Saturday, July 31, 2010

7 Quick Takes - Picture Wall Edition

It's naptime. Nathan is sleeping. Jacob is in his crib calling for someone, anyone, to release him from that prison. And Tim and Christopher are, I think, watching a show in my bedroom. (Translation: Tim is asleep on the bed and Chris is minutes away from getting bored with his show, jumping around on the bed, and getting in a whole bunch of trouble.)  It's quiet, for the most part, and I am taking full advantage of this opportunity to lay down on the couch and do absolutely nothing. Well, except this.

I can still hear Jake calling and it makes me feel only a little guilty. And a little curious. I want to go down to check on him but know that, if I do, this quiet moment will be lost and so I will let him call for a while longer.

My chosen position on the sofa has me laying so that I can see our family picture wall instead of looking outside to the backyard. It's a beautiful summer day and looking outside makes me feel guilty for not being out there. Besides, I love gazing at this wall. Seeing the snapshots of so many happy memories, the faces of our loved ones who shared those memories with us.

Here.  I'll give you a little tour.

ONE.  A good number of the frames are filled with photos from our wedding. Tim and I with all seven of the priests who concelebrated our nuptial Mass, us walking along the golf course during the reception, my Father-in-Law's toast. I could stare at our wedding pictures all day long. If you ever come to my house, you can watch my wedding video, okay?  I won't offer but if you asked I would jump at the chance to show it to you. Without that day so many other blessings would be absent. God has been so good to us.

TWO.  Each of the boys has an 8x10 of just them. Right now I'm looking at Chris sitting on a swing in my dear friend's backyard.  Those big brown eyes looking happily at me through the glass. He is such a big, strong boy. And yet, he's so sensitive and so impressionable.  We're struggling with Christopher right now. When we first moved into this house, he handled the transition really well. IF he woke up during the night he'd just get up, run up the stairs and climb into our bed. He had NO fear.  Now, eight months later, it's not a question of IF he wakes up during the night, but WHEN. And when he does? He stands on his bed and SCREAMS for Daddy.  We've gotten through the phase of him screaming for Daddy and ONLY daddy (seriously. If I went down there he'd scream even louder, "Not YOU! WAHHH!") and he'll allow me to come to him now. But it's bad. It's really bad.  He's scared of monsters. Or ghosts. Or bad guys. Or bats. We've switched from Daddy going to him every night and are now seeing what happens if I am the one to go down. I have a slight suspicion that maybe it's less "I'm scared" and more "I want to hang with Dad," so we'll see if this breaks the pattern.  But beyond that, I have no idea what to do. If anyone has any suggestions, I will love you forever.

THREE.  One of my favorite pictures is one of my Nonno holding Christopher on his lap when Chris was a newborn. This has been a tremendously sad week. My dear grandfather passed away on Tuesday, July 27. There are many things to say about this, but I think I need a little more time.  We'll be going to the Rosary and Funeral tomorrow and Monday and I'm ready for those to be very challenging, but very healing days.  For the time being all that should really be said is THANK YOU.  Most of my online time during the month of July has been spent begging for prayers, and I have to say that my entire family has really felt the graces that have come from those prayers. Internet friends = awesome prayer warriors. I am blessed.

FOUR.  I have the hiccups. Really bad, really loud, really painful hiccups.

FIVE.  Thirty minutes in (actually, I don't think it's even been that long) and I am now typing this while SITTING UP on the couch with Chris to my left and Jake to my right. At least Nate is still sleeping. We're watching Bee Movie. Because we haven't seen it enough in the last two weeks; although, you may think otherwise when you hear ALL OF US quoting the entire movie, word for word. ("Black and yellow. Hello!")

SIX.  Jake's photo is centered on the bottom of the cluster. My happy little boy sitting at the bottom of a bright yellow slide.  He has gotten to the "Why?" stage. It is incredibly cute and infuriating at the same time.  He doesn't just say, "why?" He says it quietly, slowly, and he draws out the word into at least two syllables. "whhhyyyy?" It is so precious. Really. The problem, as I see it, is that he is far far FAR more curious than Christopher ever was.  There were never this many "Why" questions the first time around.

SEVEN.  My Nonna, my only remaining grandparent, is pictured with Christopher while he helped her blow out the candles on her 85th birthday cake.  It is such a happy memory.  It is such a unique privilege, I realize, that my grandparents all got the chance to meet their great-grandsons. Even more unique that these young boys (Chris, at least) is old enough to have lasting memories of these people who are so remarkable. So special. So loved.

I know I have said it already, but it just can't be said enough. God has been so, so, so good to us. And for that we are grateful.

More quick takes here.

Saturday, July 24, 2010


Tim's parents were over for dinner a couple of weeks back and, as often happens, we got into a discussion of what life was like for them when they were in our shoes.  My husband is a romantic at heart and much of his time is spent wondering what life was like in days gone by.  There are few days that pass in which I don't hear something to the effect of, "When I (fill in the blank) I like to try to imagine what (blah blah blah) fifty years ago." And then we talk about it and dream and imagine. But when we are actually in the presence of people who were REALLY THERE fifty years ago, there is little imagining that has to take place because they can fill in those blanks for us.  So, after dinner, we were all sitting around in the family room while they shared stories with us.  This conversation was of a more serious nature, as we listened to the joys and struggles that they faced during the first ten (or so) years of their marriage, during which (among other joys and challenges) all four of their parents passed away. It was a conversation filled with smiles and laughter, tears and hushed tones. It was the story of their life, so very many years ago.

