A Mommy Blog About Raising Men, Not Boys.
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Monday, December 28, 2015

We've Got A Long Way To Go...

I decided last week that I was going to get back on focusing on making myself more healthy as of today. I was at a record low number the day before Dad died, and then I ate like Jabba ever since. I hit a number and managed to hover and there I've been since November.  I decided that through the holidays I was going to be content to just HOVER there. A pound up, a pound down this way or that and I didn't mind. I wasn't going to go berserk, I was going to eat and enjoy my holidays but not graze and stuff myself.

I failed a bit on that last part but mostly I didn't. I didn't work out much, I didn't focus on water, I just let myself exist. It was intense relief, not considering my food all fucking day I have to admit it.

Today however I'm back on it. I did have sugar in my coffee and no regrets but even that will have to go except for maybe once in a while. It's time to get serious again. I know I'm not ever going to be model thin. I sometimes say I want to lose another 100 pounds but that's not really realistic I know. However I'm going to shoot for that number and somewhere along the way I think I'll find the place that feels right.

What I want is to be healthy. I want to diminish my risks for things like diabetes (Dad and Mom had it), of liver and kidney disease (Mom had it), heart disease (Dad had it). I know I can't ever completely eradicate them but I can't accept that I didn't TRY.

So I'm trying. Or - I'm doing, as it were.

Not eating a ton of junk is the easy part to me. I'm always just sort of hungry and I've learned to deal with that. I think that hunger is mental and it fades into real hunger and I try to eat things that aren't total crap and deal with the fact that I would over eat every opportunity I have, if I let myself. So, I don't let myself.

Working out is the struggle.

I could go on about how much I fucking hate it but there's no point. This body needs it. But you can't just go full tilt back into where you were because bodies don't work like that. That's how you get hurt. I decided to do circuit training tonight on the total gym and set the timer at 30 minutes, thinking "If I can just do 20 tonight...just 20 minimum." I knew I wouldn't make the full 30 as the muscle fatigue began to wear me down. My legs began to get numb and ache at the same time, my shoulders and arms began to scream. I thought god I have to be about done right? It's been along time...

I glanced at my timer...17 minutes.

OH GOD ONLY 17 minutes in and I don't even know if I can keep going UGH STUPID BODY WITH NO MUSCLE TONE WHY ARE YOU SO WEAK???

Now maybe it's because I was a music major, or maybe it's WHY I was a music major but music always plays a huge part in how I feel, and I always find that sometimes a song can push me this way or that. It can make me sadder, it can make me stronger, it can make me consider my life even a ridiculous pop song can sometimes say things to me I doubt were truly intended. Music makes my world a better place, and I can't count the number of times a song has randomly come on that changed me at that moment.

So there I am, pulling pulling on the total gym, muscle fatigue taking over, shaking in all my extremities and I think "DAMMIT 17 DAMN MINUTES REALLY???" when it happens. The plucking and planking of banjo and suddenly blasting through my Pandora 70s Country Music channel....

JERRY REED....Eastbound and Down.....

You wanna know where I found another 3 minutes I needed to at least get to 20 minutes for my work out today? From that hillbilly Jerry Reed twanging his guitar and suddenly I'm singing along and busting my ass because BY GOD I am getting to 20 minutes.

I've got a long way to go, and a short time to get there.

Just put that hammer down and give it hell...

Hell yes.

20 minutes. Done.

Thanks Jerry.



Sunday, December 27, 2015

On The First Day or Christmas...

Santa came, and the magic happened Christmas morning. My favorite part of Christmas presents is noting how much someone loves what you chose, and how sometimes they seem more interested in something you didn't work too hard on but the thing you really thought was amazing they're like meh. It's not bad, it's just an interesting phenomenon to watch. For instance, Baymax here is a favorite of two children who have now agreed to joint custody because no one can agree who he belongs to.
Who knew?
It was a Star Wars themed holiday on many fronts (AND THAT IS FURTHER PROOF THAT ALL IS RIGHT WITH THE WORLD IN MY OPINION) and everyone was pretty happy with that.
...even if Kylo Ren is a little bitch and really just the worst, but I'll hush because SPOILERS.
Elsa came to live with us and there were lots of fan favorites, and I think everyone was pretty happy in general. For me it was a bittersweet day. Today for the first time since I moved out I didn't call my parents. I couldn't sleep the night before. Christmas Eve I lay in bed feeling ill. I felt like Christmas couldn't come. How could Christmas even come without my Mom and Dad? I hadn't realized last winter as Mom came out of the hospital that all the "illness" she was having was end stage liver failure. I feel like someone should've said something to us, but maybe they told her and she didn't feel like telling it. We'll never know.

