The past few years, Big Daddy and I have been lucky enough to go on a week (or two!) child free vacation thanks to generous babysitting offers from Big Daddy’s family. The girls get to spend a week on the shore of a beautiful little private lake tucked into the north woods in Wisconsin and then they’re sent south to finish out their time in suburban Chicagoland.

Last year, Big Daddy and I flew out to the west coast, joined up with two good friends and had a serious blast. This year, we spent a fabulous week in New Orleans followed by a little bit of jet setting and ending up in Chicago for three great nights.

New Orleans is something special.  Yeah, it’s a little dirty in some places and it can smell a little weird (or a lot weird depending on when you’re on Bourbon Street) but the layers of years feel so real there.  Because they are. New Orleans encompasses two of my great loves: good history and food.  Big Daddy and I had the very best time and we only saw a FRACTION of what there was to see.  Big Daddy was there for a conference and I was acting as support staff (meaning, I’d talk him into naps and beers at times he should have been in a session).

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I have seen the promised land and it is food in New Orleans.  Seriously.

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It was almost impossible to pick some place to go to eat because nearly everything had a four or five star review.  Even the pizza we decided to eat in one night was incredible.  But more than the food, was the feeling.

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It was one of those amazing places where time feels suspended and all the layers are all pressed together and you’re having drinks at a bar where they have wifi and use square and the floor looks two hundred years old and probably is and the band is playing a song that’s almost a hundred years old and it’s all there together like pages in a book. (What movie was that where they talked about time pressed together like pages in a book. Was that Doctor Who?)

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I got to watch the sun set on the Mississippi river from a paddle-wheel boat.  That happened.  I both held and ate an alligator.  I walked past buildings that smelled all musty and closed up and if you like old things like I do, there is hardly a better perfume in the world.  But better than all that was that for two weeks Big Daddy and I got to spend time alone together.    That wasn’t to say our time was perfect.  It wasn’t.  (Let’s not talk about Hartford).  But, not only are we grateful and appreciative for that time alone, I think it’s necessary.  Sometimes, there seems to be a movement among parents to be martyrs, so to speak.  We should never leave our little darlings.  We shouldn’t go out alone with our spouse or have nights alone with our spouse and a two week child free vacation?  Forget about it, but parents let me assure you that if you can arrange the child care then you must go off alone together.  It gives you a view of the flipside.  It shows you a tiny slice of what life will be like when you don’t have to hurry home and when you can linger over drinks or dinner or go for a walk after drinks and dinner.

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Thinking about the children growing up and moving on has always been hard for me.  I really feel as though I was meant to be a mother and I don’t really know what I’ll do when being a mother doesn’t eat up the majority of my days. But, on these vacations with Big Daddy I see a little hint of what life will be like when that does happen and I think I’ll be okay.

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Quick and dirty guide to a few New Orleans establishments that Big Daddy and I loved:

Crescent City Brewing-order the seafood cheesecake

Luke-for shrimp and grits and bread pudding

Cafe du Monde-for cafe mocha and beignets

Jimmy J’s-for Eggs Lafitte (and where there was also a waiter that sounded exactly like Harry Connick Jr and I would have given him anything he asked for)

Many many years ago, my grandmother taught me how to sew on a button.  She taught me how to neatly, knot off your sewing by passing your needle through the loops of thread and pulling the string tight.   I had just finished re-reading the section in my sewing machine manual that explained how to sew on buttons with your machine, but I made a near automatic decision not to do that and sat down with my needle and thread and did it like my grandma taught me.

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I spent time over the course of five days in making this dress.  Not five full days.  Not forty hours.  I laid out the pattern on the table.  I put it together with miles of tape and then cut it out.  I made up two mock bodices to check a sizing change (and it worked!)  I carefully pinned and cut the fabric because I had juuuuuuuust enough to eeek out the main pieces of the dress. I basted. I gathered.  I sewed.  I serged.  I trimmed miles of strings.  I ironed.  I ironed again.  I ripped out seams when the finish wasn’t perfect.  I measured and drew and measured again.  I considered throwing my sewing machine across the room when it would do buttonholes perfectly on test fabric and then refuse on the dress itself.  I learned new techniques (pockets!  collars! plackets! belt loops!).  I made mistakes, one that made me want to die a little bit, but I soldiered on and if you scrutinize the dress, in real life, you’ll see it, but I doubt anyone will actually notice it.

