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just to get things straight

Dan and I ran into a neighbor yesterday afternoon. "How are you guys doing?" she asked. Fine fine, we said, a little flooded, but nothing harmed.

"And how are YOU DOING?" she said looking at me knowingly, narrowing her eyes.

What? Fine. I'm doing fine, I guess. OH! You mean because I spent an entire week blogging about my breasts? Yes they're fine now too. A little worse for the wear, but currently lactating properly. Thank you for asking!

These are the sort of things you run into when you pen a highly personal blog.

We are just getting to the point now, after seven years of blogging, where we have real repeat visitors who we haven't met in real life. For some reason this frightens me more than the fact that all our friends and neighbors have intimate access to my breasts. I mean information about my breasts, INFORMATION about my breasts.

Anyway, I like to think that everyone gets a chuckle from the blog, but if you met me in person you'd come away with the impression of a woman who is elegant and gracious at best, and at worst at least a semi-functional human being. On the blog I may come off as a nervous political extremist with untreated OCD, but that merely underscores the most humorous aspects of my personality.

I'm really a lovely and gracious potitical extremist with untreated OCD. I won't like, come to your house and give birth all over your carpet while reciting psalms. Unless you're into that sort of thing.

This all came into my head last night when I woke up panicked that people are going to read yesterday's post about Helen coming to dinner and think that maybe I didn't have a good time or enjoy the company or even behave graciously, on account of my humorous but debilitating anxiety. Obviously this is not the case. I have anxious thoughts, but they're not debilitating. I am capable of having a lovely evening. Joy and satisfaction are indeed sensations that enter into my consciousness. I just never find them near as hilarious as the scattershot things my brain finds to worry about.

For example, leaving the house on Sunday I said to Dan: "I don't like to leave the dishwasher on when we're out, but I think it's okay this time."
"Because we're all in the car together, all four of us, so the worst that can happen is the house burns down but none of us die."
"And it probably wouldn't burn down because it's raining so much right now. So the worst that can happen is our kitchen gets destroyed."
"O.... kaaaaaay..."
"No, the worst that could happen is the fire would start in the basement with the electrical cords running TO the dishwasher, and the basement would be on fire but we wouldn't know it, and then when we get home we smell something funny but we go in the house anyway, and right at that moment the floor collapses underneath us and we ALL die."
"o. kay. You know that's highly unlikely."
"I think I should maybe turn off the dishwasher anyway. I don't like to leave it on when we're out."

See? hilarious. Yet written by a person who is still functional enough to drive you to the airport. I'm glad we cleared this up.


Easter Basket Pants

A few years ago I read a charming story on Soule Mama about how she accidentally started an Easter tradition around linen pants. One year she made linen pants, and then the next year she made linen pants, and then before she knew it she was sewing three pairs of linen pants into the wee hours of the morning.

For this reason, Easter crafting brings to my mind thoughts of guilt and linen. No, just kidding. I think first of competition. Amanda, I will not be out-done.

Harvey models his new trousers

new trousers and a classic album from the '90s

Using same guidelines from the last pair of pants I made, I created a linen outside pant and orange liner pant. I sewed the first together and realized my pattern was vastly too small. So I added stripes on the sides and an extra gusset in the back.

homemade trousers: rear view

the view from behind

Necessity is the mother of orange.

Of course, once the pants were finished last weekend I couldn't wait till Easter. He's a growing boy after all. He needs all the pants he can get.

Thank God he's too young to think of tradition. I loved making these pants, but I'm not jumping to make another pair quite yet. Maybe about a year is the right amount of time.


Helen DeWitt came to my seder (and other news)

Leah has been monopolizing the blog lately, due to her ability to write from work (and after midnight). She already noted everything that happened for the past several days, so all I can do is add my own perspective and commentary.

Our Famous Seder Guest

It was pretty cool having Helen DeWitt attend our seder, though I admit to feeling some trepidation when Leah told me (over the phone at 3:30) that she would be coming—especially since I was also dealing with news of a flooded basement at the same time (see below). But it all worked out perfectly well, because the imminent arrival of a famous guest allowed me to ask everyone else to help out with the cooking and things, so I actually had to do rather less work than I would have otherwise.

Chatting with Helen was very nice, even if I did manage to restrain myself from asking about her writing. Which, of course, I highly recommend you should read: The Last Samurai is a fantastic book, even if you don't get a copy that is personally signed by the author and inscribed "Next year in Jerusalem". I can't take credit for the second part: it was her idea.

