the hyphens that define my life

The Power of Eight November 18, 2013

Spending any amount of time with any eight year old is a good time.  Today I spent two solid hours side by side with my rambunctious eight year old and, in a word, fas.cin.a.ting. The power, presence and energy of my intense young man is something all of you should experience.  If I could only bottle “The Power of Eight” I would rule the world.

This afternoon, right after school, we jumped in the car and went to the orthopedic for a final follow-up visit from the arm break this summer.  We scheduled this appointment in August “just to be sure” his arm healed well and his growth plates weren’t affected.  Flashback, this was the arm break we ignored/didn’t realize for 10 days which still keeps us in contention for Parents of the Year.  We were instructed to get an x-ray before heading to the doctor’s office.  On Friday I received an appointment confirmation phone call.  As planned, we were on our way for x-ray.

Somehow, someway, in the random land of healthcare, even though imaging and orthopedics are housed under the same roof, under the same name, they are separate.  Imaging had “accidently” cancelled our appointment and we had to wait.  We waited.  And we waited.  Finally, an hour and half later, they finally (FINALLY) called us back for x-ray.  The wait, we were told, was due to the doctor’s office lag in sending the order for x-ray.  Always someone else to blame.  Imaging had the order originally but destroyed it when they cancelled our appointment.  Genius.  To my credit, I did not lose my mind on anyone.  My son was calm, I was, though totally freaking annoyed, calm.

One reason I was calm was because my son chatted and gabbed and gossiped and talked non-stop the entire time, from the moment we got in the car until he was whisked into x-ray.  This was not a continuous stream of dialogue you could easily follow.  I had to pay serious attention.

Topics ranged from playing this survival game during PE today (something with ropes and platforms, jumping and swinging awesomeness I never did in PE – we had a rope swing at home), Thanksgiving, the end of the world, Dad in high school, Facebook, why he needs an iPhone (no way),  chocolate croissants, comments on the baby in the waiting room, comments on the baby screaming bloody murder while getting a blood draw and how he’s a pro at giving blood (he really is), his hair cut and how he needs it but doesn’t want it, and his nipples. Have I lost you yet?  Try following this chain while he’s bouncing all over you and the surrounding chairs. I practiced my meditation breathing all the while.

Though fully random, he had some great things to say too.  Thanksgiving came up while telling me about his day at school.  The class discussed Thanksgiving traditions.  He told me, “Of course I told them our family tradition.”  Huh, I wondered what that was…turkey and pumpkin pie?  I asked.  He told me, “Mom, come on, our family tradition is to have everybody over at our house, that’s the best.”  He’s right.  Last year we had twenty-two people for Thanksgiving Dinner and it was awesome.  He then said, “But now we live in Spokane and nobody is coming over [insert sad face here].”  I corrected him, “Your sister arrives in eight days!”  “Oh yeah!  Wooo!” he replied.

The end of the world came up (sorry, no good way to segue between Thanksgiving and this topic) with him asking me “How do you think the world will end?”  A loaded question that I don’t often, if ever consider, so I responded, “The sun will run out of energy and burn out like a light bulb.”  “Maybe,” he said,  “but I think the sun will actually collide with the earth and we’ll all explode.”  Comforting.  He added, “When I was in preschool I used to look up into the sky and think the sun was coming right at us.”  Really?  Are you sure you just didn’t watch Armageddon?

Within seconds he switched topics, the next topic was my absolute favorite (the waiting room appreciated it too).  “Do you know Dad kissed girls in high school?”  “What?! No way.”  “Yep, he did, he told me.”  “Did he mention how many girls he kissed in high school?”  “No but I’ll ask him.”  Good. How did this become a father-eight year old son discussion?  I had my own reconnaissance to work on.  When I got home, I asked my husband why his dad kissing girls in high school was on our son’s mind.  My husband said that our son asked him what was the worst thing he did in high school.  Why did he ask?  My husband didn’t ask so we don’t know.  Hmmmm.  My husband did answer his question, “I drove fast, I drank a beer, and I kissed girls.”  Thank you very much for justifying GTA 5 in an eight year old’s mind.  Oh the things we get to look forward to with this boy!

While waiting, my son negotiated two chocolate croissants in order to get his hair cut tomorrow.  Fine, done.

All of our boys are shockingly modest considering their parents and the fact that he runs around the house half naked every day.  The x-ray tech told my son he needed to take off his jacket and t-shirt and put on a hospital shirt that ties in the back.  He wouldn’t take off his t-shirt until the x-ray tech stepped out of the room.  While she was out, he disrobed and covered his “nibs” (his word for nipples that we don’t correct) until I could get the hospital shirt on and tied.  Once we left x-ray and were in the doctor’s office, the doctor also had him take off his jacket and t-shirt, this time with no cover-up.  My son’s face was bright red, he was so embarrassed. Really, Senor Skin and Bones, what is the issue?  You live in Spokane, home of the no-shirt half naked men roaming everywhere, get used to it.  Or better yet, don’t.

