I should be sleeping instead of blogging

The children will not go for a ride in the car tomorrow. Mary, poor Mary, is especially sick of traveling.

There are some things I miss about New Jersey. Traffic is not one of them.

It was nice today to go to Mass at our old parish and have friendly faces and warm hugs to greet us. Hard to believe we left nearly five years, and two kids, ago.

Also nice to visit extended family we haven’t seen for a while, especially now that there are second cousins for our kids to play with. The littlest one, still a few months away from age three, loved Katie’s sparkly “princess” dress – Katie loves it too. And because Jenny was wearing a dark blue gingham dress, the girl decided her name must be Dorothy. Too bad Jenny doesn’t have any ruby red slippers.

I wonder how many late nights these kids can tolerate. Or how many I can tolerate.

Christmas Memories

This Christmas, I am very grateful to have my husband home. I know that there are many readers of this blog who are not as lucky, and I want you to know that you are in my prayers.

If you feel the need to have a sharp knife piercing your heart, check out this video: Bring Him Home Santa.

Six years ago, Bill was not home for Christmas. It was a bad holiday. Back then, I wrote about what it was like, and a few years ago, I posted that memory on my blog. I’ve come a long way in six years, and would like to think that things wouldn’t be as bad now that I have children who are older and more helpful. I’m not sure, though. Older children have different ways of making life difficult.

If Santa didn’t bring your soldier home this Christmas, I sincerely hope that the rest of his deployment goes quickly for you. And if you have no deployed soldier in your life, try to say a prayer today for those who can not fully experience the joy of Christmas, especially the children.

Comfort Food

Day 1: The Warrior Returneth Edition

Filet Mignon (rare) with a peppery marinade
Baked Potatoes

Guinness (Vitamin G)

Really. Does good eating get any better than this?

Day 2: The Snowbound Edition

Beef and Pepper Stew
Homemade Rolls
Spaten Oktoberfest (because the Guinness ran out)

On the way to church (we luckily had a plowed road), one of the kids shouted from the back, “Mom, what’s for dinner?” Are mine the only ones who think of dinner from the moment they awake?

“Beef stew,” said I. I looked at my husband. “Does that sounds good?”

He nodded with a very satisfied expression. Oh, yeah.

Day 3: The Stuck in Traffic Edition

Valentino’s New York Style Pizza
Arrogant Bastard Ale (Bill liked it, but it didn’t go very well with the pizza)

Good NY style pizza is hard to find in Northern Virginia. If you like this style, this place won’t disappoint. If you don’t like NY style, then go to Pizza Hut instead.

Day 4: The Nod to “Health” Edition

Crunchy Oven-Baked Chicken

I made oven baked sweet potato chips, but I’m not 100% happy with the recipe. I’ll try another one next time.

Some different beer. Bill went to Total Wine and picked up a variety (yes, his favorite beer store is a wine store).

I feel guilty if I make beef every day. I don’t know why, exactly. Modern nutritional wisdom says that too much red meat is bad for you, but I truly believe that this is not a one-size-fits-all rule for good health. I have no problems with cholesterol and Bill’s issues stem from flour and pasta, not beef. I do like chicken, but I definitely serve more beef as a general rule. This chicken recipe is moist and juicy and yummy, making eating chicken a delight.

Day 5: The Date Night Edition

I think the kids had chicken strips (from the frozen foods section). Bill and I went to a place called Ray’s the Steaks. Yum.

We had Filet Mignon (see Day 1).

Day 6: The Christmas Eve Edition

French Onion Soup
Salmon with Leeks

I’m too tired to type recipes. I love my French Onion Soup. I make it with vegetable broth, because Christmas Eve used to be a day of abstinence from meat. The salmon recipe was new this year, and it was tasty, but… I rarely cook with leeks. The recipe said to wash them thoroughly. I rinsed them thoroughly. No, no, no. You have to wash them. I guess when they grow, the sandy soil gets inside. If you don’t wash them well, your food will be gritty. This is not pleasant. The flavor was good, so I will have to make it again. (Fortunately, the leeks could be pushed aside and the salmon was fine.)

Day 7: The Christmas Day Edition

Overnight Christmas Blueberry-Pecan French Toast

This breakfast dish is too decadent to eat regularly. I usually make it for Christmas and Easter. The kids don’t like it (fools), so I finally halved the recipe this year, and it was the perfect amount for breakfast today and tomorrow. The full recipe for two people just lingers way too long to be healthy.

Most Christmases are just us hanging out. Between the candy canes and the eggnog, nobody is really interested in a full sit down meal. Instead, we eat snacky foods: cheese and crackers, shrimp cocktail, leftover yummy French Onion Soup.

Hard to believe, but my husband has been home for a week now. We head up to PA and NJ tomorrow, and the food will be out of my hands for a bit. When we get back, I’ll be making him Cowboy Chili and Kells Guinness Meatballs.

And more Filet Mignons.

Called out on the carpet

My sister called me yesterday to tease me about yesterday’s post.

“Candy? Carols? What happened to the penitential season of Advent?”

“I’ve been doing penance for 6 months,” I protested.

“And, seriously, you didn’t leave him any shopping to do for you?”

“He wasn’t supposed to be home until the 28th!”

“You are going to bake cookies, right?” Not having Christmas cookies is a mortal sin in our world.

“Good grief, woman! I’ll get to it. Eventually.”

