Monday, July 19, 2010

Momma Diaries #1

My baby's first birthday was on Sunday. Cedar is now a toddler. Soon he'll be driving and I'll make him promise to go 55 miles an hour on the highway. My life passes before my eyes. Somehow we all survived infancy. Oh, that we survive the rest.

In some circles, after one year you are no longer considered a new parent. At six months you get kicked out of new mommy groups, and there are fewer and fewer oohs and ahhs when the kid is crying. Even after four months way too many people have this odd assumption that now that your joints aren't jelly anymore, life is suddenly pretty much Ok.

Excuse me? Enter Psycho Mom. Enter momma from door number two, the crazy twin of every Perfect Mommy stereotype I see. Enter me! This is the year I will call Barely Hanging On. This is the year I will call Oh My God I Am Still Myself After All.

I want to like motherhood just like I want to like food. I do like it! Its just hard to swallow. Is it the texture of it--funny, lumpy, hard to get a hold of? Motherhood isn't bad. There are the things I love about motherhood, like my kid. I love hanging out with him, playing with him, kissing his cheek. Most importantly, I think he smells good. But who thought up the first year? Pregnancy was so cool. Ok, almost cool. After I got over the idea of not being in control of anything in my body anymore.

He didn't like the hat. This is how I've felt a lot.
Like, "Who put that on me? I didn't know it was going to be like this. Help!"

I admit it, though I like my offspring, I have been more than a little reluctant to get into this role called mom. I mean, I am kind of already a stereotypical mom. I'm curvy and sensitive, I cook, I know how to sew, and I played with dolls as a kid. But between you and me, it is a little much, this fitting so nauseatingly into the picture. It was never an aspiration. I never thought, "ooh, I want a baby. I want to add to the world one more maladjusted person that will either turn out exactly like me or reject all that I believe in for the exact opposite." Nope. It just happened.

As I've said, I think I'm getting into it, but I have done my fair share of kicking and screaming. This year I have complained, sulked, cried, and delved into a depressive episode or two trying to wiggle my way in (or out!) of the mother identity.

I don't know why. I have a lovely mother. She is generous, helpful, flexible, and caring. She took the time to homeschool my siblings and I for five years. She took us on fabulous field-trips all over the California (the Sir Francis Drake ship reproduction, the Exploratorium, and Sutter's Fort to name a few). She stayed with me when I was sick, and when I was well, she chauffeured me around to play practice, swim team, art class, basketball practice, and kid parties. And she liked it! I never got the feeling like I was a chore, or something to resent. Maybe I just had too nice a childhood. Maybe I would be better adjusted to adult life if I hadn't had it so good early on. All I know is, its been one rough year.

Because it was so funky, because I like my kid and I have this idea that the first birthday sets the stage for all birthdays to come, and because I am attached to actually becoming a nice kind of mom, I planned a little birthday party for him.

The days and weeks before this blessed occasion I spent a ridiculous amount of time deciding what cake to make. This is how I show my love. Everyone was suggesting carrot cake. I love carrot cake, but we've done that already. Applesauce cake was the runner up, but it's summer and apples are for fall and winter. What I really wanted to make was something that matched his skin. Oh, something symbolic.

When I see him, I think apricot. Some complexions are peaches and cream, some coffee and cream, others almond paste. Cedar is definitely apricot. So I made vanilla cupcakes with apricot buttercream. Just for him. I made vanilla cupcakes with pure and delicious Strauss butter. Just for him.

The cupcakes were a little ugly. I put too much batter in the cups so I had to chisel them off the pans; and the buttercream looked a little chunky. The original recipe asks for apricot essence. Who in the world has apricot essence? I would be Perfect Mom if I had ordered it ahead of time from some fancy baking supply company, but I am the Psycho Mom remember? I live down the street from the Perfect Mom who has all the Martha Stewart baking tips cataloged by her perfect little desk. Anyway, Cedar didn't seem to care. He was skeptical at first, unsure of the spontaneous singing of the party attenders. But he got into it after a few minutes--after he gave me a bite.

Bless him. It was magic. All the visions I had of him sitting in his dark wood freestanding highchair with one little cake in front of him and me at his side showing him how to blow out a candle for the first time--they all came true. It was beautiful I tell you. Beautiful.

So...difficult year? Reluctant momma? Well eat your heart out Perfect Mommies of the world. Let the cupcakes have muffin-tops like his momma now has. Let them look a little off. Let him eat sprouted grain hotdog buns and sauerkraut, and even a piece of natural-natural-natural hotdog. Let him squish it all between his chubby little fingers and let us laugh about it. I know he won't remember this birthday. He definitely won't remember this passed year. But I will. I remember it all. And you know, awkward and disorienting and funky as it may have been at times, it has also been equally beautiful. Like his birthday. And besides, I'll probably do it again soon!

Yellow Cupcakes with Apricot Buttercream (adapted from The Cake Bible)

I usually don't like cupcakes because people like using sponge cakes for them. Here is a lovely butter cake alternative that doesn't have that chewy, egg white based batter texture, but rather a delicate, tender and, of course, buttery crumb that makes your mouth swoon for happiness with the buttercream on top.

For the Cake:

6 large egg yolks
1 cup milk
2 1/4 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups cake flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl combine yolks, 1/4 cup milk, and vanilla.

In a large mixing bowl combine the dry ingredients and mix. Add the butter and remaining 3/4 cup milk. Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Increase to mediu, speed and beat for 1 1/2 minutes to aerate and develop the cake's structure. Scrape down the sides. Gradually add the egg mixture in 3 batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition to incorporate the ingredients and strengthen the structure. Scrape down the sides.

Fill paper lined or greased cupcake pans 2/3 full until there is no batter left. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a tester inserted near the center comes out clean and the cake springs back when pressed lightly in the center. Remove from pans and cool completely before icing.

For the Buttercream:

6 large egg yolks
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
2 cups unsalted butter, softened
1/2-1 cup apricot jam, pureed if chunky (lower amounts keeps silky smooth, higher amounts taste better)

Have ready a greased 1 cup heatproof glass measure near the range.

In a bowl beat the yolks with an electric mixer until light in color. Meanwhile, combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan and heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves and the syrup is boiling. Stop stirring and boil to the soft-ball stage (238 degrees). Immediately transfer the syrup to the glass measure to stop the cooking.

If using an electric hand-held mixer, eat the syrup into the yolks in a steady stream. If using a stand mixer, pour a small amount of syrup over the yolks with the mixer off. Immediately beat at high spped for 5 seconds. Stop the mixer and add a larger amount of syrup. Beat at high speed for 5 seconds. Continue with the remaining syrup. For the last addition, use a rubber scraper to remove the syrup clinging to the glass measure. Continue beating until completely cool.

Gradually beat in the butter, then the apricot puree. Store in an airtight container. Bring to room temperature before using. Let come to room temperature before rebeating to restore texture.


  1. This is the most beautifully honest thing I've read or heard all day. Thank you!

  2. I love it. Your writing, that is.

  3. Keep writing about you and your mommyhood. Please.

  4. I enjoy reading your work so much. Thank you!