The Decade In Review

As the year comes to a close, I was going to write a Year in Review sort of post about all that had happened to us as a family this year. I got started writing it and got about two-thirds of the way through when I realized that it sounded remarkably like one of those cheesy Christmas letters you get once a year from your long lost Aunt Agnes.

And then I realized that not only is the year turning but so is the decade. It’s been 10 years since the big millennium celebrations and the hype of over the Y2K virus (remember that?!). I got to thinking about how much has changed over the last 10 years and how my life took some really surprising turns in that time. In honor of that, I give you my decade in review.

I began the year 2000 in a new relationship after dumping my ex-fiance two months before our wedding. That new relationship just happened to be with Scot – who I would go on to marry in 2001. In 2000, we were still living in separate states but were dating seriously.

At the time I was living in Columbus, OH with my sister, brother-in-law, and niece and working full time for a law firm. My sister and her family picked up and went to England in March of that year and stayed for three months as my sister finished her dissertation research. I stayed in Ohio caring for their house, finances, and cat.

In November of 2000 the country elected George Bush. I will refrain from comment on the next 8 years of politics.

By the time my sister returned Scot and I were engaged so I moved out to Pittsburgh and we moved in together. I got a job at Carnegie Mellon and we began to plan our wedding scheduled for October of 2001.

In August of 2000, three days after I began my job at CMU, I lost my beloved grandmother, Mormor. I still miss her but I see her every now and then in the faces of my sons.

In October of 2000, I lost my Grandpa. That fall was tough for my parents – they’d both lost a parent and were both grieving.

Scot and I bought a house together in early 2001 and then spent the much of the rest of the year planning our wedding.

In April, I lost my Grandma.

Scot and I married on October 6, 2001 and took a short honeymoon to Baltimore. Our wedding was 3 short weeks after 9/11 and we were on our honeymoon the day that the US invaded Afghanistan. It seems wrong to me that I can measure the length of that war by the length of my marriage.

We settled in to married bliss. In early 2002 Scot was laid off from his job at IBM. We were blindsided and had no idea it was coming. The good news is that Scot ultimately landed at a company that eventually led to the job he has now so all’s well that ends well.

For the next couple of years we worked our respective jobs and lived the the married-with-no-kids life. We traveled to various places – New Orleans, San Francisco – and in February of 2003 Maggie the Wonder Beagle joined our family.

In April of 2004 my mother and I went on a 9 day trip to Ireland. We had a blast, saw so many gorgeous and wonderful things, and made memories together that I will never forget.

In late May of that same year we found out I was pregnant with Liam. Six short weeks later I lost my job in a lay off. It was not easy to take and even harder to find work as a pregnant woman. In the end I stayed home for most of my pregnancy and on February 2, 2005 we welcomed our son Liam. Liam and his great-grandmother were 100 years apart. We were so ecstatic to introduce Grandma to her first great-grandchild.

Adjustment to motherhood was huge. I’d always wanted children but having a baby was a real challenge for me. I felt out of my depth much of the time and leaned heavily on the friends and family around me for support and advice. I eventually got my sea legs as a parent and we settled in to raising Liam.

In early 2006 I tried to return to work with disastrous results for Liam’s health. Daycare germs caused a spate of illness so bad that Liam lost several pounds and we spent many sleepless night caring for him. My decision to return to work was reevaluated and I remained home with Liam.

In April of 2006 I turned 30. Somehow, even though I was a parent, a homeowner, and a responsible bill-paying adult I didn’t feel like I was 30. I’ve gotten over that.

In May of 2006 we lost Scot’s beloved Grandma. It was a hard spring.

By late 2006 we were seriously outgrowing our house. Scot was working 45 minutes from where we were living and the commute was killing him. We knew we would eventually want a second child and there was no room for it at the house. We also had reservations about the school district we were living in. So, we made the decision that it was time to sell the house and move.

We started Liam back to part-time daycare to facilitate our search for a house and entered a year of illness. He picked up everything that came down the pike. In January of 2007 he had ear tubes put in and things got miraculously better. His speech delay disappeared and he stopped being so ill so often. Now he has an immune system of iron.

We finally closed on a new house in the suburbs in late April of 2007 and moved in mid-May. We now have a big yard (and all the yard care that implies! ) and neighbors and kids in the neighborhood for Liam to play with. We sometimes miss our old stomping grounds (Hi Jenn and John!) but in all I love our house and where we live. Liam will start kindergarten here next year and I have no doubts that he will excel.

We spent the rest of 2007 and the beginning of 2008 settling into life in the ‘burbs. Scot grew increasingly frustrated with his job. I continued to stay home with Liam who survived the Terrible Twos and entered the Terrifically Terrible Threes. He excelled in pre-school and drove me up the wall on a regular basis.

Shortly after July 4th of 2008 we found out I was pregnant with Jamie. Immediately upon peeing on the home pregnancy test I descended into the depths of morning sickness. Actually, it was more like ALL DAY sickness.