There is great satisfaction in completing something that took so much time and effort and the finished product always feels worth it despite the mistakes and angst.
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This dress is  Vivie from Blaverry and can be purchased and printed at home. They give great instructions on how to blend sizes, which I have to do for Baby Bee because she is as long and skinny as a spaghetti noodle. Or maybe even angel hair.  I was nervous about my ability to pull off some of the dresses features, namely the collar because I failed spectacularly at putting a collar on something a decade ago, but the instructions were super easy to follow and very detailed and while I think my collar technique can improve, I think it’s pretty good for a first go ’round.  If I make this exact dress for Littlebit again, I’ll raise the waist a few inches.  I think it looks best where her ribbon belt in, but on the dres it’s lower.    I really liked the layered pattern (meaning, for those of you not in the know, that you can select ONLY the size you’re making and that’s ALL that prints making it much easier to decipher).  Right now Blaverry only makes patterns for girls (in sizes 2t-16, for the most part) but they have some great options and you’ll be seeing Ansley and Thea later on.  And probably another Vivie because what’s good for the goose (Littlebit) is expected by the gander (Baby Bee).

The fabric is from Timeless Treasures and it was added to my stash years ago (two?  More?) and a few google searches doesn’t show anything easily available that’s quite like it.  I’m glad I held on to it for so long because the results are perfect.

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Something weird happens with second and third babies. You kind of lose track of milestones. When the Princess was a baby I sat on pins and needles waiting and watching for her to meet every single developmental milestone on time. When she was early, I celebrated! She was a genius! When she was delayed, I fretted. Sometimes, I’d like to go back in time and smack that crazy lady a few times. She missed out on so much joy by worrying needlessly.

When Littlebit and Baby Bee rolled around, my life was busier and while I loved them and cared for them every bit as much as I did their sister, I didn’t have the time to worry and fret over development like I had with the Princess. I just had too much going on. When someone would sit up or roll over, I’d often be slightly dumbfounded. I knew it was going to happen, but I sort of forgot about it.  Lest you think that only happens with babies around here, let me assure you that I’ve been pleasantly surprised by all sorts of milestones.

And, this summer  I was surprised again.  Littlebit isn’t much of a little bit anymore.  She’s officially no longer a little kid and has moved into the Tween years.  This past week I made a trip to the book store and picked out the second copy of “The Care and Keeping of You” that will exist in our house.

 

Can I go on a tangent for a moment?  I know people complain a lot about the price of American Girl dolls.  I understand this frustration.  The Princess was REALLY into these dolls for a few years and that meant purchasing a $100 doll once or twice a year.  I’m not going to talk to you about the quality of these dolls (which, if your child is a doll person is excellent) but I do want to talk about the non-fiction series of books put out by the American Girl corporation to help girls deal with the Tween and Teen years.  I’m a huge fan of “The Care and Keeping of You” volume 1.  It explains in plain language what sorts of changing your girl will beging to experience as she moves from being a kid and into being a teenager.  There is also a volume 2 that gets into more specific information for older girls, but they don’t stop there.  They also publish books on feelings, dealing with drama, dealing with boys, perparing to stay home alone, how to deal with middle school, what to say in difficult situations and more.  So, maybe hate them for the price of their dolls, but if you have a Tween or a tween to be in your house, give them a whirl.  You won’t be disappointed.

Littlebit has read her book cover to cover three times.  We discussed some things that cropped up in the book (smelling and when she may need to start shaving).  We made a few purchases.  I felt a little breathless over how I had missed Littlebit getting older.  She always looks like this, in my head.

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Of course, I know she’s almost as tall as me and her last shoe fitting found her feet to be the same size as mine and her hand pressed against the car window while I was pumping gas last week was nearly the same size as mine..  I know she’s getting ready to head into her last year of elementary school.  I know all of this, but I still didn’t know it. It was still a surprise.  I realize she’s not picking princess things anymore.    I realize it’s been a long time since we watched a Barbie movie together, by her choice (Barbie: A Perfect Christmas is my favorite and I watch it when there aren’t any kids around at all).  She’s staying up later.  We’ve begun to leave her home alone for a few minutes here and there (just 10 total and we have a security system and cameras).   She’s beginning to give a little push here and there.  She’s less willing to do whatever Baby Bee tells her to do.  She’s changing right before my eyes and I’m still surprised to see it.

