A boy’s recipe for toast and good will

Whenever my wife has to work a morning shift, I go in to work late so I can take the boys to school. I don’t look forward to these mornings for many reasons. For one thing, I am using up my vacation time on something that is anything but a vacation. Also, none of the men in our household are famous for being morning people. The most infamous non-morning person is Big Brother.

It can be quite a struggle to get this sleepy 2nd grader out of bed and into his morning routine. But the last time this duty fell to me, he woke up by himself at the same time I did. This was a pleasant surprise, and it was only the beginning of his pleasantness.

As I was showering, a young voice was directed at me from beyond the shower curtain. “Daddy?”


“I think I’ve done all my responsibilities. I got dressed and brushed my teeth. I made my bed and I got out the ingredients for toast.”

soon to be toast

Sorry, Soft ‘N Good bear. You’re about to be toast.

Dressing, brushing his teeth, and making his bed are all elements of the morning routine expected of him, but, to my knowledge, he has not been asked to help make toast. That he made his bed without being reminded was a good start, but getting out the ingredients for toast proved he was reaching above and beyond. He was spreading helpfulness around like sweet frosting on the cake of good behavior.

It was obvious which cake he was trying to frost. Since he woke up early, he figured why not try to get some screen time in before school. And what better way to get permission to play than to act like you’ve earned it?

“So, can I play on the Kindle?” he asked.

Just the fact that I didn’t have to drag him out of bed made it worth letting him play, but I wasn’t going to act like a total pushover. “Did you turn off your fan?” Everyone loves the white noise at night.

His answer was to leave the bathroom. Ten seconds later, he was back. “I turned off the fan. So can I play?”

“Okay. But just until your toast is ready.”

“I’m not making the toast,” he clarified. “I just got out the ingredients to make it, except the butter. I couldn’t find any butter.”

So, in other words, he got out the bread. But he couldn’t just say he got out the bread. It sounds much more impressive when you get out the ingredients to make toast, all of them except for one.

Hello, butter!

Sometimes you’ve got to open two refrigerator doors to find precious butter.

Usually, I prefer an economy of words, but I’m glad he chose to get out the ingredients for toast, minus the butter, rather than just getting out the bread. It tickled me, which probably made me more likely to let him play on the Kindle.

But then I bet he had taken all that into consideration already.

Happy Thanksgiving! Here’s hoping you find all the ingredients for your Turkey Day toast.


Conversations with my wife: Boob on fire

I was in the dining room, helping my son with a school project, when my wife hurried up to me and grabbed my hand. She clamped my hand over her left breast. She was clearly alarmed.

WIFE: “Feel that. My boob feels like it’s on fire!”

She had on a sweater over her shirt, but I could still feel that it was hot. It was very hot, chemical reaction hot.

ME: “Is it just the one?”

WIFE: “Yes. The other one’s fine.”

She lifted up her shirt and put my hand on top of her bra. We’re married and everything, so there was no danger of this act leading to anything sexual.

WIFE: “What’s going on with my boob?”

I could see a wet spot on her bra.

ME: “Is it sweating?”

WIFE: “I don’t think so.”

She stretched her bra and sniffed the wet spot.

WIFE: “It doesn’t smell like sweat.”

I sniffed it.

ME: “No. It kinda smells like pork.”

I pulled her sweater back down and noticed that the wet spot went through.

ME: “Did you spill something hot on yourself?”

WIFE: “I don’t think so. I was just cutting up an apple for the baby.”

ME: “Show me what you did.”

She led me into the kitchen and pointed to the fruit bowl on the shelf above the counter.

WIFE: “I just got an apple out and started cutting it up.”

In front of the fruit bowl, the crock pot sat on the counter, gurgling hot little bubbles in the condensed water around the edge of its rattling lid as it slow cooked a pork roast.

ME: “You leaned over the crock pot to reach the apple, didn’t you?”

WIFE: (Relieved) “But why didn’t I get burned right away?”

ME: “It took a minute for it to soak through to the skin. Your boob got slow cooked.”

WIFE: “That’s why my bra smells like pork.”

ME: “I sure hope so.”

crock pot

The culprit. My wife wouldn’t let me post a photo of the victim.

If you can’t stand the heat, don’t install a molten lava floor in your kitchen

I cook most of the dinners at our house. There is something about the sight of me cooking dinner that makes our one-year-old especially needy. We make faces and giggle and play at all times of the day, but the only hour at which he consistently needs to be held by me is the one in which I am trying to cook dinner.

