So, Lyz Lenz wrote this about how to parent babies and toddlers and I’m pretty sure I peed my pants laughing because I’m just that lucky not to have children that young anymore and if I did, I would certainly stop seeking parenting advice from anyone but her because, well, you just have to head over there and read her advice.
I have decided that traditional museums are lost on children. I know there are “children’s” museums in every major city in the US, but I’m talking about the natural history museums with dinosaur bones and things that school children are herded to every year, lined up like pearls on a string, and ushered from room to quiet room while some adult desperately tries to engage their attention and keep them from swinging on the velvet ropes.
Two weeks ago, Eve and I were in Washington, DC with a dozen or so of her classmates for a Close Up Washington tour. [I couldn’t have loved this tour company more – if you haven’t heard of them, check it out. What a fantastic organization!] The kids had a pretty tightly packed schedule but since they were with Close Up teachers, I was free to peel off and do my own thing and catch up with them later.
Now, I’m certain that I visited my share of museums as a kid and what I really remember about them was being bored and restless. The idea of a field trip was almost always better than the trip itself and I know for a fact that the part I enjoyed the most was the school bus ride with all of my friends to and from our destination.
As an adult, though, heading into the Smithsonian Natural History Museum was fan-freaking-tastic. There was a life-size elephant in the lobby. This guy stared out at me from his perch, daring me to guess what he was and read all about him.
- middle-school-age and thrilled to be set free from their teachers for the moment, they ran around in giggling clots of girls texting each other pictures of boys they had taken on the sly (apparently these are called ‘stalker photos’ because the subject is some random boy from another school in another part of the US who just happens to be on your tour and he has no idea he is being photographed or talked about by tittering teenage girls), and
- elementary-age children with matching backpacks and water bottles with eyes like marbles and brains so overstimulated that they couldn’t even recall their own names (which may be why most of them were written in Sharpie on their backpacks).
It is our first Christmas in the new house and so far, it has been a lot of fun to figure out how exactly we will do things differently this year. Where is the best place for the Christmas tree? Where will everyone sleep when they come? Which bathroom gets the holiday towels, or should we put them in the kitchen?
Some things don’t change, like the girls putting on Santa hats and Christmas music while they decorate the tree together, Bubba and I popping in to stuff something yummy into one mouth or another and hang a favorite ornament. Others had to change; we have no lights on the outside of the house this year because this 100-year old gem doesn’t have an electrical outlet outside. We mixed a few things up by going to the Nutcracker for the first time in years to see four of Eve’s classmates dance and by getting our shopping done early so we could have time to prepare for the arrival of Bubba’s entire family this year.
But what won’t ever change is the odd little things that make us who we are. You know, those unexpected events that you just can’t plan for or that make you laugh when you realize how others must see them.
Every year around Halloween, Eve and Lola begin deciding what they’ll make for everyone for Christmas. I started this tradition when they were toddlers with salt dough ornaments that they painted and gave to grandparents and aunts and uncles. As they aged, the girls had fun exchanging homemade gifts with their cousins, too, and every year we work to come up with something that will be fun and meaningful without being useless. Just in case any relatives happen to read this before December 25, I won’t reveal what Lola chose to make for everyone, but Eve, well, since we had to come up with Plan B, I can say that she wanted to make dark chocolate almond biscotti for her gifts this year. We amassed all of the ingredients and spent hours on Sunday making our own gluten-free flour blend, toasting almonds, and mixing the dough. I have never made biscotti before and didn’t realize it is a two-step process, where you bake the loaves of dough once, cool them, slice them and then bake them again until they are crisp and crunchy. The house smelled divine.
We finally finished late Sunday evening and couldn’t package the treats until they were cool, so we set them aside until morning. Monday morning was a mad dash to get to school on time and I nearly came home and tucked each biscotti into its own gift bag but decided Eve would probably really enjoy doing that herself, decorating each one with ribbons and labeling them appropriately. I ran around the house, cleaning up and making lists and when I left to get the girls from school the biscotti still sat in neat rows on the cookie sheet near the stove. When I came home the pan was overturned, the kitchen floor was coated in a fine dust of crumbs and the dog lay under the kitchen table moaning, his whiskers sprinkled with evidence. He had eaten them all. Off of the kitchen counter. In the 20 minutes I was gone.
