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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Celebrate Your Artistic Side

     I want to share something.  First, I'm a proud momma, of all of my kids of course, but last night, my 10 year old was one of 2 kids in his school who were recognized for their "excellence" in the arts.  If you knew my Spency, you'd know he loves art - drawing, pottery, etc.  You can't go wrong giving him any kind of art supplies, ever.  He also plays clarinet in the school band, and is singing in the 5th grade chorus (but admittedly, that is not his choice, he "had to", LOL)   Both his band/music teacher, and his art teacher nominated him, and the other child, so it was unanimous.

     I'll be the first to tell you that I don't have a creative bone in my body.  I can't read music or play any instrument.  I love to sing, but I will admit that no one wants to hear that. (It's not a pretty sound.)  I can't draw to save my life.  Let me trace it, and it might come out okay.  But, listening to the key speaker last night, I realized that I do have an artistic side, somewhere.  He thanked us all for nurturing the artistic sides of our children, and believe me, I am all for that.  I will do whatever I can to make sure they can do the things they love, and the things they excel at.  He then explained that he's heard a million times from parents who say they aren't creative or artistic at all (I was thinking it about myself while he was saying it.)  He said we just had never had the chance to explore it, and develop it.  And that is probably right.

     I was in chorus in school, and loved it, but due to circumstances, wasn't able to continue with it.  I also took dance lessons for quite a few years, but similar circumstances put an end to those as well.  I still wish I had been able to continue with those, for many reasons, but it was not to be.  I think I ended up turning into one of those "helicopter" moms for a bit (maybe I still am to some degree.)  I wanted my kids to do everything.  They didn't.  I wasn't as bad as some, but you'd have to talk to the older kids to really know if I drove them crazy with activities or not.  I'm trying to be a little more relaxed with the younger ones.  It also "helps" that our finances don't allow for quite as much as the older kids had.

     In any case, I definitely encourage my children to do what they love (within reason, of course.)  My son had the toughest time just recently, because in 6th grade next year, he could only choose one elective class.  So, he had to decide between band or art.  He was almost panicking at the choice because he likes them both (and I think part of it was that he didn't want to let us down at all either.)  We assured him that we wouldn't be upset with his choice, and that we understood just how much he loved art, so that is what he picked.  He found out last night that it's only one year that he has to choose between them, and he can still do jazz band in the meantime, so he's very relieved with that idea.

     Last night was about him, but it also let me realize that I DO have an artistic side in me somewhere.  I just need to locate it, and do what I encourage my kids to do - let it out, enjoy it, have fun with it.  Now to just find where I tucked it away...

Monday, January 20, 2014

"Gotcha Day" is coming!

"Gotcha Day" is coming up at our house this weekend.  For those of you who don't know what "Gotcha Day" is, it can vary for different families.  It's a term used to celebrate a child's adoption date, or day they joined the family, or day they arrived at home.  In our house, the date signifies the date we signed those final papers, making our son "officially" our son.  In my heart and mind, he had already been my son for over 15 months, from before he was even born.  But that date was the day I breathed a little easier, knowing he was actually "mine" in the eyes of the law.

Now, S has known, since he could understand, that he's adopted.  He knows his birth family very well, since his "birth mother" is my sister-in-law.  He knows how he grew "in her belly", and all the details a ten year old boy can know.  He sees his birth father's family several times a year - we all get together after Christmas, and for their family weddings/birthdays, and picnics in the summer.  He also gets very excited to celebrate his "Gotcha Day" with us.  (I have been ordered to get cookies or some treat for his class.)

I understand some people don't care for that term, "Gotcha Day".  To be honest, I didn't either, until it happened.  Now, I can't imagine NOT using it.  It's not only the day that I gained another son, it's the day that he "got" our whole family.  It's the day we all "got" a larger, more complicated family, but one we can't imagine being without now.

It's been NINE whole years since we signed those papers.  S had been home with us for just over a year, he was actually 15 months old on the day we signed them.  I was holding his younger sister, M, in my arms, as she had miraculously been conceived and born in the time we waited to make it all official.  He was sitting on my husband's lap, happily giggling and smiling that little smile of his.  He'd just learned to walk within the previous month - on the day that M was born.  I had been terrified that that day would never happen.

