Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Come to the Table--Summer Desserts

I've posted recipes for Summer Blueberry Pie and Sour Cherry Cobbler over at Come to the Table. Hopefully tomorrow I'll put up pictures of the no-sugar-added fruit pies I made today.

Monday, June 29, 2009

It's Okay to Be Sad

I practiced a good parenting strategy today and thought I'd share. (You don't read much about my bad moments--usually all there is to learn from them is that Mom needs more sleep and/or self-control!)

The four-year old was weeping loudly at the table because she wasn't sitting next to her chosen cousin. While I was still calm, I crouched down to Becca's level and told her, "It's okay to be sad and it's okay to cry, but you may not cry like this at the table. If you need to finish crying, you can go up to your room or to the family room. Do you need to cry some more?" Either yes or no would have been fine. She decided to stay with us.

I've used this technique with all my children, mostly when they were young. I think it's important to validate the emotion (sad, angry, disappointed, etc.) but not allow disruptive behavior (crying, screaming) in a family group setting (mealtime, prayer time). I will repeat that it's okay to feel [whatever], because I truly believe it. Emotions are what they are, and being little can be tough.

I try to deal with the acting out right away while I can respond not just calmly, but kindly. It's no fun to feel bad.

If she can't regain control, I'll send or lead (depending on age) the child to her chosen "other spot", and maybe even stay for a few minutes. She comes back after calming down. Sometimes he'll try to come back before he's really ready, and we'll need to repeat the process, but this strategy has worked well for our family.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Basil Beauties

Every year, we grow basil near the front door. It's a nice, sunny spot, and I have an easier time remembering to water plants that I see every day. Once they're tall enough, the plants provide leaves for pasta dishes, tomato-mozzarella salad, and pesto sauce. Yum!

We usually start our plants from seed, but they've been sprouting and growing poorly lately. Last year we even had to take a "do-over" with seedlings from my mother-in-law the gardening whiz. I gave my sister the leftovers, and hers which were kept in a pot with my mil's dirt prospered while ours struggled after being transplanted.

That was the final straw/diagnosis, so this spring Len overhauled our little patch of dirt, adding manure and peat moss. As you can see, we still didn't get many sprouts (I haven't taken any out), but they look much better than some years. I did move a few around for a more even distribution. Marianna's grandparents gave her a garden angel for Christmas. Since her flower patch is thickly planted with tall specimens, she has graciously set the angel to look over the herbs.
Hopefully in a month I'll have a picture of the angel with much taller basil in front of her! To her left the chives and spearmint are visible. We've also got parsley, thyme, and peppermint. Most are perennials; we only plant the basil and parsley each year.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Bathing Beauties

Becca and her friend just came in after pool time under the maple tree. I wish I had pictures to share, but two cameras are out of the house and I can't find Joe's.

These two had so much fun splashing and sliding. Each took turns lying on her back, head hanging over the slide, while the other performed a baptism. They didn't just put their clothes in the sun to dry--they arranged them to be worn (complete with sunglasses at the top), as if on giant paper dolls. The big "water fight" with scoops was exciting enough to cause too many slips and falls, so pool time is over. And just in time, really: Becca's friend has a return deadline that's closing in fast.

About a Boy

From 2002, here is the Netflix teaser:

Will Lightman (Hugh Grant) is a rich, hip, irresponsible Londoner who, in search of available women, invents an imaginary son and starts attending single-parent meetings -- confident in both parties' inability to make a commitment. But when Will meets Marcus, the troubled 12-year-old son of Fiona (Toni Collette), a quirky and unexpected friendship develops as both Will and Marcus help each other grow up.

It's rated PG-13 for strong language and "some thematic elements". Will's pursuit of women is talked about, sometimes crudely, but there are no graphic visuals.

Lauren and I watched this the other night, and I enjoyed it more than I expected to. Will starts out unapologetically shallow and amusingly blunt, and nothing improves for any of the characters overnight. There is drama as well as comedy.

I wouldn't necessarily call it a chick-flick, but I'm also not sure if Len would have enjoyed it. Rather than find out, I found it easier to let him get some work done and use the movie time to hang out with my girl.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Friday, June 26, 2009

Green Eggs and Ham

David's birthday breakfast request: Yes, my boy is 17, but he does enjoy a bit of whimsy! Without David, life would be much less ... er ... interesting.

If you ever feel like eating Suessically, I have a few tips for you.
I starting painting the ham with food coloring, but it was too dark. Then I painted it with dye mixed with water, but that was too slow. Then I dipped each slice in dye and water, and it was just right! (If you have them, wear gloves or you may have green fingers for a long time. In fact, I got dirtiest while opening the bottle of green.)To get just the right shade, I colored the eggs with some blue dye before adding more green drops. Have fun!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Small Successes


"It’s important for moms to recognize that all the small successes in our days can add up to one big triumph. So on Thursday of each week, we do exactly that."

