Ferias (Vacation)

All packed and ready of his month away from home before we reunite in August.

All packed and ready of his month away from home before we reunite in August. Blog returns in September.


Hank has left the building.  The house is empty without him.  Hank is off on a month holiday by himself and that leaves you with just me.  Just little old me.

I fought this, I tried with all my might and powers of persuasion, but alas I lost the battle and our Hank is off with a slew of friends and family as their guests on numerous beach holidays for the entire month of July.

Everything became finalized this past weekend and last night we dropped Hank off with the first his generous and loving hosts.  I take it as a compliment to Hank that so many of our friends and family want to share their ferias (vacations) with him and it is such a wonderful opportunity for him I couldn’t say no. I wasn’t quite prepared with school having ended more than two weeks later than usual, but whatcha gonna do?  It’s hot and our Hank’s kind, calm, helpful nature is such a gift to all who love him and my boy adores the beach.  In fact, our friends just sent us photos of Hank’s morning jog which he took with waves lapping at his feet. Such a gift.

Hank is the pivotal element to this blog.  His wit, charm and unique sweetness are the foundation to our family dialogue and when I finally relented and gratefully agreed to the whole month away I had a rather selfish quandary: what would I write about daily, on this platform, for a solid month without Hank’s input?

Could I come up with a month of conversations with Molly, our fickle and fantastic two year old… maybe. Could I patch something together from phone calls… possibly. Could I ask our friends to take the time to write down their Conversations with Hank… argh, nope. Could I repost from our archive for a month a mix of favorite flashbacks… sure, but that kind of curation would be a ton of work and frequent readers tend to do that anyway by scrolling through our Favorites archive.

In the end, after consulting a wise friend and fellow creative she posed another idea altogether:  Why was I not willing to give myself permission to take a break too?

And there it was… The question I wasn’t willing to ask, but needed very much to answer.

Am I willing to give myself permission to also take a break?

Even when I was at my most ill, bedridden and in incredible pain, I still posted this blog consistently and used that daily achievement to fuel the rest of my motivation and self-care.  As long as the blog was posted I gave myself permission to rest, push myself to get to physical therapy, pick Hank up from school, to do the laundry or get on the floor and play with Molly, All because I got the blog posted.

And I was so consistent that supportive readers would reach out on the scarce few days I had to miss a post due to rescheduled doctors appointments or an ER visits to ask after us, to make sure we were all okay. (Y’all know who you are and thank you again for your unwavering support.)

In all honesty blogging, like all creative endeavors, isn’t easy, it is mostly thankless, it is an expensive “hobby” and we all need to face the fact that Hank will be ten in September and I give it another year to year and a half max before he asks me to stop blogging our conversations altogether and you, dear readers, as well as I have to be prepared for the day when Hank becomes the sidekick to Molly and this blog shifts the focus away from his growing voice and on to hers.

Giving myself permission to take two months away from the blog rather than our usual August hiatus will give me the time to prepare for that big event.  It will give me some space to look at this content with fresh eyes and a grateful heart.  It will give me time to look forward and explore options to take this blog to a wider audience or to another level.  Who knows?  I have practically a whole sketch book of ideas and projects I would like to pursue.

So that is what I did.  Yesterday, I gave myself permission to take this break.  I filled my sketchbook with wide reaching To-Do lists and grand plans.  Last night I gave Hank a huge hug and peppered him with kisses and gave him permission to enjoy every minute of his July break and at the same time I resolved to do the same until our family reunites in August.

While we’re away I welcome, whole heartedly, your ideas and suggestions for this blog.  Your feedback is important to me.  There are some of you who I know or have reached out in the past, but the majority of Conversations with Hank readers remain strangers.  If you have questions or suggestions, if you have an idea, a contact that can help this blog evolve or just want to say hello, please feel free to take this time and get in touch.  I will read and reply to every message as I can.

I want to thank you all in advance for giving us this space and also welcoming our return in September. Feel free to Subscribe to our blog for posts to automatically arrive daily in your email inbox (enter your email at the end of this post), find us on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr or Instagram and maybe share your favorite Conversation with Hank with a few of your friends on your social media or through email.

If this is your first time visiting, thank you for reading this far and check out our 4+years worth of archives (located on the left hand side of the blog) and we will see you all in September.

Until then, I wish you all the best.  I wish you all a wonderful summer full of friends and family, good food and fine health. Take care até no Setembro e boas ferias (until September and happy holidays)!

~ Joy


Why I Oughta

My Three Stooges: Hank, Pai (dad) and Molly

My Three Stooges: Hank, Pai (dad) and Molly


(from the back seat of the car)

Hank: Mana (sister)?

Molly: Mano (brother)?

Hank: Are you my baby?

Molly? Noooo.

Hank: Then who’s baby are you?

Molly: Um… mama’s baby.

Me: (fist pump, whisper scream) Yes!

Molly: Quero água (I want water).

