HI. Two notes. To the bunch of new subscribers I got since #92, 3 kids 1 swab: Thank you for subscribing! “Welcome.” A number of you came via Emily Gould’s recommendation — thank you, as always, to Emily for being such a generous supporter of other people’s writing. A bunch of others of you came from some single source, but I’m not sure which one (let me know?). I hope you’ll like the newsletter, even this issue.
Also, I am writing a feature for New York magazine about families and sleep. If you have thoughts and might want to talk to me for the piece, please fill this out.
I think often think of, I believe it was Jess Grose’s husband (can’t find the tweet but h/t) who said that waking up in the morning when you have small kids is like being shot out of a cannon.
I long resisted waking up before my kids, but then I realized that my weekday “routine” had come to consist of hiding under the covers for as long as possible, wallowing in dread, and then launching into instant yelling, all the while too blind to find “daytime pants.” After awhile you just start to wonder if there is a better way.
So a couple months ago, I resolved to start getting up way before everyone else. The kids are not allowed to come downstairs until seven, although they are often awake and banging around a little bit before then. I try to be up at 5, but I usually still end up lying in dread under the covers for a bit. I do my 15-minute Momma Strong workout — Courtney is the closest thing I have to a therapist, she’s a good one, I cry in at least two workouts a week and I’m always scrawling on our whiteboard lines of hers like “Does this build me up or tear me down?”1 Then I make lunches and fill out daycare Covid attestations and stuff.
I wouldn’t call it “me time” or something, though I did call it that once when Hugh came downstairs at six and I was lying on my exercise mat just kinda staring at my phone and I said “HUGH THIS IS ME TIME. I NEED THIS TIME TO BE PACKING LUNCHES.” But it is time when I am alone. I guess I would also be alone, kind of, if I were sleeping, but it turns out I need to be consciously aware of the fact that I am alone for there to be any benefit.
A lot of the parents I’ve talked to so far for this piece have talked about something like this. It’s either the “revenge bedtime procrastination” thing, staying up really really late after the kids are asleep, or it’s my “revenge early rising” thing. I’m not sure why revenge has to be part of it but it’s an integral part.
I go to sleep early, I’m getting a lot of sleep, but my brain is nonetheless not good right now.
Like I gave Ruth, our hamster, a whole ton of bedding and she’s built herself an elaborate burrow with a little tunnel that goes from her food dish through a hidey toy and in to bed. I have also been super delinquent in changing her cage and I mentioned to Alice that I needed to clean it.
“Mom, don’t! You’ll destroy her home that she made!”
I was like, “She can rebuild it!” and then almost started to cry. I probably won’t change her cage for another couple months or so.
Also, Cambridge Public Schools are going masks-optional on Monday and when I told the kids that starting Monday they could decide what they wanted to do, Alice said she might wear a mask “half of the days of the week.”
Then she said, “I’m going to save a mask, so that I can talk to my kids about the Covid of 2019 one day. Like you did with polio.”
There was a lot going on there but unfortunately this tweet came to mind immediately:
It’s not great, having this immediate fear that your children’s futures are gonna be dark. And my fear basically feels like a luxury item, self-indulgent, not even the real thing.
Obviously my second thought was “Haha wait how old do you think I am?”
Well, old enough to be making barks. Barks n’ brittles. The white moms of the internet “crack” food genre.
“This recipe has a lot of different names. The one that I see the most is Christmas Crack. Definitely an odd name but it makes sense after you try this ‘candy.’ You won’t want to stop eating it. It’s deliciously addictive! In a good way, not a bad way,” per Making Memories With Your Kids.
Come on now, let’s just call these recipes what they are, which is: Sweet/salty, broken into jagged pieces, made with a lot of butter.
The two recipes below also have other things in common, like: Easy, sheet pan, everyone loves, sturdy enough to throw in your bag when the apocalypse comes.
Chocolate Chip Cookie Brittle
This is adapted from Shauna Sever’s Midwest Made. Browning the butter takes only a couple minutes more and makes it seem all sophisticated (I think I could get away with selling this in Cambridge as “savory cookies”), but you can also just use regular melted butter.
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled or browned and cooled
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 cups (256 g) all-purpose flour
1 cup (170 g) chocolate chips
Position a rack to the center of the oven and preheat it to 350°F. Have a 12x17" sheet pan ready.
In a large bowl, whisk together the melted or browned butter and vanilla. Add the sugar and salt and continue to whisk until the mixture thickens and appears pastelike. Switch to a wooden spoon or spatula and mix in the flour. Stir in the chocolate chips. Press the mixture into the ungreased pan in a thin, even layer. I leave out the nuts that this recipe originally calls for, and I’ve never been able to get it to spread across the entire pan; I just press it out as thin as I can.
Bake for 23 to 25 minutes, or until light golden brown (the edges will be a bit darker than the center), rotating the pan 180 degrees every 7 to 8 minutes during baking. Let cool, then break into pieces.
Graham Cracker shan’t-be-calling-it-Christmas-Crack Toffee
There are a lot of versions of this recipe on the internet. Around the holidays, I made like 8 different pans of it, ostensibly to give away as gifts, and settled on this one as the best.
A box of graham crackers
2 sticks butter (salted is fine, possibly better)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
Toasted pecans (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a 12x17" sheet pan with parchment paper. Put as many full graham cracker “sheets” as you can fit across the pan, it’s usually like 13-14 and then I break some into quarters to line the bottom edge.
Combine the butter and sugars in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring, for 4 to 5 minutes. It’s cooked enough when it’s light caramel brown and bubbly and thick, but you’re not heating it all the way to a hard toffee here. The internet recipes vary widely and wrongly here; just listen to me on this. Pull it off the heat and, working quickly2, pour the bubbling butter/sugar mixture evenly across the graham crackers, using a spatula to spread it.
Bake for 8 minutes.
Pull the sheet out of the oven and scatter the chocolate chips across the crackers, then use an offset spatula to spread the melted chocolate evenly.
If you’re using toasted pecans here, which I am probably not, you can now sprinkle those across the top of the chocolate. I also like to crush some sea salt flakes and sprinkle those across it too.
Chill it, then break it into those jagged pieces. You can keep it in the freezer and eat it straight out of there, if you like.
Alice was being mean to Hugh and I was like, “ALICE! Is this building you up or tearing you down?” and she goes “It’s building me up, because fighting with Hugh feels good.”
Sometimes I ask myself the same question. I’ll be, like, NextDoor threads on Cambridge bike lanes. I read them, seething, and then I’m asking myself “Come on now, does spending time doing this build you up or tear you down” and my brain is answering, “You mean, at this precise moment? Because…”
“Working quickly” is my absolute least favorite instruction in any recipe. I added it here solely so that I could write this footnote. When I see these two words in a recipe, my heart literally starts pounding. Every time. I guess let’s be honest here, you don’t want to like take so much time spreading the butter and sugar that it starts to harden, but it’s not as if it’d be such a tragedy if that did happen. The term “tragedy” here is relative.