remarking on unremarked milestones

Zion on the grass with two sippy cups

with both cups and pleased with himself

Zion is almost one, and he's really showing it. He finally managed to push out his top two teeth, which naturally changes his appearance some; I'm still getting used to it. He's also making progress in areas more directly under his control: he's really working on standing unsupported. It seems like he can now stand on his own indefinitely, but he doesn't know what to do with it so after a while he just plops himself down on his butt and claps for himself—which is only right. He hasn't shown much interest in "cruising" or any other prewalking-type behaviors, but that might be because he's such an efficient crawler. Who wants to transition to a slow and uncertain form of locomotion when you've got something that already works well and a speedy big brother to keep up with?!

In some areas, though, he's completely outpaced Harvey. Our big boy is afraid to go up or down any flights of stairs indoors (though he doesn't seem to mind most outdoor stairs, including the full-length flight at the Grandma and Grandpa Archibalds). Zion, on the other hand, is now charging right up stairs like a champ—the other day we were both upstairs for a moment and he silently made it almost to the top before we noticed him. He seems willing to try to go down too, but his head-first style looks a little dangerous so we thus far haven't indulged him the attempt.

Also his hair is starting to turn curly.

Any one of these milestones would have occasioned a blog post—or two or three—had he been the first-born. Now they just slide by, with quiet appreciation from us here sure, but no fanfare. I don't think it's just because Zion is second, though; Harvey's recent milestones—jumping, almost being able to pedal the tricycle, high-fiving waitresses in restaurants (ok, that only happened once)—also passed unremarked. With the two of them we're just less focused that we once were. It's not all about Harvey any more, or Zion: now they're just "the kids". I guess we kind of pay attention to them, but they do so many things! Next thing we know they'll be running off together and we won't ever see them but at mealtimes. Ah, progress.

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the gospel according to Harvey

a page from the jesus storybook bible

faith inspiration

We were looking at this page in our Jesus Storybook bible when Harvey had the following observation:

"All those doors are too little. Jesus wants to make the doors bigger so that more guys can get in the temple."

Well said, Harvester.

dread update, with a bit more info about technique

So I want to write a hair update with a bit more information about my dreadlocks, since many people have asked me about how my dreads were made and how I maintain them and maybe you can explain Leah what they're SUPPOSED to look like? exactly what kind of look ARE you going for? To which I say, the process is the product; embrace the hairstyle as it evolves.

it kind of looks like normal curls, until you see it from the side.

No, I'm just playin. There is a finished look I'm going for. I imagine an ideal dread, a perfect cylindrical spear the consistency of wool felt. Dense and half an inch thick and ending in a tiny point. I imagine a whole head of these, sometimes up in a bun or sometimes flying in the wind or sometimes decorated with beads or chicken feathers that I hot-glue to beads in my copious free time. I don't know if I'll get there shy of a year, (and I don't know if I'll ever have time to join beads and feathers with hot glue) but it's something to look forward to and offer as an alternative in case you think my current hairstyle looks like crap.

On the other hand, I do really like the way my hair looks now. Yes, the dreads are kind of big and messy, but I'm getting used to the look. I love how much volume I've always got on top of my head. Seriously, I think it makes me look skinnier. I mean, um, I am skinnier. Skinnier and skinnier.

a half-up look with a bit of oomph

When you think of forming and maintaining dreads, there's a continuum. On one end there are the natural dreadlock people who advocate neglect and nothing else for forming dreads. Touching your hair with anything but water and kitchen tinctures is tantamount to fornicating with the Whore of Babylon. ("Dan, how do you spell Whore?" "With a W. Are you writing about the Whore of Babylon?") I admire these folks for sticking to their guns (er, guns filled with flowers or whatever) and for looking like they woke up on the wrong side of the tent for the better part of a year. It takes a long time for natural dreads to form, you see, and there's a lot of messy looking hair in between. I'm sorry guys, I just don't like the look. Natural dreads tend to be really irregular in size and shape, and often you get big flat ones that look like you left a kitchen rug in your hair. I say that in the most respectful way possible.

On the other end of the continuum are the KnottyBoy sales reps who maintain mature-looking dreads from day one via a route of wax, gels, sweat, and hair-pulling tears. Whereas the natural folks say the best way to start dreads is to do nothing, the big product folks say the best way to make dreads is to do A LOT. Backcomb your hair till it turns into a big ratted mess, secure with wax, maintain with gel, wash with special shampoo, palm roll the suckers until your fingers hurt. You get the idea. The upside is your hair looks nicer. The downside is you feel like the same sort of hippy-as-consumer who buys Seventh Generation diaper now co-branded with the Lorax Movie(!).

In the middle of the continuum are Black people who don't need as much product to set up nice dreads... they can twist them and leave them while looking like neither mountain man nor Poison. And also I suppose you could segment your hair with rubber bands and leave nature to take its course with a little more guidance. Personally I was unaware of this whole debate when I contracted with a hairdresser to start my dreads. And even if I knew, I'd probably still buy into the dreadlock industrial complex. I'm only an aspirational hippy at heart. I'm truly very bad at allowing nature take it's course.

So I went for backcombing and "instant" dreads. Well, instant is a misnomer. It took six hours to section my hair into one-inch segments, back comb each segment and roll it together with wax. And then there's the months it'll take for the puffiness to compress and for my hair to actually dread, wherein the puffs of matted hair turn into felt-like cylinders. And only then will they really become "dreads" rather than backcombed hair. The idea is that over time the hairs grab onto each other and pull tighter, just like a handful of wool roving compresses under a felting needle. (Yeah Leah, just like that, says the majority of the blog readership who don't dream about a new hobby in needle felting.) As this happens, it'll be like I'm going through several different hairstyles. There's the funky way it is now, kind of puffy and crazy, and the future more polished look that I'll get to in six months to a year, if I can last that long without succumbing to mold or lice.

Not that it's any more likely that I'll get lice now than it ever has been. It's just that lice are hard to kick out of dreads. And even if they weren't, last time I got lice (which was in 1995 and the only time I ever got lice... from an airplane if you're wondering) I vowed then to shave my head if I ever got them again. I had long hair at the time, and that friggin tiny comb was torture.

