more than one roof

I spent most of today in a first grade classroom, and one of the things I helped the kids with was developing a programmatic understanding of pluralization in English. You know, s after most words; when a word ends with consonant-y "drop the y and add ies"; and the rule for when you need to add es. The style in schools now is to teach things like that explicitly, which is fine—there was a penguin on the printed sheet to provide a minimal amount of fun, and I don't think anyone felt their time was too much wasted. But in real life, pluralization is pretty automatic (see "wug test"). We don't really need to remember that es follows x, s, or ch... it just seems to make sense.

Of course, we learn those patterns automatically as young people, and it's possible for language learners to overgeneralize. Zion does! And when I think about it, I totally agree with him. He hears "batches" and thinks, fine, how about "pathes"? And if th, why not f as well? I'm a big fan of "roofes" (pronounced roofiz), which I think is yards better than the current confusion. Is it "roofs"? "rooves"? Horses have "hooves", right? Hmm, what was that I said about automatic pluralization? I take it all back. Can I have some direct instruction please?


our day at the surgery

We have been waiting for this day for a long time now, the day that Harvey could finally get his "teeth fixed." For over a month I have been making smoothies, offering apple sauce, and when that failed using a toothpick to extract tiny pieces of food from inside the cavities exposed on two of Harvey's molars. After the dentist's attempt to fix Harvey's cavities in an office visit failed (if you consider failure Harvey's complete refusal to get into the chair) we had to wait over a month for an O.R. date, when Harvey could be put under general anesthesia to properly fix the problem. This tells you a little something about his stubbornness. Or his pain to don't-mess-with-me ratio. Both are high.

Harvey was looking forward to eating regular food again, and for many days he was asking how soon he could get his teeth fixed. So we proceeded to the hospital in a spirit of bravery, and it wasn't until we got into the pre-op room that he remembered: 'Holy Shit.' There he acted the way he does when he gets anxious, by completely shutting down and hiding in a corner.

the dinosaur is showing how to bravely sit on the gurney, while Harvey wishes he could become a fossil

Thankfully the team at Franciscan Hospital for Children is used to this sort of behavior, and the child liaison talked to Harvey for half an hour until he calmed down enough to have his vitals taken. She won him over by gifting him a red flashlight that he could wear on his finger. She actually offered him up to ten flashlights, one to wear on every finger of both hands, but Harvey's anxiety blinded him to negotiating clearly and in the end he only took the one.

very pleased with a very small toy. I wish he'd taken more for his brothers.

I had to forcefully remove him from the corner, but once I held him on my lap he calmed down and even extended his arm for a blood pressure. This is less than I've had to restrain him for vaccines, and his compliance was quite a relief. Perhaps a little bit of physical pressure from me reassured him that he couldn't control the events of the day with his own will. Which, you know, is a good thing if you're about to get knocked out by heavy drugs.

stickers make everything better

The child liaison then led Harvey through a very impressive social story about what was going to happen next.
"Do you know why you're here today?"
Harvey's answer: "mmm."
"Are you here for your teeth?"
"mmm" but with a head nod for Yes.
"Do you know if you're going to be awake or asleep while they fix your teeth?"
"Do you think you're going to be asleep?"
Head nod Yes.
"Do you feel sleepy now?" (this made Harvey giggle.) "Do you usually fall asleep in the middle of the daytime?" (Now he was downright chuckling.) "No? So how are you going to fall asleep?" (mmm) "The doctor is going to give you some sleepy medicine, and I have a special mask right here just for you."

She showed Harvey how the mask would go over his face, and she let him pick stickers to decorate it. She told him that sleepy medicine in the form of gas would come through the mask, and it's kind of smelly, but bravely she said, "It's okay, I have a plan!" Then she let him pick his favorite flavor of chap stick and she spread some of that on the inside of the mask, for a custom olfactory experience.

Then with an iPad in hand she showed Harvey a series of photographs to illustrate what would happen after he got changed into his pijamas.

"This is a picture of the hallway outside this room. Once you get on your pijamas we will take a ride in this bed through the hallway to this big set of doors (next slide). On the other side of doors is this hallway. You can see there's a trashcan and a sink, it's just a hallway. (next slide) Then we will go into this room which is your special room while they're fixing your teeth. This is the tube your mask will attach to, and in this canister is the sleepy medicine. Your mom will stand right here next to you while you breath in the medicine, and you can play a game on this ipad while you're breathing. Now is there anything in this picture that you have a question about?"

(He shakes his head no.)

"Some kids your age wonder what about these two big circles, and I'll tell you that they're just lights and they won't even be turned on."

