Wednesday, November 30, 2011

My Solemn Vow?

Ok, honesty is the best policy, right? I haven't done very well this past week. I ate more than I should, but in my defense, Aunt Flo has come for a visit. I have exercised every day, though, so that helped keep the damage to what it was. My problem is, and always has been, after dinner, wanting something sweet, then salty... I need to go back to my earlier strategy which was not eating after 7 pm. Starting today!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving Pandamonium

I am one of seven children. My parents were good Catholics! The birth order is 1 boy (52 years old), 5 girls (51, 49, 46, 43, 40 (that's me, the baby of the girls)) and 1 boy (35). My brother John was a senior in high school when my brother Ralph was born (they're named after our grandfathers). Needless to say, being that my mom was 41 when he was born, and there was 5 years between us, he was a "surprise!" The 2 boys live 20 minutes away from our parent's home, while the 5 girls all live within 10 minutes. Most Sundays, you'll find 4, 5 or 6 of the 7 kids (with THEIR kids) at our parents house, having rolls and bagels after 11:30am mass. Shockingly, we all get along pretty well, almost all of the time. Let me put it to you this way, we haven't ever NOT talked to one of our siblings. I think most of us are too scared of confrontation, so that's probably why!

This is back in the day! Probably 1990. That's me in front, 2nd from the left, with what my brother refers to as my "Flock of Seagulls" hairdo!
We're a big (mostly) Italian family, with some Puerto Rican thrown in thanks to my Grandpa John, who came from a town outside of San Juan. He lived with us until he passed away in 1980, but I learned zero Spanish from him, :( His "stuffing" recipe is what we have had every single year that I can remember. (I use the word stuffing loosely because other than the fact that it gets stuffed inside the turkeys (we need 2), it bares no resemblance to a traditional stuffing). The recipe has to be 70 years old, at least. Let's just say that this stuffing is an acquired taste, and it's also not too easy on the eyes. I am with my husband almost 21 years and last year was the 1st time he tried it, that's how unappealing it looks.


See what I mean?
So, it has all sorts of chicken innards (Dad has since omitted the liver since we pretty much ALL pick it out), ham, green pepper, onion, green olives, capers, crushed tomatoes, Sofrito and the wet, squished bread that a lot of stuffings use. When you put it all together, magic. It's delicious. When my husband and I went to my friend's wedding in New Orleans, I had gumbo or jambalaya there (it was 11 years ago, you expect me to remember which one? LOL) and it tasted VERY similar to this stuffing. That doesn't surprise me since Creole cooking is a blend of French and Spanish influences.

This stuffing is what we all look forward to on Thanksgiving. My husband is the only in-law that has not been converted. HOWEVER, my mom takes the leftover stuffing and turkey and makes an out-of-this-world turkey soup with it and he LOVES it. He just CAN NOT get over how it looks in its original state. The rule in our family (except my younger brother) is we all are at Thanksgiving. No switching off every other year with your in-laws allowed. My mother-in-law didn't appreciate that too much, but, Christmas Eve was always their holiday and I never veered from that schedule, so she became ok with it.

When we get together for Thanksgiving there's a few less because my brother celebrates with his in-laws. Anyhow, when we celebrate our Christmas, another day agreed upon the week after Christmas (usually 1/1), the grand total, counting my parents, 7 kids, 6 in-laws, 14 grandchildren and my niece's fiance, there's 30 of us. Insane, right? Last night I told my sisters that when our nieces and nephews start having children we're going to have to have a raffle to see who gets to celebrate Thanksgiving (or Christmas) each year. I pictured us all in a room, holding little red tickets, an emcee at the front, calling out the lucky ticket numbers...people going home crying because they'll be home that year. So funny! Or, we can have Thanksgiving together, but different seatings, like they do at restaurants for Mother's Day brunch. Half of us eat at 3pm and the other half at 7pm. I guess we'll cross that bridge when we come to it!  
This is the "adult" table, with just some of the noshes. There's a young adult table next to it and then the teen/kids table is in the kitchen. My sister's 1st floor is pretty much converted into a mess hall for the day!
We have such a good time together. I always wanted a big family because I have such incredible memories of growing up in mine. I thought I'd have 6 kids, but once I had my son and daughter, both somewhat difficult pregnancies (weight-related issues), plus realizing how expensive children really are (the cost of living on long Island doesn't help), we decided we were done. However, my kids have grown up with their cousins, so they're almost siblings. The holidays may be chaotic with all of the cooking, the cleaning, the organizing and arranging, (the expense!), but none of us would have it any other way. We're just grateful to be together, all of us, one more year.

Playing Taboo with the crowd. Lots of tears from laughing shed while playing!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

My Solemn Vow For the Next 6 Weeks...