Mold is another issue. I have to be careful to get my hair nice and dry after I shower, and I'll probably do a deep clean anytime I swim in the pond this summer. I've been using a blow dryer on my hair after the shower of if I go out in the rain. It feels a little silly to be blow drying dreadlocks, but at the same time it feels reassuringly feminine.

Harvey is fond of saying, "You have pretty hair, Mama."

After the initial dreading session my hair started to grab on to itself pretty quickly. This has been a real boon. I've washed my hair twice already, and I had expected to come out of the shower with lots of work to do shoving errant hairs back in place. Instead, everything mostly stayed in its nice dreaded segments, albeit frizzier than before. I had been using more wax to tame the frizzes, but then my mom bought me some accelerator gel for my birthday and I've been using that instead. It's overall better for my hair because it washes out completely, unlike the wax which will NEVER LEAVE YOUR HAIR OMG YOU RUINED YOUR HAIR FOREVER YOU CORPORATE SHEEP say the natural dreads people. Either way I feel I have very little to worry about structurally speaking - the dreads are keeping separate from each other and not unraveling - so the gel or wax is just for aesthetic purposes. If I want the dreads to look neater and tighter I use some product. If I feel like embracing the messy look, I do nothing.

a hair birthday hair wrap from my mom. Made of recycled Saris!

Of course, it's all relative what "messy" means here. Others might think I look like complete bedlam all the time, and perhaps they're right. But for my own sake I can tell the difference.

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comment verification

As you might have noticed, a few spam comments slipped through my defenses lately by posting under the names of trusted commenters. We can't have that! So now the machine is using email addresses for verification; harder to spoof by accident. As before, if I know that you're a human you'll have your comments appear right away, and this time you'll also be able to change the name you comment under—as long as you use the same email address, of course. I apologize that everyone will have to wait for moderation on the first comment they post... but if you just leave a note right here I'll get you added to the list and you'll never have to wait again!

(And of course, we won't use your email address for anything or share it with anyone or whatever; in fact, you don't even have to use a real one if you don't want to. We want our paranoid readers to feel welcome too!)

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stuck egg

One of our chickens has a stuck egg. I spent a half hour in the morning giving her hot water baths and crushing up egg shells for her to eat. Dan helped me set up an isolation coop (Sorry Cindy! It turns out we DO still have the dog crate we said we gave back to you!) and I've left her there in the middle of the hard to try to work things out.

I went out a few minutes ago with a finger covered in olive oil. All I could think was, "There is no part of me that wants to do this." I had to stick my finger what felt like MILES up her vent before touching an egg. Her belly is all pink and distended but I'm starting to think it could be something other than the egg, because the egg doesn't feel that massive. But then again, I'm no farmer, and like I said I really disliked having my finger up there.

I feel terribly guilty for the mix of thoughts I'm having.... that if it keeps raining I should bring the isolation coop into the house... that it might be better for the chicken to die than to have a chicken coop in the house the same day we host 25 people for Zion's birthday party. Maybe I should let all the chickens out for exercise... maybe then she'll get eaten by a hawk and I won't need to clean up a dead chicken mess.

Harvey is out of clean diapers and rascal needs walked and it's raining. How do real farmers do anything? They have so much more to do? Maybe they are not wracked with guilt at the thought of failing a chicken.

zion is one

This time last year I was staring into the serious looking face of an out-of-breath midwife. She was saying, "Do you want to squat down on the bathroom floor and have your baby? Or do you think you can make it to the bedroom?" Five excruciating minutes later, Zion was born.

It's hard to believe that was a whole year ago. How could it be a whole year ago, when he's still so much a baby? when they're both such babies? When they both cry and whine and need something from me every single second just like newborn babies?

I still have many days (today included) that feel like total unmitigated disasters. When I say to myself, isn't this supposed to get easier? Aren't I supposed to get more sleep? To have more energy? Today I revoked all McDonalds privileges due to fighting, only to determine that meant we just couldn't eat INSIDE the restaurant. I needed their fast food coma time to clean the living room.

I call Dan at work for comfort and he says, "Put. on. a. show. A MOVIE. Totoro is an hour and twenty minutes."

I'm sorry, I've been feeling a little down today on account of being sick and spending all morning in the rain with a constipated chicken. Now Zion is napping and Harvey is singing a little song to his leggos and they are both the most beautiful creatures in the world. They deserve a whole chain of McDonalds. A piece!

I have wanted to write something about how I don't feel compelled to give Zion a big birthday send up, because every day is his. Every day is Zion's day, every day he gets his mama, for love, for food, for sleeping and playing and being with 24/7.

Yet today I feel that this is true and also untrue... Zion gets his mama but so does Harvey and so do Rascal and the chickens and Dan gets a tiny slice that should be bigger. Sometimes my presence is the best gift I can give Zion, and sometimes he might be better off if I took a quiet break in a dark room. At any rate, we all have each other. Whether we're eating french fries in a restaurant or I'm making them squat in the sandbox while I stick my finger up a chicken's butt, whether we're singing Happy Birthday or I'm screaming "HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO TELL YOU TO STAY OFF THE DISHWASHER" we've got each other, every single day, and it feels longer than a year, it feels like forever... In a good way.

Happy birthday Zion. I'll give you your present when you wake up to a clean living room.

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sick chicken update... not much to update

In the past few days I've become an expert on treatments for egg-bound chickens. I've given several hot baths and stuck an oiled finger up a chicken's butt too many times to recount. She's still straining at the nesting box, but when I kick her out onto the lawn she seems to be eating, drinking, and pooping just fine. It's been since Thursday that she's stuck to the box without passing an egg. Dummies.com says if she's egg bound she should probably die within 48 hours.

I am not 100% convinced that a stuck egg is the problem. When I give her the old how's-your-father I can't feel anything like an egg insider her, just a long empty vent with a hard mass up on top of it. Perhaps the egg is stuck WAAAAAAAY up in there, and failure to descend is the problem. Maybe there's something else gone horribly wrong internally. At least I feel that I've done all I can do by way of home remedies. I've bathed her, lubricated her, given her plenty of exercise. By now I'm ready to let nature take its course in either direction.

