"It’s a shame… You had such a good brain"*

I left my engineering job January 10th, 2003. This means I am in my sixth year of being a full time woman at home. Two friends of mine last week – on separate occasions – expressed surprise I have used the term “housewife” to describe myself. In each case I responded, “Well, what else would you call me then?”

These friends are the latest in my life – people who’ve made similar observances on my character and how it does not really “fit” into “housewife” (P.S. I like “air dick quotes”). My opinion is there is a perception by some that I am clearly more ambitious, creative, nervy, impulsive, opinionated, smart, and autonomous than the “typical housewife” – this figure who is less an acutal person and more an embodiment of domestic bliss, a lack of ambition, a bovine-like addiction to only the most tits-up boring tasks around the home (a video a friend shares with me today offers continued evidence of what we perceive in or want to create for today’s woman: a life fulfilled by the most pornographic immersion and pleasure of the most basic forms of domesticity), a woman vaguely religious perhaps, not very intelligent, maybe earthy and to a degree stoic; someone easily obsessed with material possessions for easy living, someone who bakes cookies – yes, like I do – but perhaps doesn’t smoke a clove cigarette out the window while doing so (yes, like I do).

If you don’t already see the joke let me spell it out. I am a normal woman, with many of the personal and spiritual traits I had before I pushed a baby out of my vagina – and I stay home and care, mostly, for my family. This makes me a housewife. If I am to a small or large degree smart, creative, autonomous, foul-mouthed, etc etc. I am not an “exception” to the housewife class, I am a new person you can add to your known “housewife” acquaintances and stop being so lazy about what you think that word means. I do not in any way mean the two friends whose comments sparked this writing – again, this is a common theme I run across in my life – I am saying our entire culture, way of life, could benefit from broadening the perception of roles and morals permissible and normative for women. Women themselves need to speak up and make sure this happens.

What upsets me is how many women sell themselves short and allow others – heck, a lot of people they don’t even know – to define both their value and their shortcomings. I know women who work largely because they can’t accept the ego-sting of being “just” a housewife. I know women who work because their husbands or partners would be kind of shitty to them if they didn’t earn money – and they – these women – on some level accept this as a valid criticism. I know women who work because they “have to” but who tell me in hushed tones how much they admire my husband and my decisions to live without the things they have but (purportedly) don’t want: television and cable, cell phones, a crippling mortgage, new cars, big cars, furniture, toys, Hanna Andersson clothing for the babies, material status, stuff stuff stuff.

I know women who work because they like to work and who are sick of having to work “and then some”- to prove they are so organized and awesome as a mother it’s OK that they work, too! I know women who like to work but also want to keep up domestically with women who don’t. Women who literally can’t just say, “Yeah, I work, and it takes my energy and time, and so the house is kind of a shit heap, and I’m cool with that.”**

I know women who stay home who feel like they are better mothers than ones that work.

Straight up, it’s true: I’ve seen it. To which I say, in my stern Wanda Sykes voice – Knock it off!

I know women who stay home and, the minute they want to complain about this or that, just to take the edge off the busy and harried day, are treated to condescension born from our culture’s obsession with denigrating work of the home and of the body: of course you hate your life honey, because your life sucks and you do shit work all day. I mean after all, dishes and laundry are just beneath our worth and intellect and education to perform day in and day out. Housewifery itself sucks, poor you. I don’t know HOW you do it, I couldn’t keep my SANITY. (These kinds of cultural prejudices lead me to wonder, who, then, is responsible for cleaning our bodies and homes? … do you people know the Brawney man and Mr. Clean are works of marketing fiction, not actual men who come in and clean our house for us in a tight white t-shirt?).

I am not here to pull on the tangled string of the resentfully-employed woman’s motives and deep desires – and it must be pointed out categorically that any consideration of the family well-being should be taken by all responsible adults in the household, not just the ladies, and not just to the sacrifice of their wants and needs. I trust (as in, I perform the action of trusting) my sisters and friends to sort out what’s right for them and their families. And if in any way my nonsensical and personal rants help these women to think more for themselves and less of what the world may think of us – and speak up about their reality! – then my occasional carpal tunnel flareups after my diarrhetic writings will not be in vain.

