Category Archives: Homelife

the life hacking of school mornings

We are trying to lifehack school mornings, which seem to be some test of American fortitude, or I don’t know, a scheme to increase reliance on snack foods. For the first couple weeks I felt a bit like an anthropologist discovering a highly strange cultural phenomenon. So everyone rises to an alarm and rushes around putting small bits of food in containers and shouting at each other?

Which is to say, mornings are intense. Dan told me a story he heard about 15 elk gathered at a water hole, clicking their teeth territorially at each other. He told me this after I had apparently been clicking my teeth at him trying to move him aside at the stove. After which he pivoted. And I grabbed the pot I needed.
We are on our bikes at 7:45am, all senses deployed as we ride single file through commute chaos, Dan practicing his elk call (he’s been put on notice by Rose to stop before we approach school grounds) and me reminding Rose that it’s not a great time for me to answer questions, unless it’s really important.

“Okay,” she agrees. Three minutes later she wonders cheerily, “Do you say fridge, refridge, or refrigerator?” Right. The really important stuff.

It’s all somewhat surprising, really, to hear Col announce on the way home from school, “I really enjoy the way Mr. Rich teaches math.” I make a point not to fall off  my bike, but just reply, “Oh, cool,” as if I totally saw it coming. Same with all the unprompted showering and changing clothes, something homeschooling at the kitchen table never inspired.

All of which to say, school is going really well for both kids. Col often goes hiking for P.E. and today groups of children spent several hours building boats out of cardboard and duct tape to send their teachers across the river in. During school. It was some sort of team-building competition of engineering, although a friend of mine asked if they were actually trying to drown their teachers.

Offering up an innocent little question to the kids, like, “how does lunch work at your school?” can yield so much information, it can get a little competitive, like if you were interviewing Sonny and Cher simultaneously.

I appreciate the streamlined nature of my new role: feed and support children (and drive them to soccer). Which I find to be much easier than trying to facilitate a whole education.* When they arrive home I am ready with snacks and empathy. Col tells me that he hates when this one boy shares his kettle corn with everyone but him. “Hmm, sounds like you want to be included,” I reply, rather than tracking this boy down and roughing him up, or giving Col a lecture about the nutritional components of kettle corn.

When Rose and I reunite, she usually needs about fifteen minutes to wade through everything that didn’t go quite right: her water bottle leaked, recess was too hot, she didn’t do well on her spelling test, this one boy at her table is disruptive. Offering her the balm of my presence without advice or empty reassurances (“it’ll get better”) is like beating a dusty rug with a broom, eventually all the dust falls away, and the rug is fresh, renewed.

And sometimes if everyone’s really ragged, I pull them close to me and we read, like I did when they were overstimulated toddlers, or exhausted preschoolers, or like I’ve been doing their whole life. I imagine Col calling me someday from work, overwhelmed and aggravated, and I’ll pull out Harry Potter and begin reading.

Speaking of reading, this book was a quick, light and fun read. This memoir was fascinating, funny and heartbreaking all at once, and actually, so was this one, just with way less swearing.

Also, here is a link to my last Durango Herald column, which a friend said was my best, because there was actually a plot.

And, I’ve written many things for Edible Southwest Colorado magazine, if you’re interested:

Squirrel for Dinner – yes, it happened

Bone Broth – nature’s multivitamin

The Great Homemade Dog Biscuit Challenge (in which I got to “interview” some of my fave dogs)

DIY BBQ Condiments

Karlos Baca – indigenous chef forages for a new paradigm

*A friend mentioned she’d been waiting for me to explain why we stopped homeschooling. For us it was a lovely way to keep the kids close when they were young, to avoid the reward/punishment game that most schools rely on for cooperation, and to give them space and freedom to get curious and follow that curiosity. As time passed it become clear that it was challenging for the kids to feel motivated to learn from me and Dan. Last year, trying to teach Rose the difference between it’s and its, I gave her seven sentences to work through. She reported matter-of-fact, “I’ll do four.” And instead of insisting she do them all, I might have said something like, “OK, then lets just snuggle and have a snack.” Which was a clue (one of many) that the parent as teacher dynamic had reached its limit for both of us. 

