Friday, October 26, 2007

Warmness, Happiness, and Love

A. Peevie, like Peter Pan, doesn’t want to grow up. He likes the safety and protection and relative ease of being a child, and he is hyper-aware that growing up means that things get harder and scarier.

The middle Peevie has already had to deal with many hard and scary things in his short life: open-heart surgeries, other heart-related surgical procedures, and multiple hospital stays for various problems. The boy has seen more "ologists" in nine years than most people see in their entire lifetime.

As a result of all of these scary things, A.P. has more anxiety than Woody Allen and more phobias than Adrian Monk. He knows better than most nine-year-olds that the world is a scary place. A couple of years ago, he went through a phase when he talked about death and dying all the time. “If I die, will you still think about me?” he’d ask. Or he’d lay awake for hours at night because he was afraid if he went to sleep, he wouldn’t wake up in the morning.

He's doing better now. A. Peevie is comforted by rituals, such as the hug, kiss smile ritual. Every separation—and I mean EVERY separation, whether it’s going to bed at night, getting dropped off at school, or watching me leave for a 20-minute grocery store run—must be preceded by a hug, a kiss, and a smile. I’m not complaining.

Another comfort ritual is the morning cuddle. A. Peevie made me a Mother’s Day card, in which he noted that his mom was good at “cuttling,” he likes it when he and his mom “cuttle,” and his favorite thing to do with his mom is “cuttle.” What more could a mom want in a Mother’s Day card?

Every morning, no matter how late we’re running (and it’s not a question of “if” we’re running late, but only how many stop signs I’ll have to California-stop my way through to make up the minutes to get kids and backpacks and instruments into school before the bell rings) we must have a cuddle. Sometimes it’s only two minutes, but every morning we cuddle under the covers in my bed.

“Why do you like to cuddle?” I asked him this morning. “What do you get out of it?”

He was thoughtful for a moment, and then he snuggled in closer to me. “Warmness, happiness, and love,” he said.


Monday, October 15, 2007

Water, Water, Everywhere

In honor of Blog Action Day, this blog today takes up the lament of the Ancient Mariner: "Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink!"

Water may appear to be abundant and renewable, but the truth is that fresh, potable water is not infinitely renewable. It takes centuries to replenish underground sources of fresh water, and energy to restore and recycle used water.

In the public television series Our Changing Planet, experts warn, "Overuse and degradation of the world's groundwater is among the serious environmental challenges facing human populations in the coming decades."

But what can one person or one family do to make a difference? First, be aware of how much water your household uses. Here’s an easy-to-use tool to calculate your family’s daily water use. When we're not careful, the Peevie family uses about 345+ gallons a day. Yikes!

And second, be careful and intentional about your water usage. Here are eight simple steps you can take to conserve water at home:

1. Take shorter showers. A typical 10-minute shower uses about 50 gallons of water. Take a five-minute shower instead. Bonus Conservation Points: Install a low-flow shower head to save even more water.

2. Don't let the water run while you're brushing your teeth or washing your face. This could save one gallon every time. For my household, that's about 3,000 gallons in a year.

3. Run the dishwasher and washing machine only with full loads.

4. Don't let the water run when you're washing dishes in the sink. Fill two sinks, one for washing and one for rinsing.

5. Water your lawn and flowers in the early morning to minimize evaporation.

6. Don't over-water your lawn. Frequent, shallow watering reduces the ability of grass to survive during dry periods. "The best rule," according to the Environmental Protection Agency, "is to water only when the lawn begins to wilt from dryness - when the color dulls and footprints stay compressed for more than a few seconds."

7. For those of you who love the little fishes: when you drain your fish tank, use the water to nourish your plants. It contains excellent fertilizer!

8. Don't let cold water go to waste while waiting for hot water. Use containers to catch it for another use, such as watering plants or flushing the toilet.

Start taking steps to conserve water today, and set an example for your family and your community. Even small steps end up conserving thousands of gallons of water over time.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Music Man

My little son A. Peevie has taken up the trombone. It's more like the trombone has taken up A. Peevie. It's taller than he is, and weighs more than he does. When A. Peevie picks up the trombone, it wraps itself around him and wrestles him to the ground. The slide is a slippery rogue, frequently escaping from its brass case and clanking on the floor.

By the time A.P. finally gets the instrument situated properly, with the mouthpiece in position, his right hand fingers wrapped correctly around the slide brace, and his lungs fully inflated, he's exhausted and needs to sit down and catch his breath. He's supposed to practice 15-20 minutes per day--but does that include 10 minutes of set-up time?

(By way of background, when Mr. Peevie was a little boy, he wanted to play the trombone, too. His band teacher told him that his arms were too short, and that he'd never be able to reach seventh position. But at least he's in good freakishly-short-arm company.)

Eeeenyway, apparently, it's really and truly difficult, especially for a smallish boy, to master the notes on a trombone. A. Peevie can get two of the five notes he's working on, but the other ones--not so much. I guess he's pursing when he should be buzzing--and he's about ready to quit. (BTW, I learned from Mr. Peevie that the use of facial muscles and the shaping of the lips to the mouthpiece of a wind instrument is called embouchure.)

I'm hoping he'll stick with his trombone, and someday, he'll be joined by 75 others in a big parade. Excellent.

Meanwhile, with his big brother playing trumpet, and his little sister just generally being loud every chance she gets, I'm praying to go deaf.

Monday, October 1, 2007

On Board

I'm stepping out, people. I joined the Barack Obama campaign last night. I even started a blog on the Obama website, called On Board.

I guess I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired*. In party politics, there has not been much to be excited about on either side for a long time.

I have typically been in favor of a smaller federal government with power redistributed to the states. When I vote Republican, this is often a key factor. But President Bush is a big government Republican; and in fact, he has essentially nurtured an "era of new federalism" in which Washington gets to oversee lots of stuff that they should keep their hands out of--like local schools, for example.

Remember "No Child Left Behind"? This under-funded education debacle has resulted in teachers teaching to the test and schools eliminating un-tested subject areas from their curriculum, such as science, foreign language, social studies, and arts. It's not that NCLB is a bad idea--it's just poorly executed.

Mr. Obama has recommended reforming and fully funding NCLB. He supports expanding early childhood education, which is hard to argue against. He has suggested some ideas for improving teacher quality, such as rewarding innovation, paying teachers more, and giving successful teachers more control over what they do in their classrooms. You can read more about Obama's thoughts on improving education here.

Anyway, I'm on board the Obama campaign train. What about you?

*I'm too tired to check this right now, but I think this is a direct quote from an Obama speech.