This Labor Day weekend we were lucky enough to be offered an all-expenses-paid trip to a New Hampshire lakeside, in order to celebrate the wedding of our friends Sara and Josh. Uncle Tom and Aunt Nellie had a cabin in the wedding camp, and we didn't have to be asked twice to drop by.
Usually when they see water the boys jump right in, but here the boats were a potent distraction.
Harvey did great on his second time on a boat, and then also on his third, fourth, fifth... etc. I was glad to head out with him each time. Zion wasn't sure about being out on the water, but he loved the miracle of buoyancy, which let him push his big brother around.
Then it was on to the wedding itself, which was also outside.
It took some climbing to get up to the site of the ceremony, but the view at the top was worth it—as encouraging home-made signs along the way proclaimed.
Outside weddings are well suited to our children's temperaments. Harvey could get some private time when he needed.
Zion distracted himself by lying down and kicking his feet in the dirt. It was dry enough that the dust brushed right off.
The reception was back down the hill by the lodge. After a little acclimation (and a lot of hors d'oeuvres) Harvey jumped right into socializing.
Those two were well matched, and spent a happy hour carrying dirt, swinging sticks, and knocking each other down. But even new best friends were no competition for cousins.
After hours of partying we started to feel bad for Rascal and made an early exit, unfortunately before pie but just in time to get on the road to our hotel while there was still a bit of light.
Good thing because there's no cell reception up there so navigation was by paper map, and there were some wrong turns in the empty wild darkness before we found our way to refuge at the Best Western in Mt. Sunapee. Relative refuge, at least, because fireworks and a loud party—with bonfire!—right outside our window kept us mostly awake until about 1:30: in solidarity, it turns out, with the folks back at the wedding who similarly partied long into the night.
This prejudiced us against the place a little bit, but Harvey—who slept through all the commotion—was thrilled in the morning both by the big tv and the complimentary continental breakfast. I would have taken some more pictures but my camera ran out of batteries moments after the sunset shot above; and forgetting my charger meant that I couldn't document our second day of boating and lakeside relaxation, supplemented by a second breakfast-slash-lunch courtesy of the wedding establishment. It was all great fun, and it felt much longer than the 31 hours we were actually away from home.
As Dan mentioned, we had a big weekend of wedding guesting. I went easy on myself and just made ties for the boys instead of full suits. And a gift basket for the bride & groom, which we filled with lovely jam and soaps that I failed to photograph because we're not a real crafting blog here.
I mean, I just wanted to get to the partying! Thankfully the other parents at the wedding were pretty laid back and nobody called DSS on me for letting my child play with a beer bottle. That, um, had actual beer in it. That Harvey swigged before passing to his friend.
I swear it was only a very small amount of beer. And it was MY beer bottle, so at least it didn't carry outside germs. I mean, for my kids, not for the kid who got the sloppy seconds.
We did a lot of swimming and playing with the Ithaca Archibalds. It sure is nice to be on a beach filled with boats. On the second day Zion finally deigned to go in the kayak with me, but only if he could go naked.
And the elder Archibalds went on an adventure together.
All in all a lovely weekend, though tiring. Weddings and swimming both have a way of making a lot of laundry, so in a way I'm glad fall is coming and no one else is getting married for a while.
As we were cycling home through a light rain, on our way back from a 10-mile trip to the Farmers Market and the library up in Lexington, a thought occurred to me: if only there were some way to monetize our hippy tendencies. A smugness trading scheme, if you will. See, plenty of people want to live sustainable, hippy lifestyles; they're just prevented from achieving that goal by non-hippy hang-ups like scheduled activities for their kids, or jobs, or, you know, having any money. Not us!
So here's the plan. If you're a liberal environmentalist type but still find yourself driving your SUV everywhere, even to the store a mile and half away with no one else in the vehicle with you, throw us five bucks; we'll cycle a comparable distance with our family of four. For ten we'll do it in the rain! Do you wish you could do the locavore thing but only have time to shop at the Stop-and-Shop? For twenty dollars a week you can rest assured in the knowledge that we're eating exclusively local produce for you all summer long (the winter program would be a bit more expensive, unfortunately).
I figure that it's kind of like carbon trading. Just like with carbon-trade schemes companies can fill the air with greenhouse gasses just as fast as they always have, but by after a tiny fraction of their operating expenses to plant some trees in South America they get to trumpet their green credentials on their packaging. And I don't mean to sound too sarcastic: the tree planting is probably helping something, and the companies that pay for it are at least thinking of helping out. And you can be like them! It costs less than you think to join our smugness trading scheme and know that we're out there trying to live a different, more sustainable life—for you!
Despite my optimism last month, the tomatoes did not do nearly as well as they might have: sadly, late bight felled them all in the peak of their productivity. But lucky for us, the pepper plants are taking up the slack.
We have four varieties growing this year: jalapeños and Hungarian Yellow Wax hot peppers (well, hot-ish) and two cultivars of sweet pepper. Last year we didn't get a single sweet pepper from four plants, but this year they're going like champions, and we've already enjoyed—and given away—several of them. The hot peppers have been great producers every year we've grown them. There, the problem is what to do with them all: a family with young children can consume only so many hot peppers in a summer. You can probably guess at how we decided to do it.
