Why You Should Never Let a Friend Stay With You

As many of you know, I’m leaving the beautiful state of Rhode Island.  Actually, I’ve already left.  Maybe it’s for good, maybe not.  I only know that four years ago, I never would have guessed I’d even visit Little Rhody, much less live there.  But, my friend and former News Director in Cleveland asked me to come…and so I did.  As with almost any new project I take on, or job I start, I was looking forward to all the possibilities… the new station, the new people, the rich Providence history, the ocean.  It would be a lie though if I didn’t tell you that it was also with a bit of trepidation. What if I didn’t make new friends?  What if the people were snotty? I have moved SO. MANY. TIMES. Every time I say the same thing to my husband.  I’ll never make friends like my old friends. And I don’t.  I make different friends.

You know how they say your heart just opens up to allow yourself to love ALL your children as much as you loved the first?  THAT’S how I feel about my friends, but I digress.  I lived in Rhode Island for a solid year…a very lonely year before it happened.  My husband worked out of state and I felt isolated.  Admittedly, I worked a tough schedule to go out and socialize (anchoring evenings), and I’m not really a bar girl, but I finally decided to pull on my big girl panties and stop feeling sorry for myself and go out and make some darn friends.  It didn’t happen overnight, but it did happen and these women are amazing.

Heart Ball at Newport Mansions

Leaving for the Heart Ball

Newport Mansions

How could you not feel like a princess here?

My last week in Rhode Island has been one of my best yet.  Maybe it had something to do with my last minute invite to the exclusive  Heart Ball set at one of the majestic Newport mansions.  I should note, when I told my pals I couldn’t possibly go because all my formal attire was packed up, they said they’d find something for me to wear.  And they did.

Great gift baskets

Or maybe it was the fabulous luncheon the aMomKnowsBest contributors held for me the day before, where they put together a much appreciated gift basket for my big road trip.  Notice the gas gift card, wine, and scented lotion.  Let’s face it, when you are piling in the car with your husband, dog, and toddler, for a road trip that includes logging thousands of miles– with no real destination in sight–  gas money, wine, and smelling good are all necessities.  Did I mention how I have the best contributors and friends EVER?  While I didn’t get to connect with everyone in my final week in RI, I did get to spend some quality time with a few close friends.

girls having fun

Now, when I say I got to spend quality time with my friends…I really mean quality time. We had to be out of our house last week, so my friend Elizabeth invited us to stay with her family.  For those of you keeping track, that’s four adults, five kids and two dogs in ONE house.

I cannot explain how grateful I am to Elizabeth’s family and how much we enjoyed our time there. She may never invite us back (watch this short clip to see why) but knowing the kind of friend Elizabeth is, I think she will.

 

 

Praise it Forward, Please

I don’t know about you, but sometimes it seems as if the world has lost its manners. Recently, in one day, a man basically shut the door in my face despite me carrying three boxes, a girl in a store proceeded to ring me up while talking on the phone, and did not look up, and I spent 20 minutes in a store helping myself to sizes and answering my own questions since the sales ladies were too busy gossiping in the corner to do it for me. And I know they were gossiping because they had that look, you know, the snotty gossip look. Don’t get me wrong, I have my days where I am a hot mess less than effervescent, but for the most part, I say please and thank you, excuse me and sorry!

I think I find it especially maddening in the service industries. You know, where your JOB is to be of service and courteous. I spent many years in college and grad school waitressing so I could go out pay for books, and I tried to take it seriously. Anyway, after this especially frustrating day, I decided that I really wanted to thank those that did go out of their way to be nice and courteous. I knew just where to start. Garbis and Sam. Garbis and Sam are the go-to guys in the produce section of my grocery store. I should pay rent, that’s how much time I spend there! These guys are like my culinary wing-men. They have also been side-shows for my kids at the grocery store, and have been greeting me weekly for the past 8 years. They have seen me in work clothes, pre-date clothes, maternity clothes, sweats, workout gear, hair done, hair a mess, no make-up and possible pajama pants (hey, I put on a real shirt and flip flops!) and they treat me the same way every time. They have given my kids free apples, tracked down elusive herbs and organic arugula, and brought out the super fresh produce from the back when they saw me frowning at the sad strawberries. And it is always, always, with a smile. So when I was there last month, I tracked down the front-end manager and gave him a letter I had written about Garbis and Sam. He read it and was so pleased. He mentioned that they were about to get their annual reviews and that he would put this in their files! I felt great. I felt even better last week when they told me they both got raises and thanked me for the letter. I know the letter didn’t do it, more likely, it was that these guys really care to do a good job, and they do it every day without fail.

