Every mother knows the moment their child is born, that hers is the perfect child. She thinks that her child is the best, the smartest, the greatest, the cutest - just plain the "-est" regardless of the context. As their child gets older, and then other children enter your world with whom you can compare your own child and suddenly it's not as clear. I find myself noticing the kid who is better behaved than mine, or the one who seems to have a better handle on math, or the one who writes better. Suddenly, when comparing with others, it's harder to harder to see that your child is the "best."
However, I know that comparing with others is not the way to go and I force myself to compare Son and Daughters against each of themselves, without comparing them to anyone. I remind them that they need to be better than they were yesterday - in everything that they are doing, whether it be their behavior, their eating habits, their swimming, or just their attitude. Whether they improve every single day is up for debate, but I try and keep in mind that they are on their own individual race against themselves.
As Daughter #1 had her first piano recital, I thought about it with a lot of trepidation. I thought back to my own performances as a young child, and realized I did not play in my first recital until I was 8 years old; Daughter #1 had been asked to play, and she was only 6. I worried about her stage fright, her confidence, her poise in front of an audience of other parents and musicians and my major panic crisis mode kicked in, where I imagined the worst case scenario. (It went something like she would perform, make a huge mistake, burst out in tears in front of the audience, cry audibly during the rest of the recital, and on the car ride home staunchly say that she would no longer play piano, ever again. Her musical experience of less than two years would be over.) My solution was to make sure she practiced, over and over and over again until she had mastery of the piece. I reminded her every single day to practice her piece, with dynamics, with precision and with accuracy. When she complained I told her, "If you make a mistake during the recital after a lot of practice, that is fine. But if you make a mistake because you DID NOT practice, that is something entirely different." She seemed to understand my point and dutifully practiced. (Not quite to my exacting standards, but they must have met hers.)
The day of the piano recital loomed and I think I was more jittery than she. I was pressed to get her to the performance ON TIME, and dashed around the house preparing everyone in their recital nice clothes. After I started the engine, mother-in-law tapped my shoulders and whispered to me in Korean, "I think something is wrong with her front tooth. It looks like it is going to fall out." I turned and looked at daughter, and sure enough her front tooth was jutting out of her mouth. I said, "Honey, I'm going to have to pull your tooth out right now," and proceeded to run over to her side of the car, grab Kleenex and yanked out her front tooth. I shoved two tissues in her mouth and told her to bite, and then gunned the engine and drove off to the recital. (Mommy, dentist, chauffeur, talent manager in one day - that's stress.)
She was sixth to play, and the five students who preceeded her made mistakes and did not play as well as I had expected. My stomach bottomed out as I began to realize that these kids were nervous, jittery and terrified about performing. When Daughter #1 went up to play, my heart thumped wildly and threatened to stop beating. The 45 seconds of her brief performance were some of the most nerve-wracking, and then it was over. She played well, very well, perfectly even.
My chest puffed up and swelled with pride. My smile threatened to split my face in two. My mother's pride just welled up and threatened to take over my body. After it was all over, I simply hugged Daughter #1 and said, "You did a great job, because you practiced hard. That's why you did so well." And I knew this to be true, and my heart was full because all of her effort was well worth it.
After being exhausted from enforcing all the piano practice, my brain and my body have not been able to do complicated cooking - in fact, I'm looking for the EASIEST most delicious things to cook. And I found it in these Caprese Crostini. Simple ingredients, simple preparation and a delicious "party in your mouth." Even better, you can make these perfectly, with no practice at all.
adapted from Giada De Laurentiis’ book Everyday Pasta
4 to 6 servings
1 loaf crusty bread like pugliese, sliced ½ inch thick
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 small mozzarella balls (bocconcini), cut in half
1 bunch fresh basil leaves, stemmed
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
Arrange the sliced bread on a baking sheet. Brush with some of the olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake until the bread is pale golden and crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove from the oven. Top each slice of bread with a few cherry tomato halves and mozzarella halves and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Return the baking sheet to the oven until the cheese and tomato are warmed, about 5 minutes.
Arrange the toasts on a serving platter. Top each toast with a basil leaf. Using the brush, drizzle the remaining olive oil over the basil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and serve.
Bonus - it's delicious without any dairy.