Chris came back into town last night after 4 evenings away on a golf/gambling/alcohol/food binge to Las Vegas…but alas, no vasectomy. So he has the pleasure of escorting our daughters as they demand candy from our neighbors in our balmy 40 degree weather. I am taking the night off and plan to hand out candy with one hand while drinking red wine from the other. Because that’s what moms do: we multi-task. Happy Halloween everyone!
Fall is upon us here in the great northern state of Minnesota. Most of the trees are bare and even on sunny days, there is a crispness and a coolness that signals to us unlucky inhabitants of this state that winter is coming. Winter in Minnesota. Sigh. It is truly a time that tries men’s (and women’s) souls.
So in preparation for the sad days to come, we try to maximize the autumn days we have left. Trips to pumpkin patches, fall festivals, corn mazes. And of course, the apple orchard. Everyone has their favorite. The Reicherts are particularly fond of Minnetonka Orchards. It was the first orchard I visited when I was a childless and carefree (childless and carefree…now that’s redundant!) grad student back in 1997 and it always gives me one of those “circle of life” feelings to take our girls there. Since my first trip, I’ve seen the orchard add more and more attractions to lure in visitors, but of course, the real draw is the apples. Sarah and Katie love to pick their own, scouring the trees for just the perfect ones. Taste testing is of utmost importance and it seems the girls eat as many as they pick.
Once we bring our bounty home, the girls always beg me to bake a pie. Baking a pie is one of those skills I have yet to master. That and parallel parking. So instead, we settle for this delicious Cinnamon Apple Crisp. It is a simple, almost full proof recipe and I feel like Betty Crocker (if she had been a real person and Korean) when the aroma of the cinnamon, baked apples, and sugary crust fill our home.
REICHERT RATING: Three thumbs up from Chris, me, and Sarah. Katie is of a less refined palate and declared, “I don’t like this thing.” That’s ok…more for me!
THE “BUT I WANT TO HELP” QUOTIENT: The girls loved making the crumbly crust of the crisp…maybe a little too much. As Sarah and Katie were literally elbow deep mashing up the ingredients, I tried not to think of all the places their little fingers had been that day. Up their nose was probably the cleanest of the possibilities. Surely the heat from the oven kills any germs, right?
And the best part for the girls, licking off sugar, flour, and butter from their grubby little fingers, hands, and elbows.
I wanted to take a picture of the final product but we dug into too fast. Here’s a picture of it half scooped out of the pan.
The recipe is one that I modified from epicurious. The beauty of this one is that you can make the recipe as is or use it as a starting point to change it however you wish. Rolled oats in the topping or maybe throw in some cranberries? Drizzle some caramel on top? Add some nutmeg, cloves, or all spice? Hard to go wrong with this one!
CINNAMON APPLE CRISP
1/2 to 3/4 cup brown sugar (depending on how sweet you like your desserts and the sweetness of your apples)
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
3-4 pounds apples, peeled, cored, and sliced (I cut mine into 8ths, any thinner and it gets too mushy for me)
1 cup flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
Preheat oven to 450°F. Butter 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Combine brown sugar and cinnamon in large bowl. Add apples and toss to coat. Transfer apple mixture to prepared dish.
Combine flour, sugar and butter in medium bowl. Using pastry blender or fingertips, blend ingredients until coarse meal forms. Spread flour mixture evenly over apples.
Bake crisp 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F. Bake crisp until apples are tender and topping is golden brown, about 30 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.
I wear many hats as a stay at home mom. Most of them I anticipated when I took the job: cook, nurse, laundress, disciplinarian, entertainer. But some other chores have fallen into my lap by virtue of the fact that I stay home all day and my husband does not. For instance, I routinely patrol our large front and back yard, blue waste bags in hand, picking up our dog’s poops. Not a job I relish but neither do I want my children to step in said poop while playing and have it fall to me to clean their shoes. I mean really, cleaning poop off shoes? Does it get any worse than that? The answer, as most SAHMs know is yes, it can always get worse. Read on.
Today, I was doing my usual recon work around the the backyard with Katie in tow when I looked down and saw a dead mouse. A teeny, tiny dead brown mouse with its four little paws up in the air and bloody, empty sockets where its eyes had been. Now, while I have no issues killing spiders or baiting worms on hooks or even eating a plate full of organ meat that most people wouldn’t feed their pets, I DO NOT DO RODENTS. Let me say that again, I DO NOT DO RODENTS. My immediate reaction was to scream like a little girl. Like a scared, terrified, I-am-going-to-pee-in-my-pants little girl. Katie, curious at this rapid turn of events, came to see what the fuss was about and also proceeded to scream like a little girl. Which is appropriate, because, you know, she is one. I, however, had no such excuse.
Our screams died down and I realized we had an audience. Two of our lawn care workers were in the backyard for our scheduled lawn aeration. I quickly gathered my wits and explained to them as calmly as I could that I had just seen a DEAD MOUSE!! Ok, so my voice broke a little at the end but really, it was all I could do not to run away, lock up all the doors in our house, and dive under my covers.
