Calling all chocolate lovers! A contest!

When my friend Linda was visiting over Valentine’s Day she received a gift from her husband. Valentine’s morning the doorbell rang and there stood the delivery man. He quickly placed a beautiful bouquet of flowers in a pretty vase and a heart-shaped box of candy on the center of our dining room table. (As an aside, I really want to know what they spray on flower arrangements these days. Linda travelled here by plane, so she left her vase of love here for us to enjoy. It has been 13 days since the flowers arrived. Four days ago I placed them on the front porch and they still look as perky as the day they were delivered. Kinda scary if you ask me.)

Anyway, Linda generously shared her box of chocolates (unfortunately for her in a family our size, even a large box is emptied quickly). There was no diagram or paper outlining what different flavor awaited us upon our first bite into the delicious morsels, so we had to guess. We were wrong every time. I was in search of anything caramel. I struck out, all three times. My heart was set on caramel and I got a creamy orange, then another time a fruity strawberry. My last stab in my quest for a bite into a sweet, chewy, sticky caramel delight that you have to hold firmly clamped between your teeth and then pull straight out in front of you with one long motion of your arm was met with failure. I even tried a darker chocolate and different shape, but no, no caramel for me. After attacking the box with gusto, we humbly remembered our manners and saved the last piece for Linda. She smiled knowing she would not be offering me the wet half-eaten piece of chocolate-covered caramel she had just discovered that had fooled me by looking exactly like a chocolate-covered cherry!

So, I invite you to join in a little bit of fun with me. I am having a contest. Please write in the comment section of this story, your funniest, most creative or practical way you discover what luscious flavor awaits you inside a box chocolates. My family will judge and pick our favorite answer. The winner will receive a box of Ohio-based Esther Price chocolates. The winner will need to be in the Continental U.S for this contest, but any readers out of the country, I would still like to hear your answers. The winner will be announced Wednesday, the 6th of March at high noon. ūüôā

I am looking forward to reading your responses. Join in the fun!

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Tuna to Go

I entered into motherhood at the relatively young age of 20. We didn’t have a lot of money, but we had a lot of love. The love was for one another of course, but when baby Philip was born, with adoration in our eyes, he became our little prince.

David and I are both the babies of our families and so we really had limited hands-on experience. We both had great role models in our parents, but until we married and began our family we gave little thought to the hows and whys of parenting. We started out making a lot of it up as we went along and added in extreme caution for good measure. I am sure if Philip could have lived in bubble wrap as a baby and still breathed we would have insulated him in it.

One morning, while David was at work, my new wee one and I had visitors. My dad, my sister Diane and my niece Samantha came for a day visit. Philip was only a few months old and my niece was three. We had a lovely morning chatting and playing with the children.

I was in the kitchen making lunch, tuna fish sandwiches and chips. My sister began to murmur that she didn’t feel well. “What do you mean you don’t feel well? Where do you feel bad?” is how I began my inquisition.

“I don’t know, just all over the place. I ache. My throat hurts. Check and see if I feel warm,” she moaned, as she began to feel worse minute by minute. With one quick hand swipe of her forehead, I could tell she was feverish. I began to frantically search for a thermometer. A quick shakedown of the mercury, an alcohol swabbing of the end and my sister found me shoving her mouth open, clenching her jaw shut for the tell-all reading of her fever that raged within.

“103.8, 103.8, your temperature is 103.8!‚ÄĚ I exclaimed.

“Yes, I guess so. I really don’t feel good at all,” she wearily stated.

At this point, the sympathy and loving, nursing care she expected and needed did not happen. I stepped back from her with trembling fear as if the bubonic plague had entered my home. I looked at my sweet, tiny, baby boy and had visions of grave illness in his future. “You need to go. You can’t be here. You must leave right now,” I said as I began to gather up her daughter’s belongings.

“Can’t we at least stay for lunch before we leave? I’ m hungry,” my dad asked as he watched with bewilderment as I sprinted for the kitchen.