Those are some of the Yellow Wax, pickled in what I am led to believe is the Italian style. Many of the jalapeños got processed into jelly, and others will be simply pickled at a later date. Put in your orders for birthday, wedding, or Christmas presents now!
Well actually we can, a little bit. But it takes some doing! The other day I made scones and put them out with a very attractive sign, but had no takers—none outside my own family, at least. Yesterday we added eggs, to no avail (though I was able to persuade a friend to take them at closing time). Today I went all out with the cookies and the flowers and all, but it wasn't until Leah was outside doing some direct marketing that we were able to move some cookies, tomatoes, and jalapeños. Who knew a free store would be so much work?!
You'll notice, by the way, that the stand has seen a number of improvements since its early days. The signs are particularly fun, and one neighbor mentioned to Leah that she was enjoying them, even if she hadn't actually taken anything. That's something, and I do admit that making them is half the fun of this whole enterprise; I suppose I'm at least as much designer as farmer. You'll notice that Harvey continues to help with them, and even designed his own, visible at the bottom of the pole. Truly this is a family business!
I am starting to dip my toe in the waters of homeschooling, to see if it's something that might be possible in the future given the presence of a one-year-old. Or a younger year-old, I don't know... I'm very ambivalent about both kindergarten and baby next.
I have my moments when I shout "I can NOT do this!" whether it's about homeschooling or knitting or simply putting food in my mouth while the 23lb baby tries to remove my dermis with his fingernails. Then there are better days, when I get more than an hour of sleep at a stretch and I wake up early and cut out an entire story's worth of flannel board figures.
This is the Adam and Eve story, and Harvey has liked it much better than creation which, er, didn't have as many talking characters. We've done Adam and Eve each day this week and I'm gonna try to milk it until I decide whether a weird lesson about brother's keepers is better than cutting out gillions pairs of animals. I hate making animals. Noah's ark is the hardest story for crafters, why does it come so early in Genesis?
Anyway, Harvey seems to be getting something from the felt board stories. Yesterday we had the following interaction:
Me: "And God made clothing of skins for Adam and Eve so that they could keep warm."
Harvey pointing to the elephants: "Maybe he took the skins from those animals!"
Me: "Yes! Very good Harvey! You're so smart to know that skins come from animals. Do you think God killed them to get their skins?"
Harvey" "Yes." (and suddenly getting concerned) "And then Jesus made them new."
Harvey's also been getting into craft projects during Zion's rest time. We've been working on weaving because knitting is too complicated for a three year old, even if he does ask every day, "Can I make a sweater for school at home?"
He's quite good at weaving, but he only wants to do a few lines before he decides the whole loom is a guitar.
He also asks to sew near constantly, so we brought up my old sewing machine from the basement and (with 100% constant supervision and also a little of mama tugging the fabric in the right direction) Harvey sewed a pillow all by himself!
Thrown in at other random times I've been doing two-minute teachings on letters or numbers or whatever I feel like talking about. I figure if we do about an hour a day of teaching year round then that's all we'll really have to do until the snake-eaters are ready for instruction too. The other part of preschool Harvey is missing is socialization, but he seems to get on like gangbusters with other children. Regular playdates should ease my conscience on that front. And I'll be glad he's missing the other parts of school: bullying, disney brand indoctrination, and the crushing abuse of adult authority. That I won't try to recreate at home. I mean, any more than I already do.
Harvey got stung by a bee this afternoon—a wasp, actually—and he ran around yelling at the top of his lungs for several minutes. He was pretty much running away from us, actually, since whenever he gets hurt he has a pathological fear that we're going to try and do something to him and it's going to make it worse. I suppose distrust of medical authority is transmitted genetically. This boy will suffer with a splinter in his foot for days rather than let someone take it out, and you've never seen a child like band-aids less. In this case we eventually got some baking soda on him, and after half an hour of intermittent yelling (we tried very hard not to laugh when he was crying, "Ow, Ow!") and an hour and a half of Japanese cinema, he was prepared to reenter the world of the able-bodied.
We did some research on the Schmidt Pain Index while he writhed, but unfortunately in our haste to aide him immediately after the sting we let the culprit fly away unobserved, so we weren't able to precisely quantify the pain he was suffering. It's often hard to tell with a preschooler. Sometimes when Zion "hits" him you'd think from the sound that he'd just suffered an axe wound. But I think Leah was correct to say that this was probably the most painful thing he's ever experienced, so we're glad he's ok now.
We want Harvey to learn to ride on a balance bike, balance being more important than pedaling, but we don't have the $100 to shell out on top of Dan's bike store gift certificate and while we sit around hemming and hawing over hippydom and poverty Harvey is getting away, pedaling his hardest on this tricycle we found in the trash.
He seems to have gotten the hang of pedaling all of a sudden, and now it's all pavement all the time. If I but look at the front door both my children are instantly playing in the street. Harvey even biked halfway to the playground yesterday, and then halfway back. That's almost a mile in total!
Zion doesn't have a bike that can make it past our street corner, but he refuses to ride in the stroller if Harvey is biking and screams "DOWN, DOOOOOOOWN" until he can feel pavement under his little feet. Yesterday he was happy to pull the crocodile along behind him. (Auntie Oona: best. toy. ever.)
