Friday, June 29, 2012

One for Papa and One for Me!

Well, my husband and I are alone with our granddaughters today and tomorrow, because their mommy flew out to the Midwest for a wedding and their daddy had to go out of town for some work-related event. We are thoroughly enjoying our special time with Bonny and Kewpie, and all I can say is that first-time grandparenthood is especially wonderful when you're lucky enough to get twins! Papa and Grammy never have to get into tussles over whose turn it is to hold the baby; we each get one! There's no FOMO at all going on down here in Alabama (you'll have to read yesterday's post to get that reference).

My beloved late father-in-law was a well- known baby hog, and hardly gave my mother-in-law a chance to hold the twins' father (who was the first of 32 Pearl grandchildren) after he got his hands on him. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, and my husband is just as baby crazy as his dad--so thank goodness we started out with two grandchildren right off the bat. I would have had severe FOMO if I'd had to wait my turn all the time. (We parents love to teach our kids to share their toys; but sometimes it's hard for us to share ours!)

When our granddaughters were tiny, we could each hold one and feed her a bottle. Now, we can each hold one on our lap and cuddle with her while we watch a "Baby Einstein" video. We each get to have one in our arms while we sing their pre-nap and pre-bedtime lullabies--and we each have a sweet little sleepy  head resting on our shoulder. Twins are absolutely perfect for a completely besotted set of grandparents.

We are having so much fun, and the care and feeding of these baby girls is moving along smoothly, like clockwork. I can't help but wonder, though...when our son is at work and our daughter-in-law is alone with the twins all day, HOW DOES SHE DO IT? She must be a ninja or something, with the ability to be in two places at once. The two-to-two ratio Papa and Grammy have here is not too tough. But how in the world can she do it when it's two-to-one?   I am in awe of  her, I truly am.

I give my son and his wife all the credit in the world for handling what they do, day in and day out. And as a grandparent, I thank them for giving my husband and me two grandchildren at once, so neither of us would ever have to feel left out (and wind up sulking in "time out" because we couldn't figure out how to share nicely!).

Thursday, June 28, 2012

All Blogged Down in Alabama

Papa and I are babysitting for the twins today, while their daddy is at work and their mommy is on her way out to the Midwest to attend the wedding of a college friend.  This is the first time in days that they've gone down for their morning nap and I haven't felt the need to catch a few Z's right along with them.  I'd been puttering about, and then suddenly I realized, hey, wait a minute: I can blog!  I can blog in the morning, just like I do when I'm at home! 

Not so fast, though.  I sat down eagerly at my laptop and went to my eBlogger page, but I was unable to open it up in the usual way (it had expired, and eBlogger wanted me to sign in again--but my password, which I haven't memorized yet, is pinned up on the bulletin board over my desk back at home!).  Somehow, though, I was able to finagle my way onto a page that looks as if it will allow me to write and publish a post.  Fingers crossed; otherwise, I may be forced to wait until I get back home on Sunday to resume blogging.

I suppose I'm becoming a bit of a broken record, using this blog as a forum to shamelessly brag about my twin granddaughters daily.  But I just can't help it.  They are such fascinating, funny little people, each with her own unique personality--and although they are identical twins with practically the same facial features, each has her own unique set of facial expressions and her own uniquely incredible smile.

They are at that age where what they want most in the world is whatever toy or book the other one is holding.  My middle son's lovely girlfriend recently told us that in her family, they have a phrase they use when something fun is happening and some family member who can't be there is bummed that he isn't sharing in it: FOMO (Fear of Missing Out).  Well, these little girls of ours have a tendency to get a severe case of FOMO when it comes to toys and books.  They tussle over the same must-have item until one of them loses her grip; but amazingly, neither one of them ever really cries about it.  (That's because, all FOMO aside, our granddaughters are perfect angels.  But you knew that already, of course.)

Papa and I decided to give them each a new toy, because as grandparents we have a green light to spoil them whenever we get the chance.  And to combat FOMO, we got them both the same thing: a little stuffed Sesame Street character called Murray.  (We wanted Elmo's, because to these little ones, that furry red monster is a real rock star; but alas, we couldn't find any!)

Okay, that's it for today from sunny Alabama, because I'm hearing some noises next door and I believe nap time is about to come to an end.  I'm going to try to publish this post, but if it doesn't work, I'll try not to fret about it too much.  My blog won't be down for long...and I doubt that there's all that much FOMO amongst my followers out there when it comes to this humble "String of Pearls."

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

It Doesn't Get Any Better Than This...

My husband is absolutely besotted with his two wee granddaughters (as am I).  Like his father before him, he was born to be a father; and nothing touched me more than seeing him in that role, interacting with our five sons.  Like his father, he was also born to be a "Papa"; and now I am thoroughly enjoying watching him in this wonderful new role, interacting with those twin baby girls.

Last night, I posted a darling picture of Papa with Kewpie Doll, taken during our trip to the local pool.  So tonight, I thought I'd post one of him with Kewpie's counterpart, Bonny Babe, taken during our post-dinner outing to the small lake located on the Army post where our son works.

Okay, I said I'd post one picture, but I posted two.  I just couldn't decide which of these photos was more adorable.  It's the chubby little arm draped around Papa's shoulder that gets to me.  If there's such a thing as Heaven on earth, I believe it's when you're holding a beloved grandchild who has her arm resting this way on your shoulder.  If you asked my husband, I'm sure he'd agree with me.  (The only position that outranks this one on the heavenliness scale involves her head resting there as well.)

What a great time we had at the lake!  Our little beach babies toddled all over the sand and walked back and forth in waist-deep water, holding onto their parents' hands (each wearing nothing but a swim diaper--which has got to be the cutest get-up under the sun for a round-bellied one-year-old).

I'm so glad I was able to capture these endearing images for posterity.  Folks, let me tell you: it just doesn't get any better than this.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Little Trooper

I have traditionally been a morning blogger, which you probably know if you're a frequent reader of "String of Pearls."  But for the past six days, my husband and I have been staying with our oldest son and his wife--and our one-year-old twin granddaughters. do I put this?  Mornings are what you might call BUSY around here!  There's so much to do between 5:30 or 6:00, when the little darlings first let it be known that they have had enough of their cribs, until they lay their heads down for their morning nap at 9:30.  It's during their nap time that I should blog, I guess; but I've been napping right along with them!

I've never been much of a napper.  When my own babies were napping--we're going back a couple of years now--I usually used the free time to get things done around the house. Or to read a couple of articles in Good Housekeeping (diet tips for ridding oneself of post-partum tummy fat, perhaps).  Or to sit with a sleeve of Oreos and a cup of coffee and watch some mindless television.  But I'm a grammy now, you see.  And I'm finding out that old grammies don't have as much energy as young mommies.  Grammies take naps.  Not just when the babies take their morning naps, but when they take their afternoon ones, too.  So if this grammy is going to blog down here in AL, I believe she's going to blog at night!

