Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Pumpkin Made Saucy

I'm not doing so well at the writing-every-day routine so far.  But I'm thinking about writing almost every day!  I'm also thinking about exercise every day.

Tonight I made both pumpkin pizza (original recipe here) and ravioli with pumpkin sauce, two favorite seasonal dishes I haven't made in a while.  For tonight's version of the pizza I used naan bread for the crust (super quick and way easy), sweet Italian chicken sausage, shredded mozzarella and romano cheeses, and arugula.

I used the same pumpkin sauce for the ravioli (spinach and cheese), and sprinkled with shredded romano cheese.  The ravioli went to feed the twins' parents.  We ate the pizza.

Pumpkin sauce makes for a mellower/less acidic sauce on a pizza, and in my view, draws more attention to the toppings.  Worth a try!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Twins...and Toddler

Our new baby cousins were born last week--beautiful, healthy baby girls and an uneventful labor and birth!  Now we have Tootsie and her cousin, only two weeks younger than she, and the twins.  It's going to be awesome to have two sets of kiddos at the same heights bumbling around.  The two older toddlers are already great fun.

Slay me for this, but I wouldn't mind another baby.  Husband said he wanted to throw up at the mere mention, and can rest assured that my tubes are tied.  So I'm happy to have not one, but two new babies to satisfy my need for infant snuggle time.  And when I watched my sister-in-law pumping yesterday, in an attempt to build a store for two babies (how do you do that?), I backed off my baby envy a little.   I am still breasfteeding Tootsie.  Which is not like breastfeeding an infant, by the way.  More on that later.

Tootsie is completely smitten with the new babies.  She was like a Love Bully, kissing the baby I was holding with aggressive passion, over and over, and insisting on feeding her her bottle.  She must have said "baby" a hundred times or more.  She was transformed into (by juxtaposition) a giant smothering affection monster, a manic crazy overwhelmed older cousin in love.

It was quite a sight to behold, and I used my left arm for defensive moves as she continually came in for head butts/kisses, as my sister-in-law observed with nervous laughter.

There's no absence of love, as well as little fingers and toes in our family.  It's awesome.

Saturday, November 1, 2014


I forgot that I promised myself I'd write every day in November, like I did a few years ago in an effort to force myself back into a discipline, which, like exercise, tends to make me feel better about myself.  I  just haven't been writing, and recognizing that is a reminder of how much my life--and I--have changed in the past year and a half.  I'm determined to reacquaint with the Fer who writes regularly, the Fer who is excited to connect what happened today to some lingering thought that has been bouncing around in her mind.

But November 1 is almost over, and I only have scattered and disconnected updates:

Tootsie walks and talks and signs words like "please," "more," "dog," and "milk." But most importantly, she's learned very recently how to throw an epic tantrum, and has been practicing daily since.  We've experienced our first Store Episode and Stiff-As-a-Board-Can't-Get-In-Carseat Antics.  Thank goodness she's still cute and loving, and a dancer and snuggler.  Her habits include placing everything from belts to dishcloths to pajamas around her neck and pretending to feed and walk her dolls and Elmo.  And because of the number of hours she has spent since birth at the fields, she can kick a soccer ball.

At the Patty Griffin concert tonight, she covered a Jimmy Durante song:

"You've got to win a little, lose a little,
yes, and always have the blues a little.
That's the story of, that's the glory of life.
That's the story of, that's the glory of life."

I was struck by how true that analysis is, and what I'm still learning to accept--this notion of living with the blues a little.  I'm trying to fight less, stop myself from a mantra of "I don't WANT to be this stressed/tired/frantic/overwhelmed," and instead figure out how to make life less so, in the face of things I can't or won't change in the short term:  I'm a principal.  I'm a mother of three.  I'm busy.  I have bills to pay. I have laundry to do.   

And I was thinking earlier this week that there are seemingly a million little things people do for me and mine everyday to make life easier, better, more beautiful.  The colleague who waters my plants; the friend who texts me a coffee icon and an invitation for a fresh cup; the friend who drops off lunch; the parents who offer advice, childcare, and meals; the neighbors who drive my kid to school; the babysitter who comes to me to pick up my baby and goes out of her way every day; the friends who reassure, advocate for, and believe in me; the husband who holds it all together, day in and day out.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

A Message from Middle School

Big Sis is in sixth grade, for just over a week now.  And I've been tempted to post something to the effect of middle school:emotion::Pope:Catholic.  Because, wow.  Maybe it's just, as a BFF calls it, Transition Sickness.  But there's been a lot of turmoil, sobbing, exhaustion, nostalgia for the easier times of childhood, and, as it turns out, reflection.

Tonight, Big Sis busted out a soliloquy that I urged her to write down.  Because she's so right on, and she has managed, through her tiredness and tears, to focus on some big themes.  Her ideas resonated, because just last week I exhorted a group of seniors to think of college:life::wedding:marriage.  College isn't what you've spent 18 years preparing for; it's not the be all, end all.  Life is what you've spent 18 years preparing for, and you're actually living it NOW.

