Up to our puppy-fostering tricks again.
Rose and I are out doing errands, bustling in and out of the car with lists and bags, my mind clamped on things to remember like mantras that could derail my life if I lose the thread. Pickuplibrarybooks. Meanwhile Rose is sharing every thought particle that touches down in her brain. It’s like mental athletics, watching my own thoughts bloom and get knocked off course by her next flurry of questions and observations. Right now she’s telling me that she really wishes the word pecans was spelled peeCONS, because that’s how she likes to say it. I am wondering if I need three more cups of coffee or three more hours of meditation.
“Do you think they’re married?” Rose wonders about two white-haired ladies walking into the grocery store together. “They have the same hairstyle,” she says by way of explanation. I am considering a response while Rose has already turned the page of her mind. “I can’t decide if I want to get both ears double pierced or just one.” Dropboxesatthriftstore.
Pushing the cart down the aisle, she observes, “it would be hard to have smaller arms than we do.”
“I’ve noticed that I want to help so much more when I’m happy,” Rose tells me, packing broccoli in a plastic bag. She spent two hours the previous day in deep sadness.
“Why do you think that is?”
“Because when you’re happy you have everything you want.”
“And then you have enough happiness to help others?”
“I guess. Also, now that Nana bought me flip flops I have all the shoes I need.”
“Awesome!” I reply with silent but fervent gratitude to the gods of enoughness. May they visit frequently and stay long.
Sometimes being with Rose is a little like surfing. When I can put my attention on the wave of her latest question, we can ride the swell of her beautiful mind together. I can drop my agenda and paddle with her into the current where she shows me the exact reflection of her ten year old mind. Other times, I forget what I’m doing, miss my turn, lose my mantra, sense my space collapsing, choke in the undertow.
On the way to a party, I tell her I’ve never been to the house and I know nothing more than the address. Absolutely nothing.
“Will the party be outside?”
We’re back at home, making our second batch of lemon curd. Between squeezing lemons and stirring lemon juice Rose wonders, “What did Col read before comic books?” And, “Is Daddy ever going to shave his beard again?”
Sometimes the questions don’t need answers, they just need space, to be set free, to evaporate into the field of our kitchen, where lemon curd is thickening on the stove; the sourness makes itself known, while the sweet undertones are what remain. Rose’s questions are nothing to fear, it’s actually just her finely-tuned mind filtering through waves of sensory information. We spoon lemon curd into our mouths, savoring the deep, full richness of the yellow treat, and of life.
LEMON CURD – Makes 1 cup plus few extra “taster” spoonfuls
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 – 1/3 cup sugar
3 egg yolks
4 TBSP butter, cut into tablespoon-sized pieces
Whisk lemon juice, sugar, egg yolks until smooth in heavy-bottomed saucepan, off the heat. Once whisked, place pan over low heat and whisk butter into the mix, one piece at a time until melted. Once melted, turn burner up to medium-low and keep whisking. Simmer and whisk until curd has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon – about 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat. It will continue to thicken as it cools. Store in fridge for up to 2 weeks.
Spring is coming on fast and green. I spend a portion of every day gazing out at the pink and white canopies of our fruit trees (which, from above, look as tight and bouncy as trampolines) in a neurotic, love-sick panic over savoring them while they’re here.
Taking sub-par, indoor photographs of my family while blooming fruit trees explode with color in the background is one of my strategies for clinging to the short season. Here’s Col eating a burrito with pink and white trees behind him.
“I’m not really a surly tween, I just play one on my mom’s blog.” (Plus, blooming crabapple in background.)
Col is in a state of quiet emergence, pushing forth courageously into the light of spring. He’s dusting himself off after a long winter in the opium den of his lego pile, peering out the window wondering what’s out there that might be fun for a 12 year old boy. His comfort zone can exist within a slim circumference (lego pile and comic books at the center), but I sense his boundaries expanding.
Yesterday he announced he wanted to start a Boys Hobby Club in which he and some friends launch rockets and fly model airplanes together; he is loving Aikido; he wants to try parkour classes. After his last soccer game, in which he tried to score for the first time (in competitive games he’s usually more comfortable in defense) he told me, “I usually like to let my team members score, but this time I just wanted to try.” He shrugged while I suppressed the urge to jump off the stadium seat of my couch and cheer wildly, hoisting the goal-attempting soccer player on my shoulders while celebratory music blared. Instead, I played it cool and squeaked out an emotion-tinged, “I saw that, honey!”
