Monday, September 21, 2009

Sprinkler System

One of the things that sold us on the house was the yard. Being on a cul-de-sac, we have a relatively narrow front yard, but the back yard is nice and spacious. It is well-landscaped and features a wide range of plants & trees. But it's the maintenance that kills me. I don't have much experience working in the yard, nor do I particularly like doing such menial tasks as weeding, pruning, and picking up branches & leaves. And then there was watering the lawn. All we had was a small sprinkler, connected to a garden hose, that covered a 8'x10' area. Given the desert climate we live in and the size of our yard, we have to water pretty often. It went something like this:
  • Wait until evening.
  • Move the sprinkler to a spot in the yard.
  • Turn on the hose.
  • Set the kitchen timer for 30 min.
  • Turn off the hose.
  • Move the sprinkler to another spot in the yard.
  • Turn on the hose.
  • Set the kitchen timer for 30 min.
  • Turn off the hose.
  • Repeat until the end of summer.
You get the idea.
Unlike the places where we grew up, residential sprinkler systems are fairly common around here. During the summer, if you don't water, the grass gets brown pretty quick. We knew that installing a sprinkler system would not only help us out in keeping the yard looking nice, but it would increase the value of our house.
I actually had planned on installing it last November, but it was delayed by various things. I spent a lot of time reading up on the subject and then designing the system. It turned out that most of the major irrigation manufacturers offer free design services - all you have to do is submit an accurate plan of your yard. I did this, but as I learned more about sprinkler design, I realized that the plan I had received wasn't going to really work. So I redesigned it, bought the parts, and got to work.
As with everything else I undertake, it took a lot longer than I had hoped. A couple of my friends came to help me dig the trenches. I'm definitely glad I rented a trencher, because without it, it would've taken a lot longer. The only problem is that it took some time to figure out how to use it properly (the guy at Home Depot didn't tell us it was supposed to go backwards, not forwards!), and because of that, there were a number of uneven spots and trenches that weren't deep enough. Also, there are spots where you just can't use the trencher - you have to dig by hand (a pick ax is the way to go).
One week later, I was ready to lay the pipe, install the manifolds, run wire from the timer in the garage to the valves, and install the sprinkler heads. I had learned enough from my reading and from other people that I basically knew what I had to do - it just took a long time.
A huge problem arose when I first tried to turn on the water where it teed off of the water main. I could turn the valve, but no water came through - it turned out that the valve handle had broken off! On the third time I'd ever used it! A friend helped me dig the 5' deep hole again to the stop & waste, and then I could replace it with a more heavy duty one. Lesson learned: when it comes to specialized components, go for the heavy duty ones that you get at the specialty store, in this case, the sprinkler supply store. The one you can get at Home Depot just doesn't cut it.
My final obstacle was to restore the grass. When it takes so long to finish a sprinkler system, problems compound. Not only does it put the yard out of commission, but the longer the grass is dug up and covered by dirt, the worse the grass gets. I ended up planting some grass seed where the trenches and holes were, and it's coming up nicely.
Now the grass is nice and green. Since I programmed it to run early in the morning, it's done watering long before we wake up. No more dragging the hose around the yard, and no more kitchen timers.
Andersen using a kite as an umbrella...

So, here are my lessons learned:
  • do your research ahead of time so you know exactly what you're doing
  • rent a trencher ($85/day at Home Depot, and well worth the money)
  • spending extra time with the trencher to make sure the trenches are at the desired depth will save a lot of time digging by hand
  • cut the PVC as you glue the pipe (instead of cutting everything first - I ended up with some very inaccurate cuts)
  • don't leave PVC primer & cement within a child's reach - it can give you chemical burns
  • make sure everything is done before backfilling the trenches - it'll save a lot of time
  • get specialized sprinkler parts at the sprinkler supply (not only was there a better selection of sprinkler heads & nozzles, but they were cheaper and better in quality than Home Depot & Lowe's)
  • use heavy-duty, all-brass components underground - you don't want to be redigging a 5' hole after you fill it back up!


Friday, September 18, 2009

Alena the Angel

Last week sometime when I was bemoaning Alena's new found grouchiness the thought crossed my mind that perhaps she hadn't changed, my hormones had. I imagine the real answer is that both of us are going through an impatient stage. Thankfully there have been a few moments in the last few days when Alena just melts my heart, and I think they would make me melty even without extra hormones.

