• Posted: 8:31 AM
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  • Author: Mary

There is a serious genetic condition that runs in my family. It is passed through the maternal side of the family and is a very strong, dominate gene. Since it has not yet been identified or studied by the modern medical establishment, our family has taken it upon itself to name and define the characteristics. We call it "Italian Grandma Syndrome" or "IGS" (rhymes with digs) for short. I am aware that it exists in other families also and sometimes manifests itself in varied ways.

You will know that you are in danger of developing the condition if you have heard the following phrases from your mother or grandmother. The bad news is that it is too late to save you if you are already using some of these phrases your self....

The Classic: "Somebody died like that once!"
Variations of that classic: "Don't run you are gonna fall and break your neck!"
"I can't watch!" (usually said when the dad's are doing something with the kids that could or could not be considered dangerous)
"Put that down your gonna poke your eye out!"

In relation to the baby:
"I've zunzed him until I'm blue in the face" or "I've been zunzing my brains out all day and he is still fussing. I don't know WHAT to do with him!"
(Zunzing is an action that mothers do with babies to calm them down and/or get them to sleep. It includes bouncing them while hugging them on your shoulder and patting their back or bottom. The more desperate the mother becomes, the more vigorous the zuzing action becomes.)

"Look at him lookin'! I've never seen a baby that smart, he looks at everything!"

Often people (women) suffereing from IGS will misunderstanding things that you say and therefor the response they give you is totally inappropriate. For example you say you left something at their house the other night and they think you said you took something home with you that wasn't yours so their response is "oh, no problem, don't worry about getting it back to me." At this point, it is usually pointless to try to reexplain it to the woman as it just leads to farther confusion.

Another thing that commonly occurs and can be dangerous if you are unaware of it is that stories are retold in forms that barely (if at all ) resemble the original. This includes words and opinions being put in your mouth that you never said or expressed and may in fact believe quite the opposite. This is a result of the inability of the woman to really listen to what you are saying with out thinking about what she THINKS you are saying.

I have to say that I knew I was a goner when my sister informed me that I was committing the following faux pas last Christmas. Truthfully I was mortified to discover that I am really this far gone. This symptom is talking VERY loud in the phone especially in public places. This is sadly often a result a combination of excitement and distraction.

While on the topic of difficulty communicating on the telephone it is worth mentioning that in the older generation this is often manifested by woman leaving the phone off the hook for long periods of time with out being aware. Her daughters, being aware of the difficulty, have established a phone protocol to call the neighbor and have the neighbor inform woman to return the phone to the proper position so she can receive calls.

In the younger generations (those with cell phones), woman will often call someone (in the family) and forget she has called. This will result in a long voice mail on family member's phone with who knows what manner of conversation in the back ground. This often happens while traveling in the car, but not always. Usually woman tires to blame this on the phone calling by itself. I have to admit that when it happens to me, it is not in the car and it is because I set the phone down while it was connecting and just walked away and forgot (I do have 3 very serious distractions in my house, though).

Women suffering from IGS are always concerned that there will not be enough food for their guests. You want to make sure that if everyone goes through the food line 2-3 times, there will be enough left of everything for everyone to have what they want and for your adult children to be able to bring home left overs. Because of this you will often hear in the before dinner discussion...
"Do you think we have enough?!?"
"I think we should boil another two pounds of spaghetti!"
"I better get that chicken out of the freezer and roast it in case we don't have enough meat!"

A prime example of this symptom occurred during preparation for my wedding 8 years ago. My mom bought 1500 packets of sugar at SAMS, a box of sweet-n-low AND a box of Equal...just in case every guest at the wedding wanted 3 cups of coffee and every guest wanted sugar, sweet-n-low, or Equal. It took 7 years to use the left overs!!

These women are often attempting to force affections between their family members (especially at events like the above). In these cases you will often hear something like...
"Give your brother a hug!"
"Tell your sister how much you love her!"
"Tell your brother how you were about to die from missing him!"
or in my case...
"Go play with your brother or I'll put you in time-out!"

Signs of severe IGS include having the following reaction when your child comes up to you saying
"Mom, I need to tell you something"
(VERY loud gasp) "What is it!" (expecting the worst news possible)
Please realize that in this context, the child may only be coming to tell you that they would like to help you make dinner or any other very undramatic thing.

