It was about four years ago that I first even heard the concept of chocolate pancakes and my mind was blown. Chocolate chip? Yeah, sure. Everyone knows about those. But… chocolate? That was a new idea for me!
Nonetheless, I never made them. I sort of filed away that information and then kept right on making other sorts of pancakes (, like Gingerbread, for example.)
This past Saturday, my husband had to work and my son was at my parents’ house, which left just me and my ladies to have a late breakfast. As I arranged berries and poured pink grapefruit juice into pretty faceted glasses, I thought it’d be a good time to play around with my own version of a chocolate pancake. And so these were born.
I’ve become a broken record with my “goodness, it’s so BUSY!” mantra, but it really does feel that way. I’m not complaining– it’s all “good busy,” which is a true blessing. It’s races and gymnastics and church school and teaching and concerts and dances and special-events kind of busy. These are all lovely and WANTED things in our lives! Still, a little planning goes a long way. And you know what I’ve (re)discovered? Sometime the best plan is to involve a whole lot of “old standbys.”
Here’s how we’re putting that into practice–
B– Eggs w/ Cheese, Toast, Apples
D– Large 1/2 Cheese, 1/2 Black Olive pizza, Medium Broccoli pizza
B– Double Chocolate Pancakes, Berries, Pink Grapefruit Juice (<– this was a “just the girls” breakfast!)
L– leftover pizza (<– when A’s not here for pizza night, there are LOTS of leftovers )
Technically, I walked into the first grade classroom to provide reading and writing support for two specific students. Knowing that it was the day of all the Valentine’s Day parties, however, I didn’t really expect to be doing a lot of academic work. I was correct.
The room was FULL of extra help, to be honest, as nearly a half-dozen mommies, plus a few younger siblings, swarmed the classroom to offer assistance with various crafts and activities. The room was abuzz with excitement and it made me smile.
As I counted out blue, brown, black, and purple crayons– four of each– and placed them in cups, I listened to one mom compliment another on the elaborate Valentine’s bouquets she had made for the teachers. I’m not going to lie to you– they WERE impressive. Artfully arranged candy bars were alternated with sparkly doo-dads and luxurious winter skin- and lip-care items, all tucked snugly and adorably in an exquisitely wrapped coffee can.
The crafty mom’s cheeks pinked a bit as she smiled and fluffed blown-out blonde hair over her heart-bedecked red scarf.
“That’s what I LOVE about Pinterest!” she gushed. “It’s the great equalizer.” She beamed a bright smile and turned to fuss over her daughter’s pink and red streamer-ribboned pigtails for a bit.
The mother who’d paid the compliment grinned back, but it didn’t quite reach her eyes. She hesitantly handed the teacher a hand-cut card that was sort of trapezoid-shaped and had three monkey stickers on it, plus a random foam truck. The crayon letters across it read, “Im banus fr U.”
The teacher accepted it with a soft smile. There was little doubt she loved it and was touched. The child who wrote that message worked long and hard to try to hear the letter sounds present in the words he wanted to write and his deliberate effort was obvious.
I have no doubt that mama was proud of her son’s work. I just hope it goes even beyond that…
That coffee-can bouquet was gorgeous and generous and a lovely gift. It was, no doubt about it, Pinterest-worthy.
But the card? Was perfect.
Sticky-fingered, gap-toothed grinned, tongue-stuck-out-with-effort kind of perfect.
I’ve spent a long time being angry at my mother-in-law now.
It’s not without reason.
I mean, let’s be perfectly clear– when we lost our fourth baby, she told us we were better off.
I feel confident saying that that was a terrible choice of words. It didn’t help matters that she never really apologized. And, furthermore, seeing how much it hurt my husband and drove him away from her, I felt rather justified in my bitter feelings toward her.
It’s been almost three years now.
Over these years, I’ve tried so hard to open my heart to forgive her. I’ve tried to rationalize her words and actions and make sense of them somehow. I’ve tried to “explain” them to myself in a way that would somehow make it acceptable and okay. And I was utterly unsuccessful.
