Dual (Duel?) Mamas

This morning, I was sitting at the kitchen table watching two mother birds duke out the rights to the birdhouse nailed to our back porch. Last week a pair of house sparrows moved in, laboriously transferring twigs from the grape vine across the yard to build their nest. Today, however, a mother house wren, likely the same one who occupied the birdhouse last year, was on the scene, pulling out bits of sparrow fluff and bringing in some twigs of her own. Not half an hour later, that sparrow was back with a beakful of down, no doubt wondering what had happened to all her bedding.

Now that my son and I are back in Colorado, living with my parents in the house where I grew up, I sometimes feel a bit like that mother wren, displaced. Despite its old familiarity, I have changed quite a bit in the 14-odd years since I moved away from here to go to college, and the biggest way is in my eating habits. I prided myself on making practically everything from tortillas to yogurt to pickles from scratch, doing my best to stock my pantry and fridge with organic, local, single ingredients, and slowly building up a kitchen-full of quality equipment. Coming here, I was initially very dismayed to see the state of my mother’s kitchen: She is much more enthusiastic about setting a table than cooking the food to go on it, so her pantry was filled with expired foodstuffs, many of them processed and full of canola oil and corn syrup. (Granted, this is not entirely her fault, since my father can be very set in his ways culinarily—he thinks Kraft Mac and Cheese is a great meal.) To her credit, she always tries to buy healthy foods, but the FDA’s idea of healthy is very different from mine. That’s part of the reason that I bought a copy of the book, Real Food: What to Eat and Why by Nina Planck, and, in honor of Mother’s Day, I signed my mother up for Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s highly regarded Real Food for Rookies class. (Incidentally, there is still time to sign up—and I get a commission if you do so through the link above.)


We still have lots of work to do, but I made a start of it by going through the spice cabinet in the kitchen and weeding out the duplicates and the spices so old they might as well have been bottles of dust. (When I began lining tins up on the counter, my dad proudly informed me that there were even more spices down in the basement, buried there since a kitchen remodel years ago, because he hadn’t wanted my mom to waste them by throwing them out.)


I’m not done yet, but at least now there is some free space, and the baking spices are separate from the cooking ones, which will save me a lot of time hunting around in a crowded cabinet that is above my eye level. The pantry and fridge are up next, once the book, the class, and the naturopath we will be visiting on Nolan’s behalf join forces to start encouraging a real change in eating habits.

All this may sound like complaint, but it really is not. I may not always agree with my mother, and I do sometimes get very grumpy when I am pining for my own pantry and kitchen equipment, but I honestly don’t know what I would be doing right now without her help—probably still tearing out my heart (and my hair) trying to figure out ways to help my autistic son in a state that had no money or resources for special needs. She is the most generous, giving person I have ever met, and she really does set a mean table. 🙂

This morning when Nolan woke up the whole house at 5 a.m. with a stuffy nose and bad attitude, my sweet mother didn’t complain at all. She just offered him some milk, then tried making a new breakfast product that was packaged to look like microwaveable muffin mix, but turned out to be instant oatmeal, which none of us like. I mean really, how many people prefer instant oatmeal to a freshly baked muffin?

My mom and I had intended to go to church together for Mother’s Day, leaving my dad home to watch Nolan, but because the little munchkin was being such a grouch, I ended up staying behind instead. As soon as they left, I broke out the mixer and whipped up a batch of banana-blueberry oatmeal muffins, which came out moist, hearty and just sweet enough, worlds better than gluey processed oatmeal. I found a few tulips that were still blooming in the yard and attempted to arrange them, and wrote in one of my handmade cards, an angel blowing a shofar that was designed just for my mom, inscribed with the following verse: “As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; And you will be comforted in Jerusalem. Then you will see this, and your heart will be glad, And your bones will flourish like the new grass” (Isaiah 66:13-14a). My mother has indeed been a great joy and comfort to me in this past trying year, and I believe that soon we will all be flourishing like new grass, my sweet child included. But in the meantime, there are muffins! Happy Mother’s Day, everyone!

Banana Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins

1 C AP flour
1 C oatmeal
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
4 T unsalted butter or coconut oil
1/3 C sugar
1/3 C brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1/3 C milk (I used almond milk)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 pint fresh or frozen blueberries

Preheat oven to 375F. Combine the flour, oatmeal, baking soda and salt, and set aside.

In the bowl of a mixer, cream butter and sugars until light. Add eggs one at a time, then add in milk, vanilla and banana; mix well. Stir in flour/oatmeal mixture with as few strokes as possible and then add blueberries.

Divide the batter evenly in your prepared 12-well muffin pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes at 375 degrees, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Source: Domestic Adventure.

My Mother’s Day gift from my son: one of his beautiful drawings, with lots of springy colors that he picked out himself. 🙂

Update 5/11/11: The muffins turned out to be motivational! On Monday morning, after having missed a week of preschool with that cold, Nolan sat down to breakfast of muffins and a smoothie and said the word “eat” for the very first time—and then several times more.

On the subject of the dueling mother birds, the drama continues. The little wren has not relinquished her prior claim to the birdhouse, and stubbornly pulls out every bit of fluff the mama sparrow tries to pack in. When I went outside yesterday, I found the egg pictured above—which I believe is a sparrow egg—tossed out onto the rocks under the box, so the quarrel seems to be turning ugly. Today’s unpleasant sleety weather caused a lull in the activity, but we are keeping a watchful eye on the situation. 🙂

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