Tuesday, December 18, 2012

...and then you grow up

I have a very blended family.  My Mom had me and my oldest sister Tanya from her first marriage, the man I have called Dad all my life (but was biologically speaking - not related to me) had two children from his first marriage.  I have always called Georgie and Jenny my brother and sister regardless of how many genes we share.  My Mom and Dad then had two additional children in their marriage - Jackie and Deanna. So there are six of us, divided up into three biological sets, but we are all siblings regardless.

All siblings squabble from time to time.  Some more than others, and some a bit less than others.  Compared to my own childhood, my children hardly ever have issues with each other except Charlie and David.  They are too rough and too close in age and this causes conflict, but I still have hope they'll become friends as they age.

Growing up I was quite close to my sister Tanya, and my baby sister Deanna.  Due to distance I wasn't as close to Georgie or Jenny, but both are people I consider to be on good terms with.  There was really only one sibling that I squabbled over and over with. We just didn't get along.  We had our standard sibling squabble, but it went far past just your standard squabbling.  We genuinely did not like one another.  I felt slighted when it came to punishments, parental attention, ect.  Quite frequently, as I've heard from my other siblings as well, whenever a fight occurred with Jackie we knew that we would be the one punished.  This created feelings of jealousy in me, and in return my attitude towards her grew quite soured.

As we aged we did not, as our parents had hoped, become friends.  Certain things occurred in my early adult life that intensified my feelings of dislike as well as my perception that our she was favored over myself and my other siblings.  Over the next half decade we hardly spoke online, never on the phone, and got into fights quite a bit with each other.  At one time she deleted AND blocked me on facebook for nearly my entire pregnancy with my youngest.

We simply didn't know how to communicate with each other, and due to our past histories of hurting one another, we perceived any and all comments as an insult - even when there was no intention of this. Unfortunately, this also extended into our new families as her husband would come to her defense at times with some, erm, colorful language at times.  As I had not ever really gotten to know him in real life this colored my perception of him.  It was this never ending cycle.  Someone would feel hurt and in turn would hurt back and meanwhile our dislike for one another was growing at an alarming rate.

Since we were both adults at this point we were not forced into each others company, and this meant that either one of us could cut off communication - permanently - if need be.  Jackie did do this once or twice, but eventually would return to communication with me.  I have a really hard time cutting people out of my life.  I have always been the one who will constantly give people chance after chance even when others were telling me over and over again that they didn't deserve it.  I was always OPEN for communication but I wasn't changing HOW I communicated.  I wanted HER to change while I kept as I was.  Obviously, that wasn't going to work, but I was stubborn and I felt that I was in the right while she was in the wrong.

This wasn't the first major family member I had needed to repair ties with.  After 5 years of not speaking to Chris's mom we both grew up enough to apologize to each other, and to forge a relationship that at this point in time is pretty great.  I just can't cut people out permanently.

Everything changed when Jackie's husband, my brother in law, Danny received orders to PCS (permanent change of station - basically he was ordered by the military to move) from the East coast to the West coast.
Knowing they would have to pass through close to my neck of the woods I messaged Jackie and extended an invite.  Chris was bewildered.  He knew about our rocky relationship and he did not want to deal with my anxiety leading up to the visit, or any fights that erupted during the visit.  I told him that family was family and we were going to try.

The weeks leading up to the visit were filled with speculation: Will we fight? Am I going to be able to control my anxiety and panic attacks during the visit? Will it end up with constant verbal sparring? This was the first time I was going to see her since she became a mother, how was I going to react to that?

Chris was on TDY and wasn't set to return from it until they had already arrived and I was extremely nervous to not have him here.  As luck, or unluck, would have it, I fell a few days before they arrived and sprained every joint and muscle in my left leg leaving me unable to walk or move much at all.  Chris was sent home the very next night after my fall to take care of me.

After they arrived and I carried my very adorable niece through the house on a tour there were a few awkward moments.  I had no idea if the animosity that I so often encountered with Danny would continue in person - even though my baby sister and my mom assured me he was a very nice guy.  I had no idea if I would be able to communicate with Jackie with being offended or offending her.  We sat on the couch for about 10 minutes in complete silence until my brain told me to stop acting like a damn child and just TALK, something that anyone who knows me knows I have no problem doing. Once I began talking, asking questions, I realized I really didn't know Jackie or Danny at all.  I'm sure at times they felt as if I were interviewing them, lol.

