Harvey and I are sitting on the couch during Saturday rest time. I am knitting and Harvey is flipping through albums on Dan's iPhone, asking me if I want to hear various songs by describing their album covers. "Do you want to hear the pig one? Do you want to hear the guluh (girl) one?"

"Mama, Do you want to hear 'I've got blood on my hands?'"

"What? What kind of terrible gangster rap does Dada have on his — oh, that's Gregorian chants," I say looking over at the phone. "It's a picture of Jesus. Yes, I'd love to listen to that."

Harvey has more questions.

"Why's he got blood on his hands?"

"Those are the marks from the nails," I say.

"Why'd he get nails in his hands?"

"Well, remember when Jesus was hung on a cross?"


"They put nails through his hands so he couldn't get down. When he came alive afterwards he had blood marks on his hands from where the nails where."


I go back to knitting. Harvey has more questions.

"Why's the picture blue like that?"

"Well it's a mosaic. You mean why is it blue in some places and gold in some places in the background?"


"Because it's a mosaic which means it's made out of lots of little tiles. The people who used to sing this music were monks and they made these sort of pictures to decorate the walls of their monastery —"

Dan comes into the room to interject.

"Actually, these aren't Gregorian chants," he says. "Gregorian chants are mono-tonal. Secular composers who came later than the monks, in the renaissance, invented multi-tonality and made new arrangements of the Gregorian chants. The renaissance arrangements were multi-tonal. That's what we're listening to now - Renaissance music."

"Thank you Dada, but he's asking about the picture - I'm trying to explain about mosaics."

"Use the iPad," says Dan," It'll be easier to see the pictures."

So we get down the iPad and I do a google image search form Jesus Mosaic. Harvey flips through the pictures. "Oh, this is where he's on the cross! Oh, this is where he's in the tomb!" he exclaims.

I point out that the mosaics are made of many little tiny tiles. Harvey asks why Jesus has a circle around his head and I explain that artists made the circles called halos to show that people knew God. Harvey asks why in another picture Jesus has rays coming out of his head. I say because Jesus is like the sun that has rays and lights up the world. Harvey doesn't understand and I draw on the magnet board a picture of the sun and a picture of Jesus both with rays coming out of them. Harvey asks about another mosaic and I say it's Jesus' baptism. He asks about another and I say it's when Jesus died and was taken down from the cross, the women holding him is probably supposed to be Mary Magdalene since she's a woman and not wearing blue, and the man crying over him might be the disciple Jesus loved, John, or it could be the one who purchased the tomb for him.... um... Joseph of Arimathea.

"I've heard it pronounced ArimaTHEA," Dan calls from the kitchen.

"What's goin on in this picture?" asks Harvey, flipping to a different mosaic.

"That's Jesus ascending into heaven. After he came back from the dead he stuck around for forty days, then he rose into heaven while his disciples were watching."

"How'd he do it?"

"Um, he just kind of flew up there, I guess."

"How'd he do that?"

"God helped him."

"How'd God help him if Jesus IS God?"

"Um... Dan?" I yell. "Any Help?"

Dan comes in from the kitchen. "God is everywhere, so even when Jesus was God on earth there was still a God in heaven. Also, Jesus talked about God as his father even though he WAS God too."

"There's only one God. It's an amazing mystery." I add.

I tell Harvey we can make a mosaic ourselves out of paper, or out of tiles if we buy some cement mix stuff. I cut up squares of paper and print out one of the Jesus mosaic picture that Harvey chooses so he can follow the model and cover it with squares. This feels too heavy-handed to Harvey, and immediately he gets frustrated that he can't get glue on the tiny pieces of colored paper, and then that I put glue all over his picture. We end up with bits of paper all over the floor and to avoid a melt-down Dan calls Harvey to the dinner table.

Harvey sits down at the table and summarizes the last half-hour:

"I put on Jesus music for Mama because Mama likes thinkin about Jesus."

ed note: after dinner Dan returned to the mosaics and made one that was totally awesome. I feel bad for Harvey; he is often frustrated that his level of crafting ability isn't up to his desired level of production. That's what we do in our family, instill crafting anxiety along with religious instruction.


Concord Museum

This week was a bit disappointing. I've been sick, and I deal with it poorly. Whenever I'm sick I get like really angry at the institution of motherhood. Like really? This is the plan, species? I just take care of my children all day and all night every day and every night until they kill me?

Also my car wouldn't start and the oven broke and the barefoot running shoes I ordered for cheap on ebay turn out not to fit and not to be returnable. And when Harvey was yelling at me because he wanted to put on the huge clown running shoes and splash through puddles (what? no!) I threw my tea cup on the pavement just to hear it smash and feel like I had the power to break something that wasn't a child.

To make a go of good parenting, on Wednesday I piled the kids into Dan's loud but working car and headed to the Concord Museum. We'd never been before, but it's right down the road from us, so I figured if it was a bust we could get out quickly. Also it's free thanks to the reciprocal program attached to my Discovery Museum membership (thanks again Grandma!) and the website said there was some stuff for kids.

The stuff for kids turned out to be a scavenger hunt printed on a piece of paper, so Zion waxed a little antsy and tended to scream "NO! NO!" whenever I read from a plaque out loud. Harvey, on the other hand, had a fantastic time finding the things pictured on his scavenger hunt paper, and he really seemed excited to make connections between the things he saw in the museum and the other historical places we've visited in the area: Mary's house at the Minuteman National Park, the North Bridge, and Henry's cabin at Walden Pond. I personally was excited to see the ORIGINAL FURNITURE from Thoreau's cabin, but Harvey was more confused than anything else. The replica cabin has actual furniture too, he says.

that bed is smaller than Harvey's!

Also, Harvey stared a long time at the sculpture of Henry David Thoreau before asking me why he wasn't a bear.

The Concord Museum also has in their collection 50% of the lights that were used to signal "two if by sea" at Paul Revere's behest. In the picture below you can see Harvey folding down the tab on his scavenger hunt that had a silhouette of the lantern on it. And patiently listening to me explain how the Back Bay area of Boston used to be under water.... I don't always plan these lessons out for concision.

so, they actually did come by sea... even if the museum only owns one of the lanterns

Zion was getting really bored by the time we got to the upstairs part of the museum. There he was entertained briefly by a game of checkers, but Harvey kept yelling at him to put the light ones on the light squares and it seemed like an hour in this museum was enough for one morning.

the black ones go on the black squares and the white ones go on the white squares... don't you know how to play checkers?

