Back to School!

Apples for School!

It’s that time again! Time for children to go back to school! Today, child #4 will be moving into a spot for the week at school. Thursday, child #1 will be returning for the senior year of college! Whew! How did that happen? I am not old enough to have a senior in college!!! Goodness gracious!!!!

I have always been a stationery girl, and by that I mean that I love new notebooks, beautiful pens, and clicky pencils. There is nothing more exciting than writing that first line in a new notebook. The possibility of it all!!! I just love how my neat handwriting just marches across the page. I am a total nerd when it comes to my favorite type of pen! Didn’t know you could have a favorite type of pen, did you? Yup. I’m that girl!

I guess it’s the new year with fresh possibilities. “Tomorrow is fresh with no mistakes in it,” is a quote from Kevin Sullivan’s production of “Anne of Green Gables” that I absolutely love. It captures the expectancy of a new day, or in my case, a new school year.

Things will look a little different this year, with child #3 attending the local high school, with many helps for her many problems. Child #4 will be attending another local school. Child #1 will be going back to college, though who knows for how long, if they shut it down due to COVID-19. Child #2 is taking a gap year, and will be the one home. I am trying desperately to get a job, preferably at home, but so far, no joy.

We will see how things go. I am nervous about having child #3 back, as she has been spending time in a group home and learning how to deal with her diagnoses. She wants so hard to be back home and love us, and I want to believe her, but I know how she can be when she doesn’t get her way. This is why we’re scared.

Other than that, things are moving along. We are cleaning and fixing things and generally getting everything in order for us. Life keeps going, even if we wish we could jump off the merry-go-round for a while. We just have to hang on tight and enjoy the ride!

Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow: A Good-bye to My Dearest Dairy

Parting is not sweet, just sorrow.

I have bad news. It is not the worst news in the world, but it is plenty bad for me. The other night, I was enjoying a large raspberry milkshake from our favorite drive-in eatery. It was awesome – so creamy and rich and rasberrylicious! YUUUUUMMMMM!!!! I enjoyed it greatly on the way down. Not so much later when I saw it in reverse. I apologize for the gruesome description, but it was a desperate time for me. It took a while for me to recover, as I rarely (except in rare cases of stomach flu) actually spend that kind of quality time with my bathroom.

When I did recover, I figured out what the problem was. Though I had taken my lactase enzyme pills (only two) I should have taken more. It was a rather large, large shake. Well, I may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I am by no means a butter knife! So this is it. I am saying farewell to dairy. I have given dairy up in the past and, although I find it difficult (especially during Lent!) it is not impossible. I will just have to find more inventive ways for the foods I love to be dairy free.

Get ready! I am working on some chocolate, chocolate chip cookies with a twist. They will be dairy free and I can’t wait to get rid of all the kinks. As soon as the Fall weather arrives, I should be in better position to bake and get those recipes to you! For now, you will have to make due with my whimsical writings about creative adventures in floor coverings or how to cook dinner with only one stove burner. Yes, folks, this can be done!

So, enjoy your week, and we’ll be talking to you soon!

A Delicate Matter

I want to talk about something today that we haven’t talked about before. It’s a subject that needs to be discussed, but people are afraid to bring it up. It’s considered shameful, but there is nothing of which to be ashamed. What am I talking about? Child to parent violence or CPV for short.

What is CPV and when does it occur? CPV is violence perpetrated against a parent by a child, usually a teenager (though some are younger.) Those parents who have been victimized by their children are ashamed that they have found themselves in this position. They should have figured out how to make their child behave long before said child got big enough to hurt them, right? Hmmm…there are extenuating circumstances, I’d guess. At least there are in my case.

Wait. What did I just say? That’s correct. I am a single mom of four, with a child who is extremely violent and likes to hurt me and her siblings. Child #3 has beaten, choked, kicked, bit, punched, broken my finger, and generally berated me in the most vile way possible. I can’t believe my sweet, stubborn little girl can turn into this monster who hurts not only me, but also her three siblings. She especially hates sibling #1 and is extremely violent toward him.

She has been in and out of hospitals for the past two and a half years for varying behaviors, from cutting, to suicide attempts, to trying to kill us. At one point last year, it took five police officers to hold her down. She’s that strong! She is a good 4 inches taller than me, the tallest in the house, not to mention at least 40 pounds heavier. I have no chance.