For the last few months I’ve worked as a waitress three point five hours a week. Believe it or not, this small work-for-pay commitment does in fact interfere with the rhythm of my family life, enough that although I’ve enjoyed waitressing, I’ve consistently turned down the (surprisingly large) number of additional head-hunting efforts made for my performance as employee. Because I know I can’t truly have everything I want, and what I want most for now is to be a housewife.

Nels’ last day of preschool is next Friday, and I will be back to being a full, as in 100%, not 98%, stay-at-home mother. I will miss my handful of hours, my tiny bit of paid employment, most of which has gone to shoes and food for my family. I will miss having a very short amount of time to be not at all answerable to my children (although it must be said; my children are always out there somewhere, a phone call away – and some closer than that – Sophie accompanies me to this work shift). But I am happy to have my Fridays back because, actually, I feel I have more freedom in being at home with my children than I have any other time in my life.

Bottom line is, as my friends’ comments point out – being a mother does not disrupt my autonomy in some manner of sad-sack, inevitable tragedy, unless I decide it does. And we’d all do well to remember that.

* Actual quote from some old fart I worked with, after I left my engineering job.

** And of course, I know many smart women who don’t fall into – or merely only occasionally trip on – these ego-traps.

of the love & work in a three-layer cake

I got the blues thinking of the future, so I left off and made some marmalade. It’s amazing how it cheers one up to shred oranges and scrub the floor.

In Thich Nhat Hanh’s Anger: Wisdom For Cooling The Flames (a favorite book of mine) the renowned thinker and spiritual leader spoke of being asked why he didn’t spend more time writing books and less time caring for his own home. The implication was that his wisdom and writings were services to the world so beneficial to us all that he should be “freed up” to devote even more time to them.

I paraphrase here: Nhat Hanh responded that it was during his gardening, and the dishes, and the day-to-day tasks of life that he was writing his books. Only mindful performance of these duties – only doing his calm, present best at the laundry while doing it – enabled him to find the spiritual knowledge within that would later flow from him when he sat down to write. He called the wisdom that would grow within him while he practiced mindfulness, a baby. A baby to be delivered unto the world.

This stunning parable is one I have taken to heart. As a housewife who loves her work, I cannot express how wonderful this view, this concept, would have been for me growing up – and most especially as I began a family. The world I’ve been raised in has steadily put down and vilified the work of the home, the body, the garden. Look anywhere in our media and you see housework relegated to a dirge, something to purchase chemicals and gadgets for or, if you can, hire out (to someone of lower socioeconomic class and/or brown). Cooking likewise should be eased by shortcuts, easy-to-prepare meals, or handed through the window of a fast food restaurant where the managers work to make sure the average car spends only ninety seconds after ordering. Diapers? Ugh, get a service (if you can afford it), or use disposables, seal them up in a plastic trash liner, and bury them deep in the earth.

My upbringing – the social one more than the familial – made my first stint at homemaking far more unpleasant than it could have been. I was sure I was supposed to hate cleaning the kitchen (yet I was also supposed to keep it clean and organized in that Martha way). It was my American right, Manifest Destiny, to dislike housework and see it as “mind-numbing”, “boring”, or even “demeaning”.

And I think I did kind of dislike housework for a while. But time and practice have made me wiser. It is possible – and mind-blowingly amazing – to practice a joyful mindfulness during the laundry, the diaper changes, the toilet scrubbings, and the nine hundredth dish of the day.* In fact, when I practice this mindfulness it somehow leaves me with more energy as the day draws to a close; energy to sew a bit or leave the busyness of the day behind and sit with a book and listen to my husband roughhouse with the kids, or – like tonight – make a three-layered buttermilk chocolate cake and invite friends and neighbors over to share. Working in this manner leaves my heart open – open to my children, my husband, and open to my spiritual nature.

