April 2008


Who wants to hear how much fun we had in the emergency room yesterday? OK, OK, I’ll tell you.

After school, we were diddling around doing nothing. I was probably reading blogs or something in the living room. The boys asked if they could take a bath. Good idea, I thought. Get them in the tub for an hour of splashing the bathroom soaking wet, but at least they will be occupied. Derek is in Utah for graduation, and he took Kiki, so it’s just me and the boys. I was happy to have them upstairs playing. They take baths all the time, and they both swim pretty well, even holding their breaths really well. Especially Calvin. Relax, this isn’t a drowning story.

Anyway, they had been in there about 10 minutes. They were fighting. They fight all the freaking time, so this was not cause for concern. Suddenly, the pitch of Zeeb’s wail became much higher, he started shrieking, “I’m sorry Calvin! I’m sorry! You’re gonna DIE! You’re Gonna DIE!!!!!” Calvin joined in the chorus. Now, there’s a considerable amount of shrieking that goes on in this house, but a mama knows when the shrieking just isn’t quite the same.

I ran upstairs to find Zeeb cowering in one end of the tub with his hands on his mouth and his eyes filled with terror, and Calvin completely drenched in blood, from the tip of his head, all the way down to where his skinny legs went in the water. The pink water. His face was covered, and I mean covered, with blood. He had his hands up on his head, but I couldn’t see what had happened.

In retrospect, I realize that I need to practice reacting calmly to scary situations, but all I could do was scream. While I was trying to find the wound and stop the bleeding, I yelled at Zeebie to get out and hand me a towel, I yelled at Calvin to tell me what happened, and too step out of the tub and lie down. I think my yelling confused them more, so they did everything in slow motion. I finally got Calvin to lie down on the floor, and took my hand off his head, and got the towel over the gash.

They had been fighting, and for whatever reason, Zeeb had picked up a jar that they usually play with (I actually don’t want a lecture about what a bad idea it is to have a jar as a bath toy. I’ve tried to remove it from the bathroom many times, but the kids always bring it back. It’s one of those jars that candles come in, or bath salts.) and he came down on Calvin’s head as hard as he could. He split the scalp right open, in a straight line about 1 1/2 inches long starting just behind the hairline.

I managed to get the boys into some underwear, and we drove to the emergency room. I always worry, when I go to the emergency room, that they will take one look at whatever I think is an emergency, and laugh in my face. This time, I got no such look. They gave us some warm blankets, cleaned it off right away, took us to a room, and left us for 3 hours. Apparently there were many emergencies yesterday. I wrapped Calvin up like he was in a cocoon, but Zeeb I wrapped like a little Tibetan monk, with the blanket wrapping around his body all the way, then up over his shoulder. He clasped his hands to his chest and walked around, his little barefoot, buzzed-head self looking so darn cute.

We sang songs, cuddled, complained, talked about stitches and staples, waited, waited, and waited. When the doctor finally did come, he reassured me that Calvin did indeed require stitches, and that I was right to bring him. Then he asked why he wasn’t wearing any clothes. I told him about the blood, and he deadpanned, “You were a little scared, were ya?” Only slightly did I get the idea that it would have been OK to dress my children before rushing off to the ER.

As he was sewing the running stitch and explaining to Calvin why it was a good stitch to use, Calvin said, “This is the second time I’ve ever gotten stitches.” ”

“Oh yeah?” said the doc. “When was the first?”

“I don’t really want to tell you, because it was on my private parts.”

The doctor had to turn away to giggle at that response.

When the nurse came in, he asked Zeeb if he was the guilty party. Zeeb looked right at him and quietly said yes. The he continued, “But I’m 4. I’m gonna be 5, too.” Zeeb’s birthday was Thursday, so think he thought the question was about his birthday party. (This same nurse said he recognized me, which is entirely possible, since I spent the night there once last November with Zeeb, who had whooping cough, and couldn’t breathe. He also told me I couldn’t possibly be 32. Hmmm, even when you know it’s pure flattery, why can you just not reject the compliment?)

