Thursday, May 7, 2009


Entry for September 12, 2008
Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad.
My girls love the Strawberry Shortcake characters. I have a vague recollection of these from my childhood, or was that Hello Kitty? Whatever. On our last trip to the library, Genevieve found a book about Strawberry Shortcake. We borrowed it, and I must have read it about 8,637 times. Do you know that all of the charaters are named after foods? There is Blueberry Muffin, Ginger Snap, Angel Cake, Huckleberry get the idea. All of these characters love the foods they are named after.
I wonder what life would be like if we named our kids after the foods they love...
"Anchovy, Garlic, Sundried Tomato Sandwich! Get off the computer! It's time to eat!"
"No, you cannot spend the day in bed reading, Salami and Mayo on Italian Bread."
"Black Olive Pizza, finish your spelling."
"BBQ Chicken Wings, it's time for your reading lesson."
"Maple and Brown Sugar Oatmeal, put your crayons away."

Entry for August 31, 2008
I grew up in NY, which, in my opinion, has some of the best pizza in the world. My grandmother used to make pizza. Not the perfect, round, pizza you see on TV. It was sort of misshapen and really rustic looking, but, oh boy, was it good! There is nothing like a good, home made pizza, especially when it is made with love.
When we moved to Illinois from NY, I hadn't expected that, along with the regular culture-shock, there would be a pizza culture-shock as well. In NY, when I ordered pizza, this is what I would do:
Dial up the pizza place (often called a pizza parlor ).
ME:"Hello, I would like a large pie, half pepperoni."
THEN:"OK, what's your phone number?
THEM:"'Bout 20 minutes."
Short, sweet and to the point. Not in Illinois. The first time I ordered pizza there I had no idea who to call, so I open the phone book and find a place called, "Rosati's." Sounds good. I dial the phone.
ME:"I'd like a large pie, please."
THEM:"I'm sorry, we only serve pizza here. Click."
I stand there, phone in hand, incredulous. Pie? Do they not understand that a pizza is a pie? It is round. You cut it in wedges. It is a pie. I compose myself and try again.
ME:"I'd like to order a large pizza, please."
THEM:"Thin crust, stuffed crust, deep dish or hand-tossed?"
ME:"Huh? I would just like a pizza."
THEM:"We can't just make a pizza. You have to tell us what kind of crust."
ME: (confused) "Oh, OK, well, which kind would be most like the pizza in New York?"
THEM: (getting anoyed) "I don't know..maybe hand-tossed."
ME:"OK, then, I would like a large hand-tossed pizza, half pepperoni."
THEM: "What do you want on the other half?"
ME: (fighting the culture clash) "Uh...nothing?"
THEM: (exasperated) "Look, I think what you want is a large hand-tossed, half pepperoni, half cheese."
ME: "But don't all of them have...Yes! That will do it!"
So, while I am waiting for the pizza to be delivered I am meditating on the fact that I have to say "half-cheese" when it should be a given that all pizzas have cheese on the whole thing. Would I order a pizza that had one half intact and the other half with, say, just sauce? However, the culture shock is not over. When the pizza comes, it smells good. Joe and I open the box and peer in. We stand there, staring, confused. This round pizza is cut into squares!!! We had never seen this before! "What is this a joke?!" I yell. This is supposed to be a pizza pie cut into wedges and the crust is supposed to act like a handle when you hold it. Or do they use some other method of eating pizza out here, like using chopsticks?
Well, life went on and we became used to ordering pizza in Illinois. We learned to say "half cheese," although that still makes no sense to us. We learned to ask for the pizza to be cut into a pie. We found that the local grocery store had $5 one-topping large pizzas on Friday. For a large family like ours, this is about as close to eating out as we get, so Fridays became pizza night.
After we moved to Missouri, we wanted to keep the tradition of Friday pizza nights. We tried Pizza Hut Pizza Mia, but we just don't like it. The crust is too sweet and there is barely any cheese. The only other place to get pizza within a 25 mile radius is a place called The Pizza Shoppe. I get on their website. They have goofy sizes for their pizza: Prince, Queen and King. I assume the Queen is large, so I order two and prepare some salad and crudite to go with it. We are being cautious because we don't know if we'll like them and don't want to waste food if we don't. Joe goes to pick up the pizza. He calls me on the way home. "Do we have any frozen pizzas in the freezer?" "Yes, a few," I answer. "Cook them all." Not a good sign.
Joe gets home and puts the pizza boxes on the table. We begin to say our prayers and I burst out laughing. Everyone stares, because they know I wouldn't tolerate this from someone else. But I can't help it. "It's like Christmas at the Cratchit's!" I giggle. "I have never seen smaller pizza boxes in my life!" Everyone laughs. It is true. We have a large, 9' X 4' table, and it looks like there are two match boxes on it. We thank God for our food and for a good laugh and we eat store bought and frozen pizza for dinner.
That incident put me at the pizza crossroads. I had a decision to make. Do we cancel pizza Frdiay? If not, where do we get the pizza? I get some inspiration from above, in a voice that sounds curiously like my grandmother's. "So, you can't get good pizza. Make the pizza!"
I get online. I look for a pizza dough recipe. I think to myself that if I am going to go as far as making pizza for a family of seven, I may as well just go nuts and make healthy, whole wheat pizza dough. So, here we are, in Missouri, with our Friday night pizza nights. The first home made pizza Friday was a flop, in my opinion. The kids all said they liked it. I think they were being kind. Each week it gets better and better. This week, I must say, it was delicious. I made three pizzas: pepperoni (we have graduated to a whole pepperoni pie), cheese and a garlic-basil pizza that everyone loved. When the kids and I am in the kitchen, making pizza, and I'm wearing my apron (which looks a lot like the snap-front one my grandmother wore), I give a silent salut to her. My grandmother, Angelina Abbate, in Heaven almost two years now, has been a quiet inspiration to me throughout my life. And here she is again, watching over us on Friday pizza nights. Grazie, Grandma.

