23 March 2007

little kitchen

i knew those 3 years of cabinet making would come in handy at some point. that, and my life long propensity for scavenging. i got the idea to make cosmo a play stove when i saw a homemade one that pearl and carrie had at their place. it was made by a friend from an old cabinet, and the kids seemed to love it. i've wanted to get a stove for cosmo, but the ones i've seen that i like cost over 80 dollars, and i didn't like them that much. i knew i could make him something, but i wondered if i'd ever get around to it. i ended up using an ikea box/shelf that a friend gave us as the base. i found an old wooden drawer on the street last week, which became the shelving on top. we salvaged some scrap tongue and groove pine panels from the construction site across the street and i used that to make the door, which has a little plexi-glass window. the only thing i spent money on was the hardware, and that came to about 10 bucks. i saved an enormous amount of time by choosing not to paint any of it. i realized it would look much nicer if i just left the natural wood colors, and painted some stenciled burners. i have to admit, i am quite proud of how it turned out, and most of all, that i actually got it done --so that cosmo has a chance to play with it before he out-grows that sort of thing. so far he seems to think it's pretty cool.

13 March 2007


we just finished watching the last of the four part series when the levees broke—a documentary by spike lee about hurricane katrina, the aftermath, and the affects on the community, the black community of new orleans, in particular.

even though i already knew a lot about what happened, and how horrible it was, and how fucked up the government response was, and still is—and even though i already knew that the crisis is far from over, that it has only just begun…i was still shocked by the film. each of the four sections seemed to highlight a further injustice. different from the last, not worse exactly, but no better.

i thought about what it would be like to live there when the mandatory evacuation orders came. would i get out? what if i didn’t? what would i have done? where would i have ended up? who would i have been with? in many of the shots of people making their way on foot, through flooded streets, or being rescued by boats or helicopters, or huddling together in the superdome, or waiting [and waiting and waiting…]to board a bus out of town—in many of those shots of people, children are present. you see mothers with babies, toddlers, older kids. i try to imagine myself in any less-than-ideal situation with cosmo, and i just crumple up and sob. caring for an infant or small child in the best of circumstances can be so incredibly challenging. any of us who have kids knows this. when you consider that these families, these young mothers with several children, or older couples with grandchildren, anyone with small children in their charge, dealing with appalling, dangerous, life threatening, hopeless and confusing situations…for days on end, weeks, months—trapped and at the mercy of incompetent, racist, stressed and stretched authorities---who have no ability to care for all of them, and no plan to even start—it is enough to make you go insane vicariously, or in sympathy.

then you realize that the trauma of the hurricane, the immediate disaster, of the storm, levees breaking, massive, unprecedented flooding, and the horrendous “survival” conditions of the so-called shelters…this short term trauma, which actually went on for weeks, even longer for some…you realize this was just the beginning. life after katrina for these people, not just the ones who were there when it happened, but even for those who left—life after katrina is, in many ways, worse than surviving it.

injustice piled upon injustice. insult to injury, salt rubbed into every open wound. motherfuckers not giving people any compensation, any way to rebuild some fragment of their lives after they paid every month their insurance premium outta their measly pay check just to try to protect what little they had…for 50 years, believing somebody would look out for them if something happened. believing people would do what they said they would do in exchange for your monthly payment for 50 years and nothing. “here. $600. that’s all you are entitled to.”

and what you hear about on the nightly news all around the country is the fraud from all those free loading welfare queens spending all their FEMA money on crack or whatever the fuck…middle class white america is so offended by fraud. by theft. by looting. but only when it’s done by poor desperate black folks. the good hands of allstate can fuck everybody inside and out while the good neighbors of state farm rob pillage and plunder the working poor who did what they thought was right all along only to be left. with nothing.
no thing.

tip of the iceberg folks. i could keep going. but i better not. you get the picture. i urge you to see the film. though it doesn’t do anyone any good…the least we can do is look. this is what carl says about the iraq war, and why he refuses to turn away, day after day, as it just gets worse and worse, more and more hopeless, more and more tragic and devastating for the people of iraq, and the families of all who are dying. seeing does nothing. but there is nothing that can be done. we cannot stop it. the least we can do is witness this senseless catastrophe. we owe it to our fellow human beings not to look away.

