The night before last, my mother came to me in a dream. Usually she comes to me when she’s mad or upset, so in the 22 years she’s been gone, she only came to me twice … but one of them was two nights ago, and last night Jean Nidetch came to me, too. Now I know why.
If you know me at all, you know that as much as I am a “foodie”, I am also a “watchie”, and portion control is my greatest weapon against hip enlargement. But last night’s dinner, I mean come on Sunny Anderson, ravioli for the crust of a cheeseburger casserole? Swiss cheese and American … with heavy cream and beef? Holy shit. Yup, welcome to hog heaven, and boy was it good.
Now, I’m pretty quick on the draw when it comes to a weeknight meal. I did find this recipe a bit time consuming because it was step-heavy, but can I assure you, after you slobber all over it when it comes out of the oven, you will be happy you slaved a little. I had two casserole dissenters … but I consider this a worthy hit time wise and taste bud wise. I also loved the little pickle juice side salad.
Side salad … lol
Here’s the link!
Give it a sauté … I bet you will love it more than your Aunt Helen’s tuna casserole.
There was a recent incident in my daughter’s middle school class involving outside school use of the internet which took on a life of its own, resulting in unfavorable side effects for those involved. Now, I am not a prude by any stretch, and my addiction to my phone and my laptop is probably equivalent to that of any thirteen year old. So, I understand it’s captivating powers, similar to Linda Blair in the Exorcist. But, parents, there is a way around it’s superpowers, I think, and again, only my experience and my voice, where there is a balance between weapon and an encyclopedia.
The handful of times I have been interviewed about mom paraphernalia, the internet, and the phone always come up. Like, come one, you have eight kids, what’s your take. For what it’s worth, here’s my thought on phone and electronics usage for Generation Z.
1. Alaska has the highest gun ownership rate at 61.7 %. Sweet little unassuming, quiet, salmon capital, Alaska. Like do you even know anyone from Alaska (my uncle Elio moved there to be a logger)? Right…you probably don’t. But the ones who do live there seem to like guns, all different types. Be careful of the quiet ones. Seems peaceful enough, though, the Aurora Borealis and all. Consider the fact that if Alaska had no rules, no strictures on who could purchase a gun without proper education and documentation, Alaska would be a glacier of dead bodies with its only inhabitants a bunch of mackerel and penguins cooling it on a glacier. I liken this to cell phones, (I am using cell phones as the catch-all for pads, computers, etc), without teaching them how to use it. Before any kid puts this proverbial pistol in their tiny little baby hands, show them what it’s about, and what YOU expect. It’s really that simple. Let them know big brother is watching, and some impromptu target practice might be in order. Be very, very clear of the mishaps that can occur, the devastation created by its mishandling, and even the most minor written infraction can and will be held against them by you, a friend, a college or future employer or even the police.
Yes, scare the living shit out of your little bundle of joy and remind them that sending anything written, or screen shot is INDELLIBLE and IMMORTAL, and if not aimed or handled correctly can cause irreversible damage both for the sender and the receiver.
2. I think we would all like to keep our kids in a Habitrail.
A little food, water, come out to play, TLC, exercise … it’s all good, and it’s all under our control, and babyface is well protected, never to be bothered or assimilated in the outside world. Guess what … GAME SHOW BUZZER … not realistic. Each generation has their “thing,” and as time marches onward, communication and electronics are no longer a luxury, but a necessity, and are the smoke signal pow wows of today’s teen and pre-teen. When Devin and Brynn were in middle school, Al and I discussed phones. We both agreed that no child would be given a phone until their time had come, which to us meant eighth grade. At that point, they would have cemented time with their family, learned about pitfalls and apps that could do them in, and not be so easily seduced by this inanimate contraption that could lead them into the Garden of Eden, and away from your parental grip.
However, as the years moved on and the phone became a necessity rather than a luxury, it was clear to us that Valentina, next in line for Maxwell Smart’s shoe, needed a phone not only for all her theatrical pick-ups and drop-offs, but for socialization as well. If we did not allow her a phone, we were ostracizing her from her cohorts who communicated by text, Instagram, Snap Chat, etc. We allowed her to use her phone for a certain amount of hours each day to communicate with other pre-teen chatter boxes, and we set limits, but we did not forbid. It’s hard for a child to assimilate and be socially accepted and normal if they aren’t communicating the way the rest of the tribe is. To my dismay, this electronic disseminator was as much a part of their lives as my rotary phone and Sony Walkman.
