I'm about to...[gulp]

Dear Family,

For the teeniest tiny moment, when I woke up yesterday morning, I couldn't remember what had happened to my hair. But since I'm only just about to turn...[gulp] one year older than I am now...and many of my faculties are still functional, I remembered really quickly.

In case you're wondering, my hair is now technically a bob. It was
going to be a shoulder-length trim, but sometimes plans change. As of Friday, my tresses are shorter than they've been since I was four and got my hair cut from that woman who was so traumatized by my banshee screams that she retired from haircutting soon afterward. (For the record, I was very nice to my stylist/husband on Friday.)

Ben says I look like Aunty Theeny from behind, which is a lovely compliment since my sister looks like a movie star these days (even from
behind) with _her_ short haircut.

Now that I'm about to turn...a year older...some latent parts of my personality may emerge, the parts that have fashion sense.


Fun Fact:

Did you know that snake scales are made out of the same material that composes human hair?


Speaking of hair:

Years ago, our friend Mansura told us that someone told her that if you don't wash your hair for six months, your scalp's natural oil production will begin to regulate itself and you won't need to wash it any more.

I always thought it sounded somewhat plausible, although the six-month break-in period sounded rough, and I decided on every 3-4 days for my own personal wash schedule.

Anyway, thanks to Denise (whose hair is gorgeous and would convince anyone to convert to her regimen), I've learned that this natural haircare technique is alive and well. Except that, it's not so much about not _washing_ your hair as it is about not using synthetic hair products. Which makes more sense than abandoning personal hygiene like Mansura's friend-of-a-friend was espousing.

It turns out that baking soda (diluted) to wash, and lemon juice and honey (diluted) to condition is a perfectly adequate way to clean ones hair. It's cheap, too! I'm sold.

The only problem? Well, this haircare routine has become a Movement, with numerous/verbose/scary online posts and a growing following. Which isn't the problem really--it's the name. It's worse than "elimination communication." My friends, it is the movement of people who have gone "No Poo."


For our Town Day this week, I kind of cheated because I took the boys to Ithaca College. But it _kind_ of is its own town. Specifically, we went to check out the construction site where IC is putting up a new rec center. Even more specifically, we watched for half an hour while approximately seventeen guys drove a bulldozer from one spot to another spot--a distance of about fifty feet.

(I mean, of course not all the guys were driving the bulldozer. Some of them were doing hand signals to direct the driver. And some of them were warming the engines on several other idling vehicles. One of them unrolled a few feet of cable. And a lot of guys didn't do anything. Jem was riveted; the outing was a success.)


Meanwhile watching the construction, I developed a theory about human experience. Let me know what you think:

1. There are only two states of being. A. You can experience what's happening in the present moment, and enjoy it; or B. You can experience what's happening in the present moment, while you're simultaneously (and in infinite variation) thinking about how the moment could be improved in the future or how it was better in the past.

2. You can experience both states at any age, but when you're younger you can be like, "Perfection lies ahead! As soon as I get that awesome job/spectacular mate/super house/enviable stereo system, I'll be happy, so it doesn't matter if I'm not now." When you're young, you call it idealism.

But then if you keep going with the dissatisfaction thing after a certain age, even after realizing that life is _always_ imperfect, well then, nobody mentions idealism any more, and you just feel bitter.

When we got back from the construction site, Jeff read me an excerpt from Neil Peart's blog concerning the phrase, "it is what it is." Peart writes: "...I think it expresses a simple practicality of making the most of the current reality, not getting all exercised by what can’t be altered.

"...The German philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein gave this definition of reality: 'The world is all that is the case.' ...I guess idealists ('It’s not what it ought to be'), paranoids ('It’s not what it seems'), cynics ('It is, but not very'), reactionaries ('It’s not what I want it to be'), self-deluders ('It’s not my is'), and rationalizers ('It’s not my fault'), would have trouble with that concept."


Not to change the subject, but I know that you can barely believe that soon you'll have a daughter/sister/wife/mother/friend who is THIRTY. Thanks, Mom! And Dad! It's been 29 years and 361 days of a really great life.

I'd say that all in all, the beginnings of midlife is treating me well. This year I have a few goals:

1. All the goals I've already made this year, plus

2. Using the word "fuck" less frequently, so that it retains some punch down the line when my boys are teenagers.

3. Not be bitter, as much as possible (I mean, a little bitterness can be therapeutic, as long as you keep your sense of humor, but I don't want to be bitter a _lot_).

4. Probably other things, so I'll add on as needed.


On the see-saw at the playground, a little boy says, "Let's get one of
these, Dad!"

