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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Just another crazy weekend...

Here's the weekend at our house:



Mom picks up Kate, Tanya and Madiyar at school. Max walks home, arriving about the same time we pull in the driveway. Aniyar's bus drops him off a few minutes later. Snacks are consumed and the kids run off to play. Kate begins to set up the living room for a sleepover with two friends...this means opening the sofa bed and bringing Mom and Dad's TV downstairs for a movie festival of various chick flicks.


Mom drops Tanya back at school to catch a bus for her basketball game, takes Kate to the grocery to buy snacks and ice cream for the sleepover.


Kate finishes turning our living room into Party Central complete with stuffed animals, pillows, a stack of DVD's. A late night with lots of teenage girl squealing is anticipated. Takeout menus have been provided for the girls' dining pleasure...because Mom doesn't love cooking on Fridays. The boys want to know what they can eat and why they can't have a sleepover. I tell them they can watch a movie in the family room and eat on TV trays. They beg for leftovers.


Our realtor calls to tell us that someone wants to look at our house on Saturday at 10:30am. This means the house has to be sparkling clean and decluttered and all humans/dogs must vacate the premises by 10:15am....aarghhhhh!!!!!


I pull the leftover casserole out of the fridge and warm it for the boys. They lay waste to it while watching their movie. Craig arrives home and we begin to peruse takeout menus for us...because Mom doesn't love cooking on Fridays.


Kate's friends arrive and the party commences. There's a lot of noise both upstairs and down.


Tanya calls and says the game is over. I dash out to pick her up and fix her some soup for dinner. In the meantime, the girls have consumed chicken wings, fish sandwiches, and fries along with candy and soda. Tanya joins the fun.


Our friends Rick and Deb come over and we order pizza. The decibel level in the house has now reached epic proportions. The adults, all seasoned parents, practice deep breathing and meditation techniques to remain calm and relaxed. There are cocktails involved.


The younger kids are sent off to bed amidst whining about the unfairness of life and bedtimes. Madiyar is bribed with additional computer time if he leaves the sleepover party alone. He's delighted with the deal. The decibel level on the second floor decreases dramatically. The party girls turn to ice cream and more chick flicks. Mom begins tidying the house for the next day.


Tanya gets out of bed to remind Mom that her basketball uniform needs to be washed for her game on Saturday morning. Mom starts a load of laundry.


Mom and Dad retire to their room to read. Madiyar calls it a night, too. The party girls watch movies until after midnight, then fall asleep one by one. Kate is the last one awake, finally drifting off around 1:30am.



Dad and Aniyar get up and rush off to Aniyar's 8:00am basketball game. I start cleaning the house...and our bedroom rug where the dog peed in the night. As the rest of the kids get up and eat breakfast, I share my plan for them to all help prepare for the realtor's showing and give them their cleaning assignments. This plan is met with resistance and near mutiny in the ranks until I mention that videogame time is a privilege that can be lost. The boys begin vacuuming and tidying their room. Tanya cleans bathrooms and then dresses for her basketball game.


I rouse the party girls and feed them breakfast, then send them off to transform Party Central back into our living room. There's much scurrying about and giggling but actual work is in short supply.


Dad and Aniyar return home. Mom hasn't had a shower yet and the house is only half cleaned. Mom and Dad both strongly encourage the children to move faster with their cleaning assignments. Kate announces that the vacuum has stopped working. Dad dismantles the vacuum and finds that it's clogged with Nerf bullets, Legos, and a pencil. Vacuuming resumes.


The house is vacuumed and tidied. Mom sprays air freshener and puts a mini crockpot of potpourri on to simmer in our bedroom to cover the doggie peepee smell that lingers on the carpet, then jumps into the shower. Dad begins calling out a 15 minute warning to the kids to finish their chores and evacuate the premises.


Kids and dogs are loaded into the two vehicles. Mom does the final walk through to be sure nothing has been overlooked, then we are clear.


Dad drops Tanya at her basketball game, then takes the boys to Gamestop where they plan to trade in old videogames for store credit and pick out new ones. I drive the party girls to the mall where they plan to shop, lunch, and see a movie. The dogs and I wave goodbye to them, then Nellie tries to climb in my lap. I remind her that she is not a chihuahua but a 60 lb. greyhound. She settles for riding shotgun.