In the end, his arm has healed perfectly, growth plates unaffected.  The only reason I kept the appointment and waited patiently for a ridiculous amount of time was because he was complaining of pain while he plays basketball.  Turns out Senor Skin and Bones’ right arm is underdeveloped because of the down time spent with the break.  The doctor recommended some low weights and exercises (ball throwing) and push-ups.  All my son heard was weights.  He came home and told his dad he needed to start weight training and needed a bench, barbell and weights to achieve hulk status as soon as possible.  My husband of course looks at me with a “what the hell?” look.  After my time served today, I told my husband, “Yep, he needs to weight train, it’s your turn.”


Rough Life November 10, 2013

Yesterday our youngest went to a friend’s house for the first time for a play date.  He came home after four peaceful hours and announced his friend’s family live a rough life.  Huh.  The dad is a cardiologist and the mom is a nurse.  I had to ask, “What’s so rough?”  I should have guessed his reply.  “They have a Wii but they are only allowed to play sometimes, so really no video game time.  They are barely allowed to watch TV, even cartoons! And, when we had hot chocolate, they don’t have marshmallows or whipped cream.”  “Oh my gosh!” I exclaimed in mock horror.  “What did you do for four hours?” “Oh,” he shrugged and said “we played outside, played in his room, teased his sister, helped rake leaves and just played.”  “It sounds like you had a good time.”  “Yes, but I couldn’t live like that every day.”

This was his first play date since we moved and I am so thankful he’s making friends and experiencing new perspectives on life.  Isn’t that what friends are for?

While he was away, my husband and I were painting the dining room.  I love my dining room.  First, its oval which is just awesome.  Built in china cabinets and valances above the huge window at one end and another over the buffet cabinet. The problem with this room since the second I saw the house, is the color.  The room was painted a glaring caution sign yellow-gold with the window trim, baseboards, valances and outer cabinets painted white.  The inside of the cabinets painted blue.  Every day since June I have asked if we could paint the dining room since every meal in that room (every day) makes me want to scream.  Color has huge impact on me.  I’m color sensitive apparently because the boys and my husband didn’t mind the combination. Eek.

The first step is, of course, to agree on paint colors.  Even though he is not, I’m certain my husband is color blind.  It took us a solid month to pull paint samples, test colors and finally (FINALLY) agree on colors.  With that accomplished, we scheduled this 3-day weekend to paint.  I just want to point out my husband and kids have Monday off, I had to take a vacation day to paint.  Not an ideal vacation, but I am willing since the yellow-gold paint needs to go.

While painting, we listen to music.  My husband is a metal head but appreciates a good dance track (aka, he loves Justin Timberlake).  We’re listening to the playlist I created and labeled “Housecleaning.”  It doubles as my “Dance Party” playlist.  I hate cleaning so if I have to clean, I might as well dance while scrubbing.  There are a few timeless ballads included so I can sing in full voice occasionally too.  This playlist is a good time.  My husband is tolerant, even dancing along from time to time, but he’s a serious worker and focused on task.

The playlist contains everyone.  Eminem, Michael Jackson, Lady Antebellum, JT, Jay-Z and Beyoncé and everyone in between.  At one point, Enrique Iglesias came on with “I Like It.”  My husband asked if this was Bull Dog.  You mean, Pit Bull?  No, it’s Enrique, I love Enrique. “You know he has a new album out,” he said.  “What?  How do you know?  You didn’t even know this was Enrique.”  He said, “I saw him interviewed on Ellen DeGeneres. Enrique lives with his partner in Puerto Rico, has two boys and parasails.”  “WHAT?!?!?” I asked, “When did you watch Ellen DeGeneres?”  Remember we don’t watch TV, we Netflix.  Ellen also airs in the afternoon when he is working.  We don’t TiVo anything, ever, either. While I’m thinking he has too much free time, he told me he watched the episode while waiting for the doctor the other day.  Ah yes, that explains it.  Shocking, but explained.

We’re still painting today, photos will post when we’re done.  So far it’s awesome and I love it.  The kids are raking and bagging leaves, living the rough life (minus the crepes for breakfast and the hot chocolate fortification during break time).


Monster Mash October 25, 2013

Filed under: Family,Gardening — multihyphenatedme @ 10:46 pm
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Spokane schools, as a district wide rule, do not celebrate or acknowledge Halloween on the actual day.  Instead, the Parent Teacher Group hosts a Monster Mash where all students are invited to attend, in full costume, for two hours of fun that includes pumpkin bowling, dancing, a shockingly great science station and snacks.  Having had kids in public schools for 15 years, this is the first I have ever experienced not including a nationally recognized holiday and the first I have ever experienced a Monster Mash.

Yet not celebrating Halloween in school isn’t my biggest issue.  What rubs me wrong is that the Monster Mash is one full week before Halloween, seriously cutting into my sewing, crafting and creativity timeline.  Sheesh!  October has been, forgive the use of this over used phrase, CRAZY BUSY!  Really.  Insane.  Toronto, Columbus, Cincinnati, Denver, Newark, NYC, Chicago filled two weeks of travel for work.  Then I spent three days in Seattle with my family for health issues.  In 30 days I have been home thirteen days.  Four of these thirteen days I had a cold thanks to those germy college students.

