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beautiful spring weather

a snowy spring morning in our yard

sometimes the weather makes fools of us all

I'm not a fan of April Fools Day, but I can't say I mind the prank that the weather pulled on us this morning. Sure, there was a lot of complaining from folks who are well past ready for spring, and I think that attitude is starting to be a little bit justified (not like last time), but we know that snow now won't stick around for long. And just think how much better it is for the garden than hard rain would be!

There was a break in the precipitation just as I was leaving for work so I took the bike, which would have been perfect had I been wearing footwear for rain rather than for snow. It was pretty wet out there. Still, while my feet were damp all day, at least they were plenty warm. And on the way home the bike path was even plowed!

I stopped for a minute coming home to snap this picture. See, you can't keep a good spring down for long!

young plants in the snow

the plants know it won't last

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squibix.net

This evening I made the front page of what I grandly call the squibix web a little more interactive. Leah has always wanted the blog to be on the front page, so folks don't get confused when they land on the site root; I expect that this will be close enough for her tastes. Check it out, tell me what you think!

panna bear shirt? own shirt? Havey own shirt?

The World Wildlife Foundation is a charity that I enjoy supporting, not only because they do a really rigorous and well-rounded job of protecting the most endangered wildlife on the planet, but because they send you really awesome stuff when you donate to them. Take for example the 100 different adorable stuffed animals you can choose from when you symbolically "adopt" an endangered species. Also available are all sorts of merchandise - cups, clothes, and totes- bearing their signature panda bear logo, a sight that might make you nostalgic for your childhood if you grew up in the 80s watching PBS fundraisers.

So a few months ago I was making a donation online, and I asked for an extra large t-shirt as my gift with contribution. (The extra 40 pounds sticking straight out the front of me is making it a wee bit challenging to squeeze into t-shirts these days.) The problem was that the design on the shirt was soooo awesome that whenever I put on the thing Harvey would get all crazy and scream "Panna bear shirt? on Havey? Havey on? Havey, Havey, Haveeeey?" So I told him I would buy him his own panda bear shirt, which also turned out to be a mistake, because from then on every day Harvey would ask me, "Panna bear shirt? Havey? buy one? come inna mail?"

Finally it arrived, the smallest branded shirt that WWF offers. Unfortunately the size was youth medium, which was like a dress on Harvey. He walked around proudly for a few minutes in his very own panda bear shirt, until he tripped on the bottom hem and suffered a disappointed melt-down. So I promised him then and there that I would do some sewing to make the shirt smaller. And then he jumped on that idea. And then he jumped on me. And jumped and jumped and jumped until I ran to the sewing room and pulled out the scissors.

Using the 47-cent Halloween shirt that I finally dismantled as a template, I cut pieces out of the front and the back, trying to keep the entirety of the design in tact while still making use of the existing neck ribbing. Then I sort of trimmed the sleeves by eyeball, and surged the thing together. It was a hack job at best, and a testament to the awesome properties of cotton knit that it even ended up a workable t-shirt at all.

Mama and Harvey in matching panda bear shirts

panda bears

The fix would have taken but a few moments, only I had to start by rethreading my serger, which itself takes 15 minutes, all the while with Harvey whining and whining and whining at me for his new shirt which was NOT DONE YET BECAUSE I NEED TO RETHREAD MY FRIGGIN SERGER, DO YOU WANT ME TO MAKE THIS SHIRT FOR YOU OR NOT? YOU DO? THEN SHUT UP AND LET ME SEW!

I'll admit, it wasn't my finest hour of patience.

Because I was in a rush I didn't even hem up the bottom. I wanted to see how long the shirt came down on him and make a mark for a hem, but once it was on of course it couldn't come off for the hemming, silly me. I should just write down his measurements somewhere, but that would be the kind of pre-planning that's possible for a person who does things like rethread her serger the moment the thread breaks. Instead of, you know, picking up a knitting project. In other words, not me.

Mama hugging Harvey (and showing off the back of his shirt)

huggy bear

After the shirt spent a day on Harvey and came out of the wash again I noticed something funny... the back label seemed to be on the outside. I kept turning the thing inside out until I realized what I'd done. In my haste I didn't check to make sure I was sewing right side to right side and managed to throw on the back panel inside out.

And I just thought, yeah, that makes sense. That sounds like me these days.

The important thing is that Harvey LOVES his new shirt (he's wearing it again now, in fact) and I've already ordered another to see if I can recreate my work a bit more neatly (and possibly while he's asleep.)

Oh, and yeah. I know there's a picture of me up above. I thought it would be cute if we took a picture together in our matching shirts. Because I am completely comfortable with how gigantically fat I get when I'm pregnant, so comfortable that even though I can hear you over the internet asking ARE YOU REALLY GOING TO MAKE IT TILL MAY? and HOW MANY BABIES YOU GOT IN THERE? and I'm totally cool with it because I know where you live and once I have my homebirth I can sent bio-hazardous material there. Commenters, consider this your only warning.

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Little Mr. Paying Attention

To help Harvey calm down at bedtime last night, I started praying with him for the day and week ahead. Then I asked him if there's anyone he wanted to pray for.

"Yes!" Harvey said enthusiastically.

"Okay, who do you want to pray for?" I ask.

"Uh... baby Nasan?"

"Great idea! Let's pray for baby Nathan!"

So we prayed together for baby Nathan, our dear friends' tiny baby who is now well on his way to health and normalcy after defeating the terrible blood clot that waylaid him during his first few weeks of life.

I have to admit, Harvey's response to my question was pretty impressive to me. He seemed to "get" that praying for baby Nathan was a thing we did, even though we never tried to teach him so or include him in our prayers (although I'm sure we prayed in his presence several times. He does, after all, hang out with us a lot.)

It just goes to show the wonderful and frightening truth that your kids ARE in fact listening to you, whether you believe it or not.

After praying for baby Nathan was done Harvey also asked to pray for mama, which also made me happy. Then he requested we pray for the window and the crib and his stuffed zebra. Then I told him it was time to stop stalling and go to sleep.

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seedling report

chinese cabbage seedlings

pregnant with hope and expectation

Some time ago (February 17th, if you must know) I started the season's first seeds. They, and subsequent batches, are now crowding up the kitchen table to a surprising degree. Sure, there are some down in the little styrofoam house, but it's kind of full and we need expansion space up where there's natural light. I, um, think I might have gone a little overboard this year—and a little early.

Aside from the lack of space, I also need to keep all these little preciouses alive until its time to get them in the ground—a full month from now at the very least. It's stressful, I tell you; I totally know how Leah feels with this whole pregnancy thing. Only the seedlings are just taking up the kitchen table and not all the room inside my abdomen, so maybe it's not quite as bad.

The biggest concern is the corn that Harvey stared: he found a handful of kernels left by the mousies on the floor and, with my encouragement, planted them. They sprouted surprisingly quickly and are already quite large and on the verge of becoming root-bound. Maybe I should have read about the timing first? But I had no idea they'd even germinate! Perhaps in an unconscious attempt to rid myself of the problem I dropped half of them upside down while repotting them, breaking the stems. All that means, though, it that I'm now committed to trying to nurse them back to health. My goodness, this farming thing is stressful!

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unchained

I broke my chain on the way home. I didn't know that was even possible! It was barely on my way home, actually: I threw my leg over the bike, all ready for another wet and exhilarating ride home, but on the first powerful pedal stroke (all my pedal strokes are powerful), snap! and then nothing. It was pretty disconcerting. The one advantage of this over a flat tire, which mishap has occurred several times in the past, was that I could at least coast down the hills as I trudged my way homewards.

Not that I had to trudge for long, though, because thanks to the kindness of my wonderful family (and the miracle of mobile telephony) I had a ride to look forward to. It was just so beautiful a rainy day that I wanted to be out and about; also, at that time of day one tends to want to put as much distance between one's self and one's workplace as possible.

