Cinnamon Toast

My children do not like whole wheat bread.  I’ve tried many recipes, and last night tried yet one more.  I even changed the proportions of whole wheat to white flour heavily in favor of white flour (2 cups to 1).  No dice.  Looked whole wheaty, tasted whole wheaty.

The biggest problem with such experiments is that I now have a whole loaf of bread that only I will eat.

I really don’t need a whole loaf of bread.  My hips don’t need a whole loaf of bread.

What to do?  Somehow, the children must be lured into consuming this bread.

My husband, after years of claiming that he did not like sweet potatoes in any form was finally convinced otherwise at Thanksgiving dinner several years ago.  After I poked him in the ribs and told him he really had to sample a dish a guest had brought, we learned that all you have to do is add enough sugar.

With that in mind, I googled cinnamon toast and the first link was this one.  I knew it would be a winner before I even read it (Pioneer Woman’s reputation precedes her).

It was.  The bread is being devoured.  I even have one procrastinator who is quickly doing his assignments to earn another piece.

And the whole wheat flour will move to the back of the pantry until I feel like making cinnamon toast again.  (Does the whole wheat factor offset the high amount of butter and sugar used?)

No Naps Allowed

This week, we’ve been playing a lot of the game called “Keep the 3 year old awake.”  If you’ve ever had a 3 year old, you might know what game I mean.

Sometime between their 2nd and 3rd birthdays, that afternoon nap starts to come later and later as the tot fights it.  There is, after all, so much excitement going on.  I had fewer problems when I had only 1 or 2 children who were all napping.  But these younger ones know, no matter how quiet the house is, that older siblings are not sleeping.  And they don’t want to miss out on…whatever.

So, by the 3rd birthday, I throw my hands in the air and give up trying to put a child to sleep after lunch.  And at 4 pm, I get a tot in meltdown.  I go back to naps.  I give up naps.  This goes on for months until we get to where I am now. 

Now, the meltdowns are less common, and she sleeps later in the morning…what a blessing.  Still, though, she doesn’t get quite enough sleep, and if she’s had a busy day (and with the gorgeous weather we’ve been having, they’ve been running around outside for hours), then by late afternoon, she’s exhausted. 

If I let her sit in front of the TV, she falls asleep.  If I have to drive some child to an activity, she falls asleep.  If the TV is off, and I’m not driving anywhere, she wants to sit in my lap and fall asleep.  If my lap is unavailable, she’ll crash on the bottom step leading upstairs or on the trampoline or under the dining room table. 

And her sleep is not like most sleeps; it is a special comatose sleep.  Words do not penetrate her little brain when she falls asleep.  I can promise candy, ice cream, pony rides, a pedicure…and get no response.  Tickles, rubs, jostles, a bed of nails, medieval torture devices…do nothing to stir her.

Cold water is somewhat effective.

Yes, I have put a cold wash cloth around her neck.  Yes, I have put her hair under cold running water at the kitchen sink.  I am not proud.  I am desperate.

Because if allowed to sleep, she will take a nice long nap and wake up…at bedtime.  Her bedtime.  And 2 hours later, at my bedtime, she will still be happily wide awake.  And although she will go to bed, in my bed, and settle down and eventually go to sleep, she will be in my bed, between my husband and I, and she will have spent two hours with us, time which we use to talk and discuss the day and relax and plan and not entertain a 3 year old

I jealously guard my grownup time.

So, the best thing is to not let her fall asleep.  Most afternoons find me asking, frequently, “Where is Mary?”  The kids know I don’t suspect mischief; they want me to make sure she’s still awake.  If in the car, siblings maintain a vigil to make sure her eyes don’t droop.

Yesterday afternoon, the pizza was baking and I was sitting at the computer.  Mary crawled into my lap and snuggled nicely against me.  Oh, it was so lovely.  How I enjoy the feeling of a tiny body contentedly relaxing in the soft comfort of my lap.  Unfortunately, 430 pm is not a good time for this.  “No sleeping,” I said, sternly.  “I not,” she insisted, eyes at half mast.  I made her sit up.  I poked her in the ribs.  I talked about the pizza that was almost done. 

