Sunday, November 27, 2011

... I want you to understand why she can't belong to you

Fictional letter written from an attorney of the Cherokee Nation (Annawake Fourkiller) regarding the welfare of a child (named Turtle) adopted to a white woman (Taylor, non-Cherokee):

"It's difficult, I know, for non-Native people to understand the value of belonging to a tribe, but I know you care about problems Turtle will face on her own.  I appeal to you on these grounds.  Adopted Native kids always have problems in adolescence when they're raised without an Indian identity.  They've gone to school with white kids, sat down to dinner every night with white parents and white siblings, and created themselves in the image of the family mirror.  If you ask them what they think about Indians, they'll recall Westerns on TV or doing Hiawatha as a school play.  They think Indians are history.

If these kids could stay forever inside the protection of the adoptive family, they'd be fine.  But when they reach high school there's enormous pressure against dating white peers.  They hear ugly names connected with their racial identity.  If you think this kind of prejudice amongst teenagers is a thing of the past, think again.  What these kids find is that they have no sense of themselves as Native Americans, but live in a society that won't let them go on being white, either.  Not past childhood.

My boss thinks I'm crazy to pursue this case, but I have to tell you something.  I used to have a brother named Gabriel.  We grew up wearing each other's jeans and keeping each other's secrets and taking turns when our uncle asked, "Who made this mischief?"  Gabe was my ayehli, my other wing.  When I was ten, our mother was hospitalized with alcoholism and other problems.  Social workers disposed of our family: my older brothers went with Dad, who did construction in Adair County.  I stayed with my Uncle Ledger.  And Gabe was adopted by a family in Texas.  No one has ever told me why it was done this way.  I assume they thought my dad could handle grown, income-earning sons, but not Gabe and me.  As for Gabe, probably the social workers knew a couple who wanted a little boy -something as simple as that.  He wrote me letters on fringe-edged paper torn out of his ring-bound school notebooks.  I still have them.  Texas was hot and smelled like fish.  His new parents told him not to say he was Indian at school, or they would treat him like a Mexican.  He asked me, "Is it bad to be Mexican?"

They put him into the Mexican classrooms anyway; his parents were bigots of the most innocent kind, never realizing that skin color talks louder than any kid's words.  He failed in school because the teachers spoke to him in Spanish, which he didn't understand.  The Mexican kids beat him up because he didn't wear baggy black pants and walk with his hands in his pockets.  When we were thirteen he wrote to tell me his new Mom had closed the bedroom door and sat on the foot of his bed and said quietly he was letting his new family down.

When he was fifteen, he was accessory to an armed robbery in Corpus Christi.  Now I only know where he is when he's in prison.

You said, the night we met, that I was only capable of seeing one side of things.  I've thought about that.  I understand attachments between mothers and their children.  But if you're right, if I have no choice here but to be a bird of prey, tearing flesh to keep my own alive, it's because I understand attachments.  That's the kind of hawk I am -I've lost my other wing.

I wonder what you are giving Turtle now that she can keep.  Soon she's going to hear from someone that she isn't white.  Some boy will show her that third-grade joke, the Land O' Lakes Margarine squaw with a flap cut in her chest, the breasts drawn in behind the flap, and ask her, 'Where does butter come from?' On the night of the junior prom, Turtle will need to understand why no white boy's parents are happy to take her picture on their son's arm.

What does she have that will see her through this into peaceful womanhood?  As a citizen of Turtle's nation, as the sister of Gabriel Fourkiller, I want you to understand why she can't belong to you."

Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Now that I think about it, The Saturday Evening Post didn't seem to think racial diversity was that awesome

Tesoro and I built our house in this dreamy little mountain village a few years back.  It happened around the same time we were finding out that we wouldn't be able to conceive a child without tons of infertility treatment.  What we thought was an incredible opportunity -moving to a town we fell in love with when we first came out this direction- just sort of jumped into our laps.  Needless to say, it didn't take long until we decided to run with it.  I remember thinking how absolutely lucky we were- this was the place we wanted to raise our children.  This was the Norman Rockwell town I had dreamed about for forever and ever.  This was our little piece of Heaven.  This was going to help make everything okay.

Without going into every little detail of our circumstances, we chose to buy a wee little plot and got busy designing and building.  We both had jobs that were steady, that seemed promising, that we enjoyed.  We had signed up with an adoption agency and were spending spare moments putting together paper work and fingerprints and this and that in order to become parents.  We were tired and exhausted but damn, were we happy.  Things were just clicking along.  Dreams were coming true.

I'm not really sure how to transition here, but the thing is, I'm scared out of my mind that this little haven of ours could end up being just the opposite for our boy.  I look out all of our windows and see mountain tops, snow, trees.  If I were to open the front door I could hear the river from across the street.  Depending on the day and hour we might see a band of elk or mountain sheep, some deer, the local fox, or a bear walking down the Boulevard.  The horse-drawn sleigh will make a couple rounds each day carting around some tourists throughout the winter season and the smell of wood-burning stoves will permeate our nostrils for the next several months.  We can grab a quarter and make our way down to the General Store whenever Leone needs a peppermint stick, and if the timing is right we'll be able to listen to the church bells ringing to signify a new hour.  It's beautiful here.  Absolutely beautiful.



Dreams have changed.  What Tesoro and I want now has nothing to do with our wee little house.  I mean yeah, we still want this.  But what we want even more is for our son to grow up with compassion, kindness, awareness, smarts, and a healthy dose of confidence intermingled with humility.

When we built here, when we carried one piece of siding from this place to the other place, we were sure we were doing the right thing.  We were sure that having two beautiful neighborhood children adopted from Cambodia would make this one-street town diverse enough.  And when we looked at the extremely high number of Latino children at the school where I worked, we were even more sure that our son would not feel alone with his skin color.  And when we searched within ourselves and thought about our ability to reflect and problem-solve and love, we were confident that everything, everything, would be okay.

I no longer feel that way.  And now that my son has begun to talk about his skin color versus the skin color of his padres, I feel even less confident.  And when he calls every brown-skinned child he sees in a book "Leone," I want to shrink into my shell.

I recently shared my concerns with an Ethiopian friend who lives upvalley.  She and her brother said we have nothing to worry about.  That all Leone needs is to know we love him and care about him and that everything, everything, will be okay.  As I pushed her a bit more, she acknowledged that while she might notice stares directed at her brother around town, she also thinks that this valley is one of the most easy-going places she has ever lived.  She tells me again, not to worry: "it's better for him to live here, around white people who aren't racist, than in the middle of some city where racism is a part of every day life."

The thing is, whether I agree with her or not, we can't just up and move to the middle of some city.  Real estate.  Jobs.  Finances.  Life.  Reality.

No magic wand for this one.  No easy answer.  No quick answer.  Just wishes that we would have had some foresight before settling down in the land of Rockwell.  Some understanding.  Someone to slap us around a bit and say, "look.  Look around you in a way that you have never looked before.  These glasses of yours?  They're focused through the lens of white privilege.  Things could get tricky so you damn well better reconsider before someone gets hurt."

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The rivers dried up and fire fell from the skies

My mom was and is a sign watcher.  For all my life I can remember her mentioning "signs" before or after some event.  Sometimes the devil was involved.  Other times our guardian angels.  Either way, we needed to keep our eyes open.

(I credit all of that to her Roman Catholic upbringings and years spent in the convent.)

