A Birth, An Anniversary, and A Beautiful Wedding, For Sure!

Dear Family,

We may live without poetry, music and art;
We may live without conscience and live without heart;
We may live without friends; we may live without books;
But civilized man can not live without cooks.

He may live without books,—what is knowledge but grieving?
He may live without hope—what is hope but deceiving?
He may live without love,—what is passion but pining?
But where is the man that can live without dining?

(This gem is attributed to “Owen Meredith,” the pen-name of Robert Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Earl of Lytton.)

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Jemmerisms:

“Mama, how long will it take for us to get old?”

Summarizing the current chapter of The Hobbit. “...and _then_ the Lord of the Eagles _swooped_ down an' carried them by his _toes_ over the fire!”

Cocking his head to listen: “That's the beep of a car.”

"For Sure" is what Jem says after any important statement, as in: "I really cut my toe when I fell down at the park, for SURE."

After a Papa-and-the-boys field trip to NYC and the Museum of Natural History, Jem and Ben were on top of the world. It had been such a fun day, picnicking in Central Park, and Jem told me that the dinosaur skeletons were “halfway up to the ROOF!” (I'm planning to come on this field trip next time.)

“I like that babies nap. But I like that I finished napping. I get a lot of sleep from bed, for sure, definitely.”

“Mama! There's _meat_ in my teeth!” I apply some dental floss, and ask him if I got it out. Jem feels around with his tongue, and says, “I ate it! It was a tiny meal.”

Looking at Jeff, and the newly-vacuumed floor, Jem says, “'Member when you wear slippery socks and run and slide on them? You should do that again!”

Sputtering on his water: “It went down the wrong throat! It went down my _food_ throat.”

“I think I'm taller than the light [above the kitchen table] is up.”

“Oohhhh, that dead worm _broke_! I found it in the sandbox, an' it broke, an' I don't like that.”

Jem looks out the window and stares at the clouds. “I want to be sky,” he tells me matter-of-factly. Why? I ask. “I just do,” Jem says, “'cause I want to move _slooow_.”

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Bennerisms:

“When I buy things, I don't like electronical money. I like to hold it.”

Do you want any more dinner, Ben? I ask. And he replies in a way that he never would have, prior to eight months ago: “Yes! I want a big, meaty bite!”

“Even if just _one_ of my sunflowers grow, I'm good, 'cause I'll still get seeds to plant next year.”

Jem asks questions that often drive me crazy, because, as I explain to him over and over, I can't answer them. But sometimes Ben can. Today Jem asked, How hard is our table? And Ben said matter-of-factly, “It's as hard as it feels.”

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The latest, most breaking news by far is that...my baby sister got MARRIED last Sunday! This was so mind-blowing for so many reasons, that mostly what I did, every time I looked at her last week, was cry.

_Congratulations_ to my favorite sister in the whole, wide world, and her new _husband_!! :)

Mom wrote a really nice summary of the day, so for those who want details, here is Ruth's Wedding Report:

“...this week finally saw the wedding that eclipsed the union of William and Kate. I woke up Sunday morning and thought I might possibly be having a heart attack when I remembered that I was going to be the minister. And up until we actually started, no one, of course, knew whether it was going to rain. Dad was having rain panic on account of seeing ominous clouds and feeling a raindrop, so Aunt Sheryl told everyone to get ready. When she checked, the boys were all lined up, but when she went to get the girls, they were happily posing for "one last photo with Miguel." We hurriedly got them into line and Ben and Jem marched down the aisle first -- carrying teddy bears (did you ever hear of anything so cute?)

“Then followed the most gorgeous group of eight -- count them -- eight --bridesmaids ever assembled (the groomsmen weren't bad either :-) ) and we were under way. Athena's choice of gold for the bridesmaids and red for her was totally brilliant. I will henceforth be known as the mother of the two most beautiful 21st century brides ever. And while it is up to Sudip's mother to qvell (brag) over him, I must say that he made quite the impressive appearance.

“Now I personally started having fun. Terry and I marched with Athena, met up with Sudip and his parents, left them together and continued down the aisle. I immediately switched into minister mode.

“The ceremony was so meaningful -- I loved the combination of Bengali and Hebrew and Pagan -- and so evidently did everyone watching. Highlights for me -- the brothers carrying Athena around Sudip under the directions of Sudip's aunts and uncles-- the bride and groom's vows and spoken reasons for getting married -- the Four Directions -- singing Erev Shel Shoshanim while Dad read the poem in English. When I walked into the reception, our New York and D.C. relatives gave me a round of applause.

“The hall was amazingly beautiful, having been transformed the day before by a team of 25 volunteers, the music was brilliant, the dancing was great, the food was delicious, the toasts brought tears and accolades -- Athena and Sudip with tremendous help from family and friends really pulled it off. Congratulations to them!!”

(I must add that my favorite parts of Athena and Sudip's special day were: when Athena read her vows to Sudip, in her inimitable style; when she and I danced together as a gift for our mama; and when Jeff and I managed to have an actual date at an actual party (the final part of the reception), and actually dance together due to the presence of an actual babysitter who was at home with our son-who-really-is-actually-healing and did not even have an anxious meltdown at all on the actual wedding day...)

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Further Events of Notes:

--Two weeks ago, Jeff and I celebrated our TENTH wedding anniversary! This was amazing and crazy (WHERE did ten years go, please somebody tell me??), but I am sure this is probably just what happens with time once you reach adulthood. It was my very favorite anniversary yet, and I am so very grateful and happy to be married to the love of my life after one whole decade. :) I guess he just can't help it - Jeff just gets nicer and nicer as the years go by.

