11 November 2012

Three Things my Toddler Taught Me About Coffee


Coffee is one of my staple foods. I love it in the morning almost as soon as I roll out of bed, I usually need it in the afternoon as the 2 o'clock slump hits, and sometimes I brew a cup of decaf in the evening to have while working on homework, watching Bones, or just hanging with the family. 

In our house coffee is synonymous with Papi and since I am the only one who drinks it, I get to brew the kind I like and to the strength I like. In our house we have a three year old toddler, and as you might know, mimicking those around you is their favorite past time. So, often morning, noon, or night, my youngest "brews" up a cuppa for me. It brings me as much joy as an actual cup o' Joe. Here are the lessons I have learned from the simple act of brewing toddler coffee.

A sip can be just the right amount
One of my favorite things about having a toddler in the house is having a child-sized kitchen. Her kitchen totally rocks! It has vegetables, fruits, breads, bacon, burgers, waffles, plates, metal utensils, plates, bowls, cups, baking items, an oven, a sink, a refrigerator, a farmers' market stand, and not one but two coffee pots! It is the focal point of our dining room area and almost every kid who comes into our house gravitates to this area. You can be watching a movie, talking with a neighbor, or doing homework, and suddenly you will find one, two, three or more plates of "food" in front of you. It really is kinda fun. It seems every kid loves making a heaping plate of food for every teen or adult in the house!

Of course, since I am Papi, and our house Papi is the only one who drinks coffee, many of my "meals" come with a tiny cup of coffee. (I am smirking when I tell you everyone else gets water or the occasional tea with ice. Coffee is only available to me... and her teacher when she visits!) There are times when the food is skipped and she decides to just randomly make me a cup of coffee. On most weekends, before my coffee finishes brewing, I have been presented with a cup of her special blend of coffee!

But whenever the occasion, her cups of coffee are tiny little cups, probably not even big enough to fit one espresso shot. But always, no matter the time or reason, that tiny cup of coffee is handed to me with love and a smile. Oh, and the words "For you, Papi- your coffee." I immediately drink my coffee (slurping so she knows I really did drink it), I smile, and I respond, "Oh, thank you! That cup of coffee was exactly what I needed." 

That tiny cup was just the right amount.....

Living in the United States, we are often accustomed to large amounts...of almost everything! We super-size our meals, we have Targets and Super Targets, we have 8 lane highways, our SUVs are the size of small buses, and most business mantras are "bigger, better, faster, stronger!" But when I am handed that tiny cup of coffee, made completely with love, for me alone, because she wanted to do it, I am reminded of how a little amount is often just the right amount.

Anytime is a good time when you share it with those you care about
If you are a coffee or a tea drinker, you may choose to drink alone early in the morning before the sun rises or you may drink late at night as your mind and body unwinds. Perhaps you have that drink on your way to work to start your workday. Maybe you have a true hot beverage ritual, set in tradition, or spirituality, or as part of your daily routine. One of my favorite ways to enjoy coffee is with friends and family. 

When the little one brings me her cup of coffee, she often has a cup of her own. She actually never drinks coffee, but she might have water, or tea with ice, or even juice. She brings me coffee, we "toast" our cups together, drink our drinks, and then she is off to the next thing on her agenda. On rare occasions, however, I can entice her to sit with me and enjoy a cup together. Sometimes we carry on a conversation about school, or dance class, or her fancy clothes she has on (or wants to put on). Those times aren't usually more than a minute or two, but they are beautiful times...where the whole world revolves around just the two of us and our "coffee."

Before I had my own family with holiday traditions, I would often spend Christmas Eve with my grandparents. We would wake early Christmas Day, sit down to small breakfast of oatmeal and coffee. We would sit and eat and enjoy our cups of coffee. We chatted about school, or the snow, or local news, or family news, or sometimes, we just sat and enjoyed warmth of the coffee and of being together. At the appointed time, we would head over to my mom and dad's house for the festivities. No matter how the day unfolded, those times with Grandma and Grandpa were unmatched...and shared over a cup of coffee.

You don't have to "get it" to enjoy it
Many non-coffee drinkers will admit the smell of coffee is enticing, even if it doesn't taste that way! I feel that way about chamomile tea. I love making it, I love smelling it, I cannot stand drinking it. However, I make it in the evenings, especially in the winter, for the two tea drinkers in the house. They love the warmth and the taste.

All my life I remember having biscuits and gravy at both my parents' house and at my grandparents' house. My grandma made the world's BEST sausage gravy. (I have yet to make it as well as she could!) When I was a young adult, my mom told me an amazing thing. She pointed out that Grandma never really ate biscuits and gravy because she didn't like gravy. I was totally amazed someone could make something so well and yet didn't even like it!

When I make coffee in the morning or evenings, I usually hear a little voice say, "I 'mell, Papi!" I hold the bag of coffee down so she can smell it. Usually her reply is, "MMMM Yummy!" She laughs when I offer to make her a cup because she doesn't really want any coffee. I think she "enjoys" the smell simply because it is something I enjoy. 

As a mathematics intervention specialist, emphasis in middle grades education, I have often had the pleasure of watching someone's face absolutely take on a look of shock when I explain my passion/career of choice. After they pick their jaw off the ground, they shake their head and comment along the lines of, "Well...I suppose someone has to do it. But I can't imagine! I just don't get how you could enjoy that!" Usually I smile, maybe even chuckle, and then thank my lucky stars that I am doing exactly that! What *I* don't get is how someone can work with toddlers all day! But, boy oh boy, and I totally thankful there are those people! I don't understand all the intricacies of roasting a perfect coffee bean, but I do enjoy it when local roasters do it just right! "MMMMMM Yummy!" Sometimes I'm glad I don't have to "get it" and instead I can just enjoy it!

Coffee.... mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

Through the eyes of a toddler, coffee (and all of life) has a whole new meaning for me. Drinking coffee is more than just an act involving a wonderful beverage- it's a doorway into enjoyment, awareness, and happy living. When I get to enjoy it with my lil one, well, there aren't words that can describe the experience!
Give it a try! The next time you drink your beverage of choice, take a minute to truly "taste" it. Notice the flavor, the temperature, and how it brings a smile to your day!