Tag Archives: cousins

Cousins and Friends

30 cousins

I am lucky to have been blessed with lots of cousins. With ten of us just on my dad’s side, most of us married with our own kids, we have created us a pretty big crowd! They don’t all live nearby but we are still close with them and with the internet and texting, we have been able to stay in touch with them much more than ever.

Lisa is the cousin I am the closest with. She lives only a few minutes away and is one of my favorite people in the world. Since we grew up living so close to each other, we got to spend lots of time together growing up. Family dinners, holidays, playdates…we saw each other all of the time. She is seven years younger than me but since the six New Jersey cousins were spread out over a ten year span, we were always able to find things to do together and spent most of our time laughing!

When I got married, she was 16. She was the youngest bridesmaid in my wedding. When I had my first son, she was just 20 years old and still in college. I always though of her as my little cousin but now, as adults we have become closer than ever. We don’t notice the age difference anymore….well maybe through my wrinkles but that’s all….

Today is her birthday! She is 40~

Now, as I sit here, I am trying to figure out how in the world she could be FORTY,  because, if she is forty that could only mean one thing – since I am still seven years older, I am that much closer to…..FIFTY! (Yikes even that number was tough to write!)

Now, Lisa is a wife – I was her OLDEST bridesmaid.  She is an amazing mom. She is smart and successful, working in New York City and is still one of the sweetest people I know. We have so many things in common and every time we are together is guaranteed to be a good time. There is a special bond cousins have – no friendship can match it because there is no one that understands the craziness of your family like a cousin! Cousins know us better than anyone else and help us keep a little bit of childhood forever in our hearts!

Happy Birthday Lisa! I love you!

Last Day of My Summer..

time spent with family

August 31st.

School starts for teachers tomorrow. Most of us have already been back for weeks, preparing our classrooms for the kiddies to arrive on Thursday. Our two days of professional development begin tomorrow.

It was a busy, fun and productive summer. We celebrated my grandmother’s 100th birthday, (the “real” day is actually this Thursday.) Our cousins from all over the country came to New Jersey and we celebrated for nearly three weeks! I think I wound up seeing more of New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York with my Western cousins than I would have ever done had they not been here!

We took a “historic” tour of Greenwich Village, visiting the places Grammy grew up, the apartment she and my grandfather lived when they were first married, the church my grandparents were married in and another church where my father and his brothers were baptized.

We went to the beach – so incredibly close, yet for some reason, a place we hadn’t gone in over a year, and to the Poconos with a trip to Bushkill Falls. We got to see another one of our cousins play in a performance of “Rock of Ages”. We went bowling, to a trampoline park, to the zoo and to the pool. We watched a Mandala be constructed in my own home town!

All of this happened in just those three weeks! The rest of the summer, I worked at Camp Maple, where I have worked for the last seven summers, so although we were outside and having fun with our campers….it wasn’t quite “my summer” yet.

On Friday, we take DJ to college. He is one of the last of his friends to leave for school and he is ready to go.  Dave and I….maybe not quite so ready to have him leave, but we are excited for his new adventure.  That might officially end summer for me. A new batch of Kindergarten parents, leaving their babies with me as I leave my “baby” in Massachusetts. It is going to be a week filled with bittersweet tears for all of us!

The Weather Gods Were Watching!

rain stopped

The rain stopped! About one hour before Grammy’s 100th birthday party, the skies cleared, the sun came out and the weather was beautiful – albeit a bit muggy!  It wasn’t supposed to clear up. In fact, it was supposed to storm again, but the weather gods were watching over Grammy’s and her guests and blessed us with sunshine!  We even had a visit from a yellow butterfly – Drew was convinced it was my mom dropping in to say that she was there!

At 100, there are not a lot of friends around that are your age, but she does have a couple and they showed up. She was so happy to see them! She reminisced with them all night.  We took hundreds of photos and talked about the legacy she has created! The cousins have been together for days! None of them wanting to leave! Eight of them cramming into one bedroom just so they didn’t have to lose a moment of time together.

Today, five of the cousins are flying back home. Some will stay and visit for awhile longer, so there haven’t been tears….yet. We will make the most of their time while they are here. Maybe our Spring Breaks will coincide and this time, we will fly out west to visit with them! That would make Drew so happy!

