Monday, November 30, 2009

18 months


[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="240" caption="Brobee and blankey"]Brobee and blankey[/caption]

Last week, you turned 18 months old. As I say each month -- where does the time go? It was just yesterday you were sleeping soundly in your swing clutching your blanket. Now you just carry that blanket around. You and blankey are pretty much attached at the hip. I think we might have to make it into a cap someday.

Speaking of being attached at the hip, you also are pretty attached to the five binkies you sleep with. I'm devising a plan to get you off the binky and bottle by your second birthday. Shhh, don't tell Dr. Middleton tomorrow. We have been trying to limit binky time to only when you're fussy. Last week your vocabulary started to explode which gives your dad and I more reason to take the binky away. You can say hi, bye, banana, cookie, knock knock, kitty and your favorite -- uh oh. I'm sure there is a lot more you can say but we can't understand it just yet.

Your comprehension is pretty good as well. You know what brush your teeth means and you run down the hall, into the bathroom and try to reach for your toothbrush. You also know what "let's watch Yo Gabba Gabba." You run up to the TV and stare. You're quite fond of Brobee.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="350" caption="How Yo Gabba Gabba saved the 3 hour lay over."]How Yo Gabba Gabba saved the 3 hour lay over.[/caption]

You recently decided to drop your morning nap though you can't quite make it to 1 p.m. you make it known by running up with your bottle and blankey letting us know you want a three hour nap. From 5 - 7 p.m. you're the fussiest kiddo on the planet, yet you won't go to bed at 7 p.m.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="350" caption="Look at those eyes"]Look at those eyes[/caption]

For the first time, I can see my mother and myself in you. You have the eyes, chin and I'm pretty sure the nose. I didn't believe it until I pulled out my baby photos -- you don't look exactly like your dad like we thought you would. Let's hope you have his thick wavy hair and my nice skin.

I'm excited for what the next six months bring. I'm excited to hear the new words you learn. I'm just excited and crazy about you.



Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sit, kneel, stand

7I grew up Catholic. I joke about it a lot - Catholic guilt, Catholic school - you know the drill.  I'm not going to knock Catholics or Catholic schools. I went to church up until I moved to Bend. After getting settled into Bend, I attended our only Catholic church and well, didn't go back. I didn't feel at home. I didn't get married in a Catholic Church. My son isn't baptized. I told my husband, I'm probably the black sheep of the family because of it. I'm pretty surprised I haven't heard "Your mother would not be proud of you."

Religion was pretty important to my mother. When faced with a divorce and three small children, she went to Mass each day on her lunch break to get her through it. She worked hard to send us to a good school (my younger brother and I attended public school while my brother went all 12 years. He should get a medal or something for that).  She made me get up for 18 years, every Sunday and when I went away to college, she would call and make sure I went to church. Some of those Sundays I sang in the choir. I did it so I could hang out with my friends during Mass. When I was old enough to drive, my brother and I would skip church and get breakfast. I'm sure she was onto us.

Even though we don't go to church, I still believe in God. I still send good thoughts and prayers. I'm still puzzled what to do about Benjamin though. I know it will come to me sooner or later.

When I've gone through a hard time in my life, I just remember my mom telling me that she went to church everyday on her lunch break and she got through anything life put in her way.

Gobble gobble

We had a lot of traditions growing up. Coconut pies and Grandma's for Thanksgiving. At Christmas, my brother Christopher said he loved the way we opened our gifts (from youngest to oldest, one at a time). For some reason, I always had the most gifts (my mom said this was because the stuff I wanted was always cheap). After the gifts, we'd head to Grandma's for food, presents and sometimes Midnight Mass.  For Easter, my mom would make strawberry pie and my Grandma would make a ham. The holidays are about your family and since we have a little one, it was time to start traditions.

I made my first Thanksgiving family meal this year. I was quite nervous about it and I got a lot of crap for brining my turkey the weekend before and then de-boning my turkey but it was worth it. My sister-in-law, who is  a vegetarian  most of the time, said it was the best turkey she's eaten -- EVER.  The cornbread stuff wasn't so good though. My husband was against the cornbread stuffing from the beginning. He said it was too sweet. I was the only one who would eat it so guess where it ended up -- the trash. I should have boxed it up and taken it to a homeless shelter. I thought it was good though.

My husband and I decided that we wanted to celebrate Thanksgiving with family. Since my mother-in-law works on the holidays, we invited my sister-in-law and her family over. She brought the vegetables and pies (yum!) and I worked on the rest.  After our bellies were full of the best turkey dinner EVER they played Truth or Dare Jenga while I entertained the toddler.

I have to stay, this was the best Thanksgiving giving we've had since I moved to Bend. And I hope it becomes a tradition.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Blood pressure blues

I've become a little obsessed with taking my blood pressure. My little Omron machine has been attached at my hip for the past 8 days. I have to take the machine into my doctor next week who is looking to see how my pressure is doing. As I told my husband, that little machine is stressing me out -- so much that it's elevating my blood pressure even more. I take my blood pressure during the night. I sneak into the bathroom and chant  "stay under 85, stay under 85" and 93 shows up. ARGH!

For the first time in a month, I felt normal after a hard workout (heart rate didn't go over 128. Normally it's up to 170). And for the first time in two weeks, I forgot to take my machine to the gym with me. Oops!

Today I went to the store. I was tasked to get foods that fit the food pyramid. You see, if you follow the food pyramid, you'll lower your blood pressure and maybe lose weight. Who knew? (I'm kidding here).  So I shopped the outer perimeter of the grocery store. I stayed away from the donuts. In my basket were bananas, cuties, carrots, sugar snap peas, whole wheat bread, mini bagels and orange juice with pulp. BORING.  This week features meals involving less salt and more fresh foods. Yay, I'm so excited. NOT.

My friend Jen is an inspiration. She's recently has lost 30 lbs in the past year just running. I know if she can do it, I can. It wasn't that hard - she got me running. I just have to run more. The hard part is finding the time and creating a routine. So, I'm going to hit the running hard once I am cleared to do so.

The other thing is I want the medication to be temporary. My mother and grandmother both suffer(ed) from high blood pressure. I didn't know my grandma had this problem until I told her I had high blood pressure. She won't watch her diet because she's 86 (nice excuse) so she doesn't mind taking medication but I do. I don't want to be popping pills for something I can prevent. I owe that to my son and husband.

Of course, my husband and son are going to suffer. South Beach Diet cookbook, here I come.

For the love of binky

Easily entertained #2

Pumpkin crazed days

I went a little crazy with pumpkin-flavored recipes goods this year. Inspired to try cooking from scratch, I roasted two sugar pumpkins and ended up with 4 cups of pumpkin puree. From this I made a tradition pumpkin pie, pumpkin brownies , baked pasta shells with pumpkin puree and pumpkin crumble. I was a little sick of our little orange friend after that. I usually indulge in a few pumpkin spiced lattes but I’ve only had two this year (good for the waistline, I guess). I have now moved onto sweet potatoes and cranberries. For my cookbook club, I made a sweet potato bourbon cheesecake and for my husband, I made his favorite cranberry bread. Needless to say, I’ve been in a baking frenzy.

