Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Benjamin, the little Darling

The last few days with my darling Benjamin have been interesting. He has been combative, angry, aggressive and just plain creepy. In response to his crying, outbursts and crank, I have been combative, angry and just plain creepy. Of this, I am not proud. I'm not exactly going for mother of the year or anything, but I should be able to parent a difficult child without becoming one myself. Benjamin lost it today, hurting Kenzie on purpose, and screeching at the top of his lungs. To correct this behavior, I screamed at him, and told him he was not being nice in a very mean, yellish voice and plopped his little brat self in time out. Where I promptly forgot about him. He fell asleep on the steps (our time-out spot).

Later he was pulling the same stuff. He flung Luke's Apples to Apples game all over for the second time in two days. More screaming, more time in time out. He finally was so screechy and horrible, refusing to eat his dinner and telling me "I hate your stupid dinner!", that I just picked him up, and made him walk up the stairs to his room, put him on the bed, and closed the door. I didn't go back up after him, either. When I put the other two to bed an hour later, he was asleep. Good. I was done with the little creepy guy for the day. Hopefully he will wake up in the morning in a much better mood.

Benjamin is a little bit of a challenge. He can go from super sweet, extra lovey and wonderful to mean, aggressive and screaming in 2.3 seconds. I used to worry that he was extra aggressive - that something more was going on with him. I even called Dr. Ray, a Catholic family psychologist, who sort of laughed at my fears. Ben used to be a biter, the kind that went for blood. Scary when you are the victim! Honestly, the kid is three years old, and we were able to "love" away most, probably 90% of his bad behaviors. We just loved him, showered him with attention, snuggled him. Explained to him that he was hurting people, and yes, we did show him how bad it hurts when he bites by gently, but with enough force to get the point across, biting him back. This all seems to work well with Ben, and yeah, we reduced his bad behaviors and meanness by about 90%.
But, he was back to the old Ben today, and I am not sure why. I know he woke in the night, and was probably extra tired. He wanted me to hold him just as I was lifting the spaghetti pot with boiling water off the stove, and had to have another kid remove him so he wouldn't get burned, and that threw him into a tizzy. Time out again.
We all know that telling Ben "no" might trigger a fit. Most of the time, he's okay. But it happens. I know he is little yet, but in the last couple of days I have seen an escalation that makes me nervous, and I didn't do a darn thing to help it today. It was just a bad day. Ben woke up just as I was climbing in bed at 3am, and woke the baby. Ben went back to sleep, but the baby really never did. So, we were up all night, with just a few snatches of sleep between 3am and 8am. Ugh. Didn't help me keep my calm with Benny. So, we had a bad day. We'll start again tomorrow.

It never ceases to amaze me - the way God built the parent/child relationship. He makes the children so soft, with big, shining eyes, and sweet, plump cheeks. He made the parents heart vulnerable to these traits. I have a hard time, many times, being the strict disciplinarian. I want to love and cuddle, but so many times lately, this little guy needs a calm momma who can make him listen and obey. Most of all, teach him to calm himself in the middle of one of his more aggressive fits. I know he knows I love him. I know that when he wakes up in the morning, he will have mostly forgotten our angry words today, but I will know I did not do my best with him today, so I will have to work on being calmer tomorrow. Being kinder, especially when he is his worst self. Say a prayer for us, will you? No matter how many children you have, each one has some aspect to their personality that will throw you for a loop. Ben's are startling intelligence, and a little too much anger and stubbornness.

Prayer of Mothers

Father in heaven,
grant me the grace to appreciate the dignity
which you have conferred on me.
Let me realize that not even the Angels
have been blessed with such a privilege—
to share in your creative miracle
and bring new Saints to heaven.
Make me a good mother to all my children
after the example of Mary,
the Mother of your Son.
Through the intercession of Jesus and Mary
I ask your continued blessings on my family.
Let us all be dedicated to your service on earth
and attain the eternal happiness of your kingdom in heaven.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Deliciousness With A Three Year Old

Little hands, helping me pour flour into the mixing bowl. A little voice asking 17 times if he can stir next. Cracking eggs into the bowl, and me fishing out all the tiny pieces of shell he gets in the dough. A scoop of raisins and a handful of pecans. All the perfect ingredients to make the best oatmeal cookies...ever.
My little Benji loves cookies. "Tookies", as he calls them, and begs me to make them almost everyday. He usually wants to "holp", too. Many times I sigh with impatience and just want to whip them up and get the mess cleaned up. But this time, I remembered my wish to spend some time with these little ones. So, we washed his hands, and pulled a chair up, close to the counter. He helped me measure and pour. He scooped oatmeal, dumping more on the counter than in the bowl. He packed brown sugar, and then licked his hand, compelling me to wash them once more. He cracked eggs all over the counter, and got shells in the dough. He smelled the vanilla, getting some on his nose. He ate as many raisins as we put in, and then, he leaned over to me, kissed me on the shoulder and said "Mama, you are the sweet cooker lady." And I melted into the floor and vowed to make cookies with him everyday until I died.

Here is a recipe for the Best Oatmeal Raisin Cookies Ever, minus the Benjamin germs:

3 Eggs - beaten                     1 tsp. salt
1 Cup raisins                         1 tsp. cinnamon
1 Cup craisins                       2 tsp. baking soda
1 Cup chopped dates            1 tsp. orange zest (super important!)
1 Cup butter                         1 Tbls. good vanilla
1 Cup brown sugar
1 Cup chopped pecans
1 Cup sugar
2 1/2 Cups flour
2 Cups rolled oats

As usual, mix all your wet ingredients, and then all your dry, and add to the wet. Add the fruits and nuts at the end. Scoop into large 1 Tablespoon scoops, Bake @ 350degrees for 10-12 minutes. You won't be sorry. You will wonder where these cookies have been all your life.
Of course, feel free to switch up the pecans for walnuts and leave out the craisins or dates or both, but don't - really! The craisins give a little tartness, and the dates just give a nice sweet chewiness.  I have also done just craisins and white chocolate chips in this cookie - yummy!
These cookies are lovely - my grandmother, who is an oatmeal raisin cookie connoisseur, loved them!

Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies - as seen in the photo:(mine) and adapted from a recipe in  Inn Good Taste by George and Katie Hoy from the Inn at Brandywine Falls.
2 Cups butter                           5 Cups pulverized oatmeal (stick it in a food processor)
2 Cups sugar                            1 tsp. salt
2 Cups brown sugar                 2 tsp. baking soda
4 eggs                                      24 oz. chocolate chips
2 tsps. vanilla                            1 finely grated 7 oz. Hershey bar
2 cups flour                              3 Cups chopped walnuts ( I used pecans - walnuts=blech)
Cream together the butter and sugars, add in the rest of the wet. Mix the dry together in another bowl, and then slowly add to the wet, mixing as you go. Mix in nuts and chocolate. Shape dough into golf ball size, Squish slightly, place on cookie sheet and bake @350 for 8 minutes. Don't over bake!
I don't make them sooo big, I use a large scoop instead. And this is a HUGE recipe! If you normally double or triple, don't bother, you will have plenty!

Silly Benny
This little Benjamin (who graces the top of my blog as a newborn) doesn't ask for anything (yet), but a story read, or to bake some "tookies". He can be challenging, and even a little mean sometimes, but if you sit with him, cuddle him for a bit, he is just pure love. He still says things like "tootsie wootsies" but tells me he is not "wittle" he is big! His favorite game in the world, which we have been playing since he was just a tiny little guy, is the "sleeping game". He climbs up in my lap, and we both pretend to sleep, fake snoring away. One of us will yell "Wake Up!"and the other will pretend to be startled from sleep. Then we say "Oh, sorry! Go back to sleep!" and play it over and over again. This game is played everyday. It's the silliest thing, but he just loves it. I can't remember if I played it with other babies, or if it is just our special thing.

My Benjamin also loves to play "Benny Sandwich". Anytime he sees his daddy and me hugging, he comes up and tries to get between us. We pick him up, and squish him between us, both kissing his little cheeks. He loves being our Benny sandwich, but pretends to be very annoyed. It's not hard to spend time with this guy, and he's pretty easy on the eyes. But I need to remember that he needs these early experiences, too. Baking, going to the store, helping dad with little jobs. Just because we have done them with the older kids, doesn't mean we can forget them with these little guys. So, we bake, we play, and we even venture into stores, the library, the zoo, the park. Make a memory or two, and never pass up the opportunity to spend a little time.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Time Well Spent

I know, enough with the cliched titles already, right? I'm going to have to work on that. One of the goals I set when approaching 40, was to spend some time with each of my kids. I have had the opportunity lately, to get to spend some actual chunks of time with a few of them in the last couple of weeks.

My Jenna and I took off for the afternoon a week or so ago. We headed to Chipotle for lunch and then a little shopping. I asked my girl where she wanted to go for lunch, of course. Her response was "Taco Bell!". So, I thought I would do her one better, and take her to Chipotle, thinking she would just love it. It's kind of a cool place, you can choose what you get in your taco or burrito, and it has a pretty hip atmosphere. All of this was lost on Jenna. She was too cold, the stool was too high, the music was too loud, and the food was too spicy. So much for Chipotle. She did not have fun, and she didn't eat anything. This almost always happens with my Jenna, though. She's a bit hard to please, and if you don't do what she wants to do, even if you are trying to make it even better, she's not going to like it. You'd think I would have learned this lesson by now, but, sadly, I have not. I have repeated this mistake a few times with her. Part of me thinks she should just decide to have fun. The other part of me reminds myself that I brought her out to have a good time, and should have just gone where she wanted to go.

Well, we made up for lunch by shopping at Justice 4 Girls. This was a big sacrifice on my part. I HATE that store. It's filled with cheap, glittery, over priced crap. Jenna LOVES it! She likes to be very little girl trendy, and this store is right up her ally. I have gone in and let her get a few things twice, exactly. And we buy off the clearance rack. No way are you getting me to spend $16 on a tank top. Yes, I am that cheap. I have too many bodies to clothe to waste money in a trendy shop just because. But, she was able to find a few things she really wanted. Jenna was happy, we used her 40% off coupon, and she came away with sparkly shoes and a little hoodie thing, and something else with glittery stuff all over it. I am still trying to figure out who this kid is. She is truly interested in fashion, even did a research paper on some French fashion designer from the 1800s, and yet she chooses to shop in this Justice store. I love the little weirdo.

After Justice the real shopping started - Target! I love Target. I love the bright colors and the interesting stock. I love how cheap their cereal is and that I can buy gum and sneakers in the same store. I love that the Up&Up store brand is cheaper, but just as good as name brands. And I love that I never have to wait very long in line. One person in ahead, tops. Somehow, I manage so spend nearly $200 in there on a bi-weekly basis. Don't even ask me what I buy. I really have no idea. It just accumulates. I go in with a list, and come out with everything on the list, and about $75 worth of crap I didn't know  I desperately needed.  I love Target. My husband is somewhat less enthusiastic.

Kolbe and I were able to set off on a little adventure last week as well. He had to go take a standardized test for school, so we made an afternoon out of it. After his test, I asked him where he would like to go for lunch. This is my foodie child - so I thought he would pick someplace interesting, given that we live in an area that has more restaurants in 20 square miles than anywhere else in the country. Nope, my foodie child chose Wendy's. Yep. Not some cool new burger joint or the too expensive place we can't go when we have everyone with us. Nope, he picks our usual fast food of choice. Sometimes I forget he is only 8.

