“Close your eyes. Have no fear
The monster's gone. He's on the run ..
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and you're daddy's here.
Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful
Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful
Beautiful boy” ~ John Lennon | Beautiful Boy
We held hands he and I, as he sat on my lap; his eyes never leaving his dad as he gently strummed his guitar and serenaded him. I felt somehow like an eavesdropper in this familiar, calming, and beautiful ritual between the two
I whispered sweet nothings in his ear as I wiped his slobbery chin, “they're head-over-heels for you, Sweet One.”
This past weekend, just in time for Valentine's day, I headed off for the most special of dates. A visit to see my new grandson. “My goodness, how could three months have flown by so quickly?”
In their cozy apartment filled with artwork and strings of twinkle lights, we set up a picnic of sorts. I could have stayed all day. This wonderful family of three, full of defiance, snuggles, independence, beauty, laughter, and surprise.
I loved to hear stories of the baby, learning to stick out his tongue, first laughs, and funny babbling at nothing in particular
Within him is a sweetness, a contentedness, an energy that delights. I remember feeling this way when his dad was little, glimpses of a child's personality and previews of the coming attraction. Although now
I'd promised myself during the kid's growing-up years that I'd never forget, but admittedly I have. What's typical for this stage? What's the best way to hold him? How can I help? What does a new parent want?
It occurs to me that to know the later, one has to dig deep. Can we really remember what it's like to be irrationally sleep deprived at 4 am, and smelling of milk and despair? In want of nothing more than quiet, emotional stability, and perhaps a nice hot shower?
And so I bring a little something, but honestly, my over-riding wish is to cheer them on. Empowering and gifting them with the freedom to choose, to wear their new identities with great joy, and a sense of pride
His new role? The singer of all songs, maker of dinner, teller of jokes, feet tickler, dragon slayer, and comfy chest to watch movies on
Hers? The story-teller, rocker, slobbery kiss giver, keeper of the den, secrets, and
“Before you go to sleep, say a little prayer
Every day in every way, it's getting better and better
Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful
Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful
Beautiful boy” ~ John Lennon | Beautiful Boy
But this wasn't the only trip on my weekend's agenda. In fact, by the time it was all said and done I would journey nearly 1000
When I got home from saying hello to this little one, I readied myself to say a final good-bye to a member of our family, taken far too soon. A father himself, who left behind a very sweet wife and two-year-old little boy.
He was 28
The service was beautiful, in a casual and comfortable venue filled with vintage chairs and colorful sofas.
As people began to fill the room, there were heartfelt hugs. Many of these people I love, I'm lucky enough to see a few times a year, and then there were faces I hadn't seen in
“My goodness, how could 20 years have flown by so quickly?
As the evening passed, there were two beautiful and brave women I couldn't take my eyes off of: his wife, and his mother.
A hush fell about the room when his mom took the mic, “Give me a minute to take it all in” she slowly surveyed the room. “I need to be honest; I feel like I'm straddling two worlds right now. The earthly world that we still occupy, where I miss him like crazy. And the heavenly world where I know that he is.”
She paused long enough to catch her breath
“Making the decision to have a child, it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside of your body” ~ Elizabeth Stone
I don’t think there's a stretch mark cream made that can handle this sort of breadth, to smooth over this deep of a transition, this kind of pain.
Maybe that’s why labor (and life for that matter) is so messy, hard, and grueling. Maybe it's all meant to allow the pieces of a mother to fall apart, again and again, until the only thing she can do is take a cue from Humpty Dumpty, and slowly begin to rebuild them into
With every iteration, creating something with enough space and cracks that will fit a new leaf, a budding branch, or a soaring soul
“Out on the ocean sailing away
I can hardly wait to see you come of age
But I guess, we'll both just have to be patient
‘Cause it's a long way to go, a hard row to hoe
Yes, it's a long way to go but in the meantime” ~ John Lennon | Beautiful Boy
Throughout the evening, there were so many beautiful words of wisdom spoken, and kind tributes paid. They swirled in my mind as the lonely stretch of interstate lay ahead of me that evening. Only a few snowflakes lingered on such a dark, foggy, and cold February night.