A few years ago it started to officially drive me insane.  It was good we were on the phone when she would mention this sign or the other one, because as sure as my name is "il pan" I was rolling my eyes towards the Heavens.

At any rate, a couple weeks ago we made a pretty big decision that will hopefully lead to some answers for our family.  I was pretty excited by the whole concept of our decision, knowing that good things were sure to follow.

I think it was the day after we made the decision that the fear settled deep in my bones and I started noticing things.

All those years of watching for signs, all those glances around me to see if the devil was cheering or if my guardian angel was kicking some ass came back and now?  Now I was looking around.  And I was seeing stuff.

Bad things.  Bad stories.  Bad online films.  Bad choices.

The clouds started to look foreboding.  The cats were yowling more often than not.  Mountain lions were roaming.  My son developed a fever.  The rivers dried up and fire fell from the skies.

Signs.  All of them bad, ugly, awful signs.

Yes, indeed.  It became very clear very quickly that the news we were going to receive would be bad, bad, bad and life was going to be dark, dark, dark for the remaining years.  Yes siree.  No doubt about it.  Time to buckle down the hatches and move into the cellar.

Good news is, I'm on the path of noticing how full my cup is rather than merely halfway empty.  And because I'm open to some good mojo, I found this:

Made me think that things might be okay after all.  And if they aren't, well, damn.  It's bound to get better.

Monday, November 21, 2011

So I'm not a food photographer

But for realz.  You've got to try this recipe out.  Besides the joy I experienced when coring the pears with a tablespoon (it was so easy and the holes were so perfectly circle shaped!), I've got to say it felt damn good to mix this all up by hand.  And the smell that came wafting out of the oven upon opening after approximately 50 minutes of baking?  Hell ja.  Ends up I might just be a crumble kind of gal....



And yeah, it's worth your time to click on the pictures for the enlarged view.  The business that oozed out the sides on that bottom picture was awesome....

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Cranes and beauty and hope and leukemia

One of my first graders has leukemia.  I knew going into the school year he was diagnosed last April; truth is, I would be lying if I didn't admit right here and right now that my glass half-empty mentality didn't encourage me to promptly start building a wall.  Thing is, I'm so damn busy that the thoughts (positive and negative alike) jump in for a moment and then get taken away by something else within minutes.  Well, it's either that or the daily medication I'm on that ensures I'm on some sort of Cloud 9 for the majority of the day.

Either way....

So what I was saying was that a perk to running this way and that way is that I don't get totally hammered by my own sense of negativity on a constant basis.  Works out pretty well, especially when we're talking about making the mental decision as to whether or not I could handle connecting with a student who I believed could possibly die sooner than later.  I know that sounds shitty, but it's where I was at.  I hear "leukemia", and I think back to the 10,564 books I immersed myself in during my middle school years regarding youth dying from leukemia- and well, let's just say it's not good.  Oh- and Beaches.  Yeah.  Beaches.  That movie ruined me.

Anyway.  Ends up that I was too busy to worry about much.  My student walks in that first day with a scarf wrapped around his lovely little head and charmed me.  CHARMED ME.  Then he started feeling all brave and confident and beautiful and threw that scarf to the side so we could all revel in his baldness.  What a day that was.

A week or so ago he received two boxes full of paper cranes.  It was a gift from someone else who has leukemia.  My student, all full of smiles and silliness, stood in front of the class and declared his new-found love for cranes and humanity:  "The people who made these cranes?  They don't even know me!  And they made these so I could feel hope and make wishes!  1,000 wishes!"

This kid.  Amazing.  Courageous.  Heavy.  Thoughtful.  He's taught me a thing or two about fear and life and trying my hardest to not mix them together.

Thanks for the lesson, kiddo.  You're the best.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


You know when you should really spend a great deal of time studying up on a topic, finding great quotes to include, supporting your thoughts with research, so on and so forth?  I should be doing all of that.  But instead I'm thinking that I've got a moment or two so I need to just get it out there.  Hope that it makes some kind of sense.  Hope someone out there gets it and doesn't misread.

One of the reasons blogging has gone on the back burner has been the amount of reading I've been doing from the view point of the adult adoptee.  Powerful stuff.  Lots of thoughts, lots of truth, lots of, well, back to thoughts.  Yeah, lots of thoughts.

It's important to realize that this post is not a whine.  It's not a complaint. It's an opinion, and one that I have to get out there or I fear I will remain stuck.

Truth is, I started my blog at the beginning of our beginnings of making our family.  We were a bit lost at the time, and I needed an outlet.  We went from a focus on infertility to a focus on adoption to a focus on international adoption to a focus on Ethiopia to a focus on motherhood.  My eyes went from being shut to being wide open to the point where I eventually froze.  Afraid of saying the wrong thing.  Afraid of offending someone.  Afraid of everyone out there hating me.  Afraid of ruining my son's life. 

I have read so many books out there.  Books on adoption.  Attachment.  Ethiopia.  Children.  Transracial adoption.  Being Black in America.  Being African in America.  Obviously I'm a reader.  It's one of the ways I gather information and make decisions in my life.  With that in mind, and with my interest in blogging, I began searching the Land of Blog for viewpoints from the adult adoptee.  Although I have my own history with adoption, I knew that I needed more.  Information from people who were placed immediately after birth.  As toddlers.  Into families whose skin color and culture and history and background were different from their own. 

It didn't take long to find that many, many people out there are unhappy.  Abused.  Lied to.  Hidden.  Angry.  And while I was able to find some stories in which people had some joy to spread about their lives, those were minimal.

As a new mother who had started out on this journey with the plans of forming my family with love, love, and more love?  All those questions, all those anxieties, all those wonderings I had as we waited to meet our son, as I walked the streets of Ethiopia, as I glanced at the stares in the airport, as I watched movies and television shows, as I watched my son glob onto my husband but push away from me.... I quickly became aware of the thought that had been settling deep within me:  I was an imposter mother.  This blog said it.  That blog said it.  The stares said it.  The attachment struggle said it. 


It can make you freeze.  It doesn't diminish your love for your child, it doesn't necessarily mean you're lying in your bed with the sheets wrapped around you for days on end- it just meant, to me anyway, that I began to doubt myself in a way I had never doubted myself before.  And I still couldn't write about it because I certainly didn't want to come off as someone complaining.  As someone who couldn't know what it was like to be adopted as an infant, so who in the hell was I anyway.

I'm tired of apologizing to the Land of Blog for being an adoptive mother. 

I am a mother.  I am providing love, a home, warmth, comfort, security (the list can go on) for my son in the best ways I know how.  No, I'm not perfect.  I screw up a lot.  But this continued thinking that I'm an imposter mother for my son is doing nothing but harm for him.  For me.  For my family.  For our lives- both present and future.

I'm tired of hiding. 

I am a mother.  And I'm not sorry for it.  Not in the least.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Speaking of virtues

This morning Leone wanted to know what a firefighter does.  Since we're smack dab in the middle of making connections, learning how to treat people with kindness, using manners, being gentle with cats, so on and so forth, I decided to use this opportunity to help make my son -the hopeful firefighter- a young boy of virtue.

"Why, Leone, a firefighter does all kinds of wonderful things.  They help save kitties when they're stuck in trees!  They help people in car accidents.  They help put out fires, both in buildings and the woods.  Also?  They share their toys with people. And they say hello to their friends in Target.  They always use good manners and take turns."

