Sunday, May 29, 2011

Onward and Upward

Curt plays UPWARD soccer.

I hadn't heard of it until we moved to Tyler (the Last Great Place).

But then he wanted to play soccer. So I signed him up, in a DIFFERENT league, the spring semester of his  first grade year. Because that's when most kids start sports, right?


His team had probably been playing since they were in utero. Or at least since they could walk. And that was great.

For them.

He and his coach did not speak the same primary language. Or even close. Nor did he and his teammates.

During the first game, the coach put Curt in at forward. Within 30 seconds, he'd curled into fetal position on the field and had to be carried off.

Coach tried again in the last two minutes. Same thing.

The season progressed. Curt rose to the occasion as far as his abilities allowed. He RARELY played during games. Maybe 5 minutes a game. And THAT was NOT acceptable. I'm really glad the other kids on his team were accomplished athletes at age 7. But I'd expected that Curt would be nurtured and taught.

It didn't happen.

He played with that team again the next semester. Fall soccer of his second grade year. His team was a winning team, which resulted in less and less playing time for the so-called "weak link" on the team (yes, someone translated the Spanish for me!) The final straw came in one of the last games of the season. For the first time, his team was losing. And not just LOSING, but being decimated. I believe the score was 12-1. Curt hadn't played yet. Resting on their laurels, the rest of the team had played poorly. And STILL the coach didn't put Curt into the game. We'd had it.

Curt played the last two minutes of the game. The team lost. But I knew he'd NEVER go back to that team.

Let me just say, in interest of journalist fairness, Luke plays for the same league and has for the past several years. With the same coach, with the same kids. And it's been a wonderful experience.

Had Curt not been assigned to that team, things may have been different.

But second semester of his second grade year, Curt switched to UPWARD soccer.

And his sport's experience has been so different.

Upward soccer emphasizes Christianity. Team work. Sportsmanship.

After each practice and during each game, there is prayer and a Bible verse to learn and memorize. Each team member plays an equal amount of time per game. We learn to cheer for the other teams' successes. And they defer to ours. Coaches teach skills, celebrate fun and guarantee each child have a good experience while being active, learning how to be a team member and being themselves.

Pele probably didn't play Upward soccer. David Beckham didn't play Upward soccer. But for the percentage of children who do not get college scholarships and whose parents value fun and participation, Upward is perfect. Beyond perfect. Curt has had the best coaches. He's left each game (ok, MOST games) happy and rewarded. He's proud of his orange uniform.

And most of all, he's learning what third graders REALLY need to get out of organized sports: activity, fun and sportsmanship.

Onward and Upward.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

These Are a Few of my Favorite Things

I woke up this morning on cloud 9. Or 19 million.

But somehow I fell into a deep, dark FUNK. And I shouldn't have. But some days are like that. Even in Australia.

So I decided to think about a few of my favorite things.

* My boys. This goes without saying, so I just had to get that over with first on my list.

Oh look ! There's Curt with the missing tooth. The one that grew in and then got broken off by a close encounter with a swing.

* That two of my three favorite flowers grow in my yard.

My faves: Gardenias. Peonies. Hydrangeas. Hydrangeas and gardenias grow in my yard.

* Almost **ANY** Yankee Candle

*Beach Pat Conroy

* The beach....with my family!

* Anything vanilla scented

*The smell of anything baking.

* The scent of Baby Magic

* The sound of laughter. Any laughter.

* My bestest friends. S. M. D.

*Down comforters.

* Chocolate buttercream

*Dark chocolate

*Any chocolate

*Any buttercream


*Roller coasters


*Rain drops on roses...Ok, not really....they're *nice* and all, but....not really....

*Breakfast for any meal of the day.

*Books, books and more books!

*Pink (the color, although I think the singer is good too)

* Babies

* Cooking

* Porch parties

* Swimming!


*Ann Taylor

* Silk


* Laughing lunches


(more to follow)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Imagination Mover

Along with his adorable freckles, Luke has a wildly vivid, glorious imagination. He can entertain himself for hours with a box, a block, a Matchbox car and a drinking straw.

Or any other random assortment of  objects that intrigue him and capture his fancy.

Like these:

He set these up in the hallway by his bedroom door to detect ghosts last night.

Luckily, there weren't any.

And yesterday afternoon, he drew this:

It's a map of his imaginary city.

And this:

A sea monster.

And this:

An action figure.

I can remember days when Luke played for hours with a bowl of water, a leaf and a fork.

