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second-class parenthood

A couple days ago Harvey and Zion were playing a game involving pirates and prisoners and I'm not sure what else. Zion was the bad guy, so Harvey's arms were tied—pretty well, I might add, since he asked me to do it. Which was fine until he fell between the two beds in their room and, armless, couldn't find any way to get himself out. Leah and I were working in the other room so we could hear his instructions to his brother: "Zion, I'm stuck! Go ask Mama for help to get me out." Pause. "Or ask Dada, if Mama isn't available." Ah, the story of my life.

Actually, that's not quite fair. When it comes to tying up, if I'm around I tend to be the go-to parent. Also slightly more than 50% of the time when the need is fixing something made of wood that's broken. And looking at pictures of Lego creations on the computer. But in case of injury, emergency, or diaper changes, it's all about Mama. And middle of the night wake-ups? Forget it! Harvey might tolerate me, but from Zion it's nothing but "no Dada, go way!"

I'm looking forward to the arrival of another little one to change the dynamic a little bit. Finally I'll be in demand! The diaper changes will be mine! Oh wait...


some cooking

I didn't work today, so besides taking the boys to the playground and skate park for some pre-snow sunny day fun, I also cooked some things. Since I believe I created a day's menu never before seen in the history of the world, I thought I'd share.

Breakfast wasn't very interesting: egg and cheese sandwiches. Well, that's what I had; Harvey and Zion didn't want cheese, and Zion took the egg out of his and just ate the toast. Oh well. Come to think of it, they weren't really eager participants in anything I made today, so I'll just leave them out of the rest of the story.

For lunch I made sushi, for the first time in years. It's because yesterday, as we did the grocery shopping, I was feeling quite hungry; seeing the sushi rice, it occurred to me how much I'd like to eat sushi. My hunger didn't acknowledge that there were several steps in between buying the rice and the finished product. But no worries, it came together quickly and Leah and I enjoyed our rolls of egg, carrot, and avocado. Zion ate the carrot out of one roll. Oh wait, I said I wasn't going to talk about that part.

Our dinner was motivated by the turnips in the crisper drawer—turnips that Leah hates, not least because they're sprouting and also even before that very large and taking up a lot of room. But I grew them, so I feel a certain tenderness towards them and don't want to throw them out. And now that the squashes are gone, turnips and parsnips are the only garden crops we have left, so I figure we have to at least pretend we'd be able to survive on them. But what do you do with giant turnips (beside feeding them to cattle)? Why, make bashed neeps of course! Which I had never done before, but will again, because it was a very tasty dish, with a couple carrots cooked with one of the giant turnips to provide some sweetness and color.

No one would forgive me for serving turnips as a main dish, of course (never mind that Laura and her family survived all winter on nothing but turnips in On the Banks of Plum Creek). So after a little internet research on the foodways of the British Isles I cooked some sausage and, to tie the meal together, made onion gravy (loosely from this recipe). With pretty-much caramelized onions and beef broth it's very much like thickened onion soup, and it was delicious all mushed together with sausage and mash. Or at least I thought so; the boys were both delighted to enjoy the sausage on its own, plain, accompanied by bread and butter. But never mind them.


my favorite waldorf dolls yet

I made these dolls a month ago for a birthday party that was supposed to be in January. But the party got pushed back to next weekend, and while the dolls are still in my closet waiting for their big debut I thought I'd better blog about them now just in case I go into labor before I get another chance. I fear the details of my latest sewing project may pale in comparison with photos of a newborn child, and that would just be sad.

Because you might need to know for future reference what to make for the 4-year-old Little House on the Prairie fanatic and her 1-year-old younger brother.

Waldorf pillow doll and grown-up doll in pioneer clothes

Waldorf pillow doll and grown-up doll in pioneer clothes

According to the one book I've read on the subject, the Waldorf method has one-year-olds playing with "pillow dolls," dolls where the body is a square pillow with hands and head sticking out. This is an easy doll to make in some respects. There are fewer pieces to cut out and sew together than a full nude, and the hair is just a bit of embroidery that peaks out from under the (permanently sewed on) cap. Plus the colored body counts as clothes, so there's no set of clothes to make just when it feels like you're getting finished. On the other hand, the shirt pattern is designed to gather around the neck and sleeves, and it's rather tricky to get the gathering perfect if you're prone to OCD. And there's also a bit of gathering that happens naturally with the neck of this doll. That irks me to no end, even though I see it happening on the text book examples (just add more stuffing, my butt!). Still, the end result pillow doll is very cute and cuddly, and it's a good way to use up soft wool scraps. This one's body came from someone's unwanted sweater - either Jake's or Andrew's. Whoever it was, thanks!

baby carrie close up

Yes, I am always accepting unwanted sweaters for up-cycling. But your used jeans you should just throw away.

