“Worry is the interest you pay on a debt you don’t owe.”
—Dr. Bill Hang, my orthodontist
Ivy: “Knock knock!”
Jem: “Who’s there?”
Jem: “Butt who?”
Ivy: “My butt, right here!”
“I want a ponytail SPROUTING OUT of my head, wik wis, and one in the back, right here, poking up to the sky.”
Ivy: “Kitty won’t eat!”
Me: “Oh, darn, what will you do?”
Ivy, definitively: “She’ll eat. [Grabbing the portable speaker.] And she can have music. It’s good for her!”
“I’m hungry for a banana.” Indicating her bowl at mealtime: “I’m getting stuffed wif this stuff!”
Waking up from a nap: “My buns are cute!”
Observation while nursing: “I’m not going to fit when I bigger!”
Ivy, (re-)learning to fall asleep by herself: “I’m scared of my bed!”
Touching the frozen burger meat: “It’s kind of shivering to my hands!”
Be careful! I can put water in that cup, Ivy. “No! I can! I’m a great filler.”
On the trampoline, after learning she could jump ten more times before giving somebody else a turn: “Eighteen, fifteen DONE!”
A song: “Jem’s underwear on my head!”
Another song (after we encountered a “slowdownduetoacrash” on 210): “We not gonna hit anover car...not should hit a car…not should hit a car…”
In bed at night: “Ewiza - do you not want to sleep?”
“Hey, Jemmie! Knock knock!” (Who’s there?) “Earrings!” (Earrings who?) “Earrings to go in yours ears!”
Waking up from her nap (during which she still wears diapers, Just In Case): “I see…sometimes I saw…some people don’t take their diapers off; why?” Well, Ivy, some babies have to wear them all the time because they don’t remember how to use the potty. “Maybe I should try that!” Oh, no, Ivy, definitely not! You KNOW how to use the potty, and you wouldn’t want to walk around all the time with a diaper on - at least, I sure wouldn’t want you to…
Waking up from a nap a few days later; insistently: “Some people don’t take their diapers off; WHY?” Well, remember, Ivy, some babies get used to wearing diapers and they don’t remember how to pee in a potty. “But WHY? Do they not have crotches? An’ do they not know how to pull up their pants?”
Ivy is closing in on her third birthday (in March), and is growing and changing fast. She is often frustrated by all the things that everyone else can do but she can’t. (A recent attempt of Ivy’s, to learn to put on her mittens, led Jem to conclude: “It’s a good thing we don’t live in a really cold climate!”) She stomps and yells and also says the cutest things, and still wants hugs and reassurance that she can be a baby, except god forbid you reassure her at the wrong time, because that is a recipe for tears.
She does this thing where she picks an outfit to wear, slooowly instructs you in how to dress her, and when she’s all cozily and fashionably dressed...she takes off at least half of the clothes, scatters them in five different locations, and announces, “I’m hot!” Never mind if it’s forty degrees with 40 MPH winds - “I’m hot!” says Ivy. No amount of begging or cajoling or reasoning will get her to put the clothes back on. “I’m hot, Mama! An’ I look cute like this!” Until...she’s freezing, and you are (meaning I am) either in the middle of working with one of her siblings, or are greasily picking a chicken carcass, or you have just personally decided to visit the restroom...well then, “I’m FREEZING!” says Ivy forlornly. “An’ I need you to help me. I don’t know where are my pants.”
This might seem amusing, but it is amazingly annoying. And it happens All. Day. Long.
It is good that we all don’t remain two for the rest of our lives.
There is nobody who can live with a suffering family member without Feeling The Stress. And anytime Eliza’s been especially suffering in recent months, Ivy suffers, too - as manifested by frequent tantrums and copy-cat not-eating. At least I think it’s copy-cat behavior. I pray it is. (Which is similar to wishing for a Better sort of migraine headache, or Better diarrhea.)
