Another holiday season has come and gone, a new year has been rung in and I've managed to survive them relatively unscathed. You can't seem to escape the idea that you are supposed to be around family for the holidays - even with the admittance that everyone does not have the picture perfect family scenes that seem to dominate in the songs and images of the season. For someone like me, who a few years ago realized that my own family was in fact so toxic that it simply wasn't healthy for me, there are landmines all over the holiday landscape. This year I came to realization that I do a bit of grieving for my family around the holidays, which is no doubt normal and to be expected and honestly, that realization made it easier for me to accept the time I spent in my own head about it, while also not allowing me to wallow. In other words, there were moments that were hard, but I managed to name them for what they were and move on. It felt like progress. After all, isn't admitting there's a problem the biggest step in solving it?
The three of us spent the week between Christmas and New Years lounging around the house, eating leftovers and having movie watching marathons. There was some serious progress made on projects that require me to just sit for a spell, like Pat's sweater and another project I started with the intent of surprising my husband with for Christmas only to realize it was far more work than I had anticipated. Isn't that always the case?
It was all quite lovely and much appreciated, that week where we just slowed down, not always answering the phone or turning on the computer, just lots of sleeping in, hot tea and cocoa, waking up to some sort of winter precipitation every other day. At one point though, Edie did get a bit bored with us, which then found me apologizing to her that no one was available to play because they were all doing family things with their extended family and that we weren't seeing extended family, this sitting around and just chilling, this is what our family does after the holiday while everyone else sees their grandparents, aunt, uncles and cousins. Which of course, was starting to go down that little path in my head where I start to feel sorry for myself, where I wonder if making that break from my own family of origin was really so right for all of us, when that dear sweet child pulled me back off the edge of the cliff, reminding me that we were indeed seeing family this holiday season, because weren't the Smileys coming for New Years and aren't they family?
Why yes my dear, they are. And just like that, I realized yet again how grateful I am for the friends and neighbors that surround us with love, that are in fact, our family in so many ways. And so we rang in the new year with what we like to call our "Virginia Cousins".
One of the things I love the most about visiting with the Smileys is cooking with Mollie - there's no real menu planning for our visits, you just bring what you have on hand and see what happens. Edie & Abigail still have more definite ideas about what they want to cook together, but watching them cook together? Such a happy thing.
Of course, after making their one bowl of guacamole, they were quite content to let us do the rest of the cooking. This is what my kitchen counter looked like New Years Day early evening.
Which, minus Granny's crystal champagne glass, is about what any kitchen counter looks like when Mollie and I are together. Keeping 4 kids, 2 husbands, a dog and ourselves fed is a nonstop process. It doesn't hurt that we both love to bake together.
This is where my stacking baking racks really came in handy. On the bottom layer are mincemeat tarts, baked in mini-muffin tins, while the top rack is a dairy free cookie Mollie whipped up using chick peas, peanut butter and dark chocolate chips. Both were delish. And on a sidenote, I want to add that using southern biscuit flour in your pie crust instead of regular all purpose flour yields the flakiest crust I've ever made. For reals.
And when Mollie finishes tweaking that cookie recipe and sends it along, I'll share. Promise.
Their visit was a nice extension of our cozy, lazy week, with the exception of Owen's constant calling for someone to please play Twister with him, which the girls were quite good about, for the most part. Then again, it's hard to say no to someone who would take it upon himself to move all the furniture out of the way and set up the game by himself. Owen is really good at moving tables.
This, with the kids fussing at each other, the baby crying, the dog barking, the new year rung in with everyone still awake piled in our bed, the husbands deciding to head out to a bar to watch a football game together New Years Day while Mollie and I make breakfast, lunch and then dinner in our PJ's while sipping champagne from family heirloom glasses that don't get used nearly enough, this is the sort of family gathering all those holiday images talk about I think. Where Owen torments Edie to the verge of tears, to have me comfort her telling her this is what it's like to have a brother while Abigail pipes in with full agreement to that experience. Where Edie decides to have her own little revenge on the candy cane eating monster known as Owen by rearranging all the candy canes on the Christmas tree just out of his reach, so that he thinks he's eaten all he can reach by himself. Where the look on her face when I asked her if she had moved the candy in question was priceless. If that's what makes family, well then, that's exactly what they are.
And nothing sends that fact home more than the only picture that was taken over 3 days where all four kids made it into the shot.