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Kids Who Never Eat

With all the obesity going on in theUnited States, it is difficult to believe that there are children between the ages of 2 and 10 who “never  want to eat.”

That’s what the grandparents will tell you. The parents will tell you that they are fussy eaters.  And the kids themselves will say things like ~ “it looks funny,” or “it tastes funny in my mouth,” or “my mother doesn’t make it like that.”  Or  “I’m not hungry right now.”  They may not be hungry anywhere from  12 to 20 hours later or even 1 to 2 days.

If the parents of the never-hungry child ever leave this problem child  in your care, they’ll tell you, “don’t force him to eat.”   Enjoy him and “don’t worry, he’ll eat when he is hungry.”   Or “I brought a bag filled with what he WILL eat.”   The small brown paper bag invariably contains: peanut butter crackers, small boxes of assorted cereals, puddings, applesauce, macaroni and cheese for those REALLY hungry days [but only one cup is ever eaten].  Plus popcorn, and candy – for treats when he does eat.  What!  He eats?  When?  S(he) is so skinny.

Having raised a child who weighed 40 pounds for three years of her life and who never “felt hungry right now,” I should have been prepared for the grandchild who was never hungry and didn’t eat whenever we did or eat what was prepared for each meal.

My daughter, my little Dumpling, subsisted all those years mainly on dairy products ~ milk, eggs, cheese, ice cream, yogurt, toast, macaroni and cheese and an occasional hot dog.  She subsisted, but she was so skinny, with all her ribs showing, that I’m sure my neighbors and family thought I was starving her to death.   She would only binge on Twinkies, which her grandmother always brought along when she visited and Dumpling would shove the entire Twinkie in her mouth to my mother-in-law’s “Oh, she’s starving!”  Yeah, right.

Our pediatrician always insisted that she was healthy and his own daughter was 40 pounds for 3 years and not to worry about it.  Yeah, right.  Tell my mother-in-law that.

Being blessed in my life with everything except a child who didn’t eat, I guess it was only natural my two grandchildren did not eat or get hungry either.   Because we’re Italian, this is especially a bad thing for grandmothers and a minor disgrace.  Italian kids should be chubby and well-nourished with that round, pasta filled-out looking face smeared constantly with spaghetti sauce.  It doesn’t matter that they have a weight problem when they get older–that’s OK–  kids should eat; mangia, mangia, eat more, look healthy and fill out those pants.  Have some more. Good boy.

You can’t fight this ‘not eating’ thing–it will only make you crazy.   If they don’t want to eat–they simply won’t eat.   So there are some things you should be aware of if you happen to care for skinny, rib-showing children who have no interest in food whatsoever:

  •  You can try to be nonchalant and just serve them a dish of whatever you made for the meal.  After it is untouched or even breathed on, and the meal is over, you can excuse the child.   He ‘has’ to get hungry eventually, you think.   Well, he will — at 11:30 pm, he’ll ask if he can have some pancakes or waffles.   Sometimes, he will wake you up to tell you this.  Ordinarily, you would never give in to this–but he may pass out from starvation before midnight and what would you tell his parents?  He’s unconscious because I didn’t make him what he wanted to eat?  He might come to and say, “Mommy, Nonna wouldn’t feed me.”  So you make 6 pancakes and he eats all of them, smothered in butter and syrup. You will get a certain relief to see him stuffing his face, but don’t get too excited over this–he probably won’t eat again until 8:00 pm the next night.  Or the night after that.  Maybe.
  • You could try the “you won’t get dessert until you finish your dinner.”  This rarely works–they want the dessert, but they don’t want the food.  They won’t eat the food until late that night when you’ll make anything they want to give them nourishment.  And they will remember the promised dessert from two meals ago and ask for it–when it’s no longer an option or is long gone.
  • Your well-meaning friends will tell you that you are wrong ~ you should “force them to eat,” and it’s a battle of wills.  Of course these same friends wring their hands when their own visiting grandchildren do not eat.
  • If a non-eating child’s plate suddenly is empty and the food is gone – don’t be jubilant. Look under the table or in his pockets.  It’s there.
  • Don’t presume if a child eats a hot dog one day, that he will eat it the next day or even in your lifetime.
  • Observe carefully how the child’s mother prepares and serves the food.  If she makes only scrambled eggs, the child will not have an interest in poached or over-medium eggs.  It has to look just like the mother’s.  Don’t make eggs with bacon or ham — he will  look it over more intently than an FAA inspection.  If mommy gives him ‘green eggs and ham,’ make sure you have food dye in the house.