My second praise-worthy fun happened at McDonald’s. Yes, I did. I got my kids Happy Meals after a particularly brutal and hot double-header. The team was celebrating there and my kiddos wanted to join. Of course, I acquiesced. The young man taking our order was clean cut, courteous, he smiled and engaged in extra conversation, and then when my youngest dropped his cone .5 seconds after getting it, he gave us another one for free. I don’t know many teenage boys with so much charisma and thoughtfulness. I really wanted to say something, but there was a line. I hesitated, and then I asked to speak with his manager. Everyone seemed flustered. She came up and kind of had a scowl on her face. I explained to her the exemplary service I received and complimented the young man and the other people working the front end. She was SHOCKED!

“That’s all?” she asked.

 “Yes,” I responded.

“You just wanted to compliment us? No one did anything wrong?”

“Nope. Everyone was great, and I really appreciated it!”

“Wow! Thank you!”

That’s it. Thirty seconds was all it took to make hopefully a tiny difference in their day. And you know what? It made me happy too! So, I have decided not to get down about the peeps that are grumpy and rude, but to thank the ones that aren’t. Praise it forward, please!

How I Got Suckered into a House Full of Pets

Well, I definitely MUST be a sucker for baby animals.  It’s very hard for me go into Rumford’s Pet Store in Warwick, RI and hold the puppies without wanting to take one home, but that’s the ritual I have with the kids after shopping at Trader Joe’s.  I always give in and say, “Ok, we can just take a quick look!”  Holding the puppies is where you really get yourself into trouble though.  They look at you with those sad eyes, and you just want to take them home.  Luckily though, I have been thinking about all the vet bills and such that come with pet ownership (we already have a dog and a cat), so that helps me to put them back in their cages.  I do need to add as well, that we have owned many fish in the last year in addition to owning a dog and a cat.  Having kids = having more pets (they always want one).  At Clowntown last year we won two fish (Lizzie and Fish).  Fish died (my son’s fish), so then he got Lana (that died), Fish #2 (that died), Goldie (that died), Blubber (that died), and finally Sweetie Pie (that died).  Lizzie lasted OVER a year and unfortunately passed away this morning (she caught Ick from Sweetie Pie).  All the others had their “burial at sea” in the bathroom, but since Lizzie was special we took her to Goddard Park and actually DID give her a “burial at sea” this morning.  My daughter was of course devastated for a little while, until we went to May Fair at the Swift Gym about an hour later and she got to ride ponies and hold bunnies.  I’ll have to admit, the bunnies were really cute.  My daughter stayed in the bunny cage for over an hour, and then the lady announced that you could take one home for only $15!  I looked at my daughter smile from ear-to-ear, and then I held the bunny and looked into its little eyes (huge mistake) and gave in!  Fish gone in the morning, and rabbit added to the family by the afternoon.  I think I may regret this, but the kids (and even my husband) were sure excited about our new family member, Skrubby the Bunny.  At least I’m hoping that there are no huge vet bills for a rabbit (although the $15 bunny has already cost us an extra $100 at the pet store for its essentials).  I’m a sucker for baby animals!!!  What can I say?

 

 

Fish #2 and Goldie (The picture of “Fish” was too dramatic to post)

 

Lizzie (Our big one year old goldfish)

 

Lizzie’s “Burial at Sea”

 

Meet the Newest Member of our Family:  Skrubby the Bunny

 

Valentino, Our Dog (Coton de Tulear)

 

Jasper, Our Cat (Siamese)

 

Skrubby, Our Bunny Rabbit (Mini Lop)

 

* Anyone else get suckered into pets?  Please share your pet stories!  I would love to hear them!!!

