A Day Off

It really is nice when I have a day off of work and have an idea of how I am going to spend my time. So much time I waste, honestly. I don’t mean that I need to be running around like a chicken with her head cut off; that’s not good, either. But I feel like many times I go full speed ahead, and then need just as much time to recuperate. I’ve always been more of a short burst, sprinting type of person. But that’s not always good for you. So, on days like this when I have sort of a “map” of what my day looks like, I can breathe a little more.

Today I sprint very little.

The wrestling season (in high school) is at an end. The city banquet was the other day. Lootie won All-City title at 195. He was very pleased with this. We were all proud of his accomplishments this year. I still smile when I think of his phase of not wanting to touch people (how you accomplish this as a wrestler, yet to be determined) for an entire year. It led to him getting beat more than he’d like. He got over that, and has enjoyed the sport ever since.

Here’s the team. A good group of kids.

Lootie, after one of his matches, wearing his new headgear that wasn’t quite adjusted accordingly yet. Thankfully it didn’t cost him the match.

Kinda weird watching my little freaks become men.

Sophia was over yesterday with some boyfriend drama (really wish she didn’t bring it here), but after the initial blowout of emotions, we sat down to some of Lootie’s favorite soup (Italian Sausage Soup, AKA Olive Garden Zuppa Toscana Soup, just her and I, and chatted.

We chatted! I’m sure many people chat with their 21 year old daughters, but it’s been a rocky road for us. Chatting about simple things can even be taken for granted. I didn’t even realize we were chatting about books and friends and soups – and not jobs, boyfriends and other stressful topics. I’m really thankful for that chat. I needed that chat.

I digress, eh?

So Carlito informed me that I will be making Whoopie Pies for the team banquet tonight. I made them this summer for Dante’s graduation  Now I realize I never even posted them here. That’s how often I post. Ahem. Anyway, he requested those, here are the ones I made this past summer. Our school colors are cardinal and gray.


(LATER) The ones above looked better than they tasted, in my opinion, but the kids loved them. This time I made them with less filling and no sprinkles. They were still gobbled up. I couldn’t seem to bring myself to eat one. I tried a bite and that was enough. I haven’t had much as the way of sweets go lately. Mostly chocolates, a McDonald’s cone, or a Skinny Cow sandwich. These weren’t on the top of my list to eat.

The banquet went well and everyone had a nice time. I can’t believe it is another season gone by for Carlito. Since my parents retiring and moving and Dante graduating, I still feel like I’ve been catapulted forward through time on a continual basis. Now the twins will be moving on to high-school in a few short months and what-what?! Even Carlito will joke saying, “You guys are going into 7th grade next year, right?” They ignore him.



Boys Are Noisy

Teenaged  boys can be just as noisy as girls. Maybe worse. Because when their voices start to drop deep, they carry. Far.

They talk with their mouths and their bodies, scrambling, running, kicking, shoving, wrestling, flopping, throwing, hitting.

When your bedroom is right beneath the living room, and they are sleeping (4 of them) right above you, the ground shakes when they laugh. Because they don’t just laugh. They convulse. The lightbulbs in my ceiling fan shake.

Because they watch a movie with this song in it, play it over and over for hours, then one of them (Sal) has an earworm for three days that he can’t shake.

Because you then, in turn, develop the ear worm. It’s not a good one.

Did I mention boys eat a lot?

Thankful For Weekends

A lot of people are doing the “Thankful Thirty” this month, and I contemplated doing it, but frankly I don’t blog, tweet or facebook enough to manage. I suppose I could do it online in my paper journal. As I type this out, I realize I probably should simply for discipline’s sake. It is good to be thankful, to pick out the positive, and to massage the optimist within. It’s healthy.

Last weekend Frank had off. We went and watched Dante wrestle (his first ever college matches). It was an exciting, nerve-wracking experience. My heart swelled with pride, but also of longing. I miss my college-aged son. In the same breath that I “miss” each child, moments, segments of life that hang in time– I enjoy the dynamic that new life phases bring. It is exciting to watch my older two young adults take on life, figuring out who they are. A bleeding, swelling heart. Again, I am pushing and pulling each and every day of my life.

Saturday was spent in the car, driving hours away to watch the matches; Sunday we took to the outdoors and explored a local spot that we’ve visited before, but always in winter.