Less than 25 days until Gram’s ‘real’ birthday! There is no way to top this celebration, but anyone that knows this family knows it will still be something special!

Celebrating in the Rain

rain rainbow

This has quite possible been one of nicest summers I can remember in New Jersey. We have had very little rain, and those few times were in the evening. There has been very little humidity – which NJ is famous for! There was only one week where there were more than three days in a row that were over 90 degrees!  The definition of perfect summer weather in my opinion!

We couldn’t have asked for better weather and having a summer job that is mostly outdoors, I couldn’t have been happier! Truthfully, we only needed ONE day to be perfect. Tuesday, August 11th. Today. The day we are celebrating Grammy’s 100th birthday. Outside.

All week long, the weather channels have been predicting rain for today.  We kept hoping that it would change, summer is so unpredictable, but it only seemed to get worse. If you looked at the 7 day forecasts, it displayed cute little suns on everyday EXCEPT Tuesday, where wind, clouds and rain icons replaced that sun! A day with no breaks of sun. “Higher than average gusts of wind expected….”

There is nothing we can do. The tents are already set up in her yard. The relatives have arrived from all over the US  and, although there is some disappointment that the party will have to move indoors, no one really cares so much anymore now that everyone is together.  Our family has been arriving all week long. Despite being thousands of miles away, stretching all the way to Alaska, these kids get along like they’ve been together forever. Having the party stretch out over nearly two weeks has made it so that the big event today isn’t really ruined because of a little rain!

If there isn’t any thunder and lightening, it just might be outside for the kids! The rain isn’t going to stop them! They were together until after 9pm last night running through the tents in the dark playing old games like “Ghost in the Graveyard” not caring that no one could see a thing, so I doubt rain will stop them!

Gram’s actual birthday is not until September 3rd but in order to get everyone here with school and sport schedules, we had to do it a little early. The party is going on, rain or shine. If it has to move indoors, it will. It isn’t very often that someone turns 100 and we cannot wait to celebrate her today!

Pity, Regret….What is this feeling?

aware of behavior

I got a text message from my sister today asking if I was able to take a call from her. Of course I knew that meant it couldn’t be good news if she couldn’t just text it to me.  She told me that she received a call today from a hospital in Florida.  My cousin Christopher had been in a terrible accident and she was his emergency contact. He has been estranged from our family for the most part, only communicating with my sister through Facebook and occasional text messages.

Chris is 39 years old and has many special needs.  He has been living in Florida for over ten years, although he grew up here in New Jersey only a town away from us. He and I could not be any more different.  I refuse to be in contact with him because he is a spiteful and hateful person and I don’t want to associate with that kind of negativity in my life.  He treats his mom terribly and when I do succumb and give in and try to give him another chance, he just spews more hatred and I can’t be a part of that. His special needs could be a part of his “personality” but it still doesn’t make it okay.

He was on his way to the hospital this morning for a surgical procedure that he needed.  Apparently, he stepped into a crosswalk when a bus made a left turn, did not see him and struck him.  He has multiple fractures to his ribs, a broken arm, head lacerations and possible brain bleeds. He is on a ventilator right now and completely sedated.

My sister went to tell his mother, my aunt, in person this afternoon and although Chris’ relationship with her is very strained and complicated, she of course is devastated. She doesn’t know if she needs to fly down there and be with him and is waiting to hear about the brain scans before making that decision.  Chris does have a power of attorney that lives in Florida who will help with decision making and she is on her way to the hospital and has been in touch with my aunt.

I find myself in a very difficult spot right now. I would never wish this upon anyone, and no one “deserves” this. I feel badly for my aunt and hope that he is not feeling any pain and is comfortable right now but I am finding it hard to feel a lot of sympathy and this is disturbing to me. Perhaps more pity or regret.  I am not sure what this feeling is.

I am hoping that he pulls through this and recovers with very little pain and suffering. I wonder if it will cause a change of heart getting a second chance….

Here is a link to the accident, (although it says a man in his fifties – which he does look like….) http://www.gainesville.com/article/20150413/ARTICLES/150419893?p=2&tc=pg&tc=ar

Saying Goodbye…For Now

grandmas house

This afternoon, our Nevada cousins left to return home after spending two weeks here in New Jersey with us. These are the Nevada cousins closer in age to Drew and although they are both girls, they get along even better than any of his own friends!! They wanted to spend every moment together and fortunately they were able to do a lot of that while they were here.

