Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Yuletide Sentiments

Ten more days. Just ten more days. With every twinkle of the lights, every tear of tape while presents are being wrapped, every friend's card or letter received in the mail, every carol sung, every lick of the fingers after another scrumptious treat is devoured, every ornament placed on the tree . . . the anticipation grows.

Each year I am older, I come to more fully understand Christmas. Or at least I feel so.

When Christmas caroling with friends around a local assisted living retirement home, I met Betty. At about eighty-five years old, she sat by herself at a table in her wheelchair, her head in her wrinkled arthritic hands, tears streaming down her thin cheeks. I stopped singing to go to her side and hold her hand, which she graciously accepted with a weak smile. After asking her a few questions, I realized that we would not be able to chat and was really only able to understand Betty's name. As strangers, we simply sat with one another, our palms connected and our souls uplifted by the unexpected camaraderie. I tried to imagine the reason behind her tears. Is this her first Christmas without a loved one? Is her health deteriorating? Did the song remind her of more joyful days past? If I had to guess, she was simply grateful for a simple act of strangers spending an afternoon to come and see her.

the Lord provides

This is the first Christmas ever that we are not putting a single dollar on a credit card and are truly sticking to the budget that we put together a month ago. For about half of the month, it seemed very doubtful that our budget would allow Jason and I to buy gifts for one another. But after a few costs were smaller than anticipated, we found out that we would be able to and I have never been so excited to buy my husband a present, as small as it may be.

the Lord provides

Because we've been really cutting costs lately, we haven't been buying things as soon as something breaks or is needed. We've just been getting by. This means that when my family has asked what we would like for Christmas this year, we have had very useful answers for them and some of our needs will possibly be taken care of this holiday.

the Lord provides

We buy three gifts for each of our two sons, one of which is shared, for a total of five gifts, plus a stocking with some candies, an orange, and a couple of items from the dollar section in Target. Our thought is that the baby Jesus received three gifts, so this helps to keep the meaning of Christmas alive in our home, as well as to keep spending limited. It also helps us to put a lot of thought into those three gifts. Well, after we had already completed all of our shopping, our two year old son, Noah, began showing a lot more interest in music, specifically in guitars. He spent a few hours (which is A LOT for a two year old) playing with a friend's child-sized toy guitar in their home, causing me to wish that I hadn't already purchased his gifts. Sadly, I thought this gift idea would have to wait until his birthday in May. The very next day, his aunt e-mailed asking what the boys wanted for Christmas and I replied with a list of possible options. She chose to give Noah the guitar.

the Lord provides

Two thousand and nine years ago, a Babe was born. His mother and father were not welcomed anywhere, but eventually found a barn in which the Son of God could be delivered with the livestock. In a world of imperfect people, the perfect Emmanuel came down to be with us, to live among us.

The Lord, our Father, sacrificed and let go of his only Son, knowing that He would be killed. What parent could do this? What father would willingly endure this agony?


Why would the Lord voluntarily give up his Perfect Child?

It is because the Lord loves all of his children with a parent's love, and although we are so unworthy, in giving up Jesus, God knew that He would then someday be reunited with his Son and with all of us.

Our lives are journeys. Hopefully, as the years pass, we gain wisdom and overcome some of our faults.

But will we ever be perfect? No.

Will we ever be worthy of this love of the Lord's? No.

Will we ever be worthy of heaven? No.

And yet, God has loved us unconditionally and given his promise of life after death with Him someday.

the Lord provides

I wish you all the blessings this Christmas and in the year to come. And I hope that you too will allow Christmas to touch your heart.

***** If you are searching to find more meaning in Christmas than gift cards and shopping malls, I would invite you to watch a video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eVqqj1v-ZBU Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Dinnertime - Mamma Vintage Style

Something about my Mamma Vintage persona is that I am a big believer in the comfort, beauty and therapy found in a home-cooked meal. Hence, I was in heaven last night as I watched Julie & Julia in a discount theater as I savored a few dark chocolates. The lights were dimmed, the seats a little scratchy and noisy, the smell of stale popcorn hung in the air, but I was unaware of all of my surroundings as I watched Meryl Streep perfectly portray one of my newest of heroes; Julia Child.

