Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Global Warming Wednesday: This just in

A couple weeks ago I set up a schedule of topics I wanted to cover in my weekly Wednesday post. It took me into April. But this week, there has been a wealth of articles that I want to share. This sudden embarrassment of riches is, in large part, due to a special issue of Newsweek that had an environmental theme. But I’ve also noticed that it’s becoming more commonplace to see several articles a week in the course of my usual online skimming. Many of the articles elicit my doom-and-gloom response (this is all so fucked up, we’ll never be able to reverse the damage), but I’m happy to see that there are more reports of improved technologies, companies that are working to make a difference, and suggestions for (mostly) straightforward changes that the general public can adopt.

Before giving you a rundown of the articles, a little on how the environment has come to be so important for me:

Most of my public-school years occurred in the 80s. Reaganomics, the “me generation” and the rise of yuppies. Even at a young age, I felt that there was something wrong with this view of life. This was aided by my father’s politics (very Marxist) and further encouraged by my extended family (quite the mix: a good number of Quakers on one side, some hippie leanings on the other, and many educators on both). I had also developed quite an affinity for animals, preferring their company over most people.

Through my constant reading and classes through our local Natural History Museum, I was always picking up new information about the animal world. At some point, during a lesson on the food chain perhaps, I began to see how easily humans could upset the natural balance. By chopping down forests. By over-hunting a particular species. By polluting. And although I couldn’t quite articulate it at that time, I understood that, as the “intelligent” species, it was our responsibility to pay attention to the damage we were doing—and to quit it already.

As more time passed, I started to hear about the larger impact of our actions, to understand that all of these environmental problems were not isolated, to see how everything is interconnected. Of course, as this was the 80s, I found most of my classmates unsupportive and unconcerned. Concerns about global warming were widely dismissed. Even if it were recognized as a potential problem, many people would say, “Why should I have to give up present comforts for something that won’t even happen in my lifetime?” (The petty part of me wants to laugh at them. “Haha, it is happening in your lifetime!” And then the doom-and-gloom sets in. “Oh shit, if it’s already happening, what chance do we have to reverse things now?”)

But the point of all of this is that I’m encouraged to see so much press being given to the environment now. And more people seem to be noticing. So here’s what we’ve got:

On the heels of my post from last week on compact fluorescent lights, a California assemblyman is suggesting a ban on incandescent light bulbs by 2012 as a means to forcing people to move to CFLs. Given that Wal-Mart is on board with CFLs (hoping to sell 100 million bulbs this year!) and that one of California’s utilities is already subsidizing a chunk of the cost of CFLs, it does seem possible for this to work.

CFLs also come up in a Newsweek article that looks at how recent efforts are aimed at increasing efficiency over the “old cliche that conserving energy is a form of abstinence.” The article looks at seven areas where improved efficiency has the potential to make a big difference:
  • Insulation (New types are coming out that do an amazing job of moderating temperatures.)
  • CFLs (Did you know Philips is phasing out the production of incandescent lights?)
  • New heating and cooling technology (Geothermal and closed systems require very little energy.)
  • Rethinking factories (When constructed with conservation in mind, there can be impressive savings in energy usage, not to mention decreased pollution!)
  • Driving (Improvements in mileage and sulfur-free diesel stretch our fuel stores further with fewer pollutants.)
  • Home appliances (“If consumers chose those models that would save them the most money over the life of the appliance, they'd cut global residential power consumption (and their utility bills) by 43 percent.”)
  • Easier payments (There are now retrofit companies that are willing to take a portion of your savings instead of requiring large up-front payments.)

This article also addresses how to get more people to act on these suggestions. Government subsidies is one way, though it does appear that disseminating information has the ability to bring about change.

Three other articles look at more specific instances of people who are trying to make a difference. 10 major corporations have allied to work on reducing carbon emissions and are asking the US Congress to pass legislation that would require this. On a smaller scale, Yale University has set a goal of reducing their greenhouse-gas emissions to 10% their 1990 levels, a decrease of 43% over 2005 levels. And then a house renovation that made extensive use of green materials will be featured soon on “This Old House.” This one resonates on a personal level for me. The featured couple was redoing a 1926 bungalow; our house in the States was a 1920s bungalow, and had we stayed in it for the second child, we would have undertaken a similar project.

Of course, not all news is good. While President Bush did mention the environment in his State of the Union speech, there is no sudden turnabout in the Oval Office. A recent survey has shown that 46% of federal scientists have been pressured to tone down or remove references to “global warming” and the like. Mostly from the White House. Similarly, although his speech mentioned the environment, it focused primarily on reducing US reliance on foreign oil, not truly on the environment. And even though the White House says that their plan will reduce carbon emissions, there are those who say it would, in fact, make things worse.

Plenty of work left to do...

