Paleo Apricot Ginger Scones

Dylan’s preschool class recently made scones. Whenever they do a baking project at school Dylan’s teacher gives me a heads-up so that I can bake something comparable with him in advance that fits within our dietary preferences. So he gets to bake twice and always has a treat to eat with his class! I was never a big baker before we cut out grains and refined sugar, so I never bothered to find paleo substitutes for many common baked goods. Which means that every time they have baked at school I have scrambled to find a recipe for a paleo version of whatever they’re making! For these scones, I started with this recipe and made adjustments to the flavoring, baking temperature, and baking time. I’ve played around with a few different flavors but this is my favorite so far. They’re sweet but not too sweet and pair so nicely with a cup of tea. I particularly like them warm from the oven with a pat of butter melted on top!

Paleo Apricot Ginger Scones (makes 8 scones)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups blanched almond flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1 Tbsp fresh grated & minced ginger (I use the big side of a box grater and then mince finely)
  • 1/3 cup diced dried apricots
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 Tbsp honey

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Put a sharp knife into your freezer (for cutting the dough later!).
  3. Mix dry ingredients in large bowl.
  4. Add ginger & mix thoroughly (it tends to clump up).
  5. Add egg, honey, and apricots and mix well.
  6. Roll the dough into a ball and place on a piece of parchment paper or a Silpat.
  7. Press the dough flat with your hands, to a little less than 1/2 inch thickness.
  8. Using a cold knife, slice the dough into 8 triangles.
  9. Move the parchment onto a baking sheet and separate the scones so they’re about an inch apart (I use a thin metal spatula for this, the dough can be a bit gooey).
  10. Bake 9-10 minutes, being careful not to overbrown the scones.
  11. Cool and eat! We like to eat ours still slightly warm with some creamy pastured butter melted on top.
  12. Store in sealed container or freeze (we freeze ours). As with most almond flour baked goods, these get a little soft, but you can crisp them back up in the toaster oven (use low heat so you don’t burn them, almond flour browns and burns easily). If you’re desperate they are also pretty decent straight out of the freezer, which is how Brian eats them.

Paleo Almond Flour Waffles

A joyous moment has occurred: we have figured out a recipe for grain-free waffles! I started with this recipe and tweaked it so that it wouldn’t stick in our waffle iron. Make no mistake that these waffles are a treat, but they are still Paleo as they contain no grain and are sweetened with just a bit of honey. Of course we went and topped them with loads of butter, real maple syrup, and fresh strawberries. Yum! I’m pretty sure this was one of the best mornings of Dylan’s life since we allowed him to watch two airplane videos on Netflix (we generally do zero screen time at our house) and he got to eat a waffle for the first time ever!

Paleo Almond Flour Waffles (makes 2.5 full-size Belgian waffles)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of blanched almond flour (not almond meal)
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon (optional)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  • 1 tablespoon of coconut oil

Method:

Preheat your waffle iron. Whisk together the dry ingredients and then add the wet ingredients in the order listed. Whisk thoroughly so that the batter is uniform. It’ll be a bit gritty since you’re working with almond flour, but should not contain any sizable lumps. I recommend greasing the waffle iron lightly with coconut oil or grapeseed oil (you want an oil that can handle high heat). We did not grease the iron for our first waffle and had serious issues with sticking even though our waffle iron has a nonstick coating; subsequent waffles released easily because we’d greased the iron. Adding more oil to the batter only seemed to make the resulting waffles heavier, I don’t think it helped with the sticking. So, grease your iron and pour your batter in. We used about 2/3-3/4 cup of batter per waffle but just use however much will fill your iron. You will need to whisk the batter before you fill the iron each time because the ingredients settle out really quickly. We set our iron on a light-medium setting and they got plenty browned. Almond flour will brown (and burn!) much more easily than wheat flour so keep that in mind. Top your waffles however you like and enjoy! If you have leftovers you can wrap in foil and seal in a freezer bag, they store well in the freezer and reheat well in the toaster oven.

 

Chicken Liver Pâté Recipe (For Real!)

I have really been trying to get as many nutrient-dense foods into Mira as I can. Our doctor encouraged me to add liver to the menu and I was excited (liver = superfood!) but scared (ewww, liver!). I had never in my life even come close to eating liver until I made it for Mira. I came up with the recipe below through a bit of messing around in the kitchen and let me tell you it is GOOD. I have not really wanted to eat any of the pâté I’ve made for Mira until now. I want to eat this, it’s tasty!