When I was met with the car the first thing Harvey said to me was, "Bob the Builder Friday?"

"Bob the Builder Friday to you too!" was my reply.

I amused Leah, at least. It was the least I could do in exchange for transport! Well, that and relieving her of Mr. "I don't need a nap today" for a couple hours...

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oatmeal peanut butter chocolate chip

Here, for your reading and baking pleasure, is my current favorite cookie recipe. It was originally published by Mazola margarine and Skippy peanut butter, and I've modified it only slightly beyond removing references to those brand-name products. I did add the chocolate chips, though. Can you imagine creating a cookie like this without including chocolate chips?! As it is now, these contain nearly all the elements of a perfect desert.

Grease your cookie sheets and preheat the oven to 350° F.

In a large bowl, whisk together:

1 1/4 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 cup rolled oats

In the stand mixer (or in another big bowl), cream together:

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar

Beat in until well-blended and smooth:

1 cup chunky peanut butter

Beat in:

2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

Add the dry ingredients and mix on low speed or by hand until well combined. Stir in:

2 cups chocolate chips

Put scoops of dough about 1 1/2 inches in diameter on the cookie sheet and flatten them slightly. I do 8 to a sheet. Bake for 11 minutes. Let them cool on the cookie sheet for a minute or two before you try and move them to the cooling rack, because otherwise they tend to break.

So there you go! And no, these are in no way health food. Well, I guess you do have the oats...

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crafting ahead

Projects are flying off needles all around the house these days. It's the way this mama does nesting I suppose, what with the house already 90% prepped for a new baby and little desire to go up and down the attic ladder to finish off the last 10%. Yes, I have lots of baby creations I'd like to share with you, but with two showers coming up this month and two more friends pregnant on top of that, and with a little uncertainty still remaining over handmade gift allocation, I can't afford to spoil anyone's surprise just yet. So instead I'm spoiling a surprise for Harvey today, only because I'm sure he doesn't read this blog. I'd like to introduce you to my new friend:

hello!

Over the past few months I've re-written my crafting priority list several hundred times, trying to get squared away with baby showers, Easter, and Harvey's birthday before my new little life interruption arrives. Many ideas rotated out next to the line that read "Harvey's birthday," but for some reason "sock monkey" was the one that seemed to stick. This boy loves monkeys, after all, and I've been wanting to try my hand at a sock creation for some time now. So going through the priority list ass backwards as is my fashion (Easter is still not done of course) I just finished this gift for Harvey's birthday. All it took was two naps and one very long chunk of night-time time. Oh how I'm going to miss these quiet naps when I have two babies...

sock monkey

don't you want to hug me?

I referenced a pattern from Miyako Kanamori's book Sock and Glove. I use both the terms "referenced" and "pattern" loosely, because this is mostly a book of ideas and pretty pictures, leaving someone to their own devices for figuring out how to best cut, stitch, and hand finish knit fabrics to create something like the creatures therein. Aside from general sewing competency (or a flexibility with the outcome, either one will do) there is only one piece of information someone needs to create a sock monkey, and that is the diagram that shows how the second sock should be cut to form the arms, nose, ears, and tail. If you're interested in making one, you can find such a diagram here. I was fortunate that Kanamori's book appeared at eye level in my local library this week; It saved me printing out another piece of paper to lose five times over the course of one project.

The finished sock monkey is super soft and snuggly, and I do think Harvey will fall in love with him as quickly as I did. I only hope it will feel to me like enough of a "real" birthday present to keep me from pulling late nighters come the end of June. I know that with big presents likely coming from two sets of grandparents, and new pants and shirts that need to be sewn anyway, all that the boy really needs from his mama is something simple and heartfelt to let him know that I love him. In general I am trying to adapt my way thinking around gift-giving occasions. I tend to go overboard for each holiday, thinking I have to make EVERYTHING that comes into my head, which in turn only makes me stressed and anxious and sometimes moody on party day if something doesn't turn out right. I'd like to just be able to say, "This is my handmade gift. I put a lot of time into it and I think it's pretty good. I think you'll like it too. You don't need 20 of them to know that I love you."

Anyway, it's a work in progress. Me, I mean. Not the monkey, though. He's finished.

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photographic evidence of our growing suburban farm

Remember Dan's blog post on Monday when he said plants were crowding out humans at our kitchen table? Well, he wasn't kidding. Here's what lunch looks like these days:

kitchen table

once and future food

Fortunately I'm feeling too nauseous this month to sit for real meals, so I don't mind having no space to eat. Alls I care about is that some of these sprouts get in the ground and out of our kitchen before baby2 arrives and the well-wishing hordes descend upon our house like a swarm of locusts.

There are other encouraging signs that our farm will be a success this year. Like our youngest farmer who absolutely CAN'T WAIT to get outside with his spade in the morning, even though it's only 7:30 and there's still a heavy layer of frost over the ground.

harvey getting ready to go outside

outside? Havey outside? mama, wagoo, Havey outside?

Oh Harvey. I love being outside too, but 7:30 is too early for yard work, even for me. I picked up three very wet and very cold leaves, and then I said "I'm not doing this until later."

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zoo!

Harvey and I took a field trip today to the Stone Zoo, courtesy of the Stevens family who have a magical season pass that admits 2 extra guests. Harvey looooves animals, so we've spent the year shuttling from one farm to another. All this makes him fairly nonchalant around domestic and barnyard animals. So it was especially fun to see some stranger and more colorful animals for a change.

flamingo

flamingos in bright shades of...

We also saw bears, monkeys, and wolves which look suspiciously identical to the beasts that rome free in our neighborhood calling themselves "coyotes." I asked Dan about it when he got home and he said, "Well, yeah, some people call them Eastern Wolves." and I was like "Oh shit! Those things are big and scary and could totally eat us."

But, you know, there hasn't been a wolf fatality in Bedford yet, so maybe our local ones are more shy than the ones at the zoo.

Of course, half of the excitement of the outing for Harvey was getting to see his best buddy Ollie. Here they are hugging outside of the Monkey cage.

ollie and harvey hugging

best buds

And here's the resulting take-down from that hug.

1...2...3...

And this is what my friend Bridget would look like if she had 5 kids instead of just 4.

bridget and her 4 kids, plus mine

wait, you've got one of mine in there!

I swear, just being around her makes me feel like a lazy ass. I only have to cart around one kid all day, and sometimes it's exhausting!

After the zoo the plan was to nap in the car ride home, but Harvey and I had already decimated my supply of snacks and both he and my stomach were crying starvation. So we drove a minute into downtown Stoneham to grab a slice at a local pizza shop. The owner and patrons all thought Harvey was the cutest thing in the known universe, and they were very impressed at the way he devowered an entire large slice of pizza. Mama had one too, of course, bringing the total for today's outing to $4. Not bad for a field trip.

The only downside of the day was that the zoo excitement plus delicious pizza added up to NO NAP, which meant an entire day of non-stop standing and walking for mama and her poor pregnant feet. Oh well, these things can't be helped. When it's not a pregnant belly it'll be a baby in the front pack. Such is life, and I should enjoy the former quieter option as long as I can.

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outside day

We had a very busy outside day today - everyone's favorite kind. First we went to the fence supply store in Watertown to check on some prices (Yes, mama will have her fence one day!) Then since we were right in town we decided to stop by the farm at Gore Place which our friends the Stevenses are always raving about.

Gore Place did not disappoint. Not only do they have cute baby sheep and goats, but you can actually go walk around amidst a flock of very friendly chickens! Harvey was enthralled.

harvey looking at Gore's chickens

one day, boy, all this will be yours

Actually, that's putting it mildly. He was really in love.

harvey among the chickens

chicken ovah dare? chicken ovah dare?

Meanwhile I took about seven hundred pictures of their coop setup while trying to enthuse myself over the Bedford permitting process. Patience mama, one step at at time. First we gotta see how long that fence takes us...

