God help me. My kids are learning to cook. With extra fluffy cheese scones.

Amelia has started cooking.

She cooks twice a week. The twice weekly cooking incidence involves the stove and oven. She cooks dinner on a Friday and bakes during the weekend. I pay her to do both.

She also makes lunches for herself and her brother. This does not involve any heated appliances, generally. I also pay her for this.

The theory was that I could pay her to do some low level cooking which would firstly, take some chores off my hands, secondly, earn her some money, and thirdly, give her some valuable life skills.

The irony of this entire scenario is the amount of time it now takes me to:

  1. Harass her to ensure that we eat dinner before 10pm,
  2. Shout at her to ensure both she and her brother have lunches made BEFORE they depart for school
  3. Threaten her to ensure there is some baking in the tin so they actually have something to put into their lunch boxes other than fruit and sandwiches
  4. Clean up the low level natural disaster zone she leaves behind after she has finished

The food is great! The fact that I don’t have to make it is great! The endless cleaning up when she’s done, not great.

I’ve always felt like a bad mother for not really wanting my children to attempt cooking when they were small. Given my love of food, you would think that I would be the model foodie mother, encouraging little hands into mounds of bread dough, to stir cake mix, to carefully cut carrots. But no. Between being terrified of little hands being cut by sharp knives, or worse, grated (!!), I just couldn’t handle the mess.

I’m hardly a neat freak. My husband will tell you when we first were together he couldn’t cope with my idea of tidy versus his uber fastidiousness. Even then I cannot handle clouds of flour flying into the air, cheese being grated onto the floor, batter being spilt all over the bench.

I don’t think it’s fussiness, it’s mostly that I’m a bit lazy, I can’t stand cleaning at the best of times, and I prefer to minimise the amount I have to do. So I’ve avoided teaching my kids to cook until now.

Now I’m reminded of why I’ve left it for so long, as the dishes pile up in the sink, potato and carrot peelings scatter over the floor, and the rubbish in the bins begins to over flow, while my teenaged daughter creates a culinary masterpiece.

Then come the endless questions.

In moments of good motherhood, I have actively encouraged my kids to ask questions. “People who ask questions learn more” is the general gist of conversation. Except I prefer that to apply to school rather than home life. At home, I quite like not too many questions.

I particularly like an absence of questions that start with “Mum, where’s…”

When partnered with cooking, the “where” questions are matched with a stream of “how” questions (which I know is fair enough, given the girl doesn’t know how to cook yet). I’m not renowned for my patience.

Despite the mess, the irritation, the lack of actual time saved, Amelia is doing a pretty good job. Her food is delicious, made even more so by the sheer fact that I didn’t have to do it myself. She’s getting better at preparation, following recipes, and serving well cooked, well balanced meals.

It’s been worth it. I should have taught her sooner.

EXTRA FLUFFY CHEESE SCONES
Makes 6-8 generous scones

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Originally this recipe was made with lemonade, but I found it weirdly sweet with the cheese. I’ve changed out the lemonade for soda water, which retains the dough’s lightness, but removes the extra sugar. If you want to make these extra indulgent, you can add in crispy bacon pieces (4 streaky rashers, cooked until brittle) or caramelised onions (1/2 onion, sauted until very soft).

2 1/4 cups plain flour
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp paprika
2 cups grated cheese
150ml milk
150ml plain soda or sparkling water

  1. Pre-heat oven to 220°C, and line a baking tray with baking paper
  2. Sift dry ingredients together in a large bowl
  3. Stir through grated cheese
  4. Pour over milk and soda water, and stir until just combined. Do not over mix or the scones will be hard.
  5. Pour the dough out on the baking tray (the mix will be very sticky and wet) and spread out until it’s about 5cm thick.
  6. Dip a knife into flour and cut the dough into roughly equal pieces.
  7. Place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve hot with lashings of butter.

 

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I love that my daughter fights. And loves my 4 cheese pasta bake.

I love that my daughter fights against me. Me and anyone and everyone.

I love that she’s opinionated, strong willed and outspoken.

I love that she stands up for what she believes in, and she believes she’s the most important person in the room.

I love that her self confidence shines from every pore, that she loves her body and rejoices in her flaws.

I love that she completely owns her anxieties and depressions and will talk about them to anyone who asks.

 

I love that I have so much hope for her future. Hope that she will have the strength to fight any gender discrimination she faces when she goes to work. Hope that she will be able to fight off any sexual predator, that she will own her sexuality and wear it with pride, that she will never allow herself to be slut-shamed. Although I hope more that she’ll never have that experience.