Monday, January 29, 2007

A magical incantation

Scooter is an odd combination of stubborn and compliant. If there is something he really doesn't want to do, he will dig in his heels. Or, more accurately, shriek and sit down hard on the floor. On the other hand, most of his protests about bathtime or bedtime consist of a couple whiny 'no's, but then he runs off and does what he's supposed to.

On the flip side, the little things that many kids do that drive parents crazy don't even cross Scooter's mind. Climb out of bed without permission? We had to actively teach him to get out of bed and come to our room in the morning if we are not yet awake. Drawers and cabinets full of kitchen items? He rarely opens them, and then only when someone's in the kitchen.

When Scooter does go against our wishes and intent, his resistance is more often manifested in a playful way. Time for medicine? He ducks his head, covers his face, sticks out his tongue. Need to get into pajamas? Curl into a tight little ball, giggling the whole time. At those times, I don't want to be too forceful and make him think I don't appreciate his humor. So I usually play along for a little bit, and then say, "OK, you really need to [x] now."

And if he still resists? I've discovered a magic spell. Said in a firm, but not harsh, tone, "I'm going to count to 5." And then I do. 1... 2... 3... He's eyeing me, amusement on his face, but not yet complying. 4... He's almost ready to get into position. 5... In position, total compliance.

The other night, when he was a complete wiggle-worm, I said, "Do you want me to count?" He immediately began to do what I had asked, but started counting and looked at me expectantly.

I'm trying not to use this too often, as I don't want its magic to wear off too soon.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Having my cake

I have so many things I would like to write about, posts I've started at least mentally. But...

I have to tell you about this amazing cake I just made.

Background: Trillian turned me onto the food blog Chocolate and Zucchini. It is written by a French woman, but it's all in English. She shares a lot of wonderful recipes, and I've been dying to make one.

I really wanted to make the Oeufs au Lait tonight, but we didn't have enough milk. Trillian, ever ready with the suggestions when I mention I might want to bake, looked through some of the other recent recipes and pointed out that we probably had what we needed for Le Gateau Piege (my apologies, accents lacking). While we didn't have an orange on hand, we always have 100% orange juice; we decided it was an acceptable cheat, even if it meant leaving out the zest.

This cake is amazingly easy to make, requiring few ingredients and little prep time. The batter seemed heavier than I had expected, but a little taste of the batter convinced me it was tasty. 25 minutes, and time would tell.

The cake that came out was amazingly airy and wonderfully tasty. Scooter happily ate his piece. Trillian and I each had two. Definitely a keeper, definitely going into rotation!

Friday, January 26, 2007

Miscellanea for a Friday evening

I gave my first presentation of the semester today. I had less than a week to prepare and ended up staying awake until 2:30 am this morning in order to finish it up. It was not a case of putting too much off to the last minute, but rather trying to cram in several other things into a finite period of time. Some random moments I have wanted to share :
  • As Scooter sat on the potty last night, we chatted. I asked him, as I do from time-to-time so that I can introduce the idea gently, if he would like a baby brother or a baby sister. My intention with this question is to pose a yes-or-no question meaning, "Do you want a sibling?" His response: "A baby sister." And then: "Let's name her Luke. Luke Rusty Percy." Rusty and Percy are two trains from the Thomas the Tank Engine series; I'm not sure where Luke comes from.
  • For various reasons--an odd combination of appointments, scheduling, a cold, and this bitter-ass weather--Scooter was home for a few days this week. When he went back to school today, there was information in his cubby about enrolling in the public school closest to the preschool for those who live outside its normal boundaries. Obviously Trillian and I have been talking a lot about this, but I hadn't thought about making a solid decision so soon. But when I picked Scooter up this afternoon, I talked a little bit to one of the teachers, mentioning our thoughts about not sending him to school next year (but not about keeping him home). He agreed that it might be a good idea. We'll be setting up a meeting soon so that we can discuss more fully (hard to do when a three-year-old's pulling on my arm and there's "tidying" going on around us), but this at least makes us feel better about our gut instincts.
  • I had a 2 1/2-hour lunch with two friends from my department today. We've made a habit of grabbing lunch together every few weeks to chat, gossip, vent. A leisurely meal, good company, lots of laughs. The friend who was hit on by another (female) classmate brought up that this same woman told her recently that her clothing style is "dyke chic." As I've mentioned before, my friend is straight and quite firm in this--not in a freaked-out-by-sexuality, closet-case way, just a secure, knowledge-of-self way. Now this is something I'd noticed a while ago and it took me a while, because of this, to be sure that my friend was straight. It's a combination of her clothing (very put-together, but mostly pants, button-down shirts, and sweaters) and her carriage (assertive, with just a touch of what I call "the swagger"). Throughout our lunch, we found ourselves back on that topic... with me, as the resident lesbian expert, attempting to explain as best as I could. Many, many laughs.
  • I found out from our friend who's ahead of us in the program that my supervisor had told her before I even started the program that I was exactly what the department needed--an unapologetically out, married lesbian with a child. He told her that would set some people's heads to spinning, something which, in his opinion, was needed in our isolated department. Yeah me! Shaking things up just by being who I am. (To everyone's credit, I should say that I haven't run into any obvious trouble within the department.)
  • My two-month break is over. But you'll excuse me if I don't say much about specifics for a while. I plan on writing some general posts about the process, but am trying not to obsess over everything while I wait to test. One thing I will tell you is that I cheated this month. I'm supposed to wait until my LH surge before scheduling insemination for the next day, but I have been feeling that the previous tries were too late. So I listened to my body more this cycle and told them I'd surged before the test said so. Waiting to see if the deception paid off.
I'll be going to sleep soon, trying to make up for the sleep deficit I've accumulated. This weekend will be a time of catching up on other schoolwork and getting ahead on blog material for here and Mommy Blogs Toronto. Keep an eye out for new posts!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Global Warming Wednesday: CFLs

