Sunday, February 26, 2012

Update on "Can I Get a Do-Over?"

I shared how the Lord set me on a new path, but failed to tell you what new path we are on. Each night we, the kids and I, would read a chapter or two of the Book from the Bible we were studying. We chose to do it at night because the little ones would be asleep and the house was quiet.  But sometimes it didn't always work out.  We'd forget or sometimes I'd be too tired. It was really bothering me that we weren't committed to it or putting the Word of God first in our lives. Well, when I was down on myself I really felt like the Lord showed me a better way. The morning! After the little ones go into play-time, and before the kids start school, we should sit around the kitchen table with our Bibles and read. It has worked out great. The house is still quiet, the kids are fresh to start the day and we haven't forgotten once!

We have been working through the Book of Job and just finshed it. I have learned so much from our study, (I hope they have too), but the important thing for me is that they see how important the Bible is to me, for themselves, and to see all the lessons we can learn from it and others lives in it. I love the to read the Bible and if I pass nothing else on to my children I pray it will be that they will cherish the Word of God too.

An Update on "Grandpa's Attic"

So, from the time the Lord began to speak to me about the "more is better" philosophy to writing "Grandpa's Attic" much work has been accomplished. My husband actually took off three days from work so he and I started could start downsizing our home. It took about two weeks of thinking and thinking again. Final result = three van loads to the thrift store!!!  The rooms are looking less cluttered and are staying picked up longer. It has been a good lesson and I'm glad we did it =D I am not done, but it has been a great start and I continue to press forward!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Can I Get a Do-over?

I remember when my first child was born and how absolutely ecstatic I was, but soon it hit me that I was not completely ready for the job. The challenge of being mommy, of being a mommy that was not like my mother, and the challenge of not even being the 'old me' seemed tooo much to bear. My heart only came to a peaceful state when I realized that it would take at least three years before my little boy realized that mommy wasn't perfect. I thought, "Okay self, you've got three years to change-you can do this." Well, it's now twelve years later and I'll confess that I've changed some, but not everything. I want a do-over!

I want a do-over because I'm seeing all the things I just can't stand about myself budding up in all my children. (Yuck!) I am constantly saying things like, "Just because you see mommy stressing out doesn't make it right. Mommy is a sinner too-You need to keep your eyes on Jesus and follow Him." It's very humbling and I guess also freeing, but I still want my do-over.

I want to go back in time with, of course, all the knowledge I have now and start raising my children. Golly, how life would be different for me and for them. I have this one chance to do mommyhood, this major job, and I want to get it right. I know that I want to raise Godly children and have them become Godly adults. Responsible children. Kind-hearted, law abiding, God fearing adults. Sometimes I just don't know.

I'm so imperfect. And I know all of you know that, but I mean I'm so far from being what I want to be. So, for instance, I'd like to be strong all the time-I'm not. I get so tired sometimes and when that happens it just throws all my plans right out the window. I'd like to be consistent all the time-I'm not. Sometimes, I set a plan in motion and then I forget the plan. Chaos rises and then and only then do I remember the plan. I have so many good intentions, good ideas, but some how I can't seem to accomplish it all. How can I do it all? Have the quiet times, the family worship time, the schooling times, the fellowship times, discipline, one-on-one times, date nights, training the brain is swirling.

I've made so many mistakes in this life. Sinned on top of sin. And sometimes it's not just that it's like I feel caught in a web of hurt and insecurities- so tangled in it and can't seem to get out. And that's when I cry out to God, "I want a do-over!" I get down on myself for taking sooooo long to change- sooooo long to grow up. I'm _ _ years old for goodness sake-when will I grow up? (Please can I have a do-over?)

It is just so frustrating to feel like a failure and have to keep going. I mean like, well, if I wasn't any good at tennis (which I'm not) I'd quit it, (which I did) and find a new sport. But with mommyhood I'm in it for the very, long haul of it. I'll never quit. Never throw the towel in. I gotta keep going even though I know it's without getting a do-over.

So how do I get out of this? How do I stop wishing, hoping, dreaming of a do-over? Stop pinning over all my wasted efforts? Stop beating myself up for failing? Stop wondering how I got off the path. Well, I'll tell you-it's God. I go to God. I get on my knees and cry a little and sometimes, alot. I lay it all down-all my plans, dreams, hopes, failures and surrender. I collapse in my Heavenly Father's arms and wait. It is truly amazing how, within a day or two, He shows me where I've gone wrong and how to get back on the path. I'll have renewed hope, my head is a little higher and wanting a do-over is a far off notion.

