Quick and Easy Pasta Primavera

3/4 of a 16 oz. box of pasta (I use rotini or ziti)
1/4 cup butter
1 envelope Knorr's vegetable soup mix
1 1/2 teaspoon all purpose flour
2 cups milk
2 TBS grated Parmesan cheese

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add pasta.  Cook till al dente, and drain.
2. In a saucepan melt butter.  Blend Knorr soup mix with flour and milk, and then add to saucepan.  Stir.  Bring to a soft boil, and then reduce heat to low and simmer for 7-10 minutes.  Stir in grated cheese.
3. Toss with cooked pasta and serve.
(This makes enough for all seven of us-I usually serve with a big salad and garlic bread.)


Ordinary Days

I ordered silhouettes done from a nice Etsy store, and I can't wait to get them.  I'll let you know how they turn out.  I've always wanted to have silhouettes made of the kids for years and years, and finally I am doing it!

Pumpkin cookies...I tried a new recipe and it was good, but a bit too sweet.  Crazy amounts of sugar.  I will search till I find one that is perfect.

At the grocery store, I saw these huge 5x8 index cards and just had to buy them.  For what, I don't know, but they were irresistible to me.

#3 down the toilet.  Patrick kept telling me, "My fish is theeping".  (Sleeping in 3 year old lisp-language.)  Fish #3 is now peacefully theeping in fish heaven.  And we are taking a break with fish pets.

Andrew working on a comic.

More pumpkin.  What is WITH me this year?  By Halloween I will be all-pumpkined out.

I exchanged my dried up pink summer flowers for yellow mums.


Being Home

"We all know that the early years of our children’s lives are precious.  It is when they are most teachable, impressionable and open to true and erroneous teaching.  Our society in a rush to success encourages us as mothers to send our children from the home earlier and earlier, to involve them in more and more activities.  Too often we forget that the most important preparation for success is in the home under the nurturing care of the mother.  That preparation takes time, long stretches of time filled with the consistent, everyday activity of home life.

The time we have with our little ones is short and should be guarded carefully."
Kimberli Robison
(the entire article that quote was taken from is here)

I had so many lovely emails after the quick post I wrote about sending Patrick to preschool and how torn I was, and how I struggled with this rush that has suddenly appeared for all of us to send our little ones away for this activity and that experience.

So many mothers talked about the pressure they felt to send their little ones to preschool, or a special learning program, baby classes, mom's day out, you name it, because everyone else was doing it, or they felt that they their children might be missing something all these other children are getting.  I know the pressure is real, and I know that as I have had more and more experience (and more and more children?) over the years, I have gained that confidence to say "No way!" quickly and comfortably when I felt it wasn't right for us.  I wish I would have learned that sooner.

I also have to say this:  I know that being at home is sometimes lonely. Sometimes boring.  Sometimes monotonous.  There are so many things that can enrich our experiences and our child's also-trips to the zoo, to a friend's house, to the learning museum-and those are great things-but sometimes, and I see the discomfort with this so much more in this new generation of mothers-we just have to be a little lonely, a little bored, and find our way through these years.  

It's not so much all about us anymore, and what we want, and who we want to see.  We live in a time when I think we have been fed this belief that we deserve to be totally happy and fulfilled constantly.  Emotional entitlement, in a way.  I read article and article about how we need to take care of ourselves, and find out what makes us happy.  We deserve to be fulfilled, we are not our best for our children unless we are.  That might be true in a way, but I also don't think we have to be willing to sacrifice what is best for the loves of our lives, our children, before we subscribe to this belief that all this happiness, self-care, fulfillment is "out there" somewhere, with our children far away, and us gone from our homes when our children are tiny.  We can find it in our homes, if we are willing to look!  A quote hanging on my son's desk says, "The best way out is always through."  I take that to mean stop looking for ways around it all, and just stick your head in it, stick your heart in it, and work through it.  It's the only way to real true accomplishment, whether that involves the completion of a math project, or emotional growth and maturation in the most important role of our lives, that as mother.

