We're diapering in cloth and growing our own food. We're sewing patches onto our clothes until we all look like hobos. We're biking all the places we can bike and walking everywhere we can carry our groceries back. Or at least we're trying to do these things. At least in intention, from the environmental, anti-capitalist angle, we are totally a family working towards sustainability.

And yet, there are many things in our lives that are not sustainable.

My level of energy, for example. That's not sustainable. My bouts of sewing and cleaning where I stay up past ten every night and wake up at five in the morning for early morning exercise. "This is working!" I tell myself, "This is working!" for weeks on end. Until my mouth fills with cold sores and I start mainlining garlic to drain the fluid out of my ears.

Or my level of eating, that's not sustainable. The thousand extra calories I stress eat at 3pm in the afternoon because the emotional needs of three children are just SO GREAT. Or for no reason at all, just because we have a costco-sized bag of chocolate chips and I'm tired. I cannot run 5 miles every day to burn it off, no matter what time I wake up in the morning. There are knees to consider. The knees need to sustain me for the next 60 years, and I cannot pound them away on my whim, no matter how much I'd like to punish the rest of me.

Then there is the issue of birth control, because seriously? Having infinite children is not sustainable. But what do you do (really, I'm asking you, you what do you do?) when you're breastfeeding forever, and you don't want a surgical permanence, and you're afraid of migraines from hormones, and you think spermicide might be a neurotoxin. Not the FAM method, that's how religious people get pregnant. I've been thinking about a copper IUD, and then I read a 50-page Mothering forum about how they can cause panic, depression and anxiety. But then I think: yeah, so could another pregnancy.

Unsustainability. I know it intimately.

Yet in life, as in capitalism, as in our rampant destruction of the environment, unsustainable practices have their own momentum. We continue with them day after day after day because life has to go on, because we can't think of a better solution that takes exactly the same number of minutes as the current solution, because there are only so many minutes in the day and changing our habits takes thought and energy and work.

And I think "someday this will change," and I use the passive voice when I make that declaration.

Each phase ends, yes, and I should have compassion on myself, and one day we won't be needing so many diapers. But by then we'll be needing a LOT MORE snacks, and there will always be new and different needs. It's not sustainable for me to say, "I'm just gonna ride this out," blaming my lack of personal and corporate responsibility on my children and their sleep schedules and the availability of bulk baking products from costco.


petty vandalism

Zion and a friend played wonderfully for two or three hours today, with no fighting, no adult intervention, and plenty of wonderful imaginative games. We had camp going on so there were other kids around, but except for a few minutes here are there the two of them were content to ignore the rest of the goings-on and concentrate on their shared storytelling. It was wonderful! It was only this evening that we saw the aftermath: one ficus tree badly damaged and two books—including one library book—with pages torn out and ripped up.

It makes me sad when my kids break up a lego creation that I made—sometimes even one that they made!—so you can imagine my reaction to damage to a 10-year-old potted plant or a good book. There's a little part of me that recognizes that I probably assign too much value to things myself, and that I could stand to dis-attach a little more than I do; and in the discussion that ensued that bit tried not to emphasize too much the importance of the objects themselves. But on the other hand things do have value, and while we try and cultivate a "spirit of abundance" (have we ever blogged about that before? I'm too sleepy to look) real concerns about sustainability demand we teach our kids to be careful with their stuff, because we don't just want to throw something away and get a new one. Even more importantly, there's the damage we do to relationships when we damage or destroy something that belongs to someone else, and I want to make sure that both Zion and Harvey understand that dynamic.

So Zion didn't get a story tonight, and we're going to have a week without library books (two hard hard punishments in our house). Harvey felt terrible about the whole thing, even though his only fault was in not doing anything when he saw the two smaller boys "boshing" the plant, and he graciously offered to help pay for replacing the library book. Zion didn't and won't, both because he doesn't have any money and because he's a proud boy who hates to admit fault, but I'm pretty sure he got the severity of the situation. He said he was sorry, anyways, and that he won't do it again. And he already has tomorrow's story picked out and waiting by his bed.



Harvey in arvey his king costume standing on top of a ladder by the tree fort

ruler of all he surveys

We've been pretty busy around here, with exciting things and with the regular things that still need to be done in between the excitement. Here are some moments from the last two weeks.

Harvey, Zion, and Hendrick digging in the sand at Walden Pond

beach buds

Harvey, Zion, and Elijah in Harvey's bed

first thing in the morning

Harvey holding an owl feather in front of his face and looking serious

feathers are serious business

Elijah, on the ground, holding onto the string of a green helium balloon

is he festive?