So what, suck it up.  Other than the cold, my month has been great, just not enough time that I would like to spend on Halloween costumes.  The past three nights have been extremely late nights.  Burning the midnight oil and multiple glue sticks, two of my three costumes were assembled with last-minute touches this afternoon before the big event.

My 9-year-old decided to be a Raven.  I had read Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven to him recently and he wanted to be an evil raven with talons and feet and feathers and wings.  He probably wanted to be able to fly too, but I had three nights.  Here’s what he got.


My biggest concern working with feathers was to not make him look like Phyllis Diller in her feather dress.  When my son had a fitting midway through the production process, his eyes welled with tears.  He was not happy when I thought I was more than halfway done.  The costume started as an old Voldemort pullover costume with hood and sleeves.  I glued feathers to the ragged fringe that hung down at the bottom and from the sleeves.  This is where he tried it on.  He wanted real wings.  I really should stop saying that I have mad skills.  My kids have the bar set really high for me and it’s my own fault.  With cardboard, a wire hanger and a whole lot of feathers, the wings on his hands were created, glued to black knit gloves and tied at the wrist for stability.  The mask was a crow’s mask with a yellow beak and gold sequins and black feathers.  I painted the mask black and glued the sides to the hood to create a more rounded look.  Getting his Hanes’ black sweatpants after going to two, not one, but two Wal-Marts to find them added to the time involved in pulling off this costume.  Not my best work, but considering the challenge and the time involved, I think it turned out pretty awesome.

Keep in mind that I have two in elementary school, so the raven was just half of my workload.  My young buck wanted to be Zombie Atlantis or a Zombie Diver.  My mother-in-law sent him this awesome round, costume plush and pliable diving helmet.  Add zombie makeup, green hair color, some hair gel and his own Hanes’ sweat suit (from the same two, not one but two, trips to Walmart), his costume was complete.

My youngest owns every gray hair on my head and there are plenty.  Last night he informed me, after loving his costume all week, that a black sweat suit, representing a black wet suit, wasn’t good enough.  He, being way to damn techno-saavy, pulled up some Google images of real vintage diving suits and he wanted the whole suit, not just the helmet.  Of course.  What was I thinking?

Today, I realized, he just doesn’t like change.  He wanted to wear his store-bought skeleton suit that he has worn two years running.  He just got caught up in the Halloween-I-gotta-have-a-new-costume-hype and had a new helmet costume to start and the ball just kept rolling.


The skeleton costume is too small too, but that doesn’t stop my youngest son.

The Monster Mash was packed with entire families, grandparents, extended family and pretty awesome.  The boys had a blast, my husband and I met new people and we became more familiar with the school.

The class won’t get to sample my fun Halloween wares like these that I made last year, but Halloween is off to a good start.

halloween ghosts

Now one more costume to go….


A Family Affair October 17, 2013

Three years ago, Amy moved from Michigan where she has lived most of her life, to Seattle Washington to be near her youngest son, closer to our mom and to receive incredible care at the University of Washington Medical Center. Amy has a Common Variable Immune Deficiency. Her immune system is so suppressed that it can not fight any disease. As a result, she has been sick the majority of her life. In addition, she has a diseased liver that is causing granulomas to develop all over her body. She has rheumatoid arthritis as an added bonus. All of the medications required to treat her myriad of ailments have her on the fast track to, without doubt, developing Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, an incurable cancer within an unknown timeline, yet not to exceed 10 years-ish. Her vast team of doctors deemed the bone marrow transplant necessary.  Amy entered a new world in the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance and became in need of bone marrow.

[Disclaimer:  I may or may not have listed her illnesses correctly.  Forgive me.  If anything, I’m sure I left stuff out.]

Out of love and genetics, we three siblings were tested to see if any of us would be a blood donor match.  It was really no surprise that Jen would be not only a match, a perfect match to our sister in need. I never made it past the prescreen as a result of my cancerous past.  Our brother was also not a match.  Siblings are the best option of bone marrow match, a fact I didn’t know prior to this process.

Once the donor is identified, whether through family or anonymously, the next greatest challenge is having the recipient well and able to go through the transplant process.  Twice the transplant was “indefinitely delayed” because Amy’s body wouldn’t cooperate enough to get the thumbs up from all doctors involved.

While Amy was in and out of the hospital, Jen, who lives in Arizona, had to incur not only the initial flight costs for testing and the actual procedure, but the additional costs of flight changes.  Juggling work and time off added to her stress ramping up to the “Big Day.”  Not once, but three times.

The “Big Day” finally arrived this week.  I was assigned the role of “Caretaker of Jen” while my mom managed Amy and her care.

We had a family dinner Monday night with lots of laughs.  For Jen, it helped ease her nerves.  For Amy, it was her last meal in the company of a crowd for a many months ahead.