Seriously Delicious & Easy Chicken Liver Pâté

1/4 cup butter (pastured is best!)
1/2 large onion, diced (or one small-med onion)
1 lb organic or pastured chicken livers
handful fresh Italian parsley, rough chopped
zest from 1 lemon
juice from 1/2-1 lemon (start w/ juice from 1/2 lemon & add more as needed)
1/2 tsp sea salt or Redmond Real Salt
few turns of the pepper grinder (not too coarse)

Dice onion.

Clean livers (remove connective tissue & veins w/ sharp paring knife) & place on paper towel-lined plate, pat livers gently with wadded-up paper towel to remove excess moisture.

Melt butter in dutch oven over medium heat.

Add livers and onion to pan, cook until livers are browned & cooked through (8-10 min). I cook the hell out of my livers because I feed this pâté to my baby and I don’t want her eating any meat that is less than well-done. You could conceivably cook the onion until translucent and then add the livers in with the onions and cook them both until the livers are done if you don’t need your livers cooked to death (6-8 min would do it in that case).

Let cool a bit while you roughly chop the parsley, zest the lemon, & juice the lemon.

Roughly chop the livers and add to bowl of large food processor with all of the onion, pan drippings, parsley, salt, pepper, lemon zest, & lemon juice. Process until smooth (doesn’t take too long). Scrape down sides, taste, adjust seasoning (you may want more parsley, lemon juice, and/or salt) and give it another quick whirl. Store in the fridge in tightly covered container or do what I do and freeze it off into ice cube trays so you can defrost small amounts as needed (and feed them to your baby because that shit is seriously nutrient-dense). ENJOY!

An August Morning

I try to look put together but by 10 am I am not feeling very fresh at all: my shirts are stretched out of shape (from nursing & baby-holding) and I reek of bug spray and sunblock. Showering at night seems like the smarter thing to do but I need something to help wake me up in the morning when I’m running on 5 hours of sleep. I can’t remember the last time I felt well-rested and not cranky, maybe two or three years ago? I want a hairstyle but why? My hair is up in a bun or ponytail by 7:30 am and won’t come down until I fall into bed at night.

Hanging diapers out in the sun to bleach. Sweeping, vacuuming, wiping faces and bottoms. The flowers on the table are starting to wilt and I wonder if it would make me happier to eek an extra day out of them or just toss them and get on with it. Too many tabs open in my browser, evidence of countless interruptions. Eating too much chocolate. Always so hungry, eating almond butter with a spoon, eating everything I can, and my clothes are still falling off. Endless piles of laundry to fold and if I don’t put it away immediately it is unfolded and incorporated into a fort or, more often, a make-believe parking garage. Long days of staying home so the baby can nap, trying to entertain the 3 year old and prevent too much boredom because boredom quickly turns into misbehavior. Dishes piling up, I don’t want to do them, I’d rather scrub the bathtub or even the toilets. I fantasize about spending all day in bed with the dog, snuggling him, reading magazines, painting my nails, and eating ice cream.

The days are so long and monotonous but somehow time is moving too fast. The baby is already six months old, halfway through her first year, and I feel like I can’t enjoy her enough. The 3 year old is sweet and hilarious, he will snuggle as much as I want him to but is independent enough to do so many things for himself. He spontaneously bursts out with, “Mommy, I love you!” so many times everyday. I love watching him grow up but part of me wants to keep him small so he can curl up in my lap and I can fix anything that’s wrong. The top of his head still smells so good. One of my strongest maternal instincts involves sniffing my children’s heads and squelching the intense desire to chew on them. They are lucky I can’t fit their heads in my mouth.

It’s easy to get ahead of myself and think about the future. When the baby will be able to walk and talk, when everyone will sleep through the night, when my body will finally be mine again, all the things I will do when I finally have the time. I am homesick and think constantly about moving back east. But the thing is we are here now. Life is hard and crazy and tiring and frustrating and there is always too much to do and not enough time. But my kids will never be this small again and the more time that passes the more I realize how much I will miss these days when they are gone.

