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resolutions for training the silly, over-active, sneaky mind

2015 January 6
by Rachel Turiel


New Years Day soup lunch with the beloveds. Note: tablecloth! And white-out snow conditions outside!

It’s 10:30pm on New Year’s Eve, two hours after our children are usually nestled into bunk beds. We’re with friends, their living room turned dance floor packed with the bendy bodies of children and their parents. There are toddlers spinning and stomping, pre-schoolers believing the spotlight belongs solely to them, and the 7-10 year old crowd, all leggy grace and giggles.

Brothers, Lee and Danny, spin tunes from the inner machinations of their smartphones, noting to the children like professors of the class, Decades in Music Appreciation: The 80’s, “This song was huge when I was your age.” Out blasts Michael Jackson, Madonna, REM, and regrettably, Vanilla Ice. Although I might not have been shaking my ass (or slow-dancing to the occasional Journey ballad with Rose) if I wasn’t here with the kids, in the blurred factions of children and adults, it’s hard to say who’s having more fun.


Though the passing into a new calendar year is an arbitrary transition, and as all great spiritual teachers (and most toddlers) remind us, each moment is brand new, I like taking this opportunity to assess where greater degrees of effort or acceptance are warranted in my life. A resolution is an intention, an intention is a powerful act of self-love. And as pointed out last night at the Durango Dharma Center, a resolution is for the purpose of training. Training these silly, over-active, sneaky minds of ours.

I seek to carry out this parenting gig consciously, with continual intention towards connection and peace, which includes a good measure of falling. (Paraphrasing a Zen monk: “There is standing up practice and falling down practice.”) Creating peace and connection in our family never comes from simply wishing and waiting. Rather, it comes from gentle and pointed effort, active forgiveness, and a willingness to regard my children as deserving the same respect and kindness I expect. (In fact I just read somewhere that the best way to ensure a respectful relationship with your teenager is to nurture a two-way connection of respect now).


If Hugh Hefner drank hot chocolate and lived in  snow country. 

The funny thing is that this is not exactly intuitive. There were times that I would have downloaded an app into my brainstem and given a pint of flesh for a roadmap called “child compliance” to lead me through the thick trees of parenting, no matter the method. But, too many of these “methods” (wait – is yelling and excessive sighing a method?) gave me an existential hang over immediately afterwards. (Which is a good barometer: if you feel remorse after interacting with your child, this is an indicator that there are places that need gentle attention).

ny3All Col ever wanted for Christmas: a big ball of pine resin to burn.

There are myriad parenting books, coaches and classes. There are websites, support groups and inspirational Facebook quotes. There is the sacred act of taking a deep breath before responding to your children, remembering that all their misconduct is a function of them trying to get their normal, human needs met.

Dr Laura Markham, author of Peaceful Parents, Happy Kids, explains, “Troublesome behavior signals big feelings or unmet needs. If you don’t address the feelings and needs, they’ll just burst out later, causing other problem behavior.”

And really, this is good news. When all our efforts towards initiating complicated reward charts and tiered systems of punishments are put towards determining our children’s unmet needs, the road to peace becomes shorter. Your child will benefit more from the lasting power of being understood than the short term faux-fix of a time out.

Often the need is as simple as wanting to be heard and acknowledged. How many times do we breeze through our agendas, sweeping our children along without letting them know we understand their point of view. Maybe they’re sick of accompanying us on errands, or they’re involved in a book and don’t want to come to dinner. We might not be able to change the circumstances (dinner is ready; errands must be done), but we can empathize with their position, share how much we too hate to be interrupted when engrossed in a book, and perhaps brainstorm after dinner with our child on how to ease the transition. As we begin to identify our children’s needs, they will often learn they can bypass the “bad” behavior and simply state their needs, trusting they will be heard and efforts will be made towards true solutions.


It’s after 11:00pm when we finally arrive home, full of New Years cheer. How grateful I am to be in the position of celebrating New Year’s Eve with my children (dancing with my 9-year old!), rather than nervously awaiting their return home from teenage festivities as will someday be the case. Col explains how the night went to Dan who was home teaching a bow-making class, “We jumped on the bed, we ate, and we rocked out.”

May your family peace and connection increase in this new year.

* Incidentally, the kids and I just had another late night dancing to Carute Roma, Durango’s own gypsy band. The kids think staying out late dancing is our new thing, and why not? Anyone need a few, enthusiastic groupies?


I find I need support for doing anything that flows counter to the mainstream (I rely on my friend Melanie for quarterly homeschooling pep-talks; my artist-friend Jo gives me the much-appreciated straight talk on living the poorly-compensated, highly-fulfilling artist’s life; Julia, Sue and Jennifer and I console each other regularly over trying to raise kids on a nineteenth century farm diet; I have a whole community of people I meditate with (falling down practice) every Monday night; and I tend to hang out with people who never tell me to look on the bright side when I’m feeling down).

