I'm going to try to be okay with failure. Just writing that resolution down makes me pause a bit. See, this year's resolution is unlike any of years past. Every year, my resolutions have been consistently similar and always along the lines of work harder, achieve this, accomplish that. To resolve to embrace failure seems completely unnatural when you're the immigrant child of immigrant parents and the desire and expectation to succeed is hardwired in your very being.
See, we ended 2013 with what I thought was a giant failure. On Christmas day, we embarked on a 3-day intensive plan to potty train Little Man. We were ridiculously ready and might I add, a bit gung-ho. We'd read all the manuals, lined the floor of the playroom, and decorated an enormous jar for reward M&Ms. Oh, and we had a giant supply of the world's cutest Mickey Mouse underwear. A few days beforehand, the Hubster and I would say delusional things to each other like, "Little Man is super smart, I'm sure he'll totally get it." In short, we were ready to show potty training who was boss.
On Day 5 of the 3-day intensive plan, after countless tantrums, clean ups, and bribes, things began to break down. All three of us were tired, annoyed, and in serious need of our third baths of the day when the Hubster convinced me that we had to stop the insanity. Little Man wasn't ready. Whether it was because he understood and didn't want to or because he just didn't understand yet, he clearly wasn't ready. And we were driving each other bonkers by going through the same cycle over and over hoping for a different outcome. So we gave Little Man a bath, and put him back in diapers and favorite footie pajamas with the red fire trucks, and rocked him to sleep.
Then the Hubster and I sat in silence with our legs on the coffee table and powered through a container of Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Fudge Brownie. And because that only sort of helped, we worked our way through a container of Peanut Butter Cup. And only then was I ready to talk. I was bummed we'd spent five precious days of vacation with no measurable result. I kept hoping Day 6 or Day 7 would get us there. I had no idea when we'd have the time to try this again. How would we handle two babies in diapers? What could we have done differently?
There were no answers. Only an overwhelming sense of failure (and a whole lot of dirty laundry). So we sat there some more. We may or may not have eaten a third container of ice cream. The next morning, Little Man woke up at 6 a.m. like he always does except we were able to bring him to our bed like we used to because we were no longer afraid of accidents. We showered relaxedly without one of us guarding Little Man. We made French Toast and ate it on our fabric-lined dining chairs, with the sun pouring through the windows. And we laughed, the Hubster and Little Man easily, me still a bit grudgingly.
Once we finally abandoned the potty training, we had a lovely vacation where we tried to cram in 8 days of adventures into the remaining 3. We went out for pizza, played at the children's museum, zoomed down the big slide at the park, ate far too many hamburgers, and on a day when Little Man went to visit his grandparents, the Hubster and I saw our first movie in a theater in years. But every now and then, throughout the fun and ridiculously sunny December days, I would think of how we'd failed. I remained convinced we'd given it our all. Gosh, we had so given it our all but truth be told, that failure still stung.
There was no denying that we were so much happier and those 3 days of diapers were eons better than the 5 diaper-less days before. I kept reminding myself of that when I thought about how we'd failed. So I made soup because there's something therapeutic about soup. Take this Beef & Barley soup, perfectly hearty with creamy barley and all those vegetables that you need at the start of a new year. Brown the beef, watching the edges of each piece take on the right amount of golden color and just the right bit of char. Toss in the rest of the ingredients, pour on the broth, and wait until it all comes together, almost magically. In short, soup's a great way to come to terms with failure. And more importantly, to resolve to try again in a few months.
12 cups of beef broth
1 pound beef steak, cut in cubes
1 cup chopped onions
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped peas
½ cup chopped celery
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup pearled barley
1 cup tomato sauce
3 tbs. tomato paste
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. thyme leaves
2 tablespoons oil
Salt and Pepper
In a large dutch oven, add oil and brown beef cubes. Pour off half of the fat. In the remaining fat, add garlic and cook for approximately one minute until garlic is golden. Add the remaining vegetables, tomato sauce, and tomato paste, and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the beef broth, pearled barley, bay leaves, and thyme. Bring mixture to a boil, then lower heat, cover, and cook for 1-2 hours. In the last twenty minutes of cooking, I like to uncover and cook on high heat so the broth thickens up and takes on more of a delicious beef stew feel but you should feel free to skip this step if you like your soup more soupy. Season with salt and pepper.