Two years ago at the botanical gardens, I saw a tree full of these fantastic little birds, but never could ID them.
Well, the neighbor's holly tree, loaded down with berries, attracted a flock of 'em last week, and I finally figured out the right google string (songbird crest mask) and now I know, they're cedar waxwings. Pretty little things, apparently they descend on an area, pick it clean, then leave. Which is exactly what they did. The holly tree is awfully bare.
They had some help; they were preceded by an enormous and ravenous cadre of robins. I was initially thrilled to see them perching on my balcony one morning, and snapped a bunch of photos while they ate from the tree, but later that day I was muttering about "flying rats" when I saw the mess they had left behind. Maybe it's not such a bad thing that we're getting rain this weekend...
One by one, I'm attempting to identify the shrubs in my yard. Once this one next to the front step started to bloom, I was able to narrow it down to some sort of viburnum, although the leaves have me stumped and I can't determine the variety yet. While examining it up close, I discovered that it has a lovely jasmine-like scent.
The leatherleaf mahonia continues to surprise. The buds are opening into wonderful bridal bouquets of greenish-yellowish-white florets, but as I passed the one in the back yard a few days ago, I caught a whiff of rose. Braving the prickly leaves, I determined the mahonia to be the source of the aroma. The one by the front stoop is now in full enough bloom that when I open the door, I'm greeted by the combined perfume of the mahonia and the viburnum. The bees seem to appreciate the scent, too, and I've noticed that the older blossoms on the mahonia are starting to form berries. I wonder what kinds of birds they'll attract?
Griff's post-holiday, delayed-due-to-plague birthday party finally happened on Feb 14th. If pirates and Valentine's day aren't a natural mix, I don't know what is. Something I do know: six-year-olds are my new favorite thing. To find out why and read about pirate socialism and more, visit the new 2009 photo album.
I think Feb 18th was probably the snowiest day we'll see this winter. We woke to big fat icy flakes coming down and coating the near West End, but alas, a week of balmy weather had left the ground a bit too warm for snow, and by 9 o'clock everything was already melting away. Maybe next year.
1 little, 2 little, 3 little Starbucks fans. Curses on whomever decided to put a cafe in every Target store! Do you know how hard it is to escape without caving to either my caffeine addiction, the pleas of my children, or both? And do you know how sheepish I feel (but apparently not sheepish enough not to do it) that I have started giving Xander his very own vanilla milk?
I was reflecting on something I said I'd do a while ago, and never did, and wondering why, and it occurred to me that this project was a prime example of Jess' law of probability:
The probability (p) of a parent completing a given task is proportional to the restedness (r) of the parent, raised to the power of their feelings of motivation (m), divided by the product of the complexity of the project (c, measured in number of steps it will take to complete the task) and the number of offspring (o) that the parent has.
Essentially, any task requiring more than two steps currently has an infinitely small probability of reaching completion over here, at present. Come visit and a gentle bonk on your head from the dangling wicker lamp will bear testament to this fact.
don't get bogged down in how something bad might happen, or who doesn't approve of the thing you want to do. don't listen to the fear, or the little voices in your head telling you a million and one reasons not to do the thing that you really, truly, deeply want to do.
and do it.
it feels really, really good to be living the things you've talked about, rather than talking about them and complaining about the things you're doing instead of them. it is amazing to realize that you're not carrying the baggage of unfulfilled wishes and dislike of your present circumstance. it is fantastic to say no to things you don't want to do, and to go for the things you do want to do.
life is way too short to be doing anything you don't actually have to do or want to do, and when it gets down to it, the list of what you actually have to do is pretty short.
start the project, take the class, make the plan, meet the people, drop the sense of duty to people who mistreat you, embrace who you really are, do it your way, and evict those silly little voices. they don't know what they're talking about.
Recently, a mother was ostracized and threatened with arrest for breastfeeding at a Denny's restaurant in Asheville, NC. Disciminatory events surrounding nursing in public (NIP) like this one are often followed by action from activists, which leads to many discussions between pro- and anti-NIP persons, including terms such as decency, courtesy, respect, obscenity, and discretion.
