Thursday, August 30, 2012

letting go of our kids-week 2

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As a former Marriage and Family therapist, and a Mom with a college-age son and another in high school, I’m plop in the middle of the letting go and launching phase that we’ll all experience with our kids. This is the second post in a four-part chat on the growing pains that are part of the process.

Today’s post is about you

From the moment you carried your precious, sweet-smelling infant into your home and began to reorganize your entire emotional universe around this shining new human being, your life changed forever. I’m sure the last thing on your mind was the image of hugging them good-bye and sending them off on their own.

And in the beginning, that’s how it should be. Because the first step in raising a loving, confident, self reliant child is creating a deep, emotional bond with them.

But the crazy irony of fantastic parenting is that the ultimate expression of profound love is when we can let go of our child in a healthy way. It’s when we can nurture and love, and step back. It’s when we can let them try new things and fail, so they can ultimately learn the skills to be independent enough to leave us. With no guilt involved.

That’s parental love.


Lucky for us mothers we get plenty of practice in the million little transitions along the way. Simple decisions about when to end breast feeding, or begin kindergarten present us with tiny twinges of letting go. Navigating sleep-overs and trips to the mall, make us squirm and adapt, while each new growth spurt will present us with a choice to micro-manage or pull back. And our final decision depends on our ability to tolerate the discomfort of letting go.

So today’s post is about you. Because here’s the truth. When it comes to letting go of our kids emotionally, so much of what we do and what we feel as parents, is directly related to the kind of family we came from, and the kind of parenting style we have.


Do you recognize your own family?

Overly enmeshed vs. Emotionally distant

The following two scenarios show completely different experiences of letting go, by real life mothers. These two mothers come from different types of families. In the world of family therapy,  we often see two types of families that struggle to have healthy boundaries and honest communication; one is the emotionally enmeshed family and the other is the emotionally distant family. Although every family may share some of these qualities, in families with symptomatic kids, they’re more extreme. I’m giving a scant description here.

Scenario 1: A loving, kind mother was worried about her twenty-something year old daughter’s fiancé. She noticed a lot of “red flags.” She believed he was the wrong choice for her oldest daughter. Yet despite her worries, she liked the fact that he wanted to settle down close to the daughter’s family. And even though this mother privately wondered if her daughter was truly in love, she made the stunning statement, “Well, I’d rather have her marry this guy and know at least she’s going to live close to me, rather than have her marry the man of her dreams, and find out he wants to live in another state.”

This was sheer, unfiltered honesty. And it shined a light on how desperate this mother was to keep her adult daughter physically close to her; even if it meant marriage to the wrong man.

The mother in this first scenario is from an overly enmeshed family, where kids are unconsciously encouraged to stay close at all costs. Emotionally and physically. Parents struggle to let go. They rescue and intrude in ways that encourage dependency. Anger is not acknowledged in these families, because it accentuates differentness between family members, which is threatening to this brand of closeness. So kids don’t learn how to resolve conflicts. In overly close families, everyone feels everyone else’s emotions. Boundaries are blurry.

Scenario 2: A mother was sharing her excitement about her youngest child moving across the country to college. She loved the idea of finally being an ‘empty nester’ and was already planning a trip to Europe. Finally, her and her husband could travel. She joked about wanting to change the house keys on all her kids.

In this scenario, the mother appears to have a healthier outlook about being away from her adult kids. But it would be interesting to know how the kids in this family feel. In emotionally distant families, kids often describe feeling alone while growing up. These are families that place a lot of emphasis on external appearances, so kids from these homes typically graduate school and college on time. And are often high functioning in terms of achievement. Emotional boundaries in this family have a formality about them. For example, a mother wouldn’t ask her son a question she feels is too personal. While in enmeshed families, probing questions are common. When one person is hurting in an emotionally distant family, it often goes unnoticed by other family members. People go out of their way to ‘respect’ each other’s privacy, which means deep sharing doesn’t typically occur.

