our messy table

september 15

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Hello! And happy early September…. behold. A photo of our apple tree abundance.

. . .

Our basement is cold and dampish and littered with rubber dinosaurs and plastic tools and fish and perhaps a true reflection of my life nowadays.

The strange thing for me about being a stay-at-home mom after being a working-mom for the past 3 years is that my mind kind of emptied of everything that once held priority and flooded with new ones. While I was working, for example, laundry was not such an important task. I usually felt a sort of peace over the fact that I would eventually get it done. And I did. And why would I need to wash our kitchen windows? Vacuum every week? Balancing our budget was regrettably also an after-thought.

But now every morning the routine begins at home. The house is our island, a place where we move around yet solely survive in.  There is no bustling out the door like a mad person before the sun. No exchange of my children to someone I hesitate to trust. There is breakfast and coffee and orange juice and oatmeal everywhere. Everywhere.

And then the laundry stares at me with a menacing grin. It demands my attention. And suddenly I find myself agonizing over all that for the past three years didn’t seem so important.

So maybe you can hear the conflict in my current writing voice. I feel lucky, blessed even, to be with my boys on our island. And I sometimes feel strained to know what should be a priority anymore.

But I am glad for moments like this – to be amongst the rubber dinosaurs and plastic fish while a 1-year-old naps in his crib and a social and smart 4-year-old busies himself at preschool. And I am glad for time without a screen in my face, a warm cup of tea in my hand and memories of the day floating through my mind. Memories of a 4-year-old’s ambition to draw a mountain goat. Of his shifting preference for markers over crayons and vice versa. His most earnest of efforts to make his own sandwiches at lunch. And memories of a little 1-year-old Buddha belly bouncing about the yard, scooping up apples that have fallen from the tree and clenching them in his small, round hands while he climbs a ladder to throw himself down the slide.

And their every day ability to teach me something new, so long as I can hold still enough to listen and watch.

Lucky. Blessed. Whatever you want to call it. I am so glad I am here for it all. Wrestling my new priorities and metaphorically running this very hard, very good route of motherhood.

. . .

So we HAVE been cooking a lot lately. But I am feeling the urge to share a very basic recipe with you that starts our day, everyday – our everyday oatmeal recipe. I know, I know! I can just see my friends and family who read this blog rolling their eyes because, in their minds, only I would think oatmeal is special enough to share with everyone. But seriously! All you need for a perfect breakfast every morning is rolled oats, your milk of choice and water. We love cooking our oats with coconut milk and cinnamon. And this time of year, we finish it off with a generous drizzle of honey and fresh peach slices. In the fall, we litter our oatmeal with apples from our tree and maple syrup.

It is the particular cooking method that makes this oatmeal unique. This cooking process maintains the grain’s individual shape and prevents the whole pot from turning to mush. Once your oatmeal is done, add any toppings you like. Most mornings, I am perfectly content with a simple drizzle of honey.

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Our Everyday Oatmeal

Serves 4

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • ½ cup milk of choice
  • 1 ½ cups water
  • generous pinch of sea salt
  • dash of cinnamon

Pour the milk and water into a soup kettle. Add in salt and cinnamon.

Bring to a simmer. Pour in oats. Swirl to combine. Cover and remove from heat. Allow to steam for 8 minutes. Resist the urge to peek!

Meanwhile prep your toppings. Make coffee. Read the news. Pretend you are fishing with your 1 and 4-year-old.

Uncover and allow to cool for just a bit. Add oats to serving bowl. Add desired toppings. You could add cream, plain yogurt, brown sugar, maple syrup or honey. Granola, coconut or any nut makes for good texture. My boys like it with plain honey or slices of fresh fruit.

Refrigerate leftovers in airtight container for up to 5 days.

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heroes… and muffins

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I have done a great deal of feeling sorry for myself these past few, shall I admit, months. With the chronic sickness under our roof; endless weekends and even workdays in lockdown from society, nursing all kinds of ailments from pink eye to 103 degree fevers. I began and saved countless word documents of blogs posts that began with some melancholy perspective on the plagues of day care and winter and having to care for sick children all the time.

But yesterday, I sat around a table with co-workers for lunch who were all mothers from different phases of life. One was cradling a precious baby in her arms who was merely a few days old. One pregnant with her third child. And there were three veteran moms with kids in elementary school, middle school, high school and soon-to-be-college. I was telling them about my lack of sleep. About how hard it has been. And as I prattled on a table of knowing eyes stared back at me. And it hit me: I am not alone.

It took up until yesterday to understand that my work as a mom – to bleed my heart out over day care, to pick up a puking kid from day care, or one that is stricken with hives from an allergic reaction to a mysterious food, or to pay countless co-pays for doctor’s visits, to cancel plans and to stay home with my children when they are sick or to desperately seek out someone to watch my kids for the day so I can go to work – it has been done. It is being done. And as unfair as it seems, to our children and to ourselves, we persevere.

. . .

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Which brings me to Jared. My even-headed partner in life who graciously endures and meets my high demands daily (he may or may not be preforming a bit of spring cleaning on our cars as I write…). Who can fix anything. ANYTHING. And makes us dinner. He shares this parenting/working load with me and I so often forget that. And he never holds a neon sign over his head demanding acknowledgment.

