A New Kind of Winter it Was

Dear family,

“An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.”
- G. K. Chesterton


Question: What is the value of the Gift of Life?

Ben: …Uh uh! I only got three pancakes, and you got a lot more!
Jem: But these two are for Papa, because he's the papa, and Mama gets two because she birthed us!
Ben: Well...
Jem: …Actually, Mama is also the chef, and she hasn't had ANY pancakes yet. So she should get more!
Ben: Okay, but HOW many should she get?
Jem: Four!
Ben: No! That's way too many...

Answer: Somewhere between two and three-and-a-half pancakes.



About three weeks ago, Ivy started talking like crazy. Now she can say pretty much all the important things: “I want it!” “I found it!” “I need it!” “I got it!” Usually all such phrases issue forth consecutively for greater emphasis.

On the beach, totally sandy, plopping herself on my lap: "brrrr! Fold me up! Cuddle me!"

Experiencing situational constipation on an unfamiliar toilet: “Poop go?”

“Mungous poop!” = Very Large Bowel Movement

“Pee in potty!” = I have to poop

Lyrics to Supercal, baby style: ”Alidocious...even tho the soun’ of it is petroticious umiddleiddleiddle!”

April 4, 2017: "I love Mama!" (The nicest ism of all time, pretty much, whether the speaker is age 2 or 102)

The past tense of drawing: “I drewed!”

“Goala” = koala

When she already knows the answer: “Why-cuz!?”

When asked if she wants water, Ivy can sometimes be very polite and create new compound words at the same time: "ohno thanks! Jus did.”

It’s like hundreds of thoughts, formerly all bottled up, have now been set free. “Docky!” Setting the rubber duck on the floor in front of herself, and laughing: “It lookin’ at me!” Then, she picks it up and bounces it on my arm: “Dancin’!”

Encountering a guy at the library who has a hook instead of a right arm, she trots right up to him, touches it curiously, and says, “Hook!" Then she touches his shirt and says, “Fleece!"

Snuggling into my lap, during one of her super rare moments of Actually Sitting Still: “Mmmmmmm...comfy cuddle!"

Babbling softly before her nap: "...otay....acuz...I think...nurse, nurse, nursey!"

A song she remembers from Hanukkah: “Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel...clay!"

More Mary Poppins lyrics: ”Step, step, step...time." “A-b-c-c-a-c-c…”


Eliza, beginning her evening ritual of Bedtime Delaying: “I’m scared I’m scared I'm scared!”
Ivy, sympathetically: “oh, Yiza....monsters?”

And then Ivy reaches over and goes, Pat pat pat, very tenderly on Eliza’s arm.



Eliza is still doing better, though significant health challenges remain central. I continue to experiment and collect more data, and will discuss her progress at a future date.

“I’d rather have new friends than new dresses!”

Concerning Ivy - “We’re basically the same, but we look different!”

From the mouths of babes: "Mama, how old are you? Sixteen, or eighteen?"

Eliza has been doing a lot of drawing these days, and I believe it’s a testament to her currently improved health that her people still always have belly buttons, but now generally sport huge, stick figure smiles.

“Mama, does the world end when the sun explodes?”

“I’m filling up myself with words! I'm a wordswoman!”

“I think prettiness is something you should more think about than eating! …MY prettiness! AND dresses.”

“It feels good when you rub the hairs on the back that I have.”


Me: “Eliza, Ollie's waiting for you! Why don't you just wear the clothes you have on and you can go now?!”
Eliza: "I have to change! I NEED to!"
Oliver, who has gotten to know Eliza’s clothing proclivities over the past few months: "She's gonna do it REALLY fast!"



"I love writing!" If you had told me last month that my Jem would embark upon a sudden explosive adventure of written phonetic text, his handwriting becoming neater even as it slowly snakes down the pages, I would not have believed you. And yet, Jem actually said those three words last week. And is writing! And learning to type!! He will share some stories with you soon, just as soon as he’s learned to edit, since he’s decided that he wants to be a millionaire author someday.

The other night Jem asked: "If I ride my bike across the country some day, which I want to, how am I going to eat if I don't eat junk food??" Which is a really, really great question to which I still don’t totally know the answer.



Concerning the way Ivy screams in fear when she hangs out with babies, but not older kids or adults: “That's because we're more predictable.”