I was also pleased to find out that although I am Mamma "Vintage," I am not necessarily a dying breed. Yes, I realize that Julia Child is now the late Julia Child, but the entire movie was made because of Julie; a real, young woman who shares my passion. I am not alone!

Oops - I must go and baste the chicken!

Yes, that's right, I am serving Julia's Child's roast chicken tonight and I have to say, it smells simply scrumptious.

There is something primal and luxurious and visceral and natural and absolutely lovely about food that you have prepared yourself. The satisfaction from a homemade meal is so much more abundant than from one that is handed to you in a sack. I'm not talking health. I'm talking pleasure. How much pleasure is derived from nourishment that you have no investment in? When you nurture your food, taking the time to learn the best method of preparation, when you put yourself into it, you receive so much in return.

It is the ying-yang of subsistence, the karma of cuisine - the more you give, the more you get.

Gotta go baste again . . .

Yep, basting every ten minutes. Now, I fully realize that many would respond in whiny, high-pitched voices, "Every ten minutes? I'm too busy! I don't have the time for that!"

But the more I cook this way, the more I want to do it. I make the time and plan ahead and prepare things in advance. Anyone who knows me knows that I am very busy. But when you really love something, you make time for it and that includes food. I simply love food and adore eating.

Who wouldn't be thrilled to sit down to a table set with a glorious platter of roasted chicken which was stuffed with sliced lemon, half an onion and celery stalks (all of which was only to flavor the chicken and were then saved to make stock for tomorrow's soup), and then basted every ten minutes with its own juices, accompanied by roasted carrots and onions and a baked potato? Seriously, I will make the time for that.

It's the same as making time for exercise or a manicure or a girl's night or a chick flick. It's therapeutic. By preparing meals that my family and I can enjoy and savor, I am actually pampering myself. Who knew?! I'll tell you who did - Julia Child.

I always knew I liked to cook. But now I'm sort of loving it. Sort of becoming obsessed with it. Like I sort of can't stop thinking about it. There's always an occasion coming up which needs a special dish, even if it's just a Tuesday night dinner. The ritual of sitting with loved ones to share a meal is worth celebrating. It's an opportunity - a chance to connect with one another, as well as to relish some magnificent food.

If you need somewhere to start, I would strongly recommend Better Homes and Garden's Cookbook, a masterpiece that has been updated at least fourteen times since it's first edition in 1930.

I have a few cookbooks on my wish list this year. If you're looking for one, I've done some research and am pretty sure that any of the below will be fabulous. . .

Ad Hoc At Home by Thomas Keller

Jason and I love to watch Top Chef, and I often look up the chefs who guest star on the show. However, most of the time their cookbooks offer recipes for snobby, trendy, "gourmet" food, which I am so not into. Well, Tom Keller was introduced on the show as America's greatest chef today. So I was thrilled when I discovered that he came out with a cookbook this year with home style recipes for family dinners!

Mastering the Art of French Cooking and The Way to Cook By Julia Child
Surprise, surprise, right?

I'm Dreaming of a Chocolate Christmas by Marcel Desaulniers
Okay, this guy is one of the top pastry chefs in the country, but this cookbook is filled with recipes that are perfect for the holidays and a bit easier than his typical feats. I borrowed the book from the library and have tried a couple of the recipes, and I have to say, they are delicious!

From Mom With Love . . . A Complete Guide to Indian Cooking and Entertaining by Pushpa Bhargava
I LOVE Indian food but I am a real novice in this ethnicity. This cookbook got rave reviews and has color pictures on every page, something I absolutely love.

So, if Santa decides I've been a good girl, maybe I'll be writing about a featured recipe next month!