Oh – and this is Sadie, our latest foster pup. She’s part border collie and part cray cray, but so smart and fun. She often invites our neighbor’s enormous dog over for a playdate and they go wild finding bones and antlers in the yard. And then, Dan busts them for stealing useful bones and antlers out of the solarium, “hey – that’s the deer ulna I use to scrape my hide! And that’s the antler billet I use for flintknapping.”

xo

Rachel

p.s. Accepting any and all suggestions on how to life hack school mornings. My wise friend Carrie suggested that if I got out of bed at 6:30am rather than use that time to watch half an episode of Orange is the New Black, I might end up feeling a bit less frantic. This is the kind of help I need.

August transition

The rains have come, the evening grosbeaks have returned, the zucchini plants are spitting out slender, green fruit, and I just bought a hefty bag of school supplies for Col and Rose. (Rose did a good job of calming me down in the school supply aisle of the Store That Will not be Named when I was possibly over-reacting about the 75 pencils Col is supposed to show up with. But really. 75?).

Which is to say, transition is brewing. Sigh. School starts in 10 days. Archery season starts soon after. Our beloved foster dog is getting adopted today. Mornings and nights carry a chill. And as per mid-August usual, I’m pacing the garden, certain the tomatoes will never ripen before first frost.

Best recipe for fermented pickles here.

I spent much of June and early July trying to keep the garden alive, stopping just short of fanning the spinach on the hottest of days. Now, after steady weeks of rain, mushrooms are sprouting under the ash tree and our bathroom door has so swelled with moisture that we can’t shut it. Not that we ever did much anyway. The rain has made me so magnanimous that yesterday a pair of grasshoppers flagrantly mated in front of the chard—the same nemeses who’ve all summer had a 25 cent bounty on their head—and I just shrugged and laughed.

At home, Col reads and reads (this series, lately), while Rose fills the chicken’s water with fresh mint leaves, trims her own hair, strums through her small repertoire of ukulele songs and leaves a thin, but accumulating scrim of clothes on the floor so that the earth’s crust is no longer its outermost layer.

We leave tomorrow for our weeklong Farewell to Homeschooling Colorado Tour, which is centered around camping, farmers markets, fishing, and some ceremony and acknowledgement around our years of homeschooling and the big transition ahead. The theme is fledge.

Tying flies for fishing. Dan to Col: “My grandfather taught me that when you’re tying a fly you want to make it durable.”

Right now we’re packing: the recent overabundant crop of zucchinis, the last of the wild meat, many books, and Dan announces he’d like to bring (in our already jammed up Subaru) his 3D foam, lifesize deer archery target. I wait for him to laugh, letting me know this is a joke. “I could remove the legs,” he suggests.

With love and affection in these waning days of summer,

Rachel

p.s. From the “there you have it” files:


Reading is medicine and other summer discoveries

“I feel so much better,” Rose tells me after a midday slump, in which she was certain we’d already spent our whole summer at home, isolated and lonely, wringing feeble drops of fun out of a motley assortment of neglected playthings.

I didn’t mention that we had just returned from a mother-daughter backpacking trip with friends, or that she had declined a tubing invite for the sake of rest and regrouping after skinny-dipping in mountain lakes and “feeling so responsible” hefting her pack through the mountains. I hugged her, listened, murmured my understanding and led her to the couch to read to her. Because reading is medicine.

Alternative reading positions.

Everything else is so July-familiar: the way I’m waiting for the monsoons without an ounce of equanimity – the clouds aggregating and posturing like teenagers while I feel only greed; the way Rose cruises through the buffet of our garden nabbing peas, raspberries, serviceberries, and cherry tomatoes – and how I pretend to care that she gets first crack, but secretly love her foraging ways; the way I return euphorically sweaty from early morning runs, Col greeting me at the door with a hug that he retracts when he sees how damp I am and then overrides it, falling into my arms; the way I tell Dan that I’ve got a good idea and he says, “really?!?” eyeing the bedroom.

I think summer is halfway over, if school starting up is the benchmark. This may or may not be the time to announce that after six years of homeschooling, the kids are going to (a project-based) public school this fall. I know. What is this: 6512 and growing institutionalized learners?