Biblical-type Flooding: The Return

The storm that wetted Leah's lower parts also caused widespread havoc up and down the east coast, as well as in our cellar. Actually, we were rather better off than most people because we don't care so much about the water that found it's way in: we hadn't managed to clean up from the last time, so all we had to do was turn on the newly-acquired pumps and send it right back out again. Well, that and stay up all night Wednesday night keeping an eye on them, but that's just how it goes. We're very happy to not be living in the path of a river, as photographs I've seen suggest that riparian flooding was quite a bit worse than what we had to deal with. And now it's going to be 80° tomorrow. The climate is broken, and folks don't mind because "at least it's not snow" and they like warm weather. Oh my.

The Coming Festival

We have made it through nearly all of Lent and the associated Leap of Faith, and did it ever seem long. Not onerous at all, just long: as if time in February and March was passing slowly. It does tend to, perhaps. In any case, I did quite well with the Bible-reading discipline, and less well with the prayer. We have not, for example, seen a ten-fold increase in unique visitors to this blog, nor have I found a new job for next year. I don't feel let down: the problem, if there is one besides needing to wait a bit, lies with me. At church this evening we pretty much celebrated Easter on Good Friday. and we've also run out of Matzah: two signs that the celebratory season of spring is upon us. I will of course continue praying, maybe even more than before!

Hopefully more blogging than before as well: I've got to keep up with Leah!


The Easter Bunny Cometh

Don't tell Harvey, but there's a new friend waiting for him in his Easter basket.

an Easter rabbit made from an old quilt

sniff sniff

This bunny sprang to life from this pattern and the remains of an old quilted pillow-case that didn't survive as long as the bed quilt. This means that the bunny already has a weathered look despite never having been weathered by play. It also means that the toy will get completely lost from view anytime we put it down on top of the bed. Oh well. We'll find it when we sit down.

There was just enough fabric left over to make a second little friend for Harvey. That guy is still on the sewing machine as of now. If he gets done in time for the basket tomorrow then he'll get his little stuffed butt blogged on Easter. Otherwise, have a very happy holiday all of you, whether you call it Easter, Resurrection Sunday, or just plain "the weekend."

passed over

In this Christian household we celebrate Passover a little less rigorously than we would if we were actually Jewish, but we make an effort (at least in the years when it falls earlier than Easter). Aside from hosting one seder and attending another, we also sort of kept the Passover fast, by refraining from any bread leavened with yeast. Hey, that's all it says in Exodus! It's a good thing we're flexible too, because it took tortillas and rice cakes to get us through dinner tonight, after the matza supply ran out.

Because that's the other thing: there's no way we're going to be off bread tomorrow! In preparation for the yeast feast to come, I baked 16+ cups of flour into two loaves of bread and two dozen hot cross buns. Hopefully they'll come out better than a couple years ago, although like I did then I forgot to add an ingredient—in this case, the egg—until probably too late and had to work extra hard to incorporate it into the dough. I think I need to review that recipe and make a couple changes. A couple more changes, that is: I already mixed things up a little by using some whole wheat flour and replacing the raisins with apricots and candied pineapple. Now that's properly festive.

hot cross buns just out of the oven

glowing with sugary goodness


Bunny #2

Not completely satisfied by the first bunny I crafted last week, I went on a mission to sew another bunny. A bigger, more opposable, infinitely more difficult bunny. He made his way into the Easter basket this morning.

Two stuffed bunnies and no chocolate. That's what you get at nine months, and you're going to LIKE IT!

the second Easter bunny, standing

baby bunny baroo

The pattern comes from some ridiculous book that Cara gave me from a yard sale. It's actually the pattern for a bear, but I added floppy ears and made it into a bunny. The book is a million and one christmas crafts all thrown together - knitting, crocheting, sewing, and paper-craft. Because there's so much crap in the book, the directions for each project are painfully brief. Cut out these pattern pieces... Fuggin.... sew em together. It harks back to a simpler time when the Joy of Cooking still included instructions for skinning a squirrel. And mothers knew how to sew absolutely everything, but they still needed help coming up with ideas that are unbelievably tacky.

The big bunny features arms and legs that rotate, thanks to a swivel system made of eyelets and buttons. I know they sell real swivel systems for stuffed animals, but the wall at Joanne's was completely overwhelming so I just went with the eyelets. Hey, the arms turn. What else do you want from me?

I was unhappy with the naked bunny - he looked too much like a bear in my estimation - so I gave him a cut-off shirt and a diaper. When I pulled the pom-pom tail out of a hole in the diaper it gave me a big chuckle.

the second Easter bunny, sitting down

cotton tail - literally

For now I'm done with bunnies. Anyway, all we need is two, and they're supposed to do the rest. Right?


Easter fashions

Harvey with his Easter outfit and bunny

like a little daffodil

Everybody had a wonderful Easter here in the squibix family: good thing, because we all sure got dressed up for it!

