I have a website! ...(and other news)

Dear Family,

It is snot central here. I am feeling extremely miffed by the whole thing, because I haven't even taken the boys to the Sciencenter ONCE this entire season, PLUS I made elderberry-ginger tonic (and I personally consume the nastiest cod liver oil ever, on a thrice-daily basis) AND I make both boys scrub all the skeezies out and not touch their eyes every time we go grocery shopping. This is not even mentioning the amount of borderline-compulsive thought I put into our daily meals, which really should be full of enough trace minerals and phytonutrients to ward off the common cold.

Except that this was more than a cold--it was a flu. There are no hard and fast rules about which is which, as far as I can tell.

(Jeff will disagree, I'm sure, because he usually tells me that I probably have a bad cold, and not a flu at all. But that's because he is the most stoic person I've ever met. I don't think he's complained about being sick more than 8 times in the last 25 years, ever since he spent two weeks in the hospital for an asthma attack.)

But anyway, I felt MUCH sicker than I think a person should feel who just had a cold, which is why I think I had a touch of the flu. My head felt like it was stuffed with a wool pincushion (LOTS of pins, and lots of wool), and I was extremely grouchy. They say that stubbornness and inability to tolerate sickness can, in some instances, make a person live longer. Except that in my case, I appear only to annoy my spouse and make my kids cry, and the boys were sick too, which really made the noses run, so I became the Mucous Mom with a couple of small Mucous Men, and I think I'll stop right there because probably nobody is nearly as interested in this story as I am.

Now Jeff's got the illness, even while the rest of us are on the mend. For his sake, I hope his cold doesn't turn into the flu, like mine did.


And now for the business news: I have a website! I am very excited about this, because this means there's a place where I can be obsessively organized about the words in my life. It is: www.lifeisapalindrome.com . So far, I've posted:

--All my weekly updates (I guess I might have to start calling them a “blog,” except that might be too fashionable and cutting-edge for these e-mails);

--Lots of my favorite recipes, including a bunch of my latest gluten-free-sourdough ones (you kind of have to dig to find them, by clicking on the “gluten-free” recipe category and going to the last page);

--“First Journey,” the book I wrote about my cross-country bike trip in 1997 (I can't believe my parents let me do this!); and

--Some old articles I wrote, some from back when “Growing Without Schooling” magazine was still around, and the internet wasn't (and you can thank Susannah Sheffer, my writing mentor extraordinaire, if my writing has improved significantly since age 13).



After this week, you will ONLY receive these updates if you have subscribed to my Brand Spanking New Mailing List! You can follow the link in the e-mail I sent last week, OR go to my website and subscribe there. (You can unsubscribe at any time.)



--Just when I was accepting that Jem might communicate in clipped monosyllables for his entire life, he's started to string lots of words together, sometimes in reference to events that happened in the past or which he expects to occur in the future.

--After over two years of indifference, Jem finally likes books. He's actually been taking a shine to various ones in our collection, bringing them over for a read-through. He calls Fox in Sox “The Duck Book,” and one day last week he kept walking around saying, “Luke Luck Lake. Luke Luck Lake...”

--If Jem thinks that Papa's done with dinner and should therefore go to the CH to see his movie, he says, “Papa done go papa movie!”

When Jem wants to show Ben something: “Jem show Ben ice see Ben.”

While looking in the mirror: “No Jem see Jem.” (I think this name-sandwiching comes from how Ben talks to Jem. Ben gets really intense when he wants Jem to do something, and he'll get down to the floor and say, “Jem, do you want to come see this, Jem? Jem, do you want to, Jem? Je-em! Jem, do you want to, Jem?”)

--And finally, but not less importantly, Jem got a new molar this week. Goddamn teeth. SUCH a shitty system!!


A very sad injury: Jem's left thumb, which he sucks early, often, and very, very vigorously, is actually so calloused that it got a tiny and painful-looking crack in the tip. It bleeds occasionally now, and this worries Jem, but he doesn't want to accept our advice to lay off the thumb-sucking for a couple of days to let it heal. “Why don't you suck the right one, Jem?” I suggested.