When I was a kid, we’d spend Thanksgiving with my mother and her side of the family. My grandma would spend days preparing the side dishes and her famous dressing (which isn’t so famous as it’s just the recipe in the Bohemian Cookbook). My mother was always in charge of the desserts. She never made pumpkin pie but she always made two coconut cream pies -- whipping the heavy cream, browning the coconut. Those pies were heaven.  For some reason, I can't bring myself to make one. Maybe I wouldn't get so sick of pumpkin?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Last night I got home from work, fed the kiddo, decompressed and then I picked myself off the couch and went to the gym. I always feel guilty going to the gym because I'm away from my kid all day and then I go somewhere for an hour and be away from him. My husband says I need this time but I still feel guilty. I don't know how I'll get over it but I must.

When I was a kid, somehow my mom talked me into going to Jazzercise with her. I then talked my friend Mariel and her mom into going as well. This is where I learned my mother wasn't so coordinated. I was a geeky, tall and lanky 13 year old so doing jazz steps and jumps wasn't so pretty either. I shouldn't be making fun of my mom. The site of my Jazzercing wasn't so pretty. It was something that my mom and I did together for two years, three times a week. We'd motivate each other to go and we'd have a good time. My mother wasn't athletic and that was the most she exercised but she gave it a try and I was pretty proud of her.

What I wasn't proud of was the neon outfit I wore to do my workouts in! Good thing I don't have photos of those moments.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Wannabe Italian

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="180" caption="Manicotti, it ain't rocket science"]Manicotti, it aint rocket science[/caption]

My mom was pretty good at making the classics. One of her specialties was manicotti. The recipe wasn't a secret -- she always made the recipe on the back of the noddle box (you're seeing a trend here). We would beg her to make this dish weekly but she'd put it off as long as she could. Manicotti was not so simple to make as I found out years later when I made it myself (if I was going to wow a guy, I would make manicotti -- and it usually did the trick). Sometimes my mom would add spinach or Italian sausage. Sometimes she made her own red sauce. Other times she'd used a jar. It always tasted the same no matter what -- made with a lot of love.

Last night, my husband and I went out on a date night to the newest Italian restaurant in town Trattoria Sbandati. I always joke to my friends that I have to go to Omaha for good Italian. My trips to Omaha usually have a stop to Malara's to have lunch with a friend or my grandmother. They have the best homemade noodles (something i want to try sometime) and fried raviolis with their sweet marinara sauce. I can joke no longer as Trattoria Sbandati was fabulous. On the weekend they have four course wine dinners.  Gorganzola frittatta, creamy ribollita, chicken and chanterelles and chocolate mousse that was to die for. The wines were all amazing as well. We walked out of there wishing we could come back every weekend. I'm now tasked with finding a ribollita recipe for my family.

I spend most of my day prepping for turkey day. I de-boned my bird and wrapped it up in foil for roasting on Thursday. I made broth for the first time. (I don't think I'll ever go back.) I also made leek and wild chanterrelle mushroom risotto. the mushrooms were part of our csa and I had no idea what to do them.  Risotto is made with lots of love and stirring and doesn't disappoint. The stirring and adding of broth, the cheese and butter. Lots of love.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Mary Lu's Enchiladas

(I'm doubling up on posts to catch up for the two days I didn't post this month. Bear with me)

[caption id="attachment_336" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Mary Lu's Enchiladas"]Mary Lu's Enchiladas[/caption]

As I mentioned before, my brother said his favorite meal my mother made was enchiladas. She found this recipe on the back of an Old El Paso Enchiladas sauce can (the red sauce). I looked in the store the other day to notice the recipe has changed. Good thing I have a copy in my recipe cards. This one is for my brother Christopher.

Mary Lu's Enchiladas (ala Old El Paso)

1 lb of ground beef

1 onion chopped

2 cans red enchilada sauce

1 can tomato sauce

2 teaspoons brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon

2 cups jack cheese

8 flour torillas

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook onions until translucent (5-10 mins), then brown beef. In a sauce pan combine enchilada sauce, tomato sauce, sugar, cinnamon and salt. Bring to a boil and set aside.

Combine beef, 1 cup of cheese and 1/2 cup of prepared sauce. Dip tortillas in sauce, fill and roll. Top with one cup of cheese. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes.


South Omaha Bohemian Cookbook

I sent my brothers an email asking them what their favorite childhood memories are from when we were kids. I didn't hear anything back so I assumed they were consumed with other things and forgot about it -- that was until yesterday. My sister-in-law Kasha sent a card in the mail with answers (brief but helpful answers) to my questions. My brother Chris and I share the exact favorite memories ... playing with toads on the sandy beaches at our cabin, skiing in Colorado, a love for our mother's enchiladas and holiday traditions (like the youngest goes first when opening gifts.

[caption id="attachment_329" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="South Omaha Bohemian Cookbook"]South Omaha Bohemian Cookbook[/caption]

A tradition in our family (from our Grandmother Marie) is to give each child when they get married the South Omaha Bohemian Cookbook. Here lie all the recipes my mother and grandma have used over the years ... meatloaf, chili, ambrosia salad, dumpling and sauerkraut recipes -- you name it -- they are in there (with the exception of the enchilada recipe my bother loves. That is on the back of the Old El Paso Enchilada Sauce can). Since my grandmother considered me a "spinster" because I didn't get married in my twenties, she bought me a copy in 1997. Often times I find myself searching the internet when the darn recipes is in the Bohemian Cookbook.  I remember at the same time, she bought my brother Chris one but then we discovered that his girlfriend at the time had my mother's cookbook (the one with all the sauce stains and notes). Unfortunately, he didn't get the cookbook back which sucks.

Though I love the Bohemian Cookbook chicken and rice recipes, waiting two hours to back isn't my style. My family loves this recipe and it's become a staple in our house.

Cheesy chicken and rice casserole (via

1 can (10 3/4 ounces) Campbell's® Condensed Cream of Chicken Soup  (Regular, 98% Fat Free or Healthy Request®)

1 1/3 cups water

3/4 cup uncooked regular long-grain white rice

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 cup frozen mixed vegetables

4 skinless, boneless chicken breast half  (about 1 pound)

1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

  • Heat the oven to 375°F.  Stir the soup, water, rice, onion powder, black pepper and vegetables in a 2-quart shallow baking dish.

  • Top with the chicken. Cover the baking dish.

  • Bake for 50 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and the rice is tender. Top with the cheese. Let the casserole stand for 10 minutes. Stir the rice before serving.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Super mom

You may recall I was interviewed by the Bulletin in October 2008 about being a new mother that had returned to work recently. In the article, I had told the reporter my mother was a single mom and I wondered as an adult – “how did she do it?” because I couldn’t ask her today since she died when I was 21 years old.

I’m the bread-winner – not by choice. My husband was laid off in Cascade Healthcare Community’s mass lay-off in February. As I have said before, he’s talented and has made his career as a multi-talented marketing professional – strategist, designer, writer. In these times, those jobs are hard to find and we’ve gotten by on freelance projects here and there plus unemployment benefits and my income.

