vandalism update

I like to keep the readership up-to-date about the various editorial comments I see on the bike path on my commute, so it is incumbent upon me to point out that there has finally been a pro-Obama response to the graffiti of half a year ago:

graffiti'd graffiti: now pro-Obama

the Democrats are all hoping

Don't you hate it when you think of an awesome comeback right after you walk away from someone, and you totally wish you go back and hit em with it? Well, somebody with a big fat permanent marker had clearly been bitterly mulling over the insult to his president for the last six months, and finally thought of a cutting response, a way to change the anti-Obama jeers to cheers. Right on! It was totally worth the wait.

Also, the dueling stickers of song and story are alas no more. Somebody—I'm not blaming the "Hey Stupid" guy, but it's hard not to picture him doing it in a fit of impotent rage—tried to peel the red sticker off of the blue one and succeeded only in creating a truly ugly mess. Then the rain reduced the "Stupid" message to pretty much invisibility. Time and nature reduce all of our heart-felt passions to irrelevance in the end: it's kind of a zen thing. I imagine that the people involved in the sticker-posting feel pretty silly about themselves now, and I'm sure glad I never managed to put my sticker up (even though it was pretty clever).

dueling stickers sadly diminished by the elements

sic transit passive-agressiveness mundi


the future is election day

We're living in the future, apparently, because this political video takes all your personal information and photos from facebook and uploads them to the Matrix, and by the Matrix I mean a Move On dot Org ad staring the boobs of that girl from House. It's worth signing in and watching, if only to be tickled by your own cute mug thrown into the Terminator ride at Universal Studies. Oh, and don't forget to vote.

wow you guys

To whoever anonymously sent us a Trader Joe's gift card in the mail:

Wow. Thank you. That's crazy nice.

Also, I feel rather sheepishly embarrassed, as this means that my level of outward groaning to the poor souls who count themselves my friends has unfortunately matched my inner din of woe and anxiety. We had a rather difficult October finance-wise, you see. Some big bills came in, cash flow has been an issue, and for a while I've been checking my bank account balance before every trip to the supermarket.

Don't get me wrong; we're not going hungry. We have enough money to buy the ingredients to many meals of the rice or pasta or cheesy variety. It's only with the fancier food that I like to serve Harvey and my pregnant belly, like chicken and fresh fruit, that sometimes makes me feel like I'm some sort of shabby Dickinson character standing in the cold staring in a frosted window, a frosted window that looks in at the Whole Foods deli department.

The stress over our groceries lead me to look into the state-run food assistance programs SNAP and WIC. These programs offer assistance to families living at twice the poverty line, and it turns out we make like five hundred dollars a month more than that. Which is, obviously, a good thing. We should be able to afford everything we need in that case. Why can't we? Well, there's that pesky student loan debt that holds us up for a thousand bucks each month. Then the house that we own that amazingly costs money just sitting here getting more broken. Then insurance on the stupid cars - when is the tea party movement going to take up that issue, huh?

Which all reveal, and this is why I feel sheepish for my complaining, that we've made some lifestyle choices that brought us here, and if it's difficult sometimes I should just lie in the bed I've sold out from under us. I could have taken the high-travel job and flew away from my family one week each month. I couldn't bear it. I took the layoff instead. Then we chose to get pregnant again, effectively rendering me unemployable. That wasn't without conscious effort. And then we spend almost $500 a month on maternity care so that we can stay out of the hospital. All these are totally stupid choices by conventional American standards, yet totally unavoidable choices for us.

And yet, says the complaining part of my brain, haven't I given it a good college try? Haven't I given up everything to try to raise my child? I quit the gym. I haven't had a haircut in over a year. I make Harvey's clothes so we don't buy new ones. I wash my face and my hair with baking soda.

Literally, the only thing we spend money on outside of unavoidable bills is food. Is it so bad to want a fricking pineapple when you're growing another human being on the inside of your body?

Okay complaining part of my brain, turn off please. We're not starving to death. I've only made jokes about us starving to death because even though we aren't literally starving to death sometimes it just feels like I have a mental framework of starving to death.