Suffice it to say that I was very impressed by how above and beyond this was from 'don't be scared.' Really, this woman had me at 'free finger flashlight.'

But if that wasn't enough, she gave Harvey a book with stickers in it, and we spent the next half hour reading and putting stickers in the book. Interspersed with waiting for the doctors, of course, and talking to them about the proper release forms.

being at the hospital requires a high degree of Disney brand exposure

The dentist wouldn't know the extent of damage to Harvey's teeth until he got in there, so he had me sign off on several possibilities. These included fillings, caps, extraction, and spacers, all the way up to nerve repair or removal. I wondered how we had come to this, massive dental surgery for my healthy eater who likes salads and only gets candy at parades and Halloween. Then I remembered that even our paleo ancestors suffered from tooth decay, and some things are just out of our control. As evidenced by the posed photo below.

rawr. our black teeth will cut you

Finally it was time for the surgery. Harvey was not at all nervous getting wheeled down the hall and into the O.R. because his friend was holding an iPad game over his face the entire time. Press press press, he put virtual food in a microwave in anticipation of good things to come, and soon his lids blinked heavily until he was asleep.

the best numbing agent

I gave him a kiss and was then escorted to the waiting room where I was eager to see how the rest of my family had been keeping busy for the past hour. They seemed to be doing fine.

little brothers both fit in a little car

We had decided to come to the hospital as a family so that I wouldn't be away from the nursing baby for 7 hours, and also so that Dan could deal with the driving/parking aspect of the trip. Dan says the boys were great when I was with Harvey, and Zion only became a complete pain in the ass when I came back into the room, when he screamed that he wanted a diaper and/or he had suddenly become unable to move his legs. He's like that at home too, though. Heaven forbid Harvey get something that he doesn't get, even if it's dental surgery.

Meanwhile Elijah wrecked up the room. Like you do.

survey suggestion: fewer surveys on low table.

It wasn't long though until it was time to wait with Harvey waking up. The total damage (or fixage as it were) came to: two white fillings, a silver cap on one tooth, and an extraction dash spacer deal-y on the other side. No nerve work which, I guess, is a relief. Also, the x-rays revealed an extra tooth coming in on the top. But that, the dentist told me reassuringly, is not something we have to worry about for another year.

Thank God, because this whole process is rather tiring.

waiting to wake up

I don't have any more pictures from the hospital, because Harvey liked waking up from anesthesia about as much as he likes waking up in the morning, except perhaps a million times LESS AS MUCH. There was a lot of moaning and coughing and moaning, and he wasn't really himself again until he got a nap in the car and woke up to a bowl of chocolate ice cream at home.

Then he demanded all the meals he'd missed on account of fasting. So we called his ice cream breakfast and after that served him yogurt and jam (lunch) followed by clam chowder (dinner) and another bowl of ice cream for dessert. It sure felt good to have my happy eater back again. Now fortified with bionic teeth!

silvery. On his cheek is both chocolate and blood, because that's how we roll super hardcore

I also feel like I earned some silver myself (albeit in my hair) for surviving my first hospital parenting experience. Altogether we've had an extremely healthy six years. We had three home births, no major accidents, no allergies or illnesses or hereditary conditions. As I listened to parents on the other side of the curtain rattle off daily medications, prior surgery dates, reactions to anesthesia, and behavioral concerns, I was reminded how truly easy my lot is. Even if Zion did scream half the ride home that he wanted the remainder of Harvey's blood-soaked drug-covered popsicle, and Elijah spent the pre-dinner hour playing with a biohazard bag. Most days our hardships are few and our blessings many. And for the harder days, there's ice cream.

ED UPDATE: In between finishing this post and publishing it I came down with the worst stomach flu I've ever experienced (though to be fair, I say that dramatically about every time I get a stomach flu.) Poor Dan, after spending a day at the hospital watching little kids, had to sit on the floor outside the bathroom watching me get sick because I was afraid I would pass out. As with every time I get sick I immediately started to wonder where I was at fault. Worrying so much it suppressed my immune system? Processing my post-surgery anxieties through chocolate? Or maybe it was completely psycho-somatic, and my reaction to seeing my child in pain and vulnerable was to VOID EVERYTHING.

There is something else. When Harvey was recovering from the anesthesia, and totally pathetically bewildered in pain, ("I thought they were going to FIX my teeth! Why do they hurt?") I cried out to God in the fashion of my foremothers, saying "If there's any way for me to take this pain from him, Lord, I'll do it." Now it may be all coincidence or the workings of my mind, but Harvey felt fine and nausea-free once he got home, and after the kids fell asleep I was writhing in pain on the bathroom floor.

