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15 minute grain-free peanut butter chocolate chip cookies

2018 May 25
by Rachel Turiel

“There is no shortage of grosbeaks,” Dan reassures me after a five minute lull in the morning siege on the feeder is followed by hordes of evening grosbeaks returning to their personal safehouse, where Col and Dan are poised to chase neighborhood cats off with BB guns. A small table of evening grosbeaks at the breakfast rush.

Here’s a different kind of bird (one of our new flock of chickens). Col took this picture and I couldn’t help thinking: one sweet, slightly-awkward and emergent adolescent photographing another.

As per May usual, we’re issuing daily quotas on consumption of greens. If you’re not eating a gallon of lettuce, chard, spinach, etc…you’re not pulling your weight. Full disclosure, there’s a 50% chance of finding an elm seed in your salad and a .549% chance of finding a small insect, marinated in salad dressing and still alive. Aphids don’t even count.

We seem to be having a few checking account issues currently, namely that money doesn’t seem to stick around there very long, but Dan reminds me that we still have apples in the root cellar in May, and maybe I’ll see if I can trade those apples for the kids’ soccer fees, like an old timey bartering community! (Actually, I am trading greens for the space I’m using to teach my current NVC class. Thanks to the lovely LeeAnn at Stitch).

The garden is a bit like a museum lately, delicate pieces unveiled by day, only to be covered at first whiff of nightfall. 

Rose was selected to represent her school in a 5th grade-wide community dance competition. She and her partner danced the merengue. Her partner wasn’t Dan, but he helped her practice.

Our days have been slightly crazy lately with everyone’s end of the school year presentations and graduations; Rose vigilantly at the table penning cards of gratitude to each teacher past dark; getting the summer issue of Edible magazine to the printers; my mind thinking that 3:00am is a good time to wake up and figure stuff out; and, carting teen chickens outside every morning, and back upstairs each night. Thank god for books and bedtime. I loved this memoir, about the author’s seventeen brushes with death, which was harrowing, entertaining, horrifying and ultimately inspiring. And then this gorgeous, incredibly-written novel about a family whose fifth son is transgender and how the family orbit changes to accommodate this reality.

The other day Col confided that he hates it when “Daddy assumes that when I ask for screen time it means I’m bored.” I asked him if he wanted to let Dan know this, and then maybe issue a request. Fifteen minutes later Col popped up in Dan’s workshop (where I was fiddling in the adjacent greenhouse). “Hey Daddy, I wanted to talk to you about something,” he said, earnestness turned up to eleven. And without making Dan at fault, Col squeaked out what’s up for him followed by the request that Dan not respond to screentime requests with assumptions of his boredom. Dan received him with gratitude and I could see Col’s personal power inflate. Later he said, “I’m so proud that I talked to Daddy.” And we celebrated that instead of nibbling on the empty calories of resentment, Col got to express his feelings to his Daddy, who was happy to hear what was true for his son. This is the exact model we use in my nonviolent communication classes – how to express what’s true for you while caring for the relationship.

Oh wait – you were here for the 15 minute cookie recipe? Here it is!

These cookies are super delicious, only take 15 minutes to make (including baking, but not clean up), and are approved by my children who are highly suspicious that I am hiding kale in everything I bake. Thanks Steph, for the recipe!

Grain Free Peanut Butter Cookies 

Heat oven to 335F
Combine in large bowl:
1 egg
1 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup sugar (brown or white or mix)
a splash of molasses
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
Drop rounded tablespoons of dough onto greased cookie sheet, press down with fork and bake for 7 – 10 minutes @ 335F.
Hippie Version
Sub out almond butter for peanut butter
Add 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
Reduce sugar to 1/3 cup
Add 1/4 cup raisins
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Love and cookies,
Rachel

the art and craft of making a request

2018 May 16
by Rachel Turiel

It’s 8pm on a weeknight, which means we should be ushering small people through the stations of winding down: read aloud, teeth brushing, pajamas, and ultimately the long, one-way march towards bunkbeds. But, everyone’s trying to wring the last moments out of a fading spring evening.

Col is reading a dystopian novel on the couch. Two feet away Rose is choreographing a dance to Joni Mitchell’s Carey, which she is also singing, managing to take up an impressive amount of space, physically and auditorially in our 800 square foot house.

I warn the kids bedtime is approaching and Col throws an arm out to hook his father, passing through the living room. “Come snuggle me, Daddy,” Col pleads, and even though there’s a whiff of stalling the inevitable, Dan embraces the invitation.

I watch Col’s small body tucked into Dan’s, thinking, this is what boys need, men who can model intimacy, who can be soft and gentle, who…suddenly and suspiciously Rose’s dance routine comes to an abrupt halt and she launches herself on top of the snuggling pair.

“Hey – get off! Me and Daddy are snuggling!” Col shouts.

“I have enough love for both of you,” Dan calmly replies, rolling each kid up in an arm.

The couch becomes a tumult of arms and legs. Col jumps off the couch and like a military strategist begins striking his sister from the floor. Snap judgments infiltrate my mind: Col is a bully. Rose is interfering. And then, the stories unspool: It’s hopeless, they’ll never be friends, Thanksgiving circa 2038 will be a disaster. Dan raises his voice, telling Col to stop, and then resumes his preschool teacher demeanor and asks, “Col, is there a request you’d like to make?”