The Laura doll was more interesting to me for several reasons. I set out to create a Laura Ingalls Wilder doll, and I like the choices that this forced me to make. First of all I love the way the hair turned out, even though it had to be "boring brown." I managed to use four different colors of brown yarn and that wasn't even all the options in my scrap bin. If you have infinite options of scrap brown yarn you know you knit for a house of boys.

laura's hair

and she wished it could have been blond

The other fun thing about this doll was making the clothing. I'm always trying to make doll clothing as easily cuttable as possible, and I think this dress is the easiest construction yet. The skirt and top are each perfect rectangles, hemmed, with the skirt part pleated as it's sewn to the top. I left the back of the top open to be secured with a button. And since I hade my buttonhole maker out already, I stitched some buttonholes to neaten up arms. All in all you can sew everything flat if you do it in this order: hem the bottom of the skirt rectangle, hem 3 sides of the top rectangle, sew 2 buttonholes for the arms and one for the button, pleat the skirt rectangle against the top rectangle and sew (still flat), then connect the skirt to itself. Booya.

the back of laura's dress

easy piecing!

From this picture you can also see the back of the bonnet, which is similarly a rectangle hemmed on all sides. It's gathered on one side with a ribbon tied tight, and un-gathered on the other side with a ribbon sewed to the edges. Together with the dress, I think it makes a big impression for such incredibly simple sewing.

complete laura doll

ready to play in the creek. No, not really.

To my great delight Harvey and Zion stole the dolls off my desk and immediately identified them as Laura and Baby Carrie. I don't know if the sunbonnet tipped him off, but I feel like Harvey understands subtle cues of color and costuming.

Harvey with Laura and Suzanna

You do realize these are gifts for our friends? I said about a million times over three days.

Zion with Suzanna and Carrie and a barrette in his hair

Then I made sunbonnets for the Suzannas and "going to town" hats for the PowPows, and that was a sufficient distraction to let me get the presents away from my children and packed into the closet.

Are there more Little House waldorf dolls in my future? Not before the baby comes. But after that, you never know. If I get the right invitation from the right little girl I can always be convinced.


on preparing for another birth and the stomach flu

I wrote about the births of my two children immediately after they happened, but looking back I'm not really happy with either of the blog posts. They don't seem quite honest. Or at least, they're not honest to my memory of those events. I guess when you're sharing about the birth of a child there are so many different things you want to convey at the same time. You're excited about the baby, you're excited to tell everybody he's here. You want to tell the story of how he came into the world in a way that matches up with the love you feel for him. Or at the very least, the love you intend to feel for him some time later when you're not terribly ill and injured.

The truth is, my two births were each traumatic in their own special ways. The first one was a beautiful water birth at home on a Saturday evening, and I loved Harvey at first sight. But failures in my postpartum care made the first month an absolute nightmare. I couldn't walk for three weeks, I got yelled at by nurses at the ER, and the phone rang every three minutes with some member of my extended family giving me advice on how to not kill the baby. Meanwhile I felt completely unprepared for the task of caring for this tiny screaming creature. I couldn't even feed myself because I couldn't stand up to walk to the kitchen. I felt scared and abandoned and so very very hungry.

Zion's first month was a world of better, because of stitches mostly, but also because we turned off the phone and told everyone to leave us alone. But the actual delivery was a physical nightmare, a complete failure of my body to do its job in the proper order. I popped out a 9-pound baby in five minutes without the benefit of any natural pain-killing hormones, and then all the adrenaline flooded in afterwards while I was paralyzed in shock, trying desperately to keep hold of a red flat-faced baby despite being short of breath and shaking uncontrollably.

It took me a little while to get over that one.

