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I cook for nine people, three times a day, seven days a week. I am a mom of many: we have nine; seven still live at home. It would be so much easier to cook alone than to share my kitchen with my children but I don’t. My daughters (and, frequently, my youngest boys) are mommy’s helpers and aspiring cooks.

They are now learning what the older ones learned before them: the way around the kitchen, which pots and pans to use and why, what tastes good together…and what doesn’t. My youngest has been properly cracking eggs since he was 2-years old. Now 5 years old, he enjoys telling us about the recipes “I make up”…such as pepperoni and cheese mixed with ketchup and zapped briefly in the microwave; more importantly, he likes sharing his concoctions…and his siblings like trying them. My 8-year old son likes to cook up fried bologna as a surprise to his brothers and sisters (who love it) and to create sandwich combinations others may not have thought of; his creativity costs us little and earns him a lot. My little girls, ages 11 and 7, are learning the secrets of spaghetti and brownies and can tell you that the best way to handle biscuits is to hardly handle them at all. They love planning tea parties and then inviting their brothers to enjoy the tasty treats that they have provided. Their brothers might not like the dressing up part but they enjoy the treats prepared by their sisters.

Last night, I taught my oldest daughter to make hamburger vegetable soup. Today, all of us will work together to create a memorable Mexican-inspired family night feast. When we gather around the TV set this evening for our once a week family night, together we will laugh as we enjoy old movies such as “The Ugly Dachshund” and “The Brave Little Toaster”. My youngest children will have the pleasure, not just of eating yummy food with their family while watching funny shows, but, more importantly, they will have the thrill of eating yummy food that they themselves helped to make. They will feel a victory because they have climbed one more mountain of childhood.

We have some messes to clean up but that’s alright; as we cook together we are creating much more than food: we are building a life. Together we are making memories that will last much longer than the food that we create together. That’s worth more to me than the trouble a thousand messes might provide.