Just feed these starving kids!

When our church first advertised about the Feed My Starving Children (FMSC) event, my husband and I thought this was a great opportunity to show our boys how other children are forced to live.  I’ll admit I was quite naive in thinking that this was a small church event and was quite surprised to see it was being held at the Dade County Youth Fairgrounds (DCYF).

Slightly panicked about how Dominic would react I immediately began prepping him in the car. “So Dominic this is at the Youth Fair grounds, ya know.. be there.. the fair. Except .. their is no fair.. but their are people there..”  955 volunteers to be exact!  As we stood inline to check in, Dominic calmly turns to me and says, “I don’t know how exactly you expect me to feed these starving children I can’t cook.”  (Sigh.. here we go folks!!) “Dominic your not cooking anything, we are building packets and boxes of food.”  “Oh..” 

We check in and immediately are handed hairnets. Dominic hates ANYTHING on his head, quite miffed that he was forced to wear this, as we sit in the midst of 955 people the meltdown begins!  “I don’t understand WHY I HAVE TO BE HERE!! I didn’t want to LEAVE MY HOUSE, I told you I CAN’T FEED THESE STARVING KIDS CAUSE I CAN’T COOK AND NOW I HAVE TO WEAR A HAIRNET!!!!  WHY DO I HAVE TO BE HERE TO BEGIN WITH!!!!???”  …. (Deep breath) “Dominic… we are here to teach your brother to appreciating the food God provides us.”  Dominic still not satisfied with that answer turns to Gabriel and says, “WHY CAN’T YOU JUST EAT THE FOOD MAN!!!!!!!????”  (Man snickers behind him.)

The presentation begins and the Pastor is detailing all the countries FMSC has assisted in over the last 25 years.  I am completely engrossed and amazed at the magnitude of this organization when suddenly, “WHY CAN’T THESE PARENTS JUST GET JOBS TO FEED THEIR STARVING KIDS?????!!!!!”   (Barely able to breath I hiss softly) “BECAUSE DOMINIC!!! If they could find jobs in NIGERIA THEY WOULD!!!!!  STOP TALKING!!!!”

We break up into groups and armed with my duo I drag a complaining Dominic to the only job now available, sealing the packets.  “IIIIII CCAANNNTTT DO IT!!!!!!!”  “YES YOU CAN!!!!”  “NNNOOOOO  I CAAANNNTTT!!!”  “YYYEESSSS YYYOOUUUU CAAANN!!”  “NNOO I CCAANNTTT”  (I’m despite, I’m loosing my cool, I’M BEING STAIRED AT!!  I do what suddenly becomes instinctive with my children, I begin to yell in Spanish. “DDAAALLLYYY!!!!!!!!!!!!”  And he’s off. For the next hour amidst my screams of ‘FASTER!!’ in Spanish, Dominic and I successfully complete the task at hand, only fending off 1 unsuspecting staff member who attempted to interact with a condescending Dominic.

Now finished and seated, we await the following instructions and thrilled to hear we have successfully completed close to 200,000 prepared meals being shipped right away to a Country in need.  The Pastor thanks us for our participation and invites us to pray over the pallet of food before we are dismissed. 

They close out the presentation with a picture of a 3 year old girl from Haiti found the day of the earthquake.  She was only 14lbs and severely malnourished, admittedly the picture was brutal to see; followed by the after picture of her 6 months after the FMSC program now a somewhat healthy 33lbs.  I am overwhelmed by the magnitude of this organization and mentally making note of the website for promotion when.. He cracks.. 

“IIIIIIII CCAANNT TAKE THIS!!!!!!!!!!!!  I CAN’T TAKE THIS ANYMORE!!!!!   I CAN’T TAKE THESE HAITIAN BABIES!!!!!!!  WHAT IS WRONG WITH THAT COUNTRY??????????!!!!  YOU MADE ME COME HERE!! !!!!!  I DIDN’T WANT TO LEAVE THE HOUSE!!! YOU MADE ME FEED CHILDREN WHEN I CAN’T COOK!!!!  I HAD TO WEAR THIS HAIRNET AND NOW I JUST WANT TO GO HOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”  (Check please!!)

I said the only thing I could think of to calm him down, until the crowd dispersed.  “Dominic… I am going to knock you out RIGHT HERE!!!!  For your own safety of THOSE AROUND YOU!!!!!!!  JUST STOP TALKING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” 

Perhaps next year.. I’ll pick a different time slot..

