Thinking About Family

March 23, 2014

Dear Family,

To my old brown earth
And to my old blue sky
I’ll now give these last few molecules of “I.”
And you who sing,
And you who stand nearby,
I do charge you not to cry.
Guard well our human chain,

Watch well you keep it strong,

As long as sun will shine.
And this our home,

Keep pure and sweet and green,

For now I’m yours

And you are also mine.

--Pete Seeger (1919-2014)



Concerning eternal frustrations (Slippery Ice, Learning Something New, Life In General): "I HATE ice skating! But, we can't leave yet."

"I wish I had a pet snake, and every time I got distracted, I would train it to whack me gently with its tail, and then I'd do the thing I was supposed to. That's why I'd have a pet snake."

On feeding Eliza: "You gotta get it in quickly, and get your fingers OUT quickly."

"Now it's SKIP all the way!"

"What do mourning doves sound like? ...Well, today I talked to one!"

"Mama, do you think I've drank a HOUSE FULL of water in my whole life, and just peed it out slowly?"

What do you like about the new house, Jem? "The space! And more toilets!"

"The sun is in full blaze! It's shining like a madman."

"Sometime this week, I'm going to be ANGRY."

While feasting on artichokes, lemon butter, and crispy chicken skins: "I bet nobody in the world is having a better dinner than we are! I think this is the best dinner we've ever had."

"Bouncing makes the world bounce, too!"

"Eliza is SO CUTE!"

"When I wear stripes, I feel taller."

A song by Jem: "...Nobody knows...where the baby goes!"

Describing his pottery-class creation: "...I did NOT use clear glaze on the top, because turtles do NOT have clear glaze on them."

Going down to the car after his yoga class: "I know this is an even number of steps, because when I go down two at a time, there's not an extra one."

"I need a spear! If it was a long-enough, nice, thin spear, I could have hunted that squirrel."

After experimenting with cross-country skis for the first time: "I love skiing!"

"Mama, nothing in the universe is perfect."

"Do you know why it took me so long [to come down after showering]? Because I was combing my hair! ...And do you like this shirt? It's over _this_ shirt, and it goes with my pants."

"The snow is a blanket for the ground!"

"Hats are warm when they hug your head."

While cross-country skiing: "I'm an Olympian!"

Waking up the morning after guests came over for dinner: "Are they still here?"

On a family ski expedition in our woods: "I'm making the path all nice for you, Mama!"

"Isn't Eliza the best baby in the world?"



"I'm an eater!!"

"Eliza's singing the All-The-Random-Words-She-Knows-Repeated-All-Together song. It goes like this: 'ball, papa, brum-brum, baby...'"

Grrr, Ben! Do you take LESSONS on how to annoy your mother?! Ben: "It's not that hard!"

"Artichokes are my favorite vegetable."

"Have you noticed? I've been eating cartilage now, and it doesn't always make me gag. ...I just can't do it [change his table manners and still-sometimes-compulsive eating habits] all at once."

Acknowledging another person's accomplishments - to Jeff, while skiing: "That was a good run!"

Ben tells me that he doesn't really like his pottery class. Why? I say with concern. Did something bad happen? Ben explains that even though he likes working with clay, "I don't like it as much as Primitive Pursuits, because the teacher doesn't just pay attention to me - she pays attention to ALL the kids." (I don't tell Ben this, but after hearing this comment I vow: no matter that this course is held at an inconvenient location, at an inconvenient time, and costs a lot of money - I will make it my motherly duty to ensure that he attends every class.)



Increasingly, when she's not miserable or whiny, I look at my smiling baby girl and think: This is the baby we met when she was first born! Despite her physical challenges, Eliza is brilliant and adorable (and also very, very cute). A few months ago, after various dietary modifications, her eczema got 90% better and, thank god, she now eats food on a regular basis (reflux seems much improved). Also, she loves people! She smiles at strangers, which makes strangers smile back, and watching our child do this is a peak parenting experience. And she gives hugs...

Eliza can't pronounce many words, but she is very expressive with the few she has:

"Bomba" = grandma

"Yeah" - this one is used in the most grown-up, conversational manner - she interjects at appropriate intervals, and uses it to answer nearly all questions, regardless of accuracy. It's interesting how far a conversation can travel with simple affirmatives! Much farther than when "no" is used similarly.

"Nah" - Nose

"mo" = more

"Baw" - brrr

"Ben" - Ben

"Ben" - Jem

"Nigh-nigh, moom!" - night-night, moon

"bubber" = booger

"Hom Hom!" - I want to eat what you have! Gimme some, now (please)!



"Anyone who was born the day I saw Jurassic Park and got wowed by Digital now twenty-three years old!!"

