Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Occupying the Days

Never cutting edge, always a bit of a cliche. Imagine the things a person *like me* probably likes, and you're right. 

My dad has been busy ripping his vinyl to mP3s, which has meant that I have been gifted lots of good albums as of late: The Band, Lightening Hopkins, Hot Tuna, David Bromberg. These slow, boring winter days have left him with plenty of time to transfer his music, which has been great for our collection. Tomorrow could very well be another boring snow day: I'm hoping he decides to rip all his Tom Waits. 

If dad didn't want me stealing his music, he should have never tried to indoctrinate me at such a young age. 

Tom and I bought Olive Kitteridge on iTunes as soon as it came out. I read the novel years ago, and for some reason only remembered the prevalence of donuts (which is a definite plus in my book). Like everyone else I know, I loved it. I love well done unlikable protagonists, and that series did it perfectly. At the library, I grabbed another one of Elizabeth Stout's novels because I'm hoping that maybe she recreates that kind of perfection in other characters.

We're also indulging in Broad City. I watched the first episode a while back and didn't really get excited about it. However, I gave it another try and now I'm hooked. I like that the episodes are only 25 minutes, so sometimes Tom and I can sneak one in if the kids are off entertaining themselves, though we usually have to turn it off very quickly if one of them wanders into the living room. It's the perfect reward after being productive for a little while. Vacuum the downstairs... treat yourself to an episode. Fold three loads of laundry...another episode.

My friend Jenn sent me a great list of book recommendations. Ever since we were in high school, she has always known exactly what to be reading. Her book summaries are spot on and completely inciting. I sent off for a few of them from the library so far. I'm in the middle of A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozekiand I only wish that I had a few more hours in the next few days so that I could finish it. It is written from two different perspectives, a Japanese teenaged girl, and a middle aged American woman living in small Canadian coastal town. At this point, I am far more interested in the Japanese girl's narrative, but I feel certain I am only going to grow to appreciate the other character more as the story progresses.

I also really excited to read The Luminaries by Eleanor Catten,  which Jenn described as a "sprawling epic." I love long novels that let you stay with characters for days and weeks. I also have a penchant for Western's: Gus was, after all, named after Augustus McCray from Lonesome Dove. So when she explained that this novel takes place during New Zealand's Gold Rush, this novel shot to the top of my reading list. I ordered it from the library, but because it's so long and Tom wants to read it too, I might break down and buy it.

Food and cooking feel like they have taken up most of my mental space for the past two months or so. Well, at least that mental space not preoccupied with the excitement/ impatience over the impending arrival of a new person. I've been really excited about fermented food, so I've tried my hand at yogurt, Kombucha, and kraut. I've also been making bone broths at least once a week.
Since the beginning of the year I have been really watching what I buy and what I put on my body. It has made a huge difference in how I feel. I have never, ever felt this good, maybe ever, but certainly not at the end of a pregnancy.

One thing I have definitely learned is that although I really love sugar, it does not love me back. Almost every time I indulge in anything with processed sugar, I find myself sad and weepy the next day. I'm actually grateful for the reinforcement. It makes it so mush easier to abstain when I know that I am going to have emotional repercussions.

I think I mentioned it at some point, but I reread Real Food for Mother and Baby  by Nina Planck, and I love her approach to food and eating. I've also been doing a lot of reading / researching on the Weston A. Price Diet and Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions. 

Tom bought me Dharma Bum perfume from Sweet Tea Apothecary for Valentine's Day. I might have not so subtly suggested the idea after reading Anne's recommendation a few weeks back. The smell is perfect, except for the fact that it's unisex so Tom keeps trying to wear it. But it won't be special if we both smell like it all the time. He needs to find his own smell.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sleepover Mayhem

Some things manage to be both simple and incredibly chaotic. That might be the very reason people plan, trading simplicity for order. Gus's sleepover consisted of: a dozen kids, lots of pizza, a few homemade decorations that Sena and Gus put together at the last minute, absolutely not one single planned activity, and moments of mayhem.

Kids ran around wielding weapons, donned in dress up clothes, spanning almost ten years in age. As it turns out, they don't seem to miss party games or crafts or any of the other things we try to enforce. They just want to run up and down the stairs, making way too much noise. Arlo tried his best to keep up, but was always the last one up from the basement, the last one to make it to the table for food. He fell asleep piled in the middle of them all, watching a movie in the basement. That basement, by the way, is invaluable--a place to banish kids when carnival head starts kicking in, and I feel my sanity is waning. 