This has taken a toll on my health as I’m trying to do it all – breadwinner, working mom, wife, clean the house, do the shopping, make the dinner – you get my point. In July, I had a panic attack at work. Not my finest professional moment that only two people saw. I haven’t had panic attacks in over 10 years. As I waited for the doctor to see me, I couldn’t figure out the source. My blood pressure was elevated and I had to monitor it for week until I saw my regular doctor who told me what I already knew – I needed to exercise, cut out salt. If I dropped 10-30 lbs, my pressure would go down. Three months later I came back 5 lbs lighter but everything was still high. She ordered me to keep running, watch my diet and come back in three months unless I started to have certain symptoms – tight chest feeling, headaches. And then those started happening.  As of yesterday, I’m blood pressure meds temporarily. I can not run for a few weeks since part of the problem was my heart rate was too high while running causing me to have even worse symptoms. I can walk and do light exertion but no running. Boo. Never thought I would be sad about that.

I feel like an idiot as my doctor figured out why my pressure was high before I did. I’m doing too much. I’m not taking time for myself (which is why I haven’t posted this much this week. The pressure was driving up my blood pressure as well).

My husband and son need me to be healthy. I need to be healthy myself. I need to ask for help. So my husband is now on board with doing things around the house. I need to realize that they may not be up to my standards but at least he’s helping.

I don’t know how my mom did it all plus go to school and then help my step dad launch a construction business. She was truly a super mom.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

But I don't want to eat that

shepardpieIt wasn't until I became a wife and  mother that I  understood the heartache my mom went through each night to put a hot meal on the table each night. She would usually prepare the meal the night before after we had gone to bed. Before leaving to take us to school and work, she would put the oven on a timer to have it turn on so dinner would be ready by 6 p.m. each night. One of my favorite meals she made was a dish called beef and taters. For years I searched and searched for that recipe only to find  it was Shepard's pie! She just gave it a funny name because she knew her kids wouldn't eat something called Shepard's pie. Smart cookie, indeed!

I'm making a few of my mom's dishes this month in her honor. Some of her signatures were chicken and rice, enchiladas and stuffed peppers (this is everyone in my family's favorite). Of course, there were some that we turned our noses up to. Like the time she made beef stroganoff.

My mother was intent on getting us to like beef stroganoff but for some reason, I had this aversion to warmed up sour cream and I would not eat it. It broke her heart because usually if I ate it, that meant my younger brother would eat it and visa versa. She was very upset with us and I believe set us to bed without dinner. Another dish she made that I wasn't fond of was Runza Casserole. If you're from the Nebraska, you've had a Runza. She'd brown up some beef, top that with braised cabbage and then roll out crossaints on top. The only cabbage I like is sauerkraut so I'd only get a salad that night. (I am a BIG fan of Runza's cheeseburgers, though).

This week I made this Shepard's Pie recipe for my family to enjoy while I was at cookbook club. I had to disclose to my husband that I used ground turkey instead of beef because I can not pull the wool over my husband's eyes, ya know. His cholesterol is high as well as my blood pressure so we need to make some changes. Of course, this meant he wouldn't eat the left overs. I have to remember to make half a batch next time. I've been eating Shepard's pie most of the week for lunch.

So I want to know, what were your favorite dinner dishes made by your mom?

Monday, November 16, 2009

The family resemblence

It wasn't until I saw this photo that I believed that my son was starting to look like me:

1I was telling someone the other day how lucky their child was because they had a tea set growing up because I never had one. Well, I guess that was a lie because I found this photo and I indeed had a tea set. The funny thing, I totally remember playing house with my younger brother Christopher and using this Humpty Dumpty tea set. I'm glad my parents took "some" photos of me. (If you ask my dad, he will tell you about how I complained as a child there were no photos of me. Just ask him if you ever meet him).

For months, everyone has been telling me how much Lil B looks like Brian. Oh he has Brian's nose. Oh he has Brian's mouth. Oh, he definitely has Brian's eye color and then I found that photo and I started believing, there is a little me in him.

DSC07913You see, I look like my mom. People will see me with my dad and wonder "is that the milk man's kid?"  I do have my father's chin, after all and well, my "big bones" come from my dad's side as well. I also inherited my mom's skin too -- which always made her look younger with hardly any wrinkles.


That photo better not show up on that awkward family photo website.

It's about giving

There are a lot of things I want right now -- A brand new TV and Macbook so we can ditch cable and get content off the internet (I guess we can’t now since our tvs don’t have HDMI connections). A new digital camera and a Flip video thiny to capture life in our household. A newer car – our 12 year old Honda civic is old and not so pretty and sometimes I get embarrassed when I drive it. (In reality, it runs pretty darn good and it’s a Honda – it will run forever. I should be lucky, right?) When it comes down to it, we could get these things but in reality we don’t need them, therefore we shouldn’t buy them. Though Brian is unemployed, he is starting to finally get freelance work. I’m less worried about money but I still shouldn’t blow our savings on frivolous luxury items.

My mother didn’t teach me to want things. She taught us growing up the importance of buying only the things we need – food, clothing – the necessities of life. She taught us to never live outside of our means (which is mainly why the only debt we have is our mortgage and student loans). She learned this lesson when she divorced my dad and didn’t have a job and three mouths to feed. She got the aid to go to school and learn all about computers. So when we wanted an Atari, the answer was no. There were starving kids in China and we need to get outside and play. When I wanted Guess Jeans in junior high, she told me to save my babysitting money – there wasn’t the money to buy designer  jeans.

Christmas is coming up. We have nine nieces and nephews to buy for along with four sets of parents.  I honestly don’t know how we will do it. Two years ago, shipping alone was over $100. Last year, I just bought everyone the same gift card from Target to cut down on the cost of shipping. The kids loved it as they got to pick out their own gift or pooled it to get a Wii game. I’m having a quandary this year. I know things are tight for us but many can’t even pay their rent. Maybe I donate all that money to a non-profit so someone else can have a nice Christmas? My husband wanted some cash to buy me something. You see, he got his Christmas gift in June – a nice Breedlove guitar which satisfied his birthday, father’s day and Christmas. For our wedding anniversary, he bought me diamond earrings. I have everything I need – my family, health, food and a nice warm roof over my head. I don’t need or want anything for Christmas from him. He doesn’t quite get that.

The first Christmas my parents were divorced my mom couldn’t buy us anything but didn’t tell us that.  She said Christmas would be lean but she was worrying about keeping us feed and in private school. In this worrying, someone sent her some cash in the mail to buy us gifts. She didn’t tell us this story until years later but she never found who put that cash in the mail. I always try to remember that story when getting caught up on buying or receiving gifts at the holidays.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Barbies, oh my

I didn't think 18 month olds could get so excited by such a thing but Lil B is definately into Brobee. Brobee what you say? We'll let school you ...
Known as the "little green one," Brobee is from Fall Tree Land. He is four years old (he turns four in the "Birthday" episode. Brobee is small and has a lot to learn. He tends to pout a little at times, but once DJ Lance and the gang help him figure out his problem, his frown turns upside down in a flash! Brobee is full of love and admiration for his friends.

