posts tagged with 'hippy'

Lijah's flaws

Lijah is a pretty good kid, but in the interest of full disclosure I have to reveal a couple of flaws. One I remarked on again this evening is that he's a total sandbagger when it comes to eating. Most of the time he makes like he doesn't like eating food—like the very notion of taking nutrients in solid form is repellent to him—but then when there's cake in front of him the mask slips.

Lijah with white and blue frosting spotted all over his face

cake coma

To be replaced, I suppose, by a mask made of frosting. (At the community dinner this evening he ate his own whole piece, and I had to fight him off to keep some of mine for myself.)

It's an excellent strategy overall, his apparent disdain; often we're so desperate to get non-nursing calories into him that we'll give in to his outrageous requests for, say, chocolate chips first thing in the morning. Or at least Leah will.

His other big issue is his out-of-control covetousness. It's not that he hoards toys—he can't, he can't think of holding more than two things at a time—it's that he only ever wants things that other people have. Never mind if he has an identical item in his hot little toddler hands, it's the one he can see someone else enjoying that he wants. And he wants it now! He'll never be happy again, ever, unless he can get it!! So powerful is the force of his desire that even our stubborn Zion often gives in, if only to shut him up. And then as soon as he gets... whatever it is, he immediately tosses it aside and moves on to the next thing he can't live without.

That would be annoying enough in a typical American household—there's a lot of yelling involved—but it's even more specifically galling for us avowed anti-capitalists. Here he is enacting the ritualized play of consumerism, repeatedly allowing himself to be swept up by desires whose fulfillment offers no release from the cycle of need. Its a total rejection of all we believe in!! But then, I suppose it is nice for him to get all that out of his system early.

(That he's a terrible sleeper is a flaw too, but it's one that's too raw—much too raw!—for us to talk about here.)


What happens after you get everything you want?

We have been running a free summer camp at our home this summer. It is lovely. The children are doing great. They are learning new skills, testing their physical limits, and improving their hand-eye-coordination. They are growing in bravery, growing their friendships, and problem solving all sorts of mechanical and social situations. The adults who stay and sit on our lawn drinking while I serve them coffee and try to entertain their babies? They get an informal support group twice a week. They feel immediately understood when they share about just how all-encompasingly difficult this time of life is.

For me this is the closest to "living out a calling" that I've ever experienced. People come to my house, and I find a way to fulfill a deep need that's been eating them up inside. In this case, the need for free childcare that doesn't make them feel like they're betraying their hippy morals. Plus I get to make coffee, lots and lots of coffee, and if someone forgets their lunch my Jewish nature is fulfilled by finding something in the kitchen that I think they might like to eat.

We are living the panacea — giving ourselves to others and seeing positive results.

Also, quite often I'm really miserable.

The moment a child smiles at me because something clicked in her brain and she finally "got" basket weaving? That's followed by a moment in the kitchen handwashing a stack of dishes and cups. And let's be honest, the breakfast dishes and the muffin tin too, especially if some campers showed up an hour early and I didn't have time to bus the morning table. My bathroom? It smells like a camp bathroom. Wet bathing suits leave marks on every conceivable surface in my living room. Sometimes kids cry and I am default mama to them. Sometimes my own kids cry because they are over-extended and they just want everyone to leave their house.

What happens when you find yourself living the life you wanted and it kind of sucks?

I have been thinking about this question for a while, as I see other friends finally "making it" to their callings, not just 'good jobs' but the thing they always imagined they wanted to do with their lives. Smart do-gooder friends finally work for the government. Missionary friends go overseas and find their unwashed masses. Friends who always wanted a baby finally adopt the perfect child God prepared for them from the foster care system.

These people, they tell me that they are sooooo incredibly blessed at this moment. God has come through and given them everything! Everything he put on their hearts to desire! And then they tell me their complaints. The first is how God-awful TIRED they are right now. Oh my goodness, I would LOVE some coffee, yes, I've just switched from two cups a day to three. Also, money is a little bit of a stressor right now. I just had no idea how much I'd need to spend on parking / bribes / advocate services / dinners out. And I cannot even tell you about the paperwork. Reams and reams of paperwork. Just when you think you are finished with one round, there's another email in your inbox / letter in the mail / lawyer at your door with a dozen forms you have to fill out EXACTLY PERFECTLY.

