Wishing you a lovely and sweet holiday with people you love!
We’re putting the final touches on dessert-for-breakfast for tomorrow. And when I say “putting the final touches on,” I mean making it.
Wishing you a lovely and sweet holiday with people you love!
We’re putting the final touches on dessert-for-breakfast for tomorrow. And when I say “putting the final touches on,” I mean making it.
Do you know the book by George Saunders, The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip? The story is terrific, especially if you’re an adult or child who doesn’t mind imaginary things that are a little dark and awfully wonderful. The heroine is named Capable, and lately I’ve been wondering if she was about seven-and-a-half in that story. After all, seven and a half is many things, and sometimes, like I experienced yesterday, it’s just incredible capable.
Yesterday evening, after I brought Wyatt home from his sewing club, he went by our neighbor’s house to drop off a piece of cake, a holiday card, and a holiday gift bag of caramel corn. Then, he assembled our dinner (our version of spring rolls). He remarked I could just make the sauce which shouldn’t take that long, and then I could relax. I happily offered to set the table, too.
Eventually, we sat down to dinner, and about half-way through , Wyatt found he had a lot to say.
Mom. So we’re reading this book and learning about Jane Goodall. She spent TWO WHOLE YEARS watching chimpanzees! And she always wore the same kind of clothes. Tan shorts and a tan t-shirt, to blend in. And she got cut and she didn’t care. And she got scrapes and she didn’t care. She went to this one spot because she was there to dig for fossils, and she was like, ‘I’m going to dig for fossils and watch chimpanzees,’ and then I guess maybe she stopped paying attention to the fossils? I don’t know. But she was the first person to NOTICE that chimpanzees use TOOLS, like a blade of grass to pick out termites and eat them. All these other scientists had gone and looked and been like, ‘Those are chimpanzees doing regular chimpanzee things,’ but they didn’t stay to watch for TWO YEARS like she did, so they never saw them using tools.
Also? She’s still alive. I know you were wondering about that. And we saw two National Geographic videos of her. She’s old, with white hair and wrinkly skin, she always wears a ponytail, but she doesn’t move like an old person AT ALL. She said one time a Japanese woman came running to her with tears streaming down her face saying how much her work inspired her to go observe polar bears, WHICH SHE DID, she WENT and watched polar bears, and it became her work! Someone asked Jane Goodall what advice she’d give to kids, and she said that her mother always told her—haha, she’s British, right? So she says ‘motor car,’ and they didn’t have enough money for one, so they were really poor—her mother always told her if she wanted something she had to work hard for it. She had to read, and do the math, and do all the other things and work hard. She wasn’t even a trained scientist but she did all this work with chimpanzees! Also? When she came back home? SOME STUPID men [with a dismissive hand wave plus eye roll] didn’t believe she saw what she said she did. So she had to come back with some souvenirs to prove it to them. And then those STUPID MEN finally believed her.
She was eight during World War II. Her family knew war was coming so they moved to the countryside, but they still worried about being bombed. That would be so hard, spending all that energy every day worrying you’d be bombed at any time. How do you even LIVE like that? How old is she now? [I checked Wikipedia, and told him 84.] 84? So if she was 8 during World War II, that tells me World War II was . . . 84 minus 10, then add 2 . . . 75, 76 years ago. That was NOT very long ago. Not very long ago at all.
There’s some “progressive education” for you. Feminism, reslience, history, math, empathy, science, scientific methods, patience, and storytelling, to name some of the big concepts that jumped out at me from this glimpse into school on Monday.
I told Wyatt we learned about Jane Goodall when I was in school, too, and I agreed she did some great work. I added that now, scientists go out of their way not to interact with the animals the way Goodall did, because science has taught us we should give the animals their space. He looked at me as if I had mortally wounded his mother, and said, “She wasn’t HURTING them, and she wasn’t feeding them, like CEREAL or something. She was feeding them TERMITES. And the chimpanzees put their arms around HER. She wasn’t chasing them or something.” You know, like, pigeons and squirrels, I guess. I agreed, and I added that one of the best parts of science is that we’re always learning and then we can do even better at things. He changed the subject.
“Mom. I would really like to meet Jane Goodall.”
“I know, right? She’s pretty amazing. What would you want to ask her?”
“I don’t know. Maybe what it felt like to be there with the chimpanzees for TWO YEARS? Really, I’d just like to meet her.”
Just in case one of the important ingredients to having such a fabulous dinner conversation was the food, I’ll share the recipe with you.
The rolls Wyatt assembled were inspired by the recipes on the back of Happy Pho brown rice wrappers. We like the larger size wrappers because we can fit more in them. We used tofu (that I had pan fried, sprinkled with salt and sliced into strips), rice noodles (boil for about 2 minutes then drain and cool under running water), shredded cabbage, chopped mint, chives, and slivered cucumber. The dipping sauce is 1/4 cup each of water, rice vinegar, and soy sauce, 1/2 cup of nut (or sunflower) butter, a garlic clove, and 1/2 tablespoon of fresh ginger. Blitz all the ingredients in a blender until smooth.
I hate doing puzzles.
Wyatt also hates doing them.
Marc, on the other hand, loves doing puzzles. Wyatt and I have tried doing puzzles with Marc, and his puzzle love has not rubbed-off on us. We’ve tried puzzling with Marc individually and together, and at no time was the activity fun. I mean, Marc had fun, but I think that’s because he loves doing puzzles and enjoys spending time with us.
After one of my attempts at working on a puzzle with Marc (it ended in my reading my phone and doing a couple of rounds of knitting), he suggested that maybe I didn’t really like doing puzzles. I admitted to him that I didn’t. I also told him that I knew it was weird, because I’m supposed to like doing puzzles. After all, it’s an easy, fun, low-tech, classic activity where you can visit with people and work on a project together. Despite (because of?) all those charming qualities, I found them kind of annoying. He basically gave me a slightly sad shrug as he fitted in another piece, and I gave myself a pass to stop pretending to do puzzles anymore.
This weekend, though, Wyatt discovered that St. Nicholas had brought him a 100-piece magnetic puzzle of the world. You’d think St. Nick would have known better than to give that kind of gift. “I have NO IDEA why St. Nicholas gave me this annoying present. He should know I HATE DOING PUZZLES,” Wyatt groaned as he flopped onto the sofa. The things I could say in response ran through my head in quick succession. Things along the lines of, “You should be grateful you got anything!” Or, “Maybe St. Nicholas lost track of the date until he was at Whole Foods and did his best under the circumstances!” Or even the totally optimistic lie, “You’ll grow to like puzzles if you keep trying them!” But instead, I said, “You know, I bet he gave you that puzzle because you’re working on continents at school, and when you’re done with the puzzle, you’ll have a MAP!” “He could have just given me a MAP INSTEAD,” Wyatt retorted.
