Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Move

I am sitting in my bed eating chocolate ice cream.

Somehow it is 7:26 and my eyes can hardly stay open.  The exhaustion is beyond.

Last Tuesday, Ben was offered a job and we decided -- after ALL of this -- we are moving to California.  And moving fast.  In all, the turnaround will be just under three weeks.  We are at eight days and counting...

When I first found out, I felt like Kristen Bell when Dax brought her a sloth.  I wasn't in the fetal position, but the hysterical laughing-sobbing-sobbing erupting from my face was close.  And went on for at least 45 minutes in front of my mom, sister, brother and sister-in-law.  Ben had to do the talking.  The turn of events!  The sudden monstrous loss, and gear-jamming-shift, after all the processing and deciding NOT to go to California!  About face.

So we've changed directions.

Monday and Tuesday Ben and I flew out to find a place to live.  We ate amazing tacos, touched base with grounding people, and left still unsure of where we'll live or how we'll register our kids for school.  The rental we found is currently being rented from guests from Friday Night Lights who've leased the place to get their kid into high school football but want to break the lease (in time for us to register for school???)  Drama.

But either way, we'll be there in less than two weeks.  I've heaped a pile of packed trash bags in the living room full of stuff to give away.  The kitchen counter is lined with bottles and cans from the pantry.  There is so much to order, purge, and reorder in a week and a half.

And the exhaustion -- I can't stop talking about the exhaustion because it's borderline dangerous for driving, it's in every bone.  I can't tell if it's emotional or physical or intellectual, my brain frying over it all, or all three.

SO, we are going.  Stay tuned!


Friday, July 08, 2016


My whole life I've had a love-hate relationship with eggs -- I'll eat them every day and then suddenly can't imagine putting a bite of one in my mouth without gagging.  Maybe this comes from laziness, forgetting how to make a fried egg crispy or scrambled eggs soft with chives, and instead eating hurried rubbery things.

Summer is all about the mouth -- peaches, blackberries, figs, ripe avocados, tangy tomatoes, mmmmmm.  I'm putting it all on toast, often the thin dense bavarian bread, thinly sliced mozzarella or goat cheese with eggs on top or sliced peaces, figs and a drizzle of balsamic, smashed avocado with a heap of tomatoes on top.  The peaches are like eating pie for breakfast (or lunch or snack).

When we were with Kaia Joye in CA, two mornings in a row we made these Cornmeal griddle cakes from Smitten Kitchen, and then I made them once more (because why buy a giant bag of cornmeal on vacation if not to keep making pancakes).  They, too, taste like summer -- put in any fruit you have.

     from Smitten Kitchen, June 2015

¾ c flour
¾ c cornmeal
2 T sugar
½ t salt
½ t baking powder
½ t baking soda

3 T butter melted
1 c buttermilk
2 eggs
diced strawberries (or peaches or raspberries or any combo)

Mix dry.  Mix wet.  Combine and stir in fruit.  Melt butter (key step) in skillet over medium heat (or even medium low so they cook through the middle) and patiently let them brown, then flip, cook, and eat. 

A little whipped cream isn’t bad on these (or a tower of whipped cream if you're my children), or sliced bananas and maple syrup -- my fave pancake topping.

Being in Costa Mesa and Thoughts on "Home"

I've Maeve-d my back.
Maeve who cries and whines and dissolves because she's 3 1/2 and we've kept her up, pushed her through full days surrounded by all sorts of people who love her, whom she remembers nothing about, has had some needs.

In usual life, I refuse to pick her up -- too big, too heavy, hands full.
But on vacation, especially standing in the spaces where my other stretched-tall people were babies, I have been hoisting and hauling, even throwing her toward the sky.
And my back doesn't like it.

After I sit here a bit longer -- out on the patio watching the sky orange at the horizon behind the silhouetted palm trees -- I will take some advil and lie on the hard floor.

Growing up, I remember my mom lying on the floor a lot.
Even as an adult, I'd walk into the house and find her in some room -- could be any room -- lying on the hard floor.
This could have been alarming but in our house it was just normal.  Hi mom, and we'd keep going.
I wonder if she'd been lifting people for a decade too ...

Our California trip continues to unfold.  At first the reality that we aren't moving here felt harsh, too bright, as we walked down our old streets.  But as we've been here, the glare has softened, and instead what I feel is a deep gratitude for this place, these people.  I am full, and it feels ok now that we're going to fly east and stay there back to, as Maeve keeps calling it, our house with my little red bed and your ban (van).

Home.  It's a funny thing -- so concrete and also elusive, a feeling more than place, sometimes.  Since I was a little girl I've loved home; I seem constantly both to pine for it and to make it.  I attach to where I am and, even in small ways, set up shop.  I like the facets of place: the stories house-walls hold, the fact that others have lived in the same rooms, the names of flora and fauna, the people who've always been here, the smells that become embroidered with that singular time.

