he wins this round

This afternoon while walking with me in the woods Rascal decided that he didn't, in fact, want to walk with me; he actually wanted to run the other way. Being a direct sort of dog, he scarcely entertained the thought before putting it into action. He used to do that sort of thing a lot as a puppy (you know, until he was four years old or so) but he's been better about it lately, so I just called after him a couple times and waited for him to come the right way. Nothing. So I had to go after him.

Of course, he was waiting just out of sight to see if I would come, and when he saw me he trotted right off again. Since it was right around sunset I decided that I'd avoid the battle of wills and just go his way, and we had a perfectly good walk. He even let me catch up to him eventually. But I have to admit I felt a little bad about it from a parenting standpoint. As a parent (puppy parenting counts too) I feel like I should be consistent in setting limits and, at least when the children are capable, let them handle sticking to those limits themselves. It's better for Rascal, that is, to know that I'm going to be walking my way and he can sniff where he wants for a while but will have to turn around in the end.

To worry too much about them, in other words, is to give kids (and puppies) too much power in a situation where they actually shouldn't have power. If Harvey and I are leaving the house, he needs to get his coat and boots on (oh, summer can't come soon enough!) and, while I'll obviously help him with dressing I don't want to chase him around with his winter gear or try and make him happy if he's not pleased with the getting ready. Since it's almost always the case that he actually wants to go out, it's enough to get myself ready and open the door to get him motivated.

Of course, I can go too far with that attitude. That's why we have Mama to hold up the other end of the balance, with the loving and the nurturing and whatnot. We make a good team. But this time I was all alone with Rassie, it was getting dark, and it was time for us to have dinner. Plus, he really wanted to go that way. Let the kids win a few is a good rule too.


fire in Lexington

Driving home from Grandma's this evening Harvey and I noticed a peculiar cloud in the west. As we continued moving in that direction, it started to look like it was a fairly local phenomenon. You know, parallax effect and all that. "Hey," I said to the boy, "that looks like it might be a fire."

"Fire?" he said. "Fire."

The strange thing was that the smoke didn't seem to be moving—nor, as we continued driving, did it get any closer. But as the road twisted and turned and it became clear that the source of the cloud was somewhere in Lexington, I couldn't think what else it could be.

And indeed, about two miles from where we first noticed anything we passed the source of the smoke, off on a side street, and also a couple rescue vehicles heading that way. Since we weren't in any hurry to get home—Mama being otherwise occupied until dinnertime—we turned in to take a look.

I have to say, we weren't the only ones with that idea. A news photographer—of what degree of professionalism I don't know, but she had a big camera—pulled in right behind us, and the street was crowded with other onlookers. Also crowded with fire trucks. Five or six big ones near the action, and out by us a truck from Burlington apparently waiting its turn to go in there and fight. We also noticed a helicopter hovering overhead, which pleased Harvey: he said "helicopter big mouth!" for reasons that are not entirely clear to me.

What we didn't see was the fire itself. We respected the police cordon, mainly because I wanted to make sure I could move my car if it looked like it was going to be in the way of more rescue vehicles, but also because it was pretty clear that it was someone's house in some serious trouble, and I didn't want to gawp. I am a curious soul, true, and I can't pass a mysterious column of smoke without at the very least some desperate wondering about what's going on. But having found out, I didn't want to intrude.

Most of the time we manage not to think about things like house fires or car accidents or medical emergencies—well, I don't at any rate; Leah may have something else to say about that. I think that even she, though, would admit that despite her shall we say awareness of the possibility of disaster, they don't actually effect daily life. Seeing a house fire doesn't change that for me, but together with other recent events involving hospitalizations and desperate medical worries—for friends, we're all roughly healthy—I'm feeling a little more vulnerable these days than usual. Vulnerable, and also thankful for all the blessings of this life. It's not that other people's tragedy makes me feel better about myself; not at all. I'm just more aware of God's provision for us now in our good fortune and of the assurance of provision when times are harder. Not that we want to test that. Let's keep that unemployment money coming!


on hold

As Dan alluded to in his very eloquent blog post yesterday, it's been a tough week around here. We've been holding vigil for baby Nathan, our dear friends' newborn son who needs some heavy lifting from God and science to clear a staph-infected blood clot in his heart. Not nearly on par with that level of urgency but still stressful nonetheless are some financial troubles we hit this week. My claim for extended unemployment benefits, while approved, was never successfully processed last week, which left me frantically placing about seven hundred phone calls to the Massachusetts department of workforce development. Each time after entering in my social security number and cycling through three menus of options I was told: "We are now experiencing an unusually high volume of calls. Please try your call again on the next business day." (After hearing that message twice on Tuesday and four times on Wednesday and every half-hour on Thursday, I began to wonder what this government agency defines as "unusual." But whatever.)

Then I got sick yesterday. I am so tired of being sick and pregnant, of the snow and the cold, of all the laundry being dirty and mouse poop in our kitchen drawers and everything being all up in the air. It's infuriating and exhausting. I would like poor little Nathan's health trials to be over. I would like to have enough cash in the bank to pay my midwife next week. I would like to get over this yucky cold which keeps me away from the hospital and makes me offer Harvey videos of trains instead of read-aloud time with real books.

And despite all this, like Dan I am aware of God's presence and provision which sit with us in and despite what's going on.

Unlike Dan, I often ruminate on tragedy. Imagining tragedy in vivid detail is pretty much my main nervous preoccupation. If the dog runs off in the woods I imagine what I will do if I find him lying by the side of the road half run-over, or how I will react when I come around a corner unprotected and bonk into an angry pack of coyotes. Neither is very likely, but it seems important to me to plan how I would react. Since I was a child I have always believed death or a horrible disfiguring accident were just around the corner. When any member of my family goes out in a car I figure it's about a 50% chance that they make it back alive. When I go out I put the chances of my house still standing when I return at about about 60% (good odds!) Violent house fire? I worry about that pretty much every evening before bed.

All of which is to say, you can take the girl out of her Jewish mother, but you can't take the Jewish mother out of the girl.

