posts tagged with 'zion'

on poop

This post is about poop. It is only about poop. Not metaphorical poop, real actual poop that came out of someone's butt and spread all over my home and furniture. This post is about how my child pooped over twenty times last thursday, screaming and kicking and running away from me when I tried to clean him off. But I can't start at that part of the story, I have to go to the beginning. Let me back up.

Haha, get it? That was the first pooping joke.

From the beginning of his life, Zion was a baby who only POOPED every few days. But in between he would (poop) tiny little amounts all the time. Every wet diaper had a (poopy) smear, but no big as the POOP which sometimes emerged only with grunting and hiding in a corner. Still, up to age two the difficulty rarely bothered him, and berries seemed to make a healthy difference. I figured I was doing my best and the streaking would stop once he stopped wearing diapers.

Fast forward to potty training. This transition was difficult. Zion is stubborn and he doesn't like being told what to do. It wouldn't be a stretch to say he views his life in our family as some sort of perpetual fight club. So if I tell him to sit on the potty, he hits me. With Zion, the first rule of potty training is WE DO NOT TALK ABOUT POTTY TRAINING.

He decided he didn't like to poop in the potty, so although he was toilet trained for pee pretty early he waited until his overnight diaper to drop one. When we found out his diaper was dry all night (but filled with poop ten minutes into the morning) we stopped diapers all together. This was easier for me because I stopped getting punched in the morning when I said, "It's time to take off your diaper."

But on Zion it was considerably harder.

Harder, get it? That's another joke about poop. Let's laugh at the fact that my child is now constantly constipated.

The past few months have seen Zion saving his POOPS for once or twice a week, and then (pooping) in his undies all the frigging time. Sometimes he goes through five pairs of pants in one day. When I see some spot on my floor or furniture, I look at it sideways and think, "Is this dirt, chocolate, or poop?"

Kind of like a fun gameshow except ending with considerable more wet rags.

The kicker though, (in addition to Zion himself) is that Zion won't eat when he's all stopped up. So he doesn't eat, he's tired and grumpy, and at his last physical the doctor noted that he's dropped down to first percentile for weight.

I explained to the doctor about his POOP and (poops).

"Some kids do this for emotional reasons," the pediatrician said, "but I'd try giving him a stool softener and a laxative to get a clean start."

So last weekend I started the recommended stool softener once a day. One cap full of MiraLAX mixed in with chocolate milk. Unfortuantely, Zion wouldn't drink more than two sips of his chocolate milk, or anything for that matter, so I kept mixing more MiraLAX with more liquids in the hopes that Zion would consume some.

Two days went by with no POOP. On Monday morning Harvey called me into the bathroom.

"I don't feel sick," he started, "but I think I may be sick. Because my poop smells like it does when I'm sick."

"Is it all watery?" I asked.


"Then stop finishing Zion's chocolate milk for him."

On Tuesday I gave Zion a chocolate laxative chew. He didn't poop. On Wednesday I gave him another one.

I was starting to think that Zion had bowels of steel. That maybe he was really and truly holding the universe together with his anal sphincter.

Then the medicine caught up to him and the universe fell appart.

On Thursday Zion pooped his pants while we were out at the Museum of Science. Twice. Then we came home and he pooped his pants immediately upon entering the house. I bent down to take off his shoes and they were covered in poop. That was the first of something like twenty poop explosions. He'd fought me through three baths and countless other wipe-downs, sometimes screaming, sometimes running away, sometimes kicking water in my face like the dog I used to bathe before I had children. There was poop smeared on all the toilets and the floor and we used every single rag we own. Then we used towels. Meanwhile the baby was screaming because he wanted me, or he wanted more attention, or he wanted to put his hand in the toilet. Somehow we survived the night and got everyone into bed. In the quiet darkness Dan and I looked at each other like we'd just been through a war.

I hadn't known until this incident how much emotion Zion had been channeling through NOT POOPING. Not pooping is, I believe, the way he deals with all the tragedy of his current life situation. Not being the baby, not being the fastest, wanting to make his own decisions but needing to sublimate his will to that of his big brother. He loves his baby brother but he's jealous of him too. All that feeling he couldn't deal with he dealt with via not pooping. With the bonus of when he did make a mess Mama had to stop everything and clean it up.

So when the little dictator fell via coup d'exlax he started taking his emotions out on us in other ways. On Friday he pushed the baby down every time he passed him. He kicked each one of us when we tried to touch him, and tried to hit Elijah with the front door. When we got out of the car to go to lunch at the nursing home, instead of walking out to the median strip like normal, he ran ten feet away and hid behind a parked car. I climbed out of the car holding my purse and the baby and Zion was nowhere to be seen. I called, "Zion? Zion where's you?" with increasing levels of panic.

When I found him I was so glad he was alive I wanted to punch him in the face. Instead I yelled at him until I was sure he was crying for the right reasons.

He was too scared to poop in public after that, so we had a lovely lunch. But he shit his pants as soon as we got home. Literally, in the car, in the driveway.

We were having people over for dinner on Friday. I cleaned the bathrooms diligently. I took all the poopy laundry to the basement. Even so there was a lingering smell, and we served food out on the lawn.

While I was eating, Zion ran up to me and leapt onto my lap. Suddenly I felt poop running down my leg. At the same moment of our guests kneeled down to kiss his daughter and realized he had stuck his knee in a small pile of human excrement.

On Saturday Zion napped for four hours and when he woke up he was happier than I've seen him in weeks. Maybe he really did need a cleaning out, or maybe we should NEVER EVER GIVE HIM A LAXATIVE EVER AGAIN. I'm not sure how to interpret the situation.

In reality, I think the issue is bigger than digestion. Perhaps I cannot solve his pooping problem, because he does not just have a pooping problem. He has a LIFE problem. The problem is I straight up f-ed up his life by having a baby. He is mad and he doesn't know how to express himself. Given the opportunity, shitting on everything seems like a good start.


Zion's blue monkeys

When asked what he wanted for his birthday this year, Zion would pout and mutter, "Everything," or "Nothing." Sometimes he would just put his thumb in his mouth and scowl at me. To other people he announced that he was turning two, not four.

The pour child. He has some issues.

Despite his obstinant regression, I still wanted to make Zion a present to commemorate his birthday. I still love him, even if he's not the baby anymore. Even if he craps his pants four times a day and tries to kick me in the tits when I unbuckle his carseat, I still love that little gremlin. He had asked a while back for a sock monkey just like Harvey's, only BLUE, so I whipped up this striped lady.

blue because Zion likes blue

But that didn't seem to be enough, given the emotional intensity of the situation. So I sewed an additional component. Zion had a pair of wool socks he never wore. He is super particular about his socks; they have to be dark blue cotton with scratchy letters on the bottom. Indeed, he's said to me, "Even when I grow as big as you I'll still wear socks with scratchy letters." So in honor of Zion's definitiveness on this and every other subject I took his non-standard wool socks and turned them into a baby monkey.

baby because baby is an important concept in our emotional universe

Mama and baby monkeys both have velcro hands and feet, so that they can hug Zion or each other as he sees fit. It's my subtle way of saying to my stubborn child: You can't get rid of me that easy. Hit me, hate me, my love for you is like mother-f-ing velcro.

i love you Mama monkey

Zion is going to be okay in the long run. I's legitimately hard being four. It's hard not being the baby, being little, being bossed around by the person you love most in the whole world, your dominating older brother. Zion's anger is good and honest resistance to the difficulties he faces. As a resistor myself I want to tell him something like: Go on with your bad self. It's okay. Just come to me when you need a hug. You crazy little monkey.

i love you baby monkey.


Zion starts to turn four

the cake: white frosting with blue sugar and blueberries

blue cake

We had Zion's "friend party" today, kicking off at least three days of birthday extravaganza for our favorite middle child. Should be four days, now that I think about it. Since he's a little brother, the red candle in the cake pictured above is a hand-me-down, but the rest of the cake is blue to his specifications; those blodges on the top are meant to be flowers.

There were 15 kids kicking around at one time or another, but it felt like a pretty small, relaxed gathering. We started off with lunch: spaghetti, chicken nuggets, and quesadillas as requested, plus watermelon and chocolate milk. Ollie made sure to get a good seat for the feast.

Ollie enjoying lunch on a big lawn chair

concentrating on the food

Then we opened presents—we decided to do it before desert when we found Zion sitting on the stairs inside. "I'm lookin at my presents," he told us. From his friends he got bubbles and a golf set, a pirate puzzle, and a popgun that instantly captured his attention.

Zion shooting his new popgun, birthday guests in the background


I didn't have anything for him, but Mama more than made up for me with a pair of beautiful blue sock monkeys (I also expect she got some good pictures that she'll put up here soon!). Both of them are tucked in bed with the birthday boy now, along with the blue cow that Harvey sewed him last year.

I suppose my part in the celebration was the cake, and I had a great time making it with lots of help from Zion this morning. The frosting was a great frustration later, but I'm almost ready to let that go, and I'm grateful to Zion that he happily accepted my icing "flowers", never mind they don't look anything like the ones on the cakes at Market Basket that gave him the idea. I bet they were a lot tastier, though.

While he enjoyed the flowers and the top layer of blueberry cake, though, he saved most of his desert appetite for his true love.

Zion concentrating on his chocolate ice-cream cone

that's the stuff

Over the past couple weeks Zion's been showing some apprehension about his birthday, so we were glad to see him having fun. When I asked him at bedtime what was his favorite part of the day, he said, "my birthday party" (never mind that he could have picked a more specific moment out of the five hours of fun). He also said, earlier, that he didn't want his party to end. I had good news for him on that: there's lots more celebration to come!


more than one roof

I spent most of today in a first grade classroom, and one of the things I helped the kids with was developing a programmatic understanding of pluralization in English. You know, s after most words; when a word ends with consonant-y "drop the y and add ies"; and the rule for when you need to add es. The style in schools now is to teach things like that explicitly, which is fine—there was a penguin on the printed sheet to provide a minimal amount of fun, and I don't think anyone felt their time was too much wasted. But in real life, pluralization is pretty automatic (see "wug test"). We don't really need to remember that es follows x, s, or ch... it just seems to make sense.

Of course, we learn those patterns automatically as young people, and it's possible for language learners to overgeneralize. Zion does! And when I think about it, I totally agree with him. He hears "batches" and thinks, fine, how about "pathes"? And if th, why not f as well? I'm a big fan of "roofes" (pronounced roofiz), which I think is yards better than the current confusion. Is it "roofs"? "rooves"? Horses have "hooves", right? Hmm, what was that I said about automatic pluralization? I take it all back. Can I have some direct instruction please?


first snowy day

snow falling in our yard

morning snow

We finally got some noticeable snow around here, and the boys were desperately eager to go out in it as soon as they could.

Zion on his back making a snow angel, with snow falling on his face

snow angel

Snow angels have been on Zion's mind lately; he clearly wasn't satisfied by his ice angel and took the first available opportunity to make the real thing happen. It's wonderful to see him finally really enjoying the snow; I guess the problem before was just not being three. This winter he's wholeheartedly in favor: after putting in a couple snow angels he crawled around the ground for the next half-hour being a dog and eating snow.

Rascal running towards the camera in the snow

he gets excited too

The real dog ran considerably faster than puppy Zion—he also missed the snow overt the last month and a half. And Harvey climbed the ladder to the maple tree to eat the snow up there—maybe it tastes more rich and rare 15 feet above ground level. We also tried some flat-ground sledding, with me pulling the boys on the runner sled and flinging them forward. The snow was pretty sticky, but after we waxed the runners things ran well enough.

some food

steamy warm

When we got as wet as we could get we went inside and I made an appropriate snowy-day lunch: grilled cheese, tomato soup, and pickles. And hot chocolate, of course; and this time the whipped cream worked.

Later I took Rascal for a walk, and on my way home I was ashamed to notice that ours was just about the only house on the street without at least one gigantic snowman. Never mind that the boys wanted to finish the board game they were playing with Mama, I had to defend our honor. They came out a little later, in time to help me just the tiniest bit, play with their friend from next door, and get in on the commemorative photo.

Harvey, Zion, and their friend pose with my big snowman

big snowman, little kids

Then inside again for supper; for desert we had maple syrup poured over a bowlful of snow. What more could we ask for?


this moment

Zion lying on his back on the pond ice, making an ice angel

ice angel

A moment from the week.

this moment

Harvey and Zion in winter gear on the hammock

still hammocking

A moment from the week.

playing with his food

It's a classic correction to tell kids not to play with their food, so I laughed the other day when a friend of Zion's who was over for dinner tried it out on him. It was totally justified in that he was indeed playing with his food, making two pieces of his garlic bread walk around and talk with each other... pretty typical, actually.

I can see why parents might object to that sort of thing. Some kids have trouble eating enough healthy food, or even enough food at all. Zion might even be one of them: today for supper he had two bits of corn bread, for example. But with Harvey as our first child we never got into the habit of encouraging more eating, so it's easy for us to let that slide. Play at the table can also get noisy and disruptive to other diners, and in that case I certainly don't hesitate to shut it down. But mostly our boys know how to walk the line between charmingly silly (or at least ignorable) and oh-my-goodness out of control. Our version of the line, anyways.

And I even see a good side to how Zion plays with his food. Like his brother before him, the three-year-old Zion lives in a world of stories, where everything is playing something else and all the things have desires and motivations of their own. Yesterday his slice of cheese was being threatened with jail by, I believe, a fork. And with food, the characters are constantly being transformed by their author: the cheese had to change its story after Zion ate the piece he was using for its mouth. I won't attribute any great educational import to this sort of play, but I figure all this practice storytelling can't hurt, so I'll happily let it go. As long as it stays at indoor volumes, of course.


growing up too fast and not fast enough

Harvey lost his first tooth last night. This morning he asked me to help him sew a little bag to keep it with him always. (The tooth fairy is not a thing in our household because I believe in removing all the magic from childhood.) Harvey pressed the pedal of the sewing machine and guided the fabric himself. Here he is pressing the reverse button to make a knot.

those chubby hands atop my machine make me swoon

And here he is 15 minutes later with the finished project. His baby tooth is inside the bag and no longer at the bottom of his mouth.

Harvey smiling to show his missing tooth and holding the bag he made for it

triumphant big boy and seamster Harvey

Meanwhile, Zion is reliably potty trained within our house. He received a big plastic pirate ship as his present for using the potty. Both the ship and Zion's swift mastery of toileting are pretty epic.

no pants makes the whole process easier

In every way my babies are growing up so fast.

Well... maybe not all my babies. Elijah is still mostly doing the same stuff. Smiling, being carried around. Nursing.

happy as long as he being held

For several weeks I've been complaining that Elijah seems behind in his fine motor development. At six months both Harvey and Zion could sit up and play intentionally with a toy. They'd shake a rattle, bang it on something, and bring it to their mouthes. Elijah is able to hold a toy and gnaw it, but that's the extent. He doesn't seem to be able to get the "right" part in his mouth, and to my mind he's frustrated by his lack of coordination. Also he refuses to sit, though he's pretty happy about EVERYTHING ELSE. That could be the reason he's not progressed as quickly as his brothers. He's just so jolly content to be a baby, why would he try to do anything else?

I'm a cutie, love me.

I decided to get Elijah evaluated by Early Intervention to see if the experts agree with me that he's a month behind. Early Intervention is a government-mandated program that provides free specialist services to any child who falls below the 30th percentile in an area of development. Evaluation is paid for by insurance and completely free to end users. To qualify for services a child has to be significantly delayed in one specific area, either gross motor, fine motor, communication, or social. You can't have a child who's a little bit of a loser across the board... I mean you can but you won't get help for it.

The baby evaluation team came out to my house yesterday - a nurse, a nutritionist and an OT. They asked me a lot of questions and ran Elijah through a series of tests, all while filling in the little circles in a standardized test workbook. "SI A is a 2" the nutritionist would say to the nurse taking notes, and I would think to myself "Two is good? Which is to say, it's bad?"

At the end of an hour they tallied up all Elijah's scores. Vindication, he IS about a month behind in his fine motor development. His ability to grasp a toy and vaguely put it to his mouth (but not reach for a rasin or transfer one hand to the other) puts him squarely at a 5-month level. This is not enough to qualify him for services, however. He's in 35th percentile for fine motor which just isn't bad enough.

"But he did qualify for services," the nurse told me, "just not in any area you were worried about. He qualified for his communication."

Oh. Apparently my child is supposed to be making sounds or something.

Maybe I never noticed before because there's so much other noise in the house, but he's supposed to be linking consonants and vowels in a stream of babbel. Or at least copying the noises I make when I repeat his sounds back to him. He doesn't do any of that yet. Instead he's just smiles back happily, glad for the attention.

I never noticed it before; to me he communicates just fine. He silently whispers, "I'm the baby; love me." And I comply. What else is there to know?

The good news is that qualifying for Early Intervention in this area gives him access to all services for all the areas where he's behind. This means he'll get help for sitting and for playing, as well as the areas I was neglecting. Even though I feel like a bit of a boob, I'd call that a win all around.

