If I, like my senior English students, had to write a college admissions essay about someone who has had a profound impact on my life, I’d choose a three and a half year old bundle of energy named Kate. But before I got to Kate, I’d have to talk about her mom, Lisa. Lis and I both graduated from ASU at the same time and got hired at the same school eight years ago. I remember having classes with Lis and thinking she was super confident and a bit scary, in the best way possible. After we started working together, I found out Lis was a goofy, giggly, humble, non-pop culture knowing crazy person, again, in the best way possible. She says things like “Wait, you’re supposed to mix the wet and dry ingredients separately?” and “What’s a cooling rack?” and “But I don’t have a mixing bowl!”, “They were giggling like church mice.”, and “She was sleeping like a banshee.”
We became friends quickly, bonding over a hard first year. She became part of my family, and I hers. We both bought houses, about half a mile apart, after our first year of teaching. I spent many dinners at her house, eating Hamburger Helper (so classy!), drinking bottles of cheap red wine, and laughing hysterically with her husband, who is also a teacher, though of middle school, heaven help him. Lis has been my rock, the person I can confess my worst thoughts to, the one whose house I can show up at unannounced at 9:30 on a school night and she’ll let me ugly cry it out on her couch because some guy has broken my heart.
Three years later, on Halloween 2007, Kate came into the world. To be frank, I’ve never been into the idea of babies. They’re messy and smelly and are generally tiny ruiners of all things. But Kate was different. From the moment I met her, the afternoon after she was born (when I didn’t even want to go, because it had been, and remains, the worst day of my professional life), I fell in love. Maybe it was because I’d never watched a kid grow up, or I’d never had a baby grab my finger and refuse to let go, but I knew she was something special. I’ve watched every stage of Kate’s life. I changed her diapers, ate Cheerios off the floor with her, learned not to laugh when she picked her nose at the dinner table, coached her on manners and sharing, and attempted to explain why eleventy isn’t a number. We’ve made countless pizzas and she’s getting really good at sprinkling the cheese and not just globbing it on. She’s basically the closest thing I have to a niece, as, much to my mother’s disappointment, my sister and brother-in-law have yet to procreate.
My current favorite Kate story: Kate goes to the preschool at our work and the first day she left Bunny, her aptly named stuffed bunny, at school and I had to pick him up because she was having a level 12 meltdown. She was way more excited to see Bunny than me that afternoon. I hung out for a while, and as the first week of school was stressful, I mentioned that I wanted to drink all the beer in the world. Kate then told me, “Beer is for grownups, Manda.” I replied, “I’m aware of that. Aren’t I a grownup?” She thought for a moment and said, “You’re short.” Me, “Uh yeah…does that preclude me from being a grownup? What kind of logic is this?” (Yes, I talk to her like an adult and I always have.) Her, “I don’t know. Mommy, I’m hungry.” Well played, little one.
Recently I was having dinner at the their house, Lis and I decided we wanted cookies. I pulled up my favorite Snickerdoodle recipe, because she had nearly all the ingredients. The only thing we were missing was brown sugar. Lis excitedly exclaims, “We don’t need brown sugar! We can make our own brown sugar!”
She then taught me that you can make brown sugar out of molasses. She claimed it was a 1/2 cup of sugar and 2 tablespoons of molasses. Later she realized that is was supposed to be 1 cup of sugar and 1 tablespoon of molasses, but the cookies actually turned out to be really good.
Last December, their family grew again, when Caleb joined the family. A few weeks before he was born Lis and I were chatting, and probably playing Legos or something, and I confided that I was worried I wouldn’t love Caleb as much as I love Kate, and to be honest, I probably wouldn’t love my own hypothetical future children as much as I love Kate. She laughed at me and told me not to worry. She was right, Caleb is just as awesome. I mean, he’s an adorable, chubby, ginger baby, how much cuter could he possibly be?
I know one day Kate will realize I’m the Winnie the Pooh to her Christopher Robin and she won’t need me anymore. The days of building awesome Lego castles and reading bedtime stories will be long gone. She won’t ask ask me adorable questions that make my heart melt, such as, “Manda, you’re the only Manda, right? There’s only one Manda and you’re mine.” On the other hand, I’m excited to continuing watching her grow up, especially when she becomes an impossible teenager and I proceed to embarrass the living hell out of her. Until then, I’ll continue to enjoy the time I get to spend with her and when the time comes I’ll tell her, in the words of Christopher Robin to Winnie the Pooh, “If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together… there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart… I’ll always be with you.”
Rating: 5 out of 5 cold glasses of milk. These cookies are absolutely perfect!
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 3/4 cup white sugar
- 3 cups flour
- 1 tablespoon, plus 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 tablespoon molasses
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 425.
- In a large bowl add flour, 1 cup of sugar, 1 tablespoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, baking soda and salt. Whisk together.
- In a separate bowl, add 1/2 cup of sugar and molasses. Using a fork, mix together until it looks like brown sugar. Add to other dry ingredients.
- In the now unused separate bowl, add butter eggs, and vanilla. Whisk together.
- Blend wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.
- In a small bowl, add the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar, 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon, and 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg.
- Roll small (1 1/2 inch) balls of dough, then roll in the spiced sugar.
- Bake each batch for 7 minutes.