Saturday, April 30, 2011

For Mama Hungry

"I love you,
Not only for what you are,
But for what I am
When I am with you.

I love you,
Not only for what
You have made of yourself,
But for what
You are making of me.
I love you
For the part of me
That you bring out;
I love you
For putting your hand
Into my heaped-up heart
And passing over
All the foolish, weak things
That you can’t help
Dimly seeing there,
And for drawing out
Into the light
All the beautiful belongings
That no one else had looked
Quite far enough to find.

I love you because you
Are helping me to make
Of the lumber of my life
Not a tavern
But a temple;
Out of the works
Of my every day
Not a reproach
But a song.

I love you
Because you have done
More than any creed
Could have done
To make me good
And more than any fate
Could have done
To make me happy.
You have done it
Without a touch,
Without a word,
Without a sign.
You have done it
By being yourself.
Perhaps that is what
Being a friend means,
After all.”
--Roy Croft

Day 26

Friends and family have been checking in this week with calls, cards, and email--thank you all very much. And so I thought I'd post a quick update, mainly to say we're hanging in. I won't quite say "barely," because we try to keep it in perspective, but in truth we're all a little frayed and tired and frustrated. And the bulk of the burden rests heavily on Mama's shoulders, which is hard to carry so long.

But not quite all alone. Our nanny is working out beautifully and the kids really like her. Plus, friends are bringing meals and are providing much needed support, assistance, communications, and visits.

I go to the doctor on Tuesday to see what our next step is. I'm hopeful that I'll be allowed up more, but respect his decision. It is frustrating and lonely and boring in bed all the time, but I meditate so as not to dwell on everything I'm missing, which has been a lot. Fortunately, I'm not really in any pain, but I know better than to rush this and reinjure the disc, especially knowing that the burden of my recovery falls on my family and friends.

So, that's where we are. The kids have parties today, after kung fu, and Mama has some errands. A friend came for a long and delightful visit, plus a meal, yesterday--thanks, Mommy Goose! Another friend is coming today--looking forward to it, Mama Teacher. Tomorrow, I think we have Glee and Legos on the agenda. In fact, Bud wants to combine the two--he wants to make a Lego version of McKinley High with all the characters. Sis was putting together a Kurt mini-fig this morning of her own design. Bud can't figure out how to make Artie's wheelchair. And they were both listening to Lady Gaga on their little music players as they did it.

All in all, it's pretty good.

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Writing on the Paper

An article in the NYTimes today bemoaned the loss of cursive writing. Students might be taught, briefly, how to write in cursive, but usually stick to block print. In fact, one college student, not only unable to write in cursive, was even being unable to read her own grandmother's writing. "It was kind of cryptic," she said.

It makes me want to go write a long letter in cursive, something I use off and on in my nightly journalling, depending on my mood. I can write faster in cursive, though my writing is neater in block print.

I would be sad to think my kids would not be able to read my handwriting, or their Gommie's. Pop's handwriting is pretty blocky (hmmmm, so is his sister's, my aunt Paula). But his mother's, my grandmother's, is downright illegible, even to me, as it seems to be one long line with some short loops and dots.

But there's hope: our kids are learning cursive, or at least the beginning blocks, as their school teaches the loopy D'Nealian form of printing so that kids can more easily learn cursive next. I didn't learn D'Nealian so it's funny to remember to add loops and such when I print for them so they can read it (because they never identify my unadorned "i"). Funny though, to see first words and writings, with all the flourishes.

Congratulations and Good Luck!

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I APPEAL to you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God - what is good and acceptable and perfect. Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

Romans 12: 1-2, 9-18

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Thoughts and Prayers

As our skies darken here and thunderstorms threaten, my thoughts continue to turn to the people in Alabama and other states who have suffered and died during the recent horrendous outbreak of more than 100 separate tornadoes. My prayers are with them.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Do you pray? Or send good thoughts or vibes or wishes? What do you pray for? What do you think prayer does? Who hears? Does anyone need to hear you or is it only about your own consciousness or something in between like good energy out into the world? How does it work? Does it have power?

As a "recovering atheist," I am mystified by prayer. In fact, for decades I never prayed, believing that prayers could only be addressed to an identifiable God, in whom I did not believe. But, through meditation, I have become more aware of prayer, more comfortable with it, less rigid in my definition (though, as I understand it, some people say that meditation is not prayer. For me, now, it is). And I'm embracing the mystery. And so I've been reading and synthesizing . . . . my sources were rather haphazardly discovered, not researched in a methodical way (this is in no way a complete bibliography on the analysis of prayer), but perhaps more meaningful because I came across them in that synergy that happens when you are thinking on something.

What is a Prayer?
Rick Hamlin recently asked on HuffPost, "Do you need to believe in God to pray?" Without giving an answer as to how or why or if prayer works, he believes that by "holding a good thought" the universe answers. Even St. Paul, quotes Hamlin, in his letters to the Philippians, said, "Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." Odd to think of Paul teaching agnostics to pray . . . .

As part of his discussion on "Why 'Do You Believe in God' is the Wrong Question to Ask," (yes, I do read a lot about religion on HuffPost), Rabbi Mitelman says a more meaningful question would be asking about when you are most connected to others. He refers to Jewish theologian Martin Buber, who "taught that the most spiritual moments occur when we are truly in relationship with others . . . . our most powerful and most memorable moments occur when we truly feel "there" with and for another person." Might that also be a prayer? Or the connection created by telling someone, or being told, that you will pray for them?