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Happy Holidays 🐘

My collection of Elephants started last year when an inspirational woman I follow, shared the story on the collection of hers. For over a decade her family has faught and struggled with her daughters debilitating illness. The question she often posed is, what to do when life hands you something beyond lemons for a cliché lemonade? When the knock at your door is a gigantic white elephant that suddenly intrudes and makes himself at home in your living room.

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Try as you may to get rid of him, he just doesn’t leave. You become forced to make the best of the situation and suddenly your daily ‘Abnormal’ now becomes your daily ‘Norm.’

Accepting the new Norm in your life can still show true beauty even in a difficult situation. Often mustering every ounce of courage, grace and strength you never thought you had inside. Once surrendered, you realize that your new Norm tends to expose the Norm in others, it’s finally then that you see your not alone.

The gold in this Norm, shows the beauty found even in the stress of the holidays. The holes reveal the inside, which is full spice and vanilla. This bitter/sweet mix is what makes Norm so special, often finding times where you can not imagine your life without him.

I hope this holiday you find time to see the beauty in your Norm, even through the hustle and bustle around you. To be sensative enough that you can stop and catch the tiny gold elephant sitting in the middle of the store. Finding purpose in your struggle, because ‘Norm isn’t a curse, he’s a gift.

-Happy New Years

It’s beginning to look alot like Christmas. .

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My Grandfather, God rest his soul, was an odd man. A true American Patriot, he was inspired by Pearl Harbor, lying about his age and at 16 years old joined the United States Marines. By the age of 17, he found himself in one of the bloodiest battles our Nation ever saw on foreign soil, Guadalcanal. But not even fighting the Japanese could prepare him for the war he fought for the rest of his life, the great Christmas Tree fight. For roughly over 40 years, my Grandparents (Gran and Pop-Pop) fought every year over the Christmas tree. This was a huge deal to my Gran, all though Pop-Pop’s last Christmas their was no fight and she made sure, even in his Hospice room, he had a beautiful tree.

As a kid, we grew up going to my Grandparents who lived down the street to help set up and decorate.  Truthfully, I think it was just for my parents to play referee. The fight started a few weeks earlier with what tree should they choose. Artificial or real? I never knew how many trees you had to choose from! I vaguely remember one year my Grandmother actually had her tree shipped! In the end her trees were always magical, but oh the struggle to get it their.  One year to spite my Gran, Pop – Pop left the tree up all year. My Gran, retaliated by decorating it for every blessed holiday. Ever seen bunny ears on a Christmas tree?

The greatest fight I ever witnessed, was prior to my Grandparents moving away. With Bing Crosby’s White Christmas playing in the background, Pop-Pop takes a drag off his cigarette and says, “Joanie dear, you know when you stand with your hands on your hips scolding me, you remind me of Adolf Hitler.” Sending my Gran off the deep end of the abis, (my father laughing hysterically) Pop-Pop stood up, put a stocking cap on her head and begun to dance with the biggest stuffed teddy bears you have ever seen.

Fast forward 15 years, I now struggle with making the holidays bright for my kids. I think it started with my desire to decorate missing my family in South Florida, but evidently it ear marks the seasons for Dominic. About 4 years ago, Dominic suddenly flips out in the living room.  “I AM THROUGHLY DISSAPOINTED IN YOU! HALLOWEEN WAS YESTERDAY AND YOU DID ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!! NO WREATHS! NO LIGHTS! NO TABLECLOTHES! YOU PUT OUT ONE CANDLE AND THAT WAS IT!!’ – Because I am as Irish and onry as my Gran, that Fall and Christmas I made it a point to make a wreath to blanket every doorway in the entire house. All Dominic said was, “Better.”

This holiday season started with Dominic informing me I needed to, “Kick your Halloween decorations up a notch. Your skeleton candle holder is old and completely absurd. 1) Skeletons don’t smile because well, they just can’t!  2) Skeletons aren’t black they are actually white and 3) they don’t have a swirly rib cage they have a concave one.”  Schooled.

For the last 2 weeks the attempts to get our Christmas tree were always foiled. Wednesday I received a phone call from my Husband who ordered me downstairs because we were going to get the tree, RIGHT NOW! – My husband currently picks up.. The deceased.. so let’s just leave his “work van” at that. Because nothing in my life is ever simple, an hour later we had a tree strapped to the roof with casket straps, which restricted the van doors from closing. In something only seen in a Grizwald Christmas, I found myself riding in this vehicle, tree attached, doors wide open, with my oldest son riding on stretchers for dear life.  Pair this with not having the right sized tree stand, the tree falling over 4 times and the dog circling the tree to mark it, I’ve had it!! I think if the command strip holding my stockings with care, pops off my “mantle” one more time, it’s all going out the window!

