Friday, May 31, 2013

End of May

I apparently have lost hearing in my right ear.  Or blown my ear drum.  Or funneled in pool water.  Or tree pollen.  Or some small toy that found its way to my pillow in the night.  The sickness that fell a month ago when I ate pots of tortilla soup has resurfaced and lodged itself in my ear, cut off some of my taste buds, and is just overall inconvenient.

But the air is breezy with only 44% humidity, which for a Washington day in the 90's I will bask in!  Tonight, Ben and I sat on our front stoop (which literally means sat on the one tiny step we have that leads to the front door) and drank June-eve cocktails (coconut rum + cran-raspberry juice and a little splash of lemonade, shaken and served on ice) and watched the first two fireflies in the yard.  Then we migrated to our neighbor's porch where newly installed fans really did blow the mosquitoes away.  I was skeptical, but now we may sit there every night.

The kids can tell you exactly how many days are left, probably hours, of school.  We are all standing at the exit.  Silas is already plotting ways I could take him out early, launch a road trip, be done.  Eden pined for school each day over our long weekend (we stretched Memorial weekend), and I'm not sure she understands that she isn't going back to her preschool -- this is it and then we will fall into two and a half months without school.  But her birthday party is tomorrow -- she will be 5 -- and that she certainly understands.

Eden these days is like a mini 12 year old packed into a 4 and 11.8/12 year old's body.  She is expressive, independent, adoring, imaginative.  She's fun and good company.  It's hard to escape her games when we're together: usually one of three: Maeve's twin (in which her name is Maggie and Maeve's name is Sadie and they are both two but Maeve is slower in her development because Maggie can speak and Maeve is more like an 8 month old -- which she is); neighbors (we are are neighbor friends who are 11 and have no brothers or sisters); or cousins (we're named Violet and Sadie or Brittany or Lexi and we are 11 with rainbow braces.  Sometimes we have identical sisters who share our same name and sometimes we don't, but Silas is always our younger brother and Maeve sometimes lives next door with a girl named Eden).

May.  May is a chicken-with-its-head-cut-off month.  I forgot this.  There are field days, assemblies, ballet shows, concerts, class parties, pajama days, forms to fill out for class gifts, forms to fill out for next year, forms to fill out for camps, flowers to pick for teacher appreciation (missed that entirely this year), camps to register for (if you haven't...), swim team overlapping with soccer, soccer's final game and party, school projects -- like making a building out of recycled materials--  busy.

Long before I had children, when I was just teaching, I resolved NOT to have over scheduled kids, kids involved in activities every day who raced around and had no down time.  This month I have wondered what in the world I did wrong because we have been racing.  It took me until this week to realize that if each kid has only one or two commitments, he or she is pretty good, but I am living the addition and have to be all of the places.  I didn't know that before!  So I am shifting expectations, and hopefully their lives will remain relatively mellow, but that will not mean that mine will........This should not be a surprise, really.  I remember my mother living in her car every single day.  So much so that in jr. high when I was grounded, my punishment was to ride around with her everywhere she went. I do kind of feel like I'm revisiting that punishment.

But in two weeks we will plunge fully into summer -- hot, slow, long, bright days.  I can feel the anticipation percolating: what books will we check out from the library? what projects will we tackle? how will we structure our weeks?  where will we drive?

And at the same time I wonder about being exhausted and having to stay home every morning so Maeve can nap while the kids long to  DO something.

We will see how it shakes out.  But in the meantime, welcome June.  So glad you're coming.

Monday, May 27, 2013


Just in the last couple of weeks, Silas has begun to lie, not with brash left field tales, but with earnest eyes and plain-faced persuasion.

Tonight Ben found a rogue two dollar bill in Silas's jeans pocket.  Back and forth and back and forth and back and forth and FINALLY the story seeped out, part of the story, and then a bit more, and then the whole thing.

After hashing it out, little Silas climbed into bed under a heap of regret.  Ben followed him over to his bed, and I sat in the semi-dark on the floor of his room, unsure about our parenting.  With my back against the wall, I watched them.  Ben sat on his knees, his bare feet dirty from the day, and leaned over Silas who lay huddled on the bottom bunk, and without betraying his wearied frustration, Ben kissed Silas's face and tucked him in.

As if in answer to my questions, there was the picture of how I want to love: with my dirty feet in plain view, full of forgiveness.

sometimes the easiest place to begin is with pictures: may

Sunday, May 05, 2013

some thoughts on gathering at the table and tortilla soup recipe

Today I started a book called Bread & Wine that a friend gave me for my birthday.  In the introduction (all that I've read so far), the author said a few things that I love:

What's becoming clearer and clearer to me is that the most sacred moments... take place at the table.  The particular alchemy of celebration and food, of connecting people and serving what I've made with my own hands, comes together as more than the sum of their parts.  I love the sounds and smells and textures of life at the table, hands passing bowls and forks clinking against plates and bread being torn and the rhythm and energy of feeding and being fed...

It's not, actually, strictly, about food for me.  It's about what happens when we come together, slow down, open our homes, look into one another's faces, listen to one another's stories.  It happens when we leave the office and get a sitter and skip our workouts every so often..., when we break out of the normal clockwork of daily life and pop the champagne on a cold, gray Wednesday for no other reason than the fact that the faces we love are gathered around our table.... Food is the starting point, the common ground, the thing to hold and handle....

I do want you to love what you eat, and to share food with people you love, and to gather people together, for frozen pizza or filet mignon, because I think the gathering is of great significance.

I do, too.


As I mentioned (in an unfortunate biting-ish comment to Ben pre-biking), I've been sick all week.  Not so much fun, especially as the days shine clean and blooming, with near blinding light.  I've had cup after cup of tea and worked my way through a whole pot of tortilla soup.  This recipe couldn't be more simple -- think of it as the base you can add anything to:

Chicken Tortilla Soup
    adapted from Sunset magazine, December 2012

1 qt chicken broth
1 1/2 lbs chicken (rotisserie is easy, or boneless skinless thighs or breasts)
1/2 white onion, chopped
2+ large carrots thinly sliced
1 can diced tomatoes with green chiles (trader joe's has a great version of this)
(or plain diced tomatoes + 1/2-1 serrano chile, halved and sliced)
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 t chili powder (add more for flavor if you wish)
1/4 t cayenne pepper (gives a decent kick but use more for heat)
1/4 t pepper
tortilla chips
cotija cheese
lime wedges
-> add anything else you have and wish: corn, peppers, peas, avocado, hominy

-heat broth until hot
-add chicken, tomatoes, beans, spices
can throw onions and carrots and other veggies in or saute til just soft and then add
-let simmer ~10 min to blend flavors
-stir in tortilla chips (I have yet to include these, but that's only by accident!)
-garnish with any or all of the following: crumbled cotija cheese (whole foods or Mexican market), fresh cilantro, diced avocado, lime wedges

Friday, May 03, 2013


That took you 30 minutes instead of 10. 
It's already 5:00 -- dinner time and bedtime.  we can't go NOW.
I've been sick all week and you haven't once been nice.
We are going THAT way, down that huge hill in the street?
We are going THAT way on that bumpy path through the woods?
We may as well just take this helmet right off her because it's doing nothing.

You didn't lock the house??
Well, it's just too late to go now.
It's rush hour on the bike path -- the kids are going to get killed by speeding bikers.
Maeve hasn't even napped all day -- she's done.  I'm done.
We don't even know if the brakes work well on this old bike -- they are probably going to go out.
I can't even change gears on this -- the bike is broken!
How old is this bike?
These zip ties are NOT going to hold the bike seat on -- look, it's so teetery.  It's going to throw my balance off and we're going to crash.

Oh ugly,
on and on.
There in that last statement, of course, was the fear: that I was going to crash with Maeve on the back of my bike and hurt her.

Oh how we bury the heart of things.

Yesterday we took our first family bike ride.
Ben set to work to attach a bike seat (which, yes, took 30 minutes instead of 10 and did involve "tools" and zip ties...) while everyone gathered helmets and shoes.  It was my first run on my new bike that Ben had given me for my birthday (that yes, he bought of craigslist, but appears to be perfectly lovely and is butter color -- appropriate all around).

It isn't that I haven't biked before -- I have, even hundreds of miles to North Carolina, once -- but I have never biked with a baby.  I never crash but even when biking alone I almost crash a lot, weaving between telephone pole and brick wall or between cars at a red light.
What would happen with Maeve in back?  What if I did crash?

I know myself well enough to know that I don't always rise to the occasion: once, Max let me drive his motorcycle.  I rode behind him to a big parking lot where after a careful lesson, he let me try to ride it, myself.  I crashed.  Crashed!!!  I smashed the huge heavy piece of machinery onto the ground!!!!

This thought crossed my mind as I started to pedal, arms rigid, still spewing black smoky words into the air -- too fast, too slow, cut off.  And the front tire wobbled.  I coached myself -- breathe, gulp the air, you can bike, look at the leaves, watch Eden riding so proudly behind Ben, pedal, breathe.  But it stayed -- the fear -- and the negative words kept tumbling out.

Silas zipped ahead as he does.
Ben and Eden hit stride.
I relaxed my arms and the bike stopped shaking.

Maeve started to cry.  The helmet, one of Eden's (!) had tipped to cover her entire face (safety first).  So I stopped and propped it back up.  She smiled.  She, this baby I love, was the one on the back of the bike, and this right now, was her first bike ride.  Whew.  We smiled at each other and I climbed back on.  The start up was the hardest -- finding my balance.  A dog walker on the right, two bicycle flying toward me on the left, a dinging behind me for someone to pass -- breathe and keep pedaling.  

Maeve cried again and as we stopped, Ben and Eden disappeared around a curve ahead of us.  I took the helmet off all together and pushed off.

They were gone -- Ben, Eden, Silas -- somewhere way up ahead and hadn't even stopped.  I could feel the anger start to rise -- this is supposed to be a family bike ride, they didn't even look back.  I turned off onto a smaller path I thought they'd taken, and found myself alone with Maeve.

The day was so bright and clear it was almost abrasive, sunlight making the new-green glow.  I started to talk to Maeve.  Suddenly the thousands of leaves above our head rushed and blew -- cleansing.  I breathed and heard Maeve gasping in the wind. Slowly that nippy anger -- the fear -- started to slough off.

We didn't find anyone else, but the creek sparkled and Maeve yelled each time a dog barked as if she were answering.  We thumped over a wooden bridge and wound our way back to the big path, where there, twenty minutes later, somehow Ben, Eden and Silas were just pulling up.

I didn't say sorry, but I didn't say anything, which must have been loud (and welcome).  Together we bumped back through the woods and home.