“Yes. Can you tell Rose to stay out of this?”

“Can you make a request that tells me what you want, not what you want Rose to do?”

“I just want to snuggle you alone,” Col replies.

“Ok. I’m happy to do that. Can you wait until Rose and I have a couple more minutes snuggle time?”

“Yes.”

A quiet calm settles over the house. I feel my nervous system decelerate from red to green. No one is wrong, nor needs discipline. Mother Theresa says, “if you judge people, you have no time to love them.” Here are kids that need to be loved, who have longings to uncover. One kid wants the special feeling of physical connection alone with his dad, another kid wants reassurance that even if others are connecting, she’s loved, included and belongs. Requesting that which contributes to our happiness is a skill that enables us to access power in our own lives.

It’s a bit like magic, really – the way a request (would you be willing to set the table tonight?) will recruit all the cells of our willingness, while a demand (I need you to set the table tonight) acts as an affront to our autonomy. When we grudgingly cooperate with a demand out of guilt or fear we actually miss out on the good feelings generated by our own generosity. And, we’re likely not to do our best work. Marshall Rosenberg says, “As long as I think I ‘should’ do it, I’ll resist it, even if I want very much to do it.”

I love receiving clear, doable requests. It’s satisfying to get clarity on how we can contribute to someone’s well being. Studies show that we receive much happiness from acts of generosity, and yet many of us are more likely to launch a complaint rather than letting others know what can be done to bring more ease or joy to our lives. News flash: expectations unvoiced go unmet.

Later, during the high level debriefings that often take place after the kids have gone to bed I thank Dan for how he handled the couch skirmish. “I learned it all from you,” he replies. Which is true, just for the record.

How to Make a Request using principles of nonviolent communication

Col and Rose become empowered by the tool of making requests and approach us with their desire to replace our homemade, unscented deer tallow soap in the bathroom with store-bought liquid soap.

  • Requests are clear and specific. Instead of “Can we start using a nice soap in the bathroom?” they might say, “Would you be willing to buy liquid soap for our bathroom when you go shopping on Sunday?”
  • Requests express what you want, not what you don’t want. Instead of “Will you please stop putting deer tallow soap in the bathroom?” they might say, “Can we replace the bar soap with liquid soap?”
  • Requests are doable. A successful request won’t compromise anyone’s values, and usually doesn’t contain the words “never” or “always.”
  • Unlike a demand, a request maintains everyone’s dignity by allowing for the option to say no, or for negotiations. I don’t like the idea of recycling plastic liquid soap containers regularly, so in agreeing to use liquid soap I want to know that the kids will help me refill reusable containers with bulk liquid soap.
  • Requests are more enjoyable to meet when we know how it will contribute to others’ happiness. “That liquid soap seems more sanitary, easier to use, and doesn’t crumble into pieces as it wears down, and we think it looks better when we have friends over.”

*One spot remains in my 5-week June, Tuesday night Living Nonviolent Communication Class. Details here.

these are the good old days

2018 May 3
by Rachel Turiel

Sorry – couldn’t help myself on this one.

We are coming into the seasonal festival that is blooming fruit trees. I am mesmerized from our upstairs windows, mesmerized from on the ground in the garden, mesmerized on the hiking trails above town looking down at the canopies of blossomy fireworks. Also, I’m just a little challenged by the part where two seconds after the whole town has gone up in a blaze of pink, spring is over. It’s like the paradox of life expressed in a peach tree, or a season. Already, after a recent rain storm, the gutters are filled with the pink confetti of downed blossoms.

Francis Weller says “Grief and love are sisters, woven together from the beginning. Their kinship reminds us that there is no love that does not contain loss and no loss that is not a reminder of the love we carry for what we once held close.”

I mean, I’m not sure he was referring to fruit trees, but still, this is helpful.

Because even the kids growing and changing contains loss. Remember when the kids were little and they lived in our world of gardening and butchering animals and traipsing off to the forest? I think now we’re living in their world of school events and weekend soccer games and opinions about shoe styles.

My new favorite bumper sticker is: “These are the good old days.” These days. How could this not be true? I can get all drunk on nostalgia, on the memories of fat toddler Rosie who couldn’t sustain ill will towards anyone for more than 30 seconds. But, there is a ten year old girl who’s here right now, who wants me to check out her turquoise toenails, her ukulele song, her merengue dance skills. Who wants to know that she matters and is seen and appreciated. Every night we say our thankfuls before eating and  Dan often mentions being thankful just to all be here at the table together, which about covers it (even as it includes someone’s onion phobia and someone else so eager to communicate while eating it presents a small choking hazard).

This ten year old in these good old days.

Also, Col shot an invasive dove with his BB gun, skinned and gutted it, and ate that baby for breakfast, juice dripping down his chin like a goddamed boy-king.

The elderberry trees, grape vine and hops are all slithering out of the soil, turning the world green like magic. I like to walk around the garden, not doing any actual work, just taking in all the emergence. The kids no longer follow me around the garden wanting to plant ten pea seeds in one square inch or water a plant to its death. The other day, I was driving Col to a friends house and like a detached, friendly uncle he asked, “So, what’ve you got going in the garden this year?”

