To my little sister…

We shared a bed and a room for most of my childhood. I slept on the bunk above you, seeing who would take longer to say their prayers. I tattled on you when you “stole” the raw cookie dough out of the fridge and ate it. You allowed me to do your makeup, unaware that I had no idea what I was doing.

You went to school with me and I’m pretty sure, nope, definitely sure that you were way cooler than me. You even beat me in a cheerleading tournament.

You allowed me to confide in you, offered advice and made me laugh hysterically, even when I didn’t want to.

We shared in our pregnancies, became mothers in the same year and spent many late hours texting each other, sleep deprived, slightly delirious and yet full of laughter.

You will always be my little sister…my best friend. Happy birthday, Rachie. I love you! ❤

My baby sister…

I remember being just 7 years old and waking up at 6 am every weekend. My baby sister was just a few months old but her crib was in the room next to me so I heard her cry before anyone else in the house. I’d wake up, walk to her room and open the door to her huge smile. I don’t think there was a better way to wake up.

I’d change her diaper, grab her milk out of the fridge and bring her into the living room. We would snuggle on the couch together and watch Saturday morning cartoons. She would smile brightly and hug me as tight as she could.

Today that baby sister celebrates her 26th birthday. Growing up with 3 sisters, we had our fair share of fights. We were close one minute and not the next…and yet we were always the best of friends.

This sweet girl has been by my side since the day she was born. She visited me in Florida and stayed for a week at a time, she took a leap of faith and moved to Georgia a few years ago to create her own dreams and she has grown into an incredible young woman.

We have met each other for quick trips in Savannah and Myrtle Beach more times than I can count. We have visited each other regularly and won’t leave each other without the next trip planned. Every Thanksgiving for the last 4 years we have spent together. She has jumped in the car to lay by my side in the hospital when I had brain surgery, she drove down to celebrate my double mastectomy with a trip to the beach just 4 days later, she planned a week long vacation to spend with us last year and she traveled down to meet her nephew right after he was born. The miles don’t matter.

We call each other just to say hello, with no agenda in mind. We ask advice of each other regularly, knowing that the other person is listening intently for an idea of what to do. We laugh so hard together that we cry helplessly and breathlessly. I am not afraid to call her crying to vent or with exciting news to share. I was beyond honored to stand by her side on her wedding day. 

We have had a lifetime of memories together…and they are no where near finished. She is one of my very best friends and I am so blessed that God chose her to be my baby sister. 

I love you, Katerdid. Forever and for always. 

Just a plain-ole-Monday…

Growing up, my parents had a boat. We enjoyed many summers on the local river, spent quite a few nights camping and have a lot of stories and memories to share. It was a point of fun (and frustration) throughout a few years of childhood. My big sister and I took boat lessons and I took pride in being the copilot of my parent’s boat. I could drive it, dock it and set the anchor at a young age. Though I lost many of those talents over the years, they are memories that my sisters and I laugh and talk about now.

The excitement of the past few days didn’t end today. We went out for a boat ride with friends. We spent the day on the river, the boys played at Blue Springs park while checking out the manatees (though they were more interested in running around the grass) and we cooked out at Hontoon Island. We shared stories, enjoyed the sun and were shocked by the massive alligator we saw sunbathing beside us. It was a gorgeous Florida day.

There is an old tree that my family and I always stop to take pictures at. Daddy stuck his hand through it and startled Jacob. Well, that sent him running and screaming (nothing a quick snuggle couldn’t fix). I happened to capture the moment on camera without realizing it. His face is quite priceless!

Despite getting yelled at by the park attendant (apparently they closed 15 minutes before we returned…oops!), the day was amazing. My boys, my momma and Jacob’s friend from the womb (and our good friends!) and the day was built for memory making.

I hope all of you enjoyed the day after Christmas and were able to snuggle your family and enjoy every moment. Happy Monday!

The night before Christmas…

Growing up, my grandparents had a barn on their property. I have no idea what they originally used it for (anyone?) but it became the place that we gathered for Christmas. My grandparents on my momma’s side had eleven children. Add in their significant others and a few dozen (50ish?!) grandkids and Christmas became a rather large event. There was never a discussion about what to do or where to go – we always gathered at my grandparent’s barn.

The grandkids were all gifted wooden stools with their names engraved and a burlap sack. We all brought our stools to sit on while opening gifts. My grandma always arranged a gift exchange between the grandkids and one for the adults. One of my uncles would dress up as Santa and handed out gifts.

The sacks were filled to the very top with gifts from my grandparents. Each grandkid collected something that my grandma decided when we were born. My collection was brass and my sack was always loaded up with different types of brass, mostly antiques, that I would display on a huge shelf in my room and play with all the time.

