Monkey got sick last week. It started with some abnormally calm monkey behavior, and progressed into frothy diarrhea and then on to projectile vomiting. When a 18 lb infant starts sending partially digested ravioli bits several feet across the room in a fire-hose like gush, it's time to call the doctor.

The poor little guy was so dehydrated from all his hydrotechnics that by the time he got in to the doctor all he could do was lay and stare. He barely moved when she poked and prodded him - this the guy who at his nine month appointment a few weeks ago was a two-foot-tall destruction tornado who barely paused long enough for the stethoscope to graze him.

The doctor’s orders involved pedialite (a rehydration drink for kids) and a dropper. His mom and I took turns sitting on the floor with little Monkey in our laps, feeding him a single ML of fluid per minute for most of the afternoon. (And alternately trying to keep Turtle out of the way: Monkey's only concession to lethargy was to shriek whenever his brother got close.)

I feel a little self conscious about turning poor Monkey's ordeal (who, five days later, is once again gobbling ... and processing ... everything in his path) into a lesson for myself. But I hear that's what parenting (or, nannying in this case) is about sometimes. So here goes: All of the frantic planning and applying and researching and DOING of the last six months has left me strung out and a little crazy. There is an endless list of things that MUST GET DONE NOW, and I have become so intent on multitasking, that I start freaking out if several things aren't getting done every minute that I'm awake. I have lost touch with my exquisitely lazy side in this season of planning and transition. But sitting on the floor, feeding a baby a drop of fluid every minute for several hours, left me feeling calmer and more centered than I have for months. What a crazy (and scary) way to be reminded. No wonder centuries of monastics have relished the mundane, repetitive tasks of their calling. I hope the rhythms of our (hopeful, future) farm - milking, feeding, mucking, chopping, weeding - will give us a taste of living out of that centered place (without, of course, the scary anxiety of a sick infant.)


overheard ...

on the airplane this week.

man: i got to know her, and we started talking about our kids. i told her about my little girl ... she was six at the time. just the light of my life. and she told me to enjoy it while it lasts. that her girl was so hard ... just difficult and it was the worst right then. she could hardly deal with it any more. she said it got bad after she stopped pretending.

woman: stopped pretending?

man: she said when she hit that age when she didn't have tea parties with her stuffed animals, talk to imaginary friends, play house ... when she stopped pretending, everything changed.



When Peter and I stumbled upon a little one-bedroom apartment in the charming (antiquated, declining) little riverside (glorified waste canal) town of Marysville, we were relieved. Every traditional apartment complex we'd looked into was pricy at best. With dog-fees, most wanted $1500 down - which we didn't have - and more a month that we could afford while attempting to save the necessary money to get the heck out of dodge. The Marysville place was small, but the landlords were an older couple - not a corporation - charged nothing more for the dog and had a yard. The building was full of other geriatric residents, and the only one who worked had a night shift. Rent: a paltry $250 - the same as Peter and I paid for our respective utility-free (as in, without not included) cabins in The Promised Land.

But as the old adage goes: You Get What You Pay For.

The Porch.
There is a nice sunshade curtain that is so old, it has melted into itself and the ropes used to lower it are welded to the wall hook. My one attempt to get it down last fall ended in some minor disintegration (think : touch a mummy, create a dust pile.) The porch light has a brand spanking new bulb, but the wiring is shot. You have to tape the light switch halfway up to keep it on at night.

The Kitchen.
The tilt-a-whirl oven comes with several unique features. I bought an oven thermometer out of desperation a few weeks in, to discover that not only is the internal thermostat off by about 100 degrees, but *which way* it's off depends on the phase of the moon. There is so much internal angle that the first batch of brownies I made came out a well-done 1/8 of a inch on one end of the pan, and a very gooey 1 1/2 on the other. Each burner on the stove has a different angle, so you have to be careful to only fill a pot so full if you are only left with the North Face version, let your noodles end up all over the kitchen. Also, the sink water occasionally comes out yellow, sometimes brown. The landlords were horrified when they found out I'd been drinking straight from the tap.

The Floor.
Of course the stove is a little 'off' because the floor is a little 'off.' So 'off' that a ball will roll from one end of the apartment to the other with no help. The kitchen tiles are new, but the carpet was laid down in the early 50's. There is a water stain the size of a good-sized human in the hallway. (More On This Later.)

The Ceiling.
It's a good thing we are short. Every time I get dressed in the bedroom, my hand smacks the ceiling light. It's only a matter of time before it shatters. In the bathroom, taking a shower is a dangerous undertaking. I have cracked my funny bone on the ceiling over the tub (the low-end of the apartment) so many times you'd think I'd have developed a reflex.

The Bathroom.
In addition to the minimalist-headroom, the tub drains so slowly (despite paychecks worth of liquid plumbers and excavation equipment) that a stopper is utterly unnecessary if one wishes to enjoy a warm bath. If you'd like a shower, you'd better be shorter than me. The water temperature is great if you only use the hot tap, but the showerhead comes out just at the back of my neck. And I'm a short 5'4.

The Heat.
Although the place comes equipped with four radiant heat heaters, they are controlled by forces beyond my understanding. 1) I am still not sure which position the pull tab needs to be to keep the vents open. But this seems be irrelevant because 2) the apparatus is made of metal, so even with the vents closed, heat pours into the apartment anyway because 3) it seems that the level of heating is entirely dependant on if our landlords are home, and if they are cold. They control the fate of the upstairs tenants. There is a major snowstorm brewing this weekend. I hope they aren't going out of town.