Here’s Col’s invitation to his friend Ben for the Boys Hobby Club. “The club is about launching rockets, piloting model vehicles/airplanes, building models,etc…”
“Call my mom for details.
Details are unknown.”
Yesterday, in the writing class I teach to ten homeschoolers, we learned about emotions that other cultures have named (from this article) like “gigil,” a Tagalog word which means: “the irresistible urge to pinch or squeeze someone because they are loved or cherished.” I would have to add “or bite. Specifically, 9-yr old bottoms.” Or “desbundar,” a Portuguese word meaning, “the feeling of shedding one’s inhibitions while having fun.”
I had the kids create and name their own emotions. They were all fantastic. Col’s was “That feeling when you find a really good stick and then you accidentally break it and have to find another one.” This might be the first discussion topic of the Boys Hobby Club. They could bring in a golden retriever to be a guest speaker.
My word was “sweat-reward,” that feeling when you’ve reached the top of your hilly run, you can taste the sweat dripping down your face, you feel worked but strong, and you know that the hardest part is behind you.
Dan’s was “track-elation,” that feeling you get when you find a fresh deer or elk track and there’s no other human footprints around, and you know you’re the first to spot the track. Also related: track-deflation.
Rose’s word was that feeling when you see that spot of gunk on your floor and you think you can just wipe it up easily with a rag, but it actually requires scraping. With tools.
Rose and Col are the funniest married couple who aren’t actually married. Yesterday Col walked out of his room and Rose said, “Col, you really should change your –”
Rose: “– shirt.”
But then he went back into his room and emerged with a new shirt.
Hope you’re having a beautiful spring,
(Details are unknown).
p.s I found this memoir in our little free library and loved it so much. (It’s about boyhood and manhood and growing up in the company of Long Island, baseball-obsessed barstool-warming men who become the author’s ad hoc father-figures and his unlikely, crucial support system.
p.p.s Our family just watched this movie and loved it so much.
p.p.p.s What’s your new emotion word?
p.p.p.p.s If you’re subscribed to get e-mail notifications and aren’t getting them, try adding the email address: sanjuandrive(at)frontier(dot)net to your e-mail contacts. If that doesn’t work, let me know and I will personally e-mail you a notification.
I found the vegetables.
Courtesy of Rattlebox Farms – that’s Col
levitating pogo-sticking in the background.
And, we found the desert wildflowers.
And the nest built onto the top of a jumping cholla cactus (which was surrounded by detached cholla stems like an impenetrable moat, though not so impenetrable that I didn’t get ten spines in my foot through my sneaker while taking this photo).
At our campground we were woken up at regular intervals by coyotes. I began to see the nighttime separated into coyote sections, much like an orchestra. Howls from the Catalina foothill section could be heard in the early part of the evening. The Romero Wash section chimed in at dawn.
We’re used to camping at some remote and ragged spot that Dan pinpoints on a map based on its proximity to elk and opportunities for solitude. Here, we stayed at a campground which had a spotless bathroom (electric outlets plugged with blow dryers, cell phones and a macbook computer), dishwashing station (dish soap provided), and campers with all manner of motorhome accommodations arranged in a circle around a large gravel area, in which the kids played soccer when the desert sun relented.
This campground was close to Tucson, where we had plans to dazzle, intrigue and entertain the kids between marching them up desert mountains.
The campground had a cheerful and orderly feel. We met a young man on the road from Mississippi with his cat Leo, who he took on two leashed walks a day to tire him out. An extroverted, white-haired man from Oregon liked to visit our campfires with his female dog Barney. He warned the kids, “Barney may reach her limit of being pet. She may get tired of it…but it hasn’t happened yet.” We were especially intrigued by one neighbor who arrived after dark and didn’t emerge from his Prius until late morning, surprisingly tall, unrumpled and carrying nothing more than a water bottle. There was something mysterious, incongruent and even sinister about his routine. He’d drive away for the whole day without so much as sitting at his picnic table, returning after dark to again sleep in his car.
There was a surprisingly harmonious mix of humans and animals at the campground. A great horned owl nested fifty yards from the bustling campground bathroom, and every morning (as the coyotes put down their instruments) the resident gila woodpecker pair battered their beaks on the metal signs marking each campsite.
