Family

Wintertime by Roni Delmonico

We got more than a foot of snow this week and although it isn’t my favorite season, it sure can be pretty, through the holidays. I have a sudden fondness and affection for red barns. I photographed this one up in Three Mile Bay several years ago and finally got around to framing it. Maybe because a new one… is about to become a part of our history. :)

And So It Begins... by Roni Delmonico

This song has been a part of our history since we were younger than they are now. It’s such a beautiful thing to us… not to have lost a son, but to have gained a daughter. It’s been a wonderful week full of love, laughter, dreams for the future, family coming together. And the sweetest gentle memories of my own. Happy times. :)

There is a photograph of you out on the back porch of the first place we lived, we loved, we laughed we knew… we two would never let the bad times replace the way, we felt that day, so many years ago…

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Still by Roni Delmonico

What your house looks like on the outside will never matter at all, if the ones living inside it don’t fill it with love. When I married him thirty years ago, we didn’t have any idea how much work that would take or the cliffs we’d both scale and fall off of. I’m amazed every day….

This photograph is in the very first set I ever took with my little Canon XSi. The way he looked at me turned my heart inside out. It’s a precious thing to me, having captured that moment in time.

The foundation of any home is love. Build on that… and it will be beautiful, no matter the scars, the cracks, the things forgotten, the broken promises, the scratches, the tearing at the seams, the taking away and the adding on and the inevitable passage of time.

I’ve never met a thing he can’t fix. Not even me.

When the Muse Is Bowling for Soup with Tim McGraw by Roni Delmonico

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Lately I've been thinking a lot about how images invoke memories; how they lock in a moment in time and save it for savoring later.  I don't take pictures of things.  I record memories on my heart.  When I'm shooting flowers... it's often about my emotion at the time and I'm pretty sure if you linger over anything in my "Poetry" library, you would have a very good chance at guessing if I was laughing, or crying... feeling dark, or sensual or adventurous.  Art is an expression of something always.  That's so cool.  It's a gift we, as artists... don't often take enough time to ponder.  I talk about the marriage of words to photographs all the time.  Some of my more abstract work can simply be appreciated for what it is.  Color, form, lines... I hope it puts a little beauty out there into the universe.  But what of these photos of things?  What do they say?  Can you know... if the photographer doesn't tell you?  In some instances, photographs like this will bring back memories of your own.  But let me tell you 10 things, this photo represents for me that make me smile and might make you smile too.  Maybe then you'll find yourself opening an image from your iPhone, and remembering your own story with a smile.

1. My son cooked dinner for me last night, so I didn't have to. Smile.:)

2. It was raining all day in the house, but it was sunny in my heart. Smile.:)

3. Fresh thyme smells divine and I grew it myself this year.  Smile.:)

4.  Soup in a crock is guaranteed to taste better than soup in a bowl. Smile.:)

5. When my son was little, I took him to a Shania "Twin" concert and spent the rest of the evening with a very mad little boy who I definitely didn't impress.. much. He asked Alexa to play Shania TWAIN while he was cooking.  Smile.:)

6. When Shania was done singing about how unimpressed she was, we spent an hour and a half taking turns asking Alexa for the next song.  We listened to Bowling for Soup (hahaha), Michael Jackson, Jesse McCartney, Josh Gracin, Tim McGraw, Taylor Swift, Garth Brooks and Five For Fighting.  It was a musical stroll down memory lane.  Smile.:)

7. Melted cheese rocks my world.  Smile.:)

8. We ate dinner by candlelight, just the three of us, while the thunder rolled and the lightning struck.  (I still do love a good thunderstorm!) Smile.:) 

9. My son is a really really good cook!  Smile.:)

10. Tim McGraw is still my standard and I had no idea my son knew that, until he played one of his more obscure songs for me and said it was the definition of "smooth."  BIG Smile.:)

In the end, I played one for him that means a lot to me.... Funny how this guy always seems to show up when the muse does.:)

On The Way To Where I'm Going by Roni Delmonico

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I talk to my dad and send him a photograph nearly every day.  When he opened this one he said, "That looks a little like heaven on earth."  

