what's old is new

A few months ago my mother dug a box out of the attic filled with hand-knit sweaters made for me and my brother when we were wee ones. The majority were knit by my Grandma Shirley. Shirley was married to Harvey Bernstein, who lends his name to our darling boy. So you can imagine that Great-Grandma might be pleased as punch to see this photo:

Harvey in a 28-year-old sweater

a classic look

A visual reverse-engineering tells me this is a "surprise sweater" of the Zimmerman variety, though the detailing is much more impressive than any lazy-ass surprise sweater I had planned to make. Why all those cables are passed in back rather than in front I'll never know. An extra labor of love, perhaps.

Upon seeing the photo my mother sent this blessing-dash-warning:

That sweater was always one of my favorites. Jake wore it all the time. take good care of it (no washing machine)

Good advice! Knitters everywhere take heed - do not put your hand knit wool sweaters in the washing machine.

But beyond that, what does it mean to take good care of a sweater? I would posit that the right way isn't to handle it with kit gloves like it's on auction at Christi's. No matter how vintage it is.

As a knitter myself, there's one thing I fear about every project. Not that it'll come out bungled or I'll run out of the right color yarn (although on my budget that's always a concern.) My fear is that it won't be worn. Hours lovingly poured into a project stitch by stitch, only to know that it gets thrown in a drawer or an attic box, sitting unused for years.

So I say this to all future wearers of my sweaters in all generations to come: wear with abandon! Roll in the leaves. Spill your soup. Wrestle with the dog and pull at a thread or two. When it comes time to wash the thing, of course have momma use some cold water and re-block it on a flat surface. But when it's dry again, take it out to play. And hopefully, when the sweater is good and destroyed, there'll be someone new with a set of needles ready to nock out another one. She may not do the button-hole edging in popcorn stitch, and she might pass all the cables in front, but for the love of God no one in their right mind is going to notice.

harvey in a 28-year-old sweater, smiling

feeling warm and fuzzy

Alls I ask is that you take a picture. In digital. It'll last longer.

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new month, new look

You may have noticed that we've changed things up a little here at the squibix family blog; more so even than when we replaced the green look with those cute snowmen a couple months ago. This time it's not only a new look, it's new functionality (that means stuff that does stuff) as well! Read on for some details (unless you only take in our content via RSS reader; in that case, go enjoy your coffee or whatever).

After a couple years menu-less, the menus have returned to the left-hand side. I asked Leah if she wanted the blog to look more spacious and zen, and she replied in the extreme negative—something about wasted space and not having anywhere to focus on the page. I compromised by making the menus fold up, so they don't take up too much attention-space if you don't want to look at them. Since I'm the spiritual head of the household, you'll notice they start out folded.

We also added tags, which were all the rage some three-four years ago. We wanted to make sure they had legs, you know. We've gone back and tagged about a year's worth of posts; the tagging work will continue, if only because we get a kick out of reading our old material.

Finally, there's now an archive, for the historically-minded reader. I particularly recommend the full page of calendars, because the principal reason I ever write in this blog is to fill up the little numbers with links. I also am prouder of that calendar code than anything else I've ever written.

Of course, as with any new software project, there are bound to be issues: what are known colloquially, in the business, as "bugs". Some of them we even know about, but didn't bother to fix quite yet: for example, Leah doesn't really like the tree drawing on the masthead. I promised to make her a better one, but I couldn't deny you the opportunity to read our twitter posts in the sidebar for the time that would take. So, later. Others we might not notice unless you tell us, so please don't hesitate to offer your feedback.

I know, with all that don't I sound like this is a real important blog, like people are reading?! Hi mom, hi Oona! Still, I had fun putting all this new stuff together, so I get to talk about it a little bit. I hope you enjoy!

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baby food

Since we've been hanging around with Harvey we've gotten to enjoy certain foods we otherwise would have denied ourselves. His Cheerios, for example, possess a certain appeal at breakfast time when we're too sleepy to consider more complicated alternatives (despite the fact that we invariably feel a little ill at the end of the bowl, we keep trying them). Leah is enjoying his rice cakes, which—even salt-less as they are—fill a crunchy-snack niche that would otherwise be mostly unoccupied in our household. I can't make crackers every day, you know.

We're trying to get him onto a wider variety of human foods—hippy human foods, I should say, since I have it on good authority that in the wider world Cheerios are not exclusively for infants—but we've been stymied by the advice presented in What to Expect: The First Year. I know, I know, but there it is in print! No eggs, even cooked in baked goods, until we first introduce egg yolks alone. Great, we can get him started on crème brulée. Since we're not really going to do that, we've stayed away from eggs altogether; and absent eggs, all the tastier sorts of baked goods are off limits. Our bread, too, is problematic because it has honey in it. I suppose I could make another recipe, but we like this one!

Still, we're looking forward to the day when he will be able to enjoy our foods as much as we do his. We're the parents here: we should be setting the food priorities! Although we probably won't complain if he starts bringing home McDonalds french fires for us to steal.

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internet, how you doin?

Look at me! Taking a day off of writing in the blog so that I could spend an hour yesterday watching Maria Bamford videos. Even though I had sworn this month that I'm on an internet video fast. This has been a VERY STRESSFUL week.

If you want to check out some of the comedy I used to waste my time yesterday, here's a short clip and a long clip. Look Dan, she's got the same bedspread as us! And like ten times the mental illness so that it makes the tenth your wife has look endearing!

On the Leah be creative front, there's video in the cutting room and pictures in the camera and jokes somewhere in the back of this brain. Coming soonish?

Spring

Yesterday morning the weather was so spring-like that Harvey and I did some setting outside on the newly exposed lawn.

harvey discovers grass

What's this stuff?

I have nothing of merit coming out of my brain today, so I'll let the images suffice to cheer, entertain, and inspire you.

2nd in a series of Harvey eating grass

got some in his grasp

3rd in a series of Harvey eating grass

ooooopen wide!

4th in a series of Harvey eating grass

finger lickin good

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Radical Homemakers

This is what we're going for. Too bad Shannon Hayes and Bob Hooper got there first to write the book, but that just means that the revolution is well under way. Sometimes it's nice to be part of something, rather than crazy and on your own.

My favorite part (from the introduction, which is available online):

[Radical homemaker] families did not see their homes as a refuge from the world. Rather, each home was the center for social change, the starting point from which a better life would ripple out for everyone.