When he gets together with his friends, outside, in the afternoon, his world is transformed from a suburban neighborhood to a haunted forest, or a meteorite strewn planetary wasteland. He recently shared that he thought it would be funny if his corn dog turned into a rocket ship and blasted off into outer space.

He sometimes gets frustrated because Curt, who has a much more literal brain, doesn't understand his games of make-believe. But then he just pretends Curt is an alien and he's over it.

Oh to have an imagination like that!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Cajun Chicken BLT's with Grilled Squash

I made the BEST dinner tonight.

Well, maybe not the BEST, but it was delicious.

And I don't usually toot my own horn.

I've always wanted to post a food blog item, but I never felt right about posting a recipe without stellar food photography. Because when I see a recipe, I want to see a MOUTH WATERING, BETTER THAN..."CHOCOLATE" to accompany it. And when our cookbook is published, you'll see that. But that aside. I do not have stellar food photography. My resident photog is playing volleyball tonight and my "good" camera is in my desk drawer. My iPhone is NOT an acceptable substitute for decent food photography.

So I will fall back on my words. LOL. That wa a joke. In some cases, a picture is worth a thousand words. And that is 99.9 percent true in food.

Watch out, Bon Appetit. I'm coming for you. ;-)

Cajun Chicken  BLT's with Grilled Squash
Serves 4


Four pieces boneless, skinless chicken breast, trimmed of fat, pounded 1/4 inch thick
1T Leigh Oliver's Grill House Seasoning


4 Nature's Own Sugar-Free Whole Wheat Buns
2 avocado's, sliced thin
2 hothouse tomatoes, sliced thin
1 cup romaine lettuce
8 slices turkey bacon, cooked crisp
1/2 cup fat-free sour cream
2 T crumbled blue cheese
1 jalapeno, finely chopped (devoid of pith and seeds)
4 slices Provolone cheese
1 T butter
salt and pepper to taste


3 large yellow squash, cleaned
Sea Salt
Black Pepper
Cayenne Pepper
Citron Olive Oil (or extra virgin)

Cook bacon in microwave 5 minutes or until crisp. Set aside.

Sprinkle both sides of boneless, skinless chicken breasts with Leigh Oliver's Grill Seasoning.  Set aside.

Slice squash in 1/8" slices. Toss with citron or extra virgin olive oil. Sprinle with sea salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper to taste. Place in a vegetable grill pan.

Heat grill to medium. Pl.ace veggies over direct heat. Grill, tossing frequently, 5 minutes.

Place chicken onto grill.

In the meantime, mix sour cream, jalapeno and blue cheese with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Grill chicken until crisp on both sides and juices run clean.

Rub whole wheat buns with butter on both sides. Place butter-side-down on the grill.

Grill buns until marks appear and golden. Flip over. Place slices of Provolone onto buns and cooked chicken on top. Close grill over for 2 minutes or until cheese is melty. Remove from grill. Remove squash from grill when blackened marks appear.

Serve sandwiches with slices of bacon, tomato, avocado and lettuce, slathered with blue cheese/jalapeno dressing. 

Serve squash on side.



I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Luke's freckles.

I can't help it. 

I want to kiss every one like I did when he was a baby. He only lets me now when he's in super-cuddle mode.

But, especially in the summer when the freckles pop out more and his hair bleaches white, I sometimes have to grab him and kiss them all.

And he can just deal with it.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Unconditional Love

This is the BEST way to start the day EVER:

Email from Curt, 7 a.m. this morning:

i love you with all my heart all day long. see you at 2:45 
It doesn't get any better than that. 
Mom, Luke and Curt. July 2010

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Be Bold


Wholeheartedly support something you believe in.

Find something to love in everyone and everything you encounter.

Know which hills to die on.

Turn to HIM.

Remember it's the little things.

Laugh every day.

Never turn down an opportunity to read with your children.

Believe it's OK to say what's on your mind.

Learn to say 'no.'

Delight in your life's work.

And love unabashedly, never holding back.

Sunday, May 8, 2011


Because it's only fitting to kick off the series on Mother's Day. No, Dad, this doesn't mean you'll have to wait a month for your letter, it just means that I'm starting here.

I've been wracking my brain all morning to try to think of my first memory of my mom. And I can't. I can remember the first time I saw my brother, Andy. I can remember a weekend spent at Pop-Pop and Mom-Mom's house when I was 3 years old, with pancakes for breakfast on a metal TV tray watching Bugs Bunny.
I remember the distintive, comforting smell of my Granny and the night Beth was born. I remember waking up the morning after Halloween to a new brother and visiting my baby sister Becky in the hospital.

But I don't have a clear, distinct first memory of my mom.

