What follows was hung on the bathroom wall in our cabin in Asheville. I made a mental note to share it here, as I found myself pleasantly stunned upon reading it. I'm always amazed by the ease with which great human truths travel through time, ever-current, over hundreds or even thousands of years. These are real gems. Enjoy.

Desiderata (Found in Old St. Paul's Church, Baltimore. 1692)

Go placidly amidst the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labours and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its shams, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy.
Asheville’s always been on my list of places I’d like to visit – it’s known for being a pretty hip town, and a lot of nomadic 20-somethings who land in Portland, Austin and similar cities also stop over there. It’s not really close to anything else, though, or on the way to anywhere in particular, so it was my mom’s 60th birthday that finally gave us a real reason to go. She and my dad live in New Hampshire, but she chose Asheville as a celebration rendezvous spot. (I actually have no idea why.) In any case, my brother and his wife, and our little crew all landed late last Thursday for an extended weekend vacation-birthday-celebration-get-together. Our little Newman branch of the family stayed in a small cabin about fifteen minutes outside of town, and everyone else made themselves at home in a luxe little house a few miles up the same road. (There aren’t all that many roads in Asheville's surrounding towns. We did manage to get lost between the airport and the cabin upon arriving, but getting around after that was a piece of cake).

As far as sightseeing goes, we went to the Biltmore Estate, we walked around downtown Asheville (cute enough, touristy, typical college town), we discovered West Asheville to be much cooler (more diverse businesses and a more permanent population), and we romped around our cabin’s grounds and ogled the breathtaking landscape. Aaron and I have chronic wanderlust of the ‘Where could/should we move?’ variety, and discussed Asheville’s potential, mostly because our cabin and its location were so idyllic, and Asheville does have its reputation.

Ultimately, however, Ashevile’s very small, and while the word ‘serene’ doesn’t do its countryside justice, that countryside is also (if signage is to be believed) heavily populated by Republican Baptists… This didn’t stop me from pointing every which way and squealing “Look! Cows! BABY cows! We could put up a yurt here and freelance from the hills!” but, well, Aaron doesn’t actually want to live in a yurt (I do), and we don’t really want to live in the middle of nowhere with a bunch of Republicans, even if there is a small city center that organic-food-eating, bike-riding liberals call home.     (Oh shit, wait…)

Travel time with a toddler: preparation is everything.
Make that preparation and snacks.
It’s a great place to visit, though! And if we were loaded I’d put up a yurt there and go on retreat once in a while. Meanwhile, I definitely recommend Asheville as an easy, 100% satisfying, toddler-friendly vacation. We didn’t wait in any massive lines, or drive for hours, or search for parking. The West End Bakery, where we grabbed a cheap, delicious and locally-sourced lunch on our first full day in town, featured a sweet, sunny seating area with a big rug and appealing toys that kept Kaspar occupied, and in full sight, while we enjoyed our meal. The cabin-place people were totally kid-prepared (baby gates and children’s books in the cabins). Even the staff in the Asheville airport doled out coloring books and crayons.

My mom’s birthday was, for all of Asheville’s novelty, the trip’s main event, though. We ate breakfast and lunch at the big house every day we were there (my family's big on family meals... and why not?), where Kaspar got everyone to read books to him, and spent many happy hours running around on the lush lawn. My sister-in-law brought along one of those cutout-letter “Happy Birthday” banners and hung it by the dining table outside, and Aaron and I got a cake at a local shop for my mom's birthday dinner. We had “Happy Birthday Lizzy” scrawled on it; It’s the nickname my dad calls her, and always has. He’s been diagnosed in the past year with early-onset dementia, and I know it’s been an emotional and challenging time for them both.  My dad’s still doing pretty well; he’s not the ‘same’ as he was several years ago (his memory, obviously, is unreliable), and his verbal and conversational capacities have at this point been most impacted, but seeing him, and my mom, light up, surrounded by family, doting on their grandson, and celebrating something really worth celebrating (60’s a big deal!) – together -- was wonderful. My mom sure knows how to throw herself a party! And if anyone deserves to party, it’s her.

Happy Birthday Mom! We love you.

 We're in Asheville, North Carolina right now, on a little mini-vacation. We're actually staying in a small house about fifteen minutes outside Asheville's center. We've been wandering the city itself (lots of shops downtown, but the West side seems to be where the interesting action is), exploring the outlying areas (ridiculously scenic... and it's baby cow season! Yes!), and even acting like proper tourists from time to time (hit up Biltmore early this afternoon). I'll fill you in and unload my good camera once we're back at Newman HQ, but for now here's a sampling of what we're up to right NOW, courtesy of my phone.

Click "Read More" Below for More Pics!


Keep it coming, Universe.

United States
My lovely friend Clarisse, who knows how fired up I get about food culture and politics, sent me this super cool photographic peek at school lunches around the world. Aside from simply being fascinating and fun to look at, the pics also speak for themselves; judging from what we're feeding our kids, that the United States is an 'advanced' nation is not self-evident. (And honestly, we barely count. Check out how low we rank here. Oy.). Bon appetit!

