A moment from the week.
We had Zion's "friend party" today, kicking off at least three days of birthday extravaganza for our favorite middle child. Should be four days, now that I think about it. Since he's a little brother, the red candle in the cake pictured above is a hand-me-down, but the rest of the cake is blue to his specifications; those blodges on the top are meant to be flowers.
There were 15 kids kicking around at one time or another, but it felt like a pretty small, relaxed gathering. We started off with lunch: spaghetti, chicken nuggets, and quesadillas as requested, plus watermelon and chocolate milk. Ollie made sure to get a good seat for the feast.
Then we opened presents—we decided to do it before desert when we found Zion sitting on the stairs inside. "I'm lookin at my presents," he told us. From his friends he got bubbles and a golf set, a pirate puzzle, and a popgun that instantly captured his attention.
I didn't have anything for him, but Mama more than made up for me with a pair of beautiful blue sock monkeys (I also expect she got some good pictures that she'll put up here soon!). Both of them are tucked in bed with the birthday boy now, along with the blue cow that Harvey sewed him last year.
I suppose my part in the celebration was the cake, and I had a great time making it with lots of help from Zion this morning. The frosting was a great frustration later, but I'm almost ready to let that go, and I'm grateful to Zion that he happily accepted my icing "flowers", never mind they don't look anything like the ones on the cakes at Market Basket that gave him the idea. I bet they were a lot tastier, though.
While he enjoyed the flowers and the top layer of blueberry cake, though, he saved most of his desert appetite for his true love.
Over the past couple weeks Zion's been showing some apprehension about his birthday, so we were glad to see him having fun. When I asked him at bedtime what was his favorite part of the day, he said, "my birthday party" (never mind that he could have picked a more specific moment out of the five hours of fun). He also said, earlier, that he didn't want his party to end. I had good news for him on that: there's lots more celebration to come!
When asked what he wanted for his birthday this year, Zion would pout and mutter, "Everything," or "Nothing." Sometimes he would just put his thumb in his mouth and scowl at me. To other people he announced that he was turning two, not four.
The pour child. He has some issues.
Despite his obstinant regression, I still wanted to make Zion a present to commemorate his birthday. I still love him, even if he's not the baby anymore. Even if he craps his pants four times a day and tries to kick me in the tits when I unbuckle his carseat, I still love that little gremlin. He had asked a while back for a sock monkey just like Harvey's, only BLUE, so I whipped up this striped lady.
But that didn't seem to be enough, given the emotional intensity of the situation. So I sewed an additional component. Zion had a pair of wool socks he never wore. He is super particular about his socks; they have to be dark blue cotton with scratchy letters on the bottom. Indeed, he's said to me, "Even when I grow as big as you I'll still wear socks with scratchy letters." So in honor of Zion's definitiveness on this and every other subject I took his non-standard wool socks and turned them into a baby monkey.
Mama and baby monkeys both have velcro hands and feet, so that they can hug Zion or each other as he sees fit. It's my subtle way of saying to my stubborn child: You can't get rid of me that easy. Hit me, hate me, my love for you is like mother-f-ing velcro.
Zion is going to be okay in the long run. I's legitimately hard being four. It's hard not being the baby, being little, being bossed around by the person you love most in the whole world, your dominating older brother. Zion's anger is good and honest resistance to the difficulties he faces. As a resistor myself I want to tell him something like: Go on with your bad self. It's okay. Just come to me when you need a hug. You crazy little monkey.
It got really hot all of a sudden, so this afternoon we went to the beach.
The air said summer but the water said early spring, so the grownups didn't do too much swimming. Harvey was happy to play in the water lots, though. Elijah, in his first trip to the beach as a sentient being, was also a big fan. He wore the same swimsuit his brothers did for their own first pond adventures.
(Here they are for comparison. Zion:
Lijah was smiling in most of the pictures, but I picked the one that most matched the others!)
