family


I’m not one who relishes tests and quizzes. I tend to stress BIG time, as my French professor can attest (“Why are you so stressed? You will get an A on this one just the the other ones. Oh la la! you are so silly!!” 😉 ). My palms get all sweaty, my stomach feels like it’s going to flip and flop it’s way out completely, and my heart pounds like a bass drum during a Sousa march. It really is pathetic, especially since I typically do get A’s on everything (my French professor wasn’t fibbing). Maybe I get A’s because of the stress? That must be it. Leave it to me to find a way around the pathetic nature of it all. I’m just glad I have the summer off to recuperate. Well, I did have the summer. And this is where my story starts…I know, took me long enough. I wish I would stress out over my lack of brevity once in a while 😛
SO, a couple of nights ago, we were sitting having dinner. We do this pretty much every night, so that isn’t really an interesting tidbit. I sit at the “foot” of the table, so I get to have two Izzlets….usually the smaller variety of Izzlet…on either side. On this particular evening, I was flanked my Séamus and Éamon, the Dynamic Duo of Casa Izz. They were chatting away at me, and I tried to listen to both of them as I made sure they had what they needed in terms of food and drink; I’m a good mom, what can I say. Apparently, in the midst of the chatting, they decided to compare their mathematical prowesses.
“What’s 3+3, Éamon?” asks Séamus.
Éamon becomes thoughtful, and then looks at me.
“It’s six” I tell him, and he smiles and gives Séamus the answer.
The fact that I told Éamon doesn’t escape Séamus’ notice, so he decides to start interrogating me.
“What’s 6+6, Mom?” he asks, with an air of superiority.
“It’s 12, Séamus.”
“What’s 20+20??”
“40”
“What’s 100+100???” At this point, you can tell he’s convinced I won’t know. I mean, we’re dealing with pretty big numbers now.
“It’s 200” and he just looks at me wide eyed.
“Ok then” he says, and you can almost hear the wheels turning in his head, as he comes up with something super hard to ask. “What’s a million plus a million?” he asks, with a bit of awe in his voice. Now he’s broken out the big guns. He smirks at me, knowing I couldn’t possibly know the answer to this one. I mean, one million is the hugest number ever. Only the smartest people should know the answer to such an equation. And since I can see that whole line of reasoning in his eyes, I pause for a moment to “think”, that way he at least thinks it’s hard for me to come up with an answer.
“2 million,” I respond, after a moment or two of dramatic pausing. Both Séamus and Éamon just stare at me, mouths open wide with surprise and awe. Yes, awe.
“WOW!!!! She’s SMART!!” whispers Séamus, and Éamon nods eagerly in agreement.
Yeah, I basked in that moment of sheer awesomeness. I could have told them how easy an equation it was, but I liked the fact I was super smart in their eyes at that moment. So, I didn’t say a word. I’m sure they discussed how much of a “Super Genius” I was when they went to bed, and I like that fact. And for the next few days, I’ll retain that status….at least until they’re bold again and I have to yell at them. I don’t want to know what they’re saying then. So, I’ll milk this one for as long as I can.
I can honestly say I didn’t have an attack of nerves at all during that “quiz”. I was calm and self assured throughout the entire ordeal. My French professor would have been proud of me. Maybe if her quizzes were just as easy, I wouldn’t have to annoy her with my stress this fall. I’ll have to talk to her about that…

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I sometimes wonder where on earth my children get things. The things they say! I find myself on many occasions just looking at them, shaking my head in disbelief. Not that what they say is bad per se…it’s just odd, especially when it’s coming from their mouths. Take today for example.

