She spins for thee

An optical illusion for you on Halloween:

Which way does the girl spin? Can you get her to "switch" and spin the other way?


More on less water

Aimee asked me how I planned to reduce our water consumption, and Amy wrote a good post on actions she's taking to do so. Way to go Amy!

I checked my consumption history through my online account with the City. It's a bit confusing, actually. For the Sept-Oct billing cycle our consumption was "4." Four what? It doesn't indicate how that translates into gallons, and I don't know if that's average or high or low or what. It's better than May-June, however, which was 8; but worse than Jun-July, which was a 3 -- but we were gone for a week at the end of June, so that does make sense. Jul-Aug and Aug-Sept were both 6 -- it just occurred to me that, except for our vacation, our water use would be higher in the summer because Chris and the kids are home all day; now that school's started, there's no one home to flush toilets and wash hands every weekday from 8:30 to 5.

So what can I do to get our consumption down to a 2, as the governor requested, other than leaving home for two weeks out of every month? Let's see...

We don't water our lawn or wash our cars. (Actually we never have. This was not a big lifestyle change for us!) We have low-flow toilets and showerheads. We follow the "if it's yellow, let it mellow" rule of toilet-flushing. I've started to shower only every other day (unless my hair looks really weird on the second day), and now that it's not so hot outside I may start bathing the kids only every other day as well. When I do shower, I turn the water off while shaving or soaping. I've thought about saving the "gray water" from baths and showers to use for toilet-flushing or filling up the washer, but I haven't got the logistics figured out and it kind of makes me nervous to think of leaving a tub full of water, what with the small children in the house. I only wash clothes that are noticeably dirty and run only full loads of laundry (even if it means mixing towels, sheets, and tshirts together). I've thought about switching to paper plates but haven't made that leap yet (it's a What Would Al Gore Do? kind of eco-dilemma), but I have started using plastic baggies for lunchboxes instead of reusable-have-to-be-washed containers; I also use wipes for the kitchen counters instead of a washcloth or sponge. I think the area in our house that needs the most attention is dish-washing -- I'm sure we need to be more conscious there.

Oh, I don't fill the dog's water dish anymore. We must all do our part, after all.

Kidding, of course.

So was this my most fascinating post ever or what? Honestly, it did help me evaluate areas that need improvement. I'll let you know how well we did when I get my next water bill. Until then, do a rain dance for us!


Am I Missing Something Here?

We are currently in the midst of an "exceptional" drought, which is the very worst kind of drought, apparently. It has been raining off and on for the past three days (yay!) but it's not going to be enough to pull us out of the crisis. Last week, the governor asked everyone -- businesses and homes -- to reduce water consumption by 50% by the end of the month.

There's an apartment complex right across the street from my office building. Right after the governor's annoucement, they posted a big sign, facing the street, which proclamed:


I can only guess that this sign is supposed to serve as some kind of justification for them to continue to water their flowerbeds and bushes and shrubs and things. (It's a very nicely landscaped apartment complex.) I guess they're saying, We're not using municipal water, so we're not obliged to follow the water restriction rules. (This is only a guess, but I can't imagine why else they'd post the sign.)

But the thing is -- even if you're using well water...well, it's still water, right? Water which is in very short supply 'round these parts lately -- unless they have some kind of magical well that refills every night regardless of whether or not it rains. I mean, it's great that they're not draining the municipal reservoirs to irrigate their flowers...but they're draining their own well to irrigate their flowers. Shouldn't they be conserving the water no matter what?

Or am I completely missing something here?



Haven't posted pictures for a while, so here you go.

Last weekend at the pumpkin patch:

Nap time:

Homework time:

Trying to reach the ice cream and about to throw a fit time:


Worse than Tantrums

Phoebe has recently started to utter the three little words I never want to hear from my child.

No, not “I hate you*.” Not “I failed algebra” or “The car’s totaled” or even “I do drugs.” Not “Oops, I’m pregnant” or “I’m in jail” or “He hits me” or “I’m a Republican.”** No, the words are:

“You play too!”

