Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Green: School supplies

Every once in a while, Trillian and I find ourselves at a loss as to the fact that Scooter will be headed to kindergarten soon. As in, real school. With a supply list and everything. Supplies I really should get around to buying.

We've had to buy school supplies for Scooter before, usually here and there, as things come up. His stint in the public preschool required a very specific list; several items--Purell, foaming handwash, a plastic folder--made me cringe, but I dutifully bought them. We were just so glad he'd be able to start back in a care setting that I didn't want to rock the boat.

I've had longer to digest this coming school year's list and to at other grades'. And there are a few items for which I've been trying to brainstorm alternatives. Again, I won't be rocking the boat too much this year--we're still essentially new to this town. But I think that I'll bring some of this up next spring when the new lists are being formulated.

One of the shortcomings of school-supply lists in general, as I see it, is that they are created so that everyone brings in the same things. Some of the solutions I can think of would require some coordination of different items or collecting some money for one-time purchases (though my school system already includes a check for each grade level for a variety of different things--kindergarten has a crafts fee).

Some throw-away items will probably never go away. Tissues being the big one. And I can see the point of those from the hygiene angle--plus, I haven't even gone as far as carrying handkerchiefs yet.

But I wonder about the Clorox wipes. Many grade levels have kids bringing at least one container. The kindergarten list is even specific about the brand. (Which makes me want to bring another brand on purpose. I'd bring some of the Method's, but they don't have their ingredients listed and they frequently use parabens.) Something I've been meaning to try at home, something that might work in a school setting, is homemade cleaning wipes. If students brought in one role of paper towels (preferably recycled), that would create the equivalent of 2 containers of Clorox wipes per kid. Or, if resources could be pooled, a multi-pack could be purchased, cutting down on the amount of packaging.

For foaming handwash (which is not on the list for this year), if each teacher could hold on to one or two containers from previous years, almost any liquid soap could be substituted. In our house, we use mint soap from Trader Joe's (cheaper than Dr. Bronner's and none of the kooky religious writings on the container) and cut it about half-and-half with water. Works great, smells wonderful, mint is slightly antiseptic, and one bottle of soap lasts many, many months.

I am currently reserving judgment on the plastic bags requested, although I will be interested to see what they do with the 50 sandwich bags and additional gallon bags. I will be watching, however, because I want to know why these can't be reused.

For folders, and there are two specific types requested, I will be drawing from my personal stores as much as possible. I've got one type covered. I thought I had the other type around (with brads), but it may be that I gave those away to colleagues before leaving my teaching job. There's one part of me that sees the allure of buying new supplies each year--a clean slate for each new grade--but I got over that pretty quickly. Scooter is already using a backpack we happen to have around and has never complained.

The item that has me most flummoxed is glue. Not the concept of glue in general, but the fact that we have to bring in 20 glue sticks. TWENTY! All those plastic tubes. Not to mention all of the packaging. I'm hoping to find packages of 10, or at least 5, but have only seen 2-packs advertised so far. I wish there was a way to buy just refills, but I haven't seen that. (Can I also say that I was unaware gluing plays such a large role in kindergarten? Scooter had better come out of the year a champion gluer!)

Looking at lists to come, I can tell I'll have plenty of other things to obsess over. Most grades that require pencils specifically ban recycled-wood pencils. But they still want 24-48 of the good old number 2s. What about mechanical pencils and lead refills?

I also can't help but notice that different years ask for wildly different things in terms of folders and notebooks. I recognize that a lot of this is dependent on teachers' personal preferences, but given that the lists are at least school-wide (and possibly district-wide), there's already been a fair amount of compromise. Maybe they could think about some consistency between years so that supplies can be used from one year to the next until they wear out?

Just for the record, I love school supplies and consider office supply ads to be a bit of nerd porn. I know that some supplies are absolutely necessary to maximize learning, and I would never deprive my son of that. I just wish that it were a bit easier to balance the consumption needs with environmental issues, maybe turn it into a class lesson or project. You know, throw in a little education?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Words optional

Scooter is not particularly good on the phone. He does, at least, talk on it now. But he tends to narrate--what he's doing, what he watched on TV, a story that comes to mind. He'll also hold the phone up so we can see what he's doing. And then, before we can get in our I-miss-yous and I-love-yous, he says, "OK bye," and hands the phone back to Grandma.

He had a great time with his grandparents while we were gone. They kept him busy. He did a couple of special things, but spent even more time with them running errands, playing in the garden, riding his bike. He was ready to get to sleep each night.