The Princess’s teen years haven’t been too bad.  She’s a good kid, just mouthy.  I expect Littlebit to even easier as a teen as she’s justa more peaceful, compliant person over all.  I feel pretty confident that I won’t miss Baby Bee moving into her Tween years.  I’m preparing for a fight.

I bought a serger on Prime Day, too. Prime Day was good to me this year. My interest in sewing clothing has been piqued this year and I’m looking forward to turning out more professional looking clothing items and the serger is a part of that process.

I decided to be brutal while sorting my fabric this summer. While I had acquired some fabric as the years passed, a large majority of my fabric had been acquired years and years ago and, frankly, the girls had aged out of a lot of it. I tried selling it, but when the vast majority stayed un-sold, I knew I needed to find projects to try and use it up. I’m kind of practical with my crafting in that I don’t like to make something just to use up a supply. I want what I make to be useful and practical.  Of course I could make throw away items we won’t use or wear and then donate them or something, but that doesn’t really fit my M.O.  I like seeing things I made getting used and enjoyed, but what you do with yards and yards of outdated and outgrown fabric?

Undies, ladies and gentlemen.  You can make undies. Lots and lots and lots of undies and that’s exactly what I’ve been doing using Peek-A-Boo Pattern Shop’s classic panties pattern.   At first, I sewed these on my traditional machine and if all you have is a traditional machine, you’ll have no problem.

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However, now that I’ve moved on to making these mostly with my serger, I can go from this…

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to this….

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in just about 90 minutes.  For those of you keeping track, that’s LESS time than it would take me to wash and dry a load of clothes to clean our undies. Baby Bee and Littlebit both love these.  Baby Bee says they’re comfy and precious and she won’t ever poop in them.  Which is comforting because I don’t deal with poop in undies.  I throw the undies away.  Big Daddy tries to save them, but there’s some things that are worth spending money on and that is one of them.

Anyhow, how to the pattern.  It’s very easy to follow and features sizes from 12m to 10/12.  I had to add a little bit to the rise of Littlebit’s undies because she’s got some junk in her trunk.  Of course, that’s the beauty of making your own clothes; you can add and subtract where you need to.  I do like that the cuts you have to make for the waist band and leg bands are included on the main pattern piece so I don’t have to continually hunt down another piece of paper.  The instructions were very clear and easy to follow and I think they turn out looking adorable.  Also, it’s great practice on learning how to apply a band to a knit item as the technique used on these undies are exactly the technique you use on t-shirts.   Thanks to this pattern, I won’t be buying undies for the little girls before school this year. I’m making them.

Is that a super hippie thing to do?  If so, who cares.

I make no bones about how much I love Amazon. I’ve been a happy Amazon shopper since 2000. I ordered two Harry Potter books and a Creed CD. We won’t talk about that last part. We’ve been Prime members since the very beginning and even at the increased price, we still feel as though we get great value. We own a handful of Kindles. My point is, we are all in on Amazon and the point of that is Prime Day.

So, we can call agree that last year’s prime day was a bust. I bought three things that I thought were a decent price, but it was no Black Friday. This year, though, was better and the price on the Instant Pot was too good to pass up. I’d been eyeing the Instant Pot for a while and while I have no problem spending money on kitchen gadgets, the $110 usual price tag was just too rich for my blood which is slightly stupid because I’m hardly ever cheap.

But, at $70 I felt like it was a good buy and like thousands of other people bought the Instant Pot on Prime Day and waited for it to change my life.

And it has.

A crock pot is nice. I’ve used one for years and years and years and I consider it a kitchen staple, for sure. I love the convenience of dumping food in the crock pot in the morning and eating dinner later. I love not having to expend time preparing a meal on busy nights. But, the downfall of the crock pot is that it requires an advanced decision and sometimes that doesn’t happen for me. The Instant Pot removes that problem. Don’t have an idea for dinner and the meat is all frozen and it’s 5:30? So. Dump that shit in the Instant Pot and eat 30 minutes later and no, I’m not kidding.

Now, before I get into a couple of recipes that we tried and enjoyed, I want to say that the Instant Pot has three shortcomings. First, you cannot can in an Instant Pot, so if that’s important to you this won’t replace your stove top pressure cooker. Second, like a crock pot, the Instant Pot turns out a certain kind of dish. While you can cook nearly anything at all in it, you’re going to be mostly dealing with braised meats and that sort of thing. Lastly, I don’t find the meat that comes out of the Instant Pot to be as flavorful, though I am working on that. It’s good. It’s tender. It could use a little.