I returned with their sandwiches and chips on plates, a glass of water and Tylenol. “Here, I packed up your lunch for you. You can’t stay. Get out, but you can take your tuna sandwiches with you,” I responded, at that moment in my life feeling both generous and protective. Quicker than you can say influenza, my company was up, wrapped in their coats, lunch-filled paper plates in hand, looking confused and in shock as their wide eyes watched me usher them out the door and quickly shut it.

My sister was really sick and stayed in bed for days with the flu. Needless to say, over the years, there has been quite a bit of rehashing of my behavior that day, fortunately usually ending in fits of giggles and laughter. This was twenty-five years ago and for at least the first ten years of the story’s retelling, I defended myself by reminding everyone, I at least gave her pain-relieving medication and sent them with lunch.

Who knows what got into me that day? The irrational panic and over-protectiveness of a new momma, I suppose. Eight more children later, I am still cautious. I am one of those who keeps the baby home for eight weeks as much as possible and avoids crowds during the height of cold and flu season. I would like to think though, if the same situation was to occur again, I would at least remember to send them with a drink too. ūüôā

I will have a side of oranges with my anxiety, please

A lot of life circumstances can seem overwhelming sometimes. Illness, job security, physical moves, day-to-day responsibilities and I am sure we can all fill in our own blanks.

I have found myself struggling with a bit of anxiety lately. I seem to muddle through fine and then, ahem, a certain hormonal time of month will come and I am washed in a sea of strong feelings and fears. You don’t have to be a girl to relate to feelings of anxiety, stress, and feeling overwhelmed, but I am sure if you are of the female persuasion you can relate for sure. Or fear not, if you can’t, some day one month you will, I am confident!

I am normally a sure-footed, confident kind of gal so the way I have been periodically feeling has been a struggle. I hit a point where I frantically want to run from my feelings. I think we all do this in different ways and for different reasons run from the out-of-control feeling. We call it shopping therapy or man caves or forty more pounds from over-eating. Maybe over-exercising or zoning for hours in front of mindless TV. Maybe we overcommit to activities outside our home or stay at the office just a little later than needed.

I find myself tired of running. Tired of fighting the emotions I don’t like and want to control. So I have been seeking rest and methods of relaxation. I am a Christian, so for me God, His Word and prayer have been a major part of my arsenal in my fight. But I also have been searching for practical ways to bring down my heightened state of emotional angst.

Oranges. I found several articles that oranges have a calming effect and can be a relaxant. So being the doer and fighter I am, off to the grocery store I went. Go ahead and picture it. Me walking around local grocery stores everywhere in search of the perfect orange. Trying to secretly discern from the outside what kind of juicy therapy awaited me on the inside. So many to choose from: naval oranges, clementines, tangelos, cara caras, tangerines and the list goes on and on.

I have tried them all during this season of my life. I think I have pretty much decided the smaller ones pack the most aromatic punch. And you know what? They do help. Is it the act of peeling the skin? The breaking through the tough outer layer and little by little pulling back the shell? Is it the fresh, alive, almost fizzing scent that permeates up through your olfactory nerve and travels to your brain and says relax!? Is it the way the strong calming odor clings to the inside of the outer layer, showing how strong it really is deep down?

I am sure it is some of the above reasons and many more why I take a side of oranges with my anxiety. So the next time you are stressed or feel like you just need a ten-minute break or you are hungry for an orange, step out there and join me in the quest for a relaxing whiff of orange. Go ahead – put on some music, light a lavender candle, read a book, sit in the quiet and peel your round orange fruit of choice.

Maybe you will decide it works for you too and you may get bold, throwing one in your bag everywhere you go, just in case anxiety strikes waiting at the doctor’s office, right before a big test, getting ready to give a work presentation. Go ahead, you know you want to try it now. But one warning: if you go in close ‚Äď and I advise that you do – to really breathe in the uplifting citrus fragrance, either check the mirror or ask a buddy to make sure you aren’t wearing your new found fruity friend’s pulp on the end of your nose.
Happy Smelling!