Hawk Cam

Check out the soon-to-be-hatching eggs of red-tail hawks Violet and Bobby 12 stories above NYC!

A New Pledge

After more than six weeks on medications--two antibiotics, steroids, nasal inhaler, nasal spray, muscle relaxers, painkillers, anti-inflammatories, licocaine injections--two of which I'm still on, I've given a lot of thought to giving my body a natural break. I won't say these are toxins, if only because they've certainly helped me, but I am leery of the effects of so much over a short period of time. Beyond that, I just have a need to put only natural things in my body for awhile, when I can. I've heard that some doctors suggest to chemo patients that they embrace a vegan diet during treatment, if only to give their systems a rest from digesting meat. And while I'm not in any way in the same place as a chemo patient, I can see the value of such a break.

But mercy, the ideas I've read online. Just Google "cleanse" or "detox" and you'll be amazed at the suggestions. Overly processed powders mixed in juices. Or wheatgrass. Nothing but maple syrup and lemons in water, I think was one. Or was it cayenne pepper. Or the more natural juices and smoothies, raw, with all manner of green vegetable. Plus colonics.

I don't think I can go for that either. The ingredients might be natural (except those powders) but the idea isn't. And so I'm trying to think of my own plan. Nothing extreme, because I'm not a doctor or nutritionist or naturopath. But I'm looking at veganism, with the addition of no refined sugar or gluten, for a week or more, something like the vegan workshop Sew and Sow did (and here). Maybe even 40 days.

Remember last year? My 40 day pledge? The Bread Pledge. The Bread Miracle. I made all our family's bread products for 40 days. And beyond. Until my back injury, I was still making a loaf or two a week; it had been a year since we'd purchased a loaf of bread. But in the beginning of the pledge, I didn't really even know how to bake but learned from friends at church and received recipes from family. It's one of the best things I've ever done.

It's that time of year again. The UU 40/40 pledge began on Earth Day. But I didn't. In fact, the idea of combining veganism with the pledge only occurred to me yesterday. I'm part of the way there, further than I was as a bread-baker, because I'm already a vegetarian. But I love my dairy products and rely on eggs. I also eat refined grains and sugar. Those will be harder to give up than dairy and eggs, I imagine. And I don't want to be the kind of vegan, however temporarily, that relies on overly processed soy and fake meats.

But I'm not starting yet, mainly because I'm not really in charge of my food right now. Friends are bringing some meals (thank you! thank you!). Mama is cobbling together everything else, for breakfast and snacks that can be stored in my room so I can get to them. Now is not the time to put even more restrictions on things while people are being so generous and helpful and while I cannot do things for myself. It also gives me some time to investigate and research how and what I want to do

Meanwhile, Mama is undergoing her own food transformation, having listened to Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma during her commute for the last week or so. CAFOs, antibiotics, pesticides, corn, etc etc etc. Did you know there is butane in Chicken McNuggets? She is not really considering vegetarianism but wants to give her meat-eating a lot of mindful attention. And she is now firmly committed to local, organic, humane, and less meat in general, as much as we possibly can, which includes when we eat out . . . and thus trying to wean Sis from chicken fingers and Bud from ranch burgers.

And she's agreed to join me in the vegan pledge, or whatever I end up calling it. I'll let you know. Hopefully soon.

My Privilege

A few weeks ago, the sermon at church focused on privilege and it has stayed with me since then, both theoretically and personally.

As the lay speaker noted, sociologists say “we look forward or sideways, not backwards, when we evaluate our social status.” In other words, we look where we want to be, we look where we are and how we stack up. We don't think about those we aren't trying to emulate or surpass. But these people, he noted, make up the majority of the world. He asked us to imagine lining up the world's population, from most privileged to least. Who would be at the end of the line? Women; people who are illiterate; people who live in countries where leaders are not elected; people who don't have $5 a day; people who aren't white and don't speak English. In other words, no one sitting in our church that day.

We are the privileged, even when we don't realize it because we are too concerned about privileges and status we don't have. The speaker talked about our culture, focused on individualism and competition, which allows us to credit our privilege to luck or hard work. In turn, it allows us to blame those who aren't as privileged for being lazy or unlucky. He quoted Diane Goodman, in her book Promoting Diversity and Social Justice: “The more people are self-oriented, feel responsible for their own survival, and become obsessed with their success, the more they see others as competitors….As a result, it is easier to turn one’s back on people who are oppressed.”
How, then, do we become aware of our own privilege and work for justice for the underprivileged? The speaker mentioned three motivations for this: empathy, morality, and self-interest. Yes, self-interest, or recognizing how eliminating the advantages of privilege helps everyone.

It was then that I recognized, truly, our privilege. I often think of myself in terms of my volunteering. But, where do I volunteer? At a local historical society because I enjoy it. At my kids' school, to make their school better. At church to help the congregation. All of these solidify my own privilege and that of my family and friends. It does nothing to help people who truly need help.

In only one way can I see that I help the wider community, beyond frequent petition signing and charitable donations: I am a public school Democrat. We have the resources and opportunity to either send our children to expensive private schools or to homeschool them. But we opt for public schools for one main reason: we realize that our kids will not grow up in a vacuum but in a community and the best way to ensure the health of the community is to help all of its members. And education of children is the best way to do that,as studies have shown that education combats poverty, crime, poor health, and other ills. By being involved in the public schools, which are under attack during this budget crisis, we hope to ensure the best education for our whole community. Of course, this is in our own self-interest and, at times, our resolve wavers and we think about our other options, because we selfishly wonder about risking the quality of our children's education for social justice. But, as a recent article in the NYTimes noted, “paradoxically, the kind of parents who follow debates about parenting — typically more affluent and educated — are those who may have the least to worry about" (see Motherlode, too). Of course, the article continues, "But there is a group for whom the debate is really important: low-income parents." The people behind us in the privilege line. And so our own self-interest motivates us to look beyond our privilege. I hope.