Zion celebrated his birthday by getting sick, but even though he threw up a couple times in the morning we couldn't keep him away from the first beach trip—on his birthday no less—so he came along. He was pretty whiny at first but revived in the cold water, as pictured above; and as his energy ran down amused himself by making a sand castle.
Lijah was charmingly independent almost the whole time; he loved the water, he loved the sand, he loved the shovel he got to hold. Totally content!
Of course, I couldn't stay that far away from such cuteness for very long!
As we tried to get his swimsuit off he let us know loudly that he liked the beach and didn't want to leave; here's to lots more beach days to come!
For the last couple months, our neighbors have had to bear the cross of looking at our messy front lawn littered with two to three times more bikes than there are people in the house. Last night I finally, for the first time since the snow melted enough to let us get in the shed, put them all away (well, not including the plastic ones that don't live in the shed, but you know). As I considered this triumphant success, it occurred to me that there was a reason it finally happened on the evening of May 4th: it was finally warm enough that I enjoyed being out in the evening.
Usually, putting bikes away is close to the last chore of the day. And even on warm days this spring it's been pretty cold in the evenings, and the last thing I want to do after a hard day of... doing whatever it is I spend my time on, is mooch around in the cold shoving 14 bikes under the porch. So I didn't. I got to the more valuable or vulnerable ones most nights, but the broken tricycles and plastic scooters—all the ones that the kids like to use now and again, but that I don't care what happens to—they pretty much lived on the front lawn. Sorry neighbors. Now that summer is here it's a new regime of cleanliness out there.
Not that I'm all in favor of this sort of heat so early in the season (it must have been in the 80s for the second day in a row today). It's kind of a shock to the system, both for me and for the plants I'm trying to get in the garden. But on the other hand it sure is nice to be able to walk outside any time, from before sunrise to just before bed, without having to worry about adding clothes or catching your death. It makes those 5:24 am chicken chores just that much nicer! And having the windows open and fans running upstairs while we put the kids to bed: very pleasant.
Yes, summer in May. Swimming yesterday, ice cream store this evening... why do I still have to go to work again?
a moment from the week
We've got lots of asparagus around here. It's a wonderful thing to have in the garden: at a time of year when we're putting in lots of work for crops that we won't be able to enjoy for months, it's nice to be able to have asparagus—more asparagus than we'd ever be able to eat—available for the picking, without any effort required.
Well, I suppose we could eat it all, but we maybe don't want to. After a couple days of enjoying it for three meals a day, I've calmed down and now limit myself to two or even just a single daily helping. That means there's been some to give away. The best thing about having our own plants is that fresh-picked asparagus is delicious raw—best, in fact, when eaten in the garden immediately after picking.
We cook it some, too; Leah put a whole bunch into an egg pie the other day, and I've been enjoying it sauteed in butter alongside scrambled or fried eggs (we have lots of eggs too).
Harvey and Zion don't like it this year, which is too bad, but Lijah is a big fan. I appreciate all the great spring nutrients it's giving him, even if I don't totally care for the partially-chewed bits he spits out in every room of the house. I suppose that's just his way of expressing his enthusiasm.
I figure we have another week or so before the plants run out of steam; stop by if you want to pick some for yourself!
For a little while now the weather's been trying to do summer. We've hit 90 degrees, and with no significant rain in two weeks the ground's dried out completely—you'd have to work hard to find mud anywhere. Of course, it's still spring, so we've had some more seasonable cool temperatures here and there; It's funny how after two days in the 80s mid-60s feels pretty chilly!
Of course, the important thing is that the mild weather means we can spend as much time outside as we want. That's good, since Lijah is a big fan of the out-of-doors.
That was Saturday, which started off coolish—Zion actually had his winter coat on first thing, which is pretty rich since there wasn't even a frost! (compare a rather colder day in March...). There are also hotter moments.
The only hang-up is he's not quite old enough to be out unsupervised. Maybe by the end of the summer!
I'm usually not a judgmental sort, but put me on a bicycle and watch out! The following is a partial list of the things I've looked down on other riders for doing.
