• At Home,  Baby,  garden

    A Summer at home goals list

    I’m in my two-week countdown toward full immunization. I’m planning monthly summer field trips with homeschool friends. I expect to host once or twice this summer. The girls are signed up for overnight camp. There’s a wedding on the calendar. So yes, it feels like things are “ramping up/opening up,” alll the euphemisms we use to describe the normal none of us even remember all that well now.

    One particular aspect of the former normal, I’ve been thinking about friendships and how much it seems like the terms have changed. The primary and most important elements for friendship right now are patience, understanding, empathy, and…patience again. Speaking from the experience of finding myself with an irrationally drained well for sympathy, I suppose it will take pathfinding to get back to that cool meadow where we understood each other fully and felt comfortable leaning on each other.

    a couple things of I’m looking forward to this summer, be it what it may…

    Contemplating an outdoor shower. A meditational experience that requires no action, only imagination.

    Foraging more. As each season I ends, I realize which plants were the plants I was looking for, like, “ooo that was blood root” after seeing the peppy tiny white flowers by the roadside all spring. Then, the following year I come into it so ready. This year, for the first time, I was prepared for ramps and fiddleheads. I was prepared to ask my friend for nettles before they went to seed. And to ask for rhubarb at the point in the season when there was plenty to share. Forestbound’s forage pinterest board is full of dreamy wandering inspiration.

    To make: day pickles. Cucumbers sliced really thin, sprinkled with salt and vinegar, and refrigerated.

    To make: Popsicles, always a riff on Molly’s recipe, which itself is a riff on David Lebovitz’s recipe. Please don’t try to skip the sugar. There is something about tart raspberries mixed with chillingly sweet sugar that can’t be replicated by honey. (I don’t bother to strain out the seeds.) Her recipe makes more than enough for our six small molds. So I  either put the extra mixture in the fridge and re-fill the popsicle molds after the girls have eaten them, or serve the extra as a sweet smoothie while we wait for them to freeze. Speaking of popsicles, we have these IKEA popsicle molds from eight years ago, and I thought I was in the market for an upgrade. But actually, I think I may just want a second set of those same IKEA ones. I like the size (small, very kid friendly amount), they are easy to pop-out, and the reusable sticks.

    Visiting a friend’s garden. Once you begin gardening and have made a healthy amount of mistakes, you learn SO much from seeing friend’s gardens! I like to plan stop-bys in late June when everything thriving.

    So. much. reading. Lux is in an online reading group this summer. Theme: Growing Up is Hard to Do. I think I’ll read all of the ones they are reading, just a week behind. A couple of the titles on the list are: The Red Pencil, Wonder, and A Monster Calls.

    Potato chips with sour cream. This is the snack I put on the table outside when I’m watching adult education things on zoom. The children descend and eat until the bowls are empty, stare at the screen for a bit, stare at me to see if I’m actually interested in this stuff, and then disappear. Classical Conversations has online tutors training that I’ll be working through, notebook at my side. I’m also thinking about signing up for this natural wine conference, since we’ve been learning about growing grapes here in Vermont. Are there any online education events you’re looking forward to?

    To order: a takeout burger, with fries. Thankful thankful to have an excellent burger and fries available at the Brownsville Butcher, not far from us. Soft serve too.

    Making dinner in the afternoon when it’s hot and sleepy, so you can settle into your evening and enjoy the best time of day.

    Watching butterflies.

    Staying too late at the water (pond, lake, etc). Staying through dinner because the light and the temperature are perfect. Even if everyone cries in the car on the way home.

    summer photos from Ashleigh Coleman, last year. 

  • At Home

    a few favorite 2020 things

    it’s a list lover’s favorite time of year! Here are a few treasures from my 2020.


    Julie O’Rourke: I was shopping with a friend (a phrase I can use to describe two hours in all of 2020) and the shopkeeper and I struck up a conversation about wool felting and how we wanted to get better at it because of Rudy Jude. “She’s always doing that,” we said to each other, nodding enthusiastically to make up for the way our smiles were covered by masks. My friend said, “Who’s Rudy Jude?” We both looked at her like she had just told us she didn’t know what rainbows are. A mixture of deep concern and regret furrowed the visible and invisible parts of our faces. And so dear reader, I worry that some among you may be similar! I once insta-responded to Julie that she was “the da Vinci of our time” and I meant it fully.