We had spent only but a moment at the farm when who should we see walking up the hill but the Stevens family themselves! Serendipitous! Great minds think alike on a sunny day it seems (especially when 6 of those minds live about a minute away from the farm.) So Harvey not only got to see his favorite animals, but he got to run and play with his favorite friends, some of whom are significantly faster than him.

harvey, Bruce, and Lily at Gore place

Wait up!

And one of whom is just his speed.

harvey and ollie at Gore Place

giggle giggle giggle

When we got home Harvey was still disinclined to go inside, so we picnicked outside in the yard and then spent the afternoon working in the garden. Well, "we" generally speaking. Mama spent a fair amount of time inside completing some housework I neglected during yesterday's outing, as well as finishing some baby gifts for the upcoming showers. Even while participating in the outdoor festivities I felt like I spent most of my time running back and forth from yard to kitchen, making sure everyone had adequate water and sunscreen and fresh diapers. In other words, acting just like a mother. Still, for a pregnant lady I put in a fair amount of work moving strawberries and pulling up weeds. Enough to filthify my only good pair of maternity jeans. But best of all, I got to experience the sheer joy that is walking around the corner to find both my boys happily digging in the dirt.

harvey and dada digging in their respective boxes

men at work

Indeed, the only tantrums of the day involved coming inside. It's going to be a good summer.

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Gifts for baby Nathan

matching blanket and bunny

hurray for baby shower gifts!

I saw this posh-looking blue and brown fleece at JoAnnes a few months ago, and I remember thinking at the time that it would be just the perfect thing for Katie and Tim's baby if said child turned out to be a boy. Since the fabric happened to be on sale at the time I bought up a yard to keep in my stash. The "what to do with it" came to my mind last week when Harvey was doing all that throwing up. Going through Harvey's closet one absorbent linen after another, I realized that my most used baby blankets were the simple ones just one layer thick which sport surged edges instead of bulky hems. That's the type of gift I wanted to give Katie and Tim, I decided. And what could be easier, I reasoned, than to take a piece of fabric and surge the edges?

Indeed, what could be easier. I know, how about quilt along EVERY LINE of the plaid to make LITTLE TINY quilted squares that are ONE INCH apart. Actually that's the opposite of easier, but once you think of it how can you go back? So I did that, for like seventeen hundred hours. Because, you know, otherwise it wouldn't look "done."

I had a bit of extra fabric left over so I decided to make a matching critter, the kind of thing that you can hang from the handle of your car-seat. You can't see it from the picture above, but this bunny has got a little velcro strap in the back to keep him tethered to his post. When I was cutting the fabric for the strap I was all, "Hey Dan, do you think this is about the right size to hang from a car-seat?" And he was all, "I don't know - you could measure it against a real baby car seat. We have one IN THE NEXT ROOM, which is like TEN FEET AWAY FROM YOU."

That Dan. As long as I share an office with him he's determined to squeeze the retardedness out of my sewing process.

Harvey for his part was VERY UPSET when he saw a completed stuffed animal in the room and was told that it wasn't his to play with. So upset in fact that I had to make him his own bunny, while he was standing there, actually standing on the chair behind me pushing buttons on the sewing machine and pulling my hair. I made his gray instead of plaid, to avoid the slight chance of Nathan coming over one day and freaking out that another kid had HIS BUNNY - OMG THE FABRIC OF THE UNIVERSE IS RIPPING APART AT THE SEAMS! Says something about my childhood that these are the possibilities I try to ward against. Anyway, Harvey's new bunny is now his favorite toy, and everytime he picks it up he makes sure to clarify "Harvey bunny. Baby Nathan bunny dada's office."

Here he is hugging his bunny before naptime.

harvey in his bed cuddling his bunny

bunny tuck in

And here he is giving baby Nathan's bunny a proper send-off:

Harvey holding one stuffed bunny and kissing another

mwah!

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faith and joy and the job search

At church, we're in the midst of another "Leap of Faith". It's kind of like a Lenten discipline for the non-aligned church set, but it also involves praying for big things for ourselves and the church—thus the name. I'm asking God, naturally, for a teaching job. Of course, when you lay it all out on the line and pray for big things you open yourself up to big disappointments, which is why the pastor preached yesterday on being happy with the gift of the Holy Spirit. Hedging our bets. Well, that and I guess the Holy Spirit is kind of important too.

The thrust of the sermon—and in fact all or this year's Leap of Faith—was that our relationship with God is more important than what God can do for us; and that, plus, God gives us all kinds of other gifts that we can take for granted or miss out on entirely. Like the Holy Spirit, and the joy we find in a beautiful day at the turn of the seasons (though I'll pass on using The Decemberists to illustrate that message). Sounds good to me!

Only that's kind of a problem. It was like preaching to the converted for me to hear that: I take a whole lot of joy in beautiful days, and rainy days, and all kinds of things. I am very aware of the gifts of God, and delighted with all that I get from God. It hasn't included a teaching job, but that's fine for everything except... our bank balance. So, maybe I should be praying harder.

I'm practicing interview questions in my head these days and so I'm feeling a whole lot more introspective than usual. One conclusion I've come to is that I'm not really very ambitious in any conventional sense, which I suppose shows on my résumé. Oops. On the other hand, everything that I do I want to do well: as well as it is possible to be done, in fact. Prospective employers should know, then, that I intend to win a teacher of the year award should I ever manage to be employed somewhere. Well, I'll win one if other folks notice and appreciate my ground-breakingly wonderful teaching, because I sure won't put myself in for any sort of awards or teach in ways designed to attract the attention of the prize committees (are there prize committees? there should be prize committees).

All that is to say that I really want a new job, I would do totally awesome at it, and if I don't get one I'll still be rejoicing in God's goodness. Is that lack of drive? If so, I'm afraid I'm guilty of lack of drive.

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my lunchtime entertainment

Let's face it: Harvey is cute. On Monday I snapped this video of him singing a few songs at the kitchen table. And really, if you like toddlers, and you like singing toddlers, then this video will just about blow your mind.

I'm told that other people don't speak Harvey as well as I do, although I can't understand why not, it's all perfectly clear to me. Anyway, if you need an answer key to what going on in the video, Harvey sings the Itsy Bitsy Spider followed by the ABCs followed by I Gave Up, a Phineus and Ferb song that he finds wildly funny. Between various "takes" you'll hear Harvey interrupt his singing to ask me to turn the camera viewfinder around to the other side so he can see himself, and to remind me that there are plants on the table that dada stuck his finger in to make sure there was enough water. And also, we should go outside. So there, that should clear up any confusion about what he's saying.

Enjoy!

honey whole wheat

I guess we're doing recipe Wednesday here! Wednesday is the day we host Bible study, and we don't really have time to blog because we're too busy cooking and cleaning. Cleaning mostly isn't very interesting to write about, but cooking has potential for subject matter. So recipes!

This is our daily bread. I make it most Saturdays and the two loaves usually lasts through the following Friday. So far, that is: as Harvey continues to grow that formula will need to be adjusted! Like all my best recipes this one comes from my mom, but I've adjusted it a little bit.

In the work bowl of a stand mixer whisk together:

5 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup flaxseed meal
4 1/2 teaspoons (2 packets) active dry yeast
1 tablespoon salt

Combine and heat until quite warm, 115° to 125° F:

3 cups water
1/2 cup honey
2 tablespoons canola oil

With the mixer going (using the paddle attachment), slowly add the liquids to the flour mixture. Let it mix up for a minute or so, then switch to the dough hook. Add, in 1/2 cup portions every 4-5 minutes until not unbearably sticky:

1 - 2 cups all-purpose flour

Scrape the dough out onto a floured surface and knead it briefly to make it roughly a ball, then dump it into an oiled container to rise (I use the stand mixer bowl). If it's too sticky you can just toss it back in the bowl without the kneading; that is sometimes necessary in the summer when humidity is high.