Since the museum visit was free, and since the kids polished off their snack of two apples and a big hunk of cheese in like seven seconds, I decided to stop at Whole Foods on the way home. A small Whole Foods shop feels free to me because if we get snacks from the right sections of the store than they're paid for by food stamps. (Well, Dan will disagree with me on the "free" issue, since we have a finite number of food stamps dollars per month so it's not really "free" and we should budget astutely. I say Yes, but I'm talking about a cup of berries and a muffin, and if I don't have to take $3 out of my wallet right then it's free to me.)

After our chocolate muffin snack we ended the free part of the outing and went into Marshalls to get both boys some waterproof shoes. That set us back $30, but at least their feet won't get soaked every time they go outside and they were so happy with their new matching shoes that they made me put them on their feet as soon as we got outside the store.

now let's jump in some puddles!

We got home around noon, and the boys immediately started hurting each other while I screamed at them that their behavior was unfair because I take them to do so much fun stuff even though I HAVE A FEVER so YOU SHOULD REPAY ME BY BEING GOOD! (Yeah, logic that totally works on a 1 and 3 year old whose mom is yelling at them.) Then I broke my tea cup in the road and Dan managed to come home before anyone called DSS. Dan very sweetly took both boys on a walk with the Dog and he said Harvey was talking fake history the whole time: "This train track was build in four-ten..." etc. So I guess it's not all awful. They say the sun is supposed to come out tomorrow...

ed note: I would hate for someone to read this post and think: WTF? What is her husband doing that she has to bitch and moan this much? That would convey the wrong impression. The truth is that Dan is working his hardest 100% of the time. When he's home he's playing with the kids and helping with the housework CONSTANTLY. It's just that there's a shitload of work to do, and we have two kids who are attention whores. Who hate to listen to THE SAME STORY AT THE SAME TIME. Which is to say, if there are two parents in the house they will make work for two parents in the house every single second. But I'll say this: even though raising children can be very difficult my husband is a wonderful partner who (unlike me) always remains loving to every member of our family and never loses his sense of humor.

Also, Dan reminds me that I have a VERY hard time when I'm sick, and when I'm well I can tote the kids around no problem and I even have fun doing it. And if I complain when I'm sick I have no one to blame but myself; if I wanted to be healthier I could ween Zion and get some sleep. I don't do it because attachment parenting is a lovely and gentle way to transition children from babies to kids and if it works when I'm healthy I'm willing to have it completely not work when I'm sick, as long as I'm sick less than 1/3 of the time.


seeing my "name" in print

Recently I was reading a book on Waldorf education and I encountered a quote from my 4th grade teacher, Steven Levy. I didn't know he had written a book, so I requested it from the Lexington library. It came in on Friday and I sped through the thing in no time. The book describes how Levy built his classroom curriculum around a different theme every year. One year it was bread making, another year the children made their own desks. You know, the kind of thematic curriculum planning that comes natural to home-schoolers but shocks and amazes in the public school.

Chapter seven describes a class taking wool through carding and dying to spinning and weaving. Hey, I said to myself, that's my fourth grade class right?? We did the carding and the dying and the spinning he describes. We had community members come in one day and teach us all how to knit. I remember that day vividly, probably the most important day of my first decade of life. Somebody's mom, I will never forget how you demonstrated to me how to put the needle through the stitch, remove my right hand from the needle to wrap the yarn around, replace my right hand on the needle and remove the stitch. WHY OH WHY DIDN'T YOU TEACH ME TO KNIT CONTINENTAL??? OH What might have been!!! We all would have at least twice as many sweaters as we do now!

Of course, I know why you didn't teach a fourth grader how to knit continental. I've tried to teach it to others and it's very difficult to learn. Not intuitive. Fingers get tangled. Throwing the yarn is easy and anyone can learn it, to the detriment of their entire future knitting career. But I digress.

I realized Levy definitely WAS talking about my fourth grade class when he mentioned Tuuka, a student from Finland who knit a spectacularly long scarf. I cannot imagine anyone else's fourth grade class also contained a Finnish Tuuka. Oh the thrill of recognizing my own experience in print! That's my forth grade class you're talking about! I WAS THERE!

Then I saw this:

"Day after day Leanne brought in bags of white hair from home. It turned out to be from her dog. She was able to spin the dog hair into yarn on the drop spindles, and weave a beautiful blanket for her dog out of the dog's own hair!"

Ahem. First of all, it wasn't a blanket, it was a beautiful wall hanging and it's still hanging in my parent's living room. Chakra McKinley Bernstein may you rest in doggy peace. Second of all. Leanne? LEANNE? Why not Louise or Lesley or Lee like everyone calls me when they forget my name? Did drawing the name Tuuka out of the archives sap all your memory power so you had nothing left to waste on Leah? THE DOG HAIR WEAVER???

Dan says don't take it personally, he probably changed all the non-Finish names.

And anyway, in all fairness, I cannot remember half the things described in chapter seven. The field trip to the sheep farm? The woman coming into the class repeatedly to teach dying techniques? I remember losing my voice one morning and regaining it in the afternoon and feeling like an idiot. I remember falling off my chair and hitting the back of my head and how everybody stared at me to see if I had died. I remember getting poked in the eye with a yard stick and the student teacher taking me to the nurse said, "Don't baby it." I had no idea what that meant, but it sounded extraordinarily harsh to someone who had just gotten her eye poked with a yard stick.

In other words, with this and other pedagogical works I have read recently, I must take everything with a grain of salt. My best laid plans will always look well-integrated and dreamily educational but my children will more likely remember the day I ran a fever and started shattering pottery.

As a parent, forth grade seems impossibly far away. I am looking forward to the day when I can do real making and information gathering with my children. Researching how the pilgrims processed wool and the types of sewing patterns they used and then making clothes the way they did? That would be totally my thing. Instead my thing right now is reading board books for hours and hours, none with more than five words on a page. Zion just started getting interested in books a few weeks ago, but his attention span is more age appropriate than Harvey's was at 16 months. Good thing Harvey's attention span is magnetic to books, and he can happily sit through thirty minutes of "Colors" followed by "Numbers" followed by "ABC." Anyway, it's fun to think about the future even as I attempt to cultivate patience in the present.

