sugar-coated snot

Our home is saturated in snot. Wednesday was one of my most challenging mama days ever. Usually, when my kids are sick, I enjoy the slow-paced, loving clip of mothering my children, making them feel better. This day was different. The air was agitated. It was the third day in a row we were socked in by the thick cold, our germs pinning us to our home. Several times, I was impatient with the relentless need of me. I took exaggerated deep breaths. Another set of arms would have been nice. And, yet, time kept ticking and we made it.

We woke up Thursday morning and the funk still gripped our stead like that Portuguese Man-of-War that lassoed my husband in the Pacific several years back. I cancelled my child care and shelved my work. I decided the day would be different. I decided we needed to laugh.

We made a cake for Andy. He loves chocolate and he had a pretty tiring work week. And, cooking always creates cheer and stories.

We don’t have a microwave and I never remember to pull butter out to soften. I discovered this method through a google search and it works wonderfully: sandwich butter between two sheets of freezer paper or wax paper and roll flat with a rolling pin.

Soft butter!

I found a recipe that didn’t involve a trip to the store for ingredients and we got to work. I doubled the recipe because desserts don’t last long in our home. From now on, when I double a recipe (you are my witnesses!) I will write out the new recipe elsewhere. Every single step I had to remind myself to add another tablespoon and/or question whether I had altered the previous step correctly. It’s hard to keep track when baking in fits and spurts around making peanut butter and honey burritos and wiping snot. Seriously, there was so much snot.

This recipe is great because all the ingredients are listed in weights so we used our scale and added ingredients right from the jar into the bowl.

About three steps in I realized I didn’t actually have all the ingredients. I substituted whole milk and vinegar (one cup buttermilk=one tablespoon white vinegar and enough milk to bring it to one cup, let sit for a few) for buttermilk and kept trucking. Margot is really helpful in the kitchen when she isn’t licking the scale or sneaking bites of butter and teaspoons of baking powder. Ruby snaps into her spot on my left hip and dances all about with me. She makes three meals a day right there on that hip. I swear the contours of my body have evolved to accommodate my little primate. Her torso tucks against my ribs like a pillow in its case, her convex belly the exact same shape as my waist.

A minor crisis occurred when I discovered we were 1/2 cup short on the cocoa powder. Thankfully we have awesome neighbors and keys to their homes. Alice, Margot, Ruby and I set out across our slick back yard on Operation Cocoa. Our back gate was frozen in place so I dug deep into my Macgyver instincts. We have an ancient fence with a separate little elevated door to access the trash cans. Aha! I thought, feeling all clever. Margot was beyond thrilled at the idea of climbing into our alley through an oopmpa loompa portal. I lifted my knee to lock Ruby into place and hoisted Margot with my right arm, her little froggy boots reaching for the fence. I held my daughters on the uneven snow while balancing on one foot. And, just then, my bum ankle gave out. The ankle I sprained and think I may have broken on the very first day I blogged. I went down hard. It took my breath away. Amazingly, I was still holding Ruby and I had managed to set Margot down on her feet.

The pain passed pretty quickly. As I was righting myself, Margot noticed her purple octopus cup on the ground. She picked it up and said with a sincerely troubled tone, “What the hell! What the hell is going on here?!” I know I shouldn’t laugh when my kid uses surprising language but as I lied on the morning-lit snow in my backyard with a sprained ankle and my daughters, this cleanly delivered sentence brought loud, uncontrollable laughter. Indeed, what the hell is going on here. I explained the cup was for the cocoa. Remember? We need cocoa.

You know a cake is taking too long to make when the kids get bored and move onto toys.

Laura didn’t have cocoa so I punted and shaved some baking chocolate into the batter. At this point our oven had been pre-heated for a solid 45 minutes. Unintentionally, I mixed everything totally out of order.  As we spooned the batter into the pans (prepared!), I thought it would be miraculous if these cakes turned out at all edible.

