Category Archives: Family Ties

My Family Cookbook

 

 

 

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When I cook, I think of the women in my family. My grandmother never measured anything and rarely had a recipe in front of her. She was a phenominal cook and I listened as my mom called her frequently throughout my childhood asking “cooking questions”.  img_4290My mom is also a great cook; her gift of combining herbs and spices has excelled restaurant meals.  As a girl, I was a baker. My sweet tooth ruled and I made cookies and cakes for everyone in my path.  img_0820

During the holidays, my mom and aunts made candy together. The cousins would play and bid time till we were called to taste-test!  My other grandmother would have a feast laid out each time we visited Texas.  She made EVERYONES favorites!!

Such exuberant love. img_4293

As I cook for my family now, I think about my menu.  I find myself cooking as each of these treasured women before me.  My heart loves cooking. img_4288 One of my most cherished gifts given to me is a family cookbook with recipes from all my family, and also my husband’s family. They are intertwined with pictures scattered through them. img_4289Such a gift of time and love; priceless to me. When I was first learning to cook as a young wife, I used those recipes from our youth.  When I am missing my grandmothers and mother-in-law, I cling to their recipes; their handwritten script of bundt cakes and stews. I bake their dishes during the holidays and weave in some of our new favorites.

In my family cookbook, I have added my part of the story too.img_0162 I have pages of my children’s favorite dishes. I have birthday pages for each family member with all their individual favorites to celebrate them.img_4291 When my kids come in and help prepare a meal, they see this book with pictures, recipes, and such a rich heritage for us. We cook and talk together. Stories are told, GOOD food is made and this legacy is passed on.img_4292

If you are looking for a gift to give that is from your heart, this one is hands-down a keeper. Collect your cherished recipes and pictures and share the stories attached to them. Bless and add to someones meal.img_3436

Closing the Gap

When generations come together, beautiful connections are made.

In the small Kansas town we moved from last year, we left a web of connections in our wake. During our 16 years in that community, we started our own little family and also “grew” an extended family. Although we still didn’t have relatives within 200 miles, we felt like we were severing family ties when we pulled out of town with Uhaul trailers dangling behind us.

soccer sidelineThese bonds didn’t occur overnight. We wove them over time through snatches of conversation on soccer sidelines, volunteering at school events, working in the community, visiting with neighbors, and serving alongside others at church. Since our children didn’t have grandparents nearby, we crafted some of our own through repeat connections with people in our community.

A dear lady in our church always greeted us with a warm smile and thoughtful questions about our family’s activities. Typically I’d have one child on my hip and another boy tugging on my arm, but slowing down to visit with this generous lady gave me an internal boost. We exchanged notes in the mail occasionally and she joined us for Thanksgiving dinner one year — a special treat for all of us without our “other” family around.

Thanksgiving guest

Another year we incorporated Acts of Kindness into our advent activities and serenaded a neighbor lady down the street. She reciprocated with holiday goodies and a beaming smile.

Christmas carol

She added a watchful gaze and a friendly wave as my boys trudged  by her house to school day after day, year after busy year. My youngest son developed a special connection with her, becoming her handy helper for various little tasks she needed from time to time. She got to share her stories with an enthusiastic listener who wore curiosity on his sleeve like a badge of honor.

These interactions unfolded naturally over time; they weren’t forced or felt like an obligation. Typically they occurred through seasonal shifts or holiday overflow of family activities. Somehow these brief interludes closed a gap for us. They weren’t quite a substitution for our “Family Tree” people, but offered a soft tether of connection in our chosen community.

Often I was the one behind the camera, orchestrating the logistics, yet I got to observe the faces of the young and old. I witnessed an echo of mutual admiration pass between them. Simple gestures –young hands carrying small treasures for elderly neighbors or weathered hands offering treats to eager boys — bridged the generational gap, pulling each closer. Something quietly slipped into place during these encounters; a sense of belonging and purpose emerged that wasn’t present before.