As I prepare for my next experience of labor, possibly my last experience of labor, it's hard to feel something resembling excitement. Indeed, it's hard to face the thought of the impending ordeal with anything but grim determination. And then I say to myself, This is it? This is how you want to welcome your third child? With pessimistic resignation? With a stockpile of cold packs and the will to merely survive? Can't I do better? Aren't I older and wiser? Can't I have Harvey's nice water birth plus Zion's quick recovery plus a whole new level of humble self-awareness that allows me ask other people to bring me snacks while keeping their advice-giving mouthes shut?

Or what if I thought about it another way? What if I could believe that the birth doesn't matter, that a few bad weeks don't matter, that the when and where and how painful are inconsequential? What if I decided that what matters in the end is bringing another person into our family? What if I tried to do THAT well? What if I put all my energy into a family dynamic of as much faith and love and honesty as we can muster on weird meals and an altered sleep schedule?

For those of us in the church, there are two divergent ways to look at asking God for things. I adhere to both wholeheartedly. The first says that God will give us everything we want just because we ask. After all, he loves us. So we ask God for new jobs and for houses and apartments, and we ask for miraculous healing of all our diseases. If we don't get what we want we change the way we're asking.

The second way to look at faith is to say that whatever crap life throws at us, whatever goes terribly wrong, it'll be okay. God will show us that it wasn't as bad as we expected. God will be there in the terrible situation. He will make it not only palatable but somehow divine with his presence.

Both are fair approaches, I think. But without God's actual presence they're both crap. I actually have to connect with God (I, me, not in theory) either in the absence of suffering or despite it.

Which sounds like a boat load of work right now.

Last night I contracted some sort of sudden stomach flu. I went to be early with a headache and woke up two hours later with the undeniable knowledge that I'd soon be throwing up. Now, giving birth is hands down the worst pain I've ever experienced if we're talking about ACUTE pain. But I've always said that a stomach flu is WORSE than giving birth, because it lasts longer, and because it's not just painful one place, it's in your belly AND in your head, and there's the terrible nausea where you're just sitting there shaking and hoping you'll throw up soon so you can get ten minutes of rest before the horrible nausea starts again.

There's no one excitedly cooking meals downstairs. There's no eager expectation of a baby. There's no stomach flu doula.

There's nothing but you and your best friend the toilet, a pillow and a blanket sprawled on the bathroom floor because the bed is too far away. There are maybe screaming kids in the next room, screaming for God knows what at 2 in the morning, and a husband who's doing your normal job for the night and kinda pissed because your normal job sucks.

And because I was already working on this blog post before I got sick, I tried to think about how to invite God into this horrible situation. Should I pray for physical healing? Should I pray for some redemption within the stomach flu? I could not imagine either possibility. I did not succeed with any faithful exercise. I screamed in my heart of hearts, "Lord! I perish!" before passing out with my face on the toilet seat.

Birth, like illness, like all life, can be horrible and disgusting. It can also be imbued with beauty and wonder. But I don't think it's possible to manufacture beauty and wonder out of my own effort. It seems even impossible for me to manufacture faith. The best I can hope is that God will show up anyway. The best I can hope is that he will hear my faithless prayer, "Lord, I perish" and answer it with a reminder that he's in the same boat.


snowy day

big piles of snow in front of the house

before it started raining

It snowed some more. And since I usually excoriate the school district I work for making poor choices around school cancellations, I feel I should acknowledge that today was very well done. Sure, the elementary school could have done without a 15-minute earlier closing to what was already scheduled as an early release day, but the commute both to and from—home at 1:00—were entirely doable. I do have to confess that I drove, not worried as much about the snow as about being showered with salty slush: that's never fun.

But no worries about not getting enough exercise, because as soon as I got home it started coming down for real (again: good timing, Lexington Public Schools!). I told Leah the driving was fine so she could go to the gym and she did, but after a pleasant hour and a half of hanging out with the boys I realized that if I didn't shovel the driveway it might be hard to get the car back in: there was close to a foot of snow covering it at that point. Not that the street was plowed either, but it's the principle of the thing; and also not wanting to be parked in snow up to the doors.

