Sunday, November 22, 2009

Thanksgiving Meatballs

We are traveling to Arizona for Turkey so we celebrated the holiday last night in our home with my clan. Family from Hawaii flew in for the week. It is my first cousin Gianna, with her husband Mike and their three small children, ages 2, 4, and 6, whom we have not seen in two years.

Moving our couch to the garage to make room for tables, all 17 of us ate together. The menu was an untraditional Thanksgiving …mustacholi and meatballs, handmade by my Mom and Dad. Very Italian and delicious. Of course Mom overcooked, so everyone took home a party favor of mustacholi and meatballs in a baggie.

I had a fabulous time with my sisters and cousins and aunts and all the darling kids, including mine. My cousin has lost 95 pounds and the highlight for me was getting to see what was left of her….what an amazing difference! Having her small kids in the house made me realize how old and grown up my 9 and 12 year old boys are. I spent the entire day cleaning and making my house all pretty so that these mini Hawaiians could come break a screen, another refused to eat dinner and another upset my nine year old to the point of tears……the two year old just wanted to take over my sons room and touch and mess with his valued ‘stuff’.

I can understand why a two year old would do this, but Daniel could not. When he awoke this morning I greeted him with, “ Good Mornin Daniel, How are you?”

Without hesitation, he answered, “Just happy that Rocco is gone.”

Ahh, good times…..It really doesn’t matter what time of year that you feast, or what you feast on. It is getting together, sharing laughter and feeling united in a love that floats throughout the crowded, loud room. So my First Thanksgiving was a splendid experience and I anticipate doing a Second feast with my husband’s family later this week. Hopefully another memorable time, minus the broken screen door and tears.

My overall assessment of Thanksgiving? Fancy food is good, but friends and family are the best! Oh, and so are those leftovers…now I am signing off to warm up some meatballs.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


I read that when Oprah was a child she prayed that God would use her….and I guess in many ways he has. For years, I have asked God to use me. When I stepped back to see what was in the works, I figured out that this meant playing mom, wife and living in the light….so, I stopped asking Him to use me and moved on to the prayer request that He would show me why he put me on this Earth. You know, my individual special purpose. But still nothing exhilarating popped out at me and I am left packing lunches, schlepping myself to fourth grade to tutor in math four days a week while I arrange play dates , grocery shop, fold laundry and listen to my kids practice piano and guitar daily. Honestly, I am disappointed if this is all God has in sight for me. Not that being a mom is without meaning, because this huge job, if done correctly, is loaded with purpose and can impact the world. I see a lot of good in my Christian service that is administered under our roof. However, There is a slice of me that wishes God would utilize me in some exciting glamorous way, you know huge and electrifying ……like being the next white, five foot Oprah, transforming our world on a grand scale.

I get it. I am serving my family, and in twenty years from now I hope to see God’s big picture and maybe it will all be clear why this mundane ordinary purpose was my calling. The truth is that I am just another soccer mom who is fortunate enough to have one amazing healthy husband and two healthy boys that light up my life. Health is EVERYTHING!

God answers prayers, I have experienced that high many times…He just does it in His own slow perfect way. When I studied the Bible I noticed that God used the winos, prostitutes and biggest losers to express his love and impact history. Being regular old wine loving simple me, I have hope that I will be called on some mission (I don’t mean Africa) outside of family life that is exciting and daring and requires immense trust and faith to see it through.

But for now, I will rotate the laundry.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Early Jollies

Want to know something? I am looking forward to Christmas….I know, I know, Thanksgiving is still two weeks away, and the Halloween box hasn’t made it back into the rafters.

 Wondering why I have this Jolly bug so early, I came to the conclusion that I love to give presents. Sure, I enjoy shopping, but don’t do too much of that for pleasure because of a mortgage, braces, a car payment, electricity, private school and Greenies for our dachshunds (what makes them so expensive?)

This is that time of year when I indulge in guilt free spending (of course within the budget). After making my purchases, I anticipate wrapping the treats for my friends and family. I am a simple wrapper and barely get a bow on the present. I don’t think that elaborate fluffy presentation stuff is all that important….yeah, it looks good, but in under a minute, five dollars worth of fake red poinsettias, wrapping paper and colorful wired ribbons are in the trash….or if you are really old, then you preserve all those fixings, thinking they will be reused, but in reality you will forget where you stored them, so they are never employed again. Or, If you are like my Little Ma’s (my maternal grandma, may she rest in peace), you store them in your shower. Little Ma’s shower stored five feet of used wrapping paper and bows from the last twenty years. Really. As a child I could not open the shower door, less an avalanche of dusty, bright ribbon and neatly folded packs of wrapping paper bury me alive. For the record Little Ma’s never showered, she LOVED her bathtub.

