Category Archives: Family

May. Again.

 

IMG_6828

May.

Here we are again. It seems fitting to blame this magical month for my absence because it clearly took me 12 months to recover from the chaos bestowed this time last year.

I would say that but it wouldn’t be entirely true. It’s more like the recovery time somehow blended with the looming events and milestones this May would bring and somehow paralyzed me with an inability to get a handle on …. well, anything.

End of the May tornadoes bled into summer fun and school began with a growing knot in my stomach, ever mindful that Jake’s senior year would bring a thousand “lasts” that would sucker punch me when I would least expect them. Holidays brought the passing of my dear grandparents, and New Year’s ushered in a realization that my baby boy would be leaving home in a matter of months. Anniversaries, milestone birthdays 13, 16, 18 and high school graduation were approaching at a rapid pace.

Somehow last May bled into this May. Life happened. Daily. And somehow I am baffled at how quickly time passes and what a privilege it is to be part of so may precious lives, chaos and all.

Last May was just a preseason warm up for this May.  I’m not sure there is much more that could be added to this month.

It’s bursting, overflowing.

Kind of like the flowers in the garden this spring.

And very much like the pride and love in my heart when I slow down long enough to take it all in.

The House Pinterest Did Not Build

Erin's house

Erin designed, built, and decorated her own house the other day.

She thought it out, carefully constructed it, and intently decorated it.

All on her own.

I came upon the finished construction in a bit of a daze, having just spent 20 minutes scrolling through hundreds of pictures of laundry rooms on Pinterest. Hundreds. And I closed the iPad more confused and overwhelmed than when I typed “laundry room makeover” in the small search box, dependent upon others’ creativity to spark my own.

I looked at her beaming with pride in front of her accomplishment, and it struck me that she had made the whole house without consulting a single outside source.  The entire thing had been built as a testament to her strong sense of self.  And I quickly realized what a shining example that was to me.

I love that she built it the way she did. It’s hers. From start to finish. From the green and silver duct tape to the bright red swirling star in the entry. From her “please knock” welcome on the jagged carved door to the purple streamers hanging in open air windows.

It came from her heart and her soul. It was crafted with her spirit. She used what she had. She made her own decisions. She trusted her own sense of style. She allowed herself to be creative.

And she did all of it with confidence, enthusiasm and joy.

There was no Pinterest involved. No replicating. No comparing to what others had done.

I let her house sit in the middle of the family room for several days, so that each time she passed it she could beam with pride. And so each time I passed it, I was reminded of the precious lessons to be learned from a confident third grader and flimsy cardboard. Somewhere along the way I have forgotten how to trust my own instincts, often becoming paralyzed by indecision. I don’t remember how to take risks without concern about others may think. I’ve ignored outlets for creativity.

Erin’s house is a tribute to the valuable lesson in trusting ourselves.  And clearly I have a great deal to learn from her.

I am pretty sure that one day when she is all grown up she will have a lovely house.  It won’t be made of cardboard, but it will be a warm and lovely home filled with her spirit and that of those  she shares it with.  One day she’ll likely want to makeover her own laundry room and I am sure she will tackle it creatively, with her own sense of style, and with unyielding confidence in her choices.  On that day I will think back to her as an eight year old girl beaming from inside her cardboard house.

And I will grab a paintbrush and be happy to help, grateful to be learning from her example once again.

Our Moms’ Day

This Mother’s Day was a little bit unique in that we were able to celebrate the day with both our mothers.

We could not remember a time when we had gotten to do it before.  And the inability to remember had nothing to do with flowing chardonnay and everything to do with the fact that my in-laws live too far away.  2000 miles too far away.  Not that I’m counting.

Ann came to town to help celebrate Erin’s First Communion over Mother’s Day weekend. We took lots and lots of pictures on her special day and everyone was kind of over my camera being out all the time. Not that I blame them.

But I am glad I went back in for it one last time to snap this shot.

IMG_5183

We have a gazillion pictures of us and every possible combination of family members over the years, but I don’t think we have this one anywhere. How is that possible?

But here we are, us and our moms.

Two incredibly lovely women who shaped us into the people we are today. They both taught us so many different things.

Ann is one of the most organized people I know.  She certainly helped Jason learn to be diligent and detail oriented.  He can organize just about anything. Which leaves the current disaster state of our garage a total mystery to me.

And my mom taught me how to use a sewing machine and make a mean meatloaf. Which makes the stymied pile of sewing projects and my family’s aversion to my meatloaf equally mysterious and unexplainable.

I guess some things that we are taught, we don’t always learn, let alone master.

Looking at these two ladies and the picture of the four of us together, it hit me that there is one very important thing that they both taught us growing up, something we both clearly did learn. And that is to love and take care of others.

