Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Living Large

I am a risk-taker. I flagrantly ignore the warnings about Dioxin poisoning from "Johns Hopkins". I refill my Aquafina bottle at the sink (at home) and at the water fountain (at work).

I don't drink directly from the water fountain - that would be gross, of course. But everyone knows that letting the water flow for a few moments before filling up a water bottle allows for all the germs to be washed away, and your water bottle is then filled with delicious, fresh, practically distilled water. You could iron with it.

But really. What could be grosser than having the water pressure from the fountain drop drastically, while I am filling up my oh-so-sterile water bottle, as someone in the nearby bathroom flushes the toilet?

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Treasure Hunt

This afternoon, Ellie was scavenging around in my purse and found several treasures, including a tampon.

I found the top part of the cardboard applicator, the bottom part of the cardboard applicator, and the paper wrapper lying in the foyer. Only one thing missing. I crawled around on my hands and knees looking under all the furniture. What an observant child, to notice that the tampon is supposed to go hide somewhere. I'm a little afraid of what I might find when I next change her diaper.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Another One Bites the Dust

My birthday, in list:
  • I set my alarm to wake up early - very painful for night-person me
  • I soon realized that I had started my period, and not painlessly
  • I went to the dentist
  • As always, it sucked
  • I learned that I have a cavity that needs to be filled
  • I got to go to Bible study, but had to leave very early
  • I had to take Ellie to the doctor for the third time in a week
  • I hit a pole in (tiny, unlit, under-building) parking lot as I tried to leave (my first time ever hitting anything with a car)
  • Ellie was tired and irritable all afternoon
  • I have a headache
  • I had a great time at dinner with 10 girlfriends, none of whom remembered that it is my birthday (and I didn't remind them)
  • I got pulled over in a stupid speedtrap on the way home
It all could have been a lot worse. Ellie isn't really sick. The car was barely scratched in its encounter with the cement pillar. I just got a warning from the cop. There are clean sheets on the bed.

Good night.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Landscaping Costs

We decided to build a swing set for Ellie this summer. We did a bit of research and decided on a cool kit from Lowe's. Paul is excited to buy the lumber and build the thing himself. It comes with a cool toddler "rock" wall - perfect for learning stair climbing - and other features that can easily be updated to bigger and better attractions as Ellie outgrows them.

We bought the kit and brought it home. Ellie understood immediately and was so excited. She kept asking us to open the box for her:

We have a half acre lot; plenty of room for a swing set, right? Even a big wooden one? Well . . . it turns out that our backyard slopes downward. It's not enough to wreck your croquet game (the weeds do a good enough job of that) but it's not up to my standards of safety either.

And the old, wooden retaining walls back there are full of carpenter ants and yellow jackets. They've got to go.

So we had a few landscapers out to give us some bids. The first guy was perfect: a small, locally owned business, very friendly, and had some great ideas for how to replace the retaining walls and add a safe playpit for the swingset. For $15,000. We called the company that just does cheapo retaining walls, no landscaping, no playpits: $12,000. The third and fourth places never called us back. We're waiting on two more estimates, but I'm not optimistic. Retaining walls seem to be hugely expensive and a largely fixed price (the "stone" costs so much per square foot, wholesale). And we can really only (only!) afford about $10,000 right now. And by afford, I mean that we don't want to go any further into dept than that. Blast.

I really wanted to have the backyard fixed up: build a nice play area for Ellie, get rid of the rotting railroad ties, remove the overgrown landscaping, maybe even fence the yard in. But it seems that I'm either going to have to get a lot handier (and energetic!) or a lot richer.

Almost 31

I just saw March of the Penguins. It's a good film, and very nice to see on the big screen. It would have been even better if I hadn't had a potent pina colada, 2+ glasses of water, and an enormous soda.

But the movie left me with lots of questions. Most notably, what happens to the other penguins? It was nice to hear about the devoted parents and horrible to hear about the lost babies. But what do the females who don't find mates do? Do they return to the sea alone? How do they survive the winter without the herd for warmth? What about the parents who crack their eggs or lose their babies?

Also, how can the trip from the ocean to the mating grounds be 70+ miles at the end of the summer, longer during the winter (that part makes sense) and only a few hundred feet at the beginning of the summer?

That movie gave me a new impression of seals. Now I won't feel so sorry for the little buggers during the shark documentaries; they have it coming. And I already knew that birds were scary.


Busy weekend this weekend, but fun. Friday night we went to a friend's housewarming party. Saturday found us braving the heat with some friends and their adorable 4-month-old at the Down Syndrome Association of Greater St. Louis Walk in the Park. We flaked out in the heat and headed home for our neighborhood picnic. This morning we went to church (more on that later) and Sunday School, then to some friends' for delicious brunch. Then tonight - a date! With a babysitter and everything! There was Thai food, there was a movie, it was all very nice. I could get used to this.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Mary, Mary Quite Contrary

Today's annoyance related to magnetic awareness ribbons on cars:

I'm a contrary sort. If you tell me to do something, even if I was already planning to do it, I'll suddenly feel less inclined to comply. I don't do well with direct orders; it's a good thing that I'm not in the military.