I won't say the visit went perfectly. We had a few hiccups, but I always quick to apologize if I felt anything I said could be misconstrued as rude or mean.  Only one time did I need to leave the room to deal with a panic attack and had a good cry over feeling as if I had been attacked or insulted.  One time for a 3+ day visit is pretty damn good, I'd say.  As far as I know she didn't feel attacked, or if she did she hid it well.

It took me 27 years to figure out, AND listen to the old saying, "Do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy?"  I wanted this visit to be a happy one.  One that was on the path to repairing a relationship that was 23 years in the making.  I realized that my "new" brother in law - who will be known from this moment on as just my brother (as I've done with all my non biological that I love as if they were my biological family) is a pretty cool guy.  We got along pretty well, and I look forward to getting to know him better.  I also, finally, began to learn my sisters language.  I don't think you could find two siblings more different than us, but we are starting to learn how to talk to one another.

Will Jackie and I become best friends? Who knows.  We are both young, and I think as long as we continue to put aside our past and learn how to speak to each other NOW we stand to have, at the very least, a decent relationship.  Perhaps by the time we get to visit with each other again we'll be on much better terms and there won't be as much tension leading up to the visit.

I have no idea where her head was prior to the visit, or where it is now after the visit, but I know that *I* finally grew up and decided to allow the past remain in the past.  I finally did what my parents always hoped I could - I spent 5 days in the company of my sister and we parted on good terms.  I'm looking forward to seeing how this relationship grows.

Monday, October 15, 2012

I'm coming back

I know I promise my return quite frequently, but I REALLY a going to be posting more. I've noticed my tutorials get more hits so I will be concentrating on that. So look for more cooking posts and some crafty ones too!

-Posted from my Amazing Neon Green iPad

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Staying busy!

For a long time now I've had dreams of starting my own cloth pad store, but I had no desire to do so by myself.  I've learned that I am someone who does not like to be alone or do things alone.  I have never really had the desire to eat or go to the movies by myself.  I relax and enjoy myself more in the company of others. So I've been holding off on the store as I figured out how to do it without feeling the overwhelming stress I feel when I am by myself.  After thinking on it for a while I contacted two friends of mine who are crafty and asked if they wanted to go into creating a store with me.  Except, I didn't want to create a store, I wanted to create a community.  I have always loved the small town feel, where everyone knows everyone, you know your customers, people help other people out, and things are hand made.  Even though we are based online I wanted to create that feeling.  And so we started Crunchy Cloth Creations.  I discovered I have a love of creating toys, and kids products in addition to cloth pads, and that I am not that fond of making clothes.  Which worked out perfectly as one of my partners loved making clothes, and the other loves making accessories, so we all meshed well together.  Unfortunately, one of the partners decided that a store just wasn't right for her and her family and stepped down.  There are no hard feelings there, everyone needs to put themselves and their families first.

It will be a while, now, before I can get the pads made up to sell, but it is coming! Meanwhile, I have a lot of plans in mind for the store.  We are trying to give back as much as possible as we go along, and have already donated a few Hooty's to kids in need.  As I continue to create for CCC, I'll be updating this blog as well with the inner workings and maybe some tutorials for the items we are creating.  As well as all the other crazy things I end up posting in here!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The life of a military child

I grew up as a military brat.  My dad was in the Air Force, and during Desert Storm was gone quite a bit.  After that he frequently TDY'd for long periods of time.  He was in the EOD (Explosive Ordinance Disposal), you know - the guys who get rid of bombs.  I was used to him being in and out of our house, and knowing there were twos type of normal - One when my dad was home, and one when he was gone.

When my husband enlisted I was originally opposed to it.  I didn't want to have to kiss him goodbye and I didn't want my kids to grow up while he came in and out of our lives.  We both knew this was the best road for our family, though.  We wanted a large family, we were young, we were already pregnant with Anthony, and we needed stability.  The military doesn't provide home stability, but it does provide job security, a community, and benefits that make it easier to breathe at times. So he enlisted.  He left when Anthony was 3 months, and we reunited when Anthony was 8 months old.  He deployed off and on, or TDY'd off and on for the next year or so, but it was okay.  I had one child, I had a great group of friends, I was young, in shape, and I was determined to be a strong military wife.  After our daughter was born he left for 6 out of her first 8 months.  I had severe PPD, I had a falling out with a friend, and my daughter was very high needs. Still, I conquered those deployments, and when my husband came home he transferred to the school house so he could further his career and stay home with us.  It was supposed to be a 2 year assignment, but it turned into 4 years.