Leone, well... he looked at me for a moment, cocked his head a bit to the left and asked, "What do monsters do?"

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Afraid of what's right and what's not

Doesn't even make sense.  None of this makes sense.

I'm working extra hard on not apologizing for who I am.  For forever and ever I have sat back, maybe bleeped out a thought or two, then spent the night scared out of my mind that I had said the wrong thing.  That I had thought the wrong thing.  That I was, indeed, the wrong thing.

It's exhausting.

One of the things I get from people is how reflective I am.  My friends, my family, my professors.

So reflective.

Right now I don't see reflection as a virtue, rather a vice.  It can stop me cold.  Stone cold.  Well, that and a glass of wine (make that white because DAMN if red gives me migraines).

I've done found a community of folks that have made me feel normal.  You know how you meet new people and start to worry almost immediately that once you really show your true colors, they might run off in the other direction?  I'm trying to avoid that thought process.  I'm trying to not reflect on it so much.


I miss writing.  I miss blogging.

1,495 things have happened in the past month.  Things that I deem pretty important.  I miss sharing those things.  But.

But I get all kinds of nervous.  Nervous because every once in a while I partake of the Kool-Aid that makes you think that sharing bits of you and your life to the whole world of Internet is detrimental. 

I don't want to invite detriment. 

Also?  I don't want to hide.

Sunday, October 2, 2011


In case you don't know, our boy can ride a balance bike.  No kidding, it's all he wants to do.  And no kidding as a secondary also, but he mostly prefers it on trails.  With rocks.  Trees.  Shrubs.  Wildflowers.  Hills.  Danger.

Yeah, we're proud.  Even when I spend the majority of the time gasping, sighing, and rolling my eyes up the Heavens.

A thrill seeker.

Just perfect.

Friday, September 30, 2011

A quickie

I've taken to waking up at 5:30 in the morning to get a head start on my day.  Truth be told, I never thought I would take that challenge on until I was in my mid-60s (don't most folks in their mid-60's wake up before 6am?).  Thing is, it ends up that I really needed a few extra minutes to my day to get my thoughts together, so here I am.  In my early- to mid-30's.  With a toddler who loves sleeping in until 6:45/7.  Making coffee at 5:30.

Pretty awesome.

I have approximately 6 more months until this Master's degree thing is officially over.  I go between thinking there's no possible way I can complete it to moments of academic high in which I'm basically kicking the program's ass while making it plead for mercy.

This back and forth business can make a gal crazy.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

lumbering up a slope

... I climbed toward the rock without resting, and when I finally got there I picked another landmark and started all over again.

I climbed that way for hours, focusing my attention completely on some target- a rock, a shadow, an unusual ruffle in the snow- until the distance to that target became all that mattered in the world.  The only sounds were my own heavy breathing and the rhythmic crunch of my shoes in the snow.  My pace would soon become automatic, and I slipped into a trance.  Somewhere in my mind I still longed for my father, I still suffered from fatigue, I still worried that our mission was doomed, but now those thoughts seemed muted and secondary, like a voice on a radio playing in another room.  Step-push, step-push.  Nothing else mattered.  Sometimes I promised myself I'd rest when the next goal was reached, but I never kept my promise.  Time melted away, distanced dwindled, the snow seemed to glide beneath my feet.  I was a locomotive lumbering up the slope.  I was lunacy in slow motion....

- Nando Parrado

Monday, August 22, 2011

Birthday stuff

Our kid.


Today was his first day back to school/daycare.  I was so dang proud of him.  He was a bright and shiny super star who happened to do an awesome job of being himself while I began to attempt to reconfigure my day without his constant companionship.  Pretty sure I missed him more than he missed me, but I'm pretty sure that's the way I want it (at least that's what I'm telling myself).

Today also happened to be my birthday.  I just so happen to hate my birthday, so my beloved figured out that it might just work out to celebrate it the day before.  As it so happens, that worked out just wonderfully.  Less pressure, less memories, less whatever that makes the specific day so dang intense.

We did lots of fun things, including some rock throwing.  Some stage performing.  Some desserts.  Some food.  Some wine.  Some laughing.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Friday, August 19, 2011

Presently stuck

I am currently stuck with the really valid concern that someone, somewhere, is going to take what I have said about parenting and post it on some random blog who's entire point is to show how shitty adoptive parents are. And today, after having read some of those blogs, I have to agree... there's a bunch of shitty stuff happening out there. Shitty stuff being said by adoptive parents. Shitty stuff being done by adoptive parents. Shitty this, shitty that, shitty, shitty, shitty.

I am caught up in a web of not knowing what to say. Very recently Claudia asked who wanted to write a post regarding the topic of conspicuousness... I quickly raised my hand and couldn't wait to be involved. I could immediately think about five different occasions to focus on, and had finally started to narrow it down to one when I thought- wait. WAIT. My crap, my discomfort, means nothing right now. Not when I have this incredible boy napping upstairs who is counting on me to make his world safe and secure.

I never, ever, ever would have thought the details in the world of adoption could actually end up being so huge (I'm not giving myself enough credit here, I know... but that's not the point). Although tesoro and I didn't go into it all thinking we were going to "save a child," we did go into it thinking that we were going to become parents and that although it might be tricky at times, the skittly moments would by far outweigh the rest.

I generally feel like there is some kind of cloud hanging out over us. Not necessarily a foreboding cloud, but a cloud all the same. Don't get me wrong, it's not as though we go walking around over in these here parts with an umbrella constantly in hand, but when I take the moment to think... to really just think... well, that's when the cloud makes itself know.  I especially sense it when I read blogs like this. Or this. Or this. And I end up thinking, how could I have ever thought it was going to be easy? How could I have ever thought that our son would grow up knowing that because he was all kinds of loved by us, all that other really shitty, hard, intense, real stuff would heal up?  How can we do absolutely right by him?  By his (our) family?  How?

I think about things I have said online. Personal stuff. Not so personal stuff. And those things I have said out loud. To friends. To acquaintances. And I wonder, what was their perception of what I said? Why did I say what I said? Did it benefit anyone? Did it benefit my son? My marriage? Myself?  Which is the most important (rhetorical)?  And did I pay attention to that who is most important?

Yesterday I sent out some emails regarding the incredible "Ask 5 for 5." I made a personal plea, and I spoke about our son. About fifteen minutes later I sent out a follow-up email, asking everyone to disregard what I had said about leone. About leone's family. I felt like it was possible that I could be seen as using my son... using his story, his history, his future. And although that really wasn't my intent, because it is his story, it is his history, it is his future that has us pushing forward to fight this drought in any way we can, there is no doubt in my mind that HE should never be used (especially by me) in a way that gets others to pay up. To act. To make decisions.

Does that even make sense?

I see leone. I see him for who he is. His beauty. His strength. His agony. His wonder. The things that make him tick, and the things that make him tock. I am beginning to understand things in ways I have never understood them before (perhaps it should be stated that this understanding has come by way of blogs, books, discussions, and time spent deep in thought).  And although his papa and I made the choice to adopt him, he had absolutely no say in it. And he most certainly has never asked us to use his story to try to make a difference in the world. And he MOST certainly never asked to be in a place where he would be viewed differently because he is black and we are white. And the idea of him wanting me to vent about the struggles we encounter with the world? With our life? To just everyone and anyone?  I don't see it.

