Sam McFadden and I met when our oldest children were in the same kindergarten class at a fabulous Boston Public school. We both showed up with their younger siblings at pick-up, splitting snacks between the two and managing to watch both the playground-play and the fountain-play at the same time. Our kindergarteners became fast friends, built on a shared love of Minecraft, drawing, Star Wars and imagination.
In quick succession Sam and I both began showing up looking fatigued, queasy, and then subsequently announced/explained: pregnant.
Right around when we finished our lease on our North End apartment and moved to Vermont, Sam and her husband Aaron made the decision to follow a lifelong daydream and move their family onto a sailboat. They have been living and homeschooling on their 42′ boat since last year. After watching them spend this past summer sailing around Maine’s harbors, I had to follow up with her and ask a few questions about life these days!
I’ve got pencils on my mind for Valentines. Pencils are a delightful part of everyday life around here with the girls laboring over their handwriting–sharpening beautifully, the erasers all worn down to courageous stubs (furious erasing takes such courage).
I am the parent-tutor for a class of six seven-year-olds, we’re together each week for three fun and challenging hours. I will give them each a bright red sharpened pencil and a delicate red pen, the nib type that bends if you push too hard but until then, draws the most perfect fine line.
There is just something about red in February.
In the evenings the girls and I have been reading Birchbark House, a fictional story about a historic Native American tribe living on Lake Superior. We have landed in the winter chapters. The seven-year-old heroine Omakayas, her sister, mother, and grandmother spend the winter carefully beading projects like moccasins and purses by the dim firelight.
My equivalent is slowly beading our photos from 2017 and 2018 into a complete book for each year, purging hundreds of photos from my computer as I go. Last year I forgot to do the book for 2017. I think house hunting took over that computer-use space. Ultimately I have a very limited patience span for computer-ing. If I have one project, the time does not expand to accommodate another. It’s either/or.
Since 2013 I’ve used Artifact Uprising for my printed books; lured, I suppose, by their matte printing and rich papers. For years they did not offer an option for any kind of text to accompany the photos, which meant the book actually got done (they offer a text option now, which I will pragmatically ignore).
Their online book-building software is better than ever these days, they’ve fixed almost every quirk I used to quietly complain about. I recommend it. I also recommend batching all of your photos into folders by month and uploading the months as individual galleries. There–you have all of my wisdom gained in the last five years.
Though I was disappointed to find myself two years behind on the photo books, I have loved working through the photos from 2017. It’s completely wonderous how much has changed in that short amount of time. How much we did. How lovely most of it was. As I edit I often remember to murmur to myself–today we’re as young as we’ll ever be.
Bouquet image above from C.W. Pencil Enterprise.
Heidi of 101cookbooks does these lists every once in awhile and I love them. Here’s what I’m loving.
This interview with Molly Rosen Guy (Shop Doen). My Dad used to tell his doctor that he just wanted to get well soon so he could go home and read the Chicago Tribune every morning in his favorite chair by the window.
My friend Erin told me about Kid Gorgeous, the hour long comedy special on Netflix and I’m so glad she did. His robot bit had me laughing hysterically (with headphones, after bedtime, with old halloween candy, as a parent might do). More laughter for January!
I’ve been making this light, tasty chicken stir-fry recipe for ten years and the sauce is still my favorite mix of soy-vinegar-garlic-ginger. If you can get Boston lettuce, the wraps are really fun, but tortillas will do, sour cream adds a lot as well. (Martha Stewart)
This interview with RadioLab producer Latif Nasser. “I love Google Alerts. I have dozens of them active at any given time.”
Light, bendy, and rechargeable, these clip-on reading lights were a total win as Christmas gifts for the girls.
The pinterest account of Willaby, an organic blanket brand from Georgia.
Sipping green tea and thinking how very interesting it is to be a mother of young ones in today’s America. Naturally from here, I could lead this conversation just about anywhere, but today’s circuit of fascination: Lyme’s disease.