--Also, on our anniversary, sometime in the early evening, our dear friend M. gave birth at home to a perfect little baby boy!! We are so happy for the whole family, and handily, I will never forget his birthday.

--Not quite as romantic, but very exciting news nonetheless: for nearly a month now, nearly every night, Ben has been putting himself to sleep. As in: he walks into the bedroom, climbs in next to his sleeping brother, and falls asleep _without_ a parent next to him. This is a huge deal. When he was three, there were a few weeks when he started telling us to leave him alone at bedtime and would just fall asleep on his own. We though, YAY! How developmentally appropriate!! How nice to have our evenings back!!!

And then...Ben's health began to decline, and his anxiety began to increase, and soon bedtime became even worse than it had ever been (and his solo bedtime routines were quickly a figment of our very distant memories). Essentially, for the past seven years, minus that one month or so in 2007, Jeff and/or I have spent every single evening lying next to Ben, while he would take 1-4+ hours to fall asleep, and he would often have anxiety attacks and sensory “issues” and spectacular whine-fests and sometimes I would feel quite sure that I would go right out of my mind. Sooo....I am trepidatious to announce this in a public way, but Ben falling asleep more normally is yet another sign of his healing, for which I am immensely grateful. Keep your fingers crossed for the future of bedtimes in our house, please!

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Even Further Events of Note:

--In March, we embarked upon a fun-sounding challenge. It was an activity called the “Hundred Days” count, which consisted of keeping track of--surprise!--one hundred days, adding a drinking straws each day as a marker. The drinking straw receptacle had three pouches, each representing ones, tens, or hundreds. In other words: on day ten, instead of adding a tenth straw to the ones pouch, we would take all nine out and add a single straw to the tens pouch. On day eleven, the tens' straw stayed, and we added a new straw to the ones pouch. And so on. This was supposed to provide “a huge step in student understanding of our base-ten system.” I'm not sure I would say that our hundred days of counting straws was exactly such a profound experience, but it certainly provided many opportunities for the boys to argue about whose turn it was to insert a new straw.

--On the other hand, we had a _very_ profound unschooling experience recently, courtesy of Claire, who provided either praying mantis babies or monarch caterpillars to all students in our insect class. Our mantid quickly bit the dust, despite the dozens of flightless fruit-flies that we carefully raised and provided for sustenance. But the monarch caterpillar, named (by Graham) C-Rex, quickly became our family's favorite pet. C-Rex ate milkweed for days, starting off slowly and then beginning to chow through the leaves at an amazing rate, swelling and growing and spending even more time feeding than we do (not an easy record to beat!). And then, one evening just before we left for NJ, Jeff looked over and noticed that C-Rex (attached by her/his back feet in an upside-down J shape) was rapidly turning into a green, foamy-looking blob. Minutes later, our caterpillar had morphed into a gorgeous, emerald-green chrysalis with gold accents, attached to the underside of a milkweed leaf. There C-Rex stayed for ten days, completing his/her metamorphosis into B-Rex. And the night we got home from NJ, we (thanks again to Jeff's eagle eye) were privy to one of the most amazing sights: B-Rex cracked open his/her now-translucent chrysalis, wriggled a bit, and emerged on our kitchen counter. He/she inflated those gorgeous, orange wings, and the next day we said goodbye to “our” butterfly and set it free on some flowers in the front yard... I have to say: caterpillars grow up too fast! I really miss C-Rex's company when I'm in the kitchen this week.

--I led an "Introduction to Traditional Foods" workshop last night, at the Nutritional Wellness Center downtown. It went really well, if I do say so myself!! There were 16 people signed up, and more on the waiting list, and then more people showed up so there wasn't actually enough room. And I gave them samples of five different krauts and also beet kvass, and I showed them how to make raw milk into kefir, and I talked a little about soaking grains and beans, and I told them about what we're doing in our little family with GAPS, and about the unexpected healing I personally have seen after switching from my starchitarian diet... I really think that people are literally _dying_ to hear other humans discuss symptoms that many people are embarrassed to discuss....and the ways that we can support our bodies in healing these ailments. I think it's also important for people to hear anecdotal reports, like: I have gained not a single ounce of body weight after switching from a vegetarian diet that was probably about 80% carbohydrate (with little fat), even though my new diet probably supplies 80% of its calories from saturated animal fats, with very little starch or sugars at all....

--We are not reading many picture books these days, and Jem's not napping anymore, and it's nearly summertime. These three things have changed the structure of our days, and also happen to ensure that I have much less time to read and write--hence, my “weekly updates” are becoming bi-weekly and sometimes monthly ones. But there is a silver lining: new and mostly-fun opportunities to read chapter books aloud to our children. Jeff just finished “Seven Day Magic” by Edward Eager, and has started “The Hobbit” with the boys, while I continue to plug away at the “Little House” series (which sometimes requires an unnerving amount of on-the-fly censorship as I grapple with the challenge of how best to explain native land conflict/oppression to my small boys. I have not found a solution to this challenge quite yet, but I do know that Laura Ingalls' books do not provide the most accurate or comprehensive catalyst for discussion).

--Due to the very slender amount of time I spend learning about current events, I was very glad to find this careful analysis of why our economy is currently sinking into a mire. Such a nicely compact explanation, that only took 2 minutes and 15 seconds to watch! This is my sort of economics lesson: http://front.moveon.org/scribbling-sharpie-illustrates-the-truth-about-o...

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And now, I am going to send this before too many more months go by. I hope your June is bustin' out all over with really nice springtime things.

Love,
Sarabeth