Maybe the sweetest gifts to give the grieving mother, or a heart-broken wife, aren't that much different from those offered to sleep-deprived mother of a new baby. The freedom to let herself become something new, all while reminding her she's so very loved.
To simply say ..
“Don't be afraid to speak this new language you're learning. At any moment, this new dialect of love and loss, remembering and miss, joy and despair, gratitude and sorrow. We'll do our best to follow along, even if we haven't yet learned, or aren't able to remember.”
Lean into the change. For now, be your distracted, sleepy, sad, and anxious self. There's nothing you have to prove, and no one you have to prove it too. Let go of the expectation that you need to be the same person you were before, because the reality is
You've changed. You've been changed.
“Before you cross the street
Take my hand
Life is what happens to you
While you're busy making other plans
Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful
Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful
Beautiful boy” ~ John Lennon | Beautiful Boy
Let her know
We can't wait to get to know the new version of you, even if there's mashed something in your hair, tissues strewn throughout the house, and you can't finish a sentence. Don't worry about your inbox, or feel guilty if the laundry is piling up, and there's a frozen pizza in the oven for dinner
Most of all relax, and let your community care for you now, because we're here. Oh, and don't forget; someone's stopping by with dinner around six
(And don't you dare clean your kitchen!)
Video Credit: YouTube.com
Several people have emailed me over the past few months asking about healthy, one-pan recipes. The kinds of meals you can pull together any night of the week without a lot of fuss or fanfare. Whether you're in a season filled with new life, one of loss, or anywhere in between.
I love big-flavored, colorful stir-fries, hearty, chunky soups, and anything resembling a casserole — the sorts of dishes that will fill me up and work nutritionally, without being too heavy.
This one-skillet ranch chicken fits the bill in every way. It's easy and lightly spicy.
Vibrant red and green bell peppers, black beans, fire-roasted tomatoes, chicken, and brown rice combine to deliver tastes from the southwest.
( ** Note from Ali: This post originally appeared on February 17, 2016. I originally set out to update the photos, but decided an updated post was for those who maybe haven't ventured through the archives)
~ Adapted from TastyKitchen
One-Skillet Southwest Ranch Chicken
- 1-2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
- ½ red onion, chopped
- 1 tsp minced garlic
- ¼ tsp red pepper flakes (optional if you like spicy + more to taste)
- 1 packet Hidden Valley Spicy Ranch Mix (not ranch dip mix)
- 1 red bell pepper, cored and chopped
- 1 green bell pepper, cored and chopped
- 1 can black beans, drained & rinsed (or 1 ½ cup cooked black beans)
- 1 can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
- 1 ½ cups instant brown rice
- 1 cup chicken stock, low sodium is best
- 1 cup freshly grated cheddar cheese, for serving
- parsley, for serving (or cilantro)
- Heat olive oil in a large non-stick skillet on medium-high heat. Add chicken, onions, and ranch mix. Sauté, stirring often, for 2 or 3 minutes
- Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil.
- Cover and simmer on low for ~ 5 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and the rice is nearly tender
- Let stand, covered, for ~ 5 minutes more, until all of the liquid has been absorbed
- Serve topped with shredded cheese and parsley (or cilantro)
Yum! That looks so good. I would definitely love to try this! Plus, brown rice is so much healthier for you than white rice.
That looks delicious and like something I would really love.
Currently, have chicken marinating in the fridge for dinner tonight so looking for ideas… this one sounds amazing! I can’t decide between this or the baked coconut crusted chicken and honey mustard! Either way, I know it will be delicious!
I have to address the question whether or not a parent can remember what it feels like to be sleep deprived. YES!! I suffer greatly, even though my first slept relatively well. Even when HE was sleeping, I was tossing and turning, wondering if he was ok, and when he’d wake up. I remember every moment of it, and every moment of complete exhaustion!!
