Category Archives: family

My Daughter Calls It Barf. But In A Good Way.

We all have go-to recipes we can make in our sleep. Even if it’s just to pop our favorite Stouffer’s meal in the microwave.

I came across this Creamy Tomato Sausage pasta recipe years and years ago. My daughter loves it. She requested it weekly. Now that she’s in college, it’s the first thing she asks for when she comes home.

It’s easy. It’s yummy. And it looks like this:

(Not my picture. This photo is all over the internet so I figured it was safe to use. Although, not accurate. I don’t put fancy garnishes on my home-cooked meals. I can’t make a fresh loaf of bread to save my life. And I serve straight out of the pot off the stove. A little imagination is always necessary when reading my posts.)

I have no name for my creamy, tomato pasta creation that happens to have sausage in it. For years it was just called “That Creamy Pasta Dish.” That is, until my daughter got sick on an outing with her father.

“Hey, Mom! I frew up! And it looked just like that dinner you make!” said my 6-year-old with glee.

I knew exactly what she was talking about and my stomach turned.

But time passed and I had forgotten about her not so flattering reference to my go-to dish.

Until I made it again.

“See Mom?” she said, holding up her plate, “It looks just like BARF!” And she put her plate down and dug in with gusto as only a 6-year-old can.

I was mortified. My husband, amused.

But as I looked over my plate and saw the pinkish sauce with chunks of tomato and little blobs of gray matter I realized, she was right.

I pushed my plate away.

Yet, despite the disgusting observation, it’s still a family favorite. I’m over my squeamishness now, and it’s back on the menu.

And it’s been re-named, “Barf.”

Privately.

And in a good way.

(I am not a foodie or a food blogger. So please take that information with a grain of salt as I try to share the recipe with you now. Try it. If you dare.

Brown a tube of breakfast sausage or ground Italian sausage squeezed out of the casings. Drain a bit of the fat. Add two 14 oz. cans of diced tomatoes with oregano and garlic. Heat through. Add a bit of dried basil and more oregano if you’re an oregano fan. If you’re on a diet stop here and throw the mixture over some pasta. (But if you do this you haven’t made the recipe right and frankly, it’s just not worth eating. You have been warned.) Add heavy cream until it becomes a pale pink color. Taste. Season. And if it’s summer and your basil is going wild, do a rough chop and add some fresh basil now. Pour sauce over wagon wheels or rotini or any other bumpy pasta that will catch all the delicious sauce. Top with freshly shaved Parmigiano Reggiano. Dig in!)

(This post was gratefully inspired by a writing prompt at Mama Kat’s. Please visit and check out more inspired posts!)

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Filed under family, How We Roll

She’s Moved On And So Should You

Her crossed arms answered her question before she spoke.

She didn’t have to speak. The look on her face. The trademark crossed arms. Her favored one hip stance. All did the speaking for her.

Disappointment.

“It’s just been such a long week. And I really want to get to the airport,” I tried to explain. Twisting in my chair.

“But what about dinner? You have to eat, ” my grandmother said.

Leaning forward, I tried to justify my actions. “But Anna is so exhausted. I am, too. I’m so sorry. I know we promised but I want to avoid the traffic. We’ll pick up something quick on the way.”

Silence.

“Do you think you’ll be back for Thanksgiving?” she asked, eyebrows raised. Hopeful.

“I’m not sure,” I said, letting my voice trail off. I knew I wouldn’t. Maybe Christmas. Maybe next spring. But I was tired of the 1200 mile journeys. I wanted a break.

“It’s OK,” my sister chimed in, “I’ll bring the kids by next week and we can have lunch.” Trying to come to my rescue. It’s little consolation. I’m the one who lives so far away.

Then we said our goodbyes. And watched her on the driveway with her arms crossed. Not smiling, yet trying not to look disappointed.

Twelve years later the image haunts me.

“You have to stop beating yourself up over this,” my sister says to me over the phone.

I shift uncomfortably. I close my eyes. “I know. But I can’t.”

“There was no way you could know she was going to die. No one knew. She was always so vibrant. Even the doctor didn’t see it coming.”

“But I should have at least had dinner with her like we promised,” my eyes watering remembering my last broken promise to her. “I never even called her. That was the last time we spoke.”

“She’s moved on and so should you.” My sister is tired of this conversation. So am I. But that image of her still haunts me. That last image.

“Do you really think she’s forgiven me?” I ask, standing up now, watching a cardinal on our birdfeeder.

“Yes. She forgave you moments after you left,” my sister sighs into the phone.

“Ok. Thanks.” Not convinced, I hang up the receiver. And walk to the window to watch the birds flit back and forth. Leaning on one hip. Brow furrowed.

And arms crossed.

(This post was inspired by KitchWitch’s post which was inspired by the writing prompt at Write On Edge. Please visit Write on Edge   for more inspired writing!)