We took hikes, which we considered immediately successful if everyone set out without apocalyptic anxiety about walking. We were agenda-less enough to yank the car to the side of Hwy 77 south of Holbrook when Dan said, “Hey look – they call that desert pavement,” and Col replied, “I want to check that out.” We got around old school, without internet, mapquest or the ability to emergency-google in Globe, Arizona on a Sunday: “where is the good coffee?”
In the desert the kids refreshed their inventory of competitive bickering with whole new topics, like: who makes the best campfire? Whose turn is it to carry the dishes to the dishwashing station? Are those horses or ponies along I-40? But, vacation bickering is like a small grain of sand in your sandal. You feel it, but it doesn’t really slow you down.
A Col backpack.
After four nights of sharing our campground with the Prius mobster, Barney the dog, who never did tire of being pet, and retirees bouncing around the great Southwest in their spic and span motorhomes, Col said to me, “I think this is one of my favorite camping trips yet.”
I didn’t mention to him that this whole trip had reordered my notion of camping. This was the first camping trip where we had taken showers, or driven past nations of strip malls to get to the heart of a city (Tucson), or spent mucho dinero to go to “nature museums” when unscripted nature lived just 50 yards from our deluxe bathroom.
It occurred later to Dan and me that maybe at this stage of parenting, where the kids are less small, vocal accessories who just want to be with their parents, and more tweens of growing opinions and preferences, that we may need to rethink our family adventures.
Which is to say, the kids aren’t exactly moved by multiple days of silence and botanical study. They’re not looking to throw off the shackles of civilization’s pressures and cocoon themselves in successive days of e-mail abstinence. In fact, they’re increasingly more interested in what other human animals of their age group are doing and creating. Where we want to unplug and untether ourselves from the wackiness of modern civilization, they want to dive in. And yet, they flourish under the paradigm of family time, nourished by the very act of us eschewing responsibilities to be with them.
So, we’re engineering a new plan called “the family trip.” It’s going to include camping, wilderness time, and dipping into nearby towns to touch down into the civilization that provides the kids comfort and fun. It’s not like we’re going to start traveling around in an RV, but maybe we’ll come out of the woods for a funnel cake in Silverton.
Our yard is in a state of anticipation. The trees are swollen with buds. The chives and lemon balm have just broken the surface, sending up leafy green scouts from the underground. Tiny, new calendula, lettuce and arugula are blinking into the light. Everything is dainty and tentative. (Except the dandelions, who as usual, are unfurling leaf upon leaf upon grocery sack of leaves).
And we are off to the Sonoran Desert to camp for a week. As Rosie says, we’re excited about family time, adventure and travel snacks. In fact, Rosie’s peak vacation experience may have already occurred in the energy bar section of the grocery store yesterday.
Col is looking forward to the Pima Air and Space Museum; Dan’s got some desert birds on his list; and I am hoping to soothe my mind on some desert wildflowers. And, crazy, but in Southern Arizona, it’s the end of their growing season—peak harvest—and there are farmer’s markets every day in Tucson. I told Dan we could probably skip the far away Tuesday market if we can get to the markets on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Thursday.
Here are some things I’ve written elsewhere:
My Edible Southwest Colorado page (food and stuff)
Col’s been taking Aikido.
Possibly for the sole purpose of learning to throw his sister:
Happy earliest spring everyone,
Rose is sitting at the table wearing an explosion of pink fashion and eating fresh roadkill deer heart appetizer. Dan is explaining (mansplaining? bucksplaining?) about the buck deer whose one remaining antler is barely hanging on. (The buck he has been trailing for days, having already picked up his first dropped antler). Col is humming, whistling and otherwise providing constant background noise. And, our two foster puppies are sleeping in a pile of unconscious twitches and groans.
“I love all these clothes Aubrey brought over,” Rose gushes, forking seared deer heart into her mouth, “especially the shawl shirt.” Shawl shirt?
“So, tomorrow, I’d love to leave before dawn,” Dan starts. “I’d be back in time for breakfast. He’s gotta drop tomorrow.”
“Also the purple dress, the cute tops, the skinny jeans…except they gave me a headache.”
“The skinny jeans gave you a headache?” Col breaks through the fog of his whistling to ask.