What a beautiful heartfelt and sad post. 28 is far too young to die and while “Beautiful Boy” is one of my favorite John Lennon songs, I also find it to be one of the saddest. John and Yoko’s love stories is one of my favorites and it was amazing to be able to marry my love in Gibraltar and to have our photo taken on the same runway as John & Yoko with the Rock of Gibraltar behind us. And that church is perfection! I’ve always dreamed of living in a converted church filled with vintage things, what a lovely place to say ‘”goodbye.” Such beautiful food photos, too. I’m a vegetarian and I can’t get ranch mix in Denmark, so I won’t be trying the recipe, but it looks great 🙂 I know this comment is a bit rambling, but there was so much in your post!
I do remember the days when my boys were young. I think about them often lately and sometimes wish I could go back. I tried not to blink and yet here we are. The chicken looks good, love how simple it is to make.
Beautiful Boy is one of my favorite songs of all time!! Such a moving post and that southwest chicken sounds (and looks) amazing!!
I thought my heart contained all the love it ever would until I had grandchildren. This is such a bittersweet story – of new life on earth and new life in heaven. I think I’ll be singing Beautiful Boy all day long.
Everyday I wonder how my children can be grown, married and with families of their own. I don’t feel that old. Well somedays I actually do, but time and moments have flown by.
What a beautiful post and dedication to him. 28 is far too young to die. I know with my own child I try to savor every minute I get with him because I know it’s not gonna last forever.
What a lovely sounding time you spent with your grandson, it must be amazing watching children grown and have families of thei own.
How sad to be saying goodbye to someone so young and with a baby all of their own as well.
Such a mix of joy and sadness, together.
I LOVE that Lennon song. I think I first heard it watching Mr. Holland’s Opus when I was a kid.
I’m so sorry about your loss. 28 is scary young. My father passed away suddenly this week many years ago, and he was only 36. He would have been almost 70 by now.
While I still have young children, I marvel at how thick in the moments I REALLY was years ago, and yet I do forget so many things. I bet it comes back like riding a bike with grandkids! (I hope?)
What a moving tribute to your nephew. I remember being so sleep deprived as a young mom! But it seems like all the ways to help with the grandbaby just came right back!
Wow, what a story. You really have a way with words. I am glad my little one has a grandma and great-grandma as he is growing up.
He passed away too soon – what a tremendous loss. So sad for his wife and little one, I can’t even imagine how much they must be hurting.
I always look forward to your blog! The recipes you write about always gives me inspiration to think outside the box and try something new and different! This one skillet southwest ranch chicken is no exception!
I find myself being so moved by your genuine, open and engaging post. It just brings home to us how temporary we all are in this world and how important it is to express your love and not take things for granted. Greeting a new life coming into the world is always wonderful and the thought of having to say goodbye to someone at the age of 28 is devastating. You really expressed yourself so beautifully.
Wow, sorry you had to go through this. But it looks like a very comforting dish you made. Good luck.
Oh my 28 is way way too young to be taken away from his family! That absolutely just breaks my heart that anybody has to go through this!
I loved this! John Lennon was a iconic figure, and the recipe was top notch!
That song is one of our favorites for our son, Jude. As you can imagine we are big John Lennon fans as well as Beatles fans! 😉 Such a special song to remember. Love this recipe too. we love a ranch chicken recipe we have but never done it in a skillet with beans!
I am so sorry for your loss. Two of life’s events in that short period of time – birth and death. A baby boy, whose life is just beginning and a young man passing away too soon. I cannot imagine the pain his wife is going through right now. And their son will grow up not knowing his father. So sad. I hope the young mother and her child will be given all the support they need until she can get back on her feet and start life anew.
I love the way you intertwine a real genuine story and food. John Lennon was also one of our favorites. Motherhood and life, in general, can be so hard at times. I am so sorry that you had to go through this.
I am glad you got to visit with your son and grand baby, but so sad that a funeral was also on the trip. 28 is so young. I was 28 when I had my oldest son and I felt at that point that my life was just beginning. I will keep his wife and son in my prayers. The service sounded so beautiful and I love “my beautiful boy” by John Lennon it’s so fitting for his mothers beautiful boy!
A very sweet post oozing with the warmth of love. Life always goes full circle, but babies, whether as children or grand children are always special, after all they are the images of God, and bundles of innocence.