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Filed under Deep Thoughts, family, Lessons Learned

Dodging The Bullet On Family Picture Day

We took our family pictures recently. The more kids you have, the more schedules you have to coordinate around, the tougher it is. And this year we dodged a major bullet.

Exactly 2 hours after the photo shoot, my youngest son came down with pink eye. That morning I was struggling with clothes that weren’t too matchy-matchy. Arguing with two little boys who would rather ride scooters at the park then pose for pictures. A daughter who fussed over hairstyles. A husband who snapped and growled because his only day off that week was going to be interrupted for a photo session.

But it was all worth it.

This is what we got….

Pre-pink eye.

(Thanks, Merrilymarylee, for reminding me to celebrate the little victories.)

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Filed under children, family, Hey! That Reminds Me!

A Little T-Day !!!

The washing machine hasn’t stopped running since Sunday night.

Shoes are piled in a mountain by the front door.

The refrigerator is opened and closed 4, 738 times a day.

The DVR is jam-packed with favorite Disney movies to share with her brothers and every interview involving the new Twilight movie.

A half finished Monopoly game has taken over the breakfast nook with the promise of finishing the Monopoly marathon “soon.” (But that isn’t going to happen as long as they keep trading Boardwalk for “all of your yellow properties” and being “nice” and only charging whatever you can afford – I’m raising a bunch of Democrats! – when you land on someone’s hotel.)

One minute they’re yelling and shouting at each other and the next they’re all snuggled on the couch watching Tangled.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Mess and all.

Because #1daughter is home from college and all of my babies are home under one roof.

Happy Thanksgiving, ya’ll!

I hope you have plenty of !!! in your Thanksgiving, too!

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Filed under family, Holiday

Item #174 From The List Of What NOT To Say To An Adopted Child

I know you meant well. I know you were, in your feeble way, trying to make my child feel comfortable.

But you didn’t. You made him feel singled out and confused.

When assigning a Family Tree project and addressing your group of children, just talk to the whole group. Use words like “family” and “parent” and “grandparents” as if everyone in the group has a family and a parent and a grandparent.

Because we do!

We all do. Families form in different ways, to be sure. But you don’t need to single anyone out. Each child will find a way to complete the assignment that fits for him.

And if my son had brown hair and blue eyes like his father you wouldn’t have even considered saying…

Item #174 – “That’s ok, #1son. Just use the information from the parents you live with now.”  And when you saw the confused look on his face (because he understood the assignment until you tried to “clarify”) you go on to say, “Not your real parents but the parents you live with NOW.”

Real parents? Are you kidding me?

We are his real parents. We may not have physically given him his 46 chromosomes but we have given him food, shelter and love from the moment we first held him in our arms.

We were there for his first tooth. We rushed him to the hospital when his fever spiked to 106. We laughed with his infectious laugh. He held our fingers, one in each hand, before falling asleep those precious first few nights. We held him when he cried, when he was sick, when he wanted simple cuddle time.

We took him to pre-school and proudly watched him at his kindergarten graduation with adorable cap and gown. We jumped up and down when he rounded third base to score the winning run. We read with him every night. We worry about every sniffle. We stand on the porch watching him walk two houses down to a friend’s house, hiding behind the pillar, hoping he doesn’t see.

We know to give him his medicine during pollen season. We anticipate his frequent bloody noses when the weather is dry or the pollen is high. We know that he is allergic to certain antibiotics. We have his pediatrician on speed-dial.

We are his real parents. We are as real as it gets. His biological parents made a heartfelt, incredibly difficult decision to allow us to be his real parents. And we will be forever grateful.

Our son has a family. A real family. To call his own. He knows who his parents are. Who his siblings are. Who his grandparents are. Even his great-grandparents. So, no need to explain things to him.

He knows who his real family is.

No need to clarify.

Just wanted to let you know.

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Filed under Be-Causes, family, Soapbox

Hey! Hallmark! Where Are All The Dysfunctional Family Cards?

This goes into the books for something I thought of first but someone else is going to have to implement.

I want Hallmark to create a Dysfunctional Families Division.

Yes. I’m putting my idea out there for Hallmark to see.

Come on, Hallmark. Run with it!

I hate searching for a Mother’s Day, Father’s Day or birthday cards for my parents. I’m a crappy daughter. Just ask them. But I’m not so crappy that I don’t send them a card for birthdays and other holidays.

I’m not asking for mean cards. I don’t want them to say “I hate you!” or “You screwed up my life!” or “Thanks for nothing!” I’m crappy but I’m not cruel. But all of this “You were always there for me” or “Thank you for being the kind of (parent) that is so easy to love!” or “I am so lucky to have you for a (parent)!” I’m just not feelin’ it.

