Quality Time…I hope…

Things are changing…the Sweeney family used to travel in a pack – the five of us were together much of the time for the last 7-8 years when my husband began his sales job and had a home office. We just seemed to do almost everything together.  Out of the mini-van we all came- sometimes with a dog or two in tow. We spent hours and hours at each kids sports events- each sibling rooting the other on. (or doing a puzzle-but we were all there)…We had dinners together regularly, we vacationed together, we were at WalMart together, the shoe Store, Kohls, TJ Maxx, we all showed up to friends get- togethers. We were unit.  We were together so much and probably my hubby and I did not take enough date nights together. But we traded that for good conversation with our kids – and I suppose sometimes not so good conversations. My boys were best-friends playing together for hours together.  Now it makes me happy if they hang out in each others company without fighting every 5 minutes. Its not the same these days.

Over the last few year our eldest child – our daughter- began doing a few more things on her own : more sleep-overs, more church events, just more stuff that didn’t include all of us. Then the boys followed suit with their own stuff. This week I find myself home with my two boys-my mom is visiting for the week – my daughter is in Florida for a week visiting my dad and his wife. My husband is in Chicago on business. One day after my daughter arrives home this week she is off again on a church mission trip for another full week – then she gets back and her practices begin for Field Hockey and both my boys are going to go out for different sports this year- a first since they were very young.  As I was driving to pick up one son from soccer camp i realized I am getting glimpse into our future – where we are living our own lives- meeting for a few hours to try to reconnect as we head back out. It’s not a shock – it just came pretty fast is all. One day we were a unit and together so much- and on occasions (many) we drove each other nuts – but the next day my kids are flying alone to Florida. Wow…

I am proud of my kids and their walk into adulthood. I miss their littleness but I like this time too. It is when you really see if anything you have tried to teach them is coming to fruition. They are making new friends, going to new schools, circumventing those tough teen years and trying to figure out who they are or who they want to be. Its a hard time for them but can also be a wonderful time too. Floating between child and adult- learning how to make choices  – sometimes big ones that can effect their entire life.

My role as a parent has changed quite a bit. I am there to help guide and set boundaries. To encourage and to help lift them up when they make mistakes – but to also help them learn from them. Its much different than raising them and telling them stop hitting, use inside voices (though this still comes up!), wipe feet- nose – mouth etc.

So times have changed- they are home less – and when here doing more of their own stuff..maybe not emerging during the day except for meals – or not being home at all. How do we stay connected?  I suppose my husband and i need time to connect with them more than they think they need it with us.  I have decided that i am not going to get quantity time anymore. So it has to be quality time.

While they are gone they can connect with us through the phone- I bet every parent i know has a love/hate relationship with their kids cell phones. But I am so glad my daughter has a phone with her in Florida – she shares photos and calls and texts us regularly. I am seeing this is something she needs too as we did not set any expectations when she boarded that plane to Florida. We just hoped she would miss us- a little. When we are all home again at the end of the week we will have very little time where we will all be together again — one day only — maybe we can carve out a few hours (or one) to sit together to eat and reconnect before each one takes off again.

We will get better at ( and more used to) this juggling act I am sure. This is the life with teens. They need to fly off and make their own lives and they need to come home again to a place where they are welcome, and the world is familiar and they are loved. So my goal is quality time – not quantity- it makes me mindful to pick my battles and to make sure our time is used wisely. There will be slip ups because i am super-impatient and will probably pounce on a returning kid from time to time yelling at them to get this or that done before they head out again – (its all about delivery I am learning)… but I hope in the long run my kids will someday know how much they are loved and will remember to reconnect with us and their siblings as often as they can. We built this family to support each other and to love each other and to be there for each other when it might seem nobody else is.

Thanks for reading…




Beach Lottery

This was going to be a post about our vacation to Bethany Beach De.–which we are in the midst of.  And it is still going to be about Bethany but it is the post is taking a different road than I originally thought it would .

I was going to tell you a little history of Bethany and that I have been coming to this quiet Delaware beach since I was a child. If you want to know more about Bethany Beach (located between busy Ocean City Maryland and growing to be busier Rehobeth Beach Delaware- click here).

I will extrapolate on the fact that I have been coming to this shore since I was a kid. My dad and mom (when they were married) would bring us down for a week of sun and sand each summer. We would spend a week here in Bethany and another with my nana in Cape May, NJ. Many memories were created and I inherited my love for the beach from my dad. He lives on the beach now (Marco Island, Fl). It is no surprise to me that he retired on the beach. It is what I hope to do in the not too distant future- but maybe not in Florida – hopefully right here in Bethany Beach.

