Friday, July 26, 2013

The Oat Bran Pancake Blues

I got a little emotional while flipping the pancakes this morning.

I think it was a combination of things.

You see, I've been making this pancake recipe for the past 6 years. It was one of the first "finger foods" my oldest daughter, Laurel, ate. I used to whip up the recipe in this darling, hand-made bowl that Tom gave to me as a Christmas present one year.

It came with a little whisk that eventually broke. I loved to whisk those pancakes up for Laurel, and I probably talked to her the whole time about what I was doing in an obnoxious, high-pitched, sing-song voice. She always gobbled them up, and I didn't even give her any syrup. Something about making her those pancakes made me feel like the world's greatest, #1, A+ Mom.

By the way, I systematically broke most of the hand-made pottery we received for our wedding. It makes me sad just thinking about. I still have this bowl from around that time in our lives, and I'm fighting hard to keep it alive. Even with a toddler who climbs everything in an effort to destroy most things.

Recently, Tom and I have been talking about how we can really tell that we are now a family of five by the amount of groceries we go through. I am still shopping as if I'm a single gal, but there are four other people to feed around here. I rarely cook enough to have leftovers. I never buy enough bread to make it through a whole week. And back to these pancakes, I've been making a single batch for the past six years. I really need to double the batch to feed these three pancake monsters. To have any useful amount left to freeze? It's a triple batch, baby.

This giant bowl just feels all wrong.

I hope I didn't get any tears in the batter.

This weekend marks six years since we moved into the "green house" here in Pittsburgh. As I've reflected on that, I've been extremely nostalgic about what life was like when we moved in here. I have fond memories of walking throughout our new neighborhood with my sweet, 11 month-old baby strapped to my chest. I get teary thinking about going to church as a family and then hitting up the Whole Foods hot bar for breakfast and to just hang out. I can almost remember how at one time we had just one basket of beautiful wooden toys in the living room - and that was all that was needed to occupy our freakishly calm little girl.

Oh, the time of one batch of pancakes. Where have you gone?

Now, in order to take a walk through the neighborhood, I need to push 64 pounds of kids in a double stroller. Or create endless incentives to get my almost four-year-old to just keep walking. In either situation, there tends to be a lot of whining. Now, church feels more like torture than it probably should. We keep going, though, in hopes that there is something mysterious and miraculous that we cannot see happening within us through our perseverance and long-suffering. Now, our dining room is nearly indistinguishable from a day-care center gone wild. Crumbs everywhere. Stepping on crayons. Colorful plastic in every nook and cranny - and it would all make noise, too, if we didn't dutifully remove every battery.

Now, there is a lot of yelling. Some of it comes from me. Don't get me wrong. I guess you might not be able to tell from reading this post, but all three of my kids have brought me more joy than I ever could have expected. They have each made me wonder at the capacity to love that is within me. However, there have been some, um, other things that have risen to the surface as our family has grown. It used to be easier to deny how selfish I can be. How impatient I am. How restless I sometimes get. How critical of those I love most I so easily can become.

I am not the mother I thought I would be.

The mother who can take the growing demands of her growing family in stride. The mother who can keep her house clean. The mother who can listen intently to every word that crosses the lips of her (extremely talkative) child. The mother who does arts and crafts. The mother who reads her children classic literature - and they listen. The mother who never turns on the television. The mother who never allows sugar to cross the lips of her children and certainly would never bribe them with lollipops. The mother who is never annoyed with her kids but thinks they are always cute and charming. The mother who takes her kids on hikes and long walks and they love it because they are used to it. I could go on and on. It is so easy to be so critical.

I was not expecting a triple batch of pancakes to get me going like this. Thinking about simpler times. Feeling guilty because those times did not include my younger children. Feeling guilty for not being more like single-batch, A+ pancake mom. Oh, and all of that broken pottery. A tragedy. As I long for those "simpler times," I know I am being pretty selective with my memories. For instance, while I had many blissfully pleasant mornings with my sweet girl back then, at 3PM on most afternoons I started the evening shift as a therapist at a Psychiatric hospital. There was a lot to learn there, and there were people in need, no doubt. Mostly, though, I just pined away for the day when I could stop working there.

I know as life marches on and new struggles arise, I will probably look back on this very moment and wish I could be back here. When my little kids are teenagers and are scaring the crap out of me. When the kids face adversity at school. When there are challenges in the career I am trying to pursue. When we eventually meet with true tragedy - and that is something that will happen sooner or later.

Perhaps even next month when I inevitably will have to start burning the candle at both ends to get my nursing school stuff done, I bet I will look back fondly on this moment. Ahh, I remember the days when I could make pancakes in the morning to the adoring ooohs and aaahs of my kid fans and then stay in my pajamas until 11 am blogging about it while the kids destroyed the house all around me. Those were the days. It was so much better then.

I guess you might want that pancake recipe now.

Oat Bran Pancakes (loosely adapted over the years from a recipe in Simply in Season)

1/2 cup oat bran
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup milk
1 egg
1 tbsp. oil
1 tbsp. honey or sugar
mix-ins, if desired: chocolate chips, sliced banana, blueberries, etc.

Mix all ingredients in one bowl. That's my lazy method. Really, you should mix the dry ingredients in one bowl and the wet in another, then combine. But they're just pancakes so I throw it all in one bowl and mix it up. Fry in a greased pan over medium heat. Flip when bubbles begin to appear. I froze 18 of these, and they turn out pretty well straight from the freezer to the toaster. Kind of like toaster waffles.

I hope these pancakes don't make you cry, too.

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