It’s that simple and that complicated.  It’s that easy and that difficult.  It’s that casually overlooked and that monumentally important.

Caring for others is at the heart of what we both do each and every day, and I am certain that we wouldn’t be cut out for the jobs we do had our moms not shown us the way.

We are lucky to have learned how to love from the both of them, and we were thrilled to celebrate the both of them together on the same day.

And for the two of us, Mothers’ Day couldn’t have been much better.

Cut It Out

Sometimes my family does odd things. Like cutting, for instance. Most people cut in a straight line with order and continuity. Most people, when cutting bar cookies or brownies or krispy treats from a pan, start on the left and and move across the pan.

Not necessarily the case in this house. I made krispy treats the other day and some wisecracker teenager thought it would be funny to cut a chunk right out of the middle. When I asked what the brilliant thought was behind cutting that way, he said that he was avoiding the “crispy edges.” Hmmmm. Interesting. Silly me, I thought that the very nature of a krispy treat ensured that all edges were crispy.

krispy treat cut out

I called him out on his ridiculousness while the rest of the family rolled with laughter. Even I thought is was funny. Odd, but funny. I told them I thought there was something wrong with all of them and that the cutting disorder must be genetic.

Here is the cutting job that Erin did while wrapping a gift last Christmas. Only I cut her some slack (pun intended) seeing that she was 7. The krispy treat mauler is nearly 16.

20140327-110020.jpg

But I’m thinking that age must have nothing to do with the mutated cuttings that go on around here. My oldest child husband decided to get in on the action and mess with me too, cutting himself a virtual maze through the middle of the pan.

crazy cut krispy treat

You know those quirky family inside jokes that everyone in the house gets and thinks is funny but no one outside the walls of the home gets? The kind that go on for years and years and come up at odd times? I have a feeling this cutting business is well on its way to being one of ours. I can only pray they all control themselves when mowing lawns, trimming bangs, or cutting wedding cakes. With a multitude of birthdays, a First Communion and a graduation around the corner, you can bet that I will be the one with the cake knife, lest we scare all our family and friends with our inability to cut like normal people.

Everyone’s a comedian around here.

Now, if they only knew how to use knives and scissors …

 

Dorothy Mae’s Dump Cake

 

Dorothy's Dump Cake

Dorothy’s Dump Cake

Yesterday was the anniversary of my grandmother’s death. And last night the girls made her dump cake. I had a spoonful of it this morning with my coffee. Because I could. And because she would have done the same thing if she were sitting in my kitchen.

There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think of her. She was the matriarch of matriarchs and stories of her are family legends, likely to be embellished as the years pass on. She dressed me up and gave me my first memory of being “out on the town,” a dinner out where I tried very hard to keep my elbows off the table and then a drive across town to see the Nutcracker, beginning a holiday tradition that I keep with my mom and the girls today. A few years later she unapologetically sat me down on a stool in her kitchen, cracked open a Dr. Pepper, put a silver beautician’s cape around my neck, and permed my straight brown hair. She had an adventurous, if not a ornery and vivacious spirit that was contagious.

As fun-loving as she was, she was practical too. She taught me how to sew using her trusty Singer and hand needles, making use of scraps of material from one of her many ongoing projects. She taught me how to make soup in a gargantuan pot almost too big for the stove, using up just about everything in the refrigerator so nothing was wasted. In some small way, honoring her mother, my Maggie’s namesake, passing on skills she undoubtedly acquired from Grandma Maggie as a child during the depression.

She was frugal and free-spirited, knowing when to hold reserves and when to cash in chips and live a little. While my grandfather was still alive, they golfed and traveled and had dinner parties. And after he passed, she continued on in her ways, just as he would have wanted her to. She had a social life that always put mine to shame, playing bridge, golfing, and getting together with friends constantly. She was always in the middle of a good book, loved a good juicy mini-series, and would yell at the TV during football games. She was the life of the party when she wanted to be. She was also content playing a card game (or several) with us over a bowl of popcorn and her favorite iced tea. She took our quarters when we played for money and she would never let us win a tight game of gin if we did not beat her on our own. She did not like to lose; and rematches, called by her when she did lose, most often went her way. She had the nickname of “Mrs. Big,” and while I don’t know how she got it, it most certainly fit her large personality. She did not know a stranger, would give anyone the shirt off her back, and had no problem letting you know her opinion of something – even if you did not ask. She was a strong lady, proud of her Irish heritage and tolerant of the German she adopted through marriage. She was faithful and devout, kind and loyal, stubborn and gracious. Traits I see each and every day carried on in my girls and I am reminded that it was a privilege to be her granddaughter.

