6.29.2007

On Emergent Molars: A Conversation with Meepo

"It's cutting me, mommy. It feels like snakes."

"I'm sorry that it hurts, but I'm glad that you can describe it like that. You're very articulate."

"NO! Don't tickle it!"

6.26.2007

When it floods, it... floods.

The dishwasher is leaking.

6.23.2007

Story Problem

If the bathroom sink flows at a rate of 1/2 cup per second, and is left running for 1 hr. 20 min., how much water will be on the floor?

6.21.2007

Neither Here nor There

We're officially gone from California, but we have yet to set foot on Texas soil. In the mean time we're hanging out in my parent's home in Arizona. (Thanks, Mom and Dad!) The limbo is a little strange in some ways (no library cards for residents of nowhere), but for the most part we're having a blast. Mom and Dad aren't here right now, but my sister is, and we're having fun together.

And, oh my goodness, the HOUSE! I'd sort of forgotten what it's like to live in a HOUSE. With a YARD. Suddenly, my life is not consummed with preventing my children from doing developmentally appropriate and important things that just so happen to be very much destructive in the small space. Now if they're being destructive or just plain in the way, it's a simple matter to direct them toward another equally attractive activity--preferably outside in that lovely back yard.

Speaking of the back yard, it's been a matter of contention in the Palmer family for a very long time. You see, my mom, sister and I really really wanted a nice lawn and pretty garden. My dad wanted to cover the whole thing over with gravel. We prevailed, and preserved our precious lawn. Or, at least, the closest thing possible when you live in Arizona, and are gone for well over half the year. Year after year, the ratios of grass to weeds fluctuated, but at least we had something green, and we always prevented Daddy from covering it in gravel.

Until this past year. I'm not quite sure what happened, but somehow an agreement was struck, and Daddy had his way. The back yard is now covered in gravel.

And it's gorgeous. I should have known that Daddy's plan wasn't for a hideous, unbroken expanse of gravel. Daddy may not have lots of time for lawn maintainance, but he does have a superb eye for proportion and good composition, a strong aesthetic sense, and good taste. They now have an attractively ordered desert landscape, with pampas grass and yucca and mesquite and honeysuckle and mint. Most of these are local plants that volunteered--and since they are in their proper environment, they thrive quite nicely with minimal care. It's a lovely, restful place, alive with birdsong, joyous and vibrant and peaceful.

I can't believe we fought him for so long.

And I think that surely there must be a lesson somewhere in there.

6.18.2007

We are alive.

I've always thought of myself as a girl of the desert.

Now I realize that it is not the desert I love, it is the oasis. The clear blue stream overflowing with life, the droplets splashing on the hot, windcarved sand.

From the shade of a cottonwood tree, I love to gaze upon the cactus and the redrocks.

But the true desert... the endless expanse is cruel and wicked. Its desire is to bleach my bones and the bones of my children, like the bones of so many coyotes before, creatures made of much sterner stuff than we.

But we are alive.

The desert has not bleached our bones, and we are safe in this familiar and lovely oasis... I'd forgotten just how beautiful the Verde Valley is. It is good to be home.

6.11.2007

To whom it may concern:

I have a strong distaste for moving.

But I do like nice people who take my children to the park.

That is all.

6.09.2007

Great opportunity for nursing moms

The International Breast Milk Donation Project is an incredibly good thing on so many different levels.

First off, I'm sure that you know that between AIDS and famine, there are a lot of orphaned babies in Africa. But did you know that those babies are six times more likely to survive if they receive donor breast milk, as opposed to formula? Six times.

So a few years ago, some women started expressing their extra milk, and shipping it to Africa on dry ice. I've actually known about this part of the story for some time, and to be perfectly honest, I wasn't all that interested. I mean, that's really wonderful, but how is it even remotely sustainable?

