Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Toddler Talking Trash

I know I've been heavy on mommy posts, lately. But I'm thinking Grasshopper's interst in this blog, if she ever reads it, will be these sorts of posts.  Don't worry, though: I'm in the midst of a post on feeding a vegetarian baby. Okay. That's a lie. In order to justify another post about my wee one I hustled some synapses, which reminded me of the Quorn taste in my mouth, and how I once considered writing a post on the topic of raising a healthy vegetarian child. I am still at the dawn of thinking about writing that post however.

This post, by the way, is unabashedly about my adorable toddler whose requisite pronounciation mistakes have a distinctly crass bent.

boobies and cow poopFor instance, although she has always referred to her breastfeeding as, "NiiighNigh!" she ran up to me and started demanding boobies last week. Boobies?? Grasshopper is all but weaned and neither of us could remember the last time we'd uttered the "b-o-o" word. The next morning, though, she asked again. I said no, outright, which sent her into tears, but she quieted down and gazed at me intently as I started making her morning seven grain cereal. When I opened the freezer, as usual, and dumped a handful of frozen blueberries into the pot she let out a victorious gurgle of sorts and started laughing/chanting like an insane baby: boobies! boobies! boobies!

And just tonight she crassified another of her favorite foods. I was teaching her that all liquids aren't, actually, called agua or water. On the table in front of us: bilburry juice (jugo), milk, water, and ketchup. After a protracted conversation in which I had to assure her that my name was still "mommy" even if all the liquids were not "agua," she decided I wasn't pulling her leg. Then she pointed and named everything on the table: aqua, jugo, milk, cow poop.

And last but not least: after she sits on her potty GreenDaddy chirps: "Good job, Grasshopper! Let's go put the pee pee in the toilet." Grasshopper falls into a full tilt run towards the bathroom yelling, "Twat! Twat! Twat!"

We're trying not to encourage her in these mispronunciations, since I don't want to be one of the YouTube parents who thinks it's funny to teach their children to swear worse than sailors and put it on the web for the world to see. But, like my father always swore he was doing for me, I am saving these stories to tell her first dates (though by the time she's thirty-five, she'll probably just think they're funny too...heh heh).

Of course, my favorite of her words is not an uncouth mispronunciation at all: it's an extraordinary invention. A mix between the spanish and english words for shoe -- "zapato," and, well, "shoe." A shoepato.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Books, DVDs, & Online Toddler Activities

I'm down to a couple favorites for BabyG's new name: Grasshopper I really like. Verdita I decided against, in the end. I like G-pers, G-minor, G-whiz, and am also considering just making the G her and dressing up as we feel, as we go. Recently a friend suggested Greenhorn, which I think is funny, but not the right name. Have to confer w/GreenDaddy.
We haven't discussed Gpers' media tastes in the blog. Ever I think. And though I take inordinate pleasure watching her move gravel around or discover fallen leaves, there are actually times when we read books or watch the computer.

I read her books after taking her out of the bath in the morning, and before I get ready. Then, throughout the day we read on and off. And GreenDaddy reads her to bed at night.

Her first favorite book was a popular one: Moo Baa La La La. "A cow says moo, a sheep says baa, three singing pigs say, "La, la, la..." Since she was a little over a year old she's had at least the animal sounds memorized, and now she can actually recite most of the pages if it occurs to her to do so. Reciting this book while I'm driving the car or she's upset or sleepy is generally a surefire way to settle her down.

Or it was, until To Market To Market (this is a link to Amazon because I like reading the book reviews there). It's based on Mother Goose's:

To market, to market, to buy a fat pig,
Home again, home again, jiggety-jig.
To market, to market, to buy a fat hog,
Home again, home again, jiggety-jog.
To market, to market, to buy a plum bun,
Home again, home again, market is done.

Anne Miranda, the author, sends an old lady to the market for a farm's worth of animals, one at a time...but everytime the old woman returns from a trip to the market, the last animal she bought has escaped: the pig leaves the pen (uh oh!), the goose gets loose (uh oh), the goat eats her coat (uh oh)... You get the picture.

In the end the woman decides its no good trying to imprison or eat the animals, so she ends up taking them all to the market and together they buy tons of fabulous tomatoes, okra, corn, potatoes etc, go home and make vegetable soup.

