Woohoo! We're on Top Mommy Blogs! Please click on the banner to vote for us...and thanks.

Visit Top Mommy Blogs To Vote For Me!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Birthday wishes

I love this kid...just wish I could have spent all of his birthdays with him. Here he is on the first birthday we ever got to celebrate with him back in 2003. What a cutie, right?  Today he's 19 and he still owns my heart!

Happy Bday, son!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

It's my mom's birthday

Nine years ago tonight was the last visit I had with my mom. It wasn't a conventional birthday celebration at all. There was no cake, no presents, no candles to blow out. It was nothing like our usual birthday bashes...but that was because my mom was reaching the end of her life.

Nine years ago tonight, I sat with my mom for the last time. I held her hand. I painted her nails. I talked to her. I told her that I would always love her and miss her...but that if she needed to stop fighting for her life, I could let her go. I told her I would be OK, that she had raised me well and made me strong enough to survive whatever life would throw at me. I told her that I was happy and safe, married with kids of my own. I told her stories, reminded her of family memories, was rewarded with a gentle squeeze of her fingers on my hand that let me know she could hear me even though she was beyond speech. At a little past midnight, I heard her draw her last breath and then go peacefully. I will always believe my father was there to greet her as she passed...just as I believe he was the one who insisted I get out of bed to check on her seconds before her passing. I felt their presence keenly that night...and they still touch my life, even after all these years. My mom in particular is a strong presence every day. I miss her still...always will...but her gifts are with me. They sustain me as I strive to raise my own kids, to be a good mom, a good wife, and a good person.

I made spaghetti sauce today, Mom. I used tomatoes, peppers, and herbs from our garden. I filled the house with the rich scent of summer and love. As I stirred the sauce, I remembered coming home from school to the same aroma in our house when I was a girl. I remembered you listening to me, to the trials and tribulations of my school day. You always managed to make your cooking seem like time set aside just for you and me! To this day, I associate cooking for my family with the deepest kind of love.

I felt you at my shoulder today, teaching me still, lifting me up even after all these years. I'm so grateful for your strength, your love, all that you passed on to me. I'll keep trying my best to do as well by my own kids.

Happy birthday, Mom.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

What we did on our summer vacation...

It occurred to me several months back that we might be getting to the end of our opportunities for a vacation with our whole family. After all, with 5 teenagers who are in college and high school, carving out family time takes a herculean effort and a lot of foot stomping. Our kids have their own schedules now, school commitments and summer jobs, friends that they don't want to leave, social groups and activities, etc. By next year, who knows if we'll be able to pull off a family adventure...but we did manage this year!

For our family trip, we went to Chincoteague Island in Virginia. Why? Because Mom got to pick, that's why. I figured if I was going to drag our whole clan of bored, cranky teens off on a road trip in our van, it might as well be to place I really wanted to go. I've always wanted to see Chincoteague and the wild ponies of Assateague, especially during Pony Penning week. (Ever read the book Misty of Chincoteague as a kid? I did...and I never forgot it. ) The island also offered something for the rest of the crowd, too...beautiful beaches, a lighthouse, awesome nature hikes, kayaking, riding lessons, crabbing and clamming, boat rides, great seafood, and the best ice cream and fudge just down the street. The house we rented had 5 bedrooms, 3 baths, and a big yard for playing soccer and lacrosse. It also came with bikes, a kayak, and a family of ducks that came to visit every day. Even with all that, it still took a few days to pry the kids off of their electronics and get them outside...but after a while, we all managed to embrace island life and have fun. Here's some of what we did in pictures:
I had to buy loaves of bread for the ducks...worth every cent!

Finally got the gamers off screens!
Tanya got Mama and the babies to eat from her hand
Even my oldest boy wasn't too cool for the ducks

Then there was my favorite part of the week...we got to see the Saltwater Cowboys (AKA Chincoteague volunteer firefighters) herd the ponies down Main Street to the fairgrounds for the annual auction of foals and yearlings which takes place only at the end of July each summer. Wild ponies of Assateague Island swim the channel and then parade down Main Street on Chincoteague? I've only wanted to see this since I was about 8 years old and I was close enough to reach out and touch them. Pretty darn awesome!

