Notes from Vermont: David & Alyssa's Wedding

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When we arrived at Common Ground, it was raining -- the hardest it had rained since we had stepped off the plane in Vermont seven days earlier. And although the forecast predicted rain for the weekend, we all stayed optimistic. The back-up plan was to marry in the barn of the property... My brother and his girlfriend-soon-to-be-wife shrugged. They weren't worried about it. (They weren't worried about any of it.)
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David and Alyssa were cooking when we arrived... this was as DIY as it got. (EVERYTHING--the food, decorations, flowers--were done by David and Alyssa, friends and family--except the wedding dinner, which was catered. Alyssa even made her own dress.)
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I have always been in awe of my brother - like standing on one planet looking up at at another. I have only ever been able to see him from afar in the way very different people who love each are able to see each other. David can do it all well. People say that but with David it's actually true. One day he picked up the guitar and killed it. He writes with wisdom and profundity and can hike a thousand miles uphill. He can dance and he can sing and he can cook and he can brew his own (gluten-free) beer and he can create and solve equations as long as this room. And he does all of those things beautifully. He is humble and gentle and kind. He's loyal (and has always stuck up for me, here, and everywhere else). He is stubborn and funny and wonderful. He's truly the greatest.
He is the kind of boy man who deserves the best kind of girl woman.

And holy shit, did he ever find her.
Alyssa was still working on her dress the week before the wedding and if you watch the film my cousin made (see below) you will hear the whole story of why it was important for her to do it herself. She forgot her makeup at home and she and my brother camped in rustic cabins (without water and electricity) the nights before and after the wedding. Against an industry that prides itself on Bridal suites and full-on hair and makeup teams to prep for the big day, THIS, to me said it all. Alyssa and David didn't want to be anything but themselves on their wedding day because THAT is how they roll. They were married by friends who are also married - a man and a woman - as if to speak to the feminine and masculine in their marriage and ceremony. Friends and family where given words to speak about during the ceremony. (Hal and I were given laughter and kindness and we asked the kids for help. We quoted Fable, who said, "treat each other with curiosity and kindness" which I thought was so right on. CURIOSITY is exactly how we should all treat each other.)
Alyssa walked down the aisle with damp hair (blow driers, psh!) but before she did, I was able to snap a few photos of her and my brother in the window of the lodge, watching as their friends and family took their seats at the ceremony. It was, to me, the highlight of the entire wedding. Such palpable gratitude in their eyes...
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From the very beginning, David and Alyssa were the picture of cool calm collectedness, completely open to whatever it was that would happen... They recognized that a wedding, just like a marriage is full of unexpected turns.
"I'm worried about Bo running off in the middle of the ceremony,"

"What? Why! Don't be! It's all good."
"Hopefully it doesn't rain."

"If if does, we'll use the barn, we don't mind."

...David and I went to two different high schools, went in opposite directions with our careers and our lives up to this point, but being present at his wedding made me feel, for the first time, perhaps, that we were somewhere... similar? Not that I am an authority on marriage by any means, but I've been cruising this highway for a while and now, it's like, there he is. HONK HONK! WE'RE BOTH ON THE SAME ROAD, NOW!

Our sister played flute as my parents walked David down the aisle, followed by Alyssa arm and arm with her mom and dad.

And after they exchanged vows and rings and "I do"s, they danced back up the aisle to When You Love Somebody by Fruit Bats.

"You introduced me to that band, remember?" my brother said to me later. "You burned me a copy of all their songs one year..."

"I did?"

"You totally did."

It sounds stupid, perhaps, but in that moment I felt like I had a hand in something... I wasn't able to introduce my brother to much in the way of life lessons but the one thing we always had, together, was music. The one thing we were able to relate to were songs...

I said this during dinner (my toast was a mess. I was hysterical and totally insane) but I want to say it, again, here -- if I were to hand select one woman out of the 781792873981738917 women in the world to be with my brother, it would be Alyssa. She's quite possibly the kindest person to ever exist on this earth and I can't believe how lucky we are to have her as our sister, daughter, aunt... We fully won the lottery with this one.
My cousin, Erica, who is a documentary filmmaker, made this film for David and Alyssa. (Erica was also roommates with Alyssa in Chile while studying abroad and Alyssa was actually at Erica's wedding and David and she never met. They met years later, however, in Boston and made the connection later. Crazy, right? Total Kismet.) Anyway... Erica, our cousin and Alyssa's friend, made a documentary about David and Alyssa's wedding/family/love story and it's amazing.
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Not just for our family but just... in general... Erica made something real and poignant and truly original and you should totally hire her to shoot your wedding or event because it's all here in this video and it's beautiful and I've watched it now 8989789 times and all of the songs in the background are my brother's songs (I told you he was talented) and just... yeah. The film is pretty long (40 minutes) so I'm going to link to it here for those interested.