I no longer know what to say.  How to say it.  Where to say it.  I know that I am human.  I know that I make mistakes.  But I have this fear, this brain-altering thought, that the mistakes made by being thoughtlessly vocal about our lives could (and do) have huge, huge, HUGE implications.  And the fact is, those implications might just not be so damn great.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Ask 5 for 5

Today I'm featuring a guestblogger- someone who has figured out a way to do more than just speak about "doing something."  This woman is incredible- I met her very recently and was drawn to her sincerity and compassion.  Please read her message and consider making a contribution....

guest blogger: Sarah Lenssen from Ask5for5
photos courtesy of Cate Turton / Dept. for International Development

First, thanks to il panettiere for allowing me to post on her blog today! Today, more than 25 bloggers, including this one, are standing with me to Ask 5 for 5 for Africa. Here's why....

I began pursuing a BIG dream two weeks ago. After deciding I could no longer avoid the news about the famine in the horn of Africa, I had that gut feeling that I couldn't sit this one out. I HAD to do something because I could. Something bigger than I could do alone. That's when #Ask5for5 was born.

A malnourished child in an MSF treatment tent in Dolo Ado

Two of my children, Ashen and Bereket, were adopted and are from the region affected by the drought in Ethiopia. They would be two of the statistics if they still lived there. I see my son’s and daughter’s faces in the photos of those suffering in the refugee camps. It could have been him. It could have been her. The thought haunts me.

And moms just like us are watching their children go hungry day after day. I can't imagine what it's like, but I have to –I have to be there to help them, because it could have been my children. These families have lost their livestock, their crops, food prices are inflated at the market if there any food there, and don’t have any more lifelines to tap into. Many are traveling hundreds of miles through parched land in hope of finding help. Many are dying along the way. It is estimated that 29,000 children have died in the last 90 days in the famine in Somalia alone.

Malnourished children, weakened by hunger

But I KNOW we can do something about it. Instead of feeling overwhelmed and paralyzed, we can rally ourselves and our friends to respond! I set up a fundraiser through See Your Impact. 100% of your gift will go to the relief and development organization World Vision, where it will be combined with government grants to multiply up to 5 times in impact!

You’ll receive updates on just how your funding is being used to help save lives affected by famine in East Africa. I'm amazed at how much we've raised already -- over $7,000 in just four days! We blew through our first 3 goals in just 3 days and are well on our way to $10,000 and beyond!

I need you to help me save lives. It's so so simple; here's what you need to do:
  1. Donate $5 or more on this page (
  2. Send an email to your friends and ask them to join us.
  3. Share Ask5for5 on Facebook and Twitter, and join our page to stay updated too!
I'm also looking for 100 bloggers to stand with Ask5for5 to spread the word during Social Media week, September 19th - 23rd. If you're interested, email me,

Extra food for every child under five

Thanks! Please donate and email your friends right now--don't wait for a calmer moment, because if you're like me, other demands inevitably crop up and you won't get to it. A child's life hangs in the balance, but you can help save her!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

I love

I did this whole big post, then ended up deleting it.  I hope no one read it, because it was out there for a few minutes this morning.  If you did, forgive me for filling your head with bad writing.

Forgive me for doing it again.

I love my kid so much.  So incredibly much.  Like, so, so, so, so much.

I love the friendships that had been planted at miscellaneous times and truly began to bloom this summer.

I love that I want to write a book with very specific bits and pieces for leone's caretaker, because that means I know him better than I have ever known him.  It also means that I am finally trusting myself as a mother.  As his mother.

I love that I found, implemented, and continue to work on perfecting, a pie crust that I now consider my own.  It will be the one I use for all pies for the rest of my life.  It will also win me prizes, and for that I am appreciative (perhaps presumptuous of me, but all the same).

I love that I have been able to spend so many moments with my boy.  Understanding his faces, his voices, the tilt of his hips, the moments that take him to the edge, the times that make him fly.  Truly an honor.  I can't even allow myself to wonder for so many seconds about him not being right beside me during the day next week, or the week after, or the five million weeks after that... it hurts to much.  I am so grateful for your presence... for your person, my darling little one.

I love tesoro.

I love finding out that I am okay, just the way I am.

I have grown.  I am thankful.

Monday, August 15, 2011


Here's some stuff I've recently made.  Both were, according to my husband, pretty dang good. (which makes me, the baker, pretty dang happy)

Interested in trying them on for size?  The banana chocolate chip muffins can be found here, and the peach-a-berry pie is righhhhhht here.

Just in case you're wondering, that pie is made with butter on the bottom.  Butter on the top.  And butter in the middle.  Also?  There's some sugar.  But mostly?  Butter.  Lots and lots of butter.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Daycare prep.

No matter how much I would like to avoid it, the truth of the matter is, it's about time for Leone to head back to daycare.  I know he'll like to be around his friends again, but I worry.

About his food stuff.

His struggle to share stuff.

His need to throw approximately 9,254 rocks into the river every morning stuff.

His sleeping in and then taking his time to eat an egg and toast for breakfast stuff.

And what about the way we cuddle up every day at nap, read three books, sing our song, then part ways with love and well wishes for delightful rest stuff?

And the amount of time we have to play with blocks, the backyard hose, his cars, markers, play-doh, crayons- each other- stuff?

This summer has been delightful, and boy-oh-boy will I miss our days.  I've managed to work into a pretty sweet schedule of working on my papers when he naps, so evenings don't feel nearly as intense as they used to.  And even though Leone prefers his papa as soon as he comes home from work, I get all the time before... and that feels dang good.


Hey, check him out....

This was taken after we bought his new backpack.  He could hardly wait to wear the dang thing.

Oh my boy.  I love you.  Dirty pants and all.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Some bragging....

If you look real careful like you'll see a beautifully shaped shape made in pink crayon, directly under the music note. Do you see it? It's right... up... there.

When Leone was in the UrgentCare room a week or so ago, the receptionist ended up bringing in some crayons and paper (along with the 500 gallons of apple juice for him to consume). I was busy balancing the paper, the clipboard, and the crayons while trying to jam the cup in his mouth when all of a sudden Leone glances down at his paper and declares: "I made a triangle!" Needless to say I did about six double-takes, asked him to repeat and point, and just about lost it when he pointed at the shape and repeated: "I made a triangle!"

Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Grouchy old man

See that book on my sidebar?  The one about the recovered skin*head?  Yeah, I'm reading that.  It's an amazing book, but it's incredibly difficult to read and has made me want to throw up on more than one occasion.

Take that book, along with my thoughts about the famine, and the fact that time is ticking away until work starts again, and try to understand that I'm maybe not in one of the best places right now.

Two days ago, a man honked his car horn at my son.  We were on the side of our town's only road, waiting for the cars to pass by so we could make our way back home from the park.  Leone jump started a wee bit early, but nothing significant that I was afraid for his safety.  But alas, apparently Leone had enough of a start that an older man who was at a standstill in his car felt the need to toot his horn a good five times.  (keep in mind that my boy was directly beside me, directly off the street.)  Once that horn honked, Leone managed to climb up one side of my body and into my arms, howling.

To be honest, I don't know what happened.  If it was the "not being in one of the best places right now" thing, if it was this mama bear thing, if it was just a bad day thing- but wow.  I walked directly up to the man's car (please keep in mind this is a small, small town- there are no stop signs, there are no turn lanes, there are no sidewalks... it's just a single Boulevard that makes its way down a two-mile stretch lined with houses, a park, three restaurants, and a couple shops), and as he pretended I wasn't there I could hear my voice rising. I could.  It was getting louder and a bit more gruff with each "SIR!"  But damn if I couldn't control myself.