Ps. In the interest of proposing solutions when presenting problems, check out this local-food lunch program started by an Austin mom! Let's imagine new possibilities, and stop giving our kids the shaft on the lunch shift.
Via Pinterest
I evidently have a thing for tops with (well-placed) holes in them. That there above is a work of art and beauty. I want. And that there below is me buying a top (I probably could have made) from Urban Outfitters in a quick, "Bring it, springtime," shopping swoop a few weeks back. Now that this predilection is revealing itself -- with appropriate modesty --  as a pattern, I'm keeping my eyes peeled for other ripped/sliced/diced/embroidery-covered-mesh items that strike me as unique and/or appealing. I might even bust out my scissors and make over a few pieces I already own. Do let me know, internets, if you see anything particularly awesome I might like to oooh and aaah at. Thanks in advance. ...Good talk.
One of my favorite things to do when visiting other cities (and one of my key size-a-city-up practices) is to wander around its neighborhoods and take note of its public art. Sculptures, graffiti and shop signs are all fair game; a city's visual flavor betrays a great deal about its inhabitants. Our home features framed photos of particularly inspiring pieces we've seen -- some of which disappeared soon after we admired them -- and my memories of places I've lived all feature public art that gave otherwise characterless expanses (concrete tunnel bridges, windowless brick walls) permanent prestige in my mind's eye. Of course I appreciate street art's political power -- Banksy is legendary, and JR is visionary -- but I also just love one-of-a-kind signage, or simple messages scrawled on a wall. Austin's got lots of all of it. Here's a small sampling, hot off my phone.

What are your favorite cities for street art sightseeing?
For the first time in a long time, we're having a lazy Saturday.
I blogged last week on Parenting.com about “Real Diaper Week 2012”, which begins next week and launches an international cloth diapering extravaganza. I found myself rather inspired by the whole thing; we started our diapering days off with g-Diapers, back in Brooklyn, but they weren’t as blowout-proof as I’d hoped. Since we lived in a third-floor walk-up and relied on a Laundromat four blocks away, we threw in the towel on washing by hand (keeping up with non-stop newborn poop is just not possible without a machine) and turned to biodegradable disposables, which we’ve used ever since. I love everything Nature Babycare and pimp their products endlessly without incentives or compensation. (Yes, I love them that much). Disposables are the ultimate in convenience, without questions, but landfills are just packed with nasty diapers that’ll never die and return to the Earth. I’m so glad the genius Swedes give a sh*t (so to speak) and provide the world with alternatives that decompose.

When I wrote about Real Diaper Week, though, I got to thinking: we’re only using diapers at night at this point (thank you, Montessori, for teaching us all to potty train at two… Tuition just paid for itself!), and we DO have in-home laundry, now that we’ve moved from our first-year Austin apartment into our new (as of last October) house. And, deep down I know that since we’ve been throwing those earth-friendly disposables into (also biodegradable) trash bags, they’ve been shipped neatly off to the same landfills as their petroleum-product brethren. Even though they can technically biodegrade, along with the bags we put them in, they need airflow and sunshine and whatnot to do so… chances are the whole landfill situation is not providing those fine features. In fact, I think most landfills are lined with perma-plastic materials intended to prevent all of the toxic nastiness they contain from leaking into the surrounding sub-strata soil. While biodegradable diapers are by FAR a more Earth-friendly choice than Pampers, they're probably still sticking around in landfills for longer than we'd like to think... so they’re not all clean karma, if you know what I mean.

Of course, cloth diapers require lots of water for washing, and clean water’s a scarce resource the world over. I’m doing laundry almost every day, though, due to Sir Toddler’s messes and mayhem, not to mention massage sheets (whew, Nellie). So throwing diapers into the mix doesn’t create additional waste-water from our home. We’re already heavy users. (I also love long baths and showers… Sorry, planet.) I figured we’re set up pretty perfectly for dipping into this cloth diapering thing. So, dip we did.

I’ve got a bunch of brands going at the moment – all of US or Canadian provenance – and, honestly, I’m loving it so far. I’ll write in more detail about our experiment/experience  on Parenting soon, but I wanted to give all y’all an update, since I’m way excited about these things. We had some leakage issues in the beginning, but we’ve been double-stuffing since, and also cutting down on Kaspar’s pre-sleep beverage intake, something we’d been meaning to do for some time. Voila, no more leakage – in fact, boy’s waking up dry, most days. So far my favorite cloth diapers come from Mud Butt (made by a WAH mama, totally pro-style; she even sends extra snap covers for when tots graduate to the big size adjustments and the smaller-sizing snaps touch their fat kiddo thighs); Kaspar’s sporting one above. You can custom-order whatever color combinations you’d like, and you’ll get free, green detergent samples (also made by moms) with your order. I also love Organic Caboose. They’re roomie enough for the toddler-man, super-soft, and – yep – organic. No leakage problems with either of these brands so far.

Kaspar also wants to wear cloth, rather than disposable, now; I know this because I busted out a disposable last night when he appeared to be working on a poop (I know, I know, cloth can handle the poop… I’m working up to it, though). He said “No-no-no-no, I want to wear the pillow one!” So we know where he stands on that. Cloth it is. This is fine by me; I should mention that cloth diapers are way cute. That’s the real reason I wanted to gDiaper in the first place (environmental concern came in at a close second). How nice that the cute, earth-friendly option can also be really effective.

We’re going to be traveling (probably with disposables, despite K’s new aversion) during next week’s main event, The Great Cloth Diaper Change, but if any of you plan to go to one in your area, let me know what it’s like! And keep an eye out for my full cloth diapering retrospective over on Parenting. I’m a convert, y’all. Better late than never.

Do you use cloth diapers? Any tips on leakage, laundry, or brands you love?

(Let's take care of each other.)

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