I showed the lawn guys around the yard and then, had to do some serious soul searching. What the H-E-Double Hockey Sticks was I going to do about this mouse? Chris was out of town and not due to be home for another 26 hours. It figured he would be hundreds of miles away in a time of crisis!!!! Should I do nothing and leave it for Chris to dispose of when he got back? If I did, I risked our dog Ellie finding it and deciding it would make an excellent chew toy. Or, the lawn guys running over it with their aeration machine, chopping it up into a million tiny pieces, and strewing dead mouse parts over our backyard. Should I ask the lawn guys to help a girl out and get rid of it for me? I may just be a stay at home mom picking up dog feces on my time off but really, even I have my pride. None of the scenarios seemed appealing.
I could “put on my big girl panties” as my lovely mother-in-law is fond of saying and get rid of the mouse myself. I don’t know if my words can adequately convey to you, dear reader, what a momentous decision this was for me. It was time to show Katie that her mommy can handle whatever situation came our way. I grabbed a shovel from our garage, marched with firmness of conviction to the backyard, and proceeded to scoop the little varmint into the shovel. It was already stiff with rigor mortis and was surprisingly difficult to get it onto the shovel. I might have let out some high-pitched little yelps during this phase of the operation (did I mention IT HAD NO EYES!!) but otherwise, I remained strong. After several botched attempts, I got it onto the shovel, quickly walked it to the woods behind our back yard, and flung it out as far as I could. Katie let out a triumphant, “HOORAY MOMMY!” and with my heart pounding in rapid staccato beats, I let out a big smile. The lawn guys saw me go back into the garage with my empty shovel in hand and gave me a knowing nod of approval. And while I was proud of myself for my small but significant victory, all I could think was, “I don’t get paid enough for this shit.”
Like a modern day Margaret Mead, I survey my surroundings and I behold an alternate universe. In this topsy-turvy world, my other mom counterparts prance around with no make up on, their hair in messy pony tails, and some wear shapeless sweats. All are in dire need of a shower. And in another striking observation, I see that all are without their children gripped around their knees. What is this nirvana where going without our obligatory half stick of concealer and perfectly groomed eyebrows is not only acceptable, but expected? It is The Gym. And oh, what a place it is.
I am a relative latecomer to the modern day phenomenon known as Lifetime Fitness and the significant role it plays in the mommy subculture. I mean, up until a year ago, I thought lululemon was a chain of bakeries….imagine my disappointment when I discovered they sold work out wear and not decadent chocolate pastries. It wasn’t as though I was totally unaware of Lifetime and all that it had to offer. I had plenty of friends who were members and they tried to lure me in with promises of how wonderful it was. The work out equipment! The classes! The child care! The smoothies! Honestly though, I viewed their claims with some skepticism and avoided falling prey to their cult-like attempts to recruit me. After all, you can dress it up any way you want but the bottom line is that it’s still an institution devoted to exercise. I’ve spent most of my adult life avoiding any kind of physical exertion and limited my “cardio” to chasing after my kids and hoisting my daughters over my shoulders whenever we would have to make a not-so-graceful exit from Target. But as I stated in my last post, the body ages and one must take drastic measures. And in my case, drastic measures meant joining the gym.
I have to admit, I was nervous. Anything involving hand-eye coordination and gross motor skills gives me the heebie jeebies. And I truly felt like I was navigating unknown territory. What does one even wear to work out? I made a quick dash to our local mall and stocked up at lucy, the only workout wear store I knew of (because as I said before, I was under the assumption that lululemon sold scones). And even that excursion had me reeling in self-doubt because as I shopped, I noticed that all the other women shopping in the store were “of a certain age.” Had I inadvertently stumbled into the Chico’s of workout wear? And what do women do about underwear when they work out? Do they wear it? Or not? I hadn’t even stepped foot into the gym and I was already sweating.
When I entered as a member for the first time, I felt like I had landed on another planet. So this is where all the moms go in the mornings! This is why it has become perfectly acceptable to wear yoga pants almost every where you go. I finally found the perfect excuse for my slovenly ways, “Why yes, as a matter of fact, I am heading to the gym after this.” It was like a free pass to look and smell like crap ALL DAY! That alone was the price of admission. Though not that everyone looked like a slob. After a few trips, I would discover that even workout wear could be elevated to fashionable heights and that some women still looked good sans make up with sweat dripping out of every pore. Those bitches.
And I can’t forget the childcare! Hundreds and hundreds of square feet devoted to keeping your child entertained while you unlatch them from your torso: Apple computers, basketball hoops, arts and crafts, games, giant play structures, bouncy castles. And you can leave them in there for 2 hours a day!! All in the name of “physical fitness!” Genius!! Of course, not all kids like it. With their finely tuned radars up, they can still sense the presence of their mommy servants within the building and will not rest until they are rescued. Occasionally, the intercom beeps overhead and you can see all the moms freeze mid-work out and breathe out a sigh of relief when their name is not called to the child center while the lone mom has to walk with head bowed in defeat to retrieve their child. My own children merely tolerate it and will stay for 45 minutes or so. Conveniently enough, Lifetime also has a cafe with an array of smoothies and snacks– perfect for bribing my girls into staying. Again I say: genius!
