Elephant graveyard

Cardinal feathers

Car­di­nal feath­ers

We’ve lived in our new house for about four months now. In that time, my wife (bless her) has col­lect­ed and dis­posed of two dead squir­rels, a ful­ly grown but dead rab­bit, and a mori­bund car­di­nal. We do have dogs, but nei­ther of them are com­pe­tent enough to have caught any of the above.

Which leaves either a neigh­bor­hood killer (cat, moun­tain lion, hexa­va­lent chromi­um?), or the mys­ti­cal: our new back­yard is the neighborhood’s ele­phant grave­yard, where dying ani­mals go to leave their bones. Or in our case, car­cass­es.

Per­haps this is not an unusu­al num­ber of dead things? But in our pre­vi­ous four­teen years of home own­er­ship I can think of… well, one poi­soned rat, one thread­bare squir­rel, and two ani­mals I killed with a lawn­mow­er (a wee baby bun­ny and a garter snake). So, that’s four in four­teen years, ver­sus four in four months.

Methinks some­thing is up.

Simplify: our pre-sort laundry system

When we first moved in to our house in Lawrence, we got a pret­ty big walk-in clos­et in the mas­ter bed­room. We’d not had one like that before, and imme­di­ate­ly set about using it to sim­pli­fy our laun­dry tasks.

Before this, we’d col­lect all our laun­dry in one bas­ket (occa­sion­al­ly we’d try two, whites and darks). We’d do laun­dry on the week­ends, and it would invari­ably require a tedious sep­a­ra­tion of the laun­dry (usu­al­ly onto our bed) into warm whites, warm col­ors, cold whites, cold col­ors, tow­els, and jeans (fam­i­ly of four, dontcha know). Then we had to spend all day doing all that laun­dry, lest we end up with a slight­ly small­er huge pile of laun­dry on our bed when it came time to sleep. Then you end up with Mt. Laun­dry on the floor.

Instead, and armed with all this extra clos­et floor­space, we bought six laun­dry bas­kets. I gave in to my OCD and labelled each as above, warm whites, warm col­ors, etc. Then we trained the kids (and our­selves) to sort the laun­dry in situ, as we went. Undress, sort your clothes. When it came to laun­dry time, we just picked up a bas­ket and off to the races.

This had the added ben­e­fit of let­ting us do one load of laun­dry every night, leav­ing the week­ends mer­ci­ful­ly free of laun­dry chores. In prac­tice, we usu­al­ly have two or three loads to do on a week­end, but that beats six loads in one day (or sev­en if we went through a lot of jeans).

One of my great­est con­cerns in find­ing a new house was whether we would be able to accom­mo­date our six ham­pers. As it turns out, not quite. We have four in our not-walk-in clos­et (whites and col­ors), the tow­els in a bas­ket in the linen clos­et (big linen clos­et) and the jeans in a bas­ket at the bot­tom of the laun­dry chute. Yeah, we got a laun­dry chute.

Regard­less, the sys­tem still works, and I haven’t had to sort laun­dry in five years.

On having boys, instead

A while ago, a friend prompt­ed me to think about what it means to me to have two boys, instead of the girls I so pub­licly want­ed when we were preg­nant. I came up with a response then, but thought it might be worth flesh­ing out my thoughts some more. For my ben­e­fit, at least.

(File under: I like myself bet­ter when I have time to be intro­spec­tive)

I was raised by women. Mom, three sis­ters, and (ear­ly on) a maid. Dad has always been there, yes, but he’s a very orga­nized, dis­ci­plined man, not the sort to con­sort freely with messy kids. (Yes, Sweet­ie, there’s some of that in me, too.) So I believed that I under­stood, when I was approach­ing father­hood, what it was like to raise a girl. More impor­tant­ly, I had no idea what it was like to raise a boy. I nev­er had broth­ers, injured my pride ear­ly on when it came to sports, and found my com­fort­able niche among the geeks (all of whom were boys: rev­el, cur­rent-gen geeks, in your geek girls).