So, what is the Instant Pot good at?  Perfect rice in about 13 minutes (that includes 3 minutes cooking time and 10 minutes natural pressure release to allow the rice to continue cooking), hard boiled eggs in F-I-V-E minutes (quick released pressure and an immediate cold water bath) and these things peel like you cannot imagine.  They almost jump out of their shell.  I’m making a handful of hardboiled eggs for lunch to have with salad.  Why?  Because why not?  They’re that quick and easy.  We had a one pot pasta dish in the Instant Pot that we all loved and best of all, we didn’t have to heat the house up in the midst of the July/August heat.  What could be better?

Lastly, last week I made barbecoa.  Ladies and Gents, I dumped a frozen chuck roast into my Instant Pot and STILL had dinner an hour later.  A FROZEN ROAST.

Sometimes I can be scattered and it can be easy for me to lose time on weeknight afternoons and evenings because the time is so short and there’s a lot to do.  There have been plenty of time when we are staring down six o’clock with no dinner planned and everything frozen.  Now?  So.  Drop it in the Instant Pot and eat in an hour!  That is a miracle!

This past weekend, I made ribs.  So, let me confess that I kind of overloaded the pot a little bit and when I released the pressure it sprayed foamy pork around a little bit.  I do not necessarily regret this except for having to clean up foamy pork off of stuff.  I was able to fit two racks of baby back ribs inside the pot along with the recommended cooking liquid.  It was under my maximum line, but apparently the pot had different ideas about what equals maximum.  Anyhow, once the ribs got up to pressure (which takes about 10 minutes) they only needed 35 minutes of cooking time to be fall off the bone tender.  I finished them, per the recipe, by basting them with barbecue sauce and baking them in a hot oven for about 10 minutes.

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So, as a lady who has a husband that is super into meat, I will give a nod to the fact that the ribs themselves were over done by meat smoking standards.  While rib meat should release easily from the bone, they shouldn’t disintegrate like this.   You give up something for the complete and total convenience of having two racks of ribs done in less than an hour from start to finish.

 

We also made macaroni and cheese for a side.  This was a huge pot of pasta done in about ten total minutes.

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The quality of the macaroni and cheese was excellent.  Not over done at all and while I decided not to dirty another pan by broiling it with some breadcrumbs, that would have improved it overall and I doubt my family would have been able to tell the difference between this recipe and my usual stove top and then oven baked macaroni that takes easily an hour.  For me, this post is a great investment for our upcoming busy season and knowing what I know now, I DO think the $110ish list price on it is still a good buy.

School starts in 17 days. If you know me, you know I’m not totally happy about that. I enjoy being home with the girls all day although I do admit that this summer has tried my patience a bit. Because of the age difference between my siblings and me, sibling rivalry really wasn’t a thing. How could you compete with a 10 year old and a 4 year old when you were 16? You couldn’t and so you didn’t. But if you are 9 and your sister is 7 you can compete for everything and that has been tiring.

I hope this summer has treated you well. I’m going to talk about politics now.

Oh, you know I had to. We all have to. So many times I see women claiming that politics has no place in parenting. Ladies, stop saying that. Politics and society DOES have a bearing on how you parent and how your family lives. I know it’s exhausting and uncomfortable sometimes, but we have to talk about some of these things.

This is what I want to urge you to do. I struggle with this myself sometimes, so if you catch me going against this, you hold me accountable. When we post on the Internet sometimes we forget that a real, living, breathing person exists on the other side. The fact that we don’t have to face Betty Jo from Lancaster at Church on Sunday or at PTO on Wednesday or at the grocery store this afternoon will sometimes stop us from being as respectful as we could be. I’m not saying you shouldn’t discuss, passionately, what you believe. You should. What you shouldn’t do is call names or demean people just because they don’t agree with you. It’s so easy. I know it is, but we have to stop. We can’t. Those words drive us further apart and it takes away the meat from our arguments.

And there is always meat even if we don’t agree.