Let rise until doubled in volume, which takes anywhere from 45 minutes to 1 1/2 hour depending on temperature. Remove from bowl, knead lightly and divide into two equal lumps. Form the lumps into balls by stretching the tops and turning the dough underside inwards, then let them sit for 10 minutes.

Grease two loaf pans well with butter, shape the dough into oblongs, and place one in each pan. Let rise until doubled, 30 minutes to 1 hour. In time to get it heated when the loaves are risen, preheat the over to 350°F or so. Position the loaves several inches apart in the middle of the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes. Remove the loaves from the pans immediately using a metal spatula, and let them cool on a rack. Don't bag them or cover them with plastic until they cool, or they'll get wet with condensation.

Repeat 1 to 2 times per week and you'll finally be free of the grasping clutches of "Big Bread"!

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on parenting 1 child at 22 months

I've been wanting to write a few words about parenting Harvey before the new baby shows up and throws a wrench into everything. I want to be able to look back in a years time at my own words and say "Ha ha ha! She thought she knew what she was doing! One child was soooooo easy!!!!!"

It's been almost 9 months now since I left my corporate job and became a full-time mom. Both qualitatively and quantitatively there is a very big difference between being a full-time mom and a morning, evening, and weekend mom. Without at doubt, working a paying gig during the day and then working your home and kids in your free time is much more logistically challenging, and therefore more stressful. But full-time moming is harder by far. Being solely responsible for a toddler 8 hours a day (and 50% responsible during the remaining hours) is much more draining physically and emotionally speaking then pushing around files and running stats on your computer while sitting in a comfortable desk chair, your day punctuated only by peaceful trips to the bathroom and meetings fueled by free coffee. Not to sugar coat mind-numbing office work by any means; I hated my last job so much I fantasized about suicide every morning driving in to work. Still, a mom's job is much much harder. At least when you're child is 1-2 and you're also pregnant.

That said, there is nothing in the universe I'd rather be doing right now than raising my child minute by minute. I love getting excited about the things he gets excited about. I love presenting new things for him to get excited about. I love watching the little wheels in his head spin and expand as he gets older. Like today when he held up a lego green floor piece next to a duplo green floor piece and said, "Big big one? tiny tiny one?" Woah! Or also this morning when he helped to unload the dishwasher by putting all the silverware in the drawer, and then tried to open the other drawer when he came up with a measuring spoon, and I was floored by how he knows where everything's supposed to go. Or how he walked by himself into the garden, picked up dada's watering can, and walked around trying to water all the seeds while saying "ehn ehn ehn" because the can was so heavy. He walked between the beds and carefully kept his feet off the seedlings. I should have taken a video.

I love that Harvey makes jokes now. That he sings to himself. That if he wants me to sit down and stop bossing him around he says "mama knitting." I love that he mimics my tone of voice to say, "in a second" and "one more" and "Rascal no digging." I love the smell of his hair.

We've gone through pockets of time this year where I've despaired at having no idea what I was doing. Every few weeks I seem to feel that I've reached my stride, only to be thrown back by a new situation or behavior that blindsides me. Which, I guess, pretty much describes parenting. I've been helped by Dan's sound advice (thanks to years of internet reading he knows everything about all subjects at all times, especially child rearing) and also by two books in particular on raising toddlers. The Rosemond book contained a real revelation for me: that parenting a baby is substantially different from parenting a toddler. Babies need to be loved and coddled and taken cared of no matter what, so they learn to trust their parents and by extension the world around them. Kids need to learn they are not actually the center of the universe, and therefore build up their own self-concept and independence. Toddlerhood is the shaky bridge between the two, corresponding to genuine shifts in a child's brain and understanding. Thus, the revelation for me was that sometime between 18 months and 2 years my own actions also need to reflect a shift from babying to parenting. And firmly, otherwise I'll muck everything up. So I've been trying. And I gotta tell you... discipline is awesome! Getting your child to actually do something for you? Much more fun than training a dog!

For example, here are some things we're currently working on in our house. Sand stays in the sandbox, or the sandbox closes. If you hit the dog, you get a 1-second time-out. If you hit mama she will ignore you until you give her a kiss. If you can't stop whining it means you need to go back to bed.

Also, I'm not going to fight you to put your jacket on. I'm going to sit here and read until you come over and say you're ready. It's you who wants to go outside, not me.

Don't I just sound like a mother? Yeah, it surprises me too, sometimes.

Harvey is a good kid and he's taken very rapidly to saying please, to knowing that it's time to shut of the whining machine, and to recovering on his own from a screaming crying tantrum. At the same time, we have challenges. I haven't yet taught Harvey to go to sleep on his own, so we're still doing nursing put-downs, which I have grown to hate. Dan thinks I coddle him too much by going into his room in the night when he calls. I reply that nighttime is scary and turns big boys into babies. Dan replies that I am TEACHING him that nighttime is scary. I say, well, nighttime IS scary, and no amount of pedagogical reading, self-reflection, or grace is going to fundamentally transform me into a person who isn't afraid of the dark. The kind of mother I can be is limited to the kind of person I am, and I'm working hard man, but some things just don't change all that much.

Challenges aside, the days are mostly so good around here that I fell I've finally hit my stride at parenting a toddler. Of course now we're going to go bring a banshee screaming infant into the mix. And then everything will change again.

And then just when I've started to hit my stride with 2, I plan on getting a brood of chickens.

Still, there's a lot down the road to look forward to.

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hasn't your mother every told you if you don't have anything nice...

I walked out of a bathroom stall in the women's locker room this morning to find an elderly lady pointing and laughing at me. Normal people might be alarmed at such a sight, but alas not me. Nothing surprises me anymore, not since I got pregnant and persisted in the foolhardy exercise of putting on a bathing suit. To some people, the sight of a pregnant woman in a bathing suit (or walking, or picking up anything) is hilarious and merits immediate comment. I'm not sure why, but I have a theory. It's not fully flushed out yet, but it goes something like blah blah blah... the world is filled with assholes.

Anyway, the woman this morning was particularly point-and-laughy because standing at the sink was another pregnant woman wearing the exact same bathing suit as me. Which, I admit is coincidental, but not THAT coincidental. At our local mall there was exactly one maternity bathing suit available for purchase when I went looking. But the other pregnant woman and I got to talking about how nice our mutual bathing suit was, and I encouraged her that it would stretch far beyond the strain she was currently putting on it. Then she asked the inevitable question, "When are you due?"

(Which when it's directed at me is usually followed by a "soon, huh?" or "you're not here alone, are you?" or "how many babies you got in there?" Because I make big babies and, again, the world is filled with assholes.)

So I'm like, "About a month and a half still to go." And she's like "Oh! Me too! My due date is May —" and then she says a date that is EXACTLY THE SAME AS MY DUE DATE, even though I was expecting her to say she was only 6 months pregnant or so, because her belly is maybe half the size of mine.

And then she goes on to say that it's her second child, and out the window goes my "second pregnancies are bigger" excuse.

And all of a sudden I realize why people are such assholes to me, why it's hell to walk outside my house for the last two months of each pregnancy, why I have to weigh the need to buy groceries against the hassle of being called fat by a check-out clerk, two stockers and someone in the cheese department. Because if this is the kind of pregnant lady everyone sees walking around, then maybe my belly does look a a lot bigger than normal. Maybe, just maybe, I AM the gargantuan disgusting freak show that everyone has been pointing and laughing at these last few months.

Or maybe I could believe my midwives that my pregnancy is healthy and normal and the world is just filled with assholes.

Up to now I have not had the same shame complex about my size that I did with my first pregnancy. Since I've put on week-by-week the exact same amount of weight that I put on with Harvey, and since I eat healthfully and walk a mile each day and swim three miles a week, and since I'm a mom and have bigger things to worry about than what I look like in a bathing suit, I figure that the weight I gain while pregnant is simply the weight I gain while pregnant - no value judgement. Last time I gained 50 pounds and I lost it in 5 months. This time it'll probably be just the same. The process may not look pretty on someone who's only 5'1, but who asked you anyway random lady standing in the locker room?

