Snow Days

Dear Family,

“People don’t want to be confused with facts that contradict their preconceived opinions.” --Geoff Metcalf

"Sometimes medical care (like politics) is the art of the possible." --William Walsh

"You can preach a better sermon with your life than with your lips." --Oliver Goldsmith


Eliza is incredibly adorable and completely cute, except when she is utterly and totally irrational and/or screaming her guts out. One minute she'll be chattering away, giggling and saying things like, "These pants are too big, but I like to wear them with a shirt [tucked] inside, 'acuz then they stay up!" And then the next minute, she'll be screeching and yelling and glaring at me...because I dared to offer to help her put on a shirt. Or else she'll decide that she wants breakfast to be ready prior to it's being served, and she'll start yelling at me to cook faster. I reassure myself that at least these aren't autistic tantrums. Rather than just screaming "Mama!" over and over, 15,000 times per hour (approximately), she yells all sorts of ridiculous things after she's been banished to her room: "Ow! Out! OW! I don't LIKE it! Mama! I need Mama! No, I don't want Mama! I want PAPA! I don't want to stop! I don't WANT to!!!! Papa! I want paaapppa!!! I LIKE Papa!" And on and on she will scream, for a Very Very Long Time. Never let it be said that Amaral Matilskys are lacking in stamina.

Tantrums are really exhausting, and hopefully Eliza's will be a developmental stage that ends yesterday. But at least I (am trying to) have a little bit less guilt about them, this time around. The social worker who visited us for a year and half, to give us support during Eliza's difficult-feeding nightmare, told us that the best way to react to tantrums is: 1. make sure child has all her basic needs met; 2. tell child that she can't continue to scream in the middle of the living room/kitchen/breakfast table/etc, but that she is welcome to rejoin the rest of the household when she's feeling better; 3. remove child to child's room, close her door, and don't try any further reasoning until child has calmed. It still sucks exceptionally to deal with a half-hour or hour-long tantrum...but if even our social worker understands that said tantrums are not my fault or due to Bad Parenting, I am determined [to try] not to take the screaming personally.

And like I mentioned: Eliza has a very busy and full and good life, and often dances around the house and pretends to be a butterfly, a duckie, a kitty cat, or a dance teacher. She has a happy and active imagination. She dresses up in shoelaces and chiffon, and "cooks" at her toy kitchen by putting all her toy puppies into a pot and serving invisible dinner.

I was so reluctant to pay the (exorbitant) fee for Baby Music Classes for Eliza...but I have to admit that she has gotten a huge amount of musical joy from them. She still goes with Heidi and Ella every week. And she sings songs every day, sometimes while she's dancing. "Do you know zum gali gali?" she'll ask. Or she'll request: "can we sing Shady Grove/Five Little Leaves/Donkey Riding?" Or she'll go through her repertoire and come up with a very amusing medley of sometimes a dozen songs or more. For EcoVillage's yearly talent show, she and Ella performed a small song and dance (this was spearheaded by Heidi, who actually sewed tutus for the girls and somehow got my daughter to rehearse (which did NOT happen when I suggested it, I can assure you)). When everyone applauded at the end, Eliza smiled and didn't want to get off the stage. Afterward she said, "I want to do that again!"

It is amazingly adorable when a two-year-old puts on a snowsuit, especially when it's topped by a balaclava. I guess I mention the cute-ness of this outfit pretty often, because now when Eliza pulls on her balaclava she croons, "Hi, cute baby!" when her face pokes through...

Elizaisms:

"Your big belly is growing bigger!"

Tripping over her toes: "...Ow!" But then, pragmatically: "I'm not bleeding, so I don't need a bandaid."

Running around using elaborate hand motions and making up a game with Jem: "Wacha! Wacha! ...Now come into the closet, Jem, with the watcha thing!"

"I have a cutie baby butt! An' yours is a big one."

"I'm wearing my naked costume!"

"Did I poop?" Turning around to check the potty. "...Yes, I did!"

Eating breakfast: "It's goin' down my hatch!"

"I can do the stairs myself, 'acuz I'm really big."

"Why you laughing?" --Because of something Papa just said [via Skype]. "Where is he?" --At work. "How are you laughing, then?"

Concerning two pillows: "I need these together, 'acuz they're my pile-stack."

Examining her pajamas: "Is this color called pink?"

Taking off her pants: "I'm naked with my butt!"

Coming in from outside with a jacket on: "Mama, can you button me out?"

Concerning her clothes to grow into: "When my big, I can wear those. ...When my tiny, I can wear these...I'm tiny now!"

Wearing a shortsleeve shirt: "I'm naked with my arms!"

Gouda cheese: - "ooga cheese!"

"This dress is for summertime, but I'm wearing it NOW."

Dinnertime: "I'm ready for somethin' I want!"

"I'm gonna flush my poop! There it goes, down the tunnel."

"I was just wearing it. Goin': 'wear, wear, wear'!"

"Can you get me a big much?"

--Nice burp, Eliza. "That's not my burp!"

The two toilet paper sizes: "small wiper" and "big wiper"

"I was just sitting and thinking things out, and 'nen I put stuff in [my bag], and 'nen I put my covers on and take a sleep."