They went to The Bronx Zoo, hiking in the reservations, swam at the pool, went out to dinner and spent time at our house or our grandma’s home where they were staying.  Simple games of hide and seek and slip and slide turned into hour long adventures.

Very often when looking for quotes for my blog, I find ones about cousins. Probably because the quotes are so true to the words! Cousins are our first friends. No one understands the craziness of your own family like your cousins do! I write about my own cousins often. We truly are friends and it is so nice to see them all get along as well as we did as kids, and still do now. From the youngest to the oldest, they enjoy their time together and their relationship only makes the bond between my cousins and myself stronger.

We are going to miss them. There were even some tears today as they left. The kids are already planning when we will get to Las Vegas to see them. It seems that only our Christmas and Summer breaks match up, but hopefully we can find a way to make it work.



If there’s one thing I find myself writing about often, it is family, namely, cousins. My cousins and I are extremely close and although not all of them live near me in New Jersey, we still stay in touch as much as possible. The ones who live in New Jersey we see very often – several times a month I would say. But then there are the ones who live out west, in Nevada and Alaska. Those are the ones we miss the most when we aren’t together. Fortunately with Facebook, I am able to keep in touch with most of them a lot more often than I was ever able to do as a child.

It makes me so happy to see my own children as close to their cousins as I am to mine. Not only tight-knit with their first cousins but to their second cousins and those cousins that are once removed – twice removed – ugh, I never understand how all of that works. I can’t keep it straight. My cousins children! That’s easier!

They have it so much easier than we did as kids though. They use iChat, FaceTime and messaging, Instagram and all sorts of social media to keep in touch. I find it so sweet when I hear one of my boys’ phone ring and it is one of their cousins face timing with them.

This last week has been like a party everyday. One set of cousins, (a different set than was here earlier this summer) is here visiting. The girls are closer to Drew’s age so he, along with my sister’s kids and the cousins who live here in New Jersey have gotten together nearly every night for a week. Today, they spent all day together at the pool. Last night was the same. We are off to dinner together again tonight. All twenty-five of us. Drew wishes it could be a constant sleep over that never ends. I know exactly how he feels because when I was a kid, I wanted that never ending sleep over myself.

The girls are here for another week so there will be plenty more time to get together. We are trying to figure out how we can get out to Nevada to see them before they come out again next summer when we celebrate our grandma’s 100th birthday. Maybe we will get lucky and our Spring Breaks will fall at the same time as theirs does. That would be perfect!!

Family and Friends make for a perfect Sunday


Today we celebrated my cousin Bella’s 8th birthday.  Actually, I guess she is my second cousin since she is the daughter of my cousin Jason.  Having just boys in my house, I love being a part of theses “girlie” parties.  I was always such a girlie girl growing up.  Bella had a dance party and I was there as a guest but also to take photos for them.

The music was fun and perfect for a group of screaming, giggly little girls!  They even had a fashion show to end the day complete with boas and pompoms!  After the party, I went home to get some school work done and went to a house warming shower for a good friend.  It was really nice to see her smiling after a rough couple of months.  I am so happy to see her happy and in her own home after being homeless for several months.  She and her daughters were fortunate to be living with some friends for those months, but I know that she is relieved to have a place to call their own.

My own kids and Dave had soccer and baseball games throughout the day so I was on my own for most of it and tonight, I went to dinner at my aunt and uncle’s new home to continue celebrating Bella’s birthday.  They just moved in and I hadn’t had the chance to see it yet.  It is a beautiful new condo and I wish them as much happiness there as they had in their last home.

I brought my grandma up too.  My uncle is recovering from surgery and she was anxious to see him.  I think it was good for both of them, her, to realize that he is doing okay, and him to see how much love he has in his family who were all gathered with him.  There was so much laughter at the dinner table.  Just eight of us, but it reminded me so much of dinners growing up.  With six of us in my family and always a friend or two at dinner, the conversation was never at a lull and everyone had to speak louder and louder to be heard over each other.