And it's not that God didn't come through. He sure came through fo rus - he gave us what we wanted. He just didn't change the entire world underneath us while he was at it. He gave us our dreams and made them reality. It's just that we now have to live our dreams in the context of reality. And reality tends to be chaotic and frustrating. Other people make difficulties of us. Not to mention the weather.

Also, he didn't magically give us new selves either. I was a little tired and frustrated before, when I was stuck inside a cubicle making money at a job I hated. Now I'm living my calling as someone who's (who'd have guessed it?) a little tired and frustrated. My friends and I, perhaps we thought that living the life we dreamed would magically make us the people we dreamed of being. We saw another missionary and he looked happy, and we thought it was the mud hut and all that time in the sunshine. We didn't think that probably he was the type of person who was happy to begin with.

I am not knocking dreaming. Life takes dreaming. I am just saying some of us put a lot of eggs in a single basket.

So what are my dreams now? Now that life is wonderful and I still remain stubbornly human? I dunno, different ones. Bigger ones. I'll never learn. But I also have small dreams too, now. Sandwich sized-dreams. Literal dreams of sandwiches. To give me practice getting what I want and not taking it so disappointed.


Elijah's first bike trip as cargo

I took a break from bike transportation for the better part of over a year, in order to raise a third child. There are some stupid rules in our state about babies under one not going on bicycles. This is not a blog post about that, because that would be an angry anarchist rant. Instead, this is a blog post about hope. The first bike trip with me and three kids altogether.

setting off!

From a test drive in our home street yesterday we learned that Elijah likes riding in the blue bike. I thought I'd start with a sort ride up to the bagel store to see if he'd stay buckled in. It's not a 5-point harnas, but he stayed still with the lap belt.

Young biker happily eating a bagel. You can see our bike through the store window, a totally unintentional but beautiful selfie staging.

After fueling up with bagels and milk, the boys decided they could take on a ride further afield, down the bike path towards Billerica.

look at him go!

We went about half a mile to a playground we remembered from two years ago, at the abandoned Coast Guard housing.

grass growing around the play structure is eerie yet kind of nice

The 20 small single family homes have stood empty for years, since the Coast Guard cleared out. It's a colossal waste of infrastructure in a town that desperately needs more affordable housing, but this is not an anarchist rant.

empty neighborhood

On the ride home Elijah had some things to rant about. He was desperate to fall asleep, and couldn't find a comfortable position. Poor thing. The trip was proof of concept that he can stay in the bucket, but not that he can sleep comfortably in it.

Lijah sleeping slumped forward in the blue bike

not the most comfortable sleeping position. The lap belt around his waist is holding him in.

Hopefully this is just the start of a very freeing summer. Here's my happy face selfie. It smiles at the future.

biking selfie. No helmet, i know i know.


historical reenactment homemaking

You probably know this about me, but I hate and fear many aspects of modern existence. Plastic wrap, for example. Who decided it would be a good idea to cover food with a 12.5 micrometer film of PVC? And yet it now seems indispensable for so many kitchen applications, from wrapping up leftovers to gift-wrapping decorative cookie plates. Me, I used it most in baking: wrapping balls of pie dough or gingerbread, or covering the bread as it rises. And then one day I got to wondering: how did folks handle those needs before the first half of the 20th century, when plastic wrap was invented?

The question led immediately to its answer, which was—I say without any research or actual knowledge, but also without doubt—that they covered things in cloth. Wet cloth, to keep the dough from drying out. So I started doing that instead. It feels so much nicer! I don't know that any chemicals from plastic actually leach out into food, but to me at least plastic wrap is just not pleasant stuff. Plus there's the issue of the energy and raw materials that go into making and transporting it, and then again into disposing of it (how many of you recycle your plastic wrap?). An old cotton napkin from the rag bin doesn't have any of those issues.

I can see why, even hearing my process, some people would totally still be into plastic wrap. Compared to its perceived sterility, a wet rag might seem distressingly permeable to germs, or even somehow dirty in its own right. But keeping our bread dough—or our leftovers—sterility is a pretty modern problem; and with all due respect to modern medicine is not one that should loom particularly large in our consciousness. Under cotton my bread can breathe as it rises, and I'm sure it's better for it. That I'm following the example of countless generations of homemakers before me only improves my appreciation of the method.


dummy and dummyer

I crossed a new threshold in my parenting yesterday. I was out walking the dog and carrying Elijah. He started getting fussy to go to sleep but he didn't want to nurse. I pulled his new pacifier out of my pocket, noticed it was covered in lint, and without thinking stuck it in my own mouth to suck off the offending debris. I've done a lot of things in the past five years, but this was the first time I swallowed lint to clean off a kids' toy.

