the last time we had color put in her hair (teal ends) they washed out so quickly. This seems like a fun way to avoid those issues.


(image from

Pusheen plush. I think I’ve mentioned this one before. We still haven’t bought it for her, because it is my feeling that we have already reached Maximum Stuffed Animal.


(image from

(image from

Nerf Rebelle gun and darts. Elizabeth and I are of one mind on this issue: (1) We are offended by this marketing. Oh, we’re girls so we have to be appealed to with PASTELS and PRETTY PATTERNS? We’re girls so “rebel” has to be spelled “rebelle,” because a word always means boys by default, and has to be changed if it’s going to refer to girls instead?? (2) Sheepishly, we both suddenly want this Nerf gun and these Nerf darts. (It is the same for me with “women’s” tool kits.)

I have mixed feelings about toy guns to begin with, but Henry is SO KEEN on them that I made some decisions I would completely understand if you came down on the other side of. I don’t think Elizabeth wants this toy enough for me to make that same decision—but on the other hand, I don’t like the idea of being like “yes for boys, no for girls,” even though that’s NOT what I’m saying. Also, I want an excuse to buy the pretty darts. Also, I already floated the idea with Henry and he’s very keen to help me choose WHICH of the Rebelle guns I should buy, and he has many opinions about what makes each one good/bad and knows all about which non-Rebelle Nerf gun each Rebelle Nerf gun is based on, and it appeals to me to call in his expertise on this. I don’t know. We’ll see when we get closer to Christmas.


(image from

Tiny Hats on Cats book. This I purchased within 30 seconds of learning of its existence. Then I told Paul NOT to get it from the library if he sees it there. Every year, EVERY year, I buy a new and interesting book for each child; and every year, EVERY year, Paul sees one or more of those books at the library in the week or two before Christmas and brings it home.


(image from

Rad Women Worldwide. This isn’t something she added to her wish list, but it’s something I’d like her to have.


(image from

More nail polishes. We both like the OPI brand, and I can find them for about $4 each at Marshalls and TJMaxx, so I’m planning to buy some and put them aside. My favorite would be to buy her Christmas-y ones—but then she receives them too late to use them that year.


(image from

Footless sleeper. She is 5’4″ and getting perilously close to being too tall for these, but still fits into the biggest size.


(image from

I’ve been thinking about a coloring book; she still has and uses these glitter pens (she has a set of warm and a set of cool). I’m not sure about this book in particular, but it’s the sort of thing I’m looking for; I’d love to get more recommendations. I’m also looking for recommendations for coloring implements. I use colored pencils but I’ve heard about…is it gel pens? Is that what people use for coloring books? If so, I’d like to get her a nice big set of those. The glitter pens are really fun but there are only ten colors, and they’re all glittery. I’ll come back and add some links here if some favorites emerge in the comments.


We’re also considering getting older-model Android phones for both twins. Paul handles this completely so I have no link. It’s gotten to the point where them NOT having phones is causing ME inconvenience and stress (they both do assorted after-school activities, and Elizabeth recently went to a sleepover and then I had a concern that could have been alleviated by a text but was not worth a phone call to the other girl’s mother), which was our deciding factor when considering phones for the older boys. So we could relieve a fair amount of our Christmas stress by getting them each one of those plus a Google Play card to buy apps and app-related merchandise.

The problem would be that we’ve set up a precedent for A Big 13-Year-Old Birthday Gift, and if we give them phones for Christmas we need to come up with something else for the birthdays. So maybe we should just hang on awhile longer.


That’s what I’ve got so far. She might want another outfit for her cat, but she hasn’t put any clothes on him in ages so that might be over. I am hoping some of you with children this age can give us more ideas.

Edited to add: People in the comments section are talking about what they wanted/got at that age, and that is such a fun idea. When I was around 13, I got a desk blotter set I really, really wanted (pink, with multicolored hearts, and pink paper, and a pink pen holder that held a pink pen); a pink backrest; pink Reebok sneakers; a pink electric blanket (what, do you think, was Young Swistle’s favorite color?); a boom box (BOOM BOX) that had TWO cassette players (CASSETTES) so you could record from one cassette to the other (MIX TAPES); a little starter make-up set geared toward adolescent girls; a jewelry box; a music box; a purse; pretty stationery; a 110 camera; Bloom County stuff (calendar, books, Opus plushes).

Big hits were ANYTHING chosen by my aunt, because she had a daughter four years older than me, so she gave me things that thrilled my early-teen soul: perfume, a thin gold bracelet, a hot-turquoise button-down shirt, a tapestry vest, a plastic double-strand pearl bead necklace—all stuff my older cousin was interested in and that I was a little too young for but recognized immediately as COOL TEENAGER STUFF.

Encouraging Updates: Tooth and Pottery

Last time we talked on these topics, things were a little discouraging. But now they are so much better!

First, the tooth. You remember I’d gone in for what I thought was an appointment to get my flipper, but it was only an appointment to take molds for it, which left me having a little weep in the parking lot. But something I didn’t mention, because I hadn’t yet noticed the improvement to my life, is that while I was there the dentist made a few adjustments to the tooth tray, and those adjustments made it much more tolerable to wear: he filled in the little gaps and shaved off a little piece that was pressing uncomfortably against another tooth. It looked better, it felt better, it fit better, and it no longer whistled.

So that was already better. In fact, I worried that paying multiple hundreds of dollars for the flipper would turn out to be a dumb idea. But then I got the flipper itself, and it is MUCH BETTER. It is like a retainer, in that there is a piece of smooth plastic on part of the roof of my mouth. The dental assistant said some people hate that, but to me it feels like the comforting presence of a half-dissolved, perfectly smooth Werther’s Original Hard Candy. What I hated about the tooth tray was that it fit over ALL my top teeth; the flipper still feels intrusive, but it’s a kind of intrusive I prefer. I had a retainer for years, so maybe that contributes to the preference.

