Public Transit and Summer Fun (Plus tips on vacationing in Pittsburgh!)

Warm weather is here, and I’m looking forward to summer!  We won’t be taking any big vacations; most weekdays, I’ll be going to work in my office as usual, and our seven-year-old Nicholas will be attending art and natural history day camps at the Carnegie Museum while his dad works from home.  I take a city bus to work, getting off right in front of the museum, so it will be easy for me to take Nicholas there each morning.  I’m looking forward to riding the bus with him again like I did for three years while he was in preschool!  I have missed my commuting companion since he started going to a school within walking distance of our home.

I will admit, it’s a little bit annoying that he has to pay to ride the bus now and that the transit authority doesn’t sell bus passes for children.  Most days, Daniel will be picking up Nicholas and usually will do it by car, so Nicholas will be paying child’s fare for only 5 rides a week, a total cost of $5.50–much less than the $22.50 price of a weekly pass.  At least we’ll be able to avoid the hassle of finding exact change every day, by buying ten-trip ticket books, which they do sell in a half-fare version; the price is the same ($11 for 10 rides) but the tickets can’t get accidentally spent on something else!  If I drove him to the museum and then parked my car all day in the neighborhood, I’d burn through that $11 every two days!  (Parents of day campers get a parking pass for the museum garage, but it’s good only for short times for drop-off and pick-up, not for a full day.)

On the bus, and while waiting for the bus, I can read books to Nicholas–or my first-grade alumnus can read to me!  That’s another change from his preschool days.  I look forward to sharing more stories with him and having more reading time than we do at bedtime.

Every day, we’ll get to walk together from our house to the bus stop on the main street.  Our route to school goes the other way, and it’s been striking to me these last two years how much of the daily excitement of our neighborhood Nicholas misses by not hitting Murray Avenue every day!  (Sometimes I’ve taken him for a walk in the evening to see a digging machine, an antique storefront newly exposed during a renovation, or something else of interest that may vanish before the weekend.)  We’ll ride past a new apartment building every day and watch its construction. Read more…

What’s inside your smartphone?

Let me begin by saying that, although I do not own a smartphone or any kind of cellphone, I do own an iPad, and I know it contains many of the same components as an iPhone.  Let me say also that I am not attacking Apple Computer in particular; the article to which I’m linking depicts an iPhone and focuses on details of that particular product, but other brands of smartphone contain these same things, and other companies may be even less responsible in obtaining them.  I have preferred Apple products to other computers ever since I first started using computers in 1977, and I love my iPad, but there are some important facts we high-tech users all need to face.

The Scary Truth About Your iPhone is an interactive graphic in which you can click on app icons to read about the ingredients and labor practices that make an iPhone.  Follow up by reading this article about gold mining in Congo.  Look at the pictures.  Did you know that right now, here in the fabulous world of 2012 when an encyclopedia and telephone and typewriter and camera and calculator and jukebox and newspaper and worldwide shopping catalog all can be packed into a sleek little pocket-sized device, right now on this same planet there are people who spend their days pounding rocks with an iron bar, mixing the dust with water and mercury, and heating it in a pot over a fire to refine gold?  That’s where gold comes from: Poor people working hard with no protection from toxic fumes to eke out tiny amounts of precious metal they can sell to buy food.  Smartphones also contain rare earth elements, whose mining produces radioactive waste that is rarely handled responsibly.

So, does that mean we shouldn’t have smartphones or computers? Read more…

Change diapers in bathrooms.

When our child was wearing diapers, Daniel and I found it very easy to stick to this simple rule that teaches the child good habits for the future, simplifies clean-up of your hands and anything else that’s soiled, is more courteous to the people around you, minimizes the spread of germs, and is respectful of your child’s privacy: When you are in a place without a designated diaper-changing area, change diapers in the bathroom. 