So, we sat in Wendy's and he had a kids meal, which I almost never let me kids order. With a frosty - he got the royal treatment, folks! One thing I love about this quiet, shy little boy, is that when he gets you all to himself he talks. And talks, and talks. So great! I finally get to know what is going on in his little brain. He tells me funny stories, and just cracks me up. Usually so serious, it was really fun to see him smile. He does tend to worry too much. He can't decide what to be when he grows up, and he lets it worry him. I keep telling him to just enjoy being a kid, but ever since he discovered that he is supposed to have a job when he grows up, it has been the main thing on his mind. As of this posting, he wants to be a priest, a restaurant owner, a dog trainer, and a paleontologist. I just want him to be a little boy.

After lunch we went to Kohl's to find a suit for his First Holy Communion. Happily, they were running a sale, and I had $30 in Kohl's cash. Nothing makes me happier than getting a good deal! He chose a dark grey suit and a shirt, tie and belt. Cash out of pocket for this $58.00. Mama was happy. Kolbe, who loves to dress up, was super happy. He can't wait to wear it!

Kohl's was followed by.... Target of course. My husband had called with a few items he needed, so we made our way across the parking. While we were in the store, I asked my Kolbe if he wanted to go look through the toy isle. He loves the Lego Hero Factory stuff, just like every other boy in a gazillion mile radius, it seems. I asked him which one he would like, and he responded with "I didn't bring my wallet, and I only have $3, anyways." I asked him again which one he wanted, and he was confused. My poor kid. We never, ever buy stuff just to buy it. He couldn't understand why I was asking, as he didn't have the money to buy it himself. Now, I don't want my kids spoiled, and I want them to appreciate what they have. That being said, I need to make a better effort to do small things, just every once in a while, just because of the joy it will bring my child. Especially a child like this who loves so much, worries so much, and thinks too much. Once he realized I wanted to buy it just to buy it, he was worried about the other kids. I told him to just enjoy it, and that they would get a turn sometime, too.

I love taking these moments with just one child. I like sitting across from them and learning a little bit I didn't know before. I like being able to listen with rapt attention to whatever they are saying. Half an hour. I need to to this more often, and get their dad doing it, too. You can learn a lot in an uninterrupted half hour.

I have one more story, but I'll save it for tomorrow, as this is already way too long. But, it involves deliciousness and an adorable three year old boy, so.... until tomorrow my friends, Awrevwar! Or in French, Au revoir!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Megan, Mom, Nain, SupaNain, Trouble....

Megans #1 & #3 - At 90, still beautiful.
I know I already posted today, but I did not want to let a whole lot of time pass before I was able to wax poetic and get all emotional about my grandmother turning NINETY. NINE -OH. Ninety. If you've read here before, you probably know that my grandmother has had a downward spiral in the last year or so. Each member of our family has his or her own feelings about what is happening to her... I guess some of it is inevitable. Just part of aging. It's been hard for me to see her deteriorate. She used to be so full of spit and a bit of vinegar, definitely had some stories to tell. She's been through so much in her life, and we've always said we should write her stories down so they are not forgotten. I'd love to do a bit of that here, and if anyone else would like to leave a story or two she told you in the comments, that would be wonderful. Then we would have them, we would have a record.
I am having a hard time remembering the things she talked about, but I remember some of the things she lived through. Her parents were from Wales, they immigrated to this country a few years or so before she was born. She had four big brothers, two born in Wales. Her parents didn't speak English very well. She never spoke Welsh, but could understand it when it was spoken to her. She grew up in Johnstown, Pennsylvania during the Great Depression. Some of her brothers and her husband fought in WWII. My grandfather (Pop Pop) was among the US Army personnel that liberated Dachau, though he didn't like to talk about it, he did tell my brother and I some of the things he had seen there. After the Army, my grandfather was in the National Guard for 20 years, retiring a Lieutenant  Colonel, so they were a military family and Nain raised my mom alone for the first year of her life.

Both of her sons were in the Army during the Vietnam War. My Uncle Donny was a paratrooper, and was awarded several medals, including a Silver Star, and a Purple Heart with Clusters. He was released from the Army with Commendations for his bravery. Her other son, Jeff, was in Thailand for much of the war, working as a code translator for the Army. My grandmother had to have had untold stores of strength to get through both sons being oversees, but much worse was to come.

In 1979, my Uncle Donny was killed in an accident. He was only 31 years old. In later years she would survive the deaths of all her brothers, their wives who were her best friends, and her husband. She had buried one son, and the other just drifted away. We haven't heard from him in almost 15 years. I know she carried that pain with her. Through the years, all of her friends passed away, one by one. I think she is the last one of her generation in our family.

Even after Pop-Pop died, she was very independent. She survived breast cancer, but only after having a double mastectomy. She eventually moved from PA to be closer to my mom and dad, but for years she made the 7 hour drive all by herself to come for visits. I know it had to be hard for her to leave Pennsylvania, and all that was comfortable and familiar.

Ninety years can hold an awful lot of life, can't it? So, we gathered. We celebrated. And, for the gazillionth time in a week, we ate cake.

We piled all the kids; big, medium and small, into an activities room at Nain's nursing home. Four generations, all starting with this one tiny woman. She LOVED it! She always loves being the Belle of the Ball, and this birthday was no different. She loved being sung to. She loved the presents, she loved the kids running around like maniacs, having been fed cake and no supper, yet. She had some rare moments of clarity. She seems to always know my mom, and Dani's little Squishy, but she told me to go get Aunt Sadie, who's been dead for 60 years, a piece of cake. I, of course, obliged. We told her how old she was and she thought she must be much older than merely ninety. A minute later she was protesting that she was only 17. (She was hit by a car at 17, and this age and event seems to stick in her head more than most.)