Harvey, held by mama, tries to get into his Easter egg

we get eggs too?!

No photos of me, sadly. That's what happens when you're the photographer.


movin, shakin

A lot happened this weekend in addition to Easter. For one thing, Harvey started crawling. On Saturday I put him down on the floor of Cara's kitchen and took two steps away to pick up a dish towel. Harvey put his knees half way under him and scooted right on after me. It was only three little scoots, but I screamed and cooed and smothered him with praise just like he'd just won the nobel prize. The next morning we put him down on the floor and a moment later he was under the table. "Do you see?" Dan said, "He's crawling over her."

"I know," I replied unmoved. "He totally does that now."

Also some time last week his hair turned curly. I don't know if it was the flood-induced humidity or the fact that we celebrated a jewish seder on Tuesday, but his mother's genes have suddenly expressed themselves. Seriously, he's crawling around like a little boy baby Shirley Temple.

Next it'll be tap dancing.

If Harvey had emerged from the womb curly headed I would have morned for him. I'm not a big fan of my curly hair, it's hard to keep it from looking messy all the time. So much the worse for a little boy dash teenager dash young man. But now that's it's been a while and my son looks the spitting image of my husband in all features facial, I'm glad to have this little bit of momma-ness reflected back at me.

Or away from me, depending on which direction he's crawling.

Harvey's curly hair

curly locks


late games

Spring is very much in the air around here, so for the first time in a while the weather was actually tolerable for the Red Sox opener. Weather for that reason or another, I'm feeling the baseball love—a change from the last year or so, when various things conspired to put me firmly in "meh" territory. The last thing Major League Baseball wanted to do to if they were trying keep me as a fan, then, was schedule the first game for after 8:00 on a school night. Sure, I was excited, but I was also in bed by 8:30! (Ignore the timing on this particular blog post: it's an aberration caused by an over-ambitious attempt at cleaning.)

Still, the Sox won in what I am led to believe was exciting fashion, so my enthusiasm is not yet entirely dampened. It is, however, further moistened by a perusal of the season's schedule, kindly forwarded to us by the good people at Suzanne & Company—maybe even by Suzanne herself! I can't help but note that there are only four Saturday day games this year and, of those, only one has a proper 1:00 start. Shameful, I call it!

At least tomorrow's game is at the seven o'clock hour (though even there, MLB or their television allies seem to have moved actual start times back a further five minutes to ten past the hour). So, whether or not I can make it to the end of the game, I'll be there by the radio ready for the first pitch! As long as I don't forget, of course.

[I must also note that I seem to have said all these same things, more concisely and with more humor, five years ago. Oh well. In this postmodern world, we can do no more than to endlessly recreate that which has gone before.]


Growing up so fast: Video Evidence

Here is a video taken recently of Harvey enjoying his bath. Since we shot the video last week our big boy has graduate from baby bath to full on tub action. Everything changes so quickly around here! You need a full time video editor to keep up with this big boy!

Obligatory baby bath video now checked off the list.


back in the (soggy) saddle

With the nice (albeit frighteningly unseasonable) weather, I've been just itching to get back on my bike—and not only from the bug bites! Unfortunately, since the mishap oh so many months ago things have only gotten worse for my poor machine. It was a flat tire that initially laid me low, but subsequent complications included rust, misalignment, and two floods. Not to mention, of course, the discovery that the tire itself was completely shot and needed to be replaced.

Well, now it has been. Also, the rust has been to some extent scraped off and the affected parts heavily oiled, and the bike itself has been removed from the flood-prone basement. The alignment issues are... still issues, but at least it will support my weight and move in a roughly forwardly direction. I'm thinking of riding it to work tomorrow!

Clearly, I am entirely fearless and intrepid when it comes to risking the time of those members of my family who would have to come and rescue me should something go wrong. What I'm most concerned about, actually, is the fact that the bike sat for some time—upside-down, for long-term tire-replacement purposes—in a few inches of basement flood. You'd never think that the saddle would show a tendency to absorb water under those conditions, but absorb water it has. Much more than it ever did, say, sitting out in the rain for seven hours. I tried to squeeze out as much of the moisture as I could, but I fear I'll have to ride sitting on a towel for the first couple post-flood cycling outings. Oh well, it's been so hot out I'm sure I'll appreciate the in-seat cooling.


the size of him

We've finally found a pair of trousers that fit Harvey properly. You see, he's a pretty big boy, at least when measured around his middle, which means that clothes meant for 9-month-olds tend to be a bit snug. And when we find trousers that do fit his waist—and his gigantic, cloth-diaper butt—they need to be rolled up three or four times to not overhang his feet entirely. Happily, Grandma had the wonderful idea of buying 18-month shorts. The waistband fits, and the cuffs are right about at his ankles. Yup, Harvey is just the size of an 18-month-old dwarf. Good to know!

time travel

Driving home a few minutes ago from an evening engagement I had some thoughts about the nature of time. It's ten past nine, it's dark, it's raining, and I'm very sleepy indeed. It seemed to me, at that moment, that it was tremendously late; surely ours should be the only car on the road. What's everyone else doing out at such an hour?! The idea that all over the Greater Boston area young folks are just gearing up to start their evenings about blows my mind.