Later that night, once we had finally gotten all of the boys to bed, I grabbed a glass of water and prepared for bed myself.  I could tell that Tim was lost in thought from the moment I entered the room. When I finally sat down on the bed, he remarked, "My parents had a really hard first ten years, didn't they?"  They sure did. What tremendous loss they faced as such a young couple. What huge challenges even beyond the illness and the loss. 

While I agreed with his sentiment, the first words that escaped my lips were, "Look at OUR first five years of marriage. We have had a VERY CHALLENGING first five years."  And it's so true. Our vows have been tested and again throughout these first years. They have been pulled and tested in ways that I never imagined we would face so early on in our marriage. Sure I knew that there would be suffering and growth throughout the course of our marriage. Yes, I expected that there would be times for "sicker" and times for "poorer." I wasn't so naive as to think that there would not be "bad times" during our life together.  But I was naive. I suppose I never gave it a conscious thought, but somewhere in me I just assumed that the good, healthy, and richer times would come first. Or, at the very least, I suppose I never factored in the possibility that those challenging times would come one after the other in rapid fire succession.

Ah young love. There we were, walking into the world hand in hand with NO IDEA  what was headed our way.

On the day I married Tim I didn't know that only one year later my mom would be diagnosed with breast cancer and would have a mastectomy only three weeks before I was to deliver my first child.  I didn't know that only eight months after that my own husband would suffer from a very serious illness which would lead to his being diagnosed with a chronic disease.  I certainly wasn't expecting that two months before the birth of my second child my husband would be laid off and we would be spending the next several months getting his own company up and running, or that just one month after that my Father-in-law would be diagnosed with prostate and bladder cancer.  While I knew that my grandparents were getting pretty old, it never really occurred to me that I would be so intimately involved in the details of my grandmother's illness and passing due to other damaged relationships within the family. 

We talked about this for quite a while that night, agreeing that "Yeah, wow. We've definitely had a challenging go of it," but also agreeing that looking back? It doesn't seem like it was that bad.  It doesn't seem like it was all that hard.

Of course it doesn't! The suffering, the challenges, seems so much less in my mind's eye than it did at the time because of all of the joys that were also thrown into the mix.  Joys that, also, could not be anticipated or planned for.

The day I stood with him at the altar provided no revelation of how I'd discover my pregnancy with Christopher just two days before our first Christmas. There was no picture of my sweet Jacob who is so tender hearted that, when seeing my crying recently, grabs my legs and says, "Mom? Tay? Tay Mom?" (And to whom I respond, "yes Jacob. Mommy is okay" with a kiss and a huge squeeze.) We certainly had not the slightest inkling that we'd be moving into the house of our dreams and welcoming our third (THIRD!) precious boy, our darling Nathaniel, both within one week of each other.

And really? While I knew there would be suffering at some point (and even though those challenges presented themselves a leetle earlier than I'd anticipated)  I also had no clue as to how much growth would come from those challenges - growth that I attribute ONE HUNDRED PERCENT to the fact that I had my best friend walking with me, holding my hand, and encouraging me to embrace the challenges with love. With compassion. With humility. With faith. With HIM.

Looking back on the conversation, I think we were both right. Yes, we have been dealt A LOT of challenges in these first five years. But no, they do not seem all that challenging in retrospect. They don't even seem "manageable" or "bearable."  The only thing I see when looking back over this time is Joy. 

And love. And faith. And friendship.

Yes, our vows have been tested. Yes, they will continue to be tested. There is always something coming down the pike. It's just the way that it is.  But our history has proven that no matter what is coming our way we will greet it hand in hand, ready to embrace the challenge.

Friday, June 25, 2010

I have 30 seconds. Let's see how fast I can type.

The baby is sleeping. The boys are playing (together. quietly. SHHH DON'T TELL ANYONE) so let's see what we can get out of this.  A little catch up from the last two months and (hopefully) a little preview of what I hope to unpack in the next little while.

1.) We went to Disneyland in May. FOR FREE. Oh yes my friends. FREE. And it was awesome. Had you asked me last year if I'd bring three children age three and under to Disneyland I would have laughed you out of town. Clearly I've lost my mind. But you know what? I'm so glad I did.

2.) My baby Jake is two. And talking. I don't really know how this happened. I blame baby #3 for this.

3.) Speaking of baby #3, he sleeps in his own room now. It used to be the guest room. Then life happened and it became the furniture storage. And now? Now we store the guests, the furniture AND the baby there. Oh. And all of stuff that we had to get rid of at the last minute before my sister-in-law's surprise party last Saturday.  Thank God Nate doesn't take up all that much space.

4.) Have you seen this website?  I love it. It is where I got the inspiration for the aforementioned surprise party and now I can't drag myself away from it. Love love love. What great ideas! Go. Go check it out now.  I'll wait.

Well. That will have to do for now.  Just trying to get back into the swing of things over here in blogland. Bear with me...

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

On Laundry and Ground Turkey.

I made a rather outlandish claim in my last post, didn't I? There I was all "I've been caught up on laundry for three weeks and aren't I fabulous?"  Well, you know what? I AM fabulous because even though we've had some busy times over here at Casa de Burps and Farts, I'm still caught up. OH YES I AM.  So take a seat and I'll spin you a little tale on the glories of the Three Basket System.

