Busty Babes and small Boys and Being a Grown-Up

Dear Family,

Our neighbors have an adorable little 20-month-old girl. In case you haven't spent much time around babies lately, 20 months is NOT the age when humans generally acquire developmental skills such as sharing toys and playing cooperatively.

Anyway, this adorable baby and her mother were recently in a toy store, when the baby scratched another child in a scuffle over a toy. The other kid's mother was upset. But get this: she asked my neighbor, "Does your daughter have any friends?"

There are lots of good answers I can think of to such a question, sincere remarks like "Oh no, none of her friends talk to her anymore, since she gave them all black eyes."

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I am very into fairness. This trait was useful, growing up in a big family, because it allowed me to excel at skills like dividing 8-inch square cakes into seven precisely equal pieces.

But since I've become a mother, I am noticing--due to obsessive accounting--that somebody's cake is always just a little bit smaller than the others', and that--to stretch the metaphor a bit--I don't get to decide who cuts the pieces. Go ahead, laugh if you want. But be careful: don't forget that I am a woman who has been getting up nearly _every single morning_ before I am ready to, for the past six years. Not to mention the night-wakings!

Yes, brothers-mine, I know it's my fault, that I chose to set aside the prophylactics and have kids. But what am I supposed to do with this information? Send the wakeful, sometimes-rude boys back?? I know that my cake-piece could be way smaller, or have no frosting, or I could have gotten a child with enormous special needs, or... But it still bugs me completely when somebody gets a baby who sleeps through the night, who is delighted to be alive and never cries, and who never EVER takes a toy away from another child…and the parents think it's because of their stellar, exemplary parenting.

That isn't fair at ALL.

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My darling sister and brother Jake came to visit last weekend since Jake's home on a two-week visit. He's between 6 months of traveling in central and south America, and his upcoming trip to India with Selina. He'll be back again next June.

Anyway, it was like Gerald Durrell's Uncle Percival came to visit, sans the potbelly and hot air balloon. Jake played legos with Ben, while telling us tales of hopping freights and accidentally rooming in a gay brothel in Honduras. Jake's recent travels have taken him through incredible countryside, which he has documented in yet another enormous journal and thousands of gorgeous photographs. We got a slide show, depicting some of his adventures on islands, in cities, in tiny villages, in centuries-old churches, on rickety motor vehicles, at friends' rented beach side cabins. He traveled the ENTIRE length of the Amazon river, sleeping in a hammock on boats. (He brought the hammock home for Ben and Jem to hang in the backyard.) There were busty young Brazilian babes materializing for photo ops so frequently that they seemed to appear in every few slides.

Well. It was super great to see Jake, and I'm so happy that he's so happy. And I'm so happy he's having such awesome adventures. And I couldn't help but think, after the slides and our guests had gone to bed: "…..[a great deal of conflicting thoughts regarding fairness, life choices, mortgages, health insurance, having babies, the incredibly romantic allure of seeing the waters of the Amazon from their Peruvian headwaters all the way to the sea]……"

It's not that I'm pining to have Jake's adventures, exactly--I'm not especially grooving after busty Brazilian women, either. And it's not even that I wish I had made different choices with my life, or that I hadn't had kids, or that I was taking an "Eat, Pray, Love"-type vision quest all over the world.

No. The real unfairness is that I only get this one shot, one life, one set of choices. There are SO MANY CHOICES, and SO MUCH LIFE--but periodically I get that greedy feeling of wanting to get my hands on at least five lifetimes' more.

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But meanwhile, back at the ranch…

Instead of feeling sorry for myself due to my current lack of Amazonian adventures, I got busy. Or to be precise, Jem got busy. He was sitting on my lap, and it happened right in the middle of a phone call which I was making to Excellus BlueCross BlueShield Doesn'tUse SpacesToInsureYOU company. I was asking my customer service advocate [actually what they're called], named Helen or Sue or Jackie, some questions about our "health insurance" policy. I use those quotation marks because we pay ~$350/month for a policy with a deductible of $10,000.

The question I was trying to get answered by Helen or Sue or Jackie, was: IF, God Forbid, we get really sick, and need treatment totaling, say $10,173, how can I be sure that BlueCross BlueShield won't refuse to pay the $173 dollars due to our failure to correctly dot "i" on the seventeenth page of the contract where they CLEARLY told us that medical costs incurred by visits on Monday afternoons to doctors whose names begin with E, L, or W are NOT ALLOWED?? In other words: I want to know exactly how likely it is that we will pay BCBS thousands of dollars over many years of faithful bill-paying, only to God Forbid have some terrible accident, which is clearly NOT ALLOWED, and have to pay anyway.

You may remember that at the start of this whole conversation, Jem was sitting on my lap. And this whole conversation was going nowhere, because Helen or Sue or Jackie was saying things like, "Okay, let me look over your policy…oh, wow, you have a really _good_ policy! It covers in-network AND out-of-network doctors…"

And then all of a sudden, Jem vomited, suddenly and explosively, all down my front. That was the end of the phone call, because the handset crashed to the floor. And that was the beginning of Jem's 24-hour bug, which convinced me that my children have to stop regularly vomiting before I will EVER venture into a developing country where travelers tend to encounter amoebic dysentery.