Anyway, I'm all tuckered out and headed to bed (yes, that's all I do now is sleep); but I thought before I turn in for the night I ought to at least do a quick post.  Last night, I asked you to pray for my Kewpie Doll, who was going in for an MRI today.  Well, she was a little trooper through the whole ordeal.  All she could have today was apple juice up until 9:00 a.m., and then she had to fast until after she recovered from being anesthetized for her 1:00 procedure.  Luckily, they gave her something to calm her down so that my daughter-in-law didn't have to be put through the agony of hearing her cry as they took her away to do the MRI.  When the two of them returned from the hospital, my little sweetie was a little unsteady on her feet, swaying and wobbling a bit as she toddled about; but otherwise you'd never know there'd been anything out of the ordinary about her day.

After dinner, Papa and I went over to the pool with the girls and their mommy and daddy, and I got this great shot of Papa and Kewpie together.

Look at that precious, happy face.  (My husband's is quite precious and happy-looking, I'll admit; but I mean my granddaughter's.)  Would you ever guess she'd had such a tough day?  Thanks for the prayers.  They worked! 

A Prayer Request for My Little Angel

Tonight, I'm sending out a prayer request for my little angel, Kewpie Doll (one of my one-year-old twin granddaughters).  Tomorrow, she is having an MRI to determine whether or not the large strawberry birthmark she has on her head is presenting any problems that would necessitate its removal.  Obviously, she is going to have to be sedated for the MRI.  This means that the poor little sweetie can have only clear liquids past midnight tonight, so tomorrow she is going to have to go without any solid food until after her procedure at 1:00 p.m.  It will probably be a rough morning for her mommy, who will have to try to figure out how to keep her from eating while her sister has her breakfast and snack.  And I know from experience that the entire ordeal will take as much out of Mommy as it does out of Kewpie.  There is nothing worse as a parent than seeing your baby go through something scary or painful, and wishing you could be the one going through it instead.  I'm so glad that my husband and I can be here to help out, and to babysit for Bonny Babe while my daughter-in-law takes Kewpie to the hospital.

I will be thinking of mother and child all day tomorrow, and I won't be able to relax until they are both back home and the whole thing is over!  And I plan to ask the Blessed Mother to watch over the two of them and help them through it.

There is nothing more beautiful to witness than the love of a mother for her child, is there?  And images of the Blessed Mother and Her Son are especially moving.  I love this painting of the Blessed Mother and the Baby Jesus.  It's a rather famous painting titled "Madonnina" ("The Little Mother") by Roberto Ferruzzi.  It was not originally intended to be a religious painting.  Ferruzzi used an 11-year-old girl he saw on the street, and the little brother she was carrying in her arms, as his models.  But when it was first publicly exhibited in Venice in 1897, the painting was received by the public as a beautiful image of the Virgin Mary holding her Infant Son. Soon it became known as "The Madonna of the Streets," and Italian immigrants brought copies of it with them when they came to this country.  It is the most renowned of Ferruzzi's works.

My Kewpie and her twin Bonny remind me very much of the sweet baby in this painting when they are asleep.  Their faces are positively angelic.  I pray that the Blessed Mother will keep my little angel safe in Her loving arms all day long tomorrow, especially when she has to be separated from her mommy for the MRI.   Please pray for her, too.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Bet You Can't Do THIS!

Here's the latest from down here in sunny--make that hot and humid--Alabama: look at what my twin granddaughters can do!  They're multi-talented!  (And apparently made of rubber!)
Bonny Babe can do it.
Kewpie Doll can do it, too.
I can only do what they're doing figuratively speaking (and unfortunately, I probably put my foot in my mouth way too often).  But these two are the most limber little people I've ever seen.

Broccoli and green beans are yucky-poo right now, as far as these babies are concerned...but it looks like they think those edible piggy-toes of theirs are mighty tasty!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Cuteness Squared

No time to blog today.  Papa and I are too busy.  Our daughter-in-law is en route to the Midwest to attend a cousin's wedding, our son is at work, and their twin girls are taking their morning nap.  I should be napping myself right now, seeing as how I stayed up until almost midnight on Wednesday night and then got up at 2:00 a.m. on Thursday to get ready to head to the airport with my husband.  We arrived here in AL yesterday afternoon, and we did get a fairly decent night's sleep last night.  But I still feel like I'm running on empty...and believe me, you need to have a full tank to keep up with two very active, very mobile, (and very adorable) one-year-olds.

So I'm going to try to get some rest while the babies are sleeping, but I thought first I'd share a picture I took last night, of Papa giving their chubby little bellies noisy "ferberts" and making them laugh.  (Most people call them "raspberries," but we call them "ferberts."  Not really sure why.)

Anyhoo, look at our beautiful granddaughters!   Aren't they totes adorbs and totes presh, as the Facebook generation would say?  They are cuteness squared.  They don't always look the same, even though they are indeed identical twins.  But here, I think it's hard to tell them apart.

Uh oh...I'm already hearing some peeps on the monitor, so I think I may have missed the opportunity to catch a few winks.  But I can always try again during their afternoon nap!  

P. S. And as long as we're speaking of twins, today is my husband's twin's birthday.  Actually, she's his Irish twin, which means they were born less than a year apart--in their case, three days shy of a year.  They've been the same age since the 19th, but today, my sister-in-law pulls ahead again.  Happy Birthday, T!  Hope it's a good one!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Designer Duckies

I was packing for my trip last night (I'm heading off to the airport with my husband this morning, well before the crack of dawn)--and look at what I found in my suitcase.  Blimey, a couple of stowaways!  Hey, how in the Sam Hill did they get in there?

Okay, I'll come clean.  I'm the one who put those rubber duckies in there, and now you can probably guess where we're going.  That's right, we're traveling down south to AL, to visit with/babysit for our twin granddaughters (yippee-ki-yay!) and to see their parents, too.  And those two little cutie pies (the babies, that is) happen to have a soft spot for rubber duckies.

Rubber ducks have certainly come a long way from when our boys played with them in the bathtub.  Back in the day, they came in one style only, at least as far as I knew: they were yellow with orange bills and wide-open black eyes.  (And actually, the rubber duck that the twins first got attached to was one of those old school-style quackers.)  But these days, designer duckies are all the rage.  You can find them in just about every color of the rainbow, and you can also find them dressed up as all sorts of characters: policemen, firemen, cheerleaders, football players, bakers, brides and grooms, doctors, nurses, mermaids...well, you get the idea.  And you can find them duded up as cowboys and cowgirls, as you can see.  Earlier this month, we sent the twins a pair of hot pink princess ducks for their birthday, with silver crowns on their heads and silver scepters under their wings.  I thought we'd show up at their house today with a cowboy duckie, to remind the girls of their cowboy hat-wearin' Papa, and a cowgirl, too--not because Grammy wears a cowboy hat, but just because the two of them made a nice couple.

Designer ducks; what will they think of next?  They're so silly...and yet, I can't resist them!