    Airpods: I waited a long time to adapt to these little white plugs dripping gently from my ears like melting taffy pieces. I didn’t buy them when they came out because I was very busy judging everyone wearing them as rude isolationists who were too busy to live. Well, now I absolutely adore them. I love how I can keep one in and actually hear what I’m listening to while doing the dishes. I love how it automatically pauses when I pluck it out of my ear, so I can be a good listener without inwardly panicking that I’m missing great chunks of storyline. I love how it begins again when I place it back in my ear so I don’t have to find and tap my phone with batter-covered fingers. I love how I can listen to something while walking ever-so-slowly at a toddler’s pace around the yard and down the road. I love the way Joe and I can each put one in one of our ears and listen to something adult together on car rides with the children.


    Two Podcasts:

    Poetry Unbound: a man with deep Irish accent reads a poem, discusses it, and reads it again. He references peacemaking, relationships, affection, sexuality, parents, neighbors, expectations of self. The poems are so good and all of them are written by modern authors who are alive. It is short and unmatched in how quick it cuts to the quick the things that drive us. One caveat: I love listening to this show with my airpods, I have a hard time catching his words when played over the speaker or in the car.

    Lazy Genius: with episodes about actually using your iphone photos, how to structure your day, plotting a fall reading list, and how to begin using your instant pot without getting overwhelmed, I find these 15 minute pep talks do wonders for re-scaffolding my approach to things.


    a Sunday afternoon babysitter: When we moved to Vermont two years ago, we gave up on babysitters entirely. Not only did we not know anyone in the area, but we were about to have a baby. Reflecting that she would likely be my last baby, I decide to commit to nursing her exclusively. Even tethered to her nutritionally as well as emotionally, I suspected her first year would fly by. It did! She passed the one year mark just as full quarantine set in, and naturally we had no where to go at that point anyway. Late summer, a friend suggested that a nearby neighbor would likely be able to handle babysitting our gaggle. Knowing that half the mental energy of working with her would go to schedule doggling, I asked if we could just do the same day and time every week. We decided not to bother with bedtimes because what our children desperately needed was someone else to talk to. We settled on a late afternoon early dinner time slot. I’m so thankful we got to have her in our lives this fall  and winter, thank you Izzy!


    An excellent email newsletter: my friend Meredith shared Laura Olin’s newsletter with me back at the tippy of the pandemic and I’m always sparkle-struck by how Laura finds and emails exactly the type of link list I was in the mood for.

    Subscribe, of course! But also browse her archives, beginning with her most recent issue about what struck her in 2020.

    Here is a totally fascinating random bit: when I googled Laura to tell you more about her newsletter, I learned that she’s an incredibly savvy digital social media manager, a primary player in the 2012 Obama campaign. I felt I knew her from her newsletters, knew her taste, her natural sympathies, knew the way she liked cocktails and poetry and internet tv shows. But I also didn’t know her at all!

    Laura pointed me to AOC’s beauty routine recording that she made for Vogue. I think about it every other day or so ever since watching it. She also pointed me to the You’re Wrong About episodes about Diana and the Royal Family–which are AMAZING.


    Company in the Evenings: It feels odd to admit but I do have fond (fond!) memories of those March/April pandemic days when we were all scrambling to adapt and no one really believed 300,000+ people would die and healthcare workers would be asked to sacrifice everything their entire lives and essential workers (which we soon learned meant meagerly paid hourly workers like grocery stork clerks and gas station attendants) would fall sick in droves. As our community around us quickly shuttered, we turned to distant old friends, and family. I began talking to my two old best friends from high school. We love talking to each other, but had completely fallen out of the habit of it. When we did talk, I hated that I had grown so clueless about their day-to-day lives that I had to wade through constant catchup to even begin to relate again. We began talking once a week, and I was astonished by how quickly our friendship flame grew stronger by these little bits of kindling. So grateful for that.