I was planning to announce my upcoming nonviolent communication classes here but apparently it takes about a month to write a new post and they all filled. I do have one spot open in my Tuesday evening June/July class. Details here. I’m also doing private NVC consults and enjoying them so much. If this appeals to you, contact me.

I found this book serendipitously in our Free Little Library and loved the descriptions of tidal life, adolescent boyhood, the strange and dulling mask of adulthood. It actually put me in a bit of a panic that there are likely many more excellent books that I might just never meet up with. And the kids and I just finished the first book in this series, which was absolutely delightful.

Other signs of the coming of spring:


Me to Dan: How long will you be out here working on that elk hide?

Dan: Probably the rest of my life.

not pictured: a nascent adolescent boy getting ready to leave for a week at the Grand Canyon and Phoenix (for a study in contrasts?) under the guise of school. Will he eat any vegetables? Will he properly hydrate?

not pictured: Rose’s turquoise toenails poking out of brand new sandals her friend Iris gave her. You try telling Rose that true happiness doesn’t come from things.

I am continuing to get my Mediterranean tahini fix with this tahini sauce. We use it as salad dressing (add a splash of vinegar), as a dip, to ladle over steamed veggies. It’s perfectly creamy and nutty.

Just in case you needed a little more fat and protein with your fat and protein.

Tahini Sauce

Makes 2 cups. Blend the following:

1 cup water

1/2 cup tahini

1/2 cup lemon or juice of one medium sized lemon

1 minced garlic clove

tsp salt

sprinkle of paprika (optional)

Thank you for all your kindness and encouragement on my last post. I really enjoyed reading your comments.

Send news from your corner of the world. What are you reading? What are you eating? How do you use tahini?

Love,

Rachel

The wind is in from Africa

2018 April 12
by Rachel Turiel

Hello Dear Ones,

I’m not entirely sure what to write about here anymore, what with my varied audience (Hello, 11-year old Iris and 80+ year old Tutu!) and having sort of said it all before. But you’re still here! And I’m deeply grateful for that.


Did you want to know about our greenhouse and cold frames? About how in April I’m remembering that eating locally is not about searching out what you most desire as if combing through shiny stones on the beach, but more like getting doused by the hide tide of spinach. It’s the vegetarian coming of Frankenstein: chard, kale, spinach, arugula swelling under spring conditions, requiring us to stay home and eat salad.

********

Rosie in Athens, with the Parthenon silhouetted on hill behind her. What you can’t see: cats, everywhere feral cats, who are fed and loved by the locals.

Or, did you want to hear about how we just returned from a trip to Greece and Israel with my parents? How right now I am drinking Arabic coffee (where the grounds remain in the cup extracting ever more jitters as you drink), bought from Mustafa in Haifa, who brewed his with cardamom and was wise enough to serve very small amounts.

Col lounging on an Israeli artist’s sculpture made of old military equipment in the Golan Heights where we met U.N. “military observers” from New Zealand who were keeping an eye on the border of Israel and Syria, making sure agreements were kept.

We spent a few days on the lovely Greek island, Rhodes (charmingly spelled Ρόδος in Greek and charmingly pronounced “Row-dose” by the locals), where generations of Turiels lived for at least 450 years, speaking their own language (Ladino – mix of Spanish and Hebrew), marrying distant cousins and living very good lives under the Mediterranean shade of fig trees while trying to avoid the wrath of each new wave of conquerors (Romans, Crusaders, Ottomans, Italians, and eventually the Nazis, who took every last Jew on Rhodes).

Found in the beautiful “new” synagogue, built in 1571.

Names of the Rhodes men, women and children with the last name Turiel who died in the concentration camps.

The ancient wall outside the old Jewish quarter of Rhodes, Greece.

From nearly 100-year old photos we found my father’s mother’s house on Rhodes. (We tried to find my grandfather’s house from the cryptic words he wrote after sailing from Rhodes to America in 1920: “Go to seahorse fountain, look across, above the wine seller, that was our place.” We ate dolmas, hummus, feta and enormous beans called “gigantes,” everything lubed with local olive oil. We woke up to African soil blown across the Mediterranean Sea coating our rental car. For days I sang Joni Mitchell’s lyrics “The wind is in from Africa/last night I couldn’t sleep.”

Col eating a giant shrimp still wearing it’s head, tail and numerous legs…shudder…and a plate of gigantes.

Futbol at the Roman ruins at Bet She’an National Park, Israel. Israel had a lot of brutal regime-change throughout its millennia of recorded history. 

Israel was a whirlwind of historical sites and intensity. “Jerusalem is a heavy city. Dense with God,” our tour guide said. “God is everywhere,” my dad suggested. “Maybe a little bit more God in Jerusalem,” she countered.

We were in Jerusalem on Passover and Easter Sunday, where the church bells rang (and rang and rang…) from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre where Jesus is said to have risen from his tomb. Not a quarter-mile away Jews of all types made pilgrimages to the Western (wailing) Wall (including Hasidic Jews dressed for Russian winter, and a fierce 10-year old American girl determined to lodge her message to God between the 2000+ year old stones on the “women’s side” of the wall despite getting thwarted by women so deep in their religious trance-walk towards the wall they may not have noticed they were throwing elbows like pro soccer players). And not a quarter-mile from the wall sits the Dome of the Rock, 3rd holiest of Muslim sites, where Mohammed ascended to heaven on his white-winged horse. No non-Muslim can enter, despite it being built on the ruins of the destroyed 1st and 2nd Jewish temple. Oy vey; a very heavy city.