I place the pizza on the table, shifting the tomato seedlings out of the way, picking up the note in Dan’s handwriting that says: “mammal femur, deer ulna, bird bone,” (later, he explains this is a wish list from his friend Tracy, which doesn’t really explain anything). I wait for everyone to hush, to behold, awe-filled and reverent, this castle of pizza: the melty cheese roof covering the ramparts of toppings, all mortared by tomato sauce to the crispy crust.
“I think I’ll try the jeans one more time, and if they still give me a headache, I’ll give them away,” Rose announces.
Turns out, there is no quietly reverent moment, but there is pizza, warm, delicious and ready.
If you were wondering how much snow is at Coalbank Pass, Dan might dig you a snow pit.
Grain-free Cauliflower Crust Pizza
Just a word about this pizza. It’s passed the test of kids, grandparents, many guests. You don’t actually taste the cauliflower, but you feel good about it being there.
2 cups almond flour
2 cups arrowroot flour (plus a little extra for patting down the crust)
2 cups steamed and blended cauliflower
2 TBSP melted coconut oil or butter
pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 350F. Put pizza stone, cookie sheet, or whatever you want to cook the pizza on into the oven, greased with oil or butter. Mix wet ingredients first (eggs, oil and steamed, blended cauliflower – the more blended the better). Add all other ingredients. Mix well.
Pull pizza stone out and press dough first with a rubber spatula and then with floured hands – this dough is moist and sticky- evenly onto stone. Bake for 15 minutes or until top is crispy, and then flip and bake for 10 more.
Add sauce, toppings and cheese and bake for another 10 – 15, and then for the bubbly cheese effect, broil for 5 minutes.
Patting the dough down:
Spreading the sauce:
Col is skiing with a buddy, turned loose on the slopes without an adult. Rose is cruising downtown Durango with a friend, “window-shopping,” their hair swept into high ponytails, ears weighted down with hoop earrings, conflating perhaps, tweenhood with the 1980’s. I am at the grocery store, alone.
The woman in front of me in the check out line is simultaneously cradling a baby, loading groceries onto the conveyor belt, and putting down her toddler’s small revolt over bunny-shaped gummies. She apologizes for the chaos, for the extra time she’s requiring, but I am 100% charmed and have to refrain from advising her to enjoy this fast-moving stream of early childhood, because soon that bundled baby-daughter may be cavorting with her cronies, unsupervised, like an extra from a Cyndi Lauper video.
Col and Rose, ages 12 and 9 1/2, are inching ever farther from the home base of us parents, seeking their identity in the world, in their peers. They’re muddling around in popular culture, in dystopian novels, in PG-13 movies, trailed by the slightest whiff of hormones.
It’s wonderful, this growing up, watching the kids develop autonomy (neither Dan nor I alpine ski nor do we, er, window shop). And it’s terrifying, letting them slip into the stream of society, vulnerable to every passing marketing fad; trusting them with their cabinet of tween advisors, each with similarly undeveloped pre-frontal cortexes.
Last Friday night the kids picked up spontaneous sleepovers and Dan and I found ourselves unexpectedly alone in the house. It was lovely to spend time together (Scrabble, wine, etc, etc…) and also the house echoed strangely, loudly, with the absence of the children.
“I guess we’ll be getting used to this,” I said.
“Right, because it’s not like it’s going the other direction,” he replied.
So, we stand on the precipice of something new. There’s freedom and risk. The kids, like all of us, have a tremendous need for belonging, but will mistake ‘fitting in’ for true belonging several hundred times before it all comes clear. Their choices won’t be my choices. Rose’s lovely lashes have been coated in something dark and clumpy lately. If I get to drop Col and his friend at the rec center to play pool while I take a glorious, solo run on the river trail, then I may return to them snarfing something with 55 lab-made ingredients, dropped from the exotic mechanical arm of a vending machine. And I will say nothing, because autonomy is a like a bird; cage it and it withers.
Sometimes I picture handing the kids the baton of their own life and cheering them on as they run. But wait – there I am showing up a mile down the track with a refreshing drink and some protein. Because this separating is not exactly a flipped switch, but a certain forward motion. Or a dance. In which the children take two steps—sometimes graceful, sometimes stumbling—out into the world, and one step back towards home.