Children crave routine I think, and also need our one-on-one attention, or just lots of days where they are not going here, there and everywhere.  When we allow ourselves to work through the long days, we found our way "around" these hurtles.  We find good books, a project that we can work on at home that involves are brains, our talents.  We sometimes find friendships right in our neighborhood.  

I think one of the things I've noticed most lately, that makes me laugh, is remembering that when I just had little ones, the day would be so long.  I would wake up and think, "What am I going to do all day?" And now, with older children, my days seem so speedy fast, and I crave those days when I "get to" not go anywhere, not do a thing.  I wake up thinking, "Please, please let this be a day that goes slow and boring."

And it also amazes me that when I look back at the journey from becoming a mother of one at 24, to being the mother of five by 38, something always fell into my lap to push me up and over the emotional speed bumps of being a mom-I was magically given the gift of growth to smooth out that speed bump-to find that happiness, fulfillment, challenge-whatever I was lamenting at the time.  The opportunities-whether that was a new encouraging friendship, a challenging project that came out of the blue where I was asked to write a chapter of a book, a little relief in the way of an easy baby, or an exciting break in the same old routine when I found myself pregnant once again.

I also see so many times where I wasn't "given" some sort of gift-I just worked through those feelings, and grew and settled and accepted that my life wouldn't be smooth, perfect, easy.  Now, looking back, I can see that if I didn't have patience, if I had looked elsewhere for a quick panacea to my doubts and insecurities and discomfort,  if I would have bought into the belief that I deserved something much more than just "being at home", I would have missed out on so much of what I had been looking for in the first place.  That is the gift of children in a nutshell-they give us back so much more than what we can ever give them, if we are willing to give the gift of every day.


Ordinary Days

My dear sweet Andrew, I just want to rescue him.  He is running cross country this year, not because he wants to but because we decided he is.  He really wanted to play soccer, but only if his father coached, and then Matthew wanted to run cross country and Abbey is in crew, and Isaac is playing soccer and that makes for busy Saturdays.  So we "talked him into" running cross country with Matt just to cut down on one less place to be.  He has been such a good sport about it and really tries so hard.  2 years ago he never noticed if he came in towards the end-this year he does darn it, and there is no way to make that feel better-other than to tell him there are millions of kids who are sitting on their duffs watching Saturday cartoons instead of running miles.  It doesn't really bring him solace but it's my best shot so there you go.

Jeff and Andrew roped me into playing Guess Who Mix and Mash.  It is a cute game.  I am awful at it.  I am 42 and lose at kid's games constantly.  I have no logic/deduction/deceit/stradegy skills. 

Here is Jeff telling a story. From dog chasing, to bumper sledding, to pool hopping at night, to braces getting stuck together, the stories go on and on and on.

Patrick only eats the tops.  Isn't he nice to leave the rest for the next person?  

Abbey loves making Resurrection Rolls.  Do you know what those are?  It's basically a marshmallow dipped in butter and then in cinnamon sugar, with a Pillsbury crescent roll wrapped tightly around it, which is then dipped in butter and cinnamon sugar again and baked.  They are delicious I must say. Heavenly, I just can't resist that word. It is a Easter type of dessert that symbolizes, because the marshmallow is supposed to "disappear", the resurrection of Jesus.  It seems sort of sacrilegious to symbolize Jesus with a marshmallow I think, and pretty far-fetched and weird.  Here Abbey is using her religious teacher voice to describe it all to me and we have a bad case of the giggles.  Besides I told her, as you can see, her marshmallows didn't disappear so major fail on that fancy lesson.

By the end of this post you must think all I feed my kids are sugar.  We had to make one last run to Mr. Freeze.

Crew!  A new sport for us.  I am always up for a new sport. :)  I thought we tried them all, but apparently not...
That is Abbey second to last.  And my niece Hayley, first, the coxswain, and a darn good one (and cute one) I might add.  That is a hard job-all the pressure is on you. 

 Abbey is loving it. I missed her first regatta, but my sister took great pictures for me.  I was home with the little boys because they had cross country, and Jeff went to the regatta because it was in a city where Isaac is also looking at a college, and Jeff hadn't visited yet and really needed to.  So they went to the regatta for awhile, went on a college tour, and came back to the regatta.  It also happens that this all took place in my hometown, which I was desperately in the mood to visit.  Darn!  If you don't live in your hometown, don't you ever just still get a little homesick for it?  I don't often but during fall and then again at Christmastime I just do.