The gift exchange was no joke. We would sit on our stools for hours while the presents that spread across half of the barn slowly grew smaller as our collection around us grew bigger. There were tons of laughs, lots of hugs and some of the most amazing memories. I would usually fall asleep in the car on the way home, believing whole-heartedly that I could hear Santa’s bells ringing high above.

Since moving to Florida, we spend Christmas Eve with Joe’s family. Though the setting is different and the family is smaller, the love and laughter is there. My cheeks hurt tonight from smiling so big and laughing so hard. We enjoy a fabulous meal of Italian food prepared by Joe’s mom, indulge in cannolis and share gifts that we thought hard about giving each other. We even have a tradition of giving out a bag of coal to one person each year based on something silly or funny that they did that year.

Tonight was no different with the exception of my momma joining in on the fun. I have been enjoying this past week with her here but this is the first Christmas that we have spent together in well over a decade. Having her here and buying matching jammies means so much to me.

And then there’s Jacob. Every age I say “this is the best!” but this age…oh, how I love it. He is truly becoming his own little person, talking and asking questions and learning more and more. He has been counting the “sleeps” until Christmas & Santa and he even left out cookies (cooooo-kkkeeess), milk and a carrot tonight. 

One of his gifts tonight from grandma and grandpa was a pair of binoculars. Although he enjoyed his other gifts, these went around his neck and he didn’t let go. He played with them all night and even looked for Santa in the car on the way home. When snuggling in bed tonight, his excitement was palpable. He looked at me and said, “Momma, I look for Santa?” Sure, love bug. He lifts up the binoculars and looks through the half window above the curtains. “Santa, where are yoooouuuuuuu….hohoho (deeper voice)…Oh! I shink he’s ouside.”  I am fairly certain we did that routine for about 45 minutes (and one potty trip!) before he looked at me, kissed me and said “I go to seep so Santa comes” and rolled over. Oh, be still my heart.

This Christmas is special, like all others. But it’s filled with more love, laughter and snuggles than I know how to contain. I can’t help but smile ear to ear as my mom, Joe and I sit by the light of Jacob’s little Christmas tree.

Merry Christmas to all of you. May you each be gifted the blessing of love and happiness this holiday season and always. Spread the love!

Sister weekend

I grew up with 3 sisters. We did not always get along – we absolutely had our fair share of fights. We shared rooms, sometimes beds, we had 1 bathroom and drove each other batty more often than not. But we were there for each other. Three of us were know as “so-n-so’s little sister” or “little B”. We had our moments of being close and not so much but we were always there for each other…and we always will be.

A few weeks back, my big sister asked in a group chat if we could have a sister weekend. I agreed, expecting it to take some time, thinking it was a pie-in-the-sky idea. When she suggested a weekend that was around the corner and looked up plane tickets, I knew she was serious. We all figured out the logistics and set everything in motion.

Our first ever sisters only weekend was on. My three sisters traveled to me, I snatched them up at the airport and we headed to my happy place – the beach. We stayed at a hotel where every room had a balcony facing the beach and where we were only steps from the ocean. Though Friday was windy, we bundled up and made the day fun. The rest of the weekend weather was pure Florida perfection. A slight breeze cooled the day while the sun shined brightly over our heads. Though the sun set early, the moon, stars and even a planet lit up the sky above us.

We spent the weekend having major belly laughs, swapping stories of the past, encouraging each other about future decisions and snapping photos on our disposable cameras (cannot wait to see how they come out!!!) We seriously laughed until we all cried, we walked arm in arm along the beach looking for shells and the four of us snuggled up on the two full beds and watched one of the movies we grew up watching (Labrynth – which just happened to be on TV last night!!).

We haven’t always gotten along, we all are guilty of “borrowing” each other’s clothes and I’m pretty sure we have annoyed each other at some point. But we are sisters -through thick & thin. This weekend was a wonderful and needed reminder of just how much we mean to each other. I don’t know what I would do without my sisters. They each offer a unique and inspirational perspective to me. I love them all so much.

Here’s to the next Sister Weekend!

“It’s Christmas!”

christmas-120116Growing up, we had one Christmas tree in our house. It always stood in front of the picture window facing out towards the street, for all to see. We would even rearrange our furniture if a couch or chair was in front of the window when we were setting up our tree.

When I moved to Florida, I learned that multiple Christmas trees in a home is quite common. This was the first that I had heard of it and over the years I’ve loved watching people have multiple trees in their homes that had different themes. It was like Christmas in every room – something that seemed so wonderful to me.

