February 2008

Do you feel a draft?

The back, current state.
See the dark green and white tiles? One of the many levels of flooring. Everything has to come out. Even those big huge floor joists. Everything. It all has to be gutted — soon this will be just earth and roof, with the main house and the new room on either side holding the sides of the roof up. Since this room is off the kids’ room and our room, the bedrooms are really, really cold.

Click on the picture for a better view. Paul removed all electrics… finding two live wires in the wall. He capped off the gas line (number 4 — little black tube.) He cut the sewer line (number 7). And is getting ready to remove the floor on the other side of the house and do much of this all over again.

The pulled wire.
Debris — just from one side of the floor. It’s amazing how much debris comes out of a house!

Home and Renovation
Home and Renovation

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Pay It Forward

A few days ago, I opened a beautiful gift — a handmade necklace from a local artist — wrapped up with style and packed with love from Shokufeh, who decided to pay some kindness forward after being the recipient of a gift from another blogger. It literally made my day. Looking at it reminds me of how simple it really is to bring joy to another person.

Carrying on this kindness, I’m looking for 3 bloggers who are interested in joining in on the PIF… strangers, lurkers, friends-of-friends welcome. Leave a comment or send an email and I’ll figure out who and what in the next week.


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E-L-M-O. And The Dog.

On Saturday afternoon, we made Paul clean himself of debris from the back and walk around the block to Octavia Books, a local bookstore that also was one of Will’s first words. (He loved walking in the bookstore during our walks around the block and would request “Octavia Books!” as a way to tell us he wanted to go for a walk.)
Here is Kate. Storytime had ended and we were waiting for The Big Event.

Elmo “signed” a book (a bookstore clerk stamped it with Elmo’s signature) and I took some pictures.

Then, the day continued. Paul and Will went to the back to work on the house and Kate and I walked hand-in-hand to Whole Foods. We had just walked into the parking area when Kate saw The Dog. I had to tighten my grip on her as she tried to run with all her might towards the animal, who had noticed Kate and was equally struggling to reach her. The dog was probably a year or younger, of medium size, golden like a retriever with a fluffy tail and with big floppy ears. Very Cute. The dog and Kate finally met at the door, where they kissed and hugged and squealed with delight. I said to the woman holding the dog’s leash, “What a cute dog.” She hopefully replied, “Oh, the dog is up for adoption. He needs a home.” I looked down at Kate loving on that puppy. Uh-oh.

“We have a cat,” I quickly replied and scooped her up. We said goodbye and went into the store. Kate was great in the store, but I was worried about having to walk past the dog again. Then, I saw the dog’s keeper in produce — so I assumed that the dog had already found a home.

WRONG. We left the store and found the dog and woman again; she’d put the dog in the car for a second to get him a some watermelon. The Kate-dog love fest began again, with even more intensity. Seeing the dog was even more exciting to her than seeing Elmo, if you can imagine such a thing. I was getting desperate.

“My oldest got bit by a dog when he was little and is deathly afraid,” I lied, knowing full well that Will has been begging for a dog for weeks.

This time, when I scooped up Kate, she began to cry. “Doooooooggggggg, Nooooooo, DOOOOOOGGGGGG!” She wailed, reaching with all her might over my shoulder.

And then, the dog started to whimper. Over her cries, the garage filled with his whimpers… followed by (and I am not making this up) his HOWLING. So there I am, holding a snack of groceries and a squirming, crying Kate who is reaching behind me calling out to this dog who is whimpering and howling to her.

I am pretty sure this puts me in striking distance of “The World’s Worst Mommy” award. But we are not getting a dog!!!

Mi Familia
Special Family Moments

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I can’t get the news of Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence out of my mind.

Why were we so quick to recognize Kosovo? What importance does it hold? Is there some sort of latent guilt for the years of Balkan wars where so many were tortured at the hands of the Serbs? (Yes, yes, atrocities occurred on all sides. However, the Croats, the Bosnians, and the Albanians all suffered many, many more deaths — both civilian and military — at the hands of the Serbs. Some of these atrocities occurred in front of UN troops assigned to the protect them.) What would our stance be if other ethnic majorities within areas of other countries — the Kurds in Turkey/Iraq, for example — declared independence? Didn’t the treaties that stopped NATO attacks in Kosovo imply some sort of intent of keeping Serbia together, similar to the federation-style set-up used with Bosnians? I don’t speak from a place of expertise here… I’m just trying to get my head around it.