When I lived near Fort Riley (home of the First Infantry Division) during the first Gulf War, I wore a bracelet in support of the soldiers over in the desert. These soldiers were the parents of friends, the boyfriends of friends, people I knew from around town. Just because I didn't like the war didn't mean that I didn't support the soldiers.

But my first reaction to those bossy "Support our troops!" ribbons and signs is: Don't tell me what to do!

Come on. Shell out the extra dough for two more letters: We Support Our Troops. Tell me how you feel, not how I should be feeling. Please.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Toddler Rappelling

I wrenched my neck yesterday.

I had just put Ellie down for a nap and was standing in the kitchen fixing myself lunch, when I heard a small, sweet voice from behind me say, "Hi."

Here's what happened. On the way home from school, Ellie was quickly bored by Terry Gross and said,

"Ehhhhh! Ehhhhh!"

"Ellie, what's wrong? Can you tell me with your words?"

"Muzzzzzzz," she grinned at me winningly while rubbing her right hand rapidly over her left forearm. She has 60+ words and 50+ signs, but it's where they intersect that I'm most likely to understand what she's trying to say. In this case, she was clearly asking for music.

Truth be told, I was a little bit bored by Fresh Air too, so I hit the CD button, bringing Allison Krauss's sweet croon into the car. That was fine for a few moments, until I heard,

"No no no!"

So I pushed the Tape button, starting a rousing compilation of such hits as "Splashing in the Bath With My Little Rubber Duck," and "Creeping, Creeping Little Flea."

Unusually, Ellie didn't fall asleep before we got home. I took her to her room and cuddled her for a little bit, then laid her gently in her crib and went to get myself something to eat while I waited for her to fall asleep.

Almost immediately I realized that I'd forgotten to put up the crib rail. I wasn't too concerned, though. The mattress is set as low as it can go, and it's only recently that we've decided we should start putting the rail up. She's never shown any interest in trying to crawl out of the crib. Since she was being so quiet, I decided to wait until she was asleep before sneaking in to put up the rail. Better that then to let her see me and launch a crying plea for release from her wooden prison.

Then, "Hi-ii," just as sweetly as you can imagine, and way too close behind me. "Hiiiii."

Ellie stood on her pillow and used the extra height to climb over the crib rail. Then she dropped herself down into her little wicker hamper, tipping that over to reach the floor. She didn't fall or cry out at all; she made the trip in perfect silence.

With her incredible flexibility, I always thought that Ellie would make a great contortionist or rhythmic gymnast. Now I'm thinking that maybe she'd make a good replacement for Sydney Bristow.

Thursday, September 08, 2005


Sometimes, tragedy on a smaller scale can seem so much larger.

Moreena, you and your family are in my prayers.


Ah, here it is, the obligatory Katrina post. I hadn't intended to write one, but here I am.

In conversations with friends over the last couple of days, Paul and I were both surprised (and infuriated) to realize that not everyone feels that the devastation of New Orleans is a tragedy. Each of us has heard from two different people who feel like this is probably a "blessing in disguise." After all, New Orleans is a cesspool of sin and crime anyway, so why not wipe the slate clean and start all over again?

For you sociologists, all four of these subjects are men, ages 30-45, upper middle class, white suburbanites. 3 call themselves liberals. 1 is a conservative, but one of the "spend my vacation building homes for the poor" type of conservatives. None of them has ever been to New Orleans. Obviously.

1) How can families being separated, hundreds of women being raped, thousands of human beings dying, and many many more losing their homes and all of their belongings be anything but a tragedy? If this happened to me and some man hundreds of miles away told me it was really a "blessing," I'd pop him right in the mouth. (Hey, didja hear the one about the 15-year-old in the hospital with the 300 pound machine that beats his heart for him?)

2) How can someone feel comfortable suggesting that someplace they've never been is so awful that it needs to be destroyed utterly, in Sodom and Gomorrah fashion? The pride! The entitlement!

3) Even if New Orleans was a pit of depravity, how does that make it different from anywhere else? Should we pray for natural disasters in all of our major cities? Certainly Las Vegas has got to go. Of the most dangerous cities in the United States, New Orleans ranks about 8th. So let's wipe out Camden, NJ; Detroit, MI; Atlanta, GA; St. Louis, MO; Gary, IN; Washington, D.C.; and Hartford, CT before we even start talking about New Orleans.

New Orleans is a beautiful city. It has so much character and charm. Yeah, there are dark alleys and there is crime. But this is true of any city. And sitting in your suburban home, just outside a city that's far more dangerous than New Orleans was before this hurricane, suggesting that it's a blessing that the city was flooded just because you've heard some scary stories, well, that's just beyond the pale.