So thank you anonymous friends for the gift card. It comes at a very very welcome time. I promise I'll stop griping.


shopping spree

We hit up Trader Joes this afternoon for a delightful hour of shopping with free money. The plan was to spend the whole $100 on staples, Trader Joes specialties like nuts and smoked salmon, and a few special treats, but in the end spending that much money—even money we didn't earn—was too hard for me. It's just like when we were putting together the gift registry for our wedding: Leah was trying to add items at a range of price points to make sure that everyone could find something they'd be happy to buy for us, but I kept taking things off the list. "No, we don't need another paring knife," I told her, "we already have a perfectly good one!" See, I don't even like spending other peoples' money! Does that mean I'd make a good Republican congressman?

Even with the issues I have as a result of my Scots heritage, we very much enjoyed the expedition. We picked up some fruit and frozen fish and nuts for holiday baking, and a bunch of other things too, counting up how much we were spending all the while. Harvey pushed one of the cute miniature carts they have at that store for a while, and picked out a few items of his own—sliced olives, chocolate bars, all quietly returned to the shelves when he wasn't looking—until he got tired. Then he declined to ride in the big cart, instead preferring to sit in the mini version and have mama push him around, never mind the difficulties this caused to her back. A wonderful time, in other words, was had by all. And since we have about $20 left on the gift card, we get to do it again another time! Thanks, anonymous donor!


fruits of non labor

Some wonderful ladies from our bible study last night came over bearing fruit, literally, they brought me mixed berries and pineapple. Which means that with all our Trader Joes goodies our fridge is now stocked with fruit, berries, salmon, almond butter, gnocchi, frozens, and a chicken to cook for later in the week. Dan also made muffins and rice krispie treats yesterday, both of which turned my mood in a positive direction.

So anyway, here's to miraculous generosity that ends up at breakfast. I think I'm even going to spring for day-old bagels this morning. They're not really "used" despite what Dan's mom says.

UPDATE: Made home-made bagels this morning using this recipe. Although they tasted pretty much like bagels, I've decided that Bruegers makes them better and last-nights bagels at $3.50 are a deal that's worth not spending an hour sticking my fingers in boiling water. On the other hand, it's raining and I didn't need to leave the house!

we're only kind of crazy

Doing some reading on the internet this evening I once again came across the argument that the "political spectrum" is in fact a circle: that is, that when you get far enough left you start running into people who look a great deal like the denizens of the extreme right. One might point to the two worst totalitarian regimes of the 20th century as evidence of this position, or the seeming similarities between the actions of militant anarchists and right-wing militias. Or lately, it's the paranoid style demonstrated by the "truther" and "birther" movements that gets all the press. The only problem is, while each pair may appear comfortably similar, when taken together you have to see that they're mutually exclusive. Birthers don't want to smash the state, and anarchists aren't nostalgic for the Soviet Union. The political spectrum isn't a circle, it's more like a dot chart plotted within a hypercube.

Or something. All of which is to say, there are more things in heaven and on earth and in people's heads that are dreamed of in your political philosophy. And thank goodness! The problem with suggesting the crazies on the left and the right are roughly equivalent is that it positions folks in the middle—the moderates—as the only sane ones. Who wouldn't rush to avoid being grouped with the Montana Freemen or believers in chemtrails?

We, however, are not political moderates. While we do tend to vote for Democrats (albeit occasionally under protest), we also think baking bread and growing food and, oh, having babies at home is more important than who's in charge in Boston or Washington. We might not be out there smashing the state, but we wouldn't mind seeing it whither away a little bit. Some or all of this may qualify us for "crazy" under your personal definition, but from the inside it's very clear that it's a different sort of crazy than the folks with the black helicopters or telluric currents.

In other words, I stand in opposition to moderates and their timid devotion to the status quo, but I also stand as far away from all those other freaks as possible. Come on guys, you're making us all look bad!


finally falling

Has the time change ever been as late as this? It's about time: it isn't pleasant having to get up more than an hour before sunrise. (And just think about those poor folks on the other end of the time zone! The sun didn't rise in Cleveland until 8:04 this morning!) I must confess, once again, that I don't really understand what the purpose of all this clock-changing is meant to be. A recent brief article in the Economist suggests Japan should jump-start its economy by adopting daylight savings time, but I confess the author's logic escapes me. No matter what we do with the clocks, there are still the same number of daylight hours, are there not? At least some of the comments are a bit more sensible.