Well, now it's actually sustainable through a unique partnership with a for-profit corporation called Prolacta Bioscience. Prolacta uses donated breast milk to develop medical products that save the lives of preemies here in the US. Their biggest thing is human milk fortifier--that's what they added to my expressed milk before they put it in Nathan and Isaiah's feeding tubes, to add calories and protein so that they could catch up on all that growing that should have happened in utero. The stuff my twins received was based on cow's milk, but now Prolacta has developed a human milk fortifier that is actually made from human milk. Which is much better for these fragile babies. It's also pretty big business. Even the cow based stuff runs $100 per day per infant.

Of course, the one difficulty with all this is that they are completely dependent upon breast milk, and the law does not allow them to pay their donors. And not many women get too excited about pumping so that somebody else can make a fortune off their milk. On its own, this project is about as sustainable as the idea of shipping breast milk to Africa.

Together, though, these two crazy idealistic projects actually work.

Prolacta provides all the equipment, from hospital-grade electric pumps to dry ice, and pays for overnight shipping to their laboratories. 25% of each woman's milk goes to Africa. Prolacta tests and pasteurizes the milk for free, and pays for all shipping costs.

Then Prolacta uses the rest of the donated milk in the highly profitable business of saving babies in the US. Prolacta then pays the Breast Milk Project $1 for every ounce of breast milk that stays in the States. This money goes toward the establishment of local milk banks, mobilizing local women to meet this huge need for breast milk.

So go talk to your doctor about it, and see if this would be the right thing for you!

I sure am, just as soon as I get to Texas!

6.05.2007

Ensnared

The other thing I've been doing lately is playing with the espresso machine I got for my birthday.

I'm highly caffeinated.

Oh, the wonderful things you can do with coffee beans and milk!

Anyway, I had this wonderful post all worked up about how if you just pour the coffee over the frothy steamed milk instead of pouring the milk over the coffee, you get a consistently wonderful gorgeously layered result with minimal effort. But how it's psychologically easier to try to control everything, even when you know you'll get a better result by letting go a little and just allowing the nature of things work to your advantage. And how all this affects childbirth and parenthood, and, well, just about everything.

Oh, it was a great post.

But then I wanted to make sure that I was using all the proper coffee-snob terminology, and I just kept running across stuff like this.

I'm helpless against the temptation.

I'm on a quest for the perfect microfoam, perfectly poured.

I'm drinking way to many lattes for my own good, and all that nutritious vitamin D enriched whole milk my children drink? Steamed, every bit of it. Well, mostly, anyway. At first they were extremely excited about the "special milk." Now they're requesting "special milk" once again, but this time, they mean straight from the fridge.

I think I may be going a little overboard.

And the thing is, it never actually ends up looking or tasting nearly so good as when I just pour the espresso over the milk, and leave it at that.

I just can't stop.

6.02.2007

I still blog. Really.

It's just that I'm also moving.

And trying to find a place to move to.

And reading the foundational epics of just about every major world religion and sundry works on the philosophy of education, and basking in the fact that suddenly being a good wife doesn't just involve learning how to do all the stuff I'm not particularly good at, but also involves stuff I am particularly good at. Like reading and synthesizing and and discussing, and well, all the stuff we loved doing together, the whole reason we got married in the first place.

And hanging out in downtown LA, because you just can't live in the area for 7 years and then move away without ever having spent at least one day becoming acquainted with the city itself.

Which, by the way, felt surprisingly reassuring and homelike. These years in California, I've keenly felt the lack of sky and rocks, but I never really articulated my need to look up at towering canyon walls. Had I known how downtown could feed this inarticulate need of mine, I would have spent a whole lot more time hanging out down there. Because, amazingly enough, standing in the middle of one of the biggest cities in the world is approximately the same experience as standing inside a sparsely populated chasm in the middle of the desert.