I now see our privilege everywhere, most tangibly in my recent back injury. My partner could take time off to care for me. Because of good insurance, and our ability to meet the co-pay, I can see a renown specialist in back pain in NYC. We can afford the medicines, the home medical equipment. My mom could come for an extended visit to support us. We can afford an almost-full time nanny while I recover. And, because my partner has an understanding and generous work place, she can take time off, and even beyond that, afford that I'm a stay-at-home mom, so that I'm not missing work right now on top of it all. Even more complexly, though, you might say my back injury is the result of privilege because were I in the back of the proverbial line, I would have stronger back muscles because of constant labor.

And so privilege is before me, in more ways than one, and I won't just say that we are lucky or that we've worked hard; I won't deny that it is privilege based on where, when, and to whom we were born and by whom we were raised and that our kids will be privileged for those same reasons. I don't mean to brag about this privilege, just to confront it, realize it, acknowledge it.

Which brings me, of all places, to Gwyneth Paltrow. There's a lot of online dissing of Paltrow, of her GOOP newsletter for upperclass women, of her UK Elle quote "I am who I am. I can’t pretend to be somebody who makes $25,000 a year," and, most recently her interview with Popeater, "I think my work ethic is the reason why I'm successful. I think that a lot of people don't want to put in effort and it's easier to not change, not do something good for you... [They're just] pissed off at someone else doing that. Everything in my life that's good is because I worked my ass off to get it and to maintain it." Keli Goff, of Huffington Post, recently took Paltrow to task:

this interview finally made me understand why she engenders such enmity among so many. It's not because she's pretty and talented (okay, that may be part of it). It's because, like a lot of privileged people, she's under the delusion that she earned everything that she has, and then has the audacity to gloat about it.

In an age in which America's class-divide is greater than it's ever been, our patience has simply waned for the George W. Bushes and Gwyneth Paltrows of the world -- people who were born on third base and act like they hit a triple. America was founded on the idea that everyone has equal opportunity to carve out their piece of the American Dream, but increasingly that's becoming less and less of a reality. And there's something infuriating about listening to people born into the Dream -- silver rattle in one hand, silver spoon in the other -- lecture the rest of us on how easy it is to obtain -- if we're just willing to "work our asses off" like they do.

Now, I like some of Paltrow's movies, have little interest in her website, and have loved her on "Glee." I don't know her, don't know what she's really like, don't know what she does for charities, and recognize that tabloids like to create news and controversy and of course outright fabrications. But Goff's discussion of privilege focuses on the idea that the sermon did: some of us in the front of the line don't always look back and don't recognize what our privilege really is.

I want to look back. I want to think of ways to share my privilege, think about ways that I can engage in the social justice so central to my faith. As the speaker at church noted, justice comes up twice in the UU principles. We affirm and promote:
2. Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
6. The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
What's important to me? What can I do? And I realize that it's food. Good food, plentiful food, for everyone. Food shared at the dinner table to promote stronger families. Food given to school children so they can concentrate in class. Food for families who have to decide between meals and rent. Food for people who don't get a meal a day. From better school lunches to the local food pantry, from Share Our Strength and similar organizations to buying local and fair trade and organic to help food producers locally and global, being aware of all of these issues and reflecting them in our shopping and eating. Helping people have food will be my privilege.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Glee Love

From Kurt's Sunset Boulevard solo to the Warblers' goodbye, from Santana's Lebanese shirt to that final Gaga dance, and all the talk of self-love and acceptance in between, I loved this episode.

With one exception, where's Sue?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Off to a Good Start

Today was our first day with Nanny, our new professional childcare provider who will watch the kids between coming home from school and Mama's arrival home from work while I'm still on bedrest and then regaining my mobility. And everything went wonderfully, especially all things considered--Gommie's departure today, the first day back at school after spring break, a miserable spring break of vomiting. She took the kids for a long stint at "Goose Poop Park," helped them do their homework, fed them lunch and snack and dinner, and whatever else went on downstairs out of earshot of my bed. And even when Bud kept coming upstairs for a cuddle, sad over Gommie's departure (and wondering if it was caused by Nanny's arrival, instead of the other way around), she gently and sympathetically coaxed him back into more positive endeavors, all the while respecting his sadness and need to be with me. Better even than Mary Poppins, I would venture . . . though I'm not sure she sings.

Though, of course, not better than Gommie.

Thanks, Mom!

I don't think I can top the thank-you note I wrote in the fall after you and Dad stayed up here almost a month taking care of all of us after my first back injury.

Then again, I didn't think I would need to, in the sense of being in the same situation again so soon.

But I was.

And you were there.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for tirelessly, good-naturedly, generously, kindly taking care of me, of the kids, of all of us for these last three, extremely difficult and challenging at the end with the stomach flu, weeks. We couldn't have done it without you. And while I wouldn't have done it again if I could have chosen, I'm glad to have done it with you. Even the crappy last week.

I love you!