Kristin Wheeler

White Chocolate Fruit Tart (Dole California Cook-Off)

I was so excited when I first saw this contest from Dole;  I have the most amazing recipe using Dole products that I knew I could win a fun trip to L.A. with adorable celebrity chef Ben Ford! The only problem is, the contest is for a GRILLING recipe, and my Dole recipe is a dessert (that doesn’t require the grill)!  I decided instead to pass the challenge on to you all, and let you in on my amazing recipe as well, sans trip to Hollywood.  Keep in mind, the Dole contest ends on May 15th, so fire up those grills, stat!

The secret I am about to share will pull back the curtain on my pastry chef skills.  I’ll never forget how impressed I was when my friend Karen Vernacchio walked into a dinner party carrying this dessert years ago.  I was skeptical when she claimed the recipe for this beautiful, mouth-watering treat was easy. It has since become my staple, simple yet elegant, dessert  for entertaining. I am grateful to her every time I make it. I even keep the non-perishable ingredients in my pantry, (I almost always have milk, butter and cream cheese in my fridge) so in a pinch I can just grab the fresh berries and whip it up.

White Chocolate Fruit Tart

Tart crust:

¾ c. softened butter

1 ½ c. confectioners’ sugar

1 ½ c. flour

Filling:

1 bag White chocolate chips

1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese

½ c. milk

Topping:

Kiwi, assorted berries, Dole canned pineapple

Glaze:

¼ c. sugar

1 T. cornstarch

½ c. Dole pineapple juice

Preheat oven to 300. Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Blend in flour.  Press mixture into 12 inch round tart pan, or pizza pan.  Bake 20 min. until lightly browned.  Cool completely.  In a saucepan, melt chocolate and milk until smooth.  Add cream cheese and mix until smooth.  Spread over crust to cool. Arrange kiwi, Dole pineapple and berries on top of filling.  In a saucepan, combine sugar and cornstarch, stir in Dole pineapple juice. Stir constantly until thick. Drizzle over fruit topping. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

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Sweet & Savory Jambalaya

One of the highlights of my Mom 2.0 conference  in NOLA this year was winning a recipe contest sponsored by Zatarain’s.  For those not familiar with Zatarain’s, they make everything from frozen entrees, to spices, but are probably most well known for their boxed rice mixes (of which I’m a big fan).  When my husband was working in another state and I was juggling a baby, and working outside of the house FT, I loved this stuff because I could make a big batch and add lots of fresh veggies & protein, then eat it for a couple of days.  It’s filling, full of flavor, and the boxed mix gives me a nice base that I can be as creative as I want with, depending on how much time I have and what other ingredients I have on hand.  I knew a lot of people would be entering the contest, so I wanted to try something different.  I’ve been really into sweet & savory things lately, so I thought adding a little fruit to the dish would be a fun way to mix it up!  Here’s what you’ll need for this sweet & savory jambalaya that is sure to satisfy your taste buds.

  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 Spanish onion, chopped
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 14 ounce can fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 package Zatarain’s Reduced Sodium Jambalaya Mix
  • 1 pound large shrimp, peeled & deveined
  • 1 package (12 ounces) Andouille sausage, cut into 1/4 inch clices (can use turkey sausage as a substitute)
  • 3 cups pineapple, cut into chunks (fresh is best, but I won’t judge)
  • 2 cups of craisins
  1. In large skillet, heat oil on medium heat. Add onion & peppers, cook and stir 5-7 minutes or until vegetables begin to soften.
  2. Stir in tomatoes, Jambalaya Mix & water.  Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover & simmer about 15 minutes.
  3. Stir in shrimp & sausage. Put the cover back on and cook for 8 more minutes.
  4. Finally, add pineapple & craisins. Cook for an additional 2 minutes with cover on.  Make sure shrimp is pinkish and rice and veggies are cooked, then remove from heat, let cool a little bit and serve.