The next day after donuts, sausages, grapes and orange juice, the guests all headed back to their respective homes, and I was left with three sleepy kids, an impending snow storm, and an impatient heart. Where are you spring? When will you be here baby girl number two? 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Gus :: Eight

Today he turns eight.

A boy it is so easy to simply describe as charming and kind, both of which are completely true and both of which are also completely insufficient to explain my oldest boy. A boy who hates breaking the rules almost as much as he hates seeing people he loves getting in trouble. When Sena is  being threatened with punishment, he implores her to take warning. He can't bear to watch it. He sometimes leaves the room.  He will take responsibility for any mistake he has made, and some he hasn't, for his sister's sake. He recently pondered if he might love Sena more than she loves him.

When Gus heard me discussing trying to find a way to purchase raw milk, illegal milk, he swore he would never drink it. He will not partake in anything that hints at wrongdoing.

But Gus is by no means timid or afraid; in fact, he is daring. While he would never want to hurt another soul, he is more than willing to risk harm to himself. And yet, somehow, he almost never  gets hurt. He is the sort of rough and tumble boy you would expect to be bruised and broken, stitched and plastered, but he manages to break all of his falls, to always land on his feet.

He is so easy to be proud of, the sort of boy who will grow up to be the sort of man you would want your daughter to marry.

Happy birthday, Augustus. I love you more than you will ever know.

Thursday, February 19, 2015


I watch them from a distance. When I tried to head out with them, I wore myself out in moments. A short trudge around the yard left me in need of a nap. My mom assures me that my exhaustion is forgivable since I ran around this weekend. I'm not so sure, but I know that there is no sledding in store for me. So the rest of my snow break has mostly involved rereading Real Food For Mother and Baby and trying to catch up on laundry and cleaning. Trying to keep ahead of all the chores that will inevitably pile up when a little person requires hours and hours a day of sitting, a prospect that I don't find particularly unwelcome at the moment. 

I will never, ever take a snow day for granted. The slowness, the unexpected gift. There is no gift on earth as precious as time. Snow days creep along.  The light is bright and beautiful, and even when you only enjoy them from within warmish walls, their beauty soaks into you. 

This year Gus seems to have come to terms with cold weather discomfort. He complains less and stays out longer. While he has not yet reached Sena status for cold tolerance, he appears to be more at home in the wintry, white outdoors.

Today it's back to work, and a two hour delay makes the day just a bit easier. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

This Weekend We / 24 Hours in Baltimore

Quite frankly, my decision to spend the Christmas money my granddad gave me on an extended  double date in Baltimore two weeks before the baby's due date was genius.  The weeks leading up to a baby's undisclosed arrival are long, very long. I start imagining that every cramp is "the beginning." I desperately try to will myself into labor, to will a baby into my arms.

However, because I was so excited about this past weekend's plans, I have mostly avoided this trap. I wanted last night to happen more than I wanted an early labor and delivery.  Now that last night is in the past, nothing will stop me from trying to wish myself unpregnant.

Joanna and Geoffery took the bus from Brooklyn to Baltimore to spend 24 hours with us, a last hurrah of sorts. After baby number four comes, there will be a whole lot less expendable income for fancy dinners and not so fancy hotels.

We stayed at the Biltmore Suites, which are run down, kind of dirty, but a little bit wonderful. Patterns on patterns, nothing really as clean as it should be, most things in need of repair. The three flights of stairs (no elevator) to the room slant enough to make you feel like you drank too much. Some people claim the place is haunted. We've stayed there before, and I would stay there again. It's got personality in spades, and it's super cheap. When traveling, I have a hard time spending money on hotels and flights (I once booked Tom and my tickets from DC to New Orleans that had two layovers just to save 40 bucks). I would much rather have the extra money to spend on extravagant meals and junk store shopping. We spent nearly four times more on dinner at Woodberry Kitchen than we did on the room, and I think we did the right thing on both accounts. After thirteen years of traveling together, Joanna and I have developed pretty similar ideas on how it's done, a fact that I think we both take almost completely for granted.