Today Sophie received her final book of nine in the Bone series and she spent dinner preparations in the kitchen alongside me, reading aloud with the most open, happy smile as I kneaded the homemade bagels for bagel pizzas (Nels’ suggestion). While the bagels boiled, and then baked, I sat down and showed her how I pick good corn ears (without peeling them) and how to shuck and prepare them. I learned corn selection from Froghill and the method of cooking the ears from Cynthia; our corn was dressed in butter, lemon, and the seasoning salt our friend Mickey makes each year.

As I wash the last few dishes and remove the steaming eggplant parmesan from the oven Sophie puts her book aside and sets the table, pouring water for the four of us and chattering excitedly about the first corn of the season.

I’m passing down the wisdom to my children. I’m grateful for friends and family who help me make my way.

* It is also possible, and mind-blowingly amazing, to take some time off from doing or thinking about house duties, which I try to do daily.

muy delicioso, in so many ways

Biking Alley-Style
Today was a great day. The weather was exhilarating; alternating hail, bright sunshine, and wind. After taking Nels to school Sophie and I came back and she thrilled me by choosing to set up her snack, reading, and sewing in the sewing room with me where we companionably spent some time mostly silent. When Nels got home from preschool the kids spent a few hours outside riding bikes and (in Nels’ case) scrumping for parts to make a leprechaun trap.

After alleyway shenanigans Sophie instructed me how to move the chicknz from their greenhouse to the pen outside. While moving them Bluster (the least intelligent one we still call a “he” for some reason) got away from my daughter and she chased him about the yard in that 3/4 stoop one reserves for pursuing things under two feet tall. Even though the situation could have become a bad one (chickn escaping into alley) I was laughing so hard it was difficult to experience worry. Sophie and the chicken had identical exclamation marks above their heads, cartoon-style. Of course my daughter prevailed. Later when it began hailing we rushed back out and put them back inside. I was proud of my daughter and how quickly she pulled on boots to rescue the animals, who were not at all hurt but very dismayed.

I Wish He Wore Hats More Often
Last season’s coat of Nels’ is getting small; I’m sewing him a new one that is so much fun it’s hard to concentrate on anything else.

Sewn By Mama
Taken in the kitchen this morning. The kids had just finished picking out today’s dinner menu – pasta with edamame, broccoli, and pinenuts; ratatouille – both from Moosewood Restaurant’s Simple Suppers. Lots of garlic and olive oil – good kids!

maybe it would feel easier if more would follow suit

Our life seems backwards. Or at least different. Sometimes I feel odd that I don’t see our choices echoed in other friends’. Then I think: that’s right – it is nobody’s business how we run our lives!

We all sleep upstairs in this one huge room. My kids don’t have toys and toys and toys or their own separate rooms. I do not feel guilty about toys I don’t buy. They are expected to help clean house. They dress themselves (today this included, for Nels, silvery sparkly Mary Janes).

They are given a great deal of free reign with regard to things I’ve decided make sense. I let them argue or backtalk me. I do not prompt their manners in deference to others’ value systems. They are adroit at climbing things, and computers, and friends, and reading and spelling, I notice. They take care of the chickens, although Nels is no longer allowed out there by himself because he was chasing them too much.

Instead of a bedroom per child, I have a sewing room of my own. We don’t own a television. My kids are always underfoot. Instead of babysitting via public school, they hang out with me all day, just about every day. They mostly draw, read, play with obnoxious intensity, write music, and help me cook. Or at least eat the things I cook (today: pizza, fresh-squeezed lemonade, and chocolate tapioca pudding – all homemade). They tell me I’m “the best cooker ever”. Ralph invites their friends over often. These winter months, with the poor weather, it’s draining we don’t get out and exercise more often. I remind myself of this when I feel pent up and angsty.