It's like I just want to put on a t-shirt with answers to everyone's most commonly asked questions:
No, there's only one baby in here.
No, my due date is not tomorrow and beyond that it's none of your business.
No, I don't know if it's a boy or a girl, but you probably want to tell me it's a girl because I look so fat. Your opinion has been noted.
No, YOU "take it easy." I came here to swim.

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Sandwich

Mama and Harvey at the cold spring beach

down to the beach

We took a trip down to the Cape today to pick up a double stroller from Leah's cousins—but that was just an excuse to do some real vacationing for a change! As opposed to our usual aimless wanderings our wonderfully gracious hosts treated us to a tour of the finest attractions Sandwich has to offer (not to mention an incredible spread for lunch—there's a pun in there somewhere, I'm sure).

Of course, we had to go to the beach first. It was pretty cold, but that doesn't ever stop Rascal from enjoying his beach experiences to the fullest! He ran and played with his new friend Luna, and didn't miss an opportunity to take the waters.

Rascal romping in the cold waves

he is braver than the rest of us

Next stop was the Green Briar Nature Center and Jam Kitchen—if there was ever a single attraction better suited to entertaining all members of our family I don't know what it would be! Animals, science exhibits, blocks made from tree branches... all that, plus a professional kitchen for us to admire and plenty of jam and jelly to taste.

a toad in its terrerium

the only one that stood still to be photographed

the Green Briar gift shop

nature and jam, in gift shop form

The day's last stop was the Sandwich State Fish Hatchery, where we got to look at trout both big and small and, even better, feed them! The little ones especially raised quite a fuss in their efforts to get at the food raining down upon them.

fish roiling the water to get at the food

I guess they're hungry!

Harvey feeding the fish

look at those fish eat!

I have to give extra credit to the Massachusetts Fish and Wildlife folks for allowing dogs on the fish farm grounds; Rascal very much appreciated another chance to get out of the car.

All in all it was a wonderful trip and a great way to start our vacation week (even if the car trip back did give Mama a headache that required her to lie down immediately upon our return; don't worry, she's already better). Thanks, Barrettes!

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a new garden bed

Harvey and I built a new raised bed in the garden this afternoon. A small one. It isn't quite finished—it still needs to be topped off with dirt—but it already looks good, like it was always meant to be there. Because, in fact, it was. One of my faults may be my lack of haste in getting things done (ask Leah about that!) but that doesn't mean I've forgotten about them; I'm just waiting until the time is right. It's a long game we're playing here, and the garden is building according to a plan I've been thinking about for years.

Not that I have the whole thing settled in my mind, how I want it to be when at some future date I can call it "done". Adjustments need to be made on an ongoing basis. But I spend a lot of time gazing at what we've got so far and considering what else might be done, and then I sit on the ideas for a year or two until I have the combination of time, materials, and motivation needed to get them done.

It's like the rose of sharon I planted the first year we lived in this house. "Why'd you plant it out there in the middle of that little hill?" Leah asked me, quite justifiably. She didn't know that plans were percolating in my brain to make that plant the centerpiece of a rock wall holding up a sort of patio around the back of the house, to be constructed with rocks, dirt, and plants that I hoped to obtain later. Eventually those were indeed obtained, and we got something like this:

flowers and grass

lush growth in July

That photo is from a couple years ago; things have continued to develop since then. But you see that it kind of fits together.

The new bed is one that I first thought of two years ago. Back then I had put in another bed and thought that one more would really help define a path and formalize the organization of that end of the garden. Last year I used the space to mulch grass clippings, which killed the grass and prepared the ground nicely, so it was a matter of less than an hour to dig it today. And now we have another 16 square feet of growing area!

I have a lot of slow-developing plans like that in my life. One of them is for the garden itself—the farm, as we're starting to call it. Our sermon today was about how we need to bear fruit so we're not cursed like the poor fig tree, and I've been inspired to think that we might bear figurative fruit at the same time as we harvest the literal sort. Not that our garden is in any way exceptional, of course, but we're working on making it central to our lives in ways that I hope will impress and inspire people, plus giving us tasty treats to offer them! The chickens will be a big step in that process.

There's a long way to go. But I hope that someday—a couple years hence—our little farm will be an outreach and an encouragement and will bear fruit unto the Lord in ways that we can only kind of partially see right now. Like I said, it's the long game.

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Patriots parades and Passover

Harvey watching the Patriots Day parade

more parade coming?

We saw the parade. The above image bears a certain resemblance to last year's, but back then Harvey didn't eat brownies. We took many more photos and videos, which will be the subject of a later post.

Then we went to Passover at the Bernsteins'. As with Patriots Day Harvey was experiencing the holiday for the second time, but I think he had even less memory of seders than of parades. Never mind, he took to it like a natural.

Harvey and Grandma Beth at the Seder table

he's a fan of matzoh

Not only did he wait to eat the egg, dip his vegetables just so, and hold up his sippy cup of grape juice for all the blessings, he found the afikomen and got his prize. It only took some pretty broad hints from Grandma and a little more help from Great-Grandma...

Now he's asleep.

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farming on the web

I sowed more seeds today under the lights. There's something very enjoyable about the activity: it's the only part of gardening where I manage any science or method. Variables can be controlled. Once those seedlings graduate from the hot box, though, all that goes out the window. I had to write off the onions, for example, and the corn that Harvey planted isn't looking too good either. Still, I'm sure something will come out alright.

In order to keep track of things a little better and in furtherance of certain grand (if vague) plans, I've created another little corner of the squibix web: squibix farm. Check it out and tell me what you think!

mobius strip

When people ask me these days, I say that I'm not ready to have a new baby quite yet because my house isn't clean yet. Then every day I set myself to cleaning, folding and organizing, and about 30 minutes later I flop down on the couch exhausted, because I can't barely lug this body around anymore. Because ever day I'm pregnant it gets juuuust a little bit harder to get around. So I say to myself: This baby better come out soon so I can get things done!

I seem to be stuck in some kind of recursive logic loop. Microsoft Excel would never allow this to happen...

seder? I don't even know 'er!

We did two seders this Passover season. As I mentioned we capped the Patriots Day festivities with Passover observances at the Bernsteins, and this evening we held our own seder for our church small group. Neither one was entirely respectful of tradition.

Not that there's anything wrong with that! On Monday, we used the same haggadah we do every year but there was from time to time a little confusion about what page we were meant to be on. Since seder means "order", the confusion was potentially problematic, but we managed to keep it together and everyone made sure to get the crowd going of whichever parts of the celebration that they particularly wanted to have included.

Today we didn't even try to do things official. With adults who had never experienced a proper seder before, plus six kids under the age of six who were already past their regular dinner hour when they walked in the door (well, Harvey was already here) we figured we'd better not push it. Still, Leah did a very good job of presenting an abbreviated version from memory, and we had all the important parts in there. We blessed the bread and the wine (the latter present only in spirit and as grape juice), we made our Hillel sandwiches, and we dipped our vegetables in salt water. We even hid the afikomen; though, as we reflect on it now, we never sent anyone to go find it. Oh well, that can be breakfast tomorrow.

True, as a whole things were far from properly conducted. But we remembered the exodus; as for the little details, I expect that God will remember we're not actually Jewish and cut us some slack.

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remembering

Today is Good Friday. It is also the one year anniversary of Neil's death. It marks the day a year ago when I heard that Neil was in an accident, and I prayed and I prayed and I prayed and I prayed, and I felt the assurance from God that everything would be alright. I thought for sure that whatever had happened, he would get better.

But God's assurances are not our assurances.

