Family Photos

It has become quite clear…grandparents, aunts and uncles don’t share our humor. In fact, they despise the very photos that make us laugh. Apparently, they expect pictures of sweet, squeaky-clean and smiling toddlers clad in white smocked dresses and crisp button down shirts. In other words, they simply adore fake photos.

One LUCKY shot

Well, sure that was simple enough back when we had one kid and extra hours to burn with endless poses. Here’s Joe in the bathtub, here’s Joe next to the bathtub, here’s Joe standing up, here’s Joe sitting down…you get the gist. I’m as much of a sucker for a cute picture as the next sap, but come on…sometimes the most unflattering photos provide the most genuine glimpse of a day in the life.

Dave and I are fans of what we call Reality Photography. I’m the first to admit that, at times, our humor tends to be somewhat twisted. We’ve been known to send photos to our parents aimed at making them question both our mental capacity and parental abilities. You know, to make them wonder exactly where they went wrong…(insert evil laugh here).

No, Gwen was not hit by the car. She was making a snow angel, but you can imagine the alarm that this photo caused among the senior-set. They were not amused. Not at all.

We call this one “Old Married Couple”. Notice that Gwen is demanding to be heard. Not much has changed in the time since this photo was snapped.
We’re not sure what to make of this one. Is it a glimpse into frat parties yet to come? I’m worried…but it still makes me giggle.
A few years back we put this one on a Christmas card. You can imagine the uproar it caused. The sheer horror that ensued was epic. Once the grandparents’ discovered this was the Christmas card that their friends would view, they were less than pleased. We still maintain that it was funny, but it will go down in history as the year of  “that screaming card”.
If you’ve read I Am Six. Hear Me Roar, then you know that not even our school pictures are immune to future mortification. This is Joe’s official first grade photo. I’ll fess up, I was freaked out at first, but now I’m thinking that it is possibly the most awesome school picture ever. One day, we’ll cherish the laser beams and Spiderman jammies. Really. We will.

Alas, we have caved to peer pressure and reverted to the socially acceptable Christmas cards once again. I’ve already begun snapping away in hopes of capturing the perfect photograph for our 2011 holiday greeting. I figure that at some moment over the next 11 months, the stars will align and provide the perfect fake photo.

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Snakes in Maine

Did you know that Maine has no venomous snakes? We were informed of this tidbit while house-hunting two summers ago, as if that bit of knowledge would suddenly cause us to say, “Oh, well in that case…we’ll take this house right now!”  Being a natural skeptic, I simply nodded my head at the realtor and smiled real pretty-like, reserving my sarcasm for the privacy of our car.

I couldn’t help but wonder how anyone could absolutely know whether or not poisonous snakes exist in a state filled with vast amounts of wilderness. Not only that but, how exactly, does one keep a snake from entering the state? Is there some kind of sentinel standing watch at the border of Maine and New Hampshire? “Can I see your papers please?” The visiting venomous snake pulls out some forged papers claiming that he is a common milk snake and hands it to the snake sentinel. “I’m sorry, sir…your photo looks nothing like you, you’ll have to turn around. We don’t like your kind in Maine.”

I subjected David to a relentless monologue about Maine and snakes after the realtor provided that weird (suspicious) piece of trivia. I have a hard time letting things go and, just as the ride settled into a comfortable silence, I’d ask, “So…do snakes just stop at the state line? Is there some invisible poisonous snake-repelling force field?” or, “Maybe the poisonous ones choose to avoid Maine. So….what? Maine’s not good enough?” I huffed, “Those elitist jerks.” We tend to engage in these types of conversations on road trips. Mostly because we’re slightly twisted and also because we make each other laugh with ridiculous scenarios.

Have you ever visited Maine? The first thing that you see as you cross the state line is a giant sign proclaiming that this is a state that lives life the way it should be lived. Evidently, whoever decided that living “The Way Life Should Be” also decided that life shouldn’t involve venomous snakes.