Of course, there are some public places where the bathrooms have no changing tables and the floor is far too disgusting to kneel on.  Many parks, for example, have restrooms that are damp, dark, and dirty.  Others have portable toilets, where there simply isn’t space to change a baby.  In places where the bathroom is unusable, change diapers in a private location, on grass or an easily-cleaned surface.  The only situation I can think of where it is truly necessary to change a baby right where you are is on an airplane or long-distance bus, because the bathrooms there are so tiny and there’s really no other space available–you’d have to use your lap or the floor in front of your seat.  Read more…

Our Favorite Publisher of Affordable Books

I recently had a birthday and was very pleased to be given three books from Dover Publications.  Daniel knows that I can never get enough floor-plan books, and Dover prints gobs of great ones!  They also have a wide selection of nonfiction, classic fiction, children’s books,  coloring books, how-to-draw books, clip-art collections, puzzle books, nature guides, textbooks, and lots more.  Most of their books cost less than $20.  They have a great environmental policy, yet their recycled-content paper looks and feels better than the pages of many other publishers’ books.

This is not a sponsored post.  I am writing this just because we think Dover is a great company and want more people to know about them!  Dover books are available from most bookstores, as well as from their own catalog.

In addition to floor-plans, I particularly like Dover’s illustrated history books.  Read more…

Saint Maybe

This week, Modern Mrs. Darcy is hosting a carnival in which writers link to their articles about The Book That Changed My Life.  Check it out to find some great new things to read!  I, of course, can’t pick just one book but linked to my list of Books That Blew My Mind.  However, there’s another excellent book I recently reread for what must be the 6th or 7th time–I can’t say that reading it changed my life in any huge way, but it’s such a very enjoyable and well-written novel that I think everyone should read it!

Saint Maybe by Anne Tyler is a very warm, real story about a 17-year-old boy named Ian who makes a selfish, impulsive decision that triggers his big brother to commit suicide. Ian then winds up joining a church (of an interesting fictional denomination) and finds healing by raising his brother’s stepchildren. The story covers 25 years and is told from the perspectives of various family members. The dialogue, sensory descriptions, and Christian insights are just wonderful!

Maybe it didn’t change my life, but Saint Maybe is one of my favorite books.  This time through, I learned it’s a great choice for reading in the waiting room when the future of one’s own family is in question, because this is a story in which love shines through and stuff works out for the best, even when it didn’t look that way at first.

Morning Conversation (starfish and princesses)

The scene: Our dining room, 7:00 a.m.  Nicholas is eating a Grape-nuts Smile.  Mama is eating Tomato Toast and reading the newspaper, wherein she discovers some facts that might interest a 7-year-old.

MAMA: Did you know?  The starfish is not really a fish.  Also, it has no brain and no blood.

NICK: Did you know?  Some princesses are not really princesses.  They are made of garbage bags stacked up and painted different bright colors.  With lipstick.

(A moment of startled silence passes.)

MAMA: I did not know that.

NICK: Well, I did not know about the starfish having no brain or blood.  But I knew it was not a fish.  Anyone can see that.

How our thrifty, green lifestyle makes it easier to cut ourselves some slack

Longtime readers may have noticed that I haven’t written much lately and didn’t write an article about what I learned during Lent like I have most years.  Well, that’s because this year, I was pregnant for Lent.  No, of course that wasn’t the Lenten discipline I planned!  It was a surprise (not a mistake–we all were happy about it) and I fully intended to continue with it through November, but on Maundy Thursday my ultrasound showed that the embryo might be dead, and 12 days later it was confirmed a few hours before a Tuesday church potluck.  In future I am going to try to schedule all possibly-worrisome medical procedures for days when I can go to church in the evening, because that “peace of God that passes all understanding” that we’re always talking about was really there for me, and my pastors and church friends (as well as my family and other friends) have been so loving and caring!  I’m really pretty much okay now, so let’s get on to the real topic of this article:

For 4 weeks, I was not functioning normally.  Read more…