There is a small chapel on the land that was once a farm, now a public park. The owner agreed to donate the land as long as the chapel stayed. We’ve been there many times (almost always after dark), but have never seen the chapel. The hike up brought muscles to warm on a steady incline. On a peaceful day the chapel at the top and the view surrounding would have been the first slice of fresh air on a nice trek through some very manageable paths. But on that day it was laden with Boy Scouts who were on a treasure hunt, and weekenders on the same mission as we were. Inside the chapel, a Scout poked at one of the statue’s heart (a saint) saying, “Ewww. Ugggggggggly. Look at that heart.” He checked off something on his list and they ran screaming to the overlook. Kind of killed the moment.

The chapel is small.

The boys felt our hike should have ended there. They were wrong.

Franny created his own path down the hill while the rest of us took the same route to return to the fork in the path. Sal was overly concerned that we would have search parties to find his twin brother.

We did not.

We found a spider that was definitely not indigenous to the land.

When we came to the bottom of the hill, we took another trail that we figured would take about a half hour and bring us back to the beginning. Half-way through, we came to the warming hut where we have our winter picnics. The boys were spent and wanted to head back using the familiar route. I asked them a few questions to determine that they knew where they were going, and told them to go that way and we would meet them back there. Frank and I wanted to explore new territory.

We didn’t hurry.

After walking to the lake, we were faced with going back to the car through the prairie, or to retrace our steps back through the woods. We chose the woods. I’m not much of a prairie person; I like the hills hidden in the trees.

I posted the picture below on Facebook, too. As we trotted down the hill, I heard a noise that I thought was a branch falling. But it was this man, coming up behind us with his poles. He breathed a chipper greeting when he passed, and continued on his healthy clip right past us, generating more steam as he pushed up the hill. Inspired, I challenged Frank to run up that last hill with me. He shook his head. I started, and the dog (who Frank was leading), took off behind me, forcing him to join in.

We made it.

The kids were waiting, taking in the view, some more patient than others.

I sat with Sal on the bench, and we ate our cheese sticks. I didn’t want it to end. Time is short. Every age and stage in life is different. A Sunday hike with a 13 year old is different than one with a 15 year old, as it is different with one that is over 18, or under 8. I can’t say that any is better or preferred. They are all good. They are all something to cherish.

First Day of School

Yesterday’s breakfast: oatmeal pancakes, parmesan garlic eggs, sausages.

Well. Technically today’s breakfast as well, since I just chowed down on some leftovers before the boys devoured them all. Everything was good, except for the eggs. They weren’t so good second day. I put a little dollop of plain yogurt and some maple syrup on my pancakes (like my mom used to do). Yummy.

Today is (technically) the first day of school, though it feels nearly like any other, since nobody in this house is going to school today. Lootie is a sophomore, and only freshmen go the first day. The twins are in 8th grade, and only the 6th graders attend the first day. So the boys are still stuffed under their comforters, cozy as can be. Which is why I was puzzled at the knots of worry and excitement in my tummy. Spring and fall always do this to me. Anxieties. Weirdness. It is a reminder of the passage of time, something I nearly always want to slow down.

We dropped Dante off for college yesterday, just Frank and I. This time it was “for real” – the others were just trial runs, really. We moved him in last week, but we knew he was coming home the following weekend for the holiday, to see his girlfriend off, and to pick up things he might have forgotten. This time, though, this was the real deal. We don’t have any set plans of when we’ll pick him up. He’s starting school today. He’s officially a college student.

I am incredibly happy, proud, excited (for him), and have a million flutters of great joy. It is all overshadowed by sadness. Not true sadness. Just greif. Maybe how people feel when their daughters go off and get married. Or.. sort of. I’m not sure. But I know I just have to work through this to get to the other side, because this experience is an amazing one for him. But I miss my little boy. You turn a corner when you send them to kindergarten, and then you turn another one when you send them to college. It’s a big milestone.

Franny slept in Dante’s bed last night. I kind of felt like doing the same thing. I didn’t, though. Really! But I did look around the room, stifled back a sniff. Took a deep breath. That coupled with this being the last year for my youngest before high school. OY. I’m feeling it. Feeling it a lot. Reminding myself to focus on the small moments, stretch time. Be present. All those good phrases that pop out of magazines, books and websites about savoring the moment, yanno.






Here I think I’m doing so much better at blogging, and then I look at my last post and realize that a month has nearly gone by. “Busy” has been the word, bird.

The school year ended. Big D graduated (my first one). It was almost surreal. I’ve been trying to pay attention to each moment, so that kept me from panicking too much. From, well, from slobbering all over myself. I’m such an emotionally-charged person. For years I’ve worked on stuffing my emotions down (probably some self-preservation, guarding). Sometimes I wonder who I am, this person who stands back rather than pushing forward, is nervous at times where I would be fully open and outgoing. I don’t like it. I’ve realized this. My self-preservation mode has brought me to a point where, at times, I’m simply no longer ME. Too often. So when he walked across that stage and grabbed his diploma, instead of blubbering to the ground in a heap of salty tears, I screamed out loud and smiled. I let the joy bubble over. What else is joy supposed to do?