In EXTREME cases the above situation becomes:
Child- "Mom" (they don't get past this word when...)
Woman- (gasp) "WHAT, WHAT, WHAT!!)

If you have not noticed, all phrases spoken by person suffering from IGS are punctuated with an exclamation mark. Often, this explanation mark is actually an understatement. Also, phrases are often accompanied by wild gesturing with hands and vigorous finger wagging.

Please if you have stories to share, guests posts are very welcome. Email them to me and I will put them up...

Mary Claire's Dinner Request

  • Posted: 4:25 PM
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  • Author: Mary

Me: Mary Claire, what would you like for dinner tonight?

MC: Pasta!!

Me: What kind of pasta?

MC: Noodle pasta!

That's my little Italian daughter :)

How to survive with 3 kids under 5

  • Posted: 9:05 PM
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  • Author: Mary

Well, on November 12th we were richly blessed with the birth of our third child and first son, Peter Benedict Stengel. He weighed 9 lbs 3 oz and came out very healthy and happy. I am glad that God has blessed me with a calm child, but I think my own experience as a mother and the fact that it is necessary for him to often exercise patience as I am busy also help contribute to his peaceful spirit.

This was by far the most difficult and painful pregnancy I have experienced physically and emotionally. Yet, my son was delivered safely and is a great joy to me and I think God has something special in mind for him. I am interested to see how it all unfolds.

So, to the surviving part, I am certainly not able to function like I was before. I think the biggest change is that my expectations just have to be readjusted. There is no way around it. I have learned that this is only a season, but it is sometimes difficult to sit and nurse or sooth a fussy baby when you are thinking about the millions of things you need to do.

My days currently go something like this: get up, brush my teeth (I don't have time to deal with cavities so I make sure to do this first), have coffee, make kids breakfast, get kids dressed and teeth brushed, put baby down for nap (yes, it took that long to complete the previously mentioned things), set girls up with a project, exercise, stop exercising 3 times to break up fights and pat bottom of fussing baby, clean up kitchen, make kids lunch, put baby down for nap, shower, get girls set up with another project, attempt to take nap (necessary when you are up 5 times a night), have afternoon caffeine fix, make supper, bath time, bed time.
Of course there are a multitude of various things I could add in there like stoping to nurse, clean up toys, read books with the kids, etc, etc, but you get the picture.

These are the days when we don't have to run errands. On those days I find it difficult to fit in even my minimum requirements such as exercising, making dinner and getting a shower. I am having a hard time even finding time to keep up with good friends right now. When the kids get sick, which we have had 2 full weeks of in the past 6 weeks or so, all bets are off.

I guess the moral of the story is that I have not yet figured out how to function well with 3, but we are making it. I have been enjoying having a baby around again and so have his big sisters. I love seeing how he lights up when they talk to him and how they melt when they look at him. Someday I will be able to clean my floors regularly again and feel rested enough to get a start on the day at 5:30 or 6:00. For now I'm going to enjoy the baby things in life because this year that will be over so soon. So yes, I have my hands full, but in a good way. :)

Here are a few of our favorite things...

  • Posted: 10:30 AM
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  • Author: Mary

A happy baby
Really, need I say more?

The treadmill
I have really been enjoying having access to the treadmill. It is great when it is really cold or really hot outside and it allows me to easily fit in a workout when the baby is sleeping and the girls are playing. Someday I would love to get an elliptical machine also.

French toast
I made french toast for breakfast for the girls a few weeks ago and it was a big hit. It is currently our most requested breakfast. We will add it to our list of favorites which also includes oatmeal, cinnamon toast, and eggs.

Aunt Katie introduced the girls to these cute dolls a few months ago and got each of then a mini doll for Christmas. Currently this is their favorite thing to play with. I'm sure it will continue to be a much loved toy for a while.

We all love to read, but I think it would be difficult for anyone to love it more than Mary Claire. She carries them around with her, falls asleep reading them at night, and will listen to books as long as you are willing to read to her.

The Roku player
I got a Roku box for Christmas which allows easy access to instant streaming via Netflix. It is great fun for all of us. I have been particularly enjoying British period dramas and the kids have been enjoying shows like word world, Madeline, and veggie tales.

