Saturday, August 11, 2018

June's "It Looks Just Like a Birthday Pie"

I have always dreamt of having a daughter. A couple, in fact. The baby dolls, the tea parties, the ballet - it all just seemed so magical. But, after welcoming two amazing boys into our family early in our marriage, life as a boymom was totally my comfort zone.

So, nearly six years into the boymom gig, when the ultrasound technician informed us our third child would be a girl, I admit, I began to freak out just a bit. All of the girly things I thought I was ill-prepared for came rushing in, demanding my immediate attention. After all, I hadn't the slightest idea how to do girl hair. I mean, I could barely braid, much less French braid. I hadn't watched a Disney princess movie since my teenage years. And our house, up until that very moment, contained not a drop of pink. Could I really learn everything all those other girlmom's already knew in time for her arrival?

But, the instant I saw my sweet little June, none of that mattered. Her chubby cheeks and tiny, curled fists stole my heart. At that moment, my life was full. I had my baby girl.
As it turns out, life with a daughter has not been all that different than life with sons. Sure, it's way more fun (and also, more expensive) to dress her up. But so much of life with June is just because of who she is at her core. June is patient. She is nurturing - with her babies and with her real life family members. She is joyful - constantly singing and dancing. She is giving. Yet, she is also independent and is not easily swayed. God made her uniquely June.
My relationship with my own mother is complicated, as I'm sure many mother-daughter relationships are. And honestly, having a daughter gave me pause because I know firsthand just how difficult that relationship can be. But I'm choosing to view life with my sweet Junie as an opportunity to mend some of those hurts and mother her (as I attempt to do with all of my children) with a specific appreciation for the unique personality God has blessed her with.

Dear June,

Between you and me, I had always envisioned myself with a daughter. Since long before I met your Daddy, I dreamed of all things pink. But, after nearly six years raising your older brothers, I began to feel it just wasn't in the cards. Many times in my first five years as a Mommy, I remember feeling that living with three boys, while absolutely wonderful, could also be a bit isolating. So many times I prayed for you - or, rather, the possibility of you. And then God gave me a vision - a real life vision of a sweet little girl playing on the floor in her pink bedroom with long blond pigtails. And I dared to believe that you might be out there waiting for me, too.

You came into this world assertive and on your own terms - five days overdue and then in a sudden and intense rush to meet us 20 minutes after arriving at the hospital. Your welcome to the world was dramatic and scary and painful (and - my apologies - with a bit more yelling than my previous births). But the moment your Daddy text me the first picture of your sweet little face from down the hall where you were being poked and prodded and tended to, it was pure, unconditional love. The moment I set eyes on you, I knew you were exactly who our family needed.
One on one time is not usually something afforded third children. But, those two weeks spent together in the hospital when you were so very sick cemented a bond between the two of us. As we spent every waking (and sleeping) minute together, I grew to know you much quicker than I did your brothers. In many ways, there is a part of me that is grateful for that October. Our souls know each other so much more intimately because of it.

You have taught me immeasurably more than I would have thought any three year old could. You encourage me to literally stop and smell the flowers on every walk. You have convinced me that three (or four, or five) kisses before bed are certainly better than one. I love your "whobody's"- as in "Whobody wants to play with me?", the way you say wooden for other ("Where is my wooden shoe?"), and your constant use of the phrase "no matter." I love that you have your Papa's dimple, even though you never met him this side of Heaven. I love our slow mornings together spent playing tea party and sleepover and play doh. I love the way you fit just so in my lap while we snuggle together to read a huge stack of picture books or watch Daniel Tiger curled up on my bed. I love the gentle way you care for your babies, grinning as I watch you wear them in your doll carrier, just I as carried you for the first couple years of your life.
I look back on all the years we assumed our family of four was complete, never imagining how incomplete we really were. You bring grace, caring, and calm into our boisterous little family. And while you will most likely be my final baby, for the first time ever that feels ok. Because you complete us, Junebug.
I look forward to watching you grow into a "big girl" this next year, but I also dream of our future together as mother and daughter. Of teaching you to bake, helping you get ready for your first school dance, going wedding dress shopping, and someday watching you raise a daughter of your own. I am so proud of you and am immeasurably blessed to be your Mommy.

Happy third birthday, June.

Love, Mommy

Since her birth, I have sung the same lullaby to Junie every night before bed - "Moon, Moon, Moon" by Laurie Berkner. The chorus goes

"Look up, it's the moon
Look up, it's the moon
Look up, it's the moon up in the sky
It's big and round and I have found
That it looks just like a pizza pie"

Just to keep things fresh and exciting, every evening as we wind down and snuggle up together in her yellow chair, I change up the flavor of pie in the song. Sometimes it's a lemon pie...during the holidays, it's a pumpkin pie...often it's a Junie pie. And for June's third birthday, it's none other than a birthday pie.

For our sweetie pie's third birthday party, we chose to celebrate at June's Pie Shoppe and Bakery. Her four very best toddler friends and close family crafted and baked, ate far too many sweets, and celebrated with everything pie. But the star of the show was the confetti birthday pie, festively adorned in sprinkles - June's "It Looks Just Like a Birthday Pie."

June's pie began using my traditional crust recipe with a very special birthday twist. In a large bowl, I combined flour, salt, shortening, butter and ice cold water by hand before mixing in a heavy handful of celebratory rainbow sprinkles. The dough looked so lovely when rolled that I'm tempted to say sprinkles just may make it into my crust recipe from now on. 
I then transferred the dough to a pie tin to blind bake and cool while I prepared the birthday custard filling.

For the pudding filling, I combined sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a saucepan and gradually stirred in whole milk, until the mixture was thick and bubbling. Next, I carefully added in the egg yolks, whisking until the pot returned to a boil.

Or rather, that is what I intended to do. But it seems that the pressure of baking a birthday pie combined with all of the mental distractions of my life at the present time got the best of me. Four scorched pudding batches and half a dozen raw eggs spilled onto the floor later, I threw in the proverbial kitchen towel and reached for the good old Jell-O vanilla pudding mix. And do you know what? The world did not end. No one died. And all in all, the pie was rather yummy. Now, I know I'm typically a proponent of homemade rather than store-bought, but if homemade results in tears and fits and feelings of baking inadequacy, isn't it ultimately best to keep your sanity and just use the shortcut? 

Once cooled, I added more sprinkles (because when it comes to three year old birthdays, can one ever really have too many sprinkles?) and poured the beautifully set pudding (finally) into the pie crust.

I topped the entire pie with a cloud of homemade whipped cream, mixing heavy cream and powdered sugar in my festive new pink stand mixer until stiff peaks formed. The entire pie then received another generous helping of rainbow sprinkles and a truly magical topping - birthday cake crumble. (This recipe is borrowed from Momofuku Milk Bar's Christina Tosi and it is every bit as good as it sounds. Trust me...go make You and your inner three year old will be very happy.)
Three years later, June's hair is often natural and wavy and kind of a mess, much to her liking. We still haven't seen any of the Disney princess movies, although she has picked up Cinderella, Belle, and Elsa all on her own, thanks to Disney marketing. We have adjusted to lots and lots of pink - but I'm still holding off on the glitter. And all of those other girly things I was so worried I might not be ready for? Well, we're learning them together.

"Look up, it's the moon
Look up, it's the moon
Look up, it's the moon up in the sky
It's big and round and I have found
That it looks just like a pizza pie"
-Laurie Berkner


  1. I am just in love with the cute photos. My little one also celebrated her birthday on the last weekend and it was a super cute fairy inspired party that her granny hosted her. It was hosted at the rental convention center and everything was just so amazingly planned that all of the guests praised a lot.