As long as my kids don't start calling me Leanne.


Am I Irresponsible?

Okay, so I live in poverty and take money from the state and whatever, but I still pride myself on being a "responsible adult." I file paperwork on time, I show up to family events within the half-hour grace period, I send thank-you notes. I invite people over for dinner and lay out cloth napkins. I send a gift even when I don't go to a wedding shower. I have my shit together.

On Sunday Dan's car broke down, kind of spectacularly, while we were driving it. We were coming back from the city and the windshield wipers slowed to a crawl. Then all the dashboard indicators went on. Then out. The transmission started making awful sounds. The car got slower and slower as Dan struggled it up the hill in the breakdown lane. Dan deftly coasted us off the exit ramp and around several turns to safety. It wasn't until the last turn that he lost power steering and the engine cut out. But he still managed to park the car in a secluded spot not half a mile from his parents' house.

Because Dan remained calm while driving a car that was dying, I stayed calm as well. Because I was calm our kids were calm. When we stopped we just pulled out our cell phones and Dan called triple-A while I called Dan's mom. Zion started to yell because I wasn't taking him out of the car immediately and Harvey soothed him by saying, "It's okay Zion — Mama's calling Grandma."

Now look. When I pride myself on being "responsible" I am simultaneous judging my friends who do not have their shit together. Friends who drift from one crisis to the next and always need bailing out. I think this is an older sibling thing. Even though my younger brother is quite arguably "a baller" by how financially stable he is at the moment, I can still get all judgy when he does stuff like ask us to drive to Central square in the middle of a STREET FESTIVAL. Or show up late to Passover.

So here I was calling grandma all, "Our old beat-up car just broke down and we need a ride." And all I'm thinking is: "This is a younger brother thing."

And then I'm thinking: Poverty is turning us into fuck-ups.

Because we say, "Living cheap is awesome! It's fantastic! We don't have to worry about what to spend our money on because we can't! We just do everything simply! It's giving us so much freedom!"

And then it's like, "Um, just kidding, everything we own just broke at the same time. Can we have some money?"

Some would argue that having so little money is irresponsible, because other people have to stop what they're doing to help you when your old car breaks down. Better to drive a new car that looks like it should be fancy and in repair, and then if it breaks down by the side of the road then at least you were TRYING to do something right.

Better to roll your eyes at your children on the playground or yell "stop running up the slide" because it shows other parents that at least you're TRYING to keep them in line.

"Trying" is a word that defends your intention. It's an argument you make before a judge. The problem isn't anything about poverty or parenting choices or old Subarus which usually work more reliably than new Volkswagens. The problem is judgement.

Because I want to live in a society where people don't NEED to be responsible for every possible eventuality that could ever possibly happen to them. I want to live in a world where EVERYONE HAS THE FREEDOM TO BE A YOUNER SIBLING. Because if everyone is trying to hedge against every catastrophe for themselves, everyone is just stockpiling money and resources in their own little houses. Instead of sharing with people who need those things more RIGHT NOW. Instead of doing things they might like to do more than making money and storing resources.

I want to live in a world without responsibility judgement. I should probably start myself. Okay. Um, Dear Younger Brother...



the Forward! Marching Band in action

red for a reason

We love crazy leftists and we love marching bands, so when our friend Luke came to church just to let us know about a festival combining the two we just had to go, nevermind that we were completely unprepared. Honk! was calling!

I suppose that improvisation was in the spirit of the thing anyhow, and the timing worked out perfectly for us to get to the Cambridge Common just in time to catch most of the parade. And what a parade it was! Bands, puppets, bands, anti-Zionist chanters, and more bands! Also a roller-derby team and people on bicycles. There were only two issues with our lack of preparation, one of which was our lack of a proper camera; moving parade units are hard to photograph effectively at the best of times and impossible with a cell phone camera with no zoom and a three-second shutter delay. So you'll have to take my word for it that it was totally awesome and may have spoiled us for any other parades, ever.

One of the coolest parts—well, besides the marching cello and the anti-Scott Brown buffalo totem—was the presence of tons of kids. It made me worry that we were doing our boys a disservice by not involving them in crazy alternative lifestyles until Leah pointed out that we do some tolerably crazy things ourselves and, besides, we have plenty of time yet. I can tell you that we've been practicing music at home pretty much non-stop since!

the Church Marching Band in a crowd of happy hipsters

all types in attendance

After the parade we pushed through the crowds to Harvard Square, where Honk! combined with Octoberfest to produce the biggest festival we've ever experienced. We heard some music, chatted with friends last seen at a parade in Lexington, and had a surprising amount of money sucked out of our pockets in the interest of feeding ourselves and supplying Harvey with amusements. You'd think four stages of live band music plus break dancers, costumed freaks, and more people than we've seen in the last six months would have kept him entertained, but the Thomas-inspired road train ride proved to be completely irresistible and returned in Harvey enjoyment well more than the six dollars it cost. We didn't pay for the bounce house, though, so some tears for that.

But it was starting to rain by then anyways, so under our umbrella—hey, even improvising we come prepared!—we made our happy way back to the car. Which of course broke down half-way home, but that's another story.

Next year's festival is already on our schedule—or would be, that is, if the dates were actually published yet—and next time we'll bring our own food. Perhaps we'll bicycle there as well.


puppy dog eyes and puppy love

It was kind of a slow day for us here today. Harvey is sick with a fever, so he spent the day lying on the couch with me sitting next to him stroking his head. Zion ran around the house in circles and sometimes threw books at me. Of course we read a lot of books. We also played blocks and trains but more subdued than usual. The house was eerily quiet for the three of us being in it together. At times Harvey just looked up at me with his big droopy fevered eyes and groaned: "I love you Mama."

I usually try not to let my emotions get the better of me (anger excluded) so the tenderness of Harvey's sentiments caught me off guard. It's not to say I don't believe he loves me, of course that's why he pulls all the whiney baby crap that makes me so angry. It's just that mostly I hear "I love you" from Harvey as a response of courtesy or to get something that costs money. I felt like today was the first time I heard in his voice: I appreciate your presence. I actually like it when you're near me. I want to be with you. You know, "I love you."

Which is not to say I like my child pathetically ill, but it was a nice sentiment to isolate from our normal more boisterous lives.