Overall, I think she had a good time. She wasn't ready to quit partying when a nurse came to get her!  We tried, rather unsuccessfully to get a photo with Nain (or SupaNain, as all the great grands call her) and all the great grand children, but it wasn't to be. Meg had class, and a couple of them were rather uncooperative.
Amy, Pete and Nain
SupaNain and Baby Spencer

Nain, my mom and dad, Stacy, Amy, and babies

Kakers and Noodle - why do our nicknames so often revolve around food?

Biz and Wish

Well, we tried!
Happy Birthday, Nain. From you, all of this has come. You are the first of the Megan's, mother of three, grandmother of seven, great grandmother of at least 24! Quite a legacy, #1. Quite a legacy, indeed. I love you.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Party Never Ends...

I know this is Thursday already, but the weekend and this week have gone by in a whirlwind of parties, cupcakes, lunches, and more cake. Thankfully, I am not just talking about my birthday anymore, though my parents planned a lovely lunch for the whole family on Sunday.

The Bigger Boys
We all met after Mass on Sunday at our favorite Mexican restaurant. It was a little crazy, 21 kids and 10 adults crammed into one section of the restaurant. I didn't even our servers. We kept them hopping! I am pretty sure we munched through a dozen baskets of chips and a gallon of salsa before our food arrived. The kids had sat all the way through Mass, and many of them religious ed. before that, so they were a bit rowdy - but not too bad.
We ate and talked and yelled at Littles to sit down and be quiet. Then they - they being my sisters and brother - as had been prearranaged,  decided to give a little summary of each of my decades, with my mom doing the last decade. This of course was funny, and sweet, and since my brother had the teen years, somewhat horrifying. He has a very long memory, at least when it comes to stuff I did wrong in my teen years. I was reminded of the mailbox massacre of the summer after I got my license. And the time I was stupid enough to put my sister in the trunk of the car because there was no room left in the actual car, I had packed it so full of passengers. I am pretty sure they said some nice stuff, too, but I was so consumed with guilt and horror over the bad things I had done as a teen, I can't remember what they were!
But, we laughed, I cried, we ate some cake.  I looked around at the faces in the room with me, marveling at how our little family of six has blossomed into a big extended family with almost 33 members.
                                                        I love every single one of them! Thanks to all of them for making my birthday so special, and so easy!

Sunday, March 13, 2011


Japan -

A warning about scammers, and a couple of legit places to donate money to the people of Japan.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Count Down to 40 - It's Here!

Today is the day. I turned 40 years old today. My darling husband went to great lengths to create a happy memory for my 40th birthday, and he succeeded - big time. All the sweet little details, all the lifelong loves and little stories he must have remembered to put together such a lovely birthday - I kinda like that guy. It doesn't hurt that he seems to like me back, and we have been enjoying that wonderful second honeymoon feeling for a long time now. Love ebbs and flows, and it is flowing right now, baby. And I am soaking up every second of it. He has somehow made my turning 40 feel like a new courtship. Like falling in love again - and not just for the last few days, it's been weeks. I mean, we are generally pretty happy souls to begin with - like minded and content. But lately - it's been hearts and flowers and rose colored glasses.

If you were here yesterday, you heard all about the lovely day he created for the day before I turned 40 - my last day in my 30s - and it was...just.. I don't even know how to put it, exactly. It was one surprise after another. And while I love all the sweets and treats - it was the effort and planning that it took to put it all together that just killed me. It was magical, and it made me feel like I was 26, and head over heels in love with the best guy in the world. I hope he knows how much I love and appreciate all he did.

Today was my actual birthday  - the man didn't stop - I woke up to whole wheat french toast and strawberries. A healthy version of a lovely breakfast - thank goodness! After breakfast all my girls and I went to see a performance of Cinderella at the Canton Ballet. Meeting us there were; my sweet sister in law: Amy, my goddaughter, and all the nieces who were old enough to sit through it (We missed our Rhi-Rhi and Bananie- next year!), including Squishy, a.k.a. Lauren - my birthday buddy! She was born on my 35 birthday - best present I ever got! During the second half of the performance, my little nieces, 4 year old Jelly and 5 year old Squishy decided to come cuddle up in my lap. They were both getting tired, and wanted to be held. Amy wanted to take one of them, but I was reveling in the joy of those two little girls. Both happy to climb up into their auntie's lap to watch the rest of the show. They put their little heads together, and put their arms around each other. Not sisters, but cousins,  these two. As I looked across the row in front of us, where the middle girls sat, I saw that the three of them had their heads together, watching intently. I say this all the time, but I am glad, grateful, and gratified that my children are growing up with their cousins. Its a wonder and a blessing.

As I watched the rest of the ballet, I just sat and absorbed the joy of sitting in a dark theatre with all my girls, and these sweet littles. I closed my eyes for a second, and smelled their little heads. Shampoo and lip gloss and other girly scents. I miss that so much, as my youngest girl is 10 (though she did let me do her hair today). I am so blessed to have these beautiful little girls I can grab for a cuddle and a sniff of the curious combination of baby shampoo and fruity lip gloss.

I came home to the arms of my beloved, and the sweet craziness of my boys. Tomorrow - after Mass - more partying - my parents have invited the whole clan out to lunch for my birthday - it'll be crazy - 21 kids, 10 adults, and a little celebrating to do. It's a grand way to start the 41st year of my life...with family.