I don’t hide that I consider myself a progressive and while I’m maybe not all the way to being a socialist, I’m pretty close. I’ve been insulted, over these past few months, for saying that. It’s been flung at me like I admitted I killed kittens or smashed baby bunnies for fun. It was a surprise to me that it was thrown at me like a weapon. It’s not something I’m ashamed of or smug about. It just is. Part of who I am is wanting the best possible outcome for everyone. That means you and you and even you over there who really doesn’t have anything at all in common with me. I want you to be safe in your homes and places of employment. I want you to be able to worship whomever you want in the manner that you want as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone and I want you respect that others feel differently. I want you to have enough food to eat. I want you to be able to afford medicine and health care. I want your children to be educated as far as they choose to be. I want them to be able to go to college and not go into lifelong debt. I want people to be able to work at jobs they enjoy or at the very least work at a job they hate and make enough money to feed themselves and their families.

For me, those things are simple. They are, quite simply, what I hope for everyone human. If we pass in the street or if we are life long friends, I want that for you. I want you to be safe, comfortable, healthy and happy. What you look like, how you worship, who you love, what you do, how you were educated or where you came from doesn’t matter to me and I have trouble understanding how those things can matter to anyone. I do not understand not wanting human life cared for in a basic manner. And animals, too. Don’t forget them. I can understand that we disagree on WHO should do the caring and HOW. For me? I’m fine with paying taxes. Go ahead and tax me. I’m happy to pay for it. I’m happy to pay for maternity and paternity leave for everyone even though I’ll never use it again. I’m happy to pay more to insure we have good schools. I’m happy to pay more to make college affordable. I’m happy to pay more for my cheeseburger so the person who made it can afford to put food on her table.  Would I rather have more money in my pocket?  Sure.  I like to shop and go on vacation, but when my life is over I want to know that I cared when I should have and that extra pair of shoes or extra vacation will give me less satisfaction than knowing I cared for people.

And, if there is a god and if we meet at the end of my life I want to be able to look at him and say that I had my doubts, but I still lived a good worthy life.  And if that doesn’t happen, I can still go out into the ether as being someone who loved it all as much as she could.

But now I’m getting morose.

This fall, I will be voting for Hillary Clinton.  Not because she was my candidate of choice and not because I think she’ll be the best president ever and not because she’s got lady bits under her pants. I think she is politics as usual, and I’m a hope and change kind of girl.   But, no matter how loud people scream about e-mails and Benghazi and or whatever else the charges du jour against her are for that day, she still gets my vote.  Several months ago, video surfaced of Donald Trump mocking a disabled man.  It cut me to my core.  Baby Bee isn’t physically disabled.  But she is disabled.  Diagnosed.  With a disability.  I don’t want to live in an  America when the man who is supposed to be the greatest of us would mock my little girl.  Maybe you haven’t thought about that when you thought about casting your vote for him.  But I think about it.  Every day.  Donald Trump stands to be bad for a lot of people; LBGTQ+ people, brown people, Muslim people, war veterans.  I worry about ALL those people, but I am not them.  Actually, between my color and socio-economic status, I’m not going to suffer too much from a Trump presidency.  But, what I am is the mother of a child with a disability and what he said and what he did isn’t okay.

My little girl has honey brown hair. My little girl sleeps with at least two raggedy stuffed animals every night.  My little girl is an artist.  My little girl loves spaghetti-os.  My little girl has ten freckles on her nose and tries to catch fireflies by talking to them.  My little girl wants to grow up to be a film maker AND an animal doctor.  My little girl stands to be considered a lesser person under Donald Trump.  When you tell me you’re voting for him, it’s her face I see.  It’s her living in a society where it’s okay for her to be ridiculed for her challenges.  Because her life isn’t challenging enough?   This isn’t just me being dramatic.  It’s happening. I think the best way to entice someone to vote is to make things personal for them. If you don’t have a LGBTQ+ person, brown person or Muslim person in your life who is afraid of what a Trump presidency will mean to them, then I want you to think about Baby Bee and me.  I want you to read back in my archives about her. I want you to think about her, her face, her likes and dislikes and challenges and fears and then I want you to vote your conscience.

Saturday night, after a day of driving across Florida, Big Daddy and I arrived in Orlando. We picked up a pizza and collapsed into bed in our hotel around midnight. Just a couple hours later, twenty miles away 49 innocent souls would lose their lives and thousands of others would die in a million other small ways as well.

That day, sunny and bright, we passed news vans and crime scene vans making their way to report and to help. We saw helicopters circling in the distance. The weight of the awfulness was unbearable. What else can it be? We saw the phone clenched in the hand of a desperate mother. “Mommy, I love you”. Yes, he wasnt a kid, but those words twisted into my stomach like a knife, reminiscent of the texts the Princess sends when things aren’t quite going her way.  I can’t think about it too long or too hard. His fear and her desperation are too big for me to even comprehend.

