Courtesy of Stephanie Bae

I’ve Never Been More Thankful For My Happy Little Sous Chef

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It was three weeks before my daughter Maddie’s due date. We were running behind schedule with remodeling our kitchen and were frantically putting together remaining details, building our cabinets, and cleaning, making sure that our kitchen was — as we dreamed of when we decided to take on our kitchen project — a happy and safe place for our growing family.

With every detail we chose, we dreamed of all the possibilities for this space. Making Saturday brunch together, decorating eggs for Easter, baking birthday cupcakes — we had butterflies in our stomachs. What we didn’t know back then was how much more meaningful this space would become in a few short weeks. And we’ve learned over the years that real-life parenthood always exceeds all that we ever imagined — in every aspect.

We brought Maddie home with us after spending five days at the hospital, and suddenly our family kitchen transformed from a former construction site to a literal safe haven for our new daughter. For those first months, our kitchen was the space to prepare and sanitize Maddie's constantly-used bottles, but a few short months later those same countertops and cabinets that once overflowed with plastic bottles now became the space where her dad and I prepared Maddie’s first foods.

Courtesy of Stephanie Bae

I still remember the excitement we felt as we watched our daughter devour her first solid food, avocado smash. We still laugh over all the videos we took of her licking every last morsel of the smash from the bowl.

Eventually, Maddie started joining us as our kitchen quickly became a place that sparked joy for her. She became our sous chef — adding ingredients, mixing (and spilling), and giggling — and this year she even surprised me on my birthday by presenting with a plate of pink cupcakes (and a kitchen covered in flour). Maddie had baked me my first-ever birthday cupcakes, then immediately embarked on a secret mission to blow out my candles for me. After about five attempts, she allowed me the honor of making my birthday wish.

Just a few days ago, Maddie made her first tacos with Dad, inspired by one of her favorite books. She was the decision-maker on which ingredients to add: cheese, tomatoes, lime, and chicken. If you were to ask her for her favorite memory in recent weeks, Maddie will tell you all about the chicken tacos she made (but would probably leave out details about all the cheese she spilled on the counter).

Courtesy of Stephanie Bae

Quite fortunately for us, Maddie also loves to be a part of our home cleaning days. She recently tagged along on our spring cleaning by organizing her snacks in the pantry while I took on the countertops with Clorox® Clean-up® Cleaner + Bleach. Since it kills 99.9% of viruses and bacteria, I know I can trust that it's leaving the kitchen disinfected, ready for Maddie's next cooking adventure with her dad. They have yet to come up with a menu, but they’re leaning toward making meatball spaghetti with sprinkle cupcakes for dessert.

So this is how our story goes: The first kitchen we remade with a limited budget (while not knowing anything about remodeling) and the first kitchen we welcomed Maddie with (while not knowing much about parenthood) has blossomed into a safe, creative, and happy place for all of us. Over time we've also blossomed individually as parents, and so has Maddie as a toddler. To this day, many of our favorite memories continue to happen in our family kitchen. During our most recent spring cleaning we cleaned our cabinets, reorganized our pantry, and I cleaned all the kitchen counters using Clorox® Clean-up® Cleaner + Bleach — and I can’t wait to see how our story continues to unfold with our sweet sous chef, our Maddie girl.

This post is sponsored by Clorox.