I don't know what was in the air today. When I picked Zion up from his nap I smelled his hair and he smelled like a new puppy. All of a sudden I got that feeling I get around puppies, like, I am so lucky to share this moment with this amazing crazy little creature. A puppy is a fleeting concept; puppies exist for just mere weeks before they shed their youthful frivolity and morph into dogs. Dogs are fantastic, don't get me wrong, but the way a puppy will stomp his two paws in front of you when he wants to play, it's like this heroin shot of joy, it's almost too much because it hurts to know it'll soon be gone. Babies take soooo much longer to turn into dogs. They're helpless and needy and rewardingly adorable for many more months than puppies. But as I picked up Zion and smelled his puppy-smelling head, I had this baby Rascal feeling: I am holding an amazing, fleeting, ball of joy, and the love is almost too much to bear.

The smell on his head was pine shavings, by the way, which is used for litter at many kennels. We also use it in our chicken coop, where the boys were helping me out yesterday.

spreading new bedding in the chicken run

spreading new bedding in the chicken run

They are already helping with chores - they won't stay babies forever. When they're loud and pushy it's easy to wonder: how soon will they grow up? When will they stop needing me to fill their juice cups? But today when they need me more than juice cups, when they need me to be their Mama, I want to say: I like it when you're near me. I want to be with you. I love you guys.


some bible books we like

The kids and I went to Marshalls over the weekend to buy me some cheap running shoes. Remember how I was all on my high horse about barefoot running a few weeks ago? Yeah, never mind. I'm totally climbing down off that now. Barefoot running may indeed be better for my feet but the shoes look too stupid to wear anywhere other than running and I realize I need sneakers for a lot of things other than running. Like walking to Whole Foods in any weather colder than 60 degrees.

So we took a trip to Marshalls and snagged me some $30 shoes before playing in the toys section. The toys section at our local Marshalls is awesome. The boys usually play with light-up toys and balls and very rarely beg to bring them home. But on Saturday Harvey and Zion wouldn't leave the book section, asking me to read book after book, some bizarre examples of childrens' stories I never knew existed (Baby Bear Baby Bear, What do you See??? Seriously? No way am I buying ANOTHER one of those things.) Still, some of the cheap deals bowled me over, especially since Zion is all up in my face with the board books now, so I bought a picture book of baby animals and a copy of Freight Train by Donald Crews for a few dollars a piece. Hey, I need board book variety too. It can't be all Brown/Polar/Panda Bear all the time.

While I was there in the book section I spotted a new Children's bible I hadn't seen before. A while ago I read a book called The Rise and Fall of the Bible (I really recommend it, by the way) and it quoted research saying the average Christian household has something like ten bibles. And I was like, Oh yeah? Well, let's see... I have a NIV, 2 Messages, Harvey has a NIV, Dan has a KJ, and someone left a new NIV study bible here that no one will claim. So that's 6 adult bibles, plus a 2 kid bibles I got as gifts and 2 I bought so.... HOLY SHIT! WE ARE AN AVERAGE CHRISTIAN HOUSEHOLD! HOW DID IT COME TO THIS!!

Anyway, I opened this new kids bible (by Andrew Geeson) ready to be unimpressed. When I open a bible made for kids I usually ask it a few questions to see wherether it's a terrible piece of crap:

Is there a picture of the cross? If not then it's NOT REALLY CHRISTIAN. You'd be amazed how many kids bibles jump from "Jesus loves the little children" to "Jesus is alive again!" Like, yeah? Wasn't he alive before? What? Next I ask: Is there a moral at the end of each story? If so, it probably has theological errors AND will make me what to puke while I'm reading it.

The bible at Marshalls had both a cross and absence of morals, and some other things to recommend it too, like lots of words per story. I picked out the story of Goliath to read as a tester and was pleased that including something about David playing the harp. So I brought the bible home with us (in addition to the two board books and the sneakers - I can't go into Marshalls for a fortnight now.) But unfortunately some of the pictures don't match the text for historical detail. Dan was reading it to Harvey and called to me from the living room:

"When were the Levites allowed to touch the ark?"

"What? Never!" I yell.

"Well they're carrying it on their shoulders in this story about Joshua."

"What? No, they carried it on poles. They always carried it on poles. Show Harvey a better illustration from the other bible."

The other bible I refer to is A Child's First Bible by Kenneth N. Taylor. The illustrations in this book are great for accurate details. If you're the kind of person who has read the entire old testament then you'll appreciate that Eli is wearing the ephod in the story about God calling Samuel. You won't appreciate that the story of Samuel is only four sentences long. In fact, every story in that book is super short, in order to fit the whole bible into a half-sized kids book. We make most fun of the story of Job which reads:

Job was a good man. He loved God, and God loved him. But God let him get very sick. He hurt all over. But Job still loved God, even while he was sick.

OMG, leave anything out here?

Still, I think this one is a good reference for a kid to get an idea of what a whole bible is. Harvey and I have sat and read the entire thing in a morning, and it feels rather fulfilling to read the whole bible to a one-year-old. This was before Zion was born, of course. Now we don't read anything together that isn't a board book and doesn't include pictures of chickens.

Zion will read one bible, though. We got it for a present and it's called Baby's Hug-a-Bible because it has a fuzzy cover. This is a board book with less than ten pages, each with a long poem about how God helped one person or other in the bible. Zion loves the fuzzy cover, but he often (ahem, ALWAYS) turns the page before I reach the end of the poem. Which is kind of frustrating because the poem is all "Who made the seas? Who made the birds? Who made the bees? - " and Zion turns the page before I can shout out "IT'S GOD BY THE WAY! HE MADE THAT STUFF! Wait, you're skipping over Moses... now you're skipping all of Daniel..." I hated this bible at first but it's grown on me after a while. I think because I realized it was written by Sally Lloyd Jones who also wrote the Jesus Storybook Bible, so I feel like it must be somewhat reflective.

The Jesus Storybook Bible is the one bible I bought for Harvey out of extensive internet research. This bible tells various stories from the old testament, each demonstrating in the last two sentences how that story relates to Jesus and God's master plan. Then it tells a very moving account of Jesus's life, death and resurrection. "Moving" is one word for it... "emo" is another word I use in my head when I'm tired of reading "the cross part" for the 700th time. But on balance I think it's probobly the best kids' bible out there. The presentation of the bible as "one story" is as well done as it is heavy handed, and the pictures are beautiful and moving. It's editorializing, sure, but I don't super disagree with any of the conclusions because they're not like "be nice to your little brother" type morals. And Harvey likes the cross part.

