Thursday, December 29, 2011

First College Semester

It's so funny.  In August when I handed my first born baby boy off to the major university that would now be known as his home away from home, I never imagined myself to feel as lonely without him as I did and do.  It probably seems obvious to the casual observer that I would have these feelings but when one is in the thick of it it's easy to not realize.

Let's face it.  Kids are usually off to college mentally even before they physically go off to college.  Mine was no different. I could tell.  The day after he graduated he was outfitted in his new university's latest garb and talking all summer about what he was going to pack and what his dorm room was going to look like. 

And now that the first semester is over I am learning to love and cherish the little time I have with him even on the extended breaks.  I cherish the new rare dinner where all 6 of us are gathered around the table.  I have learned to communicate more by text message or on facebook.  Life isn't how it used to be when I went to school but times have changed and I am adjusting.  I admit it's hard to get used to but I also realize that this is what growing is all about, isn't it?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Most Delicious Banana Chocolate Chip Bread Ever!

If you smell banana bread in my house it usually means one thing.  My oldest boy who goes to college is either on his way home or his mom is getting ready to send a care package.  I don't know when he started loving my banana bread. He was never a banana lover.  But one thing is for sure...he cannot get enough of this banana bread. And in all honesty neither can anyone else in the house.  It is THAT good.

Many people ask me to post the recipe and I have since agreed.  So without further hesitation, here is the recipe for the most delicious banana bread ever.

(This recipe is for 2 loaves)

1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup margarine or butter, softened
2 eggs
1 1/2 cup mashed ripe bananas (3 to 4 medium)
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chocolate chips (or more depending how chocolatey you like it)
add 1 cup nuts if desired

Heat oven to 350.
Grease bottom of two loaf pans.  (I usually use a glass loaf pan because it cooks more evenly).
Mix sugar and margarine in large bowl. 
Stir in eggs until well blended. 
Add bananas, milk, and vanilla.   Beat until smooth. 
Stir in flour, baking soda, and salt until incorporated.
 Fold in chocolate chips and nuts. 
Pour into loaf pan. 

Cook about 1 hour or until toothpick comes out clean. 
Cool 5 minutes.


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Dealing with Henoch-Schonlein Purpura (HSP)

A little over 3 weeks ago my 6 year old little man started complaining about an ache in his groin area.  Because he is known for taking lots of spills on the playground I wasn't too alarmed.  I took a peek and found a very alarming site. His testicles were beet red and had grown to about twice their normal size.  Coincidentally the air conditioning was out at his school on this day and it was overly hot in the school.  I thought maybe it was some kind of a heat rash.  I asked him if he fell on the playground or if someone kicked him and he said no on both counts.  He wasn't complaining too much that it hurt.  Still I was worried.

I sent him to bed and decided that if they are the same way in the morning I would take him over to his doctor to check it out.  Unfortunately nothing changed overnight so off to the doctor we went.  When the doctor looked at it she did not suspect anything unusual but that maybe he did get hit and this was normal swelling and bruising.  After completing an ultrasound to make sure there was nothing internal, the doctor could not find anything wrong on the inside.  Such a mystery.  The doctor cleared him and I took him back to school.

Several hours later when I picked him up from school as I do every day I took him home and lifted him up on the counter to look again at his private area.  What I saw was horrific and shocking.

His legs were literally covered with these spots!  They were bright red and slightly bumpy but did not hurt or itch.  In all of my 18 years of having kids I have never seen anything like this.  As you can imagine I freaked out and immediately took him to his after hours doctor. 

When we got to the doctor's office they ran a blood test and a urine test.  I couldn't imagine what they were looking for but all of the worst thoughts ran through my head.  I heard words like "checking red blood cell count" and "protein in the urine"...words that would make any mother want to faint.  I waited patiently as the doctor finally came back in to tell me that the blood is good and urine is clear. "Thank God" I thought although I had no idea what any of that meant other than clear and good are words I thought were positive.  And then the doctor told me what it was:

Henoch-Schonlein Purpura (HSP)

"Say what?  How do you spell that doctor?"  Henoch-Schonlein Purpura.  Let's just call it HSP.   The after hours doctor was so sweet.  He is semi retired.  Old school.  As I was scrambling for my web browser on my blackberry to google this he was opening a book for me to read.  "This is a vasculitis and here is what it looks like".  He showed me a picture of what looks exactly like my child's legs. 

My next question is "ok where did it come from and how do we get rid of it".  The answer was "we don't know and we don't know".  Great.  I know nothing. 