Perhaps you too need support in creating more peace and connection in your home. Some resources: (all of which I’ve directly benefitted from).

Websites and coaches

Dr Laura Markham’s website Aha! Parenting

Nathan Mc Tague for life/parent-coaching

Kathleen Hennessy – Peaceworks coaching for parents


Peaceful Parent, Happy Child by Dr. Laura Markham

Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg

Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn

Kids are Worth It by Barbara Coloroso

How to talk so kids will listen and listen so kids will talk – Faber and Mazlish 

Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne

Positive Discipline by Jane Nelson

With love,




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willing, or, the best roasted tomato sauce ever

post-holiday magic

2014 December 30
by Rachel Turiel


Incidentally, she’s singing, not screaming (but that could change quick).

Col (Flipping through an airplane book on the couch): I really want to fly on a 747.

Rose (Also on the couch, holding a Christmas song book): Ok class, now we’re going to sing…Little Town of Betterham!

Col: Little Town of BETHLEHEM.

Me: Isn’t that what we usually fly on?

Col: That’s a seven thirty seven, Mom.

Rose (indignantly): Col, this one says BETTERHAM. Ready, class? (starts singing off tune, happily and obliviously mangling the words).

Dan (whipping up egg nog in the kitchen at 7:42 am and then serving frothy glasses to all of us, the lucky amongst us including rum): I’m egg moNOGamous!


Dan, softening a deer hide in our unheated sunroom. Soon to show up in Dan’s ETSY shop amongst other treasures of the wild. Outside: 36F and breezy. That southwestern sun works! 

If you saw a time lapse video of our lives right now, it would look like we were living our entire lives on the couch in various permutations of people, animals and flotsam. This is where we read Harry Potter, the kids rioting like fans at a rock concert at the end of each chapter. More! Just! One! More! Chapter! This is where Col does his airplane drawings, pouring the entirety of his essence into each drawing and then starting anew each morning. Rose colors in her Frozen coloring book, which Dan surprised her with for Hanukkah (after opening it she held it to her chest and said, “I feel so spoiled,” which just goes to show that depriving your children of all material happiness can work in your favor). This is also where the rat runs free, chewing small holes in the couch and sneakily peeing on people while they’re distractedly engrossed in stories of Hogwarts. (I am totally sending my kids “Howlers” when they’re in college. ROSE!! PUT DOWN THE CORN-SYRUPED GLUTEN BOMB!! COL!!! LOOK INTO HER EYES WHEN YOU TALK TO HER!!!)

For Christmas we got SNOW and a roadkill doe. Like Rose, I feel so spoiled.

post holiday3

post holiday4

The kids get off the couch solely to run and jump back on the couch, executing various “jump kicks” that Rose swears originated in her gymnastics class. “Do you want to see me do swizzles, levers, scissors or plain kicks?” Rose asks 100 times a day, including right as I’ve committed to the five minutes of focused whisking required to make mayonnaise. Dan has created categories in which he and Col judge Rose. She now, in hopes of scoring big on “crowd interaction,” flashes a smile and a wink before launching onto the couch.

post holiday5

We also slink off the couch to play Ticket to Ride, which is super fun and doesn’t require any capitalistic aggression to win like Monopoly or Risk, which we also like, as long as we’re the ones winning. You actually can’t know who is winning Ticket to Ride until the very end, which keeps morale strong throughout the game.

Is it OK to say that I’m glad Christmas is over? That I felt such relief when my favorite radio station returned to cheesy Styx ballads after a month of Christmas songs that made me feel pestered into a neurotic serial cheeriness. It turns out the post-holiday season is where the magic lies. The egg nog is still flowing but strangers are no longer baring their full complement of teeth asking my children if they’ve been good for Santa. It has been snowing and extremely cold here, which makes me feel cocooned in something special, even if it’s just the same fleece pants I’ve been wearing for four days straight and the fantasy that we’ll get snowed in and have to eat our way through the root cellar, pantry and freezer, kids showing up merrily for another meal of elk sausage and root vegetables…oh wait, that’s how it is now, minus the merry.

Our post-holiday days are unrolling slowly and by the minute. There’s another 3-6 inches of snow forecasted for New Years Day, a bit more egg nog and fleece pants on the schedule, and surely many more hours on the couch. Thank you, winter.

New Years Blessings to you ALL,



* In my efforts to have more frivolous fun, I did not wait for the movie Wild to come out on Netflix, but WENT TO THE THEATRE (AFTER DARK!) to see it with my friend, Sue. The fact that the last movie I saw in the theatre was Brokeback Mountain may or may not qualify me to judge, well…anything, but I loved the movie, Wild, extremely very much.