There are several books we like that are bible stories while not being complete bibles. Harvey's all-time favorite of these is The Book of Jonah by Peter Spier. (Let's not forget the time he read it on video with much awesomeness.) We have also gotten from the library (and I'd love to own someday) The White Ram by Mordicai Gerstein. This is a jewish midrash retelling of Abraham sacrificing Issac. (I like it much better than the actual passage in the bible.) While totally Jewish, the story forshadows Jesus' sacrifice perfectly so perfectly so that's it very difficult to get through the thing without crying. I also really like a book on Adam and Eve called Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden by Jane Ray. The pictures are so lovely and not religous-y at all (look! real breasts!) and it's heavy on the agricultural ramifications of the story, ending on an up note: "In the bare earth beyone Eden, Adam and Eve planted a new garden for their family."

And while I'm extoling virtuas of books from my local library, I'd recommend A Road Down in the Sea by Lorenz Graham. This is a retelling of the exodus from egypt in African English. To give you a taste:

The Egypt people hold the Hebrews tight
And make them slaves
And make them work the farm
And work the road
And work some kind of hard.
The Hebrews cry
And sometimes they fall down and die
And all the time they moan and pray
And say "How long, O God, how long?"

Yeah, I should really buy that book one day. Next time I redeem my household coins for Amazon money.

If you are episcopalian or like the already-thought-through nature of that brand of Christianity I recommend I Believe: The Nicene Creed which I took out from the library and then immediately purchased for our home. The illustrations are done in the style of illuminated manuscript and it's just so so peace-inducing to look at (though I don't know if Harvey gets anything from the language.) I also purchased Easter by Fiona French because it's simply the Easter story with illustrations that look like stained glass. The cover of the book says, "With words from the King James bible." I should not pretend like it was simple to take four different gospel accounts from the King James bible and mash them into one narrative with words from the Kind James bible; obviously there was some editorial choices on the part of French or her editors. But whatever, there's no "moral." And a good Easter story without bunnies is hard to come by.

I'm sure there are a hundred million awesome books for kids designed to stir their faith and engage them with the bible. This doesn't pretend to be an exhaustive list, it's just our current list for an over-literary three-year-old.

And the new bible I bought Harvey? He's already says he doesn't want to read it anymore, because it's scary. "All those guys" are scary he says. He wouldn't say which guys or from which story, so there's no way of knowing. It'll have to wait on a shelf until later.

If you've read this far I feel like you should get a cookie or something. A lot of this post was written for a friend who asked for bible story recommendations. As a result it comes off as a bit listy and, I dunno, not very earnest? I'd hate to seem like I'm saying, "I read my kid this and this and this... all this educational shit! aren't I awesome???" When really, right now I read him one book while his brother is asleep MAYBE, and it might be a bible story or it might be something about robots. Otherwise, Dan gets to read Harvey his books at bedtime, and I just get board books during the day because if it's anything other than a board book Zion will DESTROY the offending creature or THROW IT ACROSS THE ROOM if there are no pictures of chickens. And I'd hate to say I give in to a one-year-old terrorist, but it's no fun to try to read when someone is screaming AND attacking you, and as a result I can recite a surprising number of board books with my eyes closed. "A cow says moo, a sheep says baa... I should be doing more educational things for Harvey but instead I'm sticking my fingers in my ears and saying LaLaLa..."

Both the children are sleeping now, fallen asleep in the stroller without even reading any bedtime books. I feel like I need some spiritual guidence that isn't about picking literature. I think I'll go read myself A Road Down in the Sea...

Now Moses never see that side before
And he don't know the way.
God say
Nev mind.
I set My mark up in the sky
You walk the way I show.
By day My mark be in a cloud
By night it be in fire."


At the risk of quoting John Mayer: I want to run through the halls of my highschool.

We took a family trip to Staples last week. The energy assistance paperwork was sitting on my desk all signed and ready to go, except I needed a copy of our last heating bill. Unfortunately we had run out of printer paper, backup printer paper, scrap paper and paper we should be saving for nice cards and things. We had no paper, in other words. It was really time to go to Staples.

I hate going to staples, by the way. Everything there costs SO. MUCH. MONEY.

(Oh, in case you're wondering, the energy assistance thing gives poor people a discount on their fuel bills. A family of four qualifies as a poor if they make under $60,000 (!) Half or my readers are now wondering if they too are poor and can cash in on this. Here's the link, though I'll warn you the initial application must be made in person and is a giant pain in the ass. But anyway...)

Staples. There we were standing in this awful airtight office cubicle of a store, and the easy listening is feeding this oldie by John Mayer through the speakers: "I want to run through the halls of my high school. I want to scream at the top of my lungs."

And I thought to myself, I haven't thought about that song in a decade. And then I thought: A decade? Seriously? A DECADE? Like TEN YEARS? Yes, well, I guess it's true. It's 2012 now and I owned "Room for Squares" in 2002. On CD. When all my music was on CD and CDs were things that I purchased rather than things that I encounter in boxes in the basement to throw away.

And then I thought, good Lord I'm almost ten years out of college. What good have I done for myself? With A DECADE of adult life behind me? With A DECADE of independence, wisdom and maturity, I am standing in the cubicle superstore wondering if I have enough money in the bank to clear the checks I've written plus nine dollars of printer paper.

Preach it to my soul, John Mayer. Tell me there's no such thing as a real world, just a lie I have to rise above.

I mostly love my life, I mean, the portion of it when I don't have to be shopping at Staples. What I hate is feeling the need to THINK about my life, or JUSTIFY my life, what I've come to in the last ten years when others have gone on to be movie actors and White House politicos and, I dunno, people who eat out a lot at fancy restaurants, judging by my facebook feed.

A related story: I was walking today past our local high school; it was part of our "scenic route" home from the playground, which is code for "I have no agenda for this afternoon and I want to kill an extra half-hour before Dada gets home." So I'm walking with the double stroller and the dog, and the extending leash broke last week so I have the short leash which means the dog is pulling me this way and that as hard as he can and I'm struggling to keep hold of him and the stroller. And also the baby is crying because we didn't get go to the library after the playground, and Harvey is screaming at him, "No Zi! We're going for a WALK in the COUNTRY! Don't you KNOW? This is the COUNTRY!" There were some high school students sitting outside on the steps who looked over as we passed. I wanted to scream to them, "Don't have sex! This is what happens!"