[caption id="attachment_195" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="The Brobee Chair"]The Brobee Chair[/caption]

What that doesn't mention is Brobee is the coolest character on Yo Gabba Gabba. When I first saw Yo Gabba Gabba, I was a little weirded out -- why is this grown man dressed like an 80s DJ? And then MGMT came on and sang about art and it clicked .. this is a hip version of Sesame Street. What kinda program teaches your kid how to beat box (Thanks Biz Markie) and your art teacher is the lead singer from DEVO. So I embraced Yo Gabba Gabba.

Benjamin loves his Brobee chair and yesterday, while at TJ Maxx I could not pass up a stuffed Brobee that sang "Party in my tummy." I couldn't wait until Christmas to give it to him and when I did, he giggled and laughed and I swear I hear "Party in my tummy" 20 times the rest of the night.

When I was a little girl, I was way into Barbies at an early age. Each Christmas and birthday, I wanted a new Barbie along with a Barbie horse, a Barbie house and a Barbie car. I would even take my Barbies to my cousin's house and we'd have Barbie weddings. I'm sure this all drove my mother nuts but each year, I got a Barbie. I even had my own Barbie room. I was a lucky girl.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A visit from the tooth fairy

It’s been a rough week in our house. The toddler is teething – one canine have popped through with three more on the way. I think we’re only four teeth away from a full mouth of teeth and it can not come soon enough. It seems each night for the past week, I’ve been awoken (because Brian does not seem to hear Lil B) by crying at 1 a.m. when the ibuprofen has worn off. Lil B isn’t too sure about ibuprofen. Sometimes he takes it no problem. Other times he won’t take it so to cut the fuss time down to a minimum, I put it in a bottle and then back to bed he goes. (start the scolding now, I’m waiting). One must do what they need to survive -- this I have learned from the past 17 months of motherhood. Last night was a little different. I gave him the bottle and went back to sleep only to be awoke 15 minutes later. This could only mean one thing -- a dirty diaper.  Back to sleep he went after the diaper change. At 5:30 a.m. I woke up to screaming. I made Brian get up and then the screaming wouldn't stop so I just got up anyway. Teething is tough business and sleep is overrated.

I remember the day I lost my first tooth. It was wiggling loosely and my mom dared me to just yank it but I was scared. After a little coaxing, I yanked it out of my mouth and she explained the tooth fairy was come and leave me a surprise if I put it under my pillow. "No way! Really? A Barbie?" She explained that it probably wouldn't be a Barbie -- maybe some money. Money was nothing to me at five years old. Barbies were worth more in my book. Then my mom explained that money could get me a Barbie and then I was all game for the tooth fairy to visit. So I anxiously went to bed and tried my best to fall asleep fast so I could get up and have enough money for a Barbie.

The next morning, I checked under my pillow and there were a few bright shiny quarters under my pillow but not enough to buy a Barbie. My mom explained that I had to lose a few more teeth until I had enough to get that Barbie and of course I had no problem pulling out the loose teeth. Each tooth I lost, I seemed to get more money. I often wondered how the tooth fairy was not waking me up but since having I child I know now the "fairy" would wait until I was in a deep sleep and then slip the quarters under my pillow.

When it was all said and done, I ended up with buck teeth and had to get braces in the sixth grade. I can already tell that Lil B is gonna need braces because he has the same spacing I had as a child with his two front teeth. I wore those darn braces until I was almost in high school. My senior year, my teeth started to move so back on the braces went for six months. I have a permanent retainer on the back of my top teeth so they won't move anymore.

I know I have a few years until the "fairy" visits Lil B but I almost can't wait until he grows up. What the heck, I can't wait until he finally starts talking. But maybe I should be careful what I wish for. I don't want him growing up too fast.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

It ain't Thanksgiving if you don't have turkey

I was going to make this glorious Thanksgiving feast when my friend told me she's not too into Thanksgiving food - she's gonna make tacos instead of come over. TACOS? Really? The only time I didn't eat Turkey on Thanksgiving was when we went to Disney World in 2003 and we decided to get Chinese. That took our guests from seven back down to the three of us (which means two with Lil B). I was a little relieved because that meant I could just roast a turkey the way my mom did -- turkey breast in the cockpot with salt, pepper and water for 8 hours (it falls right off the bone). Before I knew that my feast was down to three people, I had signed up at Allyson's Kitchen for a Thanksgiving Feast class so I could learn how to roast a turkey. I was dreading the class because the wind was out of my sails -- TACOS? Really? Humph.  I'm glad I went. I learned something I was always afraid to do -- debone poultry.

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="269" caption="Homemade Turkey dinner"]Homemade Turkey dinner[/caption]

Did you know that if you debone a turkey, it only takes 45 mins to one hour to roast at 425 degrees? Makes sense. Our instructor deboned a turkey and then had us debone half of a turkey (with his help and a partner), season it and double wrap in foil to roast in the oven. The foil captures the juice so you could put it in the gravy (one stick of butter, 1/4 cup of flour melted on low to make a rue that resembles peanut butter, throw in your stock and a splash of brandy -- it was yummy). I've always been afraid of making my own stock but I'm certain this is the year I will do it. Homemade stock seems to be a cake walk. We also made cornbread stuffing which I have never made before -- I always watched my grandma stuff her turkey with her Polish stuff recipe. I am a convert. We will have cornbread stuff this year. We also made green bean casserole with homemade fried onions on top (yum) and pecan sweet potato pie.  Good thing I didn't eat dinner.

I'm making my feast even if it's just us. Thank you, Allyson's for inspiring me to cook awesome food.

Here is a simple cranberry sauce the chef told us to try. Mix a can of whole cranberries, a jar of orange marmalade, 1/4 cup of red wine and a dash of cinnamon. Simmer until warm. You'll never eat the canned jelly stuff again.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Don't let the bed bugs bite ...

I love visiting my friend Alissa. I have to admit, I don't see her enough but we are both working moms with busy lives. I told myself after I left that I need to just make time for my friends. So often, I get caught up in work, home, sleep that I don't take the time to really see how my friends are doing. In this digital age, I really rely on social media for that interaction. What did we do before Facebook, Twitter and blogs? I just realized today that I haven't talked to anyone in my family since I got back from Nebraska a few weeks ago. Yikes! And none of them are on Facebook! Oops.

Back to Alissa. She just had her second little boy and holding him today made me wished now was the time I could have another one but it's not. Sleepless nights. Not showering for days. Baby weight ... bring it on. I always get the best nuggets of motherhood advice from Alissa. We were on the topic of kids and TV and she said the most true statement "kids can't watch TV at daycare because we need them to watch it when they're home with us." So true. How else would I get dinner on the table when my husband's not at home.  Kinda reminded me of Mad Men when Betty needs to have a serious talk with Don, she tells the kids to watch TV. I'm only half kidding people.

So I was telling Alissa of our bedtime routine. Bath, jammies, Yo Gabba Gabba, Milk, night night.  We got on this topic because I told her Ben only says five words and one was "gabba" which was part of his bedtime routine. Then I got to thinking ... what was my bedtime routine as a child...

