Some moments from the past week. Yes, even with all the overwhelming things going on, there were moments...
Remember when it snowed back in March? That was delightful and exciting and it melted quick and we all had a laugh. Then in April we had another snowstorm. Two more, actually.
That's the afternoon of the second storm. The first one was Sunday, when we woke up to heavy snow starting to fall; two inches accumulated in less that two hours, making for a pretty tricky drive to church. But then the sun came out and it all melted before mid afternoon. The second one, yesterday, wasn't as speedy—but it snowed pretty steadily all day and never got warm. So there was still plenty of snow around this morning. Just like winter!
In March the boys were excited for one last chance to romp in the snow, but apparently they meant last chance. We stayed inside all day Monday (we were also all a little sick). Maybe it's just the wrongness of snow in April that put us off.
But today was bright and sunny—though wintery cold—and we managed to venture outside a bit.
Even though it was barely above freezing all day, that April sun is strong. There's still snow hanging around, but nevertheless you don't have to look far to see that spring has some power behind it yet!
Happy first week of April!
I have a sermon that's live on our church website today. It's about the futility of all effortful endeavor. It also contains some things that one should probably not share in church, like references to birth and giving birth and not always relishing the sacred task of motherhood.
On the bright side, I didn't say "crap," "sucks," or "frickin." Not to mention the REAL things I say to my children between 3 and 5pm. So no matter how bad you think this talk is, I assure you it could have been worse.
I have often said that I have a mission in life, if one can be said to have such a thing — if our behavior is more than a sum total of our genetic proclivities and our learned habits. And I have said that my personal mission is to Say the Things. Say the secret things. The dirty truths about what things are really like in this senseless life that we all have to survive. And this is a mission, I say, because things are important, and hidden things can be torturous to those who hide them.
So I share and I overshare and some people see me as laughably inappropriate. And some people think I'm just crazy or gross. Or a bad mother. They can think all those things — they are fair assessments seeing as I've put all the evidence out there for analysis.
But I have a trump card. There is always The Mission. If I am making my faults public for the greater good, to empower honesty or grace or whatever in others, then I win if you like me and I win if you don't like me. And maybe if I take a truthful look at my own behaviors, I am not in fact so motivate by Mission as I am by a desire to control the mechanisms of my own acceptance or rejection.
I realized this today, when I was wondering what compelled me to drink almond butter straight from the jar like it was a mug of coffee (I mean, what compelled me EMOTIONALLY to do so. In practical terms, I was drinking the almond butter from the jar because I didn't have a spoon available in the car ride home from the store.)
If there wasn't something there emotionally, I told myself, something that I was covering up with the belief that nut fat could be either the solution to or the cause of all my problems, if there wasn't some truth I was trying to hide from myself then it is likely I'd eat almond butter in normal quantities.
Or at least in a normal manner. Not in a way such that I imagined the cop I passed, if he looked up at all, would think that I was holding a Dunkins.
And as I asked myself this question, I saw the sentence instantly, the great secret I am trying to hide from. "I can't make people like me."
They will like me or they will not like me and the circumstances will often be beyond my control.
I might like to believe I can make my body so impressive, either through my looks (yes I know my magical thinking is magical) or through feats of amazing endurance, then everyone will have to be awed into liking me. Or, I think in my darker more realistic moments, that because people will never accept who I am in all my frailty, that I will beat them to the punch with self rejection. I will make myself disgusting even to myself. I will buy something like almond butter with the liquid fat right at the top, testing whether a woman who hasn't worked out in a week because she doesn't have any stretch pants that haven't been vomited on by a child will not use the three minute drive from Whole Foods to home as an exercise in proving she is not really human but some kind of wild animal who drinks pure fat like a dog sips dirty water from a puddle. And this will mean that it's okay if everybody hates me, or thinks of me as a disgusting cur who can't keep her mouth shut, because, even though they may not be aware of the specifics, I am completely deserving of this judgement.
And maybe, just maybe, the fear of "I can't make people like me" is the emotional mission behind The Mission. And if I could just accept the world that may or may not include acceptance of me, I'd maybe be a lot less mouthy and maybe we'd all get a little more peace and quiet.
No, I still think it's important to say the things. One of them may one day rob the California almond of its power. In the mean time, please enjoy the jokes at my expense. And please do comment positive things about the sermon. I am, after all, so desperate to be listened to.
Can't write, sleeping.
After being disappointed in our Patriots Day celebrations last year, Harvey, Zion, and I very much enjoyed the reenactment at Tower Park yesterday: a full hour of non-stop volley firing and maneuvering! And we're very much looking forward to the parade tomorrow. Patriots Day is great!
I hadn't been to Tower Park for the show since back in 2003—my photo library proves it, even if we weren't blogging back then. It's a great event: much more involved than the more famous Monday morning affair on Lexington Green, it has marching and counter-marching, skirmishing and outflanking, galloping horses, and even cannons! And it's nowhere near as crowded, so we were able to find a good spot near where the action began (and even save places for our friends), then move to another spot with great visibility for the ending part of the battle. Plus, it was at 4:00 pm rather than 5:00 am! A win all around, and the kids getting to collect spent paper cartridges afterwards was just a bonus.