This frosts my cookies, to put it mildly. The anti-NIP faction inevitably harumphs and voices their offense at the so-called disrespect shown by breastfeeding mothers. They "shouldn't have to see that", it's "disgusting", and the mother should take herself to the bathroom or travel with a bottle. Comparisons to passing gas or public urination generally follow. These comments reveal both ignorance of and unfamiliarity with the physical and emotional realities of parenting a breastfed infant, as well as the ingrained sense of shame with which most of us have been taught to view the human body. There is nothing indecent about a mother feeding her infant, no matter how she chooses to do it. There is nothing obscene about the nurturing functions of the body. There is nothing disrespectful in the act of a mother meeting her child's needs.
Unfortunately, as lactivists discuss these situations among themselves and in public spaces, they often drift into agreement with the anti-NIP faction. They start to question exactly how much breast the ostracized mother was exposing, and champion the privacy with which it is possible to nurse a child. This leads to endless sidebar conversation about exactly how a mother can go about preventing herself from showing skin, how some mothers "go too far", how some are, perhaps,
trying to cause a scene in order to piss off the puritans as an exhibitionist taunt or as a misguided bit of activism.
Ladies and gentlemen, the time has come to stop demonizing women for showing skin, to get over ourselves and our hangups about the interconnection between sexuality and motherhood, to refocus on what is important: we're mammals. We lactate. Our children need to be nurtured.
To that end, when a recent thread on the Richmond-area Natural and Attached Parenting (NAP) board started veering into discussion about being "discreet," I could take it no longer, and posted the following plea. My friend Jen has since reposted it to the FirstRight advisory committee and on the MotheringDotCommune breastfeeding boards (the MDC link contains her post and the responses), so I thought perhaps the original author should share it on her own space, as well. I am pairing this post with several photos of myself nursing my children, some of which have not been posted here before.
It seems like whenever there is a discussion about breastfeeding in
public, eventually things get down to this: somebody is offended by the
sight of a breast, and they think the owner of the breast should
respect their feelings by not baring their breast. Then the D word
comes out: discreet. And it's almost always a breastfeeder who uses it
first: *I'm* discreet, *I* don't condone those titty-flashing drama
queens with their nipply agendas! It can be done modestly! Look at me,
I'm a breastfeeder, I don't let it all hang out!
I've done it,
too, and it galls me. We're trying to gently convince the offended
person that their big bad fear of total XXX boobage doesn't reflect
reality. We're trying to reassure them that really, most breastfeeders
don't show that much breast, so cool it on the anti-indecent exposure
Problem is, we're shooting ourselves in the foot. By
using the big D, or dancing around it in any way by trying to prove how
*modest* we are, by talking about how the baby covers up the breasts,
reassuring them that nothing really shows and that they've probably
seen a million cases of NIP and never noticed it...we're allowing them
to define modesty and discretion. We're playing their game and agreeing
with them that breasts should not be seen. We're selling out our fellow
breastfeeders - the ones who are unhampered by silly social
conditioning and don't feel self-conscious popping a breast over the
neck of a tank top, or who just can't hide those 38Gs, or who
inadvertently get exposed by a curious 8 month old taking a look
around. It's even worse when the pro-NIP side starts to agree with the
"just be prepared with a bottle or go to the bathroom!" side by
speculating about the motives of the woman in the news story du jour.
We weren't there, we aren't her. Assuming that she was trying to stir
up a ruckus is blaming the victim.
So, I beg of you, can we
please drop the discretion language and stand up for our fellow nursing
mamas, no matter how they get the milk into their baby's mouths? (I'm
not pointing any fingers, just asking if you'll join me in watching
what we say.) When we use it, we allow the anti-NIP people to put us on
the defensive and define the terms of the debate. Our bottom line
should be this: babies have a right to food and comfort when and where
they need it. How much of the breast is bared in the process should
matter to no one but its owner. So let's stop talking about how
discreet we are, ok?
[The following was taken from my response to a couple of people who felt like it's important to use the word "discreet" when talking to new mothers worried about NIP, in order to reassure them and encourage them to nurse.]
I think there are different contexts at work here. I'm
talking about defending a baby's right to NIP, a civil-rights issue. I
still don't want to use the word "discreet" or other words like it when
talking to new mothers, but I don't mind sharing information with them
on ways they can nurse comfortably. To me, helping a mother to find a
way of nursing that's comfortable to her is different from defending a
woman tossed out of Denny's to a guy who insists that nursing should
never happen in a public place, period.