I don't imagine it will be the last.

Neither of my first two children used a pacifier. There is some vague anti-dummy prejudice in hippy-land, maybe because pacies are associated with scheduled feedings, or perhaps just because they're plastic and they make kids look vacant. Perhaps I was even proud once to have kids who didn't NEED dummies. If so, it was a fake bitchy kind of pride. Because there have been moments in my parenting of all my babies when I've tried putting EVERYTHING in their mouthes to find ANYTHING stop the crying. It's just that last week when it was Elijah's teething turn, he was the only one who instead of saying "Pleh pleh" to the pacie took it in his mouth and said, "Yes, yes! A thousand times yes! Where have you BEEN all my life, sucking without food???"

And in retrospect, there's no reason to be proud of a child who nurses for comfort until he vomits (Harvey) or whose teeth are already bucking forward from the constant pressure of a thumb (Zion). Elijah has the unique distinction among my children of being way ahead in gross motor skills and behind in fine motor, which means he can't reliably get his fingers in his mouth and hates the sensation of his belly overfilled. A child who self-regulates calorie consumption? Now that's something to be proud of! Bring on the dummy!

When he first showed interest in such sucking it was with a pacifier we've had in the fridge for the past 5 years. Unfortunately Elijah's lack of coordination meant I had to hold it in his mouth for an hour while he calmed down. That same night I called Dan who was at Mrs. Katie's house for bible study. "Ask Katie if she has an extra one of those pacifiers attached to animals!" I said in a voicemail, and then in a text, and then on the phone when he called me back wondering what the emergency was. "For the Love of God, I need a pacifier that's easier to hold! Two days Amazon Prime is TOO LONG TO WAIT!!!"

Thankfully Mrs. Katie is a veteran of wubs, and Elijah was soon the proud owner of an adorable monkey. (Katie and Tim and Nathan, I cannot say thank you enough. You saved my week with a feverish, teething, car-riding baby.)

hiking monkey

I post this photo that shows that even when he's being held all attachment parented or whatever, nursing on-demand and blah-dee-blah, still Elijah wants that wub. Shouldn't that be enough? Shouldn't we just give our children what they want?

I am ashamed that I feel the need to write this post to justify my choices, as if I want a public exemption from hippy policy in the case of the pacifier. Of course this is ridiculous. If my concept of a perfect baby-hood or childhood doesn't include things that are uniquely necessary to my children, then my concept is useless and destructive. I'm thinking about you, legos. And you too, iPad. I hope I'll be brave enough to parent my children based on what they need, rather than what I think looks good in a blog post or a facebook photograph. Elijah, get on with your pacie-sucking self. I love whatever makes you happy.

Harvey and Zion, this is me giving you more grace regarding the legos on the floor. And MAYBE the iPad, we'll see.


hairy decisions

It's been over two years since the last time I shaved any of the hair on my body. At the time I thought going natural was a BIG DECISION. Now I think that's stupid. What a loser society we live in if the choice to sport leg hair or not feels like a defining factor of identity.

I didn't have any hippy rhetoric floating around my head when I said, "Forget it, I'm done shaving." I just had two very young and needy kids and I didn't feel like taking any longer in the shower. This was after I had dreaded my hair, so my shower times had already plummeted. I saw not shaving as the low-hanging-fruit of life hacking my way to sanity. Mornings are sometimes tough, but I'm a person who feels better about myself if I have a quick shower before I get dressed. It's a nice thing to put a baby in a playpen, hop in the shower, and be out and dressed before he notices you're gone.

If my husband had said, "Ew! leg hair!" I would have relented, but he assures me he's not that type of guy. Also I keep him on a short string by making sex a rarity. It's the same technique I use with my kids regarding screen time. They don't get it very often, so they f-ing LOVE cooking documentaries.

But back to not shaving...

Two years with body hair, I can say that this has been mostly a positive experience. Not a groundbreaking one. Just, like, a slight life improvement. It saves me time and nobody has stopped being my friend because of it. It turns out it's not life shattering when some women choose to have leg hair.

Although I will say one thing.

