The other day I sat at the pool and watched as my friend’s six-year-old swam like a dolphin. Gosh how crazy that must be, I thought. To have a kid so fluent in the water, she barely even needs to be watched. If anything, she’s just something to be delighted at and amazed by. Meanwhile at the pool with my littles, I’m scanning the water for the entire time, finally leaving with my shoulders weary after an afternoon of red-alert-watching.
After letting that thought mull around for a bit it occurred to me that I used to have the same thoughts about kids who walked. Gosh look at that toddler walking. The mom doesn’t even have to hold her up! She can just sit on the bench and watch.
And then, kids who talked. Oh my goodness, so jealous. She’s carrying on a real conversation with her kid. And her kid is listening to her! And responding! Amazing.
So then I realized that having a kid swim like a dolphin probably whizzes by just like the last accomplishments that whizzed past us, as my eyes quickly fixated on the next thing.
What accomplishments have I celebrated lately? I do a tiny dance of flourishes, in my head, every couple days on the occasions my two girls play together so fantastically with joy and imagination. I remember how much I looked forward to that moment the first year of Joan’s life, toting this second one around while trying to pay attention to every thing the first one asked of me.
But after my tiny mental dance, I get right back to my steady work of setting high expectations and feeling disappointed by the state of the kitchen floor.
Reading this woman’s wonderful list of professional accomplishments celebrated with doughnuts I wondered: what if I sweetly celebrated a few more parental accomplishments? Things I longed for…and then attained? A year’s worth of full nights sleep? A full conversation with my daughter about what she dreamed about last night? A nine months of breastfeeding? A breezy morning of cheerful greetings and polite requests?
We aren’t going Back to School, because we’re still young. We’re not much on the learning to read books, more like the making towers of books, and then knocking them over. This season, with its big retail posters and manic backpack ads, it makes me feel out of sorts to hear about everyone else kicking into gear and signing up and getting back. After the summer, it’s an abrupt season of keeping track and keeping up. I feel a little like the tortoise with a picnic basket in the middle of a pack of mountain-climbing hares.
This week a wedge of apple cake on my plate next to my scrambled eggs helped me celebrate that I am relishing this stage. Slow mornings at the table together are the great boon of the no-school years. But this cake would also be the loveliest snack to come home to after a day of school. When it’s in the oven, it smells exactly like Apple Jacks—a fragrant fact probably lost on the young (do they still sell Apple Jacks?) but that bright froggy branding popping into your head might make you smile as you whistle through a few last tasks for the day.
The cutting up the apples stage in the recipe is a great one to delegate to a young one in the house. Lux, who is four, chopped them up for me using this handy knife. I went through after she was done and made some pieces smaller here and there. Ultimately it’s a very apple-full cake, no matter how finely you chop.
If you have a can of whipped cream on hand (so good for garnishing peach slices this time of year), by all means, use it on top.
Grandma’s Apple cake
from Date Night In by Ashley Rodriguez
Makes one 8″
Unsalted butter, for the pan
1.5 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup canola oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 medium-sized tart apples such as granny smith, peeled and cut into 1/2″ cubes.
Preheat the oven to 350.
Butter or spray an 8″ round cake pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper and butter the parchment. Combine the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and sugar in a medium bowl. In another bowl whisk together the oil, eggs, and vanilla. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, along with the apples. Use a rubber spatula to fold all the ingredients together until combined. (The batter will be very thick.) Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, spread until level, and place in the middle of the oven. Bake until a toothpick inserted comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack before inverting and then cooling completely. This cake is best the day after it’s been baked. Wrap well in plastic wrap and leave on the counter overnight.