Kitchen our original house

Kitchen our original house

This year we weren’t going to go to the beach due to the added medical expenses we have incurred. But after a short visit in April I felt we needed the break as a family in June. I began to look for a place to stay and realized that a mini-week that I hoped to get was going to be hard to come by. Then a light went on- I know a realtor in Bethany! We had gone to Catholic grade school together and had just reconnected on Facebook. Annie had written me encouraging notes during my cancer treatments and was sending prayers up on my behalf.  It was so comforting hearing from her.

So I sent her an message and soon enough she got us a house steps from the ocean for a very great price.  My kids were so excited – Kevin was excited- I was beyond excited.

So this week we hit the beach- when we got to the house we loved it immediately. Annie said it was older and it was but it had a lot of charm.  Best of all you could hear the Ocean from the deck.  We could be on the beach in less than 2 minutes. So we had a great day at the beach yesterday. Got the required burn and ate at my husbands favorite crabhouse.  It was a great first full day at the beach.

dune landk boardblur crab

We needed to connect with each other and we needed to slow down. Being near the beach like this allowed us to be focused on just being at the beach..we didn’t have to drive there and find parking and get distracted by other things. It has been pure relaxing on the beach.


We went to the boardwalk the first night we were here. Bethany has a small boardwalk but it is very nice. We had a walk up to each end. There was a movie playing on the beach on a giant blow-up screen. I had to see that up close. This began the first of many laughs we have had since Monday (and it’s only Wednesday) when I asked my kids if they dared me to step over to the screen and  face all those people waiting for the movie to come on. They dared me- so I went..I stood there and did a little dance right in front of all those people – no body but my kids seemed to notice- a few folks up front laughed some- was it at me? I didn’t care bc I was fully enthralled that I had embarrassed my kids enough that they ran away from the entire event that lasted maybe 15 seconds. I told them you only live once- might as well dance.  Last night Kevin and I were in belly laughs over a lengthy discussion about the words of a song that we both could not remember…Gary Wright “Love is Alive” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wCc7XJRDD74. Why that was so funny I have no idea but even today we are still laughing.


The beach blow up movie screen where I will forever remember embarrassing my kids!

night beach

I just feel so very thankful that Annie was able to help us get a house on our meager budget and so close to the ocean!  We loved the house and its rustic charm. It reminded me of beach houses from my youth.  I am using past tense on this part of the post because even though our vacation is supposed to end on Friday we are no longer in that house.  No –we did not get kicked out.  Early this morning (Wednesday AM) there was a knock on my door and a woman from Annie’s real estate office told me that there was a home a few doors from where we were that had become available and it was more modernized than the home we were in –  if we wanted it we could have it and stay until Saturday! What? I think my mouth was hanging open. It took a few minutes for my mind to catch up to what was going on.  I walked down to see the house with Kathy (the woman who had come to tell me we won the house lottery). Kevin had caught up with us by then having returned from the store.  One look at the place and we were in. So we packed up all our stuff and made our way a few homes down to begin the second part of our vacation in a new location!  This home is nicer and more modern. We could never afford this type of place this close to the beach – so we really did win the lottery as far as I’m concerned.

What a kind thing for Annie to do for us. We liked the first place just fine and we intend to try to stay there next summer if we can swing it financially. This place  we are in now is equipped with rain head showers, travertine all over,  wood floors, and awesome furnishings. Oh and you can not only hear the ocean you can see it…and its just as close to the beach as the other house.  Sometimes I feel like tides have shifted and after a hellish year we are in for some better times. I don’t ever let myself get to comfortable in that fact- I am the kind of person that is always waiting for the other shoe to drop- it is part of the anxiety that is part of me. But for now I am basking in our winnings as we enjoy this vacation and the connection and laughter it brings us.


Our second beach house for the week!


New kitchen


Awesome shower!


This is what the beach is about to me. The cathartic roar of the waves, the smell of the water, laughter, food, relaxing with no place to go. Without trying the connections to each other get stronger.  For a few days we can forget the real world and all the trappings of a regular day.  And enjoying a fancy house isn’t bad either!


Thanks for reading!