Everyone’s back from their adventures. We reunite with hugs, then the kids zoom into their shared room and crank the pop radio station. I make dinner, gliding around to my Pandora station, about 40 years behind the times. Rose comes out as Joni Mitchell sings: I remember that time that you told me, you said/“Love is touching souls”/Surely you touched mine ’cause/Part of you pours out of me/In these lines from time to time. Her words goes up my spine, into my heart and out my throat. Rose and I swoon over Joni’s holy magical voice; we dance together, and then she funnels like a retreating tide into the tween-den, called back by Rhianna, Justin Bieber.
This is the way of all things. Larvae to pupa to butterfly. Change and growth. Leaving, returning, and leaving again. You trade in the intoxicating feeling of being the very sun that your children’s planets orbit to something a little more, well, sustainable. Something like each family member harnessing their own planet, always in and out of each others’ gravitational pull.
I’ve been trying to explain to Col and Rose what’s been happening in the past week and a half of our new administration, you know, simple stuff like how climate science has been removed from the EPA website, or how the appointee to head the EPA has sued the very same organization 14 times, which, I don’t know, could be just the tiniest conflict of interest.
Former Mayor Michael Rendon, our keynote speaker at RESPOND, which was amazing; most classrooms were jam-packed, standing room only. Biggest event in Durango, ever! Man, SOMEONE’S taken all the fun out of boasting.
It’s all a little surreal, right? DAPL has been revived. Myron Ebell, head of the EPA transition team says (about our warming planet), “warm is good, as long as we have air conditioning.” (Wait – air conditioning is now public policy?) The president put out a statement on Friday in remembrance of the Holocaust. It failed to mention Jews. Sally Yates, our Attorney General (who was confirmed with 82 Senate votes and encouraged by Senator Jeff Sessions to resist unlawful orders) was just fired for um, resisting unlawful orders.
My goal from a mother/daughter new moon gathering. Can someone please take me out for a beer and make me have some fun.
All of which to say, times is crazy right now. And I honor what this is bringing out in Americans. Back, like a whole 14 days ago, my congressional representatives seemed surrounded by an air of impenetrability; now I like to call Senator Gardner before breakfast. I understand terms (green card, single payer, DACA, #Russianhackedelection) that I didn’t before. Dan and I have a meeting scheduled to discuss pledging monthly donations to a few organizations. As my mom says, “We all woke up on November 9th.”
I’m not interested in stirring up hatred, and I hope people feel empowered to stand up for their values without resorting to mockery or personal judgments, which simply throws more fuel on this American bonfire. If you have different values than me, I invite you to share. Seriously. Let’s meet in person. We might not change each others’ minds, but I believe we can develop respect and understanding for our differences.
In the meantime, feed yourself (emotionally, spiritually and calorically). It’s gonna be a long haul.
One way to feed yourself: books and animals. Who is letting Col select books from the teen section of the library?
*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***
RAW COOKIE BALLS, Grain free and not.
Here are recipes for two raw cookie balls, one with grains and one without. We’ve been making these a lot, because, well, quick sustenance. I make the oatmeal cookies for the kids, and the grain-free ones for me, and everyone is very, very happy.
Oatmeal cookie balls
makes approx 20 cookie balls
Prep time: fifteen minutes
1 1/2 cups oats
1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
3/4 cups peanut butter (or almond butter, sunbutter)
1/2 cups chocolate chips
1/2 cups raisins
2 TBSP melted/soft coconut oil
1 1/2 – 2 TBSP honey
salt to taste
Put in a bowl and mix thoroughly with a spoon. Chill. Form into balls. Store in fridge or freezer. Even frozen you can bite right into them.
Ingredients mingled. Stir with a spoon:
Form into balls (if you refrigerate “dough” first, for at least 20 minutes, it’s less sticky and easier to work with: (the dough in this photo was not chilled)
Grain-free cookie balls
makes approximately 20 cookie balls
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1 cup almond butter
3/4 cup cocoa nibs
3/4 cups raisins
2 TBSP soft coconut oil
4 dates (mashed) or 1 TBSP honey
salt to taste
Put all ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly with a spoon. Chill “dough” if you have time for easier handling. Form into balls. Store in fridge or freezer. Even frozen you can bite right into them.
I love these so much.
FYI: If you missed my nonviolent communication class at RESPOND and want to check it out, I’ll be teaching it again at the UU Church, 419 San Juan Dr. Tuesday February 7th. 5:30 – 7pm. Free. Please RSVP to me.