Wish us luck on our flights.  And keep on the lookout for the pictures I'll be posting over the next week or so.  If you think these rubber ducks are cute, y'all just wait until you see my granddaughters.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Happy Birthday to My Hubby (One Day Late)

Yesterday was my husband's birthday.  He spent most of it flying an airplane from Paris to NYC, then commuting from there and finally arriving home at about 9:30 p.m.  Not a great way to spend your birthday.  Since it was so late by the time he got home and we're celebrating officially tonight by having dinner with our second son and his girlfriend, his birthday dinner was leftovers.  And I'm ashamed to even admit this, but when I woke up yesterday, for some crazy reason I thought it was the 18th, and I didn't even dedicate my blog post to him.  I wrote instead about an oak sideboard in my dining room that my mother had handed down to me!  Give me a break!  (At least I did talk about my beloved in that post; I did say that when he used to call me on the phone my heart would go pitter-pat.  But what I didn't say was "HAPPY BIRTHDAY"!)

So today, I give you the birthday boy.  Is he the cutest thing you've ever seen or what?  And look how proud he is of that ribbon he's holding.  (I believe that was from a swim meet.)
Here, he's a cute ten-year-old (who looks so much like our middle son at the same age that it's eerie), wearing the black Chuck Taylor Converse sneakers that became his trademark--and that he sports to this day.  His smile is still as engaging as it was back then, but nowadays along with his Chucks he wears shirts that fit him a bit better.  I love, love, love his smiling face, the way it looked when he was a skinny young lad in a charmingly too-small polo shirt, and the way it looks now; it's the best face there is in all the world.

54 years ago (as of yesterday! Which was the 19th!), my favorite person in the world--my best friend, my high school sweetheart, my prom date, my long-distance college sweetheart/pen pal, my doting husband of 31-plus years, the devoted father of my five sons --was born.  When he came into the world, he made it a better place.

I don't even know how to express my love and appreciation for this man adequately.  I can't imagine my life without him.

When we began our married life together, my husband was in flight school, on his way to becoming a Naval Aviator who flew fighter jets.  He loved his Navy flying career, but gave it all up just after the birth of son #4, so that he could set down roots for his kids--so that they could live in one town the whole time they were growing up, which was a dream we had for them.  Everything he has ever done, every choice he has ever made, has been for those boys and me.  He is the most selfless person I have ever known.

My husband has been an airline pilot for the past 24 years...and a Pee Wee football coach, a youth league lacrosse coach, the coordinator/trainer of the altar servers at our parish church, a lector, a school board member at our kids' Catholic grade school, a high school freshman football coach, a high school varsity lacrosse coach...and all the while, the most loving and devoted husband and father in the world.  Now, the title "doting Papa" can be added to his list of accomplishments.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: my husband is my hero.

So here's wishing a Happy Birthday (one day late) to that heroic hubby of mine.  I think I'll keep him.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

In Praise of Hand-Me-Downs

Isn't this a spectacular piece of furniture?  It's an antique oak sideboard that we had in our dining room when I was growing up, and it was handed down to me (along with a huge antique oak table and matching chairs) from my mom when she and my father sold our old house and downsized many years ago.

Let me say for the record that I LOVE hand-me-downs.  This is one of my favorite pieces of furniture, not just because it's beautiful and functional, but because it reminds me of my youth every time I look at it.  I have vivid memories of leaning on it, with my elbows on the surface and the extension cord of the phone stretched as far as I could make it go without breaking it, fiddling with the knickknacks on it and trying to have a wee bit of privacy while I talked to my boyfriend in hushed tones.

We kids didn't have telephones in our bedrooms at my house.  (We weren't the Kennedys, after all!)  And of course, iPhones and cell phones--and even gigantic portable phones like they used on "Seinfeld"--were gadgets out of some futuristic "Jetsons" world.  (Well, now I've dated myself, haven't I?)  Back then, we had clunky, rotary-dialed phones, and they were located either on a table near an outlet or on the wall.  During my high school years, our family's phone was mounted on the wall just inside the doorway to the kitchen/family room area that was at the back of our house.  Right next to that area was the formal dining room.  So when my boyfriend called and I wanted to talk to him away from the prying eyes and ears of my family, I stretched the extension cord into the dining room (trying to close the door behind me as best I could), and the cord was only long enough to get as far as this antique sideboard.  So that's what this lovely piece of furniture is to me: a sort of phone booth; the place where I stood as a starry-eyed teenager and talked to the boy of my dreams (the same boy who ended up becoming my husband).

Thinking about those phone calls really brings back memories.  There were five kids in my family, and we were so close in age that we were all teenagers at the same time.  My poor father!  The phone business drove him absolutely bonkers.  We kids were always on the phone--and since this was well before call waiting had arrived on the scene, our line was always busy, and there was nothing to be done about it short of calling the police to say there was an emergency so they could break in on the line.  If I had a nickel for every time my dad threatened to put a pay phone in the house for us kids, I would be a rich woman today.

I do love hand-me-downs.  They have a history to them that makes them so much more special than brand spanking new pieces of furniture picked out on a showroom floor.  This hand-me-down sideboard represents a very special time in my life, when I was experiencing the euphoria of my first true love.  When every time the phone rang and I picked it up and heard my boyfriend's voice, my heart went pitter-pat...and then I disappeared, with the receiver glued to my ear, into the dining room!

Monday, June 18, 2012

LES MISERABLES: The Long and the Short of It

Recently, I decided that it was time to conquer Victor Hugo's literary masterpiece, Les Miserables.  I've attempted this twice before, but each time only got to about page 150 or 200 and then just couldn't face trying to plow through the rest.  It's not the length of the book that I find daunting.  My paperback copy is 1,463 pages long, and that's LONG, I'll grant you.  However, I've read Gone with the Wind more than once, and as you can see from the picture, that weighty tome is just about as thick (at 1,448 pages)--and regardless of the page count, I absolutely devour it every time.  If I'm thoroughly enjoying a book, I actually usually wish that it was longer and wouldn't have to end.  So no, the length wasn't the issue.
It's not that Les Miserables isn't brilliantly written, either.  Published in 1862, it ranks among the greatest novels of all time.  And I'm a former English major, for goodness sake. There's nothing that I like more than reading a great book.  I'd rather read the book than see the movie in almost every case.

The third time's the charm, I thought; this time, I was determined that I would make it through to the end.  After all, it's an engrossing, heart-tugging story, filled with history, suspense, and emotion; and I think Jean Valjean must be one of the most memorable characters in all of literature.

Well, I'm a little embarrassed to admit this...but this time, I never even got past the introduction, which includes this observation: "...nobody would deny that Victor Hugo's prodigious flow of words occasionally produces moments of excess, when we might wish he had shown more restraint."  I've already made the command decision that I'm going to shelve Hugo's brilliant--and unrestrained--masterpiece until another day.

