On a hot late summer day in 2008, I stood in the parking lot of my son, Will’s, preschool while he refused to get in the car. Defiantly, with his little arms crossed, he planted his feet and expressed how he wasn’t ready to leave yet.
Will was three-years-old at the time, and we’d just left orientation for his first school experience. He was entering the two-day-a-week preschool program, and had been looking forward to it for months. He’d practiced his teacher’s name again and again, met the requirement of being potty trained virtually overnight and generally got ready for what school would be like.
But that orientation? It was brief and fun and exciting, and he hadn’t had enough of it. He’d met his classmates and his teacher, explored the school and the playground and wanted more.
As his mom, I was caught between emotions — I didn’t want him to think it’s okay to refuse to get in the car, but his excitement was so sweet and heartening. Ultimately, after a few pictures, he did get in the car and we went home. And, the enthusiasm didn’t wane; he loved every day he spent in that preschool.
In a few short months, Will, now 10, will start middle school. It’s hard to believe that my sweet, smart, opinionated boy is old enough for this already. When did that little boy outside preschool morph into this tween? And what will he do in a school this big?
It’s something we’ve both thought about. The school — larger than any I went to in my grade school years — is enormous to us. And I don’t really have any wisdom to pass along to help with the transition. I actually never went to middle school myself (I graduated from eighth grade from a tiny K-8 school). What does he need to know? What advice should I pass along?
Much like his transition into preschool, I suspect that Will will meet the new experience head-on and enjoy it as much as he can. The number of clubs, teams and activities has sparked his interest, and the idea of changing classes excites him. And it certainly doesn’t hurt that he’ll move up with the class he’s spent the last two years with.
The key, I think, is going to be in how willing he is to try different and new things, and how open he will be to adapting to a different way of doing things that comes with growing up. (And my hope is that he’ll be very willing.)
Ultimately, he’ll be faced with new responsibility, expectations and have to learn to navigate a world where he is held more accountable for his work. It will be a change, but a good one.
I know a thing or two about willingness to try new and different things. I have to do that a lot as a recipe developer. For instance, as much as I would love to make strawberry muffins with fresh strawberries, the results are never quite right. Fresh strawberries are too moist and result in a muffin that quickly becomes soggy.
But when you trade fresh berries for dried ones, the results are so much better. Dried strawberries are just what they sound like — a dried version of the summery red fruit. Available at stores including the Natural Living Center in Bangor and Target, dried berries lend the right flavor without adding any sogginess.
These Fluffy Strawberry Muffins take a little longer than usual to prepare. Although they are super easy — it’s a one bowl method — you have to let the batter sit for a bit to get airy. This helps them develop the fluffy texture that makes them great.
And one more hint: If you are using paper liners, give ’em a quick spray of cooking oil spray and the muffins won’t stick. It’s wonderful. Or, you could just use those fancy foil ones, which are lovely and don’t stick to warm baked muffins.
So tell me: What’s your best piece of advice for a tween about to head to middle school?
- 1 large egg
- 1 cup milk
- ½ cup oil (olive or vegetable, depending on your preference)
- 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup dried strawberries
- course sugar (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a 12-slot muffin tin with muffin liners. If using paper liners, spray each one lightly inside with cooking oil spray prevent sticking. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, oil and lemon juice. Add the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and vanilla extract. Stir until smooth and then let sit for 15 minutes. It will puff up while it sits. Fold in the dried strawberries.
- Divide the batter evenly among the 12 muffin liners. If desired, sprinkle with course sugar.
- Slide the muffin tin into the preheated oven and bake for 18-22 minutes until golden. A toothpick inserted into the center of the muffins should come out cleanly.
- Remove from the oven. These can be enjoyed immediately, or stored in an airtight container for up to five days.