Monday, January 30, 2012

Have A Heart

Ever since getting our labradoodle three years ago, I have become obsessed with 'doodles' and all their playful, fluffy quirkiness.  Just before purchasing our dog, Phoebe, from her breeder, I logged onto the computer to search for information on the breed and stumbled upon an amazing social networking site dedicated to doodles (  I now spend more time than I should be admitting to on the site chatting with 'cyber-friends' all about our dogs and various and sundry other fun topics.  There is a section on the site dedicated to the wonderful work of the DRC (Doodle Rescue Collective), an organization which rescues doodles from families who can no longer care for their dogs because of illness or financial reasons.  The volunteers also remove dogs from high kill shelters or other terrible conditions and life-threatening situations.  This amazing organization then finds fosters who care for the dogs, help with their training, make sure they receive medical care and, perhaps most importantly, love these dogs as if they were their own until 'forever homes' can be found.

It breaks my heart to read the stories about the dogs and how they had the misfortune to land in these terrible conditions through no fault of their own.  I try to help the cause by donating money and by posting some of the listings on other social networking sites in an effort to get the dogs placed as quickly as possible, but it never seems as if I am doing enough.  Dog ownership is a huge responsibility but its benefits far outweigh the effort when you get to play, walk and cuddle your furry friend and companion.  There are many breed-specific rescue groups out there doing wonderful work for their cause so, if you or someone you know is in the market for a furry family member, please consider adopting and becoming a forever family to one of these will be rewarded by their unconditional love for a lifetime.

Friday, January 27, 2012


Last year, my son was the lighting manager in the MS play but this year he decided to try out for a part.  I was impressed as being on stage is way outside his comfort zone but he studied the lines, tried out and got the part he had wanted.  I love the fact that he challenges himself and does not make either fear or a good case of nerves rule his life. The cast and crew have been working diligently for over a month now making scenery and studying lines, all the while trying to get homework finished in any spare moment of downtime. Through many hours of rehearsal and a grueling final rehearsal week schedule,  my son has managed to maintain his grades, finish his homework and work on the play which is quite an accomplishment for a middle schooler, all without breakdowns--his or mine.

Tonight is showtime, so get out there, 'break a leg' and know how very proud of you I am!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

What Would A French Mom Do?

This morning I read a very interesting article about the differences between French and American moms and their parenting styles.  Clearly, the French are doing something right.  Apparently, according the the author, French moms do not experience guilt when they make parental decisions plus they keep their own interests in the forefront, not those of their children.  Huh?  You mean a French mom would not spend hours driving her children to various sports practices, regardless of the distance, the time or weather--nothing beats a good baseball game in triple digit night, right?  Would a French mom grab a brioche and a latte in a trendy little air-conditioned bistro instead?  Plus, she would not be guilt-ridden afterward? Impressive and way beyond this American mom's grasp.  Adding insult to injury,  French women know how to eat well but maintain their figures, their fashion sense is au courant but seemingly effortless, their accent sublime and now I am told they can parent without guilt and their children grow up to be self-sufficient, independent thinkers. Vive la France!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Lunch Interrupted

I awoke feeling a little anxious today--okay, full-on crazed what with a very busy week ahead--so I decided to indulge in a little comfort food for lunch.  Now by no means am I a stranger to indulging in food, but lunch has never been a favorite of mine so I can easily get by on some rice or a salad and I am good to go. As I was doing my usual chores, I was contemplating (okay, fantasizing) about what 'really bad for my hips' lunch I was going to prepare when it hit me!  I wanted a big, open-faced grilled cheese sandwich--not one of those mundane white bread/plastic American cheese kiddie grilled types, though I have been known to enjoy those as well on bad days. I needed the grown-up version.  The only way to go today was to choose a big, thick slice of really crusty sourdough bread, broil it on each side to ensure it would be super crunchy and then top it off with a couple of thick slices of peppery Monterey Jack cheese which I planned to melt until they were bubbly and brown.  Yum.

I went out to buy the components of my sandwich and counted the minutes until my decidedly very early lunch.  My 'cheesy bread' did not disappoint; it was sheer perfection, a molten masterpiece, if I do say so myself.  Then, the phone rang.  I had to answer as it was a call I had been waiting for and could not postpone.  I stared at my lunch longingly and even toyed with the idea of biting off a piece but opted not to as the crunching sound would certainly have been deafening, not to mention lacking in etiquette.  I made the call as brief as possible but then another call flashed in and I was thwarted yet again.  This call went a little longer than I had hoped and by the time I got to eat my lunch it was a cold, congealed, sorry slab of a former meal with delicious potential.  The moral of my story is that the next time I decide to treat myself for lunch, I am taking myself out and leaving my cell phone home!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

What's For Dinner?

I need an elf.  Seriously.  Perhaps it is the fifteen to twenty loads of clothes I wash each and every week without a break--not even on Christmas or Mother's Day--or maybe it is the fact that my teenager asks what we are having for dinner before we even eat breakfast each morning that I am feeling a tad over-burdened with responsibility these days.  I would love it if someone asked me what I wanted for dinner as opposed to what I will be serving that evening. 