I gotta tell ya, surrendering is an amazing thing. It sounds so opposite of what we should do. I was taught to fight, never give up, never give in. But with God He works contrary to the world. We surrender and that's a good thing. It allows Him to lead. Golly, I call myself a follower of Jesus and yet when I get to a "do-over" stage or mentality I see how far from 'following' I was. It's like I get this notion that I've figured the plan out and it's okay for God to step aside and let me take over. God never wants to move over. He wants to be a part of our lives. He wants to help us, always.

It's also a wonder to me how I never disappoint God. He is always welcoming me back. Always happy to hear me surrender. Always ready to work with me again. Never disowns me. Never abandons me.

Thank Jesus for not throwing the towel in on me. For not abandoning me. For always having open arms to me when I realize that I've walked away. Thank you for always giving me a new plan, a way out. Thank you for giving me hope. I surrender my mommyhood to you again, and my children. Lead the way and I will follow with no do-over =D

Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. ~Philippians 1:6

(Part 2 of "Oh to be perfetc... (ooops!)

Monday, February 20, 2012

My Sister and Me

 I wrote the following story about seven years ago after my second daughter was born.I wanted to write a book about the friendship of sisters, but instead of creating a fictional story for them I decided to write a true story about one of my sisters and I. (I also quickly drew pictures for them-'cause what's a picture book without pictures?) Hope you enjoy this.

This book is dedicated to my sister Anne Tuccillo Del Santo.
 My sister whom I will never stop loving.
 And whom I will never forget.

My sister and I loved each other very much.
I know we loved each other because
we had the best time whenever we were together-
laughing, playing or just talking.

I knew she loved me because she would spend time with me.
You see my sister Annie, as I called her, is seven years older than me.
So, when I was five she was already twelve years old!
I hear some people don't like to play with little kids,
but to Annie it was like my age didn't even matter.

I remember one summer evening sitting on the front stoop
watching my sisters play baseball out in the street.
When the game was over everyone was tired and headed home.
I asked Annie if she'd run a race with me down the block and back.
She put her stuff down and said, "Sure."
We lined up side by side.
"Ready. Set. Go!" she shouted.
I took off running as fast as I could,
but when I turned to see where Annie was
I saw her pretending to run fast behind me!
As she ran she was cheering for me-
"Wow! Look at her go! She's so fast! This kid is going to beat me!
And I did!

I remember another time I asked Annie if she would play dolls with me.
She said yes, but that I'd have to wait until she was done with her homework.
As I waited on my bed in my room I played with my little plastic dolls.
When Annie came in to play with me she brought her big, beautiful china dolls!
She let me hold one and play with it.
I was so surprised.
We got down on the floor and imagined for hours.

I remember every June, after I had gotten dressed for my ballet recital,
Annie would style my hair for my performance.
Annie always knew just how to do the prettiest things with my hair.
Sometimes, she would put it up in a simple bun,
 or teddy bear ears, or a single French braid.
But I loved when she put my hair in a double French braid the most.

 I remember one day in first grade when my teacher told us
that we needed to make a math project.
I told Annie how scared I was and how I had no idea what to do.
She had no worries. She came up with the greatest idea.
She said, "Let's make a math board game."
She got a big piece of poster board and drew a big doll house. 
We started drawing the details for the basement
and worked our way all the way up to the attic.
We had fun drawing the furniture and coloring it in.
Then we made the math cards.
1+1= ?
The rules were: Pick a card. Read the equation. If you got the answer correct
you were than able to move that many spaces.
The first person who made it to the attic, where all the toys were, was the winner!
We had the best time together making it, but that's not all-
My project one first prize!

I remember my ninth birthday.
My mother took me to a toy store and told me to pick any toy
from the store as my present.
I saw a Raggedy Ann doll and just had to have it.
I loved it for months and months until one day it got really dirty.
 I was sad.
When Annie found out she took the doll and thought she'd surprise me
by putting it in the washing machine to clean it.
When the wash was done the doll had broken into pieces and couldn't be fixed.
I cried and cried.
But Annie decided to surprise me again.
For Christmas she didn't buy me a new Raggedy Ann doll-
she made me one!

I remember one summer my family and I went on vacation.
While we were there I got very sick and had to stay in bed.
Sometimes I felt lonely, but that's when Annie would come in
and lay down next to me.
Every day she would read a few chapters in the book Sara Crew.
I never remember enjoying a story more than when she read to me.
She made the story come alive.
I felt like I had jumped right in to the book with her.

I remember one time Annie was going to the mall with my sisters.
I wanted to go, but my mother said I was too young.
I stayed home just waiting for her to come back.
When she finally did come home
I remember everyone was talking about what they saw and bought
and what a good time they had.
I sat listening when Annie came over to me with a shopping bag.
She said, "I bought you something."
I opened up the bag and it was a purple pocket book.
It was my very first pocket book ever.
I couldn't have loved it more.
(I found it amazing that while I was thinking of her,
she was thinking of me!)

