Thursday, July 26, 2012

finn's ridiculous annual injury

After an accidental puppy bite in his ear, last year's summer sled/bike/gravel incident and last night's shenanigans, I'm certain Finn will likely entertain us each year with some bizarre injury.  Here's the scoop:

There were nine children in my basement, seven of whom were female.  I was carrying a laundry basket upstairs when the most shrill, intolerable screaming began underfoot.  As I flew down the stairs, I was literally terrified about what I would see when we met at the basement door.

What I encountered was louder screams and the most blood this parent has ever seen.

It was pouring down the back of Finn's head and down his back.  It was all over my shirt, shorts and in the nooks and crannies of my watch.  I grabbed towel after towel to clean it up so I could actually see the injury, which was endlessly evasive.  After cleaning it like crazy, the bleeding abruptly stopped and I got the story while we iced the lump on his head.

Finn was climbing an old punching bag that was propped next to a refrigerator.  There were two 5-pound hand weights on the fridge.  When he jostled the punching bag, he rattled the fridge and the weights fell off onto his head.  (What?)  All nine children are sticking by this story.

Of course, my brother, his wife and my nieces were on their way over for a night of swimming.  Finn was distraught that he'd miss the event.  Since the bleeding stopped, I asked him to wash off in a bath and we'd see if it started back up.  It didn't, so I acted like the seasoned mom of three that I am, and I let him go to the pool.

But when he hit the chlorinated water, that thing freshened up and started bleeding again.  A lot.  A vicious fight ensued, but Finn lost and Mike took him to urgent care.

In the end it turned out to be a deep puncture wound (from a hand weight?) that did not need stitches.  It was good that they went though; we needed their help getting it clean.  Mike called to tell me what happened and we all decided to meet at Oberweis for a treat.

When I got there, I was shocked to see blood pouring down the back of Finn's head again.  "They left it like that?" I asked.  "I thought they had it all cleaned up!"

"They did," Mike grimaced.  "I ran into (our friends) Brent and Johanna and when I went to shake Brent's hand, I accidentally punched Finn in the back of the head with my fist!  Don't tell him!"

Seriously, this first week off of summer sports could not be any more relaxing!

Monday, July 23, 2012

sweet relief

The last two weeks have been a blur.  What started off as a routine mammogram; a 40th birthday present from my gynecologist, turned into an odyssey of anger, fear and extreme compartmentalization (a super power that I was unaware that I possessed, until now.)  In a moment, this control-lover had no choice but to relinquish everything to "what might be" and just move through.

I'm not squeamish about medical procedures or even overly modest, but I have to say that breast biopsies rank (in my experience) among the least tolerable.  They're not too painful, but seriously violating.  Lying half-naked on a cold table with four chatty women adjusting, groping, twisting and smashing you from below, is not my idea of fun.  I was horribly unprepared for the length of the procedure and how I'd feel afterward.  And I now have such respect for all those who have walked this path before me.  And who went on to walk it longer - through much harder terrain.

The physical discomfort of lying frozen for 90 minutes while they compressed, xray-ed, sampled and repeated, was nothing compared to how I felt once we left.  Double-tight Ace-wrapped with a hematoma and, I guess, a temporarily half-broken heart, I cried most of the way home, unable to share with my poor husband why I was even crying.  I'm not a crier and I suppose that made the whole thing even worse for him.  But I had been storing up all my "what if's?" and "how will I's?" for two whole weeks while looking into the eyes of my children.  Every time I felt happy, which was often, I immediately went to a different place and then, thankfully, I was able to sweep the fear away.  When I needed it most, my ability to set it aside and wait without surface worry kicked in with a vengeance.  Who knew I could do that?

I don't mean that I didn't have a few sleepless nights or dark moments, I did.  I've had my share of issues health-wise this year and I'll admit that I felt some serious self-pity.  But I survived it like we all do. We do because we must.  And because we can.

And now I feel like I've won the lottery.  Standing from atop Relief Mountain, I'm too aware that I could be in Victim Valley, if one microscopic cell was different on a slide.  I am grateful beyond words that what I feared is not the path I need to travel.    I've been given the gift of love and support from those who knew what was going on, and I'm so thankful for that, too.  "Thank you" doesn't even come close to conveying how I feel.

All that's left to do is move on and live this precious, blessed life to the fullest.  Let's get going!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

not a total loss

Sometimes I wonder if I'll truly lose my kids to technology.  At any given time, you'll find them tapping away in some sort of off-road race, dragon-slaying, virtual cake baking, listening to tunes or pseudo-texting their friends.  This is most apparent during car rides; and when it's going on, it's hard to be heard at all.  I sometimes say, "All eyes look into mine in the rear view mirror!" before I speak.