Since this was the after hours doctor he recommended that since my son was not in any discomfort that I make an early appointment the next day with his regular doctor and discuss further treatments and follow up.  I do that and the next day when we go back to the doctor we get a better understanding that HSP is a vasculitis which most likely stemmed from a reaction to an insect bite.  HSP occurs when the immune system goes haywire.  The result is an inflammation of the blood vessels in the skin which get red and can bleed.  It can accompany joint pain and in some extreme cases can affect the kidneys.  While the HSP was in active mode we had to go regularly to the doctor to have his urine tested for protein. Fortunately all of those tests turned out negative.

What I also learned is that HSP can appear in varying degrees.  Some people have severe symptoms and others do not.  I was going to have to monitor my little guy to see where he would be on the scale.

The first 5-6 days of the HSP were particularly terrible.  He started to experience joint pain, swollen feet, swollen ankles, and swollen knees.  My usually tough guy was reduced to tears and on a few nights it was so bad he could not walk because his feet hurt so bad.  When I would sense that he was experiencing pain I would give him some advil which contains ibuprofen.  This seemed to help him somewhat and since I didn't know much about this condition I was learning as I went along.

Each day brought us a slew of new spots just as the old ones were clearing up and every day there was some kind of joint pain.  After trial and error I figured out that I would have to give him advil when he woke up in the morning and then again around 4 pm.   This made the most sense to me since I was trying to control the inflammation and discomfort and tried to get ahead of the symptoms rather than wait until they got to be too much to tolerate.  At night I would raise his feet on a pillow when he went to bed or if he was laying on the couch. I am not sure if this was a help to him but it kept him comfortable and that was my main goal.

The HSP remained active for the next 3 weeks and it was just last week that I noticed no more red spots and the joint pain was lessening.  I started to dial back the advil and stopped the 4 pm dose.  I was then going to monitor his pain level when I picked him up from school just to be sure.  Fortunately at this point it looked like we were on the downside of this condition.  After a few days I decided to start dialing back the morning advil dose.  And so here we are 5 days with no advil and the spots are nearly all gone.  My little man seems to be back to his old self.

A few things I have learned about this awful condition:
1.  No one really knows what causes it to happen.
2.  No one can really say how long it will last.
3.  The best treatment is to treat the symptoms.
3.  A large percentage of cases will recur.
4.  HSP occurs more often in children than adults.
5.  The urine must be checked because if proteins are found they need to be treated with a steroid to avoid kidney damage.

I feel much more prepared in case there is a recurrence.  For now I feel thankful that we got through these last few weeks and my little boy is back.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Howdy Visitor

I get hundreds of visitors to this blog every day. No lie! It's been going on for a few years.  No lie! They even come when I don't post anything.  I find this phenomenon to be fascinating.  I know the number of visitors because I have a counter on my blog that gives me daily stats.  The numbers usually go up around major holidays and I have visitors from all over the globe.

So the big question is what are they coming to look at?  Quite frankly they are coming to look at this post.  And this one.  They want to make a rue (or is it roux?).  So they go to google and type in the word "rue" or "how to make a rue" and my blog is the first entry on google to appear.  Isn't that funny?  So my visitors hit my blog and watch the video of how to make a "rue".  Sometimes they even post a comment thanking me.

I have also had people criticize me for misspelling the word "rue" but I don't change it because everyone who googles "how to make a rue" also misspells the word.  Hence that is how they hit my blog.

I have tried over time to get the people who go to my rue posts to burn my feed and stick around for other blog posts.  I am not sure if they do that but I don't think so because I am getting substantially fewer hits on my other posts.

Either way if you read this I hope you stick around or burn my feed in a reader and come back and visit.  There are lots of good things going around oldest is coming home next week from college for the first time since the Fall semester started and there are many others fun things going on with my other peanuts. 

Unless you want to make a rue.  You can find that here too.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Age Gap

A lot of people often ask me how things run in my family having two older teenagers (18 and 16) and two small children (8 and 6).  The truth is that I never really have given it a second thought and not something I go around consciously thinking about.  There are definite advantages as well as disadvantages to having kids with a 10 year separation.

In the beginning when the older ones were younger it seemed to be much easier.  The younger ones were babies and therefore didn't have opinions on where we should go and what we should do.  The older ones were much more attentive and loving to the babies.  They were at the age where they were capable of helping me out with small tasks around the house like collecting laundry, getting me a baby bottle, and helping me with anything I needed.  Of course as they grew up into high school teens that all changed and suddenly they had their own lives.