We drank beers at Brewer's Art, brunched at Paper Moon, and shopped the Avenue in Hampden. Despite the terrible, terrible cold, every single bit was great. Four grown adults crowded into one room, whispering like kids as one by one people nodded off.

And now I'm back at home with three rowdy kids and snow storm finally on the horizon. We'll pop some popcorn, watch The Book of Life, and I'll go back to imagining that every ache, every pang of pressure is a sure sign that she's on her way. In reality, she will most likely go 13 days past her due date, just like her big brothers, only finally coming to the world when she senses that an epidural will be forced on us if she doesn't finally make her move. If only Joanna was coming back next weekend, the wait would maybe be bearable.

Saturday, February 14, 2015


She can't stop smiling. Or running her hands through her hair. Or trying to catch a glimpse of herself in reflective surfaces.

She woke up this morning ready to take the plunge, too impatient to wait for her hairdresser aunt to cut it sometime this week. I would be willing to bet hard earned dollars that her impatience had everything to do with a birthday party at the skating rink this afternoon. Given my penchant for spontaneous hack jobs, I was happy to be given the chance to chop away.

Her shorn hair looks beautiful, just has her wild mermaid locks did just this very morning. Her sweet little face pops right out, and her excitement over the change makes her radiant. But I look at her now, and I see an older child. Old enough to want to start deciding, all on her own.

I try to remind myself it's just a haircut.
But a haircut has the power to be so much more.
A statement.
A sign of change.
An identity.

And she was ready to choose her own.

Thursday, February 12, 2015


I used to be embarrassed of my flakiness- the fleeting, but overpowering excitement I felt for ideas, aspirations, plans, and projects. I was ashamed that I don't always keep up with the changes and the hopes. I try things on for a while, spend countless hours daydreaming and researching and imagining. But then, I move on. Something new sparks my interest and gains my attention, leaving my past plans and projects in dusty corners of my memory and home. I frequently revisit them, show brief enthusiasm again before racing forward in another direction yet again.

Over the years my friends and family have been subjected to an endless barrage of my new next thing: plans for orphanages, restaurants, island life, farm life, adoption, raw foods, fermented foods, local foods, backyard chickens, renovations, photography, poetry, weaving, hobbies, businesses, trips, events, educational programs.

This is not the behavior of a successful artist, entrepreneur, or activist. To become good at something, to make money from it, or to inspire change, you have to stick with it. But I can't. Or rather, I don't.

But I am not as embarrassed by this trait anymore. At some point this fall, I heard Elizabeth Gilbert address the difference between passion and curiosity. The problem is, I'm more curious than I am passionate. I get excited about things and want to explore them, but nothing has ever rooted itself so deeply within me that I haven't shaken it off when a new prospect came my way. My life is not guided by some beautiful, encompassing passion.

There are so many things that I wish I had done. So many things that I still hope that I do. But I am no longer embarrassed by the things I haven't completed, the changes I haven't stuck to. I am always my happiest when I am planning and scheming and dreaming about what is to come. So I will continue to pursue my curiosity. I will continue to subject my family to my flights of fancy, and I will be all the happier for it.

Edit: So apparently I had almost the exact same set of thoughts exactly a year ago: The Price of Contentment

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Slow Sunday

Today it was warm.

Tom worked inside with windows open. I read my book on the screened porch. Our children were eight hours away playing on an even warmer winter beach with their Oma.

Today was productive, and it was lazy. It was boring, and it was satisfying.

Tom and I ducked in and out of antique stores. We wandered among sailboats. We talked about what it would be like to be adults without children, just as we do every time the kids go away.  We discussed it as though it was a complete novelty.

We discussed the possibility of Gus having been switched at birth. We worried about our actual biological child being raised among beautiful, blonde athletes- kind, earnest, beautiful athletes, likely bewildered by our son's single dark eyebrow and confounding sense of humor. We hope that they love him as much as we love our switched offspring. We wish we were allowed to have both boys as our own.

I spent hours making dinner, never once interrupted to referee a disagreement or to change a diaper. I never organized the sock hamper as I have been trying to get myself to do for weeks. There is no sense of urgency guiding my moments. I drank gallons of red raspberry leaf tea, gently encouraging my uterus to please, please not hold on to this baby for weeks after the due date. My uterus is the only part of my body that is not punctual.