Now. Let's all acknowledge right off the bat that no system, regardless of how many brightly hued baskets from Target are included, will work unless you MAKE it work.  It's not like you can just go out and buy the baskets and the laundry will do itself.  But let me say this - someone asked me recently, "why can't you just use one basket? Who really needs THREE laundry baskets?" Clearly this person does not understand the Great Laundry Conundrum of how laundry can be cleaned, folded and then just take up residence in the laundry basket until every last item has been worn. And how, also, because that one single basket is occupied, no other laundry will get done. Thus? Three baskets:

Basket Number One ~ This is your Dirty Clothes Basket, intended to transport the dirties from your bedroom floor your well used clothes hamper  to your washing machine.  If you are like me, when you get to your laundry room, arms overloaded with clothes you face two immediate problems: where to put the dirties while you empty the wet clothes from the washer into the dryer (which I realize is quite obvious - you put them on the floor...Basket Number One means that you only have to pick clothes up off of the floor one time. Genius!) and where to put the clean clothes from the dryer so that you can make room for the aforementioned wet clothes. Thus? Basket Number Two!

Basket Number Two ~ Your Empty Basket that kinda just chills in the laundry room until the dryer is ready to be emptied.  Basket Two is really the "extra" basket in this entire system and, I suppose that it's the one you can live without. But I cannot.  Use it to carry your clean clothes to wherever in the house you fold (I use my dining room table). Once you've removed it from the laundry room, Basket One shifts into its place and becomes your new Empty Basket.

Basket Three is the Folded and Ready For Drawers Basket, used for transporting clothes from your folding place back to their respective homes.  Once you have folded all of the clothes from Basket Two and placed them in Basket Three, then Basket Two is now vacant and ready to become your new Basket One. Follow?  (No? I'm confused too, I'll admit.)


Now that we have addressed the constant rotation of baskets, it's down to the rules.

1.) Barring any weird schedules or special needs, I only do laundry Monday through Friday.  ONLY.  As a matter of fact, this is how I try to do all of my chores. I figure that my household chores are my "job" and, just as Tim goes to work during the week and has the weekends free, I should be able to keep to the same schedule.  Let me simply say that I LOVE THIS schedule. I love it mostly because every Friday afternoon I line up all three baskets, sort what remains of the folded laundry into them by location to be delivered (Annie & Tim, Boys, Towels) and put everything away. Then I take those lovely baskets, nestle them into each other, set them in the laundry room floor, close the door and I'M DONE.  Call me crazy, but I cannot tell you how freeing it feels to close that door on this chore every Friday afternoon.  

2.) Some weeks I have a load going on every one of those days. Sometimes more than one. Sometimes none. It just depends on what's going on in the rest of our lives.

3.) Socks.  I hate folding socks. HATE HATE HATE. Thus? I keep a little basket (blast. I suppose this is basket #4. Which would make this a FOUR basket system.  Now that does sound a little excessive.) that just holds socks. I call it the Sock Box.  This box serves two purposes.  It is used, primarily, to catch all of the socks that I cast aside while I'm in the laundry folding groove. Fold fold fold toss. Fold toss. Fold fold toss toss. Trust me. This saves  A LOT of time.  With every load of clean clothes I just toss toss toss those little sockies into the basket and don't give them another thought until Friday.  Then, on that very last day, when everything is just about finished and I'm almost ready to deliver the lasted folded shirt, I pull out the Sock Box, sort by family member, fold, toss into their respective basket and I'm done. Trust me. One should only have to deal with socks once a week.  The other purpose of the sock box, of course, is that it holds all of the strays, so either you have the matches or you don't but one way or another you know where they are. (I even go so far as to organizing the strays by family member and laying them in the bottom of the basket. Then I cover them with a little piece of fabric so that I'm not re-sorting mismatched socks every week. When I come across new strays each week then all I have to do is lift that little piece of fabric and I can instantly see whether or not there is a buddy waiting.) I know. It's a sickness.

I'll admit that we've had some weeks here and there that the baskets have not made it all the way back to the laundry room on Friday afternoons. We've even had weeks where they've all just hung out in the dining room straight until Monday morning, but this system has enabled me to at least be on top of it enough that falling behind means just that - I'm just a little behind. Prior to this, "Falling Behind" meant someone better run out to Target to buy some new underwear for everyone because God only knows when the laundry will get done again.

 The green basket on the left has since been replaced due to the fact that it did not match the others that it had a big crack that kept pinching my fingers.


In totally unrelated news, I made these for dinner tonight and they were FABULOUS. Really. Make them. You won't be disappointed.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Of Note.

