{A post} In which I rant about supper…

I cannot put two coherent thoughts together tonight.

C.A.N.N.O.T.

Tired, disillusioned. Exhausted. Teary.

So bear with me. I may be on a rant.

Youngest Daughter and Oldest Daughter, within thirty seconds of one another asked me these two questions:

“I wish I could have a baby sister to play with after school…?” (because living in a circus apparently just isn’t enough fun for her)

“Mom, where is the hydrogen peroxide?” (because blond is the new brown—and she already used up my lemon juice on Sunday)

Be still my weary soul. I think I might be experiencing the onset of heart palpitations.  And possibly a fever.

Tonight, I made the decision: I will no longer be cooking (supper) in this house. That is, cooking supper tomorrow. Well, that’s a start anyway. That decision made after producing hockey puck-like biscuits and stinky fish chowder which I decided I would not be eating about 2.5 minutes after I had added the last ingredient. Husband is now looking for recipes. No reasonable dish containing hamburger will be refused.

I found myself this evening reheating the following and calling it supper:

*Two leftover plates of pork chops (one of which Second Youngest refused to eat on the weekend when she thought she had the flu).
*A huge dish of rice (which we barely scraped the surface of yesterday at lunch)
*A dish with exactly four miniscule slices of bar-b-q sausage in it, along with millions of red onions and green peppers. Yummo.
*Two garlic chicken cutlets (which I incidentally pulled out of the freezer, so they really don’t count in this list)
*One bowl of corn, and a smaller bowl of green beans
*Along with one fresh bowl of fish chowder which Youngest thought she wanted but took one taste of and realized otherwise.
Oh. And all that served with a generous plateful of hockey pucks, and a side of butter and jam to wash it all down with. That lessened the blow.

Delish.

(Not so much.)

So, I have hung up the proverbial apron.
This Chicky’s done (like dinner).
Your turn, my Sweet Chefsky.
Cannot WAIT to smell the sweet aromas wafting to my nostrils as I await my meal, from where I fold and stack patiently: the laundry room.
Or maybe I will just be snoring on the couch under a pile of children. Who knows? Decisions, decisions…

Let the good times roll.

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Making Donuts: The guilt and the pleasure

I have never before attempted making donuts.

They are too big a project- all those tricky steps, complicated instructions. Added to this, I have to admit: the real reason has always been that donut-making is too messy- the grease and flying fat. Yuck. And aren’t they too time consuming, don’t they have to be rolled in sugar, no less? And glazed? Ugh. Again, so many steps. So much bother. They really are just too complicated. Besides, they are the stuff of grandmothers and professionals- not a recipe for an amateur baker like myself to dabble in, a woman with more than a few projects on the go at any given time. A woman who really could be doing about thirteen other things right now- of more significance than this project, to be completely honest.

And furthermore, what’s so wrong with Oreos for dessert?

But it’s been decided: I am making donuts today if it’s the last project on the agenda for the weekend (it might well be at the rate I am going). And I am making these delectable little yummies mostly because I feel guilty.
Internal-guilty: (oh let me count the ways. I am a glutton for punishment, I am home today due to a storm- I might as well be busy, I haven’t baked in a while, I need to do something with the kids, there’s nothing to eat in this house…).

External guilty: (I just got off the phone with someone who is making baked donut-muffins; so, what do I do but feel I must go and bake too; in a friendly case of ‘one up-manship’ along with the fact that I cannot find the actual recipe I am looking for, I decide to make fried donuts, the old-fashioned way).
Guilty for the sake of feeling guilty: (it has been a loooong time since I baked anything delicious; which means I now have to over-do it and bake something delectably challenging- something as delicious as it is complicated).

Yes, I am feeling it. Guilty. Just plain old guilty. Guilt always has a curious way of motivating me to action, sad but true. But it does.

I enlist my Husband to secure me a bowl from the high cupboard. It is under a mountain of junk food. A precarious mountain that threatens to become an avalanche unless One more patient (and taller) than I takes measures to protect ‘said heap’ of treasured snacks. I have everything under the sun crammed into that pantry cupboard. I look longingly at the two granola bars I have to move out of the way first. These instant snacks are where it’s really at, so much simpler than this journey of dough and flour catastrophe I am about to initiate and embark on. I maneuver around the six bags of chips stacked on top of one another at random angles.

