We’ve had a rough go of it these past few weeks– mainly because of a combination of two entwined factors: 1) we’ve been extraordinarily busy, and 2) at least one kid, if not two or three, have been sick pretty much non-stop for this whole past winter and spring. Kyle and Meera, especially, have been sick more than usual (mostly just colds and flus, but still… just yuck!). And my work schedule, combined with Braydon’s work schedule, has just been a lethal combination, ramping up especially in these past few weeks. It has taken a toll on all of us, but on Kyle in particular. He is a very sensitive little soul, and he picks up on everything, and feels things intensely.
Kyle is, by far, our most unflappable child. It is amazing what he can handle (especially given how sensitive and in-tune he is), and he regularly astounds Braydon and I with his tolerance, patience, and ability to carry heavy burdens. But every once in a while it all gets to him and he starts to sort of unravel. That’s what has been happening a bit with Kyle lately. And on Tuesday night, when he struck out twice during his first baseball game of the season, well… he just sort of fell apart. Poor little guy.
The next morning he was dragging and having a hard time coming out of the funk he had fallen into the night before. We were in the kitchen and I was packing up their backpacks with Kyle’s help. One of the items going into his backpack was a form I had filled out for a dessert fund-raiser. Someone was raising money for something by selling chocolate chip cookies and we were, once again, giving money for it. With a completely defeated look on his face, with his big brown eyes peering up at me, Kyle said, “Mommy, why are all these things always chocolate? How come nobody ever makes stuff for kids like me?” (Note: Kyle does not like chocolate, and never has.) It was sort of the last straw, and it had been a long-time coming, and his eyes started to well up. My heart could had broken in two right then and there. And my mind quickly raced to think of what to say.
“You know what Kyle? I don’t know– but you are absolutely right!– it isn’t fair that so much of this stuff is always chocolate!” He fell into my arms. The tears never actually poured, but it was very close. I pulled his cute little face real close to mine, looked him in the eyes, and said: “You know what?! Today, after school, WE ARE GOING TO MAKE A LEMON CAKE!!!!!” “Really?!” he said. “Yes, really,” I said, “you and me baby, we are going to make a dang LEMON CAKE!”
I don’t really know how or why that came to me. And there were many moments in the following hours of re-arranging my schedule in which I cursed myself for committing to it, but it somehow seemed like the only right thing to do. I proceeded to find the best Lemon Cake recipe I could get my hands on, clear my schedule for the afternoon, pick the bambinos up from school right at 3:00 (instead of having them go to the after school program like they often do), and bring them home. This, mind you, was a major feat (picking them up at 3:00, relatively spur-of-the-moment, right smack in the middle of Last Week of Classes at Lehigh). I paid for it later (being up working until midnight), but it was well worth it.
When we got home I quickly put a video on in the family room to keep Owen and Meera out of the way, took Kyle’s hand, and brought my sweet lemon-loving boy into the kitchen with me.
Kyle loves lemon cake. One of his favorite treats in the world is the lemon cake at Starbucks. My goal was to find a lemon cake that would, at a minimum, look like the Starbucks lemon cake. I showed him the recipe and asked, “So, do you think it will be as good as Starbucks’?” In typical Kyle fashion, he responded, with a huge grin, “I think it will be even better!”
And when it was done?— Oh my oh my oh my! It was better. It was, truly, the best lemon cake any of us had ever had!
But you know what? Kyle felt better before that cake even came out of the oven. I swear, cooking in the kitchen with Mommy is the best cure for any of my kids’ aching hearts and minds. Time and time again, it does the trick (and I sure hope it always will). Kyle’s spring has been back in his step ever since we made that lemon cake. Not that there aren’t still some ragged edges for him… there are. But it is back to being nothing he can’t handle… at least for now.
There is some hard-core lemon zesting involved (zesting lemons = great stress reliever!).
It is well worth it for the scrumptious end result:
As some of you probably recall, Ina Garten’s cookbooks are my all-time-favorites (I have them all, and use them all regularly). The lemon cake recipe we used is from Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa at Home. If you don’t have the cookbook, you can find the recipe here: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/lemon-yogurt-cake-recipe/index.html. Try it. You’ll love it!
(Note: we used Chobani, non-fat, plain yogurt and I think that is partly what pushed this lemon cake over the top into the “Heavenly” category.)