"It feels that way too, dad.  The only thing that would make it more so would be if you were here." 

We talked awhile longer.  Nothing earth shattering... just warm, loving and easy.  We talked mostly about how this is just a stop on the way to where we are going.  It's temporary.  The older we grow together, the more I understand how very true that is.  

There are so many things I am grateful for.  The people who share this place with me.  The loved ones far away, who know how to love with an unconditional love that is never ending and the biggest blessing to my heart.  I really love you dad.  You are the best indication in my life, that there is a God in heaven, preparing a place for me.  And as beautiful as our home is... it's just a stop on the way to where we are going.  Best part is... you'll be with me in the next place... and I will never have to say goodbye again.

I can see God's face.  It's around me everywhere.  And I'm not afraid, because I know.

Our New Home by Roni Delmonico

Sometimes the world tries to knock it out of you. But I believe in music, the way some people believe in fairy tales. I like to imagine that what I hear comes from my mother and father. Maybe the notes I hear are the same ones they heard the night they met. Maybe that’s how they found each other. Maybe... that’s how they’ll find me.
— August Rush

On Roots and Wings by Roni Delmonico

He's my firstborn and he taught me all that I need to know about motherhood... 
- Everything will be alright if you just love me where I'm at. I promise.

- I will forgive you every mistake in the end because I know that you do, in the deepest part of me. You're my mom.

- I will stretch your patience, your knowledge, your ability to exist on little to no sleep... but your heart will be bigger for it.

- I will teach you to be unselfish most of the time, and to be sad when you choose selfishness.

- I will make you laugh when you want to cry and cry tears of joy.

-I will show you how to let go, many times through the years but I'll do it as gently as I can.

- I will forget you sometimes and hurt your heart with words and you will do the same. So I will teach you to forgive, 70 x 7, always.

- I will show you how to step out of your protective shell of perfection and be the mom with the messy house and the messy hair once in awhile and be perfectly comfortable with that.

- I will bring you more kids to love and fill your home with people, just like you always wanted and I will do it again and again, because I see how happy it makes you.

- I will teach you, just as my grandfather has... the meaning of unconditional love and acceptance.

- I will make you an even better mother to my brothers because of all we have learned together first.

- I will teach you that it's a good idea to quit forgetting where you put your phone.;-)

- I will help you step out of your own comfort zone.

and most of all...
- I will teach you how God feels about you... mom. Because that kind of love comes straight from His heart to yours.

It's My Son by Roni Delmonico

About two weeks ago, my youngest son and I had a day together alone, which rarely happens. So I asked him out on a date and he said yes!:)  How lucky am I?  I took him to see the movie, When The Game Stands Tall, which turned out to have quite a few more life lessons in it than I ever expected and stirred both of our hearts to really think about the ways that football is more than just a game for him. I knew little about the film, other than that it was a movie about an undefeated football team and the extraordinary coach who led them.  Turns out it was about a whole lot more... faith, love, heart, emotions, brotherhood, what it means to be part of a team, dependability, sacrifice, leadership both on the field and off, sorrow, joy, and ultimately... what it means to grow up and  be a man who is able to feel and to love, in life.. as well as he is able to love the game.

I've watched my Eric grow by leaps and bounds in the past three years.  He is a freshman in high school and it is his third year playing football.  This year, the coach made him a wide receiver which is something new for him, and something he takes pride in.  I think we'll be spending a lot of time tossing a football with him in our backyard, this fall.  I found his playbook on the kitchen counter, open as if he had just been studying it and it drove home to me again... how these boys are growing up into lives apart from me... full of experiences that are uniquely their own and not mine.  I'm trying so hard not to blink but it's blinking by anyway. 

