Category Archives: family

Thank You For Your Service

My sister visits every summer. But this summer was different.

She needed a distraction.

Over the years, the number of kids she brought with her has dwindled. First, it was all three. Her two oldest hover in age on either side of my oldest daughter. Her youngest, 4 years younger, was left out of the fun much of the time. But she didn’t mind. It meant that she got to play a “grown up” with my two younger sons who hung the sun and moon on her.

This summer, however, was my sister’s first solo trip. Her oldest, is a working girl now, having finished art school and struggling with her career – in a good way. Her son is in his last year at university. And her youngest, her baby, is in basic training.

My niece didn’t need to join the Army. I mean, not the way many think. She’s an excellent student. She’s highly self motivated and disciplined. Just the kind of person the Army wants. No, Dear Niece, wants to be just like her father. She’ll go to her father’s Alma Mater, a Big Ten University. But her father was also in the Army. And now he’s in Federal Law Enforcement – which is what she wants, too. So, she’s following his path. Step by step.

My sister knew this summer would be hard so she wanted to make it special.

“Let’s take the boys to Disney!” she said. No twisting my arm. I’ll take any excuse to go to my most magical place.


A selfie with one of the army “toys” at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

So we did. And we had a blast. But she wasn’t fully present.

“What if she calls when we’re on a ride?”and “Here, I just need to check my messages again.” and “What’s the area code for Missouri? What if I don’t recognize the number?” and “What if she wants to leave and I can’t get to her?” and much more seriously….”What if she gets deployed somewhere awful?”

My sister is well aware of how awful this can be for the family left behind. Her husband volunteered to go to Iraq. They fought. She felt the kids were too young for him to leave. He felt the need to honor his duty to his county. She lost. He won.


The picture my boys sent to their Uncle while he was in Iraq. #1son is wearing his favorite camo bike helmet and #2son is wearing his ” ‘Merican fwag” shirt.

I sympathized this summer with my sister. I tried to feel her pain. And I told her I got it. And I thought I did.

As soon as we received a mailing address we all started mailing letters. My sister warned me that they keep them so busy during the day, they’re exhausted at night. She may not be able to write back very often. No worries, I told her. We understand.

We received our first letter from my niece a few days ago. Or should I say, my sons received a letter. Addressed to the both of them. It was a busy day and and we were rushing to get ready for Boy Scouts.

“Read it to us at dinner, ” they said. “It’ll save time and then we won’t fight over who gets to read it first!” (My oldest son. Always thinking!)

“Thank you both for writing me! Getting letters is the best part of my day! I hope you don’t mind that I am writing this to both of you but I don’t have a whole lot of free time…”

My sister was right.

“I am having a great time! Every day I accomplish new, cool tasks. For example, so far I have done land navigation courses, repelled off a 40 foot tower, team building obstacle courses, gone into a gas chamber, learned all about the M4 rifle, (which I’m shooting for the first time tomorrow!) learned combat first aid and a bunch of other stuff that I can’t remember right now.”

What? My eyes scan back to gas chamber and shooting rifles and combat first aid. Yes, I know what being in the military entails. But this is my baby niece we’re talking about.

“My favorite part has been the navigation courses and repelling off the tower. The gas chamber? Not so much.”

And then it really hits me about the commitment she is making to our country. And the weight my sister has been feeling all summer. And my eyes well up with tears.

This shouldn’t be new to me. My grandfathers, uncles and cousins have all served. My brother-in-law was in the middle east just yesterday, it seems. I know what it’s like to miss someone, worry about someone, and care for someone when they come home wounded.

But my niece feels like my baby, too. And I’m getting a tiny taste, a tiny glimpse into what my sister, her mother, is struggling with every single day until she comes home.

To all of you  mothers out there, mothers with sons and daughters in the military:

Thank you for YOUR sacrifice. And please thank your children for me for their sacrifice. They are awesome. You are awesome. And my heart aches and swells with pride, all at the same time, for all of you. 


Filed under Adult Children, family, Moms

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.”


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!)


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.


“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.”


“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!)


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.)


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!


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.


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.


I know exactly how he feels.


Filed under family