A Mother’s Love

Mom and me...back in the day

Sometimes I really believe my mom thinks I am still her little girl. I know it breaks her heart that I have chosen to live across the United States from her.  She will tell me, “you have to live your life!”  But I know she would prefer my life to be in Arizona not New York. My mother was a young pup when she had me, just barely 23 years old. So we have somewhat grown up together through the years. But she never let me forget who is boss. Nowadays, the disciplinarian is somewhat gone… but don’t think she doesn’t scold me when she doesn’t approve of something I have done (let’s be honest… she doesn’t need to know everything!)

Now when I call her in tears, her hug isn’t there to mend my broken heart or soothe the pain. Instead, she offers advice that usually makes me even more annoyed because all I need is to hear her voice to make me feel better. Except when her voice is telling me… “You can’t always get what you want,” which sometimes comes out in a song.  That’s when I get even more annoyed.

My favorite is when I tell her I went out last night and I can just see her shaking her head as she tells me “Katrina Ann, you should know better!” She has given up on asking me about my dating life. Smart move!! And while, unlike my friends who talk to their mothers once maybe twice a week, I talk, text or email mine at least a dozen times a day.

What can I tell you, I love the woman! She may drive me crazy, nag  me, scold me and sometimes forget that my umbilical cord was cut 31 years ago but she is my mom and in my opinion one of the best around. So on this Mother’s Day weekend… let me leave you with some of Melody’s favorite sentences to her daughter.

*I love you
*Did you make your bed?
*You can’t always get what you want
*Katrina Ann, you should know better!
*I love you
*Did you call your Grandma?
*Are you dressing warm enough?
*When are you coming home?
*I love you
*You need to take better care of yourself
*How’s (insert name of one of my friends!)
*I love you
*Don’t give up
*I miss you
*****You are the BEST daughter EVER!!****

Ok, maybe not the last one… but I know she thinks it!

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The Difference Between Nice and Good

My daughters are sweethearts. They are both thoughtful and kind to others. I am so proud of them.  One of the things I’ve tried to teach them is to be nice to others. A motto I say to them is “You don’t have to like everyone but you need to respect everyone.”  I truly believe in this motto, but I started wondering if it needed more clarification.

Both daughters have had trouble with difficult “friends.”  Both girls continued to deal with these “friend’s” behaviors without doing anything back. That’s what we’ve been taught, right? Turn the other cheek?  Well I think there needs to be a balance between “being nice” and “being a good person.”

To be nice to others seems to be at times a  pleasing behavior.  My girls didn’t want to hurt the other person’s feelings (even though other kids were hurting theirs).  Somehow being nice meant –to my kids –that other people were first.  Is that really what I wanted to teach them? That the other persons feelings were more important that theirs? That they had to be “nice girls” no matter what?  No, I want them to believe that while it’s important to respect others, it’s also important to respect themselves.

A nice person will act a certain way in order to not hurt someone’s feelings or make them uncomfortable.  As a result, sometimes “nice people” can be fake because they are more concerned with appearances than the truth.  Additionally, sometimes people who “act” nice don’t always even have  good intentions.  So being “nice” maybe isn’t always so nice.

Now, being a good person means to me that your intentions are good.  You look for and act toward the greater good. Your intentions are to not only help yourself but also others in the process.   However, sometimes being good also means doing what is not popular.  Sometimes doing what is right is unsettling and upsetting to others. Hence, sometimes being good you can’t be “nice” and please everyone.

Sometimes you need to say “No” and sometimes you even need to raise your voice.  When my one daughter’s “friend” would cry when she didn’t get what she wanted, my daughter would give in and do what her friend wanted.  It seemed to me that my daughter was being emotionally blackmailed. My daughter just thought that letting her friend cry wasn’t nice.

I still want my girls to be nice, but not at the expense of doing what’s right.  We certainly should try doing and being good in a respectful way. However, I clarified with them that  our first priority should be to be good (do what’s right- including, at times, standing up for themselves) and our secondary goal should be to be nice (act in order to please others and not hurt their feelings).