On a lighter note (pun intended), the Dead Sea was wonderfully buoyant and festive. Beyoncé playing on the loud-speaker as people of all nations dipped in the healing waters, floating like corks. Those are the hills of Jordan across the Dead Sea.

Dan, taking advantage of the healing mud of the Dead Sea.

The Mahane Yehuda (Jewish Market) was a highlight, as was all the food in Israel. We bought za’atar and “chicken spice:” rosemary, paprika, dried citrus peels, sea salt, which we’ve already added to “backyard” chicken soup. (We also brought home dried figs, apricots, halvah, chocolate, apricot bars, coffee…)

If you make Aliyah (Any Jews of “the diaspora” moving to the homeland of Israel), these men will give you a kilo of dried figs. Otherwise, it’s 100 shekels.

There’s so much more to say about Israel. Like, how we almost got used to the young Israeli soldiers, male and female, riding the bus with semi-automatic weapons slung over their shoulders. (Though, the ultra-orthodox families with their traditional garb, gender divisions and solemn faces appeared somehow more foreign). Or, how the inside of Israeli and Arabic falafel was deliciously green with minced parsley. Or, how I don’t think I ate quite enough tahini sauce ladled over cucumber and tomato salads. Or how, my whole Jewish identity is in a bit of upheaval now, contemplating the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in which no one is a winner, even as one side gains land and another side gains international sympathy. In which each side has found ways to justify murder and history has become a bendable story.

And, I’m wondering how we can hold fast to our differing heritages, stories, traditions without creating a wall of separation around ourselves or making others wrong for theirs? (This goes for the macro: Israel/Palestine and also the micro: our own families). When do our stories of victimhood cause more suffering than empowerment? I think I need a post-Israel ” Jewish heritage and non-violence” support group. You feel me?

*************

-insert huge segue here-

Or did you maybe want to hear how I had a fancypants NYC literary agent who loved my memoir about Col’s premature birth at 25 weeks and finding fellowship in the foreign land of the Denver Ronald McDonald House where we lived for four months. He sent it to 15 big, commercial publishing houses, all of whom sent the nicest rejections, after which my agent broke up with me and now I have absolutely no idea what to do? Taking suggestions!

*************

Or, perhaps you wanted to hear how I told Dan last night that we had two big things to celebrate. One was that when we all woke up late due to jet lag, Col whispered to me, “I’m worried that I’ll be late to school because Rosie takes so long to get ready.” He didn’t threaten, blame, judge or accuse Rose. He expressed his feelings and sought support. This day might become the new holy day in our house, commemorating the possibility of peace.

And, later, when I told Rose that she had a birthday party to go to that same afternoon, she scurried around trying to find a present for her friend and then told me, “Mama, I’m a bit annoyed that you didn’t tell me about this party until today. I really like to have time to make a card.” Again, no blame or judgment, just a clear expression of feelings and letting me know what’s important to her (time to prepare gifts). Double holy day!

What else? I’m trying to re-create all this amazing food we ate in the Mediterranean: roasted eggplant with tahini dressing, cilantro marinade, shaksuka. Recipes coming soon.

Birdwatching in style in the Galilee.

xo,

Rachel

do not lose heart

2018 March 15
by Rachel Turiel

I’m wondering if we’ll need new words to identify seasons now that climate change is less abstract future prediction and more creeping reality. In the Southwest the season formerly known as winter could be: Where snow is now rain, or Watch out for rocks on the ski hill.

In our family, we’re working on noticing our judgments and seeing what needs are alive behind the blame. I tell you this because I have so much blame about the state of our world. Anger, despair, hopelessness, too. And, I believe blame binds up our inner resources and keeps us cycling through anger, despair and hopelessness, paralyzed from taking action.

Here’s an example from the world headquarters of our household. This morning, Col expressed anger towards Rose for taking “so long” to get ready in the morning, making him late for school. (Col starts school five minutes earlier than Rose, and he’s only been late a couple times, but to him it feels like he’s late often because it’s always later than he’d like to arrive).

Not to distract you, but this book is fabulous. Rose is on her 2nd reading.

When we focus on someone else’s “wrongness” we miss what we’re actually wanting, which is where we can empower change. Plus, if Col wants something different, blame is not going to create the collaboration he’s hoping for. (Sounds obvious, yet anger seems to shut down our higher brain functions like logic and problem-solving). Turns out, Col wants to arrive ten minutes early so he can “hang out with his friends before school starts.” This is easy for me to get on board with because I love the idea of him having extra time for fun and connection. (In nonviolent communication we’d call “fun” and “connection” his needs). What about Rose? Because everyone’s needs matter in the family unit, I suggested he check in with her willingness to hustle a bit to get to school early.

Rose kind of liked the idea of extra playtime in the morning, but doesn’t like hanging outside in the cold for fifteen minutes (Her need might be for comfort). “Hmmm, any ideas to make this part more appealing for your sister?” I asked Col, sending him telepathic messages to offer to make her tea, while sending her telepathic messages to not interject, letting him come up with something (…because we can miss the wonderful benefits of being generous if it’s someone else’s idea for us). Col caught the message, learned that tea kettles need water before you turn on the heat, and Rose practically sang all morning getting ready, knowing her brother was making her tea. (Having tea made for her likely met needs for appreciation and acknowledgment). We got to school 13 minutes early.