Yes, I do have to complain about this every year—twice a year, in fact. I'd get rid of all the clocks in the house in protest against the thrall in which we're held by the man's time changes, except I enjoy the ticking.


winter preview

There was snow in the forecast for this morning, but it didn't deliver. Instead we just got light misty rain driven hard by, oh, 30 mile-per-hour winds. With water coming from all directions on the morning commute, I definitely felt that I would have preferred the snow. If nothing else I have a little bit of a better chance to keep my mittens dry in the snow. Unlike my last school, where I work now is a thoroughly modern building with heat that comes in from the ceiling or something, rather than from a beautiful piece of ironwork covered with a protective grate that's just the thing for drying sodden hats and mittens.

The other thing we notice with the coming of winter is that drivers are even less aware of cyclists on the road. I suspect it's a sort of cognitive dissonance: they see me, but so little do they expect to encounter a bicycle that their brain fails to process the visual information and they, for example, make not the slightest gesture towards stopping at the crosswalks. Be careful guys, my brakes don't work so well in the rain anymore!


smashy smashy

This past weekend what I can only imagine must have been a considerable band of hooligans smashed up nearly all the jack-o-lanterns and regular pumpkins over a two or three block area, not too far from our house. Bits of smashed rind and pumpkin guts littered the street on Sunday morning, and much of the carnage is still evident today. I only hope the vandals were listening to "Tonight, Tonight" as they carried out their rampage.

As soft-hearted anarchists, Leah and I have a big problem with this sort of wanton destruction. Sure, we don't like authority—but someone really needs to catch those rotten kids and give em a talking to! Well, maybe not really, but we confess to harboring the sentiment for a moment at least.

It sets us apart, certainly, from the more traditional sort of anarchist. Smashing windows, lighting cop cars on fire... not really our thing. What exactly are they hoping to achieve, I wonder: the state is not embodied by the local convenience store, nor even by a police car. Breaking them is not going to advance meaningful societal change—on the contrary, it's probably the thing that's most likely to strengthen the forces of reaction! Not that I disagree with the sentiments behind the desstruction, but I don't see how it's at all helpful from a tactical point of view. Also, it's not very nice.

And it turns out being nice is important to me. I would never smash someone's jack-o-lantern because, heck, they worked hard on it! Ditto for shop windows (someone's place of voluntary employment) and cop cars (um... I'm sure you can come up with something good about them). In fact, so reticent am I to disturb anyone else's things that I even felt bad the other day when I picked up a bungee cord I spotted on the bike path. What if the owner comes back looking for it?! I wondered immediately after I wound it around my handlebars. In the end I kept it, balancing the likelihood of anyone remembering where it might have fallen an bothering to come back (under 50%, I reckoned) with my need for more bungee cords (100%). But it was a serious deliberation!

I'm forced to recognize that this is in fact a conservative impulse I harbor within me, but I actually don't think there's anything wrong with that. Anyone who hopes or expects that an anarchist society could ever work has to believe that people are, under some circumstances at least, fundamentally good. Smashers think that people are bad now and will be until the state is destroyed, but that doesn't seem workable to me. I prefer to be nice now, as an example, and hope that other folks follow my lead. If nobody smashes pumpkins, or takes things from other people, or, you know, stuff like that, well then we won't need cops anymore. And hey, wouldn't that be nice?


notice of apology

Here I thought Veterans Day was a holiday for everyone, not just us lucky government employees. Oops! Sorry, guys! And happy Veterans Day to all, whether you observe it at work or at home.

Yeah for both veterans and veterans of toddler raising

It's been a tough week in our house. Harvey is sprouting one tooth after another, making him rather difficult during both the sleeping and waking hours. I'm been working off of way less sleep than a pregnant lady should ever get, plus dealing with a fetal growth spurt, which makes for a mama who is far less patient then she should be. So when the child is screaming "NO NO NO" because the dog is (gasp) looking at him while he's eating (God forbid) and I'm trying to fix some food to shove down my growling belly, I haven't been above screaming from time to time at the top of my lungs "YOU'RE NOT THE ONLY PERSON IN THIS HOUSE WITH NEEDS!!!"

For this reason I am extremely grateful to veterans everywhere, and for the day off this affords Dan so that he can save us with some pace-changing tension relief. After an extra hour of sleep and a pancake breakfast I am feeling much more like a person and much less like a homicidal maniac. Go veterans!