Well look at that. Here we are about to enter Holy Week and it was JUST Ash Wednesday. Ah such is life. Busy. That's what life is. There has been much ado about EVERYTHING here at Chez Burps & Farts. Among which:

1.) My oldest son has finally decided that the only appropriate place to dispense his pee-pees is on the potty. OH YES. Last Tuesday, as I was kneeling down to get him dressed, I commented to him that his pull-up was dry. At that moment I we decided that we should just try sitting on the potty to see what happens. And FOR ONCE OH MY GOSH YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW STUBBORN THIS KID IS he agreed. And he PEED! And then he peed again! And then we pulled out the big boy underwear that have been sitting in his drawer gathering dust for AGES and now he wears them every day. Each morning we sit together while he's on the potty (or the Pot-tay as we like to call it) and we look through every single pair of underwear that he owns to decide which character's face will grace that cute little bum today.  He's doing remarkably well with all of this, even today going into the bathroom twice without my knowing to do his business.  Why yes, my son is a superstar.  We'll talk more later about the sheer DEVASTATION that occurs when we don't quite make it to the potty. It's heart-breaking really. Let's not discuss it.

2.) Son #2 has given up the paci. Well. Unbeknownst to him. We are on night four of Project No Paci and, THANK GOD, he's surviving.  Monday morning he took it out to drink some juice and, instead of keeping it clutched in his sweaty little fist, handed it to me. So I did what any other horribly insensitive mother would do. I set it aside where he wouldn't see it. It wasn't my intention that it be set aside permanently, it's just that we've been trying to make a point to only let him have it for sleeping times, especially now that he's CHEWING HOLES THROUGH THEM. (On a weekly basis. This chewing the paci thing is getting to be an expensive habit.) And I'm afraid he's going to choke. But then I put him down for naptime and realized, as I was climbing the stairs to rejoin the land of the no-nappers, that I had forgotten to give it to him. When he actually SLEPT without it, I figured Hey, let's keep going.  That night was the same. Super sleeper. No problem. Next day? Super nap. No problem. That night? SCREAMAGGEDON. Until midnight I'm not even kidding. While I was debriefing Tim the next morning we pondered whether it was because of the paci or something else. Okay, we figured it was the paci.  But I wasn't about to give in yet. "Let's try it one more night," said I. And now here we are at Night Four. Super Awesome. And, I have to say, I haven't seen him with a paci in his mouth since Monday morning and you know what? He looks like such a different boy. Such a big boy. Let's all pause for a collective sigh over how big my baby Jake is getting.

3.) The sun has come out here in Northern California and thank God for that. This has been a hard winter, what with bringing home the new baby and all. There have been many a rainy day when I would have bundled the boys up and gone out or even played outside (or even in the garage) but you just can't take a newborn out like that. So we've been in the house a lot and that coupled with every other type of stress and exhaustion that comes with new babies has been wearing on me. I've been looking forward to spring and summer so much because it just feels like life will be easier then. Sure enough - the days we've spent outside this week have been awesome. The boys can spend hours digging in the dirt and running around after this ball or that. The weather, combined with that re-energizing that comes after making it through that "fourth trimester" and a few other things have led me to the point where I can feel life getting easier. And that's just what I've needed.

4.) Speaking of son #3. At four months old he is now spending a lot of his days smiling and laughing. And ROLLING OVER onto his side, and almost to his tummy.  He's got the cutest little chuckle and the rolls on his legs are starting to get a little chunkier. While he did torture me for a little while with what I can only guess is a 4-month sleep regression, he is getting to be a better sleeper.  I'm winding up right now to get him started on a daytime sleep schedule, although Chris wasn't a napper at all until he was five months old and I didn't even attempt with Jake until AT LEAST that long. So I'm not too concerned with it at this point.  Chris and Jake have been super big brothers lately, always sitting next to him and trying to make him laugh or get him to stop crying. That alone makes my days easier. I love looking up and seeing them all sitting together in the family room. It drives my brain to ten years down the road when I'll have big floppy boys lounging in that same room, eating me out of house and home.

5.) I have been promising this recipe to people left and right without ever delivering on it. So here it is, JUST FOR YOU.  My mother-in-law's super delicious chocolate bundt cake (bohn? Bonk? Oh!!! A Cake!!) Name the movie and I'll make the cake FOR you.
      1. Blend yellow cake mix with one 3-oz chocolate instant pudding packet and 1/2 c. sugar
      2. Add 3/4 c water and 3/4 c oil
      3. Add 4 previously beaten eggs
      4. Add 1c previously beaten sour cream
      5. Stir in 1/2 c (apparently some people measure their choc chips. not me.) choc chips.
      6. spray bundt and lightly dust with sugar
      7. Bake 45-55 min @ 350 degrees
      8. Before you pull it check to see if it jiggles. If it does PUT IT BACK. It's not ready.
       9. Before serving, dust some powdered sugar over the top.

6.) MMMMMMM. Trust me. MMMMMM. Now, Shelby has made this cake and poured a ganache over the top, which I can only imagine was chocolate deliciousness covered in chocolate heaven. Especially if you don't measure the chocolate chips. Really, friends, the more chocolate chips the better. Just keep pouring. You won't be sorry.  Another thing I've been wanting to try with this cake is to make it with a lemon (or yellow, I suppose) cake batter and white chocolate chips. I think that would probably be nice and light for spring. And you know, really good.

7.) Last. And certainly Least. For the last three weeks I have been TOTALLY CAUGHT UP on my laundry. Like, to the point where I'm finding myself looking around to find something (anything!) to make a full load. Don't you just hate me? Sorry. I'm just super proud of myself for being so on it. And I totally know that as we start spending more time outside this will all go to pot, so I have to mention it now.  I credit my new Three Basket System, courtesy of the multi-hued laundry baskets that I just can't seem to stop buying at Target.  I'd tell you more but I just finished writing a mile-long comment about this very thing over at Amy's and I'm all laundried out. But let me just say for now - tomorrow I'll fold my last load of laundry FOR THE WEEK and then? Laundry room is CLOSED.  Now that's what I call a nice weekend.