The girls got to take riding lessons at the Pony Center on ponies that were once on Assateague...very cool!

Tanya on Teaguer

Kate on Misty's Morning Glory

The boys went crabbing and clamming just down the street from our house; some of the locals taught them what to do and they came home with their catch to add to dinner!

Dad and I went hiking on Assateague, we toured the lighthouse with our girls, and we all went to the beach. I did a solo walk on a marshland trail very early one morning, so beautiful and peaceful! Also caught sight of a bunny hiding in the grass...can you find him?

Loved the week we spent here...and now Craig and I are looking at properties on Zillow and wondering if this might be a good place to retire some day. Hmmm...

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

July already?

How did that happen?? June flew by and I barely had time to breathe with all the big events for our kids! We celebrated a high school graduation (our oldest son,)

 a middle school graduation (our youngest son),

a birthday (mine),

and moving on ceremonies for our two kids who will be going into 10th and 11th grade.

We also celebrated Father's Day in honor of a great Dad!
Suffice it to say that June 2014 brought us a lot of joy and pride interspersed with the challenges of living with 5 teens and the positive energy was stored up to sustain us through the tougher times...drama, angst, and instability reign more often than we'd like in these parts. Wish I could say it was all rainbows and sunny days around here but I'd be lying...some days, I'm sorely tempted to make good on my threat to run away and join the circus. At times like those, my dear husband reminds me that it would be wrong to leave the children without either parent. You see, he's of the opinion that if I leave/die/lose my mind completely and he becomes a single parent, he will either be driven to throw himself off the roof or will be sent to the big house for murder of a teenager or two. Isn't it sweet that we have each other's back in this adventure we call parenting?

Seriously, so lucky to have this man in my life...he's my rock and the only reason I haven't been carted off to the loony bin yet! He's the best of men...his mom did a great job with him and I would like to publicly thank her here and now for raising him to be such a fine person. I'll feel blessed if my boys turn out as well and my girls marry someone just like their Dad.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

It's a wrap

Today my oldest son finished the very last assignment for his senior year. He completed his final English project, a power point presentation that he's been working on for a while. The end result? A 3.8 out of a possible 4.0. Not too shabby for a guy who didn't speak a word of English 5 years ago, I must say.

Well, it appears we've reached the finish line. After much blood, sweat, and tears we're here, a few days from graduation with all the work done and all the grades recorded. (Not a small feat,by the way...but we got it done.) I asked my son if he was proud of himself today...he said he was relieved. I punched him in the arm, admonished him to enjoy the moment and said I told you so. Last year around this time, he fretted that he would never be able to graduate.  Umm... I love you but you were wrong, son. Score one for the Mama.

Graduation is Friday............and the future's bright.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Today is my birthday and it's been one of the best of life. Considering how long I've been alive, that's saying something. First of all, let me say thanks to the family and friends who sent me birthday wishes; I'm so touched by your kindness! I'm also very grateful to my wonderful husband and kids who really stretched themselves thin to make my day special. I love that each of you thought long and hard about what would make my day...from the son who wanted to stay up until midnight so he could be the first one to wish me a happy birthday to the daughters who each made my day special in her own way. Kate, your bday cupcakes were the bomb and  the fact that you fed me breakfast and also gifted me with yummy homemade delicacies for my special day were both great gifts! To my monkey, your lovely bracelet touched my heart and I'll wear it proudly with your love. To my sweet husband, I know it wasn't easy helping the kids with all their grand plans but I'm grateful and touched...it's a great gift to them and to me! To my younger boys, thanks for the lovely aromatherapy and bath gifts, nothing is quite as lovely as a nice bath or a scent of lavender in the air. I love you and cherish your kindness today!

I'm so lucky...feeling blessed. There's plenty of craziness on the horizon, a high school graduation is up next, then an 8th grade graduation, then Father's Day, then another birthday. So much happening but then I remember to breathe. Let's pause here, smell the roses (or lavender), and worry about life tomorrow.  Enough said.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Happy Anniversary, baby!