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Hi Ho Silver Nitrate Away!

Upon Lydia hearing she had an appointment with Dr Little, she quickly prepared for her day. You see, she has a full-fledge crush on her surgeon. At the mere mention of his name, her entire demeanor changes. Her head tilts to the side one way as she brings both hands together in front of her, her hip pops out ever so slightly and then her eyelashes begin to flutter over her baby blues. She then runs around the house saying his name and making plans to meet with him. She has precise ideas of what she should wear, how her hair should look and what baby doll or stuffed animal she thinks he would like to see. This fascinates me because she is four years old; this terrifies me because she is four years old.

The appointment report: Lydia has what is called a pyogenic granuloma. It is an extra clump of blood vessels and skin cells growing at the tip of her finger. Too many vessels, not enough skin. Again, I am fascinated by the human body and how we are created. Finger soaking, along with painful scrubbing and then three applications of silver nitrate was the prescription for the day. We were told to be careful. Tell that to the four-year-old, please, Doctor! And then reevaluate next week.

I don’t think I ever told you how Lydia severed her finger top. Warning, potential for small cringe factor follows. ūüôā Phoebe was grabbing something out of my room for me. Lydia was standing behind her as she pulled the door shut. Phoebe never saw her there nor did she have any idea Lydia had stuck her hand between the door and the wall by the hinge. Let‚Äôs all just say a collective, “Ouch!!!” together right now!

As an FYI, most ER visits for children with a severed finger are from doors-interior house doors. Three out of four, in fact.

The sweetest moment in all of this chaos was shown through a gentle, sweet action of Lydia. Phoebe had been crying on and off for hours, struggling to put on a brave face. Lydia still did not really grasp what had happened to her finger, definitely not that she had lost part of her finger and it had been reattached. She walked over to Phoebe, put her hand on her face, stroked it lovingly back and forth and smiled saying, “Don’t cry Phoebe. It’s not your fault. It will be okay.”

It will be okay and someday she will get to tell the tale of her never-ending finger.

Lydia smiling a little overzealously as she is ready for her appointment with the good doctor.

Lydia smiling a little over zealously as she is ready for her appointment with the good doctor.

The Never Ending Finger

My friend Linda and her children had just arrived from Virginia the day before for a five-day visit. We were looking forward to relaxing and enjoying a few day trips we had planned. We took a trip all right…straight to the ER.

Linda and I had just gotten home from a shopping trip at Trader Joe’s. We were in the kitchen packing up an afternoon snack basket to enjoy at Sharon Woods, a fantastic park, when I thought I heard someone screaming on the second floor. I turned to Linda. “Hold that thought. I think I hear someone yelling,” I said as I headed towards the staircase. “Uh oh, I heard the word ‘blood’,”I called back to Linda as I quickly ran up the steps.

When I made it to the top of the staircase, Lilly was holding little Lydia’s hand in the air; it was bound tightly in a blood-soaked towel. With her eyes the size of silver dollar pancakes, Lilly mouthed the words, “The top of her finger is gone!” Upon receiving this news, I proceeded to run up and down the steps, back and forth three times, letting anyone and everyone know, “I’m going to call 911; I need a phone!” Why I chose that moment to begin exercising up and down our thirty-two steps can only be explained by adrenaline and shock.

With a phone now in my possession I made the call. As I spoke with 911 operator, I am fairly certain they probably thought I was the patient. “I…I…need ( deep panting and breathing) need…need an ambulance.”

“Ma’am, are you okay?” the operator inquired. Silence. I was trying to breathe and had started noticing how pretty the stained-glass window in the living room really was; how the colors were all swirling together, or wait,was that the room spinning? The loud, urgent sound of the operator’s voice brought my wandering mind back to reality. “Ma’am, are you there? Are you okay? Please state the nature of your emergency,” she pleaded.