Here it is - Julia Child's Roast Chicken with Carrots and Onion

Noah enjoying a drumstick

Joshua doing "the chicken"


Thursday, November 12, 2009

"If You Have To Eat It Like A Bear, It's Trashy" (unless it's dungeness crab, that is)

OK, so apparently I'm a food snob. That and the title of this entry are what were derived from a recent conversation with Jason, in the depths of deep discussion about barbecue. I am not a fan. I just do not understand what all of the hype is about. Barbecue is sort of a phenomenon in our country; one that millions of restaurants, cookbooks, chefs, contests, events and entire lives are completely dedicated to. People have what I believe are abnormally strong feelings about barbecue. Even though I'm not a connoisseur, I fully understand that insulting someone's baby back ribs, or even simply not displaying an adequate amount of enthusiasm for them, is basically the same as punching out their grandmother. You just don't do it.

But to me, barbecue is this: nauseatingly sweet, smoky, sticky, tiny shreds of meat that are often very chewy, yet not really chewable, and are attached to a bone that is larger than all of the meat put together. Not only do I not like the taste, but there's a lot of labor involved! It's not that I'm afraid to get messy, but that the taste of the food to blame better be worthwhile. And with barbecue, it's just not.

In my opinion, the only time a functional adult should be wearing a bib is if you have the rare pleasure of dining on dungeness crab, which was pulled from the crab pot in Hood Canal four hours earlier, cracking the shells with specially made tools or pliers or a hammer or whatever else you've got on hand that can speed up the process of obtaining some of that precious meat, just so that you can dip it into melted butter with minced garlic.

Okay, so maybe I am a food snob. But if I am, it's not my fault. I have just been exposed to some really remarkable food!

As a child, we spent many Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends creating so many memories with the dearest of family friends at their cabin on Hood Canal. We would drive their Boston Whaler out a ways from the shore so that we could plunge the crab pot down into the saltwater, the center filled with "Stinky Chicken," the bait of choice in the area. After a few hours of waterskiing and intertubing in the sun or the rain, we would zip back to the buoy, our hopes high, to check if those underwater creatures had doomfully been allured by the trap. If we had captured our prize, we would pluck them out of the pot, careful not to get pinched, and later feast on the fruits of our lazy labors. As a child, I thought we were hunters.

During those luxurious holidays, the freshest of crabs was not the only delight I experienced. Fresh clams, mussels, oysters, salmon; these were all frequent menu items. And that's just the seafood. We would spend hours together in the kitchen, dancing and singing to Bruce Stringsteen, CCR and Stevie Ray Vaughan, preparing enormous breakfasts and dinners. Lunch was usually skipped, for we were all still full from the morning and had no time to interrupt water sports, chatting, reading, playing games, watching movies for the hundredth time, doing puzzles, painting, building furniture, assembling "candle boats" for that night's race in the pond, fishing and napping. We might put together a quick appetizer in the late afternoon and we might get to dinner around eight.

On those mini vacations that slipped by too quick, I learned infinite lessons; how to waterski, that I enjoy jigsaw puzzles, the entire script to Monty Python and the Holy Grail, how to respectfully discuss controversial topics with others whose views are different than my own, that I love dancing, how to form and develop lifelong friendships, and how to create irreplaceable, magical memories. And I also began learning how to cook.

And so, yes, perhaps it was the beginning of my food snobbery. But I will happily accept that flaw knowing that I also acquired many skills. As we enter the holiday season, I am grateful that I learned so much from four of the most amazing teachers that a child could ever try to emulate, so that I can now organize and create special times for my family and friends, including some really great food.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sunrise Sunset

Raising sons is an ongoing adventure, one filled with a parade of trucks, scraped knees, spilled milk and imagination. As a woman, I sometimes wonder what I can offer my two boys as they prepare to grow into men. What could I possibly know about being a man? But then I remember that I do have an advantage in this area, one that provides infinite help and guidance: I am married to a man who I am madly in love with, who happens to be my best friend and who is an absolutely marvelous father.

Jason and I dropped our sons off on Thursday evening at my parents so that we could be ready for an Engaged Encounter weekend beginning on Friday. As we hardly ever have a night with the boys away from home, we wanted to take advantage of the opportunity and do something romantic together, something to draw us closer to one another before our special weekend. 