Moreover, I was really moved by this book and what it means for a civilian population to be targeted and isolated. I’ve been addicted to her for months. I do not have faith in NATO or any other allied group to protect the vulnerable. The genocidal massacres at Srebrenica occurred in front of UN Security forces, who rolled back without once standing in protection of the civilian populace. This happened a year after Rwanda, four years after seeing what the Serb forces did in Vukovar. We’ve shown that we cannot bring ourselves to say the word “genocide” even when we know it is occurring because we’d be obliged to act. It makes me think that the only way to stop genocide from occurring is to help negotiate healing and understanding, not encourage nationalism and independence.


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I don’t care how "low the water is" — these people are crazy.

Yesterday afternoon, Will saw a picture of Mount Everest with hikers climbing around in some area low enough and far enough away that they were relatively mildly dressed and outfitted. It was such a causal picture that it almost didn’t seem out of the ordinary for Will to suggest, “we should go hiking there one day.” I explained that this was the tallest mountain in the world and that it was very far away and very dangerous. No matter, he was hooked: “Mommy, can we go there? Can we hike on the Tallest Mountain In The World???” (The fascination was extreme; he spoke those last words in Capital.)

Somewhere, the universe is laughing at me. Because the one thing I made Paul swear he would NEVER, under ANY circumstances take up was extreme mountaineering. I do not want to ever be in a position where I am biting my nails while someone I love is playing that roulette game with nature: the Into Thin Air IMAX convinced me of this. It would figure that Will is now fascinated with the idea of climbing Everest. (Mental Note: work on instilling fear of heights into children.)

We now have a second “No You CANNOT, Not EVER, NEVER.” I don’t care how the water is low and the current mild. This is crazy!
h/t: growabrain


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On this Valentine’s Day…

When I taught at Michigan, I used to put an overhead of this up on the board as students walked in when I had class on Valentines Day. Sort of sums up my thoughts on the whole Valentines thing*. It had a lot more bite to it in the days before Blood Diamond and was a great launch into discussing the paradigms around relationships.

Share it with someone you love on this Valentines Day. (You can find online copies of it here.)

Ten Reasons Why You Should Never Accept a Diamond Ring from Anyone, Under Any Circumstances, Even If They Really Want to Give You One.

By Liz Stanton, CPE Staff Economist

1. You’ve Been Psychologically Conditioned To Want a Diamond. The diamond engagement ring is a 63-year-old invention of N.W.Ayer advertising agency. The De Beers diamond cartel contracted N.W.Ayer to create a demand for what are, essentially, useless hunks of rock.

2. Diamonds are Priced Well Above Their Value. The De Beers cartel has systematically held diamond prices at levels far greater than their abundance would generate under anything even remotely resembling perfect competition. All diamonds not already under its control are bought by the cartel, and then the De Beers cartel carefully managed world diamond supply in order to keep prices steadily high.

3. Diamonds Have No Resale or Investment Value. Any diamond that you buy or receive will indeed be yours forever: De Beers™ advertising deliberately brain-washed women not to sell; the steady price is a tool to prevent speculation in diamonds; and no dealer will buy a diamond from you. You can only sell it at a diamond purchasing center or a pawn shop where you will receive a tiny fraction of its original “value.”

4. Diamond Miners are Disproportionately Exposed to HIV/AIDS. Many diamond mining camps enforce all-male, no-family rules. Men contract HIV/AIDS from camp sex-workers, while women married to miners have no access to employment, no income outside of their husbands and no bargaining power for negotiating safe sex, and thus are at extremely high risk of contracting HIV.

5. Open-Pit Diamond Mines Pose Environmental Threats. Diamond mines are open pits where salts, heavy minerals, organisms, oil, and chemicals from mining equipment freely leach into ground-water, endangering people in nearby mining camps and villages, as well as downstream plants and animals.