I’m pretty organized. I have one of those handy, dandy card organizers. On the rare occasion that I find more than one card that would suffice for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day or birthday? I buy them all. Then I stick them in my handy, dandy card organizer so I’m ready for the next year. Luckily, last year was one of those banner years. I was armed and ready for this Father’s Day.

My husband? Not so much.

“Damn. Publix was closed by the time I got there. I couldn’t get a card for my dad!” He looks at me with a sheepish grin on his face that means, “So you’ll go get a card for me tomorrow….right?”

Ahhhh, no.

“Kroger is open until midnight,” I say, not even looking up from my book.

He sighs and heads back out the door.

An hour later. Yes, a full hour later, he arrives back home. With one card.

“Uhg!” He flops into the house and slams the single, one ounce card onto the counter.

“Picking out a card for my dad is like going through therapy,” he laments.

Yep.

I know exactly how he feels.

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Filed under family

The Pain Never Lasts Very Long

We were all working in the yard over the weekend. Spreading mulch, dividing daylillies, minor repairs. Side by side. The whole family. Ok. So, we had to bribe our daughter with gas money for her upcoming trip. But we were still having a great time. One big, happy family.

A thorn jabbed me under my nail. Deep. And it hurt.

“Ouch!” I cried.

My youngest son, all 7 years of him, rushed over, grabbed my hand and said, “Don’t worry, Mommy! The pain never lasts very long.”

I smiled. Savoring his wise words. Starting to dismiss them. Because our family has been struggling through a heaping basket full of minor and major mishaps for the past five months.

And then I realized, he’s right. In the huge (and in our case it has to be huge because we still haven’t seen the end to the crap parade that’s been coming down our street) grand scheme of things everything we’ve been going through is going to look like a tiny blip on the radar. Tiny. At least, fingers crossed, that’s what I’m predicting.

Have you ever sat there, in your comfortable life, thinking things were so hard? And wishing for the days when things were so easy? You’re in your forties, with college looming ahead for your daughter, wondering how in the world you’re going to help finance it and wishing you were in your thirties when her biggest expense was a new bicycle. Or you’re in your thirties, struggling to give your children everything they deserve, wrestling with their constant demands, wishing for the carefree life of college. Or you’re in college, struggling with studies and holding down two jobs to help pay for your existence and wishing for the easy days of high school when your biggest dilemma was what to wear or which social activity to attend.

It’s all relative.

And it’s true, the pain never lasts very long.

In a blink of an eye, your daughter is being placed in your arms at the airport. Sweet, cuddly little bundle of joy from Korea. Blink, blink. And she’s 10 years old, doing her adorable judges salute at the state gymnastics championships. Blink again and she’s struggling with a death of a boyfriend, honors and AP classes, essays for college applications.

Or she’s struggling with pain you feel you created for her. A dad, the man you married much too young and later divorced, who is making her feel like a burden, less than valued, an inconvenience. You try to take away her pain. You try to tell her the pain never lasts very long. But your words feel hollow and thin.

As much as this pain that she’s struggling with hurts right now, it is true. It will dissipate.

And be replaced with something new.

And thank goodness, that pain will never last very long either.

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Filed under children, Deep Thoughts, family, Lessons Learned, Motherhood, Observations, parenting, Problems

Make Time For Those Who Matter Most

The holidays can be such a difficult time for some families. All crowded in the same house. Forcing civility. Trying each other’s patience. Accommodating. Pleasing. Or trying to please with the same childhood insecurities and failures rearing their ugly heads.

Here is a post I wrote a while ago. A little Jane’s wisdom. I am a work in progress. And so are you. Hug yourself and let go.

I’ve made a conscious decision in my adult life to focus on people who reciprocate. I don’t mean in a tit-for-tat kind of way. I don’t keep score. I have some friends from far away that make an effort to visit and some that don’t. With some friends, we need to talk a few times a week and with others we can pick up where we left off after months of no contact. I suppose my criteria is different depending on the relationship. But for the most part,  it has to feel like we’re both making an effort to nurture the relationship.

A very wise man once gave me the following visual about marriage. He said that there are times when a marriage is like this – and he made a fist with one hand and covered it with the other. And then there are other times when a marriage is like this – and he reversed his hands. But for most of the journey a marriage should be like this:

hands

He interlaced his fingers, joining them together.

That visual made such an impression on me. I was in a relationship at the time that was so lop-sided. I was co-dependently orchestrating our journey. I left that relationship – thank goodness. I’ve applied this visual to other parts of my life, both with family and friends.

I recognize that we need to carry the other person sometimes. We all have struggles in our lives where we need others to pick up the slack. And sometimes, we’re the one who needs to be carried. Being able to lean on your friends and family from time to time is essential. But for most of the time, for most of our journey, we need to be working together to nurture and care for each other.

Journeys shared are the journeys worth taking. I surround myself with people who nurture me and allow themselves to be nurtured by me. People that listen with their heart. Act with compassion and kindness. See with loving eyes.