During that time we had 3 more kids, my health began to fade as my EDS became more painful and apparent, and my friends PCSed or separated from the military.  I was no longer a young, nor new military spouse and I found it harder to find people who were in the same stage of life as I was.

Now Chris is deployed again.  The longest deployment we've had yet - 6 months.  This isn't like the other deployments, for me or my kids.  My kids were young last time and didn't really understand that daddy was gone.  I now have 5 kids to care for, and two of them are school age which requires a lot more "get out of the house" time.  There is no more napping for me, or sleeping in.  I can't just leave the house at a moments notice, and most of my friends now have careers which means little time to hang out.

My kids are now aware that daddy is gone, and are dealing with it in their own ways.  Anthony has a very hard time even talking to Chris on skype.  His room is littered with pieces of paper with pictures he drew of daddy and "WANTED - My daddy to come back home. We need him", and "Daddy, no one is as missed as you are, come home please".  It breaks my heart, but he won't talk about it much.

Anastasia has gone from my happy go lucky child to being melancholy, and withdrawn.  She doesn't want to play anymore, she has reverted back to being very clingy, even to the point of not wanting to leave me to go to school.  She'd rather run errands with me than spend time playing with other kids.

David is angry.  He says things like, "I'm not going to behave until Daddy comes home!" or "I hope Daddy never comes home because I'm mad at him", and "Did Daddy leave because he doesn't like me anymore?".  When I try to talk to him about Chris his chin begins to wobble and he refuses to speak.  I tell him that daddy didn't want to go, that he had to, and that he loves him and can't wait to come home.  I think there may be a long adjustment period on Davids part when Chris returns.

Charlie goes from anger to sadness.  He was the closest to Chris out of all the kids.  He was Chris's little shadow, spending every second that Chris was home attached to him, and sleeping curled up on him at night.  Some nights he dances when he hears the skype music, other nights he gets grumpy and hides behind me refusing to talk to Chris.  Still 2-3 times a week he wakes up in the middle of the night sobbing for him.  He is too young to understand why Chris left, and it's quite clear he feels abandoned.  I've had to be very sensitive about even putting a shut door between Charlie and me because it can send him into a fit.

Alan doesn't even know.  I think thats the saddest of it all.  In Alans world he only has one parent.  He doesn't know about Daddy and how awesome he is.  He doesn't know the way he smells, or the joy of being tossed in the air by him.  I try to let the two play when Chris Skypes but Alan is still too young to even do that much.  He's very attached to me, and lights up when he sees me.  Out of all 5 kids he is the most joyful, and playful, and it breaks my heart that Chris is missing this.

Being a military SPOUSE is much different than being a military BRAT.  I thought I understood what deployments were like having dealt with them as a child, but I had no idea what it's like to be separated from your companion, your best friend, and having to live life like a single parent but not being a single parent.

I used to face deployments as, "I have to be this super strong, can't show I'm upset because I'm a military wife and we don't do that!" and I was dumb.  It's normal to be upset, and to have bad days.  I'm still "handling" this deployment.  I'm still getting up every day and doing what I have to do, and what Chris used to do. I'm dealing with my kids emotional needs as THEY'RE dealing with the deployment.  I'm just not doing it and pretending that I'm okay all the time.  Especially to my kids.  I WANT them to see that I miss their father, that his absence may be necessary but it's not wanted, but that as a family we get through it.

There is a very real possibility that at least some of my children will go from military brat to military spouse or service member.  While these deployments are hard for them on so many levels, when they become adults they'll be difficult in other ways.  Every deployment is different because life is never quite the same for each deployment.  Perhaps our next deployment will be easier than this one has been.  We'll be more seasoned, it will most likely be a lot shorter, and my kids will understand a little better.

I've said it, and I've heard it often, not every spouse is cut out for this lifestyle.  It's why we see so many military marriages end in divorce.  I think we forget that not every child is cut out for this lifestyle as well, except they don't have a choice to end it. All we can do it try our hardest to be as emotionally supportive of our kids as possible.  We can't make it easy for them, there is nothing easy about being separated from your only father or mother, but we can help them deal with it and understand that it's OKAY to be upset about it. It's expected, and it's healthy.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

"Oh, let me tell you about YOUR disability..."

Its been a while since I've blogged, but it's something I'm desperate to get back to.  This post has been a while in the making.