And just for kicks, here's a close-up of Zion's outfit so you can see just how much he's rocking the early fall.
I'm thinking of the seasons changing, and how it takes me a little while to adapt to the changing needs of my children. Just the other day I noticed Harvey running through the woods where a month ago he would have been stroller-bound and I thought, "Wow. He now has a need for exercise. Outside the house." Like, I now have to plan for early morning exercise time, just like I have to plan for meals and snacks and naps and flannel-board stories. And walking the dog, which, er doesn't really jibe with Harvey and Zion's free traveling pace.
But my own scheduling nature aside, It's a really fun season with the boys running about. I don't know what the future will bring, there are lots of question marks as we look towards the next year, but I'm enjoying what the fall has for us right now.
I finally cut out the pieces to Noah's ark. It took three days with Harvey's help, and by help I mean he picked out the colors to distinguish the characters and that's why everyone kind of looks like they're in an 80s workout video.
Harvey also sewed the rainbow, which is to say he drove the pedal of the machine while I turned the fabric wildly to try to get the stitches to curve at Harvey's warp speed (I don't let him use my computerized sewing machine for obvious reasons, but that means the only speed control he has is how hard he puts down on the pedal. And he's three - gradual gradation is not really his thing.)
We did Noah's ark on the flannel board two and a half times this week, the half when Zion abruptly ripped all the pieces off the board and Harvey announced, "Let's go outside!" I'm eager to move away from Noah and get on to the tower of Babel (skipping Noah getting drunk and exposing himself to his sons; that's a lesson for high school). Harvey thinks Noah's ark is a bit scary, because of the giants. He is very happy when they get killed in the flood, and he relishes wiping them off the board when the waters rise. But he notes that we need more animals to die too in the flood. Yeah, I think he's learned enough here.
I'm not very spiritually moved by the Noah story. I think God related to prehistoric peoples in a way that probably made sense to previous ages more than it makes sense to us. I'm also not totally happy with this felt set-up. I wanted to press the point that Noah wasn't the only person in the ark, but my zeal to represent his family and then following fatigue at cutting out figures gives the impression that there were more people saved than drowned in the story. Which is false. Also, it's a bit tricky to fit all those guys in the ark and shut the door and have the thing still stick to the flannel board. I'm thinking ahead to IMPORTANT stories in Genesis (who's playing God now!) and I think for big groups of people like Joseph's brothers I'll cut them out as a crowd block and then decorate them some way that's not so neon.
Harvey seems to be learning a lot from these stories. Preschool homeschool isn't so hard, I realize. Just the other day I asked Harvey what he wanted to do for school at home this year, and he said, "Well, we already did weaving, and making a sweater, and numbers.. so I don't know! We already did everything!"
We tried Harvey in kids church today, since it was the first day of the new school year and because he's older and because hope springs eternal. Harvey attended kid's church a few times when he was 2 until a string of traumatic incidents made him declare it too scary. How traumatic? Well, he wet himself one time, then another time they made him walk across the hall for a christmas presentation. I know. Torture.
I had felt that I didn't want to force him into a fearful crying situation every week because what does that teach him about church? church is torture? church is parental neglect? church is a place where adults have fun while children get babysitting?
So we kept him with us in the big service. I guess he was learning something about church and about God, but also he was getting yelled at a lot for acting like a child. And a lot of the time I thought things like: What is the point of this? They can run around and be loud at home and I wouldn't have to disturb other people or drive an hour total; I could just wash dishes.
But then I thought: what does THAT teach them? You can't go to church anymore because you're bad???
So back to kids church. Dan did a great job these past weeks of building up the idea of kids church for Harvey, how fun it would be now that he's a big kid, how great the toys are. And Harvey was SUPER excited to get in that room with the toys; he didn't mind at all when we left him. I even walked out and said, "Wow, that was easy!"
I had been in church ten minutes when I got a page to come back for him. Harvey had wet his pants. He was standing in the adjacent classroom, snotty and sobbing, tootsie-roll wadded up in his fist. And I thought, What is the point of all this? I thought, I just want to take them home.
After a few minutes of cuddles Harvey recovered enough to listen to the creation story while sitting on my lap. But before the end of class time he wet his pants again, this time while standing right next to me. Because I had only brought one change of clothes he went home in a pull-up and spare pair of sweat pants.
We came home from church and I immediately got a fever.
This whole thing is so hard. Every week we go to church, and I have an agenda. I want to GO TO CHURCH. I want to sing songs and hear a sermon. I want to feel like I prayed and connected with God.
My kids have an agenda too. They want to play with toys, play with other kids, play on the playground. They want to eat bagels. They want to feel safe while they do all this and feel like their parents are looking out for their needs.
They don't care for a sermon. They only care for songs if they can run around like maniacs.
They don't care that every other day of the week we go on outings 100% for them, 100% designed to make them engaged and happy. They are justifiably confused that I have a different agenda.
I was thinking as I sat holding sobbing Harvey this morning. I was winded from running across the parking lot carrying Zion, and I had to pee because I hadn't gotten a chance to go to the bathroom between dropping Harvey in his class and getting to church, and in this altered state I suddenly I had a selfless thought: If this is what it takes for Harvey to have a relationship with God then I will sit in this stupid tiny room all year. I will drive to Cambridge every Sunday to be a human bean-bag chair and take Harvey back and forth from the bathroom, if that's what he needs. I already have a relationship with God. If Harvey needs to sit on my lap every time he hears a bible story then I will give up every pleasure I have in Sundays so that he can sit on my lap on learn about creation.