Hang in there.  Dumpling survived her stick body and has matured into a well-nourished adult who diets now to keep her weight down – she eats everything.

The grandchild is still thin, but he started to really get into food about a year ago and is interested in football and knows he needs to chow down more to make the team.

Me?  I was never a ‘never eat’ child.  We were a family of 7 and if you didn’t nail the food when it was available, it was wait till the next meal.   And we ALL cleaned our plates–nothing was left on them whether we liked the food or not.   And we were all chubby pasta-faced kids whose faces were smeared with spaghetti sauce.

© Marie Coppola Revised March 2015

 

How to Make Delicious Home-made Ricotta Cheese

Once you make it yourself - you’ll never want the store-bought ricotta again.

A couple of times each year, we get together with friends and make a pot of ricotta for supper. We like to serve it over day-old French or crusty Italian bread cut up in cubed pieces. The freshly made ricotta over the bread will soak up any excess water.

The cheese will be creamy and light and delicious. We serve it with a salad or some fruit and a glass of wine. What a treat!

You can make homemade ravioli, manicotti, or lasagna with this ricotta and it will lend a gourmet taste compared to the store-bought ricotta. You can also make desserts with leftover ricotta — ie, cannoli – you can buy the fresh, empty already baked shells at Lowe’s Food stores or at a local Italian deli. There are different recipes for the delicious cream filling – some just add sugar. There are good recipes on the internet. Here is a simple sampling recipe and just make sure you fill them no more than one day before serving and refrigerate!

  Fresh cannoli ~ delivering a little taste of Sicily to your front door!

BASIC FILLING FOR CANNOLI

  1. 2 c. or 1 lb. ricotta cheese
  2. 1 c. sugar
  3. 1/4 c. semi-sweet chocolate bits
  4. 1 tsp. vanilla
  5. 1/2 c. candied cherries

Blend cheese and sugar until smooth. Add remaining ingredients. Put filling into cannoli shell by teaspoon. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar.

And now for the ricotta cheese-making part.

It’s not hard to make, and doesn’t take that long to do. In all, it takes about 30 minutes from start to finish. It’s important to assemble all the utensils you will use because timing and temperature are crucial to the results.   Enjoy!

Utensils

  1. You will need a large stainless steel pot to mix in. You won’t need the cover.
  2. A long wooden spoon for stirring.
  3. A stainless slotted skimmer spoon for checking curds (see below)
  4. A long thermometer with degrees on it (similar to candy making thermometer) at least to 200 – 300 degrees. 

 Ingredients

  1. One (1) gallon regular milk – not skim or not even 2%
  2. Two (2) pints of heavy cream
  3. 1-1/2 tsp salt
  4. 1/2 C of freshly-squeezed lem
  5. on juice – lemons must be fresh and accurately measured – about 3 – 5 lemons, depending on size

And so we begin:

  1.  Pour milk (only) into large pot on medium heat with heat thermometer on side of pot or attached
  2. Stir slowly and continuously (always in one direction – clockwise) with the wooden spoon
  3. When the milk gets to 100 degrees on the thermometer, (pot will start to sweat on the outside), add the heavy cream and salt – continuously stirring always with the wooden spoon.
  4. Continue stirring until temperature reaches 198 degrees – add lemon juice
  5. Stir only a few more times (3 times) and test curds should be forming when tested with flat slotted skimmer
  6. Turn off burner and remove pot from heat
  7. Allow mixture to settle for a minute or two
  8. Scoop out curds/cheese with slotted spoon into large dish – some drain the cheese through cheesecloth for a firmer ricotta; we prefer to leave some moisture in to keep it moist.

This cheese will last 3 – 4 days in the refrigerator. For breakfast, the ricotta is great on toast or served in a dish with fruit.

This recipe is for homemade SICILIAN RICOTTA SPONGECAKE http://www.make-stuff.com/cooking/spongecake.html

Copyright © Marie Coppola Revised November 2012

How to Deal with Major Losses in Life

During our lifetime, we can experience many losses. Some losses are separations, like death, serious illnesses or divorce, wherein we lose a special or primary relationship. It is a critical time when a parent, husband or wife, child, or sibling passes. It is even equally sorrowful, if it is a divorce and there is loss of not only the person, but a way of life and perhaps the division of a family. It is sorrowful when we lose a lover, mate, good friend or any friend ~or a beloved pet ~ who is now no longer with us. Another big loss is a miscarriage. We are numb, shell-shocked, heavy-hearted and grief-stricken. Clear thinking and decision-making becomes blurred; we are clearly not ourselves

Similar feelings can be felt albeit, at a lesser degree, at the loss of a business, a job, a home lost in foreclosure or fire, or even relocating and losing the old neighborhood.  Loss of personal attributes, such as your yourth, good health, loss of hair or good looks, surgeries, cars totaled in accidents, academic standing, integrity or even your good name or reputation all take their toll. They are all losses.