I could take her to see a vet, theoretically. Way back in the beginning, when I was thinking of getting chickens, I reasoned that I would never take them to see a vet. Baby chicks cost under $4. Every month I buy about $20 of food and supplies (shavings, worms, etc.) so what I've put into this particular chicken, as one of four, is less than $60 so far. A vet visit would cost over $100, and who knows if it would help. Financially speaking, it'd be crazy.

And yet, I look into those beady chicken eyes and do feel bad...

People have asked me if I will eat the chicken should she die. My answer is: I don't know. Probably not. On one hand, she's not dying of disease, so she's probably safe to eat. On the other hand, if I wait for the stuck egg to kill her I'm not exactly sure by what mechanism this happens. Does the back-up cause sepsis or something? If so, it's probably not the healthiest meat. Better to eat a chicken that you slaughter, rather than one you find dead in the henhouse in the morning. Also, I'd still have to bleed the bird, boil a huge pot of water, pluck all the feathers, figure out the dissection, er, preparation process... After all that a fancy $15 chicken from Whole Foods sounds pretty good. So I probably won't eat her, but I might do some sort of autopsy to satisfy my curiosity about what went wrong.

If so, are any of our blog readers interested in photos?

I want to say something more in case readers think I'm horrible and heartless for not taking my chicken to the vet. We love having chickens. I can say that I "love" the chickens as a flock even if I don't love every individual chicken as a pet. I love having them around, seeing them peck about the yard and dash at worms. I love fresh eggs every day. I also see them as "livestock" which is to say they're like a stock of food, like how you stock your pantry, and there's a certain fluctuation up and down when you keep stock of anything. It's the same when that stock is "live." Which is to say, we came into this process expecting a certain amount of loss, which is to say death. When this happens it can be sad while also unsurprising. I can have different emotions at the same time. I have sadness for the animal, pride in my unflinching hands-on care for her, wonder at the nature of life itself. I feel very humble that it works at all, as it does most of the time.

And I also feel in awe (forgive me for quoting scripture here - you must be exhausted if you've read this far - the last thing my non-Christian friends need to hear is a bit of bible again - but this part is for ME!) I feel in awe that God created these amazing birds, sold so cheap, yet says, "Not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father." (Matthew 10:29.) And he says this to speak of his love for US. "So don't be afraid," Jesus says, "You are worth more than many birds."

So that's the update on our sick chicken. If anything, this experience has only made me want to get MORE hens. Which is, um, good. I guess.

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birthday boy Zion

Zion among his birthday presents

"what's this one?!"

We had a birthday party for Zion. We told people not to bring presents, but they mostly did anyways. Zion was delighted with all of them, and so was Harvey, who raked in a fair amount of loot himself. How does that work?

the invitation to zion's party

the invitation

We prepared things in a rather more low-key manner than we did for Harvey's first birthday; I suppose everything is more low-key the second time. We were also distracted by the chicken stress.

the cake: white with colored sprinkles and a candle in the shape of a 1

yellow cake with lemon frosting and blueberry jam between the layers

We made the cake and a minimum of food, but treats brought along by the guests managed to keep 26 people (including us) in a delightful party spirit.

Zion in his highchair with his cake

good stuff

Zion did great: he enjoyed himself and showed off his sparkling personality to all and sundry. Harvey was wonderful as well, helped perhaps by the fact that Zion is not yet entertaining enough to be able to claim all the attention for himself. They each only cried once over the course of the 4.5-hour party. Look at them getting along together:

Zion and Harvey drawing with chalk on the porch

tic tac toe?

Thanks to all who came, and happy birthday Zion!

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Zion's birthday: the video

I made a video with snippets from Zion's birthday party. The event was lots of fun in the chaotic way that fun works when you have two young kids and lots of people who love them. I hope this comes through in the video, that everyone had a great time even though we mostly just sat on the floor of the living room.

What also comes through in the video is how much I look and sound exactly like my mother. That was not quite so intentional, though I'm sure it can't be helped.

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A new chicken insight

My hen hasn't died since Thursday, so I'm reviewing her symptoms:

  • She stopped laying
  • She sleeps in the nesting box
  • She stays in the nesting box all day unless I kick her out
  • Her belly is de-feathered and red.

BUT:

  • When I stick my finger up her bottom I find no stuck egg
  • When I kick her off the nesting box she roams happily in the yard where she walks, pecks, and poops normally.
  • She continues to be alive.

Insight:
Maybe she's broody!

I learn today on the internet this key piece of information: a broody hen will stop laying eggs, will sleep in the nesting box, and will PULL OUT HER OWN BELLY FEATHERS to line the nesting box and to get a better feel of the eggs under her.

If this is the case, then I have gone about things all wrong. I should be bathing her in cold water rather than hot, to get her temperature down. Also, I should start feeling like an idiot.

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Comings and Goings

It's been a busy few days of outings around here! On Thursday we went to Drumlin Farm to celebrate Zion's birthday. The selling point was a visit to their new playground when a weekday morning would ensure no other kids get in Harvey's way. (Oh my poor little socially anxious toddler. You are the apple and I am the tree.)

harvey and zion on the new drumlin play ground

my sons love them a vegetable themed playground

It was rather cold and rainy, so I had the boys in vests and hats. A little too cold, in fact. After seeing the baby pigs I was fighting the chills so I took them into the new Nature Corner, part of the Farm Life Center, where we played for an hour and enjoyed the warm air pumping through the vents.

zion in the nature corner

they stock waldorf toys so you don't have to.

Saturday, as you know, was a rather large party at our house. On Sunday we went to church and then straight to another church for a baby blessing and big lunch reception. By the afternoon I struggled to keep my eyes open while the boys had a picnic on the lawn.

picnic on the lawn

we don't buy plastic, but you'd never know from the looks of it

On Monday Dan went to work and I still didn't want to clean the house, so we went to the zoo!

zion looking at a zebra

there's also a zebra waaaaay in the distance

The Stevenses got us in on their zoo pass, and Mr Luke even treated us to a ride on the carosel. Harvey liked the carosel a lot better than last year, though he did grab for Zion's hand when the ride started.

harvey and zion holding hands

in this together

Zion seemed to enjoy his first carousel ride. He's not as anxious a child as Harvey, though he does try to crawl away when I'm using a public toilet. I guess no child is perfect.

zion on the carousel

first time for everything

I feel quite lucky that I get to enjoy outings with the boys and call it my "work." Here's a picture to show that I was there too.

mama, harvey and zion on the carousel

all together now!

