A Magical Christmas, and Other Late-Night Contemplations

December 29, 2010

Dear Family,

It has...ahem...come to my attention that some family members would prefer not to wade through lengthy article excerpts concerning, say, gut dysbiosis and its effect on neuromuscular occlusion...when all they really want is to read the cute things that Jem and Ben said this week.

Therefore and henceforth, my updates will begin with Family News and Isms, followed by fascinating-article reviews and op ed content. I hope this will prove more user-friendly; let me know what you think. :)


Due to the whirlwind Holiday Season, I've lost a lot of Bennerism and Jemmerisms that were uttered when I had no access to pen and paper. Suffice to say we've had a pretty exciting week, visiting family in Connecticut and celebrating a holiday that I, a Nice Jewish Girl from Jersey, only used to read about in story books.

My wonderful in-laws provided a Christmas for our boys just like those fictitious ones--only real, and complete with decorated tree, and a tiny ceramic holiday village, and lots of lights and decorations, and...lots and lots of presents. The boys were blown away. Jem “REALLY” liked the Christmas tree. Ben noted that he now has “the best toys in the WORLD!” (Oh, my innocent child, if you only knew what consumer treasures await the day when you first begin carrying a wallet...)

Incidentally, thanks to GAPS, this was the most functional family visit we've had in just about exactly seven years. Thanks to GAPS, I spent an incredible amount of time planning, shopping for, and preparing meals. Thanks to GAPS, I didn't care. There were no screaming fits. There was near-constant and eager social interaction. And there were loving people around who are so happy to watch Ben begin to heal...

Sitting at the kitchen table on our first night in Connecticut, I watched Ben get temporarily overwhelmed by emotions that he's never before articulated (nor, I don't think, been able to truly experience). It was like a great GAPS gift of Christmas spirit. He was watching his grandma and grandpa, and thinking about seeing his cousins soon, and he was just so excited to be with His People. “I wish Grandma Ruth were here, too,” he said. “...I wish everyone that I _like_ was in one place...”



“Mama,” Jem told me the other night, just before climbing into bed, “Ben is the goodest Ben in the world.”

“I like to nurse SO much--and I like peppers.”

“If YOU did this [balancing on the very tippy top of the step stool, where you're not supposed to sit], you wouldn't fall, because you've got a bigger butt than me.”

“I want to fly on bird wings. Not be a bird, but have bird WINGS.”

Jem really likes a book called “The Foggy, Foggy Forest,” by Nick Sharratt. It's got those transparent pages so you can see through to the next picture, each captioned with a simple rhyme relating to the fairy tale characters. One page is very annoying, because “ogre” and “yoga” just _don't_ rhyme, as Ben and Jem note every time. But the picture, Jem told me, “is So good! ...But I wouldn't want to _see_ an ogre if there really was one,” he continued. Why? I asked. “Because,” Jem said matter-of-factly, “it would probably eat me.”

“I really want Jersey [grandma and grandpa's house in NJ] to be right close to us, cause then you could walk over every when you want to.” Also, he said, he'd like Connecticut to be right next door. Presumably he'd like to be able to go over there every when he wants to, too...

“How do real dumptrucks dump their dump things?”
I'm not bitter. Really, I'm not. I only spent about 73.6 hours assembling the Waldorf doll kit (which cost nearly as much as the ready-made doll), so that My Child(ren) would have an all-natural, wool-stuffed, beautiful, imagination-stimulating Lovey. The upshot: once, several years ago, Ben examined it for a few moments, and dragged it around the house a couple of times. Thereafter, he would periodically notice its existence, pick it up again, and throw it into the air. Additionally, Jem has played with it for an average of three minutes per year for the past three years.

And then, on Christmas, Jem got a stuffed animal. It's a Dr. Seuss character from “Oh Say can You Say,” which we have now learned is a bird named Hooey. (From St. Looey.) Hooey is is lime green, and has a large, soft yellow beak, and yesterday I saw Jem _talking_ to it, which I've heard is a very Kid thing to do. I kept watching. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Jem give Hooey a large hug. This morning, on the other side of the room, I heard him softly saying something to Hooey. “Hooey is sad,” Jem told me after a minute. He didn't know why, he said, but he had an idea. “I'll hug him!” My wide-open-blue-eyes boy, solemnly hugging his stuffed bird, made me almost wish to have ten kids, if they could all be this cute.

Cuter still was that the next time I looked over, Jem was hitching up his shirt so that Hooey could nurse.

Forget about Waldorf dolls being necessary for proper growth, maturation, and imaginative play. All those years ago, I should have made my boys a Hooey.

(Later Jem told me, “I want to cut off this tag.” Sure, I can do that, I said--I bet Hooey doesn't need one of those. “Right..._there_,” Jem directed, as I carefully scissored the label off Hooey's butt. “Now, his poop can come out.”)



Ben's Foray Into Fiction:
The other day, I was explaining again about why people make up stories. Dr. Seuess made up the Whos in Whoville, I reminded him, _plus_ all their adventures, and because he was the author he could make up anything he wanted to be in his book. “I'm going to make up something,” Ben announced. What? I asked. “I'm going to make up a Glicken,” Ben said, not missing a beat. He held up two fingers, “and it's _this_ big.” What do Glickens do? I wondered. “They only eat, and don't poop,” Ben replied. Do they eat people? Jem asked. “No,” said Ben, matter-of-factly. Do they eat small rats? I asked. “No,” answered Ben, “they eat regular-sized lions.”