I remember taking nightly baths as I hated to wash my hair because I always seemed to get shampoo in my eyes.  My mom would roll foam rollers in my hair when I was younger. She wanted me to have curly hair as I got the stick straight hair gene from my dad. I remember her saying that I never had a problem going to bed though I do remember going through a bout of insomnia when I was in elementary school and I hid this by taking a flashlight to bed and reading when I couldn't sleep. When it was 9 p.m., I'd get my pjs on and would wait for my mom to tuck me in. She'd give me a hug and kiss and tell me to say my prayers.  I don't remember when she stopped tucking me in. My bedtime got later to 10 p.m. or after the first 10 mins of the 10 p.m. news (I was a budding journalist in those days). She would often just peek in to see if I was reading or actually in bed when I was in high school.

Right now, when Lil B goes to bed I put him in his crib with his blanket. Make sure he has some books (he likes to read in bed in the morning). I turn on his Radiohead Rockabye Lullabies and his turtle night light. We say good-bye and I love you and give him a hug. Most of the time, he doesn't fuss but lately his canines are  busting through and he cries for a bit.

I want him to grow up so fast but I need to savor the moment. He won't always be 17 months.

Is this thing working? Really?????

Please update your links ... this blog has moved here. Thanks to the blogger team for FINALLY fixing my blog.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Stay away from yellow snow

There is nothing more joyous than your toddler discovering snow for the first time. Last year didn’t count as he was a little slug and wasn’t mobile enough to play in the snow. We heard reports that Mt Bachelor had received something like 19 inches of snow over the weekend so to tired out our little one, we drove up Cascade Lakes Highway to let him play in the snow for a bit. His first instinct was to eat the snow. His canines are busting through right now so he’s biting and chewing on everything.  He really couldn’t walk so much as the snow was deep and I don’t exactly have the right boots for him yet (oops) but he seemed to enjoy the snow by the photos we took. We plan on doing plenty of snowshoeing and sledding this year so we have sometime until spring to get our snow on.

Growing up in Nebraska, we experienced plenty of snow storms that were so bad, school was shut down (a rarity in Central Oregon). Our snow days were spent sledding down the big hill in Spring Lake Park and hill next to our house as well as sledding down our long street. Not so safe but fun. My mom and step-dad introduced us to skiing Colorado at an early age (that is another blog post in it’s self).

I can’t imagine growing up and now knowing about snow.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Bad habits are hard to break

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="240" caption="Mr. Blueberry eyes at 10 months"]Mr. Blueberry eyes at 10 months[/caption]

When you're a new parent, you'll do just about anything to survive that first year. You'll let your baby sleep in the swing until he four months old. You'll fall asleep breast feeding with your baby in your bed just so you get more sleep because you're working full time.  You'll let him watch "Yo Gabba Gabba" because dinner isn't gonna magically appear on the table. I swore I wouldn't give my child a pacifier but I did. He was teething and that seemed to be the only thing that helped (besides heaps of motrin). A year later, my kiddo can't go anywhere without it.

This whole pacifier incident reminds me of a story my mother used to always tell about me. She swore I was going to enter kindergarten sucking on a pacifier.  I guess I was pretty into my blanket as well (sounds like someone I know -- Lil B has a blanket he carries all over the house but isn't allowed to take outside the house as if we lose it, we'll be in deep trouble) but I would not part with that zoo zoo (don't quote me but I think that is short for the Polish way of saying pacifier). My mom tried everything. Letting me cry in bed for it. Only giving it to me at naps. Nothing was working. I would whine and whine (no surprise here) and she'd give in.  Then she had this great idea ....

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="240" caption="Lil B relaxing with his binky"]Lil B relaxing with his binky[/caption]

One day she took my pacifier away and went towards the bathroom. As told in her words, I was not happy and I rushed after her. She lifted the lid of the toilet and threw it in the bowl. "NO!" I screamed and she flushed the toilet. I peered over the bowl watching the water swirl away. The binky was gone forever and she wasn't going to buy me anymore. Of course, she didn't actually throw the binky in, I found out later on in life. She threw something else loud enough to make me believe it was my binky. She was one smart cookie.

I told myself I'd give Lil B until the first of the year to drop the binky. I'm actually really working on getting him to give up the bottle (I hope my pediatrician doesn't read this post). It's not going to well. Sheesh.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

If you say you don't like to, then you won't like it

For months I have said how much I hate running but then I came down with this chest cold and it's killing me each day I'm not running. Someone smart (my mom) once told me that if I hate something, then I hate something. Does that makes sense? I ran today and felt like I was going to die afterwards. If I'm not better by Wednesday, it's back to Urgent Care I go. BLAH.

When I was a child, my parents tried to get me to be athletic. My mom enrolled me into soccer where I embarrassed her by skipping down the field. Obviously, soccer wasn't my thing.  Then she made me sign up for t-ball. I would be out in the outfield day dreaming away missing the pop flies. When I was in the sixth grade I decided that I wanted to hang out with my friends more which meant I had to try out for volleyball and basketball. Big fails considering I was the tallest girl in my class. I've always been a failure at athletics.  I have to give my mom props. She came to my games and I'm sure she painfully watched as I skipped along or daydreamed in the outfield.  I do know she was really proud of my flute playing abilities. She would tell everyone that I was bound to be a marching Huskers (to her dismay, I did not want to try out for the Husker Marching Band nor did I when I went to the University of Nebraska).

Me and the tweeps racing the Salmon Run. (Photo Courtesy of <a href=Last spring, movitvated by my friend Jen who wanted to run a 5k by her 35th birthday, I decided to give something a try I never thought I could do or enjoy -- running. So we followed the Couch to 5K program and in 12 weeks we were running a 5k. Jen and the gang went onto run a 10k but I twisted my ankle on the river trail and my doctor told me to walk instead -- so I spent two months walking four days a week along the Deschutes River Trail.   A month ago, I started back up but now I have this nasty chest cold and I'm so mad. I want to run the Mash Potato Run in a few weeks. ARGH! You're not supposed to run when you have a chest cold. ( photo courtesy of Jen Floyd)

I'd like to think my mom is proud of my running. I'm not too sure she'd be too proud of my roller derby days though.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Spanx, tights -- just don't call them ...

Today I was accused of being too young to have ever worn pantyhose. I cannot remember how we got on this topic but my answer was “yes, I have worn pantyhose. Still buy them in a shade of nude, but I avoid wearing them when possible.”  Pantyhose is not a word I like using. Can’t the company think of a better name? Spanx sound like a way of saying pantyhose. What about the word “tights” – I think we should call them tights for now. Which reminds me of this Six Feet Under episode. I am so glad I’m not required to where pantyhose. Where was I? Oh yes.

Remember Leggs Eggs? That whole conversation got us on the topic of Leggs Eggs. My mom used to wear suits to work everyday  (she was a network analyst at one of the largest banks in Omaha) which meant she was always buying pantyhose. I’d get so excited because I like to play with the Leggs Eggs containers.  One year she tried to tell us the Easter Bunny hid messages in the Leggs Eggs to help us find our Easter Baskets.

“Mom, you and the Easter Bunny have the same handwriting,” I said.

“Well, he’s a bunny, he doesn’t know how to write,” she said.

“Does he also wear pantyhose?”