I found the book listed in somebody's Amazon list of vegetarian books for kids. I guess this is vegetarian, but it's vegetarian in crazy, lovely way. No animals get eaten-- in fact at the end, the old lady and her menagerie snooze together on the kitchen floor. My hunch was that Gpers would be fond of it in a year or two because the illustrations -- very cool collages of vintage photographs from markets and cartoons -- seemed a little old for her.

But, of course, I remember reading all her books and thinking: no way my baby is going to like this, and then it's what she loves the most. As it went with this book. She loves the "uh ohs" in the middle of every rhyme. Sometimes that's all it takes.

Video Games

Boohbah Zone. I found the site Googling. The website refers to a BBC show called Boohbah, that I believe was only on air a couple seasons. Made by the Teletubbies people. We eventually rented the cd to discover the program is actually stranger than Teletubbies. But on the computer game version, Gpers loves watching the Boohbahs dance.

Kneebouncers is Gpers other favorite game. Boohbah I have to move the mouse around for her, except in a couple games where she's learning to do it just in the last few weeks. But Kneebouncers uses the whole keyboard: she has to push any key at all and it makes little things happen. She loves it.

Animal Noises we just click around and listen to sounds she loves to hear.

Stories at Nick Jr We (I) especially like the the Grumpy Bug, read by Sandra Bernhard.


You Tube. That's right. When GreenDaddy failed at hooking Gpers on the Daily Show, he made his way to YouTube and got the baby hooked on cat madness.

GreenDaddy likes to comment that watching YouTube has made him think television and movies aim to high: people are satisfied with very little. These cat videos and slide shows Gpers is addicted to are a case in point. She will watch cats, dogs, birds, any of these things. Sometimes we just watch the opening to Boohbah, which is on YouTube, and which is usually about as long as she's interested.

My First Signs by Baby Einstein. When I'm getting out of the shower and she's just bathed, I set her in the chair while I get ready, and she watches this on the computer. She calls it Boohbah. She's learned the signs since she's watched everyday for about a month, and even though she knows the words for most of ths signs already, she loves having something to do with her hands. The whole family has a crush on Marlee Matlin, the actress in the video. I've watched snippets of her talking with puppets (who don't have any arms or hands: strange in a signing video) at least 50 times, and I still like watching her.


Grandma Two things Gpers asks for in terms of the computer: Boohbah (any of the videos or the games) or Grandma. Grandma is my mother, who has a web cam. It took awhile, Gpers recognizes and asks after my pixelized mother with regularity. She's coming to visit the end of October and I think we're all curious to see how she reacts to a 3D Grandma.

We're wondering if she'll demand real life Windows Live Messenger my mom sends little cartoons or what have you, that last two or three seconds. After we all talk about ten or fifteen minutes, Gpers starts asking for them. Will she expect 3D Grandma to produce them in the air around her head?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

On the Lust for Water

After an hour-long ride from Gandhinagar to Ahmedebad, I am coated with dust and grit. I desperately want to wash my face. The building where Kalapi uncle lives is one of several in the Azad or “Freedom” compound. The rows of concrete buildings remind me of the Robert Taylor Homes in Chicago. The first time I went to visit him, I thought, “My uncle lives in the projects?” Inside, however, the apartment is conspicuously clean and well-kept. Kalapi uncle asks if I want to freshen up as soon as I walk in. The two-bedroom unit has one bathroom. I turn the faucet and nothing comes out. Not a drip. There are two buckets filled with water in the corner. Water for the day. I want to take off all my clothes and dump both buckets over my head. I know that I can make do with a cup full of water to wash my face, but I want to consume it all.

My father and Kalapi uncle grew up in a small town together. My father became a physician and immigrated to the United States. Kalapi uncle stayed behind in India and worked for a bank. He was the artistic cousin-brother. In the apartment, he played a cassette tape of Hariprasad Chaurasia performing Megh Malhar while we drank tea. He sprinkled the conversation with verses of Gujarati poetry, which were lost on me. His daughter chose the science and engineering track, though. At the time of my visit, she worked with India’s space agency at their headquarters on Satellite Road. In the corner of her bedroom, I could see her computer. It looked like a second-hand 286, but she had it covered with a sheet of plastic to protect it from the dust. I could not make sense of their situation. How was it that they had educations, solid middle-class jobs, and just two buckets of water to last them a day?