Ben has recently started both the Percy Jackson and the Miss Peregrine series, and is loving them - in addition to The Mysterious Benedict Society. Ben is definitely enjoying his kindle, and I feel like Jeff and I are Actually Unschooling Parents in a Digital Age every time we select good books for him and upload them onto his device.

Ben, it turns out, is totally a hard-ass when it comes to disordered eating among family members: "I don't understand - you like broccoli, so why don't you like squash?!"
(Eliza’s logical response: Because broccoli isn't squash! I don't LIKE squash.)


In other news:

— Jeff and I, in an attempt to remove “Making Yet Another Friggin’ Choice” from the menu during the infrequent evenings when we finally have Quiet Time to Ourselves, have chosen A Television Series to watch. This is fantastic! The episodes are shorter than movies, the story continues week after week, and we don’t have to decide anything! We’ve had some great date nights watching “The Good Wife.” One more good thing is there are many, many more seasons for us to catch up on…

— I taught a six-week series of dance classes for Eliza and some young friends when I couldn’t find any non-recital-oriented ballet classes nearby. It turns out that teaching dance to young children is NOT my calling, but the kids were really sweet and Eliza eventually decided for now, she prefers wearing dance class clothing to actually taking a dance class.

— Jeff has been doing lots of good work for various clients; the true test of our New Lifestyle (it’s been a whole year - March 28th, 2016 - since we made the decision to sell our house and move into a pop-up camper!) will come at the beginning of June, when we will attempt to both travel AND homeschool our kids AND make it possible for Jeff to work full-time during weekdays. We’ll keep you posted on how that (brave? crazy??) endeavor goes…


“She had, she could see, become used to a lot of things that she once would have imagined to be a permanent source of wonder.”
—“Funny Girl," by Nick Hornby


In order to get my new orthodontic appliance inserted, I had to take a trip to LA two weeks ago. I took all four kids, which was pretty exhausting but also really rewarding, plus Jeff got to have a very short Working Vacation back at home. Have you seen “Captain Fantastic,” about a dad who lives in a school bus in the woods with his six kids? For some reason, that entire movie feels pretty much extremely relevant to us.

I called our LA adventure “The Fantastics go to Hollywood!” (Check out our latest photo album and see if you can find the photo I call, “The Fantastics Go Shopping.”)

Driving west, and out of the desert, Eliza was fascinated by looking out the window: “I haven’t seen so much green moss in a long time!” Eating liver pate at the playground (where some children were envious because they thought my kids were eating chocolate ice cream) was only the beginning. A short time later, we arrived at the hotel.

Eliza said, “I miss Papa a lot, but I bet he’s enjoying the not screaming!"

Ben said, “Can we actually take a BATH here?!"

Eliza said, “This is such a great place to camp! There's shade and trees and everything!"

Jem, surveying the steep southern California landscaping, said, “Can I go climb that mountain?"

Ivy was enthralled by the easy chair. “A chair!" she said happily, and then there were whole minutes during which she was entertained by climbing up and down and up and down and up.

Ben, unwrapping the sparkling hotel drinking glasses: “Where did they get all these glass jars? And they have no scratches at all!"

Ivy, surveying the hotel room further: “Toilet! Our toilet! Tubby! Hotel! OUR tubby!"

Jem, opening the sliding glass door (a rare “opening window” in a mostly-hermetically-sealed building, for which I paid dearly by accepting a room with only one bed): “I wonder which way the sun will rise?” Before I had a chance to remember which way we were facing, he pointed east. “Maybe that way?”

At sunset, I quieted their exuberance as they climbed a concrete drainpipe behind the hotel, worried that management might come to scold the adventurers. "Oh, do you think we woke anyone up?" Ben wanted to know, apologetically…

Later, all of us piled into the mushy, white-sheeted king-size bed: "It's a huggy day!" said Eliza, lying on top of Ben.

It definitely wasn’t a restful two nights of sleep, but our trip sure was cozy! :) Plus, we finally visited the Pacific Ocean, for the first time since arriving in California.


"One text or call could wreck it all."
—Signs along L.A. freeway


Some good springtime reading:

"Roller Coaster" and "Two Boys Have The Best Week Ever,” by Marla Frazee,
"Math Curse," by Jon Scieszka

“20th Century Children's Book Treasury” - this is the really boring title of a fantastic collection of most of the best kids’ books that you knew and loved in your youth…plus new ones! Super compact and comprehensive. It would be perfect for our tiny camper library, if we hadn’t read every single story in the collection before returning it to the library.

