I babysat my siblings pretty often growing up. I loved to act like a little parent. I had a lot to learn. One day when I was “in charge,” Sienna fell coming upstairs. She was still pretty little. I had recently been told not to overreact every time she got a minor bump or bruise. Pretty basic kid care stuff, but I took this feedback very personally. So when I heard her fall and cry out, I didn’t go to look. I just called out, “you’re fine!” But I made the wrong call. I don’t remember exactly what happened, just that our other sister Addie had to take care of what was more than minor, and involved blood. At the time, I felt so deeply that everybody, including my mom when she got home, was reproachful that I had misjudged the moment (with the retrospection of my adult mind, I think they were probably all just kind of annoyed). That yucky feeling of failure as a result of unknowingly overcorrecting (essentially, making one mistake and then making the opposite mistake) stayed with me.
Lately I feel like that’s the headspace I’m in with this pandemic. One moment I’m overthinking everything, overreacting, being too cautious, still wearing a mask outside and making my kids wear masks everywhere too. Next moment I’m chill, touching all kinds of surfaces at the store, trusting the vaccine without monitoring the case counts and the new variants, etc etc. Part of this late stage of the pandemic seems to be the inability to find a happy medium. But nothing in my life is medium anyway; everything is high highs and low lows with little kids. So this month there have been “blah” moments but there have also been moments of joy: we held our second family talent show, in which Breya became Magician Breya, Indi and Mike played a jazzy Heart and Soul on the keyboard, and my mom did sun salutations with perfect form. Indi designed a blueprint for a life size race car for Breya and then built that race car out of cardboard. Breya moved into the bottom bunk in Indi’s room. Indi taught himself to knit using a kit and made Breya a hat. We painted wooden Easter eggs in addition to dying hard boiled ones. Indi, Mike, and Breya played Spikeball at the park. Arden survived her 6 month well child doctor visit and the accompanying 3 shots.
What I’m Reading
Jamilah Lemieux’s new newsletter (Doing the Most). Jamilah publishes according to no specific schedule, which is refreshing in a newsletter, and the form is hybrid blog-essay-letter. I’m into it.
It Hurts When I Poop (found during a late night googling session). The saga of potty training Breya continued to bring a lot of drama to our lives in April. I found that with poop training, once we started we couldn’t go back (wish I had known). Breya, someone who has never been backed up before, has been withholding number 2 for days at a time. Reading the reviews on this book made me realize that she is not alone, and this happens to lots of kids especially if potty training begins prematurely. The meandering plot of this book is calming, and also somehow inspiring.
The Fiddler in the Subway, by Gene Weingarten. A strange read for me, in that nearly all of the pieces in the book were published between 2001 and 2009, that period of history after 9/11 but before the iPhone. It feels eerie to read something relatively recent, that should feel contemporary, yet ends up feeling incredibly dated. Rather than read the whole book, I’d direct you to this piece and this piece and this piece.
What We’re Watching
Barnaby Dixon’s bug puppets. New Rockstars videos analyzing Falcon and the Winter Soldier. National Treasures 1 and 2. And Top Chef! These last two show that April has kicked off some kind of early-2000s revisit for me.
Our themed movies this month were Enchanted April, Mostly Martha, and Big Night. Enchanted April and Mostly Martha were both kid friendly; Big Night we had to watch later on our own time (Mike and I actually didn’t get to watching it until May). I’d recommend all three films. Mostly Martha was my favorite of the three. Not only is it one of the best food movies of all time, I could relate to Martha’s personality.
Nope, didn’t make it through the Snyder Cut yet! Will report back.
What I’m Listening To
Shakey Graves’ Roll the Bones X, and Notes from the Archive by Maggie Rogers. Both are rereleases of previously recorded material, with audio commentary by the artists in between tracks. I’ve been thinking about my relationship to music lately and how it has changed over the years. I think music used to be a place I went for things I couldn’t access in my real life. It was a place to feel emotions with a kind of immediacy that served as a foil for my own very cerebral, not very experiential life. I think that went right up until about the time I met my husband. When we met my life opened up a lot. I engaged new people, new experiences, new actuality to my dreams for my life, and literally got engaged. My life became music, in a sense: instead of being one degree separated from the emotions of experiences I had always dreamed of, I was now living inside those emotions. That feeling has continued throughout our marriage (in no small part because we keep having babies). I often forget to put on music because music is naturally occurring in our house. Still, though, I want to listen more; sing more; connect more specific songs and artists to this wild and crazy period of our lives.
We became members of my sister Sienna Burnett’s Patreon. We listened in to her first livestream concert. We’ve been obsessively following her vlogs adjacent to her musical publications.
Breya is obsessed with this song by AJR (thanks to our friend Fran for the recommendation!).
Lizzy McAlpine, while baking with Breya.
What We’re Playing
I’m often more like Rebecca Onion when it comes to playing. But my husband is a champion player. He loves to play. Ideas for play come naturally to him. This month, he’s been playing the “go potty game” with Breya. At first I didn’t know how I felt about turning potty training into a game. Going to the bathroom is supposed to be serious! It’s so boring that we bring things in there with us to read and watch while we go. And it’s private. But then, our parent coach shared this article with me. And that’s exactly what Breya needs, because she is so afraid of going to the bathroom.
What We’re Making
This month’s theme was Italian (see “Enchanted April” above). Mike’s favorite Italian dish is chicken saltimbocca. Chicken saltimbocca is typically cooked on a skillet; ours is oven-baked. It usually involves a white wine sauce; ours has only four ingredients. It’s traditionally served with pasta or mashed potatoes; we paired ours with rutabaga purée and homemade sourdough bread.