Information was exchanged and the ambulance was on its way. Lydia was relatively calm as long as she didn’t see me. She wanted a band-aid. She wanted me to fix her boo-boo. Stepping outside, onto the porch, to wait for our help, I felt myself starting to sway. A million thoughts were racing through my mind. Why was the sky moving so fast? Were the cars really upside-down? Why was my heart beating so fast and skipping to an odd beat? “Oh no,” I cried out. It was in that moment that I remembered where my help comes from, the Lord. I started to pray aloud, “God, I need you right now. Please steady my body so I can be the mother you called me to be for Lydia right now. Please comfort Lydia and the other children and bring us peace right now. We need Your help. I need Your help. I do not want to be laying on the porch when the ambulance gets here. Help me Father to be here for my daughter!” I pleaded.

Peace carried us through the hours and days that lay ahead. Through the paramedics’ questions during the ambulance drive, the sedation and surgery to reattach her finger, Phoebe crying all night long over the self-induced guilt of injuring her baby sister, and the comforting and care of Lydia and her finger.

Looking back, I can remember asking the ambulance driver if my racing, momentary-beat-skipping heart was okay. He answered with the most soothing, comforting words, “Perfectly normal Ma’am. That just makes you a good momma.”

So here we are, four months later, and the finger saga continues. Part of the finger-healing process is the “detaching phase.” This is the time when Lydia is supposed to lose her old finger that was reattached as a biological band-aid. We have lost parts of it, say, at places like Sam’s Club. Talk about your heads turning to take a peek. I tried to convince David he should have answered the concerned Sam’s employees, “Yes, it happened here, it is all your fault and we want free food for a year!” Just kidding, really I am.

Lydia is continuing to regenerate a new finger top. She loves the beach and is doing a wonderful job of mimicking the star fish. Just like the star fish when it loses an arm it grows a new one, Lydia is growing a new finger from her first knuckle up. I truly find it fascinating! Our bodies’ capabilities are amazing! The problem is that Lydia is growing her new finger a little too well. We Irwins like to succeed in all we do. So, Lydia is growing too many new cells for her skin and has a minor infection brewing.

We go to the surgeon this afternoon. As a mother,I am very nervous for my daughter, but as a daughter of God, I am at peace with the never ending finger.

Psalm 121:1-2. “I lift up my eyes to the mountains-where does my help come from? My help comes from The Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”

How do YOU get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Pop?

One of my favorite childhood commercials in the 1970s was the Tootsie Roll Pop.¬† I liked the one where the little boy asked both Mr. Turtle and Mr. Owl,¬†‚ÄúHow many licks¬†does¬†it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop?‚ÄĚ

As far as I can tell, these catchy Tootsie Roll Pop commercials date back to the 1950s.  For those of you interested in watching one of these commercials, try searching for them on Google or you can find them on YouTube.  My children got quite a kick out of watching them.

¬†Leo Hirschfield is the founder of what is now known as Tootsie Roll Industries. ¬†The company was originally named¬†The Sweets Company of America, and began as a small¬†candy store¬†in New York City in 1896. ¬†Their first big hit in the candy industry came in the form of the Tootsie Roll. ¬†This candy was fondly named after Leo‚Äôs daughter Clara‚Äôs nickname ‚ÄúTootsie.‚ÄĚ ¬†The Tootsie Roll Pop would not make its debut to the public till several years later. ¬†In 1931,¬†Luke Weisgram, an employee of the Sweets Company of America, invented the¬†Tootsie Roll Pop.

I tend to pick the brown flavor.  My favorite strategy of eating this delectable creation is to dip it in water and then lick it.  I learned how to do this by watching my mother eat them this way.  Dipping the lollipop in water only adds to the flavor.  I love the sweet liquid running down my throat!  I often find myself trying to get to the center of the lollipop as a stress reliever.  However, I almost never lick my way completely to the center of the lollipop.  It usually ends in a crunch before this point.