Here's a shorter ten minute version that's pretty wonderful, too:
I was never so happy for him, for all of us, to welcome such a dynamite human being into our family. We are so lucky to have you, Alyssa. And in the words of my father, who orchestrated a WooKoo (Woolf/Koomas) poem we all wrote together days before the wedding...

"Mighty David has struck gold."
Congratulations to David and Alyssa and thank you to all of David and Alyssa's family and friends who contribute to their happiness. I love all of these people with everything in me and I am so thrilled Alyssa is part of our crazy little (not so little) tribe.
Love and light to you and yours and cheers to La Familia.
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Ta Ta

"This is like my home, too," she says as she turns toward the door.

I have filled her arms with pictures in frames and things that are wrapped but she won't open her gifts in front of us. We're all crying because, once again, we have bumped our heads against an ending.

All week I've been crying.

And she's been crying.

And then Revi cries because we're crying and Fable cries because everyone is crying and eventually we're all crying and then we're laughing because we're crying and then we're crying again.

The girls don't understand when I tell them that in the mornings come next week and the week after that and all the weeks after that...  she won't be there anymore.

"Ta-ta go home and come back later?"

Next week she starts a new job with a new family and the week after that the twins start preschool full-time.

Tamara has been with us since Bo and Revi were two months old. Every morning at 6:55 (she has always been early) the front door would swing open and there she would be, crouched down in the hallway as half naked babes ran full force into her arms

"Ta-ta here!" (The girls have called her Ta-ta since they began to talk and couldn't pronounce Tamara so now we all call her Ta-ta.)

"Good morning, Bo-Bo. Good morning, Revi."
And then, while I was getting Archer and Fable ready for their day, she was getting the twins ready for theirs. Five days a week. Seven hours a day.

And, just like that, she's off...

And it hurts.

Even though we'll still see her (because, of course) and she'll always be in my kids lives (because, of course), the nanny gig is a heartbreaking one. I don't know how one can go about loving that hard and then leaving that fast...

How do you do it?

"I love them like my own," she said to me as we sobbed like insane people into each other's shoulders this afternoon.

"I know you do. Thank you."

And I am so incredibly grateful. To Tamara and to all of those who work with small children through their infancy and toddlerhood, knowing that someday they will have to let them go... It is an incredibly selfless job and to all the nannies, I am hugging you. And to all the families, I am hugging you, too.

We knew today was coming since her first day with us but it doesn't make it any easier and I imagine it isn't easy for anyone, parent or professional, to say goodbye to family. 

It truly takes a village to raise our children and without Tamara these last two and a half years, I would have been lost. Which is exactly how I felt in her arms as she hugged me goodbye.

This rules. #LikeAGirl

I have always been a massive Lauren Greenfield fan. Her books Girl Culture and Fast Forward inspired me to take photography classes when I was eighteen, and pitch a book of photos and essays called "Abreast in LA" about breasts...  in Los Angeles. I was twenty years old and had just had my second breast reduction so I was feeling all of the feelings about breasts and body image and what it meant to carry boobs around as an Angeleno in the year 2000. So! I spent several months shooting photos of my friends and family members' boobs for the proposal and then interviewed everyone about how their breasts made them feel as women, young and old. It might have been slightly before its time, #freethenipple and although no publisher wanted to do anything with it, it was a pretty amazing experience sitting down with all of the women in my life, talking to them about their breasts, the good, the bad, the scarred...  It was a pivotal moment for me as a female person and it was Lauren Greenfield who made me want to document stories other than my own. (Thanks, Lauren.) Her voice and vision have always served as reminders of why the teenage voice is a powerful one. (To me, it's the MOST powerful. But I'll get into that some other time.)

So...  when this video came to my attention, this morning, and Greenfield's name was attached, I was already in. And then I watched it and watched it again and watched it one more time and felt all of the feelings and really hope you guys give it a few minutes of your time...

