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Thursday
Jun092011

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

Some of my earliest memories include spending hours and hours running between the rows of vegetables at the community garden as I chased butterflies. While my grandparents were prolific farmers with acres and acres of their own in North Dakota, my parents just didn't have the space for a garden in our yard at the trailer park. But, the community garden worked just fine for raising corn, potatoes, and carrots.

And rhubarb.

Treat rhubarb like you would celery. Don't eat the leaves, just the stalk.

I never liked rhubarb when I was a kid. My mom liked it so much she would eat it raw. While that thought is enough to make me gag, I have learned that rhubarb can be absolutely amazing when prepared correctly. Given that my mom could barely boil hot dogs without setting the house on fire, it makes sense that I never quite learned to appreciate the uniquely beautiful fruit while she was in charge of creating dishes.

But now? Oh, now I'm trying to figure out a way to put rhubarb in everything. I suspect that Nutella and rhubarb would get along fabulously in some sort of cupcake. I want to pour a rhubarb compote over pancakes. I'm ready to try pairing rhubarb with blackberries. Soon, I will. In the meantime, this recipe for Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp is a conservative way of getting a little of the tangy fruit. It's an amazing dessert, especially when paired with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

2 cups diced rhubarb (approximate 5-7 average size stalks)
1 cup sliced strawberries
1/2 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons corn starch
2 cups oatmeal
1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup flour 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine the diced rhubarb, sliced strawberries, white sugar, and corn starch in a 9x13" baking dish. Spread the mixture evenly across the baking dish.

In a large bowl, combine the oatmeal, butter, brown sugar, and flour. (A hand mixer works well. Or your hands. Frankly, crisp recipes are crazy forgiving. You can do whatever you want and they still turn out fantastic.)

Sprinkle the oatmeal mixture over the fruit.

Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.

It's incredible served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. INCREDIBLE.

 Excuse me while I got eat a piece right now . . .

Wednesday
Jun082011

The First Page Of The Chapter About Summer Camp

A new routine. A new building. A new process. All new people.

I was nervous.

Alexis was so excited to finally live the image of "summer camp" she had built in her head. She hadn't taken even a second to consider the magnitude of all of the changes. Her understanding of what would happen was limited to what she has seen on TV, and I'm not sure that Camp Rock had done much to prepare her for reality. "Will there be singing?" she had asked. "Do we get to dance every day?" she had inquired. Her expectations were high and insanely Disney-fied, even though we had worked to bring them down to earth where the only soundtrack to life is the one Alexis plays in her head.

As we pulled into the parking lot, a grin spread across her face. She was familiar with the building as I had made it a point to show it to her a few times in the past week. I nervously scanned for hints that would tell me which way we needed to go, even as Alexis grabbed my hand and drug me towards the first door she saw.

I signed her in. We set her lunch on the table where it belonged. I made her give me a parting hug and kiss just as I have every morning of her life. Her excitement continued to radiate. It wasn't until I said, "Go have a fun day!" and she turned to see the sea of new eyes that it hit her.

Everything was different.

Her body language instantly changed. She quickly crossed her arms across her tiny chest. Her chin dropped and her eyes searched the floor for answers. "Momma . . . " she whispered.

"Do you want me to walk you over to your seat?" I asked. There was one familiar face in the crowd--a good friend who had also grown up at the daycare center Alexis knows and loves. I suggested Alexis go sit next to her.

"OK," she whispered.

Together we walked across the room towards the smiling face, Alexis still doing whatever she could to avoid seeing all of the changes that were assaulting her. She was so tiny in that moment, so curled up within in her own head.

An unfamiliar voice cut through the morning hustle and bustle. "Kindergarteners! I need you to line up over here, please!" a staff person called out.

"Momma!" Alexis said. "That's me!"

She let go of my hand and ran to get in line.

The only tears were mine.

******************************************************

"How was your day?" I asked. I ask the same question every day when I pick Alexis up after work. Usually her response is a whopping one syllable.

"Fine," she says. It's always, "Fine."

This time Alexis had to find a few more syllables.

"It was really fun!" she reported. I heaved a sigh of relief and then caught my breath as Alexis lowered her voice and squinted her face. 

"But, Momma," she continued in a whisper. She looked around to make sure no one could hear what she was about to say. "They didn't make me take a nap."

"Kindergarteners are too big to have to take a nap," I told her. Obviously, I was relieved that her hushed confession was nothing more serious.

Here eyes grew wide and a huge grin spread across her face as she considered my words.

"AWESOME!" she yelled. "I love camp!"

Tuesday
Jun072011

Thank You To Those With The Golden Hearts

Dear Alexis,

You have spent the past five years furiously scripting the pages of the book that is your life. You're always in a hurry, always trying to sneak a peek at how your story will end, but tonight you pause. Tonight you are turning the page between two very distinct chapters of your life. You don't understand it. You don't know what you're about to leave behind, but it has undoubtedly left an impression on your story.

Today was your last day at the daycare center that you have called your home away from home for five years. Your entire life. You've never known any other place. While you've moved from the nursery to the toddler room and later to the preschool, it's always been within the same building and with a familiar cast of characters around to support you.

Things haven't always been perfect at your school. There have been teachers I didn't like. There has been drama with the owner. The have been days that you didn't want to be there. But, one thing always rung true--you were loved there. You have an amazing way of just knowing who has a heart of gold, and you wiggle your way into those hearts and make yourself at home. You seem to know who is most worthy of your adoration, and those people have no choice to adore you right back. And they have.

There were tears today as we walked out of the center hand-in-hand. Not yours, though. You are SO very excited to start your next chapter. You're convinced that summer camp is going to be The Best Thing Ever. Knowing you, you will make sure it is exactly that. You will also mention those people you've left behind and you will make sure that the impression they've left on you is shared and understood and appreciated. 

You will remember them.

And if you don't, I'll remind you. No matter how quickly you write that book that is your life, you need to always remember that it started out with lots and lots of love.

Now go kick some ass at summer camp, kid.

Love,

The Momma Who Wishes There Was A Pause Button