Time Keeps On Whizzing

Let’s meet in a restaurant

Is food the enemy?
Giving a dinner party has become
an ordeal. I lie awake the night
before figuring how to produce

a feast that is vegan, gluten free,
macrobiotic, avoiding all acidic
fruit and tomatoes, wine, all nuts,
low carb and still edible.

Are beetles okay for vegans?
Probably not. Forget chocolate
ants or fried grasshoppers.
Now my brains are cooked.

Finally seven o’clock arrives
and I produce the perfect meal.
At each plate for supper, a bowl
of cleanly washed pebbles. Enjoy!

--Marge Piercy


Dear Family,

I am in pretty deep now: I am Mama of Four. This job does not come with a lot of Downtime, and I feel blatantly human on a daily basis. Occasionally, I get a chance to change the course of my (or another's) life, but most of the time, I simply react - (with any luck) in time, and with some amount of fortitude.

Another way to illustrate how I feel on many days: like I'm looking waaay up ahead toward the front end of a treadmill, and I'm madly trying to run faster so I don't slip off the rear.

At the same time, the path is irregularly strewn with treasures of the most beautiful sort.


Ivyisms:

Ivy is...growing super crazy fast. Which is both a teeny bit sad, and also encouraging, because I have to say that I don't tend to dig the newborn-crazy-breastfeeding-learning-curve-night-waking-insane-hormones-huge-adjustments-for-all-and-everyone-STILL-has-to-eat-three-meals-per-day stage of things. Now she is just awesome - smiley, chubby, happy, gorgeous, totally sporting a toupee-style curly (brown!) mohawk, gurgling and making all sorts of noises, reaching all her milestones, and scooting around on the floor with such intense desire to shove everything in her mouth. I even saw dimples when she smiled the other day!

She smiles at pretty much everyone, which makes pretty much everyone smile back, which is pretty much a Great Thing for The World.

I don't have postpartum depression, this time around.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It is pretty much a huge revelation: so THIS is what it's like to have a baby and not have a ten-thousand-pound vice grip pressure on my brain + a headache!! There were certainly some intensely challenging Postpartum Situations this time, which our Really Fantastic Birth Team saw me through - and it's not like I now adore every moment of being exhausted and doing laundry and cleaning baby barf and dealing with whining people - but instead of these things causing me Major Depressive Feelings of Constancy, I feel depressed like a normal person! In other words, like the kind of person who feels happy again after feeling sad, and smiles when she finds things funny (rather than when she, with great effort, hoists up the corners of her mouth because she realizes that it's been a long time since she did so, and EVERYONE knows that one of the ways you're supposed to Buck Up is to Fake It Till You Make It).

This is so, so, so, so great. I take my supplements religiously, I eat super carefully-yet-healthfully-yet-not-too-obsessively-yet-also-as-deliciously-as-possible-without-trying-TOO-hard-to-be-perfect, I don't eat even so much as a smidgen of chocolate ever, and am grateful every single day. I will avoid chocolate forever if it helps my brain keep feeling like this!

Sleep is not always so great for Ivy, and when she decided to stop napping completely last month, I started ordering Baby Sleep Books from the library. And then I was like, Oh my lord I do NOT have time for this shit! I can't be reading baby sleep books, the fourth time around!! I need a PLAN!!! So I found a website where you can get a personalized baby sleep plan. And I got it. And I am implementing said plan, appreciating the advances we're making, attempting not to take it personally when it doesn't work out exactly smoothly, and also I am trying to get better at prayer.

That is sleep, the fourth time around. It's not exactly what I want to be spending my time thinking about, actually, but since it's really truly horrible when it doesn't happen enough, it is definitely worth my while.

At the times when night waking is super horrible, I think: I cannot believe the amount of disrupted sleep that Jeff and I have experienced to date! This makes me feel profoundly depressed, but like a normal profoundly depressed person...in that I - sooner or later, depending on the horrible amount of sleep I'm currently mourning the loss of - take a look at my incredibly gorgeous baby, smiling up at me as though she's just had a Good Night's Rest, and I can't help smiling back.

6/25 Ivy started reaching for things, and started to laugh.

8/21 Ivy rolled over from back to front!

8/27 Ivy kind of almost sat up on her own.

9/1 Ivy ate dinner! Up until now, it's just been teensy sips of broth, or tiny tastes that get spat out. Tonight, Ivy ate probably 30 or forty teeny tiny bites of brisket, and totally loved it.

9/2 Ivy turned 6 months old!

