The Three Sisters Cake: What Happens if Your Kids Love Your Life

Sharon December 1st, 2009

I’m not complaining, mind you, but sometimes I’m pretty surprised by the path things take in my life.  I don’t mean the farm or the goats or the fact that I actually butcher chickens.  I don’t mean the writing career, although that was a surprise of sorts. I mean my kids’ response to their life - their sheer exuberant embrace of all the things I say I want to do, but haven’t quite come to terms with.  I’m not always ready for it - but it is good for me.  It does play out in some strange ways, though.

Now I know I got it easy by starting so early - I hear all the time from people who are trying to transition their kids off their Wii and onto the farm, and it isn’t always easy.  So I may not be a typical example - but my kids have picked up on their parents’ values in a lot of ways - more than I think I would expect, and sometimes, it  plays out in ways I didn’t expect.  Now I am not seriously complaining - in fact, I know just how lucky I am.  But if you embark on this lifestyle, you must be prepared for being dragged along into places you weren’t expecting.

Consider the blankets for example.  I had planned to make Eli a fleece blanket for Chanukah, and back in September, I bought the fleece.  The younger boys were with me, and they conspired for a moment, and then announced that *they* wanted blankets too, and moreover, wanted to help sew them.  I argued with them that I’d planned to get them something else, probably toys or books.  No dice, the kids wanted blankets.  I shrugged, and then foolishly agreed to let them help sew them.  I had taught Simon to sew a little bit last year, but he didn’t enjoy it much, and Isaiah and Asher at 3 and 5, I figured would struggle with it. I was betting on 10 minutes each of sewing, and then I’d be able to run them quickly through the machine.

Bad bet.  Every single one of them was bound and determined to sew their seams by hand…every…single…inch.  You should see Asher’s - he just turned four, and the stitches aren’t even remotely near one another.  I do periods where I do it hand over hand, just so that the thing will hold together.  But boy is he proud of it.  And so we sit there doing it, day after day…after day, after day…..  I should be thrilled - they are building a useful skill, and developing self-discipline.  Actually, I keep thinking that I could be done by now (I know, I’m a bad parent for thinking that, but we’re pushing my patience limits pretty hard by now, after three consecutive weeks of this ;-)), but hey, that’s the consequence of telling kids it is better to do it yourself.  They might believe you.

Then there was Simon’s birthday cake.  Each of the kids is allowed to pick their own cake type at their birthday, and we endeavor to provide what is wanted.  In the past we’ve had everything from Tuscan Cream Cake to Black
Forest Cake to plain old white cake.  Well, this year, Simon had a brilliant idea.   In honor of our family’s 3 sisters garden, Simon wanted to make a 3 sisters cake.  What, you ask, is a three sisters cake?  Well, he informed us, it is a chocolate cake (the dirt), with gummy worms under green icing (the cover crop), and with the candy versions of the traditional three crops - candy corn, jelly beans and those candy circus peanuts, which look, he informed us, like butternut squash.

Ohhhhhhhhhkaaaaaayyy.  Here was a shining, enthusiasm that was hard to resist, proposing that we make the most disgusting cake ever, and it is all Mommy’s fault for getting them excited about gardening.  What the heck am I going to say to that, except…great idea honey! 

It was a huge hit at the party.  We baked the cake and filled it with raspberry jam, whipped the cream and dyed it a revolting green and did the rest of the prep before the party.  A dozen happy kids spent a good hour making the cake as revolting as humanly possible, ensuring that there was not an inch of cake without a gummy worm to surprise you.  The butternut squash/circus peanuts rose dramatically over the other candy in a form that Eric immediately christened “peanut henge.”  Most of the adults promptly disclaimed any interest in cake.  The kids were ecstatic, and Simon’s idea was praised for its brilliance.

The thing is, I am thrilled that my kids embrace their lives the way they do, and the endless sewing session and circus peanuts are a pretty tiny price to pay.  I love it when my kids tell me that they wouldn’t want to live anywhere else, when they list off their favorite playthings and the list consists of baby goats, the creek, the climbing trees, the dog and Daddy.  I love it when my kids tell me “we should try and make this ourselves.”  I admit, I sometimes am unprepared for the result, as when we spent a week chipping needles out of bones, and I still haven’t cleaned off all the ink stains from learning to write with turkey quill pens, but what the heck.  I’m a lucky Mom.