Like dutiful little cakes, they rose right on up and scented our home with sugar. Pshaw, I thought. Of course they’ll turn out wonderfully! But then the overzealous buggers just kept rising. Clearly, my leavening was way off. Still hopeful, I slid in a pan to catch the cascading batter. Aside from the burned piles in our new oven, they looked great.

The sun came out and I tucked my girls in for their nap. It was a good morning, we had wrestled the Man-of-War and won! We had wiped pounds of mucus from sore nostrils, applied essential oils to feet, hugged and made a cake! We were unstoppable!

Ah, and then this.

Margot said, “Whoa, mama. What happened there?”

There’s a metaphor or two in there somewhere.

But, you know what? The cake is delicious, rife with love and empowerment, the sunken bellies carefully concealed against the plate. And the journey was quite fun and funny.


62 Responses to sugar-coated snot

  1. Jess says:

    “What the hell is going on here?” Crap! Too funny!

  2. Sarah says:

    Lots of snot around our home right now too…will it ever end! I thought your cocoa excursion story was hilarious! And no microwave?! Kudos to you, I wish I could pull that off!

  3. Tina says:

    I seriously can’t stop laughing. I’m glad my husband is at work, my oldest daughter is at preschool and my youngest is asleep because I’m sure they’d all think I’ve gone off the handle and have me admitted.

    Margot is an absolute riot! Your kid is hilarious! I can’t believe she was all “what the hell is going on here?!”. Oh boy now I’m laughing again… LOL

    Last week my oldest did something (of course I can’t remember what) that annoyed me and a few minutes after I “raised my voice” at her she came over to me and said, “Mommy are you still pissed? Will you be pissed for long?” and as you can imagine all my anger fizzled away right away as I hugged her to me and tried to explain through my fit of laughter why she shouldn’t be using that word. For the record, she hasn’t repeated it… yet. 😉

  4. Cherilyn says:

    Ah, the dramas of domesticity! My babies are older now, but we still have these days. Such wonderful photography! Glad your ankle’s OK.

  5. Patty says:

    LOVE LOVE LOVE your blog!! I always look forward to your stories and pictures!! Thank you for taking the time to share your wonderful life with all of us!

  6. Katie says:

    That is too funny! I just adore you and your girls and your blog!

  7. Eve Sheridan says:

    Awesome. Simply awesome. You had me rolling with Margot’s “What the hell! What the hell is going on here?!” reaction. I love the way you explain challenging situations on the blog– always with great humor and an unexpected perspective. Helps me keep my frustration in check when similar things happen in my house :-)

  8. Malissa says:

    Oh my begeebees that is funny. The dinosaur cup and Margot. What the hell! Big belly laugh here this morning. :)

  9. Malissa says:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. Hillary says:

    Between the snot piles and “what the hell” I am crying in laughter. OH SO FUNNY! I have never met you, nor the girls, but for some reason I heard little Margots voice in sheer puzzlement asking “what the hell is going on here”. I pictured you with little Ruby somewhere near your hip lying in the snow just killing yourself with laughter. Oh how I see it all. Today is a new day. I hope the ankle is okay, and snot piles are less and you can enjoy the weekend that is here.

  11. Brittany says:

    Oh my gosh I just have to say that I laughed so hard at Margot’s “wth” comment. I am actually still laughing about it (and my three year old is climbing up here in my lap to see photos of the “funny girl”). My son is three and my daughter is 14 months, so I feel like I relate to many of your adventures. Actually a lot of them, since, even though we are in Texas, we also have backyard hens, a garden and a Mama who is constantly behind the camera :)
    Bless you guys! Hope the yucks are GONE soon.

  12. Malissa says:

    Okay now I have to share. When my daughter was 3 I found her in the laundry room completely naked slipping on a clean pair of underwear. I asked “what in the world are you doing in here changing clothes in the middle of the day?”. She looked up with big blue, innocent eyes and replied, “Oh mama, I just sh#t my little, princess panties”. Though horrified she knew the word, and even worse that she used it in such good context, I had a hard time holding back a giggle.