This morning I walked out of the house to find all three children huddled at the side of the driveway. Upon hearing the screen door shut, they all looked up and began talking simultaneously in a mixture of unintelligible squeals and excited sentences punctuated by high-pitched voice cracking. “Wait…what did you say?” Joe stood and ran toward me holding his hand out, “We found a snake, Mom!” I realized that the hand he was holding out was wrapped in a brown snake and my heart momentarily skipped a beat. Thankfully, I remembered that suspicious claim about Maine having only non-venomous snakes. I’m obsessive enough to have checked the facts and, short of contacting the State Wildlife Agency to confirm, I’m going to proceed living life the way I should…without fear venomous snakes. (The last known sighting of a Timber Rattlesnake in Maine was in 1901.)

Here’s our new (and likely temporary) friend, Mr. Baby Snake a/k/a Bing Bong. I can’t make this shit up.

Of course, after warning that snakes should never be picked up unless you know they aren’t poisonous and even harmless snakes bite, I let Joe hold Mr. Baby Snake who showed no signs of aggression. Plus, his tiny little head wasn’t threatening at all. I suspect that his mouth was too small to get a serious hold on kid fingers. Besides, how could I resist this textbook -boy” moment of exploration? Look at him… I love that smile and his new, too-big-for-his-face front teeth. I’ll think about the orthodontist bills later. For now I’m going to relish his final days as a six-year-old, big crooked teeth and all.

After he’d begrudgingly boarded the school bus and the grumpy bus driver shot me the hairy-eyeball, I realized that I was standing in the driveway in my nightie and a sweater. Whatever… we were having a moment. Besides, she’s pulled up and caught us doing The Robot and playing dead at the end of the driveway, I think it’s safe to assume her opinion of our family has been formed, nightie or no-nightie. (Do people even use the word ‘nightie’ anymore?)

Anywho… Joe was gone and the snake, now renamed Bing Bong, was subject to two inquisitive little girls who proceeded to poke him and decorate him with ornamental leaves. Bing Bong needed to look pretty for his journey home.


*Other than a bit of psychological trauma, Bing Bong escaped unharmed.

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Wait, don’t go! Did you hear the latest in raunchy gossip? Well, it seems that Mollie over at OK in UK gave me blog herpes. It’s true. Go check her out and find out who else she passed her herpes on to. Thank you, Mollie!

Green Eyed Monsters?

Aaah…jealousy. We all have it. We all feel it.

And now we’d like you to write about it. We’ll leave it open: you can write about something or someone you envy, or a time when your jealousy got you in trouble, or maybe how it makes you feel to be envious. Whatever you want.

In the past, I was made to understand that I was the family outsider – the one who never quite fit. My angles were all wrong. My thoughts and aspirations were too different. I walk in the land of dreams and they move with their feet firmly planted on the ground. Leaving them was a difficult but trying to squeeze myself into a place among them had become too exhausting. When I met David, we seamlessly merged together and, for first time, it was acceptable to simply be me.

Being away for ten years has provided some insights. The death of our older generation has brought revelations while watching the younger set enter adulthood has been interesting. I’ve come to realize that there is a side of my family that I barely know. We are virtual strangers but for passing news from my mother or sister or grandmother. For my entire life I’ve moved on their perimeter, never really feeling like anything more than a passing acquaintance.

Once, just last year, I was speaking with my grandmother on the telephone when she began talking about my younger cousin and me. She began a sentence with, “I know there’s some jealousy and competition between the two of you but…” I didn’t hear the rest of what she said. I was trying work out the jealousy and competition part. Did she have me confused with another granddaughter? The wheels were spinning.

 I barely know the girl…the last time we spent any real time together was when I was 12 and that was a lifetime ago.