Having three children is harder than having two, to say something stunningly obvious. I hate to admit that each of my children get less of me, because that's an argument against my decision making and religious family planning and everything else. But practically, it's true; each of my children gets a little less Mama because there are two others vying for my attention. I don't know what this means for the future. For the time being I'm just grateful for a little bit of extra help.


growing up, all of them

After months of productive prep-work and couter-productive passive agression, Zion finally decided he was ready to use the potty this week. Or more to the point, he was ready to reap the heaping pile of rewards we had layered one atop the other if he'd just pee, nay just sit, nay just TRY to go near the potty. Here he is yesterday sitting beneath his sticker chart (which earns him a visit to Chuck E Cheese), eating M&Ms (which he got just for sitting down), doing the deed that's about to earn him a "Jake and the Neverland Pirates Musical Bucky Pirate Ship," a plastic abomination that he saw at Target while we were shopping for camping gear and that I promised him could be his if he would just pee in the potty. I've promised him a lot of prizes over the past three months, but the pirate ship was the one his little brain held onto, the one that finally got him to say "I want to pee in the potty and then you order my pirate ship." Mama's no-disney, no-tv-tie-in, no-plastic-toys rules be damned.


Unfortunately, I now learn that the item in question is no longer sold at Target. I am waiting to see if I win an ebay auction for a used one before I fork over thirty five bucks for it new on Amazon. He's pooped in the potty three times so far, but still that's a rather steep cost per turd.

This great leap forward comes at a time when all my children seem to ge growing in bravery. Harvey tried a bike without training wheels for the second time today. He also let me cut his hair with the electric clippers for the first time. (The key was to pretend he was TinTin and I was a foreign barber, and say "Mr. TinTin" in a funny accent) Now his haircuts take half as long and he looks like a real big boy.

our first ride together with this setup. You can't see his haircut in this picture, but oh my word does he look grown up.

Elijah grows bigger every day. At nearly 6 months he's fitting into 12-month onesies. Until August he was way ahead in gross motor skills, even starting to inch forward on his stomach, but a month of near-constant illness set him back. Still, he did have one major change in the past month - he's able to prop himself up in the exercauser for a few minutes at a time. Since he can't hold himself up sitting yet, it's super fun to watch him lean forward in the saucer and play with some toys.

outside having fun

He reminds me of Zion who loooooved that thing.

Zion in his Exersaucer holding a spoon


And here's Harvey who never had an exercauser, but had to make do with a bjorn baby sitter and ikea play gym in front of it. With a constant input of personal attention, somehow he managed.

it's winter now; we have to wear hats even indoors

it's winter now; we have to wear hats even indoors

Dragging up these old images makes me reflect on my babies and how they just keep getting bigger. I don't want to say "They grow up so fast," I don't even believe that. Between those baby pictures and the current ones I remember A LOT of days I wished could have passed by quicker. No, it's that I look at Harvey and Zion in those pictures and I think, "I hardly knew you then!" I see the wry smile in Zion, the wild eyes in Harvey, and I think, "That was you, but not all the way you. I had no idea." Then I look at Elijah and I think: "Who are you, little man?"

But maybe that's unfair. Right now Elijah is a baby and I love baby him 100%. I love Zion 100% as a 3-year-old and Harvey 100% as a 5-year old even though I'm sure they'll change many times before they leave my care. Each of them holds a future that's full of surprises. Some surprises will amaze me and make me exclaim "I hardly knew!" Some may be plastic and even, gulp, Disney themed. I can only pray that I'll keep pace with the changes, to trust the process, and to trust my kids enough next time that I buy the stupid toy when it's actually on sale.


everything up to this moment

It's been a very busy summer and I find that I don't have as much time for recording our experiences as I'd like. Rather than make myself frantic trying to 'keep up' with duplicating our lives on this blog, I've decided to post some pictures I want to remember. These are things which might have become blog posts on their own if I hadn't spent so much time playing or cleaning or sleeping. Imagine the blog post yourself. Something something, self deprecating joke, something something deep ending. You get the idea.

sing out boys!

Harvey and Zion got ukuleles for Harvey's birthday. I got these red and blue models from The Land of Nod and they are awesome, notably because they tune via a detached key which means the boys can't detune them every second.

Speaking of the Land of Nod, here's a joke from the other day. I got a coupon in the mail from said establishment and I exclaimed, "Hey! 15% off the Land of Nod!" Dan looked at me wide-eyed and asked incredulously, "The whole land?"


Harvey got a golden shirt from my grandmother, and he calls it his armor. Grandma is always trying to find presents to give the boys, despite not having access to cash or being able to get around very well. She lives in a nursing home nearby and we have been visiting her once a week since her health went into decline. It can be intense balancing the physical and emotional needs of my grandmother vs those of my children when we visit. On the plus side the nursing home cafe has very cheap hot dogs.

view from the loo

This is what it looks like when I sit on the toilet with the door open. I have three kids now and my living room is intense.

working with a limited scope of colors

The kids painted a canvas for my mother's 60th birthday, under my art direction. The trick to painting with kids, if it's something you want to turn out a certain way, is to start drinking 30 minutes before you set out the materials. I didn't do that, so the project was very stressful for me, especially the hand print part. This was the final product:

there should be an app to do this

The hurricaine took down a tree in our back yard and it fell on our rapsberry pushes. Luckily nothing else was damaged. Harvey helped get the wreckage cleared.

he's getting to be a big help

Harvey also climbed on all the branches and a stick we set up as a makeshift climbing structure. He's getting very brave.

hang in there

Zion put his belly on a skateboard and pretended he was swimming in the street. That boy has some problem solving abilities.

zion on his belly on a skateboard in the street

dis bein da water

Harvey frequently asks to hold Elijah. I think they have a similar look about them.

biggest and littlest

Even though it's 90 degrees, Harvey still dons his king costume frequently. The other day he was entertaining the baby and said, "Elijah likes being with the king!"

king and subject

Elijah is the baby of the world.

elijah and balloon

And now I think we're up to date.


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.


imaginative play

Zion in his snow gear in the living room

no, it's still not winter

I think today was the hottest day of the year so far, which may or may not be related to the boys' decision to play snow exploration late this afternoon. It was probably 80°F or so in the house; the snow gear didn't stay on very long, but I was still impressed. I just wish I'd gotten a picture of the two of them together!

birthday long weekend

the desert spread, including a chocolate cake with a Z on it

ready for many sweet teeth

As Leah reported, we had a birthday party for Zion on Saturday. Also as Leah reported he wanted a chocolate cake, so I made him the same one Harvey had for his third birthday. It was well-received, as was the rest of the wonderful spread of food we laid out (thanks in large part to grandmas and other guests!).

Zion sitting at the little picnic table smiling at the camera


The weather was fine, and most of us denied all evidence of rain and spent most of the time outside. Grandpa got a nice chunk of LyeLye time.

Grandpa David with Elijah on his lap


When Zion got bored of playing he called for the opening of presents; while he would have been happy after the first gift, his friends made sure he got everything opened.

Zion and friends going at the presents

he had plenty of help

A new bike—and one for Harvey too—were among the loot, so the party headed outside to try them out.

Zion, Harvey, and friends headed down the road on bikes

biker gang

Eventually people had to leave, which was sad, but thanks to their late arrival Uncle Jake and Charlotte helped stretch the party out to almost seven hours, which I suppose is pretty respectable. Zion was asleep for the last chunk of that; though that was fine because he needed to recover to be ready for the rest of his birthday long weekend: supper and cupcakes and Grandma and Grandpa's Sunday evening and the zoo and ice cream on Monday. It's good to be three.


Zion is Three!

Zion turned three years old over the weekend. Whenever we asked him what he wanted for his birthday he said "CHOCOLATE!" So of course there was chocolate involved. But truth be told, food is not really this child's love language. What he wants most in the world is to have the undivided attention of one of his favorite people. Look him in the eye while he flops around and tells jokes. If not, he'll be happy to start hitting people and wrecking stuff until you get with the program. So for his birthday weekend I tried to spend as much time focusing on him as I could possibly stand. Which, you know, is both wonderful and harrowing. He's three, after all.

he didn't like the way happy birthday was written on the chalk board so he wiped it out. different drummer.

I like to give my children a special birthday outing for which they each get to pick a destination. Zion chose the zoo. Specifically the zoo with "the thing goes around and around."

weee times three

That's Harvey, Zion and their best friend Ollie. We met the whole Stevens family at the Franklin Park Zoo, so Zion could have more special people to look at him while he tells jokes. That's totally the reason, and not because they have a zoo membership that gets two of us in for free.

what life would be like if I lived on a farm with six kids... loud

Though my children often talk excitedly about the carousel, they have yet to brave sitting on an actual moving animal. Still, there was progress yesterday. This was the first year I didn't have to sit on the bench holding them, so I got to ride on a horsey myself. Elijah came with me because, you know, he doesn't have a choice.

baby Elijah is brave with me.

As for the non-human animals, my favorite exhibit was the prairie dogs. We sat for a long time watching them pop in and out of their tunnels.

blond and blonder, transfixed

Zion said his favorite animal was the lion, but I didn't get any pictures of that because I was nursing. And, you know, because you can google a lion if you want to see what it looks like. I only make sure to document really important things. Like birthday ice cream.


Happy birthday to the funniest, best looking, most annoyingly tactile three-year-old I know. I look forward to loving you at three and beyond.


my children right now

Harvey has always been a sweet sweet child, but these days he has moments of being so endearingly sweet with the baby that I suddenly feel the wind knocked out of me. It's like a surprise jump attack at my heart.

Yesterday morning Harvey came into my bed and snuggled up close to Elijah. Elijah was sleeping, and Harvey was content to hold his little hand and lie with his face milimeters away from the baby's fat cheeks, staring into his sleeping eyes. Twenty minutes later I got up to make some coffee and I asked Harvey if he wanted to come downstairs. He said he wanted to stay in bed with Elijah. "I'm very tired," he said.

A child who knows what his body needs, plus loves to quietly snuggle a baby? I could not tell you how to make that happen on purpose.

Later at bedtime I put Elijah down on Harvey's bed so I could use the bathroom. "I wish I could cuddle with the baby," Harvey said to Dan.
"He's very delicate," Dan answered. "You have to be careful not to squish him."
"You just put him up here by my head," Harvey said. "And I'll lie with him close to me."

So while I made the bed and folded diapers in the next room, Elijah fell asleep next to Harvey listening to TinTin. Compounding the sweetness of my almost-five-year-old, it seems we finally have a baby who goes to sleep when you put him on his back. Again, I could not tell you how to make that happen on purpose.

Harvey has always been a socially sensitive child, which is both good and bad. It's like he's on the exact opposite end of the spectrum from autistic. He is so aware of what a social situation demands that it sometimes overwhelms him, especially if he thinks people are demanding certain behavior from him. But once he feels he's mastered the demanded behavior, he is ALL ABOUT IT. Whereas kid's church used to be a fearful emotional nightmare, now Harvey comes home and tells how HE KNEW the right thing to do, but OTHER KIDS wouldn't sit in the circle. Similarly, he shows such exuberance for dressing for an occasion, not just church but painting, bike-riding, running and swimming, that I feel it is my special gift to help him pick clothes in the morning. I like to think he gets it from me, his love of socially appropriate attire, but Dan has a keen eye for fashion himself and will complain right along side me that women have lost all sense of what to wear to a wedding. Seriously, how hard is it to find something, anything, that's not black or white? And for the love of God, tits or ass but not BOTH. Oh Harvey, my love, I guess we're all going to have to work on our judgement issues together.

Beyond these details of social training, Harvey has a deep kindness that is beautiful to watch. Sometimes I worry about his level of influence on this brothers, especially when he's whining and Zion immediately picks it up. But really I know that everything will be fine, that his brothers will be happy and cared for, because Harvey loves them in a very real way that is beyond anything I can discipline or manufacture.

Harvey and Zion holding hands while running away from me

Zion is a different person from Harvey. He never wants to change his clothes unless they are soaking wet, and even then it's under protest. He loves his Mama, idolizes his big brother, and harbors some combination of those two feelings for his father, depending on how funny Dan is being at that moment and who else is hanging around. What I appreciate most about Zion's personality is his keen sense of humor. That kid is funny. At barely three he has more of a sense of timing and an innate understanding of what makes a joke than most grownups. Whereas Harvey skates by on repeating things he's heard (prefaced by emotionally screaming "LISTEN TO MY JOKE! LISTEN TO MY JOKE!") Zion notices opportunities for humor and tries things out that are original and hilarious. I mentioned a while ago one of the bath-time gems when he was just two: "I'm cleaning my penis - hey, CLEANIS!" He's always looking for an opportunity to slip in a laugh line, and he's mastered our favorite family running-gag "What's blank to you?" (As in: The snew lay on the ground - What's snew? Nothing, what's snew with you?) So if he's hands me pretend food he'll say, "It's bubba."
"What's bubba?" I ask.
Then Zion's eyes get very wide as he says triumphantly, "What's bubba TO YOU????"

Zion is also rather straight-forward with his emotions, which is good and bad. While Harvey's sensitivity seems to leave him open for wounding, Zion will just get mad and hit me. A lot. He really hits me a lot. He'll also break things and shake Elijah's seat, so he needs a good bit of monitoring when he's upset. But then again he's over it quickly, especially if you make him laugh. Having two children makes me appreciate the contrast.

can't catch me!

I have a third boy now and I am so curious about who he'll turn out to be. Right now he is a baby like any other, though I think back to Harvey and Zion's babyhood and I can trace essential elements of their personalities to the way they slept or resisted sleeping. Elijah seems to sleep well unattended, which makes me wonder if he's going to be a quiet observer, looking out at the world and taking everything in for a later date. A philosopher child would go good with the set, but thankfully it's not up to me. All my children surprise me, thrill me, and tax me. If it weren't so then the surprises thrills and taxations wouldn't be as vibrant.

Meanwhile, Elijah just started vocalizing last weekend. Now after nursing he'll look into my eyes and say "Agleh" while his face morphs into a huge heart-shaped smile.

worth all the work

In these moments I think, that just like the older two, this child is made out of goodness. My children, they're all 100% LOVE.


family changes

Besides having a new baby around here, we've been seeing some other changes—changes more or less related to the presence of another small person. Most obviously related, Rascal is getting fed up with sleeping in our bed. You wouldn't think he'd have any room to complain, after getting in our way for the past eight years, but after sticking with it for two babies he's decided that enough is enough. He's wisely realized that Harvey's bed sees the least disturbance over the average night, so over the past week that mostly where he's been hanging out.

Rascal sleeping in Harvey's bed, in Harvey's messy room

peace and quiet

He doesn't want to sleep alone, of course, which also kept him from moving out earlier. But now there's always somebody in the other room, if only because we can't all fit in one queen-sized bed, so if there's too much commotion in the parents' room he's quick to decamp.

It may be, too, that he's developing more of an attachment to Harvey, which would be only right. Harvey's been helping feed him for some time (as has Zion), and our biggest boy can also put in a respectable effort at a game of tug (though Rascal does know to go easy on him). Harvey is even doing a fine job of holding the leash on walks.

Which points to another change we've noticed: Harvey's walking endurance is increasing by leaps and bounds. One of my physical education goals for his kindergarten year next year was to be able to walk a mile without complaining, but he's easily got that beat now. Yesterday we went up to the library and back and, though we had the double stroller along (with new tires—thanks, Jim!) he didn't even ask to go in it (it served very well to carry his new PowPow car seat, an upcycled clementine box). He kept up well, too, running every third step or so; in fact the only time I had to wait for him was when he stopped to pay more attention to his talking. I almost wrote "stopped to talk", but that would be misleading, since he was actually talking almost the entire time—which makes his demonstration of cardiovascular fitness all the more impressive!

Not that he talks all the time all the time: just when he's not doing anything else intellectually engaging. He's "reading" a lot more now, and really reading too in small doses. Grandma gave him a Tintin book for Christmas, remembering how much I enjoyed the series as a developing reader, and just like I did he's spending hours looking at the books by himself and sounding out the action words—"bang", "splosh", and such like. I can't help but notice that he's two years ahead of my own reading pace at this point.

Zion is doing some talking too. We never thought he was particularly reticent: if you want to be noticed in this family I guess you need to keep the words coming. But his vocabulary is widening dramatically, and he's also more confident socially with his speech. We might not have remarked on the changes, since they're gradual rather than sudden, but on three or four occasions friends have remarked about how much more verbal he's seemed to them. He's even starting to drop some of his idiosyncratic consonant replacements: I think I heard him say "see" this afternoon!

And of course, Elijah is changing all the time! After being very easy for his first two-three weeks he's had a fussy few days, so we're a little worn out; but we know that with him—with all our guys!—the transitions just keep on coming.


toddler etymologies

Harvey and Zion—especially Zion—are in love with explaining compound words and two-word phrases. It started with pancakes: Zion asked one day a couple months ago, "Why they called pancakes?", and I told him it was because they're like cakes and they're cooked in a pan. He continues to delight in the knowledge, and every Saturday I get to hear that "They called pancakes cause they cakes, an they in a pan!!"—only text can't convey the glee with which he pronounces those words.

But he doesn't limit himself to repeating explanations that I told him. He took the pattern and ran with it: "Iss called dog food cause iss food, an iss for a dog!"; "they called rain boots cause they boots, an you wear them in the rain!"; and so on and so forth. It's pretty charming.