* Sledding: when the hair flies or you capsize, it’s extra good.

post holiday7

post holiday9

* After finding a small passel of knuckle bones at the bottom of our soup pot (thanks, bone broth), we’ve been engrossed in creating a game to play with them. Suggestions welcome.

post holiday

This is some circular toss game Rose is developing.

post holiday2

Dan’s current challenge: stack all nine bones…he’s up to seven.

Peace on Earth and Goodwill to All Beings.


My phone, by the way, is so retro, it’s actually cool. At least in your grandma’s circles.

P.S. Thank you for all your book suggestions; my library hold list is full with anticipatory excitement!

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2014 December 17
by Rachel Turiel

I’ve been waking up at 5am, which seems crazy except I’ve been falling asleep at 9pm, which puts me at a square 8 hours. Early morning is proving to be the best reading time, at least until 6am when Col crawls into our bed, floppy-limbed, his mind rumbling in a low, nostalgic gear suitable only for professions of love. You’re the best Mama, he whispers. And Daddy’s the best Daddy he mumbles towards Dan’s slumbering body. I love everything about you, he says like an investment against his future teenage self. 

dec5Pojupifir plus kids plus our new foster kitten, Axie (named, in a tradition, after my latest literary heroine, see below)

We’ve been entering the holidays, which I’m happy to say has been our typical spirited mash-up, all of which could provide material for the Sinatra holiday video remix of I’ll do it My Way. Which is to say, tradition is simply what we, as co-captains of the family, present to the crew. We cut a few choice conifer limbs for what Rose calls a “Hanukkah bush,” and Col calls “Pojupifir” (adapted from its combined parts: ponderosa, juniper, pinon, fir).

Last night we celebrated the first night of Hanukkah with gluten free butternut squash-potato latkes (topped with green chile sauce and chokecherry-applesauce), cheap red wine and some high stakes dreidel with Col and Rose’s Jewish cronies. (Note to self: for every ounce of red wine, ten ounces water, old girl). On Christmas Eve we’re cooking venison lasagna at the homeless shelter, because my new understanding of Christmas is that it’s about giving. I’ve realized that all the Christmasy things we don’t do no longer put me in a neurotic tailspin of over-analyzation. The kids are getting more comfortable with being different, with being us, which is something I hope they can draw from as teenagers, that we never did anything just because everyone else was doing it. 

Bring your own menorah!

Because the kids have everything they could ever possibly need and want, we’re giving them this for Hanukkah:


Choose Your Own Adventure Sleepover. I figure it’s like being on a cruise ship and having the luxury of choosing your meals and activities. No?

Also, we’ve been practicing for winter by spending a lot of time on the couch reading. The kids and I are cruising through Harry Potter, which they’ve already read with their grandparents, but are enjoying immensely knowing what comes next but arguing over it anyway. To get past Fluffy you say, Good Dog, Col. No, that’s absolutely wrong, Rosie. Of course, I love reading Harry Potter to them, partially because I spend hours bookended by their warm bodies while the dishes go undone (Not true; Dan is a dish angel), and partially because I love Hermione.


I just finished this masterfully-written novel. It had all the elements of good fiction and is about the plucky daughter of poor Irish immigrants who, by unexpected turns, becomes a NYC midwife practicing in the late 1800’s. Not only is the writing lively, rich and absolutely gorgeous (I read about ten of her metaphors to my children’s writing class), but it’s an enlightening glimpse into women’s reproductive rights in the 19th century, which were a sad, secretive thing that women hardly owned. This is one of those books that cocoons you in another time and place, leaving you changed just a little bit for the better. I honestly can’t recommend it enough.


I also loved this book. The message is basically that American kids are unprecedentedly picky eaters and guess who made them that way? The author, who once had two terribly picky eaters before moving to France for a year, believes that all of our wealth and privileged choices plus 21st century parental guilt and lack of a strong culinary tradition has created entitled children who snack constantly yet have little respect for food. Ouch. Not at all a sanctimonious book, the author learns lessons the hard way. (Lessons being: Adults and kids eat the same thing. Reduce snacking, feeling hungry between meals is OK. Relax and enjoy eating, no bribes or rewards). We have revamped our eating habits since reading this, and though my kids often say, “but we’re nottttttt French!…” everyone’s coming to the table hungrier and eating more variety (aka vegetables!).

And if you need more reading material, this book is an absolute freaking gift to humanity (Nevermind her bestseller that is now a movie, this is truly her most stunning book). And this book, recommended by you dear people years ago, remains ever one of my most favorites.

* Thank you to everyone who supported a young artist. Col is beaming with the enthusiasm of the encouraged. I am happy to report that unbeknownst to me he used some of his new funds to buy his sister a fairy ornament. If you haven’t received your cards yet, we are waiting for the second printing (!!) and will ship out before Christmas. Also, excitingly, this exposure netted him commissioned work as an illustrator on a children’s book…written by a friend…for her extended family…but, still!