Bennerisms:

Ben is a busy man, with myriad crafts projects going always (especially origami), homeschool Primitive Pursuits, and planning for springtime, when everything will be "much more fun!" He does crafts sessions with Eliza, which is very relieving - it is doubtful whether Eliza would ever get to experience watercolors under my watch, but Ben is willing to take responsibility for the task, and thus helps add to his sister's Very Enriching Life. Ben turned eleven last month, and had his first birthday party with other kids. This was both super hopeful and a testament to How Far We've Come...and also a boatload of stressful work. Victories are hard won.

Concerning "Big Hero 6": "There's no magic in it - there's just things that might happen in the future."


Jemmerisms:

Jem is a laid-back guy, but there are a few things he is passionate about: he can spend hours sledding, and has become an accomplished ice-skater this year (as has his brother - but Jem outlasts us all on the ice, with his tolerance for cold and annoying skates). He spends one afternoon with Graham every week in her workshop, making cool things out of gourds. And he is a budding photographer ever since Aunt Barbara and Uncle Jyoti gave him a digital camera. Jem is pretty much the most incredibly patient big brother that Eliza could possibly have, although she doesn't always realize it. Both boys are very patient with her, actually - just not always with each other...

"If you got a hundred dollars every time Eliza screamed, you'd be a trillionaire!"

"Eliza is the cutest baby in the WHOLE WORLD."


Lest Ben and Jem feel like they don't get as much attention as Eliza, I reassure them that when each of them were two, they spent a LOT of time being the baby. Plus, in a few short weeks Eliza's spot as Baby is about to be involuntarily relinquished, so I am trying to let her enjoy her last moments as Princess. I remind them all that no matter HOW old they get, they'll always be my babies! Even when they're taller than I am. That's what my mom told me...


VERY amusing comic on the limitations of double-blind randomized trials: http://xkcd.com/1462/


Woman in the grocery store: "So you're one of those ultra-cute pregnant women!"

Gosh, I could have said - I'm glad I'm not one of the ultra-ugly ones!


Recent Events of Note:

-- Over Christmas, my Very Intrepid Husband brought all three of our offspring to visit Grandma and Grandpa. You just know that Jeff was committed to the success of the endeavor, because for the very first time in all our eleven years of parenting, he listened to Baby Music CDs during the entire 5+ hour drive. This was the reason that Eliza, for the very first time in her life, made it through any drive longer than fifteen minutes without having a Very Extended Scream. Success was truly achieved. I cooked a lot in preparation for sending them off with a car full of food...and then while they were gone, I did incredibly little cooking. I agreed to eat leftovers whenever they were available, and I didn't whine at myself for anything that I served. Additionally, over the course of three days, I put together Jeff's and my new bed frame, disassembled the old one, organized our scrapbooks, put away two weeks' worth of laundry, organized the attic (plus Eliza's clothes and the baby clothes), had lunch with a friend, took several brisk walks (one with a friend), listened to six podcasts, vacuumed the entire house and cleaned the bathrooms, went grocery shopping, made 6 gallons of sauerkraut, read a novel, had dinner with friends...and literally crossed everything off my to-do list. It was remarkable how much I could get done, in so little time! And then I missed them all before they got back. I think that if I lived all alone, I would have an immaculate house, but I would be so lonely and bored! I would also read so many novels...

-- Dad's photo was in an art exhibition! We are all very proud: http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/photovision-probes-175-years-of-photographic-developments-and-anxieties/Content?oid=4254758

-- Recognizing that we had finally outgrown not only "compact cars", but also "family sedans" and Subaru Hatchbacks...Jeff and I finally bit the bullet, so to speak. You are all allowed one joke at our expense, now that we are the proud owners of...an SUV. It's a 2006 Highlander, and it's by far the fanciest car we have ever owned. But it IS a hybrid! This means that instead of 13 mpg, we get about 20. So hey. Maybe I was super judgmental, prior to having kids, about any persons who became parents and then stopped using bicycles and public transportation. Yeah, well, definitely: I'll admit it, I was totally judgmental and annoying... Whaddaya want me to do now, grovel??

(It is a really nice car. Thanks, Grandma Lily!)

-- During the fall, I took my first online class through Coursera. It was produced by the University of Colorado/Boulder, and was entitled "Introduction to the Human Microbiome". I thoroughly enjoyed it (I like to make sure I win every quiz!) - and was also extremely glad that I was taking only one class. I cannot imagine going to school full-time plus parenting full-time. I actually don't think it's possible, although I imagine there are those who have done it. Recently I signed up for an "ear training" class through the Berklee School of Music, and it's fun to keep my promise-to-myself of reserving just a tiny bit of my brain space for music theory.

-- This winter is a little crazy. I can't believe how much snow there is (it's currently taller than Eliza!), and how long the pond's been frozen. For awhile we all kept it cleared, and folks were skating around on the best ice I can remember in all the years we've lived at EcoVillage. But now the drifts are daunting, and mostly we're all just shaking our heads and wishing for Springtime. There was this one really homeschooly morning, though, when the temperatures got up into the 30s, and Ben and Jem and a friend decided to go exploring and offered to take Eliza. Over an hour later, they returned, having discovered a whole bunch of owl pellets in the woods, and Eliza excitedly brandished her collection of minute mouse skulls that she'd unearthed herself.


And now, while the Northeastern U.S. appears to be heading into a mini-ice-age, in our cozy house we are waiting: sometime in the next month we hope to welcome our newest family member. Who will it be?? A Happy and Healthy and Resilient Baby, that's what I'm hoping for... Feel free to wish us luck!!

Love, Sarabeth