Full disclosure, #likeagirl is a campaign with/for Always (Yes, that Always.) but once again, as products continue to use their brands to support this kind of message, I'm all in. And no, this post is not sponsored.

Bravo to Lauren Greenfield and Always and everyone involved in #LikeAGirl. Can't wait to show this video to my kids when they get home from camp. Play on, ladies. 

Eat Well: The Mamas & the Pupusas

The following post was written by my mom, WWW. Thanks, mom!
The other day when I was gathering gluten free flours at the market to make America’s Test Kitchen flour blend, I spotted a bag of organic masa harina and thought to myself, “Hmmm… I‘ve never made homemade tortillas before.  That might be fun!”  So I bought the bag and made some tortillas to accompany our chile relleno dinner. I have no idea why I never have done this before…probably because I live in San Diego where authentic and delicious tortillas are everywhere. But I soon found that homemade tortillas are not only easy to make, they are light-years better than the standard processed tortillas you find in the store. Plus…you can make as many as you need.  (I am always throwing out tortillas because they come in big packages and I only need a few at a time and they get lost in the back of the refrigerator until they turn green.) 

Masa Harina is made from field corn, or maize, that has been dried, soaked in slaked lime (calcium hydroxide) to become hominy.  It is then dried again and ground into flour. This process turns the corn into dough when water is added so it can be shaped into tortillas. The liming process greatly increases nutrition by adding calcium and reacting with the corn to create a digestible form of niacin.

After my first attempt at making tortillas, I looked for other masa harina recipes.  It turns out that, once again, America’s Test Kitchen came through with a recipe for pupusas, which is a traditional dish from El Salvador. Basically a pupusa is a stuffed tortilla and is served with curtido, a cabbage salad.  You can stuff pupusas with cheese, meat, or beans. They are really easy to make and are FUN to prepare with kids. (Traditionally, loroco flowers are added to the cheese filling which can sometimes be found at Latin markets.) Children can participate in all steps of the cooking…adding water to the masa, kneeding it, making the “pinch pots,” adding the stuffing, and rolling out the pancakes. Pupusas were a BIG hit with the kids when I came up last week for Rebecca's birthday.
photo 1 (98) At the Calder + Van Gogh to Kandinsky exhibits at LACMA. Highly recommended!

Note: If you are trying to stay away from GMOs and Roundup, buy organic masa, as 90% of corn grown in the US is genetically modified, specifically “Roundup Ready.”

Basic Pupusa recipe
2 cups masa harina
1 1/3-2 cups warm water (roughly)
pinch of salt

Add warm water to masa (start with 1 1/3 cups) and stir until completely combined.  Kneed until smooth.  
If too sticky, add more masa. If too dry, add more water.  (It should feel like play dough.)  Cover bowl with plastic or a clean towel and let stand for 30 minutes.

Form the dough into 8 balls, about 2 inches in diameter. Make a pocket in each ball with your thumb and add about a tablespoon of filling. 
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Pinch the ball closed, making sure none of the filling leaks out.  Either pat the dough back and forth in your hands or roll with a rolling pin between two pieces of plastic until the dough makes a disk about ¼ inch thick. (I put it in baggies for the kids to flatten with their hands.)
Heat a lightly oiled heavy pan (preferably cast iron) until hot on medium high.  Cook pupusas, 2 at a time,  for 2-3 minutes on a side, or until lightly browned.  Serve with curtido. (Keep warm in the oven by covering with aluminum foil.)

Cheese Filling

About 6 oz Queso Fresco 
(or Monterrey jack cheese)

Optional additions:  beans, roasted and peeled Anaheim peppers, loroco flowers, squash flowers, chopped cilantro, thinly sliced scallions, chili powder to taste, lime juice…or whatever your imagination can come up with!

Curtido (Tangy cabbage slaw)

1/2 cabbage, shredded
1 carrot, shredded
½ onion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
2 tablespoons cilantro
½ cup apple cider vinegar
¼ cup water
½ teaspoon brown sugar
½ teaspoon salt
pepper to taste

Mix together vinegar, water, salt, pepper, oregano and sugar.  Pour over vegetables and press down with a spoon to submerge.  Allow to sit in refrigerator or at room temperature for at least 4 hours. Serve with pupusas.
And if you simply want to make tortillas, follow directions for making pupusas but don’t stuff.
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And for all you dreamers out there, tonight...