So as I watched Jared make dinner last night, tossing asparagus in olive oil, turning chicken in the cast iron skillet, then dive onto the living room floor to wrestle with his boys, I began to understand that the true heroes are most often the understated people who don’t demand gold medals for the weight they carry. They just carry on. Doing what they do. They persevere.

. . .

Porter is my picky eater. He will eat two bowls of oatmeal and a whole pint of strawberries and more vanilla ice cream than one deems necessary for a 4-year-old to consume. But green food, or anything that happens to fall under the not-beige category is met with suspicion glares. And usually gaging.

So we make muffins. Because there is grace in a muffin. And you can throw fruit in there and just a bit of sugar and lots of hearty flours and hope he is getting his vitamins in some way or another. Either way. We love these fresh from the oven the day of, or just the day after, with a dab of butter.

Bran Muffins

Adapted from (Deb! Another resounding hero of mine): Smitten Kitchen

Yield: 12 standard muffins

  • 1 1/3 cups (315 ml) buttermilk (you can also use sour cream or yogurt thinned with a little milk)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup oil (such as vegetable, safflower, sunflower or olive oil)
  • 1/4 cup lightly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or a little citrus zest
  • 1 1/2 cups wheat bran
  • 1 cup spelt flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder (preferably aluminum-free)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar, divided
  • 3/4 to 1 cup chopped mixed fruit (we have even used chocolate chips!)

Heat oven to 425 degrees F and coat a 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick spray.

Whisk buttermilk, egg, oil, brown sugar and any vanilla or citrus zest you’d like to use in a small bowl. Whisk bran, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Stir wet mixture into dry until just combined and still a bit rough.

Spoon two 2 tablespoons of batter into each prepared muffin cup. Add about 2 teaspoons fruit (or chocolate) to each and sprinkling the fruit with one of the teaspoons of granulated sugar. Spoon remaining batter (about 1 tablespoon each) over fruit and sprinkle tops of muffins with remaining teaspoon of granulated sugar.

Bake muffins for a total of 16 to 18 minutes, rotating pan once midway through baking time for even browning, until a toothpick inserted into the center of muffins comes out with just a few crumbs attached. Do not overbake. Let muffins cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes before removing from tin.

16 minutes

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Every night for the past week we have been up with a 6 month old baby who coughs with an unnerving violence for a few hours at a time. In his normal state Jude reminds us of a raccoon, rooting through books and laundry and diapers and whatever he may find on the floor, taking a break here and there to smile and bat his blue eyes at us, then continue on his merry escapade. It was only recently we learned that he has croup.

A week ago we took Jude into acute care for obvious pink eye and learned that he also had an infection in his right ear. Two days ago I took him to his regular doctor. The infection had spread to both ears. His eyes were still pink and the coughing persisted. Croup indeed. My doctor laughed politely when I asked if he could return to day care the following day. Maybe Monday, he said.

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. . .

When my 4 year old son, Porter, got sick my knee-jerk reaction was to call the doctor at all hours. I would report Porter’s condition with an urgent tone, half-believing he was about to die. And maybe its because Jude is our second baby that I felt less worried. Maybe I believed my experience raising Porter through babyhood had taught me a thing or two about getting a sick baby well. And yet…. after a week of nights spent in a hot bathroom, the shower running to soothe his throat, the endless buzzing of a nebulizer and trying just about everything else I could think of to comfort him did I pick up the phone to talk to an on-call nurse. She heard the sound of his cough and knew instantly what it was.

. . .

I have missed a full week of work now. My long-term substitute from maternity leave has graciously taken my place and I love her so much for it. By now, both of my eyes are pink and blurry and my hair wavy and thick from the humidity of hot bathroom sessions with a coughing baby. Our days have been spent focusing on small tasks: baking a loaf of bread, frosting frozen cupcakes, building with legos, playing cards and lots and lots of free-play. Porter is so good at that. And Jude, always looking much more like himself during day hours roots around and makes very serious, and now successful efforts to pull himself up on things and stand.

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. . .

I woke up to the sound of my husband making coffee yesterday morning. It reminded me of my maternity leave mornings; the heavy thud of his boots as he packed for his very brisk bike ride to work. Our dog’s collar tags jingled as he moved out of Jared’s way in our small kitchen. I rolled over and squinted in the dark to read the clock. A few hours of sleep is better than none.

Our bed sheets had been replaced by blankets from the basement. Jude’s coughing fits had caused him to throw up quite a lot the night before. Our sheets, comforter, and several changes of clothes now made a sad pile on the laundry room floor. My pajamas were a conglomeration of what I could find in my closet at 3 am. I put on socks and walked lightly through the short hallway to the boy’s room to have a peek at the finally peaceful sleepers. Instead I found them both awake.

Jude was lazily playing with his feet in his crib, the humidifier humming beside him, as if the night before never happened. And Porter, hot as usual, blankets kicked to the end of the bed, shirt-off and wide eyed, “Is it morning yet?”

Yes, I say, and no day care today. Jude has croup.

I pulled Jude, my chubby little raccoon from the crib and heard Porter whisper, “Yessss” as he jumped from bed, his ragged stuffed cat thrown over his naked shoulder.

I have croup too, Porter said. That is why I sleep with my eyes open.

Oh, I said. How long have you two been awake?

Porter answered immediately. About 16 minutes.

. . .

We have had our share of sick bugs thriving and spreading under our roof. But there have been a few positive things about being home this week. One being that I am finding my way back into the kitchen. In all seriousness, if you had asked me to make dinner a few weeks ago I would stared at you blankly and maybe started crying. Quietly at first. Then deep, throaty, dramatic sobs.