It's been a whirlwind few of days, so I'm looking forward to a chance to calm down a bit. Eat some healthy meals at home. Sit down. "Play toys" as Harvey says.

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Zebra for Zion

I did make Zion something for his birthday, by the way. I'm not a completely failed crafter. It was a pretty easy project; I'm trying to make my gifts for the kids smaller in general because I have to find places to store all these things, and at the rate of 6 stuffed animals a year, that's a lot of places to find.

zion's zebra

zebra for Zebra

I made the body of the zebra from the arm of an old sweater. (Old being a relative term. It's not as old as it should be to end up in the scrap pile, but old enough to not fit over my fat post-pregancy shoulders. Seriously, what happened to my shoulders these past three years?) I did the stripes with ric rac sewed on after the zebra was stuffed. The tail and mane are also ric rac. I'll give you a belly shot so you can see how the ric rac was spiraled.

belly of the zebra stuffed animal

belly of the beast

Harvey also made a present for Zion, a train that we assembled from a kit with glue and paint and lots of frustrated perspiration.

harvey and the painted train

that artist and his creation

It's not that I don't like doing crafts with my child. I get frustrated trying to do something as simple as read a book to Harvey. Anything other than playing blocks on the floor, and Zion crawls on top of me, bites the book, and then starts screaming. In this environment I don't know why I thought it would work for me to hold the pieces of a train model together as the glue dried.

Suffice it to say that I don't have process photos.

It's a good thing Zion liked both of his handmade presents. When you're actively trying to please him he's rather easy to please.

zion playing with his presents

birthday boy, with lots of makers who love him

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Dread update - 3 weeks

Look how much smoother and straighter my dreads have gotten in only three weeks!

my dreads at 3 weeks

that's a morning face, isn't it?

Let's throw that day one photo up here just for reference:

dreadlocks, day 1

not trying to look high in this picture on purpose... the sun was really bright and I was squinting.

Holy shit, huh? That's a real difference.

I should probably be rolling them and maintaining them more, but I'm not, and I still like how they look. I do maintenance maybe three times a week for a half hour or so. This is a just-out-of-bed shot. I'm really into NOT styling my hair.

my dreads from the top at 3 weeks

coming along, just like those seedlings

This week I've gotten used to wearing my hair down in public. My big revelation (are you ready for this?) is that women can wear a huge range of hairstyles. Without it being a big deal. Other than a few neighbors looking askance, everything has been fine. No one's asked to see my paperwork. Strangers still tell me my kids are cute. And here I thought I was going to start a revolution just by donning a hair wrap. Silly me.

The revolution will not be accessorized.

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the welfare state is working

An interesting thing about the very pre-revolutionary mutterings about inequality that led to the Occupy movement: there's a significant strand of the discussion that casts the recent expansion of public assistance as problematic. People working hard aren't able to get by without help, the argument goes, while financiers make millions without any particular effort. It's not fair.

I would suggest that, on the contrary, to accept this line of thought is to buy into the conservative American ideal that everyone should be able to succeed with the sweat of their brow. In other words, it's a trap.

A few weeks ago I was talking to a colleague about job prospects and I mentioned that we take advantage of food assistance. When she expressed admiration that we weren't too proud to take help, I replied that, on the contrary, I'm proud that I'm able to support my family on my small salary—plus whatever else we can get. And I am, because I feel that I'm doing something that's important, and doing it very well. Just because society isn't willing to pay teachers—much less the non-certified hourly workers who end up teaching the most difficult children—enough to live on comfortably doesn't mean the job shouldn't be done.

And I'm happy to do it. While I sure wouldn't turn down a raise, I'm not concerned with proving my value to society with my income. Money is a whole nother thing: bankers and lawyers and whatnot work with money and care about it a whole lot, so it's fair that they get to bring so much of it home. Teachers—and farmers and social workers and, I don't know, vet techs—do important work, work that they know is important as they do it, and they don't need to justify the time they spend with a big paycheck at the end of the week. But we all gotta eat, so sometimes the SNAP dollars come in handy.

As an anarchist, I've always faced the question of who would collect the garbage in a moneyless society. (I'm not sure if anyone's ever actually asked me, but you know it's out there.) Aside from the obvious—we anarchists reduce, reuse, and recycle: what garbage?!—there's the example of the millions of people who are already toiling at important work even though they might be able to make better money doing something else. (As an aside, a google search for garbage collector salary comes up with a lot of conservatives complaining about how much union garbagemen get paid.) I don't want to live in a society where money is the only motivator for doing anything; I want everyone to be doing work that they care about for its own sake.

We're not going to get a moneyless society any time soon, sadly: not at the national level anyways. But the better the welfare state, the less important remuneration becomes in people's career decision-making process. Don't pay teachers more, because then all the bankers will want to teach. Just let the bankers play with the money, and make sure the teachers have plenty to eat and places to live. That'll do for the moment.

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Mothers Day reflections.

I have a mothers day confession. This past month has been really hard for me. About this time last month I got sick: first a stomach bug, then a cold, then a migraine that lasted like fourteen days. I was also struck down by an even worse affliction: a really bad attitude.

Here is something I wrote a week ago. I didn't publish it on the blog because even I have standards of anti-whining:

I feel like things were easier when Zion was six months old... now he's old enough to throw tantrums and fight with his brother, and given two kids who always want to play with the same fucking lego and now also bite each other, getting a load of laundry from upstairs into the washing machine seems a colosul task. Sometimes I think to myself: I will unload the washer when Dan comes home. And then I think, I need babysitting to do chores? I need a break time TO DO CHORES? This life is so fucked up.

Doesn't that sound like someone you'd like to invite over to your home? A gracious wife and mother who's gentle to her children and a blessing to her husband?