And these people seem to be ignoring the fact that it wasn't the "scariest" neighborhoods that flooded. This wasn't God smiting just those who live in sin. The worst effected areas were along the levees that hold Lake Pontchartrain. Golly, who'd want to build near a lake? It turns out that a lot of families like to live near lakes, so many urban and suburban residential neighborhoods were flooded. (Here is God smiting an SUV.)

Can we think of any other cities near bodies of water that might be in danger of flooding if their levees or other water containment systems were breached? (How about Chicago and St. Louis, right off the bat?)

But, hey, white guys, you're not alone. Here's another white guy who agrees with you.

You're all wrong. Why build in a hurricane zone? Why build at the mouth of a huge river? Uh, how do you think all that shiny stuff gets to a Wal-mart near you? Where do you think your food comes from? Big hint: the Mississippi River is a huge shipping lane. Without a port at the mouth of the Mississippi, look for lots of wilted produce and extremely expensive goods being air-lifted into the Midwest.

Edited to add: OK, the "white guys" stuff is a bit harsh. But it's very hard for me to not see this as a race and class issue to some extent. If New Orleans wasn't so poor and black, would it be as easy to write off?

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

More Awareness Ribbons

Today's annoyance related to magnetic awareness ribbons on cars:

When your yellow or red, white, & blue "Support Our Troops!" awareness ribbon fades to white, TAKE IT OFF OF YOUR CAR! Don't you think that it rather makes the opposite point if you leave it on? Aren't you, in effect, saying that you care so little about "our troops" that you can't even be bothered to support them in a respectful fashion?

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

On Hating Disney

I know that I am supposed to hate all things Disney, including Walt Disney World. It's explicitly stated in the "How to be a Good Liberal" handbook that they pass out at the secret parties. But I don't hate Disney World, and here's why:

Yes, it's a major U.S. corporation with all that that implies, like sweatshops and child labor (that's an interesting link, though nothing's referenced and a lot of it's silly). And, yes, Walt himself was probably as Nazi sympathizer, among other things. And, yes, Disney gives us a sanitized look at a world that never was. But . . . Disney World also allows adults to see the world as we did when we were very young. A 4-year-old, seeing a small town's Main Street, doesn't notice the peeling paint or the fact that half of the storefronts are empty. WDW brings back that magic for adults by creating the world as little kids see it: magic and escapism, all wrapped in a pretty bow in this scary world.

I know that Disney is involved in some evil stuff, as are far too many major corporations. But they also provide a sense of innocence and wonder that are hard to find elsewhere.


Today's annoyance related to magnetic awareness ribbons on cars:
I do believe that there's a place for awareness ribbons: Autism, Down syndrome, cancer research, etc. The ribbons can, shockingly enough, raise awareness of various causes. And, often, the ribbons signify a small donation to the cause. That said, many things that have awareness ribbons don't deserve them. Like the St. Louis Cardinals. So you're a sports fan and you support the home team. Rah rah rah! Put a sticker on your car or fly one of those silly flags that makes you look like you're part of a red-themed funeral procession. But don't put an awareness ribbon on your car. We're all aware of the Cardinals!

Monday, September 05, 2005

After Labor Day

We had a wonderful weekend visiting my parents. On Saturday, the weather was perfect. It was sunny and in the upper 70's, with a gentle wind off the water to keep the bugs away. We had a picnic on the beach while Ellie played in the soft sand, then we wandered down to the hard-packed sand at the edge of the water. The tide was beginning to come in, and Ellie had fun splashing in the surf. She kept scooting forward to get wetter. Grandma walked her out to the first sandbar and helped her "jump" over the waves. If you've never seen Lake Michigan, if you've never been to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, you can't understand the magnitude of this lake. The air was clear enough for us to see the Chicago skyline rising beautifully across the water. As always, we try to avoid looking due west. We all try to ignore "steel city."

Sunday was also perfect. The weather was overcast, and after lunch we headed out to Guse Christmas Trees. This was opening weekend for Guse's fall festival. The highlight was the enormous corn maze. This corn field - again, those not from farming communities might have trouble with the scope - was huge, 7 acres. We walked over 3 miles of trails before finding our way out. According the numbered map we were each given, we missed number 8. But we found number 6 about five times, so we figure we made up for anything we skipped. I just love the fall. Ellie slept in her stroller through the maze, so the highlight for her was the enormous sandbox of dry kernels of corn. Heaven.

This morning, Ellie got to go to the park for the third morning in a row. Then we visited some friends. While the adults were chatting, Ellie decided to stand right up in the middle of the room and walk to her daddy. Priceless!

Of course, she has yet another sinus infection and the trip back was a bit of a bear. But she's such a trooper. And despite our best efforts (read: inconsistency and laziness) she's making progress with her potty training. Now she tells us *before* she poops, and *as* she's peeing. A major step in the right direction!