If you grew up around ticks, the idea of checking your children for ticks is quite standard, if not a traditional summer activity. But whether you grew up around them or not, the fact is that today’s parents are facing an outdoors full of ticks with epic levels of Lyme infection.
Lyme is one of those things I’ve started bringing up around other moms, casual-suggestively, to learn if I’m missing something. At a book club, sitting around a long table in a lush backyard, I eagerly leaned in as the woman across from me cataloged all the steps she’d gone through after finding three ticks on her daughter. -But what about sending it to one of the websites? I asked. -Practitioners don’t think those are reliable. False positives. False negatives. -But you can’t prescribe doxy…I murmured. -Our pediatrician is prescribing doxycycline.
This was news to me. I’d been told no pediatricians were prescribing doxycycline to children. Amoxicillin only, though it had no recorded success with Lyme. Her doctor’s office was less than a mile away from mine. And yet, different approaches were happening between the two places. to children. in ways that would affect them for the rest of their lives.
Of course there’s a reason this is on my mind. I found an engorged tick on one of my children that had been on her for three days. Not having peeked behind her ear for those three days was a one weekend slip-up, with the potential of the worst consequences. I pulled it off perfectly, sent it to tickcheck.com perfectly (although, if you are in this situation, I highly recommend paying extra for it to get there as fast as possible), consulted my pediatrician and waited anxiously perfectly…and received my text message that said the tick did not have one of nine diseases it could have had. It did have one, but it was not one that is considered dangerous in our area (borrelia mayonii). My city pediatrician was surprised I had found this website and sent the tick off quickly. The only reason I had done so was because a friend from Martha’s Vineyard told me too, because where she vacationed this was considered standard procedure. Even though just a few weeks later I was told that these private-enterprise-tick dissection labs are not considered reliable, I am still really glad I sent it. If I still had seen a rash on my child, I would have asked for a Doxy prescription. But those results, paired with no rash, no fatigue, muscle aches, and no fever, gave me confidence to set this worry aside.
“On the West Coast, when it comes to natural disasters, they have earthquakes. The heartland has tornadoes. The South has hurricanes. Here in the Northeast, our natural disaster is Lyme disease,” said Kevin Esvelt, who specializes in a field called evolutionary and ecological engineering at MIT Media Lab.” –CNN
(except, not quite so regional as that, since Lyme infected ticks are rapidly spreading in the Midwest as well.)
For those who study Lyme disease and see patients with Lyme, signs seem to indicate that there is no pinning this malicious insidious disease down. Maybe you’ll get a rash. Maybe you’ll have a fever. Maybe you’ll see the tick. Maybe you won’t. Maybe it will test positive or negative at tickcheck.com or something similar. Doxycycline is the only known working antibiotic for Lyme. Doxycycline is not recommended to be prescribed to children as it is known to affect bone growth and stains their teeth. However, it is being prescribed because practitioners are now feeling that it is better than having the Lyme go untreated.
And a separate branch of this discussion begins right there: the long untreated cases of Lyme that were ignored or misdiagnosed for years. This branch of the conversation is centering around a lonely and grim theory: Is Lyme disease a Feminist issue? Take One, and take Two.
Researchers and insurers have often insisted not only on positive test results but also on the classic signs of early Lyme infection, such as the distinctive bull’s-eye rash and swollen knee joints, even though many people infected with the spirochete bacterium do not present such signs. Some of the symptoms of “chronic Lyme”—headaches, exhaustion, and cognitive dysfunction—have been dismissed as too vague or too similar to those of other conditions to be accorded diagnostic weight. -The New Yorker (see One above)
It feels overwhelmingly like the general knowledge database is broken here. It feels like it is totally on us to know everything we can.
This is when a light blue filter slides into my mind and I begin to see filmy images of the future, Minority Report style….what if playing in the woods soon looks like children scampering around in permethrin lightweight suits? What if we never get a vaccine and instead genetically alter mice, deer, embryos, whatever we can to introduce inoculation? What if the equivalent of giant weekly bug bombs becomes standard treatment for anything out-of-doors? What if tick immune robot cats are the new housecats?
