We have a “secret” family recipe for chocolate chip cookies. It’s taped to the inside of a cabinet in my parents’ house, and a picture of it is the oldest photo in my camera roll. I clear out photos on my phone every so often to free up space, but that one stays so I can find it in a jiffy.
Friday night, just home from work, I scroll to the top of my camera roll to check the recipe ingredients against the contents of the pantry. It and every photo and video on my phone are backed up on the cloud, but the ones I can’t bear to delete from my device remain through every space-making cull. Right after the cookie recipe are the very first photos of Gracie.
I pop two pizzas into the oven and sit down on a stool at the kitchen island to flip through the memories. Those photos of my first baby were taken almost four years ago. I remember exactly what I felt cradling her tiny 7-pound body in one arm, staring at her perfect china-doll face. “I can’t believe I did it. I can’t believe we created this person. I can’t believe I birthed this human.”
My chest tightens a little as I scroll through the first months of her life. My arms, then so easily tired from holding her through long days and nights, could easily hold the same newborn for hours now. I sigh and move on, then six-month-old Gracie appears on all fours, just days away from crawling, her face lit up in a smile. I smile back at my phone. She was so much fun at that age, and I was finally settling into life as a mom.
I glance at the oven timer—five minutes left for the pizza. My finger swipes forward in time to Logan’s birth. There he is: the boy I worried I wouldn’t know how to raise pulled tight to my chest. There I am: looking in awe at his squishy, scrunched up face that I adored the second I saw it, but joked was a face only a mother could love. An hour or so after delivery, he’s laying naked and screaming atop the scale that displays a number I can still barely believe was real—9 pounds, 1 ounce.
There’s Gracie perched on Mark’s lap opposite Logan—her face apprehensive as she looks into her brand new baby brother’s. Her uncertainty quickly turned to adoration when we brought him home. I was uncertain about bringing home a second baby too. How would I manage? How would Gracie react? But you can see the happy way it played out right in my photos. Logan was a sweet, easy baby. Gracie took to him like a fish to water, and he’s looked up to her since that first meeting in the hospital.
The timer beeps, and I put down my phone before hoisting myself off the seat. I waddle over to the oven and awkwardly bend to remove the pizzas, taking care not to bump my 36-weeks-pregnant belly on anything. I grab the pizza cutter and send a text to Mark, “Can you pick up eggs and chocolate chips on your way home, please?”
I linger over the photos for a moment longer before putting down my phone and calling the kids for dinner. In about a month, I’ll snap pictures of one last newborn in between soaking up every minute of maternity leave. It won’t be long before I’m scrolling back through those same photos and marveling at how small she used to be.
After breakfast the next morning, I cream sugar, butter, and shortening in my biggest mixing bowl, forcing the three together with a wooden spoon.
“Mommy, what are you making?”
“Can me and Logan help?”
“Oh … no, Gracie, you can’t. I’m sorry. The cookies have eggs in them.”
I open the carton and grab the first egg. I crack it on the counter and make a mental note of the area now contaminated by allergens.
“Do they have peanuts?”
“No, just eggs ... I’m sorry you can’t help.”
Saying the words is a tiny dagger to my heart. I’ve helped my own mom make them dozens of times. She taught me how to bake and read a recipe through these same ingredients. These cookies form some of my sweetest childhood memories, but I can’t let my own child get too close to the mixing bowl.
Their offer to help turned down, Gracie and Logan get bored and migrate to the living room to act out Paw Patrol rescues with their plastic pups and vehicles. I finish the dough alone and press a piece of plastic wrap down into the bowl before popping it into the fridge to chill. Kids still content, and counter decontaminated, I sit again at the island, my feet and back already aching from the morning’s light activities. Despite the long list of to-dos around the house, I indulge myself a little more in the previous night’s trip down memory lane, picking up where I left off in the photos.
Gracie seemed so grown up when we brought Logan home, but looking back now, at barely two, I can see how small she really was. I hit play on a video and listen to her muddled baby talk—more evidence of how much she’s changed since. I scroll some more and land on a video of Logan in his sit-me-up on the floor, Gracie handing him Paw Patrol cars. She stacks them on his tray and body, saying each character’s catchphrase while sharing her most precious toys with her baby brother.
I look down the hall toward the living room and listen to them play with those same toys. Logan is just a few months younger now than Gracie was when he was born. Time is flying by, but, really, they’re both still so little. They both still fit on my lap when we read books at bedtime, even with a baby bump in the way. I can still pick them up and snuggle them and smother them in kisses.
They’ve come a long way from being newborns, but they have so much littleness yet to enjoy. Gracie isn’t even four yet. Kindergarten is more than a year away. Logan just put his first two-word sentences together this month. Their little sister due in July will hold the title of “baby of the family” for life, but her siblings are only the tiniest bit older and bigger. I don’t want to get so caught up in how much they’ve grown that I lose sight of how small they still are. I want to remember these sweet little kid years, but, more importantly, I want to soak them in while we live them and not just wish I had when I’m flipping through my camera roll in another decade.
After the kids are tucked in for naps, I retrieve the dough from the fridge and bake off the cookies. One sheet stays in the oven just two minutes longer than the others. They come out a darker golden brown than the rest. Confident they’re safely past the possibility of being underdone, I set them aside for Gracie, who passed her “baked egg challenge” last fall. She may not have been able to bake them with me, but eating them is really the best part anyway.
She’s the first one up from nap just like I expected. As soon as she makes her way downstairs into the kitchen, I hand her a cookie and take a seat at the island. She climbs up onto a stool beside me to savor her cookie while I savor the moment and a cookie of my own.
This post was written as part of a blog hop with Exhale—an online community of women pursuing creativity alongside motherhood, led by the writing team behind Coffee + Crumbs. Click here to read the next post in this series "Remember This."
Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2/3 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup butter-flavored shortening
3 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
6 ounces (half bag) milk chocolate chips
1. Cream together sugars and fats.
2. Mix in eggs.
3. Gradually incorporate dry goods.
4. Stir in chocolate chips.
5. Chill dough in fridge at least one hour.
6. Preheat oven to 375°.
7. Portion dough onto cookie sheets. (Tip: silpat mats on top of airbake cookie sheets will give you the best results)
8. Bake for 10-12 minutes until just golden brown. Rotate pan halfway through baking for even browning.