She called me last year to inform me that my grandmother wasn’t doing well and that I should visit her before it’s too late. I bit my tongue during that somewhat admonishing telephone call from my younger cousin. Her tone suggested that I had no idea what was happening in my grandmother’s life. Was she attempting to assert her position of authority on the matter? Her call seemed to infer some familial failure and selfishness on my part. I wanted to tell her that I don’t have the luxury of dumping my three children off with someone while I jet off to Nashville for a visit. And I don’t have the luxury of buying plane tickets for a family of five to go say what might be a final goodbye. I wish I did.

I don’t know you.

You’ve never made an effort to know me.

Why would you call me out of the blue and suggest that I’d better visit before it’s too late?

As if I don’t already know…or care.

I wanted to tell her that I have no need to fly somewhere to prove my love and gain good standing. I don’t need to be anyone’s favorite. I don’t need to compete for love. I don’t need to be the family golden child. I began to wonder if what my grandmother had said about jealousy and competition was true. Had this existed for all of this time and I had no idea? Does it exist at all? Frankly there isn’t much else I could do to remove myself from their lives, short of dying. I never see them.

When I was 12, I ran away from my mother’s home. I told her I hated her when what I actually hated was that my parents had divorced just months earlier. I went to live with my father for the rest of that year and, when summer came, I visited my mother’s family with her. My uncles cornered me and the childless one informed me that they were all mad at me for what I did to my mother. He looked at me with disdain and told me that running away was selfish and mean…that I had no right to do something so horrible to my mother. It was my fault that she was so unhappy. He delivered his message and walked off to join the family.

I sat alone by the swimming pool after being told how horrible they all thought I was. I sat there and watched the younger children who still had their house and their family and their innocence and the love of everyone. It was then that I realized that I wasn’t part of that family. That day, I was pushed to the perimeter.

Yesterday, my sister and I talked about our immediate family and how my sister, my brother and I have always gotten the raw end of the deal. We’re the bastard children who missed out on relationships because of divorces and years-long family arguments. We didn’t inherit family heirlooms because, it seemed, all the others are somehow more entitled to those treasures because of who they are. We didn’t have parents that bought us cars and took us on yearly family vacations. Most of us don’t have family who lives down the road who want to pick our children up and watch them while we jet off to another state to visit someone for a few days.

I reminded my sister that although we didn’t inherit our grandmother’s clocks or china, we didn’t get to go to our Granbob’s funeral and we can’t fly down to Nashville to see our Granny, what we’ve inherited is far more substantial than material objects. I have no need to provide everyone with material proof of how much they loved us. We have our memories of time spent with them. Memories of summer days in Tennessee and Pennsylvania, New Orleans and Florida. Memories of waking at 4:00 a.m. to watch Diana marry her prince. Memories of riding a fake deer in my grandmother’s rock garden while she belly laughed and taught us about love and flowers. Memories of walking through the forest with her while she told us stories of her childhood.

I’ll just stay out here on the perimeter where I’ve always belonged. On the inside, the angles are much too sharp.

Family Treasures

Joe is working on a unit at school that involves family treasures from home, especially those having to do with families and nationalities. I wracked my brain trying to think of something that he could bring in to school to talk about his Irish, English or German heritage. Do I send him in with a fisherman sweater on and make him talk about Ireland? Snore…he’d be itchy and bored with the subject matter. Clearly sending him in with a few pints of Guinness is illegal. Do I send him in with some of my English china? Not so much. A German cuckoo clock and a keg of Dinkel Acker? Sauerkraut and some bratwurst? Nothing seemed quite right.

I stood gazing at my little toothless Joe while I made dinner last night. I was boiling the last of the homemade pasta that we’d made on Easter Sunday and tossing it with lemon and asparagus when it dawned on me. (DUH!) One of our biggest family treasures was handed down to me by my Uncle Joe. I’ve written about him often here at Narragansett No. 7. He was a one in a million kind of guy whose parents came to America from Italy. He was the first child of theirs to be born in the United States and he became a beautiful mixture of America and Italy. He played baseball, almost professionally, until he was drafted to serve in WW2. He told me stories of hiding in a basement in Holland as German bombs dropped on the city above their heads. He told me about a time when, through a grapevine of messages, he learned that his brother’s company was near enough for them to find bicycles and ride across the European countryside to just to see one another again in the middle of that war. His eyes took on a glazed far-off quality as he recalled to me the day that he saw concentration camp victims being liberated by the army.