Then I had another thought. This is insane. How much can I possibly give up? Sleep? Privacy? Alone time? Physical integrity? I already don't have anything left. Every second of my life is already giving something up because it might make something slightly easier for one of my children.
But maybe these are just the thoughts I have when I'm ill. I don't know if it's the line of thinking that gives me the fever or the fever that gives me the line of thinking. Last time I waxed existential I had a persistent throat infection, but as soon as it got better I felt a lot better.
Dan says he will take Harvey to kids church next week.
Saturday was Bedford Day, and we were as excited as ever to take in the parade and fair. The big local news this year was that the famous Bedford Flag is being shorn of its apparently unhistorical white fringe, as shown in float form above. To the extent that you can see it through the crowds, that is; we were sitting right on the curb but still found ourselves blocked by several rows of young people who moved in to gather the candy that nearly every unit throws out to the audience. Not that we minded too much, since at the boys' age they appreciate a bit of buffer between themselves and anything too novel.
It certainly helped that the parade was much quieter than in years past. While it was still well full of fire trucks and DPW machinery they were much more gentle on the sirens and horns than we've come to expect, something that we appreciated as much as the kids. Besides all the heavy equipment we also got to see Boy and Girl Scouts, corvettes, soccer players and karate trainees, and local politicians. Great small-town fun!
Just as wonderful was the fair, where we filled up on hot dogs and fried dough (on top of the parade candy; it was a tough day for my stomach), bought a few books at the library sale, and donated three dollars to our neighbor's basketball fundraiser. Harvey got to play a bean-bag toss for that last one, and got one of his four tosses in—his first-ever carnival success, and better than I ever did! Zion reached into the prize bucket too, with less justification, but since he's so cute he got away with it. I believe both prizes were lost before we even thought about heading for home.
Harvey and I lasted a little longer than Mama and Zion, but we mostly spent the extra time playing in the playground—well, he did, while I sat outside the fence and read a book—which isn't so different from a regular day. The playground was a whole lot more crowded, I suppose. Good times all around; the day could only have been improved if the people of Bedford were the sort to want to see craft tables and livestock, neither of which put in any kind of appearance this year. Oh well, we have both of those at home.
I'm kind of stacking up potential blog posts in my brain, so instead of picking just one this evening here's three, minus some of the usual development.
We got some lemongrass from the food pantry, so I needed to find out how to cook with it. Leah is feeling a little bit under the weather so I was happy to learn that it's just what you need to make some sustaining Thai comfort food. Zion and I enjoyed it as well, healthy as we are. My only complaint was that I couldn't taste the lemongrass enough: it smelled so delicious as I was chopping it! I saved one stalk and am trying to get it to root in some water, in hopes of having a personal supply next year.
I don't like to comment too much on mainstream politics here, but I have an observation on this Romney "47 percent" thing that's too long to tweet or whatever. I don't think that it will matter as much as Democrats hope, not despite but because of the fact that, regardless of income tax status, nearly everyone pays taxes of some kind. The Republicans are actually targeting poor people with that rhetoric, because the last thing a disadvantaged social conservative wants to hear is that the government is doing something for anyone other than him. "I may be poor," the Romney campaign hopes such a voter will say, "but at least I'm doing my part, not like those 47 percent people." They don't even have to say that those 47 percent are probably mostly black! It's the classic American political tactic of getting poor whites to vote against their own economic interest by pitting them against an imaginary "underclass", employed by the Democrats from 1877 to 1964 and the Republicans thereafter.
Leah's post about Harvey and kids' church, accurate as it was, missed a crucial piece of context. Harvey is now working his uncertainty about the whole setup into regular conversation with people who aren't us: Grandma, his friend Will, a random mom at the playground. All are nonplussed. The last conversation went something like this:
Random Mom: "How old are you?"
Harvey: "I'm three."
RM: "Wow, you're big for three!"
H: "Yeah, but I'm a little bit scared of kids' church. I went but now I'm a little bit scared."
I was sufficiently far away that I wasn't prompted to offer any clarification.
Are you so envious of our hippy lifestyle that you want to take home a little piece of the squibix farm? Well now you can. Under great pressure from family and friends I've opened an Etsy shop.
Over there you can buy things like my home-made soap. Or toddler ties. Or a bib made from a genuine chicken-feed-bag.
That's all there is for the moment, actually. In my overall life I make a lot more things for which people tell me, "You could SELL that!" (monetary value being the dominant way to ascribe value to anything) but the fact that something could be put up for sale doesn't mean that it should be, and Etsy seems to be great at pitting artists against each other so that everyone's time ends up valued at something like $2/hour. So what we have for now is soap, ties, and bibs, and if the whole thing is a waste of time it can come down in 40 days with me only losing $4 in listing fees.
Also, the pictures of Harvey modeling ties are fairly cute. I would say, "He could be a model" but that's another example of valuing things by stating only how they could be monetized. I'd hate to fall prey to Balam's error (Balam's error being that he tried to monetize his gifts from God) but then again that's only really explained in Jude 1:11 and Jude has a lot of biblical interpretation that is a little "what the what" in relation to the rest of the bible so take it all with a pillar of salt.