The tooth tray was visible when I talked or smiled, and my upper lip would get caught on it; the flipper is completely invisible from the front and looks just like a real tooth, and there is nothing to catch my lip on. I still have to learn to enunciate around the part that goes on the roof of my mouth, but I don’t have to think about appearance at all; I can talk and smile normally. The only thing I still hate is that I have to take it out when I eat. I hate that so much. Each time I have to eat with new people, I feel freshly self-conscious and upset about it. I was going to invite a new maybe-friend out for breakfast, and then realized I would have to take the tooth out to eat, and I decided not to. But this is going to be for the next, like, six to nine months, so really I have to get over it or else suggest a walk instead.


I also have an update about pottery class. Last time I mentioned it, I’d gone to two sessions and I was discouraged and wasn’t enjoying it. Now I’ve gone to four sessions. I nearly didn’t go to the fourth session (not quitting, but just taking a sick day because I really didn’t want to go), but I was already dressed in my clay-spattered clothes and I needed to run an errand in the area, so I just WENT. And this time things were better.

Part of what made it better was having your comments, which cumulatively informed me that not all pottery teachers/classes/philosophies are the same. Liz said:

It’s been a long time since I took ceramics in high school, but my memory is that you need to start small. Small amount of clay, little bits of water, small movements. Play with the clay without thinking about making anything with it. How flat can you make it? How tall? What happens if you have just your fingers on it? What about just your palms? Just play with no expectations.

Lauren, too, mentioned that SMALL was the key.

And I laughed with delight at all the comments that were basically “I HATED pottery but didn’t want to say so earlier.” And Jill, who commented “Well hell.” It made me feel so much better.

Anyway, I went in and the teacher was down the hall helping with glazing, so instead of trying once again to make the 1.75-pound straight-sided cylinder that I COULD NOT DO, I took a pound of clay and just messed around with it as Liz advised. And I kept in mind what Artemisia said about how clay-centering feels: “It is like the clay just disappears. You almost can’t feel it.” I aimed for that feeling, and although I didn’t entirely achieve it, I could tell I got a lot closer.

Instead of going with my teacher’s philosophy that you should know before you even cut off a piece of clay EXACTLY what you are going to make with it, I went with the philosophy that made more sense to me, especially for a beginner, which was Liz’s: just see what happens. And instead of going with my teacher’s philosophy that you should only keep what you LOVE or else you’ll be overrun with pottery and have nowhere to put it (and that makes a LOT of sense for someone at her ability level), I went with my own philosophy, which is that if I follow her philosophy I will end up with literally nothing, and that I really don’t want to attempt the next stages of the process with something that is precious: if I’m going to accidentally trim a hole into the bottom of something, or drop it on the way to the glazing room, or do it wrong so it cracks in the kiln, I want it to be something I don’t really care about.

I was nervous when my teacher came into the room and saw my tray of three little things, none of which were a tall straight-sided cylinder, but she gave a very positive reaction, as if she’d said that thing about the straight-sided cylinder but didn’t remember/mean it. I said my line about wanting to make some things I could practice trimming on without caring if I messed it up, and she said that was a good idea. So! I made something like a cup, and something like a little flower pot, and a flattish bowl, and a tiny little bowl like for dipping sauce. (The tiny bowl happened because more than half the clay broke off when I was trying to center, but I went with Liz’s “play, with no expectations” concept and just kept going with what was left.)

Oh! Also! While the teacher was out of the room, other students in the class kept coming over to help me, and they were saying things along the lines of, “[Our teacher] suggests doing it this way, and that’s a really good way! But [other teacher] suggests this other method, which is ALSO good and which I found easier.” Which really bolstered the “People do it different ways and you don’t have to do it exactly like this teacher says to” idea. And I started asking other students if I can watch them do things, which I wasn’t sure I should ask, but they seem to really LIKE showing me. And it’s a nice class for praise: there is a definite culture there of everyone asking people what they’re working on and commenting positively on it.

Anyway, I was SO MUCH HAPPIER not trying to make A Particular Thing! I am, as it turns out, a “let’s see what this piece of clay Wants To Be” type of person, not a “4-inch-by-6-inch straight-sided cylinder” type of person. I see huge merit in being able to make a set of four matched mugs, but I am not interested in doing that! at all! and I don’t have to! because I am an adult taking a non-required, non-graded class!

And one more thing that made me happier: thinking of this as a Pottery Appreciation Class—like Music Appreciation or Art Appreciation, where the benefit is in ending up better able to appreciate what OTHER PEOPLE do. I am already planning to lay down some cash for SOMEONE ELSE’S gorgeous ceramics, now that I know how difficult and time-consuming it is to learn how to do it beautifully.


I feel like talking with you, but I don’t have anything in particular to say. This is where in-person friendships work a bit better than blogging. I’d lead with “I feel like talking with you, but I don’t have anything in particular to say!,” and instead of me continuing to look at a nearly blank page on a blogging form, I’d be looking at YOU, and you’d say, “Well! I have something!” and then you’d tell me about it, and I’d sip my coffee and listen. Maybe I’d get a doughnut. TWO doughnuts.

There is no actual reason we can’t do that. I will get a coffee. Do you have anything you want to tell me about?

October College-Related Things

Something I had realized but not entirely realized was that as soon as Rob left for college he would start being left out of things happening at home. I HAD realized we’d have one fewer plate to set out, and that he wouldn’t be taking his turn as Paul’s weekly pizza-making helper—but I hadn’t thought about things like having a visit from extended family and Rob not being in the big photo of all the kids, and him now being the only one of the kids who hasn’t met these second cousins, which is too bad because they’re about his age and they’re super funny and cool. Henry in particular was completely starstruck, but everyone liked them.

Well. This is the new stage, where What Happens To Our Family is not automatically What Happens To Him. He has his own timeline.