When we finally left, I could hear a couple of the nurses snickering and saying they wished they had a camera. There’s nothing quite like seeing two skinny boys in just their underwear running around the hospital, especially when one of them has the words, “Man of Steel” written across those cheeks.

Or at least things I’m doing that aren’t going to kill the Earth as quickly.

1. My garden. I’m hoping to grow a large percentage of our family’s summer and fall food, and hopefully keep the garden producing through the winter, as well as keeping some of our harvest with root-cellaring. Our house has a perfect room for a root cellar. It’s cold, dark, and if we get a door on it, I think it will be ideal all winter. Plus, I just got a book on four season gardening, from some people in Vermont, so I have to trust that they’re serious about producing even in the winter.

2. Composting. I’m so happy I have my own compost bin, and I will have a separate heap to put all the yard scraps in. That way, when I need some brown to put on top of the kitchen scraps, I can just grab some from the pile. Less goes into my trash, and I have home-made fertilizer for my lovely garden.

3. Cloth diapering. I can’t stand the thought of putting those horrible “disposable” things in the landfills. The funniest thing is seeing how huge my baby girl looks in the giant cloth diapers, though. I had to buy some summer clothes for her yesterday, and I ended up getting a bunch of skirts and some shorts that are the 4 year old size, so they will fit over the diapers.

4. Buying recycled clothes. There’s really no reason to shop for new clothing, since there is so much out there that gets discarded, but is in perfectly good shape. Plus, I have a love-affair with thrift stores. The other day, when I got home from a thrift store spree (there are about 7 thrift stores within a couple of mile of our house), Derek asked me how my treasure hunt had gone. I giggled. But I do love finding treasures that have been cast off for whatever reason, and I feel like I’ve avoided adding to the burden of resource depletion and possible human rights violations. Keeping goods in the loop eases my consumerist mind.

5. Using the local library. I love reading, I love books. I can’t afford to buy all the books I want, but more importantly, I want to avoid using up more resources by purchasing books I will only read once. Which is to say, I still buy books, and I still love them, but I’m buying fewer books. Plus, one needs to support the local library for so many reasons. They have so many books you will never be able to buy, they support literacy, both the boo variety and the computer variety, they have so many community programs, and they are havens of peace and quiet. My sanity would be much more threatened without the local library.

6.Turning things off. I try to leave lights off as much as possible. I try to hang the laundry to dry whenever possible. I encourage my kids to notice when things are unnecessarily ON, and help them understand why they should be OFF. I’ve tried to use as many low-energy things in our house as I could, with all compact fluorescent bulbs, low energy refrigeration (lesser of two evils, as far as I’m concerned. I wish I didn’t have one at all), low energy (and low water) washer and dryer, etc.

7. Opening windows. This spring is so gorgeous, but it’s already started getting hot. I’ve been opening the windows for circulation, rather than turning on the air conditioner. If I do end up desperately hot, I will try to keep the thermostat at something in the upper 70’s, rather than actually trying to make my house cool. Seasons are good for us, and a constant 71 degrees is not good for our dear Earth. During the winter, we kept the heat at 61 at night (I know, we could go lower, but my baby girl won’t keep herself under any blankets yet, and even with two pairs of fleece pajamas, she still got pretty cold) and 64 during the day, except on the days that I just couldn’t take it anymore, and turned it up to 68. I believe in sweaters and wool socks. From the thrift store, of course.

8. Recycling. Yes, I know how cliche all my things are, but I believe in recycling. I recycle everything I can. I want to really reduce how much trash we send to the land fill, so I recycle the things that can’t be used again, use up what can be used, make regular donations to the thrift stores, send the organic stuff to my compost bin, and give stuff away. I also try to purchase things that aren’t excessively packaged. Sometimes I get the large size, sometimes I skip something I want because it has too much plastic on it. Packaging makes me sad, especially when it’s intended to make the item look bigger or more exciting, and when there are multiple, unnecessary layers.

