Summer Gone By

Dear Family,

"If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are headed." --Lao Tzu

"People don't take trips, trips take people." --John Steinbeck

"I asked Robin Williams why he loved riding a bicycle so much. I'll always remember his answer, because it was wonderful and true. He said it was the closest you can get to flying." --Jason Gay


In June, Eliza turned two. Around that time, Elizaisms were kind of like these:

"Neel" = snail

"Nakkin" - napkin

"Beer" - bear

She also screamed a lot, despite her often happy demeanor and incredible smarts.

Then...on August 4th, Eliza began speaking in sentences. And since then, there's no stopping her! (Incidentally, she has graduated from speech therapy, since she now possesses language skills at a three-year-old level.) Lately she says things like:

"I want to eat chicken, Mama, acuz I want to eat chicken!"

"Lookit, Mama! Dere's a puppy in the the picture!"

Investigating a new package of hair clips: "Ope it, Mama! I want to wear it!"

"I need a sunhat...'cuz it's sunny out dere."

"I greem like dis: 'aaayyEEEEEE!' ...Acuz I was sad."

"I'm goin' out now, Mama! I already peed."

"I need to pee-pee and poo-poo, so I need the cat book [to read while sitting on the potty]."

"A dog is out there, ruffing!"

"Why no pants on, Mama?"

"I lost the otha one [dilly bean], so I want some mo-mo!"

"I want to eat my yogurt, Mama...but I'm too cold!"

Complimenting herself: "That was a good burp! ...Papa has good burps."

Looking through the Guiness Book of World Records, and coming upon a photo of a nearly-naked lady: "They have a swimsuit on right there!"

Showing me a little scrape on her hand: "Dat's my blood, maybe?"

Eliza is a Passionate lady with the knack for Loudly Saying What She Means. According to the social worker from Early Intervention, it's common for kids who first presented with health issues and developmental delays to - ahem - retain their Volatile Behaviors for a time after the developmental/health issues have resolved. So maybe the Greaming will resolve sooner than later. We can only hope.

But Eliza also comes from a long line of Passionate People, so we try to treasure her many good moments, and trust that the universe only gives people what they can handle (although I have to say, I sometimes think that the universe overestimates parents).


"Can I have more corn? It definitely agrees to me."

"It's really hard to put underwear on with only one hand when it's your left hand...but I did it!"

"The sound of the frogs at the pond sounds like 'walcher grenade'."

"Mama, you don't own me. The world does."

Gazing raptly at "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory": "Wow, it's really nice!"

"Track excavators could just break off the front of a car, the same way we can snap off the end of a green bean!"


I'm SURE we have a hiccup-forgetter...because do you EVER remember exactly when you stop hiccuping?


"Parenting is like a prison sentence, but with no possibility of parole."


Mama, what are you saying? "The same things, over and over!"

It's been a long time since I've Updated you all. And today I woke up, and knew it was the day.

On an unrelated note, I had a stiff neck. It was dark when I was woken up. And I could hear Eliza arguing irrationally in the other room, where my darling husband had gone to deal with her early-morning complaint. She ended up in our bed, which was a Problem in terms of anyone getting any actual further sleep, since she whined and kicked and pulled the covers off for the next hour and a half, at which point she...well, I've explained what a darling child she is, and yet what she did this morning after finally waking everyone up was to throw an enormous, forty-five-minute-long, inconsolable tantrum.

The last two weeks have consisted of the nicest-ever end-of-summer weather, and aside from the sunshine and breezes, the days and weeks have felt Just Packed. With many good things...but Man. Sometimes time feels like it's whirling away, and I forget to breathe.

This morning, I was trying to make lunch and breakfast at the same time, and get out the door to do our Greenstar shift and just maybe change my habit of arriving perpetually late. The one aforementioned child was yowling, and one was asking A Lot of Questions and demonstrating new karate moves, and the other one was being Exceptionally Cute and wanted me to read him a book except, in the same breath, noted that he was "STARVING to death."

When we all sat down for breakfast, everyone was reasonably calm, and ready to get ready for our day...when somebody chose a conversation topic: "But how EXACTLY do you have sex?"