I think my favorite memories of Annie
 were the times she would come and talk with me.
I remember one time I was so sad
because I had not done well on an important test.
She came and told me that even though I felt like a failure,
that I was not.
She told me that if I persevered, if I didn't give up,
I would do much better the next time.
She believed in me.
I held onto her words, and she was right,
I did do better the next time.

Annie and I are all grown up now.
I remember her wedding day and how beautiful she looked.
I remember when she had to move away to Massachusetts.
I remember more good times like going to visit her over the years.
No matter what the distance,
No matter the years that pass by
I know that no matter what happens
I will always love my sister Anne.

I have also moved away,
gotten married, and now have children of my own.
So many times I find myself allowing my children
 to win a running race,
cheering them on just as Annie did for me.
And each time my daughters are getting ready for their dance recitals
 I put pretty ribbons or braids in their hair
and think of Annie.
And I love surprising my children with special presents
and making things that I think they will love.
And I especially love the quiet moments of sitting and reading to them.
Teaching them new things and telling them
that they can do or be anything they want to be when they grow up.
 I tell them to persevere because I believe in them.

The End

(Sadly, I have not seen my sister Anne since 1991).

Friday, February 10, 2012

Grandpa's Attic

I've had this philosophy, "more is always better," for some time now and I've been trying to figure out where it started or why I've even thought this. I mean, everyone around me are minimalist and clearly with a philosophy like mine, I am not. So, I've been thinking again. Why am I a 'maximumalist'?  A couple of things have popped up in me over the last couple of weeks.

I grew up in New York City, but my maternal grandparents, for most of my life, lived in New Jersey. Going to visit the grandparents was an amazing adventure. Being a family of nine we only vacationed once a year, (to the Jersey Shore), or visited the grandparents for the weekend. I remember their condo well. Aside from my grandfather absolutely loving us, treating us to ice cream and cookies galore, and swimming in the massive condo pool, I would have to say visiting his attic was the highlight of the weekend.

My grandfather was born in 1914, and as for many people who grew up during the Great Depression they were resolute on never suffering again. My Grandfather was one of those people. In his retirement my grandfather spent most of his days shopping. He was a bargain hunter for sure. He went to the after-Christmas sales and bought up the bows, ribbons, lights, Santas, etc. (Honestly, I still have some of the stuff he gave me and that was back in the '90's).  He clipped coupons, ran to every sale, stocked up on toilet paper, soap, paper towels, detergents, basically anything that would not expire. My 'China' dishware set is from a sale he found at the supermarket. The year was 1976- the bicentennial of our countries freedom. He collected a dish each week for months, and stored it up in the attic, and of course, he didn't even need a dishware set! (Years after his death my grandmother came across the box in the attic and gave it to me. I cherish the set deeply).

So, getting back to my adventures in the attic. He would send me up the narrow pull-down stairs, I'd turn on the light and he'd yell to me, "Okay Ellie, go right and you'll see the toilet paper! Start throwing down, oh, about twenty packages!" I'd run, find the treasures and start throwing them down the stairs. Then he'd yell up the stairs again, "Alright, this time, find the paper towels! You'll find them over in the left hand corner!" I'd run the other direction and wait for the number. "Throw down 25 rolls!" this continued for, I don't know, what seemed like an hour. When I was given the order, "We're done!"  I'd  climb down the ladder and see all the items neatly piled up by the door. Then he'd say, "Okay, now let's load up your station wagon-you're taking it home!"

Traveling in the back of the station wagon among all the wonderful treasures, (using them as a mattress, pillows and a fort), I laid back, closed my eyes and could see my grandfathers glowing face of excitement. He delighted in blessing my family and I delighted in being delighted upon.

I never really thought that that part of my childhood had an impact on me. That time in my grandfather's attic was what I thought just a sweet memory, but it wasn't until recently that I realized that it had a more profound effect on me.

About twenty-five years after my last visit up those stairs to Grandpa's attic, my husband and I were in a toy store. He wanted to buy Duplo Legos for our little boy. We argued about it because we already owned a bunch of the Duplo Lego's at home. What could we possibly do with more? My husband's reply with the sweetest, happiest face, and saying it as if my son would have said it to me,  "Mommy, more is always better." I stood there in the store, staring at his glowing face of excitement, immediately I had a flash of my grandfather and thought, "Yes, he's right. More is better. He'll be able to be more creative because he'll have more."  So, we both went off happily and bought more.

Once we started homeschooling I thought, "We need more of a variety of toys to stimulate, and expose them. More books. More educational videos. I am also an educator and after seeing what little exposure my students had at home, (other than the television) and how far behind they were academically I was determined to have a variety of toys, educational toys, and books for children to experiment with.