I had to bite the bullet a few months ago and my husband and I had myself declared "handicapped - permanently" through the state so I could receive a placard for the car while he was deployed.  It was a very sad day for me.  It's a struggle, constantly, between letting people know about Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and how it affects me - and not letting it rule or ruin my life.

May was EDS awareness month.  I find this to be especially important as I would not have been diagnosed if it wasn't for a passing conversation with a complete stranger.  It's so important to me that more people learn about EDS.  With this comes...more opinions, though, on how *I* should be living *my* life with this syndrome.

Whenever you are disabled, no matter the cause or severity, everyone seems to have an opinion on it.  "Oh, you're TOO disabled to be doing that!", "You don't LOOK disabled", "IF you were disabled you surely couldn't do THAT!", "Are you sure you are disabled?", "Are you sure you should be doing that?", "I think you are faking", "You don't need to be taking THOSE medications", "You can't be in that much pain, surely, and still be moving!", "I think you are a drug seeker", "*I* would never take those meds, even if I was in pain", ect ect ect.

Everything I do is now questioned, scrutinized, judged, and ridiculed.  I've dealt with it from people who don't know me well, Chris's squadron mates, and most recently people I confided in and considered good friends of mine.  It's tough, but it shows me who I can count on to be there for me and who I can't.  It also shows me how much further we have to go in educating the general public on Chronic Pain conditions and EDS.

Yes, my joints dislocate, my tendons and my ligaments tear, my muscles shred, and when the damage is severe enough my bones begin to degrade.  Yes, I get up every day and do what any hard working mom of 5 would do.  Would it be easier to lay in bed and cry? Of course, and there are days where mentally I AM still in bed, curled in a ball, and crying my heart out.  Crying because of the pain, and crying because it's just not fair that I have this.  But physically, I get up and take care of business.  When it becomes more tough to push past the pain I meet with doctors and have procedures done to help.  Thats why I had my wrists fused.  I couldn't push past the pain any longer, and by that time my wrists were permanently dislocated, shredded, and separating from my arm.  I think I did a damn good job still parenting with broken wrists.

I feel that disabled people have to go ABOVE and BEYOND what any able bodied person does, and still we aren't good enough.  In my case, it's with my parenting and my ability to care for my family.

If I was an able bodied mom of 5, whose husband is deployed, I could make a frozen pizza for dinner, take a nap in the middle of the afternoon, or feel so tired by the end of the day that bed time comes early and everyone would completely understand.

When you are a disabled mom you must ALWAYS cook meals from scratch, maintain a meticulous house, play non stop with your children, have endless amounts of patience, and never ever be tired or complain.  If you fail, or have a bad day, you will be accused of being too disabled to physically care for your children.

If you decide to have a large family when you have a disability, well you are just in for it!  Even if you parent in such a style that you are constantly attached to, engaged with, or responding to one of your kids.  You mine as well be lumped in with abusers and neglectful parents!

I REFUSE to let EDS take away my dreams.  I was born with it.  A lot of people are born with it.  Experts believe about 1 in 800 people have some form and 95% of people will never be accurately diagnosed.  To me it's like yelling at a woman with RA for having kids, RA can be passed down too.  No family is perfectly healthy. Of course I hope my kids don't have EDS, but given the alternative (them not being born) I don't think they'd rather that have happened. Plus, having a parent who is AWARE sets them up for such a much better future dealing with it than I had.

Even my medication and how I handle my disability is scrutinized, judged, debated....

My journey into pain medication began almost 4 years ago when the pain became unbearable.  After the birth of David within 6 weeks I went from okay with minor aches and pains here and there, to unable to walk or use my arms from severe pain.  My elbow began dislocating, and eventually after a few weeks of dislocating over 100 times per day I could no longer pop it back into place.  It's still dislocated 4 years later.   The geneticist said it's one of the worst hes seen.  There is no option for it but a replacement which I can't get until i'm 35.  My legs stopped working and after PT and OT 3 times a week for 8 months I regained them but popped my achilles tendon in the process.  My wrists were severely damaged from dislocations, and required the fusions to fix.  During this process I was prescribed percocet, but no one was managing my pain meds.  I began taking more and more just to get the same pain relief.  Once I was taking 25mg at one time I knew something had to change.  My doctor suggested a pain clinic and I've been there ever since.  I've only raised my pain meds twice in the past 3 years which is pretty rare and slow going.  I'm very careful to not take too many because of tolerance issues.