On Language Acquisition

Harvey knows a lot of words. We started counting his vocabulary last month, but we stopped when the list of words he can draw out of his brain without prompting crossed 100. He learns more words every day, but more exciting is the way he's starting to string words together into rudimentary sentences. Like he'll says "Mama hat on" to mean "I want to put mama's hat on." Or "Outside car cow" to mean a string of occurrences that lead us to the farm.

Lately he's been working through some tricky points of naming. He know knows, for example, that our family pet is both "da" and "Wasgoo," and he's worked out that other neighborhood dogs are "da" but not "Wasgoo." He can also point to a banana and say "nana" followed by "piece," and he knows that he's both "Harbey" and "baby" but can recognize other non-Harbey babies when they pass by. Which, I don't know, seems more impressive to me than being able to point out leaves, sticks and pine-cones on our daily walks. The latter seems more like a parlor trick. By now we get it already, you know a lot of words. Time to start really talking.

Of course I'm proud of my little chatter box, and I'd like to take some credit for the constant flow of conversation I keep him engaged in throughout the day. On the other hand, it's probably just genetics, his dad and I spoke just as early when we were kids, and in the absence of so much stimulation Harvey would probably talk to his trucks with the same amount of conviction.

Anyway, it's all very exciting, to see Harvey growing into a little boy who can speak and joke and reason, push the stroller, feed the dog (with help), and try his hardest to do everything we grown ups do. I for one have no sentimental attachment to his babyhood. You go on and grow up, little man. You only get awesomer every day.


good old-fashioned fun

Harvey loaded up with Mardi Gras beads from a church fair

more on?

This morning we biked up to town to for the special purpose of attending the long-awaited and well-publicized Fall Fair at the Congregational Church, and it would've been worth the trip even if we didn't also have to take some books back to the library. There's nothing like a classic church fair on a warm and sunny fall day to make you think that maybe there might be something to this USA business after all.

There was a bouncy-house just the right size for Harvey to want to get in himself and hop around (they had a regular one for big kids, too), a white elephant sale where he could pick up a bucket of Mardi Gras beads and a pinwheel for only 25¢, crafts, Christmas decorations, and a bake sale. And what a bake sale! There were the traditional individually wrapped brownies and cookies, but also for sale were entire pies, cakes, and tins of goodies. Soup and premade entrees too, but who wants that stuff?! Our eyes were drawn to the lemon cheesecake bars, and while we were initially disappointed to notice that they weren't for sale in single-serving portions it didn't take us long to decide that buying the whole lot—which came in an attractive and reusable Cadbury-themed tin—would be a very reasonable investment at $4.50. Throw in a peanut butter chip brownie to bring the whole thing to an even five dollars.

Now, some folks might be discommoded to suddenly find themselves in possession of an entire tray of lemon cheesecake bars, but fortunately we had the presence of mind to realize that we'd better eat the whole lot as quickly as possible before they could go bad. Harvey enjoyed playing with his beads as we reclined on the couch trying to recover.

Perhaps I wouldn't enjoy old-fashioned church fairs so much if I lived someplace where they were more common—Wisconsin? Ohio?—but in cynical Massachusetts we need all the good old innocent fun we can muster up. And it's even better when I manage to come away without any decorative glassware or lightly used sporting equipment! I'm pretty sure you won't find anywhere else with prices like that for mid-70s-era cross-country skis...



Second round bagels came out better than my first batch, despite rising for 15 minutes longer than indicated because SOMEONE needed to be put down for a nap an hour early.

Connected to this, Harvey is still teething.

Today's accomplishments:

- Made playdough by boiling baking soda, corn starch, and water. Harvey learned the word "smoosh."

- Made it to story time at the library for the first time in a month! We even biked there. Harvey really enjoyed it (when other kids weren't looking in his direction).

- Did an art project with fancy crayons that turn into watercolor. No water spilled on the table, although when Dan spilled the water 5 hours later I quickly jumped to clean it up and none of it got on the drawings. Harvey is getting good at saying "water." Sounds German, like "vadah."

- Made dinner without running out to Whole Foods.

- Hit the gym while Dan and Harvey went to Market Basket, all in one car trip.

- Didn't even yell once!