I'm sure I had my own version of attention-kidnapping technology that swept my mind away from the real world at times, although the first I remember was a Sony Walkman I received at 14.  I also recall our Gigantor personal computer which was pretty much an MS-DOS prompt with a black screen and flashing cursor.  Oh, and there was the VHS player.  ("What's that?" Riley and Finn ask, although Logan still remembers.)  And my first cell phone came after marriage; a couple of years later, I think!

But that's not the world we live in anymore.  As I drove home from some errands yesterday (don't ask me how many times I've been to the Apple store to get assistance with my painfully slow phone - that's another post entirely), I was in dismay over the lack of conversation and the only vision I could catch of all three kids in the mirror:  the tops of their heads.  On the flip side, I loved that no one was complaining about my Sirius XM The Coffee House radio.  (No offense Pit Bull, but a girl can only take so much!)

At a long stoplight, I quickly glanced at Facebook on my phone.  "Look at Abby smiling you guys!" I yelled to the zombies in the back seat about a recent photo posted by my sister-in-law.  And they responded instantly, with sweet grins and chuckles as they passed the phone around, so obviously in love with their new cousin.  See, they're still there, technology or not, I thought.  Kids need to veg-out with technology a bit, but want something new and exciting to hear about as much as we do.  It's our hard job to keep it all in balance.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

(grilled) peaches and (ice) cream

I realize that this idea is nothing new, but if you've never grilled fresh summer peaches and topped them with vanilla ice cream, you're missing out!  Mike and I have been making this seasonal dessert for as long as I can remember; way before we had three little beings with whom we could share it.  I remember enjoying it in the backyard of every home we've ever owned and almost every year during our Lake Gaston trip.  The kids enjoy it just as much as we do and I hope you do, too.  Really, try it.  It's the bomb!

grilled peaches and ice cream

ripe peaches, halved and pits removed
brown sugar
vanilla ice cream

Preheat a grill, clean grates and spread a bit of butter on each cut-side of peach.

Place peaches on grill, cut-side down, for a few minutes.

Flip peaches onto a foil-lined small baking sheet and top each half with a small pat of butter and a sprinkle of brown sugar.  Grill, cut-side up, for a few more minutes.

Place peach halves in a bowl and top with a hefty scoop of vanilla ice cream.  O.M.G.

Dive in!

Other recent recipes I've shared:

Early Summer Pasta
Super Sausage Sluggers
My ATA Sandwich
Crazy-good Feta Potato Salad

Monday, July 16, 2012

shoestring living: squash summer spending

The summer months are bank account drainers around here, whether we want to save or not.  Between endless activities requiring convenient meals, costly outdoor excursions and kids that seem unable to stop eating, I have been searching for ways to save.  In my most recent column for the GateHouse News Service, I share my best tips on how you might do the same.

Check out the column and the associated video!

Friday, July 13, 2012

katy perry, and me?

If you asked about my future writing plans, the last thing I'd expect my answer to include would be the new Katy Perry movie, Katy Perry:  Part of Me.  Earlier this week, I took the girls and their friends (and the boy - I'm sure not sure what the appeal was for him!)  Maybe I'm a sucker for a good story, but this actually was one.  I really enjoyed it and recommend it highly.

Before the movie, I wondered what the message would be for the kids and what they might take away.  Mike even wondered out loud, "I don't understand how this can be a movie for kids..."  After having seen it, I think the opportunity exists for kids to take away a lot.

First of all, the movie begins and ends with confessional-style submissions from Perry's fans, ages 8 to twenty-something, talking about how she has impacted their lives.  Each one of the children speaking has some valuable insight to share beyond their love for Perry; something I could see the 10 year olds in my group latching onto. 

More importantly, the movie gently tells the tale of love lost and the grueling toll a touring schedule takes on an artist.  I was moved to tears at the reality of Perry's experience, understanding that place we've all been: ready to give up but finding the strength inside to go on to whatever lies ahead.  She shows all of us, me included, that when times get tough, the tough breakdown.  And then they get going, stronger than before.  That's the human experience in a nutshell.

So while there were a few movie moments that left me squirming, (I'm still waiting for the "I Kissed a Girl" conversation), I'm thrilled that we went.  I'd rather share reality and humanity with my kids any day, than manipulate our good world with especially rosey-colored glasses.  I won't tell them the road ahead will not have bumps.  Because it will.  Witnessing Perry's ability to hang on and forge ahead while celebrating her own individuality is just the kind of life lesson I love to share with our children. 