This week, we took Jacob to pick out a tree. Every year with him is fun and I love sharing traditions – new and old – with him. But this year…oh, this year is so wonderful. At this age, he is understanding and asking questions and making his own…fun in the world! We went to pick out a tree and he walked up and down the aisles, arms outstretch and head turning side to side saying “These are nice! Look how nice!” It made me laugh & smile & tear up all at once. He had a ball “hiding” in the trees and got very excited as Joe pulled out different ones to see which Jacob loved. Oh, it was all so wonderful.

After we had chosen a tree, we started to make our way up front towards the registers. To our left, we spotted mini Christmas trees. Jacob immediately ran up and started picking up the different trees because they were his height. They were so cool!! I don’t remember ever seeing “little” trees like that before and we couldn’t pass them up. Jacob picked out his own tree out and even helped carry it to out.

We typically put the big tree in front of the bay window because I love that it can be seen through the window. It causes such a beautiful blue and white glow. But we spend most of our time in the tv room, which is decorated but doesn’t typically house a tree. So, Jacob’s tree solved that dilemma! His tree fits perfectly in the room and helps to create the Christmas feel.

When unpacking the box that holds Christmas ornaments last night, Joe found a cd. Upon seeing it, it made my heart swell. Half a lifetime ago, my uncle used to make Christmas cd’s for us every year. It’s filled with the classics and he would make a new one for every year. With 10 brothers and sisters and tons of nieces and nephews, this wasn’t an easy task for him. But he did it without complaint every year and we would always listen to it in the car driving around upstate New York to get in the Christmas spirit. Joe immediately popped it into the cd player while we decorated the tree. We sang, we danced and we spun Jacob around to the music. He giggled & smiled & even picked out his own ornaments to help decorate his little tree.

When we were all done decorating the trees and the cd was over, it was time for bed. Despite that fact, Jacob refused to take off his Santa hat. The little munchkin fell asleep with it on. I can’t think of a better way to end November and start off this wonderful holiday just right.

As Jacob says, arms outstretched, “It’s Christmas!”

Remembering Mike

mike-102816I started this post by talking about moving to Florida. I wrote about how Mike was my very first friend in Florida (aside from Joe, of course!), how he would come to keep me company when Joe worked, that he introduced us to all of his friends, how he taught me how to drive a stick shift and he is the reason why the three of us found our first house to rent.

Truth is, it’s hard to write about him. He would be 32 today – my age now. He would be an amazing uncle and Jacob would ask to see him constantly. He would be over for dinner regularly and filling up our weekends with impromptu beach trips (oh, how rough that would be!). We would have petty arguments over whether or not he drove on the grass and we would later laugh about the silly things that we fought about. Mike would be one of my biggest supporters in this journey and would be by our side every step of the way.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about how we all remember things differently. Something that I recall, clear as day, would be a reminder to someone else that the event even occurred. Or someone may have a distinct memory of me and I don’t recall that event and yet I love to hear the memory. We all have different perspectives and the fun is in sharing those perspectives and memories. That is something that I have been struggling with…ensuring that I share everything that I possibly can with those that I love. Big or small, it’s so important to share the memories that we have with each other. Passing on the traditions, reminiscing about the experiences and sharing your recollection allows each and every one of us to live on. Through those memories, each of us is allowed to live again even if we have passed.

One very late night when I first moved to Florida, Joe & I were playing cards at the kitchen table with Mike. He and I were having a very deep conversation about religion and God. I was passionately expressing my faith and he was trying to understand how and why there was purpose that was driven by God.

“Red, I don’t understand how something small and insignificant that I do has a bigger purpose. How is that driven by God’s will?”

“That’s just the point. Yes, you have free will – as we all do. But even the small things that you do impact those around you. They matter because whether you see the outcome or not, you are touching lives.”

He looked at me, put down the cards, stood up from the table and looked me in the eye.

“That’s it. That’s what I needed to hear. Thank you, Red.” And he went to bed.

I’ll never forget that night. It was just the three of us. And yet the intensity and simplicity of the night and the conversation is not lost on me. It’s a memory that deserves to be shared broadly…and an opportunity for Mike to continue living on through each of us.

In memory of Michael. We love you, always.

10.28.84 – 6.11.05

Farm fun!

Yesterday we headed to a friend’s house, who happens to have a farm. Jacob was in his glory!  It was like all of the animals that he reads about in his books suddenly appeared before him. He couldn’t chase the ducks fast enough, although he was able to outrun them when they turned towards him quacking! He loved using “nice hands” on the dog-dog and thought it was the coolest thing ever to pick up fresh chicken eggs! The pond was awfully tempting to play in on a hot summer day too. He tried sneaking a leg in a few times!