He was born 11 weeks early, at only 2 pounds, 7 ounces.  Tiny, blue, and scary yet beautiful.  I cried that day, so scared he wouldn't make it. Scared he'd never come home to us.  I visited him every day of his full 2 month stay at the NICU.  Watched him grow stronger, bigger, learning how to eat.  I panicked when I'd think someone from his birth family might decide they'd adopt him instead of us (it took me a long time to get over that idea, even after the papers were signed.)  I was the one to pick him up and bring him home on his day of release from the hospital, though in their eyes, I was nothing but his aunt then.  I spent his TWO first Christmases, home alone with him, quarantined so he wouldn't get RSV or pneumonia, while the rest of the family visited relatives for the holidays.  So "Gotcha Day" is a very important day to me.

It was the day I stopped holding my breath so tightly.  The day I could actually say he was MY SON.  I will bring cookies or cupcakes every year until he tells me he doesn't want them.  I will make him a special meal, celebrate with him, look at pictures, however he wants to do it.  I will also celebrate in my heart - that I got my second set of children - one through adoption & one through birth, after I had accepted that I'd never have more after J & K.  I will celebrate it forever, whether anyone notices it or not.  It's as important a date to me, as the day of every one of their births. So, if anyone ever gets confused when I say HAPPY GOTCHA DAY on January 25th, I'll be happy to explain it to them if they want to hear it all, but I will never stop saying it.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year's Eve - 2013 in Review

     As 2013 turns into 2014 in a few hours from now, I thought I'd take a moment and review this past year.  We all get those letters from friends & family, tucked into holiday cards, that tell all the good things that happened throughout the year, so I thought I'd kind of use that as a template of sorts for this post.  So here goes...

     Dear Friends & Family,
          I hope this finds you happy and healthy.  At this moment in time, everyone here is well.  We had a fairly nice Christmas, saw most of the family, and enjoyed our time together.

          Dave is having a great time hosting his Trivia Night events each week. He has now taken over doing it every week, rather than sharing the duty with another person.  He's also still working at the same location for his "day job".  Over 25 years in one place, can you believe it?

     I will soon be celebrating 3 years with The Gourmet Cupboard.  I love trying the mixes and sharing them with others.  I really love doing vendor events & craft shows.  I'm looking forward to doing a big Chocolate Expo in February - sampling all our chocolate goodies!!  I've gained a few members to my little team, and I am hoping to add more in this new year.

     Joe is doing well too - out on his own, going to college.  I still can't believe that he wants to be a police officer, but I think he'll make a good one.  I can't worry about him any more than I did when he was in the Marine Corps, so Mom has to let go and trust that everything will be fine.  (So hard for me to do.)

     Kourtni is loving her first year at Boston University!  I will admit to crying like a baby when I left her there in September, but I have been up there so much - for orientation, Parent's Weekend, and round trips bringing her home and back again, that I think we've both adjusted well.  She finished her first semester with all A's & B's too!  So proud of that girl!  I still have two more weeks before I have to bring her back for the next semester.

     Spencer is, well, Spencer!  He's such a little man - 10 years old, and doing great in fifth grade.  He loves school, loves his teacher, and is such a typical boy in many ways, & so completely un-typical in others.  I think he's permanently attached to his video games (especially Pokemon Y!)  He's still playing clarinet in the school band, and all 5th graders had to join the chorus this year as well.  He says he doesn't like it, and he's not a singer at home or in the car, but he must be doing something right, as he was asked to join the city-wide Honors Chorus for the Music in our Schools concerts in March.  He'd prefer it was for band, but he'll be there nonetheless.  It was so cute seeing him sing (and play) in the Winter concert at school.

    Then there is Mia - what can I say about her?  My little spitfire is still as full of energy as always.  Loving fourth grade, adores her teacher (who is currently out on maternity leave), and playing trombone in the school band like her biggest brother & sister did.  She's something else too - walking all around the house while she practices.  She can't wait until next year when she can join the chorus too - that one is definitely a singer, all the time!  Both she and Spencer are part of the school newspaper this year too.  I am looking forward to seeing their work in the next few months.

     Let's see - everybody is pretty healthy, except for me I guess. I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes this year, and am trying to adjust to that.  (So hard around the holidays, with all the goodies in the house!)  I'd probably have to admit to being addicted to carbs, because it's so hard for me to find something to eat that doesn't have them!  But all in all, I'd say I'm still fairly healthy - could be worse, right?  Let's not go there.

     Mom is doing well too.  She's mostly resigned to being in the nursing home.  Sad that she has to be there at such a young age (65), but it really is the best place for her, having someone to make sure she's eating okay, taking all of her medications, and staying on top of when she doesn't feel quite right.  Thankfully she's avoided many falls lately, and here's hoping we can keep it that way.