You know what will be very weird, I think, is that there will come a year that I will not take a picture of all five kids together for our Christmas card. This year I can still do it: Rob will come home for Thanksgiving and I will take the picture then.

Rob is not sending long chatty emails about everything going on in his life, but he is doing a good job of periodically reassuring me that he continues to breathe. A few nights ago he sent a looping video of himself singing “Doe, a deer, a female deer.” A few nights before that, it was a picture of a line in his textbook saying that Norwegian rats are from China, next to a picture of his face doing a “What the heck??”

Some of my friends have had visits from their college kids, and I am studying those visits with interest. The main complaint seems to be that the child comes home and is barely at home at all: always off visiting friends, or else sleeping. I am looking forward to hearing if any kids have been insufferable and mouthy and know-it-all in their new independence and knowledge, but that is not the sort of thing parents tend to post on Facebook so I will have to wait for in-person reports. And maybe it happens less with kids who come home more often. Maybe to get the full impact of Wise Returning College Student, the first visit can’t be until Thanksgiving/Christmas.

I am getting ready to send an October/Halloween care package. I have a movie-theater-candy-size box of candy corn, a tub of Target’s monster trail mix (GET IT??) (it’s not actually monstery at all, it just happens to be his favorite trail mix and the timing seemed good), and a miniature pumpkin, and I will put in one or two of every kind of candy we get to hand out to trick-or-treaters. Plus a pack of potassium iodide tablets in case of nuclear war. Oh, and Howlin’ Halloween Blend Tic Tacs.

Discouraging Updates: Tooth and Pottery

One of the things I’m enjoying about The West Wing (I’m on season six) is the guest stars. I know it’s going to be a good one when we approach the new person slowly, and hear the voice before we see the face.

I wrote the report of the tooth extraction just a couple of days after I’d had it done, and by a couple of days after THAT things were nearly back to normal: I could eat dairy, I didn’t have to use ice packs or ibuprofen, and I was much better at talking with the little tray in. Now it’s been just over a week and I’d say things are pretty fine. I went back to the oral surgeon so she could make sure it was healing well, and she snipped off the little surgical-string ends I couldn’t keep my tongue from messing with (luckily that stopped feeling icky/painful after the first few days); the extraction site looks pink and normal, like regular gums. I can successfully eat salad again; it’s not EASY, but it WORKS. It doesn’t bother the extraction site to have the little tooth-tray in; I still only wear it when I go out, because I don’t like the feel of it in my mouth and it makes it harder to talk.

The discouraging thing is that I’d been…well, “looking forward to” getting the flipper is a severe understatement. I was more like counting the hours, and also feeling incredulous that it would take so long to make one. I was hoping it would be a significant, wear-all-day type of improvement over the tooth-tray, and I was thinking things such as “This is the last pottery class where I’ll have to struggle to communicate around this gross tooth-tray!” But when I went to the dentist, almost a week and a half after the extraction, they did STEP ONE of the flipper. They had not been tracking with the change from Plan A (attach my own extracted tooth to the implant) to Plan B (if the implant can’t be put in, make a flipper instead), and no one noticed this lack of tracking until the appointment. Now I have to wait more than another week, and I had to have a little weep in the parking lot. In the long run this time will seem like a meaningless blip, but right now it feels like everything is terrible.

Speaking of pottery class, I’ve gone to two sessions and so far I don’t really like it. I’m the only person in the class who is new at this; the others have a minimum of one year’s experience, and some of them have over a decade. It’s supposed to be a mixed-levels class, but the others sign up again and again; one of the regulars didn’t sign up this time because of traveling for so much of the session, which is why there was an available space for me, the newbie.

In theory, this is nice: it theoretically gives me another half-dozen or so teachers, and theoretically gives me more of the actual teacher’s attention. In practice, it turns out that the teacher doesn’t so much teach as supervise, and that making things on a pottery wheel must be mostly a matter of getting the FEEL of it, so every single person (including the teacher) is telling me how to get the feel of it, but that’s not something that can be explained, or at least not by any of this group, or at least not to me. I’ve spent two 3-hour sessions sitting at the wheel trying to get a piece of clay centered while someone tells me that I am in charge of the clay not the other way around, and to move my hand DOWN the piece of clay when my hand is already resting on the wheel and can’t GO any more down, and to make sure to use enough water, and to just get a FEEL for it. Oh, but not with your hands positioned like that. And your elbows are too high/low. No, keep your hands RIGID. Elbow down/up/planted/STEADY. Also there are air bubbles in your clay and you used too much water. Meanwhile everyone else is churning out mugs and plates and mixing bowls and vases and flower pots, and it’s a little discouraging. I wish there were just ONE other person in the class who was new at this—although I guess it would be even MORE discouraging if that person got it right away and I was still struggling.

Everyone is assuring me that it just takes time to figure out how to do this, and telling me their stories of how long it took THEM to figure it out, and that IS helpful, so I have only cried once, and only a little: it was more like a slight leak. I kept my face down and I don’t think anyone noticed, or if they did they were tactful about it and it’s probably not the first time it’s happened. It was when my fourth piece of clay in a row had gone floppy and rogue after a long careful attempt to get it as far as that, and the teacher was trying to tell me how to keep it from doing that but nothing she said was making any sense to me (“Start with your hands low and see if you can rein it back in”) so I didn’t even feel like I knew what to do next time to have it work any better, and while I was listening to her I was also thinking that I could actually just leave, no one would force me to do the rest of the classes. But instead I put my collapsed piece of clay over on the table for overly-wet clay, and I washed my hands and went off to find the bathroom, and I stayed in there for a little while extra, thinking I might do a little unsuppressed crying but it turned out I didn’t need to, and then I washed my hands again and went back to the pottery room and got another stupid piece of stupid clay.