So I shoveled the walk and the driveway and Harvey came out to join me. Then I walked Rascal, and wore snowshoes for the first time in a couple years because they were necessary—for the sidewalk too, not just the woods. Then when I got home I started to shovel out a neighbor's driveway, but first had to help another neighbor get his car off the street. Our Subaru didn't have any trouble with the lack of plowing—the snow that wouldn't fit under the car just got pushed ahead of the bumper—but the same couldn't be said for a VW Passat. It took 10-15 minutes of shoveling and pushing to get it maybe 50 feet; good thing his is the first house on the street! Then I finished the first neighbor's driveway, then I cleared out the plow debris from said driveway after the plow finally came, then I cleared out the plow debris from in front of the mailboxes (six feet broad and from one to three feet deep!), then I cleared out the plow debris from our driveway and walk, then I searched for and found Harvey's shovel that he had abandoned to be completely covered with snow. Then I went inside and collapsed utterly.

Leah brought me hot chocolate, which was nice.

It's raining a little bit now, which is too bad, but the forecast says we're in for two to five more inches tonight. I think I'll stay home tomorrow to play in it.


food that looks better than it tastes

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

sweet potato grilled cheese with avocado and kale

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

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

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

egg and banana 'pancakes'

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

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

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

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

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

pancake ingredients

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

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

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

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

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


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.


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.


Is my house my new body?

In college when I would meet a potential friend I would secretly sum her up by placing her on an attractiveness continuum. The important factor in my calculation was her closeness to or distance from my own weight-to-height-ratio. If someone was too thin or too tall I'd think: she'll never be friends with me.

So if I were to just meet you in 2001, it would be a compliment to hear me say: "I don't know if we can be friends; you're so skinny."

It's been a long time since I judged someone's potential friendship based on their BMI. Since growing up and having children I've learned a few things. One is that most women's weight is genetic, beyond their control, and has very little to do with any objective measure of success or sanity. Skinny women can be failed, crazy, and unpopular. And beyond that, failure, insanity and not fitting in don't carry the same punch as they did before I experienced all those things.

I get now that "You're so skinny" might not automatically be a compliment. I get now that it's a rather personal and rude thing to say.

This is not to imply that I'm so very enlightened. It's just that in the past ten years I seem to have switched hang-ups. Because the other day I told a friend something to the effect of, "I don't know if you can like me because you're house is so much cleaner than mine."

And my friend appropriately took me aside and said something like, "What's this bullshit about comparing houses, Leah? WTF?"

Indeed, what is this bullshit about? I may look so post-vanity with my no-makeup thing and my dreadlocks thing. But the truth just might be that MY HOUSE IS MY NEW BODY.

Come to think of it, my house is actually a pretty good proxy for my former body obsession. My houses is the size that it is, and I don't have much option of moving. I think people who live in nicer or cleaner houses must look down on me as lazy or insufficiently self-controlled. Maintaining my house in a condition I consider "acceptable" takes more effort than I am capable of.

Not to mention the fact that parts of my house are often dirty, smelly, or broken, and I don't want you to see those parts.

So yeah, just like that body that it took me so long to 'accept.'

Do you think this will be the rest of my life? Displacing my neuroses from one area to another in the vain belief that I'm getting cured? If so, I fear I'll always be worried about someone judging me, and the criteria will only get increasingly more bizarre.

I don't want to hold back closeness in relationships because someone sews more than I do, or because someone makes fancier baby food, or because someone's children are better behaved than mine. I want to make new friends without apologies for who I am.

I want to be a friend without a fear of divulging my lack of capability. I want to put a stop to this now.

So today I say this to the world: My house gets messy. It gets really really messy. I let Harvey take out all my cds and rearrange the liner notes. There is a box of legos in the hallway that doesn't seem to be going back into the attic. I vacuum and I don't know what happens next.

Harvey leaning against his bedroom door surrounded by CDs and liner notes

a regular day here

I could be doing this better, but no. This is just where I'm at right now. I hope you'll still be friends with me.


winter keeping on

Harvey in his snow gear

in the sun and snow

To me at least, this hasn't seemed like a blockbuster winter; just regular, I suppose. Nothing like 2010-2011, that's for sure. But when I think back we did have an awful lot of snow back in December, and we have a fair amount again now, somehow. Just look what we see out the back door:

a lot of snow on the table on the back deck


But today was fine and sunny so—after a lot of playing inside—Harvey, Rascal, and I ventured out to enjoy the winter's bounty. Harvey doesn't only enjoy snow by eating it, but that's the only time he sits still to be photographed.

Harvey sitting in deep snow against a tree eating a big piece of snow

making himself comfortable

We also worked hard to make paths around the yard, ran races, threw snowballs (only the premade ones from the old snow or plow debris; today was too cold and dry to shape the snow at all), and slid on the ice on the street. Oh, and made another snow cave.

