The System

March is almost over and so I’m getting ready to put up my “First Quarter Book List” and since people always ask me how in god’s name I manage to read so much, I figured I’d explain “The System” for a bit.

First of all, I am a really really really really fast reader.  This isn’t like, a bragging thing, it’s a fact. I have no idea if other people read this way, but ever since I was a kid, I just disappear into a book. I don’t register words, I don’t realize I am turning pages, the book just sort of happens in front of me.   You have to yell my name three or four times to get me to respond.

So there’s that.  Also, despite my total addiction to the internet, I really don’t watch very much tv.  I wish this was not the case, this is not a judgment of anyone else, but something about my attention span and television don’t mix.  Even shows I LOVE I have a hard time paying attention to for a full hour.

Anyway, in general I mostly read at night, in bed when most people (ie my husband) are watching Survivor.  And a lot of what I read is young adult and those are short books but I’ve been known to read three books in a night.  So that’s a big reason why I am able to read so much even though I really only read at night.

The actual “system” is pretty simple – I get book recommendations from all kinds of places – blog recommendations, (if you’re not reading Everyday Reading, you should fix that right now, she’ll hook you up with the good YAF for sure), The New York Times Book Review which I subscribe to, ads in the New Yorker (these books are often terrible but the ads always suck me in), prize winners, new books by my favorite authors, classics I always felt like I should read, books my mother buys at the airport and then sends me, my library email newsletter, and books at Amazon that pop up when I add things to my wish list (these are also often horrible).  I haven’t signed up for Good Reads yet because the thought of figuring out something new right now makes me tired.

Any time I hear about a book I want to read, I go to Amazon and add it to my wish list.  (The link is SO NOT me trolling for you to send me stuff, just in case you want book ideas.)  I have an online account at the library and I usually have between 10 and 30 things “requested” and when they come in, Mr. E picks them up for me because he works right next to the library.   When the request list at the library gets low, I open my Amazon list, put some more things on hold at the library, and delete them from the Amazon list.

After I read a book, I write the title in my desk calendar – I’ve marked it 1-200 already so I can tell when I am falling behind on this year’s book reading goal.

I honestly don’t feel bad about hardly ever buying any books because 1. the library is awesome and I love it 2. I can’t afford all these books anyway and I pay taxes so we have a library and 3. most of the books I read are terrible and I thank the lard I haven’t had to shell out actual cash for them.  Occasionally if I really really love something I read I will buy myself a copy of it, and I do buy a lot of children’s books and books as gifts.

So, that’s pretty much it – any questions?  More importantly, does anyone have any good book recommendations for me? I’ve read some stinkers in the past few weeks.

Why You Should Never Send Your Husband Alone to “Buy Some Plants”

Waiting

Should I be blogging about this? I kind of feel like I shouldn’t blogging about this, but hey, you know, it’s my life, it is what it is.

So, anyhoo, those of you who have been reading for awhile know that I am a stay at home mom and my husband is furloughed.  What this means is that he has to take an unpaid vacation day for the first three Fridays of every month – it amounts to a 15% percent pay cut.

Which honestly, suuuuuuuuuuuuuucks.  I have tried (and most likely failed) to not complain about this too much, because I don’t want this blog to turn into Whine O Rama 2010, because we are still VERY lucky compared to most of the world in MANY MANY ways, and because I am a stay at home mom and so that means some sacrifices financially and I just am not in the mood to hear “Why don’t you get a job” over and over again, and because inevitably when you mention furloughs, people who don’t know the whole story like to say things about how we all have to make sacrifices in a bad economy and how if everyone isn’t furloughed then people will have to get laid off, etc etc etc.  This is, patently, not the case – when they say California is in bad shape econonomically, or that the state budget is screwed, or that people might get laid off, what they are talking about is the GENERAL FUND money that pays some state workers. My husband is NOT paid out of this fund, he’s paid out of fee based funds.  Those funds are now just sitting there, because they aren’t legally allowed to be reallocated anywhere else.  In fact, it doesn’t save anyone any money to furlough non general fund workers, because they 1. aren’t doing work that generates funds, 2. they aren’t spending that money they aren’t making in the community or paying taxes on it, and 3. the state may have to pay that money back, with interest, OUT OF THE GENERAL FUND, if the furloughs are ruled illegal.

The only justification for these furloughs is that “everyone” should bear the burden of a bad economy so it “feels fair”,  and a judge has already ruled that this isn’t a valid legal argument, but then there are appeals to a higher court and all these things take FOREVER.  Just yesterday, the non general fund furloughs were ruled illegal and workers were told to go back to work, and now we’re waiting to find out if this ruling is going to stick, or if another appeal will leave us all still waiting.