He looked at the other thumb like it were a tuna fish, and shook his head. We all kind of laughed, and Jem did too, and then Jeff said, “What about _my_ thumb?

Jem actually gave it a test suck, and spat it out immediately. “No!” he said. “Big!”


I had a somewhat obvious realization the other day, looking at my boys playing on the floor: kids grow up, and if you're lucky they will totally outlast you. And keep on being around (if not always locally than at least on the same planet). So that even when they're grown, it's not like they disappear for a neat little weekend while you go gallivanting somewhere.

Not especially mind-bending, I guess, but I felt dazed for a minute, watching these little boys playing: they will be Men soon.


This is Jem's latest: while Ben is pooping, Jem will quietly drop whatever he is doing, walk over, and silently--with great attention--shut the door. Ben HATES this, and suddenly screams will erupt from the bathroom: “JEM! OPEN THE DOOR!!! OPEN THE DOOOOOOORR! JEM STOP ITTT!!!” I will rush over, always too late the stop the fateful “click...”, and Jem will be standing outside, hand to the knob, just listening the bellowing noises within.

These screams were really especially annoying on the day when my head was stuffed with (flu-ey cold-like) feverish achiness.

I feel like I have SO paid for all the times I argued with Jake over the pink bowl with roses on it. Only, I'm paying things forward in a decidedly inconclusive sort of way.



--“Look at this!” I like this picture, Ben. Can you tell me about this part? What is it?
--”I don't know. What do you think?” Uh...maybe a face looking over the cliff?
--”I was trying to make a hornback rattlesnake looking RIGHT at you, but it didn't work...”

Ben, to me, after telling Jem not to do something: “At the same time that I was telling him not to stand there, I was wondering if it's okay to do it.” (Welcome to my world, kid!)


Now that the temps are horrid and chilly, everything's in hibernation. No worms, no grubs, no moths. But Ben, ever flexible, is now into ice. Particularly ice that he can make by putting water in a cup on the deck. He opens the door approximately 17 times an hour to check on the freezing process, which effectively uses more natural gas to run our boiler...but you know? What can I say?

He's also super interested in the pond, and has been watching the freezing-over process very carefully. “When can I step on it? How do we know when the ice is thick enough to skate on? What if it LOOKS really thick but it's really very thin? What kind of drill do they use to test it? How does the drill work? Where do they stand when they're drilling the hole? What if the ice breaks while they're drilling? ...But, maybe they're adults so they can get out of the way really quick, if it breaks...”

Ben has the warmest hands of anyone I know. Even when mine are so cold and brittle-feeling that I'm ready to go inside, Ben's are generally steaming inside his mittens. Sometimes he doesn't even wear mittens at all, the better to feel the ice with.


A day after a politically correct read through of a new library book, “Zeke Pippin,” I found Ben examining the pictures closely. He was hovering over the pictures of some dogs, and another one of a coyote, all predators who try to eat Zeke Pippin (who is, of course--blast these non-imaginative, anthropomorphizing kids' book authors--a pig).

Ben: “Did we read this part?”

Me: half-heartedly white-truthing, “Uh, I'm not sure...”

Ben: “I don't think we did. What is this part about?”

Me: “Let me see...Oh, that was a part I skipped. It was a...”

Ben: “Why? Why did you skip it?”

Me: “Well...I didn't really like that part, and I wasn't sure if you would.” Great. Way to censor my child's life. “How about, next time we read it, I'll read the parts I skipped and you tell me if they're disturbing or if you don't...”

Ben: “When can we read it again? And I _want_ to read that part!”


After 30 years of being the oldest daughter of an astrophysicist, I now finally (mostly) understand the phases of the moon. Jeff may have lost a little faith in my intelligence, but I really needed to start from the top, with some downloaded graphics and the concept of the grapefruit and its orbiting satellites (and a quick call to Dad).