As you can imagine the desires of teenagers of which restaurant to go to, what movie to see, and what place to visit on vacation can vary dramatically from the desires of young kids.  The teens don't necessarily want to go on It's a Small World and the young ones don't want to go on Space Mountain. 

A lot of times the young ones act "silly" and the older ones can no longer relate even though they were just as "silly" when they were that age.  The older ones don't remember when they begged to go to Chuckie Cheese but they did and can no longer understand the desire of the little ones to go there now.

The older ones are less tolerant now that they are older and "know better."  They often ask me "why don't you just punish them when they get loud and scream and run around in a vortex?"  I remind them that I did the same with them when they were this age.  They don't seem to recall or believe me.

But then there will be the times when we are at my littlest one's t-ball game and his older brothers (who play high school baseball) are cheering for him and offering him hints of advice.  Watching this phenomenon in action is indeed a rare scene but when it does happen it makes me feel so good inside.  Sure I wish it would happen more often but when it does I relish in it and enjoy it.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

I Just Called To Say......I Love You

so the song goes....

Most of the conversations I have had over the past few years with my oldest college teenager have not exactly been about the latest news, politics, or weather. In fact most conversations have a lot to do with what he needs, when he needs it, and how much it is going to cost me. If you can relate to this you must have a teenager in the house or remember life when you were one.

The past few years of my life with him have been me trying to figure out how to engage him in REAL conversation about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But nothing ever seemed to work. It was frustrating at times and at times I would try to remember what a good friend said to me once: "Your teenagers mentally will leave you and sometimes for several years and then one day they return and you will wonder where they have been". I laugh saying that because I have been living it and it is so true. They do mentally check out and then one day they seem to check back in.

Such was my experience today. The ever-growing college boy who is in the "checked out" stage called me on the phone. Here is how our conversation went:

Me: Hey guy, how are you?
Him: Hey Mom, how's it going?
Me: Great here except I miss you.
Him: I miss you too.
Me: What ya been up to?
Him: Not much. School's good.
Me: Ok. Whatchya calling for?
::pause waiting for the "I need (fill in the blank)" request::
Him: No reason... just to see how you are doing. I love you mom.
Me: I love you too.

and then we went on to talk about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And it felt really great.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

What To Expect When...

In 1993 when my first son was born I received a gift from a friend who was a new mom herself. It was a book called "What To Expect When You Are Expecting". If you are a mom surely you know this book. The series continues with "What To Expect In the First Year" and then "What To Expect The Toddler Years". So imagine my surprise when I looked for "What To Expect When Your Child Goes To College". Guess what? The book doesn't exist.

I sure could have used a book this last August when I dropped my newborn baby from 1993 off to college. I don't think I expected anything except for one thing....lots and lots of tears.

It's funny. During the drive back home after leaving him I thought a lot back to when my parents dropped me off at college. I was so excited and happy and joyful at what lay ahead. A new chapter in my life. I couldn't understand when my Dad divulged to me that my Mom cried the entire drive home. It seemed odd to me. After all, I was very happy so why was she so sad. I think that's when it dawned on me that her sadness wasn't about me but about her. I suddenly became my Mom. That Mom. Every Mom who drops her child off at school.

My tears weren't about him. They were about me and how much I would miss him and how much I would love to still be holding him in my arms and feeding him his bottle and watching him make cute little faces with his chubby cheeks. When people ask me about him and how he is doing up at college I always tell them how much he likes it there. And then I tell them how much I miss him. And then I cry.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Killer Bootcamp

Why does it seem that every week the bootcamps I go to are always harder than the prior week? Am I not getting better and therefore they shouldn't be as hard or are the exercises getting harder and I am struggling just as much to keep up?

Regardless, they are killer and very difficult to get through. But I suppose that is the whole point, right? I mean if they were easy who would get results?

Two things remain the same. The first is that no matter how hard the exercises are I always struggle through them but then feel amazing afterward. Yeah I might feel a little sore but overall my senses are stronger. My legs feel stronger. My heart feels better. I feel like I can breathe easier. I just feel awakened.

The second thing is that I love the people that I exercise with. It's like as if we all share the struggle. When one of us is wheezing, the other one is talking the other through it because we all know what it feels like. There have been days when I have come to bootcamp feeling like death warmed over and then there are times when I have felt ready to kick it. So I know the struggles and I know how others feel when they are not feeling so well either.