Coconut Macaroons Recipe

Over the years I’ve adapted a few recipes for my favorite sweets to be healthier, grain-free, and free of refined sweeteners. These macaroons are my latest new and improved sweet treat, and I think they will appeal even to people who eat “normal” cookies! They are crispy on the outside and deliciously chewy on the inside. If you are looking for a relatively healthy alternative to typical cookies, these macaroons are for you. If you are eating “Paleo” or “Primal” or are gluten-free, these macaroons are for you. If you are allergic to nuts or doing a Whole30, you will need to steer clear as they contain both almonds and honey.

A few recipe notes:

  • The dough will be very wet, this is fine, do not worry!
  • The cookies don’t keep that well in terms of texture. They lose their crisp within a few hours. They are still very tasty several days later but have a softer, more moist texture. If you want to impress company or just want to eat them at their best, you will want to be sure that you are making them within an hour or two of eating them.
  • Because they don’t keep that well, I’ve included recipes below for both a mini batch and a full batch, so that you don’t have to do any math! I prefer to make a mini batch every other day than a full once a week. I mean, I would prefer that, if I were the kind of gluttonous person who would eat coconut macaroons everyday.
Coconut Macaroons Recipe

Mini Batch (makes 8-9 cookies)

1/2 + 1/3 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp + 1 heaping 1/2 tsp blanched almond meal/flour
1 egg white
1/8 tsp almond extract

Full Batch (makes about 30 cookies)

2 2/3 cup coconut
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup blanched almond flour/meal
4 egg whites
1/2 tsp almond extract

Preheat oven to 325. Combine coconut and almond flour, stir well. Whisk together egg white(s), honey, and almond extract. Add liquid ingredients to dry ingredients and mix well until fully combined and uniform in color/texture. Use a tablespoon to portion the cookies onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. The dough will be wet so you will need to form/squeeze gently with your fingers as you push it out of the tablespoon and onto the cookie sheet (this will prevent your cookies from falling apart once they are baked). I also like to shape my cookies a bit once they are on the cookie sheet so that they look cute, I don’t like them to be too smooth on the top. I also think that shaping the top a bit so it’s not a uniform smooth surface makes a tastier cookie because the little bits sticking up tend to get crispy in the oven. Yum! Bake for 18 minutes or until edges are golden brown. If you have to err on the side of under- or over-baking definitely over-bake, they benefit from a little crisp on the edges and bottom. Let cool and enjoy!

Whole30 Update, Perfectionism, & Happiness

I can’t believe I thought I was going to blog about my Whole30 regularly, even daily. Clearly I am delusional. You have probably guessed by the fact that I did not blog more regularly that I did not stick with the Whole30. I did about five days and I was like the incredible shrinking woman, so after emailing a bit with Dallas from Whole9 (creators of the Whole30 program), I quit. For those of you who want to clean up your diet and lose weight, a Whole30 is a good idea. For those of you who want to clean up your diet and gain weight…well, I don’t know. Maybe a Whole30 is a good idea if you prepare and have a lot of high-calorie foods in your house. And aren’t nursing a little baby. For me it didn’t go well because I was apparently relying heavily on cheese and yogurt to increase my caloric intake, and wasn’t able to consume enough without them to keep my weight up. Taking care of two kids and a house and nursing a baby is a lot of work! So I quit the Whole30, went back to my dairy, and…felt like crap.

I’ve had a life-long intolerance for dairy. When I eat dairy I get super congested and my skin breaks out and I just don’t feel that great. But I LOVE dairy. And when I was pregnant with and nursing Dylan I found that I was mostly immune to the issues I usually experience so I figured I could eat dairy sans problems while pregnant with and nursing Mira. This has not been the case but I ignored how I felt. Anyone else do this? Anyway, after stopping the dairy for five days and then going back on it for a week I could no longer ignore how awful it was making me feel. In addition, my skin was breaking out and if vanity is not a motivator then I don’t know what is! I knew it was a problem for me and I should not be eating it…and yet…I continued for a few more days. And felt even worse! So I had my chiropractor muscle test me to confirm that the dairy was a problem, which of course turned out to be the case. So I’m off the dairy again.

It’s been about 10 days and I have to say I am feeling so much better and my skin is almost totally clear again. I’m hungry but not dropping weight as fast as I was on the Whole30. I’m trying really hard to eat a lot of nuts and coconut, nut butter, and generally bigger portions of all the other foods I eat. Like a huge yam with a tablespoon of butter rather than a small yam with a teaspoon of butter. It’s doable. I’ve been dairy-free before, obviously for years at a time, but never while nursing and that’s the kicker. I really feel those extra 600 calories that I’m using every day! Haters gonna hate, and I’m certainly happy to not be overweight, but I’m eight pounds below my pre-pregnancy weight and that sucks. I feel weak and my pants are falling off! I know that in addition to eating enough I will have to start lifting heavy weights again if I want to put the weight back on, but I’m not willing work out until I’m consistently getting decent sleep.