Apartment of Death.
Apparently the last three tenants have vacated to their final resting place. I would like to think that this is because of their age and (according to the Landlords) smoking habits. I'm not so sure any more. Peter and I are convinced that there is toxic mold brewing under the death-stain in the hallway. Evidence as follows: Fruit/Veggies left out overnight develop a nice fuzz within' 24 hours. Whenever the place is swept/vacuumed (stirring up dust bunnies of death) whoever cleaned/was around afterwards is horribly sick the next day with a nearly debilitating but strangely ambiguous malaise. We are both constantly congested (unusual for us) and have started producing awfully bloody stuff and (on peter's part) spontaneous nose bleeds. Last week, I sat on the floor next to the death-stain for hours and hours getting Wedding Invitations assembled. By the 4th hour, I was feverish and ill. By the time Peter came by after work, I was hardly capable of conversation. He got me out of there for a few hours. It cleared up almost immediately in the fresh, bitter winter air. The real kicker: all of our symptoms go away when we leave town. For as long as we leave town.

That's the funny thing about cheap rent: You end up spending all the extra money on duct tape, leveling blocks, Drano, elbow-braces, light fixtures, extra sweaters and socks (for when the landlords leave town with the heaters off to conserve energy), and dehumidifiers/air purifiers/KatrinaRita-mold-mask-specials. I'm just glad Pete's working at a natural foods store, so we don't have to spend money on (organic!) groceries. It all evens out in the end.



I am going to reply here to Dan's Post on the current media frenzy around the Cartoon Fiasco brewing (or brewed and somebody's about to get served?) in Europe and the Middle East. Peter and I had a discussion about this a few weeks ago, and I'll try and summarize (articulately) it here.

First, here are a few things one needs to take into consideration:

The Source.

The article referenced in the blog was from CNN. I won't go into my views on US media sources here, but suffice to say that a key component of research classes is first to be critical of any source you get and second to get information from different (and ideally conflicting) sources. A spot on BBC radio news last weekend was by a correspondent who is actually in Damascus - where many riots and embassy burnings are taking place. She noted that the VAST majority of protesters were there to peacefully march in protest against the cartoons (more on this in a minute.) A few late-teen/early-twenties boys, trucked in from elsewhere, chanting and fully prepared to wreak havoc, were the ones who broke security lines and appear on the alarming photos plastered in the media.
The first comparison that came to mind was the WTO protests that pop up every few years. Lots of people show up and march peacefully with their kids in strollers and duct tape over their mouths. A couple of lanky, scruffy anarchists show up throwing rocks at starbucks. The WTO photos we see? Scruffy anarchists being tear-gassed and dragged away in cuffs. Al Jazeera, for example, has a different story to tell.

The Context.

Besides not believing everything you read, you need to be aware of your context. The way the West views their relationship with the Muslim world, and the way the Muslims view that relationship are VASTLY different. To The West, there are a bunch of religous nuts freaking out about a sort-of offensive, largely innocuous cartoon and responding in violence (and remember now, most of this violence is staged by zealous 20 yr olds trucked in after being pumped up with rhetoric ... something most zealous 20 yr olds have a weakness for.) To them, there has been building tension (especially considering the historical/contemporary oppression in Europe of Muslim colonies/immigrants) for innumerable years, recently fueled by this whole "Rebuilding The Middle East To Look Like and Support The West" thing, and the cartoon for them is a SYMBOL that they can rally around. They can use this as an example to try and help us see how different we see things.
I am almost afraid to make this comparison, but bear with me here: Thousands of people bussed down, marched and protested in support of a SYMBOLIC act by an African-American woman on a bus in the South. In historical context, we see the building tensions and differing perspectives. We hear now about the peaceful, non-violent followers of Dr.King ... but at the time, there was violent protesting going on as well. Not everyone took the billy clubs and water canons sitting down. We don’t celebrate race riots in the US, but we understand them. And we remember both sides.

My point here is only that you have to have be aware of where you are standing. A lesson well put in the children's classic The Phantom Tollbooth about Point-Of-View.

A caveat : Violence in less developed countries is far more common than in first world countries in part because of more developed justice systems, police forces and investigative capacities. Not necessarily because of superior morals. Most of Latin America is nominally (and in many places devoutly) Catholic, yet violence we would consider horrific in the US is commonplace because the perpetrators are in charge, or those in charge don’t have enough clout to do much about it.

The Religion.

Not to be a stickler here, but there have been plenty of crazy-violent ‘Christian’ attacks on various perceived ‘threats’ to one’s belief systems, morals, whatever. (Remember violence-caveat, please) . And if one wants to, one can just as easily justify violent action against immorality and religious insult (Did you hear about the Christians suing AOL this week about their use of the I AM slogan?) There is plenty in Islamic scripture to support violence. Just as there is in Christian and Jewish texts. It depends on the interpreter and the climate (The Climate During the Crusades, for instance.) Growing up in Indonesia (83% Muslim) and working there during and after the 9/11 attacks, I’d say the only potential for violence I saw was … you guessed it … zealous 20-somethings fueled by misinformed rhetoric. Scary enough that I evacuated twice. But not because I was afraid of the bus driver and the factory worker and the banker and the Imam. It’s because zealous rhetoric filled kids can get away with some scary shit in a third world context with slipshod justice systems in place.

Now, I am not saying that what they are now calling a “global crisis” isn’t. I’m just trying to point out a couple of reasons why it may be about more about politics than religion. It's no secret that religous rhetoric can be very useful in a time of war.