Harvey at work on a snow cave

easily enough snow for the endeavor

Rascal was out with us the whole time, but he didn't enjoy it as much as he might have. The snow is actually a bit deeper than he'd like: he's been refusing to walk in the woods and snow in the yard is still mostly smooth and unmarred by doggy footprints (or body-prints, really, at this depth). He's made a few paths of his own, but he really appreciated the extra ones we laid down. When I threw the ball for him I made sure it was in direction with an already-trodden way.

Rascal sitting in the snow looking up at the camera

he is limited to the paths

Despite the cold temperatures the late-February sun is powerful, and if it ever stops snowing things will start melting soon. There are even signs of spring, if you know where to look for them:

two red buds on the maple tree with snow in the background


Too bad there's another winter storm warning up for tomorrow...


prayer for a stressed out pregnant lady

ED NOTE: This is another heavy-duty post about faith and emotions. I'm a little high strung these days, and I feel like offering my apologies to our readers even as I honor my desire to record my thoughts for posterity. On a ligher note, I PROMISE my next post will be mostly crafting photos. Easter baskets, baby booties and sock monkeys are all on cue. Don't you worry. And now back to the babbling...

It is a hard thing, waiting patiently for a baby to come, for something you want and something you don't want at the same time. I want so very badly for this pregnancy to be over, to be on the recovery side of this horrible joint-eating fatness that has stolen my body for the better part of a year. And of course I want a baby out of this. That was the whole point, after all...

At the same time, there is no part of me that wants to walk through the next phase of child production. I have done it twice now, and my memory has not dulled as much as I might have hoped. There is the pain of course, the universe-encompassing pain. But also the indescribable loss of agency that is so much akin to death. I don't know if anyone else has the experience during childbirth of descending to the gates of Hades, prying open the bars, and plucking a child from its icy depths while screaming "You shall not claim him!" Maybe that's my own variety of mental drama. At the very least, I've heard few people describe the experience as "fun."

In other words, this is a time of waiting for something bad to be over by waiting for something worse to occur. In this I've had a difficult time praying. Not for you — if I promised to pray for you then I've done a good job doing that. But for myself I don't have many words. Lord protect me from the inevitable? Make this not suck so bad? The best I feel I can hope for is that, like my husband and the midwives, God would show up when my water breaks and stand around for a few hours. I have no frame of reference for anyone doing anything more to HELP me.

There is only one prayer that has rung true for me lately, and it's something I never thought I'd have the constitution to repeat. "I love you, Jesus." I heard a pastor say it on the radio years ago, and I thought: How can you LOVE Jesus? Are you for real? You can be interested in him, sure. You can even try to follow him I guess. But love this person who is so odd and mythical and antiquated? Who are you trying to fool?

And yet this is the only prayer I can say right now that has any ring of truth. Everything is emotional and difficult. I am absolute shit at waiting. And yet ... I love you, Jesus.

I love you because you don't make any sense. Because sometimes all you do is love on people and sometimes you yell at them like an overburdened hipster. Because you healed the girl who burned herself with a curling iron, but you didn't heal the father who was dying of cancer. I love you because I don't understand you at all. I love you because I fear you might be nuts.

I love you because sometimes I feel you're present, and other times when I need you you are so very completely absent. I love you because my desperation does not dictate your action. I love you because you're real and alive, because if I made you up in my head you would not act like such a jerk.

I love you because I've said that I'm following you, and yet I have no idea where we're going. Because sometimes it seems like you're a guide without a plan. Or if you do have a plan then it's an insane suicide mission. I love you because if I really admitted where we were going I would turn and run in the other direction. I love you for going there in real life, and for making it look almost but not quite attractive.

I love you because you did not say you would make everything better. I love you because you are not a liar.

I love you because you DO make things better, because you make some things wonderful. Because ordinary interactions with annoying people burst with excitement and life when you ask them to.

I love you because the things you do are not the things I would do.

I love you because I do not understand you.

I love you, Jesus.



quick baby gifts

Even as I await for this baby to emerge and suck all the crafting time out of my life (in addition to most of the sleeping, eating, and showering time I've grown so accustomed to), other friends keep having babies or announcing they'll be having babies in the near future. So I find myself on this perilous tightrope: on one hand wanting to make beautiful baby gifts for my friend, on the other hand needing every project to be small and easily completable within a couple of hours.