Poetry Jam: The Ogre's Oeuvre

Our poetry reading continues nightly with a singular focus: Jack Prelutsky, creator of Awful Ogre, and the first Children's Poet Laureate. Mama picked up several of his collections at the library, including It's Raining Pigs and Noodles, The Dragons are Singing Tonight, Read a Rhyme Write a Rhyme, and A Nonny Mouse Writes Again. And both kids remembered that their teachers had read one of the poems, "A Creature in the Classroom." Apropos of going back to school after break, no?

"Creature in the Classroom"

by Jack Prelutsky

It appeared inside our classroom

at a quarter after ten,

it gobbled up the blackboard,

three erasers and a pen.

It gobbled teacher's apple

and it bopped her with the core.

"How dare you!" she responded.

"You must leave us....there's the door."

The Creature didn't listen

but described an arabesque

as it gobbled all her pencils,

seven notebooks and her desk.

Teacher stated calmly,

"Sir! you simply cannot stay,

I'll report you to the principal

unless you go away!"

But the thing continued eating,

it ate paper, swallowed ink,

as it gobbled up our homework

I believe I saw it wink.

Teacher finally lost her temper,

"OUT!" she shouted at the creature.

The creature hopped beside her

and gobbled the teacher.

Crying a River

Bud started it last week, "If Nanny comes, Gommie is leaving, isn't she?"

And he's cried pretty much daily since then, "Can't she leave on Tuesday instead? Or in May? Or just stay here?"

Last night, Gommie and I took turns, ill-timed for poetry reading. Gommie would choke up on a line and pass the book to me and then I would choke up and pass it back. Mama finally had to finish the poem.

And then this morning, Sis sat on the floor of Gommie's room and cried while she got dressed.

But the actual separation, when the kids headed off to school, was relatively painless. With no tears . . . .

Sunday, April 24, 2011

A Special Visitor

We had a special visitor sometime Friday night, who left wet footprints downstairs. The visitor even left two gifts--a "Tootsie" marmalade tabby cat for Bud and a "Knuffle bunny" a la Mo Willems's books for Sis.

Can you guess who it was?

Yep, the Easter Penguin.

Easter Morn

Easter morning starter at 6:12 with the pitter pat of little feet running around as the kiddos realized the Easter Bunny had visited and left a couple of eggs in the baskets in their room.

By 6:30, the egg hunt was on, all over the inside of the house, upstairs and down. I managed to use my eight minutes of walking time (and more, if I am honest) to situate myself on the couch downstairs to watch the search and the opening of baskets. Lots of Legos, some pajamas, a little chocolate, Star Wars posters, t-shirts of penguins and bunnies (respectively). Mama got Legos too and jelly beans. Gommie got soap and Sudoku. I got pajamas, chocolate, a sun print art kit, and an attachment for my Kitchen Aid to make my own pasta!!! Thank you, "Ether Bunny!"

And then we all went outside, where instead of rain, it was dewy and sunshiny and warm, with birds singing and squirrels hopping and flowers blooming. Glorious. Especially because I hadn't really been outside in three weeks. Plus there were beautiful Easter eggs tucked everywhere, of which the ever more experienced kiddos made short work.

We called the Eastern seaboard side of the family but are saving the Central time zone until after church so that everyone is awake.

Now they're off to church for service and another egg hunt, while I'm resting up in bed. We won't be doing the big brunch we planned, because of sensitive tummies, but there will be something . . . we're just not sure what yet.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Happy Bunny Day!

"For I remember it is Easter morn,
And life and love and peace are all new born."
--Alice Freeman Palmer

Some Sunshine

No illness today!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Cloudy with a Chance of.....

Sis is sick again.  Doctor says probably ate too much (bread) too fast (48 hours later).  Poor kid.

At least it happened after dyeing Easter eggs, which we all enjoyed.  I was even there!  I lay on the couch and they crafted on the (well-protected floor and) sofa table, making beautiful multicolored, marbelized pastel eggs.

Come on, Easter.

A New Find

Love beans like I do? Check out my new find of an older blog: Becky and the Beanstock. For a year, she researched and then cooked up a different heirloom bean each week. There are my favorite Good Mother Stallards, the Hutterite Soup and Lina Cisco Bird Egg that I just bought and many that I've never heard of. Can't wait to peruse the site more.

It's a Good Friday

So far, so good:  we head into the holiday weekend on the mend physically (though our spirits lag some so we look to Easter--rebirth, rejuvenation, new--to lift us up).  Best yet, I've had two visitors today, which really lifts my spirits. 

Weekend plans include decorating the house, dyeing eggs, playing outside today before Saturday's rain, maybe a small outing tomorrow, a new Lego set, and then all the Easter celebrations on Sunday.  The bunny will fill baskets and hide eggs at home.  Then there's an egg hunt at church.  Because of sensitive tummies and exhausted adults, we're not having a big meal, just brunch with eggs, some baked good, whatever.  I'm going to try to get downstairs to witness 8 minutes of egg hunting, maybe do my day's bedrest on the couch.

Sending love, hope, and rejuvenation to you and yours!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Morning Has Broken

Sis is doing better this morning, meaning she hasn't thrown up and has kept down the magic broth (recipe for that and for the magic smoothie soon). She is even talking, sometimes sitting up, which is better than yesterday when, from her prone position on the couch, her eyes didn't even register me when I walked into the room. We're hoping today is the day she turns for the better.

