Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Neighborhoods, Normal, and Doodlesnaps

Life around here has been pretty bizarre lately, and it's left me craving order in my little corner of the universe.

When I was growing up, I had only a few friends in our neighborhood.  The daughter of teachers, I went to school in the town where my mom taught: during the school year, we were up before the crack of dawn and out the door before the neighbor children were awake, and we'd arrive home just in time to start homework and dinner or go to piano lessons or dance lessons or choir practice.  At school, I spent the hours before and after the bell in my mother's classroom, making chalk dust from erasers and collating and stapling dittos.  We had weekends after church and errands were done, and I often spent those precious hours across the street with the two friends that my parents would let me go see on a whim.

And so, despite the ambitious, career-oriented woman that I was, I dreamed of becoming the kind of mother who was known for the freshly baked cookies she always had for visiting friends, who seemed to host the all of the neighborhood kids after school.  I'm not sure why this was my version of normal, but it was.  (In my fantasy, of course, I'd conveniently left out the part about getting home from work at 6.)

The funny thing is that as much as I've loved my neighbors, and as kid-friendly our street is, I've always felt a little bit out of the parenting loop in our neighborhood.  When I was working full time, I got home too late for playdates, and on the weekends people seemed to scatter for family commitments; now that I'm home, it seems like no one is out during the day.  I'd been wondering if the network of stay at home parents I always imagined was just that: imagined.

So I was pleasantly surprised when we were invited to a barbecue this weekend at the house where I. catches his bus in the morning.

We had a perfect day for it: warm, sunny, breezy.  There were plenty of things to nibble on, and a big bounce house for the kids.  The adults sat and drank beer and talked, watching the kids play, soaking in the early fall weather, venturing out past the fenced in yard to play horseshoes.

The hours passed, and somehow it was decided that people would be  camping out in the back yard that night, and by 8pm there were three tents pitched just a few feet away from our house, children playing flashlight tag, reveling in the darkness while their fathers ate Doritos and played cards on the back deck.  And I realized that this was it: this was what I had wanted all of those long years ago, the neighborhood children congregating in my back yard.  And yet, different, because this isn't ever what I'd imagined it would be.  A different sort of normal.

N. and I slept inside, because she would never sleep outside, and woke in the morning to admire the three pods in the semi-dark, wondering when their residents would wake.  And when they did, I made the kids hot cocoa and doodlesnaps, hoping that they'd remember, and come back.

Doodlesnaps are a cross between a muffin and a pancake in 9x9 pan form.  You'll want to eat them warm, because they deteriorate pretty quickly.  Luckily, even though we make them infrequently, that's never much of a problem around here.

2 c. flour (half whole wheat or oat or a combination of flours is fine)
1 c. sugar (or 2/3 c. agave, just reduce the milk by 1/4 c. and decrease oven temp by 25 degrees)
1 egg
1 c. milk (any kind of milk will do)
1 T. oil
4 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
brown sugar (or turbinado sugar)

Preheat oven to 325.  Mix everything together and pour into a greased and floured 9x9 pan.  Sprinkle as generously as you like with brown sugar and cinnamon, and dot with a pea-sized bit of margarine/butter every inch or so.  Bake for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, with moist crumbs.  Let cool for 5-10 minutes, and enjoy.
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  1. Ah, that sounds like so much fun! I love living in an urban setting, but it's that kind of stuff, sleep overs in the backyard that I'm really sad my daughter will never experience. I wish she could have some of that. And if you ever want to have me over for a sleepover and make me hot chocolate and doodlesnaps for breakfast I PROMISE I'll remember and come back. ;)

    PS I do think the SAHM network is imagined, because I imagine it too.

  2. That is exactly the fantasy I shared with my husband once, cookies and neighborhood kids. I never had many friends as a kid since we moved around a lot (I went to 9 different schools), but somehow that was my normal too.

    I think we may have doodlesnaps tomorrow morning. :)

  3. The network is real! You should all come live in my neighborhood. I just had a friend of mine visit the neighborhood playgroup and as we left she said it made her wish she lived here.

    It's probably real other places, too. It's just not everywhere, or even the norm any more.

  4. That sounds like fun!! In my mind I imagine something similar to you. When I was a child I lived out in the country with no other houses around (plus my house was too chaotic and filthy and my mum too depressed) so I never had other children just dropping by. I never had friends at my house - not even birthday parties. So I have a dream for my son of a friendly neighbourhood with children his age running in and out of the house - felling welcome and knowing I'll give them a treat. This recipe seems perfect for that sort of spontaneous deliciousness that I imagine. :-)

  5. Oh, J. Why do you DO this to me?? I seem to bookmark every one of your yummy posts, which is wonderful, yet it all adds to my waistline.

    The backyard camping sounds like a lot of fun. I mean, the way you and N did it. Maybe there is still enough nice weather for us to do the same this weekend.

  6. so want that kind of neighborhood-netowrk-type thing for the kids and for myself. never had it growing up, certainly don't have it now...worried that its mostly a myth, or that its us---not the neighborhood. So glad you got to experience it, and hope it continues & grows.

  7. I am so glad you and your family got to have that "different kind of normal" experience. It sounds like such a fun evening, overnight and morning. Those Doodlesnaps look yummy, not to mention that cozy mug next to them in your photo.

  8. That sounds like so much fun! That is how I always wanted to be as a mom. The house everyone came to.I never had that as a kid though. We always live in little apartments so we were never the go to house. When I did have friends over my mom did always make it fun. I can't wait to do that for my kids.


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