Friday, March 11, 2011

A Nostalgic Tour of Treats

This was my last day in my thirties. It was a great day, mostly because my sweet husband knows me so well, he made this day easy and fun. It started late last night with cannoli from a bakery in Little Italy. They were so good, we just had to wake up the girls to come have one with us!
My husband has been dragged all over several states in search of a good cannoli. I had my first taste of cannoli when I was 15. We were in Baltimore and  I had gone somewhere with Uncle Mike, I can't even remember exactly where, some shopping area, and he bought me a cannoli. It was so delicious, and I have been trying to find one as good ever since. I think we may just have found it! So, so sweet of Douglas to think of it.
When we got up this morning it was school, lunch, and the usual. I was trying not to think too much about it being my last day in my 30s, which is absurd, really. Why on earth have I worried about this so much? I started making plans for the day, hollering at people to go where ever they needed to go, get on with the day, when I noticed that Doug was having all the children file into the dining room. I was on the phone making plans for the evening. I hung up, and Doug brought in a cake from Johnnie's Bakery, a famous, beloved bakery in Canton. He knows I love Johnnie's, for the simple fact that it is a Canton institution, and our family used to always get donuts there on Sunday mornings, and I love that memory. He and the parade of munchkins presented me with new earrings, two new books I have wanted, and last but not least (really not least at all!) a box of 40 chocolates from another Canton staple, Anastasiades. My sister and I, when we first got our liscenses,  would run all over Canton and North Canton, often in search of some food or other, or just something to do. At the time, Anastasiades had an ice cream counter. We would go in for ice cream, but leave with chocolates. They are, hands down, the best chocolates in the area.Thank goodness there are lots of little people here to help me eat all these treats - I would be in big trouble without them!
We topped of this food extravaganza with a trip to the Spread Eagle Tavern in Hanoverton, Ohio. This place is full of historical charm and significance. It was part of the underground railroad, and has been a favorite stop for Republican campaign tours. Abraham Lincoln slept there! George W. Bush has eaten there, and so did his dad. For a political junkie and history lover, this was beyond fun. Not to mention the impeccable service and outstanding food. It was a great surprise and a lot of fun - I can't wait to go back!
As if all that weren't enough, my beloved topped off my last day in my 30s with a Kindle! Ah - to have all the world's greatest literary works at my fingertips! The man knows me so well! I am a sap. So, throw in some nostaligia, some yummy food, a little history and politics, and the ability to read anything I could ever want, any time I want. It doesn't get much better, as birthdays go!
Tomorrow, my actual birthday, will be a fun day, too. I am taking all my girls, my goddaughter and niece, and meeting my sister in law and her girls to go see a performance of Cinderella by the Canton Ballet. That and a visit to my grandmother should make for a lovely afternoon. Not a bad way to spend your first day in your 40s, right? I think it's going to be grand. I think 40 is going to be grand, too.

Noodle Kugel for...Lent?

Years and years ago, I worked at our Jewish Community Center. I loved that job! I was a receptionist, preschool aid, day care giver, camp counselor and latch key care giver. It was a lot of fun, and I loved, loved, loved learning many of the traditions of the Jewish faith. They were so beautiful, and I often thought to myself if I weren't Catholic, I could whole heartedly become Jewish. Now, while I am not one to convert to another religion for the food, the food of the Jewish people might convince one to do so. Matzo ball soup, Kosher deli sammys, Hamantashen, Noodle Kugel - ah, the kugel. I still dream of it, so, I'm gonna make it!

Here's what you need:

  • 1 large package of  egg noodles
  • 1/2 stick of  melted butter
  • 16 oz tub of cottage cheese
  • 16 oz tub of sour cream
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. good vanilla 
  • A little bit of milk or cream poured over the top - not in the original, but I like to do this with most noodle dishes - mac 'n cheese - keeps it nice and moist while it bakes. Not too much, you don't want to loose the custard consistency! 

For the crunchy topping:
    • 1 cup crushed cornflakes
    • 2 tsp. cinnamon
    • 1/4-1/2 cup sugar


    • Cook your noodles - I tend to leave them just a little undone - less gummy later
    • In a large bowl, mix the noodles with all the other ingredients
    • Dump in all into a 9x13 pan (Pam it first!)
    • Mix your topping ingredients - I like to crush the cornflakes just a bit - and sprinkle them over the noodles
    • Bake the whole shebang for about an hour @350. Top should be brown and bubbly!    
    Wish I had a beautiful photo - but until the other day when I posted a recipe on Facebook, it had never occurred to be to take a photo of food! I guess I better get with it - but make this - super yummy! A lady named Freda taught me how to make this one time for a teacher's meeting at the JCC, and I really loved it. She even showed me how to work in a Kosher kitchen, which was really interesting, and hard! Kugel is comfort food, for sure. Meatless, but I know there are chicken versions that sound good, too. But for Lent, this is a nice one. Serve it with a more substantial green salad, and your good to go for lunch or dinner on Friday!

    Thursday, March 10, 2011

    10 Things My Mother Taught Me...

    As I think back over some of my earlier posts, I am reminded of just how much my mother has taught me. As I approach 40, these things drift through my mind. I want to make sure I am living them, and teaching them to my children. So, here are 10 things my mother taught me, in no particular order.