And:

Mainstream American culture views the household as a unit of consumption. By this conventional standard, the household consumes food, clothing, household technologies, repair and debt services, electricity, entertainment, health-care services, and environmental resources.... [The authors' models'] household was not a unit of consumption. By growing their own food, living within their means, providing much of their own health care, and relying on community, family and barter for meeting their remaining needs, their household was essentially a unit of production (just not by the standards of a market economy). Thus, their income wasn’t critical to their well-being. [emphasis in original]

I will procure the book, and add it to our growing collection of inspiring material. We'll get there yet!

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Happy Birthday Danny!

Today is the birthday of my wonderful handsome perfect husband. Happy Birthday Danny!

danny standing on a rock in cummington ma

he's the king of the world

I'm having a rough week, so I'm a bit parched for more positive things to say about such a happy occasion. "You make life somewhat more bearable?" "My life would suck worse without you in it?" All of a sudden it appears that I have become Jewish.

Oh well. Happy birthday and punches and pinches and all that. Congratulations on living another year. "May we all be so lucky!"

"netiquette"

I may have joined facebook some time ago, but I never wholly embraced the site or its ways of doing things. There are reasons for that reluctance which I may elucidate at a later time, but for now suffice it to say that I do not have enough facebook experience to know how to respond to the relative flood of birthday messages which have appeared on my personal facebook page, or "wall" (as it is known). Do I thank each person on their own wall? Respond to each wall post? Post a "status update" thanking people in general? That last sounds the most promising, but will it make those friends who didn't offer a greeting feel bad about their lapse? (Or make it seem that I am angling for more birthday love?)

Clearly, I'm out of my depth here. This is the kind of thing that would be covered in finishing school, if any such thing still existed in this digital age, and if any finishing school would ever let me in (doubtful, considering both my disreputableness and my finances). I am open to suggestions; I would ask for them in the comments, except that I'm never asking you for anything ever again.

You know what? How about if I just thank everyone right here. If a certain friend—and I mean a real friend, not just a facebook friend—can write a comment about the blog on my facebook page, then doesn't it seem reasonable that I can respond to facebook posts here. So: Thanks, guys!!

Anyone who's anyone should be reading these pages, anyways!

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connecting the cycle

Today gifted us with beautiful warm springlike weather, which unfortunately we weren't in the best shape to totally appreciate. I did manage to get out into the garden a little bit, though—it would have been impossible to resist! Wandering the rows, reveling in the sunshine and the sight of the dirt, I was delighted to see a number of volunteer collard green plants. A feature around here for three years now, they get started from seed in the fall and manage to winter over, providing us with our first crop of garden-fresh produce well earlier than we have any right to expect given the lackadaisical manner in which I run things around here.

Though we don't have nearly enough to harvest yet, it was still nice to see them come up, signaling as they do the promise of much better eating ahead. Not that we're done with last year's crops yet, of course: this evening, for example, we enjoyed some pesto, made from either our basil or a local farmer's (I didn't record) and frozen last August. We weren't anywhere near to being able to eat only local produce this winter, but we managed a good deal better than previous years. If we keep up this rate of improvement, you may expect to see us freed from the tyranny of grocery store by 2015 or so!

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making the breast of it

If you've been following me on twitter or facebook this weekend, you already know it's been defective day for me and my global endowments.

Despite being on antibiotics for a mastitis infection I got LAST WEEK, I spent the day shivering and moaning over a new milk clog that developed last night IN THE SAME DAMN PLACE AS THE FIRST INFECTION.

And if that weren't enough to make me whine away a Saturday, the antibiotics are giving me terrible heartburn.

Not like, "Oh gee, digestive backsplash is slightly uncomfortable" heartburn, but more like "Holy fuck, my esophagus us ON FIRE!!!"heartburn. All of a sudden I totally get why there are ten billion prescription medications for this thing.

Needless to say, this is all very frustrating. I already have a finicky child; I don't need my boobs acting like uppity toddlers. For crying out loud, they already get enough of my attention. Pump pump pump. Nurse nurse nurse. My investment in non-underwire-bras and nursing pads and equipment could power some sort of perverse old-age-home version of a vegas-style burlesque show.

You hear that tits? Stop stealing my Saturdays.

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tiny pianist

As well as many other delightful birthday treats, at my party this afternoon I enjoyed being serenaded by Harvey on the piano.

Harvey playing the piano

ticklin the ivories

He's quite advanced for his age: he plays like a two- or even three-year-old!

seeds and self-doubt

I planted the first of my seeds yesterday: Early Girl and Sweet Millions tomatoes and some sort of onions. I'm a full month earlier than last year, which is why I didn't go all out with all four varieties of tomatoes I'm bringing this season. Get em going bit by bit, that's my theory. We're thinking about the first week in May for a last frost date, so the little guys will have two full months of growing ahead of them before they get outside; assuming they germinate in good time, of course. It's still pretty cold down there in the seed-starting dungeon.

I should emphasize that in all of this farming business I don't feel at all confident that I know what I'm doing. In fact, I'm completely making it up as I go along. Oh, I consult printed sources, naturally, but that doesn't seem like much of a substitute for the age-old knowledge of a natural farmer. That, or a degree from an agricultural college. (My alma mater is offering a course, actually, and I would be tempted if I had the time and/or the money for it.) The only thing that keeps me going is the thought that I don't know anything about web programming either, and I made this blog; since it works more than half of the time, my autodidact powers must be doing something right.

Actually, right now what keeps me going is pictures like this one:

flowers and grass

lush growth in July

See what we have to look forward to? And most of those are perennials, so I don't even have to do any work to enjoy them.

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birthday knitting

On the heals of the fun-colored but not-super-practical sweater I made for Dan at Christmas, I decided to take on a similar project for his birthday. Except this time the product would have to be more staid, less ostentatious, more useful for day-to-day wear. After five weeks of intense knitting I finished a day later than his birthday. Oh well. At least it was ready in time for church. I give you the brown sweater vest:

close-up of the sweater vest leah knit for dan

refined yet elegant

The pattern comes from this book which I highly recommend for beginning-to-intermediate sweater knitters. I used good old Cascade220 for the yarn, so the whole thing came to less than $22, and that's with some left over for a hat! Not only is she talented and productive, but thrifty! Someone's racking up the good wife points this month!

Dan in a brown sweater vest that leah knit

dapper who?