Here are some more pictures of the affair:
It's been two years since we got to attend a Patriots Day parade, so we were determined to enjoy this one to the fullest—those of us who didn't have more important concerns to take care of, at least. In Leah and Lijah's absence we made sure to invite lots of friends along.
I came up with the idea of inviting friends to park at our house and bike up to Lexington for the festivities last year, but in the event rain forced a change of plans. This year the scheme was back bigger and better than even, so we had five families all together at the parade route—six if you count Grandma and Grandpa as distinct from us Bedford Archibalds. Having so many friends to talk to was interesting, since it served to abstract me a little from the direct experience of the parade... in the best of all possible ways. Harvey and Zion were insulated by their friends too, and additionally their focus on ingesting as much parade-grade sugar as possible.
The biking part of the trip—with the best part of three families—was lovely; the four kids on their own bikes did a fantastic job, and I had fun hauling a couple more in the blue bike. Having it makes packing for an outing a lot easier. Bring a soccer ball? Why not?!
We managed the 4.5 mile trip up in about 40 minutes, plenty of time for a relaxing lunch—and a little soccer!—before the parade.
Other folks joined us by auto and foot, including some little guys, who weren't sure what to make of all the excitement. But parents knew how to enter into the spirit of it all!
For their part Harvey and Zion are parade pros, and even distracted by friends and food they enjoyed it all to the fullest.
So that was that—then those of us with bikes went back to our house and kept the party going with beer and Indian food—and mac and cheese for the kids—for another three hours, but that's another story. Let's do it again next year!
We're having a tough time around here for a few different reasons, so last week I made a deliberate decision not to write, in order to carve out some time for other activities. Including, but not limited to, sleeping. In a way it would be easy to keep up the hiatus indefinitely, not least because I'm very aware that my words here don't command a particularly wide audience. Really, if I stopped writing at all I don't think anyone would mind, or even notice, except maybe my mother—and I talk to her on the phone. But I actually have another audience in mind most times I sit down to write after everything else is done at a time I'd much rather be asleep: my future self.
I'm not particularly successful by any conventional definition, which doesn't really bother me. But I do put some energy into leading the kind of life I want to lead, and particularly—in this stage of life—in doing fun and worthwhile things with the boys. And I wonder if, ten or even two years later, I'd remember what was going on this spring if I didn't write it down. Sure, there'd be general recollections, but the details are hard work, and it seems a shame not to remember them. So all that is to say: most of the time, this blog—what I write in it—isn't a project itself, but rather it's a recording of the real project, which is life. So that's why I bother to write. Why you're bothering to read is another question entirely... hopefully I'm at least a little bit entertaining from time to time!
Leah's usually the one who writes about the tough times, leaving me to accentuate the positive. As our roles are in pretty much everything, really. But in the interest of balance I feel it's my duty to describe, for a moment, what's making it so tough around here lately. Briefly, it's Lijah.
He is a lovely child, of course, and he has many wonderful qualities. Really, when you get right down to it his only downside is that he's the third boy in the house, and sometimes that tips us out of balance. Like now, when we're trying to get him weaned just as he's entering fully into his terrible twos and realizing that he can't change the world by force of will—which of course just makes him want to try harder. The thing he wants to change most is to be able to nurse whenever he wants, but since that's not happening he's willing to freak out over just about anything else: not being able to destroy all his brothers' toys, not having a tiny lego sword in his hand at all times, sleeping, not sleeping, and—most of all—not being connected to Leah every possible moment.
There's some progress—today he spent five hours with Grandma and Grandpa and then another couple going out to dinner with them, his brothers, and me. He was quite civilized almost the whole time, and he ate a very respectable number of french fries (I'm engaging him on many fronts, but what foods he chooses to eat is not one of them—at this point we're happy for him to take any non-chocolate solids!). But sleeping is still elusive and many hours of the day are taken up with keeping him marginally ok. It's all pretty wearing.
So. As I write stories of our small triumphs and Leah doesn't write at all, know that all that is going on in the background. And realize that, whatever we write or not, we're working pretty hard; and when we, say, make Easter suits and a party for a dozen friends it's just because we're that awesome.
Almost as awesome as Jo and Eugene!
We made some lovely new friends a few months ago. We first met them over the summer at the food pantry, but it wasn't until we connected with them through another friend that we really started to talk and see each other as more than just acquaintances. But once we did we found them delightful. I like kids, and they have lots! Including a first-grade boy and a girl just a few days younger than Zion (and of similar size!).
Only... now they're moving away.
We want to keep in touch, of course: they're headed west, out to the mountainous region between Greenfield and North Adams, which seems like a lovely place to visit! And only two hours away; that's not to bad for a social call, right? And we rejoice with them in their new house, which is finally someplace big enough for them to spread out and be comfortable. But we're going to miss them! Harvey especially—he got a little teary when I first told him his new friend was going to be moving away.
One problem with living in the comfortable suburbs is that it's hard to meet other people like us. Which is to say, poor hippies. So when we find some it feels like we're getting somewhere in terms of building a comfortable community—community that's hard enough with friends in Lowell and West Roxbury, never mind a hundred miles down Route 2.
