Baking With Boys

Jackie Semmens Boys

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“You wanted to know, right?” the ultrasound tech stammered, glancing nervously from the screen to my face.

“Yes,” we laughed. My husband held our wriggling older son, as our second son announced himself proudly on the screen. It didn’t take any training to decipher what we were seeing. A bat and two baseballs. A second boy.

My heart waivered for a second. This would not be the child I would buy Easter bonnets for, or flip through the American Girl doll catalog with. Two boys.

After just one son, our house already looked like a mini sports arena undergoing a long-term construction project. Excavators, dump trucks, basketballs, and soccer balls filled our living room. Dolls remained buried deep in the toy box; trains and airplanes were always chosen instead.

Growing up with two sisters, the world of boys is foreign to me. I listen as my husband excitedly dreams about coaching their future basketball teams, just as his own dad had coached him. I love the chaos of it all, the noise, the fascination with anything that spends its days in the dirt. But there are moments when I wonder if I will get to share my own childhood, pink and glittery as it may be, with my children. In a dark, dusty closet sit the memories of my girlhood – Girl Scout camping trips, tea parties with cupcakes, adventures with dolls, tucked away, waiting for an interested party.

In another time, there they would remain.

“Do you like to cook, Nana? Oh. Well, I like to bake. I’m a baker guy,” my three year old proudly proclaims to his grandmother as he sits at a kitchen stool, helping me bake muffins. I leave the bowl of flour under his jurisdiction, begging him to please leave some of it in the bowl, while I crack the eggs into another. He plows his teaspoons into it, pretending he is an excavator, digging and dumping the dirt. Flour splashes over his apron, dusting the basketballs and baseballs that adorn it.

When I’m standing in my kitchen, I often think of the mothers of our grandmothers, the ones whose sashes proclaimed “Votes for Women!” as they marched down the streets. I think too of the women who followed in their footsteps, liberating themselves from the kitchen and stepping into the working world. And the ones still on the frontlines today, fighting to prove that women can be both excellent employees and loving mothers. I wonder frequently if I let them down when I left my short career and stumbled back into the kitchen, balancing a baby on my hip while cooking dinner for my husband.

My sons play happily in the kitchen, the little one begging to stir whatever I am cooking. The older one pretends to read the recipe, holding the cookbook upside down, “Oh yes, we do need one pound of flour and six eggs.” He sneaks tastes of brown sugar when he thinks I am not looking, just as I used to do sitting on my mother’s countertop.

This we can share. This is the legacy I inherited from the women who came before. I have the privilege of raising children who can proclaim both their love of baking cupcakes and playing in the dirt. I have boys who wear purple and run around the park throwing footballs. My children can grow up in a world where no one has told them that the things which used to belong solely to the domain of women are not good enough for boys. They are free to be whomever they want to be, builders, basketballers, or bakers.

Today I wrapped an apron around my youngest son, the one I had worn as a girl, and had been saving for a daughter. He beamed proudly, holding a wooden spoon in his hand, ready to join his older brother baking muffins. I needn’t have worried. This we can share.

Applesauce Oatmeal Muffin Recipe

1/4 cup rolled oats
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1.5 cups rolled oats
1.25 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon 
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup milk (dairy substitutes work just fine!)
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 egg, lightly beaten

Heat oven to 400F. Grease 12 regular muffin cups line with paper liners. 
In a small bowl, mix all the topping ingredients and set aside. This is a good job for little hands – if it gets spilled, cleanup is minimal!
In a large bowl, mix oats, flour baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon. In a separate bell, beat together the wet ingredients: applesauce, milk, sugar, oil, and egg. Pour the wet mixture into the dry ingredients and stir until just mixed. Do not over mix or the muffins will become tough, lumps are okay. 
Fill muffin cups 2/3 full. Sprinkle the topping mixture onto the tops of the batter. 
Bake 20-22 minutes until a knife comes out clean. Cool muffins in pan for a few minutes, then cool on a wire rack. Serve with apple butter or jam. 


About the Author

Jackie Semmens

Jackie Semmens lives and parents two young boys in beautiful Helena, MT. She writes at .

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