Gujarat, the area of India where my family lives, was in the middle of two years of drought when I visited in 2002. Over the five months of my stay, I got an education in water scarcity. A whole vocabulary – water tanks, tube wells, bore wells, step wells, pumps, bunds, catchment ponds, Bisleri, and Aquafina. I came to recognize rivers where there was only a long stretch of cracked earth. Rows of eggplants where there was only a parched field. Temple ponds where there were only dusty, old steps. I memorized the times of day and night when the city would most likely let the water flow through the pipes, for half an hour or fifteen minutes. Sometimes the water never flowed. In 2000, the drought got so bad that water had to be brought in by a train and tanker trucks to the city of Rajkot, where my cousin Dr. Jatin G. Buch lives. People said it was the worst drought in 100 years. Wells that had functioned for generations no longer yielded water, because the ground water levels dropped and weak monsoons had not replenished the supply.

According to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the average water use per person per day in India is 135 liters or 35.6 gallons, whereas the average in the United States is 575 liters or 152 gallons, more than four times the Indian rate. These figures mask huge variations. People in Phoenix, Arizona use more than 1,000 liters of water per day to keep their lawns green, more than seven times the Indian rate. Villagers in Gujarat, especially those in the Saurashtra and Kuchchh regions, use far less than 135 liters per day. Women there often have to carry their water on their heads to their homes. Carrying 1,000 liters for a family of seven on one’s head is out of the question. That would be 455 pounds.

There are tricky questions of how water use is measured, by person or household, domestic use or total use. The average single family usage calculated by the American Water Works Association is just 262 liters of water per day or 69.3 gallons, but that does not include water used in offices and commercial establishments – the water in the coffee at Starbucks, the fountain outside the office building, the beautified highway medians watered by automatic sprinklers.

I cannot stop at comparing averages. They are not enough for me. I am thinking of my family. I need to understand the material difference between my life and theirs. I stay with them in their homes. We drink tea and eat kakra together for breakfast. We eat pau bagi for lunch. We fold up our feet under our legs when a woman comes in the afternoon to sweep the floors. They ask me what I think of microwaves, if they really do help prepare food more quickly. We compare our lives relentlessly. You make more money, but we have the closeness of family. You have every kind of food available in the grocery stores, but it will never be as fresh as our market vegetables, as the ladiwalla’s karela. These comparisons are a fundamental part of our lives. A daily calculus even when we are continents apart. The comparisons give us insight into what it is that we even want from life, but they can crush the soul. Every aspect of experience is on the table – familial bonds, leisure, access to jobs, physical stature, mobility, water.

According to our own water bill, MaGreen, Grasshopper, and I each use 66 gallons per day at our home in Houston. I am not sure how I use my 66 gallons. We do not water our lawn since the green goddesses do that pretty well for us. Now that the baby is nearly potty trained, we don’t need to wash many diapers. My showers are not that long. No hot tub. I suspect that our regular use of the dishwasher, the washing machine, and the toilet flushing are the main culprits. None of my family in India use those appliances. The woman who sweeps does the dishes and the wash by hand. They used eastern, “squatting” toilets that take a small splash from a bucket to flush. (The toilets in the US seem to flush with a vengeance, as if the excrement must be made to feel that it can never return.)

During our last trip to India, I asked my cousin Malay how much water his family uses, but he does not know because they pump it out of a well. Though they live in a city, the municipality does not supply them water. Malay did show me was his rain harvesting system. The roof is slightly tilted to channel water into a pipe that deposits it into their well. “We live near to the sea,” he said, “so if we use too much water the entire supply will become salinated.” This civic sense seems to be missing in the United States, the idea that we all must take some responsibility for our shared resources.

I remember going on a trip with my parents to Arizona. As we drove by the green lawns, I criticized the gross misuse of water in the desert and I expected my parents, having experience water scarcity as children, to back me up.