Right. And what was I thinking foisting my wish for puzzle love on a kid who hates them, too? It occurred to me that he would have preferred the ugly cactus Christmas tree ornament on the “Last Minute Gifts!” table instead of a map that required assembly.
I sighed, “Yeah, I totally know what you mean. I hate doing puzzles, too.” Wyatt was still frowning deeply, as he did his best to become one with the sofa. I went on, sort of distracted as I cleaned-up the lunch dishes, “I have an idea. We both hate doing puzzles, right? I wonder what would happen if we did this puzzle together. Do you think two people hating doing puzzles would mean we’d extra hate doing this one? Or would the outcome be different? I have no idea. Should we find out?” He said, “Two people hating puzzles would mean they extra hate it doing it together. That’s OBVIOUS.” “Maybe,” I said, “or maybe not.”
Later in the afternoon, when Wyatt and Marc had returned from getting their hair cut, Wyatt called to me from the kitchen. “Hey, Mom. Do you want to help separate these puzzle pieces into edges and middle pieces?”
How could I decline an invitation from my fellow puzzle hater to start working on a puzzle? “I’ll be right there,” I said.
We did the puzzle without stopping. The whole time, we talked about how IN GENERAL, we HATE doing puzzles. They’re so annoying and boring! But this one? We hated it less. Why? Who knows! Maybe because it stuck to the side of the refrigerator? We pieced together South America, Africa, ocean, and we mused some more. Maybe we didn’t hate doing puzzles with each other? Maybe we LIKED doing puzzles with each other. Maybe it was too early to tell? Wyatt remarked how sorry he was he had said “the mean things” about the puzzle earlier, because they weren’t actually true. I gave him one of those verbal shrugs as we kept working, and then I said, “I think this project is just one of those things that reminds us we always have a chance to change our mind, any day, any time.”
Sometimes it’s best to embrace the fickle.
This is the luckiest mouse you have seen in a long time. Trust me. Also, as Wyatt said, “I had no idea dad was so good at catching mice under glass bowls!”
Last night, I spied a mouse slinking along an upstairs wall. So I set 80 million traps. This morning, Wyatt came running to me as I was getting out of bed, saying with what sounded like fake urgency, THERE’S A MOUSE IN MY ROOM. And I was like stop messing with me. But he was serious and terrified because the mouse had, in a very unmousy way, sat against the wall and stared him down!
The big scary mouse was hiding behind the waste paper basket when I investigated, and I tried to corner it with spring traps. We left the room and when we came back, the big scary mouse had moved, and not into a trap. I spotted it under the bed, but NOW WHAT?
I got a broom. And a bucket. But the bucket was too tall. So I also got a bowl. And cheese. To lure it out. Then, I was afraid to take my eye off it to get a good angle to make a move with the bowl. Or the broom? I couldn’t decide.
Marc eventually came downstairs, shook his head at my arsenal, grabbed the bowl, walked to the other end of the bed, and lobbed the bowl over the creature, LIKE THIS WAS A NORMAL THING. Then, he slid some cardboard under the bowl, put on his jacket, and carried the now much less ferocious looking mouse to the far end of the park.
I asked how many mice he has caught like that. He said, “More than one.”
Look who’s turn it was to be Star of the Week in his classroom!
Each kid gets a turn, and they need to make a poster of photos and talk to the class about their heritage or a family tradition. Fortunately, it’s also ok just to share about something that they like or is important to them. After all, the point of this exercise is to give everyone practice giving a presentation in front of a group,
Wyatt decided that he wanted to talk about his work in the Presidio Native Plant Nursery and the secret garden.
I don’t know if this happens to you, too, but when I’m caught up in the day to day of parenting and life, I don’t take time to reflect on where we’ve been, what we’ve done, and what progress we’ve made. Honestly, I usually only review photos after a trip, and only then if I’m making a book of them. Reviewing photos from the last two years of volunteer work was pretty astonishing. Cutting the set down to a reasonable number for the poster was really challenging, too.
Wyatt and I have learned and done a lot since our first session where we scrubbed pots the whole time. We’ve helped to build a greenhouse, we’ve prepared soil, prepared for raised beds, rodent-proofed, pest-proofed, pruned, collected seeds, helped to banish phytopthora from key areas, weeded, mowed using our own power, watered, planted, replanted, labeled, cared for native plants, learned about endangered plants, swept, washed, dug out ditches, moved mulch, and so many other things. More than that, we’ve learned about and done all these things within a big caring community of employees, interns, and volunteers.
Here are some photos from nearly two years of volunteering with the Presidio Nursery—every photo we included in the poster and then some. We are so lucky to be part of a volunteer family doing so much meaningful work.
If you haven’t found your volunteer family yet, keep looking. You’ll be glad when you do.
To make the poster itself . . .
We made this gluten-free paste to glue the photos we printed to the posterboard. (We did half the recipe, and even that was way too much.)
We used wire cutters to trim the sticks Wyatt gathered.
We used Elmer’s glue to stick the sticks and the leaves, but the paste might have worked well, too.
As torn as I often feel about social media, such good, real life things can come of it when we use it well. Good things like making a new friend.
My new friend, Dr. Ashwini Bhandiwad, is the CEO of StemChef. Ashie creates kits to teach kids between the ages of 5 and 10 about the science that happens every day in the kitchen. Ashie and I met after she posted in a Facebook group where entrepreneurial women support one another. She asked for volunteers to beta test her first StemChef kit, and of course I volunteered. (Disclosure: In exchange for our time and feedback, StemChef provided us a free kit. Wyatt and I had so much fun with the experiments that I decided to write about StemChef in a blog post.)
Ashie came to our house one Saturday afternoon, kit in hand, and while Wyatt and I worked on the kit, Ashie and I quickly discovered how much we have in common. We share a love for Science & Cooking—both the online class and the concepts in real life. We have kids who are about the same age. We also think part of bringing up end educating children must include leading them to observe and interact with the everyday world in meaningful ways. A great place to engage is in the kitchen. One of my favorite sayings of Ashie’s is, “Where there is food, there is science,” and her recent TEDx talk on that subject is so inspiring.
I didn’t know how we’d contribute in any meaningful way to StemChef’s kit development. To be honest, I was thinking more selfishly when I signed us up: we’d get to do something fun for free. But I have to say, I’m delighted to have actually helped. The scientific principle the first kit explores is pH. One of the experiments involves making cupcakes with the ingredients provided in the kit and then cooking the cupcakes speedily in a microwave. But, we had two issues: (1) we are gluten-free, and (2) we are microwave-free because after our microwave broke a few years ago, we didn’t replace it. Ashie was undaunted, though. With her guidance, we found work arounds, and she decided to include what we did as part of her instructions.