9. Making my own. Last night, I made a bunch of flannel baby wipes, and poured some home-made wipe-juice on them. I like to make my own cleaning products, using vinegar, Borax, baking soda, essential oils, and other good stuff. I would love to be a brilliant craftswoman, designing and building furniture and clothing out of reclaimed materials, but I’m just too lazy. Yesterday, I was about to throw an umbrella away. It has been on our porch all winter, and it was a piece of junk to begin with. It was rusty, all the little wires were bent, and it was unusable. When I picked it up, I suddenly thought how it would make a cute (and waterproof!) skirt for Kiki. All I need to do is cut a circle out of the middle and add some elastic or a strip of fabric with a fastener. Then I could decorate it with some ribbon or embroidery. Or maybe some tiny tassels on each of the points. I’ll post some photos when I’m done. And maybe while I’ve got the sewing machine out, I’ll get to those curtains I’ve been meaning to make since last November!

10. Use less. I try to limit the use of things that aren’t totally waste free and non-toxic. I’ve started only washing my hair about once or twice a week, instead of every other day. There’s really no reason to wash your hair every day, since your natural oils help your hair stay healthy and shiny, and also help with the frizzies. Plus, washing your hair often makes your skin produce more oil than it needs, so it gets greasier faster if you wash it all the time. I also don’t put clothes in the laundry unless they’re really dirty. By that, I mean that they have discernible spots or smells. Clothes shouldn’t be laundered often, because each time you wash them, the fibers break down more and the color fades, so if you want your clothes to last, don’t wash them so often. Just because you wore a shirt doesn’t mean it’s dirty. I give my shirts at least two days, and this may be TMI, but pants can last a couple of weeks. After all, that’s what underwear is for: to protect your clothing so you don’t need to wash it as often. (I’ve also found some more environmentally friendly laundry detergent that I love. Seventh Generation makes some that does well in an HE washer, and it smells incredible, like eucalyptus and lavender.)

Happy Earth Day!

Ah, how excited I was to buy a house on a double lot! I envisioned growing lush, green grass along the west yard for the kids to play soccer, edging the entire yard with lilacs and flowering cherries and quinces, planting a border of lavender around the house, throwing in a couple of fruit trees, and planting my garden behind the house, with enough vegetables for lots of salads and lots of canning and drying in the fall. I love vegetables. I love fruits. I love herbs. I love flowers. What big plans I had!

I went out today to remedy my compost problem. I had started a compost pile just behind the house. I had really just started dumping kitchen scraps onto the lawn in a pile. Well, as it turns out, this is not a great idea, especially in a place where there are rodents and burrowing animals. How do I know we have rodents? The pair of shiny eyes I encountered one night in the driveway caused me to do a little googling, and I ended up with some lovely photos of opossums. We’ve got ’em. So, needless to say, I don’t need egg shells and apple cores being dragged across my lawn, possibly to find their way to an unsuspecting neighbors yard.

Also, I had started the pile in the dead of winter, knowing full well there would be no actual decomposing happening with the frozen detritus of my culinary exploits. The funny thing about that is that once it starts getting warm enough for the scraps to decompose, it is also getting warm enough for flies. And yes, the flies do come out, and they do lay their eggs, MAGGOTS, in your compost pile. (Hey Lisa, remember that one time when we cleaned out the trash can full of maggots? Good times!) As beneficial as it may be to have someone eating the compost, it is most certainly not beneficial to have swarms of flies hovering about you back door. Plus, if you don’t add some “brown” to the compost, the smell does tend to overpower. But where do you get brown in the dead of winter, with all the leaves and clippings long gone with the fall clean-up?