My husband and I loved the 1998 film version of Les Miserables, starring Liam Neeson as Jean Valjean--and watching it inspired my first attempt at reading Hugo's acclaimed novel. (Great movie!  If you haven't seen it yet, you should!)  Then a couple of years back, my husband and I saw a wonderful stage production of Les Mis at the Ogunquit Playhouse in Maine. Although it's not quite Broadway, Ogunquit is known as "America's Foremost Summer Theatre."  It opened in 1933 as part of the "Little Theatre Movement" of the 20's and 30's and draws big name stars each summer.  That musical version at the Playhouse was so moving that it brought tears to my eyes and inspired my second attempt at reading the book.  Apparently, a brand new version is coming soon to a theater near you, starring Hugh Jackman as Valjean and co-starring Anne Hathaway and Russell Crowe.  In fact, seeing a trailer for that upcoming movie is what inspired me--yet again!--to break out my poor, neglected paperback copy of the book, and to read it before the new movie is released.

But you know what?  Right now I'm feeling inspired to just wait for the movie.  Maybe I've finally found the book that--for me, at least--is not as good as the movie.  (Or the play.)

P. S. If you're reading this and you've read Les Miserables, do you think I should give it another go?  Leave me a comment if you loved it so much that you think you should try to persuade me to finish it.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Giant Ties for a Giant of a Dad

On Mother's Day this year (May 13), I blogged about the hand-made treasures my boys brought home for me when they were in grade school.  Well, it's Father's Day, and I thought it was only fitting to break out some of the priceless gifts they made for their dad.

At the Catholic grade school all five of our sons attended (even our youngest went there until we decided to homeschool him from grades 4 through 8), the nun who taught first grade did the same Father's Day project year after year: a giant tie cut out of colored paper and decorated in crayon on the front, with a fill-in-the-blanks sheet of paper glued on the back that began with the words "My dad is the greatest dad in the whole world."

Dad can never have enough ties, right?  When in doubt, get him a tie!  Actually, by the time son #5 got into first grade nine years after his oldest brother, Sister Ann had retired the giant tie project and just had the kids draw pictures of themselves with their dads--but she didn't retire the fill-in-the-blanks sheet that was the same as the one his brothers had done, and this was glued onto the back of his artwork.  That sheet--which was like the best Mad Libs page ever--had always been the most important element of the Father's Day giant tie anyway.
On that infamous sheet, most of the boys guessed their father's height correctly, saying he was 6 feet tall; son #3, however, thought his dad was 60 feet--and our baby had him pegged at "9,000,000,000 tall."  (That number seemed a bit high; but he didn't specify what unit of measurement he was using, so for all we know, he was right on the money.)  Son #1 was closest on the weight, at 180 pounds.  Son #3 had him a little low, at 160, but not as low as son #2, who thought he was an anorexic 93 pounds.  Son #4 was about 50 pounds over, with 235.  And then there was our baby's guess, a perplexing "120,000,000,000,000."  (Again, he didn't specify the unit of measurement, so that may not be as far off as it sounds.)

For dad's favorite food, our firstborn filled in "stake," which is a good answer, but not quite as descriptive as son #2's "juicy steak."  Juicy is definitely the quality my husband looks for in a steak.  Our middle son said "chicken," which is certainly right up there with steak on Dad's list of favorite foods, along with son #4's choice, "terkey and gravy."  Our baby's paper reads, "His favorite food is Efreything," which may explain why he thought his dad weighed 120,000,000,000,000.

My husband is an airline pilot, and that means when he's working, he's away from home for a few days at a time.  So when sons #1 and #4 said their dad worked 24 hours each day, that actually made sense.  As far as his boys were concerned, my husband worked either 24 hours a day when he was on a trip or zero hours a day when he was home between trips.  Son #2, however, thought he worked an exhausting 39 hours a day, whereas son #3 guessed only 2. (Did he think his dad was a slacker?)  I know you're dying to hear what our baby came up with, and I don't think you'll be disappointed: 30,000 hours a day.  He had a hard-working dad, that's all he was trying to say.

Here's how the boys finished this sentence: "He looks funny when he _________________."  Our firstborn filled in "where's his wild underwear."  (His dad did have holiday-themed boxers that were bright and silly, and I can only assume that's what he meant here.)  Son #2 thought he looked funny when he "plays Monopoly."  (Not sure what that means, but it makes me want to break out the old Monopoly board.)  Son #4 thought he looked funny when he "maks fases."  (It's true, he was always making hilarious fases for the amusement of his boys.)  And they really must have thought he was a riot when he laughed, because son #3 said he looked funny when he "laph's"--and our youngest took that one step further when he said "laghes so hard."

If you've never met my husband, you're probably having trouble trying to picture what he's like using the above information.  You've figured out that he's somewhere between 6 feet and 9,000,000,000 tall and between 93 pounds and 120,000,000,000,000.  Listen, you can take it from me that he's the perfect height and weight; he's also handsome, funny (with a great laugh), kind, loving, hard-working, and Faith-filled.  And he's the best husband and father on the planet.  (You may be thinking that my baby and I share a tendency toward hyperbole, but that's the God's honest truth!)

Happy Father's Day to the "greatest dad in the whole world."  That's what it says on the backs of all those giant ties, and that makes it official!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Spiritual Childhood

Sometimes, the most beautiful things come into our house buried in the piles of what would otherwise have to be labeled "junk mail."  For instance, we recently got some cards from a Missouri group called the Association of the Miraculous Medal, and one of them had this darling painting by Donald Ruessler on the cover.
St. Therese of Lisieux taught the "Little Way of Spiritual Childhood," saying that the way to Heaven is easier when one remains humble and small--when one keeps his soul in a state of childlike innocence, with a child's boundless capacity for love and joy.  When I saw this piece of artwork, I thought immediately of St. Therese the "Little Flower" and her "Little Way."  There is nothing so pleasing in the eyes of God than the simplicity, purity, and innocence of a young child, like the angelic little girl depicted here--for as Jesus said, "the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these" (Matt. 19:14).  It is said that God always listens to our prayers, especially the prayers of children.  I love the way this painting perfectly illustrates that idea.

I am drawn to this piece of artwork not only because of the little blond angel (a reminder to me of my angelic twin granddaughters), but because of the Miraculous Medal on the bottom left, with both the front and back view shown.  I have been wearing a Miraculous Medal for many years now, strengthened by the knowledge that Our Lady Herself promised to give graces to those who wear it with confidence.  I could use all the graces I can get, so I'll continue to wear my medal until the day I die, and to pray the words engraved on its front: "O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee."

In the meantime, I need to work on becoming more childlike with each passing that the older my body gets, the younger my soul will become.  Because I think the perfect scenario would be to leave this world just the way I came into it, as small and helpless as a newborn baby.

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Manliest Cities

I was watching "Fox & Friends" (on the Fox News Channel) for the first time in ages this morning.  If I ever do watch a morning show, it's not "Today" or "Good Morning America"; it's this show.

Today, the 80's rock band Def Leppard was putting on a concert right outside the studio, and Steve, Gretchen, and Brian (love those guys!) were talking about how the lead singer lives in Ireland but still watches "Fox & Friends" every morning.  You never know where you're going to find Conservative-minded folks.  I would not have guessed that they could be found amongst the long-haired, aging rockers of Def Leppard.

