Transitions are sometimes rocky. (Can I get an Amen, my fellow parents of preschoolers?) I know I was just talking about the celebrations and the asparagus and the season of the egg, just
a week two weeks ago in fact. But. After a week with icy blasts of wind rattling our rooftop, kids shivering through breakfast, and one night (begrudgingly) a fire in the woodstove – after that week, it rocketed into the eighties and the boys declared the house clothing-optional. Spring has arrived, spilling through the front door in a stunner of a green gown, but Winter – even our vague rather toothless California version – has not yet left the building. Summer meanwhile has been peeking in the windows. We leave the house in fleece jackets and come home in t-shirts, and I don’t know if the pink cheeks each evening are from wind or from sun.
Days pass with blossoms, and bubbles, and muddy toes – and at night, we snug an extra blanket on the boys when we go to bed.
And while we are surrounded by flowers and colors and fresh morning air, other places burst with pain and shock and blood. It is a strange, fearsome, beautiful world. Kyle runs marathons – New York, Philadelphia, Philadelphia again. We watch from the finish line. Not Boston, not this year. These days, he runs mostly through the quiet green hills around our home, or on the treadmill out in the garage. When he leaves to board a plane for work, I chew my lip. Strange, fearsome, beautiful. Entirely unpredictable, despite the aching familiarity of these California seasons, arriving as they do all in a jumble.
Jacob has been crying for ten minutes, huddled under his quilt, clutching my hand. There are space storms, he tells me, so vast and so terrible and “dark like thunder”, so hard “like a rock that can break through your door.” He does not want to close his eyes because he will see them, they will be there in his dream, and from his dream they will somehow get in the front door and be real, in our house, a really real thing. And then he says, “Space storms have guns. They break the window of your car and shoot two bullets, one to the front and one to the back, and then they get in your car and they throw poison all over the world and nothing can get away from them, they chase you until you are in a cul de sac and then they get you with teeth like the teeth on a digger, that can break through concrete.” He starts crying again, body-shaking sobs.
“I can only think of two solutions,” he tells me, tears streaming. “I can stay up all night, and not dream about them. Or you can sit next to me all night, and protect me.” I try to imagine how I would protect him from such a thing, how I could protect him from anything. We take him on airplanes, we send him to preschool, we watch from the finish line. I am ready to start crying myself. I hold his hand. He takes a deep breath.
“But if I stay up all night, I will get sick. And if you stay up all night, you will get sick. So we might need a different solution.” Thinking about the practicalities of his plan seems to soothe him. A minute later, he is asleep. I sit in the darkness.
“Mommy?” Lucas’s voice comes from across the room. “Mommy, call firefighters space storm. Beep beep beep.”
He sounds confident in his plan to protect his brother. It’s better than anything I’ve got.
We do yoga together in the mornings, rooting our feet into the ground, arching up from our sticky mats (and our bath towels), pushing into down dog. I do not feel centered, practicing with the boys, who tug and pull at me and at each other. Oatmeal is better than no meal, I tell myself. And didn’t it turn out that I love oatmeal, after all? I spread my fingers and breathe deep. Lucas stomps on my hand.
Later that day, I force myself onto the elliptical at the gym. In front of me, a television tuned to CNN shows image after image of this man, this boy really – this kid who is now in a hospital, this kid whose mother thinks he did nothing wrong. We don’t have television at home, and I have been spared this. But now there is no where else to look. I climb down, retreat to the geriatric bike in the corner. It faces the wall, reeks from twenty years of old man sweat. I stare at nothing, legs pedaling furiously. But I can’t stop thinking about brothers, and mothers, and what it means to hate.
The next day, I sit back down on the mats with Jacob and Lucas. “Let’s try and fill our hearts with love,” I tell them, unsure exactly what I mean.
“I think love is like the wind,” Jacob says. I nod.
“You mean, because you can’t see it, but you can see the impact it has on things?”
“No. I mean like, when the wind is really loud.” Before I can figure that out, Lucas chimes in.
“Really loud! Eat my birdseed, birds!”
Jacob learns how to make bubble cups at preschool. He comes home, gathers supplies, makes one for Lucas.