Fast forward:six children + a"more is better"philosophy=cluttered house.

I really didn't realize that my kids didn't need the 'extra large' set of Tinker Toys, three sets of Lincoln Logs, many, many, many baby doll outfits, innumerable amount of play food, thousands of Legos, I have no idea how many Hot Wheel cars, books, books, books- puzzles, puzzles, puzzles---are you getting the picture?

Now for some of it, the "more" worked out. Having six children there are certain things that I am glad that we have a lot of so they can really build stuff and be creative. I am also glad for the variety of toys too because I can switch out toys and it always feels like we have something new in the house to play with. I have often thought of down sizing the toys, but then I think of my younger ones who have never had a chance to play with this stuff.  I also think of  'Joy School' (Joy School is a little Pre-K program I created) and how my students are able to use all the toys. Basically, I'm having a tough time getting rid of stuff.

So, how does one go from a mentality of  'having more and saving it all' to 'having less and giving away? Well, as with every issue of change God brings me through there always seems to be a root hurt or fear that propels me to do things I no longer want to do. And like the root of my Grandfather's obsession of 'more is better' the same is the root of mine--fear. Fear of not having enough. Fear of being abandoned and left with nothing. Fear that I'm worthless. (I grew up with few toys and most times not even the toys that I asked for. It left me believing that I was not worth any one's time or money to go out and buy me what I really wanted). Fear is such a powerfully dangerous emotion. It has gotten me to not just buy things, but to buy in duplicate! It has gotten me to believe that if I purchase this item my kids will be happier and smarter. It's gotten me to believe that I'll be accepted and  I'll have when there is no more.

I don't want to fear anymore. I want to be free.
Truly, easier said then done because this is a God thing.
I can't just snap my fingers and voila! I'm free from fear.

But God is so good to me. He has been slowly showing me how to release the grasp I have on stuff -even stuff that brings back a good memory. God is asking me to trust Him with the memories, and with the fears of abandonment.

So, Lord, I surrender. I make this decision to surrender to you all the fears that have been passed down from my sweet Grandfather and those that I have added on along the way. Help me let go of the fear and embrace faith. Faith to believe that You will provide. Faith to believe that I am accepted. Faith to believe that you love me no matter what.  Help me know that you will always provide for me and my family and we will never be in want.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Eggs ala Ellie!

Here is the Martha Stewart recipe:
Florentine egg cups
-slices of bread                           
 (amount may vary for the amount of company).
-thawed frozen spinach
-salt and pepper
-cup cake pan

Butter the cups of a muffin tin. Cut the crusts off slices of bread (white works best), and spread each slice with softened butter; gently press one slice into each muffin cup, buttered side up. Place one tablespoon of thawed frozen spinach in each bread cup. Crack an egg into each cup; season with salt and pepper. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, until the whites are set but the yolks are still soft. Serve them on their own, or with hollandaise.

Eggs ala Ellie or Eggs in a Basket:
-wheat bread slices (of course I used eight)
-butter spray/butter
-sliced or shredded cheese
-salt and pepper
-cupcake pan

Spray the cupcake pan with butter spray. Butter each slice of bread and place down in the cupcake holder. (So far everything is the same ;)  My children do not sunny side up eggs so I scrambled an egg and carefully poured it into the bread. (You need to pour it slowly to allow the bread time to absorb it-otherwise it will pour out of the bread and onto the pan. Ask me how I know that little tidbit of information)  Next, season the scrambled egg with salt and pepper. Lastly, place a half a slice of cheese on top of the egg in a basket!

-Repeat above recipe for as many people as you are serving.
-Place in the oven at 350 degrees.
-Bake 20 minutes.

All my kids ate it up- even my one and half year old!

***I didn't use the spinach because in the morning I want quick prep time breakfasts- thawing out the spinach would slow me down, but would totally do it with a  Saturday morning or Sunday evening meal.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Dutch Baby Pancakes

1cup all-purpose flour
1t. cinnamon
1/4 c. sugar
1/3 c. butter
4 eggs
1c. milk
(Makes four servings)

(For my family of eight I need to double this recipe and I use a 13x9 pan. If you don't need to double it, you can use a 8x8 or 9x9 pan).

Place 1/3c. butter (I use 1/4c.butter) in your pan and set it in a 425-degree oven until butter melts. Whisk together the eggs and milk; stir in dry ingredients (flour, cinnamon, and sugar) blending thoroughly. (We love cinnamon so I use 3t.) Remove pan from oven and pour batter in. Bake at 425 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes or until puffed and golden. Serve with maple syrup.