* Now that I’ve finished My Notorious Life (at 5:56am this morning, just in time for Col’s arrival) I’m having major book withdrawal. Send suggestions quick! 5am is not the same without a good book!

With love and gratitude,



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artist at work

2014 December 10
by Rachel Turiel

Despite interloping rats, parents with homeschooling agendas, and sisters who feel emboldened to doodle on artwork that doesn’t belong to them, Col has spent much of the past five months working on a series of airplane drawings. Working? Well, he might say he’s simply been sketching. Sketching on the couch, under the table, in his bed, sketching so constantly, eagerly and almost involuntarily, it’s like his hand has its own plan and Col is just along for the ride.

(I’m sorry the photo formatting on this post is wacky. I’m going to choose to believe that having the courage to blog with minimal understanding of my own computer is part of what you love about me).

Col selected his ten favorite airplane drawings and had greeting cards printed to sell. I’d like to report that some portion of the sales are slated for his favorite charity, but alas, all profits will go towards building his personal fortune and the dream of becoming a hundredaire (lesser examined step on the way to millionaire).

If you would like to support a budding artist and purchase a set, he is selling 5-packs with envelopes for $3.50, and 10-packs with envelopes for $6.50. If you are local we can hand-deliver. If you are out of the area, we will ship. Please add an extra dollar for shipping.

To order, see fancy paypal button below (be sure to include your address), or e-mail me {sanjuandrive(at)frontier(dot)net} and we can work something less high-tech out.




Airplane Greeting Cards

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California: bold as love

2014 December 2
by Rachel Turiel


They call this winter in California. Also, blacktail deer deep in the Eucalyptus off to the left.

1) Foraging. We’re cruising down some tree-stacked street in Berkeley when Dan calls out, “STOP!” It’s persimmons this time. A stout tree loaded with shiny orange fruit wearing papery green collars. Dan gathers five off the ground and pops them in a bag. The last stop was for the fondling of lemons yellowing on a tree, before that: a handful of bay leaves (currently simmering back home in a batch of bone broth), rosemary sprigs cut from a veritable shrub that is more landscaping than food, and a small collection of what Dan claimed were raw olives. They call this winter in Northern California (in a drought, no less), but to us it’s a wonderland of sensory delights.


Persimmons smuggled home.

2) The Ocean. Pelicans and dolphins and sand foot massages. Pure magic.



3) Grandparents. Every morning at 6:30 am Col and Rose eject themselves from our bed and bounce down the hall to my parents’ bedroom for snuggles. Giggles follow in four tempos. I watch how my parents approach the kids, how they’re exempt from the agonies of parental worry (those freaking times tables!) and can devote themselves entirely to amusement and appreciation.

4) Turbo-charged. This city is fast and busy and people drink opaque coffee by day and plug in their electric cars at night. There is curbside compost pick up and more accents and skin tones at one neighborhood park than exist in our entire county. People seem to love being able to get the very best of everything at all hours. It seems less about DIY and more about extreme availability. (You can buy bone broth!) People line up out the door for the iconic Cheeseboard Pizza and Philz coffee. For dinner you can choose between authentic Cambodian, Laotian or Vietnamese food (and of course Japanese, Thai…does anyone even eat Chinese food anymore?)



5) Kids meeting their needs. Col spends most of his home-time at the living room window, binoculars pressed to glass, watching ships on the San Francisco Bay. At the Berkeley Farmer’s Market, Rose spends her own money on a turbo-charged artisan peppermint patty and a $5 container of pomegranate seeds. I tell her we could buy two pomegranates and seed them ourselves for the same price. “It’s my money and this is what I want to buy,” she announces, pleased to be able to afford choosing luxury over frugality.

6) Reckoning. We visit with my high school friends and use the dim power of our collective memories to recall life on the cusp of the 90’s. I had almost forgot how things were, how risk-taking and adventurous we were. How we said yes 99% of the time, even at 2am. How my friend (I’ll call her Siana) could proficiently steer her hulking American car with her knees while she rolled a joint, how we once drove to Mexico as an afterthought (did we even have a map?), how we ingested a kaleidoscope of substances, had dramatic fallings out with boyfriends surpassed in drama only by the making up. We had a grassroots social network more connected than any of today’s social media. We felt at home in nature without knowing a single species name, and equally comfortable taking the bus at midnight. We unselfconsciously sang and danced everywhere. We were bold and fearless (even when we shouldn’t have been). We believed in peace and taking care of each other and “processing” our lives as an activity, and seeing the goodness in people (though were suspicious of Republicans, even though we hadn’t yet met any). We attended political protests, bought weed from high school security guards and believed things would remain the same.