Predictably, Eve was furious at the loss of hours of hard work and panicky that we wouldn’t have time, between basketball practice and homework this week, to make more. I was disgusted with the dog and myself for not packing them all up safely, and more than a little worried that the dog had ingested a lot of chocolate. Beyond being incredibly thirsty all night, he didn’t seem to show any outward signs of illness, and I figured we would be lucky if he just ended up with a serious case of constipation.
Tuesday morning I took him for a walk after dropping the kids at school and was rewarded with, well, chocolate biscotti. Not only was he not constipated, but he filled three bags with poop that was dark, dark brown and studded with almonds. Slightly different shape, same look. If I hadn’t known better….
So this morning I headed out to the UPS store to mail the goodies the girls made to family members we won’t see this year. I had everything divided in to three groups that just needed boxes and packaging. As the clerk began typing in the addresses one by one, he remarked that each of the destinations was within a short distance of the others with two being in the same town.
“Too bad these people aren’t all getting together for the holidays, and you could just send it all in one box and save yourself some money.”
“Nope,” was my reply. “They all know each other, but…” my voice trailed off as I realized the irony.
As the groups of gifts were lined up, they were going to
a. my dad’s first wife (my mom),
b. my dad’s second wife,
c. my dad’s third wife.
With a line of people behind me, I pointed that out to the clerk who laughed and admitted he’d never heard that before.
Oh, well. We’re quirky like that.
I figured out today that leaf-blowers are responsible for a great deal of commerce in the United States. I know that seems absurd, but think about it.
Everywhere I go there are people with enormous backpacks full of fuel strapped to their backs and gigantic vacuum-pipes in their hands, blowing dust and leaves and grass clippings around. Their co-workers are raking, mowing, edging, pruning, generally creating more stuff to be displaced by these loud, intrusive machines.
Let’s first consider the gear that goes along with the leaf blower itself.
$$- The person running the damn thing has to wear some sort of ear-protection so as not to lose their eardrums while they are working.
$$ They must also purchase gloves to wear lest they burn their hands on the hot machine
$$ They must buy gasoline to power the obnoxious machine.
Then let’s consider what happens to the stuff that gets blown around. An awful lot of it lands on the cars nearby – whether they are parked in lots around the area or simply stopped at a red light or driving past the work crew.
$$ – frequent car washes needed to get the pollen and dust removed from one’s car
$$ – allergy medication for those of us whose bodies wholeheartedly reject the crap being blown all around us – eye drops, seasonal allergy relief, acupuncture, allergy shots, you name it, we’re buying it.
Next, please consider what happens when they remove the leaves from the places where the trees dropped them.
$$ – the natural mulch and weed suppression that is provided by the leaves is gone. Necessitating hiring more workers to come by periodically and pull the weeds or spray toxic pesticides on them.
$$ – medications to combat the negative effects of the toxic pesticides
$$ – protective gear for the workers applying the toxic pesticides
$$ – the nutrients that would be provided to the soil if the leaves were allowed to break down there are no longer available, necessitating the purchase of fertilizers and the hiring of workers to apply said fertilizers.
These workers are all working longer hours than they would if the leaves were left to do their jobs, so they contribute further to the local economy by purchasing lunch in area restaurants and supermarkets.
These workers are doing less manual labor than they would if they simply raked the leaves from the sidewalks onto the beds where they could decompose. This could lead to one of two outcomes
$$ – higher insurance premiums to care for workers that are affected by pesticides and exposure to the exorbitant decibel level of the leaf-blower while not staying physically in-shape, or
$$ – the purchase of gym memberships or sports equipment by said workers in an effort to keep them healthy in other ways.
I am certain that this rudimentary musing has overlooked many other aspects of the leaf-blower economy, but in the ten minutes I contemplated the notion, the fact that I was able to come up with this list of things is mind-boggling.
So, even though it will probably get me labeled as a Communist and might possibly cause the further collapse of the entire Western economical model, I am advocating that these damn leaf-blowers be eradicated from the face of the planet.
“When a book and a head collide and there is a hollow sound, is it always from the book?” Georg Christoph Lichtenberg