Best decision I ever made...marrying this guy.

Twenty-one years ago today, I got married. I wasn't a fresh-faced ingenue. In fact, I was a late 30-something (OK, fine, a mere few weeks away from 40) bride with a broken marriage behind me and a string of reasons to never look again for happily-ever-after. The fact that I got a second chance in the form of the most decent guy on the planet is nothing short of a miracle...the fact that he's stuck with me through  all the years and weathered the ups and downs of our life with not just one but 5 kids is the even bigger miracle.

Our lives were very different 21 years ago. We didn't have kids. We traveled. We ate late dinners, made our own fresh pasta,  cuddled frequently, and focused more on us than on anything else except the dog. Now we have 5 teens...and tonight, we exchanged cards and celebrated our anniversary in the car on the way to a medication review for 2 of our kids. So romantic!

Instead of cuddling, my sweet hubby napped while I helped one of our kids read a passage for history and answer 19 (count them, 19!!!) stinking questions for History homework. Now he's watching a bit of a lacrosse movie with another of our kids while I'm blogging. Jeez, we're exciting...but do you know what? I'm still the luckiest woman on the planet...and I'm still so glad I married this perfectly wonderful guy.

Friday, May 23, 2014

The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat

A couple of weeks ago, our Tanya pitched her first complete softball game for her school team...and she recorded her first win in a 6-0 shutout. It was a thrill for her and a joy to watch. I posted pics on Instagram and Facebook, claiming bragging rights as her proud mama, and told her how brave I thought she was. Victory is sweet and nothing beats sharing the triumphs of our children, right?

Well, tonight our girl took the mound once more, pitching against an arch rival that her team has been aching to defeat since last year...but sadly, it was a bitter loss for our girls. Minutes after the game, before she even got home, our girl posted this on Facebook:

I knew I couldn't do it.

God, sharing our children's disappointments really sucks. I liked it better when I felt I at least had a shot at protecting my kids...but I digress.

I met her when she walked in the door, put my arms around her and told her just how courageous I thought she was. I told her that I would never have found the courage to stand on the pitcher's mound but if I had, I never would have lasted the game. I would have run crying from the field long before the last inning. I reminded her of her favorite saying, "Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game." I reminded her of the little 6 year old girl we adopted who had a core of inner strength that the orphanage caregivers called stubbornness...and that "stubbornness" is one of her greatest assets. It's also one of the qualities we've always loved best about our sassy girl from the very beginning.

My girl, you didn't fail tonight even though you feel like you did. You didn't let anyone down even though I know you feel like you did. You might doubt yourself tonight but I know better. You have overcome a lot more than a tough softball defeat in your young life and yet you never give up, not at school, not on the playing field, not in life. Your post on Facebook? It's just flat out wrong. You did do it. You had the courage to take the mound against pretty strong odds. You held your ground and never lost your composure. You didn't run screaming for the hills like your mama would most definitely have done. That's the definition of success in my book and I am even more proud of you tonight than I was of your winning game. 

My sweet Tanya, you are my hero!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Softball and studying

I love this girl...she's such a superstar! Here she is at breakfast, all suited up for her softball game and finishing a Biology worksheet that wasn't even due today. She said she wanted to get it done before April vacation started so she didn't have to worry about it.
See, spring break starts today...and we have the spring sports, the days off from school, the spring flowers in a pot in the kitchen...too bad it's in the 30's outside, huh? Well, at least my girl's smile warms me up!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Is it finally spring?

In New England, you can never really be sure when spring will truly begin. March is usually a heartbreaker with snow being a strong possibility but in April, we begin to feel hopeful that winter has ended. Last weekend, we saw some long awaited signs of renewal and I was so excited!

I've been longing to see spring flowers finally popping up and here they are at last!

The temperatures also rose enough to allow us some outside play time. We puttered in the herb and vegetable gardens, getting the beds ready for planting. Kate and I made a trip to our favorite nursery where I bought some pansies to plant in our window box...just in time for Easter! The kids spent a lot of time being sporty...there were spirited softball and lacrosse practices in the backyard that were fun to watch.
Our resident star pitcher
Dad tries to bunt as our oldest son fills in at catcher

Our oldest son training our youngest in the fine points of cradling

It was a picture perfect weekend, sunny, clear, and warm. We grilled burgers, we even roasted marshmallows in our firepit.

