Becoming a Hobbit This Summer

I haven’t posted much for June, and I apologize. Things have shifted and changed around here with the seasons.

Our peonies came and went, huge fluffy pom poms of pink that were delicately soft for being so big.

I swore like a sailor when I found standardized testing “practice” workbooks in the usual end of the year backpack debris field. They were brand new, and I suspect the school wants us to use them. I growled, “I taught, if I believe that you sitting down to do these workbooks is more educational than the other things we plan to do this summer, we will do them. If I don’t, we won’t.” And so far we haven’t.

The boys and I have been very busy sitting in the grass, plucking little maple seedlings out of the lawn to see if the helicopter seeds are still attached.


There are thousands of them, confirming my belief that if we all abandoned our houses, this whole neighborhood would be a forest in just a few short years.

We planted a garden and rabbits managed to eat our parsley. However the basil, cucumbers, and a variety of heirloom tomato the boys picked out only for its name “Mr. Stripey” are doing just fine. Oh, and so are the yellow tomatoes we planted named, like a character out of West Side Story, “Lemon Boy”.

Other changes have happened with my health, negative at first, then positive. Near Memorial Day I realized that while I always feel tired, I was falling asleep more and more often right after eating. It would be a swoon, almost a faint, where my body felt like lead and I couldn’t hold myself upright a second longer. It looked more and more like reactive hypoglycemia, a problem my doctor had casually mentioned years ago in passing, and one that fit my patterns of fatigue and anxiety almost exactly. In this condition, if you eat too many sugars or carbs at one sitting without enough protein or fiber, your blood sugar spikes dramatically and too much insulin is sent in to deal with it. Consequently, your blood sugar then drops too low causing jitters, anxiety, extreme fatigue and sometimes a confusion that seemed suspiciously like when I would experience “fibro fog”. I’ve done crazier things for my health, so I didn’t hesitate long to try a hypoglycemic diet designed to keep your blood sugar stable throughout the day. You eat every two to three hours with low carb, high protein, high fruit and vegetable but small meals. No sweets, no caffeine, no alcohol.

paleo casserole

I feel a lot better. When eating perfectly balanced meals seven times a day is less of a hassle than the symptoms you were dealing with before, you know you may have really been sick. When spending a day of the week making a paleo egg breakfast casserole and roasting chicken and assembling salads and taking a short break to snack on hummus and carrots actually seems like it is a bargain for all the energy you’ve gotten back, maybe you really did have a blood sugar problem.

With this change, something else has happened since the seasons have changed that I never thought would. I have been able to take the boys to the pool, and parks, and to tennis courts, and for hikes around our ponds without the fear that it would be too much. That I would get so scared for them that I would limit what they were allowed to do. That I would become an emotional wreck and start yelling at them unnecessarily in public. That I would feel so sick that I would throw up, or need to collapse, or need to rush home. We’ve spent years, and years, doing not a lot because I just couldn’t.

While I tried to focus on all that I could do, that we could do, it wasn’t nearly as much as other families could. If we went to the zoo with you, or a splash park or a playground and I seemed breezy and happy-go-lucky and fine, some part of that was always a benign lie. Getting through that outing was usually a day or so of planning to make sure it went smoothly and weighing whether the time and energy it would require was worth it. The day after was spent in recuperation, getting either my anxiety back in check or my body, all the while having to tell the boys “no” over and over until I felt well enough to handle the process again. If we did make it, know that I had weighed that it was worth it, that the pain I might have gone through to have that experience was one I said “yes” to, and I absolutely meant it. That part was sincere, if it looked like it was a light and casual thing, that part was not.

Suddenly I have the summer as a stay-at-home mom I had always wanted to have with my boys.


I haven’t had to tell them “no” nearly as often. I have been able to say “yes” with just a moment’s notice, or “yes” to multiple outing in the same day. They are going to become spoiled rotten soon. I still have fibromyalgia, and still have unexplained pain. One evening I did have to tell them that I thought the water at the pool would be too cold for me, and that my muscles might cramp. They did, making it very painful to walk back to the car. But, the overwhelming fatigue is mostly gone and in a pain and fatigue disease, that is literally half the battle.

So, I haven’t written in a while because I have been finally busy just enjoying summer. And because I have suddenly become a hobbit, preparing and eating breakfast and second breakfast and elevensies and luncheon and afternoon tea and dinner and supper. I do find myself walking barefoot through the long soft summer grass more than ever before, and I have always been fairly short.

Look, a Peep!

I love artists!

This might be a sort of obvious statement for me, along the lines of, “Oxygen is really wonderful stuff,” or “Since I have to eat every day, I’m really happy someone invented food” But, I do feel like it needs saying every once in a while.

I love all sorts of artists for the color and life they bring to the world, the unexpected juxtapositions of imagery and meaning, the metaphors and the details. The melancholy mood of Billie Holiday’s “Foolish Things”, or the violent wind that seems to shake Van Gogh’s White Roses, or William Butler Yeat’s “rough beast” that brings in a nightmare in “The Second Coming”: all are wonderful and terribly beautiful and full of imaginative life. I am transported by a vision or a feeling that I would have never arrived at without the compulsive need of an artist to create. It is amazing.

But, I also love artists for entirely selfish and narcissistic reasons. I love when I can see myself, my life, or what is important to me in the art around me. I love that this unknown photographer abandoned stuffy parlor portraits to capture this mother.

Mother and Child

I think that one of my friends finally softened into trusting me after see the same look on my face as the mother in this photograph has. For the first few weeks I knew my friend, she saw only my furrowed brow and heard only my scolding towards my children. Eventually I let my face soften into the same face in the picture, and I could feel her soften, too. Across a century I see myself.

I love that these animators chose to draw George and the Man with the Yellow Hat this way.


This comes from a longer episode of Curious George about Halloween. In this still, George has just been told that a frightening legend may have some truth to it. He grabs the Man’s face and stares hard into his eyes.

My oldest child’s birthday is towards the end of October, and whenever we go to the party store to find decorations for his celebrations we are bombarded by macabre costumes and props: knives and skeletons and blood and gore. My youngest could not bring himself to walk through this store, so I always carried him. When a motion detector would trip ghoulish noises, he would grab the sides of my face in his chubby tiny hands and straighten my head so that I could only stare into his eyes. I could not determine if he was trying to protect me from the scary things all around us, or if he needed steady, unwavering reassurance from me. How amazing that that gesture is universal enough that it made its way into this animation.

My youngest son recently got a book for his birthday, a book he loves and which contains a page that describes the protagonist child’s favorite dessert. On a plate, next to an elaborate and beautiful cake, is a small Peep chick. As soon as he caught it he yelped out loud and pointed at it and laughed and laughed. A Peep! Look right there! I love Peeps!


He recognized himself in the pages of this book, and it made him fill with delight. Someone else who loves Peeps as much as he does, this character. I’m not sure if I should tell him that this particular book was inspired by him in the first place. My brother wrote it and my future sister-in-law illustrated it with him and his love of squirrels in mind. So the Peep was intended as a nod to him from the beginning, and when they saw him see it for the first time, they both lit up.

SquirrelSquirrel 2

Seeing yourself in art never gets old. To see a piece of what you know and have lived reflected back to you, to see something that felt important to you lovingly captured in photos or drawings or poems or songs, it is a kind of magic. The kind of magic that makes you feel less alone and less apart from the rest of the world.