My husband and I share a small closet and less than one dresser for our clothes. I hang our laundry – especially the woolens, jeans, and coats – up in the house to dry. I am obsessed with keeping my house clean and I succeed at this (with Ralph’s help, lots). The other day at preschool my children showed a thoroughness at cleanup which first made me proud, then, as Nels’ tidying extended minutes past the other children’s (the teacher politely saying, “OK little guy, that’s good enough”, repeatedly), quickly made me feel uncertain shame (am I too obsessed with neatness?).

I work, but not primarily for money. I now take my kids to the diner with me. If my boss starts to resent this, I will have to quit my job. I tried a paid daycare thing, for a few hours one day. Nels hated it. He’s a pretty tough little dude but seemed terrified. So we promised him we wouldn’t go back.

Ralph prioritizes family over work, to the extent he can. He has encountered snide remarks for this. He puts the Parent Helper days of preschool on his work calendar so he can attend. I feel a great deal of empathy for him on this. Whereas with my professional career I was expected to “let down” my employer by giving a damn about my family, as a male he has been occasionally treated to an incredulous sneer.

Today we had our friends’ children over for a few hours; going on a walk along the highway, pulling a wagon while my daughter pushed my friends’ toddler in a stroller. The highway is not friendly. People do not run us over but they often don’t stop and, when they do, they seem to glare. I wave and them some of the glares turn to smiles. Last week while biking I was yelled at by a man in a big truck, who then blasted off. I couldn’t hear what he said but I’m sure he was telling this devoted bicycling mama to GET OFF THE ROAD WHERE SHE DOESN’T BELONG. Incidents like this really hurt my feelings and make me feel small.

I get bored or lonely sometimes with the children. Other times it is brilliant. Maybe one of the reasons I keep them around, and let them be (to the extent it is safe) their own creatures is because it seems healthiest for all of us. At some point I stopped needing them to be “well-behaved” because I need stimulation – the stimuli of their own true selves. I am not, as my mother has my entire life called women content and successful at housewifery, “a cow”. I am a living, intelligent, driven person who loves my children deeper than anything. They drive me totally crazy sometimes. A day where I don’t speak harshly to them, is a success.

It’s rare.

I’m working on it.

"Clothes are never a frivolity: they always mean something."

Last night I told my husband I was so hurt about something I simply didn’t want to discuss it anymore. Somehow our roles had become reversed: he wanted to talk, talk, talk it out, and I didn’t. This wasn’t because I didn’t have the verbiage to offer. In fact I felt like we’d discussed the subject much over the last year – at least. I was done. I didn’t know what I was going to do, and I didn’t know what he was going to do. But I’d said my piece, I’d heard his, and I simply needed a break.

The issue? Clothing. My clothing. Currently, at this juncture in my life, my largest frustration. For weeks as this chewed on me more and more I’d felt shallow for my little obsession. But a few days ago I came to the realization: food, shelter, clothing. Basic needs. I think even the cavemen with their depleted frontal lobes had that shit down tight.

Now my family, we have food. We have shelter. My husband hustles at his job in large part pursuing these things; food and housing are our largest expenses as a one-income family of four (39.5% of our take-home pay). Our clothing allowance in our spending plan is currently at 0%, modeled to come out of an “everything else” fund (that would include road trips, fundraising efforts for our childrens preschool, technology for the house, late-night runs for cough syrup or flea medicine, gifts for friends and family, you name it).

I am responsible for the acquisition of, laundering, care for, and inventory of my family’s clothing. At any given point I can tell you how many pair of shoes the members of my family have, what I’ve set aside for consignment earnings, what items are going to the Salvation Army for donation. I mend, I grift, I sew (when I’m not cleaning, cooking, or writing). I have begged and borrowed to supply my children with good winter coats and shoes. I spend a significant portion of my daily chores laying out the wool socks by the fire and folding every t-shirt of my husband’s to its proper place and making sure my kids don’t leave their coats out in the wild.

You can predict where this is going, right? Because as it turns out the lack of formal acknowledgment of the fiscal burden of clothing coupled with the de facto assignation to myself of the practical elements has left me: dead last out of four, wearing holey jeans, my husband’s socks, and (this is the worst, the absolute most demeaning) broken, cheap bras that work so ill my breasts actually ache.

