Some say we’ve lost touch with the land. We whizz around in cars, staring at glowing rectangles all day, and the natural world is at best, a disturbance, at worst, invisible. Not so! Harvesting your own food is simple, rewarding, and feels too good to be true. Anybody, even the blackest thumb, can grow strawberries and you’ll get the quickest and most rewarding harvest of any fruit crop. Unless you’re allergic to strawberries in which case I recommend beekeeping.
As my high school history teacher used to say, “What’s so big deal about strawberries?” Well…without substitute “strawberries” with French revolution and I guarantee he said it. The big deal about strawberries? They are delicious straight off the plant, it’s easy to spot which ones are ripe to pick, they can be eaten whole, and they are good in just about everything. Pancakes? Yes. Smoothies? Yes. Garnish on a grownup drink that you’ll spill over your mauve pantsuit as you gesticulate while discussing “that woman who moved into apartment 4A and has men over at ALL HOURS OF THE NIGHT”? Definitely. [clears throat] Now then, who wants some strawberries?
Number Two child is working on his speaking skills. This involves yelling EVERYTHING AT MAXIMUM VOLUME. Requests for food are similar to that of a bull elephant trumpeting an immediate charge. Denials of questions about wanting more water/food/face-wiping are met with a drawn out “Nooooooooo” that leaves you with no questions and little functioning apparatus in your inner ear. All hopes my wife and I had for a quiet introverted second child are being trampled. But it still may come to pass. Now the important question that has been hovering on the lips of all you readers: what is it like to take Mr. Noisy to a smorgasbord at IKEA? Let’s start from the ground and work up.
Even though it looks like most of his food is on the floor I can assure you five times as much made it into his stomach, sometimes detouring across his face and through his hair. It was really a horrifying amount of food he consumed. Mr. Noisy yelled, smacked his hands on the table, rocked his high chair back and forth to the point of severe consternation of reasonable adults. MORE MORE MORE! We gave him smoked salmon, toast points, grapes, potatoes, meatballs, broiled salmon, blueberries, watermelon, pickled beets, lingonberry sauce, deviled eggs, and still he ate. My God, the consumption was something to behold. Did he enjoy his meal? The Social Smile says…yes!
Wait, I’ve seen that face somewhere before. I think he’s picking it up from his big sister. Now it all makes sense: the noise, the thousand-megawatt smile, it’s all trickling down in the household. Where is an introvert to hide? My wife has recently been buying grownup drink-making supplies, from rum to muddlers, mixers to jiggers. At first I made fun but now I see how a few hours with the mini-human noise machines will send even the calmest soul reaching for the bottle. YAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
One of the things I’ve learned about parenting from my step-mother, who is a wonderful parent and longtime journalist about family issues, is how to let it go. What fights are worth fighting? Does every moment need to be a teachable lesson? When is it okay to make a mess? I learned from her, as Child Harbat wanted to wear her vampire cape to the beach, to just let it go sometimes. It sounds ridiculously easy but as a parent you get stuck in a mode of protecting, nurturing, and educating your child and look in the mirror one day and realize you’ve turned into a joyless prude. LET IT GO.
So what do you do when your daughter has dressed up in her unicorn outfit right before dinner and made a unicorn nest for herself out of a sheepskin stuffed into a laundry basket? You LET IT GO. My wife prepared her a plate of food so she could eat under a chair and keep the magic alive. And we got to have a quiet meal as adults. Just kidding! We got to eat at the kitchen table with Mr. Noisy, but more about that tomorrow. In the meantime, please line up one at a time to pet the unicorn. Do not try to take its food away, however, unless you wanted to be gored with a horn.
There is a limit, toy-makers. There is a limit past which you are cutting corners and leaving something which shouldn’t really exist. Take for example a mermaid doll. Sure, her makeup is smudged, the eyes distant and crossed, the plastic seam evident of crude hurried construction. But these things can be overlooked by a child who wants a mermaid family in the bathtub. So…this mermaid will do.
Let’s just brush out her hair and get her ready for some champion salonning. But wait, what’s this. GAAAAAAAHHHH!
The weekend was a tiring march from one required task to the next: dishes, laundry, clean house for party to which I’m not invited and must hide with the children in the kitchen and bedrooms, smear food off the floor with teary futility, and trim back dead clumps of lavender that was flowering just three months ago.