Oh, who am I kidding. He more than deserves it.

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"working girl"

As many of you know, I started a new job last week. I'd been dreading this transition for several reasons, most notable because of the pumping and the not getting to see my kid. And yes, in some ways my dread was well-founded. I do spend a lot of time pumping. I don't get to spend a lot of time with the kid. But to my surprise that didn't stop the world from turning last week. I gather we're all still here, breathing oxygen, writing stuff on the internet. I have to admit this came as a bit of a surprise.

There have been several silver linings to the new work situation. The first is that the pumping may actually be HELPING the problem I've had these past weeks with the clogging and mastitis et al. I hate to admit it, because pumping feels so much like the life-force-suck-of-death, but there are upsides to the regularity of the machine. Unlike Harvey's feeding whimsy, with the pump I can keep milking till I'm good and ready to stop. And that means that for those hours when I'm not huddled in a little locked closet, I can go about the rest of my day with breasts that feel more like normal human appendages and less like medicine balls.

I know what you're thinking. A breast isn't strictly speaking an appendage. Alls I've got to say to that is wait till you're breast-feeding. Then tell me what you think it is.

As for the missing Harvey, what can I say? Of course I miss Harvey terribly. But even when I was home I missed Harvey. Even working from home, with what everyone calls the "best of both worlds" situation, I was mostly miserable. I didn't want to be working. I want to be raising my kid. That hasn't changed of course with the new job, but at leas the move has solidified my commitment. I will get out from under my loans. I will be a stay at home mom some day.

Even if I have to turn tricks on the side. In that case, the pump would count as a tax write-off. You might even call it a necessary appendage.

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Whatever, mom

Harvey is a good natured child and he loves to play, but he's got to do it HIS WAY thankyouverymuch. This video shows how nonplussed he can be when I try to get him to engage in a game of my choosing.

local politics goes worldwide

It's election time here in Bedford, and the race seems to be a little more, ah, contested than usual. Which is to say that it looks like there are more candidates than positions. So hey, we're seeing some campaigning! Some of it is being done along traditional lines—front-yard signs, operatives going door-to-door—but this year we've also seen an explosion of local politics into cyberspace. Yes, our humble candidates for local office are presenting their arguments to the whole wide world on the world wide web. So who has the best site?

The incumbent, Cathy Cordes, presents a solidly web 1.0 design. At first glance it appears underwhelming, but closer examination reveals strengths that demonstrate her campaigning acumen. The site has an attention-grabbing masthead that matches her other campaign material, it unambiguously announces the date of the election, and it features a list of Bedford residents who are proud to stand up and show their support, in solid Times New Roman, for Ms. Cordes.

Bill Moonan's site, on the other hand, is a bit more modern-looking, but rather curious is the absence of any title or even design in the masthead. Perhaps it's blankness is a sign of Mr. Moonan's willingness to be, like Paul, all things to all men. On the plus side, the site has tons of content for the curious voter to peruse.

Finally, there's, Robert Avakian. He's the outsider in this race, the one the political establishment doesn't want involved in town government, and he shows it with a sleek design featuring the catchy slogan, "Elect Robert Avakian for Political Office." Let's hear it for generic Google Sites templates! At least he has a relevant title tag, not to mention a totally sweet zooming-star-underline logo (though the designer in me positively cringes at the visible catch between the straight part of the underline and the beginning of the curve). There are some things I'm curious about, though; for example, the mysterious box on the front page of the site headed with the single cryptic word, "Why":

An independent voice who will be:
Hard on the issues and
Work with people to
Find Common Ground

"Why" indeed! Why the colon, why the line breaks, why the capital letters? Is it some sort of poem? An acrostic? A secret code to his supporters? What does "AHWF" really stand for?!

Actually, I don't really care about any of that. In his platform Mr. Avakian says he will "oppose unnecessary tax increases" and calls for a "moratorium on affordable housing". So he wants rich folks to keep their money and poor ones to stay the heck out of town. Alright, in a race with three candidates for two spots that's all I need to know!

Election is tomorrow, Bedford residents: see you at the polls!

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sprouting day

the first tomato seedlings of 2010

60 days to tomatoes!

It's kind of amazing, seeing seeds sprout. Expected behavior, I know, but there's still something exciting about seeing the first green shoots pushing their way up through the soil—or, in this case, the soil-less medium. Even more exciting when they pop up ahead of schedule, like the tomatoes and onions I planted the other day.

Last year I was an overanxious seed-parent, checking multiple times a day to make sure my little babies were warm enough, and had enough water and enough light... That kind of attention turns out to be kind of unproductive when there's absolutely nothing to be seen. This season I took a more hands-off approach, so even though five days to sprouting is only one day quicker than last year, I was surprised and delighted to see almost all the seeds up when I poked my head in this morning.

Just like with Harvey, the reality of the little guys' presence spurred me to action and I made them a nice little house out of styrofoam, complete with an additional light fixture. My hope is that it will serve the dual purposes of keeping them warm—March is much colder than April down there in the basement—and providing a more diffuse light. Last year I had trouble with spindly seedlings, so we'll see if the new hardware helps. I also invested in a timer for the lights; it's all very exciting, though not cheap. You know what they say: you have to spend money to make plants.

There's room in the styrofoam house for several more trays than I've got in there now, so expect more seed reports in days to come! (once I figure out what the schedule should be, that is).

seedlings under the lights

warm and cozy

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flood stage

It's raining. It has been since yesterday morning, and though the rainfall hasn't been torrential at any time a great deal of water has fallen on us over the course of two days. I was gawking happily at flooded brooks and streets on our way to and from church, but I was less delighted when I headed down into the basement this afternoon to show off my seed-starting setup. Yes, I didn't even think to check specifically for water down there. Perhaps my subconscious brain wanted to protect me. Because, yes, we have water. Very much so.

In fact, it's far and away the worst basement flooding we've seen in our years in this house, including the couple times the downspout broke and poured water directly into the foundation, or when the hot water heater decided to dump all its water out onto the floor (which seems to have been unblogged). In both those cases, a whole lot of water came in at once, but then it stopped and we just had to deal with the aftermath. Today, it keeps coming in.