Zion clinging to the side of the inflatable wading pool

when this picture was taked he couldn't walk



Today was Harvey's 5-year doctor check up. I'd been prepping him for a few days in advance, reminding him that he'd have to take off his clothes and that the doctor would look in his eyes. Last year's visit featured so much screaming and shaking I was debating whether there were actually negative health effects of seeing a doctor. But Harvey is a year older now, and when I told him this morning we were going to the doctor he remarked, "I think I'll be brave this time."

Then he added, "If I'm brave I can probably watch a show when I get home. Good idea?"

Whatever helps Harvey be brave is a good idea in my book. And indeed, today's visit was a wonder to behold. Harvey conversed easily with both the nurse and the doctor, enough to pass his vision and hearing tests (a thing I hadn't thought to prep him for) and enough to tell the doctor that he doesn't really eat broccoli. There was a moment when he tried to hide from the shots (an understandable response) but once he was on my lap he didn't flail or scream, and there were no tears when the needles went in. He more than earned his medel of bravery. As I type this he is downstairs watching Bob the Builder.

Harvey must have felt pretty pleased with himself coming out of the doctor's office, because as he put on his bike helmet to go home he asked, "Can I bike home by myself?"

"You mean without me following?" I asked.

He nodded his head.

I didn't know quite how to feel in that moment. My heart leapt once in my chest, up and down, in a simultaneous expression of anxiety and pride. Then I asked myself what Dan would say.

"Let's cross the big street together," I said. "Then you can bike the rest of the way by yourself."

We all crossed South Road together. From there it was just a quarter of a mile to our house, with only two crosses, a driveway of an office park and the entrance to a rather quiet street. Harvey crossed the office park first when he was about fifteen feet away from me. I saw him look very cautiously into the parking lot before he went out. He picked up speed after he made it to the other side, and I thought of calling for him to wait, but I had just lauded him so much for being brave I didn't want to "buy it back" with my own anxiety. Harvey sped along towards home. I watched him come to the road crossing now, too far away now for me to jump in and save him. He stopped his bike completely and looked both ways. He started to go and then stopped again. I wondered if he was going to stop completely and wait for me to come. He looked back to see where I was. Maybe he wanted me to be closer and maybe he was glad he'd gotten so far ahead. At any rate he turned back to the street, looking both ways a second time. I held my breath and prayed to Jesus to keep him safe. Harvey sped across the crossing, and zoomed around the corner, and disappeared out of my sight.

I called Dan and told him Harvey was headed home before me. Dan said he'd be on the lookout.

A minute later I rounded the corner myself, delayed by a tantruming Zion. I scanned the sidewalk up ahead and saw Harvey almost at our street, a tiny dot in the distance, frantically pedaling out his freedom.

A tear came to my eye. It wasn't because Zion was hitting me. I have never been so proud of Harvey in all my life.

Then a large gray van pulled up beside me. "Are you missing a toddler on a bike?" the woman in the passenger seat asked. They had passed Harvey, freaked out, and turned around looking for a responsible adult.

My first thought was: toddler? Really? He's five years old and 89% percentile for height!

"He's mine," I explained, still beaming from my pride. "He's biking home by himself. He's practicing being brave." That probably should have been enough information, but to cover my DSS bases I added: "We live just around the corner and my husband is waiting at the door for him. Thank you so much for checking."

"Oh good," the woman sighed with relief, "I was worried." Then her face brightened. "Hey, go little guy!"

It took me another five minutes to get home. By the time I got there I was anxious to see how Harvey made out. I peaked around the car and saw the sign I was looking for, his bike discarded in the front drive.

the sight that means everything's okay. Buckets thrown in as bonus.

And suddenly I had a flashback to my youth, riding in my parent's car, rounding the corner of Butler Ave and seeing Dan's green bike on the front lawn. I remember the jump of my heart when I saw that bike, the excitement that we were both home at the same time, the anticipation that I'd soon be seeing my favorite person in the world.

And now I have two favorite bikers, the original and his miniature. As Harvey grows out of his mama-given genes he is faster every day, more independent, and of course brave.

Harvey shows off his doctor-given bandaids


elsewhere on the internet...

I have a guest post today on Composting Faith. It's about the spiritual benefits of dehydrating mustard greens. Or whatever, my usual schtick. But there's a picture of my tired face holding up a Jar of greens at the end, so that should be worth something. Go check it out if you don't already RSS them.