We spend an entire afternoon outside with them, making long strings of bubbles that catch the sun, glinting and glamorous and surprisingly durable. Unlike their delicate spherical cousins, these thick ropes of bubble can handle a bit of bumping around in the real world. “These are strong bubbles,” Jacob tells Lucas. “You can make them into a kite, see?” And so he does.
The bubbles are lifted by the breeze, pulled out into the world. They soar up into the blue until we can’t see them anymore. I imagine them, foamy and brave, facing off with the space storms somewhere far far away.
The berries are coming fast and furious now, and the baby lettuce and the asparagus. There are pungent bunches of spring onions, garlic scapes, the first peas. They fill market stalls along with the end of last year’s root crops, an ever-smaller grouping of butternuts, and the cauliflower. We love cauliflower here: the favorites have a touch of lavender to them, but the more traditional creamy-white is plenty popular too. When summertime fruits arrive in force I will have a hard time getting the guys to eat their veggies, but for now, the tail end of roasting season, cauliflower is a mainstay.
We roast carrots and broccoli, sweet potatoes and tiny new Yukon golds, but it is the cauliflower that I always make sure to double-up on. In this funny in-between time, it makes a cozy side dish straight out of the oven – and a wonderful lunch straight out of the fridge, with a splash of bright mustardy vinaigrette and maybe an end from a crusty loaf. There’s not much of a recipe, but here is the best way I know to make cauliflower a favorite at your house, too.
Warm and Cozy Roasted Cauliflower
Preheat your oven to 400 F. Break your cauliflower into florets and put them on sheet pans. (You want them in a single layer, I find one pan per cauliflower works well.) Toss on the pan with a good drizzle of olive oil and a generous sprinkling of kosher salt. Get everything pretty well coated. Roast for 20-30 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown and crisped. Serve warm. Save at least a cup or two to have cold for lunch tomorrow.
Cold Roasted Cauliflower with Vinaigrette
Get your roasted cauliflower leftovers out of the fridge. Toss with a tablespoon or two of this simple vinaigrette. (You can do that right in your tupperware, or in an actual bowl if you are being civilized.) Add a squeeze of lemon or a little pinch of salt if you’d like. Also, a few snips of fresh dill are wonderful here if you happen to have some. Toss with baby lettuce and a bit more dressing if you’re feeling spring-timey – or, reheat gently in a pan if you need something cozy. For a basic mustardy vinaigrette, shake together in a jar:
1 -2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon favorite mustard
1 small chopped shallot (optional)
Pinch of salt
Pinch of sugar (or, drizzle of honey)
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
This should be enough for at least two servings of cauliflower. Any leftover can be the start of your vinaigrette for dinner. Oh, and those roasted carrots? They are good. These honey-mustard roasted ones from Chelsea at Blackberry Eating are even better. Enjoy.
And, by popular demand, the recipe for:
Recipe by the brilliant Teacher Conny :)
For each cup, you will need:
1 plastic cup
1 square of rag (terrycloth/washcloth type works best)
~ 1 tablespoon Baby Shampoo (No Tear variety with chemical foaming agents, such as Johnson’s – Burts Bees etc doesn’t work because you need the ‘soap’ action)
Water (a small spray bottle is helpful)
Have a grown up poke a hole in the side of the cup, near the top. Put the straw through the hole, so that one end touches the bottom of the cup and the other end sticks out.
Wet the piece of rag/washcloth, then squeeze it out so it isn’t drippy. Stretch it across the top of the cup, and put the rubberband around the edge to secure it. (It needs to be pretty airtight).
Using your fingers, gently rub a generous tablespoon of baby shampoo into the cloth.
Spray the cloth with a little more water – it should be very damp, but not dripping. You don’t want water in the bottom of the cup.
Blow into the straw. You should get bubbles within a breath or two. If not, add more water until it starts foaming.
Play all day! One application of shampoo lasts a long time. Just keep rewetting the cloth as needed.
Some of the questions the kids answered as they made their cups at school were:
What do you need to make bubbles? (ideas: water, soap, air, bubble wands, etc)
How are bubbles and balloons the same? How are they different?
What about soap bubbles and gum bubbles? Are they the same or different?
What sound does a bubble make when it pops?
Where does a bubble go when it pops?
What happens when you blow air into the straw of your cup?