Monday, June 15, 2009

Moving Past the Block and Other Goings-On

Long time no see! We've been really busy here on the farm. This time last year I was drowning in tomatoes. This year it is corn. So today, the kids and I will be blanching, icing, and freezing tons and tons and tons of corn. We also have too much zucchini, even though I only have two plants. And because I'm not always good about harvesting, one of our zucchinis is the size of a watermelon. Not to worry, though. I have a zucchini chocolate cake recipe that I will share with you at the bottom of the post. My kids just had some for breakfast :).

We enjoyed a nice, relaxing weekend. Too relaxing, in fact. We had a ton to do and didn't do it. Ellie just returned from the TMTA Piano Finals in Houston. She received an Honorable Mention. I think she was a little disappointed but the competition was fierce and I think to receive an Honorable Mention (means she placed in the top 5 in the big old state of Texas) is amazing. I'm super proud.

I had intended on taking her to Houston, myself. I was, in fact, very much looking forward to it. It was going to be a mini-vacation for me. You know, 3 1/2 hours in the car with Ellie plugged into her Ipod....nice and quiet. That would have been followed by a 2-night stay (and 2 nights eating out) in a hotel with pretty much nothing to do (she actually competed in the hotel) but watch TV and read and I'm making myself sad, again. Sigh. Anyway, the reason I couldn't go is because Camille had her big dance recital and I needed to be here for her dress rehearsal and I couldn't risk the possibility of missing her recital if we didn't get home from Houston in time. So Jeff (you remember Jeff...he is the guy who travels and stays in hotels and eats out constantly) got to go.

But I am glad I didn't miss the opportunity to be with Camille on her big night. She loves to dance. In fact, she's going to be starting at a new ballet school in the fall. She wants to dance on pointe and her current teacher switches the big girls to jazz....Camille wants up on tippy toes when she's older. Here she is with her friends. She is second from left on the bottom row - my little ballerina in the wrinkly leotard with the drooping, crooked tutu and the pleased look on her little face.

And here she is with friends Emma and Ara.

My weekend included attending a Rite of Passage for Janet, a friend turning 30. It was a really great day at a really great place for a really great woman. The event was held on property owned by the Sisters of the Incarnate Word. This place is amazing. It is a sanctuary of peace nestled right in the heart of the bustling Medical Center Area. You're driving in the middle of a noisy, congested city....turn down a little road and them BOOM - peace, quiet, beauty. Awesome. Much of it is still under construction. For example, they're building a labyrinth! I cannot WAIT to walk the labyrinth! One of the nuns, Sister Alice, teaches Tai Chi there. I plan to try to attend that weekly. It is a drive into the city - but dang it - I drive the kids into SA for all kinds of about driving myself in? Anyway, this place was a private residence with a mansion and a couple of other homes, plus a pool and pool house set next to a very large pond surrounded by trees. So we enjoyed a lovely breakfast, some fluid body movement exercises, and then a water blessing ceremony. We also took turns affirming Janet, which was beautiful and moving. She is a really fantastic person who strives to live an authentic life. She is curious and always seeking answers to all sorts of questions other people often don't think to ask.

Almost two years ago (can it be that long ago?) Ellie and her friend, Juliana, enjoyed a Rite of Passage when they turned 15. I'm considering writing a book about it - to encourage other mothers and daughters to celebrate womanhood in a meaningful and ritualistic way. I feel that so often our celebrations of passages are commercialized to the point of losing all meaning.

I had just finished reading Sue Monk Kidd's book, Dance of the Dissident Daughter, and was very interested in this idea of creating rituals. Ellie and I particularly liked one ritual that Sue undertook herself, and that is a naming ritual where you remember all the women from whom you've descended and say their names like this: I am Carol, the daughter of Jimmie Louise, the daughter of Eva Mae, the daughter of Mary.....So we did that - all of the women in the circle, and then Ellie and Juliana did it and took their places in the circle among us. This is Ellie during the Naming Ceremony.

We also came up with a Wisdom Ritual, whereby each guest met with the girls in a little shrine to share some womanly wisdom. A drop of water was added to the girls' cups with each visitation. At the end, the girls emerged and drank from their cups, accepting the wisdom of their sisters.

Here is a picture of Ellie being serenaded in the shrine, which is lit up here by my flash but in actuality, was dimly lit with candles. Dana played the mandolin and Sarah the guitar. Earlier in the evening Sarah sang a song she wrote for the girls, and during the Wisdom Ceremony we all sat around the fire while Dana played a flute off in the distance....