These are the people who I make time for.

These are the people who matter most.

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Filed under family, friends

When I Think About Traditions I Can’t Help But Hear Tevye’s Voice Booming In My Head

Traditions. Traditions. Tra-di-tions!

I never realized how essential they are to me until one is forgotten, or lost, or cancelled. Now, I make it my mission to continue old and create new traditions for our family. We have traditions that we follow throughout the year. For birthdays, for Halloween, for our favorite vacation spots. At Disney, we always start and end with Magic Kingdom. At Hilton Head, as the rest of the family is settling into the condo, I go to Fresh Market and stock up and that evening we take a long walk on the beach after dinner.

But Christmas? That’s when the traditions start the month before. This has to be my all-time-favorite season. I get into the Christmas spirit long before the actual season arrives. For goodness sake, I never put away my Christmas cds. I listen to them all year-long.

Our traditions are many…..

1. We always decorate the house on the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving, get our tree the weekend after and put the finishing touches on Christmas cards the week after that.

2. My mother-in-law has made us two advent calendars. One for me, a beautiful quilted piece where I add a quilted square each day until all 25 squares are completed and Christmas has arrived. One for the boys, little pockets filled with coins, candy and tiny gifts.

3. Honeybaked Ham on Christmas Eve and Turkey on Christmas Day. Only the side dishes vary. The one time I made beef tenderloin the family complained. We’re back to the traditional menu this year.

4. We always open one present on Christmas Eve and it’s always a pair of pajamas. Although, I always pretend I have no idea what we’re opening and act surprised at my own gift. (I’ve purchased all of them, for everyone, including my in-laws who share Christmas with us every year — another tradition, of sorts.)

5. We all know the reason for the season. Don’t worry about our salvation – we are well aware about the true meaning of Christmas. But Santa Claus is a really big deal in our house. My kids still believe in Santa and more importantly, I still believe in Santa. (A message to little Brandon in #2son’s class at school: I respect YOUR beliefs but if you hint/tell/try to convert my child one more time about the “myth” of Santa Claus I will come to your house, beat down your door and give your entire family a stern talking to. There is nothing wrong with teaching my children about unconditional giving and surprise and wonder.)

6. On Christmas Eve, after dinner, we all pile into the car and go enjoy the Christmas lights. A few years ago, my sons asked why they had to put on the pjs but the big people didn’t. We do this because they typically fall asleep in the car and it made it easier to slip them into bed. My mother-in-law said, “Yeah? Why don’t the big people have to put on their pjs?” So a new tradition was born. We ALL get into our jammies, pile into the car and see the Christmas lights now. God help us if the car should ever break down!

7. The kids sleep with us on Christmas Eve and they can’t leave the bedroom until we wake everyone in the house (their sister is 10 years older and the grandparents want to be in on the fun, too!).

8. We open gifts one at a time. One present at a time. Everyone taking turns. Yes, this can last hours. But this is the way our family focuses on the giving rather than the getting.

There you have it. A few of our family traditions. I would love to hear what you do to enjoy this wonderful holiday season.

What are some of your traditions?

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Filed under family, Holiday

I Grieve. Or I Am A Rock. Take Your Pick.

 Two weeks ago, my brother-in-law died.

Yesterday was the anniversary of my daughter’s boyfriend’s death.

Today, my aunt died.

It’s been a rough few weeks. To make matters worse, my aunt wasn’t doing well for the past week or so and I had no idea. She lives over 2000 miles away and we kept in touch through emails and holiday cards. My parents knew. But chose not to tell me. (Dysfunction is alive and well in my family.) I already live with the regret of my last visit with my grandmother. And while I feel good about how I maintained my relationship with my aunt, it bothers me in this moment that I didn’t get the chance to talk to her one more time. If I had known she wasn’t doing well, I would have called her. She’s not the type to email me and tell me she’s suffering. And I had no idea.

“I grieve for you
You leave me
Let it out and move on
Missing what’s gone
They say life carries on
They say life carries on and on and on” – The grief in me misses the relatives and friends who have passed. This part of life sucks. Losing people. Good people. People who are loving, kind, fill you with joy. And because I’m getting older I’m in for more loss. How do you reconcile that? How to adjust? We carry on. But with more lonely moments than before.
 
“I’ve built walls,
A fortress deep and mighty,
That none may penetrate.
I have no need of friendship; friendship causes pain.
It’s laughter and it’s loving I disdain.
I am a rock,
I am an island
And a rock feels no pain;
And an island never cries.” – Anger. At my parents for cutting me off like this. Punishing me for not playing by their rules. Anger at the loss I’ve experienced and the more to come. I will get through this. But for now I want to be an island. I want to never cry. I want to feel no pain.
 

Or

Take your pick.

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Filed under family, friends, Music, Relating