PS – Annie is very involved helping women with breast cancer and their families through an organization called Little Pink Houses of Hope – she also runs a fun run in Bethany Beach in the Spring. Annie’s real estate firm – click here.



Family Selfie!

store groupbeach


When the cook leaves the kitchen

I am not sure when the shift occurred maybe it was while I was recovering from cancer treatments or maybe it began way before that. Maybe it was because I read somewhere about the amount of meals a women had cooked for her family of four for beyondthepicketfence.com_-300x22540 odd years- the number was staggering. It freaked me out – I am only 15 years in that’s 5,475 dinners alone- and for years I made three meals a day. So I have made- I don’t know – maybe like maybe 10k meals (we do eat out some) Gaa! and how many times had I made the same thing again and again? AND I had thousands of dinners to make ahead of me- thousands!!  So I was living with that happy thought in my head and at some point I became resentful that I had to cook most of the dinners night after night (at least now my kids can do their own breakfasts). All I know is that one day after I had worked all day and done a ton of laundry and a bunch of other stuff, I was in the kitchen stressing about making dinner and I watched my three teens lounging around on their phones or the computer and not offering to help- and I snapped. Silently… but my plan began.

I decided to tell my husband of the plan first because he needed to be on board and he often steps in to make or help with dinner.  Also I suspect he had picked up on my increasing disdain for cooking night after night. Maybe my hint “I hate having to make dinner every night” was the clue. Or maybe ” I just don’t feel like making dinner again- I need a break.” Was another. But after I told him my plan he was on board- as he should be if he knows whats good for him..no really he isn’t faking- he is on board.

The Plan? I am leaving the kitchen. Yep leaving.  Not everyday but I am only on duty part of the week. I will cook 3-4 nights- hubby can step in 1 or 2 (his contribution can include carry-out) so that leaves 1-3 nights a week left for my kids to fend for themselves.  I look on it as a learning opportunity for them.  When I was a kid (yep here I go) I had to learn how to at least make a small meal (hot dog, tater tots – golly day(did i just type golly day? – I did..) I loved them babies and I gained some major high school poundage from eating – no feasting- on taters with Miracle Whip (Uh Huh!). My parents went out and left me in charge one night on the weekend and I had to make dinner- we did not have delivery in 1980 where I lived anyway. So I made frozen pizzas mostly – but it was something.  In hindsight I do wish I had learned to cook more “real” meals as my step-mother was a gourmet cook- I could have learned a lot from her. And she never seemed to get resentful over cooking for us- unless we made a negative comment on her meal (once she made beef hearts and didn’t tell us until we had eaten half of it – that did not go over well.) So if my kids can learn a little cooking and cleaning while they live with us they will hopefully be a bit more prepared to be on their own – I am no gourmet cook but I can help them learn a think or two. So I look at my plan as a win win situation.

So about a week or so ago I made the announcement at dinner.  I don’t know what reaction I thought I was going to get but I must brag and say they took it quite well. I explained the plan and on the nights that I wasn’t cooking that I would have enough ingredients in the house that they could make a real meal or they could opt out and eat cereal. I encouraged each child to volunteer to cook one night – I explained how much they can learn in the kitchen by doing this and how that can positively impact their future – by the time I said all this I was being tuned out but I felt good.

How did it all turn out?  Pretty well. Two of my three kids took a night to cook last week and hubby and i covered the others. Not bad for week one. My daughter made BBQ Baked Chicken with sides(gluten free noodles and a veggie). She did not have a recipe for what to put on the chicken – so I gave her the tried and true recipe of baking chicken (these were legs btw)…take some good BBQ sauce – we like Sweet Baby Ray’s Honey – brush that on the chicken and sprinkle garlic powder on it – bake it for 35-45 mins. Tasted great!  For my son- he made meatloaf on Friday – smashed baby red potatoes and a veggie. I oversaw his meatloaf creating because I didn’t want him to touch raw meat and then touch everything else in the kitchen. (Yes my tutorials include food safety!). The meatloaf was great and we had leftovers that took us into the weekend and were gobbled up at lunch.

My other son is great at consumption of meals but not great at stepping up to cook(too immature I think) but we will see. I might suggest going forward that he assist one of us when we prepare our meals…if we don’t kill him in the process. All in all I think week one went well. Sadly because of the long weekend I did not make a plan for who is cooking this week and I have a meatloaf son home sick today (so we don’t want him anywhere near our food now).  So I have tonight and the rest of the week in a mystery! Oh well cereal is good too. And all my kids can make eggs in some form – so they will not starve!