Uncle Joe – kneeling, holding the baseball bat

 My Aunt Lorraine passed his pasta board on to me this winter. It’s simply a large butcher block board that he made years ago specifically for making his homemade pasta. I cried when she handed it to me. As stupid as it seems, that pasta board holds his essence. The wood holds his weight, love and our combined memories. I spent hours with him at that pasta board, coated in dusty flour and sticky dough. Over the years, I watched his hands slowly age as they mixed that pile of flour and eggs into an enormous pile of dough for Christmas Eve or a random Sunday dinner. The size of the meal was always gauged by the number of eggs that he had added to the mountain of flour. In the end, the kitchen would be a jungle of pasta noodles handing to dry.

He taught me how to make homemade pasta and now I make it with my own children. They love the whole messy process, but something tells me they’d love it more if it was Uncle Joe who was rolling the noodles out with them.

Homemade Pasta

3 and 1/2 cups of flour
3 eggs
dash of salt
1/3 cup semolina

Mix the flour, salt and semolina into a mound then create a hole in the middle…as Joe says, “so it looks like a volcano mom!” Crack the eggs into the middle and then using a fork, beat the eggs as if you are scrambling them. Bits of the flour mixture will fall into the middle, mixing with the eggs but you will also stop scrambling to pull flour into the eggs. Keep going until a sticky dough forms and at some point, you’ll being kneading the dough. Don’t make it too dry and flaky! It should stay slightly tacky. Knead the dough until smooth and wrap in plastic wrap until you’re ready to create your noodles.

Here’s where I’m lucky. I have the original pasta machine that my aunt and uncle gave to my mother years ago. I use the pasta machine for the final bit of kneading. You can use a rolling pin to make your noodles but get ready for a workout!

I cut my dough into sections and wrap the sections that I’m not using to let them rest and keep them moist. The section that I’m using goes through my pasta machine’s rollers on the highest setting (8) and we keep rolling until we can get to the setting that we prefer, a “2” which gives a fairly thin noodle. Then the long noodle is finally ready to run through the machine to be cut and hung to dry.

Here is a delicious topping for pasta like papparedelle (wide noodles) that celebrates springtime and the fresh asparagus that is in season.

Pasta with asparagus and lemon
1 1/2 pounds asparagus
1 pound pasta (pappardelle is nice, but penne or casarecce is good too!)
1/4 fresh lemon juice
1/4 extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 freshly grated Parmesan
*bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
*Rinse the asparagus, snap off the tough lower stems and discard. Cut of 11/2 inches of the asparagus tips and reserve. Chop the rest of the stems. Cook the asparagus tips in the boiling water for 3-4 minutes, until tender. Using a slotted spoon, remove the tips and set aside. In the same pot of boiling water, blanch the asparagus stems for 6-7 minutes, until tender. Remove with the slotted spoon and rinse in cold water.
*Cook the pasta in the same pot of boiling water until al dente. While the pasta cooks, puree the asparagus stems, lemon juice and olive oil in a blender or food processor until smooth. If necessary, add a bit of hot pasta water to thicken. Add salt and pepper to taste.
*Drain the pasta and transfer to a large bowl. Stir in the asparagus puree, the asparagus tips and grated Parmesan.

CHECK IT OUT! I got a new award today. Seriously, it’s like brand-spanking new and created by Bernie at One Mixed Bag and Michele from Living on Less. Such a great idea for an award. Here are the “rules”:

This is a very simple award, you don’t have to do anything if you don’t want to. You can give it to 1 blog, 300 blogs or no blogs. That is up to you. Some ideas of what you could do with the award if you wanted to:

Give it to your favorite blog that has thousands of followers. You know they won’t have this award. I know when I started blogging and I would get awards I want to give them out. Most of the blogs I read already had at least one of them. This award is new today, so you know they won’t have it.