    And then there were the two or three times when my parents shipped three bottles of wine to all their kids’ households, and we sat on zoom and “tasted them ” (downed them) together. A couple of times our conversation and themes were guided by Ryan + Wine zoom wine tastings ($25 per session!), and it was fun to learn something together. Afterward, we would stay on zoom, laugh, and talk, some of us signing off to go to sleep, some of us staying up late talking. I cherish those memories.


    I’m sure, despite how awful this year was, there are more. Just now I think of the way libraries morphed to get kids books again, the thoughtful mail that came, the nostalgia of past adventures that welled up and reminded me of all the memories I had to treasure…and I will try to keep writing them down! But that’s all for now.

  • At Home,  Gifts

    Advent Calendars & an Invitation

    McCrea’s

    Meri Meri

    Rifle Paper

    Vosges

    Meri Meri

    Simon Coll

    Pictured above, a few Advent calendars I noticed this year. Number 6 is a link to Walmart, highly irregular! But it is a Spanish chocolatier and I was so taken with the illustration with brown-skinned people (unfortunately rare in American nativity illustrations). It’s hard to see clearly in the photo, but Walmart is the only online retailer I found carrying it in the United States. And yes, the Vosges one is $145 but yes they are one of American’s finest chocolatiers. And female-owned!

    I have such affection for Advent Calendars. I love looking up all the options, in particular the ones with edible gifts, or useful ones like pencils or paperclips, or ones with just bits of paper.

    (By the way, I’ve never seen the Present and Correct paperclip calendar available, it must sell out November 1st, but I take such joy from their web shop anyway.)

  • At Home,  Vermont

    Warm times and the rhubarb bellini

    The upper reaches of the United States are at fifteen and a quarter hours of daylight and counting. My day begins at 6am with the youngest child, and I typically kiss the oldest goodnight between ten and eleven pm. It’s not a period with much sleep, but the outdoors are stoked with brilliant green, the furious buzzing of bees and wasps, sneech kasnitches of the crickets, and the casual side-eye of the garter snakes that shyly circle the yard. Wild strawberries are just beginning to turn red, and if you walk very slowly, you will see their garnet teacups, the size of baby fingernails, peeking out.

    The interior of the house slopes into neglect. Dishes gather around the sink, laundry quietly piles up, the floors seem gently rugged with grass clippings and chip crumbs. Walking in from the brilliant sunshine outside the kitchen looks dimly lit–sleepy hollow at noon. No matter how tidy, the sensation of the indoors is a damp envelope compared to the rolling plateau of the lawn and trees.

    As a month June is generously supplied with biting insects of many kinds. They come out and disappear again at certain times of day, so the only way to be sure you’re not missing a wonderful hour outside, is to constantly wander out to check. You take the wonderful hours as much as you can get them.

  • At Home,  Cooking,  Homeschool

    Anything for 30 minutes

    The sky was moody yesterday and my mood matched. I did that thing where you just sit quietly in the center of the action and respond to the queries that come to you, but you don’t seek them out. Don’t try to intervene in an argument, don’t redirect energy, don’t suggest other activities to try beside arguing about who sat on the white pillow first.

    You’re just there, present, but gazing softly at your notebook.

    Much to my dismay, time in the warp of social distancing seems to be speeding up. Weeks are the new state of being. I feel that without the book markers of the calendar–the festival, the birthday party, the spring parade–the months are’t being perceived. Are we entering an alter-planet, like that of the space voyager in interstellar (film, 2014), where a few moments spent too long evaluating a dust-storm on a distant planet means his missed his daughter’s high school years back on earth?

    As part of their homeschool curriculum the girls memorize a timeline of historic events. Indus River Valley Civilization. China’s Shang Dynasty. Roman Republic. India’s Gupta Dynasty. Black Death. Seven Years War. Mexican revolution. President Nixon resigns. Apartheid abolished in South Africa. (I’m just sharing a few examples, there are 161 total markers on the timeline.)

    I’ve relied on this timeline concept in recent weeks when we’ve had to announce camp weeks that will not happen, and the cancellation of festivals they were looking forward to attending. “This will be on the timeline, girls. You’ll tell your children about this year. And your grandchilden!”

    It seems to help lend a bit of the perspective that is easier to come by as an adult. This is unique, and it’s not forever.

    I was chatting with my sister the other day when I shared this incredibly clever cocktail with her that I had just invented: half a lime squeezed into a white ale beer. “It is very evocative,” I said. “Of what?,” she asked. “A corona with lime?”

    Critics notwithstanding, I recommend to you simple riffs like this. Take a moment or two or ten to make something nice for yourself. I’ve also returned to the erstwhile negroni, that Italian cocktail that seems to taste best when the sun is setting. Evaluating the bar cupboard, I made the simple riff decision to replace the vermouth with chilled box white wine. I didn’t notice the difference actually, I felt it tasted better than the traditional vermouth version!

    Whenever I’m feeling dread or intimidation over an activity a child has asked for help with, I remind myself: I can do anything for 30 minutes. Reading aloud book I don’t like. A sewing project I don’t understand myself, much more understand enough to explain it out loud. Standing sentry behind the toddler while she practices climbing the stairs. Surely I have thirty minutes for this child, right? Right.

    I’m all for boundaries and saying no, but there are those projects that your child will insist on, with patience and eager hope in their eyes: please, please do this with me. I settle in, privately deciding if, at thirty minutes it’s as awful as I suspected it might be, I can be done. If we’ve done nothing but muddle the cutting and sewing project, it can be done. If the book is barely readable, if the experiment seems a meaningless mess, either way, we can be done. I can even have the presence of mind to say as the end approaches, “Just ten more minutes and then I’d like to do something else.”

    The result is almost always that the child is satisfied with my time spent and very nearly on the verge of moving on themselves. I am satisfied that I’ve finally done the thing, and only thirty minutes has elapsed. It works very well. Try it, anything for thirty minutes, but keep it a secret from your fellow participants.

    As for the way I like to sometimes spend thirty minutes, these brownies take about that to whip together, and they are exactly what I always hope brownies will taste like. They are steady staples in our stay-home dessert rotation.

    Thick & Chewy Brownies from Canal House Cook Something

    • 12 tablespoons butter
    • 1 cup (120 grams) all-purpose flour
    • 2 cups granulated sugar
    • 4 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
    • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
    • 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder (I do this, but I feel its optional too)
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 4 large eggs
    • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    • 1 cup chopped walnuts (very optional)

    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with a rack set in the middle of the oven. Grease a 9-inch square baking pan with some butter, then dust it with some flour, tapping out any excess.

    Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the sugar, stirring until it has the consistency of soft slush and just begins to bubble around the edges, 1-2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Add both chocolates, the espresso, and the salt to the pan, stirring until the chocolate melts and the mixture is well combined.

    Put the eggs in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment on medium speed. Gradually add the warm chocolate mixture, about 1/4 cup at a time, beating constantly until well combined. Stir in the vanilla. Add the flour and walnuts, if using, stirring until just combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

    Bake the brownies until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 45-60 minutes. Let the brownies cool in the pan on a rack, then into squares.

  • At Home,  Homeschool

    “Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Eat a lot of good food. Spend some fun evenings watching movies, reading with, and doing music with your kids.”  

    Two homeschool master theorists came together for an hour long zoom chat this week. Susan Wise Bauer, author of the four volume Story of the World (a series that tells history in the most fascinating read-aloud-friendly way) and The Well Trained Mind: a Guide to Classical Education at Home. And Julie Bogart, writing coach and author of The Brave Learner, an energetic and creative go-get-em homeschool book.

    This is something that may have happened at a conference in the pre-COVID days, but instead I was able to watch on my couch with a heated blanket and a mug of sweet black tea. I put it on my calendar, announced it to the family, and lo: I listened in at 4pm in attentive silence.

    Both women homeschooled their 4+ children. Susan classically, and Julie in a free-form unschooling “magic,” yet intensive way. Their books are full of ideas for curriculum, method, and approach. I can become overwhelmed reading their work, saying to myself “I might do one of these twenty ideas.”

    As intense as that sounds, in Thursday’s talk, they were commiserative about life these days. It was an excellent call. I definitely recommend watching it, no matter which stage of homeschool-acceptance you are in right now. Julie compared grocery shopping now to doing an errand in a foreign country: you go to the Italian post office and come back home, ready for a nap. That rang so true for me. I’ve been anxiously hyped before each grocery visit.

    Susan said seven-year-old boys who don’t like writing were about as common as autumn leaves in the fall.

    Julie said to pick one or two subjects every day, and plan for no more than two hours of academic work of any sort each day total. Susan said she wishes she hadn’t been so dismissive of video games and comic books when her boys were little.

    “Take a super short view and say: what do I want to do over the next two months? For each child, what is my number one priority, over the next two months? Put it in your calendar, make a physical note for two months from now. Decide then–do I still want to focus on this, or do I want to focus on something else?”[…] “Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Eat a lot of good food. Spend some fun evenings watching movies, reading with, and doing music with your kids.”

    I hope you have a chance to enjoy it as much as I did. Link to the video of the call, posted on facebook.

    dreamy sheep farm image via Thankful Sage Farm School

     

     

  • At Home

    The Garlic Pause

    Even since Pamela Druckerman wrote about “le pause” in her hilarious memoir Bringing Up Baby, I’ve thought of it as her clever idea, though she attributes it to French parents one and all. Le Pause is a five-minute delay that French parents wait out (wine sip) when their baby begins crying. It’s an opportunity, given from the newborn stage on, to let the baby try to sort out what’s wrong on their own. It is a habit that ends up being intuitive for parents of multiple children (mostly because it takes you five minutes to respond). Both sets, the experienced and the inexperienced, often observe that babies will settle back in after a screech or two mid-nap.

    A few years ago I met the curious culinary equivalent: the garlic pause.

    Researchers into garlic’s immune-boosting strength discovered that if you leave garlic to sit for ten minutes before cooking with it, 70% of the allicin is preserved. If you use it immediately you destroy the heat-sensitive enzyme that triggers the reaction to create allicin. Allicin is a powerful anti-bacterial and anti-fungal property and what researchers often attribute to garlic’s cancer fighting potential. (I am not a nutritionist, I learned all of this from the fascinating book Eating on the Wild Side. <–that’s a link to where she discusses allicin!)

    To recapture all the antibacterial allicin being squandered in my kitchen, I had to switch up my cooking pattern a bit because garlic is typically the first ingredient in the hot pan. Now, I chop up the garlic first thing, then do a few dishes, wipe down the counters, and come back to cooking. Thus, the garlic pause came into being in my kitchen.

    Below, my three very favorite pasta recipes lately (two out of three contain garlic). I’ve included my favorite pesto recipe. Controversial. There are so many pesto recipes out there! This one is from Simply in Season (shout-out to the humble Mennonites cooks) and the proportions are perfect. To save money I always use walnuts in pesto, instead of pine nuts.

    • Julia Turshen’s sausage & caramelized onion one-pan dish from Small Victories (pictured above, thanks for the photo, Rachel!). I’ve made this delicious dish for countless dinner parties. It is packed with favorite things: sausage, greens, cream, lemon zest! It also seems to make one box of pasta go a long way. You can see the recipe as it is written in the cookbook right here.

    A Pesto recipe, from Simply in Season

    • 1 cup / 250 ml packed fresh basil leaves and tender stems
    • 1-3 cloves garlic
    • 1/3 cup /75 ml pine nuts, walnuts or hazelnuts (toasted)
    • 3-6 tablespoons parmesan grated
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
    • 2 springs flat parsley (if you happen to have it!)

    Finely chop all of the above together in a food processor.

    • 1/3-1/2 cup / 75-125 ml olive oil

    Add gradually while food processor runs to make a thick paste. Serve at room temperature with any kind of hot pasta. I like to retain 1/2 cup of pasta water in a mug, and dribble a bit of it in when I add the pesto to the pasta. It makes the pesto creamier. Add a bit at a time until it looks how you’d like.

    • Jon & Vinny’s fusilli alla vodka. This is a new one for me, I learned of it from my west-coast sister Joanie (thanks for the photo, Joanie!). After she shared it, several members of my family all made the same dish in their homes! Is that happening in your extended household during quarantine? I love the minimal ingredients and honestly, fusilli is my favorite pasta shape. Recipe at bon appetit. 

     

  • At Home,  Baby,  Books,  Vermont

    the birthday edition

    Here I am, 35. Weaning my fourth daughter, thinking about buying a lamb. Saying “last baby,” in the way that people who believe in last babies say, because they want to see it coming and say goodbye.

    Baking bread, simmering beans. Wish I cared less about messy corners.

    Once I believed in no shampoo. Once I believed in all shampoo. Now I believe your body changes what it needs and you should look in the mirror and decide then.

    Did I ask for anything for my birthday? yes. I asked for new slippers because I wore mine nearly every day last year and they simply gave up on day 360. I asked for oysters and a cake by mail. I received a handwritten book (“My Story” by Lux Ringenberg), a cherry wood platter sanded to gentleness by Joan, and a small box for my drawer of chaos crafted from wood and glue by Alma. There was also a sawdust cake topped with real candles and sprinkles (ferried away from the kitchen without my noticing), with frosting made from flour and water.

    This week the girls learned about valkyries and watched The Ring Cycle opera which is available on the Metropolitan Opera’s streaming service. The fact that the Met has a streaming service is a thing I never would have bothered to google if not for this being week six of family quarantine. Thanks to Ronia (Netflix/Astrid Lindgren) the girls already love harpies. The valkyries seem to be an even fiercer inspiration for them to contemplate.

    I did not watch it with them but I listened from the other room and overheard the selective reading aloud of subtitles. “Giant. I think that’s a giant? ‘Unless you are honest and keep your word. A simple minded giant tells you this–wise woman, heed what he says.'”

    I came in to watch a few minutes. “Mom, you’ll love this, it’s so cool. It’s freezing cool.” said the four-year-old who cannot read subtitles.

    If you can’t make a list of what you love in life on your birthday, when can you? A few things:

    I’m in love with the anti-fragility of google forms right now. I feel like everything wonderful has migrated to a google form of one sort or another. Sign up. Volunteer. Spread the news. Let me know.

    example: This farmer in Southern Vermont grows the most beautiful and obscure flowering plants of all sorts in her greenhouse, and then sells them from her front yard. She has a google spreadsheet order form posted up for spring orders. Place the order, drive and get your plants sometime in May. Bunker Farm Plants (click the link in her instagram profile for the order form.)

    Bon Tucson: such a classy shop that seems to carry only the most lovely things presented in the gentlest way. I so admire their style.

    The cookbooks story on Tonke’s instagram account. What a pretty collection she has, and her reviews are wonderfully precise. It’s the most recent story listed.

    Our monthly coffee subscription from my hometown coffeeshop Madcap (Grand Rapids, Michigan). It is the best most delicious coffee I’ve ever had, they strive to pay more than fair trade prices to their growers, they are obsessed with quality, and they ship three bags once a month. It’s been perfect for the last year and I’m so thankful for it.

    Speaking of cookbooks, Tim of Lottie and Doof told me about Midnight Chicken and it’s one of the books I happened to have with me during quarantine. My quaran-team. A thoughtful reflective cookbook filled with short memory-essays and encouraging ideas. Extremely British. It is the single reason I buy more expensive butter for toast now (strictly for slathering) than I did before.

  • At Home,  Books

    Papers of All Sorts

    We are in day two of deep engagement with scantily clad golden age Greek paper dolls. Scraps of paper are blowing hither and thither around the house, but the girls are loving cutting and coloring these detailed creatures and as previously mentioned, I have zero better ideas. They are using ones copied out of the Story of the World Activity book, which I unfortunately can’t find scans of online. But the blog Practical Pages has fun detailed ones which you may print off for free.

    I’m feeling disinterested in making meals right now. I think perhaps I’ve parceled them off too much? Taken the glamour out of the evening meal? It might be the gradually more meager supplies at the store influencing me too. Simplicity feels smart. I only want to eat pesto, bread, pink pickled onions, and cheese on repeat.

    I finished my book this morning and I miss it already. Girl, Woman, Other. A collection of chapters each about a different human, often related to each other as friend, child, mother, grandmother. The writing was lovely and poetic and the chapter style made it easy to pick up and put back down. The characters were so interesting and most of their stories had quiet endings as if of course, isn’t life itself interesting enough?

    I’m codependent on books right now so I’ve already ordered another. The local bookstore is offering porch drop offs (lovely!). I ordered Weather by Jenny Offill. Went for the hardcopy, because maybe Joe will want to read it too.

    Aloud, I am reading the Railway Children to the girls. We love it. The writing is fabulous, and the family is isolated and self-entertaining like the rest of us.

    In a rare moment of prescience I bought the supplies for egg nests back in February and saved them until now. These are so easy to make but the girls turned them into a really lengthy project this time–spooning the sugar into the bowl by spoonfuls, trying different designs of nests. I typically expect projects of being 1:1:1–equal ratios of time spent setting up and cleaning up, to the time the project was actually engaging. It’s unexpected when it turns into something longer. The girls each selected one nest to save for Easter morning.

  • At Home

    descend on our whole horizon

    I keep waking up with a feeling of profound anxiety. When I wake the anxiety momentarily balances, like a hat resting on a doll, upon something I am not truly anxious about–the state of the kitchen dishes, a friend I forgot to call back, I never did write that thank you note…then the soapy water of sleep swirls away and the thin drain appears: the pandemic.

    In general I am not an anxious person but I do like to forecast forward, and I am pessimistic. I have realistic projections of situations, and because of this I am rarely surprised by things. Though we read the news of the virus, the lockdowns, and the rate of infection in China in January, looking back if feels like we treated it as deeply other, as a nearly fictitious level of science reality. The way in which the pandemic has been handled by American federal authorities has been so outrageously bad that it feels like no projection can get too dark. The lack of oversight of infections and travel, the lack of ventilators for the hospitals, the untruthful  communication and lax restrictions. The time they had, that they wasted. Putting our healthcare professionals on the front lines, as if as innocent sacrificial lambs for the sin of arrogance.

    It is an astounding experience to be in.

    In April of last year I had an infant, a big messy house, three children at home all day and a thick layer of snow on the ground. One early morning, predawn, I was sitting under the blankets, nursing the baby in the dark, with my layers of socks and frozen windowpanes. A vision appeared: waking up in the morning with the baby, making our coffee, Joe and I sitting on the porch in the sun. Birds singing. Grass growing before our eyes. Though it seemed unbelievable, it was a totally attainable vision. A month or so later, as soon as it warmed up, we woke up earlier, crept downstairs more quietly, made our coffee and sat outside. Every day. For nearly the whole of the summer. And it was glorious.

    I often wonder if we would have bothered to get out of bed, or ever discovered the beauty of that thirty minutes, had I not had that vision in the darker spot. It is the case that you can hold both dark and light projections in your hands at the same time.

    I am savoring these words of Brian McLaren’s, quoted on the Center for Action and Contemplation’s blog yesterday:

    Anxieties can gray the whole sky like cloud cover or descend on our whole horizon like fog. When we rename our anxieties, in a sense we distill them into requests. What covered the whole sky can now be contained in a couple of buckets. So when we’re suffering from anxiety, we can begin by simply holding the word help before God, letting that one word bring focus to the chaos of our racing thoughts. Once we feel that our mind has dropped out of the frantic zone and into a spirit of connection with God, we can let the general word help go and in its place hold more specific words that name what we need, thereby condensing the cloud of vague anxiety into a bucket of substantial request. So we might hold the word guidance before God. Or patience. Or courage. Or resilience. Or boundaries, mercy, compassion, determination, healing, calm, freedom, wisdom, or peace. . . .

    From Brian McLaren’s Naked Spirituality. Quoted on CAC.