I'm really glad I tuned in today, because I learned much more than the viewing habits of Def Leppard's lead singer.  I was totally amused to see this breaking news story: [drum roll]...Oklahoma City has been named the nation's "Manliest City" for 2012, according to the 4th annual study conducted by Mars Chocolate.  Like me, you probably didn't know that each year, the New Jersey-based chocolate company ranks 50 major U.S. cities on a manliness scale and publishes the results.  Had this been going on when my five sons were growing up, this story would have been of great interest to the inhabitants of my testosterone-filled household.

This year, Oklahoma City was ranked #1, and San Diego was ranked #50, close on the heels of #49 San Francisco.  (Sorry, California.)  Memphis and Nashville were #'s 3 and 4 respectively; that doesn't surprise me, as those cities bring to mind pickup truck-drivin', cowboy hat-wearin', country music-lovin' manly men (not to pigeonhole the type of male who lives in either of those Southern cities).  Miami finished a dismal #36 out of 50.  How emasculating for Miami, which before today I always thought of as a hotbed of uber-macho types.  To quote an on-line article I read, "The Heat are already one game behind the Thunder in the NBA Finals, and now this humiliating blow."  Yes, humiliating indeed.

How does Mars come up with this list, you ask?  There are many criteria upon which the cities are graded.  The manliest cities have the largest number of "manly" establishments, such as steak houses and home improvement stores, as well as the most monster truck rallies and professional sports teams; they also have the smallest number of "girly" establishments like nail salons, fancy shopping boutiques, and sushi restaurants.  (If you're a guy and you love sushi, you're probably asking yourself, "Hey, what's wrong with that?")

If you live in a major U.S. city and you're curious to know where your burg ranks on the manliness scale (or if it even made it into the top 50), you can go to and check out the list.

It's too bad that Mars doesn't rank the small towns and cities in America, because I'm pretty sure ours would have been right up there at the top of the manliness list in 2003.  If you don't believe me, check out this picture of my sons from the summer of that year.
My manly men.
Red Sox t-shirts, muscles, and a monster truck (okay, a monster van).  It doesn't get much manlier than that.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

No Man Is An Island

I wasn't sure when--or if--I would ever get back to blogging.  I've been so busy lately that there hasn't been much time for it, and a part of me was beginning to think, "What the heck have I got to say anymore that anyone would want to read anyway?"  Then I sat down this morning to check my e-mails and found this one from my middle son: "Hey Mom, Your fans are craving some more blogs!  Love, M--"

My "fans"--as my dear son, who is for the moment my favorite, calls them--are almost exclusively people with the same last name as mine or are related to me in some way.  And I wouldn't be surprised if most of them are getting a little tired of my daily ramblings.  But if my boy wants blogs, then by golly, he's going to get blogs!

I just returned from a five-day trip down to Chincoteague Island, VA (which is about 11 and 1/2 hours by car from where I live) with my mother and sister.  It is the most beautiful little spot in the world, with so much for an eager tourist to see and do (and plenty of good seafood to eat!  And ponies to feed!); but unfortunately the cause for our trip was a sad one.  My sister and I accompanied our mother, who had to go down there in the wake of her baby sister's sudden tragic death to clean out her house and start the process of getting her affairs in order.  There was a lot of work to do, and it was depressing and exhausting.  But we met some wonderful people down there--people filled to overflowing with that "Southern hospitality" you're always hearing about--who were tireless in their efforts to help us out in any way they could.  (It was more than mere "hospitality": for instance, my aunt's adorable landlady hugged us over and over and adopted my sister and me as her "nieces," saying that now we would always be family.)  We were able to have a lovely memorial service and put on a reception for my aunt's friends, and I believe we were able to give a great deal of comfort to her grieving fiancee/special friend of about ten years, who was shocked and shattered by her passing.  We got much more accomplished in three days than we ever could have thought possible.

On a happier note, if you're looking for a really cool place to vacation, you might want to give Chincoteague Island a look. It has long been a mecca for birdwatchers, if you're into that, and is the home of a National Wildlife Refuge.  There is also a world famous event called the Wild Pony Swim, which draws crowds of about 40,000 annually.  This year, I believe it takes place on July 25.  At that time the ponies will be rounded up, and some will be sold in order to keep the herd at about 150.
But if you're not up for crowds, you can avoid that big event and just take one of the regular boat tours of the island to see the ponies roaming in their natural habitat.  We were not able to do this, of course; but we were able to feed and pet the much less wild ponies that were kept in a fenced-in area just outside our hotel.  (You may have seen that I blogged about these gentle pony friends on June 10 and June 12.)

While we were in Chincoteague, we felt privileged to meet our late aunt's fiancee/special friend, Delbert "Cigar" Daisey.  He is actually quite a character--and a world-renowned carver of wooden duck decoys.  His incredibly detailed, meticulously painted renderings of all different kinds of ducks and shore birds can be found in museums and often sell for tens of thousands of dollars at auction.  He is an 84-year-old native of Chincoteague, a good old boy who has never flown in an airplane--and never even got a driver's license until he met my aunt (when he was in his 70's!); yet he's been written up in publications as prestigious as National Geographic.  In the course of his lifetime, beginning in the 1940's, he's carved about 19,000 birds, and any serious collector of duck decoys would recognize his name instantly.  We went out to eat with him several times and visited him at his house--and we even got a tour of his workshop, which was quite an experience.  I may have to devote a whole separate blog post to Cigar, our new best buddy for life, at some future time; but for now, I'm just going to post this picture of the famous artist-craftsman/hunter/trapper/fisherman/surveyor/civil engineer (you name it, he's done it, despite his limited education), sitting inside the humble little building in which many of his prized works of art were produced.

This man loved my aunt dearly, and we all need people like that in our lives--because, to quote John Donne, "No man is an island, Entire of itself.  Each is a piece of the continent, A part of the main."  So here's a special thanks to the people who love me and encourage me in everything I do, who keep me connected to the continent.  It's because of them, and their unfailing support, that I've decided to keep on blogging.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Pony Whisperer

No time to blog today--but I thought I'd share an awesome picture of some more of my Chincoteague pony friends.  The white spotted baby in this picture nipped my finger by accident when I was feeding her some corn last night, but it was no more than a little love bite and didn't even really hurt.  (And furthermore the sign on the fence--which no one here pays any attention to, by the way--says "Do not feed the ponies by hand," so I have no one to blame but myself!)
I am just crazy about these ponies.  They are turning me into an outlaw who ignores posted signs.  I wish I could take one of these beauties home with me and keep it in the backyard.  Wouldn't that be a draw for my grandchildren?!  They'd all want to come to Papa and Grammy's house!

By the time I leave this idyllic island, I intend to be the "Pony Whisperer"

Sunday, June 10, 2012


My mom, my sister and I were on the road all day yesterday (for about 11 and 1/2 hours), on our way down south to Chincoteague Island, VA, where my late aunt made her home for the past ten years.  We saw one extremely awesome sight along the way.  It was...well, I think I'll just show you a picture, because there aren't enough words to describe the beauty of it.
This, my friends, is my dream car.  I want this car!  (I like the truck in front of it, too.)