This month it started raining in earnest.

And then a few days ago my husband, beneficiary of a small financial windfall, tells me he is going to buy himself a guitar.

Now, I want to be very careful here. My husband has the right to his guitar. First of all, this is his money. Secondly, he is a songwriter, a good one. His artistic endeavors are as important as, well I don’t know as clothing, but they’re damned important. It isn’t that he’s buying a guitar, or the rain is setting in, or that when it comes to clothes (and clothes alone) at this point I carry a huge crazy-person backlog and a skewed perception of poverty. It’s my fault, entirely, for letting the backlog reach this point. But the guitar: that point where the codependent machinations of intimate relationships threaten to overcome my more logical, Buddhist spiritual mindset. I find myself at first reeling in the grips of the former: the fact he could even think to buy a guitar when I don’t own a coat without holes! I am wearing shoes I bought when last pregnant – approximately one hundred thousand million years ago! A mental picture: I’m outside, kicking the hell out of my car’s passenger-side radial, and shouting, “F*cking, stupid, asinine, selfish a*%hole!”

But, I am incorrect. And I don’t allow myself more than a few tortured mental moments imagining my husband as this monster. And I don’t kid myself: the situation is, in large part, my own fault (he is left on his own to figure out his responsibility). And if he’s reading this and decides not to buy the guitar, after what we’ve discussed since on the subject, I will punch him directly in the nuts.

I typically don’t find the need to justify our financial sacrifices for the life we want to live. And I am not a clothing princess (as I type this I’m ill-attired in my husband’s pants, a pair of panties from Ross’ bargain bin, and a free t-shirt). The point is, my values are not being expressed in my clothing. This trap is entirely of my own making. I can speak of the tell-tale numbers of our financial plan all I like, but the truth is up until now I myself have been out of alignment.

What, then, is my proposed plan? After our conversation resumed last night (and this morning), my husband and I have a plan to recommit financial resources to the family’s clothes. I feel defeated by the lag of what I need (raingear, for instance, for bike-riding the kids about in the rainforest in which we live. I still feel stung at my husband’s lack of practical support coupled with what has felt like an expectation of impossible frugality. And most baffling I feel – and this is the laughable part – I will betray my own self and find myself, months or years hence, as starved, frustrated, out of sync.

Ask me in a couple months when I have a modicum of waterproofing, at least one sweater, and a pair of shoes that don’t leak. Perhaps my perspective will have cleared and the real and true will have emerged, leaving the parts of the martyr (a role I do not play well) left behind.

Our clothes are too much a part of us for most of us to ever be entirely indifferent to their condition: it is as though the fabric were indeed a natural extension of the body, or even of the soul. – Quentin Bell

monday bundles

This morning when my daughter finally woke up she entered the living room with a barking cough and clearly stuffed-up nasal cavity. Momentarily miserable (the mornings are always the worst for head colds) she flopped on the couch, accepting offerings of kitty cat and blanket. I’m having trouble along the same lines myself and thus bagged my bike trip to the preschool today. Best to keep sick children quarantined.

Mondays are small domestic happenings in that they’re the days we go off and buy groceries for our week. Our grocery needs are mostly across town. At the fruit stand (where it sometimes seems “everyone” shops) I purchase the weekly veggies and let the kids each choose their own fruit (tropical fare today: a mango for Nels and handful of kiwi for Suse). I’m looking forward to tonight’s meal: paghetti squash with basil, feta, and tomatos, blanched beets with bleu cheese dressing. We have local apples at home, waiting for inclusion in salads, turnovers. I buy a few pears for our cupboard and the fruit salad I’ll be making at the Deli on Friday: give them a few days to ripen on the shelf (the secret is to not one time even touch the pears as they make ready). With my weekly allowance I can buy a few niceties that make the week so enjoyable: licorice, dark chocolate for Ralph, goat’s milk, garlic powder, nutritional yeast.

