Yesterday I was at Luke's taking part in some communal beermaking and caught the end of the Red Sox game. Hey yeah, they're playing baseball now! I guess the Celtics are still doing their thing too, from what I here. But we have no direct experience of any of it, here in our media bubble. And thank goodness! Once you reach a certain threshold of awareness about these sorts of things you're actually obliged to start paying attention.
And it's not just sports; for the ladies, television programs (whether scripted or unscripted; I understand they're still making reality television these days) plays a similar role in cycling breathless expectation and vague disappointment. Actually, guys have to worry about both. Think how much time we once wasted on stupid shows like Heroes! But again, if you don't even know what programs are on, let alone what's popular, you have no chance of getting sucked into the vortex that is popular entertainment. In this case, ignorance truly is bliss.
Of course, it does mean we're pretty boring at social gatherings, but that was probably going to be the case anyways.
I think some people are maybe taking my little experiment the wrong way.
A few weeks ago I decided I was fed up with being fed up with the kids. That's not to say I spend every moment yelling and fighting. If that were the case I would need to get a nanny and commit myself to some sort of institution. No, most of our days today are lovely, filled with enjoyment and enriching activities, and I would much rather parent them than have anyone else do it.
The thing I was finding was that my frustration level tends to build during the day, on account of 1) feeling like I just CAN'T get done the things I need to get done and 2) feeling sick or in pain. After I've felt really sick for a while or really thwarted sometimes I do break out and yell. Not all the time. Not very violently. But the guilt about it does weigh on me.
In order to work on number 1 (feeling thwarted) I tried to pear down the number of things I feel I need to accomplish in a day. This meant putting a stop to the knitting and sewing and basket weaving projects, because while I absolutely love to create things, starting a project means there's something in process on the kitchen table, making me feel thwarted till it's finished and also thwarted in my need to clear the kitchen table for lunch. Also, I've been sleeping so poorly that it's just stupid to try to stay up late to accomplish something. There is only one thing I can do about number two, feeling sick, and that's sleep. If it's gotta be in two-hour bursts then the first one needs to start at 8pm.
My reaction to this experiment has been largely positive. I don't feel that the kids are thwarting me as much, and I feel like the house cleaning is a little bit more attainable, because I'm using my free time to clean in little bursts rather than weave a few rows of a basket. Also when I get my 30-minute union break (that's what I call it when Dan comes home and gives me a break from the kids) I mostly fold laundry instead of ignoring the mess to run straight to the sewing machine. It's not as glorious, but it means we mostly have folded laundry in the drawers. Look, cleaning is always a bottomless pit and even now there are things all over the floor and two baskets of unfolded laundry. I'm not saying my house is CLEAN. I'm saying I now realize that an hour a day of dedicated cleaning time is the minimum this house needs to function, and if I'm not doing that I'm either being unrealistic or selfish.
This is not to say that I have thrown my adult personality out the window to become Cinderella with stretch marks. We do participate in two adult church meetings a week (three if you count church!) and those are non-negotiable. I am right now blogging, which is a semi-adult activity, because the kids are both napping (thank you over-stimulating Discovery museum!) There are plenty of opportunities I have for self-actualization without messing up my house pretending to be Martha Stewart.
I think there's a tendency in our culture to say if parenting isn't going great then you should just parent less. Give the kids to a sitter and just go out. Or let them watch Dora. Or put them in daycare and go back to work. I don't want to get into a judgey thing, it's just... that's not my thing. I don't know if it comes across in the blog, maybe it doesn't, but I feel like I'm trying to DO something here. I'm trying to raise children in an authentic way, some way that's integrated with my values no less than 100%. I'm trying to raise makers, naturalists, revivalists. I'm not gonna... fuggin ... back off on the main goal of my life just because I'm dealing with a little exhaustion.
As Bill Johnson said about his kids, "I have a lot of dreams, but THEY'RE my dream."
Anyway, I'm aware I've been a wee bit whiney on the blog lately, and I apologize. It's not the most gracious season for me. I hope someone else will find the rawness interesting without suggesting I commit myself.
This morning at work chatting with folks about my weekend, I mostly talked about how long it felt. It's kind of crazy how just two days off can make me pretty much forget about what work is like. Now that I think about it, though, even my time at home in the evenings is so full and fun that it seems to expand: I feel like I get a weekend's worth of diversion just about every evening!