What I would do if trying to reassure a new mom: - echo her concerns - it's important that she feel validated. It's common to feel shy/worried about NIP! - share my own experiences as a mom who started out using a blanket to cover and soon became comfortable going without a cover -
depending on the venue (class? personal friend?) I might share one or
more nursing accessories or tips that might meet her particular
I still would not say "it's possible to nurse
discreetly" because it reinforces the idea that skin showing is
indiscreet and therefore wrong/inappropriate. One thing being
"discreet" implies another thing that is not. I'd emphasize the
importance of finding a way that feels comfortable while asserting that
what is comfortable should be THEIR decision.
I'm not at all,
EVER, saying that women *should* bare their entire breast...I just
think that the language we use can sometimes inadvertently reinforce
negative social norms. It's worth mentioning here that I prefer for my
midriff to stay covered if possible, to show minimal breast, and that
I've tried some of the drop-cup tanks and popping over the top of a
blouse, and felt very exposed! BUT I wholeheartedly support any other
mother who feels comfortable baring more than I do.
A long and unexpected nap from Reese, paired with a CMOR trip for Dan, Griffin, and Xander, gave me some free time to putter in the back yard with a clipboard, a measuring tape, a copy of the old survey, and a four-color pen. Griff's homework time saw the elder members of our family seated at the kitchen table: Griff finishing worksheets and making Ed Emberly projects with construction paper, Dan finishing a book, and me working on a diagram with cross-grid paper and colored pencils. The scanner is old and lame and wouldn't scan the pencil nicely, so I tried over with black pen, then colored it in with PhotoShop. Voila, our back yard! Now I feel like I can finally start mapping out vegetable garden plans. :o)
Griff started his day by finishing a sketch from the night before, after which he informed Dan that he wanted to wash more dishes. The previous night, in addition to the sketch, he had gone on a manic cleaning spree, tidying his bedroom, picking up items all over the house, and then settling into a long dishwashing binge. Neither of us are sure what sparked the cleaning, but we're not complaining.
The sketch is very typically Griffin, composed of many carefully placed intersecting lines that create patterns. The circle is new, as is the embellishment of some of the smaller areas like the purple-striped wedge. The lines were drawn with ball point pen and filled meticulously with colored pencil. I wonder what he will be doing in 20 or 30 years. I am certain it will have something to do with patterns, with interrelatedness, with precision. Dan is in love with this drawing; I need to find a small frame worthy of it.
He went on to study birds at the feeder outside the studio window, pointing out identifying aspects of the birds and asking their names. I took some photos and this inspired him to take photos, too. His first project was to arrange bottles from the recycling bin into a triangular shape in the kitchen, like bowling pins. He disliked the photo, asked for help deleting it, considered creating a bowling alley in the hallway, but ultimately asked if he could photograph the basement, and later, the attic. I had no idea until I retrieved the photos - all 150+ of them - from the camera what exactly he had done. He had completed a documentary tour of our entire home. The photos show child's-eye inventories of closets, close-ups of details like foot stools and the interior of the tent in his room, posed stuffed animals, architectural elements of interest, shoes lined up by doors, the contents of the fridge and pantry, a view of my bathroom captured from the shower stall, even some shots of his unaware mother and baby brother. Interestingly, Reese is not in any of the photos, nor can I remember what he was doing at that time. (Correction: upon careful examination, a blurry elbow/knee of Reese's jammies can be seen in one photo; I think he was following Griff during this project.) The photo tour is a very candid look at who we were today. The house is undecorated and cluttered, cracker boxes on the counters, sparse furniture in my bedroom, unmade disheveled bunkbeds. In the one photo of me, I'm looking at the laptop. This is a story of exhausted parents, and a recent move, and a bad economy, and creeping seasonal depression. The photos feel very consciously chosen. It's sobering, and impressive, and again, makes me wonder what he will be like as an adult.
My favorite of the photos is one taken while he stood on the toilet in my bathroom. You see the old wallpaper and medicine cabinet. Our toothbrushes extend from the bottom of the photo and a bit of Dan's towel appears on the right. The mirror reflects the matching wallpaper on the opposite wall. Near the bottom of the mirror, framed between two frog decals (whose story we will probably never know) is a small blonde head and two hands cupped around the camera, almost disappearing into the silver and gold background. My jaw dropped and I had chills when I saw it.