Yikes…

At which point, Husband comes to my rescue. He hands me a bowl, but it is much too small. I explain which bowl exactly and why, and he sighs. It is of course the aqua rimmed bowl at the bottom of everything. And I do mean everything. Eventually, the bowl is produced, while I find the bag of flour at ground level, behind my antique stove, where it has been preserved securely inside two grocery bags: in case mice get at it before I do. That’s how often flour gets noticed around here. By the mice.

And we are a go. I am ready to begin.

I quietly call a child to help share this journey into uncharted territories with me (because that’s really what this is all about- spending time with the children doing something productive, meaningful and memorable). Quietly I call a child over. Yes, QUIETLY. That’s because this mama can only handle one child in the kitchen with her at a time. Immediately, however, there is tension in the air as everyone hears the rattle of glassware and dishes in spite of my precautions, and they all come pouring into the kitchen wanting to help.

Just what I need to make the guilt levels ramp it up a notch. Great.
I negotiate. Distract. Plead, beg and nearly cry. And the Others not involved in the Project are finally sufficed with a promise from me that they’ll get to help next time. That is, in my next life. When I make donuts again.

We begin. I mean, really. We begin.

I set the recipe on the counter, and Daughter begins to stir melted butter and sugar. Eggs, milk and vanilla. It’s dreamy, actually- this mixture of yellow liquid froth and foam. Daughter looks almost entranced. I feel a sense of calm wash over me. Maybe this won’t be as bad as I thought.

We mix the dough. I add flour and so does she. The lard is on the stovetop and things are pretty much at that point of no return. As the Daughter who is helping is getting tired of stirring in flour, I recruit another child to take over where she left off. Actually, two others.

They pat down the dough with their fingers and make cut-outs with my donut maker. The flour puffs up in little bursts. Reminding me of steam.
Surprisingly, the atmosphere in the kitchen is one of calm and repose. It is almost cathartic, this process. And I even get Husband to help fry the dough.

We sit in to a brunch meal of eggs, sausages, toast, oranges and homemade donuts. And I decide: even though I began this process for all the wrong reasons, things have a way of working themselves around for good.
These donuts were well-worth the effort it took to make them. Well-worth the elbow grease and time. And right now, listening to quiet munching around the table, I also realize: some things in life are just better done the old-fashioned way.

(Although I could do without that little side-motivation of guilt…I’ll know better for next time).

And yes, Children: there really will be a next time. Scouts promise.

Now, where’s that bag of Oreos…

The Joy of Baked Concoctions…

I am standing in the entryway hanging up a coat that is covered in dog hair.  We started installing the wireless dog fencing system this afternoon, and poor little Lucky is now in her happy place.  Her kennel.  I must say, I have enjoyed her more since she started training than I ever did before.  The wireless shock collar seems to have quite literally done exactly what we expected and then some…the effect of which has made her even more dim-witted than she normally is.  After her training session, she appears calm and quiet, and I am presently reconsidering all the ill-will and negative thoughts I have sent her way up until this afternoon. Not the least of which, many of those thoughts having been channeled the other day when Husband chased her a half an hour before work on the road in front of our house.  She stopped traffic going in both directions while Hubby ran wildly around cars passing slowly in front of our home.  I was in the house pretending like I didn’t know what was going on.

Perhaps shock treatment will scare the stupid out of her.  One can only hope.

I say all that to say this.  It has been a long day, and I want nothing more right now than to collapse in a chair, pull a pillow over my face and perhaps scream a little or maybe just pass out.  Whichever comes first.  As it is 6:00 p.m., I am sensing the pressing need to unwind and then start gearing up for another work week.  Just as I turn to head through the door to the kitchen, my son comes in the side door behind me.

“Can we make cookies?” he asks.

I pause.  I am all ready to start in on a litany of reasons why I cannot possibly do so tonight.  One good reason being my kitchen is spotless, and I really don’t feel like creating a kitchen disaster zone at this time of the night.

