An Inch of Rain

Dear Family,

I've always had this vivid image in my mind of how "an eighth-inch
of precipitation" should look. For example, when we wake up tomorrow
and look outside, the center of SONG (where there's mostly a field
with a few little trees and a sandbox) should look just like a very
shallow pond created by the rain that is scheduled for tonight.

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I continue to be amazed at the range of feelings I can have toward
my children. For instance: this morning, I looked down at Jem, with
his big blue eyes, and his tiny little feet, and his adorable
toddling walk, and I thought, "Can anyone be more cute than this
baby (aside from his brother)??" I felt my heart swell with that
proverbial motherly love, and...well, it was all bighearted thoughts
I was having.

And yet. At 4:00am this morning, I had barely a trace of goodwill to
be found toward my child. I wanted him gone. Out of my sight. Truth
be told, at that precise second I really didn't want him any more.

I keep wondering--is it good for a person's emotions, to be jerked
around like this? Does it keep you young the same way crosswords
stave off Alzheimer's?

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On Tuesday, we were driving down the hill when Ben pointed out the
window to "Ithaca Balls [falls]." Jem heard him, and, since balls
are his favorite thing in the world, immediately began signing
"ball." "That's funny," said Ben, "he thinks I'm saying 'balls,' but
I'm really saying 'balls'! We really need to go to that place to
practice saying words."

I thought for a minute, and I decided that I didn't need to be a
professional speech therapist, and that I wouldn't damage my child's
self-esteem, if I tried something. "Can you say, 'ffff'?" I asked
him. He could. "Now, can you say, 'alls'?" He did. "Now, try:
'fff...alls.'" And then, breathless, I waited.

And then, Ben said, "Fff...alls. Falls!"

HONK HONK HONK!! said the car behind me. They obviously didn't
realize: My son said "falls!"

And now we're working on different sounds, since mostly he just
substitutes one beginning sound for another: B for F, D for S, etc.
He thinks it's a game, and is excited to be able to speak more
clearly. I keep remembering to listen to the voice of my inner
unschooler, and how cool it is to learn things when you're really
ready (rather than when some "professional" says you should be).

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I don't really get into the whole, "Kids are just SO special!" kind
of gushiness, when people go on and on about how We Can All Learn
From Children, They Are Just So Perfect In Every Way, Isn't That so
Magical, and Childhood Is Just The Best Time In Life.

Do you really mean that we never again reach our intellectual and
spiritual potential after the age of eight? I don't think so.

...but there is something that I'm noticing about Ben lately. It's
about Owls. Or paper cutout elephants. K'nex gearboxes. Singing.
Watching the ice crack under his boot. He often gets into this crazy
absorption mode, where he is just _focused._ I get that way too,
every so often, but he is so direct in his passions these days, no
guilt because he forgot to put away laundry or make an important
phone call. I'm impressed by his capacity for enchantment, and it's
one thing that, for me, has greatly decreased between the ages of 5
and 29.

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Jem still doesn't say much these days, but he has real expressive
grunts. And he also understands everything you say: "Hey Jem, can
you go pick up that piece of paper and bring it to Papa?" He
immediately toddles over and does exactly that. "Hey Jem, can you go
get a pair of socks and shoes?" Yup, he can. "Hey Jem: why don't you
go bring this ball to Ben?" Toddle, toddle. Silence. SPLASH.
Parental curses. Toilet bowls have not lost their appeal.

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Jem's one word that is really cute is "Hommy." The word's roots are
from the noun, "hummus," which was also its original definition, but
the meaning has expanded now into a large number of other things as
well. Birds, trees, edibles. You should try it, next time you're
looking for a good word. It really has a nice ring to it.

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Jeff finished reading a book this week called, "Fifty Reasons People
Give for Believing in a God." And after all the talks he and I have
had on the topic, I realized that I don't actually know my own
family's personal philosophies on the topic. So, if you're ever in
the mood to tell me, I'm curious: DO you believe in a god? What
role, if any, does religion play in your life, and why (or why not)?

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I taught a cookie-baking class tonight for 7 kids and 6 adults, and
it went way better than I thought it would. And I already have 6
people signed up for my sushi class next week. :) I'm discovering
that even though I don't like to learn cooking from a class, some
people really do. And I really like teaching the classes! (Also: the
four-year-old daughter of one of my students from last week told me,
"My new favorite food is quinoa!" How great is that??)

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On the not-so-exhilarating front, Jeff managed to experience a large
amount of back pain after an awkward jump yesterday. He's easing out
of it today, but it's been hurting a lot, and reminding him that he
needs to take lots of breaks from sitting. Today he took a walk and
met a man named Eddie who was walking his pit-bull/beagle. Silver
linings...

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The Westhaven greenhouse has the most amazing greens growing in it
right now. We are eating the freshest salad I have ever eaten in
March, and I picked them with my own kitchen shears. Have I
mentioned recently that I love living here?

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We had some wonderful guests this week! David and Donna visited on
Monday, and Ben thinks they should come back again very soon. We
think so too, and are glad that they could fit us into their
super-full, non-empty-nest-syndrome life. :)

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Inspired by the fun visit with Donna and David, I had this crazy
idea last Tuesday: I would spontaneously drive to Rochester to visit
Denise. It was great to see her, and she graciously invited us into
her gorgeous and non-childproof home.

Jem woke up right as we arrived at her house at 9:30 pm, and
unfortunately didn't return to slumberland until 1:00am. That was
well after a record-breakingly-copious nosebleed from Jem that left
him looking like he'd been punched, left me looking like I'd been
shot in the chest, and left Denise's white couch...with not a single
drop of blood on it. Maybe I should start believing in god. (Except
that, first, god would have to start making Jem sleep past six in
the morning on nights when he bleeds a lot and falls asleep at one
o'clock.)

I'm still recovering from the adventure, mostly in terms of
exhaustion which then leads to me being in a bad mood. How easily I
fall off the wagon, both with my goals for enough sleep and for
being Happy.

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If you'd like to see a little project I'm collaborating on, go to:
http://www.place-odyssey.com/POTrips-NY2009%5BWildernessTEENtrip%5D.htm

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If you're still reading this, that means you must really be family,
because I really need to stop writing now!

I love you all, and send hugs from rainy Ithaca.
--Sarabeth

P.S. I'm getting rid of all the clothes I have and don't like, which
is most of them. I'm trying to make space in my life for new
clothes--that I _do_ like--to come in. But, Athena, I sorely need
your shopping and conjuring skills! I hope you come home soon, to
help fulfill my materialistic desires...