Thanks Katy!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

the village matters so much

Finn's baseball season ended last night and it's bittersweet.  While I know we're all ready for some free summer evenings around here, it's been so much fun watching him learn the game and get better along with his young teammates from the sidelines.  We lucked out with super supportive coaches and families, all there to ensure that our kids were challenged, confident and learning all season long.  We've experienced the same community, kid-valued spirit on Logan's swim team and it's made me realize how important it is to have a "village" like this behind our kids. 

Not only are they learning skills, having fun and spending time doing things they love, they're also feeling part of a bigger group of their peers and other families who cheer and support them right along with their own family.  They join that group in support of other kids.  Their enthusiasm builds and the group's numbers grow, until we are all cheering everyone on together, inspiring so many good vibes, that I can't even describe it with words.  The "village" behind our kids matters so much.

So as baseball winds down, I'm already looking forward to the fun and camaraderie of next year.  Of all the great times, plays and laughs, my favorite moment has to be this one:

Our team was at bat Monday night and Finn was supposed to be in the hole.  He had run off to relieve himself in the prairie grass behind the field since there were no bathrooms on site.  We knew he was up and we were calling and calling to him, as his spot moved from the hole, to the deck.  Just as the little guy before him got a hit, he appeared in front of me, with two freshly picked cone flower blooms and a shy smile.  Then he ran off to hit the ball.

On Monday, more than any other day, I needed this.  I didn't know it, but Finn did.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


We are lovin' Logan's summer swim season.  She made a splash last night with two 2nd places and one 1st!  She bettered her times like crazy and outdid herself by far!

I can't tell you how much I have grown to love our little Otters' community of families that get up and cheer for all our kids together and love to share in each and every one of their young successes.  We are really blessed.

And we were even more blessed last night, because our favorite little gals, Piper and Sadie, are here visiting this week.  Logan gave them a good show!  We're so proud of her hard work and determination!

(can you see her smiling in response the raucous cheers in the picture above??)


I love the Indigo Girls, so naturally, this Galileo quote is a favorite, too:

(I found this on Tumblr from member "saywhatnow".)

For those of us that choose to find the good in every day, even when it's dark and scary, this always rings true.  My days are bit dark right now, and even though my writing is in full force, my posting is at a minimum, for the time being. I am in love with the stars and the absolute belief that everything will be okay.  Whatever you're going through, I hope this hits home for you, too. 

So grateful for the love and support of so many!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

announcing abby

So in love with my beautiful new niece!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

onward and upward with YOU

As someone who lives to learn and write about the good things that stand out in our lives every single day, I'm also human and occasionally catch myself urging my kids to conform.  In hindsight, this shocks me.  What is it that makes me think I need to change something about their uniqueness in order to make them want to be just like everyone else?  I'm not sure.

The fact is, it need only matter to them if their clothes don't fit right or their hair isn't brushed.  For nonconformity outside the realm of health and personal safety, what can really go wrong?  Discovering their own likes and style should come from them, not from annoying reminders from me.  Years ago, I was appalled by parents who were hopeful that their children would be teased for sucking their thumb or acting foolishly with hopes it would curb the behavior. I was the parent who fought to ward off all that harmful harassment with too much information that my kids could not, and would not, digest.

While I'm much more willing now to let them learn lots of life lessons on their own, I still falter into my mama bear role at times.  But I fight hard to let THEM stand their ground and be their own people and personalities.  As long as they are good at heart, being exactly who they are and not worrying a lick about what the world thinks is the best way to go, if you ask me.  I, like most of us do about our own kiddos, already think they're perfect anyway.

We will love them like crazy no matter what, who, how, when or why.  So onward and upward with YOU, I say.  Off into the future to just be everything good that YOU already are.

Monday, July 2, 2012

early summer pasta

It's late and you have nothing planned for dinner.  Enter this satisfying, quick, fresh from the garden pasta dish sure to please.  It's sooooo GOOD and completely flexible to whatever veggies, herbs or cheese you have on hand!

Note:  In this version, I roasted my tomatoes because a.) the ones in the garden aren't ready yet and b.) these little grape ones were nearing their last leg.  Drizzle with olive oil and toss with salt and pepper and roast at 400 for about 15 minutes.  Delish!

Early Summer Pasta

1 lb. pasta, whatever you have on hand
1 lb. roasted grape tomatoes
6 ozs. fresh mozarella, cubed
bunch of chives, snipped
handful of basil leaves, chiffonaded
freshly grated parmesan or romano to taste
1 cup reserved pasta water

Cook pasta al dente according to package.  Drain, reserving 1 cup starchy pasta water.  Return pasta to pot.

Throw in roasted tomatoes, chopped herbs and cheeses and mix.  Add pasta water to create a bit of a sauce and get the ingredients working together.  Place into bowls or plates and top with more grated parmesan or romano.

Super yummy, loved by the whole family and crazy fast!