Blueberry Zucchini Bread

This recipe makes 4 mini-loaves.  Perfect for sharing.

3 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups white sugar
2 cups shredded zucchini
3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 pint fresh blueberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease 4 mini-loaf pans.

In a bowl, beat together eggs, oil, vanilla, and sugar.  Fold in the zucchini.  Beat in the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon.  Fold in blueberries and transfer to mini-loaf pans.  (They will each be pretty full.)

Bake for 40 minutes or until a knife inserted in center comes out clean.   Cool in pans.


Gratitude for the Week

This week I am grateful for:
Life.  A beautiful mother I had met a few times in our town passed away this week from cancer.  She was exactly my age, 42.  She lived in a beautiful house, had a loving husband and a seven year old daughter, a loving family, and many, many friends.  42 is too young.  No child should ever be left without a mother.

This week I had quite a few times when I felt overwhelmed by my mothering duties.  I worried after a college planning meeting, I felt inadequate after I grew frustrated in the after school frenzy/carpool/dinner prep, I felt deep sadness after I dropped off Patrick for his first little preschool day.  Am I doing enough, being the mother I want to be?  Can I embrace change in a healthy way, or will I always live with the sadness of letting my children go little by little?  Do I have what it takes to make good decisions, and help my children make them also?

And then I am reminded that this-whatever this holds- is life.  Every day is precious whether it is spent with tissues, with preoccupation, with frustration, with sadness.  I get to experience it all-I get to figure it out, day by day, hour by hour.  I get to see my children grow away from me, I get to do 100 things at once while someone calls "Mom, mom, mom" over and over again and my brain feels jumbled.  I get to make endless lists, I get to drive carpool, I get to work through hard days.

What would so many trade for just one more day whether it was hard or easy, happy or sad?

So this is what I am grateful for this week: every day I get to spend on earth.
Life is precious.


Ordinary Days

Abbey showing off her schedule in Spanish and Isaac being weird and annoying.

We changed some bedroom situations.  Did you and your siblings always switch bedrooms around?  My sisters and I did, and it was so much fun.

Abbey's friend she first met in preschool, stopping over with a cake for Abbey's birthday.  Isn't that the sweetest thing?  She wrote a paper on Abbey's friendship for an English class, and I could hardly read it without crying.

Abbey and Jeff ran into Dairy Queen to buy a cake for her birthday.  They came back with this surprise for me.  (You will only get it if you are passionate about Napoleon Dynamite.)  

When We Were Strangers, another amazing immigrant story. 

Pam introduced me to this book and oh boy.  I want to suggest it for book club because there is a lot to talk about.  I liked that I knew nothing about the book before I began.  Anna Quindlen is such a good writer.  I had to copy a few quotes down because I don't know how that woman puts mothering emotions into words so exact, but there is no doubt she just hits the nail on the head every time.

This is what we go out to as many Sundays as we can.  My mother-in-law and her food.  It is heaven for me to not have to cook for one night.  (OK, I have more than one night because we get pizza at least once a week.)  BUT this is always the best home made food, and as you can see, she makes double what she needs to every single time.  

LOVE!  I saw this at the grocery store and I stopped dead in my tracks and I swear just like in Tom and Jerry, there were hearts radiating from my eyes.  The micro fiber pad comes off so you can throw it in the wash AND the bottle is totally removable and refillable with whatever cleaner you want to use, so you are not tied down to buying all these expensive accessories all the time.  (I have mostly water and a teeny bit of Murphy's Oil Soap in there now.)  It is called Rubbermaid Reveal and was on sale for 20 buckaroos.

Alleluia!  Something about that trigger gets them every time.

My sister-in-law heard there is some sort of pumpkin shortage.  She made her heavenly pumpkin bars the other weekend and had to go to three different stores before she found a can.  That scared the bee-jibbers out of me.  What's autumn without pumpkin?  I had to stock up next time I went grocery shopping just for safety's sake.  And they only had 2 cans left.  I took them both, I'm sorry.