----

Being the mother of two little boys feels like it happened to me in a far distant lifetime. Now in the present, I am mother of two entirely different babies, with entirely different developmental situations (not to mention genders!). While Eliza has her moments (daily) (and sometimes hourly) of total and complete irrationality and horrible tantrumming (and holy guacamole, bedtime can be just awful), she is also growing and changing before our eyes.

Without doing anything to prompt it, I have gotten a daughter who is the perfect blend of total tomboy girly-girl, the daughter of my dreams, who the other day asked me to do her hair and promised to sit "really still." She tells me about her "babies," a set of imaginary friends (possibly septuplets) who were obviously inspired by the birth and continued existence of her sister, but have taken on lives of their own. Eliza's babies often go back in her belly (when she's dancing), and sometimes they do a lot of screaming (or so Eliza reports to me), because they don't want to take naps. Eliza's babies do not, for some reason that only Jem really understands, like to have the windows open while Eliza is napping (the babies, Eliza says, are worried that monsters will be able to fit through the screens). Eliza's babies sometimes need a lot of care and nursing, and Eliza tells me that sometimes they are "just annoying" and she's tired of them. I listen to her chatter, and then she belts a song from "Frozen," and then she says she'll "do a dance class," and I am thrilled beyond belief to be right here, right now, watching my child Grow.

She reminds me of me-as-a-child when she conjures her world of pretend. And yeah, I guess her volatility reminds me of me, though I am so so so sorry to my parents for all the screaming I did in my youth (and I've SAID so already a LOT, gosh darn it, so the karma could END already, okay??)

One thing Eliza did not get from me is her adoration of clothes - this must be the same recessive gene inherited by her Aunty Theeny. Eliza REALLY LOVES clothes. Lately she notices others' clothes to a degree that makes me despair of her upcoming teenage years. She will need a part-time job just to keep up her wardrobe! She changes her clothes several times a day, and puts together the most amazingly disparate yet put-together outfits. She announced recently that "I will wear your fancy dress in the attic [my bridesmaid's dress from Athena's wedding] when I get big and get married!" I had never even explained what a wedding WAS, prior to this comment!

Eliza is also totally into dancing. She has just started a dance class, and counts down the days until the next one.

Eliza's conversational skills are unlike any experience I've had with parenting to date. Occasionally, she and I are alone, and despite her small size and young age, we converse (unless it's bedtime, which as previously mentioned does Not Usually Go Very Well). But anyway, this is probably not anything big to parents of neurotypical children, but to me it is amazing. I notice every conversation, and while eventually I may take these for granted, after years of hoping for more reciprocity with Ben (plus feeling simultaneously guilty for the times I Gave Up All Hope), and never having much chance to be alone with Jem when he was this age, I feel slightly like I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop. Eliza, whatever her issues are, is profoundly non-autistic.

When I watch my daughter dancing around the room, singing her heart out while wearing her Christmas dress, five headbands, a purple scarf-cape, and a witch hat, my heart is full to bursting.


Elizaisms:

"I sure like clothes!" (Possibly the understatement of the year.)

A song: "Jingle Bell, batman smell, robin laid a egg."

"The moon is everywhere! It's following' us! Jesus Christ, it can't fit in our house!"

Struggling with the stiff plastic legs on her doll: "I can tell my baby doll wants to sit, but I can't make her do it!"

"That's so crazy, how Jem doesn't like mochi [Eliza's favorite breakfast]!" Recipe:

Explaining why it's hard to clear Ivy's boogers: "accuz her nose is so small - my nose is bigger and I can fit my finger in."

Toward the end of a long, hot, napless afternoon: "I'm feeling like I really want to scream!!!!"


Me, after reading aloud yet another insipid, sexist, step-family-bashing version of "Cinderella," and attempting a Teachable Feminist Moment: What do you think about that, Eliza? Do you think that Cinderella really got everything she wanted just by getting married to a total stranger, not cleaning up the cinders anymore, and wearing fancy clothes?

Eliza: Hmmm...

Me: Do you think she'd want to wear uncomfortable, fancy dresses like that one in the picture ALL the time??

Eliza: I would!

----

Jem's still (and occasionally very explosive) waters run quite deep. He is not a baby anymore, but I still see him racing with a flying leap into bed (so I can tell that monsters are after him). He is very big-hearted and sweet to Eliza, except when he's bored and driving her totally crazy by interrupting all of her games and songs with his teasing. He is loyal to Ben to a total Fault, and this identifying-with-brother is a Constantly Big Challenge around our house, because more and more often he is bored with what Ben is doing, but doesn't know: What does JEM like? What does JEM want to do? What is Jem Reed all about, when he's not looking directly to Ben? For years, I have coasted along on his easygoing nature by not pushing him to find out.

