Summer Manners for Nomads

Dear Family,

“The unacceptable does not become more acceptable if it is accepted by increments.”
— David Frum

“No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.”
—H.L. Mencken (paraphrased)

“Gold didn’t help the Jews or Germans under Hitler. It was just confiscated. As was their real estate before it was bombed to dust. The only thing that helped people survive these kinds of extreme events was extreme perseverance and flexibility.”
—J Collins

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Ivyisms:

Still using her W-for-L-and-Th substitutions, Ivy cracks us up daily with statements such as:

“I’m a wot hot.”

“Wis teeny widdle wabbit wuvs me!”

“Wat’s the tallest house I ever seen! Witches live in castles - I bet wat’s a witch castle.”

“Mama! Mama! I wuv you! An’ I wike roses.”

Ooh, smell these roses, Ivy! “Uuuummmmmm! Nice! Weese one’s smell like pickles! An wat one smells like mushrooms.”

One of Ivy’s linguistic exceptions is “F” for “TH” in the word “throat,” which becomes “froat.” Awhile back, when she wasn’t feeling well and our friends had recently been exposed to strep, I said, Uh oh, Ivy, do you maybe have a sore throat?? It turned out that Ivy didn’t have a sore throat at all, and it was actually a bit of intestinal gas that she was experiencing (in the usual abdominal area). But ever since that one episode of confusion, and no matter how many times I try to explain the difference, Ivy always announces, “My froat is hurting!” when she has to poop.

Ivy can now ride her two-wheeled bike like nobody’s business, and She Loves It! Also, conversations with her are fascinating as well as sometimes very frustrating and amusing:

Coloring enthusiastically with a yellow marker: “Color, Color...it’s a banana!”

Watch where you’re going, IVY!! Stay to the right on the bike path! “I know. I’m on a different side of right!”

Watching Jem pick blackcaps: “He might get more berries for us, cuz he’s a wonderful child!”

Noticing a convertible driving by: “Somebody’s car doesn’t have a ceiling!”

Sometimes, Ivy being the exact opposite of a shrinking-flower leads to peer interactions Requiring Adult Intervention: “Amelia was GOIN’ to hit me, so I WHACKED her first!”

But just when one worries about Ivy’s future and whether she might someday commit heinous crimes without repentance, comments such as these point toward brighter possibilities: “You are my WONDERFULEST Mama! I wuv you [wrapping her arms around me and delivering back-pats]. I’m gonna keep you forever! And when you are old, you will die. But you’re not old, so you won’t die now.”

“I took my nap wif my eyes open.”

“I made a cake. It’s maded out of sand - yuck! Ha!”

To Grandma: “You have a cute face!”

Ivy’s current favorite book: “Green Hams and Eggs”

“It was hard to reach! But I have big mushels.”

Looking up at the clouds: “The whole WORLD is moving!”

Concerning her hunger: “I’m dyin’ to def for a banana!”

“When the sun is off, it’s dark; when it’s on, it’s not-dark.”

“You have a gigantic bed cuz you giant!”

“I’m so hungry I’m gonna explode to def! Def [death] is not a country. It’s an ocean.”

Gazing at a magazine ad showing cocktails artfully garnished: “…Is it about blueberries an’ peas?”

Concerning the amazingly wonderful (to Ivy) fact that the toilet in a friend’s house is at the top of a flight of steps: “Why do they make the toilet at the top of the steps? So when you have to pee, you get to go to the steps BY YOURSELF an go up and go pee in the toilet!”

“I’m a HUGE butterfly, an’ she’s a mof.”

——

Elizaisms:

Drinking: “Thank you water, you are awesome!”

Singing: “...Dresses are awesome, I love them more than pants! (I didn’t mention anything about tights, because I sorta like them as much as dresses)...”

Dining out at a Sushi restaurant: “It’s delectable!”

Composing a song: “You gotta save the world quicker, because lots of people died!”

“I feel like there’s a hundred giant boulder-rocks RIGHT ON TOP OF ME. And I am BAD!”