But I shouldn't worry too much: I'm not the only one to entirely fail to understand the workings of time. In perhaps the worst article about physics ever to be published, a "science" reporter at Fox News explains how recent work on observing quantum states means that—wait for it—"Time travel may be feasible".

Sure it's feasible! In fact, don't tell anyone but I'm time-traveling right now. Unfortunately, the relativistic effects of moving forward into the future of beyond 10:00pm means that I couldn't concentrate enough to fully absorb the article's finer points (scienceblogs.com did, if you're interested), but I will comment on this:

Consider Sergei Krikalev, the Russian astronaut who flew six space missions. Richard Gott, a physicist at Princeton University, says Krikalev aged 1/48th of a second less than the rest of us because he orbited at very high speeds. And to age less than someone means you've jumped into the future — you did not experience the same present. In a sense, he says, Krikalev time-traveled to the future — and back again!

"Back again"? Not so much. He went into the future slightly faster than the rest of us, sure, but we're all here together now. It turns out the future isn't much more interesting than the past; especially when that past is only 1/48th of a second ago. No flying cars, I'm afraid. Though we do have iPads now, which I suppose is something.


Anyone need some brain dev powder for a smoothie?

Another free sample came from enfamil in the mail. This time it's some special pre-toddler formula to help with growing brains. There's even a graph on the package indicating how 85% of Harvey's brain function will be formed by age 3, with the implication that regular food and, um, breast-milk aren't enough to fertilize his little mind like miracle grow.

Enfamil and their competitors have been working pretty hard to ensnare Harvey as one of their potential customers. Here's a sample of the free enticements they sent me before the baby was even born:

formula free samples

sampling is a high-cost high-return marketing tactic

5 large tins of powdered formula
3 single-serving formula sizes
two boxes of baby vitamin drops
one bottle
three nipples
one pacifier
one cold compress bag
a sports-themed bib
a to-go travel back-pack
a thousand pamphlets about the importance of starting your baby off right with good nutrition.
Goodnight Moon. As if we didn't already have two friggin copies of Goodnight Moon.

Breast-feeding in America can be hard. Sometimes it's hard because you don't have support from your healthcare provider to begin with. Sometimes it's hard because you don't stop getting Mastitis or because your breasts are riddled with festering sores. Sometimes it's hard because other people are assholes and don't want to see your boob in any fashion other than titillating.

And sometimes it's not that hard, but quitting seems so so so much easier.

This debate is already raging on the internet, and some people have better things to say than I do. I don't have anything more super deep to say; I just look at that image and it chills me to the core. You can unsubscribe from tv and magazines but you can't escape culture when it's mailed direct to your house every afternoon. Whatever it is that the culture values, good or bad. Brain development. Doing things the easy way. Buying shit.


are you going to San Francisco?

In an effort to lighten my mood this morning I stole a daffodil from the vase on our kitchen table and put it in my hair.

To the judgmental water-bottle and family photos in my cube, I seem to be pulling it off.

We've been pretty surly in the squibix household over the past week. Okay, so over the past month. Okay, so since I started my new job in March.

Job upheaval tends to bring sandpaper to our marriage. When things work out well we appreciate each other for our varied gifts and skills and financial contributions. When circumstances don't work out, or when the the mechanics of financial contribution are grating or exhausting or painfully boring, our union is not as pleasant and fulfilling as it might be. That's to say the least. To say the most would be to characterize my personality in terms of sit-com wife stereotypes.

One of these days, Alice.

So outside of drinking on the job I'm trying little things to lift my mood. The flower is a start.


we're in ur woods, hippying ur neighborhood

On my run this morning I ran into a friend from grad school who's contemplating a home birth. With her was a neighbor who's a birth educator by profession and also home-schools her kids and does a little light crafting. Which is to say: WATCH OUT, STATUS QUO! WE'RE TAKING OVER YOUR FRIGGIN NEIGHBORHOOD!

Well, the statistical sample may be skewed a little bit. Towards individuals crunchy enough to use their saturday morning to walk in the woods in the rain. nevertheless...