Ahem, back to my point…. So Christmas approaches and I feel jolly. After shopping and wrapping,  I now get to give my gift to that friend I love so much. It is not an expensive gift, but hopefully something that they will love or at least like. This physical giving part is when I become soaked in a warm happy feeling. As they open it, I swell with excitement, hope and nervousness, wanting them to genuinely like my gift.

But then this happens……I was at a girlfriend’s home recently and was helping her prepare for dinner when I opened a cupboard that held the present I had given her two years ago, unopened, never used. Ok, that did sting a bit, but I got over it by my second martini.

Now I might have to admit that maybe I shop for ME this time of year. Maybe this rush of gift buying is why I am so darn jolly so early…..Maybe, just maybe I am really horrible at selecting gifts and all these years my dear friends "oooh" and smile big just to be polite and then when they get home they toss my gift in their spare shower, or empty cupboard…….Hmmmm.

In conclusion, I am cheerful and enthused about the upcoming season, which really is all about Baby Jesus and not giving material gifts that I carefully select, pathetically wrap, and receive a small rush of warm love over.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Sweet. Literal. Daniel.

I love having nine year old Daniel in our family. He is a thinker and is discerning, intelligent, sensitive and possesses a fabulous sense of kid humor. These qualities mixed together bring my husband and I much laughter. As I had mentioned in a previous blog… take adult language literally, especially Daniel.

Saturday night our family was driving to dinner when my husband ran a red light. It was a close call, but really, he ran the red. The kids perked up. I turned tense and shouted a bad word in my mind as I scanned the street in the review mirror. I mentioned that in Ventura, the city has installed cameras attached to the lights that snap your car running the red and then send you a picture and a ticket. My husband was aware of that.

“There is one at Seaward and Main Street that I always pass. Right there on Seaward.” I note.

Daniel blurts out, “Seaward?”

Ralph and I continue to talk about the many intersections in Ventura that have the snap and snitch system installed. Again I mention Seaward Avenue, as it is the one I come across often.

In the back seat I hear Daniel repeating the word Seaward over and over, while Ralph and I nervously chat, thankful that there was no camera or police around to capture his mistake.
From the backseat I hear his curious voice, “Seaward? What Seaward? Do you mean crap?”

All conversation stopped as I looked back at Daniel in the back seat.
“What? Dan, what did you say?”

“Yeah, Seward, is that what you mean? Crap.” he giggled nervously.

I paused and slowed my chattering adult mind down to nine year old speed. Then I connected the dots. In our family, we avoid certain words, but he hears acceptable references. As in Seward (C-word) and Main Street. … Daniel thought I was sly in saying the C-word, as in the F-word.

Of course he thought I was secretly adult coding Crap and Main Street….. he is nine….. He does not drive or know the street names in Ventura.

Now, that is funny......Sweet, Literal Daniel.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Pediatrician

Our pediatrician holds a saint status in my heart.

I remember the day I went to meet with Dr. F, with Lucas’ immunization records from UCLA and many adorable photos of my baby who, after five months in the hospital, could finally come home. I was so excited to start planning his return, and coordinating the details with the pediatrician was a major part. Emergency plans would need to be in place and having a good working relationship with the pediatrician would be vital, as Lucas had many medical issues and specialists and Dr. F would be in the middle of it all.

I sat in the tiny cold room with animals painted on the walls and a pile of kiddie books on the table next to me. I was nervous and shaky inside as I held a stack of pictures, flipping through them, admiring my sweet baby who was alive after a miserable 8 month fight to survive. I was anxious to get down to business with Dr. F and I waited, rehearsing what I would say to him. Dr. F walked in the room and took a seat. I am sure I was glowing from all the hype that was going on inside my body. Before Dr. F even had a chance to review the records and admire the pictures of Lucas connected to his ventilator, playing in his exersaucer with a huge smile on his face, Dr. F took out a verbal pin to pop my balloon of hope and excitement.

He explained that he had met with the other pediatricians in the practice and they had decided that Lucas could no longer be a patient in their group. His reasons were because of the extra attention, time and care that would be needed with a patient like Lucas and the discomfort other patients might feel having a child on a ventilator in their office waiting room. My heart sunk. Inside I felt anger and sadness, but kept an understanding smile on my face. Feeling like a leper, I walked to my car and had a good cry.

