Tuesday, January 8, 2013

A positive batch of memories

Today, I turned to the mixer and a favorite recipe to soothe my sadness. Each year on Jan. 8, I like to do something that my mom and I enjoyed doing together. Most years, I turn to baking and for the past nine years it has been an even sweeter tradition because one or both of my children help me make a sweet treat. Of course, I can always count on both of them to help me eat our creation, and the smiles on my children's small faces make it that much easier to mark my least favorite day of the year.

It has been 17 years since the day my mom died after a brief battle with breast cancer. My tradition of doing an activity that brings happy memories of my mom stems from the value she instilled in me to always focus on the positive. Baking was one of the many ways she showed her love to me through the effort to create delicious desserts and the lessons she taught me about baking. But most importantly, the time we spent together mixing up various creations left me with special memories and insight to pass on to my own children.

Today while my 4-year-old daughter Pamela and I mixed up a batch of allergy-friendly blondies I thought about how blessed I was to have had such a wonderful, positive influence in my life. She taught me through her own example to always look for the positive. Sure, things will sometimes make me mad, frustrated and sad. But it doesn't help to dwell on those negative feelings. Rather, find a way to move forward, turn a situation around, use a not-so-great experience to help someone else, and focus on the positive ingredients in life. That is the mantra I have held onto since my son Joseph's diagnosis with life-threatening food allergies nine years ago.

Sometimes it is challenging to navigate a life with allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, milk, egg, soy, sesame and mustard, along with having asthma. And those challenges often make me wish I had a mom to lean on for support. But as the mom Joseph depends on, I have always made sure we focus on what he can have and find creative ways to give him plenty of safe, yummy options. For example, tonight I made homemade pizza for dinner thanks to King Arthur Flour gluten-free bread and pizza mix, Daiya mozzarella style shreds, homemade tomato sauce and bacon. Joseph was thrilled to hear he was having one of his favorite meals. There was no whining about not being able to pick up a pizza from the neighborhood pizza place. Joseph is well-aware that the wheat- and dairy-filled pizza delivered in a box could end his life, so not something he's upset about missing. He's much happier expending his energy breathing in the smells of fresh pizza coming from our oven and excitedly asking when it will be ready.

My mom and dad and me on my 3rd birthday.
On days like today, there are moments when a positive outlook simply can't withstand the sadness I feel   missing my mom and wishing that my two children could have met her. I know that they would have had so much fun spending time with her and benefitting from her nurturing spirit. I can't put a positive spin on that void, but I can be glad that I have so many happy stories about her that I share with my children. I am thankful that Joseph and Pamela, who is named after my mom, know her through my memories and photographs.

The blondies Pamela and I made today are from the original Toll House Blonde Brownies recipe my mom and I used so many years ago. Of course, I substitute most of the ingredients to make it allergy-friendly, using King Arthur Flour gluten-free multipurpose flour, an egg replacer, Earth Balance dairy-free, soy-free natural buttery spread and Enjoy Life mega chunks. But when those blondies come out of the oven, the delicious result evokes happy memories from my childhood and creates new memories with my own children, all while helping my least favorite day of the year become a bit more tolerable.

1 comment:

  1. What a loving and sweet tribute to your mother and what lovely memories you are creating for your children.

    Thank you for sharing your memories with the rest of us.