Saturday, March 9, 2013

Moving on

I'm writing a book.  Really.

I've been thinking about it for years, and it's unbelievably scary to actually put it out there as something that I'm doing.  But I am.  I'm getting serious about my writing.  So I purchased a domain and transferred the blog over to it, and that's where I'll be blogging in the future.

My website is and that's where you can find my blog (including all the archives), as well as some information about the book, and hopefully other projects that I'll be working on as well.

Saturday, March 2, 2013


I'm a horrible cook.  I don't enjoy it, and I frequently put stuff on the stove and then wander away, get distracted and come back just in time (if I'm lucky) to whisk the pan off the heat before it burns.  I'm not a creative cook, I can do a couple of things well, I'm a functional cook, enough so my children won't starve.  It's definitely not a strong point of mine. But baking - baking I'm really good at.

I didn't bake much with my oldest.  I was thinking about this the other day, and the first kid I really baked with was my son Sammy.  I started to feel guilty, because what was I doing that I managed to miss out on baking with my girl child?  Then I remembered that Jessica Mary was my first, and for three and a half years, she was my only.  I did EVERYTHING with her, and it hadn't occurred to me that I should try to bake cookies that don't come in a handy roll from from the grocery store.

By the time my son was born, I was really starting to think about converting to Judaism.  The first thing I loved about Judaism was the weekly Friday night Shabbat dinner.  A long, relaxed family oriented meal, where we sat and talked, blessed the candles and the kids, drank wine (or grape juice) and were grateful for all that we had.  An important element of that is the challah.  I decided that I'd master challah.  So I googled (I love google) and printed up several recipes and went to work.  We were living in a tiny apartment then, and the kitchen was minuscule.  Sam and I would carry the ingredients out to the dining room, and he'd get so excited about carrying the vanilla and the cinnamon and the flour (vanilla and cinnamon aren't really traditional ingredients, but the recipe I have is really good).  We'd bake every Friday, and I still make some of the best challah I've ever had.

After the success of the bread, I moved on to cookies.  Cakes.  This year, I mastered hamentashen (the triangle shaped cookies that get baked at Purim - I have the BEST recipe, seriously.  These are good enough to make all year long).  Sam's at school now during the day, and my helper is now my younger daughter.  Julie is an exceptionally enthusiastic baker, and gets visibly upset when I refuse to make another batch of cookies.  Or bread.  Or cake.  Not that we eat all that much of this stuff - most of it, I end up giving away.  But there's almost always fresh chocolate chip cookies, or homemade bread sitting on my counter.

I like to bake.  I'll never be a cook, and my repertoire may never get any bigger than the rotating cycle of five or six meals that I can reliably produce.  But baking is such an easy and fun thing to do, especially with kids.  And for what it's worth, after trying a zillion different versions of the chocolate chip cookie, for my money, the best recipe is the Nestle Tollhouse one on the back of the bag of chocolate chips - cook until vaguely light brown and then get them on a cooling rack immediately or they'll continue to cook on the pan.  And the very best recipe for homemade bread is a cup of warm water, a teaspoon and a half of dry active yeast.  Let it bloom, then add a tsp of salt, a tsp of sugar and a tsp of softened butter/margarine.  Mix in enough flour to make a soft, sticky dough, and knead for about five minutes.  Let it rise in oiled bowl until doubled. Dump it out, pat it down. Form it into a loaf shape, and plop into a bread pan.  Brush with melted butter.  Let it rise again and then bake until light brown.  It's awesome, a really good, crusty white bread that's absolutely yummy.  And a perfect companion to the ragu sauce I dump on a box of pasta :-)

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Way Back Wednesday - Volume I

I thought it might be fun to look back at some of my archives, because I've been blogging since 2008, and find an older post that has some relevance to where I am now.  Plus, it's an easy blog post, because I've (mostly) already written it.  So here's a post from March of 2009 - and the reason I chose it is because Sam is, today, walking around with a goofy looking hair cut because he rebelled towards the end of it and refused to let us finish it.  Some things never change, apparently :-)

Sammy's haircut (March, 2009)

I have a very stubborn son. In my head, he's mild mannered and laid back, I think, only because I have have two of them, and Jessie is so much more emotionally intense and dramatic. But Sam - he's no slouch in the strong personality department. And when there's something he doesn't want to do, be it visit the doctor, give his grandmother a kiss (or even a glance of acknowledgement), or take a bath, he makes it abundantly clear. I can still win a battle with him - because he's two and I'm thirty five - but it's a major struggle.

Which brings me to the latest battle. His hair. Sam's got great hair, it's straight, baby fine, and a gorgeous honey color. I love it. We had one bad hair cut experience, involving Marc's clippers (I told myself that Sam was his son too - and let him cut his hair). Needless to say, he cried, I cried, it was a HORRIBLE haircut and I was so glad when it finally grew out. Now we do a bowl cut, and I trim it myself. The second to last haircut was done by holding him down on the floor and whacking away at his hair while he screamed. It took both Marc and I, and didn't look all that great... but it was out of his eyes, and he's so cute anyway, I thought he still looked beautiful. But that was a while ago, and it's getting longer and longer... and in his eyes and it just needed to be cut.

