Saturday. August 20, 2016. KITCHEN TABLE, CR. Vitalia is sleeping peacefully on the carpet, outside the kitchen. Rachel, on her back beneath the window, next to the radiator. All is quiet, while the other three do their version of ‘quiet time’ in their bedroom. It is a semi-introspective moment for Daddy.
I sip heavily creamed coffee and suck dark chocolate wafers while fans waft a semblance of air across my bare chest. It seems, for a moment, I am alone.
I tried working in the garden earlier, but within minutes I lost several pounds.
The garden’s been an immense disaster (read: total failure) this year. Packets of seeds, carefully planted at the appropriate depth and space from one another. Washed away in torrential downpours. The only things that ended up growing were mistakes. Squash and tomato seeds dumped in the compost pile. But even they didn’t last long. Sprouted too late. More nymphs than fruit. Or no fruit at all.
We’ve been contemplating looking at houses to buy. Sometimes encouraged that it’s a possibility. Other times, discouraged that it costs so much just to get a fixer-upper. Thankfully, no rush.
I wonder why I write this. Why share it at all? I don’t really want my thoughts floating around for all to see. (Hence, the semi-introspectiveness of this post.) Yet at the same time, wanting to preserve some narrational and pictorial version of life together before children are grown and gone.
These kids are messy.
I was talking with my cousin several months ago (who also has four children) and he articulated the following truths of Fatherhood. Sometimes you forget who you are. You rarely know what you’re doing. When you have free time, you hesitate to start anything, in anticipation of the next ’emergency’ arising. The next question. The next. You don’t have any hobbies any more.
Trying to hold people together. Bringing the peace. ‘Blessed are the peacemakers.’
Several days ago Rachel gashed her foot on a nail in our bedroom. It was not pretty. But thankfully she is okay.
We eat pancakes every day. And I’m not getting tired of it. In fact, I love them more every morning. Though it does make breakfast hectic at times. Some like the butter in pats so they can spread it themselves. Others like me to spread it. Some like maple syrup on before the butter. Others, reverse.
Talia just woke up, but she still looks tired. Her training underwear is still dry. Win.
Some like cinnamon. Some like to put the cinnamon on themselves, but don’t know when to stop. Some want me to do things they can do themselves. Others want to do things that I should probably be doing for them. Some want almond butter. Others, peanut. Maybe we give too many options.
Last night, after dinner, I said I needed to rest and digest. To which Talia artfully replied, ‘Rest and my dresses.’
I’ve been reading the newspaper everyday, but I think it’s too much. Floods, fires, shootings, viruses, sovereign defaults, and bombs. Maybe I’ll take a break. I can’t hold it all in my head and heart.
Talia is screaming now.
And Annie is asking me to ‘stamp’ (staple) some paper for her. It’s a good day.
It’s been awhile since I’ve drafted any type of lengthy reflection. Maybe I haven’t made the time. Maybe I haven’t had the time. Maybe I’ve been less reflective. Or maybe because every time I sit down to write I get interrupted. Like now. Annie, yelling for me from the kitchen.
Silence and space for reflection. Almost non-existent with these little ones. At least while they are awake. Now Talia is crying. Wanting her leftover pizza from dinner. “You didn’t eat it. Why do you now want it?” I ask. But it doesn’t seem to matter. And now she is rolling in her tears on the floor.
* * *
I read the WSJ on the front porch today. It was close to 100 degrees, but there was shade and a slight breeze which made it bearable. Especially with no shirt on. Caela sewed an apron, while Rachel sewed one for Emeth out of T-shirts they got today from a Chili Maker at Whole foods, promoting his creation. Annie laid sick on a blanket while Talia played with water.
Later, from that same porch, we watched hail fall like I’ve never seen. And now, an hour later, the sun is shining.
And Talia is eating her pizza. I gave in. And now Annie is asking for hers, though she tells me her belly still hurts.
And she just threw up. Thankfully in the bucket. “Maybe we should save your pizza for later, honey.”
* * *
Caela and Emeth are sewing upstairs. I think. Getting into whatever their next creation is. Gloves, I believe they said.
Maybe I haven’t written much because I don’t have much to say. Or maybe most of it got spilled onto paper via my manual typewriter. Seventy or so pages worth. Maybe true reflection has to happen more in silence.
Yes, I do get silence. Mostly in the mornings. Or occasionally when Rachel is out late with a friend. Time to unpack stifled thoughts.
Annie and Talia want to draw now.
* * *
Tonight, we made pizza. Well, Caela and Emeth really did most of the work. Hopefully our new Saturday tradition.