I was sitting at the dinner table, minding my own business, and eating my dinner. All of a sudden, Éamon, who happens to sit right next to me, asks rather urgently “Can I have a drink?” Pause for a second here…had this been one of the older children, I would have first corrected them on their poor grammar (a pet peeve of mine) and then said no until they can ask nicely…given it’s Éamon, and he’s not quite 3, I let it go. Just thought I’d put that in there. So he asks his urgent question, then, without giving me a chance to respond, asks again “Can I PLEASE have a drink?”…ahhh! There’s the please! ;)…I turn to look at him, and as I do, he says “If you give me a drink, I give you three dollars!” I was a bit taken aback. Where on earth…? But it was humourous, I must admit, so I get him his drink, set it in front of him, and then hold out my hand. He gets all wide eyed, touches my hand for a second, and then says “I have no moneys!” At this I started to laugh. It was just too darn cute for words. My laughing, of course, gets him going, and we both had a hearty laugh over the events, although I’m fairly certain he had no idea why we were laughing.

This is one of the cool things about kids. Even when you’re having a bad day and things just aren’t looking all that great, they are good for a laugh or two. It’s either something they say, or something they do, or sometimes even something they don’t do. But there it is…you laugh in spite of yourself. And, at least for me, your day brightens immediately, and the woes of the world that you are having to deal with don’t seem nearly as woeful as they had. Maybe that’s why I have so darn many of them. I love to laugh, and they make sure I do on a daily basis. 🙂

Both of my grandmothers were fantastic cooks. One of the joys of my life growing up was having supper at either of their houses because you always knew it was going to be something fabulous. One grandmother’s cooking had a definite Southern flair: pinto beans simmered with a huge slab of salt pork and freshly baked corn bread on the side or country fried chicken complete with “white gravy” and biscuits. Yum! The other grandmother was a whiz at “comfort foods”. Her breaded veal cutlets were to die for, and no one made Macaroni and Cheese like she did. No one. Now that I’m hungry, and have a need to raid the pantry, let’s press on….

Both of my grandmothers are now gone (may they rest in peace), but their legacies live on in my cooking. Many of my recipes came from them, which helps keep all those good memories I had alive…whenever I pull one of those recipes out, I think of them and have a story or two to tell about them to the Izzlets. And while their styles of cooking were vastly different, there was one area of expertise they held in common and that area was PIE. Apple pies with bits of Macintosh apples and just enough sweet and tart to create a delicious balance. Pie crusts so flaky, they’d practically break into a million pieces if you blew on them (neither of them were from Oklahoma though….don’t get it? Oh well. I do…that’s enough to make it funny for ME!). To me, as a child, their pies were the crowning glory of their culinary excellence, and the one thing I always looked forward to learning how to master myself.

The years went by, and I eventually married Mr Izz, and the Izzlets started to accumulate. The first few years of pie making were hard…my crusts just didn’t cut it (if you talk to Mr Izz, he’ll more than gladly tell you all about how many times he’s “saved” my pie crust….but he can start his own blog to tell you because I refuse to). No flakes. Or my fillings weren’t flavourful enough. It was always something. But after much trial and error, and frustration I might add, I had them down pat. Everything as it should be. My pies were sought after for family functions…”You are making the pies, aren’t you?” I had finally come into my own in the art of baking pies. I was a master!….almost. There was one pie I had yet to master, and this “lack of mastery” was like a black spot on my culinary scorecard. It was, at least in my mind, the crème de la crème…the proof positive of total pie genius. It was the Lemon Meringue Pie, and I couldn’t, no matter how closely I followed the recipe, get it right. This probably wouldn’t have been a big deal…not everyone who is an accomplished pie baker can make the perfect Lemon Meringue pie, right? But for me, it was different. My Granny (the “comfort food” grandmother) was the Lemon Meringue Pie QUEEN. Her Lemon Meringue pies were absolutely the best in the world, no exceptions (no, I am not biased). Granny’s Lemon Meringue pies were always perfect…perfect blend of lemony tartness and sugary sweetness; perfectly flaky crust; perfect everything. They were totally yummy (yummy being a culinary term, of course), and I would beg her to make them for me. And she, being the doting grandmother that she was, gladly obliged when she could. Her pies were her crowning glory (in my mind anyway) and so it only made good sense to me that I should recreate them. Perfectly, as hers were perfect. No problem.