Now we’re on the lookout for potential opportunities in our new neighborhood, trying to be open to possibilities around us. Meanwhile we’re enjoying increased contact with our own extended family once again, knitting ourselves into deeper family grooves.
two generations' hands

We dabbled a bit recently by participating in a craft activity with a small group of seniors. Hands of different generations joined together in common purpose reflects such a beautiful collaboration, closing the gap of all the years in between.


“Live in harmony with one another…” Romans 12:16


A brief visit here or a quick craft there…you never know where you’ll discover a new “family member” to add to your nest.

Saying Yes

As parents, we set limits and boundaries for our children every day and throughout the day. Saying “no” can be tough on both sides. Redirecting and reframing takes more effort, especially on sticky summer days.purple flowersToday I said “yes” to boys asking for a donut stop in between morning activities. I observed how each of them made their unique choice of  glazed gooeyness. Amidst their boy chatter I heard about a high school teacher who likes maple bacon donuts. I learned that two of my sons pass this particular shop every day on their way to school, casting a yearning peek out the schoolbus window yet never mentioning it. As crumbs fell during a flurry of eating, they also dropped little tidbits of experiences they’ve had at their new schools this past year. They showed me a new videogame as they teased each other about milk mustaches and amateur frisbee skills. I soaked up these bonus glimpses into boyworld as they gobbled up their donuts.donuts

Later in the day I got to say “yes” to a request for a movie night. I wasn’t thrilled about the specific movie, so I dabbled in new territory…the kids going to their movie while my hubby and I went to another. [Win-win, people. If you still have preschoolers, hang on. Your time will come!] Since our movie finished early, we slipped into their show to catch its flavor. I watched the boys’ faces as they reacted to the movie, their expressions more animated than the movie itself. Slumped down in their seats and leaning in toward each other unaware, they were mesmerized by the colorful characters on the big screen while we were captivated by their shared brotherhood.

twinkle lightsMy last “yes” of the day was to rootbeer floats when we got home from the movie. I propelled my tired momself out on the dark patio and sat with them under the twinkly lights, listening to their happy slurping. A contented sigh escaped from my blue-eyed boy as he cradled his sticky cup, savoring the last drop of this hot summer day.

All these little moments crept into my heart, softening the grumpy interactions about delayed chores earlier in the day and pushing the agenda of tomorrow a little further out of mind, all because I took the chance to say “yes.”
sun peeking through tree

What can YOUR “yes” be tomorrow?


“However many years anyone may live, let them enjoy them all.” –Ecclesiastes 11:8

 


Family Motto

Getting away from home and reconnecting with everyone that lives under its roof can reveal some unexpected family insights and add some humorous depth to family lore.family dog

Some families may be very intentional about having a family motto or even a family mission statement. Perhaps a family meeting is called and potential options are discussed with great energy and passion. An artistic member of the family may even document it in some way so that it can be boldly proclaimed to visiting guests. We are not that family. Sure, we discuss a lot of things at the dinner table and share goals for different seasons of our busy family life, but we haven’t gotten our act together enough to identify “a family motto” let alone agree on one and put it into any kind of action plan.

So, we all got a good laugh last week when our youngest blurted out what sounded like a family motto. We were trouble-shooting some logistics on vacation, attempting to squeeze out the last nano-second of margin between one activity and another. Somebody pointed out how the timing would have to be just right, each person take care of their stuff, and everything else fall smoothly into place (as in no flight delays during a heavy storms). A brief stress-filled silence filled the rental van and maybe a grunt emitted from somewhere near the driver’s seat. I tentatively murmured some hopeful comment, clinging to my fervent prayers all week that this particular transition would pass without a hitch. All of a sudden our youngest announced emphatically,

“We are good at stuff!”

Everyone erupted in laughter and our joint tension released as we all chanted his slogan, “WE. ARE. GOOD. AT. STUFF.” This statement certainly is general enough to cover any situation, it’s positive, and it focuses on the “WE” our family embraces. Hmmm…a family motto in the making?