(Although I don't know if I really phrased that properly...)

Yet I also know in my heart, not just theoretically but experientially, that God is good, that in all things he works for the good of those who love him, and that he has a plan to prosper us and not to harm us. Bad crap still happens, of course, and God is not a push-button robot to stop bad things from happening, but sometimes he does stop bad crap from happening, and if he doesn't he's certainly right there with us when the crap hits the fan. That may or may not be comforting, depending on my mood and the time of day and how much I want certain bad things not to happen. I would prefer my worst fears not to come to pass. I also know that if necessary God will walk with me straight into the middle of my worst fears and I will find them, like a vacant tomb, empty. And either way, what can we do? whatever happens God's all we got and we're in this for the long haul.

None of this comes off as a coherent blog post, but it does help me unload a bit and if nothing else offer an excuse for not showing you cute Harvey pictures for so long (I think the photos on my camera are a month old or something.) Harvey is very very cute. His current preoccupation is asking me to buy everything I can't offer him at the moment. "Harvey Helicopter...Mama buy one?" Um, not right now sweetie. Why don't you pray about it.


VB Family Update

As we mentioned the other day, we've been praying for Nathan, our friends' baby who was born prematurely a couple weeks ago. He was initially healthy but then had a few scary setbacks; happily, he seems now to be recovering well! You can read about Nathan and his parents at their new blog, VB Family Updates. I also put the link down there in our footer in case you ever happen to forget it. Read, comment, and lend your prayers and support to baby Nathan!

like a tweet but too long for twitter

I'm working late on work that, as poorly-paid hourly employee, I am in no way contractually obligated to do, but at least it means I was awake to appreciate Harvey calling quite loudly, out of a sound sleep, "No! No Rascal!". Pleasant dreams for the young master...

name dropping

I've been trying to set aside the first half-hour after breakfast for reading spiritual books with Harvey, as if I were running a real homeschool and trying to accomplish more with the day than just loading and unloading the dishwasher at infinitum. Harvey has taken very well to our little table of Christian books, especially his child's bible which we've already read through twice this week, all 200 illustrated pages. This morning I had just finished reading about the patriarchs when I put the book down and asked Harvey if he was ready to vacuum. He didn't budge.

"More Je-SUS?" Harvey said.

"Look Harvey," I said, "I'm happy to read more about Jesus, but if you're going to stress only one syllable you need to put the emphasis on the first one, otherwise the evangelicals won't know what you're talking about."

So we read through the story of Jesus, starting when he was 12 (I skipped the 10 pages on Christmas, since I had just read it yesterday) through the crucifixion. Harvey likes the page where Jesus sits on a rock and delivers the sermon on the mount ("Harvey sit rock one day?") as well as the transfiguration ("Harvey up mountain one day?"). Since "one day" is Harvey's favorite expression du jour, we end up having a conversation every page about what we'll do one day and when specifically. We can sit on a rock as soon as the snow melts but we'll have to wait till July to go up a mountain. Anyway...

Harvey has a tendency to take any line of text he understands and repeat it with a more familiar subject, so it shouldn't have surprised me when I read to him that Pilate let the soldiers kill Jesus and Harvey peeped up:

"Mama kill Je-SUS?"

"Um... er.... Yes Harvey, mama killed Jesus. He died for my sins."

"Dada kill Je-SUS?"

"Yes, dada killed Jesus too. We all did."

"Harvey kill Je-SUS?"

"Yes sweetness, you killed Jesus too. You see, he died so all your sins could be forgiven."

"Rascal kill Je-SUS?"

"Well, it's theologically unclear. But no, I don't think that Rascal killed Jesus."

Harvey seemed content with that explanation until we got to the page summarizing the book of Revelation and Harvey repeated "Je-SUS coming one day?" I tried to unexcite him a bit by explaining that all the world first needs to be saved, but I think that was introducing too many new concepts at once since he just kept repeating "One day?"

So it's good to see him taking an interest in his adorably impressionable 21-month way. No pressure on me to get things right or anything...

We finished reading the book and headed off to clean when Harvey demanded, "More song Soul Coughing?" Okay, so we'll listen to Soul Coughing while we vacuum. I'm not the only one in this house who's working on stuff with Harvey, apparently. The 90s punk is all Dan's doing.


rollin with the harveys

A couple days ago the melting snow revealed a new toy for Harvey that friends gave us back in December. No problem with the delay; he wouldn't have been ready to ride it back then. But he sure is now!


Now all we need is for it to warm up a little and we can sit outside and read or knit while he amuses himself (and tires himself out too; bedtime's been a little rough lately!).

street legal

It's kind of a cliche at this point, but I have trouble with getting my car inspected. I fail at many things in life, but none so dramatically and disastrously as making sure my vehicle passes the standards set by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Besides the two instances recorded above, I also drove for over a year with an expired sticker after we moved back from California (and got caught; the only time that's happened, yet) and had another instance of failure in 2009. I'm surprised I didn't write about that one; now I can't remember the details.

So you won't be shocked to hear that it happened again. In fact, since I got my last sticker in May of 2009 (I actually got it in July or something, but I got a May sticker cause that's when my first—failed—test too place), I haven't darkened the door of the testing facility... until yesterday.

Actually, that's not quite true: I darkened the Gulf Station on Bedford Street in Lexington, but they wouldn't even look at my car once they noticed that the front license plate was off. They wouldn't even fail me! That license plate was actually the same issue that bedeviled me back in 2009, and you'll notice I did manage to pass that year without fixing it.

In any case, this year saw yet more problems. Already three months late for inspection back August, I had two errands I needed to accomplish before going back to work: the inspection, and getting some lumber to hold up a new clothesline. Disastrously, I chose to do them in the wrong order and when the lumber—2 10-foot long 4X4 timbers—cracked my windshield, all hope of a timely passing grade disappeared. Oh well, I wanted to bike to work anyhow.