So I set forth to make my very first Lemon Meringue pie…I had motivation too, for my father in law, who loved Lemon Meringue pie and hadn’t had one made from scratch in years, had asked me to make one with the other pies I was making for a family get together. I was excited! I had perfected my perfectly flaky crust..the lemon filling would be cake…umm….pie…oh, it would be EASY. At least that’s what I thought. I read through Granny’s recipe, gathered up all my ingredients and went to work. I mixed the dry ingredients, then the wet. I squeezed my lemons and grated off the zest. I put the egg whites to the side for the meringue, mixed everything else all together, and tasted. Hmmm…there was something way off. Too much zest, but I really couldn’t get it out now that it was in. Maybe it would mellow as I cooked it. In fact, I was sure it would. Mmmmhmmmm…

The cooking was going to be easy (snort). I just had to wait for it all to thicken. The water in the bottom of the double boiler began to boil, and my lemony mixture started to heat up. I stirred and I stirred, waiting for it to thicken. Then I stirred some more….not long now, I thought. More stirring, more checking, more glancing at the clock to see how long I had been at it. After about an hour (!), I finally came to he conclusion it wasn’t going to thicken, as the watery mixture poured off the spoon. Maybe it will as it cools….although at this point I was pretty sure it wouldn’t. Sure enough, my far too nice father in law was forced to smile and compliment the lemon zest soup with the side of mushy pie crust I placed in front of him apologetically. To this day, I still have no idea what I did wrong, but my fiasco was to the be the first of many more attempts with varying results…all bad. And since a girl can only take so much, I finally swore off them completely. Granny’s legacy would die the death. I was a failure.

Fast forward several years to the present. My 17 year old son expresses interest in baking pies for his dinner night (the child chooses dinner and dessert, and also has to help cook it all). Turns out his favourite pie is, you guessed it, Lemon Meringue, although I have no idea how that happened. It’s not like I had ever made it for him. So he tells me that’s what he wants to make. I just stare at him. “You’re sure??” I ask in a small voice. “Yeah!” he answers all too confidently. No way…I have visions of past failures flash before my eyes. There is no way this can be done. I close my eyes, sigh, and say “Sure, we can do that.” Now I was committed. What have I done??

His dinner night approaches far too quickly, but it’s too late to back out. So, I read through Granny’s recipe…it had been some time since I’d done that…then read through it again, just in case. I then gathered up the ingredients and we went to work. My son squeezed the lemons as I separated the eggs. We mixed everything but the egg whites together and began to cook the whole mixture on the stovetop in a double boiler…it was almost like déja vu. I cringed as he stirred, preparing myself for the worst that I was sure was to come at any moment. After about 20 minutes, he asked “Is this thick enough?” I hesitated, then looked at the spoon in his hand, and surveyed what was in it. I turned the spoon over…and almost all of it stayed on the spoon. Let me reiterate that bit…the mixture stayed on the spoon! I started to get excited and took another spoonful just to see, and got the same result. By this time I as laughing giddily…my son thought I was daft, if the look he gave me was any indication. But it had worked!! We poured the pudding-like mixture into the pie crust…gleefully, at least on my part. As it cooled, we made the meringue, put it onto the pie, put it into the oven to brown, and I am happy to report, it came out PERFECTLY. We had done it! I know that Granny would have proud of me, and I know that I am more than proud to carry on that part of her legacy. Maybe someday my grandchildren will call me the Lemon Meringue Pie Queen.

So as I eat this last piece, and it brings me back to Granny’s kitchen, smelling those wondrous smells, I am happy. Happy that I tried again; happy that I can share my memories with my children in such a delicious way. And mostly, I am happy that I had such a grandmother that would take the time to give me some of the best memories of my life. So as I sit here, it’s almost like I am that little girl in my grandmothers kitchen again drinking a cup of tea and having a slice of her famous pie. Thank you, Granny….this one’s for you!

Catechism 101…Izzlet style!

Me, to the littles: “Does anyone know what the 8th Commandment is?”