Our connecting flight was on time despite many delays and cancellations all around us. Our departure gate was only 2 down from our arrival (= time for a restroom break and a brief snack). Everything went smoothly once we hit the ground running. My mom even met us at the airport with chocolate chip cookies for the next little road trip. So, a potentially tense situation ended well. Our family did pitch in with all the “stuff” involved and our son made it to his next activity on time. It was in that moment of stress that we connected as a family, stepped up on that foundation of prayer and joined in silly laughter together…that is the stuff we are good at.

woods

All of this was a good reminder that family getaways are important to the soul of a family.

As a bonus, now we have a tension-breaker line to use the next time we need a little encouragement. As far as an “official” family motto? Let’s just say no t-shirts or bumper stickers have appeared just yet.

delphiniums



“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” Romans 12:10



only girl

Recently we had some friends over for an impromptu pizza dinner after soccer games were finished for the day. Our combo of kids resulted in an 8 boys:1 girl ratio. The solo girl told her mother on the way home, “the mom is the only girl in their house.” Oh, so very true! During her visit I enjoyed digging out some “girl stuff” from my play therapy toy stash. I invited her to play with my collection of Lego Friends I’ve received from my boys during their Legos-for-every-occasion phase that lasted persistently for years. I listened to her little girl chatter, noting the lack of crash-bang-argh sound effects that typically accompany boy play at our house. I watched as she fidgeted with her long, tousled hair as she told me stories with vibrant animation. She was enamored with our baby turtle, Pipsqueak. She had so many words and was so willing to share.Salsa

Just as our young visitor had the realization that I was the only girl in my house, I’ve been reflecting on how much I’ve become accustomed to how my sons dole out their words at a slowly measured rate as if they need to conserve their syllables to last the remainder of the day. I’ve noticed how they interact playfully with me and show affection in boyish ways that don’t require stringing all those nouns and verbs together. Much of their communication is through touch and sound.

I’ve got one boy who is my Leaner. As he’s grown taller than me, he’s developed a lean-in stance when he drapes over me for a hug. He stands very still but is so fully present that it seeps into my heart like a soft rain soaks deeply into the ground. Often he will hum softly as his breathing slows and I feel the man-child weight of him pressing onto my shoulders. He releases with a big sigh and we’re both a little more centered somehow.

morning hugAnother son has developed his technique of the hold-and-squeeze. He comes in for a “typical” hug then holds me tight, waiting for an off-beat amount of precious seconds to do a double-squeeze that sometimes takes my breath away. Occasionally I’ll get a few mini-squeezes in before he loosens his hold on me. I can sense the melody of his mood in how he prolongs the hug or stays only for a brief skirmish. Sometimes we’ll finalize with a rhythmic tap-tap of our fingers, drumming onto each other’s backs without saying a word–yet also saying so much. This seems like a foreshadowing of the letting-go process we face when he leaves for college in a heartbeat.

contented boy

My last one I can still tuck under my chin when he dives all-in, often leading with his head and wrapping around me with all of his limbs. I often wonder how many limbs he has because they are EVERYwhere! A lot of swaying and giggles accompany this hugfest, especially if he gets a firm headrub or backscratch out of the deal. He lingers longer if a variety of wiggly movement is sustained in this light-hearted encounter, reminding me that his primary Love Language is Physical Touch. Squirmy love is his forte; I have adapted my reflexes accordingly.

mandevilla bloomSo, yes, I am the only girl in this house, but I’ve learned to communicate “boyspeak” as I’ve grown along with them. They can out-talk me about sports, outrun me in 5k races, and definitely out-eat me at any given meal…yet they can’t outgrow the mommy-son bonds weaved ever so tightly during all these leaning, squeezing, squirmy moments.


“Behold, children are a gift from the Lord… His reward.” Psalm 127:3


“Mother’s day” has passed yet each of us mommas can harvest these little snatches of our child’s affection however they may come. It may be braiding your daughter’s hair for the umpteenth time or gritting your teeth through those first driving lessons. A wink, a nudge, a crayon drawing, a morning grunt or an after-school story…cherish these tokens of your child’s unique interaction with you. We’ve got 50 weeks until the next round of “direct” appreciation the card-makers will remind everyone about. In the meantime, soak up the ordinary love today, my friends.