More Quick Takes here.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ash Wednesday. Again. Already.

Crèche - cave which houses a life size manger scene.

This life-sized creche was my favorite place on my university's campus - just sitting there in front of the Holy Family, pondering the beauty of that moment - the moment of the birth of our Lord.  Gazing into the face of the Blessed Mother - so at peace. So humble. So loving.  Examining the life of Saint Joseph - so strong. So courageous. And looking at that precious baby laying so innocently in the hay.  I used to sit there, in the company of that Most Holy Family, and beg God to bless me with a family of my own.  It was my life's dream. My heart's desire.  The Virgin Mary was (and is) what and who I wanted to be. I've often said that what I want for my life is to "be" Mary to my own Joseph. To my own baby Jesus.

Perhaps if you're not a person of faith, this seems odd to you.  It could seem odd even if you ARE one.

I don't know who designed this particular creche. I don't know if it was intentional or accidental.  I don't know if others have seen in it what still strikes me. But on the back wall of the stable there is a beam that holds up the roof with a structural cross-beam attached.  So when you sit there and gaze upon that sweet baby Jesus laying in the hay at the beginning of his earthly life you are instantly confronted with what will happen to him at the end of it.  How powerful to gaze upon that sweet baby and SEE HIM up there on that cross - that precious baby who was born so that He could die.

I don't often think of Jesus in his child form. My Lord, my friend who I have come to know is Jesus the adult. Jesus the preacher. Jesus the friend. Jesus the story teller with the sarcastic flare and sharp wit. Jesus who healed the blind man. Jesus who wept at the death of his friends. Jesus the miracle worker. Jesus the forgiver.  Jesus the prophet. Jesus the priest. Jesus the king.

Jesus the victim. Jesus the sacrifice.

Today is Ash Wednesday.  Catholics the world over have been walking around all day with big black smudges on their foreheads and non-Catholics have been looking at them quizzically trying to figure out why we can't all just wash our faces already.  I love this day. I love the looks. I love the humility of it all. I love approaching the priest and having him say to me, 

"Remember that you are dust and unto dust you shall return."

I use this season for the purpose of preparing my heart for the death of my friend and what that means for my soul.  The thing is that now, and for the past three years, it is no longer just my soul that needs to be prepared. I now have three little souls whose (very heavy) weight rests on my shoulders.  Today as I approached our priest for the blessing of these ashes, I carried my darling newly baptized baby in my arms. Perfect. Pure. Sinless.

"Nathaniel, Love Jesus with all of your heart."

And as we walked back to our pew, I wasn't the only one with that big black cross on my forehead.  I find that right now, as I type this, words fail me. (Not good, I realize, as I'm putting this all in writing...but let's face it. If I don't write it tonight it won't get written.) My eyes welled up with tears. My heart broke a little because, just as I would gaze upon that creche and see the dichotomy of that little baby resting in front of the instrument of his death, there in my arms was my little Innocent marked with the reality of his sinful fallen nature.

I don't know why it is that Lent has always been such a powerful season for me.  I don't know why I can't make it through a reading of the Passion on Palm Sunday and Good Friday without tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat.  Part of it, of course, is that in my heart there has always been this deep abiding love for the person of Jesus and gratitude for his tremendous sacrifice that I so clearly, each and every day, do not deserve. 

But you know what? Holding my Little Precious today? I made a discovery. Now, as a mother to my own  boys, I walk through this season in the Mary's sandals.  I hold in my heart those things that she pondered.  Every night in my prayers I thank God for the gift of my children. I ask him to give me the graces to choose the right for them and the courage to raise them well for the time that he has entrusted them to my care, knowing that he chose to give them to me at a specific time and for a specific time. And that realization opens my heart even more to what it is that Mary experienced as she watched her own sweet baby endure the weight and the ramifications of my sin. Then my heart breaks a little more, as it ponders my role not only in the suffering of Jesus, but in that of Mary as well.

So this Lenten season, I will endure my chosen sacrifices. I will persevere in my added devotions. And as I walk hand-in-hand with my Lord on his journey to the cross, I will open my other hand to that of his mother and ask her to show me how all of this looked through her eyes.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Jumping on the Food Blog Bandwagon.

In the last couple of weeks, I have been the grateful recipient of dinner (and dessert!) help from the wise and wonderful world of Food Bloggers.  I don't know why I haven't partaken of this wisdom before, but now that I have? I'm not going back! Today, for the second time in this month, dinner was ready at 8am courtesy of my crockpot. And? FABULOUS.  My in-laws were instant fans of this cookie that you should all run to your kitchens to assemble Right This Instant! And this grown-up version of rice crispy treats has officially become the end of weight-loss as I know it.
SO! When my dear Whitney (who I ate lunch right next to at The Blathering but only really have gotten to know after she went home to her own state) (WEEP) has asked for recipes because she is stuck. Stuck in a rut.  Well, friend, ask and ye shall receive.  Here is one of my favorites, courtesy of the Raley's  "Something Extra" magazine that my mom snags for me every chance she gets.

(Pictures would require scanning and, you know, work. My apologies.)