"I've never had a job as hard as Eliza."

On the topic of working with clients: "Like all nebulous things, you know everything will coalesce. But then later you look back and think: how did we get here?!"

First Morning Observation on day #583 of getting woken up before sunrise by Eliza (this anniversary does not even take into account all the times we got woken up early during the preceding 3660 days of parenting): "I can feel the years of my life sloughing off, like dead skin."



"No feet in the drain rack!"

"If you want to go with Papa to butcher the chickens, PLEASE eat your ferment without me having to chase you down."

"Do not kiss your sister on the step stool!"

"Sometimes it's SO incredibly difficult to be open-minded."


A Critique from my Middle Child:

"Mama, you're not following the Golden Rule with Eliza."

What do you mean, Jem?

"You let her scream all the time! Would YOU like it if somebody let YOU scream?"

I get the sense that this question has been brewing in Jem's brain for years, through Eliza's early months of feeding craziness, and screaming, and sleepless nights, and screaming, and Cry-It-Out bedtimes that we instituted after pretty much all else failed. After all, Jem is only voicing the judgments of the roughly 93,843,941 Attachment Parents who provide near-constant running commentary in my brain, reminding me that if I were a More Responsive Parent, I would likely Meet my Child's Needs so She Wouldn't Have Anything to Cry About.

...It's complicated, Jem, I say. Sometimes you can help someone, or give them what they need, and they will stop crying. But sometimes, you don't know what a baby needs. Or you've tried to give them what they need and they keep screaming, and you don't have any energy to try any more things, and you might have to make dinner and have two other kids who need things at the same time, and also have a headache, and after a certain point it's just Not Okay for anyone, even a small toddler, to scream when they are in the middle of the living room. And so you put them in their room for a Time Out.

"Yeah, but you let her scream a LOT," Jem says.

On another day, when I note with exasperation how Eliza didn't eat much of anything at all, Jem asks: "Why didn't you FEED her?"

Later, I try to cuddle Eliza to sleep, but - as is almost always the case when someone is nearby at bedtime - she gets more and more agitated and unable to settle. Forty-five minutes later, I put her in her crib and leave her room. "Why didn't you let her fall asleep next to you?" Jem reprimands when I tuck him in.

Times like these, I notice how little control one actually has over what another person (even ones own child) perceives and thinks.


A Conversation, While Passing A Cemetery:

Ben: "There's a guy sitting on a grave, reading a book - a real guy!"

Jem: "Is it a alive guy, or is it a ghost?"


"Frozen" has set the bar very high when it comes to Ben and Jem's expectations for Movie Quality. Jeff first took them to see it in the theatre at Christmas, and then Grandma took them for a second time in February. After the second viewing, Ben said, "Even though I knew what was going to happen this time, I still felt scared a little."

Jem noted: "My heart was going REALLY REALLY fast sometimes!"

They LOVED this movie, which is very exciting, because it portends many future family Movie Adventures. (Only a couple of short years ago, Ben still couldn't understand documentaries, and now he's getting the hang of visual fiction!)

Ben and Jem know every single song from the soundtrack by heart.


Random Events of Note (and some Home Videos!):

* Over the past four months, we (Jeff, Ben, and Jem) managed to make a trek to CT for Christmas, and we all enjoyed visits from grandparents, Jake and Page, and Sudip.

* Al W. got us a deer, for which we were and are extremely grateful! For the first time, we've been enjoying some delicious meals of venison.

* Jeff made us our own dropbox-type system, and migrated our mail server, and did our taxes in one single day, and did a whole bunch of Good Stuff at work, and is generally an Awesome, Technologically Savvy, Geek Wizard Husband-and-Papa Dude kind of guy.

* Ben had a birthday in January, and turned ten years old!!

* Jeff helped Jem make a "yum-yum mix" playlist, so that we can easily listen to some of Jem's favorite yum-yum songs, including tunes like: "Snow is Gone" (Josh Ritter), "I Am The One Who Will Remember Everything" (Dar Williams), "Passenger Seat" (Death Cab for Cutie), and "It's Hard to Dance With A Devil On Your Back" (Florence and the Machine).

* [A few nice photos of our new house]( (in its clean state).

* Quick Video of Jem and Eliza, ["Dancin' and Shootin'"](

* Our Family's [Performance at the EVI talent show](…)


And that is an abridged assortment of news from our family. Still to come in upcoming Updates: Continuing Thoughts on Gut Health and Brain Dis-Ease (and Resistant Starch!), along with news concerning my right bottom second-from-rear molar (to be extracted tomorrow). I figured I'd send the more upbeat stuff today.

Happy Spring!