It’s been two and a half weeks since my kids–even my baby–started school. Full-time, big kid, real deal school. And since the last rotation of my nutrition internship doesn’t start until tomorrow, I’ve spent the last nineteen days feeling a little lost. In one sense, this is the moment I’ve been anticipating for nine years since my oldest child was born. When I chose to stay at home with my kids, there was always the sense that it was temporary, that I would get back to “real life” if these kids would just hurry up and get to school age. When someone was screaming because they didn’t get the pink plate at lunch, when someone dropped nap time and suddenly added ten hours to my “work week,” or when I had to play yet another round of “Chocolate, Dirt, or Poop?” with the brown stain on the carpet, I could say to myself, “Someday they will all go to school and I can live MY OWN LIFE again.” But the truth is, after you’ve spent almost ten years serving, providing for, and nurturing three little people, your OWN LIFE feels like kind of a contradiction in terms. Not that I don’t have hobbies or pursuits of my own I enjoy–I do–it’s just that my kids are, in many ways, my life. And having no particular agenda while they’re all away at school from 8:00-3:00 has been distinctly strange. (Though also, at times, distinctly awesome, like when I get to blog uninterrupted and grocery shop by myself.) Still, these last few weeks have forced me to look into the face of the question, “Who am I when I don’t have a job and my kids no longer need me as much?” It’s a healthy exercise, but a tough one, too.
Of course, they do still need me, but as my children get older, the ways they need me are evolving, and so are the ways I can serve them. So on their first day of school a couple weeks back, I wanted to do a little something special for them: I made a batch of cherry almond muffins. In a sense, cooking wholesome food for my kids is a way I see my continued purpose in the life of our family. If I can send my children off to school in the morning with something lovingly made filling their bellies and fueling their minds, I can know that I have done well by them until I see them again in the afternoon.
As for the existential angst of “who-am-I-when-I-have-all-this-time-on-my-hands,” my imminent internship rotation will probably push that question out of the picture for now (to be dealt with again ten weeks from now when it’s over). And as for this new era with my kids, I was on a walk the other day when into my mind popped a beautiful e. e. cummings poem. (Remember him from high school English? The guy who wrote in all lower case with unconventional punctuation?) The last several lines sum up the connection I will always feel to my children:
here is the deepest secret nobody knows(here is the root of the root and the bud of the budand the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which growshigher than soul can hope or mind can hide)and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars aparti carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)
Cherry Almond Muffins
(Adapted from Pretty Simple Sweet)
1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. white whole wheat flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
2/3 c. sugar
1 c. plain yogurt
1/3 c. vegetable oil
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. almond extract
1 1/2 c. fresh or frozen cherries, pitted and halved
1/2 c. slivered almonds (or sliced almonds broken into pieces–I like to put them in a plastic bag and smash them a few times with the rounded end of a tuna can–how’s that for specific recipe instructions?)
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin.
- In a large bowl, mix all-purpose flour, white whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar. Make a well in the center and add egg, yogurt, vegetable oil, vanilla, and almond extract, stirring until just combined. Fold in cherries and almonds.
- Scoop batter into muffin cups, filling almost to the top. Bake for 3 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees and continue to bake another 15-17 minutes or until tops of muffins spring back when touched.
Makes 12 muffins.