Bud is fine. And behaving wonderfully, considering he's been stuck inside and without playmates for the whole spring break. He's done Legos, drawings, reading, and of course Glee-watching. In fact, he loves the Glee version of Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" so much he told me he was going to "watch five times before breakfast, five times at lunch, and five times before bed!" Then, a new revelation occurred to him, "Can I have headphones to listen to Lady Gaga while I sleep?" And we've already watched it several times today. He even likes to sing along.

Gommie is a trooper, as she would say. "God love her," as our onetime neighbor Miss P would say. She rallied last night and is completely in charge today, downstairs entertaining both kids, bringing me snacks, and even trying to clean out my kitchen cabinets! That would be her "bohemian work ethic," another family saying. We are grateful and will miss her when she leaves next week (probably Monday), but wish her some rest and relaxation.

Mama Hungry went to work today but will be off tomorrow for Good Friday. She's busy getting things all organized for our Easter celebrations and for Gommie's departure and the nanny's arrival next week. She's exhausted, her arm hurts, and she worries about us all.

And I'm doing fine. My doctor wants me to continue my current 8 minutes x 4 times a day activity schedule through the end of the month, which effectively means I'm in bed til May. He'll see me then and we'll begin weaning me from my big brace then. I'm bummed not to be able to push the activity more--5 minutes an hour, or something--but he doesn't want me to re-injure myself at this critical juncture.

In the end, we're making do. And we realize that things could be so much worse, that we are lucky in so many ways. So even all my posts dwelling on events are more to communicate with friends and family than to complain. Sure, it sucks and we like it better when we're all healthy, but this is temporary and we have many resources that allow us to manage.

I hear little feet . . . ah, Bud is here to watch Glee!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Our Heroine

Thank you, Mama Teacher, for the emergency store run!   And for the souvenir book from your trip.  You're a blessing....


Sis is still sick.

Gommie doesn't feel well (more headache than stomachache than she first thought).

And now our cat Albus has had a huge hairball all over the place.


Sis is somewhat dehydrated but is not going to the hospital.  We'll keep in touch with the doctor throughout the day.  This is good.


Sis, who woke up vomiting and listless, is at the doctor's...we're waiting to see if she needs to go to the hospital.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Remains of the Day

Sis has fallen asleep after a pretty miserable day.

Bud is reading in bed, or else dreaming Lego dreams.

Gommie is showering off all the accumulated ick and fatigue.

Mama has gone in search of dinner (salad and beanbag soup.)

And I'm here....


Bud is now a "gleek." 

We don't watch the whole show, of course, just the more child-friendly songs.  He likes "Singing in the Rain/Umbrella," Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance," "Jump," and "Rollin'," in the wheelchairs.  And all the Warblers' songs.  (It's not too surprising...he still likes to watch the "Jai Ho" musical number from the Oscars two years ago!)  But I haven't screened the Brittney or Madonna episodes.  Thank goodness for dvr, streaming Netflix, and the just-released-today musical numbers compilation.

Especially because Sis, who had napped most of the afternoon, woke up sick again.  So I'm distracting Bud, who is still recovering, while Mama and Gommie help Sis.

Stormclouds Gathering Again

Sis just woke up vomiting.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Poetry Jam: Daffodils

In honor of Gommie and Sis planting flowers in our side garden, which I can see out the bathroom window (I especially like the last stanza):

by William Wordsworth

I WANDER'D lonely as a cloud

That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine

And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretch'd in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they

Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed -- and gazed -- but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie

In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

A Break in the Weather

Today was a good day.

Bud's fever dissipated early on and he didn't vomit again; he did miss school, of course, but we enjoyed watching tv together. Sis did go to school and seems to have had a good time at Poetry Day as well as planting flowers in a decorated cup. She is very excited that the bunny holiday is fast approaching.

After talking to my doctor, I'm upping my walking, almost doubling it--from 5 up to 8 minutes four times a day--and am not having the MRI/epidural now, as long as I can tolerate the increased activity. I'll speak to him in a few days. This is good.

Mama Hungry has gotten treatment for her tendonitis, or tennis elbow, which has gotten worse since January, to the point that she couldn't even open a bottle of water last week. She's gotten her own brace (black with velcro--we match!!) and her own prescription of Voltaren (we match again!! except hers is topical). She's hopeful it'll help.

We have spoken to and selected a nanny, who has much experience, a patient and kind demeanor, and already a good rapport with Sis (Bud, not feeling well, was more reserved and realizes also that this means that Gommie will be leaving). It's temporary, of course, but will hopefully ease our transition from Gommie (early next week) and give our family some support while I continue to heal. More on her after she starts next week.

In fact, the only thing that went poorly today is that Gommie is devastated that Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea, has been accused on "60 Minutes" of fabricating much of his story and irresponsibly using charitable funds, to which Gommie has repeatedly made donations.

Still "Raining"

Now Bud has fever...which probably means a trip to the doctor today, among other things like Mama's orthopedist appointment for her painful elbow  tendonitis, figuring out my next move (MRI yes or no, here or in town, epidural or not), and talking to a potential nanny.

Happy spring break.....

Sunday, April 17, 2011

It Pours

Sis now feels sick to her stomach.

When It Rains....

Except that the day is gorgeous...

... but Bud has a stomach virus and is sick in bed, with me, as we wait to see who else will catch it.  (Though, we're pretty sure I had it on Friday.)

And everyone's mood has been funereal because today our beloved minister was deinstalled from church.