So, we call the police when things get out of hand with her. She can go from 0 to 60 in 0.2 seconds, so there is no heading off her angry tantrum. The county is involved, as is CPS, but they think I’m abusing her. What? Be prepared for this. For some reason, the county cannot imagine that a sweet, innocent child could possible hurt her parent. The parent must be abusing the child! The problem is, I’m not abusing my child. I am my child’s biggest advocate. I love my child; all my children. So, I am following their rules and trying to figure out who will actually believe me.

It is a horrible place to find myself, but it is somewhat common in children who experience violence at a young age. She did. My ex-husband was extremely abusive to all of us, but especially targeted her and her oldest sibling. They look similar, and I think that’s why. Not that any of us escaped his abuse, but for some reason, child #3 took it all to heart. She wasn’t old enough to refute it and I wasn’t a witness to it, so I couldn’t stand up for her. Heartbreaking.

Child #3 has many mental health diagnoses. The one I have the most trouble with now is the multiple personality diagnosis. It’s super troubling since she can go from being the sweetest, funniest, most charming child to an abusive horror so quickly and has seemingly no control over it. Keep in mind that her father abused her for the first nine years of her life and we still live in the same house, with no option of moving. The county needs to see that and realize that no one is abusing her now, but she still carries with her all of his abuse and the environment is the same, if not the abuse, so in her mind, she’s still being abused. She’s not, but she can’t see that. What’s more, she tells her therapist these things and the we’re the big, bad family, hurting her. It’s the opposite, but try getting CPS to listen once they’ve made up their minds.

Unfortunately, as a single mom, I am left to handle all of this by myself. Her father is not in the picture, as after all of his violence, he is not allowed to see her or her siblings. That’s ok, since the kids never want to see him again. Not that I think it would be a good idea for him to see any of them. They wouldn’t recover, and I’m pretty sure child #3 would kill him outright if given the chance. So, it’s better that no one sees him. I’ll let God deal with him!

So for now, I will try to do whatever I can for all of my children. I will protect children #s 1, 2, & 4 and try to help child #3. I will pray for someone to believe me and get help for us and for child #3. Please pray with me and thank you for listening. This happens more often than one thinks.

Waxing Poetic

Poetic Pic? Yes.

I felt like waxing poetic today, so here goes:

Yeah. I got nothing.

Why is it when I am nowhere near my computer, I can think of a million poetic thoughts, but as soon as I sit down with my keyboard, all poetic thoughts fly from me? Let’s try again:

I am a like lonely leaf, blowing along a deserted street.

Violently I am blown,

This way and that,

Until I am so far from where I started as to have no recognition of it.

I don’t want to repeat it, so I must remember.

I must instead be a tree,

Steady and strong.

A mother with roots, not a flailing leaf,

Not a child.

A woman,

A strong woman.

Vegan Mashed Potatoes

Vegan Mashed Potatoes

I have been giving a lot of thought to our vegan friends lately. You might realize how much I love dairy, and I do. Dairy, however, does not always love me. I have gone through periods where I don’t use any dairy (and oh does my body thank me!) and periods where I just cannot make myself bypass that piece of cheddar cheese or that scoop of frozen custard! Ah, yes…but I digress…

I was making dinner tonight, since child #1 has caught the cold that child #4 found last week. On my menu was Polish sausage, mashed potatoes, and a veggie of choice (I chose to have tomatoes and a cucumber from our garden since I have since foiled the thief by installing a few motion sensor lights and signs!!!) Mom wins again!!!!

So, here I am, tired as per usual, and definitely preferring to sit on the couch rather than to make dinner, but the sausages were defrosted and waiting. I really had no choice. Into the kitchen I went. I started by peeling potatoes, slicing them, and putting them on to boil. I then popped the sausages in a pan with a bit of water, onion and green pepper and put the lid on it. Here is what I did with the potatoes:

14 medium potatoes

Enough water to cover the potato slices

Peel the potatoes, rinse and slice them into even pieces. Pop them in the pot and pour in enough water to cover them. Boil them on medium – high heat until cooked enough to be pierced easily with a knife.