I actually thought all was lost, but at some point in the winter it was suggested to me that the broken windshield might actually be covered by insurance. Hey, maybe I can actually get something for all that money I give them every month! But first, I had to make sure the car would even start after, oh, four and a half months sitting neglected in the driveway (it was actually the need to pick up the mattress for Harvey's new bed that motivated me to get it running again). It did, and a couple hundred dollars at the oil change place saw it running as smooth as new.

Then the insurance folks were remarkably compliant, as were the ladies and gentlemen at JN Phillips Auto Glass in Burlington, and the windshield was repaired while I waited (with my family at LL Bean) at no cost to me. Then a thousand dollars or so on new brakes etc. (thanks to a very kind birthday gift), and I was ready to go. Oh yeah, the brake and alignment guys also put my license plate back on for me.

After all that, the inspection after work on Thursday was positively anti-climactic. Less than 15 minutes in and out, no problems. Though I do admit that, having lived outside the law for as long as I did, it'll take me a little while to stop scanning the roads for police cars and picking my routes to minimize likely encounters with them. I even took the highway home instead of going through Lexington, for that very reason, with the beautiful new sticker right there on my windshield! It's orange again.

So yeah. Do I have to do that all again next year?


a note on feeds

It has come to my attention that Google Reader is perhaps not a true RSS client. Rather than hitting the actual address of the feed every time you tell it to refresh all feeds, it goes to a cached copy somewhere on the Google servers. This is fine for popular feeds, because that cache is itself updated frequently, but it doesn't for for less well-used feeds like, say, our comments feed (which has only one Google Reader subscriber: me). Such feeds simply don't show as being updated, ever.

Obviously, for our comment feed this doesn't matter because I don't need the feed to refresh: I get an email when someone comments. But other feeds have the same problem. I've started using the free RSS client Vienna (in addition to the Google-syncing NetNewsWire) to keep up with the blogs of friends, to make sure I'm not missing anything. For example, Google finally caught up with Theresa's blog the other day and showed me a dozen or so posts that I hadn't read when she wrote them because they didn't show up in my reader.

So. If you're using Google Reader to subscribe to some of our fine non-blog feeds, they may appear to not update frequently. That doesn't mean we're not posting pictures!


dying winter

the setting sun comes under the clouds and through the mist

rays of late sun

Winter seems to be finally giving up its grip around here. Yesterday was warm and rainy, with just enough sun at the end of the day to produce the scene pictured above. Today mostly sunny and breezy, just the thing for an outing to the Concord River to see the annual flooding there. The snow is melting fast, even if there are still piles in our neighborhood that exceed five feet in height. In celebration, we're planting seeds down in the basement where they'll keep warm in their little house.

I've spent the past couple hours reading about the earthquakes in Japan, which I hadn't even really known about thanks to my half-hearted news fast. Maybe I should have continued not knowing; one reason I'm off news (except as revealed to me through The Economist) is that there are a great many things happening in the world. They will continue to happen whether or not I know about them, and in many cases I will be better off if I don't. That being said, my thoughts and prayers are off course with the everyone affected by the disasters.

And even crazy snowy winters end eventually!

daffodil tips poking up through dead leaves in the garden

blooms are on the way


risk tolerances

So even though he's almost 2 and I'm almost 8 months pregnant, I'm still nursing Harvey twice a day now. I'd like to say it stems from my hippy ideals of child-led weaning, maintaining the nurturing relationship, blah blah blah. But no; it's laziness. Nursing puts him to sleep... most of the time. And I want him to sleep... all of the time.

At this point in his life nursing has about an 80% put-down success rate. 8 times out of 10 Harvey will fall asleep at the teat, for a nice neat put down time of 10-15 minutes. If the milk runs out before he gets tired, add 20-30 minutes of singing. A dry put-down can take 40 minutes to never.

And therein lies the ultimate fear: today might be a day when he doesn't nap at all.

That's the fear that seems to be keeping me in nursing bras infinitely. I'd love to have a fully weaned toddler at this point, to give my boobs a break and erect a tiny facade of personal space. But an hour of singing in the middle of the day when I'm already exhausted, when the back of my mind is painted with a nightmare vision of a stressful put-down stretching into a drawn-out battle of wills which ends in an ever-more exhausted mama giving up all hope of rest and heading downstairs to make lunch, wakeful Harvey in tow... the thought of 12 straight hours no break of holding up my end of a constant conversation the other half of which is "This one day? Harvey this one day?" makes my brain drain out my ears, makes me say yes, nursing, anything to give you a better chance of sleeping.

It is a losing battle that I am fighting. I know my days of nursing him to sleep are numbered, that it gets less effective as I get closer to my due date, that he's getting older and wiser, and that some days he might just not nap at all. I tell myself that when the second one comes along they may never sleep concurrently. That I'll need to find other tiny moments of rest during the day. For some reason, these thoughts don't seem helpful.


suburban camels

Contrary to a theory held by my mother and myself—that all the deers must have died off this terrible snowy winter—at least a handful of them have clearly survived, as proved by the fact that they showed up on our lawn this evening (note that we now actually have a lawn again, rather than an arctic wasteland, so things are looking up vis-a-vis the progression of seasons). We were eating dinner at the time, but were alerted to their presence by Rascal's very distinct there-is-a-large-unfamiliar-animal-on-my-property barks and ran to see. It was all delight and admiration for a moment or two—it's been a while since we saw any of the noble princes of the forest, not like a couple years ago when they were more common than squirrels. But when I saw the biggest one dip its head to start nibbling—nay, chomping—on the delicate shoots of a day-lily, I was all "sorry, family, but it's time for me to run these varmints off!"

Harvey was very impressed by my display of deer-discouragement (not that it takes much to scare off deers...). So much so that, once we were settled back at the dinner table, he reprised the scene as is his wont these days. You know, like whenever one of his parents stubs a toe or something and lets slip a mild ejaculation, he can't let it go and spends the next ten minutes gleefully chanting "Dada: Ow! Dada say, Ow!" "No Rascal eat the compost!" still makes an occasional appearance, even though it was a couple days ago that he heard it from Mama. This time, though, he wasn't so sure about the nature of the creatures that were receiving the reproach:

"No camels eat the plants!"