I love one pan rice dishes like this! Such a good way to infuse the rice with awesome flavor. Fewer dishes is just the icing on the cake 🙂
This is very well written. You seem to capture the essence of motherhood very vividly. I’m not a mother yet, but it shows a clear picture of what it feels like to be one.
OH goodness, all the tears. Motherhood is the best and yet the hardest. Sending thoughts to your family.
28 is way too young 🙁 So sorry your family had to go through this loss. Hugs.
I was just saying the same thing to my husband about time flying. It seems like we’ve been married forever, yet not 22 years if that makes any sense. LOL, I am heartbroken over the little boy losing his daddy. It makes me pause and think just how many extra cuddles I want to get in today with my 4-year-old.
Such a sweet and somber story. It would be absolutely heartbreaking to lose a parent at 2 years old. Makes you realize just how precious life is.
I am not sure why this made me cry but 28 leaving a 2 year old boy is so sad. It makes me think of my my Dad who passed 14 years ago and my oldest brother who also passed too young and left his three young daughters.
I remember the sleep deprivation, but after the first 3-4 months, my son was an excellent sleeper. He is 14 now and that time has flown by in the blink of an eye. It’s hard to believe that he’ll be off to college before I know it. Having a grandchild must be a wonderful experience.
This is such a heartfelt post – that is such a young age, how heart breaking. I love that John Lennon song too; so moving! Your recipe looks great too. This was so great to read – I commend you for writing this, it can’t be easy!
Those first few months were hard for me too, actually the first year since I felt like I may have had post partum. I couldn’t imagine not being around. Such a sad story.
Wow very emotional. The dish talked about looks delicious though!
This is a very emotional post! 28 is a very young age, very sad 🙁 The baby boy is so beautiful.
Two days ago we lost a very good family friend. It’s very sad, she’s so young. But the love will always be remembered.
I know I try to remember their faces as I held them as infants…19 and 22 years gone by…I remember being overwhelmed but in love with them. I’m still in love with them. I can’t imagine the grief that mother went through losing her son. It would be like losing yourself.
I love the venue! I would have loved to find something like that as a venue for my own wedding. I found nothing and renting would’ve been too expensive.
I make chicken and rice at least once a week. I NEED to try this Southwest ranch version – looks incredible!
I try so hard not to blink or to take the time with my kids for granted. And this just reminds me again, so I thank you for sharing this. My kids are 9,11,14,16….growing fast….I’m taking pics and mental notes as often as possible
This truly touched my heart. The love of remembrance and the love of years to come. Thankfully the lost soul will continue to live on through his son.
What an amazing dinner! I love everything about this, especially how easy this is to whip up!
That is so cute the story you tell at the beginning. Getting to hold the child while the father strummed his music and it brought you back to memories of your children in your arms and sleepless nights. And then the transition to a family who had lost the father and husband. I do like how relaxed the atmosphere looked there. I hope it did make it easier for the family. The one pan recipe does look amazing. I do love doing things like that with my daughter. It’s so much easier.
Your John Lennon music reference though out the post sent me on a 3 0 minute hunt for more YouTube video about Jullian an John Lennon.
I still have six children at home. All boys. Two boys no longer at home. I wonder as they all start families, etc., will I remember these tired days. Will I remember the hard times and the struggles and be the best mother in law and grandmother I can be. What a cycle life is…
Glad I am not the only one who spends time thinking about these things.
What precious memories you have of your grandson, so sweet at just 3 months old. Sounds like your son has become a wonderful father – which is testament to you and your parenting skills x
I can’t imagine losing one of my children at 28 years old. My oldest is 17 and about to go off to college and my youngest was just born 2 months ago, so I am totally sleep deprived. Though, I definitely didn’t remember it like when I’m in it, lol.
way too soon and things like this surely HAS TO resonate with people that every moment counts – we do get lost in everyday life as a human – wake up eat..go to work or school ..tv is on..social media etc etc and i get that – but for example the minute my 4 yr old niece visits the family – i immediately take her to a small park in london westminster and play catch before i just describe to her the surroundings of where we are in london..its just the moments like this is what we should savour – so i enjoyed reading your moments and memories and I’m glad i had the chance too
What an emotional post. Loss is such a hard thing to deal with as it is but the fact that you put such a positive and happy spin to everything is just so beautiful.
