Harvest Bisque

for Vicki

This is my favorite fall soup recipe; I got it from my sister-in-law Elizabeth years ago. The handwritten card fluttered down from the spice cabinet while I was unpacking, and I took it as a sign that it was time to make it.

1 butternut squash, or a small pumpkin,
1 pound carrots
5 ribs celery
1 large onion
2 cloves garlic
1 pound mushrooms
5 strips bacon
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 tablespoon fresh chopped thyme
1 quart chicken stock
1 quart milk

Peel squash and cut into peices. (This is the only hard part of the recipe). Roughly chop the carrots, onion and garlic. Slice the mushrooms. Set aside.

Chop the bacon and fry it over medium heat in a large soup pot. Add the onions, cook until soft. Add the rest of the veggies, salt and pepper, and thyme. Let the mix sweat. Add the chicken stock, cover, and lower heat. Simmer until veggies are tender.

Take pot off the heat and puree. Add milk (or cream, even better!) and return to the stove to warm through. Adjust seasonings, serve.



“How does it feel to be home again?” my mom asked, when I told her we’d returned to our little house by the lake. It feels like a dream, I told her. Or it feels as if our time on the ranch was a book I read, something that happened to someone else.

There are boxes and bags everywhere; clear plastic bins of toys and wicker baskets full of clothes and a porch crammed with haphazard odds and ends, like a lamp and a book case and a dog bed. I don’t think we ever intended to be gone for so long, and now returning, I see how much the boys have grown, how much we’ve all grown. We didn’t find what we were looking for on the ranch, but we found other, more important things instead.

It’s going to take me a while to sort it all out–the clothes in the boys’ dressers that no longer fit, the too-small socks, the chunky baby books that no one reads anymore, plus my feelings and impressions about what happened on the ranch and why–but for now, it feels very, very good to be home.

What not to say

I’ve been thinking about words, lately: sometimes they are hard to find, or seem inadequate, like they’re not enough. Occassionally, I’m asked about the right words to use with new parents of a baby with Down syndrome, and for me, it’s hard to answer. I think so much depends upon the parents, and your relationship with them. But as usual, I have more to say! It’s over at ParentDish.

The long-overdue BlogHer post

Way back when I began this blog (which is a subject that came up at BlogHer, when DID I begin Pinwheels, and I didn’t have a ready answer for the question, maybe I should add my archives, to which I said, Who cares?) I thought it would be a good way to share experiences with other families, as a way of helping us all along this path of parenthood.

I still feel that to be true.

And that’s the reason I wanted to write about the NDSC Conference in Boston, and about the BlogHer Conference in San Francisco–for those of you wanted to attend but couldn’t, so you’d get an idea of what you might have felt or experienced if you’d been there; of course, the lens is mine and the filter is through my own experiences.

Which is why I’ve had a bit of difficulty writing about San Francisco.  It was the city of my childhood; the place of my growing-up years, and this is the first time I’ve been back.  And because of this, I was terribly distracted from my life as a special needs mom at BlogHer, and I was very much my 10-year-old self, revisiting (or trying to) places I thought I remembered. 

If I were a photographer, these are some of the photographs I’d have taken:  the pastel-colored houses stacked along a hillside as we drove into town, in my shared airport shuttle with the guys who called me “Montana!”; Hi guys, I made it back!

Or the musician with the beautiful, sad green eyes who played jazz trumpet in the square across from the hotel.  One evening, he played Chet Baker’s, “My Funny Valentine,” and I almost felt as if I were home.

I wandered around China Town, too, and happy memories came back to me of things I thought I’d forgotten, like rice cakes and jasmine tea and though I was unscucessful, I searched and searched for a restaurant that used to serve meals in booths with sliding embroidered curtains. 

Instead, I witnessed a dragon dance in the alleyway, which I took as a sign of good fortune.  And I remembered that I’ve always loved the smooth, green glow of jade.  I bought my little boys kites from an import shop, and I got Tom a big-bellied, smiling Buddha, because really, who couldn’t use a little extra luck in life?

And I met friends, new and old, who all have written about this weekend already.  I am so, so fortunate to have these kinds of women in my life.

It sounds like a nice tourist trip, no?  Or maybe a trip down memory lane?

Yes, and yes.

Which is why it’s been difficult for me to know what to say here, at Pinwheels.  But I’ve finally got it.  Like many things in life, sometimes the passage of time lets the silt settle, and what you’re left with is the moments that resonate as truths, to you.  Here are mine:

Lisa Stone, speaking about the importance of blogging.  She’s a Montana gal and she related to me the story of waiting on her front stoop, as a girl, for the mailman to deliver the most recent copy of Seventeen Magazine.  What freedom, when it arrived!  For a few moments, her life was updated, and she was in touch with the currents of the world.  To which I replied, “I understand!  On the ranch, we get mail once a week, on Thursdays.  I don’t know what I would do without the Internet.”

Then there was the closing address, which featured popular bloggers Heather B. Armstrong and Stephanie Klein.  There were some truths about the writing life, but mostly, it was a discussion of the trappings of fame and celebrity, which is something I’ve never known. 

Instead, what stayed with me were the words of moderator Elisa Camahort Page.  She said something to the effect of, I blog because I can.  I can never know what my grandmother was thinking, as a young woman and a Holocaust survivor, but I can leave my own words, for others to discover.

It meant so much to me:  I don’t think this blog will mean fame, or fortune.  But it is my hope that it will be a record of our times; and it will be my voice, for my family and my children’s children, some day.  So that they will know how much I loved them, and how I tried to show it.

My fellow panelists wrote about it here and here and here and here.

Thanks to HappyKatie for the liveblog, and to the ladies at BlogHer for putting together such a powerful and clear sign that blogging matters, and that it’s here to stay.

More voices of experience

This is from S., who allowed me to reprint it here:

I have a brother who has Down syndrome and I can’t even begin to tell you all the love, joy and laughter he has brought into not only my family’s lives, but the lives of everyone he has touched. When (he) was born in 1962 the doctors told my mom to “put him away! It would be bad for the other children!”

We grew up knowing (he) was different, but knowing that everyone can be different. Having (him) in our lives gave us so much more compassion and empathy toward people of all ablilities/disabilities. He was just our brother and we treated him as such! Our friends loved him because we did (and because he was just so darn cute, funny and loving).

Sure we encountered people in our lives who whispered and made fun of him. Sometimes we would just go over and introduce him and sometimes we would just feel sorry for those people because they would never get to know what a wonderful person (our brother) was. He is 46 now, healthy, and still keeps us in stitches! He has given us so much joy in our lives, just like Avery does in yours.

Thank you for sharing your family with all of us, S.

The words we choose

At the BlogHer panel in San Francisco, one of the women in the audience asked a question about using the word retarded. Frankly, I was surprised that it was even a part of the discussion: it seemed odd and jarring, particularly after the previous questions, including one from a new mother of a 4-month old with Down syndrome about how to best use blogging to sort through her complex emotions and to find community.

In any case, I shouldn’t have been surprised. Patricia Bauer has links to additional stories in the media about a new movie featuring this same concept: that it’s a funny word and we all should laugh it off. Go here and here to read more.

I have to agree with Dave Hinsburger. Oh, how I wish this word would go away.