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I live with a young scientist, named Ben Starling, who makes inclined planes down which he sends momentum-powered tinkertoy creations; who can fold intricate origami; and who draws the most detailed pictures of grasshoppers ("…I tried four times, an' drew the legs backward, but it didn't work so I found this picture of a real grasshopper to copy…"

Yet this is what I get from him when it's time to go outside on a bitterly chill December morning: "I don't NEED shoes! I'm warm right now [in our seventy-degree, sunny living room]!! Why can't I use sandals?" "I'm good [in our seventy-degree, sunny living room]. I don't need a jacket." "My ears aren't [while standing in our seventy-degree, sunny living room] cold."

This has been going on for nearly the entire length of Autumn, and Jem is beginning to argue with me too. I've tried the technique of "letting them learn from experience," but here's what experience has taught: that children cry and complain incredibly loudly (not to mention how they become incapable of independent locomotion) in the moment when they realize that they are freezing cold--and that that moment invariably occurs when they are at the farthest possible point from home.

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Aside from just a few challenging moments (knock on wood), Jem has been essentially using the toilet independently for over six months now. So despite those aforementioned minor lapses, I'm not worried about potty skills. What worries me is that in twenty years, he'll wake his girlfriend at 1:41 a.m. and bellow, "MAMA! MAMA!! NEED BIGGER HUGGIES!!!!!!!" and his girlfriend will go, What the hell, I won't stand for this!, and walk out. Don't laugh! I nearly walked out last night, and I actually AM his mama.

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I've been making lots of important phone calls this week, not only to our "health insurance" company, but to other places besides. I feel that it is important to let corporations know when you are not satisfied with their products, so when my dental floss turns out to be overly-waxed, leaving paraffin flakes in my mouth after brushing, I like to check in with the toll-free number on the back of the package.

That's how I ended up speaking with a fellow at Johnson and Johnson named Ken, who promised to send me a $4 coupon and offered his sincere apologies for my inconvenience. I gave him my name and address. "Rachel Carson Way…" said Ken. "Should I know that name?"

"Oh, yes," I told him. "'Silent Spring, and DDT, and all that." I did NOT add, Yeah, you totally should! It's funny that J&J didn't give you more details, since they're so big on avoiding carcinogens in their products…

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Bennerisms:

After a friend's mother got really annoyed at her son: "William's mama wasn't _really_ upset, because she wasn't crying at all."

Every time Jem heads toward the bathroom to poop, Ben calls out: "Jem! Come here! Come see this ____ [super exciting thing that Jem really wants to see]…"

"In the wagon this morning, I counted to two hundred an' two!"

"Hey Jem! I made you a dump-less dump truck!"

"I think I could read 'Bears in the Night'." Oh really? Want to read it to me? "No. But I could read it to Jem. Hey Jem, want me to read you 'Bears in the Night'?" ...I must admit that I couldn't help sneaking over to the nearly-closed door after they'd gone into the bedroom, and I could hear Ben, quietly reciting the book from memory.

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When Jem took a super-short nap one day this week, I asked him in frustration, WHY did you get up?! He gave me a winning smile and said, "See Mama!"

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Have you ever seen romanesco? It is an incredible vegetable, kind of like eating fractals. If you can't find some at a farmers' market near you, you should at least follow this link: http://images.google.com/images?q=romanesco+photograph&oe=utf-8&rls=org....

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My friend, a mama of two lovely boys slightly younger than mine, just told me that she's pregnant. "You're nuts!" was my first, impolite response. So I added, "I mean, congratulations!" My thoughts were, in order: She's nuts!…Several more YEARS of not sleeping!…Maybe she'll get a girl!!" I always banish such thoughts from my head immediately, don't worry.

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You'd think that with all that surety that I don't want a third baby, I would have been thrilled last week, as I passed along all Jem's 2T clothing. But somehow I still managed to find some bittersweetness: my tiny little guy will never again be able to fit into the totally stained yellow striped shirt!

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Due to Jem's vomiting/feverish sickness, we didn't have a Town Day this week. But we did manage to lend our 2.5 minutes' worth of assistance to the crew at Westhaven Farm, fulfilling Ben's dream of pulling carrots directly out of the ground and eating them.

And then today, we got a private candle-making class with Graham O herself, which gave Ben much joy--and Jem and I had lots of fun, too. And Graham, bless her till all eternity, set up the supplies, provided the supplies, and cleaned up afterward. I think she's earned her spot in heaven (or at least a really good dinner on Monday evening).

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One good thing about time going by: people take certain things more seriously. Like, when Jeff and I had been together for three months and I would tell people that I was in love, they'd be like, Whatever. But now, when I tell somebody that I'm in love, and that we met nearly 13 years ago, people are like, Wow! That's a long time! You must really love him!

It's like I'm really a grown-up, now that I'm thirty and all.

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By the way, Mom and Dad: you've done something right, because the minute my brother and sister arrived at my house last week, they kept asking to eat greens. I like to stock up on kale when my family comes to visit. :)

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Okay, must sleep. Jeff's over at the common house, screening the second Lord of the Rings, extended edition. He's been busy this week, and helped with the chicken coop some (and another hen is now laying green eggs!), and is doing lots of work. And we're busy reading "The Golden Compass," which I'm really enjoying now that I've forgiven it for not being "The Time Traveler's Wife."

Goodnight! Love you all,
Sarabeth