It was a wonderful beginning to spring at last...or so I thought. Then yesterday it snowed..back to ice scrapers and frozen car doors. Ah, well...it's New England. Here's hoping that was winter's last laugh.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Girls night!

Yesterday, my girls and I got a little crazy. It started when my oldest said she wanted to dye her hair purple and I told her I'd help her. Then my younger daughter begged to get in on the action and I decided to join them in the hair dying fun.

We used semi-permanent color that will last about 8 weeks...not too harsh and not a major commitment if they hated it!
The girls picked bold colors, purple for Ms. College Girl and red for Miss High School. I went with boring brown but added some streaks of purple and red to my bangs to match my girls. We spent most of the evening coloring, timing, rinsing, styling, and laughing...in short, we had a blast.

Of course, we had to do bathroom mirror selfies!
Nervous but excited as they waited for the results.

We monopolized the bathroom for a couple of hours, ruined a few towels, and had the menfolk in the house all shaking their heads at our foolishness...female bonding at its best.

 The results for my girls? Great color that looks subtle in the shadows but boldly pops in the sunlight...a fresh new look just in time for spring!

Thanks girls, I loved doing this with you!!!!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Guess who's been accepted to college?

Yes, it's true! Our oldest son was accepted to Salem State University yesterday. He got the news when he checked his application status online, couldn't wait to tell me. When I found out, I dragged him straight over to the campus for this photo. Don't let the blase pose fool you...he's pretty darn proud of himself, even posted his own announcement on Facebook. As his totally biased Mama, let me brag...3.0 GPA, full acceptance, the strong possibility of playing college lacrosse for the Vikings. He isn't settled on a major yet but is thinking about Sports Management...or Engineering...or English. Not too shabby for a boy who didn't speak a word of English just 5 years ago. Sooo proud of my boy!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Spring Break...woohoo!

This is what a college student on Spring Break looks like...at least in our house. Our oldest is a freshman who has a love of hangin' at home when she's not hard at work hitting the books. For her very first Spring Break, she has chosen the following wild and crazy activities:
  • chilling with our dogs while perusing her favorite cookbook
  • cooking dinner for the fam two nights (count them--TWO nights) in a row...the food was great and the best part was that Mom had 2 nights off cooking detail!
  • shopping and lunch with Mom at the mall...acting as Mom's very own personal shopper by helping her pick out work clothes
  • volunteering in her former first grade classroom with the best teacher ever!

I know....it's not Daytona Beach, tequila slammers, or wet t-shirt contests but it seems to be just what this girl wants to be doing at this point. I'm one lucky Mom...

Don't be in a hurry to move out, sweetie. We'd all miss you too much...not to mention that yummy chicken enchilada casserole you made last night! It was the best...but not nearly as wonderful as you!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Breathing deeply and repeating the mantra in my head...IlovemykidsIlovemykidsIlovemykids

As I look back to my own teen years, I recall my mother saying that teens should be put in suspended animation when they hit puberty and not let out until age 18. As a teen, I remember feeling that my mother's assessment was harsh...but now that I have 5 children of my own between the ages of 16-18, I'm rethinking Mom's position. It seems to me now that Mom was overly optimistic re: the age of maturity. Anyone know where I can find a sleep pod that unlocks at age 21?

This is why they teach us Lamaze breathing during pregnancy. It's not for surviving labor and delivery at all. It's for surviving adolescence.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Fully licensed driver!

Our newest driver
The boy and his pretty sweet ride
My oldest son took his road test this morning and passed with flying colors. His permit will serve as his temporary license with an approval signature from the examiner until the official picture license arrives in the mail. He'll be taking a big step tonight, driving without Mom riding shotgun for the very first time. The plan? He and a couple of friends are going to the movies in his shiny red Mustang. Sooo proud of my boy!