All in all, a good day. All that prayer seems to be working. That, and Harvey's new molar finally came in. That kid's like a friggin shark these days! Someone smarter than me would quit nursing already.

fifth graders

I always laugh when I hear, as I do at least once a day, someone tell fifth-grade students that they need to do something "like a fifth grader." Teachers, specialists, special educators: all are guilty of this easy rhetorical maneuver. Only problem is it's completely ridiculous. It's generally deployed when the adult in question is faced with large groups of rambunctious children; even when it's addressed to an individual the wider context of general fifth-grade wildness cannot be ignored. Evidentially, fifth-graders do not behave well. First graders, they can walk quietly in a line or go down the stairs to recess without forming a stampede that can't be stopped by anything short of an administrator; fifth graders can't. Perhaps the admonishers have some concept of the platonic ideal of a fifth grader in mind, but as that ideal bears no relation to reality I am forced to admit that, when they chase each other around the classroom or refuse to stop talking for more than 25 seconds at a stretch, these fine young people are, in fact, acting just like fifth graders.

he does those tricks so we don't have to

Following in the footsteps of every cycling blog I read, I wanted to alert you to the existence of this video. Even if you don't think you'll like watching an individual with a less-than-average instinct for self preservation jump his bicycle off high ledges, you may enjoy the scenery!

Leah very strictly instructed me that I was not to try any of that. We wouldn't mind visiting Scotland, though.


I actually really want to write this book

A couple of my students have been assigned Hernán Cortés (or Fernando Cortez, if you prefer) for a research project on explorers. Unfortunately, the available text reads as follows:

Cortéz was an explorer for Spain. Cortéz wanted gold. The Native people had gold. Cortéz fought the Native people. Cortéz became leader of Mexico.

Yeah, that's one way to put it.

It makes me wonder why there aren't easy-to-read history texts about, say, Lenin. Wouldn't that be awesome?! Morally ambiguous historical characters whose activities are, in retrospect, entirely unforgivable, but who nonetheless are remembered heroically for various reasons, reduced to simplistic caricatures.

Lenin wanted to change Russia. Lenin became the leader of Russia. Some people didn't want Lenin to change Russia. Those people were class enemies.

Too complicated?

Not that I mean to compare Cortés with Lenin: Cortés was obviously much worse. He wasn't even an explorer! A kind-of state-sponsored bandit at best. Oh, it's going to be fun writing this report!


bells and whistles

We went shopping for a dishwasher this morning. As our refrigerator once did, our poor current machine been getting louder and louder each time we run it; additionally, it dumps a considerable puddle of water onto the kitchen floor at the end of each cycle. We'd be happy to live with the noise and the towels on the floor if we thought the situation was stabilized, but it clearly is not. So a new dishwasher, graciously offered as an early Hannukah present by Leah's parents.

The only problem is, dishwashers these days are pretty complicated. Stainless steel or plastic basin, two spray arms or four, Energy Star rating, decibels... what do we know about any of that?! The worst is the escalation of functionality: why does a dishwasher need five different cycles and a delayed start of up to nine hours? I truly cannot imagine. The one we ordered has some of that stuff, but I'm not sure what: we mostly chose on price, and on the fact that one model had the buttons up top where Harvey won't be able to get to them. Now that's an important feature!


model child

8 days old, ready for his catalogue shoot

8 days old, ready for his catalogue shoot

Naturally, all parents think their own child is the best looking kid in the world. We sure do. In our case, however, we happen to be correct in our assessment. Seriously! People tell us all the time that Harvey should be in modeling. And it's not that we haven't thought about it: when he was younger Leah actually looked very briefly to see what sort of opportunities there are in the area. Not a great many, unfortunately, but if we were still in LA you can be sure he'd have been the face of two or three major product launches by now. If, that is, the director could figure out a way to stop him from grabbing at the camera as soon as he sees it. We haven't managed that very well yet.

One major benefit of getting him into modeling occurred to me yesterday: I'm sure that all the agencies and whatnot have some awesome professional stylists on staff! Do you think they could do something with that hair?


spinning and spinning

This past week I've started to feel the baby move around. It started off real slowly, like, "Psst, there might be a baby in here" and now it's all "HEY! YOU UP THERE! I'M TALKIN TO YOU!" Which is exciting in some ways, and in more ways nerve-wracking.

My current freak-out is my what-if-it's-a-girl internal monologue. What if it IS a girl? Will I be able to love it as much as I do my perfect little boy? How will we possibly afford an entirely new female wardrobe? I can sew a lot of dresses, sure, but there are shoes and ruffled onesies to consider, and I'm only one person with two babies to care for and not a lot of crafting time. Also, those little flowered headbands demand a glue gun, something I dare not plug in while children are awake. But if they're asleep, how will I judge the right length of elastic? Those headbands will be the death of me, I know it. I'm just not ready. Please Lord let this child be a boy.