But this, I think, is the problem. Too often, we think that, in order to forgive, we need to accept and come to terms with the other person’s actions. I honestly think this stems from our conditioned response to say, “It’s okay” immediately following the words, “I’m sorry.”
But what if it’s NOT okay? What if those words would be utterly false?
Well, then, we shouldn’t say them. If my mother-in-law were to, miraculously, offer up an apology one of these days, it would be disingenuous for me to say, “It’s okay.” Frankly, it’s not. I don’t actually think it’s ever okay to give that response to the loss of a precious child.
But, slowly, slowly, I’m starting to realize that I don’t need to wait for my heart to feel “okay” about it. Forgiving is a conscious action– it is a decision to cease being angry and resentful toward another for an error or offense. It is not a realization that you’re “over it.” It doesn’t need to be a warm, affectionate, glowing feeling. Sometimes it’s just saying, “You know what? I’ve spent enough time feeling angry and bitter about this and it hasn’t changed anything. I’m ready to put those feelings aside, so I can move forward.”
It’s too exhausting to stay mad about it, to be honest. I’m hurt. I’ve been hurt for years now. I truly can’t believe that she said that to her son. I can’t wrap my brain around what would make a mother utter that sentiment about her lost grandbaby.
But the good news is that I don’t need to. It’s not my job to figure out her motivation. It’s also not my job to decide it’s okay.
It’s my job to take care of myself and part of that includes releasing these emotions that bring me down and hurt my heart.
I’m sitting here, snuggled under a zebra-striped furry fleecy blanket, riding out yet another snowstorm. We’ve only been to school one Monday since the New Year, I think… and that day was an accelerated early dismissal day! (<– Translation: we got out at noon.) Next Monday is President’s Day so, even if we dodge a storm, we’ll still be off. Craziness!
Anyway, just for fun, I thought maybe we could talk about quirky clothing issues we have. I’m convinced that we ALL have them, and I think it normalizes it a bit to just be honest. Sometimes these are sensory and sometimes visual but, either way, they’re very real!
Here are five of mine:
Coat issues: I live in a state with a definite winter. You’re not going to get by just layering fleece and scarves around here. You need a proper jacket and, even better, a coat. Long wool is both pretty and practical and I’ve had my full-length camel hair coat since I was about 20! I love it. But here’s the thing– if even a CENTIMETER of that wool touches the skin of my neck? I lose my mind. Like, seriously go crazy. I’m distracted and bothered and I can’t even sit still to drive. I have such issues with this that if I see someone else with wool touching their bare neck? I have sympathy itching. It’s ridiculous.
Sleep issues: I wear tall-length fleece pants to bed in the winter, so you might think I like to be enveloped in coziness. On the contrary, while my legs are fleece-clad, I need my arms to be bare or I can’t sleep. Yep– polar fleece on the bottom, tank on the top. I am nuts.
Sleep issues, part 2: In the summer? I can’t stand pants or shorts. I only sleep in strappy cotton nightgowns. I told you I have issues. Moving on…
Shirt-length: I need shirts that are long. This is not because I have a long body. In fact, while my legs are very long, my body and arms are on the short side. Despite that fact, I buy my tops in talls or I wear dresses as shirts. I will not tolerate even upper thigh exposed in leggings and, no matter what type of bottom I wear, I cringe if I feel air against exposed rib, waist, or belly skin. This isn’t a modesty issue or even a matter of self-consciousness– it is purely sensory and it is enough to make me feel fidgety all over. I also really like sleeves that are actually too long for me– there’s something cozy about sweater cuffs around the base of my palms.
Shoe weirdness: I go from flip-flops to boots and back again. That’s really all I like to wear. I will admit that I now own a couple of more “normal” pairs of shoes that I wear when I teach, but I still love flip-flops and boots most of all.
I’m sure I have more. I’m guessing they’ll occur to me over the course of the day. I read this list and I feel ridiculous. But, at the same time, I know so many people who have their own little clothing quirks. My five-year-old, for example, is not picky about clothes at all, but she just doesn’t like wearing jeans. None of us really like turtlenecks. My husband hates the feel of sweaters, no matter the type of yarn. My best friend can’t tolerate the feel of flip-flops or thong sandals between her toes. We’re all still normal, functioning members of society!