Drain the water from the potato pot. Add:

1 1/2 cups vegan “butter”

1 tsp. granulated onion

2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. black pepper

1/4 tsp. coconut milk

Mash the ingredients together with a potato masher until no lumps remain and everything is combined. Enjoy the wonderful, savory, creamy taste of awesome mashed potatoes!

Just a note: Child #2 said they were the best mashed potatoes she’d ever tasted, dairy-free or otherwise!!! Yay!

Best Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever

Our Chocolate Chip Cookies – Yum!!!

When I first became gluten-free, I was so sad to have to give up so much. Remember, it was only 2006, and no one really knew that much about celiac disease or the gluten-free diet yet. One of my most favorite cookies, was the chocolate chip cookie. Our family, like so many others, had the 1960-something version of the Betty Crocker Cookie Cookbook. The best chocolate chip cookies came from that cookbook.

When I set out to figure a chocolate chip cookie, I thought back to those buttery, chocolatey, nutily wonderful treats. Yum! This is a double recipe, since these disappear pretty much as soon as they’re baked! Here is what I found:

1 1/3 cup butter (no substitutes!)

1 cup sugar

1 cup packed brown sugar

2 eggs

2 tsp. vanilla

3 cups almond flour

2 cups tapioca starch

1 tsp. baking soda

1 Tbsp. xanthan gum

1/2 tsp. salt

1 cup chopped pecans

2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (or chocolate candies if you prefer – We used the candies this time!)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Farenheit.

Cream butter, sugars, eggs, and vanilla until thoroughly combined. Add almond flour, tapioca starch, xanthan gum, baking soda, and salt. Mix well. Add in chopped pecans and chocolate chips (or chocolate candies) and mix until incorporated. They should look like this:

Cookie dough!!!!

Drop dough onto parchment-paper lined pan by teaspoonfuls and bake six minutes, or until almost done. Cool on pan for five minutes minimum and remove to rack to finish cooling. Enjoy!

Variations:

If you would like to try something different, feel free to mix up your flavoring or even the type of chocolate you’re using. If you choose to do a flavoring other than vanilla, make sure to still add 1 tsp. of vanilla and then add 1 tsp. of your chosen flavoring. Good options are raspberry, orange, almond, or coffee. As for the chocolate choices, you have many options. Perhaps your favorite candy? The options are many.

Chicken Noodle Soup for the Win!

After a day the noodles take on a life of their own and you will need to add more water, but it’s still yummy!

I do not like chicken noodle soup. Aside from the Campbell’s of my childhood, which my mother used to say they waved a chicken over since there was so little chicken in the actual soup! When I was a St. Mary’s for grade school, the cook would make pb&j sandwiches with Campbell’s chicken noodle soup. I always liked that. However, when mom home made chicken soup, I was not a fan. I preferred beef soup. I finally figured out why.

Chicken, as opposed to beef, has a very mild flavor. That’s why people say “Tastes like chicken!” about everything from snake to alligator. I wouldn’t know, since I’ve never had snake nor alligator. I have, however, eaten lots of chicken. My apologies to the vegans and vegetarians out there. So, in making my soup, I needed to find some flavor. My mother preferred garlic. I do not.

So, I set out on my chicken-noodle soup journey with spicing in mind. Here is what I came up with:

One medium sized stock pot (about 6 – 8 quarts)

3 – 4 pounds bone-in chicken (you may use six thighs, as I did, a whole chicken, or parts thereof, as long as it has the bones. You want that lovely bone broth!

2 medium sized onions, peeled, quartered, and sliced

1 gallon water

2 Tbsp. turmeric (the secret ingredient!!!)

3 Tbsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

2 cans petite diced tomatoes in their juices

1 lb. of gf dry brown rice noodles (I used elbows, but have used fussili in the past.)

Start by placing the chicken or chicken parts in the stockpot with the sliced onions. Pour the gallon of water over the chicken and start cooking it over medium – high heat. Keep an eye on it that it does not boil over and let it simmer with the lid on, until the chicken is falling off the bones (about 2 – 3 hours.)

Pull the chicken out of the pot and let rest on a plate to cool. To the pot add the turmeric, salt, pepper, tomatoes, and noodles. Turn heat down to low and stir occasionally until noodles are plump and cooked through (about 10 minutes.)

