the best time to plant a tree

Well, I guess we're in for the long haul here: this weekend I planted two apple trees, part of my birthday present for Leah. Having failed, due to lack of opportunity, to plant any 20 years ago, I took the second-best option. We now have one Northern Spy and one Macintosh semi-dwarf tree growing (oh how I hope they're growing) in the front yard. You'll have to take my word for it that they're trees, though; to the untrained eye they appear nothing more than sticks stuck in the ground. But that's just because of the expert pruning they've undergone at the hands of the pruning experts at Miller Nurseries, and I understand that they'll be bursting with leaves, flowers, and fruit any moment now. In the trees' defense, they did come in the mail so I'll give em a little time to get settled in before I start expecting, you know, branches and things.

Also in the birthday present was four more blueberry bushes (similarly compressed for shipping), but I didn't get a chance to plant them yet. Oh how I hope they may survive until I get a chance to prepare a place for them.

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mama's bonus birthday present sunhats

Saturday evening our friend Becca came over with a birthday present for me, in a gesture that was beyond touching. We don't usually exchange birthday gifts with bible study friends, since our bible study is kind of big and that would mean like everybody buying gifts like every weekend, which is sort of insane for young poor people, even if we are Christians. So I was really moved to find a gift for me on the table on Sunday morning, Yes, er, I was asleep when Becca and crew came over, it being after 8pm. Anyway, I could tell right away that the present was going to be something awesome because it was WRAPPED IN FABRIC!

Harvey's hand reaching for the present

a little hand is very eager to open any present

Harvey was excited too to help me open it. He's really into opening presents, as well as blowing out candles. Today in fact I caught him trying to blow out a pawn from a chess set. If that doesn't just warm the cockles of your heart then I don't know what will. Anyway, inside the fabric were some new onesies for baby #2 (yeah! not everything will be hand-me-down), some boxes of yummy tea, and a nice gift certificate to Joanne fabrics, which is like giving someone a gift certificate to Mexico, everything is so cheap. Exciting exciting!

The best part instant-gratification wise was of course the fabric. Even though I promised Dan that I would clean up my sewing stuff from the floor of his office before embarking on any more projects, I jumped right into cutting some pieces out of the new fabric for sun hats - matching ones for Harvey and baby. Hey, since I didn't have to sort through my stash to find fabric I figured this was a give away. Also, I couldn't help it; I was dying to try a pattern from the new book Dan bought me, and fabric suddenly appeared at my door. How could I resist? There was no floorspace left in the office so I sat out in the hallway.

This sunhat is the result:

the new green sun hat with a little bit of Harvey underneath

summer style

And a smaller one for baby, lined with yellow so we can tell the difference from the other side of the room.

two new sun hats posing on the rock wall

and one for baby

This is the pattern that everyone seems to be jumping on first when they get the Oliver + S book, although I don't know what they're talking about when they say it comes together relatively quickly. These two hats took me 5 hours of dedicated sewing time, which is a crapload of alone time for me, time I only got this weekend by virtue of illness (I felt too sick to go to church on Sunday so Dan and Harvey went without me) plus two Harvey naps. A whole morning alone plus two naps is a long ass time for two sun hats if you ask me. There seem to be so many ways of making a reversible hat by sewing the whole outside to the whole inside and leaving a small hole for turning, it seems overkill to include a step of blind stitching the inside before edge-stitching on the machine. Still, it did turn out a very tidy little hat, so if you're the type of person to look up close then probably the extra care is worth it.

There's still enough fabric left over to sew a baby dress, and as soon as I make good on my promise to clean up my sewing space I'm gonna throw together a little outfit using the matching ribbon as straps.

This gift and project came as a nice relief after the week I had last week, with Harvey groaning all day and throwing up at every meal... I was starting to feel like I didn't exist apart from song singer/back rubber/puke catcher. Even though we made it through a fancy meal for my birthday, I spent the entire time worrying that Harvey was going to projectile vomit all over the table or his fancily dressed grandparents, which is not the state of vigilance ideal for consuming a huge amount of rich food (witness the illness on Saturday night and Sunday morning). We skipped my birthday expedition on Saturday because Harvey wasn't feeling well, no one wanted to make or eat birthday pie, and I had a mental breakdown from not getting a break all week and then finding out our fence can't go in the ground until the end of May at the earliest because the corner of our property lies 50 feet from a wetland and we need to go in front of a public hearing not to mention pay 50 bucks to the friggin local paper to publish a legal notice, and that's just for a 3 foot fence, we haven't even started the process on Chickens because the stack of paperwork for the stupid fence is so confusing it makes me want to cry and that's not even involving the health department. So the fabric and accompanying present was a real real nice break. A reminder that I'm a person too, with value and interests beyond reproduction. If only just slightly beyond.

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you got enough sweaters for all the babies you got in there?

pink cotton baby sweater in garden

like it grew right out of the ground

This is the last baby sweater I finished lately. I think I've finally burned through my enthusiasm for baby sweaters now... four is enough to knit in one month, don't you think? So I'm keeping this one and the other one in organic cotton because, ahem, they were the most expensive ($15 for this one! that stuff is expensive but oh it's like knitting with a cloud!) The other two sweaters I'm giving away and taking a break from baby knitting.

As you can see, I also knitted a hat to go with. That makes something like 6 hand-knit newborn hats in the baby drawer upstairs. I think I'm done with hats too for a while.

pink cotton sweater on clothes pins

dan likes this picture the best.

The all-pink looked a little boring to me so I crocheted on a white flower after the fact. It doesn't look half bad, I don't think! Perfect for a little tiny girl to wear to a garden party, or to church.

