Oh Valentines Day, what a weird, twisted and torturous holiday you are….I just don’t know how to handle you.
One one hand, you celebrate LOVE, of all things. It’s kind of hard to hate that. I mean, who wouldn’t want to celebrate love? Well, besides Satan and all. He probably hates Valentines Day too. Your intention as a holiday, I’m sure, is good and true and kind.
But on the other hand your modern day execution, Valentines Day, it’s the pits. It’s a giant cesspool of commercialism, competition and insecurity. And I’m just talking about my Valentines Day feels here, people.
And the oddest thing about my jumbled emotions is that they don’t even touch the normal Valentines Day offenders. They have nothing to do with my relationship or my marriage. They’re not about passion or flowers or chocolate or diamonds, or even the lack thereof.
Nope. They have everything to do with motherhood.
Let’s face it, the pressure to be the perfect mom these days is always intense. We put a ton of emphasis on things that 30 years ago, when we were growing up, weren’t even on our parents radar. I can’t remember one parent, not ONE, bringing lunch to their child at school and sitting with them at the special visitors table. Do you want to know why? It wasn’t a thing. Our moms packed our lunches or pressed a crisp dollar bill into our hand and figured that we would get all the lunchtime nutrition we needed the good old fashioned way, by trading everything with the kid whose parents packed peanut butter fluff sandwiches and snack packs.
After school activities? Not a thing. We were either thrown outside to get into trouble with the neighborhood kids while mom watched the rest of her “shows” or were left to entertain ourselves with the likes of Disney’s Ducktales and Night Court re-runs.
Which were awesome to my eight-year-old self, by the way.
But nowhere has the pressure of mommy-hood knocked me more sideways than the HE-Double Hockey Stick that is known as the Elementary School Valentines Exchange Party. My heavens how I hate the pressure of this day.
Mainly I hate it because it hits on my weakness–CRAFTS. I am just not crafty. I own this. At 39 years old I’ve made peace with it. I can’t sew, paint, draw, and have learned through many near disasters that a glue gun is not my friend. And if I’m being completely honest, I don’t even want to do these things. They’re not my gifts and they’re not my talents and that’s ok. Most of the time.
So you’d think that I wouldn’t care that my kids Valentines box is the saddest one at his table, covered in basic duct tape with random stickers haphazzardly thrown in for decoration. You would think that it wouldn’t hurt my heart just a bit that his Fun Dip Valentine is looked at in horror when it tumbles out of peers boxes, surrounded by hand crafted organic fruit snack butterfly Valentines (yes, these exist), handmade melted crayon hearts, and adorable little oranges packaged with a handprinted label telling him “He’s a cutie.”
You would think that this wouldn’t bother me because I am secure in my non-craftiness.
But it does.
Every year I want to do better. For this one day each year, I get a little bit insecure about my mommyness. I tell myself that I won’t get caught up in it, but when I walk into that party somehow there is always a side of me that wishes I had tried just a bit harder, done just a bit more so that the Valentines they hand out look like they were made by a mom that cares. Because heaven forbid other mothers think that I am just phoning it in when it comes to my parenting.
And we all know that parenting comes down to the snapshots that other people see, right?
Oh wait. NO. Just no.
I refuse this year. I work hard everyday to give my kids the best of me. To be the best mom that I can be. That is my Valentines Day gift to them. It’s not perfect handcrafted Valentines they can give their friends. It’s not a holiday tablescape with heart shaped pancakes greeting them in the morning. It’s in the showing up. And the doing my best. And loving them–fiercely, recklessly, and with no borders. That’s my Valentine to my children.
And I hope that’s what they remember as they get older.
So to all you moms out there just doing your best to give your kids the love that they deserve, this ones for you. If you are a craft queen who loves to glue googly eyes on 25 little Valentines, hats off to you. If you decorate your house for every holiday and create memories of joy around that, you rock. If you do none of these things, not a one, but you give everything else you have to them and love them in a way that is true and authentic to you and your gifts. More power to you.
You. Do. You.
Your kids will remember the love. No the stuff.
Unless that stuff is a peanut butter fluff sandwich. Everyone remembers those.
As for me, we all know what I do to show love. I cook. I can’t help it; it’s my way. It’s my gift. And my gift to you is this recipe. Perfect for a Valentines Day dinner, nothing says romance more than pasta and seafood and bacon. Yes, you read that right. BACON. Bacon makes everything better. So simply and quick, you can have this seemingly gourmet pasta meal on the table in the time it takes to boil the pasta. The secret here is to use the fat rendered from the bacon as the base of the sauce. You can’t go wrong with the bite of saltiness it gives. Add in the kick of wine and lemon at the end and the combination goes soaring. Even my pickiest eater devoured this; it’s that good. Enjoy!
Peace, love and good eats!
Bacon Shrimp Pasta with Lemon Wine Sauce
- 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1 pound fettuccine (or pasta of your choice)
- 4 slices bacon, finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1 cup baby spinach, packed
- 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- Step 1 Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook pasta to al dente, according to package instructions. Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water before draining.
- Step 2 Bring a large skillet to heat over medium-high.
- Step 3 Add bacon and cook until crispy, about 5 minutes, stirring often to avoid burning.
- Step 4 Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper-towel lined plate.
- Step 5 Keeping the drippings in the pan, add the garlic and red pepper, stirring constantly until fragrant, about 30 seconds to 1 minute.
- Step 6 Add shrimp, seasoning liberally with salt and pepper.
- Step 7 Cook until pink, about 3 minutes, stirring often.
- Step 8 Add wine and lemon juice to the pan, being careful as the liquid may splatter.
- Step 9 Cook, stirring often, 2-3 minutes until liquid is partially reduced.
- Step 10 Add pasta, spinach, and half of reserved bacon to pan, tossing to combine.
- Step 11 Add in 1/4 cup of reserved pasta water and stir, making sure the pasta is coated with the sauce, adding more if it seems dry.
- Step 12 When the spinach has wilted and pasta is coated, stir in the parmesan.
- Step 13 Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if necessary.
- Step 14 Serve immediately topped with remaining bacon and more parm, if desired.