So what did we do? Naturally, we went to see Inglourious Basterds

But in all seriousness, there was a time in our relationship when viewing Quentin Tarantino films together truly was romantic, for it was something that we both enjoyed and would assuredly spark much intriguing conversation, accented with moments of debate, laughter and thoughtfulness.

However, it seems that I have entered a new season in my life in which sensationalized, violent, vengeful movies actually disgust and anger me. When did this happen? Only a few short years ago, I looked down on the pitiful saps who couldn't stomach the fake blood and guts of Hollywood, with skins so thin that they found offense at the slightest provocation. Is this just another inevitability of motherhood? As Father Treacy so eloquently stated this weekend, no mother raises her boy to kill. So then, as mothers, can we not stand to see actors pretend to kill, savagely beat and scalp other actors? Do the ideals we keep for our children reach as far as the DVD we get in the mail from Netflix? I'm not sure.

But all of this forces me to further wonder, if I have changed this much in a few years, who will I be five years from now? Twenty-five years from now? It is frightening, exciting, overwhelming and bewildering to know that I really don't know the person I will become. 

I am reminded of Stevie Nicks singing the melancholy, insightful lyrics, "Can I sail thru the changing ocean tides? Can I handle the seasons of my life? Well, Ive been afraid of changing
cause Ive built my life around you, but time makes you bolder. Children get older and I'm getting older too." 

Despite any uncertainty, I do know one thing. Besides death, nothing will separate me from my constant Jason. No doom or crises or daily monotony will divide us. There is no ruining of us, for we will live and grow together just as we both sign every letter to one another . . . Always and Forever.

It is this love that is my grandest blessing not only as a wife, but as a mother. Jason and I firmly believe that by putting each other first, we grant our children the most powerful gift that we could ever bestow on them, for they live every day in the safety and security of their parents' love. It is our hope that through witnessing the strength of our bond, they may have some glimpse into God's love for all of us. It may seem idealist, but that's because it is. We know that. 

But I also know that I have seen God's light . . . Every day . . . In Jason.

I dare to dream that the seeds we plant into our relationship now will not only produce benefits for us. I dream of a day when I sit in the front pew of a Church. I watch my son's eyes light up. He stands handsomely in a tuxedo, gazing at his pretty bride walking down the aisle. Hand in hand, they recite their vows and begin the intertwining of their lives. 

I dream that my sons will one day make good husbands. Good fathers.

And I am reassured each morning as I wake to see the beloved face sleeping on the pillow beside me, his breath slow and steady. I am reassured, because with Jason as their father, how could they not?

And as I make this realization, a twinge of anxiety passes through me, for I know that when they are ready to become good husbands and fathers, I will not be ready to let them go.

But the worry is lessened as I picture Jason sitting beside me on that pew, holding my hand, my steadfast companion as I navigate through the many seasons of my life.  

"Sunrise Sunset"
From Fiddler on the Roof  
Sung by Tevye and Golde as they watch the wedding ceremony of their eldest daughter 

Is this the little girl I carried?
Is this the little boy at play?
I don't remember growing older
When did they?
When did she get to be a beauty?
When did he get to be so tall?
Wasn't it yesterday
When they were small?
Sunrise, sunset
Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly flow the days
Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers
Blossoming even as we gaze
Sunrise, sunset
Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly fly the years
One season following another
Laden with happiness and tears
What words of wisdom can I give them?
How can I help to ease their way?
Now they must learn from one another
Day by day
They look so natural together
Just like two newlyweds should be
Is there a canopy in store for me?
Sunrise, sunset
Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly flow the days
Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers
Blossoming even as we gaze
Sunrise, sunset
Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly fly the years
One season following another
Laden with happiness and tears


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Beef Stew and The Power of Our Wills

Beef stew. That's what almost put me over the edge tonight. Beef stew.