Then I switch back to my admittedly healthy and yellow filter life in happy Massachusetts. I believe children can still play outside. I don’t believe we have to resort to toxic chemicals on our lawns. I believe it’s still safe to have indoor-outdoor pets. I believe we can catch this disease in the act of infection, and we can treat it. But, I believe we should be talking about it.
In this spirit, I want to mention a few homegrown prevention approaches I’ve encountered recently:
- Cistus Tea: made from leaves grown in Eastern Europe, rumored to successfully make human and animal drinkers repellent to ticks.
- Elevation: No rumors here. There are fewer ticks at elevations over 1000 ft.
- Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Soap: landscapers claim that washing in Dr. Bronner’s peppermint soap makes them unappealing to ticks as they hike through the bushes, trimming back overgrowth in yards up and down the east coast. A refreshing soap and a bug repellent? I’ll take it.
- Animals: guinea hens (but dang, are they loud!), chickens and possums are all rumored to eat up local tick from your grounds. Whether maintaining these animals as ground control is worth it, is up to you!
- Cedar oil: a known effective natural deterrent for household pets, safe around children and pregnant women.
- Nightly tick checks for the entire household. Tried and true through the generations.
- Insert your tip here! What have you learned?
To close, a link to this excellent recent summary of the options with bug spray, including the general sense that DEET is not so bad after all.
Obvious disclaimers….I am not a doctor, scientist, or professional researcher. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The advice & statements on this blog have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. Any information on this blog is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
Decided to do this one in an impromptu, unedited seven minute video format. Click for the pop-up. All the links I mention are linked to below.
4 (with some editorial delays) Elisabeth Elliot’s program
I’ve been meaning to link to this superb writing on postpartum depression on Katrina’s blog. I have experienced moments like she describes and I think she nails the elements exactly. The buzzing thoughts, the way the dark moments can tip the scale, the physical notes that come into play–eye contact, smiles. An excellent read, particularly if you’ve had friends go through this, or brushed against it yourself.
A bit of back story, so you catch the details: Katrina, a calligrapher, painter, and devoted Catholic, gave birth to her baby girl with two young boys already tumbling about her in a tiny space on campus with her husband deeply into graduate school.
Somehow in the hubbub of last days of pregnancy, I forgot to post the interview I typed up for Erin Boyle’s blog Reading My Tea Leaves. Here it is! In preparation for the publication of her book Simple Matters she interviewed several small-space livers. I found the other interviews fascinating! And by golly I really tried my best to keep mine candid and helpful.
Living in a small space with children who love paper found on the street, admission bracelets given to them at museums, stacks of old artwork…I promise it’s a constant project. But when it’s working, it’s working so well.
Do you have a favorite lullaby to sing? Would you tell me its name, if so? I’d like to build my collection, write them all down on a post-it note and stick it over the couch. Quote more poetry. Hum more tunes. Alma May, born December 29th at 11:30pm deserves the very best.
quotes from a few online essays I loved lately…
“My mom is nothing but love and comfort and happiness to me, and she found even the smallest ways to make us girls feel loved: turning down our covers at night, always playing music, or popping our towels in the dryer to warm them up minutes before our baths were over. Those are the kind of simple, happy memories I want my own kids to have of home.”
-Amelia’s interview on DesignMom
A few years ago, before we decided to start a family, I once feared that when a baby entered our lives I would somehow forget everything I learned about cooking because all my energy would be used to keep a tiny human alive and breathing. I’m happy to report this is not the case. In fact, I’ve discovered the opposite to be true. I’ve remembered how to cook, relying on the muscle memory of peeling and chopping and seasoning and putting meals together, gravitating to tried and true staples rather than trying new dishes with questionable outcomes.”
–Remembering How to Cook, by Nicole Gulotta
“Make coffee/drink coffee, inhale/exhale, walk outside/feel your feet on the earth, open the book/read the pages, get off the internet/be present in your home.”