No, it sounds like a selfish brat, motherhood edition. I'm so sick of my own whining. I have this idea of all this free time I should have, all the rest time and crafting time and internet time I deserve, and when my children intrude by needing juice or discipline or two legos connected together I get madder and madder until I slam a door or get a migraine.

I am over it, this version of me that acts like I'm a martyr because I'd rather be working out than pushing a double stroller. I LIKE pushing a double stroller. I LOVE my children. But I've got totally bent out of shape focussing on all the things I can't do. I'm doing something I like and whining about something I might like more. I'm sick of this ugly version of me. I'm missing all the fun time I get to enjoy with my kids because I'm thinking of all the FORCED time I HAVE to spend with my kids. It's stupid. And I am ready to do something drastic about it.

Until I can get through a day without resenting my job of mothering, I'm giving up sewing, knitting, and basket weaving. I'm giving up soap making. I'm giving up any other stupid craft projects I might think of. I'm giving up on trying to "accomplish" anything outside of mothering. I'm going to sit on the floor and play with those legos and LIKE IT, and when the kids are okay playing by themselves for a minute I'm going to clean the house.

Of course I'm still going to blog, but I'm not going to read as many, and I've already culled the craft blogs from my RSS.

I have also been reading some books, books about modeling good behavior to your children and dealing with your anger.

I'm trying to chuck out all my ideas of what external thing would "solve" my frustration for me. I'm not going to say, "I need Harvey to stop whining! I need the kids to stop fighting!" Instead, I've made a list of positive goals for family, things that, if they become true, could really open up a lot more space in my life.

Here are my big dreams for the next four months. In order of importance.
- Zion takes the majority of his calories from solid food.
- Harvey goes to kids' church.
- Zion sleeps three hours at a stretch at night.
- Harvey pees in the potty.
- I find some workable form of birth control that isn't abstinence within marriage.
- Harvey poops in the potty.

If necessary I will exchange "peeing in the potty" for "peeing outside on the ground." I may be willing to exchange "Harvey goes to kids church" for "Harvey acts like a perfect angel in the sanctuary," but only if we also find some way to have regular play dates with real honest to goodness children.

So it looks like I have my work cut out for me, but at least I've opened up some space to be focused.

Lest you think I'm overreacting and I don't need to worry, here is what happened this morning. All the mothers at our church got tulips during the service, but I didn't collect mine because I was in the side room nursing Zion, and I was SO MAD that I didn't get to pick one out. But my friend Bridget snagged one for me (yay!) but then I took the boys out of the service for being loud and Harvey grabbed the tulip and broke it and I was so furious because THIS IS JUST HOW YOU TAKE AND WRECK EVERYTHING IN MY LIFE. Yeah, I need a mothering makeover.

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free ranging

a chicken in the dewey grass and morning sun, coop in background

Following the stuck-egg scare I've been letting the chickens out for half an hour every morning. The added exercise is supposedly good for them, and the grass and grubs they eat really cut down on the amount of feed I need to buy. Seriously. It's kind of incredible.

I wish I could let them out more often, but it's kind of a pain to keep watch over them. For the past two mornings they have snuck under the fence into our neighbor's yard, and while I'm making breakfast Dan screams, "Leah, your chickens!" And I run as fast as I can down the road to toss the ladies one by one over the fence before we all get shot. Yeah, we gotta put up some chicken wire soon.

They're so pretty. I wish I could let them roam around my feet all day long. Although, I'd have to demand that my kids start wearing shoes. Maybe it's not worth it.

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ignoring authorial intent

The latest library book hit here at our house is The Wump World, by Bill Peet. It's an environmental tale about a race of peaceful herbivores—the Wumps—whose planet is overrun by destructive little humanoids called Pollutians. Yes, pretty obvious, but the writing is good and the art is wonderful. The only problem is, Harvey is far more interested in the Pollutians' world-destroying construction machines than he is in the idea of a calm, verdant paradise. Oh well, I guess he has plenty of time for environmentalism later. And the machines are pretty snazzy looking.

attitude management

the boys in the stroller

stroller buddies

This is right before Harvey said, "I like you, Mama. I like it when you give me cheerios and juice and when we walk. Everything!"

As I mentioned on Sunday I am starting an experiment in being nice to my children. Getting them things before they ask. Playing at their games until they're ready to be done. Setting fewer expectations on other areas of my life.

This does not really match up with what I believe. I believe that God appointed me Harvey's mother to teach Harvey to act appropriately. And while we're at it, I deserve cheerful obedience. What I believe isn't really working out, is the problem.

I am trying to look at things from Harvey's point of view. He's really trapped. He knows what he wants at any given moment, but there's not much he can do about it. He can't get juice for himself, he can't get down the stairs by himself, he can't deal with the poop under his butt by himself (not that he ever wants to.) I try to get him to use the potty, to look around for his juice cup (for heaven sakes, it's RIGHT NEXT TO YOUR FOOT!). I try to get him to crawl up the stairs, Lord knows I'm tired of carrying them both up and down the stairs twenty times a day, but he just cries "I'm scared" and looks at me like I'm a Nazi.

It's hard not to become angry in all of this. From Harvey's point of view, there is no framework for "It's five o'clock in the morning and I was up nursing the baby every single hour last night." From his point of view all he hears is: "Blah blah blah, I'm not getting you juice because I'm a nazi."

I think that when I'm nicer to him he's a little bit nicer to live with. It doesn't seem to be helping with my feelings of anger (obviously) but it probably stops me from expressing them so much.

I am working on determining my anger triggers, because theoretically if I figure out exactly what makes me angry I won't get angry so much? I know, it sounds like bunk to me too, but we proceed for the good of the children. I think if there's one thought that makes me angrier than all others it's "You're hurting me." I have a headache and you're yelling — you're hurting me. My back hurts and I have to carry you around — you're hurting me. You want a hug so much you're digging into my legs with your fingernails. What the hell is the matter with you? I just read you a story on my lap and then carried you around in the Ergo! Is there every any limit? Do I EVER get a moment to not be in pain?

Okay, you get it. I just managed to fly into a completely imaginary rage. I guess this is a real sticking point for me.