He who never smiles let some joy shine through, too:

Jease. I started out wanting to share a yummy recipe these popsicles I made, and now I have to table that because I’m racing off in another direction. Once. Again. Oh well. Who pays the bills ’round here? Exactly.

I didn’t graduate, not like this. I was pregnant and married when my graduating classed walked across the stage. I suppose I could have continued in school, but I didn’t want to. I was truly ready to move on, excited to go to college more than I was wanting to go back to high-school. I finished up outside of school, and moved on. I missed the experience, though. For a few years I wondered if I should have gone back. It played on my mind a bit. But eventually the present times overrode that desire. I continued on to college instead and found satisfaction there. But still – I haven’t graduated college! It’s on my list of things to do. But I do want more for my kids. Doesn’t every parent? My oldest didn’t graduate, so this was my first experience with a child walking across the stage. It isn’t mandatory, but it is symbolic. The younger brothers got to experience it (they haven’t before). Frank and I got to (I never have). It is closure, but also an open door. Everyone went, from Sophia to the twins. We experienced the joy, the sadness, the nervousness, the excitement — together.


Graduation kept us busy. Two days later – graduation party. It went well. More on that next time.


Simple Shortbread Recipe (Super Easy)

Memorial Day weekend flew by. Well, not really. I shouldn’t say that. We were out of town with the boys, and it was time nicely spent. Both Dante and Franny had state soccer tournaments for three days straight, one game a day, Saturday through Monday. Dante hasn’t played soccer all season, but stepped in with his old team to help with this tournament. Franny’s been playing with the same team ever since coming back after his leg break. Dante’s age group is all graduating, heading to college; Franny’s is splitting up. Dante most likely won’t have another game with this group, Franny has only a couple left. It was bittersweet. Though both boys would be separating from their respective teams,  instead of yukking it up with their teammates, we ended up spending most of our time together as a family.

Franny, waiting for his game.

Things are shifting, changing. Dante will be going to college next year and his brothers will miss him dearly (as will we). They know this. Darn, I’m going to get teary in a post I’m actually writing about shortbread? What the heck? But, well, it is there. It is touching that the boys, knowing they are rounding off their seasons, chose to spend time with each other over the weekend, together rather than apart. We watched their games together during the day, and caught the Brewer’s baseball series on TV during the evenings at the hotel. Not bad. Relaxing together slowed things down a bit, the weekend not being entirely rushed from field to field and event after event.

I took some pictures, but not a lot. Seems like I’m feast or famine with pictures. I’ve got thousands or I’ve got only a few. As the kids get older, and continue through these life stages, it is nice to have a camera on hand. But it is also nice to sit and savor the moment, too, without the distraction of trying to catch it on film. You can soak up the warmth of the sun on your skin, how good it felt, but you can’t adequately capture it to disk.


Yesterday I spent the majority of my day baking bread and doing laundry (hanging it out to line-dry). Sunny, windy days just scream for me to hang laundry on the line. It was a rhythmic day. Load in, load out, load up, knead and stretch, knead and stretch, rising, shaping, baking, hanging, taking down… cooling off, working up to a sweat, cooling off, working up to a sweat.

I loved it.

Not wanting to figure out a meal, I took out some meatballs from the freezer (they tasted a bit better in the sauce – I’m the critic, though, everyone else liked them), threw them in the crockpot with a couple jars of sauce and called it dinner. We ate almost as soon as the boys got home. After dinner was served, they all headed off to soccer practice. I knew they would be hungry when they got home. For some reason strawberry shortcake kept coming to mind. After taking a load of towels off the lines, I ran to the store to score some heavy cream and strawberries. Instead, I made out with tilapia filets, heavy cream and a loaf of bread (I know I baked bread – don’t ask). Strawberry crates were ridiculously small, moldy and overpriced. I knew I had some frozen blueberries at home and they would do just fine.

I found a shortcake recipe online and based my recipe off of that. I say “based” because there were a few things I just had to tweak, like the entire cup full of butter the recipe calls for. I couldn’t bring myself to do it. But, skeptical at first, this recipe made a believer out of me. It was pretty easy, and everyone loved it. There is no need for Bisquick when you have an easy recipe like this.