–Jodi, Happy New Day, Practicing Simplicity
“So 2015. You seem like a year of sunlight extended hours and while I know the tan is worth it, you aged me with your lines of wisdom and your creases of grace. I look in the mirror and see so many things staring back. But mostly, a woman who is changing, a family that is growing, and a savior that is gracious indeed. ”
-Mary Beth, Wishing You Good Cheer, Rosemary Wild
This photo by our friend Jared. You see photos like these and you remember–oh yeah, phones have nothing on nice cameras.
the girls are loving: Kiki’s Messaging Service (1989) Hooray for the discovery of another wonderful anime movie from Studio Ghibli. We love the lively spirit of the young girl characters in Our Neighbor Totoro (1988) and Ponyo, and Kiki’s got the same mix of honor and adventure. She’s a current top contender for Lux’s halloween outfit.
For our next movie day I’ve got my eye on Song of the Sea. Has anyone watched it with their young ones?Can I wear this to Costco? a pinterest board by Grace that I just discovered.
Bloom Naturals salt scrub: the girls are obsessed with taking “just a pinch” of this at the end of their baths. It makes them smell delicious and rubs off dead skin as well. Wildly all-natural and a great price. I also use her bug spray on all of us in the evenings because we get nighttime mosquitos (does such a thing exist?? We’ve got them.) and I don’t have to worry about crazy chemicals being on our skin overnight.
10 Lessons from Tibor Kalman: I really loved reading this. I’ve been curious about Maira Kalman’s deceased husband Tibor and their relationship for a long time.
Speaking of creative couples, Lux is really into the TV show Octonauts and I am just loving the fact that it was created by a husband-wife duo that live in Canada. They are incredibly talented! Here’s a overview/interview of Meomi Studio.
I’ve really been loving the blogs of homeschooling moms lately. Reading about their habits, goals, daily struggles: they’ve really got my number these days and it’s an enriching blessing to follow along from afar.
Oddly I’m not a big fan of homeschool via instagram. It’s confusing, these brief shots captioned “science today” with horses in the background, or crayoned leaf drawings scattered across a woodhewn table in the woods. It’s not fair or realistic to the time spent or the work behind the image.
(Exception here for Ms. Annapolis who has such an encouraging instagram account for me, homeschool and all!)
When my mom was homeschooling us I remember overhearing her answering questions that began with “oh I could never….” or “but do you have a teaching degree?”or “I’m not smart enough to teach my children.” The simple narrative of blogging moms can really demystify the process, the work, the ebbs and flow. I’m sure my mom would have pointed overwhelmed moms to favorite bloggers back in the day. Blogs can be really encouraging and revealing.
Whereas, I feel, multiple shots of children feeding their pet hens or counting river rocks can actually make it more mystical and unattainable to your average mom. I don’t mean this as a slight to anyone creative’s work on social media. I simply mean to say that it can be really helpful to get a rich in-depth perspective.
Soule Mama has always been a source of tranquility and nature-delight. She is careful to make time for her own creative endeavors and is always challenging herself with new projects. I love that.
City Kids Homeschool, a mom who blogs from over in Cambridge. She’s more of a homeschool agitator, standing up for homeschooling and often frequently addressing recent articles or topics in the news. It can be a bit aggressive but I enjoy reading someone who really believes in what she’s doing. She’s a great local resource for me.
My friend Deanna, a former teacher, just started homeschooling her boys and she does such a nice job of portraying their every day and her own excitement for the work. Plus she shares ideas for PreK fun.
I can’t keep up with Mrs. Darcy, she posts so much, but I like to sit down and read her blog a bit like a Sunday paper, clicking around and reading multiple articles all in one session. She loves to read and has an amazing vision for her children’s education.
Any recommendations for me?
It’s useful to note that all of these moms who manage to blog highlight again and again the importance of good help to their process–sitters they love, husbands with flexible hours, grandmas who live nearby.