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Melie & I, March 2017

I love that she’s so brave that she told her science teacher off this week. There was an incorrect answer to a question in a recent test, so she pushed back. She got the extra mark, and got them to change the question for future tests. She also got the top mark for the test.

I love that she doesn’t accept when things are wrong, that she doesn’t back down, that she’s so smart that she can argue her case. And that she gets her own way.

I love that she’s an amazingly mature teenager, with incredible depth and insight.

I love that all of these things will make her an amazing, strong, forthright, outspoken, honest, opinionated, willful, NASTY woman (with thanks to Hillary Clinton…).

I love my daughter. She’s awesome.

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This is my daughter’s favourite dinner. Actually, if I’m honest, it’s macaroni cheese, but really. This is much more fancy, and about the same amount of work. If I was Italian it would be Macaroni Quattro Formaggi, but I’m not, so 4 cheese pasta it is. Enjoy.

500g dried pasta
500ml milk
2 x bay leaves
50g butter
1/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons thinly slice sage leaves, plus 12 extra
250g sour cream
150g blue cheese
100g ricotta cheese
100g mozzarella
50g parmesan, finely grated

  1. Cook pasta in salted water until al dente
  2. Heat milk and bay leaves until hot
  3. Melt butter in saucepan, add flour and cook 1 minute
  4. Whisk in hot milk and sage and keep whisking until thickened
  5. Whisk in sour cream, blue cheese, ricotta and mozarella
  6. Simmer until cheeses have melted
  7. Season to taste with salt and pepper
  8. Mix cheese sauce and pasta
  9. Pour into baking dish and top with parmesan cheese and remaining sage leaves
  10. Cook in 200°C oven until golden (about 30 minutes)

 

I’m the mother of a teenage girl. It’s emotional.

My daughter turned 13 last year. Which makes me the mother of a teenage girl. Which makes life interesting, shall we say.

I figure having a teenager is a bit like when you’re pregnant – there’s a whole world of stuff that no-one ever tells you. It’s like there’s a secret society and you’re not getting the key to unlock the code until you’re in the quagmire and up to your neck.

I know there’s books. So. Many. Books. And I can honestly say I haven’t read any of them.

My baby girl is as in the dark as I am. She’s negotiating the path between child and adulthood with more than a little trepidation. She’s fierce on the outside, but can still burst into tears at the smallest imagined slight. She steals my makeup, but still wants to climb into bed with me for a cuddle.

Nowhere is her internal dichotomy more apparent than in her emotions. Her height, appearance and outward demeanour all belie the internal challenges she’s grappling with as her new adult emotions emerge.

It reminds me of the animated movie Inside Out. The console the main characters use to control Riley’s emotions becomes more and more complex as she gets older. When she’s a baby she only experiences Joy and Disgust. Then comes Anger, Fear and finally, Sadness. My daughter was like this. Throughout her childhood she was generally happy, waking every morning with a smile on her face, overwhelmingly positive, and ready to please.

Once puberty hit, new emotions started to show themselves. She started to think more deeply about life and with that, started to feel the sadness that comes with a broader understanding of the world. She started to question her place in the world, then her value, then whether she deserved to be here at all.

This was terrifying.

We’ve since had some counselling, where she presented herself as incredibly well balanced and well adjusted. She talked about her wonderful friendships, her stable and loving home life, how well she was doing at school, and how excited she was for the year ahead.  Which was helpful.

Then some different counselling, where she talked about how much her brother annoyed her, how she couldn’t see any use for many of her classes and how she had thought about suicide.

Again. Terrifying.

She’s now been referred to another therapist within the Auckland Health Board, who specialise in teenage psychiatric issues. The great news is that they do not consider her to be a threat to herself, and while she will continue to see someone for a few more weeks, no medical intervention is required, merely some cognitive therapy to help her to better deal with her new emotions.

Because that’s what it’s all come down to. So much of what she’s feeling is entirely new to her. Her incredibly happy childhood ironically left her ill equipped to deal with the complex negative emotions that have developed as she grows up. Her new emotions are unfamiliar and have been rarely experienced, so feel stronger and more powerful than they feel to those of us who have felt sadness throughout our lives.

As she enters her second year of puberty, as her hormones settle into a more reliable cycle, so her emotions seem to be settling. I travelled to Japan with her last month, and spent a week away from her brother and father. It was amazing time, which reminded me of how intelligent, mature, loving and fun she is. She’s going to be an amazing adult.

PS. This TED Talk from Brene Brown is worth watching and sharing with your teenagers.