Sunday, December 23, 2012

a couple of recipes

I have done very little cooking since Maeve came along, but there have been a few exceptions.  I made these pancakes the other weekend for a big family breakfast - the kids devoured them, and the chopped apple cooked through (though it seemed unlikely because of my liberal chopping).  And friends and I ate the cranberry upside-down cake with champagne the other night.  The recipe suggests using four mini loaf pans so you can gift small cakes, but I baked mine in a 8x11ish pan -- just make sure your cranberries cover the bottom.

Pumpkin Apple Pancakes
 Sunset magazine November 2012 -- image from magazine, too

1 large egg
1 c each flour and milk
2 T vegetable oil
1/2 c canned pumpkin
1 T each sugar and baking powder
1/4 t each salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon
1 apple, peeled, cored, and chopped
About 2 T butter, divided

1. Mix all ingredients except butter and syrup
2. Melt 2 t butter in large nonstick frying pan over med heat.  Spoon batter, making 3-4 at a time.  Cook, turning once, until cooked through, 8-10 minutes.
Serve with syrup and more butter if you like

Cranberry-Almond Upside-Down Cake
  Whole Living magazine, December 2012 -- image from magazine, too

4 T unsalted butter, softened, plus more for brushing
2 1/2 c fresh cranberries 
1/2 c plus 2 T granulated sugar
2 c raw almonds, toasted and ground in food processor (instead, I used almond meal and 1/2 t almond extract)
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t coarse salt
3 large eggs
1 t pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350.  Brush pan(s) with butter (be generous, my cranberries stuck a bit)
2. In a small sauce pan cook cranberries and 2 T sugar over med heat, stirring until cranberries begin to pop, about 6 min.  Pour into pan(s), evenly covering the bottom(s)
3.  In a small bowl, whist almonds, baking soda and salt.  
4.  In a med bowl beat butter and remaining sugar until pale and fluffy.  
5. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each.  Add vanilla.  Add almond mixture and stir til combined
6.  Pour batter over cranberries and gently smooth top 
7. Place pan(s) on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until loaves are golden brown and a tester inserted in center comes out clean, about 30 min.
8. Let cool and run spatula around edges to loosen, and invert cake, cranberry side up, on wire rack to cool.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


to remember:

the weight of a baby asleep against my chest in the bjorn, her body in a fuzzy suit, my hand on her head to keep the hood on.

Eden ahead of me on a balance bike, her dark pink running shoes pushing off the ground, helmet a bit askew.  Exclamations:
LOOK how BEAUtiful the SKY is! -- darkening grey with fading pale pink clouds, skeletal trees lining the path on both sides.

I tell her, this is what winter looks like

She pulls over --
look at that BEAUtiful building!  through the bare trees, an apartment building lit for the evening that, because it's December, looks to her like Christmas.

As the path darkens, speeding bright headlights of commuters shine behind us and pass.  Each time she bumps off the path onto the gravel shoulder, laughing at herself as she walk-bumps along pulling the bike with her.

to remember:

How toasty her hand feels in my cold one as we cross the street, though my coat is much warmer than hers.  How she wants to keep riding, though the sidewalk has ended, and the street is now dark.
Look!  the moon's following us!

to remember:
her buoyant learning and orange leggings against the darkening night.

This is our first December here.

Heavy this Christmas

Yesterday morning, standing at the kitchen sink, the yard still in morning shadow, I saw light.  The sky stood blue for the first time in weeks and sun pearled the clouds, making them brilliantly white along the edges.

I was down low near the yard where the shadow was.

The night before, I had read a woman's story about adopting two children from Ethiopia and how during her wait for them, she experienced deep, wrenching sadness over them.  Later she found out the week she had been so broken for them was the week they had been moved to the orphanage -- a week of trauma.

Reading this story of a mother's grief over a child, grief over a child thrust into violence and broken there, unlocked me again.  I had cried over Connecticut many times already.  I had looked at those children fleeing the school with their eyes closed, sobbing, holding onto the shoulders of the child in front of them.  I had read the heroic stories -- teachers who held doors shut, hid children in closets, were shot and killed and kept kids alive.  The parents who waited for hours for their child to come out.

The tears wouldn't stop.  I imagine so many mothers have climbed into bed with children this week to smell them and touch their hair and warm foreheads -- me too.  I crawled into the bottom bunk next to Silas and pressed my cheek to his sleeping back, feeling it rise and fall as my hot tears leaked out.  I stayed there a long time.

When I finally settled back in my bed, I felt something and reached down to pull it out -- it was one of Eden's hair clips.  What if a mother in Connecticut had found a hair clip in her bed that night, too, but her child in the other room was gone?