Bone marrow is extracted from the donor in the morning and transplanted, similar to a blood transfusion, into the patient late that same evening.  The extraction process involves 2-3 small punctures on the low back hip bones.  Through these punctures, 150-250 bone marrow extractions take place, directly into the bone.  The entire process takes two hours.  Jen ended up spending an additional 8 hours in recovery as the pain was far greater than she anticipated.  All told, we were in the hospital for 13 hours.

While the altruistic donor was giving, Amy was receiving her final doses of radiation.  Amy received three doses of chemotherapy and two doses of low-level radiation in the days leading up to the transplant to suppress her system, creating a clean slate for the new bone marrow to work its magic.

Amy was in radiation when Jen was released and we headed home.  Amy received the gift of hope at 10 PM.  Amy had a few typical reactions to the bone marrow that slowed the process a bit, but overall, the transplant was an initial success, ending the next morning.  Amy was at her apartment by 5 PM Wednesday night.

I only saw Amy maybe a whole three hours while I was in Seattle since I was on donor support.  I don’t know all of the details of her experience but with her incredible medical team, she was, and remains, in great hands.

Jen has always been the “Baby” of the family.  Her nickname, among many, was “Whiny Wimp” because, well, she whines and she has zero pain tolerance.  In total contrast, I have a very high pain tolerance and my nickname was…well let’s just say my 1970’s era CB handle was “Aggravation”…but I don’t whine.

Pairing Jen and I together is a hilarious riot on any given day.  Putting us in pre-op together with me as her nursemaid could have been a Saturday Night Live skit.  Oh, did I mention I lack compassion?  I’m working on it, but nursing will never be my career choice.  She’s hot, she’s cold, the pillow this, the blanket that and how is it possible to even squish your face so tight when they insert the IV?  The IV.  I didn’t know she doesn’t like IV’s.  Now I do.  Where I may have lacked compassion, I was a pillar of patience. I may have uttered at least one “suck it up buttercup” to her, but she was too busy to notice as Jen received a tremendous amount of attention and love for being the donor.  Being a bone marrow donor, is truly a selfless gift and Jen deservedly was given praise for putting others first.

The highlight of my morning came when the anesthesiologist gave Jen the “relaxer” just prior to going into the OR.  The doctor, anesthesiologist and I walked alongside Jen laid on the gurney as we rolled her to the OR. You could tell the moment the “relaxer” took effect. Jen, completely quiet up to this point, flirtatiously said to the doctor, “Doctor, SCCA speaks so highly of your work, but they never said you were sooooooooo handsome.”  The anesthesiologist and I laughed loudly while the shy and quiet doctor, turned bright red.  When I finally got to see Jen later that afternoon, she had no recollection of anything past the doctor consult, prior to receiving the “relaxer.”  I have gotten a million miles out of that moment.

Jen heads back to Arizona on Friday and will fully recover within 2 weeks.  Though infection is possible, it is unlikely.  Jen will be sore and tired. Because she lives at 7000 feet, she may experience more tiredness than normal.

Amy visits the Cancer Center daily for monitoring.  We won’t know if the bone marrow is accepted for months and up to a year.  She has a long road yet ahead.  Infection is the most common complication after transplant and can be life threatening. Because the body’s immune system is compromised (more so than normal), the risk of infection is high. Another concern is veno-occlusive disease that can occur within 20 days of transplant. Radiation and chemotherapy treatments can cause a buildup of dead cells that  block the blood vessels of these organs. About half of all bone marrow  transplant patients develop this complication–which can be deadly. Those at  highest risk are patients with pre-existing liver disease, infections or those  taking antibiotics at the same time as their chemotherapy treatments.  Amy has these pre-existing conditions so we’re on alert.  If that wasn’t enough, there is always Graft versus Host Disease that occurs when the newly transplanted bone marrow cells reject the body. In acute  GVHD, the condition begins within 100 days of the bone marrow transplant. In  chronic GVHD, it may not surface until 3 to 12 months after the transplant. The  condition usually starts as a skin rash that progresses to involve the liver and  intestinal tract. Preventative medication is given to transplant patients to  combat this condition before it can begin. Once this complication develops, it  is usually treatable but can be life-threatening.

The bone marrow transplant is an attempt to give Amy new life, free of some or all of her known diseases and ailments. Yet, there are serious potential obstacles she may have to hurdle along the way. We can only hope and pray at this point.

Huge thanks to our friends and family across the nation for your love, kind words and prayers.

Thank you to my employer, Ware Malcomb, for your flexibility, patience and continuous support.

A shout out of sincere thanks to Northern Arizona University, Jen’s employer, for having excellent benefits to support her generous donation.

UWMC & SCCA, what an incredibly handsome and beautiful team you have!  Thank you for your tremendous efforts, kindness and compassion that you give daily.  Please take good care of Amy.

Love and hugs to my mom for all that you do to help Amy through her struggles.  I love you momma!

Jen, you are good and sooooo handsome with incredible core strength.  I love you and Wendall.  Go Blue!

Amy, you have gone through so much and we can only hope that the upcoming days, weeks, and months throughout this year are without infection and disease and you are given an opportunity to live again.  I love you.