1: The other day upon arriving at Lily's house Lily told Alena the she was drinking a juice box. Then with a bit of help she offered one to Alena. Alena, like a proper little lady, answered, "No thank you," with absolutely no prompting from me. (That is, if you don't count the hundreds of promptings from Kevin and I in the weeks preceding that day. Haha.)
2: Another day Alena and Lily were playing and I was out of the room for a bit when I heard Alena say, "Peese. I sit in the monster chair? Peese I have a turn?" No pushing, no crying, no coming to tell me to tell Lily to give it to her. Then when Lily answered, "In a minute" there was again no pushing, no crying, and no coming to tell me to tell Lily to give it to her.
3: I often ask Alena questions like, "Alena, are you a pretty girl? Alena, are you smart? Alena, are you a cutie?" She answers with, "Yeah, I peety. Yeah, I mart. Yeah, I cutie." Lately she's been cutting me off after a question or two to tell me, "I'n a . . . Child of God!" I'm going to have to thank the nursery leaders on that one. I taught that in family home evening once, but before Alena could talk. The best part of it is the enormous smile she gives when she says it, like she understands better than the rest of us that being a Child of God should bring us immense joy.
4: Yesterday morning I was listening to Elder Ballard's talk on mothers as I jogged. First just let me say that that talk is such a witness to me that Elder Ballard is truly a prophet and receives revelation from God. Old men without God's help can't possibly understand so very well how young mothers feel and what they need. As I listened to the section of what children can do to support their mothers, I got a bit emotional thinking about the day when my children will be able to thank me for clean clothes and a nice meal. Later that day I got one of the headaches I've been getting that seem impossible to get rid of and work through. I was cooking dinner a couple of hours into the headache when Alena pulled her stool up to see what I was doing. "You doing, Mommy? You cooking the food?" I told her yes. She responded, "Thank you, Mommy cooking the food." I almost melted into a puddle of love for her. But that's not all. A few minutes later when she took her first bite of the meal she said, "Mmm. It's b'licious!" And then she ate it all and didn't even ask for a peanut butter sandwich to wash it down.

It appears I have nothing to complain about, doesn't it? I love that little girl.

Dear, Courtlin. Here are some pictures of me loving that little girl. :)


Tuesday, September 15, 2009


You probably expected an uncensored video of a two year-old girl playing with rubber duckies and stacking toys. Who do you think we are? We don't give her rubber duckies and other "typical" bath toys!* Bathtime is a crucial time to train her to fend for herself in the real world. Who do you think she is? A regular toddler?


Alright, alright, we didn't ever teach her about cleaning the tub, faucet, or even her toys. Nor do we ever withhold any bath toys from her. Sometimes, she just wants a cloth, and she'll simply occupy her entire bathtime wiping everything down.
Her desire for cleanliness extends beyond the tub. She loves to clean the floor & walls, and wipes are one of her most favorite things. If we give her a wipe while at a stadium or in an airplane, she'll spend 10-15 minutes wiping down the seats & seatbacks. If we give her one at the grocery store while she sits in the "car" cart, she'll wipe every surface inside the car while periodically taking breaks to "drive" the car.
She obviously gets her cleaning tendencies from her mother, who especially prides herself in bathroom cleaning. Or possibly her Auntie Jojo or Mah Mah (aka. paternal grandma). A couple days ago, during bathtime, I asked her if she wanted to sing a song with me, and she simply responded, "No. I'm cleaning."

*okay fine, she does have normal bath toys, but she doesn't always play with them

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Tuesday, September 8, 2009


... did I get to the point that the first five items of my unwritten wish list included a really nice vacuum with useful and convenient attachments?

Friday, September 4, 2009

A Rant on Society by Talyn: Race vs. Culture

Once upon a time I was in a seminar about "bridging the achievement gap" with hundreds of other educators. That means they were discussing how to fix the problem of certain minority groups not performing well in our public schools.* Anyway, the keynote speaker asked this large group if it was important to plan our lessons based on the race of our students. There were several people who spoke up, and in very politically correct terms explained that yes, it is important for them. They claimed it was important because these different racial groups learn differently due to their different backgrounds. I was extremely uncomfortable listening to these carefully worded, "what you wanted to hear" answers while bells, whistles, and sirens were exploding in my head saying, "NO!! NO!! YOU'RE WRONG! IT'S NOT TRUE WHAT YOU'RE SAYING, although it's nicely put and seems like a good message. IT'S JUST NOT TRUE!" I ended up having to stand up and share my own view because I seemed to be the only one that had it.