Note to self...try really hard not to be nervous. Baby birds all have to leave the nest. He's ready. He passed. You taught him and you trust him. Resist the impulse to run after the car...seriously.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Reflections on snow days, holidays, and food

It's always busy around here and even more so at the holidays. It's hard to find a minute to breathe, much less blog...but once in a rare while, we are forced to stop running, stop the hustle and bustle, and just be. With a winter storm bearing down on us and nowhere to go that's even remotely appealing in the snow, tonight is one of those times. We're tucked into the house, the cars have all been removed from the street, the snow blowers and shovels are at the ready. The storm is supposed to dump 1-2 feet on us before morning, we've already gotten 3-5 inches that the wind is blowing into impressive drifts. I've fed the troops homemade soup and a pretty awesome frittata for dinner, both new recipes I've been wanting to try. I have a pot of Berry Compote simmering on the stove and later, we'll have a warm cup of the fruit drink all of my kids from Kazakhstan remember fondly. For now, the house is quiet and the kids are all occupied with screens of one type or another. Nothing to do at this point but to reflect on the holidays just past and bask in their warmth.

Aniyar on Christmas morning...he found the pickle!
Christmas was low key and relaxed. Teenagers don't tend to pop out of bed at 5:00AM like little kids so we managed to sleep until 8:00. We probably wouldn't have gotten up then if not for our youngest...even at almost 16, our Aniyar is an early riser and the lure of gifts under the tree was more than he could stand. He rousted us out and the festivities began. We were sad that Craig's nephew David couldn't be with his own family in Georgia but were delighted to have him join our family Christmas, a rare treat for us. (In fact, Dave was up first and was probably the only reason Aniyar was able to control his impulse to wake the rest of us in the wee hours...thanks for the help, Dave!) After the frenzy of gifts being exchanged, the day unfolded into one long feast of goodies. If there's one thing we do well here, it's food, both homemade and imported traditions from a variety of cultures just like our family. The kids love the Russian candies and Lindt chocolates that fill their stockings; the grownups enjoy things like triple cream brie and multigrain bread. Lunch was our traditional pot of borscht along with smoked salmon, cream cheese and crackers. Tons of mixed nuts were cracked and consumed along with oranges and pomegranates galore. It's a wonder we were able to eat at all come dinner time but we managed. There were 11 of us around our holiday table, 8 of us and our three friends from next door. We served prime rib and brussel sprouts in a balsamic glaze. Rick and Deb brought 10 pounds of mashed potatoes and some yummy green beans to round out a perfect meal.So nice to share the cooking as well as the company!

Craig's birthday is just a few days after Christmas so our fun doesn't really stop. The kids did a great job choosing gifts their Dad would enjoy and helping to make the evening special. I managed to pull together another special meal geared to Dad's tastes, scallops wrapped in bacon, a Thai soup, a salad, and salmon burgers with a spicy garlic aioli. Kate helped me bake a carrot cake and coat it with cream cheese frosting, a favorite of her Dad's. Not exactly kid-friendly but it was a hit with my DH and the kids were good sports about trying new foods.

New Year's Eve was really quiet since we barely made it to midnight. David came by to hang with us for a while and do his laundry; he joined us for some homemade soup (Mixed peas, beans, and lentils cooked with a ham bone) and bread before he headed back to his apartment. We stayed home all evening, watched movies and played videogames.  There were a few naps...OK, those were taken by the adults...but we were all together to watch the ball drop and to toast in 2014 with sparkling apple cider. The best part of the whole event was sleeping late on New Year's Day!

We made Hoppin' John and rice for our New Year's day dinner, another new recipe from my Christmas gift to myself, the newest Pioneer Woman cookbook. It was delicious and will undoubtedly bring us all good luck in the year to come!

Hmm..I just realized how much time I've spent writing about food in this post. Comfort food, for sure, shared with the people I love. Material gifts? Yes, we had them and they were nice. Gifts of the heart and home, shared with the people dearest to me...the best gifts of all. Time to close this post and check on the snow...10 inches at least according to my DH, more to come overnight. It's currently 3 degrees...brrr! Time to go pour some warm Berry Compote for my children.