cali2Berkeley farmers market. My mom says: In December things slow down, we only have: broccoli, lettuce, spinach, onions, potatoes, beets, herbs, kale, bok choi, radishes, carrots, cabbage, winter squash…

7) Coming home. We drive north from the Albuquerque airport, listening to scratchy mixed tapes two decades old. The sagebrush carpet rolls out forever. Wind catalyzes bony tumbleweeds. The kids whip backseat boredom into chaos. I’m thinking about high school, about who I was and where she is now, how to bring a little of her back to Colorado. These days I start power-yawning by 6pm and Dan, riding next to me, is the steadiest human I’ve ever known. I tell the kids, “This is one of the best songs in the world. Listen and tell me what it’s about.” It’s Jimi Hendrix, Bold as Love. I have no clue what it’s about, I just want them to be quiet for 3 complete minutes. Col listens carefully. Rose says, “it’s tooooo hard.” “It’s about love,” I tell them. “And about being bold. And I don’t know, loving your boldness.” That seems to sum up and answer everything for me in the moment. “I don’t understand. When can we have a snack?” Rose asks. And we drive home.

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winter, toothlessness and more

2014 November 21
by Rachel Turiel

rose - teeth

Rose is having a bit of tooth situation.

Winter is here, starring in 11F mornings and trees decorated with chickadees instead of leaves. Night shows up sooner than anyone expected, dragging its icy shadows across the yard. The chickens are bewildered every morning to find their water frozen and frost offensively glazed across the grass. Inside, we gawk at the snow on the mountains, at the sun bursting through the southern windows, at another morning launched with the gift of coffee and each other.

Some things I want you to know:

1) Have you seen the new, beautiful website Annapurna Living? (For those of you who grew up in Berkeley, Annapurna is not simply a shop that will sell 14-year olds pipes, but a “symbol of the divinity of nourishing care.”) I wrote a piece for them about how we eat, which is mostly true. Family Meals with Intention.

2) This will be of interest to approximately four of you (Listen up Terry, Mindi, Chris and…OK three of you). Dan and I decided to do an experiment with the deer/elk fat we’ve always trimmed away because of claims that it carries a gamey flavor. We ground some deer fat up with the meat, fried it into a little burger and couldn’t discern it from the beef or pork fat we usually use. This qualifies as highly exciting. (Thanks Jennifer S. for the nudge).

3) I am teaching a class on Mindful Parenting through the Holidays, which is a big throne to sit upon. But, here’s the thing about teaching, you get to study what you teach. I have a lot of ideas about how to reform and revolutionize the holidays, to remake the craziness into something that feels good. The class is part of Inhabit’s free lunch and learn series. Friday, December 5th. 12-1.

4) Save the date! Next yoga/writing retreat will be 1/23/15 – 1/25/15.

5) I’m currently teaching creative writing to middle schoolers (3 of my students are taller than me, and if they keep writing will all be better writers than me quite soon). Firstly, I want to share that middle schoolers are not scary…giggly perhaps, but also kind and supportive and insightful. Secondly, if you’re interested in your child (ages 9-14) taking a writing class with me in the new year, e-mail me. I’m putting together spring classes and would love to accommodate your child.

6) The remedy for winter in a mug.

7) Dan’s going to be teaching a very informal class on hide-tanning sometime in December. Almost more of a Bring Your Questions type workshop. Details likely to come, but if you’re interested e-mail me. (Lacey Jean, wish we could Skype you into the class).


The kids busted liking each other.

Have a super great Thanksgiving week if I don’t see you before then,


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2014 November 17
by Rachel Turiel


It’s 5:00pm on a weekday, rapidly approaching the convergence of three things: sundown, the need to invent dinner from the usual suspects, and the collective family tank of energy hitting low. I issue the small, vague prayer: please let us make it through the evening without complaints, personality issues or excessive teethbrushing protests.

Col drags himself inside, kicked out by the chill from his current practice in the hunting arts: throwing a sharpened stick into the bedraggled, November lawn, ostensibly towards some invisible mastodon.

Rose is on the couch counting her money while her pet rat explores the sofa, finding crumbs and leaving unmentionables. “Five, ten, fifteen…twenty! Mama, I have twenty dollars. Can we go buy something NOW?”

Rose has a thriving dog-walking business, a true win-win: I accompany Rose on walks, cashing in on exercise and mother-daughter time, while Rose cashes in on, well, cash.


If money can burn a hole in your pocket, Rose is ignited. She wants to buy: gum, mints, coloring books, a cheap American Girl doll knock-off, a horse necklace for her friend Dewa, and an elk t-shirt she spied downtown for her daddy. And that was just yesterday. Like most Americans, Rose is drawn to exchanging hard-earned money for trinkets that provide a 2-hour hit of joy before the patina of newness inevitably dulls. This is understandable. Our culture markets happiness in stuff. When the novelty of a purchase fades, we scramble in our wallets to procure the next dose of pleasure.