I said maybe I don’t have much to say. But that’s wrong. I know I don’t. And I’m okay with that. I want to just be present here with these little ones. Faithful, each day. Day after day after day after day. Because I don’t know when it will end. This life, I mean. It is so fragile. Even these precious moments from today. Drawing in the morning with Annie and Talia, while Caela and Emeth went food shopping with Mommy. Lazy afternoon on the porch. Reading the paper and sipping hot coffee with Rache while our backs stick with sweat to the rocking chair. Trying to fill her in on the headlines between questions. Sewing. Pizza. Hail. More sewing. More drawing.
And who knows, maybe in an hour when I’m starting to get the kids ready for bed I will lose perspective and patience. That is what I mean by fragile. Contentment comes and goes. It is elusive. Was it Lewis who said ‘The only way to find true happiness is to stop looking for it’? I can’t remember. But it seems true.
And now Talia dropped a pencil in Annie’s throw-up that I forgot to clean out. Oh, well.
And so I leave these scattered thoughts, not because they seem worth sharing, but perhaps only to document some of the insanity and joys of our life together. And mostly just to share some fun pictures.
Being ‘paleo’ (whatever that term means anymore) in today’s world of fast food and grain subsidies is not easy. But, as the idea goes, ‘scarcity is the mother of invention’. And when you are desperate for something you’ll find a way to get it.
There isn’t much I miss by way of food anymore. I think it’s safe to say I’m clean over sugar, as well as grains by now. But there is one thing that’s irreplaceable in my food book. And that’s plain old toast with butter. That, with a cup of strong, black coffee in the morning was my lifeline in college. My crunchy, caffeinated explosion to ignite my day.
Summer brings the humid heat, Fall brings loads of squash to eat.
For the last two years squash has served as our staple carb substitute. Something to help fill out those meat and veggie dinners, and stretch those food dollars. But, as with any other food, too much of it becomes repulsive after a time. As much as I love those sweet as pie Long Island Cheese Pumpkins, my body eventually screams, ‘No more!’
I’ve been finding that these leftover mashes of squash and butter sit in the refrigerator untouched. They are unsure of their place in life. Doubtful of their eternal destiny.
Recently, though, through what I deem nothing short of divine inspiration, a recipe for squash cakes materialized in my mind’s eye one morning upon opening the fridge and seeing these sad leftovers.
* * *
4 C pumpkin
1 C butter
maca powder (optional, but very expensive these days, for added sweetness)
dash of salt
2 C tapioca flour
1 tsp baking soda
Add more butter/fat to pan and fry those cakes up.
* * *
Okay, so maybe it wasn’t divine inspiration, and maybe these cakes are ‘nothing new under the sun,’ but they are my new bread. My carrier for butter and salt. The missing half of my morning brew. The marriage is restored. The love is born again.
And I’m not the only one in love. I can’t fry these things up fast enough for our brood. Talia double-fists them, cheeks popping, apron on to catch the dripping butter, and cinnamon smeared, goatee style, around her lips.
This recipe is forgiving of a little smudging, and highly adaptable to all manner of use. Whether as a carrier for butter, maple syrup, and cinnamon, or if you just want to wrap up some savory leftovers, crêpe style.
These cakes literally melt in your mouth.
They reheat better than cold toes by the fire, and you can crisp up the leftovers to get that old toast feeling back in your mouth. Pair with strong coffee and your morning is made. Your day is set. These cakes will take you back to Saturday mornings with dad at the frying pan, without all the physical pain induced by Bisquick(R), or the insulin spikes of Aunt Jemima(R).
The children have abandoned their posts to go ‘play war’ in the living room, and we sit down for seconds at the table. Freshly picked arugula from the backyard garden, with chopped purple onions and a lemon/olive oil dressing, all dashed with our favorite chipotle chile powder. Our three minute post-dinner date. Our unity of silence before the force ten gale blows from the living room.
I tell you Radiohead has some really beautiful songs, and you ask, Wanna play me one? ‘Scatterbrain’ from Hail To The Thief comes to mind, and I turn the volume up so we can feel it to our bones. Because aren’t we all just a little scatterbrain at times? I say. We listen quiet and our feet dance together under the table.
Our house is a war zone. Life, a field of scattered bones. But I have you and you have me, and we look at one another with peppery eyes. Oh, just one look in your eyes and I feel scatterbrain! You put flesh on my bones.
We say we want to be somewhere we’re not scatterbrain, but we know we won’t be there anytime soon, so we take three to settle into the rhythm of this evening. Into this scatter that is love.