"SIR.  Were those honks for our benefit?"

"SIR!  Were those honks for our benefit!?" (that one was a bit more sassy sounding, you can be sure of it)

We finally got some dialogue going, but it ended not so very well.  In the end, there I was... crying kid on my hip, both of us covered in river water, antique (meaning badly dented and really, really old) red wagon full of pails and water bottles behind me, and the older (not)gentleman driving away.  I yelled some things that I am not proud of, and truth be told I might have shaken my fist at him had my son not have been taking up residence against my chest.

Errg.  I could hardly see straight.  I have never lost control like I did with a complete stranger.  And with my son hanging off of me?  Truly a sight to be seen (although I'm glad you didn't).

Thing is, I could have easily been mistaken for one of the out-of-control, holy cow did you really say that? moms from Teen Mom, or Sixteen and Pregnant (minus the fact that I look much, much older than they do).  Again, not my finest hour (and yes, I would say it took at least an hour to cool my jets).

Yesterday Leone brought up "the grouchy old man" (yikes!  I might have said that at one point), asking if he was on our front porch as we returned from the Farmer's Market.  He mentioned being scared of the man and has yet ceased to be freaked out when a loud truck drives by us.  And although I swear we never hear car horn honks, its been a fairly regular background noise since the event.

I wish we would have left the park ten minutes earlier.  Just ten.  Then everything would be calm and good and big trucks would still hold their appeal and old men wouldn't be considered grouchy and a mommy wouldn't feel like a busted up pie and a very cautious driver deserved her wrath.

If only the co-pays for therapy weren't so damn high (but that's why I've got you, right?)....

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Sometimes it seems wrong to smile.  To laugh.  To make pie and eat it.

I remember when my dad died- it seemed like the world had stopped.  And that if it hadn't, it should.  And when my mom was really, really sick?  Time was measured by whichever nurse was on shift.  And the fact that people were going about their normal daily lives... it made no sense.

I feel so incredibly conflicted about the drought and famine happening in the Horn along with the reality that I am still able to open a pantry and cook dinner for my family over here in the mountains.  Along with some breakfast.  And lunch.  And snacks in-between.  And some popcorn before bed.

Oh- and I can seek medical attention whenever we need it.  Or even if I don't need it.  And the most recent visit to the dentist?  Yeah, even without dental insurance I could still afford to get my teeth x-rayed and cleaned.

Shouldn't our lives be on pause while we figure out how to make things better?  Shouldn't we all be struck by how horrifying this is?  So much so that we are all gathering forces together and finding solutions?

I am incredibly frustrated by many things.  Why am I not brave enough to sell our house, our cars, quit my job, and give all the money and my time to help?  How dare I buy that Italian ice at the Farmer's Market.  How dare I even be out, driving my car and wasting gasoline when there is so much need and sadness in the world?

Conflicted.  Terrified.  Unsure.

Trying to do my best.

How I wish things were different....


Thank you so much for your thoughts, suggestions, and amounts of empathy shared in the last blog post!  I know it must take time to leave such incredible comments, and we so appreciate it.  I think both tesoro and me were surprised by how many said, "us too!"  At the same time, we were both incredibly saddened by how many said, "us too!"

Our sweet babies.

A couple days ago I watched this video.  Hearing that cry, seeing that mother... my heart.  Oh, my heart.  I can not help but see my son through them.  See his mother.  See his cousins, siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents.

The morning prior to the emergency room visit, Leone would scream out in agony.  It ripped me apart.  I knew I had a good 45-minute drive to get him to a doctor, and the idea of him hurting and my not being able to help him as he was safely tucked into his car seat?  Terrible.  It sucked.  SUCKED.  I wanted nothing more but for him to not be in pain- and all I could do was drive my car and sing soothing songs.  Counting on a doctor.  Knowing there was an end in sight.  Knowing that soon, he would be better.

It's hard (incredibly hard doesn't even begin to touch on it, does it?) to think of my boy crying out in hunger.  And then to not have that need met.  From my own limited experience, I know that starvation physically hurts (whether it happens by choice or not).  It mentally hurts.  It latches on to you and becomes the only thing you can think about.

Hunger becomes you.


Oh, how his mother must have felt torn.  Torn, helpless, scared.  I have heard his screams, and I know how they shake you to the core.

I think about her, I think about them.  I think about how they can't rush to the doctor.  How they can't just open a box of crackers to subside the itch in the tummy.  How the solutions can't be found.  How helpless this all is.

Hunger.  Death.  Loss.  Agony.

Yes, Leone, yes.  It makes sense that you are afraid.  That you don't want to share your goldfish.  I get it.  And I love you so much.

Please consider donating.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Thoughts surrounding food

I read this today and just about cried in relief.  Someone else, someone I dig... experiencing the same thing.  Sharing thoughts, insights, questions.

Yesterday a friend met up with Leone and I at the local beach.  It was an incredible day- perfect temperature, perfect blue sky, perfect river flow... perfect.  But then I jokingly mentioned giving her a cheese stick if Leone hadn't of eaten the last one, and BOOM.  He starts saying that he doesn't like my friend.  He wants her to go away.  He doesn't like her.  GO AWAY.

At the time, I hadn't even thought about the damn cheese stick comment.  I was shocked, totally shocked, that he was being so mean and rude to her.  I immediately told him to apologize- he went silent.  Then, he gave her the stink eye.  And said he didn't like her.

Shocked.  Absolutely shocked.

Off we went to sit on the nearest naughty rock I could find.  After two minutes and a stern lecture (right?  cuz' that's sure to help?), we attempted the apology.  Nothing.  NOTHING.  Right back to the naughty rock (with questioning in my eyes, and silent begging that my kid make the right choice here, come on, come on, come on....).

As we go back to apologize (PLEASE!), he mentions the cheese stick.  He doesn't want to share his cheese stick with her.  She can't have it.  No sharing.

(Never mind that there was NO cheese stick to share!  Don't you remember, Leone, don't you remember that you ate it already?)

The morning ends in a miserable fashion- he refuses to apologize, starts timidly throwing some river rocks our direction, and my friend begins to feel a bit abused due to the constant commentary from the one in diapers about how much he doesn't like her.

This morning?  This morning we made it to Target.  As we're driving there, he starts talking about the dollar goldfish containers in the dollar bins.  He wants goldfish.  He doesn't want to share.  I'm not supposed to pay.  Don't give it away.  No sharing.  He wants the goldfish.  GOLDFISH.

I eventually go against every grain inside of me and tell him that the goldfish will be for him only- no need to share.  Leone only.  Then, and only then, does he calm down.  That is, until some random woman happens to walk by our cart as he is munching away on his dollar goldfish crackers... at which point he shoves them under his armpit, frowns, and proclaims "MY GOLDFISH!  I'M NOT SHARING!"


Daycare is steadily approaching.  Last year Leone was made to eat all of his food in a high chair- he was known as the kid who would eat everyone's food at the table.  Solution?  High chair.  Did this ever mean he ate all of his own food?  No.  He would come home with tons of food in his lunch bag- nothing ever consistent.

The past few months have been super nice because he has stopped stuffing fist fulls of food in his mouth- you know, to the point where he would gag every once in a while or eventually have to spit it all out so he wouldn't gag.  Now he typically sticks with smaller bites, but he's all about grabbing food from tesoro and me when the chance it right.