Simple One-Bowl Shortcake
[makes 12]

3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 stick butter [1/2 cup – cold]
2/3 cup heavy cream
1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, and baking powder. Cut butter into small cubes; add to bowl.
Cut butter into the flour with a pastry blender or two knives. I just went in there with my hands, pinching and squeezing the butter into the flour. Stir in cream and egg. Continue to knead, right there in the bowl. The dough will come together, forming a nice ball [think cookie dough]. Take large egg-sized handfuls, flatten them in your hand and place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving 2 inches in between. No need to be pretty – I made mine quite craggy and sloppy– they’re better that way! You should have 12. If some are bigger, snag a bit of a bigger one and slap it on a smaller one. Again – you don’t need to be pretty about it.
Bake in preheated oven 20 minutes, or until golden.

Sorry, no pictures. We ate these warm in a bowl with berries and fresh whipped cream on top. They were yummy.

Need help with the berries?
While shortcakes are baking, take about 3 cups of frozen blueberries [or other berries – I used frozen blueberries, and mixed berries]; add to saucepan. Sprinkle with 1T sugar [or more if you’re a sweet freak]. Heat on medium-low, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Turn to low to keep warm, giving them a stir with a spoon every now and then. Note: If you like a thicker sauce, you can sprinkle the berries with 1/2 T. flour in the beginning when you add the sugar.

December Dailies 8-9-10

I should have just named this month “December Wrestling Blog” because that is what it is turning out to be. Yesterday was high-school wrestling, today is a high-school wrestling tournament, and tomorrow is youth wrestling.

Tonight, though, is also Bookclub Dinner Out night, which I am very much looking forward to. Every time we meet, we put dues of $2.32 in our “can” and we are finally breaking into that puppy and putting it to good use. Though I will be at the tournament all day, I will meet up with the ladies for drinks and dinner and hopefully some karaoke after. Hooray.

I’ll just have to keep it on my mind that I need to get up early the next morning and drive 45 minutes to a tournament.

This morning I woke up at 6am and took Bowzer for a walk, anticipating a long day and the need to immediately perk up my brain. It was cold, but once I trudged up the hill I warmed up immensely. My thighs, though, were feeling the numb/fire of the wind whipping against them in my pajama bottoms (yes, I went there with myself). In fact, an hour later and they are still thawing out.

Animal Control

We had a nice Thanksgiving. Thanksgivings, I suppose I could say. With Frank and I being off, and the kids being off I hardly know my head from a hole in the ground. Eating, sleeping, merriment, a bit of shopping (in store and online)… it is quite enjoying. I can handle this. I also think I’m getting old, because I could be sleeping in, too (11am is a nice time to finally roll out of bed on a lazy day for me), but I’m waking up between 7-8am. I’ve been trying to lay around in the bed until 9am to at least grasp on to the feeling of being a teenager with the abandon of sleeping until my parents throw buckets of water on my face.

Didn’t work.

I’m up, showered and having coffee, load of laundry going… Frank’s vacuuming (getting ready to bring the tree up). Help us.

I was talking about Thanksgiving, though, wasn’t I? Ah yes. I don’t get a lot of pictures of my oldest child since she’s off “exploring her freedoms.” But this one was nice. Great-grandma was coming up to the door trying to navigate the stairs, and as Frank and Dante (and Carlito, sort of) helped her up the stairs and safely in the house, I asked Sophia to be on dog control. I took pictures of her misery.

dog control

The dogs were, naturally, excited to be part of the festive day (our dog is in her left arm, pleased to have not been left home – the host’s dog is in her right arm), and happily humping and playing to their heart’s content. Being picked up and taken from their play didn’t make them so happy.

dog control not working

Shortly after I took this picture I had to take one of the dogs. Shortly after that I let it go. It was like a furry piggy, squirming and bucking (like in the picture).

I am happy to say, however, that with the abundance of children running around the house making noise, it was both inviting and valuable. Sophia announced earnestly, about 3 hours into our visit, that the evening was the BEST BIRTH CONTROL SHE’S EVER HAD. Being one of the last of her friends that hasn’t yet made their mother a grandmother,  I was OK with that proclamation.


I’d love to take a photography class. A few years ago I purchased a Nikon D3000 and a lens, pooling both mine and Frank’s birthday money together. He was OK with it, don’t worry. Though I’m very happy with the pictures I can take, I know I could get better pictures with more consistency if I knew more about my camera’s settings. It is Dante’s senior year of high school and, of course, I’d like to get some decent shots of him in his final high school games. Thankfully when the season started it was light out longer and I’ve been able to get a few pictures. But the shots under the stadium lights are, for the most part, blurry. The only good ones are still shots, like below.

Nothing going on, all after the play because the real shots, the ones I wanted and took prior to this one are all blurred.