What It Was Like To Have a Tooth Extracted

I’m not going to put any gross pictures in this post. Some people like to see stuff like that, and some people don’t. So in THIS post, the only pictures will be of the temporary-temporary tooth (which looks like a transparent impression of my teeth but with a tooth painted on) and of me modeling it. If you would like to see two head-and-shoulders pictures of me grimacing/smiling without one of my front teeth, and a closer picture of my bared teeth so you can see what the extraction site looks like two days after extraction (not gory, but it’s not what you’d call a beauty shot), I have posted them here: Pictures of Swistle’s Missing Tooth.

To review, my body had for reasons unknown decided that the root of one of my upper front teeth was An Intruder, and was steadily working on absorbing it. I found out about this situation five years ago when I had a routine dental x-ray. The dentist sent me to an endodontist to see if the tooth could be saved with a root canal, and the endodontist said definitely not. The dentist said there was no rush and we could keep an eye on it; every so often he took another x-ray and confirmed the steady but slow loss of the root.

In the last year or so I started having a periodic non-painful-but-not-pleasant-either tingling sensation around that tooth and decided to act sooner rather than later. (The danger in waiting is that the area can suddenly become painful or infected, and then it’s no longer as relaxed/uncomplicated a procedure; also, if some of the root is missing/soft, the tooth might not come out in one piece.) I had a consultation with the oral surgeon who took out Rob’s wisdom teeth, because I love her; she’s a small, intense, birdlike person in a lab coat and headlamp, and she’s quick with a dry joke, and she seems like she really LIKES her job. She confirmed that there was no hope of saving the tooth (“Well, that’s a darn shame,” she said, looking at the x-ray), and the only question was When; she agreed the earlier the easier, so we set a date.

I consulted with you guys about whether to have laughing gas or general anesthesia, and you were ALL OVER THE SPECTRUM and there was NO CONSENSUS AT ALL. (Part of the issue, it appeared, is that “general anesthesia” is not a specific term at all, and can mean many different medicines at many different risk levels.) I went with “There are so few opportunities in life to nope-out of unpleasant experiences, so I’m going to take this fine offer.” But I worried I’d wake up feeling terrible and barfy like I did when I had my wisdom teeth out.

Let’s see, I think that catches us up to the day of the extraction. My appointment was in the late morning, and I couldn’t have anything to eat or drink for six hours beforehand. I drank a fair amount of water the night before, as instructed. In the morning I kept getting big rushes of nervousness. I leaned heavily on my “In x hours this will be all over and I’ll be back home” Coping Thought.

I was supposed to arrive half an hour before the appointment. Shortly after I arrived, a nurse called me back and gave me a large dose of amoxicillin. Because I’d opted for general anesthesia, she also confirmed that I had someone in the waiting room who could drive me home and stay with me for the rest of the day, and she asked for a phone number where they could reach Paul later on to check on me. She also asked me what I was having done, probably to make sure we BOTH knew the score. Then I went back to the waiting room.

Nearer my appointment time, the nurse came to get me again. In the hallway, she had me put one of those blue shower-cap-like things over my hair, and she put little shoe-sized ones over my shoes. She brought me into the actual room after telling me not to touch anything in there that was blue; when we went in, I saw various surfaces covered with blue paper sheets and lots of medical instruments. At a sink there was a cup with what looked like four or five doses of mouthwash in it; she had me rinse and spit, rinse and spit, rinse and spit for just over a minute, to sterilize my mouth. She’d mentioned that it would taste bad, but I’m used to mouthwash (I don’t like to brag, but I can go the entire 30 seconds) and it basically tasted like a slightly more medicinal mouthwash, with less burning.

She had me sit in the exam chair, which was like a usual dentist’s chair. She adjusted the little head support to be comfy, and she took my glasses. Then we were joined by the person who handled the anesthesia (she was dressed like the other nurse, and I don’t know if you have to be an anesthesiologist to do any sort of anesthesia or if there are different job titles that can do different levels of anesthesia, but I will just call her the anesthesiologist). She tied a piece of elastic around my upper arm, had me make a fist a few times, and praised my veins. (I get a lot of praise from medical professionals about my veins. I’ve come to look forward to it.) She put in the IV. She put one of those little oxygen things in my nose and hooked the tubes over my ears. She put an oxygen monitor on my finger. She put three sticky circles on me, but I forget where (upper chest? arm? neck? non-upsetting places like that). The nurse covered me up to the waist with a big blue sheet. I was starting to feel Very Medical.

The oral surgeon came in and chatted pleasantly for a minute. She listened to my lungs and heart. She said to the anesthesiologist, “Three fentanyl.” We talked another minute or so; she was just going over again what we’d be doing. Then she paused, looked at me evaluatingly, and said, “You should be starting to feel some effect of the medicine—like, a little blurry.” Almost immediately I DID feel a little funny, but not enough to rule out Power of Suggestion. What I remember saying is that I wasn’t sure if things were blurry because I was feeling the medicine or because I had my glasses off. I don’t know if I said anything else after that or not, but what felt like the exact same second I was wide-awake and feeling normal and fine, but I was also tipped way back and the doctor was working in my mouth. This was puzzling. I glanced over and saw the nurse, and she said, “The tooth’s out! It went great!” I could not see how she could be right about this, and wondered if I had misunderstood. It didn’t FEEL as if the tooth were out, or as if enough time had passed for that to have happened, or as if I’d even been unconscious yet, but I couldn’t get my tongue over there to investigate.

The doctor said, “Hi! How ya doing?” and I gave a thumbs up. I heard the anesthesiologist say, “Do you want more propofol?,” and the doctor said, “No, I think she’s good hanging out with us at this point, right?” and looked at me and I gave another thumbs-up. What she was doing in my mouth was a little uncomfortable, but I felt cheerful and chill and like I didn’t really care. I remember this from the last time I had fentanyl, which is when I was in labor with my firstborn. It did approximately zero for the quantity of pain, but it made me feel as if the pain were over there somewhere and kind of interesting to think about.