It might have been the conditioning from those prior experiences, but when I first saw water all over the floor I didn't panic. We'll just move a few things around; the floor's been wet before, there's nothing there that'll take any harm. After a while, though, I started to notice how the water bubbling up from the intersection between floor and wall was rippling as it flowed merrily down our uneven basement floor to join the rapidly spreading lake at the rate of, oh, I'd say about a half-gallon a minute. It was clear we would need to procure pumps. Oh, and they were sold out at the hardware store. Naturally.

Happily, Leah's dad was over when the disaster struck (or rather, was noticed) and he helped us borrow a pair of wonderful machines that are, even as I type, chugging away down there in the wet. Around 7:30 I turned them off because I needed to get some dinner I and was worried about them sucking dry, something that seemed imminent. How happy I was to have solved the problem! As you could have predicted, when I went back downstairs in an hour or so all the water was back. It's still raining, after all! So the pumps are back in action, and as long as they don't clog and we don't lose power (too terrible to contemplate!) they can keep ahead of the inflow. The only problem is, I need to stay up to monitor them. Work is going to be tough tomorrow!

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over my head

Dan says, "I'm going out to get some milk."
"What? It's a storm out there! Be careful!"
"I'll drive safely"
"Everything's flooded!"
"I'll be fine."
"Don't drive through any rivers!"
"I'll avoid rivers at all costs."
"But don't go so crazy avoiding a river that you drive into a tree."
"I will steer my car between the Scylla and Charybdis of trees and rivers."
"What on earth are you talking about?"
"What on earth are YOU talking about?"

Dan doesn't understand my anxiety, neither I his Odyssean references.

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flood update

So it turns out we weren't the only ones to have problems with flooding this weekend. We weren't even the only ones to make Noah's Ark jokes! The storm was actually a pretty major "flood event" across most of southeast New England, a fact that was really only belatedly realized today. I stayed home from work to try and keep ahead of the onrushing waters; that decision was vindicated this afternoon when our governor declared a state of emergency. Yay! Isn't it exciting to be part of something larger than yourself?

Actually, the whole flood scene was pretty exciting, barring the hours spent in the basement and the complete lack of sleep. As someone who likes water, I was happy to see so much of it pretty much everywhere else but in my house; for example, the vigorous overflow of Elm Brook and my little Hartwell Brook (it's in our woods, so we feel proprietary towards it) was something to behold. I didn't take any pictures—fears of destroying my camera in the deluge—but suffice it to say that I went in up to my waist walking along the bank of Elm Brook. It's usually a pretty good drop to the water, too: three or four feet. So seven feet above normal stage? That'll do some damage.

Of course, there were all the other usual flood accompaniments: storm drains spewing water, folks ignoring warning signs and stalling their cars in flooded roadways, journalists hyping the story.... Though actually, I was kind of disappointed in the last one. This was a big storm, after all! Somehow, though, the fact that it was forecast to be "just rain" kept it from getting the "Wintermaggedon" press you might have expected. Or maybe the journalists were just snowpocolypsed out. By proxy, for the local rags: we haven't had any weather to talk about all winter!

The pump (note: now singular, and a longer story than it's worth it to recount) is still chugging away down in the basement so we're not home and dry yet, but tomorrow is supposed to be bright and sunny. As I type this I notice it has just about stopped raining, for the first time in about 58 hours, so that's something!

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bad farming weather, good farming climate

They say that snow is the poor man's fertilizer, and this past weekend we saw the truth of that—but unfortunately it was from the wrong side of the argument. It was a low-snow winter here in Eastern Massachusetts, so our snow's been gone from the garden for a couple weeks. Over the last three days we got socked with a rainy nor'easter, which, instead of dropping a couple (or eight or ten) feet of insulating snow that would slowly melt into the soil, spent 60 hours lashing us with rain. Floods, soil loss due to runoff, soil nutrients washed away... oh woe! Not to mention, of course, our flooded basement.

Still, it's sunny now and warming up quickly, and the daffodil shoots are already three inches tall. And talk of gardening is popping up all over the internet—and not just gardening, but the sort of real lifestyle changes that go under the heading "urban homesteading". Or, of course, suburban homesteading. Folks are writing about starting seeds, preserving food, living locally and sustainably... even dropping out of the rat race to raise chickens!

Alright, so that last link from the New York Times Magazine isn't so good. Not only are the folks at the Times are a little slow in acknowledging the "Radical Homemaker" movement, they're pretty classist and dismissive in their presentation ("highly educated women"? Times needs to make sure we don't think these folks are plain old hicks). But hey, there are real people who want to have chickens—not to mention gardens and pantries full of homemade preserves—and I think that's pretty cool!

[Edit to add one more garden-starting blog post.]

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Is Revolt Brewing All Over?

YES YES and YES!!!

I usually prefer to generate my own content rather than retweeting links that (hopefully) already come up in your RSS, but this tidbit of intellectual concision is just too good to pass up. On the parallels between homebirth and homeschooling:

In both cases, there is a problematic institution dominating a family’s life... For some kids, maybe for a majority of them, extremely regimented and test-oriented schooling is counterproductive...Just as women who choose non-hospital birth, or who fight to break down restrictions on hospital birth, are trying to reinvent what it means to give birth. They are rejecting hospital schedules, unnecessary procedures, and in some cases, the need to be in a hospital at all, in order to attempt a more direct, less disconnected form of giving birth.... In both cases, there are those motivated by liberal ideals and those motivated by strict religious views who are (sometimes) finding themselves allies.

Amen sister! As a homebirther who aspires to one day be a homeschooler, AND as someone with BOTH liberal ideals AND strict religious views, I'm truly on board with the idea that revolution begins at home.

However soggy that home happens to be at the moment.

cycling envy

So my bike is still broken. It's now been over a month since I rode it, and while it was hard enough to be stuck in the car though the last sputtering gasps of winter, it's even harder now when spring seems to be in full, extra-early for our climate-changed 21st century bloom. Adding insult to, well, more insult is the fact that I see hundreds of other cyclists out on the roads—many of them even commuting, by the looks of it. "Fair-weather peddlers!" I want to cry out. "Where were you when it was pouring icy rain, or blowing at forty miles an hour, or eight inches deep in snow? Where were you then?!"

I do, I really do. Failing that, do you think it would work to put a bumper sticker on my car that says "I'd rather be biking?"