Needless to say, this all makes it a wee bit tricky to teach him about table manners.

Is it possible that the food insecurity from his early days (he left Ethiopia when he was four and a half months), when he was severely malnourished, have impacted him so deeply that what is happening right now is due to that?  Or is it that he's just a tricky little bugger and needs some good old-fashioned discipline?  As I walked around Target this morning, watching him hide his crackers whenever someone would glance at him with a smile, I decided that it must be that first one.  That although he was so young in age, his very beginnings were filled with hunger and he's still trying to make sure he gets what he needs.

I'm not sure what to do.  Every once in a while I pick up a snippet of food off his plate- and whew!  Am I ever reminded of what a bad choice that was!  We've managed to get him to ask (although it takes our consistent reminders) for food from our plate, but when the question is pointed at him- NO WAY (well, unless you happen to be tesoro).  And if we happen to go to a gathering in which food is just set out?  Our Leone is the only toddler right next to the buffet, stuffing chip after chip after chip in his mouth.

He is so, so, so... territorial (perfect word for this!) about his food.  I now officially begin to feel nervous when we eat with anyone besides our little crew.  We have food available for him, but he always seems concerned that someone, anyone, might decide to take a huge bite away.  And we've found that if we give him snacks whenever he asks for them, he's full by dinner time- meaning that a gathering 'round our table tends to be far from peaceful and nurturing.

Might you have any words of advice?  Thoughts?  Recommendations?

Saturday, August 6, 2011

You simply must read this

I just finished this book.

It's not about adoption.  It's not about parenting.  It's not about math or literacy.  It's not about attachment.  It's not about teaching.  It's not about religion.

It's about four young women whose parents all entered the USA illegally from Mexico.

It's nonfiction.  It's written by the wife of the governor of Colorado.  It's amazing.

You must get your mits on it.

Check out your library, check out amazon, check out whatever you can to get this perspective.  It's important.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


These two make me deliriously happy.  The little one on the right?  She puts up with a lot of crap the little one on the left hands out.  She's soft, gentle, easy-going, but isn't about to let anyone stomp on her.  The little one on the left?  He can barely contain himself from shouting out in joy each and every time he sees the little one on the right.  He's energetic, exuberant, loud, but knows how to be tender.

Ready for the heavy stuff?  Click here.  And here.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Late night TV and being taught a lesson

I admit it.  I watch Keeping Up with the Kardashians.  I do.  I do, I do, I do....  (I'm not going to apologize.  I'm not going to apologize.  I'm not going to apologize.)  There's something about being beautiful, business smart, sexy, spoiled, rich, and at times funny, that draws me in.  Plus I can't get over Kim's ass.  It's true.  Ends up that I'm somewhat of a buns person, which is why I never participate in bowling.  I don't have an ass worthy of bowling and I know (because I do it) that everyone is staring at the buns when one walks up to the edge of the alley and throws that ball down.  And because I can't handle that kind of pressure, I abstain from the bowling alley.  Really, it's better that way.

So the show I watched yesterday featured the two youngest gals in the family being forced to go to a homeless shelter in order to "be taught a lesson."  "To appreciate what they have."  "To stop being so spoiled."  So on and so forth.  They were grouchy, they were bratty, they used an entire bottle of Germ-X to be sure not to catch anything.

After the whole Germ-X scene, the crew is led into a gymnasium with children running this way and that; the pouts didn't go away until one of their older sisters joined the adventure.  At that point they were able to smile and seemed more willing to actually look at the people in the room rather than just scowl.  Within minutes a beautiful young woman who resides at the shelter with her father and siblings extended her hand and gave the Kardashian family a tour.  She was gentle, smart, and laid her life out on the table.

In the end, the ladies leave the shelter much more appreciative of the life they live.  Now, because they have seen "the other side," they will do their best to be less bratty and perhaps even stop stealing their dad's credit card to make incredibly high dollar purchases at every whim.  They can't believe that their bedrooms are the size of the entire living space of the young woman they met and her family members who sleep on bunk beds and the floor.  They can't believe the food that is served.  And the bathroom?  GASP.

You know who I wonder about?  The young woman whose life was showcased in order for the Kardashians to appreciate their own.  How did she feel after they left?  Did she have a  new appreciation for life?  Did she feel good about being an example?  Being "the other side?"  What was it like for her, leading the way, showing her clean living space, all while having to look at the perfectly coiffed heads and faces of the Kardashians as they gasped and shook their heads in disbelief?  I wonder... what did this young woman gain?  What did she lose?  How is she right this very minute?

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Yesterday = one of the longest days ever

12 = 6 + 6

4 = 3 + 1

Yesterday = one of the longest days ever

Ends up that I really did know that I knew I wasn't attaching my bike on the bike rack (on top of my car) correctly.  Should have trusted my gut on that one.  

Ends up that I really should have taken my son to the doctor on Friday when I thought something might have been amiss on Thursday.  Should have trusted my gut on that one.

Ends up that the roof of a Saturn doesn't bounce back like they show on the commercials (to be fair, the commercials have never featured a bike falling over from a standing position... repeatedly).

Ends up that my kid is a TROOPER at the ER.  All he needed was his fire engine book, his Thomas book, some apple juice (not organic, with tons of added sugar), and some crayons to keep him entertained for almost three full hours.

Ends up that people make some awful faces when your bike falls over on top of your car.  In intersections.  In neighborhoods.  When pulling out of the grocery store parking lot.

Ends up that antibiotics can cost 520 bucks, with insurance.  Ends up that if a tired, tired mama walks to the corner of the pharmacy after hearing the news, wondering what in the hell to do, a pharmacist can take pitty.

Ends up that even if none of your friends are around to help get the bike on the damn rack correctly, a stranger can be a true life saver.  Additionally, ends up that I am going to give in to the cell phone craze and get me one of those.

Ends up that the $520 script could be substituted for a $10 one.

Ends up that my kid can charm the ladies with his eyelashes.  Repeatedly.  In parking lots.  In his car seat.  In the grocery cart.  In the bread aisle.  In the canned goods aisle.  And right next to a jar of jalapenos.

Ends up that even after the longest day ever, birthday cake made for my tesoro can fix just about anything.  Well, that and some long lasting hugs (but I don't have a picture of those).

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Baking gone BAD

I've been inspired.

A few days ago I decided to make the ultimate berry pie.  My mom was in town and I wanted to show her my goods.  To make it even more high class, we spent the morning at a local organic peach/apple/basil/apricot/can it get any better than this? picking orchard.  Truth be known, I had plans on picking ripe, juicy peaches... getting my fingers pricked while digging around raspberry bushes... wiping down my sons delicious face as all kinds of organic goodness dripped down his chin.  It was going to be lovely.  Absolutely delightful.

Ends up we missed some picking times by days, weeks, months?  The only thing available was basil.  And biting flies.  Not quite what I imagined.  The perk?  They did have peaches in their store.  And raspberries.  And the basil we picked (ready for this?  I ended up picking leaves off some random plants first, not really thinking it was basil, but sure that this was the place he had directed me too.  Ended up taking a bite out of it because, really?  It just didn't seem right.  Yep. I had just spent ten minutes picking off big, huge leaves from some random plant in some random persons garden that lives on sight.  Tesoro, my hero, found the basil- it was up the bend and 'round the corner and hiding in these beautiful rows upon rows upon rows of herbs.  Who would have known?) ended up only costing a buck.