Watching the kids just have a normal day, an amazing Christmas full of the magic and joy that is that day was hard. It's hard to imagine how my kids don't feel this empty space, but I'm glad they don't. I'm glad no one else feels this at my house. The silence is deafening.
Christmas isn't about things. It's about love, and family, and remembering what is important.  It's about knowing that time is finite and every moment matters. My husband did this amazing job of creating that sort of Christmas for me this year. I think he knew that I was just plodding forward and trying to keep my shit together, even though most days I wasn't "feeling" very Christmassy.
The girl got an American Girl doll, which my mother always wanted her to have. They created them when I was a little too old for them, which I think made my mom sad. She asked me more than once if I wanted one, and always would add "I know you're a little old for them." I always turned her down. I wish I hadn't. So Julia has her first one, and now we can do all the things my mom and I used to talk about doing such as go to the Cafe with the doll. And buy the things for her from the catalog - my mom got the catalog for years, and I know she loved it as much as my nieces. 
My husband tickled my fancy with one of the toys from my childhood and we might just break it out today, the PLAYSKILLS set from Readers Digest. It had a ton of games and activities for people to do with their children. My grandmother ordered it and told me to go play with it. Heh, not exactly how it was supposed to work but oh well. 
My living room is trashed. There is a crazy race track set up taking up a huge amount of space. Half of my children and playing with strange and random toys.
And that was how Christmas was. My first Christmas as an orphan was spent surrounded with love, with the family that my husband and I have built over the past 18 years, My children practically glowed with the fun of what they got as gifts, and as the day wore on their joy at playing together was evident. I can't remember the last time they all sat down on the floor to play something, but that giant race track was something everyone loved.
Is something - it's still set up.

Today I have about 100000 things I want to accomplish but I feel like I'm not going to do any of them and maybe that's ok. Maybe today I'm just going to relax and enjoy the fact that I have a house, a family, plenty to eat, a great career and more than enough recreation in my life.

It's the most wonderful time of year. 

No really, it is. 

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas Thunder

I awoke on both Christmas Eve and Christmas morn to the sound of thunder. (how far off I sat and wondered). It's pouring rain with flood watches and we've had the AC on for two days. At least in Florida it would be properly sunny and hot, this "I'm not really winter but I'm not lovely weather either" business is the worst.
Regardless of the weather that made no sense, we had to get ready for the arrival of Santa! And Santa needs FUEL!
Gingerbread was our choice of Santa fuel this year, and everyone except Charlie wanted to participate. Charlie doesn't like to do anything that smells like work.
I should've given baths after cookie making, as they got messy. Oh well. Julia insisted on making Santa a heart shaped cookie so he would know she loves him.
Miles however is always is always ready to help when it's baking or cooking time. He knows what to do and is ready to participate, but he needed a little help from Louis getting the cookie out of the cutter.
I had put out the "Christmas" themed cutters but Miles and Julia both had their own ideas, and Miles chose a flower -to go with Julia's heart cookie, I guess. But he said flower and was excited about it so, hey, why not?

Louis had to make sure we made some Ninjabread men (thank you Kristine, they're still a hoot) and so with that we got our assembly line of cutting going.
While the cookies cooled I cleaned up a bit and did some other things and while time passed, it seems like a little mouse came in and demolished two cookies and left this one reminder that he was there...
That HAD been a perfect heart cookie for Santa...thank goodness we cut more than one of them. I'm not sure who the mouse was, but strangely, shortly after this tragedy was noticed Charlie appeared desperately needing water. Hmmmm...
Once cooled it was a family effort to get them iced. Julia declared that she had to ice hers pink and put a J on it with decorative candies so Santa would know it was from her.
How could he not know?