If you are interested in donating bone marrow, contact your local Cancer Center or register at


New Jersey and Chicago Adventures, Day 1. October 7, 2013

I miss my Abraham Lincoln, blue-eyed Indian and Narnia buddies from my Toronto and Ohio travels.

Leaving Spokane at dawn left me travelling solo to Seattle.  On the long, read L-O-N-G, flight from Seattle to Newark I sat next to two middle-aged lovebirds which is really worse than teenage lovebirds, that didn’t have word one to say to me, read this as B.O.R.I.N.G.  However, we did fly on Alaska Airlines’ new Boeing 737-900ER which is one sweet ride with plenty of leg room and head room.  No reclined seats on your knees and, at 5’10”, I’m able to stand up in the seat without conking my head on the storage bin. Two thumbs up Alaska Airlines!

For the duration of my flight, I did what any working girl would do, I caught up on emails froms missing work in Friday and read Thich Nhat Hanh’s Being Peace, another selection from Real Simple’s author recommended list of great books.  Being Peace is a GREAT book.  Nothing earth shattering, just poignant stories and reflections on the importance of meditation, being in the moment and smiling to reflect your inner peace.  I love books that make me stop and pause, that inspire me to take notes.  Not textbooks, mind you, real life, in the moment pauses that, that make you say, hmmmmmmm.

Here in New Jersey, a sweltering and humid 75 degrees (ugh…it’s fall!), I love to bear witness to the dramatic differences between east and west coasts.  Facial expressions, mannerisms, speech patterns, word choices, and garb du jour are fascinating.

Tonight I had dinner at a second generation family owned Italian restaurant less than a half mile from my hotel in Harrison New Jersey, next door to Newark.  The hotel and Yelp strongly recommended this restaurant so I was surprised, on a Sunday night, that the place was deserted with the exception of two older (late 60’s early 70’s) couples eating dinner and drinking heavily at the bar.  I opted to join them at the bar.  Angelo, the owner’s son, explained that the Giants played at home and Sunday nights are slow but the food is good.  He was right, the food was great.  Food, however, did not compare to the epic ambiance created by their clientele.  To my right, the two older couples, in full east coast vernacular, while drinking chablis, were discussing Florida, back in the day compared to their current visit where the site they visited was closed due to the government shut down (no problem, they had been their before) and how the one woman was getting all bit up by something, perhaps the homeless guys’ dog’s fleas!  ACK!  This conversation was injected with commentary on the Dallas Cowboy beating by the Denver Broncos.   The restaurant didn’t need any more customers, there was plenty of entertainment.

Then walked in three drunken 30-somethings, a guy and two girls who sat at the bar to my left.  The guy had obviously been to the restaurant many times and was on friendly terms with Angelo the manager/owner.  Following drunken conversation is difficult to the sober ear but from what i could gather, the one girl was making moves on the guy, after she just broke up with his brother…or somethin!  They were funny as hell though, adding a full comedic routine to the travel diaries to my right.

While I was gallivanting across the country, Vince took the boys on a 6 mile bicycle ride (as far as Andre’s scrawny little 8 year old legs would take them) on the Centennial Trail by Riverside State Park, northwest of our house along the Spokane River.

  boys bike ride

To make my day complete, I got to talk to my girl baby!  We talk 3-4 times a week, but I love every conversation we have together.  Her birthday is coming up quick at the end of October and we’re planning her trip up for Thanksgiving.  I can’t wait to see her!

Stay tuned for more east coast adventures.  Though I have excursions planned, I am in town for business.  Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday are events at Rutgers University and New Jersey Institute of Technology.  I need to meet with our NJ office leader before heading to our Chicago office on Thursday.

Day 1, done.


Eight Years Later September 30, 2013

Today is Andre’s, our youngest son, eighth birthday.  We celebrated on Sunday so he had plenty of time to play with his gifts.  Monday birthdays do not make for a successful week.  Being strategic and forward thinking, we parents congratulated ourselves, yesterday and today, on our genius planning.

Andre laid out the agenda for the day yesterday:

First, we need to have puff pancakes for breakfast.  Then, we will have Taco Bell for lunch (insert brothers groaning “ugh” in unison here).  After lunch I’ll open my presents, we will have HOMEMADE Gnocchi with Bolognese (homemade was highlighted because I tried to pass off prepackaged gnocchi once and have yet to live it down) and then we’ll have HOMEMADE chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, the yellow cookbook one (aka Ina Garten’s recipe).  Oh, and mom, you have to make cupcakes for my class too.  I suggested we buy some cupcakes but he quickly dismissed my comment with a wave of his hand as if he were shooing a fly.

We surprised his royal highness with presents after breakfast.  We really know how to get a party started don’t we?  We stuck with the puff pancake plan.  Do you know how to make these?  Dutch babies, puff pancake, german pancakes, it’s all the same recipe.

For my 3 boys, I double this recipe and divide into three 6″ skillets.