I found that it was not cooking I was so sick of it was just doing it alone every day that was getting on my nerves. When I had to help the kids it was fun and I kind of liked that they saw me as the expert ( I am no kitchen expert but I play the part well!). It was fun chatting with them while we prepared the meal together. My daughter did hers more independently but we still conversed..  It was better then seeing the tops of their heads as they gazed into some phone or laptop. They were very proud when their meal was served (we still try to eat together most evenings) and we praised them for their efforts in stepping up and in their culinary skills. It was a win win – But then I realized that the cook doesn’t have to clean up after dinner (a rule we instilled  a few years ago)—which meant someone else had to clean up-crud- I think I am even more resentful of cleaning up dishes…I may feel another mutiny coming on:)

Thanks for reading….




Dear Baa….

Dear Baa,


Baa on the bed last week

I want to thank you for coming into my son’s life 13 years ago.  You probably didn’t know what awaited you when you were taken off that store shelf by my good friend to be given to a very small, underweight, 8 month old boy that had come 1/2 way across the world to be with his forever family and officially give me the title of Mother.  You had no idea that you would become comforter, spit and tear catcher, a pillow, a rug, but best of all a buddy to a little boy that had little love in his first 8 months of life.

Your silky edges became frayed from the endless rubbing between my boys fingers, and those same silky edges spent time in my son’s ear and in his mouth. You endured being very smelly and disgusting from dirt, spit, and even pee. And you also endured many “baths” in the washer. Your buddy didn’t like when you had to be washed and feared your time in the dryer. So I made your laundering an adventure. You were going out to sea, you were going to space, you were swimming in the olympics, you were being blow dried and primped, you were returning from space…we would not let you fry in the dryer.

When your boy was still quite young I made the mistake of locating another lamb just like you. I ordered it thinking that you would get lost for good or disintegrate and a back-up Baa would be needed. I had your boy’s name and birthdate embroidered on that new lamb. When it came it was starched and clean. Next to the new Lamb you were faded and worn out looking. I thought you would be replaced and I could bag you up for posterity. But no, your boy liked the new lamb but he never abandoned you.  He christened the new lamb “New Baa” and you became “Old Baa” but you were always the preferred Baa. If he had New Baa with him I knew he could not find you or else you would be there too or instead of New Baa. You lost luster in my eyes who likes shiny and new things – for that I am sorry. Though you faded physically your value never faded in the eyes of a little boy.


A boy and his Baa (with its new face)

I am sorry that you were attacked by our dogs on a number of occasions and I thank you for allowing me to sew your face back up on more than one occasion.  The worst attack took your entire face and I couldn’t stand to see you faceless so I made you a new one- it wasn’t pretty but I did my best.  You looked glorious to my son and thats what mattered. Sadly your face didn’t last long the dogs are harsh to stuffed beings but your boy loved you faceless and all.

You have been lost and then found. Stuffed under chairs, under beds, inside drawers. Searches would be mounted and furniture moved and lo and behold we always found you. You have been left in the car and rescued in the middle of the night because your boy woke and couldn’t find you to comfort him. Once not long ago I found you next to my bed because your boy was going through a sleeping in mom and dads room phase. I handed you to my not so little son and he looked at you for a second and then he smelled you- I figured you smelled gross- but when I asked him how you smelled he said “He smells Like Baa…”

Your boy is a teen now and would not admit to still needing you but I find you still in his sheets, or stuffed in a bag that he’s taking on vacation, most recently I found you just laying neatly on the edge of your boys bed – still wanted and still needed. Life can be harsh and growing up scary and it’s nice to have something comforting to turn to. You have been that for your boy. There will be a time I am sure where he will allow me to give you one last bath and to pack you away so he can see you again when he wants to bring back good memories. When that day comes I don’t  know who it will be harder for him or me. While you are still around I know that little sweet boy is still there-that he still needs the comfort of his lamb and his mom.  Will packing you away mean he doesn’t need us anymore?  I’d like to think that we gave him the love and comfort that will have grown him into a kind and compassionate adult one that never forgets those that have loved and comforted him through the years.

Thank you Baa for being more than just a stuffed lamb. Every person in this family has been touched by you. Ask any member about Baa and there is a smile and a story. The story for me is about a stuffed lamb who came to be with a little boy in need of love and became his friend for life….Baa you will never be forgotten…..