Friday, June 15, 2012

What makes an era?

I just dropped my kids at their preschool for the last time.  I didn't think that I would feel much emotion about their last day of camp; emotion had already seeped through my stoic resolve on the final day of school, which was last week. However, as I stood in the hallway this morning, realizing it was the last time I would see the cheerful birthday board, the last time I would say "go potty" to my kids before they went to their classroom, the last time I would juggle two backpacks, two lunchboxes, and a purse while I waited for their day to begin, my stomach pulled on my heart.  I felt like it was the end of an era.

I remember when I walked the halls of my high school for the last time, summer smells rushing though the corridors with locker debris littering the ground.  I was excited for the next step and at the same time sad for moving on.  The same feelings engulfed me on my college graduation day when my roommate and I hugged goodbye and closed the door on our apartment.  I felt it again when I left my first teaching job after 6 years.  That time I cried, alone in my classroom, wondering where the next step would take me.  Similarly, my husband and I reminisced together in our empty house, our first house, which we had loved for 7 years.  We grew so much in that place.

Eras are defined by time, but really, I think, they are about place.  The short time we have spent at the preschool does not compare to the growth we have experienced in the place.  I saw my babies grow into kids.  I watched as they learned about friendship and "doing school" and all the things that a preschool offers young children. I served as a parent in fellowship, a board member, a teacher, and a volunteer in that place. It was 2.5 years of snacks without peanuts, of "beating the line" at the exit in order to get to work on time, of juggling schedules with my hubby, and of programs full of song.  It was piles of artwork that hang on my office wall, numerous treat bags filled with kiddie junk, and hundreds of smiles from the children and their parents.

When I compare the preschool to the other places that have sparked these same emotions, the time I spent there is insignificant.  The place, however, will always be important.  As my kids climbed the steps to their classroom this morning, I reminded them it was time to start their last day at the school.  My son burst into the chorus of "I'm so excited," and I joined him.  I am excited.  And I'm also welling up with tears as I write.  It is the end of an era, and my dueling emotions remind me of the import of this moment.

Friday, June 1, 2012

More Than the Rainbow

Since graduating from college, I've learned to fake my way in the kitchen. When I have the right tools and the time, I even enjoy cooking. I do not, however, enjoy baking. It's too hard to fake it as a baker. The chemistry has to be precise, and I do not have the patience nor the knowledge to be a baker. This week, with my summer course starting today, I didn't really have the time either, but my kids wanted rainbow cupcakes for their "un"birthday at school. Since we attend a nut-free school, cupcakes need to be homemade, not from a box mix that could have been contaminated in a nut factory. Alas, the ready-made confetti mix was not an option, and yesterday, I got out my Kitchen Aid mixer and set to work.

When my son and daughter first asked for rainbow cupcakes, I imagined I would separate my homemade icing into several bowls, add food coloring, and color each cupcake with a different color. Put them together, they would make a rainbow. Then my friend shared with me a recipe for tie-dyed cupcakes. These cupcakes were over-the-top rainbows! The recipe explained how to make the cupcakes from a box mix. Being the over-achiever that I am, and temporarily forgetting that I have work commitments, I decided to adapt it to my "from scratch" recipes for cake and icing. I let the kids help with some of the mixing and the coloring, and by the end of the day, I had a container full of rainbows.

The batter is layered in 6 different colors, which the kids and I made yesterday morning before they headed to school. The icing, which we colored before dinner, is piped in three colors, and I didn't quite master the technique. Though I wouldn't feel comfortable sharing these with a group of adults, I'm sure 5-year-olds will find them aesthetically pleasing and utterly delicious. I learned quite a bit in making these rainbow cupcakes that would be useful if I ever made them a second time. But quite frankly, I cursed so many times in my head as I was making them that I think they may be on my "been there done that" list. I decided in the kitchen last night that these particular cupcakes should not be something a working mom tackles.

My mom tells my kids that she loves them "more than the sun, the moon, and the stars." They often play a game that replaces the celestial beings with other objects. My daughter laughingly told me recently, "I love you more than the pillow, the writing book, and the door" as she looked around the room. No matter what the objects, they always use the definite article "the" (not the indefinite "a" or "an"). For them love goes beyond something they can see. It's something definite. This morning, as my son shared his excitement for his "un"birthday celebration and reminded his dad to remember to take the cupcakes to school, I changed my mind about the "been there, done that" list. Despite the frustrtaion at the time spent in my kitchen yesterday, if my kids ask for rainbow cupcakes again, I will make them. I love them more than the rainbow.