Rock Concerts, Real Butter, and Other Interesting Topics

October 30, 2010

Dear Family,

“I had my impossible assignment: to think of how I think the way I do not think.”
--Huston Smith

“Nothing is more destined to create deep-seated anxieties in people than the false assumption that life should be free from anxieties.”
--Fulton J. Sheen


Healing our family is pretty much What We Do around here, except during short breaks for recreational activities (see below). It's _really_ good to have a week during which there is measurable progress: in six days, Ben gained 3 pounds. We are working our butts off to make sure this keeps happening. And he is eating like he's never done in his life. My brain is whirling with ideas and theories and useless chatter, but I think I'll take a week off from GAPS updating right now.


Ben is laughing, and happier than he's been in weeks (notwithstanding plenty of punkass episodes). And he's making incredible origami dinosaurs, and incredible drawings of dinosaurs, and now he wants to go to where there are fossils of dinosaurs. Yesterday, when I told him that it was time for lunch, he said, “First I wanna draw a tyrannosaurus.” He quickly produced an incredible specimen. Then he ate a large lunch, and ran into the other room, saying, “Now I wanna make more stegosauruses and more tyrannosauruses...”



--My little genius: “When I lean my head back and SMACK my neck hard, it hurts!”

--Jeff and Ben are researching online about fossils. Jem comes in to report: “Mama, they have FOSSILIZED PEOPLE! You should come look.”

--After his nap, I ask Jem if he wants to get dressed before going into the other room. “Yes,” he says, “I want to wear my pants, so I don't show them NotMyPants.”

--Looking deep into my eyes, Jem's own are great pools of blue: “Mama, how do we _grow_?”

--A report from Jem's night-time fantasy world (perhaps providing some clue about why he tosses around so much): “I dreamed about an airplane SMACKIN' on my head with a sharp tip.”

--Where did I _get_ these boys?? I say. “From in your belly!” Jem replies, laughing at my ignorance. And how'd you end up here? I ask. Oh, Jem says, “I drived and drived.”

--Jem is into “wapping” people. A wap, in case you can't guess, is very much like a smack. I don't personally _want_ to be wapped, I tell him repeatedly. This doesn't deter him. “I want to WAP you on the butt and then kiss you on the butt,” he says, “'cause kisses make waps go away.”

--We're having LOTS of discussions, everyone, about meat and where it comes from, etc. etc. etc. Jem wondered if he has any meat. Then he grabbed his belly and said, “In the middle right here there is a lot of meat...I feel _squishy_! Later he asked: “When we die, does our meat fall out? I want to eat it!”

--We got a book from the library called “Sky Boys,” a poetic reminiscence about how the Empire State Building was built. Jem loves it, but it concerns him that the workmen are perched hundreds of feet up without any safety harnesses. “Would they DIE if they fall?” he wonders. The day after we first read it, he came in to find me, and wanted a hug. “When I grow up,” he said worriedly, “I don't want to be a Sky Boy.”


Tonight I heard just about the sweetest exchange of brotherly love that I have ever experienced.

Jem will often admire what Ben makes out of origami in a very cute way. This time, Jem came dashing out to tell me, “Ben is giving me LOTS of origami!” Then he dashed back to Ben.

I could hear them talking, and Ben describing the different models, and then Jem said very sincerely, “Ben, I LOVE all these things: this one an' this one an' this one...”


Activities This Week:

--Athena and Sudip came to visit! They saw some good, some bad, and some ugly, and still they stayed. They hung out with boys and washed dishes and of course it was also great to see them because of their sparkling personalities and intellectual charm. We hope they soon get over this idea of Moving Out West, and instead choose to relocate to Ithaca (like all Happenin' People should).

--I made cultured butter! It was easy to culture the cream, easy to “churn” it in the food processor, lots of fun to make the butter, and incredibly greasy and annoying to clean up. It tastes great...but there's no bread to put it on, so we have to settle for slathering it on things like mashed rutabaga. (No, really, I'm serious. Mashed rutabaga is very good!)

--I spent Thursday cooking for our neighbor's bat mitzvah. It was spectacularly good to be working on a finite project, and to feel (at least _after_ the first hour, during which I got lost en route to the kitchen facility) Very Competent for a day.

--We've been attending Claire's science class for several weeks now--definitely some sort of record for my boys in a “classroom” setting... This week's topic was Sound, and the idea of making instruments so captured Ben's interest that he spent the rest of the day creating guitars out of cardboard boxes and rubber bands. Continuing the theme, we went to the Ithaca Sound Maze yesterday, a very low-key corn maze with lots of things to bang on.

--I made six new fermented vegetables. The cauliflower pickles and the kimchee are really tasty, and the others are slowly fermenting along their way in the pantry. I'm posting lots of recipes at . Also: I can now assure you that you should not be afraid of lacto fermentation! There is no botulism risk, and it's not that hard, and you can make your own cultured, probiotic salads for a fraction of the cost of “boughten” ones (with lots more variety, too).