They said, “The desert should be made green. Why leave it undeveloped? Gujarat should learn from Arizona. Environmentalism is fine, but they want to stop dams before India has a chance to develop.” Although my parents immigrated to the US over thirty years ago and have lived outside longer outside India than they did in it, I began to see that their sentiments were shared by many Gujaratis and that civic mindedness can be claimed by people on opposing sides of the same issue.

In 2006, the Gujarat government raised the level of its Narmada river mega-dam to 120 meters. The estimates of people displaced by the project range from a few thousand people to one million. Several villages of “adhivasis” or tribal people were submerged by the water. However, water is flowing through an elaborate canal network from the dam to urban centers and villages all over Gujarat. The government claims that the value of agricultural production increased by one hundred percent in a single year.

One river has been killed to revive others. The tribals have lost their ancient way of life, but the Sabarmati, which runs through Ahmedebad, flows all year now. I wonder what Gandhi, who was Gujarati, would think. Would he accuse us of lust for water? In Gujarat, he seems to be an unwanted conscience. An honored but resented memory. When I went to Gujarat during the drought, you could hear the lust for water. It was a gurgling sound in the empty pipes and under the dry riverbeds. How much water does it take to slake the lust? Is sixty-six gallons even enough? The logic of our lust for water is cruel. It is not to be measured by volume but in units of compassion and desire.

Water is supremely practical. It is a clean pair of pants. A glass of water. It is a washed, smiling baby. But at another level, I am not trying to secure adequate water. I want the water dripping from the woman in soap commercials on television. I want the mystique of water rushing through a machine, water splashing our already clean dishes over and over and churning our unstained clothes. I want the water in our water heaters hot even when I am miles away at work. I want to know that the damn is there, a sea of our own making. That we can transform the land, make it wilt or make it green.

I went back to India a few months back. My cousin Amit had bought a washing machine and installed Western toilets. He asked me if I wanted to freshen up and showed me his new bathroom. There was a bucket in the corner for taking a dhol bath. “We have a shower too,” he said. “And don’t worry about the water, you can take a shower like you would at home.”

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Pages Torn from the Franklin Day Planner

Switched Grasshopper (name of the day) to training pants, completley. That was a couple months ago, but I keep forgetting to mention it. She's about 96% trained, has been for the last two months. Some of that 4%: sometimes she pees the bed. Sometimes she's too interested or absorbed in the world to stop and pee. Like in a Tuesday Morning discount chain store, where I've stopped to pick-up a board book for a party we're on the way to...and where totally soaked through pants force me to buy the only outfit in her size, a tank top and pants with a split down the butt and ruffles in it...:

Visited Keith and Theresa's -- two major Gs of Green -- and checked out the amazing, environmentally responsible home they're making out of this neat concrete that is 3/4 air. Even little Grasshopper can pick up big chunks of the block. And they have a pond and tons of frogs. And their house is smack dab in the middle of Houston...It can be done! Neato.

Prepared for Tropical Storm Humberto, who snubbed us. A week or two before the storm, though, we had a river in front of our house after a regularly heavy rain:

Lost keys at the Hari Krishna Temple either while cartwheeling with Marcia, Pearl, and Carrie, or chasing the ecstatically dancing children, during Earth Dance 2007. Luckily Grasshopper seems to be a natural at ecstatic dancing, so even though we spent an hour and a half looking for our keys and still didn't find them, she found a 21 month year old groove and went with it, instead of melting down (like her parents). At nine thirty our friend Charles rescued us in his pickup truck(Marica and family had left when her kids' stomachs started roaring). Later, against all odds, I found a spare car key surrounded by gooey, sticky, humidified cough drops, in the bottom of a black purse in the back of the terrifying tool/tape/shadowy/coat/probably-cockroach closet.

Painted the livingroom Mesmerize purple, using Sherwin Williams no VOC Harmony paint. It is incredible, a lovely color that actually looks like the sky right before it turns night-dark. It doesn't look so good on the computer. We started painting the second part of the room in Aurora Gold but GreenDaddy was unsure if the contrast made the room look more like Mardi Gras in general or the Minnesota Vikings' outfits -- and this is very apparent on the computer:

We had to go back and buy a more sophisticated stone brown, which we haven't painted on yet, and we'll save the yellow, which is actually very pretty in real life, for a bedroom. And: hardly any fumes. I liked that Harmony.