But let me explain. This was not just some canned, mushy, bland glop titled "Beef Stew." No, this was large pieces of tender beef that would fall apart in your mouth because they were simmering all day long in pinot noir. Simmering with velvety potato, sweet carrot, onion, and garlic. This beef stew had homemade herb dumplings floating on the surface. This beef stew would make grandma proud.

And yet, this beef stew, just like practically everything else lately, created a battle between my four year old son, Joshua, and I.  Setting the bowl before him, I could tell Joshua was not open to trying this.His brow was furrowed, his mind was set and it was not set on this. I know that I am not alone as a parent in the wars of dinnertime and toddlerhood. But that doesn't really comfort me the way it probably should.

Here is the savory, scrumptious dish I prepared.

Here is  Joshua's bowl after he's massacred his dinner.

Sunday morning we drove out of the Church parking lot to leave for the pumpkin patch, and Joshua began whining.

"Are we going to have to get onto I-5?"

"Yes, we are. Are you excited to pick out your pumpkin?" I asked cheerfully.

"I don't want to go on I-Fiiiiiiive," Joshua whined with such conviction, such determination that my best friend, Jenny, has recently titled Joshua the best whiner she knows. And she's right. He's talented. My son knows how to whine silently. How many children can you say that about? His body convulses as he staggers about, whining while he makes not a sound but a shuffling of his feet on the floor and the jerking and flailing of his limbs all about.

Joshua definitely has the stronger will of my two sons, which someday may be a wonderful gift for him. As his mother, I sincerely hope I am able to help guide him to that place. But in the world of time-outs, sibling rivalry, whining and tantrums, a strong will does not seem like such a gift. Joshua just does not want to be told what to do. He does not want to ride along I-5 simply because I've said we are going to. When venting about this predicament to a group of women, one responded very simply, "Well, I don't like being told what to do either. Who does?"

At the time, I was slightly annoyed by her lack of understanding. But after a few weeks of stewing over it, it seems like she was able to describe the essence of the problem in that short statement. Because I can imagine up a thousand different creative ways to get my son to go to the bathroom, brush his teeth, clean up his toys or stop hitting his brother. But in the end, he still won't want to listen to me. He will continually resist with every little cell in his body.

Don't we all?

When told that we need to get up at 6:00 am, drink eight glasses of water a day, pay the rising heating bill, floss each morning and each night, make healthy choices about what we eat, buy the right shade of denim jeans that are neither too loose nor too tight, take our vitamins, save for retirement, buy every damn type of insurance, mop the floor, get a flu shot, rotate our tires, flip our mattresses, water our organic, pesticide-free vegetable gardens, buy energy efficient light bulbs and dishwashers, oh and just one last, little thing . . . be good people.

Don't we all cringe at the long list of items we are told to do each day? Just like four year olds? Are we not all governed by nature to be immature, selfish beings?

But then, are we not also, as parents, called to teach our children to try to resist this part of themselves?

And can someone please tell me exactly how we are supposed to do that?


Monday, September 28, 2009

Big Boy Beds and the Big Bad Wolf

At this moment, my two-and-a-half year old son, Noah, is visiting the Land of Nod as he dreams away his nap time in his "big boy bed." The crib has been disassembled, stored in a cold corner of the garage and replaced by a seemingly enormous, solid wood set of bunk beds.

As many parents do, I am dragging my feet as I watch my two angels grow so fast. There is a cohabitating excitement and reluctance in my mind and in my heart as I witness my sons graduate from toddlerhood into boyhood, knowing that eventually it will be into manhood.

And so I irrationally, immaturely and irrefutably resist this inevitability and shy away from 
the Big Bad Wolf that is time.

"Time" is a word that sounds exactly like what it means. It is short, abrupt and a little harsh as it begins and ends with a consonant sound. 

Likewise, the passing of time can seem unrelenting and a little grim--something we feel we need to protect ourselves from. Summer abundance fades into the winds of a colder autumn and we try to comfort ourselves with warm, savory food and bulky sweaters. Wrinkles form and we smooth on Oil of Olay. Children grow and we frantically take photographs, trying to capture it before it slips away.