We all experience loss and we all express it differently. Some of us keep a ’stiff upper lip’ and others become withdrawn or they could become weepy and forlorn. There are no set rules for us to follow when we have loss issues. But there are some things that can help us heal.

Whether you have parted with a loved one or a pet or a way of life, you  MUST  take time to grieve. Your sadness does not go away magically when you return to work after a few days. People, in their concern for you, may tell you to ’snap out of it’ or ‘get over it’, but the truth is that it will simply take as long as it takes. It will be different for everyone. There is no ‘expiration date’ here.

As painful as it is, the grief must go somewhere, and the best place for it to go is ‘out‘. Keeping a stiff upper lift may backfire on you, leaving you crippled from the burden of unreleased grief inside you. It’s better to cry — yes, cry — one of the best gifts we’ve been given.  Even Jesus cried.  Tears are healing. You can cry alone or with good friends, but absolutely, do cry. You’re entitled; you’re allowed; you’re human. Tears release grief and sadness. If you can’t cry, you may want to talk to a trusted friend or spiritual person or counselor to release that grief that is pent up and not released.

As an example, a lovely neighbor of mine died unexpectedly while I was away on a trip. I did love this woman; she was elderly, kind and caring; a sort of mother to me. It occurred at a really busy time for me and I was called and told about her while I was away. I felt the first stab of shock and sadness, but quickly extinguished it (or so I thought) and carried out my professional seminar and other things to be done at hand. When I arrived at home several days later, it was the night of my neighbor’s viewing, and I hurriedly dressed to go, still not having fully absorbed the reality of her death.   I have attended many wakes, funerals and viewings, and I felt no feelings of forbearance as I walked in the door. Her grown grandchildren were standing around her casket and I hugged them all and gave condolences, but when I walked over to the casket and viewed her for the first time, reality struck, grief surged and I totally dissolved in sobbing tears. Her grandkids encircled to console me. I had pent up the grief and it had to come out; I wish I had done so in private so that I didn’t cause that concern from them when they were grieving themselves. Grief has to be given expression.

In your grief, be careful with your nutrition; you need your strength. You may lose sleep, be uptight a lot or even be mad at God. He understands. It’s important to eat well & drink fluids which will help your muscles become more flexible during tension. Exercise. It’s hard to even think about exercising while your heart is so heavy, but it is important. Even walking around the block helps. When my parents died 6 months apart, my doctor told me to continue aerobic exercises every day during their illnesses. Blood pressure rises from stress and lack of sleep. I never felt like doing it, but forced myself and even took yoga exercises which relieves tension in your body. I t helped tremendously; and will help you sleep. Force yourself.

Lean on your spirituality and faith. God walked me through my rough times, helped me work out my aerobic exercises and was there to hug me in my tears. Let go and let God. He loves you and will help you if you only ask. He is our Refuge and our Strength. He is the Great Physician and Counselor and will never let you down. He did not cause your grief; life events happen to all of us.

If your loss feels like it is overcoming you and/or debilitates you and you can’t function, you need to see your doctor, counselor or spiritual advisor.  It will help you. After my parents died, especially my father, I found myself going the ‘weepy and forlorn’ route. After much praying, I felt directed (God nudges me) to the employee program at work that assists in employees’ problems. I didn’t really want to do that because I did not want to take my personal life to a work program, but it was affecting my performance and God was telling me  that if I didn’t go, I might be told to go. And so I went.

It was just what I needed (Thank You, Lord.) The clinical psychologist there actually sat through 3 lunchtime sessions with me where all I did was cry. And he let me. A half hour of crying for 3 days. Finally, he gently guided me to find out why I was so upset. We did this in 3 more sessions. What it came down to was this; and this is a good thing to keep in mind if you find yourself perplexed over unexplained depression.  In my case, I was simply overcome with grief.

He went over other loss issues in my life; for example, my mother had Alzheimer’s, so I had lost her before I really ‘lost’ her. We went over the personal losses in my life besides other than people losses. He uncovered losses I had never grieved for and losses that I did grieve over. I was surprised at how they overlapped and the intensity of them. And what he told me is this – and this explanation has carried over into unexplained feelings of loss in my life when there really weren’t concrete reasons.