When I shared about my prayer of transference (between sobs) Dan asked, "Is that allowed?" My imagined answer was, "Only for Jews."

Now after six hours of torment I am finally recovering and dreaming of Gatorade. The moral of the story is: don't do that guys. Ask Jesus to take your burdens like a good Christian would. And wash your frickin hands a lot when you go to the hospital. Lord have mercy.


entropy fan

I've been telling people lately that Lijah is opposed to potential energy. If he sees something standing up, he wants to knock it down. And his devotion to chaos and low-energy states also extends to wanting to take things apart; if it were up to him, no two legos would ever stay attached to each other, and any uneaten food would be reduced to the smallest crumbs and scattered all over the ground. And you should see what he does to bookshelves! I don't know if he loves bookshelves or hates them, but in either case he can happily spend a good long time patiently pulling each and every book down to the floor. Ditto for the tupperware cabinet.

So far, he's shown no impulse at all towards building. Maybe he figures his brothers have that under control; they certainly spend plenty of time on it (ideally in safe places like high tables or on another floor from the little agent of destruction). As parents we have mixed feelings. On the one hand, the mess! On the other, when provided with enough things to take down or out Lijah can amuse himself for a good long time, which is more than we could say for Harvey or Zion at this age. If you move quick you can even get some cleaning done in one part of the house while he wrecks up another: since we move slightly faster than he does, with constant work the net effect is—very slowly—a cleaner house.

And of course, whenever you want to get his attention all you need to do is set a single block up on edge, and he crawls right over: he's not going to let that stand for long!


elijah is one

In preparation for Elijah's birthday (today) I have been looking back at pictures of my other children at 1 year old. They each had their innocent round faces still, and I loved them simply as my perfect angel babies. Looking back, though, I can see the beginnings of the personalities that would so deeply identify Harvey and Zion as themselves. Harvey, for example, is shown in nearly every photograph talking.

let me tell you something about this wind, mama....

And wanting to totally be the boss of his surroundings...

there's something in my way!

... and of everyone in them.

are you for real, mom?

Zion, on the other hand, always faced the world with a face that said, "I'm thinking of a joke..."

i am thinking of something silly...

Or, "I just told myself a joke."


But his countenance still turns serious in some situations. Like when it has to do with candy.

i love candy

So it's fun to think of little Elijah, 1 year old today, and the distinctive faces he makes.

There's the getting really happy face:

lijah standing leaning on the chalkboard holding chalk

i think something good is coming, but i'm not sure, but I'm kind of ready to break into a big smile

And the really happy face:

big smile!

There's the face that says, "I'm just here chilling, just one of the boys."

we're good, no need to intervene

And then there's the face that asks silently, "Is this okay for me to have, mom?"

is this okay?

We've had a whole year now to memorize Elijah's faces. It seems like a long time, like we have this knowing-him-thing down pretty well. And yet I realize from my other two children that the first birthday is a false front of a milestone. There is still so much more babyhood to go. There are first words and first tantrums. There are favorite books to pick out and a favorite color to identify. Lord I hope he likes green, because that would forever make it easy to keep their socks separate. But I know all too well, children grow up and have minds of their own.

So there's no hurry, little Elijah, to grow up and "become" anything other than what you are right now. With that sweet smile and tiny nose and soft pillow cheeks. "Your face," I tell him all the time, "is a kissing place."


this moment

Elijah looking at a birthday candle on a pile of muffins, Zion singing in the background

Lijah's first

A moment from the week (this evening).

Elijah's first

a birthday cake in front of a chalkboard birthday message

Happy Birthday Elijah

This weekend was full of birthday fun with Lijah. Saturday we went to my parents' house for a party for him and me both—with a cake for each of us! Grandma Judy made mine (cheesecake!) and I made one for the birthday baby (applesauce vanilla cake, with peach jam between the layers and a buttercream glaze).

There were some very nice presents, but Lijah might have been more interested in the lovely—and easily reachable—appetizers.

Elijah standing at the coffee table amidst food and presents

party time

Luckily his brothers are always available to show him how to play with his toys (they even let him have a turn after a while!).

Harvey, Zion, and Elijah playing with Elijah's presents

helping hands

After a tremendous birthday dinner (thanks Mom!) it was time for cake. It was Lijah's second candle, but while he might be figuring out the routine the mechanics of candle-blowing still escape him.

Elijah in the dark looking at his lit birthday candle

will he blow it?