Actually, I believe that's a giant cup of Dunkin' Donuts iced coffee on there, and I really prefer hot coffee.  But otherwise, I would get that set of wheels in a heartbeat.  I would.

We arrived last night about 8:00 p.m. and got settled into our lovely, cozy hotel.  As we were carrying our suitcases from the car towards the building, we were thrilled to see another amazing sight (even better than the Dunkin' Donuts Coffeemobile): ponies inside a fenced-in area right next to the parking lot, three adults and two young'uns.  It turns out that Chincoteague is world-renowned for the wild ponies that roam free on the island--and we have some of them right here at our hotel!
This morning, my sister and I bought corn kernels from a little dispensing machine by the fence and hand-fed the ponies (although the sign said we shouldn't--but what fun would it be to just set the corn down in the trough?).  The hotel ponies are obviously not as wild as the ones that run along the beaches; they appear to be more petting zoo speed.  But we fell in love with them!  These ponies are my dream pets!  I want these ponies!

Chincoteague Island is a tiny paradise less than two miles wide by eight miles long, at once super-touristy and charmingly quaint.  There are birds everywhere, and every time we drive down the main drag, we have to stop to let little parades of Canada geese cross the road. It's too bad that the reason for our trip here is such a sad one (to clean out my late aunt's house and get her affairs in order); because otherwise, this place is a little slice of heaven that would make the most idyllic vacation spot you can imagine.

Oh the sights you can see, just traveling down the East Coast of the U.S.!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Leaving My Corner of the Forest

I'm going to be brief this morning, because in a little while I'm leaving to drive down to VA with my mother and one of my sisters.  The reason for our trip is a sad one: my mother's youngest sister died recently, suddenly and unexpectedly; and as she wasn't married and has no children, the burden of settling her affairs and cleaning out her house has fallen on the shoulders of my amazing, indomitable mother.  Mom was the firstborn of five siblings, and she was the one who always took charge and organized reunions for the far-flung members of her family.  She has always taken care of her brothers and sisters, so it is no surprise that she is the one who will make sure that her baby sister's affairs are in order and there is a beautiful and prayerful service for the many friends and family members who are mourning her.  My mom will make sure that her life is celebrated.

I'm glad that I'm able to accompany my mother as she goes through this difficult, heartbreaking process, but it's always hard for me to travel far away from home--and it's going to be especially hard today, when my husband is in the air on a return flight from Europe and won't even be there to wave good-bye as we pull out of the driveway.  As an airline pilot, my husband has had to get used to leaving home on a fairly regular basis to go to faraway locales (a whole lot more used to it than he'd like to be).  But I rarely leave my cozy nest (unless my husband is leaving with me, and we're going off to visit our children and grandchildren).

But sometimes you have to step outside your comfort zone, especially when family members need you.  As A.A. Milne's lovable Winnie the Pooh once said, "You can't stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you.  You have to go to them sometimes."

Don't you just love that silly old bear?  As I've said before in this blog, I think WTP is a true philosopher.  He's got a lot more wisdom in that fluffy brain of his than he gives himself credit for.

For instance, there's this little nugget of brilliance: "Sometimes," said Pooh, "the smallest things take up the most room in your heart."  How true that is!  I've seen houses that are a lot larger and grander than mine, where the rooms look like they're set up for a home decorating magazine photo shoot.   Such is not the case with my home-sweet-home.  But I love my house, and no matter where I go in the world, I'm always happy to get back to it.  It's the little things around here--like the little mouse that lives on the wall between our family room and kitchen, for instance--that make me smile and feel I'm right where I should be.  My heart is here, and that makes it home.

But I need not fear when I'm down south for the next few days; my little mouse friend will be here waiting for me until I return.  And in the meantime, I'm going to have to leave my beloved "corner of the Forest" for a little while.
My little Forest creature!  (How did he get in here?)

(For more words of wisdom from our good old friend Pooh, see two previous posts: "Wise Words from WTP," 2/28/12; and "More Wisdom from That Silly Old Bear," 3/16/12.)

Friday, June 8, 2012

Viva Christo Rey!

A week ago, my husband and I went to see the movie "For Greater Glory," starring Andy Garcia, Eva Longoria, and Peter O'Toole.  I cannot recommend this movie highly enough!  It tells the true story of the Christero War of 1926-1929 in Mexico.  The Christero army was composed of tens of thousands of farmers, ranchers, and common middle class Catholics who rose up in response to the bitter persecution of the Church by the government of Plutarch Calles.

Calles, an atheist and a socialist, was determined to extinguish the Catholic Church and all religious freedom in Mexico, and he strictly enforced anti-clerical laws; but the faithful decided they were not going to take that lying down.  When peaceful resistance was unsuccessful, they armed themselves and fought bravely against the government soldiers under the banner of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  Their battle cry was "Viva Christo Rey!" ("Long live Christ the King!")  And ultimately, they were victorious against the tyrannical Calles government.  The war had claimed the lives of 90,000 people, but on June 27, 1929, church bells rang again in Mexico for the first time in almost three years.

Countless Catholic priests were exiled, jailed, or mercilessly tortured and executed in public during this dark period in Mexican history (dying with the words "Viva Christo Rey!" on their lips), and many of these martyrs were canonized by Pope John Paul II.  Another brave soul who was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI in 2005 is a boy named Jose Luis Sanchez del Rio.  At 13, he wanted to be a Christero, but he was too young to fight.  The general allowed him to join the Christeros as a flag bearer, and he carried the banner of Our Lady of Guadalupe on horseback when they went into battle.  This amazing young man gave his life for Christ at the age of 14, but I don't want to tell you any more than that, as it will give away the ending of the movie.  All I can say is that if you decide to see it, you will be moved beyond words by the actions of young Jose.  When you watch the heartbreaking scenes depicting the martyrdom of this future saint, if you're anything like me you'll be asking yourself, "If I'd been in his place, what would I have done?"--and you'll worry that faced with the same choice, you wouldn't be as courageous.
This is the real Blessed Jose Luis Sanchez del Rio.  You are looking at the face of a saint!
This movie will inspire you to fight for your Faith!  It will remind you just how lucky we are in this country to have religious freedom, and how easily the forces of evil can take it away from us if we're not vigilant in our efforts to protect it.  And it will make you want to be a saint.

Two enthusiastic thumbs up for "For Greater Glory."  Don't miss it!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

An Ode to My Apron

I thought this vintage Good Housekeeping cover had my name written all over it (that is, if you substitute the pie crust and rolling pin for a bowl of chocolate chip cookie dough and a big spoon), because there are two things that I really, really love to do: bake, and wear an apron.

Actually, let me qualify that statement.  I do love to bake, but I don't love to wear an apron; I only wear one because if I didn't, every article of clothing I own would be stained beyond redemption by this point.  Although I consider myself a fairly neat person, I am a fairly messy cook.  I tend to spill things, tip things over, and splatter myself with grease.  I am truly impressed by anyone who can cook without an apron and not end up wearing half the ingredients on her shirt.