Mom and Dad meet at Wendy's and feed the boys lunch while waiting for the showing to be over. We walk the dogs after lunch and generally loiter until it's time to go home.


We return to our tidy house and the boys begin to clutter it anew.


Tanya calls to say her game is over and she needs a ride home; Dad plays chauffeur this time. Mom fixes Tanya some lunch. Mom and Dad go out to do fun errands like buying more vacuum cleaner bags.


Kate calls and says the movie will be over at 5:30. She wants to know if we can give one of her friends a ride home.


Mom and Dad return home from errands and Mom begins to prep the evening meal; it's breakfast for dinner. Bacon, home fried potatoes, and cheese biscuits are made. A dozen eggs are cracked and ready to scramble.


Kate calls to say the movie is over and she's ready to come home. Mom chauffeurs while Dad makes pancakes.


Breakfast is served with a large bowl of grapes on the side. The food disappears; so do the children.


Mom begins to prep the meal for Dad's church meeting on Sunday. It's pot roast for 15 people for lunch. Eight lbs. of beef, 2 lbs. of carrots, a couple of onions, and a bag of red potatoes are trimmed and cleaned.


The crockpot is filled with meat and onions to simmer overnight and the veggies are stored in the fridge until the morning. The younger kids are sent off to bed and Kate and Mom watch Miss America. Dad and Madiyar start watching a movie on Dad's computer.


Mom and Kate head off to read a bit in bed. Dad and Madiyar are still watching their movie; Mom chalks it up to father-son bonding and lets them enjoy themselves. Nellie steals Dad's spot on the bed; snoring commences.



It's time to check the roast and add the veggies. Dogs and children are fed but at least the house doesn't need to be cleaned...much. The kids begin bickering, tempers flare and doors are slammed. Mom referees, repeating the Golden Rule several times to everyone. Dad makes lattes; the day looks better.


People start arriving. Suddenly there are 8 kids and 7 adults in our living room. The dogs have been confined to our bedroom upstairs; Nellie expresses her outrage by eating a corner of our TV cabinet.


Lunch is served. I eat mine in the bedroom in an effort to keep Nellie from eating any more furniture. The kids are bickering and tattling on each other...they manage to find me and ask me to play Solomon once again. I can run but I can't hide.


The kids play soccer outside until the adults finish lunch and head home. We free the dogs from captivity and they romp around the yard. We clean up the kitchen, then relax a bit.


Dad naps while Mom blogs. Exhausted from soccer and a fresh round of bickering, the kids turn to movies and books. It's quiet for a while.


Mom overhears children complaining of hunger pangs. It's time to think of something for dinner and to pick a DVD for our family movie night. The weekend's almost over...and normally, I'd be looking forward to a quiet Monday...but tomorrow Craig's going on a business trip which makes me a single mom for a couple of days. Never a dull moment around here.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Friends reunited

Madiyar and I made the trip to Pennsylvania without a hitch, no delays with flights or problems with the rental car except that it didn't go fast enough for a very excited 14 year old boy. We arrived at our destination just minutes before the school bus dropped Borya and his sibs off from school and the two boys were inseparable all weekend long. It was a great pleasure watching the boys have so much fun together. Sunday morning came too soon for the friends. Leaving was hard and Madiyar was very quiet on most of the drive back to the airport. No sulking or pouting, he was just sad and thoughtful. After a while, he started talking about the future. He asked me if he and Borya could go to college together and I told him I thought that was a great idea. (A year ago, this kid hated school and would have dropped out if he could have so any talk of college is tres exciting!) By the time we walked into our house, Madiyar was still talking about another visit with James but he was clearly happy to be home, giving and receiving hugs with the rest of the family. I think this visit was very good for him and he seems to have handled the stress well.

I had a great visit with the Giberson clan, too...Fred and Anne have 6 kids, 3 of them from Kazakhstan, so we have a lot in common. Anne and I became acquainted through cyberspace, first via our various Yahoo adoption groups and then when we were both in the process of adopting kids from Ridder. (Little did we know that the boy they were adopting was a friend of Madiyar's from the same group in the boarding school...it's a small world.) Borya (now called James) and his sister Yulia (Julie) arrived home in PA just 2 weeks before Aniyar and Madiyar arrived here in MA last year. Between email, phone, and our blogs, we've kept in touch pretty well. Madiyar loves to check out James' mom's blog to see photos of his friend and I enjoy Anne's great writing skills. I felt like I knew all the kids before I even met them due to her descriptions of their personalities and her daily life...Anne has a great sense of humor, always a plus for a mother of a large brood.