I’ve been a member for about a year now, minus some months in the summer. I tried a few classes and discovered Zumba is not my friend. I took some tennis lessons, where I am proud to report I was the SECOND to worst one in the class…yes! But it still wasn’t for me. Although as a side note, that is a whole other subculture in and of itself: the stay at home mom’s tennis league. I finally decided that the treadmill was the thing for me. While most sports are beyond my capabilities, I can, on good days at least, put one foot in front of the other in a repetitive fashion. I won’t be running marathons any time soon but I’m fairly confident I could sprint down the block if I were being chased by a pack of rabid dogs. The best part is that I can listen to my own music for the entire workout. For a glorious 30 minutes, I am not a hostage to the Wiggles, The Fresh Beat Band, or Laurie Berkner. Instead, I rock out (or at least I think I do) to my own outdated 80s tunes. It’s just like heaven.
So, this brings me to yet another question. After all these years, is it the promise of escaping my servant duties for 45 minutes that finally got my ass in gear? Sadly, I think so. My children have driven me to exercise. But by the looks of my Lifetime at 9:30am on any given weekday, I’m in very good company
Lately, I’ve been feeling pretty old. In my head, I still feel like I’m 26, 27, 28 tops but to the contrary, I’m getting all these signs from the universe that I am most definitely middle-aged. Maybe it was the blank stare I got from my 22-year old hair stylist when I mentioned Family Ties….hello? Alex P. Keaton? Mallory? Nick? Yo?! Anyone? Or when Sarah looked at me a mixture of pity and disbelief when I told her I got my first cell phone at age 26. Or perhaps it’s the symphony of cracks and pops that emanate from my vertebrae every morning when I get out of bed. Or the gray hairs that are sprouting like weeds along my temples. Or maybe, it’s the internet ads I get on the sidebar of my e-mail account urging me to meet Fabulous Singles in Their 50s(!). Et tu, Yahoo? Alas, these signs are pathetically depressing and dizzyingly infinite in their scope and breadth.
But one morning last week, I had a series of revelations and experiences that made me feel positively pre-historic…all because a friend suggested we meet for breakfast. My friend Stacy also stays at home with her kids and sometimes, the stars align and we have childcare at roughly the same times. For the past year, we’ve been meeting for lunches at restaurants that we might not otherwise get to try and this fall, due to aforementioned child care schedules, we are shooting for breakfast spots. Stacy suggested Al’s Breakfast, a Minneapolis institution with only 14-stools at it’s narrow counter. The restaurant is 10-feet wide and is wrenched in between two larger buildings in what was an alley-way in a previous life. And, most importantly to this story, is located right off the University of Minnesota campus.
A mere 80 minutes elapsed from the time I entered the streets of of the U campus, consumed breakfast, and drove away. But those 80 minutes were chockfull of blow after blow to any illusions of youth I might have held just because I read Twilight and can text with the best of them. Let’s recount the many, many ways that the universe reminded me, yet again, that I ain’t no spring chicken.
- I had to drive my mini-van through campus. Enough said.
- While driving through campus and watching all the youthful, unwrinkled, bright eyed faces of the college co-eds, I realized that my 6-year old daughter was closer in age to these kids than I was. Ouch.
- I got stuck driving behind a girl riding her bike to class and TEXTING at the same time. The honk from my Sienna elicited a backward glance, eye roll, and lackadaisical wave to me to drive on.
- I had to attempt to parallel park in front of the aforementioned college co-eds in my aforementioned mini-van. I‘m sure I reminded them of their mothers.
- The two girls sitting next to us at the counter spent their entire breakfasts on their iPhones. Not one word passed between them..not even a “Pass the butter.” Which I’m sure if they had needed it, they probably would have texted it to each other. I wanted to shake them and say, “On all that is holy, please talk to each other! Before you know it, you won’t have enough time in the day to finish a coherent thought much less a whole conversation because your progeny will be screaming at you to change the poop in their pants!!” Youth is definitely wasted on the young.
- Stacy and I, on the other hand, spent a good chunk of our own conversation wishing that our husbands would get vasectomies.
- The 80s wear all around campus just reminded me that I actually lived through the neon, leggings, and zippered jeans the first time around and have fallen prey to fashion’s fickle whims yet again. I draw the line at MC Hammer pants though. No way.
As I drove away from Al’s, I wondered what my college self would think of my 37-year old self. Would she be horrified by my current lack of employment? My obsession with getting Katie to the potty every 2 hours? My total lack of power against the forces that are my daughters? My mini-van? And as I pondered these questions, somehow I made a wrong turn out of the U and lost my way. A metaphor for my life? I hope not. But that night, I met up with friends, drank way too much tequila, and woke up the next morning full of regrets and an ungodly craving for McDonald’s Egg McMuffins…ahhhhh, at least some things haven’t changed. And I’m pretty sure that my college self would have high-fived me if she could.