     We've gained many new family members this year - a new nephew in February, a new niece in March, and a new cousin as well.  Loving all the little people in the family, on both sides!  We also visited, for the first time ever, Walt Disney World, this July!  We went there to gain more family members, as my sister Sue married my new brother-in-law, Bryan.  That added Bryan, and his son Connor, to our family, as well as all of Bryan's fabulous family.

     So, as 2013 ends, and we look into the eyes of 2014, I am hoping for nothing but happiness, health, and love for our family, and yours.  I am sure there will be sadness at times too - but I definitely wish for the good things to outweigh and overshadow the bad.  Raise a glass of whatever you're drinking - coffee, water, soda, or champagne, and here's to us all.  We made it through another year, and off we go into the future.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

CORN - As Far As The Eye Can See...

     At least, that's what it is like when you're stuck inside a Corn Maze!!  Corn everywhere.  Ha ha!

    Okay, I can't believe, in all of my 45 years, and all of them spent living here in Connecticut, I have never been to Lyman Orchards in Middlefield, CT before!!  Where have I been?  Why didn't I go sooner?  I have no answers for these questions.  But I have been there now, and I loved it!  Originally we ("we being myself, my husband, and the two younger kids "M" and "S") went solely for the Corn Maze.  (In the honesty of "full disclosure", Lyman Orchards gave us the passes to the maze in return for this blog post.  All opinions & experiences are our own though.)  To be truthful though, there is so much more to Lyman Orchards than this maze!!

     We set off on this bright & sunny Sunday afternoon, for a nice drive to the Orchards.  The directions on their website are spot on, and we got there so easily.  Quickly found a place to park, which was surprising, since there were TONS of people there.  We got lucky, I won't lie.  Right by the parking lot was a nice little pond, loaded with ducks, and a small fountain in the middle - very peaceful and pretty.  We wandered around for a little bit, passing the hayride area, pony rides, smelling the fresh cinnamon cider donuts being made (oh did I want those!!), and then made our way to the Corn Maze area.  I had gotten our tickets online, which you can do here, so we just handed over the printed tickets.  They quickly scanned them and sent us on to the entrance.  There we picked up our maze map, pencils for the kids, and our choices of themed multiple choice questions, to help us find our way at the ten marked posts throughout the maze.  We each took different ones in case any stumped us along the way.  Mine was History, Dad took Sports, S took Scouting, and M selected Movies/TV.  There were also ones for tiny tots, "corny", and girls scouts.

     In we went!  It was a lot of fun, twisting & turning through the corn, finding dead ends and turning back, or just going around in a circle in this section or another.  We joked that if we needed to, we could have M stand on Dad's shoulders to help guide us out - but that wouldn't have helped one bit.  Even on his shoulders (he stands just about 6 feet tall), her four foot body wouldn't have been able to see much.  There were two bridges that bring you up above the corn too, but even up there, all you see is more and more corn.  At some point in the maze, we made the decision to split up - one kid with one parent.  I kind of thought we'd meet up again somewhere, and we did - OUTSIDE.  So then it became girls vs. boys in the race to get out of the maze.  M was a little worried that we wouldn't find Dad again, but I assured her that we were just as capable of finding our way out as they were.  And we did!  Yes, the boys won, and were waiting for us outside the exit, but we had fun and worked together with the clues, and the paths, and made it out without tears or frustration. I had no worries, they have "corn cops" stationed throughout the maze for anyone who needs help, gets tired, or just gets so frustrated they want to give up.

     Once you make it out of the maze, you get a success sticker, "I survived the Corn Maze."  Then we headed off to check out the Apple Barrel store!  Oh what heaven!  It is loaded with all of the fruit grown at Lyman Orchards, plus pies, breads, muffins, cookies, and so much more.  I can't even list it all here, really!  The smells are amazing, and if you can get around the throngs of people shopping in there, so much to pick from.  I ended up with only a bag of fresh red bartlett pears, while my husband was outside getting a huge bag of freshly made kettle corn, but I could certainly have spent a lot more time, and money, in that store!  Dozens of types of apples, gorgeous peaches, grapes, squash - you name it, it was there.  