“Funny Girl,” by Nick Hornby - about a young actress in 1970s Britain who wants to do comedy, not make perfume commercials. I opened this novel last fall, and it started out slooooow. I almost didn’t pick it up again after Mary Poppins precipitated a four-month hiatus from Most Everything Else. And then I decided I couldn’t not-finish a book by one of my favorite authors! Suddenly this spring, the reading went quickly, and the book was insightful, relevant, brilliant! The slowness at the beginning served to accelerate the trajectory of the middle, and underscore without ever mentioning the ways time can feel so very Heady, Permanent, Lengthy, and Meaningful at a certain stage of life…and how every person (or in this case, every television comedy series), after a time of Being Young, grows older and eventually dies…and how even though that sounds very intellectual and depressing and dark, the reality is much more tender and complicated yet simple and beautiful and true. During the last chapter, my tears fell onto Ivy’s curls long after she had fallen asleep for her nap.


Some more interesting reading:

"Many interventions that were once routinely administered to back pain patients, having proven to be ineffective or counterproductive for back pain, are no longer part of the guidelines for doctors. Surgery, cortisone and nerve blocking injections, X-rays, and MRIs are all discouraged in back pain cases where they used to be a part of standard care." One of my favorite posture experts weighs in on what you CAN do to prevent and heal from back pain and injuries (I would LOVE to see this sort of treatment used in conjunction with not-yet-fully-investigated protocols for possible infection-driven causes of back pain):

Glenn Close, discussing her experiences and work with addiction and mental health activism…along with Observations about Human Behavior: “…Honestly, I wish I could do it 24/7. I have so many ideas. But the crazy thing is that no one would listen to me if I stopped acting.”

Picky Eating is gaining publicity in parenting circles - and as I like to say, this Noticing is the first step toward recognizing that while picky eating may be common, it is NOT a normal condition - and even though the solution is complex and multi-factorial, it does NOT involve letting children eat whatever they want:

Have you ever wished there was a place in the world where people could go when they had to do something Really Challenging, like - say - taper off psychiatric medication…and where they would be nourished wholistically for an entire YEAR while they do it? Turns out there is such a place! And it sorely deserves legitimate notice and recognition for providing such amazing services for a fraction of the cost of conventional psychiatric facilities. Someday I would like to work at and contribute to such a place:

“3 Beliefs Holly Ditched When She Stopped Antidepressants” - an awesome autobiography of a woman whose journey off psychiatric meds (which had caused her to gain 60 pounds, among many other unpleasant side effects), led her down fascinating new roads of self-discovery and healing:

“Overcoming Ambien Addiction & Insomnia.” This essay poignantly describes the torture of anxiety and sleep deprivation, some reasons why anti-depresssant-induced “mood leveling” isn’t as great as it sounds…and some treatment alternatives your doctor may not yet know about:

Why the “vaccine wars” are bad for all of us…and why it’s a terrible idea to discuss whether or not you choose to vaccinate your children:


“’They were not so different,’ said Hunayn. ‘And the ones who come after us will not be so different either. We are like leaves of the same tree, separated by many autumns.’”
—"The House of Wisdom”, by Florence Parry Heide


This past was A New Kind of Winter for us - sunshine and tee shirts even during the coldest and cloudiest weeks of the year. I was and am amazed by this winter, despite all its Difficult Spots (more on those at another time). Please enjoy these Mostly Only-Sunny-Times Photos!



This week, our nephew is visiting! :) Nick is a super great young man, who is honoring us with his presence during the last spring break of his high school career. We know that wherever he goes next, he will find great adventures and nice people - and may all children make their parents as proud as Nick’s mama and papa have reason to be. :)



Happy Passover! and Easter, if you celebrate! A week from tomorrow, the Amaral Matilskys hit the road and find out just how road-worthy our Lance is, en route to Fabulous Parks, Jake’s wedding, visits with dear friends, and our Pacific Northwest Working Vacation. Please wish us luck, more than a little bit of Good, Better, and/or Increasingly Stable Health…and any other pithy aphorisms you might feel moved to pass along. :)

Until next time,
Much love,