And it's a good thing I've got some girly knits in my arsenal now, because everybody and their nosy-ass mother is telling me I'm having a girl, you know, by the time-honored scientific method of looking at my belly and SAYING OUT LOUD WHERE I LOOK FAT! Seriously, a grandmother at the library today was like "I can tell it's a girl, because it's SO WIDE!" and then she held her hands out on either side of her like she was describing a fish. Excuse me lady, but the "it" in your sentence happens to be referring to MY BODY! I don't really know what to say to that other than, "Thanks but fuck off.... I mean, er, no thanks."

And that was after her whole shpeel of "WHEN are you due??? Is your doctor SURE???" To which I have many answers that are not appropriate for the children's room at the public library, including "It seems like you may not be clear on how babies are made, but it wasn't the doctor who was fucking my husband 9 months ago. I did that. And then I circled the date on the calendar. Because I was trying to get pregnant, dumbass. So yes, I'm sure that I haven't yet reached the mid-point of my bell-shaped curve which idiots generally refer to as a due date, even though no one can really be sure of when a baby's coming because a due date is actually more like a due month statistically speaking...

I mean, er, no thanks."

Man, I'm testy today. Must be the ginormous pregnancy crowding out all the space in my brain because OMG it's so WIDE are you sure you only got one baby in there?

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birth announcement

Mama kissing the newborn baby

she loves him already

We have a new baby! He surprised us quite a bit, first by getting the whole labor thing started a couple weeks early, then by being born after less than two hours of labor, and finally by being a boy when all stomach analysis indicated there was a girl in there. But no, he's a boy and he was in a hurry. I give you Zion Greig Archibald:

Zion is well-built for a newborn

big and strong!

He was born at 1:16 this afternoon and weighed in at 9lb even (but he cheated and snuck in a nursing before the weigh-in so who knows). Harvey napped pretty much through the whole labor, so he was fairly surprised too when he woke up and was told he was now a big brother. After just a little uncertainty, though, he settled right into the role.

Mama reading to Harvey and Zion

look how well they get along already!

Just like he was with Harvey Rascal was very interested as soon as Zion was born and didn't want to leave the bedroom, much less the house. The two of them are already very well acquainted.

We're all doing fine, and very much appreciate everyone's thoughts and prayers and well-wishes. Feel free to stop by and visit our new little guy... in a week or so, once we get used to him ourselves. In the meantime any additional photos (that we manage to refrain from putting on the blog) will appear at squibix.net/zion.

And hey, we were sure quicker with this announcement than we were last time, eh?

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baby Zion's birth story - quick like lightening!

Dan must have been rather surprised yesterday morning when upon arriving at work he got a phone call telling him to turn around and come right home. "My water broke" I told him. "Oh!" he said, "Let me just tell them inside." Poor thing, he had barely set down his bicycle. He ran inside to tell the administrators he was leaving and then came zooming back home. That's 12 miles in 45 minutes and in work clothes, people! I'd only be more impressed if he'd actually given birth himself.

I too was pretty surprised when I stood up at 8:15 am to find myself covered in amniotic fluid. The baby's due date wasn't for another two weeks, and since Harvey was late we were really expecting this baby a week or two late as well. Certainly not the first week of May. Indeed, many things were surprising about the series of events yesterday. For example, when you're used to going into labor at 42 weeks and then your water breaks at 38 weeks, it really does seem as if the difference in the amount of liquid that comes out is like how much water you could possibly drink in a whole month. Seriously, it was like the friggin Hoover Dam. All those jokes from TV that I always ridiculed. All true.

Since I wasn't in labor yet the midwives decided to come around noon. By 11am the contractions were 5 minutes apart. The 5 intervening minutes felt like no labor at all, but the contractions felt like the dickens, which I told to the first midwife who arrived. She checked all my vitals and the baby's heartbeat, and then sat with me through a few contractions. Since they were between 2-5 minutes apart and not longer than 30 seconds, she figured this was still early labor and suggested I get in the shower while she set up her supplies. I stood in the shower for 5 minutes and thought it felt pretty good. Then I had a contraction in the shower and thought I was dying. Then I thought all would be better if I just made a poop, so I got out of the shower to sit on the potty. Once sitting I let out a big yell and the other midwife rushed in. "I just want to check to see what's going on," she said. She gave one poke with a gloved finger and said, "Um, I can feel the baby's head. Do you want to have this baby on the floor here? or can you make it to the bedroom?"

A plastic sheet was thrown over the bed faster than a magician's trick, and less than five minutes later a 9-pound baby plopped onto it. I don't think I gave more that four pushes and Harvey stayed asleep in the next room the whole time. The plastic tub was all ready and inflated, but we only ever got a few inches of water into it. Harvey played in it later that night.

Look, I don't recommend this type of labor. It was rather shocking and unpleasant, and the kind of pain you're mentally ready to face after 5 hours preparation is just not the kind of pain you can process in 10 minutes. Then again, I can't say I was sad to get it over with either. And how hard core is it to say that we did all of labor and delivery in the time it took Harvey to take an afternoon nap?

I have to admit I was a little shocked for the rest of the afternoon, but by evening I started to warm up to the idea that we really did just have a baby, that now we have two sons, and that the second one is a big-cheeked butter ball who loves eating just as much as his big brother did but thankfully loves sleeping just a little bit more.

So here's to baby Zion, who was apparently in a great hurry to meet us. We're pretty happy to meet you too, little guy. Now let's all just chiiiiill out for a little while.

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special effects

a pretty good double rainbow

a bow for Zion

The weather put on a pretty good show today for Zion's first full day out in the world, and this was the grand finale. Too bad he was too busy nursing to appreciate it. Boy does like his grub!

rainbow looking like it's touching down just a few streets away

the gold looks to be less than a mile away!