I can’t remember how she answered that one. That Easter “the bunny” wrote messages in her Leggs Easters and led my brothers and I (I think I was 10) all over the house looking for the pot of gold in our Easter Baskets. I was quite fond of Peeps and malted milk balls and needed that sugar fix before we left for Mass and the mass gathering of cousins, aunts and uncles at my grandparent’s house.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Why I give

Each year at work, we're asked to donate to the United Way.  Well, we get emails and a pledge card in our check and are asked to give and contribute towards a company-wide goal. Some hate being asked for money. Some are the first to turn in their pledge card. I help with our workplace  campaign because of something my mom said a long ago to me when I was 16 years old.

In high school, I worked at Baker's, a grocery chain now owned by Kroger. My mom shopped at Baker's each week as far back as I could remember along with my grandma who would take me with her to the store each week with her when I went to kindergarten by her house. My grandma would make a deal with me -- "Shannon, stay by my grocery cart. If you get lost and they have to page me, no Whatchmacallit bar." (Are you seeing a trend? It's starting to explain my sweet tooth).  I was known for wandering off and then crying that I was lost so they'd page my mom and grandma. Of course, they were mortified each time when I did this.  I liked going to Baker's as a child because I'd hang out by the magazines and read about Duran Duran while my mom would shop with her list and coupons. The staff all seemed to know her and we always went to the same cashier.

Back then, Baker's was locally owned and a pretty cool place for a teenager to start gain work experience. I don't think Baker's had any standards in hiring their grocery sackers. The ultimate goals was to train their employees to be "people pleasers." Back then, there was a trend going on in Omaha that most grocery stores didn't have grocery sackers and you'd save money if you bagged your groceries yourself. Not Baker's. We were trained to take out even one sack of groceries even if the customer would fuss, we'd still do it. They even gave us topics to talk about so we had more to talk about than the weather and how the Huskers were doing during football season.  Baker's shaped my customer service skills. I swear, I went to a week long training class on how to sack groceries correctly in a paper sack and a plastic bag. It drives me bonkers when I go to the grocery store and they put potatoes on top of my bread or bleach with my apples.

Baker's was a very community minded store. They were always doing a food drive or sponsoring an event in the community. At our weekly produce test meeting, one of my fellow employees got up and talked about the United Way and why we should give. The woman was a volunteer at the local chapter of Big Brothers, Big Sisters. I never qualified for this program though I came from a divorced family and didn't have a big sister but I still felt passionate that there was kids out there that needed the service. My co-worker asked us to please consider giving one hour of pay (then it was $3.75) a month to help someone who needs it. I was touched but I was really saving up for my car insurance because I was going to buy my mom's '92 Chevy Monte Carlo and couldn't spare the $3.75 a month. I tucked the pledge card in my purse and went on trying to remember the number for green peppesr (4065).

A few days later, I was cleaning out my purse and I was about to throw the pledge card away when my mom grabbed it.

"You're throwing your United Way pledge card away?" she said.

"Umm, yea. Why?"

"You know United Way helps those in need? They help singles moms who need to go to college so they can feed their children and not depend on welfare," she said. I stared blankly wondering what her point was. "Singles moms with no college education and small hungry kids. Small hungry kids who she wanted to send to Catholic school. You know those uniforms are expensive."

"Oh, I get it, you're saying the United Way sent you to college?" I was sorta getting her point.

"Well, not the United Way but one of the agencies, Catholic Charities, helped me get into the community college so I could study computers and feed my hungry children so they could go to Catholic grade school, " she handed the pledge card back to me with a pen. "You can give something. You're only going to spend it on clothes and Guess jeans anyway," she was right and had a point. I gave $4 a pay check and I've been giving (when my work place allows it) ever since.

When I moved to Bend, I had the pleasure for working for the United Way. Each year, many community members volunteer to go out and tell their United Way story. When I worked for the United Way, I told that story once to a group in Sunriver. I didn't think I could get through it without crying since my mom died. I didn't want anyone asking me "I'm sure your mom is proud" and have to be a buzz kill and say my mom isn't alive. Maybe if I would have told that story, I could have inspired more 16 year olds to give? So I'm telling you no -- that's why I give.

It's United Way time across the country. If you have a work place campaign, it's easy to give and most places, like Central Oregon, 97% of your donation will go to those in need. To learn more about the United Way in your community, check out their website.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

It won't hurt

With all the sickness and swine flu going around it got me thinking about when I was little and sick. I don’t remember being a sickly child but I did have my moments.

One time in the 2nd grade, I had the flu. Instead of waking my mom up in the middle of the night, I threw up in the corner in my room.  The next morning, I still didn’t feel so good so I laid with my blanket in the hallway outside my mother’s bedroom door, sleeping and waiting for her to get up. Of course, she wasn’t too happy that I threw up in my room and didn’t wake her (though she said was worried I was dehydrated, I thought it was because I might have ruined the carpet). Getting sick always threw a monkey wrench in her day. Since she was a working single mom, she had to call my grandparents to see if they could watch me so she couldn’t miss work.

Once I ate a whole bottle of Flinestone vitamins because they tasted good. I thought they were candy but my mom called poison control only to find out I would end up being fine. Close call. I didn’t want my stomach pumped. (Rumor has it, my older brother had drank a bottle of cough syrup – twice and had to have his stomach pumped. I also think he was the one who swallowed my Grandma Rita’s diet pills and had to have his stomach pumped again).

When I was really sick, she’d have to run me to the doctor’s office. As much as I wanted to get well, I hated the doctor’s office. The one thing I looked forward to was the little kid’s table with new books to look at and if the wait time was long, I’d go through all the books and be bored out of my mind. The doctor would check my ears, throat, nose and then reward me with a lollipop. Fun times! When we got home, if I was up for it, she’d make me a can of chicken soup and fill me up with orange juice.

In the summer before third grade, I got the chicken pox. Since I had to lay around on the couch for two weeks at my grandparents, my mom bribed me into be good with a new coloring book and maybe some if I was really good and didn’t scratch the chicken pox, I would get to go to the bakery and pick out a donut when I was better.

The worst I remember being sick was when I was a sophomore in high school and I had walking pneumonia. I came down for breakfast and my mom had a worried look on her face so she called the doctor’s office and brought me in. An x-ray later, I was diagnosed with pneumonia and had to rest and be out of school for a week. I remember my mom telling the doctor that I was white as a ghost and if they weren’t open, it was off to the emergency room we were going. I remember being thankful my mom cared so much. She took the week off from work to take care of me.

When I went away to college, I came down with the worse case of strep throat. Though my mother was only 45 minutes away, she insisted that I visit the university health center to be checked out. When a couple days went by and my symptoms weren’t getting better, I came home and went to the doctor only to find out I also had the flu. I stay home a couples days for a home cooked meal and more chicken soup. I thought to myself that though I was an adult, I didn’t want to ever be far from my mother.

