Thursday, April 17, 2014

Soccer Mom

Way back when, when my husband and I were barely married, we went to visit friends in San Francisco for brunch.  Their house was full of toys and crayons and tow-headed toddlers, and we feasted on deliciously lumpy pancakes, strong coffee, and orange juice. Sunshine poured through a huge bay window into a living room full of comfy furniture and well-worn children's books.  I was utterly charmed by the whole situation.

Looking up at the clock, our hosts suddenly brought the cozy morning to a halt, and began scooping up  strollers and hurtling around closets rooting for socks.  The oldest child donned a shiny uniform and tiny cleats, and had the maple syrup unceremoniously wiped from his ruddy cheeks by his mom.

"It's picture day."

This meant nothing to us. But we piled down the steps and followed our friends. Outside it was bright and breezy, one of those rare, gorgeous, peaceful San Francisco mornings.  As we turned a corner, we were hit by a high-pitched roar of noise.  Then, slowly, we walked into an alien sea, a veritable ocean, of what seemed like thousands of five year olds and their parents, crammed into a fenced patch of grass covering most of a city block.  All of the children were randomly running and screaming.  Parents were chatting and laughing and yelling at the running children.  Everyone had coolers, cameras, umbrellas and folding chairs.  It was utter chaos, and it terrified me to the bone.

"We have to get out of here," I said to my husband. "Now."
Best form of birth control, ever.

It didn't last.
Soon enough, it was picture day on our own patch of grass.

Not only was I no longer petrified, I was somehow coaching the team.  I had zero experience, but if you signed up to coach, you got to pick your practice time.  As a working parent, schedule trumped competence in my book.

It was a trial and error process.  Once, I brought a white board and dry erase markers to practice, intending to diagram plays, or at least try to communicate the idea of whose goal was whose.

"Oh, yay! Coloring!!! Pass the purple!!"
Needless to say, it didn't go well*.

Finally, I developed a strategy of giving big hugs for each goal, and that seemed to work just fine.

My coaching days are long over, but a decade later, there I am on that patch of grass with my folding chair and camera, chatting and laughing.  Perfectly at home in that veritable sea, the warm, friendly, comfortable ocean of parents like me.

Cheering at the top of my lungs for my amazing daughter and her team.

Soccer Mom.
Best clichéd stereotype, ever.

Oh, and even after all these years?  Snack is still the best part of the game.

Chewy Fruit & Nut Granola Bars

Chewy Fruit and Nut Granola Bars

by Sharon Graves
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours chilling time
I was tasked with creating a healthy on-the-go snack for the girls on a recent tournament trip**, and found this outstanding recipe on Food52.  It lends itself to infinite variations, and involves zero baking! The bars are the perfect combination of chewy and crispy, with the honey and nut butter holding everything deliciously together.  These are gluten-free and can be made vegan, too!

  • 2 c. old fashioned oats
  • 1 c. raw pepita seeds
  • 1 c. raw sliced almonds
  • 4 c. puffed rice cereal (brown or white)
  • 1 c. your favorite granola (I like Trader Joe's Pecan Praline)
  • 3 c. mixed dried fruit (I used Trader Joe's mix of golden raisins, cranberries and cherries)
  • 1 1/2 c. honey, maple syrup, or agave nectar, or a blend of all 3
  • 1 1/2 c. creamy almond butter, unsalted
  • 1 Tbs. kosher salt
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Toast the oats, pepitas and almonds, doing each separately as they cook differently for different times. You can either roast them in a 350 oven for a few minutes (7 for pepitas and almonds, 15 for the oats), or in a hot pan on the stove, stirring frequently.

While things are toasting, spray a 10x15 sheet pan with coconut oil or canola oil spray.

Combine toasted stuff with the rice cereal and the dried fruit in a large bowl, and set aside.

Place honey/syrup and almond butter in a saucepan, and place over medium heat. Stir gently to combine, and cook just until smooth and warm. Don't allow it to come to a boil, or it'll be difficult to work with. Stir in the salt, cinnamon, and vanilla.

Pour the almond butter mixture over the nut mixture, and stir with a large spoon or spatula until completely coated, taking care not to crush the rice cereal.

Spread mixture into prepared pan, and use the spoon/spatula to press into one even layer. Transfer pan to the fridge, and allow to set for several hours or overnight.

Cut into individual bars, and you're good to go! These will keep for a week in an airtight container.

Chewy Fruit & Granola Bars

* I learned my lesson, and instead gave them paper to color with the next year:

Image from the classic 2005 "Ravens Activity Book" by Sharon Graves.  
Check out the full version here.

** I was also tasked with mixing mojitos for the parents on the team bus.  Unlike coaching, I'm completely qualified for that position.

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