When the chicken is cool, debone it. Take the meat that you removed from the bones, ripping it into bite-sized pieces, and put it back in the pot. Stir together with the broth mixture and enjoy.

This week child #4 caught a cold and, generous her, she shared it! So, I was looking for something hearty and soothing for her sore throat and also to kick out the cold. Chicken noodle soup for the win it was! Child #2 especially appreciated it, when she came down with the cold! Hope you are all staying healthy and that you love this chicken noodle soup as much as we do!

A Remembrance of Goodbye

My Dad.

Today is the anniversary of the day that my daddy left this world nine years ago. I got the call as I was making a dinner of hamburgers. Mom had thought dad was upstairs sleeping before dinner, as was his custom. She had been working on the computer, answering emails, etc. when it became time to make supper. She came up from the family room and started preparations.

When dinner was ready, she called upstairs for dad. He didn’t answer. It was then that she noticed the front door wasn’t latched. Dad had installed the latch so my young niece wouldn’t get out and wander by herself on the farm. Mom looked out the screen door and saw dad lying by the barn, a gas can tipped over next to him. He was going to fill up the tractor so he could cut the lawn the next day. It was Sunday.

She immediately called me and I started out toward the farm. She then called the sheriff. Since my dad had a heart condition, she requested there be no autopsy. What was the point? He was 83 years old. He had lived 33 years past that first heart attack.

From what we can figure, dad must have gotten one of his dizzy/tired spells and sat down to rest. He fell over when his spirit left him and knocked the gas can over with him. He died just a few yards from where he fell shoveling snow all those years before.

When I drove down the long driveway, the sheriff and coroner vehicles were blocking where I usually parked, so I was forced to drive around the circle to park by the machine shop; past dad. All I could think was, “Oh, dad…” I knew I would miss him, though I also knew he was oh so tired. He was ready to go home.

Arrangements were made quickly, and while everything went according to plan, nothing could fill the void of his absence. Child #1 was extremely devastated. She idolized my dad. He was her hero, as her father never could have been. She played her viola for the Mass and it was truly beautiful. Dad was so proud of her.

All these years later, I still remember that it was only child #3 and I that cried, actually sobbed, at his funeral. The other three were too terrified to make a sound, as they were sitting near their father. J and I just bawled. My mother never shed a tear. Not then, nor ever. I’m not sure I ever forgave her for that, but in her mind, she was given the gift of an extra 33 years after his first heart attack, so why cry?

So, here we are, nine years later. Child #1 is now an official adult. Child #2 is also an official adult. Children #’s 3 and 4 are partway through their teenage years and it is going well for one and not so well for the other. Such is life. “This too shall pass,” as dad used to say.

Just a little note about my dad. My sister did a wonderful job of the memory boards for his funeral. There were so many great shots of my dad, including the one where he had tucked his blue plaid pj pants into his socks, donned a hat, and pretended to be golfing in the kitchen hallway. Oh, and one other pic of note: one where he is surrounded by his grandchildren and trying to teach them something. What is he trying to teach them? Only to play poker! That was truly dad!

Have a blessed day and hold your loved ones close. You have no idea when God will call them home. Love you, dad!

Friends?

Dad with children #’s 1 & 3 a few years back.

I have always made friends easily. In fact, that is one of the things that employers find best about me. As an administrator I am outgoing and cheerful; almost endlessly optimistic. This is not an act. I am these things. Why? Let’s start at the beginning.

When I was a child, I quickly learned that the world was out to get us. We, the poor, I mean. My dad had his first heart attack in the horrible winter of 1979. I remember getting a pillow for his head after our snow-plow man carried him across to the house from the barn, where he had fallen shoveling snow, and laid him on our kitchen floor, with it’s fake, red-tile brick flooring. My older sister freaked out and wouldn’t retrieve a pillow from the living room couch for his head and so I ran to do it. The pillow was tan. I can see the scene vividly in my mind to this day. I was four.