But if I think this sort of thing, and then if it is a girl, then she must know in utero that I hate or fear her, and so even entertaining the thought makes me a terrible mother. A terrible mother before the child is even born. Which is supposed to be the easiest part, because I don't even have to DO anything special, other than stay away from tuna and wake up at 1 in the morning to eat a muffin. Compared to waking up at 1 in the morning to change a poopy infant that screams like a howling cat, and then doing it again at 3 and 5, I'll take the muffin.

Oh man, I'm tired. I wanted to write a post today about how awesome Harvey is because he now loves dancing, and yesterday whenever I asked him if he wanted to sing the itsy bitsy spider or when you're happy and you know it all he said was "No. Pokey?" And when he said it he put his two fingers in the air ready to turn himself about. So we did the hokey pokey and I am so in love with that kid it's crazy.

That's what it's all about, yo.


because no one on the internet has ever complained about facebook before

So Facebook is apparently offering email now, or will soon, or something: it's part of this new messages business which I admit I don't fully understand. Clearly I'm totally on top of this subject and in a perfect position to comment about it on the internet. So yeah!

While we were kind of excited when we first joined facebook, the enthusiasm didn't last. Leah still posts occasionally, especially when she wants to plug a particular blog post to a larger audience, but taking a look at my profile indicates that I haven't had anything "on my mind" since March of this year. Tweeting once a month is about all the social networking I can manage these days, I'm afraid.

But that's fine, because facebook totally sucks. You know, there's this thing called the internet, which provides a wide variety of services: games, instant messaging, blog publishing, even email! All available on open, public platforms that don't harvest your data and sell it to the highest bidder (though I suppose that the success of gmail shows that people don't really worry about that anymore). But no, it's all so much more fun when we do it within the facebook ecosystem. Didn't walled garden portals go out with AOL, like fifteen years ago?!

Here's what I think is happening. Just like the browser took over from the operating system as people's primary way of interacting with their computer (don't think that's true? just try using a computer without an internet connection!), facebook is now taking over from the browser. And since these sorts of cycles are constantly speeding up as we move inexorably towards the singularity, we can expect within months the creation of a facebook ap that offers its own messaging. At this point new computers will be set up to open to facebook on startup, because the rest of the web will be dead (just like Wired said). Hey, as horrible as that seems, it won't be all bad if it stops people typing "google" into the google search box built into their browser when they want to find something on the internet.

I know, I know: most of my complaints about facebook sound like the grumpy old-man ramblings of someone who's owned a domain name for eight or nine years and who totally remembers someone once talking about reading Usenet. But once you read the following, copied directly from an actual update auto-posted by a facebook ap, you won't be able to do anything but agree with me that facebook must be evil:

Johanna just found a lonely Sea Turle in Fish World and put it up for adoption! While maintaining their fish, a Sea Turle made its way in to Johanna's tank! While roaming the open waters this turtle lost it's way and it needs a new home!

Yeah sure, the content isn't facebook's fault, but the very fact that the site provided the platform upon which this atrocity could be committed is enough to forever damn it in my sight. Except, you know, when I want to catch up with old friends I haven't talked to in a while.


who is this little person, anyway?

It should go without saying, but Harvey is a person, his own person in fact, pre-programed with likes, dislikes, and super-awesome-must-have-at-this-second emotions. As his mom, I get the unique pleasure of finding these things out as I get to know him.

For one, it seems clear that Harvey really loves animals. It started out with dogs (for obvious Rascally reasons) and has extended to all varieties of farm animals, fish, and wild animals excluding bugs. In any book it's the animals he'll point to first and he practically jumps off my lap when exclaiming their names. He never seems happier than at Chip In farm feeding beans to the animals there, and in between visits he'll spend an entire day asking, "Goat? Cow? Sheep? Goat? Cow?..."

People he's not too keen on. We have three designated play times a week: library hour on Tuesday, small group on Friday, and church on Sunday. Sometimes he'll deign to play in the same square foot as another child; at other times he'll hide in a corner or atop a chair and cry "uppy!" In my weaker moments I worry about his socialization. In my more normal moments I remember that he's a toddler child of two extreme introverts, that he demonstrates plenty of love and empathy when around adults or non-human companions, and that everything will turn out fine, even if he never snags a play date until he's married.