The iPod touch
I have had this gadget for about a year and there are so many things I like about it. I have read at least 10 books on it, all free. There are lots of good educational apps for the kids, and it is great to have portable access to lots of our music.

That's all for now :)


  • Posted: 10:20 AM
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  • Author: Mary

This is a test of my new blog app. If this works, I can blog when I am "stuck " in my rocking chair. Which I seem to be often lately....here goes...

Family Rosary

  • Posted: 4:06 PM
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  • Author: Mary

Last night, at the prompting of our 4 year old, we said a family rosary instead of our usual evening prayers. Emily was sitting with me on the couch and Mary Claire was cuddled up on Matt's lap. As be began the 4th mystery, Emily let us know that she was beginning to get impatient...

Emily: "Probably, Lets just say our regular prayers"
then in a very exasperated voice: "How long is this going to last!!"

They did make it through the whole rosary, though. I was very proud of them. I usually just require them to pay attention to one mystery, but for being 4 and 2 1/2 they payed attention very well, tried to participate and made it to the end without getting up and playing. It turned out to be a good family prayer time and a great opportunity to have some cuddle time with the kids.

Praise the Lord!

Fall is in the air...

  • Posted: 9:24 AM
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  • Author: Mary

The weather has been beautiful the past couple of days. I got to get my daily exercise outside this morning and instead of having to bear the weather, I actually enjoy it. Even though it is still officially Summer, the feel and smell of Autumn was in the air and that always brings me back to the days when Matt and I fell in love- 10 years ago now.

The wonderful rush of memories and feelings that are brought to me by the feel of fall always make me think of where we started and all the things we have been through in the past 10 years. It also makes me fall in love with my husband all over again. Through our union, we have co-created 5 immortal souls, two of which we get to enjoy daily, and another who we are looking forward to meeting in just a couple of short months. We have defiantly had our share of ups and downs. The sacramental grace we received 7 years ago has helped keep the joy if the Lord ever present with us even in the hardest of times when it was only a glimmer in the darkness. Replaying all of this in my memory, how could I not fall in love again.

There are a lot of things I expected for our marriage, but some of the most wonderful moments have come from the unexpected surprises. One of the things that comes to mind is how Matt really showed me a different side of him self after Emily was born. We had a very long and rough delivery that ended in a c-section, much to my disappointment. I was very physically defeated and Matt really kicked in and cared for me in a very loving and tender way. Every time I have had surgery since then, he has been similarly nurturing to me. It is quite a change of roles for us, because that is usually my role in the family and he is the one who cares for me by nudging me and sometimes pushing me to work on things. Another thing that comes to mind is how much fun we have working together in the kitchen, especially when we are cooking together to share our creations with close friends. This has been a wonderful discovery and a treat for us to share.

It has been a crazy year. Among the difficult events, I have had my thyroid removed and have had to deal with the physical consequences of that surgery.

We have also had some very blessed events in our lives lately. We have had two men very close to us, a great friend, Jason Sharbaugh, and a brother, Josh Stengel, ordained into the priesthood this summer. We have been very blessed to have such men as a close part of our lives and it has been wonderful to see them commit their lives to live for Christ and the Church. We have also conceived another child, I am currently 28 weeks pregnant. It is just a little over two months until we get to meet this new blessing. We have had the opportunity to teach NFP to 4 couples and are in the process of teaching another 2 couples now. For my part, I have learned the value of true friends in a way I had never experienced before. God has shown me that he can truly work through those people he puts in our lives.

Here are some pictures of some of the highlights of our journey the past several years.

A wonderful day for us.

My first attempt at artisan sourdough bread...notice our ugly 'old' kitchen in the back ground. It remends me of how much work we have done on our home in the past 6 years.

A young mother...I was so in love with my girl and with being a wife and mother.

I can't believe how much they have grown up since then. No wonder they are so close, Emily was still a baby herself when her sister was born.

Matt works hard on keeping things going at home. Here I believe he was working on some painting.
Matt and Kenny working on one of the first outside projects, fixing the well.
Sleeping Beauty
No matter how many children we have, Emily will always be the one who made us parents and changes our lives forever. We wonder now, what did we used to do before we had kids around? It must have been terribly quiet and boring.

Matt and I with then Deacon Jason Sharbaugh on the day of his Deaconate ordination.

Who knew that the smell of Fall could mean so much... :)