Monday, April 27, 2009

"What Do You Do All Day?"

I'm a stay-at-home mom.

It happened haphazardly.  Fourteen years ago, when Son was born, we quickly realized that someone would have to stay home and tend to him.  (Like most first-time parents, we considered our child to be unusually advanced, but would he be able to change his own diaper at six weeks? Iffy.)  Since I was self-employed at the time -- and therefore available and cheap -- I was as likely a candidate as anyone.  Indeed, when you consider that I'm roundly-acknowledged to be a wee bit of a control freak,  I may have been the only candidate.

When Darling Daughter was born two years later -- and refused to be held by anyone other than, well, me -- the "self-employed" facade came crashing down.  In no time at all, I was 0% bringing home the bacon and 100% frying it up in the pan.

Well-meaning friends would sometimes ask, "When are you going back to work?" but when it became plain I had no immediate intention of turning a bedroom into an office, much less returning to a world of artlessly-written job reviews, mind-numbing meetings, and incomprehensible healthcare plans served with a cup of burnt coffee, they'd then ask, "What do you do all day?"

The brave ones still do.

The honest answer?  I do what has to be done.  I wish it included eating bonbons and lifting my feet as the "help" runs the vacuum.  Instead, a huge chunk of my day is spent in the car -- chauffeuring, eating, doing homework, running errands, getting to doctors' appointment and after school activities, and commiserating with the kids about their day.  During soccer and baseball seasons, our all-but-abandoned house functions more like an over-priced closet than a home.  It is simply the place where we stash our clothes and Christmas decorations and dishes.  As the car floormats attest, most of the "real" living and dining is done in our Honda Pilot.

I also volunteer at the kids' school a lot -- as in, "a lot" more than the kids would like.  Bummer for them, but I enjoy it.  Eighth graders -- so cool and charming -- are quick to greet me, only slightly averting their eyes to ensure I understand my place.  Sixth graders aren't able to fake it.  They all but shield their eyes and moonwalk backward to avoid having to say, "Hello, Ms. Wiles."

Now that the kids are older and so preoccupied, a return to the workforce wouldn't be out of the question -- except when you consider that the current N.C. unemployment rate is about 11%.   My time will come.  So for now -- I'm sticking with my bonbon-less life.  I'll keep doing whatever has to be done and enjoy this gift of spending time with the kids and their friends.  Every now and again, I'll throw a party to celebrate the many blessings in my life.  And when I do, I'll be serving this amazing sangria.  Cheers.

Although you can mix this up on the day of your party, it's even better if you give the fruit and spices a couple of days -- even a week -- to macerate in the rum.

5 lemons, sliced into thin rounds
5 limes, sliced into thin rounds
5 oranges, sliced into thin rounds
5 peppercorns
1 stick cinnamon
5 whole, dried allspice berries
5 whole, dried cloves
5 cups spiced rum
2 1/2 cups sugar
5 (750 milliliter) bottles dry red wine, chilled
5 cups orange juice, chilled

In a very large pitcher, combine sliced rounds of three lemons, limes and oranges (reserving remaining fruit for when sangria is served), spices, rum and sugar.  Stir and mash until sugar is dissolved.  Chill for at least two hours, or even better, up to a week.

When ready to serve, crush fruit lightly, and strain into punch bowl or serving canister.  Add fruit that had been set aside.  Stir in wine and orange juice.  Serve over ice, garnished with a lime wedge.

Note:  Leftover sangria keeps well, chilled, for about a week.
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