- Adjusting their arm sleeves while stopped at the end of the bike path.
- Wearing full kit and going slower than me.
- Having aerobars.
- Having a squeaky chain.
- Passing me and then slowing down.
- Passing me and then not letting me catch up, denying me a chance to demonstrate my superiority.
- Wearing full kit and riding two abreast on the bike path with five feet separating the two riders.
- Talking loudly about cycling while cycling.
- Wearing a full face mask and goggles in March, when it's warmed up enough for me to think about going without my muffler.
- Riding with an unbuckled helmet.
- Riding a fixie.
- Falling over at an intersection after failing to unclip.
And things I have not looked down on other riders for doing?
- Being a young man riding a vintage step-through frame in an untucked button-down, with an unlit cigarette hanging out of his mouth.
For months Lijah was just in love with brass band music, and specifically the more uptempo tunes of the Youngblood Brass Band. Not so much lately, but when he was between six and twelve months all I needed to do was turn on "Brooklyn" and, no matter how much he had been fussing, he'd just relax into my shoulder and be asleep before the song was done. In the car it was "Pastime Paradise", which was also a favorite of the other two boys; sometimes we'd even start it before we tried to get him into his seat, since that sweet sousaphone beat made the buckling-up so much easier.
Why was that? Did he really like the songs so much they eclipsed all his other concerns and annoyances? Maybe, but I have a theory that there's something else involved—namely, that pre-verbal babies have a preternatural perception of body language. When they're freaking out it stresses their parents, and when the parents are stressed it adds to the baby's stress and makes it still harder for him to calm down. When you find something your baby likes it short-circuits that negative feedback loop. It was YBB for Lijah; for other babes the magic might be from being rocked a certain way, or hearing mama singing a particular song. But the important thing is that, having launched into the guaranteed-good calming process, the parent can feel like everything is under control and relax. Self-fulfilling prophecy, it works.
With the third kid I've come to the opinion that, for me at least, recorded music is the way to go. While I have plenty of philosophical reasons to prefer singing—and I sang a lot to Harvey—there's a problem with having to produce the magic yourself. Sometimes I'm too tired for good vocal production! With the right song cued up on my phone all I need to do is fumble it out of my pocked and push the button; poof, instant calm.
Now that Lijah's more of a rational being, the magic of "Brookyln" is diminished some. Once he started being able to think, "Oh hey wait, this is the sleepy song—must resist!", the system started to break down. Of course, he still loves music, and it's always easier to calm him when I have something playing. Now that I think about it, it's a fair trade-off: it takes two or three songs instead of half of one to get him to sleep, but I don't have that one driven so deeply into my brain that it rises every moment when I'm not thinking of something else. It's nice to hear a variety of tunes. And even when Lijah doesn't need the music, I've decided that I do. If I'm going to be rocking with him for who-knows-how-long since his nose is so stuffy he can't breathe lying down, I want something to mark the passage of time and keep me sane. I've spent nights up with him listening to the entirety of Counting Crows' first album and half of This Desert Life, and they're totally bearable; so much better than would be an hour and a half marked only by sniffing and the ticking of our three downstairs clocks.
So, future parents, I recommend recorded music. Sometimes it's magic, and even when it's not it helps a lot. Plus I have high hopes for these boys' musical sensibility as they mature; they've listened to a lot of good tunes!
A moment from the week.
After a busy busy day, our house was the place to be this evening. For kids, at any rate. Not much before 5:00 they started playing in the sprinkler (or not playing, as it happened; but the sprinkler was involved in their game).
Then we built a fire (and I need to brag: it was all with things we picked up from around the yard and just one match).
I denied the immediate request for marshmallows, but after further reflection I couldn't resist, and they toasted nicely in the coals.
It was all lovely; the only problem is all that summer fun pushes bedtime pretty late. How do you think the boys will do tomorrow after not going down until 9:00? I guess we'll see!
