This is not actually a food blog, despite the title. The chia seed situation is just what intersected with and evolved alongside my more significant musings as I was overthinking life and relationships recently. So stay with me, if you would, through the winding world of snacks to get to the heart of the thing which has more to do with adulting, birth, and friendship.
I send my kids with three robust snacks to school every day, in addition to a bag of hearty breakfast food that they eat on the car ride there, because I live in great and irrational fear of my children going either hungry or freezing… which may have something to do with my everlasting concern about being personally starving or cold. (Because, actually, I am usually hungry and ALWAYS cold.)
I mention these neuroses because I have been stumped about snacks of late.
Michaela is vegetarian; Reid is allergic to gluten and oats; Booch is food fickle; and their campus is nut-free. I also have significant concerns about sugar, preservatives, dyes, empty calories, over-packaging, and over-paying for snacks. And I am not super motivated or creative at 6:45am. Also to be considered: any food sent in must not be embarrassing to eat in a classroom (like the sliced turkey and cheese I lovingly rolled for Reid which apparently smelled) and must not sabotage orthodonture either (goodbye crunchy Fall apples). Thus far, I’ve ended up packing my kids the following: fruit that Whole Foods has already kindly cut up for me (plastic and $$), Pirate Booty or some such other innocuous chip (more packaging and empty calories), and a nut-free, GF snack bar (sugar, packaging, $$$$$, etc.). Good, not great.*
Given that there’s a long year of snacks ahead (fingers crossed!), I got to thinking: what if I could just MAKE a snack bar? Surely there’s a recipe on the world wide web that is nut- free, gluten-free, oat-free, sugar-free, and sure to satisfy children, yes? Well, let me tell you: NO! There is most certainly not this exact thing on the internet. They all want me to throw in marshmallows, or almond butter, or GF oats. I apparently am looking for the unicorn of energy bars. So I rather ambitiously set about making my own by basically stranding together a bunch of different concepts and ingredients I found online, and then looking like a mad scientist in my kitchen while I assembled everything that could potentially go into a delish bar. (As the blog title suggests, chia seeds were involved.)
Well. I won’t get into the nitty gritty but HOLY SH!T, dear readers!! Forgive my boasting, but I made something frickin’ amazing. I Gwynth Paltrowed the hell out of snacking and created the holy grail of everything-free deliciousness with only what just normally lives in my kitchen. I suspect my children could subsist only on these for months, which, for me as a doula, means I just created a culinary placenta! (I cannot WAIT for my husband to read that last line. Pretty gross, right honey?) Below, you will find my messy notes and slightly icky photo of the bars because, like I mentioned, I am no food blogger and no filter can change my lack of expertise here.
Anyways, here’s where the plot thickens like Bob’s Red Mill GF flour unto hitherto mushy ingredients.
As I cleaned up my gigantic mess, I had this thought which is still bouncing around in my brain: am I someone who now has time for and interest in inventing energy bars for my kids’ snack bags? So clearly, yes, I am because I just did this exact thing. But more importantly: do I want to be that person? Don’t get me wrong: it is a privilege to have the bandwidth and financial wherewithal to pursue such cooking adventures. But one year ago, I could barely make time to feed myself as I founded and managed my dream business. I was depleted and overwhelmed and often cranky at home and barely saw my kids in the weeks before the grand opening of Baby Botanica in Brewster, but, man, was I proud of myself. I had set out to do something that challenged me intellectually, creatively, financially, logistically, socially, and professionally, and was pulling it off. I went to bed at 11pm, woke up at 5am, worked all day, and repeated this for weeks on end with adrenaline pushing me through. And then yesterday I spent three hours researching and baking a homemade snack bar.
I truly don’t know what to make of this, nor do I feel it necessary to ensure that my blog is some sort of epiphany of authentic and definitive self-awareness. I don’t know thy(new)self totally yet, and that’s cool. Not to mention, self-actualization feels a tad irrelevant these days having spent the last seven months focused on my family’s and our human race’s health and survival.
But here’s the point I’m trying to make as I contemplate life pre- and post-Covid: we keep talking about the new normal and adjusting to a quickly spinning world. We are attempting to acclimate to a zillion new ways of being while orbiting what seems like a new galaxy, on an earth seemingly in an identity crisis. This isn’t something we’re going to get a good grip on any day soon I’m afraid; I for one am figuring out adulting all over again, or so it seems. There are days when my greatest achievement will be Chex cereal and banana snack bars; there are days when I’m unnaturally pleased by repotting a succulent or seeing my aloe plant thrive in a new sunnier spot; there are harder days when I lash out at my kids because I feel so out of control of this pandemic, this presidency, and this planet. And then there are days when I’ll attend a birth. This happened twice in the last two weeks, and the familiar joy and wonder I felt in observing new life come to be, and the pleasure I experienced in confidently knowing how to perform my job, were so very welcome in these uncertain times.
The truth is, I need a doula right about now!