This week, however, I found myself rummaging through the freezer for bacon and peeling potatoes and mincing garlic and pulling pots and pans from cupboards and it dawned on me… THIS is what I do. This is what feels right.

. . .

This is a recipe for a hash we have made many, many times. We love it because it is robust and substantial and brings some color to our winter kitchen table. We have subbed the bacon for sausage and almost liked it better. I also like to use red onions to bring a little color and bite, but yellow or even white would work fine here as well. Feel free to experiment with spices, herbs, and even the base ingredients. Like Megan Gordon, you could make this a “red flannel” hash by subbing beets for the red potatoes. I love the earthy flavor of buckwheat, but you can substitute any grain that sounds appealing. You can also fry a few eggs to serve over top! With hash, the possibilities are endless.

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Sweet Potato and Buckwheat Hash

Adapted from a combination of My New Roots and Megan Gordon’s Whole Grain Mornings with a few touches of our own

Served 4

  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, washed, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 2 medium red potatoes, washed, unpeeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 ounces thick-cut bacon, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped red onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup cooked buckwheat groats
  • Sour cream for serving (optional)
  • Fresh parsley for serving (optional… chives would be nice too!)
  • Hot Sauce (option… though Jared would disagree)

In a large bowl toss potatoes, salt, pepper and dill. Set aside

In a large pan cook the bacon until brown and crisp. Remove from pan with a slotted spoon. Reserve at least 2 Tablespoons of bacon fat in the pan.

In the same pan, sauté onions until fragrant and translucent, about 3 – 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Pour potato mixture into skillet and, with a wooden spoon, toss to coat. Press everything down firmly in a layer with a spatula and cover. Cook over medium heat for 25 minutes, checking every 10-15 minutes to turn the potatoes and prevent burning.

Once the potatoes are fully cooked pour buckwheat over hash and toss to combine. Cover a cook a few more minutes to heat the buckwheat. Remove from heat.

Serve with sour cream, under a fried egg, dashed on or sauce sprinkled with fresh herbs, or, if you are Porter, covered in ketchup.

hope that is not blind… and silently screaming

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For the past 6 weeks our routine has merged from the slow, quite mornings and meandering afternoons to an abrupt alarm at 5 am. My breast pump calling me. I build up a milk supply for day care, eat a quick breakfast, thwack my hairbrush against several stubborn knots and do the “get-ready-for-work” routine. At 6 am, I coax a deeply sleeping 4-year-old from his warm bed so that he can have time to wake up on the living room couch. Jared and I have learned the hard way that he needs this time to himself. Gone are the days of unfolding a floppy 3-year-old from bed and driving him to day care in his pajamas.

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Next, I pull a chubby, warm and cozy baby from his crib to change him, half-sleeping, from his pajamas into clothes. I breastfeed him. The 4-year-old lies quietly on the couch, thinking his 4-year-old thoughts, possibly wondering what he did to deserve this. My husband makes the coffee, packs the car, dresses the 4-year-old and we are off.

Our evening routine is less predictable. There are many contingencies, such as when my husband gets home and whether or not Jude takes a nap and whether or not I have it in me to boil a pot of rice for dinner (a rice cooker remains hopefully on my wish list).

And I wish I could say these routines are well underway to feeling normal. I know that thousands and thousands of working parents have made this a part of their everyday life and do so with more ease and grace than I have in my little finger. But truly, most days I just I don’t feel cut out for this kind of thing. Governing the events that need to happen to make everything work feels like what I imagine voluntarily dragging my face against gravel feels like.

. . .

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Last week Jared and I decided to make a change to a new day care near my place of work, 30 minutes from our home. This decision was not taken lightly. The fact that this day care will cost significantly more each month weighed heavily against this decision. Especially since my unpaid maternity leave is now affecting my paychecks. And some mornings, because my country-drive commute can be plagued with Midwest winter weather, driving two little people who I love so dearly will be scary.

We made the choice for logistical reasons. And emotional reasons. And I don’t know. Sometimes I think I will look back on this phase of life with a sad feeling. Like it was a hard lesson or some horrible medicine to be swallowed. I hope not. But I wonder.

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Over Christmas break Porter came down with a very bad case of hand foot and mouth disease. We did the responsibly thing and cut ourselves off from society for 4 days. Porter gingerly nibbled at vanilla ice cream and carefully itched his soar feet for all 4 of them. And on one of those vanilla ice cream afternoons Porter and I curled up on the couch and looked through photo albums. Our eyes fell onto images of other phases of life. My heart and mind grew nostalgic. Old rental houses in the country. A sweet toddler, blond and unassuming and pulling at grass and opening presents and playing with Legos. Chickens and collecting eggs. Making cakes. A place to bring my son before work where I knew he was cared for, loved and safe.

And now. It is our last day of 2016. This year Porter gained two sweet cousins, a beautiful and perfect brother and lost his great grandma. We bought a house and a car and lost a bumper. And in 2017, deep, dark unknowns hover menacingly before us (I knooow. I am being dramatic… but seriously).

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. . .

I know many people who voted for Donald Trump. Many of those people are dear friends or loved family members. And I wish we lived in a world where people could disagree and not feel divided. I wish we could accept our different opinions, maybe even talk about them and hear each other’s side instead of experiencing animosity, defensiveness and anger. But that wouldn’t be very human of us, would it?