Can you imagine the sheer joy of having an elf--a wonderful little imp who would sneak around and get things done for you?  A little 'doer' who would see a need--say a cluttered countertop or a meal to be made--and 'poof,' she would accomplish the task without argument or hassle and with no expectation of thanks. Sadly, it seems my cries for an elf have gone unanswered today so I suppose the question of what's for dinner awaits an answer from me but I certainly hope I get some elfin inspiration though!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Minus What?

My brain is frozen--not in a state of inertia but rock-solid frozen from the cold.  I am just back from a mile plus walk with my dog in minus 33 degree weather (with wind chill, of course, because the straight temperature is a balmy minus 16).  You know it is cold when your face freezes the minute you leave the confines of your garage or when your poor pup has to bunny hop in the grass to keep her paws from icing over.  I remember my glory days of living on the east coast when freezing temperatures meant one or two degrees below 32 degrees and, boy, we even complained about it.  Now, 32 degrees is a sign that we need to unbox the short-sleeved shirts and break out the shorts.  I simply cannot get over the fact that I am walking and functioning in a temperature that is colder than the inside of my freezer!

My pup is one of a litter of ten and all of her siblings were adopted by families in either Arkansas (her home state) or Tennessee.  While I am certain Phoebe knows that she could not have been chosen by a family who could love her more, she is also acutely aware of the fact that she chose the short-straw when it comes to the weather.  I recently saw some photos of a couple of Phoebe's siblings in adorable little life jackets, basking in the sun on their owner's boat.  Though I talk to Phoebe constantly, after today's walk, I think I might just keep that bit of information to myself!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

I've Been Wondering...

What are the odds that 2012 will be a turn around year for my family?  If we look at the past two years, I would say that the odds might be against us and yet something 'feels' different about this new year.  I can assure you that nothing has changed enough to make me feel confident that 2012 might bring about big changes, but I just cannot deny that there seems to be an air of difference, a turning of the tide, if you will.

So, I've been wondering if this itchy feeling I have been having--you know, I cannot sit still in my brain, I need to 'do something' but I have no idea what it is that needs doing--might be a foretelling of something good about to happen.  Dare I wish for it?  Dare I take the chance to embrace optimism and give myself fully to the opportunity it might bring?  I think I might have to scratch the itch and see if we finally get some relief.

Monday, January 16, 2012


My grandma passed away one year ago today at 97 years old.  Having had her with us that long did not ease the pain of losing her at all as she was here so much longer for us to love.  I think it may have made it harder, in fact.  Gran, as I called her, was born Carmella Focarile but she despised her given name; she was always called Mildred or Millie.  We lived in a two-family house in NY and Gran was my constant companion--being an only child, I had her all to myself and she was a fabulous playmate.  No matter what she was doing, be it cleaning, washing or cooking her sensational meals, she always made time for me.  She never grew tired of my constant questions and yammering about this doll or that book, what she was doing, how we might spend the day or any other of my youthful ramblings.  She taught me how to do everything from reading to cooking and cleaning and she was there for every milestone in my life.  Without a doubt, she is the person who has influenced my life the most and the person whose opinion mattered the most to me.  I never questioned if her love was unconditional because she showed me each and every day that it was.  The greatest compliment my husband gives me is when he calls me "Little Millie."  I could not be more proud.

Gran, a year may have transpired but there has not been a day that has gone by when I do not think about you, talk about you to the children or miss you.  If I could be half the woman you were, then I would have truly accomplished something in my life.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Tests, Tests and More Tests

We are in the midst of high school finals week and, believe me, it is not a week we enter into lightly. There are lots of tears and gnashing of teeth and then, when I am finally calm, the real studying begins.  You know there is a lot of stress because most of the conversations I have had with my son recently revolve around topics such as 'uber-mensch' and its possible application,  C.S. Lewis' philosophy on moral law and Punnet Squares.  My brain hurts.

Because there are two tests per day, I have the benefit of eating lunch with my son for the three days of finals.  Yesterday, as I sat across from my 'almost-man' (no, I suppose I never did believe he would grow up this quickly) as he expounded upon the the differences between moral and natural law, I could not help but think back to when he was just a newborn and how terrified I was that I might break him or worse, somehow ruin his life forever by making some poor parenting choice.  I remember standing and watching him through the one-way mirror at his preschool silently mouthing (but screaming inside) 'play' as he stood in the center of the room questioning why I had left him there alone.  I continued to watch him each time I dropped him off, praying that this time he would engage, make a friend, at least do something instead of just standing there.  Finally, the day before Thanksgiving (yes, folks, my darling baby boy subjected me to this form of  mommy torture for that long), he left the center of the room and started playing and I knew he would be fine.  Now as we discuss his study strategy for the rest of finals and he tries to engage me in one of his theoretical discussions on moral law, I have proof that he is just that--fine.  No, he is just perfect to me.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


Last night, my son, an Ambassador at his school's recent Open House, came to me unsettled about a caustic commentary a man who had attended the event had written about our school. He attacked our school's philosophy, a few teachers along the way, our students and the unsuspecting moms who had volunteered to help out at the event.   There was an amazing outpouring of comments on this man's blog from teachers, students, alumni and parents--all written from a point of intellect, feeling and religious conviction.  I questioned whether I would also respond, but I am choosing to not justify his invectives with a comment of my own on his blog.