12 March 2007

serious fun

cosmo, like most toddler's, enjoys a lot of different kinds of activities. sometimes he flits around from one thing to another, barely pausing to investigate before his attention is diverted by some glint of sunlight off a speck of mylar on the floor, or a crane fly buzzing against the wall. other times, he becomes enthralled with what he is doing, and stays at it for...well, i wanna say hours, but it's more like 20 minutes or so. the only time cosmo stays in one place for hours at a time is when he is sleeping.

some activities are exciting, funny, hysterical even. like peek-a-boo with his silk curtain, or chase (he gets so thrilled in anticipation sometimes, he almost falls over). other physical games involving dancing, swinging upside down, flipping, spinning, bath time fun, or games with silly faces or sounds make him laugh uncontrollably.

but some of the things that capture cosmo's attention are not funny at all. they are quite serious. stacking blocks. nesting tin cans. playing with white beans. bubbles. looking at books. drawing. he gets a very focussed look on his face, is not easily distracted, and makes little sighing-grunting sounds of exertion, even if he is merely lifting a hollow 1 inch X 1 inch box.

in montessori they call whatever the child engages in work. in our house, we just call it serious fun.

07 March 2007

nature boy

cosmo has recently shown an interest in the natural world. maybe he just loves to take walks, and walks happen outside, and so that's where all the exploration takes place. i like to think he is becoming an amateur naturalist. he loves plants, yesterday he kept trying to hug a small rosemary bush in pearl and carrie's back yard. when he spots a flower, he is compelled to go right up and "sniff" it (which consists of blowing air out his nose while his face is pressed up against the flower). in general, he is pretty gentle with plants, he touches them carefully and gasps and makes his "oh, wa-ow" sound, as if he is simply in awe of them.

we were monitoring a gerber daisy blossom as it began to unfurl in a pot on our back patio. when it finally reached full bloom, cosmo was so taken with it that he accidentally pulled off half of the petals in his enthusiasm. i was a little disappointed at first, but quickly realized he didn't mean it, couldn't have known better, and that those petals probably felt wonderful in his fist. plus, watching them scatter before him was delightful. one way to know about something is to take it apart...examine it, play with it, and often even taste it.

i happen to be the kind of person who learns about things (still) by tasting them. if i can't figure out what something is made of, i bite it, or touch it to my tongue. i'm not usually afraid to try plants i believe to be edible, and it's a big thrill for me to forage for things growing "wild" in urban or rural environments. perhaps this is why carl got me stalking the wild asparagus, by ewell gibbons for xmas this year. i don't mind if cosmo wants to eat some clover, or dandelion, because i know these things are safe. but as carl, and anyone with any sense points out, cosmo can't know the difference at this age, and therefore should be taught not to eat wild plants--period. ok. but it seems like such a shame, and as soon as he can make subtle distinctions between shapes of leaves and shades of green, i will be teaching him to identify edible plants in his environment. i don't want him to miss out on such a satisfying simple pleasure. of course, i also don't want him to mistake poison hemlock for wild carrot, like i did in the berkeley hills in my early twenties. lucky for me i got to the emergency room soon enough, and all i had to do was take ipecac. i will definitely teach cosmo to have better sense than that.
earlier this week we went to the arboretum at memorial park. it was the first time we had gone since cosmo has been walking. he kept taking off into the brush to explore, but would get back on the path with a little coaxing. then he would run down the trail vocalizing, just to hear and feel his voice vibrate staccato in his chest with each bounce. tall pines drape the under story of the woods with their long needles. it reminded carl and i of silver icicle tinsel on christmas trees. cosmo enjoyed handling pine cones and looking at the turtles in the pond.

at the japanese garden in herman park last weekend, cosmo's favorite thing was the little waterfalls. he had a hard time staying on the path there too. he admired the flowers, and was careful not to pull off any petals.