My perfectionist tendencies make it hard to accept that I cannot do it all right now. I can’t eat perfectly, look amazing, feel amazing, take care of my kids, keep my house spotless, etc. So I’ve decided to focus on eating food that nourishes me (because food is either medicine or poison, really) and getting more sleep. Hopefully once those become second nature the other pieces will all fall into place. It’s hard to cut myself slack even though Mira is only five months old, but I am going to try. If I could go easier on myself I bet I would be so much happier!

Turn the Beat Around

Today I begin my first Whole30. I’ve never done one before because I’ve never needed to. My usual diet is pretty spotless. Out of all my clean-eating friends, I’m the one who eats the cleanest and doesn’t “cheat.” And it’s not even hard for me because I have such a sensitive constitution that I feel like crap if I don’t eat really, really well. However, my diet tanked when I got pregnant with Mira. I was so sick for the first 22 weeks that I ate whatever I could keep down (which wasn’t much, I lost a lot of weight early on). Although I wasn’t throwing up much during the second half of my pregnancy I was still queasy most of the time, so I was picky. Kale just didn’t sound delicious, but ice cream, french toast, and french fries sure did! I ate roughly a pint of Ben & Jerry’s every day for the last couple of weeks. Ew.

Things have been better since Mira was born (four months ago! where did the time go?!) but I am still eating ice cream and french fries regularly. Last week Brian traveled to DC for work and brought back cupcakes from Cakelove in the same flavors we had at our wedding. Of course I had a few…and then this past weekend my wonderful mother-in-law ordered a pizza. We’d done a hike that morning and even though I’d had lunch I was still hungry and the pizza smelled really good…you know where this is going. I had two pieces and am still paying the price two days later. And even worse, so is my sweet baby girl. Based on her gassiness, fussiness, and obvious stomach pain, I think it’s clear that she’s as sensitive to wheat as I am.

So, I’m going clean. The funny thing is, the food prescribed by the Whole30 is basically the same stuff I usually eat, minus the occasional grain-free “treat” like paleo apple crisp (I need to post this recipe for you guys, it’s amazing), almond-butter cookies, or paleo granola. I used to eat a treat like that once every couple of months at most. For the next 30 days I will have no treats, as honey & maple syrup are not allowed during a Whole30. There is also no dairy allowed during the Whole30, which normally wouldn’t be an issue for me as I am sensitive to dairy and don’t usually eat it. But when I’m pregnant or nursing and need more calories I often eat cheese or goat yogurt. In fact, I think the hardest things for me to give up will be the cheese and yogurt. I will miss them more than my beloved Green & Black’s 85% dark chocolate. I must be insane!

If you’ve read this far you’re probably wondering what my motivation is for doing a Whole30. In simple language, I feel like crap. I stay up too late, wake up too late (with aches and pains, brain fog, and zero energy) and am cranky. My skin doesn’t look that great, my muscles all feel incredibly tight, my joints are stiff and achey. My digestion is out of whack. It’s clear that my system isn’t functioning anywhere close to optimal. I also need to reset my taste buds. The past year (!) of eating so many refined foods has really screwed with my sense of taste. I want to get back to the point where I feel like a Lara Bar is too sweet. It can happen, trust me. If you eat clean enough for long enough your cravings for crappy food disappear, it’s wonderful.

In addition to the Whole30 I’m also working on resetting my sleep schedule (normally a morning person, not so much since sweet Mira arrived) and adding in some exercise to my routine. I went back to CrossFit for the month of May and it was horrible because I wasn’t sleeping enough or eating well. Until I can get my food and sleep sorted out I am going to stick with things I can do at home (post-partum ab rehab being the big one, along with yoga, Pilates, and some simple bodyweight stuff like squats, push-ups, pull-ups, lunges, etc.). I will be reporting on my progress here as often as possible, maybe even every day so that I have a record for myself.

What are you doing for your health? Do you want to join me for a Whole30?