I carry our cultural beauty standards around in my head as much as other people do. When I look down at my own legs I sometimes have a moment of "Ew, is someone gonna clean that up?" The underarm hair was much quicker for me to accept, because I see beautiful women in other societies doing that. And because armpits are not that pretty with shaving bumps either. But legs do give me a moment of pause. The first few times I went to the gym in shorts I was rather self-conscious. But I got over that quickly because I no one is really looking at you at the gym. I do notice that I choose to wear long skirts when I go to a gathering of people I don't know. Church is a long-skirt place for me, as are small groups and parties. It's partly that I don't want someone to be taken aback by my leg hair, and partly because that's what I wear to look fancy. I also wear shorts at the beach to hide my pubic hair, but dressing for the beach is a whole 'nother issue for women, am I right?

Mama and Elijah in the rocking chair on the porch, both smiling for the camera

happy times

Can you see it? Can you see the disgusting abomination of follicles?

They say that blogging is navel gazing, and these 500 words about the hair on my body really drive that point home. Still, I hope it's helpful for some aspiring hippy who's wondering, "Dare I do it? Will my life be plunged down a slippery slope of dishevelment?" The answer is probably yes, but it won't be a big deal. You'll see. Two years will go by and you'll barely even stop to write about it.



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.


hippy progress

a pint jar of cooked black beans on the table

not canned, jarred

I often claim to be some kind of a hippy homesteader type—at least, that's how we have it in our blog description thingy—so it's to me great shame to admit that, for the vast majority of my life, whenever I wanted to make something with beans I'd just open a can. It's horrible, I know. Even many months after reading An Everlasting Meal (mentioned previously) I couldn't manage to get going on dried beans. Part of the problem was one failed recipe a couple years ago; those black beans were so disgusting I couldn't face trying again for quite a while.

But now I wonder what the problem ever could have been, because as most of you probably could tell me, dried beans aren't any hard. They take a long time, sure, but almost no effort or attention at all; just like I always tell people about bread, only more so. I am now converted, and will be working solely with dried beans from here on out (with the possible exception of a few cans of chick peas for any sudden hummus cravings). One key to avoiding canned beans will be saving some cooked beans in the fridge at all times against the inevitable moment when Zion asks for "beans and rice and cheese and tortilla and sour cream to dip", which he does just like that because his requests lately are more often than not rote recitations. You can't imagine how many times we've heard "a little bit of warm apple juice and a lot of warm cold water warmed up in a bottle with a top." Really you can't. And yes, he does (this week) say "warm cold water".

Last week I made pot of chili with dried beans, and I also used some of the tomatoes we canned in the summer. It felt pretty good: our chili recipe, which used to result in four or five tin cans headed to the recycle bin, was made without producing any landfill waste at all. With the recent seed order I'm ready to go even bigger next year; just ask Leah how excited she is about having even more tomatoes to put up! And I don't know what sort of yield we'll get on dried beans, but we'll have Black Turtle and Vermont Cranberry growing, along with Kentucky Wonder pole beans which, I learned recently, can also be used dry as soup beans. Just the thing for when the poles are so tall you can't pick the beans at the top until you take the whole thing down in the fall!

All that is to say: while while we're still struggling (or in some cases not struggling) with other marks of hippy shame, I can now report that, if nothing else, at least I know how to soak beans.


food that looks better than it tastes

Sometimes I fear I have too many food choices. Maybe my life would be simpler and easier if I weren't faced with a taste / healthiness / hunger decision matrix three to five times every day. Sometimes I think of Laura and Mary eating turnips all winter and I think: well, at least they knew what to expect.

sweet potato grilled cheese with avocado and kale

I followed a link-bait headline last week titled "47 grilled cheese sandwiches that are better than orgasms" or something like that. For obvious reasons it made me really want to make a fancy grilled cheese sandwich. This one is a mix of steamed sweet potato, pureed with mozzarella and american cheese. I put that on both slices of homemade bread and piled on kale and avocado in between. Sounds like it should have been good, right?

Well it wasn't. I should have sauteed the kale first, because the whole thing tasted like straight-up bitter. I opened it after the photo to add salt and pepper, which improved the taste enough to be edible. Still, it was not even marginally as good as an orgasm. Maybe it was the bitterness, or the sweet potato and cheese is just too heavy together. The kids barely touched their sweet potato and cheese sandwiches, though they liked eating the sweet potato cheese mixture straight out of the bowl. Go figure.