At least Gommie and Sis are outside planting flowers--hyacinths, daffodils, tulips--to bring some fresh, clear spring beauty.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Poetry Jam: Treasured Treasury

Having finished Jack Prelutsky's two collection of Awful Ogre poems, we've moved on to the Children's Poet Laureate's 20th-Century Children's Poetry Treasury, which is a jewel of a book. Beautiful and whimsical illustrations, poems grouped in themes on double-page spreads, a variety of authors and verse, we love flipping through this book to read a few poems every night. We've done noises, playing, springtime, and, for today, rain, including:

April Rain Song
by Langston Hughes

Let the rain kiss you.
Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops.
Let the rain sing you a lullaby.

The rain makes still pools on the sidewalk.
The rain makes running pools in the gutter.
The rain plays a little sleep-song on our roof at night—

And I love the rain.

Sleep the Day Away

After a pretty mediocre yesterday--stomach upset causing increased back pain, sadness over my cancelled first tour and our spring break trip, poor parenting moments--I slept today almost all away and feel so much better.


  • Gommie went to the city, toured MoMA, and went to see Wicked;
  • Ma and Gong came up for the day and went to kung fu and lunch with the kids;
  • Mama Teacher came over for a visit in the morning and had her first crochet lesson;
  • Mama Hungry held everything together as usual.
Tomorrow is our minister's last day at church, though I won't be able to go. We start interviewing nannies on Monday so that Gommie can think about heading home in about a week. And next week is the kids' spring break so we're trying to come up with things for Gommie to do with them to make the week fun for everyone.

So, changes and adaptations continue.

And naps help everything.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Royal Wedding

Believe it or not, Anglophile that I am, I'm not paying too much attention to the upcoming Royal Wedding (except where Legos or Chocolate McVite's cake is concerned). And I've been trying to figure out why.

And I think it's because of the last royal weddings I remember, those of Princess Diana and also Sarah Ferguson. I was a youngster then, awed by the pomp and princess-ness, wowed by the fairy tale.

And it all went so horribly wrong. Betrayal, disloyalty, adultery, divorce. And Princess Diana's tragic death. And those young boys--the groom-to-be--walking behind him mum's coffin.

It's hard to forget all that and get excited about this one, knowing that fairy tales are just that, make believe. And even though all things look rosy and joyous for the young couple, and I wish them everything the previous Windsor generations have not had on the marital front and much more, I'm hesitant to invest too much in it.

But I will tape it, drink a cuppa, maybe make scones and tea sandwiches to share with the kiddos. Because maybe this Royal Wedding can be their fairy tale. For now . . . .

How I'm Surviving Back Pain, Or, What To Do If You Ever Herniate a Disc

After herniating the same disc twice, in addition to at least 3 severe lumbar and 1 severe thoracic muscle strains, I've learned a few things about back pain. I'm not a doctor, just a patient, but wanted to pass these thoughts and ideas along:

Immediately Upon Sensing that Something Has Gone Wrong
  • Get on your back with your feet up on something--the floor with your feet on a chair, the couch with your feet over the arm, the bed with pillows. Best to get to somewhere you can stay for awhile, even it means crawling on all fours in agony. Second best position: almost fetal, if you can roll over.
  • Breathe, slowly. In and out. Don't try to think much. Just breathe.
  • Ice it. 15 minutes at a time, at least once an hour. For the first 24 hours.
  • Ibuprofen. At least 3. Gel caps are apparently fastest but take whatever you have. I couldn't say how often, but 2-3 times a day (like every 6-8 hours).
  • Call your GP.
  • Wait. This is the hard part. Distract yourself with tv, the computer, the phone. Don't really think about moving at all for hours; try not to do anything the first 24. Yes, that means using the bathroom is a pain, especially for women (I've never wanted a penis so badly). Think adult diapers. Because you won't be able to walk. Also, wear clothing that is least restrictive--you don't need to fight fabric--I prefer just a big t-shirt.
  • It is tempting to want to go to the ER because it hurts so much and you can't move. If you have numbness or tingling in your legs or can't control your bodily functions, call 911. Otherwise, try to stay home. The ER tends to give you morphine and send you home, after an agonizingly long wait. The morphine is good for awhile but doesn't a) treat the problem or b). last long enough. And it's pretty miserable to wait at the ER.
The First Few Days
  • After the first 24 hours, think of applying heat via 8-hour thermal heat pad or the like.
  • Try to get up a few minutes every several hours. Have someone spot you. It's going to hurt and be scary. Stop if it is too much.
  • If you can get one, wear some kind of lumbar brace for those short walking forays. Medical supply stores sell them. Medical supply stores are your new best friend.
  • Contact a specialist. You have two options: an orthopedist is likely to operate; a physiatrist is a pain specialist who does not operate. Apparently, only 10% of back injuries require surgery, but non-surgical recovery is slow (6 months to a year, though not all in bed) and not everyone has that luxury. My physiatrist usually prescribes Valium, Voltaren, fish oil, and lidocaine-steroid trigger shots at the injury spot as soon as I can get in the office. He also ordered a much stiffer lumbar brace.
  • To get to the doctor, lie down on your side in the backseat of the car, with a pillow between your legs. Best to wear that lumbar brace because it's gonna be bouncy. And take the ibuprofen.
  • Line up your support network. Do you have family nearby? Friends who can help? Church or other organization to assist? What do you need most--childcare? meals? rides? errands? Most people will kindly offer "anything you need." Be prepared to have specific requests so they know how they can help. Sometimes, just having people stop by is as important as anything else to my own recovery. There are also websites to coordinate meals or a variety of caregiving (see NYTimes article).
  • Magnesium citrate is a gentler way to jump start or keep your system regular.
  • Making "life in a bed" easier: a bolster or wedge for your legs because pillows can be wobbly and unsupportive (from medical supply stores or online); I keep a box on my bed with remote controls, books/magazines, my phone, snacks, a bottle of water, my laptop, and paper and pen so I can find everything easily; baby wipes are good for all manner of things from cleaning up after snack to feeling fresh between showers; now I have a medical rail on the bed to help me pull myself up or to help me roll over; there is also an "oh shit" bar in the shower and next to the toilets for the same reason.
Long Recovery
  • Follow your specialist's orders re: medicine, heat/cold, rest, and exercise/therapy.
  • The psychological battle is now the harder part, as you fear reinjuring your back, self-censor your activities unnecessarily because of the fear, mourn your loss of mobility/independence/strength, become isolated with the cancellation of your usual activities, play "what if?" or "how?". I recommend Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (I use the CD and have a book/workbook, would love to take the course sometime) and meditation, both of which acknowledge the present and the pain but provide a way to come to terms with it.
  • An up-side is that you quit taking little things like walking, showering, the restroom, etc for granted, at least for awhile. And of course, you appreciate the bigger ones, like family and friends, medical care and insurance. It's definitely a count-your-blessings kind of experience.
  • Pay attention to your body's clues and rest if the area becomes too inflamed or tight. Contact your doctor.
  • For safety's sake, I always have a phone on me, even when my back is fine. But I want to know that if it goes out, I can reach help immediately.
  • And strangest of all, it gets easier each time, I think.