Right now I'm relying heavily on my favorite quick baby patterns. Here, let me share my secrets with you. If you're a pregnant overachiever who handmakes gifts months in advance, or if you're just lazy and need a gift tomorrow without leaving your house, this is a blog post for you.

First of all, here's the quickest baby gift I know. Sewn baby booties.

sew cute

The pattern for these comes free from the burl bee, and they're intended to be sewn out of felt, though I always use a felted sweater. (In the picture above I actually used a sweater that I cut up raw and felted in the washer after the booties were sewn.) I guess you could use regular felt, if you're not like a magnet for everyone's unwanted wool sweaters. But one wool sweater will get you several pairs of booties, so its worth stashing the old things away instead of trashing them. It helps if your husband himself is a magnet for old mason jars and toilet paper rolls; in that case he can't say anything to you.

I've given these booties at least five times now, and I always get a good response from the mom-to-be, especially if she's a hippy and appreciates the up-cycled street-cred. But as I was making a pair for a friend last month, I realized I should probably do my diligence and TRY THEM ON A BABY. Because seriously, I've always taken the pattern at face value and never really tested if they fit on a newborn or stay on for more than two minutes. So the pair above is for baby Archibald as a tester. The pair below was a gift. I added an elastic around the ankle as an afterthought, just incase my doubts about the pattern functionality are correct.

gift basket of hippy

For this gift I paired the booties with a feed-bag bib, which is my second go-to quick baby present. Looking back at our archives, it appears I never actually blogged about these feed bag bibs. I should rectify that some day, with a tutorial or whatever. For now I'll just throw up a really old picture and give you the one-sentence instruction. Cut two bibs out out of a feed bag and sew em together with bias tape. If that's not self-explanatory, a pattern and tutorial for such a thing (albeit with vinyl as opposed to plastic) can be found in the Oliver & S pattern book.

zion when he was little and let me put a bib on him

That's a 30 minute project if there's bias tape and velcro in the house. If you have to make your own bias tape it will take much longer and you may want to kill yourself. Then again, if you have to run to JoAnnes for bias tape you may want to kill yourself after sitting in the Burlington traffic. The moral of the story may be ALWAYS BUY BIAS TAPE. At least there are always empty feed bags in this house, THAT I can be sure of.

But if the woman having a baby is not just an acquaintance but a friend? The kind of friend who comes over your house once a week and listens to you complain about your fat uterus and your acid reflux and your unborn child kicking you in the vag? Well, for that friend you should really knit something. Even if it takes a few hours longer, suck it up and get out the needles.

knit with love

I've written about these booties here and here. They're from this book, and they're a quick knit as compared with anything else you might think about knitting. These I HAVE used on my own babies, and I'm pleased to report they stay on VERY well. So they hit all my good gift button points: they're a gift I'd like to get myself, they're pretty enjoyable to make, and I can use up materials I already have in the house (in this case scrap yarn.) Here I am yesterday, knitting another pair that happened to be the exact same yarn as the sweater I was wearing.

black is not so slimming in this picture

Those are for a friend, of course. I made a fresh pair for baby Archibald in white, and I tucked them into the drawer next to the sewn test booties and a bunch of hand-me-down knits and onesies I hope to use VERY SOON.

pink and blue both well represented

So I guess we're ready to go, then. My baby has its drawer all set, and there are gifts for the next few months quickly filling up the drawer in my closet I reserve for homemade presents. It's good to get some things neat and finished. Especially when what looms in the future is labor and delivery and RAISING ANOTHER CHILD.


Dada and Harvey time

letter formation

I'm on vacation this week and am very much enjoying getting to hang out at home all day and play with both the boys. Besides the regular fun times, though, Harvey and I have been able to do a couple things together that Zion wouldn't be able to keep up with, which I think is good for both of us. At least, it's good for Harvey if we act on the assumption that giving him more attention satisfies his desires for others' focus rather than inflaming it to ever-greater heights. The jury is still out on that one, but lets be optimistic.