CFL. Not the Canadian Football League, but compact fluorescent lamp.

They’ve become the image of the environmental movement for the masses. Governments are putting them front and center, citing many encouraging statistics.

Per the US Energy Star site, CFLs:

  • Use at least 2/3 less energy than standard incandescent bulbs to provide the same amount of light, and last up to 10 times longer.
  • Save $30 or more in energy costs over each bulb’s lifetime
  • Generate 70 percent less heat, so they’re safer to operate and can cut energy costs associated with home cooling.
  • In addition to other quality requirements, must turn on instantly, produce no sound, and fall within a warm color range or be otherwise labeled as providing cooler color tones.
  • Are available in different sizes and shapes to fit in almost any fixture, for indoors and outdoors.
Canada’s Energy Star site also gets into the act, answering a long list of frequently asked questions.

Now I was already on-board, replacing incandescent bulbs with fluorescent as they burned out. We bought an 8-pack on one of our visits to Costco and have supplemented with additional light bulbs on Ikea visits.

I had a moment of panic, however, when I read about the mercury contained in fluorescent lighting. Crisis—return to incandescents and use more energy or stick with fluorescents and contribute to greater mercury poisoning? But before allowing myself to get too worked up, I decided to do a little poking around.

I quickly found the “Environmental Issues” section of a Wikipedia article. And a good dose of relief. Consider this graphic:

Even with the mercury in the fluorescent light, the amount of mercury introduced into the environment is considerably less than the amount produced by a coal power plant to create the same amount of light with an incandescent bulb.

On top of that, I found out that there already exists the means to recycle spent CFLs. Lamp Recycle provides information on companies that process the bulbs. Such companies are able to recover the mercury from spent bulbs safely, insuring that the toxin does not enter the environment. In addition to the companies listed on this site, many municipalities are including fluorescent bulbs among the items accepted at recycling centers or special pick-ups. Again, props to Ikea—they will take your used CFLs for recycling. And check with local hardware stores; many of them have decided to help out with this too.

The cost of a CFL already includes the recycling. And since they last for so many years, you shouldn’t have to deal with the hassle of finding the time to get them to a recycler all that often. I hadn’t even thought to look into the issue until I read about the mercury—we haven’t had to replace a CFL yet.

So my action this month has been to accelerate our switch to CFLs. Many of our fixtures had already been updated, but I was feeling motivated to complete the process. So I dragged the stool around to all of our ceiling fixtures to see how many were left and made a careful tally. I checked lamps and peeked behind our bathroom vanities to see what sorts of bulbs we have. I was disappointed to realize that both bathrooms and our kitchen use halogen lights; while halogen lighting is about twice as efficient as incandescent, they’re still only about half as efficient as fluorescent. Realizing this has caused me to rethink which lights we leave on: now I’m more likely to leave the light on in the study instead of Scooter’s bathroom when we need light in the hallway.

Trillian and I took a morning when Scooter was at school and we had light schedules to go out to Ikea. There were, as always, other items on our list (particularly toy storage!), but I made sure to pick up the proper number of CFLs—no need to get extras since we probably won’t live here long enough to have any burn out on us.

Of course, we also bought an additional lamp while we were there, and so my count was one bulb shy of what I actually needed. So I’ll need one more. But I still have a week to meet my goal for the month.

Want to read with more? Start with this list or run a search.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Good parenting?

Last month, I called a local service that, among other things, handles the screening of children for developmental delays in language, thus taking the first step to completing one of the items on my list of goals for 2007 and beyond. This initial call took a good 10-15 minutes as the woman ran through her list of intake questions. Several times, as a question would bring up Scooter's care situation or daily routine, she would say about his preschool attendance, "It's really good for him to have those interactions. It will help his language." Which tore me up, still tears at me. Because we're thinking about pulling Scooter out of his current situation and setting up part-time care in our home.

The decision has been difficult for me, because the correct answer, in many regards, depends on what we decide is right for Scooter in the longer term, more specifically what our plans are for kindergarten.