It took me 43 years to figure this stuff out, but Big Sis has some wisdom as a newly minted sixth grader (and I copy her text here with her permission):

OK, Here it goes.  I have just begun middle school, and lately we have been given a few talks.  During each one I am thinking.  We're hearing that middle school is all about preparing, preparing, preparing for life.  But really it's not just preparing.  It's all an experience.  You're not just learning to learn, you're learning for your own good.  You're living RIGHT NOW.  

You can't always be living in the future, because it's like we are only preparing for the life ahead of us, which makes us a big stress case.  Just go with the flow and relax and just think about how you're doing right now.  Because otherwise all you're doing is waiting.  All waiting will do is discourage you.  You're not always preparing if you're having a great experience living in the now.  

Of course it's alright to have your mind set on a certain career.  But think of other things you might enjoy as well.  For example, I love soccer, and would like to pursue my dream, but I can't put all my eggs in one basket.  I also love to read and would love to become an author as well.  

Not every stage in life is preparation for the next stage.  If we act like that, when will it stop?  The problem is, it won't.  We will keep living like this and it will never end.  

So, what I am humbly saying is that we, (especially us kids) need to think about life differently.  School, in particular.  We all need to think of it like an experience.  

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

One...Singular Sensation

I'm ONE!  That's right, everyone, point your finger:  ONE!  One year old.

One year ago today I made my unexpected debut in Boston, Mass, far away from home but in great hands.  Today, you'd never know I was a preemie, that I was born with meningitis and scared the heck out of my family, that I spent a month in the NICU.  Today I am Just Fine.  Better than Fine.  I'm plump and developing appropriately.  Any areas in which I'm behind (say, sleeping through the night) are my mom's fault (Hey!  She likes to snuggle me!).

I am busy and I am noisy.  I babble; I squawk; I growl.  I say "dog," "baby," "doll," "Mama," "hello," or pretty close renditions.  I wave; I talk on the phone (the shoe phone, the banana phone, the block phone...).  I've learned to make an ungodly screech if someone takes an electrical cord out of my mouth or I'm forced to return a toy I've stolen from a cousin.  But my cousins!  How I love my cousins.  I lean my head in close to theirs to hug them over and over when I see them.  I've gotten to see lots of cousins this summer.

My mom told my sisters I'd annoy them someday and they didn't believe it.  But I know how to bug them when they're on the computer, or to head for the stairs or dog food super quick when Mom or Dad asks them to watch me.  I can pull hair and I pinch when I'm pulling up on Big Sis's shoulders. I also know how to let my sisters know if they're annoying me.  We're like legit siblings now.

I'm not walking yet; there's time for that.  I'm a really efficient crawler, and I like to cruise between pieces of furniture.  Sometimes I take my hands off just to show off.  My favorite activity is standing up and playing--at a table, water table, play kitchen...I have lots of plans for things to build and touch and put in my mouth.

Thank you to all of you who have made my life wonderful, and my family's life manageable!  There are SO MANY OF YOU.  It's been quite a year for my family, watching me, holding me, hugging me, and chasing me.  I'm booking them for more chasing me around during my second year.  And I've got walking and talking to master.

But first, tonight?  How about some Elmo cupcakes my sisters made?  Happy birthday to me!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Turned All the Way Up to Eleven

Tootsie is on the cusp of turning one year old, on the cusp of walking and talking and ditching the breast and the bottle.  She is on the cusp of beyond babyhood.  I mused on her sweet uncalloused feet last night, respecting how little time of tenderness remains.

This month of her almost-oneness, the month when, a year ago, our lives went topsy turvy, has been emotional.  I can easily recall planning for the upcoming year at work, packing for travel, unpacking at the new house, and enjoying pregnancy.  Summer feels like Boston.  It feels like the hospital.  It feels like uncertainty and anything can happen.  It also feels like family, like love, like hope and excitement.

Tootsie is busy, busy, busy.  We took her on her first airplane ride since coming home from Boston, to Iowa to visit Husband's father.  We spent much of the weekend in the hospice house with family, Tootsie providing distractions and entertainment, cruising from chair to coffee table, babbling and growling and cackling with laughter at her sisters.  Life continues, we all nodded, as the seventeen-year cicadas swarming in the trees outside provided a fervent symphony.

She eats curried chicken salad, apples, diced grapes, and even Baked Lays potato chips (benefit of a trip to Subway with her babysitter) with her sharp little teeth, including new fangs on top.  She loves swimming, soccer balls (gooooooaaaaaaaaallll!), toys with microphones, and rocks.  She sings along.  She makes noises like an elephant.  She loves her baby cousins.

As always, she grins and smiles and laughs far more than she ever complains.  She's been ours for almost a year.  We can hardly remember life without her.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Ten Months, and Tootsie's Tips

Tootsie turned ten months amid a very busy time at home and at school...soccer tournaments, preparations for 5th grade promotion (Big Sis's outfit and event planning...), sister and brother-in-law and baby cousin coming to town, end-of-year awards, campaigning and bond election, and graduation.  Meanwhile, she was busy tackling more developmental stages, as well as remaining her cute and smiley self.  I found myself having a good old cry at the passage of time (my baby growing less babyish inspiring tears on one hand; my spending time elsewhere as she keeps growing on the other).  But I did some healthy reflecting on the nostalgia around our children's inevitable development, and allude to epiphanies below in my graduation speech.

