Muffins: Heaven-sent, or Little Cakes from Hell?

>> Monday, August 6, 2007

What I hoped would happen:

Elizabeth: “Mommy, let’s make muffins!”

Me: “Sure, that sounds great!”

Samantha: “Me, too!”

Together, we skip to the kitchen, giggling. The girls gather their step stools and stand next to me while I retrieve mixing bowls, utensils, and the muffin mix box from the cupboard.

In an effort to include them in the making of muffins, I ask them to fetch milk and eggs from the refrigerator. I imagine Elizabeth almost drops the eggs on the floor amidst my fearful gasp. We both laugh with relief as she brings the eggs safely to the counter. Gee, that was close!

Samantha brags about her big muscles as she carries the milk carton. “Only big girls can carry all this milk!” I agree heartily. We’re all so darned happy.

I measure milk and oil and mix the batter in a colorful glass blue bowl. Each of the girls has a turn with the mixing spoon. Then, for a special treat, I let them place pastel-colored muffin cups into the muffin tin. They watch, wide-eyed, as I spoon the mixture into the cups. Because they’re big girls, I let them sprinkle the streusel on top. We lick our fingers and I pop the muffins into the oven.

20 minutes later, we happily eat freshly baked muffins for breakfast. Life is good.

What actually happened:

Elizabeth: “You forgot to make muffins last night.”

Me (tired because it’s not quite 7am on Sunday morning): “Uh, yea. Well, technically we both forgot... OK, let’s do it. Samantha, want to help us?”

Samantha nods enthusiastically with thumb in mouth.

It takes us five minutes to get from the bedroom to the kitchen because there’s a fairly critical misunderstanding about who was supposed to be the “leader” (as in follow-the-leader), which sent Samantha into hysterics because she wanted to be the leader (badly) but Elizabeth had already bolted past us and was waiting for us in the kitchen.

“Elizabeth,” I plead, “Why don’t you come back and let her be the leader? It would mean a lot to her.”

Elizabeth: “But I’m already here.” Which if course makes sense and is logical, but still.

Me: “Come on, please.”

Elizabeth: “Nooo...”

Me: “Samantha, look -- I’m still here. Will you be MY leader? I’ll follow you to the kitchen.”

Samantha: “Nooo! I wanted to be the leader of everybody!”

I was tired and task-driven and couldn’t help but think that all of this could be solved if Elizabeth would get behind us and follow us to the kitchen. But I only thought that because Samantha was crying so loudly (and so early) which isn’t fair to Elizabeth. But really the problem is that everyone in my family has a horrible stubborn streak that causes a trip to the kitchen to take five minutes in a 1600 sqf house!

[Hindsight Melissa: It occurs to me that my parenting would have been different on any other day. This is curious and frustrating to me. Some other day I would have been the sterner parent; the more patient parent; the easy-going parent. But not today. Regardless, next time, tell them you’ll make muffins when they learn to get along. Then leave.]

I’m not sure how we managed to get to the kitchen, but we did. There was some stand-off between the girls and... did I pick Elizabeth up and put her behind us? I can’t remember exactly. But we arrived, nevertheless.

The girls sat at the table while I gathered materials. In our present moods, I decided not to use the glass bowl because it’s breakable and probably should be avoided.

“Could someone get the eggs and butter for me?”

Elizabeth (rests head on hands): “I don’t wanna...:

“Samantha, could you get them for me?”

Samantha: “Yes!”

Elizabeth (of course) jumps from her seat and races to the refrigerator. Samantha yells, cries, etc. I yell at Elizabeth for not listening and jumping ahead of Samantha. I yell at Samantha for not “using her words” and for going from happy to hysterical in less than a second.

[Hindsight Melissa: It occurs to me that our house has a volume knob, and it’s often turned up... way up. Next time, tell the girls calmly that you’ll make muffins when they learn to get along. Then leave.]

Somehow eggs and milk arrive on the countertop. I suggest the girls get their step stools. Elizabeth brings one, then the girls fight over who gets to use it. I’m really irritated, so I don’t offer to let them mix the batter. They open drawers into themselves, each other, and my hips (ouch!). On the verge of insanity I remember the muffin tin.

Me: “Hey, wanna put the paper cups in the muffin tin?” This’ll be fun, right?

In short order, I discover that I have to referee the placement of cups as Elizabeth is quite dexterous and loads hers quickly, while Samantha struggles a bit. I have to make sure everything is done fairly and that Elizabeth doesn’t fill the entire tin, which she does, so I have to remove some of them. Once they’re all loaded, an argument erupts over the cup colors and who gets the yellow one and who gets the pink one and now I just want to throw the batter, the bowl, and the spoons into the trash can and go back to bed.

[Hindsight Melissa: Next time, tell them you’ll make muffins when they learn to get along. Then leave. Are you listening? Leave!]

I grab the muffin tin, fill it quickly with batter, sprinkle the streusel myself and shove the damned thing into the oven.

“I’m hungry. Can I have a muffin?” they ask.

(deep breath) “Yes, but they have to cook first.”

“But I’m hungry.”

“I’m sorry, but you’ll have to wait.” Then, in a moment of weakness and brilliance, “Who wants to watch TV?!”

I race to the living room, find something animated and mind-numbing and the girls follow. There is momentary peace. I sit in the kitchen and rub my forehead.

30 minutes later, we eat muffins. There is laughter and kissing and finger-licking. The muffins are good. Really good. Really, the best damned muffins I’ve ever had. With each bite, I dissolve into sweet muffiny goodness and my stress is temporarily forgotten. Life, once again, is good.

[Hindsight Melissa: Is this how food addictions get started? Or cured?]

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