A co-worker of mine had a baby a few weeks before our Bailey was born. In the last throes of her maternity leave, she decided to make the most of the break from work and her time off with her three kids.
Their final week together included, but was not limited to: swimming, finger paints, building epic forts, nail salons, coffee shops, visits with friends, cleaning rooms, chocolate desserts, super educational math games, meeting dad for lunch, picnics, tattoos, AND the baby’s first shots.
Now that I find myself counting down the days (not weeks) remaining in my leave, I thought of that mom.
I should do something special with the girls, I thought.
Something really big. Something that will leave an impact on us. Something that will make lasting memories.
We made muffins.
But First, You Should Know…
I am a type-A baker.
I lay out all the ingredients in a row before I start, in the order they’ll be used in the recipe. Everything has to be measured exactly. I’m neurotic about cleaning up every flour spill and drip of egg white as I go.
So me deciding to bake with a 5-year-old is a BIG DEAL.
Ty is much better about baking with Abby. When she spills on the counter, he laughs it off. He lets her try her hand at cracking eggs, even though that’s a guarantee of a distinct eggshell consistency in whatever you’re baking. He never measures.
When he’s baking, I have to leave the room.
Or risk losing my mind.
Our muffin morning was part making-the-most-of-our-time-together and part immersion therapy.
I’ve followed The Pioneer Woman for years, but purely to satisfy my food porn needs. I’ve never actually MADE one of her recipes.
Then I saw this on Pinterest:
Coated in butter and sugar and cinnamon – SOAKED in butter and sugar and cinnamon. Oh, yes.
As soon as the baby fell asleep for her morning nap, I methodically laid out my ingredients on the kitchen counter. I never remember to set out the butter well ahead of time to warm up to room temperature like you’re supposed to. So I was pretty smug about having remembered this time.
Then it was time to bake.
With the baby in a carrier on my chest, I called Abby into the kitchen.
First step? Measure the flour.
Abby: “Can I help?”
I tensed. Flour is THE messiest ingredient. I should just do it myself, I thought.
No, no. I caught myself.
This is about bonding.
“Okay,” I said.
I un-clinched my jaw. “Okay.”
She measured the flour. It got all over the counter. And the floor. And my shirt. And somehow, the baby’s mullet.
MUST. CLEAN. NOW.
But Bailey was starting to stir from her nap. I was on borrowed time. Flour cleanup would have to wait.
Next up: Mix the wet ingredients. While I had remembered to set out all the ingredients (even the butter!), I definitely had NOT remembered to get the heavy mixer out of the bottom cabinet.
I stared at that bottom cabinet. Glanced at the baby on my chest. Pictured myself squatting down to get the mixer and losing my balance, the 27-pound mixer colliding with the baby’s head. Wished I’d started that magical 10-minute workout a few weeks earlier.
I went for it.
And very soon after, said a bad word.
I heaved the mixer onto the counter with a battle cry worthy of Braveheart.
Me: “That’s really freaking heavy, that’s what.”
“Next time, just ask me to help.”
I sighed. I guess I could have done that – SHOULD have done that – instead of threatening the baby’s delicate soft spots with a 5-quart stand mixer.
Still, super annoying to be all logical about it.
A Teachable Moment
We rocked and rolled through the sugar, shortening, and eggs.
Then this: “Add flour mixture and milk alternately to creamed mixture, beating well after each addition.”
I handed Abby the measuring cup of milk and tasked her with pouring it in, which left the flour mixture for me.
I poured a quarter of the flour mixture into the mixer. Most of which spilled out the sides of the bowl and onto the counter.
“Dammit,” I said.
Abby: “That’s a bad word.”
Me: “I know.”
Abby: “You should’ve said ‘oopsa daisy’.”
Me: … (Which sounded a little like a grizzly bear gargling with honey.)
Abby poured some milk in. Didn’t spill a drop.
I ran the mixer and stared at the mounds of flour now surrounding me. The baby grunted and stretched against the carrier.
Me: “Okay, I’m tired of this. Let’s just pour the rest in.”
Abby: “But it said to do a little at a time.”
Me: “I know, but this is taking too long.”
Abby: “It’s not going to turn out good!”
Me: “It’ll be fine.”
(Note: I find that when your child is scheduled to start kindergarten in a month, it’s helpful to start reinforcing the concept of NOT following directions.)
We got the muffins in the oven, and I eyed that butter on the counter. It was definitely room temperature by now!
Then the Baby Screamed
The poor thing was overheating while being strapped to her unnecessarily stressed mom, working in a hot kitchen with a 100-degree sun boring through the windows.
Abby grabbed the Poop Chair and set it up in the living room under the fan. I freed the baby from the carrier, and Abby went to work making funny faces.
I sauntered back to the kitchen, ready to use my totally soft, totally room temperature butter.
I turned to the recipe for my marching orders.
“In a bowl, melt 2 sticks butter.”
Me, under my breath: “Dammit.”
Abby, yelling from the other room. “You should’ve said ‘oopsa daisy’!”
p.s. Despite Abby’s concern, the muffins turned out just fine and tasty.
For more posts like this one, follow my Pinterest board The World’s Okayest Parents.
What’s your favorite way to bond with your kids? Share your thoughts in a comment below!