It's so great when we can all share the highs and the lows and can help keep each other going. That's the beauty of bootcamps.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Graduation Day

Last Friday was my oldest baby boy's high school graduation. Of course he is no longer my baby boy standing at 5'9" tall. But he is my baby just the same.

He is my first born so to me that will always be something special. When he was born I went through all of the same thoughts that I am sure every mom goes through. Such as....

How much will I be in love with him?

or will he get along with his siblings?

or how special will it be on his First Holy Communion?

or how will I cope with his injuries?

or what kind of sports will he play?

or who will he take to the prom?

or how will I feel when I see him in his cap and gown?

They truly grow right before your eyes and every wonderment I have is followed by a wonderful memory. With my new graduate I feel blessed to have stockpiled 18 years of these memories. Congratulations to my boy and to all of the graduates and moms out there who survived all of the questions with beautiful answers.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Big Week Ahead

Today starts a week that is sure to be one for the memory banquet, graduation rehearsals, cap and gown pictures, and then the graduation mass and ceremony on Friday.

This past weekend I made sure I stocked up on enough tissues to last me. Little did I know that I would already go through one box just today alone.

It's funny how life comes around. I was thinking back when I graduated high school and watched my mom cry the whole week long. And then when my mom and dad dropped me off at college. My dad would later tell me that my mother cried the entire 4 hour drive home. I brushed it off and never really grasped that fact other than it was just my mom being "mom". And then whenever I came home from college, my mom would act like it was the first time she had seen me in years. She would hug me and seem to never want to let me go. Of course I hugged her back because I loved her so dearly and I had missed her too.

So life is coming around to me because I am now where my mom was back then. My oldest son is graduating high school and getting ready for college and I find myself crying at every waking moment...always making excuses that my contact lenses are bothering my eyes and that's why they are red. I stare a lot at the ceiling hoping and praying that the lessons I have taught over the past 18 years were good enough. I now truly understand what my mom was feeling back then. I really, really do.

My only regret is that my mom is no longer here with me so I can share in this with her. So I can ask her how she got through it and so that she could help talk me through this time in my life that we now share as mothers.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Darn Facebook

It's all facebook's fault. I used to blog constantly and loved every minute of it. I loved documenting my life and posting some cute pictures of my family and life. I even managed to attract 50 or so readers!

But then facebook came along and changed all that. My blogging had dwindled down to random status updates and pictures loaded up via my blackberry. I moved into a new era with a different kind of reader. It was easy and with my hectic life with 4 kids on the run, it was also very convenient.

But I always look back at this revelation with sadness. I enjoyed writing my thoughts down in more than 200 characters. I like blog posts because they seem to be good at connecting my words and stories with pictures and links. Blog posts are meaningful.

In my busy life is there room for both? I ponder this all the time. In fact I have visited it so much that I have about 10 unfinished blog posts that I promise myself I will get to just after that last facebook and twitter update of the evening. Then I forget and the post would just sit there unfinished and undone.

When I look back at the couple of years of undone posts I think of what has happened in my life in that oldest getting ready to graduate high school next week, daughter making her First Holy Communion

baseball seasons

first days of school, dance much that I didn't blog about.

I vow to myself that I am going to start more about my trials and tribulations because looking back on those times makes me laugh and I feel happy to share my laughter and good times with the few readers who happen to find my writing amusing.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Both Sides Now

I listen to XM7 a lot in my car...why not? I was born in 1965 and though pretty young to remember 60s music I do recall some of it on the little AM radio in my Mom's 1966 Dodge Dart. Even though I've upgraded from the little AM radio to XM satelite radio the music is still the same. It's timeless and precious to me. The songs I listen to from back then are folksy and meaningful and speak to a simple way of life.

...I've looked at life from both sides now from win and lose and still somehow, it's life's illusions I recall, I really don't know life at all...

Good ole Judy Collins singing about angel hair, clouds, ice cream castles, and feathered canyons. What did she mean by that? What was she thinking? Was it that deep or was she just on a drug high when she wrote that song?

...Moons and Junes and ferris wheels the dizzy dancing way you feel...

I don't really know what she was thinking. But I do know it is a classic song that will always stand the test of time. When I listen to it on my ipod I think of life back then and how magical it all seemed. My childhood filled with love and family. The world was turbulent back then but I was innocent to it all. My world was all about Sesame Street and the Electric Company. It was all about playing hide and seek with my brothers. It was about having my best friend over my house to listen to 45s on my little battery operated record player. It was about not having air conditioning and never really caring about it. I don't remember worrying that money was so tight that we lived bare bones.

...Tears and fears and feeling proud, to say "I love you" right out loud...