So we get home and I get all kinds of busy peeling, slicing, making pie.  Beautiful, beautiful pie.  The crust was one of my best ones ever.  And all those fruits?  Friggen gorgeous.  My chest had burst out in about ten different places because, hell ya.  I had this one in the bag.  All folks around were impressed as I tilted the pie pan this way and that, making sure the sugar on top was balanced just so.  Gorgeous.

No sooner had I put the pie in the oven, set just perfectly right, when I realized I had forgotten to mix the sugar, the ginger, the flour, the GOODNESS, into the fruit prior to dumping it in the crust.  


Who knows how many curse words exploded out of my mouth (well let me tell you... I think three whos.  My mom, my husband, and my son.).  I opened that oven, slinging words like weapons.  Mom and tesoro?  They start begging me to try to save it.  To open the crust somehow, someway, in order to dump the stuff in it. 

But no.  NO.  NO!!!

I took that pie pan, placed it over the sink, looked at both of their sweet faces, heard them telling me that everything would be okay if I just.put.the.pan.DOWN.  and dumped it.  Dumped it right down that drain.

And it felt good.  REAL good.  Sure, there were reasons why I enjoyed watching my creation go down the pipes.  There were reasons why I liked the shocked looks.  There were.  I admit it.  But truth?  Once I shoved the full to the brim stuck together top and bottom parts of the crust further down the drain, all those peaches and raspberries made their grand appearance.  And that?  That hurt.  So instead of crying, I laughed.  Kind of a "fuck you pie, you aren't going to get the best of ME" laugh.


Better luck next time.  Albeit with medication.

Thursday, July 28, 2011


We went to the fire station on Monday.  Ends up my kid digs the ladder truck.  And the ladder truck.   And the ladder truck.  Like, really digs it.  I wish I had the photog skills to capture his complete awareness and awe with a truck.  Man.  If only.

Also?  He loves his new hat.  If I would have known where the camera was yesterday, I would have taken a picture of the kid on the potty wearing his hat all kinds of crooked while watching some Thomas.  It was super cute.  Scratch that.  HE is super cute.  And super into learning about his world.  With intensity.

Also, also?  He loves to ride in firetrucks driven by firefighters.  Around our town.  With his mama in tow.  It was awesome.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Crystal clear

It became crystal clear to me this past weekend why I am so afraid.  Of, like, everything.

Anxious.  Scared.  Nervous.  Fearful.

Did I already mention anxious?

While I can't fix myself up completely (some of it's so damn ingrained), I can do my best to make sure my boy doesn't grow up with the desire to put himself and all those he holds dear in a fat plastic bubble.  Truth is, there's so much more to life then just those things that seem safe.  Like, staying in your house and reading books all the time.  Or staying in your house and watching movies all the time.  Or staying in your house and clicking around the Internet all the time.  Or staying in your town and not branching out to new people.  Or, or, or....

So here's the word, bird.  It's okay if Leone wants to play by the river.  It's okay if he wants to climb up and over every single boulder from here to the top of the mountains.  It's okay if he wants to run and jump and scream and kick and giggle and whisper and throw and EXPERIENCE LIFE.

It's okay.


Thursday, July 21, 2011

I interrupt my blather with this very important news

Way to go, son.  If I were a man, I would have patted you on the back and then shook your hand.  Instead you got hugs and kisses and leaps and bounds and maybe even a screech or two....

Friday, July 15, 2011

Playing catch-up

The other day I meant to post a picture of a sign that read: On Hold.

That's what I've been.  On hold.  Who knows what my regular will end up looking like, but for now I plan on being sporadic.

A quick photo:

They thought they were being sneaky.  I thought I was being sneaky.  Ends up I was taking a photo of tesoro and leone drawing a picture as a surprise gift for me before I took off for a weekend of incredibleness.

I think the two of these guys are darling.  Absolutely darling.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Becoming resigned

I realized this morning that I am much, much more anxious than normal.  It's easy for me to point at some of the obvious things- my Master's program, the summer being halfway over, teacher prep time creeping closer and closer, etc....

I ended up sending an email to some friends this morning, basically exploding in their laps (okay, more like their laptop screens... but you get the idea).  Ends up that the things that are filling my mind, heart, soul, aren't those obvious things.  Seems like it's more about my son.  Trying to find his Ethiopian roots. Making connections with his Ethiopian family.  Sending in his annual report.  Trying to figure out this readoption stuff, along with his birthday stuff.  Wondering if it's true that we will never adopt from Ethiopia again.

And then there's the other stuff that consumes me.  Stuff I read on blogs about the hardships others are encountering.  The stories others are hearing and seeing.  The news that could shatter you if you let it.

A real gem of a woman told me, in response to my cry for help, that I need to accept the fact that I can't carry every burden for my son.  That I am not superhuman.  That I need to let go of some things.

It's hard.  So hard.  My heart is torn for him.  Torn.  I worry.  I wonder.  I worry.

I am grieving the loss of a dream for adopting another child from Ethiopia.  There are so many questions there, so much corruption.  Who knows how long the programs will continue to work there?  How many children need homes and families and medicine and food?  How many will be lost?  I know, I know- adoption is not about me.  And I totally get that.  I do.  It's just....

I think about all those babies.  All those toddlers.  All those kindergartners, first graders, high schoolers.  Mothers.  Fathers.  Grandparents.  Aunts.  Uncles.  Cousins.  Brothers.  Sisters.  I think about them and I ache.

Leone, I love you with every inch of my being.  Every inch.  I want the world for you.  You have been through enough, and you will go through even more.  I can try, oh how I can try- but....

Oh, my son!  Oh, the ache!

Friday, July 8, 2011


I want to go back in time in order to tell myself to calm the hell down.  I think it's because I didn't have a lot of other mother's around, I think it's because I didn't have a good sense of confidence instilled, I think it's because I expect constant perfection from my entire being at all points of the day (which, surprisingly, doesn't happen... which tends to lead to a lot of self-depreciation... but that's for another day, yes?)- I think it's a lot of things.

I wonder if it would have been different had it just been one of those things?  Probably not.  

At any point, I was recently asked how motherhood has impacted me.  I didn't want to answer it at the time, and I still think this is a chicken-shit answer, but I can say with confidence that one of those things has been my finally becoming aware of how hard I am on me.  So hard, in fact, that I don't want anyone to ever see my butt.  And I mean anyone.  So hard that I don't sing out loud in front of anyone.  And I mean anyone.  So hard that if I place a plate of food in front of you, I am first to tell you everything that is wrong with it.  So hard that I spend countless hours working on a graduate paper, knowing full well that a B-average would mean nothing in the long run, but realizing that having an A-average means the world to me so those extra hours of complete insanity are worth it.  So hard that I haven't been in a swim suit yet.  So hard that if you want to be my friend, I spend time trying to convince you not to waste your time... and here's all the reasons why (the list is long, ladies).

Being a mother has been the first time that I have looked someone in the face and felt like complete shit for the amount of perfection I expect from myself.  Although it can be rather difficult to walk backwards when naked so my husband can't see my buns, I haven't really worried about it.  I mean, I hate it- but I haven't worried about his self-esteem, nor his acceptance of his own body, because of it.  And not singing songs in the car while my husband is driving can feel sad to me at times, especially during those moments when I want to belt out a Gillian Welch song, but I have never thought that since I want him to enjoy singing out loud I should lead by example.