I’ve been attempting to recognize when Eliza’s “Grumpy Fits” begin. I can’t always tell the exact moment when she crosses the line between normal kvetching and Nearly Completely Irrational gibbering/whining/crying/sobbing, but it’s much better when one does NOT engage with whatever topic she’s latched onto at those times. (Such as: a perceived desire to walk home in the rain (despite exhaustion and the fact that she’s currently lying on the concrete, limp with sadness). Or, her profound surety that everyone around her hates her, or she is “bad”, or she is ugly.) When she’s feeling like this, her rigid behavior and whining is out in force, never to be satisfied - something is always, always wrong, until the “seizure” fades, so it’s important to ignore the Problems and soothe the anxiety.

After an episode is over, I’m usually not as settled as she is. She’ll call to me from across the room and my startle reflex is strong, even though her announcement is likely to be something like, “Mama?! I love you!”

Recently Eliza was doing this thing where she hit herself repeatedly while making self-flagellating remarks, and when I got closer to her grumpy mouth, it turned out that while she was hitting herself, she was calling herself a “pillbug.” Which almost made me laugh out loud, even while I was trying to seriously remind to be Gentle With Her Body.

When she came out of the funk later, I hugged her and said, “How’s my sweetbug?!”

“But I’m a PILLbug!” she said, remembering suddenly that she was actually in a funk. “You said so!”

“No, I actually said your BEHAVIOR was that of a pillbug, while YOU are a very sweet and smart girly, and that it’s REALLY important to notice the difference!”

And she was even able to laugh with me then, till the next time.

She continues to improve on Dr. Nathan’s protocol, and we’re continuing with and adding to her supplements. She’s done a lot of smiling this spring and summer, while we stay out of buildings as much as possible, try to feed her exactly the right foods in exactly the right quantities, make sure she has rest and downtime, deal with her frequent outbursts and Downswings, and don’t over-fill her days while also trying to make sure she gets good daily exercise in clean, outdoor air. Super simple, Easy Peasy!

It’s best not to ask my opinion concerning What It Takes To Nurture Health for current generations of children...

——

An Interview with Eliza:

"I love Wellesley Island, and I love Ithaca, and I love umbrellas!

"I love parasols (they're like umbrellas but they're not supposed to go in the rain), strawberries, things that are made up like fairies and mermaids, and I like people with ice powers. I sort of like lions and tigers. I love Mama and Papa and Ben and Jem and Ivy! I love amusement parks, pretty dresses, playing with people who have the same sickness as I do - or I would like it if there was someone I knew who did have it.

"I like going outside in the rain and snow, and I love eating except it's hard. I love pan d'quejo, and I love pizza and pancakes and cakes and mochi, and I like wood sorrel. I wish we had a big plant of it, and then I wouldn't need to have pills of vitamin C! I have a hundred more things but right now I want to stop right here and start again tomorrow."

——

Jemmerisms:

“They should put moving sidewalks everywhere, because then everyone would go places and be HAPPY!”

—-

Jefferisms:

After an aborted attempt to visit the restroom facilities in a Historic (and somewhat moldering) Building: “Sweet Dear Lord Baby Jesus did you SEE that basement?!”

“I’ve decided I’m retiring.”

——

Recently, Ivy fell and got her leg tangled in her bike. In the moments during which I was running to her, I was reminded of a time many years ago when something similar happened to Ben (details were different, but his leg was stuck and he was howling). I was a new mom, and the woman I was chatting with at the time was an experienced mother of TWO babies who had made it past toddlerhood, and also she was a daycare provider. So when she leapt forward and began to tug and yank on Ben’s leg, I thought she knew Best Practices for Getting Children Unstuck. It took me longer than I care to admit to realize that not only did she NOT know what she was doing, but she was also hurting my child - and all we had to do to unstick Ben’s leg was to rotate it gently.

I decided two things that night long ago: Don’t Panic when my child’s limbs get tangled; and Really Try To Avoid feeling intimidated by Professionals.

Anyway, while I quickly untangled the shrilly screaming Ivy from her bicycle, I thought perhaps that small increases in parental confidence result in a singular benefit for Child #4 vs. Child #1. (Yay! At least now I can identify one.)

(Classic physics principle to refer to when child’s limbs are stuck: “if it slid in somehow, there is no need to forcibly wrench it out now.”)

——

I feel like I haven’t written a Family Update in about fifteen years, and it’s only been a few months. But what a few months it’s been…

(Here are a few photos from the winter and spring. Note how incredibly perfect most everything looks, and how smily all the people are. Then please further remember to note how we hardly ever photograph the moments in between the moments.) Winter: https://photos.app.goo.gl/Shc7EgDqsbuiGg6c2 and Spring: https://photos.app.goo.gl/RyYQaBnKNnenhXx58 .