Because Neil's death was so sudden and stupid and random it was like I had to change the whole way my brain worked to fit it in. Obviously people die all the time, in car accidents and from cancer and from freak things like amniotic fluid embolisms. But I just don't want to believe it - it's one stupid puzzle piece that just does not want to fit. So I think maybe I should hide it or throw it into the trash because its presence means that I might have been putting the whole rest of the puzzle together wrong.

We read it in church today and this time of year every year. Men die. Sons die. Prophets die. It's true but also random and stupid and hard to make fit. So instead we say: Look over here! Look at this bunny!

Rascal killed a baby bunny once. He hardly touched it and all of a sudden it was dead. The poor little thing looked so sweet and perfect and beautiful and completely and stupidly un-alive. As did the mouse who died this week in our kitchen. We try our best to catch the mice humanely, but this one we didn't even trap - it was one of two that got stuck in the recycling bin overnight. Harvey and I released one mouse who'd gotten stuck in the bin plus two we'd caught in the traps, but the other little one who'd fallen into the recycling looked very sick when we transfered her to the big cage, and she failed to make a rallying recovery when we moved her to a warm little hospice box next to the stove. By bedtime she had stopped breathing, and even as I was relieved that she looked so peaceful I was almost inconsolable that something so sweet and small and perfect just died because of my stupid recycling.

I know that mice die, that indeed these ones only lived because of my kitchen scraps, and when they're pooping disease all over my silverware every morning it's a war of them versus me. But still, it's my fault. My kitchen. My recycling bin. My big wide sphere of influence that I can't control that includes death.

And when I reflect, I know that the other three mice who we drove 20 minutes into Carlisle to release might not even have it any better. They may not have found warm places to bed down for the night. They might have gotten eaten by hawks just moments after I set them down. Even driving there yesterday I was thinking: does it really matter? Does it really make a difference? Does this little outing for the sake of my conscience do anything really? anything at all?

What Jesus did on Good Friday seemed pretty trivial at the time too. That he died on a cross instead of while leading a violent insurrection... Seriously dude, what the difference between a dead messiah and a dead messiah? What's the difference between a mouse dying in the woods and a mouse dying in our kitchen. Does it really make any difference at all?

Is there something in the way that Harvey says, "Mouse fee inna woods?" Something that means something? Something that makes me tear up because "free" means something somehow important?

One stupid death on a cross among other stupid deaths on crosses, it shouldn't have made a difference or changed anything, but somehow it did; somehow it changed our hearts and through some miraculous mystery set them free. Even though death surrounds us, even though we all taste it someday and smell it in our nostrils long before that, still there is something in this Friday that we call it Good, something about the assurance of freedom that is important. That in death and before death and after death there is a real freedom, that is a real thing that means something.

Neil, you knew that better than me.

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deprivation and dried fruit

I did alright this Lent. I say alright because, while I started off great, I didn't keep up the pace I set the first two-three weeks. Still, I do feel like my "prayer discipline"—and, more usefully, my appreciation for God's presence in my life—got stronger over the past six weeks. No job offers yet, though; must have gotten lost in the mail. Beyond the praying business, I also denied myself somewhat in the traditional fashion, except that instead of giving up meat I gave up Metafilter and Google News. And I did that 100%, even on Sundays. I feel much better for it.

I guess the main purpose of fasting is to bring yourself closer to God. Want to do whatever it is you're not doing for Lent? Oops, oh yeah, I'm fasting; so what's up, God? Some folks also use their fast to stop doing something they wished they didn't do anyways: Lent can be a little extra bit of motivation. Often, though, the things we give up aren't bad in and of themselves, so one bonus of passing on them for a month and a half is that they seem all the more awesome when we come back to them. My brother and his wife went vegan for Lent, and I can only imagine the ham-and-eggs blowout they're going to have tomorrow morning.

I like that kind of thing. In our modern society we're used to instant gratification: we want something, and we can go out and get it (or at least order it online). Don't get me wrong: I think it's pretty handy when you need exotic ingredients or a new raincoat or whatever. But it does have the side effect of dispersing a little bit of the enjoyment of things. Take fruit, for example. The first strawberry of the year—or the first peach, or the first apple—can be a truly amazing experience, but not so much if you've been eating imported vegetables all winter. Not that imported strawberries are all that tasty. I'd rather cycles of deprivation and delight than a constant diet of meh.

In that spirit, my new tradition is to end Lent with hot cross buns made with delicious candied fruit. I eat little enough fruit in the winter—little enough of anything exciting, these days!—that I can share some of the thrill our ancestors must have felt when they broke out the last of the dried apples for the Easter baking. We made it through another winter with treats to spare! Last year it was apricots and pineapple, this year papaya and dates. Yeah yeah, no ancestor of mine has preserved either of those for at least a couple thousand years, but you know what I mean. This year and last the buns had the added bonus of breaking the Passover leavened bread fast as well. Mmm, yeast.

Anyway, there's a glimpse into my twisted game of self-deprivation. What did you give up for Lent?

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happy Easter!

Harvey outside holding his Easter sheep

welcome happy morning!

Mama's gifts to Harvey were the sheep and some Easter clothes. She'll post more about that later. Our gift to her was letting her sleep in for a bit while we played outside (she was up with Harvey in the night).

Note the new boots as well:

Harvey in boots and pajamas

pj model

Happy Easter everyone!

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Easter clothes!

It's only when I stop and reflect on years past that I realize how much my sewing prowess has come along due to our sweet firstborn and his tendency to outgrow clothes in a manner of seconds. Last year I only managed to make him a measly pair of pants for Easter clothes. This year I pulled together a set of pants, a vest, and a tie, all the week before without too much sweat.

Harvey posing on the playground

playground catalogue shot, courtesy of Harvey not being able to sit through church

The pants are the same pattern I keep using over and over, which is to say an elastic-waste pattern drafted from a current fitting pair of pants. The vest uses an online pattern from burda style, and the tie is someone's temporarily free online pattern which I found and drastically reduced in size (be warned if you're trying to make this one - it says toddler tie but it's really quite too big for a 2-year old.)

You may recognize the orange fabric from last year's eater pants. I bought 2 yards of this fabric in Ithaca the summer before Harvey was conceived... I saw it in a sewing store and immediately pictured a beautiful baby dress for my hypothetical one-day daughter. That daughter not yet materialized, over the intervening years the fabric went to a dress for someone else's baby, the lining of last year's pants, and then this ensemble. This project pretty much decimated the rest of my stash: the vest is completely lined in orange and the back is orange as well, and that teeny tiny tie ate up a huge chunk of fabric as ties surprisingly do. I'm not sure if the bits and pieces I have left will be salvageable for a baby dress of my own. It's sad to see it all gone, but somewhat gratifying as well. I can't just use the same orange every Easter in perpetuity, after all. And as Dan lovingly encouraged me, "You'll find other fabric you like some day."

I also made Harvey a critter for an Easter present, which I guess is becoming tradition too. Last year it was two bunnies, this year it was a sheep.

a black sheep in fleece

baa baa

I used this pattern, which I also used in miniature at Christmas for Harvey's nativity sheep. The pattern calls for strips of fabric to be sewn on as wool, and while I'm sure that looks lovely in quilter's cotton it just looked stupid in the fleece I had on hand. So I scrapped that idea and embroidered little curly-cues to represent the sheep's wooly tendrils. Perhaps you can't tell from the picture, but there are three colors of embroidery thread interspursed over the body of the sheep. Yeah, it kind of took a long time, but not as long as say knitting a sweater. And in the end all that matters is that he picked it up and hugged it.

Harvey in his Easter togs holding his lamb

mama made all of it

So a rather successful day for crafting all around. Dan will write later about all the fun things we did today. I only provide the wardrobe.

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Parade footage!

