Friday, June 14, 2013

Reagan's "You're the Peanut Butter to My Jelly" PB&J Pie

As a stay at home mom, I had always just assumed that finding and facilitating friendships for my children was part of my job description. Surely, it fell somewhere between "laundry folder" and "time out giver." And so I took great pride in scheduling playdate after playdate with all of the usual suspects - kiddos from the neighborhood, church friends, my own friends' children and, of course, cousins.

But, my confidence as Playdate Coordinator was shaken when Wilson began preschool last fall. Almost instantly, Will and I began to hear bits and pieces about a little boy named Reagan. It seemed he had snuck right in and stolen the title of BFF without any help from me.
With some gentle prodding from their preschool teacher, I sent a brief email to Reagan's mom to see if she might be interested in getting the boys together outside of class to play. Almost immediately, I received an enthusiastic response from Melanie. It seemed that Reagan, too, regularly talked about his "best friend Wilson," even mentioning that they had grand plans to someday live at one anothers' houses. 

It has been delightful to witness the evolution of my little guy's first friendship over the course of the school year. From the tales of "Superhero School" (in which Reagan teaches Wilson various superhero moves that he later comes home and teaches the rest of the family) to updates regarding who got what Trashie in their most recent Trash Pack purchase, I have thoroughly enjoyed every minute. 
I couldn't help but smile when Melanie called one rainy winter morning to share that Reagan had just informed her that he felt like he and Wilson were "made for each other." It made my Mommy heart overflow with gratitude to know that someone else out there loved my little guy for exactly who he was.
And, as I watched Wilson wait on pins and needles at his fifth birthday party, refusing to even begin bowling until his best friend, Reagan was there, it struck me that never before had any one person been so important to him.
As the magical experience that is preschool winds to a close, I find myself mourning the all too soon transition to kindergarten and the irregularity with which Wilson and his best buddy will see each other. As I look anxiously toward the fall, knowing that Reagan will attend another school in a neighboring school district, I can't help but wonder how Wilson will adapt without his best friend by his side. 
In honor of best friends and preschool graduations, Wilson suggested that we make a little something for Reagan - a pie of course. And since nothing says preschool more than a good old PB&J, I present Reagan's "You're the Peanut Butter to My Jelly" PB&J Pie.

In an attempt to satisfy the preschool palate, my initial instinct was to go with a graham cracker crust. But, oh, how I do love a sweet and salty combo. And because I just couldn't decide, I opted to use both - combining pretzel and graham cracker crumbs with a bit of melted butter and dark brown sugar pressed firmly into a pie tin.
While the pretzel/graham cracker crust baked, my sous chef, Wilson and I set to work preparing the peanut butter portion of the PB&J filling. In a large mixing bowl, we combined all-natural creamy peanut butter, softened cream cheese and sweetened condensed milk.
Then for Wilson's favorite part - the whipped cream. After a brief tutorial on how not to spatter droplets of heavy whipping cream across the entire kitchen, I stood back and proudly let him take the reins - or beaters, as it were. 
Once the cream had been whipped into stiff peaks, we gently folded it into the peanut butter mixture and set it aside to begin work on the jelly portion of the PB&J.

Because strawberry jelly is the preferred partner to peanut butter in our home (and because nothing says summer like strawberries), we opted to use strawberry preserves as the base of our jelly layer.

So, I dissolved a packet of gelatin into simmering water and let Wilson blend the gelatin with the strawberry preserves until smooth. (In case you're counting, that's two kitchen appliances for my pie baker in training. These things are super exciting when you're five.)
Now that we had all of the components prepared, it was time to assemble the pie, alternating between thick layers of sweet strawberry "jelly" and rich peanut butter mousse. 
When we reached the fifth and final layer, we flipped the wooden spoon around to use the handle to swirl dollops of jelly into a delicate feathery design.

The only thing missing was a bit more whipped cream - this time flavored with strawberry preserves. 

I am so grateful for the lifelong lessons that Reagan's friendship has taught Wilson - confidence, loyalty, acceptance and, of course, love. And I am thankful for the opportunity to let go of the reins just the slightest bit and learn to trust in Wilson's ability to form relationships on his own. I have to say, I couldn't be prouder of his judgement and selection in friends.
And just because sometimes a five-year-old can say precisely that which I as a Mommy, pie baker and blogger so struggle to put into words,

"Dear Reagan,
I love you, Reagan. Thank you for being my best friend. You are very good. I like to play superheroes with you.
Love, Wilson"
"Like peanut butter and jelly,
 pen and paper,
 moon and stars,
socks and shoes,
 pigs and mud,
cows and moo's,
 hot chocolate in winter,
flowers and spring...
somehow we just fit...
you and me.
The best of friends!” 
- Unknown