Friday flew straight in the face of every well-laid plan. But it helps to explain why my “home-making” posts are far and few between.
By the time Max and Ellie got back after lunch, the girls had each invented the most hair-curling cries for their fabric baby dolls. When I asked them if I could breastfeed their babies, Prophet refused.
“They’re not hungry, mom,” she snapped, “They just like to cry. A LOT.”
Little B. and Gnome smiled sheepishly. Then Gnome’s baby began shrieking as if a small dragon had a baby toe between its long, shiny teeth. “See?” smirked Prophet, her lips compressed into a tight little line that I like to call a “smugile”.
After giving myself the pronounced satisfaction of a little solitary eye-rolling, I trotted into the kitchen, where the boys were debating whether to bake banana bread or raspberry-banana bread. “Hey mom,” ventured the Eldest, “I looked everywhere and I can’t find my Honest Pretzels cookbook…”
“Obviously, you didn’t look everywhere,” I replied, keeping one ear cocked for fabric baby cries from the back of the castle.
“I did. I swear.”
“But the book is clearly somewhere, so not finding the book means you failed to look everywhere because you may have looked in many places while not looking in the place known as somewhere- which is, in fact, a place BECAUSE….” I raised my voice and caught my breath, “your book still exists as a form or familiar recognizable physical MATTER.”
“Mom doesn’t like to help me find things,” the Eldest said in an aside to Ellie. “She thinks I should find things for myself.” Ellie nodded. The boys looked amused.
They shrugged in unison as I set off (rather huffily) in search of the Eldest’s cookbook. Twenty minutes later, with “somewhere” feeling more and more like elsewhere, I happened upon a gigantic cockroach, spread on his back, legs curled towards the ceiling. Since he was obviously deceased, I did the only thing that made sense given the circumstances, namely, selected a swatch of linen from the fabric bin and mounted Sir Eustace into a frame for the dining room wall.
As I hammered a nail into the wall to display our new family friend, Ellie saw it and started laughing. He loved Sir Eustace. In turn, I discovered that Sir Eustace had minimized the cost of admitting I couldn’t find the cookbook either- and maybe “somewhere” was actually “nowhere”, immaterial.
The Eldest just grinned and said, “That’s cool, mom,” when I passed over a printed recipe for banana-raspberry bread.
“Actually,” I wanted to say, “Cool is your non-shaming response to my huffiness”. But I didn’t say it. Maybe a residue of huffiness lingered.
As the Eldest prepared his ingredients and Ellie warmed the oven, I decided to make a snack for the crying baby dolls and the five uber-cool kids in the castle. “I’m going to make some microwave popcorn,” I said, hoping it sounded official. Ellie watched as I put a fabric napkin under the popcorn bag and set the timer.
“Why’d you put that napkin in there?” Ellie asked.
“Because the spinny-dish-thingamabob is broken and the popcorn will burn on the bottom if I don’t put something under it and we don’t really have paper napkins…”
“Only for guests,” appended the Eldest, as he mashed bananas with the meat-grinder.
I set the timer for the minimum popping time and prepared to listen for the promised “popping intervals”. It took all of forty seconds for the microwave to begin smoking furiously, filling the tiny kitchen with smoke and the familiar odor of burning. Something wasn’t right. When the girls dashed into the kitchen screaming “Fire! Fire!”, Ellie and the Eldest immediately demonstrated proper bomb-shelter skills by throwing themselves on the floor and covering their heads with their arms.
At this point, we torn between cracking up and dealing with the current disaster. Somehow, we managed to alternate between both fairly evenly.
Ellie found a fan in the sewing room, and set it up to blow the air away. Prophet announced the rule that “no one opens the microwave door until daddy comes him”. This gave her the chance to indulge in her favorite hobby of all, namely, the enforcement of very particular, legalistic rules. I try not to worry so much about whether this rigidity will condemn her to life as a card-carrying Republican. There are other things to think about. Like the smoke.
Meanwhile, the Eldest went on baking as if nothing had happened, while Ellie theorized about the cause of the burning. “You know, it’s an urban myth that aluminum blows up microwaves,” he said in his most serious voice. He had the floor. “Because, actually, all it does if you put it in the microwave is make a lot of smoke- I mean, A LOT of smoke, kind of like that”, he said, pointing towards the closed microwave door.
Could these kids be any cooler? I mean, here they are, juggling crisis-management, intricate baking recipes, baby dolls that cry no matter what you do to soothe them, and then babysitting a mom who can’t even pop microwave popcorn without setting fires. Someone give these kids a gold medal.
Needless to say, an hour later, the kitchen still reeked of smoke but we snacked ourselves silly anyway, under the shadow of a somber Sir Eustace, the delicious taste of banana-raspberry bread in our mouths.
It was Tiffany who finally made sense of the whole event- “I like it,” she said with reference to the framed Sir Eustace, adding that it made a great “sports trophy”. Granted, Sir Eustace was deceased when I found him, so he was more like a roadkill trophy than a sports trophy, but roadkill trophy fails to capture the budding affection (the sentiment that led me to offer Eustace the token of a “Sir”).
What Tiffany didn’t know, however, was that our microwave held within it a napkin lined with metallic strips, still smoldering (eventually, charred) as a result of my kitchen shenanigans.
“Whatever,” I overheard Prophet telling Little B., a sigh heavy in her voice- “I guess that’s why Dad always tells Mom not to worry about doing any of that cooking.”