Monday, September 30

pancakes on Sunday (with a recipe)

I cherish our weekends as a family. Not just because, by Friday, I am wore right out. I see our weekends as an ideal time to create a family culture: to develop routines, rituals. To cultivate a rhythm of "things we do" that we can all rely on, look forward to, create memories through. So far, what we've come up with: Saturday morning tacos, and Sunday morning pancakes.

On Saturday morning we headed out to our favorite little taqueria. Silas pestered the waitress as soon as we walked in: "Tacos! Tacos!" He proceeded to eat his egg taco like a little piggy, face-first. Then my husband took the kiddos to the playground while I went grocery shopping. Perfect Saturday morning outing.

Sunday dawned dark and stormy. I declared it a two-coffee-pot morning. I escaped to the bedroom for a little bit of writing. I like to gather myself to the page early in the day, weave together thoughts and feelings and intentions into something usable, into something that can shape my day. It's the place where I start--figuratively and literally. My days flow so much more smoothly when I've taken the time to consider how I want to feel, what I want to so, what's truly important to me. Our weekends are so much more rewarding when my husband and I take the time to talk through our wants and needs. On Sunday morning, that's easy. Our wants and needs merge into one demand: pancakes.

I've been at it for several weeks, birthing this Sunday morning pancake tradition. The very first week, taking pity on a battered and blackened banana, I scrolled through Pinterest in search of a recipe for banana pancakes. They were beautiful and yummy. Silas helped me make "poo-cakes" by standing on the kitchen stool next to me, and scooping and dumping flour in and out of two little bowls. This, I said, is how we'll do Sunday mornings.

The next week, I doubled the recipe, to disappointing results. I'd had too much coffee, not enough protein, and the pancakes remained stubbornly undercooked in the center. Too much banana, I guessed. The next week, same thing. This time I cursed the recipe and vowed not to use it again. My husband said he didn't care for the banana anyway, and reminded me of a great cornmeal pancake recipe from our favorite cookbook, one we used to make back in the day but hadn't had in ages.

This week, we were going to get it right. I was determined to make pancake-making easy like Sunday morning. I took my cues from earlier weeks: I ate something prior to pancake making (an over-caffeinated, hangry cook doesn't make for fun flipping at the stove), I used a trusted and true recipe. I had already done my scribbling and wool-gathering earlier because I knew that after breakfast, the energy of the day would have shifted and the window for desk-time would have closed. I was rested and ready. I mixed the ingredients, stirred the batter, let it sit. I put on a Ray Lamontagne/Josh Ritter station on Pandora. This would be our week.

It was. The pancakes were delicious: corny in the best way, a fantastic vehicle for butter and maple syrup. The flipping was swear-free. We eased from table into the day pleasantly full: of pancake, of each other's company, of the loveliness and grounding of making traditions together, of hand crafting what it means to be a family, our family.

I love the weekends. I already cannot wait for the next.

Cornmeal pancakes (adapted from ReBar Cookbook)

2/3 cup + 2 tbsp fine cornmeal
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 egg, room temperature
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 tbsp melted butter or oil

extra butter or oil, for cooking

Stir together the dry ingredients in one bowl. In a separate bowl, lightly beat the egg, then add the rest of the ingredients. Combine the wet and dry ingredients, gently stir together, and let sit for 5 minutes.

 Heat a pan or griddle to medium-high heat. Add just enough butter or oil to cover the surface. Drop the batter 1/3 cup at a time on the hot surface, flipping once bubbles appear on the surface and the edges start to dry. Continue to cook for a few minutes on the other side. Serve immediately.

Serves two adults and a toddler.

Monday, September 16

better than sleep: morning pages

If you've ever had a newborn, you know that phases don't last. There is no sense in trying to get used to anything, good or bad, because these little beings are set on a light-speed course of evolution, and what feels like the norm today will be ancient history in a day or two. So I feel sheepish even writing about this, but...

Over the last few days, baby Cash's slept on in bed after I get up long enough for me to have my coffee and write my morning pages. It's been bliss.