We talked and discussed, and I kept bringing it up, and he kept saying "No cut my hair!" but I persisted, and randomly, about ten minutes ago, he agreed that it would be a great idea. It would tickle, and he was game... I cut his bangs, and it's not in his eyes anymore, but then I got too ambitious and cut one side of his head, so it didn't hang over his ears. I was going to continue around the back and finish up on the other side, but then he rebelled. And is now lopsided. He got more and more upset, and since I was afraid that he'd move too fast and I'd end up cutting off his ear, I gave up. He's running from me, screaming "Not cut my hair never ever again!" He looks goofy - although maybe I'll get used to it. Maybe lopsided will be the new trend - little boys the world over will start to follow his lead... and they'll all look ridiculous together.

It's a good thing he's so cute, I'm just hoping that nobody notices that the hair on one side of his head is an inch longer than the other side.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Rough day

Because it's not all hearts and flowers around here...

It was a good weekend, Saturday, we had a "friend" birthday for Jessica and Glennys.  Which was lovely, good friends, my sister Aimee came over with her boyfriend.  Aimee is living in Belgium these days, getting her PhD, so I haven't seen her in a while.  My mother and sister Mandi both came as well.  Aimee is my stepsister, so she wasn't quite as open about rearranging my house as both my sister and my mother were.

For some reason, both my mother and my sister Mandi believe firmly that I live a life filled with clutter, and spend most of their time when they're here putting things away.  Things I like not put away.  For example, I like my dishwashing detergent on the side of my sink.  My sister likes it under the sink.  I like my hair stuff on the bathroom counter, my mother likes it in a drawer.   I still don't know where they put my cinnamon/sugar mixture - I had it in a little tupperware container by the coffee filters (which I like to keep next to the coffee pot, they like them in the cabinet).   So I've spent the last 36 hours or so trying to find all the stuff they put away.  Which, honestly, did nothing to improve my morning.

Then my Sammy boy had issues.  Going back to school after a vacation is never easy for him, and it wasn't easy today.  I had him set to go - he had pulled himself together after the initial freak out, got dressed and ate and was out the door, but then he ended up late because of snow removal issues.  Being late is NOT OKAY in his world, and he flat out refused to go.  Since he has proven more than capable of screaming for hours when we force him to go, I just gave up and brought him home.  Where he devoted himself to torturing his sister.  

I'm exaggerating, kind of.  He wasn't torturing her, so much as he was playing with her in ways she didn't appreciate.  If you don't play her way, Julie has developed an ear piercing screech that's not at all pleasant.  It's effective - I'll grant her that.  Because if the kid on the receiving end doesn't immediately stop or give her what she wants, I'll start yelling at the older kid to just make the noise stop.  Effective.  And has the added bonus of making me feel like a crappy mother, because really, it's not fair.  She's getting her way because she's freaking LOUD.

I liked Jessie today.  Mostly.  She was good.   There's the grumpy voice in my head that's saying it's because she left here nine hours ago and hasn't come home yet, because she's got school and then religious school.  But really, she was great this morning.  Other than the one fit, when she claimed that Sam was insulting her because he said he had shoveled yesterday.  He wasn't.  She still wanted him punished, and was most disturbed when I failed to appreciate how victimized she felt.  Because he said he had shoveled.

See?  Grumpy, grumpy, grumpy.  And it's not beneficial for anyone.  Really.  On the upside, my mother and sister love me, and while I adore them profoundly, I'm also glad it's usually me visiting them and not the other way around.  And someday I'll find that cinnamon and sugar container, and it will be a good day.  And ten years from now, it's not really going to matter if Sam went back to school on Monday or Tuesday, and if anything, this just gives us the added incentive to make sure the little bugger is at school before the bell rings.  Julianna... it's tough to find a bright side to the screech - but she's strong willed and emotive and able to express herself.  No worries about her not being able to stand up for herself, right?  And my Jessie, oh my pretty Jessie.  I think she just wanted to fuss a little bit, get a little attention.  And I missed her all day long.  That being said, if you don't like that your brother gets positive attention for shoveling and you don't, go out and shovel along with him.

Here's hoping for a better tomorrow...

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Relinquish Control

I have three kids.  And I adore them.  Really, I do.

I also have two stepdaughters.  I also adore them.

I've got a Glennys - who's not a daughter, exactly, because she's got parents, but she's my oldest's best friend and practically lived with us until she moved to North Conway a couple of years ago - and yeah, I adore her too.

But wow - what an unbelievable disaster they create.  And I have to just step back, and remind myself that February vacation only comes once a year.  It's not Christmas vacation, when there are a zillion Christmas and Hanukkah gifts to play with.  It's not April vacation, when the weather is warmer and I can throw them outside without guilt.  It's February.  It's cold.  And they're bright, brilliant, creative children.  And again - wow, what an unbelievable disaster they create.