I'm currently on dilaudid and morphine.  This has caused quite the stir.  Quite the opinions.  Until someone can experience the pain I'm in they can't say what they really would or would not do.  Compared to a lot of EDSers I'm on NOTHING.  One lady is 3 years older than me and having a pain pump surgically placed inside of her.  Others are on fentanyl pops, morphine patches, oxy, and dilaudid at the same time.  I would never judge any of those people.  Pain is so mentally and physically exhausting.  We do what we have to do to function.  I refuse some of the harsher pain managments, like methadone, because of nursing and wanting more kids.  I'm very carefully monitored by a huge team of doctors.

At the end of the day, it's MY life, MY choice, MY disability.  I don't mind sharing about it, but keep your opinions on how I should be living or managing it to yourself.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Alan Christopher Mizzell

So much has happened since I last posted. We bought a home! Our moms came out to visit (at the same time, and they finally met for the first time!), and we had our 5th child - Alan Christopher Mizzell. This is his birth story.

Alan was supposed to come on February 8th. Even though I wasn't due until March 4th, my doctor wanted to induce me early because of the complications that can come with delivery and having Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. He was leaving town on vacation on the 9th, and wouldn't be back until the 22nd. All of my kids, except Anastasia, were born prior to 38 weeks and he wasn't sure I'd make it until the 22nd since I'd be 38 weeks 3 days. However, to induce in Nebraska prior to 39 weeks you have to have an amnio that confirms lung maturity.

To prepare for the delivery we had our moms come out and visit. They had never met each other before and we thought this would be a great time to finally meet! The plan was for Chris's mom to care for Anthony and David during delivery (we'd take Charlie and Anastasia with us), and for my mom to be in the delivery room since she's never seen me give birth before. I began having a lot of bloody show around the 5th of February and my husband and mom were both convinced I wasn't even going to make it to my induction.

On the 8th we all went to my MFM doctor for my amnio. Oh my goodness that was painful! My MFM rocked it out and it went very quickly, but as soon as the needle was inserted in my uterus I slightly shifted and ended up contracting around the needle. It burned after that. Afterwards they have to monitor you for an hour to make sure you aren't going into labor and that the baby isn't in distress. Alan was not happy. His heartrate was in the 200's and stayed there for about half an hour before it finally came down and stayed down. The results came back that his lungs were not mature. We found out at my OB appt that afternoon that his numbers were only 19, and they need 40's to 50's to be considered mature. He was REALLY not ready. I was upset, but I didn't want him to come if he wasn't ready.

I felt really bad for Chris's mom. She had wanted to come out at the end of February but I convinced her to come out earlier so she could meet my mom.

My doctor told me we should try another amnio on the 21st with an induction on the 22nd. I told him I didn't think I'd make it and I really didn't want another amnio. He told me I might make it, and that I could think on it and make the decision at my next appt on Monday. Since he was out of town I was to have my appt with the PA.

That week I talked to Chris a lot about it. I was having spells of contractions every 5-7 minutes, but they weren't intense, and after a few hours they'd peter out. I never had this happen with any other pregnancy, and it was really wearing me down. Chris had the car packed and ready for the hospital, and he drilled the kids with what they needed to do if we had to jump into the car in the middle of the night. My EDS was getting really bad, and it was becoming increasingly difficult to walk. By my appt I had made my decision. If he didn't come on his own before then, we'd induce on the 22nd.

The PA seemed surprised by my decision. She said there wasn't any instructions in my file about the induction, but she'd call my doctor on vacation and confirm. I felt bad that his vacation was getting disrupted, but they assured me that he was okay with it. I had contracted all night prior to my appt, and my cervix was now 2 cm and 60%.

On the 21st he still hadn't come, so off to the MFM we went. The second amnio was just as painful, and this time it was performed low down so my waistband and my seatbelt kept irritating the site. Alan reacted a lot better this time, and his heartrate never became elevated. The whole office was giving me good luck charms, and doing good luck rituals to try to encourage my results to come back as mature. They worked! His lungs were mature! We got the results after only 30 minutes - probably because the kids were behaving so awfully.

That night, again, I began having contractions. I joked that Alan was going to make me go through the horrible amnio and then come on his own anyway. He didn't.