Liam survived the summer he was three by the skin of his teeth and with the help of my in-laws who cared for him when I was too sick to.

By the fall things were progressing with my pregnancy and Scot was nearly at the end of his rope with his job. The presidential race was heating up and the political infighting was tremendous.

And then the bottom fell out of the economy.

In November of 2008 the country elected its first biracial president, Barack Obama. I stayed up late watching the returns.

In December of that year, Scot took a tumble down the stairs injuring his wrist pretty severely.

Which brings us to 2009 – a year with high highs and some low lows. Scot had surgery to repair his wrist in late January. I struggled to survive the end of my pregnancy while being the only mostly functional adult in the house.

In January, Barack Obama was sworn in as President. I watched the Inauguration with such pride and hope. I cried when he took the oath of office.

Jamie joined our family on March 4, 2009. He made his entrance two weeks early and had a rough first three months. Between reflux and colic I nearly didn’t survive those months and much of it is a blur of frustration, stress, worry, and exhaustion. Somehow we all made it through – I know the help of our family made that possible.

Scot took a new job in the beginning of 2009 – a job he is still at and still loves.

The rest of the year was spent settling in to being a family of four with a neurotic beagle. Our family is complete now.

To sum up, a lot has happened to me in the last decade. I started out the decade as a 20-something woman fresh out of college and fresh out of a nasty relationship. I didn’t know where I was going to end up or how I was going to get there. Now I’m a married mother of two little boys living in suburbia. Oh how life changes!

2010 promises to be a big year. Liam turns 5. Jamie turns 1. Liam will start kindergarten. I’m sure there will be many surprises along the way. There always are!

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Just Like A Kid On Christmas

The presents were tucked under the tree with great care….

The stockings were stuffed, Saint Nick had been there.


The children awoke to see Christmas bounty…


And soon the wrappings were in a pile quite jaunty.


Merry Christmas to all..

From a Spud and his bear…


And Jamie the Red with his flaming orange hair.

Christmas Crazy: Baking

Some people go crazy at Christmas time. This craziness can take many forms. Lights! Trees! Decorations galore!

I bake.

I love to bake and Christmastime gives me the perfect excuse to exercise my baking muscles. My Mom always baked at Christmas and it’s a large part of the holiday tradition for me as I have fond memories of baking with my Mom during my childhood. She always had special cookie recipes that she only made once a year at Christmas. Many of them were handed down through generations of the family and speak to my ethnic heritage. I feel connected to my childhood Christmases when I get to perpetuate the tradition. I also love carrying on the tradition with my children.

So, I decided to share with you the recipes that I make every year. Some are family recipes, some are ones that I’ve stumbled across on my own and incorporated into the yearly baking. Many of the recipes call for nuts and Scot has a pretty severe nut allergy. I’ve altered them to leave the nuts out but will include the original recipe here. Please enjoy! We certainly do.

Swedish Chocolate Sheet Cookies
Family Recipe

1 cup sugar
1 cup butter
1 beaten egg
4 tbs. Baker’s Cocoa
1 1/2 cups flour
ground almonds

Cream butter and sugar. Add egg, cocoa, and flour. Mix thoroughly. Spread dough 1/4 inch thick on a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan (the jelly roll pan is easier). Brush top with egg white (use your fingers – it works better!). Top with unblanched ground almonds. Bakes at 350° for 30 minutes. Cut into oblong pieces while still warm.

You can opt to leave the nuts off and just dust the top with powdered sugar after you bake them.

Dutch Spice Cookies
Family Recipe

This recipe is HUGE so I usually cut it in half.

2 cups butter
2 cups sugar
4 cups flour
4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (my mother always used almonds. I don’t use nuts at all)

Cream butter and sugar. Sift together flour with spices, baking soda, and salt. Add to the butter and sugar. Work in the sour cream. Form into 4 long sausage shaped logs, about 2 inches in diameter. Wrap each in waxed paper and refrigerate overnight. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350°. Cut rolls crosswise into thin slices, about 1/8 inch thick. Bake on an ungreased baking sheet until delicately browned – about 12 minutes. Cool on wire wrack.

Sugar Cookies with Buttercream Frosting
Cookie recipe: Wilton
Frosting: Penzeys

Cookies
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
2 3/4 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 400°. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Mix together in a separate bowl flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to butter mixture 1 cup at a time, mixing after each addition. Roll out dough on a floured surface to 1/8 inch thick and cut into shapes. Bake on ungreased cookie sheet 6 to 7 minutes or until cookies are lightly browned.

Frosting
2 stick of butter, room temperature
2 tsp vanilla
4 cups powdered sugar
4 TB milk

Cream butter and vanilla together on medium speed with an electric mixer. Alternate adding powdered sugar and milk, mixing well on low speed after each addition. If you feel like getting fancy, add some food coloring to the frosting and sprinkle with colored sugar.

