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Squash custard and the pure devotions of children

2015 February 23
by Rachel Turiel

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Col is on the couch reading, staying one chapter ahead of us in Harry Potter, dropping occasional spoiler-bombs on innocent ears. “I just learned that Rita Skeeter has been eavesdropping by–”

“Coe-uhl, DON’T TELL US!” Rose roars, her feet kicking out of a handstand and crashing down on her rat’s cage.

Col grins, snark pinching the corners of his mouth. He returns to his book, buoyed by his supreme reading power over his sister, who is still swimming in the shallow end of Frog and Toad.

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“You shouldn’t be reading ahead, Col! It’s not fair,” Rose protests. I wonder if Rose will someday harness her sensitivity to injustice for the disenfranchised of the world.

“Why do you care?” Col replies.

All I have for them is sighs. Where do they get the energy for all the arguing?

Col returns to reading The Goblet of Fire, the words lifting off the page, creating an impenetrable force field around him. Somewhere on the couch is a boy who needs to clear his airplane drawings off the table, hang up his jacket, but I’d need Harry Potter’s magic to pierce his literature-o-sphere with my voice.

Rose’s body flies past me. Her feet pound the mat in a round-off. Her legs kick over backwards. I think of a spider. So many limbs, all moving at once.

“Are you having a piece of your valentine chocolate today, Col?” Rose asks, mid-cartwheel.

“Yes.”

“That means you’ll have nine pieces left and I’ll only have four. That isn’t fair.” Rose stands for a brief moment, arms folded accusatorily across her heaving chest. I don’t tell her that’s because she ate most of her candy the first day she got it. Harness that power for good , Rose.

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Col goes back to Harry Potter, his eyes swimming inside a flood of words.

I should be cooking dinner, or editing stories for the magazine, or persuading Col to hang up his jacket but I lie down on the couch, resting my brain, absent-mindedly watching Rose flip back and forth. She does a back walkover for the first time. It’s sort of slow and creaky and hesitant, with a crux moment where she seems to be prodding her legs along like you would a recalcitrant horse.

“You did a back walkover!” I announce, trying to be appropriately excited for her but not praising-excited like the good 21st century mother I’m training to be. Really what I want to say is: holy shit, girl! You fucking rock! You practiced and practiced and taught yourself to do a back walkover for the pure joy of it! 

Just like I want to say to Col, You’re reading a 735 page book, dude! Sure, you might ignore a house fire or your own mother’s voice, but I remember when you struggled and struggled through reading, when there was worry and tears. Now you can’t pull yourself out of the orbit of a book.

Here’s the thing. When kids are motivated, they give it all they’ve got. They’re like that: dedicated to their passions without doubts and fears wrestling them into some submissive posture. They push forward as if knocking on a vacant door they’re determined to get through. Rose was bent on learning how to hula hoop, then cartwheel, then to snap with both hands, and now, the back walkover. Knock knock knock.

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Col once collected and curated a large collection of rocks. He had a short, loud whistling phase (which I still shudder to remember). His fingers were magnetized to legos for years and then three months ago, he announced, “I think I’m done with legos.” Drawing airplanes followed. Now, reading.

My job is not to panic when their interests can’t be measured on a standardized test, nor when they’re messy or loud or so quiet all you hear is the sounds of boarded up windows advertising “no vacancy,” behind which a small child crouches with his book. This focus and devotion will be their ally as they mature into the complex world of adulthood. My job is to allow space for what wants to emerge next, to celebrate their passions, to allow a metropolis of legos to occupy a corner of our living room for four years, to continually scoot the gymnastics mat (formerly known as my camping pad) out of the kitchen when it migrates, to let the kitchen table become plastered with airplane pictures, to get off the couch and make squash custard.

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Squash Custard

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It’s dessert, breakfast, snack, and side dish. It’s the nutrient dense, yummy, healthy answer to the 55 winter squash we tucked into our root cellar back in October. Plus, the kids *ask* for it.

Ingredients

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One large winter squash (or approx 4 cups cooked squash). We’ve used every squash you can think of. All successful.

1/2 can coconut milk

2-3 eggs

4-6 TBSP softened butter

4 TBSP honey (Optional: we don’t use sweetener, but our kids are brainwashed to think fatted-up winter squash is sweet enough).

1-2 TBSP pumpkin pie spice (cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves)

1 TBSP vanilla

1/2 TBSP salt

Directions

Mix everything in one bowl, or in food processor for super smoothness. Pour into greased casserole dish. Bake at 350F for 40 minutes or until cooked through and nicely browned on top.

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……

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12 Responses leave one →
  1. Emma A permalink
    February 23, 2015

    One of the things i love about your posts is how real they are. I love that your house isn’t magazine perfect – because mine isn’t either. It makes me feel normal, that you can love your kids and they can grow up to be amazing people, and that real life happens around you.

    I want to try the squash custard – you think it would work with yolks only?

  2. February 23, 2015

    Love. The Tin Tin ( I think) and walk overs and more.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      February 23, 2015

      Yes. It’s always either TinTin or Harry Potter, this month anyway. :)

  3. Andrea permalink
    February 23, 2015

    Thank you so much. I feel so much better about all the Legos.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      February 23, 2015

      All The Legos. It seems like a developmental phase. (I actually miss it a little. You could still converse with Col during the legos days).

  4. February 23, 2015

    Your Col reminds me so much of my now 17 year old Alex. We struggled for so long just to learn the alphabet and then reading left us both in tears….now years later he reads 4-5 books a week, even reading Bulfinch’s Mythology just for the fun of it, and I am blown away.

    I prepare your custard recipe, except I put it in the crock pot on low overnight and we eat it for breakfast, good stuff.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      February 23, 2015

      Tracey,
      Seeing Col come into reading late but passionately seems like more evidence that the concept of “grade level” is a bizarre, unhelpful construct.
      And the crock pot method sounds fab.

  5. February 23, 2015

    Loved how you wrote this. Especially the scene at the beginning with Rose asking about Col’s chocolate, her gymnastics, their arguing, his face in a book, etc. I can picture it way too easily.:)

  6. Brenda permalink
    February 23, 2015

    I have to try the squash custard, we still have squash from the garden, and lots in the freezer, sounds very yummy….. HoW and why did Col graduate past Legos? :) My “kids” are in their 30’s and still love Legos…of course they are not on my living room floor anymore, but they are on their kids’ floor…. We always had a “messy” (but once a week clean) house and we raised three kids that got Art degrees… something to be said for messy houses! :)

  7. laura permalink
    February 24, 2015

    i love your posts. so much.

  8. Emily permalink
    March 4, 2015

    Ditto on Laura : )

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