Snow (day) candles

Our school district closes school at the drop of a hat… or a snowflake.  Last week we had a “rain day.”  To be fair, the predictions were for serious snow, but it was just rain that sometimes got a bit flake-y, with zero accumulation.  Now we actually do have a few inches, so natch, no school for two days.

I was teaching yesterday so Sarah was on duty.  It was apparently a very crafty day.  Among other things, the gals made these Snow Candles.  You melt craft-store paraffin on the double boiler, then pour the wax in an indentation in the snow.  Add some colored crayons, and a wick attached to a chopstick (I think).  Anyway, they’re pretty cool!


Today’s project was making valentines for school (classmates and teachers).  I gave them a big pep talk about how much better homemade ones are — they seemed to buy it.

Target was predictably disappointing.  There’s a whole section of the store now dedicated to Valentine’s Day stuff, but no colored construction paper to be found anywhere.  It’s as if they’re actively hostile to the idea of someone making their own.  We bought some overpriced glitter and went to Dollar Tree, which had good paper for $1 a package, also various stickers and other decorations.  (There are girl stickers — hearts, unicorns — and boy stickers, cars and trucks; I made only the most half-hearted, because so obviously doomed, effort to question this opposition.)

They spent much of the afternoon creating these.

Pretty great, I think.  We also spent some of this weekend painting their bedroom pink, so all in all the household has become significantly more girly.  Out tonight someone observed that I had a single shiny glitter on my left cheek.

Oh, by the way, as we were walking into Target Iris told me that from a nature documentary they watched with mommy they learned about how you shouldn’t leave lights on when you don’t need them: “because if you leave a light on for too long, it makes it easier for the polar bears to catch the penguins.”

How to Make a Fruit-fly Trap

Take a glass and put some fruit-fly bait in the bottom.  A piece of tomato or banana works well.

Cover the top with saran wrap and poke some decent-sized small holes in the top [just realized my holes have been too big — they should be tiny, made with a pencil tip or some such].  Use a rubber band to affix.

Put the trap on your counter and let the hunt begin.  Every morning and sometimes every few hours subsequently I have to cover it with my hand and bring it outside to release the catch.  (I feel kind of silly letting them go free, but it’s too much trouble to kill them).  I find it kind of fascinating that the cup is often hot from the methane emitted by the rotting banana.

It’s gotten hot and sultry, and too many fruitflies buzzing around makes me feel like I’m in Baby Doll.

Photo 419

Drain Pipe Ditches

When we came home after over a month away we found a very damp basement.  No actual puddles or leaks but a kind of miasmic moldy atmosphere and, we discovered, some actual mold in some cabinets.

We went out and bought a new energy-efficient dehumidifier (we had one that looks like it dated from the 1980s).  But Sarah also suspected that we had a gutter-drainage issue and when she dug down to look, it turned out that someone had once tried to repair a broken drainage pipe with a plastic shopping bag.  So, we dug a whole new drainage ditch after going to Lowes and getting what we needed (the piping, etc).  Of course I would never be able to do this competently but Sarah was able to chat with the Lowes guys and figure it out.

So we spent yesterday afternoon and some of today’s digging the ditch and cutting tree roots with a pole-axe thing that Sarah was calling an adze.  Especially today in 90 degree heat this was really hard work and good exercise.

I developed a blister on my hand so at the Los Campesinos! show I couldn’t clap very enthusiastically.

When I badgered her for a figure, Sarah claimed that we may have saved about $900 by doing this ourselves.  I don’t know if this is true but I like the idea.

Let it rain!

Fatherhood in extremis: Laura Ingalls Wilder & Cormac McCarthy

I finally read The Road — almost the whole thing in one sitting in bed and then finished it off the next day.  It’s pretty harrowing.  I’ve been haunted by that recent article in The New Yorker, “The Dystopians,” about ““back-to-the-land types,” “peak oilers,”… all-around Cassandras, or doomers,” and others who believe the U.S. and maybe the world economy are bankrupt and that we are headed for some more or less minimalist post-economic, post-oil future.  The Road jibes very well with with that ideology, on the more horrific, apocalyptic end of the spectrum (after all, few of the “dystopians” appear believe that we will descend into mass cannibalism).