     The more I look over the brochures I picked up, or the website - I realize just how much is located there.  I'll give you a little Lyman Orchards lesson now.  It covers more than 1100 acres of farmland, and it's only 30 minutes from Hartford, New Haven, or Waterbury CT.  They have their Apple Barrel market store, Pick Your Own Orchards (from June through October, you can pick strawberries, jostaberries, blueberries, raspberries, peaches, pears, apples, and pumpkins - all in their own seasons), the historic Lyman Homestead (dating back to the mid 1700's), and an entire Golf Center (including The Jones Course, and the Player Course).  They also do events there all year round.  We will definitely head back for some of them too.  They do special breakfasts, kids & adult workshops, WinterFest, a Mother's Day brunch, Strawberry Fest, Easter Apple Hunt, Connecticut Day, Berry Fest, Peach Fest, Sunflower Maze (in August), Clambake, the Corn Maze, and Brunch with Santa!  Be sure to like them on  Facebook, follow them on Twitter, subscribe to their YouTube channel, and add them to your circles on Google+, in order to keep up with the Pick Your Own season, and all their fabulous upcoming events.

     I almost forgot to mention that they donate so much to great causes too.  The Corn Maze (going on until November 3rd) donates $1 from each ticket sold to the American Cancer Society.  (That is a huge charity that is close to our heart.)  The Sunflower Maze that they do in August donates $1 from each admission to the Connecticut Children's Medical Center.  I took a picture of their boards showing how much they have donated to these causes.  What a way to give back to the Connecticut Community!

     If you find yourself in Connecticut, or like me, you live here and have never been to this amazing place, please, take some time to visit.  Yes, you can make an entire day of it, or at the very least, a whole morning or afternoon.  So much to see & do, a fantastically peaceful setting, loads of exercise if you happen to get "lost" in one of the mazes, and just a great family outing.  I am so glad we went, and I can assure you that it will NOT be the last time we go.

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Gourmet Cupboard recipe - Pork Cutlets with Apple Slaw

     I don't know if I told you this already, but one of my "jobs", besides Mom (taxi driver, etc), and Wife, is as an Independent Distributor for The Gourmet Cupboard.  One of the most fabulous parts of it is that I am so happy to be cooking!!  The mixes can be used in so many ways besides their original purposes.  We have lots of fantastic cooks in our distributors, that will share their recipes too.  

    I am going to tempt you with one of them today too. :)  This one was shared by one of our Top Team Leaders, Roberta Whalen.  (Don't get any drool on your keyboards!)

Pork Cutlets with Apple Slaw
Mix needed: The Gourmet Cupboard's Cabbage Crunch mix

4 thin pork cutlets
1/2 cup honey mustard salad dressing
1 cup bread crumbs or crushed corn flakes

2 granny smith apples
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 bag shredded cabbage
1/2 cup yellow raisins or currants
apple cider vinegar
light olive oil to drizzle

Pound out your pork cutlets, if needed, to flatten. Place in a zipper-style bag and cover with honey mustard dressing to marinate. Then dredge in bread crumbs on both sides. Place on a lined baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 min.

Meanwhile prepare slaw by slicing your apples into small matchsticks. Place in a zipper-style bag with lemon juice to coat to prevent browning. In a large bowl, mix together, bagged shredded cabbage, cabbage crunch mix package, raisins, apples and oil and vinegar to your desired likeness. Toss well and refrigerate until ready to serve.

A great twist on classic pork chops and apple sauce but with a summer twist and very little time with the oven on. You can also omit the breading on the pork cutlets and grill them instead to make it totally oven-free!

By: R. Whalen

What do you think?  I think it sounds delicious, and I can't wait to try it out.  I'm definitely placing some Cabbage Crunch salad mix on my next order!!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Disney's The Lone Ranger Movie Premiere!