Multiple Choice Confession:

a) Grassroots campaign to bring back the prairies
b) Important experiment on the length of grass and overall compost health
c) Too otherworldsly occupied to tend to the lawn
d) All of the above
e) A little BS, a little of all of the above
f) A lot of BS, a little of some of the above

Bought and/or helped arrange tickets for: GreenDaddy's parents to visit at the first of October, my mother to visit at the end of October, and We Three Greens to have Thanksgiving with my aunt and uncle in Missoula, where they have a lovely new (an unburned :)) cabin in a place called Rock Creek.

Bought a bed for our parents to sleep on when they stay. We got this regularly $500 IKEA mattress from the special sale section of IKEA and bought the cheapest full bed frame to go with it, which we luckily liked better than the frames one or two hundred dollars around that range. (I like IKEA mattresses because they're the cheapest mattresses you can buy PBDE free...) At home, I spent four long hours assembling the frame. Then I put the mattress on to discover it was mislabeled. It was a Queen sized mattress that dwarfs the frame I almost killed myself assembling. We looked for the receipt and of course, though we have every piddling receipt for everything else we did that week, we threw the major purchase receipt away. So now we'll try to sell the frame I wasted important hours of my life assembling.

Developed a taste for Tofutti just this morning.

Phew. GreenDaddy, the ghost of Green Parenting, has a fabulous post he's holding out on. But that'll be up soon...

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The Big L.I.

I'm going to use my favorite BabyG names in the next few posts to see which ones feel the most like our little sweetie pie. Today's name of choice: Verdita (and variants).

GreenDaddy and I have been very busy the last two years doing all sorts of little things to make the world better for Verdita: we learned to compost, planted a garden, switched to 100% wind energy, joined a food co-op, searched out local and organic foods, turned more to buying used goods, got rid of one our cars and didn't buy a new one, we started avoiding petrochemicals, stopped using shampoo (usually), switched to nature store deoderant, joined freecycle to lessen our junk load in the dumps, & continued recycling, even our glass which means driving it to the recycling plant off Highway 59 and Westpark.

There's a lot more obviously green things out there we're not trying yet, but we're working toward: I want rain barrels and solar energy and a xeroscaped lawn and a meadow on our roof and less energy sucking cracks in the home and less time in the car and more efficient fuel and all sorts of things, these are just the first that come to mind. I think we'll get around to most of these things, as our life progresses.

But there are some difficult things you have to do to make the world better for your children, and you can't twiddle your thumbs and do it when you're ready.

First thing sounds silly, but it's on my mind a lot: we have only planted one tree in our yard, and we've cut three down. Choosing where to plant a new tree, what kind to get, thinking about how it will grow, whether or not it'll bump into the neighbors' trees...we keep getting caught in this indecisiveness that means there are three years of tree growing we have wasted in this house. I feel bad about that.

But I feel worse about the big L.I. Life Insurance. And how we still haven't bought any. Even though, like a tree, it's something you need to have planted last year. Once, GreenDaddy's work was going to send over a man to give him a checkup, and we totally forgot. That's the closest we ever go to it.

We're caught up on questions the way we are with the tree: how much should we buy? from whom? what kind is best? how will we know we have the best deal? Basically, we just want to have already had it. The rigomorolle is daunting. But daunting in this way we have no business of actually acceding to. Because there's this little former baby, Verdita, who needs us not only to do what we can to save the world, but also needs us to provide her some kind of security in case we don't survive the world long enough for her to grow up in it.

Our whole parenthood we've struggled in accomplishing legal and financial issues, the way I think a lot of people who don't want to be materialistic do. You don't want money to matter. You want the way you raise your baby to be enough. And I do think the way you raise your baby is a lot. But then, you, meaning I, I really want to make sure GreenDaddy and the baby, or just the baby, can recover as gracefully as possible if I kick the bucket. Money isn't all they'd need to do that, but having no money, and being short a parent, or two, isn't what I want for the baby either.

We did finally get around to writing a will, and we got it notarized, a few months ago. So our next hurdle as financially and legally responsible parents is the insurance thing. I wasn't sure this is something that belongs on Green Parenting...but it's a parenting issue we're grappling with and I wondered what other people are doing, how other people are faring on this front, and what other perspectives on the issue people have.