So tell me, I’d like to know‚Ķ¬†Do¬†you have a favorite flavor? ¬†Do¬†you have a favorite commercial? ¬†How many licks does it take you to get to the center? ¬†Do you never make it and end up crunching like me?¬†¬†Or,¬†much to my chagrin,¬†do you¬†not even like them¬†or have you never had one before?

Come and take a tour down memory lane with me!  Please share your answers, thoughts, and fond memories about the Tootsie Roll Pop by leaving a comment below.  

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Guess who is coming for cake…( Part Two)

This is the direction the duck posse first approached

This is the direction the duck posse first approached

The moment my body slid across the hard ground bulging with the tree’s exposed roots, I remembered I was pregnant. My hand reached down to cradle my sweet girl growing inside my now very bruised and contraction-riddled belly. I hopped up, adrenaline coursing through my body and my brain racing a mile a minute. All I could think about, the question recirculating in my mind, was what had I done to the baby?

The boys and I went into the house, along with Phoebe who had ventured outside when she heard the screaming and squawking. I took a shower secretly hoping this would calm down the growing irritability I could feel from my uterus as it protested indignantly against the assault it had just endured. Accepting the reality of the fall, I called the obstetrician and found myself quickly checking in to the Triage Maternity Unit at the local hospital. I was nervous with David out of the country, but relieved to have the help of my seventeen -year -old James with the littles ones.

David, along with my daughters, Grace and Lilly, made their nightly check-in call from Argentina. Any hopes of hiding that I was sitting in a hospital bed were thwarted by David hearing pages, buzzers and bells carried across the phone lines. I was sent home with orders to rest and wait for an appointment scheduled for Thursday. David was left to finish his work in Argentina and contemplate his revenge against the ducks.

The next day, as I sat on the sunroom couch and watched the boys play in the backyard, the ducks returned for round two. They chased Joshua and Caleb inside and staked their claim to the backyard, right in the spot of our crumb-riddled first battle. I called animal control and the nice man tried to no avail to catch the perpetrators. The next morning, as soon as the boys went out to play we had an exact repeat of the day before, right down to the failed attempt by the now frustrated animal control man.

David came home several hours later. After taking one look at my bruised body and hearing the children’s tales of how the ducks had seized our yard, he flew down the steps and out the door with the speed of Superman. To this day, because he was faster than a speeding bullet, I am still not sure how he accomplished in five minutes what no one else could – he had captured a duck. He had captured my foe with the recycling bin.

Animal Control was no longer messing around and sent four officers armed with dart sleeping guns to round up the rest of the posse. After a lot of drama involving neighbors, guns, ducks and cages, a plan was hatched. The captured duck was released to help lure his mates back to a humane trap. They were taken the next day to live at a children’s farm petting zoo in a neighboring city.

Weeks later a friend of mine asked Joshua, ” What did the duck do after your mom fell?”

I had never thought to ask and so I listened with great curiosity as he said, ” The duck stopped running, stared down at my mom for a few seconds and then turned and waddled away to join his friends eating the cake.”

Another friend said, ” I don’t know which I would have rather seen‚Ķ.you running from the duck or David running to catch the duck .”

A few years later with the story a distant memory we visited Bluebird Gap Farm for an afternoon tour and family picnic. We rambled along the path until we came to a section that housed different types of animals that live on the water. Slowly, our eyes met; within seconds, a recognition occurred between us both. There was no respect; there was only challenge. I stood confidently staring into the eyes of my white, feathery nemesis. I was confident with the fence between us, until he began to make a move for the dreaded crane position. Quickly, I began to contemplate whether this duck could fly. One look at sweet Lydia, no longer in my womb, healthy and joyfully ignorant of the stand-off occurring, and my decision was made. I tipped my head to my bird-brained friend and announced to the kids, “Why don’t we go eat our lunch at the park.”

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David and I enjoying our sweet Lydia and our backyard!