Entry for August 29, 2008
I realize it has been over three weeks since I have checked in, but there is a reason for that: we've been sick. We all went down like dominoes. First Charlie, then Noah, Bella, Genevieve, Angelina and Joe. I was last and, of course, worst.
It was a horrific virus that starts out with a sore throat, stomachache and fever. Sounds like strep, you say? Right. We all got swabbed. No strep. Just the horrific virus.
My bout with the germ lasted 9 days. Now I feel all weak and I am still not myself. I spent about 7 of the days in bed. Thank God for good husbands who work from home and keep things under control while their wives are writhing in pain and alternately freezing and sweating in bed. The sore throat was the worst. Nothing helped. I tried ibuprofen. I tried acetominaphin. I tried alternating these two drugs every three hours. Nothing. It was like someone was rubbing a cheese grater up and down my throat. The doc prescribed Lidocaine for the throat pain. If you have never heard of this, it looks and smells just like hand sanitizing gel. Seriously. I was supposed to gargle with the stuff. Instead, I was struggling not to vomit. I spit it out and consult the container. What on earth is in this stuff, I wonder? It lists a bunch of long ingredients and then it says: flavoring. Flavoring???? What flavor-- rubbing alchohol? Couldn't they have chosen cherry?
My throat is on fire, so I decide to try again. This time I put it on a Q-tip and rub it on the back of my throat. The sounds that come out of me cause Joe to sprint down the hall and appear in the bedroom. "Was that you? Are you OK? Are you sick to your stomach now?" "No, just rubbing Lidocaine on my tonsils with a Q-tip." A fleeting look of confusion crosses his face. "But you're OK?" "OK for now," I answer. The Lidocaine rub does not take the pain away, but it does take the edge off, so I don't yelp everytime I swallow. In my foggy fever brain I have a vague recollection of bringing the children ice water to sip constantly, to numb their throats. The ice water and Lidocain Q-tips work enough so that I can get to sleep.
Around day 6 my nose becomes congested. Nothing helps. I blow and blow and blow and it doesn't help at all. However, with all the blowing, I wound up pulling a groin muscle. So now I have chills, sweats, cheese-grater throat, nose congestion and groin pain. At this point I thank God for the concept of redemptive suffering. I offer it all up, swab my tonsils, pop an ibuprofen, take some Benadryl and pass out.
On day seven I no longer felt feverish. I was able to get up and walk around for short periods of time, but then I would get dizzy. Same thing on day eight. Finally on day nine the sore throat subsides. Just in time, too, because Joe has to go to St. Louis for two days. On his first day gone I take the kids on a field trip, about 40 minutes away, to learn about service dogs and how they are trained. I drove the 40 minutes, sat for the presentation, took everyone to the bathroom and drove home. By the time we got to Smithville I was dizzy and nauseas. It took me two hours to recover. I feel like I am 87 years old.
Funny, when I am well, I often think how nice it would be to just spend a day in bed, doing nothing. I just got a week of that and hated every minute of it. That old saying is true:"Be careful what you wish for."

Entry for August 05, 2008
Charlie came home today with a paper from school that required him to copy sentences and fill in some blanks.
The first line had him fill in: Cookies smell ______.
Charlie filled in good. Cookies smell good.
Then next line was: Fritos smell like _________.
This is what Charlie wrote: Fritos smell like feet.

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