Anyway, here I am at a very not-appealing-to-my-fake-OCD point, the 24th of March 2009. As far as I'm concerned, there was nothing exciting or promising at all about today. And there really hasn't been anything exciting or promising for days now. It makes it increasingly hard for one to get out of bed. For that matter, it makes it increasingly hard for one to go to bed as well, because one just keeps hoping something noteworthy will happen. I don't mean noteworthy like a major news event; I mean noteworthy like an enjoyable episode of The Office. It's pathetic, really. We have been plugging along with homeschool, and I should write a little update about that sometime soon to share what we have been doing. I feel that all I have been doing is homeschool which has had me frustrated until last week when the kids cried at every meal and extra at bedtime because they missed their Daddy so much. He worked over seventy hours last week, without factoring in the commute, and the way it pained my children was heartbreaking for me. And I got to thinking that I am all these children have right now (duh, right?) so why am I whining about how homeschool takes forever and I can't get errands done and I don't ever get together with friends and I never wanted to teach and wah, wah, wah. Really? What is my problem? Of course, I don't respond well to kicks in the butt, even when they're from myself. And so, one week later, I was back to feeling like I had plenty of justified feelings and frustrations and that I am doing a good enough job as it is. But today was just one of those days where I clearly did not do a good enough job, and my frustrations, justified or not, needed to step aside. So as I sat down to dinner with a much needed glass of wine, surrounded by long faces, I decided that something really must be done to save the day, this sullen, dreary, grey March 24th that offered nothing but melancholy and tantrums from a two year old.
"Let's bake some cookies." Who has ever stayed sad after hearing those words? Maybe some dirty, exhausted, too young to be working kitchen maid in the 18th century, but surely no modern day American child, and certainly not this modern day American mother could remain morose after such a proposal. But they couldn't be just any cookies. No, these had to be save the day caliber cookies. None of this date and walnut silliness, we needed copious amounts of chocolate in extravagant, oversized pieces, pecans toasted to a golden, nutty perfection, and old fashioned oats for chewy, dense deliciousness. We scooped, we spilled, we stirred, we shaped, we sampled (the dough- mmmm) and we set the timer for the slowest 18 minutes in cookie baking history.
While we waited, the two younger ones started a "recipe" of their own with all of the spilled ingredients. Earlier, I had realized that the Morton's container was completely empty- not even the 1/2 teaspoon we were after- and had swiped what I needed from the salt shaker. I was a little clumsy though; I somehow managed to swipe about a quarter cup for the counter too. This became pure joy to my miniature bakers who busily stirred the spilt salt, some stray oats, and a random piece of parsley they found (who knows where it came from?) with whisks in the emptied mixing bowls, which became pure joy to watch for me. But as I turned to take care of something else, I was immediately gripped with fear as I heard Elspeth coughing and sputtering and even gagging, presumably choking. I turned around and my mind raced while I stood in terror, waiting for adrenaline or hoping for her to be suddenly alright, but all of it only for about a second and a half before I realized what was going on. A handful of salt. What possessed her to consume a handful of salt? I don't know, but she was extremely upset about it. I think she drank three cups of water before she was finally put back to rights. Even after the second cup, she was still angrily brushing off her tongue saying "bleh! bleh!" But that's not really why the wait was so long, we just needed some cookies. I just felt compelled to share what happened while we waited.
They were definitely worth the waiting though. In the end, my wine glass was relatively untouched, but my milk glass, on the other hand, was refilled twice! After we had had our fill of cookies and milk, we completed our saving of the day with a whole house game of hide and seek. I had forgotten how fun it was when the adults did something usually left to the kids. It has never occurred to me to play hide and seek with my children until tonight when Elspeth enthusiastically pointed at me and said "You hide!" The excitement in their voices as they asked each other "where do you think Mommy is hiding?!" was contagious. I found myself bursting out of closets without waiting to be found because I couldn't stand the anticipation. The anticipation of hide and seek? Yes! When was the last time you played?!
And let me just say (and if you pay attention to nothing else, please hear this), that I am not one of these people who thinks everything is a state of mind. I have very little patience for people who run around pretending like the real emotions and concerns of this world, the nuts and bolts of being a human being with a soft heart, are somehow not actually real and/or are sinful in essence. I actually recently unsubscribed from a very popular blog after the author stated, matter of factly and without exception, that "stress is a state of mind" and "there are no emergencies." See, I think our dear Lord himself would disagree with both of those statements. I think he was probably pretty stressed the night he sweated blood. And I'm pretty sure that the call to flee to Egypt to save his life as an infant or the narrow escape from being stoned by the Jewish leaders would each fall under the category of an emergency. No, being late home from music lessons so that dinner will be behind is not an emergency, but some of us are concerned about more significant things than what time dinner will make its appearance, and I don't think there is anything sinful or unholy about that. In fact, one could argue that many of Jesus' miracles were done, apart from the obvious reason to prove who he is and increase the faith of the people, to save the people involved from some type of stress, whether a young bride and groom and their families who would simply be embarrassed for running out of wine at their wedding or thousands of hungry people, on more than one occasion, who actually were stressed out about when dinner would make it's appearance. However, I do think that even in the face of real, in need of your own miracle stress, on a day where you lay in bed and stare at the ceiling wondering if God has somehow lost your contact information, and you look out the window and think surely there should be something to see besides grey, things can be better than they would have been if you lay down your own fears and worries, though legitimate and understandable they indubitably are, and give yourself to others. A gift that, for me, often takes the shape of baked goods or silly games, but can be as easy as dropping a note in the mail or reading The Small Small Pond for the fourth time today (as I am fixing to do at 10:30pm). I do not claim to be good at doing that, by any stretch, but I was reminded today of what a blessing it can be when I do.
I highly recommend the recipe we tried out tonight. If you can't think of anyone to bake them for, I humbly suggest ME! The only minor glitch I ran into was that I guess my oven cooks a little hot. I reduced the bake time by a full six minutes and still had overcooked cookies- not burnt, just a little more crisp that desired. Nonetheless, I wanted to share, and if you are concerned, just check them early. Here is the recipe, from a source that I dare not mention lest they treat me as others before me and demand I take the recipe down, but I think you know who I mean, the meanies who regularly supply the very best recipes in bimonthly issues of a top notch publication. I have lovingly renamed them "Save the Day Cookies."
Save The Day Cookies
1 1/4 c. unbleached all purpose flour
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/4 c. old fashioned rolled oats
1 c. pecans, toasted and chopped
1 bag Nestle chocolate chunks (or be all hoity toity and cut up your swanky bittersweet bars- you need somewhere between 1 1/2 and 2 cups)
12T unsalted butter, softened but still cool
1 1/2 c. firmly packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla
-preheat oven to 350 with racks in upper and lower-middle position. this is a good time to toast your pecans.
-whisk flour, baking powder, soda, and salt in bowl. in a separate bowl, mix oats, pecans, and chocolate. in a third bowl, whisk together egg and vanilla.
-place butter and sugar in mixer bowl and use paddle beater to beat for one minute on medium speed. add egg and vanilla and beat until fluffy and incorporated, about 30 seconds. add flour mixture and beat another 30 seconds, just until combined. turn mixer down to low and add the oats, pecans, and chocolate.
-scoop dough out into 1/4 c. portions, making 2 inch balls, 2 1/2 inches apart on parchment lined baking sheets. gently smoosh them down to a one inch thickness (we forgot to do this) and bake them for 12 minutes. rotate sheets from top to bottom and bake them another 8-10 minutes until edges are golden and centers are soft (will still look uncooked and shiny in cracks). do not overbake. cool on racks for five minutes.