Not that it's all good times; when I got home at 4:00 Zion was feeling sick and fussy (and not for the first time today, neither!) so I held him while he yelled and kicked for a while before falling asleep for a well-needed nap. But then Harvey and I worked in the garden for an hour and a half or so, which was great fun; then we ate dinner, then I cleaned the kitchen and picked up the kids' toys while everybody else played outside. After that I took a turn outside with the boys and played on the porch and front steps for another hour or so. Then Leah put Zion to bed and I did Harvey's two book, two songs, and one prayer bedtime routine. And then it's now. Just five hours, but ever so full.
Part of it must be the awesome summer light: it's still light enough to read outside here past 9:00 (and we're on the eastern edge of the time zone!). Part is being more relaxed about the kids' bedtimes, which takes most of the stress out of the early part of the evening—at least for me, anyways. And some might just be my good mood lately. It's all wonderful, for everything except the consistent production of blog posts. After all, we don't have to write on weekends, do we?
In an effort to pretend that house-cleaning does not exist, I've been taking the kids on a lot of outings. Here we are at Drumlin Farm, family photo courtesy of our friends Eunice and Jun.
We also took our first ever trip to the Discovery Museum, and it was a smash hit despite the 50 minute wait to get in.
We ate lunch at the outdoor picnic tables and because of the nice wet jaunt on the playground Zion was actually interested in eating! (I feel like whenever I hit an eating moment with him I should cram in three days worth of food.) After our lunch the crowds had cleared and we headed in for two hours of sheer baby amazement. I mean come on; it's a museum for toddlers. People had some good ideas in the 70s.
We also went on our first picking outing of the year. Zion was much more helpful than last year, and gave me a good fifteen minutes to pick before he got fussy and needed to visit the animals.
Dan even took a personal day to help us on the outing. I'm pretty proficient at getting the two kids in and out of the car and fed and entertained and all, but I wouldn't trust myself to pick eight quarts of strawberries at the same time. Especially when we're counting on it for jam.
Sorry to dump all these photos at the same time. I'm trying to keep the computer closed during the day so I don't have to negotiate with Harvey whether he can watch a show.
We went to Walden Pond yesterday but I don't have photos of that expedition, which is probably for the best. Zion was so snotty he couldn't fall asleep by any normal means, and two minutes after getting home from food shopping it became apparent that we were going to need to leave in the car for somewhere, like, NOW. So with the knowledge that there was already a beach bag in the trunk I grabbed as much food as I could assemble while holding a screaming baby and fled with a gleeful Harvey to the car. When we got to the pond I almost broke down in tears when I realized I didn't know how I was going to get my suit on with one kid sleeping in a car seat and the other refusing to leave the stroller and a line in the bathroom where neither car seat nor stroller would fit. Thankfully some stray women saw my predicament and helped watch my kids while I changed and THEN helped me get the whole ensemble, car seat, stroller, and 4 bags down the hill. It was both heartwarming and incredibly embarrassing (and next time, no matter how much the baby is screaming I put on my swimsuit BEFORE I leave the house.) Harvey was an incredible angel, though, and he had a great time, so we may throw dignity to the wind and do it again some day.
Also, while we were playing in the water a woman showed up with 7 kids (!) and she had the same amount of stuff as I did. And just as I was starting to feel really ashamed of my lack of parenting ability I realized that she had 6 kids who could walk and two teenagers who could reliably carry things. And then I was like, I could totally have more kids, I just need to add them over the age of 10. And then Dan's like "Leah, you can't 'adopt' a maid, that's called slavery."
Who knows where we'll go today?
We went out to lunch with Grandma Beth today and Harvey mentioned a truck that he wanted for his birthday. The big one. From the Drumlin Farms store, he said. I explained that it was a recycle truck that's made out of recycled plastic. My mom put some part of that phrase into google and pulled up a photo on her phone. Is that it? she asked Harvey. Yes, he said. Oh look, she said, they have it on Amazon. And she ordered it while we were driving home in the car. Click, done, it'll be at her house a day before his birthday party on Saturday.
Now look, I don't want to be all ra-ra-consumer or anything, but even five years ago if you wanted to spoil your grandson you would have to drive on out to Drumlin Farm WITHOUT HIM and look at the trucks in the store, hope they had the same ones, hope you were picking out the one he wanted. And now you can just buy the dern thing without even going home to your computer. It's, it's, it boggles the mind.