We have had an eventful few months, beginning with a "vacation" that was a bit complicated by it actually being compulsory, due to the fact that (due to many complicating factors) we "owed" a home stay to a family from Belgium who would be staying in our house for several weeks.

Jeff worked extra for six weeks in advance of our "vacation," and then used all his sick/vacation time to make it possible...and we loaded up our '97 Subaru Legacy just as full as it could possibly get. Packing was a sophisticated task that took two people three hours to accomplish, and We Were Packed Full. Unpacking took just as long. We told ourselves that we were glad that we were going to Just One Place for the duration of the "vacation"...and headed off to Cape Cod, after visiting good friends in Northampton.

Getting to the tip of the Cape involved a ton more driving than Eliza really wanted to do (she's good for about fourteen minutes before things head Downhill), which caused her to scream a lot, and not sleep very well in the tent once we'd arrived - but we figured we had to give it a couple of days. And for the first few days in the Very Cramped (and Therefore Noisy) Campground, it wasn't too bad, because we spent the daylight hours with Jeff's family at their rented cottage, and the kids cavorted happily with their cousins, and the ocean was lovely and beachy and salty and all that.

But then, Grandma and Grandpa and Auntie and Uncle and The Cousins went home...and it was just us, and the forty-five thousand other Credulous Saps who were also "vacationing" in Provincetown, MA (AKA "The Pretty Little Town That Bleeds You For All You've Got, and Then Some").

The campground where we stayed was actually run by a non-profit organization, therefore "cheaper" than the private ones that charge $72/night. But it was so crowded that we were literally five feet from many neighbors on many sides, the bathrooms had a seriously stinky septic problem, and there was some sort of Domestic Dispute between our neighbors at midnight (and 3am and 5am...) that really drove home the Bad Planning that went into situating campsites ten feet away from each other. The mosquitoes were as horrible as we'd anticipated, and hand-washing our clothes every morning while swatting at bugs just did not make our "vacation" feel any more fun.

The nighttime sleeping continued to be horrible (sort of like, if you imagine five sardines in a tent, except that the sardines can wiggle and flop and wake-up and cry and pee all night long), and since we were now spending more time at the campground, trying to recuperate from the nighttimes, Eliza did even more screeching. She really didn't like that place! Ben and Jem were arguing pretty much non stop.

And the thing is, I kept looking around and noticing that lots of other people "vacationing" in Provincetown were having actual vacations, with many comfortable amenities that we, Poor Suckers, were lacking. And it's almost a cliche, the way the proprietors of countless hotels and motels and B&Bs and restaurants and and grocery stores and Tourist Attractions and parking lots are so readily available to remove amazing amounts of money from a person's wallet in places like this. These money-removers remove the money so smoothly that you almost start thinking yourself poor if you question the sanity of spending $400 per night on a hotel stay, or $20 to park a car, or $9 for a quart of yogurt.

We thought about sticking it out for the full three weeks. But the day after Jeff's family departed, we spent a rainy morning in the Wellfleet library with a whining Eliza, got stuck in traffic on the way back, couldn't get away from the mosquitoes except in our screen tent (which got small after awhile despite it's awesomeness), spent the afternoon with two whining and arguing boys and a baby napping in a tent that was rapidly becoming situated in a mini-lake, and went out to dinner that cost $115.

And the day after that (Day #8 at the Cape), Jeff woke up in a puddle of urine (not his), I woke up in a puddle of water (not mine), Eliza wouldn't stop screaming, Jem and Eliza were swelling up with bug bites, and Ben was not exactly having fun either. Jeff and I spent three hours doing laundry, dishes, and packing our sopping wet gear in the rain, while trying to prevent our small children from getting eaten alive by the horrible bugs.

At the Provincetown Monument, which we decided to climb in order to try to salvage the day (and because the boys really wanted to), they had decided to jack up the parking prices more than double (to $25!!), due to a large bicycling event that day. We decided to park down the hill, in the regular lot instead...where the guy in the front booth decided to charge us extra. When Jeff questioned him, he said, "Well, it's usually five dollars...UNTIL you decided to strap seventeen bikes to the back of your car!"