Here are some of the photos taken while we were testing the kit. We made a volcano, played with pH testing using natural dye, and made cupcakes. It was a super fun way to introduce Wyatt to acids and bases and how they contribute to a more delicious existence.
I hope that if you celebrate Thanksgiving, you had a wonderful holiday where you basked in gratitude among people you love.
And even though on Thanksgiving, you might have sworn you’d never eat again, that feeling has probably worn off by now. Maybe not for pie, but possibly for cake. Or maybe for quick bread?
I love Smitten Kitchen’s recipes. I have saved so many of them in my Paprika recipe box, knowing I’ll need to revise them in one way or another to accommodate various dietary restrictions when I try them. Sometimes I remember to note my changes, but more often, I don’t.
Wyatt recently remembered one our favorites recipes from this time last year: Mom’s Apple Cake. It’s so good. He didn’t have to remind me twice to add the ingredients to my grocery list so we could bake it over the weekend. I forgot the orange juice, though.
I had also forgotten that we don’t own a tube-shaped cake pan. As I pulled out all the ingredients we’d need (minus the orange juice), I thought, “Shouldn’t we HAVE a tube pan?” and soon concluded (for at least the third time) that if we had one, and I used it, I’d also need a cake plate or appropriately large thing to put the cake on and some kind of dome to put the cake under, and probably that wouldn’t be good enough anyway, because gluten-free goods just do not have the staying power that traditional wheat flour-based goods have. I pulled two loaf pans out of the cabinet instead. Bread-shaped cake where we could freeze one of the loaves would be a better choice anyway.
For this, our first Apple Cake of the season, Wyatt argued strongly in favor of using the apple-corer-peeler to prepare the apples. Why? Because it’s fun. I figured we had nothing to lose—the apple chunks called for in the recipe weren’t so great when it came to slicing the bread-shaped cake last year. Also, it’s not like we’d be maintaining the integrity of this recipe in any other way, so why be a stickler about the apples? It was a good call, as it turns out.
We substituted the Gluten-Free Girl flour blend for the flour (1-for-1). Because I’m currently dairy-free, we aren’t baking with butter. We chose to use coconut oil because we thought the flavor profile would work with the rest of our changes, and we used 2/3 of the amount called for in the recipe. My friend, Molly, who has more gluten-free baking experience than anyone else I know in real life, taught me that trick when it came to converting a traditional recipe for cookies. It works here, too, likely because gluten-free flours are often not as good at absorbing fats as wheat flour is. We also needed to trade out the granulated sugar because I have verified in real life the blood test result that told me I’m “highly reactive” to cane sugar. I went with 1-for-1 replacement with coconut sugar. And for the orange juice? I grabbed the bottle of Laird’s Apple Jack we use for Chicken Calvados, figuring if booze works so well in Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for Jacked-Up Banana Bread, it would probably be amazing in apple cake.
The Apple Cake-ish turned out great. You should definitely try it, with or without the modifications. And I know some of you are also egg-free. I’ve never tried baking gluten-free without eggs, so please leave your tips in the comments so I can learn from you.
For the apples
6 apples (I used Pink Lady)
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
5 tablespoons coconut sugar
For the cake
2 3/4 cups gluten-free flour blend
1 tablespoon baking powder (you can also add an extra teaspoon or so for more lift)
1 teaspoon fine sea or table salt
2/3 cup melted coconut oil
2 cups coconut sugar
1/4 cup apple jack brandy
2 1/2 (13 ml) teaspoons vanilla extract
4 large eggs
Heat oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease two loaf pans. If you’re worried about sticking like I am, use coconut-oil greased parchment paper to line the pans. Peel, core and slice the apples 1/8 - 1/4” thick moons. Toss with cinnamon and 5 tablespoons sugar and set aside.
Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together oil, brandy, sugar, vanilla and eggs. Mix wet ingredients into dry ones; scrape down the bowl to ensure all ingredients are incorporated.
Pour a quarter of the batter into each of the prepared pans. Spread a quarter of the apples (and their juices) over in each pan. Pour half of the remaining batter over the apples in each pan and then arrange the remaining apples on top. Bake for about 1 1/2 hours, or until a tester comes out clean.*
Cool completely before running knife between cake and pan, and unmolding onto a platter. Or if you used parchment paper, just lift the loaves out and let them cool on a baking rack.
* Tip: The apples love to hide uncooked pockets of batter, especially near the top. Make sure your testing skewer or toothpick does a shallow dip below the top layer of apples to make sure it comes out batter-free. Should your cake be browning too fast, before the center is baked through, cover it with foil for all but the last few minutes in the oven.
Not to bring up a sore subject, but how did you deal with horror of Kavanaugh’s confirmation?
Personally, I spent way too much time reading news, texting with equally irate friends about the news, and contacting senators to voice my strong opposition to his confirmation. I am furious that Kavanaugh is now a United States Supreme Court justice. We will all pay dearly for this decision for generations.
That said, it is possible to be more than one thing at a time (blacked-out drunk and a good student at a fancy school, for example). I’m so angry about the state of our government. But at the same time, I’m overjoyed-grateful about my friend, Raejean, her invention of Summer of Craft, and that she invited me to join it.
Let me catch you up. Raejean and her wife, Saylor, used to live in the Bay Area. Raejean and I worked together as appellate attorneys for several years, and fortunately, our enviable working relationship spilled over into our personal lives so that Raejean, Saylor, Marc, and I all became really good friends. Raejean and Saylor moved away shortly after Wyatt was born, and by now, they have likely adjusted as much as anyone can to the extremes of desert weather where they live. Raejean’s solution to excruciating summer heat has been to treat it like a harsh winter: Stay inside and keep crafting. Over the last few years, Raejean has become an extremely skilled sewist and a bag engineer (a “bagineer,” if you will). She basically declares “Summer of Craft” when the temperatures reach for the triple digits.
Around the time Raejean invited me to join Summer of Craft 2018, I was deeply hating the handbag I had been using. I liked the general shape and size of it, but loathed everything else, especially its noisy, grabby velcro closure. One day, I texted Raejean to ask if she’d be up for helping me create my dream bag. And by “helping,” I meant I’d tell her what I wanted in a bag and purchase supplies, but the rest would be on her. I was so pleased when she said she was game.