That’s what it was like tonight.  It would be so wonderful if none of us had work constraints that kept us from doing this more often.  But, as always, life seems to get in the way and we often find ourselves too busy to do things like this.  Bella begged me to find a night that Drew and DJ would be home so that we could get together for dinner.  I promised her that we would.  They are crazy about their cousins and it makes me so happy because growing up, that’s how we felt about our own cousins.  We are so fortunate to have grown up living near each other and our children now have that same opportunity.  Even the huge age span doesn’t seem to stop them from having a great time when we all get together.  The biggest challenge is just finding the time!

The Back Up Plan

family dinner

A few nights ago, I got a message from my cousin Lisa’s husband, Josh.  He asked me if I’d be his “back-up” for a few days.  Lisa was going to be away on business and his in-laws who are usually around are also away.  I told him of course and that we’d be around for emergency pickups or any last minute help he might need with their daughter Harper.  She is three and my boys adore her!  Since we knew Lisa would be away we invited Harper and him to come for dinner tonight.

It was a quiet, easy dinner. Harper met Emmy Lou for the first time and the six of us had a nice dinner together.  Nothing big, nothing elegant.  A good comfort food meal of crockpot chicken and dumplings.  Perfect for this cold night!  (Drew wouldn’t eat it, neither did Harper, they had some macaroni and cheese instead.  DJ picked his apart, but at least he tried it.)

Josh and Harper brought chocolate chip cookies and we ate dessert watching Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune.  Such a simple night, yet such a nice time.  A change from our routine.  Something we should do more often.  Normally our family get togethers are huge and although they are always fun, sometimes getting a chance to spend with just bits and pieces of the family is a treat.  Since my mom passed away, my dad comes now and then and my brothers do too.  When we are small groups, we can actually fit around the dining room table.  I don’t think our house could hold the whole family at once!!  That will have to wait for nicer weather when we can bring the party outside, (or win the lottery….)   For now, I look forward to these small get togethers and getting some quality time to spend with the family.

Crockpot Chicken and Dumplings

  • Chicken breasts cut up
  • 2 cans of Cream of chicken soup
  • One can of water
  • One chopped onion
  • 2 pats of butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • One can of refrigerator biscuit dough

Mix all ingredients except biscuits in crockpot.  Cook on low for 8 hours.  At the 7th hour, rip apart the biscuit dough and toss into the cooked chicken.  Cook at least one more hour.



brunch lunch

Today I went to brunch – or was it lunch – with some of my cousins and aunts.  My extended family is really extended!  We just make it easy and call each other cousins, aunts and uncles.  My cousin Lori, (my dad’s, brother’s wife’s, cousin’s, daughter…did you follow that….) was visiting from California and we found some time to meet up.  It had been awhile since we had seen her and it was great to catch up.  Unfortunately, the stomach bug has hit part of our family so my sister Kathi and cousin Lisa had to back out last minute.

While we ate we had a lighthearted conversation on the names of meals.  Dinner vs supper?  Is there a difference?  The “older aunts” called it supper, while we 40-somethings called it dinner.  Of course I had to google it when I got home because Lori and I were stumped at Aunt Libby’s definition.

This is what I found on dictionary.com:

Supper is a light evening meal – served in early evening if dinner is at midday or served late in the evening after an early-evening dinner. Either way, it is regarded as the last meal of the day. Dinner is the main meal of the day, served either in the evening or at midday. However, in certain regions of the US (New England in particular), the words are used interchangeably for the main evening meal. Supper is the older word, dating to c. 1275, and is the less formal term. Dinner dates to 1297 and signifies the chief meal of the day, no matter what time it is served, and is a formally arranged meal, sometimes given to celebrate something or in honor of someone. Both terms derived from similarly spelled French words.

I am as confused with this definition as I was with Aunt Libby’s!!  So of course, curiosity got the best of me.  Was this lunch we were eating today?  Or brunch?

Dictionary.com defined lunch as

1. a light midday meal between breakfast and dinner;
2. any light meal or snack.
(My lunches are RARELY  light!  I enjoy eating and nothing about my portion size is “light,”  this is something I need to work on, I know that!)


and brunch as:

a meal that serves as both breakfast and lunch  

I guess it was brunch, since I ate a delicious tuna burger as my meal but we shared a plate of Poached Pear Vanilla Bean French Toast with caramel sauce on challah bread for dessert!  Not only was it a mix of breakfast and lunch food but FAR from a light meal.  It sure was yummy though!

Regardless, whatever the name of the meals are, I will continue to eat them when I am hungry no matter what time it is!

sweet basile french toast