My friend Jes taught me to make risotto 17 years ago in her family’s little cabin in Wisconsin.
We had traveled there with our friend Tabitha and our 3 babies for a girls weekend (plus infant plus-ones), and Jes had planned dinner, but then needed to nurse her daughter – and so she gave me directions from the couch while The Rolling Stones played in the background.
Although I’m Italian, we never had risotto growing up.
I knew basically what it was, though, so as I stood at the little stove I fretted – the the rice soup in front of me wasn’t doing what it was supposed to do.
“Just keep stirring,” Jes commanded, and I did, and eventually something magical started to happen.
Later, I heard Alton Brown talk about trying risotto for the first time as a child. He was convinced it had to contain heavy cream.
Just rice couldn’t create the smooth texture of risotto, right?
Risotto is kind of a miracle.
But it’s a slow miracle.
Last week, when it snowed again, I became temporarily convinced that spring is just not going to happen this year. That maybe it will just snow until July, and then it will be so steamy and terrible, that we’ll all wish we could go back to flurries and 40s.
But as I head out on my daily walk, I see little signs here and there – a robin, a green sprout of something.
A confused daffodil.
Yesterday, a little girl in a cosmos-patterned dress and helmet, riding her bike.
We all know, somewhere deep inside, that eventually weather will change. It will get warmer, then cooler, then we’ll want snow for Christmas and not much after that (unless you are a ski person.)
I didn’t do this on purpose, but these days when I think of something, I have to do it or write it down. Otherwise it becomes air + yet another nagging worry that I’m forgetting something.
I spend a lot of time lately worrying about how much I’m forgetting. So I take fish oil and do Wordle and tell myself again and again that this is a result of the last two years.
But back to the cap – my oldest is graduating, and I’m listening to Landslide and I normally don’t do things like that to myself.
It’s best right now if I focus on tasks (order a cap, order a cake, print 18 years of photos) and not on the enormity of what’s happening – that my son is graduating, and then leaving for college.
It’s better to choose balloon colors and send invites than to consider that next year at this time, he’ll be in another city – that he’ll have a separate life and that maybe, if I am lucky, he’ll choose to keep me apprised of what is appropriate for a mom to hear.
I think most graduations feel big, but homeschool graduations have an extra layer of delicious Raspberry Relief tucked in between the spongy white cake layers of Thank God.
This was never a sure thing.
The older I get the more I realize how few guarantees there are in life, and a homeschool graduation was never promised.
Most of the time, I was sure I was failing in some giant way – not pushing math, not buckling down on Geography.
My biggest fault was always that I was too easy on my kids, and now I’m glad because they still seem to like me and somehow we’ve met all the goals anyway, enough for the first kid to graduate and get into the college he wanted to go to most.
But today I’m thinking of all the time I spent worried – it was making risotto for 15 years straight.
“I’m not a chef,” I told myself constantly. “Who told me I could do this?”
Last night I made risotto for dinner.
I know every step now. It’s autopilot. I zest my lemon and the little yellow curls land right in the cup I used to measure my rice.
That’s how it goes when you’ve done something for so long – you figure out all the short-cuts and ways to keep clean-up at a minimum.
Maybe in a few years, I’ll feel confident enough to tell you that’s what I did with homeschooling my kids – that my method wasn’t about my own grand failings, but instead about finding a way that worked for us – (shortcuts + minimizing emotional clean-up.)
But I’m not there yet.
I have realized that separate from homeschooling, our kids are like seasons – they are going to grow and change and in so many ways, we have so little control.
It’s better that way – I promise.
Letting your children grow into themselves is the way to go – this I know for sure.
(I know it’s tempting to control and push. You’ll want to make them cut their hair for the photo and force them to wear a little outfit you picked out, but if you do that, you’ll just find yourself years later looking back on manufactured memories.)
So why not let go now just a little, and have faith that they are becoming who they are meant to be and know that really, that has a lot less to do with you than you want …
And then with homeschooling, consider risotto.
You have to attend the pan pretty much the whole time. But it’s not as complicated as it seems.
You add some butter or oil and shallots.
You measure the rice and stir.
You carefully add stock and stir some more.
Salt and pepper.
(Lots of pepper.)
Maybe asparagus or peas. (If you wanted mushrooms you should have put those in at the beginning, but it won’t be so bad if you add them a little late).
The more you make it, the more you’ll realize the exact moment to toss in some cheese …
I will tell you –
many, many times I have made mistakes in this process –
never once have I had to toss out a batch of risotto.
Because now I know the secret:
Just keep stirring.
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