Regardless, we get by.  We don’t go hungry.  But 15% of anyone’s salary is a big pay cut, and we budgeted what we could afford for our mortgage based on what we thought Mr. E was going to get paid, so at this point, there’s not a lot of extra cash floating around.  It’s frustrating because we followed all the rules and were broke students for YEARS so my husband could get his PhD, so that some day we didn’t have to count every dime.  And it’s frustrating because it feels like we’re political pawns, not like we’re making a sacrifice for any reason – no one isn’t getting laid of because my husband took a huge pay cut.

However, crazy as this is, in  some ways, honestly, the furloughs have been good.  It’s been really nice to have my husband home for three Fridays every month, and I can’t even BEGIN to tell you the vast amount of useless crap I probably would have deemed TOTALLY necessary a few years ago – this has been such a great lesson in distinguishing between “need”, “want”, and “nice to have.”  I have a list of 102 things that I’d really like to own, and probably only 1o things on that list are actual needs.  We’ve gotten really good at saving money on groceries, and hair cuts, and we get all of our books from the library, and we have one car and a very small house and generous parents.  And I am SO happy, I can’t even tell you, that I’ve been forced to think twice about all the stuff that seems so important and isn’t, really.   Like I said, we’re not going hungry, there’s just not a lot for extras.   But  sometimes, unfortunately, going without the extras all the time gets a little tired.

So.  If the  blasted furloughs ever end (please god, let them end), there’s some things I’d really like to buy.  And there are some things I’d really like to do.

1. I would really like to sometimes, just sometimes, shop in the fancy grocery store.

2. I’d like to go to Anthropologie and buy some girly shirts, maybe a new dress.

3. I’d like to take a trip to the Baby Gap outlet and buy some tiny overpriced “she’s never going to wear those” dresses.

4. I’d like to get Eli some new shoes that didn’t come from Ebay.

5. I’d like to get some new patio furniture.

6. I’d like to take my kids to Disneyland and my husband to the beaches in L.A. –  my favorite beaches in all the world.

7. I’d like to send people presents or flowers or Etsy stuff whenever I felt like it. I miss being a free wheeling gift giver.

8.  I’d like to get my dog a new dog bed, even if she is pain in my ass.

9.  I’d like new chairs for my living room.

10. I would really love to refinish the floors in my house and buy a new front door, finally.

11.  I would love to buy new every day silverware and a coffee maker (instead of a french press).  Maybe get some new dishtowels.

12. I’d love to get a composter.  And I want to try out those Bum Genius diapers.  And I want to buy Mr. E  a fancy mail order ham.

12a. I want to go to the farmer’s market every Sunday and buy flowers and the fancy olive oil and the $5 butter, and I want to go to one fancy dinner with my husband.

13.  And for sure, I’d like a new car that does not involve bending over and heaving my child in the general direction of his car seat while hoping to god I can somehow find the will to stand back up when the heaving is over with.

Pimp My Yard

I spent my morning shopping for a light switch guard – god, my life is so glamorous I can hardly stand it.  In other news, I would really like it if I could poop sometime this century, but hey! It’s not about me anymore!  I am just a vessel for miraculous life or whatever.  Like eight pounds of poop.

Sigh.

Also, this was the longest weekend of my life, and I am obviously losing my mind because I keep giving Mr. E dirty looks and saying “we’ve gotten next to nothing done” and “There’s still 105 things on my To Do Before the Baby Comes spreadsheet” and then he just sighs and says “I JUST TORE DOWN AN ENTIRE CARPORT PLEASE LEAVE ME ALONE.”

The unfortunate thing about tearing down the carport is that it wasn’t one of those things like replacing a boob light or painting a room where as soon as you’re finished it looks great.  It kind of still looks terrible.  But to be fair it looked REALLY REALLY bad before.   (Although is it just me or is there something artistically like, almost “Grapes of Wrath/Ma Joad” about it? Like it’s so bad maybe it’s kind of awesome?  Maybe?

Observe:

And also part of the really badness was because we were turning over the soil/cleaning out the garage/I live with boys, but mostly as soon as the stupid thing was down I thought “Oh, crap, this is SO going to be one of those things where we still have to spend seven quadrillion dollars on it to get it to look good.”  (Please note, I do not have seven quadrillion dollars.)