I REFUSE to gain any weight this holiday season. I may not LOSE any weight, but I am determined to remain the same weight and make celebrating the new year a truly joyous occasion. Then I can concentrate on losing the last 10 pounds. I have been fluctuating between 147-ish and 153-ish. So, I decided to weigh in today, before the chaos of Thanksgiving, to see just where I want to be January 1st.
Here's where I am at, 11/23/11, 5:30 am.

So, there it is. I've got the exercising down no problem. I love it. I'm at the gym at least an hour a day. It's the glorious desserts that I and other members of the family make this time of year that I seem to have no power over! Like, tonight I'm making my (ok, Nestle's) No Bake Peanut Butter Bars for tomorrow. http://www.meals.com/Recipes/No-Bake-Chocolate-Peanut-Butter-Bars.aspx?recipeid=32005 They HAVE to be cut up and put on a tray BEFORE I go to my sister's house... Must remember to chew gum whenever I'm preparing food!!! That seems to be my best line of defense! I'll fill you in next week on whether I was successful or not!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Gratitude...

"Gratitude is not the same as giving thanks. It comes from a deeper place that knows the story could have ended differently, and often does." - Heather Lende

My family has SO much to be grateful for this year. Last Thanksgiving my brother said grace and he asked God to be with all of the doctors, nurses, technicians and aids that were going to be taking care of our mom while she went through her surgery for bladder cancer. She made it through that surgery, where she had a complete hysterectomy and removal of her bladder. That was the first hurdle. Then she began chemotherapy, "just in case." She became so ill, as many chemo patients do, that she really wanted to throw in the towel and take her chances with what might still have been lurking inside her. We all managed to keep her going and got her through her agonizing course of treatment. That was the second hurdle.

Right after finishing her last treatment, Mom was in agony. We got her to the hospital to find out that she had a perforated ulcer and needed emergency surgery, with only a 50-50 chance of coming out of it alive. Thank God she did. She has been doing well ever since. We just continue to pray that her CT scans come back clean. My parents even had colonoscopies this month that turned up nothing. They were told to come back in 5 years, when they are 81. After the prep for this last one, they both said they think they might just take their chances!


Mom, at Relay For Life 2011, the sole reason for our team "Dorothy's Determination"

Now that Mom seems to be on the mend, my dad has been having issues. He's had an irregular heart beat for some time now, but it's gotten worse to where something has to be done. He got through his stress test, so he has no blocked arteries. That means he won't have to endure bypass surgery, thank God. He had a cardiac catheterization and his dr. was able to pinpoint where the irregularity is coming from. Thankfully, it's stemming from only one area. So, on December 15th, he will be going in for an atrial ablation. It's similar to the catheterization, but they go in with electrodes and try to destroy the abnormal heart tissue causing the rhythm disorder. If everything goes well, he'll be home that day.

So, this Thanksgiving, we're still sitting on pins and needles. But we know this year could have turned out SO differently. We'll be grateful to be sitting at the Thanksgiving table once again, all 30 of us, giving thanks to God for all of the many blessings He has bestowed on us this year.
Mom and dad at Mom's 75th birthday party last year.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Tooting My Own Horn

I RAN EIGHT MILES TODAY!!! And I did it in 1:20:54, on the treadmill. (I always feel like I have to put in that disclaimer.) I ran 7 last week, so I needed to add some distance. I'm kinda sorta following Hal Higdon's Half-Marathon plan. I am definitely setting my sights on a half-marathon in October called the Diva's Half-Marathon. They do them all over the country and they look like the biggest party ever! They hand out tiaras and feather boas along the race route, a fireman is at the finish line to hand you a rose and a glass of champange, and the finish medal is AWESOME! If you're interested in finding a Diva event near you, the website is http://www.runlikeadiva.com/. I can't wait now!



The medal has a spot for your picture and it spins!


Monday, November 14, 2011

If You Don't Have Anything Nice To Say...

This was always drilled into my head by my mother growing up, and even still to this day! "If you don't have anything nice to say, then don't say anything at all." Well, maybe that's a little harsh in this circumstance; maybe it's more "Think before you speak." Twice in one day, I tell you! I don't know if any of you have noticed, but I am PREMATURELY gray. I've looked back at old pictures and I've pin-pointed exactly when I started graying- AFTER my son finished kindergarten and the beginning of homework and school projects! So, I'm gray going on 10 years now. It's hereditary. I was one of the lucky ones- my sister started graying in high school. Thanks Dad!

High School Graduation Day- 1989

Today, it started at the gym. I was on the arc trainer next to my girlfriend from high school, chatting along. Another woman I know from karate, church and the gym comes over, says hello and then asks me if Connie is my daughter! I was shocked. That either means I look very old or Connie just got the compliment of a lifetime! I was a bit offended and told Fran that no, she was my friend and no, I'm not a grandma. She said don't be mad at her, we just look a lot alike. So, couldn't she have asked if Connie was my sister, for God's sake? I hope I wasn't too harsh on her, but it was just an ignorant thing to say. Kinda like when you ask a heavy woman when she's due...(put my foot in my mouth once doing that and I will NEVER do that again!).

