photo-1 Give her the wide expanse of the field, the short rush and cut of the court, a ball at her feet, or in her hands. If she’s home, the house pulses with dull thuds–a ball against the carport siding, the hallway, her doorjamb. She lives in her team shorts, her practice jerseys–even on rare, practice-free days. Something is always ricocheting, somewhere.

It’s true, sometimes she’s still.  She recharges by reading for a full day straight. She lobbies for family game night. She paints her nails team colors. Orange and Black for the Giants. Red and Gold for the Niners. Black and white for Juventus. But she is not my companion in the kitchen (anymore), and my essay in the book details the Great Market Mutiny that she engineered with her brother.  It’s been a very, very long time since we baked together, when her sly chug from the bottle of vanilla extract perfumed her breath and had me speed dialing poison control.

But she loves to eat. Especially sugar. And more than she loves sugar, she loves independence. So when she found this book in the  library, it didn’t take her long to commandeer the kitchen.  She sourced, measured,  cracked, beat, poured, baked, creamed, and piped.  Hell, she even cleaned. A fine sanding of sugar covered the counter. There were smears of butter on the cabinets. Frosting cemented to the table. Flour dusted her jersey, her hair.

But then we had Snickerdoodle cupcakes. And vanilla cream cupcakes. And orange soda cupcakes.  We’ve been knee deep in cupcakes for 3 weeks now, and I can’t say that I mind. In fact, I sort of love it.

What I love: the joy of stepping back and observing. Of learning patience–hers, and mine. Of letting go of perfection. Of saying yes to the lovely chaos of flour, sugar, buttercream.  Of seeing the child’s giddy pleasure and the girl’s smiling satisfaction in a job well-done, and done solo. Because, really, childhood is so short. I want it to be


Snickerdoodle Cupcakes
from Betty Crocker, The Big Book of Cupcakes
2 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter
1 2/3 cup sugar
5 egg whites
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/4 cups milk
6 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2/3 cup butter, softened
1 tablespoon vanilla
2-4 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamonPREHEAT over to 350 degrees F.
PLACE paper baking cups in each of 24 regular-sized muffin tins.
MIX in a medium bowl: flour, cinnamon, baking powder, salt.
BEAT on medium speed in a large bowl: shortening, gradually adding sugar about 1/3 cup at a time.
ADD egg whites one at a time, to shortening and sugar mixture, beating well after each addition.
ADD in vanilla.
ON LOW SPEED alternately add flour mixture and milk, beating until just blended.
IN a large bowl, mix powdered sugar, 2 teaspoons cinnamon and the butter with electric mixer on low speed. Stir in vanilla and 2 tablespoons of milk. Gradually beat in enough remaining milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, to make frosting smooth and spreadable.
FROST cupcakes.
MIX topping ingredients in a small bowl. Sprinkle over frosted cupcakes.
MAKES 24 regular size cupcakes or 72 mini-cupcakes. Cupcakes will keep 2 days at room temperature.