I have such a mixture of feelings when I look at this child.  When he smiles, he has a dimple that is so endearing and he has no idea of its effect on people. It adds a special warmth to a gentle smile. He is already so very good... at loving.  I wrote a post about his journey last year titled, Making The Most of the Daylight Hours.  Still applies today... maybe even more so. When I look at that photo of him from just last year, it tugs at my heart.  They change a lot from 13 - 15... passing from boyhood into something deeper. He's come such a long way in three short years and in my eyes, it isn't so much the game that stands tall... it's my son.  

Thirty One Flavors by Roni Delmonico

When I was eighteen, I lived with my dad in a little apartment in Southern California.  I have a lot of memories of that time with him, and each of them is a jewel I keep deep inside me in that space for all my most precious things.  I called him one morning freaking out and he couldn't understand a word I was saying so he rushed home and found me in the kitchen with his welding mask, gloves, boots and pants on holding them up with one hand and wielding a spatula in the other. I was screeching something about cockroaches and smacking them with my very ineffective weapon while trying to make sure I didn't have any exposed skin in case one decided to jump up and bite me. I've never seen him laugh so hard in my life.  Turns out they were only little crickets and dad took care of them in short order while I sheepishly returned his welding gear to its proper place.  He still loves to tell that story.

We lived on the second floor of the apartment building and I sometimes did the shopping and cooking.  I think that's when I really began to learn what foods I personally preferred and which ones I didn't because I had a lot of freedom to choose. My parents had recently divorced and my brothers and sister lived with my mom. I had just broken up with my boyfriend of several years so I think we just kind of understood where the other was at.  He turned his walk in closet, into a "prayer closet" and he kept his piano and guitar and all of his music in there and I would lay in bed at night with my window open listening to the sound of his voice singing softly to me from behind his closed door mixed with the traffic noise from the freeway outside.  It was actually a beautiful way to fall asleep.  We had a Christmas tree covered in tiny blue lights and silver tinsel because he loved to decorate it that way and I could see it from my bed.  I still smile when I see a blue tree, which isn't very often.:) We had this crazy siamese cat who would run around the apartment and claw his way up the drapes until he reached the top and then throw himself off like a kamikaze.  I thought it was pretty funny but I don't think dad did.  

Sometimes, on the weekend we'd head down the street to Baskin Robbins Ice Cream shop where they had 31 flavors to choose from but we always chose the exact same thing. Dad liked banana splits with hot fudge and I always ordered a Pralines and Cream ice cream cone. It didn't really matter to me what we were eating.  The best part was that we'd take it outside to a bench and then just talk to each other in the sunshine.  I tried to eat mine really slow.  I treasured that time with him so much.  It was relaxed and special and I never had to be anything but me.  Every once in awhile we'd switch it up and head to the Thrifty Drugstore. They didn't have as many flavors but they scooped out their ice cream with these funny cylindrical scoopers so it came out looking like a short tube.  You could get 3 scoops for a dollar back then but I usually opted for just two.

Over the years, dad developed a lactose intolerance and now he can't eat dairy without some uncomfortable consequences.  But he's coming to visit me in a few weeks and I've been experimenting with non-dairy ice cream that uses coconut cream as its base.  I even found some pretty yummy non-dairy chocolate chips to go on top.  And I have a very comfy bench under a willow tree by the water in the sunshine just waiting for him.  He still loves to talk story.

I saw an interesting video yesterday where a woman interviewed several adults about how they feel when they eat chocolate and then asked the same question of a few children.  The adults said things like "guilty", "like I'll have to go for a run after work now", "like I'm numb", or "I just don't eat it".  But oh from the mouths of babes... The children said, "happy", "grateful", and "good".  I think someone should come up with the "Eat Like A Child" diet.  