Actually, I have wrestled with feelings of guilt for years as well, because I have so many things that I aspire to do, and if I did them all I would need days that have about 59 hours in them, rather than the 24 (inclusive of hugely interrupted sleep) that I've got now. But: finally this fall, we are prioritizing Making Things Happen for Jem, while I temporarily give myself and Jeff a break in terms of not being the ones doing all the Making. Jem is about to start a really fun set of homeschooling activities, and we'll report back on these soon. I am excited for him, and for all of us. It is a reflection of how much Better Ben is that there can be such space. And while it isn't fair that it's taken so long, it is true that needs in a family are never fair. Having an older brother with so very many challenges has shaped Jem's childhood. I am not thrilled about the details of this, but I must also acknowledge it in order to implement the aforementioned changes.

Anyway - the fact is that Jem can run so fast that his platinum-blond hair blows back in the breeze. He climbs and races, and he is also Creating Things more these days - gourd art with Graham in her studio; wire and bead sculpture at home; endless masks and "vroom-vroom cars" that he makes with cardboard boxes; the most amazingly annoying and ear-piercing sounds with with his tongue; and a halloween costume from a recycled evening dress. Jem is both deeply observant and completely oblivious, full of kid-potty-humor and poised to grow up into a Big Person really soon. We don't know what he's truly thinking, a lot of the time, and I am occasionally amazed by his perceptiveness. He is really really happy when he is out in the world.


A question Jem probably wishes he'd never asked:

"Mama, why are you walking around in your underwear?"

My actual answer (approximately):

"Well, because Ivy peed on me - I was about to take Eliza up for a nap but Eliza is stalling and so while I waited the eternity that it will take for her to decide whether she is REALLY full or not I decided to clean out the cabinet because that is a task I might be able to actually complete rather than the laundry which I hate and is never ever done...and then Ivy just nonchalantly pissed as I mentioned and if I went to the trouble of walking upstairs for new pants I might as well wait until I take Eliza up for her nap after she's done eating and then pooping which will be never ever ever because she drinks her smoothie one molecule at a time. Therefore I'm just wearing underwear. Any more questions?"

----

Bennerisms:

"I hate when things like that [getting a bad splinter] happen, because you feel so bad and un-perfect."

----

I am so lucky, to be the mama of four children!

----

Jefferisms:

"This is how they eat in heaven" (Note: he's already married to me - sorry!) http://lifeisapalindrome.com/recipes/most-awesome-crispy-roasted-potatoes

----

Here are things I will remember

-- The reproach-fading-to-joy, wet-shiny tear-smiley face of my baby when I missed her nap wake-up for five whole minutes.

-- Sitting on the crapper one hot July day, while simultaneously brushing my hair and planning the most efficient way to subsequently (since "previously" is against the laws of physics) (although try explaining that to an impatient three-year-old) insert contacts, brush teeth, get dressed and start laundry, while Eliza howled and cried because she had been told that if she wanted to take another serving of sauerkraut, she had to first finish the kraut on her plate. At the exact same time, Ben was saying (many, many times) that there was NO way he could do the dishes in only TEN minutes, because he HAD to get ready to go to summer camp, and so COULDN'T do dishes, because he NEEDED to figure out what he was going to wear and what he needed to bring (keep in mind that had been up for a SOLID HOUR before breakfast, during which he sat and folded origami).

-- Wishing I could enjoy more of this life, more fully, more TOTALLY, somehow...but reminding myself over and over that there is just only so much you CAN enjoy in any given moment when your popularity is so concentrated that even your (meaning my) absence for a three-minute shower is noted by many, and you (meaning I) very rarely poop alone.

-- How often I must reassess whether it's necessary to make amends for having said something truly unkind to someone I love, in moments of Stressful Super Stressy Exhaustion and Stress.

-- Completely relating to a woman I overheard who was attempting to load her children into the car: "Could you just not want anything for ONE MINUTE?!"

----

Eliza went for her three-year "well child" checkup at the pediatricians. I have to admit that I was a bit trepidatious, because at Eliza's previous appointment (over a year before), she had thrown an enormous tantrum that prevented the doctor from even looking at her, let alone talking with her, and finally in the middle Jeff had to carry Eliza out to the car and drive her home while she kept on screaming.