See, Harvey, that's the problem with getting all your learning from books.


Disappointments and new clothes

I consider myself an intermediate-to-advanced knitter. I don't do intarsia patterns and I have no desire to go near lace, but I feel fairly confident carrying multiple colors for fair isles or other such things, and I'm precise enough with my finishing techniques that most of the time I can turn out a finished garment of the same or higher quality than you'd buy in a store. Overall my failure rate for knitting is about 10% ... of the projects I knit I'd say one out of ten of them will end up so hopelessly ill fitting that they need to be discarded completely. Sometimes it's the pattern that's bad; sometimes it's the overzealousness with which I launch into a pattern, and sometimes there's no pattern at all and I should have known better.

I consider myself an intermediate-to-retarded sewer. I know a lot of sewing techniques, but I'm so impatient sitting up in that little room that I skip some steps and rush through others. I often end up doing something stupid, like cutting a pattern piece mirror-flipped or sewing right side to bad side. All that means that my success rate with sewing is abysmal. I'd say about 50% of my attempts end up in the scrap bin, and I'm never 100% happy with the things that do make it to the closet.

So it should only be expected that some months come filled with disappointments. You can't win em all, either sewing or knitting. March was such a month. Here's Dan's birthday sweater which took me most of January and February.

dan in herringbone sweater

a warm sweater for a cold march day?

The measurements of the sweater were perfectly tailored to Dan's body... that is until I washed the thing and the sleeves and body each stretched about five inches longer. I have no one to blame but myself for this. I should have knitted a sample swatch in herringbone and washed it before starting in on the project. The thing is, I wasn't 100% confident on HOW to do herringbone before I started in on the line-by-line instructions. Indeed, it was only by the time I got to the end that I really understood what was going on. To do all that learning up front would have made the sweater never happen at all. So yeah, I never knit a gauge swatch and now Dan has a $60 / 50-hour alpaca sweater that's too long in the arms.

dan in herringbone sweater, close up

trying hard to model, even though it's too long to put hands comfortably in pockets

At least he looks cute with the sleeves rolled up. I've told him that now I'm out of my mourning period and am willing to cut off the bottom of the sleeves and re-knit the cuffs. So far he's declined the offer.

After Dan's birthday I was happy to turn to some sewing. Harvey is desperate for pants, since he's wearing an average of 2-3 pairs each day (can I get an amen from my people with the cloth diapers?) so I thought I'd make him another up-cycled pair like the last two I threw together. Of course, this involved drafting a whole knew pattern for 4T. They ended up way too baggy in the legs, and more than a little haphazard in the construction.

harvey sitting in his patched pants

raggedy Harvey

I used a pair of women's pants generously donated by my friend Katie. I thought I would be wise to re-use the pockets in front and back, but when I put whole thing together it turned out that the women pockets looked really, er womanly on Harvey. The cuffs also looked dumb when rolled up, so I cut them off and added contrasting cuffs to match the patches. All together my second-round edits took more time than the initial construction... I should have just ironed my fabric well and done it right the first time.

harvey outside in his patched pants

crazy pants match crazy hair

It's draining when I feel like everything I make comes out crappy. Since it takes so much time and energy, since it means somedays dinner didn't get made or the house didn't get cleaned, to have it all come out disappointing is, well, disappointing. I say to myself: how am I supposed to be on my way to clothing self-sufficiency if I can't even turn out a well-tailored baby pant? Dan keeps asking me for suit jackets. But the last long-sleeve shirt I made Harvey had half the seems accidentally inside out. And that's only a 4-step t-shirt! You want a jacket with a liner? I'd likely strangle myself in tweed before I finish.

On the other hand, they're clothes. They done got worn this week. Better than going naked.

harvey's bum in his patched pants

the end


scenes from the Concord River, with a poem in the captions

I have two favorite people.

Sometimes they look to me so much alike, it's scary.

I'll never know what it is to be a boy, but I'm delighted to witness adventures.

I love you my boys.


wait till next year

As Amanda alluded to on her blog this morning, she is totally just as pregnant as I am and still going ahead and getting a shipment of baby chicks any day now. Jealous much? YES! YES I AM! I WANT MY CHICKENS!!!

The other day my Dad called me out of the blue and said, "I think you should get chickens. I'll finance the coop if you give me eggs."

And I was all, "TOTALLY! Let's do it! There's probably still time to order chicks if I can find myself a local feed store..."

And Dan was all, "Oh my goodness you crazy plow-aheads. What are you genetically related or something? Think for a second!"

The truth is that we're not quite equipped for chickens this year. There's the issue of erecting an expensive coop, yes, but more importantly we need to fence in our yard to keep the predators out. That's quite a big project, and something we've been talking about, well, I've been talking about, since we moved into this house six some years ago. This year I'm finally digging in my heals and demanding a fence for my 30th birthday. Once we have a fence in place, we should be able to get coop and run infrastructure in place for next year.

Of course, there's the crazy part of my brain that says throw caution to the winds and order some chicks today! They're so darn cute! That's where the reality of my pregnancy comes in, combined with Dan's firm warning that if I buy chickens this year I will be dealing with them ALONE, shoveling out their coop by myself ALL WINTER without ANY HELP from him. Not something I'm super excited about with a bitty baby on my back. So yeah, I guess we'll, as they say, wait till next year and hope. That's what I get for marrying someone rational.


some notes on the end of winter cycling

  • When you need to ride in your work clothes, there is a very brief interval between the time when you're still chilly with long underwear under your trousers and rain pants on top, and the time when it's too hot to ride in long trousers at all. So far this year that interval was basically Wednesday.
  • While it's nice to see more folks out on their bikes with the nicer weather, I kind of miss the cold-weather camaraderie of feeling like you could nod to every other cyclist you saw. The small-town feel is gone.
  • I'm also already starting to get annoyed with other cyclists. Like, the two guys in racing gear riding next to each other: would it be possible for you to do that while staying in your lane? It's not like the bike path is particularly narrow; you've got a good four feet now that the snow is mostly gone. If Leah and I can manage to ride abreast in the lane—while I'm pulling the trailer, no less!—then so can you. Think of it as practice for the peloton!
  • Having basically one gear and iffy brakes worked for the winter. But now I want to be able to go faster and, connected to that, to be able to stop when stopping is called for. Some long-deferred maintenance is clearly necessary.
  • I need a sign that says, "I was riding all winter—were you?". Otherwise how will people know that I'm hard-core?


again with the anarchist midwifery

Soon after I learned I was pregnant for the second time I started thinking about my "birth plan." The second time around would be so much better, I reasoned. So much calmer, controlled, laid-back and fearless and empowering.