He also loves books. Boy howdy does he love books. With a few interruptions for singing and dancing I think we could read books all day long and he'd still be entertained. He also loves playing outside, and eating. He's not too interested in drawing, playing with playdough, or crafting in general (although he likes pushing the buttons on my sewing machine.) He loves balls and tractors. I think in his ideal world we would live on a farm and play outside all day, feeding the animals from our hands, with a stack of books on the side. That doesn't sound too bad to me either, when it comes to that. Maybe we're related.

I say this because we're going to have another baby on the way, and who knows what the next one will be like. I have a hard time believing that any child could possibly be as smart, beautiful, and fun as Harvey. He or she has got a lot to live up to.


songs of thankfulness and praise

As I biked home from work today just after noon, the world was full of signs of the Thanksgiving holiday: clear skies, brisk air, a gusty breeze blowing the last few leaves from the trees, and hordes of 8th-graders making the arduous migration from their school to the mating grounds of Lexington Center. Ah, early-release days.

I was talking to a couple of fifth-graders about the holiday yesterday, and explaining to them that we always have something to be thankful for no matter what our circumstances.

"What if you live in a box?" asked one.

"Then you're thankful for the box!" said the other. That's the spirit!

Naturally, they wondered what you'd be thankful for if you didn't have anything; I said you could be happy you weren't being hit with sticks, and they liked that answer. Things can always get worse, I told them. To some people that's a grim concept, because it can be a small hop from "things can always get worse" to "things will always get worse". A small hop, but a silly one. Of course things don't always get worse: sometimes they do, but other times they get better. By realizing that there's essentially an unlimited downside out there somewhere below us, we can focus on the awesome parts of whatever situation we happen to find ourselves in.

Me, I'm thankful for my wonderful family, for slightly gainful employment, and for being able to sleep mostly through the night with only one or two wakeups that we barely notice any more. Also for delicious cranberries fresh from the special Thanksgiving edition Lexington farmers market, which this evening I made into three different turkey toppings: orange-cranberry sauce, ginger-cranberry sauce, and orange-cranberry-pecan relish. Hopefully at least one will be edible. But if not I at least had fun making them! See how I focus on the positive?

Have a happy Thanksgiving everyone, and if nothing else be happy that you're not being hit with sticks!


thanksgiving report

Our Thanksgiving this year saw the largest congregation of Archibalds—eleven!—to be assembled in some time, and all of us got considerably larger over the course of the afternoon. Well, almost all: baby Nisia didn't get to enjoy the feast but second-hand, but I suppose since at four months she's growing the fastest of any of us it all comes out even. The Lexington Archibalds provided the table and the vast majority of the food: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, squash, roasted root vegetables, spinach, and salad. Oh, and three pies. We Bedford Archibalds chipped in rolls and cranberry sauces, while the Pembroke Archibalds brought an amazing chocolate toffy trifle. It went wonderfully well with pecan pie. And we're always happy to see the Ithaca Archibalds!

This was only the first of three Thanksgiving feasts for us: we'll be enjoying the treats of the season tomorrow and Saturday as well. But we didn't let that keep us from bringing home a nice collection of leftovers to help fill in the cracks!


sleeping and not

It's been a hard two days of partying for Harvey. He's been so overstimulated by extended family and rich food that both nap time and bed-time today entailed a lot of tears. Then pleading, then screaming, then more tears. Of course, Dan handles these tough put-downs with aplomb while I sit on another floor of our house grinding my teeth. I'm terrible at holding Harvey while he screams. I'd rather have him spend an hour grinding my nipple raw with his new molars, which of course is what we do on difficult days when Dan isn't home.

One reason I haven't given up nursing yet is that it's my best way of getting Harvey to sleep. There are other reasons, too, like the fact that he loves it, that he's soothed by it, that I like the resting time together, and that there doesn't seem to be a compelling reason to cut off something so mutually beneficial. But also, the sleep. We'll need him to go to sleep on his own eventually, but every day feels like a bad day to try something new. Especially something that takes so. much. screaming.