When I climb in my car to drive home from work and turn on the news I have to keep myself from screaming. All of the issues I cared so deeply for, all the work our previous president did to pave a better future for the generations to come. Pulverised. Turned into dust and swept under the rug.

And I want to have hope for the future. I want to have hope that everything will be fine. I want to hope that Donald will do a smashing job and completely surprise all the people who are, like me, extremely doubtful of his capabilities. But I don’t want want to hope blindly. So for now, I will continue silently screaming.

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. . .

Please forgive the lack of recipes as of late. I have scattered a few photos within the post in leu of a recipe… photos from recipes I intended to share but never managed to.The truth is that these days it is difficult for me to even read a recipe without feeling overwhelmed. Most of what is done in my kitchen is done with haste or out of necessity and usually by Jared. And though it sounds sad, I am comforted by the fact that it is hopefully a phase… one that comes and goes with the fluctuating busyness of life.

May your 2017 be filled with blessings and wonder and hope that is not blind.

Beyond Colors

Tonight after dinner we were sitting around the table discussing tattoos, and what we would get if we were to get a tattoo, and I don’t know…. that conversation always leaves me feeling flighty. What permanent image would I want to be sewn into my skin?

I have wanted to come here and write since the election. In my current neck-of-the-woods, saying the election” carries uneven weight. Some people are very pleased with Mr. Trump’s victory. Others dislike him, but take comfort in the fact that republicans have control over things. Some are sick of hearing about the whole ordeal and want us to “pray for our president”.

I gave myself some space and time to process because I couldn’t (and still can’t) find clarity in the emotion I feel over the election. Late night comedy has given me words here and there. I keep using John Oliver’s wombat analogy; I am no more comfortable giving our president-elect a chance than I am giving a wombat permission to fly my plane. But what choice do I have? He has been elected into office. And come January, all the ugly, wistful promises he made for the past year may or may not become a reality.

Personally, when I think about the the future, it seems daunting. I think about all the illusory progress we made as a nation. About the environment and the world my children have to grow up in. I think about guns. And the human beings who seek refuge. And how arbitrary it all is. How if it were us – fleeing this place with our children in arms, how unfair and hopeless it would seem when we were turned away and labeled criminals.

I think about how we as a society respond to those hot-button issues with a kind of preprogramed velocity. How we run with our easiest emotion and flock to those who agree with us. And we never question it. We never think twice. Because if something initially seems wrong, it must be wrong. And I think about how nothing is that simple. No truth is black or white.

I think about Hillary a lot. Because her battle for the presidency unveiled certain, deeply imbedded beliefs I had about women.

And I think about all the uncertainty I feel.

Don’t leave now. It’s not all Dismaland and depression here tonight. There are a few things I am certain of. One of those things is who I want my sons to see when they look at their mom.

I want my children to look at me and know that despite a society who mistrusts and dislikes women, that I don’t feel shame in the fact I am one.

This is kind of a big deal. Because I have spent a good portion of my life, since I can remember, trudging silently through, making almost all of my decisions, most of them bad, from beneath the weight of shame. I believe that most of this shame originated from being a woman. And never quite fitting into the shape I believed a woman worthy of love needed to fit into.

And this lie needs to end now. It never was acceptable. Because I want my sons to know that women represent a profound strength; that women can lead and govern and initiate good, revolutionary change as surely as we sustain life.

I want them to see a person unbound by easy judgment. And I want them to know I will always think things through. That I will always listen before deciding. And that despite living in a world where so much feels wrong, where so much is labeled as black or white, I will always try to see all the colors and everything beyond them.

I want them to see a force to be reckoned with. And this is all easier said than done. Because I know they will, God-willing, grow up and live-into what society has taught them to think. I know they will formulate their own opinions and disagree with me and even hate me for thinking differently than they.

But that doesn’t change the fact that I hope for something better.

. . .

Don’t get me wrong. I respect the art of a beautiful tattoo. But as of now, I don’t think I will get one. I think that if I ever feel an unshakable urge, I will take a sharpie to my arm and write “beyond colors” into my skin as soon as the last application starts to fade. I will do this for as long as it feels right. And I will do this with the illusion that maybe, just maybe, with time it will make a difference.

maybe someday

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Hello! I examined my kitchen floor this afternoon, contemplated sweeping, and decided to come here instead.

The fact that I have two simultaneous napping boys means I may as well be listening to a ticking alarm. Yellow leaves flutter on their branches outside my kitchen window, reflecting gold-ish glints of light on this hazy, white-skied October afternoon. And I feel very satisfied about the fact that there is a Dutch oven with a pound of dried pinto beans, onion, garlic and cherry tomatoes bubbling away over the stove. Somehow today I have given more forethought to dinner than I have in a long while. So often now we are finding more creative uses for leftover shredded pork at 7:00 at night, which is not something to complain about. Unless you are quite hungry by 7:00 at night. Which I am.

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So what to write about? Politics? I like being heard as much as the next person, but the internet feels like an angry and controversial enough place during this toxic election. Food? Eventually, with a recipe. My children or motherhood in general? I suppose you would be expecting that. And truly, it is 99% of what I think about, aside from the .5% spent on the election and .5% on drinking wine. But, you see, the baby just woke up. So I will leave you with a list of things I wish I could write about but feel pinched, as always, for time.

-A response to this article.

-And my marvel over this one.