I biked home from church on Sunday, since I had to stay later than the rest of the family. Besides giving me a few more items to add to my list of judgements, riding the entire length of the bike path on a sunny Sunday afternoon offered an insight into the entrepreneurial spirit of the youth of America as it manifests itself in that classic of childhood capitalism, the lemonade stand. As I went along I noticed at least four optimistic youngsters who had set out stalls along the way. I didn't stop at any of them myself, since I was headed to a birthday party, but I slowed long enough to compare their offerings. Two stood out as a comparison of what to do and not to do in the trail-side drink sector.
A teenage boy, slouched in a lawn chair alongside the path, in the middle of a moderate stretch between street crossings, was offering bottles of "ice-cold" water for a dollar each. He may have had headphones on. Two elementary school girls had their stand set up in the center of Lexington just before an intersection, and were standing up and encouraging passers-by to try a glass of their 50-cent lemonade, of which they had a big pitcher. You can probably guess who was doing more business.
Our own boys were doing some selling on Friday with their friend from next door. Set up on our front walk, they weren't likely to see much foot traffic, but on the other hand they were unavoidable for anyone who wanted to come into our house. Harvey and Zion were selling "something like lemonade" for a dollar a glass (a small glass!), while their friend offered cups of water for ten dollars each (water which her mother reported she'd been stirring with her hands; though that wasn't part of her pitch).
I don't know where either of those stand in comparison to the extremes of the last paragraph, but Harvey must have been doing something right, because he ended the day with two dollars in his pocket. He used it to buy a kite, and it really works!
Gardening is all about waiting for the reward, and some things make you wait longer than others. Like asparagus. Or, even more so, wisteria. It took ours ages to get established (slower because I didn't give it anything to climb for years) and, of course, it only blooms for a couple weeks of the year—the rest of the time it tries to get in the windows and tear the siding off the house. But the flowers are nice.
And not only for the visual impact: they smell wonderful too. It's been warm enough to have the fans on most nights lately, and their perfume blowing in through the windows is just the thing to fall asleep to.
And when they're done in a few days there will be something else to enjoy.
A moment from the week.
It's no secret I love perennial crops. Rhubarb is another early season favorite, and after adding some new plantings of it last year we have plenty to go around.
I picked the first few stalks maybe ten days ago, and cooked them into syrup that I mixed with sparkling water to make a refreshing rhubarb soda; yesterday's harvest went into some muffins. Not till this morning, though, did this year's crop reach it's true purpose and perfection.
This particular pie came with us to a lovely cookout, where we spent about six and a half enjoyable hours chatting with old and new friends and eating lots of food, but not much rhubarb pie—I had to taste it of course, but I limited myself to a thin slice to make sure there was enough for the rest of the crowd. But as I said, there's plenty of rhubarb in the garden to go round; there'll be lots more pies to come!
Going by it's origins, Memorial Day ought to be a pretty somber occasion; or at least serious and contemplative. Happily, there aren't many Americans these days with live memories of losing a loved one in a war, so the holiday can safely be repurposed for celebrating the beginning of summer. Which we're doing.
After going to a big cookout in Arlington on Saturday, we hosted a smaller one here yesterday evening. Saturday night I did not feel well at all, thanks to six or seven straight hours of eating, and I vowed that I'd fast the next day—or at least limit myself to vegetables and dry bread. Miracle of miracles, I was hungry again as soon as I woke up. Good thing, because we had some food!
Our friends brought most of it, which was lovely; all we supplied was canned baked beans, canned brown bread (which is worth a post all it's own), Leah's baconaise waldorf salad (ditto), and another rhubarb pie. Oh, and some potato skins. As delicious as it all was, the best thing about the evening was the company.
Thanks for coming by, guys!
Today we had to get some work done so it was less celebratory, but we enjoyed our supper (mac-and-cheese with hot dogs!) out on the front lawn, and the boys and I topped the evening off with ice cream and playground. Good times. I hope your weekend was equally lovely.
