One of the students I work with is physically disabled. This child (we'll just use first-grade speak and call him "my friend"), is still able to walk, dance, and navigate stairs with assistance. Activities like running, climbing, skipping, and standing up from the floor are no longer available to him, however. My friend is wonderful - he's kind and intelligent, and just like any child, he can make my day with a single smile or shatter my patience with a tantrum.
Like most of us, my friend is a little stuck in his ways. Early in our relationship, I came up with the idea of the "Weekend Challenge," as a means to help him be a bit more active and spend some time outside, away from his video games. Every Friday at recess, as I push him back and forth in his yellow plastic swing, my friend and I come up with a challenge for each other to complete over the weekend. We report back on our efforts during recess on Monday.
One week, I challenge him to take a walk around the block with his mum. He challenges me to become into a zombie and infect my whole family. And we do - he walks through the neighborhood with his mother, I thoroughly freak out (and thoroughly confuse) Nate by creeping up on him in the dark as my zombie character.
It becomes very clear, very quickly, that what began as a physical challenge game is really an emotional one. It's about my friend and I building a stronger connection, about us both bringing small sparks of newness and fun into our weekend routines. We both have the right to refuse a challenge, and sometimes a challenge is forgotten or not fully completed. That's okay; the most special part of it all is our Monday morning check-in and our Friday inspiration.
This week, I challenged my friend to do something out-of-the-ordinary kind for his mum. My friend challenged me back to do something out-of-the-ordinary sweet for Nate (or "Mr. Burgess" as he's known in school). I'm looking forward to hearing what my friend decides to do - and I'm looking forward to completing an act of kindness of my own. It might be a tiny thing, the Weekend Challenge, but it brings us laughter and light. Working each day with my friend also reminds me, through the happy and the sad, that we are all just human souls doing our best to get by, regardless of what our bodies, our shells, say about us. It's the parts of us that we cannot see that matter most of all.
Two recipes - one from my Aunt Cheryl that my dad used to make on Saturday mornings and one from Standard Baking Co., my favorite Maine Bakery - inspired these blueberry scones. This weekend, I challenge you to bake them (in your pajamas), brew a big pot of coffee, and bring both back to be enjoyed in bed.
Blueberry Oat Scones
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup rolled oats, plus more for sprinkling
¼ tsp. salt
1 Tbls. baking powder
¼ cup + 2 Tbls. brown sugar, packed
¼ cup (4 Tbls.) salted butter, cold
½ + 2 Tbls. half-and-half
½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 large egg, beaten
½ cup blueberries (out of blueberry season we just use Wyman’s frozen wild berries from Maine)
Turbinado sugar, for sprinkling
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
In a large bowl, mix together flour, oats, salt, baking powder, and sugar. Cut in the butter, using a pastry cutter or your fingers, breaking down the mixture until it resembles cornmeal.
In a small bowl, beat together the half-and-half, egg, and vanilla until well combined. Pour over the dry ingredients, and mix until just combined. Be careful not to over mix! Gently stir in the blueberries. The dough will be a little bit sticky, but resist the urge to add more flour.
Transfer the dough in one blob onto a cookie sheet (I find it helpful to use one lined with parchment). Using a rubber spatula, pat the dough into a disc about 1 ½ inches thick and sprinkle with oats and turbinado sugar. Slice the disc into 6-8 triangles (cutting like you would for a pizza or pie) and scoot each slice away from the middle so they are separated from each other by about 1 inch on all sides.
Place the cookie sheet in the oven and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the scones are lightly browned. I tend to err on the side of under-doneness – like brownies they will harden up as they cool, and a dry scone is just no fun. Remove the scones from the cookie sheet and let cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes before eating.