Last night we went out for margaritas with my parents at a restaurant (appropriately titled) Margaritas. Harvey was wearing his easter pants and seedling shirt. My mom recognized the pants and said, "Look what nice pants your momma made you!"

"I made the shirt too," I said. Because I don't let well enough stand.

"You MADE the shirt?!"


"Oh, you mean you sewed the leaf on it."

"No, I made the shirt."


"From cloth."

"You made this??? This is incredible! You made a whole shirt? I can't believe you made this!"

"I made the pattern too..."

And with that, my mother's head exploded.

So in conclusion, your level of outlandishness just depends on who you're talkin' too.

Why am I kind of wet? Oh yeah, because I just went running in the rain. I'm not too earthy crunchy to shower!


farm update

the first asparagus from our garden

homegrown and healthy!

It was a hard two or three years of waiting, but we finally had our first asparagus harvest, and boy were those four spears delicious! Well worth the wait, I can say without any doubt. Especially since I didn't have to do much work for them besides the initial planting and a little fertilizing and weeding. I just wish I had planted more than five plants, way back when (so long ago I don't even remember exactly)! When's the best time to plant asparagus? Two years ago, of course! Asparagus is pretty good stuff, providing as it does an edible product even earlier than that of the collard greens. Chives are even earlier, of course, but nowhere near as filling as a main course.

But it wasn't all harvesting and tasty eating at the squibix farm today—far from it. I also sowed the first seeds outside: peas, arugula, and spinach. It's on the late side for those cold-hardy crops, but with all the rain we've been having it took forever for the soil to dry out enough to be workable. The peas—super sugar snap—were a big hit last year, so I took extra care with their sowing. Spinach, on the other hand, is not a favorite of mine, and I also got to it last this afternoon; thus I'll be amazed if anything comes up at all.

In any case, it sure was nice to get out there and get some work done. There's plenty of dirt in the compost pile, the tomatoes and onions are still growing fine indoors, and things are looking good for the 2010 farming season! Long may it last.


...all wacked on scoobie snacks

Dan tells me, "I was outside with one of my students the other day, and he said, 'Look there's a Robin. HEY! Robin is a bird's name, and Robin Hood is a movie name!"

"You should have told him that Robin is also a person's name."

"I did. I said, 'Robin is also a person's first name, so Robin Hood is that guy's name.'"

"Well played."

"More precisely it's Robin The Hood.'"

"Why, because he wore a hood? I always thought because he lived in the hood. But I guess he really lived in the woods."

"You know what he'd be called if he lived today, don't you?"

"No, what?"

"Robin Banks, yo!"

a parade of Patriots Day photos

the traditional lead group of Lexington's Patriots Day parade

wounded LHS fifers represent

Patriots Day fell on the proper day this year—the historically accurate April 19th—which was of course very exciting to realize. As our family is not at an age to appreciate the early-morning reenactment, we limited our celebration of the day to the parade, and a grand time was had by all.

a band

yay trumpets!

For Patriots Day Lexington puts on rather a bigger show than our little town can manage for Bedford Day. There were bands, flag twirlers, horses, farm advocates, clowns, and—this being a town utterly steeped in history—reenactors. The revolutionary-era folks we expect but there were also representatives from the Civil War:

a civil war reenactor

lets keep this civil...

And the Second World War:

a World War II reenactor

no, it's not too soon

Some of the marchers looked a little young to be out there fighting, but I suppose when you're trying to win your freedom you do what you have to do!

a young reenactor from Arlington

I bet he killed the coon himself

Harvey, who woke up just before the first units came by, thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing—except for the sirens and truck horns, which were mercifully few. He came away with one lollypop—which we may have to save for him until he's three or so—and a flag, which he waved proudly when he wasn't hitting me with it. Oh, the patriotism!

Harvey watching the parade

showing off his patriotism



Remember my friend who traveled all the way to Tailand to train as a boxer? I've been reading his blog over the past few months. He's soldiered through grueling training sessions, viscous boxing opponents, and crazy Tai illnesses to come home to Brooklyn with little more than a scratch. That's where he was hit by a car yesterday.

Hey life, WTF?

Please pray for any shade of miracle that you believe is possible.

UPDATE: fuck.


on the sunny side

In yesterday's parade photos you may have noticed Harvey's stunning new green hat. The hat is actually a new creation just added to his wardrobe, made from the remains of a designer thrift-store dress. I made the pattern using this tutorial and sewed it up in no time at all.

Harvey in his new sun hat

a new look for summer

Sewing a baby sun hat with 12 identical pieces is a very heartening sewing project. I recommend it highly for lifting your spirits when something goes wrong. In fact, I'm working on another one right now!

Soon Harvey will have infinite choices for keeping the sun out of his eyes... provided he deigns to keep anything on his head.