When Rose asks, “Can we go buy something NOW?” my nervous system rings in alarm. Why can’t she be the Buddha of Childhood Satisfaction, content to play stick-dolls in the powdery dirt of our yard? How I’d like to be the family united against mindless consumerism, all of us turning effortlessly away from the distraction of shiny new playthings in favor of, I don’t know, harmonizing our daily chores with Zen chants.


But honestly, even as I grit my teeth against Rose’s moneyed-up request, in my discomfort lies great opportunity. And sure, this opportunity sometimes feels akin to being led blindfolded through the ice crevasse, but here is the chance to discuss impulse purchases with my children, to invite them to notice how the glittery new thing they coveted last week is now malingering under the couch.

I ask Rose to make a list of her desired purchases, and she agrees to wait a week to see if she’s still interested before shelling out cash. We introduce the notion of “craving” to the children, how it’s normal and transient, how it often covers up feelings we want to avoid, and how humans trying to satisfy unchecked cravings has brought tremendous harm to our souls and this planet. We discuss the fascinating study showing that people feel greater happiness planning a vacation than after completing a vacation: anticipation for the future is the drug. Dan and I model gratitude and satisfaction for what we have, even if it’s another meal cobbled together with the ubiquitous inhabitants of our fridge.


Dia de los muertos by Rose

And really, this is all good news: many of life’s challenges present opportunity. My friend Gretchen astutely reminded me that when Rose was not invited to an upcoming birthday party (despite all the girls in her shared school class plus her two BFF’s receiving invitations), this was an opportunity for Rose to confront heartache and disappointment while ensconced in the safety of family.* And after removing a pox on the 7-year old’s house, I totally agreed.



When Col is monkeying with lighters, knives, glue and boy-dreams, here lies an opportunity for me to see the needs of a 9-year old boy, rather than think he’s content to immerse himself in say, the language arts. When the kids are asked to hang laundry and my shirts are bunched in a mildew-inducing pose, here is an opportunity to remind them (again, deep breath) how to properly perform this chore.


Rose and I are holding hands, walking the Scotties when Rose says, “You were right, Mama.”


“I’m glad I didn’t buy that cheap American Girl doll with the clothes and stroller. After borrowing Dewa’s doll I completely lost interest in her after a week. Plus I’d be broke now.”

My heart expands like a parachute, lifting and then cinching back down around the two of us with enough room to hold a 7-year old’s expanding wisdom.

oppRatty with noodle. 

*Ironically, Rose is taking a different stance, more like Operation Get Invited. She makes cards for the birthday girl that say: You are Sush a Good Friend. Yesterday, Rose told me, “I think I’m getting closer.”

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soup days

2014 November 5
by Rachel Turiel



Suddenly everything has come clear, in terms of what I’m doing with my life. It’s crunch time in the garden, too cold at night for even the free-love advocates like kale and arugula. Everything needs a suitable place to come in from the night chill. My relationship with cabbage has taken an obligatory turn (Dan and my post-bedtime discussions now sound like this: Ok, those five heads of cabbage will last a week or so in the root cellar, tops. How many in the fridge do we still need to eat? The romance is killing me). What I’m saying is that when all you have is a hammer, you know what the world looks like…well, when you have a storehouse brimming with vegetables, you make soup. That’s what I’m now doing with my life; what a relief. Pots and vats and barrels of soup; days and weeks and winters of soup. Each pot of soup is the melting pot of the nation of our homestead, the edible scrapbook of our lives.

Soup Recipe:

First, make bone broth with some marrow-rich bones that were recently ambling through the forest as a deer or elk. Throw in a handful of dried porcinis (popping on the very forest floor those hooves once sailed through). Simmer for 48 hours to extract all the minerals, gelatin, glucosamine, amino acids and chondroiton into the broth.

Next, pour the garden and root cellar through a funnel, scrubbed and trimmed, into the bubbling pot of broth: red-skinned potatoes, knobby carrots, overgrown and splitting turnips, a scrabbly chunk of cabbage picked free of slugs recently hoboing inside purple layers, garlic, onions, frilly-edged kale, and some bright, indomitable November heads of broccoli.

Salt heavily.

The deer and elk sausage that we made last weekend goes in last, seeping flavor into every nook and cranny.

Col, Dan and I will eat this soup (which is always slightly different, owing to the addition of ginger or roasted tomatoes, or a handful of split peas) for several meals a day. We three seem to have the opposite of the novelty-seeking gene, expressed by ladling up bowl #56 with boringly cheerful enthusiasm ,while Rose is sharing her latest flamboyant dreams, all of us awash in the curious sensation of deja vu.