Tuesday Zion wasn't feeling very well in the morning and took an early nap, and Harvey and I spent some time building with the big legos. They don't get quite as much play now that the little ones are an option, but they still have their advantages—they were perfect, for example, for experiments in creating letter shapes. Harvey got the idea after making an "H", and we stuck with it through the "Harvey" and "Dada" pictured above, as well as a "Mama", which didn't get photographed as well. We're working on our homeschooling plan for Harvey's kindergarten year (I think Leah has a whole lot more to say about that later) and I felt very pleased with myself at how much Harvey was thinking about letter formation as we made our way through the names. He wanted to keep going, too: Mama had to drag him away for their morning outing to the bounce house!

snowsuited Harvey stopping in the snowy woods to look at the camera

pushing on

Besides letters, my homeschooling hopes for Harvey also include some good outdoor activity, and the fine weather yesterday let us get an early start on that end of the curriculum too. As seen above in my horrible phone-cam photograph (seriously, it's like the early 2000s back again with the terrible sensor on my phone) we took to the woods for a nice long trek. Well, long for Harvey, anyways, and long for me in duration; but in Harvey's defense he was wearing his snowsuit against the damp and that thing must be hard to walk in. Hot too, since it was well above freezing at the time.

Even I got hot the latter part of the walk as we abandoned the well-trodden path to strike out in a direction where no one had been since two snowfalls ago. Harvey did his noble best to break a trail but got worn out pretty quick and let me take over; the snow was deep and wet enough that it was a fine workout for me too, and he had to work hard to even follow along. But we made it—in high spirits the whole time—and he even had enough energy to run most of the way home on the sidewalk.

All in all our vacation adventures make me a little worried about the homeschool planning: not that he won't be able to keep up, but that he'll quickly outstrip any expectations we come up with and leave us with nothing to do. It's mostly my fault, I think: I can't conceive of a goal without asking him to try the activity out. It was standing on one foot on Monday. Oh well, I suppose that's the beauty of homeschooling; if he finishes the whole kindergarten curriculum by October we'll have more time for dancing and board games—not to mention legos and walks in the snow.


pregnancy baskets

The nice thing about baskets is that they come together rather quickly. It's an intense coming together, yes, with a focus-filled half hour of needing to get the bottom finished before all the wet bits get dry and you start yelling at your family that you can never get anything DONE around here. Then it's smooth sailing to add more weavers whenever you want, but I usually put them in all in one go because of the set-up cost of filling the sink weighs heavily on my mind. Also because that's the fun part. Then I let the thing dry overnight before doing a final pack and lashing the rim. All in all, each basket takes about 2-3 hours spread over the course of two days. It's a VERY satisfying hobby.

But it's precisely the kind of project that'll be difficult with a new baby, what with the wet things and the specific time constraints and the mess making. So I've been planning ahead to get done all the "important" baskets I need in the next few months before this baby makes an appearance.

First up, I made new easter baskets for the boys.

ready to be filled with... oh crap I guess I have to make presents too

These are the first baskets I made with round bottoms, and the process was surprisingly easy, perhaps even easier than setting up a square basket. My only complaint is that the handle I used stretched the baskets out a bit, making the finished product more oval than circular. Of course, I could have bought the right size handle, as opposed to just using some reed from my stash, but I hate buying stuff. I'd rather dummy something up, even if it's the wrong thing. Anyway, it made the boys excited for Easter.

Gosh, should I make an easter basket for the baby? I didn't even think! Does a two-month-old have anything to put in a basket? (Dan says, No, give it a rest.)

I also make gift baskets for each of my three midwives.

ready to go, alongside the rest of the birth supplies

I filled the baskets with preserves Dan made, and then I stashed the them inside this baby basket in a corner of my bedroom. The baby basket I didn't make... what do you think I am, a genie? But I did get pretty quick at putting together these things.

how can one ever really say thank you for the gift of life?

At one point I posted on facebook: "Does seagrass or flat oval reed better say 'Thank you for encapsulating my placenta?'" In the end, I went with the flat oval reed. Makes the basekt more sturdy that way.

I also made a new basket to hold the boys' trains, since the non-homemade train basket was juuuust a bit too small. I tried a new technique on the bottom to make the thing a bit stronger.

diagonal weave to hold in Thomas

Here's the basket in its new digs, holding trains. It goes next to the big basket I made last summer to hold the tracks.

ignore the stereo cable and the scotch tape on the wall... i do

With the train basket off my list I'm feeling a little complete with making baskets for the moment. If this baby delays longer I'll have to do some sewing or knitting or, i dunno, whittling or something. But I could be persuaded to try a seagrass baby easter basket. Just to see. You never know...


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