So, er, check it out. This is somewhat purposefully the worst marketing pitch I have ever written. I have been out of the game a long time.
With the coming of fall we've seen a few little changes around here. Most noticeably, we've started using electric lighting again, after a period without. It wasn't really like breaking a fast—there wasn't a moment where we said "it's just too dark!" and gave up—we just started using lights when we needed to, and we need to a lot more now that it gets dark at 7:30. Sometimes I read to Harvey by head-lamp, sometimes it's the overhead light. It feels good to be flexible: going lightless was great for the summer, but would be a burden now.
I also bought eggs for the first time in months last week. The growing dark also affects the chickens, and their egg production has dropped from 3-4 a day to 2-3. We're still eating as many for breakfast and the cold weather (and the demands of the farm stand!) has encouraged me to bake more, so a supplemental dozen was necessary. Our flock's output will dwindle still further as winter takes hold, so we're grateful for the farm down the road with electric lighting in their henhouses. We hope to get more chickens in the spring, so maybe next winter we'll be able to scrape by without buying any eggs at all; then again, we might still need to supplement, especially as we get in to a better schedule of giving eggs away.
I'm thankful that we've still got a while before frost—you hear that, weather?—unlike folks a little farther north, because there are still a whole lot of peppers (and a few eggplants) that need to ripen up. But Harvey and I put in a bunch of cold-tolerant plants that will either give us a bit of tasty greens in the few months before real winter or—if we get a winter like last year's—all the way through until we can plant again in the spring.
We started putting the fans down in the basement. Most of the windows stay closed all day. Next thing you know it'll be storm windows. There are apples at the farmers market (though none in our trees yet—next year?). It's fall.
I have been reading a lot of parenting theory these days. The more I think about it, the more I think the simplest things are the truest things. And also the hardest things to hear. Like, my children's level of okay-ness is 100% correlated with my moment-to-moment attitude. If I can't have a good attitude, then I must try my damnedest to fake it. Start singing a song with hand motions. Talk only in hushed tones.
It's hard because patiently putting aside my emotions is not really a thing with me.
I want to say something like, "this season has been really emotional for me" but it's too ridiculous to write. What do I mean by 'this season?' In the past four years I have been pregnant twice, given birth twice, changed jobs, changed to full-time-parenting, and added so many pets and projects I get queazy just thinking about it. In comparison to last summer, this summer I DID NOTHING. And yet, recently I've felt such ready access to this deep kettle pond of emotions, like I'm always tip-toe-ing around this thing and if I slip just a teeny bit I am up to my neck in DISAPPOINTMENT. I mean it's as if the emotion of disappointment is a real physical thing, it's cold and wet, it's like I only just suddenly realized what DISAPPOINTMENT meant. And I'm not talking like I just barely missed placing at the olympics. I mean like I made a Shutterfly album thinking I had a free promo and then at the last minute they said I couldn't really have it for free.
And I think, "Is this day even worth finishing?"
People ask me how I'm doing and I have to say "fine" because the other answer is "life is amazingly and excruciatingly beautiful but sometimes it flares up infuriating and sometimes you cannot imagine how boring."
I swear I do not have a mood disorder. It could be perhaps that I am thinking about these things just now. I have always had moments of anger or sadness, but when I rage around young children I have all these little faces looking up at me like mirrors, little tiny heart-breaking mirrors showing me just how profoundly hurtful or disgusting or off-putting my emotions are.
I have had some disappointments this season. I have also had some really lovely moments with my family, more lovely moments than boring and exhausting ones probably. I continue to be baffled and amazed that these people love me.
Here is a list of some hippy changes I've made over the past few months. None of them merit a solo blog post, but taken together maybe it'll look like I'm really moving and shaking around here.
I stopped using toothpaste. I think the baking soda in toothpaste was making my teeth more sensitive, so I switched to using just a toothbrush with a drop of peppermint essential oil. First I tried just a toothbrush with water, but the taste of the toothbrush by itself revealed a little too much just how disgusting the practice of daily tooth brushing is. Seriously, I use a glass for water and I put it in the dishwasher. I use the same object to scrape the crap off the inside of my mouth and I leave it sitting in a steamy bathroom for months? It just goes to show that our concepts of cleanliness are RELATIVE at best (oppressive and isolating at worst.) Anyway, the key to leaving dentifrice behind is starting with a new toothbrush that hasn't seen toothpaste before, and once a day dropping on a bit of peppermint. Peppermint essential oil is slightly antiseptic, or so I tell myself. Also, I floss frequently.
Okay, moving on.
We gave up Cheerios. There's nothing inherently unhealthy about cheerios, it's just that they are so easy to put into a cup as a snack that the kids were requesting cheerios every time we went in the stroller or the car, making them less hungry for "real" lunch. Also, their constant yelling for snacks every time we leave the house, even if they JUST ATE BREAKFAST makes me crazy. So we stopped getting cheerios, and now if I want to go somewhere with snacks I have to cut up apples and carrots or assemble other real foods. Probably this benefits their overall health, not only my smugness. Now as soon as we get in the car they yell for apples. It's not any less crazy-making but I maybe I feel better about it.