He did not verbally express that he missed us, either on the phone or to his grandparents. One of the times I told him that I missed him, his response was, "That's because you're not here."

But just because he doesn't think to tell us explicitly, our arrival at my in-laws' dispelled any thoughts that he might not have thought about us too much.

His grandparents created a calendar for him to count down the days, so he was aware of when we were due back. He went to bed last night, knowing that the next day was Sunday and that we would be back on Sunday. For the first time in the near-week he had been at his grandparents, he woke up early. 5 am, instead of his usual 6:30 or 7. When we pulled up, he was waiting outside with his grandparents; one glimpse of the car and he was jumping up and down.

Once inside, he wanted to show us any number of things--a couple new toys, plenty of toys we've seen before, pictures he'd drawn, his potty prizes. He had to have at least one of us next to him. When we announced that it was time to head back up to Springfield, he was ready to go.

A few minutes into our trip, I looked back, surprised at how quiet he'd become. Apparently all of the excitement had worn him out and he was fast asleep.

Monday, July 21, 2008

I am again finding it hard to write the posts that are floating around in my head.

Some of this is the fact that my schedule has been a bit busy. Add in the mad packing today for our trip to Toronto (and I am so behind in contacting people), and I feel guilty for every ten-minute break I take.

Scooter has also been taking longer to go to sleep at night, and so by the time I sit down to write, my mind is too close to sleep to function properly.

But a bigger issue is just how fragmented my thoughts have been. No pronouncements yet on my health, though the endocrinologist is casting a wider net than any previous doctor. I remain exhausted and run-down, not so much that I can't function, but enough that everything is an effort; this has been my baseline for years, but the more I've been exercising and attempting to track down the cause, the more frustrated I become at this state. Another teaching opportunity has come up in my department, this one for the second semester--in many ways it's more feasible than the fall post, so an internal debate rages on. I have nothing of substance to discuss with my supervisor as my work has been going nowhere, another victim of my inability to stay on one topic for more than fifteen minutes.

I feel like I'm constantly laying groundwork and the payoff keeps getting pushed further into the future, spinning my wheels and going nowhere. To mix a couple metaphors.

It's not just that I can't maintain a train of thought for long enough to write a post, it's that my thoughts always take a turn for the whiny and I don't want that to be all I'm writing.

Not that it's likely I would have written anyways, but I've decided not to take my computer at all on this trip. Trillian will have hers--for work--so I'll be able to check email occasionally, but we're not even going to pay for internet from our hotel room.

The last of my test results should be back the second week of August. Even though I will be seeking a second opinion on the fertility piece (I found another fertility doctor in Big City, one who is attached to a university and is not quite as commercial as the first one), part of the picture should be a little more focused then. I'm hoping my mind will begin to refocus then too.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Dr. Horrible is truly wonderful

I have to imagine that most of you other Whedon fans already know about this--although Metro Mama's been busy bailing out her basement, Bea is currently buried in horrendous undergraduate essays, and most people have a life. But I must share.

I have been waiting for this for weeks and now it's here: Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog.

This was Whedon's response to the writers' strike. Faced with some down time, he figured why not create an internet musical. (This is Whedon, so I really could see the thought process running something like that. I mean, he did create "Once More, With Feeling.")

He rounded up a couple of actors who have been in previous Whedon projects (Nathan Fillion from Firefly and a few episodes of Buffy, Felicia Day from Buffy season 7) and then also got Neal Patrick Harris interested. Harris plays a villain-wannabe; Fillion is Captain Hammer. Both are interested in Day. Oh, and they sing.

The musical has been broken into three acts, each approximately 10-15 minutes. The first act became available today, the second will go live on the 17th, the third on the 19th. They all come back down on the 20th, but will then be available on iTunes for purchase. Somewhere down the line, a DVD should come out--with extra content. I read a quote from Whedon that there will be a commentary track in song. You can bet that's going right onto our wish list.

Earlier today, it was impossible to get to the site; the rush of traffic crashed it. That seems to have been fixed, however, as I had no problem viewing it this afternoon.

Do yourself a favor and take a look. It'll make your day!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Green, formerly known as Global Warming (Whatever)day

It has recently struck me that most of my reasons for naming Global Warming Wednesday as I did are no longer true.

I knew from the beginning that the name was a bit of a misnomer, but went with it anyway for the sake* of alliteration. I had chosen Wednesday due to my course schedule for that particular semester. But a semester is only three or four months and life moves on. So now, eighteen months later, several months of wandering Global Warming posts, I've decided to change the window dressing.