 

The end of the story is that he died.  Eddie Justice’s mommy was never able to help her son. He was 30. And to her he was probably 30 and not 30 all at the same time but I can’t spend too much time thinking about that either. Not because Eddie and Mina Justice don’t deserve my time, sorrow and tears. They do. I’m afraid if I start crying; out of anger and fear and frustration and sorrow that I won’t be able to stop. I’m afraid if I stop to consider the dear ones of mine that could be those 49 dead or 53 injured or thousands who will never be the  same, I feel myself begin to crumple.

So, what then? What will this be? Another tragedy where we scream and tear at our hair and beat our breasts and cry until we run dry but, in the end, do nothing?  Because, that seems to be our thing.  The world watches us.  What will we do?

Nothing.

I mean, that’s status quo, right? 30 little children shot to death and nothing. 50 people who did nothing wrong but show up to Latin night dead and nothing, because that’s what it will be. Prayers offered and people who are on federal no fly lists or FBI watch lists able to legally buy weapons and, as quickly as they can can squeeze the trigger, exterminate as many people as their magazine can hold. And we will do nothing.

I’m sorry, mama, that you lost your child and I weap for you and your sorrow buries into my soul, but we will do nothing. We won’t give you a silver lining or the ability to say that your baby died, but at least this will never happen to anyone else.  That won’t come because people with more money than sense have convinced others that it’s more important to be able to empty their 30 rounds in fifteen seconds into a target for the benefit of their machismo than it is to admit that they’re wrong. To admit that their desire to possess something is more important than healing and protection and love and life. All that. That the  ability to target shoot is more important than you saying to a grieving parent, separated from their dead child by days because they lay in midst of a crime scene, that giving up your semi-automatic weapon is the least you can do out of love and respect and care for them or as tribute for their loved one. That you value life and loss so little.

Maybe that idea makes you mad. That I believe you value life and loss so little. But, all I have are your actions and your words and your pictures of your gun that is the same gun that killed 30 little children and dozens of innocent adults. What else should I think?

To, the hurting I send love and a promise that I will not only love bigger and care more but I will raise my children to do the same.

 

 

 

 

 

 

For Dad.

Once upon a time there was a clarinet.  It lived in a black and white case tucked into red velvet lining.  It roamed the halls and the football field with a leggy blonde with green eyes and a bright smile.   It played the fight song and the Alma Mater behind the twirling flags.  It went to competitions and won medals, now dull with age.  The clarinet player fell for  a not leggy blond that wrestled and played football and took home ec.  They got married, had babies and the clarinet went into the closet.

The clarinet lived in the closet in the little apartment that was their first home and the clarinet went into the closet in the white house at the top of the big steep hill.  The clarinet moved to Michigan in 1984 and moved into the closet in the house across from the lake and then moved again in 1986 to the brown house where it would spend decades.

When Dad downsized the clarinet moved in with a not-leggy blonde, who selflessly gave it up after a phone call inquiring if she minded the Princess having it to play in band.  By this time, our family had made our own journey.  We drove 400 miles to live within two miles of the white house on the top of the hill and the Princess started school that fall at the Middle School tucked up against the high school where the Clarinet Player and the Wrestler met and fell in love.

Thirty six years later, the clarinet came back home. It walked the same halls with another leggy blonde. It settled into the same band room. It plays on the  same football field behind the twirling flags . It plays the same fight song and the same Alma Mater.   In 2013, it also went into semi-retirement for outdoor playing. It was a classic and outdoor playing is bad for it. It is reserved for concerts now, where it plays on the same stage in the same auditorium.

But, it came out of outdoor retirement, briefly, this year when it marched with the leggy blonde, again. The Princess and I made the decision together. Yes, it should be Gran’s clarinet. It’s worth the risk.

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And in some small way, for just a moment a tiny part of my mother was where she would have wanted to be.

As time goes by, it gets harder and harder to say with certainty what Mom would have done, or wanted or thought about something.  It gets harder to say that she would have been here or done that. As our family grows and my brother and sister have families of their own it’s harder to say, for certain, that she would have been eating birthday cake with us or smiling as the kids hunted Easter baskets or opened Christmas presents.    But more than our expanding family, it’s harder to know what she would have done or been or thought because it’s been so very long since she’s been able to say and I’ve made the transition from the sorrow over what should have been to understanding, accepting and loving what is.