Halloween blinked by, we opted out of trick-or-treating for the 2nd year, and no one got scarred. The kids rated the whole shebang a 4 out of 5 stars, which is enough for me to put it away for another year without too much over-analyzing.

outakesDorothy and Roro (Like Toto, but a rodent).

Dan and Col acted in this year’s (2nd annual!) Halloween play. Dan was the Falconer and Col his bumbling though earnest apprentice, Milton. I know I am terribly, utterly biased, being completely in love with the both of them, but I’m quite certain they stole the show.


The Falconer looks for his trained falcon in the sky, while Milton demonstrates what a hunting falcon does. Notice, on Dan: rabbit skin glove made by Dan’s brother, Cory. Rose likes to put her rat inside the rabbit skin glove and announce, “Mae found her mommy!” ???

Finally all travelers meet up with the Queen and her mime, hoping the two can solve the mystery.


Luckily, one of the merry band of travelers stepped in to give the Queen back her ring…which was stolen by a mouse, the mouse then nabbed by a falcon, who carried the mouse over the bakery, where the ring was dropped in a sack of flour, made into a bun, eaten (ouch!) by the baker’s daughter, spit in the slops bucket….oh it’s a long story.for mel

Now, onto potluck treats and fire-side celebrations! Huge thank you to all the parents who made this happen. And endless gratitude to Sparkle Stories for the free Halloween script.


Rose and my contribution to mainstream American holidays: Spiders, goddammit. Not Halloween ticks.


The butchering is done. The freezer is stuffed. Thanks is given. (You think you’ve come over for a playdate…)


Magpies, on the “grab and go” garden arch perch, onto which Dan wedges deer fat, calling in nine magpies at a time. This is our morning breakfast entertainment and another annual tradition that brings us great (non-novelty seeking) joy. We had a raven swoop down the other day! outtakes9

Chokecherry-applesauce, following soup for dessert.


Where is the headspace? Yikes! Avert your eyes, Marisa.

Have I told you about our Little Free Library? This is an international thing, ours is #17,168. It sits in front of our house (Dan built it) and is curated by Rose. People leave books, take books and it’s totally dynamic and constantly changing. I feel like I’m getting a secret look at the literature preferences of the neighborhood (hey, who left those romance books?) There is an adult shelf and a kid shelf. I recently found The Rosie Project in there, a book I’ve been waiting for at our library (apparently I’m #350 on the waiting list). I loved it and now it’s back in the little free library, come get it!outakes11

Rose, practicing to be a grandma:outtakes7

With love,


p.s. Seeking cabbage recipes.

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a nice, fat buck deer

2014 October 30
by Rachel Turiel

Dan is home from hunting with a nice, fat buck deer. Rose greeted him in the driveway with her rat, certain he’d missed keeping up on Mae’s life (which involves sleeping, scritching, scurrying, and sniffing, which is to say, he didn’t miss much). Dan immediately tapped into everyone’s needs. He gushed over Rose’s rat, fielded my kisses, and asked for Col’s help shuttling game bags stuffed with deer legs to the freezer, lifting 95% of the weight himself but letting Col feel his assistance was indispensable.

The next day, Col and Rose at their respective homeschool co-ops, Dan and I settled into butchering (we’re also butchering our friend Dave’s elk). I’m always surprised at how much I love this work. All the many previous years of meat-making rise to the surface like a scrapbook, or manual, but really the work is a fluid covenant between hand and knife. The mind can rest. I pull back my hair, tie on an apron, grab the requisite tools: pandora station, coffee, sharp knife, and get to work.


Elk hind legs: otherworldly pieces of meat. It takes four hours to get the meat off the bone.

Inside each hind leg, mounded with fat, are unbroken ruby slabs of roasts. The piece-work of sinewy shoulders become sausage. The heart, a fat-swirled red gumdrop, goes right into a marinade, to be smoked (incidentally, during my 4th/5th grade writing class, causing a pestilence of flies and distraction). The liver, that surprisingly large, slippery, purple meat-vitamin, gets ground into a mix of burger. Everything is so pleasingly familiar: how the hunting stories spill slow and steady; the feeling of great wealth; all the lurkers angling for a meat scrap: our cat, magpies, chickens and yellow jackets. Cut, trim, wrap, label. Shut the freezer door on a deep well of white packages; bring on winter.


For the vegetarians: squash curing
Nothing else I do is this simple. Homeschooling is a cryptic moving target, and I am a clumsy arrow. Last week, an assignment I gave Col made him cry. I wrestled with myself over the importance of pushing through versus the importance of letting go. I tried both; I still don’t have an answer. Meanwhile, Rose confidently tackled a worksheet requiring her to differentiate between words starting with a hard “g” (goat, great, girl) and a soft “g” (giraffe, giant, gem). She got half wrong, inexplicably, and suddenly the worksheet seemed like the sort of thing invented to keep children from becoming revolutionaries, or at least prepare them for paper-pushing in some future cubicle. As my friend Gretchen said, hilariously, “I don’t think Rose will ever mistakenly call a goat: joat.”
The elk and deer meat is now all off the bone. (Bones packaged for bone broth). Tomorrow we’re making sausage and calling it homeschooling, simply because we’ll all be together working towards a common goal. When Dan is too old to hunt, I’ll have to start putting ads in the paper: Will butcher for…for the joy of practical work…for work that I’m actually competent at…for inner peace.