See, a few months ago, Jeff and I were having such a challenging time just surviving, let alone finding Balance, while homeschooling, managing Jeff’s business (and his own concerns with Distraction and Burnt-Out-ness), meeting “special” health and educational needs, living full-time in a 26-foot travel trailer (parked in a climate that is fairly suitable for outdoor living, yet extremely distant from extended family), preparing nutrient-dense anti-inflammatory meals, avoiding exposure to indoor air and most buildings, continuing with Eliza- and Ivy-daily-feeding (and periodic tantrumming) marathons…that our good friends in the desert launched a sort of Friendly Intervention. “We’re worried about you,” they said sincerely, and then they added something like: “we want to help you figure out ways to get more Downtime and Help and Relaxation so that nothing Really Bad happens.”

They had a point. Sometimes it feels like our Amaral Matilsky Family Lifestyle consists almost entirely of fragile ideals that come across as anti-social (and are frequently isolating).

I mean, who does this?! “Hi, it’s so nice to meet you! We totally want to hang out with you, and your kids seem really nice, but we don’t eat processed food and have a special diet, and right now we’re off nightshades and most nuts and definitely eat hardly any refined sugar and very little grains and any rice that we do eat must be prepared properly. So yeah, please don’t offer my kids snacks. Also, it has nothing to do with your housekeeping, but we don’t go into houses much, even though you said Please Come In so sincerely - we can’t really do that unless you happen to know that you’ve never had water damage or leaky pipes or damp in the basement. Also, we don’t do scented products or perfumes or laundry detergents, and also please no incense or campfires because my child Totally Reacts. Oh, and video games are Not A Thing we do much, and Ivy’s nap is in the middle of the day and I spend most of my life organizing around cooking and mealtimes (did I mention that I have to spoon-feed my six-year-old and my three-year-old has been known to go through days-long periods of intense, long-lasting tantrums? Nothing personal), and it’s so hard to get us out the door…maybe we could have a sweet little outdoor Socializing Session in the Desert at our place! Hey, where are you going?! Don’t you want to hang out?! We really actually like you a lot!!”

So yeah.

After the initial helpful brainstorm with our friends, plus some actual physical support in the form of babysitting so we could take a few deep breaths each week, Jeff and I had an Honest Discussion About Priorities. Things were really feeling unsustainable.

At which point we made the obvious choice: Jeff would drive our camper across the country at the end of May, while I flew to Boston with the kids (staying for eight days until he arrived). Then, we would stay in our friends’ yard in Northampton, Mass. for a month, up till the point when Ben and Jem and I embarked upon a ten-day bicycle tour from New Haven, CT to North Truro, MA. At the end of the bike tour, Jeff and the girls would drive the camper to North Truro, where the rest of the Amaral family would also arrive for their annual beach vacation. Following two weeks on the Cape, we would spend a week in southern CT.

This campsite in CT is where we currently are.

——

I don’t totally understand why Jeff and I attempt the many things that we do, although every one of our decisions makes some sort of rational sense from a certain perspective(s). Maybe it has a teensy bit to do with us each being a perfectionist and unwilling to let go of any of our often mutually exclusive goals.

And the thing is, we’re totally not done with our crazy summer.

Following this week in CT, we will attend Matt and Michelle’s wedding (yay!) in NJ. This will be followed by a quick jaunt to upstate NY, where we will stay in Ithaca for four weeks (joined by Luna for most of that time! Yay!!). Then, we make our way back to northern CA for several doctor appointments. Then comes a week and a half in southern CA so I can get gum surgery. (Not yay!) This brings us to October 1, at which point Jeff will have taken ten weeks off from work, I will have newly renovated gum tissue on my entire lower jaw (for a sadly large price tag - double not-yay), the kids will be ready to jump into our California Homeschooling Adventures (and we will become actual Californians!), and Jeff and I will try once again to find a “balanced” way to approach our daily work.

I am personally hoping that we will all survive. If I prayed regularly, I’d be praying for us now…

I sure would love to hear from other families in situations like ours, who could share hints and tips as we embark upon our third year of full-time RVing and mold-avoidance. Please do share how you are making It All Work!

Details on (and photos of) various portions of our journey below, and forthcoming.