Then, for some reason, I stopped giving a crap. Whether it feels spiritual or painful, whether I feel loved or irritated by the midwives, whether Harvey sleeps or heads off to the playground with dada, either way it's only half a day of my life sometime in May. In the blink of an eye it's gonna be over, and the next moment will start a much more daunting rest-of-my-life when suddenly I have two babies to care for. Seriously, I have to worry about what birth tub to rent? I have to figure out how to be a calm empowered loving mother of two children, amidst (anarchist view) a disgusting wasteland of mindless consumption or (Christian view) a broken world filled with sin and death.

Not that I'm being negative or anything... it's just that the big picture is kind of overwhelmingly big.

I keep thinking of this quote from anarchist Daniel Wilson:

Having children in a safe, comfortable, healthy and natural environment is great, but it isn't all there is. All of us inhabit a massive environmental catastrophe, a shallow and meaningless social desert, a world of box stores and seven-elevens, a massive surveillance apparatus, chemical factories, mines, plantations and sweatshops, and a giant military that rains fire from the sky onto real people. I think that if I were to worry about midwifery suffering in quality because it's being absorbed into medicine I would feel like an asshole.

Oh how I wish I could fit that whole quote in embroidery on a tea cozy. Because seriously, you could just change a couple words and use it for anything. Worried whether it's more important to eat organic or local?

Eating healthy natural produce is great, but it isn't all there is. All of us inhabit a massive environmental catastrophe, a shallow and meaningless social desert, a world of box stores and seven-elevens, a massive surveillance apparatus, chemical factories, mines, plantations and sweatshops, and a giant military that rains fire from the sky onto real people. I think that if I were to worry about my local produce suffering in quality because it's not organic I would feel like an asshole.

Oh man, I could go on like this forever.

But seriously, just two years ago I was all militant homebirth advocate. Now I feel like the whole issue is rather passe. Important, sure, but not more important than who gets to raise your children and with what values.

Anyway, go back and read the article if you want to hear midwifery likened to the re-release of the Volkswagen Beetle: "Midwifery has become a symbolic act of consumption for most people. It is marketed to feel-good eco-yuppies as a piece of the primitive." Makes me feel real non-committal about whether I want to order a birth tub with fishies on it.


springing towards summer

What a day! We rang in the spring by spending most of the afternoon outside—though still not enough of it for Harvey. When it gets a little warmer I think I'm going to set up the tent for him out in the yard; maybe sleeping under the stars will minimize the bedtime fuss a little. As it is we've had to drag him in literally kicking and screaming the past couple days.

Not that we're complaining, though! While he's outside he's happy as a clam, the sort of clam that needs minimal supervision (I guess that's probably all of them, eh?). He wants to spend 20 minutes crouching in a hole behind the rhododendron bush? Fine! My only parenting task was to keep him away from the thorny work I was doing—pulling down wild rose vines and clearing out old raspberry canes—but there was so much else to occupy him that he barely even looked my way.

The work went well; hopefully it means we'll get more raspberries this year than last. Taking care of raspberries, planting tomato seeds: despite it only being the bare beginning of spring, we're pretty focused on summer around here! So much so that Harvey and I even poked around the old boat a little. I promised him last summer that we'd take it out, and take it out we will, for the first time in five years or so. Not for a little while, of course: not only will it be some time before its warm enough to want to be out on the water, but I also have to figure out how on earth I'm going to get it out from under the porch. The bushes have grown up some since we put it in there...

As well as all that, there's also a new look for the blog in the works. Thinking so much about summer we can't have it still looking like winter around here! Stay tuned.


of mice and very small men

All winter we have been cohabiting as it were with mice. They seem to make an appearance in our lives every time I'm pregnant. Maybe it's the extra-strong smell of female pheromones that draws them to me in this season... more likely it's the extra-lax job cleaning job I do on the floors and countertops. Anyway, we let them live rather peacefully all winter. In my hyper-emotional state I didn't have the heart to release them into a snow drift, or worse, deal with a dead little mousy on the middle of the kitchen floor in the morning. So I added a daily morning chore of cleaning mouse poop out of the silverware drawer. If you've eaten at my house recently, rest assured that any item soiled with droppings goes straight into the dishwasher, and the rest of the drawer gets a wipe-down with clorox bleach. I use pre-moistened wipes to make the task easier. Can't be a hippy in all things, I guess.

Now that spring is upon us and the woods are again hospitable, it's eviction time for our poop-producing friends. Last night was the first round or catch-and-release trapping. We use a small rodent trap baited with peanut butter, transfer them to a larger ferret cage (thanks Tom for once owning a ferret!) and drive them across the Concord river and all the way into Carlisle where we release them into the woods with a wink wink nudge nudge towards the rich person mansions all around. Look, I don't have many illusions that this is more humanitarian than a fast-working kill trap. The lifespan for a house mouse is about 3 months outside versus a year indoors, and if anyone forcibly reduced my lifespan by three quarters we'd be calling them a murderer too. Still, it's spiritually uplifting to watch them run free into those woods, and combined with the expectation of ten less pieces of poop in the drawer tomorrow it's a positively ecstatic experience.

mouse going free

be free little mousey!

I thought Harvey would have a fun time on the mouse freeing outing, but the weight of the occasion proved too much for him. After meeting our new pet mouse this morning he had no desire to let him escape, and as soon as he ran away Harvey let up a pitiful wail of "Mouse in woods! Harvey in woods? Find him? Yeah yeah find him?" This continued through our attempted walk through Foss Farm, on which Harvey called shenanegans, since Foss Farm is clearly not a "farm" as I had promised. Where are the goats and chickens? This is just a lame walking place where you lost my mouse!

harvey at foss farm

find mouse? find him?