Similarly, I saw a book in Marshals called "Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter." It's written like a non-fiction book, filled with primary source material, but then everything around it weaves the story into a horror novel. It's not to say I've read the book or anything, it's just that skimming it for a minute made me happy that silliness still runs loose in the universe. I requested it from the library but turns out there are something like 12 holds on the first 4 copies returned. Apparently it's being turned into a major motion picture. Which, you know, makes me less enthralled with the universe but I choose to ignore it.
(Also, both babies sleeping! Thank you Grandma for a great tiring outing!)
I love being in the garden. Every time I go out there to do any small task—emptying the compost bin, say—I run the risk of being sucked into other little jobs. These days there are always tomato suckers to pinch off and cucumber beetles to catch and squish, and failing that I can always just wander around and enjoy and make plans for next season, when I'll do things better.
What's gone wrong so far this year? The root vegetables—onions, beets, carrots, and parsnips—have been sore plagued with pests: first bugs and now rabbits. If we harvest any of any of them I'll be amazed. Part of the problem, I think, was my failure to prepare the soil well enough in that bed: I think that lack of soil fertility made them grow slowly to begin with and kept them vulnerable to insects. Lesson learned! The bed where I put the peppers is too shady (by the standards of my remarkably sunny garden). Oops, should have noticed that earlier. Too late now; I won't do it again. Rabbits ate a few of the bean seedlings and, even more aggravatingly, bit through the base of several of the pea plants. I should have put chicken wire around those beds, like I did last year. Rascal stomped on one of the hills of zucchini, and none of the seeds there have sprouted yet. I'd just resow them, but I don't have any more of that variety. I just now sowed corn now, and still haven't put in some other things I wanted to plant this year: butternut squash, for example, and various flowers. Squirrels are eating more than their share of strawberries.
Still. Peas are starting to come in, tomatoes and beans are growing beautifully, more cucumbers germinated than ever before, all the herbs came back strong—even self-seeded parsley! We're getting all the strawberries we can eat, and the raspberries are coming along strong. We're staying ahead of the weeds. And the garden is a wonderful, calm place to work or play or just hang out and relax. And it gets better all the time.
After Zion's big bash last month we weren't planning to do anything much for Harvey's 3rd birthday, but as the day got closer I got more and more concerned that the day wouldn't be celebrated properly. Finally I was upset enough to articulate my unhappiness to Leah, however incoherently; she, wonderful wife that she is, immediately invited some more people and made some beautiful fabric decorations for both inside and outside the house.
Of course, now that the porch is so elegantly adorned I feel like I should clean it up some—that on top of making the birthday cake, buns for hamburgers and hot dogs, and some sort of vegan alternative dish. Oh, and cleaning and blowing up the wading pool: you shouldn't do a midsummer birthday without some awesome splashing! Hopefully we'll have some other kids joining us for the festivities, but if not I'm sure we can prevail upon Grandma to hit the pool with Harvey.
The last minute decision-making and things is pretty typical for us around here. We didn't even send out invitations this time, and weren't sure exactly when we'd be welcoming people until a couple days ago. But things tend to go pretty smoothly in the end, and I think there's something to be said for collapsing the active period of stressful preparations into the smallest space possible. That's my theory, anyways; Leah might have another view!
I don't even know how many people will be coming tomorrow, but I'm sure we can feed a couple more; stop by if you're in the neighborhood!
Zion took some steps today! 2 and even 3 in a row! I think that counts as a milestone. Good job little big boy.
In other first steps, I started a round of antibiotics for a strep infection. The doctor also suggested I may have mono, which was like a lightbulb going off in my head. Oh, that would explain why I've been fantasizing about lying down almost every moment for the past two months. Of course, there's nothing to do for mono, the treatment is bed-rest (ha ha) and wait it out whether it takes six weeks or six months. Still, I feel like I'd appreciate a diagnosis to justify what I've been going through. It's not that two kids are too much for me; I've been legitimately sick you guys.
Dan will post pictures of the party soon. He's been parenting like a champ in my illness absence. That guy deserves a congressional medal of dada.
For his birthday party on Saturday Harvey requested a chocolate cake with no frosting. This one met with his approval, but when it came out of the oven he did ask, "What's that hole? Can we fill it up?" Besides cake he also asked for apples, bananas, and hot dogs, all of which we provided him—along with a few other things.
This year he fully understood what to expect in a birthday party—a function both of being three and of having Zion's party a little while ago for a model. He also now knows how to open presents.
That particular one was a big box of wooden blocks, which are totally awesome and also carry a significant risk of being used as bludgeoning weapons. But what really stole the show was the card from Grandma and Grandpa Bernstein, which plays music and features a spinning candle flame. The battery hasn't worn down yet, contrary to all expectations.