My poor beleaguered dishwasher is running thru again, with three meals a day, times at least six kids and two adults, and a toddler who believes that every day is better when there's baking involved, it's definitely working overtime.  My washing machine isn't speaking to me anymore, but continuing to crank along, washing load after load.  You wouldn't think there'd be much laundry, as everyone seems to be in pajamas all the time, but still.  There's lots of laundry.

And my living room, oh, my poor, sad living room.  Blocks and board games, books and flutophones, barbies, Noah's Arc animals, Hello Kitty and Dora figurines are EVERYWHERE.  Paper, crayons, pens and pencils, markers and erasers and scissors litter the floor.  I do my best to keep the television off and am actively working on cultivating patience and persistence.  Because only by virtue of the two, patience to keep reminding myself that I love them, and they are bright, brilliant and creative - and persistence, by not ever really stopping picking up, a little bit, all the time - only by virtue of those two qualities am I maintaining any hold on my sanity.

This is the only February vacation I'll ever get with a ten year old, a six year old, and a two year old.  And a thirteen year old, and two eleven year olds.  But really, this'll never happen again.  So I'll smile, hopefully, and won't scream in frustration and start hurling toys into the trash.  I'll be grateful for creativity, and hours spent building worlds with dollhouses and barbies, and drawing for hours.  And remind myself that it's just a few more days until we get back to normal again.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Eleven Years

It's not a flashy anniversary.  And after eleven years, we've got a lot more in our lives together than just us.  We've got three kids to get up and fed and dressed, two to drop off at school, a toddler requiring care and attention.  Girls Scouts this afternoon and Boy Scout tonight.  Dinner will be fish sticks, brown rice and mixed veggies, and the kids will exist in a perpetual sugar high until they finally crash at night.  

But there's incredible beauty there.  It's the beauty that comes with waking up early and nursing your youngest child.  The one you named after your love, her middle name is a reminder of the promise he made as we were starting our family.  "Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried."   

There is beauty when you kiss briefly in the kitchen, only to be interrupted by the toddler, who's up far too early but appeased with little boxes of chocolates your husband bought the kids last night.  Thrilled by her treat, she immediately wakes the other two, showing them their chocolates.  You spend the morning getting clothes, starting laundry, unloading the dishwasher, serving breakfast and trying to remember where you put your coffee.  The coffee your husband fixed for you, as he does every morning.  There's beauty in that.

There is beauty when your son, bouncing off of the sugar from his morning truffles, decides to have Daddy help him get dressed by hanging upside down and demanding that he yank his clothes off.  He's a monkey, bouncing and delighted to have his Daddy home and with him, and secure in the family we've created.  

There is beauty in your oldest, the one who cemented your relationship in the first place.  Packing up her bag, and her cookies for class, her poster for girl scouts.  She's so much like him, and so much like you.  There's so much beauty in that.

There is beauty in the text messages, sweet voice mails and frequent phone calls that'll go back and forth between us all day.  There is even more beauty in knowing that it's not just because it's today, we do it every day.  Ours is a relationship that exists in frequent and small contacts all day long.  It always has.  There is beauty in knowing that it always will.

Because that's what eleven years means.  It's not an accomplishment, it's not a  victory that you've made it that long.  It's an acknowledgement that this is your life, this is real and constant and something that's as rock solid as it can be.  It's the foundation for everything else, and everything else is more than you ever dreamed of.  There's an incredible beauty in eleven years together, and I'm so grateful to be here today.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Devious Toddler

Julie and I are the only ones home during the day.  The older two are in school, obviously, and Marc's off at work.  And we aren't joined at the hip.  Julie normally bops around the house, doing this or that.  Watches far too much television (but I justify it to myself by remembering that there's eight feet of snow out there and it's damn cold - plus she's watching educational stuff...), she colors and builds, plays doctor.  I do whatever it is that I do, sometimes it's laundry and cleaning, sometimes I read, often we'll cook together or I'll read to her.  But she's used to entertaining herself, and as long as it's not dangerous, I'll usually let her play with whatever.

I wandered out of the bedroom and glanced into the living room, only to find my toddler sitting on the floor, playing Apples to Apples.  She wasn't really playing it, so much as she was sorting the cards into little piles.  She's big for piles.  But the Apples to Apples game belongs to her older sister.  And she knows that.  She knows that she's not allowed to play with it.  I pointed out that Jessie would kill her if she knew what she was doing - and Julie looked at me meaningfully for minute and said "If you don't tell her, she won't know..."

And, because really, if you're mature enough to make that connection, and to think of it as a logical response, then you're probably old enough to handle the consequences.  So I just laughed and told her to put it away when she was done.  Which she did.

Sometimes, I really have to work hard at remembering that this kid is only two years old.