I was busy listening to my records and playing Barbies and dreaming of what I wanted to do when I grew up. I was busy coloring in my coloring books and working hard to stay in the lines. We had one black and white TV. There were no such things as computers or internet or cell phones or electronic games. There were no distractions. For fun we went outside and played on the swing set or stayed inside and made forts with dominos.

...Dreams and schemes and circus crowds, I've looked at life that way...

Those were some great times. So thank you to Judy and all of those 60s and 70s artists that help me to remember old memories that bring a smile to my face every time.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Think about life this way....

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveller, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference

...Robert Frost

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

It's 7:00 somewhere...

It's 7 pm on a Tuesday night and I am sitting in my car waiting for my daughter to finish her CCD class. I got up this morning at 6 am, left at 7:30, and haven't been home since. But I don't mind because I love it all. I truly do. I love my kids, I love my husband, I love my job, and I love my blackberry. I am having a love affair with them all!!!

So I try to do them all well and I can tell you that it is truly possible...well for me anyhow. The happy medium takes work and a kind and understanding boss who will understand if you have to run your kids to the doctors or leave to watch your daughter's class play or your senior boy's first baseball game of the season. But I also understand my duties and flex myself enough to work when the kids are in bed and I need to catch up.

So while I sit here in the parking lot I think about the rapid brain power I had to execute today...end of year appraisals, budget plan, goals worksheets, business plan, conference calls and lunch and an apple somewhere in between. I think about how happy I was to accomplish much at work while running out the door of work thinking about how much I couldn't wait to see my littlest man and princess daughter at the doors of their school. I was happy to then run over to the high school to pick up my son in his last few months of his last year of high school. And somewhere in the middle I met up with my darling husband who relieved me of my load so I could continue on to my daughter's CCD class.

After I leave the parking lot I have one more child to pick basketball loving son who practices harder than anyone I know on his basketball team...through a horrendous cough and stuffy nose and hungry stomach. Note...McDonalds just might cheer him up.....

It seems like a lot and tomorrow I will do it all over again except tomorrow night there is a parent's baseball meeting and a college financial planning workshop. But at the end of the day I feel exhausted but fulfilled because after all of these years I have finally managed to achieve some sort of work-life balance.

Monday, January 10, 2011

PB&J factoid

I was busy last night doing all of my "prep" for the morning which meant a boat load of for dear hubby, two for dear teenage sons, and 2 for the little kidsters. The good news is that they all are ok with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. So as I take out the bread and line it all up in an assembly line fashion (because I am an engineer after all) I start counting and realizing that I make on average about 8 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches a day!!! That's about 3 giant loaves of bread.

Then I started thinking about milk. We go through about 3 gallons a week.

I am starting to think I need to invest in a bread factory and a cow.

I used to think that formula and diapers were expensive. Well they are but so is feeding growing teenage boys! It's a challenge for sure and it's a good thing my boys love PB&J.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

How To Make A Rue

Back by popular demand...

Last weekend when I posted my recipe for Mac n Cheese I promised to write a little bit about how to make a rue.

It's a few days late but it's basic recipe on making a rue. A rue is very easy to make and extremely versatile. The most popular things that you can use a rue for is gravy or soup. But in reality a rue is a thickening agent because it's a flour base. What that means is that you can thicken any liquid with it to make the sauce or gravy. For example, if you make a rue and add chicken stock to it and stir until the stock and rue is incorporated and heated through it will turn to a nice gravy. Add some sauteed mushrooms and you have mushroom gravy. Add cheese to it and you have the base sauce for macaroni and cheese. You can also add mustard and it makes a really good mustard spread for sandwiches. You see, it's all about the method. You can get as creative as you want for a variety of dishes.

So without any more hesitation here is the recipe:

olive oil, one turn of the pan
3 pats of butter
3 tbsp flour
1.5 - 2 cups of stock or milk (see HINT below)
salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the butter and stir in with a whisk. When butter is melted, add the flour and whisk the flour in with the butter until the flour cooks fully and no longer looks white. The flour might clump up but that is ok. Add the liquid and whisk to incorporate until all the lumps are gone and the sauce starts to thicken. Add salt and pepper to taste. Once the sauce is at the desired thickness remove from heat and add to the dish you are making.

***HINT*** If you want to make a milk based rue or gravy (for mac n cheese for example) then use milk as the liquid. If you want to make a stock based rue or gravy (like for chicken or turkey gravy) then use chicken stock as the liquid.

Good Luck!
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