But, I knew for certain on that day with the Princess that not only did she carry a piece of her grandmother along with her, but that my Mom would have absolutely been there with us, in that place at that time. It is the most sure I’ve been, in a long time, of knowing the place my Mom would have occupied.

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And so, the clarinet traveled a thousand miles in the hold of a charter bus, but not to sit in another closet.  It came to have it’s moment in the sun with the Princess.  Like Gran would have wanted.

 

Happy Monday!

Usually Monday mornings are pretty tough, but this week things are feeling pretty good. The girls have 22 days of school left, we’re counting down to our summer vacation and we have lots of fun events leading up to the end of school. Things are about to get busy, for sure, but that’s okay. It’s good. We like it like that.

So, let’s talk about flank steak for a minute. Yes, I know that’s not what this recipe is actually about, but I want to talk about it anyhow. If you are trying to be health conscious, you will find a lot of recipes that call for flank steak. I know I have. However, every time I hit the grocery store looking for flank steak, I could never find it. Apparently London broil is similar? Anyhow, I finally broke down and called the butcher and asked if he had flank steak. He told me that he basically never carried flank steak, but he did carry flat iron steaks that would work the same and be of higher quality. I’ve had flat iron steaks in the past, but was willing to give it a try.

There were really no words for how delicious this meal was. The steak was amazingly tender, you could cut it with your fork. It was easy to prepare and everyone liked it! Even Baby Bee (though, admittedly, she picked out her stuffing). At $5/pound it may be a little pricey for every day, but I’m thrilled to be able to find such a good, reasonably priced special occasion dish AND to find out that I can get an excellent, tender flat iron steak from my local butcher. Score!

I used my meat mallet to pound my steaks a little thinner and to have them be a more uniformed thickness.  Then I put down my cheese layer.  You can do any sort of cheese that appeals to you.  I, myself, am a fan of feta, but the girls aren’t so they got provolone (and mozzarella last time).

My local store didn’t have sun-dried tomatoes, so I’ll try that next time.  This time, I went with spinach and garlic, two things I knew pretty much everyone would eat.

Afterwards, roll the steak up and secure.  I had to use skewers, but butchers twine would be a far better choice.  After rolling the meat, heat up some oil in a heavy, oven proof skillet and seer the steak on all sides.

After the meat is seared, pop the whole thing into a 350 degree oven.  We cooked ours for about 30 minutes and it came out a pretty good medium rare, which is our preference.  If you like your meat more well done, increase the cooking time.

Sorry, I don’t have pictures of it before cutting.  We were anxious to eat.

We served it with steamed asparagus and crash hot potatoes.  One thing I will say is that the quality of this feta (bought at my small, local store) was not as good as the feta I bought at the larger, further away store.  Just a note to myself, really, because it wasn’t quite as good as our first attempt.

 

Stuffed Flat Iron Steak
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
 
Ingredients
  • 2 lbs flank steak
  • 4-6 slices of provolone cheese OR 4-6 ounces of crumbled feta cheese
  • spinach
  • garlic, minced
  • olive oil
  • Montreal steak seasoning
  • skewers or butchers twine
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Using a meat mallet, pound the steaks until a uniform thickness (though they don't have to be overly thin)
  3. Layer on cheese, garlic and spinach.
  4. Roll the steak and secure with twine or skewers
  5. Heat olive oil in a large, oven proof skillet and sear the meat on all sides. Once meat is browned, place in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes for medium rare

 

Gentlemen, step aside unless you want to read about endometrial ablations. If so, pull up a chair.

The problems started a couple years ago. Nothing major, just a change. My normally predictable 28 day cycle suddenly became less predictable. Sometimes, I’d have a 25 day cycle. Sometimes, I’d have a 32 day cycle. And, let me tell you, even after deciding on permanent birth control, there is not much that can strike more fear into your heart than a late period. Even after choosing a permanent birth control that is 99.85% effective. I wondered if I was moving into perimenopause and talked things over with my doctor at my annual, but she didn’t think that was the case. I chalked things up to aging and stopped worrying about it.

Until last year.

