Sep 12

Old friends

These are the girls (ok, women, but when we met, 17 years ago, we were just girls!) who taught me what I know about friendship. Thy taught me that friends can argue and then make up, they taught me that friends speak the truth to each other, but, most of all, they taught me the value of laughter–pure, unbridled, laugh so hard someone snorts and someone else pees their pants laughter.

It was with these girls that I started to see the value in myself as a friend and even as a person. These friends told me I was beautiful and I started believing it. These friends lived with me and saw all my “quirks” and middle of the night grumpiness (yes, I was that one in college telling everyone to shut up and get some sleep, Ew, I know, how annoying and uncool) and they still loved me anyway. These friends helped me pick my college major, ate countless meals with me, studied alongside me. We trudged through bad relationships together, became (somewhat) tolerant of differing musical tastes. Later on, we stood up for each other as we all got married, met and admired each others’ babies, wrote long emails and sent texts to keep in touch over the long (sometimes) years in between visits.

And seeing each all together again last night was priceless. We fell back into it, back into the smooth and easy talk pattern of our foursome. We may not be as well acquainted with the day-to-day small things in each others’ lives, but the closeness still remains.

Last night, I felt the love. We went to college eons ago, a lifetime ago. Before husbands and owning houses and PTA meetings and breastfeeding and cancer were even on the radar. I’m happy to report, old friends are as good as gold.


Sep 11


I’ve been thinking about how much things are changing. Change is in the wind. It is easy for me to assume that things are changing for everyone in the whole entire world, but I think that this is only my perception of things, like the way it felt like I saw something wedding-related everywhere when Adam and I were engaged, or the way it felt like everyone was pregnant when I was pregnant with Anna. Partially it is just not true, it is just that changes are in the forefront for me/us right now, and partially there is also an undercurrent of changes all around my/our little group of friends right now, with new babies and, especially, with school.

These two pals started going to school this fall, five days a week. At different schools. Now, right now, every single time they see each other they start shrieking and they throw their arms around each other and kiss and hug and roll on the ground with excitement. They are “best, best, best BEST friends” as Anna says.

Now, I’m not saying that these two are destined to drift apart. For all I know, they may remain the very, very best of friends throughout all their lives. But, chances are, even if they do remain that kind of friends, they will go on to have different experiences. They will grow from the sweet innocence of “you are friends with your mom’s friend’s kid” to making their own decisions about friendships. They will have experiences that differ from each other. They will have different kinds of playmates, a different set of school friends. It’s all a part of changing and growing up.

I am having that bittersweet Mama thing where I am so happy and excited and filled with wonder to watch my child growing older and changing and growing and yet, and yet….with change brings that awful thing: CHANGE! The sky is falling! (Yes, sometimes it really does feel that way too me). So I was kind of freaking out about that recently, about how my sweet little ol’ baby is growing up and good LORD how is THAT allowed to happen and she’s gonna start getting all smart and whatnot and make new friends and blah blah blah freak out but when I was able to pull myself back from the brink I took a breath and thought: SAVOR.

So that’s what I’m doing. I’m savoring these times, the girlish giggles under the slide, the hugs so huge they roll right to the ground. I’m savoring these last few days that we get to spend in the house that Anna was born in (yes, right here in this very house), the house we moved to almost a decade ago. Because I want to love what I have right now and be excited for what happens next. I don’t want to get stuck in fear of changing. I want to embrace the change, be happy with the present, giddy with anticipation for the future. I want to enjoy it and love it all. And, good golly, I sure do.

Jun 11


Right before we leave I am always a mess. The house is a disaster zone: there are assorted piles of sleeping bags and propane and camp mugs. I have lists and I am baking cookies and I am yelling and frantic.

And then we get in the car and drive away and it all melts away. When your whole world is reduced to what you can fit into your car (or, even better, on your back), when the sounds that you concentrate on are a gurgling stream and the wind and the birds, when the kids are content to dig in the dirt and run around like little wild animals? That right there is perfection. There is no more worry except “when should we start the s’mores?”

