I'm not going to bore you with the details of how un-fun it is to travel in holiday traffic with two small children and a senile dog in a cramped car for 10 hours as the only adult. I'm going to let your imagination explore that one without my help.
But it was a great distance, and it is over, and we are all remarkably unscathed. And it was worth it. And it's business as usual in this house, which is to say, everything feels unusual, and a little exciting, and the days seem long and full of possibility again.
But this thing about travel: I do feel like I am hooked onto a trajectory that is flying through the air at warp speed, a trajectory called my children and how they are changing, and I'm being chased by another dart, the one called and everything I need to change to help them, and it's a consuming flight right now, and I have to admit, I wouldn't mind hitting a jag of weather that slowed the whole show down. Does that happen when they get older? I think I used to believe it does and now I am pretty sure it doesn't. This mothering business only gets different, but I really doubt it ever gets much easier. There are moments when it seems effortless, when I look at the sky and I proclaim that I was made to do this (I know, you just snorted your coffee through your nose when you pictured that one), and then again there are moments, days, weeks where I seriously question my suitability for the job. So I try to stay here. To not get carried away by the great arc of flight that this gig really is. If I even start to contemplate the transformation in our lives over the past 6 years my knees shake a little. Better to just think about the grocery list and the nearest task at hand. The journey is so much less terrifying when broken into the littlest pieces, like how many hard boiled eggs did I peel today, when should I plant the sweet peas, does the bird feeder need more seed, do I need to wash some diapers.
So I'm traveling this great distance, and I don't want to bitch out on the trip, and I really don't want to rush the whole way and realize, once we've gotten to our destination, that somebody felt unheard, or unimportant, or just wasn't having any fun. Because I'm not sure we'll ever get "there". I'm pretty sure, in fact, that this is all about the car ride.
It's all about the baby (I am reserving the right to call her that for at least another year, though she's clearly closer to 12 than to 1) and her soup, all over the place mat, the sweatshirt, and the dog. It's about the little boy who opted for no dinner, God forbid he should eat soup. It's about finding the presence of mind to sit with all of this, to not get volcanic. To play Yahtzee with Daddy and wash dishes and do bedtimes that end in sweetness and kisses rather than stand-offs. I often feel lost in this mothering woods, but I am confident that any map provided to mothers would stipulate this very thing, that the place where you feel you are SO lost is the exact place where the you have arrived! pin goes.
I'm keeping it simple. Employing the words "No, thank you". Making sure to play, a lot, by myself and with others. Walking out of the room rather than engage in an argument with a six year old (yes, I stoop that low, and lower). I don't want to win. I don't want to lose. To milk the journey metaphor a little more deeply, I want to keep driving, and play license plate games, and sing 100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall.
So there's soup. I don't think it gets much easier. And when they won't eat it, let them go play with their Bionicles in their room. They can have extra eggs and bacon in the morning. And when they want to drink it out of the bowl, and create a soup splash zone around their chair, let them. Just buckle up and have some fun.
Winter Soup: Green Eggs and Ham, Meaty-style2 pounds of ham might seem hefty but I needed this to be a one-pot meal for a family of protein lovers. Plus we had a ten pound ham for New Year's.
3-4 tbsp lard, ghee, or coconut oil
1 yellow onion, sliced into quarter moons
1 heaping tbsp. whole grain Dijon mustard
2 lbs. collard greens
1 head green cabbage
2 pounds ham, cubed
Chicken broth, about 2 quarts (I used unsalted bone broth)
Sea salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
1 egg per person to be served
Melt fat over medium high heat. Saute onions until translucent and starting to brown slightly. Meanwhile, prepare collards: tear leaves from main central stem and fill a sink with cool water. Swirl gently every now and then and soak leaves in sink for a few minutes to allow grit to fall to bottom. Dry in small batches in salad spinner (good job for baby). Press remaining moisture out of leaves by sandwiching between two kitchen towels. Layer leaves on top of one another and roll into a tight coil, then slice into 1/2 inch ribbons. Add to onions and stir to coat in fat. Core cabbage and slice into 1/2 inch ribbons, add to pot, stir to coat with fat. Peel and cut carrots into bite sized pieces, add carrots and ham to pot, turn heat up all the way, add broth and, if needed, water to bring liquid levels just above vegetables. When boiling, cover, leaving lid slightly ajar, and turn down to gentle simmer (there should be gentle movement in the pot). Simmer about ten minutes, until carrots are soft enough to yield to a fork but not mushy. Break eggs (but don't break yolks) onto top of soup, cover tightly, and turn heat low. Cook until eggs whites are set and yolks are soft (about 5 minutes). Ladle an egg into each soup bowl and cover with broth, veggies, and ham. Set to slurping.
We served these with pretty un-sweet, protein-rich sweet potato muffins globbed in grass-fed butter. Which my kids eat with a fork. And maybe I do, too. But that's fodder for another day.
How's your journey treating you these days? Better yet, how are you treating your journey?