We went back and forth with patterns, revisions, must-have features, closures, fabrics and more. Somewhere along the way, it occurred to me to ask Raejean if there was anything knitted that she or Saylor needed. “Slippers!” she responded. They were down to their last pair or two, which Raejean’s mom had made, and they were anticipating skirmishes over who’d get to wear them when winter finally returned. I immediately got to work designing slippers they’d both like.
Raejean and I made and mailed each other prototypes. And then we made revisions before creating our final pieces. We kept really good notes of what we needed to change, Raejean sewed elegant solutions to complicated bagineer problems, and I kept knitting.
One of the most fun parts of making a thing is choosing the supplies. I have been looking for a project to use Wooly Moss Roots buttons, and they were perfect for my bag.
Summer of Craft broadened unexpectedly towards the end of the summer when Wyatt realized his apron had gotten too small. I asked Raejean about possibly making him a new one. She readily agreed and offered to make him a wallet, too. Overcome by his good fortune, Wyatt offered to weave Raejean and Saylor four potholders in exchange for the apron and wallet.
Raejean made the excellent decision to mail us our things at the beginning of “FBI Week.” I followed her lead. The box she sent arrived on Wednesday. The box that we sent arrived to her on Friday. And can I just tell you, Christmas in October never felt so good.
Wyatt loves using his apron (with the perfect selvedge edge hem and the ties that Raejean let him choose) and feels like a grown-up now that he has a full-sized wallet.
I cannot get enough of using my new bag. It is everything i wanted it to be, and more.
Raejean and Saylor are very pleased with their slippers. Just the right size, just the right amount of squish, and just in time for fall and winter. (And my test knitters are helping me finalize the pattern as I write this post!)
Did you know I used to hate shawls? I've come around, obviously. My struggle was more with how to style them. Fortunately, my friends have taught me to appreciate the versatility and warmth of a shawl. And it's easy to love how shawls don't have to fit (no sleeves! no torso!).
Which brings me to my new pattern. It's a shawl called Caravanserai. Here's the blurb, or "pattern romance," about it:
For the travel-loving knitter, this generously sized triangular shawl packs down to nothing. Caravanserai’s bold color changes and geometric lace are just the ticket, whether you’re twirling the night away in your favorite little black dress, dining al fresco in Amalfi, or warming-up après ski. Built centuries ago in the desert regions of Asia and North Africa, a caravanserai was a roadside inn with a central courtyard where travelers could rest and recover from the day’s journey. Wherever you’re headed, toss a playful tassel across your shoulder and enjoy the airy drape of this fly-off-the-needles statement shawl.
Through the end of July 2018, I am donating 50% of Caravanserai pattern sales to RAICES, to support their work providing legal services for immigrant families. You can find more information about RAICES here: https://www.raicestexas.org/about/.
If you knit, please consider picking up a copy of the pattern. And if you don't knit, please consider picking up a pattern anyway! I'm sure you can convince someone to knit the shawl for you or at least teach you how to do it for yourself. Also, please share this post! The more patterns I sell, the bigger the donation to RAICES, an organization doing really important work.
The yarn I used for Caravanserai is Cormo Fingering by Sincere Sheep. The moment I shipped Sincere Sheep my sample for their show booth, I began work on another version in the same yarn for myself. I'm working from my stash for this one. It has been surprisingly fun to mix and match colors I'd never have thought would work together. I have one row left of diamonds to do, then I'm on to the tassels. It's a good summer project--not too hot, easy to pick up and put down without losing my place, and super portable.
This summer, in and around craft projects, travel, and everything else, we've been talking a lot in our family about making good decisions as consumers. Plastic Free July and watching Blue Planet have been the catalysts for the discussions. Eliminating plastic waste wherever possible is important and so is thinking more broadly about other purchasing decisions. Fortunately, we all can address more than one issue at a time. What easier place to start than in our crafts? I mention yarn and knitting here, but these considerations apply to any other craft. They also apply to anything you want or need to buy. But sometimes it's easier to start new habits on something less daunting than every aspect of your entire life. Here are my thoughts so far.
What? You don't have enough yarn in your stash and lack the patience of a saint required for unraveling? I hear you. That's me usually me, too. Most often, a new project means shopping for new yarn. But before buying...
I know. I'm so eager to get started on that new project, too. But remember that crafting is, compared to many things in our modern world, slow. It is also optional. If you're going to spend all those hours knitting that sweater, shawl, pair of socks or first hat, you can afford to spend some time doing some research to make good decisions about your yarn (and patterns, too).
When shopping for new yarn, go deeper than the basic questions of what's required for the pattern, what fiber you like, and what colors you prefer. Ask questions like, who's behind this company that makes the yarn I want to buy? What are their manufacturing and employment practices? Are those practices sustainable and fair? What are the company's values? The "About" section on most companies' websites will often answer many of these questions. if not, ask. Send the company a direct message through social media, drop an email to customer support, or buck the text/email/dm trend and call them on the phone.
Remember that the answers you get about a company's values and practices may not match how a company acts. It's the actions, not the intentions, that matter. Pay attention to what a company actually does, call them out when they blow it, and let them know what (if anything) they can do to have a chance to earn back your business.
Speaking up about your decision to take your business elsewhere is critical to raising a company's awareness and hopefully, encouraging them to do better.
For example, you can read here about an issue that Lady Dye Yarns experienced and shared regarding Madeline Tosh. Madeline Tosh's response to me and others on Instagram regarding this issue was so toxically dismissive that I plan to never buy their yarn or any other product from them ever again, and I let them know as much. Another recent example involves Brooklyn Tweed. You can read here about their "dick move." I have unsubscribed from their newsletter and told them why I'm not buying from them.
In short: Be resourceful, get informed, speak up, and support companies and people who deserve your business. Repeat.
You can find the Caravanserai shawl pattern in my Ravelry shop.
Even if you're not from the Bay Area, you've probably heard of Alcatraz. It was a federal prison that was for the "worst of the worst." Al Capone, among others, was held there.
Maybe you also know the importance of Alcatraz to the self-determination movement of indigenous people.
Perhaps you even know about how the Army was stationed there and its role during the Civil War.
But do you know about the gardens?
I'm betting you don't. But you should. And if you ever choose to go to Alcatraz, you need to plan your visit around a tour of the Gardens of Alcatraz. We learned about the tour from a fellow volunteer at the Presidio. If you're a volunteer with the Golden Gate National Parks, you can take advantage of all kinds of free learning opportunities, including special tours, here. Any member of the public can also attend a tour of the Alcatraz gardens (more information here).
Wyatt and I attended our tour with our friend, Susan. We took the staff boat over early in the morning, and it was amazing to watch the island begin to wake up. We learned more than any of us thought possible about the place (a rock, originally with no soil), the people who lived there (willingly or not), and the importance of nature to society and community.