(Insert nostalgic Bing Crosby here.) Maybe it’s last night conversation about family and making memories or the nostalgic Christmas music that inspired me, but this morning I woke up in a mood to finish decorating. Straightening the lights on the tree, dressing it with sparkely ornaments, I finally place my tree topper securely in place. Years ago, I used to have a gold one that matching my antique ornaments that Gran gave me. Til alas.. some Cuzan in my house shattered it. Taking a step back, looking at my tree and reflecting on memories, til ShelDom burst my bubble. “You know I was really anticipating a star instead of a bow on top.”

Merry Christmas from the Cuzans

I Need a Bigger House..

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When my oldest son was 3 he was absolutely obsessed with Bob Villa. He had a framed picture of him in his room and everything in reach was suddenly a construction project.

If he was quiet, I knew we had trouble which was confirmed when he answered, “NOTHING” after calling for him. He once made a shimmy out of a cardboard tube, fixing the loose door on my kitchen cabinet.  Which he then caulked with a fist full of toothpaste.

I finally gave in and just packed up everything that was of value and hung off the wall, this gave me more priory to focus on him NOT attempting to prying open his pet turtle with plastic pliers or taking the electric sander to my sister in law’s cat.

By 5 he had taken on a different level of destruction. Upon immediate move in of our new place, he swan dived off the top of the dresser,  landing face down on new, plush carpeting, while sobbing, “I CAN’T FLY!!??” I spent a year dealing with the discovery of the trash shoot, where many green army men were lost and how many action figures could be reeled off the 3rd floor balcony, once he ripped out the caning to my screens.

Now at 19, built like a linebacker, breaking the 6 foot mark with a 14.5 shoe,  my house still isn’t safe. I’ve lost track of the broken picture frames, the broken dining room chairs which collapse faster than a demoed building once you break a rung. I’ve been through 2 broken bed frames and 2 large sectional sofas, leaving my bare livingroom an open canvas for my recent obsession with pallet furniture. I think it’s the only thing that he can’t break.

Now when he’s quiet and something crashes, his answer is no longer, “Nothing” it’s “I can’t help that I’m freakishly large!” The other day he rounded the kitchen counter, which I swear has been stationary for over a year now, quickly creating a disaster like a bull in a China shop. I turn in time to see him knock over my fruit basket with his forearm managing to push back the mini coffee cups with his broad shoulders, catching bananas in one hand, the basket in the other, on one foot with lemons crashing to the floor. He flashed the same boyish grin under a mop of out of control curls as if it was all staged.
Not quite as humorous as my walking through the living room, in perfect sequence to him sticking his arm parallel through his jacket sleeve, clotheslining me in the face as planned as Laurel and Hardy skit.

I had an epiphany last year, when he walked away from the car, his bagged suit over his shoulder in preparation for Senior pictures. I don’t get this back. The sprains, the fractures,  the broken furniture, the crooked pictures, barely having room to maneuver in the kitchen. There will come a day when he leaves the nest to make his own way in life and admittedly I’ll miss this.

Fortunately, his younger brothers are built like Giraffes,  which is funny to watch them run. I guess this will be a common theme as tonight my middle son bumped into the same counter of mini coffee cups and fruit basket, bananas were at least eaten and glassware was spared. An hour later he opened the fridge and tomato sauce toppled over everywhere.

Tomorrow they are replacing the carpeting with wood flooring. Yay now I’ll hear them coming down the hallway like a herd of animals. Excuse me while I go pack pictures.

The Apron of Power ..

I am the only girl in my household besides princess Bella, my dog-daughter who I have complete control over, except when she bolts after the occasional, unsuspecting cat. 

One morning, as the children left for school and the caffeine kicked in, I discovered black smudgy boot, sneaker, paw & bicycle tracks throughout my household.  These tracks all center and return to 4 HUGE black marks on my kitchen mat in front of the sink which match my husbands work boots. 

This rug is brand new and has 4 separate coffee mugs on them; it represents a clean kitchen to me and is cherished.  When this rug is tarnished, I am not satisfied until animals and children are offered up in a cleansing sacrifice.

As I don my pink Susan G Komen apron, crank my cleaning music and grab my fiery broom handle aka red light saber, I approach my husband.  The source of this mess, the core center these boys revolve through. 

“Oh Lord.. I see your wearing the apron of power,” Mr. C says.  My wrath unfolds!!  We spill outside as I point out the wood pieces, saw dust and oil all around the vehicles he was working on.  I point out this is a yard and NOT a mechanics bay!!!