——
——

Before we headed across the country at the end of May, Maya helped me discover what we were totally needing: Unschoolers Finishing School. What a brilliant idea! Assisted by actually useful articles such as this one https://www.parenting.com/parenting-advice/tips-tricks/10-manners-parent... , I organized several lessons (complete with playacting) and discussions prior to the kids’ and my cross-country journey. We made significant progress (some more significant than others), by discussing important tenets such as these:

Stand to show respect.

Be aware of others’ physical space in public.

Show respect for age.

Acknowledge others entering or exiting the home - including mom and dad.

Learn and remember people’s names.

Understand in advance of social gatherings whether it will be a kid-focused event or not.

Change the subject politely; take time to listen even if you’re bored.

Don’t point or stare at people (the golden rule). What makes people feel respected?

Be considerate and kind to people with disabilities as you would a person without.

Be a good guest - greet people by name - ask for what you need, but not for what you want.

Listen - it’s not always about what is being said, but about connecting with the other person(s) and allowing them to feel heard.

There were actually quite a few tears from some of my children concerning the requirement that they Up Their Manners before we traveled - but it was really worth it, and we’ll continue to discuss the themes of Respect and human connection in upcoming months.

——

The kids mostly liked the airplane trip from Palm Springs to Boston. It was the first time I’ve flown since 2011, and I could happily wait another decade before flying again. Each of the planes were teeny, and turbulence during the second flight was the worst I’ve ever experienced. The kids held onto their seats and said things like, “Wow! You didn’t tell me airplanes were like THIS!” and “This is like a roller coaster, except roller coasters are more scary!” and “Is there anything else to eat?” I mostly tried to hide my panic attack, and - in case there was any Motion Sickness - I kept mentally running logistics of Four Kids Seated in Three Different Rows…

Luckily, nobody got sick.

While in Boston, we stayed with my dear friend Sue (I used to babysit for her adorable kiddos, who are now all grown up (and adorable in adult sorts of ways) and pursuing challenging and brainy endeavors in and around the city). It was super great to see Sue, and the kids’ worry over having to learn houseguest etiquette melted away when they laid eyes on her amazing toy collection.

Sue is an amazingly generous friend: not only did we stay with her, but she loaned us her car, went grocery shopping in advance of our arrival so that I wouldn’t have to, AND she and “baby” Grace (well, she was a baby when I used to babysit for her!) picked us up from the airport. Meanwhile, as noted above, Ivy particularly loved the stairs. When she discovered that the only bathroom was located up there, and that this was a legitimate excuse for her to go up and down, she began needing to pee approximately every ten minutes. “Gotta Pee!!” she’d announce happily, and then clarify: “I need to go upstairs to pee By Myself!”

While recovering from jet lag and cooking/eating A Lot of Meals (one of which we excitingly got from a restaurant!!), the kids received a whirlwind tour of Greater Boston as steered by their harried and overwhelmed mother who was actually pretty thrilled to be back in the city that was “home” for our family between 2000-2006.

First, I showed the kids the first apartment Jeff and I had together. We visited our dear former neighbor Diane, and then we stopped by to see Deb and Betsey, our other dear former neighbors - and their “babies”, Liliana and Sophia, who are practically grown-up and super sweet. We even got a glimpse of the elusive Lila, and then had a quick dinner at Whole Foods with Rachel. I stopped short of taking the kids to my old dance studios (even the apartment-visiting was quite a stretch), but we rode on all the colors of the subway, and also spent a day each at the Museum of Science and in Harvard Square. We visited the Boston Public Gardens, as well as Newbury Street and a cool church and art gallery. We even went to see Grace’s dance recital in Copley Square, where Ben took an independent field trip to the Boston Public Library.

——

On the day we went to the New England Aquarium, I decided we were going to take five minutes extra and do a walking tour of the new Emerald Necklace greenway through the Financial district, rather than navigate two additional subways while seeing nothing much of interest.

This caused Eliza to get a bad case of grumpies (because: Change of Plans, plus she was feeling increasingly unwell during our foray into indoor Air), and so she whined and fretted and occasionally hit her own self while looking sidewise at me to see if I noticed, and kept saying, “My scab on my knee hurts SO BAD that I can’t walk any further at ALL! I will NEVER feel better again.” Stomping and whining, she followed our parade out of the subway station and into the sun.

And then we proceeded to the Emerald Necklace park and greenway, and with huge skyscrapers towering on each side, it was a gorgeous way to get from South Station to the Aquarium.

Eliza whined the entire way.

But we saw the freaking park.

Note to self: never ever again arrive at popular school group Destinations in Boston before noon. Every school in the city is likely to be represented by buses filled with thousands of students, and these Destinations are like human cacophonies of seething hyperactivity and noise. It was so loud inside the Aquarium for the first half-hour that it was physically unpleasant, and I struggled to decipher my children’s cries from those of their peers: “I have to pee!” “I’m hungry!” “We just finally made it across the seething sea of schoolchildren, so why can’t we go back in the entirely other direction?” “I want to see the sharks, Mama!! Can I can I can I mama mama mama?!” “I am a hundred billion schoolchildren, and I’m going to scream loudly for my entire field trip! YEAAAHHHHHHHHHHAAAAAAAA!!!!!!”

After half an hour I took us outside to have lunch and avoid permanent hearing loss.

Post lunchtime, half the school groups had gone home, and we could hear our own conversation again. We watched a seal training session which was really awesome, and they they told us about the reasons they work with the seals (not for human entertainment but to occupy the seals’ Very Active Brains, and allow them to do activities to help their caregivers keep them healthy in captivity…not perfect, but better than those shows where they jump through hoops and balance balls and things for no reason…).

Also, super amazing: did you know that some electric eels can produce 600 volts - enough to knock a person unconscious? Also, stingrays are actually very social. They only sting if threatened, and otherwise they swim right up to visitors and like to be “petted” underwater. And the staff feed them at the far back of the tank, so they won’t associate visitors with food - it’s the rays’ choice if they want to be petted, which they really actually do. I liked that.

Ivy is like a pee-n-go doll. “Mama, I need to pee!” “Can I have some water?” “My pee says it wants to come out.” “…no, I don’t need to pee!” “But NOW I need to pee! An’ walking bumps my pee, so it wants to come out more.” But Ivy NEVER wants to pee at the same time that everyone else does. (Well, that’s not true. She wants to pee with everyone else approximately .3% of the time.)

In preparation for leaving the Aquarium, I told everyone to go to the bathroom. “But I DON’T NEED TO PEE!” Ivy insisted, as usual. We all went outside, admired the seals and sea lions that live in the outdoor tank, and headed over to the T. “I really got to pee now,” Ivy declared as we crossed the first street.

And what, as a parent, is your recourse at these moments?! Swear futilely? Say, “I…hope you get to feel this frustrated when YOU grow up, someday!!”??

NOTHING! That is what your recourse is.

So we proceeded on our way. I was going to take everyone to the USS Constitution “on our way” back, but as we boarded the train I happened to look at the map more closely - and discovered that it was a 1+ mile walk in each direction to get from the closest T stop to the boat - which was not something we could pull off. The kids didn’t mind changing plans this time, because they got to ride escalators to get to the platform on the other side.

On the red line, Ivy fell asleep. I also noticed at our first stop that the computerized announcer was announcing one stop ahead of each actual stop - so, “Charles MGH” is what it said when approaching “Kendall/MIT”, and so on. The problem was, once I realized this fact, I completely forgot it. So when I heard, “Next stop, Harvard Square,” I shepherded all the kids off the train while carrying a limp and comatosely-sleeping Ivy (who please lord would continue to hold in her pee)…and it wasn’t until we emerged in the sunlight in _Central_ Square that I realized my mistake.

Ten minutes later, we boarded another Red Line train to Harvard, where we traipsed through the tunnels to the Bus Route #73 berth…only to find a harried MBTA officer who kept repeating, “No buses coming this way, head out to the Post Office, No buses coming this way, Post office is the stop you want.”

“Where is the Post Office?” seemed too complicated for him to answer, so I hoisted Ivy and we headed up and out. At this point, it was Ben and Jem and Eliza, me with Ivy, a blind woman with a cane, and a Very Calm man wearing very reflective sunglasses.

“I don’t know WHERE the post office is,” the man said, “But my friend is coming - he can help!”

A very calm additional man with sunglasses joined our party, and together we all took a fairly circuitous route toward figuring out where the hell was the post office. The blind woman was walking faster than I could, and while I tried to reposition Ivy, I said to Jem, “I guess the lord has seen fit to give me a strength training session today!”

Eliza overheard and said, “What does that mean?”

“It’s a bad joke. It just means that I’m tired from carrying Ivy, and my arm is about to fall off.”

At that moment, Ivy’s eyes popped open and she said wonderingly, “It is?!”

(Epilogue: After waiting 45 minutes for a very late and very full bus, we had a twenty-minute ride and then a fifteen-minute walk home. And Ben and Jem both decided that now they know why Papa Doesn’t Like Buses.”

——

Here are a few too many photos from our trip to Boston:

https://photos.app.goo.gl/9ZqGT8QAX6TAI8662

——

Jeff drove our camper non-stop across the country for six days. Well, he stopped to sleep and gas up and use the bathroom, but mostly he just drove A Lot. And two days before our seventeenth wedding anniversary, he arrived in Northampton, Massachusetts, where he backed our rig into an impossibly tight spot in the driveway belonging to an old friend from Hulbert (who is now all grown up and married and has two children, plus the aforementioned home in Northampton next to which we stayed for many weeks this summer).

Jeff wishes he had incredible stories to report from his drive, but mostly we are thrilled that he made it safely. He listened to some good podcasts and audiobooks, and learned some good strategies for efficient travel (mostly: sleep well, and drive carefully and continuously, but also take breaks and eat nourishing food along the way). And amazingly, in just over a week our home was situated under gigantic maple trees in the hot and humid Northeast.

https://photos.app.goo.gl/yQJHcy7mn6WkTrPK7

I’ve always wanted to live in Northampton. It’s such a quirky and opinionated city, surrounded by beautiful countryside (“Look at the Landscape, Ivy!” Eliza kept saying. “And look! Another landscape, Ivy, out THAT window!”), amazing farms and equally incredible food, and lots and lots of friends. We hung out with Myrrh and Joe and their girls, and enjoyed their gracious willingness to share their yard, campsite amenities such as water and electricity, their chickens (Jem particularly hung out with the chickens every day), toys, and treehouse. Ivy learned to ride a two-wheeled pedal bike in earnest. We got to see members of the Amaral clan whom we haven’t seen in two years, and celebrated Eliza’s sixth birthday.

I went for bike rides with Jenny as often as possible, and we joined Jenny and Brett and their girls for many refreshing dips in their amazing backyard river swimming hole. We visited with Susannah (who bravely accepted my invitation to join us for a liver pate picnic luncheon) and Aaron (who gave us a tour of the farm where he works, including the new baby goats), went strawberry picking (where we harvested 42 pounds of berries in just about an hour of picking!), met a fun homeschooling family up in Belchertown and joined them for swimming playdates at the lake where they live, almost got to see Solon and Zoe and other homeschool-camp friends from way back (and got reminded about what it’s like to have plans get continually foiled by rainy weather!), and Jeff and I even had a date to go hear live music at The Iron Horse, where we’ve always wished we could visit. I love going to hear live music at small venues. You get to hear songs you’ve never imagined, sung by people you’ve often never heard of. And even if you have heard of them, it’s always fun and new to hear their music in person.

We saw Juan and Joy and their family, and Sara K. stopped by for a quick visit, and we often wished so much that we could transfer all our wonderful back-east friendships into a dry, desert-weather setting. I took the kids for frequent bike rides on Northampton’s amazing bike trails, and one day we (including Eliza!) rode 16 miles.

We also became sadly reacquainted with our old nemeses, mosquitos and ticks. We immediately resumed daily tick checks, and during our time in Northampton we removed a disturbing number of them. We also spent a large amount of time dealing with new challenges to our Camper Lifestyle as resulting from the Dratted Freaking Weather Patterns of The Northeast. It is not super compatible with our lifestyle to experience crazy humidity and rain, and I will spare you the many hours of annoyance and anxiety we’ve experienced while Dealing With This. Plus laundry. It is really, really hard to avoid indoor air and sources of mold contamination while traveling in this part of the world.

——

Okay, so now you’ll really think I’m crazy, and I promise that soon I’ll write about it in more detail. But for now, I’ll just give you a quick teaser concerning the next stage of our adventures: a 309-mile bike tour undertaken by Ben and Jem and myself (as supported at home by Jeff and Eliza and Ivy). This trip was something I’ve been hoping I could do since before I had children, and I was a teeny bit worried about it: there was a lot that could go wrong, including Ben and Jem hating the experience of pedaling long distances while facing unforeseen challenges while constantly meeting new people and pushing their comfort zones.