Today was the opening day of the Lexington Farmers Market, and we were all happy to be there!
Especially happy after a long hot bike ride (the boys were wearing their designed-in-winter Tintin and Snowy costumes on the bikes so they were especially hot), and happy despite the absence, this year, of lemonade for the boys and ice coffee for Mama. There's not a lot coming from local farms this time of year, but we picked up some greens, a couple greenhouse tomatoes, and a pound of bacon—and, more importantly, a chocolate croissant and some apple cider donuts.
The boys were happier still after that. Hey, no pictures!
Zion falls asleep during stories, and Lijah falls asleep nursing or listening to music, but most nights I need to leave Harvey's bedside while he's still awake—if for no other reason than my presence is too distracting to him to let him drift off. Not that he realizes that; lots of times he feels like he's wide awake, and expects to be so for some time. So every night—every night, he likes his routine—I tell him I'll check on him when I'm done with whatever evening chores I have in front of me. For the last six months or so he's asked how I'll know he's asleep, because he might just be closing his eyes for a second, and I tell him I'll know by his breathing. Which in actual fact is totally not necessary. I'll really know because I don't hear him complaining about something, because that boy can't stay in his bed at night for more than five minutes without finding some reason to call for us... unless he falls asleep in that time, as he does 19 evenings out of 20.
Actually, the above isn't totally true: I don't tell him I'll check on him, and I don't give him the answer about breathing. Anymore. I did for weeks, or maybe even months, but I'm not a patient enough parent to keep saying the same thing over and over again forever. And Harvey knows that, so he fills in my side of the conversation. Our current bedtime closing goes like this:
D: Goodnight, I love you.
H: What are you going to do out of my bed before you come check on me?
D: Put away the bikes, close up the chickens, see if Mama needs help with the cleaning. Maybe do some writing.
H: When you come check on me, How will you know I'm asleep? Will you listen to my breathing to see if I'm asleep?
D: Yes. Goodnight, I love you.
I think it works pretty well.
A moment from the week.
This post is about poop. It is only about poop. Not metaphorical poop, real actual poop that came out of someone's butt and spread all over my home and furniture. This post is about how my child pooped over twenty times last thursday, screaming and kicking and running away from me when I tried to clean him off. But I can't start at that part of the story, I have to go to the beginning. Let me back up.
Haha, get it? That was the first pooping joke.
From the beginning of his life, Zion was a baby who only POOPED every few days. But in between he would (poop) tiny little amounts all the time. Every wet diaper had a (poopy) smear, but no big as the POOP which sometimes emerged only with grunting and hiding in a corner. Still, up to age two the difficulty rarely bothered him, and berries seemed to make a healthy difference. I figured I was doing my best and the streaking would stop once he stopped wearing diapers.
Fast forward to potty training. This transition was difficult. Zion is stubborn and he doesn't like being told what to do. It wouldn't be a stretch to say he views his life in our family as some sort of perpetual fight club. So if I tell him to sit on the potty, he hits me. With Zion, the first rule of potty training is WE DO NOT TALK ABOUT POTTY TRAINING.
He decided he didn't like to poop in the potty, so although he was toilet trained for pee pretty early he waited until his overnight diaper to drop one. When we found out his diaper was dry all night (but filled with poop ten minutes into the morning) we stopped diapers all together. This was easier for me because I stopped getting punched in the morning when I said, "It's time to take off your diaper."
But on Zion it was considerably harder.
Harder, get it? That's another joke about poop. Let's laugh at the fact that my child is now constantly constipated.
The past few months have seen Zion saving his POOPS for once or twice a week, and then (pooping) in his undies all the frigging time. Sometimes he goes through five pairs of pants in one day. When I see some spot on my floor or furniture, I look at it sideways and think, "Is this dirt, chocolate, or poop?"
Kind of like a fun gameshow except ending with considerable more wet rags.
The kicker though, (in addition to Zion himself) is that Zion won't eat when he's all stopped up. So he doesn't eat, he's tired and grumpy, and at his last physical the doctor noted that he's dropped down to first percentile for weight.