Harvey removing his hat

get it off, get it off!


Neil Chamberlain - a remembrance

Mr. Yelland's science class. First day of high school. The sweet relief and dread horror of being assigned a lab partner by alphabetical order. Me being a B, I plunked down next to the first person with last-name C. He was a tiny weasely-looking kid with a bowl haircut. I was a self-conscious wannabe cheerleader. We looked at each other out of the corners of our eyes. We were both mortified.

Over the next few weeks it turned out we had more in common than we thought. For one, we both had no idea what was going on in earth science. We couldn't follow the scribbling on the board. We didn't hand in our homework. We fell asleep a lot, cheek resting on hand, then eyes slowly and grudgingly blinking closed. A minute later we'd both be face down, lying on an arm, drooling over a notebook. We never talked with each other about anything other than labs, but when you fall asleep two inches from someone else's face, it's surprisingly intimate. The moment when you both wake up with a start you are embarrassed accomplices.

That year Neil was reading "On the Road" by Jack Kerouac and "Naked Lunch" by William S. Burroughs. He was also writing. Tiny scrawl lined up improbably neatly on white copy paper. One day I asked to see and he handed me a stack of ten double-sided pages. I poured over the short story later that day in study hall. I was mesmerized. The prose was on par with anything I'd read in the New Yorker fiction edition. There was sex and intrigue. Droppings of the F bomb. Downward spiral swirling around a burned-out young man living in a New York apartment. His refrigerator light was burned out, but when he put his hand in the fridge it was still cold. That detail is the bit I remember. It was so vivid and real. An observation of base reality and yet a metaphor for our entire young lives.

Neil went to college at Oberlin. My boyfriend brought back reports that he had run into him while touring the Ohio campus. He waxed awe-struck. Neil was the picture of a young man as an artist. Dressed in black. Prolific through the wee hours of the morning. The brand of cigarettes he smoked was impossibly cool.

Neil moved to New York and pursued the life you might imagine. Trips to third world countries. Drugs and drinking and profligacy - but never too much. As a writer he tried everything both 100% and as an observer. He took in each experience, held it against his cheek like tobacco. Felt its tingle. Spit.

Apart from his writing I don't know what kind of adult Neil became, although I feel justified in saying that it was something impossibly cool. What I imagine, from knowing him ten plus years ago and from reading his missives recently, is that he lived life head-on.

This is what Neil wrote recently about boxing:

Training twice a day can be exhausting, like my body’s held together by naproxen and Tiger Balm. But this seems like the only way it can be right now.  Sometimes I feel like I'm bored by everything but training, or else emotionally overwhelmed by it; other times I feel like if I'm exhausted and in pain, then this can't be a vacation, which is good, because a two-month vacation would be frivolous.  Because if this is a vacation, then I would feel pressure to be having fun.  I would be on a failed fucking vacation, which is the most depressing thing I can imagine.  

But it goes deeper than that, for sure.  A couple people have asked me about what it is I like about boxing... ...In boxing, even failure is something that you can hold on to.

If we can say one beautiful perfect thing about a disgusting and terrible tragedy, it's that Neil wasn't waiting on the rest of us to start living. He was effing doing it. Life doesn't make sense. It's beautiful and crappy. Sometimes it feels like it's going on unbearably long, and then it ends far too abruptly. But however it goes, you live it damnit. You live the shit out of it.

The following quote is attributed to Marvis Leyrer.

Life's journey is not to arrive at the grave safely, in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting "Holy shit, what a ride!"


we love earth

In honor of Earth Day today, Harvey and I played in the dirt. I planted out some of the onions I sowed indoors quite some time ago, and Harvey discovered that there was a surface such that every bit of it could be picked up without changing the overall appearance of it (it was a nice soft garden bed he was playing in). He was quite enthralled, and got very, shall we say, earthy, but he managed to avoid eating very much of the soil. Yes, pictures would have been wonderful, but you can't photograph absolutely everything that happens: sometimes you just have to live life!

Then for dinner we ate garlic mustard pesto, which might be considered a gift from the earth on account of garlic mustard being a totally invasive weed; so no cultivating required! I cleared out a big swathe of it from our "woods"—more than we needed for the food but still nowhere near the whole patch. It's a start, though: don't tell me I never do anything for you, Earth!


mourning with those who mourn

Neil's mom somehow stumbled across the remembrance I posted the other day and THANK GOD she was not offended. She writes:

Since I always joked that Neil's life was about sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll, nothing in your blog entry was hurtful to us.

Neil would really have appreciated the irony of getting through those two months and then being run down just a few blocks from his home in Brooklyn. As a mom, I was so relieved when Neil returned safely from Thailand. As you write, what the fuck.