We ended our night with much needed parental eggnog, and the nonbooze version for Louis and Charlie. We had some Shrek Christmas on the TV.
I am not sure what Charlie likes more, the eggnog or the homemade whipped cream. Every year we make it homemade and every year I wonder why anyone would ever buy it. Homemade is really just the best, most brilliant thing.
Julia drug out the advent calendars and set to work hunting the number 24. The candy in them is just terrible, I'm kind of surprised. I guess the only ones I ever had in my youth were from Germany and had German chocolate in them. Maybe I will order them from overseas next time?
We set out our special heart shaped cookie and milk and headed to bed. Thunder boomed throughout the night on and off but I don't think Santa much cared.
When I awoke, magic had taken place over night.
And now I wait for the munchkins to awake...

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Christmasaurus Rex

It was too warm to be Christmas holidays but we went down on Saturday to the Fernbank to spend some time and maybe catch some of their activities.
I'm not sure, why but I think we could go to the Fernbank every day and the kids would like. I guess dinosaurs are that magical. They have a lot of other things, but there's something about the dinosaurs that is just undeniable.
They had a Christmas tree scavenger hunt and Julia proudly found all of the items on the trees. She then told the docent that she had found them all and it was ok to put them away, the game was over. Apparently the game was just for her.
Fernbank is someplace we've been coming since we moved here, and I've kind of watched my kids grow up in this place, taking the same pictures over and over through time since back when we were five instead of six.
I'm glad we went but I wish we went more, and maybe that's something we'll do a better job of in the new year. Since Mom and Dad died I've just been hard to motivate. I want to do stuff and make things awesome with the kids but I find myself unable to think much past the chair I'm sitting in a lot of the time.
I asked my mom once, a long time ago, how she managed to not just completely fall apart when our baby died. She told me she didn't have that luxury, she had me, she had to keep going the best she could because she had a little girl who needed her.

That's kind of me right now. I'm keeping going the best I can. I'm moving forward and trying to do things and not always succeeding but every single day I just want to lay in my bed.
That's not true now that I think about it. It's not true that I want to lay in my bed. I don't know what I want. So I try to keep going and keep moving and I figure it'll sort out eventually. I don't have the luxury of falling apart. I have four little children who need me, and I won't fail them.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

You Can't Ruin Star Wars With Spoilers

One Day in 1977, somewhere shortly after May 25th my dad did something unusual. He walked in the house and said "We've got to go to the movies, there's this new movie everyone is talking about and we need to go see it." My dad liked gangster movies, he liked Mel Brooks comedies, he was not a sci-fi guy. If Star Trek was on he was likely to turn it over. So this new movie that he wanted to see was likely to be something like that.


I sat beside my dad at the Artcraft theater and drank a suicide and ate popcorn and I can remember exactly how it felt as those words scrolled up the screen, and that music burst into life from the speakers around the room. OH MY GOD WHAT IS THIS was pretty much the sentiment - even from my dad.

After the movie we went to the pizza king, and I had a Mello Yello and my dad had a pitcher of beer (himself) and mom probably had a coke I can't even remember. We ate pizza and we talked about the movie the whole time, my dad and mom were as excited as I was. "How do you think they DID that?" my dad wondered about various effects we now take for granted and find primitive.

It was this amazing, happy day that I've never forgotten.

Star Wars is really just a western in space, the simplest good vs. evil story, the elements aren't that outlandish, the characters built on classics we all know, the damsel in distress, the rogue, the older mentor, the bad guy, the young man coming of age. People who don't love it well they are just soulless beasts and it's best just not to even talk about them. Let's pity them, because they don't feel the magic, they can't absorb the wonder of this simple story told so well.

You can't ruin it for me with spoilers because it's magic. I didn't even hate the first three when they came out. I can acknowledge the camp of Jar Jar and how it wasn't really a necessary part of the story. I'm not offended, I do cringe a bit. I can acknowledge that Hayden Christensen is a pretty terrible actor. But I refer you back to Star Wars and defy you to call Mark Hamill a thespian. I love him the same. He got better, Hayden Christensen did not. I don't care much.