You know what else the internet is nuts for these days? Pancakes that aren't really pancakes.

egg and banana 'pancakes'

If you see a blog post titled "two ingredient pancakes" and the two ingredients are eggs and bananas? Don't trust that shit. I've been trying to make these things for months, and they always come out like fried ideals: lacking in something and in dire need of firming up.

On one end of the heat spectrum, eggs and bananas make a hot runny mush you can pretend is oatmeal if you get too tired of cooking it. Turn the heat just a little higher and they make a burned-at-the-edges banana-tasting omelet. On their own these two ingredients do not make anything that in any way resembles a pancake.

If you add some baking powder and powdered peanut butter, you can get something that kind of approaches pancake stability. It still doesn't brown up unless you add A LOT of the powdered stuff, but hey powdered peanut butter is good for ENERGY! These ones below were cooked for approximately a billion minutes on either side, and some of them came out resembling pancakes. The ones a little farter to the edge of the pan were more mushy. They all had a lot of ENERGY, though.

no flour pancakes in various stages of firmness, based on centimeters away from flame

Truth be told, I added some avocado to the mix just to mess with my stomach first thing in the morning. I mean... to up the superfood content of the most important meal of the day. Just kidding, it was to try to make the buggers stick together better. Doesn't this just look like an ingredient list of champions?

pancake ingredients

These pancakes take a long time to cook, and they're really only palitable when you eat them super hot. So there's a lot of waiting around, and then a quick rush to scarf down four tiny pancakes. Then two more rounds of this on repeat. In the end, it's a good way to consume two eggs, a banana, half an avocado, and a serving of peanut butter while still feeling like you didn't actually GET THAT MUCH FOOD.

pancake mix on the right, next to breakfast shake on the left.

I had to make a breakfast shake while I was waiting for my pancakes to cook because I was too hungry.

Next time I want to eat a healthy breakfast, I think I'll have some avocado on my toast alongside a single fried egg. Gluten-free isn't worth this much, if this much is an extra 300 calories plus half an hour of cooking time.

I don't know why I'm letting the internet complicate my food choices. Perhaps I consider myself a modern day Ponce de Leon, searching for some magic concoction of energy dense / low calorie / fulfilling nutrition that doesn't require too much time to prepare or dishes afterwards. Perhaps February is just a boring time for eating, or perhaps I have greater problems in my life that I am avoiding by trying to tweak my intimacy with grilled cheese. Either way, don't follow me down this route. If you're bored or overwhelmed with your food options, consider eliminating from them fancy grilled cheese and no carb pancakes. The answer isn't there.


Let's stop fetishizing our choices

Today I finished some Waldorf dolls I've been working on, I played pretend with my kids, I helped them do a painting project and led Harvey through the construction of a tool box out of cardboard.

I also let them watch Thomas for an hour while I took a nap.

In the evening I made homemade risotto which took an hour of stirring, but in the middle of my cooking Zion asked for mac and cheese, so I made him the noodles from a prepackaged mix. He and Harvey ate mac and cheese while Dan and I ate risotto. We all ate a little bit of broccoli, and the boys ate carrots, and everyone had melon and crackers for dessert. This was a step up from lunch which was clementines served next to popcorn sprinkled with nutritional yeast.

If I put together a photo blog for today, I would show the Waldorf dolls and the cardboard creation. If Dan were blogging he'd show the risotto. There wouldn't be a picture of my kids running around naked before dinner, shooting each other with imaginary guns. There wouldn't be a picture of me lying comatose on the bed while my kids cycle through every Thomas we've downloaded to the iPad. Why would I take pictures of those things? They don't make me look very good.

Let's stop fetishizing our choices, people. Or rather, let's stop fetishizing the good half of our choices that we want the internet to think represent 100% of our choices.

Because I was thinking of blogging those Waldorf dolls (which I'll do another day) and I feel like it sets the bar unfairly high. I don't want anyone to think that I'm some sort of hippy superwoman who always talks gently to her kids and absolutely ADORES doing crafts with them. Because in reality the cardboard toolbox was a negotiation DOWN from running to Michael's for a new supply of clay to recreate every single character from Shawn the Sheep (including the fence and the house, which I stupidly nodded my assent to while I was on the phone.)

I'm just like you, other parents. I have my values and I have my ideals, but I'm also exhausted and in some moments I am not trying very hard. Remember that when you see the Waldorf doll pictures.