So, I leave the gym and go pick up the little one I babysit at pre-k. We head out with the stroller for a walk since it was absolutely gorgeous out for mid-November. We come up to a house where our favorite pug Jack is always waiting for us to greet him. His "mom" and 2 little "brothers" are outside enjoying the weather as well. We had a nice conversation about the kids and pre-school, etc. She then asks me if Kaitlyn is my only grandchild! FREAKING UGH!!! No, no grandchildren for me. My kids are 13 and 15 and I'd probably kill them if they made me a grandmother at this point in time!


Me in NYC enjoying the complimentary fluffy robe!
 So my question is, does gray hair automatically make you old? Looking like a grandma? I used to dye my hair when I didn't have to, when I wanted it auburn or black. Now it's too much upkeep and an added expense I just can't afford. Three of my four sisters dye their hair- two are actually blondes now. They all would look like me if they didn't. My husband doesn't care one way or the other. He's always loved me fat, thin, gray, brunette... Would it bother you enough to dye your hair?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Miss Molly

Is she not gorgeous?
I got to spend a lot of time with my baby yesterday. She sometimes gets a bit overlooked with the hustle and bustle of every day life. But no dog ever seems to be happy with the amount of attention they receive. Molly could never play enough and then when you tell her to go lay down she looks at you like you're the worst person on earth. So then she wants to back her ass up and sit on you. If she could climb into my husband I think she would, kinda like that scene from 'Empire Strikes Back' where Luke gets stuffed into that hairy thing to stay warm.

See what I mean? Oh, but she's really not on the couch because one paw is still on the ground.


 Molly's not a little lap dog. She thinks she is. Her mom is a boxer and her dad was a Great Dane (poor Scooby passed away this year). Belle and Scooby were "brother" and "sister," living under the same roof, and they just couldn't keep 160 pound Scooby away from Belle when it was her special time. So Molly was a product of their "love." We brought her home when she was 6 weeks old. She is now almost 6 years old and weighs 90 pounds. She loves to back up and sit on you, like you don't notice. Before you know it, her paws are in your lap and then her head is on your shoulder.  If only your chest wasn't constricted ('Money Pit' reference) and you could breathe, things would be fine.


Molly's been quite a handful since she came into our lives. She missed her litter mates terribly and cried forever the first few days she was home. Then, when she was not even 2 months old, she pulled the sock off my 4 year old niece's foot and swallowed it. A trip to the vet to get her to throw it up cost us $100. Would you believe exactly 2 weeks later she did it again? This time she found one of my son's socks in the couch. I had attempted to teach her the "drop it!" command. This just made her swallow the sock quicker to then inhale all of the treats on the floor! After another $100 trip to the vet, she lived quite a long time on a leash. She just dragged it everywhere she went and if she was about to do something wrong we could stop her with a step on the leash.



 
She's mellowed out just a bit since getting older. We now leave NO socks laying around and she always has plenty of toys to choose from. Her favorite things? Molly knows the sound of an empty peanut butter jar from a mile away. With her unusually long tongue (seriously, we're talking giving Gene Simmons a run for his money here), she cleans out that jar in a heart beat. She also sits in front of you while you're eating yogurt, drooling, until you give her the empty container to clean out. Molly can shake your hand and give you a high five for a treat. She's incredibly smart and asinine all at the same time.


Last year, she had a cyst on her tail rupture and I swear she was going to hemorrhage. My son woke us up after seeing all of the blood in the hallway. It was a frigging crime scene. She would wag her tail and blood would be splayed on the walls and cabinets like a Jackson Pollock painting. The drive to the vet at 2am was pure fun. There's my husband in the back of the van trying to keep a towel wrapped around her tail, while Molly, terrified of car trips, jumped from seat to seat.
This was just the bloodbath in the kitchen!

Can you sense the humiliation? She's saying "You're gonna put this on Facebook, aren't you?"


 That visit, with the surgery and aftercare, cost us $1,500. She came home with the dreaded cone of shame. Thankfully the cyst wasn't cancerous and she healed well.

 
Of course the bandage fell off after only an hour or two at home!

ANYWAY, yesterday I spent the day giving Molly a bath to rid her of her fleas. It was unseasonably warm, so it wasn't that torturous for her. She's just too big to put in the bathtub and I'm not taking her in the car by myself to get her groomed! I made sure I had plenty of pitchers of warm water on hand to warm her up after the sudsing. Then I had to struggle with her to put on her new flea collar. After that, I had to clean out her "house" (it's a ginormous crate that takes up like 1/4 of my daughter's room), spray it with flea spray, put in new bedding, vacuum the living room and spray it down. Hopefully that's the end of them. If not, it's time to bring out the big guns and the bombs. All in all I think Molly enjoyed her spa day.

Lounging in the sun after her day of beauty.