This went on until we were ready to eat.  After perking up for 5 minutes to eat most of a slice, she started to doze, leaning back in the dining room chair.  Then we had to drive Fritz to baseball practice.  Her eyes drooped in the driveway.  I started an argument with her.  I told her she had beautiful brown eyes.

“They’re not brown, they’re green!”

“No, they’re brown!”

This kept her going the whole way there and home.  It even sustained her afterward.  She was still awake when we went back for Fritz and didn’t fall asleep on the way home.  She went to bed promptly at 8 pm, and did not get up until 730 this morning.

After grownup time last night and this morning, I am ready to take on the world.

Arranging marriages

The girls were moaning because their friends had gone to their grandparents’ house.  I explained that they had gone to do yard work and other helpful things.  “When I’m an old woman, won’t you come to my house and do my yard work?” I asked.  “Won’t you drag your children and make them help?”

Katie said she would, but she said she would live next door to help all the time.  I suggested that perhaps her husband would not be interested in living next door to his mother-in-law.

“Then I won’t have a husband,” she declared.

“You’d best not have any children either,” I reminded her.

So she thought perhaps all would be well if her husband’s parents lived on the other side.

“That would be a cozy neighborhood,” I said.  “Can I pick your husband based on who I’d like as a neighbor?  How about the M** boys?”

“Oh,” she practically gushed, “Thomas and Anthony are nice boys!  They would make good husbands.  They won’t beat us.”

Such high standards.  I shall remind her in 20 years when her husband is working 2 jobs so she can stay home with their growing family, and she complains that he never buys her flowers or writes romantic poetry, that all she cared about when she was 9 was that he wouldn’t beat her.

“We don’t get to pick our husbands,” said Jenny.

“Yes, we do!” insisted Katie.

“No,” Jenny said firmly, “They have to propose.”

True, that it is something you have to work around.  And Thomas and Anthony’s mother has declared her boys all future priests (although her daughters are available for marriage, a point which I have mentioned is grossly unfair to those of us with girls).  Perhaps though, if I assemble a suitable dowry, they can be persuaded…

Savannah’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!  Today is a HUGE local holiday.


Some people even get the day off.  Many soldiers have a 4 day weekend this weekend.

Not mine.

But he did take the day off.

We attended the parade in Savannah, which is, according to some source I saw online, the second largest in the nation.

Did I mention HUGE?

The parade started at 10ish.  It got to our spot around 1030 am.  When the tail end came, it was nearly 200 pm.

Three and a half hours of parade. 

I actually almost wanted it to be over.  Thank goodness, I had packed drinks and snacks.

We took 238 pictures today, Bill and I.  I will only share half of them.

The Knights of Columbus led the parade.
The parade began after Mass.

Mary had a great seat.

If you’re a red-headed Irish woman and you march in
the St. Pat’s Parade, you better have a green sling.

The Budweiser Clydesdales were very popular.

They are massive and gorgeous.

The dog is cute too.

McGruff the Crime Dog was a hit as well.

Notice the kids swarming McGruff?  It’s quite common for the audience to run into the parade and interact with the marchers.  Savannah has a very small-town feel.  One woman a few seats down from us seemed to know everybody who was anybody in the parade.  She was up more than she was down.

Besides just saying hi to your friends, the audience, especially the female members, run into the parade and hang beads around the necks of marchers.  And they kiss them.  And they leave evidence behind.

Drum majors get kissed.

Drummers get kissed.

Young guys get kissed.

Old guys get kissed.

Ladies get kissed.

Big guys get kissed.

Texting firefighters get kissed.

If you’re “lucky” the parade will come to a halt.
And you will get kissed.

Or maybe if you’re “unlucky” the parade will come to a halt.
And you will get kissed.