Jeff was ready to take the guy right there. Which would have been really bad for our adrenals, so I paid the idiot quickly. At which point we parked, found that the mosquitoes were nearly as bad in town as out, and climbed up to the Monument on foot...where we paid $19 to climb the structure itself (this privilege would have been $32 except we had a coupon).

We had lunch at a restaurant afterward (cost: $95), and hightailed it to my parents' house in Prattsburgh, NY, which involved way more hours in the car with a screaming two-year-old than I will ever care to re-live. (We did have a really fun pitstop in Albany on Monday, at Hoffman's Playland - a super awesome, retro amusement park that is geared for tiny kids (even though the boys had a great time too). And since it was Jem's birthday the next day, this was about all his exhausted parents could muster. It was really great that we were about to arrive at a place where his grandparents could fete him in the customary Birthday Manner.)

The final part of our "vacation" actually became a Vacation, what with actual mosquito-free accommodations, additional loving adults to pay attention to our children (and us!), and separate beds for each sardine. It also helped that sometime during the traumatic past week, Eliza had mustered the ability to finally start talking (see "Elizaisms," above). She slept well for the rest of the "vacation," and didn't do nearly so much Greaming.

And luckily, due to us having complained to the campground office about the Domestic Incident, they refunded us the last two-thirds of our campground reservation, which was ordinarily not refundable, and which totaled more than $400...

We learned a lot! And will never try to "stay cheaply" in a place like Provincetown, under the pretense of "going camping," ever again... We will also make sure that on any future "vacations," we are better set up to travel (in order to cut down on the 3 hours of pack up/unpack time).

In Prattsburgh, we got to tour Mom and Dad's new "Escape" travel trailer - Mom reminds me that by the time I had a third sibling, all of our cross-country camping/traveling was done with the airstream travel trailer they'd obtained secondhand.

And during our time in Prattsburgh, two novels. I have been reading novels ever since we came home, too. I've decided that "novels," for now, are going to become a placeholder for all the luxurious and grand things that I love doing. Life needs more space for these things...

After our Trip, we felt like real, seasoned travelers. When we came home, at the end of 3.5 weeks, it felt like we had SO many clothes options beyond the three changes we brought with us! And when we went back to Prattsburgh the following weekend, for Mom's Birthday Celebration, it felt like a relaxing weekend getaway, hanging out with Athena and Sudip and Loren, who came to visit for the weekend too.

So as I discussed in great detail a little while ago , many new and interesting things have resulted from our continuing dietary adventures.

I am learning so very much about some underlying issues surrounding mental health, and why I believe that neither stress management, therapy, nor anti-depressants are treatments that address the Big Picture. Unfortunately, as you may guess, I'm developing more questions than answers, and I'm especially gun-shy about drawing conclusions, even correlations, between what I'm researching, the opinions I'm forming, the experiments I'm conducting...and any alleviated symptoms I or my children are experiencing.

Which means, you're not going to hear many details about all that stuff today, apart from this: In many ways, I have recently been feeling better overall than I have at any point in my life. And I'm all too aware of how I was feeling at this time last year, and what happened over last winter... And in many ways, Ben is doing amazingly well, too. This is only a tiny piece of the picture of what's been happening around here, and I'm sure I'll muster the courage to challenge my superstitions, and state some hypotheses about why this is so...but for now, I'm trying to take things moment by moment, and not take anything for granted. Since it could change at any moment...

And while things are great overall, some of our various and collective symptoms have been super challenging and unrelenting, and so I simultaneously try to appreciate many blessings, and research PANDAS and infection and inflammation and gut health and our continued periodic and bizarre "sicknesses"...and wonder what interesting research will turn up in the next weeks and months and years, as people begin to gain a rudimentary understanding of How We Work...