Letting Go

I recently sold some clothes that I no longer  wear and had a sort of bittersweet moment where I almost didn’t want to let them go. They are beautiful, they are designer, they are valuable, and they look fantastic on me. I hesitated to sell them for years for all those reasons, and now that I have a daughter I even thought that maybe I should save them for her. But I don’t wear them anymore, and even when I did wear them I felt a bit like I was in someone else’s skin. They were never quite right, never quite me. So, I decided to let them go. In doing so, I am making space for things that better suit my taste, and I am freeing up my never-worn clothes for someone who will love them and wear them all the time. It feels good!

As much as I envy women with expansive wardrobes I know I could never be one of them. I don’t have the space, and even if I did it would stress me out to have a lot of stuff hanging around not getting used. I can’t remember if I was always this way (maybe? probably.) or if this stems from the insane amount of time I spent going through my mother’s belongings after she died. It was awful! Of course, when I was a little girl I was super appreciative of her tendency to hang on to clothes she no longer wore–the dress-up options were endless and amazing because she had countless furs and sequined cocktail dresses, fancy bags and shoes, and enough costume jewelry to adorn a small army. I wonder if I’ll be depriving my kids of some of the magic of discovering old things around the house by my constant cleaning out of things no longer used. Or am I modeling a healthy detachment from “stuff” by periodically getting rid of some of mine? All I know is that I rarely, if ever, miss the things I’ve let go, and there are only a few things I could never buy again if I felt I needed or wanted them. I’m thinking a lot lately about that William Morris quote, “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful,” and it feels like a good touchstone for “stuff” management. And yes I include wardrobe in the “stuff” category!

When I told Brian I had sold a particular dress he said he felt a bit sad because he had such sweet memories of me wearing it when we’d meet on a street corner in Dupont Circle after work to drive out to my father’s house in MD (we lived at my dad’s for a few months after we sold our apartment in DC and before we moved to Seattle). I also have wonderful fond memories of those times, some of the best of our lives because we got to spend a lot of time together and because we were almost totally unencumbered by belongings or responsibilities (funny what living in someone else’s house with all your possessions in storage will do for your psyche…hmmm…). That’s when I felt a tiny little pang of, well, not regret, but maybe uncertainty about my decision. And then I remembered something I’d read a while ago in reference to belongings and life:

The things are not the memories.

It feels good to let go of the things and hold tight to the memories.

Ride the Wave

I am sitting here nursing my new baby. Lately it seems I am always sitting here nursing my new baby. She is two days shy of two months old, her name is Mira Elizabeth, and she is wonderful. But she is also exhausting. Or rather, the combination of her + Dylan + cooking + cleaning + running a house is exhausting. I need to cut myself some slack but I don’t even know where to begin. My expectations of myself are high, what can I let slide when everything seems important? I have a constant searing pain in the back of my left shoulder, my body feels like it has no middle, and I’m hungry. Everyone says I’m in the hard part. No shit! Everyone says it will get easier. When?

Being a stay at home mom is the hardest job I’ve ever had. Partially because it is hard and partially because I make it harder than it needs to be. I recently realized that my to do list needs to be cut down by about 90% unless I want to walk around all the time feeling stressed and unproductive. I wonder, though, if that would even help, since I think I might have the personality type where you constantly feel overwhelmed no matter what. This is not a good fit for being a stay at home mom.

Lately I’ve been snappish and short-tempered with Dylan and I feel horrible about it. He is testing boundaries a lot, having tantrums, and is super emotional, all perfectly normal for his age but so frustrating for me, especially when I am trying to meet his needs and Mira’s needs simultaneously. Brian reminded me last night that we should protect and comfort our kids above all else. We are the people they’ll rely on to be their safe harbor, so when we are short-tempered or snappish or just straight-up mean, it’s the worst possible kind of transgression. I’ll admit I threatened to take Dylan’s stuffed animals away from him at naptime the other day. What was I thinking? To my credit I did say he could keep his favorite one, but seriously. Taking away the stuffed animals he sleeps with falls squarely into mean territory; that sort of behavior is off-limits for sure. I realized it right away and let him keep all his animals but I felt like a total jerk about it and still do.

At preschool drop-off this morning a mom who had her second child about five months ago asked me how it was going. I said, hard. She said, I know. She also said that one thing that helps her through the rough spots and long days is to focus on three things she is thankful for or that are making her happy at that moment. It’s kind of a no-brainer but that idea never occurred to me! So I’ll choose for now to think about how grateful I am that Mira is a pretty easy baby, that Dylan is communicative and potty-trained, and that Brian goes above and beyond to help me out and take care of me as much as he does our children. Something else that’s comforting is the knowledge that nothing, good or bad, lasts forever. Things are always changing, getting harder, getting easier, more fun or less fun, and I am going to try a little harder to ride the wave rather than fighting against it.