The metaphor here, Dan says, is that for so long we fed our babies in the nest and now they’re ready to fly. And there’s so much more to it, like the part about how I never exactly loved being my child’s teacher. I loved snuggling on the couch while we read another chapter of Harry Potter (language arts?), loved lounging around making cookie balls in our pajamas (fractions?), loved that they had time to play, so much time to play.

But also, honestly? I feel a huge sense of relief in handing over this responsibility to someone else. I have ambitions that don’t involve selecting and overseeing another semester of curriculum. I don’t want to be the enforcer of sentence capitalization.

And I will miss them like crazy. I will worry about the pressures of school, popular culture and fitting in. I will secretly wonder if much of institutionalized learning is a time- and soul-suck. And I will remind myself that Col and Rose are emotionally intelligent and self-aware, cooperative yet empowered, and that they love to read; and if that’s what came from our past six years of homeschooling (plus an encyclopedic knowledge of airplanes and excellent gymnastics skills), then I’ll celebrate that.

What we’re reading:

The kids and I are reading Land of Stories, about which I feel the same way I do when the kids ask to play at a park – like some wholesome, innocent nub of their childhood still remains. Also because Col is reading books in which children are starving and parentless and pitted against each other, this series seems really tame, despite all the (predictable) villains. And I’m not even talking about Hunger Games, though he loved that series too.

Col is devouring this and this series.

I read and loved:

The Leavers (novel – about immigration and adoption, China and NYC, and the most gorgeous, wrenching, arresting writing).

Unsettlers (non-fiction – about people breaking up with consumerism and forging their own way in America).

All These Wonders (delightful, illuminating and surprising true stories from the Moth live storytelling event)

And the Dark and Sacred Night (fiction so believable you forget you’re reading about people that don’t exist).

The Bright Hour: a memoir of living and dying (memoir – painfully beautiful and heartbreaking).

Love,

Rachel

Sustenance for the long haul (raw cookie balls)

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?

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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

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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.

Here’s all the ingredients for the oatmeal cookie balls (minus the 10 gallon tub of coconut oil that we hoist around on a dolly):

Don’t let anyone run their fingers through the ingredients. That’s disgusting:

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

Prep time: fifteen minutes

Ingredients:

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

Directions

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.

Sustenance for the long haul:

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,

Rachel

December everything

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.

Greenhouse wealth

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:

Also cheap and highly effective: Dog Therapy! Especially when the dog will let you drape a pink bathrobe over her on a cold, snowy day.

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,

Rachel

 

nighttime parenting

rose

It is 2am. I am on the living room couch with Rosie, who ghosted up to my bedside whisper-whimpering, “My ankle hurts and I can’t sleep.”

I rub arnica salve into her right leg, this startlingly lanky appendage snaking across my lap. Even in the dark I can sense she is forlorn. “Do you feel that bump?” she asks, drawing the word “bump” into two of the saddest syllables ever uttered. “That’s where Col pushed me down,” she sniffs. I refrain from a lawyerly objection to this middle of the night testimony, although last I remember Rose was kicking up into vigorous handstands a millimeter from Col’s pillow-shielded face and everyone was shrieking with laughter.

“Oh honey,” I murmur, while trying to harness my mind back from the full catastrophe of nighttime parenting. Those irrepressibly sunny daytime hours shine light into the mysterious folds of my brain, illuminating the neural centers of rational thinking, hope, and solutions. You can practically see the mental window-washers, whistling while keeping the storefronts clean and clear. But at night, when unable to sleep, the wolf of anxiety howls inside my cramped mind and the thorns of my minuscule problems become deeply, painfully embedded.

I realize that this is exactly what’s happening with Rosie. She wakes at night, alone in the precarious dark, where stuffed animals shapeshift and the shadowy darkness presses in. It’s alarming to be wide awake in the long, lonely night when everyone else in the house is safely, obliviously cocooned in the balm of sleep. So she lowers her pajamaed feet down the ladder of her top bunk to find some reassurance and comfort.