This made me sad at first, but then I realized that she's always been such presence in my life, ALWAYS been there, that it's hard to pinpoint a "first."

Me with my Mom, 3 months old. I don't think my eating skills have gotten much better. Nor my BMI.

And it's hard to write a love letter to the most important woman in my life. Because the feeling is so enormous that I find it difficult to put into words.

I never really understood what unconditional love meant  until my older son, Curt, was placed in my arms for the first time. I had never loved an individual knowing that no matter what they did or who they were, I would ALWAYS, UNFAILINGLY love them. This gave me such a better insight into my mom, who loves unconditionally in spades.

Fun in the snow with Mom. February, 1973 (so i was 1 1/2)

My mom  has an amazing capacity to love all five of us kids (plus some). I never understood how much you could love five different children, as she always claimed, until I had my own.

I never understood how she had the energy for all five of us, five children who were so different but equally loved.

I could write a book about my mom: her patience, her hard work, the fact she always went above and beyond. All the Easter dresses (and prom and homecoming and wedding) she made for me (with love) and stood in the fabric store patiently while I agonized over the pink rosebuds or the blue. I could write about the times she let me cry on her shoulder over some silly boy or all the times she created the most amazing birthday parties for me (make your own pizza! Slumber party! ). I could also write about the middle school years when I think she forbade me from talking to her in my snide, 7th grade tone and asked me to write her notes instead. I'm sorry, Mom!

I don't think it's rare or uncommon to not really appreciate your parents until you're an adult and FINALLY realize how much you need them. I wouldn't have made it through Curt's diagnosis without my mom. I wouldn't have had such great memories of the births of my boys without my mom. All the visits, the beach trips, the love, the meals, the time she's showered on me and my boys. Too much to put into words.

I hope she knows. If I can be a FRACTION of the mother she is... I will have been successful and proud and accomplished what I most wanted in life.

I love you, Mom.

Easter 1974

And the weekend AFTER Easter 2011, with nephews/grandsons Rylan and Ben

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


During their wedding, Andy and  Juli read each other a love letter they had written to each other.

I wasn't sure how I felt about this at first.

But Juli set the bar high, writing a letter to Andy that made tears stream down my face.

Then Andy read his letter to Juli. Although he started off his presentation by asking, "Can I just say 'ditto'?" he went on to read the most heartfelt, open letter I could have imagined.

I bawled.

And I don't cry at weddings.

But you have to know Andy to understand this phenomenon.

He's quiet. And reserved. In fact, most of his good friends at the wedding were in the dark that he had so many siblings. That's how private he is. More about that in a later post.

Point being, Andy and Juli inspired me to write "love letters" to my family. Far away in Virginia. Look for them in days to come.

Andy reading his letter to Juli

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

She Hates Me

Claire, that is.

Sweet, little, blond-haired, blue-eyed Claire. Face of an angel.

Claire Elizabeth Holbrook, in  happier times.

Which contorts in PAIN, AGONY and DISSOLVES INTO TEARS every time Aunt Amy comes around.

Really, when I think about it, I don't blame her. In her 18 months on this earth, I've only seen her three times. None of which she remembers from visit to visit.

And this causes me PAIN, AGONY and has been known to induce TEARS. In me.

Believe me, it's not the fault of sweet Claire, or her big brother, 3-year-old Ben, who sang the National Anthem in front of 150 wedding guests, uses words like "perseverance" in normal conversation and sings show tunes. Ben just warmed up to me this weekend, after three years of seeing him about once a year. If I was lucky. When I first saw him at my parent's house in Virginia he ran up to me and immediately declared he wanted to give me a "piano hug." I willingly obliged, although I didn't know what I was in for...a strong clasp with his fingers playing "notes" on my back. The "saxophone hug" was similar, with his arms around me and humming cords into my ear (plus a bonus sound out of his south end....). However, Ben calls our other sister, Beth, "Aunt Dirtball." Clearly a sign of affection. She babysits him. She takes him to the circus. She spends the night at his house. She's obviously deserving of the term of endearment. Because Aunt Beth ROCKS. No two ways about it. I mean, she pretended to be an elephant!!! (I said PRETENDED, super hot BETH!)

Aunt Dirtball, the Elephant

At my parent's house this weekend, Anthony, devoted, loyal, loving father of Ben and Claire, husband of Becky, was trying to get the two kids ready for Andy and Juli's rehearsal dinner.  Becky, in the wedding party, was already at the rehearsal. This necessitated Anthony wrestling Ben into a button-up shirt, dress pants and dress shoes then tackling Claire: with a hair bow, dress, tights, ruffled bloomers, a cardigan and white patent leather shoes (oh the shoes!!!).