It is the constant paradox of parenthood: the thrill of observing young tots sprout up and the fear of the day when it will all be over. It seems odd and ironic that something that is natural can be difficult.

Yet, I plan to savor it as best as I can. To seek out the joy in it. What else can you do?

Charlotte the spider may have said it best in Charlotte's Web, one of the most insightful stories about childhood, growing up, and how all good things end while life remains unsypathetic, bounding forward.

How very special are we
For just a moment to be
Part of life's eternal rhyme
How very special are we
To have on our family tree
Mother Earth and Father Time

He turns the seasons around
And so she changes her gown
But they always look in their prime
They go on dancing their dance
Of everlasting romance
Mother Earth and Father Time

The summer larks return to sing
Oh, what a gift they give
Then autumn days grow short and cold
Oh, what a joy to live

How very special are we
For just a moment to be
Part of life's eternal rhyme
How very special are we
To have on our family tree
Mother Earth and Father Time


Monday, September 14, 2009

The Reliving of Childhood; Finding Magic Again in Circuses and Santa Claus

The smell of hot popcorn filled our noses. The long line of families anxiously pushed along, children hoisted up on their father's shoulders. Anticipation permeated. My son's hand filled mine as we waded through the crowd to find our seats--my mind brimmed over with the knowledge and appreciation that I had an evening ahead of me in which I would experience one of my most favorite, most-loved aspects of parenthood; the reliving of childhood.

The "Greatest Show on Earth" was just a short, excited drive from our home, north of Seattle, and we had tickets. My husband, Jason and I, were thrilled to have the chance to take our two sons, Joshua (4) and Noah (2), to the spectacular Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus!

And what a show it was. The cotton candy was ignored, not being able to compete with the flashing lights, the theatrical music, the clumsy clowns and the parade of elephants, horses, zebras, tigers and dogs. Pastel-colored spun sugar was no match-up for the alluring spectacle of magic and fascination displayed before us. Like a child, I let my eyes be fooled and my mind be tricked. What had been a recent growing cynicism inside of me was left at the door along with the world of grown-ups. I only kept in touch with that world for one moment as my eyes wet over with such motherly joy as I observed my children encounter such awe and delight. Then I realized I was actually about to cry at the circus and fought the tears back.

To me this was a hidden part of becoming a mother that I was completely unaware of--a surprising gift that I receive over and over again. As my abdomen swelled with my first pregnancy, I understood that I would love my children more than myself, that I would find joy in their joy because I loved them so much. But I could not foresee that it is so much more than that. Their joy truly is my joy. So much that I can even try to bring them happiness out of selfish reasons, for I genuinely feel their mirth as my very own.

Furthermore, as my sons have met the magics and wonders of childhood, so have I lived them now more fully than I had during my own youth. Let me tell you now with utmost sincerity and honesty that when it comes to the magic of disappearing acts and Santa Claus, I believe.

As testament to this, every Christmas season I read The Polar Express with wee ones on my lap, succumbing to tears on the last page:
At one time, most of my friends could hear the bell, but as years passed, it fell silent for all of them. Even Sarah found one Christmas that she could no longer hear its sweet sound. Though I've grown old, the bell still rings for me, as it does for all who truly believe.
I will go even further in saying that as I've grown old, my faith is even deeper and more fervent than it was so many years ago. I no longer search for any signs that I may be naive, no longer rummage through my parents' room for clues to this mystery, no longer am I worried that I am being hoodwinked. And no longer is my belief just the effect of what my mom and dad have told me; no longer is it just a source of fun and entertainment and presents.

No, for now my trust in that which I cannot see has deep purpose and meaning. And I experience this purpose as the ringmaster wills a tiger to vanish, as Joshua discovers under the tree the exact Tonka crane that he asked of St. Nick.

My faith is stronger as I see my children's faces light up with marveling and merriment, for I choose to believe.

Do you?

In awe and wonder, Joshua experiences the magic of childhood while the ringmaster commands twelve tigers.