The rest of the morning did not go much better for Harvey. We spent an hour in the parking lot at Whole Foods discussing whether it would in fact be possible to go into the store and do our shopping. When I tried to carry him inside there was kicking and sobbing on the level of hyperventilation (though thankfully the morning Whole Foods patrons mostly gave me sympathetic looks, and one older women even came up to tell me that her daughter did the same thing at his age). After 10 minutes of crying in the Whole Foods vestibule, I headed to the car to go home, but Harvey writhed like a scene out of the Exorcist when presented with the indignity that is a car seat. So I let him play in the car for an hour to see if he could get any calmed down and therefore facilitate the purchase of food. He liked playing in the car fine enough, but anything else seemed to him the end of the universe. So we headed home screaming and empty handed, just in time for a nap. Someone, apparently, is almost 2.

It's been obvious over the past week or so that Harvey is going through an incredible growth spurt, especially in the part of his brain that creates emotions. He's always been a kid who knew what he wanted, but recently he's started having real tantrums, not just protests that he doesn't want to do this or that but full and total break-downs where nothing in the universe can close the floodgates of woe. We can spend 20 minutes stuck in a loop (Do you want to go outside? Yes! Okay, so put on your shoes. NOOOOOOO!) that ends only in facedown sobbing against the couch.

By the grace of God I have felt remarkably patient heading into this phase. Although sometimes Harvey is clearly testing me and I have to be a little tough love when he goes without napping, I mostly feel empathetic for the little guy. It's hard having emotions so big that they overwhelm you. It's hard so wanting to go outside and so not wanting to put on your shoes. His brain is expanding to understand so much more about the world around him, and sometimes it's just really hard to process dual inputs of wanting a snack with not wanting to leave the car. I totally get that.

Also, I have knitting projects all over the house and these let me be happy with a lot of sitting and waiting.

Don't get me wrong, I do often end up cranky by the time Dan gets home. I'm a human too after all, and I have an emotional response of my own when I want to buy food or leave the house or turn off the yelling machine. But the days when Harvey seems to be the worst, these seem to be the easiest days for me to dial down my expectations, to take a deep breath, and to feel really grateful that I'm getting to spend this time watching him grow up. When we change our plans on a dime, or spend all morning in the car turning on and off the flashers, it makes me feel amazed and bewildered and incredibly fortunate to be Harvey's full-time mom.


feathers crossed...

Dan says if Harvey and I work VERY hard helping in the garden this summer we can get chickens in August. My current plan is to order 8-10 chicks with the hopes of successfully bringing 6 laying hens into adulthood (predators and illnesses being what they are). Of course, we'll make sure we have room for all 8 or 10 in case I'm very successful.

My going favorite is the Plymouth Rock variety, since they take cold winters well, lay a lot of big eggs, and are so very very pretty in black and white.

Then there's the coop. I'm usually anti-plastic in all things, but I'm starting to sell myself on the idea of a plastic coop, because it's so easily insulated and predator safe.

Also, how cute is that? It comes in orange!

Okay, so nothing left to do now but self install seventy bazillion yards of fencing, pop out a newborn, and get life back together soon enough to be turning out eggs for fall. We can do it, right?


what a difference a day makes

Yesterday was another falling apart day for Harvey. Story time ended in a surprise evacuation by the fire department, and even the excitement of a flashing fire truck did not cure the anguish of a too-short story time. Fortunately, a late afternoon nap followed by a pleasant evening and good night sleep seemed to set everything right again, and this morning Harvey was a positive delight to be around. Sunny, giggling, snuggling into my lap to read the bible, I had almost forgot this wonderful child existed. And if letting me vacuum for ten minutes wasn't enough, Harvey even asked if we could bring our new pet mousy to the woods, or as he put it, "Mouse free woods? yeah yeah?" So around 9am we all piled into the car, Harvey, Rascal, myself and our second mousey captive, headed for the fields of Carlisle.

It turns out that a better mood definitely helps this sort of expedition. Either that, or Harvey just felt more comfortable having done this once before. (He does like knowing what's going on, after all. No idea where he gets that from.) When I took him out of the car at Foss farm he walked right up to the mousey release spot and ordered the little creature "inna woods!" When the shy mouse finally obliged, Harvey positively giggled in excitement. "Mousey run away! inna woods!" Then he threw a cheerio that he had found on the floor of the car and said, "Eat da yucky cookie!" (For the record, he knows the difference between a cheerio and a cookie, but on Monday he gave the mouse a cookie that had been on the bottom of the car, so "yucky cookie" seems to be part of the formula now.)

Then the lot of us (mousey excluded of course) took a lovely walk along the path, and even though it was colder than Monday Harvey had a lovely time pointing out leaves and sticks, and Rascal had a thrilling time running around with two very excited spaniels. Harvey kept saying "puppy? nuther puppy?" and I was all, "Yes Harvey, some dogs are like puppies forever."

A few more stray pieces of poop on the counter this morning indicate that there's at least one more mouse at large. So we'll get one more opportunity to enjoy or suffer through a mouse freeing adventure. Although this last mouse seems to be more cautious than the other two... he's avoided all the traps so far. Either he's very crafty or he doesn't like peanut butter.


uh oh. This is what it's like raising boys, isn't it?

Between the two of us Harvey and I put away 5 eggs and 5 pieces of toast this morning, and that was our SECOND breakfast!

Rethinking how many chickens we need to get...

Woolapalooza, the return

a few sheep relaxing after their shearing

satisfied customers

It's spring now, and that means just one thing around here: it's time for another trip to Woolapalooza! I guess it's kind of a tradition now. We saw the sheep dogs work and the sheep being shorn, but Harvey most enjoyed playing with the eggs in the chicken building and watching the hens go in and out of the mobile henhouse. I guess he's on board with our recently announced plans.