As a 2003 baby, Scooter's eligible to start junior kindergarten next year. One of the benefits of having him in his current preschool is that he could remain there for both junior and senior kindergarten. Each afternoon, the kindergarten students are walked between the daycare and the local public school for the half day program. We wouldn't have to worry about changing Scooter's routine, and he would even have several friends with him in class. Add to this the fact that I really do like his teachers and the environment and I couldn't come up with a rational reason to change our setup.

Except for that nagging feeling. And finally I was able to articulate that his current daycare is the best situation if our goal is for him to learn to function in a classroom. But when I pull back and ask myself what the real goal is, I come up with something very different. In the broadest sense, we want Scooter to be healthy and happy and have as many opportunities as we can reasonably provide him. And at this time, one of the ways we can best keep on this track is to help him learn to express himself and all of the amazing things he has in his head.

Despite what the intake interviewer kept saying, I've become convinced that Scooter will have an easier time finding his voice if he is not around other children all of the time. I run the risk of over-identifying with him, but here is my interpretation of what he is experiencing:
  • I've mentioned before that I'm convinced Scooter is a highly sensitive child. As a result of this, he is easily overstimulated and overwhelmed by excess noise and activity. Part of my hopes in having him at daycare was that he would develop a tolerance for such an environment, but I'm not sure this is the case.
  • None of the behaviors he exhibits at school (as reported by his teachers or observed by me) fall outside of his norm. He has meltdowns at home too, dissolving into tears when he is frustrated or upset. But at school they occur more often, over less substantial things, and it's harder for him to stop.
  • I suspect that when Scooter is at school he feels constant stress, not because there are problems in his classroom or with his teachers, but because he's strained by the ever-present din and his hyper-awareness of everything going on around him. This is exhausting (and here I'm definitely projecting my own experiences of being in such situations) and leads to little upsets becoming too much to bear.
  • Because it takes Scooter some time to access his use of language, the first thing to go when he becomes overwhelmed is his ability to find the words he wants, which leads to further frustration and a larger meltdown.
  • At a gut level, I actually think that being in daycare may have made language even more frustrating for him.
When Scooter is home with us, he plays industriously by himself (although there are frequent requests that one of us join him). He talks more than he seems to at school and more often remembers to say "No, thank you" instead of shrieking "No," as he often does at school. There are protests about dinner and bath and bedtime, some tears, but those moments pass quickly and he is actually quite agreeable.

We are moving closer and closer to keeping him home starting this summer. Trillian had an interesting email exchange with our favorite weekend babysitter just this week. Our babysitter, who has taken many classes in child development, put forth a hypothesis opposite to that of the intake interviewer: Scooter's language development would probably flourish with one-on-one attention. It also turns out that she'll be working in her current nanny position for only two days a week during the summer. Things are starting to fall into place.

I do worry about the potential isolating effect of keeping him home. He does go to gymnastics once a week and we will likely enroll him in soccer or another sport class this spring, so those give him at least some time with other kids. We do, of course, want him to be ready for a classroom in the near future. But it's likely we'll move back to the States before his kindergarten year (there--senior kindergarten in Canada). I've seen several references to many language delays working themselves out by age 5, giving us a year plus to reassess our plan.

One of the hardest things in all of this for me is not knowing if we're making the right decision. There's no way to compare outcomes. And while it has helped to talk to some other moms, there's no way to take one child's experience as a blueprint for another's. So Trillian and I will most likely be taking a deep breath and following our instincts on this one.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Blogging for choice

Today is Blog for Choice Day, something I found out from Mombian and Bitch PhD. As I find myself crushed by schoolwork, I can’t begin to do the topic justice, so I direct you to check out the links above.

Also, go read this. I came to it a few days ago via Bitch PhD, and I think she gets at the core of it for me with this:

A separate, but related issue that was raised today is how the law should fit into all of this. As a law student (barrister-to-be, as my father likes to say), this is of particular interest to me. This morning, Georgia state Representative Stacy Abrams spoke about growing up religious and anti-abortion rights, and about finding her own belief system in her adulthood. While she doesn’t call herself pro-choice, she said, she’s not pro-life either. As a tax attorney, she has thought a lot about how the law shapes people’s lives (she claims that the tax code is inherently unfair to women!), and she has come to this conclusion: “The role of law is not the same as the role of each individual.”


In that one sentence, Rep. Abrams said what the pro-choice movement has had troble articulating for the past almost 35 years since Roe v. Wade. What the abortion rights movement is saying is not “abortion for everyone!” but rather “abortion without judgment for anyone who wants it.” It’s a big difference linguistically, politically, and in reality. And it has plagued the movement for years. But I think Rep. Abrams got it just right. The law can do a ton to protect us from encroachment (speech, religion, basic First Amendment protections), but it should not impose any ideal upon our daily experiences and the choices we make that shape our lives. Like she said, our roles as individuals should not be that of law, and vice versa.

a bird and a bottle also has a post specifically for today with even more links.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Strength in numbers

A little more following from last night's post. No special point, just some thoughts spilling out.