Me and Harvey made it outside to ooh and ah, and Mama appreciated the pictures. Zion'll understand what he missed in four or five years, I figure.

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a(nother) day in the life

Mama on the couch with Zion, Rascal, and Harvey crowding around

a little more full

So it looks like Zion likes it here well enough; I guess he's planning to stay. We spent a pretty low-key day just hanging out, but as you can see from the photo above the house feels a little bit more full than it did a couple days ago.

Zion scrunched up in the sling

first time outside!... -ish

Of course, we can still go outside! The first sunny day of Zion's life meant that Leah could bring him out for a little airing; well, as much air as he could get in there in that sling. So far he likes it rather better than Harvey ever did, but he likes the Moses basket less so it's kind of a wash. All in all, we're a little surprised at how different he is than Harvey—not that we can really remember Harvey at that age. Leah reminded me this evening that Harvey didn't start crying until he was a couple days old, so we shouldn't get used to Zion's easy newborn ways. Cause for now, most of the time he looks like this:

Zion looking comatose

tough life!

He doesn't like getting his diaper changed, so we hear some complaining then, but other than that it's pretty easy to forget he's even there. Harvey's helped in that regard by turning up the personality: by turns excited and engaging, and despairingly jealous (happily, mostly the former). Keeps life interesting, that's for sure!

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What kind of a name is Zion, anyway?

One Tuesday evening during the summer of 2009 Dan baby Harvey and I were sitting on the Lexington bandstand lawn enjoying a summer concert and playing one of our favorite games: come up with baby names. With "Harvey" done and used up, we were in the market for a fall-back boy name and I was trying to think of hippy ones. Zephyr... Ezra... good but already taken by people we know. And I was thinking, "You know, I wish I could come up with a name that expresses not only our counter-cultural leanings but our hope for the future: our faith in God and humanity and our grand vision for a world that could be possible."

"I wish we could name a baby, like, 'New Jerusalem' or something." I said to myself.

"Wait, I've got it!" I said to Dan. "What about Zion?"

So Zion (rhymes with Brian) was enthroned as our leading boy's name, even as early as two years ago. It's a good thing this little one came out a boy too, because a potential girl baby really dodged the hippy bullet on being named "Agape," or "Easter," or "Jubilee." (Although I still can't see why Dan vetoed Jubilee. I may still fight for it in the future.)

Whether you are Jewish and waiting for the messiah to come, or Christian and waiting for the messiah to come back, Zion represents the hope we have in God's future. One day people will so reconcile with God and with each other that the real places where we live here on earth will be made new. And we don't want to be lazy laggards ourselves; we're trying in our little ways to infuse our environment and relationships with reconciliation. Obviously sometimes better than others. Hey, that's why it's a hope and a vision, not a brownie try-it.

With your children it is the same: you hope for big things and you work for little things. You hope grandly that they would live freer and truer and more connected lives than you ever could. At the same time you pray humbly that they would know God, that they would grow to follow Him, and that God would forgive you for the defects incurred in the shipping and handling.

All that hope wrapped up into a very little name for a very little guy. That's Zion. For the moment I'm calling him "Baby Z" and that seems to suit him too.

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farm scenes

We went to Drumlin Farm last weekend, and I captured some poor-quality phone-cam shots of a couple notable scenes. Here they are.

We were reminded of those piglets the first time we watched Zion nursing, I have to say.

And yes, I know that it's a very badly made video. Oh well, I have the same excuse as when I make funny-looking cookies or fail completely to plant straight rows: Harvey was helping me. He doesn't appreciate the intricacies of video editing, I can tell you. "Watch the sheep! More sheep! Watch the lambs!" was pretty much the extent of his participation. Still, it's documentary and perhaps a little amusing. I hope you enjoyed.

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mother's day

Zion found his crying voice last night. I remember that Harvey did that too - be sweet and sleepy for a few days and then all of a sudden turn into a screaming raging monster. It probably has to do with their digestion when my milk comes in - Zion certainly was working through some burps and poops and hiccups, and he let loose with letting us know it all evening. I remember Harvey screamed for an hour or a few every day for a while... I don't really remember for how long. I wish we had written these things down, whether it was for two weeks or two months that he screamed all evening every evening. On the other hand, I know that when you have a screaming newborn all you want to do is make the screaming stop, and writing stuff down does not seem of the utmost importance.

Also, maybe you want to forget.

Today is mother's day, and I had started working on a poem a few weeks ago for the occasion. Unfortunately some other things came up, so this is how far I got:

I am mama
remover of splinters
mac and cheese maker
hat knitter in winters

I am mama
remover of bugs
song maker upper
fountain of hugs

It's not what you call a finished piece as I was hoping for 2 more stanzas, the last of which would wrap up a lighthearted list with something moving and profound. yaddah yaddah yaddah. Maybe you get the idea.

Becoming a mom has been the most real, powerful, awesome thing I've done with my life. At the same time the specific process of becoming a mother, which is to say what I've been living through this week, is kind of a bitch. I kept thinking if I just got the right team in place, if I got the right equipment, if I gave birth at home and not in a hospital, and without castor oil and with fewer visitors, if I kept tweaking the inputs just right I'd come out with an experience that was holy and empowering and blissful and transformative.

What on earth was I thinking?

Because even though nobody violated my dignity or separated me from my child, even though the care and the time of day and the general circumstances of this birth were impeccable... still it was inexplicably traumatic. It was still gross and embarrassing and nightmarishly painful. I still have to deal with a body that is a bleeding oozing pussing cramping broken disgusting exhausted mess.

And really, it's a terrible time to celebrate mother's day, four days after giving birth, because my breasts are swollen bowling balls and my abdomen hurts when I laugh and my taint burns like a warzone and I have all these boys I want to take care of but can't do my job of being a good mama.