Side-by-Side

mom tackleWhen your kids are little, they are all over you. Literally. A human jungle gym…they climb, writhe, wriggle and squirm all over, covering you with earthy hugs and sticky kisses. They share every single teeny tiny detail of their days even though you were right there navigating it all. They start conversations voluntarily with you.all.the.time.

I remember one of my preschool-aged sons asking me, “Mommy, do you like khaki socks? I like khaki socks.” I responded to his random question and he fired off another one without skipping a beat, “Mommy, do you like blue socks? I like blue socks.” I will spare you the details of this lengthy conversation and remain grateful that he didn’t have full knowledge of a 64-color crayola box at that tender age. Yet I hold dear the memory of that conversation because he was trying to connect with me, exploring things we might both like that mashed us together in his little mind. He wanted us to share every daily experience and talk about it over and over and over again.

When kids start school, all that sharing is spread out among more people…teachers, buddies, and neighborhood friends. You still get a good dose of after-school details, though, and you get conversation starters cued by art projects and smiley-face stamped papers they bring home.

Then your kids have the audacity to grow more. All of a sudden mini-adults are sparking out of them as they navigate the world of middle school and high school. Their minds are extremely busy places and they are doing a lot of internal processing. All of this chaotic brain activity shorts out their verbal processing and those sweet little childish conversations become more like staccato grunts and groans. I have boys, so plenty of bodily noises accompany their one or two-word responses. Although I’ve become quite adept at reading facial expressions and body postures, my mommy-brain is still curious about their experiences in those boys walking with backpacksbusy school hallways and classrooms. I still like to hear in their own words what impacted them in the course of an ordinary day.

I’ve embraced the subtle strategy of the Side-by-Side conversation. Most often this occurs in the car as we are driving to an activity or returning home. After an initial greeting and brief run-down of “how was your day?” type conversation, a natural lull fills the car.  I try to wait patiently while my son decompresses in his own way. Sometimes it’s through music; sometimes it’s a snack. Gradually some wordy tidbits start to fall out. I try to not scoop them up too hastily, but allow them to linger between us…because sometimes those few phrases turn into an avalanche of words. Suddenly I’m hearing a funny story about a new friend or how a teacher brings day-old bakery goodies to class, endearing him to this mass of hungry adolescents.

bedhead boys together on couchDuring this season of March Madness, I join my son on the couch and absorb a litany of sports statistics of his favorite teams. I’ve learned to ask specific questions about a few key players so I have a storyline to follow-up on each game. Sitting side-by-side, my son overlooks my lack of “fervor” at his level and seems to appreciate my tentative participation in his world of sports. We are training together in this new language of ours, connecting through the excitement of buzzer beaters, the disappointments of tough losses, and the shared eye-rolling at inane remarks offered by the color commentator.

These side-by-side moments are indirect and nonthreatening. With our eyes focused ahead on the road or a basketball game, our bodies are little more relaxed and the words come out a little more freely. We are aligned in a mutual activity. Somewhere in the midst of the drive or the time-outs in the game, I pick up nuggets about social interactions that would not have been shared directly in a face-to-face Q & A. I savor these and add them to my mommy collection of these brief moments that weave into the fabric of their childhood.


“So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.” Romans 14:19


I’ve learned that by coming alongside my boys in whatever they are doing or simply making myself present in their spaces, that something beautiful begins to unfold. A few words are batted between us. Sometimes I lob them too far and they miss their target entirely. Sometimes I come too close and they are returned with a solid shot. Timing is delicate. We tiptoe around, exploring neutral territory or trying a humorous diversion. Awkward moments are all too frequent, but we keep trying, side-by-side, because there’s a lot more than khaki socks out there, folks…but at least it’s a place to start.Tacosaurus socks