Harvey and lots of other kids sorting eggs at Drumlin Farm

a hive of pretend industry

It was a little more crowded than usual around the wooden eggs, but that didn't stop Harvey from wanting to dive right in—at least, not after we spent five minutes encouraging him not to be shy.

a chicken coming out of the henhouse

"more chicken coming?"

Despite the hordes—oh my goodness, the overflow parking!—most of the attention on the sheep, so it wasn't too crowed for us to stand and watch the chickens for, oh, half an hour or so (Harvey probably wouldn't have gotten bored even if we really had indulged him in standing still that long).

It was admittedly very chilly, which sadly kept any of our friends from accompanying us (we'll get em next year!), and which perhaps tempered the enthusiasm of certain members of the family for certain portions of the adventure. The wind was particularly vexatious to Harvey. Still, a grand time was had by all, and even in full winter gear Harvey believed me when I told him that spring is on the way. The sheep shearing doesn't lie!

a portrait of Harvey in his Woolapalooza finery

fuzzy hat courtesy of Mama and the Drumlin Farm sheep


seasonal changes

The weather's been tolerably pleasant lately: this afternoon we were outside from 4:00 to 6:00, so it can't have been too cold. The cycling has certainly been fine (or at least fun). And yet people are beginning to complain about the continued cold and the continued presence of the occasional pile of snow. Since I don't want to be blamed for winter's ongoing grip, I went ahead and turned on the spring style here on the blog even though the rest of the pages elsewhere on the squibix web aren't quite ready for the switch. It isn't the first time I made a precipitous change in order to propitiate the weather spirits neither (for the record, it worked back in 2007 once we got the right style up).

As always, hold down shift and reload if there are any traces of the old style lingering in your browser, and please let me know if anything looks amiss or doesn't work the way it should. There may well be a few issues: as well as changing the style this time I also updated the blog machine. It wasn't right that other folks were using the latest and greatest version when we, the bold originators of the system, were stuck with second-class product.

One thing that changed between versions was the name of the cookie that stores your saved comment information, so you'll have to reenter that if you're used to the blog remembering your name. Sorry about that! I suggest you post a comment to test it out, and reacquaint yourselves with our software.


setbacks and setbacks

I finally sat down last night to read our local bylaws about raising animals and learned sadly that the number of chickens we can obtain quickly and hassle-free is limited to 4. If we want to get any more we have to go through a permitting process, which involves submitting coop plans to the health department and building inspector before the thing is built, then having it inspected once that's finished, then holding a hearing after that at which all our neighbors can come and testify why we shouldn't be allowed to keep any more animals around here because our current one is always running off onto their lawns.

A fence, though. We'll have a fence by then. That'll solve the Rascal problem at least. Fence will make everything good.*

Four chickens will make about two dozen eggs in the summer and half-to-none of that in the winter. I had hoped to get a few more in there to have some eggs to share and, er, diversify risk as it were. Also, 8 chickens seem like a flock of livestock to me whereas 4 seem like pets, and I worry that pets will tug more strongly at my heart strings when it's looking more and more like time for the stew pot.

But probably I'm just kidding myself on the last point. This whole project came about because I am so hopelessly in love with animals I've been trying sneakily for a long time to figure out how we could get more. So any animal, whether pet or livestock or wild intruder, is sorely missed when she's gone. Case in point, our third little mousy captive died this weekend before we had time to set her free. We supplied her with adequate food and water, but maybe the stress of two days in captivity did her in... either that or the MASSIVE amount of congealed bacon fat she managed to eat out of an open jar before getting trapped. Either way, I'm a little broken up about it. Poor little thing. Maybe we can just live and let mice live for a while...

Anyway, since Harvey is sleeping for a few more precious moments I'm off to try to find the bylaws for fence setbacks. I'd hate to put the thing in only to have the coop inspector come by and say, oh by the way, you need to move that whole thing back three feet. Ugh. Suburbia.

*That's adapting a quote from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, by the way. Ten billion points to you if you recognized it.


comfort through repetition

We have so far almost entirely avoided the entire genre of "kids' music" here in the squibix household, thank goodness (though the same cannot be said for kids' television, which is a subject for another post). Starting when he was quite small I just played Harvey things that I wanted to listen to—or, at least, the subset of my music collection that I would enjoy and that wouldn't startle him too badly. That means he got more of the pop and traditional jazz end than I would have otherwise favored, but still, Bush's Razorblade Suitcase isn't the worst thing you could be listening to while trying to get a baby to sleep for 45 minutes. Better than Pachelbel's Canon, certainly.

We're off recorded music lullabies now, because he'll just listen rather than going to sleep, but we still listen to a fair amount of music. I'm always excited when he asks to hear something that I've recently introduced him to—the first couple times, at least. Like with the Soul Coughing. Even more hip 90s cred there than with Bush! But I tend not to want to listen to particular songs as often as my son does; we do have 4000 songs available in mp3 here Harvey, we don't need to listen to "Rolling" every time we're in the car. "I'm rolling I'm rolling I'm rolling?" he asks. "More Soul Coughing?" Can we at least listen to "Monster Man", please?

Of course, I know that it could be far far worse. Good music repeated ad nauseam is still good music. It's not "Bananaphone". Although if I never have to hear the Jason Mraz song "I'm Yours" again it'll be too soon. That one took off just too well. Harvey calls it "No More No Way" for some reason, and it is his first request whenever you ask him what he wants to listen to. At least, it is when his mother's doing the asking: he knows I'll have no more of that!


on programming for children and programming children

So we're leaving story time at the library today, and Harvey is hanging onto a video cassette of Thomas the Tank Engine saying "Gamma house? Ollie house?" And I'm all, "Yes, at someone else's house you can ask them to watch that show. But we're not gonna bring it home."

Upon which the librarian snorts to herself and says, "Just you wait until mama's baby is born!"

Because then, naturally, I will lose all will power to resist the incursion of Thomas into my home.

In her defense, she is the bitchy librarian.