Such a heartfelt post. 28 is no age at all. Beautiful Boy is such a touching song. I can’t even begin to imagine what any parent who loses a child must go through. My thoughts are with them
A grandma? I had no idea…. so sad to read about the loss of a young man in his prime. May his loved ones be comforted.
As for that vibrant looking skillet dish, the colors are a dining table winner and I bet it tastes just as good.
I am so sorry to hear about the loss of such a young man and only 28, may he rest in peace. I hope this mother has had a little time to heal but it is never easy dealing with loss. The vibrancy of your skillet dish, is surely a reminder how we must sustain our earthly bodies for the little amount of time that we are on this earth x
Making this for the second time tonight – the first try was a BIG hit. Thanks for this recipe (that even the picky eater in the family loved!).
It’s always scary when one thinks about the fragility of life. It’s so important to cherish and not take for granted those that we love. I try to hug my kids every single day.
I would have never said you were old enough to be a grandma! That’s so cool though. I loved hearing your story, even the sad parts. Thank you for sharing it with us 🙂
I love southwest flavored meals so this caught my attention automatically. Yum! I am going to have to make this and soon!
Yes indeed…….a bittersweet post. I remember somethings about my children as babies but strangely enough I can’t remember the feeling of them in my arms or particular moments where they did something significant. This is kinda strange as I stayed home full time to look after them as babies and even breast fed them both for more time than I care to remember. However I do remember their smell………that pure innocent milky scent and it was better than the most expensive perfume. I’m glad you had a great trip to see your grandson……….however the other end of your trip was not so pretty and I can only give my condolences to your family and to the wife and mother of this young man. RIP xKathryn
Thank you for sharing your touching story… Being in two worlds at one time might be a feeling that a lot of us feel during loss that we can’t put into words.. and she put it so beautifully. Thank you for sharing
Such a heartfelt post and I couldn’t help but be moved by it. It’s both beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time. I am sorry for your loss, he seemed like a charming and loving young man. I hope his mother and his wife will be taken care of especially since he left a 2 year old baby.
This is one of the most beautiful posts I’ve read in a very long time. I have a friend who also lost her son at a very young age, and I watched as her heart was broken. I feel too for the young mom and little guy who have been left behind. Big hugs. x
This was beautiful, although very heartbreaking. Thank you for sharing this story. Tonight, I’ll be holding my loved ones even closer.
You don’t realise what love really is, till you become a parent. Looking at them, makes you forget the whole pain in everyday boring adult life. You really enjoy every day like a kid all over again. Even when they make you cry for so many reasons, you see love in them without any expectations.
this is unbelievable! i will be holding my mom tighter this week!
this is very sad… 28 years old.. he’s too young to die and he could have done a lot of things right? But what I really concerned the most is the daughter and the mom… growing up without a daddy is really tough but God is always working in His own mysterious ways so I know they will be guided by Him… what a nice post to dedicate to him
This is so sad. 28 is too young. I lost a close cousin when he was 22. It was devastating. It is so nice of you to dedicate this post to him.
What a heartbreaking and soul searching post. I love the venue with the sofa’s. So sad though to lose a husband and father ..I hope the family are doing well.
I like the quote that you included, ““Making the decision to have a child .. it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside of your body” ~ Elizabeth Stone” I’m not a mother but my mom says things similar to this whenever I go off and do something new. I also liked the lines,
“Lean into the change. For now be your distracted .. sleepy .. sad .. and anxious self. There’s nothing you have to prove .. and no one you have to prove it to. Let go of the expectation that you need to be the same person you were before .. because the reality is
You’ve changed. You’ve been changed.”
I think that in any circumstance this line has some relevance. Whenever anything happens, good or bad, it is going to take an effect on you and things won’t be the same but in a sense that is okay.