Happy Birthday, Sew and Sow!

Wishing you a wonderful day . . . "and many more!"

Life in a Bed, Or What I'm Reading

This time around (as opposed to last time), I can hold a book and it makes all the difference. I'm much happier being able to read than to watch tv, though I have completely caught up on "Glee" episodes and started watching the new "Upstairs, Downstairs."

Otherwise, I'm reading, both off and online, including:

  • Sally Gunning's Satucket books, such as Widow's War, Bound, and The Rebellion of Jane Clarke, related but not exactly sequels, set in colonial Cape Cod. It's like a historic house docent tour come to life, which is particularly appealing to me as I sit out my first several tours.
  • other colonial history, including Carol Berkin's Revolutionary Mothers, and the opening chapters of No Idle Hands, a history of American knitting

  • I've blown through all the back issues of several food magazines (Saveur, Food Network, Vegetarian Times), Martha Stewart Living, Shambhala Sun, Smithsonian, random things (Early American Life, Time Magazine on pain from Gommie, Family Tree on civil war relatives, Civil War Times on Southern women's bread riots) and . . .
  • Archaelogy, which I put under a separate heading because I've read so many of them and would be glad to discuss: "bog bodies" of northern Europe; the geography of the ancient sites of Ireland as relate to the agricultural holidays of Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnasa, and Samhain; "Timberhenge" near Stonehenge; a Uighur site on an island in Siberia; Afghanistan's Buddhist remains along the Silk Road; Ottoman palaces in Albania; the rich burial of Chinese Lady Dai; the 18th-century ship found near the World Trade Center site; the ritual uses of the Nasca lines; the reconstruction of a colonial coffeehouse at Williamsburg; a battle between Hamilcar and the Greeks on Sicily; using archaeological techniques to trace current illegal immigration habits through the Sonoran Desert; an addendum to NAGPRA, about Native American remains and grave goods; Warner Herzog on cave art; traditions of Aboriginal rock art, including "x-ray" style that is distinctive and Europeans shown with hands on hips; fleet wrecked by hurricane near Florida that would've altered Spanish colonial expansion; ancient Korean love letter found on mummy; Salado pottery as expression of "poor woman's cult" in American Southwest; excavating a Bonaparte "palace" in New Jersey; excavating the effects of Order 11 and the burning of parts of Missouri by Union soldiers; the renewal of elaborate architectural stepwells of Gujarat that are almost a thousand years old; and, finally, a joint Israeli-Arab community excavation of an Ottoman khan, or inn, by local schoolchildren.

Huffington Post
New York Times


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Good Night

Evening Gatha

The day is ending,
our life is one day shorter.
Let us look carefully
at what we have done.
Let us practice diligently,
putting our whole hert into the
path of meditation.
Let us live deeply each
in freedom,
so time does not slip away

Night Shift

My slumberless night is over.  Not because I'm going to sleep--I imagine I'll nap later--but because night is over.  The wind and rain have stopped with the brightening of rosy-fingeredu dawn (though, it's more gray than pink).  The birds are even singing a cheerful tune.  Gommie just got up to fetch a cuppa; the munchkins will be up in 30 minutes.

Even sleepless, it wasn't a bad night... no stress, fear, or pain.  And I wasn't up sick myself (hang in there, Mama Teacher), with a sick child or young baby, working the night shift, or anything else trying or tiring.  In fact, I got a lot done....meditating, reading, emailing, blogging, thinking.  And unlike anyone else, I am lucky to pretty much have nothing to do (or that I can do on bed rest) all day.

Not a bad night's work....


Dramatic spring thunderstorm has me awake. But thankfully no one else, not even the oblivious cat beside me.

Some blog posts I hope to get to soon:
*Privilege, based on a recent sermon at church;
*Meditating in the backseat of the car;
*The Royal Wedding;
*Life in a bed, or what I'm reading;
*Suggestions for coping with back pain;
*Considering some kind of a cleanse, vegan/whole-food/something.