Good books the boys/we are reading this week:

Dinotopia, by James Gurney
Amazing Origami, by Kunihiko Kasahara
Owl Moon, by Jane Yolen
Lily Brown's Paintings, by Angela Johnson
Clocks and More Clocks, by Pat Hutchins
The Giant Hug, by Sandra Horning


A really good song that I have been humming all day:

“You Were Born,” by <a href="">Cloud Cult</a>


While Athena and Sudip babysat last Monday, Jeff and I went to a concert. A Real Concert! A Rock Concert!!

<a href="">Guster</a&gt; is a really great band that we first saw in Boston, and their music is melodic and rockin' and GOOD.

It was crazy to be at a concert in a big theater. It was us and mostly lots of college students (with some other assorted people), not a single one of whom we recognized. Unfortunately, I felt like a cynical and sarcastic space alien for the first part of the evening, despite my hot date... It's astonishingly hard to decompress when you (meaning me) have been thinking mostly about food and intestinal flora non-stop nearly every waking moment for months on end. It didn't help that the opening act was this guy who was annoyingly sure that he was All That and Then Some, an attitude that bugs the crap out of me these days.

Sometimes it is harder to be happy than it is to sink into a lame-ass pit of misery. Sometimes it takes real commitment to forgo the wallowing, and for this I apologize to those nearest and dearest to me.

But then Guster actually came onstage, and everyone stood up and didn't sit down for the rest of the show, and finally, _finally,_ three hours after we left our boys, I was able to stop thinking about them. I took the opportunity to dance asynchronously in the aisles, and wonder thoughts like:

--WOW that's a great melody!
--Gosh, Jeff and I are romantically attending a Concert!
--Gosh, it's been a Really Long Time since we regularly attended Concerts!
--How the heck does this band think up so many great songs?
--How come white LEDS have so many colors in them?
--How many cell phones are in this theater?
--What happens if you're a singer on tour and you get a sore throat that lasts for two months?
--How come I have to get old?
--But then again, can't old people still go to concerts?
--How do you get a paid job as a cook for touring musicians?
--Are there _any_ famous touring musicians who are also breastfeeding mothers of infants? Discuss.
--What qualifies the guys acting as “SECURITY”?

Here's an <a href="">audio recording of a Guster concert</a> that Jeff found.


“The Misconception: You procrastinate because you are lazy and can’t manage your time well.

“The Truth: Procrastination is fueled by weakness in the face of impulse and a failure to think about thinking.”

The theory: we all procrastinate, but folks who Get Things Done are the ones who _expect_ and anticipate and plan how to deal with the basic human drive to put things off.


As if you needed convincing that air pollution is best avoided (or better yet, prevented), here's an article from “Science News” about the impressive effects of pollution on the brain, especially children's:


“A group of researchers at Michigan State University crunched the numbers. If Americans took 17 simple steps--environmental changes that involve no major shift in 'household well-being'--they could cut the country’s greenhouse gas emissions by 7 percent.

“'If that doesn’t seem like much, consider that this is equivalent to the total emissions of France,' _Conservation’s_ Robert McClure reports. 'It’s also equivalent to the combined emissions of the petroleum-refining, iron-and-steel, and aluminum industries.'

“And, even more realistically, in reaching that 7 percent figure, the researchers didn’t assume that everyone could be persuaded to adopt all 17 environmental measures. So, for example, they calculated for an 80 percent low-flow-showerhead adoption, but dropped that number to 15 percent for carpooling...”


“Numerous studies have reported on the health benefits — both mental and physical — of religious belief. But precisely why faith is linked to higher levels of well-being and lower levels of mortality remains something of a mystery.

“Newly published research provides an intriguing clue: When they make a mistake, religious people are less likely to get stressed out about it.”

I haven't finished the article, but this opening makes me think: there must be ways to atheistically avoid guilt-tripping oneself about bad decisions, thus avoiding stress in a way that honors our seemingly biological urge to Believe - without actually doing so. Is this possible?? What do you think?…


“Newly published research suggests... [that] Americans do believe and trust researchers. But we focus our attention on those experts whose ideas conform with our preconceived notions. The others tend to get discounted or ignored.

“'Scientific opinion fails to quiet societal disputes on [issues such as climate change] not because members of the public are unwilling to defer to experts, but because culturally diverse persons tend to form opposing perceptions of what experts believe,' a team of scholars writes in the Journal of Risk Research. 'Individuals systematically overestimate the degree of scientific support for positions they are culturally predisposed to accept.'”

What? Me, predisposed?? :)…


“They’ll have better attendance, wreck fewer cars and be more agreeable. All we have to do is let high school students sleep in.”…


If you can find it (reprinted from TriQuarterly in the current Utne Reader), you need to read “No Apologies: Instructions for visiting a murderer,” by Madge McKeithen. Without giving away the premise, I will say that this is a tear-jerkingly surprising essay.


Also in Utne this month: an article regarding the mixed-up racial politics of Bolivian Beauty Pageants, reprinted from “Mental Floss.”


I sort of absolutely adore the writings of Elizabeth Gilbert, author of “Eat, Pray, Love” and “Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace With Marriage” (see my “review” of the latter,… ).

Here's an interview with her in the Shambhala Sun:


And's way too late, and there's so much to read, and it's really a pity that people need so much sleep.