-Baby hands that have discovered their friends, the feet.

-A nearly 4-year-old who has a knack for organizing his things and a curios habit of collecting: dice, buttons, acorns, rocks, sticks, blades of grass, broken toy parts whose previous life’s function is a complete mystery and used stickers, to name a few.

-A nearly 4-year-old who loves to draw pumpkins and dinosaurs and cacti and snakes and the faces of each of us with freshly sharpened colored pencils.

-This time of year. And the sense of solitude when running on a straight gravel road, under a steeling gray sky, cold air filling my lungs, the wind hitting my body after whipping past miles and miles of barren agricultural land. I am pretty sure this time of year is the reason I am a runner.

-The peace I have found with living and raising our boys in a small, weird little town.

-The feel goods when the baby is sleep/nursing and his brother is building Lincoln log huts and gates for his small plastic animals near my feet.

-The blanket of rainbow leaves that now rest over our local park. Being perched in a rather neglected wooden play set, peering through a blue telescope with a baby in my lap, on the lookout for sharks. The complete beauty and wonder of being a child. And how grateful I feel everyday that Jude has his big brother.

Maybe someday. But for now, a recipe.

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. . .

Porter and I have made this hot chocolate recipe a dozen times this fall. It is ridiculously easy and decadent and I would argue that it is better than even your favorite store-bought hot cocoa mix. I suspect once Christmas approaches we will be dropping candy canes in our warm mugs of the stuff. But for now, we like it with steamed coconut or whole milk, lots and lots of miniature marshmallows, and a few pieces of candy corn on the side.

Our Very Favorite Hot Chocolate

From: Smitten Kitchen

Yield: Just under 1 3/4 cups mix,

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 3 ounces semi- or bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder, any kind you like
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract or the seeds from a tiny segment of fresh vanilla bean
  • 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt or 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until powdery. Mixture keeps in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 months.

To use: Heat one cup of milk (coconut, almond or others would work here too) in a saucepan over medium heat until steamy. Add 2-3 tablespoons hot cocoa mix. Whisk over heat for another minute or two, until it begins to simmer and mix is completely dissolved. Pour into mug, top with mini-marshmallows or a dollop of whipped cream. Be sure to hide candy corn under the marshmallow refill bowl for both you and your soon to be 4-year-old.

summer’s end

I had been working here and there on a short blog post for the past few months of summer. And now that August is near its end, that post feels a bit outdated.

Summer’s end has always been a difficult reality for me to swallow. When I was young summer meant we would visit my grandmother’s house by the river more often. It meant I could stay up late into the night running around the endless black of our yard in the country, shoeless and free. It meant marshmallows and swimming pools, cartoons and wearing shorts and the same cat shirt every day (bliss!).

And even in adulthood summer satisfies my same, mysterious needs of being human: long days, warm, steady evenings, camp fires, grilling our entire dinner, meals from the garden (or, the neighbor’s garden. We did not manage to keep a garden this year), reading for pleasure, fresh flowers on the table, weekday trips and nesting into my happy place: being home with my kids. Summer has always served as a kind of sanctuary for me. And to see it go has always felt like a terrible injustice.

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. . .

I want to write a bit about being a mother of two. Because when I first began writing the uposted post, I felt very differently about it than I do now. Having a head-bobbling baby in my arms while wrapping a large bath towel around a wet toddler was newer then. More strained. And though Jude is only two months old and it is still very new, having two kids feels much more like a forever home.

I’ll confess. I was hesitant to welcome Jude into our lives. I liked the way things were. I loved that Porter was the one and only baby. But now that Jude is very much so here, and Porter is a big brother, I cannot imagine life differently. Jude is so completely a part of things now. And Porter, with his big open heart and resilience has taken on his role with stride. He sings “Hey Jude” to him every day (the “nah-nah” part his his favorite). He fills his swing with “buddies” and helps give Jude baths. He will occasionally, in a polite tone-of-voice mention that he would like for Jude to go to Grandma’s, or that I should put Jude down and play ball. But he is always very polite about it. And never spiteful. And he accepts my responses with a lot of grace for a 3-year-old person.

And as Jude gets older, he watches Porter with the kind of fierce curiosity that I know will morph into a fierce love and admiration. A kind Porter will, for better or worse, live into.

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. . .

Which brings me to tonight, my first alone moment since 6 am. And though I am tired, and there are a lot of other things I know I should be doing, (sleeping at the top of that list) I needed to return to the unposed post and make my updates. Because I want to remember how grateful I feel. And how precious this gentle, fleeting stage of maternity leave is. I want to remember sitting on our living room couch mid-afternoon cutting the finger nails of a feverish 3-year-old while he watches Clifford and next, the squirmy, plump starfish hands of a very healthy 2 month old.

I want to remember those precious baby naps in the afternoon when I can watch Porter draw or paint or when we can work side-by-side on our own things. And I want to remember the luxury of Monday morning salad-making. When Porter is up but busy playing in the living room. And Jude is taking his morning nap. And I can work alone in the kitchen on a salad intedned to last the week.

Our neighbors generosity played a large role in allowing this to happen (garden cucumbers! Green beans! Lettuce and radishes and tomatoes and squash galore!). Thanks to the bounty of their gardens and their willingness to share, I was able to make salads all summer, last week’s being one of my favorites. It is a bit old-school with its mayonnaise and dried herbs. But a goody, indeed. I especially loved how is feels light and fresh but substantial enough to eat alone for lunch.