You see I make some attempt to reproduce Zion's speech in "eye dialect" form, but I could go still further: for example, he doesn't really pronounce /th/ so "them" is really more like /dem/. Which leads to another amusing point of Zion language that I noticed the other day: the fact that he's mis-analyzed "dessert" as "the zert", and so says things like "after my carrots can I have some zert?"

All this goes to show how much hard serious work is going on in his toddler brain all the time as he tries to figure out this crazy language of ours. Tries, and does: folks have been remarking lately on how much more he's talking, and we've noticed it too. He's more confident with language in the last couple months, both in the range and variety of his sentences and the range and variety of other people he's willing to talk to. Language learning is working! And if he's still working hard, just imagine how much processing is going on in Elijah's brain right now... no wonder he sleeps so much!


family resemblance?

I have been blessed three times now with beautiful baby boys. Do they look like each other? Here they all are at all under 2 weeks old:

harvey at 8 days old

Zion at 10 days old

Elijah at 9 days old

If they're all going to be so darn cute we may have to go ahead and have a couple more.


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.


happy valentine's day

Last night Dan and I had our annual pre-Valentines Day talk.

"Sooooo, we're not like giving each other cards or anything tomorrow, right?" I asked.

"I made you that cardboard heart when I was painting with the kids," Dan said.

"And I made a card the other day," I said "but I didn't write anything in it. How about I just give you a blank card. It'll be wide open to represent our future together."

In the night Harvey had a major tantrum and Dan did an hour and a half of discipline before I took over for an hour. When Dan briefed me for the trade-off I felt my heart swell with middle-of-the-night admiration for this man. There is nothing in the world that makes me love my husband more than caring for our children together. Especially when it involves middle-of-the-night limit setting.

Later today I saw our neighbor walking from his car with a dozen long-stemmed roses. I squealed and pointed it out so the kids could look outside and see the prettiness. Then I said, "You know? If I ever get flowers I immediately wonder how much they cost."

"And I worry about the environmental impact," Dan said.

So we're not terribly romantic, but it's comforting to know that at least we're on the same page.

Though no cards or presents were exchanged, today was a perfectly lovely Valentine's day. Dan watched the kids while I snowshoed with the dog for an hour, and I took them to the sports complex while Dan bought seeds. In the evening we ate leftover soup with some fresh bread Dan baked, and I entertained the kids with "the basket show." If you don't have the basket show in your house, it's where Harvey and Zion watch me make a basket and ask questions through the personalities of their dolls. It turns out kids will be really cute if you deprive them of cartoons for an extended period of time.

On the way to the sports complex Harvey explained to me, "Valentine's Day celebrates love." If that is the case then I had most appropriate Valentine's day ever. I love my boys so much it's crazy talk.

Harvey and Zion in the kids church classroom wearing matching outfits, ties, and seed pearl necklaces

our stylish boys

Two out of three of my favorite people in the world. Happy Valentine's Day my loves. You guys are the most special best.


stuff i made: hats and sentences

Today I have a guest post on the new blog Composting Faith. I write about making soap. Mostly it's me complaining about how much of pain in the ass it is to make soap. But then I try to turn it around and say something deep and spiritual at the end . So pretty much my normal schtick. Go and read it if you like, and check out better articles while you're there.

That reminds me I have to make soap again before this baby is born. Ugh.

Meanwhile, here's something I made which wasn't a total pain in the ass. In fact, I knit it in under a week, mostly during two trips to the Discovery Museum. I wrote about Harvey's bear hat here. Zion has been asking for a bear hat of his own, so I thought I'd whip one up for him before the baby comes and the winter ends. I had the yarn scraps on hand already, which helped get me over the hump of not wanting three wollen hats per child in an already crowded closet.

Zion is happy to match his big brother

Getting dressed for the outdoors is a big production in my house these days. I thought having multiple hats and pairs of mittens would make life easier. Instead, the raft of choices is near paralyzing for my toddler, a toddler who looks up to his big brother as if he's a combination of Michael Jordan and Clinton Kelly from What Not to Wear.

Dressing goes something like this these days:

Me: "Do you want to wear your Christmas hat?"
Zion: "Harvey wear his Christmas hat?"
Me: "Yes, Harvey is wearing his Christmas hat."
Zion: "I wear MY Christmas hat!"
Me: "Great! Here are your snow mittens."
Zion: "Harvey wear his snow mittens?"
Me: "Yes, Harvey is wearing his snow mittens."
Zion: "I wear my snow mittens."
Me: "Okay, just the coat and we're ready go."
Zion: "Harvey wear his red coat?"
Me: "Yes, Harvey is wearing his red coat."
Zion: "I want a red coat!!!"
Me: "Well, your warm coat is blue. It's the same as Harvey's, but his is red and yours is blue."
Me: "I know, but when grandma bought you the coat your favorite color was blue..."
Zion: "I like red AND blue!"
Me: "Okay, so next time you get a coat you can choose, but right now your coat is blue..."

Etc. Etc. until one of us gives up. This is why I have photos of my toddler eating snow in his cotton undershirt like a catalogue model for casual winter attire.

pride over warmth

I don't know when Zion switched from wanting everything blue to wanting everything the same as Harvey. I don't think I should humor the impulse (I'm certainly not buying new winter coats) but I don't know what we'll do come spring when we need to buy new clothes. All in all, I fear the days of easy red/blue sorting may be coming to an end.

Though who knows - he may be just looking for things to fight about. Today he stomped and screamed for 20 minutes because I wouldn't pour water on his socks before putting them on his feet. (Originally he wanted his wet socks back on, so pouring water on his clean pair of socks was actually a concession, one he was greatly surprised I did not accept.)

Despite these normal frustrations that come with parenting a toddler, I am happy to knit hats on demand and I am so very grateful for Zion's love for Harvey. It makes life pleasant having a house with so much love in it. Plus I can't think of a 4-year-old who's more caring or considerate or deserving of admiration.

I want to be like you


so much

While we were driving home from a party this evening, Harvey asked me if I would read to him in bed even though it was late and he was tired.

"Yes, I'll be happy to read to you," I said, "because I love you."

I didn't say what would be more accurate, something like, 'Yes I'll be happy to read to you because you just ignored me for three hours while you played with your friends, and I have a lot of good will stored up from not interacting with you. Also I believe you'll be asleep before this ride is over.' Good thing I held my tongue too, because the next thing Harvey said was so sweet it literally made my heart leap in my chest:

"I love you so much it reaches heaven."

That boy. Knows how to charm a chapter of Prince Caspian out of a lady.

These days I have been noticing the love that my children give me, noticing how much I love them, and savoring the easiness of our life right now while it includes time for one-on-one doting with each of them. Perhaps I only notice this against the back-drop of terror over the upheaval that will soon come into our lives. I don't know for sure that a new baby will be bad for our family (that's optimism!) only that it'll be different. So for now I'm trying to soak up all the long cuddles and quiet times with my children as long as I can.

What Harvey says with words, Zion says by crawling into my lap and resting his head on my neck, his sweet little thumb in his mouth. To say I love those two boys does not say nearly enough. I love them so much it reaches heaven.


baby practice

Zion knows he's going to have some younger competition soon, and it may be that he remembers—from his own experience on the giving end!—how hard it can be on parents having a newborn around. Lately he's certainly being very considerate in offering us some chances to work up our game, at least as far as the being-up-all-night-holding-a-screaming-child aspect of the affair is concerned.

He's always been very different than Harvey when it comes to sleeping. Harvey is tough to get to sleep but then he's pretty much set for a long stretch; Zion drifts off quite easily (even during his bedtime story!) but then is a light and restless sleeper. And of course, when he wakes he wants company and help getting back to sleep (as has Harvey for most of his life, though we're really cracking down now). Leah tends to provide that service, mostly because Zion doesn't like me all that much so I am never what he's looking for when he has comforting in mind. Sometimes, though, the whole affair gets too aggravating even for her patience—what with the deliberate grabbing that forms part of how he cuddles with his mama and the accidental kicks as he drifts off to sleep—and I get to take a hand. Like last night.

One difference between Zion and a newborn, of course, is that he's pretty verbal. "No Dada, I want to sleep in my bed, with Mama!" Also his violence is more focused and directed: after flailing for a couple minutes yelling "let go of me!!" he switched his tactic to hitting me in the face. I gave him a halfhearted spank after the first couple blows, but that didn't actually seem like the direction I wanted to go in: things were already plenty escalated, and I just wanted to get back to sleep. So I let him satisfy himself by bopping me a few more times, at which point he succumbed to the inevitable and let me cuddle him until he drifted off.

So maybe it's not that much like a newborn: the really little guys can't reach your face to slap you, but on the other hand they have no idea of what might or might not be inevitable. But whether you're dealing with a one-month-old or a two-and-a-half year old, there's still that same wonderful moment when they finally start to settle down and you shift all at once from being mostly just annoyed (if not downright furious) to feeling like a loving parent—and receiving love from the deal as well as just giving it. That, and the being up at all hours of the night. That's the same too.


more about the king costumes

At the beginning of October I asked my kids a question that used to be a favorite from my own childhood: "What do you want to be for Halloween?"

Harvey said, "A king!"

Zion said, "A pirate!"

"No, you were a pirate last year," I said. "What NEW costume do you want me to make you for Halloween?"

"A pirate."

"Nevermind," I said, "I'll make you a king costume and you can wear it if you want to. Or you can wear last year's pirate costume if you'd rather do that."

We looked at portraits of English kings online to see what they looked like. We decided to make capes, crowns, pantaloons and vests. Harvey's would be red of course, and Zion's would be blue because those are their favorite colors. Which you know, obviously, if you've been around my kids for longer than five seconds. Favorite colors are a BIG DEAL in our house.

While I was planning our trip to the fabric store Dan took me aside. "Does Zion's pirate costume still fit him? Can he wear Harvey's old one? Should you make a new pair of pants?"

"Oh he'll want to wear the king costume," I said. "He just doesn't know it yet."

a kingly bow

The costumes are all fleece (cheap!) except for the trim which is some polyester fur thing I bought very little of because it cost over $10 a yard — thank God I don't make fuzzy stuffed animals for my hobby! The vests and pants are as simply constructed as possible, both from patters that I'd cut before so I didn't need to trace anything new. I embroidered the edges of the vests by hand, and I had wanted to do more hand embroidery as embellishment but Harvey put a stop to that. He wanted the vest to be soft to touch, he said. Mostly he likes to wear things as soon as possible, and as soon as I fitted the vest on him he refused to take it off. "It's done" he told me.

Dan masterminded the design of the capes and of the hat, telling me how much the underside of the cape should curve and where the darts should be. The crowns were a similar collaboration, with Dan dictating the shape of the pieces and handing them off to me to sew. The gold cross pieces are from thick stabilizer that Dan spray-painted gold. I sewed them late on Monday night and I think I'm just now recovering from the fumes.

follow the leader

This is Harvey at 10am on Halloween day, which is the lastest I could hold him off from putting on his costume. I even used the costume as an incentive to get him to submit to a haircut and a bath. Then we put on the whole ensemble, with me saying some things I never thought I'd say to my son like, "Let me cut your toenails before you put on your tights - I wouldn't want them to run."

Zion, for his part, barely submitted to a very quick (moving target) haircut. And though he likes taking a bath, he did not want to put on his costume following it. He wanted "regular clothes" he said, which you can see from the photo above include his green cape. This should not be confused with a costume. His green cape is his normal street attire that he wears each time he leaves the house.

At 4pm Zion still didn't want to put on his costume, but Grandma showed up with candy that proved to be an incentive. There was some negotiation over the cape. He wanted to wear his regular cape and I wanted him to wear his king cape and in the end he wore both, one over the other. As we stepped outside after a 15 minute dressing session, Dan said to me, "You know, this is the last year you make them dress the same. Next year they can wear whatever they want."

Fine, I thought. As long as I get to force them into matching Christmas sweaters one more time.

Zion was initially unhappy but still photo obedient

Then Grandma gave each of them a full-size bag of M&Ms and Zion started warming up to this Halloween thing.

are you serious?

Though he really enjoyed the M&Ms, Zion was fading through dinner and by the time we got out trick-or-treating we said we'd only hit three houses and then go to bed. Dan decided to take the kids out while I stayed home wrap up and hand out homemade Halloween cookies. Well, I quickly wrapped the cookies and sat down to wait for my family's return, but three houses turned into an hour-long excursion. When they got back Zion was bubbling! He showed me a lolly pop which was BLUE! HIS FAVORITE COLOR! Could I open it for him please?

Dan said, "We tried to be quick but one of them kept wanting to go to more houses."

"Harvey?" I asked.

"No, Zion! He kept saying, 'One more house? Two more houses? All-the-all-the houses have candy?"

It was nice to see him finally enjoying himself, even if the stimulus was a poisonous looking amount of sugar. But the first thing he did after showing me his blue lolly was hand me a big peanut butter cup and say, "This one for Mama."

I looked up at Dan. "Did Dada tell you to give that to me?"

No, both of them shook their heads. He thought of it on his own.

One of my kids can't wait to jump into his handmade costume, the other one picks out the best candy for me. Honestly, I don't know how I lucked out with these boys.

So that was Halloween here. Meanwhile I ate way too many cookies while waiting for my family to get back, and then following that a peanut butter cup. Now I'm wondering whether I can plan three meals tomorrow made up entirely of carrots.

Until next year!


multipurpose sound

I mentioned earlier that Zion says his "s"s as /w/. That remains the case in almost every instance. But really it's not just "s" that gets the /w/ treatment: he uses /w/ for lots of sounds, including "sh", "r", and "f". Thus in Zion language "I saw that fox and that rabbit" becomes "I waw dat wox an dat wabbit." "Shoes" are "woos". "Finger" is "wingew". It's a wonder we can understand him at all! But we're kind of used to it by now.

And of course I should have written the title of this post as "muhtipuhpus wownd". I don't know if that would have been clear, though.

Addendum, Oct. 25: Without making a whole new post I wanted to describe a little bit more of Zion language. When "l" appears at the end of the word he makes it into almost a /d/ sound, and also changes the vowel value preceding it a little bit to compensate; thus "bowl" comes out as something like "bood". I was noticing this evening that on words like "full" he manages to replace every single normal English sound with pure Zionese, so it sounds like "woohd" (I add the "h" to make sure you know that the "oo" is long like in "spoon", and not just "wood"... stupid English orthography).


Harvey's Waldorf Doll

Not to be out-toyed by Zion, Harvey demanded his own Waldorf doll, this one with RED eyes and RED AND GRAY hair, but with the same white dress as Zion's. "No, actually," he said, making the clothing request more specific, "I want mine to have TWO buttons."

now with two buttons!

There are no pristine craft blog shots of this one; this picture was taken after Harvey dropped the doll in the dirt. It's a tough life for dolls in this family.

help me up!

Harvey asked for this doll to be a playmate to PowPow, though for now the dolls are not doing so much playing with each other. Instead each is being lovingly cared for by Harvey, and when he remembers he asks me to watch them when he leaves the room. He insisted that he take them BOTH to bed with him last night, and then in the middle of the night he called me to his room because he woke up and couldn't find either. I found the Waldorf doll right next to him, ("find" is a relative term with Harvey) but PowPow was lost in the bedclothes. I had to wake up Dan to ask him if PowPow had been in the bed when Harvey fell asleep.

So yes, both parents and a child were awake in the night over the whereabouts of a 7-inch doll. I now have some doubts as to whether bringing MORE cloth babies into this family was a wise idea, but oh well.

Even if I now have to monitor FOUR special toys on all our outings, seeing the kids interact with their dolls is certainly worth it. Harvey insisted on taking both dolls on the spooky hayride today. Zion gave me his toys to hold after just a few minutes at the farm (and I admit to a certain sigh of relief when the toddler's dolls are safely in my bag). But Harvey carried his babies the whole time and arranged them carefully on his lap so they could enjoy the ride.

baby doll love

That boy. He is love. Makes a mama want to sew stuff.

Oh, and Harvey hasn't completely decided on a name for the new doll yet. Zion calls his, "My baby doll" or "My Wadoff doll," but Harvey says he's thinking of a name. Then on the hayride he got very serious and announced he might reveal the name now. "I'm thinking about..." he said with a dramatic pause, "PowPow Two."


no shirt, no service?

This morning as we dressed for church Zion took a stand and refused to wear a shirt. Not just refused until he sensed we were really serious about leaving and then acquiesced. Flat out refused. "I bring it with me," he said. As if wearing a shirt to church is totally optional. As if wearing a shirt on a chilly morning in October is totally optional.

He put on his shoes and his winter hat. But the shirt? I had to but touch him with it to see him scream and flail.

Well, why should he just accept my silly rules, anyway? I reasoned. I'll let his own experience of the temperature be his guide. After all, it's an important life skill, dressing yourself to keep warm. Many women I know still refuse the obligation. So I thought to myself (oh so smugly, I might add) I'll just let him walk outside and he'll quickly say he's cold. The shirt will be the natural solution. End of fighting.

He went through the door and down the front steps. He crossed his arms in front of his chest. I asked if he wanted a shirt now.

"I bring it with me," he said, and climbed into the car.

The cold seatbelt bothered him, but when I offered up the shirt again he reposted with my own common platitude: "I warm up when we get moving." We drove to church without a mention of the temperature. At church the walk from the car to the door was even longer than that at our house. Still, he refused the shirt I held in my hand. He proudly strode up the steps to church in his sneakers, his jeans, his bare chest and his winter woolen hat. Several people passed by and said "That's a look."