Tonight, I took my son to get his swine flu shot and it brought back memories of all the times my mom drug me in for immunizations. She was always upfront in saying “well, you might be a shot” followed by “if you’re good, you can pick out a Barbie.” It always worked. I can’t wait until Lil B gets his little bribes.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

To our little cabin in the woods

One of the things I miss about Nebraska is our family cabin we spent many summers enjoying. Each spring, my brothers and I would anxiously wait for Memorial Day and hope that the weather was nice enough to enjoy our little cabin near the Platte River. Our cabin was modest – two rooms – a kitchen with living, fireplace and well water sink along with a bedroom with bunks. There was no running water, so we used an outhouse. Outside we had a tire swing, picnic tables and a volleyball/badminton court. When the weather was good on Memorial Day, we’d drive I-80 to the Gretna exit and take many back roads over a sketchy bridge, past a few ponds, through some cornfields to reach our remote cabin. Our family gathered there – cousins from out of town, aunts and uncles and sometimes their friends. Mom would pack a cooler of food along with a small cooler of kool-aid for us to enjoy if we were thirsty. I really looked forward to the cabin because this meant I could see my all of my cousins (there are 14 of us). Our cabin was surrounded by a forest of trees – oaks, maples, mulberry and a few pines here and there. We had two paths that took us to the sandy banks of the Platte River where we’d play, fish, build sand castles and catch snakes and toads. When the weather was hot and the Platte was low, my mom, aunts and cousins would venture out on the Platte to play in the water and if we were lucky and the river was low enough (we’re taking about the river that is a mile wide an inch deep) we’d walk across to the island in the middle and explore.

[caption id="attachment_111" align="alignleft" width="201" caption="That's one big catfish, Mary Lu!"]That's one big catfish, Mary Lu![/caption]

In the early 1980s, heavy snow melt in the Rockies flooded the Platte near our family cabin. The aftermath created a bigger sandy beach and two small creeks in which my uncles had to build small two bridges so we could get to the Platte River from one of the paths. That same year, the City of Lincoln (whom my family leased the land from) built a safer road into our cabin. No more scary creepy bridge. We entered through a locked gate, down a long road, through corn fields. My cousins and I missed that drive, through the cornfields, past the ponds. We would beg our parents to let us walk up the road each summer to look at that old bridge. We’d throw rocks in the ponds, fish and pick mulberries. When the corn was just growing, we’d explore the forest as well. One spring we found an old small abandon cabin. My mom told us it was an old hermit’s cabin and to not go back. We didn’t believe her and went back several times. Never did see the hermit and later found out it was my uncles’ deer hideaway while hunting.

One of the cabins up the road had a pond next to it we swam in when it got hot. We nicknamed it “frogger pond” because it seemed to always have tadpoles and frogs hopping around when ever we went. No one ever seemed to visit that cabin so we hung out there on hot summer weekend when the river was too high to swim.

An early memory of that cabin involved an old three wheeler we had (this was before 4-wheelers and ATVs). This was my dad’s and somehow my mom got the thing in the divorce so she left it at our cabin. My older brother Casey would take us for rides up and down the road on it and we’d fight over who got to ride next.

Fourth of July was always a treat. Since the City of Omaha banned fireworks without a permit in the city limits, we escaped to our Ashland hideaway to light our sparkles and bottle rockets. Most of the time, my uncle would drive to Missouri and buy illegal fireworks so he could perform his “Gruchi Brothers” show (this was a knock-off of the display that Rosenblatt would put on). By that time, the corn was pretty high and my Uncle Jerry set-up at dusk and we’d oooo and awww and not want to go home but mom would load us up and we’d fall sound asleep in the car.

Labor Day was the end of our summer visits. We’d have a last few swims in the Platte, say good-bye to our out-of-town cousins until Thanksgiving and swing on the tire swing one last time. My cousin Tracy and I would also make one last sand castle and catch a few frogs for good measure. We’d lock the cabin up and it would sit empty until pheasant, duck, goose and deer season arrived for my uncles and brothers.

My mom met my stepdad through my Uncle Jerry at that cabin. My Uncle Jerry married his wife Michelle at that cabin. We’d play hide and seek and listen to the songs of the 80s at that cabin. We picked morel mushrooms in the spring (and lost my Uncle Tom for a few hours – which is a whole other blog post). In the early 1990s the City of Lincoln informed my family they weren’t renewing our lease and we’d have to vacate the land –taking our cabin with us so in 1993, we moved our cabin across the river just to the east of Mahoney State Park on the banks of the Platte. It was a sad day for our family. Sure, my stepdad remodeled the cabin and we now had running water, but gone were the ponds, fishing spots, walking paths to the river and fireworks shows in the cornfields.

One of earliest memories was playing hide and seek with my cousin the cornfields. The new cabin didn’t have corn but a set of railroad tracks right behind that would keep you up if you spent the night. Don’t get me wrong – that cabin is a whole other set of blog posts – just ask my college friends. But it wasn’t the same.

In the spring of 1993, heavy snows in the Rockies brought one of the worst floods to Platte River. The flood was so bad, it shut down Interstate 80 and Highway 6 – the only way to Lincoln, Nebraska from Omaha. In the spring, we found out the flood waters went all the way up where are old cabin was located and didn’t recede, creating a lake. We would have lost everything for sure if we would have stayed. How’s that for karma?

I don’t have any photos of the old cabin but I have spent a good amount of time on Google Earth trying to view the area. The City of Lincoln was using the area to pump water to the city. While our cabin was there, they built a bridge to one of the islands so I use that as a landmark when spying on my old life on Google Earth. I often thought about mountain biking in but I never did. Maybe someday I will go back, jump the fence and check it out. It’s a big part of the memories with my mom as it was her family’s cabin. Everything seemed so innocent back then.

ariel view of the cabin

Monday, November 2, 2009

Kiss and tell

I interrupt my posting about mom stories to show you a not-so-typical day at work. Each year, the company I work for has a Halloween contest and folks go all out. Since it was the day my department's new director was starting, I figured being a kitty cat was pretty safe and wouldn't scare her away. (Last year our dept went as our admin team -- the contest is that intense).  When I went to my 9 a.m. meeting, our CEO and the admin team were dressed up as KISS. Full make-up, platform shoes, blood, wigs, guitars and all. Our clinic was full of interesting characters that day -- the 80s prom, garden gnomes, 80s arcade games.

You can read more about it on Marvin's blog.

You can see now why I love my job!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween, South O style

My husband and I were sitting around talking about how we celebrated Halloween when we were kids.  You see, I wasn't going to buy candy because I really didn't feel like locking the dog up and dealing with the crazy barking but Brian insisted I get candy.

"When I was a kid, we went to every house," he said. "I don't want someone pulling a 'trick' on our house."

"Well, isn't that the point of having a porch light on?" I said. He stared at my blankly.

"You know you only go to houses with lit pumpkins or porch lights on, right," I said.

"That's not how we did it. If you didn't have candy, well, we weren't to nice to the people," he paused. "I kinda didn't hang around the best crowd." Well obviously.

I actully thought I was crazy so I posted this on Facebook:

So my husband just told me that when he was a kid they would knock on everyone's door on Halloween. I told him we only knocked on doors that had lights on. He had never heard that. Isn't that the rule on Halloween? Or was that a midwest rule?

All 14 comments from my friends sealed the deal that you were supposed to only go to houses with porch lights on.