I survived “Birthday Party Season”! Okay, in reality, I only have two children with winter birthdays– one Christmas Eve and one January. Still, I always feel so very overwhelmed with all the planning and arranging for their special days. Between family and friend parties and the “immediate family” celebrating we do on the actual day, it just seems like a LOT.
February brings with it some relief. We have no birthdays in our immediate family until June and the interim months tend to have only one niece or nephew birthday going on, too. Phew!
The other day, I decided I wanted to add muffins to the brunch menu. I did this very spontaneously, as I am apt to do, and started throwing ingredients together, because I know no other way to bake.
Initially, I’d thought I might make some sort of peanut butter muffin and I even googled such. I was unimpressed with what I saw, however, and quickly abandoned that idea. My ideas landed on my little jar of almond butter, however, and an idea blossomed. It wound up being a very a tasty idea.
I read a post from three years ago– it was my son’s seventh birthday party. We did a football theme that year and a strangely warm late January day meant the boys could actually play some ball outside.
I remember being so grateful for that because my husband had it all under control. I was glad to catch a little break.
Because, you see, I was pregnant.
I don’t know why it took memories of that party to serve as the punch in the gut this year, but there you go.
I remember being a wee bit queasy and obnoxiously tired as I fought my way through the onslaught of birthday parties that year.
No one knew. Not my family. Not the parents of our party goers. Not any of you. Well, except for two of you, perhaps. I told a couple of you long-distance blog friends I’ve had since well before G. was even born. But no one else except my husband.
It’s hard to reconcile being so very happy with my life, yet feeling terribly cheated. I mean, on the one hand, I couldn’t be substitute teaching– something I’m truly enjoying– if I had a two-year-old. I wouldn’t be in this “sweet spot” phase of parenting children who are all at relatively easy stages, truth be told. No babies. No toddlers. No teens. No angst. No random tantrums. I mean… there’s some GOOD stuff going on right now.
But there’s a part of me that’s still so broken. So fragile. So easily ripped open.
And the fact that I feel like no one in my life remembers or cares or thinks lingering grief is justified just makes me feel like, I don’t know… an idiot? Overly dramatic? Foolish? It’s stupid, because I totally expect others to go on with their lives and I in no way expect people to constantly remember tough anniversaries. I guess I just wish I felt I had permission to talk about it if I wanted to? But maybe that’s what this space is for.
This is a very rambly post.
I don’t expect any of you to solve my issues or drama. I don’t even necessarily expect you to understand. I’m definitely not looking for more sympathy– you’ve all given me more than my due of that during the truly raw times.
But I opened my TimeHop this morning.
And I remembered a time when I’d imagined my life being so very different right now.
And maybe that’s just a little harder than I expected.
Yesterday, I shared my mom’s Pepper Jack Pasta recipe and it is delicious. It’s also super easy. Because I’m all about making things even EASIER, however, I have an even quicker, simpler “pantry” version for you today. It relies on canned and dried ingredients in place of fresh, meaning that this is one you can make in a pinch with little to no prep.
Note: Because there are no CHUNKS of tomatoes, this version is actually preferred by the boys in my house.
Many, many years ago– back when I was in college, I think– my mom started making this recipe. I loved it. Right after C. came home from the hospital, my mom came to stay with us for a few days to help out with A, mainly. She also cooked some things and left the recipes for me– this was one of the things she made.
It’s a keeper, for sure! It can also be made meatless, if that’s important to you or if you’re looking for some great “meatless Friday” recipes for Lent. I usually make it without any meat, but it’s tasty with added chicken or shrimp, too. (It is shown with chicken in the pic below.)
Today, I’m sharing the original recipe, as it is written on my index card from my mama. Tomorrow, I’m going to share a quick, lazy, cheater version that is not quite as good (in my opinion), but is actually preferred by my husband and kids.
(Yum, right? Disclosure: this is NOT my picture. But it is most definitely my recipe! I shared this recipe with my dear friend Mone years and years ago, and she and her husband still enjoy it– this is his pic, which he kindly let me use. Thanks, Rob!)