“I feel that bump,” I tell Rosie, “It feels like a bruise is forming. I’m glad you woke me up. Getting this arnica on there will help.” She leans her pony-weight into me and maybe for the first time I understand the task of nighttime parenting. I don’t need to fix her ankle pain, or tummy ache or whatever the current 2am malady is. I just need to offer her comfort, reassurance, presence. She needs the soothing tones of a parent whispering that she is safe from whatever simmers in her own 9-year old mind alone in the flat, inky night.

I feel my own nervous system unclench and I sense Rosie relaxing too. I know that we will both be back asleep soon, and that a groggy day tomorrow isn’t a real problem. In fact, I feel strangely grateful to be here with her on our long-suffering couch in the darkened house, as if tonight the nighttime has activated not my usual neurotic murmurings but the pure sweetness of being able to comfort and reassure a child who won’t be a child forever.

She thanks me for the arnica rub and tells me that her ankle is feeling much better. I carry her back to bed, the solid heft of her like a hay bale with limbs. She’s almost asleep by the time I lay her back down.

learning curve

Dear Ones,

It seems to be a time of accelerated, painful growth. Not like the growth that may or may not happen while sitting contemplatively on the beach in Kauai, but more like the growth that happens when you realize that you’ve been obliviously insulated by your own white, heterosexual privilege; or when trying to truly understand (rather than only rally against) some of the forces that create racism, sexism and mistrust of “the other.” As head of the Anti-Defamation league said in an interview yesterday, “This is a wake up call.”

thanksI am reading this. 

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This helps too.

I’m finding more questions than answers. Like, how to listen even when someone’s words make you flinch. How to seek news from sources other than what you consider to be gospel (and then noticing the accelerated flinching this causes). How to act without contributing to the divide. How to hear the needs behind someone’s opinions, even those opinions launched like a smoking grenade into the crowded spaces of social media.

Let me know when you’ve got it figured out, ok?

Until then, we’re doing what we can. Like, hosting a community letter writing campaign so we can let our lawmakers know our values. Followed by some fierce potlucking and soccer.

We’re also engaging in the ever effective dog therapy, which may be the shortest, cheapest route to glimpses of inner peace.

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Also, I cut Col’s hair, feel free to compliment him on it!

Yesterday we crammed our house with children, and I would have never known when Col and Rose were babies, that a houseful of sweet kids playing a ruthless game of Monopoly was all I ever wanted. Later, they played a round of Quiddler while drinking tea. Can we just skip the rebellion part of adolescence and stick with this track? I’ll provide the tea and boardgames.

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Dan and I climbed up the shale hills behind our house to watch the spectacular moonrise, discussing how we wanted to devote part of the kids’ Christmas break to contributing to the well-being of others. And then we butchered a roadkill deer and traded half of it to a farmer for 20 pounds of onions. Which, I don’t know, somehow seems connected.

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I would have loved Col’s new cartoon creation even if they were cigarettes, but thankfully, these are “crayon guys:” Mike and Bob.

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Rose’s cartoon character is called a “twid.” The boy twids have two horns, the girls have bows and when Rosie casually announced that there is a third gender: unitwids, which have one horn, I wanted to leap into the openness of her mind while giving her a standing ovation. Instead I said, “Oh unitwids? With one horn? Cool.” Because this is the kind of thinking that is going to change our world.

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Girl twid with unitwid friend.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and I so hope you are gathering with people who contribute to your well being. Here’s a little something I wrote about gathering and thankfulness, two things which feel a little holy right now.

p.s. How’s your learning curve in this post-election season? Please do share.

p.p.s. If you subscribe to get e-mail notifications of new 6512 blog posts and haven’t been, things seem to have been a little wonked-up in that dept. My blog goddess Mary Beth is helping me work things out. We’re trying MailChimp as a new way to e-mail subscribers. If you were previously subscribed and are not getting new notifications, consider signing up on upper right. Right, Mary Beth?

Love,

Rachel

 

September

Oh September.

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The end.

If I had just one more arm I could read to the kids while pitting plums. Or, make this while sweeping soccer mud off the floor. The grapes are purpling, the tomatoes are juicing up, the apricots are conducting their own middle school biology fruit-fly experiment. (I recently taught a canning class in which I explained that if you opened an apricot and found a little white worm, just discard it with the pit; the apricot is fine. Later—like 2 seconds later—I wondered if that’s the sort of advice that keeps me from rising like a star in my field. Just kidding, I don’t really have a field.)