A typical day after school.  Hungry kids always!  Paper everywhere always!


Gratitude for the Week

This week I am grateful for:

-Early bedtimes due to pure school exhaustion.

-Good teachers.  I had lots of orientation nights this week, and oh boy, what an art teaching is.  I just adore those really really passionate, energetic, dedicated teachers.

-My mother.  I have a good one.  She happens to be one of those teachers above also.

-Andrew's laugh attacks.  He had a good one the other day.  He cracked himself up this time.  It was some comment about a brother's supposed girlfriend years and years ago, you'd never think it was funny, but he could hardly get it out.  All we have to do though is look at him during one of these laugh attacks, with his tears streaming down his face, and pretty soon we are all crying with laughter too.


Growing Fast

We did a little clothes-clean-out because Patrick has grown so much.  Even some of the shorts that fit him in the beginning of summer don't fit anymore! I knew he needed some fall clothes, pants especially.   I made him stand still while I tried things on him as fast as I could.  (A little more on how I organize the kids closets here and here.)

The very next day, I was asked by a company called Tea Collection if I would mind picking out $100 worth of boys clothing in return for a review.  OH, the perks of blogging, not to mention the perfect timing!  Heck yes, thank you very much.  I ordered 3 items (yes, this isn't Target!) and I broke child labor laws and had Patrick model them for you. I will say, honestly, that these are the softest, highest quality clothes that have ever touched this little boy's skin.  (And probably will till he starts buying his own.)

My favorite, so soft and cuddly:

His favorite, the "one with the bike":

And pants that fit:

That just about wore him out, all that work.

Off to play Candy Land, where I purposely put the good cards on top, and I pick from the bottom...it speeds up the game considerably.


Ordinary Days

I made the grossest meal one night.  I just had to tell you that.  I made bagel pizzas for back-up and I have no picture of those because they were all gone.  I hate when I spend time making a meal and no one likes it, but this time I knew when I was putting it together that it wasn't going to be good, and I forewarned everyone.  I have no idea why I went ahead with the recipe in the first place, it was like I was on auto-pilot while in my head I kept thinking, "This can NOT possibly taste good."  And it didn't.

We ordered 4 new Little Critters and someone was overjoyed when the UPS man rang the doorbell.

 The best purchase I ever made, still.  It will be one year this month, and it has been used every day possible.

Hydrangeas in my back yard.  Not as luscious as the Cape's but I'll take what I can get. 

Abbey's homework, no kidding.

We have two new additions, one already bit the dust.

I've been making bagels like a crazy woman.  Matt says to pack an extra one in his lunch bag because he has a little bagel side business going.  I have yet to see any profits in my pocket.  I think they are being spent on ice cream sandwiches.

I have a real hard time spending $40 on dog grooming. He also hates going to the grooming place and I really do feel bad when I take him there-another reason not to shell out the cash.  But Sammy was in desperate need and I just HATE cutting his nails more than anything else on earth. When I picked him up the groomer said, "He was my best dog by far today." And that made me feel proud, which in turn made me laugh at myself, because TRUST ME, I have done NOTHING to make him either good or bad, he was born that way.  Can't you tell he is proud in the After photo?  Why am I even talking about my dog?  For God's sake alive, what have I become?

Lunches lined up at night.  Abbey insisted on that lunch box even though I said, "If seniors make fun of you at school and point and laugh and push you down I am still making you carry it."  She said she would. and instead of getting made fun of she gets compliments on how cute it is.  Well, what do I know anyways?

A beautiful pink-cloud morning.


 Speaking of natcher, we had rain for 5 minutes the other day.  Still dry as a bone over here, but I shouldn't complain because I know others have had more than their fill.


Abbey is 15

Abbey you are the nicest, prettiest, smartest girl ever and I love you so much.  Thank you for making me go shopping with you, I need to do that sometimes, really I do.  Thank you for always being my "opinion" go-to person in this house whether it's about decorating, makeup, photography, life. You are a voice of reason and have darn good taste that you inherited from someone, not me.  Same with those brains of yours.  And those abs.  I consider myself the luckiest mother in the world to have you as my daughter.

Happy Birthday Abbey!