Heat the oven to 400.  Spray and oven safe skillet with cooking spray and add 1 tablespoon of butter in skillet.  Put pan (spray and butter only) in the oven until butter is melted and bubbly.

While the pan is heating, mix together 3 eggs, 1/2 c. flour, 1/2 c. milk and 1/4 tsp. salt.

Pour mixture into heated pan.  Cook for 20 minutes or until sides are puffed up and golden.

Squeeze fresh lemon juice and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Of course Andre received video games for his birthday!  While the boys played, without fighting once, all day, yes we should have birthdays every day, I started the labor intensive gnocchi with bolognese ragu, chocolate cake and cupcakes.

While the ragu was cooking on the stove, I started baking. The cupcakes were straight from the box, icing from the can, we are catering to third graders let’s not forget.  Third graders in mind, I made Despicable Me Minion Cupcakes. The boys were impressed (once again) with my mad skills.  My piping was pretty wobbly but what do kids care? Andre came home from school today and told  the Minion cupcakes made his classmates “go wild and it was awesome.”


The Chocolate Buttercream cake is simple with ridiculous amounts of butter in true Ina fashion.  This is my go-to cake and I have made it at least a dozen times with sour cream, buttermilk, espresso, bittersweet and semisweet chocolate, how can you go wrong?  Nothing fancy, just straight up chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream frosting.  Yum.

chocolate cake

Chicken livers is the secret ingredient in my Bolognese Ragu recipe.  Biba Caggiano’s recipe that my kids beg for as soon as outside temperatures start to drop.  In Southern California we didn’t have it often.  The boys are trying to get me to make it on a weekly rotation!  Chicken livers may freak you out, but they are minced so fine you cannot tell what you are eating, nor do you care, it is so delicious.  Just don’t tell my kids.  Not only did they eat Gnocchi with Ragu last night, they willingly and happily ate it again tonight too.


Gnocchi doesn’t photograph well.  Or, I don’t photograph gnocchi well.  Gnocchi doesn’t need to be pretty to be delicious.

When I started writing this blog post tonight, I was going to tell you how much fun Vince and I had with the birth of our final child.  Bringing him into this world took about 8 hours and preparing Andre’s meal requests on Sunday took about the same amount of time.  Vince and I had fun because we knew what to expect, this was our final birth and we savored the moments as we walked around the inside of the hospital, the outside of the hospital, the surrounding neighborhoods, with me in my hospital gown pausing with each contraction, walking in between.  We sat and had coffee at Late for the Train inside Flagstaff Medical Center and had cappuccinos nonchalantly while contractions came and went.  We eventually returned to Labor and Delivery and produced baby Andre just in time for dinner.  Vince went to our favorite Italian restaurant and brought dinner for us into the hospital to nosh while we admired and cooed over our good work.

Eight years later, we’re still eating Italian food on the night of Andre’s birth, with a few extra meals and treats added for time well spent.


While Away September 29, 2013

Filed under: Family — multihyphenatedme @ 9:11 pm
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This post is a shout out to my husband and children for managing and maintaining in my absence last week.  My ego encourages me to believe they can not function without me, but the truth is that they manage quite well.

Of course, they were left with a clean house, all the laundry washed, folded and put away and the refrigerator and freezer well stocked with lots of food complete with a cheat sheet of meal options for breakfast, lunch and dinner to keep them on track. To go astray after being set up to succeed probably wouldn’t have surprised me; however, they did really well.

The boys made it to school every day, they attended their activities (except Trace who is still out with a bum knee), and maintained our normal daily routine.

One of the only hiccup in the week was Wednesday night when the middle school had their back-to-school night that logistically conflicted with the Club Scouts first Den meeting.  Vince was conflicted, wanting to see our seventh graders school and classes, yet he knew the only choice was to go to the Den meeting.  Overall, not too big of an issue.  I visited the classrooms and met all the teachers during Sneak Peak before school.  We’re scheduling time for Vince to meet at a later date.

After my 21 hour day on Thursday, Friday morning I fell back into our routine and  assumed the morning duty of getting the kids off to school.  The older boys barely said hello to me when I woke them up, they each rolled over and lifted their pajama shirt, begging for a back scratch.  They do need me!

Our youngest, however, jumped out of bed and ran as fast as he could to hug me and kiss me and tell me how happy he was I was home.  He loves his momma.

The boys immediately wanted to know what was for breakfast.  Blurry eyed, my response was “uh, cereal?”  They proceeded to tell me how Dad made them hot breakfasts every morning.  When I asked what he made, our oldest boy said,”we’re not going to tell you Dad’s secrets.”  Fine, enjoy your cereal.  The only breakfast I was able to find out about was the one Vince boasted about making, hashbrown omelets.  I volunteered Vince to make breakfast Friday morning but he hightailed it to his office and let me serve up cereal. On very little sleep, I don’t compete.