A friend who lives in India and is a devotee of Amma the Hugging Saint, sent ashes blessed by Amma. She asked that they be applied to the 3rd Eye Chakra for Wisdom. After everyone was blessed in this way, Ellie poured the remaining ashes into the fire so that they could rejoin the earthly elements.

It was a great night. Joel is turning 15 this summer. He is reluctant to undergo a rite but I think it is because he imagines it being the one his sister undertook (which would be weird). So I need to talk to him about what he might like to create for himself as a way of marking and celebrating all of the changes he has gone through in the past year. He literally is like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon. Physically, he has changed so much. And spiritually and emotionally he has matured into a totally different person. But I think he is afraid someone is going to put a wreath of flowers on his head :). Anyway, so yes, a Rite of Passage book is possibly in the works.

And speaking of writing a book, this month makes it a full year that I have been blocked. And I think I might be beginning to understand the cause of the block (another nice thing that resulted from Janet's Rite of Passage!)

The book I want to write is about parenting against the mainstream mentality. I even had an agent waiting for an outline and proposal. But the words just won't come. There is an actual physical sensation that comes over me, right in the center of my chest, when I attempt to write the first word. And I think it is because of all the things I do, parenting is the most important. Being a mother has changed my life. It has, in many ways, defined who I am at this point in time. I have had my most shining moments...been my very a parent. I have also experienced my lowest most shameful and painful a parent. The simple fact is that I am not always a good person. I am sometimes a horribly impatient, angry, frustrated, and selfish person. And my kids have all experienced this side of me. Especially when they're small. (I know a lot of women who find small children to be easy and teenagers to be especially difficult - but I am the opposite.) So - how on earth could I write a book on parenting when I have failed so miserably at it at certain times....often on a daily basis, even? I need to explore this. I haven't wanted to, because it is going to be painful. But I need to. And I need to do something else. I need to talk to my kids about it. In a sense, I want their permission to write this book. I need some affirmation from the people I love and know the best. I need forgiveness. I need their blessings. I need to know that the good has outweighed the bad and that I have something to share with other parents that will be worthwhile and not written in a state of utter hypocrisy. So it seems that, if I write this book, it will include a confessional for my readers, too. My readers would need to know who I am and who I hope to be...what my failures have been and my victories, too. To not share my vulnerabilities and failures would be to proclaim myself an all-knowing expert. And the book, itself, is about trusting yourself to be the expert on your relationships with your children...and not being swayed by the opinions of parenting, education, and medical "experts" telling you how to give birth, discipline, teach, and communicate with your children. I am not in the expert camp. Which is probably pretty obvious :).

So yeah. After all about that zucchini cake recipe? Got it from my friend, Susan. Don't know where she got it.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar (I omitted this)
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup oil
Cream the above and then add:

3 eggs
1 t vanilla
1/2 cup of buttermilk**
Stir to mix.
Sift into a bowl: (I didn't sift)
2 1/2 cups of flour
1/2 t allspice
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 t salt
2 t baking soda
4 T cocoa
Stir the above in and add:
3 (6 inch) zucchini, grated
1/2 - 1 cup of chocolate chips (I omitted this)
Stir until blended. Pour into a greased and floured 9 X 13 pan, bake at 350 for 45 minutes. Cool and sprinkle with powdered sugar.
**I left out the white sugar by accident, and didn't have any chocolate chips. The cake was sweet, but not too sweet. In fact, it made a great breakfast cake. Also, I was out of buttermilk. You can make your own buttermilk by adding a teaspoon of white vinegar to a cup of milk and let it sit for a few minutes. It works great.


Sardine Mama


  1. Have you ever tried powdered buttermilk? So.So.So.So CRAZY good.

  2. Carol, I have complete faith that you will write your book (and, perhaps, many more) when it is time.

  3. Thank you, Julie! I am glad you have faith in me because right now I sure don't. And yes, Pamela, I love the powdered buttermilk. Was out of it!

  4. Write, write, write. Faults and all, please..I hear you on the affirmation from the kids part, though. Sure it will all work out. In the meantime, write, write, write.

  5. Carol, you might find the following interesting: Rite of Passage Parenting by Walker Moore (Thomas Nelson, 2007)and the Rite of Passage Parenting Workbook by Walker Moore and Marti Pieper (Mom's Choice award winner). Best to you in your journeys in parenting and publication!

    Marti Pieper

  6. I had no idea that that's what Gillian (sp) was doing over there! Awesome!

    Yeah, two years this October! It's really hard to believe that the time has gone by so fast. But it was definitely a memorable night.

  7. What a beautiful remembrance of the girls' Rite! Great memories.