More Thoughts On Parenting

I should probably have an “Anna Quindlen” category on this blog. Especially when I consider that I posted 12 times last year and two of those posts were me either reprinting the brilliant Mrs. Quindlen’s wise words or linking to an essay she wrote. But whatever. The following essay really speaks to me and I bet it will strike a chord with all you other parents, too. I need things like this to help remind me, in the craziness of adjusting to a new baby, what it’s all about.

“All my babies are gone now. I say this not in sorrow but in disbelief. I take great satisfaction in what I have today: three almost-adults, two taller than I am, one closing in fast. Three people who read the same books I do and have learned not to be afraid of disagreeing with me in their opinion of them, who sometimes tell vulgar jokes that make me laugh until I choke and cry, who need razor blades and shower gel and privacy, who want to keep their doors closed more than I like. Who, miraculously, go to the bathroom, zip up their jackets and move food from plate to mouth all by themselves. Like the trick soap I bought for the bathroom with a rubber ducky at its center, the baby is buried deep within each, barely discernible except through the unreliable haze of the past.

Everything in all the books I once poured over is finished for me now. Penelope Leach, T. Berry Brazelton, Dr. Spock. The ones on sibling rivalry and sleeping through the night and early-childhood education,all grown obsolete. Along with “Goodnight Moon” and “Where the Wild Things Are”, they are battered, spotted, well used. But I suspect that if you flipped the pages dust would rise like memories. What those books taught me, finally, and what the women on the playground taught me, and the well-meaning relations–what they taught me, was that they couldn’t really teach me very much at all.

Raising children is presented at first as a true-false test, then becomes multiple choice, until finally, far along, you realize that it is an endless essay. No one knows anything. One child responds well to positive reinforcement, another can be managed only with a stern voice and a timeout. One child is toilet trained at 3, his sibling at 2.

When my first child was born, parents were told to put baby to bed on his belly so that he would not choke on his own spit-up. By the time my last arrived, babies were put down on their backs because of research on sudden infant death syndrome. To a new parent this ever-shifting certainty is terrifying, and then soothing. Eventually you must learn to trust yourself. Eventually the research will follow. I remember 15 years ago poring over one of Dr. Brazelton’s wonderful books on child development, in which he describes three different sorts of infants: average, quiet,and active. I was looking for a sub-quiet codicil for an 18-month old who did not walk. Was there something wrong with his fat little legs? Was there something wrong with his tiny little mind? Was he developmentally delayed, physically challenged? Was I insane? Last year he went to China. Next year he goes to college. He can talk just fine. He can walk, too.

Every part of raising children is humbling, too. Believe me, mistakes were made. They have all been enshrined in the, “Remember-When-Mom-Did Hall of Fame.” The outbursts, the temper tantrums, the bad language, mine, not theirs. The times the baby fell off the bed. The times I arrived late for preschool pickup. The nightmare sleepover. The horrible summer camp. The day when the youngest came barreling out of the classroom with a 98 on her geography test, and I responded,”What did you get wrong?”. (She insisted I include that.) The time I ordered food at the McDonald’s drive-through speaker and then drove away without picking it up from the window. (They all insisted I include that.) I did not allow them to watch the Simpsons for the first two seasons. What was I thinking?

But the biggest mistake I made is the one that most of us make while doing this. I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularly clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs. There is one picture of the three of them, sitting in the grass on a quilt in the shadow of the swing set on a summer day, ages 6, 4 and 1. And I wish I could remember what we ate, and what we talked about, and how they sounded, and how they looked when they slept that night. I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing: dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less. Even today I’m not sure what worked and what didn’t, what was me and what was simply life. When they were very small, I suppose I thought someday they would become who they were because of what I’d done. Now I suspect they simply grew into their true selves because they demanded in a thousand ways that I back off and let them be.

The books said to be relaxed and I was often tense, matter-of-fact and I was sometimes over the top. And look how it all turned out. I wound up with the three people I like best in the world, who have done more than anyone to excavate my essential humanity. That’s what the books never told me. I was bound and determined to learn from the experts. It just took me a while to figure out who the experts were.”