That morning, helping get backpacks packed and reviewing homework due on Friday, I realized that Vince skipped the entire week’s worth of spelling homework for our third grader.  He claimed he didn’t see it, and Andre didn’t tell him, so no spelling was completed, all week.  I did get a little snippy at this point, asking whether or not Vince READ the homework where spelling assignments are clearly outlined.  Without reading the homework packet it is difficult to understand what has been assigned.  They get to choose their spelling assignment from a list of options – write the words, rainbow words, spelling city, among other options.  Andre, realizing that he didn’t do a week’s worth of spelling sent him into tizzy panicking that he’d have to cram that morning.  Not having the energy to deal with any of it, I wrote an apologetic note to his teacher begging for forgiveness, explaining my absence and Dad’s confusion.  The other two are responsible for their homework for the most part with little parental involvement.  Andre still needs to be managed.  His logic is that he goes to school six hours a day, five days a week.  Why is there homework?  Why do you have to do work five days a week, and weekend are only two days?  Got me kid, do your homework and change the world.

While away, I take comfort in knowing that life goes on without me.  Sure there are logistic issues we can not avoid and moments of delirium, but the male bonding (running around in their underwear, manners flying out the window, and not eating any vegetables) in true Animal House fashion is a good release for them.

Plus, they each realize that they miss me in their own way as I miss them while I am away.


Activity Bliss and Juggle September 18, 2013

As if my seventh grader didn’t have enough issues with starting a new school and having a bum left knee and tweaked IT band, now the poor boy has caught the same cold I was down with all weekend.

He’s limping, feeling sorry for himself, puffy watery eyes and snot-dripping nose.  A pitiful sight only a mother could love. House rules is immediate quarantine to your bedroom and enjoy every book on your bookshelf.  No video games, even if FIFA 14 just came out.

He will start physical therapy on his left leg next week.  Soccer is on hold until he is able to run, and breathe it seems.

Rest up, my child, and get well soon.

One down, the other two boys are unphased and bouncing off the walls.  This week they begin their activities (can I get a hallelujah?).  We delayed their start to make sure school started smoothly, we knew the homework load and just to buy us some time.  Let’s be real.

Our 9-year-old does not like to run or chase a ball.  He likes movies. playing with his mini-zoo and talking with friends. Finding something he’s interested in has always been a challenge.  Gymnastics has been a good outlet for him in the past and he starts tomorrow at a new gym.  The highlight of his week will be Saturday when he takes his first-ever archery class.  His goal is to be a target marksman, not a bow hunter.  The one time his dad took him hunting he cried and cried over the poor bunny getting shot.  Even telling the story was brutal.  He ate the rabbit though, no issue there, he just doesn’t want to witness the killing.

We have banned our 7-year-old from archery.  He thinks he’s ready, he’s excited and he wants a crossbow (on sale now at Big 5 he pointed out in today’s flyer – thank goodness I got rid of the Cabela’s ad before he saw it) and wants to hunt.  For no other reason than to pace ourselves (for everyone’s safety) we are making him wait until he is 10. Again, buying ourselves time.  Instead, he gets his “lifelong wish” (really, he said that) to join “Club Scouts.”  Yes, Club Scouts.  His old school had Club Scouts but we boycotted because we weren’t up for it.  Welcome to the world of four children.  Now, faced with crossbow training or Club Scouts, Club Scouts wins.  He is excited for the meet and greet tomorrow night because cake will be served.  As if there are not enough of baked goods in our house at any given time.  He knows it’s Cub Scouts, , but I let him call it Club Scouts about 50 times first before we set him straight – there are only so many little kid moments left in my house.  For his second activity, he wants to go to Sky High and jump on the trampolines for an hour every week.  I’m planning to join in the fun and take a SkyRobics class while he’s playing and occupied.  I’m all about killing two birds, with a stone, not a crossbow.

The fun doesn’t stop there.  University application submittals start next week for our nearly 19-year-old.  Upcoming trips to Toronto, Cincinnati, Newark/NYC and Chicago are in my immediate future too.

All of our activities are Monday through Thursday and Saturday.  Friday is our family movie night.  Sunday is our family adventure day.  My husband and I divide and conquer to manage schedule overlaps.  Dinners are moved up to accommodate the schedule so we retain our sacred tradition of having dinner together at home with mostly homemade food with a few insta-fixes in the cupboard or freezer in case of emergency.  Just wait until you see the October menu (with recipes this time).

Our plan really looks great and manageable on paper.  Let’s hope everything falls into place as the events take place.

I hope your kids’ activities are going well, their business gives you bliss and your juggle isn’t making you lose your mind.


Attack of the Grandmas and Grandpas September 12, 2013

Spokane has an incredible amount of restaurants.  Not the corporate chain dining variety either, though that type is here too.  The restaurants in Spokane are primarily independent restaurants, some family owned, some just a chef and a dream.  Because there are so many restaurants, we have decided no repeat visits unless the restaurant is unanimously agreed to by our family as absolutely terrific. Not many unanimously pass the test as we have a diverse batch of taste buds in our family fivesome.

Tonight was not a planned dinner out, but it was 95 degrees today, Vince was busy, so the boys and I decided to venture out and grab a meal.  Andre was on a one way path directed straight for a chicken pot pie.  The trick is, finding a chicken pot pie is not so easy the final days of summer.   There’s this little restaurant near our house that had a yelp review as a “Grandma restaurant”. If any place would have pot pie on the menu, this would be my best shot.  