Then all that was left was to eat the cakes (though Lijah, healthful baby that he is, mostly stuck to the blueberries and strawberries).

Lijah and Zion at the birthday table with cake

big one-year-old and big brother

We had another party yesterday, but I didn't take any pictures of it. Leah did; I'm sure she'll post some as soon as she has a moment.


why listening to the internet is a mistake

I've had this article open in a browser tab for well over a week, so I need to write about it here to clear it off my computer and out of my mind. It's called "Why Adding Milk To Your Scrambled Eggs Is A Mistake", and in it the author states baldly that "[o]ne common mistake people make when cooking scrambled eggs is adding milk or cream. You may have been whisking your eggs with milk since you were a little kid, but we're telling you now: It's time to stop."


It may seem counterintuitive, but the addition of milk, cream or any other liquid for that matter, will actually make it more likely that your eggs will turn out dry. By thinning out the eggs, it's easier to overcook them. Most importantly, the milk dilutes the taste of the eggs. It also screws with the texture, leaving the eggs slightly rubbery — and no one wants rubbery eggs. If you're using good, farm fresh eggs, you don't need anything except maybe a little salt and pepper to make them taste delicious. A little butter never hurt anyone, either.

The author, Alison Spiegel, "is a Food Editor at the Huffington Post. She is a graduate of Middlebury College, and she currently lives in Brooklyn." I don't know part of that qualifies her to to judge egg preparation, but I'm pretty sure that her main qualification to the bosses at HuffPo is the ability to draw traffic, and she hit the jackpot with that egg post (which I got to via google news); most of her posts have maybe two comments, but that particular gem pulled in 693 at current count. I didn't read any of them.

I only hope people aren't really following her advice and leaving milk out of their eggs. I've been making eggs with milk or cream for years and they're always really good; why on earth would I change at the unreferenced suggestion of a Middlebury grad living in Brooklyn?! But I bet there are people who will: the same people who can't resist the latest weird diet trick, or believe conspiracy theories. "I hadn't thought of that before, so it must be true!"

There's nothing wrong with changing your mind about things, certainly. I've done things one way for years before realizing I was "wrong": I used shaving cream like a chump until it occurred to me that plain old soap does a better job. But when I make a change you know it's based on my own experience, a trusted friend, or a well-reasoned argument. Not some handwaving about how milk "screws with the texture".

As for milk and cream in eggs specifically, I'm going to stick with what works for me. And if I want backup justification, I'll turn to the words of Tamar Adler, also a Brooklyn resident, but one who has cooked at Prune and Chez Panisse (as well as her own restaurant):

Beat two or three eggs in a bowl, adding a pinch of salt and a teaspoon of heavy cream if you want. This is not a trick, but an expression of the fact that things taste good with cream added.

And I'll do it a lot: I forgot to check our henhouse for eggs two days ago and yesterday there were ten to bring in. Scrambled eggs with cream every morning, and never mind about that dumb bossy internet!


A lion for Lijah

Leading up to Elijah's birthday I was thinking about what I could make for him by way of a present. Suddenly I had a terrible realization. In his first year of his life I made exactly ZERO original items for him. Knitting and sewing for Lijah has been a null set, due to 1) the abundance of hand-me-downs and 2) his complete lack of giving a shit about sewn or knitted items. And it's been a hard year too - a lot of evenings punctuated every half-hour by screaming. Most rational humans would shy away from the noisy sewing machine under those conditions. Still, I couldn't let this continue past his birthday. S in 20-minute bursts (punctuated by screaming) I cut up a sweater and upcycled a cute stuffed lion.

cuddle rawr

I repurposed a sweater with a bottom ruffle that came to me used and proved completely unflattering on my body. The ruffle became the mane of the lion, which wasn't as self-explanatory as I originally assumed. Here's my tester piece for reference - you can see that sewing the ruffle on straight didn't work and I had to gather it in the final version.

lion ski bum?

Also in the final I added a tail with a ball on the end made from a button and its frog closure (which I meticulously un-picked). The second closure I unpicked to turn into ears.

loves you

Lijah liked the present just enough to drop it from his highchair repeatedly. He's not very into stuffed toys, like I said — justification for my laziness over the past year. Still, it's nice for him to grow up with homemade toys. Even if they never really PLAY with them, my older boys often ask, "Did you make this for me?" I like to pretend it's a tangible way that they know they're loved. Especially since I enjoy the challenge of making new things from unflattering sweaters.

Meanwhile, Elijah is into toys that he can gum more effectively. Here he is stealing a plastic ball from another babies at his party. Kid can stick up for himself. Nobody has to hear him rawrrr.