These are two ends of the spectrum

If you imagine a straight line, you can see how the letting go experience of a mother can range from one end of the spectrum to the other; depending on the kind of family “closeness” she’s learned in her own family. Growing up in an enmeshed family with poor, squishy boundaries will shape a person’s emotional needs, in the same way that being raised in an emotionally distant family will. In reality, there’s a healthy middle ground which I’ll chat about next week.

How we let go of our kids …will be shaped by the emotional bond we have with them

Years ago, when I worked on an Eating Disorder Unit, one of my jobs was to teach a class to the parents of the eating disorder patients in our unit. It was my job to empathize and help shed light on their struggles and to answer their questions about how families operate. What’s healthy and what’s not. Part of my job was to help parents understand that each family operates with their own private code of rules when it comes to their emotional life at home. Most of these rules are unspoken. In fact, kids learn some of the most important lessons about how to deal with their emotions by simply watching us. And they learn by the kind of emotional experiences they get inside their home.

If you’re curious to understand why your family members are close, or why you rarely talk to your adult brothers or sisters, you can begin by examining how emotions were expressed in your family.

What did you learn?

For example, what was your experience as a kid growing up in your own family?

  • Did Mom yell and get upset and then let things go unresolved?
  • Did Dad let Mom do all the tender sharing?
  • Did family members open up or cover up their deepest worries, sadness or fears?
  • Did you have to worry about your mother’s feelings if you were upset ?

To this day, I still remember how surprising it was for parents to realize the power of the unspoken rules that were silently operating in their home. I lost track of the times I heard a parent say, “I never knew they  (my child) thought that,” after listening to their teenager open up…


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the one message that matters

So, I’m going to close with one important message that should never go unspoken. You can reinforce this value in your own home and role model it starting today. It’s a simple idea but it’s powerful. It’s the idea that everyone’s feelings matter, and it’s a game-changer.

This is especially important to reinforce in larger families. Because often the kid who is hurting and in need of help, has a different experience in the family that needs to be heard and valued. Maybe there’s anger or hurt at a parent that other siblings don’t have. In fact, there can be eight kids in a family, and each kid can have a totally different experience of their parents and a different view of their family life.

And the message that most matters? Each person’s feelings are equally valid and important.



Something made you click on this post. I sure hope you found something helpful.




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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

how a painter’s drop cloth became a beachy tablescape


This might be the first Cinderella story involving a painter’s drop cloth that you’ve ever heard. Are you ready?

Do you all remember the drop cloth I brought home from Home Depot at the beginning of June? I had no idea what I was going to do with it, but then I got this sudden vision of a summer party. With lots of white twinkling lights. Outside. And a beach theme.

Well, the next thing I knew, I was painting these blue stripes on my drop cloth.


You can click on this link to see the tutorial on how I painted these stripes

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And I loved how it turned out. And I really wanted to use it.

But here it was, the end of summer, and the only party I’d hosted was this Wild About You dinner party. Somehow, there hadn’t been time for that lovely summer soiree in my patio.

My poor drop cloth was all dressed up with no place to go.

What to do? Well, luckily I have a wonderful friend who lets me decorate at her parties, so I promptly folded up my painted canvas and took it her house.


She was hosting a birthday party for two of our dear girlfriends, so guess what went on the table? Of course. The drop cloth. Only it was 100 degrees outside, so my beach-themed party would have to be indoors.

Wouldn’t you know it?  I only took a few pictures with my phone camera while setting the table.


I wish I would’ve pulled the chairs out for this shot. The best part of using a 9 x 12 canvas, is that you have a luxurious floor length table covering.


Can you see the white lifesavers that are tied to the blue napkins? A cute nautical touch, don’t you think?


An easy centerpiece

The texture of a canvas table covering is perfect for pouring sand down the center of your table and adding sea shells and flowers, it’s an easy centerpiece. Can you pretend there’s loads of sand on this table?

Here’s another idea from Style Me Pretty.

