I can usually hear the footsteps the second the feet hit the ground. A tiny body sliding out of her giant bed, stepping around the dog sleeping on the floor, blankets and Tiger in hand. She sometimes opens the blinds, the creak of the roller a dead giveaway, just to make sure it's morning. Then she stomps down the hall. It sounds like stomping, even though she barely weighs 30 pounds. Her hand grasps the knob on the door to my room. A short turn and she peeks in. If she sees me awake she quickly pops in the room, slams the door behind her, props her crap on the bed, and climbs in.
She usually doesn't say a word. Not until she is settled and snuggled beside me. Her face is glowing with a morning smile and she practically purrs with delight. We lay like that for a what is probably only seconds. Then she pops her head up.
"Mama, can we bake today?"
One year ago I marked my first day as a stay at home parent. My husband left for work, to return more or less almost 4 months later. I was thrust into the role of full-time parent with no regular paycheque. It was an initiation, almost hazing, that no college student would ever survive. 24 hours a day, alone, with my kids.
Being home with my kids was never a reality I imagined. I was going to either save the world or make a lot of money working hard. For a while I thought I could combine the two. Then these little creatures emerged, growing with me, and encouraging a sense of self I never knew was there. Our family changed and the needs of the whole outweighed my desire to save the world. Instead I needed to work on just saving us.
So, here I am. A year in. Much calmer now - most days - and still working on keeping us all sane. I've had to revise my own expectations about what can be achieved by the family and by me, in our time. I've also blown apart my own thoughts about the pleasure this would bring me and the peace it gives my husband. I still wonder what the hell I'm doing and I don't love it every day. But I like it. A lot.
In this past year I've developed a whole new relationship with the girls, worked to define this new thing with my husband, and searched for a balance to my own desires and goals. It's been HARD. And that's not counting the disappointments, struggles, grief, and disorder that the last year also brought.
And I wouldn't change a thing. As hard as this life is, it is better. Much, much better.
Peach pie, lemon cupcakes, muffins, scones, cookies, bread... We're baking it all. Practically something new every day.
The Monster isn't as thrilled with being in the kitchen as she used to be. If there is the prospect of chocolate she will join us. Otherwise, The Evil Genius pulls up her bright orange chair, rifles through the cupboard for her apron, and says to me, "So, what should we bake today, Chef?"
With the Monster starting Kindergarten this morning I see even more baking in my future. That kid will have the best snacks in her heart covered backpack. Full of love and most likely chocolate.
Nectarine, White Chocolate and Cardamom Scones
(adapted from the basic English Cream Scone recipe in the original Five Roses Flour cookbook)
Makes 16-18 kid-size scones
1 nectarine, chopped into 1/2'' chunks
3 ounces white chocolate, roughly chopped
2 cups flour (you can mix whole wheat with regular, but don't go 100% whole wheat)
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 cup cold butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp sugar
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment or a silicon mat.
Make sure your nectarine and white chocolate are chopped. Set aside.
Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and cardamom in a large bowl. Cut the butter into the flour. Frankly, we use our hands. 3 years olds are very, very good at this. You could also use a pastry cutter. Stir in the nectarine and white chocolate
Reserve 1 tbsp of egg whites in a small bowl, then beat the eggs with the cream. Add to the dry ingredients and mix well. The dough will be wet and sticky. Drop by heaping spoonfuls onto your prepared baking sheet. Leave 1'' between scones.
Brush the tops with reserved egg white and sprinkle with the sugar. Bake for 10-13 minutes until lightly golden.