I want this part to be over so I can go back to being chief splinter remover, chief hat knitter, chief mac and cheese maker (okay, so maybe Dan and I fight over that last one.)

And as much as I love my big boy Harvey and my cutey little piglet Zion, I will never love the cat-like cries of a newborn or the process with which they came into the world.

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the many faces of Zion

Baby Zion has a tendency to wear a serious expression, even while sleeping. Here he is for example bearing witness to the burial of his placenta

zion witnessing the burial of his placenta

a bit concerned

Yeah, you like how I hippy-slipped that in there, didn't you? Be glad I didn't include the actual placenta photographs. I'm saving those for the Christmas card.

Kind of reminds me of Harvey's serious face from 8 days old.

8 days old, ready for his catalogue shoot

8 days old, ready for his catalogue shoot

Of course, it may just be those enormous cheeks pushing up poor Zion's brow. He can make other faces after all, like this one.

zion sticking out his tongue

pttttth

or this one

zion yawning

I coulda been a contender

Which reminds me that Harvey at a day old wore the exact same outfit:

baby harvey in his farmer outfit

farmers need their sleep

It's hard to believe that Harvey was a whole month older than Zion at birth. I guess as a little brother he's already running fast to catch up.

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getting out!

To celebrate Dan's last Zion-caused day off of work we took an outing to the Bedford commons. There was necessity involved, of course. I had to make 10 copies of our fence application at the library and then walk them over to town hall 200 yards away. I didn't think I had the mental focus or stamina to do both copying and walking with 2 kids in tow before the application deadline this Wednesdsay. So Dan came to help, and we all met at the conveniently placed playground right in the middle.

dada and harvey on the swing

weeeee!

Mama even got into the festivities and pushed one child while holding the other, just like a real live mother of two.

mama and zion pushing harvey on the swing

acting like a real mama

It was a little cold out, so babies were both dressed in mama-made knitwear. You can see Harvey's orange sweater in the picture above. Zion looked a bit more silly in his matching sweater, hat, and booties.

now write your number on this card but don't show it to me...

Yeah, I know, the hat is huge. There's a new appropriately sized one on the needles right now as we speak. It's progress will slow down significantly though as soon as I can get up and down the stairs with laundry.

It sure was nice to get outside, though I was pretty exhausted on the way home. Also, in the commotion setting up the infant car seat we forgot the overdue library books on the living room floor. Isn't that just the way? At least no one got soaked with projectile pooping.

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marks of childhood

When Zion was born he looked a little spotted and pimply, but it took just a couple days for his skin to attain that baby-soft smoothness so beloved of the marketers of feminine skin-care products. Smooth, flawless, and rosy-pink. The same can't be said for Harvey. Cuts and scratches, bruises all up his shins, poison ivy, mosquito bites—right now he is marked with all those things. He was marked with a whole lot of dirt and grime too, until his bath this evening. The boy loves his outdoor time!

Since he's the most beautiful almost-two-year-old in the Greater Boston area (at the very least) we very well could have gotten him into modeling or advertising, but aside from the tedium of having to manage the millions of dollars in toil-free income that would bring us (what a drag!), we'd also have to keep Harvey from marking up his million-dollar face. It's nice not needing to worry about that. He heals pretty quick, which is enough for us the way things are now.

Although I really should do something about the poison ivy growing by the cellar door...

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getting along

Dan ended his paternity leave today, and I survived my first day of solo parenting. I managed to keep my children fed, napped, and mildly entertained, although the trickiest part was the late afternoon when it caught up to Harvey that we hadn't left the house all day. By that time my whole body was shaking from the effort of going up and down the stairs while carrying one child or the other or both. Why oh why is all the food downstairs and all the diaper stuff upstairs? It didn't help that it was a day of non-stop poopy diapers for the big heavy child who could not keep his hands off the fruit basket. I appreciate the sentiments, Edible Arrangements, but not the digestive properties of your product combined with how irresistible it is to a toddler to eat food on a stick.

Fortunately for me Harvey is a good sweet boy, and he's taken to brotherhood remarkably well. He's amazingly patient with how long it takes to change Zion's diaper and nurse him, and he keeps bringing Zion toys and hats, each time saying "Baby want this?" This morning all he wanted to do was hold the baby. He said "uppy baby" and then held his arms up at about the level of his ears, adding "peeeeeese?"

harvey holds zion

getting to like you, getting to hope you like me

So I sat and read them my favorite story, pressed up next to Harvey with one hand on the book and the other supporting Zion's head as a back up measure. Harvey listened to the story and every minute or so leaned down to kiss Zion on his forehead. Rascal took notice and squeezed his way onto the couch on the other side of me. When I got to the point in the story where it says "All the world is everything, everything is you and me" it was all I could do to hold back big mama tears.

harvey kisses his baby brother

kisssy baby

During this pregnancy I prayed for a baby that would be the perfect fit for our family. So far Zion seems to be fitting in with Harvey like a puzzle piece, which is to say he's perfectly complementary while being perfectly opposite. He sleeps all the time, unlike constantly wakeful baby Harvey. He wants hugs and cuddles and to be held horizontal, unlike baby Harvey who just wanted to be put down in his basket or be held sitting upright like a big boy. It seems as if Harvey was made to be a big brother and Zion to be a devoted little. Or it could be the difference in their gestational ages, who knows. Either way it's exciting to see this whole new relationship forming. Makes all the stairs worth it.

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banana chocolate-chip muffins

I want to be cool enough to be able to make up my own recipes. For baked goods, that is; I make up my own recipes for things like stir-fries all the time, but that doesn't count. A while ago I spent some time experimenting with muffins and was some way towards feeling like I knew what I was doing—to the point where I'd be able to improvise a muffin recipe based on the ingredients at hand. Then I came up with this recipe and stopped experimenting, because this one is good enough. Banana and chocolate, plus whole wheat flour and wheat bran: you can eat them for desert and for breakfast the next day!