But luckily, it went super fantastically. (Or at least, as Ben described it, it was “fun at times”.) I chose a route between New Haven, CT and North Truro, MA that utilized rail trails as often as possible. In reality, this meant that about six of the eight days of riding involved at least some portion of trail riding, while about 130 of the total mileage was trails. We stayed with Warmshowers hosts, and this was a universally fabulous experience: we stayed with a high school English teacher; a middle school band instructor and her husband who installs alternative energy systems; a couple of retired goat farmers; a family who we never actually met but generously allowed us access to their amazing and historic home in Providence, RI that was built in 1792; a dental hygienist who lives two blocks from the beach; and a homeschooling family on Cape Cod who will soon be moving into their truck camper to travel the country, along with their three horses.

The boys and I rode up some very steep hills, saw some beautiful New England scenery, ate remarkably nutritious meals (I carefully researched grocery stops before we left, and planned meals designed to satiate the amazing appetites of Growing, Exercising Boys), and even happened upon some really nice water slides. I told everyone we met - when they said things like, “Wow, that’s amazing! What a lot of work! So great that kids so young can pedal so far!” - that my husband was back at home, working waaaay harder than we were.

https://photos.app.goo.gl/q15CUKonuc8fUZkWA

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After the bike trip, we met Jeff and the girls in North Truro. It was wonderful to see my Sweetheart and my littlest babies again. And also, real life - including mosquitoes, Family Togetherness (“While you were gone on the bike trip, I didn’t have to yell to be heard!” said Eliza, clearly illustrating some of our family’s challenging dynamics), the never-ending constancy of meal-preparation and -feeding, and the vagaries of New England weather - quickly became Very Real again. The kids had a two-week festival of Cousin Fun, and the photos show the phenomenal memories we’ll treasure for a lifetime.

It’s crazy: I have a truly enviable life, by my own measures. And yet I sometimes long so very much for somebody else to take over my chores and say, “Don’t worry! Go on, relax, I’ll take care of All Those Things so you don’t have to.”

Oh my god! I just figured it out! I think I’d like to take a Vacation…

https://photos.app.goo.gl/PoxzNMx3BBjg6sNd7

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Interesting Articles and Good Recipes:

Awesome dosas:

https://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2018/05/dosa-indian-rice-and-lentil-...

Acknowledgement of racism is a nuanced topic, especially when it comes to children’s books:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2018/06/25/laura-inga...

Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (some of the unsung jobs of the Digital Age):

https://www.utne.com/science-and-technology/amazon-mechanical-turk-zm0z1...?

Sweet ode to marriage as “crucible for becoming a more mature, compassionate person”:

https://www.thecut.com/2018/01/daphne-de-marneff-on-the-rough-patch.html

Motherhood is driving around in circles:

https://www.renegademothering.com/2018/05/30/motherhood-is-driving-aroun...

Super delicious no-bake Chèvre Cheesecake:

http://www.lifeisapalindrome.com/recipes/goat-cheese-no-bake-cheesecake-...

Sourdough Cassava Waffles:

http://www.lifeisapalindrome.com/recipes/sourdough-cassava-waffles

Nice comprehensive/succinct guide to Dealing With Eczema holistically:

https://www.thepaleomom.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/The-Paleo-Moms-Gu...

Affordable and Delicious Salmon Cakes:

http://www.lifeisapalindrome.com/recipes/delicious-salmon-cakes

Really good synopsis of current theories concerning the causes of and best treatments for rapidly-rising rates of ASD and ADD/ADHD spectrum disorders and treatment:

https://chriskresser.com/resolving-the-underlying-causes-of-adhd-and-aut...

Baked Chicken Romano:

http://www.lifeisapalindrome.com/recipes/baked-chicken-romano

My new favorite food blog, where a woman with artistic talent and a passion for gut health creates and photographs beautiful and delicious recipes that nearly all fit into our current dietary guidelines. Someday I want to meet her and make her dinner; for now I am cooking with inspiration:

https://eatbeautiful.net/recipes/

——

And that’s all until next time. Thanks for all your notes and nice wishes, and I can’t wait to see many of you very soon! And I miss everybody else already. :)

Love,
Sarabeth