If you let these cookies sit a day or so they get all soft and chewy and, oh my God, they’re good!

Rolled Almond Wafers
Family Recipe

3/4 cup finely ground unblanched almonds
1/2 cup soft butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 TB flour
2 TBS heavy cream

Mix ingredients in a saucepan and heat, stirring until butter melts. On a baking sheet lined with a silpat, drop 1 tsp 3 inches apart. Bake 6 at a time about 7 minutes or until the edges begin to brown but the centers are still bubbly. WATCH THEM CAREFULLY.

Cool a short time (about 90 seconds) then loosen with a thin knife and wrap each around a wooden spoon handle. Lay joined side down on a rack to cool.

Spritz
Family recipe

10 ounces butter
7 1/2 ounces sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 ounces blanched, ground almonds
15 ounces flour

Cream butter and sugar. Add egg, mix well. Blanch almonds and grind, then add to mixture. Add flour 5 ounces at a time. Mix well after each addition. Look for the dough to be slightly crumbly.

Use a cookie press to shape dough into the shape of your choice. Bake at 400 ° for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown on the edges.

Alternatively, roll out the dough and cut circles and rings. Bake as above. When baked, spread jelly of your choice on the circles and top with the rings. Dust the tops with powdered sugar.

The nuts can be omitted from this recipe to make it a straight butter cookie, which is what I do when I make the jelly versions because Scot loves them but can’t eat the nuts.

Ma Richmond’s Shortbread
This recipe comes down from Scot’s family

14 ounces room temp butter
1/4 c. crisco
1 cup firmly packed confectioner’s sugar
6 cup flour

Preheat oven to 325° and line baking sheets with brown paper.

Cream together butter, crisco, and sugar. Add flour a little bit at a time. Dough should be slightly crumbly. Work dough by hand until it reaches a uniform consistency. Divide dough into sixths. Roll out 1/2 inch thick circles. Using fingertips, press dimples into the edge. Cut 8 wedges per circle. Bake on brown paper until the outside edges begin to get golden brown, approximately 30 minutes.

Boys and Their Butts

Liam got out of the bath tonight and started scratching his butt.

“My butt itches!” he announced.

“So scratch it.”

He proceeded to do so with such vigor that he wouldn’t take the 5 steps from the bathroom into his bedroom so that he could put on his PJ’s. Finally, I had to look at him and use the same line I use on the dog.

“Liam! Leave your butt alone!”

He headed in to his room where Scot was waiting him help him dry off and get into PJ’s. He started complaining that his butt still itched and Scot, always the dutiful father, inspected the area. He said he saw what looked like two tiny hives so I marched to the cupboard to pull out the spray topical anesthetic for him.

That’s when Scot asked Liam exactly where it itched.

“Right in between, Dad.”

Yes, he meant between his cheeks.

Scot’s response?

“You’re on your own with that one, kid!”

So, I went in there with the can of Dermoplast and, always the dutiful mother, inspected my kid’s butt. Even between his cheeks. Then said “Hold still. This will be cold.”

And I gave him a blast of Dermoplast.

“There,” I said, “no more itch.”

He giggled like an insane fool.

Scot got his PJ’s on him and then marched him into the bathroom so that he could brush his teeth. Liam then began to complain that his butt still itched. Whereupon I told him that wasn’t possible because I used stuff to make his butt numb. I think he just wanted me to spray his butt again. Weird kid.

Christmas Preparation

Christmas is consuming me.

My sister is coming in for a quick visit and is arriving late tomorrow night. We have plans for Saturday during the day and on Saturday evening we’re leaving the kids with my sister and going to Scot’s company Christmas party. Which just happens to be dinner at the CEO’s house. Oof-dah.

In preparation for all of this I’m trying to tame the clutter, banish the dust, and suck up the beagle fur so that our house is somewhat presentable. Did I mention that I also need to bake cookies, wrap gifts, and attend the pre-school Christmas show?

Needless to say I’m finding it hard to find time to sit down and relax. Or write a blog post. Or pee.

I’m really looking forward to the visit with my sister and her family. I haven’t seen them in over a year so I’m hoping we have a good time. They haven’t met Jamie yet and I’m excited for them to see him in all his chubby glory. Liam hasn’t seen his cousins in a long time, too, and I know that he’s going to have a blast running around with them.

Once we get through the weekend I’m hoping things will get a little bit easier. Scot is taking some time off of work and he’ll be home to help wrangle the kids which will free me up to finish things like baking and wrapping. If I can get to Christmas day with my sanity intact and the chores complete I’ll be ecstatic. I’m just looking forward to enjoying Christmas morning with the kids.

I’m hoping to keep posting and get to it a bit more often but work around the house is really taking most of my time and by the time I sit down at night my brain is incapable of stringing thoughts together.