50806302016524089_jC9lsJLM_cstyle mepretty

Small silver buckets on a blue and white table look wonderful when they’re filled with flowers, don’t you think?


One more thing. Don’t forget the mason jars.

When entertaining outside, I like to fill mason jars with sand and candles and place them everywhere.


via weddings by lucie bichet

Mason jars are a cheap way to get this look.

For my Harry Belafonte Caribbean Party I emptied bags of sand on the path leading to my front door. And I put jars of candles inside the sand on both sides of the walkway. It was such a pretty way to welcome guests at night.

And before I go, I have to show you the beach-themed treats that I took to the party. Don’t these cupcakes look cute with parasols? If you want these recipes, you can click on

The Best Carrot Cake recipe ever…



And that’s it.

That’s how my plain Jane painter’s drop cloth became a beach beauty. Just for a night.

Sigh, don’t you love a happy ending?

You’re so wonderful for stopping by, have a lovely day.



I’m linking up at these parties:


Monday, August 27, 2012

how to make a cool, rustic headboard

A few weeks ago, I needed a headboard in a hurry. We were moving Patrick into his new college room and we didn’t want to spend much money, because we already needed a new bed and dresser.



This was my inspiration photo.

I loved this rustic headboard, especially the bold, cheerful script in yellow.


source: unknown (let me know and I’ll credit)

But I liked this photo too; I think adding molding to distressed wood looks so cool. But when I showed Patrick the photos, he could care less. His one stipulation? No words on anything! Keep it plain, and oh, and by-the-way, do I even need a headboard?

Ok. Now you know something about the men in my life. Not that it mattered. ‘The Momma’ wanted a room that was not only organized but looked, you know.. nice. So of course, I kept moving forward but with Patrick’s words in mind. I showed my Dad the top photo and we went the cheapest route. We went to Home Depot and bought

  • 8 pieces of dog-ear redwood fence @ $1.88 each


And this is the finished project.

(We lifted the curtains to get enough light for my phone camera, pretend you don’t notice)


It’s a simple, rustic headboard without any bells and whistles…for under twenty dollars. You could easily spruce this up by using barn wood, painting and distressing it, building it taller for drama, and writing a favorite word on it….

Do you want to know how to make this?

I didn’t take photos during the process, but I tried to put some together afterwards, to show you how easy it is.

I’ll be giving you the measurements we used to make a full-size headboard: 54 inches wide and 27 1/2 inches tall.


First, this is what dog-ear redwood fence looks like. These were 1x6, but there’s always some variation in width.


Our headboard was for a full-size bed so it needed to be 54 inches wide. Determine how tall you want your headboard to be, then cut your 2 end posts.

Steps 1: we cut two pieces 48 inches long. This is the height for the end posts.


Step 2: Start from the bottom of each end post and measure 20 inches up. Draw a straight line. Cut. This is where the first board will be placed horizontally between the two end posts. Using these two lines (one on each end post) will guarantee your boards are straight.


Step 3: Cut each of the remaining boards the width of your headboard. This is what it looks like when you lay them out. We staggered them for a rustic look.

Step 4: Attach. Dad used Elmer’s wood glue and nails to attach these pieces to the end posts.


The glue goes under each wood piece. The green marks are where Dad added nails to make sure the boards were securely attached.


When you turn over the headboard this is what you see. This is the back view.


Step 4: Attach one wood piece diagonally across the back of the headboard for added stability. Measure the distance between the end posts. Cut the edges of this piece at an angle so it will fit snugly between the end posts and then attach. 

Step 5: Attach the end posts to the bed frame.

Voila! That’s it. And the best part? Patrick ended up loving his new room. He liked his inexpensive Ikea bedding that somehow didn’t clash with the lime green wall that was already there.


And Papa got lots of compliments on his headboard project…


And I got to share it with all of you. I hope you enjoyed today’s tutorial. Let me know if you have any questions…

Have a wonderful day,


I’m linking up at:



Friday, August 24, 2012

the blog post that will make you happy

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Today will be a wonderful day. I already know that.