New September chores are inventing themselves, like: clip spent cosmos flowers daily to prevent the deposit of billions of seeds, while swooning over the pinkness of those in bloom. Or, teach Rosie to actually bring green beans, cherry tomatoes and grapes inside rather than simply raccooning around the yard (just kidding, I love how she grazes at the backyard buffet). Dan says,”it’s that season when you have a sneaking suspicion that there’s something lurking in the fridge or garden that you should be eating.” Indeed. I am haunted by a 5-pound turnip.

We’ve started homeschooling again, meaning another year of experimentation and prayer. However, we walked out of the library recently, and Col said about his teetering stack of self-chosen books, “I can’t wait to get started on these.” Later that same day, walking a Humane Society dog, Col reached up on the river trail and grabbed a shiny brown acorn, shelled it and popped it in his mouth. And I thought, well, my work here seems to be complete.

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September is the month of Dan bow-hunting, which is so traditional it seems to be encoded into our DNA. The familiarity of slipping skins off green chiles, or salting cucumbers into pickles while the house is bright and loud with children is terribly reassuring. These days solo-parenting is less about swooping around with a rag in hand (ready to wipe butts, faces, chins, floor) and more about connecting with these increasingly independent children.

Without another parent on which to deflect responsibility (Maybe Dan will make dinner, I think lazily from my Facebook haze), we become this small, rag-tag team, this 3-person pod conducting our own little nurture-fest. I become so available! They lap it up! I feel so fulfilled! We break out the same 700-piece puzzle that vexes us every hunting season (still vexing). We bike to the farmers market, play boardgames with grandmas at the UU Church on Friday night, lounge around the house utterly plan-less, choreographing the day in real time. I consent to my annual game of Monopoly, bored out of my skull, yet filled with the joy of being a mother who will play Monopoly with her kids. The September weather is endlessly perfect regardless of sun or rain; and even in the midst of whatever sibling nano-crisis is occuring, we are rich with the blessings of this season.

September, now:

:: We got to have Chica for a two week sleepover, and I swear, we all became kinder, gentler humans in her presence. If anyone knows of a small, fun, kid-friendly dog who likes to take morning runs and give kisses, please don’t tell me about it.

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The moment where life has a distinct before and after: Chica discovers elk liver. 

Also, we loved this book, in which a rescue dog, much like Chica, brings people together.

:: Dan, “I can’t believe we live on an earth with this sort of bounty.”

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Gorgeous Boletus edulis.

:: Boletes, when sauteed, taste like bacon cake.

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:: Do you see how I can get a little distracted when Dan’s around? Holy moly! The fruit, the fruit! Just talking about all that fruit.

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:: The kids took home some big ribbons in the La Plata County Fair. Col, for his watercolor of an Indonesian fishing boat.sept now17

And Rose, for her bouquet titled “fruit fireworks” which included apricots, chokecherries, rose hips and crab apples.sept now16
:: Just in case you have a few sneaker zukes around, recipe for zucchini sliders:
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:: Don’t forget to eat your broccoli leaves, and freeze copious greens to slip in your children’s mac and cheese.

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:: For the historic 2016 Southwest fruit bonanza, my Fruit leather recipe:

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:: My absolute favorite thing in the garden:sept now13

Sending ALL the love, wishing for you ALL the blessings, and that maybe you will find yourself playing your least favorite board game with your most favorite people, and finding the hidden wealth therein.

xo,

Rachel

summer snaps

Rose is fumbling in her wallet while explaining to me that she owes Col a dollar.

Me: Oh yeah? What for?

Rose: For giving me a massage, painting my nails and counseling.

Me: (turning to Col) Counseling?

Col: Yup.

Me: What happens in this counseling?

Col: We discuss her needs.

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The borrow-a-dog-to-combat-election-stress plan is working great! Drop your dogs off at Tupperware Heights. We will snuggle them until everyone feels better.

Turns out summer is this strange phenomenon, parts of it warp-speeding by while I gape in bewilderment and panic. Other minutes stretch into a sticky eternity of frenzied boredom, everyone flinging themselves and their neurosis cumbersomely around the house.