(In the name of fairness I must say that I didn't make this recipe up entirely from whole cloth; but it is very modified from the original in Joy of Cooking.)

Grease a 12-cup muffin tin and preheat the oven to 375°.

In a large bowl whisk together:

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup wheat bran
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup chocolate chips

Combine in a medium bowl:

2 or 3 ripe bananas, mashed
1 egg, beaten
3/4 cups brown sugar
6 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon vanilla

Add the wet stuff to the dry stuff and fold together just until all the flour is combined. Distribute evenly into the muffin tin. Sprinkle the top of each muffin with a mixture of:

3 parts white sugar
2 parts brown sugar

Bake for 18 minutes, until a toothpick stuck in one of the muffins comes out clean.

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to satisfy your curiosity

High on everyone's list of concerns after they get done congratulating us on the new baby is how well we're sleeping. Not too bad, actually: so far Zion is a much better sleeper than Harvey was at this age—or ever, really! But even the best-sleeping newborn is an uneasy presence in the bed, and last night saw the first hour-plus session of pacing the floor of the front rooms downstairs with an entirely-too-wakeful baby (at least he was quiet; that's so much easier than crying and miserable!). And even when he doesn't drive us to abandoning the bed he makes sure we don't stay asleep for more than an hour or so at a time.

On the plus side, we're a whole lot more used to interrupted sleep now than we were when Harvey was born. It was only a month or so ago that he really got the hang of sleeping through the night, so we never regained the expectation that, when we settle in for the night, we're safe until morning. Somehow we're surviving—even thriving—though I confess that sometimes when I'm asleep I dream of sleeping more. I can't imagine having waited another year to have our second baby and having to adjust to a newborn's sleeping patterns from a standing start!

And of course, at this point we have every expectation of things steadily improving. Nine hours of sleep a night all around by August! That said, it would help if I actually managed to go to bed at a reasonable hour...

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taking it slow

zion and mama

zzzzzzzzz

Dan comes down the stairs this morning and into the kitchen where I am serving Harvey breakfast.

"Zion is still up there sleeping like a baby," he says, "I mean, a baby who's not Harvey."

Most things people tell you about childrearing are annoying. "Get all the sleep you can NOW" for example, or my personal pet peeve, "That baby looks cold!" But one thing they tell you actually turns out to be true: it is easier the second time around. Feed, burp, change, repeat. It may be tedious, but after you've been covered in real food toddler vomit, or learned how to sit through the big lungs crying that accompanies a 2-year-old tantrum, newborn antics lose all power to break your spirit.

Grandma has taken Harvey to Drumlin Farms for the morning, so I have the opportunity to lie around and rest with sweet baby Zion. I can't believe I found this so hard the first time around... maybe I just had higher standards for how clean I expected my house and clothes to be. I took the photo above from our nappy time yesterday. I remember cuddling like this with baby Harvey, how awesome and lovey it was, and yet how little I really knew him back then. (Turns out he kind of hated cuddling on his stomach.) Maybe that's why a new baby is so hard - it's sort of like an arranged marriage. You're suddenly supposed to love this total stranger right away, and you sort of do but you sort of don't at the same time.

I remember falling in love with Harvey the instant he was born. Zion's birth was a bit more traumatic, so I'll sheepishly admit that I'm still working to catch up in the bonding department. Part of me wishes I could just fast forward a few months to where everything feels all solid and secure again, where I feel like we're really a family of four with most of the kinks worked out, and not a family of 3 with a very tiny guest in our house. Right now I sort of feel like a top that's a little bit off balance. Harvey used to be the center of my life, and now the center is somewhere in the middle of many people in a fuzzy moving relational space.

Still, I keep telling myself it's okay to take things slow too, to allow space for cuddles and naps and piles of clean laundry to go unfolded. That baby head sure is a soft good-smelling thing.

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time permitting

I must be doing okay with this two children thing, because I'm already turning my mind to plans for expansion. Which is to say, I'm getting excited about chickens again. I put off thinking about our chicken project for the past month so that I could do some heavy duty nesting myself, but now I've had a lull in wanting to knit or sew anything so I'm back to poking around online for chicken coop designs.

We can buy these plans for a cute simple coop that builds up in under $200. It would technically be too big to live on our lawn without a permit, but so is anything in this town. Seriously, I think we need a permit to SIT out on our lawn. Every time I look at coops I think, oh hell, we should just go get that building permit for the coop and the animal permit for 10 chickens. Then I look at the permit applications and weep openly. All the departments I need to placate! Code enforcement plus conservation plus the health department. I might as well try to open a restaurant! Apparently, post-baby I am mentally prepared to take care of tiny birds but not quite ready for paperwork.

We can get 4 chicks this summer without the animal permit, and I wouldn't feel too bad throwing a $200 coop together in the back unpermitted since it wouldn't be the end of the world if we had to take it down. (Unlike the multi-thousand dollar fence which WOULD be the end of the world if it needed to move.) Part of my rational brain says that 4 chickens is a good start, especially since we'll be starting them at the end of the summer rather than in the spring, so they may need to spend more of their growing time inside the house and it'll be a good experience learning how much room 4 growing chicks take up before I go ahead and order 8. Still, all this work for 4 chickens that won't even make food till next spring...

And then I think, maybe I should just go sew some more hats.