I wish you all a happy, grateful, good memory filled food day today.:)

The Joy of Eating and BEING Whole by Roni Delmonico

Last Friday I took my two youngest sons in for their annual physicals.  Now that they are in their teens, I wait out in the waiting room for them so they can have some privacy and speak candidly with their doctor without mom putting in her two cents.  (It's hard... I usually have about 25 cents.;-))  On this particular visit, their doctor actually came out to the waiting room and said, "Mrs. Delmonico, may I have a word with you in back please?"  Uh oh...

He led me into an exam room and I wish you could have seen the look on his face (and probably on mine as well).  He said, "Your son Eric tells me that you have been eating more healthy in your household and I just need to verify that's actually true?"  I burst out laughing.  I couldn't help it... it was such a relief. I walked in there thinking something was really wrong and realized quickly that we were about to have an interesting conversation about my latest views on the psychology of eating.  

After assuring him that indeed, Eric was being truthful, I explained to him how at the beginning of summer, I had made the decision that I would no longer bring processed foods full of additives and chemicals I cannot pronounce into our home.  I told him that I was focusing on feeding them primarily whole foods, with little or no ingredients lists, and that I made a deal with my children that I would make sure they had three square meals a day and some good quality snacks and that if they wanted junk after that, I wouldn't harp on them about it but they would have to buy it with their own money and convince their older brother to drive them wherever they needed to go to get it.  

In the beginning, it wasn't easy.  For the first three weeks, they experienced a lot of the same withdrawal symptoms I had when I was in my "Kill all the things" phase.  They were going to the store up the street every other day for ice cream and potato chips.  I tried to keep my frustration in check and just kept putting healthy meals in front of them, giving them choices, hoping for change and did my best to model good behaviors myself.  I had a learning curve too and what finally worked in the end was this.  I started focusing on taste. How we have forgotten this beautiful gift we've been given.  Taste is such an amazing, wonderful, joyful, exceptional gift!  We are designed to linger over and savor our food.  And I am working hard on finding and creating meals that actually make the people I love best in all the world, really want to do that.  Taste.  Linger.  Savor.

So what was the very unexpected result of all this effort?  My youngest son lost 6 pounds of body fat in just under 4 months and is leaner and more muscular going into this football season, than he has ever been.  My middle son, maintained his weight for the entire year and has clearer skin than he did last year at this time. Both are in perfect health.  Their doctor said, "I need you to understand... I called you back here because this never happens.  Whatever you're doing, keep doing it!"  Teenage boys losing weight is often a sign for alarm. But teenage boys losing body fat and gaining muscle due to a healthy diet void of processed, empty calories is not something he sees every day.  That was a huge eye opener for both of us and is incredibly motivating for me to keep at it with my boys.  I left there on Friday wanting to dance.  It's working!

Every night, we sit down together as a family and share a meal.  We've always done that because it is something that has been important to both my husband and myself for their whole lives.  We connect so well as a family during this time.  We laugh, tell stories, talk about our day and the latest news, and share concerns... feeding our spirits and nurturing our connection to each other, while nourishing our bodies.  Without a doubt it is my favorite time of the day.  It's even better these days.  Whole food tastes so good

A few fun things about our table:  (*No affiliate links here, just sharing some favorite things). First, the recipe for the meatballs and sauce. This one is paleo friendly and came from Cindy's Table. It's been a summer favorite in our house.  SO so so delicious!  The beef came from Abbott Farms, right here in Baldwinsville; the pork, from WW Longhorn Ranch. The zucchini was fresh picked from my son's garden an hour before dinner and we used a spiralizer to make noodles out of them. Really fun, and a tasty way to use excess zucchini in the garden.  It doesn't replace good quality pasta in our house - I serve it in addition to.  I am married to an Italian after all.;-) More often than not, the boys will choose both pasta and zucchini!  There are two different kinds of bread, fresh from our local Farmer's Market: a Manakish za'atar and a round European Peasant loaf that each have ingredients easily pronounced and recognizable. I made the salad dressing in less than a minute using a stick blender (This is one tool I avoided for the longest time thinking I had no need of one - silly me!)  Start with a cup of olive oil, throw in some thyme, a teaspoon or so of dijon mustard, a dash of salt and pepper and some strawberry or raspberry vinegar to taste and whiz with a stick blender.  Super simple, super yummy. (One note, use a light tasting olive oil.  If you make your salad dressing with full bodied olive oil, your kids will likely turn up their noses. Don't ask me how I know.:))The salad base is a really wonderful mild red Boston Bibb I've fallen in love with this summer, tossed with grapes, apples, bits of raw cheddar cheese and some absolutely wonderful spiced almonds I just discovered from the folks at Our Daily Eats, based right here in upstate New York! And as always... we use a freshly grated parmesan.  (My mother in law taught me that and I've never looked back!)  