Does this all make sense? Synopsis: When Col is focused on blaming Rose for making him late, he misses the opportunity to see what he really wants: to be ten minutes early to hang with friends. When he can make a request without persuasion, judgment, implying that there’s something wrong with Rose, she can hear him!

“List for Rose’s Needs” formerly known as a “shopping list,” including, “other good things,” and “some healthy things.” Slay me.

Sometimes blame, judgment and anger are like storms that pass through my mind before I can see the pain underneath. When I can see the pain, I can care for it. When I give the pain some care, it clears space for me to see what unmet needs are driving the pain. When I feel despair about the state of the world, my needs are often 1) to celebrate this beautiful planet. 2) to contribute to nonviolence. 3) to mourn the greed and violence in this world.

Clarissa Pinkola Estes says “My friends, do not lose heart. We were made for these times. Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach.”

Greenhouse chard and kale bringing me great happiness.

This, I can do. Applying empathy where ever I’m capable feels really wonderful. So does planting 42 tomato seeds in February, and nurturing the mixed greens inching along in their cold frames. Fostering dogs is a total win-win. Hiking through the piñon and juniper behind my house feels holy. I love facilitating nonviolent communication, sometimes formally in classes, sometimes stealthily, on the streets. Funneling money to local public radio, a local pro-environmental group and Planned Parenthood supports my vision for this planet. Also, supporting local candidates who stand for renewable energy, public lands, women’s rights, LBGTQ rights, common sense gun regulation, a path to citizenship, affordable healthcare…(oh, this list is long).

I mean, things can change. People in Denmark and Finland use an average of four single-use plastic bags a year because stores began charging directly for plastic bags (unlike here where the cost is passed on surreptitiously, making plastic bags appear free). Systems can change. Siblings can change. We can change.

I leave you with this invitation. If you are noticing blame and judgment (toward yourself, others, or both), can you ask yourself what it is you’re really wanting, what could make life more wonderful for you? What could you mend that is “within your reach?” What support do you need to start the process of mending?

With Love,

Rachel

Rose wrote this song on her ukulele. That next generation? They got this.

searching for the win-win (or what I’ve learned from nonviolent communication)

2018 February 28
by Rachel Turiel

Dan is fiddling with the vacuum in our laundry room (er, laundry closet, also housing herds of untamed shoes, winter hats, jars of escabeche) singing, Papa’s got a brand new bag. Rose perks up, having never met a bag she doesn’t like.

“What bag, Daddy?”

“Papa’s got a brand new vacuum bag. Hey!”

It’s Sunday, and I’m craving some family time, the magical kind where we’re all grateful to be together, feeling close and enjoying the same activity, which is precisely the one I have chosen. I mean really, is it so unreasonable to be an authoritarian parent, dictating our lives based on my values, Col and Rose following along good naturedly? (You’re right, Mom, social media could be a huge distraction to our growing brains! Lets unplug and go camping!) In my dreamlife, we’re strolling through the piñons under the medicinal winter sun, the kids divulging their hardships and dreams (but like, in a really digestible way, where everyone speaks with perfect self-awareness). But, more likely I’d be practicing my labor breathing, two small people grumbling along in their lead-filled shoes, determined not to enjoy themselves because it was forced on them. As Marshall Rosenberg says, “As long as I think I ’should’ do it, I’ll resist it, even if I want very much to do it.” Damn.

We decide to try something more revolutionary than the democratic “one person, one vote” in which some win and others lose. We’re looking not for the fraught, score-keeping compromise, but for a Sunday family plan that everyone loves. We decide to each express the top three things we would love to do and then with all options on the table, cut and paste a plan that addresses everyone’s desires. (Even though one of us is happy to tinker in the opium den of the lego pile and another keeps a personal list titled: “good deer spots.”)

We gather around the situation room of our kitchen table, recording ideas and trying to stick to our collective pledge to be open to everything, even as Dan mentions driving an hour to Silverton and I watch the kids imagine slowly perishing of boredom as we blur past another snowy mountain, forced to invent backseat fights just to keep things lively. Similarly, Rose’s “walk around downtown with hot chocolate and window shop” makes me feel slightly panicked. When Col mentions wanting to visit a game store, I have to bite back my And, how does this include everyone? judgment. I share my desire for a hike, emphasis on roasting marshmallows over a campfire, trolling for allegiance like an opportunistic politician.

Once complete, we revisit everyone’s three suggestions aloud and amend as necessary. Alpine skiing gets nixed because two of us would actually need lessons. Visiting cats at the humane society is spontaneously added by both children. I thought the hardest part was withholding opinions as people announced their preferences, but turns out that was the appetizer for the following, meatier challenge.