"In the battle of wills," I replied, "I seemed to have misjudged my opponent."

Inside the church I realized I had lost all my bargaining power. Zion has no social shame about attending a religious service half naked, but I have plenty of it. Seeing that I'd been beat, I offered him a choice between his two back-up t-shirts. He readily chose the green short-sleeve version and happily offered his arms through the holes. Perhaps, in the end, this was really a fight over collar and buttons.

I have often heard people use the word "terrorist" to describe a two-year-old, and I have to admit there is some fairness in that comparison. They do a poor job of articulating what they want. They will blow up a situation they like just to show you how MAD they are about something else. They don't respond to reason or logic, so forget your fair arguments or accurate descriptions of reality. These well measured words land about as poorly as a naked sauna joke in a room full of evangelical Christians.

Sigh. Still and all, I have to respect his fighting spirit. At HONK today (the activist marching band festival) there were plenty of scantily clad anarchists raging against the machine. When I put it in this context, his rebellion seems so much cuter. Maybe next week, instead of demanding a collared shirt, I'll offer him a tiny denim vest decorated with sharpie and a tiny home-made button that says "Free Tibet."

Zion on cambridge playground

Zion steers his own ship


affirmative variation

Zion in the darkish bedroom looking at the camera

as he is now

For quite a while after he started talking, Zion didn't say "yes". Not that he only said no to everything, but when he wanted to express his assent he'd invariably use "ah" instead. Or maybe I should render in "ahn"; it's pretty nasal, like the first syllable of "uh-huh". We got used to it pretty quickly; the only problem was how hard it proved to be to distinguish a teary overwhelmed "ah" from any of the other "ahhhh"s involved in his expressions of violent unhappiness. But he cries less now than he once did (and isn't very good at faking it yet), and also has improved in his diction. For a few days his affirmative of chose was "wah", but he's been working on his consonants and now can produce a very convincing "yeah". It's a big milestone!

Speaking of consonants, I seem never to have mentioned in these pages how he tends to pronounce "s" as /w/. When it's in a cluster he leaves it out altogether, of course, so "stop" sounds like /top/ and "spit" like /pit/, but in isolation it comes out entirely w-like. "Wofa" and "wailboat" and, my personal favorite, "woop!" for soup. But even that will soon be a thing of the past; today, playing with his felt Simon the Zealot toy figure (featured—and explained—in this post), he couldn't remember his "wolder's" name (Simon has a sword and shield). When I reminded him, he said, "yeah, Simon the Wolder." 50% accuracy! (on that one phoneme, that is; I won't vouch for the precise accuracy of his /th/ or /l/).

Also somewhat language related, but on a much higher level, he's finally recognized my existence as a caregiver. The other day he was playing by himself and had some difficulty with a toy. "Dada!" he called. "Mama! Dada or Mama!" Be still, my heart.


"I can't!"

Zion is a very capable child. He can do many things, and he tries gamely to do many things for himself that he can't actually manage. Despite that, one of the phrases we hear most often from him is "I can't!". I wish I had audio to give you the full effect; it's kind of a whine, in that the vowel sound is drawn out, but given the context it's generally not annoying, because mostly it's true. He is very small, after all. It's often rather endearing, actually.

Even better than the plain version are some recent extensions. Food he prefers not to eat? "I can't like it!" Would rather not have sunblock on? "I can't want it!" I'm not sure if he's aware of any semantic distinction between his speech patterns and a more traditional formulation—using "don't", probably—but it does make me wonder if there's any psychological insight to be gained from analysis of his unique syntax.

go big or go home

We haven't said as much as we should have in these pages about Zion's language, which is really coming into its own lately. As is fitting for a small younger brother, one of his most significant concerns is for bigness. Naturally he compares the size of things with words and appropriate intonation—"leetew neigh, BIG BIG neigh!"—but he also uses big to make sure he gets his due. "Me wan BIG coffee!", for example, or "No not littew juice, BIG juice!" (in both cases big refers not to the absolute size of the beverage but the relative concentration of his valued ingredient to the fillers we insist on foisting on him). Or "Moe wibbot! Me wan BIG wibbot!" (and only the close association of that last word with our breakfast of pancakes allows us any chance at understanding it!). Yes, this little boy knows what he deserves, and in almost all cases it's big—unless it's the bottle he's still clinging to: "no, me littew littew bottew!"

words I want to remember

In my mind I think I will remember every adorable thing that my children say, but in real life I can't remember any moment before last week. Dan will say, "Remember when ... something meaningful in our relationship happened?" And I will say, "No, but I remember when was the last time I washed diapers, kids clothes, towels and delicates. The laundry cycles are consuming all of my working memory."

And then I thought: But this is what the blog is for! Recording adorable moments with a date stamp so that years later I can look back and say "Oh how precious the children were! Why weren't you just absolutely orgasming over every single minute of it?" And then I will judge my former self, because I have no compassion for past iterations of me. "What a terrible mother I was, not to slather them with kisses at every single moment," I will say. "It went by too fast!"

Hey Leah of the future: enjoying all your luscious and complete sleep cycles? Bite me!

Here are some cute things my kids said this week:


Me: "Harvey, do you want to move these magnetic letters downstairs to the refrigerator so we can spell more words?"

Harvey: "Yeah, let's do that but not now. Let's do that the next day. Life is never ending!"

(I don't know where he heard this 'life is never ending' thing, probably something I said when I was complaining about the chores.)


Me: "Oh, sounds like Zion is waking up."

Harvey (climbing up the stairs): "I'm coming sweetie! I'm coming baby!"

Zion (shouting from the bed): "Noooo! Me todder!"


Zion is sitting in the middle of an empty living room whining for something we can not figure out.

Zion: "goosey hemet"

Me: "Goosey Helmet?"

Zion: "uuh." (this means yes.)

Me: "Harvey, do you know what he's saying?"

Harvey: "He's saying goosey helmet."

Me: "That's what I thought he was saying, but that doesn't mean anything."

Zion (more insistantly): "goosie hemet. goosie hemet nock down."

Me: ????

Zion: "My Petuh? My Deedees?"

Me: "Oh! The city of Jerusalem? The city of Jerusalem got knocked down?"

Zion: "uuh."

Me: "And you want me to rebuild it with blocks? So you can play with your Peter and your Jesus?"

Zion: "uuh. Tempoo nock down."

Me: "Oh. Why didn't you say that in the first place!"


birthday baby beds

This is what the children requested for Zion's homemade birthday present. Baby beds. It was a collaborative effort between the in-house seamstress and the in-house woodworker. Which is to say, mama and dada.

tucking in pow pow

The boys both picked out their fabric from the shelf of cotton and I made the simplest pillow/quilt combinations I could come up with. Lines and squares. I don't have a lot of solo sewing time these days, so I'm not really stretching myself creatively. You want a quilt? You can have lines or squares. You can have anything you want, as long as I can do it nearly in my sleep.

well matched for my well matched boys

Dan did some fancy wood-working to produce the beds, which involved the scroll saw I annoyingly gave him for his birthday last year. ("Here's a saw, now make waldorf toys! I can't make them; you make them! happy birthday!")

We finished up the mattresses and mattress-holding-elements just a few hours before Zion's party. Dan didn't want to finish the frame until he saw the stuffed mattress, and I didn't want to make the mattress until I could see the frame. We've been married for seven years now, but one of these days we'll figure out how to work on something together. Then on Saturday afternoon when we were sewing and nailing AND hanging up party decorations I said to Dan, "We can really get stuff done if we leave it to the absolute last minute."

nice and comfy

At any rate, the babies in this house are very well-cared-for. Sleep well sweet PowPows!


more partying

Zion and Harvey relaxing in a shared Adirondack chair

enjoying the day

Today saw day two of the weekend-long celebration of Zion. Since the party was all afternoon a delightfully long portion of it could be spent outside.

Mama, Dada, and Zion posing on the church playground

Harvey was otherwise engaged

Not that there'd be anything wrong with throwing two parties just for the fun of it, but today's festivities were officially in honor of Zion's dedication at church, which conveniently happened to fall on the weekend of his birthday. The brief ceremony went off without a hitch (if you don't count Harvey choosing not to join us on stage) witnessed by all four grandparents. Then it was home for more food, including the rest of the birthday cake.

about a third of yesterday's cake, on a plate on the grass


So fine was the day, we couldn't resist breaking out the sports equipment.

Harvey attempting a badminton serve


Zion is a little too young for racquet games, though, so mostly he just chilled out and watched.

Zion drinking a bottle of juice

he likes his bottle

We started at 1:00 and didn't finish up until it was getting chilly and a little dark outside; our friends and family very nicely staggered their attendance so were were able to hang out with everybody in equal amounts. It was lovely.

And of course, you know it's been a good party when you end up without any pants on!

Zion in shirt, vest, and diaper standing with his bike thingy

the end of a long day of partying


Happy Birthday Zion!

Zion shaking his new maracas

birthday fun

We celebrated Zion's birthday today with the grandparents, and a fine time was had by all. Thanks to the grandmas there was lots of food.

Harvey and Zion enjoying birthday dinner

the groaning board

I contributed the cake, three layers of yellow cake with chocolate frosting.

three layers, chocolate frosting,

tall and rich

Harvey orchestrated much of the present-opening, but he made sure to let Zion play with some of the toys. Grandpa helped.

Zion and Harvey and Grandpa playing with Legos

getting right down to business

More partying will follow tomorrow. I hope you feel celebrated, little 2-year-old!


Zion is two tomorrow

Tomorrow Zion turns two years old. I like to take my kids on special outings for their birthdays, to have some time when I can selfishly enjoy their presence before the insanity of their PARTY commences. Today in honor of Zion's birthday we biked to his favorite place in the whole world. Chip In Farm, of course.

petting the baby goat

Was it less special because it's just down the road and we go there every week? No, that's just the way that Zion is. Every moment with him is a special joy. He delights in the mundane. He loves the chicken chores; he helps me clean up toys. He loves to see the same farm animals over and over again, to pet and pet and pet the baby goats.

(What he wants for his birthday, clearly, is his own set of goats. Oh my poor little Zion. If only I could give you what you wanted.)

harvey points the way to the next animal to pet

This picture is a little dark, but I want to include it because it's the expression see on Zion's face every day. There's this mix of joy, wonder, and excitement that always beams out him. It must be the combination of his sparkling blue eyes, big rosy cheeks, and tiny crescent-shaped mouth. That Zion. To look at him is to see love. Which is how I always describe him in my own mind. Zion is love. To pray for him is to pray God's love for the whole world.

From Zion, perfect in beauty, God shines forth.
-Psalm 50:2

My perfect angel baby boy. Happy birthday ZiZi.

2-year-old superman

(PS: I love Harvey too... he'll get his own special write-up for his birthday next month.)


Some cute things my kids said yesterday

1. Set up: We are reading in the Jesus Storybook Bible the story about Jesus' baptism. Zion starts pointing to the water in the picture and whining.

Zion: Me inna water?
Me: Yeah, soon when it's warm we can go to the pond together and you can go in the water. It'll look just like the water in this book!
Zion: Me inna water DEEDEES?
Me: Oh sweetie, you want to go in the water with Jesus?
Zion: mmmhh. [indicates the affirmative]
Me: Oh baby! I'm so sad our church doesn't offer infant baptism! But when you're older and you want to give your life to Jesus you can get baptized in water like he did.
Harvey (nervous): But I'm not big enough yet.

2. Set up: in the bicycle, passing the neighbor's empty rabbit hutch.

Zion: Bunny? pet?
Me: Sorry Zion, the bunny isn't there anymore. We can't pet him.
Harvey: Derek says the bunny DIED.
Zion: No! Deedees died!
Harvey (laughing): We ALL die.

3. Set up: Apropos of nothing. (And for the record, we are not currently pregnant.)

Harvey: Zion and me are excited to get a new baby.
Me: I'm excited for a new baby too, Harvey, but you know it takes a long time -
Me: Mama and Dada still have to -
Harvey: I KNOW I KNOW I KNOW. You don't have to TELL me.


farm stand again

We started up the farm stand again today. No vegetables yet, naturally, but we're well stocked with eggs and perennial plants. In our first couple minutes of operation we moved a daylily, and since it was only going next door we even provided full planting service as well! Harvey carried the shovel, and Zion brought the empty pot back home, so don't anyone say they were just there to look pretty.

Harvey advocated pretty heavily for cookies at the stand; I think there was a little bit of self-interest at play there. He also took seriously his assignment to tell anyone who came by about the eggs, but I think he was relieved that there weren't any potential customers while I was inside. Zion only dropped one egg carton, and none of the eggs broke completely: they should all be fine for family consumption.

We'll add some more things tomorrow. Maybe even some cookies.


Mipin Mahm

Zion's favorite place in the whole entire universe is Chip-In Farm, a farm stand and petting zoo about a mile down the road from our house. He mentions it at least 50 times a day. If he sees a picture of any farm animal in any book he'll excitedly exclaim, "Goat! Mipin Mahm!" or "Piddy! Mipin Mahm!" or "Reet! Mipin Mahm!" Or sometimes he'll just toddle over to me, stick his face right in my face so he knows I'm hearing him, and whine as plaintively as he can, "Go Mipin Mahm see baby caaaaaaaaalf???"

they have baby goats too!

Zion really loves petting animals, though I'm not sure "love" is the right word. It's more like he has a BURNING PHYSICAL NEED to pet animals, which I notice most acutely when the chickens are out and I have to chase one down and hold it still so Zion can stroke the soft feathers. Then it's like he gets a fix, and he's okay for five minutes or so.

you can pet em if you can reach em

I don't know how much Zion's personality matches mine, if he really shares my preferences or if it just comes from being the baby. But in my heart of hearts I understand his burning need to pet a baby calf. Somedays it's difficult to check off the chicken chores because Zion wants to help so badly (and then it's only difficult to get on his boots and coat... but not for too much longer!) Meanwhile, Harvey only wants to dig in the dirt with Dada, and he's been eyeing some pumplin seeds at the Garden store ever since he found a dollar. Who knows what all this means for the future. For the time being at least, we're spending a lot of time at the farm.

future farmer


you know you've waited too long to wean him when...

Zion wakes me at 5:45am. He doesn't open his eyes but tenses all his muscles and whines as plaintively as possible, "Maaamaaa, nuh-nuh?"

"You're a big boy, Zion" I whisper to him while hugging him close. "You don't need nursing in the morning."

Zion turns his face towards the mattress in utter dejection.

"Maaamaaa," he whines anew, "coffee???"

preternaturally musical

I know blog posts that exist only to brag about one's children are played out, but I can't help but write about Zion's delightful musical talents. Here he is, mostly limiting himself to four- or five-word sentences, and he already can sing (with excuses for pronunciation) all the words of a complicated song like "Row Row Row Your Boat"! He treated us to a delightful rendition in the car the other day; I can't recall precisely, but I'm pretty sure he even put in the correct number of merrilys. A previous highlight, for cuteness if not for strict correctness, was his version of "Apple Pie", a tune sung by the first and second graders at their concert a couple months ago to the tune of "Shoe-fly Pie". I wish we could offer you a recording, but our children are not unlike quantum particles when it comes from the difficulties of observing them without affecting their state; at least a bald text record here of his "appew pie, appew appew pie pie!" will serve to remind us, years later, of how charmingly he presented the tune oh so many times.

Of course, I don't think I can take any credit for his musical talents; not directly, at least. No, the real honors should go to Harvey, who spends a fair amount of time singing himself. His slightly-older pal Nathan is very musical as well, which may have had some influence. And with both of his grandpas being accomplished musicians, it's no wonder the boy is a prodigy! All I have to do is sit back and enjoy the music; that, and brag about him on the blog here, of course!


cliche parenting

Harvey grabbed the hair cutting scissors and took a big chunk out of his bangs today. I gave a friend a haircut last night and left the scissors lying on the sink in the bathroom. So I guess I should blame myself if I blame anyone. And hey, I figure it's good he used the hair cutting scissors and not the paper or fabric ones. At least he's learning there's a proper tool for every job.

Last week Zion emptied an entire box of tissues one by one into the toilet. Plunging wasn't enough to get the thing unclogged; I had to scoop up the sopping mess with a trash bag.

I find it strangely heartwarming when my children act like stereotypical children. So much of parenting has come as a surprise to me that I rarely find myself acting "like a parent" in any way I thought I would. When I try to teach some value or lay out some disciplinary scheme, Harvey looks at me all "who are you and when are you going to lay off this bull crap?" Witness our conversation the other day about a certain educational program.

"I don't think I like that show Veggie Tales," I said to Harvey. (We watched one episode online, called The Grapes of Wrath. There was a moral at the end, but only after a long segment of insults delivered by characters with awful accents. The moral was don't do insults, but I don't think Harvey's able to make a distinction between the model for right and the model for wrong. And the rude family of grapes was apparently from the Ozarks but they had a New York Jew for a father; that just doesn't make any sense!)

"Well, they have the bible at the end," said Harvey. "So that's great."

"I know," I said. "I like the bible part, but before they tell the bible verse they talk all snarky to each other. I don't like it when they talk all snarky. Do you like it when they talk all snarky?"

Harvey shrugged his shoulders, then he looked down at the floor as he slumped into a posture of guilt. I feared suddenly that I was shaming him for his preferences, which are probably beyond his control. Then he looked up at me and his eyes narrowed. "I don't want to tell you," he said.

Score one for Harvey.

I tell this story to illustrate that my children have minds of their own, and our relationship feels false when I try to "play" the parent in some way. It feels more authentic when I think of us as people trying to figure out how we can best live happily with each other. Our power distribution is unequal, sure, but Harvey and Zion are just as able as I am to make our daily lives together miserable. As such they have a more than equal say in how things go.

Which is why when they get up to a classic childhood cliche like cutting their hair or plugging the toilet, it makes me feel surprised and a bit soothed. Oh right, we're not the only ones doing this ever. Parenthood is still a shared human experience, no matter how "innovative" I think I'm being in my approach.


he knows what he wants and how to say it

On the linguistic development front, I'm happy to report that Zion is making great strides. He can now shout, "No, my red coat!" with perfect articulation of the terminal consonants.

Is it summer soon?

Alright, in fairness he actually says "toat" for coat. But we can't expect too much perfection before two... [Edit: this is shameful perfidy. When roused, he makes even initial /k/ a thing of precise beauty.]


persistent winter

the fence standing up from wet snow

the wet part of the day

It's hard to believe that at this time last year we'd already sowed radishes and arugula outside and were thinking about starting peas. Right now we're once again buried under a fair amount of heavy snow; we got close to a foot yesterday before it changed to rain and consolidated down to a glacier-like four inches. Then evening saw a few more lighter inches on top, and it all froze solid overnight. The solstice today was greeted by clear skies and beautiful white winter scenes.

Oh, we're ready to be outside! Even Zion spent a long time yesterday playing in the snow as the sleety rain gradually increased in intensity. Harvey pointed out how loud the ice balls were on raincoat hoods, and we all threw snowballs: the wet snow was so sticky the kids could even kind of pack it.

zion playing in the snowy street wearing raincoat and mittens

fine weather for playing outside

That jacket means good times: when it comes out it means that almost-two-year-olds are reaching the end of a long, frustrating winter!


Chicken Chasing video

It's not a productive blogging season for this mama. Which is to say, the house is pretty clean, healthy home-cooked meals make it to the table several times a day, and the children are well engaged with wholesome projects. The tenuous balance only works when I keep my computer shut during their waking hours, of course. But I do miss the slow march of parenting recorded on this blog, so I did manage to take a video of their outdoor pursuits this morning. Their cuteness can stand in lieu of my blogging.

No chickens were harmed in the making of this video. Annoyed maybe, but not harmed.

This is his command: to believe in the name*

*(1 John 3:23) Yeah, I know it's a little lame to use a scriptural reference as a title if it needs citing. I was really strapped for title ideas. Oh well, on to the post.

Yesterday Zion correctly identified Jesus in a book he hasn't seen before. "Dedus!" is what it sounded like when he pointed to the man with the halo and the outstretched hand. I felt a little surprised and amazed that he's been paying attention all this time while I smothered Harvey with religious information. And also a little fearful. We can't go back now. Now that he knows about Jesus he has the ability to reject Jesus.

Though that idea (does it have a formal name?) that only those who hear the Gospel will be judged for rejecting it — well, it's kind of silly. And impossible in the information age. And not supported by Romans 1:18-20, but I'm sure there's argument within the bible if someone wants to disagree with me.

At any rate, we're here now. There's no turning back. Both my kids now recognize Jesus, I'd better not give him a bad rap.

While I'm bragging about my angelic children, here's a sampling of some of the darling things Harvey has said this week:

"Jesus lives in heaven and in my heart. I know how he do's that. There are two Jesuses... wait, no.... I don't know how he do's that."

"I need you to play with us in the living room. Right now we're playing Seedling."

Me: "Harvey, did you and Zion eat all the cookies?"
Harvey: "They were so beautiful, we had to put them in our mouthes."

"No! Mama! We were having so much fun without you!"


sweaters for Pow Pows

I've mentioned recently on this blog that my children are a bit baby-crazy these days. The other night at the dinner table Harvey broke down crying and wailed, "I want another baby in our family!"

Harvey, I said, you can't wait seven minutes for pasta. I promise we'll have another baby some day, but you have no idea of the lead time involved.

In the mean time they have their baby dolls.

driving ms. baby

The baby dolls have become such a big deal this winter that I have taken to bringing them everywhere we go. I used to ask the kids if they wanted to bring a toy when we go out, but now I reflexively grab the babies and shove them in my purse. Heaven forbid we should arrive at church or Whole Foods and someone forgot that they wanted to hold their Pow Pow. That's what Harvey named his baby, "Pow Pow." Then he said, "What's your baby's name, Zion?" and Zion said "My baby Pow Pow." I can't say that surprised me.

Pow Pow rides on the big boy bike

As with other plastic toys, the babies came into our lives unbidden. Some boxes were passing through our home from Toys for Tots enroute to a friend, and one small box with a small baby accidentally slipped out where it could be found by Zion. That was the end of that - Zion NEEDED that baby doll (and after a week of very intense fighting it became clear that Harvey needed one too.) That, and a search on Amazon for "baby doll 7.5 inches" yielded twin babies with slightly different facial expressions. Though I would prefer they play with the hippy toys I sew for them, it warms my heart to see them caring for these dolls. They request empty bottles and bowls and spoons so they can feed the babies. They hand me books and ask if their babies can sit in my lap.

my dream family

During the snow storm I knitted the twin sweaters you see Pow Pow and Pow Pow sporting in these photos. Harvey and Zion each picked out a color of yarn and then I spent three days stitching away at a pattern I downloaded from Ravelry. The pattern was made for an 8-inch doll so the sweaters are a touch big. I was too lazy to size down and truthfully I didn't think it would take me as long as it did. Dan says the babies can grow into them.

When I think about what I want to teach my children, there are a lot of things I would like to model. I'd like them to see me make things with my hands, to see me approach chores cheerfully, to see me pray for other people. I worry that I don't have enough time for crafting or for charity, that I spend all my time tending to the kids' needs and those of the kitchen. Yet as I worry about the things I'm not demonstrating well, this one success quietly slipped by me.

Over the past two years I have successfully modeled how to lovingly care for a child.

attachment parenting pay it forward

I mean, I guess since that's what I've been doing with 95% of my time it's good that the boys noticed. Either that or they were just born unbelievably sweet. Probobly both are a little bit true.


imagination happens

We have spent a lot of time inside this winter, but that doesn't mean the kids are bored. Harvey leads Zion in imaginative play for several hours every day (broken up by fights and irritating parental intervention and meals, but still.) Whenever they start a new game I fight the urge to reach for my camera. On one hand I want to remember and, yes, maybe brag about these magical moments. On the other hand, it's not very respectful to my children to treat their games like "precious childhood stuff." Their internal world is just as valid as mine, more so perhaps since I mostly imagine scenarios for potential financial ruin where they envision themselves as intrepid pioneers. Here they are playing Little House, a favorite game these days. They both requested dresses with pockets so they could be Laura the first time she visits the town of Pepin. (She rips her pocket out filling it with rocks. It's in Little House in the Big Woods. A good story.)

on the wagon with their picnic lunches for Pepin

They also like to be Pa and for this role they request a fiddle. At first I made them some cardboard fiddles, but Harvey complained that his wouldn't make noise and then I yelled at him for being ungrateful and then we had a fight about crafting and imagination and La La La this is how I fail hippy motherhood. Then I decided that cardboard stresses me out, one because it's never perfect and two because when I make playthings out of cardboard suddenly I have trash that needs to stay in the toy bin. So here is my new brilliant fiddle solution.

Pa Zion with his fiddle

Take a sushi spoon and string it with two rubber bands. I put an extra rubber band around the top to hold the two "strings" in place. It makes noise, and when they're done playing I just take the rubber bands off and put the spoons back in the drawer. Yes, for some reason we have two wide spoons designed to spread sushi rice. I don't know why — I never purchased a sushi kit in my life, let alone two. But whatever; it works. Unlike the real life Ingalls family we're not minimalists.

The two sushi fiddles making some kind of music

Although the little house series features prominently in Harvey's imagination right now, the boys are into other books too. They had three straight mornings of playing Burt Dow Deep Water Man, strung out so long probably because I let them waste an entire box of bandaids on the project.

patching up the whale's tail

They likely would have played at it longer but I said I was done having cardboard boxes (Duh mom, they're BOATS) as permanent fixtures on the kitchen floor. Again with the cardboard. I'm such a kill joy.

But it don't matter too much though because any book is good for the imagination. If they don't want to act out the story they can play Mama and find something good to read to their babies.

story time

And when that gets dull they find what I'm doing and ruin, I mean, join in with it. Here's Harvey riding on the vacuum while Zion cooks something on his play kitchen.

a day in the kitchen

"Cooking" is how we describe his process for methodically grinding play-dough into the kitchen rug.

But I'm saving the best for last. Yesterday Harvey decided to play Bible Study. He had me and Zion sit on the couch and handed each of us a childrens' bible.

"Should we read the story out loud?" I asked.

"No, everyone reads for himself" he said decisively.

We looked at our books. Zion flipped the pages quietly. After a suitable amount of time Harvey looked up at us, ready to discuss.

"Let's talk about Jesus on the cross," he said. "I liked it!"


animal sounds

Zion is talking up a storm now, especially about animals. Unlike Harvey, he refers to many of them by their sounds—we didn't reinforce that sort of thing with our first child because who needs that sort of cutesy baby-talk, but it turns out that cutesy baby-talk is absolutely delightful to three-year-olds, so Harvey provides all the reinforcement necessary. Thus "cluck-cluck", "moo", and "baa" have all been pressed into use as names by both our children. The latest sound-name to emerge took me some time to figure out: "boo". Only in context of an African animals documentary did "moe boo! wot boo!" finally make sense. Also it helped when he illustrated the word with a very evocative trunk motion with his arm.

So quick does childhood language development proceed, however, that those sorts of names are already starting to be replaced. He says "eh-fant" too, especially when he's talking about a toy one; and "baa" has been abandoned in favor of "doat" and "reet" (how he came up with those consonants for "sheep" I have no idea). Dogs, for their part, were always "doddy", cats "tat", and pigs something I can only render as "pubby", if you imaging that collection of letters being spoken in a low tone by a toddler with a mouth full of marbles. And of course, his favorite animal of all—in a ballet context, at least—is "mysh", with the almost-s sound drawn out as long as possible for emphasis. His language really is delightful; it's too bad that, as the second child, he's very rarely captured on video.


big brothers for ten minutes

Ashley came over this week with her new baby. She was here just long enough for both my boys to fall in love.

baby love attack!

No, they're not strangling her in this photo, as much as it looks like they are.

When they first walked in I asked Harvey if he wanted to see "the little." He just stared at her and said, "Little, little" over and over again. From that moment he followed her around the house; whenever the baby was out of sight he said, "Little?" and ran to be next to her. We even took a walk with the strollers and Harvey kept craning his neck to make sure he had the little in his sights.

Zion is pretty much the baby of our family, so I expected Zion to fuss when I held the baby, and he did. But then I asked Zion if he wanted to hold her and he just LIT UP. He sat next to me and I held the baby towards him and he hugged and kissed and hugged and kissed and hugged and kissed her.

kiss kiss kiss

After Ashley left with the baby both of my boys spent some time pointing towards the door and weeping "Liiiiiittle." The next day was all about baby dolls, and after some heated mediation regarding whose baby doll was whose the boys carried their dolls around everywhere. The babies were fed when the boys were fed, got dressed when the boys got dressed, and even came along to Drumlin Farm!

Zion's version of on-demand feeding: put the baby in a milk bucket.

I have to admit, I was a little taken aback by their baby madness. One of my main reasons for delaying getting pregnant again was the feeling that my kids just aren't ready to share with yet anther love-sucker. I never anticipated they'd have a desire to nurture. I never imagined they'd WANT another baby around. It kind of makes me wish we had stuck to the schedule and that we were already four months pregnant, even though there's no part of me that actually wants to be pregnant right now. I'm not sure there's any part of me that wants to be pregnant again ever, but it's hard to get biological children any other way.

Meanwhile, my own baby is growing up fast. Here he is drinking OJ just like his older brother.


Harvey says he saw Dada do it that way. Dada blames the snake.


quick, let's play in it!

Harvey pushing the runner sled on the street, viewed from behind

on Harvey

It ended up snowing about 6 or 7 inches; entirely satisfactory. And we did go sledding, or at least Harvey and I did: we took a couple of runner sleds out on the street and slid around on the ice and packed snow (the advantage of living on an oft-ignored side street is that they never salt or sand!).

Aside from the Flexible Flyer pictured above, we also used a baby-portaging sled that we picked up at a yard sale a few summers ago. Harvey is in love with it: every time he's seen it in the basement over the past year and a half he's talked about how much he wants to go out on it, preferably with Rascal pulling him. Well this morning the moment arrived, and while Rascal was otherwise engaged Harvey was quite delighted to have me pull him around and sling him crack-the-whip style up and down the street. The conditions were perfect for the metal runners—well, if you ignore the lack of any sort of a slope. Ah, for the days before salted roadways (and, I suppose, motor vehicles) when any well-trodden hilly road would be prime sledding territory for carefully-waxed runners of countless sleds...

Zion looking nonplussed in his snow jacket hood

what is this white stuff?

I tried to get Zion interested but he couldn't get over the fact that it was pretty cold out. Also he refused mittens and then got upset when he put his hand in the snow. Oh well—in his defense, this is his first real experience as a sentient being of proper snow. Harvey and me'll teach him up right before too long.


Stuff that's going on right now

It has been a lovely few weeks. Halloween was the first day in a long time that I didn't get a fever halfway through the day, and it's felt like I've finally turned the corner towards health. Suddenly it feels like the sun is shining, the birds are singing, the earth is not a prickly painful obstacle course under my feet. And since I'm not so focused on surviving through each day, I'm noticing the changing stages in my children's development with delight and awe and not, you know, "Holy Shit how does this affect for my chores?" Here's some stuff that's going on in our house right now.

zion in a box by the clock

double hiding space

Zion is in love with boxes. I was dismantling this box for the trash, and when I got interrupted halfway through Zion climbed right in. Harvey is really into tents and forts, but Zion doesn't like something over his head. He prefers to play boat while Harvey plays Arc. Then Harvey shouts, "The rains will come in! The rains will come in!" And I say Zion doesn't mind the rain and Harvey looks at me like I've never picked up a bible in my life.

twin beds

what's all this then?

We did a big furniture shift in Harvey's room this week. I guess I should say Harvey and Zion's room? Well, the shift hasn't happened in our lives yet. I tried to put Zion down for a nap in the cars bed yesterday and the result was that he didn't nap all day. I don't know when he (or I) will be ready to make the switch. It's hard for me to kick Zion out of my bed without knowing there's another baby coming soon. Still, I want to give him space when he's ready and the boys are having immeasurable fun jumping from mattress to mattress.

Connected to this, there is no more crib to put Harvey in time-out until he calms down. There are no more time-outs. Instead I have long conversations with him about how his actions or emotions affect our relationship. Sometimes it even works.

harvey showing his artwork

portrait of the artist as a young man

Harvey drew his first really representational picture on the little magnet board our friends gave him for his birthday. I was amazed to watch him say, "These are the legs, these are the feet" and then draw them in mostly the right place. I wonder if the paper we put down on his table shifts around too much, and that's why the magnet board is easier. Anyway, it was very exciting to me, though Harvey acted nonchalant like, I'm always drawing things, Mama, don't be so CONVENTIONAL. Open your miiiiiiiiind.

Harvey and I read half of Stuart Little during Zion's nap the other day. Just when I thought he was getting bored and not paying any attention, Harvey said, "I want an arrow like the mouse had. Can you make me an arrow just like that?"

I tried to convince him we might cut one out of cardboard but Harvey was adamant that it wouldn't do an arrow's JOB in that case. So I found a piece of dowel and sawed notches on each end and glued a chicken feather in one end and something pointy in the other (I think it was a triangular bracket to keep a picture on the wall... I don't know, it was in the box with the nails.) When the wood glue had dried I handed the arrow ceremoniously to Harvey.

"The mouse had a hat," he said. "I think we could make one with card board and felt."

I complained that Zion might wake up soon and I didn't want to start another project, but Harvey offered to help me clean the kitchen first and once he had picked up all the pens from the floor what could I say?

While I was taping the top of the hat to the brim Harvey said, "Did he have a little mousey coat?"

"Focus Harvey," I said. "Eyes on the prize. Or we're going to have a long conversation about demandingness."

Here is Harvey in his Stuart Little costume. Sans coat. And he thought the hat was fine without the felt (phew).

harvey as stuart little

where books come to life!

On the days when I'm healthy I am so awestruck that I get to spend another day with these beautiful boisterous bundles of love. Even though they now both have arrows.


first snow!

In the middle of the day yesterday I looked up from the book I was reading to Harvey and gasped, "Oh! It's snowing!"


A half-hour later we had gathered all the snow things from various closets and the basement. Harvey practically leapt into his snow-pants, but Zion took a lot more convincing. Forceful convincing.

Here was Harvey out in in the first snow of the year. It was hard to photograph him standing still since he wasn't frolicking like he invented the word.

harvey in the first snow of 2012


Zion was not so sure about it.

zion in the first snow of 2012


He stood in the same spot for ten minutes watching Harvey and me jump around, then he started whining to go inside.

At the very least, it's a relief to know we have snowsuits and boots that fit both boys. Zion could use a fleece hat that says on his head; maybe I'll sew one for him when I clear the mitten-making material off the floor of the office.

Oh, and hurray for winter!


zion and his chickens

Remember the other day when I said that my kids are so wonderful they just play together and don't need me much at all? HAHAHA. That was a day-long phase. Which is good, I guess. At least my worldview isn't completely shaken.

Zion's been sick the past few days, so it was back to holding him near 100% of the time. Though, if Harvey was big enough to hold him we might be in competition. Zion loves that kid. He wakes up in the morning crying "Haaaaaavey." If Harvey happens not to be awake it's a challenge distracting him for a half hour. The other day I took him out with me to help with the chickens, and that seemed to be a stroke of genius because suddenly he was at home.

opening the door to let the chickens out

who let the chickens out? who who who?

Reminds me of anther picture we have on file of a toddler in pajamas and boots.

Harvey outside holding his Easter sheep

welcome happy morning!

Zion ran around after the chickens trying to pet one, but for some reason they kept running away.

zion chasing chickens

come back cluck clucks!

He felt more in charge when I let him help get the new feed. Then they came right over to him!

I'm the boss.

I usually prefer to feed and water the chickens by myself, since it's a lot of walking back and forth carrying heavy things - not the sort of thing that could easily give a sense of prideful gratification to a small child. Also I've got into the habit of being rushed — I used to have to finish all the chicken chores before Dan left for work because after he left I couldn't put down the baby for ONE SECOND. But that's not really true these days - Zion is 18 months today, after all - and if necessary I can leave him and Harvey in the house for five minutes while I get the water and they will not scream until they vomit, they will play legos nicely.

So, I guess I could let them help me once in a while. For the sake of good parenting, if not adorable pictures.


Halloween tricksters

The excitement over Halloween was higher this year than it's EVER BEEN in our family before. Harvey has reached the age of reason where he understands the excitement of trick-or-treating, the excitement of wearing a costume, the excitement of his friends coming over to GO TRICK-OR-TREATING IN COSTUMES, OH MY GOODNESS THE EXCITEMENT IS TOO MUCH.

Zion picked up on Harvey's energy, and it took a full hour to get them fully ready in their costumes. In a moment of brilliance I insisted that a bath was an essential part of transforming into a pirate. Then Zion ran around for a half hour in a pirate vest and nothing else. Once they were dressed it was no less crazy. Turns out pirates are difficult to photograph.



I also made myself a pirate costume. Unlike my children, I can stand still for a photograph.

would be sexier if the corset strings weren't elastic

I'm so happy with the way these costumes came out I'm thinking of starting a dress-up box for the kids so they can play pirates more often. Katie suggested the improvement of sewing the sashes to the vest to keep them in place. Of course! Brilliant! Why didn't I think of that? I only adjusted their sashes like fifty times while trick-or-treating. I'll have to fix that as soon as I figure out where in the house they stashed their sashes.

Though you can't tell from the photos, these costumes were the most complex ones I've made to date, even using "real" clothing patterns for the shirts and pantaloons. The fabric was rather cheap; I did it all with $20 of supplies, but then I spent $15 on the stockings to wear under the pants so I don't really feel that thrifty. (Also, stockings? WTF? Parents of girls put those things on their children all the time? It took me like ten minutes alone to get those stockings on my kids.) Dan's mom made a comment that sewing will get easier once Zion can wear Harvey's old costumes and I was like, "What are you talking about? They have to MATCH!"

After canvasing the neighborhood for candy we came back to our house for a big halloween bash. It was a bash in the sense that it was a smashing good time and also because the kids bashed the house into every kind of mess you could possibly imagine. We haven't quite dug out yet. Everyone here has a mega candy hangover. No wonder his holiday is scary!

storm something!


changing seasons

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.

harvey on his trike

getting away

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!

boys on the bikes taking a rest

taking a rest

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.

zion walking down the street

Harvey says: "Zion looks like a gentleman with his two buttons!"

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.


big boys

Harvey and Zion have been packing in the milestones lately. Zion is working on walking, and he's also expanding his vocabulary: so far we have ball, duck, dog, book, bye-bye, and cracker, not to mention a variety of animal sounds and any number of things that, to us, sound like identical instances of "buh!". He's also expanding his capacity for—and displays of—frustration. So far we haven't shut him in a room by himself to work it out, but let's just say that the sooner his language develops to a point where he can express what he actually wants (assuming he can even figure that out) the better.

Harvey for his part is once again able to climb a full flight of stairs, a skill he lost way back when he started walking. It's a question not of ability but of courage, so it's exciting to see him build up a little confidence. In the same vein he's now sliding down the little slide at the playground and occasionally looking at strangers who address him in stores and whatnot (many do: his beauty is quite remarkable). He's even been a teeny bit willing to sit on the potty—without doing anything—and then pee through some underpants! That's progress, folks.

To change tacks completely, I can't write this post without thinking yet again of Lauren and her family. Elijah's death hit me pretty hard; even though I'd only been reading the blog for a couple months I was as shaken as I would have been if they were close friends. With any sudden death like that, especially of a child, you can't help thinking of other ways things could have played out: what little change two weeks or two months ago might have led to him still being alive today. Leah thinks about keeping people safe, and that was reflected in her post; me, I can't even imagine bad things happening so I'm just totally devastated when they do. But somehow life goes on regardless. I don't know.


Zebra for Zion

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

zion's zebra

zebra for Zebra

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

belly of the zebra stuffed animal

belly of the beast

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

harvey and the painted train

that artist and his creation

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

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

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

zion playing with his presents

birthday boy, with lots of makers who love him


Zion's birthday: the video

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

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


birthday boy Zion

Zion among his birthday presents

"what's this one?!"

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

the invitation to zion's party

the invitation

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

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

yellow cake with lemon frosting and blueberry jam between the layers

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

Zion in his highchair with his cake

good stuff

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

Zion and Harvey drawing with chalk on the porch

tic tac toe?

Thanks to all who came, and happy birthday Zion!


zion is one

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


remarking on unremarked milestones

Zion on the grass with two sippy cups

with both cups and pleased with himself

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

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

Also his hair is starting to turn curly.

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


boys in the garden

Harvey playing in the garden wearing yellow rain boots and a yellow tie

gentleman farmer

Harvey and I enjoy playing in the garden, even if we don't get too much accomplished. Only he does it with a little more style than I manage, apparently. We haven't let him actually wear his Easter clothes out to play (though he totally would if he could), but yesterday the fitting for his tie required bringing out last year's model and of course we couldn't deny him the wearing of that. Not even while playing in the mud.

Of course, all mud around here is purely user-created at this point, since, while summer in March is now only a memory, we're still waiting for our April showers and things are pretty dry and dusty. So a watering can was just the thing for creating a pond, or perhaps a pool, which was then augmented with a selection of the "play wood" we have lying around the place. (We have "play bricks" too, but they're a little too heavy for any of our children. And both wood and bricks were put away in anticipation of our Easter party—might some parents not approve?—but he knew where they were and brought them out again.)

Zion was also outside for some of the action, but he wasn't wearing a tie so I didn't take a picture of him. He too was very content to amuse himself with what came to hand, though I do shudder a bit when he tries to use rocks as teething tools. Much like Harvey at a similar age he emerged with a little bit of dirt around his mouth, but I'm sure there was nothing like a peck involved.

All I managed was planting out a few seedlings that were suffering from too long in their containers, and then putting down a row cover to keep them from freezing to death. I'm all mixed up this crazy spring: I sowed a few "as soon as soil is workable" crops already, but everything stopped growing entirely over the last few chilly weeks. I've never seen anything like it: the radishes that sprouted on March 24 didn't get their first true leaves until yesterday, 12 days later by my probably inaccurate count. Kind of frustrating for a crop that should be half-way to maturity in that time span! On the other hand, it's been great for the daffodils and forsythias, which are headed towards their third week in bloom and still going strong. So I guess I can't complain—especially when I have the boys out there working right along with me.



One big bonus to having two boys is that clothes I made for Harvey get a second life as handmade-me-downs. Remember these pants I made for Harvey? When he was walking around and all? Well they're now gracing this cute crawling bottom.

zion in harveys tan pants

budding cyclist

Or the octokaidekapus t-shirt. Here it is on Harvey and then on Zion.

Harvey modeling his oktokaidekapus shirt

18 arms to hold you

zion in octo shirt


What is it with my babies making Rollin with the Homies hand gestures anytime I try to take their picture?

Anyway, it gives me incentive to work up some more upcycled pants once the Easter sewing madness is done. And by done I mean began. And also middled. It's so difficult when playing on the porch is so much more adorable!

zion smiling in the high chair




Harvey is getting the general sense of knock knock jokes and executed his first mildly funny one the other day.

Harvey: Knock Knock.
Mama: Who's there?
Harvey: Bunny Bear.
Mama: Bunny Bear who?
Harvey: Bunny Bear POO!

Yes, I am very proud that my 2-and-a-half-year-old is already joking at a middle-school level.

Harvey is oblivious to the set up of a joke, however, so when my mother said, "Hey, I've got a joke for you. Why did the chicken cross the road?" Harvey answered very earnestly, "The chicken crossed the road because he got out of his chicken coop! But... but... Then we put him BACK into his chicken coop!"

"Well," she said. "You seem to know the whole story then."

Meanwhile, Zion has started uttering strings of "ma" rather purposefully. He'll say "mamamamamam" when he's angling for me to pick him up, and last night when I came back to bed he sighed with relief and said "mamamama" rather cheerfully. So it shouldn't be long before he's getting in on the comedy business. Or at least playing the straight man.

Or maybe Harvey's just the joker in the family. His first word was "da" for "dog."


a quick knit

I'm really into vests for Zion these days. He hates having the bulk of a sweater around his wrists, but oh it's cold on that floor! The one I knit him for Christmas is a little big still, so he's been sporting two hand-me-downs store-bought versions in heavy rotation. Then on Saturday I remembered I had started a vest back when Harvey was a baby. I had abandoned it because the neck was coming out too small. All of a sudden the DUH hit me like a ton of bricks. "Why don't I finish it with buttons?" I said to myself.

Zion modeling his vest in some extreme lighting conditions

And there you go. Zion had a handmade sweater in under an hour.

I used this adult sweater as inspiration and just worked it smaller I guess. I don't really remember how I made the pattern, actually. I should start keeping a book for these things. When I took the two pieces out of the box on Saturday all I needed to do was finish a strap already in progress. Perfect for adding button holes! Then I sewed up the sides. I really should have noted it in a book, because I think I may have finished in a gauge bigger than when I started. I'm not too concerned thought. A useless waste of scrap turned into an instantly wearable sweater in just an hour, and that's worth a bit of a gauge-jog along one strap.

Zion on his tummy smiling about his new vest

The neck is a little too plunging, but I made it at a point in my life when I had more confidence in my pattern creating abilities than those abilities actually warranted. Two years later I've got a bit more sweater knitting under my belt, so I feel more confident I won't make such stupid necklines in the future.

Zion sitting modeling his new vest next to a ball of yarn

In the meantime, it's nice to have a quick knit for the baby to model.


Parenting right now

Zion is a very busy boy these days. Crawling around the floor (after a fashion), seeing what things he can open or alternatively put in his mouth, and saying "Ba Ba Ba" all the time. It seems he's following Harvey's plan for talking, which is to say he's gonna pretty much vocalize non stop until it starts making sense. Which means in four months I'm going to need a sensory deprivation chamber. Just kidding. I can always go lock myself in the chicken coop. Just kidding. I'm thinking about joining a gym. I can lock the kids in the chicken coop.

Harvey, meanwhile, is kind of amazing me with his level of intellectual processing. The things that come out of his mouth reflect a level of thinking that seems to grow exponentially every day. "We go to the post office then whole foods? Is whole foods close to the post office?" or "The moon is following us! We're goin this way, moon!" or looking at seed catalogues "Do you want some chocolate? I was thinkin about growing chocolate. Can we grow chocolate?" or telling jokes: "a,b,c,d,N??? Hahaha! a,b,c,d,N?! Haha! N is funny!"

harvey face closeup

so many thoughts in there.

Also, when he's eating a muffin at Whole Foods and he drops a piece on the floor he says, "Are there no dogs here?" Which I find endlessly amusing. Imagine a world in which stray dogs run around Whole Foods licking their chops in expectation of dropped samples.

Of course there are some challenges we're dealing with these days too. Harvey is suddenly anxious of kids, stairs, car rides and going anywhere without Mama, to the point of disability. Zion is waking up every two hours in the night, to the point of MY disability. I have no formal plans of attack here except wait and see, because every formal plan I come up with somehow sounds much more traumatic than wait and see.

zion smiling in the high chair

winning smile

On the plus side, Zion finally started eating real food. Harvey is, as always, a champion eater. Which is good because I feel much better bribing with food than with television. We're only watching an hour of TV a week on average, which makes me feel pretty darn good, though terrified of getting sick or pregnant. Harvey doesn't nap anymore and both children are fairly needy, so by 6pm I'm pretty much asleep on my feet. My red and throbbing feet.

As challenging as it is to be a full-time mama to two very young children, there's nothing I'd rather be doing. Yes I'm guilty of getting caught up in the stresses and irritation of day-to-day household management (What do you MEAN your pants are wet? That's the FIFTH PAIR TODAY!). But when the laundry is folded and I sit down to read a story I remember that these are the two most precious angels in the entire universe and I am beyond blessed that they live in my house with me.

harvey and zion getting ready to go out

the duo


sick again?

We had a lovely 1 week respite from illness during which time I made grand sweeping plans for eating healthier and taking time for myself and all sort of non-baby-holding things. Then last night Zion got sick again and now I can only think of surviving another day filled with snot and screaming. On the good news front, Zion took his first crawls forward today. What a proud mama I was, clapping and shouting! Now he can move forward! I feel like I missed all this with Harvey... I remember him pulling up and cruising around and then taking his first steps, but I never remember him crawling. But then, when Harvey was this age I was changing jobs and commuting two hours a day and probably if he started crawling nobody told me.

There. See how I take a perfectly lovely subject and get all complainy up on its ass? It's the reason I'm not blogging much lately. Let's regroup in the spring.

I feel the need to add something positive, so here's what Harvey said yesterday when he was playing with the outdoor grill:

"Do you want some bugs and cheese and moose and hats?"

Parenting update

Zion cut two teeth yesterday and then finally slept like normal last night. Which is good because I was about to take him to the exorcist. Which doesn't really exist. In my price range.

Here's a collection of cute things Harvey said recently. To remind me why I have children.

"I want to take my shirt off, mama, to see how my belly's doin!"

"'Can we build a tower?' he said in his curious voice."

"Mama, what you do to your hair?"
"I made it straight. You like it?"
"I like it left."

"Can I read you a book, caboose? It's called 'Jop and Boonin are not ashamed.'"

"We're crawlin!"
"You are?"
"I said, 'Zion, want to crawl?' I said that!"
"And what did Zion say?"
"He said, 'GaGa!'"

"Can you sing Mild He Lays His Glory By, the newborn king song?"

"Can we go to the church that has toys? It's called Bethlehem."


preschool pageantry

harvey at the kids church pageant

sheepishly curious

The kids' church preschoolers put on a Christmas Pageant yesterday during church. They didn't present it to the whole congregation—probably a good thing, considering the very little amount of preparation involved—but a select group of parents attended and enjoyed a sparklingly entertaining presentation. Harvey had a great time, except for being in a strange room in front of lots of people.

He—along with the rest of his class—was a sheep. It took some convincing to get him to put on the delightful hand-made hat when I dropped him off; but as he is a fan of both hats and sheep once he had it on he consented that it was kind of cool. His friend Ollie declined to wear his hat, or to carry it, or even to touch it, but on the other hand Ollie walked into the pageant room calmly and quietly, even if he was visibly rather apprehensive about what on earth was going on. Harvey, on the other hand, was carried in literally crying and screaming. He wanted everyone to know that while he—barely!—was willing to spend some time in his classroom, he wanted absolutely nothing to do with any other rooms and what were they trying to do with him and oh my goodness. He wouldn't have made it in if his parents hadn't been there, needless to say.

angel and mary

"fear not" ?

With a comfortable lap to sit in, though, he settled down to enjoy the show. Sure he didn't baa on command—that responsibility was outsourced to me—but since most of what he tells me about kids church are the things he didn't do I take that as par for the course. ("I didn't sing a song." "I didn't drink any juice." So go his typical reports of his formal religious education.) He stood up to see what was going on when the angel Gabriel mumblingly appeared to Mary—wonderful acting for four-year-olds, it was!—and enjoyed the singing, even if he typically declined to take part.

zion holding lantern

practicing for the part of innkeeper someday

If he could walk Zion would have shown his big brother how it's done: he had to be restrained from raiding the props bin, conveniently located right next to where we were sitting. But then, Harvey too was pretty outgoing at <1 year, if I recall, and we see where that's gotten him now!


Zion's lovey

This is the part of the year where I suddenly get obsessed with projects that have nothing to do with Christmas. I know I know, Christmas is right around the corner, but I simply can't start the sweaters until I make a few upcycled pigs, some sock bunnies, a backpack for Harvey and new oven mitts. Because, you know, we made it through the last YEAR AND A HALF with crappy oven mitts, but another four weeks might kill us.

Not helping matters, Dan suggested last week that Zion might like a lovey: a soft blanket which he could cuddle with while he sucks his thumb. Of course Zion needed one. As soon as the thought entered my mind Zion needed that lovey so badly I packed the kids into the car that very afternoon headed for JoAnne's.

zion playing with his lovey

all I cares about is can I chew it.

I bought some fuzzy baby blanket material (some polyester variant; it doesn't pay too much to know) and some cotton ribbing for the edging. I figured the cotton was at least a natural fiber for the part that would most go in his mouth. Harvey liked the green fuzzy cloth I chose, but was appalled by my choices of edging. "They don't match together! They don't match together!" he screamed as I put the bolt in our cart. "Put it back!"

He continued to explain to me that the edging wasn't green. I'm glad he understands the concept of matching, but I've got some work to do on teaching him about "coordinating" fabrics. Anyway, something to practice.

Meanwhile, I got some practice making mitred edges!

lovey mitred edges

give it back!

Could use a little more practice still, it looks like. Although I'm sure they lie flatter when you're not using inch-wide knit ribbing.

Anyway Zion seems to like it well enough. He even used it for its intended purpose.

zion sucking thumb with lovey

the only way this could be more soothing is if mama was wearing me

Sorry for the lack of daylight photos. I'm not up to making craft porn these days... there are too few hours of daylight and too few days until Christmas!


little buddies

Zion and Nathan playing on the floor

Zion got to visit with his friend Nathan the other day, and they had some fun together. It was the first time since he's become mobile and interactive that he's hung out with another little baby—one roughly of his own age and developmental level—and he seemed to enjoy it. You'll note I posted the picture with Zion smiling; Nathan smiled too, but Zion wasn't looking at the camera for that one.

The adults had a good time too, and so did Harvey once he got over waking up in a strange place (he'd gone to sleep in the car), and then falling off the couch and bumping his head. It helped that he was served french fries for dinner.

[I apologize for the graininess and weird colors of the photo. I find it strange that there are people who comment positively on the iphone's camera. It is at least useful for documentary purposes.]


Zion is half a year!

OH No! I can't write a post about Harvey on Zion's 6 month birthday!

zion kissing mama

baby love

Zion, ZiZi, ZiBo, Zi-bo-bear. I can't believe it's only been six months. It seems sappy to say something like "it feels like we've loved you forever." But then again what do you care? you're a baby.

No it seems fair to say that this much is true: you make all of us better. You taught Harvey to whisper, Rascal to wait, Mama to live in the moment. Thank you for being our baby.


baby comparison: animal hats edition

Our two babies were both little darlings on their first halloweens. There's some resemblance between the baby sheep and baby monkey, isn't there? Maybe they have a common ancestor...

Harvey's first Halloween

Zion's first Halloween

I would have loved to get that sheepy hat on Zion but it never fit. That baby is a tank!

marbles make very small bumps in the road

Zion and Harvey in matching fleece pajamas

we need the flash to capture pj shots

Harvey and Zion are best buds so far. Harvey loves giving his little brother toys and kisses and attention, and is always very solicitous of his well being: "Is Zion happy?" is always on his lips, when Zion is indeed happy and also when he's quite obviously not. Perhaps in the latter case it's a bit of wishful thinking. He even doesn't mind being quiet when Zion needs to sleep or losing parental attention when Zion needs that. But it occurs to me that their relationship may soon be in for a bit of a change.

I thought of it when I got home this morning and noticed how many marbles there were on the floor. Harvey, always a fan, got a new bagful at Jo and Eugene's sale yesterday, and today he was enjoying them by dispersing them evenly around the house. I found one in the basement, to give you some extent of his thoroughness. And it's not just marbles that he likes to have convenient and accessible: dime-sized refrigerator magnets, tiny lego pieces, buttons; there's no end to his appreciation of the small and multitudinous.

You see the problem. Zion doesn't move much now, but he's already working on it; working, too, on getting those little fingers together to pick things up (the "put them in the mouth" part is already fully operational). Will Harvey resent having to limit his playtime excesses in the interests of keeping his brother from choking? Only time will tell. In my dreams I imagine that H will have discovered the joys of sorting and organizing by the time Z gets fully mobile, and will delight in putting everything away neatly totally on his own. That's totally possible, right other parents?


just Zion.

At Dan's prompting I will write a post only about Zion, the cutest child to ever grace a Moby, the best baby I know, the only baby I've ever met that's perfectly happy just being a baby.

it's ZION!

He loves his mama, his dadda, and his thumb. But he just lights up at the sight of Harvey or Rascal. Just looking at either of his two brothers makes Zion giggle to absolutely no end. He can be entertained for minutes upon minutes by these proxy babysitters, which is very helpful to his mama yet sometimes dangerous given the number of toys with which he may be forced to engage.

"I gived him some trains, mama!"

He is silly and sweet. He loves cuddles, he loves being carried, and he indicates tiredness by giggling fanatically. Come on; what baby do you know gets really sleepy and then just giggles?

baroo little boo?

Okay, so he doesn't nurse to sleep and he needs a clean diaper every 30 minutes. Nobody's perfect, right? But on all other counts he is what any mother would wish for. A perfect blessing of a second child. An angel of babies. A pure delight.


My hope, my joy, my Zion. He may not get all the tags around here, but he certainly gets a lot of love.


on "parenting"

After Zion was born I couldn't help but notice that he had a long way to go to catch up with Harvey in the blog post tag stakes. After nearly five months I'm afraid he's never going to make it. Sure, we've written about him a few times, but we've written about Harvey too; since Zion was born they've been roughly at parity. You're never going to get ahead that way, boy! Another tag, however, has leapt ahead: parenting.

I guess we called what we were doing with Harvey parenting too; I find there are posts with the tag way back when he was the only little one around here. But that was a lie, because with the first one you don't know what you're doing. I suppose we were able to describe what we were trying (or maybe just enduring) but if we thought there was any method to our madness we can now see that we were wrong.

Not, of course, that we're necessarily doing any better with Zion. But at least we've done these things once and can learn from our experiences. We're doing some things the same—holding him a lot, rocking him to sleep, nursing him exclusively (well, that one's not so much me)—and other things differently—not trying to get him into the crib. Also we let him sleep on his stomach sometimes.

Not unrelated to that last point, we're also continuing to not read parenting books... except when we do. I confess to some bewilderment as to how to go about beginning "potty training" for Harvey, and since Leah feels similarly she got a few books out of the library. One of them turns out to be a general book of tips, and it's completely ridiculous. It seems that other parents worry a great deal about many things, things that it never occurred to us might be problems. Leah worries, sure, but mostly just about keeping them alive (which is by the way a priority I wholly share). Whether they're properly dressed walking around the house? Not so much.

Clearly, we are doing very well as parents. Our older son is able to play independently for the better part of an hour at a time (some days), he is kind and generous to both friends and strangers (after we've convinced him to acknowledge their presence), and he's a devoted lover of literature. Seriously, you should hear him reciting books to himself as he plays with his legos. Our younger son can eat with the best of them, and sucks his thumb like a champ. Maybe we should be writing the books! No, we don't have time for that. I guess we'll stick to blog posts.

And they'll mostly be about both boys at the same time. Sorry, Z.


compare and contrast

While there are striking similarities, they don't always look the same these two.

Here's Harvey in his 6-month-size MIT shirt:

even fresher than most freshmen

even fresher than most freshmen

and here's Zion:

zion in mit shirt

fresher freshest!

Both super cute! Zion's got the cheeks, but Harvey had the hair.

Unfortunately MY child

Last Saturday we were helping a friend move, necessitating a rather urban car ride into the city. As soon as we entered the tunnel Harvey started panicking. "I don't like it! I don't LIKE it!"
"What don't you like sweetie?"
"Dis!" he screams. "In here! I want to go OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOUT!"

And really, I can't blame him. I have no way to tell him it's going to be okay, you won't die in a cold dark tunnel, when every fabric of my being is also screaming "I WANT TO GO OOOOOOOOOOOUT!"

Harvey tends, you see, to be rather anxious. I know where he gets it from.

But let me give you another example. Last week Dan came home from a half day at work. I didn't know exactly what time to expect him, and I was upstairs putting Harvey down for a nap when he came in quietly. So when I walked down the stairs moments later and saw a person coming around the corner inside our house I startled and gasped and put my hand over my heart.

Now, Dan really hates it when I do this, when I act like he's a murderer in his own house. And that seems pretty fair to me. I always try to apologize rather profusely and swear up and down that One Day I will exorcise all my demons and be rid of this terrible stranger complex.

Except then half an hour later Harvey was awake and standing on a chair in the kitchen when Dan came up from behind and put his hands on Harvey's shoulders. Immediately Harvey pulled his hands in as if to curl up into a ball and his whole body started shaking.

When he isn't so personally offended, Dan just looks at the two of us and sighs exasperatedly, "My goodness you guys."

I has helped my parenting recently to think of Harvey as a toddler version of myself. He's anxious and shy. He desperately wants to be in control and desperately wants to be loved at the same time. Being a toddler, he hides all of this slightly more poorly than I do. So when I get irritated that he's demanding SO MUCH of me every second of the day, I just think to myself "mini me" and out spring buds of compassion. When I'm trying to project my authority by throwing him in his bed every time he hits the dog, I remember "mini me" and find a way to help him save face and get love without "backing down." And when he says "I neeeeeed uppy, mama" or "I want to go hooooooome" I muster all the courage I have to say No, despite how much I want to say Yes, because he is me, and we both need to accept that the world is a safe place and that being scared sometimes is okay.

Zion, on the other hand, wakes in the bed and looks about at his surroundings with wide open eyes. "What is this wonderful place?" he thinks. I and have hope for the future that we also have a child version of Dan.


looking more like each other every day

baby Zion:

3 month old zion, smiling

delighted you're here!

baby Harvey:

it's winter now; we have to wear hats even indoors

it's winter now; we have to wear hats even indoors

baby Zion:

zion at blueberry picking

blueberry eyes

baby Harvey:

baby Harvey in the bath

baby Harvey in the bath

Must be a family resemblance in there somewhere.

mama, baby, and harvey

while dada is busy picking


baby comparison: camping edition

Perhaps not an entirely fair comparison, since we took Harvey camping for the first time at 5 weeks whilst Zion had all of 2-and-a-half months to prepare for his photo shoot, but here they are anyway side by side, each baby's reaction to his first camping trip:

harvey camping at 5 weeks

baby Harvey

zion camping at 2.5 months

baby Zion

While there is something distinctly "Harvey" about the first face and something distinctly "Zion" about the second, I still think: my goodness! don't my children look like each other!

Zion updates

Mama (while picking up baby Zion) : "Who's a sweety sweet angel face?"
Harvey: "Me."

Zion had his 2-month check up this week. 14lbs, 2oz, which means he's gaining about an ounce and a half a day. I know what you're thinking... why aren't you thinner, Leah? The answer is ice cream. Lots and lots of ice cream.

appliqued onesies

It's been challenging finding time to sew these days. Zion decided he will only nap when strapped to my chest, and I simply can't cut out a pattern straight on the fold with only one hand.

I can, however, complete tiny finicky projects like cutting out shapes and sewing them onto onesies. Which, incidentally, is the only thing I got done this week other than folding diapers.

Zion modeling his raised-fist onesie

young revolutionary

I got 3 onesies for $.30 thanks to a Target gift card from one of Dan's students. All the contrasting fabric came from recycled t-shirts in my stash, making this a very cheap project.

Zion modeling his no-cars onesie

although sadly also too young to bicycle

I have one more blank onesie to embellish. Any ideas?


baby comparison

Who does Zion look like? Well, more like Harvey than anyone else. But not EXACTLY like Harvey. Here's the side-by-side comparison of my two babies at 5 weeks:

harvey at 5 weeks

zion at 5 weeks

On account of being much plumper at birth, Zion's cheeks are the dominant feature of his face, unlike Harvey who's cheeks don't reach quite far enough to remove those I-hate-sleep circles from under his eyes. Zion also seems to wear a concerned look about his eyebrows; it's present in almost all of Zion's photos but none of Harvey's. As a toddler, though, Harvey knits his eyebrows together plenty, so maybe Zion's getting expressive concern from his mother genetically, whereas Harvey's is a learned trait.

It's funny how they're personalities are completely different. Zion is mostly easy-going and complacent as a baby, whereas Harvey was, er, more vocal in his discomfort. Zion loves snuggling and being held sideways whereas Harvey hated cuddles and only wanted to be held upright. But who knows what that means for future personality? Harvey is a fantastic kid and pretty complacent as toddlers run. I keep looking at Zion and saying "Who ARE you, little guy?" He doesn't know any better than I do the answer to that question.


Two kids are better than one

Zion is four weeks old today, and it seems like the time has passed rather effortlessly. When people ask me how I'm doing with two children, mostly I say "AWESOME!" Really, except for the fact that I haven't vacuumed the upstairs since the morning my water broke, and it's taking me more than a little while to get the food shopping schedule under control other than that I'm having a great time. I love being the mother of two.

Once when I was in college I had this awful migraine headache for like three days. I couldn't stand up, I couldn't even see straight. So I went to the health center and they told me it was a tension headache from stress. Then they gave me a shot in my butt. Literally, they gave me a shot of something in my butt cheek, I don't know what it was but I wish I did because I would totally buy it on the street. Because as soon as I got it I immediately fell asleep, and when I woke up my headache was gone. Gone! It was the most incredible feeling ever. I went from complete debilitating pain to totally lighter-than-air normal in what felt like the time it takes to clap your hands. It was amazing. Anyway, that's what it felt like to have a second child. It instantly killed my two-year parenting stress headache.

Look, I think I've been a pretty good mother to Harvey. I've tried to give him freedom to figure stuff out, make mistakes, get woefully dirty, pour water all over everything, break things, see animals, and interact with lots and lots of books. When other parents at the playground shoo their tots away from "big kid things" I give Harvey a hand to climb up the slide. But I have been woefully bad at giving him emotional space. I have loved him so big and so intently that I have held on rather tightly. This came through on issues such as co-sleeping and nursing. He needed a big-boy bed a month before he got one, and even then I cried and cried that I wasn't ready. He needed to learn how to put himself to sleep 6 months before I decided I could stand to hear him whine alone for 5 minutes. He needed to ween at 18 months and I should have given the opportunity then. But it was just too hard for me to let go.

Because what if the worst thing happened and he didn't show me every second that love me? Now I see that kids aren't supposed to love you like that. That's what a marriage is for. Kids are just kids.

When Harvey was an only child, the importance of our relationship rivaled that of mine and Dan's. Then Zion was born it ended the tyranny of our two dueling relationships. Suddenly it felt like Dan and I had KIDS. Together. Together we're parenting them (and not, like, dating them). I had been trying and failing to force myself into this model before, but somehow when Zion was born it just clicked.

Zion's birth seems to have re-balanced our family in a good way. It's impossible for Dan and me to fight over who's doing the most childcare, for example, because with two children we're both doing 100% child care for one of them all of the time. Zion's presence doesn't make regular life more stressful, apart from some added difficulty with vacuuming and leaving the house. In fact, because I'm attempting to do less and asking Harvey to do more for himself, it seems that Zion's arrival has made all of us more confident, more relaxed, and less tantrumy throughout the day. (On a parenting scale, of course, where stress and tantrums are a manner of scale.)

Anyway, for all these reasons I highly recommend becoming a mother of two. Happy one-month-when-counted-in-weeks birthday, Zion. I'm very very glad that you're here.


the things I put my kids through

We still haven't snapped an acceptable photo for the birth announcements, so I tried another photo session today.

"Harvey, go give Zion a kiss"

Harvey and Zion photoshoot part one: H kissing Z


"Wait! Don't get up on his face!"

Harvey and Zion photoshoot part two: H smushing Z's face

ow! not the face!

unfortunately my photo session border on child abuse.

(blogging time made possible by Harvey who is currently playing a game called "spit it out" which entails drinking from my water bottle then spitting it all over himself. I made him play outside on the porch.)


more about the name

When Leah wrote about Zion's name I told her it was a great exposition except for one thing: I don't think Brian is quite the right rhyme. In my pronunciation at least Brian has kind of a short i sound at the end—in—which I don't here in Zion. But I couldn't think of a better rhyme right away.

Well, that must have been because it was just too obvious. As we say it, Zion rhymes with lion.

Which makes perfect sense. As people chat with us about the name, folks who are aware of the term in its Christian connotation ask us if we're pronouncing the second syllable as on, because that's how they hear it in church. But it seems to me that you only hear it that way in churches where it doesn't come up very much in discussion, because zi-on is a rather un-English sounding set of phonemes. In the sorts of congregations where the term is bandied about more freely, I understand, it's said just like we're saying our little guy's name. That's what happens when a word comes into English from another language: when it's used frequently, its sounds change to match how English-speakers pronounce things. If we were speaking Hebrew we could say Tsiyon, but in English we have another model for "consonant-i-o-n", and that's lion.