So now my environmental posts will be tagged as "Green."

Somewhat obvious, yes. But there is a deeper meaning for me.

Green is a color I gravitate towards, in clothing, in decorations, whenever I am given the choice. In natural shades, it has long been my favorite color, although for reasons similar to why it has come to represent the environmental movement. Going out into nature, the green of trees and plants, is hugely calming for me.

My love for the color is wrapped up with my concern for the environmental at the most basic level. Therefore, by changing the overarching name of my environmental posts, I am reminding myself of why I write them in the first place.

*Serious brain fog, wrote this as "sack" at first.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Halfway, plus

At the beginning of the year, I set a few goals for myself (emphatically not resolutions). Since we've now completed six months and a few days, I decided to take stock of what I've accomplished at the halfway mark.

The goals that I set:
  • We will figure out how big our family will be.
When I set this goal, I didn't necessarily expect to deliver in 2008. More, I had in mind that I would either be far enough into a pregnancy to feel safe or I would have decided that we were stopping at one. Right now, I'm still in a holding pattern. I have an endocrinologist appointment this coming week and am keeping my fingers crossed that it will set me in motion on this goal again.

  • I will find a way to enjoy exercising again.
Enjoy might be a little overboard, but it has become a regular part of my routine at this point. There are some things I like better than others, but I mix up the specifics of my workout to keep my body from getting too used to any one routine. I am a bit disappointed that even with exercising at least an hour four or more times a week, without increasing my caloric intake, I have only lost four pounds so far this year. Yet another thing I hope the endocrinologist can explain.

  • I will finish my comps.
I've hit a lull and have had a hard time getting any work done. I think that this is part of the holding pattern of above. But, at the very least, I still expect to get the written part of my exams done; the oral exam may bleed over into January.

  • I will complete an environmental audit of our new house and devise a plan for how we can minimize our impact.
I haven't been writing about this as much as I had intended, but we've been gradually switching out light bulbs, experimenting with window coverings, cutting back our gas and electric use, and contemplating solar water heating and/or power. I've also been focusing on using or repurposing what we already own.
  • We will hang artwork in at least two different rooms.
Technically, we have artwork up in three rooms. But all of it is hung on nails left behind by the previous owners. The piece in our living room will probably stay where it is, but the others are really just place holders. I have one framed poster I want to put up in our bedroom and expect that we will find a few more pieces at the art festival we'll be going to soon. I hope to get those up as soon as they're framed.
  • We will get Scooter evaluated and determine what supports he'll have in school.
Scooter is currently on the wait-list for the closest diagnostic clinic; it is likely he'll get an appointment for sometime in October-December. He already has an IEP for kindergarten, and I can't imagine any diagnosis under which it would change substantially. He'll be getting the occupational therapy we most want him to have, may qualify for speech therapy, and should get consideration from his teacher for things like sitting on the periphery of the classroom and working with smaller groups. There's always more we could be actively pursuing, but I feel like we've got a decent structure in place right now.
  • I will experiment with gluten-free baking.
I haven't been writing much of this down, although I always intend to, but I've accomplished a decent amount. I now have memorized a bread recipe that turns out pretty well and that Scooter truly likes. I've made banana bread (need to make some more with the bananas I have on hand) and a really tasty fruit crumble (or crisp? can't remember which it technically was now). I also have zucchini for zucchini bread and will spend some serious time on chocolate chip cookies when it gets a little cooler.
  • I will meditate regularly.
Crap. Forgot this one was here. I almost never sit down and meditate. But... I have been walking a lot as part of my exercise, multiple miles outside most days. And while I can't claim this as true walking meditation, it is when I let my mind wander through things and go where it wants; this particular time really helps me clear my head and work through issues. So it almost qualifies.

OK, not a bad exercise. I'd forgotten some of my goals, so it's good to see them on the screen again.

Monday, July 07, 2008


My mind has been wrapped around any number of serious topics recently, so I feel a need to move to the shallow end for a bit.

I will be getting my hair cut this weekend. It’s been about a year since my last haircut, although it hasn’t grown as much this past year as I would have expected. Since I’m tired of always putting it up (ponytail, messy bun, braid, repeat), I will probably go chin length or shorter.

I am also debating the dress that I will wear to a friend's wedding in a couple weeks. I have two sleeveless dresses in mind. One is longer and dark green with butterflies screen-printed on it. The other is shorter and periwinkle. I'm leaning towards the latter, as it fits me again after a couple months of good workouts. My one reservation is that it clings a little more than the first dress and I fear that people might think I'm pregnant. I am actually, seriously thinking about getting a bodyshaper to wear under it. Which is so unlike me.