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The days I like best are when we’re all together for these brief cosmic stretches of harmony, everyone living out their particular notion of home. Col whistles a symphony while snapping together legos in the cool, dark opium den of his room. Rose zips around the garden, pulling carrots, snarfing hard, unripe, stomach-acidifying grapes and presenting me with assortments of palm-sweaty berries. Dan is in some stage of hide-tanning, which looks a lot like the exact stage he was at last week, last month, last year because it’s all a little pleasingly repetitive.

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Behind Rose is the deer/elk hair pile, a byproduct of tanning so many hides. Filed under: strange things that have proven to be useful that you can find in our yard.
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The vultures are circling to the south. Tomatoes are both mundanely and miraculously turning red. One chicken is flaunting a worm she just nabbed while her sisters chase her. And I am in the garden contemplating our latest set of non-problems, like: how can I get adult salads (kale, chard, arugula) to merge with kid salads (lettuce, lettuce and more lettuce)? Should Rose be paying Col for his services? (And, could I benefit from Col’s counseling services?) How did my kids become such capitalists? Who’s going to homeschool my kids if there is an uprising in the house and Dan and I revolt?

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Growing a garden is such an unruly way to eat. We’re currently in a frenzied prosperity of spinach. A mutiny of green leaves winks suggestively, and slightly threateningly, from the garden. Eat me. Water me. Save me from bolting. Hey, hey you! Yet, in another week, spinach will be scarce and we’ll all be crying from missing it. We’re just safely passing out of our cherry-abundance, when we all had a daily quota and the cherries would ripen a little more fully every time we turned our backs; now we are hording the last few bags. There is no moderation.

Our monsoon season seems to have started (!!), which for Col means playing soccer in the rain; for me it means the garden can finally be all it wants to be, and for Rose, well,  yesterday she told me, “I have a problem. When my clothes get wet from rain I leave them in a pile and they get stinky.”

Summer snaps:

:: We just finished up the cherry harvest, now moving onto apricots. We’ve secured picking options to several apricot trees and are now feeling a deep sense of security.

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:: Did you want a rat update? Well, despite grim prognoses from the extremely compassionate and competent people at Kindness Animal Hospital (who not only don’t laugh at us for showing up with our ragged, elderly rat, but call to check on her and Rose), the little rodent seems to be thriving in her avocado-snarfing golden years. Every night I pray that if she has to die today, please let it not be between the hours of 7pm and 9pm, which would greatly disrupt bedtime.

:: Driving home from the mountains recently and listening to our one car music option—the radio!—Dan started beat boxing.

“Dadeeeeee!” Rose protested in embarrassment.

“What? You didn’t know Daddies could be cool? I was cool before you were even born.”

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I was wondering why a ladder was propped up against the shed.

:: My first batch of garlic. Who knew you could haphazardly push a clove into the ground in October and in April it would shoot up green and lush making you feel like a wildly successful gardener.
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:: We spent almost two weeks with my dear cousin Amy, her husband and their three boys. It was ridiculous fun. I want them to move here immediately. Amy had spiritual experiences picking cherries and walking through the chest-high wildflowers, you know, the things we do every July.summersnaps8

Amy’s sons were endlessly fascinated with Dan, who always seemed to be into some project that involved antlers, animal brains, knives, etc… Here are two cousin-boys not missing a second of Dan sawing off a dead chokecherry limb at our campsite.snaps

:: My beautiful, wise, kind parents. Come back soon, please.summersnaps7

:: Our blessed, odd, urban homestead. Long may it thrive!

snaps5The hot pink in the background are Rose’s upside down legs.

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Col is trying to get me to give him a dollar bill in exchange for a half dollar coin. He lists the four reasons he thinks I should agree:

  1. The half dollar is bigger than a quarter.
  2. You don’t see them all the time.
  3. Might be worth more money someday.
  4. He found it in the driveway so it’s good luck.

“I like that you thought this out,” I tell my little Alex P. Keaton, “but I aint no suckah.”

Col: (thinking) “Okay. Then will you give me 75 cents?”