Anyway, I'm mentioning this bit of history-we'd-rather-forget because this year's appointment couldn't have been more different:

Eliza told the nurse that she'd worn all three of her headbands accuz she likes them all - and she also mentioned that she wasn't sure if she should take off her shoes or not, in case the floor was dirty. She additionally said, in an interesting case of assumed psychology (since Ivy was happy and smiling the whole time), "Ivy was in the car an' didn't want to come to a Doctor Appointment, an' I didn't either!"

Once sitting across from the doctor, Eliza explained in a very mature fashion that her friend had fallen off a swing this morning, and gotten hurt, but then felt better. An' that "I don't like brushing my teeth at bedtime, so my papa helps me." (Talk About Saying The Right Things At The The Right Times!) And she told the doctor about how she'd had mochi and eggs for breakfast (luckily skipping the part about not actually eating much of it), and added that she brought her leftover food in her backpack for a snack.

While Ivy had her examination, Eliza sat in a chair and looked at a book that we'd brought. She had helped me pack the bag before we left, so now when I brought out the three board books, she reminded me: "We ALSO brought two big books" - which was an exact count from memory, since she hadn't looked in the bag since we packed it.

It's really great when medical professionals can witness ones child's brilliance.

----

A few random notable things:

-- Round about June, I finally started liking where I live again. After last winter, I have to say that it took a LONG time to forgive. It doesn't help that fall is in the air already. :( I love where we live in many respects, but I am not NOT looking forward to winter, for so so many reasons. More on that later. For now, it's still summer, beautifully (and lately excessively) so.

-- Jem is finally starting to put his head underwater!

-- I continue to be very suspicious of Tylenol - ever since I made an offhand remark about how "probably even Tylenol kills people!"...and then I had to actually look it up, and I discovered that more frequently than you might think, it does! But way more often than that, it comes with risks worth investigating.

-- Last spring I read a book called "Brain on Fire" by Susannah Catalan, which adds fascinating (and emotionally driven) fuel to the theory that Infections Cause More Problems Than We Think.

-- We bought a new-to-us sofa! This is actually pretty exciting, despite how rarely I seem to personally sit on it. I told our children that they can jump on the mattress on the floor all they want - but it's NEVER okay to do so on the new sofa. (I feel like my grandmother, who kept all her furniture encased in plastic bags, but darn it, I want this sofa to last!)

-- We've had lots of visits from family over the past months, and we've managed to pay a few visits ourselves. Loren graduated from college back in May, and we had a nearly-all-the-family reunion to celebrate his getting a degree from Cornell and beginning his graduate school career as an Astrophysicist at University of Colorado, Boulder! Yaaaaayyyy Loren!!

-- In July, Heidi and Sven and "Baby" [actually now 2.5-year-old] Ella went back to Austria after two awesome years as our next-door neighbors. This sorrowful day was super sad. How do you say goodbye to really good friends who will never ever be your neighbors again, as they prepare to fly back across the ocean? How do you say goodbye to your three-year-old's best friend, with whom she has spent so many hundreds of happy days?? How do you (meaning me) possibly contemplate the upcoming frigidly cold winter, home with my kids, without Heidi??? Ella was Eliza's first playmate - they don't remember not knowing each other! Soon they won't really remember each other at all. :( But bits of them still live on in our house: all the happy memories, photos that Heidi printed for us before they left, cards and toys and games and gifts given to Eliza (and the boys! Sven gave them his fishing rods), the way Eliza pronounces "vitamin" [witamin], and yells "nein!!!" at the top of her lungs instead of screaming NO. (I actually think she was picking up other bits of German too, but these are fading along with her memories. It's too bad that "nein" is the one she's holding onto the longest!) Before they left, we managed to take a camping trip together up at Lake Ontario: https://io.freethoughtdesign.com/d/622dab8200/?p=/sven_heidi_ella

-- Ben bought a toy with his own money that did not live up to his expectations (i.e. it broke immediately); and he received a personal note from the president of the company (along with two replacement toys!) after writing and illustrating a Polite Note of Complaint. We are very proud of our little Lazlo!

-- This year, I am accomplishing less than zero gardening (the weeds are making tremendous inroads even in the perennial beds). But Jenny passed along an article that makes me feel better about how pretty much my only crop in 2015 is Ivy. Also, Ben and Jem take great joy in their plots full of vegetables (and weeds), and I take great joy in their joy. Also, the fruit trees and grape vines that I planted at our old house (six years ago now!) are doing just great, and I find this joyful as well - the peach tree was just totally loaded. Someday, I have big plans for learning about soil remineralization, but this day has not yet come.