And I already know that I’ll be happy. But not for the reasons you might think.

To quote my new friend Anita:

‘my happiness won’t be because I have a perfect life (no such thing) or because my husband does everything I want (he doesn’t) or because my kids always behave perfectly (they don’t) or because I live in a million-dollar home ( we don’t).’

Today, I’m happy because I’ll focus on everything I do have.

Right now. I’ll step back and appreciate those small moments in my life that have recently lifted me up and touched me somehow. And yes, made me happier. Here’s what I’m  grateful for at this moment.

Read along, I think there’s something here that will lift you up too.

I’m grateful for the lovely email I received from Anita at Cedar Hill Ranch which was like a bolt of sunshine pouring out of my computer. I especially loved her views on happiness which prompted today’s post.


Anita is the kind of person who makes a celebration out of drinking her morning coffee. The pretty tea cup. The quiet moments on her back porch. Her best friend’s motto of, “I love my Life!”  Anita’s pretty special. Click here to read an amazing post.

I’m grateful that I had the chance to meet and have coffee with Ashley from Domestic Fashionista. And that we lingered over our drinks and had a wonderful conversation about Life and blogging, and we really connected in a deeper way. Ashley’s adorable. And she gave me blogging advice that I still need to follow. Like taking time to find a picture of me for my blog. She thinks readers like to see the real person behind the blog, and I think she’s right.

Thankfulness Thursdays

Every Thursday, Ashley slows down and counts her blessings Click HERE to read more about being thankful…



And I’m grateful that I stumbled on a powerfully written post titled, “My Gay Brother.” Because I love reading stories about real love that bring me to tears. I love hearing about wonderful families that make me feel hopeful about the future. Click HERE to read this post. You won’t regret it.

Today there will be so many moments… to choose gratitude.

I hope this post counts as one of your moments.


Blessings to all my readers!



linking up:






Wednesday, August 22, 2012

letting go of our kids–week one


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Today’s post is the first in a four-part series on Letting go of our Kids. Only I prefer to think of it as a casual chat, just me sharing a few thoughts with you about the delicate balance of holding on and letting go of our kids. Ours is an amazing journey when you stop and think about it, and in the next three Thursdays, I’d like to explore the letting go experience, from a mother’s perspective.

Would you like to join in?

I have two simple thoughts to begin the conversation.

  1. Motherhood changes you forever
  2. Motherhood is one continual lesson on letting go



Untitled-1motherhood blue (adapted from, Why I pray to the Blessed Mother)

Motherhood changes you forever. 

Can you relate to these words?

Motherhood constantly challenges you to face yourself. To define your values and feelings and opinions, every step of the way. In the beginning it’s easier because so many of the questions are about our child’s basic needs.

But it gets tricky as they grow older. We’re forced to keep ourselves in check. To develop an identity separate from our children so we don’t risk swallowing them up in all the wrong ways. In order to love in a healthy way, we have to know where we end and they begin. We have to have boundaries that respect our child’s emerging self.

I like Anna Quindlen’s quote on parenting because it’s a self-less kind of love:

“Being a parent is not transactional. We do not get what we give. It is the ultimate pay-it-forward endeavor. We are good parents not so they will be loving enough to stay with us but so they will be strong enough to leave us.”


This is a pretty amazing view of parenting.

What do you think about the idea that parents don’t necessarily  “get what we give?”

Is this how you were raised? And what about the “pay-it-forward concept?” I think we could spend an entire post discussing the kind of love described in this quote.




  Motherhood is one long lesson on letting go…

This is what I think. It doesn’t matter what age your child is—whether you’re peeking through the windows of a smudgy grade-school window before walking wistfully away, or sending them to off to camp, or hugging your college kid good-bye when you drop them at school. A mother’s heart doesn’t register any difference.

Motherhood is simply one continual lesson on letting go.

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There are two ways to let go of our kids, there’s the letting go in terms of physical distance, and letting go in an emotional sense, as in our need to control, and worry and hover over, and be overly involved, especially at stages when we should be encouraging independence.