When I am educating parents-to-be about comfort techniques in labor, I speak often of staying mindful and creating rituals. The labor thing is mighty overwhelming when you look at the whole damn process, with hundreds of contractions left and then delivering a baby. But if we break it down to one contraction at a time, then the work seems manageable. Staying mindful in the exact moment the laboring person is in, be that a beautiful pause in contractions or during a mighty contraction, allows the birthing person to either enjoy or endure birth in tolerable increments. Then if we throw in mantras, visualizations, breath, movements, or sounds, and those are repeated time after time after time, the birthing person becomes rooted in the familiar. Rituals act as an anchor, comforting the laboring person with the sense of rootedness, of returning again and again to something they know they can get through because they already have so many times. And then, to ensure the laboring person powers on, we offer support, strength, loving hands, affirming words, gentle suggestions so that they never feel alone or left at sea.
I don’t think I need to belabor the metaphor here. But before I sign off on this long-winded blog (you all are paying from my lengthy hiatus from writing!), I’ll overshare what my own sense of strange orbiting or being set at sea looked like this past week. Amidst the familiarity of beloved family and pups, of this stunning land my home sits upon, of a job I adore, and of the normal day-to-day routines, there are weird and wonderful novel things like creating energy bars, as well as crappy new things like not having seen my lifelong best friend in well over a year. (That’s her, my Kimmy, in the picture up top of a very pregnant me on a hammock with her loving hand on Michaela still in the belly.) My family was planning to take our annual voyage to Charleston SC to see Kim’s family on March 16th, 2020. Needless to say, stupid Covid botched that plan, and we really have no idea how or when we’ll visit next. Anyways, Kim and I did something weird this past Spring and Summer: we didn’t talk much. Everything in the world felt so screwy or broken, we just didn’t have the words for each other. This quiet amongst us was just an odd, telepathic, synced understanding that we’d push pause during the worst of things. This Fall, we’ve spoken more, and things are more “normal.”
But for some reason, a couple days ago I had this middle-schooly paranoia that Kim and I had drifted too far apart as I considered several months of rarely speaking, no visits planned, and Kim’s incredibly full life in Charleston where she teaches yoga, has a zillion friends, and is on the board at her kids’ school. Kim also happens to be ridiculously lovable and seriously cool, and not just my favorite person, but many people’s favorite person. She’s very funny, very smart, compassionate beyond what I can comprehend, beautiful, a great dancer and singer, and practices yoga and meditation authentically. She even has learned how to surf. Oh, AND, she’s truly, happily married to her high school sweetheart who is equally phenomenal. I know, right? Like, share the wealth, people! But I think the magic of Kimmy, mixed up with being out of touch, just made me question my relevance in her life. This is so pathetic to even write but I promised honesty in these blogs, and by god, I’ll deliver! All this said, as I thought more about our enduring friendship, I managed to talk myself off the ledge.
Then last night, Kim called me, and I sort of jokingly and hesitatingly shared my bout of feeling like we might not be besties forever. She indulged me, and in her Kim way (she used to be a social worker) made me feel all proud that I had managed to assure myself earlier that this wasn’t logical, that I hadn’t needed to reach out to her to make sure we were all good. This is such a strength of Kim’s! I could tell her I had intentionally and gravely harmed a baby bird, and somehow she’d have me believe I had done something meaningful and beneficial in the avian world. Most importantly, Kim suggested an explanation for my insecurity which, in conjunction with my energy bar ambivalence, inspired this blog:
So many things about our lives and our whole world that we thought were dependable and permanent have slipped out of reach this past year (or maybe four, ahem), how could this not make us question all the things we thought were reliable and enduring by this point? As a result, many of us are vigilant, insecure, and not taking anything for granted, even old, dear, permanent friendships. Further, we may desperately seek comfort and solid ground where we once relished adventure, challenges, and spontaneity. So, according to my BFF, I could take it easy on myself for being a needy friend for a bit there… or for relishing the rather silly success of an energy bar. Pretty good doula-ing from my best buddy I’d say.
My wish for you is that you too can find your anchor(s), tether yourself to the things that make life joyful and manageable, and open yourselves up to all that is new and unfamiliar as well. However, if what is new is hard or devastating, let’s not pretend that’s OK. Know that I love you, really, whoever you are, and I hope that you have people in your life who will bring you back to shore over and over again. Or to return to another theme of this blog, I would love for all of our worlds to spin more slowly sometime soon, in a galaxy that feels more like the one (or better than the one) we always knew, orbiting a sun that always manages to shine on us after even the darkest of nights.
Oh, and in case I sound like I’m cracking the code of adulting and/or cooking for kids here, I will rather humbly admit that only one of my children and one spouse liked my amazing energy bars. Another kid ate it because she felt bad for me, and the other pretended he had generously “saved” his for me after school, which I’ll take as a parenting win because, hey, what 2/3rds of my offspring clearly lack in sophisticated palettes, they made up for in graciousness and compassion.
*Sidenote to my fellow Gen Xers: not for nothing, in elementary school, I’m pretty sure I ate a reasonably toasted Eggo waffle sans butter or syrup while rushing to the bus stop with my mom, got a carton of chocolate milk at 10am that was wheeled into our classroom on a cart, had a large cafeteria lunch which may or may not have sucked, and then made it home in time for a snack. I most definitely did not tote around water. I used the water fountain and survived mild thirst like every other kid. Like, why are my kids (all our kids?) so soft? Perhaps this is for another blog…