I explained to the doctor about his POOP and (poops).
"Some kids do this for emotional reasons," the pediatrician said, "but I'd try giving him a stool softener and a laxative to get a clean start."
So last weekend I started the recommended stool softener once a day. One cap full of MiraLAX mixed in with chocolate milk. Unfortuantely, Zion wouldn't drink more than two sips of his chocolate milk, or anything for that matter, so I kept mixing more MiraLAX with more liquids in the hopes that Zion would consume some.
Two days went by with no POOP. On Monday morning Harvey called me into the bathroom.
"I don't feel sick," he started, "but I think I may be sick. Because my poop smells like it does when I'm sick."
"Is it all watery?" I asked.
"Then stop finishing Zion's chocolate milk for him."
On Tuesday I gave Zion a chocolate laxative chew. He didn't poop. On Wednesday I gave him another one.
I was starting to think that Zion had bowels of steel. That maybe he was really and truly holding the universe together with his anal sphincter.
Then the medicine caught up to him and the universe fell appart.
On Thursday Zion pooped his pants while we were out at the Museum of Science. Twice. Then we came home and he pooped his pants immediately upon entering the house. I bent down to take off his shoes and they were covered in poop. That was the first of something like twenty poop explosions. He'd fought me through three baths and countless other wipe-downs, sometimes screaming, sometimes running away, sometimes kicking water in my face like the dog I used to bathe before I had children. There was poop smeared on all the toilets and the floor and we used every single rag we own. Then we used towels. Meanwhile the baby was screaming because he wanted me, or he wanted more attention, or he wanted to put his hand in the toilet. Somehow we survived the night and got everyone into bed. In the quiet darkness Dan and I looked at each other like we'd just been through a war.
I hadn't known until this incident how much emotion Zion had been channeling through NOT POOPING. Not pooping is, I believe, the way he deals with all the tragedy of his current life situation. Not being the baby, not being the fastest, wanting to make his own decisions but needing to sublimate his will to that of his big brother. He loves his baby brother but he's jealous of him too. All that feeling he couldn't deal with he dealt with via not pooping. With the bonus of when he did make a mess Mama had to stop everything and clean it up.
So when the little dictator fell via coup d'exlax he started taking his emotions out on us in other ways. On Friday he pushed the baby down every time he passed him. He kicked each one of us when we tried to touch him, and tried to hit Elijah with the front door. When we got out of the car to go to lunch at the nursing home, instead of walking out to the median strip like normal, he ran ten feet away and hid behind a parked car. I climbed out of the car holding my purse and the baby and Zion was nowhere to be seen. I called, "Zion? Zion where's you?" with increasing levels of panic.
When I found him I was so glad he was alive I wanted to punch him in the face. Instead I yelled at him until I was sure he was crying for the right reasons.
He was too scared to poop in public after that, so we had a lovely lunch. But he shit his pants as soon as we got home. Literally, in the car, in the driveway.
We were having people over for dinner on Friday. I cleaned the bathrooms diligently. I took all the poopy laundry to the basement. Even so there was a lingering smell, and we served food out on the lawn.
While I was eating, Zion ran up to me and leapt onto my lap. Suddenly I felt poop running down my leg. At the same moment of our guests kneeled down to kiss his daughter and realized he had stuck his knee in a small pile of human excrement.
On Saturday Zion napped for four hours and when he woke up he was happier than I've seen him in weeks. Maybe he really did need a cleaning out, or maybe we should NEVER EVER GIVE HIM A LAXATIVE EVER AGAIN. I'm not sure how to interpret the situation.
In reality, I think the issue is bigger than digestion. Perhaps I cannot solve his pooping problem, because he does not just have a pooping problem. He has a LIFE problem. The problem is I straight up f-ed up his life by having a baby. He is mad and he doesn't know how to express himself. Given the opportunity, shitting on everything seems like a good start.