I caught Ellen again (on some timeshift channel after getting home this evening). In her "Write On" section, in which she reads viewer mail, she read out an email regarding the T.R. Knight interview on Tuesday. "Let T.R. know," it said (as best I can remember), "that everytime a star comes out of the closet, a teen stays out of the ground." And suddenly the memories...
  • The brave student in my grade who effectively came out to the entire high school (nearly 2000 students) in order to start a gay-straight alliance. This was around 1990, before most students would have even thought about it.
  • The first student who came out to me. I was a TA with my own class and she wanted to meet with me, I assumed to discuss the work. And then she started with, "You're the only gay person I know..."
  • My youngest sister telling me of the friend from drama camp who killed himself rather than even try to tell his hyper-religious parents that he was gay.
  • The twelve-year-old who sat rocking and weeping as he told me his fear that his parents wouldn't love him if they knew.
Luckily most of those memories end happily. On graduation day, I gave the brave student a big hug and told him I admired him. The first student who came out to me eventually started a social organization for women on our campus; I remember seeing her picture in the local gay and lesbian newspaper. The twelve-year-old will be graduating soon; I don't know if he has come out to his parents yet, but I have heard that he has really come into his own in high school.

Again, I'm thankful that there are gay celebrities who understand the important role they may be playing in the lives of people they will never meet. I fervently believe that sometimes all it takes to give a closeted gay person the strength to continue is knowing that there are others out there.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Using their powers for good

I "worked" from home yesterday. In effect, that meant completing my Wednesday post earlier in the day and checking out a lot of websites. I also managed to catch Ellen, though I think it was the episode from Tuesday. Which means I had a chance to catch her interview with T.R. Knight, who plays George O'Malley on Grey's Anatomy. In which he addressed the brouhaha from last Fall, which was reignited Monday night at the Golden Globes.

A summary (in case you don't want to click around or don't remember and to present my experience of the news):

1. I hear that there's been a scuffle between Isaiah Washington and Patrick Dempsey on the set of Grey's Anatomy. I don't think much about it, other than maybe, "How unprofessional!"

2. T.R. Knight comes out, citing "a few questions about my sexuality." "What questions? Where are these coming from?" I think. "How is this connected to Washington and Dempsey fighting?"

3. It eventually becomes known that Washington called Knight a f@ggot. Dempsey takes exception and the fight ensues.

4. Apologies follow. Issue seems done, though something like that never completely goes away.

5. At the Golden Globes, after the show has won the award for best drama, Washington grabs the mic at a Q&A session to deny he ever called Knight a f@ggot. Despite the fact that everyone on set heard it.

6. Knight appears on Ellen. He spends the first part talking about the award and generally chatting. But after commercial, Ellen asks about the incident. Knight talks about that, about the decision to come out. And he thanks Ellen for her own courageousness in coming out almost 10 years ago (in April). [Slight digression: 10 years?!? I feel so old. I remember when it all happened and how Trillian and I caught every bit of media we could on it.]

As angry as I am at Washington for what he said and his seeming inability to take responsibility for it, as bad as I feel for secretly cheering on Dempsey (I am so against the use of violence), what I took away from the interview was a reminder of the positive power of celebrity.

See, it says something that I remember when Ellen came out, I remember seeking out the magazine with her on the cover, watching Oprah, taping the episode. And I have had an easy time of being gay, relatively speaking. But it meant so much to have my life, in some small way, affirmed. From what Ellen has said, it has meant even more to others; she has talked about the letters she received from people who felt so alone and hopeless before they found something they could connect with in her experience.

And I'm very impressed with Knight, with his decision to come out on his own terms and treat it matter-of-factly, but also as not the most interesting thing about him. Perhaps he too will inspire others who are struggling.

To a certain extent, this is what I tried to do as a teacher. My students, and the students at large, knew that I'm gay. I not only didn't try to hide that information, I consciously made sure that I volunteered the information--easier to do when there is a female partner to reference. I treated it as a basic fact about myself, much as I would discuss my educational background or what I had watched on TV the night before.

I'd like to think I made a difference for at least a few students and it's something I hope to be able to do again. But when I look at those celebrities who have been honest about being gay/lesbian/bi and who then go on with their lives in a straight-forward manner, I think about how many more people they can reach and the difference, the huge difference, it can make.

So this is my long-winded way of saying "Thank you" to Ellen and T.R. and the other celebrities who are willing to live proudly in front of the entire world. Thank you for reminding me of how important it is to be true to yourself. Thank you for reminding me of the difference I can make when I do the same.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Global Warming Wednesday: Two Notes

Before leaping into my list of topics (and I easily came up with at least 14 weeks’ worth of material when I did a short brainstorming session), I wanted to bring your attention to two particular points.