We move slowly over here at the squibix household, so a week like last week with three holidays and more adventures than you can shake a stick at can take a little while to process, especially in blog form! But anyway, if you can remember all the way back to a week ago it was Patriot's day last Monday, a celebration of the American revolution marked by reenactments, pancake breakfasts, parades, and fried dough. We took advantage of the last two, at least, and here's a video montage of the awesome parade Lexington had to offer. Harvey thoroughly enjoyed it!

Easter report 2011

There have been a whole lot of exclamation points at the end of blog post titles around here lately: three in a row, and four of the last six. It's indicative of the level of excitement we enjoyed for most of our vacation. We'll start to recover in a couple days.

As we do so, though, we're taking the time to catch you up on all our delightful holiday diversions. Especially Harvey, who is always very diverting. I recognize that this might be less interesting for a certain portion of the readership—my apologies to those who tune in for my serious and well-thought out posts on education, politics, and international agriculture—but it's hard to resist the cries from other readers for yet more Harvey pics. Here he is eating bacon.

Harvey eating bacon

pretty tasty

So. After a morning spent wandering pleasantly outside, we suited up and headed for church. In order to maximize our opportunity to dress up (and sing traditional Easter hymns) we went to our ancestral Episcopal church, where, despite the newly installed "soft space"—which is great—Harvey had a hard time sitting through the service. Good thing there was a playground outside and an Easter egg hunt afterwards.

Harvey bending to pick up an egg

hidden in plain view

This was actually the first of two egg hunts on the day. As you can see from the photo it was pretty non-technical; the only difficulty for Harvey was moving fast enough to pick up an egg before another child snatched it out from under him. He was in the preschool age bracket so his competition was limited to the under-6 set, but he was still the littlest one out there—and some of those girls were pretty quick!

Thence home and a failure of a nap of which no more shall be said, and back in the car to Grandma and Grandpa's house. They laid out another Easter egg hunt—something that they never did for Harvey's dad when he lived with them!—and provided a native guide to help track down some of the trickier eggs.

Harvey and Grandpa looking for eggs

I think there's one over there!

They also laid out a terrific brunch spread—which included the bacon pictured above—that we very much enjoyed. But all good things must come to an end, and eventually we had to take our very over-tired bundle of joy home. Those chocolate eggs really pack a punch!

Harvey sprawled in the bed

the aftermath

Even that wasn't quite the end of the excitement, though, because Harvey didn't sleep more than a half-hour or so, and he woke up very sour indeed. Happily, I was able to console him with a date with a 7-year-old neighbor girl, with whom he spent a very enjoyable hour or so jumping on her trampoline and playing in her sandbox.

After all that, he may be excused for being a little under the weather today; and so might we be for keeping up with him all that time. Hooray for Easter.

[Edit: I can't believe I forgot to mention that Harvey also painted an Easter egg. Not only was it his first egg painting experience, I believe it was his first time wielding a paintbrush at all! He did great, besides dumping out the dish of water (it turns out that he misunderstood what I meant when I said it was "for the paint") and breaking one egg. He's a natural.]

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me sew sew

Since Harvey moved to his big boy bed earlier this year I have spent A LOT of time lying in his room, wondering if he'll ever fall asleep for a nap, all the while staring at his IKEA curtains and wondering what other items the fabric might be used for. After months of imagined sewing I simply had to get off my ass and make a baby dress.

the finished product next to the inspiration

Because the windows in Harvey's room are sized appropriately for our 1910 farm house and not for the gargantuan Swedish loft windows that IKEA imagines, I had a LOT of fabric left over when I shortened the curtains. Which is to say, more play clothes could still be made from my ample pile of scraps without disturbing the curtains on the wall. If Harvey ends up with a baby sister who fits into this dress I just might have to make him a matching pair of lederhosen.

green dress in the garden

ready to become play clothes

What is she talking about? you ask. Lederhosen? Of course I'm referencing The Sound of Music wherein the governess Maria fashions play clothes for all her charges out of her bedroom curtains. Then they run around singing Do A Deer, from which the title of this post is surreptitiously lifted (if you remember, in the middle section the children are each assigned a note and they sing Do Mi Mi, Mi So So. Probably you'd only have that section memorized if you are a total dork.)

So yes, I can't say we'll be COMPLETELY unprepared if this baby turns out to be a girl. These dresses do come together quickly ... even quicker than all the pink sweaters I've been knitting. But I'll save the pink yarn porn for another post.

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immortality

We're being a little more conscientious than usual about spring cleaning in the garden (got to impress potential donors, you know) and in the process I've turned up quite a number of old plant tags.

plastic plant tags

rather fresher than daisies

Very old: I don't think we've put in a plant from a store with tags like that in three or four years. And yet there they are, looking as good as new. The plants themselves are long gone, and wood garden structures built when we put the plants in are starting to decay, but the tags live on. Not that they're in perfect shape: the years out in the sun have turned the plastic much more brittle than it was when it came out of the factory, so if you handle them much they start to break. But each piece still looks as shiny and new as the day it was made.

I'm not against plastic in general. I love the big tubs where we store our off-season clothes, the molded body of my camera, and even black trays that I use to hold my seedlings and indoor herbs. In all of those cases I want something that's going to last forever. But plant tags don't need to last forever, nor do grocery bags or those stupid stickers they put on fruits and vegetables (I absolutely hate those stickers). Therefore, they should not be made of a material that will take longer than a human lifestyle to degrade even to the point where the item can't be recognized for what it was originally—never mind biodegrading entirely.

So yeah. Bring your bags to the grocery store and start your own seeds or get plants from friends (we've got lots, just ask Leah!). And I don't know what to do about those stickers.

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knitting fail

I had a goal last month to knit a hat for every member of my family out of our local Drumlin Farms wool before their annual sheep sheering festival. Well, Woolopalooza is long since past, and I did in fact complete three hats by that weekend. I just didn't show you mine because, well, it sucked. My hat sucked big time.

I wanted to try my hand at making a beret for myself, so I used a free pattern from Ravely which was a big mistake because apparently the pattern was sized to fit some manner of frisbee rather than any person's real head. If you cock the thing all the way back it sort of looks like something you could wear to a renaissance fair.

If you cock it to the front it looks like a pizza on your head.

The sad part was that I did all that purling before admitting that the finished product would be awful. And then I finished it off anyway, because I wanted to be SURE that the finished product would be awful. Still, I'm not the kind of person who will rip apart a knit work to reclaim a measly skein-and-a-half of yarn. For one thing I hate re-knitting with kinked-up yarn, and for another thing I might want to save this for a Swedish chef costume some day. Unless anyone is going to a renaissance fair in the future, in which case by all means the hat is yours.

There. Lest you think all my free time is productively spent. Also, I'm going to post about some lovely baby knits later in the week, and I wanted to start with the bar low.

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The poor person as empowered patient

The Economist blog featured a very well-written expose yesterday on "Economism" and the way in which framing the debate over how we pay for health services really IS the debate over how we pay for health services. I won't try to rehash the blogger's argument here; he's smarter than me and actually gets paid to put words together into sentences. I do want to add, however, that from my personal experience paying directly for health services DOES influence the health services one consumes, for better and for worse.

This issue is forefront in my mind these days because I recently finished paying off the service fees for our upcoming homebirth, all $3000 of them, only to find myself having to shell out another $150 or so for sterile medical supplies to have ready for the day of. And let me tell you, even though I had the option of pushing a single button and buying the homebirth pack online, I shopped around for every stupid item on that stupid list. No way was I going to pay $.20 each for several individually wrapped bendy straws when I have a pack of bendy straws in my kitchen cabinet. I've been through this once before; I know they're not for the baby. Neither did I buy ten individually wrapped gauze pads when a pack of 20 was less expensive. Or an umbilical cord clamp. Fuggin, just use a shoelace!

No, just kidding - I bought the cord clamp. Please, no one actually use a shoe lace; it can cause major bleeding.