My father recovered, slowly, but then was struck by another heart attack in May. His doctor warned us that if he had another, he wouldn’t make it. We were seven and four respectively, and all I could think of was loosing my daddy. No child should ever have to go through that. I don’t remember much from that time, besides the pillow-fetching, but the little grey stuffed dog my dad purchased in the hospital gift shop; one for me and one for my sister. I still have Drooper Dog.

Ahh…but I digress. Since my father was out of commission on the work front and my mother felt ill-equipped to return to office work as while she had been away having and raising my sister and I, computers had come in, and she had no training in them whatsoever, we were forced to live on very strict means. Treats that my children take for granted, were few and far between for us.

Our Barbies were an inclusive group, including ones that my grandfather (my father’s father) deemed had been “in the war” because of our puppy, Yoshi’s, tendency to find their feet, legs, arms, and even heads, a delectable delicacy. Our Barbies had a wheelchair before Matel ever thought to make one. My dad fashioned it of spare wood. It was amazing and it rolled seemlessly.

I always knew that my dad had a gift for talking to people and making friends. Everyone liked the usher in the funny suits (resale shop finds, or ones used car salesmen couldn’t use anymore!) with the big personality. It was an act with him. He was a very angry, bitter, depressed man. He was always trying to figure out everyone’s “angle” and could never accept that anyone just wanted to do good. He would never take charity, though we were very poor. He was a proud man.

For Christmas, we received things that my parents had bought and fixed up (though we didn’t know it at the time) and reveled in the baby furniture or dollhouse or whatever lovely things they got us. We never knew that money was a problem at Christmas. At other times during the year my mom would spill out her money troubles to me and I would try to be sympathetic, though I was a child. But at Christmas, it was magical.

We lived on a small farm, surrounded by evergreens and deciduous trees. The setting was idyllic. My family, as most, was dysfunctional. Dad was strict and violent. We tiptoed in fear of what might be coming. On the other hand, he could be goofy, and so much fun! It’s hard to reconcile those two images to the same man, but there you go. My mother would make us sit on “the settle” bench in the kitchen when we did something wrong in an effort to control us and not alert dad that some crime had been committed. If I heard it once, I heard it a thousand times, her telling my sister (the loudmouth who did not know when to quit!) that she would be getting a much worse punishment if it wouldn’t alert dad and send him into a tailspin.

I can’t really blame my dad for how he was. He had a terrible childhood. His mother was but a teenager when she married his father. She had four children that lived past infancy, though one of the boys drowned as a child while my dad watched and couldn’t get to him. Add to that the fact that his father was a violent alcoholic, who would pull dad from a dead sleep to beat the hell out of him, just because he could. How do you get over something like that?

To the day he died, my dad woke up swinging. You learned to call him for dinner from afar. I only stood too close once, and I learned to never do it again. When he realized what he almost did, he apologized and explained to never wake him standing too close to the side of the bed.

Since my father’s generation did not believe in therapy, he really couldn’t heal, though I believe he did find God and that helped him, he was a very negative person. I would say, “Dad, the sky is so blue today! Isn’t it pretty?” and he would reply with, “we’re supposed to get a storm tonight.” It was disheartening to say the least. How could one stay positive in such a situation?

So, here’s my point: You see what you choose to see. It’s that glass half empty or half full thing again. If things are going badly, praise God, and know that He has a magnificent plan for you. If things are going well, praise God, and know that He has a magnificent plan for you. In all things – PRAISE GOD!!! THIS is where your joy comes from and that is no act!

Have I had bad things happen to me in my life? Yes. Awful, terrible things. Has God always been there. Absolutely. He cries with me when I’m sad and holds me when I’m inconsolable and rejoices with me when I am filled with joy!

So, what do friends have to do with this? I have had some terrific friends, and I have had some “friends” that end up hurting me. Sometimes they’re there for a season, when I need them most, and other times, they’re there for a lifetime. Some friends can’t handle my “drama.” Ok. Did I ask for a dramatic life? Don’t I want life to settle down so I can breathe? Of course. I’m not an idiot!

This is the life I was so graciously given by God. I have yet to figure out all of it. In fact, I’m pretty sure I never will. And that’s ok. I will continue to live in the way that I think pleases God. If I am down on myself or life, well that happens sometimes. If I am so very pleased, well that happens too. It’s a roller coaster ride, isn’t it? What makes a difference is who you take on the journey!