Volunteers have been working steadily since 2003 to restore the gardens to what they were during the eras of the army and the federal prison. When the restoration program began, they had about 50 years of overgrowth to tame. Restoration continues, and thanks to a world-class composting program, volunteers help the island to make its own nutrient dense soil. Some of the original plants still thrive in the gardens, including a rose that at one time was thought to be extinct in the rest of the world. On our tour, we smelled at least four different kinds of bearded iris. The dahlias were dazzling.
The gardens are gorgeous and the bird population is astonishing. We watched Great Blue Herons tend to their young in huge nests in the tops of trees while a Night Heron rested on a branch nearby. We listened to the other-worldly sounds of the Snowy Egret colony and were amazed by the number of Cormorants on an unrestored part of the island. Gulls fed their chicks in nests nestled along garden paths.
When you're done with the garden tour, you can also tour the prison if you feel like checking it out.
And if you're looking for ways to contribute, you can also volunteer your time.
I love spending time with friends who don't have kids. It makes me feel outrageously happy and ridiculously special. We made our schedules work! We are guaranteed to talk about Interesting Non-Kid Things for the majority of our time together! I revel in the joy of a friendship we chose, as opposed to one that's simply convenient.
And let's be honest--thank goodness for friendships of convenience! Friends at work, neighbor friends, and school friends are how we get through the day. Family friends with kids around the same age as your own? Pure magic.
But here's the thing. Those of us with a child (or more) can get lured into thinking that we should only be friends with other people with children. We can even get lulled into the idea we should find families like our own, with children of similar ages and abilities, and just hang around with them. Don't be fooled! A strong sense of humor, kindness, and an adventurous spirit matter way more than age, ability, or whether someone has a child. Everyone was a kid once, and the fact that someone doesn't have kids does not mean they dislike them, or that they even vaguely dislike you for having one (or more). Your friends without kids might even welcome the chance to revisit some of the fun parts of childhood.
The "fun parts of childhood" vary from person to person. What you did as a kid may be different from what your friends did. And these differences are so good. They mean that you don't have to know or learn everything as a parent! You just need friends.
If you're lucky, you've got friends like Susan and Wayne. They don't have kids, and they are so funny, incredibly kind and up for just about anything at least once. Even better? They know so many things we don't, including everything important about skateboarding (they'd downplay their expertise, but that's another reason we like them). Marc and I just had to mention to them that Wyatt was interested in taking up skateboarding. Suddenly, it didn't matter that we knew nothing about it. They introduced us to their friend and his skate shop, and they took Wyatt shopping for his first board. They even bought it for him. And then? Wayne got him started with the basics in the skate park.
More skate meet-ups have followed. One of those days also involved a post-skate LEGO building session.
There's every reason to share this kind of fun with friends, regardless of whether those friends have kids. Or maybe even especially if those friends don't have kids.
Today is my 101st consecutive day of meditation, and I feel astonishingly good. I feel calm, alert, and super smart. Amazing, right? Most importantly, I don't feel anxious. The constantly looping, stomping, and crashing parade of worries and what-ifs disbanded and left my mind about a week ago. Only a few of the more reasonable concerns remain, and they're cool. They're sitting down and hanging out quietly until I choose to deal with them.
None of these things were true 101 days ago, and they're all thanks to my meditation practice. But meditation did not made me more "zen." Meditation gave me the insight to seek, and the confidence to get, help.
Therapists have told me that I ruminate. I've had coping mechanisms my whole life, like imagining worst case scenarios and planning how I would handle them when I needed to. I am a truly excellent imaginer of worst-case scenarios. Imagining those terrible situations and possible solutions is probably supposed to free a person from worry. But for me? These situations simply added to the chaos and noise of the never ending parade. I couldn't seem to let anything emotional go. People would tell me that emotions are like ocean waves, and waves always recede, so I'd be okay. I'd nod my head like I totally understood, but I didn't. I was busy treading water in the deep end of a wave pool of emotion, trying to seem like I wasn't tired.
The anxiety made sense to me for decades. School was often stressful, and the more I worried, the harder I worked. The harder I worked, the better grades I got. Being a litigator could be stressful, too. There were clients, judges, important cases, and lots of things to juggle. I eventually decided a high level of worry and anxiety about my work was not only normal but necessary. Who cares if I couldn't turn it off? The worry and anxiety was probably part of what made me good at my job.
I left legal work about seven years ago, and I took on Stay At Home Mom like it was a profession. I learned about nutrition, fermentation, cooking, and I made myself do things like stay up super late to bake sourdough bread rather than lose a loaf to over-proofing. I shifted our kitchen into a place that was full of jars of whole, nourishing ingredients from the grocery store bulk section. I was the only person who could turn any of it into food anytime anyone wanted to eat. I focused on raising our kid, reading books, taking classes, trying to come up with a second career, improving my emotional intelligence, all the while worrying what angles I was missing. And then? I started a blog where I posted every week without fail. I was up late writing, checking stats, editing photos, and ultimately welcoming self doubt into my mental parade. I wasn’t sleeping well, and I was as stressed-out as ever. Worse, I felt like I had to hide my mental state because it was, based on my life and lifestyle, totally unwarranted.
There seemed to be no objective reason for my anxiety. I am a white, heterosexual, cis-woman. I'm married with one non-home-schooled child who has no disabilities. I don't have an employer, and I live comfortably with my wonderful little family in one of the most beautiful cities in the United States. We've had rocky periods at home, but we emerged from them maybe better (certainly no worse) than before. The mismatch between my internal and external life was frankly embarrassing. I was sure I was doing something terribly wrong.
This January, I decided to slow way down and remove self-imposed pressures to see if I'd calm down. I stopped writing regular blog posts, and I started doing things like buying grain-free granola instead of making it. I prioritized connecting in person with friends over completing tasks. In February, I began developing a meditation practice according to Bliss More. I went from dreading and avoiding meditation to looking forward to it and doing it every single day. Surely all of this subdued the parade, right?
Nope. Doing less didn’t help at all. With all those activities gone, I worried about more and more mundane things in greater and greater detail. The parade stayed just as loud and looped just as fast as ever. But thanks to meditation, I started noticing how my mental state was affecting my life. I needed to change things, and I couldn't do it myself.
While I was debating about hiring a new therapist and looking into prescription medications, I noticed a social media post from Wyatt’s pediatrician, Dr. Julia Getzelman. She wrote that she had been using genetic testing to uncover the root causes of patients' mental and physical issues, including anxiety, ADD, and ADHD. Knowing the root causes allowed her to successfully treat those conditions without pharmaceuticals, and she was starting to work with adults. I swallowed hard and sent her a self-conscious email explaining how I was feeling and that, in my opinion, I had no right to feel this way, but maybe she could help. Her compassion was overwhelming in the very best way. She took my complaints seriously, and after analyzing my 23andMe genetic test, she explained, from a medical perspective, why I felt so awful and trapped. More importantly, she developed a plan for me to get better. The plan involves my taking supplements maybe forever and also playing with dietary changes over the next couple of months so we can determine what will work best for me over the long term.