That said, I am not impressed with people who intentionally set out to be incendiary for the sake of riling people up but whose accusations are baseless (or, in this case, gleaned from a mere two hour open house visit). I have not been known to walk away from a good verbal sparring, but I want the basis for my debates to be honest, real and valid-- not created for self-promotion as clearly was done in this case.  While I am not a medical doctor, I am a pretty decent armchair psychiatrist and I feel that people such as this suffer from an affliction called Pompous Pseudo-Intellectual Syndrome (PPIS for short).  Unfortunately, while there is no cure for PPIS, the issue can be helped by a heavy dose of humility and a follow-up mental exercise in trying to understand why enjoyment is found in this type of flagrant attention-seeking behavior. Hopefully, all PPIS sufferers can get the help the truly need.  

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Extreme Green

Last night, I read an article about a family whose entire output of garbage for one year fit into a medium-sized glass jar.  No, I do not spend my evenings scouring 'green' magazines for ideas but, instead, am prone to a more guilty pleasure of checking out what celebrities are wearing or getting a serious dose of upcoming fashion trends.  It was in one of 'those' magazines that I found this particular article.  I am trying not to be overly judgmental and given that my personal carbon footprint would be Big Foot-sized if not for my husband's chiding, but this does seem a tad extreme (bordering on downright impossible for regular folk, no?).  To be honest, my seeming lack of regard for the environment stems less from wanting to think about future generations and more from my own OCD tendencies and overall distaste for anything piling up or waiting to be saved for recycling.  I also cannot imagine taking glass jars to stores to be filled up with food nor could I ever wear second-hand clothes no matter how many times I had washed them before wearing them.  The thought of a compost heap in my yard with lots of 'good, earth-friendly worms' only makes for horrific nightmares for me instead of the  organically grown produce this mom lovingly grew at her house.  While I certainly applaud this family's efforts, I think I will continue to keep candy in my jars and garbage in our large garbage can and try not get too annoyed at my husband when he takes cans out of the garbage and washes them for recycling.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

What's For Dinner?

A few weeks ago, my double wall ovens decided that they wanted their chance at annoying me, too, since my family was having so much fun with it.  Both of them decided that they needed the rest that I so longed for, so they stopped working rather than forging on ahead as I have been known to do despite exhaustion.  To be honest, I was annoyed by their surprise death as they had shown no signs of illness the night before.  I called the repairman and was told that the part needed to be ordered and so began our foray into a week of stove top meals. Chili, crab cakes, Mexican chicken and pasta with meat sauce. You name it and I made it all over rice or pasta-carb heaven.

I looked so forward to today when my ovens would be brought back to the land of the living and I could make cupcakes.  I needed a cupcake!  But, alas, there would be no cupcake making today as my poor ovens have yet to be resuscitated.  I was told we would need yet another part and...wait for will take yet another week to arrive.  As I was pouring over websites for new and exciting stove top recipes, I could not shake the feeling that my once dutiful ovens were pretty happy with this nice respite from constant use.  But the worst part of all is that I don't get to make those stinking cupcakes and I really need a cupcake today!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Today Is Your Birthday!

Yes, I have become a crazy dog person. C'mon, you know the type of person I am talking about, we all do.  While I do not wear clothes emblazoned with puppies wearing bows (okay, I do have one shirt that has a doodle on it and says 'It's all about the doodle' but I only wear it in the house), I do talk incessantly to Phoebe, our labradoodle, and I ask her questions and wait for an answer. I have been known to dress her up for Halloween and buy her multiple gifts from 'Santa' (I get annoyed if one of the children mentions it in front of her, lest it spoil the surprise). I also believe that her birthday should be celebrated with full abandon. So, since today is her 3rd birthday, I am dedicating this blog to her for all the joy she has brought us since her arrival on that cold night in March a few years back.  She flew all the way from Arkansas--during a rogue but dangerous ice storm--to Dallas and then into our arms.  Her quirky demeanor has brightened many a gray day for us and she deserves for this day to be special.  The gifts are bought and wrapped and her party hat is ready for her photo op tonight-we are ready to celebrate. Happy birthday, Phoebe!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Post-holiday Blues

All that time and planning and in a mere week we have put Christmas behind us, turned a calendar page to a new year and we are now readying ourselves for the return to school (and homework, tests, finals, play practice, choir, baseball tryouts, First Reconciliation and the usual weekly activities...and this is only January, the pace picks up as we near spring). I love the holiday season and always swear to pay more attention to enjoying the preparations but, I fall far short of my expectations and then I am always a little sad when I did not find the time to do all that I had planned or to have captured every moment.

As I type this entry, the wind is howling, a constant reminder that there is a lot of winter still ahead.  That knowledge certainly does nothing to improve my already melancholic mood, but it does make me long for summer all the more.