Bonnie, thanks for letting me sleep in your very cool Twilight room...my girls are sooo jealous! Julie, thanks for the tour of your whole house and for introducing me to all the animals, also for playing games with me. Natasha, thanks for letting me watch "Haunting Hour" with you...it was spooky but fun! Bo, I hope your injuries heal from the lava and fire pit under your kitchen table. Shane, thanks for being such a good sport and playing with Madiyar and James...Madiyar said he had a blast but his shoulder still hurts...hmmm...I'm not sure I want to know the details. James, thanks for your generosity and for being such a good friend to Madiyar. Fred, I don't care what you say...the chicken was great...what was the marinade? And Anne...there's nothing like free therapy, one Mom to another...thanks for sharing your home, your time, your family, and your very big heart with us!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Madiyar and Mom are Headed To Pennsylvania

Tomorrow, Madiyar and I will fly to Pennsylvania to visit a family who adopted a very good friend of Madiyar's last year. My boy is so excited that he went to bed early tonight...he said he wanted it to be tomorrow sooner.

Dad will stay home to take care of the other 4 kids (that means basketball games and prep for midterms and meals and a million other things) while Mom and her oldest son gallivant across the Eastern Seaboard. No small task but well worth it as it brings 2 kids from a half a world away back together again. Pictures and details will follow...

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Greyhounds in the snow

It's been bitter cold here lately, lots of wind and quite a bit of snow...but greyhounds were born to run and they do get cabin fever when they're cooped up inside too long. Here are a few shots of Fletch and our newest grey, Nellie Bly, getting their exercise. I know, the action shots are blurry...but they are retired racers, after all. Nellie loves to run in any weather...and Fletch loves to chase Nellie...

but after 5 or 10 minutes, it's time for a long nap. Can you say couch potato?

Friday, January 8, 2010

Turkey croquettes

In my last post, I mentioned these little gems of deliciousness that have been a New Year's dinner tradition in the Risley family since before I was born...but since my mom died, it’s much more than a traditional holiday meal to me. Every time I make croquettes, I can feel Mom’s presence. I hear her voice as I grind, mix, form, and fry each one. I feel her watching (and gently correcting) my technique just as she did when she taught me to make these long ago. Making croquettes is the definition of comfort food, an act of love that continues to connect me to my mom, dad, and brothers even though they’re all gone. It’s an act of love that I can pass on to my own kids in hopes that they will have as many fond family memories as I do. In order to become keepers of the croquette flame, they’ll need both the history and the process…because that’s what traditions are all about. This post is for our family, both near and far...for my kids here at home, our family in Florida, and all over the US, be they Schoelles or Risley...and especially for my two great-nephews, Owen and Ethan. This is your great-grandmother Risley's recipe, boys..ask your Mom and Dad to make these for you!

My mom always said that she started making croquettes out of necessity when my brothers were little; one year after Christmas, my folks had very little money and lots of turkey leftovers. Mom was bemoaning the fact that she couldn't afford to make a fancy New Year's dinner to an elderly neighbor lady. The neighbor gave her this recipe which efficiently combines leftover turkey, stuffing, and gravy into a whole new meal...and a tradition was established. We never let Mom off the hook after that…every Christmas, we had to have a really big turkey so that there were a lot of leftovers for croquettes for New Year’s dinner. The tradition continues in our house today…when Kate heard we were having prime rib for Christmas dinner, her first question was (in a panicky, shrill voice)"But what about turkey croquettes?" I can hear my mother laughing….

Turkey Croquettes

Umm, sorry, Mom didn’t measure…ever…good luck with amounts!