-- Ben and Jem are still running and climbing a lot, and they took part in a "fun run" that got them interested in the possibility of longer distances. We brought them to a trail-running clinic a couple weeks later, and I keep encouraging them to Run For Fun. It is hard for me to do this truly effectively, since I NEVER run for fun - but I encourage them anyway.

-- Jeff designed and built a bedside table using one length of 1x8" pine, and with a really cool tool called a drill press that allowed him to recess all of the screw holes. It is a fine piece of furniture, and a testament to the fact that my husband doesn't just Succumb To Fatigue and Disrupted Sleep by giving up creative endeavors!!! Go, Jeff!!

-- Each of our three older children spent one week attending a different day camp this summer (around here, these are expensive! And also very high-quality. And therefore camp felt like a gift that we gave them that might not have been fully appreciated, but they did have a lot of fun - such is the quandary of a parent). Ben went to Primitive Pursuits camp, Jem went to a camp run by Earth Arts at a Permaculture farm, and Eliza went to Yoga Camp.

-- This is one of our favorite dinners these days.

-- The closest that Jeff and I have come to going on a "date" in recent months was on our anniversary, which we celebrated by hiring Karen for the three older children while we drove as fast as we could to the nearest state park in order to stop the car so our screaming baby would begin taking breaths again and revert back to her extremely sunny and happy self. Once situated on our picnic blanket, it was a really nice time - the only bad thing about anniversaries is that time is moving so freaking quickly! It is super crazy that I met my True Love over half of my life ago. He is more handsome every day! Still, while "growing old together" sounds all romantic and stuff, I could totally handle just the Growing Together part without the Old, thank you very much.

-- Jem turned 8 years old this summer! My tiny baby boy is now lanky and long. The evening of his birthday was totally gorgeous, and we managed to pull off a family camping overnight in Jem's honor, along with Grandma and Grandpa and Uncle Loren, and many friends who came to celebrate the day on the shores of Cayuga Lake.

-- This spring, we decided to get a Pop Up camper. And I say "we" because really it was my fantastically awesome husband who agreed to spend a large proportion of our life savings on said camper mostly to make his adoring wife even happier than she already is. Getting a camper was a super awesome decision for many reasons: 1. Having a camper will allow us tremendous freedom to travel places without having to camp in a tent with all our children (last year's failed attempt outlined here). 2. We found a really great type of camper to get, a Livin' Lite "Quicksilver", which is made of aluminum and composite and a canvas tent, so there's no wood to rot or lift mechanisms to break, and it's so lightweight that pretty much any sedan can tow it and it's SUPER cool. 3. It is true that when any of our children wake up screaming in the night, it sucks to be anywhere that is proximate to them...and it's true that I slightly underestimated the amount of progress concerning Sleeping-Through-The-night that certain members of the family would make over the course of one summer...but: the fact remains that I found a family in NJ who was selling a super beautiful, barely-used 2010 Quicksilver 10.0 pop-up, drove down with Ivy to pick it up, stayed with my brother-in-law's super-welcoming family overnight (after getting totally lost due to GPS malfunction in Jersey City), spent two hours standing in line at the RMV to (unsuccessfully) register the trailer in order to tow it back to NY the next day, hitched it up for the first time in the pouring rain with a squalling baby, drove home with said squalling baby + the hitched-up trailer...and now it is here, in our back yard. This gorgeous trailer has taken us on two family camping trips this summer (with Heidi/Sven/Ella to Lake Ontario, and then the overnight adventure on Jem's birthday), and frenetic and extremely-un-restful as they were, it was GREAT to be camping. Sigh. We have also taken a few short trips that weren't inclusive of all family members. But see, this beautiful trailer is a placeholder. It represents Things that we don't currently have space for in our lives, but which we want to have more room for, some day soon. (Note to self: No. More. Babies!)

-- On the money-earning front, Jeff has made some big changes! He is now working with the nice folks at Co-Lab Co-op, which means he's working from home more (nice for the rest of his family, a bit more challenging for him) and is working for himself - a subtle difference that is a positive thing overall. We are currently working to come up with a budget that allows for the cost of health insurance while not also sending us into debt. This is not a fun task, but is probably a good life skill that will serve us well when we arrive at the Day of Reckoning and all the Capitalist 1% Pigs are cackling as they extract our last bit of wealth via our tax forms so that their children can have porsches and they can build Really Amazing Swimming Pools... Sorry, I'll shut up about that now.


Stay as cool as you can, if the heat is frying where you are,

Love, Sarabeth