I hope no one thinks this is an exercise in back-patting. It's more about encouraging myself (and maybe others) to see that there are bright spots among the failures (speaking harshly to a child, staying up late enough to affect the next day). It's easy for some of us to feel gloomy, especially about our own worth/behavior, so "small successes" is about making myself look on the bright side.

I think that over time this can lead to a real change in how I view myself. I am reminded of how Len would not let me speak disparagingly about my figure, especially once Lauren was born. The practice of not saying bad things about my body eventually changed my attitude as well.

Enough nattering; here are three goodies for the week:
  1. I met with some other moms and began planning an IEW writing co-op for next year. I've used the program before (it's excellent!), but never finished it. Accountability is probably the biggest benefit of a co-op for me. It feels good to take even a small planning step in June.
  2. After too much time off, I've begun going to daily mass again. I made 3 of 5 days so far (mostly alone, but with one volunteer one day), and will be heading out in a few minutes for today's.
  3. I made two spontaneous pool visits this week, including a last-minute decision to drive an hour to my sister's house to drop off Joe and stay for a pool & pizza party. Two pool days may not sound like much, but I tend to focus on my own tasks. Spontaneity is not one of my gifts, so deciding to "go for it" without much planning is good practice for me. Today Joe has a play date, and we're inviting three friends (one for each of mine) to go to the pool with us.
What are your small successes this week? Look for them--they're there somewhere! Find more words of encouragement here.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Simple Pleasures

If I go far enough, one of my dog walking routes takes me past a public trash can. So before the halfway point, I can dispose of Dusty's business instead of carrying it all the way home.

That trash can is a welcome perk of the park-walk. What can I say--I'm easily amused!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Our Almost Empty Nest

Good grief--there were only three people at the dinner table tonight--me, my husband, and the four-year old. Where was everybody?

Lauren: visiting her boyfriend.
David: at work.
Daniel: at camp.
Joseph: visiting his cousin.
Marianna: having dinner at a friend's house.

And of course I had thawed out enough chicken to feed the entire family! I'm thinking the leftovers will go into chef's salad tomorrow...

It's almost eerie to have so few children around. I'm not looking forward to life without them.

Luck of the Draw

I don't believe fair treatment is the same as equality. And even if I did, trying to treat six children exactly the same would drive me nuts! For example, we try to give welcome/appropriate gifts for Christmas and birthdays, not to spend the same amount of money on each child.

We do, however, try to share/take turns/be fair. Children, especially, have a strong sense of justice. So sometimes when a resource is scarce, we introduce randomness to keep things even.

This happens most frequently when there's not enough left of something yummy: an extra Dove bar, three pieces of cheesecake (too small to cut further), or any last portion. Sometimes chance is used to dole out the fun (first turn or order of turns) or less-fun (an extra chore that doesn't belong to anyone).

Our favored method is drawing cards. We get a deck (Bonus: it doesn't need to be complete!) and everyone who is interested (or required, in the case of less-fun) draws a card. Before beginning, we reiterate the mantra, "Ace is high, joker means draw again."

That's it! No negotiating, decision making, or remembering who got it last time. It's such a relief to have a quick, final answer that everyone knows is truly impartial and FAIR.

This means there is usually no fussing, either. Sometimes a little one cries with disappointment, but it's short-lived, and in any case that can happen whenever a little doesn't get his or her way. At our house, the very youngest draw cards just to be part of the group, even when their results don't "count".

Monday, June 22, 2009


Happy belated Father's Day!

I started composing this post in my head yesterday, but didn't get a chance to write anything down. For one thing, Len (collaborating with David) bought the family a new computer (ahh, the speed...) then spent Saturday night setting it up and Sunday transferring info/data/files/whatever it was from the old to the new.

Anyway, Len and I have both been blessed with wonderful fathers.

Mine, for example is smart and willing to teach--sometimes more than we wanted, but that's another topic! ;-) He doesn't yell. He's handy at building, repairing, and tinkering. He's quiet about his solid faith, but it's there. There are so many characteristics that may not seem like much on their own, but fit together to make a fabulous dad: early riser, master packer, frugal AND generous (educating six children on a military salary), devoted husband (a good example), just, and helpful above and beyond any parental duty (helping his children with house projects, events, child care for trip-taking, etc.). Once this is posted, I'll remember a dozen more things I love about my dad, but you get the idea.

