Danny came home with a bag full of these baby lacinato kale bunches, and I immediately spilled them onto the black tray ($2.99 at Value Village) that I leave on our covered porch to take pictures. I was going to take a few more photos, looking at some of the leaves huddled into themselves, others cuddled into the next one, legs thrown over, sighing in their sleep.
But this was it. Slightly out of focus and not the angle I intended. Little Bean needed a nap, and she let us know that, in no uncertain terms.
I can’t wait until she can tell us, in full sentences, exactly what she needs. She talks all day, gobbling up words and throwing her hands wide into the air, showing she means all of this. All of this blue-sky-scoured-of-clouds day, the playground with the big slide, the trees with the bare branches swaying in the wind, the wind on my face, the cold air, the hunger in my stomach rattled by the movement, the need for cheese for cereal for grapes for anything mama I’m hungry, and I need to sleep. I’m tired I’m tired and I don’t want to go to sleep because I don’t want to miss any of this, Mama. I don’t want to miss any of this.
But she grows so frustrated when she can’t say it all. She has a lot to say, that one. We have awhile to wait. So we live in gestures and guesses, pointing and saying words out loud, hoping we have it right, until we hand her the C book from the alphabet set so she can point to the cat and tell us all about the tortoiseshell she saw on our walk. And then I let out my breath.
(thank you to all of you who suggested baby signs for her. she knows them. plenty of them. we’ve been teaching her those for months. they help. but this kid would love to speak in sentences and describe everything. her hands are frustrating her. she’s where she needs to be.)
Tell truth, I can only describe that kale up there in sleepy sentences. We’re sleep deprived around here, again. Or still. Little Bean, the clear light of our lives, has not slept well since her surgery in May. They said this might happen. We’re doing everything we can. Mostly, we stir our coffee with patient spoons, slowly, and then reach for another cup. We love her. We laugh most of the day, delighting in her company. We’ll endure.
But my god, some days? Some days I am dragging, near tears, and trying hard to find the light. With Danny working again, it’s me and this active toddler trying to tackle language, in the house. Thank goodness for early spring. We’re walking in the sunlight whenever we can.
Thank goodness this kid loves food. As the light wanes outside, I scoop out some brown rice from the rice cooker, set a sauté pan on high heat, pour in some olive oil, throw in some chopped-up baby kale, some sliced garlic, a pinch of smoked paprika, salt and pepper, then dance it around in the pan. Little Bean’s standing on a chair at the counter, near me, playing with spoons and measuring cups. We’re singing something — she’s starting to sing along. (“La la la?” she asks me, eyes wide, when she wants me to sing to her.) The green kale grows darker, and smaller, in the heat. I flip it in the pan, then land it on a saucer. A few moments to cool, and we’re sitting down to eat, the two of us.
She points to books she wants me to read while we eat. I pretend to gobble up my rice, and she wants more of it too. We both raise a piece of kale in the air, dangling high above our mouths, then drop it in. Yum, she says, rubbing her stomach at the same time. We laugh about something. I read more books. She eats more kale.
When I grab the little book full of M words, she makes the sound, then says Mama in her tender, sleepy voice. And she reaches out of her chair to put her hand on my chest, pat the place over my heart, and says Mama again.
She may not sleep. But she’s here.
We’d love to hear your stories about kale and how you cook it, who you share it with, and why.