    1.  Do for others. Whether it is as a Girl Scout leader, a room mother, a volunteer for Right To Life, band mom, grandmother, mother, daughter, or babysitter. 
    2. Always welcome people into your home, and to your table. I've written so many times about how my parents invited all of our friends in, everyone was welcome. My mom was a great cook, and she always made room at her table. "There's always room for one more!" was something she said all the time.
    3. Look for the good in others. My mom used to tell me, when I was having a problem with someone in the neighborhood or at school, to always look for the good in others. "There is something good about everyone, you just have to find it!" she reminded me often.
    4. Say your prayers. I can remember my mom teaching me to say my prayers, and then reminding me my whole life. I know she sometimes stops to pray before the Blessed Sacrament, and that brings her peace. I hope that I am teaching my children to have faith, the way she taught me to be faithful. 
    5. Love your husband. My mom always cautioned us girls to be on the look out for a man like our dad. She'd tell us that we would be hard pressed to find anyone nearly as good, but that we should try. I think everyone who knows them, knows of their devotion to each other. It's a beautiful thing. I hope that my children see the same when they look at their father and me. I hope my girls learn to look for a man like their dad, and Papa Tom. 
    6. Love your children. My parents loved us - there was no question. We never had to wonder. Both my mom and dad would do anything they could, and have, for their kids. They have been there through everything, rooting for us the whole time, and holding us up when we needed it.
    7. Hold your babies. My mom told me when my first daughter was born, "Hold her, stare at her. The dishes will wait, but she will grow so fast, and you don't want to miss it." Because of my mom, I have held my babies. I have let the dishes sit, and stared. I will never, ever have to be sorry that I missed anything with them, because of all the things she has taught me, this one really impressed upon me how fleeting life in general is. So, I hold. I stare, and I try so hard to implant the image on my brain. I try to memorize the feel of that particular child in my arms, because I know it will only last but a second.  
    8. Be nice. My mom used to tell me all the time, "You can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar." This has served me well through the years. When tensions get high, and people start slinging unkind words around, it helps to have something nice to say. It stops people in their tracks, reminds them that they are dealing with human beings, and helps defray the tension. It helped me so many times when I felt like being unkind, and remembered what she taught me. 
    9. Treasure your sisters and brother. My mom never had any sisters, but she was always so glad for us that we had each other. When I was younger, (and sometimes still), my youngest sister and I did not always get along. My mom would always tell me how lucky I was to have sisters, and that someday, she would be my best friend, and understand me when no one else could. How my mom knew this so well, I cannot say, but she is so, so right. Both of my sisters, and my sister-in-law are my very best friends. My mom had brothers, and has lost both of them. So, I treasure mine. He is one of the best people I know, and though he is a "little" brother, he looks out for me like a big brother would. My sisters and brother understand me so well. I ask their opinion before I make big decisions (and little ones, too). When I have a parenting, or more often, step parenting issue, I ask them for advice, knowing that they will never lead me astray. They are so much a part of me, I am actually glad I am the oldest, making it less likely I will ever have to live without them.
    10. Believe you can do anything. My mom has always told me, "You can  do anything you put your mind to.", even the hard things. Even things I didn't want to have to do. She has pushed us, believed in us, and helped us make things happen in our lives. From degrees, to building a business, to finding true love, she has always been our biggest cheerleader. 
    There are so many more, but these are the things I think of when I think of my mom. As I attempt to parent  young adults, I hope that I have taught them all of these things.  I hope they know I love them. I hope I have taught them to pray, and have faith in God. I hope they know I think they can do great things. I hope they have grown to love and appreciate their siblings. I hope I am teaching them all the things my mother taught me.

    Wednesday, March 9, 2011

    Lenten Season

    Ash Wednesday has always been among my favorite of the Christian/Catholic rituals. I can remember going to Mass as a child, and seeing all the kids in school with the black cross smudged on their foreheads for the rest of the day. I think I even went a time or two with my grandma, I don't remember when, I just remember the Mass, and seeing the church full of cousins and aunts and uncles, and everyone coming away with the ashes.

    I took my eight to Mass this evening. I love cramming my family into an already full church. Seeing the people who have made a point to attend Mass, in nurses uniforms, suits, work boots and dusty shirts. I love thinking about their lives, and how we all made this effort to get to Mass on a busy Wednesday, how we all gathered with the Communion of Saints, for the Eucharist, and the distribution of ashes. Knowing that this is happening across the globe - that lifts me up, makes me feel like a part of this body of Christ.

    My two oldest daughters had planned to go to Mass with us, then out to a movie. This didn't sit well with me, but I didn't stop them from going. It didn't sit well, because I felt that they were not getting the contemplative nature of the Mass. They were going because I wanted them to, because it was Ash Wednesday, and they just did. We talked about the ashes on the way to church, a little refresher for some, and an introduction to the littles who likely did not recall it from last year. My oldest said she was going to wash her face before they left, and I was again bothered by her attitude. She didn't want people looking at her with her ash smudged cross on her forehead. I tried to figure out how to explain to her that while we certainly don't wear the ashes as some sort of badge of honor, they are not to be disregarded, either. They are a reminder from whence we came, and where we shall return.

    As I watched the people file out of Mass, I thought they were beautiful. Many of them tired from a long day at work or school, they all filed out of Mass, smiling, talking quietly. The ashes on their foreheads would be a reminder to all who see it that Lent begins today. That a period of reflection and prayer has begun. That the sacrifices we make will be to honor the sacrifice of Christ, not fodder for Facebook statuses.

    As I looked down the row at my own children's faces, now smudged with the ashes, I thought about tradition, about faith, and about teaching them to quietly pray, contemplate, and prepare. They of course, spent a good bit of the last week talking about what they were giving up for Lent. Giving something up is nice, but when you have so much, is it really meaningful? I told them that giving something up was wonderful, but that they also needed to do something - say extra prayers, do a good deed. Give of themselves, rather than simply giving up pudding or chocolate.

    As my family moves into the Lenten season, we are going to focus on why we do these things, as much as doing them, it's important for them to know why. As I feel my oldest slipping out and away from the faith, forgetting who and why, I feel the need to instill to a greater degree in the ones I still have here, under my watchful eye. I hope that as she matures, she will return to her former love and understanding of Christianity, and more specifically, the Catholic faith. I know these are growing pains, and many college students go through it. I did. I was waiting for it. I just wish it weren't happening at a time when she thinks I have no idea what I am talking about. That, too is not unexpected, but it still hurts. She is spending some time with her beautiful 14 year old sister, who maybe can help recenter her a bit, as her faith is strong and growing.

    I am going to post some Lenten friendly recipes, because I know it's hard sometimes to find things that are simple, yet appealing to littles. Check back tomorrow - a recipe for Friday - Noodle Kugel! I learned to make it when I worked at a Jewish Community Center. I loved it, and would like to share a recipe one of the ladies there gave me - you'll love it!