Here's the big "step" Tootsie took last month:

And, of course, such strides result in frequent bangs into furniture and bonkings of her head.  She otherwise crawls at warp speed toward the dog food, giggling mischievously en route, or finds tiny objects to put in her mouth to scare the bejeezus out of us.

Instead of the 'ooo' face of wonder she adopted as a tiny baby, she now makes a serious "ohhhhhh" sound and expression when she's truly captivated or curious about something--dogs, animals, and other babies in particular.  She loves her cousins.

Her favorite song is Pharrell's "Happy," which Big Sis sang at her choir concert last month.  Her favorite books are Hug, Hush Little Baby, and On the Night You Were Born (though she was born in the AM).  She likes the Hairy Maclary book, but only until the page with the scary cat, Scarface Claw.  Then she cries.  She doesn't like the Elmo character at Sea World either.

When her sisters ask her questions like, "Do you want to help me with my homework?" she shakes her head vigorously with big grins.  Her vocabulary includes "blah blah blah blah."

She loves to swim and take baths, and we've spent some good times with the cousins in Mammom's swimming pool.

As far as nursing goes, it's like breastfeeding an octopus or wrestler.  And she uses her free hand to pound me on the chest.

But she made an apt subject for my first commencement address as a high school principal.  Here are Tootsie's Tips:

Last summer I was a pregnant new principal who planned to start the school year and then take a little time off when our baby was born in September.  But next thing I knew, I was having my baby early, in the wrong state across the country, and we were in the hospital on your first day of school.  I wound up missing the fall semester of your senior year, and you can go ahead and blame it on the baby, Faera, or as she became known to many, Tootsie.  As school has come to a close, I’ve been thinking about some of the lessons Tootsie taught me this year, and I want to pass them along to you. 
 First, accept life’s vicissitudes.
 There’s a tendency, a normal and natural and wise tendency, to plan out your life.  And I suggest you do.  But this year I’ve had to recognize what parts of life are in and out of my control.  Tootsie has helped me accept that life is messy, unpredictable, scary, and mysterious, but also beautiful and surprising and serendipitous.  You may invest time, work, and hope, only to experience a disappointing outcome.  Practice facing the circumstances before you and renouncing regret for what couldn’t or cannot be.  Tootsie would endorse what your classmate Ines Cruz wrote so aptly in her Identity Project in art:  “I want to fearlessly go, and see what unfolds before me.  If I mess up, I want to know it’s okay; it’s part of the journey, part of the design of my life.” 
 Second:  Embrace the new and unfamiliar
During babies’ first months, every experience, every place is brand new.  I watch Tootsie wake up sometimes and I know she’s thinking where the heck am I now?  Here you sit before us, about to depart the familiar—your daily routine at home and at CHS with the people you know—for an adventure of the unexplored.  You’re going to cry about it sometimes—Tootsie does—but we don’t bail her out every time she wants to eject from a seemingly scary place.  Recognize that this is your mission:  to explore the new, and to exploit the opportunities that adventure brings. From Ines Cruz:  “I need to walk on warm sand, not on hot concrete, under stars, not street lamps, over miles and miles of new places with new people, not standing stagnant in place.” 
Third:  Make the most of where you are:
Tootsie only recently started to crawl.  She has spent most of her short life stuck where we put her—in her carseat, stroller, crib, or front pack.  But from flat on her back or sitting up she finds the world an amazing place and the people around her fascinating.  Ever been stuck in a long line and noticed the adults looking anywhere but at each other?  Babies seek out and gaze right at fellow humans with wonder.  They grin, coo, and engage with anyone who catches their eye, no matter who they are.  You, too, can make the most of where you are, and even make someone’s day, on planes, in traffic, at jury duty, in your dorm with assigned roommates: entertain yourself, enjoy the view, bring your best attitude.  Get to know the person next to you. 
This one is for the parents too:  Accept your own and others’ evolutions
I always wanted a third baby.  I love babies (almost as much as I love teenagers). But a baby is a growing person, and however much we want our babies to stay small and cute and cuddly, they grow and change.  Every day my Tootsie is a newer version of herself.  And so are you.  You haven’t discovered all of your own strengths, skills, and vulnerabilities.  Future experiences and relationships will bring out new facets of your self.  You don’t have to be whom you have always been or expected to be.  By next summer you may have adopted different interests and aspirations, hobbies and habits.  Be prepared to find your high school friends and family members have, too.  Let yourself and others shed dead skin and emerge anew.  Graduates, parents, friends:  pledge to reacquaint yourself with your loved ones in their present. 
 Just a few more tidbits from Tootsie: 
Dance, sing, laugh, or act goofy. Every day.
When you perceive an injustice, holler about it.

And finally, Tootsie has this look she gets on her face when she’s particularly proud of herself.  It’s okay to think you’re hot stuff, especially when you’re making a huge developmental leap.  So, high five, graduates; swagger on down that carpet.  You did it.  Congratulations.