"I don't even know where you'd find one," the father answered. [It's really handy, as a parent, to not know things like this.]

"We can just ask for it for Christmas!" his son said reasonably.


Jem and I took our turn on the see-saw, since it was one of the springy kinds that let mamas and their two-year-olds bounce together equally. Jem was grinning and bouncing, and suddenly it was like I was staring into an old photograph that resides in the Matilsky family album. It's of Mom and me, on a very similar see-saw, when _I_ was two, except in some ways it feels like it was taken last month.

Except here I was, playing with my _own_ little boy, at a very different playground.

And my brain sort of clicked through several times before resettling:
"Mama...baby...MY mommy...I'm the kid!...Wait, he's my baby...I'm his
mama!...This is nuts."

Now that I'm about to...turn thirty, I get these thoughts all the time. Concerning generations of kids on see-saws, growing up and having kids on see-saws, who then grow up and have their _own_ kids on see-saws. Time is nuts. We just think it's normal because the physics books say it is.


One night this week, I stayed up a little late, and Jem got me up a lot
too early, and the net result was that I was super tired and grouchy. SO tired that I'd use the F-word to describe exactly how tired I was, except I've turned over a new leaf now that it's almost my birthday.

Dealing with sleep is the single most challenging part for me about being a parent. Maybe for some people, whose children doze on a schedule, or who (the parents) can function with little sleep--well,
maybe for those people it is not a challenge.

But it is a goddamn pain the ass to get up nearly every single morning, for nearly six years, before I am ready to! And Jem's biggest problem is that although he is really super cute, you just can't see cute in the _dark_.

It's only now, that I can actually (almost) count on about 6-7 hours of
uninterrupted sleep (plus another 1 or so of restless bed-sharing with a
two-year-old) that I feel like my life is beginning to reassemble itself
into a non-depressed, sometimes-together version of the past nearly-six

Isn't that crazy?? WHAT did we miss, that our ancestors knew? Why is it
so hard for some adults and their children to synchronize their sleep
habits, without resorting to Dr. Ferber?? This so does not make sense evolutionarily.

Just think what will happen to me when I really and truly get to sleep on my own schedule again. (I may even stop saying "goddamn.")


Things I never thought I'd say:

"Money is to be _gentle_ with!"

"Stop banging your nose against my chest."



"I'm making a book for Jem! It has everything he likes, like backhoes. And it has page numbers, and 'E's on every page because Jem likes 'E's."

While internalizing the mathematical concept of division, even though he didn't know that he was: "Look! This is the exact middle right _here_ of this board book, because there are the same pages on both sides."

On dispersal patterns, after his haircut: "Look around my chair! It's a square."


Ben's back-of-the-neck looks older these days. It is so not a toddler's
neck, but a _boy's_.

Ben has a sort of default hum, which he hums while he starts eating after he's really gotten hungry, and when he's engaged in a project. Lately, for some reason I can't figure out, the tune is Jingle Bells. But I find that if I sing a song a few times (like, say, "Fly Away" by the Indigo Girls), I can temporarily reset his hum to that song.


The other day at a stoplight, a disheveled man stood next to the line of cars with a cardboard sign: "Please help! Hungry and Sick. Need $ for food and meds."

My eyes shifted uncomfortably, and I wondered a lot of things very quickly: "Should I give him money? Why do I feel so uncomfortable? Should I look at him? Should I not look at him? Should I give him food? I don't have anything in the car to eat. I don't want to give him money. I have a lovely family, and a lovely home, and am much more lucky than he is. Am I a terrible person, not to leap out and help this man, or at least give him a dollar? What kind of example am I setting for my children? Why won't the friggin' light turn green already??"

Meanwhile, my kids had a totally different take on the situation. After a minute, Jem looked out the window and said [name of our good friend has been changed to protect the innocent]: "Vinny!"

"That's not Vinny, Jem!" Ben said.

"Do you think that man looks like Vinny?" I asked Jem.

"Vinny!" Jem said again, as the man leaned against a post and adjusted his tattered cardboard sign.

"Jem, that's NOT Vinny," Ben said, staring at the man too. "But..." he considered. "He _does_ look like him. _Is_ he Vinny? It _could_ be--he has the beard."


We went on a whirlwind expedition to Buttermilk Falls this week, involving a short visit to the playground (soaking wet), and a longish hike (up about fifty thousand stairs). It was my tired grouchy day, and so things were just slightly more annoying than usual.

But really: if _your_ dog had just left a tremendous turd right in the middle of the path, and _you_ had chosen not to remove said turd, wouldn't you hide behind a tree rather than stand there, plainly visible with your dog, right next to the steaming pile??