I used to be able to go back all the way to age five and tell you all the costumes I used to go as but maybe all those beer drinking days have burned some brain cells. I can only remember the gypsy, the punk rocker (went as this many times) and the witch from grade school.  I might has went as a news anchor but I might be imagining that as that is what I wanted to be when I grew up. The last time I trick or treated was my freshman year in high school when I wore my band uniform.

My husband and I reminisced about the costumes with the masks of Scooby Doo and Smufs that KMart used to sell in the 80s. (what happened to those?) I think my younger brother Chris was a few Star Wars masked characters when he was a kid. I don't remember having a masked costume though.

Since my mother was a working mom, she didn't have time to hand make our costume so we would visit ShopKo or Kmart to pick something up. As I said before, I went as a punk rocker a few times. I was really into having pink hair and I loved that spray paint that washes out each day. I remember asking my mom to buy extras cans for when I played dress up. She would say something sassy like "money doesn't grow on trees" and we'd leave the store.

At the beginning of October, my mom would put up our paper Halloween decor on the front door and the windows. People don't do this anymore. I'm seeing more Christmas-like orange lights, hay bundles and Halloween blow-up characters these day. When my mom would put those up, you knew the Halloween countdown was on.

Halloween day would arrive and after school, I'd get all dressed up just waiting for it to be dark outside. My brothers and I have one goal in mind, get all the candy we could or walk until we couldn't walk anymore. My mom would stay home and pass out candy and most of the time my older brother took us since he was much older than us. Up and down the hilly streets of our neighborhood, each with a full pillowcase. You don't see many pillowcases anymore.

When we got home, around 8 p.m., my mom would drive us to my Grandma Marie's house so we could show our grandparents our costumes. There we would trick or treat some more around their  neighborhood with our cousins. As we drove home, we'd be exhausted from all the walking. Good thing we only had a half day of school the next day (Nov 1 is a holy day -- All Saints Day).

Mom would tuck us into bed and then would check the candy for us. I remember one year, I watched her dump three pillowcases full of candy onto our TV room floor to start sorting. She wanted to make sure everything was safe and sound to eat for her little ones.

Our candy was then rationed. We would only be allowed a piece or two a day as my mom tucked it away in a secret hiding place in which we found each year.

I only remember my mom dressing up once to go to a party. She bought a costume and went as a witch one year with the green make-up and wort. I wish I could find that photo today.

Yesterday, Lil B didn't go too many places. He got a fruit roll up and a few candy bars but that was about it. He was more into taking off his costume and not wearing his tiger hat. My friends tell me that Halloween gets better with age and next year promises to be more exciting for Lil B.  I look forward to the many Halloween's he'll be celebrating.

Mickey Mouse Pancakes

This month I am participating in NaBloPoMo. All my posts will be related to my mom, Mary, who died of pancreatic cancer in 1996. I'm enlisting the help of family and friends to make this project a reality. Enjoy.

My earliest memory involves Sunday Mass and Mickey Mouse pancakes. My mother was born and raised Catholic. My dad wasn't so he would stay home with my brother Chris and I while my mom and older brother Casey would go to church. You see, at four years old, I wouldn't behave in the pew and my little brother was just a toddler. Sometimes my mom would take us in the cry room but it was more work than anything for her since my dad didn't go with us. To bribe us, she would say "be good in church" or "be good for daddy"  followed by "and "you'll get Mickey Mouse pancakes."

I don't remember the name of the little diner but it was located on South 21st and  Q streets. I'd sit patiently through church in the cry room awaiting the glorious joys of those pancakes. We'd pull up to the diner and my dad would be waiting inside drinking his coffee, smoking a cigarette with my brother Chris. Without hesitation, I'd order my Mickey Mouse pancakes for breakfast. Those pancakes were worth being good for.

My parents divorced when I was five years old. I don't remember the unpleasantness of their marriage which is a good thing. I remember walking 20th street with my mom and brother Chris so she could get a haircut at a salon on S Street. (I can't remember if this was because we only had one car or because we needed exercise. I think we had two cars? My mom drove a silver '76 Ponitac and my dad always drove a truck  but for some reason we walked a lot of places in South Omaha). That day after the haircuts, my dad picked us up and we went home. Each day on my way to Catholic School for many years later, I pointed out that day to my mom when we saw the old abandoned building on 20th & S streets.

You see, South Omaha and my mom go hand and hand. Some see South Omaha as the poor part of town. The way I see it, it's a lifestyle choice rich with the history of the Polish and Czech. My mother was both. Her parents raise her at what was then the edge of South Omaha -- 42nd street. She attended Catholic school at St. Stans and high school at Ryan High. She bought two houses in South Omaha and chose to raise her family there. It was her choice to be from South Omaha. It wasn't because we were poor (though at times we probably were) but we were close to all of the history of her life.

When my parents were married, my mom worked part time at Phillips store in the lingerie department. I remember walking and driving with her to get groceries during the day when she wasn't working with my brother Chris. "Be good and maybe you'll get some candy" was often the bribe (you know see where I developed my sweet tooth).  It was never in and out at Phillips for groceries because they also had clothes and electronics and of course, it was my part of my mom's social life because she worked there and she spent most of the day with a 2, 4 and 9 year old -- she needed to talk to adults. We were usually good and after went by the grade school to pick my older brother up.

I don't remember our first house in South Omaha on Q street. Most of what I have are photos of the inside. I do remember my mom taking me to Hitchcock Park by our first house to swing and burn some energy off. I also have a reoccurring memory of  driving through the alley to get to that house but nothing more. My vivid childhood memories always involved our big house on 16th street where we lived in from the time I was four until I was 21 years old.  I remember taking photos on the first stoop with my brothers and the silly photos my dad posed in with us. When we moved in, the floors were hardwood and what ended up being our TV room used to be two rooms -- one that was painted red with mirrors on the wall. There was also a walk in pantry which was knocked out years later when they made the TV room into two rooms. The good thing about the 16th street house was we each had our own room. In our old house, I remember my mom telling me she had us all sleeping in the master bed room while she and dad slept in the smaller room.  Our 16th street house was where all the South Omaha memories come to play. South Omaha was my mom. It was her choice.

When I went to college in 1993 at the University of Nebraska, kids would ask me "what high school did you go to?" I would say "South" and they would assume "Millard South." For some reason kids from "South" didn't go to college though that is a common misconception, the majority of my classmates did go to attend and graduate from college.

South Omaha is still the same and is even being revitalized. It still holds the cultural heritage of the Polish and Czech but now with a little bit of Mexico mixed in. The old diners are now replaced with Mexican restaurants and grocery stores. The Old Packers Bank was demoed and is now a Walgreens. The Stockyards Building is not renovated into condos, office and green space.  Omaha South High went through a major renovation in the 1990s while I attended high school there. This year, "The Hole" just blocks from my old 16th Street house, was transformed into a state of the art stadium for the high school. When I was visiting last month, just seeing it gave me South Omaha pride and wanted to attend a football game and proud that I was in the Packer Band (something I don't like telling people because I played the flute and everyone always refers to the movie American Pie when I mention it).

I leave you with the dedication of Collins Stadium in South Omaha. It made me tear up and wish I wouldn't have sold my flute on eBay. I will try to dig up photos and scan them in. I just have not had time!