We are entering the stage of sticky. There was always some of that from the earliest days of parenthood, but toddler sticky is a whole new level. No matter how many times I clean my kitchen floor, I still end up repeating the phrase, "What did I just step on?!" more times than I care to admit. I carry baby wipes with me wherever I go – and it's rarely ever for actual diaper changes. They’re for wiping granola bar crumbs, spilled applesauce, snot, drool or other mysterious liquids off my own body or that of my two munchkins. Clean up after meals all too often requires a full-blown bath rather than a quick wipe down. And summer? No one told me before having kids that summer is really three straight months of reaching epic levels of sticky.
I remember going down the shore as a kid and getting coated in a thick layer of sun tan lotion before the rays wreaked havoc on our pale skin. Then we’d splash in the ocean, play in the sand, grab a mayonnaise-slathered turkey sandwich from the cooler my mom stocked and repeat that routine until it was time to go home. By the end of the day, our bathing suits were filled with sand and our skin was covered in a layer of salt and sweat.
On hot days at home, my mom used to freeze orange juice in small Dixie cups with a plastic spoon stuck in it like a Popsicle stick. We’d peel off that paper cup and go to town, juice running down our chins as we raced to finish before it all melted completely. Somehow that frozen orange juice eaten in the backyard tasted so much better than simply drinking out of a glass in the kitchen.
I remember the best part about eating watermelon was having a seed-spitting contest outside, and the ultimate summer days would be topped off with an ice cream cone from the nearby Dairy Queen.
As a parent, it’s easy for me to get annoyed at the little things – the squished banana on the kitchen floor, the little hands that think my shirt is a napkin and the faces that return to their sticky state just minutes after a bath. But when I think of my own childhood, sticky was often accompanied by smiles, and messy meant there was fun being had. The nighttime bath that washed away all the ice cream, fruit juice, salt and sand meant we could make that whole mess all over again the next day. We were a blank, clean canvas waiting to be painted with whatever we could get our little hands on tomorrow.
I’m learning to embrace this stage of sticky. I’m learning to see the smiles behind the dripping ice cream, and lathering up my kids with sun tan lotion means I get to watch them splash in the pool with unrestrained glee. I’m learning that these ordinary days when I constantly feel like I’m cleaning up after my kids are not meaningless. These days, these moments – as mundane and messy as they sometimes seem – add up to a childhood that I pray my kids will someday look back on with joy and gratitude.
So bring on the summer…and bring on the sticky.
Strawberry, Banana + Coconut Milk Popsicles
Yields 10-12 Popsicles
1 pound strawberries, hulled and halved
2 Tablespoons honey, plus additional to taste
2 medium bananas
1 (13.5 ounce) can full fat coconut milk
Add the strawberries and two tablespoons of honey to a small saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until the mixture comes to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer about 8-9 minutes, continuing to stir frequently. The strawberries should break down and the mixture should reduce and thicken slightly.
Remove from heat and allow the strawberry mixture to cool for a few minutes.
Add the bananas, coconut milk and strawberry mixture to a blender. Blend until smooth. Add an additional tablespoon or two of honey if desired. (It should taste slightly sweeter than how you’d normally prefer a smoothie, because the sweetness will mellow when frozen.)
Pour the mixture into popsicle molds and freeze until solid, about 3-4 hours. If you don’t have popsicle molds, you can use ice cube trays or small paper cups. When the mixture is slightly frozen (after about 1 hour), stick a plastic spoon or wooden popsicle stick in each serving and continue to freeze until solid.
To remove the popsicles, I run warm water on the outside of the mold until I can easily pop them out. Serve immediately, or roll in the strawberry coconut topping (instructions below).
Strawberry + Coconut Topping
¼ cup freeze-dried strawberries
¼ cup unsweetened coconut flakes
Add the freeze-dried strawberries and coconut flakes to a food processer and pulse until you reach the desired consistency. Roll the popsicles in the topping mix. (This works best if you allow the outside of the popsicles to melt ever so slightly.)
Serve and enjoy!
Words, recipe, and photos by Sarah Hauser.