#1: Terminology

My main reason for titling this series as I did is the nifty alliteration of ‘Warming’ and ‘Wednesday.’ I think it should be noted, however, that the most correct terminology for the major environmental shift we’re facing is “Climate Change,” as explained in this post that I found via Bub and Pie. I thought briefly about “Climate Change Kvetch,”* but that had a connotation of complaint without action, definitely not the tone I’m trying to set with these posts.

Since climate change has been on my radar since at least the 1980s (when I first learned of it as global warming), I have long understood that the effects being discussed were not just overall warming, but rather an intensification of many weather patterns. While weather patterns have the ability to change over time, many recently tracked changes—increases in hurricane numbers and strength, permafrost melting, ice shelves breaking—are traceable to human interference in the environment, in my own opinion and that of many people more qualified than I to make such judgments.

*On the other hand, “Climate Forcing Friday” might have worked, but Fridays are particularly busy school days for me.

#2: A helpful link

I also wanted to bring to others’ attention an article that I found over at MSNBC at the beginning of the year. This list of 10 simple actions that will help the environment caught my eye and gave me the last bit of motivation I needed to start this series. Now linking to it here may take some of the wind out of my sails, as some of my small steps over the next 12 months will be repeats or related to the items listed in the article; if you’re looking to make some changes now and don’t want to wait for each of my little suggestions, however, this is a good place to start. Most suggestions include multiple websites where you can find additional information.

As interesting as all of this article’s items are, I don’t think I’ll be trying out #10 anytime soon. Trillian might have a few choice words for me if I decided to “Find an Eco-Date!”

Next week: My January action.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Counting words

Shameless self-promotion added below:

I love my in-laws for many reasons, but I have come to appreciate them even more in their role of grandparents. They dote on Scooter, not (just) in a spoil-the-grandkid way, but with a boundless, enthusiastic love. And he thrives on their attention. One observation that has played no small role in my serious consideration about moving closer to them is that the last two times we have visited, Scooter's language ability has grown noticeably. This summer we spent a long time there, so one could claim he would have experienced the growth regardless. But over the holidays the change was remarkable, even in the first few days. His sentences got longer and more expressive, he was willing and better able to participate in conversations he did not initiate, he had fewer meltdowns.

Before I go on, a little back story, some of which I've probably mentioned before. Scooter has never been ahead of the curve on language, but we didn't worry too much in his first two years. There was an incident in which one of the pediatricians (the one we liked least) at his doctor's office expressed concern that he wasn't naming multiple parts of the body, but we figured that knowing about 15 different animals and the sounds they make was a reasonable substitute. When we moved up to Canada, we noticed that his language development seemed to freeze for several months. We chalked this up to the move and decided to wait for him to settle in before acting. His language development did begin to pick up again, but once he was settled in at his current daycare, it was evident that he was behind his peers.*

We still held off a bit, encouraged by both his development over the summer and our pediatrician's assurance that his language skills were within expected norms. But the return to daycare reminded us that he remains behind his peers, especially since younger kids had moved into his class and he was still the least developed, in terms of conversational ability.

Last month, I found an agency I could refer Scooter to without needing a pediatrician's recommendation. I called them and filled out the intake form over the phone. Since I've done so much reading on the subject, I was able to figure out, from the questions being asked, that Scooter is probably borderline language-delayed according to their guidelines.** An example of his line straddling: when asked the average length of his sentences, I answered 4-5 words; the "normal" length for his age is 5-8 words.

One of the things I don't feel that such questionnaires can get at, however, is that my son approaches language differently. Now I think that I understand exactly where he's coming from, but it's hard for me to figure out if this is because I'm adult who can understand different perspectives or if this reflects my own different approach to language. As with many other things, he doesn't immediately accept someone else's conclusions. He wants to work through them on his own and then stubbornly hangs onto his own conclusions. We see this in some of his vocabulary. A 'motorcycle' is a 'motor bicycle,' 'underpants' are 'underwear pants.' Any time we respond with the shorter form, "I see the green motorcycle too," he emphatically returns to his own terminology, "the green motor bicycle is all tied up" (the motorcycle in our garage has a lock through its rear wheel). He knows what we call it, but we're wrong.***

It will be August at the earliest before Scooter can get in for further evaluation. We're looking at private alternatives for before then, but I have my own ideas for what he needs and what is "wrong" with him (but that's for another post, a long involved one that includes great guilt and insecurity about what he needs in terms of daycare). I spent a great part of our vacation counting words in his sentences. As I said before, he started to speak more when we got to the grandparents; within a week, his average was around 6-8 words a sentence with occasional utterances of 10-12 words. When we were in the airport headed home, a woman asked him the perennial question, "How old are you?" This question is a source of anxiety for me--yes, he knows his numbers and he's heard us tell him how old he is many times, but he never wants to answer, will downright refuse. As I was about to coach him to the answer, my usual way of deflecting the issue, he carefully held up three fingers and said, "I'm fwee!" My heart leapt.