Dotty was always on the hunt for a new recipe to make for her bridge friends and this dump cake is one I remember her making all the time. She wrote it down on a recipe card that is now one of my favorite keepsakes. It makes me smile every time I thumb through it in my recipe box and if I stare at the writing long enough, I can almost see her sitting across the table penning it. It couldn’t be easier to make and the girls love to make it by themselves – another testament to the independent spirit she has passed on through generations. The boys just like to eat it. Warmed up with vanilla ice cream. And they like to make fun of the fact that it’s called dump cake. I wish she could be here to put the boys and their rude comments in their place, to watch the girls handling her recipe card and baking her cake, and to sit with me at the table playing cards and drinking iced tea, one last time.

Dump cake recipe card

 

Dorothy’s Dump Cake

1-20 oz can cherry, blueberry, or apple pie filling

1-20 oz can crushed pineapple

1 package yellow cake mix

1 cup chopped nuts

1 cup coconut (optional)

2 sticks melted butter

Directions:

1. Spray 9 x 13 pan with cooking spray.

2. Gently dump pie filling and pineapple into pan and mix together.

3. Dump Sprinkle cake mix on top of fruit mixture.

4. Dump Top with nuts and coconut.

5. Dump Drizzle with melted butter.

Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

Or eat straight out of the pan with a fork with your morning coffee … Dorothy would have.

 

 

20131104-151453.jpg

20131104-162925.jpg

How To Make Easy Caramel Apples

Easy Caramel Apples

Yea! Fall is here and the girls wanted to celebrate the start of our favorite season with caramel apples.  In all honesty, I was a wee bit hesitant, but they couldn’t have been easier to make. We took a shortcut and used packaged caramel candies, but if you want to get fancy and make homemade gourmet ones from scratch  then here is a good tutorial.

I was in charge of using the big knife to chop up the M&M snack mix and taking the hot bowl of melty caramel out of the microwave. Other than that, the girls really did most of it by themselves. Including photographing each other, trying to engage the apples in conversation on what they would like to “wear” with their caramel, and reenacting the poison apple scene from Snow White.

2013-09-235

 

2013-09-233

 

Here’s what you’ll need (besides photographers and actresses):

2 bags of caramel candies, unwrapped
2 Tbs milk (start with just one tablespoon and add more as needed)
8 apples
8 wooden sticks
Silicon mat or parchment lined cookie sheet for setting finished apples
Toppings of your choice

Direction:
1. Wash apples, insert sticks into stem sides, and line ’em up on the countertop.

2. Prepare toppings in bowls. (We used mini chocolate chips, toasted almonds, and coarsely chopped sweet and salty M&M snack mix.) Set them close by the prepared cookie sheet.

3. Melt caramel and milk in microwave, about 90 seconds total. Stop and stir about every 30 seconds and adjust melting times accordingly.

4. Working fairly quickly, dunk apple in melted caramel. Swirl and/or use a spoon if need be. Once the apple is coated, let it rest on the cookie sheet until all apples have been dipped.

5. Once all apples are coated, go back and dip and roll them in the toppings, gently pressing the goodies into the caramel. Return them to the cookie sheet.

6. After all the apples are topped, dressed, and coated in all the goodies you have set out, chill them in the refrigerator for a bit to set completely.

7. If sharing with friends, transfer to a small disk of parchment that generously covers the base of the apple and loosely bag with a cellphone treat bag. They will last a couple of days until the moisture gets the best of them.

Enjoy!

First Day Of Fall

I We Some of us have been waiting for this day for a while around here. I bought a pumpkin for the porch last week and everyone thought I was nuts. But fall was so close I could feel it and I couldn’t help myself. Not everyone felt the same enthusiasm. After a few “why is there a pumpkin on the porch?!” questions I decided to play it cool and wait a few days before adding anything else. Tough crowd. Sheesh.

Ionely pumpkin

But today, fall is finally here. Maggie has been ready for fall too and last week she started counting down the days. She rescued me from yard work grabbed me near the precise hour she had been patiently waiting for. We listened quietly to the hands on the kitchen wall clock tick towards 4:44 and we waited to see the anticipated numbers illuminate the microwave. She let out a little squeal of delight and hugged me tight when the magic numbers finally appeared. Then we went outside and she jumped for joy, as happy as I was to have fall here.

Maggie jumps for joy

And I smiled at my lonely pumpkin as I introduced it to a new friend, ready to do my own happy dance and leaps in the air as we welcome my favorite season. Only I really won’t be leaping. That’s not likely to end so happily.

pumpkin and mum

Happy Fall!

First Concert

Dear Taylor,

If you must know the truth, I was a bit hesitant heading to the concert last night. You see, my girls were excited beyond belief at the surprise tickets from the heavens that appeared to them miraculously at the bottom of the laundry basket. Actually, excited doesn’t really even come close to capturing the pulse that could be felt through the entire house. There were large red posters carefully penned in neat writing waiting expectantly on the kitchen table. Outfits had been picked out, debated upon, and reassembled. Hair was done, phones were charged, grandparents were called, your songs were on replay. The girls giggled and bounced and skipped in the kitchen. They could not contain themselves. They. Were. Ready.