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birth order

Everybody's been talking about Zion lately, including us. He's new and ostensibly kind of exciting (more exciting in theory perhaps than in present form). But when it comes to day-to-day attention, I have to admit that Harvey is getting more of mine. Zion just sleeps and eats; Harvey does oh so much more. Just today I got to watch him dance at church, laugh and play with his friend Ollie, and enjoy the box fort I made for him. Oh, and fall down the stairs headfirst—that sure got my attention! (don't worry, he survived unscathed, but it sure looked scary!).

That's the problem being the second-born, I suppose; it's hard to compete (not that Leah or I would know anything about it). Sure, a little while after Harvey was born I compared him to a guinea pig, but there was never any doubt that he was our sole focus. Sorry Zion, we just can't give you that level of attention. While Harvey also has to deal with sharing us—and for him it's something new, as opposed to the pre-existing state of affairs Zion was born to—he's operating from a position of strength. Being able to talk helps a lot too.

Happily, Harvey doesn't seem to be one to lord it over his little brother. In fact, I think he'd like Zion to be a little more attention-worthy. While he refuses to hold him for pictures, he asks for him other times, to cuddle or hold hands or pat (often on the nose, though we suggest to him that the top of the head would be more appropriate). Today he tried to get Zion interested in his train set. Leah told him that the baby would be able to play trains in seven months when he could sit up on his own; I estimated that a year and a half would make him more useful to Harvey.

Of course, being younger has its advantages too. You get away with a whole lot more, for example, and get to try new things at a younger age. I'm sure that will be a tremendous comfort to Zion when he's able to move.

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almost 2 weeks

I've wanted to write many blog posts in the past few days but have been too bleary-eyed. My boys are determined to never sleep at the same time as one another. Here they are, forming a secret alliance against sleep.

harvey and zion hold hands

block against the enemy

The terms of which are as follows: if one sleeps, the other must constantly demand food or drink.

harvey and zion in bed

more please mama?

I wore them out this morning, though, with a trip to the bank and Staples which culminated in an overly long snack-break at Dunkin Donuts because the so-called fast-food chain made me wait 20 minutes for an egg-and-cheese sandwich and then delivered it without cheese. Emboldened by my starving 2-year-old I made them give me my money back and another sandwich. While we ate our free replacement sandwich, a crazy veteran quizzed me on the ages of my children and then asked me sideways if I was pregnant again. I told him no, I just gave birth 13 days ago and he told me to exercise. I told him to go fuck himself. Actually I didn't. I gave him a look that indicated that he should go fuck himself, something that I've become quite good at since I became a mom.

More evidence that as much as I need to deposit checks I should never leave the house again, at least not for the strip malls of Bedford, at least not without snacks in hand. Still, it earned me a 2-hour nap for both of them, so much is the stimulation of stores and low-quality egg-and-cheese.

Motherhood, I am not winning. But surviving feels pretty good today.

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happy homecoming

It took a long time, but Nathan is finally home with his mom and dad. He has been since Monday, actually, but this evening we got to visit him so now it counts. Leah had met him once before months ago in the hospital but he was all new to me and Harvey (and Zion, of course) so we were super excited to be introduced. It's so interesting to compare him to little Z, because their due-dates were only a couple weeks apart so gestationally they're about the same age. But Nathan's been out in the world a whole lot longer in baby terms—over two full months!—so he has a few skills that Zion hasn't picked up yet, like open eyes and semi-functional neck muscles. Zion's fatter, though!

And considerably sleepier, at least this evening; I tried to introduce the babies to one another—they're meant to be fast friends, of course—but while Nathan was kind of interested Z wouldn't look. Oh well, I suppose they have a few more years to figure out what they like to do together.

While we may post more than Katie and Tim, their blog is rather more interesting than ours, so we hope you're reading it. More dramatic too, so far, but I'm sure the proud parents will agree with me when I say that I hope and expect that, with Nathan home, the drama is now over. But keep reading for the cute pictures!

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more about the name

When Leah wrote about Zion's name I told her it was a great exposition except for one thing: I don't think Brian is quite the right rhyme. In my pronunciation at least Brian has kind of a short i sound at the end—in—which I don't here in Zion. But I couldn't think of a better rhyme right away.

Well, that must have been because it was just too obvious. As we say it, Zion rhymes with lion.

Which makes perfect sense. As people chat with us about the name, folks who are aware of the term in its Christian connotation ask us if we're pronouncing the second syllable as on, because that's how they hear it in church. But it seems to me that you only hear it that way in churches where it doesn't come up very much in discussion, because zi-on is a rather un-English sounding set of phonemes. In the sorts of congregations where the term is bandied about more freely, I understand, it's said just like we're saying our little guy's name. That's what happens when a word comes into English from another language: when it's used frequently, its sounds change to match how English-speakers pronounce things. If we were speaking Hebrew we could say Tsiyon, but in English we have another model for "consonant-i-o-n", and that's lion.

And also, our naming him that doesn't have anything at all to do with the National Park, not that we don't think it's a pretty cool place for a visit.

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out and locally about

I finally got my pictures from last weekend off the stupid camera. It seems I've filled up most of my laptop's memory with rambling baby videos which are impossible to delete, so in order to continue taking and posting pictures I have to hurry out and buy an additional hard drive which is, you know, the kind of errand I'm simply jumping to do 2 weeks postpardom when there's also no food in the house. Anyway, Dan helped me delete some non-Harvey videos last night and now I finally have photos to show.

Last Saturday we went to our local 4H fair and plant sale.

Harvey standing next to a calf

moo?