I took my fist barefoot run yesterday. I realized the other day that my sneakers are so worn down in the back that they're hurting my feet just to wear them, but I don't have the cash to shell out for a new pair of running shoes. So I decided to try what the crazy men do and go without shoes. I did a 2-mile loop around the block and found the classic barefoot running advice pretty easy to apply... strike with the ball of the foot, keep knees bent — those are things you automatically do in order not to hurt yourself. I liked noticing how springy my instep is without the help of shoes, and it reminded me of my years of modern dance in which a fair amount of running and leaping occurred barefoot. Downside: my skin felt a little stingy by the end, and I didn't get that free flying feeling that I love about running. I don't know if running will be as exciting to me in the future if barefoot is the only option, but it's nice to feel like it's a poverty-friendly option for exercise. You know, other than working in the fields.
Oh, and Dan wore an African shirt to church today. We are becoming "those" people...
On Saturday we headed up to Lexington for our second fair in as many weekends, this one a special event to celebrate the town of our birth's 300th anniversary. Well, sort of: the town was actually incorporated in 1713 (after being first settled in 1642), but folks want to celebrate so much that they're planning to drag the thing out from now until May of next year. And more power to em, I say! They had a big tent.
Despite the gray morning the fair, part of a day of "opening events", was very well attended.
It wasn't quite as interesting as Bedford Day as far as exhibitors, unfortunately. Bedford Day is awesome, sure, but for an event that presumably occurs only once every 100 years you expect a little more oomph. Nevertheless, we were entertained well enough. At noon the organizers did their best to get the entirety of the Lexington population out onto the high school football field for a photo, which meant that the tent crowd cleared out a little bit, and we took the opportunity to peruse the crafts.
The lines also died down a little for the food vendors, and we picked up a few items. Harvey chose a giant M&M cookie and Leah a sandwich; Zion was satisfied with a pancake from home, which he ate with a fork.
His favorite part of the whole experience was trying to ride Mama's bicycle.
He was less enthusiastic about watching dancing and musical performances inside a hot (the sun had come out by then) and crowded tent, so after a bit of entertainment we dragged ourselves away and headed home. Good times; where is next week's fair going to be?
I thought I'd write a follow-up to answer some of the questions raised by my hippy odds-and-ends post from yesterday.
Alexis asked how my children reacted to the switch away of Cheerios. To tell you the truth, they didn't really notice. Our food options vary a lot from week to week, so there are no food items that we ALWAYS have in the house. Consequently my kids are used to accepting an alternative if there happens to be no milk or bananas for a day or two. It also helps that we make an effort to eat locally, so they're used to seeing fruits go in and out of season. Of course there are exceptions to this - I buy bananas even though they're never in season here and apples year round. And we do try our hardest to keep apple juice in the house because its absence is likely to spark a tantrum. But no, they didn't ask for more Cheerios after the last box was gone.
Anyway, my kids tend to like apples and carrots, so they're very happy eating them in the stroller. If anyone wants to know how to get their kids to like fresh fruits and vegetables the answer is, I don't know. Mine just do. They have other problems, of course. They can't play inside without CONSTANT ADULT INTERVENTION OR ENTERTAINMENT, but they're good eaters.
Also, Dan says I left out writing about our homemade deodorant. How could I forget! I started making my own deodorant sticks from a recipe in this book and I just love the result. The deodorant has a pleasant odor without being overpowering, which puts it over Toms of Maine which I found to have an unpleasant chemical smell. Also, Toms of Maine seems to "turn" before the stick is used up, whereas the homemade deodorant stays good to the end, perhaps because it's softer so it goes faster. Other pros: it costs almost nothing to make, just a little olive oil, beeswax, and essential oils. Cons: it's a natural deodorant and therefore is not as effective as chemical deodorants you buy in the store. If I get really hot and sweaty then I smell like BO. If I check my armpits (and come on, who doesn't) they start smelling like BO as the deodorant wears off sometime late in the afternoon.
Sometimes I read hippy tutorials on the internet and they're like: This deodorant is so natural! Better than what you buy in the store for every reason possible! And I'm thinking: Hey, I've met you in person... you SMELL BAD. I don't want to be like that. I don't want you to get all these false hopes about homemade deodorant if a body's natural odor is really offensive to you. There's a reason there are chemicals in store-bought deodorants and the reason is that it makes them more deodorizing. I don't think that makes it worth putting on your body, but I don't want you to meet me in person and think that I smell bad and then on top of that THINK that I'M AN IDIOT WHO DOESN'T KNOW WHAT BO SMELLS LIKE.
I think becoming a hippy is a journey down a road, and maybe that road is a little bit sloped and sometimes slippery. What I mean to say is, you start to eat whole foods, you start to cut down on waste or chemical exposure, you start to get more used to how things look and feel "naturally" and suddenly the smell of your own BO is not quite as offensive to you. Even though you started this whole process thinking, "I'm okay with being a little bit hippy, but I don't want to be one of those SMELLY hippies" suddenly you are.
