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What meal finally had us ALL at the table??


The table makes me queasy. That’s right, as an adult, the dinner table, makes me clinch my buttocks.

This is unfortunate to say the least. I was raised in a family where the table was the gathering place, something we all looked forward to, daily. It was mandatory that we all sit down together and to this very day I still gather with my parents and brother often. I’ve raised my girls in the much the same way, while many nights dinner becomes chaotic with activities and this Realtor Life J we have always made time to sit down a few times a week to gather, sans electronics, around the table for a homemade (most of the time) meal.

Imagine the shock and awe, ok…maybe more like a slap in the face, when I came into this try 2 blazing with optimism, fully read up on blending family information and was met with a road block the size of the Berlin Wall. Who doesn’t want to sit down to dinner, I kept asking myself? What have I done wrong? Perhaps I’m not the decent cook I think I am. Turns out, my own ego was only one of the 6 egos in the way at the table.

Family dynamics within a blended family are as unique as the individuals, circumstances and experiences within. Which is likely why no one has ever asked-and it has been years-“hey, Jess, how is the whole blending families thing going for you guys?” I repeat, NEVER. It certainly isn’t that people aren’t curious. Who doesn’t love a good drama filled storyline?

The truth is, it hits too close to home for most. I digress, for now anyway.

Back to the table.

For months, I cooked, slaved, planned, and stayed up late prepping meals trying, desperately to have some semblance of the homey, gathering feeling given to me as a child, something I hold so dear as an adult. My positivity, (and ego, though I hadn’t figured that out yet) was screaming at me to keep at it, so I did. I forced and insisted at every turn, crying regularly out of frustration. Did I mention fighting with my new partner as to why his kids refused to not only sit at the dinner table but EVER eat anything I cooked?

Often. It was OFTEN.

While I could not get the six of us around the table, for the four of us that did gather (myself, Mike, and my daughters, Lindsey and Jenna who were at this point 10 & 7)it was far from harmony. It was more like the anticipation soldiers must feel when they are arriving to battle. My girls were staunchly behind their mother, not understanding why I was visibly hurting and only seeing the “new” three people in the family as the culprits/enemy. Mike and his daughters, well, we all know how complicated it can be for the replacement mother. Even when the “replacement” isn’t even trying to be one. Rejection is paramount. Easy to conjure up for children, and expected, based on everything I had read. It doesn’t make it any easier when it seems to be pointed in your direction.

Torn was the word that played in my mind during my workday. I was SO torn. This was more difficult than the demise of my first marriage. I wondered if I would feel this way forever. Torn between my girls and my new partner, wanting dinner to just be “normal” and enjoyable again, not fully grasping normal would never be “normal” again. What I had deemed as normal, and simple in my previous life, was dashed, turns out there is really only one shot to get it “right” in the traditional sense. This full on rejection of something that was so symbolic had, over time, cut me so deeply I resigned myself to allowing it to live right next to some of the unspeakably deep scars of the last few years.

Eventually, I did the thing. I let it go.

I absolutely stopped trying, like at all. I didn’t cook for months, I took my girls out, alone, made simple meals to just feed myself and the two of them. Mike had takeout for his girls, we call it the Frisch’s phase, many nights eating in a completely different room, or floor of the house. He and I would eat less with our kids and come together and have a late dinner together, alone, finally able to savor some of the time we treasured. Over wine and whatever scraps remained we didn’t talk about the Berlin Wall of dinner. We catered to each other, bantered about sports stats and whatever debatable topic I threw his way (which incidentally is why we are married-I cannot turn down a solid debate-and he is quite the opinionated wordsmith). We nurtured us, and eventually I wanted to cook again. By eventually I mean about a year of strike. No joke. Keep in mind that I love to cook. For whatever reason it seems to be the proverbial plate I drop first when under immense stress….just for giggles…here is another example.

While packing boxes to leave my first husband, with my bestie as my trusted assistant, I politely explained to him, “you can keep the cast iron skillets; I’ll never be with another man who wants to eat something as unhealthy as gravy.” Laced with sarcasm and no doubt in the most condescending tone I had in the depths of my soul at that time. About a year later, after a little life experience, I found myself on his doorstep saying, “hey :) (with a big oooops smile) turns out I’m going to need to get those cast iron skillets …all men like gravy.” Talk about eating crow.

Once I stopped needing all of us to sit at the table, and I began cooking again, things settled out. Occasionally, all six of us would sit down to eat together, Mike’s oldest would actually eat what I had made J and ask for seconds. We are still waiting on the youngest to buy in. She, more often than not, will sit at the table (most of the time) with a bowl of Reese Puffs, while the rest of us dine on our favorite….stuffed shells.

These days, our two oldest use their creativity to set our tablescape on Saturday nights, I cook my favorite Italian meal and we all sit, wedding goblets in hand, chatting, reviewing the week and enjoying each other’s company to the fullest. Just shy of three years later, my heart is full of more love and bursting with even more spirit than my previous, “normal, simple” life would have ever allowed.

Perhaps Elsa had it right when she said, “Let it Go…”

The infamous Stuffed Shells that had us all gathering….click here

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