Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Big F

That’s how my children refer to the flood that demolished our basement in August of 1999. The basement where we had relocated most of the toys that had taken over the main level of our house. The girls’ river of toys had flowed out of their bedroom, into our living room and kitchen and had even taken over our “office.” Hubby and I had had enough of the mess.

We had never experienced Chicago flooding, though. And that long-ago storm was a doozy. We lost many treasures, including my childhood collection of Christmas tree ornaments and Hubby’s childhood comic book collection. We carried out furniture and rugs and greeted our neighbors in the alley doing the same. We filled garbage bag after garbage bag of wet toys (mostly stuffed animals, including hard-to-replace Pound Puppies) and hauled those out, too. Not even five years old, our daughters bawled real tears as they picked up each soaked animal friend and cried out, “Not Teabag!” or “NO! Not Christopher!” It was a learning experience for all of us, and it traumatized our daughters.

Floods come every few years now, so we have learned to live with them. I have awakened many times in the middle of the night to the sound of heavy rain, and rushed downstairs to put in the standpipe. The girls always keep their most beloved toys upstairs, and have learned to keep the basement reasonably tidy. But an impending storm is just about the only thing that motivates our daughters to get everything up off the basement floor (and they can really hustle when they need to).

Anyway, yesterday’s microburst caused flooding, all over Chicago, and once again our neighborhood cleaned up. We didn’t lose too much. My daughters are eleven years old and very helpful in a crisis—still, one of them fought back tears when she realized we couldn’t save a stuffed pig she’s had since birth.

I’m philosophical about Chicago weather, and now just view flooding as an efficient way to purge our house of junk. But the girls still curse the gods. And rue The Big F.

Hope you all survived. . . .

Cross posted at Chicago Moms Blog.

Monday, June 25, 2007

A Left-of-Center Gal in a Right-of-Center Family

Sometimes when I’m talking with my brothers and sisters, I think I might have been adopted. At a family birthday party this weekend I was teased about my “personal farmer” (Farmer Renee, who runs the organic farm we subscribed to this year) and my vegetarian book club (we eat narrowly, but read broadly). Certain members of my family find vegetables hysterically funny and politically threatening. I like the way they taste, and I think they’re good for my body. Oh well.

Later on, when Rachel Carson’s name came up, I knew we wouldn’t be discussing her groundbreaking book Silent Spring (1962). Fairly certain I was the only one in the room who had actually read the book, I wasn’t surprised to find myself arguing that Rachel Carson was not responsible for the malarial deaths of millions of Africans. And as usually happens in family conversations, nobody was backing me up! So I said I’d pass on some information to consider:

1. The history of pesticide use is a complex and difficult topic (I’m still working my way through this document). Blaming an on-going travesty on Rachel Carson is undoubtedly easier (not to mention the shock value of such statements) than understanding the long-term effects of chemicals on our environment.

2. Here’s what the EPA and CDC currently say about mosquito control, pointing to a considered, well-rounded approach (which is what Rachel Carson would have preferred).

3. Here’s the political motivation (and IMHO, it must be political since it distracts us from other bad news of the day—Why her? Why now?) for tearing down Rachel Carson, according to an interesting science blogger.

To me, Rachel Carson was a gifted writer who could explain science to the non-scientist. She gave people compelling evidence for watching and questioning the chemical industry and the government. People like that don’t come around very often. But I sure wish they would.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Another One Bites the Dust

First Toot’s, and now this. In our local paper, I just read a story about yet another condo development in the works in our neighborhood. This news item hit home because friends of ours are the current owners of the property in question. They recently moved to the suburbs, so we knew the property was for sale. We just didn’t realize the house would be razed. Our children played in that house and went to school together.

Interesting, that our 11-year-olds have now lived in a Chicago neighborhood long enough to know its history—and the stories behind certain buildings and street corners.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Sparkle Fingers

Here’s a follow-up to my earlier post (June 6, 2007) about cultural differences in raising boys and girls.