Next, we offer strategies that take into account as many people’s interests as possible: the cats, the hiking, the hot chocolate, the game store. Ideas are floated and recorded and eventually Col comes up with: walk on the river path with hot chocolate to the humane society to visit the cats. (And a quick trip for kids to neighboring game store while Dan and I walk further up the river trail). The room goes quiet. And then everyone comes out with a unanimous YES! This solution hits Dan and my desire for exercise outside, the kids’ desire to be with kitties, all of our desire to be together and the unspoken: our desire to contribute to each others’ happiness, because, (at the risk of sounding like Mr. Rogers) it feels really good to contribute to the wellbeing of others, and (at the risk of sounding calculating), others will be more likely to care for our hopes and dreams when we care for theirs. It seems sort of like a dream, each of us getting what we want without coercion, persuasion, bribes or threats.

“We’ll be out during lunch,” I mention to Dan.

“So, we’ll need a few coolers and a wheelbarrow?” He replies.

We stuff our pockets with bars and leftover waffles and set out, each of us, I believe, feeling like we’re getting away with something. And maybe this is the crux of finding win-win solutions. When everyone is heard and considered and the goal is to satisfy the most needs, there is nothing to fight for, just the collective, creative brainpower of the group caring for one another.

When life imitates the game Sorry

2018 January 25
by Rachel Turiel

Monday night, Dan and his buddies are gathered in the solarium for their bi-weekly “bow-night,” in which a group of guys, wielding metal rasps and sandpaper, craft primitive bows out of tree trunks. It’s like Hunger Games meets a beer commercial. 

When I suggest to Col and Rose that we play a game, they select Sorry, a choice which gives me panicked flashbacks to the tedium of early years where five minutes passed like a geological era. But I give a resounding “yes!” because it’s the clearest way to say, “I want to be with you,” (even while my brain is liquefying). Col decides to create a stack of his own Sorry cards, spending half an hour scribbling directives on paper rectangles.
 
He folds his custom Sorry cards into the deck and on a turn pulls a Col original. “Say five curse words and move forward ten spaces,” he reads, blushing. He and Rose search my face, wondering if I’ll shut this down. Instead, I hold him to it. He can only come up with four, one of which is “crap.”
 
I can remember thinking, at least 25 times in the past eight years, that we had landed in the exact sweet spot of parenting, inhabiting some cosmic, singular intersection of independence and loveliness, the ingredients for such balance never to be present again. Maybe we had just thrown off the shackles of diapers but everyone was still beside themselves with enthusiasm for farm animals. Or, perhaps the kids could endure long road trips, but would still make an imaginative world of play on the shores of the Animas river. My belief that as the kids soared closer to independence they’d necessarily jettison their own childlike wonder like so much extra baggage kept me frantically attached to what was surely the last outpost on the unswerving path to some drab, inevitable adulthood. 
 
But childhood is not actually a linear path projected by Motherhood Inc, in which plot points create a predictable trajectory of growth. The kids soar and stumble, bouncing around every spot on the grid. Recently, I overheard Col explaining to a buddy that he felt hurt when other friends teased him about watching Barbie episodes with his sister. And I thought, “beautiful expression of feelings!” The next day, Col mocked his sister mercilessly. Par for the sibling course, but still, was this real life imitating a Sorry game? Ten steps forward, five back.
 
The other night the kids spent the evening hissing at each other like territorial snakes and then climbed wordlessly into the stacked mattresses of their bunk bed as if any hour past 8pm was automatic truce for cobras. I can hardly keep track of anyone’s personal trajectory anymore.
Cobra couch truce.
The Sorry game goes on tediously (as history predicts), and the kids are completely, bafflingly engaged. I’m reminded that these children contain all their former selves, a living mix of who they’ve ever been. It’s like simmering a soup, different flavors asserting themselves at different stages. Within this gumbo is the toddler “do it ownself” battlecry, transformed to the tween corollary: “You can’t stop me from wearing shorts in January.” Also within: four certified curse words and solo bike rides to friends houses. But wait – a game of Sorry surfaces like the pre-adolescent version of executives taking a load off on the golf course. Still in there! And because all we have is the sweet spot of now, I’m determined to be eternally delighted, which is a matter of my own perspective.
 
When I stir in the most recent layer to the soup—maybe that tweenish thing that gives me pause—the aroma of their collective days hits me and fills me with a knowing that there are no fixed points, no finish line, just a continuum of grace to be here growing together.
Multi-cobra couch truce.
In case you were wondering, elk rawhide is not a great sledding medium. Now you know!

Just when you thought there was no room for a foosball table in an 800 sf house. Guess again!

safe escort

2018 January 11
by Rachel Turiel


Rosie and I are leaving the Christmas Farmers Market, our bags plump with beets, potatoes, and carrots. A raven croaks from a nearby rooftop, eager to be the beneficiary of holiday crumbs.

“I’m sooo hungry,” Rose tells me.

Really? I think. Weren’t you the one who ate two man-sized breakfasts before 9am? And then a notion spontaneously beams into my mind as if deposited by the raven. “Hey sweetie? I’m wondering if you’re actually craving something else and it feels like hunger? What do you think?”

Rose leans into me and says quietly, “attention.”

I contemplate the hour we spent browsing farmers’ and artisans’ stands, how we held hands while sampling raw sesame candy; conducted sniff-tests on homemade soaps; and watched the ukulele concert from one shared chair. And, how I loved it all! Oh…and I also remember her small hand tugging insistently at mine when I ran into friends, engaging in adult conversations that stole my attention away from her.