Enormous elephants standing on two legs mesmerize my four year old.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Farewell to Superman and Batman - We Will Keep Fighting the Fight

Their legs stuck, stretched and rigid, the two fire-bellied toads lay lifeless over the too-dry small rocks bought from the local pet store. The bright orange markings on their stomach, a tribute to their name, lit with the same intensity as before. But the frogs no longer inhaled their rapid breaths and their eyes receded into their heads.

I knew the cage needed to be cleaned. I knew they needed fresh water. But I was going to put this task off one more day until I purchased another batch of doomed crickets, fulfilling all of Superman and Batman's needs within one afternoon. Too late. As I peeled Batman's dried toes off of the plastic wall, it was obviously too late.

What was I to tell our four year old boy, Joshua? Just yesterday we watched as the frogs pounced the bugs and gobbled them up. Now they were dead. What can you tell a preschooler about death?

And although I am pretty sure Joshua would handle the news very matter-of-factly, I just can't tell him. There is an irrational, overwhelming guilt marching in on me, making it impossible for me to give him the sorrowful news. Why such guilt over amphibians? Why sorrow over ten dollar pets, easily replaced?

Because this summer has contained the most difficult, most heart-wrenching seven weeks of my life. And because those weeks are not over, with not even the mercy of an ending yet in sight. My cousin Alicia, who is more like my sister, has been in the hospital for seven weeks now and we still don't know why.

Countless hours have been spent at the hospital; attending to Alicia, reading to her, feeding her, comforting her, praying with her, hiding tears from her. Many more hours have been spent at home; pacing, discussing her condition over the phone, weeping, praying, hiding fears from my children. And with all of that, I have not always been the mother that I should be. That they deserve.

But just like the demise of loved animals, how do you explain that to a four year old? A two year old? How do you explain a simultaneous present and absent mother?

You don't. You do what all parents do. You hold your children tighter. You read them more stories when you can. You let them eat more ice cream. You tell them that everything's going to be okay. Even though you don't know if it will.

You continue to pray.

And you go to the pet store during nap time and replace those two frogs without your son's notice; because you just can't bear one more thing that you've done wrong, you just can't bear more bad news, you just can't bear honesty in this point of time. This does not need to be a life lesson. There have already been too many of them lately.

I will not sink into despair. I will not drown in desperation, frustration and anguish. I will not give in to the mountain of sadness weighing down on my back.

I will ignore the truth and propel myself forward, grasping slippery hope with both hands. I refuse to lose that grasp. I refuse to lose faith. I will not be broken. I will keep fighting the fight.

And I will check the water level in the terrarium twice a day.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Mamma Vintage???

When asked to title my blog, I sat staring blankly at the screen, waiting for the wave of inspiration to strike. And then I waited a little more. And a little more.

What an odd and overwhelming request--like being asked to title your life! And not to discourage you from reading my blog or anything, but it's not as if my existence has contained the material of epic novels or anything. Not even close. It doesn't even seem title-able.

But after contemplating my existence a little more, the essence of this blog became suddenly clear. And the title really does say it all (or maybe most) . . .

MAMMA - First and foremost, I am a mother of two. It is my most colossal identity. Like every other mom in the world, my motherhood is at the very core of my being and composes the roots of my reality and of my spirit.

VINTAGE - Meaning classic, nostalgic, traditional, old-fashioned. These seem to be ideas that I very much connect with not only in my maternal instincts, but in most of my life.

mamMa - Why the extra M? "Mamma" is the Italian version of mother. And although I am actually not Italian, I seem to always have had somewhat of a possibly abnormal infatuation with this culture. I used to even lie when asked if was Italian! "Why yes, I am, thank you." But now I am satisfied with just obsessing over this country and fantasizing about the day when I will get to drive along the coast of Southern Italy.

And it is the fascination with this culture that helps me to adjust to my role as Mamma. Whether I have nauseating spit-up in my hair, I am overwhelmed by the inevitable grief of life, or I am listening to uninterrupted whining for hours on end, I will always take refuge in family, friends, love, a large glass of wine and very good food.