I have not been doing much creative cooking lately. I miss it.
I miss discovering a brand new-to-me recipe, assembling the ingredients, and then chopping and stirring my way to exciting new taste sensations. Cooking traditional favorites is satisfying and pleasurable (especially when no one complains and everyone leaves the table happily stuffed), but it gets boring after awhile. I get bored way too stinkin’ fast.
When my days are relaxed, I can fritter (ooo, that reminds me, I want to make apple fritters soon!) about all I want, crafting and concocting to my heart’s content. One of my favorite happy feelings is waking up in the morning and then remembering that I get to play with, say, empanadas in a couple hours—oh, joy! Playing with food makes me giddy.
So if I like it so much, why am I not doing it? Because creative cooking takes brain energy and time, and right now my time is getting poured into my kids (and The Donut Party of 2010 and belly dance and church meetings) because—get this—I’m homeschooling my kids.
People have often said to me, ““I don’t know how you do it—homeschooling four kids...wow!” and up until recently, I didn’t understand their shock and awe. Homeschooling was no big deal. It simply consisted of us living together, growing older together, and learning about cool stuff together.
Which is true.
I also believed that homeschooling didn’t need to take much time.
Which is not true.
Folks, I can not believe I am saying this. My shock is profound. I am gape-mouthed and puzzled, scratching my head and spinning in circles. I am choking on my huge forkful of crow.
What in the world ever happened to my nice little idea of homeschooling?
I’ll tell you what happened. What happened is that my four little squirmy, pooping, suckling, screeching, grabbing, crawling babies done did growed up into four opinionated, inquisitive, mouthy, emotional, energetic not-so-little-anymore people who use up a lot more of my mental energy than I ever would’ve thought possible.
And that’s the truth.
Turns out, both babies and older kids are exhausting, but in different ways. How I've experienced it, caring for the physical needs of a baby is boring and draining and nonstop. Caring for older kids is less physical but much more mentally exhausting.
Here are a couple examples to drive home the point.
Example #1: A mama can (not that she does) have deep thoughts while changing a poopy diaper and rinsing it in the toilet. A mama can not have deep thoughts while teaching a child how to scrub the toilet.
Example #2: A mama can read a book while nursing a baby. A mama can not read a book while supervising table manners and appropriate mealtime conversation.
Example #3: A mama’s mind can go elsewhere (though it may be too exhausted to do much gallivanting about) when walking a baby to sleep. A mama’s mind can not go elsewhere when explaining Why Not to an angry child.
So see, after the morning sessions of Fred and piano, spelling and geography, science and Bible, my brain is zapped. I don’t have the energy to dream expansively of fancy dishes and savory sauces—just dreaming up the next day’s menu is all I can muster energy for, and then, just barely. Several hours of being fully present to my children does me in.
I think it’s right about here that I’m supposed to gush happily, “But I love homeschooling my children even more than cooking! It's so wonderful!”
Except that I don’t know if that’s true.
(And no, I’m not playing Mama Martyr.)
It’s just that cooking involves dirty pots and sore feet, but homeschooling involves grit and exhaustion on a much deeper level.
And, yes, yes, happiness, too. It’s just that the happiness is more muted (and profound) than the giddy high that a flaky pie crust brings. (Also, children aren’t as easily moldable as a pie crust. There is no instant gratification when it comes to homeschooling.)
An Analogy: Homeschooling versus cooking is like a good night's sleep versus caffeine. Homeschooling is like a full night of sleep and cooking is like a shot of strong coffee. The former is more satisfying, the latter more electrifying.
So there you have it, a long-winded, analogy-riddled and example-filled explanation for why I’m not cooking much these days. Things may shift (they always do) and suddenly I’ll find myself with lots of time to fritter and futz with food.
When that happens, you’ll be the first to know.
(Note of clarification: cooking creatively is relative. As soon as I was done with this post (minus the editing part), I got up off the couch to go experiment with some pepperoni rolls. So see, I’m still cooking creatively. It’s just not as much or as often as I’d like. So in other words, don’t be totally shocked when you see a new recipe pop up in this space. It doesn’t mean the big yellow bus has whisked my little ones away.) (Though the fact that the big yellow bus hasn't stopped here doesn’t mean that I don’t sometimes wish it did.)
This same time, years previous: puzzling it out, a milestone