My second son is quite amused by the whole apron thing, which I don't understand.  He says I'm always wearing one--even when I sleep!  Not true. I definitely take it off at bedtime. But I do spend more time sporting an apron than most gals, probably; because even standing at the sink washing dishes without one is bad news for my clothes, so pretty much any time I set foot in my kitchen, I strap one on.  Son #2 and his girlfriend came to our house for dinner recently, and when she offered to make the salad, he asked me to get her an apron first.  Gullible me--I thought she'd requested it.  I thought she was a fellow apron fanatic.  I realize now that he just made her wear it for his own amusement.

Son, what's so funny about an apron?  Heck, back in the day, most women wore aprons when they were working in the kitchen.  June Cleaver, for instance, wouldn't have dreamed of cooking without one.  Of course, June wore a dress, high heels, and pearls when she was making dinner for Ward, Wally, and the Beave, so she had a fancy outfit to protect. But hey, I don't want to have butter stains on my jeans and polo shirts any more than June wanted them on her dresses.

I need my trusty apron.  It's always got my back (make that my front).  I love it and I don't care who knows it!  So here's a little ode to my apron, a haiku--because that's the quickest and easiest kind of poetry there is, and I have to wrap this up so that I can go and ice a Bundt cake.

My Apron
I love my apron-- 
with big pockets, tied in back.
I wear it always.

(But not when I'm in bed!)

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Sportsmanship on Display

Our second oldest son is just about to finish up his first year as a high school algebra teacher.  In the fall, he was an assistant coach for the varsity football team, and his boys went to the state championship game (although they didn't win).  This spring, he has been the defense coach for the varsity lacrosse team, and last night they won the championship with a 12-4 victory over his old alma mater.

That was strange for us, sitting in the stands and not rooting for the blue team we'd been a part of for 12 years (because not only did we have boys playing on it, but my husband coached the defense, too, and then our #2 son spent 5 years coaching alongside his dad).  But my husband and I root for our boys, always; and last night, our boy was a coach for the red team.  And there we were with our youngest, whose senior season was still fresh in his memory, and who had teammates he'd played with just a year ago out on that field.  Of course he was going to root for his alma mater.  So we sat there on the 50-yard line, caught somewhere in the middle for this epic battle: we were neutral territory; we were Switzerland.

The great thing is that it really was a win-win situation.  If our #2 son's team won, our baby would be happy for his brother, in spite of being disappointed for his former teammates.  And if they lost, my husband and I would be happy for the boys in blue, for whom we'll always have a soft spot.

It turned out to be a big win for the boys in red--but the best part was that both teams were class acts throughout, giving a clinic on what winning and losing with dignity is supposed to look like.  They both displayed the kind of sportsmanship you hope your kids will learn from playing high school sports.

After the game, I was able to capture some sweet candid moments when our son hugged and spoke with his former AD, who'd been there throughout his high school years when he was an athlete, and who'd become a co-worker during the 5 years he spent at his alma mater as a coach.  This man is one of the finest people we've ever met, and I'm sure each of our boys will carry with him fond memories of Mr. L for the rest of his life.  They spent a lot of time in his office next to the gym, eating the candy he bought in bulk to have on hand for the kids (but not during Lent!) and shooting the breeze.  We just love this man.

The sad thing is that Mr. L suffered a stroke last year, and although he has made a lot of progress in his recovery, he is going to be retiring at the end of this year.  I'm just happy that all 5 of our boys had him as their AD throughout their high school years.  Everyone in this family loves him, and it's truly touching to see how incredibly fond he is of our boys.  Every time my husband and I chat with him, he says, "God bless you" about 10 times.  But I say God bless him, because he has enriched the lives of our sons more than he will ever know.  And during his 13-year tenure as AD at their high school, he has played a huge role in so many kids' lives.

I will always believe that sports--and the coaches and AD's who are involved with them--can teach kids a lot of important life lessons.  Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, and you need to know how to handle both situations with grace.  Thanks to people like Mr. L, my husband, and son #2, a whole lot of boys have learned the art of sportsmanship.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Checkers, Anyone? Anyone?

Some of my sons went through a chess-playing phase when they were young, and of course most kids are up for the occasional game of checkers.  Because of this, years ago I fell in love with a coffee table with a painted checkerboard on the top that I saw in the LL Bean catalog.  I imagined that if we had such a table, there would be countless cozy winter nights with snow falling outside, a roaring fire in the family room fireplace, and my five boys huddled around the coffee table playing endless, spirited games of checkers and chess.  (I know that sounds a little too Norman Rockwell-esque.  But a mom can dream, can't she?)

Instead of paying top dollar, though, my husband and I bought an unfinished table made of sturdy oak and finished it ourselves, with barn red paint on the bottom and a light stain on top.  Then I went to town on the checkerboard, measuring everything out very carefully in an attempt to make our coffee table resemble the one they sold at LL Bean.

The table turned out really nice, if I do say so myself.
Here's the thing, though: I don't remember many epic chess and checkers tournaments played on this coffee table, with a roaring fire in the fireplace or otherwise.  I think the boys might have tested it out a few times (probably just to humor their mom); but if I remember correctly, they still chose to use the folded cardboard checkerboards that they'd always used before I decided that we just had to have this table.  The beauty of those, of course, is that they're portable and you can set them up wherever you want to.  Oh, well...the checkerboard coffee table was a good idea--in theory.

I bet if my boys went to their friends' houses and saw coffee tables like this one, they played games on them all the time.  I think with kids, the things they see day in and day out at their own houses are never as interesting as the things they see at their friends' houses--even if they're the very same things!  We have both a Foosball table and a ping pong table, but they never got as much use as I thought they would.  They saw the most action, of course, during times when our boys had friends over.  (Meanwhile, their friends' Foosball and ping pong tables were gathering dust at home.)

Our sons always loved to play pool at their friends' houses, and I always used to wish that pool tables weren't so expensive so we could get one for our own house.  But you know what?  It's just as well, because that big old thing probably would have sat there lonely and neglected in the basement while they played pool elsewhere.

We did have video games at our house, though; and much to my husband's chagrin, playing video games was one activity our guys were just as happy to do at home as at their friends' houses.  So on those snowy winter nights, they may not have been gathered together around this checkerboard coffee table...but at least they were together--in the basement, gathered around the N64.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Irish This 'N That

I just love the Irish.  They are the best storytellers, the best joke tellers.  They love to laugh and dance and raise their glasses of Guinness (or in the Pearl family's case, their cold cans of Miller Lite) at parties--to celebrate life to the fullest, surrounded by relatives and friends.

At least the Irish people I know are like that.  My husband's family is composed of lads and lasses of 100% pure Irish blood, I believe.  Both sides of his family tree are populated with Roaches, Buckleys, McCoys, Sweeneys, Mullanes, Foleys, and the like.  I, on the other hand, am a mutt.  My mother's maiden name is Kelly, but I think I'm technically only 1/8-1/4 Irish (and in fact I'm about 1/2 English, which means that my British ancestors were the oppressors of my husband's Irish ones--how sad!).*  The one thing not blatantly Irish about my husband's clan is the name Pearl, which doesn't really sound very Irish at all.  I sometimes wonder if it was misinterpreted and given a new spelling somewhere along the way, when an immigrant to this country had a brogue too thick to understand.