I saw Star Wars in it's original run four or five times. At that point it didn't occur to me that seeing these movies over and over was going to be a theme, at that point to me this movie was singular and I couldn't get enough.

I saw Empire about 12 times in it's original run. I saw it so many times my mom said I'd seen it enough and told me to quit going to see it.

I saw Jedi some stupid number of times. By then I was old enough for my mom not to care. Going to see Jedi was as casual as going to get burger and fries - hey what are you doing? Wanna go see Jedi again? Ok cool. It was just understood by then, you were gonna go, and go, and go. At least in my circles it was.

You can't ruin it because Star Wars is my happy place. I have toys in the original boxes (or I did). I used to have ALL of the McDonalds glasses - damn I wonder where they are. Star Wars will turn me into a little girl again when the music starts and the words roll. We've got our tickets, and at 12:30 on Friday I'll be seated waiting for that magic to start.

So go ahead, blurt it all over the internet that Padme back and is a sith lord, or that Luke is Kilo Ren, or that C3P0 is a woman or whatever it is that's out there. My friends in Europe already know, I'm kind of jealous.

But as for me, you can't ruin it for me. You don't have the power to ruin Star Wars for me even if you told me every single spoiler in the film.

You have no power here, spoilers. These are not the droids you are looking for. Move along.

Honestly though, I'd rather have a purple lightsaber.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Divinity Inspired

When I was little there was a shop still open downtown that was a leftover from the days of bobbiesocks and saddle shoes. (The pic below is actually from there from the 40s)

It was a proper soda fountain and it had a jukebox that hadn't been updated in more than a decade. They did serve some odd sandwiches, the usual assortment of soda fountain drinks and snack type foods. But the thing that was the best there was the CANDY.

Mom and I didn't have a car so we'd walk downtown to go shopping while dad was at work. We'd go to the dime store (Woolworth's), the fabric store and anywhere else she needed to stop. For a treat, we'd go to Nick's.

At Nick's we'd get ONE of something because we weren't rich. I would choose a chocolate of some sort, probably a maple cream because his were truly the butteriest, meltiest maple creams ever made. My  mom would always choose divinity. We'd walk home together, later we'd be pushing Matt's stroller, and she'd talk about how hard divinity is to make and that was why she always got it there instead of making it.

One day I tried it and I was hooked. Divinity is a weird vanilla-sugar pillow of sweetness that is chewy and sticky and honestly it's just delicious when made well. When made poorly it's still really good.

This Christmas I decided I would make divinity.
True things that happened while making this yesterday.

  1. I separated eggs with my hand like a damn chef on Iron Chef or Chopped. 
  2. I made meringue for the first time ever - and it wasn't hard at all so what the hell is with people acting like that's a thing? Beat eggs. They fluff. 
  3. I realized they were not shitting that it would've been easier with a STAND mixer.
  4. Parchment paper is not wax paper. Ooops. I actually knew that, I just forgot which one I was using. I used the wrong one.
The recipe said that it might be too difficult with a hand mixer due to it would become very thick, and you have to mix for over ten minutes. I probably made the ten minutes but when my little cheapie hand mixer began to whine I called it. I was supposed to mix until it became no longer shiny - but honestly I couldn't go that long, I would've lost the mixer. 

I decided to pour it into a pan because I've always had divinity that was in a sheet and cut into squares and honestly this mixture was like fire hot velcro, you bring it up to hard ball stage before you drop it into the meringue. Getting this fiery mess into little pretty balls - I wasn't up to it. 

I chose the Betty Crocker recipe because it's always been my experience that if I don't know how to make something, the Betty Crocker version is for me. It said it had to sit for 12 hours and I was pretty disappointed into last night. It was more like taffy. I kept thinking, man, what did I do? I got the temperature right. Did I not get enough of the egg white into the bowl? Did I not make a big enough meringue (dude it was two eggs it would only get SO big).

WHAT DID I DO WRONG?

I woke up this morning, and while my coffee brewed I pulled out the pan, lined with misbegotten parchment paper, and SON OF A BITCH...

It's divinity.

I am so excited. It's not perfect like Nick's but it's my first pass at it. I am gonna try it again soon and it's going to be a lot better. I might even try to make little balls after all. 