There are two storylines here. One is my own, which includes my desire to be present to the sensory experience of the market, to the spontaneous meet-ups that are a cherished part of this close-knit town, and to the blessing of being with my daughter, this ten year old who won’t always choose to spend a Saturday morning with her mother. The other storyline is Rose’s, which includes her desire to feel connected to me, to know that she matters enough to hold my attention. How do we get all these needs met?

I believe in empathy as a first response to painful feelings. Empathy lets us know we’re heard and understood. It’s like getting a safe escort out of the amygdala, the brain structure where we experience fight, flight, or freeze, and into the prefrontal cortex, where logic and decision-making prevails.

In the (wonderful) comic book Urban Empathy: True Life Adventures of Compassion on the Streets of New York, author Dian Killian describes empathy as “understanding what others and ourselves are experiencing and, by doing so, easing pain and suffering.”

This won’t happen by explaining to Rose that I only chatted with four people. Or, by offering a vacant apology and promising to do better next time. Nor by delivering a well-intentioned lecture on how expectations can cause suffering. Giving empathy is not dependent on me agreeing with her or granting her wishes: it’s a voice reaching through the cramped darkness of overwhelming emotion to say, “I see you. You matter.”

It helps that Rose can articulate her need for connection. Despite twelve years of school, we’re not taught this most basic skill of identifying our needs and having the confidence to share them with others. Instead, we often unconsciously try to get needs met in ineffective ways. (i.e. the younger brother who wants to be included and so scribbles on his older sister’s artwork to get noticed. Or the adult who wants belonging and tries to mold herself to fit into a social scene that doesn’t feel authentic).

“Rosie, sounds like you were wanting more of my focus and attention. Maybe you were bored when I chatted with friends? And I bet it was hard not knowing how long the conversations would last.”

“Yeah,” she replies, sliding her body gently into mine, her body language articulating trust.

“I can see how that feels disappointing, how you were excited to have my companionship.”

“I just wanted youuuuuuuu,” she croons, holding the note, opera-style, signaling that the serious talk must end now. I sing back to her, a song about going home and playing our favorite card game. She laughs and then looks around to determine that no one important is witnessing the embarrassment that is your mother, singing. Just the raven.

It turns out that there’s no solution needed today. Sometimes just being heard and understood can take you out of a painful emotion and into a rollicking card game.

ordinary magic

2017 December 22
by Rachel Turiel

It’s Sunday morning. Rose and her buddy are crafting a doll-sized birthday party scene, snipping up dish sponges and painting them to look like layered cake. Col has been asking me since 6:00am to set up a playdate for him. (I secretly love that I can still call what 12-year olds do playdates). By 7:15am Dan and I are drinking coffee, butchering a roadkill deer, and listening to Pandora. I can see how Col would think 7:15 was the middle of the morning for everyone. Earlier in the week Dan carried inside the gumdrop heart of this roadkill deer. “That’s beautiful, Daddy!” Rose said.

One of Rose’s teachers called her “freakishly adorable.” I really have to agree.

By sunrise our skeleton trees are filled with evening grosbeaks, the children of the children of the grosbeaks who began stopping by nineteen years ago. We point and laugh and delight in them every morning, like toddlers captivated by the newness of life each day. We’ve noticed one singular starling has joined their wholesome ranks, as if it’s trying to reform itself, like the white supremacist slowly taking up the banner of inclusivity. We should all welcome these defectors.

We had the sweetest Hanukkah this year. The spiritual leader at the temple we belong to (who—this month—has pink hair, wears combat boots and possesses the sweetest voice) explained that Hanukkah is a time to appreciate what’s inside of us, to be home with family welcoming the light, even if your child doesn’t get home from gymnastics practice until 8pm and every night’s a lesson in fire safety (Ok, I added that last part. Col, put down the lighter!). But, I love her message to find the sweetness in your holiday tradition, and then tinker with it to fit your life so that you can love it all the more.

Super fun new game: Haikubes. Thanks, Joy!

This year we asked the kids straight up what they wanted for Christmas. Col wanted a mountain bike on which he could navigate the loopy, rocky, steep trails behind our house (which invoke equal parts awe and hand-wringing in me). Rose wanted fancy snacks and body care products. Col got a Christmas mountain bike in November (thanks to contributions from my parents and Col’s own piggy bank) so he could ride, pre-snow. That’s all I want, he insisted when we nervously informed him that this present would be the same present on Christmas day. That’s all I want, he reiterated.

And, last night Rose opened a gift basket (because we won’t be home on Christmas) of many little items (peppermint foot massage oil, individual servings of almond milks, tropical fruit leather, homemade lavender room spray…). She was “totally blown away” and “over the moon,” as she said in the card she wrote us two minutes after unwrapping her present.

But first, a reminder to herself: Reminder! Make Dad and Mom a card SOON!!!

I recognize there’s not a lot of wonder and magic in our method. It’s a bit like bring on the scientists and have them figure out Christmas. However, there’s a certain reassurance and safety in removing what feels like outsized pressure and anticipation. And, I feel wealthy in the magic and wonder of the every day, in the grosbeaks and the muted winter colors, in the orangey-pink sunrises and the deer sausage in the freezer, in friendships, foster dogs and the blessing of childhood.