Anyway, it was fun and edifying, and it just goes to show you that you never can predict what will or won't rub off on your kids. It might be something like astronomy, which is central to my father's existence, and about which he is incredibly knowledgeable (while at the same time being a tenured professor in the field). And yet, your child just may not have an early interest in the topic. But people only learn when they're ready. And you might as well be patient, because that way your kid will still come ask you about it thirty years later!

Thanks for the lesson, Dad. And may I be as patient with my children if they, for example (oh horrible thought), decide not to prepare fermented food later in life.


I know, I said I would stop talking about it, but there's one more thing about being sick. I got Jem's cold after attempting to be a loving mother, and spending the entire night in bed with him, stroking him and trying to sooth his slumbers. And this is they payment I got: KICK. Kick kick KICK. “Screech!!!” (These cries would wake me up even if I managed to sleep through the kicking.) Then there would be even more kicks, while he carefully rotated himself clockwise so that he could aim a final KERPOW-style kick directly in my left ear.

“YOW!” I would bellow. “Jem, cut it out! STOP kicking me!” Then there would be pitiful whimpers, and a small hand would immediately grope its way toward my boob, which I hate, which Jem knows extremely well. Gently, trying to be understanding of my son's ill-health, I would remove the hand.

“MAMA!” Jem would scream, and begin kicking and thrashing wildly. “MORE HUGGIES [as if we had more than two nanomillemeters between us]!!!” KICK kick.......

Anyway, it was after that night--which finally ended in the four o'clock hour, when Jem was up for the day--that I ended up getting my flu (-ey cold). And I could feel the sickness coming on, as I lay in that torture chamber of a bedroom, just wanting to sleep more than anything.

This is where I feel completely let down by everything I've ever read regarding sleep and parenting.

1.I don't want to leave my child alone in a room to scream.
2.Neither I nor Jeff wants to be woken up in the night at ALL, let alone multiple times with poor, disrupted sleep in between. That means that (treason to the attachment-parenting types) we do NOT want to sleep in the same bed as Jem.
3.There is nowhere in our house to put a child who is screaming, so even if we wanted to let him cry by himself, we couldn't.
4.There is often no apparent reason for Jem being awake, and no way I can think of to soothe him.
5.The fact that in other cultures they had it figured out much better, is of ABSOLUTELY NO USE TO ME. None. I don't live in those other cultures, _my_ mother has no desire to relive my childhood by coming to sleep in our house and take care of Jem in the night, and this is really all that the anthropological research seems to show: that there were lots of adults on hand to share in baby care. If you can find a third adult who wants to get up with my kid every night and morning, then I'll regale you with stories of my secret other life, in which I have another family and 15 other children. Neither scenario is possible, because both are absolute and complete fantasies.

Anyway, not to berate the point, but these are the moments--when I'm alone in the night, with an oncoming fluey-cold and a noisy, kicking baby--when life feels the most hopeless and immune to rational sense. I know it's not a nice word, but I hate these times.

Oops--one more thing. If I believed in a god, maybe I could convince myself that night waking is somehow furthering my evolution as a person. It is true: even after all these terrible nights, there has never yet been a day when I've kicked either of my boys out of the house.


This brings me to a piece of relationship advice that I feel I can safely dispense:

Say you are a person who A. requires at least eight hours of sleep per night, and B. wants to have kids someday. Imagine that you meet someone else, partner material, with these exact same characteristics. Advice: WALK IN THE OTHER DIRECTION! Before it's too late, turn around before you fall thoughtfully and head-over-heels into love with them and there's no turning back...

I don't mean this literally, of course, and I wouldn't trade Jeff for any needs-little-sleep guy in the whole world. I mean this in the sense that if you're on the fence, trying to decide whether the relationship is going to work out, you might as well ask two simple questions to see whether you've got a deal breaker.


This brings us to an embarrassing topic. I read about it in the New York Times magazine, so I could pretend and act like this is an intellectual topic of great import. But it's not. I am disturbingly interested in a woman named Nadya Denise Doud-Suleman Gutierrez, otherwise known as the “Octomom.”

