The Importance of Baking M&M Cookies

Yesterday was the perfect sort of lazy day. Overcast, cool, as though it were already fall. I cozied up in one of my favorite oversized sweatshirts, sweatpants, a cup of chai. Though it’s hard to be completely lazy with small children around. They still want things like attention and regular mealtimes. Gone are the days of snuggling under a blanket for hours of reading and Netflix binge-watching, unless it’s a marathon of Super Why. It would be the perfect day for baking, the oven running all day long, full of breads and muffins and cookies. It was also hard to be completely lazy with the grim news splashed across my newsfeed and on the TV.

We talked about visiting the library in the afternoon. It sounded good earlier in the day, but when the time came I felt like tackling some of that baking. Tyson packed up Brooklyn, Nolan, and the diaper bag while Caden stayed behind. We set to work.

I told Caden I was sad because there were mean people in our country, mean people who had done bad things over the weekend. I told him I was glad that he stayed home to bake with me because it made me feel better. I got the ingredients ready. M&M cookies, his choice.

The hopeful pastel colors (*ahem* Easter leftovers) seemed out-of-place given the weight and heaviness of the news, still on my mind. Maybe out-of-place, but also totally and completely right. Baking with a three-year old took over my concentration, just as I hoped it would, removing me for an hour or two from an otherwise awful weekend. A step back and away from the news, away from the terrible, terrible pain and anger in our country.

“I’ll do one and you do one,” Caden told me, as we poured ingredients together. Three-years old and well aware of the rules regarding taking turns and sharing, of basic respect. I still felt sad, my heart heavy, as I thought of someone else’s child, suddenly taken away this weekend for standing up against hatred. My heart felt equally sad over the thought of another child causing this disaster, and I’m not sure which pain is the more difficult to bear. Caden and I watched as the mixer ran, combining the ingredients together into one homogenous, gooey mass. We stirred in the M&Ms and ate a few, straight out of the bag.

He sat in front of the oven to watch the cookies bake while I cleaned up, and as the water ran in the sink I overheard him, in a sing-song voice, “Mommy’s sad because people were mean...and she doesn’t like that...and I don’t like that ei-ther…”

It’s hard to tell him much, at three-years old. As much as I’d like to shelter him from terrible things, I also want him to know at least a little of the evil in the world, so his heart burns to stand up for what is right. It looks small, right now. We talk about bad people going to jail, that there are mean people in this country who don’t like other people. We talk about helping people on the playground, at school, in our neighborhood. We cook meals for friends who have new babies, shop for school supplies for kids who don’t have any.

We bake cookies.

It would have been easy in a way to ignore him this weekend, to get caught up in the swirl of yet another awful news cycle: more devastation, anger, hate, death, hurt, sadness. And it is very, very worthy of my attention. But to regard my own son as an interruption only means that I’m getting caught up in the hatred. It lets the bad guys win.

So we let the butter soften, use our fingers to get the grains of sugar that have scattered on the counter, dump in the flour and the vanilla, and you better believe that we lick the beaters. I put aside my phone and the news and choose to create joy for a little while.

After all, as Caden said, “Mommy, we make really good M&M cookies.”

+++++

If you are interested, here are a few of the most thoughtful pieces I read regarding the tragedy in Charlottesville this weekend.

In Charlottesville, a reignited Civil War

What a presidential president would have said about Charlottesville

What U.Va Students Saw in Charlottesville

Summer

August. The last hurrah of summer. Though you wouldn't much know it looking out the window today (cool, clouds, rain). I don't mind it much. I'm ready to move on with it - let's get to fall already! - but the seasons aren't quite ready to shift yet. I know we'll have more 80 and 90 degree days in there somewhere. Probably in early September, when I really and truly am over it and ready for sweaters, boots, and cider-spiced lattes.

Whatever it looks like outside today, it is still summer. We still have plenty of time for late nights and ice cream, swimsuits and patio dining. 

We bottled up some of our summer a few weeks ago, during a fun photo session. Nothing fancy, nothing new, no insane online shopping sprees to find the exact right coordinating pi just a piece of our ordinary summer days in our own backyard. Major shoutout to Prall Photo for her talent once again! 

Also once again, I tried to narrow it down to just a few of my favorites. Impossible. Enjoy the photo dump.

Three (and a half)

I was warned about twin newborns. Not even warned, really. The chaos of the whole life-with-twin-newborns thing was obvious. Two times the nursing, the diapering, the diaper explosions, the laundry, the bathing, the dressing, the work of getting out the door.

“Just make it through the first year,” was the advice we received. “If you can survive the first year you’ll be fine.”

We did survive, all four of us. The first year came and went. We passed that magical deadline. It didn’t really seem any easier. I was glad to be done nursing, thrilled to finally be sleeping through the night, but it didn’t exactly get easier.

When the twins were small, we seemed to run into parents of twins all over the place. Or maybe we were just that much more conspicuous with Tyson and I each perpetually carrying a car seat. These other parents threw out all sorts of ages at us. The year mark was frequently mentioned. We were told that it all got easier once they hit 18 months, two years, when they turned three.

They’re three (and two weeks shy of a half).

It isn't easier.

+++++

Nobody warned us about three. Double the three. Some days I actually dream about going back to the baby stage. Not newborns, (dear Lord, not twin newborns), but a few months in. I romanticize that into being easier than this whole two three-year olds thing. Three is hard.

I’m not sure what the big deal is about two. Terrible twos? Please. Terrible threes is far more accurate, though maybe not quite as catchy. There’s lots of drama, lots of tears, lots of emotions. Three is like the teenage year of toddlerhood. There’s truth to that whole “threenager” thing. They fight. With me, with their little brother, with each other. There are strong opinions on what’s for lunch and what’s for dinner, what beverage is in their cups. They actually have good comebacks.

“Y’know what? Some kids don’t have any food!” I told them the other day, as one rejected the lunch I had prepared. (Pasta with homemade tomato cream sauce, chicken, and topped off with Parmesan cheese. And you want to go back to my lazy-day staple of cheese and broken crackers. Seriously?!?)

“Know what? Some kids don’t love their mommies!” the offender shot back, immediately. (Though I had to hold back a laugh with that one. That was a good one. I was impressed.)

+++++

We fight and make up. The kid with the comeback was snuggling with me on the couch not two hours later, all, “I yike snugg-ing wiff you, mommy. It’s my fave-it thing.” I remind them that I love them even when I yell, even when they don’t listen, even when they cry and cry and cry.

+++++

I suppose it doesn’t get easier, not really. I’m not sure what my expectations for “easy” even are anymore. For awhile my sole idea of easy consisted of sleeping through the night. But we’ve arrived at that now, for the most part. My version of “easy” would sure as heck involve sleeping later. 6:00 am is something I have not gotten used to. I guess easier looks like getting up and making breakfast for themselves. Dressing themselves. Going to the bathroom 100% and completely by themselves. (We’re a bit back-and-forth on that one.)

That’s where the tension comes in. Because all that, what I just listed? That’s like big kid territory. That’s elementary school kid stuff. And I don’t want them to grow up, not really. Or at least not yet. We’re already more than halfway through these five short years before they escape to Kindergarten. And while sometimes that sounds reaaallllyyyyy nice, I know what’s up with these little kid years. I feel like we’re hitting our groove. I understand playdates and fruit snacks, Daniel Tiger and the soundtrack to Moana.

I don’t really want to give up my three-year olds. When it’s good, it’s good. The snuggles, the way they pronounce words, the questions they come up with, the pretend play. There are things I could do without, of course. Tantrums. Strong opinions on things like socks. I could definitely do without bedtime. (Bedtime. I mean really. Was it necessary to give us bedtime to deal with on top of all else that is three?) But I don't exactly want to trade in my preschoolers for pre-teens.

++++ 

I'd love to insert a neat and tidy ending here (and believe me, I've been racking my brain all week trying to come up with one), but it doesn't exist. Three year olds are hard. And there's a lot of three in our house. I hear that other ages are hard. I'm sure someday I'll miss it. Even some of the hard. But mostly the cuddles, the questions, the imagination, the helping, those little voices.

But when I'm reminiscing someday, about all the love and laughter and the fairytale that was three, please stop me. And pull up this post. So I remember. And in the meantime, I'm going to get in all the cuddles I can.

{All photos credit to Prall Photography.}

Read, Watched, Listened

I love reading just about everything, watching comedy and documentary-type things, and wholeheartedly embrace the podcast.  I also enjoy hearing about what other people are reading, watching, and listening.  Here's my two cents worth.

READ

Small Great Things
Not only did I really enjoy this novel, but it is ON POINT as far as current issues are concerned. I know some people could take or leave Picoult's work, but I've always loved her writing. Yes, she tends to recycle many of her plotlines (dramatic legal case + lawyer who gets their world turned upside down + possible caricatures of a group in society), but books are always character-driven for me, and she is amazing at creating people who are complex and interesting. I also love her dialogue, even when it is less than believable. I highly recommend reading this for a take on what it means to be black in America today.

Bird by Bird
Anne Lamott is my spirit animal. And she is good at writing about writing. I was also happy to learn that her writing process is something like mine, which includes sitting in front of a screen forever while 3487 other non-writing related things come to mind and always, always, always begins with a SFD (shitty first draft). 

The Third Plate
If you've read Michael Pollen's In Defense of Foodthis is like the next step. The title refers to a progression in the way we eat in America and the West. His "first plate" stars a large portion of protein with a starchy side and a vegetable, the second plate features the same components, but ones that are organically grown and locally sourced, while the "third plate" features plants and grains as the stars, with small portions of meat on the side. It was complex and interesting (though it was a little hard for me to keep track of who was who at times) and it was also infuriating. It left me frustrated with the industrial food complex we've created and feeling like I need to cultivate at least half my yard to grow our own food next year. Maybe we'd be eating "well" then?

Every Last One
Anna Quindlen again. It's safe to say she's my new favorite. I really got into this book while we were on vacation (see picture above) and I thought it was more of a fun beach read-type novel until I got halfway through and the ENTIRE book changed. I can't really say more without giving it away, but then Tyson went out-of-town for work and I had a lot of trouble sleeping that first night. Still worth reading...you may just want to sleep with the lights on.

WATCHED

Hasan Minhaj: Homecoming King
HILARIOUS. There were parts in the middle that I was like, "okay...this is okay...I don't know where he's going with this" but he brings it BACK at the end and ties everything together and it is SO well done. He's funny and it's beautiful how he weaves everything together in this comedy piece. Stay in and watch it for date night.

The Great British Baking Show
Round two for us as we watched season three. This is just one of those mindless, wonderful, feel-good shows where the biggest drama is someone's cake not rising properly. We love it, I'm a sucker for accents, and add in baked goods and I'm absolutely hooked.

LISTENED

God Centered Mom Podcast
I've linked to this one before, but I am super into her Summer of Mentorship series. Heather is re-releasing old shows from wise women who have been in our shoes as moms...but for most of them it was like 50 years ago. Even the ones I have heard before are well worth listening to again, and I find myself shaking my head in agreement and wondering if I should just sit down and take notes from these wonderful women. It's pretty hard to choose, but I think Vicki Kraft may have been my favorite so far. 
 

Note: any links to Amazon in this post are affiliate links.

Post (Big Chip) Weekend

Big Chip is the kind of place where, as a kid, you may pack your toothbrush and toothpaste but it's more a matter of habit than practicality since it never gets used. Same goes for shampoo, body wash, and anything else related to personal hygiene. You run around barefoot all day, indulge in freeze-pops, candy, and s'mores (depending on the hour), and wash off the accumulated layer of grime and stickyness by having another go in the lake. "Don't pack your good clothes!" my mom would warn every year. It's a place of sand, worms, dirt, and lake water, and somehow nothing around the place ever seems truly clean.

As an adult, a few things have changed. Vacation or not, I prefer to brush my teeth every day. Even if I don't get a shower in, you can bet I've put a can of dry shampoo to good use. I have good intentions when I pack that makeup, but usually only put on the foundation for it's SPF benefits. I pack 10 shirts too many (how many days were we up there again?) but end up rolling out of bed each morning to grab the same clothes I wore yesterday off the floor. They might be rumpled and have the smell of last night's bonfire lingering in them, but when today's schedule looks pretty much the same as yesterday's, there's not much use for clean ones.

Until the time comes to go home. Then you roll out of bed, throw some clean clothes on an otherwise unwashed body, and realize just how disgusting you really are. Somehow it takes the realization that you're leaving this place - trading lake country for your normal, city (ahem, suburban) life - to become desperate for a shower, your own bed, and a washing machine.

But while it lasts...

We made a quick trip this year, arriving early on Thursday and back on Saturday, but in a way that's the perfect amount of time with little kids. The only downside was the cold front that took over all day Thursday. I personally don't mind a day of downtime: reading, maybe a nap, a run into town, but with three little ones to entertain? They didn't quite know what to do with themselves. The big ones at least enjoyed the paddle boat. (Loling at thinking that Nolan would last longer than two minutes on there before trying to dive off into the water.)

Brooklyn: there's totes a tree in my face. Caden: you're welcome that I'm actually doing a normal smile for a picture for once. Nolan: I hate whatever has led me up to this point in life because wearing this stupid thing is the WORST EVER and I will now scream bloody murder anytime you come near me with this thing and its straps of death.

Brooklyn: there's totes a tree in my face. Caden: you're welcome that I'm actually doing a normal smile for a picture for once. Nolan: I hate whatever has led me up to this point in life because wearing this stupid thing is the WORST EVER and I will now scream bloody murder anytime you come near me with this thing and its straps of death.

At least the weather made it a good day for fishing, and the big kids also had a chance to catch their very first fish. Though it was a toss-up as to what was more fun: actually catching the fish or just throwing bread in the water.

Also: talk about a throwback.

Then, because these kids are Minnesotans, dammit, they decided that they'd had enough of just looking at the water and to hell with this 60 degrees in the middle of July nonsense, we're just going to go in this lake, swimsuits or no.

I am happy to report that the next day turned around for us

If we floated a steady supply of snacks out to them, they probably could have sat there all day.

If we floated a steady supply of snacks out to them, they probably could have sat there all day.

Livin that #lakelife.

Livin that #lakelife.

Learning the fine art of s'more making. (Graham cracker. Dark chocolate. Two marshmallows (toasted brown, maaaybe to the edge of burning for that extra crunch). Graham cracker. EAT.)

And then the time came to head home. The most beautiful of mornings, of course.

Which meant...

...we just couldn't resist...

...one more dip.

And since swimsuits were packed and everyone who participated was under the age of four, underwear, diapers, and bare bellies worked just fine.

And...

...a stop to see Ole the Viking on the way out of town. Caden could not get over the fact that he had a spear. His life’s goal is now to be a Viking, probably.

Maybe I'll learn my lesson next year and leave those pesky toothbrushes at home. Until next summer, Big Chip!