Which is to say, you may end up with yelly children. Not that you immediately get a dog who's a pain in the neck to walk; I don't want to perpetuate any false myths on our youngsters.

There are few things that make me so happy as those screaming children. Or so angry or so exhausted. So completely "in it" and so completely "over it" from one second to the next. I wonder if that's what Master Mayer meant when he sang "there's no such thing as a real world." The real world of life after graduation is every bit of wonderful and every bit of grindingly awful as you can imagine. It's not like you get to pick one life or the other, it's that every life you pick is both wonderful and awful at the same time.

excited for the road ahead. Or behind. Or whatever, i don't know, I'm so tired.


Please be brief and poignant

church volunteer intake form:

"In 2-3 sentences please describe your journey with Jesus."


Totally off the hook. Like jumping out of a hot air balloon in space. He paid for the whole seat but I only need THE EDGE!


Ongoing... I guess? I got into this van a while ago and I don't know if it's still moving. He said there was candy in the back and yeah there was candy; I totally overloaded on candy. I think maybe someone else back here has some gum...


Taking a long ass time. Are we there yet? Did you bring any snacks? Juice? I want juuuuuuuuice! I have to go to the bathroom.

(I hope this doesn't sound too snarky, I just thought the question was beyond my capacity for earnestness. Perhaps I shouldn't be trusted to fill out paperwork after 8pm.. but that's the only time the paperwork doesn't get covered in crayon!)


sometimes I get things done

I made myself a sweater.

a mama-type sweater

This is a raglan-style sweater, the pattern for which I bought off Ravelry. I won't link to the pattern because it's got problems. Mainly that the sleeves balloon like hammer pants. I'm a bit disappointed, but not enough to take out the sleeves and re-knit them. A sweater is a sweater, and it serves its purpose for the chilly fall days.

Leah (in her new sweater) and Zion enjoying a fall picnic

enjoying a fall picnic

I'm just starting the boys' Christmas sweaters now. I'm using yarn I got for $5 at a yard sale, so I'm crossing my fingers that I'll have enough and that the finished products will turn into something usable.

I like having knitting projects ongoing because it's fairly easy to pick them up when I have a free second, and then put them down again. Unlike sewing projects which need a good chunk of time to accomplish anything. Those are driving me a bit batty these days. As in Halloween batty. I swear, why I settled on identical four-piece costumes is beyond me. I still need to hem the pants, and then I have vests, sashes, and hats to make. Every day I announce to my family "I want to do some sewing today," as if that'll make my children say, "Oh sure, go ahead, I'll just take out this book and read to myself quietly."

So, yeah, knitting it is.


first fitting

harvey and zion in the first fitting of their costumes

almost ship shape

Dan gave me lots of time to sew today, so by afternoon we were ready for the "full" fitting of the Halloween costumes. I've gotta change the hem of that vest to get it out of Harvey's face, and also make a sash that looks a bit more "finished" aka not cut out of felt. Zion for his part refuses to wear his vest and sash, though I'll alter his as well in case he changes his mind come Halloween night.

Oh, and it also turns out that putting a pirate costume on a three year old makes them go CRAZY.

harvey going crazy in his pirate costume



an update on my health and a charming word from Harvey the prophet

I first got sick in January of this year, ten months ago now. I felt rundown and my face always hurt. After several inconclusive doctors appointments ("You're a mother, you're probably just tired. I took a class in medical school called Women are Whiners.") I developed lumps on the top of my mouth. Of course, I thought I was dying from mouth cancer. The doctor didn't send me to an oncologist, however, but figured the lumps meant I was not fibbing, I probably had a sinus infection. After antibiotics it was like the skies parted and I was a different, lighter, happy person.

That lasted about a month.

Then I got a string of sore throats. I got antibiotics for Strep but it didn't take the problem all the way away. I would feel okay for three days and then have a low-level fever and sore throat for a week. This lasted all spring and into the beginning of the summer. Then I had about a month and a half of lovely summertime when I thought I was cured.

Then the ear infections started.

Lately I have felt a bit desperate. I have started eating two cloves of raw garlic a day. Last night I tried putting garlic in my ears. Normally my husband says he likes the smell of garlic, but on the way to church yesterday he opened the windows and said, "Um, can you turn your face that way? away from me?"

As unhelpful as it is to be sick, the worst thing is my attitude about being sick. The running tally of my sins includes:
Blaming a fever for impatience with my children.
Blaming a fever for untidiness in my house.
Blaming my family, friends, and amorphous set of responsibilities for making me sick.
Using my sickness to act like a big whiney Jewish martyr.
etcetera etcetera.

Last night at church I prayed that God would make me better. That he would make me better physically or that he would make me a better person to deal with being sick. Because, really, either one would work right now. I want to be healthy but more than that I want to be a human.

I had this vision while I was praying of a giant God holding me on a giant fork. Like Jack and the Beanstalk kind of scale. Fee Fi Fo Fum.

And the idea I had was that God is going to somehow EAT this crappy body of mine. And that that would be a good thing.

And then I thought, WTF? That's not even just gross it's A-BIBLICAL! That's pagan kind of shit. God doesn't eat people; he says in psalms that he doesn't need to eat at all. That's devil-worship madness sneaking into my consciousness. Devil, stop speaking to me in Jesus name.

Then today at the lunch table, I hear Harvey making up a song:
"He ate the sickness
and He ate the deadness
that's cuz God is a rescuer.

(The Ketchup part is per Harvey, not God, by the way. Harvey likes a massive amount of ketchup for his grilled cheese.)

I would like to see this as a different spin on Isaiah's prophesy: "Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows." (Isaiah 53:4) Surely He ate the sickness. Surely He ate the deadness. Because God is a rescuer.

I want more ketchup.


fall farming

carrots, tomatoes, and squashes

brought in before the freeze

We had a hard frost—a freeze even—here a week ago, which brought the traditional phase of the farming season to a close. Never mind, the tomatoes were mostly gone anyways with the blight; what you see above are the reasonable-looking ones we brought in the afternoon before the freeze, but despite their fine appearance there they all started rotting as soon as they got ripe. The squashes and carrots are good though!