Last night at dinner, I had two hankies on my lap due to a mild cold manifesting in the faucet of my nose turned on full blast. Rose was reminding us of next day’s school performance in which she and her friend are singing Men at Work’s Down Under to over 200 people. Col was snarkily suggesting she could start being nervous now. The sun was long down and a new snow glittered under the streetlights. Dan was diffusing everything with humor, and I was full of my own nostalgic love and gratitude for this ordinary magic, all of it.

Love to you all and gratitude for your presence here in this space where I hold you captive while I share odd bits about our lives,

Rachel

OUTTAKES

**Do you remember our foster dog Sunny, who gave birth in our living room? Here she is with her one surviving baby. Dan says the caption of this photo is, “Hey Mama, if anyone’s messing with you, just let me know.”

**Remember my last post in which Col snarked about Rose’s dolls? I got a little more information from Col later about his anger around the dolls, and he made some beautiful requests to me to help meet some needs. Added in previous post near the bottom.

**Maybe I shouldn’t think this is hilarious, but I can’t help it (Col’s take on a traditional Christmas song):

**They can pretend not to like each other, but I have proof that says otherwise:

signs of winter and nonviolent communication classes

2017 December 10
by Rachel Turiel

Signs of winter:

Uke concerts by the up and coming band Ocean Blue. They have a fine repertoire of cover hits.

Deer hides coming out of storage for tanning (are you glad I didn’t include the photo of Dan spooning—not a euphemism—brains out of deer skulls?).

Foster dog’s favorite game: steal the stinkiest shoe from the untamed herd of footwear.

The nightly boardgame, in which family togetherness is easy and fun and we still get to bed at 8pm.

Rose’s dolls are back out after being tucked away all summer and fall. At night she pajamas them and reclines them into their shared doll bed. By morning she yanks their stiff limbs into day clothes, trots them out to the couch and bends them into an arthritic sit, where they watch us get ready for school with such lack of solid routine, it’s like we’re amnesiacs starting new each day.

“It’s fun to see the dolls back out again,” I tell Rose, meaning: stay innocent, please.

“No it’s not,” Col interjects. “I hate them.”

Because we’re huge fans of nonviolent communication around here, we believe Marshall Rosenberg when he says that “all judgments are a tragic expression of unmet needs.” Meaning, when we blame others we’re usually feeling pretty crummy (such as: disappointed/frustrated/angry/sad) because some basic, human need of ours isn’t being met (perhaps: autonomy/to be seen/compassion/contribution).

We try not to get ruffled by these verbal firestarters but instead look for what unmet needs might underlie these statements.

Additionally, we do not punish our kids, not because we’re permissive, but because when you understand that all behavior is an attempt to meet healthy universal needs, punishing a child because you didn’t like their behavior is like slapping a band aid on a broken arm. The arm will remain broken. What drives the behavior goes unexamined. Also, punishment is often used to assuage our own anger. So, if we can care for our anger, investigate it, see what thoughts are causing it (when one kid says something hurtful to the other I often think, “Really? We haven’t grown out of this? Come on. There’s enough pain in the world.”) Underneath this hot kick of anger is sadness (I want them to enjoy each other), fear (will they ever be allies?), and frustration (bickering is unpleasant!), none of which will be taken care of by punishment.

“Hmm. When you say you hate Rosie’s dolls, what feelings and needs are you having, Col?” I ask, sipping coffee, which, thanks to Dan, is our one reliable morning event.

Col regards the two dolls propped on the couch, their faces locked in inert perma-grins. “I feel hurt…because I have a need for…realism.”

Fair enough. I tackle Col and aim for the ticklish spots. (Because I have a need for lightness and laughter).

*********EDITED TO ADD:

Col and I took a walk recently to discuss the above incident. After he shared his new theories on Star Wars for about 20 minutes, I asked if we could discuss Rose and the dolls. He agreed. I asked what bothered him about Rose’s dolls. After a few comments about how they’re pointless toys, he said, “and you always say how cute they are!” I asked him if he would like more attention for what he’s into. Yes, he said. How can I best do that in a way that would be meaningful to you? I asked. And he gave me two, concrete, doable requests:

  1. Come into my room while I’m doing legos/reading/drawing and check on me to see what I’m up to and ask if I want to share it with you.
  2. Come into my room while I’m doing legos/reading/drawing and ask me to do something fun with you, like play a game.

I’m so happy that he named these two requests because I so want him to feel seen and to feel a sense of belonging in our house and these requests feel so doable and enjoyable for me!

***********

I am excited to be offering two 5-week nonviolent communication courses here in Durango in the new year. This practice, developed by Marshall Rosenberg and taught on six continents, is a path to navigating difficult interactions with skills that keep you empowered and connected to your own needs while listening deeply to others, for the sake of creating mutually satisfying solutions. This practice has brought greater connection, peace and clarity to my life time and again.
More info here. Testimonials from former class participants here.
I am offering two 5-week courses in the new year:
*Thursdays 3pm – 4:30pm January 18th – February 15th. Smiley Studio 10 FULL with waitlist.
*Wednesdays 5:30pm – 7pm. January 31st – March 5th (break for Valentines Day). FULL with waitlist
Cost: $100
If these class times don’t work for you, but you’re interested in a future nonviolent communication class or a private session, let me know and I’ll add you to the list of people I’ll contact first with info on upcoming class.
Please contact me if you have questions or are interested in registering.
*******

Not posed: