Summer’s Going Out with a Whimper

Actually, I kept thinking that yesterday, when it was so gloomy and grey. I was like, really, this is one of our final waning days of summer? I demand a do-over for this one!

The truth is, I’m completely ready for school to begin. I’ve taken on some additional responsibilities at KidsOutAndAbout, I am hard at work helping to get the new Working Group on Girls of Schenectady, Inc. web page up and running, and the crazy, constantly-varying daily schedules make it all pretty difficult. When I mention that I need to do a call or a webcam meeting for work or some other random meeting, the girls say “Oh” in the same tragically disappointed tone that they might use if I said, “Maybe we’ll adopt a brand-new kitten. . . nah, never mind.” Which is ridiculous, because much of that time they’d be ignoring me, anyway. Well, that’s not entirely true. M will mostly keeps herself occupied, except that the soccer schedule is daily and changes just about daily to keep us all on our toes. But J is another story.

J struggles a bit with summer. She is drawn to watching way too much tv, but then she feels like a terrible person who is wasting away her life and all of her vast potential. Yes, okay, Cute W and I probably put this seed into her head, but it has grown into a full-fledged thorny hedge. The other day she made herself this adorable note to put onto our remote:

note for phone

She had made a little list of things to do before turning on the tv–practice trumpet, read a chapter of her book, play some tennis, and more. Sometimes this works very well. Other days she ignores it. Often, she will come up with projects that end up becoming projects for me, too.

Here’s an example. The other day, she and M decided to make snickerdoodles while I was gone at a meeting. Which is great. I’m not one of those moms who is opposed to her kids cooking alone in a house. They are competent.  They are often moderately competent.

So, they made the snickerdoodles and at some point M lost interest, and J was manning the ovens when I came home. And she ended up with some over-baked snickerdoodles, which was sad. I said,”Oh, if I had known that you were doing these, I would have reminded you that I usually set the timer for a couple minutes shorter than the recipe says, just in case.” J assured me that she knew that, that she’d done that, that she’d carefully examined the cookies and they looked “too doughy” and so she kept extending the time, over and over again.  She ended up with dense, hard little cinnamon stones with burnt bottoms. Oy.

The next morning J was full of resolve. “I’m going to make a new batch of snickerdoodles.” I praised her perseverence and growth mindset. I was genuinely pleased. I left her to it, making a note to myself to check in at baking time so that I could help her avoid over-baking. For myself, I was going to get some work done.

Except that when I checked 15 minutes later, J had a question. Could she just go ahead and pour the flour from the bag into our empty flour canister? And that’s when I noticed that she’d accidentally used whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose flour for both batches of snickerdoodles. I had forgotten that the flour canister was empty, and I have no idea why they bypassed the full, prominently placed new bag of all-purpose flour and instead went straight for the rumpled, almost-empty-but-still-not-empty-yet bag of whole wheat flour where it huddled with the sheets of nori and other healthful stuff that is too expensive to toss but that I can’t bring myself to actually eat.

It didn’t occur to me at the moment, but it feels profoundly unjust that J’s little mistake as she thought she was diligently following the recipe would lead to inedible cookies. On another occasion, with M acting as lead baker, they encountered the term “shortening” in a cookie recipe, and since it’s no longer the 1970s, they didn’t know what it was. Giving it not a single second thought, M declared that they’d substitute milk for shortening. In spite of this substitution being completely unlike the thing it was substituting, the resulting cookies were so delicious that it became a new recipe around the house, which we call “Cakies” because they are cookies that seem like little cakes. People have even requested the recipe. That is just the way M’s life is. You know those pictures of unicorns pooping rainbows? That is M’s life.

But back to J. I had to break it to J that it was likely that the first batch of snickerdoodles’ peculiar density was due to this misstep, and that, even before popping it into the oven, this next batch of cookies was doomed.

At this point, J almost burst into tears and actually declared, “I give up! I’m just going to watch tv!”

Like hell that was going to happen. Rather than doing whatever work I’d been planning to do, I helped J make batch number #3 of snickerdoodles (delicious, finally). And then, of course, I had to go out to the store to buy more butter and eggs.

That is just one example. Stuff like that’s been happening for the last couple of weeks. My To-Do list is a mile long, I have a new phone that still isn’t properly set up, and I feel like I’ve time-warped into the Toddler Era when I worked hard all day accomplishing nothing tangible at all.

So, yeah: I’m ready for school.


  1. Claire

    I’m exhausted just reading this! I love having my son at home and I’m going to miss him terribly when school changes, but I’m attempting to transition to a work-at-home “career” (more like job), and I can see how hard it is to get anything done when he’s home. I naively thought that since he’s no longer a toddler and entertains himself well, that I could get all kinds of things done when he’s home. True when it comes to little household chores, but not so true when it comes to things that require big chunks of time.

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