Pai: (driving) Do we even have…

Me: (inspecting the picnic basket) Moo-Moo, I don’t have water. I have juice.

Molly: Juice, please.

Hank: That was so polite, mana (sister).

Molly: Juice please, agora (now)!

Pai: (officially micromanaging) And there is no sippy-cup is there?

Me: (bicker-flirting) I didn’t get the motherhood preparedness badge in girl scouts, okay?

Pai: You were a girl scout and that is a real thing?

Me: I was a brownie for like 4 weeks until my contrariness caused the other mothers to advise my mom that maybe girl scouts wasn’t for me.

Pai: You couldn’t even be a scout?

Me: AMERICAN girl scout. I am sure I would have excelled at European Scouts where the girls and boys are equal, but I wasn’t into selling cookies and knotting macramé.

Pai: (mocked shock, completely facetious) Don’t you write a parenting blog?  Isn’t being perfect, like, your job?

Me: (soooooo much side eye)

Molly: JUICE!

Hank: Say please, be kind.

Molly: Juice, please, sim (yes).

Me: I have a cup and I have a straw which means I will need your help, Hank.

Hank: That is perfectly fine! I will make sure she doesn’t get a juice bath. Just don’t hit any big bumps.

Pai: Portuguese highways don’t have bumps or traffic and for this our country was practically bankrupt. If you can help, Hank, then we will be home in 15 minutes without a birra (tantrum).

Me: (handing back the unsecured drinking vessel to the nine year old to be administered to the two year old completely unsupervised)

Pai: (turns up the radio, whispers sarcastically, escalating the mock argument) Do you have a change of clothes for her? (trying to keep a strait face)

Me: (feigning defensiveness) If I didn’t pack a gawd-damn-sippy-cup do you think I would have planned ahead and packed a spare outfit for the toddler? You’re lucky there were diapers and wipes today.

Pai: (chuckling)

Me: What happened to the 15 minutes and we’re home attitude? Next time you make the lunch and pack the picnic basket then I’ll better pack the diaper bag instead of doing (whisper scream, shaking a fist at him) ALL THE THINGS, BRO.

Pai: (practically hysterical) Did you just call me bro?

Me: (giggling) You’re gonna drive me to drink. What makes you think I am the prepper in this family? Just because I carried those kids for 9 months each in my broken down trash heap of a body doesn’t mean I’m the one that has to carry their gear.

Pai: (positively purple with laughter)

Me: She’s lucky I didn’t ask Hank to have her drink strait from the bottle. Where’s the “she can scream for 15 minutes covered in orange juice” option, huh?  You’ve completely forgotten what parenting toddler Hank was like. He screamed for all of 2009. Every single day all day. Where were you?

Pai: Dissertating.

Me: (switching to my best three stooges impression)  A wise wise guy, eh? Why I oughta!

Molly: All done!

Hank: Here is the cup, mama.

Me: Well done! Thank you, Hank. (rhetorically to Hank, flirtatiously barbed towards Pai) Jeeze, how did you get to be such a kind and capable young man?

Hank: I don’t know. You’re my parents and you both taught me to be my best me so I guess I learned it from you because you’re such good parents.

Me: (heart melted into a puddle)

Pai: (beaming)

Me: Thank you so much, buddy!

Pai: That was so kind, thank you.

Hank: I’m your best filho (son) and you’re my best pais (parents).  I don’t know how good I’d be in another family, but I am so lucky I don’t have to think about that because you’re my parents.

Pai: Obrigado, filho (thank you, son).

Me: Truth.

Molly: More juice! MAMA! Juuuuuiiiiccceeeee.

Hank: Amália Sofia?

Molly: Please. PLEASE!




Sopa de Legumes (made with love)

conversations with hank sopa de legumes


Me: Hank?

Hank: Yah?

Me: Come find me.

Hank: (unenthusiastic) Coming.

Me: (scrubbing veg in the kitchen sink)

Hank: What is it, mama?

Me: Summer Session: Soup Making 101

Hank: But I…

Me: Haven’t done anything worth wile today being stuck home because of the rain?

Hank: No, that isn’t true. I organized my school cabinet.

Me: That you did and now you will help me organize these vegtables into a soup.

Hank: (annoyed) What do I have to do?

Me: Come here and observe first. A basic Portuguese Sopa de Legumes (Vegetable Soup) to be healthy it is believed needs at least ten different kinds of veg. We don’t have ten today, we have about six if we count the garlic, so this will be only a moderately healthy soup. We have 5 potatoes, one turnip, a handful of carrots, 4 small onions, three cloves of garlic and I have purslane, which is called beldroega in Portuguese, from our veranda which we will add after we make the caldo (broth).

Hank: (already bored)

Me: What veg do you want to peel?

Hank: Carrots, I guess. (miffed)

Me: We need to peel and rough chop all of this and add it to the pressure cooker.