I don’t like to play with my children. There, I said it. I will read to my children, a million books a day. I will find markers and paper and I will open play-doh cans. I will push on the swings and spot on the slide. I will put movies in the DVD player and find favorites on the ipod. I will even stack blocks and play board games once in a while.

But tea parties with bears and Barbies – no. Don’t ask me to play school, or doctor, or pet shop. I don’t want to be a zookeeper, or the good fairy, or the boyfriend’s big sister. Don’t count on me to make up conversations with your dolls and for the love of all that’s holy, don’t ever, ever hand me a puppet.

Am I alone in this, am I awful? Seriously, sit me down with a bunch of Barbie dolls and my brain starts to fairly itch with boredom. I think whatever element of whimsy or imagination required to enjoy that kind of thing (and I did love that kind of thing when I was young) has long since died off, never to return.

Fortunately, Chris is really good at this type of stuff. In fact it perplexes me that both of my daughters are mama’s girls because really, Chris is the fun parent. I’m the one who brushes teeth and folds the laundry and supplies the snacks; Chris is the one who pretends to be a vampire and sets up the train sets and re-enacts favorite movie scenes and . . . well, lots of other things while I sneak away to vacuum the living room or, more likely, read a magazine.

Mallory, I think, has realized my limitations; she rarely asks me to play with her anymore. It’ll take a year or two before Phoebe clues in. Til then, I’m sorry, sweetie, but Mommy’s busy cleaning the kitchen.

*Mallory has actually said “I hate you!” to me and it didn’t bother me, I suppose because it was in the middle of a hysterical fit when nothing she said was making any sense. I guess if she came out with it in a cool, calculating way it would hurt a bit.

**I started making this list as a witty rhetorical device and was subsequently alarmed at how easy it is to invent calamities which may befall one’s children. The Republican thing is a joke, of course. Sort of.


What They Wouldn't Learn in Public School, Part II

Chris teaches art at a Catholic high school. Yesterday, to facilitate a new unit on Figure Drawing, he borrowed a human skeleton from the biology department. While discussing the anatomy, he made a comment about the shape of the pelvic bones and how they move apart during childbirth. All the girls in the class screamed at the thought.

Anyway, later in the day a kid came up to him and said, "Mr. K! I heard that you were talking about how babies were born in class!"

"Well, not really," Chris said.

"Yeah!" said another kid. "I heard that you said that when a baby is born, it EXPLODES out of the mother's hips!"

Chris denied saying any such thing. I dunno, maybe he should've stuck with that. It sounds like a pretty good incentive for contraception, to me.

Just remembered the "Sex Education" I received as part of my Home Economics class my senior year of high school. Irony: Two of the girls in the class were pregnant by the end of the school year.

Scary: Just realized that this means that their children are now 16 years old. Where does the time go?



The 2's were not at all terrible for Mallory. Now, three-and-a-half was pretty bad, and four was rough, and there are moments during five-and-three-quarters that make me want to ship her off to Kalamazoo, but when Mallory was two everything was sunshine and roses and kittens frolicking in...whatever kittens frolic in. (I'm a dog person.) I thought the terrible 2's were a myth, devised by parents who obviously just didn't know how to relate to their 2-year-olds.

Clearly I was a fool. My second 2-year-old -- who up until last week was going through life on a fairly even keel -- has been replaced by a whirling dervish who collapses into screaming rages if you look at her funny.

Since Saturday, Phoebe has had full-blown, fall-down-on-the-floor-and-kick tantrums because:

She wanted to go outside.
She wanted to come inside.
It was dark outside.
She wanted to take a bath.
She did not want to take a bath.
I let the water out of the bath.
She wanted "fre-sert" but did not want to finish her dinner.
I cut her toast into squares.
I poured milk into the wrong cup.
She wanted to watch TV.
She did not want to watch TV.
Her special "Halloweens" temporary tattoo washed off her hand.
She did not want to wear the shirt with the apples.
She did not want her diaper changed.
She wanted to take a nap (two minutes after waking up).
She did not want me to take a shower.