Last year, ladies, my uterus turned on me. And it was ugly. I have no idea what I did to that bitch. I’ve always treated her pretty well, but she turned on me anyhow. We had gone from being sort of friends (like, she annoyed me once a month, but I was grateful for effort she put into child growing) to being flat out enemies. It started out innocently enough; a long heavy period. Abnormal, for me, but okay. That happens. Then, next month another long heavy period. Now I was annoyed. What was this? Then, it pretty much ruined my California vacation last year by showing up for nearly two full weeks at full on, what I charmingly call, stuck pig mode.

Two weeks alone with my husband with no kids and no schedules and hotels FULL of bright white bedding. It was a nightmare.

By this time, my periods were lasting as long as 18 days and only giving me a scant week rest in between them. I started taking iron pills because there was no way I wasn’t anemic. I went to my family doctor in the summer and she sent me for blood work and referred to me a Gynecologist. I hadn’t retained a OB/GYN since moving to Ohio, because my family doctor could handle everything for me. I, of course, kept up to date with my annual appointments. My first appointment with the Gynecologist had me scheduled for an ultra sound, which was easy. Thankfully, he didn’t see anything to be alarmed with, save for a very thick endometrial lining. He then referred me for a trans-vaginal ultrasound with contrast dye and, pardon my french, but that’s when shit got real. Needless to say, after trying twice to place the catheter in a way that would allow the dye to stay in my uterus, I was a sobbing mess on the table and they gave up out of pity. In my, and their, defense I have the pain tolerance of a gnat, but it really surpassed “pressure” and went right to extreme discomfort. I don’t want to scare you, friend, if that’s on the list of things for you, but I won’t lie to you either. It bypassed “that time Big Daddy dropped the Pyrex measuring cup on my big toe” and settled around “that time the Obstetrician was trying to get my placenta out after I gave birth”. It hurt. Badly. I had to call Big Daddy and cry when it was over.

The technicians were pretty sure they saw polyps in the few glimpses they were able to get and my Gynecologist recommended I get an ablation at that time. I was unsure. I wasn’t worried about the process, but I had read some women who had them and experienced hip pain that no one was particularly able to explain. I’ve had on and off hip pain since I delivered Littlebit, so I wasn’t in a hurry to add more to it, but then Christmas rolled around and I had a three week nightmare period from hell and anything ANYTHING was better than that. I spent three days in bed, unable to do anything at all. I was blowing through a super tampon coupled with an overnight pad every hour or so. I’d hit the wall.

Now that I’ve written a novel of a backstory, let me tell you about the ablation process itself. I checked into the surgery center first thing in the morning. This place is crazy efficient and you don’t wait long at all. They get you in and out. I was tucked into the couch on the playroom by early afternoon. The first day the cramps were pretty far off the hook and I definitely needed the pain management meds that my doctor had prescribed and a heating pad, but by day two, I took a couple of regular Motrin. I took it easy that day as well, but was back to about 100% by the next day. I had zero spotting after my procedure, which surprised me quite a bit and I have not had a period since the beginning of January.

Which is fine. Which is beyond fine!

My follow up with my Gynecologist found that I had so many polyps in my uterus that he lost count and it absolutely explained the crazy, heavy bleeding over the course of the last year. There were no signs of dysplasia, which can be a per-cursor to uterine cancer and would have caused me to no longer be a candidate for the ablation process.

I have had no hip pain. No cramps. No nothing, really. Occasionally, I get a little weepy and I wonder if I’m PMS’ing. However, even though Big Daddy and I decided years ago that another little one wasn’t in our plans, pregnancy is now officially out for me. And, that’s fine, but it is something you should strongly consider if you’re thinking about an ablation. But, I feel great. I feel relived. I don’t have any regrets. I’m glad I’m not trapped in a horrible cycle with my periods anymore. I was seriously getting to the point where I was afraid to leave the house for fear of an embarrassing leak. I’m 39. The days of being worried about leaking during my period should be long past for me.

The moral of this story, of course, is that you need to talk to your doctor about changes to your period. One of the first (and only) clues of uterine cancer is a change in your period, so it’s not only important to go to your annual appointments with your OB/GYN or family doctor, but it’s also important to report changes in your cycle to them. Sure, maybe it’s aging. Or something benign like polyps. But, maybe it isn’t. Make AND keep those annual appointments, ladies. They’re important.

As for endometrial ablation, I’d give a 10 out of 10, would recommend. If it’s on the horizon for you, no fear. It’s worth it.