In high school, I was assigned a paper on William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience. I’ve never been much for poetry, but I loved those 18th century poems. There’s such a simple brilliance to the idea that the way we view the world changes with our experiences in life. And in his short, carefully crafted poems, Blake said so much about his perspective on life and the world he lived in. His message is timeless.
But it’s all about perspective, isn’t it?
Before I had my children, I thought I loved my dogs as much as I could ever possibly love children. I made the mistake of once voicing this emotion and still get made fun of it to this day. But, at the time, I truly believed there could be no (parental sort of) love that was greater than what I felt for my pups. I loved them with every bit of love I thought I possessed. They were my babies.
And then I had my kids. And I quickly discovered an entire world of love I never could have imagined before. In retrospect, it sort of makes me feel a bit silly for believing that I loved my dogs as much as I would ever love my kids. But then, it’s all about perspective.
For as long as I can remember, I dreamed about being a stay at home mom. I would gladly say goodbye to a successful career, years of time spent attaining advanced degrees and certifications, and a respectable paycheck, in order to care for my family. In my dreams, I was Suzy Homemaker. I baked pies every day and had adventures with my giggling children. My house was impeccably clean and my hair perfectly coifed. I’d enjoy quiet pastimes like crochet and tending to my garden. Perhaps I’d even start watching soap operas and collecting porcelain figurines. Who knows…
But then, that picture perfect image of 1950’s domestic bliss isn’t the reality, is it? In the real world, I can’t clean my house faster than the kids destroy it and for every giggle, there is a matching scream or whine. I certainly never considered I’d be scolding my child for pulling his pants down in the produce section of the grocery store. Oh, and there is definitely no time for tending to my non-existent garden or putting my imaginary crochet skills to use. And for every bit of joy and pride my children bring me, there are new fears and new challenges to contend with. And still, I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world.
Looking back on my early days as a stay at home mom, I remember how frazzled I felt. It’s astounding how one tiny baby can turn your world so completely upside down. I struggled to figure out my new life as the stay at home mom I’d always wanted to be. It was hard, even with only one baby. I missed my job. My job was less tiring…and it came with a lunch break. Yet, now, as a mother of three kids, being alone with just the baby feels like a vacation. It’s funny how quickly perspective can change.
And although my dream of being a stay at home mom is not at all what I’d pictured it would be, I’m still living my dream and am thankful for it every day. If I were William Blake writing a poem about parenthood, my song of experience may not be nearly as rose-colored as my song of innocence, but it would communicate something much deeper; a level of emotion only the experience of being a parent can awaken.
My second little cutie is turning three in a few days. Where does the time go? We’re throwing him a birthday party next weekend. With cool weather quickly approaching, I’m making a comfort food menu, with an Italian twist. I’m making my pepperoni pizza salad, a big batch of meatballs in marinara sauce, toasty garlic bread, and this hearty baked ziti.
Enjoy! It’ll warm your soul.
Hearty Sausage Baked Ziti
- 1 pound ziti or penne pasta
- 3 cups tomato pasta sauce, homemade or store-bought
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
- 4 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded, divided
- 1 pound spicy Italian pork sausage
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook pasta al dente, according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water to prevent the pasta from over-cooking. Remove the sausage from the casings. Cook the sausage in a pan over medium heat for 7 to 8 minutes, until fully cooked. Use a fork or edge of a spoon to break it into small pieces as it cooks. Combine the cooked pasta with the pasta sauce, sausage, ricotta, parmesan cheese and about 2 1/2 cups of the mozzarella cheese. Pour the mixture into a large baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella cheese on top. Bake for about 25 minutes, until heated through and lightly browned on the top.