BTW, YOU ARE NOT GOD, A PHONECIAN SCRIBE OR J. EDGAR HOOVER
3. I have chatted with so many parents who pride themselves on knowing “everything” their little angel is doing on the computer or the phone, tablet or whatever the purveyor of information may be. Really? Well, I’ve been at this gig 22 years, and I just found out a few things my third grader can do with his Xbox that raised my recently shaped eyebrows. I’d love to see how these parents pull this rabbit out of a hat and manage to eat and shower every day.
Face it, it’s almost impossible to know everything they know, every app, every download every everything. Unfortunately, they have one up on us here, and no matter how much you think you know, you really don’t. I consider my kids pretty well behaved and savvy, and every once in a while, when I witness those Jack Be Nimble fingers tattering across the keyboard or banging on the phone like a baby chick running for its feed, I realize I can never keep up. If they wanted to do something dastardly they probably could.
Don’t beat yourself up but be aware of what’s out there. Unless you take phones away at night, you probably have no clue about the cyber party going on in an upstairs bedroom. Lord knows, unlike me, my kids are night owls, and the silent guest that sleeps with your kids is very influential. Your choice here is to limit activity, (or have none at all) based on the keyboard banger. Trust your judgement, and intuition and as indicated above, have clear cut conversations about what goes on in screenshot land. And, btw, lol, learn some lingo and throw it into a text with your kid. Subliminally, they will get the message that you are cool enough to send an emoji, and probably know what you are doing.
OMG! WE’RE ENGAGED!!
4. Sounds excitedly romantic! However, in this case an idle mind is the devil’s workshop and a kid who has no time, will probably use his internet time wisely or not at all. Keep your kid engaged with a passion or pastime and nurture it. A child who has something to commit to and be responsible for in his/her off-school hours is less likely to turn to the phone or pad for companionship. A bored kid will seek adventures and play dates without any physical contact. Help your offspring to choose an activity that is healthy and exciting for them. They will be less likely to hibernate and get lost in space.
5. Every parent sets boundaries (or not) according to what they feel is paramount in their family’s life. Although I do not agree with a child younger than middle school having a phone, each parent has reasons beyond any of my business or yours as to when their kid is bestowed this privilege.
I won’t judge. But a universal rule at any stage is communication, discussion and consistent checking in. Empower your child with the knowledge and fear of how to use their device and it’s destructive abilities coupled with its productive mechanisms so they may gravitate towards the positive usage of their new appendage.
DON’T BE A VICTIM
6. A good lesson to teach your kid is if they see something, say something. The minute something starts going awry on the internet, and they have a modicum of involvement just from being an innocent bystander or an unwanted participant in a group chat, or an admitted player, they need to tell you with no judgement. Stop the tears and take action. Dismiss yourself immediately and seek parental refuge. Don’t be cyber bullied by cowards or seduced by a stranger. Let your kid know it’s ok to tell you what’s going on if they feel something isn’t right and together you will plot accordingly based on the degree of rogue involved. The teen set is especially notorious for not realizing they have taken something too far. They think everything is just hilarious.
In the end, it’s about you, your child, and the choices you make about how to handle this powerful stranger. Be smart. Learn as much as you can and educate your child to the max. You can’t be everywhere, see everything, hear everything read every text or unearth every history or link. I always say the best gift I can give my children is judgement. I certainly don’t know it all out there, but I will be as aware as I possibly can and teach them the same. And never say, “not my kid.”
MORTALITY DISCLAIMER: Before you read what's ahead please know that I do not put any more “weight” or degree of sadness on anyone’s loss over another. I steered clear of mentioning children because to me, as great as my losses have been in my life, those who have suffered THAT particular loss need their own forum. From what I understand from those who have walked that path, comfort comes in waves that never really reach the shore, and I respect that, and pray to God every day to watch over my blessings, and those families who have treaded in unimaginable waters.
Every January and February, this eerie, peaceless, Tower of Terror drop feeling comes over me. To say it’s just winter doldrums is a little dramatic. It’s a spin-off of the feelings I had when my parents died … eight years apart, but the time of year mirrored each other. It’s been 22 years since my mother passed, and 15 since my dad died. Each is the equivalent of one of my births, first Devin (1995) and Valentina (2002), each born around the time of my parents’ deaths, cementing in my soul that God gives you joy even when there is grief. He gave me two new babies at a time when I needed them. But, the wounds are still healing.
A good friend recently found herself in the once unthinkable position of caring for aging, ailing father whose health and time are extremely compromised. I’ve been there, twice, and lost both parents by the time I was 35. And, not to be callous to those who lost parents at a much younger juncture, like my brilliant childhood friend who is now a star pediatrician, who lost her mother, my mother’s best friend, when he was 17.