And now, at almost 4am, these incredible howling winds have kicked up.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

In the car...

Bumping all the way home after trip to my specialist.  More shots, some tears, kindness and reassurance from doctor.  Wait and see one week, then maybe MRI and epidural because of weakness in right leg/hip. Feeling better, at least mentally.

Monday, April 11, 2011


I mentioned in my last post that Mothering Magazine has been central to my development and evolution as a mom. It's one of a few written sources that have fundamentally affected the way I think of motherhood and, more broadly, about myself (which is by way of saying, I'm not talking about my own mom, my co-mom Mama Hungry, my mom friends, my educator friends/professionals, my church, here). So I thought I'd mention a few others, because the loss of this publication has gotten me thinking of what other texts, specifically, have changed me. You'll notice these aren't your usual sleep/discipline/general parenting tomes by Sears, Brazelton, Spock, Inc. (of these, Tracy Hogg's Baby Whisperer was my favorite because of its comforting you-can-do-it tone, but it was really limited to the baby years, while these are much more general). In no specific order:

  • Mothering Magazine: from articles about circumcision, faerie houses, children's reading groups, the dangers of plastics, yoga for kids, the importance of the Green Hour, recess, homeschooling, etc, etc, etc., I learned about ideas that weren't in your traditional parenting magazines, even when I didn't always embrace for myself attachment parenting, home births, the family bed, long-term (into toddlerhood) breast feeding, etc. But the magazine gave me the resources and space to explore new options.
  • Momma Zen: Walking the Crooked Path of Motherhood/Cheerio Road/Hand Wash Cold/Karen Maezen Miller: I first heard of Karen Maezen Miller's first book, Momma Zen, in the Chinaberry catalog and was intrigued. And so I got the book for Christmas and was entranced and inspired by this Buddhist priest's approach to parenting and life. I read her blog, correspond with her on occasion, and loved her second book, Hand Wash Cold. She introduced me to Buddhism and meditation, to compassion and mindfulness and simplicity (to use trendy catchphrases that she generally eschews). While not my teacher in her lineage's sense of the word, she has taught me so much. And I am a better mom and person for her.
  • Non-violent, or compassionate, communication: I'm not sure there is one NVC text that has influenced my life so much as the theory of it in general. Compassion. Feelings. Needs. Quality of connection. The beauty is in the practice, not in the texts explaining it. So, if you want a place to start, a workshop is great, but any number of texts (Non-violent Communication: A Language of Life; Respectful Parents, Respectful Kids), including the website, would help.
  • Jim Trelease's Read Aloud Handbook: This one is different from the others in the sense that it doesn't really espouse a life philosophy but is a very honed treatise on a specific practice: the importance of reading to children. I'm reading it with my school reading group, led by the principal, though I've had it for years. It has revitalized my own love of reading while also expanding our family's reading habits--from reading chapter books like the Water Horse (based on the understanding that children's listening levels are a few grades higher than their reading levels) to letting the children have their own lamps for free-reading time after bedtime. And even if it isn't directly related to poetry month, I know that our current exploration of poetry was implicitly encouraged by this book.
  • NurtureShock: This meta-analysis of contemporary psychological, sociological, educational, and other studies reconfigured many of my assumptions about child development and parenting, from why children lie, the specific affects and importance of sleep, race issues and kids, sibling relationships, the role of praise, intelligence and schooling, etc etc etc. Anyone who has talked to me about parenting recently has heard me quote this book. And it's changed the way I do things: I talk about race, specifically, naming races, discussing its importance, avoiding cliches about color-blindness and skin tone not mattering because it matters just not in the way I thought (because, of course, I'm a white person who hadn't given race much thought beyond "we're all the same beneath our skin."); my use of praise has changed--no more blanket congrats or encouragement, but specific comments on skills and effort; I don't ask my kids to lie to me by encouraging them to please me with evasions to questions like "who put that there?"; nothing, nothing, nothing is more important than sleep (even food!) because I now know the incredible deleterious effects on kids who miss even an hour of sleep on weekends and drop 2 grades in performance or the equivalent of 10 IQ points when they aren't rested--and they can't make it up the way adults do; the key to sibling relationships and the role parents don't really play (what was amazing about this section was the study that showed that kids only really came to parents 1/10 times to have help negotiate a disagreement, though it feels like more; I am now a lot more understanding of their calls for mediation and appreciative of how often they work it out on their own. Even if it doesn't feel like it.). There's more--on school IQ testing, teenage rebellion--that I'm only beginning to think about, especially because I'm still mulling over the rest of it.
  • Lisa Belkin's Motherlode blog on the New York Times: While the comments range from supportive to divisive to contentious (and never fail to get me riled up), the posts address a wonderful array of current issues, trends, and news items in parenting, all with Belkin's generous, informed, even-keeled analysis.
  • Barbara Kingsolver (Animal, Vegetable, Miracle), Mark Bittman (Food Matters, his blog, his Minimalist columns), and Michael Pollan (Food Rules, Omnivore's Dilemma, In Defense of Food), writing about food issues today. I spend much of my time thinking about food, both micro- and macrocosm: what's for dinner? are they getting enough calcium/iron/protein? what constitutes a healthy snack? are conventional grapes better than organic cheddar bunny snack mix? how can we wean Sis off chicken fingers? should I have raised the kids as vegetarians? must they take a "no, thank you"-bite? And these thoughtful writers give me the resources and paradigms for making decisions, and the support and inspiration to keep doing my best.