Just a few of the really nice things about Jeff:

--He remembers that the smallest knife goes in the very bottom slot of the knife block.
--He always warns me if he doesn't think I'll like a movie, and he also saves ones that he thinks I will like, so we can watch together.
--He is very, very, very patient.
--He reads aloud really well.
--He brings music into our home.
--He shares my aversion to having the lights turned off with the switch in the “on” position.
--He has really nice eyebrows.
--He is really cute when he's playing with Ben's nerf gun.


A Really Nice Thing about Ben:

--Ben is starting to let me kiss his head, and it's very soft and kissable, and also sometimes now he wraps his arms around me and gives me AWESOME hugs, for the first time in many, many years. I just read about how if a mama cow loses her baby, she will bond with and then raise an orphan calf as long as the calf is imbued with the scent of her little calf that is gone. In a backwards way, this reminds me of what''s happening now in my life, as Ben is starting to heal: I am bonding with a little boy who keeps coming out to visit more and more frequently. It is so exciting, because I've been starving to meet him, dying to enjoy him, and every so often he settles against my body like he remembers that This is where he came from.


A Really Nice Thing about Jem:

He is turning into a KID! He kind of has this swagger in his walk these days, and he interjects and converses in a very kid like way, and every so often I am thrilled by the privilege that it is to watch him grow up. I love that he tells me the craziest things that he thinks, in the moment that he thinks them, and I love that I have the chance to sometimes not laugh, because then he can go on with the serious work that it is to be a three-year-old philosopher.


A Really Nice Thing About Mom:

She came to visit yesterday and today, and we got to have a mother-daughter walk. She is my role model when it comes to navigating the tricky waters of interpersonal relationships, and I am exceptionally proud to be her daughter.


A Really Nice Thing About Dad:

He is currently and deeply embroiled in his developing theory concerning gravity and the Early Days of the Universe. I hear that he only sometimes comes out of his room for meals. This is inspiring in more ways than one, and I can also now see where my own desire comes from, to hole myself up and Research and Understand.


Some Really Nice Things about Other Family Members...

...will be updated soon, after a New Years' visit this weekend...


We watched “Sleeper,” last week, a kind of funny and forgettable flick that was most amusing because it was made in the seventies, yet set in a future which looked a lot like the seventies.

Also, we recently watched “Outsourced”: “When his department is outsourced to India, customer call center manager Todd Anderson (Josh Hamilton) heads to Mumbai to train his successor (Asif Basra), and amusing culture clashes ensue as Anderson tries to explain American business practices to the befuddled new employees. In the process, he learns important lessons about globalization -- and life.” The love scenes were super cheesy, but it was a great premise--and I was distracted the whole time by repeatedly wondering, I Wonder If They're Portraying India in a Realistic Way?? Such is the plight of a middle class American who is currently lacking in practical exposure to geography and social studies.

And then we watched (can you tell that the boys take an awfully long time to fall asleep these days??) “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World”: “When dreamy delivery girl Ramona (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) starts popping up in his life, slacker musician Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) takes notice. But to win the love of this rollerblading goddess, Scott must vanquish all seven of her evil exes in martial arts battles. Based on Bryan Lee O'Malley's graphic novels...” This reminded me of Amelie, and was super-perfectly choreographed and entertaining. Now, to obtain and review the novels themselves...


Jeff recommends a really funny comic: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/minor_differences2

You need to scroll down about ¾ of the way, to “Young Men In the Locker Room...”


Some Lately Favorite Books:

“The Foggy Foggy Forest,” by Nick Sherratt (The aforementioned book with translucent pages, with rhymes about out-of-context fairy tale characters.)

“Prairie Train,” by Marsha Wilson Challenges (Lots of words, more poetry than I usually find strictly necessary in a kids' book, and surprisingly favored by both boys, probably especially because it's about a little girl who goes on a train ride all alone.)

“Toy Boat,” by Randall de Seve (Jem loves this one, about a little boy who makes a boat which then breaks free and sails out to sea for some adventures. Jem's only critique is that on the first page, when introducing the boat, the author writes that The Boy made it “...from a can, a cork, a yellow pencil, and some white cloth.” But, Jem always says, WHY don't they say how it's made with a stick, too, because it _is_ made with a stick??)

“Shortcut” and “Bigmama's,” by Donald Crews (both are loosely structured stories, evocatively conjuring Crews' childhood in what appears to be the Deep South, right near the train tracks, sometime in summer in the 1940's.)

“On Meadowview Street,” by Henry Cole (An absolutely non-preachy parable about a suburban neighborhood that gets turned into a nature preserve by the young protagonist. And great pictures, too.)


Some Quotes (I can't decide whether they rank as inspiring or intimidating or what):

“The opposite of courage in our society is not cowardice, it is conformity.” --Rollo May

“If when we get into a difficult situation, our will or courage lessens, and we fall into the laziness of feeling inferior, thinking that we could not possibly accomplish such a difficult task, this diminishment of will cannot protect us from any suffering. It is important to generate courage corresponding to the size of the difficulties.” --Dalai Lama


Okay, it is WAY too late, and I'm going to sleep, and I'm sorry this is so long except that there is SO much interesting stuff out there and so little time to read it all...