There are a few people in the bible who managed to love people while being hurt by them. I think it was because they were men. Still, it'd be a lie to say that women deserve to suffer every moment just because they're responsible for children. God said, "I will greatly increase your pains in childbirth," but childbirth is short and finite. He didn't also add, "and every time you pour juice it's gonna hurt your back like a mofo because you absolutely MUST buy the big glass gallon that's impossible to lift while you're holding a baby."

Unfortunately, my game plans for "be less in pain" and "be okay with being in pain" go in different directions...

If you'd like to weigh in on this issue, I'd love to hear the comments. Remember we just changed our commenting process to keep away all the "underage lolitas" who were spamming up our comments with unnecessary redundancy. Now if you want to post a comment you must put in a name AND an email address. It needn't be a real email address, it's just that after Dan approves your comment the first time you'll always be able to comment with that name and email in the future without it going to approval first. Does that make sense? If not, well, don't post a comment and if we get no comments for a few weeks we'll just have to change things up again.

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in which I demonstrate I actually have moments of effective mothering

We were driving to a lunch date with Ashley today and the car didn't really feel filled with harmony. Zion was babbling and reaching for Harvey and Harvey was yelling at the top of his lungs "Zion stop! STOOOOOP! ZION'S NOT LETTING ME REST!"

I tried to think of what I could say to guide their interactions in a helpful way. Something other than adding more yelling to the car.

"Harvey," I said, "I know how you feel. Sometimes when I want to rest and you're talking to me I find it annoying. What you could try is, instead of yelling at Zion, sit nice and quietly in your seat. Close your eyes. Think restful thoughts. Then even if Zion is talking to you, you could just ignore him and take a little rest in your own mind.

Harvey was quiet for a moment. Zion sneezed.

"Bless you Zion," Harvey said. Then he added in a voice that was all sweetness and light: "Mama, I'm not telling Zion to do anything. I'm just saying 'Bless you Zion.'"

Now. I hate it when bloggers are all "Everything that comes out of my child's mouth is a beautiful penny from heaven." It's sappy and it's lame and most of the time children are not spiritually deep they're just plain silly. But this spoke to my soul with the voice of God himself: don't tell them what to do — just bless them.

And after our lunch date with Ashley, when Harvey was skipping down the path to the playground saying "I'm hopping for joy!" it felt as if we really were blessing each other, as if the clouds parted and I really truly enjoyed playing in the park with my children. Of course, I shouldn't underestimate the value of talking with another adult during the day, or eating a big sandwich full of meat (I'm still a bit protein deprived, despite my commitment to cooking obscene amounts of lentils.) Or being outside on a nice day, or being excited about Ashley's wedding, or knowing that when I got in the car Dan was at home waiting for me. All very important for emotional management. But still I think there's something helpful in all of us saying to each other, "I'm not telling you to do anything. Bless you."

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no longer so sparkling

Last month we introduced you to the uber hippy blog Sparkling Adventures and their evolving belief in monogamy. It behooves me to report back that things aren't going so well over there. Lauren walked out on David two days ago, taking the baby boy and leaving him with the four older girls.

It's hard to know what's going on inside anyone else's marriage. These things are so far from the realm of my imagining. I told Dan about the development and he said, "You're not going to walk out on me are you?" I said, "Why, are you sleeping with other ladies?" Then I quickly caught myself. "No, I wouldn't leave even then. Where would I go? All my stuff is here."
"You could go to your parent's house."
"No way, you'd have to sleep with like a hundred girls first."

In all seriousness. I do hope these crazy kids can work it out. No, that doesn't sound very serious. In all seriousness: Devil, get off this family, in Jesus' name. Stop attacking the hippies.

updates

I had a great day with the boys yesterday and my sour mood seems to have evaporated. I credit several things: 1) answered prayer, 2) trying to accomplish next to nothing, 3) my new plan of giving in (how do I do that thing that bloggers do when they strike something out so it has a line in the middle of it? Is that an html tag?) i mean being nice to Harvey.

In January I had a similar thing happen where I was legitimately sick for two weeks and then like lethargic and grumpy for a month following. At that time I went to visit a psychiatrist for Postpartum Depression. He ask after the ages of my children then said, "I had babies two years apart too. It's really hard, isn't it?"

I didn't move forward with any psychiatric treatment. I visited a GP the same week who diagnosed me with a sinus infection and after antibiotics I felt right as rain.

I'm wondering if there may be a new reality to my health these days. Maybe after the last 50lb pregnancy, sleeping poorly for a year, and subsistence nursing a chubby baby, maybe I'm a bit worn down physically. Maybe it just takes me a month to recover from a flu. Maybe I should (further) dial down my expectations.

Anyway, I feel this is good news and I apologize if this blog has been a little heavy lately. I know it's Friday and you expect a hair update, but my hair looks kind of bad today... I haven't maintained it all week. Oh well, i guess that's part of the update, yes? Maybe I'll post something over the weekend for the month-a-versary.

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Who knew children could be so RELIGIOUS?!

Harvey: I hurt my foot.
Me: Oh, I'm sorry.
Harvey: Can we pray for it next time I go to sleep?
Me: We can pray for it now: Come Holy Spirit -
Harvey: NO! We pray for it WHEN WE GO TO SLEEP!

———-later———-

Harvey: I bumped my foot. Mama, can you pray for it?
Me: I'd love to! Holy Spirit come. Pain leave the foot, in Jesus name. Cells be healed in Jesus name.... does it feel better now?
Harvey: No. Maybe it'll feel better after I sleep.

———-later———-

Harvey: I bumped my toe! Mama, can you pray for it?
(This is the tenth now that he has bumped his toe and asked me to pray for it.)
Me (very quickly): God bless Harvey's toe.
Harvey: And pain be healed!
Me: and pain be healed.
Harvey: In Jesus name!
Me: in Jesus name.
Harvey: And Holy Spirit!

He says this last part while smacking me on the forehead.

Dreadlock update: 1 month

It's been a month since I had my hair backcombed into dreads. I'm getting pretty used to the hairstyle, even though I usually refer to it as "my hair" instead of "my dreads" out of deference to people who've actually been doing this for some time. I have an easy out right now. When I throw it back in a ponytail it just looks like a messy curly ponytail. So I'm not like 100% counter-culture. All I need is a scrunchi and the other suburban moms think I'm one of them.

dreadlock ponytail

I don't know why I threw up a lame peace sign in this picture. Tired of photographing myself at arms length I guess.