This fall, I told the boys that they couldn't choose to just Not Go To School. And while I basically forced them to try a bunch of things they were reluctant to do, my dreams are now being realized: they are finally discovering new interests and passions! And at the most very basic, they are getting involved in activities that are preventing a lot of the Horrible Squabbling and Terrible Family Dynamics which were developing last winter, and which were threatening my sanity, not to mention my desire to homeschool them.

This fall, Ben and Jem are doing Primitive Pursuits, Homeschool Spanish Class, Karate, and for the first time ever, they have had some solo playdates. Jem is additionally "doing gourds" with our neighbor, a fantastic gourd artist, and is dabbling in learning the recorder and hand sewing. Ben has been helping me do my work shift at Westhaven Farm, and he's dying to go to the Cornell Origami Club (if I could just motivate myself to want to go!). In less than a month, homeschool ice-skating begins, and both boys cannot wait. We are attempting a series of "field trips" this fall, to get us out - even if only to local playgrounds.

During our "vacation" we read the first Harry Potter book, and now we've been going through "Charlie and The Chocolate Factory," "The Great Glass Elevator," and now "George's Marvelous Medicine." They love the Ivy and Bean books, and many, many others. Eliza loves books too - she listens to most any storybook we read, which is SO great and wonderful (and Eliza is additionally going to a baby music class with her friends Ella and Heidi).

I've been getting DVDs from the library that explore the lives of children in other countries, which has sparked some interesting conversations, as well as a chance for me to read books to Jem about Cultural Things that are very enriching. And, while Eliza plays with a friend (isn't it crazy? I have a two-year-old who actually begs to have playdates!! It's REALLY a good thing to have more than one child, so that you realize that it's Not Just You...), Jeff has been spending one-on-one time with each boy, every Friday, doing homeschooly-things like math and reading and writing and robotics and juggling and so forth. This is so positively great, to have his enthusiasm and attention focused on the boys, while I do our Greenstar shift and have a little Time Out.

Also, I am taking a weekly modern dance class series that will culminate in a little showcase next month, and this is really a lot of fun. :)

Family News:

--Since it's Loren's last year at Cornell, I'm suddenly realizing that I don't want it to whiz by without seeing him! Jeff and I had a really fun time attending a concert with Loren, last week, for Jeff's birthday, and we hope hang out a lot more before he heads off to his advanced physics and math research studies, wherever that may be.

--Dad has a photo in the permanent collection of the Ackland Art Museum that has been selected to appear in a major upcoming show! He says, "The checklist of works...reads like a veritable history of virtually every prominent photographer in the 19th and 20th centuries":

and a fairly good reproduction of the photograph at:

--I keep telling Ben and Jem that when they someday get to hang out with their cousin David, they are going to like him a lot: . (Also, congratulations to Dave and Michelle on their recent wedding!!)

--As far as I can tell, Athena and Sudip simultaneously practice acro-yoga while interpreting for the courts while attending nursing school and friends' weddings every other weekend while also going camping and eating at fine restaurants, and travel the world while also doing yoga teacher training, physical therapy, and taking taking bike rides. I'm only half-kidding - their calendar is packed. I keep threatening to someday move back to NJ, if we could find a two-family house where we'd live next-door to Athena and Sudip, who could support us all while babysitting for their adorable nephews and niece. I mean, who wouldn't be into an arrangement like that?!

--Matt is currently working very hard at his job, recently got a promotion, and it sounds like he may be entering deeper into the fascinating depths of Religion and Spirituality. I'm hoping he will start sending out Updates like he used to when he was a teenager, letters that caused Jeff and me roll on the floor, hysterically laughing...

--Jake is busy doing Political Stuff, which I think is Very Stressful but also seems Very Fulfilling, and I'm very glad there are people out there who have energy like his.

--Mom is busy with lots of Minyan stuff, and a zillion other projects, and is as I type, preparing for Yom Kippur.

--Grandma Lily has finally gone to a Place More Calm than here. May her journey be as strong and interesting as her life.

L'Shanah Tovah. G'mar Hatimah Tovah.

May your New Year, if today it is new for you, be inscribed in the book of life. And if today is just the continuation of your old year, may it continue joyfully and well, or at the very least, interestingly!

Love, Sara