Today was slow, and it felt like spring, and it hummed with good things on the horizon.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015


On Sunday after my baby shower, Sena loaded up my van with all the gifts we had just been given without any instruction from me. When we got home, she dutifully carried everything in and then even went a step further; she carried everything upstairs and set off folding and organizing and giving each new piece a proper home.

Today at work they threw me another shower, which warmed my heart and brought tears to my eyes. After this baby is born, I won't be going back to work. It's hard to think about not seeing so many people who I have seen every school day for the past eight years, people I like, respect, and admire. It is the only high school I have ever known as a teacher or a student. It is a warm, comfortable, fun place, and I am so glad that I got to teach there for so many years. I have so many thoughts about leaving and what it means, but I can't even fully come to terms with them yet because, like Sena, who is upstairs putting away today's booty, I am so focused and excited about Alamae's approaching arrival. It is too hard to think about all the changes coming my way and what they all mean. Instead, I'll just dwell on the picture of my almost ten year old daughter. A child who is many wonderful things, but not usually "helpful." However, as we prepare for her sister, she is eager to do anything she can. She jumps at my requests, never balking or stalling or acting the least bit put out. A maturity is taking over her. I can't even imagine all the ways that this new little person headed our way is going to change us all.

These next three to five weeks are always the longest. And the closer I get to the finish line, the longer they will become. Is that physics or something?

Monday, February 2, 2015

This Weekend We / Showered

Driving over to my mom's house on Saturday, I was trying to brace myself for disappointment. I was pretty sure that I was about to show up at my surprise baby shower, but the evidence in my favor was weak. Basically, I was putting all my hope on the fact that my mom declined my invitation to go grocery shopping with me Saturday morning. My mom always goes grocery shopping with me on weekends. I knew that I shouldn't be expecting a baby shower. This is, after all, my fourth baby, and not even a new gender. I had maintained my position that I should not be given a shower, despite the fact that I really was hoping that the people I loved would come together to celebrate the little girl about to enter our world. 

Thankfully, they ignored my false protests, and when I pulled up with my sister and Sena in front of my parents' house under the gusie of an afternoon thrift store date, I instantly saw my friends' cars, brought together through my sister Claire's doing.

My mom swears that  birth rooms are about to undergo a shift, that the men will leave them once again so that the women can come together to take care of each other. I, personally, want Tom there with me as we welcome our children, but I do agree with her that there is something powerful about pregnancy and birth that demands the interconnection of women. Baby showers, for all the corniness they can often entail, seem to hearken that spirit as women tell their tales. 

At my first baby shower for Sena, we crowded into my friend Lorien's farmhouse, a bunch of girls still in college or just recently graduated. Not a one of us had ever had a child. We had no idea what I was in store for, all of our limited information gleaned from stories from our own mothers and aunts, or things we had read in sociology text books. My friends all drank and drank from the ubiquitous box of wine. There were no discussions of birth plans or placentas or breastfeeding because none of us had begun to formulate opinions. I stumbled through my labor, delivery, and post-postpartum months without preconceived notions except to do things the way my mother had done them.

As the years mount, so too has our knowledge. Babies and older offspring celebrate with us now.  We discuss fluids and membranes with ease and experience. We have opinions about induction and pain medication, vaccines and the introduction of solid foods. I feel so far removed from the twenty year old girl I was sitting on Lorien's rocking chair opening presents that were as beautiful as they were impractical. That girl knew nothing about what was to come and no one could have possibly prepared her. Now my nearly ten year old daughter is here by my side, sharing in my excitement about what comes next.

On Saturday we ate food and made onsies. I opened presents both for her and for me. Alamae received sleepers and a Woody Guthrie album, diapers and colorful booties from Costa Rica. I was gifted a fermentation jar and an oil diffuser, earrings and candles. And it felt like in an instant, it was over, and I was hugging all of these women I love so much as they dispersed back into the great, wide world. The next time I will see many of them, the hard, roundness of my belly will be replaced with squish, my arms will be full of a little cooing girl. This time around, I know exactly what is about to happen to my heart. 

Even as I write this, I feel tears brimming, an overwhelming sense of gratitude-- so many people love me and my children. We are fortunate beyond words.