Drawing upon my vast experience with such matters, I’d estimate that Ivy’s less-than-optimal caloric intake, coupled with her total pain-in-the-ass asking-to-eat followed by refusing-to-consume-her-meals, indicates less than 15% odds that she has an actual eating disorder, while it’s 85% likely her behavior is simply an insanely frustratingly constant attention-getting scheme: “I can’t feed! I need YOU to feed me!” she says. Then she spits out the bites we offer.
This triggers an episode of DTSD (During Traumatic Stress Disorder) in Ivy’s mother approximately 110% of the time.
I can’t believe that Jeff and I have been feeding children by spoon and bottle for over twelve years. That is longer than it takes to gestate six elephants! That is enough time, surely God, for Jeff and I to atone for our sins. Why, why, WHY does this madness continue?
I sometimes wonder what it would be like to have children who had “quiet personalities.”
A Small Victory
For too many months to count, a nightly ritual for Jeff or me was to sit - for between one and two excruciating hours - next to two wriggling, squirming, and whining girls, until they finally fell asleep. The deep and growing resentment in my heart was beginning to ruin my hope for enjoying my children’s company when they awoke each morning, because it felt like the daily sum total of “grownups’ quiet time” was about twenty minutes, and that it could only be lengthened at the expense of parental Sleep.
So I finally visited the babysleepsite.com . Again. Yes, even though I’ve been putting children to bed for almost fourteen years now, the freaking Sleep Issue brings me to my knees. A quick visit to the forums reminded me that Jeff and I do NOT have to remain our children’s “sleep associations” in order for them to be nurtured and well-rested individuals - in fact, quite the opposite!
The next night, we explained to the girls that after each Nightly Getting Ready For Bed, Mama and Papa were henceforth going to get up and walk about the cabin and have a tiny semblance of Grown up time.
Eliza gave this two seconds of thought, and fell asleep in her own bed.
Ivy complained and cried vigorously for several nights, but then realized we weren’t backing down...and miracle of miracles, she stopped yowling! And has been falling asleep in her own bunk for over a month now.
I’d like to say that our Improving Sleep Situation reflects the way our children Totally Appreciate the Value in having two loving parents who also love each other and prioritize self-care and a loving, fun-filled marriage. In reality, Making Choices in Amaral Matilsky land often feels like Crisis-Management, and prioritizing self care always feels like more of a compromise than the Advice Gurus promise.
The boys are now eager for Big Kid Time, after the girls go to bed, so they can have Papa all to themselves for as long as they can convince him to play cards and read books and and and…
Seriously, though, Jeff and I have been watching way more TV shows and movies (using headphones so as to pretend Ivy has fallen asleep already), which everyone knows is key to a healthy, well-adjusted adulthood!
It’s also very difficult to feel like you have abandoned your children to the Scary Scary Night when you live in a camper and every single bed in the place is fewer than five feet from the General Living Area.
Authenticity is very important when you’re playing pretend:
Eliza: “I’ll strap you into the pretend car, Ivy, with a REAL seatbelt!”
Ivy: “NO! I’m not the real baby! I’m the real mother!”
Her fingers covered by a rainbow of paint: “That’s what happens when you’re becoming an artist!”
“The Hanukkah candles are a mess and a beauty!”
Painting: “This is sort of the way a real raindrop looks, but I’m showing it up big.”
Creating a marker-drawn collage of colorful letters: “I love wording!!”
Navigating the social jungle: “The girls were not letting Ollie play because he was a boy, and they said that only girls could play in the playground, but I told them that boys go on the slide all the TIME when they’re not looking, and so they should let Ollie play. I was afraid they’d be angry about that…”
Recently, heartbreakingly: “I wish you could feel what I feel, so you would KNOW how bad my sickness is.”
“Nobody seems to feel bad about me having a sickness.” That’s crazy, Eliza! We HATE the sickness! We want it gone and we want you feeling GOOD! “But nobody feels bad about [pities] me!” We do! And it’s also really hard because your sickness causes you to behave in ways that are really unpleasant. But you know that we will vanquish this sickness no matter how long it takes, right?
