Thursday, July 27, 2017

Making memories (and melktert)

We spent the last week of homeschool preschool focusing on Africa. We read about it, colored an Africa coloring sheet, wrote a story about Africa in his journal. We looked it up in our children’s atlas and on our globe, learned about the children in different parts of Africa using Children Just Like Me, watched several African stories played out in Scholastic’s Storybook Treasures: Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears.

We learned the Spanish words for water, city, village, lion, and elephant. We danced in our living room to West African drum music, and Mommy even remembered a few authentic West African dance moves thanks to a week-long workshop she took back in her dancing days. We wrote letters to our sponsor children in Uganda and Rwanda, and then got excited when we found aletter from Ayingeneye in our mailbox later that day.

We read picture books with great African stories in them… Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain, The Fisherman and his Wife, Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters, Wangari’s Peace Trees. We read a great spiritual tie-in book I found through Sonlight’s preschool curriculum package, Storiesfrom Africa. We read several non-fiction books and in one of them, Exploring Countries: South Africa, we read the briefest little blurb about melktert. (Think “milk tart”) 

“The country is also famous for a sweet dessert called melktert. It is a pastry with a filling made from milk, flour, sugar, and eggs.”

I looked at the picture and I read the description and I thought, egg custard! When I was a kid, my mom used to make a dessert called egg custard. It was basically melktert. I quickly sent her a text message to ask for her recipe, and a few days later, my kids and I were in the kitchen making our own little version of melktert.

I cut Mom’s recipe in half (and then cut the sugar in half after that), and made it dairy-free for my kids’ sake. I also skipped the crust since I never really liked it as a kid and just scooped the custard part out of it any ways.

Pre-heat oven to 350F

Whisk together ½ tsp vanilla // ½ tsp nutmeg // ½ tsp cinnamon // ½ can “evaporated milk” (I made mine dairy free using these directions and had perfect results) // ¼ cup “milk” (I used hemp milk) // ¼ cup sugar // 1 tbsp coconut oil // 3 eggs

Bake 30-40 minutes depending on how deep your baking dish is. Test with a butter knife before setting to cool

I pre-measured the ingredients and let the kids all pour them in and help whisk. All three of them wore bright smiles and aprons hand-made by my grandma and cousin. Everybody got to pour. Everybody got to whisk. Their faces were so happy.

It was a beautiful reminder that this is the stuff life is made of. These are the memories we create for ourselves and, maybe, for our children.

I don’t remember making egg custard with my mom, though I’m sure I did. Probably more than once. But I do remember her serving it. I do remember her making it without the pie crust from time to time. I do remember burning the roof of my mouth on it because I was too eager to taste it.
My kids don’t see all that I do behind the scenes. They never will.

I am in the thick of it now, with three children under five and no nearby family to speak of. I am probably more harried than my own mom was most of the time and even still, it’s hard to see all that she did behind the scenes.

When I am folding laundry, I am usually just folding laundry. I might be thinking about the other tasks on my plate, or what I need to do to prep for dinner, or deciding which laundry chores I am going to give my children today. Sometimes it’s late at night and I’m folding laundry with Ryan while we watch a movie or talk about our days and our dreams… but I rarely stand there folding laundry and thinking about the fact that my own mother did laundry every day too, so that I would always have clean clothes to wear to school.

My children will not grow up to remember how much I did for them. That’s just motherhood. It’s a sacrifice in many ways. The work we do as mothers will probably never be fully appreciated (though it’ll always be worth it). But still, we’re making memories.

They won’t remember me sweating in the kitchen, five months pregnant with my fourth child at the end of July, a tiny window A/C unit and a fan both positioned on me to only kinda make up for the 93 degree temps outside combined with the oven set at 450 degrees to make their dinner. But they will remember that I insisted on meals at the table as a family and that sometimes, when I was finished long before they were, I sat at the table and read them a story while they ate.

They won’t remember me sweeping under the kitchen table several times a day to keep ants away, but they will remember some of those meals I served. Just like my mom’s tuna salad is better than anyone else’s (including mine when I follow her exact recipe), they will remember certain dishes being served with love. They will want whatever soup I gave them every time they’re sick, or maybe they will always want chili on Thanksgiving even when they grow up to marry spouses who have a traditional Thanksgiving feast, or maybe they will forever think a huge breakfast should be made on their weekends so there are good, healthy breakfasts already ready for them during the week.

They’ll remember the family vacations and the camping trips and the day hikes, even if they don’t remember all the work I did to prepare for them.

They’ll remember the songs I sing and the stories we read and the games we play and the way I make time for them when they’re sad, even if they don’t remember how late I had to stay awake to catch up afterwards.

They won’t remember the careful system I’ve put together to rotate through hand-me-downs efficiently or what I use to clean their bathtub or that I started my mornings with motherhood-focused devotionals to get my mind and heart focused on the way I want to mother them… but still, we’re making memories. 

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