Lying there, I let myself look at those children's faces, at the mothers and fathers trying to breathe in the dark, at the empty beds, at the Christmas presents already bought.

We grieve these twenty children, six adults, safe places invaded, violent sick perpetrators, danger.

Then I thought about our cities and the children who every night fear the gunshots they hear from their beds, fear the drug dealers next to the bus stop, the gangs in the hallways of their schools, who miss a father in jail, a brother who got shot last month.  I thought of the children in beds across the country, in this neighborhood, around the world who are beaten.  I thought of the thousands children massacred by machetes.  The children who are raped every day for money.  I thought of the children whose parents don't come home because of bombings in the street -- the monstrous acts of violence that penetrate our world.  I thought of the 4 million people displaced in Syria.  The Philippine families dying for food and water after the typhoon.  The women being raped in the Congo's violence, the children there without homes or medicine.

The list does not end.

It is worth stopping to look.  It is worth being sad, sickened.

This Christmas week my eyes feel heavy.  Christmas cards papering my door frame say JOY JOY JOY!  But standing in shadows of loss*, it is hard to remember that joy grows from the inside and can exist even as terror rattles the windows.**

Christmas celebrates Jesus' birth, God come to Earth under a bright star.  If this is so, that God entered  this earth in human form, Christmas also celebrates God removing Himself from untouchable realms to stand in a fleshy body on this dark earth where we live, and where he, the peacemaker, was brutally murdered, too.

In the Christmas story Jesus is named Immanuel.  It means God with us.  God who wept, who knows what it is to suffer, who weeps over our children, and the darkness we stand in, came to be with us.

He came to face terror -- real terror -- and to be killed.  He came for the three days of silent despair that followed.  He came here to die and then to beat death, to rise out of it and prove stronger.  He came to redefine life and to give vision beyond all that we touch, hold, and lose.  That, more than an infant in a manger, is what I am thinking about this Christmas -- the sight beyond what we lose.

As I've written this, snippets of psalm 23 have popped into my head, which makes me think of Nana, whom I'm missing this month.  The day before she died as I said these words to her, her wordless face brightened.  It was the first time I really tasted the darkness of that valley.

The words to that psalm:

The Lord is my Shepherd
I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.

*Yea, though I walk through the valley
of the shadow of death,
**I will fear no evil
for you are with me,
Your rod and your staff they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies
You anoint my head with oil,
my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and mercy will follow me
all the days of my life
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

in the midst of a loud month: a poem (thanks CP*)

The Mockingbird

All summer
the mockingbird
in his pearl-gray coat
and his white-windowed wings

from the hedge to the top of the pine
and begins to sing, but it’s neither
lilting nor lovely.

for he is the thief of other sounds –
whistles and truck brakes and dry hinges
plus all the songs
of other birds in his neighborhood;

mimicking and elaborating,
he sings with humor and bravado,
so I have to wait a long time
for the softer voice of his own life

to come through.  He begins
by giving up his usual flutter
and settling down on the pine’s forelock
then looking around

as though to make sure he’s alone;
then he slaps each wing against his breast,
where his heart is,
and, copying nothing, begins

easing into it
as though it was not half so easy
as rollicking,
as though his subject now

was his true self,
which of course was as dark and secret
as anyone else’s,
and it was too hard –

perhaps you understand –
to speak or sing it
to anything or anyone
but the sky.

from Mary Oliver’s new collection, A Thousand Mornings

Tuesday, December 04, 2012


It's Christmas tree fetching time, which makes me think of Ben in all his glory and our different approaches to tasks, like bringing a tree home -- to use rope or the human hand?  Ben.  Ben is man who gets things done, most anything, really.  It may not be tidy, it may not be thorough, but he will make it happen.  I actually can't think of a time in the last 20 years when he's said a job was impossible, except perhaps this summer when he bowed out of re-piping all of the plumbing between the basement and upstairs (thankfully).

In these early days of babyhood, I've watched a lot of yard happenings through the windows.  This is the first time we've had any sort of yard to care for, and as most things new, I've gotten to learn more about Ben's ways -- you have a baby, you meet your spouse as a parent.  You have a yard, you meet your spouse as a yardman (I'm afraid he has yet to discover this part of me, however).  I grew up in a townhouse without a blade of grass, so it's possible I just never knew the versatility of a lawnmower; I thought it was literally for cutting flat planes of grass...

One day, after watching Ben madly chainsaw down a row of azaleas that must be decades old (huge, and yes, smack in the middle of the yard), I saw him push and shove the lawnmower up a bank of thick weedy ivy, losing his footing as he pushed, his body nearly parallel to the ground.  At the top, he jammed the mower over the tree-like azalea stumps again and again, shards of wood wildly flying, until the stumps were sufficiently blunted.  (He was smoothing the hill for sledding, naturally).