One can’t help but wonder however if the backyard/homeless encampment/zombie wasteland might have been some kind of preordained Act of God or something because this last Friday Mr. E and I noticed that there was mucho activity going on down the street and since it involved trucks, he took Pants for a field trip to do some manly investigating and it turns out they were filming some crazy tv show (Turf W@rs? On the DIY network? It doesn’t matter – I just call it Pimp My Yard) and then later on the TV “people” wandered around the neighborhood banging on doors and that is how Mr. E and I ended up as judges on some random backyard make over show.  But most importantly the producer came by to talk to us before the show started and she looked in our backyard and then did a double take and started scribbing furiously on her clipboard and saying “Oh, this is good.  THIS IS GOOD. We always need more people for the show. I mean, this is perfect!”  (See homeless encampment photo, Exhibit A.)

At first I was sort of neutral on the idea of someone redoing my backyard on some weird show I don’t even get (hi basic cable, I have it) and I spent a lot of time babbling on about it doesn’t normally look quite so TERRIBLE and about how I needed lots of space to plant my tomatoes because landscaping be damned NO ONE MESSES WITH THE TOMATOES, but then the figure TWENTY GRAND entered the conversation and what do you know? I GOT ON BOARD.

I am sure they will never actually come to fix up my (sad sad sad sad) yard but that’s ok.  I am positive a $40 Home Depot palm and an IKEA lounger are totally going to have the same effect as TWENTY GRAND and a team of contractors and professional landscapers.

Also, for the record, this is the outfit that Eli was wearing when he met the TV host.  I think it’s delightful.  Erik said that people on the street were pointing and laughing, but whatever. Not every man can carry off denim shortalls, a sweatshirt vest, and mandals with socks with such aplomb.

This is his “don’t take my picture god mooooooooooooooom you are so annoying I am trying to look for wiggly worms” face.

Things Other People Love That I Just Don’t Get

1. Dave Matthews Band

2. that whole weird hipster mustache thing

3. Liberty of London

4. Philosophy anything

5. Or that Bare Minerals stuff.

6. A Prayer for Owen Meany.  Dave Eggers.  And The Girl With a Dragon Tattoo.

7.  Tom Hanks and Bradley Cooper (haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaate).

8.  ballet flats

9.  CGI

10.  weird shit in my chocolate.

11.  Method cleaner

12. Mad Men

13.  Dancing With the Stars

14.  cilantro

15. skinny jeans

16. men’s cologne

17.  headbands

18.  ruffles

19.  chalkboard paint

20. and naps.

28 Weeks

36 Weeks Pregnant With Eli:

28 Weeks Pregnant With Lightning Bacon:

Dear Lightning Bacon,

I thought there were some things you might want to know before you show up on the scene.

I will probably yell more than I wish I would.  If I could wave a magic wand in the air, right after I’d get rid of famine and povery and disease, I’d wave it one more time and I’d make it impossible for anyone anywhere to yell at their kids.  My father yelled at me and his father yelled at him and I’d really like the yelling to stop with me, but it is a hard habit to break.  I am trying.  I will try harder.

You are getting the very very best dad anyone has ever ever had, and I am not saying that to be gushy or to curry favor.  There’s just something about your dad, LB.  Babies everywhere smile at him, problem children and colicky infants and rowdy toddlers curl up in his arms and fall asleep.  Kids flock to him and sit on his lap and light up at him when he walks in a room.  And he’s going to be YOUR dad.   I’m a little jealous of how lucky you are.

It would help everyone out a lot if you turned out to really like to park cars.

At our house, everyone is always invited.

A long time ago, my dad read to me every single night, long chapter books that I still have today.  We both cried when Laura had to leave Indian Territory and when Anne got stay at Green Gables and when Charlotte died.  I’ve been waiting a long long time to read those same books to you.  I can’t wait.

If you want to have a special pink blanket that you take to college with you and that you love until it falls apart and is actually more gray than pink, I won’t mind.  And I will do my very best not to leave the matching pillow at the Street of Dreams house tour when you are six.

You have a lot of little pink dresses.

I really hope you like pigtails.

Your brother is going to make you laugh, and then he’s going to make you mad, and then he’s going to make you laugh again.  I am so glad you are going to have each other, that you are going to get to grow up together.

French fries are one of the great wonders of our time.

Your father is going to watch Miss Congeniality every single time it comes on tv. EVERY SINGLE TIME.  This is just one those things you have to learn to accept right now.

And finally.  Here is the most important thing – the one thing you really most need to know.

I will love you forever, just as you are.