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…

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Embracing Random…

There is a pink Littlest Pet Shop kitten cuddled up in the Virgin Mary’s lap. It is sharing a spot with baby Jesus, vying for the most coveted spot in the nativity scene. And I found presumptuous Her when I was picking up the umpteenth dozen leftover toy there in the fireplace room tonight, toys which I fondly refer to as The Remains of the Day.
There were also lumps of potato under a chair in the kitchen, but who’s really taking notes?

You see. I have come to realize that my life is just not as picture perfect as I thought it was. As I’d like it to be. That is, there are details in my life that are a bit off kilter. I’d like to think that everything is compartmentalized JUST SO- with everything and everyone in my circle of being falling into place. But of course, this just isn’t the case. And I know that life isn’t perfect. I know that. That we all can’t have our own way most of the time- that life is messy and chaotic. And pretty is as pretty does.

But, I am talking here about just keeping up to the status quo. To Pinterest and facebook statuses, to be precise. (That was partially a joke.) Sometimes I feel like my life is that Littlest Pet Shop- trying to fit in and look normal when really it just doesn’t belong there.

Today, I thought I would seize the day- seize the moment, that is. We were home because of a very poor Board decision to send children to school for an hour and a half and then send them home again (‘nuff said). Which is to say that today was a storm day of sorts. So, in the late afternoon- after I had done my inside baking and meal prep, I decided to go out and take pictures of my children frolicking in the freshly fallen snow. Think primitive Pinterest decorating ideas meet hardcore Mill River winter.

I grabbed the camera and made a run for it. Seize the day. Seize the moment. So I got the kiddos to pose against our blue barn with the wreath in the background. I snapped. I thought I was brilliant for thinking of such an idyllic location. That is, until I realized that all the pictures have a strand of stray lights trailing down the barn walls beside my daughters. Cute. If you like random.

Kind of like the time I left the staffroom bathroom with toilet paper trailing behind my outfit.

I would love to think that I can be that picture perfect idea I have in my head but the truth is: I am not that pulled together. I am too impulsive, too slap-dash, too eclectic. And it is my own fault- I am a Jackie of too many trades. I don’t take time to master many of them.

So today, I baked with each of my four children in a spurt of motherhood greatness (because something I read the other night on Facebook caused me to feel very guilty for being so uptight in the kitchen, so to prove to myself that I can let loose and let my kids make a mess- I let all FOUR make their very own Christmas treat.) ‪#‎whatwasithinking‬

When the two batches of cookies lay waiting on the counter-top waiting to be glazed and my Son remarked, “Wow, those actually don’t look too bad, Mom.” (As in: “Every other batch of cookies you have EVER made, and I do mean EVER- has utterly and completely flopped, Mother Dearest”). I just knew then and there that it was time to embrace my inner Random.  The inner Crazy inside me. That girl who really is my true self. The One who ruins most of her baking. Who has a hard time seeing her kids through the lens of a camera (#nearsighted), let alone focus it. The girl who is late for pretty much everything in her life and who also happens to have pink Littlest Pet Shop kittens as part of her traditional manger scene.

That girl.

She’s me.  She’s random. She’s definitely a little loopy.  But I kinda like her anyway.

When Enough is the Right Amount…

I realized something today as I silently watched from that safe distance afforded one when the other is unaware. I watched as my husband tickled our daughter, her infectious giggles urging him to do more of the same. And as I watched, I knew for sure what I’d never known before.

I don’t love my daughter like he does. In fact, I don’t love any of our four children in the same ways he does.

And up until now, this fact has scared me. Has convinced me that I am not a good mother. That I don’t love enough, project enough, relax enough, offer enough or have enough. I therefore am not enough. Or rather, I am not a good enough mother.

(oh, these lies we tell ourselves…)

We mothers are good at playing that comparison game with ourselves pinned up alongside other mothers — holding ‘us’ up to ‘them’, vis-à-vis the standards we see for motherhood all around us. And that alone is enough to stifle a mother’s self-esteem. But when it is our own partner to which we compare and contrast ourselves — and within the elusive Other we see traits so unlike our own. To which we say, “I don’t do what s/he does, so therefore I must not be as good a parent.”

It is one of the hardest pills of self-depreciation to swallow.

My Husband is a wonderful dad. He is relaxed and fun. He is the more likely of us two to sit down and cuddle with the children. He loves watching kid movies. He is the one most apt to let the kids make a mess. He is the one whom is least stressed, least uptight and least tidy. He is patient, calm and easy-going.

Of course, I am the exact opposite. And then some.

I am more likely to do everything but stay calm. I am perfectionist to a fault. I am uptight, fidgety and extremely tidy. I am trying to adopt patience as a possibility, but so far it hasn’t been working out quite like I’d hoped. Forget about easy-going (not happening…).

But as much as I have wanted to be more like him and adopt some of these fine qualities as my own character traits, I am who I am. And I am more than all this.

I am more than the sum of some of my personality parts.

I am a champion for my children. When any one of my four children is scared or suffering or sad or feeling isolated, I am the first one to sense it. A mother’s fifth sense — discernment and understanding: it is mine to own. So that when my children are frustrated, I am innately in-tune with their thoughts and feelings. And if they are under any kind of emotional or physical threat or attack, no matter the degree, I am the one who knowingly runs to their rescue. I am the one who has held them with protective, fierceness: held the growing body with gangly legs of my six-year old who wraps her little arms around my neck through to the manly body of my boy almost 13. I am a mama bear when it comes to my kids.

I am: the most likely to be confrontational if my kid’s well-being is at stake: because I would fight for them. To the death. I go to bat for them on the little and big issues. And you can be assured that if they are hurting, so am I. I will fight to correct that hurt for them. I will do what I have to do.

I am: imperfectly perfect at being the mother my children need. I know my flaws, but I know my strengths as well. And I find my strength in being an advocate, a protector and a warrior as it concerns my children.

I am that iconic grizzly bear mama — and you will certainly hear me roar.

Is my love exactly like that special love they have found in their father? No. Do I love our four children the same ways as does he? Undeniably, no. But I do love them with intensity and with passion. It’s just that I love using a different fact of love than he does. And different is neither bad nor good.

It’s just unique.

My friend commented recently to me that she felt she doesn’t love her children as much as she thinks she should. And I told that while she may think she does not love them like she thinks she should, she still loves them enough.

Because different also doesn’t mean more or less. It just means enough. And enough is just exactly the right amount.

More Than I Can Imagine…

I was dreading it.  One more obligation.  One more thing to do.  And although I believe the mantra ‘we can do hard things’, there are times when I just want an easy thing.  One.easy.thing.   Amidst all the hard things in life.  All those things that pull me eight ways to Sunday.

And as I sat there thinking self-defeating thoughts, mentally beating myself up again for all my inadequacies and inabilities.   God just lifted it.  The cloud.  He lifted it.  Physically- as if before my very eyes.    As if a torrent of rain had been falling and quite by sudden, a sunburst had appeared.  For the storm was over.  And I knew.

God doesn’t call us into a spirit of fear.  Of guilt.  Of hopelessness.

He calls us to empowerment.  To love and capability.  And He isn’t standing over us shouting out orders, reminding us again and again of all our failings.  Of all the ways in which we haven’t added up.

And He isn’t trying to dream up more hard things for me to do.

He’s there to do the hard things for me.

He is there to ease the load.  Lighten the weight.  He is there to take me as I am, where I am.  As is.  And love me all the more for my weakness.

And He’s there to do more.  So much more.  Than I could ever begin to imagine.

Joyful in God’s hand of protection…

Little girls should never have to worry when they fall asleep at night.

Mine is sweetly sleeping, her hair a cascade of gold fanning her pillow.  Moments like this one are precious.  Cherished.

Minutes ago, she came padding down the stairs, wearing those fuzzy jammies with the puppies on them that are so cuddly after a bath.  There are worry lines written across her forehead.

“Mommy, can you lay down with me for a while?”

I am busy, and truth be told, I just want to sit and decompress after a draining day at work.  But instead of sitting, I am doing the dishes.  The housework seems so pressing just now.  The crumbs under the table, coffee stains on the counter, left-over potatoes still waiting to be scraped into a plastic container.

I sigh.  Then, I tell her to go back to bed.  I feel guilt almost immediately because this I know for sure: little girls should never have to worry when they fall asleep at night.

I go back up the stairs, and make my way into the dark room.  She is sniffling, her head turned, facing the wall.  I sit down beside her on the bed.  I am still feeling a bit miffed, as this extra visit was not part of tonight’s game plan, but I try to exercise patience.

“What is it,” I ask in as tender a voice as I can muster.  Can she sense my impatience?

She confides in me.   She is worried that when she falls asleep, we will leave, and she will be all alone in the house without a father or mother.

The impatience washes away, even though I know that she should know better.  What reason have I ever given her to feel this way?  But, she does feel fear, and I will validate her feelings, however unreasonable.

“Mommy and Daddy would never leave you,” I say, my voice softening.  “We will never leave you.”

I pivot so that I am now laying down next to her.  I reach my arm out and draw her close to me.  She is still whimpering, but I sense her relief in my embrace.  It is confirmation and assurance all wrapped up in one warm motion.   I hug her tightly and stroke her hair.  I gently reprimand myself: she should never have to worry when falling asleep at night.

Little girls, much like my own, are falling asleep tonight all over the globe.  Some, like my own, have been loved and patiently tucked in to make sweet dreams of bright tomorrows.   Their worries are brushed away with a gentle manner and kind touch.  Others have not been so blessed.  Their fears and worries much greater than that of my own dear child.   Worries for some of dangers that are real and present.  Fear that hovers in the dark.  Fear that isolates and shames.  Fear that destroys a little girl from one day becoming the woman she was meant to be.

This I know for sure: whomever the little girl, and whatever her life, little girls should never have to carry worry with them into the night.    God bless and watch over our precious little girls.