I love fall. Without question, it's my favorite season. This one
has been magnificent, and so have the colors and the caramel
apples. That sugary cider donut I bought at the orchard was
finger-lickin'-good, as always, and so was the pie we baked with
our fresh-picked apples. This year, however, after my children
settled a debate about who would get to use the peeler (note to
self: buy another), they did most of the work.
I may need to step it up in my Zumba class, though, because they
didn't stop with pie. Last Sunday, before the Bears game, Noah
decided to bake oatmeal cookies. Whenever I bake them I usually
just use the easy recipe on the lid of the oatmeal container, but
Noah decided to use one he found in one of my neglected recipe
"How does cinnamon grow?" he asked, as he gathered his
"In sticks," I replied. "Wait a minute, huh?" I wondered,
my brow furrowed. I imagined cinnamon sticks dangling from some
exotic tree in the Mediterranean, but that didn't sound quite right
to either one of us.
"Google it. I need to know!" Noah said, laughing excitedly, so I
ran to the computer. We learned that cinnamon is actually the bark
of the Laurel tree, grown in Sri Lanka. After harvesting, the bark
dries, curling up into the furled sticks we're familiar with. How
come I never heard this before?
Holly joined Noah in the kitchen as I contemplated the clutter
on my desk, and before I knew it they were busily measuring and
mixing without me. Soon they were giggling and laughing. I had no
idea what I'd find when I peeked in, but I hated to interfere in
their good time. It's interesting to see how well they cooperate
when I get out of the kitchen and out of their way, an insight I'd
be wise to remember.
"I need you to get 2 ¼ cups of flour," Noah said to his
"Yay! I'll get the flour," Holly replied.
"We need a lot of flour for gingernaps," Noah reported.
Gingersnaps? What happened to oatmeal? And what about the
oatmeal cookie craving I was now nursing, I wondered.
"We're making oatmeal, gingersnaps and peanut butter cookies,
all at the same time," I heard Holly announce to my husband as he
passed through the kitchen. Phew. But I'd better add a second Zumba
class to my schedule. "And only me and Noah. Mom hasn't helped,"
she added, proudly.
"She helped a little bit," I heard Noah say. I smiled at that.
Really? All I did was get out of the way and confuse him about
cinnamon's origins. Oh, and I reminded him to get the jumble of
extra pots and pans out of the oven before preheating it. Which
reminded me ….
"Holly, find your wire cooling racks," I suggested. I heard the
chaotic clash of pots and pans and crossed my fingers. Poor kid.
It's like wrestling a bear, whenever someone ventures into our
cupboard of cookware.
"Found one," she triumphantly announced.
"How much is half of 3/4ths of a cup?" Noah asked. When I
hesitated, he kicked me off the computer so he could use the
calculator, and then ran back to the kitchen. I couldn't help but
laugh. See how helpful I am? How else is a kid supposed to become
an independent problem-solver?
"Look at this color. Mom, you've got to see this!" he
called a minute later, so I returned to the kitchen. It looked like
a fair amount of flour flew, but the mess wasn't too bad. As for
the color of his gingernaps-to-be, he was right. It was amazing.
Molasses had turned the flour a deep caramel color, like the
caramel apples I can't get enough of. I grabbed a cooling oatmeal
cookie and returned to the computer to write this column.
"We can't have too many cookies, right?" Noah called from the
"Umm, I can't imagine a scenario where that would be a problem,"
I replied, grinning as I typed. Three Zumba classes. Definitely
three. And maybe a few situps.
But if Holly has her way, all I really need to do is rake.
"Mom, get a rake," she ordered one afternoon, as she swept a
bunch of leaves into a pile. Soon it was big enough for both of us
to flop into. What fun we had.
But the next day the Snuffleupagus truck came by and sucked up
Holly's pile. You know that city truck with the enormous vacuum
hose thingy that sucks up all of the leaves? That one. I call it
Snuffy because it reminds me of my favorite Sesame Street
character, Snuffleupagus. For the uninitiated, that's Big Bird's
best friend, the huge, shaggy, mammoth-like muppet who lives in a
cave just off Sesame Street.
I nearly cried when I heard that unmistakable Hoover-vacuum
sound nearing the house. I looked up from my work and peeked out
the window as workers raked errant leaves into Snuffy's big hose.
Really, I had to stop myself from running out the door and shooing
them all away. But it wasn't their fault. Her pile, near the trees
that border our street, was pretty close to the curb.
Fortunately, more leaves fell.
"Oh, so she's taking the initiative and getting the job done?"
my sister commented the next morning when she called, after I
mentioned that Holly was back at it and raking up the freshly
fallen leaves. "Good for her," she added.
"Nope, no job to do," I replied, "She just decided to round 'em
up so she can flop down in them," I replied, and then hurried off
the phone so I could join her again. I'm not known for a neat
kitchen or a neat yard, but there will be plenty of time for
tidying- up later - after my children are grown and gone.
Jennifer DuBose, M.S., C.A.S., is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in Batavia.
See more of Jennifer's stories here.
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