Okay, it wasn’t all misery but it felt like all chores and no relaxation time, possibly exacerbated by Number Two’s cold/general unhappiness. I should say my 18-month old son is mostly happy and patient so after getting some required vaccinations last week we were sorry to see he’d caught a cold and was grumpy and tired. For several days he took two two-hour naps then went to bed early after being miserable and tired all afternoon. This weekend I chased him around trying to wipe his nose, at one point resorting to a leaf torn from a tree to try and stem the tide of goop coming from the front of his face. Gah. And because he’s a boy and a toddler he gets into everything. Not content with emptying the lower cabinets and pantry of all the contents, he now picks up objects and delivers them to unpredictable places. I found a dirty diaper in the shower, yogurt cups from the recycling bin scattered across the couch, and my dental floss is nowhere to be found. I’m thinking someone will discover it in thirty years when they switch on the bathroom shin-heater and a billow of trickle of toxic smoke snakes out the vent. “Now who would put floss in a heater?”
I spend most of my time chasing the Boy around saying whiny and hopeless things like, “Please don’t pull that lamp down…leave the mop alone…get out of the trash…watch your head on the—[THUNK]” All small slights, disturbances, or stumbles were amplified by his mystery illness, meaning we got to the Everything Tears ™ checkmate earlier and earlier in the day until breakfast was an explosion of hurled yogurt, rejected toast, and snotty tears. Poor kid. I mean me.
So it was with great satisfaction that Child Harbat decided to read a book to her younger brother, unbidden, and both sat calmly while I tried to scrape ossified banana mush out of the carpet with my fingernails. Sometimes it’s what’s out of frame in the picture that tells the real story.
Oh lawdy, how good it feels to have a writing project again. My poor neglected blog, three days without an update, but I have been cranking out words on this new project: 12,000 and counting. The theme for this new fiction piece came to me one night and the next day I was in the garden and the name came to me, pop, like a single fat raindrop hitting me on the crown. Since then it’s been pouring and I’m writing as fast as I can to get the characters on the page. This new book is so exciting because it’s the closest to me, writing in a familiar place with familiar emotions and settings. I always like learning something new with each book. The first was a non-fiction travel account which I hope to be publishing this summer, more information on that in the coming weeks. The second book was a historical thriller which was great fun to write but completely foreign to me. It took a lot of research but I’m glad I went down that path to see what I found. The third book, a young adult sci-fi, was something just for me that was almost like anti-research. I got to make up everything and while world-building is great fun it can be tiring to try and keep names and devices straight. Now this four book comes from my heart and memory so it will involve less research than the others. Am I just getting lazy researching books? I know this book idea came to me as the other three had, almost as an entire arc all at once. With many false starts on writing projects in the past I’ve learned it’s good to see the beginning and end of a book first and let the exploration be in between. If you start out and have no idea where you’re going to end up…it’s easy to divert and give up. Being lost in a foreign city is only fun if you can eventually find a landmark and get back to your hotel.
So that’s it for this week. There are going to be changes to the blog, to the writing pages, and perhaps I’ll be releasing little tidbits of my first three books and perhaps some teasers for the fourth as well. Writing is something that gets both easier and harder with practice and I thank you, all my readers, for continuing to come back to the blog. Visit often!
Number Two has been working on his complaining skills. You’d think this is instinctual but toddlers are able to move up to the major leagues when it comes to protest. At over 1 ½ now, Number Two is finally realizing that while quiet whining and patience may eventually get you what you want, max-volume shrieking and drama will get a more immediate reaction, good or not. Just as Child Harbat learned how to bring Kabuki-like drama to every small setback, now Number Two sounds the klaxon for maximum alert for even the smallest things. Drop a book? Shriek. You take away a meat cleaver he is waving around? Shriek. He finds a closed door where once it was open? Turn and walk the other way for five wobbly steps, pause, then drop to the ground, sob, and beat your head with your fists. Utter misery. Often this culminates starting at four in the afternoon and accelerates through dinnertime.
So, readers, do you go to pieces if not allowed to feed yourself yogurt? Do you turn into a teary blubbering mess if you are prevented from eating stale breadcrusts off the floor? Do you scream and wail if someone suggests, beg pardon sir, that you shouldn’t paw through the kitchen garbage like a raccoon? Then you might be a contestant for THE game of the year, Everything Tears!