  13. Melissa says:

    That was hilarious! I love it that Margot said that! I hope she learned it from you and not me! Too funny, and those cakes turned out to be real lookers. Nice work. Owen wants to come over ‘when Margot isn’t snotty anymore.’ :)

  14. This is so funny! Thank you for sharing. I really enjoy reading your blog and you have inspired me to start planning my first garden!

  15. Jo says:

    Your posts always brighten my day! You remind me to laugh when things don’t go as planned. Hope the kiddos are feeling better.

  16. Abilew-who says:

    A few months ago, my husband, mom and I were sitting in the living room while wee William was playing. He dropped a block or something on the floor and said, very naturally might I add, “oh fu#k!” We all just kind of looked at one another, and my mom said, “I didn’t say it…” He sensed our shock, giggled, and said it a few more times for good measure. Goodness, you haven’t lived until you’ve heard such a little voice say such an awesome swear. Whatever. He hasn’t said it again. Smart little sponges, those kids are…

  17. Kelle says:

    You have to know I completely love this post.

    That is all.

  18. RMAinMD says:

    ,,,i’m laughing my hinney off, david heard my laughter and came downstairs to see what had tickled my funny bone,,,and then i read him the “nuggets” and margot’s repartee and he laughed his hinney off too!,,,

    ,,,never a dull moment in the “cline” home,,,(smile)

    ,,,margot’s comment…”What the hell! What the hell is going on here?!”,,,priceless moment,,,Art Linkletter did you catch that?,,, never under-estimate the power of a childs words and her ability to make laughter happen instantaneously,,,

    ,,,these “nugs” oh so delicious,,,

  19. Uplifting, something I needed! We too are battling cooped-up germs. The only thing different here is that I am the mama and I am losing my battle. Yesterday was rough, I felt helpless. But today, I feel better. There is hope!

    PS – Yay on the no microwave!!

  20. Staci says:

    i must’ve been channeling me some dig yesterday b/c i sprained my bad ankle yesterday too, except the babe i was carrying is still in my tum. what with all my increased clumsiness and forgetfulness lately i’m right there with margot’s sentiment…. what the hell IS going on???

  21. Kerri says:

    These nuggets are just classic and so awesome. I totally relate to Margot’s “what the hell” moment – hilarious. You paint the most vivid pictures of your life with your sweet girls and can’t thank you enough for sharing!

    Also – thanks for the butter softening tip! We don’t have a microwave either and I always run into that problem.

  22. Aunt Kiki says:

    Thanks for the great laugh this morning! “What the hell is going on here?” That’s classic.

    Hope to make another trip to MT this spring/summer. Would love to get Henry and Ruby together again. Hope all is well and that the snot subsides soon.

    Take care,
    Kate and Henry

    Glad to hear that Ruby is sleeping better these days. Henry is much better as well. Thank God – sleep at last!

  23. T Swanson says:

    What a riot! Thanks for the morning giggles. I love reading your adventures and this morning is no exception!

  24. Jenn says:

    Sugar coated snot had me smiling, but “what the hell is going on here?” had me gut laughing. What a wonderful compliment your family is to each other. Thank you for sharing those priceless moments.

  25. Kristine says:

    this post? a favorite for sure!
    first, that you canceled your child care to have a re-do. awesome!
    “what the hell is going on here” absolutely perfect and hysterical ( and i would have totally laughed too)
    and the cake? amazing.
    LOVE this post!

  26. Carol says:

    I died laughing when I read the “what the hell” comment. Thank you so much for the laugh on a day that started with me breaking a glass on the bathroom floor. I needed that! I have many times heard the what the hell comment in my own house and I have to immediately turn away to hide the foolish grin and press back the giggle. I wont find it funny in three years or so but for now yes….
    Wipe on….snot that is. We have all been there and will be right back there any time now!