*I try really hard not to compare Scooter to other kids, but it was very noticeable that he was still relying on meltdowns when the other kids were willingly shifting to verbal expression.

**And, for better or worse, he is in a class of kids with nobody else below average.

***Then Trillian will turn to me and say, "He is so your son."

Edited to add: I almost forgot, I'm over at Mommy Blogs Toronto again. My post should be on the front page until tomorrow. It's a Toronto twist on trying to conceive, so it fulfills, at least in part, my recent pledge to blog about starting that all up again.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Shoot and Chutes

It's been an odd sort of day chez Mouse. We decided to keep Scooter home because of the weather--more the fear that we would make it up to campus but then find it difficult to get home. I also told myself that I would get a head start on several of the posts I promised yesterday. Best laid plans and all that.

Our fridge had been acting up--the just-out-of-warranty, top-of-the-line fridge. It's not cooling evenly or dispensing water. We finally got someone out to look at it. He narrowed it down to two possibilities. The downside? It requires shutting the fridge down overnight to manually defrost part of the freezer, something it's supposed to do on its own but hasn't. That has meant emptying as much as possible. We're using the cold weather to our advantage and storing some of the freezer items out on the balcony. (Plus side, which I keep reminding myself--the expense is not ours since we're renting.)

But we've been trying to find creative uses for the items that shouldn't be frozen. For dinner--leek and bacon omelets with parmesan. Now I'm making carrot bread (to use up butter and eggs). To go with that will be yet another decaf latte to catch up on the milk.

So my mind's a bit preoccupied with the very mundane.

But I'll leave you with a funny moment from our evening. For Christmas, Scooter received Chutes and Ladders. We've been trying to get him to play. He understands turn-taking and the counting, but prefers not to play by the rules. His piece runs around the board, taking the slides at a fast pace, hopefully running into another piece. Now even as Scooter is playing his own way, Trillian is maintaining the structure of the game and we're both keeping track of where Scooter's piece should be. As all our pieces start to get to the top, Scooter announces, "I'll be right back," and runs off to his room. Trillian and I continue to play. She continues to move his piece, and of course he's winning in absentia. At one point, he's one space away and the spinner lands between 1 and 6 (one must spin the exact number in the game to win). Despite my view that it was slightly more on 1, Trillian announces it's a 6 and the game will continue. So yes, Trillian and I are both competitive enough that we played out a children's game that our son had grown tired of. We're those people.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Cleaning house

During each semester, a pile begins to grow on the coffee table and alongside the couch. Books, articles, notes, and papers. All of them 'necessary,' all of them taking up residence until the semester is done. Today, in preparation for the new semester that looms, I went through my piles, returning readings to their folders, filing those folders into a storage box, sorting school papers from home papers, starting new folders for the coming semester's work.

In honor of this work, I feel it is time for another list of topics I hope to get to sometime soon. (I'll ignore the fact that there are still leftovers from earlier lists.):

1. Language. One post dealing specifically with my son's recent development and at least one covering some of my more philosophical musings on language in general.

2. Big changes on the horizon. I've written about these to some extent, particularly about possibly moving closer to my in-laws. As I continue to work on this, I know I'll need to work through some things, so you'll be privy to some of that.

3. More on babymaking. As I go back into TTC mode, I'll be writing at least one post on the general process... and probably several on new trials and frustrations.

4. My mother. Contemplating pregnancy makes me think about my own relationship with my mother. It's not easy to write about, but this post has been brewing for a while.

5. Battlestar Galactica. My current favorite show and one that is not known by nearly enough people.

6. And, of course, my new series on the environment. I've got the next post in the works, and will be lining up more to come.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Anatomy of a lurker

It's National De-lurking Week. Or so I've discovered from reading entries at several of my regular haunts (and I know I'm missing a couple). The entries have amused me, especially the questions that have been posed to draw readers out.

But guess what? I haven't answered any of them.

Now I'm not a lurker, per se. I do comment occasionally on every blog I read.* But I will admit that I don't comment as often as I think I should.

So here's a list of the excuses I give for not commenting regularly:

1. Technical reasons.

I have noticed that I have commented less since the new Blogger was rolled out. The problem, in a (less technical, somewhat brief) nutshell: I have two profiles on my Firefox. Basically one is tied to my real world Google account and one to my blogworld Google account. I used to do all of my blogreading and commenting via the second profile, but got lazy when I set up Bloglines on the other profile. Now, however, whenever I want to comment, Blogger pulls in my Google information from my real world account; this is problematic both because I have to switch my account to comment (and it loses any comment I've started in the switch) and because I then get bounced out of my Gmail account (which I usually keep open). So technical/lazy--your call.