Is there a new blogger you discovered with only a handful of readers? Pass it on to them. They will be thrilled to receive their first award.

Just slap it up on your blog and so say nothing.

Don’t slap it on your blog and do nothing.

Mommie Dearest and the Summer Boredom Blues


I’m having a day. I’ll be completely honest here and will probably offend someone in the process (or at least make you wonder if I should really be mothering three small children). But really, who hasn’t had one of those days where, by 3:00 p.m. every sound emanating from the general vicinity of your children makes you want to hop in the mini-van with a suitcase full of your favorite shoes, a pack of smokes and a copy of On The Road? Come on. Tell the truth. You’ve fantasized about a covert nap time escape, haven’t you? I have.

On many occasion, I’ve wondered exactly how stay-at-home moms can homeschool. You mean, you’re always with your kids? 365 days a year????!!!! 24 hours a day..7 days a week????!!! (What I’m saying in my head is, “Lady, you’re looney toons.”)

Can you tell that we’re on the downward swing of summer vacation and all of the fun “stuff” has started to lose it’s appeal? We’re almost at the new school year (28 days, 13 hours and 54 minutes to be exact). If that yellow bus doesn’t pull up soon I might just loose my mind. The most alarming part of this situation is the fact that the kids are only entering 1st grade and pre-school.

They’re bored. Boredom = problem behavior = mommy needs prescription meds.

Oh, the poor little things. They’re bored. Let’s bring them to Funtown/Splashtown, the beach, buy them a pool, go to Toys-R-Us, library, buy them a stinkin’ puppy, get them ice cream, go to the park, blah, blah, blahblahblaaaaaah.

What does a Mommy do when faced with such a challenge? Hmmmm..let me look for some ideas on the Internet! Oh look, here’s a blog entry titled “Bust Summertime Boredom”, I’m sure this nice lady will have some excellent pointers. Plus, it says that the ideas are also wallet friendly. Excellent!

 1. Family Dance Party.
Okay. I can do that..I’ll just turn up the stereo and get everyone to dance. “Look! Guys…look at Mommy. Hey! Let’s dance..guys…guys?”
Joe: “Mom, you look crazy. Can I have a treat?”
Gwen: “Can we go to the beach?”
At least Kate humored me with a wiggle.
2. Fort Building.
“Hey guys, wanna build a fort?
Joe: “YEAH! Hey Gwen, we’re going to build a fort!”
Gwen: unintelligible words followed by a delighted shriek.
Me: “BE QUIET THE BABY IS SLEEPING!!”  deep breath… “okay, now just go into the living room and use whatever cushions you need. Blankets too. Have fun!” Fast forward 2.5 minutes. A piercing scream comes from the family room. I enter to find that Joe has built a fort, turned on Transformers and banned Gwen from entry. The baby is crying because I yelled.

3. Family Cookbook.
Susan, the Blogging Wonder-Mommy, says that this is a great way to share your favorite cookbook with the children. Plus, all that measuring keeps their math skills fresh. She goes on to say that I should let my children pick the recipe they would like to try. Um, Susan? Won’t will also entail a trip to the grocery store? My favorite cookbook is Gourmet and the kid not glued to Transformers can barely count. I’d like to throw Gourmet at Susan.

4. Listening Game.
Susan, who is clearly doing a much better job at child rearing than I am, suggests lying down in the backyard to “listen”. What do we hear? Can you make that sound? This is what I heard:  “I hear a poo.” giggle. “Gwen, pull my finger.” Kate picked that moment to back up and plop her smelly bum on my head and Joe followed with, “Can we go to Funtown /Splashtown?”
5. I’m too bored with Susan to keep reading. I wonder what Susan would think about drawing on each other…
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