I don't make a habit of telling Dad how great he is, but I do remember one time. It was part of a toast during an anniversary celebration years ago, and it must have come from the Holy Spirit, because as I recall the thought hadn't even crossed my mind until just before I said it. What I had realized is that I share some habits and traits with my father, and that every trait of his that I recognize in myself is one that I admire.

I hope I can influence my children for good as much as he has.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Small Successes


"It’s important for moms to recognize that all the small successes in our days can add up to one big triumph. So on Thursday of each week, we do exactly that."

Find more inspiration and encouragement here.
  1. Last night I finally dealt with the remains of our trips (Hershey Park and NY) by sorting and distributing a week's worth of laundry, including sheets and towels. I also emptied and put away the suitcases that the girls and I had used. Things don't usually pile up so high--it's good to see some floor (and chair and bed) again!
  2. Len and I dealt with a significant discipline (of a child) issue this week. We were thoughtful and not angry, and even had some real dialogue (vs. the typical parental monologue) with the perpetrator. Only time will tell if we helped affect a change in said child's heart and behavior (Oh, that pesky yet essential free will!), but for now I'm taking comfort in our united approach and in knowing we carefully did the best we could.
  3. While walking with one of my sisters last weekend, I was reminded of what "brisk" looks and feels like. Since coming home I've tried to pick up my pace.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Sucker Punched

I just found out about another marriage ending in divorce. I didn't even know this one was in trouble. Many years, several children--it's so sad! My marriage is wonderful, praise God, but I know too many that are full of pain and anger. Please pray for couples in difficulty. Thank you.

Chef Rebecca

Rebecca and I made dinner last night. On the menu: meatball soup,challah bread,corn on the cob, and chocolate covered strawberrries.
We found the soup and bread recipes in Emeril's cookbook, There's a Chef in my World!

The aftermath (It looked even messier in real life.):
(Some photos taken by Joseph.)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Another Proud Mommy Moment

We spent a long weekend in New York, up for my neice's 8th grade graduation and a combo grad/Confirmation boat party. It was a lovely visit.

When we arrived home late Sunday, a letter awaited Joseph: he's been accepted into a county-wide youth orchestra!

Earlier this spring Joe auditioned for a highly competitive regional youth orchestra, but did not get in. I was proud that he was willing to gear up (mentally and musically) for another try-out. Being invited to join is a happy accomplishment for him. He's being recognized for his violin progress so far, and can now look forward to working and growing with other young musicians. I think being part of a large group will make practice seem more practical.

There are of course logistical issues--the weekly rehearsal/lesson/whatever is on week nights and not close by (I believe I've mentioned before that our metro traffic is #2 on the national "bad list"...), BUT it will be great for Joe AND I feel confident that we'll be able to form a carpool with other edge-of-the-county parents.

Three cheers for Joseph! (And thanks to his violin teacher for her talent and encouragement.)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Small Successes: Company's Coming!


"It’s important for moms to recognize that all the small successes in our days can add up to one big triumph. So on Thursday of each week, we do exactly that."

Check out other words of encourangement over at Faith and Family Live.

Since Marianna's godmother is coming today (hurrah!), I finished a few jobs that don't get tackled frequently enough:
  1. I cleaned the fridge. I washed while my four assistants emptied, dried, and refilled. There were surprisingly few "What's this?" moments; it needed cleaning much more than organizing.
  2. I scrubbed a bathtub. All by myself. Wow!
  3. I changed the linens on the guest (a child's) bed. This shouldn't be noteworthy, but we are going for small successes, right? ;-) Actually, I'm in the process of cleaning multiple sheet sets belonging to those who collapsed into bed after a long, sweaty day at the amusement park without taking a shower first.

That's it--enjoy your day! By the way, if you missed the post about our family's summer reading tradition, you can catch it here. (Hmmm.... a very linky post today.)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Blissfully Sticky and Exhausted

Because we just got back from a trip to Hershey Park. It is BY FAR the best family amusement park within driving distance. The little girls had loads of fun rides to choose from, and the big kids never ran out of exciting ones. Afternoon thunder shut things down for a while, but that made the lines even shorter when everything reopened.

We traditionally don't sleep over, so today's expedition was 17 hours door-to-door. Time for a shower and bed!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Return to the Vernal Pool

Four children and I went back to the vernal pool yesterday. We found two sizes of tadpoles with four legs each, and tiny frogs with long tails. Here are some inadequate photos (Lauren would have been a great asset):
The above picture gives a good idea of relative size, but you probably can't see the tail. Below is a slightly better view. This little guy was resting under a stick.Several of these frogs with tails were hopping around. Great camouflage, huh?There's been a lot of rain recently, so the mud was both copious and sticky.
When our shadows touched the shallows, swarms of tadpoles raced for deeper water. I stood still and watched them swim back bit by bit, gathering near the shore. I tried to take a picture of the crowd, but couldn't get anything suitable. I tried auto and manual focusing, but need some training to capture the view of something below the surface of the water.