What's left now in the garden are the herbs—the perennials like sage and rosemary and the self-seeded parsley, which is going like crazy—and the greens that Harvey and I planted to grow under low tunnels as late into the winter as we can manage. I let him plant some radishes, since the lettuce and arugula seeds are hard for his stubby fingers to manage, and I'm glad I did: the crop is better than what we had in the spring. Now if only he actually liked to eat radishes! Next season he's getting a bed to plant on his own, and over the weekend I helped him clear it out.

cabbages and dried beans at the Concord Museum

someone else's

As well as our home-made harvest celebrations, we also enjoyed a visit to "Family Farm Days" at the Concord Museum. They're doing an exhibit on agriculture in Concord and jazzed up the opening with a little fair featuring a couple local farmers and some craft tables. A very little fair, but it was just our speed for the day and I enjoyed turning the crank on the cider press as much as Zion did putting stickers on a mini pumpkin.

Mama and Zion working with stickers at the craft table


Harvey didn't get to bring a mini pumpkin home since he spent most of the time lying on the ground (I have pictures of that as well, but they're not particularly interesting). Never mind; he has a full-sized pumpkin of his own. I told him I'd buy him any one he wanted at Chip-In provided he could carry it himself. I thought that three dollars would be his limit, but he muscled up and brought home a four-dollar model. It looks fine next to the home-grown corn stalks messily adorning our front porch pillars.

All this happened some time ago, and I've been meaning to note it down for a while; better late than never, I suppose


on booties and babies

booties on the steps

booties for upcoming babies

I have two friends with babies due in the coming months, so I spent a week making booties. Each will be presented with a set of ties in blue and another set in pink. It gives me a warm feeling when other moms wait to find out the gender of their child. I didn't find out with both my pregnancies, but then our choice of treatment was such that it excluded ultrasounds. Still, there are good reasons to wait other than the ultrasound place is way across town. When I was pregnant with Harvey, a woman in the grocery store (after accosting me by saying "OMG YOU'RE SO HUGE! IS IT A BOY OR A GIRL?") told me, "I liked waiting to find out with mine. There are so few surprises in life."

Upon reflection, this is water-spittingly false. So few surprises in life? Whose life are you leading, lame-o? My life is FULL of surprises. What will my family be like in one year? In five years? How on earth can I know? When I think about it, what's stifling is how few things I can actually PLAN. So to prospective parents I say: don't find out the gender of your unborn child. Let the lack of foreknowledge prepare you for the wild ride of uncertainty that is parenthood.

Speaking of "planning" and "families," in my master plan for my life I was supposed to get pregnant this month. We were supposed to conceive all our children two years apart, stamping em out, until we get a girl, cough-cough gag, I mean, until our family is the perfect size that Jesus intended.

I say this last line a little sarcastically. I hold in tension two opposing views of conception, one that God has a plan for each life he wants to bring into our family, and two that this is what crazy rabbit people say when they are being crazy about not using birth control. Seriously guys, life may be an amazing miracle from God, but we're not really in the dark about how it happens, are we? A good portion of my brain is the rational cause-and-effect part of my brain, and that part says unprotected sex results in babies. Period. If you have unprotected sex you are making a choice. As God is your witness.

Because I have this curse of rational thinking, we are not getting pregnant this month. A midwife costs $3000 and we don't have that kind of cash on hand. Also my health has been poor recently and Zion's baby-ish behavior makes me worry he's not quite ready to be a big brother. All good reasons to put off conception. Economists everywhere, you may now rejoice that poor people sometimes behave rationally.

Yet when it strikes the desire for a baby is rather strong, isn't it? Or is it just me. I'm torn between labeling this a "normal biological imperative" vs "crazy Leah type of bullshit." The truth is I find my desires a bit scary and uncontrollable. (I'm not talking in a cagey way about sex here - those desires mostly bore or irritate me.) When I feel like I really want to do something, like dreading my hair for example, the desire sweeps in like a cold front, like a force of nature. It consumes me waking and sleeping until somehow I find a way to make it happen. Sometimes I think this is a good thing - I must have a strong ability to feel the leading of the Holy Spirit and that's why I can't let something go when it feels important. Sometimes I think it's more likely a bad thing, like undiagnosed bipolar disorder. And I should remind myself that not every crazy desire is a mandate from Heaven that THIS. MUST. HAPPEN. Over the summer my urge was impossibly strong to move out of our house and live something somewhere else for a while, but that thing didn't pan out and the world hasn't collapsed as a result.

Anyway, yeah. Baby booties. A little bit sad and a little bit relieved that they aren't for my baby. I don't know if or when the next baby Archibald will be needing booties. For now I'd better get to work on those big boy sweaters.


Harvey reads from The Economist

Harvey often regales us with humorously literal descriptions of the political cartoons in The Economist . I thought I'd take a video so I can share this with you all.


Full disclosure, he picks up from us the very anti-family habit of reading a magazine at the table. Both Dan and I like to read while we're eating. We relate to each other other times... there are PLENTY of family relating times in our day, don't you worry. It's just that I like to eat lunch in a bubble of peace and quiet and socially liberal international commentary. Feel free to judge us as you like.



The picture quality on my phone camera is sadly lacking, but nevertheless the images that emerge have undeniable documentary value. Here are a couple snapshots from the week that was.

Zion on a rocking-horse seesaw thing

the best part of church

Harvey up to his neck in a leaf pile

favorite fall activity


Halloween Hayride

Wilson's Farms is a gigantic high-priced farm-stand-mega-store just down the road from the houses where Dan and I grew up. In our youth Wilson's offered an annual haunted house which one walked through by the power of one's own shaking feet. There were spooky scenes at every turn and sometimes one of the mummy or zombie statues would lurch from the wall and GRAB YOU!!! They actually paid one of their employees to stand there very still to scare the crap out of an unsuspecting child every minute and a half. For us as kids the haunted house was a big deal.

Now that I am a parent, I think of this haunted house as someplace I would NEVER LET MY CHILD!!! Perhaps times have changed, or perhaps toddlers never went inside anyway. In any case Wilson's has reformed its super scary ways and replaced the house of horrors with a more family-friendly "haunted hayride." The hayride is a fraction as scary, like if the original haunted house was 100 and the hayride was 1.

more exciting than scary

We had to go to Wilson's Farm anyway this week to pick up a CSA for Grandma who was out of town. At home I mentioned to the boys that there might be a hayride on offer. "Habide? Habide?" Zion shouted excitedly. I wasn't sure if he knew what it meant - the Drumlin hayride was weeks and weeks ago - but there seemed like a chance he might remember. Sure enough, when we parked the car in the lot above the Wilson's field Zion pointed to the tractor bumping around and excitedly yelled: "HABIDE!!! HABIDE!!!"