The slick, oily source is located, where my husbands utters those words NO WOMAN wants to hear has been in her house, “Oh.. well that’s carbon buildup and dirty oil.”  It is then and ONLY THEN the complete fury of my wrath is unleashed!!  Threatening to set fire of his man cave with only Citrus scented Fabuloso and my laser eyes, I provide a 5 minute heads start to begin cleaning, which now includes the screened in porch which I have discovered is FULL of airsoft pellets amongst my orchids!!

I finish my speech, with hands on my hips saying, “AND IF YOU DON’T I WILL BECOME V E R Y DIFFICULT TO LIVE WITH!!!!” I spin around and walk away.. to which my husband replies with the outdoor broom now in his hand, “HOW THE HELL CAN I TELL THE DIFFERENCE!!!!  YOU ALREADY ARE DIFFICULT TO LIVE WITH!!!” 

Mission accomplished..  Ruth 1, household men 0.

The apron of power!

Life with boys..

I was first asked to speak about my life with three boys many years ago. Truthfully, I was completely surprised anyone cared to hear what I had to say. Lord knows no one at home did and imagine my surprise that to others my life was even so humorous. Many years later I’m still not sure I can give any advice but I can certainly tell you what to expect.

You will discover that as a Mother of boys your own Mother’s finger grows on the end of yours. You sprout phrases that you haven’t heard in years and suddenly become as philosophical as Mike Brady. “Young man you go to school to learn, not to socialize!” or “This isn’t about what you need, want, like or desire, your going to do what your told because I SAID SO!” This does not stop as you get older either, my husband’s once infamous speech to our oldest son escalated into, “This son is NOT a Democracy! This is a Dictatorship and I AM YOUR MANUEL NORIEGA!”

As the mother of boys, you eventually develop a nervous twitch. I haven’t decided if it’s necessarily from the boys, the constant action television or from all the coffee I now consume to stay awake. I have noticed that my twitch gets worse whenever the caller ID shows my children’s school is calling, which results in answering with, “Which one is it now..”

You will find yourself mixing up names; this doesn’t help when you have children close together in age either. When they were younger we nicknamed the boys via first initial, eventually going to a numerical system, which made it much easier to relay via dispatch whenever I was headed to the hospital. By the time the last Cuzan came around we admittedly just considered renaming them all by number; my oldest loved this idea and wanted to name Cuzan baby 3, #8.

With age, you will find yourself moving from an overbearing, Mom to simply yelling through the house at the sound of a crash, “IS ANYONE BLEEDING??!!” You have a variety of band-aids in your purse, usually between the Legos and trucks you carry to. Airplanes are now pronounced “erplains” and Helicopter’s are “hellichoppers” and you will find yourself overly excited when out with friends and a garbage or dump truck passes by.

Your tolerance level will elevate and you find it amusing when you notice your child goes from humming “Cruela de Vil” to the Darth Vader “Death March” while cleaning the bedroom under protest.

Then there is the usual:

  • If it’s missing check the entertainment center, my oldest once placed and entire grilled cheese sandwich right into the VCR sorta like a holding spot, while he played with his trucks.
  • A sippy cup is the perfect blunt object in retaliation to an older brother’s taunts.
  • At a dollar a diaper, I could of retired.
  • All infants look like Dr. Phil.
  • The third child sleeps through anything.
  • Clorox wipes and Cascade Complete are worth the money for a moment of sanity.
  • Diced fruit; cheap child entertainment and natural hair gel.
  • The right family pet will withstand an electric sander and that goes for turtles too.
  • The middle child screams like a parrot for attention.
  • Boys Rollerblade ANYWHERE!
  • Toddler’s eat anything found on the floor but not up on the highchair tray.
  • For a small fee, most laundry mats will wash, dry, fold your now weekly 12+ loads of laundry.
  • You will need HAZMAT training to clean their bathroom.
  • At one point I had more green army men in my truck then what we had stationed in Iraq.
  • Laundry baskets + boys = a car, sled, train, step-stool and will cage a younger sibling.

Three boys will eat you out of house and home, have strict requirement’s about the pockets of their shorts and become overly picky about their sneakers. They grow like weeds, defend your honor in school and look out for each other on the playground. They respond with “I don’t know why I was late, my Mom was driving.” And you can always count on your boys honestly about the size of your butt in a dress.

My advice on having boys? Pick a name that’s easy to yell and keep high-speed film in your camera. It is true the youngest is the easiest going kid, but I think that’s nature’s way of making sure it survives. Keep in mind they are only little once, love you no matter what and will be grown before you know it. Granted they may not be so cute when they are up for the third time in the middle of the night, but they will melt your heart when you see them smile.1407463372738