So it's been a loud, trying, tiring week in our household. And when even she has had enough of her yelling, she comes to me and lifts up her arms and says, "I need to rock, Mommy." So I take her to the big squooshy rocking chair in the living room and we rock for a while. I stroke her sweaty hair and rub her back as her shoulder-hitching sobs fade away. I sing the "Fee-fi-Phoebe-i-o" song. I feel exasperated because she's being so irrational. I marvel at how perfectly her little body fits against mine. I think that she really needs to save up all this rage for a time when her life really does get hard. I consider how frustrating it must be to be only two years old, to be shorter than everyone else, to be unable to reach the ice cream yourself, to have so little control over where you go and what you do. I think about how scary it must be to have your emotions spiral so completely out of control, how exhausting it must be to flail and cry for fifteen minutes at a time. I think of what a comfort it must be that even after you've behaved so very badly, there is still someone who will pick you up and hold you tight and say "I love you anyway."

I hope this phase passes quickly. I hope she saves up some of this fire and determination for the really important fights in her life. I hope she will always know that I am her safe place, no matter what.


I guess that's what they call irony

My mother pointed out, correctly, that one of the quotes I said was a misquote actually wasn't. Patrick Henry did say "Give me liberty or give me death!" However, Nathan Hale did not say "My only regret is that I have but one life to give for my country." Sorry, wrong patriot.

And in response to those who did not like The Power and the Glory -- neither did I! In fact I didn't much care for any of the books from which the quotes in my previous post originated. I find Jane Austen dull; I abhor D.H. Lawrence. One of Julian Barnes's books (Talking it Over) is one of my very favorites, Flaubert's Parrot is meh. I was inspired by certain passages of Middlemarch but on the whole it's a bit of a slog. So, um, there.

More later, busy at work and computer is very slow. News at our house: Mallory has strep, Phoebe has tantrums. Many of them. Whee!


Other People Say It Better

I have always been a quote collector. The walls of my bedroom used to be papered with quotations (usually printed out in whatever cool fonts were available on our Apple IIE computer). When I got my own apartment in NC, I hung quotes up all over my "dining area" -- something that Chris later told me he found "weird."

I recently read a funny article in the New Yorker about quotes. Apparently many famous quotes were never actually quoted by the people they're attributed to; for example, Patrick Henry probably did not say "Give me liberty or give me death." And, um, well, other people did not say things we think they said but I don't have the magazine in front of me so you'll just have to wonder. Sorry, how lame am I?

In the meantime, here are some of the quotes that got me through college and graduate school:

"But it is very difficult to be learned; it seems as if people were worn out on the way to great thoughts and can never enjoy them because they are too tired." -- George Eliot, Middlemarch

"Books say: She did this because. Life says: She did this. Books are where things are explained to you; life is where things aren't. I'm not surprised some people prefer books. Books make sense of life. The only problem is that the lives they make sense of are other people's lives, never your own." -- Julian Barnes, Flaubert's Parrot

"This was torment, indeed, to inherit the responsibility of one's own life." D.H. Lawrence, The Rainbow

"One mustn't have human affections -- or rather one must love every soul as if it were one's own child." -- Graham Green, The Power and the Glory

"It may be possible to do without dancing entirely." --Jane Austen, Emma

That's not all! Stay tuned for more, on another day when I feel I should post but have nothing much to say!


Something She Wouldn't Learn in Public School

Mallory came home yesterday wearing a "Faith" bracelet she'd made in Religion class. It was made of several colored beads on a black cord. I asked her to tell me about it and she said, "Well, the blue bead is for water, the green bead is for trees, the yellow bead is for the sun, the brown bead is for the earth. And the red bead is for Jesus' blood, and the black bead is because Jesus died."