Several hands go up (although I’m smart enough to know that not all
of them know the answer)…picking one out of the sea of hands:

Me: “Alright, tell me”

Unnamed Izzlet: “Thou shalt not….ummmmm…..wait! I do know
it…..ummmm….oh YEAH!!! Thou shalt not bear false witness against
thy neighbor’s wife!!!” (with a very pleased look upon their face, I
might add).

So there you have it. You can lie, so long as you don’t lie to your neighbour’s wife. And remember, you heard it here first! 😉

The title of this entry really does sound like it could be the name of an Irish Tune, doesn’t it? Perhaps one day, when I am exceptionally proficient at playing my tin whistle, and adept enough to actually write a tune, I’ll write one and name it “Finbar’s Folly”. Until then, however, I’m thinking I should stick to blogging…which reminds me that I’m supposed to be writing. Onward with today’s random ramblings in written form!

Finbar is five, as of this past January. While not old by anyone’s standards (except perhaps his own), he is still getting bigger by leaps and bounds, much to my chagrin. After all, just yesterday he was still my baby boy. Tempus Fugit…far too quickly for my liking. But even in his five yearness, he has somehow, acquired wisdom in his own, Finny way, in the form of revelations. It is those revelations that I’d like to share, for they really are somewhat humourous.

From the time he was about 2 1/2, Finbar was convinced that he was born in Ireland. Now, mind, I’ve never even been to Ireland, so unless there is something I don’t know, he wasn’t born there. Although, it would make my wish of moving there much more of a reality if his merely saying it made it so. Oh well…

As I was saying, Finbar always thought he was born in Ireland. If someone were to ask him from whence he originally came, he would respond most confidently: “Ireland!!” You may wonder why Fin came to this conclusion, for I admit it is rather odd. Well, let me explain it to you (as if you thought I wouldn’t!!). Quite some time ago, when Finbar was just a wee one, we were visiting friends in New Hampshire. One of those friends is a transplant from Northern Ireland, and the moment she saw Fin, she exclaimed (in my very best Northern Irish accent): “Oh! Doesn’t he have the map of Ireland on his face!!” From that time forward, whenever she saw him, she made sure to remind him of how Irish he looked, and as soon as he was old enough to understand what it meant, he was convinced he was indeed born on the Emerald Isle. He would tell everyone he could find about his self concocted heritage. You can imagine their surprise when I told them, in a hushed tone so I didn’t crush his little spirit, that he was actually born in Ohio. At least the explanation made for humourous small talk.

Unfortunately, the days of Finbar telling people he was born in Ireland are over. Apparently, when he turned 5, he was infused with enough wisdom to realise that he really wasn’t. It’s one of those sad “growing up” tragedies, when certain cutenesses fall by the wayside to be replaced by bigger boy behaviour. I always hate when that happens…it’s almost like the end of a favourite television show. You can reminisce but it’s never like it was.

In the case of Fin, he has indeed moved on, as his fiveishness dictates. He has become a big boy (at least by HIS standards!), which apparently affords little time for such silliness. He very grudgingly states that he was born in Ohio now when pressed, with a certain air of regret. Regret, of course, until his eyes light up and his face breaks into a huge smile…

“But some day I am going to move to Finland, and be the king, because FINland belongs to ME!”

It’s those little gems that make it all worthwile.

This morning, as I sat at my desk trying to weed out my inbox (my inbox is very reflective of my life in general…it’s very disorganised and needs to be cleaned out), Victoria, who is 6, was sitting next to me playing with one of her dolls. She was singing and having the doll walk around on my desk, and for the most part, ignoring the fact that I was sitting next to her. This was fine with me, because I really did need to get my inbox back to some manageable state.

So there we were, she was singing and playing, and I was weeding and trying to figure out if that email from August really was that important to save or not. All of a sudden, she stops playing and says “Mom?” I stop what I’m doing and look over at her and ask her what she needs.

“Do husbands really do that?” she asks.
“Do what?” I ask in return….I am wondering if she thought I had been paying attention to her while she was playing, and so I was feeling rather guilty that I hadn’t been. She just looks at me for a moments with her eyes wide (a normal expression for her, I might add), which makes me uncomfortable because apparently I was supposed to be paying attention…caught in the act of nonattention yet again! After about 30 seconds, she finally gets more specific:

“Do husbands really throw their wives up in the air?” she innocently asks.