This being a midsummer birthday, there was of course a swimming portion, though the weather wasn't actually that warm. That of course doesn't stop kids from trying.
Everyone had a great time, including Zion who, clearly satisfied with his own party last month, evinced no jealousy at all.
He's a pretty good little brother.
Today was Harvey's birthday proper, and we celebrated with a trip to the Discovery Museum. Great fun. But the real story of the day was the heat—extreme, prostrating heat—which the boys responded to in true Mexican fashion:
The excitement of three solid hours of hands-on museum fun may have contributed too, of course, but they totally had the right idea. Not much else to be done between the hours of 1:00 and 3:00 this afternoon.
We spent the weekend entertaining guests from the other side of the country: James, Theresa, JR, and Tristan of James & T & Family fame. Theresa and I were good friends in college but haven't seen each other since—and Leah had never met her, nor had we met her boys. Thanks to the wonders of blogging, though, we didn't feel like we needed to do any catching up; it was straight into fun times together!
It's not that we take everyone who comes here to see the historical sights; we ask them what they want to do! But it is hard to resist the allure of Revolutionary history around here. We visited the Battle Road and the Hartwell Tavern and took in a mock trial.
JR commandeered the camera for most of the expedition, which isn't so terrible because it looked like he was getting some good thoughtful pictures. I hope to see some of them in a week or so, after the epic trip is concluded.
Next up was the Old North Bridge, and Tristan wanted to wade right in to look for shiny rocks. He's a big fan of crystals these days, but I think he would have accepted a gold nugget too.
Zion doesn't care about rocks except to eat them, so for him the appeal was the water itself. He refused all consolation until we undressed him and let him sit down in the river.
Harvey was asleep at that point, or else he would have ended up pretty wet too.
Besides the excitements pictured we also enjoyed some lunch and shopping in Concord center and ice cream treats at Bedford Farms, as well as a couple of delicious egg-filled breakfasts thanks to our once-again-fully-productive chickens. I think we were good hosts; maybe we'll be treated to another visit in ten or fifteen years!
We have mentioned the Sparkling Adventures blog here before. They are the victims of some unfortunate events this week. There was a tragedy on Saturday, the baby died. Now is appears the father is at fault.
I have some thoughts which start off with a confession. When all I knew was that the baby had died, my first instinct was to suspect they had taken lightly one of the safety precautions that all of us hippies take lightly, and we would all face condemnation as a result. God forbid the baby had suffocated while sleeping in bed with his parents, or fallen ill with a disease that might have been prevented by vaccinations. It's not that those risks are incalculable, it's just... well yesterday I was thinking if I would have to make my kids wear shoes all the time if the whole world was gonna turn against hippies, so when I found out that it was murder I kind of felt relief.
Which is to say, I felt suddenly happy to have some distance. I am a hippy but not a murderer so bad things will probably not happen to me.
It's funny how closeness and distance works on the internet.
I don't know Lauren of Sparkling Adventures, but I feel like I do because I read her blog. I love reading blogs because I appreciate the inside glimpse into someone else's heart. I think our desire to connect with people we don't know is a beautiful thing. I also have a blog, and I appreciate that other people read it, not because we serve ads (we don't) but because the people who read my blog have an accurate picture of the inside of my mind, the disgusting sin menagerie that it is, and then when these people go and talk to me in person despite what they read on the blog it's like grace in action.
If I like reading blogs because they connect me to other people, I had reading news. The point of news is to sensationalize awful events, with the result that each person feels more isolated and fearful about the world around them. Whereas blogs reflect the complexity of experience, news creates a video-game summary of it. Identify the bad guy. Fire. We all feel safer but more disconnected.
This week the Sparkling Adventure family transitioned from the bloggers to news items, and as such there doesn't seem to be a healthy way to relate to them anymore. Except this one thing:
As Christians we are called to intercede for people, which means we personally stand up in the gap between an individual and God. Ezekiel 22:30 says "I sought for a man among them that should make up the hedge and stand in the gap before me for the land that I should not destroy it: but I found none." When someone does a bad thing, the gap is a very scary place to stand. And yet this is the place where we get to see God, where He connects people more powerfully than reading blogs ever can. So Lord God, I ask that you would show your face to David, Lauren, Aisha, Brioni, Calista and Delanie. I ask that Your presence would give them peace that passes all understanding, even mine. amen.