But for a few moments, I was not. As I watched them run around the house with each other I quickly realized they had no idea of what to expect. What if (GASP!) they were so excited by the idea of what was to come that they were disappointed by the reality? Would all the hype and excitement and fade like the overpriced glow stick strobe lights I was advised to purchase?

Watching them with each other, experiencing their first concert together, I realized it didn’t matter. This pre-concert delirium was part of the experience and they were enjoying every second of it. This, no matter how good or bad the actual concert was, was going to be a night they would remember forever.

I figured the concert would be good. I had no idea it would be great. You rocked our socks off. You hit it out of the ball park. I could not have imagined you would be so in tune with your audience (sold out crowd of screaming young ladies). I love that you acknowledged their tween/teen angst and reminded them of what a better place the world would be if there was less “mean” and more “kind.” Words said over and over by parents are sometimes heard more clearly when spoken by others – especially when that person is you.

In the end, their first concert was magical. It was worth every over priced line item ($20 for parking?!) and each indulged extra (hello t-shirts and stroby glow sticks and cotton candy). I would do it again in a heartbeat.

I only wish their innocent, joyous delirium could stay, stay, stay forever.

Thanks for listening.

And see you next time you come to town.

20130919-181414.jpg

A Swift Mood Change

This afternoon I surprised the girls with Taylor Swift concert tickets. I had the whole thing planned out and I stood in the hallway pretending to be trying to figure out something on my phone so I could capture them on video. They were shocked. They were thrilled. They were over the moon.

They were on an emotional roller-coaster.

Moments before they found the tickets, I asked them to fold some laundry (which, next to emptying the dishwasher, might be their least favorite chore). Let’s just say they were not enthusiastic about having to help. But, my oh my, did their collective mood change when Emily stumbled upon the golden tickets at the bottom of the heaping laundry basket. What a swift mood change! (Pun intended.)

See you tomorrow night in Raleigh, Taylor. I’ll be the one chaperoning the little ladies riding the wave of the swift mood change from teen and tween angst to unabashed joy!

Here’s the video. It’s long, but you need to get the full effect of the mood swing. Thank goodness for happy endings.

The end.

Feeling Blue

Feeling Bue

I snapped this picture a few weeks ago on a day trip to the beach.  I’ve never in my life had the color blue on my nails – hands or feet.  But I thought I would try it out on a whim, intending more to amuse my girls than to be trendy.  And while I’m fairly certain I didn’t rock the polish, it was fun while we were in the throes of summer.  Maggie even painted hers to match.

But now I can’t wait to take it off.  I’m not feeling the blue today – or perhaps today I am feeling blue?  Most likely it’s a little bit of both.

The kids went back to school and the lazy days of summer have once again slipped away.  Don’t get me wrong.  I am beyond ready for the return of some routine and order to the days (not to mention some much-needed order to the house!)  But at the same time, I am sad to have the hectic schedules return and the house to be so quiet, echoing as I type.  As ready as I am for school to start, I love having everyone home together and underfoot – even though it often tests my patience and tolerance for noise and chaos and mess.  And by often I mean daily.

It’s bittersweet, this return to school.  I am sad to lose lazy mornings, afternoons at the pool, family dinners that stretch into evenings of popcorn and board games.  I am sorry to say goodbye to days at the beach, movie nights that start much later than they should, late sleeping teenagers, and pancakes on weekday mornings.  It seems so odd that garage cubbies that were only days ago strewn with beach towels and swim bags now hold cleats and backpacks and gym bags. Calendars that were near empty a week ago are again near full with school and sports commitments, volunteer assignments and carpool dates.  I want to yell, “wait! what just happened?!”  But I don’t think anyone would hear me and the world would certainly not stop at my protests.

The end of summer seems to bring with it such an abrupt shift from relaxed to scheduled, slow to hurried.  And it makes me kind of sad, really.  I am left to wonder, once again, where all the time goes.  I’m reminded to slow down and enjoy life’s blessings. Each day’s bright sunrise should be a gentle nudge for me to be intentional and to delight in all the little joys that fill the day, the week, the month, the season.  Because before I know it, the day is done, the week is over, a new month begins, and the season changes.

Which, when I think about it for too long, leaves me feeling just a little bit blue. Or a lot bit blue. And tired and stressed. So, I think I’ll change the nail polish, find a new color that is more my style, and embrace all there is to love about the return to school, the comfort of routine, jam-packed schedules, and the end of another glorious summer.