Hank: (annoyed body language)

Me: What’s wrong? Am I tearing you away from something important?

Hank: No.

Me: Then what is wrong?

Hank: (full of sass) What makes you think that something is wrong?

Me: Your body language, your tone of voice and your lack of enthusiasm. You would have thought I asked you to scrub a toilet, not peel a carrot. What is it?

Hank: I haven’t said anything.

Me: You can say a lot without words, young man.

Me: (peeling)

Hank: (peeling)

Me: (deep breath)

Hank: (deep breath)

Me: Soup takes five minutes of work to make and is the most important culinary skill I can teach you. I want you to be independent. In a few years I want to call you and say, “Hank, I will be home in 30 minutes. Make a soup for dinner please and have Molly make the salad.” And if you can do that when you are 12 then I won’t ever need to worry about you when you leave home. Basic cooking skills: Soup, omelet, quiche, pancakes…

Hank: (cracking a smile) Chili and tacos.

Me: Totally. Once I know you can make those things, do laundry without turning a whole load of clothes blue or pink and scrub a toilet then my work is done. You already are a master of cleaning floors, organizing and making your bed.

Hank: (tone of voice brightens, shoulders lifted, attitude adjusted) I like to do those things and I like to cook. I don’t know what was wrong with me a minute ago. I wasn’t thinking strait.

Me: You have the ultimate power over your attitude and your attitude makes any job easier or harder.

Hank: I feel better. Before I felt tired and terrible and annoyed, but then I listened and soup only takes five minutes.

Me: (having peeled all my veg like a pro) Two minutes down. Are your carrots all peeled?

Hank: Yup.

Me: Cut off the ends and hand them over. (moving the pressure cooker to the sink) Now, do you see here where the top of the veg sits in the pot?

Hank: Yes.

Me: Mark that spot with your smallest finger and you will know you have enough water when the height of the water reaches your fourth finger.

Hank: Four fingers of water.  I have heard this before but didn’t ever understand it.

Me: It’s a Portuguese thing.  This measurement will never fail you when it comes to soup. (resting my pinkie-finger against the outside of the pressure cooker and adding water until it reaches my pointer finger)

Hank: That is easy.

Me: (lifting the pot to the stove) Now, I know this will be your favorite part.

Hank: What?

Me: Seasoning.

Hank: Huh?

Me: (fetch olive oil, bouillon and sea salt from the cupboard) Sopa de Legumes requires two bouillon cubes, a tablespoon of salt and a ton of olive oil.

Hank: (excited) I want to do the olive oil.

Me: You can do it all, my dove. Put enough olive oil that you have a slick of it on the service of the soup about the size of um carcaça (bread roll, hamburger size). I wouldn’t recommend this amount of olive oil in American or abroad.

Hank: (still pouring olive oil from our cruet in a long thin stream) Why?

Me: Because the olive oil in Portugal is so good we add it for flavor as much as for necessity. You don’t get this level of quality outside Portugal and olive oil is often bitter and very expensive.

Hank: Really? That is so sad.

Me: Chega, ja chega (Enough, that’s enough)! Now boullion…

Hank: Two cubes. (plopping them in one by one)

Me: You can use which ever flavor you like and then salt.

Hank: Can I use a spoon?

Me: Let me teach your muscles the right amount of salt to use. Cooking is as much muscle memory as it is recipe. (taking his hand and placing a tablespoon of sea salt into his palm) Take a moment to feel the weight of this salt. Learn to cook with your whole body and you will learn to cook faster and with better instincts.

Hank: (bouncing the salt in his hand) Can I put it in now?

Me: Yup.

Hank: Now what?

Me: Last but not least, we seal up the pressure cooker and once it starts singing…

Hank: It sings?

Me: What one person might consider the sound of steam spitting angrily from the pressure cooker valve I consider singing. You want your pressure cooker to sing for about 15 minutes, 20 if you are making a bean based soup, before you turn off the heat, release the pressure valve, wait for all of the pressure to be released and the pot to go quiet before you open the pot, purée the vegetables to make the caldo (broth) before you add the purslane and let it simmer for another 5-10 minutes.

Hank: So now we wait?

Me: Yup. You can go back to whatever you were so grieved to be pulled away from before.

Hank: Okay, but mama, don’t forget to call me for the next step. I want to help finish the soup.

Me: You will hear when it is time for sure. Once I release the pressure valve the singing turns to screaming.

Hank: (on his way out the door, turns back) Mama, Monica (Hank’s cousin) said when she tasted Dalia’s (Hank’s grandmother) soup it tasted exactly like Aldina’s (Hank’s great grandmother, Dalia’s mother) soup, so does that mean I will learn to make your soup and that my soup will always taste like yours?

Me: That tends to be what happens. (lighting the gas under the pressure cooker)

Hank: I love that.

Me: (gathering vegetable peels) Love is the best ingredient in food.

Hank: (coming back into the kitchen to help clean up)