So how about we say…It’s nice to be good and good to be nice, but sometimes being nice is not good and sometimes being good you need to not be nice.

Utimately I hope my girls learn that we can’t always gage what we should do by how we think others will respond.  We need to listen to our internal compass and be true to ourselves. That being said, I realize that no matter what I do I can’t always protect them from some things in this world. I  can guide them, but sometimes they need to explore the path on their own. Sometimes that means getting hurt.  Hopefully they will learn from each experience and grow from it.

What do you think? Do you think there is a difference between being good and being nice?

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Passion Pact: My Head is Swimming, But in a New Direction

pic Galina Barskaya/ http://www.free-stockphotos.com/download-free-woman-in-swimming-pool-pictures/

My head is swimming…I have an article due today and I can’t seem to focus on just one idea. I was going to write about the difference between self-esteem and self-confidence (and the importance of helping our kids develop both).  I also just had a session with an image consultant (Thank you to my friend Noreen for giving me her free session! Thank you Margaret Batting for the great tips!). So I also planned to write about that experience.  But the other night, as I was reviewing  my notes and typing, I received an update on Facebook and got a little distracted. I was tagged on photos of me that I had done as part of an inspiring project for women. It was the first time I had seen the photos! They were so amazing I thought, “Is that really me?”.  They were challenging (in a good way) how I saw myself.

photos by The Revelation Project, Monica Rodgers and Robyn Ivy

The project I am a part of is called The Revelation Project. Simply put, it’s about finding the real you and letting that “You” be seen (That project will be the subject of a whole other article!). I became involved in the project as part of a pact I made with myself this year.  Remember the article I wrote on aMomKnowsBest titled ,“What is Your Passion?” ? That’s also part of my pact with myself and what I’m calling “My Year in Transition.”  I will definitely do longer articles on each of these topics mentioned. However, for now I just want to take it all in and reflect on my journey so far…
This year, because of my “Passion Pact,”  I’ve started making a lot of different choices in my life. So of course there are going to be changes in my life. Luckily so far this year they have been good ones.  But any change can be unsettling. Change can challenge the borders we set around ourselves and our lives.  In my case, those are the borders I want to break through so I can be able to step into who I am and want to become. In the process, I hope to also let go of who I “think” I am or at least who I think I “should” be.

Last year I was at a point in my life where I just felt empty. So I decided that this year I would fill up. Last year, in addition to having to deal with some difficult things, I was beating myself up about where I was (or really, where I wasn’t ) in my life. I had been putting myself down for not being where I  thought I “should” be in my life.  You know where that got me? Stuck.  “Shoulds” never seem to lead to any place good.

The Revelation Project, Monica Rodgers and Robyn Ivy

How did I get out of it? In addition to several other things, one simple thing I did was change my labels in my head. Instead of labeling myself as “stuck” I started to see myself as “in transition.” Really that’s what life is, a transition, right?  Even when we can’t see any movement, change is there.  The seed in the soil may not look like it’s growing, but it is. The river may look at times likes its not moving, but it’s always flowing.

Evgeni Dinev / FreeDigitalPhotos.net Image: Evgeni Dinev / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I also  changed the questions I had for myself. Initially I kept asking myself “What the heck are you doing with your life?”. Now this might have even been helpful if it was actually a question. But I finally realized that it wasn’t. It was just a judgment.  When I changed my question to, “What do you want your life to be?”  I finally started to feel different.  I didn’t necessarily have the answers but there was a feeling of movement and possibilities rather than a feeling of stuckness.

Also right now, I’m not just asking questions, I’m listening. Instead of jumping into a new plan for my life I’m listening to my heart to see what little things it wants to do, where it wants go and who it wants to be with. I have a feeling that starting small and listening will also eventually help clarify who I want to be and what I want to do on a grander scale.

So right now, I don’t have a “grand plan” for my life and I’m ok with that.  I have some ideas of where I want to go, but I’m not letting these ideas become “borders” again that limit me. Instead of being jugemental I’m being inquisitive. I’m exploring my heart and seeing where it wants to go. I’m listening to that inner voice that I  feel like I’ve ignored for so  long and seeing where it will lead me. So far by listening I’m feeling more alive, and I think that’s a good thing.

