August 24, 2007

A story about how people are nice, if you are nice to them.

So last weekend, we were on our way back from a wedding in New Orleans. The combination of having too much heat+too much beer+too much head cold+not enough sleep had left us depleted, to say the least. And I somehow managed to leave my cell phone in the New Orleans airport, which I did not discover until I was roaming around the Atlanta airport. Needless to say, I thought my phone (which, btw, is only about a month old) was pretty much lost to the world.

But that was not the case! Somehow, my phone ended up in Richmond Virginia. I do not know how. But it was found there by some nice man named Jamar who works for AirTran. Jamar had what was evidently a very confused conversation with my father in law, who randomly called my phone while Jamar was trying to figure out what to do with it. Moved to help, Jamar looked through my phone book and exhanged a whole series of text messages with brandon (noted in my phone as my emergency contact) and concluded that what would be most helpful is if he sent my phone on the next plane to Midway airport, where I could pick it up.

Wasn't that nice of him? Unfortunately, at that point, things got a little an effort to be helpful, Jamar evidently sent the phone to Midway via AirTran's inter-office mail system, so it did not immediately appear to the Midway people as lost baggage. And I spent a lot of time on the phone with Midway this week saying "um, Jamar was supposed to send you my phone...?" They could not find my phone. All week. And again I feared my phone had gone missing.

But! Yesterday a woman named Marcie called from AirTran midway, saying that she had my phone in hand. I asked her if they could hold on to the phone until Monday, because I had company coming and a one-year old (Elliot was sqealing lustily in the background) and lived an hour away. She said she would. And then I asked if there was a good way for me to let Jamar's manager know that I was very grateful for his help, and also that I was very grateful for how nice all the Midway people were to me when I called every half hour all week.

Now, you have to imagine being Marcie, and working at a baggage claim at Midway Airport. Can you imagine anything worse? Okay, maybe working at a baggage claim at O'Hare is worse. But really: I suspect that working at a baggage claim pretty much involves being yelled at. Most of the time. Awful.

Anyway, Marcie seemed to be really touched that I was not only not yelling at her but actually thanking her. And she at the last minute offered to FedEx my phone. For free. Because clearly it was going to suck for me to get down to midway from Rogers Park with a squawky one year old. She said, "I know how it is." And she sent my phone overnight express! It arrived at my door at 8:45 this morning.

Anyway, all this sort of begs the question of why Jamar didn't just offer to fedex my phone last sunday, which surely would have been even more spectacular customer service. But let's not think about it that way. People are busy. And it's just nice, I think, that in the midst of doing unpleasant and busy jobs all these random people made a little bit of time to help compensate for my bleary forgetful self.

August 23, 2007

Do your babies do this?

Our baby is constantly wraping things around his neck. What kind of things? All kind of things. If he can wrap it around his neck, he wants to, and if he can't wrap it around his neck, he's more or less not interested. If you take away the thing he's wrapping around his neck, he sighs mournfully.

I had always assumed that those people who claimed you should get rid of all cords prior to having a baby were crazy hypochondriacs, or whatever, but it seems they were on to something.

August 21, 2007

A bit more about lead

. . . from Slate today.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention consider blood lead amounts under 10 mcg/dl—the amount present in many toddlers—safely below the "level of concern."

As it turns out, according to numerous studies (e.g. The New England Journal of Medicine, April 2003), this sort of level can permanently impair your brain by about 7 IQ points. The scientific community is apparently aware of all this, but the relevant CDC advisory committees have been de-scientisted, and packed with lead industry folks.


August 13, 2007

First fever

On the way home from Ann Arbor, we realized that Elliot had a fever. His wee head was all warm, and he was hoarse and sad and weepy, and also coughing (hard enough to puke up his lunch at one point). He was in sort of a pitiful state. So we got him home, washed him off, and put him to bed, feeling glum about him and sorry for ourselves a bit, too.

But sleep has fixed all things.


August 10, 2007


AE posted the following in a comment to the blog:

How to answer the question, what is more sustainable, leather from cows who emit carbon gas and drink like 200 gallons of water a day and ruin land, or, plastic, which never degrades? Where are the value judgment reports on such things?

This is the kind of question that most parents with any kind of environmental consciousness -- and maybe most people in general -- are asking themselves these days, in different forms. It's a huge part of the disposable vs. cloth diaper question, for instance.

I have an answer in my own mind, which I'd like to share, at the risk of taking this blog way off message.