All of the plants at Alimonti Farms are edible and the trees were covered in fruit!  It was such a fun way to spend the afternoon and Jacob loved every moment! Hearing him make all the animal noises and having the animals talk back was awesome!

image

The music of his heart

image

When I was 6 months pregnant, I attended church with my big sister. The first portion of service was filled with music that you could feel in your heart. The musicians up front sang from a place deep in their soul and it was like the instruments were an extension of their hands.  Jacob heard the music in my belly and danced like crazy. He was often wiggling about when music came on but never quite like this. He danced all around in my belly and I couldn’t help but smile, laugh and cry along with the music and him. It was like the music spoke directly to him.

Since he was born, Jacob continues to love music. He always dances when he hears a beat, wiggling his little tush or his shoulders to the music. The other day when he was bathing, he grabbed all of the containers in the tub and drummed away, the sound of drums mixing with the sound of running water.

Music captures him in a way that few other things do. It always makes me smile, seeing him react and interact with the music he hears. There is a song in his heart and his head, always.  He recently found an older guitar that has been collecting dust in our home. Previously owned by Joe’s brother, it sits in the corner of a room, alone in the world.  Jacob found it and immediately began playing. Never wanting to put ir down, he taps and strums and sings. He brings it with him across the house, singing loud with an array of words that often include “Momma”, “Daddad” and all of the other things he loves in this world.

Maybe it’s a phase.  Maybe it’s ingrained. Either way, it makes my heart smile.  My sweet boy is learning what he loves and the possibilities of what he can do with his future are endless.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Mom 050816

Long before I became a mom, I was a teenager. Despite being what I would consider a “rule follower” for the most part, I had moments where I didn’t like a decision that my mom made and I would say things like “I will never treat my kids this way” or “When I have kids, I’ll let them do xyz!”. Hindsight is 20/20, right? I know now that my mom was doing what was best for me and making decisions for reasons that I couldn’t even fathom at the time in my still-growing teenager brain.

There are moments since my son was born that I catch myself doing or saying something that I think “Oh, I sound like my mom!”. (“Time for a happy-nappy, Jacob!) It makes me laugh and gives me a little smile. You see, despite growing up thinking that I didn’t want to be like my mom, there are things that I desperately want to do just like she did.

I want Jacob to…

…pick fresh flowers from our garden to bring to his teacher on the first day of school.

…feel pride in growing a vegetable and herb garden that he can pick from every night for dinner.

…get off the bus every day and see me, just like she did, and spend the entire walk home talking about his day.

…learn how to make homemade salsa and give it away as gifts for the holidays for people to enjoy.

…learn how to make gifts for the teachers like my mom painted tins and filled them with fresh baked cookies every year.

…look up from whatever sport he is playing and see me standing there, cheering him on.

…always know that he can talk to me about anything and everything. I want to offer him a “quarter for his thoughts”, as my mom did, and know that he will open up to me.

…know that even when I’m angry or frustrated, I still love him. And although I can’t fix all the wrong in the world, I can offer him a little peace from the chaos. Even if that peace is in the form of baking cookies together.

…go on adventures with me. Spur of the moment adventures with no planning or destination in mind. Those are some of my favorite memories with my mom – skiing around the block, spelunking, learning about ruins and Thatcher Park.

…know that a hug from mom can make a lot of the world’s worries go away.

…know the importance of a cooked meal at home as a family, even on a busy night.

…know the importance of church on Sunday and giving back to the community.

…know the love of family, not just his parents but his grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and everyone in between. Near or far, the love of family is priceless – my mom never failed to show us that.

…know a mom that is involved – in his school, his sports, his community, his interests. My mom support everything I did (and do!), whether it was Girl Scouts, softball, track, cross country, cheerleading (even when I was horrible!) and everything in between.

…know tradition. Even though they may not always be perfectly planned, they are something to look forward to every year and enjoy a bit of sameness in an ever-changing world.

…value time. Whether it’s time celebrating, relaxing, planning, preparing or just being…I want him to value the importance of every moment life offers.

…to love a lot. To love life, people, friends and adventures. Because my mom still does.

I am sure that my mom, like any mom, looks back and thinks that there are things she would do differently but I wouldn’t change a thing. It has made me into the person that I am today – and for that, I am eternally grateful.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of the incredible moms out there. The moms who sacrifice daily, who love unconditionally and who would do anything and everything for their children. You are amazing, inspiring and loved. So loved.