From produce-buying back to the library where my children pick their books and I pick a few for them (The Paper Bag Princess, a hefty Dinosaur encyclopedia, and Batman: The Sunday Classics 1943 – 1946). The rain has, finally, sadly hit our November; I’ll be back up and bundled on the bike as soon as our colds clear up.

"if you see a possum, kill it… it’s not a pet."

Yesterday evening I biked about 8 miles total – hauling both kids, two huge coffee carafes, cream and coffee cups for two dozen people, my Secretary’s binder – and a chicken barley casserole – to my son’s preschool for our Open House. Now as one of the school hostesses I’d like to see myself this way: hair impeccably coiffed, one foot extended in a classy patent leather pump, sweater seat or classy dressy frock, and I’m smiling and saying gracious stuff (something like her). Instead it’s me loudly cackling and probably saying the word “cock” to my friend Shannon (who also biked with me, and is also loud) and I’m sporting really filthy hippie pigtails, sweat rings*, red face, and leaking barley juice that was at least fragrant (the casserole turned out beautifully) while my children tumble into the school breakneck speed and I’m pretty sure Nels was, as usual, fully cross-dressed.

At the end of the event – four Board members, so much coffee, so much effort and organization – we’d managed to entertain and enjoy the one family that did attend. I looked at Shannon (our President for next year) and said, “We nailed it!” and we cackled some more. In all fairness I do think the family that came to the Open House will be enrolling both their small children. And my family and I had a great time and a great bike ride.

Today Ralph and I met with a school administrator to discuss next year’s plan to homeschool Sophie. It was a great meeting and we were assured that the school supports our involvement in any school programs Sophie would like to attend. But I was left with that distinct feeling of – for lack of a better word – company-speak. I found myself wanting to know more from this administrator; more about how someone privy to the school system felt about our WASL, about homeschooling; perhaps some candid talk about the troubles and triumphs of the system. As it is I am still dumb as a post to any political or backroom knowledge. Still, it was nice to meet and discuss; and it was very nice to know the door is completely open to us.

I felt so silly the rest of my day. I’ve been busy lately but not too busy to avoid a general contentment in my life. Is it true all I want to do is cook**, visit with friends, garden, hang out with my kids, bike, and clean my house? And if it’s true that’s “all I want to do” – isn’t that just a form of living, and a pretty good one? How did I luck into having my life this way (for now)? Why do I feel so odd being – again, for lack of a better word – fulfilled, by such mundane stuff?

* I couldn’t find anything on Google image search sweaty and gross enough, sorry.

** Today I made Cypress Easter Bread, sourdough rye from my own starter (pwnage!), and Rustic Baked Beef Stew.

making indentured servitude fun & educational

This weekend was a busy one – coming off a dinner party (of sorts) on Thursday we took in the school carnival at Lincoln elementary, the bridge opening celebration at the HQX Farmer’s Market, the Shorebird Festival, and a private rollerskating birthday party (where I discovered I could still skate reasonably well). All traveled to by foot or by bike and on a shoestring grocery budget. Ralph also worked most of Saturday in the yard mowing, weed-eating, and finishing our “greenhouse” (which Nels calls a “pinkhouse” for absolutely no reason – the truth is it’s kind of this DIY recycled materials shanty). I joined him to hang laundry and put out the starts I’d been working up: lettuces, cucumbers, peas, bush beans, cilantro, sunflowers, love in a mist, snapdragons, amaranth, sweet peas, and calendula. Now if only the cats would stop using our lovely large bed as a lovely large litterbox. In fact today I had a very, very sad cat crap experience I won’t elaborate on. Yeah, it was really, really bad. Just know this and be glad it didn’t happen to you. P.S. I’ll be telling Billy every detail.