The Happy Holbrooks, Anthony, Ben, my sister Becky, and Claire

Claire was crying, Ben was fussing. And who came to the rescue???

Uncle Matt of course! Stellar husband of my sister, Aunt Dirtball, who also sees my niece and nephew on a regular basis.
Aunt and Uncle Dirtball, AKA, Beth and Matt

Claire wouldn't let well-intentioned Aunt Amy anywhere near her.

I don't blame her.

But it makes me sad.

As it makes me sad that Jameson, Rylan and Greycen, sons of my brother Jim and his beautiful wife, Lesley, don't really know who I am either. I mean, I see them once, maybe TWICE a year, at most. You see, all of my family lives in Virginia (ie, home). I'm the only one who migrated and never flew home. Jim's boys, plus Ben, call each other The Jokesters. It's SO CUTE. SO HEARTWARMING to see the little guys playing together. My boys aren't there. It's a very happy/sad thing for me.

The Jokesters at Andy and Juli's rehearsal dinner: Greycen, Jameson and Rylan Brocato; Ben Holbrook

In some ways this is great. I LOVE TYLER, my magazine and the friends I've made here. I HATE airports, saying goodbye and never knowing when I'll see the rambunctious Brocato brood again.

It actually hurts to even write this: it's not just about Claire crying whenever she saw me (she launched into an epic meltdown Sunday morning when I appeared downstairs for breakfast before her mother or brother). It's about being so far away that I'm afraid our families aren't going to grow in the close-knit fashion I'd always dreamed of.

Don't get me wrong; I love to be employed (in Tyler), but I also have this far-fetched dream of living near my siblings, babysitting their kids, watching Sunday football games together and grilling, seeing movies, getting mani/pedis, going to the zoo, the circus, or just coming over to play.

I'd love to be an Aunt Dirtball someday. Or an Aunt Smelly Feet, or Aunt Stinky Pits. Anything that would endear me to the people I love the most: my family. (and yes, I love my boys the BESTEST, but my family is worth their weight in gold...oh wait....that's not such a good analogy right now....)

You get the point. ;-)

Monday, May 2, 2011

Keep Curt Weird

As we were walking out of school today, Luke declares, "Hey Curt, my whole class thinks you're weird."

I whipped around, full of parental outrage.

"Luke Steven Pearson, that was RUDE," I told him. "First of all that was mean to say. Secondly we don't always say what's on our minds, especially if it hurts someone else's feelings."

Hangdog, Luke bowed his head and apologized to Curt.

"That's OK," Curt said. "I don't mind being weird. It means I'm unique and there's no one else like me."

*sigh....So often they can say it themselves so much better than we can as parents.

Thoughts on Marriage

 I just got back from my brother Andy's wedding in Virginia. It was a WONDERFUL weekend, full of fun, laughter and a lot of love.

Needless to say, being home in Richmond sparked a lot of thinking about family, love, marriage, and the like. So expect a lot of wedding/love/marriage related posts this week. I have an entire mental stockpile of them.

Juli and Andy's wedding wasn't traditional. Instead, it was infused with every detail of their personalities, both as individuals and as a couple. More on that later, but one thing that stood out was the reading they selected for the ceremony. I'm accustomed to a religious reading from the Bible and they chose something different.

I'd like to share it with you today. These were the vows Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward exchanged at their wedding.

Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward
Las Vegas, Nevada; January 29, 1958

Happiness in marriage is not something that just happens. 

A good marriage must be created. 

In the Art of Marriage: The little things are the big things. It is never being too old to hold hands. It is remembering to say 'I love you' at least once a day. It is never going to sleep angry. It is at no time taking the other for granted; the courtship should not end with the honeymoon, it should continue through all the years. It is having a mutual sense of values and common objectives. 

It is standing together facing the world. It is forming a circle of love that gathers in the whole family. It is doing things for each other, not in the attitude of duty or sacrifice, but in the spirit of joy. It is speaking words of appreciation and demonstrating gratitude in thoughtful ways. 

It is not expecting the husband to wear a halo or the wife to have wings of an angel. It is not looking for perfection in each other. It is cultivating flexibility, patience, understanding and a sense of humor. It is having the capacity to forgive and forget. It is giving each other an atmosphere in which each can grow. 

It is finding room for the things of the spirit. 

It is a common search for the good and the beautiful. It is establishing a relationship in which the independence is equal, dependence is mutual and the obligation is reciprocal. 

It is not only marrying the right partner, it is being the right partner.