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it's in his jeans

This week I made Harvey some jeans.

close-up of Harvey's new home-made jeans

ready to rumble

I upcycled an old pair of Dan's jeans which had become too patched to be worn in polite company. I was going to make a simple pair of linen pants using this tutorial, but it turns out that I hate learning basic skills. If it can be done in linen, it can be done in jean, dammit! So after a lot of fudging and improvising an addition of knit fabric for the waist-band, I ended up making a cute pair of jeans for Harvey with plenty of room to grow (both vertically and horizontally).

Harvey's bum in his new jeans

shake what yo mamma gave you

The patches and slight bell-bottom and general cobbled-together nature of the pants make Harvey look like a real hippy. Much to the pride of his parents. The look is perfect for sitting outside on a gardening afternoon.

harvey in home-made pants in the garden

off the grid and out of the shitstem

I just need to make him a straw hat and he'll be all ready for spring!

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what's the worst Bible passage ever?

I've been reading the Bible every day as part of my Lenten discipline, and I've been thinking, among other things, about being "challenged" by the text. Not that it's particularly difficult for me: as a curmudgeonly sort I'm all to ready to argue that one position or another is completely wrong, never mind if it is the inerrant word of God. Actually, when it comes to the Bible the hard part comes not in refusing to accept certain verses, but in trying to divine what import they may actually have for my life, despite their initial thorny and barren mien. I'm not doing so good on that part.

What I'm stuck on right now is just deciding which of the two passages following is worse. Is it 1 Samuel chapter 15, where Saul and Samuel first kill all the Amalekites (women and children included, natch) and then their king, who thought he had escaped?

Then Saul attacked the Amalekites all the way from Havilah to Shur, to the east of Egypt. He took Agag king of the Amalekites alive, and all his people he totally destroyed with the sword. But Saul and the army spared Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs—everything that was good. These they were unwilling to destroy completely, but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed. ...

Then Samuel said, "Bring me Agag king of the Amalekites." Agag came to him confidently, thinking, "Surely the bitterness of death is past." But Samuel said, "As your sword has made women childless, so will your mother be childless among women." And Samuel put Agag to death before the LORD at Gilgal.

Or is it 1 Corinthians chapter 14, which has the following famous passage:

Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.

On the one hand, genocide is obviously much worse than sex-based religious restrictions. You have to feel especially bad for Agag, who had seen his entire tribe killed before his eyes and who can't have expected a very bright future for himself; but who certainly didn't expect to be killed in cold blood long after the "fighting" was over.

On the other hand, that was then, as they say. We expect the worse from those ancient Israelites, who lived as many years before Paul as Paul was before us. Corinthians is considered "to speak to modern-day problems within church communities" in a way that Samuel certainly does not, so when we take parts of the letter as valuable do we have to either ignore or accept what Paul says about women in church? I suppose a third alternative would be to assume he actually meant something else entirely; I have no doubt a great many people do that as well.

En tout cas, I'm sure I don't know. Maybe we'll get to talk about it in Bible study on Tuesday!

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spring saturday

It's Spring now, and the ice at the pond is no longer safe.

a sign in the pond warning that the ice is unsafe

to say the least

To celebrate, we enjoyed our first pond day and first ice cream cones of the season (though I didn't enjoy the season's first tick bite, much earlier than usual). We also got a fair start on our spring cleaning, and have already enjoyed more success than we usually do. We were spurred on, I believe, by the fact that friends (including frequent commenter Luke) were coming over to join us in the ponding and ice-cream-coning; that kept us from falling in to the usual trap of making everything very much messier in the name of "organization" and then getting tired and giving up. That may yet happen tomorrow, but so far so good!

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woof moo

Harvey turned nine months yesterday. Hooray for olderness, especially since he's starting to give us the first inklings that he's understanding us, at least language wise. He'll repeat a simple sound maybe 40% of the time, which is enough to feel like more than zero, and he's particularly skilled with "DaDa" although I don't quite think he's linked it to the adult personage it represents. Nevertheless, I've been trying. In the two minutes right after he nurses when he's more pleased with me than any other time in the day, I've been trying to inculcate "mama. mama. maaamaaa." There have been some glimmering signs of getting it. The other day he looked at me quisically and then said "BraBra." Bra is about as close as he can come to Ma these days, so I squealed "Good boy! Good boy!" Then I smothered him with kisses. Pleased with himself, he looked up at me with a gleeful grin. Then he squinted his eyes mischievously and very quietly whispered, "DaDa."

That little brain of his. Something is going on therein.

But I'm not too worried about hurrying things along. We have a lifetime of chatting to look forward to, after all. Indeed, we were heartened by linguistic cuteness yesterday, during an outing with a cool family containing one very precious 2 year old. In the parking lot of Bedford Farms we parked next to a car with a very large St. Bernard. She examined the animal for a few moments, and then definitively pronounced: "Woof Moo."

Woof Moo. This girl should write dictionaries.

*Image courtesy of Ashley. "Courtesy" meaning I stole it from her facebook page. Thanks Ash!

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ululemo

I'm not a champion sewer by any means. I mend. I dash off a stuffed lamb now and again. But I'm trying to move in a more competent direction. I'm making an effort. And this season, I've vowed to make a more concerted effort, especially in the face of the high cost of crappy boys clothing. So on Friday of last week I took scissors to another one of Dan's hand-me-downs and made Harvey a T-shirt.

Harvey modeling his new shirt at the pond

elegant and stylish

The first job I had out of college was at a store called Lululemon. At the time, Dan wore this Lululemon T-shirt so much the letters faded down in the middle. After a while it ended up in the pile of shirts that are no longer in rotation but were once so loved that they can't be thrown away. Now Harvey is proudly carrying the torch of Lululemon. or Ululemo in his case. His chest isn't that big.

I used this tutorial to make the shirt, and I can't wait to make another, and another, and ANOTHER! The stack of useless but beloved T-shirts is big, after all. By the time I've gone through it, maybe I'll really know how to sew.

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this is why I'm constantly looking down my shirt and wincing

Harvey has some sharp teeth these days. In the past two weeks he's delivered some mighty bites to the nips that feed him. He's mostly over his biting-for-fun phase that I complained about a few months ago, but now the problem isn't the pain of the bite but the lasting damage it inflicts. It's a whole new animal when there are top and bottom teeth that come together in staple-remover fashion.

Now when he bites me, which I'll admit isn't often, there appears a neat puncture wound in my nipple; a tiny crater for a tiny little space man. On any other part of my body this wouldn't be a big deal. On your arm a pin-sized prick will go away after a few days, and you won't notice it. But on a nipple that's consistently submerged in baby saliva, the wound lingers. It pusses and scabs, only to have the scab ripped off three hours later. Then it pusses again.