Because the scary truth is that worrying about what you smell like is stupid. Society makes you do it. And if you say, "Screw what society things about [fill in the blank: homebirth, homeschooling, wearing makeup, whatever]" then you may just start questioning what society things about your natural odor. And then before you know it you're only washing your hair once a week and you DON'T CARE and you even LIKE THE WAY YOU SMELL and friends of your parents are stopping you on the street saying, "Seriously Leah? Seriously?" But I digress. You're probably not named Leah.
This book has lots of ideas if you want to stop shopping at CVS altogether.
Okay, I'm not gonna lie. I made this felt set in ten minutes. Because the tower of Babel is a weird pre-historic story that doesn't make any sense. Also, I feel fine teaching Harvey that God made the earth in six days but this tower business has NOTHING TO DO WITH THE CREATION OF LANGUAGE. And I'm sorry, I just cannot suspend disbelief for something I care about as much as linguistics.
Nevertheless, I found myself using a morel from the Babel story in my discipline of Harvey yesterday. He was yelling "PIE PIE PIIIIIIIIE" while we were already FUCKING SERVING HIM PIE. Does it sound like I'm irritated by this? Because it's very irritating, this thing he does when we're getting him the juice he's all moaning "juuuuuuuuuuuice" like he's just come from wandering in the desert. So I said (after Dan and I both ordered him to SHUT YOUR MOUTH AND YOU'LL GET SOME) "Remember in the Babel story when the people wanted to keep from being scattered all over the earth? So they built a big tower? And then precisely because of the tower they got scattered all over the earth? Maybe that means that if you want something real bad you should STOP TRYING EVERY STUPID THING YOU THINK OF BECAUSE IT PISSES GOD OFF. Now I'm God in this story. And I know you want pie. But your whining makes me mad at you."
I don't know how much he's getting from these nice little chats.
When Harvey was a little guy, Leah read a Christian parenting book that suggested, among other things, that keeping your child up past his bedtime was a sin. We hadn't thought of that, but since we didn't have any other ideas it kind of stuck in our minds—Leah's especially. Parenting advice does that; "insider knowledge" in general does that. When you haven't thought about something before, some bit of an idea can get in past your critical filters and become part of your decision-making, even though you never really rationally evaluated the claim. Well, it's safe to say that we've now fully evaluated the bedtime argument and we think it's wrong.
I can't recall precisely, but I imagine the author's thought was that kids are important—more important than social engagements or whatnot. Which is true enough, as far as it goes, and certainly when our boys are breaking down for lack of sleep we'll get em home: that's just basic self-preservation. But there are other things to consider too, like making them feel like they can make decisions for themselves, and letting them participate in activities that stretch a little later than they'd usually be awake.
So the last three nights (to say nothing of countless other nights over the past two-plus years) we've done things that this parenting book would never have approved of. Wednesday Zion went to bed early, but Harvey wanted to stay up late and watch us playing a board game with a friend, and we let him—until he said he was tired and was ready for bed. Yesterday we enjoyed dinner at the food pantry and a visit to the playground and library, and walked home after dark, at around 7:30; both boys fell asleep in the stroller. Today we were out at our church small-group, a very kid-friendly environment, until 8:30 or so.
I value a good night's sleep. Lord knows I wish I had more of them myself. But I also value spending time with friends and having fun adventures, and I want the kids to see that those things are worthwhile. More, I want them to be able to be part of things that I like if they want to. We might not be telling them that they're the most important thing in the world—or rather, that their sleep is—and that we're going to stop everything we're doing to get them to bed on time, but I hope that we are telling them that they're important enough to be part of the activities that we do as a family, and important enough that we trust them to make decisions about how soon they need to sleep. I don't think there's any sin in that.
Each week is filled with a lot of adventures around here, many of which go un-blogged because not everything is interesting or striking enough to merit a full blog post. Often I blog something not because we went to the farm and I took a picture but because we went to the farm and I felt something touching or troubling or judgmental, and the blog post wrote itself. So beware children, if you are looking at your young lives years later through this bloggy filter you are already one step removed from your real experience. But I digress. I thought I'd jot down notes about a week's worth of adventures and present it here as a sort of "Week in the life." If nothing else, to show that I do something when I'm not blogging and it seems like I'm not doing anything.
I thought we would have a Montessori morning and do stations. Stations are just about the entirety of my knowledge of the Montessori method — but I had read a quick description somewhere and I figured if I put out a lot of different things for the kids I could get 20 minutes to sit and eat breakfast quietly. Of course, the kids only got as far as the pouring station, because it was a new thing, and the blocks station was really just me putting their blocks onto the floor, and then putting them back into the box. I went into the whole think kind of on a whim, because I was tired and wanted to have a minute to myself, so I just screamed, "Let's do stations!" and grabbed some things to pour with and didn't really think through what would happen if I introduced several jars of rice and beans to my living room.
After they mixed up the rice and beans and chickpeas they wanted to cook them, so I got down a pot and helped Harvey measure the water and pour the things in, and then they looked at me like "What Next?" and I realized that even though I had gotten lunch started early I hadn't really gotten time to relax and also there was rice all over the living room floor. But, lunch was cooking!
Zion's friend Nathan came over at 8am and we walked to the playground and library. In the afternoon we played in the street for a looooong time.
I promised Harvey we could go on a train ride when Dan started working again, so good to my word we left first thing in the morning for a trip into the city.
