Tuesday, April 28, 2009

~They're Engaged!~

Once again, our family is growing. Not with a new baby this time, but with a soon-to-be daughter-in-law! With two sons, it took quite a while to add girls to our family. The first one was our dear Jackie. Then Ella. And now....Amy! We welcome her with open arms and full hearts.

Tom sprung the question to her on Friday, her 23rd birthday. After she opened several gifts, he handed her an envelope and told her it was a puzzle. As she put the 8 1/2 by 11 black-and-white photo pieces together, she realized it was a giant picture of her and Tom with the Easter Bunny, taken at her aunt's home Easter weekend. But.....there were 3 pieces missing. Telling her they were probably still in the envelope....she completed the puzzle, and saw the words: "Will You Marry Me?"

After much screaming of disbelief, she has a beautiful ring on her finger, and dreams in her heart. They are both giddy with happiness. Needless to say....so are her 'future' in-laws. The wedding will be sometime next year!

Monday, April 13, 2009

~Until Next Time.......~

Proclamations of "I'll come back again real soon, Grandma. Promise" made by the Little Princess from chocolate-edged lips that give kisses like no other little girl on the face of this earth. She gets prettier each time I see her.

Sweet tender kisses 'right on the lips' given freely by the Little Prince as he waves good-bye....blue 'blankie' clutched in one little fist....juice in the other. He's looking more and more like his Daddy each day.

The Easter baskets stand empty. Waiting to be packed away until next time.

The house is so still.

There is something missing. Something more than the bunny cake's behind: they've taken with them a very large piece of my heart.

But I'll wait patiently. Until next time.

This post was honored with a Post Of the Day Award over at authorblog. Thank you, David!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

~Easter Baking With Mom~

Each year when we were growing up, my mom made us her traditional Easter Bunny Cake : white cake, gooey seven-minute frosting, coconut..... Every year. So once I had my sons, I followed her lead, and made an Easter Bunny Cake just like my Mom's. Every year.

Last year, I decided to make 3 Bunny Cakes: a Mama, and two Babies.... one for Ella and one for Jackson. When I proudly set them on the table, Ella asked me who the bunnies were. I told her there was a Mama Bunny, an Ella Bunny and a Jackson Bunny. She looked up at me with her big green eyes and said, "Grandma.....that is VERY sad." I looked over the three cakes. They LOOKED okay. They each had jelly bean eyes and nose. And pink paper ears. Just like MY Mom used to make us. I was puzzled until she explained: "There's NO Papa Bunny, Grandma". Okay. I admit it. I felt awful. I had left out the Papa Bunny (my son!) . Bad Grandma. I learned my lesson. So this year, I baked the complete family: A Papa Bunny, A Mama Bunny, and two Babies.

And guess who spent this Holy Saturday with me? The original Bunny Baker herself: my Mom! She is out of the hospital and back at her assisted living home. She's on two new alzheimer's medications that are helping with her memory and delusions. She still gets confused at times, and talks about 'going home to her parents'. No....she doesn't mean heaven....she means back to the farm house in Uniontown, Pa, where she grew up once they came over from Italy. She forgets she's all-grown-up now at almost 89 years of age....and she gets confused. But when we picked her up this morning so she could come and help make the Bunny Cakes and pies....there was NO confusion on her face. She was a happy, determined mother-with-a-purpose: helping her daughter bake for Easter!

We had lunch and she laid down on the sofa with the puppies and snoozed while I made the seven-minute frosting for the cakes I had baked last nite. When she woke up, we iced the bunnies together. She giggled like a school girl and licked her fingers when they got too gooey....then headed for the sink to wash them and begin again. We had coconut everywhere!

I don't often stop to remember long-ago memories like watching my mother ice the Bunny Cake when I was seven...or eight....or nine. They came flooding back to me: my beautiful mom with her dark curls and big brown eyes standing in the kitchen, old-fashioned apron tied in a big bow behind her back. Determinedly icing that cake. I can see her like it was yesterday.

