It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Helpful bakers

1:41 a.m. I lie in bed and tried to relax for 40 minutes, but every time I started to drift – bing! – the brain would jolt awake again. I came downstairs with my pillow, thinking maybe a change of venue would help. It sometimes does; our couch is very comfortable. Drift …bing! … drift… bing! At three, I gave it up.

Since three this morning, I have tidied the kitchen, swabbed out the bathroom, thrown a load of laundry into the dryer, swept the front porch clear of snow, read a chapter in an Improving Book (and took notes on it!), read a couple of chapters in a very unimproving book, tried unsuccessfully to upload some pictures (TWO sets of batteries crapped out. TWO!), and written a lengthy, chatty email.

Such productivity! And all before DAWN!! (Which, given that dawn is happening an hour later than it was last month, is not SUCH an achievement, but still.)

Of course, I’m going to be ready for bed by, oh, eleven this morning, but still! Productivity!


In contemplating my likely energy level three hours hence, I think you’re better off with a story from yesterday … (to prove that yes! I DO THINGS with the children! Besides laugh at with them.)

Yesterday we made muffins, me and the tots. Morning glory muffins, which, while absolutely delish, are fiddly to make. All that grating. (No, I don’t have a food processor.) I make a double batch, so that’s four cups of carrots and two of apples. And grating is boring. So very, very boring.

How do you cook with three two-year-olds and a three-year-old? Well, you let them help, of course, and you are very, very creative and generous in your definition of that word.

“Helping” means they can wash the carrots! In a bowl of water you set on the kitchen floor! And then, when they are done washing the carrots, you “rinse them off a bit” in the sink.

“Helping” means they also wash the apples! In a bowl of water set on the kitchen floor! Which you then peel anyway, so no secondary rinsing required. (Yes, I peeled the carrots, too, but peeling with a paring knife seems so much more … protective … than peeling with a carrot peeler.)

And then they “helped” by keeping me company when I sat on the kitchen floor and grated, grated, grated into the bowl. Which really is helpful, because they are so cute and funny, and grating is, as aforementioned, so very boring.

They also “helped” by eating any enthusiastic carrot bits which launched themselves from the grater. (Yes, my floors ARE clean enough to eat off! We — well, they — do it all the time! Haven’t lost one yet!)

I put the grated bits into a measuring cup. They poured it into the bowl. Four kids, four cups of carrots. Perfect! But what about the apples, you ask? There were only two cups of apples. Four kids, four HALF-cups. Kitchen math, anyone?

They poured in the sugar, and the flour, and the raisins and the crushed walnuts. They helped beat the half-dozen eggs. I poured in the oil. (Ever cleaned up two cups of oil off your kitchen floor? I have.) They poured in the orange juice. I poured in the eggs? (Ever cleaned up half-a-dozen beaten eggs off your kitchen floor? Me neither, and I aim to keep it that way.)

Then we mix it all together. Yes, we are still gathered round the giant bowl in the middle of the kitchen floor. The batter now weighs about 12 pounds in that giant bowl, so they’re each good for 1/2 rotation of the spoon. I finish up. They are impressed. “You are very strong, Mary!” (It’s from years of toting toddlers, one on each hip.)

They are each given one paper muffin cup liner. They each drop it into one of the muffin cups. One EACH. Anna led the way. Seems she also found the premium muffin cup real estate.

“Not there, Timmy. Anna’s is there. You can put yours in this hole. Good! Not there, Nigel. Anna’s is there. You can put yours in this other hole. Great! Not there, Malli. Anna’s is there. You can put yours in this other, other hole. Thank you!

Then they each get another muffin cup liner, and we do it all again. In fact, we have so much fun, we do it ELEVEN more times, until all the muffin cups are filled.

I fill the cups with batter. They lick the spoons. (Yes, yes, raw eggs. I know. I have their parents’ permission. Haven’t lost one yet!)

And, at the end of the day? The house is saturated with the sweet scent of baking. Each parent takes a long, deep breath, and goes home with enough muffins for their family. Because their kids helped make them!

November 22, 2007 - Posted by | crafts, food |


  1. awww….now you’re making me want to move to Ottawa again! Because lord knows I’m not making morning glory muffins. I’m already dreading the annual cupcakes!

    Oh, and I have cleaned a half dozen eggs off the floor. Not fun.

    Comment by Kimberly | November 22, 2007 | Reply

  2. I too have had to clean up eggs off of the floor…as Kimberly so eloquently put it…not fun.

    Still, I have way more fun baking when I have “helpers”.

    And I’ve always ensured to emphasize the “kitchen math”. In my opinion, there isn’t a better way to learn fractions.

    Mostly because the result is a cake or muffins. 😛

    Comment by Sheri | November 22, 2007 | Reply

  3. mmmm! YUM.

    I love to bake… I spent all of last summer teaching 5-15 year olds how to cook!! (bake.)


    Comment by sassybelle | November 22, 2007 | Reply

  4. Fantastic. Misterpie bakes with Pumpkinpie sometimes, each with their own apron. So cute. I should take photos some time so I remember that stuff.

    Comment by kittenpie | November 22, 2007 | Reply

  5. I’ve never cleaned eggs off the floor. I have a dog for that sort of thing.

    I feel deeply nostalgic for the time I was a full-time mum with my little children. I particularly remember the time Al cracked an egg on El’s head (accidentally, natch) and stuck his tongue out under the golden syrup spoon.

    Comment by Z | November 22, 2007 | Reply

  6. I would like to quit my job and have you be my caregiver! Not my kid’s caregiver..mine. Muffins…mmmmm muffins.

    Comment by Lisa | November 23, 2007 | Reply

  7. I took some time and went to my sons daycare to make cupcakes. Me, some caregivers and a batch of cupcakes. They did stirring similar to that of your kids and they each got to decorate their own cupcake. It was magical. Kids and cooking are so very fun!

    Comment by Alison | November 23, 2007 | Reply

  8. Sounds lovely. Reminds of when my kids were younger and I would line up all the kids (my 2 and however many neighborhood friends were over that day) on the other side of the kitchen peninsula to “help” me bake. Some of the kids were a little older and could actually grate things like orange zest or nutmegs for my favorite muffins.

    Comment by Katherine | November 23, 2007 | Reply

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