This is where I kick myself for wanting and wishing and not DOING. I need to be more on the action side of things. Less wanting and wishing, more accomplishing.

It has been a joy watching him play and grow. Starting as a freshmen on varsity with nervous energy and anticipation. Over the years he’s forgotten his jersey, struggled balancing academics and athletics, had to warm the bench a few times for different (tame) reasons, forgotten a brand new pair of $200 cleats at a tournament (that was a fun one – we never saw those cleats again), scored an amazing goal against a team we “just don’t score against,” the list goes on. Now, finishing off as a senior, unsure if he was even going to play soccer this year. Senior year is all about decisions, you know. Too many of them, really.

I can’t believe it has actually been that long, four years, and that we are really at this point, but there it is. I’m thankful that we put our money into that camera. It has followed us on vacations, celebrations, holidays, around the house, and to many sporting events, capturing moments of time for us to remember them a little more clearly as our brains become foggier. With five kids steamrolling through the teenage years, it is easy to “get through each day,” anticipating the squares heavily scheduled on the calendar, wondering how we will manage them. Once we accomplish the day, and it is behind us — onto the next adventure! Those days are like putting pizza in a blender and sucking it through a straw. Everything is blurry, jumbled, and easily forgotten fairly soon after.

Slow it down, carve a memory in the mind. Savor, don’t snarf. Enjoy each bite. Even if everything surrounding that moment is blurry. Clarity amongst the chaos. 

Strings Concert

Tonight the twins had a strings concert. It isn’t the first strings concert I’ve been to, but it is the first one they have performed at as old middle schoolers. I didn’t really have to push them to sign up for strings in middle school, it was rather a natural transition. They haven’t practiced at home, but they have not complained and asked to drop the course. I guess it is a happy medium.

See, I don’t command that the kids play, practice and hone an instrument, but I do prefer them to try it for a few years through school. OK, I forced them all to play strings in 4th-5th, and be in a music course in middle school.  All of the kids have played in strings for at least two years. So far, none have continued on much longer than that. Generally after strings, they are given a choral or band choice to try (middle school). After that, I don’t push it anymore. So, they were exposed for a period of time. If they come back to it, great. If they don’t… not so great. But I’m not going to ground them over it right now.

The twins are my only instrument players at this time, although Lootie is asking for an Ocarina for Christmas (HUGE Zelda fan, gets obsessed with and runs on obsessions every few years [learning Chinese, ghost-hunting…]) I was quite happy to go watch the twins play. Part of it was just feeding off their own enthusiasm. Sal has been talking about it since strings started, counting down the days in a rather casual but persistent manner. Franny was just excited to be up there playing in front of an audience.

As the day grew close, the boys started to plan their mode of attack, since their schedule was pretty tight. First indoor soccer game was the same day, directly preceding the concert. Both events were of major importance to the boys. The game, because they finally got to play on a team together; the concert because it is a performance for goodness sake. The plan was to pack their clothes, play their game (hopefully not get sweaty and stinky, even thought hey knew they would), jet cross town to school, and be ready to play at 7pm.

Story of our lives.

The request from the strings teacher was black pants, white shirt. Easy enough. Franny had a pair of black dress pants, Sal… well, I picked him up a pair of pants at Savers a few days ago and mom hemmed them up on short request. I left it to their responsibility to put their outfits together, make sure they had everything, and pile in the car for the game.

Here is what we ended up with:

Sal (black pants, plaid shirt)

Franny (all black)

Whaddaya do? I was hoping there would be more screwball kids in the mix, but no. All white shirts, black bottoms. Except for one girl who wore tennis-shoe, knee-high laced boots that were black and white, and the rest of her clothing was gray. I could have been upset, but I wasn’t. We were there. They were playing. Having fun. Life goes on.

Sal, I noticed, didn’t look at the sheet music once and played all by memory (that’s how I was/am). I didn’t ask him, but I do wonder if he reads the sheet music or plays by ear. I could read, in a pinch, but playing by ear was my mode of learning. Franny, for sure, reads the music. He smiled and chatted with friends– at appropriate times — and did a little head-banging when they played, “We Will Rock You” at the end. They both got to bring their instruments home, something I did not expect. I requested a concert and a few tips. They played songs in their boxes. What a pleasant night.

I tend to get stressed out over things like this– what time will we get there, what about their messy hair, are they wearing the right clothes, will they play OK, can they leave early like the rest of the 6th graders, ohmysweedgoodness Sal is wearing plaid, should I be forcing them into lessons… on and on I can worry about all sorts of things. Last night I tried to just live in the moment, enjoy my quirky little freaks, and not obsess/worry about anything else; just enjoy.

It worked, for the most part.