Everyone deals with the emotions of letting go of their children in their own way, although most of us recognize an ebb and flow to the process.

Holding on emotionally is a slippery slope; it’s easy to become a ‘helicopter parent’ and label it as love. As a mother you’re constantly encouraging them forward. Watching. Feeling nervous. Will your child be OK? Will you?  Your child’s success becomes so important, you have a hard time backing away. Letting them fail.

Letting them go physically can be hard, because when our kids are with us, our identity is intact. We’re always mothers at our core. So letting go is fraught with emotional conflict. Please go, you’re-driving-me-crazy. No-don’t go-I’ll-miss-you-so-much.

I keep stumbling on Mommy bloggers expressing these dichotomous feelings when they write about their kids going back to school; they jokingly mention relief at having “Me” time and clean rooms, yet they hint at emotions beneath the surface, wispy sadness that comes along with a quiet house.

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I keep listening to my friends share details of dropping off their last child at college. And it’s all there, excitement for their growing-up-kid and in the next breath, the expectation of text messages that will help bridge the miles. And ease the empty spot in their hearts.

And of course, there’s my own cell phone that’s always next to my bed at night, just in case. My cell phone has become my new umbilical cord, it helps me feel a connection to my own son, just by its presence, and it exposes my deepest hopes. Go … but don’t forget me. I’m here.

The need to feel connected is like water and food for a mother’s soul.

That’s why the inevitable question that every empty nester gets is, “How’re you doing?” which is always code for, “How are you feeling?”

Because here is the emotional truth about letting go of our kids. You will always feel it. Every time your child enters another stage, embarks on a new experience, goes into a new environment, it forces you to adapt, to cope, and to feel new things. A mother is like real life Gumby doll, we’re forever stretching ourselves around our child’s expanding life. Adjusting to our child’s needs. Their talents. Their dreams.

And motherhood is a delicate dance between loving and letting go. And knowing when to do both.



A final thought…

When I was a newbie therapist in my twenties, I didn’t have my kids yet. But I had an intellectual suitcase filled with the latest research on emotional development, theories of attachment, dysfunctional communication styles, etc. It was all the stuff that was intended to help people form deeper bonds with each other, and to help parents connect with their kids.

But I find it interesting now, that there wasn’t a lot of information for parents struggling to let go. To pull back at various stages of child rearing. To understand how crucial it is not to get so swept up in your child’s life, that you stop seeing who they really are, and instead, see only what you need or want them to be. For you.

The truth is, our kids are not in this world to complete our unfinished dreams. To be the star athlete we never were. Or to make us proud. Or to go to the college we never went to; or to move down the street from us so we won’t miss them.

That’s why the topic of letting go of our kids is so wonderful. It keeps us asking the right questions, mostly about ourselves.


How about you? Can you relate?



I’d love to hear your opinions and thoughts about this post.


I’m linking up to:


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

the best carrot cake recipe ever…


I don’t usually do foodie posts.

But I took these carrot cake cupcakes to Tracey and Angie’s birthday party and so many people asked for the recipe, I thought I’d share it here.

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The party had a Beach theme, so of course I dressed up my cupcakes with bright parasols. After all, what’s a cupcake without a parasol?


I have to admit, this cake is so yummy-moist. It’s Bon Appetit’s Triple-layer carrot cake recipe with cream cheese frosting.


But with a few changes.

I leave out the following: (mostly for my kids)

  • I skip the nutmeg.
  • I skip the pecans
  • I skip the raisins.

I also add the following into the batter (when I add the carrots).

  • 1/4 cup of pineapple juice plus
  • 1/4 cup of pineapple crushed pineapple; drained

That’s it. That’s my secret ingredient. Go ahead and try this recipe and tell me what you think.


And here’s the other beachy-looking treat I took to the party.

Don’t you think this would be cute at a kid’s party? They’re so simple to make. Just take Nutter Butter cookies, add pieces of licorice with a dollop of icing and lay them on crushed graham crackers. Voila! There’s your sandy treat.