Mental note: little sisters scrutinize blog posts more harshly than the average reader.

Last Minute Shopping?

“Do I need to go Christmas shopping?” this husband of mine asked me.

“No.” I said.

“The kids are all done?”

“Of course,” I assured him.

“But what about you?” he persisted.

“I have stuff,” I said, vaguely casting my mind about to recall what that might be. He would feel terrible if I wasn’t the very last person left opening presents on Christmas morning. My pile has to be the biggest one. I think I took care of that.

But I don’t really care. The snow has been wonderful, and the kids are all hyped up about that, but that’s all they seem excited about. How many more days until Christmas? Most years, it seems, the kids are losing it at this point: four.more.days. And moms, too. That long to-do list: cookies, cleaning, shopping, wrapping, stamping and mailing: only four more days!

But in this house, Christmas is already here. Not the gifts. We’ve not had a single present exchanged, not even little things Daddy might have brought home from overseas. The cookies aren’t made yet. We’ll get to it eventually, I suppose. The tree isn’t decorated: that’s for Christmas Eve anyway. Only a fraction of our house decorations are up, and I really don’t care.

We’ve been drinking eggnog and playing carols on iTunes. We’ve been relaxing and enjoying days off work and school. We’ve been eating lovely meals and snacking on candy.

We’re together. Our hearts are full.

What thing could he possibly buy that would make this better?


Shortly after my last post, the computer finally informed me that HE was en route. Theoretically leaving our house at the same time that he left Atlanta, we got in the car, fought rush-hour traffic (going in the good direction, but nonetheless, traffic), parked the car in the hourly lot, and herded ourselves into the airport to the nearest arrival screen.

His plane was already here! It was not yet assigned to a gate.

I tried to get in a line to talk to an airline rep, but she announced that this was not a line to talk to her. Talk to the hand, folks.

We went upstairs to ticketing. The line was enormous. People were anxious and frustrated because a HUGE storm was heading this way, and they wanted to escape before getting stuck here. I can sympathize.

I left the kids in line and went over to the board again. A gate had been posted: seventeen. I pulled the kids out of line, and we went in that direction. I talked to the security man, and he told me that to get to the gate, I’d need a gate pass from that really long ticket line. But then he pointed to the hallway where the passengers would all come out, and suggested we just wait there (oh, you mean that spot right there with all those people standing and waiting?).

Checking the board, I saw that the plane was still not at the gate, so we walked just a bit down from that entry hallway to the big windows where, as luck would have it, we could see Gates 15, 17 and 19. There was a plane docked at 19, and another plane approaching. We watched it park – at 15. We waited.

Then Peter had to go to the bathroom, so I hauled everybody about 50 yards to the nearest one. When we got out, the boys who waited outside were hopping around: It’s here!

We got to the hallway and joined the crowd. Passengers were just beginning to stream off. Lots of soldiers. I watched a young Private being greeted by his parents and some teen aged girls: sisters, I assumed. One girl took a picture, and the mom was crying. I was crying.

More people came off. No Bill. The kids started getting antsy. They moved farther and farther into the hallway to try to get that first glimpse. Still no Bill. I started to worry about what would happen if he wasn’t on the flight. I didn’t think I could face my kids’ disappointment. Or mine.

We waited.

Finally, there he was. I saw him before the kids did. Our eyes met, and he smiled.. “He’s coming!” I told the kids who strained hard to see him over all these tall people who didn’t seem to understand that whatever their errand or destination or business was, it was not nearly as important as this business of ours, this reunion, this welcome home.

And then they saw him, and swarmed him. I stayed to the side with Mary, out of the way, watching, crying. Finally, some of the other people noticed our group, and recognized the significance of this soldier’s arrival. “Well, this is a Merry Christmas,” said one woman to my husband.

Mary squirmed in my arms, and I let her down to run to her Daddy. He lifted her and turned to me, wading his way with the weight of clinging, crying children. And then a welcoming kiss.

He’s home. What a marvelous Christmas this is.

I started to take a picture right after we met, but a woman passing by kindly offered to take one of all of us.

It took a while to get his bags, but we made it out to the van, loaded up and then headed for the McDonalds close to where Fritz was to play laser tag. Welcome home, hon, let’s dine in style! But it was getting late. Fritz barely had time to scarf down his food before I walked him over for his 8 pm start time, and it was 830 before we neared home with the snow beginning to fall.

When the little ones were asleep, and the older boy reclining on the sofa waiting for his roommate to return, we were finally alone. Of course, the clothes came off. I put down the Mom hat. Discarded the Strong Woman cloak. Laid aside the shield of Fortitude and the breastplate of Perseverance. Then the many layers of garments: Single Parent, Bill Payer, Sole Decision Maker, Lone Disciplinarian, One Who Never Sleeps, One Who Never Cries, Happy Face, Comforter, Good Fortune Teller.

Eventually I was left with just a few skimpy undergarments: Feminine, Emotional, Sensitive, Vulnerable with a sheer, frilly robe of Wife covering them. What then?

I sobbed.

Many times, I have cried. At the airport, it was joy and relief. Other times, it was worry or exhaustion or frustration peeking out like a too long slip. This, though, was an emotional release. In my husband’s arms, the trial was over. I am no longer alone. I can be strong, or not. I have a choice, whereas only a few hours earlier, I had to be strong no matter what.

He is home. My heart is at peace.