Anyway, the doctor was trying to get the implant in. She worked on it for quite some time, trying different things, but the implant couldn’t grip in: it just kept spinning like a stripped screw. This was a little uncomfortable. “Darn,” said the doctor, eventually. “Well, we tried.” So instead she did a bone graft. This part didn’t hurt: it was like the part of getting a cavity filled when they’re packing the filling-material into the tooth. Just a light pressing sensation.

Then she sewed it up. This hurt a little, but not much, and I didn’t really care and I wasn’t grossed out. I thought, “Huh! That kind of hurts a little!” and “Funny how it’s exactly like sewing cloth!” Just kind of la la la hanging out feeling interested and perky. The doctor was meanwhile explaining that although it was disappointing that we couldn’t do the implant the same day, in the long run the bone graft would make it a way stronger and longer-lasting implant: we’d trade three months of waiting-time for years or even decades of implant-life. She said she didn’t think I’d need/want to go under when I came back to have the implant put in, but that we could discuss it when I came back in a week for her to check the extraction site. She added that it was good I’d gone out for the tooth extraction, though, since it had proved to be “a bit tricky. I had to really TWIST it!” (My plan is to get the nitrous oxide for the implant: I’ve been meaning to try it, since it sounds as if the effects vary considerably from person to person, and I didn’t want to try it for the first time for something like an extraction. An implant seems like the right low-stakes moment.)

The doctor left. The nurse gave me gauze to bite on. People started removing things: the IV came out, the oxygen came out, the oxygen monitor came off, the sticky things came off, the blue sheet came off, the shower cap and shoe caps came off. The nurse and anesthesiologist were standing by in case I had trouble standing up, but I didn’t: I felt totally normal and okay and non-queasy and non-groggy. I walked to a chair in a station in the hallway where another nurse was waiting. She changed my gauze, asked how I was feeling. She went and fetched Paul, and then she gave him all the instructions; they were the same sheet of instructions they’d given me ahead of time, so everything was familiar. The only thing that was new was that they told me how much over-the-counter painkiller to take (I was a little disappointed not to get any of The Good Stuff, but I have to admit I didn’t need it). I was very, very, very annoyed with Paul afterward, because I SPECIFICALLY TOLD HIM ahead of time to please take notes during the instruction session because I might not be with-it enough to hear/remember everything, and he did not take any notes, and so then afterward I remembered they’d said I should take three extra-strength ibuprofen every six hours, and Paul said he was absolutely certain they never mentioned ibuprofen but then couldn’t say what medicine they HAD mentioned, though he did remember they’d mentioned SOMETHING—just definitely not whatever it was I remembered. Really, I’m still annoyed about this. He had ONE JOB. Well, two, counting driving me home. AND I reminded him ahead of time. What do I need to do, hold his hand around the pen?

Anyway. The nurse checked the gauze and said I didn’t need to do any more gauze, so that means the bleeding had stopped enough. I could taste a little blood in my mouth, and my upper lip was a little numb and there was a wearing-off feeling like when I have novocaine, but not as much as usual: like, as if I’d had one small shot of novocaine instead of four big ones, or whatever. We drove home, and I made some scrambled eggs for lunch so that I could take some ibuprofen, and then I took ibuprofen. I’d thought I would be kind of out of it for awhile like Rob was after his wisdom-tooth removal, but I felt normal and did normal things. I did take a nap in the afternoon, but I think that was more because I’d had a little trouble sleeping the night before.

I was supposed to put on an ice pack for twenty minutes out of each hour to prevent/reduce swelling, and I had two bags of frozen peas ready to be called into service; later I wished I’d gotten corn instead, because I could smell the peas. I was supposed to sleep with my head elevated, and I don’t like sleeping on extra pillows so instead I’ve been sleeping in a recliner; I like to sleep there sometimes anyway. I have had hardly any swelling; whether because of peas/recliner or because of the particular tooth/situation, I don’t know. I think I had big chipmunk cheeks when I had my wisdom teeth out, but that was four impacted teeth not one emerged tooth, and I didn’t use ice packs or sleep in a recliner.

The extraction site doesn’t hurt much. I’ve taken ibuprofen a few times, but just two of them per dose, and I haven’t been counting the hours until I can take more; it’s more like I think, “Hey, that’s starting to ache,” and then realize it’s been ten hours since I took anything. The worst part is that there is a tiny piece of stiff surgical thread sticking out, and the feeling of it grosses me out so much; and every time I eat, food brushes against it. This morning I finally used my tiny pocket-knife scissors to carefully, carefully snip off some of the extra, and that was some relief, but there is still some left (I didn’t want to cut it too close to the knot and then have to explain to the doctor why I thought any of this was a good idea), and I really hate it, and also I found two more pieces back where I can’t see them or get to them. My tongue keeps going over to see if they’re still there, but any touching/wiggling of the threads makes me queasy, so I and my tongue are at odds in our wishes.

I’m also very aware of the feeling of the two extraction-flanking teeth against the inside of my lips. I should ALWAYS have been feeling those teeth since THEY haven’t moved, but I suppose now I’m feeling their exposed corners or something. It feels distressing, like I have new fangs or a fresh overbite or something.

One of the biggest problems was that I’d planned a bunch of soft foods without realizing that if I had the bone graft I wouldn’t be able to have dairy for four days. Or rather, I DID realize it, but the paperwork said “no uncooked dairy” and I thought that meant, like, no unpasteurized/raw dairy. But when the nurse was going over the after-care instructions and said no uncooked dairy, Paul said, just confirming it, “Like, no unpasteurized/raw dairy?,” and she said, “No: no uncooked dairy. You can have pasteurized dairy, but only if you heat it very hot first. Like, you can have cream in your coffee, but microwave the cream separately first.” Which was confusing, because that’s what I thought pasteurization already did: heated it very hot. And so what I’d planned on was cottage cheese, and meal-replacement shakes made with cream, and ice cream, and pudding, and smoothies, none of which seemed like they could be heated nice and hot, or at least not without making me feel a little nauseated thinking about it.