All in all I am extremely hesitant about changing our sleep situation, because despite some difficult evenings (like last night - see the opening comment about rich food and overstimulation) Harvey seems to be sleeping well with only 1 small wake-up in the night. I too sleep well knowing that he's safe and sound next to me. I wouldn't even consider changing anything - I'd probably co-sleep forever - but for the new baby on the way in 6 months or so. Logic says that the little one will displace Harvey from our bedroom, and that means training Harvey to go to sleep in another room in another type of bed.

If I could, my secret wish would be for my whole family to sleep in one bed every night. I know it's impossible, which is why it's my secret wish, and maybe the more I say it out loud the more silly it will sound to me and the more I'll give it up. But really, I cannot imagine that I'll ever sleep soundly otherwise. Ever since I was a child I have been terrified of nighttime, sleep, and my house in the darkness. If someone is not in the bed breathing next to me I believe there's a better then even chance that they're dead.

Part of having children is loving them so much it breaks you, and then letting go of them slowly slowly slowly, so it breaks you. I can't believe we are about to go and do it again. We must be batshit out of our minds.


party pooped

Phew! Good thing tomorrow is a day of rest, because this vacation has been hard work so far! It's especially stressful on our cute little introvert son, who takes it out on us when he gets home. Not that any of us are complaining: each and every social engagement has been ever so much fun. Today Harvey even loosened up a little bit and played with the other kids—when he could spare a moment from trying to grab extra cookies, that is.

The takeaway message from Thanksgiving this year is that 2:00 pm parties are absolutely ideal. We get dinner and a good four or five hours of socializing, and we're still home in plenty of time for baby and mama to get to bed at an appropriate hour. As an added bonus, if we time it right we can squeeze in two full meals before we go and a late-evening snack afterwards! Hey, those leftovers aren't going to eat themselves! (and thank goodness: that's kind of a disturbing image, isn't it).



As a full-time mom, you get excited about things such as a morning routine. We recently made some changes to ours, hence the excitement. It used to be that my morning centered around the dog's necessary outing. After the two showers and getting dressed, we'd eat breakfast and then I'd hustle to get Harvey ready for the outdoors as Dan hustled to get ready for work. As the weather got colder, the process of getting Harvey ready and out the door grew more arduous. Also, now that he's older and wants to walk everywhere himself, it can be a test of patience (everybody's).

I started complaining to Dan a few weeks ago that despite not going to work I was finding the mornings really stressful. Indeed, I was dreading the morning walk and the preparations it demanded. So we came up with a different scheme, one where I walk the dog alone at 6:30 and Dan watches Harvey. It isn't exactly a panacea. I skip a shower; the dog doesn't always want to walk that early; and Harvey screams bloody murder when I leave. But compared to our previous routine it seems like an enormous sigh of relief. I get a brisk walk and some quiet time to myself. Harvey only takes on a few minutes of separation stress, as opposed to an hour of stroller stress. And when I get back we all have time to play and see Dan off to work in a more relaxed manner.

An unexpected bonus of the schedule change is that I found out that once Dan is gone I can still shower sometimes. In fact, Harvey's new favorite thing is going in the shower. He clings with his arms in a Koala death grip around my neck, but he loves being under the water and he sighs in contentment when the warm water hits his back. Indeed, when we woke up this morning he asked, "Mama showah? mama showah? mama showah?" It was 5:30 in the morning, but oh well. We still have some kinks to work out.


Facebook: the movie

The past two evenings Leah and I watched The Social Network, the movie about Facebook's founding (we try and take in a film every year or two to, you know, stay current with modern popular culture). It was quite enjoyable and I'm sure completely accurate—judging by how annoyed I am by so many facets of facebook, it makes sense that it was conceived by people who were, without exception, complete jerks.

However, my attention was distracted from the intricacies of the plot relatively early, in the midst of a thrilling scene featuring facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg typing on his computer:

"Mozilla didn't have spellcheck on text boxes in 2003!" I exclaimed to Leah. She muttered something roughly affirmative to make me stop talking, but I couldn't let it slip. Wasn't this supposed to be a film about technology?! (Well, that and co-ed strippers and snorting coke off of half-naked sorority girls...).

In the end, though, a little research proves that I'm probably wrong, and the filmmakers right. This page suggests that Mozilla had in fact implemented spellcheck by the end of 2003, and that even if they hadn't a computer-user as savvy as Zuckerberg could have found a way to use one even if wasn't yet officially supported. Also that the Mozilla devs were pretty snarky back in the day, but that's neither here nor there.

So yeah, good movie!