I don't have a general theory of making friends. When we moved to Bedford we didn't have any, and it took us a couple years to get it together to make our first real friendships. I don't know what we did all that time. I still don't feel like I'm very good at making friends, but—even though I think I remain an introvert—more and more I value spending time with people and finding ways to connect with them. For some reason.
There's no conclusion to this post; I just wanted to record the fact of our friendship and it's separation. We'll have some nice pictures when we manage to get out there for our first visit.
Moments and images from the warm-weather week; and not all of them are just Lijah (I could have included more of him!).
It got warm for a couple days, so our thoughts turned towards splashing in the April water. Well, relatively warm... but as you can see from the last post, we made it all the way to the pond. Of course, we had to start small first.
The air was plenty warm in that picture, but the water from the hose not so much. There was not much playing done in that little pool before we headed out on our afternoon adventure to a playground—but the playground was so hot and dry that I needed to find somewhere wetter, just to look at.
Of course, the big boys need to explore more closely!
They threw sticks and rocks, then found some cardboard to make into boats to float downstream. Then getting the boats unstuck from the rocky rapids was a project that took the rest of our time there. Nobody fell in!
The next day wasn't quite as hot, so when I suggested a trip to the pond I wasn't thinking about actually swimming. But everybody else was!
At least we communicated about it before hand, and were fully prepared. Lots of other families visiting historic Walden Pond on a mild spring Saturday were thinking about visiting the Thoreau house site, maybe taking a hike around the pond, and not expecting that, on seeing water, their children would need to immediately jump in. They should have known better.
The girl in that picture went from dipping her feet in to fully submerged—fully clothed, of course—in under a minute. Most kids took a little longer, but they all got wet. As cold as the water was, though, nobody could just swim: we needed other entertainments as well.
Of course, even in early spring, it's the water that's the real draw. Yay water!
Leah is away at a conference the last half of this week and I'm on my own with the boys. Well, she's not really away—she's back 6:30 or 7 every evening to handle the all-important night shift. And I'm not really on my own, since I had to work yesterday so the boys spent all day with Grandma and Grandpa. But today was all me! We had a picnic.
Lijah's been coping pretty well, all things considered: eating and napping as well as we could hope. He even survived me waking him up this afternoon when he fell asleep in the car on the way to get Leah a birthday present! I drove the extra-scenic route home in hopes of getting him to sleep again, and when he didn't I was pretty dismayed. Then he fell asleep in four minutes listening to brass band music (just like old times!) while his brothers played with legos. I think he was tired because I made him fend for himself all morning.
Leah's doing well enough with her 11 or 12 hours of child-free time (it has its benefits and its drawbacks). I'm not sure how she feels about spending her birthday away tomorrow, but as Harvey put it: "It's good Mama's going to be gone so we can make her cards!" Yes indeed. That's what we'll be doing tomorrow. And probably some other things too...
As Harvey planned, we took advantage of Leah's absence to get ready to celebrate her birthday this evening (the 15 minutes she's home before bedtime this week is the perfect length of time for her to think about her birthday). We wrapped the present—a waffle-maker—in brown paper and decorated the wrapping, and water-colored cards (washable tempera for Lijah). Harvey wanted to include clues to the present's contents both in his picture, and in a poem inside the card—he's just that excited about the work we've been doing for National Poetry Month. After he thought for a while he admitted, "this is going to be just a rhyme, not really a poem," but I think it does the job.
No, it's not a commentary on the edibility of paleo waffles—that's just where we are in our first grade poetry study. Proud of finding rhymes! (and indifferent to rhythm, mostly).
The present was really from the boys (though I put it on my credit card, and they haven't paid me back yet...). I got my mom a waffle-maker for Christmas one year, and it was the gift that kept on giving—to me! So they're definitely on to something. But they were also very excited to be celebrating Mama, and put a lot of effort into the presentation. Even if she doesn't care so much about her birthday, we care about her and want her to know it!
So happy birthday Mama, and here's to some delicious awful waffles.
We don't devote much daily time to "school work" here, and pretty much none at all to reading instruction. Our literacy time is all taken up with read-alouds, story-telling, and, this month, poetry. But nevertheless, while I was doing the dishes the other day this is how the boys were occupying themselves in the other room.
A couple different things going on. Like me Harvey doesn't want to work on something unless he's good at it, and unless he has a good reason to; he also likes to be helpful, especially when he doesn't have to work too hard. Practicing reading with me is frustrating and annoying to him—totally understandably! But he's spent a couple hours a day with his nose in a book every day for at least a year, slowly figuring things out by himself. So when I ask him to read to his brothers while I do some other work, he doesn't see a pointless difficult task, he sees a chance to be useful while showing off a developing skill—and being the focus of uncritical attention!
Don't tell him, but it's all great practice. He's moving up to comic books now—whether they like it or not!—and apologized to me for not being able to do the voices. I pointed out how well he reads with expression from the books he knows better; I'm sure the comic books will come in time too. His audience is delighted either way.
Of course, remember: he still doesn't know how to read.