3 dried guajillo peppers, stems & seeds removed
I've yet to actually FIND these, so I just use chipotle peppers)
2 cups canned crushed tomatoes
3/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
2 cloves garlic
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 T lime juice 
mmm...zest them too...why not?
1 tsp Garlic salt
I never add salt to my recipes and it still tastes delicious


1. Puree peppers, tomatoes, onion, broth & garlic in blender until not too smooth.
2. Transfer to md saucepan, bring to boil then simmer for 20 mins.
3.  While simmering, rinse & dry chicken, sprinkle with lime juice and garlic salt
4. Grill chicken until mostly cooked through, brush liberally with sauce
**I brush a small amount on the chicken before cooking. If you do this, make sure to pour some sauce into a separate bowl so that you're not dipping your raw-chickened brush back into the sauce you'll use later.**
5. Remove from grill, place on platter & cover in remaining sauce
**This sauce is HOT. Be nice to your friends and let them add their own extra sauce.**
6. Garnish with a little cilantro & lime wedges, serve with spanish rice.


Take my word for it when I tell you that you should make a double batch of this.  The next night, cook up some pasta and you've got a ready made arrabiata sauce that won't disappoint.

Monday, January 25, 2010

All In A Day's Work. *updated with appropriate linkage*

By the end of my pregnancy with Nate I was tired in ways that I hadn't experienced with the other two. I'm sure we can add up all of the factors: the house hunt, the closing process, the packing, the moving, the adjusting, the unpacking, and well, the gestating.  Perhaps more than the physical exhaustion was the emotional one and, let's face it, I was just DOWN.  Really TIRED.  And really DONE WITH EVERYTHING.  A sort of pre-partum depression, if you will.  Honestly, by the end of a pregnancy you don't need to do anything beyond wake up to make you ready to get back in bed.  So combine the whole Waking Up Thing with everything else and I was just plain overwhelmed. And sad when I would hear about how many wonderful Fall-type things my friends were doing with their days. Up early with comforting meals in the crock pot. Apple picking. Fall walks.  It was really quite disgusting, to be honest with you. Just hearing about all of the things you were all doing was exhausting. I wondered where you got the energy. Where you got the desire.

Now that I carry my baby outside of my body rather than within and I'm starting to feel more like myself, I'm finally taking the opportunity to do all of those things and have a busy day that doesn't result in the bottom half of my legs ballooning to three-times their size. And so, without further ado, I present to you:

Things I Did Today Because I Can Function Like A Normal Person:

  • Hung three pictures on guest bathroom wall
  • Hung two pictures in our bedroom
  • Talked to my mom. Twice.
  • Talked to my mother-in-law. Twice.
  • Talked to my Nonna. Twice.
  • Called Comcast (again) and politely explained to them that after FOUR service calls last week our telephone issue was still not resolved and now our cable box was broken and no I would not bring the cable box in because it's only been here for 8 weeks and is therefore brand new and should not be broken and I have three babies at home and it's raining outside and PERHAPS Comcast could show a little customer service and have the guy who is coming AGAIN to fix the phones just fix the cable while he's here because he is trained to do so and that's his job.
  • Told Comcast Guy (still politely) (but much more sternly) (to put it lightly) that no tomorrow morning was not acceptable and that if the first guy had just done it right we wouldn't be having this conversation and that if the third guy (who actually was the first guy again) hadn't decided to leave immediately upon arrival on Saturday night with the promise that he'd come back Monday morning actually CAME BACK MONDAY MORNING then, again, we wouldn't be having this conversation. And thus scheduled ANOTHER service call for tonight. During the dinner hour. Again.
  • Printed out the remainder of Nathaniel's baptism invitations.
  • Made lunch for my family. And, not surprisingly, ate lunch alone at the table after everyone else was finished.
  • Put Jake down for his nap. (Always easy. Always want to stay in his room and hide just a little longer.)
  • Stuffed envelopes and found addresses off of because I STILL CANNOT FIND MY ADDRESS BOOK while nursing Nate.
  • Plopped Christopher on the counter while I made Paula's Beef Stew, peeled potatoes and set them in water for boiling and mashing, crushed garlic, brushed bread and set aside for broiling garlic toast, and made my mother-in-law's most delicious chocolate bundt cake EVER. (All by 2:30)
  • Switched the laundry, put away clothes.
  • Called the salesman from Macy's (because he said he'd call me today and it was 4:30 and I felt like he was avoiding me) to see when our new chairs would be delivered.
  • Told him that I was disappointed, but understood, that MY chair would not be delivered until AFTER I have 50 people at my son's baptism reception because he made a mistake and misread his computer screen.
  • Complained to Tim that HIS chair would be here next week but mine would not.
  • Complained to my mother-in-law that Tim's chair would be here next week but mine would not. (Okay so maybe I talked to her THREE times.) 
  • Told BOTH Tim and his mom that, no, I didn't want to call the manager and complain in an effort to get my furniture here when it had been promised because REALLY I have more important concerns in the next two weeks and is a CHAIR really that big of a deal and besides, what can you do?
  • Ultimately agreed with both of them that the answer to "so what can you do?" is "GET MY CHAIR HERE ON TIME."
  • Told Tim that I had dealt with enough service calls and managers and blah blah blah in the past week so if he wanted the chair here HE could call and complain and I would support him 100% but I just was not going to do it myself.
  • Listened in awe as my husband left a very diplomatic message on Macy's Guy's voicemail. (We'll see what comes of that.)
  • Invited my sister-in-law over for dinner.
  • Tested all the phone lines in the house with the comcast guy and they actually work. For now.
  • Cleaned up dinner.
  • Put all four Troy men to sleep. (Seriously. Tim is out like a light too.)
  • Had my first date with Jillian since I found out I was pregnant with Nate.
  • And, you know, wrote this.