In case you, like I, have lived in some sort of media bubble for the past 11 months: Gutierrez gave birth to octuplets last January, and in addition she has six older children.

I do not know what to say about this, except to note that only in America could birth become a serious, Olympic-grade spectator sport. And: OH MY GOD! Fourteen children, including EIGHT one-year-olds...


Much more intellectual reading: NY Times article about the Obamas. Much as I wish he/they could do a better job, I absolutely and most heartily would never want their jobs.

And: I got some local Ithaca history books out of the library. Did you know that cars were a big civic problem when they were introduced? This was almost certainly not an Ithaca-specific issue, but evidently there there was great uproar here when automobiles began fatally running down pedestrians, significantly polluting the air, and incurring enormous expenses for the town, which had to install paved roads and traffic signals where previously there had been none.

(Another tidbit: a hundred years ago, police used to close Buffalo street to other traffic, in order that bobsleds might be able to speed down with fewer obstacles! In case you haven't been in town recently, Buffalo street is totally straight, and totally steep, and I can't believe that people didn't die on a daily basis while engaging in such sport. At least it lends credence to my theory that America wasn't always a litigious society.)

Also: A fascinating interview with the founder of Patagonia. http://www.motherearthnews.com/Nature-Community/Patagonia-Company-Yvon-C...

What do you make of a top-level executive who says, “The basic problem is public ownership of corporations.” Yvon Chouinard says. “...I think it is absolutely criminal to allow the people running a company to have stock options. They won’t make the tough decisions they need to make...”

Meanwhile, Patagonia is a multi-million dollar enterprise, uses 100% organic cotton in all its cotton clothes, and has systems in place so that you can return any Patagonia item to them for actual recycling into new clothes. Chouinard says, “I am totally pessimistic. I’m a member of the Doombat Society. Why should I be optimistic? You tell me.” But then he adds, “...The cure for depression is action, and as long as I feel like this company is not part of the problem, but part of the solution, I’m not depressed. Besides, there’s no difference between an optimist who says ‘Don’t bother, it’ll all be fine,’ and the pessimist who says ‘Don’t bother it’s all hopeless.’ “


This morning on the radio, during a ten-minute drive, I was regaled with ten minutes' worth of ads, involving entreaties to Shop Shop Shop. Macys. Toys'R'Us. Clothing Stores. Downtown Stores. Local Stores. Faraway Exotic Stores...

I am currently annoyed by Holiday Shopping. Okay, let's call it CHRISTMAS shopping. And it's not even that I have to do it, or that I dislike giving gifts in general, at all. But it's the fact that there is this American season of excess, which may lure my children in... I don't like that. I don't like that Ben and Jem might someday feel deprived by my refusal to give them lots of Stuff each December.

I guess this really is my own issue. I'll try to explain to Jem and Ben, in later years (I really think they'll understand it when I put it this way), that I give them my love and devotion instead of paltry material possessions.

Maybe I'm annoyed because I'm not a part of it, because we didn't do gift-giving as such when I was growing up (what do you think, Jake, Athena, Matt, Loren??). And maybe it's because I am more staunchly atheist than I ever was, and this religious tradition seems so contrived. And maybe it's because I don't like to feel guilted into something.

We lit Hanukkah candles tonight, and I decided: I like traditions only if A. I enjoy them, and B. Nobody feels guilty if they do or don't want to do them. This may mean that next year (or tomorrow) we don't light Hanukkah candles. This may mean that someday we learn to sign the song in Hebrew (or not). It may mean that someday I become Santy Claus, but I highly doubt that. And I guess the corollary is: I should let everyone else enjoy whichever traditions _they_ enjoy, as long as they don't harm anyone and are enjoyed by the guests... (Ben sure will love it in two weeks, when he discovers what Santa Grandma Jan and Santa Grandpa Sal have prepared under the tree--and since they love it too, then that seems like the best of all worlds.

Okay, it's super late and I super have to sleep!
Love you all,