I stayed up late last night to watch The Fifth Element on TBS or some such station. Pretty much any time I come across it, I'll watch however much is left. What can I say? It's sci-fi candy for me.

Right now, the cheesy goodness of Star Wars VI: Return of the Jedi is playing in the background. The ewoks will always hold a place in my heart and I refuse to equate them to Jar-Jar Binks. And I'm reminded of the time a classmate tried to explain to me the appeal of Princess Leia in the gold bikini. I looked at him in disbelief. Obviously he had forgotten to whom he was talking; that scene was forever seared upon my young adolescent mind!

We're going to go see Hellboy II this weekend. And Dark Knight the next. Yes, comic book movies make me happy.

(Of course, I feel like I should do a little work so that I can properly enjoy my movies.)

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Don't try this... pretty much anywhere else, really

We're currently in a cycle of mid-summer rains. The days start out clear and bright. Clouds gather throughout the day. Mid- to late-afternoon brings showers, usually just sprinkles, sometimes a bit heavier, or maybe the clouds and thunder just bluff us out.

Yesterday, it was sprinkling as Scooter and I walked to catch the bus--a little further than we've had to go in the past since our usual stop has been torn up as part of a summer construction project. But the bus came just before the sky really opened up. The bus driver was taking pity on his passengers and even dropped us off in our cul-de-sac.

Today, I thought we would again beat the worst of the rain. But I was wrong. The sprinkles gave way to a steady rain. I held an umbrella over Scooter for part of the way (since it provides him no real protection if I hold it high enough to cover myself), but he still got wet and cold. We got to our stop about eight minutes early--and given the construction, I knew it was possible that the bus would be running another five to ten minutes behind, depending on how badly the construction is holding up traffic. I considered calling Trillian to pick us up, but knew that it would probably take as long for her to get there as the bus. So I was resigned to a further soaking.

When a woman in a minivan pulled up, asked if I needed a ride. I told her I was waiting on the bus and was headed to a further out neighborhood. She said it was really no problem, although she didn't have a car seat for Scooter. But since he's in a belt-positioning booster nowadays, I decided that it would be OK*, and we climbed in. Seriously, woman I've never met, randomly pulls up, and I get in with my child.

But that's the sort of thing that happens in this town. And, as also happens in this town, it turns out her oldest child will be in kindergarten at the same school as Scooter. Plus, when I gave her directions to our house, she named a woman she knew over there--the woman we bought the house from!

What can I say? It's a small town.

*I read at some point that a safety study showed that for kids over two, regular safety belts, worn properly, are pretty much as effective as car seats. I didn't go ditching the car seat as a result of this, but figure it's something to keep in mind for situations like today.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

It sounded good for a while

A department email today informed me that there's an opening for an instructor position this fall. In the language I love most and taught for several years. By union rules, they'd pretty much have to give it to me if I express an interest.

Trillian and I have discussed such a scenario before, the idea that I might go off to teach for a semester or a year before I finish my doctorate. Mostly, we've been thinking about down the line, possibly for an ABD position in a couple years, possibly with child #2 in tow, Scooter staying here.

Heading back to Toronto for the fall is attractive. I'll need to make two trips that semester anyway, once for the library, once to take my last set of exams. And given how much I dislike Cid, Trillian has made the suggestion that we send me back so that I can go to the clinic in Buffalo. The pay for the position would just about cover housing, food, and travel during that time--which would actually put us ahead compared to the two trips I'd be making otherwise.

And so I spent a few hours this afternoon imagining how I might accomplish this.


Regardless of Trillian's insistence that she could manage for the four months and the convenience it would provide for my studies, I don't know that it's the way I'll go. Besides the fact that I would miss them, I don't know that it's fair to leave Trillian to deal with the daily minutiae of Scooter's days for that long. And there are a few other niggling concerns, since I won't know until after the application deadline what treatments I'll be pursuing, fertility- and otherwise. Or what if I got pregnant in the first month and would then have to split my obstetric care across two countries?

The winning argument against pursuing the position came at the end of bath-time. As I wrapped Scooter in his towel, he told me that he loved me and was so glad I moved with them from Toronto to Springfield. There is very little of the conversation he would have heard--most of it was conducted via instant message--so this little remark gripped my heart just a little tighter. And how can I stray from home when he holds my heart here?