The children are already plotting their next adventures. Isaiah’s birthday is coming up, and he’s chosen pumpkin pie, accompanying a turkey dinner (with Chanukah Latkes) as his theme, and wants to help cook everything.  They are eagerly awaiting the arrival of the Murray McMurray Hatchery catalog, so that they can order their poultry - they are taking chickens to the fair next summer.  They’ve already each picked out their animals to give to other families through the Heifer fund (Bees for Eli and Simon, Rabbits for Asher and Ducks for Isaiah), and Simon and Isaiah can bake a loaf of bread with only a little help.  Their requested Chanukah presents (none of which they will be getting, but hey, a kid can dream) consist of “a barn with a hayloft that attaches to the house” for Isaiah; “a belgian horse for me to ride” for 4 year old Asher, and “a farm where we can walk to shul with our friends” for Simon.  I can’t argue with their dreams - in fact, I’m just thrilled by them.

As for me, I may be a little afraid when the boys start talking about how when they are 9, 7 and 5, they want to raise water buffalo, but I’m learning just to go with it.   Water buffalo, huh?

BTW, if you are on facebook, I’m going to put up pictures of the creation of the 3 sisters cake, if you’d like to see it.


23 Responses to “The Three Sisters Cake: What Happens if Your Kids Love Your Life”

  1. Shambaon 01 Dec 2022 at 11:35 am

    You are lucky with your boys, yes, but they are lucky with you, too!

    This is a cheering story to read this morning! :)

    Peace to All,

  2. Kate@LivingTheFrugalLifeon 01 Dec 2022 at 11:50 am

    I’m not a mom, but this post made me laugh. I think you are indeed “lucky” with your kids’ aspirations and interests, even though luck probably has little to do with it.

    I missed your posts during your holiday break, Sharon. Glad you’re back at it.

  3. wenon 01 Dec 2022 at 12:07 pm

    Priceless post.

    Reminds me so vividly of the years, I home-schooled our three kids. As we morphed from parent-generated ideas to ones the kids, initiated, it consently amazed me, how dedicated the kids were both time and effort-wise, when the ‘project’ came from them. One room of our old rambling farmhouse filled rapidly with art projects which rapidly filled the room from floor to ceiling, gradually spilling out into every other room of the house. The entire living room became a musical/drama/movie/kungfu set. Middle son’s science experiments were so ‘creative’ that they had to move to the greater outdoors. And cooking-Green eggs and ham, anyone?

  4. Elizabethon 01 Dec 2022 at 12:58 pm

    Awesome! My 5 y/o dreams of a barn, and a cow. I hope to have one of each before too much longer. She also asks me frequently for her own little patch to plant. THAT we can, and will, do this winter. I really, really have to work on allowing her and her sister to help more around the house. They’re hearing the messages, and WANT to help but I’m not doing such a good job of letting them practice what I preach. ;)

  5. Peanut Galleryon 01 Dec 2022 at 2:06 pm

    Inspired by the topic of your next post, I declare my letters right here:


    I swear, I heard your voice! And then I smiled and laughed.

    Thanks for sharing some of your family’s precious moments that generate warm feelings.

    Happy December!


  6. Theresaon 01 Dec 2022 at 2:48 pm

    I got goosebumps reading this!

    Can’t wait to see the cake pictures :)

  7. MEAon 01 Dec 2022 at 3:33 pm

    Sounds much better than purple sprinkles.

  8. Sonrisaon 01 Dec 2022 at 4:05 pm

    I know what you mean! My 11 year old son wants to be a chef when he grows up. He’s always saying “when I have my restaurant you can grow all the food and eat for free whenever you want”. He and my 14 year old daughter both know how to cook and bake without help. I taught them both how to use the sewing machine a few years ago and within days they had made themselves stuffed toys (no pattern). This year I taught them how to crochet and they have been making hats and scarves for themselves and all their toys. It’s amazing how quick kids learn when you show them the basics then tell them to have at it.

  9. Sharonon 01 Dec 2022 at 4:44 pm

    Pix are now up at facebook. You do have to friend me in order to see my pictures, but I’m accepting all requests.


  10. Lizon 01 Dec 2022 at 4:53 pm

    I really wish you didn’t live on the other side of the country…my girls would LOVE to play with boys like yours! How fun!

  11. madisonon 01 Dec 2022 at 5:26 pm

    That’s a great post, Sharon. Your kids sound like so much fun! I hope some day I can give my boy a place like yours. :) You are very fortunate! Boys are fun :D

  12. Greenpaon 01 Dec 2022 at 5:59 pm

    “The kids were ecstatic, and Simon’s idea was praised for its brilliance.”

    I’m 100% on their side!! Simon is “Bloody brilliant!!” in current Harry Potter speak.

    Birthdays and their cakes are supposed to be FUN- and I think you might have a recordbreaker there. :-)

    I constantly try to encourage my kids to try new food stuff. Like by putting potato chips in my peanut butter sandwich.

    It’s hilarious to watch them cringe and shriek- and then try it themselves.