Harvey met a baby cow ("calf" they're apparently called in adult language) who came up just to his eye level. They could be great friends, these two, as they share a similar interest... eating.

a cow drinking from a big bottle of milk

nom nom nom

I didn't get any pictures of Zion sleeping in the bjorn, but I assure you it looked something like this

Zion asleep in the sling

zzzzzzzzz

Dan headed off to look at the plants whle Harvey and I visited the animals. I didn't snap any more animal pics, however, because 4H had set up a table with supplies for NEEDLE FELTING!!! I've always wanted to try needle felting in a casual way which didn't involve me purchasing my own sharp needles and roving, so of course I dove right in. So much fun! I wish 4H started at 2 years old instead of 5.... why do they deny me, er I mean my son, access? Anyway, Dan had to come back and remind me to give the kids a turn with the craft supplies.

So hurray for the start of the summer fair season, and for plants and animals and this sweet little baby face

Zion making a cute face on the bed

love me?

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suddenly summery

Harvey's bare feet in a puddle

splash

It was cold and rainy all week; all week, that is, until Friday afternoon. All of a sudden the clouds parted, the sun came out, and everything dried right up. After all that gray the transplants of the last couple weeks looked a little limp in the sudden sun, and we all felt kind of limp too. We're not used to fine weather! When I got home from work Harvey and I took out the watering can and refreshed seedlings and feet alike.

basil seedlings planted out in the garden

future pesto

All that rain made well-rooted plants just shoot up, chief among them the grass, so Friday evening the suburbs resounded with the roar of lawnmowers. We didn't get ours out until this afternoon, and it was a struggle getting the whole lawn done, mostly because of how much Harvey wanted to be involved in the process.

Harvey and Zion in the double stroller

double stroller, double sun hats

More relaxing was a stroll with the new double stroller—the first time I got to take it out (Leah was driven by the beginning of the good weather and the fussiness of the children to make the inaugural voyage yesterday, and I believe that she has more to say about that and the machine itself).

Better still was the summer food: burgers and watermelon. Sure, the watermelon was from somewhere down south, but we can't be perfect all the time. We wanted to eat outside but by dinner time it was rapidly cooling—too cold out for Zion by 5:00 and for the rest of us to want to sit around by 6:00. Oh well, we'll take a little more spring weather while we wait.

two halves of a watermelon on the back porch

tastes like summer

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i. can't. do. anything.

List of things that are included in anything:

eating
sleeping
folding laundry
blogging

okay, so I'm sort of blogging now. Don't think that I somehow got lucky and my two children actually fell asleep at the same time. One is sleeping while the other is (gasp) watching a show. I only justify it because I spent the last two hours sewing with him standing behind me on the chair pressing the buttons on my machine while the other child fussed on my lap. The product is quite possibly the messiest baby-doll carrier that was ever produced, but it's finished. Maybe one day I'll take some photographs of it, which I'll then never be able to take off my camera because I CANT DO ANYTHING!

I remember this gets easier at some point... 3 months? 6 months? 18 months? Yeah, I think I got back to normal productivity levels at about 18 months...

Okay, so not this christmas but NEXT christmas...

the things I put my kids through

We still haven't snapped an acceptable photo for the birth announcements, so I tried another photo session today.

"Harvey, go give Zion a kiss"

Harvey and Zion photoshoot part one: H kissing Z

awwww

"Wait! Don't get up on his face!"

Harvey and Zion photoshoot part two: H smushing Z's face

ow! not the face!

unfortunately my photo session border on child abuse.

(blogging time made possible by Harvey who is currently playing a game called "spit it out" which entails drinking from my water bottle then spitting it all over himself. I made him play outside on the porch.)

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Harvey's own baby and new mama-made present

When he found out that I was pregnant, our pediatrician advised me to buy Harvey a baby doll to ease the sibling jealousy; Harvey could take care of his baby doll while I took care of the new baby. I contemplated making a Waldorf doll for a while, but in the end I determined that I think they're weird looking. I tried to sew a cloth doll out of scrap fabric but my homemade pattern was too small and I couldn't turn the wrists inside out. Then Zion was born two weeks early and I gave up on making something and bought a very hippy looking homemade doll at the Bedford 4H fair. Harvey played with it for a day or two, until Grandma showed up with her a solid hunk of plastic that smells like poison strawberries. With which Harvey fell immediately in love.

And now Harvey has his own baby.

you go here!

Harvey calls him "Havey's baby" (it's a boy baby, Harvey says, don't let the pink confuse you) and he frequently steals Zion's blankets and and hats for use in its care. I don't mind one bit; we have lots of blankets around here, and the doll was invaluable in the flash weening I put Harvey through this month. As soon as the baby doll came into the picture, Harvey's demands of "Havey nooning" when he saw Zion nursing could be effortlessly redirected into "Havey nooning Havey's baby."

nursing on the go

Because I'm so very proud of my big boy, I wanted to make him something for his baby, and I decided on the doll carrier from the Oliver + S book. (Also so that Harvey would stop trying to steal the bjorn for his own purposes - it doesn't fit him anyway.) This very simple project took me from Thursday to Tuesday to complete, with a little bit of work every day (including running to JoAnne's for buttons - why is it that the buttons I have in stock are never the buttons I need?) Also, I let Harvey pretty much destroy the office and all my sewing supplies in the process. He loaded my serger with pins and drew over the sewing patterns with magic marker while I was trying to alternate between nursing Zion and any productive activity. It's as if the instructions in the book are trying to mock me "You'll be surprised how quickly this little carrier comes together!" Ha. Yeah right.

harvey's baby uppy

Either way I managed to get it completed, and Harvey was overjoyed to walk around carrying his baby on his front like a real mamma or dadda. "uppy baby" he calls it. My that boy is turning out to be such a little responsible young man.