Yesterday’s daytime activities were a very sweet affair: the kids and I played “homeschool” in part inspired by the old-fashioned child’s desk we found at the Public Market’s associated garage sale (where I also made a new friend, an RN who works up on the Quinault Reservation). The children loved the school play – and I mean loved it. Sophie would call Harris “the school cat” with the most pleased expression of eye and tooth. During the subject of “bath time” I made up report cards in categories Science & Discovery, Art & Creative Play, Exercise & Pet Care, Food Preparation, Personal Hygiene & Clean Up, and Conduct. I wrote things like, “Very good at washing dishes,” and “B- : forgot to flush toilet” and, “Was the catcher during ‘Parachute Toy Science Experiment’.” Smart Mommy and Daddy readers will immediately see this enabled me to also get the entire house clean with their help. Maybe I’ll graduate up to Coffee Making and Foot Rubbing extra credit projects.

Tomorrow finds me back to the “normal” school routine and I already miss our weekend together. We had a lot of sunny, easy hours together.

"the king of the table"

I’d like to think I’ve had a handful of accomplishments in my life and hold a few talents as well. But the thing I can do that gives me the most pleasure lately is my breadmaking. Today I find myself tempted to feel pride in my bagels – a history with not a single one collapsing during boiling, all of them turning out taste- if not picture-perfect. Then I quickly spin around three times and spit on the floor, not wanting to upset the capricious devil-gods of bagel cookery, so quick to jealously smite my next efforts in retaliation for baker’s hubris.

I view my breadmaking not as a talent – because really, I’m a beginner – but an accomplishment. First of all, it’s a frugal way* to add heart to a meal otherwise made from soaking dried beans and pulling tomato sauce out of the freezer and carefully frying a portion of squash. A platter of soft, fragrant pita completely, and I do mean completely, makes up for the fact I’m not serving red meat, chicken, or a rich lasagna (cost: five thousand dollars, with the cheeses needed). This is me: if I’m forced to be frugal on Ralph’s cash grocery allowance I will find a way it satisfies me.

I also like breadmaking because it’s the closest I get to meditating, praying, or relaxing. Most breads you have to knead (sometimes for many minutes), shape, and wait while the bread takes form. It’s something that checks me back into my kitchen and my home. It fits into a busy schedule at the same time – a bread that needs to rise can be slowed in the refrigerator or sped up (within reason) by a pan of steaming water. There’s plenty of time to run to get a kid at school or do the dishes and wipe the table and sit for a cup of fragrant tea in a sunny kitchen.

I like making bread because my children are learning not only how (something I missed out on as a child) but are also quite good at and help me with all parts of the process. They see their food created, not under plastic in the harsh lights of the supermarket. There is no better fragerance in a home than the yeasty warmth of fresh bread – unless it’s sauteed onions or garlic.

And finally, I take pleasure in the fact that so many people love homemade bread, or at least the breads I make. Last night’s dinner company, and my own family as wel, sung praises over the simple homemade pizza (with my own sauce and dough recipes) which was easy to make, economical, and nourishing. Last Thursday with basket on arm I parsed out slices of a chocolate rye coffee cake to those stuck in cubicles and offices and indoors. I’d like to make bread every day. Thomas Fuller said “Eaten bread is forgotten” but I think instead it builds a legacy of care, of frugality and lushness, of a joie de vivre.

* I buy my flour at 1/2 the price found at the supermarket and my yeast at 1/10th the price of the bulk jars at the same; this reduces my bread cost to a fraction of a storebought loaf.

because it’s a bitter, bitter competition between us

Things My Husband Is Right About:

1. Laundry technique
2. Roughhousing with kids (he does this daily)
3. Recycling
4. Recreational drugs (he’s never done them)
5. Money (ask him about his new Financial Panthering Plans!)
6. Physical affection
7. Assembling enchiladas and / or cabbage rolls
8. Real estate
9. Breakfast
10. Spy / caper film plots

Things I’m Right About:

1. Just about everything else, specifically including proper personal hygiene, bathroom maintenance, child discipline, apologizing in a prompt and genuine manner, taking care of material possessions, cleaning out the fridge, buying gifts, changing sheets, keeping in touch with friends, throwing out clothes with holes in them, punctuality, closet organization, any kind of organization, milk.