This actually marks a new phase in the dread development. At the beginning I couldn't pull my hair back and have it look normal because it was too puffy. As the dreads have started to contract and dread up a bit it's much different. The footprint (er, headprint?) is much smaller. So for the time being I can go to church with my hair back in a ponytail and not worry that the people I pray for will be afraid of contracting bedbugs. I mean, any more than usual.

dreads at 1 month

1 month old dreads, wrapped up and ready to go

I've been washing my hair once a week with dreadlock shampoo. Baking soda and apple cider vinegar work equally well, but my mom bought me the dreadlock shampoo for my birthday and it's a bit easier to deal with just because it already lives in the shower. I don't have to get all undressed and then run downstairs because I forgot a cup of vinegar. And then the baby starts screaming because he caught a glimpse of my boobs.

I mean, screaming in hunger. Because he remembers he wants to nurse. Not because the sight of my boobs are an abomination.

My hair, not so abomination-y either. At least in my own opinion. Which (until y'all figure out how to put in your email address to post a comment) is the only one that matters.

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doing nothing and nothing doing

I wanted to write a little update to my "accomplish nothing" project that I announced last week. Since I gave up knitting to pay attention to the boys things have gone a lot smoother during the day. I'm less harsh with Harvey when I can already sense what he needs. I can sense what he needs when I'm looking at what he's doing instead of looking at my stitches. I'm not going to lie: legos are boring after fifteen minutes. But I'd rather be bored than be focused at what I'm trying to accomplish and frustrated that I'm not accomplishing more because the kids are interrupting. Bored at least is a laid-back emotion.

I do want to finish that sweater one day, though. Maybe after a few weeks I could take it up just in the evenings.

The scheme isn't perfect. This morning after I finally bundled the kids into the car I went inside to get their juice cups and stopped to scream into a pillow. Zion wouldn't let himself be put down all morning, which makes getting out of the house (or eating or going to the bathroom) rather difficult. Plus we were both testy on account of waking up every hour in the night. A lot of these relational issues could be easily solved with more sleep, but I feel like that's rather out of my control, so I soldier ahead with various forms of emotional management. Today we watched a movie together.

Frustration with a non-sleeping baby notwithstanding, life with Harvey seems to have improved. Twice last week he asked for me to sing him a song before bed. Usually he's so through with me by the end of the day that he only wants dada. Also he's started saying, "You're a good mama" when I help him with a lego or hand him a cup of juice. Which, you know, is rewarding.

I don't think the answer to all parenting problems is "don't have your own life." But for a little retreat, it seems to be working out. I have a lot of work in my life, but they are my life's work.

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another lifestyle experiment

Mama and Harvey reading by the light of the headlamp

better than cursing the darkness

My family indulges me wonderfully. The other day, I announced with no preamble that I thought we should stop using electric lights in the evening. "OK," they said—or Leah said, at least. The other two failed to grasp the import of the change in policy.

Why on earth would I think such a thing? I'm not quite sure. I know that Cornell University sleep researcher James Maas suggests that the light bulb was among the more destructive inventions of the 20th century for what it's done to people's sleep, and it's certainly nice to be more in tune with the natural cycle of the day. It's especially important for Harvey, now that he doesn't have a set bedtime (of which more anon).

Of course, it's kind of cheating to be typing by the light of the computer—the house has been dark for a good half hour now. We're using flashlights too, as necessary (see above photo). But computers and flashlights are only a marginally acceptable solutions when compared to the thoughtless convenience of overhead lighting, so even when we do stay up past dark—which we've been doing—we feel that we should be going to bed.

Or I do, at least. Maybe Leah just feels annoyed at not being able to see anything really well. But as I said, she indulges me wonderfully and hasn't mentioned it. How lucky I am. And soon I'll be well-rested too!

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time

I've wanted to write a reaction to that Time magazine article that everyone was talking about, but I never got around to reading it. I am both for and against attachment parenting, so I was sure the article would piss me off somehow.

We attachment parent rather by default. I prolonged breast-feeding Harvey, if you consider 22 months and through another pregnancy prolonged. (I do!) I didn't do it because I liked breast-feeding. I was pretty fed up with it, actually. I did it because I was lazy and weaning seemed like pain.

Harvey slept in our bed to 18 months. Zion sleeps in our bed now. I would prefer it if he slept in a crib and through the night, but I'm lazy and I don't want to go through the screaming that it would take to get him there. So, um, yeah. Hurray for co-sleeping.

What's the third part of attachment parenting? Oh yeah, baby-wearing. For heaven sakes, I can't believe there needs to be a theory around this. I wear the baby in a carrier all the time. Not because there are emotional benefits (unless you include my back pain as redemptive suffering and call it a benefit) but because it's easier than carrying him on my hip. Also, if he's fussy then sometimes it gets him to stop yelling.

So I wouldn't call myself an attachment parent. I'd just say that I have a really low tolerance for yelling.

The reason I'm against attachment parenting as a thing is I'm against needing to have a name and theory behind every stupid thing we do. Why can't we just tell the truth. Not everything we do in parenting is a careful weighing of the theoretical pros and cons. A lot is just personality and inertia.

I wish we could talk about child-rearing the same way we talk about cleaning a sink. You may use bleach and I may use lemon water (haha, I mean my husband would like me to use lemon water and I actually use nothing...) but when we talk about our different cleaning methods the stakes in that conversation aren't very high. When we talk about parenting, on the other hand, it feels very high stakes, as if my choices mean that yours are wrong or vise versa. Maybe the stakes are high, our children are precious delicate mounds of clay or whatever. But whatever, maybe they're not. Maybe many different parenting methods are fine. There are lots of different kinds of kids and parents, after all.

Beyond the basic right to breast-feed in public, do we really need to keep fighting about these things? Nobody has ever said anything to me about breast-feeding in public, and I've been at it for three years now. I don't even use a nursing cover. I even pull my boob right out the top of my swimsuit at the pond. Seriously, how else are you going to do it? Even with a tankini... would you rather see my stomach???!!! I've gained and lost a hundred pounds over two pregnancies! No, you would not rather see my stomach.