Watching Silas, I think he has a bit of this home-thing, too, imbuing places with meaning and shaping himself out of them.  This trip he keeps surprising me: Mom, that’s the park where Eden threw up on the tire swing. Isn't that the Starbucks where we used to egg sandwiches on the way to Disneyland?  That’s where the car ran a red light and almost hit me when we were walking home from school.
He's remembering with me.

On the way home from the beach yesterday, I told him something and he said, Mom, I was raised here.  I know that. 

Raised here, his first six years.  I guess when you're 10, all the memories you have of being in preschool and kindergarten feel like childhood.  So many more stories to emerge.

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Parenting Fail(s)

This spring I took a parenting class that challenged how I praise my kids, pushed the fact that I can't actually make another person do something but can set my own limits, encouraged me to look for the always-present logical consequences, and taught compassion and calm.  Each week I left thirsty for more.  

But then the class ended.  And I found myself still out here in the wilderness with my three year old. 

Three year olds are undoubtedly the very best people -- full of made up songs, conversations with invisible people and monsters, imagination and affection -- and the very worst people-- screaming bloody-murder on a dime, obstinate and insistent, and still prone to throwing down a full-body tantrum anywhere. 

I know it's easy to think well just don't let them behave that way.   That sounds reasonable, even wise and weathered, but please, come drive with me in the car when the fury-seat-kicking starts, when pulling over to sit said seat-kicker on a hot curb while traffic roars by isn't an option because we actually have to arrive some place, and give me some on-the-spot creative ideas, some logical consequences for the attitude going down because I've got nothing.

What's most sobering/shocking/troubling is that it turns out I rarely ever think of a single logical consequence on the spot.  

You kick the seat again and I'll cut off your legs!
You scream for that pacifier again, and I'll flush it down the toilet!
(logical -- the screaming is waaaay too loud)
You hit your sister?  -- SMACK -- we do not hit!

Oh help me.

I'd like to think this is all summer's fault, or traveling's, or the staying-in-someone-else's-house-while-on-vacation's, but I'm pretty sure I just suck at the compassionate calm and at doling out logical consequences.  

Instead, as instantaneously as the three year old's tantrum, I lose my reasonable mind, watch it go, and am left with crazy-person-reactive-Bronwen who has smoke coming from her ears.  Child psychology people call this all sorts of things, "flipping your lid" or moving into "the reptilian brain" -- the phenomenon that happens when the prefrontal cortex, mecca of rational thought, is bypassed by the primitive brain and we are reduced to survival reactivity.  

It's pretty much the place we want never to parent from.  And pretty much the place I'm conducting business from, vacation or not.  

The only logical consequence I can see is taking off for Mexico or shipping the smallest one there.  Any other ideas? 

Vacation: California Eating

We are in Southern California for two weeks.  We planned the trip months ago, and it wildly changed shapes as we anticipated moving: first a vacation, then a shorter house-hunting/buying trip, then back to a full two-week vacation -- and here we are. 

Ben and I each have three siblings, and in the first few days of this trip, through funny timings, we saw four of those six, and the one boyfriend, two spouses, and ten children that go with them, along with good high school friends.  And what I realize most -- again -- is that "home" is all about the people.

Today the bulk of our local friends will trickle back into town from various vacations, and we will meet them with tacos in the yard and fireworks.

I’m aiming to eat tacos at least every day, if not most meals, while I’m here.

Last night we made a flank steak with chimichurri (heavy on the cilantro), Bon Appetit’s charred corn salad, and a green salad with avocado.  Throw all that in a tortilla and it’s tacos, again!  This Chimichurri is great on any meat as a marinade or a sauce, on bruschetta, on vegetables, even from a fork.

KJ's Chimichurri Sauce
     adapted from bon appétit, makes about 2 cups


1/2 cup red wine vinegar (we didn’t have this so improvised with cider and a splash of balsamic – red best if you have it)
1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more
3-4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced or minced
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 Fresno chile or red jalapeño, finely chopped – optional.  adjust the heat to taste
1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro – or more, these proportions are flexible!
1/4 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil


Combine vinegar, 1 tsp. salt, garlic, shallot, and chile in bowl and let stand 10 min. Stir in cilantro and parsley. Using a fork, whisk in oil. Season with salt. 
Use as sauce or marinade. 

Charred and Raw Corn with Chile and Cheese
       Bon Appetit , July 2014

This corn salad is Mexican street corn -- charred and sweet, salty with the tang of lime and chiles -- but tidier on the fingers and cheeks.  Think one ear of corn per person and adjust proportions accordingly. 