I have this fantasy about Neil's last moments - that he looked squarely at death and felt no regrets. The hard-edged curious mystic that he was, I imagine Neil stared death down in his last slit second and said "Okay man - Let's fuckin do this."

But his mother. Good Lord, His mother.

On Wednesday night Harvey got a fever - the highest fever he's ever gotten so far. He woke up around midnight screaming. SCREAMING. His little body was so piping hot that we immediately gave him tylenol and started sponging his head. After a few minutes he calmed down and felt cooler. We took his temperature and it was 103.3 Holy shit - if it was that high after we brought it down what must it have been before? Dan and I took turns holding him and working the cold compress. He laid in my arms and just moaned. My baby. My poor little baby boy. During the day he's bouncing and playing and getting his chubby arms dirty - but when he's sick in the night, my poor little thing, he's just so small and weak and fragile.

For Neil's mom the worst thing in the world has happened. It doesn't matter that her child is 27 years older than mine. My heart is broken over the loss of a friend but for her loss it's broken open double.

Neil's mom very kindly shared details about the funeral service. It will be next Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Douglass Funeral Home in Lexington Center.


This is a mood booster: BABIES! CRAFTING! LIFE!

A few weeks ago my friend Luke handed me a cotton T and said, "This shirt fits weird. I'm going to throw it away unless you want to make something from the cloth."

So Harvey got a new striped shirt.

harvey in a home-made striped shirt

am I .... a cutie?

The t-shirt is soft and stretchy with room to grow in. But oh, those belled sleeves. Every time I look at them I cringe. I couldn't loosen the tension on my machine any further, so this is what I got. Jersey knit, you are a beguiling temptress. Why are you so soft and common yet so difficult to work?

But there is hope! Next week is my birthday and I have a very exciting present on the way... It's a magical contraption that combines four spools of thread with a die cutter such that future t-shirts will look twice as good with half the effort. Yes - I'm getting a serger.

The stack of "fits weird" is piling up in anticipation. Harvey is excited.



Today is boobquake 2010. I am participating. In my own way.

The goal of boobquake is to hold a mass movement of women dressing scandalously to prove that a woman's skin does not cause massive environmental disaster.

This sounds totally fun - the sort of mass movement I could have really gotten behind in college. It's fun and flirty to show off your cleavage! Stick it to the man! Um, or whatever.

On the other hand, now that I'm a mom I'm kind of fed up with the hypersexualization of breasts. It's not only about wonderbras, it's about a billion dollar industry made up of tents of varying sizes that you can put over baby's face while he's breastfeeding. If he's squirmy or difficult to feed in a tent, others will glance at you disapprovingly. Even breastfeeding advocates will chastise you for not being discrete.

At church a few weeks ago I was in the nursing baby's corner. I saw a new mom take ten minutes draping her little patterned shawl just so over baby's head. What a pain in the ass! Then another mom came in with a toddler and just rolled down her shirt pulling her whole boob out. Way to fuckin go! I wanted to scream. Except, you know, I was in a room full of babies. And I was trying to hide the top of my breast with my sweater.

So in honor of boobquake 2010 I'm officially declaring myself over it. Check out my breast. You'll find it in the baby food section. If you can't help yourself from being either titillated or disgusted, then you have your own problems you need to work through. I've taken a self-portrait in honor of the occasion. (And out of the complete boredom that comes from pumping in a poorly-lit closet.)


pumping with photo booth set to emo

Happy boobquake. Although I have to admit, this is really more like geyser territory.


where's our local Lorax?!

Bedford is—as you can't help noticing when you drive into town, thanks to the signs at every major border crossing—a "Tree City USA" community. That means that we're fans of trees, I suppose, but you'd never know it from how much folks seem to enjoy chopping them down.

deforestation around Hanscom Field


Mostly we see it in our neighbors, but the latest anti-tree atrocity was inflicted upon the patch of woods—the Jordan Conservation Area, if you want to get fancy—abutting our local "airport", Hanscom Field. You can see the results above. In this case it wasn't local Bedfordians who were to blame but MassPort, who claimed that the clear-cutting was necessary for safety reasons. Never fear, though, they figure we probably won't even notice! To quote Stewart Dalzell, Massport’s departmental director of environmental planning and permitting:

Nothing we’re doing is changing the use of that property. We’re replacing vegetation with other vegetation that doesn’t grow so high. Certainly it will look different, but ultimately, the area in question is a passive recreation area. When we get done, all of its uses will still be the same.

Yes. Except for the uses of providing animal habitat, restraining runoff, and not looking like ass. (You'll noteby the way that by "replacing" our Stew means cutting down what's there and waiting for something else to grow.)

stumps at Hanscom Field

we need you, Lorax!