Festering is a word that comes to mind.

I've had some challenges with breast feeding over the past nine months, what with persistent clogs and two bouts of mastitis. But these tiny festering pin-prick sized craters, these are the worst. It's absolutely amazing how much they hurt. Constantly. Sitting here typing I'm aware of the pain neurons firing. And you can't even imagine how it feels to nurse him. I draw in my breath. I grit my teeth. I clench and unclench my fists. Sometimes I pray and curse alternatively. "Oh-God-Oh-God-Oh-God, STOP making this hurt so GODDAMN FUCKING MUCH!"

I share these unsavory images not to gross you out (although, mission accomplished!) but rather to get encouragement around my unshakable conviction to nurse Harvey until he's 12 months old. There's the pain. There's the pain-in-the-ass of pumping. But on the other side there's the anxiety-industrial-complex, pushing all sorts of normal foods farther and farther out of the reach of my 9-month old. Hold off on cows milk, and cheese, and eggs, and peanut butter. If I stop milking then what will he eat? The boy can't live on rice-cakes alone!

No matter how much he loves them...

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booby update

After I blogged about the booby sores yesterday the tit situation took a turn for the worse. Around noon a thick clog developed on the top half of my breast, about half an inch wide and three inches long. I couldn't unclog it as damned hard as I tried, despite spending about two hours in the pumping closet at work. At about 4pm I called it quits and headed home. I ran a bath and tried to soak the foul milk out. No dice. I nursed the baby and still that swath of clog stayed stuck.

I cursed. I sniffled. I gave up for a few hours and had dinner with friends.

When I got ready to nurse Harvey before bed, I pulled out my boob to examine the distressed nipple. Previously I had been so focused on the sores that I missed a tiny pin-prick sized white dot on the top. I had thought it was a spot of milk, but looking closer it looked more like a white-head or some sort of zit. I put two nails to it and popped it out. All of a sudden SPURT! The entire three square inches of milk came gushing out geiser style! For about a minute my boob looked like one of those trick fountains at Disney World. A perfect arc of milk erupted up and out and onto the floor. The sensation was one of the most incredible relief.

If nothing else, this breast-feeding thing is a real trip. When else is your life would you pop a zit and watch a gallon of milk stream out your body. And simultaneously think: Awwwww. That's the stuff!

The jury's still out on whether parenthood has made me more or less mature. I think the answer is, six of one, half dozen of the other.

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Eating his greens

With spring comes more time sitting around outside, and nobody is more excited than Harvey new-things-to-put-in-my-mouth! Archibald.

I'll take a break from talking about my boobs for a day to bring you a full minute of unadulterated outdoor cuteness. You're welcome.

food on film

The past couple days Harvey and I have been watching Food Inc., the Michael Pollan-inspired movie that has its own display at our local Whole Foods. Obviously, I already agree with the filmmakers' agenda. But I don't think it's an ideal film.

The movie is all about the unnumbered evils of "big food": inhumane treatment of animals, terrible conditions for workers, unsafe food, pollution, reliance on petroleum, monoculture, unhealthy food, produce that tastes crappy, junk food that is cheaper than vegetables... you get the point. Really, it's just too much. If you already agree with the film's thesis, you're happy to say "right on!" to each charge, but for those still needing to be convinced it comes across as a bit scattershot—or worse, as a reach. "Wow, these guys sure hate the food industry!" the movie makes you want to say. "What, are they going to tell us that Tyson chicken nuggets are actually made from ground-up babies?!"

And then, the filmmakers don't really offer much in the way of a solution either. About all they can come up with is "buy better things at the grocery store." I understand why this is: ideally, they want their movie to reach people who aren't already shopping at farmers markets and growing their own food. They want changing the food landscape to be something that seems possible without too much sacrifice. But it doesn't really work, because how on earth can anyone imagine that their supermarket choices can affect the incredible litany of evils presented above?! And even if it could, the supermarket is a really confusing place. Is organic food good, or is local better? Is processed food ok if it's made by a "hippy" company? How much can we even trust labels, anyways? And the film acknowledges this: it's most compelling interviewee talks about how his meat will never show up on Walmart shelves, because getting that big would compromise his operation. (That's just before we hear how excited the dude from Stonyfield yogurt is to have broken big with the big box stores.)

To me, the movie goes at things from the wrong end. Don't tell people that everything they're eating is full of evil. Who knows what to do with that?! You either shrug it off, or get overwhelmed with the scope of the problem and do nothing. Wouldn't it be better to present stories of people who are doing better, even if in small ways? "Grow a garden," the end credits tell us. Why not show a few people who are growing their own food? Or even farmers serving local communities? Or a farmers market, for more than two seconds? Those things aren't in the movie, and I think it's because the filmmakers want to speak to the mainstream, and feel that the alternatives are too far out. But if they don't talk about them, they won't even seem possible to people who don't already know how easy they are.

Still, it's a better movie than most of what's out there. If it can steal a little multiplex time from the latest Marvel superhero rehash maybe it'll speak to one or two people who hadn't thought about the subject before. It's well-filmed, too.

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local food evangelism, the right way

Yesterday I wrote alot of words about Food, Inc, but I was was so fixated on talking about the movie specifically that I forgot to mention what I think we should be doing. Luckily, Bridget said it for me in the comments:

I learned far more about how great food can taste from my neighbor who shared her csa food with us and THEN told us why she did it than i usually do from those who fixate on the negative.

There's tons of good reasons for eating locally and sustainably, and we don't need to be put in to a panic first. It's kind of like telling people about God: while some folks feel that you have to lead with the fire and brimstone, doesn't it make more sense to tell people—or, even better, show them—what great things God can do for us? On a smaller scale, eating good food will also make your life better. And hey, that it's better for the world around you too is just a bonus!