4 ears corn 
1 shallot, sliced thinly
½ red chile (holland or fresno) sliced -- can use jalapeno etc. but red brightens the dish 
¼ cup lime juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 T vegetable or olive oil, divided
2 oz. queso fresco or cotija, crumbled
¼ cup cilantro, chopped 


Turn grill on medium heat.  
Cut kernels off 1 cob and toss them with shallot, chile, and lime juice in a large bowl; 
season with S&P and set aside.
Brush remaining ears of corn with 2 T oil and grill, turning, until very tender and charred (about 10–12 minutes).  Let cool.
Cut kernels from cobs and add to reserved corn mixture along with cheese, cilantro, and remaining 2 Tbsp. oil. Toss to combine; season with salt and pepper.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Outcome

The 17 days of waiting turned into five and a half weeks.

I have been a one note Nellie.  I couldn't imagine sitting down to write anything besides the sentence: I THINK WE ARE MOVING TO CALIFORNIA.

My brain's been humming this sentence for weeks.  Sometimes it bounced the words like a ball again and again and again.  Sometimes it spoke through an overwhelming tangle of logistics.  Sometimes it whispered over an achy pressure in my chest.  Sometimes it nearly sang them with excitement.  But never, night nor day these weeks, has my brain been quiet.

In fact, I think I've been operating with about 7% of my attention; I've left my keys everywhere; lost my wallet incessantly; lost my train of thought mid-sentence, mid-thought, mid-drive.

I thought we'd know for sure after a week and a half.  Then by the following Friday.  Then, definitely, by the next.  Then surely before the last week of school, so the kids could prepare and say their goodbyes.  But we didn't.

Excruciating, really, is the word for all that wondering.

What the process gave us was weeks of conversation.  A lot comes up when you re-imagine life together.  (thanks Imago for some tools).  It's not easy to be the adults.  This decision, in particular, felt far beyond me -- the career questions, where to raise our kids -- how to know what's "best"?  A friend called it weighting between "a good and a good."  It was that, which may have made the choice harder.

After weighing, waiting, praying for the decision to be clear, we decided not to move.

We're slowly settling into this fact.  I've stopped waking up at 4AM and got rid of the moving boxes I've been harboring in the shed (I picked up at least 70 boxes from the side of the road impromptu, had to fold down all the seats in the car and put Eden up front, telling her, you just never know when you'll need a box.  She agreed and didn't question me).  We're no longer house hunting online.

There's a bittersweet side to it, some grieving that feels similar to a miscarriage, the slow revelation of imagined things that now won't be.

AND there is relief:  Silas will be here for his last year of elementary school, patrolling the kindergartners on the bus, and Eden will carry on with her sweet friends.  Maeve will return to her happy school, and Ben and I will snatch daytime dates because he'll still be working from home.  Family will remain up the street, around the beltway, on the same coast; we aren't leaving.

It's done.  We made a decision like mature adults (surprising every time!) and picked a good.  When we were still in limbo Ben said, "I know there'll be regrets either way, so once I decide, I can't look back; I have to be all in."  He's a smart man, that one.

Onward and upward!


The Waiting and The Salad

I don't know if I will ever publish this entry.  That's what I've been waiting to know.

For 17 days we've been wondering if we will move to California.  A potential job came up, with lots of contingencies.  As of yesterday, it's confirmed that there is indeed, a position wide open and waiting, vaguely defined, possibly perfect.

Waiting is excruciating: a tightness in the chest, a knotted stomach.  I feel like I am moving in a huge marshmallow suit, bulky, slow and absurdly distracted.  I lose my keys at least three times a day.  I cannot think in a straight line or retrace my steps.  I find myself so deep in thought that when a kid asks me a question, it takes me a beat to resurface.

I won't even talk emotions:  Imagine the graph on the machine that charts contractions; they chart similarly to that.

Tonight might be the night we will decide to move our family back across the country.

We've both been dazed, elated, paralyzed, devastated at the thought of it.  Yet, as we talk about it, there does seem to be a certain order to it, a deep richness of these last four years that speaks to us like allowance.

I can see Ben out the window right now pacing the yard on the phone -- one of the phone calls that will determine our next step.

I thought he would get this phone call seven hours ago.  S e v e n.
So I've taken a lot of deep breaths.

To keep from pounding Ben with questions or tackling him, I'm chopping.
This salad, it turns out, is a good one for waiting.  For making the hands useful.  And for eating later on (better than the Cheetos I've been having this week...)

Early Summer Brown Rice Salad 
                 Adapted from Bon Appetit's Black Rice Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

This salad is easy to tailor to whatever you have on hand -- any grain (black rice, barley, millet, quinoa etc), any summer veggies (grilled zucchini would be great, blanched asparagus, fresh peas, sugar snaps).  For the dressing, the original recipe calls for lemon and white wine vinegar, but you can use any acid -- red wine vinegar, champagne vinegar, white balsamic (my new favorite on tomatoes with salt) etc.

1 part olive oil
3/4 part acid (see note)
bit honey or agave (1/8 part and then taste)
a good bit of salt

cooked and cooled brown or black rice
grape tomatoes, halved
red pepper, chopped
scallions (4+)
edamame, shelled
green beans, blanched and in bite-sized pieces