Whew!  It sure is good to be back!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Sure Target Has Moved On To Valentine's And Summer, But I'm still Back At Christmas.

Today I was sitting in the play room, gazing upon my still-stacked-high-with-Christmas-stuff dining room table and lamenting to my mom about how much I hate our dining set.  Perhaps, I told her, I would hate it a little less if it weren't taunting me with its resident mess that should have been packed up weeks ago. Perhaps. My mom, in her loveliness, told me not to worry. She said she'll help me pack everything up while she's here visiting and then maybe when I can SEE the dining room set we can figure out how to make it so that I LIKE it.

She's a smart lady, my mom.  You see, the issue of my frustration today had really nothing to do with the dining set (which, really. I really dislike it. REALLY.) And more to do with the fact that I just can't get that Christmas stuff out of the way. It's not getting done. It's there. It's looming. I should do it and I can't. JUST. CAN'T.

If I were looking for a way to describe how this Christmas was for us, that sentiment nails it. This was the Christmas of "I just can't get it done."  I think what it comes down to is that we were SO looking forward to the holidays this year.  We had our new baby. We had our new big, beautiful home.  We wanted to decorate. We wanted to make it magical. And, you know, maybe somewhere in there we'd fit in a little bit of Holy too.  That's the important part, right? Don't forget The Holy.  Riiiiiight. HOLY. Jesus is the reason for the season and all that.  To be honest, this Christmas blew past me so blasted fast that if I were to put on paper my mental calendar of the past few months, it would go straight from Thanksgiving to today.  It CHAPS MY HIDE that this was our reality - that there was no Advent this year - but that's how it happened.

Make no mistake - our Christmas was lovely. But it was fast. It was exhausting. And? Many parts of it were a chore.  Getting the Christmas tree. Putting it up. Decorating it.  You name it, it was on the To Do List just waiting to be scratched off. Just so we could say it was done.

We have our own little traditions that we're putting in place for the boys, among which include my in-laws joining us for breakfast on Christmas morning so that they can see the boys open the presents that Santa has brought.  Once gifts were opened and little people were distracted, I sat down with my coffee and my mother-in-law to enjoy a nice visit.  She began telling me how, the day before, she had turned off the TV entirely. She knew that Christmas day would be too hectic to truly meditate and recognize Christ's birth, so she did it the day before.

Truly meditate on Christ's birth. Attempt to comprehend the love behind the Incarnation. Ponder what humility came with that Divine Condescension. I can't remember the last time that I had that privilege...that I made that time for myself.

Days later, in the car by myself, I found myself reflecting on this conversation.  The time goes, I realized, we'll be deep into the season of Lent. Another penitential season. Another time of preparation, this time for the holiest days of the year.  Another season that, if I'm not careful, will blow past me with little more observation than a few meatless Fridays. In considering these two holy holy seasons, I became frustrated by the fact that (especially now that I have children) they always seem to just pass me by. Sure, I make efforts to recognize the seasons, but year after year they pass before I even realize what's going on.

While I cruised down the highway that day, I began to get a little down on myself.  My spiritual life is so different now than it was as a single person, most specifically as a college student living on a campus where you were inundated with holiness. There was no escaping it, no ignoring it. During those years I found it nearly impossible to be too busy to pray, too distracted to meditate, too tired to devote myself to the observance of the life of my Lord. I wondered how I could be a good example to my children in what is TRULY important when, this year, I couldn't even get it together enough to finish the superficial stuff.

As my mind drifted on to my sweet little boys - those little Men In Progress whose souls have been entrusted to me - I started to fret about how in the world I will be able to adequately mold those souls when most of the time I feel like my own is barely hanging on.  How can I show them the holiness of Christmas and the love of Good Friday when my own daily prayer consists mostly of a frantic glance at my crucifix and a whispered, "Help me, Lord! Hold me up, Blessed Mother!"

On the verge of despair, a little angel must have whispered in my ear. Nudged me with a gentle reminder of  what a priest friend of ours said to me not long ago.  He said, "parenthood is not a contemplative vocation."  Thank God for guardian angels whispering in ears!  It's true, isn't it?  Every once in a while when I make it to daily Mass, I always marvel at the fact that I can sit and listen to a homily from start to finish with no distractions. No one squirming. No one falling off the pew. No one putting stickers up and down my arms or rearranging the missals and hymnals.  Right now, what makes me holy is the daily sacrifice of being Christopher's mommy. It's the tenderness with which I hold Jake THE WHOLE ENTIRE TIME I'M COOKING DINNER just because he still wants to be my baby and it's one of the few times I'm not holding his new baby brother. My holiness comes in the exhaustion from staying up all night with newborn Nathaniel who thinks sleeping is for babies. know what I mean.