Monday, December 07, 2015

Healthier Dessert Pshaw

Well we're doing a thing at work and it's themed UGLY SWEATERS and Healthier Dessert.

I was thinking a lot about what to make and remembered we had this really great thing at my mom's funeral. How weird is that? "What should I make, oh yes there was that lovely thing at mom's funeral let's make that!"

Except that it was really good. Don't get me wrong, it didn't look particularly good, but my brother said someone had brought it for the family dinner for him because he loves it. So I took some even though I'm not really eating a lot of sweets these days and damn. It was amazing.

My memory of this dessert is sitting at a table with my best friends in the world, the people who knew me before I was the me I am now, the people who still get me no matter what, and having this dessert. The whole day was so fucked up and surreal. My Aunt Suzie was spoon feeding my dad. The kids were running around and eating sweets like crazy, and frankly I was into it as well.

And this dessert, well damn it was just so good. "This is sinful," I declared.

So I decided today to make this "healthier". I think it's healthier than lard. That's my story and I'm sticking with it.

There are about a billion versions of this online, but I chose Rachel Ray's because I figure it should be good.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Sacrificial Pancakes Vs. Cookies

When I was a kid Grandpa Drake made the best pancakes on the planet Earth. It was the ultimate treat to wake up on a weekend morning at their house, especially in the winter, and have those hot steamy pancakes before going to church with Grandma. They were the best pancakes ever, and after he died I spent a good amount of time trying to recreate them.

Christa and I spent a lot of Saturdays or Sundays at Grandmas, making Aunt Jemima pancake mix, or Log Cabin pancake mix, always thinking our pancakes were quite tasty but never quite making the grade of "Grandpas" pancakes.

I always wondered if it was just the magic of it being GRANDPA that made them that caused them to be so good, but then one day I saw this.
OH.

Yeah.

There it is.

And forever after I had the magic within me as well to make pancakes.

I'm pretty good at it. I disagree with Alton Brown (sorry dude) and don't reduce the amount of butter in my pan because butter crispy goodness around the edges is part of what makes my pancakes AMAZING.  I've made a lot of pancakes over my 47 years, these days I usually make them for my family on a weekend or holiday, because some how actually making a proper breakfast has become a special event in this world but that's a whole other subject. (Not nother subject. Nother is not word.)

What I was thinking about this morning was this. When I bake cookies, cookies are this science of chemistry that you simply follow the instructions and they turn out properly. Baking is SCIENCE. Baking always works out if you do it all exactly as it says to do. (Aside - providing the recipe provides all the info you need, and you actually DID it all as it said no don't whine to me, you probably didn't did you? Admit it. You skipped stuff. You didn't combine wet and dry apart form one another did you?) Anyway, cooking usually looks like this at my house. It's a fun magical time of us combining things and delicious wonder occurs.
Then there's the matter at hand from this morning, PANCAKES.

What's the deal with pancakes that no matter how hard I try, how diligent I am at following the instructions there is always ONE sacrificial pancake?
I try to wait out to make sure it's been long enough to flip. I make sure the pan is properly hot before I drop batter in. I do everything I would do for every SUBSEQUENT PANCAKE  yet each and every time, in my entire pancake making existence, ONE PANCAKE GOES TO THE PANCAKE GODS.

Also, don't google PANCAKE GODS. Weird stuff shows up.

So every time I make pancakes, I try to save that first pancake. I do everything I can imagine but every time, every single farking time, the pancakes gods take their sacrifice. I must know that the first pancake will go awry somewhere in my heart, because I normally make them two at a time but that first one goes in solo. I've surrendered before I start I guess.

I guess I'm just glad there are no cookie gods, I would lose my mind if I lost a dozen cookies every single time I bake.
There you see the sacrificial pancake on the alter, surrounded by butter. We barely knew thee.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

That Ugly Fella

On September 11th 1977, back when that wasn't a bad day to think about, we had a family dinner at my grandmas and afterward we watched Bing Crosby's Merrie Olde Christmas or something like that. I sat on the floor coloring and playing with this really cool playset my grandma had gotten me from Readers Digest or something (totally a different post is warranted).