Harvey wearing his baby doll in its new carrier

so mature for almost 2

And just like mama, Harvey likes to kiss his baby while he's in the carrier. So maybe it's not the end of the world that he got a big plastic doll. It means it can stand up to a lot of love.

big boy love

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better to go to bed than curse the darkness

Today is the third evening in a row where we've managed to go without any electronic illumination beyond the glow of our computer screens. It's not on purpose—just that sunset has caught up with the time we want to start winding down—but I like it a lot. Way back when I was in college I remember hearing a famous Cornell professor, an expert on sleep, declare that over the years the incandescent lightbulb has had a worse effect on our health than any other invention. I don't know about that, but it's certainly one more thing we use to let ourselves feel like we're the masters of our own destiny; not always a good thing, if you ask me.

It's a very personal objection, my occasional dislike of electric lights. I'd never suggest that doing without them would improve anyone's life. But myself, I very much enjoy the feeling of being in tune with the natural world that going to bed at dark brings—especially in the summer when it doesn't start getting dark until after 8:00. There are a few different positives for me. One is that I appreciate how much light there is outside even when the house gets dark. Late evening is a pretty awesome time to be outside (except for the mosquitoes), but we rarely realize it if we turn our lights on as soon as it gets too dark to read inside the house.

More usefully, not using the lights also helps get me to bed earlier, since I have an external signal that it's time to stop doing stuff (I sometimes forget otherwise, especially when Leah's already in bed). Of course, as Leah points out to me, our house is plenty light even when we don't turn on the lights: the sleeping computers, humidifiers, and wipes warmers all emit a comforting glow, and there are nightlights in strategic places as well. And of course we can make more light: I'm staring at a glowing screen now and Leah is working by the light of her sewing machine. Obviously, this is not the level of purity that would fly on an Orthodox Sabbath.

Still, it's handy. Even with all the light the computer is putting out I can tell that it's pretty dark in this room. That sends my brain a signal that it's time to be asleep, even if I have to do just a little extra last work to make sure that folks have something to read tomorrow. Plus the eye-strain makes me feel extra-special tired!

And when we go to bed with the sun, we can rise with the sun too. We did this morning, and I had time before work to bake a batch of biscuits for Leah to bring to friends without feeling rushed at all. And the early morning is just as nice a time to be out and about as the late evening—I can't believe how many people are missing out! Of course, with Harvey there's always the risk that we're going to have to rise with the sun anyways, so all the better if we can make sure to get a lot of sleep before that point.

None of this is to suggest that we're going to keep up this pattern. Things arise—things like Bible Study and evenings out and work that absolutely needs to get done. But while it lasts, I'm really enjoying this chance to live according to a different schedule, one that's not dictated by all the painful and annoying exigencies of modern life. I'm also resisting the temptation to ante-date this blog post to make it look like I finished it earlier than half an hour after full dark, and I'm going to bed right now!

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Hey, look at this in the bible!

I found a passage in the bible describing the birth of my second child:

"Before she goes into labor,
she gives birth;
before the pains come upon her,
she delivers a son.
Who has ever heard of such a thing?
Who has ever seen such things?
-Isaiah 66:7

See? Even the bible thinks that was f-ed up.

Also, in a related note, I finally made it to the end of Isaiah in my read-the-entire-bible-in-a-year discipline. The books only get shorter and easier to read from here on in! Hurray!

Some other favorite bits from my recent reading:

"You were sold for nothing,
and without money you will be redeemed."
-Isaiah 52:3

But my favorite bible bit you'll never hear in church is this cute story from 2 Kings 6:

The company of the prophets said to Elisha, "Look, the place where we meet with you is too small for us. Let us go to the Jordan, where each of us can get a pole; and let us build a place there for us to meet."
 
And he said, "Go."

Then one of them said, "Won't you please come with your servants?"

"I will," Elisha replied. And he went with them.

They went to the Jordan and began to cut down trees. As one of them was cutting down a tree, the iron axhead fell into the water. "Oh no, my lord!" he cried out. "It was borrowed!"

The man of God asked, "Where did it fall?" When he showed him the place, Elisha cut a stick and threw it there, and made the iron float. "Lift it out," he said. Then the man reached out his hand and took it.


Best. bible. story. ever. I can just see that dude with his fists in the air all like "Noooooo! I totally borrowed that axhead! F—-"

I know, really deep, right? I didn't say I planned to understand the entire bible in a year. Just read the thing.

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we need a vacation to recover from our vacation

The sleep deprivation is catching up to us. A couple late nights combined with a stuffy nose on Zion's part has given us a sleep debt of about one whole night; that plus the oppressive heat and our unusually heavy consumption of meat and beer and we were pretty much out of commission all day. We even had to beg off our third barbecue of the weekend. Happily, Grandma Beth took our excuses with good grace—and even better, she took Harvey off our hands for the duration of the cookout. As the only one to have gotten anywhere near enough sleep the last three nights and Grandma's favorite, he was well-suited to represent us to the extended family present.

That's not to say we didn't enjoy the rest of our weekend! I meant to take pictures of all three events to show the extent of our appreciation for the country's war dead and good outdoor cooking, but even by Sunday evening we were beginning to flag and photography fell by the wayside. Still, the following two shots will show that the children, at least, ate well:

Harvey's pudgy hands reaching for a plate of fruit

fruit and dip, together at last!

Leah feeding Zion

second-hand bbq

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farm update

It's a mixed bag these days here at the squibix farm. The peas are growing great and the peppers, tomatoes, and basil took well to transplanting; but the cucumbers and beans are barely surviving the bitter battle against rabbits and, in the case of the cucumbers, aphids (a new problem this year!). But I took some encouragement from stopping by the Lexington farmers market this afternoon—the first market of the season out here in the suburbs. I noted that organic rhubarb is going for $4.00 a bunch, and at that rate we've already harvested a good $12.00 or even $16.00 worth for the three pies we've made. We've also got arugula and radishes, which while of purely nominal cash value have at least paid for themselves. The radishes look kind of nice, too.

radishes

radishes