My girls were going to be cute, cud­dly, lov­ing, some­times pouty and weepy, always ready to melt a heart and be… well, girly. Their clothes were going to be bet­ter, and yet they could read the boy books and do the boy things that I did, too. I sore­ly want­ed that. Plus, I had the best name picked out.1

But we knew it was a crap­shoot, and I did not want to be dis­ap­point­ed at the birth of my child, so we specif­i­cal­ly asked after the gen­der at our ultra­sound. And sure enough, there was a penis, front and cen­ter. I had a lot of time to get used to the idea, and I did. When our first boy was born, I was in love, scared wit­less, and so very, very tired. By the time I was rest­ed enough to think again (some six months lat­er?) there wasn’t any bit of my desire for a girl left. And real­ly there’s not a lot of dif­fer­ence between a baby boy and a baby girl, except how you have to be wary dur­ing dia­per changes.

When we got preg­nant for a sec­ond time, I went through it all again, but with the added pres­sure of know­ing this would be our last child, too. And we asked about the gen­der again, and we got a penis again. And sure enough, when he popped out, there it was. And again, I con­fess to no dis­ap­point­ment then, none at all, whether it was masked by exhaus­tion or whether I’d burned it all up over the preg­nan­cy, I don’t know.

I do know that as I have watched them grow up (they are nine and five now) I’ve had times, twinges, my wife called them, when I have wished for a girl again. Not to replace my boys, cer­tain­ly, but to add to the mem­o­ries and the expe­ri­ences I’m hav­ing watch­ing them grow. Two boys is a won­der­ful, gar­ru­lous, whiny, heart­warm­ing, bond­ing, bruis­ing thing, no doubt. I do some­times won­der what it would be like with some girly­ness mixed in.

But in the end, I’m okay with two boys, instead. As they say: with teenage boys, you need to pay atten­tion to where the penis is, but with teenage girls you need to pay atten­tion to all the penis­es. I’ve hand­i­ly avoid­ed most of the dra­ma that accom­pa­nies own­ing a teenage girl, and yet I get to raise my boys as sen­si­tive young men in a world that could cer­tain­ly use some.

And after all, you love them all so much it hurts.

When my eldest con­fessed, when he was five, that his secret favorite col­or was pink, I shed a lit­tle tear for future him and loos­ened my grip on the girl I will nev­er have.


  1. Maria Vio­let. Maria after my sis­ter, and Vio­let for my wife’s Grand­moth­er. Sigh. 

I need a new hat (style)

I have very lit­tle hair left on the top of my head, and I can­not stay inside all the time. Sum­mer cometh, and to pro­tect my bald head from sun­burn, I real­ly need a hat. In fact, I need two hats, one for gar­den­ing, and one for out­ings. The dif­fer­ence? The gar­den­ing one can be butt ugly (amirite, Mark?)

I own many base­ball caps (or, at least three, a Paw­sox hat from a long time ago, and two KU hats). They are fine, but I feel like I could use a dif­fer­ent hat, or a dif­fer­ent kind of hat. Back when I was a cal­lous youth, I owned a fedo­ra. It was nice (and oh, so Gods-awful­ly geeky), but I don’t think I car­ried it off well, even then, though I was that rare teenag­er who didn’t care. I’ve also owned a… safari hat? Wide brimmed and beige. I used it most­ly for gar­den­ing. And, of course, I have a lot of Win­ter hats, but this is Spring/Summer we’re shop­ping for.

But, what kind to get?

I have found, on Wikipedia, a nice illus­trat­ed list of all the kinds of hats in the world. From this list, I have drawn the fol­low­ing final­ists:

For gar­den­ing:

  • buck­et hat
  • for­eign legion hat (with neck… uh, skirt)

For being out:

There’s anoth­er prob­lem, too.

My head is large. Not size-8-clown-head large, but 7 5/8, which is pret­ty big. What this means is that “one size fits most” does not include me, which knocks out most Inter­net shop­ping. I’d also like to see what they look like before buy­ing, which means find­ing a place local­ly. In the area there are a few hat shops, but most do “hats, hand­bags, and acces­sories” or “all the base­ball caps you could want!” One that does stand out seems to be The Miss­ing Piece, well reviewed on Yelp, and with two loca­tions. Any­one in the KC metro who has an opin­ion is wel­come to share it!

I’ll let you know how it goes.