His excitement could not be contained. Even getting in line was an overwhelming experience and both Zion and Harvey raced right to the front.

come on Zion! We're almost there!

Harvey had a bit more of the nervous variety of anticipation. While waiting in line we had this conversation.
Harvey: "Can you hold me?"
Me: "On the hayride, or now?"
Harvey: "Now!"

There are several Halloween "scenes" displayed in the field, though seeing them from the vantage point of a tractor certainly takes the sting off any potential scariness. There were some aliens and some ghostly farmers, though the high-point of the ride is a VW Beetle turned into a giant spider. In the foreground you can see a kiddie car stuck in her web.

the real scary thing is actually owning a Volkswagen.

Both children felt oh so grown-up on this trip. They walked down the line by themselves, they mostly climbed onto the tractor by themselves, and Zion sat next to me on the hay rather than on my lap. I had this impression on the ride, as I do in stray moments when I'm not taking a direct care-taking role, that we were all enjoying this experience equally, no one violently or needily imposing on anyone else. We were like a real grown-up family, just peacefully sitting side by side.

riding as a family

It doesn't always last long, but it's a really nice feeling when I get it.

If you want to partake in your own halloween hayride, the ride is free and open today, Monday and Wednesday, or until the world ends in flood.


another storm of the century

We're getting ready for the largest storm ever to hit the United States, as Reuters puts it. So far we've made sure our phones are charged, found the headlamps, and made a wet bicycle trip to the library for a few more books. Is there anything else we need to do?

Really, I'm not entirely sure what to think about this storm. Last time it wasn't no thing, but this one is record-breaking for both its size and the depths of its pressure, so perhaps we should be more concerned; but I really can't think of any other preparations we need to make. We already have a couple weeks worth of food in the pantry, although Leah did venture out into the craziness yesterday just to experience it, and also to get some ice for the freezer. It wouldn't do to have some hundreds of dollars of locally-raised meat go bad in the even of a power outage! In what I can only view as a commentary on the shared insanity of pre-storm shopping, she let Harvey ride his scooter in the Whole Foods.

As the wind picks up tomorrow I'll make sure nothing's blowing away outside, and we'll do our best to deal with the cabin fever that will no doubt be affecting our three dependents. (To that end our library haul, besides books, also included a Thomas and Friends DVD, not to be watched until the storm is in full swing; just before bed, Harvey asked, "when it's light is it the day you're talkin about?" Yes my son, tomorrow is tomorrow.)

Big weather events like this are about the only time I wish we still had TV, because when you see the reporters squinting against heavy rain while waves crash on the pier behind them you feel like a storm is really something. Without that shared experience, it's just a little bit of wind and rain, over before you know it. I'll take pictures if anything big falls over.


hurricane update

We seem to be in a bit of a lull here at the moment—not that our storm experience has been anything like what I understand they're experiencing to the south. The morning was breezy and drizzly, but nothing out of the ordinary; we even managed to take a long walk, with the boys wrapped in blankets and the stroller wrapped in plastic sheeting (I really should have taken a picture!). At the time there were lots of leaves in the street but not even many twigs down. Mid afternoon the wind started to pick up and we heard a couple trees or large limbs go down in the immediate neighborhood. The ladder I left leaning against the house also came down (you were right, Mom!) but so noisy was the wind itself that we didn't even notice it at the time, even though it fell against the porch steps. That and a screen blown off one of Harvey's windows is all the damage we've seen so far.

Well, I suppose there's also the economic effect of the storm: we hear this evening that school is cancelled again tomorrow due to the number of trees and power lines down, which means we're already out 40% of our weekly income. Oh well, at least we got some cookies baked and applesauce made this afternoon, and tomorrow we'll be able to tour the devastation in a leisurely fashion.



I don't want to speak too soon, it could be just because Dan's been home for a miraculous four-day stretch thanks to hurricane school cancellations, but it seems like our children are entering a new phase where they actually play together. Well. In the house.

Even with competing illnesses vying for space in my lymph system, even with an extra impulse to lie down whenever possible, I found myself thinking at various moments this week, "What am I supposed to be doing now?"

Did I already put in laundry?
Did I already empty the dishwasher?
Did I fill the dishwasher?
Did I pick up toys?
Everything except what they're playing with.

What am I supposed to be doing now? They usually interrupt me every few minutes and I spend all day trying to finish the most basic of chores. Now I'm, um, sitting around wondering why no one is asking for a book. Wondering if I should go scrub something.

I thought this was the moment I'd been waiting for for the past 17 months... the moment I break out and pursue hobbies, or find something to do for money, or self-actualize some other way. Why am I not more excited? Maybe it's because I've spent the last 17 months telling myself, "I don't need anything else. I don't like hobbies, or working, or working out. I don't like anything but being with my kids."

But my kids were playing fine on their own today. Dan was reading a book. I stood in the living room and shouted, "Doesn't anybody NEED me?

A few minutes later Zion came over to ask for nursing. So there's that.

Of course my kids do still need me, specifically at night, at least every two hours. Maybe this can be my new scapegoat. If my mantra is no longer "I can't get a break during the day" maybe I can complain, "I never get to sleep at night and that's the reason I don't have energy to scrub the toilet."

There's an insanity in spending months and months dreaming of putting the baby down, and then when he gets up on his cute little legs I only scream, "come back! come back!" What I mean to say is, Dan has this wonderful ability of saying "This phase is nice," and then "This phase is nice," and he's really happy with whatever way things are, while I only find things to lament and fear. Maybe this is an illness thing, a bad attitude caused by constant nagging discomfort. But more likely it's an illness of character, like I never learned to be happy on my own and now I'm taking it out on my family.

I no more know how to fix a character illness than I know how to fix my ear infections. Constant berating myself does not seem to be helping, event though I suddenly have more time for it.

Oh, and since we're talking about developmental milestones, I should mention that Zion has started to smile on command. Here he is posing in a hayride he made in our our red wagon. The hay was purchased for the chickens and the garden but in an effort to recreate the haunted hayride a lot of it ended up in the street.

Zion in his own hayride