What I didn't understand in the conversation with my mother-in-law is that she has a privilege that I do not simply because of the season of life in which she currently resides.  That is not my season. Not yet. Mine is one in which she has already lived, and through it, she has earned her contemplative time.  My time will come. Until then, my holiness is to be found (as a blogger who I'm continually learning from says) "in the trenches of motherhood." That is where my soul resides and where my children will learn all of those things for which their souls thirst.

But in the meantime? I have GOT to put away those Christmas decorations.

Monday, January 4, 2010

I Do Believe We're Due For A Rant From My (Self) Righteous Soapbox.

Several years ago (back when I was young and carefree, living in San Diego with my fabulous roommate) there was a notepad-sized piece of yellow paper affixed to my bathroom mirror on which was A List. The List contained bits and pieces of conversations with others that, when taken out of context, could be deemed as nothing better than completely inappropriate for mixed company. Or any company, for that matter. One of the items on said List was spoken by yours truly, and I believe it said something to the effect of:

"You know, Shelby. You should really try to be more like me."

Ha! I remember exactly where I was when I said that. And I remember it being added to The List almost immediately as it really was said in jest. Who can remember the original context? Not I. And that's not what's important here. What's important is that, lately, this has really come back to haunt me. The difference? Now I'm dead serious.

I said it to Tim the other day. "You know, my life would be SO MUCH EASIER if people would just think the way that I do and then BEHAVE PROPERLY." Being the loving, obliging husband that he is, he agreed with me and we moved on. (I married a very smart man.) I'll admit that I did feel a bit snobbish after uttering (okay SPEWING IN FRUSTRATION) these words and figured that perhaps I should examine my own self before declaring myself Miss Manners And Good Behavior. So, after a good deal of self-reflection, I've figured it out. It's not that I wish people would think more like me (well. okay. I do, really. But read on.) but rather that I feel as though the ways that I think and the manner in which I behave are deeply rooted in common sense. And common courtesy.

Two things that, frankly (and I don't care if you're name's not Frank.) aren't that common anymore.


Today I filled my car up with three sick, almost sick, and very sick little boys for an impromptu visit to the pediatrician. Christopher has been alternately hacking up his left and then his right lung for a week now, Jake started in with the cough yesterday, and little Nate is on day three of the saddest sounding little cough you've ever heard. It was one of those mornings that I was watching the clock hit 9:00 so that I could call to get the in as early as possible; and yet, I was dreading this call as well. DREADING talking to the receptionist who has never gotten a single appointment scheduled correctly for me. Never. (Honestly, I'd rather pull out my own teeth than deal with this woman.) (I'm sure she's a lovely person, but she can't schedule an appointment to save her life.) (Really.) Lucky me, I called the advice line and when the nurse did end up recommending that we come in, she scheduled me herself.

I will be doing all of my scheduling through the advice line from now on. One way or another I'll find an excuse to do it.

When we arrived for our 10:30 appointment at 10:28 (!!!!ontimewiththreekids!!!!) I had the boys wait outside the door while I popped my head in to say that we were there. They have a sign on the door requesting that any families with flu-like symptoms come in through the back door, and while I was confident the boys don't have the flu, I also didn't want to get any of the other babies in the waiting room sick. (See? Common Sense! Common Courtesy!) Unfortunately for me, of the two receptionists, the only one at the desk was She Who Cannot Schedule. And, no surprise, she was dealing with another mom and clearly was in the middle of Something Confusing. (I will refrain from commenting on the "confusing" in the interest of being charitable. Mmmkay?)

Clearly she was busy. So, I made eye-contact and then closed the door and stood outside the window in the cold with my three snot-faced babies. Certainly they could hear the coughing from inside. Moms with kids went in. Dads with babies came out. Everyone exchanging pleasantries. "Oh what a cute baby! He's just a week older than ours!" "Oh thank you for waiting for the other door. We really appreciate it." "Oh there's another door? I didn't even know!" (First timer.)

Did I mention that it was cold outside? Did I mention that my kids were sick? Did I mention that Receptionist SAW US STANDING OUT THERE as I repeatedly stuck my head in the door?

I was getting angrier and angrier with each passing minute. I really felt that it would be wrong to take my germ-laden kids into the waiting room where they could get the other kids sick. But you know what? MY KIDS ARE SICK AND THEY'RE STANDING OUT IN THE COLD. What a conundrum. Finally, Receptionist Who Gets Things Done, returned to the desk. It was 10:35. All I had to do was say hello before she knew who we were and was hopping back out of her chair to run over to the back door to let us in out of the cold. You see, friends? Common Sense. Common Courtesy. Sick kids inside a warm doctor's office.


This whole common sense thing has been nagging at my brain for the past couple of weeks. It didn't just start today with my poor little children standing out in the cold with snot icicles dangling from their noses. The pressure is starting to build within me, though, and I'm afraid that my Common Sense volcano is going to erupt one of these days just because someone leaves an empty glass on the counter rather than putting it in the empty sink.

Ah, pet peeves. Aren't they delightful? What are yours?


By the way, we came out of that visit $90.00 poorer, but three kids healthier. Chris has a cold along with his first ear infection and a prescription for Bubble Gum Medicine (amoxycillin), Jake's already downed his second dose of cough medicine, and little Nate was sent home with a nebulizer with saline solution that steams up in his face and makes it look like he's taking a little smokey tokey. Hey, you have to find the humor in this somewhere, right?