Dark and white turkey, trimmed of fat and gristle
Leftover stuffing
Turkey gravy (reserve some for dinner)
Plain bread crumbs
Canola oil (Mom used Crisco but I like my arteries the way they are)

Use a meat grinder to grind the trimmed meat and stuffing together. Mix well, then pour warm gravy over the ground stuff and mix again. The mixture should be moist but no soupy, just enough so that it will stick together when formed into a small oval that looks like a small football. (Mom always cautioned me to seal up any cracks in the croquettes so they wouldn’t disintegrate in the hot oil.) Once you have a sealed little football, roll it gently in bread crumbs and place it on a wax paper covered cookie sheet. Repeat the process….over and over. Lots of leftovers mean lots of croquettes…and they freeze well for future meals. Once you’ve formed the croquettes, put them in the fridge to chill for a while (at least an hour). Fill a frying pan with enough oil to cover the croquettes (or you can use a deep fryer if you have one). The oil has to be really hot in order to get the croquettes crispy on the outside but still creamy and moist on the inside. Drop the chilled croquettes into the hot oil, frying them in batches until golden brown. Remove fried croquettes and place them on paper towels to drain off excess oil. Croquettes can be kept warm in the oven while you clean up the mess from frying and make the rest of dinner. They can also be cooked in advance and then reheated at dinnertime, 250 degree oven for about 20 minutes, longer if they’re frozen.

Serve with gravy, mashed potatoes, leftover cranberry-orange relish and a veggie (or ask us for Craig’s fabulous recipe for Hoppin’ John, our newest New Year’s dinner tradition.) Enjoy…take a bow…thanks, Mom.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

New year, new decade!

The end of 2009 and the first week of 2010 have been hectic (but that's pretty normal around here). Let me recap the highlights.

Just as 2009 was winding down, we were surprised with the delivery of a lovely flower arrangement which fancied up our table for New Year's...thanks, Dale and Laura! We miss you guys.

We celebrated Craig's birthday on Dec. 30. The kids and I spent the day wrapping Dad's gifts, decorating the dining room with streamers, and baking a red velvet cake. I ordered a sushi platter for Mom and Dad and Chinese takeout for the kids who are sushi-challenged. After dinner, Dad blew out the candles on his cake and opened his presents. After a full year of birthdays celebrated, Aniyar and Madiyar can now sing "Happy Birthday" in English...and also the Risley family birthday song that goes like this:
Blow out the candles on your cake and make a wish
We'll have everybody's favorite dish...Fish!
Happy birthday, happy happy birthday!
It's your party but we'll have all the fun, HEY!!!

The children and I spent New Year's Eve day at Coco Key, an indoor waterpark. It was a blast and a nice break from the winter weather here (inside the park, it's summer at 82 degrees...outside 25 degrees and lots of snow) After about 4 hours of waterslide, tubing, and playing water basketball, the kids were worn out.

Our 5 were content to eat an early dinner (steakburgers and homemade turkey soup)and then watch movies while Mom and Dad had a nice grown-up dinner (this means we ate entirely too many vegetables for our kids' tastes) with our friends, Rick and Deb.

We told the kids they could stay up to greet the New Year and 4 of the 5 of them made it to midnight...Aniyar tried his best but finally passed out cold and was deposited into his bed around 10pm.

At about 11:30, the 4 crazy grown-ups put on our swimsuits and climbed into our backyard spa pool in spite of the temperature hovering around 20 degrees. (Sitting in the spa in the winter is actually delightful...it's the getting in and out that takes your breath away.)

When the ball dropped, the kids came outside, throwing streamers and blowing their party horns. We toasted in the New Year with champagne for those of us over 21 and sparkling juices for the rest of the crowd.

We all slept in on New Year's Day, then basically lounged around in our PJ's most of the day. I made my mother's famous turkey croquettes, our traditional New Year's Day dinner.

Over the weekend, we tried out our new snowshoes as we got about 5 inches of fluffy white stuff on Saturday. It was quite an operation getting all of us outfitted with our equipment, into the van and over to the park where we could practice walking in the deeper snow. We had lots of whining from the kids who were a)cold, b)damp, c)mad that they weren't playing videogames, d)hungry, e)needing to use the bathroom. In spite of all protests and some teenage surliness, Craig and I managed to retain our sense of humor and we all ended up having fun for a couple of hours. Just about all protests evaporated when we headed to Wendy's for lunch after our outdoor adventure.

This week, the kids are back to school and as much as we love the holidays, I think we were all ready to return to our normal routine. Max and Aniyar went back to school on Monday while the older kids didn't start until Tuesday. Stuck at home with just us girls and no brothers to play Wii or GameCube with him, Madiyar declared the last day of vacation "...the most boring day ever!" As for me, I still have to take down all the holiday decorations and pack them away. It's funny, I never find time to be bored....

Tanya is on her school’s basketball team and she played her first game on Tuesday. She made a basket, had fun, and her team won. She’s not bored either…grin.