As Promised

The recipe for manicotti is up at Come to the Table.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Imaginative Play

It seems like there are a zillion girls Marianna's age in the neighborhood. She's usually playing with someone (frequently a group of someones), but has lately been resistant to including Rebecca.

While I don't think that's ideal (I'd like Becca to have more friends her own age AND to be included with Marianna, too), the bright side is that Rebecca is great at creative solo play. I don't think that's a result of few play dates, but it makes that situation more tolerable.

Just two examples for now: This is a "habitat" Rebecca spent a lot of time constructing for some stuffed animals. I don't know where she gets some of her ideas...

Oh, and when I expressed concern about the lack of fresh air when the cooler's lid was down, she told me that the ice pack in the corner emits air for the animals.
These photos demonstrate two of her favorite activities--dressing up and kitchen play. Again, she spent a lot of time setting the table just so (four layers of coverings), and then enjoyed a meal with Pinky Pie. She'll also spend time puttering at her stove, making treats for whoever is nearby. Vegetable soup, anyone?
Becca enjoys this princess gown, but her usual dress-up garb is some sort of dancing outfit. That leads to twirling, jumping, and "tippy toe show"s. What a fun girl!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Gifts that Keep Giving

Many Christmases ago, Len and the children gave me a statue of Mary for the side yard. My wonderful husband also built a wooden arch to hold a rose bush over her.

Weather and the plant's weight eventually destroyed that arch, so now Len's gone one better: he bolted together some metal trellises and bent them into a much stronger framework for the roses. The climbing bush has almost made it across:Len's mom gave us this plant from her garden, and it has proved amazingly hardy, surviving numerous moves before its final (I hope) settlement by the basement window.It's blooming now, and should for at least several weeks. The flowers usually come back in the fall, too.In case you can't tell, these are small flowers, maybe the diameter of a quarter.

I used blooms from this bush for my sister's wedding cake almost six years ago. I brushed the petals with lightly beaten egg white and sprinkled them with super-fine sugar. They dried beautifully and were transported to NY, where another sister and I chose the best ones to decorate the cake we baked and put together.

Enough with the extra stories--this post was meant to be a thank you to my husband for the statue and trellises. I see them every morning as I walk past with Dusty. Thanks, honey!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Not QUITE Too Proud for Words

Because, after all, here come the words now:

Last night was awards night. MANY students were honored for their academic, sports, and character achievements. One student was honored for receiving a perfect score on his National Latin Exam: Daniel!

To put it in perspective: 137,000 students worldwide took one of the NLE's, and just 917 (less than 1%) received perfect scores. And Daniel's first year of Latin study was at home--a little with me, then summer cramming with Lauren and David. I know he worked hard to do so well this year. That may be what makes me most proud--that perseverance and effort.

I'm a little embarrassed to post this, because it feels like bragging, but I also want to share his happy news. It's not like I'm taking credit, after all...

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Small Successes: the Foodie Edition


It will surprise no one who knows me that this week's successes are food related. The kitchen arts are my favorite pieces of the homemaking game.
  1. Using recipes from four different cookbooks, Marianna and I prepared her meal together: corn chowder (good), broccoli with cheese sauce (the sauce started out too thin and became downright watery when baked with the broc, but was tasty nonetheless), hash browns (excellent), and dark chocolate truffle ice cream (how could it be anything but excellent?).
  2. I helped organize the faculty lunch for one day of evaluation conferences. I've brought food before (on our conference day), but it was a new commitment for me to make a separate trip to school and to make so many phone calls rounding up the other volunteers.
  3. After six weeks of neglect, I finally posted a new recipe on my cooking blog.
  4. (Yes, I'm going for four--did I mention I'm a foodie?) Len and I spent over an hour pitting this year's sour cherry harvest. Our distraction was the first episode of 2008's John Adams mini series. I enjoyed it for the history (Did you know John Adams successfully defended the British soldiers of the Boston Massacre? I didn't!), but also for the comfortable, tender married love of John and Abigail. It wasn't showy, but beautiful.
What are your successes this week? Share the inspiration and encouragement over at Faith and Family Live.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Come to the Table

I've posted a recipe for homemade gyros over at Come to the Table.
Coming soon: almost manicotti.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Up Way Past Her Bedtime

But when she scampers down the stairs to deliver THIS with giggles and kisses, who am I to get mad?