The JROTC cadets got it worse than anyone else.


Maybe because many of those distributing kisses were
high school aged.

But soldeirs got kissed too.

She is not high school aged.

So dignified.

How could you not want to kiss a Marine?
Don’t they look great?

Unfortunately, I forgot my lipstick.  Maybe if I’m here next year…

I did run out once.  More on that later.

Other sights:

Orange shoes.

A goat.

Cream pants with shamrocks.

Pretty jeep.

Cute pram.

Bicycle built for two.

Cute wool coat.

“What color was that Harley?” asked one man.
“Brunette!” replied the other.

A very tall leprechaun.

A kazoo club.

They were “playing” God Bless America.

Very green hair.

Uncle Sam.
Uncle Sam’s shoes.

Of course, no Irish themed parade would be complete without bagpipes.

I know this post is long, but still a few more (dozen) pictures.

The woman wearing these socks had to be at least my age.

This balcony is on the house next door to my future house.
(Just need to win the lottery.)

The kids with the cymbals are clapping them
UNDER their legs.

They kept good time.

I thought we were in Philadelphia for a minute…

One option to tour Savannah. 
Very green.

The military got many cheers and usually people stood up when they (and veterans) went past.  Some generous but misguided people kept trying to give beers to the soldiers.

He said, “Thank you,” and then put it down…I swear.

While many of the marines were plastered with kisses, none of them were wearing the beads.  If someone gave them beads, they thanked them and put them in their pockets.  ONE marine had beads on, but he was the boss, so he could get away with it.  (Side note: Bill noticed an error with his uniform.  I’ll bet the guy was mortified when he discovered it.)

The bars in the area opened at 7 am.  For those marching, it was best to BYOB.

This rolling cooler PROBABLY just had water.

Now THIS is a great idea.
I’ll bet they don’t have just water in there.

These guys had a grill on the top of their float.
Smelled yummy.

I’m not a big movie personality person, but this guy really looks famous.

He was just marching along, toward the end.  No big sign saying, “Hey, look at me!  I’m Johnny Depp.”

He was standing right in front of me…maybe 10 feet away and nobody in between.  If it wasn’t him, then they found a darn good impersonator.

Lastly, Fritz and Billy did not get to see the parade.  They marched with the Scouts.  I tried to convince Katie and Jenny to run out to them, but they wouldn’t go and kiss them. 

So Mary and I did.

Fritz is actually in this picture, just to the left
of the far-right flag bearer.

When the boys found out at drop off that girls KISS the marchers, they were terrified.  Billy stood in the middle of a bunch of tall boys so you couldn’t even see him.  I had to hunt really hard.  When he heard me say, “Kiss him!” he ducked, until he saw it was Mary.
Fritz was easier to spot.  And somebody else found him later on.

Oh, we are tired.  What a fun day, though.


Billy is now a Boy Scout.

Bill didn’t get out of work on time, and I was worried he would miss the ceremony.  Sometimes it’s a good thing when people don’t get started on time.  He came in and sat next to me.  The Scoutmaster, who had just been about to begin, noticed him and said, “Oh, NOW we can start…now we have an excuse…”

I’m just glad he made it.

The Boy Scout troop set up a rope bridge for the new Scouts to cross.  They chose Billy to go first.  Billy is afraid of heights.

It was pretty wobbly.

But the Scouts, including Fritz, stood ready to help if needed.
He did fine; he didn’t fall.

Getting his new neckerchief.

New Scout, proud Dad.

It’s a bit emotional to see your child leave one stage of his life and begin another.  I think it was easier with Billy than with Fritz, my first.  I suspect it will be hardest with my youngest children.

Fencing Match

Our Saturday was so busy, I needed 2 posts to talk about it.

Way back when I was in college, I dated this guy on the fencing team.  I think he was one of the captains.  When the team manager graduated, I volunteered to take her place, mainly because I could then spend more time with this guy.  I know, pathetic.  I hope my daughters have more dignity when they are older.