  27. I think “What the hell? What the hell is going on here?!” would pretty much be my reaction to that whole turn of events, I seriously cannot stop laughing. This post is made of win. :)

  28. meg says:

    I love the things that Margot says and I love a 3-year-olds sense of timing!
    Her and my Lucy would have a riot together…I see her in so many of your stories about Margot. So much power, humor, stubbornness, imagination, delight & love.

  29. Peggy says:

    Oh, I just love it. Thank you so much for the much needed laugh today. I am beginning to understand how it is possible that other people find humor in my mama tantrums in the “relentless need of me.” Because, in reality, these battles of love that we fight every day really are the good stuff, aren’t they? Balancing babies on knees, and hips, and heads as we wonder to ourselves, what the hell is going on here? Good stuff.

  30. Sammy says:

    I got snot and late night vomiting from both my little mites. My husband dry heaving as my little boy vomited on him was soooo funny! Hmmm, that kinda sounds gross but at 11.30pm it was super funny….*wink*
    TMI on my first ever comment? Probably!!!

  31. Daniele says:

    “Her torso tucks against my ribs like a pillow in its case, her convex belly the exact same shape as my waist.”

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought this while holding my girls, how perfect we fit. I have little moments like that where I envision my cave woman ancestor, baby fit perfectly on her hip, chopping a leg off a saber tooth tiger or something. haha

  32. Cait says:

    Ha! I couldn’t help but laugh at Margot’s “What the hell is going on here” comment too, but she probably couldn’t have said it better!

  33. Erin O. says:

    Next time a friend of mine welcomes a baby to their family, I’m going to point them in the direction of this post and tell them that THIS is what motherhood looks like. And this is how to roll with it. :) “What the hell.”

    Also, no cake is ever SO lost that it can’t be flipped over and enjoyed.

  34. Colleen says:

    What the hell! Your writing cracks me up like nothing else.

  35. Wesley says:

    Loved this post! What an adventure! Margot is hilarious – I would have laughed too. :-)

  36. Marlene says:

    But will you remember to scrape the cake piles off the bottom of the oven before you next preheat it? :) I never do. It’s an excellent way to check your smoke detectors.

  37. Kim says:


  38. Xtine says:

    HAha, I love Smitten kitchen more than anything… I swear I use a recipe from her every other day.

  39. Amy says:

    What the hell? hahahaha.
    No microwave? How do you bake potatoes?!?! haha

  40. Jennifer says:

    AACK! LOL That was a fun story today! Never disturb a cake! It will fall!

    Too funny about Margot’s “What the hell….”. When my daughter was her age she said to me one day, “Why are you being a smart ass?” I quickly turned that into, “A hassel?” “Why am I being a hassel?” LOL The best save I have ever done!

    Sorry about your ankle. My tummy turned reading that as I have broken mine and twisted the same one many times over the years afterward. I had surgery to even clean it up. Not fun!

    The sun is out here in Texas and I am low on vitamin d and got in a good dose today!


  41. Jennifer says:

    Another way to soften butter is to put in a zip lock and suck out the air and just put in hot water. I also put my eggs in hot water prior to my baking recipies. Makes for a fluffier batter!

  42. Melissa says:

    parallel lives today–we are also having a sick day and I decided, in my infinite wisdom, to make challah bread for the first time ever (even though i’ve only ever made no-knead bread) . . .feverish Avi still sleeping and I just went to check the dough that not only hasn’t “doubled in size” over the past hour but is sticky as hell.

    I think when Avi wakes we may take a walk to the bakery to buy ourselves a challah . . . any tips on what to do with this dough?

    I may still try to work it out . . .but the photos over at smitten kitchen of the beautiful, braided challah are not in my immediate future, methinks . . .

    I love picturing the determination on your face as you tromped out back with your girls to fetch that cocoa! Hilarious quote by miss M, too! xo

  43. Annie says:

    I have been reading for awhile (I have even bought some things from a sponsor that I found on your site), but this one got me. I laughed out loud. I can so picture all that you write; I think I have lived it myself. Great one.