I broke down and purchased a black plastic compost bin from Costco. They deliver. The bin has no bottom, so as to more efficiently let in the worms who do most of the work. I de-boxed the bin, put it together, and stuck it right on top of my existing pile, without moving anything. Voila! Except then I read on some internet site that is now linked on my sidebar that you shouldn’t build your compost in full sun, because it may overheat. I don’t know precisely what overheating will do to the compost, but it sounded bad. So today, I went out, removed the bin to a safe location between our garage and the neighbors fence, and trucked our brand new wheel barrow over to the slightly smelly, but already decomposing pile. I shredded some newspapers for the brown (hoping in my heart that they were printed with soy ink), hauled the gunk, dumped it, added more newspapers, some shredded 100% post-consumer recycled cardboard egg cartons, and some mulch that I stole from the edging, and closed the lid.

I covered the old spot with some more mulch, and everything was dandy. Until I started looking around at our HUGE yard. Weeds everywhere. There are more wildflowers in our lawn than lawn. I’m not sure they’re any good kind of flowers, either. The trees severely need pruning, especially the magnolia that scapes against the house all over the place, and has way too many dead branches. We also have one crazy bush of roses that are, I think, tea roses. But they need to be pruned. And the ivy. And the huge weed bushes in the back. And the dandelions. And on, and on, and on.

How am I going to keep up with this? Especially with exactly zero experience in tending a yard. Why did I sign up for this? Oh yeah, maybe this had something to do with it.

I made two batches of tamales this week. Yes, two! I love tamales. My mom learned how to make them after we lived in Mexico in 1980, and I have loved them ever since. They’re not a thing you like to make often, because they are a little involved, but they are one of my favorite things in the world. And I’m not talking about the tamales you get in restaurants, I’m talking about the real thing.

This tamale obsession came about when I was in Boston, visiting my little brother. We arrived at his house in the evening, but I had run a race, and then ate lots of fantastic party food, and I wasn’t hungry. So NungNung just pulled a Trader Joe’s cheese and green chile tamale out of the freezer and warmed it up. I was so stinking jealous. We talked about the tamale issue, how utterly time-consuming it is to make them, how much we love them, how great it is to have frozen TJ’s tamales, even though they’re so inferior to the tamales we grew up with. I got tamales on the brain, and I couldn’t get them off.

So I bought 10 chicken legs (there was no turkey at the market), and found a local Mexican market where I bought corn husks, dried ancho chiles, dried poblano chiles, masa flour, and for good measure, some Sidral (the best apple soda in the world). And a couple of tamarind pulpos. Oh yeah, and I got about 2 pounds of jamaica blossoms, which they sold in bulk for $4.99 a pound. Actually, I probably only got 1/2 pound, but that’s still a huge bag of dried flowers. Tonight I will make some Agua de Jamaica, my favorite drink in the world (next to Sidral and this fantastic citrus drink I make with 1/3 orange juice, 1/3 Sprite, 1/3 water, and the juice of a lime. That was a life-saver while I was pregnant).

Anyway, I won’t bore you with the details of making tamales. It took me 3 days, making the meat and raisin filling, toasting the chilies and making the sauce, soaking the corn husks, putting them together, and then steaming them (after I searched the house for 2 hours looking for my steamer insert, which I never found. I ended up using a metal colander set over a green chile can that had both ends cut out, in my big pot. I fit about 24 tamales in there. When they were done and cooled, I put most of them in the freezer. Today, I made another batch with the rest of the chicken filling. It turns out 10 chicken legs is really a lot of meat. When I ran out of that, I finished the batch with cheese and the green chilies that had been evicted from their can.

I sort of feel like I’ve passed this huge rite of, er, passage. I made tamales all by myself! It seems like it’s traditional to have the tamale making be a social event, with many hands helping, but I did it, and survived to tell the tale. Somehow, I think my 40 tamales will last long enough that I won’t need to think about making any more any time soon.

Also, if you know anyone who needs some chile sauce, I think I ended up making about 2 quarts. It was a little too much. By almost 2 quarts.

