Children Need Pause and Rewind Buttons

Well, we finally did it! The hubby and I survived high school. We made it through all four years and came out the other side relatively unscathed. There were some bumps and bruises along the way in the form of forgotten homework, mad dashes to school with hastily packed or forgotten lunches, and most recently, the delivery of two loads of cardboard that entirely filled the back of hubby’s SUV to the school our son attended in the afternoon for Civil Engineering and Architecture. Oh, did you think I meant hubby and I survived our own high school years? No, no, no… I’m talking about our son, Joshua, and how despite all the snark thrown our way (and that’s when he was actually communicating) we are now the proud parents of a high school graduate.

Man, did that go quickly. I put him on the bus for kindergarten on Monday, and he graduated on Friday? When I dressed him for school, he had on shorts, a striped t-shirt, and sneakers that lit up when he ran. He loved those shoes. What came home that last day wore a backpack bigger than he was when he started school and sneakers longer than the bus. His sense of fashion didn’t change much. He still leans toward t-shirts, but if you ever see him in shorts it’s only because someone pulled a prank and cut off the legs of the sixty dollar jeans he conned out of his grandfather.

I have vague memories of a little kid who never ordered anything to eat except “chickie fries” suddenly being the young man whose stately walk into the auditorium and perfect pivot at the aisle deposited him at his seat where he promptly clasped his hands behind his back like a Marine standing at attention. And after the ceremony, the only way I could spot him among the sea of blue and white caps and gowns was to look for the face that had once been soft and round and was now square and chiseled. I can recognize that jawline anywhere.

Leap past the graduation dinner at his favorite restaurant to all of us fast asleep in bed that evening. Everyone except me because my mind and heart aren’t quite sure if I’m supposed to be happy or sad. I believe that mix is called melancholy. Add to it a dash of “what do we do with this young person now,” and you will be standing outside the fence of the ballpark in which hubby and I are now playing. Perhaps you are familiar with this scenario, but Joshua is our one and only. We won’t even have the opportunity to apply what we learn to another child.

As I sit here typing this, watching him brush his teeth in the kitchen sink like some kind of animal, I have to wonder how we did with him. Is he truly ready to be unleashed on the public? How much will his behavior reflect on us? Is it too late for Catholic military boarding school in Siberia? Does he love us? Does he even like us?

I suppose we could have done this instead of that. More of A and less of B. Chosen what was behind curtain one as an alternative to taking what was in the box. Would it have made a difference? Life is not a dress rehearsal, so who can really say? I made a promise to infant Joshua to never lie to him no matter how many times he asked me the same question as a toddler (it’s true that airplanes don’t fly when it’s too cold). I tell teenage Joshua that I’ll pay for any therapy needed due to emotional scarring endured while cleaning his bedroom.

Sometimes I wish we had a crystal ball so we could see where all this is heading because it feels like we’re riding a roller coaster in the dark. There are times when I think that’s a good thing because there will be no witnesses when I push Joshua out of the car. But most days, I cling to him in case there is a sudden drop up ahead that none of us can see. We know he wants us to loosen our hold on him for the thrill of rising out of the seat on the dips and hills. And we will… once we check that he secured his seat belt for life.

This Mothering Stuff is Hard

eagle-medalSince our son’s birth, I have enjoyed some amazing milestones with him. There were the obvious ones of first tooth, first step, and first word. The day I put him on a school bus for kindergarten was a thrill. I wasn’t afraid for him at all because my husband and I raised a tough little man. He was the type of kid who would scrape his knees to a bloody mess and worry more about returning to play outside than he was about the sting of hydrogen peroxide on the open wound.

Then there was a day ten years ago when Joshua decided he wanted to join Cub Scouts. He had tried T-ball and tennis, but Tiger Cubs appealed to him more. The first night he joined, throwing his stick of wood into the fire and announcing his name to the Pack, he declared he wanted to be an Eagle Scout. He stayed with Cub Scouts, achieving many more incredible milestones, and finished by earning his Arrow of Light during his second year of Webelos. Next came Boy Scouts.

About his time, Joshua started middle school. Homework, girls, and friendships became a little more difficult. Our sweet little boy turned teen, and a strange new creature emerged. My husband and I thought we were going to lose our minds at times as we dealt with this always hungry, often cranky, and sometimes smelly person. Through it all, Joshua kept plugging away at Boy Scouts, and he did quite well.

Mounds of pictures of Joshua at various Scouting functions piled up, and I always thought I’d have time to scrapbook them. And then one day, the time was gone. Joshua completed all the requirements toward the rank of Eagle and passed his Board of Review. We were ecstatic, the grandparents were over the moon, and even close friends and acquaintances smiled with pride when they heard. I tried to pack ten years’ worth of scrapbooking into a month and a half all the while planning Joshua’s Eagle Scout Court of Honor.

I put my entire life, including my writing, completely on hold because that’s what a good Eagle Scout Mother does. There were times when I wanted to quit making additional sacrifices on top of those I’d already made, but instead, I told myself to quit being a martyr and press on. Well, Joshua’s Court of Honor took place this past Saturday. I’m still receiving compliments for hosting an amazing party, and my dear husband defers any praise to me for the whole event. With a deep sigh of satisfaction, I turned Joshua over to another plateau of maturity. Only the feelings I expected didn’t occur.

Every time I looked at his shirt and merit badge sash bedecked like a four-star general, I tingled all over. That must be the pride, I thought. Only there was a lingering sense of melancholy. I chalked it up to post-party let down and laughed it off with the thought of now what? Occasionally, my eyes would tear up for no explainable reason.

Now don’t misunderstand me: I don’t want to abandon Joshua completely, but I did believe I’d relinquish him somewhat to his future. I’m not so sure that’s how motherhood works. My own mom confirmed this for me when she admitted that she still thinks of me and my brother as her babies, and the addition of spouses and grandchildren only provided more people for her to pray and worry over. In short, motherhood never achieves the status of finished.

What am I going to do when he graduates high school and leaves for college? How am I going to survive his engagement and marriage? What if he and his wife live out of state when my first grandbaby is born? And when he becomes the Prime Minister of Israel, next to the red phone on which he takes important calls relating to the administration of the country, he’d better have a gold phone labeled Mom.

I remember the night I gained the courage to turn off the baby monitor because it was extremely sensitive, and every time Joshua rolled over in his crib, the sound of crinkling sheets woke me up. I thought I’d never lose what my sisters-in-law dubbed my Mommy Ears. Little did I know that the tradeoff would be an increase in the footprint our son left on my Mommy Heart.

Spread the Love

One of my earliest memories of butter includes sitting on the carpet in the kindergarten classroom, all of us in a large circle, passing a massive canning jar from person to person as we shook the sealed jar full of whipping cream as hard as our little arms could manage. We’d been told that this would produce butter. I remember my skepticism, but since I loved butter, I gladly took part and watched the magic unfold.

It’s funny how many of my food memories are attached to my Grandma Smith, but I believe her kitchen is where I developed my love of butter.Butter versus Margarine There was something different about the sunshine yellow block that sat in her cut glass butter dish. It was lighter, sweeter than the golden-colored sticks of ‘butter’ we used at home. As a young child, any yellow, creamy substance that one spread on toast or crackers was referred to as butter. My mother provided the explanation of the difference, and I learned the definition of margarine. It wouldn’t be until decades later that I learned what an evil substance margarine is, but I digress.

Grandma Smith would bring me packets of real butter from restaurants where she had dined. Nothing against my mother, but she used margarine for years until I finally convinced her to switch. Glory be–my taste buds rejoiced and food became so much tastier.

Where is all this leading you ask? To my novel, The Secrets of Dr. John Welles, of course. I’ve already established that as an author, I love to feed my fictional characters. Twice I reference butter specifically, once in conjunction with biscuits and again with cornbread, but what I want my readers to understand without mentioning it every time is that butter is my fictional characters’ ingredient of choice when it comes to cooking and baking.

As I wrote the scenes involving food and envisioned the preparation, butter was always in the picture, sitting in a crock or dish, just within reach of the experienced hands that would lovingly incorporate it into the recipe. I’ll spare you the debate on the health benefits of butter versus margarine and simply say don’t fear butter and all things in moderation.

To sum up this post, I made butter with my son because I wanted him to experience how easy and fun it is. The added step of washing the butter is new for me based on research for this post. The instructions for this activity follow. I highly recommend doing this with your kids because the memories you’ll make are priceless.

Enjoy!

Homemade Butter

2 c whipping cream (Raw cream from grass-fed cows is recommended, but store bought organic will work as well. This quantity will yield approximately ½ c of butter.)

sea salt

I used a stand mixer with a wire attachment for this process and chilled the bowl and wire attachment prior to using.

Pour the cream into your mixing bowl, filling the bowl halfway so it does not overflow as air is whipped into the cream. Mix on a medium-low speed to prevent splashing. As the cream thickens, you can turn it up to medium.

This process should take about 15 minutes but can vary depending on how much cream you are using and what type if mixer you have. Whipped cream will develop first. When the whipped cream begins to deflate, watch closely as your mixture can rapidly change to butter. To prevent splashing, cover the bowl with a lightly dampened tea towel.

When the butter begins to clump and stick to the whisk, it is done mixing. Pour the mixture through a fine strainer to separate the solids, butter, from the liquids, buttermilk. If you want it to last for more than a few days, you need to wash the butter. This will remove as much buttermilk as possible to keep the butter from going rancid. Put the butter back in your mixing bowl and cover with clean, cold water.

Use a large spoon to press the butter into the sides of the bowl. The water will become cloudy as the buttermilk is removed from the butter. Pour off the cloudy water and add more fresh. You can repeat this process until the water stays clear. Stir in a large pinch of amount of sea salt for every ½ c of butter.

Store in refrigerator or at room temperature if you will use it within a week or two.

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