    I think Simon may have been slyly turning the tables on you here. “Ok, mom- you want us to think in non-traditional ways?? Take this!!”

    lol!! Congratulations; all around.

  13. Laurie in MNon 01 Dec 2022 at 8:36 pm

    Dangit, Sharon. You may just get me to join the beastly time sink that is Facebook by dangling pictures of that cake in front of me. Or not. Since I have to go to *Facebook* and *friend you* to see them. *big dramatic teenager sigh* ;)

    Seriously, that sounds like the best cake EV-AR! Except maybe for the circus peanuts, ’cause those things are just vile. But I have to agree that they sort of resemble butternut squash, at least superficially. (The squash tastes better, though.)

    What awesome kids you are raising! How much fun to witness that rampant creativity on a regular basis! :) That is a bunch of boys I’d be delighted to meet and proud to know. I’m sad you are half a continent away, or I might have to beg to play with your boys and your baby goats.

    Happy birthday to all!

  14. knutty knitteron 02 Dec 2022 at 12:22 am

    ‘Facebook??’ I only just figured out blogs - sort of :)

    I think our best effort was a jelly pond with things like ducks in it. Although the decorations they did for the Christmas cake were pretty good too. Amazing what you can make with icing.

    viv in nz

  15. Kerrickon 02 Dec 2022 at 3:28 am

    I think I’d be a better person today if I’d spent three weeks at the age of five insisting on making a blanket myself, by hand.

  16. Jeanon 02 Dec 2022 at 7:41 am

    Love it!

    Better to raise “can-do” rather than “I can’t” children. It will help them all their lives.

    It made me think of my daughter making all her clothespin dolls with such care and my son’s 3-story buildings made out of scrap wood and shingles for his little cars & people. They are ages 21 and 17 now and she has the dolls are neatly stored away and the little buildings are tucked carefully into a corner of his room.

    May your family continue to learn & grow in wondrous ways!

    P.S. Simon’s cake sounds awesome!

  17. hickchickon 02 Dec 2022 at 9:51 am

    OMG-I laughed so hard I had tears in my eyes at your description of the cake-I could picture it crawling with worms! You are a great Mom raising some great kids-keep it up!

  18. Brad K.on 02 Dec 2022 at 12:49 pm

    Oh, the three sisters cake is a laugh out loud recipe.

    What struck me was that the sewing has social and bonding issues - almost as good as reading together. This is dedicated “Me and Mommy” time, and too precious to measure, from your son’s point of view. The interest in sewing is respect for you, your work, and the value of your work to the home.

    I suppose it would pervert the activity, to hum or sing along as you sew? I wonder if a rhythmic tune might help impose order on the stitches . . . or not! I recall Mike Myers made a movie with Nancy Travis some years ago, “So I Married An Axe Murder . . .” The theatre in Philadelphia rated it “R” for “Bad Poetry” which I can understand. Myers plays a “beat poet”, and I can’t imagine anything more aggravating than a house full of youthful beat poets. *shudder* So introducing singing might be tougher to manage, and impossible to stop, if you start. Maybe if you memorized a couple of symphony mellodies, or recall the words to songs and hymns - it might help memorization, even if it does extend sewing time (maybe). Then, too, you might actually sing a blessing into the blankets, or memories for the boys to carry with them.

    Blessed be.

  19. Lori Scotton 02 Dec 2022 at 9:56 pm

    I understand that water buffalo produce a superior mozzeralla. We buy it locally.

  20. Penny Walkeron 03 Dec 2022 at 5:43 am

    Hey Sharon

    Nice story. You should be proud of these great kids.

    As an aside, I wonder if other non-US readers are as intruigued as I am about the things you mention that I don’t recognise. Belgian horse? Shul? (school?) and circus peanuts….

    Casaubon’s glossary would be a useful tag!



  21. Debon 03 Dec 2022 at 7:11 am

    Penny, I visit a forum that’s mainly populated by Brits and am constantly asking for translations.

    Belgian horses are draft horses. Circus peanuts are candy that is shaped like a peanut in the shell and are the most awful chewy, stale marshmallow texture. I havent had one in years.


  22. Sharonon 03 Dec 2022 at 8:59 am

    Hi Penny - Yeah, sorry for all the Americanisms. Belgians are a breed of draft horse - one of the most common here, along with the Percheron. Circus peanuts are a disgusting candy that does look sort of like butternut squash, but tastes like stale marshmallows. “Shul” isn’t an americanism, but jewishism ;-) - it is another word for “synagogue” - sorry, I’ll try and translate better in the future.


  23. NMon 03 Dec 2022 at 12:50 pm

    Hilarious! Talk about be careful what you wish for! But so sweet. Congratulations on being such a good sport, and raising such great kids!

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