And also, our naming him that doesn't have anything at all to do with the National Park, not that we don't think it's a pretty cool place for a visit.


happy homecoming

It took a long time, but Nathan is finally home with his mom and dad. He has been since Monday, actually, but this evening we got to visit him so now it counts. Leah had met him once before months ago in the hospital but he was all new to me and Harvey (and Zion, of course) so we were super excited to be introduced. It's so interesting to compare him to little Z, because their due-dates were only a couple weeks apart so gestationally they're about the same age. But Nathan's been out in the world a whole lot longer in baby terms—over two full months!—so he has a few skills that Zion hasn't picked up yet, like open eyes and semi-functional neck muscles. Zion's fatter, though!

And considerably sleepier, at least this evening; I tried to introduce the babies to one another—they're meant to be fast friends, of course—but while Nathan was kind of interested Z wouldn't look. Oh well, I suppose they have a few more years to figure out what they like to do together.

While we may post more than Katie and Tim, their blog is rather more interesting than ours, so we hope you're reading it. More dramatic too, so far, but I'm sure the proud parents will agree with me when I say that I hope and expect that, with Nathan home, the drama is now over. But keep reading for the cute pictures!


almost 2 weeks

I've wanted to write many blog posts in the past few days but have been too bleary-eyed. My boys are determined to never sleep at the same time as one another. Here they are, forming a secret alliance against sleep.

harvey and zion hold hands

block against the enemy

The terms of which are as follows: if one sleeps, the other must constantly demand food or drink.

harvey and zion in bed

more please mama?

I wore them out this morning, though, with a trip to the bank and Staples which culminated in an overly long snack-break at Dunkin Donuts because the so-called fast-food chain made me wait 20 minutes for an egg-and-cheese sandwich and then delivered it without cheese. Emboldened by my starving 2-year-old I made them give me my money back and another sandwich. While we ate our free replacement sandwich, a crazy veteran quizzed me on the ages of my children and then asked me sideways if I was pregnant again. I told him no, I just gave birth 13 days ago and he told me to exercise. I told him to go fuck himself. Actually I didn't. I gave him a look that indicated that he should go fuck himself, something that I've become quite good at since I became a mom.

More evidence that as much as I need to deposit checks I should never leave the house again, at least not for the strip malls of Bedford, at least not without snacks in hand. Still, it earned me a 2-hour nap for both of them, so much is the stimulation of stores and low-quality egg-and-cheese.

Motherhood, I am not winning. But surviving feels pretty good today.


birth order

Everybody's been talking about Zion lately, including us. He's new and ostensibly kind of exciting (more exciting in theory perhaps than in present form). But when it comes to day-to-day attention, I have to admit that Harvey is getting more of mine. Zion just sleeps and eats; Harvey does oh so much more. Just today I got to watch him dance at church, laugh and play with his friend Ollie, and enjoy the box fort I made for him. Oh, and fall down the stairs headfirst—that sure got my attention! (don't worry, he survived unscathed, but it sure looked scary!).

That's the problem being the second-born, I suppose; it's hard to compete (not that Leah or I would know anything about it). Sure, a little while after Harvey was born I compared him to a guinea pig, but there was never any doubt that he was our sole focus. Sorry Zion, we just can't give you that level of attention. While Harvey also has to deal with sharing us—and for him it's something new, as opposed to the pre-existing state of affairs Zion was born to—he's operating from a position of strength. Being able to talk helps a lot too.

Happily, Harvey doesn't seem to be one to lord it over his little brother. In fact, I think he'd like Zion to be a little more attention-worthy. While he refuses to hold him for pictures, he asks for him other times, to cuddle or hold hands or pat (often on the nose, though we suggest to him that the top of the head would be more appropriate). Today he tried to get Zion interested in his train set. Leah told him that the baby would be able to play trains in seven months when he could sit up on his own; I estimated that a year and a half would make him more useful to Harvey.

Of course, being younger has its advantages too. You get away with a whole lot more, for example, and get to try new things at a younger age. I'm sure that will be a tremendous comfort to Zion when he's able to move.


taking it slow

zion and mama


Dan comes down the stairs this morning and into the kitchen where I am serving Harvey breakfast.

"Zion is still up there sleeping like a baby," he says, "I mean, a baby who's not Harvey."

Most things people tell you about childrearing are annoying. "Get all the sleep you can NOW" for example, or my personal pet peeve, "That baby looks cold!" But one thing they tell you actually turns out to be true: it is easier the second time around. Feed, burp, change, repeat. It may be tedious, but after you've been covered in real food toddler vomit, or learned how to sit through the big lungs crying that accompanies a 2-year-old tantrum, newborn antics lose all power to break your spirit.

Grandma has taken Harvey to Drumlin Farms for the morning, so I have the opportunity to lie around and rest with sweet baby Zion. I can't believe I found this so hard the first time around... maybe I just had higher standards for how clean I expected my house and clothes to be. I took the photo above from our nappy time yesterday. I remember cuddling like this with baby Harvey, how awesome and lovey it was, and yet how little I really knew him back then. (Turns out he kind of hated cuddling on his stomach.) Maybe that's why a new baby is so hard - it's sort of like an arranged marriage. You're suddenly supposed to love this total stranger right away, and you sort of do but you sort of don't at the same time.

I remember falling in love with Harvey the instant he was born. Zion's birth was a bit more traumatic, so I'll sheepishly admit that I'm still working to catch up in the bonding department. Part of me wishes I could just fast forward a few months to where everything feels all solid and secure again, where I feel like we're really a family of four with most of the kinks worked out, and not a family of 3 with a very tiny guest in our house. Right now I sort of feel like a top that's a little bit off balance. Harvey used to be the center of my life, and now the center is somewhere in the middle of many people in a fuzzy moving relational space.

Still, I keep telling myself it's okay to take things slow too, to allow space for cuddles and naps and piles of clean laundry to go unfolded. That baby head sure is a soft good-smelling thing.


getting along

Dan ended his paternity leave today, and I survived my first day of solo parenting. I managed to keep my children fed, napped, and mildly entertained, although the trickiest part was the late afternoon when it caught up to Harvey that we hadn't left the house all day. By that time my whole body was shaking from the effort of going up and down the stairs while carrying one child or the other or both. Why oh why is all the food downstairs and all the diaper stuff upstairs? It didn't help that it was a day of non-stop poopy diapers for the big heavy child who could not keep his hands off the fruit basket. I appreciate the sentiments, Edible Arrangements, but not the digestive properties of your product combined with how irresistible it is to a toddler to eat food on a stick.

Fortunately for me Harvey is a good sweet boy, and he's taken to brotherhood remarkably well. He's amazingly patient with how long it takes to change Zion's diaper and nurse him, and he keeps bringing Zion toys and hats, each time saying "Baby want this?" This morning all he wanted to do was hold the baby. He said "uppy baby" and then held his arms up at about the level of his ears, adding "peeeeeese?"

harvey holds zion

getting to like you, getting to hope you like me

So I sat and read them my favorite story, pressed up next to Harvey with one hand on the book and the other supporting Zion's head as a back up measure. Harvey listened to the story and every minute or so leaned down to kiss Zion on his forehead. Rascal took notice and squeezed his way onto the couch on the other side of me. When I got to the point in the story where it says "All the world is everything, everything is you and me" it was all I could do to hold back big mama tears.

harvey kisses his baby brother

kisssy baby

During this pregnancy I prayed for a baby that would be the perfect fit for our family. So far Zion seems to be fitting in with Harvey like a puzzle piece, which is to say he's perfectly complementary while being perfectly opposite. He sleeps all the time, unlike constantly wakeful baby Harvey. He wants hugs and cuddles and to be held horizontal, unlike baby Harvey who just wanted to be put down in his basket or be held sitting upright like a big boy. It seems as if Harvey was made to be a big brother and Zion to be a devoted little. Or it could be the difference in their gestational ages, who knows. Either way it's exciting to see this whole new relationship forming. Makes all the stairs worth it.


getting out!

To celebrate Dan's last Zion-caused day off of work we took an outing to the Bedford commons. There was necessity involved, of course. I had to make 10 copies of our fence application at the library and then walk them over to town hall 200 yards away. I didn't think I had the mental focus or stamina to do both copying and walking with 2 kids in tow before the application deadline this Wednesdsay. So Dan came to help, and we all met at the conveniently placed playground right in the middle.

dada and harvey on the swing


Mama even got into the festivities and pushed one child while holding the other, just like a real live mother of two.

mama and zion pushing harvey on the swing

acting like a real mama

It was a little cold out, so babies were both dressed in mama-made knitwear. You can see Harvey's orange sweater in the picture above. Zion looked a bit more silly in his matching sweater, hat, and booties.

now write your number on this card but don't show it to me...

Yeah, I know, the hat is huge. There's a new appropriately sized one on the needles right now as we speak. It's progress will slow down significantly though as soon as I can get up and down the stairs with laundry.

It sure was nice to get outside, though I was pretty exhausted on the way home. Also, in the commotion setting up the infant car seat we forgot the overdue library books on the living room floor. Isn't that just the way? At least no one got soaked with projectile pooping.


the many faces of Zion

Baby Zion has a tendency to wear a serious expression, even while sleeping. Here he is for example bearing witness to the burial of his placenta

zion witnessing the burial of his placenta

a bit concerned

Yeah, you like how I hippy-slipped that in there, didn't you? Be glad I didn't include the actual placenta photographs. I'm saving those for the Christmas card.

Kind of reminds me of Harvey's serious face from 8 days old.

8 days old, ready for his catalogue shoot

8 days old, ready for his catalogue shoot

Of course, it may just be those enormous cheeks pushing up poor Zion's brow. He can make other faces after all, like this one.

zion sticking out his tongue


or this one

zion yawning

I coulda been a contender

Which reminds me that Harvey at a day old wore the exact same outfit:

baby harvey in his farmer outfit

farmers need their sleep

It's hard to believe that Harvey was a whole month older than Zion at birth. I guess as a little brother he's already running fast to catch up.


What kind of a name is Zion, anyway?

One Tuesday evening during the summer of 2009 Dan baby Harvey and I were sitting on the Lexington bandstand lawn enjoying a summer concert and playing one of our favorite games: come up with baby names. With "Harvey" done and used up, we were in the market for a fall-back boy name and I was trying to think of hippy ones. Zephyr... Ezra... good but already taken by people we know. And I was thinking, "You know, I wish I could come up with a name that expresses not only our counter-cultural leanings but our hope for the future: our faith in God and humanity and our grand vision for a world that could be possible."

"I wish we could name a baby, like, 'New Jerusalem' or something." I said to myself.

"Wait, I've got it!" I said to Dan. "What about Zion?"

So Zion (rhymes with Brian) was enthroned as our leading boy's name, even as early as two years ago. It's a good thing this little one came out a boy too, because a potential girl baby really dodged the hippy bullet on being named "Agape," or "Easter," or "Jubilee." (Although I still can't see why Dan vetoed Jubilee. I may still fight for it in the future.)

Whether you are Jewish and waiting for the messiah to come, or Christian and waiting for the messiah to come back, Zion represents the hope we have in God's future. One day people will so reconcile with God and with each other that the real places where we live here on earth will be made new. And we don't want to be lazy laggards ourselves; we're trying in our little ways to infuse our environment and relationships with reconciliation. Obviously sometimes better than others. Hey, that's why it's a hope and a vision, not a brownie try-it.

With your children it is the same: you hope for big things and you work for little things. You hope grandly that they would live freer and truer and more connected lives than you ever could. At the same time you pray humbly that they would know God, that they would grow to follow Him, and that God would forgive you for the defects incurred in the shipping and handling.

All that hope wrapped up into a very little name for a very little guy. That's Zion. For the moment I'm calling him "Baby Z" and that seems to suit him too.


a(nother) day in the life

Mama on the couch with Zion, Rascal, and Harvey crowding around

a little more full

So it looks like Zion likes it here well enough; I guess he's planning to stay. We spent a pretty low-key day just hanging out, but as you can see from the photo above the house feels a little bit more full than it did a couple days ago.

Zion scrunched up in the sling

first time outside!... -ish

Of course, we can still go outside! The first sunny day of Zion's life meant that Leah could bring him out for a little airing; well, as much air as he could get in there in that sling. So far he likes it rather better than Harvey ever did, but he likes the Moses basket less so it's kind of a wash. All in all, we're a little surprised at how different he is than Harvey—not that we can really remember Harvey at that age. Leah reminded me this evening that Harvey didn't start crying until he was a couple days old, so we shouldn't get used to Zion's easy newborn ways. Cause for now, most of the time he looks like this:

Zion looking comatose

tough life!

He doesn't like getting his diaper changed, so we hear some complaining then, but other than that it's pretty easy to forget he's even there. Harvey's helped in that regard by turning up the personality: by turns excited and engaging, and despairingly jealous (happily, mostly the former). Keeps life interesting, that's for sure!


special effects

a pretty good double rainbow

a bow for Zion

The weather put on a pretty good show today for Zion's first full day out in the world, and this was the grand finale. Too bad he was too busy nursing to appreciate it. Boy does like his grub!

rainbow looking like it's touching down just a few streets away

the gold looks to be less than a mile away!

Me and Harvey made it outside to ooh and ah, and Mama appreciated the pictures. Zion'll understand what he missed in four or five years, I figure.


baby Zion's birth story - quick like lightening!

Dan must have been rather surprised yesterday morning when upon arriving at work he got a phone call telling him to turn around and come right home. "My water broke" I told him. "Oh!" he said, "Let me just tell them inside." Poor thing, he had barely set down his bicycle. He ran inside to tell the administrators he was leaving and then came zooming back home. That's 12 miles in 45 minutes and in work clothes, people! I'd only be more impressed if he'd actually given birth himself.

I too was pretty surprised when I stood up at 8:15 am to find myself covered in amniotic fluid. The baby's due date wasn't for another two weeks, and since Harvey was late we were really expecting this baby a week or two late as well. Certainly not the first week of May. Indeed, many things were surprising about the series of events yesterday. For example, when you're used to going into labor at 42 weeks and then your water breaks at 38 weeks, it really does seem as if the difference in the amount of liquid that comes out is like how much water you could possibly drink in a whole month. Seriously, it was like the friggin Hoover Dam. All those jokes from TV that I always ridiculed. All true.

Since I wasn't in labor yet the midwives decided to come around noon. By 11am the contractions were 5 minutes apart. The 5 intervening minutes felt like no labor at all, but the contractions felt like the dickens, which I told to the first midwife who arrived. She checked all my vitals and the baby's heartbeat, and then sat with me through a few contractions. Since they were between 2-5 minutes apart and not longer than 30 seconds, she figured this was still early labor and suggested I get in the shower while she set up her supplies. I stood in the shower for 5 minutes and thought it felt pretty good. Then I had a contraction in the shower and thought I was dying. Then I thought all would be better if I just made a poop, so I got out of the shower to sit on the potty. Once sitting I let out a big yell and the other midwife rushed in. "I just want to check to see what's going on," she said. She gave one poke with a gloved finger and said, "Um, I can feel the baby's head. Do you want to have this baby on the floor here? or can you make it to the bedroom?"

A plastic sheet was thrown over the bed faster than a magician's trick, and less than five minutes later a 9-pound baby plopped onto it. I don't think I gave more that four pushes and Harvey stayed asleep in the next room the whole time. The plastic tub was all ready and inflated, but we only ever got a few inches of water into it. Harvey played in it later that night.

Look, I don't recommend this type of labor. It was rather shocking and unpleasant, and the kind of pain you're mentally ready to face after 5 hours preparation is just not the kind of pain you can process in 10 minutes. Then again, I can't say I was sad to get it over with either. And how hard core is it to say that we did all of labor and delivery in the time it took Harvey to take an afternoon nap?

I have to admit I was a little shocked for the rest of the afternoon, but by evening I started to warm up to the idea that we really did just have a baby, that now we have two sons, and that the second one is a big-cheeked butter ball who loves eating just as much as his big brother did but thankfully loves sleeping just a little bit more.

So here's to baby Zion, who was apparently in a great hurry to meet us. We're pretty happy to meet you too, little guy. Now let's all just chiiiiill out for a little while.


birth announcement

Mama kissing the newborn baby

she loves him already

We have a new baby! He surprised us quite a bit, first by getting the whole labor thing started a couple weeks early, then by being born after less than two hours of labor, and finally by being a boy when all stomach analysis indicated there was a girl in there. But no, he's a boy and he was in a hurry. I give you Zion Greig Archibald:

Zion is well-built for a newborn

big and strong!

He was born at 1:16 this afternoon and weighed in at 9lb even (but he cheated and snuck in a nursing before the weigh-in so who knows). Harvey napped pretty much through the whole labor, so he was fairly surprised too when he woke up and was told he was now a big brother. After just a little uncertainty, though, he settled right into the role.

Mama reading to Harvey and Zion

look how well they get along already!

Just like he was with Harvey Rascal was very interested as soon as Zion was born and didn't want to leave the bedroom, much less the house. The two of them are already very well acquainted.

We're all doing fine, and very much appreciate everyone's thoughts and prayers and well-wishes. Feel free to stop by and visit our new little guy... in a week or so, once we get used to him ourselves. In the meantime any additional photos (that we manage to refrain from putting on the blog) will appear at

And hey, we were sure quicker with this announcement than we were last time, eh?