If you’ve come here to yell at me for my comments about the FLDS post, I welcome you, but ask you to at least not swear (feeble attempt at lightening the mood). I’ve been crying and trying to understand the motivation for creating the post, and I don’t believe there was a malicious intent. But it made me really, really sad.

The members of the FLDS church that have been in the news have had a great tragedy befall them. Whether you think of the tragedy as their upbringing or their being wrested from their homes and thrown into the spotlight of the national media, they are in turmoil. The feeding frenzy of the media has highlighted such interesting tidbits as the bed found in their temple, and the fact that sometimes, girls are married as young as 14. Mormons have enough in their history and current practice to make us need to think twice before pointing fingers at others and calling them weird. (Initiatory, anyone? To an outsider, that would surely seem weird. And how about that endowment prior to 1990?)

It makes me sad that people, throughout the history of time, have used religious differences as weapons. Nobody ever benefited from someone hating them, but as most religions teach, people do benefit from someone loving them, even if they are different.

So call me what you want, I just think that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches us to love each other.

1. The Trip to Boston

I flew to Massachusetts a week and a half ago. By myself. (!!!) I went to visit elizasmom and her mom, and, of course, Eliza herself. The plan included, but was not limited to slumber partying, racing, regular partying, some sleeping, some breakfasting, some introductions, some pretense at not being shy and terrified to meet new people (witty, intelligent, cultured, nice, karate-chopping people). I’m not a very good partier, but I still had a great time. My brother NungNung came to pick me up. We stayed at the party for a while, so I could show off my “feeble minded brother.” The Chinese word “nungnung” means “soft,” so of course he was referring to his intellect when he gave himself the appellation.

We spent the next two days at NungNung’s place in Boston, with his wife, Shaopung, and their baby girl, BuiBui, who sensed the cosmic connection with me almost immediately. I think she knows I’m the mother of her future best friend. NungNung took me all around Boston, and even though I was wicked tired, and none too talkative, it was a great trip. I have resolved that we will move to Boston. Maybe not today, and maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of… a while. And by soon, I mean sometime before I’m 50.

2. The race.

Something has happened to my joints, specifically my hips. I’ve been having pain in them, but only while running. The 10K that we did in Holyoke was a beautiful course, with many, many people, including Supergirl and a guy (or many guys) in a giant green hairy hat. There were hills. The hills did me in. I’ve always been pretty steady on hills, coming from a rather hilly place, but the pain was enough to make me contemplate stopping to walk. That makes it sound like it didn’t really hurt that much, but the competitiveness in me is maybe a little stronger that you understand. I finished a little slower than 55 minutes, which was a disappointment. But I’m over that, now. I decided not to do the Indy mini-marathon, which is to say that I will eat the $50 I spent on entering, but I will survive that. I’m also reconsidering my desire to try a marathon this year. I’ve been running since the race, but slowly, and carefully, and not very far.

3. The tragedy.

Skybus ain’t flyin’ no more. I had hoped to be able to go to Boston a few times a year on the ridiculously cheap airline, but it seems they went under.

4. The table.

In an attempt to solve the problem of no shelves, I gallivanted all about Dayton last week, searching for suitable, used bookshelves. It seems that the antique dealers use them for displaying other antiques, and there aren’t any for sale. I did find a beautiful mission style library table at one store, though. I decided to buy it and use it for a sideboard, but needed a way to transport it home. I called a friend, who offered to let me use her minivan. She came over and watched the kids while I got lost looking for the store. When I did get there, I saw the table, which I had been thinking about all weekend. I paid with credit. As soon as the saleslady removed the smaller antiques and kitsch that were on the table, I noticed the warped and broken veneer on the top. Of course the items had been strategically placed so as to mask the “antique” surface. I gasped, and in uncharacteristic stand-up-for-myself-ishness, I told her I wanted my money back. Even though there was a sign posted above the register that said, “All sales are final!” I also blushed something fierce. She complied. I dodged a $175 bullet. And I left my keys in my friend’s car, but she can’t find them.