Today, I am so much better. I feel astonishingly good, and I'm so grateful.
As I mentioned in my earlier post, I took a sandal making class with Rachel Sees Snails Shoes. It was so fun, and my sandals are so cute, that Wyatt wanted to make a pair for himself. We used the notes and shopping list that Rachel provided to us in the workshop to make Wyatt's sandals.
We are not pros at making sandals. Not in the slightest. This fact will be obvious in so many ways to anyone who knows anything about making sandals and sees my photos. But we tried, we learned, and the project occupied a fair amount of time over spring break. Wyatt also has a pair of sandals that, while stiff to walk in, fit. So I'm calling this experiment a success.
If I made another pair, I'd choose a lighter weight sole, for sure. Or heavier leather for the straps. Except that the straps were from leather our shoemaking friends gave us, and honestly, their generosity should have driven the sole search (ha!) and purchase.
Also? I cannot overstate the importance of the saying, "The right tool for the right job." My goodness. If DIY projects have taught me anything, it's that specialization of individuals (or families) in different crafts was a good move for society. Tools and skill matter so much in craft, and I have a minimum of both when it comes to sandal making. I mean, I can cut thick leather with a utility knife, but the results are far from amazing.
We got many of our sandal making supplies from Baltor O & Sons, which is a 4th generation family owned business in South San Francisco. (See what I mean? Specialization!) It is an amazing warehouse that's full of everything you could ever need to make any kind of shoe. And nothing is labeled. Or priced in any way a customer like me can read. There are employees who can help you, but you're not why they came to work. They are there to do Other Things. That said, everyone there is extremely gracious when you speak up and ask for help, as we did at least 50 times. It served Wyatt and me well to be unfailingly polite while simultaneously owning our profound ignorance.
We got the rest of the supplies from our shoemaker friends. When you're making one pair of kids' sandals, you don't need a pound of shoe nails (assuming you could even figure out which type of nails in the Nails Aisle were the ones you needed to buy) or an entire hide of leather (outside of the scrap bin, leather is sold only by the hide).
Here's what we did.
We finished the sandals by going to our shoemaker friends who didn't judge us or our work even one time, and who evened out all my mistakes with their belt-sander-for-shoes. We paid them in jam, marmalade, and a modest Mitchell's ice cream celebration.
"OH MY GOSH, Wyatt! Why are you following me around?"
"Because I love you."
"I love you, too," I said.
I was rushing around that morning, realizing that somehow, nothing was ready, and finding that even with direct instruction, the kid was not getting it done. His response was the best reality check ever. It won't be much longer before I'm trailing Wyatt just because I love him and not to make sure he has selected the proper footwear.
"Hey, I'm sorry I asked why you were following me. It was a really dumb question to ask. I was feeling stressed out, and I think that's why I said it. Did you feel bad after I said it?"
"Well, yeah, kind of. I mean, I don't KNOW why I was following you. I just was. Because I love you."
"Of course," I said, "I'm really sorry."
"It's okay..." he trailed off as he focused on finishing the surprisingly difficult task of making his sandwich for lunch. Then he said, "You said you'd read me the story about the bunny before school. Do we have time?"
We didn't really have time, but I read it to him anyway. As we headed off to school, he responded to my "Put on your sneakers...you have games today!" by putting on his hiking boots. When I asked him about it, he was totally bewildered. On the way to school, we hit traffic, and he was late. And you know what? It was just fine.
I can't even believe this kid is seven now. We celebrated his birthday during a mini-vacation in Hawaii. We mostly spent time at the beach, but on Earth Day, we volunteered at Waimea Valley. I know--nothing says loving Mother Earth like flying 3,000ish miles. Anyway. We started the day learning about the cultural significance of Waimea Valley and then pulled weeds along the trail with other families. Later, while waiting out a rain shower (and seeing who won the raffle prizes) I learned about JustServe from a local woman sitting next to me. Apparently, it started in California and is a terrific resource for finding nearby volunteer opportunities. She said that when her kids are starting to act too selfishly, she logs on and finds a service project for the family to do. My kind of mom.
During the afternoon, we explored the valley. Wyatt cajoled me into going swimming in the raging waterfall at the end of one of the trails. The experience was worth it, and Wyatt would have spent the entire day in there. He was so furious when I made him get out so we could hike back that we have no photos of us right out of the falls. But I got some on the hike back.
We also visited Green World Coffee Farm. We had so many questions for their master roaster, and he had all the answers. Can you believe he roasts 400 pounds of coffee on a normal day, and closer to 800 during the Christmas season? It smelled heavenly in there.
And on the last day, we saw a monk seal that decided to take a nap on the beach. The volunteer who was dispatched to look after the seal gave us all kinds of fun facts about him and all his local relatives. She even had a vial of monk seal poop with her. (I know you're wondering: it looked like lumps of chalk.)
On Wyatt's actual birthday, we had shave ice, we snorkeled, and he paddled endlessly around on a boogie board. One of the best parts for everyone about being 7 is playing by yourself in the water (most of the time) while your parents lounge on the beach.
After I completed my Channel Cardigan, I was fried. I could not drop back into designing anything. Channel was technically challenging and I needed to do the opposite of that cardigan to get back into a creative space. I decided to make something up. I’d plan as little as possible in advance and take no notes as to what I would do as I went along.
I knit this shawl.
The only things I chose ahead of time were the yarn and the shawl shape. My friend, Lori, helped me choose the yarns (Bello and Snug) from Plucky, while we were at Stitches West this year. I was curious about this curved triangular shawl shape, so I followed the basic shape recipe from Aroha Knits.
How did it go? It felt like I was turning my brain inside-out, clearing the crumbs from the corners, and then getting comfortable with making good design decisions on the fly while guessing at how much yardage I had to play with. In short, it went very well.
The project worked beautifully. It was just the reset I needed and the design I wanted. In retrospect, it was even worth having to redo the cast-off (and rip out two previous rows) when I ran out of yarn. That process made me realize how gigantic the shawl had gotten, and it made me appreciate the geometry of the shape in a whole new way.
Now? I'm reinvigorated and deep into a new design. More details soon!
