On Balance

Published on July 9th, 2018 | by Sara Dutilly


The Making of Crepes: On Home Schooling


I’m up in the quiet of morning, wishing the sun would not rise. A child wakes and I meet him in the hall. “Go to the bathroom, then back to your bed,” I say, stern. It is 6:40 a.m. I lie back down. I set my alarm for twenty more minutes of sleep, but I can’t even doze. One child is awake. The others won’t be long. Since rest requires nothing but still and quiet, I take the time as moments.


Breakfast bananas after sunrise. Hot coffee in my hand. Arguments and running. I attempt a new recipe: Coconut Flour Tortillas. I don’t expect them to replace real tortillas, but I think maybe they could imitate a crêpe. They are too eggy and we don’t finish even one. Now, we want real crêpes. We open The Joy of Cooking and talk about the index and the alphabetical order. We find “Basic Sweet Crêpes,” and then we read that to make the batter all we have to do is blend five ingredients together. It has been many years since I’ve made the simple French wonders and I remember them as fragile hardships. I close the book and say, “Maybe later.”


The library is a place I love for its infinite words, and a place my children love too. Today my children’s first comments are for the computers, and though it pains me to allow them screen time in a building so filled with other glories, I let my children sign on and I begin my search for books. On my list are Ferdinand the Bull and Aesop’s Fables. Also, d’Aulaire’s biography of Benjamin Franklin and a slew of others. The Blue Fairy Book has me excited. I have never read Beauty and the Beast, though I have the story’s rose tattooed on my shoulder.


“Why did we get Ferdinand?” My oldest asks. He is my most inquisitive, buckled and bent over, searching through our bag as I turn corners. “We’ve already read it,” he says. But he’s turning its pages, slow.


Aldi has been remodeled. We take our Grand Re-Opening coupon. Five dollars off. A basket full of fruit, a restocking of baking supplies, a bottle of three-dollar wine and we feel like royalty.


The sunny October Monday begs for some playground Vitamin D. I had the foresight to bring lunch, so we call it a picnic and sit under the shelter. It’s a school day and the playground is deserted. We have school right there, reading Beauty and the Beast and chatting about the differences in all the versions we now know. Does my son know that the rose on my shoulder belongs to that story? How would I explain my reason? That when I was 12 years old, my group of friends all took princess names, and I took Belle because I was the optimistic, studious brunette?


The Beast was everything in life: what is hideous and mean can turn wonderful and inviting. In The Blue Fairy Book, we read that Beauty wanted nothing, but upon demand requested a rose. She settled her father’s fate, then took his place and changed her own. My children want to play, so we make a bookmark out of a napkin. It is torn to look like Idaho.


Back in the kitchen, I chop mushrooms. My oldest is the only child awake. I released him from his room, nudged him toward the Mary Cassatt books I picked up at the library. He wants to finish Beauty and the Beast, but I can’t read to him right now. “Look through Mary Cassatt’s paintings and tell me which is your favorite,” I say, shoving bags and papers aside to make space at the counter. I think we’ll chat about her subject matter, her composition, her overall use of dull colors. But my child is almost in tears. I stop chopping, give my attention. He says he doesn’t like any of Mary Cassatt’s paintings. I know my response shows annoyance. I tell my son that we are going to be studying lots of things this year and he won’t love them all. Mary Cassatt is not my favorite artist either. I glazed over her paintings in all my art history classes. Always women in their dull domesticity.


I go back to chopping mushrooms, and when I’m done, I heat a pan for browning chicken. I measure the flour and the salt and the marsala wine. My child has gone to the couch to read The Berenstain Bears Meet Santa Bear.


He climbs on top of the counter and opens two cabinets. “Watch out, mom,” he says. I ask what he’s doing. He opens a cabinet and I ask again. “I’m looking for The Joy of Cooking,” he says, “so we can make crêpes.” The mushroom sauce simmers to thicken and my son measures flour, sugar, water, milk. He cracks four eggs and melts half a stick of butter. We blend it all and set it in the fridge. The recipe says we can let it sit unused for two days, and in fact we should, so the flour can fully absorb the liquid, so the gluten can relax.


Mary Cassatt: come alive and paint us now. Orange tile under our fingers, flour spread like snow while garlic and mushrooms put steam above the stove. Books lie wide-opened, sprinkled on couches like warming blankets. A box of diapers never put away—neither Costco’s toilet paper—instead, it slumps next to stairs where we all must one day travel.

I cook in the kitchen because my family must eat. Outside, a rose bush grows at our walkway. I’ve already decided that we’ll leave its flowers there.



Feature Photo by Caroline Attwood on Unsplash

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About the Author

Sara Dutilly is a homeschooling mother to three children. Years ago, she studied writing in college and today tries to stick with it, encouraging every aspect of her homeschool toward literary merit. She can often be found in the kitchen or behind the closed door of her bedroom penning what she believes are beautiful, true words. She has been published in Mothers Always Write, PopSugar, and r.k.v.r.y. Quarterly Journal, and every once in a while she adds a post to her blog www.haikuthedayaway.com.

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