I chose Harvard square as a destination because it's the shortest hop I could think of and Zion doesn't really enjoy riding on a big shaky monster. Harvey was super excited about everything about the train: the elevator at the station, the map of the stops, the advertising and the windows and ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING! IT'S A TRAIN!!! Compared to that the "destination" was sort of unimportant, so it ended up that we paid $12 in transportation to visit the Curious George Book Shop in Harvard Square for an hour. I tried not to be sore about the cost - it wasn't me who wanted to go anywhere on the train after all. And my kids were wowed by Curious George story time.
After some confusion about the return trip (Harvey: "Why do we have to get on the train again?" Mama: "Wait, it costs $2.50??? OMG where's the card machine.") We made it safely back to our car. While I put Zion in his car seat I caught Harvey looking over the edge of the parking garage, and I remembered my childhood trips to the Science Museum, how the parking garage was almost the most exciting part because it's like half open and half closed - a weird building trait for being so high up. Harvey pointed down to the parking garage across the street. With wonder in his voice he asked, "Can we go THERE next time???"
Personally I dislike the city and the cost of getting into the city. I'd much rather take a relaxing drive into the country or stay in Bedford and go someplace we can walk to. But I'm happy to put my preferences to one side to make a magical morning for my sweet first born. The way he bounced up and down when I said we were going on a train... priceless. Also I was well rewarded for all that external stimulation; when we got home they played quietly with playdough for so long that I was able to straighten and vacuum the whole downstairs.
In the afternoon we played in the street for a long time.
In the morning we played in the street for a long time.
In the afternoon Grandma Beth took me and the boys to Brookline to visit the Great-Grandmas in honor of Yom Kippur. Despite a 40-minute drive either way the kids were super good and sweet and little rays of sunshine for all the old people who saw them going in and out (to say nothing of their actual great grandmothers.) I didn't take pictures because, I dunno, this sort of trip is a little overwhelming to me, especially the city driving. When we came back I took a tylenol, and then later drank two mudslides and after that I was ready to do Wednesday night bible study. Unfortunately or fortunately non-Archibald attendance was limited to Mr. Kyle, so we ditched studying the bible and played a board game called Stone Age. I almost won but in the end Dan won, and by the time I went to bed at 10:30 I was sober enough to co-sleep.
I needed a nature break after the previous two city days, so I took the boys to the Minuteman National Park, which might be one of my favorite places in the world. The rolling fields, the field stone walls, even driving through Concord to get there soothed my soul. When I was training for the Cape Cod marathon I ran in the national park at least once a week and I love it there so much, I feel like the perfect job for me would be to live in the 1775 house and act as a full-time historical interpreter. I would have to wear a cap over the dreads, though.
The boys hung out in the sand pit next to the burned out house. I had expected Harvey and Zion to run the dirt paths with abandon — we've given up walking them and the dog together because Zion wants to get down and walk and sometimes dig in the dirt on the sidewalk and sometimes roll on neighbor's grass. It's very adorable but not really fair to the dog. So I thought this would be a fun nature walk just for the kids, but Zion was all "I'm a clingy baby today" so mostly I held him while pushing an empty stroller. Harvey wanted to investigate the old chicken coops, and as we approached I said, "Looks like the doors are all closed up." And then I said, "Doors! Closed up! Harvey, I forgot to put the chickens back in their cage before we left!"
So we didn't stay as long as we might have. When we got home the chickens were still pecking happily in the yard, but they weren't upset to go back inside either.
In the afternoon we played in the street for a long time. Well, Dan was home on a half day so he played in the street with them while I filled out some paperwork and typed these notes and did some laundry. Then we all went up to the community dinner followed by the playground. Zion, despite being sleepy on our nature walk, didn't nap at all the whole day. At one point Harvey said, "Zion, when do you think you want to go to sleep?"
It is raining. The children insist they must go outside and play anyway.
Zion refuses to put on Harvey's old rain boots and plays a good three minutes before he realizes his feet are wet and cold. Then he decides the raindrops on his forehead merit a constant chorus of "ow" so we go inside and wait for Nathan to arrive. Then it's off to the museum!
Museum worker: "There's a 30-45 minute wait." Me: "I have a PREMIUM membership." "Oh, well go right ahead in, then." (THANKS GRANDMA!!!!!)
The kids had an awesome time in the packed museum, though Nathan doesn't have that same stick-with-the-pack instinct that I expect from my kids, and I had to do a lot of running and grabbing to keep them in the same room at the same time. I found myself wishing I had en empty museum that they could wander as they please. It wouldn't be any safer, but they'd be free from the eyes of other parents thinking, "Who does this child BELONG to?" Seriously, if you can't let them run free in a completely child-proofed environment made for toddlers.... but social mores are what they are and doubly so in public places.
Due to the rain there was no playing outside in the afternoon, but an evening outing to Small Group rounded out the day with extra stimulation for Harvey. Zion was overly cranky and we spent Saturday doing a lot of resting as a result.
Looking at the week altogether like this makes me feel a bit overwhelmed by all we do. I'm a little bit sick going into this next week and wondering how I'm going to do it all with half the energy. Then again, I find the daily grind of housework more overwhelming than anything else, so leaving the house is a nice escape for me as well as for the children. Most importantly, the more interesting things I provide for them to do, the happier they are, the less they whine at me, the happier I am.