“Not tonight,” I say brusquely.  And then, I pivot so I can look at him while I take a deep breath and ready myself to give a two-minute spiel on Why One Does Not Allow Children In The Kitchen After Supper To Cook.  That is, until I see his face.  And in particular, I see that sad look in his eyes that is piercing my heart with emotional daggers.  It breaks me every time.

“Okay,” I say hesitantly.  I am still not quite committed to the idea of flour tossed all over my spotless kitchen and smeared chocolate chips on my white appliances.

“You’re the best, Mom,” he says quickly.

I concede to him the victory, and we dig out the recipe scratched out on a piece of loose leaf paper written in my son’s hand.

The recipe was invented the other day when Son spent some time in the kitchen with his five male cousins.  His dear Aunt allowed the boys to concoct and cook a recipe of their own selection from which something edible would hopefully arise.  I must remember to thank her for this later.  She has one million mommy-brownie points now in my book.  They devised a recipe for Chocolate Chip Cookies.  With extras.  It calls for 1 ½ teaspoons of flour and a cup of marshmallows.  The recipe ingredients are also part of the reason why I am not really excited for this little baking adventure to begin.  You get the picture.

However, because I have already played the role of villaness several times today, I am feeling quite generous.  I dig out everything on his list.  In lieu of chocolate syrup, of which he needs a few tablespoons, I create a blend of Quik chocolate milk powder and hot water, which I proceed to stir up chemist style in a little ceramic dish.

I feel like the bomb.

We work together.  Side by side, we mix, stir and eventually bake.  I try to avert my eyes when he forgoes using a spoon to lift the batter onto the cookie sheet and instead opts to use his fist.  All I can think of are dirty fingernails and extremities being licked.  Nevertheless.  We manage to get most of the batter onto a cookie sheet and into the oven.

And when they are all baked and ready to serve, what a marvelous delight to share a cookie with a boy who had the ingenuity to create, prepare and cook a special treat that he could share with his family.

When Son initially thanked me for baking with him, he told me that I was very kind.  In other words, I was being “nice”.  Normally, I accept these compliments with a rueful smile and a bit of gratitude.  But tonight, I felt a little put off by the comment.

Now, I realize that part of being a mom is doing things with your children.  It’s expected.  But, I also realize that we moms don’t always want to do everything kids suggest to us that might pop into their adorable little heads.  That would not only be exhausting but also feasibly unrealistic.  However, when we do choose to give a little, we are showing our kids that they matter to us.  And that the world is about making a difference.  Sometimes that difference is sacrificing what we want in the interest of making others happy.  Sometimes it is not.  But let’s be serious.   Sacrificial love is what most moms do best.  We’re hardwired for that kind of thing.

However, I was a little disconcerted when my son told me tonight that I was “kind” for having chosen to do what he wanted.  That is, mess up my clean kitchen, er…I mean bake up a couple batches of made-from-scratch cookies.  For how it made me feel was this: I am kind, or “nice” in my child’s eyes when I choose to do what he wants.  But if I had chosen NOT to bake with him, I would not be kind.  In other words, the evidence of kindness is dependent on how well I please someone else, in this case, my son.

I replied in this manner.    I told him that I wished he would see me as being kind, whether I chose to do exactly what he wished, or whether I did not.  In either scenario, I would still be kind.  For kindness is an overriding quality that does not always have to please to be made manifest.  It sometimes chooses rather to support and discipline.  At other times it seeks to correct.  And other times still it even chastens.  Kindness is not weakness that gives in.  It is strength that can withhold, suppress and even deny.

However, because I love my child, I can act in grace.  Grace can be confused with “being nice” because it has many of the same qualities.  Grace is undeserved favor or kindness.  Kind of like my Father generously gives me from a heart of love.  And grace is something that I try to model for my own dear children as often as I can.

Because at the end of the day, my children will remember grace-filled acts of kindness more than they will remember a denied request.  Those denials happen from time to time.  We moms are only human.  And so are kids.  But grace and love, coupled with gentle discipline and instruction, can be our overriding response in how we deal with our children’s requests.

And when it is, we all win.