Originally I was supposed to arrive at the hospital at 7 am, but my doctor had to perform surgery at another hospital at that time, and he was afraid I'd deliver before he got back. So instead he wanted us to show up at 9:30 and they'd start pitocin at 11. This worked better for us, because we have to get the kids to school around 7:30. My friend Debra was kind enough to agree to pick the kids up from school that afternoon, as I wasn't sure how long I'd be in labor.

After we took the kids to school we went to grab breakfast. I wanted iHop but there wasn't time, so we went to the donut place instead. I hate donuts, but it was quick and easy. I made the biggest mistake and had orange juice which made me have the most horrendous acid reflux.

We got to the hospital shortly after 9 so we could register, and then we were escorted to labor and delivery. I got my IV in and answered all the nurses questions. She didn't seem to believe that I had as short of labors as I claimed, and was surprised that we were supposed to start the epidural prior the pitocin. On the monitor I was contracting pretty regularly, and she asked if I could feel them. I told I could but they weren't bad, and it had been happening off and on for the past week. At 11 she started the pitocin even though I hadn't gotten my epidural yet. I told her that I wasn't sure I wanted to do that, and she assured me I'd have the epidural prior to the pitocin kicking in. Almost immediately my contractions became more uncomfortable, but 15 minutes later the anesthesiologist arrived. He came accompanied by the nurse anesthetist, who was still learning to administer epidurals. I HATE being someones guinea pig, but I didn't argue. She pushed the tube to the left about 5 times before she finally got it where it needed to be. I knew my epidural was going to be a lot more stronger on that side, and it was.

My left leg was dead to the world, my right leg was a little numb, but I wasn't in pain. I didn't realize how much pain I was in until I had my epidural. It was like heaven. I think every EDS patient should get an epidural occasionally just for the mental relief! At 11:30 and then again at 12 she turned my pitocin up. At 1 my OB showed up and checked me. I was dilated to a 3 and about 80% effaced. I told him I was surprised it was taking so long, and he informed me that was because I wasn't in labor yet. He broke my water, and told me he'd suit up and stay nearby. At 2:30 my nurse came in and checked me, I was 4 cm, and 80%. She told me I was officially in labor. Around 3 I began feeling pain around my amnio site every time I had a contraction. It hurt pretty badly and the nurse gave me a push button for my epidural. She didn't check me, I don't think she really believed how fast my labors were. She told me she'd check me at 3:30. About 15 minutes later my contractions became unbearable in that spot. The monitor suddenly shot up and said my contractions were registering at a 150+ and staying there. Chris decided now was the time to change Charlie's diaper and strap him on his back (yes, we had Charlie and David with us!) and put cartoons on for David.

I wasn't crying, but I was moaning and tears were s+treaming down my face. I rolled onto my side to try to alleviate the pain some, and in doing so the monitor slipped off Alans heartrate and lost him. The nurse came back in and I told her I was in a lot of pain and that the push button wasn't working. She checked me and looked startled and told me she was getting the doctor. The next thing I know the doctor and a bunch of nurses are running into the room and prepping me for delivery. Alan was already crowning! Chris managed to get Charlie strapped on and raced over to the bed. Doctor Schropp was already prepped, like he said he would be, and told me to push once. I pushed and Alan was born at 3:33 pm, weighing 6 lbs 10.5 oz and was 20 inches. I couldn't believe how much he weighed! He is our biggest baby yet! I think he would have been born on his own if they hadn't come in to the room. The pain was most likely caused by the amnio the day before.

I had a pretty bad episiotomy, like normal, and it's been a bit of a painful recovery.

Alan is 5 days old and doing well. He's nursing like a champ, he's already peed on me three times, and all the kids adore him. Charlie isn't fond of sharing his nursies, but he's getting better. I'll have to do another post later with pictures, my little Alansaurus is calling :)

Saturday, December 31, 2011

My Nana's fudge

Growing up my nana used to send us massive care packages full of the most delicious treats - cookies, fudge, candied walnuts. I looked forward to these packages every year, and now as a parent to my own brood I've been wanting more and more to pass on recipes to MY kids. This year has really made me realize that I am going to really be the Matriarch of my family. I'm not close to my sisters, except one. I haven't talked to or seen my brother in years, unfortunately. We can't afford to see our family in California, or our parents very often and they can't afford to come visit us. This was one of my main reasons for wanting a large family. I knew that my kids were only, really, going to have each other when they grew up. They aren't going to be close to their cousins (except perhaps Deanna's kids), if they know their cousins at all, and I really want them to have a strong sense of family. So for the past few months I've really concentrated on establishing traditions to pass down to them, that they can pass down to their own kids. My Nana's recipes were some of the things I wanted to pass down to them.