So that was a little discouraging, and I’ve been having trouble finding things I can eat. Applesauce. Scrambled eggs. Instant soup with those tiny noodles—but it can only be warm, not hot, per instructions. Coffee, too, can be warm but not hot. I’d thought that since it was a FRONT tooth, chewing wouldn’t be much of an issue, so I’m surprised to find it’s quite difficult to chew. I tried having a salad last night and eventually had to give up. I couldn’t seem to herd the leaves effectively.

All of these things pale in comparison to how I feel about the way I look. As with most things involving physical appearance, I am sure that my own feelings about the way I look dwarf the feelings OTHER people have about the way I look: like when someone else has a pimple and wants to stay in a dark room until it’s over, and I am like “You can barely even SEE it, stop drawing people’s attention to it by mentioning it!” But in our culture, missing teeth are fairly rare, particularly missing FRONT teeth. It IS a little shocking, it really IS, it’s not just me feeling self-conscious. It looks as if I blacked out a front tooth for a costume, and it’s approximately that weird to go out in public like that. I don’t think the photos I took really capture how shocking it looks in 3D. It seems as if it would startle/scare people about as much as a large bloody cheek wound.

Before I had the tooth pulled, I had an appointment at the dentist to make me a temporary-temporary tooth. I’ll have a longer-term temporary tooth (a “flipper”—like a tiny retainer that attaches to the two flanking teeth and holds a temporary fake tooth in place) at the end of next week, but this was to tide me over until then. (Normally they could have made the flipper ahead of time, but my dentist’s original plan was to attach my own removed tooth to the implant, which they couldn’t do until the tooth was extracted and they’d had time to modify it. I assume that plan is now off, since the implant couldn’t be installed after all—but maybe now they’ll make the flipper out of the extracted tooth? I don’t know.) They took molds of my teeth, and from those molds made a thin clear piece that covers all my top teeth. Have you ever had a custom whitening tray made, one that fits your particular teeth? That’s the same thing as this. Except that there is a fake tooth painted on to the inside of it:

When I wear this, it takes away the Startle Factor:

(My face is so red because I recently had a bag of frozen peas pressed to it. I did not sufficiently plan out this photo session.)

It’s pretty okay, especially in a small photo. But in real life, or closer up, it doesn’t look right. There’s a black gap where the painted-tooth doesn’t quite cover. And more importantly, the tray gets spit in it. And since it’s normal for spit to be blood-tinged for a few days after the extraction, what happened when I put the temporary-temporary tooth in was that the tray immediately filled with blood, masking all my front teeth, giving what I think I can safely call a far-worse effect than the missing tooth. If you need to schedule a tooth extraction, may I suggest scheduling nearer Halloween?

Also, the little tray is uncomfortable, and if I wear it too long the extraction site starts feeling kind of icky and achy. I can’t talk clearly with it in, which is tiring. If I smile naturally, my lip goes over the top of the tray and gets stuck there. I wore it to my first ceramics class (more on this another time) and I didn’t feel like myself at all: I hadn’t realized how often I smile until I couldn’t do it, and I was minimizing my words because I was hard to understand and self-conscious about the tray, and I was worried the tray was getting bloody without me realizing it, and by the time class was over I was exhausted from the effort of being Normal Human.

Last night I was moping and Paul said, “Is there anything I can do to make this better?,” and I said, with one hand covering my gappy mouth, “No. I can’t eat right, I can’t talk right, and no one can look at me. It’s just going to be miserable for awhile.” I can’t believe there’s more than a week until I get the temporary tooth, and even THAT is going to be on a little flipper I have to take out when I eat. But it should be more comfortable to talk and smile, and that will be a big relief.

Oh, one interesting thing is that I have a faint, dream-like, non-distressing memory of having felt a very intense but non-painful/non-scary feeling where my tooth was. Propofol affects memory as well as consciousness, so I’m interested to know how awake I was during the extraction. That is, to me it feels like I skipped it; but if I could go back and tune in at the time, would I be more aware than I REMEMBER I was?

Well. As mopey as I am, I am also very glad to have this first step over with: it was by far the most distressing part of the entire procedure to contemplate, and now it’s done.

Update on progress a little over a week later.


Here is something I had in high school, and would like to find again now: friends I can turn to and say, “Hey, you know what I want? DOUGHNUTS. Do you want to go get a dozen different doughnuts and eat a bite of each one??”—and the friends say “Oh hell yes” and nobody, NOBODY, says anything about “being so bad,” we just eat the doughnuts because they taste good and this is a fun idea. And now we are older and we like coffee, which makes the whole thing even better.

I don’t know if you saw the happy update on this post that I DID get into the pottery class after all! I’d emailed and asked if they had a waiting list (the site is a little old-school, so I thought they might have one even though there was no way to access it online), and I got an email back saying actually they had one more opening in that class if I wanted it, and I DID want it, and so now I am in! I am very excited! I haven’t yet acquired the cheap washable fake-croc-type shoes I want (Kay W. mentioned in the comments that it is nicer to rinse off one’s shoes rather than ruin them, and that sounds like a solid plan), so I’m going to wear my tall pink polka-dotted rain boots! I am going to be THE CUTEST! Also, you are all getting lumpy mugs for Christmas!

I have a peeve to report, which is that one of my favorite radio stations got rid of their perfectly good normal unnoticeable DJs and have switched to a Bratty Assh0le format: guys laughing in a hysterical high-pitched grating way about crude/mean things and thinking it’s edgy to mention dild0s and b00bs just like the grown-ups—and this is on MORNING RADIO. But I’m reluctant to change that pre-set, because I still like the music when they are playing it instead of using the toilet-flush sound effect.

