I know for some moms this is an awesome time, and they are all happy at the opportunity to spend Quality Time with their dear offspring. And my offspring are very dear, don't get me wrong. But I have a limited ability to deal with the sensory overload that comes with two many hours with my short roommates. And I like having time to read, and check my blogs, and think, during at least some of the time I'm spending not at work...
But I'm determined this week that we are not going to sit around and play Wii Lego Harry Potter all week. (Some, but not all week!) I want, every day, to do at least one thing that's new and fun and different. The internet, of course, is full of ideas for crafts and activities with kids (The Crafty Crow is a treasure trove all on its own). The thing is, I'm not all that artistic, and I'm a real slug about deliberately letting the house get all messy. It's messy enough without all that. And I know we live near a city with tons of good free or cheap activities and museums and stuff we could go to, but going to a museum in the middle of spring break is my idea of hell on earth--I can't deal with the crowds. I need my husband along, because he's the one least likely to go into sensory overload. It's still too cold for much in the way of outdoor stuff, so my preferential activity of outdoor gardening is kind of off the table. (Though the second it's warm enough, we'll be at the park having picnics.)
So I've decided I think we're going to have cooking and baking lessons this week. I'll gain ten pounds, but who cares, it'll be fun, and educational too! We started Sunday afternoon, and we made pretzels--I keep a container of Artisan bread dough in the fridge most of the time, and we made a batch out of some of that--I got the idea from Erin the Conscious Shopper, and it's awesome and easy . We'll probably do bagels at least once too. The kids are pretty good at the hands on stuff, and they have fun making things and then eating them, and if they are eaten, then I don't have a lot of extra paper and scrappy things around the house. (I know, I'm a total scrooge!). We'll do at least one bread-product per day, probably--from pretzels and bagels to muffins and stuff like that; that's easy. Then we can go shopping and pick out ingredients for other foods, whether it's out-of-season applesauce or cranberry-orange relish or homemade chocolate pudding or what-have-you.
I'm hoping we can even "make dinner together" one night, beginning to end--I bet my almost-six-year-old could scrape carrots and tear lettuce apart for salad, and my 8-and-a-half-year-old son could probably be trusted with a Real Knife (though not one of my killer Wusthofs) to make a fruit salad. We could even do homemade chicken tenders, something everyone will eat except me, and they can get all dredgy and messy while making them. And we can make some kind of bread to go on the side (what can I say, we're a carby bunch), and maybe homemade smoothies for dessert, or baked apples if we're feeling adventurous.. I think they'd enjoy it. My son will complain and ask if he can go play Wii, but he'll enjoy and be proud in spite of himself.
And I'd love to get them started on some of the chemistry of cooking--the way cornstarch thickens a sauce, the way measuring the right amounts of grain and mixing with water yields just the right amount of cooked product, the way just a little bit of arborio rice gives up its starch and turns milk into pudding. I might even get a thing of Knox gelatine and make our own Jell-o dessert out of real fruit juice. If we have time, I'd even love to make this delicious-looking Food In Jars orange jelly recipe, something to cool my ardor for the fresh bounty of spring until the plants actually start growing around here, and hopefully get the kids turned onto jelly. (We can't bring nut butter products to school, so anything I can put onto a sandwich is a good thing.) And TheMiddleBit's recipe for crunchy Cinnamon Garbanzo Beans has got to be tried. For me the magic of cooking has always been about how cooking or heating or mixing some ingredient with another suddenly turns them into something else entirely...and I'd love to give my kids some of that.
I found a site with age-appropriate cooking lessons for kids that looks like something I'd want to bookmark and hold onto. And here is another. I have a friend with two teenaged sons, and in her family at this point everyone is responsible for dinner one night a week--I totally want to be able to do that with my kids by the time they are in high school...anyone else tried this with your kids? Any helpful hints to offer?