The Accidental Baker


Ben_HeadOur son Benjamin has been through quite the academic journey in public middle school.  From dealing with the shock of actually having to do his assignments to remembering to turn them in on time, it’s been quite the ride.  But mostly, middle school has been rough on him emotionally.  He just didn’t care to be there.  Middle school was something to endure and nothing more.  It didn’t take long for his teachers to notice how disinterested Ben was from his classes.  They could easily see how profoundly unhappy he was. (Not that he tried to hide it!)  It didn’t take long for his grades to suffer from his lack of engagement.

We tried band. But since it was not possible to get the highly coveted percussion assignment, he was forced to choose something else: the trumpet. He tried and tried, but he quickly began to resent that instrument and found every opportunity to avoid it. Since we had to rent it for $25 bucks a month, I was not too happy to see it unplayed so often.  We tried private tutoring sessions to help boost his confidence, but it just didn’t matter.  He genuinely disliked the instrument and music all together.  The band teacher found a way for him to be transitioned out of that year long class despite the general rules of leaving kids assigned to their original schedules.  We were grateful for the end of Ben’s musical misery and I was happy to get my $25.00 a month back.

Honor_RollEventually, he was allowed to participate in Drama, which showed him that school can occasionally encourage playful and silly behavior without being considered disruptive.  Slowly, he started to feel like a happy kid again. His grades were finally leaving the C and D zone and he was consistently getting more B’s.  By the end of the quarter, he was rewarded with an Honor Roll certificate for his efforts at trying to improve in all his classes.

But the real prize of a class was (the super popular and tough to get into) Consumer & Family Studies, aka the cooking class.  There are never openings in that class.  Students have to be very fast to sign up for it before it gets full.  Because Ben has several teachers who care for his success, strings were pulled in all the right ways and Ben was allowed in.  To me, it was an answer to prayer. Ben needed to know that it was possible to have a few positive experiences in his school.

To our surprise, Ben not only enjoys the cooking class, he is thriving in it.  He is loving the chance to explore new recipes and getting his hands dirty in the cooking process.  This warms my heart so much because Ben has such a beautiful and unique soul.  It hurt so much to see him so sad every day after school.  You see, Ben has high functioning autism and he relates to the world around him in a very unique way.   To date, he has largely felt disconnected from his experience in public middle school.  But cooking has made him connect.

His recent cooking assignment was to tackle the German oven pancake.  The teacher demonstrated it first and the next day the kids would get the chance to make it themselves.  Ben was so enthusiastic after seeing the demonstration that he couldn’t wait for the next day to try making it.  But since he was given the recipe, he thought, “Why wait for tomorrow?  Why not try making it as soon as I get home?”  Ben has never baked like this before.  He is quite adept at using the stove top, and even heating up foods in the oven, but never preparing something so raw from scratch.  I was quite happy to let him experiment and just figure it out.

Ben_pancakeHis first attempt came out very flat, much like a traditional pancake.  But we ate it and congratulated him for his accomplishment.  Secretly, he knew something was not right. It just didn’t look like the one the teacher made in class earlier that day.  He would later learn that he didn’t whisk the eggs enough and after having the opportunity to make it correctly at school the following day, he was ready to dazzle us at home.  And dazzle he did!

We all laughed with delight when he opened the oven door to reveal the new and improved German oven pancake in it’s risen glory.  How appropriate for the Easter season of which we are still spiritually celebrating.

pancake

Ben was happy. We were happy.  And the German oven pancake was devoured.  I highly recommend spreading some tasty fruit preserves over it.  My personal favorite is using raspberry preserves.  Our youngest son, Tommy, was so impressed by his brother’s baking skills, that he requested this pancake for his birthday breakfast this Friday, April 24th.  I think I’ll commission Ben to make this delightful treat for my Mothers’ Day breakfast this May.

Our Ben, the accidental baker, is now experiencing the joy of cooking and sharing. Way to go Benjamin Bunny Faces of Love and Happiness!

 

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About the Author
Jennifer is married to Greg. They have five kids.

11 comments on The Accidental Baker

  1. Ed G. Power (@Avnrulz) says:

    Awesome story! My son struggled with bullying in MS and we pulled him out for homeschooling (quite the opposite, n’est pas?), but he has now returned to public High School, finding his interest in Automotive and Computer classes. I am the youngest of seven, and the only one (I believe) to try to carry on my mom and dad’s Irish Soda bread recipe, so I understand how it feels when everything works out after an initial ‘disaster’.