There are various kinds of pollution: air pollution, water pollution, soil pollution. And there are various kinds of losses: loss of topsoil, loss of wilderness and forest, loss of animal life (i.e. fish populations), loss of human life and health. All of these are bad, right? But some are reversible. Fish populations are way down, but if we get smart, they will be able to rise again. The things that worry me are the non-reversible losses of something that is definitively valuable.

If Elliot gets a high level of lead in his system because of a nearby factory emitting something into the air or the water, that affects his brain development, and it's completely irreversible. And BAD -- the value of Elliot's brain, to me, is inestimably high. He is affected and I am affected.**

Or take my car. It puts a bunch of CO2 into the atmosphere. We don't know how to take it back out again. And everyone is affected; everyone values and shares the atmosphere, an item of which (like Elliot) we have only one.

But you know what has relatively minor effects? A landfill. Compared to every other kind of environmental impact I can think of, a properly constructed landfill is largely innocuous.

Will plastic in a landfill affect Elliot's brain? Break an ecosystem? Change the climate? Vacate the oceans? Cause our topsoil to run into the sea? No. It just costs some money, and some land. (Which we can eventually use again.) (Some landfills do leak -- those should be fixed or removed.)

So my basic position, as someone proud to be an environmentalist, is that we need to do a LOT MORE about Every Single Environmental Issue . . . except landfills.

In "The Skeptical Environmentalist", Bjorn Lomborg calculates that the entire trash-dumping requirements for the United States through the next 100 years could be met by a single landfill of 18 square miles. However controversial that book has been, the landfill number has not been challenged, as far as I know. (Maybe MAC can correct me here.) 18 square miles, while large, is actually an impossibly tiny piece of America. Anyone who has driven across the country knows that the continent is, in real terms, basically empty. 85% of Nevada is owned by the federal government, mostly because no one has ever been able to think of a use for it. You could hide the 18-mile landfill somewhere in America, and, not knowing where it was, a person might spend 10 years driving around the country and never find it.

So that's my deeply felt answer to your deeply felt question. The paper vs. plastic, reduce/reuse/recycle media blitz is more or less a carny sideshow, while the real environmental crises are happening under our noses, and being ignored. (For example, American farmers continue to raise their crops in such a way that the runoff creates a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico the size of New Jersey. It's right there in the Times.)

Having said these heresies out loud, I'm going into hiding (somewhere in America).


** Check out Bill Bryson's "Short History of Nearly Everything" for a fascinating (seriously) chapter on all things lead. Today Americans have 625 times as much lead in their blood as they did a century ago. Atmospheric lead levels are 200 times higher.

August 07, 2007

So, now here's the thing about all this talk of baby shoes

Let's be clear that this pressing debate--robeez? pedipeds?--is kind of amazing. I don't know really where to begin. This conversation really makes me want to say: YAY INDUSTRIALIZATION! Yay modernity! Yay for the western world!

Because how fantastic is this? That we can have these well-made things for our baby's feet, and that not only will they protect him, but they will also be a little bit beautiful. We can afford these little bits of beauty, the kinds of thing that would have seemed unbelievably luxurious at basically any other point in human history, and in most parts of the world, still.

Talking about the incredible comparative wealth of our lives often leads to guilt, and anxiety. Who are we to waste our energy trying to decide which kinds of shoes to buy for the baby? Most babies don't have shoes at all. And it's true: when I think about infant shoes, I usally also think about Frederick Douglass's autobiography, in which he writes about sleeping outside when he was young. "My feet have been so cracked with the frost," he writes, "that the pen with which I am writing might be laid in the gashes." And here we are, so spoiled by our wealth, that we might actually choose for our baby to go shoeless, because it's better for balance, and because we can control his environment so carefully that shoelessness itself comes with essentially no risks.

I can think a lot of ways to develop this point--there are a lot of things to say. But right now, just really quickly, and without being greedy or taking it for granted or denying the global costs: I'm so glad Elliot has a life that affords him some beauty. I'm glad that he lives in a time and place where loveliness is possible, and walks with him whereever he goes.

And the Pronunciation Debate Winner is....Not Me

It is Brandon, or also Beck.

From the Robeez website:

How do you pronounce Robeez?
It’s pronounced Rob, as in Robert, the name of the founder’s son; and Eez, as in ease.

There you have it.

August 06, 2007

Reader Demographics

Okay, so thus far we have one vote in favor of the robeez knock-offs (thanks Annalea! So nice to meet you!), one strong vote pro-Robeez, and one vote anti-robeez, pro-Pedipeds).

Shown here is the Pediped "Harvey."

Anyway, all this to say that this discussion has not so much solved my children's shoe quandry as it has provoked another one: how do you pronounce that word, "Robeez"? B goes for "ROB-ease," while I think the correct pronunciation is clearly "row-bees." You be the judge.