And just now, I saw Ben push the mower out of the garage and mow the concrete, with, I believe, the purpose of blowing away the dirt.  He mowed it steadily in neat rows, engulfed by a whirlwind of dirt until the slab looked clean.  Then he moved on to the grass.

This year, Ben and I did not tussle about the tree.  Eden and I unceremoniously picked one up while running errands and a strange man tied it to the car -- he also happened to tie our car doors closed in the process so that I had to feed Eden into her car seat through the back window and gracefully hoist myself in through another.  And all were glad to have a tree in the house.  Ben didn't even insist on pulling out the chainsaw to recut the end or trim the trees in the yard while he was at it.  He does, I am sure, have great bonfire plans for the end of this season, but more about that to come.

Thursday, November 29, 2012


It has been a month of days, many sweet, many plain, a few grueling.  I've made it to the grocery store with a mouthful of children. I've nursed and read stories, sung songs and prayed, and wrangled all three into bed for the last three nights alone. I've fed people every day, though I don't remember really cooking anything or any full meals we've eaten.  I've gotten everyone to school and home on time-ish each day (Eden is almost always 20 minutes late). I haven't run out of gas, despite the gauge being in the red repeatedly. These are the little victories I am living in. 

Today Maeve is tiring in the regular baby ways: muscles ache from the lifting, hauling, holding; another wet diaper right as she's finally drifting to sleep; poop immediately after I've changed her and snapped and resnapped her jammies until the snaps all lined up; a blow out when there are no extra clothes; fussiness right when we start to drive so that I end up driving while standing, my arm stretched as far as possible into the backseat to hold a pacifier in her mouth.  I'd forgotten how driving with an infant is worse than driving drunk. Oh babies.  No wonder they smile so deliciously when they are hungry.

I keep feeling like congratulating myself for living through a winter.  But then I remember that, yes, I do have a down coat on, but it is in the 40's and there has not yet been ice on my windshield or snow on the steps.  The Farmer's almanac and general weather people everywhere all are predicting a particularly cold and snowy one.  Even the weird cat vet Ben met said the cats' coats are especially thick this year, so I don't think I've arrived...  I wouldn't say that I am dreading it, but I will be glad to land on the other side.

Looking out the window it looks like winter. The trees stand with tangled ink branches. A few still hold on to brown rattly leaves, but for the most part, the landscape is altered: outlines against a pale gray sky that yellows as the day ends.  I don't mind these short days, the fact that the sky darkens at five. We burrow in a little deeper, pull down the blinds, sit under glowing lights.  In only a month, the days will begin to stretch again, inching out until we find ourselves squarely in summer, surprised by its sudden arrival.  

The kids and I have been talking about Advent, about how to receive, what to give, about generous unexpected out-pouring, about remembering and preparing.  These dark cold days that we didn't have in California feel fitting, a long tunnel toward Christmas, and the promise of light and longer days at the end.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

a poem for the week

Bless Their Hearts

At Steak 'n Shake I learned that if you add
"Bless their hearts" after their names, you can say
whatever you want about them and it's OK.
My son, bless his heart, is an idiot,
she said. He rents storage space for his kids'
toys—they're only one and three years old!
I said, my father, bless his heart, has turned
into a sentimental old fool. He gets
weepy when he hears my daughter's greeting
on our voice mail
. Before our Steakburgers came
someone else blessed her office mate's heart,
then, as an afterthought, the jealous hearts
of the entire anthropology department.
We bestowed blessings on many a heart
that day. I even blessed my ex-wife's heart.
Our waiter, bless his heart, would not be getting
much tip, for which, no doubt, he'd bless our hearts.
In a week it would be Thanksgiving,
and we would each sit with our respective
families, counting our blessings and blessing
the hearts of family members as only family
does best. Oh, bless us all, yes, bless us, please
bless us and bless our crummy little hearts.
"Bless Their Hearts" by Richard Newman, from Domestic Fugues. © Steel Toe Books, 2009.

Thursday, November 15, 2012


Congratulations to m*, Kaia Joye, and Mandy!

and thanks everyone else for entering.


Monday, November 05, 2012

Winter giveaways for 500 Posts!!

Yesterday I wrote my 500th post, so today I give some of my wintery favorites away:

jars of summer jam,

Big Train vanilla chai,

homemade biscotti,

and classic chap stick (every winner gets some)

Please leave a comment by November 15th to enter the drawing!  Three of you win (which could be all of you!)

Thanks for reading*

Sunday, November 04, 2012

More Life in the New Days

Maeve is six weeks old.  I am sitting at the table, rocking her on my knee while outside the kids stand around a galvanized tub of fall fire, "making torches."  I am not sure this is the safest game.  Ben is grinding down some azalea stumps to smooth out our small hill and ready it for possible sledding.

Today we took a date, rented DC bikes and cruised around downtown to a Ramen noodle bar and thrift shops.  We are weathering the low-grade tension that lives in the corners of these days of small people and full arms, and sometimes yells from the driver's seat or kitchen doorway...  It was good to be together, to bike behind him and watch him boyishly weave through traffic the way he always has, to follow the shape of his back and sit elbow to elbow over tangles of noodles.  Walking through Adams Morgan I could feel the gnawing want to be wrapped in a scarf, wearing fingerless gloves, sitting at a laptop with books, papers and a large coffee outside Tryst, or lingering with Ben over a long breakfast and the newspaper.  These are not days of leisure, or time alone or creative space -- all things we crave.  What I tried to remember, walking down that street past the brunchers, is that milk will not spring from my body ever three hours -- on a date or not -- forever, that one day I might be sitting outside a coffee shop alone missing a squirmy girl in a striped dress gnawing on her fist as she lies across my lap.

She just spit up down her face, into her ear, and onto my leg...  

Maeve is balding and cooing these days.  In the mornings I can steal a rare bright smile from her, and today her tiny purple Mary Jane socks stay on her feet.

Eden received face paints for a gift and has drawn two lopsided hearts on my chin and cheek, one large American Flag -- which greatly resembles a French flag -- on my other cheek, and a blue paw print on my forehead.  So that's what I look like right now.  She is amazed by how good she is at face painting and may begin offering it curbside.

Silas has no school tomorrow or election day and is reveling in the freedom, as if he's a 15 year-old missing exams.  I keep trying to think of fun plans for the hours Eden's at school , but I think he may be most happy to sit on the floor in my attention and build with legos.  So we will.

And so the days unfold into November.  I am trying to remember to stop and be thankful, especially when I find myself frowning or banging around the house -- both things I apparently do  in the mornings, before dinner, and just before piling people into the car (is that most of the day?).  I am trying to practice smiling (to counter the frowning).  I am beginning a book called Seven and hoping it will jolt my complacency.  I am especially missing  the park and California these days, which may be a sign of sinking deeper into real life here; Maeve was the final big change in the series, and she's here, the last loose end tied up.  Now it's all about learning to walk on this new footing.

Monday, October 29, 2012


is happening.  So far, it's a big fat rainy day with gusts that bend and wave the towering trees.  I've driven to the post office and my parents' house (neither of which was recommended), hung out with a cluster of men in the neighborhood hardware store, but mostly we've stuck inside.  Ben rigged up a little zip line (we have just over 6' ceilings) in the basement and a swing.  We've done what we can to prepare as Washington expertly panicked around us: yesterday the gas station was out of gas and the grocery stores sold out of water and batteries.  The main road we take to my parents' house has been preemptively shut down for flooding, and the metro and airports are closed.  Schools are closed today and tomorrow, and Halloween is up for grabs.  Our bathtub is full of water just in case.  Margaritas are in the fridge.  We've bought bags of ice and borrowed a cooler to store pumped milk (the single must-save -- liquid freedom).  Our electronics are charged.  The kids are bathed and ready for no hot water.  The outdoor drains are raked and covered in plastic mesh in hopes of saving our basement from an impending flood.  We've been eating out of the freezer -- frozen peas, corn, chicken nuggets and sweet potato fries for lunch today.  We've drawn the curtains in case branches fly at the windows, and that's about what we can do.  Now we're going to have a bed-party in my room with a stack of books while Maeve sleeps in the swing that ran out of batteries yesterday right when the stores did, but my mom refilled today -- huzzah!


Saturday, October 13, 2012

More Maeve

Where We are Now

This week marks the move from honeymoon to transition: when husband's job resurfaces, when mother's life grows bigger than a babe, when adrenaline gives way to exhaustion, when the resolve to fight sloppy emotion flags, when the four year old erupts into strings of meltdowns and wakes screaming in the night and keeps screaming when her dad comes in, when the cheery six year old's eyes spring with instant tears at any thwarted expectation, when, in short, change hits.

Small victories mark the days: Silas's spelling "one" and holding the baby by himself, my picking Eden up from school alone, pumping for the first time (the stash of freedom begins), and remembering gratitude -- for the baby in the house, a person who continues to strike me as impossibly lovely.  That humans arrive so tiny and perfectly complete is brand new all over again.  And for people -- meals continue to arrive on my doorstep, people have picked up diapers at the store, driven S & E to soccer, taken them to the park, thrown laundry into my washer, folded mountains of clothes, emptied the trash...  *thank you*

Fall has ripped through billowy summer and arrived -- the sky yesterday was taut and blue behind yellow leaves, and today wind gusted through the huge trees all day, sending showers of leaves and acorns in the yard.  The air is cool and drying, the dogwoods deep red, and orange seeps into the edges of the sugar maples.  The world is transitioning, too, around us, its wind against our skin.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Eden. (still articulating this, but words from my journal yesterday)

Eden changed under my hands.  Literally.  She walked into the hospital room two weeks ago as the little Eden I've known, there to meet her new sister.  But when I touched her, she was different -- substantial, solid, a child.  Hers was a new, grown body.

Until that day, she had been Tiny Joye -- our small one.  Then in one day, after only four hours of a newborn in our hands, she suddenly wasn't.

Each day since then, I have marveled at Eden.  Her capability is not surprising.  Her bright chirpy helpfulness I have seen before.  Her lengthening legs we have noticed, stretching before our eyes.  But to touch her -- this is different.  To pull her on my lap, which I guess I haven't properly been able to do for a couple of months, she is BIG.  How did I not see this three weeks ago?

There is nothing "baby" about Eden.  The one shy of seven pounds and floppy-limbed, yes, she is a baby.  Eden, articulate and full of songs, is become something else, the big and the little at once.

Through the weeks, I've heard Ben say it again and again, almost to himself, "you're so big, Eden" -- he can't seem to keep the words from tumbling out.  We are struck.  

She is well named: Eden.  The garden God made when He closed his eyes and imagined the most beautiful place he could -- a place of Shalom, of creative joy expressed, fresh, vivid, sweet-smelling -- Eden.  I imagine that the vibrant beauty would knock us out, that those who lived there must have been surprised again and again by what was given, by how their understanding had been limited.  How could they not live in a constant discovery?

In some way, Eden, you were also born on the first day of Fall, born into a new Light.  We all were, as happens on single days that rearrange our lives as we've known them.  You, my sweet girl, who calls me Mama out of a night fever and let's me hold you and rock away your tears, you have become, once again, new to discover -- and we marvel.

marvel: (v) to be filled with wonder or astonishment
(n) a wonderful or astonishing person or thing
from Old French merveille: wonderful

Monday, September 24, 2012

meet Maeve Magnolia

in her first 48 hours:

Friday, September 21, 2012

laboring, pre-laboring, or pre-pre-laboring

It is 3:49AM.  A booming contraction woke me up around 1AM and there has been no sleep since.  The contractions hurt but are not hospital-big.  They blow through about every 10 minutes and so far haven't hastened their pace, so I wouldn't call this labor.  But I also wouldn't call it sleep-friendly.  So after doing laundry, making lunches for school tomorrow, rounding out my hospital bag, walking around the house, and making tea, I am now on the couch about to begin  a 4AM showing of Sex and the City.  Sarah Jessica Parker movies seem to have triggered my previous two labors, so I'm hoping.  Keep you posted.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

At 1st Grade Back to School Night

I got to look in Silas's writing folder and read the details of life he's chosen to record:

 When I wake up in the morning my hair looks like a freak.
 When there are robbers out the window throw sharp objects out the window.
 At recess I like to jam wood chips down a hole in the middle of a picnic table.
I felt the baby's foot.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

After Two Weeks of School

I didn't expect to feel loss over school this Fall -- it's an in between year, a repeat in routine: preschool and a second year of elementary school -- but two weeks in I am aware of change, and change, as they say, involves loss.  The changes are quiet, daily, hard to see.  But I feel them.  They are small shifts in space.

The school bus contributes.  Rather than all piling in the car each morning, driving up to school, my kissing Silas goodbye on the sidewalk and watching  his skinny little body trumped by a plaid backpack hustling up the school walk, I walk out the front door, wait for a minute with neighbors and watch him climb three school bus steps and disappear into the crowd behind the tinted windows.  Whom does he sit with?  What do they talk about?  I don't know.  Seven hours later, he emerges into sunlight with a sheepish smile, trying to stifling how proud he is of himself for another independent ride and how glad he is to see me there waiting.  We walk home holding hands, his backpack on my shoulders.

By bedtime, what I know of those seven hours we spent apart is about three minutes worth of answers I've tugged out of him -- what he ate for lunch, one person whose name he's not sure of whom he spoke with at some point in the day, whether he sat alone on the bus, and a quick explanation of a math sheet in his folder.  That's it, the report from his space.

Last year, the second Eden climbed into the car, she burst with chatty news about her morning.  A minute or so in, I'd recognize her story-teller voice and, realize no one had actually climbed a tree, or fallen down, or laughed that hard at a joke, or dug a big hole or-- at least not in the way she was telling it.  But I loved the enthusiasm, the silliness, and the facts tucked into her tales the way they're tucked into dreams.  This year, she's settled into her car seat and told me they ate an elmo cookie for red day snack, that she dug in the sand, or that she saw her teacher from last year down the hall, and that's about it.  So far...

Our connections emerge through the afternoons in play and over time, not in nose-to-nose conversation.  I am learning this is all right.  But it isn't my favorite.  And the needs of each afternoon are so different: sometimes Eden and Silas disappear for hours, chatting and playing hotel or sweeper or building shoots for marbles; and sometimes they bite at each other within a minute of being together; sometimes we sit on my bed the whole afternoon eating huge mouthfuls of stories; and sometimes we have to evacuate immediately to keep from yelling.  We three are navigating the daily shifting spaces.

And in the midst of this navigation, the bumpy wagon-ride afternoons, I am waiting, braced for an onslaught of contractions at any moment and a baby to be born.  I am wondering which ducks I still need to get in a row to soften our transition, to make lunch-making easier, to cut down quarrels, to help each of us know what to expect, to find ways to connect well with each other -- but, of course, I don't know.  So instead, I am doing things piling grocery carts full of food to squirrel away in case I never emerge from newborn land again, and all we can eat is what's in the freezer or cupboard...  This week we ended up with an excess of zucchini, a food my kids won't even really eat, so Eden and I made zucchini bread.  This recipe makes a particularly good loaf.   I am pretty sure I could sit down to an entire pan...

First Day of School Zucchini Bread
(makes two loaves)

2 c grated zucchini
3 eggs
2 c sugar
1 c oil
1 T vanilla
1 c flour
1 c whole wheat flour
1/4 t baking powder
2 t baking soda
1 t salt
1 T cinnamon
(1 c nuts)

-grease/spray loaf pans
-sprinkle zucchini with salt and let drain 1 hour, squeeze out (I forgot the salt and my zucchini drained nothing -- bread is still great, so I figure you can skip this step if need be)
-beat eggs, add sugar, oil and vanilla
-sift dry ingredients together
-combine all
-bake at 350 for 45-60 minutes

Sunday, September 09, 2012

a poem

New Religion  

This morning no sound but the loud
breathing of the sea. Suppose that under
all that salt water lived the god
that humans have spent ten thousand years
trawling the heavens for.
We caught the wrong metaphor.
Real space is wet and underneath,
the church of shark and whale and cod.
The noise of those vast lungs
exhaling: the plain chanting of monkfish choirs.
Heaven's not up but down, and hell
is to evaporate in air. Salvation,
to drown and breathe
forever with the sea.

            -Bill Holm 

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Be Here Now (no other place to be)

I'm restless.

Perhaps it's the baby coming.

It IS the baby coming.

I wake up around 4:30 with my mind racing -- thoughts and lists that seems utterly pressing but that in the morning pale and reduce to nothing.

I want to watch movies, read something riveting, eat ice cream, be entertained, be distracted.
I find myself staring at my computer waiting for an email to pop up or for something on the screen to reach out and captivate me, which it doesn't.  Computers aren't very good initiators.

She doesn't have a name yet, but I feel like I can almost see her.  I can't wait to see her.

Today I stood in the kitchen with my hands on my stomach thinking how this is the last time in my whole life I will ever be stretched like this, will ever feel a baby inside of me, will ever trace her movements across my tight skin, or feel her tiny foot beneath the surface.  This stage of life, of creating children, will end, has nearly ended.

And then I will meet and hold an infant, one of my infants, for the last time.  And she will grow into the swift darkening fall days, for us to follow after and begin to discover.

Hurry up and wait is what my mom says when people race ahead, cut her off, and slam on their breaks at the red light in front of her.  Hurry up and wait.  I don't want to hurry, to rush these days when Eden presses her cheek to my stomach to feel her unborn sister hiccup against her cheek.  I want to feel the wait, not just pace my house making longer lists of what I could do to prepare for dinners, fall birthdays, Christmas, what I still need to buy for nursing or pack for the hospital or--

Each day there are moments, sometimes just a few, that I would call grace, when I can feel the paving stones of the present under my feet: sitting nestled on the yellow couch with Silas and Eden leaning against each of my arms (which makes me overheat madly these days) reading The Magic School bus and disappearing into volcanoes; watching Silas dive off the diving board, his ankles haphazardly crossing in midair; listening to the sound of the two of them giggling together in the other room as they wield kitchen tools; studying the freckles that have just emerged on Silas's right cheek; listening to the way words roll in Eden's mouth -- "bebember" and "thus" instead of just.

This Labor Day weekend, I will not be in labor and will be here.  Mason Jennings, in his straight-shooting way, says, "be here now, no other place to be" -- and isn't that it?  There is no other place to be, no other place we can be, just here and just now.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Phase 3 of the First Day of School

About 20 minutes before Silas arrived, my stomach knotted into a solid contraction that still hasn't let up.  At 3:15, Eden and I crossed the street and sit on a shady wall to wait for yellow face of the bus to poke over the hill.  The bus with windows tinted so dark it's impossible to see the kids hissed to a stop, and Silas stepped off grinning, his backpack dwarfing his lean little body.  I watched him, reading his day in his springy steps and even little skip down the sidewalk to our front door.

He didn't have much to say, as usual, so I asked as many questions as I could think of: no, he didn't know the games in PE but yes they were fun -- no details; no, he didn't talk to any kids in his class at all or learn any names (really?); no, he didn't know what the assignment was that led to the piece of lined paper -- each line 3 times narrower than any he's ever been asked to write on before -- he brought home on which he'd written "this sumr I;" yes, he learned something about his teacher -- she loves gummy bears; yes, music would be tomorrow.  A good enough report for day 1.

Then the needling began, Silas instigating.  Eden whining.  Eden crying.  Silas taunting.  I listened, entirely unsure of what Silas needed and will need post-school -- time with me? time alone? up time? down time? park time? -- but knowing it's something that I ought to help provide.  Instantly the bright energy I'd worn muscling through the day gave way, and Fall feels long, impossibly long, and while I'm at it, dark and cold and riddled with unknown weather-patterns and winter-rhythms, full of dirty dishes/lunch boxes/snack bags/tupperware.  What will we do every day to bridge the time from school to bed?  Currently, my coping mechanism is to hide in the kitchen "making dinner" with a glass of wine, answering all knocks by barking "having time alone!" which so far is working.  I'm pretty sure, though, that especially once a baby arrives, this isn't going to fly for an evening ritual...

Monday, August 27, 2012

Conversation Walking over to the Bus Stop

Silas: the bus driver is going to think we're CRAZY -- following him, stopping where he stops, getting there behind him!  He's gonna think we're crazy.

Eden:  It'll be a little awkward for him, won't it Silas?  It will be kind of awkward.

Dawn on the First Day of School

At 5:30 I finally looked at the clock -- morning enough for the first day of school.  It's rare when I wake before Silas, and if I do, just as I settle in at the kitchen table with a cup of tea, journal, and book, he appears and the small haven for centering disappears.  But this morning, everyone sleeps, and I find myself at the table with a cup of hot tea (which I can't quite taste, though stronger flavors have returned!) looking at the chalky grey sky outside.  

We've struck a deal about the bus: today, we will walk out to the bus stop and meet neighbors, see who's there, wait for the bus to come, poke our heads on, say hi to the driver, and then jump in our car to follow it to school.  Ben will drop Silas and me at the curb so we can watch everyone unload while he parks, and then we'll all walk to the classroom together.  Tomorrow, he'll board.  (ack!).  That's the plan.  

First day of school fairy presents are sitting in Silas's doorway.  Croissants are in the oven, and eggs are ready to go -- first day of school breakfast.  We make eggs nearly every morning, and I'm trying to prepare my small egg-lovers for a change in menu once this baby comes.  Cereal.  Toast.  Yogurt.  Hard boiled egg.  Somehow, they don't find any of those options quite so appealing.   

Sitting here it has just struck me, speaking of food, that I have to make lunch and snack.  Forgot about that job.  So I will go do that now.  Feeling the grind of endless days of lunch-making as I look at the months stretching ahead -- best to think about simply making lunch today.  I can make lunch today.  Yes, one lunch, I can do.

High school kids are walking past the window.  It's 6:30.  Could they really have some place they already need to be??  Again, best to think about simply 1st grade and the 8:15 bus, driving behind it.  We can do that.

Saturday, August 25, 2012


The last few weeks have been a lesson in appreciating the senses.  I've had a cold that won't budge, just moves around the inside of my head.  I haven't smelled anything for weeks.  On Monday I stopped being able to taste, which seems to happen before I throw parties... The other day I stood at a cheese counter optimistically tasting blue cheeses, trying to find anything to say to the woman helping me when each one tasted 100% like nothing... Yesterday I couldn't hear very well and today I may as well have one of those huge old school horns to hold up to my ear because I can hear virtually nothing, except my own loud voice.  I've also learned I have a very difficult name to say when congested.  In fact, it's impossible.  The other day I had to talk to three people on the phone:

What's your name?
Brodwed Dewcott.
No, BroDweD, with an ed.
Oh.  Brodwen?
And I simply had no way to correct it.  Thankfully, today my N's have returned!

Silas and Ben just left for a Redskins preseason game.  Silas has had his outfit laid out since Monday.  The game countdown has utterly trumped the first day of school countdown.  Monday will simply arrive, and he'll walk into his classroom with a game under his belt.  I seem to have made the mistake of offering to drive Silas to school for the first week and THEN transition him to the school bus.  It didn't occur to me (because of my own bus-fear -- will there be bullies?  will he feel scared?  will anyone sit next to him?  will older kids tell raunchy jokes?  will he get off at the wrong stop and be stranded somewhere random?) to put him on the bus Monday!  But apparently, that's the thing to do.  So now we are in negotiations...

I'm sitting on the front steps because it's COOL outside, actually cool.  I have goosebumps on my arms.  The air is humid but ripe with a storm.  It is supposed to thunderstorm for the game...  In fact, just now it's begun to rain in heavy drops, so I must relocate to watch the wind through the windows.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Leaving the Beach

I am waiting for my favorite hour on the beach to brighten the sky, but for now it's still dark.  Due to pregnancy and Silas's early bird wiring, I've been up around 6 most mornings this week, which has meant dragging a beach chair, my journal, and a hot cup of tea (much of which I've spilled on my hand) to the edge of the ocean to sit while the sun brightens from a pink a dayglo ball to white heat in the sky.  

This is our last morning at the beach.  In fact, we are supposed to be driving away in 25 minutes when it will still be dark.  I keep looking out the window as if the sky must know this and will bring dawn faster.

The week has great -- healing to have my feet in the sand and Ben on a surfboard, connections all around, trips to the dollar store for spy kits, cousin play, outdoor showers, ice cream, home movies.  And now it's time to go.  A gift when a week has been full and the end is still welcome.  At home we'll settle into our last summer week -- warm the house, swim in the pool, walk to the creek and library, gather groceries to make school snacks and lunches once again...  I'm feeling ready!

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Their First Solo Lemonade Stand

 the circus of vehicles that stopped for them:

They each made $12... I think I'll have one tomorrow.

On Pregnancy, Fall, and Time Moving Toward Both

It's 7:53PM but I feel like it's 3AM.  I just sent a stranger off to test drive my car alone because Ben is out for a run and the kids are sleeping.  I hope she comes back... (She pulled in right when I wrote that).

I'm a little sick -- the summer colds have been mild but unrelenting and surprising.

We sit in the final three weeks of summer, our summer list of fun things taped to the door with various check marks down the left side, but without the riveting events like
-get hand-foot-and-mouth
-buy toilet paper holders, paper towel racks, medicine cabinets
-leave medicine cabinets in the garage that floods in rain and try to return the muddy boxed soggy cabinets to Home Depot (did that)
-schlep the kids more times than is healthy to local hardware store, Ikea, Target to buy and return various curtain rods, storage bins, paint samples, faucet heads
-find that all shower curtains are too short and all curtains too long
- put on afternoon movies so as to collapse on the bed rather than yell at the children

I am 33 weeks pregnant and have begun dreaming about the baby -- her name, her being twins that need two names, nursing her.  Even a few weeks ago, the speed of time flying by stung my eyes, but a shift in the last week and I've started to lean into it.  With all that's been unsettled the last four months, having this baby finally a baby in my hands rather than a concept in my brain will be a welcome relief.

The other day I bought the kids pencil boxes, lunchskins, and new markers, and could taste the zing of Fall, newness, back to school.  On the 27th, Silas will start at a new school again and begin 1st grade.  Since we moved, he's grown tall and has new black high tops that make him look old.  The school bus stop is across the street from our house, and when we moved in I couldn't imagine a brighter Godsend for hectic mornings, but now when I picture Silas stepping onto a school bus full of strange kids at 8AM to head out for the day, I wilt.  That's how Fall is, isn't it?  It crackles under foot and thrills us with its wind, smoky smell, arresting color, the very air charged with change, and then it strips us down to bone.  And there we wait through the quiet months until blooms overwhelm us once more.

It's a wonder, with such a visual aid, that I'm always so taken aback to stand in these vulnerable quiet months between fiery branches and weighty boughs...

Friday, August 03, 2012

Change of Scenery -- Breaths of Fresh Air

DC -> New York -> Boston (Needham) -> Cape Cod -> New York -> Home

New York: Subway, Central Park, New Cousin Hudson

 Boston: Make Way for Ducklings, Boston Commons

 Cape Cod: Chowdah, Beauty, Beach, Prized Souvenirs, More Beach

New York: Hot Dogs, Evening Light, Mesmerizing Sand Art: