Still We Rise (with butter)

IMG_4654.JPGSince I had my first child nearly three years ago, I maintained that I would have another human, but not an animal. This was confirmed upon the birth of babe number two, where I upheld the notion that I could not possibly be in charge of one more creature’s fecal matter.

But feed another mouth? Sure, why not. Only a delusional person would—in the midst of a partner’s appendectomy, her own bring-you-to-your-knees-ear infection, a family cold, an infant taking up crawling and a toddler on Winter Break terror—think it sure time to take on a sourdough starter.

Turns out I am delusional.

To be fair, like a first-time pregnant woman, I had no idea what I was getting into. I was ignorant of the sourdough’s daily demands, and it turns out, this heirloom starter is as needy as my toddler. On the up side, it does not produce feces, unless of course, you count the 80% of the mass that you discard daily—similarities to my toddler continue to mount.

I didn’t realize when I requested some of a friend’s discard sourdough that I was committing to a daily endeavor, never mind actually making anything with it. The pictures of her artisanal loaves spoke to my forgotten Martha Stewart and my current Ree Drummand. Who would not want bread seemingly plucked from the oven of a boutique bakery? Surely I could manage to wipe butts, noses, appendectomy wounds and find some time to mix flour and water together. I mean, I was a mother, for chrissakes. What wasn’t I already doing? (Mailing out my Christmas cards, for one.)

The Ziploc bag seemed innocuous enough. The directions my friend gave me, while her three cherubs under three whirled around her, seemed like anyone with half a second could manage them.

By the time I arrived home I had just enough time to stash the baggie in the fridge.

It took me two days to retrieve it. Hell, to even remember that I had it. And then, of course, it had to come to room temperature. During which time I mediated several infant/toddler UFC fights, moved six loads of laundry, picked up the egg and kiwi off the kitchen floor (again) and found a half second to pee in partial peace. Which means I forgot about the starter.

Between leaving it in the fridge too long without feeding, and then leaving it on the counter, I was sure I had killed it. What would it look like if dead? How would I know if it could be revived? I found directions online for feeding my new mouth, hoping to find those answers and more questions immediately arose: did I discard half of what I had been given, or just mix the flour right in? I queried my sourdough mentor.

In the meantime I found the recipe she had suggested: Tartine Country Loaf. The famed Chad Robertson recipe that turns out golden globes of perfect-sourdough crust with moist, hole-y, sour innards is a mere six pages long. Online, that translates to 13 steps, each a paragraph long and a lot of scrolling. I stepped out of Mom role for fifteen minutes to attempt to decode the process. My eyes crossed. I dusted off and donned my high school English teaching hat. My brain scrambled. What had I gotten myself into? Even Martha says this bread “requires a commitment.” I had, unwittingly, brought another needy child into my home.

There was a host of new vocabulary I had never heard: crumb, leaven, lame, proofing baskets and, the kicker: grams. I was to construct all this in grams. My mind spun back to Christmases past where my Danish mother-in-law frantically converted tablespoons to deciliters. Even she, who had grown up with the metric system, still struggled to weigh properly in America. It wasn’t just that there were 13 steps in a foreign language and measuring schema, no, it also appeared that it would take approximately two and a half days, or in mom time, nine years to make two loaves of bread.

And yet. I somehow felt obligated to this swimming mass of tan ooze as a mama does to a clustered mass of cells on an ultrasound. I felt as though I owed it to this discarded pile to transform it into something grander, to help it reach its ultimate destiny. I was like the fairy godmother of sourdough. And there was also the host of hands that had tended to this living mass in some way before me. This was the adult version of a chain letter, and could I really sleep at night if I was the one to say Fuck it, and toss that shit in the trash?

No, no I could not.

For several nights I stayed up much past my bedtime researching, planning and trying to wrap my head around what I needed to do. I realized that I was on the brink of stepping into a cult—these Tartine loaf people were serious. And you had to be—this is not your mama’s bread-maker.

Once I began with the leaven, the process took me two-and-a-half days. For each step, I read the directions, watched a video, and reread the directions. Every step felt awkward and clumsy; dough and flour concealed every corner of my counter. Every available bowl was dirtied. I didn’t have any of the fancy bread-making tools: a dough scraper, proofing baskets, lame, or a linen hand towel, and made do with the spatula from my twenties and some thrifted Pyrex. I floured the side that was meant to remain dry and turned the seam the wrong way. I cheated with a short cut and was busy coercing a toddler to shit on a toilet when I ought to have taken the dough from the fridge. I nearly burned myself scoring the loaf.

There is a moment of reckoning with every loaf, I am finding, as you pull the lid off the vessel in which you cook it. The first time I didn’t know what to expect. I was ready for a sad lump in the bottom of the cast iron. But, low and behold: there she rose! A beautiful domed loaf of sourdough, risen to perfection. As the crust crisped, I could already taste the tablespoons of butter I would slather across it. I knew I would hedge my bets and slice into that sucker well before the suggested hour cool-down.

It was hands down the most spectacular loaf of bread I have ever eaten.

The next week I tried again, ready to make the two loaves the recipe called for. I only had to watch the video at a few steps, and I had some inkling of how to flip the dough, how to turn and pile it on itself four times every thirty minutes for the rest of my life. In my haste, I hurried though one proofing and combined the short-cut with the traditional method to fit my schedule. I was certain that would be the death of the loaves and lamented the wasted flour.

When I pulled the lid off the first loaf in the oven, I was astonished: another pale, perfect dome. It crisped to perfection under the 400 degrees and I had to stop myself from eating every last slice before bed that night.

As I plunked the second loaf into the re-heated cast iron, I considered the laborious art I had undertaken. I could see the grip traditional bread making has on people, why it has a cult-ish following. Why a former colleague laughed and said, “Making bread by hand is a way of life” when I told him I had a bread machine. It is a science. A devotion. A time-suck and a labor of love.

This massive list of must-dos, the daily tending, the discarding some and restoring the other, the challenge of sorting out grams and the diligence to weigh your flour every time and the patience between proofings and the demanding a turn every thirty minutes and and and and and all the number of ways in which you can fuck it up and it still…still it rises. Maya Angelou* had it right: there is so much in life to weigh us down, so many rules to follow and places to go wrong and details and people that need attention. And it is so easy for a Type A like myself to lambaste and flagellate oneself: I missed this exercise class, I bought instead of made cookies for the bake sale, I still have yet to get out the god damn Christmas cards, I let the dishes in the sink rot overnight, I spoke too harshly to my kid, ignored my husband, forgot to call my mother, didn’t have time to let the dough fully rise, I failed to feed the starter today…and the list goes on. Still we rise.

If this bread, with all its demands, and under duress, can turn out loaf after loaf of nourishing goodness, well then, there is hope for the other living bodies in my house, and for myself. Turns out there is grace in that sourdough starter. Children and partners and parents and friends will too, withstand a particular amount of fuck ups. Because when you devote that much time to something—a partnership, a child, a lump of flour and water and salt—the love that is poured in will often be enough to withstand a failed proof here, a forgotten to change a diaper there, a missed call here. Bread and humans are not meant to be perfect; every loaf and day of mama-ing and wife-ing is different, calling for a different set of instructions. And we—I—will screw up. Still we will rise. And for the toughest loaves, the most unsavory slices, there is always butter.

*My apologies for taking this totally out of context; there is no dismissal on my part of the grave circumstances under which she first uttered it.


Hello, WordPress, old friend.

You’ve aged better than me. I’ve got stretch marks, fat, greys and ingrowns. You’ve become sleeker and faster. Your buttons have moved. I’ll find you.**

The end of 2016 was a humdinger: appendicitis, four colds, an adult ear infection, a serious break-in and theft at Nikolai’s work shop, a pulled back muscle and a suddenly mobile infant.15392750_10157770601205234_3145946320755264912_o

I decided in the middle of it to do something foolish. I’m going to regret it. I joined a tribe to write 52 essays in 2017. That’s one a week, folks. I might fade like a sparkler, and likely well before Fourth of July.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: Linsey, you can’t even shower once a week—how are you going to write an essay once a week?

To which I reply: I dunno. While showering?

Here’s the thing. I’m a writer. It’s what I do in my head when no one is listening. I make up stories and people and string words together like popcorn on a garland. And I’m not writing. Sure, I’m attempting to edit my manuscript for the gamillionth time. But it’s not the creation process. And I love the essay format. And maybe I’ll Jane Schafer that shit and make them all 5 paragraphs, in-and-out before I can finish a beer. (I think Jane drank a lot of beer while developing the 5 paragraph essay.)

I’m getting a head start and calling this an essay because it’s New Year’s Eve and it’s what will make me and my herniated? Spasming? Slipped disc? back feel better. That and the homemade eggnog steeping in my fridge.

This is #1, folks. And you are privy to it. You are so damn lucky! And look! More than 5 paragraphs! (Though I used the Freshman cheat and paragraphed every time I blinked.)

I’m thinking most of these essays will be about motherhood, because, HELLO. My world is shift-filled diapers and today the highlight was the projectile vomit all over me in the grocery store. What other aspect of my life could possible offer as much drama? Excitement? Suspense? Bodily fluids? (Yes, yes. But none of us care to relive my dating years.)

And so, here I go again. I am glad you are here.

**Ha ha. Joke’s on me. Still can’t figure out how to title a post nor where the “Publish” button is. I’ve lost my brain, too. No surprise!

365 Days Later


My dearest Luka Lee,

Today you are one. Today we celebrated you with our village and I stared at you in amazement.


You are my hardest, most joyful work. You are my favorite cuddler. The best green smoothie eater.


The silliest monkey I have ever met. You are brave and strong and fearless. Which worries me. Your eyes match this Easter Sunday sky and you have a dimple that tells me when you are truly happy. But you can be so GQ cover serious.


You giggle when I jump out from you behind the cabinets and when I smother your neck with kisses. You love books and all things Danish and because I’ve bribed you for over a year with breast milk, your first word is “mama.”


I am so glad you are here, LuLu. Grateful that 365 days ago, your little spirit and big blue eyes came into our family.

You are loved more than you will ever know.

To a million more birthdays, dear boy.


Soba vs. My Boobs

After Monday’s SCOTUS decision, I did what I usually do when I am enraged and appalled: fumed for a good long while, then got to work.

I am an adamant believer in putting one’s money where one’s mouth is; in a world so lured by pocket strings, I feel that a contentious decision about where and how to spend my money is a vote more toothy than one at the ballot box.

Here’s the letter I sent to Eden Foods, another company who feels as though they can hack off pieces of a national law at their whim.

I encourage you to copy and paste the parts that work for you (what?? You don’t also have mastitis?!!) and draft your own letter. More importantly, I encourage you to spend your money on products that value a woman’s right to make informed health care decisions. Find a list of “corporations” on the Hobby Lobby train here.

Eden Foods, Inc.
701 Tecumseh Road
Clinton, Michigan 49236


Dear Eden Foods,

I’m at home recovering from mastitis, a women’s reproductive health issue. I’m reading the recent SCOTUS decision on Sebelius vs. Hobby Lobby, exhaling with relief knowing that when Hobby Lobby built a store in my community last Fall, I did not take them up on their 50% coupon and venture inside just to see what they had.

No, instead I drove another two miles to Michaels and paid full price for my acrylic paint. I felt great about the extra $4.33 I spent, knowing that it supported a company that supported the integrity, autonomy and right of women. Truth be told, I would have paid an additional $4.33 for that same feeling.

Et tu, Brute?

Silly me—I teach Biblical allusions to my students, but never put two and two together that Eden foods would be a religious corporation—let alone one who would also choose to meddle in my health care. I have no problem with the former; it’s the latter issue where you and I depart.

And therein lies your problem. See, there are middle-class, contentious people like me who have lived off your soba noodles or beans for years, who, like me, will no longer purchase your products because you don’t believe that I am capable or should be in control of managing my own body. That’s a shame, as one of the reasons I buy your products is that they are primarily organic, and I love nothing more than controlling my own body and what goes in it—IUD, organic carbohydrates or otherwise. Because I value my control over yours, and because I control my pocketbook, and therefore, ultimately, your bottom line, I will no longer purchase your products.

You and I could debate all day about the merits of this week’s ruling. But here are the few issues it really comes down to:

  1. You value profits as well as control over your employees.
  2. The ruling, as articulated by Justice Ginsberg and as extrapolated by any other thinking individual (and clearly part of the plan on the Hobby Lobby coalition) will infiltrate and pervade “corporations”, religious “freedom” and women’s health care. Millions will ultimately be affected by this precedent-setting ruling.
  3. Number 2 is of paramount concern to me because as I mentioned, I am currently dealing with a women’s reproductive health issue. It is not far-fetched to think that under this ruling, some “corporation” will conclude that my infected breast is not their financial health responsibility. In fact, any Christian Scientist “corporation” could now argue that provide to antibiotics hampers their religious beliefs.
  4. Thankfully, while you and your corporate cronies control the Supreme Court, I control my paycheck.

It is a shame that your company that I have valued for so long has chosen to make strange bedfellows of politics and religion. I grant that your company has likely taken a huge financial hit due to imposed health care mandates. What I do not grant you, however, is your duty to recognize me as an individual agent, one who is free to make informed, religiously abiding—or not—choices about my own body. It saddens me that I have to choose my reproductive rights over your soba noodles, but obviously, the two are mutually exclusive. I will have to find an alternative or do without, as many women must now do with their birth control.

It’s unfortunate that you can’t keep your hands in the buckwheat and out of my pants.

Best of luck,


Former consumer Linsey Kitchens

A Secret, Clothing Inequities, and Tiger Pants

What I am about to say– it’s a secret that’s going to shock you and me both:

I love being a mom.

Can you believe it? Me either. It’s shocking, to say the least. It actually freaks me out to admit that. Me. Loving motherhood. Who is this lady?

However there are two things that plague me, both both of equal importance:

  1. Having to go back to work at the end of August. The thought of anyone other than me spending the majority of time with this little monkey slays me in my quickening heart. I understand why some mothers cry upon returning to work. I may already be crying just thinking about it.

    This look says: "Please, Mama, don't go back to work!"

    This look says: “Please, Mama, don’t go back to work!”

  2. How to clothe LL in the void of cute, reasonably priced boy clothing. Adorable clothes for  girls abound, yet the boy’s world of clothing? Embroidered footballs, “Mommy’s cutest slugger” and more stripes than an ambush of tigers. I am fully aware that this is a First World, middle-class problem, and that I should be grateful that I have a plethora of generous hand me-downs, some money to spend on clothes that never leave the house and the time to “shop” to make my babe look more adorable than anyone else’s babe. (Wait–it’s not a competition?!) I find the void of boys’ clothing so odd, given the number of new testes that seem to pop out on a daily basis. (Remember my conspiracy theory here?) What can I say? I am vain for my 12-week old child. Obscene, I know.

Even Emily Henderson and I (yes, we’re totally BFFs) had a conversation about this issue:

Screen shot 2014-06-27 at 11.05.58 AM

Enter El Sage Designs. The company is run by the talented Phoebe Carpenter Eells, mama to two young boys. Girlfriend knows the dearth of cute (environmentally and kid-safe clothes, might I add) boys’ wear, and several years ago, she left her teaching job to leap into her design work full-time. She designs, hand-carves and prints the clothing in her home studio, in the yellow house across the street from mine. She is one of those people who took the brave jump from a permanent, stable job to peruse her passion and be with her kids as they grow. She is inspiring, to say the least. Plus, she makes my kid look so South Park hipster. (That’s South Park San Diego, not South Park Trey Parker.)

Kid's been wearing El Sage since birth.

Kid’s been wearing artisan clothing since birth.

It’s like he just needs a fixie, handle bar mustache and a cup of black coffee to go with his skinny jeans. Okay, maybe in a few years–a mom can have goals for her kid, right?

This video from her site is the real deal: she works while her boys play in cardboard boxes, with scraps of fabric or doodle alongside her, all in her downstairs studio. Seriously–to work from home, investing in the creative side of me, to be there for LL–that sounds amazing. Plus, Phoebe and her family are the kind of people who bring over an entire taco bar just after you’ve had a baby. They deliver cookies and beer to our house on a regular basis. The boys (5 and 3) knocked on our door with May Day flowers. They are the kind of people you want to take over your corner of the world.

In gratitude for grabbing their mail last week, she gave LL this onesie. Sigh. I mean, I get some mail, LL gets amazing clothes. It’s SO.DAMN.CUTE. He’s so damn cute. It’s like when he wears adorable clothing, my desire to eat him alive beginning with his toes amplifies significantly.


He wore this to the barn, of course.

And better yet, her prints for adults are just as drool-worthy. I bought my niece this sweater and have yet to give it to her because I’m to busy wearing it.

Wearing it everywhere--even to the gym! I turn up and my friend is wearing her El Sage too. I'm telling you, it's a thing!

Wearing it everywhere–even to the gym! I turn up and my friend is wearing her El Sage too. I’m telling you, it’s a thing!


Up here in Skagit Valley, I see people wearing her stuff all the time. She’s becoming a thing. A hot commodity. I love that when I see her vibrant designs around town, I know that person has literally put food on my neighbor’s table. They’ve supported local art, a fierce, creative Mama, and my neighbor.  If you have a gift to give, a boy to clothe or bones burning a hole in your pocket for yourself, you should check out Phoebe’s work. I’m lusting after this guy and I’m secretly hoping she’ll print her “Believe in Mountains” on trucker hats. If you’re local, you can find her at the Anacortes and Everette farmer’s markets; if you’re not, her kiddos LOVE prepping PO boxes.

And if she makes it work…well then, there’s hope that I might one day too.

Also, here are some other places where I’ve found the clothes LL likes. (Let’s be honest, it’s his style I’m catering to, not mine. 😉  Most of these I bought on Zulily, because they are WAY over my budget at full price.

Leighton Alexander Harem pants–Seriously, those grey and gold tiger pants. I want them in my size.

Loralin Designs–Colorful, classic. And that kangaroo softie? Love.

Kikkee Pants

Sckoon Organics


Shortcake for Breakfast

You know things are looking up when you’ve only spent two minutes putting the little one down for his nap, when the little one slept EIGHTEEN HOURS–eighteen!!the day before–it was textbook perfect, but so odd for LL that I spent half the day being anxious about why he was sleeping as much as he should. Was he ill? Depressed?–and when you have strawberry shortcake for breakfast.



During the first day of LL back on the “ohmyGAWD-my-child-sleeps-schedule!!” I was supposed to be mowing the lawn. Mind you, we have a push mower, a lawn with craters like the moon and I am more out of shape than I ever have been.

It took me three nap cycles and from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. to finish 3/4 of the lawn.

So when I spied several ruby strawberries in our patch at 8:45 p.m., I eagerly took a break. And HOT DAMN! The fistful of starts I had planted three years ago were loaded with fruit. Every year I have cursed the runners the plants put out as they attempt to take over the whole bed. I wouldn’t mind, but the berries have never been that fantastic.

Until this year. I quickly swapped the mower for the berry boxes I’d saved and began picking in earnest. Every clump of leaves I pulled apart revealed more tear-drop jewels, and for every two I picked, I plopped one in my mouth.


They are quite possibly the best strawberries I’ve ever tasted. This, from a California girl who used to eat entire flats and break out in hives. I know my strawberries.

And they are overtaking my bed! I could not be happier.

I did the only reasonable thing I could: stayed up way past my bedtime to make shortcake. There was some kind of Hogwart’s magic in the midnight air as I squeezed butter and flour between my fingers. Both the boys were sound asleep and Kings of Leon swooned on Pandora. I dreamt about devouring a hot shortcake before I went to bed, only to realize that we didn’t have any cream. But if I could get LL to sleep, well then, a little lack of cream was not going to deter me–I sent out an SOS (save our shortcake) to my mother-in-law:



And so I made the first part of these one night and resumed the baking when my personal Pink Dot had arrived last night with the cream.

An old college friend of mine happened to be in town for the night. He and his wife have a three-year old and a four-month old, and N, his mama, Corky and I laughed about the “image” he would bring back to his wife: “Yes, Linsey cooked a meal from scratch, dessert from scratch, served N and I a beer on the front porch and the baby slept the whole damn time!”

I kept trying to tell him it was a miracle of miracles, perhaps never to be replicated again, but just then, the four of us hovering over wine and pasta and fried zucchini salad, and N  whipping the cream at full force without fear of waking the deep-sleeping LL, and all of us going back for more whipped cream–I tell you, not only did I feel a smidge of my old self just then, but joyful for my new one. For the amazing family and friends in front of me, for the time and energy to do something I love–cook–and for the obscenely adorable monkey asleep in the nearby room.

And for the leftover shortcake I am now eating for breakfast.


**When I’m looking to bake something, I usually turn to either Deb or Joy. This is a version of Deb’s, and it won’t disappoint!

Strawberry Shortcakes

1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
3 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 hard-boiled egg yolks
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream
1/2 pound strawberries, washed, hulled and quartered
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup whipping cream, beaten to soft peaks

If you’re snazzy enough to own a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, egg yolks, and salt. Either pulse or mix with a wooden spoon. Add the butter and pulse or get your hands dirty by rubbing the butter and flour between your fingers (this is my favorite part of baking and one reason I don’t use a food processor–I like the tactile-ness of the cold butter and soft flour) until the flour resembles coarse meal. Add 2/3 cup of cream and mix until the dough comes together.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and gather into a shaggy mass. Knead a couple times to make it into a cohesive mass and then pat it into a rough circle about 6 to 7 inches in diameter, and 3/4 to 1-inch thick.

Using a sharp knife, cut the circle into 8 wedges and arrange on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Chill for 20 minutes (and up to 2 hours).

Preheat oven to 350°F. Brush the tops of the shortcakes very lightly with heavy cream and sprinkle lightly with the coarse sugar. Bake until risen and golden brown, 18 to 20 minutes. Turn the pan around halfway through to ensure even cooking.

While the shortcakes are baking, toss the strawberries, sugar and lemon juice together in a bowl. Let stand several minutes. (If the strawberries are extremely firm, do this 30 minutes in advance.)

There was much early debate at our counter whether the berries or whipped cream should go on first: in the end, we decided, it didn’t matter, and several of us did whipped cream, berries, whipped cream. You can’t really go wrong, right?

I wish I had enough wherewithal to capture a picture of the four of us in shortcake heaven, but the only thing on my mind was getting more berries and cream into my mouth. Thus, I give you my breakfast. Not too shabby.



Can I Get an ‘Amen’?


My child sleeps. I’m not sure you fully understand the joy in this, but my child sleeps. On his own. In his own bed. For long periods of time. For the second day in a row. I want to weep with joy. Instead, I have time only to hang the cloth diapers in the sun, cut some roses I’ve been eyeing since last week and begin half a blog post. I will—

He cries—I tend to him. He is learning how to transition between sleep cycles and I am learning him.

What was I saying? Oh, who knows.

It seems as though whenever anyone in the trenches comments on the impossible-ness of the whole parenting endeavor, they are met with the retort, “But it’s all worth it.”

Of course it’s all worth it, otherwise I would have put the child out with the latest Amazon boxes in the recycling. Or offer him on the black market: I know there is a large demand for a blue-eyed baby in the 95th percentile for length.


Of course it’s worth it. The problem is, parenting (motherhood, particularly, I imagine) is like having every terrible 6th period you’ve ever had, all at the same time, coupled with the worst parents you’ve ever had breathing down your neck while the school is on fire. And the worst part is—you give a damn. You are so heavily invested in this creature, more so than any thing or person you’ve invested in before. (Your husband, who you are certainly invested in, already came to you complete. You are not teaching him how to latch on to your boob (already a perfectionist at that!) or how to sleep or to laugh or speak.) This whole parenting thing would be so much easier if I didn’t give a shit.

But I do. I give a huge shit.

Which sometimes ends up on LL’s feet, his back and my hands.

So here’s a small clip of a day in the life—one with tears on both our parts—not to make you feel sorry; not to solicit suggestions; not to imply my shit stinks more than yours—

The boy cries; I tend to him

But to remind all the rest of us in the trenches that we are not alone. That shit be hard. That it is okay to cry with the babe and throw the towel in for the day and pour yourself a huge glass of wine, yes, even if you are breastfeeding.

It is a long night—LL has gas and flails his legs in his swaddle. His eyes are still shut, so he’s still asleep; I don’t dare wake him. Can I sleep through his kicking? N is sleeping downstairs because he has a long drive tomorrow—I’d like him to make it there and back in one piece, because I’d like to continue to have a partner in parenting. So he sleeps alone tonight.

We’re up at 6 and no one can go back to sleep. I’ve allowed myself the “cheat” of nursing LL to sleep in the morning. I contend that cheating twice a day will improve my sanity and up my oxytocin—cuddling with the babe is beyond sweet. We fall asleep together…for 35 minutes. I am beyond tired. I am already cranky.

We’re up. I change diapers, watch him kick the gymni, beam when he coos. He yawns. Time for a nap. I feel the dread well inside my stomach. I hate this part. This is the impossible part.

We turn on the sound machine. We swaddle as I sing “Twinkle, Twinkle” (I keep meaning to find out—is there more than one verse to this song?). LL’s not yet learned that these are his sleep cues. He’s not yet learned to sleep. I pick him up, sing Twinkle one more time through, patting his back the while. A slow, steady rhythm.

He wails.

I shush.

He wails.

I pat.

Shush, pat. Shush, pat.

He squirms in his swaddle, in my arms, head over my shoulder.

He screams so loud it pierces my ears.

He will sleep. I am determined.

He’s tired, I know he is. His eyes are red. The pediatrician told me that LL needs 16-19 hours of sleep per day—we are lucky if he gets 10. “It’s bad for his brain, isn’t it, this lack of sleep?” I’d asked. The doctor had nodded softly, without trying to alarm me. Me, the teacher who passes out a sleep/brain article to parents at Back to School Night. Me, who is a royal bitch without at least seven hours of sleep. Me, the one who can’t get her child to sleep.

The screaming dulls to a wail. I place him in the hammock. Attempt to put the pacifier in his mouth. Violent squirming. Thrashing of his head side-to-side. Again, the screaming.

I pick him up.

Shush, pat. Shush, pat.

He wails.

This will be the second day of this. And I know it will be all day. I can’t do this.

And my tears fall then too. I know he needs sleep. I know he can’t fall asleep while worked up. I know I can’t take much more of this. It’s eight a.m. and we’re both already in tears. How will we make it until N gets home at seven p.m.? How will my child’s brain develop if he can’t sleep? I will feel responsible if he is placed in remedial math. Worse, if he is diagnosed with ADHD or autistism. I am an ignorant, guilt-ridden first-time mother, and the weight of my child’s future rests on whether or not I can get him to sleep.

He wails. Squirms.

Please help, I silently pray to my Nana. Help me keep my shit together. My tears fall on the swaddled wailer; I’m praying while shushing. Please help me get him to sleep. Just this once. I’m like an addict begging for a hit. Tears roll down both our cheeks. I know I will spend the second day in a dark room shushing, patting and crying.

I take a deep breath and think about my sister, who over the Cascade Mountains, is likely giving meds to her one-year old. Sometimes a three-minute dose takes her close to an hour, the poor boy wailing too, and my sister, I imagine, close to or in tears also.

I think of my friend across town, afraid to leave the house because her one-month old screams with the pitch of an alto-opera singer whenever they are in public.

I think of another friend, one with elementary-school kids who graced us with food and hand-knit beanies and company, who had to have two follow-up surgeries post-birth. How she never really talks about it.

Because no one really talks about the hard stuff. Because it’s apparently illegal to be anything other than Pollyanna-ish or discuss anything other than your perfect child and your stellar, innate parenting skills.

Yes, we will all survive. Yes, we’ll likely forget all the pain and tears in a few days or months. And yes, it is all worth it.

But is it so terrible to talk about how hard it is? About how even the strong among us cry in dark rooms? About how we have never cared so much and felt so incompetent? So responsible?? And incapable?

Of course we can do it. My nephew will get his meds, LL will fall asleep, my friend will leave her house and we will all heal and get through the day.

Not without effort. Not without a conscious decision to love and to teach. To embrace the really, really difficult shit that is parenthood and knowingly take on the task of putting the child down for the sixth time that day. A task which takes 30 minutes and garners only 30 minutes of sleep, followed by another 30 minutes of attempting to get him back down to sleep.


We’re over that hump***, thank god—at least until the next one—but still, it felt so impossible in those moments. And I needed someone to place their hand on my shoulder and not quip: But it’s all worth it!

I needed that hand to mouth: Amen, Sista. Let it out. You cry so LL doesn’t have to. It will be impossible, but you will do it. We are right here with you and when that little bugger is finally asleep, we will crack cold beers and sigh together in relief.

This, I contend, is not because misery loves company, but because the Sisterhood of Truth–a loud ‘AMEN, Sista!’ coupled with that knowing look–that is what pulls me from the darkened room; that is what compels me in there for the ninth time that day; this is what allows me to tend to my child with an ounce of grace and sanity, knowing that yes, you have been here too.

***HA! A sure-fire way to ruin your streak is to brag about it. That “victory” lasted all of two days. That will teach me to claim success!


Hope is the Thing With Tusks

I once went searching for Hope in the middle of a Thai forest. It was well past midnight, Hope was “lost,” and we were worried. Hope was notorious for sneaking away; he was also young, mischievous and often covered in mud. Sometimes Hope was impossible to find.

I witnessed finding Hope once again this weekend. Somehow he emerges from the muddiest of pits, where the soil is so dark and thick one is sure there is no light of day.

This weekend a herd of us rallied around my sister—that brave, strong, dedicated, selfless woman—and her son. It has been a long year for her and her family, but this weekend was like coming upon Hope in the dead of night.

cape boy2

My parents somehow, in their dilapidated state, drove for three days from New Mexico to Spokane. My mother began—and finished (this, as many of you know, is the challenge for her) three craft projects for the weekend in two days. Hope in the end.



Thirty-some people (over half of them children under the age of 10!!) from around the country drove in, flew out, and walked with Jessica and Walter. Hope in camaraderie.

W4W crew

Cousins met cousins. Hope in family.

photo 3

Grandparents met grandbabies. Hope in future generations.

photo 2

Cookies were shared. Hope in sustenance.

Serious dolla dolla bills were raised. I began with a meager goal of raising $300 for the CF walk, but ended up with $1055. On Wednesday before the walk, a friend at the gym approached me with an envelope. “Did you make your goal?” he asked, “because I brought you $25 if you didn’t.” Hope in the form of a gym rat.

There are nights in all of our lives that are dark and endless. Nights where the walls close in around us and we feel so lonely we could cry. Often we do. What is amazing to me, however, is when we reach out from that dark place, when we ask of our friends and family to prop us up with their quiches and cookies, company and children; when money swaps hands for good causes and when people rally around a loved one with so much joy and love that it feels like finally, they are floating–that is Hope.

And yes, Hope is feisty. Of course he disappears. He’s got tusks to reckon with. It is our job, however, to don our headlamps and trek through the forest to find him. And when we do, we can believe once more in tomorrow.

Perhaps the greatest Hope of all is the smile amidst adversity–Walter has this trait down, And sings the tune without the words -And never stops – at all –

walter 2

A million thanks to all the donors who supported this worthy cause. I know there are many, many places to lay down your Franklins, and I am so grateful that you chose ours.


Radishes, Baby

Baby size radishes

Baby size radishes

You know how I garden, right?

Well, add a newborn to that mix and the seeds you planted in your 38th week of gestation become sorely neglected for–well, forever.

I was so eager when I planted these radishes; I love me a small, crisp radish, straight from the garden. I think the little red, pink and/or white oblongs or circles are often overlooked, much like The Beast or Quaismodo in the early stages. But, a little buttermilk, a little cheese (radishes have a love affair with cheese, methinks!) or even a little harissa, and the shabby radish shines.

I’m not one to waste pieces of hard-grown veggies: one of my favorite kinds of pesto is radish leaf pesto. It has a subtle flavor, but one quite different from that of a basil-inspired pesto.

If you had a baby between the time you planted your radishes and harvested them (or just plain forgot about them–the radishes, not the baby) here are some of my favorite dishes I’ll be making in the next month to consume this baby-size bounty.

Did you notice that the largest radish is almost the length of my child’s torso? Good god, man!!

Roasted Delicata Squash Salad

Radish Leaf Pesto

Buttermilk Farro Salad

Nectarine and Radish Salsa  




When I was 8 or so, my mom would dash from Thousand Oaks to Woodland Hills, swoop us up from school and cart us back to Thousand Oaks for our horseback riding lessons. There wasn’t enough time to get it all done, so my sister and I stripped down our plaid skirts and pulled on our tan britches in the back of the Suburban. We wrote out a check from my mom’s checkbook and just before we flew past the Club House at Foxfield, Mom would sign her money away.

When we were not quite old enough, my mom would make the same trek to Foxfield at 7 a.m. Saturday mornings; Jessica and I would spend the entire day cavorting around that magical place. My mom had a day to herself and my sister and I traipsed around the barn like small, fledgling human beings. We knew how to use the pay phone, how to obtain lunch and when it was time to tack up our horses. We were young, but capable.

Many years later, as I subbed kindergarten for the first–and last–time, I realized that my mother had done her job too well. I abhorred the neediness of those little tots: how they grabbed my hand with their snotty one, how they necessitated assistance  in the bathroom for a myriad reasons (wipe, flush, pull up, wash), how they could not understand multi-step instructions, those bastards.

And ever since, I have constructed an entire life composed of non-needy, non-dependent friends, colleagues and partners. Dependence drives me nuts.

Somehow, however, I created, housed and now am 98% responsible for the world’s most dependent living creature. This sweet-faced monkey is latched to my side, waist or nipple 23 out of every 24 hours. He will only sleep if spooning me. He despises the baby hammock N and I had visions of him snoozing away in.

So cute. So dependent!

So cute. So dependent!

It took me two weeks to realize if I wanted any sleep at all, I was going to have to let my baby be a barnacle.

And if I wanted any sanity at all, I was going to have to convince myself that this dependence–this trait that I deplored–was a symbiotic, temporary, adorable characteristic that melted my heart like butter on a burner. Somehow I needed to embrace neediness and clinginess and complete and utter reliance.

I tell you this because 1. I didn’t realize that this was the aspect of Motherhood that would challenge me, and 2. because I somehow DID  convince myself of the very symbiosis I needed to ingrain. Nobody really talks about how at 34, when you’ve been footloose and fancy free, when you’ve had your passport stamped at dozen ports of calls and eaten happy hour nachos at the pub on a whim and took the long arm of the trail this time because you felt like it–no one tells you that having a baby on your hip while you eat every.single.meal and having him tucked between your thighs and breasts as you both lay on your side every.single.night.–no one tells you this might be overwhelming to your independent self. That you might freak the fuck out for a while.  That you might hyperventilate. Feel a bit nauseous. That you might resent the love-making and baby growing and even the little monkey himself for a while.

I told my best friend that I was going to have to make a conscious choice: that I was going to have to embrace this symbiotic, temporary, adorable characteristic of my spawn or I would have to locate my passport and flee the country.

Now, a handful of weeks later, I eat all my meals one-handed, standing, bouncing the babe as I dribble coffee or soba noodle on his head. I dread the day when N demands that LL sleeps in his own bed or crib or hammock because his gassy fits and nursing coos are too loud. I am certain that one day the little munchkin will treat me with the reservation and distance that I witness between my high schoolers and their parents, and I will long for this time when his fat fingers clutched at my neckline and his body squirmed on my lap–blog post be damned.


Without knowing quite how, I drank the juice and am relishing (most) of LL’s dependence. Sure, i would love to enjoy a full, hot cup of coffee and a trip to the bathroom without my child attached to me in one of my four baby carriers, but for now, I’ve found joy in the obscenely dependent nature of my newborn.  I know that like my mom, I too, will foster (perhaps too much) independence, and that my baby boy may one day be so capable, so autonomous that he straps on a pack with a one way ticket to somewhere in his hands and no plans to return, no intentions of calling his mother.

That day will come. These days are here. I chant one of my running mantras in my head: This is where you are. This is what it is. We are in dependence.

And it is sweet and simple and full of a thousand small coos and smiles and feet that cling to my lips when I kiss them.

But I want you to know that this mindset did (does) not come easily, not naturally. That I had (have–almost daily still, it seems!) to work to get to this place, as some of us have to and will. You know who I’m talking to out there–you are not alone. We will relish our barnacles together and later, when they’re driving on I-5 and asking to stay out past curfew, we’ll sip our long-awaited margaritas and reminisce about the time they used to sleep with our nipple resting on their cheeks.