No sooner had he finished his photo job than he disappeared again. I heard conspiratorial murmurs on the stairs, something about leaving "it" for mommy to find. I crept up the back stairs, and was greeted by this sight:
Poor Giraffey! In case his beseeching eyes were not enough to communicate his plight, his muzzle was taped to a note reading "Hellp Mey." I set him free, of course (ok, first I laughed out loud, next I called Griff and took some photos, and then I set him free...but I was prompt), and did the same for the three additional plush captives at the bottom of the stairs, each bound with tape, each bearing a similar note. I taped Giraffey's "Hellp mey" to my bedroom door, later noted with delight by Griff. Ohhh, it's awesome to watch him gain confidence with reading and writing. More and more, he's writing notes without asking for my input, which is HUGE for a kid who wants to spell everything perfectly.
He and Reese had a big ol' media break (yay, totlol) in the middle of the day while Xander napped, but later I found him writing notes to himself for a scavenger hunt. I'm not sure how it works exactly - he hides the items, and he writes the clues, and he executes the hunt, and he checks off what he's found. In this case a trail of trading cards was supposed to end in a particular card.
find = little guy with magnifying glass Bakugan cards = Dragonoid figure 1 = one color patch = green
I think he abandoned the scavenger hunt for a snack, and then got sidetracked creating more doodles and collages from magazines. We all got fussy with each other in the evening, but then recovered and he organized the living room while I made dinner.
It's just amazing to have a day like this when you get a giant peek into their brains. Every day lately feels like one or more of the boys is making some giant cognitive leap. What will tomorrow hold?
Reese has been exploring number sense. Every day I see him counting things in books, ennumerating things with his fingers. We found a missing Bakugan on Thursday (which turned out not to have been dropped down the pipes or flushed down the toilet after all) and cradling his toys, he told me with sincerity, "I don't have two Bakugans, I have three Bakugans. Not two, three." He showed me the difference on his fingers.
Moments later, still staring at his fingers, he said "Bakugan has three words." I looked at him, and he counted: BAH-KOO-GAHN. He did it again, with another word: MOM-MEE, two fingers peeling up. "Mommy has two."
Did the kid just discover syllables, by himself, totally by chance? We talked about the "beats" in each word a few times. I mentioned the word syllable, which he thought sounded funny.
Friday morning in the car, he was at it again. REE-SIE-CUP. Three.
Three syllables, I agreed. Three syllables, he concurred. GRIFF-IN. Two syllables. DAD-DEE. Two syllables. KNUF-FLE-BUN-NY. Four syllables. XAN. One syllable.
That afternoon, after picking up Griffin, he put his new skill to work: KRIS-PY-KREME. Three syllables. Griff, in the back seat, piped up, "what's a syllable?" I showed him with my fingers, talked about the beats, did some clapping. Reese counted some words out for him, fingers flicking up with precision. I watched Griff puzzle over it, count five syllables in KRIS-PEE-EE-KREME-UH. He will get it, but it occurred to me that we're seeing Reese's natural gifts in action here. This concept is as natural as breathing to him, he needed no teaching, only the gift of a word that describes the thing he discovered on his own. Is he an auditory learner, perhaps? Griff sees visual connections between things, started working puzzles at a young age, has always drawn series of interconnected lines and wanted to understand how things work. Reese is tapping into something else entirely, and I'm excited to see where it leads.
(subject line from Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass, In Cabin'd Ships at Sea)
(also, cool links: test your number sense with this nifty graphic. I scored 77% of 40, my score started to stabilize after ~25-30 repetitions. Or you could read about Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences.)
More photos from feverish days...this boy's eyes slay me. Feb 9.
He's working SO HARD lately to overcome three-year-old frustrations and ask nicely for help when he needs it. His language has been growing by leaps and bounds this winter and with it comes more insight into his charming, imaginative personality. He loves to pretend that he's other people, make toys talk, and engage in other fantasy.
He has informed me lately that he is NOT Reesie Guy or Reesie Piecie. He is Reesie BROTHER and Reesie CUP. Use the word "boy" at your own peril - apparently small children are "brothers" and older children like Griffin are "kids".
I have a small treasure trove of stuff from the last two weeks that I'm finding now that the viruses and bacteria have left us alone.
Moss makes me happy. It's such a tiny and amazing thing. I remember using a spoon to drip water onto dry mosses on the oak trees that came through our porch in California, and watching them bloom as they soaked up the moisture. I loved seeing the mosses in my parents' yard on Ridge Road send up their setae and opercula. When we lived in Columbia, our back yard couldn't grow more than a handful of scraggly grass but mosses luxuriated, so I tore out the grace and cultivated a mossy carpet. I adore the word bryophyte. The idea of a moss terrarium tickles my fancy.
These are living in our back yard, and I hope to see many more of their cousins.