In the interest of fairness, I am obliged to note that at the same time they're cutting down roadside trees the fine folks at Hanscom are also contributing to beautifying the town by abandoning the trailer park which used to house base personnel. Thanks to the grass seed they through down where the trailers used to be and the many flowering trees that grace the neighborhood, the area is now in a fair way towards becoming a charming little piece of parkland.

lawns and flowering trees

once a trailer park, now just a park

Certainly, the squibix family boys—that's Harvey, Rascal, and I—enjoyed it on our walk the other day; but so did we enjoy, when it comes to that, walking through the clear-cut area. It was very interesting: the observant eye notices for the first time the shape of the landscape, the view beyond the hill, and the fact that the cutting zone is in no way in line with either of the runways. Oh well, I suppose planes do sometimes run off-course. And not quite everything was cut down... even bulldozers have hearts, perhaps.

blossoms on a tree

beauty amidst the devestation... :'(


Smarter feminists than me talk about boobquake

On why a million sexy boobies missed the point:

Given a chance, I do not think [Iranian women] would fight for equality that looks like women wearing revealing clothing so men can get all into it and derail its original purpose.  We Western women?  Are not exactly totally free, either, and thus this ALSO reinforces the incorrect notion that the West has women's equality, THE END.

Because the point isn't to be sexy:

In our culture, displaying your cleavage is generally acceptable and it is almost always seen as sexy, flirtatious, ‘flaunting it’... What is not so generously embraced in our culture is revealing a breast for the purpose of feeding a child. Get your boobs out to nourish your offspring, and suddenly, they’re not so palatable. The kind of quake I want to experience is that which would be caused by the visibility and acceptability of all women’s bodies in all their guises - that'd be a real seismic shift.

29 on the 29th, and a tribute to Michelle

I woke up this morning to an inbox filled with Facebook alerts. "Happy birthday Leah!" "Happy birthday!" "Woo hoo, it's your birthday!"... If Facebook does one thing right, it reminds folks that it's your birthday, for good or annoying. But as I flew through a series of emails leaning on the delete key, one message stopped me in my tracks. It said: Michelle McCarthy posted something on your Wall. "Happy Birthday to you! Happy Birthday To You! Happy Birthday Dear Leah!!! Happy Birthday to You!!!!!"

I clicked through the link and over to her wall. "And Happy Birthday to YOU, my birthday buddy" I wrote back.

Michelle and I share April 29th. We also shared a lab table during our junior year of high school. Chemistry. The periodic table. Balancing equations. This blog post is one in a series (apparently) where I document my admiration for former lab partners.

I don't know how I managed to score Michelle as my lab partner that year. Even in high school she was strikingly beautiful. Tall and graceful with dark silky hair. Headshot-perfect cheek bones that demanded the attention of rouge. She was like a comic book fantasy woman. She wore complicatedly-laced tops torn from the pages of Seventeen Magazine. Her dark jeans poured all the way down to her un-sensible heals. Her slacks ended neatly in the original hem - unlike mine which were always rolled up two or three times. Michelle was the only person in our class who could pull off oversized hoop earrings. She wore stacks of tiny bracelets that jingled. She looked like she belonged on the runway, rather than in a classroom behind an acid-stained bunsen burner.

By some feat of cosmic gymnastics, Michelle and I happened to be born on the same day. This seemed impossible to me. I sat at least a foot shorter, with unruly curly hair and a complexion that could barely abide make-up. If Michelle and I were born on the same day then it must have been on different planets. She could hypnotize high-school boys with a selectively raised eyebrow. She knew all the Spanish words to Sublime's hit 'Caress Me Down.' In 1998 she was seventeen going on twenty-seven.

Today Michelle and I are both 29 years old. I'd like to think I've caught up with her in some respects, but most likely not. Today I am wearing hoop earrings and heals, but they're both fun-sized miniature of the real thing. Michelle inhabits another planet of ease and style - where birthday dinners happen in bars brimming with loud laughter and brightly colored martinis. She won't spend the evening at home with dinner wedged into the attention span of a demandingly baby.

I'm groping for some metaphor involving high school Chemistry. You can't compare helium with neon, for example, yet both are noble gases. I apologize for the lame attempt - both because it's poor writing and also because it's blatantly untrue. I have always longed to be tall, lovely, effortlessly graceful. As my twenties come to a close, the best I've achieved is acceptance that I'll never get there. I can get saddle up next to flawless. I can write its lab report. And then it's back to my unkempt reality. Husband and baby and a snot-covered birthday. In a way, I'm really looking forward to my thirties.

So happy birthday to me and Michelle. Our faces might not belong in the same book, but I'm glad they're there anyway.


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