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summer = pond

Leah, Harvey, and Zion in Walden Pond

yay pond!

The weather knows about Memorial Day Weekend, cause it was hot today. We knew just what to do.

Zion sitting in the water of Walden Pond

I think he likes it

Zion took to the water as delightedly as Harvey did (it's a striking comparison)—moreso, even, because it wasn't quite so cold. The water level was rather lower too, which is good because the beach was well packed with long-weekend revelers.

We're ready to do it again next weekend... or how about Monday?

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nighttime excitement

Somewhere around 11pm Zion leaked his diaper requiring a full costume change and much screaming. Somewhere around 3am Harvey stood in our doorway and said, "Mama come in my bed" and because I was fully passed out and hearing it through the deepest sleep it was like the loudest sound in the universe, like an asteroid exploding in our bedroom. Harvey was also wet and needed new pajamas.

I had gotten him into a clean diaper when I heard a terrible animal screech outside. It sounded like that scream people attribute to a fisher but that the drumlin farm naturalists swear comes from a raccoon. (They say no one can verify that fishers scream, which sounds like lazy science to me. They have a fisher in captivity and no raccoon.) It sounded as if it could have been right under the window. It screamed again. "Something's attacking the chickens!" I yelled and flew downstairs leaving a half-naked Harvey on the bed.

I ran to the back door, jumped into my boots and threw on the outside lights. Outside the door I saw... nothing. The coop and the yard was quiet. Suddenly reason caught up with me. If there is a raccoon, why am I running at it headlong and empty handed? I need a bat or something. I thought of grabbing the cast-iron skillet before remembering I can barely lift the thing onto the stove.

By this time Dan was downstairs putting a collar on Rascal. He also grabbed a broom. Get the dog and something hitty, that man can actually think at 3am.

We all headed out to the yard, but nothing was screaming anymore. The chickens were locked up tight and sleeping, three on the roost and one in the nesting box. In retrospect I hadn't heard any clucking, which would have been a better indication of a chicken attack. The scream could have come from behind our property or from the woods across the street. Rascal sniffed around the fences, but didn't find anything to fight.

I walked over to Dan who still had broom in hand. The night air was very quiet. "Let's live outside," he said. "It's peaceful out here."

"Oh well," I replied. "Back to changing Harvey's sheets."

Thankfully Harvey was not at all frightened by the excitement. "Was it a dog?" he said when I came back in his room.
"No, I think it was a raccoon," I said. "But anyway the chickens are fine."
"Oh. I thought it was a dog," he said cheerfully. It's funny what sorts of things do and don't freak out this kid.

As I lay in Harvey's newly made bed cuddling him to sleep, I got to feeling a little ashamed of my cowardice. Why did I stop at the doorway? Because I saw nothing? Because my fears got the better of me? I'd like to think if there was a raccoon, if I had stepped outside into a gruesome war-zone, I'd like to think my adrenaline would have carried me running pellmell at the beast. I'd like to think I'd do something courageous and brilliant like grabbing the metal rake by the chicken coop and beating the animal from a sensible distance.

The more I parent, though, the more I think that courage is just practice disguised as confidence. That and pure adrenaline. I wonder which it was for king David, who I also thought about while I was lying awake in Harvey's bed. Here he is speaking of Goliath:

But David said to Saul, "Your servant has been keeping his father's sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine." -1 Samuel 17:34-37

Oh, right, he probably had a little bit of faith too.

(An aside: how do YOU find quotes in the bible? Does anyone go, "Hmm, I think this is in Samuel. I'll just flip through and if not I'll look in Kings." I am wondering if the age of memorize verse numbers is coming to an end as our smart phones get quicker at opening up a bible app. I googled "Your servant has slain both the lion and the bear" and voila.)

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market day again

The Lexington Farmers Market opened today. It was a great scene, though I didn't buy too much: a lettuce, a tomato, and a jalapeno plant to replace one that I lost to varmints. The most interesting part was seeing how much things cost and being able to value my own efforts accordingly.

So far I think our radishes are a bust: we probably harvested not more than $2 worth. Salad greens aren't so bad: I'd say we've gotten $8-$10 value out of our sub-$1 investment in lettuce and arugula. But the real winners so far are the things that were free this year: rhubarb, asparagus, and strawberries. Say maybe $15 of rhubarb, $10 of asparagus (although I wasn't really counting—we just ate five spears each every other day for a couple weeks). The strawberries are bizarrely early, starting way back on the 18th, and we're getting maybe a pint a day now; but their value is incalculable at this point, since there weren't any at the market by the time I got there.

Of course, I shouldn't try and put a monetary value on the fruits of the earth, but I'm poor enough that I just can't help it. But I won't work too hard at quantifying. We talked briefly about weighing and recording our harvests like the hard-core urban homesteaders do, but we decided that would be a little stressful. Plus, how would we account for everything we eat right there in the garden!

One other exciting thing about the Lexington market is that they take our food stamp dollars, and, even better, double them! ("while funding is available"). Unfortunately we're out of government money for this month, but next week we'll be there for sure—maybe even checking out some delicious locally- and humanely-raised and therefore startlingly expensive meat! Ah, summer eating is good eating.

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June-bearing in May

some strawberries in a bowl

the day's take

Climate change has bumped our strawberry harvest up by a couple of weeks, and they're coming in fast and furious here at the end of May. We're dealing with some fun problems: the daily picking work can get onerous, and we get more berries every day than we can actually eat. Or should eat, at least; Harvey wouldn't mind putting away all of what is pictured above, which he and I picked this evening, but I don't know how his digestion would cope with a pint of strawberries a day.

I think that right now our strawberry patch is kind of in-between sizes. We're getting a generous amount to eat at the rate we pick it, but not enough to eat some and have some to give away; still less enough to preserve. What we should do, of course, is forgo eating any for a day—a pint makes a nice gift for the neighbors—but I don't know that my children would allow that. Maybe I'll try tomorrow. As for the jam, we don't worry about it too much, because we know that the real picking—out at the big farm—is starting up in a couple days.

Of course, if anyone wants to pick your own now, just stop on by: this farm is always open!

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