“This food looks good, but my sickness says it will taste bad.”
“...When I grow up, I think I’ll look for someone who’s good looking AND who’s a really nice guy, to marry. Like Papa! He is. I don’t know how I’d find someone, though. I was thinking about marrying X., but he says I might die younger because I get colds - I mean because I’m sick and can’t eat and stuff - and I keep thinking about that conversation and I don’t like it.”
As soon as Eliza’s body and brain give her a break from suffering, she fits so many hobbies and interests into her days, mixed with a beautiful curiosity and challenging doses of self-doubt, that I’m left scrambling to keep up.
We’ve recently read a few kids’ chapter books that were written a generation ago. Eliza loves them. Although I’m not sure my offspring notice this, books about kids’ lives in the 1950s and before often feature a version of childhood where young people regularly get bored, and do NOT have parental input nor interaction all the time - or even most of the time. These kids-of-a-prior-generation about whom we read are independent and super resourceful, and unlike most any children I meet today. It’s interesting that many of these books feature protagonists who are ordinary - the only “special” part is that they are the hero or heroine of the story, rather than so many of today’s novels featuring protagonists who are “chosen” by some higher power and given magical skills, etc., which make them more Remarkably and Amazing than the rest of the kids/people on the planet.
I like the idea of observing the Special in the ordinary, and the Beauty in uniqueness…without requiring a permit from above.
Eliza has been a very busy lady this fall; more on our homeschooling adventures in a future update.
Okay, so then our friends took this short video, which makes it totally seem like all the kids are actually leading charmed 1950’s Children’s Novel-style lives, so I try not to beat myself up over all the mistakes I’m making:
Jem! It’s freezing! Why don’t you put on more clothes?! “Too much work.” How much colder would it have to be to get you to put on a hoodie? “A lot more.”
“Mama, what would happen if you barfed while you were drinking?”
Ivy, learning to put on her mittens, could not get her thumb in despite a solid half-hour trying. “Good thing we didn’t get her gloves!” cracked Jem.
Jem has been a busy boy this fall! More on our homeschooling Stuff later.
I consider it a good day when Ben spontaneously switches between various activities. These last few months, Ben’s own interests have gone through phases such as “magic tricks,” “card games and solitaire,” “Diary of a Wimpy Kid novel reading,” “Purchasing and organizing an encyclopedic book collection,” and “Other book-focused activities.” He’s also trying to follow directions in a book that promises to teach him to lucid-dream.
Ben has been broadening his daily activities this fall, which is a big challenge for him and also a necessary requirement according to his mother (who has managed to live through nearly fourteen years of Being Ben’s Mother, and so gets to call the shots sometimes). More on our homeschooling life later.
Recently, Jem wrote an update about his Life Happenings, and sent this to his extended family. This is what he wrote:
Ben's radish sprouts sprouted. H O O R A Y
We just got our "evolution and classification of life" poster laminated yesterday.
Here's a joke: A man walks into a bar. And he says, "ouch." That's not the main joke. Here's the main joke:
A man walks into a bar and says, "All lawyers are assholes."
Then someone at the back of the room says, "Hey you're insulting my kind!"
And then the person who walked in says, "What are you, a lawyer?"
And he says, "No I'm an asshole."
Ha ha ha. Papa told it to us. Isn't it funny?
Yesterday we went to a marijuana shop. but they didn't let us buy anything because we didn't have a certificate thingamajig.
On Monday, Mama accidentally left our propane tank at the propane tank filler upper place but then some asshole stole it.
Mama is going to send two pictures. one of them will be of Ivy bouncing a ball, And the other one will be a surprise. He he he
It didn’t take long for Jem’s devoted father and mother to realize that Parental Clarification was necessary. Jeff took on this task:
Portions of Jem's email might perhaps require some esplainin'.