It was a beautiful Holy Saturday. One I will always remember. I pray that God let's us have her for a few more Easters. After all....there are still a whole lot of Bunny Cakes that will need to be baked!

Friday, April 10, 2009

~Good Friday: A Mother's Grief~

There hasn’t been an Easter Season I can remember, that I didn’t grieve for Mary. Even when I was a little Catholic girl kneeling in church on Good Friday so many years ago. Long before I knew what it was like to be a mother. To know that inborn, maternal love that could surpass anything wordly. That feeling that you would freely give your own life, to save your child’s.

With swollen eyes she wept, huddled at the foot of the cross….looking through tear-stained fingers at her son’s lifeless body. The body she knew only too-well.

This lifeless corpse was once the baby she rocked in her arms. He was the toddler whose bloodied knees she had very tenderly bandaged.

He was her twelve-year-old boy who had disappeared for three days only to be found in the temple preaching to the elders.

She was living a nightmare that Friday long-ago….never dreaming that in three-days-time her Son, this bloodied lifeless body, would rise from the dead and save the world.

Mary is an inspiration to all mothers. She was part of the enormous sacrifice that Jesus had made for us. As His mother, she was with Him on His last journey. Her presence told her Child that she would never abandon Him. As she was with Him in the beginning, she would be with Him in the end. God had given His Son the gift of a beautiful mother, and she would ease His burden with her love until He took His last breath.

As mothers, we watch our children carry their own crosses. My children may stand alone with their cross, but like Mary, my love will always be there to help ease their burden.

And so, each Easter Season, my thoughts always turn to her mourning the loss of her beloved Son. I cannot imagine her grief as she watched Him die on that Friday so long ago.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

~Easter Baking: Hot Cross Buns~

Hot cross buns,

Hot cross buns,
one ha' penny,
two ha' penny,
hot cross buns.
If you have no daughters,
give them to your sons,
one ha' penny,
two ha' penny,
Hot Cross Buns

There's lots of baking that goes on in the Italian kitchen around traditional holidays, and Easter Week is no exception.

Hot Cross Buns are first made on Ash Wednesday and eaten throughout the six weeks of Lent. In Italy, they are traditionally eaten on Good Friday, with the cross signifying the crucifixion.

According to tradition, Hot Cross Buns were the only food allowed to be eaten by the faithful on Good Friday. Made from dough kneaded for consecrated bread used at Mass or Holy Communion, and thus representative of Christ’s body, Hot Cross Buns were also credited for miraculous healing and for protection.

This tradition suffered attack during the 16th century. During Queen Elizabeth I’s reign, when Roman Catholicism was banned, ‘backward - lookers’ were reportedly tried for Popery for signing the cross on their Good Friday buns. The accused often claimed that it was necessary to mark a cross on the dough, to ensure that the buns would rise. However, the popularity of the buns prevailed, and the Queen resorted to passing a law which limited the bun's consumption to proper religious ceremonies, such as Christmas, Easter or funerals. So go ahead and try your hand at making these traditional Hot Cross Buns for your Good Friday or Easter meal! This recipe makes eighteen buns. Enjoy!



5 cups all purpose flour, divided
2 pkg active dry yeast
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/4 cups milk
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup currants or raisins
1/3 cup candied orange peel
1 egg yolk mixed with 2 tablespoons water

Combine 2 cups of flour, yeast, sugar, salt and spices in a large mixing bowl.

In a separate bowl, heat milk and butter to very warm (125°F). Add to flour. Beat on medium speed of mixer for 1 minute. Add eggs. Beat another minute. Stir in currants, orange peel and enough remaining flour to make dough easy to handle.

Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes, adding additional flour as needed. Try not to add too much flour; dough can be slightly sticky to the touch. (Put oil on your hands to prevent sticking if necessary.) Place in a buttered bowl, turning to butter top. Cover; let rise in warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Punch down dough; turn onto lightly floured surface. Divide dough in half; divide each half into 9 pieces.