Well. One cannot have everything one’s own way. One cannot expect to get into the already-full pottery class AND keep the normal DJs. Somewhere else in my broadcast area there is someone who tried to get into the pottery class and could not, and it is making them feel better that at least their favorite radio station got those hilarious new guys who crack themselves up with all those “That’s what she said!” jokes.

Night Sadness

I typed the title of this post, and then I opened up the archives, thinking maybe I had already written on this topic. The first match was another post, with the very same title! …Oh, it’s the draft of this post.

I did mention it in a post called Day Sadness (written about nine years ago when I had an infant and two toddlers and two elementary school kids, hmm, I wonder if that had anything to do with anything, well it’s all a rich tapestry):

Last night I had Night Sadness (lying awake thinking of sad and oppressive things, and all the ways in which I have failed / am failing / will fail), and usually sleep cures that—-but this morning I woke up with Day Sadness. It feels like I do the same thing day in and day out, and like it’s never going to change, and like I’m never going to handle anything right, and like the world is a bad and stupid place. I know that’s not true, but what I know doesn’t have much to do with it.

And I mentioned it in a post called Accommodations, written about six years ago; William was about ten years old then, and I’d forgotten about this:

William gets Night Sadness: feeling in the evening or around bedtime that everything is too awful and sad and hopeless to be dealt with at all.

I think the second excerpt captures the feeling more accurately. The first excerpt’s “Lying awake thinking of every dumb thing I ever said/did” can be PART of Night Sadness, but it’s not the DEFINING part; the defining part is awful/sad/hopeless/despair/everything.

What separates Night Sadness from other moods is: (1) it happens near bedtime, and (2) the only cure is sleep, and (3) the cure works. It can be brought on by over-tiredness, or it can just happen when normal tiredness breaks down the usual coping mechanisms, but the ONLY WAY TO DEAL WITH IT is to go to sleep and wake up the next morning. There is no talking it out, there is no reasoning it out, there is no “have a hot bath and a glass of wine and write in a gratitude journal”-ing it out: just get to sleep. If necessary, using benadryl, tranquilizers, sleeping pills, hard liquor NOT IN COMBINATION WITH OTHER THINGS, etc.

ANYWAY. That post that mentions William having Night Sadness is very encouraging to me, because what I came here to write about is Henry having it. And William had it six years ago, when he was Henry’s age, and I didn’t even REMEMBER that. So that gives me hope for the Henry situation.

Henry has it somewhat more severely, however. A few times recently, he’s gotten such a bad case of Night Sadness, he’s actually thrown up. He gets more and more upset and anxious, and nothing seems to help, and then he throws up and feels better. This seems to me to be crossing the line between “I’m sorry, child, but you’ve inherited your mother’s Night Sadness genes; the jury is still out on whether you’ve got her unreliable ankles” and “Let’s call the pediatrician.” But I haven’t called the pediatrician. Because I am very, very, very, very, very, very, very reluctant to get any kid into the system of Mental Issues, and particularly when pre-existing conditions are such a current and applicable topic. But of course I don’t want to put something off that should be dealt with, or let him suffer with something he doesn’t have to suffer with. On the other hand, it’s not happening often. And William outgrew it.

For my own treatment, the essential piece is recognizing the particular mood as Night Sadness. This does not work with most mental issues (like when my therapist thought that if I REALIZED my anxieties were irrational, those anxieties would MAGICALLY DISAPPEAR!) (no, I ALREADY REALIZE they’re irrational, Genius, which is WHY I AM HERE), but it does help me somewhat with night sadness: I think “Nope. I recognize this. This is Night Sadness,” and I can get benadryl or a tranquilizer or a swift double shot of vodka on board and be asleep while still noping. So my natural inclination is to get Henry to be able to use a similar coping mechanism. I am worried that if I instead consult the doctor, Henry will get put on a daily medication that is not as safe as an occasional benadryl. I am worried there will be Referrals, and Diagnoses, and a suggestion that he See Someone once a week, when really what he needs is some occasional help getting to sleep for the next year(s) while he outgrows it as William has, or learns to handle it as I have. But so far, my method is not working on Henry. It is hard to decide how long to wait.


I had to tell a child for the millionth time that we do not yuck another person’s yum. We do not look at something someone else is eating, and express our opinion that their food is gross; we do not observe someone else’s passionate interest and then volunteer, unasked, the information that we think that interest is stupid and boring and a waste of time. Oh, you don’t like every single thing liked by every single other person? HOW INTERESTING, HOW UNIQUE, WELCOME TO THE HUMAN RACE. We can use empathy to consider how bad it would feel to have someone sneering at what WE like, and know that we should not sneer at what THEY like.

Later that same day, I was thinking about how tempting it is, at this stage of parenting, to idealize the earlier stages: I see someone out with a baby in a baby carseat, and I just want to tell her how LOVINGLY I remember it: the sweet little baby companion in the cart, cheeks within easy squeezing-reach! But wait: when I was in that stage, I rejoiced in the times I did NOT have to take the baby with me to the store. And I absolutely did not want to hear how I should cherish every moment. I wanted to hear how cute my baby was, YES. I wanted to be asked how old the baby was and what the baby’s name was, YES. But I did NOT enjoy being told again and again by what seemed like an endless procession of older ladies that I should be appreciating every moment, and that it all went by so fast, and that I would be sorry when it was over that I hadn’t appreciated it more. Because, as I also remember, that stage was filled with a weeping lack of sleep, and babies who cried unless they were held even when I had things to do that were incompatible with that, and blow-out diapers right after baths, and having to constantly assess the well-being of a child who COULD NOT TALK, and treasuring the two minutes I could be by myself in the bathroom, and having fantasies about getting sent to prison so I could be by myself, and so on.