At Montrose Harbor two Saturdays ago our family participated in the WonderGirl 5K Run, the culminating event of the year for Girls on the Run Chicago (GOTR). This program works with small groups of girls in schools around Chicagoland. At my daughter’s school, GOTR met twice a week for 10 weeks training for the 5K and completing activities promoting discipline, healthy eating, Girl Power, teamwork, and friendship building. I am impressed with this program, and watched over the weeks as the girls got to know each other better and built up their physical endurance. But both my girls and I reacted negatively to the girlie-princess-talk aspect of the program. For example, “sparkle fingers” to show support and enthusiasm for each other. And tiaras were given out on race day.

Who honestly believes that sparkle fingers are going to motivate anyone at the end of a 5K run?

Why—as a culture— do we talk to our daughters this way?

Friday, June 8, 2007

News from the Great Lakes Conference

I drove down to UIC yesterday morning to catch a little of the “Sustainable Cities, Healthy Watersheds” Great Lakes Conference. The kids were in school, and the day’s programming was free to the public, but I was only able to catch one session. Still, I learned a lot, and I came home with a pile of literature.

Here, for example, is where the public can comment on the Great Lake Water Quality Agreement, which is currently under review. Comments will be accepted through July 14, 2007.

I also learned about the EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory Program, where citizens can type in their zip codes and get a list of who’s releasing what into the local environment. Check it out (scroll down for the zip code thing).

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Casual Kindergarten

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending a kindergarten graduation—one that did not involve my children. They, in fact, were still in school. So I didn’t have to film the event, or take pictures or even arrive early for optimal seating. I just showed up, stood against the wall, and basked in all the sweetness.

Now, I was raised to dress up for special occasions, and I insist my daughters do the same. But I’m not a fashionista, by any means. I’m against school uniforms. I’m for the Casual Work Place.

So I couldn’t help noticing that all the kindergarten girls looked like American Girl models in their skirts/dresses with matching dress shoes and hair accessories. But after a while I started to wonder what happened to all the American Boys. I counted four boys who were dressed up—wearing belted khaki pants and a tucked in shirt and dress shoes. I smiled deeply at the one boy actually wearing a tie. A large number of boys wore tennis shoes, khaki pants and dress shirts, but the shirts weren’t tucked in, and they weren’t wearing belts. The rest of the boys were wearing play clothes. Call me old-fashioned, but the Camouflage-Bermudas-&-Crocs look didn’t do it for me. Don’t get me wrong; these were all beautiful, well-behaved boys.

Interestingly, every father in the place was dressed in a suit and tie, or belted pants, tucked in shirt, and dress shoes.

Stores still sell boys belts and dress shoes, right? Are parents of boys so busy they can’t track these items down? Someone mentioned that Crocs Boy was a fourth child. Do mothers of large families eventually just stop trying on the fourth kindergarten graduation?

Maybe this “boy casual” uniform means nothing, but it seems like it means something—like it’s a metaphor for different standards for the sexes. I mean, mothers of girls are never too busy to run around putting together nice outfits for their daughters, right? And none of those girls up on the stage could be a third or fourth child, right?

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Right Bite

At the grocery store today, I stood staring at my fish options—everything looked good, and some of that fish was reasonably priced. But I couldn’t remember which fish was the "right" fish to buy. And I didn’t have that little card from the Shedd Aquarium to help me support a sustainable fishing industry. I left without buying any fish.

Here’s a copy for downloading and keeping in the wallet, from the Shedd’s website.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Thinking Blogger Award

The other day Johnny Yen—a loyal reader of this blog—complimented me with a Thinking Blogger Award. I’m much appreciative of this gesture, and as I (so new to the blogosphere) understand it, now it’s my turn to pick five other thinking bloggers. One of those would certainly have to go back to Johnny, but he’s already won it, deservedly, a couple of times. He posts about politics and history and music and being a CPS teacher and a father, husband, and friend. He’s also funny, and this cicada post, gave me a good, good laugh.

Thanks Johnny. I’m finally starting a blog roll.