“When you have loss issues, your body remembers how it felt when you lost them. When you have additional loss issues, although you think you recovered from the previous ones, your body and mind may remember them and ‘mingle them with the loss you currently have’. If you have had deaths, divorce, illnesses, etc., in the past, a significant “loss remembrance” may bring these previous losses back to the surface, and you will feel all of them and wonder why you are feeling so grieved.”

I believe that is what happened when my father died. I had an overwhelming feeling of loss. But there were other life losses involved. The counselor showed me how to separate my loss issues individually and give each one its own expression of grief; and then put it away. And I did. Once I did that, and understood why, I was readily able to function without that overwhelming feeling of loss.

Marie Coppola © 2009

 

October is Season for Spiders

 

In October around Halloween time, pumpkins and scarecrows appear on people’s doorsteps. Along with these welcome and festive decorations, another prospect of something appearing on your doorstep is something many have a phobia about. Arachnoids, commonly called ’spiders’. Since I, myself, have a horror of these eight-legged arthropods — it is said there are 40,000 different species — isn’t that enough to make a night terror?

Why am I writing about them while I have goose bumps on my arm just thinking about them?  Because I believe in ‘knowing thy enemy’. If you don’t know their habits, you may unexpectedly bump into them with unwanted results.

When we moved to South Carolina, everyone told us that there were a lot of bugs here. This is true. There are bugs here that not only have I never seen before, I still don’t know what some of them are. They are avoided at all costs. Don’t know what it is? — my motto — Don’t go near it and Go away from it.

But the spiders down here grow BIG. Super-size! Nightmare size. We had spiders up north where we lived all our lives, but they were the garden variety, and were seen mostly in the fall when it got cold and they wanted a winter retreat inside. Since the weather is warmer down south longer, the spiders have ample time and choice to pick where they will vacation for the winter. But there’s no room at THIS inn.

I researched spiders before we moved here. Especially southern ones. I wanted to know what was here and what to expect. There is such a thing as having too much knowledge. or too much information {TMI}. Sometimes, what you don’t know won’t hurt you. But there were some very interesting things I learned about spiders and how to live with them {goose bumps again and now I’m scratching}.

As much as I have trouble writing about them, spiders are actually good for the ecological balance – and especially as part of the garden. They help reduce the amount of caterpillars, moths who do damage to trees, and especially those pesty mosquitoes. All spiders are venomous, but most of them lack the fangs to inflict damaging venom to those who have the misfortune to be bitten. Those with fangs and venom are: Brown Recluse, Black Widow {BW} and the fairly new, Brown Widow.

The other thing about the south is that in the morning, you can clean off a porch, veranda or patio or anywhere – and go to the store. When you return, the zealous little octagon-fingered nightmare will have a new home all webbed out in its place. So, at some point, you have to know who are the enemies and whom you allow to be neighbors.

Recently, I almost went face-first into an enormous web in my flower garden. It was an orb web, similar to the web in ‘Charlotte’s Web’. Before my nose touched it, my heart started to pound, realizing that some mega Gigantra Spiderosis –my made-up name — probably made this giant web which was not there the day before. It was like the sci-fi movie kind of spider web. Lo and behold, my fear turned to reality and I was inches away from a ‘banana’ spider– more formally known as nephila clavipes, banana spider of North America. They possess venom similar in nature to the venom of the black widow, but far less potent, making it quite harmless to humans. A bite from a North American banana spider will not result in much more than a welt that will pass within 24 hours. Of course, I did not know this info that before the encounter. Here is a picture and the size compared to a human hand, which definitely and positively is not my hand.

 

banana spider

Needless to say, my heart pounded much more violently and I stood entranced in shock for a several seconds and then beat it into the house yelling and screaming — my M.O. for when I see a spider and everyone gets on red alert. Someone responded and was ready to kill it, and I said to catch it instead – I was totally, morbidly fascinated that something so scary lived right in my back yard. It was caught and put in a Tupperware bowl with lid and put in the garage so I could peruse it when my blood pressure resumed it’s normalcy.