I was NOT cherishing every moment, NOR SHOULD I HAVE if I wanted to continue being counted among the sane: some parts were just TERRIBLE, and we don’t have to pretend they weren’t, let alone feel guilty in advance for not ENJOYING them enough. Hearing someone else claim to have gone through this same stage and to have emerged thinking of it as the best time of her life made me feel like RUNNING SCREAMING INTO THE SEA. Oh, it’s all downhill from here, then? GOOD TO KNOW, BRB FLINGING MYSELF OFF CLIFF. Oh, I’m going to REGRET not CHERISHING the diaper that required me to mop up the baby as best I could with rough brown paper towels in a public bathroom, then wrap his soiled clothes as best I could in more paper towels so that I could get them home, then wrap the baby in a blankie and go back out into the store to buy him a new outfit on the spot so he wouldn’t have to go out into the sharp winter weather without clothes? In the future I will be looking back on this moment as belonging to THE BEST TIME OF MY LIFE? THANK YOU FOR THAT GIANT DOSE OF DESPAIR ABOUT MY SAD FUTURE, OLDER LADY.

(What’s funny is that one of my happy memories ACTUALLY IS the time Elizabeth threw up in the car when my mom and I were almost to Target. She mostly just got it on her clothes, so we stripped her down to her diaper, put her clothes into a plastic bag I kept in the car because car-barfing was not rare, cleaned her up with baby wipes kept in the car for the same reason, and then went into Target and I had the excuse of buying her the darling four-piece mix-and-match Carter’s pink elephant pajamas I’d really wanted to buy her. I went through the line with Elizabeth and the pajamas while my mom waited with the cart and the other kids, and I took her right into the bathroom and put one set on her, and then we continued shopping and she looked adorable, and I felt so RESOURCEFUL to have handled the whole situation, and so HAPPY to have those cute new pajamas.)

Anyway, thinking of both of those things on the same day made me realize one is the flip of the other: we shouldn’t yuck someone else’s yum—but also, we should try not to yum someone else’s yuck. If we know from personal experience that a particular stage of life is filled with loveliness but also with suckiness, we should avoid rhapsodizing about the loveliness in a way that makes the other person feel as if they can’t admit to any suckiness, or as if they alone are finding it sucky whereas WE found it wreathed in roses and angel-song. When someone else is going through an experience universally acknowledged to be rough (even if also glorious), we should avoid telling them it was the best time of our life, even if we now remember it that way, even if it turns out it actually was. It’s not going to sound like good news to the hearer.

Similarly, I saw someone posting on Facebook about something they were worried about, and someone else commented “I’d love to have that problem,” and then added a mention of her own problem, which was indeed worse, and yet the original person’s complaint was not about something anyone would “love to have.” It should go without saying that we do not tell someone else that their worry/problem/issue is actually a POSITIVE thing when compared to our own problems. We do not yum someone else’s yuck, or act as if we think they should be yumming it.

I remember what was my favorite thing to hear, as I was walking through a store with a fussing baby and fretful toddler. I would be fighting my way through a store, and someone would hold a door for me and I would thank her fervently, and she would say, “Oh, no problem—I remember those days!” Or if my child was being loud and unpleasant in a store, I loved to get a sympathetic look from another mom, combined with “Oh I’ve been there!” Do you know what those words told me? That I was one in a long line of women going through this same experience—and that other women had LIVED THROUGH IT. That one day, I would be able to hold the door for someone else, because my hands would be free. And that I would think, “Oh, how nice that my hands are free,” instead of thinking, “OH GOD, MY HANDS ARE FREE AND NOW I AM MISERABLE AND I REGRET NOT REVELING IN WHAT I ONCE THOUGHT WAS MISERY AND NOW PERCEIVE AS PURE JOY WHEN COMPARED TO THE FRESH HELL THAT IS MY LATER LIFE.”

Ceramics Class

Elizabeth went to a wheel-thrown pottery class this summer, and I was really impressed with how good a piece can look even with very little experience. When I went back to pick up her finished things, they gave me a pamphlet about fall classes, and I noticed that they had a ten-session wheel-thrown pottery class for adults.

I had an unusual surge of interest in that idea, quickly followed by all my usual reactions to a surge of interest: new/scary thing, what if I hate it, it seems indulgent, maybe I should wait and see, it’s kind of a long drive, what if I have scheduling conflicts, how can one justify frivolous things in this time of worldwide crises and sweeping injustice not to mention college costs, etc. But I sensed in myself a rare mood of ability to overcome, so I went and got my credit card before I could lose that surge of interest.

As I clicked through the various links to get to the sign-up, I psyched myself up: It’s good to try new things! New things are good for aging brains! Maybe you’ll love it, and if you don’t, it’s okay! It’s okay to do things like this! I felt almost dazed: I was ACTUALLY SIGNING UP FOR IT!!! And EARLY—not at the last minute! And with so little agonizing! I thought maybe I would even ask a friend to do it with me, but I sensed in that idea an excuse to postpone registration, so I continued on: I could sign up and THEN mention it to a friend.

And the class was full. No waiting list. I feel deflated. I was doing it, I was actually DOING it!—and then it was not available. I can do it next session, but that is not comforting: I suspect I will NOT do it next session. It’s so rare for interest to merge with the ability to take action.

I considered trying a different class. I could learn basket-weaving. But there was no surge of interest. I could learn drawing/sketching. But eh. Painting? A slight feeling of interest, followed by total loss of same.

[Edited to add:] Okay, I checked further, and there is a one-session class that makes just one bowl or mug. I signed up for that. If I like it, I can take the full course next session.

[Edited a second time to add:]
I also sent an email to the art-class place, asking if by any chance there was a waiting list even though there was no waiting list mentioned. And I got an email back saying actually there was one place left in the class, and if I wanted it I should call this number. I went back to the website and tried to register that way, because I did not want to call, but it still said the class was full. So I clenched my teeth and made the phone call, and now I am in the class. I am in the class! My cheeks feel hot and my eyes feel wide. I realize there are people who decide on and get into a doctorate program with less fuss and angst, but we are who we are, and now we are someone who is full of fuss and angst AND ALSO enrolled in a pottery class!