Oh and BTW, in order to follow my pact, I’m also working on giving up the guilt/expectation that as a mom I should put myself last. I realized that belief not only does a disservice to me, but also to my daughters. I want to be a role model for them.  I don’t want them to feel that when they become a mom that they have to put themselves last or let their lives be led by guilt.

Well, that’ just a few thoughts floating around my head. So, yes my head is swimming.  But at least I’m swimming somewhere, instead of feeling like I’m just treading water. However, I have to admit, that even when we feel like we’re stuck treading water, we’re still moving.  The current can still takes us somewhere without us even knowing it..sometimes somewhere good sometimes somewhere not so good…but it’s always an adventure.

renjith krishnan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How about you?  What questions are you carrying around with you? Are they really  questions or just veiled judgments? Are you swimming or treading water in your life right now? Do you think there is a time in our lives for both? Are you listening to your heart or has it become quiet too? As I’m finding out, it’s never too late to listen or to be heard.

Picture 1-Galina Barskaya ;Picture 2& 3- The Revelation Project ,Robyn Ivy and Monica Rodgers; Picture 4 Evgeni Dinev / FreeDigitalPhotos.net; Picture 5 renjith krishnan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Kids: What’s the Right Number? (and when to have more)

 

How do you know how many kids are right for you?
I always find this an interesting topic of conversation. Probably because almost everyone, from your best friend to a stranger on the street, has an opinion.
When my dear husband and I were blessed with our first pregnancy, and the baby boy that resulted, everyone was thrilled. “Oh a boy, what a way to start a family”. Then we were blessed again, this time with a beautiful daughter. She was not even in the incubator when the talk started. “A boy and a girl, now your family is complete!” For some odd reason, I thought that was a decision for my husband and I to make. Then, when we became pregnant a third time, people felt the need to remind us “They only come two ways, you know”. Yes, we are both well educated. We are well aware of the ways they come. A second boy it was, and now we had the heir and the spare. Life moved along swimmingly until, gasp, we decided to have another. Suddenly, the tone of the remarks shifted. When people inquired about my pregnancy and I replied it was my forth, their faces would drop. I would say the quips were about equally split between “What are you nuts?” and “Better you than Me!” A second beautiful daughter. Two boys, two girls. And then the winning comment became “Two pair, are you going to go for a full house?”

     So how do you decide how many?  Gone are the days of the white picket fence, car in the garage and 2.2 children. Families today enjoy a diversity that was non-existent just decades ago. We live in a completely different time and place than even our parents did, never mind our grandparents. Every generation faced their challenges. Our generation faces economic uncertainty, war, what seems like one natural disaster after another…why would one want to bring children into this world. The answer is simple…family.
     I was raised as an only child. I wanted nothing more than to give my children the gift…and I remind them daily that it is a gift…of siblings. I once had an acquaintance comment “Oh you singletons. You all feel the need to repopulate the world.” Not quite. I do know that my kids are never lonely and rarely alone. Although they find it a tad difficult to appreciate it now, my friends that have siblings assure me that one day, they will. And they will have best friends that won’t ever bail. No matter what.

     The decision about how many children to have is a very personal one. Can we afford to live on one income, or childcare if we both work? How many beds can you fit in one bedroom? Exactly how many car seats can a vehicle hold (and don’t forget the other miscellaneous gear associated with raising happy, healthy, well adjusted kids today)? Just how will we pay for four college educations (still working on that one). The questions go on and on. One of my favorite quotes from one of the parenting classes I teach is from a cartoon. The caption reads “This, as with all things, trust your instinct.” You will know.
     You just might be crazy enough to do it again. And again. And again…
Four is good for us. I certainly would never say no to another. Inexpensive vacations, two sets of bunk beds and a Suburban that seats eight answered the questions for us. The message I want to leave with you is this. Feel free to decide for yourself . Don’t feel the pressure of others. You will know when your family is…just right.

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