Beyond the comforting sense of enclosure, that strangely freeing sense of vertigo that comes from gazing at a very high cliff, either up or down... beyond all that, each spot had specific character and location, a particular place with a particular relationship to all the other particular places. Like the canyon, the city cries out to be known in all its particulars, known in it's colors and textures and sounds, not merely known by the numbers and signs on which we must depend to find our way home in suburbia. I found myself wondering what it must be like to know the city as I know the canyon. There is a strangely deep kinship that comes from knowing a place in common. What must it be like to share that knowledge, not with a few hundred, or even a few thousand, but with hundreds of thousands? And what must it be like to be that pinata vendor, a quite ordinary person so vividly shaping the experience of everyone passing through that corner of the city?

As striking as the sense of massive intimacy was the sense of autonomy, the sense that the city did not exist for us. It simply was what it was, which strangely enough, gave us the freedom to simply be who we are. I wanted to stock up on wholesale fabric, so we wandered through the fashion district quite a bit. We never did find any fabric vendors who appeared to be open for business, but we had a lot of fun wandering through shop after shop full of imported clothing, as the owners hovered over us explaining in broken English how much of each item they had in stock, eager to haggle out a deal. It looked very much like a mildly dingy outdoor mall--except that the whole purpose of each store's inventory was entirely different. Each store did not contain a careful selection of items designed to appeal to a particular demographic, but rather a set of items from a particular place. Their goal was not to sell things that a particular group of people would most likely want to buy, but rather to sell the particular things that they had. The difference was subtle, but striking.

It was a lot of fun, wandering through the wholesale shops, and we thought what fun it would be to be a buyer for a shop, to put together an inventory. It's rather amazing, really. It had never occurred to me just how much of my shopping is actually done for me by complete strangers.

We drove through the flower district with our windows down. The gaudy and the exquisite blended strangely, but the fragrance was glorious.

In need of a snack, we found a parking spot in the food district, and browsed through the mexican markets. I looked around for potatoes--perhaps I could spare myself the grocery stop on the way home. But none of them had potatoes, which surprised us. Potatoes are just such ordinary, basic things... doesn't everybody carry potatoes? But of course these places were not there to provide us with the things we wanted to buy, they existed to distribute the things that the vendors had to sell. And as ubiquitously salable as potatoes may be, they aren't generally imported from Mexico, so that's not what they were selling. So we bought ourselves a case of gorgeous strawberries and moved on.

The taco stand didn't look particularly interesting, or necessarily safe, so we reluctantly went across the street to McDonalds. It was a strange experience to walk through those doors and be suddenly transported back into suburbia, into that carefully crafted experience, where suddenly everything is all about you, and telling you what to want and bringing it to you. Where I ordered a large drink, not because I really wanted anything but french fries and water, but because it was there and they were selling it to me, and where they sold me a large drink, not because they had drinks to sell, but where they sold drinks because they knew I could be easily persuaded to buy one.

We drove by 6th and Hope. The Church of the Open Door is gone, and the Jesus Saves sign, but it is still in the middle of everything, right there between the enormous homeless population huddled beside crumbling buildings, filling run-down parks, and the sophisticated, powerful businessmen striding quickly and confidently down the sparklingly clean sidewalks in the shadow of glisteningly glorious monuments of glass and steel . It's a touch ironic, really. Our own church, Blessed Sacrament, got its start right in the heart of Placentia, right there on the main intersection, in the middle of it all. But as the city grew, that main intersection became an obscure little cul-de-sac, and even the city itself was swallowed up into obscurity within the urban sprawl. The church stands there still, and flourishes, right where it was planted in the first place, but that place where it was planted is very different now, a sheltered place and tucked away.

Meanwhile, the place where Biola began is still at the heart of everything, but Biola has moved to the suburbs. Sometimes I think this is sad, but sometimes I think it makes sense. It really does free up a lot of energy, to be in a place less all-consuming, a place that matters less, perhaps. It's terribly sad, but I start to understand, as I watch our family make the same decisions. We aren't moving to Houston, we're moving to Spring. To the suburbs, where everything is artificially structured around making life easy for us, because right now, we care more about fully participating in a vibrant community of thought, than in a vibrant community of location and commerce. And I think that's the right thing.

But it's still a little sad.