DIY Days: Becoming a Modern Homemaker

10.06.09: Leo's 16th month


What a strange time to be a Mom. I see our lives more and more in terms of how they will fall into larger historical movements. I think of the picture I took of me and Leo in the voting booth last year, and I think about how our money-conscious "diet" schemes and my fears about the safety of mass-produced food will seem in hindsight—when the upshot of this recession, and the current activism around food has become clearer. Will Leo grow up thinking America is a powerful nation that the world looks to? Will he remember a childhood of worrying about grocery bills or of reveling in the simple pleasures of making good food at home?

So much of this bigger picture is utterly beyond us. But making things is within our reach. And it’s how we parent. It’s how Aaron and I have always thought about our lives—in terms of creativity, in terms of what we can create together—and it feels important to empower Leo with the sense that what you make is more important than what you have.

Our diet, which revolves around only eating food from home (as much as possible—we’re not zealots), is an interesting case in point. We’re not alone in cooking more, bringing leftovers for lunch more, and trying to stretch our food dollars more while still eating safe, wholesome food. In fact, I’m fairly certain we’re part of a very large movement.

Doing all this cooking isn’t just a trendy, fun approach though. It represents a massive change in the way we live our lives. I feel noticeably less free, on the one hand, because I can’t just throw up my hands on a busy day and say “eh, let’s get take-out for dinner!” or “let’s take Leo out for brunch!” Instead, as I spend more and more time in the kitchen each week, putting up food for the week, doubling recipes for the freezer, making my own chicken stock from the bones of every chicken we roast, and packing up meals for us all to eat when we’re out of the house, I feel…accountable. I’m not complaining. I like it, almost always. But you know, when you’re cooking, you can’t also be, say, playing with toy cars. Jogging. Or typing away on your laptop.

This shift in how I spend my time comes as work in the publishing world becomes rather less plentiful, and sometimes I wonder if we’re headed towards a moment when I will have more time to make things at home than I have any other kind of work.

When my mind goes in that direction, I think about the sewing machine gathering dust on my desk. And the cookbooks on our shelves, the big box of collage materials we add to every time a cool vintage magazine shows up at a yard sale, the cheese-making equipment Aaron gave me for my birthday, the canning jars in the basement… There are a lot of things I’d like to do, and while I hope that I won’t have to do them while worrying that we’ll all go hungry, I also hope that in one way or another we’ll continue to be a family that spends more time making things than we do staring at screens and rushing through life to get to the next appointment.

Last weekend we had warm days, perfect for a last trip to the park in shorts and sandals, and a last homemade popsicle. I opened the windows and went through old clothes, trying to keep up with the turn of the seasons and the speed with which Leo grows. As I went through our clothes, I found myself picking out not just useful keepers for another season, or another baby, but also cherished fabrics, like a pair of worn-out pajamas or a cheerful receiving blanket. Someday, I’m thinking, I’d like to work all the wonderful patterns of our life into a big, beautiful quilt. Then, we can look at what I’ve made, what we’ve made, and remember these times from the perspective of…whatever’s next.

Simple Berry-Yogurt Popsicles