I was a bit taken aback by the last two beads (not in a bad way, please understand, it's just that I'm as new to Catholic school as Mallory herself is), but I said, "Well, that's a great bracelet. All the beads stand for something very special."

"It's not so special that Jesus died," she protested.

"Actually it is. Haven't you learned yet why Jesus died?"


"Well, Jesus died so everyone can go to heaven," I said, after a moment of wondering how to explain it best. And immediately regretted even beginning this line of conversation, because millions of questions followed. Where is Jesus now? (Heaven.) Who takes care of him in heaven? (God does.) What will happen to him when God dies? (God doesn't die.) Why doesn't God die, everyone dies? (God is not a person.) What is God if he's not a person? (He's God.) But what does that mean? (Eat your dinner.)

Theological conundrums aside, Mallory is doing very well. The troubles she was having a few weeks ago have cleared up; I had a really nice discussion with her teacher and am pretty much convinced that she is not, in fact, mean to the kids. Mallory was apparently having a hard time making the transition to her hugs-and-kisses, sunshine-and-roses preschool teachers, in a preschool class where no one every told you you were doing anything wrong, to her more blunt, matter-of-fact kindergarten teacher who has fairly high expectations and is a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to things like holding pencils and forming letters and numbers. I had to explain to Mallory that Mrs F is not necessarily mad at her when she tells her to keep her M's within the lines or to not use a big ol' circle to dot her lower case i's or to pay attention to worksheet directions. And apart from one meltdown last week (she woke up and said she wasn't going to go to school, I left her crying in her room, she finally came downstairs and confessed, "I can't go to school because it's K day and I don't know how to make a K!" So we spent five minutes practicing K's before breakfast,and all was well), she's doing much better. I talked to Mrs F again this week and she said Mallory is really blossoming and is even answering some "tough questions" in class. Whatever that may mean; she's happy, so I'm happy.

She's learning a lot too. She's very into spelling especially: "What does S T O P spell?" or "I know how to spell Gorilla! M O N K E Y!"; she also now understands number sequences: "Mommy, the clock says 7 11. Next it will say 7 12. Then it'll be 7 13. Then..."

It's fun, watching her learn.


Ad Nauseam

My children are incapable of saying anything just one time, and I am in the process of losing my mind. Phoebe repeats everything she says at least three times: "It's too early for a nap, Mommy, it's too early, it's too early for a nap." Mallory repeats all of her demands over and over again even AFTER I've told her yes, or no; "Can you help me find my shoes?" "Yes, just a minute please." "Help me find me shoes, Mommy, can you help me NOW please find my shoes, where are my shoes?" The other day both of them were asking something of me "Want a drink, Mommy, a drink, a drink Mommy, want a drink" at the same time "Mommy can I watch Nickelodeon now? Can I? Can I watch Nickelodeon Mommy? Mommy can I?" without even giving me a chance to answer, much less find a sippy cup or the remote, and I just lost it and yelled at both of them: "STOP ASKING ME THINGS OVER AND OVER AGAIN! I HEARD YOU THE FIRST TIME! SIT DOWN AND BE QUIET BOTH OF YOU!"

Which had no effect, of course. At a calmer moment I told them that they needed to work on being patient, and polite, and to remember that Mommy can't do everything they want her to do the very second they ask, but her hearing works quite well nonetheless, so stop with the repeating of things, please. Which has had little effect as well.

So when, on Saturday night, I sat down for a few moment's peace in front of the TV, I felt perfectly justified to ignore Phoebe's repeated requests to "Come see, Mommy, come see, Mommy, look, Mommy, look!"

And then, I remembered that she didn't have a diaper on.

Last night, I started to tell my in-laws about what Phoebe, Diaperless, Did To the Chair. Phoebe, who was sitting on my lap, immediately said, "Don't talk, Mommy! Don't talk about it!" and tried to cover my mouth. So at least she has the grace to be embarrassed about the whole sordid incident.