Look, I have a philosophical stance on TV. I hate it. I think it makes adults bored and kids sarcastic. I also realize that parenting an introverted but emotionally needy child lovingly and patiently for 14 hours every day is very close to impossible without a crutch. And since that child can't read yet, the crutch is often TV.

In previous months my modus operandi was to try to get Harvey to function with as little TV as possible. That meant a string of 3 or 4 days with no screen time and followed by one sick day with an hour and a half. Even the days with no TV were stressful, though, because I was constantly trying to think one step ahead to an awesomely engaging activity we could do in case he started asking. We baked so many bagels I couldn't stand on my feet anymore. So now I have a new plan, which is to plan for a half hour of TV every afternoon, right after Rascal's walk. This way I know that when we come in from walking and I am in the most pain I'll be in all day that we can all have a quiet sit and Harvey will be happy. Also, if he asks earlier in the day I'll say "After we walk Rascal" and then I have a good answer, just like "Ask Grandma about Thomas, don't ask me."

Which brings me to the topic I wanted to write about, which Dan alluded to in his previous post: kids programming. We watch exactly two TV shows in this house: Phineus & Ferb, and Shaun the Sheep. I find Phineus & Ferb pretty awesomely entertaining, and Shaun the Sheep is entertaining enough to not be annoying. Also, Shaun the Sheep has the benefit of no dialogue, so it's not distracting to other people talking in the room and therefore the perfect thing to put on if I want a child to sit quietly through a midwife appointment. Aside from these two shows I haven't found any children's programming that doesn't annoy me. Dan likes Between the Lions but I find that excruciatingly slow.

But it's not just an evaluation scale of entertaining to grating that leads me to pick my kids shows this way. On a philosophical level I have something against Thomas, Elmo, and Disney everything. They may be good, but they're merchandised up the wazoo. Just exposing your child to any one of these "brands" means 5 years of telling him "No, we're not buying Elmo toothpaste, or Thomas coloring books, or Princess fruit snacks." It's like the TV turns your kid into a sleeper cell of consumption.

Which is either merely annoying or the end of the universe, depending on how hippy militant you want to be.

Look, everyone has something they wish their kids would never learn about, whether it be television or toy guns or McDonalds or alcohol or playboy. I love McDonalds and I wish they sold beer there. I have no problem with guns, and I think pornography serves a valuable purpose. But I hate television and I think it's the tool of the devil. Other people probably roll their eyes at this. That's okay; we all pick our own issues. I have plenty of friends who try to cook without sugar and I lovingly think they're nuts. One way or another, all our children manage to survive childhood.

Still, I get a little offended by remarks like that of the bitchy librarian which underline a collective belief of "this is the way the world is, so don't bother trying anything different." Um, have you never met a hippy before, lady? I believe there are actually several who currently reside in this town. I've been emailing them about town policies on backyard livestock.


All the World

I have a new favorite book this week.

It's a picture book we took out from the library called All the World. It's a beautiful long poem by Liz Garto Scanlon with lovely illustrations by Marla Frazee. But I like it because, without overstating anything, it's a book about hippies.

On the first pages a family visits the ocean. The text reads in part "A moat to dig, a shell to keep, all the world is wide and deep." But unlike other typical illustrations in childrens' books, this family is instantly recognizable as hippy and (dare I say it) real. The boy is wading in the water in jean shorts. The dad sports crazy curly dreads and the mom is wearing gardening clothes with her shoes off. Peaking out of the back of their flat bed truck is a surf board. There's no carefully packed beach bag in sight. They look like a family who just decided to hop out of their car while passing by the seashore, not a family who hopped out of the pages of What To Expect.

Turn a few pages and we see the scene at a community garden. There are people of mixed races who actually look like people of mixed races, not like someone passed on that memo to the colorist. A woman wearing a baby on her back carries a basket of tomatoes. On the next page visitors to the farm stand haul away the produce on bicycles and mopeds and cars with dogs waiting in the front seat.

We see these folks more through the following pages of illustrations, stopping to climb a big tree, scrambling for cover when a fast-moving rain shower comes down and the text reads "Better luck another day. All the world goes round this way."

The book concludes with a sunset gathering at a seaside home. Silhouetted against the clearing sky are a woman holding a baby, another woman carrying a violin, a man dragging a harp out of an old VW bus. On the next page the ho-down is in full swing inside the lamp-lit house, with dread-lock hippy dada on piano and children and babies running here and there.

Next we see scenes of all the protagonists we've met so far concluding their day before bed time. Two women who rode to the farmers market on their tandem bicycle are cuddling on a porch swing. The tomato-bearing mama is breastfeeding her baby while reading what looks like homework. A man pets his puppy goodnight. The hippy couple is hugging. The poem concludes "Hope and peace and love and trust. All the world is all of us."

This book says it all. It reaffirms my belief that the world can be transformed simply and slowly by laid back people having a good time.


it's snowing outside and Harvey has a flu: April in New England

So I was kneeling on the ground scrubbing toddler vomit from the carpet this evening, and all of a sudden I thought, "Remember when we used to watch that show Heroes? How on earth did we ever pull that off??? That show was an hour long!!! And... bad! And we watched it every week for a year! WTF???"

Harvey caught some sort of 24-hour bug - this one actually true to it's title because he was vomiting pretty much straight for 24 hours. Well, that's not totally true - he started off yesterday puking every ten minutes, then by the evening it was every half hour, and then it settled off at about 3 in the morning and I thought we were home free but then breakfast this morning didn't stay down and then more vomiting ensued and when it was all said and done Harvey had managed to soil 10 receiving blankets, 5 spit rags, 2 towels, 1 set of sheets, a car seat, a couch slip cover, and the aforementioned carpet.

And since he couldn't be left alone amidst all the vomiting, all the laundry just sort of piled up on the floor next to his sick bed, and I started to wonder if Dan would come home from work and find us barricaded in the bedroom like some crazy hoarders, and then he'd need to call the fire department to come get us out, and then we'd REALLY never get our chicken permit.

The things I worry about these days. I try to think of a set of circumstances under which a human being could find an hour every week to watch Heroes and it's like trying to picture an alien from another planet.