Huh? Where in the WORLD did she come up with that one? I think back from the past few days, wondering if she might have watched something that might give her the idea that husbands just walk around, throwing their wives up into the air. Peter Pan was the last thing, and I don’t think Mr Darling threw Mrs Darling up in the air even once. So scratch that idea. I’m a bit muddled, because since I don’t know where she got such an idea, I have no idea how to answer. Aside from no…which of course is the obvious answer. It’s not like Mr Izz goes around throwing me up in the air on a regular basis (thank God!).

“Ummmm….no, Toria. Husbands don’t do that for real.” I answer, and start to laugh. She begins to laugh with me, and says:

“Ok, I was just wondering!”
“Where did you come up with such a thing?” I ask, but she says she was just kidding and skipped off, presumably in search of some other fun game. So I still have NO idea where she came up with that, but I suppose I’ll have to be content in that. Until then, I’m sure that her dolls will be thrown up into the air on a regular basis, just because she thinks it’s fun. I just hope that when she is old enough to be married, it’s not a stipulation for her future husband. She might be in trouble if that is indeed the case.

Fa la la la laaaa…la la la laaaaaaaa!

Yes, my dear readers, it is Birthday Season! You may be familiar with the Christmas season, or the ski season, or maybe even maple sugaring season. Here at Casa Izz, we have what is fondly known as Birthday Season. What exactly does that mean, you might ask. Well, let me tell you all about it…before I have to bake another cake.

As you may have guessed (if you’ve read the “About Me” portion of my blog, and know how many children reside at Casa Izz), we celebrate quite a few birthdays here. You know, because, like, I’m a nice mom and each child has their own special day on their birthday, which means they don’t have to do their daily chores and they get to pick out their dinner and dessert for that evening. The kids tend to think this is pretty cool, and I really don’t mind doing it…most of the time. Please recall the title of this post. Here at Casa Izz, for reasons unbeknownst to anyone but God Himself, more than half of the Izzlets were born in the months of Januray (4 Izzlets) and February (2 Izzlets), which is how the term Birthday Season came into existence. Every time you turn around, there is yet another birthday to celebrate. As I sit down each week to make out the weekly menu, these birthdays must be taken into consideration; the children whose birthdays are coming up within the next week must be quizzed on what they would like for dinner and for their special dessert…one year almost every child decided to have tacos for their birthday dinner, so that year Birthday Season was aptly renamed Taco Season. I still am unable to look at a taco without feeling a little queasy…but back to what I was saying. Everything must be done…presents must be purchased, desserts must be made, birthday child must be given the day off…you see how stressful this can be for someone as disorganised as I am! Especially when you realise that each child likes to be different from the last. No one really wants just cake. Our birthday desserts range from cake to brownie sundaes to cherry pie, etc. Have you ever tried to put 12 candles into milk shakes? It’s not an easy task, let me tell you. But what can I say…I have creative children (they must take after ME! 😉 ).

This is why I have been somewhat missing in action as of late. I have no time to write…whenever I try, I have to wrap a present or bake a dessert or bread chicken filets. There is always something. Hmm…isn’t that always my excuse?

An older priest once said that birthdays should not be celebrated. Now, before you get all bent out of shape over that, listen to his reasoning. It was his contention that children had no right to their birthday for it was their mother that did all the work to bring them into the world to begin with. Therefore, it should be the mother’s celebration rather than the child’s. That seems perfectly logical to me. I’d be up for 11 birthday celebrations; 11 days off (which is 11 more than I get now), 11 days of catering to ME (again, which is 11 more than I usually get). Sounds utterly perfect, don’t you think? But, of course, there is no way the Izzlets would allow such a thing. They love to celebrate the day they were born, and really, so do I. It’s not that hectic. Besides, my birthday is in March. I’ll get them all back then (insert evil, maniacal laughter…..). 

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