Given the choice of being held by me or by his mother, it is probably 70/30 in favor of Mommy, except when I am cooking. When I am cooking, he sees no other arms but mine. Only these arms can keep him from a crying fit when there is something sizzling on the stove.

Parents learn to do much with one hand. Our days are a routine of picking things up one at a time, in the order necessary to complete what would be thoughtless tasks to freewheeling, two-handed, childless types. Still, there are some things that are nearly impossible to do with a child in one arm, like hoisting a roast out of the crock pot or forming dough into a pizza shape.

My son doesn’t care what I can’t do one-handed. Cooking is daddy-toddler together time. He lets me know this by wrapping his arms around my legs as I’m trying to walk to get the butter. If I want to move freely between the fridge and the stove, I’d better pick him up.

Butterworth's demise

“Pick me up or Mrs. Butterworth gets it!”

By picking him up I’ve jumped from the frying pan onto the electric coil, because putting him down again is bound to be an ordeal. When a toddler is okay with being put down, he lets his feet down to meet the floor. When I try to put my son down so I can strain the pasta, he lifts up the landing gear like the floor is hot lava.

Touching hot lava dismays children, even when it is cool and made of linoleum. I am reminded of this every time I attempt to set a child down in it. Having to sit in hot lava while a heartless parent cuts up chicken breast is the worst fate imaginable. It makes a child cry. A lot. Much more than necessary. Especially since no crying is necessary. But it might distract Daddy enough to make him cut his finger, and that would teach him some respect for bonding time.

Cooling lava

A panoramic view of our kitchen floor after it has cooled down a bit from dinner time. (Image: Robert Bonine)

It’s not only that holding a child while cooking is inconvenient. There are things involved with cooking that are hotter than metaphorical lava. This means the boy has to be upset with me from across the room as I pull a dish out of the oven. But when safety is not an issue, I have learned to do all sorts of food prep with one hand.

If you wonder what this looks like, just imagine the Heisman trophy statue. Only, imagine a one-year-old tucked under the left arm, instead of a football. Then imagine that the outstretched right arm is holding a whisk.

Welcome to the real world; here’s your cheese sandwich

My son sometimes plays a game where he pretends to be a waiter. He calls us Sir and Ma’am and writes down what we would like to eat on his imaginary order pad. We have grown to like the restaurant he works in because they have an expansive menu and can prepare anything we think of ordering.

As the boy grows up, the world becomes less pretend and more real. In this development, something is gained and something is lost. For instance, last night our four-year-old waiter actually served real food. This was a revolutionary step forward, but it played havoc upon his once expansive menu.

“I’m hungry,” my wife said to my son. “Can you get me something to eat?”

“Okay, what would you like?” he replied as he got out his invisible order pad. We expected him to take the order, disappear, and reappear with an equally invisible dish of whatever was ordered.

“Pizza,” my wife decided.

Cheese sandwich

THE COOK: The key is folding the bread right. A delicious sandwich must look as good as it tastes.

The boy hesitated to write it down. “Okay,” he said, “I will make you . . . a cheese sandwich.”

“No pizza?” the dejected mother asked.

“No. A cheese sandwich is the only thing on my menu. So, what would you like? A cheese sandwich . . . or nothing?”

“I guess I’ll have a cheese sandwich. But I only want one slice of bread.”

“Good choice.”

He went to the kitchen. We heard noises of actual food preparation from that direction. “Do you want a kid plate or a grown-up plate?” he yelled to her.

“A kid plate is okay.”

“Good, because I’ve got a red one for you. It’s solid red, okay?”


Bringing Mommy a sandwich

THE WAITER: Our menu has expanded to include cheese sandwiches served on solid blue kid plates.

He rooted around the kitchen for a few minutes before returning with a beautiful cheese sandwich on a solid red kid plate. The presentation was as good as either of his parents could have done. There was one piece of bread, folded evenly over a few neatly stacked slices of American cheese. There was nothing sloppy about the sandwich.

“Wow! That’s a nice-looking sandwich,” his mother told him. “Look at all that beautiful cheese.”

“You got an extra slice because you’ve been so good today,” he informed her.

The sandwich looked so good that everyone, including the baby, had to have a bite of it. I’m not a huge fan of cheese sandwiches, but that was just about the best bite of anything I’ve ever had.

As we all took a taste, the waiter/cook/restaurant manager explained the shortness of the menu. “I can only make things that don’t go in the oven or on top of the stove, because I could burn myself.” He gave us a serious look. “I mean, I could burn myself really bad.”

So, they no longer have a huge selection of entrees at this restaurant. I don’t care about that. What they do have, they make with great skill and, I dare say, with love. Besides that, the service is excellent.