Also, if you’re subscribed to 6512 and growing and haven’t been getting e-mail notification, my tech guru Marybeth says, “Add this email address to contacts or whitelist it.”
And, check out the line up of the moon, mars and venus in the western sky.
With love. Feed yourself well,
So, it turns out that between making batches of deer tallow soap and trying to discern the needs, nvc-style, behind Rose’s fierce desire for the packets of hot chocolate at the Nordic Ski Center (despite the nice little travel mug of homemade hot chocolate in her backpack), I’ve been doing a little community organizing.
Poster may be hard to read, go to RESPOND website here
The over 60 crowd are calling it a Teach In, which works for me. There will be 9 different classes addressing social, environmental and economic justice and what we can do in our own communities to peacefully bring about change. And there are 4 movement classes to keep the emotions flowing and offer balance to all the big thinking.
This is an entirely grassroots, volunteer-powered event, from the teachers, organizers, the beautiful flyer made by gaiacreative, the website made by busy high school teacher Sara Price, the classrooms donated by Smiley studio-holders, flyer-hangers, the “room liaisons” who will be making the day smooth, and the hula flash mob performing in the Smiley Cafe at 10:10 and 4:10. Yes, hula flash mob.
My friend Kati is my event co-partner, and it’s all a little hilarious and odd because we’re both passionate about making our community a better place, and we both really like to stay home and read novels. Neither of us has any extra time, and we’re both managing this whole event with our dinosauric flip phones. We went to speak with the staff for our Colorado senators last week and her baby had a little poopy blow out in the middle of a very serious discussion on climate change; the next day I was photographed by one of our local papers wearing, whoops!, my $13.99 rubber boots. Which is to say, we’re keeping it real. (Article here, boots cropped).
Hope you can come to RESPOND on Saturday. It’s free and open to all. There will be an opportunity to make donations to Durango’s Planned Parenthood, Companeros, and The Rainbow Youth Center.
Here I am apparently talking about RESPOND in front of many, many fired up ladies and not spontaneously combusting, despite my fear of public speaking. Footnote: I told Melissa Stacy, who is standing next to me talking about the Standing on the Side of Love March, that if I don’t end up making any sounds, to just grab my poster and talk for me and make it all look normal.
Yes we can.
This holiday season has unfurled a little like how I imagine those encounter groups went in the 1970s – everyone getting empowered to air their uncensored feelings. So much honesty! So much raw emotion! Dan and I have been standing by like volunteers on a 1-800 hotline, taking shifts, soothing and empathizing and being available to the young callers.
The kids felt some disappointment about our Christmas festivities. When Rose opened, as one of her bigger presents, a beautiful, pristine winter jacket and said with breathtaking diplomacy and politeness, “Oh. This is Iris’ old jacket,” I realized we had failed to provide a spangly, America-approved Christmas. When Col tore the wrapping off his most toy-like gift: a 1000 piece puzzle, you could almost hear the gong sounding in the distance.
This is no surprise really. In the hierarchy of my time and resources, shopping and holiday decorating thud right to the bottom. Also, not having grown up celebrating Christmas, I admit, I’m still a little unclear on the concept. Kids make a list of what they want and we provide? We skip the list, surprising them with the toy of their dreams? We buy a pile of stuff no one needs because a man with pioneering kindness was born?
Special holiday visitor.
Even if the next new shiny thingy isn’t cherished in our house, empathy is. And bless them, the kids know this. Once Col understood that he wasn’t going to hurt our feelings he told us about his jealousy imagining his friends’ big lego sets and electronic devices; he shared his embarrassment thinking about reuniting with his cronies and having little more to report in Christmas dividends than a puzzle, a game, and some long underwear.
Painful feelings need care. Being able to sit with discomfort rather than seek the quick fix of entertainment, sugar, or some temporary hit of pleasure is a skill I want my children to get really good at. So we model this for them, allowing expression without judgment, providing understanding for their positions, letting their unpleasant feelings dry on the line of our support and presence. Col noticed that with no balm other than empathy, his feelings began to transform.
First night of Hanukkah: a Mediterranean feast to honor my Spanish and Greek roots.