     Last night, my daughter and I attended the local premiere for Disney's The Lone Ranger movie, starring Armie Hammer & Johnny Depp.  I received the tickets from a local radio station, WTIC 96.5 FM, and since K & I are such big fans of Johnny Depp, we couldn't resist going!!
     The showing was for 7 pm, we arrived at 5:45 and still were #114 & #115 in line!  Make sure you go good and early if you ever attend a movie premiere at your local theaters.  There was a sign suggesting that we should have been there at 5:15!  Luckily we didn't stand in line too long before they started letting people in.  The line moved along fairly quickly too.
    Once past that ticket taker, we met up with another line - first to be searched with metal detectors, and then to leave our cellphones with attendants outside the actual theater room we'd be in.  I had never seen that done before, but I totally understand why they did it - this way, there would be no spoilers out there for a movie that doesn't come out until July 3rd.  Being the smartphone addict that I am, I'll admit to some separation anxiety & withdrawal symptoms, but I obviously survived them. Once that was all accomplished, we were let into the theater.
    Another unusual thing for me, was that there were none of the "previews" you see before a movie.  Again, understandable, this was a Disney premiere - they don't want to suggest other movies for you to see.  Just something I wasn't used to I guess (can you tell I don't get to go to the movies all that often?)
    Okay, the movie began, after a "nice" warning from the promoters that no one should have their cellphones on them, no recording, etc.  To be honest, knowing some of the Lone Ranger story, I wasn't sure what I was expecting, but Disney did it up wonderfully!  Having an unknown to me actor playing The Lone Ranger was good - no expectations for him to have met or not met.  Armie Hammer made a goofy law man, but once he took on the persona of The Lone Ranger, he was great!  I have to say though, Johnny Depp stole the show, as I'm sure he was meant to.  He was unrecognizable as Tonto, yet we still knew who he was, and I loved how he brought out his humor in a movie where I expected none.  (I don't know why I wasn't anticipating any, especially with Depp as the actor.)
     I am unsure why, but the movie also brought out things I never knew about The Lone Ranger, or maybe it was just some Disney magic storytelling. Whatever the case, we thoroughly enjoyed the movie, and the time flew by.  There is a little time shifting in the movie, and for either setting, you really feel like you are in that time frame.  I loved the outfits for the women in the movie - so authentic and fitting.  The characters were fantastic - some you love to hate (they really played their parts well) and others you cheered on even if you weren't sure you should.  So many great laugh-out-loud moments too.  I'm already quoting lines from the film to my daughter & friends (too bad the friends have no idea what I'm talking about.)
     All in all, we had a great time seeing this movie, and I really would love to see it again and again.  I think the rest of my family would enjoy it too.  I wouldn't hesitate to take my younger kids to see it either (they are 8 & 9) - yes the Wild West has some violence, but really not as much as many of the movies out there today.  Disney did a very good job with this legendary story, and as always Johnny Depp made another character his own.  

*Disclaimer - All thoughts expressed here are my own.  I received nothing in return for this review.  The movie pass was provided from a radio station promotion, and not by Disney.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Proud Mommy Moment

Tonight is another one of those proud Mommy moments - my older daughter graduated high school!  She's not my first to graduate (that was her brother in 2007), and she won't be my last (I have 2 younger children as well), but tonight's honor is all hers!  She IS my first child to graduate with National Honor Society honors (both NHS and French NHS), and she will be my first to go to college out of state.  I don't think I have the words to describe just how impressed I am with her achievements.
     Yes, I had tears in my eyes - fabulously happy tears mixed with wistful tears.  So happy for the young woman who has excelled throughout school and is going on to bigger, better things.  At the same time, sad for myself, to lose one of my best friends (don't say that to her, you'll just get the teenage eye-rolling).  I honestly will be so lost without seeing her every day, talking to her all the time, going shopping or getting lunch together almost every other day.  She will embrace the change and flourish in her new surroundings (Boston, MA!)  On the other hand, I will miss our goofy giggling, our sharing tv shows, our time together.  Empty nest syndrome before the nest is even more than half empty!  (My older children would call that pathetic.)
     Why is it so different with her?  Her older brother not only graduated high school, but went off to the US Marine Corps, and while I missed him greatly, I didn't feel this panic & sadness that I am feeling with her.  Maybe it's because he is my son from my first marriage, so he spent many weekends at his father's house. I was used to letting him go.  Except for the occasional sleepover, or a band trip during high school, she has rarely been away from us.  Certainly not this far away either,  a 2+ hour drive.  Yes, I have already travelled to her new destination a few times.  I know my way there and back (and have duly warned her of that fact.)
     To tell you the truth, I am more than a little jealous of it all too.  I graduated high school (back in the stone ages if you ask my kids), but never went on to anything else.  I went back to my mom's house, got a job by the end of the summer, and never went to college.  I will admit, I am completely envious of everything she has ahead of her - a new bustling city, so many choices of what to do with her schooling, her life, and her future.  I guess I'll sit back and watch her blossom & bloom, agonize that I am not making her decisions for her any more, and keep my fingers crossed for her.  I know she'll have those inevitable disappointments in her life, but I've watched her grow, and I know she'll rise above them & go on to more and more successes.