I find myself wallowing in anger for the last twenty-two years since I lost my mother. That extended into my father’s death, and I’ve been admittedly hateful at those now and in the years before who have parents. I really have no use for aging parent stories, having lost my mother at 61, and my father, oddly enough did slightly better even with Marlboro lungs at 76. I really could care less to hear, see, or know anything about how your parents interact with your kids, how they pick them up at school, buy them Christmas gifts and attend basketball games and concerts. I had none of that. My father was able for a short while, but even then, he was dead in the box by the time my oldest was six.
I tried to be compassionate and understanding towards those who did enjoy the hugs and love of their parents even as adults, and I asked God to show mercy on me and give me the gusto and fervor I needed to be understanding and smile at the grandparent and kid stories, or, the restraint not to proverbially punch the shit out of someone when they complained about their parent because they had too many ailments or didn’t know when to shut up.
But, this past week, God came to me and tapped me on the shoulder, twice. I realized that my job was outlined 22 years ago, and that was to help others get through grief. Grief is not only born through death, it is born though watching a loved one fail and dissolve into something unimaginable. My experience would be cultivated over 20 plus years of being pissed off at the world, but here is what I learned:
I thought I had unearthed the greatest gift given to female bodies. No, it wasn’t cryolipolysis, or Botox, fillers, or even varicosity zapping, Summer’s Eve wash or the new ULTRA tampons from Tampax. It was indeed, the True Blue line from Bath and Body Works. Unlike any other line of body wash and body lotion, True Blue is a far cry from the latte consistency of Jergens, Eucerin and that milky crap that feels and looks like half and half for your body. This stuff is magically emollient, and your skin becomes baby soft, like a newborn in seconds, and can stay that way for days.
The wife of the magical duo of softness is True Blue Shower wash…just as silky smooth, just as rich, and in a matching tube. Please keep this in mind.
I actually used this stuff on my newborn babies and it kept their skin as thick and impenetrable as a Wendy’s Frosty. So, when my little beanie, my Gianmarco came home, I slathered him in lotion gold after every bath.
One day I noticed on my tiny gift from God, a very gentle, non-invasive type of peeling. It seemed surface only and no chafing or bleeding, just a gentle shedding, like a rattlesnake. Newborns don’t communicate too well except for a few grunts and sleeping shudders, so I guessed he was ok. He seemed ok, but what the hell was this? Of course, I googled new born skin irritations, cooties, peeling, sloughing, etc. I needed to keep his skin hydrated so I kept putting on the lotion. I was on my way to the pediatrician with my quandary, when I realized.
I had a new babysitter, a very, very sweet girl who came to help me for the weekend when I was home with the baby. I went to change him on the changing table after a bath, and to my horror, on the table was indeed TRUE BLUE in it’s beautiful neon blue tube, but it was the SHOWER WASH!!!! OH MY GOD!!!!! Our sweet mother’s helper was dousing our newborn’s skin in shower wash and not rinsing! But, I take blame. In my post-partum noctambulation, which could have occurred at any hour, really, I put a tube of shower cream on his table instead of the lotion. Well, we rinsed him over and over, and eventually he stopped excorticating. It took a few days, but he returned to normal.
So, Bath and Body Works, my bad, totally, but can we hear it for a True Blue face lift for sleep deprived mommies?
If you knew my father, his Leo persona was quite in contrast with his underlying simplicity. After my mom passed away, I would invite him for dinner.
Me: Dad, what do you want to eat.
Dad: I’m happy with a him sandwich…and a martini.
There was always a martini on every menu with him, but his entrée desires were so simple: pasta, pasta, pasta, and sometimes a steak. He was not a huge eater, and I think his culinary desires branched back to his immigrant roots, which bordered on extreme simplicity.
So, since my holiday cooking break is over, I started out slowly this week. I made a slow cooker, (we are having an affair again, lol) tangy pot roast, and this side, one of my father’s favorites:
PEAS and PANCETTA (or ham) with ONIONS.
1 bag frozen, defrosted sweet peas
1 c. chopped Pancetta (or ham can work, too).
1 c. chopped onions
Sautee the pancetta until crisp in olive oil. Not too much olive oil since the pancetta has its own fat to clog your arteries.
Then add the onions and cook until they are soft.
Throw in the peas and cook until they are heated through.
That is IT!!!!! His favorite side dish. I miss him. When I made this…I could smell his cologne. I think he came for dinner.