Food photography is challenging in my house because food gets eaten faster than I can photograph it. It is consistently disappearing before I can adequately work with it, but you know, I think I'm ok with that.:)  Bon appetit, my beautiful family.  I am so happy to feed you well!

Dear Jimmy by Roni Delmonico

I met you on a beautiful summer day in 1994.  Full head of rich dark hair all disheveled and sticking up out of your head and looking surprisingly similar to the way it looked this morning, when you wandered out to the living room with a yawn and said, "I don't really feel older, mom." That slow, lazy grin never fails to melt my heart. I leaned into you, thinking quietly to myself... "I sure do."  You are now the same age I was when I moved 3000 miles away from home and ran smack into your dad. I thought I was so grown up back then, but looking at you now, I realize how much more growing up I had to do.  Don't rush it, son.  Take your time.

You are my firstborn and that makes you my gift today;  the very best one I've ever been given.  That day is etched so sweetly in my memory and it never fails to revisit my heart when we mark a new one with you on the 4th day of August.  It's not just another day to me anymore.  I felt your presence and heard your voice before anyone else in the rest of the world did, Love.  We'd have conversations over sweet cream ice cream sprinkled with bits of toffee and a chocolate chip or two at 3 o'clock in the morning.  You still love ice cream and I love it even more, though thankfully, you don't wake me up in the wee hours anymore to get it.:)  

 

This is a big year for you... moving into your twenties. So many wonderful things on the horizon and I promise I will be there for every single one.  Your life makes my life so much sweeter.  I don't know why, but when you were a baby, you loved the sound of Neil Diamond's voice.  We played his Christmas album well into summer and it always calmed you down. These days, you listen to Eminem, Linkin Park and Breaking Benjamin and I know you'd never admit to liking Neil Diamond but that's ok.. that's what moms are for! lol This one's for you, kid. I love the heck out of you and no matter how old you get, you will always, always be my kiddo.

Those Tender Moments by Roni Delmonico

Sometimes, there is a space where the silence between two people is deeply comfortable. For me, it was born when they handed this child to me... in those tender moments when I first came to know him face to face.  It has been the sweetest gift every day since. The privilege of being his mother is something that I will never ever have words strong enough to match. I suppose that is one more reason to be so grateful for this camera.  

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Today is his last day of school before summer vacation and we always straighten his wild, curly head of hair for the occasion.  I love that hour and a half with him in the wee small hours of the morning.  It's a special time that belongs only to the two of us.  He is such a creature of traditions... they are really important to him. Later, we'll go pick some strawberries and dip them in chocolate and stay up really late on a weeknight watching a movie.  He was filled with laughter and joy and peace when he walked out the door with his dad awhile later. That was such an awesome way to start my day. Next year, he will move on to the high school and I have a feeling the next few years are going to fly by.

Time... is so precious.