You will notice in the photo my veggies do not look very “diced”, but rather, chopped or loosely hacked at. This is because I am, as we already establish, a mother of two. And sometimes dicing vegetables is a very unrealistic goal. And heck, the salad tastes all the better with chunks of veggies if you ask me. So if you’re like me with few and far between  “alone moments”in your life, go ahead. Leave it all undiced. I promise, no one will complain.

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Perfect Protein Chickpea Salad

From: PCC

  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup spelt berries, brown rice or grain of choice
  • 2 (14-ounce) cans garbanzo beans
  • 1 English cucumber – peeled, seeded and diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeds removed and diced (about 1 cup)
  • 3 ribs celery, diced (1 cup)
  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced (1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 red onion, finely diced (1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 bunch green onions, thinly sliced (about 1/3 cup)
  • 1/3 bunch parsley, chopped (1 1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried dill
  • 1 teaspoon salt, plus more to season
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic

Add 3 cups of water to a medium pot and add the spelt berries. Over medium-high heat, bring the water to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cover, cooking until tender but still chewy, about 45 minutes. Drain and cool.

In a salad, bowl mix together cooked spelt berries, garbanzo beans, diced cucumbers, green pepper, celery, carrots, red onions, green onions and chopped parsley.

Mix together mayonnaise, lemon juice, vinegar, dill, salt, basil and garlic; pour over salad and mix well. Serve immediately or refrigerate. Salad will stay fresh for up to 4 days, covered, in the refrigerator.

in the morning

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I wish I had some seed of wisdom to plant within this blog post when it comes to writing about being a new mother of two. I like to feel that I have something good to offer when I share my writing. But truthfully, my husband has worked late, late late laaaaate the last few days, or at least it seems that way. And some days it feels like a struggle to simultaneously meet the needs of a 3 ½ year old and a newborn. And some days, like this one, motherhood feels like a breeze. There is certainly no consistency to it. And therefore, no wisdom or insight can I offer. I would, however, like to talk honestly about how things have been going.

. . .

I was holding my breath the entire month before our baby was born. I kept an eye on those early labor signs like prey watches its predator. Quietly. Hoping, praying for a little more time.

That may seem like a dooming analogy. Least of all for a mother awaiting the arrival of her new son. And I don’t mean for it to sound that way. But those who know me well know how much I love to feel in control of my environment. I knew a baby would throw a wrench in everything we had built for the past 3 ½ years. And I was afraid of all the feelings I would feel when our routine started to unravel.

I was also afraid of the helpless newborn stage. And I was afraid of the loss I would feel when my relationship with my 3-year-old son would have to change.

Labor came and went fast and our new baby son, Jude, was born. In the past 3 weeks, sure enough, every bit of control I had before has, like papery fireflies, slipped through my fingers.

For instance, we have been fed by our neighbors and my mother for nearly every meal. There is no longer predictable sleep for anyone. The dog has been officially kicked out of the house until further notice. And for the love of God, there is still no wine with dinner.

But. In the morning I am usually sitting in our blue rocking chair feeding his little brother when Porter (the 3-year-old) wakes up. Porter choses a place to wake up to the world in his own, slow way. Sometimes he squeezes in the chair with Jude and me. Sometimes he lies down on the quilt drifting around my feet. Sometimes he curls up on the couch alone and I can only see his blonde tuffs of bed head skimming above the armrest. And each morning, at the very moment they are both awake and the day is new, I look at the two of them and the fear is gone. Nothing fell apart like I thought it would. And regardless of routine and control, everything feels right. Like our lives just opened up and stretched to make room for this new little person.

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And forgive me for taking the gushy-mom road, but when I pull Porter’s hand-me-down onsies over Jude’s head or roll the too-long sleeves up so I can see his hands, it feels very much like when I used to do it for Porter. It feels like I was doing it for Porter yesterday. And my chest feels small as I am struck by the cycle of life. Baby. Toddler. Mother. All under the roof of our home. Under the sky on a walk while toddler rides his bike and I push a stroller under the shady streets.

Don’t get me wrong. I can sense that this stage of life; life with young children and careers and home-owning and marriage can only get more challenging. That no future decisions, big or small, will be easy for me. But at least today I feel at peace with where we are. Our little house in a small town. Two beautiful, napping boys. A cup of coffee. And time to write to you.

. . .

Seedy Almond Chocolate Squares


This recipe makes for a granola bar that is not so dependent on the oats, but rather, a variety of seeds and grains that make for wholesome crunch and texture. As with many granola and granola bar recipes, these are extremely adaptable. Just keep the proportions of wet and dry ingredients the same.

Yield: 15-18 squares, depending on size

Adapted from: A Sweet Spoonful

  • 3/4 cup tahini, almond butter, peanut butter or I like to use a combination thereof.
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, plus more for the pan
  • 2/3 cup maple syrup
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup raw millet
  • 1/2 cup raw quinoa
  • 1/2 cup spelt flour
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped raw almonds
  • 3/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • 3/4 cup roughly chopped dark or semi-sweet chocolate
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 9×11 inch pan with coconut oil

Mix the nut butter, coconut oil, maple syrup and honey together in a small heavy bottomed saucepan. Bring to a low simmer over medium-low heat. Remove from the heat and set aside while you prepare the dry ingredients.