With empathy washing over the children’s brains, the encounter group switched to full blown gratitude. (And back to disappointment…and back again to gratitude, multiple times) Col burrowed in close for snuggles, announcing how much he loved us. Rose made me and Dan a spontaneous card listing nine things she appreciated about us, including “you are great at helping me and Col solve conflict,” “you play games, do puzzles and sword fight with us,” and “you guys save money for fun trips and cool adventures.”
Behind the attraction towards quick hits of happiness is the deeper human need to belong, to connect, to be seen and heard. Much of the rest of our holiday was spent satisfying these needs. We sat on the couch, the kids leaning into me like two protective bulwarks as I read the Hobbit. We spent six completely absorbed and giddy hours putting Col’s 1000 piece puzzle together. We celebrated Hanukkah in a frenzy of greased up latkes with dear friends. We sledded and made soap with deer tallow. We hosted gatherings of Col and Rose’s buddies at our house where we played board games, made art and food together.
Child powered greeting cards: take catalogues, magazines and coloring books, cardstock, glue sticks and scissors. 40 cards for $2.00
Jan 1st. Back to the festivities I can understand: roadkill, scrabble and coffee.
It is not my job to provide the next hit of short-lived happiness for my children, but it’s my great honor and privilege to attend to their needs for joy, belonging, community and connection.
The days have shrunk into these tiny blips that blur past while the dark time stretches on forever. Col and Rose start indoor soccer at 7:05 am, slamming the ball against our kitchen cabinets while I talk my nervous system down from the ledge. Give them ten hours of sleep and they rise like a sled dog team aching to run. Rose guards her goal in a velveteen ball gown (2nd costume change of the morning) and Col is in the same clothes he’s been wearing for the past century.
7:33: sword fights with pool noodles.
Breakfast is elk sausage, winter squash and kale. So apparently is lunch. Entertainment is watching robins bobbing for crab apples. We fervently root for the red breasted birds, whose score is nab one, drop two.
Then we have a family pool to guess “When will the first magpies arrive for roadkill scraps on the shed roof?” Rose wins with 7:48 am on the dot. And at 7:53 am the sun crawls over Raider Ridge. We watch the chickens run indignantly through the snow to the compost pile. This is all the big news.
Next, Col and Rose are on the couch wrestling, limbs and grunts flying. Then like a retreating tide, they funnel back into their shared room and crank the radio up to 11. They’ve found the teenager station and they love it with a ferocity that amuses and scares me. Nothing makes me feel more elderly than the thoughts I have trying to decipher lyrics of the latest pop phenomenon.
Dan has purchased 30 raw deer hides from a local processor (Dan’s work is either carpentry or hide tanning, depending on who’s asking) and left this text on my phone recently, driving home from a window-installation job, “Got a doe in the back of the car. Stopping for a few groceries. Home by 5pm.” You know, the usual. Yesterday he chased a rogue black dog for 5 blocks who had snuck into our yard and pilfered some scraps of that very doe. Dan’s pretty sure its the same dog who stole a whole buck hide from him several years ago. Which is to say, the war is on.
Board game side events.
Despite all the other things that lately seem like really big news, apparently Christmas is still happening. Though I’m still waiting for my kids to renounce all material goods for the sake of true happiness, Col caresses the Lego catalogue and Rose delivers soliloquies which start at 6am on why she’d love a particular new sweater she spied downtown.
“What if instead of that one sweater that you’ve seen, you could have three sweaters which would each be a surprise?” I ask her with thrift store stars in my eyes. She acquiesces with one caveat, “no yellow.”
Baby Therapy: cheap and highly effective:
The lipstick has something to do with the teenager station.
Besides indoor soccer, repetitive breakfasts, and teenage radio, we’re reading. I read Cannery Row for the first time and am still reeling over John Steinbeck’s literary genius. I read a lot of the funny parts to Col. The book is mostly about some hobos who want to throw a party for the town doctor. On page 31 is the most gorgeous and horrifying description of an anenome catching its prey.
The Meadow by James Galvin is another book without a ton of plot, but filled with characters who are so wedded to their land on the Colorado/Wyoming border, their lives are inextricable from it. I’ve loved this book all three times I’ve read it.
I’m reading The Hobbit to the kids and we are all loving it so much. I think we all feel a little like Bilbo Baggins right now, whisked off on this political journey, divesting from our corporate banks and trying to understand how to communicate with the trolls and orcs, when maybe part of us is wishing we could just stay home and watch the robins and magpies all day.
With Big Love to you all,