The Channel Cardigan was my first ever group knitting project. My friend Maja, who was in search of an excellent cardigan, suggested we choose a pattern and do it together as a knit-a-long (or KAL). I told my friend, Sarah, about it, and she suggested the pattern. We three then connected over group text where we created the perfectly supportive-yet-competitive virtual knitting environment. Imagine the Great British Baking Show, but with yarn, no Brits, and spanning a few months in different locations. We had one American and one Australian in San Francisco, and one American in South Carolina, each of us with varying demands on our time and facing different construction challenges. We shared our progress photos, asked and responded to questions about the pattern, teased each other for getting too far ahead, fell behind, caught-up, took the lead, sought the others' counsel on whether a particular error really mattered enough to go back and correct it, and occasionally, we veered delightfully into non-knitting related life stuff. We even had a modern knitting circle by FaceTime one afternoon in February. This project was truly everything good.
Truthfully, there's no way I would have finished my cardigan by now without this KAL. In classic me fashion, I decided to substitute yarn. I wanted to use Cestari merino yarn instead of Brooklyn Tweed. And because I am impatient with shipping and starting projects, I bought the entire sweater's worth of yarn at once instead of just buying one skein to see how it would work. Maja, on the other hand, smartly went with the recommended yarn. Sarah already had her yarn (which also ended up being a great choice). My substitution decision cost me dearly in hand strain. To even get close to the size stitches I needed, I had to knit thick-ish puffy yarn on teeny tiny needles (or, for those of you who speak yarn, I was knitting woolen-spun, worsted weight yarn on size 1 and 2 needles) and even then, I had to make adjustments to the pattern as I went (my gauge was still a little too big). Live and learn? I doubt it.
I mean, the cardigan fits perfectly, so I haven't really learned my lesson. The fact that it fits so well kind of feels like a miracle. And when I look at the stitch pattern, I think, "Someone who is a yarn magician must have made this!" Then a vague, achy twinge in my right hand and elbow reminds me that I AM THAT YARN MAGICIAN. But the best part of this project, by far, was working on it with Maja and Sarah. I love how we used technology to bring us together and turn the slow crafting of our individual cardigans into a shared experience of successes (and the occasional screw-up).
Also! We have been cooking pretty much everything out of the cookbook My Darling Lemon Thyme (Maja's pick, and I finally bought my own copy). It's a vegetarian, gluten-free cookbook, and it's spectacular. Here are photos of some of the things we have made:
Now that I've answered Wyatt's big questions about Easter, Passover, God, Jesus, and Moses with various versions of "Some people believe," "Maybe," and "I don't know," it's time to raise a basket of naturally dyed eggs in celebration of spring: May we all enjoy liberation, renewal, and rebirth.
Surely you remember that we're all about annual egg dyeing? Last year's eggs were pretty spectacular. This year, we took a comparative approach and tested two natural dye kits (I purchased both of them). We also prepared dye baths of onion skins (gold), red cabbage (blue), and beets (red) in which to simultaneously cook and dye eggs. This year, we used our new Joule immersion circulator to achieve "perfect" hardboiled eggs. This cooking method is pretty straightforward when you're simply cooking eggs you'll dye in a kit--cook the eggs however you like them (we followed all the recommended steps to make them easiest to peel and went with 45 minutes at 165F), cool them to a temperature you can handle, and then dip-dye-away.
The dye kits are the most fun, because you get almost instant results and can get creative. You can play with resists like leaves and rubber bands, see what works, and then adjust as you go. You can also use multiple colors on one egg. Of the two kits we tried, ColorKitchen, which includes three colors, delivered the most vibrant color the quickest. The other kit, Natural Earth Paint, has four colors, including green. Green has always been difficult for us to get when we try to blend dyes on on our own. Both kits' powdered dyes were contained in individually sealed plastic sleeves. Both kits cost about $10.
The homemade dye baths were a little less straightforward. Last year, I used this method to dye and cook the eggs at the same time. The resulting colors were great; the texture and doneness of the eggs, however, left a lot to be desired. This year, I figured I'd use the same dye recipes but cook the eggs in the dye with the circulator, in one pot.
This part of the experiment? It was a giant pain in the ass. It required so much more temperature testing and fiddling that I anticipated. In the end, I found I was able to keep the individual jars of dye bath at 165F only if the water bath was around 175F. Time will tell whether all the effort was worthwhile in terms of egg texture--we'll turn all these eggs into egg salad tomorrow after Wyatt finds them.
The dye baths we made from food gave a really deep color, but it took 2 days sitting in the dye bath in the refrigerator to achieve it. I also noticed that the dye coating got weirdly bubbled in spots. The mottling that resulted looks interesting, but it is definitely not interesting enough for me to bother with this particular method ever again.
In conclusion! If you like active egg dyeing, get a kit. If you want a natural egg dye kit that colors eggs pretty quickly and with more time can give you a really deep color, go with ColorKitchen. If you don't mind waiting longer for a more pastel look but like having control over blended colors, go with Natural Earth Paint. If you want to use food to color your eggs, embrace the fact that the dyeing will be mostly NOT interactive. Prepare your dye baths, cook your eggs to your liking, and then place and leave the eggs in the bath in jars in the fridge for several days to color them.
Several weeks ago, I went to a workshop at my friend's house to learn how to make sandals.
Here they are!
They're orange, and I love them. They are exactly the style I wanted, and they fit perfectly. I didn't go in thinking I'd make orange sandals. Serendipity at its best.
And now? Wyatt wants a pair. He doesn't want a pair exactly like these, of course, but he wants a pair perfect for him, and preferably orange. And why not? I mean, from his perspective, I can obviously make sandals. So why would I hold out on him?
I wouldn't hold out on him. But he has no idea how much assistance Rachel gave me during the workshop. She helped me a lot--I almost made two right sandals before she stepped in. But the truth is, Wyatt has a 2-week long spring break coming up, and aside from finally updating our earthquake kit (dreaded task), we've got few plans. Sandal making could be fun! And best case, we solve some summer footwear issues. Worst case? We don't.
I sat down today to price the tools we'll need, and they are, in total, about the price of the pair of sandals Wyatt likes but whose leather is, in his opinion, too rigid and uncomfortable. In other words, the tools are not that expensive when you consider the sandals he wants-but-doesn't-want will spark arguments and not get worn much.
So we have a plan: Spring Break Sandal Making. I'll let you know how it goes.
Also, in case you're hungry, I have a new recipe to share! We've made Sri Lankan Dal with Coconut and Lime Kale twice now, and it's delicious. It works well with whatever kale or other hearty greens you've got around this time of year. Today, I used a combination of kale and swiss chard, and it was great. One note: The recipe calls for "mustard seeds." I use black mustard seeds, because that seems right to me. Don't skimp on the yogurt when you serve it! It would be a pity to miss out on how it balances the flavors and textures of the dish.