What was I going to do? UCLA would not release Lucas without a pediatrician and our own doctor had rejected him. I was in the dumps because I knew that hauling a baby around with a 40 pound home ventilator, suction machine, in a double stroller with a nurse could be awkward for any pediatrician’s office to deal with. It was like wearing a scarlet letter. Upon my return to UCLA, I explained to the pulmonologist what had happened with Dr. F, and he shook his head in disappointment. I shared my fear of all kid doctors rejecting Lucas because he was a lot to handle and that he would have to grow up in one of those medical half way houses for patients that can’t be cared for at home. The pulmonologist said he knew a pediatrician one city over from our home and that he would discuss the possibility of this pediatrician treating Lucas. I did not like the idea of having to drive to another city as often as Lucas would need to visit, but at this point I was so drained from living in an intensive care unit for five months that I did not squawk. I was at the mercy of the system. Praying this new doctor would accept us, I waited to hear the outcome.

Yes! Dr. Gold would be happy to take Lucas on as a patient. Not only that, but on our first visit to see Dr. Gold, I was told I would not have to linger in the waiting room when going to an appointment, but would be escorted to the back office when we arrived. I was given the secret office phone number to bypass regular scheduling, and was introduced to Mary, the office manager. Everyone was warm and welcoming and did not treat us like lepers.

That was twelve years ago.

Today  Dr. Gold still treats us with the same warmth, respect, goofy humor and conservative style that he did that first day. He recently put Lucas on Tamiflu because of the H1N1 vaccination delay, and he promised that when the small amount his practice would receive was delivered, that he would save one for Lucas. Yesterday, Mary called and today we get the shot. I will have a piece of mind knowing I did all I could do to stave off what could be a serious illness for a kid like Lucas.

Looking back, I am happy that Dr.F rejected Lucas, although I did not see it as a blessing at the time. A year later, we moved to Dr. Gold’s city and this made things much easier. I could exalt Dr. Gold for pages about how gracious, moral, intelligent, silly, helpful, compassionate and wonderful he is, as we have had quite a history. But for now, I will suffice it to say that Dr. Gold holds a saint status in my heart.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Black Friday

Who says dinner time is not educational? Last night, our Monday night family dinner conversation flowed like normal, discussing the Halloween weekend and our highs and lows that accompanied it.

I asked my family, “So what does the next week, this first week of November, hold?”

It was quiet and then twelve year old Lucas blurted out, “Black Friday!”

“What is that?” Little brother, Daniel asked.

“Black Friday! Do you know even know what that is, Lucas?” I questioned him.

Then it registered, “Oh, wait, that is at the END of November”, he said.

“What is Black Friday?” Daniel pushed for an answer, feeling left out. I admit I was avoiding his question and still engaged with Lucas. We agreed that Black Friday is the Friday after Thanksgiving.

"What is Black Friday?" Daniel interrupted. He started getting angry and  tired of being overlooked, then asked, “Is Black Friday Martin Luther King Day?”

I almost choked on my bite of hamburger because the laughter had nowhere to go. It was so darn funny and yet was simply logical he could deduce that Black Friday was all about Martin Luther King. Daniel is only nine and a male and hates shopping…. so Black Friday, the busy, overcrowed, super sale shopping day would never come up in his third grade world. But Martin Luther King sure did! Suffice it to say the true meaning of Black Friday was defined, explored, critiqued and analyzed over French fries and burgers at our dinner table.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween Happenings

We Trick–or-Treated in our friend’s neighborhood that was alive with haunted houses and lots of well lit homes waiting for our goblins to knock. Eight boys, most dressed in some form of black costume, made their way up and down the streets with a pillow case full of sweets. Daniel was part of the Special Forces Unit (gas mask included) and Lucas was a wicked jester. In our caravan of boys roamed the Grim Reaper, Slash (from Guns and Roses) and a Zombie.

It was a fun chili-dinner filled time for our entire family...we shared a yummy meal and then the Moms paraded the kids outside and the Dads stayed in to "hand out candy", AKA drink beer and watch the World Series. Everyone had a blast....well, except for that one Halloween glitch that came up just after midnight. The kids were asleep, and we settling into our bed, resting our tired feet and brains. Daniel walked in our room announcing groggily that he barfed in bed. Then he finished off the job on our bedroom floor. Lots of smelly chocolate. We literally leapt out of bed, stripped his sheets, started a load of laundry, tossed Dan in the shower for a good scrub, and cleaned up the mess with one eye open. I am thankful to have a husband who shared the disgusting clean up job with me.

I knew we should have monitored the amount of candy intake after returning from Trick-or-Treating. Oh well, he learned the hard way and I suspect next year we just have to remind him of his Halloween Hack. That should be enough to put his brakes on when reaching for just one more candy bar.

Halloween is behind us and now we look to the Thanksgiving feast.