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farm tourism

a freshly shorn sheep

at the baa-ber shop

We visited a farm today, and procured some yarn—perhaps yarn made from wool from this very sheep. We also today learned how to make beer, which is why the above image is all I can manage to produce publicly at the moment. More later.

farm tourism: the photo post

three sheep

keeping a wary eye on the dog

We spent the afternoon yesterday enjoying Woolapalooza at Drumlin farm, reveling in the general farminess and wondering what we need to do to get our own sheep. We saw sheep-herding and -sheering, admired the baby lambs, and followed the "from sheep to sweater" interpretive trail. As a witness to all the awesome knitting that gets done around here, I was very excited to be able to learn about the earlier steps in the wool garment-production process.

wool fresh off the sheep

yes sir, yes sir, three bags full (roughly)

Of course, it wasn't all sheep. We also saw cattle, chickens, pigs, farmers, and lots and lots of fellow farm-tourists. Plus some relatives from near and far (not pictured).

actually not a cow but a steer

how now, brown cow?

pigs exiting their stall

pig butt

Leah kept the camera rolling. Let no good times go unrecorded!

Leah on the video camera

ensuring a steady flow of awesome videos!

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On dealing with human effuse in a socially responsible manner and other topics that should not be blogged about before noon on a Monday

Every time I think I'm doing really good on the hippy environmental front, something like this comes into my blog reader. This woman is using cloth wipes FOR HER WHOLE FAMILY. No TP in the toilet for her. Down with disposables to the limit!

Holy shit.

I have a confession, my hippy friends. I have been buying and using disposable nursing pads. Johnson and Johnson's brand. They're about the equivalent of a roll of paper towels ever month. I may indeed be going to hippy hell.

I do own four cloth nursing pads. In fact, I'm wearing cloth today because the box of disposables ran out. I'll remind myself for a few days that cloth is really an option! I should just get my act together and wash them when I'm done! But I won't. I'll wash the baby's diapers and the baby's clothes. I'll finally put my own underwear through the cycle when I've been forced into thong territory for half a week. I don't even wash our sheets every time there's a pee-pee leak. I haven't washed the sheets in a month. I'm waiting for an industrial spill from oil tanker SS#2.

So yeah. Nursing pads. Failing it.

On the plus side I'm not using any tampons! Not because I'm brave enough to switch to a sea-creature sized device, but because I haven't gotten my period in 9 months. Hurray for my reproductive system being broken! My uterus is environmentally friendly! Also, since that whole machinery went into sleep last summer mode we haven't had sex either, which means no need for condoms! Which is a definite plus. You know those bastards take like a billion years to biodegrade.

Side Note to college-age boys trying to bed hippy activist lasses: this could be a good argument for more pleasurable sex! Condoms take too long to biodegrade! Tell her she can invest in a cervical cap and "get to know her body more."

Okay, this post is veering into dangerously disgusting territory. Then again, it started with putting your own poop rags in the washing machine. It didn't have far to go.

Later this week: Cute videos of babies and farm animals! Sorry for the interruption.

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Sunday Best is sometimes a T-shirt

Yesterday was Palm Sunday, and we celebrated by shaking some palms and dressing Harvey in his brand-new spring sprout t-shirt.

Harvey in his new sprout shirt (with Palm Sunday palm)

the sprout looks kind of like a palm...

This t-shirt is my second try of this pattern. The first one came out a touch too small, so of course the second is too big. Some day I'll get it. In the mean time, it's the perfect thing for an extra layer beneath overalls.

Palm Sunday begins holy week, a seven-day spiritual event where you reflect on HOLY SHIT WHAT IS HARVEY GOING TO WEAR FOR EASTER???!!!

Just kidding. Sort of.

On the topic of holy week, last night we had a seder at my parents' house, and I noticed our Christmas card still displayed prominently on my parents' fridge. "Harvey was so cute as a sheep!" I said.

"Yeah," said my mom, "I've been meaning to ask you. What does it mean 'All We Like Sheep?'"

"Well," I said, "We usually read from Isaiah at Christmas. Isaiah writes that 'All we like sheep have gone astray, and the Lord has laid on him - him being the messiah - the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.'"

"Oh Goodness." My mother said rolling her eyes and walking away. "That's terrible."

My dad was in the kitchen too. "That's sad" he said.

They both walked away shaking their heads.

You annoying morbid Christians. Why on earth would you put such a thing on a holiday card?

Holy week is a time when we celebrate a lot of things. Bunnies. Babies. Cadbury Cream Eggs. The fact that Jesus died for our sins.

As a latecomer to Christianity, I appreciate the idea of a God who didn't just make cute things to turn a blind eye from the bad and ugly.

So anyway, if you're into it, have a wonderful holy week. I'm celebrating on the blog with some fun project revealed every day. There is easter sewing to photograph, and videos in editing, and minimal complaints about my breasts, so it should be a fun week!

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Babies, puppies, and fun from the farm

Finally! The video footage from this weekend's woolopolooza is released! I know, it's the moment you've been waiting for. Please to enjoy sheep shearing, sheep dog demonstration, and baby animals of all kinds.

What would you say if I told you that you could take part in a fabulous seder opportunity TODAY?

This evening we hosted a passover seder with our normal tuesday night crew and visiting distinguished author Helen DeWitt. From her blog yesterday we learned that Helen is visiting our our humble Massachusetts, apparently scoping out local Barnes and Nobles. Normal people would give that sort of information that a casual hmmmm and let it go. Normal people don't do stalky things like send their favorite author an email inviting her to a passover seder less than four hours away.

At 1:30pm I sent this note:

Hi Helen,

I saw from the blog that you're in the Boston area this week.  On the small chance that you're doing nothing this evening and the even smaller chance that you might be interested, I wanted to invite you to a passover seder we're hosting in our home this evening in Bedford (about thirty minutes north of where you're staying).

The more I type this the more I realize what a bizarre thing it is to invite a stranger to dinner, especially on extremely short notice.   I assure you we're not ax murderers.  We're just fans of the blog and saw you were in the general area and wanted to extend a little hometown hospitality.  But it's so hard to strike the right tone over email, so of course if this invitation seems creepy then absolutely feel free to ignore it and sorry to bother you.

Sincerely,
Leah Archibald
[phone number and address here to indicate legit-ness]

Turns out if you want to go about inviting dash kidnapping a visiting author, this is apparently the way to do it. Ten minutes later Helen wrote back and accepted the invitation.

Wait what? That really happened?

My first inclination was to panic. I'm a bit rusty on my German, Japanese, and ancient Greek. What on earth would we talk about in the car? My French is up to speed of course, but who's isn't? Also, the front seat of my car was covered in trash. That last bit at least was actionable.