    1. Jennifer says:

      Thank you for sharing this. The problems we experienced with Ben almost led me down the homeschooling path too. So far, things are better, but to be fair to Ben, I have to constantly reevaluate his situation since he still has two more full years of middle school ahead of him.

  2. Kim says:

    When I waited in my car for my child to come out of middle school each day I would pray that each student in that building would find a special way to endure. My own daughter began to find her endurance in History Day thanks to a very caring teacher. Now in high school she is an AP honor student participating in a variety of things, including debate, speech and wheelchair track. This year she got into the coveted cooking class. We now own a professional wok that she uses to dazzle us with wonderful meals.

    1. Jennifer says:

      What a beautiful prayerful response on your part to the plight of middle schoolers. It really does involve a lot of endurance and some kids just handle it better than others. But your story and ours also highlights the power of a caring teacher. We need to keep them in prayer too because they are often the unsung heroes on the front lines. I’m so happy to hear about your daughter’s successes!

  3. Dave says:

    This is a heartwarming story of hope for me. My 5 year old son, Wayne (adopted with love from foster care-he has lived with us since 2 days old) also is high functioning on the autism spectrum. Sometimes (often) the challenges of that reality leave me seeing a dark future. This kind of story helps a little. Every ray of sunshine is helpful. The Lord bless and keep you and Your son daily in His love as you both face whatever challenges lie ahead.

    1. Jennifer says:

      I completely understand your fears of the future for Wayne. I used to allow my mind to wander in a similar fashion. I so desperately wanted to see the future with Ben living successfully and independently in it. But none of us can see the future. What we can do is remember that our children belong first and foremost to God. If God can provide for us, would He not do the same for our children? For now, I do the best I can with the day I have with them. The “present” is all we can really hold on to. And what a wonderful present it is 🙂

  4. Christy says:

    Thank you for sharing this story. My 16 year old son has been having problems with the schoolwork in high school and it is encouraging to hear about other kids finding something they like. I pray every day that he just passes his classes and graduates so he can move on to something he might actually enjoy. It is a challenge for kids that are not “academic” as our schools around here (public and private) require written tests in even the “fun” subjects like music and art. We are blessed that he is able to go to a Catholic school and still get the services he needs.

    On a different note, try the pancake drizzled with hot fudge and topped with fresh berries. My girls like it with Nutella. You can also pour the batter into muffin tins and make individual servings that my mom called pop-overs.

    1. Greg says:

      I particularly like the popover suggestion because in the three times Ben has now made this, I’ve always been at work and have never gotten to try it! 🙂

  5. Susie says:

    Oh my goodness…where do I start? I listen to you all on Tuesdays when I walk our dogs – Mildred (the Dachsund) and Wrigley (the Golden Retriever). We are quite the trio, and guess who is in charge? Today I heard you share your story of Ben, and couldn’t wait to check out your website to get the details. You see, I am a FACS (Family and Consumer Science) teacher in suburban St. Louis, and taught middle school for 9 years (moved “up” to high school 2 years ago). To hear that the FACS classes in your public schools are coveted makes my heart sing and even MORE that your precious son found a safe and welcoming environment in his teacher’s classroom. I share with my students (and the principal who evaluates me) the first day of school that my goal for them is to create a sense of family and I expect them to lean on each other. Whether or not they remember how many teaspoons are in a tablespoon is important (potentially for a future trivia contest, it has happened…), is nowhere near what it is like to work with and depend on each other. I hope Ben continues with FACS classes – there should be many available for him even at your high school. I have a senior in my Foods 1 class this semester who is on the Autism spectrum, I placed him with some caring kids to be in his “kitchen” and each day I have seen him open up just a bit more – he can’t recall my name half the time (he calls me “teach”), tunes out when I give instructions, but I think my classroom is a place where he fits in.

    1. Jennifer says:

      Hi Susie! Glad this post resonated with you. I didn’t know there were cooking options at the high school level. I’ll have to look into that. Thanks for chiming into the conversation Susie. We’re glad you’re here.

  6. Toni says:

    Thank you for sharing such a heartwarming story. It is the best thing in the world when we find something that really clicks with our children. Each one of us is made unique. God created us that way. So to put us in a box and tell is that this is what we are to learn and when we are to learn it has always been problematic to me. We all have desires and interest that God has put in our hearts that are unique to His plan to bring us closer to Him.
    Good job Benjamin!! Oh how I wish God had put the love of baking in my heart. But I just have a hard time believing that God wants me in the kitchen. Pretty scary thought!!
    God Bless you all!
    Toni

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