Around 6am or so, he becomes restless with me around. He's at the breast like I would be with an open bag of chips: I don't want any more but I just can't stop myself. I could roll away from him and sleep on my husband's side of the bed, who's up by now, but by some miraculous force of will I roll myself out of the warm bed where I've had too little sleep, stumble in the dim bedroom towards the kitchen for coffee. Then, coffee in hand, I curl up on the couch. And I write.

Like I say, it's been bliss.

All I ever want in life is a cup of coffee and time to write in my journal. If you follow my Instagram feed, you'd know this already, as I seem to have only two subjects: my two boys, and my coffee and journal. I've been an avid journaller for close to twenty years now, and a coffee fanatic ever since I gave birth to my first baby. I've gone in and out of writing morning pages over the years, but it's a practice I return to over and over because it's so potent and, well, pleasant.

On the few days when my baby boy has given me this incredible gift of time, I've been happier, more relaxed, more focused, and I attribute this largely to being able to write in the morning. Even when I didn't write out specific intentions or plans for the day, I feel clearer, my decisions are more in line with my heart, and I move through my days with more purpose. I think it has to do with just having the time to do what I most like and want to do first thing: to paraphrase Karen Maezen Miller, it's a little bit of attention given to myself to I can give the rest of my attention away. And the familiar act of putting pen to paper and moving my hand across the page puts me in touch with who I am at the very center of my being, with who I was even before I was a wife, a mother, a teacher. When I remember who I am, I know what to do.

So, whenever he gives me the opportunity, I will roll away from my son in the earliest morning. I will forgo whatever extra sleep I could scrounge because, when it comes to allowing me to have days that flow sweetly and with ease, writing my morning pages is better than sleep.

Monday, September 9

the practice of being mama

I've written before about the reasons why I think it is so important for mamas to meditate. Since I am currently working on recommitting to the practice, I though I would revisit the subject.

The practice of doing nothing

As a mama of two littles and main nest-fluffer of the household, there is something I need to do nearly every moment of every day. Even my own self-care can sometimes feel like a "to-do." Meditation, even if just for five minutes, can be extremely beneficial and refreshing since it is the practice of doing nothing. For whatever amount of time passes between one bell and another on my timer app, there is nothing I need to be doing but just sit there, breathe, and know that I am breathing. I don't need anything; nothing or no one needs me. There is space to just be, a precious and rare commodity.

The practice of placing attention

I love this quote, attributed to Mark Twain: "I've had a lot of trouble in my life, and most of it never happened." He is pointing to one of the deepest truths of Buddhism, which is that most of our suffering is due to unskillful thought patterns. I see this clearly in my life as a mama. Most of the difficulty lies not in having a baby who won't nap, or a toddler who wakes up said baby after he finally falls asleep, but in the thoughts that inevitably arise as a result: I can't believe this happened again. Will this baby never sleep? Will I ever get anything done? When will my life get back to some semblance of normal? I should've never had a baby! Mostly our unskillful thoughts have to do with the past or the future, are riddled with doubt or fear. Very seldom are we preoccupied with what is actually going on in that very moment. If we were, we would see that we have all the resources we need to handle whatever situation is presented to us. The practice of meditation, which asks us to place our attention on the breath, over and over again, trains us to place our attention on what is useful, on what is skillful: our breath, this very moment.

The practice of starting over

We've all blown it, to varying minor or spectacular degrees, and have felt like giving up. I've screwed up, and there's no making it right again. In meditation, it is expected that we will veer of course, that the mind will stray from the breath and follow some random train of thought down the rabbit hole. The success of our practice, if there is such a thing, is measured not by whether or not our mind strays, but by the gentleness with which we bring it back on the right path. It matters absolutely not whether we do this once or a dozen or a hundred times over the course of one sitting period. What matters is the gentleness with which we invite ourselves to start over again. What if that was how we measured our days, too? By the gentleness with which we talk to ourselves? By how we grant ourselves the grace to start over?

Curious about starting your own mediation practice, or returning to the cushion? The Open Heart Project is one of the best resources out there to assist you in your practice. I hope you'll give it a go--if you do, let me know how it goes!