stepping back in

Everyone is healthy, and we are out for some coffee.//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Summer is all about stepping out. Letting go of routines. Letting things happen when they like, grow a bit wild.

I don’t know what to expect from autumn in California. I know what it won’t mean: wool hats, apple orchards, chilly evenings kicking around a soccer ball in mittens.

But it does still mean stepping back in. Finding our habits and ways after bit of wildness. I am grateful for that, and for seasons, as quiet they might be.

on what (actually) I hate about being a parent

Studying over lunch
I have a theory (I always have a theory): the things we hate about parenting are the things we hate about life.

I might say I hate this or I hate that in this world (injustice! suffering!), but when it comes to raising my kids, what do I really hate?

All the f@$%ing doctor’s appointments.

Optometrists. Dentists. Filling out the forms and getting together all the documents and putting them in a folder, and then going down to enroll in school and finding out there is a new form and going back home and filling it out and going back again.

It’s stupid stuff to hate. But I do. And the more I think about it, it’s those things- those mundane obligations- that I really just can’t stand about life, either. At least right now.

Parenthood is so definitely not for everyone. But it has a habit of magnifying life, making the whole world so small you can see it in your own house if you keep your eyes open.

I mostly don’t. But maybe I’ll try again tomorrow.

on artichokes for dinner

San Fran street car

I bought the artichokes with anticipation, but a week and a half later they were dry and shriveled in the fridge. It was always the idea of artichokes that I loved (I didn’t try one until well into adulthood); sometime in my early teens, I had watched someone on television prepare them, peel them apart, dip each piece in butter, pull it through their teeth.

And when I first ate an artichoke like that on my birthday of last year, I loved them for what they were, too. Adam cooked them for me, then, and I had only made them once since. Not for lack of love, but because a giant thistle can be intimidating.

Tonight I didn’t expect much. I took the artichokes from the back of the fridge and snipped away the most shriveled bits. I quartered them with a serrated knife and spooned out the choke with a spoon while the kids chased each other and pretended to be superheroes. Oil and leftover wine. A big pot. Shieldman hit Elsa/Ironman with one of his shields.

The kids and I ate together, the pot of chokes in the center of the table. Peeling apart. Pulling petals through our teeth. And they tasted good. Reed, who only had artichokes once before, already had established his favorite parts, his own techniques. And I realized that my kids will remember that time we lived in California and ate quartered artichokes from the big yellow pot all spring.

on celebration, rain, roses the size of your head

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Friend Day Party

It’s been a week of celebration. Then last night the rain came- real, deep rain- and the sun came out, and everything was that bright green of new leaves, and I remembered what it smells like to be with green things after the rain.

Last I wrote, I was tired of California spring. But let me say that all around the neighborhood are roses, real rosebushes like the ones the cards paint red for the Queen of Hearts and never grow in Wisconsin. The roses are big, bigger than my cupped hands, and some smell so sweet and some don’t smell at all and some smell like the tiny rosebushes my grandmother and grandmother kept so, so carefully around back of their ranch house in Kenosha.

(Oh, I begged my mom to plant roses! And circled the gaudiest from any seed catalogs that came!)

When the clouds rolled away, the kids and I played in the puddles that were left for us, and watched the snails wander through the front garden and found a city of roly-polies. I feel better any place I am when I can look down in the dirt and see things happening. And a solid spring rain is a good thing everywhere.

on march in the valley, the things I miss

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sunday supper
Spring does come to California. The leaves are unfurling, our skin is beginning to brown, and everywhere you walk are patches of impossibly fragrant air, like Hot Steams from some hidden flowers.

March has always been a favorite season of mine, partly because it is my birthday month, partly because it is a little bit disagreeable, at least in Wisconsin. Truth be told, I miss that March. Spring always seems so impossible, so impossibly good, at the end of a Wisconsin winter. It is short and erratic and impossible. But it is deeply felt.

These are things I miss about Wisconsin:

  • spring
  • melting-snow smell
  • weather that changes twenty degrees within a week
  • the bread and the cheese, and knowing just which I like, and where to buy them, and the people selling them to me and the people who make them
  • its smallness
  • the less awesome, but more everyday natural beauty- like walks on the river

on non-essentials

laundry day

There have been house guests and birthdays. Day trips, naps, tennis lessons, bubble teas, early morning writing, afternoon backyard yoga, Thursday laundry, Thursday cleaning, Saturday date nights in.

And in the evenings and for solid slice of the weekend, it is school.

As a whole, I have enjoyed school, liked having time set aside as my own to think about things I might not otherwise think about (practical things, mathematical things). But this semester, I am over it. There are six beautiful meyer lemons sitting in a bowl on the table waiting to be turned into lemon curd, but I haven’t gotten around to it. There is time in our day for cooking good meals, and I am grateful for that, but what about the lemon curd?

I want to spend my evenings with a scotch in the kitchen replicating those little Persian rice flour rosewater cookies. I want to put plants in pots or learn to dance or any other number of lively and completely unessential things that don’t involve sitting down and staring at a screen.

Adam said the other day that I only sweat the small stuff, and for the most part that is true. I want to stir a pot of lemon curd at night, and see the golden jar in my refrigerator in the morning. That’s what I want my days to be like. That’s what I am looking forward to.

not pictured

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Beach girl

Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz

Not pictured is the vomit we cleaned up when Margot got carsick as we drove through the mountains. Or Helen running stark naked across the beach to me or mundane trouble of finding parking.

Not pictured is how annoying it is to put sandy clothes on wet bodies or the higgledy-piggledy state of our kids when we went in to get coffee on the drive home.

Not pictured is the sound of the rides on the boardwalk. The sound of Reed and Helen playing when I woke up this morning. The smell of the fire that Adam built when we got home.

It’s never all there in the pictures. But I am glad we have them, anyway. And I am glad we have these weekends and this time when were are all young, and the sun is shining, and we can drive down to Santa Cruz. Vomit and all.

this week

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kitchen window

This week I flew across the country. I walked to the market, drove to the mountains, ate an orange off a tree. This week I slept on the floor, slept on my bed, slept on my yoga mat outside in the sun.

This week I figured out where to buy fruit and where to buy rice. I peered into Halal markets and wondered about countless restaurants with intriguing names and foreign lettering.

my shadow

I lived out of a suitcase, fielded calls from a moving truck, unpacked boxes (not all of them). I contemplated curtain fabric, watched Reed play his first game of chess, I drank good coffee.

I drank wine. I met neighbors. I bought a rug.

This week I went barefoot and barelegged as much as possible. I drank bubble tea and went to the mall and sat by our fireplace.

That was this week. It was a good one.

on the colder days

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morning snow

I had been dreading the snow since Adam left. And then it came. On Saturday, we woke to snow. We bundled up, picked up the long-dormant snow-shovels, and cleared the walk.

It was wonderful.

snow angels

We walked to the library and had snowball fights and smiles on our faces. And Sunday the cold came in, the bitter cold I had been dreading since Adam left. This morning I bundled the kids, really bundled them, for the one-block walk to Reed’s school. I was in a sour mood, trying to get everything set, everyone fed and everyone’s bodies well-covered while they had other things in mind.

But when we stepped out into that bitter cold I had been dreading, the sky was still pink and was fresh and bright. And the trees looked cold and good and the air was not unfriendly. We were wool-wrapped and warm enough for the short walk there and back, despite the frigid weather.

It’s cold outside, and we’re doing just fine.

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