A Grandma’s restaurant it was indeed!  Wall to wall silver hair matched the wall to wall industrial carpet.  My boys were the youngest in the room.

Two minutes before walking in the door and they were messing around and driving me batty.  Then, we walk in, all the old eyes looked our way and bip-bam-boom, the boys pulled their acts together and fell in line.  Old lady hands reached out to them to say hello as they walked by and my boys were kind and considerate and loudly spoke hello.  Once one lady got a handshake, the whole row we passed held out a hand or patted them on the back.

The boys’ eyes were as big as saucers when we finally got to our table, asking me what kind of place is this? Andre commented “This restaurant is full of grandmas and grandpas!”  Of course I’m laughing and telling them it is the best restaurant ever.

The need for pot pie vanished as Andre’s love for dinosaur chicken reigned supreme.  Really?  I’ve left the comfort of my home for dinosaur chicken?  All entrees came with peaches, pears or green beans if that is any indication of the menu selection.

There was a table of three ladies that walked in right before us.  They only ordered dessert and the boys were impressed with their choices and could hardly wait to finish their meal.  Like a cafeteria, this restaurant served anything pre-made, canned or frozen and reheated.  Even their pies were purchased across the street from the grocery store. 

In spite of my years of hard kitchen labor to produce incredible dinners, my boys loved their meals. Our dinner took longer than usual to eat as every time a group got up to leave, they purposefully walked by our table to say that they had been admiring my boys, or what good boys I have or to tell them to be good to their mom (my personal favorite).  All the grandpas shook the boys hands or patted their backs and the grandmas squeezed their shoulders or tousled their hair.  By the end of our meal, the boys were forewarning each other “Here they come behind Niko,” “on your left, Trace.”

The boys then ordered dessert – the Brownie Thrill – a brownie with ice cream and a ridiculous amount of whipped cream piled high.  This sent the old folks into a tizzy and gave them such joy to watch the boys mow down their treats.

When we finally “escaped,” the boys all agreed we would never go back.  I think I found my favorite new restaurant.  Not for the food, that’s for certain, but for the ambience and entertainment, albeit torture, for my boys.  Attack of the Grandmas and Grandpas is the best.


Emotional Rollercoaster September 3, 2013

Filed under: Family — multihyphenatedme @ 9:15 pm
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This summer, in its entirety, has been an emotional rollercoaster.  Moving, of course, brought a flood of emotions.  The kids had to learn to allow themselves to have fun and not feel guilty for loving their new home as their emotions conflicted with missing their friends.  Their sister, our daughter, visiting and leaving brought waves of emotion.  The anticipation of their friend arriving and the sadness when he departed, left us all a mess. Why then am I surprised that back to school should bring anything else but a loop-de-loop, full range of emotion?

Back to school morning started great.  Everyone woke up right on time, charged with excitement, and devoured puff pancakes for breakfast. They went through their list of morning responsibilities and rituals until they found themselves waiting in the entryway a full 20 minutes early.  Yet when I suggested we take pictures out front to utilize our spare time, the boys monkeyed around and tortured me with their silliness while I begged for one straight-faced photo.  My husband joined in on their antics and they all mucked around.  If you can’t beat them, trick them.  I was able to capture the photos I did by telling them I took the photo, then snapping while they were laughing at their hijinks.


Though we had fun this morning, our youngest was visibly nervous.  Very clingy and needy, he verbally said he was scared.  He said “I don’t even know where the trash can is.”  I guess the bathrooms weren’t as important as the trash can.

I walked the boys to the elementary school and my husband dropped our son off at middle school. The boys and I were the one of the first to arrive on campus and went straight to their classrooms.  Arriving early gave me time in each class to talk with both teachers who were great and funny and kind, everything I want them to be.  I couldn’t help but feel choked up when I walked out of the school.

The Parent Teacher Group (PTG) had a coffee meet and greet at the school entrance once school started but I didn’t stay.  While waiting for the meet and greet to start, I tried to engage with some of the parents, asking questions, letting them know I am new to the school, without connecting with anyone longer than a few moments.  I missed my friends, I missed being known on campus and being part of the school community.  I took my pity party home.  The good thing about taking a vacation, work needed me.  My friends and family checking in throughout the day helped me too.  Thank you.

I missed the kids but I truly enjoyed the silence of my house today.  Until 3 PM when the boys returned.  Our seven-year old said it best about his classroom “There is a percent rule about no talking.”  Good thing we’re back at school, hopefully we’ll work on percentages.  No talking at school means plenty of jibber jabber all afternoon whether anyone was listening or not. Lots of news to report from all three.  Middle school apparently is cool and has the best lunch.  “Good,” I said “be motivated to go to school for lunch.”  No friends made yet, but he likes his classes.  Our youngest found the trash can and did enough good deeds to earn an extra recess.  Our fourth grader made 5 solid friends and is on his way.

Day one done.