Geez.  I make it seem like I live in a shell around tesoro.  Not true.  He's my beloved, and I am his- I just have some anxiety about most things in life.. most of which stemmed from the models I had growing up.  Which is yet another reason why I need to lay off myself around me, around him, and most especially, around our kid.  I am different.  We are different.

All of this being said, and there is so much more to add (and oh how I wish I could do it in a concise manner!), to really just say that I don't expect my boy to be perfect.  I do expect compassion, kindness, love, and generosity- but not perfection.  And my concern is that the amount of shit-talk I have to do when I don't achieve that high, high, all-the-way-to-the-sky bar myself?  I worry that it will pour out onto him, either through my own frustrations at myself that get misguided, or through some sort of jacked up modeling that dimples on one's buns equals bad and wrong and worthy of hatred.  And the truth of the matter?  All buns are worthy of love.  Even those that look like mine.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Things are looking up

Now doesn't this just make you want to grin out loud?  It did me.  Thank you.  I love it, love it, love it.

I decided to celebrate the Fourth with a pie.  But not just any pie.  No.  No run of the mill over here.  I decided to go for it.  To embark on the journey.  To open the book and dive in.  Ladies and gentlemen, may I present you with... Blueberry-Nectarine Pie (aka, a Julia Child's pie):

I know, I know- the crust looks a bit shoddy.  But really?  Really, really?  It tasted divine.  DIVINE.  I've included my own notes in the recipe- you can find them in italics.

The filling:
  • 3 cups fresh blueberries (about 1.5 pints)
  • 2 cups sliced nectarines (about 3 large nectarines)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • large pinch of grated lemon zest
  • 2 teaspoons (approximately) fresh lemon juice (I ended up using one lemon)
Although this was not noted in the instructions, I think it's worthy to share that you need to be sure to peel the nectarines prior to slicing them.  I think I stared at four different pictures of this pie, trying to figure out if the damn skins needed to come off prior to baking.  I know- might seem obvious to some, but to me, if it's not written down, well.

Put half of the fruit (which, by the way, my beloved managed to get 1 pint of blueberries instead of 1.5... it still worked out fine in the end) in a medium saucepan, keeping the remaining fruit close at hand.  Add the sugar, flour, and lemon zest and stir to mix.  Bring the mixture to a soft boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.  The fruits will release their juices and the liquid will thicken. (At this point I was all, what?  Bring the mixture to a soft boil?  But there's no liquid to be found!  No liquid!  How can I boil no liquid!  But then, magic.  Just like she mentioned, the fruits released their juices.  And the smell from that pot?  Incredible.  I probably stirred for about 10 minutes, not sure when I should stop.  It seemed to be "thick enough" at that point, but what do I know?)  Turn the mixture into a  bowl and stir in the uncooked fruit.  Taste a spoonful (or three!), paying particular attention to the saucy liquid, and add lemon juice as needed.  Cool the filling to room temperature.

The crust:
  • 1/2 recipe Flaky Pie Dough, chilled (I'll share later- but please know that this recipe?  IT'S AWESOME!)
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into bits
  • 1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water, for egg wash
  • crystal or turbinado sugar, for sprinkling (I ended up using granulated sugar- this did not have the same effect!  BOO! on granulated sugar!)
Cut the dough in half and roll one half out on a lightly floured work surface into a circle about 11 inches across.  Fit the crust into a 9-inch cake pan with 1-inch-high sides (Hmmm.  I missed this.  I ended up using a crappy Pyrex pie pan.  Also?  I didn't roll my dough out enough.  ALWAYS my problem.  It shows.).  Allow the excess dough to hang over the sides for the moment.

Roll the remaining piece of dough into a circle about 10 inches across.  Place the pie pan in the center of the dough and, using the pan as a template, cut the bottom round of dough so that it is about 1/2 inch larger all around the pan.

Spoon the cooled filling into the pie shell and dot the top with butter (DAMN!  I forgot to dot with butter!  I bet that would have made this even more amazing!).

Trim the overhanging dough to about 1/2 inch.  Left the rolled-out circle of dough onto the pie, aligning the edges of the top crust with the bottom crust (again, I didn't roll this batch of dough out enough).  Fold both layers of overhanging dough under to create a thick edge around the rim of the pan.  Crimp the edges by pushing the thumb of one hand against the thumb and index finger of your other hand, creating scallops every 1 or 2 inches around the rim (ummm, yeah.  I didn't do this part so well either).  Press the tines of a fork against the flat scallops (what?!  Where are the flat scallops?!) to decorate.  Paint the crust with the egg wash and sprinkle with a little crystal or turbinado sugar (again- don't use granulated sugar!).

Using the point of a thin knife, cut 4 to 6 slits in the crust and chill for about 20 minutes (CHILL FOR ABOUT 20 MINUTES?  I totally missed that.  How in the hell did this pie turn out at all?!).

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees. 

Place the pie on a parchment-lined jelly-roll pan and bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until the crust is golden and the fruit bubbling.  Let cool for at least 30 minutes before you cut it so that the crusts, top and bottom, have a chance to set.

Yep.  Now that I've typed it out, I can see that I missed a lot of details.  The good news?  It was the first pie to disappear from the pie table at the party, so hell ya.  Looks like things are finally looking up in my baking world....

Friday, July 1, 2011

Through the example of others....

Even though I didn't want to post this recipe because you might not like it, plus you might only want to read recipes that are accompanied with pictures, I felt drawn due to a recent post in which the author made a very valid point (although it was a quiet point, made via example)... you can't share your own hip, hip, hoorays about something baked or made or whatever without including directions. 


Here's the picture from a while ago:

And here's the recipe, taken from A Best Recipe Classic:  Baking Illustrated, put together by the editors of Cook's Illustrated Magazine.  Keep in mind that I had to alter for elevation (mind you, this typed out version has not been altered, but just in case yours come out tasting like shit... well, perhaps you need to find a kitchen at 7, 200 feet):

Blueberry Muffins
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1 1/4 cups sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a standard 12-cup muffin tin and set aside (I recently tried out the secret of putting the muffin tin on the opened door of the dishwasher- you can spray all you want and not have a mess to clean up later!  Woo-hoo!).

Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl until combined.  Whisk the egg in a second medium bowl until well-combined and light-colored, about 20 seconds.  Add the sugar and whisk vigorously until thick and homogenous, about 30 seconds; add the melted butter in 2 or 3 additions, whisking to combine after each addition.  Add the sour cream in 2 additions, whisking just to combine.

Add the berries to the dry ingredients and gently toss just to combine.  Add the sour cream mixture and fold with a rubber spatula until the batter comes together and the berries are evenly distributed, about 25 to 30 seconds.  (Small spots of flour may remain and the batter will be thick.  Now, in the voice of Faye Dunaway as she channeled Joan Crawford during the wire hanger scene, scream this at yourself lest you forget:  "Do not overmix!  Do not overmix!  Do not overmix!")

Using a large spoon sprayed with nonstick cooking spray to prevent sticking, divide the batter among the greased muffin cups.  Bake until the muffins are light golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes, rotating the pan from front to back halfway through the baking time.  Invert the muffins onto a wire rack, stand the muffins upright, and cool 5 minutes.  Serve as is (or with a couple of dollops of butter smeared on top).