One of my duties was to occasionally drive one of the 15 passenger vans filled with the team and equipment to the away matches.  Little did I know that my adventures navigating the narrow streets of Newark, New Jersey, in a large van were a foreshadowing of my future life.

Yesterday, after the parade, I loaded Team Reitemeyer up in my 12 passenger van and headed into Savannah to watch my husband fence his first real competition since 1992.  When I arrived, one of the first things he pointed out to me were the girlfriends there watching their boyfriends fence.  Bill wanted to go up to the couples, point to our six kids, and say, “This is your future.”  {The one redeeming thing about fencing-team-groupie days was that I did end up marrying that boyfriend.} 

Getting ready for the first bout.
Bill and his opponent were both left-handed.
Catching his breath after his first victory.
How Mary spent the first part of the match.
Defending a lunge.
34 seconds into the second bout and Bill leads.
He won this one, too.
Crushed by his third opponent.
I think he was an A-rated fencer.
It took him less than two minutes to beat Bill 5-0.
Can’t breathe…
Sweaty, happy to be up 2-1.

My batteries were dying, so I turned off the camera.  Bill placed second in his pool with 3 wins and 1 loss.  He went on to the direct elimination round.  Won his first bout, but lost his second.  The guy he lost to ended up winning the whole competition, so it was a respectable loss.

I’m glad I saved my battery power.  Bill placed 6th overall.  The top 3 guys were all young, college-aged.  The 4th, 5th and 6th placers were more than double their age.  The guy in 5th had left already.  He had to be 10 years older than Bill.

I had a great time.  The younger kids, not so much.  Next time, I’ll leave them home.

Neighborhood Parade

St. Patrick’s Day is BIG in the Savannah area.  Our neighborhood held it’s annual parade yesterday.

Lining up to march
Dressed in green
The fire truck leads the parade
Everybody seems to own a golf cart.  There is no golf
course in my neighborhood.  It’s just what you do.
Bill says it’s because it’s so hot in the summer that you
need a golf cart to get to your mailbox.  You have to experience
the heat to really understand what he means.
I don’t know this child, but he’s really cute.
I DO know this kid, and think
he’s really cute too.
After the parade.
Mary was posing in an arabesque, of sorts.
If you look closely, you can see Peter’s green shirt
and head peeking from behind.  He wanted to be in the
picture, but she did not want him to.  She would stop
her pose to push him out of the way.  It’s the dual
nature of little girls: grace vs. grit.
Enjoying the after-parade picnic.
A private repast in a shady locale.

Thinking about Lent, Part 3 (The Last): Change

Happy Ash Wednesday.  I did not get the chance to write this yesterday.

Besides extra prayers and developing fortitude, Lent would not be complete without an attempt to change something undesirable about myself.

I’ve got plenty to work with.

Naturally, as sainthood should be our goal, no bad behavior should be intentional.  There are plenty of things we all do as easily as we breathe: complaining, nagging, wasting time, buying things we don’t need.  It is too much to expect near perfection, even for the relatively short duration of Lent.  If I target just one thing, perhaps by establishing good patterns in my life, that change will continue on well past Easter Sunday.

I’m going to work on tardiness.

I used to be really good at being on time, all the time.  Most of the time.  In the last year especially, I’ve noticed a huge decrease in my punctuality.  I seem to be surrounded by people who do not begin things on time.  It is frustrating to be on time and then have to wait.

Oh, well.  This is not about them.  It’s about me.  Punctuality is a habit.  If I allow myself to develop a bad habit (as I have), then at some point, I will be the one making others wait.  Besides, if I am running late, the mood in my home, my car, and my family is not good.  Anger, frustration and impatience dominate as I hurry hurry hurry the children along.

There are techniques to be on time.  It doesn’t just “happen.”  I know what they are; I just need to do them.