Also, when you're paying for everything out of pocket you're more likely to push back against your provider's recommendations. Homebirth midwives tend to be an earthy crunch bunch, and no harm there, but I take it with several grains of sea salt when they instruct me to stock homeopathic arnica for swelling, when I already own tylenol in convenient medically effective quantities. We can have a separate discussion on whether homeopathy is even a real thing, but not on my credit card. Also, I'm not buying organic olive oil to use as a lubricant. If regular olive oil is good enough for cooking in my kitchen, it's good enough to rub on my taint.

All this is to say that when offered an a-la-carte menu, as I was when filling my birth supply list, the price of things affected my choice of treatment to some extent. This may be good in the sense that a smart consumer drives medical costs down. But this is only true up to a very small point. If I was out to save money on this endeavor, after all, the easiest thing to do would have been to give birth in a hospital where the whole kit and caboodle would have been free. I didn't choose that option because my preference for homebirth over hospital birth is price inelastic. So the fixed cost part of the birth, the 3 grand to pay the midwives, did not get any haggled. And how could a patient even begin that conversation? Look, I want you to give me good attentive care and save the life of my baby in dire circumstances, but could you think about doing it at a 20% discount? Because my husband is a member of the Massachusetts Teacher's Union?

Anyway, it's a very interesting discussion from an economist's point of view, if you can keep from getting mad over the disparity of maternity care state by state. And at least for me it's all done and paid for as of today! Now just to pop out that kid some time in the next month and hope it doesn't need much in the way of new clothes...

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Baby knits

I've been keeping my hands busy with some baby knits lately. They're so little that they knit up quite quickly, and they're easy to take here and there in a little plastic bag thrown into a purse. Also it's something to do outside when I can't bring myself to stoop over a weeding project. Harvey knows just how to manipulate me too, and when he wants to keep playing outside instead of heading out on errands he points to a chair and says, "Mama sit dere ninning?"

pink and gray and green sweater

pink, but not tooooo pink

I started by using up some small balls of scrap wool and a pattern from this book (thank you Bedford public library for your large and awesome knitting selection). If you're looking for a learn-to-knit book, this is a really good one, and the instructions for each project are written out in long descriptive form. If you already know how to knit and follow a pattern this feature may be kind of annoying, but the projects are so good that it's still worth a look, especially if it's in your local library and therefore free.

close-up of the pink and gray and green sweater

made from bits and pieces and showing it

The problem with working with bits of scrap, though, is that you never know if that ball of yarn will hold out till you're finished, and in the end I didn't have quiiiite enough gray to complete the edging. So as you can see from the photo above, the front edge is half gray and half green. Enough to make my eye twitch when I look at it, though I'm sure no one else would ever notice. Good thing I know 3 people about to give birth to baby girls, because this one is going into the gift pile.

pink sweater

bubble gum pink and ready for the carnival

This next sweater also came from scrap yarn - some cotton I had bought for a girl dress right before Harvey was born and then abandoned for obvious reasons. I wanted to try out this pattern for a baby cardigan knit all in one piece. Turns out it was extremely satisfying to knit. If you stitch up the seams as you go using a crochet hook then you never even have to break your yarn, making this a project I can complete from start to finish in just 4 days. Since this one ended up being more of a 6-month size than a newborn size it's also going to go into the gift pile too, for a baby shower this weekend in fact. I'll gladly trade the fact that I have no girl sweaters in my drawer for a season of free baby gifts.

close-up of the pink sweater

so sweet you could eat it

Dan suggested the big white button. He should be the knitter, really.

I liked the one-piece cardigan pattern so much that I decided to knit another one, only this time in more neutral colors and using up a bunch of different yarn scraps. I was inspired by a sweater I saw Harvey's friend Noah wearing at church. It had wool mixed with silk and ribs mixed with straight stitch in absolutely no predictable fashion. I was all, "That's CRAZY! That sweater should not be able to exist!" Then I spent I week wondering if I could hold my OCD at bay long enough to make one. The result is this newborn sweater:

white, green, and brown sweater

pleasantly unplanned

This was a rather difficult exercise for me, trying to make a sweater that's patterned in a fashion of n'importe quoi, but I really like the result. It's easier to make the mental leaps required for an experimental sweater when it takes less than a week and all the materials are free. I ended up liking it so much that I made a matching hat.

white, green, and brown sweater and matching hat

perfect if I give birth to a woodland elf

After all that I still had some white organic cotton left over, so I made a cute little turbain hat from this pattern (bigger than newborn size, fyi).

will probably fit for fall

And some fantastically soft booties.

white knitted booties

Harvey wants these for himself. Sorry dirty boy, you need real shoes.

The booties are a brilliant pattern from the book I mentioned above, knit all in one piece with almost no finishing. I'm starting to feel that I can take on any knitting project as long as I don't have to weave in any ends.

After three sweaters two hats and a pair of booties I finally exhausted my supply of scrap yarn and buttons. Just the excuse I needed to order a some more organic cotton and pick out a few more buttons, which Harvey and I did this week. So hopefully there'll be some more projects to show before baby shows up, and maybe I'll even keep some of them.

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happy birthday to me

So today is my birthday. I'm 30. Years old.

Surprisingly I'm not having much of a crisis over entering my 30s. For one thing I've felt 30 for the past 4 years now. That's what happens when your husband turns 30 first and then starts getting gray hair. But generally speaking I feel pretty good about what I've accomplished in my 20s. I'm happily married to a wonderful man. We have a perfect son and another sweet baby on the way. We own a great home and an awesome dog. I'm finished forever with grad-school and high heels and dieting and washing my face with soap.

All in all, things are pretty awesome.

I guess I used to have things like career goals too, but in retrospect those were stupid.

Packages of all shapes and sizes have been arriving at the house this week. I feel rather sheepish in the face of all these surprise gifts. I accidentally opened one Amazon box thinking it was a book for Harvey and caught a glimpse of this sewing book that had been on my wish-list. It was all I could do not to crack it open on Wednesday and immediately start cutting out pattern pieces. So yeah, that should give me something to work on for the next year or so.

Really all I want for my birthday is the fence I've been going on and on about, which is promised to be generously gifted for by my parents and Dan's parents. When all is said and done it will probably end up being about as expensive as Dan's 30th birthday computer, not that I'm keeping score. And as soon as our permit comes in we have ALMOST DEFINITE plans to break ground before my water breaks. Well, as long as we get that permit application in this week. Details details.

The whole clan is headed out to a fancy restaurant this evening to celebrate. Dan requested we eat at this establishment even though last time the food and drink was so rich that he threw up before getting into the car to drive home. Harvey for his part has been throwing up almost every meal this week, and I have evening nausea and a stomach crowded out by a full-term baby, so if we all make it to bed tonight un-puked-upon I will consider it a birthday miracle.

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pancakes pancakes

a pile of pancakes

needs syrup

Nothing says Saturday morning like pancakes for breakfast. Here's our recipe, which I post mainly to have it actually written down somewhere: I'm constantly in danger of forgetting how to make them.

These pancakes are tender and fluffy, just the way we like em. The recipe is modified from the one in Joy of Cooking to be more tender and fluffier; if you want them more tender yet you can substitute melted butter for the oil (but then they're kind of hard to pick up with a fork, so soft do they become).

In a large bowl whisk together:

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup wheat germ
3 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cinnamon

In another bowl beat together:

1 1/2 cup milk
2 large eggs
3 Tbsp canola oil

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix gently with a whisk until they're well-combined and not too lumpy.

Put your skillet over medium-high heat and butter as required. Pour the batter (I use a quarter cup measure, not quite filled for each pancake) and cook until most of the bubbles on top have popped, then flip and cook the other side for about 30 seconds.

Serve with butter and slightly-warmed maple syrup or preserves.

[edit: For an unconscionably long time this recipe incorrectly called for baking soda, since I always get the two confused in name if not in form. My apologies if anyone produced a completely inedible batch of pancakes.]

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