    Count Down to 40

    I don't have much enthusiasm left for this Count Down to 40 thing. When I was dreading it, and scared of it, it seemed important to try and create the self I want to be, so I would still be young, so I wouldn't have to to look/feel/think like a 40 year old. But I am 40 years old. Or almost. I may be making peace with it, but I am going to soak every last second of being 39! Thirty nine is still young. Still Thirty-Something. Remember that show? I don't really - it was too grown up for me. Then Friends came on, and they were just my age. I loved that show - still do - right down to the inappropriate situations and all. My mom has always been appalled that I watch that show. But that show was full of lovely things. It was cheerful, the friends were really very good friends to each other for the most part. They loved each other. I never really had a group of friends like that - I've had my siblings, and therefore, never really felt the need to branch out and find a "group". Plus, when I was 20+, I had Meg, and was going to school, and working a minimum of two jobs. I didn't have time for friends.

    Counting down, I think that was a way for me to wrap my mind around the whole 40 thing. My husband turned 40 - eight years ago. It didn't seem to phase him. I think he thinks I am a little nutty for having worried over it so much. He didn't think it was a big deal, but I did. I threw him a big party, it was supposed to be a surprise, but somehow it got out. We had it a whole month early, too, because I was due with a new baby just before his actual birthday. So, we had a party, ate some cake, and tons of people came with canes and reading glasses and other old people paraphernalia.  And I laughed and laughed. Now, it doesn't seem quite so funny! Poor guy - he really, really does not like to be the center of attention - I wonder why I felt compelled to do that to him?

    As for all my lofty goals - some of them are important to me - they are things I need to be doing no matter how old I am. In my often chaotic world, it seems whole days slip by without any effort on my part to do for others. I worry about this, we seem so secluded right now. I know that my main focus has to be on these kids, but I feel a pull to be doing more. I think I know what that tug is, but making room for it in our lives will be hard, making room for it in our house will be darn near impossible.

    As for the self improvement goals - ya know, I just don't know how to get untired. I wake up exhausted, I fall into bed, never sleep well, and get up exhausted again. This is often punctuated by small people vomiting, wetting the bed, having bad dreams, waking up coughing, or just wanting mama. I'm not complaining, though I do fantasize about sleep. So exercise - just not happening, and yes, I know it would probably help me sleep better, and have more energy. But when? Just...when?

    As for being more present, I truly do think I am doing a lot better with that - if I notice something like that, I pretty much correct it right away. My babies are getting lots of books read to them every night. I spend about 45 minutes putting them to bed, reading books, and saying prayers. They are loving it, and so am I.
    The middle kids and I are going to be reading A Jungle Book and Treasure Island. When I am done with the little boys, we pile into my bed and I read to them. A classic, not junk, because they read enough goofy stuff on their own. This way I know they are getting the classics, though we choose the titles together.

    And my Kenzie girl, she's my right hand. She and I spend a lot of time together, and she gets me all to herself for a good portion of every evening. We like to take turns playing songs for each other, each trying to get the other to listen to her music. It's fun, it keeps me in the loop of what she is listening to, and I get to expose her to the phenomenal 80's - like Men at Work or Debby Gibson or Pat Benatar. Good stuff!

    So, with this, I hope my whining over turning 40 hasn't chased you all away. I promise to stop, get back to what I wanted this blog to be - a record. A record of these beautiful little lives springing up all around me, so fast I hardly have time to watch it happening. I don't want to forget this time, when I have been so very blessed. Blessed beyond imagining. A happy home, beautiful, healthy children, a delicious and adoring husband. A loving, supportive family with brothers and sisters and parents that are always there for me. What more could a girl ask for? Not a darn thing, but what ever the Lord has in store for me, I am ready.

    Sunday, March 6, 2011

    My Kenzie Girl

    My girl, my Kenzie Rosie, turned 14 years old this weekend. When my children have a birthday, we don't spend a lot of money, or take them fancy places, or throw big parties. For the most part, anyway.Usually we have a big family party a few times a year with all the extended family, but on their actual birthday, they get the dessert item of their choice, and I sing. I sing to them all day long. I start first thing in the morning, and repeat my little happy birthday ritual over and over, until they are kinda tired of it. My little ones have even said "Mom! Stop singing!", but I don't, and I don't plan to, ever. Because it's more than just their birthday. It's the anniversary of a life long love.

    When my Mackenzie was born, she was born into a blended family. A blended family that actually wasn't blending so well. And then she was born. Each of the girls had a sister, a real, related by blood sister. They were both her sister. They were finally united on at least one thing - they wanted to play with Kenzie, hold Kenzie and be a big sister to Kenzie. She came along and made us a family. Later of course, they would unite to torture and tease her, but at that moment in time an wars that were fought were about who got to hold her or whose turn was next. Typical, in my book. I was so glad for any kind of typical sibling rivalry at that point. It wasn't stressful, it was fun. It made me feel like we were finally a real family. It was all the blended issues that were so stressful.

    As Kenzie grew, she became more and more lovely. Honestly, not just a mama's opinion. She was so pretty, it was almost embarrassing. People would stop us in stores and at restaurants to tell us how pretty she was. It was hard, because then, they would feel compelled to turn to the other girls and exclaim "Oh! They ALL are!" But the girls saw right through that, and they were a little jealous about all the attention she got. I can't blame them for having hurt feelings, they were pretty little, just 6 and 7 when she was born. I told them that people just love babies, and aren't shy about talking to babies. I think they grew to understand that this was at least partially true.

    Now the big girls are grown, away at college and Kenzie really misses her big sisters, until they come home and drive her crazy. But they go to the movies, and have some common interests now that she is a little older.They still pick on her, and she gets annoyed with them, but they are sisters. Someday, they will all be so glad to have one another.