Oven-Baked Chicken Saltimbocca
- 2 pounds chicken tenderloins, or breasts cut into 1” by 4” pieces (about 12 tenderloins)
- Olive oil
- Fresh sage, enough for 2-4 leaves per tenderloin (you may need several packages)
- 6oz package of 12 sheets prosciutto
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place the tenderloins in a medium size bowl with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Toss to coat.
Set up a workstation next to the bowl of chicken: a clean surface for wrapping the chicken, and a half sheet covered with parchment paper. Lay a slice of prosciutto flat on the clean surface and place 2-4 sage leaves upon it, evenly spaced. Place a chicken tenderloin at one end and roll it up; once rolled, transfer to parchment. Repeat until all tenderloins are wrapped and on the baking sheet. Transfer to oven and bake for 15 minutes. Flip tenderloins over and bake for 15 more minutes. If using a meat thermometer, insert it the long way into a tenderloin to obtain the most accurate temperature. Let cool for a few minutes, and serve.
- 2 cups walnuts
- Generous 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 tbsp snips of green onion
- 2 dashes balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 dashes pepper
Combine all ingredients in a medium size bowl. Pulse with an immersion blender until blended. Add salt if necessary. Alternatively, this recipe can be made in a food processor.
Chive Cashew Cheese
- 1.5 cups soaked raw cashews
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- 1/4 cup walnut flour or ground flaxseed
- 1/4 cup roughly chopped chives
- 1 tbsp finely chopped chives for garnish
Combine cashews, olive oil, vinegar, and salt in a medium size mixing bowl and blend with immersion blender (or pulse in food processor and remove to a bowl). Stir in nutritional yeast and walnut flour. Scrape out onto service dish or surface in a dough like ball. Shape into a cheese wheel shape, approximately 1.25 inches high and 5 inches wide. Press with fork tones to create a textured top surface. Sprinkle with chives. Chill in the refrigerator for 2 hours. Serve with crackers or bread as an appetizer, or with chicken saltimbocca and romaine leaves as a side (spread a triangle of cheese on a romaine leaf, add a tenderloin, and wrap like a taco).
- 1 can full fat coconut milk
- 1.5 cups soaked cashews
- 1 can pumpkin purée
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp ground cardamom
- 1 tbsp vanilla
- 1/4 cup tahini
- 1/4 cup butter or Miyako’s vegan alternative
- 1/4 plus 1-2 tbsp maple syrup
Combine all ingredients in a blender or blend in a mixing bowl with an immersion blender until very smooth. Freeze in a quart container (makes approximately 8 1/2 cup servings). Or, freeze in a silicone loaf pan overnight. The next day, loosen by running hot water on the outside of the pan and flip out onto serving dish. Slice with a dough scraper or sharp knife. Serve.
Grain Free Biscotti
This is not a crunchy biscotti; this biscotti is soft. Don’t dunk it in coffee; slather it with semifreddo instead.
- 2.5 cups almond meal
- 1 cup walnut flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 almonds, measured and then chopped
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 cup psyllium seed husk
- 4 packs Starbucks Via instant coffee (dark roast)
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1/2 cup butter or Miyako’s vegan alternative
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Mix dry ingredients in one medium size bowl. Whisk wet ingredients in a second large bowl until butter is fully combined. Fold dry ingredients into wet until fully incorporated.
On a lightly floured surface, form two rectangular loaves with the batter, approximately one inch high. Place on lined baking sheet. Bake for twenty minutes. Remove and cool 15-20 minutes, reducing oven temperature to 250 degrees. After cooling, slice each rectangular loaf into eight biscotti shaped pieces. Bake an additional twenty minutes. Remove and cool. Serve.
Mom Moment of the Month
One day this month I picked up Breya from her nanny, who told me that Breya had to pee at the park. There was no bathroom at the park, so she hoisted Breya up into a sort of sidesaddle bucket hold and told her to pee in the grass, which she did! I was proud and impressed because I had never thought of this idea before. Male and female anatomies lend themselves differently to ease of potty training on the go. This bucket hold method had the potential to solve many problems, and allow our family more freedom to Go Places and Do Things. So the next day when I’d had Breya out of the house for a few hours, I didn’t worry. When she started wiggling and told me she needed to go potty, I said “no problem! I’ll just take you over there in the grass, pick you up, and you can go.” I was also on the phone with my mom at the time making a purchase from H.Bailey Home, and pushing a sleeping Arden in the stroller. We wheeled over to a stand of stumps and I held the phone in the crook of my neck while dangling Breya over the grass. “Pee’s not coming out, Mama!” That’s ok, I told her, just give it a minute. “It’s coming out!” I didn’t hear any sounds of tinkling so I looked down. There in the grass was a large, perfectly formed turd. I had wipes in the diaper bag but no other supplies (besides diapers). Earlier on our walk, though, I’d had one of Starbucks’ new super delicious Caramel Ribbon Crunch Frappucinos, and the lidded cup was still in the stroller. I knew what I had to do. Using more wipes than maybe was necessary, I cleaned Breya up and returned her undies to her buns. Then I wipe-scraped all of that poo off the grass and packed it into the Frappuccino cup. Cup with its new contents returned to the stroller, we walked to the park trash can, as I all the while told the story of what I was doing to Breya. “Now it’s time to go say goodbye to your poop!” This experience taught me two things: one, that Miralax works for toddler constipation, and two, use the bucket method for public pottying at your own risk. You may think it also ruined caramel ribbon crunch frappucinos for me, but I hope it’s a testament to my strong mom stomach to admit that I’ve had several more since.