My dads ex wife has been so kind to send me some of her recipes and I've been trying them out over the past few weeks. The sugar cookies turned out okay, but the pregnancy does not let me enjoy them because they use a lot of lard and this baby does not like the taste or smell of it. I haven't tried the candied walnuts yet but I will attempt them in the next few days! Today I tried my hand at fudge.

My Nana's fudge is not the ooey gooey kind people think when they think fudge. It's not marshmellowy or any of that nonsense. Thats not "real" fudge in my opinion, thats a new type of fudge that is more like a gooey brownie than a candy. My Nana's fudge is old fashioned, sugary, crumbly, and absolutely heavenly. I should admit that my Nana got her recipe from the old Hershey can, so technically it's Hersheys fudge, but it will always be my Nana's fudge to me.

I attempted making this about 10 years ago with my sister Jenny (and I think my brother was present too). It turned out awful. Of course we didn't follow directions very well, or use a candy thermometer, but it made me absolutely terrified to attempt to make it. I don't take failure well, especially in the kitchen.

I'm not an expert cook or baker, but I do like to think I know a little about both. Baking and bread making are definitely a passion of mine, and I've been wanting to try my hand at candy making but I've been too afraid. I think I have found some confidence in it! I expect I'll be making a few tutorials about different candy goodies!

So now on to what you really care about - the tutorial.


  • 3 cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup cocoa
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • You'll want to line an 8 or 9 inch pan with foil, and then rub it down with softened butter. This helps to set your fudge, and to keep it from sticking.

  • Mix the first three ingredients in a LARGE sauce pan. Trust me, you want it large, it expands a lot when it starts to boil. Attach your candy thermometer to the side of the pot, make sure the bulb isn't touching the bottom.
  • Once it is all mixed up well, add the milk and turn the heat on to medium. Stir constantly with a WOODEN spoon. You do NOT want to use a wisk or anything metal. The metal, for some reason, reacts to the fudge and it won't turn out well. Also, stir very gently, it will take a while to mix up but as it heats up it will help. Continuing stirring until it comes to a ROLLING boil.

  • Now, STOP STIRRING. Let it continue to boil until the temperature reads 234 degrees. Your thermometer might also read "soft ball" at this temperature. This is because you can test your fudge by dropping a bit into VERY cold water. Feel it with your fingers, if it turns into a soft ball that flattens when you remove it from the water, your fudge is at the right temperature. Because this is a candy temperature is VERY important. It will take about 20 minutes to get to this temperature but I suggest not venturing far from your pot. I just cleaned the kitchen and checked on it like a mad woman, I was so afraid of failing!

  • Once it has reached the appropriate temperature take it off the heat and drop in the vanilla and butter but DO NOT STIR IT. I just chopped my butter into 4 pieces and poured the vanilla around the whole pot. This is vitally important, do NOT stir it in.

  • Let the fudge cool until it reaches lukewarm temperature, which is 110 degrees. The original recipe said this would take 2-2.5 hours. Mine did not. It reached it in about 1 hour. So check your thermometer frequently and don't rely on set time that it will take to cool. Just like anything, the amount of time it will take depends on a number of factors. Also, the fudge will settle, so reposition your thermometer to make sure it is still IN the fudge. Thankfully my husband caught that!

  • Once it's reached 110 degrees take your wooden spoon and stir it. Stir, stir, stir. It will be TOUGH and similar in consistency to taffy, so if you have someone who can help you stir let them help! I couldn't stir much at all because of my arms, so Chris did the majority of the stirring for me. Continuing stirring until it loses it's sheen. This is where Chris and I made our mistake. The original recipe said to stir until it loses it's sheen, about 20 minutes. It started to lose it's sheen about 10 minutes in so Chris and I thought it was close, but continued to stir. We missed the mark by 30 seconds. The second it starts to lose it's sheen TRANSFER it to your foil. We waited 30 seconds too long and it set up right in the pan. Doesn't make it taste any different but we didn't end up with pretty cut squares.

  • So as soon as it starts to lose its sheen, set it in the pan and let it cool. It won't be the most pretty fudge, it's not glossy at all, it's crumbly and delicious, and melts in your mouth.

  • See ours is all broken into strange looking pieces, but it tastes just like I remember!