2. Shyness.

I find that I am less likely to comment when a post has either zero or many, many comments. In the first case, it's because I don't want to stand out, right there at the front. With the latter, I feel overwhelmed by the many voices already out there and figure mine doesn't need to be heard. Which is related to...

3. A lack of anything important to say.

I have a hard time saying something simple like, "Good post." Which is ridiculous, because I sure appreciate it when people leave me a short message like that. Often I'll start to write something and end up deleting the whole thing.

4. A lack of timeliness.

I like to let things marinate. As a result, I often think of something to say about a post days later, but by then it feels like it's too late.

5. A lack of time.

I don't read that many blogs (especially compared to the numbers I've seen cited by other people), but even that number can stretch my time when I'm in the middle of a semester.

Now to turn this around.

I try not to focus on my StatCounter numbers. And I truly am pleased to have the core of readers that I do, as well as a smaller core within that group who regularly comment. But I am curious about those visitors who show up but, as far as I know, have never commented. Obviously I'm saying something that keeps you coming back (and that alone makes me ecstatic), so thank you just for reading.

There's one sub-group of my readers I want to mention specifically--those of you who got here via and I've been lucky to make friends with a good number of Canadian moms through my blog already, but would really love to hear from some of the lesbian moms out there too.

Just a gentle nudge.

*I think, though it's possible I've missed someone.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Brain slowly recharging

For those who have been keeping track and carefully tracking my academic progress (because we desperately need another Humanities PhD), rest assured. I turned my paper in on Monday and took my exam Tuesday and Wednesday. I am aware of a slight miff on one question, but I'm pretty sure it was minor and unlikely to keep me from passing.

I pretty much took the day off, giving myself permission not to do anything school-related today. The only handwriting I did was to sign the credit card slip at Whole Foods--and that was a strain after many hours of writing (and a blister on my writing bump). Tomorrow I'll head back onto campus to do a post-mortem with one of my classmates and possibly start on the reading that I'll need to do for my classes that start next week.

Classes? Where's my break?

Real blogging resumes tomorrow. I promise. So many good ideas. Themed posts. One more full night of sleep should do it.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Global Warming Wednesday: Welcome

It seems appropriate, even if it wasn't intentional, to start my new series on this, the one-month anniversary of the Social Justice Wedding between Mad and Jen. My impetus for introducing this new feature to my blog comes from that time. I had been down on myself for not living up to my old ideals--save the world from an environmental standpoint--and was wallowing more than was appropriate. The wedding, all those wonderful posts, made me step back and gain some perspective. So I resolved to figure out small steps, things that would move me in the right direction without being too big to sustain.

This is the next part of my plan. Every Wednesday (set nicely between my classes this semester), I will write about an environmental issue. I have some ideas and may even try to write about several aspects of a single issue in a month--that's the plan, although I'm not exactly sure how it will all play out. Once a month, my post will center on a change I intend to make in my life in order to lessen my impact on the environment. These will be small changes, some of them one-time, some requiring tiny changes in my life.

But small changes add up. Grains of sand. Tiny steps. Water on a rock.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Peeking in

Paper's done and handed in.

Exam, part one, is tomorrow. Slight panic when I discovered it's not at the usual time. Calm resumes when I realize that gives me more time to study.

Haven't studied as much as I should. Not in as bad shape as I expected. Don't know what will happen.

P.S. Turning on word verification for comments. The spammers have found me.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Packing up

... and (hopefully) heading out.

The last load of laundry's being done. Some of my study materials and my laptop are out. But other than that, everything's packed. Fingers crossed, knock on wood, we'll be headed home tomorrow.

Did I mention that it's snowing? Again?

We're not getting hit like the last two times, but there have been some showers. Not more than 1-3 inches are expected. So we should be able to get out, the highway shouldn't be closed, and the airport should be open.

Of course, we were supposed to have sun the last time we were scheduled to fly--not 3 feet of snow!

I'm not sure what the Fates are trying to tell us, but I do know that if I don't get home soon, the paper will be late* and the test will be missed.

But it's out of my hands, so I'm off to have some key lime pie.

Things will be back to normal here by next Wednesday night.

*On the plus side, I have the paper done except for a few footnotes I need to take from books I have at home; I left them there thinking I'd have over a week to finish the paper once I got home. Worst comes to worst, I could strip the few references I have to them and hand it in as is.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007


I am holding myself hostage. Or the internet. Not sure exactly how it all works. But the long and the short of it is that I am cutting myself off from all but the most basic internet usage for the next few days. And so you will likely not see me here or anywhere else as I slog through some studying and paper writing.

It's a bit drastic and somewhat unlikely to succeed since I need to access the internet for some of the resources required for the tasks at hand. And it is oh-so-tempting to push that Bloglines button on my browser and take a peek at who's got something new to say.

But no, I'll be good. I need to pass this exam, I need to turn this paper in on time.

So I'm off to bury myself in paper for the next week. I'll see you when I come up for air.