Form each piece into a smooth round ball. Place balls of dough in two buttered 8-inch square baking pans. Cover and let rise in warm place until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Brush lightly with egg yolk mixture.

Bake rolls in preheated 375°F degree oven, 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from pans.

Cool on a wire rack.

Drizzle frosting (see below) across the top of each bun in the shape of a cross. Makes 18 buns.

Cream Cheese Frosting:

3 oz cream cheese, softened
1 c confectioner's sugar
1 tsp milk

Beat cream cheese and sugar in a bowl until smooth. Add up to 1 teaspoon of milk or just enough so that the frosting is a good consistency for drizzling. (If it becomes too watery, add more sugar).

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

~This, too, Shall Pass~

I always find myself closer to God during difficult times. I first realized this during my senior year of college. Kneeling in a dark, musty confessional, I confessed to a priest that I was guilty of not being as close to God as I should have been. Hey...I was a Dean's List college senior carrying 21 hours & finishing up my student teaching, a Resident Advisor on a dormitory floor of 40 freshman girls, and working part-time. Yup...I wasn't praying as much as I could have been. The priest said something that set me on my heels: "The fact that you are worried that you're not as close to God as you should be, tells me you are MUCH closer to Him than you think." I've never forgotten that. He was totally spot-on.

As I travel through these difficult days with my Mom, I find I am leaning on Him for dear life. Is there any other choice? Faith is easy in good times. It's brutally hard in bad times. But those are the times I am the closest to God. He's the last thing I think of when I fall off to sleep, and the first thought I have before I open my eyes. I wake up many times throughout the nite, and pray that He is holding my Mom...and us....in the arms. She can't do this alone. Neither can we.

Mom is still in the hospital. Her delusions continue. She imagines she is at work. Everyone's left and she has no way home. She says someone's stolen her purse, and she has no money. This scene is played over and over. There are no phones, so to make calls, patients have to convince someone at the nurse's station to call for them. They try to control the frequency of these calls, and as you can imagine, they have many more important tasks to perform in the busy geriatric unit. But she convinces them to let her 'call her daughter' whenever she can. These phone calls are heart-wrenching. They asked me if I wanted them to stop the calls. I told them, "Absolutely not". Can you imagine how you would feel 'locked' in with no way to reach your loved ones?? And so, whenever the phone rings, I find myself praying that it's not Mom. Sad. Very sad.

The unit is locked. No one in or out without a code. No phones, tvs, no cords, strings, foods outside the dining room. You have to 'check' eveything in when you enter. They ignore the patients' questions. Many of them babble incessantly. It's like a white-walled prison. A giant padded 'cell'. Depressing for sure. We've all agreed that any of us would go crazy if we had to stay there as a patient.

But Mom's already in her own kind of 'prison'. There's a monster raging inside her that the doctors have yet been able to calm down. They've tried 3 medications so far. They haven't worked. She is still in this fantasy-hell. She begs to be taken 'home' every time we visit. Visiting hours are limited: 6-8:30 each evening. By 7:00, Mom is exhausted. Exhausted from the delusions. From the begging. From the monster. It's pointless to try to visit with her after that hour.

We did get a smile from her on Sunday: We brought her a Frostie!

And so....we continue on, fervantly praying that today is the day they will figure out how to help her calm the monster. It's been 7 days. Will they succeed? And what happens to this dear woman if they don't? Will she ever be able to go back to the assisted living facility she knows as 'home'? What if she can't?

At certain moments of the day or night....these questions become monumental, depressing unknowns. Eating is near impossible. And when I do....it comes right back up, so what's the sense? Praying is the only calm. The rock. God is here. I know He will make things okay. I just wish He'd hurry.

**Thank you all for your prayers, your comments, emails......for your support. We are so so grateful for them***