6. Diamond Mine-Owners Violate Indigenous People’s Rights. Diamond mines in Australia, Canada, India and many countries in Africa are situated on lands traditionally associated with indigenous peoples. Many of these communities have been displaced, while others remain, often at great cost to their health, livelihoods and traditional cultures.

7. Slave Laborers Cut and Polish Diamonds. More than one-half of the world’s diamonds are processed in India where many of the cutters and polishers are bonded child laborers. Bonded children work to pay off the debts of their relatives, often unsuccessfully. When they reach adulthood their debt is passed on to their younger siblings or to their own children.

8. Conflict Diamonds Fund Civil Wars in Africa. There is no reliable way to insure that your diamond was not mined or stolen by government or rebel military forces in order to finance civil conflict. Conflict diamonds are traded either for guns or for cash to pay and feed soldiers.

9. Diamond Wars are Fought Using Child Warriors. Many diamond producing governments and rebel forces use children as soldiers, laborers in military camps, and sex slaves. Child soldiers are given drugs to overcome their fear and reluctance to participate in atrocities.

10. Small Arms Trade is Intimately Related to Diamond Smuggling. Illicit diamonds inflame the clandestine trade of small arms. There are 500 million small arms in the world today which are used to kill 500,000 people annually, the vast majority of whom are non-combatants.


* Collier, Paul, “Economic Causes of Civil Conflict and Their Implications for Policy,” World Bank, June 15, 2000.
* Epstein, Edward Jay, “Have You Ever Tried to Sell a Diamond?“, The Atlantic Monthly, February 1982.
* Global Witness, “Conflict Diamonds: Possibilities for the Identification, Certification and Control of Diamonds,” A Briefing Document, June 2000.
* Human Rights Watch/Asia, “The Small Hands of Slavery: Bonded Child Labor In India,” Human Rights Watch Children’s Rights Project.
* Human Rights Watch, “Children’s Rights: Stop the Use of Child Soldiers.”
* Kerlin, Katherine “Diamonds Aren’t Forever: Environmental Degradation and Civil War in the Gem Trade,” E: The Environment Magazine.
* Le Billon, Philippe, “Angola’s Political Economy of War: The Role of Oil and Diamonds, 1975-2000,” African Affairs, (2001), 100, p.55-80
* Mines and Communities, “The Mining Curse: The roles of mining in ‘underdeveloped’ economies,” Minewatch Asia Pacific/Nostromo Briefing Paper, February 1999.
* Other Facets, Number 1, April 2001; Number 2, June 2001; Number 3, October 2001, www.partnershipafricacanada.org/hsdp/of.html [dead link]

*Full disclosure: I do own a diamond that I consider to be one of the most precious things we have. It was Paul’s Grandmother’s engagement ring from the 1920s, set in a completely one-of-a-kind ring that she designed. I like to think that it holds a bit more innocence for it’s age, originality, and family history. But hey, I eat meat, heat my house, take long showers, and own clothes that came from maquilas, so I am in no way innocent. Even still: I have never bought a diamond.


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Will Picasso

Will (wearing Kate’s cowgirl hat) poses beside his drawing of a mermaid in the ocean (see the waves?) with the sand beneath her (see the tan sand?)

Back at work on a new masterpiece.

Part way through his next creation: Mardi Gras Float. Fuzzy thing to the left is beads. Green person to the extreme right corner is a person watching and catching. Notice that the float has several layers and wheels.


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Will on Home Renovation

“How do you get underneath a bathtub to put them in?”

“You first build where they are going to go, then you carry then in and put them down.”

“But how do you build the pipes?”

“You get under the house and put in the pipes underneath. Maybe you can crawl under with me and I’ll show you the pipes.”

“I don’t know about that,” his face scrunches up, “there’s a lot of creepy, crawly bugs down there.”


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Recent Questions: Will Edition

“Mommy, where do mouses come from?”

“Can we get a dog?”

“How do fish breathe?”

“Do trees breathe?”

“Do trees eat?”

“Why does wind move trees?”

“Why does Kate always take off her shoes?”

“Can we pull over so I can poop on the side of the road?”


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