  44. Dana55 says:

    what a great day! there were a million memories made! Our bunch was just all diagnosed with strep throat today, so I know your pain of a sick house. You just inspired me to treat tomorrow as an unbirthday and back cupcakes (as long as the throats are up for swallowing).

  45. Sarah B says:

    I cannot believe how loud and hard you made me laugh just now. I read your pararaph about the cocoa trip to my husband and HE laughed too! You are awesome mama-you keep rocking with your bad self. I love your blog!!!!!!!!

  46. Melissa says:

    I had to come back to say, shucks, the challah turned out –not that pretty to look at bc I jacked up the braiding but Avi had a “little challah” and mine was super grande bc I forgot to make it into two loaves instead of one but Leeor was duly impressed by the fruits of my efforts . . .

    Avi was so reassuring when he woke from his nap, “I will help you with your challah, Mommy. Don’t worry.”

    And now we can have challah french toast for breakfast tomorrow! xoxo

  47. Hilarious! I have to ask you how you cook all your meals with Ruby on your hip? I have an incredibly clingy one-year-old and would love if you have a good recommendation for a sling or carrier that you use. Thanks!

  48. TRB Holt says:

    OH MY God Burb….my eyes are blurry with tears from laughing out loud!!!!…even made the dogs bark!!! I can so see Margot say what the hell is going on here..thanks for this it was a tough day and I truly needed it!

    xoxo, Mom

  49. Katie says:

    When life makes your cakes fall, just flip them over.
    I seriously never tire of hearing the stories about the things Margot says, or Ruby signs.

  50. babygalah says:

    Priceless !!! What a great post !

  51. Jennifer says:

    Katie, I love this! LOL So true! :o)

    “When life makes your cakes fall, just flip them over.”

  52. KWQR says:

    You-crack-me-up… the great cocoa adventure of 2011 with Margot’s snappy wit & mis-adventures in baking made my day. (The ankle bit, not so funny, hope it is all better.)
    And this, Her torso tucks against my ribs like a pillow in its case, her convex belly the exact same shape as my waist.
    … this I love.
    happy week-ending.

  53. love this post! thanx for sharing your adventures in snot!

  54. Honey says:

    I’m quite exciting about this butter softening technique. We’re microwave free as well and I’m forever deciding to make things on the fly which require softened butter.

    My husband and I got many giggles out of “what the hell is going on here?” Thanks for capturing those little moments and sharing them with such clarity and humor!

  55. I just started following your blog and it’s pretty much amazing! This post was hilarious and I loved your pictures.

  56. Lola says:

    – The way you tell Margot’s conversations and her comments are the best.
    – Your description of Ruby attached to you is beautiful (I can totally relate).
    – Made me want to go right now and eat chocolate cake……


  57. jen says:

    after a day like this … you have no idea how good that laugh felt.
    thank you.
    and i’m sorry it was at your expense.

  58. Minnesotagal says:

    Cake! Chocolate cake!! We’re so making that tomorrow!!! Just the thing to get us out of our funk. Well, me out of mine – we just came back from a glorious tropical vacation and I was doing just fine with the whole winter thing until we went somewhere where it wasn’t and our toes thawed and our chapped cheeks softened and our whole souls seemed to glow with sunlight. Now everything at home seems gray and monochrome and blech! So, tomorrow I’m going to bake a chocolate cake because, you’re right – there is absolutely nothing better to help get you out of a funk and if it worked for you – here’s hoping! And I already checked and we have cocoa – dutched even… Thanks for the laughs – that helped with the funk already!

  59. Amie says:

    Oh, you got me laughing on that one. Glad my kids aren’t the only ones…hahahaha.

    Hope your sickness has passed and you get the outdoor time you all need!

  60. Angela says:

    So funny!! Love it!

  61. what a great story. i wish I could write like you!

  62. Aimee says:

    I have been following your blog for a long time now and the words you choose and how you choose to arrange them has always been beautiful. But girl, your writing gets better with every post! <3