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Don’t you love recipes that even-a-kid-could do?


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Friday, August 17, 2012

Wild About You…birthday dinner party: how to


Here’s the scenario:

Five days before your oldest child is heading back to college, your favorite sweetie-pie-in-the-whole-world, (alias your hubby) decides he wants to celebrate his fiftieth birthday

a.  in two days.

b. at the same time the family celebrates Patrick and Uncle John’s birthday.

c. so that the whole family can be together (i.e… Patrick there too).

d.  all of the above (correct answer)

That’s right. This past Tuesday, I began planning a family birthday dinner for Thursday night, but there was one caveat. It had to feel extra festive and special because Mr. Moss was celebrating his big 5-0 a tad early. So Patrick could be there.


In case you don’t realize, party planners show their love by how much they obsess about little party details, the first of which is always the party theme and colors.

So after a quick trip to Michael’s Crafts Store for some inspiration, I decided on a ‘Wild About You’ party theme; I already had some things that would work, plus---the colors were more masculine for the three birthday guys.

The sign above was at the front entrance. When you’re doing a safari theme you can be sloppy with signs. Just say you’re going for that ‘primitive’ look.

These are some things I gathered:

  • old burlap (from past Halloweens)
  • tropical fabric (from past beach party)
  • white tablecloth (a standard staple)
  • wicker placemats (used HERE)
  • green and white balloons
  • animal print cardstock (mixed with some orange and green I had)
  • poster board (for sign)
  • animal figurines for cake and place cards (Wal-mart)
  • bamboo torches (Wal-mart) on clearance
  • miniature green plants


Here’s a shot in the bright sunlight. I laid the burlap down the center and draped the tropical fabric on top. This was the main table, we needed two and I used a green tablecloth on the other one.


I was nervous about the lightweight bamboo torches, so I added rocks for stability. What do you think of the colors?


So. Can you see Mr. Soccer Ball lurking in the background? He also got into THIS POST too. Honestly? I think he’s a ghost whose sole purpose is to drive me insane. Now I just accept it. Wherever it is. Even though my son traded soccer for Crew and no longer plays, this ball will never leave us alone.


This is how I made my safari place cards…

I cut pieces of plain cardstock, and folded them over to make my base place cards. Next, I cut green strips and glued the names on each one, cutting the edges to look like grass. I glued these onto animal print paper and attached them to the plain cards. For a touch of whimsy, I hot glued little frogs on each one.


Here’s a close up of the place card. You can also see the patterned napkins I got for $2.99 at Tuesday Morning. They added some nice texture to the plain white plates.


But I love these little ol’ place cards.


Can’t explain it. Must be the poison frogs.


Here’s a helpful tip. If you’re at Wal-mart buying bamboo torches on the clearance table, please make sure they have wicks. Seriously. Before you make those happy-i-can’t-believe-it noises, ask yourself why they might be so cheap. We had to add our own wicks (not recommended) and good thing I got a quick photo before they blew out forever. Oh well, it was a great idea.

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These were wicker place mats I originally bought at Pier One. I think they work well with a safari tablescape.


I made a banner and used the scraps for my place cards.


I used rough twine and made a “X” from one wall to the other. Then I tied balloons down from the twine. I didn’t even bother trimming them, just let the twine dangle. Primitive-looking, right?

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Little animal figurines go on top the simple cake.


I put small green plants down the center of the table.


Who says balloons can’t look elegant? I grabbed my camera after dinner and took this shot.


What do you think?  I hope I gave you a few ideas for your own version of a “Wild About You” dinner party. The best part of the night was that Mr. Moss loved it all. He even wore his “birthday boy” ribbon for me. Now that’s love.

Let me know if you can use any of these ideas. I’d love to see your photos!

And now, I’m off to help Patrick organize and get ready to leave. Can it really be true?

Summer vacation has come to an end…

Thanks for stopping by, blessings to you all.


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