Enjoy the rest of summer friends,

Rachel

summer 2016

summer2Summer is this precious bird, so exotic and lovely and fleeting. Miracles are occurring daily in the garden, by which I mean sun + rain + soil = food, which sounds somewhat like 2nd grade biology, but still, it astonishes me every season. It’s like there’s some unseen force plumping up peaches and luring bean plants to the sky.

Our house has become an accordion, expanding with children and then squeezing them out into the yard, the street, the trampoline. Rose knows all the neighbors’ knocks. Pound pound pound. That’s Kamea. Soft repetitive raps. Chloe and Jordan. Owen and Lyle burst through the door and then knock as an afterthought. No one is turned away.

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This is a subliminal message: you will now pour your coffee into ice cube trays.

The days last forever and still we can’t seem to unpack soggy bathing suits, send off the water bill, find the escaped rat. (Dan comes in from tanning hides and I say, “Rat’s on the lam.” And he sighs, “Is this the same being lost as this morning, or is this a new being lost?”) A little summer homeschooling sounds like a really good idea, but, what –  I’m going to pry the kids from their lego airport building/novel reading/street soccer practice to run through multiplication tables?

Bedtime is a moving target, hovering farther in the distance each night, the children breaking free from their bunkbeds and appearing by our bedside at hours that used to belong only to me and Dan.

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For the grandparents: we’re not totally off the homeschooling wagon. Col reading his work at the kids creative writing class I’m teaching. In our yard. To his best friends. It’s very formal.

I’ve given up on cooking. It’s just too repetitive and heat-producing. Everyone can fry their own egg and forage for a popsicle. Last week before heading out to Junction Creek for the day I threw some sweet potato chips into the leftover rice I was heating up for Col and immediately felt redeemed. Steamed chips, people. I couldn’t tell if I was a kitchen genius or shameless slacker. Turns out I forgot to pack him a spoon, but Col found one at the base of a cottonwood tree, which turned out to be the very spoon I left there several days ago. Or close enough.

This is the time of year I move through the garden like a life coach, supporting every plant to be their best. I spent this morning yanking laboriously transplanting the many dill and cosmos seedlings that sprouted in the carrot patch back in May, seeming just like cute neighbors at the time.

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Rose likes to take a few trips around the yard on her yard sale crutches everyday while she’s waiting for something exciting to happen.

Rose has been extremely excited about making mint tea from the garden—Watch, I don’t need any help. I can do this all by myself, Mama—and less excited about drinking it. It’s like living with a raccoon, our house and yard full of half-finished glasses of murky-colored water.

The strangest development is I’ve been getting out early and running with my dog-friend, Lucy. I am the waddliest, most awkward runner and sometimes feel I should offer an explanation to the other morning trail users, like why I’m panting while moving so slowly. My goal is 30 minutes, but if a Taylor Swift song comes on Rosie’s iPod at 28 minutes, I am good for a full 32, and while Taylor sings “I’m feeling 22…” I retort: “X two, babe,” and then endorphin all the way home busting the Tupperware Heights finish line tape.

Sometimes I can’t believe we get this rare bird gift called summer. Today, Col and a small posse of friends spent the morning gathered around the lego pile, collaborating on the spaceships of their dreams. Meanwhile, outside, Rose and her girlfriends lounged on the trampoline, talking. I wanted to eavesdrop on these kids all morning, these happy, giggling, engaged children. But I had a few hundred dill and cosmos seedlings to find homes for.

OUTTAKES:

:: Our sweet rat is on hospice. She has some incurable tumors and is expected to live just a matter of months. She’s in no pain and as friendly as ever. The good thing is that now we all feel mandated to offer her homemade almond milk and other treats from our fridge.
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:: Gotta love a piano teacher who offers outdoor lessons:summer5

:: Dan’s new mushroom cards! Available in his etsy shop (Right, Dan? You did list them, yes?). Also, see the summer issue of Edible Southwest Colorado for more of his art.

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:: I can’t believe I get to share a planet with Parry’s primrose.

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:: And, that squat alpine sunflower: old man on the mountain:summer10

:: Rose and I went on a mother/daughter backpacking trip! She loved it, mostly because her borrowed pack “had all these zippers I could put snacks in!” Good enough for me.

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:: Scrabble at 11,000 feet. Pinch me.

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Love,

Rachel