In a large bowl, mix together the oats, millet, quinoa, oat flour, almonds, sunflower seeds, chocolate, salt and cinnamon.

Pour the warm syrup mixture over the dry ingredients and mix well. If using chocolate, be prepared for it to melt! Press the mixture into the prepared pan using the back of a rubber spatula. Bake the bars until the edges are just turning golden brown, about 28-32 minutes (the bars will feel a bit soft to the touch at this point which is ok; they firm up as they cool). Let them cool completely in pan before slicing, about 2 hours.

Once cool, slice into squares. Wrap the bars in plastic wrap for easy snacking or store, covered, at room temperature for up to 5 days. You can also freeze them.

big and small things

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I have been thinking about this post for a while. And now, on day 2 of our snowed-in experience, I have a window of time. Much has happened in the past few months that I have been itching to write about.

Between now and December, when we watched a little person turn 3 and press a toy backhoe inches into in their very chocolate birthday cake, many big and small things have happened. For instance, yesterday while the snow blew around and my son and husband napped, I emptied out half of my son’s closet to store things away into newly organized storage space upstairs. The plan is to fill the cleared closet with totes to host clothes for a new baby due at the end of June. Our son is pretty sure the baby will not need a room, least of all need to share his. But we figure clearing out closet space and moving him into a “big boy” bed are a fair beginning to the process of acceptance.

As for being nearly 5 months pregnant… I can say I am extremely grateful to be beyond the nausea/fatigue stage that lasted up to my 16th week. Sometimes I watch my husband drink a beer and recklessly throw himself down a snow hill with our son and I think, “Thiiiiis sucks.” But then there are moments like today, when I took my first belly selfie in the bathroom mirror. And I thought, “Holy crap! Look what my body can do!” And I feel very, very humbled and blessed indeed.

People often ask me if this pregnancy is different than the first, and I answer yes! In every! Single! Way! I think that is mostly because everything about our phase of life was different when we were expecting our son. We were living far from family, working short-term jobs, anticipating a move and a return to school, living in a basement, phasing out of college-life. I don’t envy those two people. And looking back, I am sure other people were worried sick about the little guy we were about to bring into the world. I can honestly say we were too. But now, after all of that and then some, our now rascally, smart, and loving 3-year-old is destined to become a sweet, most caring big brother. In spite of us.

A few small things to mention: Thanks to a junk pile behind my husband’s work place, we now have pantry shelves to hold the contents of our overflowing kitchen cupboards. And with any luck, the pantry will also host the contents of our summer garden.

In March, I will be hosting a 3rd-5th grade art show at the elementary school I work at. I am busy working out the fine details and getting my students excited. But as I was thinking about it this morning, it dawned on me that my Grandmother, who passed away just a short week ago, will not be there.

It hurt to think about that. Because I know that if my grandma hadn’t suddenly left us, she would have most certainly forced someone to drive her to the show. She was every one of her grandchildren’s number one fan. And no matter how old I got, she made a persistent effort to be involved in my life.

In fact, I can still hear her for the 22nd time on my 22nd lap of a college track meet, running the Godforsaken 10K. I can still see her just before the 300 meter mark, standing alone, yelling quite loudly and taking pictures with her disposable camera. And there are no other runners around me because very few athletes would voluntarily compete in such a race. And I can still feel her strong hands gripping me in a hug when I finally finished, almost yelling in my ear, “Did you hear my cheering?”

I didn’t appreciate her because she was always there. She had been there ever since I was a baby.

When she died, I felt that I not only lost her, but also lost a bit of my own life, my childhood, memories that shaped so much of who I am. It’s funny how that happens when you lose someone you take for granted. You feel surprised to lose a part of yourself.

Last week, after her funeral, my family started going through her house to collect things we could use or wanted: sentimental belongings… chairs and couches and Tupperware. We ended up picking out quite a few toys for our son. Toys that I had played with when I was little. We washed them and put them in totes. And since then they have become his favorite things: fake food and a picnic basket (including a startlingly real-looking E.L. Fudge cookie), toy plates and cups, a small yellow dog house with stuffed puppies, a fishing game. He has been playing exclusively with these things all week. And though I expected this to make me sad, to make me miss her, it has had the opposite effect. In some strange way, seeing him play with things that belonged to my Grandma brings her back. Every time my son brings me a tray of fake hot dogs for “my dinner”, and every time he asks me to play the “shark” game, it feels a little more true that she indeed lives on.

Which brings me here on a snow day. It feels so good to be here, to write all of this down. And yes, to share a recipe.

If I were to flip through cozy winter breakfast recipes looking for something delicious but quick, I would have to toss this aside. This is not a quick breakfast. This is one that demands a few pots and pans, some prep, and wait-time. But oh my, on a slow, snow-day morning, it is just the most perfect thing.

When making this recipe, I improvised quite a bit from Megan Gordon’s original “spiced bulgur porridge” and used steel-cut oats instead. I swapped out her almond milk for dairy milk due to a nut allergy in the house. I added spiced apples in place of her almonds and golden raisins and threw in some orange zest with the dates. A warm, spiced aroma filled the kitchen as it cooked and I knew I had done something right. We ate it happily, served with a fair amount of honey and our favorite orange juice. The leftover porridge tasted very good the next day with a scoop of yogurt as well.

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Spiced Steel-Cut Oat Porridge with Dates and Spiced Apples

Serves: 4

  • 2 /14 cups water
  • ¼ tsp pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • Pinch ground cardamom
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup steel-cut oats
  • 1 cup whole milk (or a non-dairy alternative)
  • 1 cup pitted and chopped Medjool dates
  • 1 Tablespoon orange zest
  • 1 apple of choice, peeled and diced
  • 1 Tablespoon virgin coconut oil
  • Dash ground cinnamon and cane sugar

1n a medium saucepan, bring water to boil. Add vanilla, cinnamon, cardamom and salt and stir. Stir in oats, cover and remove from heat. Let stand for the next step.

In a small saucepan, warm milk with dates and orange zest until little bubbles start to form on the edge of the pan. Don’t let it come to a full boil. Pour hot milk mixture over oats and let cook, partially covered over medium-low heat for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat coconut oil until liquid and toss in apples with cinnamon and sugar. Allow to cook until soft and fragrant.

When porridge is done, remove from heat and cover. Allow it to sit for 10 minutes. The consistency should be a bit loose but creamy.

Serve porridge with apples on the side, honey, and yogurt if desired.

This dish will keep for 3-4 days if covered and refrigerated.

buckwheat granola

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My toddler son has taken to exclusively playing with clothes hangers. The child-sized ones meant for his 4T stature.

This  began a few weeks ago when my mother was visiting. For whatever reason, we were sitting on the floor in my son’s room while he played with whatever he pulled out of the toy box, just chatting about this and that. And as her eyes scanned the room, she noticed that there were only a few clothes hangers swaying quietly in my son’s closet. “You need more of those”, she said curtly, which made me feel like a bad adult. So much so that the next time we were in Target I made it a point to purchase a pack of 15 child-sized clothes hangers.

When my mother came over again a week later, she also had bought a brand new bundle of 15 child-sized clothes hangers to suit my lack of adult responsibility. I dutifully hung them in the closet next to my previously purchased ones.

A few days later my mother came over coffee. And with her came another handful of used, child-sized clothes hangers that she had found somewhere in her basement. And then on Sunday, when we graciously received a large bag of hand-me-downs (yessssss) from a friend, we learned that the gift also included at least another 15 colorful child-sized clothes hangers.

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That very afternoon, my son, perhaps for the first time noticing the colorful assortment of fixtures, crawled into his closet and removed as many as he could from the wood beam meant for hanging clothes. He scattered them around the living room and began utilizing their hooks on every ledge or surface possible. He began using the hooks as a modified hand to open the fridge, pick up books and drag random things about. Yesterday, he insisted on walking our dog with the hanger hooked to the end of the leash, which proved to be more difficult than it sounds. Later, he took a nap with a clothes hanger gripped in each hand.

My son climbed into bed with me this morning, nestled deep in my pillow with his cold little feet pressed against my knees, and then, in a flash of concern declared, “Oh no! My hooks!”

Quickly, my 2-year-old wriggled from my bed, scurried across the hall into his room and returned with two child-sized clothes hangers.  He crawled back into my bed and handing me the green one. “This is yours”, he said.

“What if I don’t want the hook?”

“Sshh, just close your eyes”, he said.

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Later in the day, after my son had hung a pink and blue clothes hanger from each arm and declared himself a butterfly, and after I told him several times to stop picking up the live farm kittens with his modified hook hands, he tried to hook the loops of my jeans with his hook hands and succeeded more times that I will admit. And then I hid the clothes hangers in the tall grass hoping he would forget about them.

And after a while of breathless searching, he did.

Until we went back inside where there were many more clothes hangers scattered everywhere. Then, while I made dinner, he watched PBS with a clothes hanger in each hand, ready if any more fun should arise.

. . .

The summer is coming to a close, my friends. Which means back to school for me and back to full-time day care for my son. And I honestly don’t know what makes me want to sob uncontrollably more: the fact that I will no longer have the time every morning to close my eyes as my son brushes my hair with the end of his clothes hanger hook… or the fact that someone else will be tucking him and his clothes hangers in for his afternoon nap… or the fact that summer is over. It was a GREAT summer. Full of so little weed-pulling (just look away from my garden) and so much reading and swimming and making countless batches of granola for the most amazing two-year-old in the world.

My son has always liked granola, but this summer he took a special liking to the buckwheat granola recipe posted on the back of Bob’s Red Mill’s buckwheat groats package. I cannot blame him. For one, this recipe recommends that you boil the honey, maple syrup, coconut oil and spices together before folding them into the dry ingredients. I believe this brings out a deep, nutty flavor in each giant, crunchy cluster. For road trips, we like to toss this granola in plastic container with a bit of dried fruit. But at home, it is perfect with a simple knob of yogurt, splash of milk, or on its own in a little dish while watching your favorite episode of Go Diego Go.

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Buckwheat Granola

Adapted from Bob’s Red Mill

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup buckwheat groats
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 2 Tbsp white sesame seeds
  • 1/2 cup raw honey
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup virgin coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt

Preheat oven to 300°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl combine oats, buckwheat, coconut, nuts and seeds.

In a small saucepan combine honey, maple syrup, coconut oil, cinnamon and salt. Bring to a boil and hold at a steady boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and add vanilla and almond extract.

Pour syrup mixture over the oat mixture and mix well to evenly coat. Spread the granola on the prepared baking sheet in an even layer.

Bake granola until browned and crispy, about 30 – 35 minutes, stirring thoroughly every 10 minutes.

Let cool thoroughly before breaking into clumps.