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.