Made up baking with kids

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Recently Ollie’s been talking about a time he lived “in England.” Whenever he begins a sentence with “In England…” I know he’ll follow with something that displays his independence and self-sufficiency. Often the stories are about cooking, and he’ll tell me about things he baked in England. Sometimes there are adventures with his cousins, Strawberry and Pumpkin, with whom he lived, and he had some jobs and drove a lot as well. But mostly it’s about cooking.

Lately I indulge his “In England” baking stories and we recreate his favorite recipes. He instructs me on the ingredients he used to create things like “Honeychrists”, a kind of inedible biscuit like hardtack, and “Chocolate Chip Cookie Muffins”, which we baked on Sunday.

After the honeychrists episode, I’ve tried to direct a little more, so these muffin cookies were actually edible and quite tasty. Half-way through the measuring, I got a great idea. Ratio, a book and iPhone app by Michael Ruhlman gives you the ratios for ingredients for all kinds of recipe, would be perfect for this situation. (Though he doesn’t have “cookie muffin” listed).

In the future I can guide Ollie knowing the ratios, so if he wants muffins, I can measure 5 ounces of flour and liquid, and 2.5 ounces eggs and butter. He can add the spices or food coloring or chocolate chips, whatever else he wants, and I can be assured that the resulting baked good will probably be edible. I’m looking forward to trying this out, as it’s been so much fun to do this crazy baking with Ollie.

Funny thing about the chocolate chip muffin cookies: they were edible! And because I added baking powder and baking soda, they were puffy cookies, soft and kind of doughy, wide-spread on the sheet and mounded in the middle. Just like you’d expect a “muffin cookie” to be!

11 Months

11 Months

I can’t believe we’re in the final stretch of Minna’s first year already! Big progress this past month. She loves to read before bed, turning the page whenever you ask her to and "knocking" in Dr. Seuss’s "Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You?" at the appropriate page. Her favorite game right now is what I call the "Sharing Game". She’ll be playing with things, like a bunch of wooden vegetables, and then hand you one. I always say, "Oh, for me? Thank you Minna!" and she smiles. You can try and give it back, but she’ll give it right back to you again. And keep giving you the other ones. She really seems to understand a lot of what you say to her, even if she can’t reply.

She’s also crazy about Bodhi and whenever she hears him meow she whips her head around to find him and claps and smiles and makes happy sounds. She also does this when she sees him first thing in the morning. And of course when she sees Ollie she just lights up and claps and laughs. The two of them have a band I like to call "The Kottke 2". He bangs on all sorts of things, and she takes the xylophone and a stick and whacks away, and then she claps while he sings and bangs on "drums". It’s quite a sight.

Two more teeth on the bottom, for a total of 6 teeth! And I think two more on the top are about to cut through. She’s also getting better at standing, but still no crawling and no pulling herself up. She’s an eating champ and pretty much can feed herself now if it’s not a liquid. And on her monthiversary she had her very first Shake Shack burger. I got some nice pictures of her eating it. But I like this photo better, of her sitting in our backyard, enjoying some O’s, and saving that special one for later.

37 Months

37 Months

Ollie’s currently in the "Little Helper" phase. I haven’t seen that on the list of milestones, but it’s a big one. This morning he helped make coffee, carried all the breakfast plates (with their food) to the table, brought the forks, and gave Minna her drink. He would have cracked the eggs as well but I was rushing and didn’t let him. After breakfast he watered the garden and was very excited to see this rainbow in the spray. By this time next week I’m hoping he’ll be preparing all the meals, washing the dishes, and doing all the yard work so I can enjoy our Nantucket vacation.

Toy boats at the Jardin du Luxembourg

Setting the Fish Boat off on its journey

Every visit to Paris, I watched little kids play with wooden sailboats in the duck pond at the Jardin du Luxembourg. Today Ollie and I rented our own little “fish boat” and spent an hour chasing it around the pond. It crashed into another boat and got entangled near the duck house. It heeled way over on its side and soaked the deck (no scuppers!). Once someone else pushed it away from the edge before Ollie got there with his long stick to give it a nudge.

Oh and that long stick! Ollie was a danger running everywhere with it, getting it stuck in the edge of a grate and almost pole vaulting into the air. But by the end he’d learned to keep it under control and was pretty good at getting his boat turned around and back into the big sea.

I can’t recommend this enough if you’ve got kids in Paris. 2 Euros for 30 minutes of sheer pleasure in one of the most beautiful gardens anywhere. Every day in summer. Wed, Sat & Sun rest of the year. We got there around 11 AM and there were plenty of boats to choose from. When we passed back through in the afternoon around 3 PM, all the boats were sailing.

It remains to be…

Amazing French cotton swabs

It remains to be seen whether the best days of the French are behind them. Look at the innovations in cotton swabs underway in this country! That "Security" tip ensures you don't stick the swab deep into your child's ear. Normally I'm not worried about that but Minna has a bad habit of turning her head just as I try to clean her ear. But not with this swab, nope! You can only just get around the entrance to the ear. Frankly I'm ashamed America didn't invent this! I thought we led the world in ridiculous gear in the name of child safety, but the French have us on swabs. I'm bringing a box home, maybe more if I can fit them.

Monthiversaries

34 Months

It’s getting hard to keep up with my monthiversary pictures and write-ups about the kids over at Flickr. It was kind of manageable with Ollie but now the dates sneak up on me before I realize it and by the time I get a photo (if I manage to snap one on the proper day) and write about it, the next month is upon me!

Also now I can compare Minna’s progress to Ollie’s at the same age, which has led to me getting concerned that Minna’s not as advanced as Ollie because she’s not trying to crawl and move about in nearly the same way he did. Of course she claps and sings to music in a way I don’t recall him doing at that age. So I guess I need to chill out and remember that each kid progresses at her own rate. Not only should I refrain from comparing my child to someone else’s, I shouldn’t compare my children to each other too much!

Losing the joy of childhood too soon

After being so sure I wanted to bring up our kids in New York City, I’m now wondering whether it’s such a good idea. I don’t think my concerns are the usual ones that drive people to the ‘burbs when they have a family, and I certainly can’t bear the thought of moving to some suburbs. It’s just lately I’ve seen a lot of kids around, kids 7, 8 or 9 years old, and they appear so jaded. They’re so stylish, girls especially, and they seem to have a very distinct look on their face. A very adult look. And when I’ve seen them my heart breaks to think that could be Minna in seven years, over it all already, childlike joy beneath her.

Moving away of course is not the answer. There’s no guarantee children are more joyful and less jaded elsewhere. I know I’ve read lots of things about tweens being all grown up already, cultural pressures, TVs influence, etc. etc. etc. If there’s any solution — and there may not be — it’s in the parenting I hope. In our ability to keep the experiences special and meaningful, to steer clear of brands and designer clothes and pressure to buy the next thing, and to focus on time outside the city as a family. Nights collecting fireflies in Vermont and learning the constellations. Hiking in the White Mountains and spending the nights bunked in a hut. Skiing at Mad River with friends and family. And finding great experiences to share right here in Manhattan as well.

I want to say that as long as I show enthusiasm for things, my children will join me. But sadly, I can almost hear them already, saying dismissively, “Mom, that’s so lame.” Hopefully that won’t be until 2020 at least.