Front seat clutter deposited safely in the trunk, I picked up Helen at her motel. In person she is just as lovely and brilliant as she is in her writing. If you haven't already, you should pick up her fabulous book The Last Samurai. Buy it second-hand and send Helen an appropriate contribution (see link and explanation here in the right-hand column).

Of course, Harvey took the visit of a foreign dignitary as a challenge to prove he is still the most important celebrity in the house. He screamed non-stop from six to nine. This from a boy who usually plays quietly and then goes right to sleep. Says his mother. Her word for it will not be taken.

Rascal on the other hand was a gracious host and begged at the table only so much as was endearing and not so much as to make himself a nuisance. In an upset victory, the good child award goes to R. Puppykins.

I for my part pulled out my most bizarre stories for our guest. You want to convince someone that you're not a crazy stalker? Talk about how you buried your placenta in the back yard! Or how you can buy a sheep's uterus at H-Mart.

(Ewe.)

Despite the yelling and the craziness and the running up and down the stairs to set the pumps on a basement that is once again completely flooded, Dan and the cool kids acquitted themselves well, pulling off a wildly acceptable seder.

Next time in Jerusalem! Or whatever... next time with a bigger table. Or with more vegetarian options. Baby steps. Although I don't know what we could do for a more exciting guest participant. Is Umberto Eco still alive? He is, isn't he. Can any of you guys muster an email in Italian?.

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UPDATE: Passover on the blogosphere

Helen has graciously blogged her experience at our seder last evening.

How exciting! And also embarrassing. You see, my advance degree is in business and not in classics, so I had to look up several terms.

First busman's holiday. Apparently it means "A vacation during which one engages in activity that is similar to one's usual." Oh, that makes sense. So talking about work when you're not working is a sort of busman's holiday. Because a busman would need to get on a bus to go on vacation, I guess. I'm sure Dan knows the correct derivation, but that's why I married him after all. To tell me what tricky words and phrases mean.

And then to give me their language of origin.

I also had to look up Rashomon.

"The Rashomon effect is the effect of the subjectivity of perception on recollection, by which observers of an event are able to produce substantially different but equally plausible accounts of it."

Ha ha! It's funny because my blog entry reveals the world seen through the lens of my crippling social anxiety and neurosis. How terribly true. I've never got such a chuckle from a dictionary entry.

I guess it's all about context.

I should have remembered the part about lifting a rod to part the waters...

Most work days I kick off my morning by walking Rascal and Harvey in the neighborhood woods. Since my recent job change this is the only exercise I get, so I look forward to it immensely. I put my motherhood duties first, however, so I decline the morning outing if there's a possibility of Harvey getting wet or sick. For the past two days it's been raining heavily, so Dan walked the dog himself. In Dan's absence we played how many dangerous things can you put in your mouth while momma gets ready for work.

Harvey, that is. I only very infrequently put dangerous things in my mouth.

Anyway, I was thrilled this morning that the rain let up and I could again participate in my daily ritual. I knew it had been raining a lot, so much that our basement flooded again, but last time this happened my calf-high boots could handle the puddles in the woods so I donned them again without worry.

Someone should explain to me the phenomenon of "water table." You can forward elementary-school diagrams to leah at this domain dot net.

So we got into the woods and I let Rascal off the leash. In a few minutes we approached our first puddle - one that had been there in the last rainstorm. My boots had handled it last time so I didn't think twice about wading in. Seconds later I felt the rush of freezing cold water into my boots. The water was up to my knees.

Freezing pain was followed by growing dread and increasing numbness. I imagine this is a tiny slice of what death must feel like. (Then again probably not, but that does sound lovely dramatic, doesn't it?)

According to Jill Homer, when freezing cold water rushes into your boot in the wilderness it's bad news. Here you can buy here book on traversing the alaskan tundra by bike. This being Bedford, I wasn't quite in iditarod territory. I was after all only ten minutes from home. But still, fear of consequences wasn't ill placed. My feet were starting to go numb. How long until frostbite sets in? And then gangrene? Will I ever complete a marathon again?

Or is gangrene for hot places and frostbite in cold places until the darn thing falls off? Why don't I know this?

At the moment Rascal was out of view. I screamed and screamed for him, the panic mounting in my voice. "Rascal? Rascal!!! Mommy's hurt and needs to go HOME!"

I frequently think the people with houses that border the woods shutter up the back windows when they hear me coming. That nut job again?

I prayed to God furiously that Rascal would come back. That the spirit of warmth would protect my toes. That I'd get out of the woods quickly relatively unscathed.

Miraculously, Rascal appeared moments later and I tromped the whole procession back across the lake and on home. So happy was I to get off those boots and socks and soggy jeans. This is about when I decided, "I'm friggin staying home from work today."

After an hour of dryness everything's fine and I have regained feeling in my toes.

The bible says we make stupid choices and them blame God for them (somewhere in proverbs - too tired to look it up.) That seems fair. I don't always blame God for my dumbass mistakes, but I do frequently ask him to bail me out, so to speak. Get me out of cold water. Get me out of hot water. I didn't wear the right boots. I've got too many loans. I'm in a career that's boring. Can you magically snap your fingers and make it okay?

Not sure what the answer is theologically speaking, but I'm crossing my fingers and hoping for a yes.

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Scary stuff: Massachusetts Cesarean Rates by Hospital

Are you thinking of giving birth in a Massachusetts hospital? The unnecesarean (bias clearly revealed in the blog title) summarizes the rate of this surgery in all major MA hospitals. The overall rate in our state is 33.7%. If you want to give birth at BIDMC, boston's most popular hospital where everyone says "the nurses are fantastic!" then you're 42% likely to deliver at knifepoint.

Choose a homebirth on the other hand, and you're 92% likely to come out of the process with your inside bits kept on the inside.

Obviously my outrage shows through. Distaste for cesarean was the number one reason I chose to give birth at home. Regardless of risk factors, women who start their pregnancies with the plan of delivering at home have an 8% chance of ending in cesarean. That means that merely by making the choice of different care provider, you decrease your risk of major abdominal surgery by 76%. Choose a hospital birth and you increase your risk by 321%.

That's not just selection bias. In 1996 the state-wide rate was 19.1%. Masachusetts women and babies haven't gotten phenomenally sicker since then. There's a systemic problem in the way doctors give birth. I'm sorry.... CURE birth.

Okay, I've said my piece. Tomorrow it's back to crafting photos. Stats and charts are here.

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