Memories and Kindness Remain by Roni Delmonico

As the mother of three teenage sons, it isn't very often that I get to do many girlie things. Usually we watch movies where things are getting blown to pieces and we play video games where cars are racing around tracks (or in my case.. smashing into walls).  We eat meat and talk loud and joke about "guy" things and I am always laughing and physically tired at the end of a day. I grew up with lots of brothers so it's a world I know and feel most comfortable with.  It's an even bigger blessing being the mother of boys, than it was being a sister to them... especially mine.  

But once in awhile, I get to do something really special with the women in my extended family and I can imagine what it's like to be the mother of a daughter. I think I would have liked that. I'm working on a photography project for my sister in law and going through the photographs I took that day, I found myself lingering over one of them.  The day was really so special.  That lovely woman up there is my mother in law. She's such a classy, strong, beautiful woman.  I've known her since 1986 and I've grown to deeply respect her over the last three decades of my life.  We had her daughter's bridal shower out in my backyard and I had spent weeks going to second hand stores and gathering up all the china teacups I could find, to make these special little favors for the women to take home with them. Everything was tinged with pink because that is her favorite color and I was in my girlie glory.:) We ended up with a perfect sunny day and my hydrangeas were in full bloom all around the tent.  I've been out there in the garden a lot lately and these beautiful memories wash over me in sounds, scents, and vivid mental pictures I've stored up in my heart.  Recalling them now is a way of being kind to myself, I suppose.  Many gifts went home with her that day, but the memories remain with me... forever.

One With Brown Eyes.. One With Green by Roni Delmonico

My mom was born in Memphis, Tennessee.  I don't know much about that side of my family. She was an only child and we lived in California and we didn't go back to visit often.  I was looking through an old box of photographs this morning and came across this one from one of those rare trips to Memphis. For some reason, it made me linger.  It tells a story... my story, in so many ways. Two of my brothers are with me in the picture and a little girl from my mother's family, I never really knew. My brothers were the focus of my thoughts this morning.  

We do not choose the family we are born into.  It comes together in all sorts of ways before we are ever even cognizant of a universe outside the ones holding us. Believe me, it falls apart in all sorts of ways too.  I like to think there is some order, some purpose, some reason and sense to it all, but maybe there isn't.. I just don't know.  Dad has brown eyes, mom has green.  We are echoes.

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There were times I am sure I felt wild and free... where I wore purple with style and carried a spanking awesome purse and strutted the knee high boots like a runway model.  This picture is evidence. A time where I existed for the joy of it. Money meant nothing to me.. it was irrelevant. So was recognition... heck, we played with the faces in front of us, we fought and wrestled and kissed and made up, knocked each other down, picked each other up and we just lived. It really wasn't all that complicated.

I'll be 48 tomorrow.  But I'll also be six. Maybe that doesn't make any sense to anyone but me.  But she was cool and she's a part of me just as much today, as she was on that porch 42 years ago.  And so are those boys... one with brown eyes, one with green.    

God Hears Amen Wherever We Are by Roni Delmonico

It occurs to me this morning that we say goodbye to them in small ways. In much the same way that we said hello. 

We let go of their tiny hands when they head into that pre-school for the first time and we sit outside in the parking lot counting minutes until we can take them home.

Then we take them to kindergarden and we let them go again.. another small move toward a larger experience.

We watch as they create their first painting, read their first word, take their first small step.

And every one of those small moments gets stored up in our hearts in a big way.

When he was small, he'd get up with his dad, eat breakfast and watch Sesame Street in the small hours of the morning.

It was just the three of us at the time… such a small family but full of contentment.

He would crawl into bed with me and his small hand would steal into mine, as he read Shel Silverstein poems to me in that little voice that sounded just like Mickey Mouse.

When he was small his dad would carry him on his shoulders, but now.. he carries him on his heart.

God bless mommy and match box cars
God bless dad and thanks for the stars
God hears "Amen," wherever we are
And I love you....

I cherish every one of those small moments that adds up to who he is today.  To the world, he is all grown up now.  But to his mother, he is still a small boy...

Large... full of love and life.  That's no small thing.

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