First a bit of a disclaimer, I grew up in a place where there was really only one minority group visible to the eye, Native Americans. Although looking back I can see there was prejudice and stereotypes associated with this group, it rarely reared its head as there wasn't much contact between them, on the reservation, and all of us white people in town. The one African-American kid we had in our high school for a while seemed to fit in just fine. And the handful of Asians fit in just as well. I don't recall ever seeing a hispanic person until I was in high school and I left the state on a family vacation. As far as I knew, racism was a thing for the history books.

As my experience has expanded, I have come to know that there are pockets of crazy people who continue to be racist even today. There are also places where longheld grudges make racial harmony difficult. I do maintain, however, that we no longer live in the 60's and the vast majority of the country has moved on. Well, we've moved on to the extent that we can, what with people everywhere continuing to divide people based on lines of race.

During the last election I remember hearing the result of a certain poll. The reporter, after sharing the numbers of which race and gender were supporting who concluded that there was no such thing as the typical white male voter. I wanted to grab his shouldter, shake, and say, "Duh! There's no such thing as a typical female hispanic voter, or male african american voter either!" It just seemed ridiculous to me that because 54% of a certain racially and genderally based group supported one candidate, suddenly said candidate had the backing of the entire group. What of the other 46%? That's almost half for crying out loud!

I apologize, it appears I have gone off on a tangent. I guess what I'm trying to get at here, is that for some reason it is still encouraged in our society to divide people into groups based on race. Whether it be on a political poll, a drivers licence, a consumer survey, or in a classroom setting race dividers seem to be the accepted form. (No Child Left Behind just loves to divide students into groups based on race at testing time.) The opinion I shared in that meeting of educators was that dividing students into groups based on race was at best an arbitrary and useless division, and at worst harmful to individuals and the progress our society has made against racism.

What does race tell us? Race tells us approximate skin color, hair texture, and eye shape. It gives us loose hints into possible body type. Very loose. Race tells us about a person's body. What my fellow educators should have been using as information informing their pedagogy was not facts about their student's bodies, but information about their cultures and backgrounds. Teaching children based on race is a useless as teaching children based on other descriptions of their bodies. Do I consider the height of my students when creating a lesson? Their ability or lack of ability to roll their tongue? Why not their shoe size? Perhaps their haircut? Race is only loosely associated with useful information. Sometimes your race links you to a certain ethnicity, and from there to a cultural group. Sometimes.

Culture is useful information. An understanding of culture helps you understand someone. Culture can inform your opinions and shine a light upon certain situations. Race does none of those things. So why does our society insist upon dividing us into groups based on race?

Racially, Barak Obama is an African-American. However, his father was African, which is racially the same as an African-American, but culturally drastically different. (Not that it's useful to think of an entire continent as a cultural group. It's not.) His father was also absent. He was raised by white women. That's generally not the case for culturally African-American kids in Detroit, Chicago, or New Orleans. He was raised mainly in Hawaii. In Hawaii every race is a minority. It's not the same as growing up in the deep south, or in Northern Minnesota (where you're the only tan kid in a sea of pasty white). A few more of his formative years were spent at Harvard. I doubt that experience helped him bond with others in the cultural group society typically associates with his race. This is why I am torn on considering him the first African-American president. Racially, sure (which proves that we no longer live in the 60's thank heavens), but culturally, he's not even close. Not. Even. Close. Sure he spent a little while in Chicago where he probably came to understand the culture, but I have trouble believing that it's really his culture.

I think we do a disservice to all African-Americans by plunking him down in the same group with them. They have just as much right to agree or disagree with him on any array of political topics as a person in any other racial group has. Just as I'm not tied to any of the policies of the first freckled President with big hips, they shouldn't be tied to him based on his body.

Race is different than culture. And cultural information is only useful to a point. It turns out, as educators, and as human beings, we should be informing our pedagogy through getting to know people. Knowing people. That's useful. That's helpful. That's moving forward.

*The most convincing explanation/solution I've ever seen was in the ninth chapter of the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

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