Sara's visit to the dispensary was for CBD oil (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cannabidiol), a derivative of cannabis or hemp. I'll let Sara explain the potential medical uses, but I'll note here that it does not contain THC. So we are not visiting dispensaries for recreational pot. Also, these substances are legal where we are camping (and in some other states).
Secondly, we don't know for sure that the person or persons who took our full propane tank were assholes. They may have been very nice people who thought the propane was free... Nah, they should have known better.
Love to you all,
> Dear family,
> [Benign stuff about radishes and educational posters.]
> [Slightly lewd joke about lawyers. Who are people, too.]
> [Grandparent heart attack inducing anecdote about visiting a 'marijuana shop'.]
> [Judgemental indictment of propane thief.]
> Mama is going to send two pictures. one of them will be of Ivy bouncing a ball, And the other one will be a surprise. He he he
Fun Stuff Watched By Jeff and Sara this Fall:
The Odd Couple
Death at a Funeral
The Good Wife (Well-done lawyer show, tightly-written plot)
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (You should watch the first season, currently on Amazon Prime - it is amazing!!)
An average day in our house comes with choices. Practice Personal Growth? Drink heavily? Shout loudly?
Or make pancakes. Because a few times a month, a person likes to chew on bread-like things. Even when such foods bring out strange addictive tendencies in a person’s children. Who absolutely ADORE pancakes.
Cooking gluten-free pancakes that are nutritious and delicious can be a challenge, but in our house there are Other Things To Think About. Eliza gets a Pancake Glint in her eyes and can’t stop salivating. “Those smell SOOOOOOO good!” she says, practically moaning, as though she hasn’t had food in three years. “WHEN are they going to be ready? They smell like the best thing in the WORLD! I’m just STARVING! [Even if she’s been spoon-fed a meal an hour previously.] Why can’t they be done NOW?” Eliza stands there, watching and moaning and commenting, until pancakes are served.
Meanwhile, Ivy is usually quite hungry since she didn’t eat her previous meal at all - GAH!!!! But as usual - and now she wants lunch (obviously! Because, pancakes). I️ can’t back down, as usual, not ever, cuz that would set A Precedent, so I️ end up feeding Ivy her abandoned breakfast while making the pancake batter.
DTSD, here I come.
While Eliza salivates over raw batter on one side (“It will taste sooooo good”), Ivy chews slooooowly on my other side (“STILL chewin’!” she says each time I offer her a bite of breakfast. “See?” She opens her mouth wide, so I definitely can see).
But while Eliza is salivating over the pancakes, her Sickness is pushing her Food Aversion Buttons. “Yuck!” she says, wrinkling her nose in disgust. “Is that Ivy’s FOOD in that bowl? I want that bowl NOT in front of me.”
“Eliza!!” I say exasperatedly. “It’s the food we all ate for breakfast!!” I try to arrange Ivy’s bowl and my cooking bowls and measuring implements and ingredients to avoid two squirming girls’ elbows, and meanwhile Ivy wants to help crack eggs, and actually Oh My, she IS cracking eggs, and Eliza wants to help cuz Ivy’s helping, and when I say, “Ack! NO!” she bursts into tears, and I’m trying to make two batches and calculate quantities and can’t remember how many plantains I already blenderized, and Eliza is crying cuz she’s so INCREDIBLY hungry that her stomach might “burst!!”, and Jem has been not-starting his three lines of a typing lesson for like three years, and asks every question he has by yelling out the door to me: “Mama! Mama mamma mama mama mama…”, and Ben keeps interrupting also, to tell me totally random jokes that he’s already told me fifty times before, and I️ want to scream “DON’T ask me any questions! PLEASE don’t help me! Don’t ask for my attention or need me in any way for just FIVE SECONDS PLEASE!!”
This actually happens for only a few short minutes, while the pancakes are being eaten.
But they are really delicious pancakes.
Sometimes I try to remember to taste them.
Happy Christmas to all!