How to be on Time Almost all the Time

1.  Set the most of the clocks in your house to the correct time.  Use your computer or cell phone for an accurate time.  Don’t try to set them forward to fool yourself into being on time.  You will only say, “Oh, that clock is 10 minutes fast,” and quickly learn to ignore it.

2.  Set one or two key clocks 2 minutes fast.  For me, this is the clock in my bathroom.  Two, or perhaps three minutes, is just fast enough to hurry you up, but not fast enough to make you start to ignore it.

3.  Set the clock in your car 2 minutes fast.  This is just enough for you to say, “No, I DON’T have time to run that side errand along the way.”

4. Know the time.  Not paying attention will make you late.  Have clocks predominant in your home.  Use your kitchen timer if you are working and may get distracted.  Wear a watch, especially one that has a timer or an alarm.

5.  Know how long it takes to get somewhere, and add 20%.  It’s easy to think, “Oh, it only takes 5 minutes to get to church,” when it actually takes 6 or 7.  The 20% fudge time will help account for unexpected traffic or other things that come up.

6. Add time to get yourself and your children in and out of the car.  Depending on the age of your children, this could be as many as 5 minutes on both ends.  Even if you have helpers to carry out the library books or buckle younger siblings, some ages are prone to dawdle and other ages have a tendency to daydream.  And if it’s you and 4 children under the age of 5, the whole process of traveling, even for a short drive, is quite a production.  Account for it.

7. Be ready to go.  Shoes on, hair combed, clean shirt.  Then check the kids.  Have things you need to take piled at the door.  Put the 3 year olds’ shoes at the door and not on her feet or they will be lost by the time you leave.  I won’t let my children watch videos on Sunday mornings until they are ready for Mass.  I can do the breakfast dishes, in my apron, until my kitchen timer goes off knowing that when I say, “GO!”, everybody can go.

8.  Keep things in the car.  I have a bag in the car with some extra sweaters and a change of clothes for the youngest one.  It used to hold diapers and wipes.  In summer, it will have sunscreen and bug spray.  Not having to assemble the same basic supplies before every trip saves time.  I also keep a crossword puzzle book in the car to make the waiting go faster.

9.  Store your purse and keys in the same place all the time.  I am bad at this, and it makes me run late.  Searching for necessary items at the last minute is never fun.

10. Plan to be early.  My husband says, “Five minutes early is ten minutes late.”  It’s an Army thing.  I’d be happy if everybody were 5 minutes early; I think 15 is excessive. 

Be sure to bring something to occupy yourself while you wait for everybody else.  Perhaps spend the time praying for a terrorist.

Thinking about Lent, Part 2: Penance

“It is well to deny ourselves that which is permitted, in order to avoid more easily that which is not.”  — St. Benedict

That quote, sent to me from Jenn Miller, has been in my inbox since September of 2009.  It’s the oldest email there, and now I can delete it, since I’ve been waiting to do a post on it for that long.  Thank you, Jenn.

St. Benedict sums up one purpose for “giving up” something for Lent (or any other day of the year).  It would be difficult not to accuse most Americans of being overindulged.  Not when 1 in 4 Americans is obese

Several years ago, our pastor gave a pre-Lenten homily suggesting a mortification of the senses.  Pick something to give up that targets each of the 5 senses.  For example, sight: to give up a favorite TV show; hearing: to give up the radio in the car; taste: to give up a favorite food; smell: to give up scented candles; touch: to set the house temperature a few degrees off from where we normally would.

I’ve been discussing penances with my older children, asking what they plan to “give up.”  I have one kid who has a long list of things he plans to do.  The others are very reluctant to sacrifice things they enjoy.  It’s too hard to give up chocolate in their milk; they don’t like it plain.  It’s too hard to give up time on the computer.  It’s too hard to give up treats and snacks.

As adults, we say, It’s too hard to give up smoking.  It’s too hard to lose ten pounds.  It’s too hard to get up on time.  Or stay married.  Or live within our means.

It is hard.  But not too hard.  We must practice.  Now.  When it is easier.