The internet can be a wonderful thing or it can open doors where you’ve never been and I learned all about the banana spider. They are harmless, they are very helpful in gardens, they like to build their webs close to the house. {Great}. For those of you who prefer the book info: “N. clavipes banana spiders have elongated bodies that resemble a banana in shape and coloring, beautifully bright yellow and black. The males are about half the size of females, and dark colored. Females grow quite large with a body length of about 1.1 inches {33 cm}. North American banana spiders prefer sunny areas and tend to like tall plants or trees. They will often spin a web across a walkway or trail, spanning several feet. The web of the North American banana spider is orb-shaped, golden, and is stronger than most spiders’ webs. In fact its silk is stronger than comparable threads of Kevlar or steel.” They are unlikely to find themselves indoors either as adults or as hatchlings. 🙂

And then I read that they are so NOT aggressive; that you could even lean into them and press against them and they may not bite even then. Furthermore, if they do bite, it is very rare and quite harmless, and I relaxed. A little. Well, somewhat. Enough so, that I went into the garage to see the monster and this was about 5 hours later. She was still alive and sitting there so I told the spider-catcher to let her go back into the garden. He did just that. I was in the house behind locked doors, of course, and he said that when he let it go – the spider scurried away as fast as she could scamper, probably to tell the Banana Family that she just saw the biggest bugs ever and they captured her in a Tupperware bowl. She is still out there making more orb webs, which are quite spectacular if you don’t think about what’s on them.

Now, my family tells me that black widow spiders, too, are helpful in keeping bugs in your yard under control, but guess what? I would wipe one of those BW’s out as fast as I could. The banana spider {who now makes her orb web far enough from the house but still in view} is big enough that she will undoubtedly keep my yard and the yards on either side of our street free of pesty bugs.   And probably to the next street.

Marie Coppola © Revised October 2018

Give a Little Love from your Heart

 

Love and kindness are never wasted. They always make a difference. They bless the one who receives them,and they bless you, the giver.” Barbara De Angelis

How do YOU communicate kindness and love?

No, we’re not talking about greeting cards here. Although, Hallmark makes a good profit on all those cards most of us send to loved ones. Just for the greeting card record, here is a list of the top 5 holidays, excluding Christmas, for sending greeting cards:

#1: Valentine’s Day -144 million greeting cards (It’s also the 2nd most celebrated holiday in the U.S. after Christmas)

#2: Mother’s Day – 133 million cards

#3: Father’s Day – 94  million cards

#4; Easter – 54 million cards

#5: Halloween – 20 million cards

Sending greeting cards can express the card’s sentiments for you – but you can communicate love and kindness in other ways. Here are some ways to give the best you have because you care.

1) Visit a friend in need, who could really use a visit and LISTEN to what he or she is telling you. Just listening, without interrupting, is one of the best ways to care about someone. Don’t offer advice or opinions. Just listen.

2) If someone tells you a juicy tidbit of gossip, don’t repeat it. Let it die with you. Gossip is hurtful and serves no purpose to repeat it. The old adage, ‘Don’t believe anything you hear and half of what you see’ is a good one.

3) Make a phone call to an ill, homebound person and just say hello. It will mean much to them and willl uplift them. Better yet, stop in and see them – and bring them a treat; a flower or a sweet. Or bring along some home-made chicken soup. The real treat is seeing you and having company.

4) Help out a frazzled mom and offer to take her kids to the library or some other function. It’s an hour or two out of your time; it will mean the world to her.

5) Visit one of the nursing homes and bring some travel toiletries or small gifts. Some of the live-ins there may not have had a visitor like you for years.

6) Listen patiently when your next-door senior neighbor complains yet again about barking dogs. It may be the only communication he has had all day.

7) Give the woman in church who is celebrating her 80th birthday – a hug. She may not have been hugged in a long time. It’s a gift she will remember. Elderly seniors who live alone are usually in need of affection and hugs.

8) Write a heartfelt letter to someone who has done a kindness for you. Don’t email or call your thank you. Write him or her a note or letter – hand-written messages are becoming a rarity – and are special to the receivers.

9) Invite a recent widow or widower over for dinner. They are not used to eating alone and will welcome the invitation.

10) Check your pantry for extra cans that may be expiring in the next months. Donate them to a Helping Hand or Outreach program. These organizations pass foodstuffs quicker than they will expire. You may end up throwing them away — and someone will be extremely grateful for them.

11) Surprise a special child or your own or grandchild and plan a drop-in lunch visit at their school. Watch their eyes light up when they see you walk in. Small children thrive when you show them special attention.

12) Valentines come in packages and contain just a happy greeting – no mushiness. Buy a couple of packs and send them to everyone you know who is alone, divorced or widowed. Valentine’s Day can be a lonely one for singles and unattached folks. It will uplift them. And you, too.

Small acts of kindness may be the best that you can give.  – it costs very little when you care and share your love.

© Marie Coppola,  January  2017 revised