I was struck by how much The Road has in common with Little House in the Big Woods.  Ingalls’ book looks back at nineteenth-century homesteaders with affectionate nostalgia; McCarthy looks ahead to a dystopian future; but in either case, the whole world focuses to a parent trying to provide for the family by eking out sustenance from the land.

So, Ingalls’ Pa kills bear and deer, harvests wheat, carves wood, builds the cabin and insulates it; McCormac’s father rigs up the cart, makes a tent out of a tarp, kills a threatening vagrant, scavenges food, makes a lantern out of a can of gasoline.  It’s all about survival skills and protecting and getting food and shelter for the kid(s).  (Admittedly, Ma is just as important in Little House as Pa. There is a wife in The Road, but she only appears in one retrospective memory: she tells the dad “They are going to rape us and kill us and eat us and you wont face it,” and then she goes off and apparently kills herself with a sharp flake of obsidian.  Of course nothing at all like this happens to Ma in Little House.)

Basically, for me the narcissistic takeaway of both books was this: If the apocalypse comes, your fatherhood-in-extremis skills are crap and you will not be able to take care of your family. We don’t even have a working flashlight (the girls always leave it on and run out the batteries) or jugs of water in the basement.  God help us if I’m called upon to do something like this on no sleep:

He unscrewed the bottom panel and he removed the burner assembly and disconnected the two burners with a small crescent wrench.  He tipped out the plastic jar of hardware and sorted out a bolt to thread into the fitting of the junction and then tightened it down.  He connected the hose from the tank and held the little potmetal burner up in his hand, small and light-weight.

And no way would I have been able to use that map ripped into little pieces to navigate past the cannibal compound all the way to the sea.

I did get one good tip from The Road: when you first hear the bombs or whatever, immediately turn the bathtub on since the water supply will run out momentarily.  I’m all over that one, am excellent at taking baths.

Another unrelated thought I had about The Road: it winds up with what struck me as a Robinson Crusoe reference, as the father swims out to an abandoned boat and strips it for useful supplies, very much like Crusoe at the beginning of Defoe’s novel; perhaps a little joke or conceit on McCarthy’s part about going back to origins of the novel form.

It could be fun to do a Little House on the Road mashup along the lines of that Pride and Prejudice and Zombies paperback that’s all the rage.

A really good read, for sure, but for 21st-century apocalyptic fiction I’d still give the nod to Jose Saramago’s amazing Blindness (1998, actually; don’t be put off by the movie version which is supposed to be lousy).

Puppet Show: Mousie and Bunny — Fights and Friendship

Celie and Iris got a new puppet theater today as a belated birthday present.  They wrote and performed their first three-act play: Mousie and Bunny — Fights and Friendship.

Dramatis personae: Mousie and Bunny

Act I.

One day Mousie went to a puppet show and he met Bunny.

Bunny: I am the biggest bunny in the world!

Mousie: And I am the squeakiest thing in the world and I like to steal cheese.

Bunny: You are mischievous and I say STOP or I will put a trap out.

Mousie: If you do, I will put out a bigger trap.

Bunny: You are so bad!

They fight and start crying: Boo hoo.

Act II.

Bunny:  It’s your birthday Mousie and because your mommy is sick I’m going to make you a big cake.

Mousie: I’m going to bring the knives and forks and everything.

Bunny: I am going to give you the best birthday party of all.

Mousie and Bunny: YIPPEE!!!

They embrace and kiss.

Act III.

One day Bunny went to the Chocolate Moose store.  Then he saw his friend Mousie.

Bunny: Hey Mousie, why don’t we get chocolate with rainbow sprinkles.

Mousie: I want chocolate with chocolate sprinkles.

Bunny: No!  You should have chocolate with rainbow sprinkles, like me!

Mousie: No!  You should have chocolate with chocolate sprinkles, like me!

Both shout: You’re wrong, you’re wrong, you’re wrong!

And cry: boo hoo hoo.