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Filed under: the mind is like a parachute

Fantasy kids and kale chips

2014 October 22
by Rachel Turiel

The garden no longer needs watering, just saving every night from frost. Insects are no longer a threat – yesterday I watched with a little wistful fondness a grasshopper springing around the lettuce. It’s almost like living in reverse, here in October, like backing down that long ramp that launched us into the wild carnival of summer, undoing and unstitching all the open windows and forever-light days, re-dedicating ourselves to kale and sunshine. Each stray honeybee I spy in the fading hollyhocks is like a visitor from a strange and faraway planet buzzing out a little song about impermanence.


Oh this? Just the little river that runs through our town.

Right now all the changes are so fascinating – it’s like being stoned 24/7. Wow – look at how the trees are all glowing! Now look how they’re all dropping skirts of yellow leaves at their feet! Wow! WOW!

And confessionally speaking, all this beauty makes me a little anxious. Not about winter coming (winter is the dark pause necessary to illuminate every other season). No, what I’m anxious about is how to fully inhabit and appreciate the technicolor fireworks of fall itself. It’s all so fleeting and breathtaking; it literally makes me gasp. Every day we sit at the kitchen table watching the crab apple trees flare deeper into color. And then just today I noticed the leaves were starting to dull. And I felt a small pinch of despair in my chest. Did I love it enough?


The crab apples.

Inside, Col tells me, “I feel like lighting something on fire.” He rolls paper cigars, melting wax and wood shavings into the center, and I suddenly see the wisdom of channeling boys into sports. Rose has taken possession of my old cell phone, and stripped of any communication abilities, it simply plays endless rounds of ringtones. She dances to Gaga-techno, and Patriot-band tunes, and my former ringtone, jolting my nervous system into reaching for a phone call that’s actually a 7-year old prancing in her undies to musical soundbytes.

kale3Kale + fall colors = the intersection of swoon.

Suddenly all I can think of to offer the kids for snacks is apples and kale chips. The first time I made kale chips, Col said, “These are really good and also really bad.” I take this to mean: I like how these have the salty crunch of potato chips, but I’m also a little disappointed that they’re not actually potato chips. Fair enough.

And yet, they’re compelling in an unclog-your-arteries and holy-antioxidants! sort of way. Col’s friend, Sebastian, told us wistfully yesterday, how he loves kale chips, and I said, with zero parental grace, “Did you hear that, Col and Rose? He loves them.” (Sebastian is my fantasy child: he comes over and exclaims, “Your cabbages are amazing, Rachel. Can I pick some raw chard?” He hangs out in the chicken coop trying to hold each hen, loves hiking and thanks me profusely when I foist zucchinis on him. I have other fantasy children: Mathew, so polite! Stella, always asks for seconds on my meals. Iris keeps herself hydrated without reminders.)

In my fantasy world my children are eagerly massaging oil into kale leaves, bright sunny faces never having contemplated a particle of unwholesomeness. When really, Col’s outside lighting faux cigars and Rose is mistaking tinny 30-second ringtones for actual music.


And yet, I’m thankfully programmed to love this life, to find a way to appreciate the crab apple trees in December, bare and iced. To walk outside to a garden laid low by frost, and marvel over the kale, standing tall and leafy. To fearlessly put a bowl of kale chips (which really are delicious) out to a crowd of kids as if I didn’t know they prefer shrink-wrapped hydrogenated oils. To hand Col the lighter and dance along to “Club Mix” with Rose.


 Kale Chips


One large bunch kale

1 1/2 TBSP coconut or olive oil

2 TBSP nutritional yeast

1/2 tsp salt

Alternate recipe:

1 1/2 TBSP coconut oil

1 TBSP chile powder

juice of one lime

1/2 tsp salt


Remove leaves from stem, wash and then thoroughly dry kale leaves. Preheat oven to 350F. Melt coconut oil in a jar in pre-heating oven, remove carefully and add salt and nutritional yeast (or the alternate: lime juice, chile powder and salt) to jar and massage into leaves. Place on baking sheet. I’m not too fussy about keeping the kale from overlapping, in fact, I cover the baking sheet entirely. The baking should take approximately 20-25 minutes, but after 15 minutes, check on kale and flip leaves around with a spatula. You want the kale to crisp without burning.






Post-massage but pre-cooking.


Really, truly delicious. Promise.



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