    For now, she's still my little Kenzie Rosie, the one who made us a family. The girl who stole my heart and has yet to give it back. She's 14 now, and nearly all grown up. She'll be in high school next year, so in four short years she will be leaving me, too. Off to college to make her own way in the world. She's going to have to put up with a lot from me over the next four years. It's going to always be in my mind that she will be next to leave, so I will have to work to not smother her.

    So for now, she's still my baby girl. When I look at her, I still see the little girl with the big eyes and the long, long brown hair. I think that's how I will always see her. When I stand up at her wedding to watch her dad walk her down the aisle, I know my mind will flash back to that little girl. And I'll bawl my eyes out - but, that's what mothers do.
    Happy Birthday, Kenzie Girl, I love you more than you know. 

    Saturday, March 5, 2011

    The Count Down to 40 Continues

    It's next Saturday - it looms ahead of me, but for some reason, it's not bothering me so much anymore. It was, just yesterday I recoiled at the mention of it, but I didn't really feel it. I mean, I've said the words I have been saying - "Oh, no! I don't want to think about it!" and the "Can we please forget it is happening?!". But I haven't really felt them the last few days. I think... can it be? I think I might be making peace with this whole 40, your life is now half over thing.

    I've been trying to analyze the daylights out of the whole aging thing - and if you know me at all, you know I tend to over analyze the daylights out of everything. I think I know why it's been bugging me so much - there are several reasons, and while they have to do with aging, they are not really about my aging.

    1. My grandmother. She's 90 this year. And she's in a nursing home. Except that she doesn't know she's at a nursing home. She thinks she is at school, or at a friends house or somewhere, and is waiting anxiously for her mother and dad to come pick her up. They must be in a fright by now, you see. Watching her deteriorate has been heartbreaking. And frightening. Every little memory problem I have has me convinced that I am losing my mind - literally.

    2. My mom and dad. My parents, especially my mom, who is my friend, my advocate, my champion and my cheerleader, and sometimes banker (ha!), have had some health issues the last couple of years. I hate the idea of them getting older. I want them to be young forever, and I am having a hard time with the clock ticking by.

    3. My babies. Yeb is nearly two years old. While the decision to be done having babies (God willing) was a hard one, I truly think it was the right one. That doesn't mean that the kids growing up is easy. The idea of no cribs, no diapers, no nursing, no wee babe to cuddle in the night makes my heart hurt, it actually makes me tear up. To my babies, every one of you, I have LOVED EVERY LAST SECOND of your babyhoods. Even the sleeplessness. Even the crying and the endless nursing. Every bit. Please don't grow up and leave me! Okay, you can grow up and leave me, but you have to promise to come back and bring your babies. I will babysit! I have references and I will work for free!

    All these things are things I cannot change. Time will continue to pass no matter how I feel about it, so I might as well get on board. I think I am ready. The thought no longer strikes fear in my heart, so that's progress, right? Besides, no matter what waits for me in the future, the Lord will be there to guide me through. What more could a 27 40 year old ask for?

    Tuesday, March 1, 2011

    Count Down to 40 - 12 Days to Go!

    How am I doing with all the goals, wishes for self improvement and long lasting peace with the aging process, you are probably not wondering? Not well. I want to be one of these beautiful girls I graduated with whom I now see on Facebook nearly everyday, celebrating a 40th birthday. You know what it feels like? It feels like that movie from the 70s - The Thirty Year Olds. Remember it? Probably not, I barely do, and only because my parents were watching it one night, and my sister and I watched it, peaking around the corner from the upstairs. We weren't supposed to be watching it, but for some reason that movie has always stuck in my head. The plot was sort of Machiavellian in that the population of where ever they were killed people off once they hit 30 years of age. I don't remember much more than that, and I tried Googling it, but all I could find was this article about how 40 year old need to buy long term care insurance. Really? You've got to be kidding me. Anyway, I just am not really digging the whole "40" thing.

    Honestly, do you really, really want to know what it is? While I am all for self improvement and being a better person and all that, embracing my age, feeling the wisdom - whatever - the problem I am having is that I don't want to be fat and forty. I don't. I don't want to feel like I have one foot in the grave already, and turning 40, knowing I am half way through my life, most likely, and I wasted my 20s and 30s being fat. Yep, I am that vain. I have a beautiful family, and an amazing husband. I know, we built this family during my 20s and 30s. I used 6 years of my 20s getting through college.  I did not waste that time, really. But, I always had it in my head that I would make it up to myself (the never losing all the baby weight, compounding it, etc), by being healthy and fit, and yes, wanting to make my husband drool a little at 40. Not exactly a spiritual or mature goal, is it? So, I console myself with a bowl of cereal, or something equally carbish, at 11pm, when no one should be eating.

    So there you have it, web world. I have 12 days left to become the me I want to be when I am 40. I need to pray more, I need to be more present. And I need to do more for my family, household, and my beautiful Douglas. I can get so wrapped up in what needs to be done for school, bills, phone calls, appointments, work, all that stuff. I honestly could sit at my desk all the time and never be done. There are too many days when I do exactly that. And then, to distract myself, or change the subject and end the tedium, I waste some time on Facebook. Awesome.

     Enough with the negativity, that's more annoying that anything else, right? When the day rolls around, as it surely will - there doesn't seem to be any stopping time - I hope to just pretend it isn't happening, so I can be 27 in my head, and not acknowledge the day, or the number. I hate that this is bugging me so much. It's just a number. If it were someone else whining this much about it I would tell them to get over it. If there was something they didn't like, then get off their duff and change it! I need a swift kick or two.

    So, goals? Really, just acceptance, or avoidance. Either one. Deciding that it's really not a big deal would be a good place to start.