Anyway, fully Irish or not, I am fascinated by and drawn to Irish culture.  I would love the opportunity to travel to Dublin one day with my husband, who occasionally flies there--and by that, I mean pilots planes filled with Dublin-bound passengers.  Our beloved Notre Dame Fighting Irish are actually playing a football game there in the fall, and barring any unforeseen circumstances we are planning to go over and watch the game--and do a little sightseeing on the Emerald Isle as well.

In the meantime, I have turned our two oldest sons' former bedroom into a guestroom with a decidedly Irish decorative theme going on.
For the record, this bedroom looked NOTHING like this when two messy boys were inhabiting it.
And yesterday, I made a fiscally irresponsible choice at the grocery store, simply because I am fascinated by all things Irish.  We were almost out of butter (a crisis situation around here), so after Mass my husband and I stopped to get some.  We picked up two pounds of store brand salted butter, and then this intriguing package which I'd never seen in the dairy aisle before caught my eye: "Kerrygold Naturally Softer Pure Irish Butter."  Imported from Ireland!  It was $3.29 for a half-pound, whereas our normal butter costs a mere $2.49 a pound.  At that price, we thought, it sure better taste like gold!  (My husband quipped, "I hope 'Irish butter' isn't just another name for margarine.")
Well, we had our Irish butter on our Portuguese bread last night, along with a pot roast dinner.  And I must say, the Irish make a good butter, just like they make a good beer.  But I think from now on, we'll stick to the much cheaper store brand...except, perhaps, on special occasions, like St. Patty's Day!

*If I got my percentages wrong here, I'm sure to hear about it from my Dad (our self-appointed family genealogist).

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Let Them Eat (Character) Cake!

Yesterday, my twin granddaughters got to experience one of life's greatest joys (in my opinion): they ate CAKE!  Their very first pieces of cake.  Well, I guess they mostly smeared it all over their faces, but some of the heavenly-tasting stuff did actually make it into their little mouths.

On the grand occasion of their first birthday, their daddy made them an amazing cake; I tell you, this cake looked like it was created by T.V.'s "Cake Boss" himself, Buddy Valastro.  The girls love the Elmo character on "Sesame Street," so their dad made that cute little monster's likeness out of yellow cake and tinted buttercream frosting--and it was a true masterpiece.

I give son's Elmo cake!  Ta da!
My firstborn majored in engineering in college, so it is no wonder that he engineered such a perfect birthday cake for his baby girls.  He drew Elmo's features in icing with a mathematician's precision, making sure that everything was in perfect proportion vis a vis the image he was trying to duplicate.  His hard work paid off, because next to all of the character cakes I made for him and his brothers when they were little guys, this one really takes the cake.  (Did you see what I did there?)

Way back when, on the occasion of this same son's second birthday, I made him a cake in the image of his favorite "Sesame Street" character at the time: Cookie Monster.  (He was mine, too; I could totally relate to Cookie Monster's constant craving for chocolate chip cookies, the second best food there is after birthday cake.)  Here's that cake, from twenty-six years ago:
I believe I am correct when I say that the student (who spent all those years watching the cake baking process and eagerly licking the bowls) has become the master.  Because although my Cookie Monster cake, with its marshmallow eyes and Hershey bar mouth, was not bad, it doesn't hold a candle to my boy's Elmo cake!  (Again, did you see what I did there?  This Cookie Monster Cake is actually holding a candle shaped like a 2!)

I hate to end this happy post on a sad note, but did you know that Cookie Monster eats mostly health foods nowadays?  He still has the occasional cookie, but he eats a ton of veggies.  I worry that the day will come when this beloved, iconic character will be renamed  "Cauliflower Monster."  Or "Carrot Monster."  I mean, come on!  He's Cookie Monster...because he likes COOKIES!  But I guess it's not very PC these days to promote the idea of kids eating sweets.

I'm not saying little ones should gobble cookies all the time, or cake either; but on their birthdays, at least, you've definitely gotta let them eat cake!

Saturday, June 2, 2012


My precious identical twin granddaughters are one year old today.  HAPPY BIRTHDAY to the two most adorable little people on the planet!  Those wee lasses came into the world like two little rays of sunshine, lighting up the lives of so many, and they are loved more than they could ever imagine.

I saw a Family Circle cartoon once that said, "God creates twins whenever he makes a face he really likes."  Look at these faces: is it any wonder that God decided one of them would just not be enough?

My daughter-in-law told me yesterday that they're planning to take the girls to the petting zoo today.  What a fun way to celebrate the girls' big day!  And what I wouldn't give to be there to see that!  (If there's anything cuter than baby humans, it's baby humans petting baby animals.)

This is not only a red letter day for Bonny and Kewpie; it's also a milestone for their parents.  I'm so proud of my oldest son and the lovely young lady he married.  Those two kids have handled the first crazy, busy, exhausting year of raising twins with patience, grace, and humor.  They are an inspiration.  Just as twins are a special miracle from God, the parents He chooses for them are special, too.  So on the babies' first birthday, here's a little poem in honor of their mommy and daddy:

The Parents of Twins
by Larry Howland

A meeting was convened one day
In Heaven's sacred hall.
The ideal parents must be found
For twins so sweet and small.

They must be patient, first of all,
And calm and kind and wise,
And capable of chasing tears 
Away from little eyes.

Would also put their children first
And have a lot of smarts,
With dedication and resolve,
Two sweet and loving hearts.

It was agreed you were the best--
No other ones would do.
Yes, Heaven found the perfect ones
And sent those twins to you!

Friday, June 1, 2012

One More Day and They'll Be One!

In one day, my twin granddaughters turn one year old.  I can hardly believe it!  Where does the time go?

I know I'll be blogging about them again tomorrow, on their actual birthday; but today, I can't stop thinking about those two little cutie pies and all the joy they've brought--not only to their parents, but to two entire families--in the one year they've been on this earth.

Their daddy was in Afghanistan until they were four months old (although he got to spend two weeks with them, when they were about a month old and he was home on leave), but now he has been with them twice as long as he was away from them.  Understandably, it took a little while after he got back from deployment for them to feel as comfortable with him as they did with their mommy.  But as you can see from these pictures, they appear to feel pretty darn comfortable with their daddy these days.
The girls climbing all over their daddy...
...and climbing all over him some more.
Being a parent has always been my greatest joy in life.  Now, seeing the son I raised--the guy who was one year old himself only YESTERDAY--in the role of  parent, and seeing how much he loves being a daddy to his little girls, is just indescribably wonderful.

I'm thrilled that I'm a grandmother (a "Grammy")--have I mentioned that yet in this blog?  Here's a great quote I found about being a grandmother, by Author Unknown (one of my favorite authors): "Grandmas are moms with lots of frosting."  Considering my strong affinity for frosting, that description gets a big thumb's up from this old lady!  And that is what I'm striving to be for these little granddaughters and any future grandchildren I might have: a grandma who is as sweet as a frosted cupcake.