At the playground: "Fell down wood chips Jem!"

Looking at me, after I put on (what I thought was) a lovely, v-neck shirt: "Big neck mama!"

It turns out that Jem is capable of throwing a large-scale screaming fit simply because he is A. tired and B. unable to remove a large oak tree root from the ground.

For days, on our morning walk we could hear the distant "beep, beep" of
a truck in reverse. Every day, Jem would listen attentively and then say, "Backhoe!" I kept trying to explain how you can't necessarily know what kind of truck something is just by the sound (except for firetrucks, of course), but he was not to be swayed. Finally I gave up, and on the fifth day or so, I said, Well, maybe that's the backhoe again. This time Jem cocked his head for a minute, and then said decisively: "No! Front Loader."

"Hoo-Mug-In" = Humongous (as in "HooMugIn Wum [worm]!" or "HooMugIn jump!" or "HooMugIn Poop!")

When it was really cold and windy the other morning on our walk, Jem asked me to "Hug windy Jem!"

We're experiencing a little step backwards in the area of--you should pardon the expression--urination. This week, Jem has been way busy trying to throw every single darn object in the house onto the floor at least seventeen times (possibly to test durability?), and when you're that busy you just can't always interrupt research by going to the toilet.

(It's fascinating, because this week, not peeing in his pants is just not a priority. But sometime between now and the age of 15, it's nearly certain that it will become a largely unspoken, yet very important priority in Jem's life to maintain dry underwear. When exactly will that day arrive?)


Events of note:

--Hickory Nuts, which grow in our backyard, are edible! I was so totally thrilled (we can forage for protein-containing foods! In our own yard!!), and the boys and I collected a bunch of them. We had a grand time using pliers to open them. Thirty minutes later, I had pried some delicious nutmeats out of the shells. In fact, I amassed a grand total of three tbsp. of edible material. I guess we're not ready to quit our day jobs.

--I planted over 150 garlic cloves on Monday!! This is very exciting, and I hope it grows.

--Fermentation update: Daikon and Carrot Pickles are not terrifically tasty. May have spoiled, in fact. Sauerkraut is awesome, and I love it and am very proud of my 630 bazillion new lactobacilli babies.

--Jeff and Ben rode bikes to Treman today, and had hiked the entire 4+ mile gorge/rim trails by the time Jem and I met them with the car to give them a lift home. (Jem and I did a good long stint at the playground first, so it was a very productive Sunday afternoon.)

--For approximately four days in the spring and maybe four and a half days in the autumn, it's the correct weather to wear my elegant green wool coat. Last week was the week of the green coat, so I wore it several times. If I keep the coat for my entire life (and the moths don't totally eat through it), it will get more and more use as global warming sets in.

--Speaking of: soon, hydraulic fracturing will come to the finger lakes. Otherwise known as "hydrofracking," it is a technique used to extract natural gas through bedrock by pumping in tremendous amounts of water and toxic substances, sometimes for miles underground. You can imagine that this is problematic if you are, say, are a pristine underground aquifer, or someone who likes drinking from them.

This particular project has been described by some as the largest industrial project every attempted in the U.S. It's enough to make my mind go numb anytime I hear about it.

Somehow, this drilling is slated to begin even as the corporations involved have been exempted from all federal Clean Air and Clean Water act regulations. And since I use natural gas on a daily basis, I'm a little stymied by the appropriate action steps here. Beg my representatives to force the companies to comply with woefully inadequate regulations? Throw myself in front of the drilling rigs?? Boycott all heated buildings and take cold baths in the pond???


Interesting things I've read recently:

--Gone Forever: What Does It Take to Really Disappear? The challenges faced by anyone who wants to, say, stage their own death, run away from creditors/ex-wives/The Law, shed their old identity and reinvent themselves as someone entirely new. (Hint: it turns out that it's a lot harder to lose the old You than it is to create a new one.)


--An amusing website that shows (graphically, with photos of sugar cubes) exactly how much sugar is in certain "food" products available in grocery stores. (Also amusing: graphics showing how many carrots you'd have to eat in order to consume the amount of sugar in, for example, a Hershey's bar.)



How to Make Gomasio, a really delicious Japanese condiment:

Preheat the oven to 350f. Rinse 1 cup of unhulled sesame seeds in a mesh strainer, and drain well.

Spread seeds on a baking sheet, and bake 8-12 minutes or so, until the seeds crush easily between your pinkie and thumb.

Put seeds in some sort of grinding device with 1-2 tsp. salt, and grind until about half of the seeds are crushed.

Sprinkle on everything! Enjoy. :)


Okay, I really must go to sleep now.