We've been busy with all kinds of fun outings around here lately. Yesterday the family Stevens treated us to a trip to the Science Museum. It was totally awesome, and I regret only that it was too dark inside there for good photography.
We took the train there, which may have been Zion's favorite part. Harvey is still a fan too. Our older son also appreciated the chance to get an up-close look at the setting of Make Way For Ducklings (the hatching site, naturally, not the Public Garden; that's scheduled for later in the summer). He was not, though, happy to have to leave before he was ready.
As well as big fancy trips, we've also been out and about in town. Today we bicycled all the way to Grandma's house; two days ago it was the farmers market in Lexington. The boys are naturally experienced cycle tourists, and they know how to snatch some much-needed rest whenever they get a chance.
You know, they say that the Tour de France is won in bed, but I don't think that even professional cyclists manage to sleep while actually on the road.
Our trip to the farmers market Tuesday alerted me to the fact that we have a gold mine on our hands. This week, the only raspberries for sale at the market were going for an eye-popping $4.50 per half-pint, which meant that that very morning I had harvested, in an easy ten-minutes' work, $13.50 worth of berries!
Our raspberry total for the season, at last-week-in-June prices, now stands at $31.50, and that's just for the berries that managed to make it inside the house. Cutting back the trees overhanging the canes last fall really paid off; this is our best harvest yet.
I'm not counting most things like that; we talked about weighing all the harvests this year like the Path to Freedom folks do, but then we decided that would be too much work. So I can tell you that we've gotten alot of peas, and there were a fair number of strawberries, but strict numerical accounting eludes us. Rhubarb, though, has been measured, because most recipes call for it by the pound—so I can tell you that we've harvested around nine pounds which, at mid-season prices of $3.99/lb, gives us another $36 or so.
The best part about those two crops is that they're both entirely free to us. We got the rhubarb from my mother and the raspberries from Leah's dad, and besides a little water and compost we haven't done anything for them since. So pure profit! All we need to do is expand a little and we'll be ready to make our living as farmers.
Harvey and Zion have been packing in the milestones lately. Zion is working on walking, and he's also expanding his vocabulary: so far we have ball, duck, dog, book, bye-bye, and cracker, not to mention a variety of animal sounds and any number of things that, to us, sound like identical instances of "buh!". He's also expanding his capacity for—and displays of—frustration. So far we haven't shut him in a room by himself to work it out, but let's just say that the sooner his language develops to a point where he can express what he actually wants (assuming he can even figure that out) the better.
Harvey for his part is once again able to climb a full flight of stairs, a skill he lost way back when he started walking. It's a question not of ability but of courage, so it's exciting to see him build up a little confidence. In the same vein he's now sliding down the little slide at the playground and occasionally looking at strangers who address him in stores and whatnot (many do: his beauty is quite remarkable). He's even been a teeny bit willing to sit on the potty—without doing anything—and then pee through some underpants! That's progress, folks.
To change tacks completely, I can't write this post without thinking yet again of Lauren and her family. Elijah's death hit me pretty hard; even though I'd only been reading the blog for a couple months I was as shaken as I would have been if they were close friends. With any sudden death like that, especially of a child, you can't help thinking of other ways things could have played out: what little change two weeks or two months ago might have led to him still being alive today. Leah thinks about keeping people safe, and that was reflected in her post; me, I can't even imagine bad things happening so I'm just totally devastated when they do. But somehow life goes on regardless. I don't know.
As Dan mentioned a few weeks ago I rustled up some new fabric decorations for Harvey's birthday party. It wasn't a major production. I just grabbed some pieces of scrap, cut them into strips and tied them together. I did the whole thing downstairs sitting with Harvey in front of the air conditioner. I'm into small projects these days.
Dan came in several times to ask if I was suuuuuure we'd still have enough fabric to quilt with later, and things like, "That fabric? It's so pretty! Are you sure we can't use it for something else?" I've given him little evidence in the past to trust my resourcefulness, so I guess it's fair.
After it was all done and installed, though, Dan seemed to like it and added, "You should make a patchwork flag!" So next time he took the kids out to Market Basket I took him up on the idea.
Two hours total. No hems, because I want it to fray in a "funky" way dash I am sooo lazy right now. Have I mentioned I'm really tired?
Anyway, I hope the flag announces in some symbolic way that we're a hippy crafty house. But I guess anyone could tell that by the sheer volume of bikes and lumber and crap on the front porch. No wonder no one notices the flag!