At some point in the show David Bowie comes on and they sing Little Drummer Boy together.

When that happens first of all, all the adults wonder who this is with Bing Crosby. My grandmother issues a great missive of distaste, "Oh land who is this ugly fella with Bing? Why would they have him on?" They all talked through most of it, being disappointed that some nobody was hogging up the song, disliking it 
In my memory of it, Bowie has on a sweater. Clearly that's wrong. Regardless, I remember two things. 
1. I remember thinking that David Bowie looked like he was standing on an alien planet. I didn't know at the time but this was an effort to make him more mainstream, so he was definitely ON an alien planet for him. I didn't know anything about him. I was 9. I just remember distinctly feeling like he wasn't where he should be, that somehow he didn't belong in this setting and that it wasn't because he was ugly.
2. I was amazed how beautiful his voice was, despite the noisy adults in the room.

He was quickly forgotten by me until years later, when I remembered the ugly fella and the awkward Christmas special.

None of that much matters in the grand scheme, but last night driving home and listening to this beautiful duet it occurred to me that from that moment in time - when I sat quietly playing on the floor while the adults scoffed at this performance, I'm the last one alive.

My great grandmother, grandmother, great uncle, mother and father were also in the room. They're all dead. No one but me remembers that night, that meal, that conversation.  I'm the lone survivor of this one night, and in fact of 1000s of them that just haven't been called to the surface yet.

What a disturbing thought.


I Bet You Didn't Know

Sometimes I forget that I had my parents for 11 years before Matt came along. I have 11 years of information and knowledge and experiences that didn't include him. Once someone joins your family I think it's hard to realize they weren't always there. But I was thinking last night about all the things that happened when I was singular and how those are memories he doesn't have, and Pete doesn't either. Matt has memories from when I left home, and Pete has memories from when we both were gone I'm sure. But those first 11 years, when my parents were so young, I wish sometimes that they had ever seen them as they were then.

Such as:

  • My father used to run. Hard to believe if you knew him but he did. He refereed High School athletics and usually about two months before he'd start, he'd start running. He'd put on hilarious 70s style running gear and head out. He'd come home and drill calisthenics in the back yard. He'd drop fifty pounds seemingly overnight.When he was in his 20s, even being fat wasn't a deterrent he knew no restrictions - he just did it.
  • My mom belonged to a ladies bridge club and had special card and serving dishes that all coordinated. They would all dress up and mom would set up several card tables when she hosted. She would set up an lovely table of snacks and drinks and it was the most elegant thing I ever saw when I was really little. I had to stay in my room when it was being held at our house, and not bother the ladies. 
  • My parents were addicted to gardening and my mom canned everything in site. When I was really little we even had homemade ketchup (gross btw) and applesauce all the time. We usually didn't have vegetables from the store until it was late winter and we'd eaten up all the stockpile.
  • They laughed all the time and liked each other. 
  • We socialized as a family, we'd go to other people's houses all the time and visit, and they'd visit us. It was very normal to always have a house full of people who were there for a meal or party.
  • Mom had a closet full of very fancy shoes, gloves and hats. She got the shoes out for bridge parties but I never saw her wear the hats. They were amazingly gorgeous and I wish I at least had the hat boxes but I don't know what happened to them. 
  • My parents worked at a store in Nashville IN for a while, together one summer or two, managing it so the owner didn't have to go in. We'd spend all day there, and I had all of Nashville Indiana to run around and play in, it's like it was my playground. The store was called the Apple Tree and the lady who ran it owned a house that was like a mansion, and invited us over there many times to have dinner after they closed the store. 
  • Dad and Mom used to sing to the radio all the time.
  • Dad used to go on all my brownie and girl scout field trips. All of them.
That's a short list of weird things I was thinking about from when they were so young. It's weird to know that Matt and Pete might not know those things or have even ever considered them but that they're part of my hardwired memories.

That's me in 1974, an only child with no idea there would ever be other children.  I'm giving my dad the eye for having just made me ride The Racer at King's Island for the first time. Despite my grumpy face, riding The Racer and  The Beast we me and Dad's thing. 

I guess that's another one, my Dad made me a roller coaster junkie. Mom hated them. He loved them passionately.