(In case you're wondering, we are still cleaning out the house. It is spring, after all, which around here means Spring Cleaning. Roughly two weeks until Easter, and we've got the garage and one closet left to go.)
So, Mom. After George Harrison--I mean George Washington--captured all those red jackets--I mean Red Coats--he went back to his plantation and then became president like 2 years later.
Ah. He went back to his plantation. You know some things about plantations, right?
Yes. His plantation. Yes, I know some things about plantations. WAIT. Did George Washington have SLAVES?
He DID? How could he even DO that? Fighting for his own freedom from the British and then keeping slaves? That's just...WRONG. It makes NO SENSE.
I cannot tell a lie: This conversation actually happened. It's a rare, beautiful parenting moment when you see a child connect the dots on something important. I also have a confession: I haven't read the book, Revolutionary War on Wednesday, that prompted this conversation. Revolutionary War on Wednesday is part of the Mary Pope Osborne series, The Magic Treehouse, which Marc has been reading with Wyatt. Wyatt borrows one book at a time from the school library in as close to numerical order as he can, and Marc and he read it as quickly as our weekday schedule allows. Few things are better at bedtime than having your dad read to you about Jack and Annie's latest adventure. And the next day? Wyatt peppers me with mom-did-you-know-thats.
Today, Wyatt asked, "Mom. Do you know how the British were defeated during the evolutionary war?" (Revolutionary. "Revolutionary" and "evolutionary" are different, I told him.) He took it from there, giving me what he remembered about the story, including Washington's crossing a river, sneaking up on the British, capturing soldiers, and of course living on a plantation. Our conversation eventually moved from Wyatt's shock and dismay about Washington's slave ownership to the stories we have read about enslaved people, and how "nobody (like, say the city, for example) was MAKING George Washington KEEP his slaves instead of freeing them."
Historical fiction offers unique opportunities for examining a story from lots of angles. And while (I imagine) it's probably better if a parent reads the book herself before discussing it with her child, in this case, I'm glad I didn't. If I had read it, I'm sure I'd have formed all kinds of opinions that I'd be tempted to share, or possibly even impose (the horror!). Because I hadn't read it, I had no agenda. Instead, I had to listen carefully, and I was genuinely curious about the story. Mary Pope Osborne's mention of Washington's plantation provided a perfect opportunity to complicate and cast some skepticism on what I'm guessing was (remember, I still haven't read this book) a narrative about Washington's heroism that arose out of notions of freedom and liberty.
I am a big believer in the idea that if you're reading something, you should be asking questions. Who is telling this story? What are they trying to show? Who's missing from the story? What are those peoples' perspectives? Why were they left out? These (and others) are such important questions for all of us to answer, whether we're reading a story or listening to its retelling.
Mom. What are those fat white or pink skinned babies that shoot arrows at nothing called again? For Valentine’s Day? They look like a church thing. We had them on the wall in kindergarten. It was this picture where there were two of them and they looked like this.
Wyatt arranged his arms and put his chin on them.
They are SO WEIRD.
He's not wrong. Cupids are pretty weird.
And let's be honest. Valentine’s Day is pretty weird. I mean, it's a mid-winter pagan fertility festival the Catholic Church co-opted to celebrate St. Valentine, during which many adults celebrate romance while children all over the United States give out cards to every single person in their class and eat more candy.
I think if you're lucky, you'll experience a Valentine's Day sweet spot at least once during your life. One where, if you want to be in a romantic relationship, you're part of one, and in your bliss and joy, you'll agree on how you want to celebrate the day and each other. Otherwise, Valentine's Day is, as one of my friends has always called it, "Single Awareness Day." And if you're a parent of an elementary school child (or an actual elementary school child), it can also be "Annoying Annual School Project Day."
For the last two years, Wyatt has had no interest in giving out valentines at school. Some kids did, and he was happy to receive them, but that was as far as it went. This year, however, Wyatt came home from school towards the end of January and announced they would be having a Valentine's Day celebration in their classroom. I barely suppressed a groan. I knew the drill--everyone needs to get a valentine, which is fair enough, but there are over 30 kids in his class. Sitting down to write cards and envelopes was going to be torture, even if we did only three a day. He went on, "My teacher says that if we make anything, we have to make something for everyone. And nothing can be store bought." While I wanted nothing to do with the project or the extra “homemade” challenge, I didn't want him to know that. So I asked, offering as much happy, light hearted empowerment as I could, "So, what's your plan?" He replied, "I'm going to make everyone a heart necklace. I have the supplies I need, because I have clay and yarn. But can I please borrow your heart cookie cutter? I don't need your help. I can do it myself." Hell yes, I thought. "That sounds terrific," I said.
Wyatt set to work that afternoon. And he worked on the project most days for the next week. He had probably made 50 hearts by the time he got to stringing the 30th necklace. Why? Because he initially made the stringing holes too small, and the hearts broke when it was time to push the darning needle through with the yarn. He revised his production methods along the way, ditching the toothpick and using a clay knife to make a bigger hole in the new and improved hearts. At one point, I assisted in making a few new hearts because he was so aggravated by the constant breakage, and I know how much it sucks to work on something and feel like you will never, ever finish it.
By the 30th necklace, though? He’d had enough. The last heart was perfect. The hole was just the right size! But he just couldn't bear to push the needle through and tie the last knot. "MOM," he announced, "I'M DONE WITH THIS PROJECT. I should have NEVER thought of it. It was a TERRIBLE idea. I am NOT stringing this last necklace. I don't even CARE. No one will get anything. I'm going to put them ALL IN THE TRASH."
We've all been there, right?
I tried cajoling him. "Come on. There's only one more! You're so CLOSE! You can do it. You've worked so HARD! And they’re so GREAT!" He wasn't having it. He yelled, "I DON'T CARE," and threw himself dramatically onto the sofa. Annoyed at his short-sightedness and unable to accept that it was okay for him to trash hours of work, I said in a serious voice, "I need to go switch the laundry. While I'm away, I want you string that last necklace. I want it to be done when I come back in here."
Much to my surprise, he did it. With that impasse behind him, over the next several days, he went on to wrap and sign all thirty little packages by himself.
If there is a moral to this story, I think it is this: Valentine's Day is flawed, and thanks to that, it's full of learning opportunities. For example, Wyatt learned that determination can require digging deep, and practicing generosity can be hard. I learned it's as important to step back as it is to lend a hand. Also? It's okay to want to throw everything away, but don't actually do it in a fit of rage. Finally, planning ahead is smart. All in all, solid life and love lessons, courtesy of a pretty weird holiday.