August 05, 2007

Brand loyalties?

Around here, we are very dubious about baby shoes. They seem mostly to be about extra work, something else to keep track of--and Brandon, particularly, is exceptionally dubious about non-functional items of baby "fashion." If its just there for looks, he would rather it were not there at all. Add to all this the fact that shoes with any kind of thick sole at all are not good for baby feet or balance,* and basically we keep shoes to a minimum around here.

The shoes we have had have been Robeez, and we have loved them because they are a) darling, and b) functional, in that they stay on and don't get in the way of walking. We have had one 0-6 month pair (given to us by the fashion-saavy McDonough clan) and one 6-12 month pair. Now we are outgrowing these, and it is time for an 12-18 month pair, and I feel that we really should get some because it is going to be cold soon, and we're not going to want Elliot walking around in socks. Not that he's walking now, but we're heading that direction.

Which lead me to a question for you, O Internet: are the knock-off Robeez really as good as the real Robeez? Robeez are expensive, and it pains me to spend that much on bebe shoes. But it pains me even more to think about shoes that don't stay on. What do we think? Is it worth it to fork out the money for the brand name, or will the half-price target brand do me just as well?

*The Chicago Tribune ran a completely unhelpful feature discussing this point. The journalist interviewed a whole bunch of pediatricians who were completely opposed to anything beyond soft soft leather shoes, but then provided lots of pictures of absolutely darling baby shoes which you might choose to buy if you decided that pediatrician advice about your child's muscular development was not as important as coordinating your infant's shoes and handbag. Or whatever.

August 04, 2007

Small Note about Parenthood

It's a little hard on me, how messy it is.

Those who know me know that I am not by any means a clean person. It takes me a while to get up the momentum to really clean. And it just kindof sucks that when I finally do clean, it gets messy again so quickly. And not just messy, with stuff scattered around, but actually dirty. With drool, and ground cheerios, and nasty stuff smeared on things. Always. I suppose if you didn't have much else to do or think about, or didn't want to actually spend time with your child, rather than just cleaning up after him/her, you could stay on top of it. But it just seems so sisyphusian.

August 02, 2007

A Veritable Rumspringa of New Friends

Don't you think that friends should come in "rumspringas," the way that lions come in "packs" and whales go in "pods"? Or monkeys travel in "discos"? Actually monkeys don't come in "discos", but we have always felt they should. We also think the unit of a group of newts should be the "spool". But anyway: Elliot has some new friends.

First, we have not mentioned that one of B's childhood friends Courtney and her husband Rod had a bebe girl six weeks ago now: her name is Gizele, and we just met her and she is delicate and darling--so pretty, with a lot of hair. And she is thriving! Mad props to Courtney for being so gracious and composed in the midst of what has been, by any standard, a pretty exhausting pregnancy/new baby process.

Second, my cousin Jessica gave birth to her much anticipated son, Ilias. Illias and Jessica and her husband Thodoros live in Athens, and while I have not yet seen any photos, what we can basically anticipate about Illias is that he will be the most gorgeous human being in the world, at least until my other cousin Erin, Jessica's sister, has her baby in November. Jess and Erin are spectacularly beautiful, and nice too, and artists/art critics, and they are just amazing and I am so happy that Elliot will get to be friends with their lovely kinder.

Finally, I have just learned this morning that two of my old planetarium friends are in the family way: Lindsay has a new son named Zeke, and Kelli will have a baby in October, which I figure means that as Elliot grows up he will, in the children of these fine women and their clever husbands, find both mathlete teammates and drinking buddies. Lindsay and I have a long-standing deal that if I read our bebes bedtime storie, she will teach them about astrophysics. How's that for reciprocity! Also, here is some more good news: Kelli has a blog! I would like to send her a big, virtual high-five, and say: Kelli, I understand. About the beer. We had to tell our good friends I was pregnant very early because the first time I turned down a beer they knew something drastic was up.

August 01, 2007

General Update

There's much to tell you about the last week, which we spent in Utah with B's family and friends. But here's just an abbreviated list of Elliot news. In the last week, Elliot:

*Charmed a plane full of Mormon missionaries, bound for Rome
*Slept past 6 am four nights in a row
*Went boating
*Successfully "cruised" from one piece of furniture to another
*Tried repeatedly to let go of the object upon which he was leaning and stand independently
*Seems to be increasingly associating sound with communication
*Occasionally, if not consistently, made use of the "more" sign
*Climbed a flight of stairs
*Climbed down one stair, but many times