The whole world reduces to the crackling of the flames on the logs, the million stars in the sky, the flask of liquid fire passed from gloved hand to gloved hand as we laugh and eat burnt marshmallows and talk. Oh, I love it.

Jun 11


Anna and Kate, April 2011

Mar 11

Girls’ Weekend: The Mama Perspective

So, you have to know that, in general, our (the girls, that is) saying is “What happens during girls’ weekend, stays in girls’ weekend,” but I can tell you this: I haven’t laughed that hard in a long, long time. And, I will proudly share with you, my reading public, (and I can only share this because it is ME and not anyone else; I cannot share who won in other “categories,” nor can I share just what, exactly, those categories were, but suffice it to say that they were all immensely humorous) that I, Jennifer Johnson Gray, won FIRST PLACE for MOST UGLY CHILDHOOD PHOTO (we all brought baby, childhood, high school, and college pictures). I am so proud. I will not divulge the runner-up. Let’s just say that us Mamas all learned a valuable lesson here: it is ALL about the hair. And feathered bangs a la Farrah Fawcett on a 10 year old who has gappy teeth and a mullet in the back, who is wearing a pink jumper and who is put into a terribly funny and awkward pose by the Sears Photography studio is….oh hell. It is just not good. But it is funny.

We laughed. We sat by the pool. We went to the spa. We laughed. We ate (lots). We laughed. We learned more about each other and, in the process, grew closer. We laughed.

We are already planning our next trip.

We love our babies. We love our husbands. But sometimes Mamas need to get away and just….be. And laugh.

Jan 11


“Push me on the swing, Mama!” she insisted. Wearily, I waved my hand in her general direction. “Hold on…just a few minutes and I will push you.”

“Push me NOW!” she said.

“Not if you’re going to give me THAT attitude,” I mumbled. I turned back to my conversation with MaryJoyce, then glanced back at the swings to check that everything was ok.

Yep. That seems about right. Mom won’t do it, so she finds someone else who will. A very agreeable, super-duper nice friend. I don’t think she ended up reciprocating, though….

Dec 10

Christmas Party

Seven years ago, Adam and I invited four couples over to our house for a Christmas Dinner party. It was so much fun, we decided to do one the next year, and the next, and the next… and so on and so forth.

Our friendships have evolved over the past seven years. Couples have come in and out of our lives for various reasons. Some have divorced. Some have moved away. We’ve all had kids. The one constant is that this is our way of ringing in the holiday season. Our way of telling our friends, “we love you and value our friendship.” Our way of having an excuse for an awesome party. And our way of showing off our culinary skills. Every year it gets (I think I can safely say) bigger and better.

It’s amazing now to do this same thing with all the chaos that comes from having the kiddos running around underfoot now, too!

Last night was the eighth annual Gray Christmas dinner party and…whoa. What a night. I just might have some pictures to share with the internets although…I must definitely preview. Let’s just say that there was maybe just a little (okay, a lot) of alcohol flowing.

Good times, good food, good friends. What a night!

Oct 10

Girl’s Night In

The question came up tonight, as it does sometimes on these occasions. Occasions where one is talking with one’s close friends about serious (and sometimes not so serious) topics.

What do you want to DO before you die?

And of course I have my list of things, things I want to do and experience and taste and savor. But–bottom line–there’s nothing I would rather do, nothing in the whole wide world, not a single thing, that is better than the life than I am living. I’m sure visiting Paris would be cool, but sitting on the floor laughing until the tears roll down my cheeks, looking around at the faces of My Girls? That right there is priceless. That, right there, is living. It’s at the top of my list. Check and Check and Check. Been there, done that, want to do it again, monthly, over and over again.

Thanks, Girls, for helping me have The Time of My Life. You know I love you.

Sep 10

When food is your passion

I recently made the acquiantance of a fellow, for lack of a better word (Adam hates this term, for reasons I am unsure of), “foodie.” A friend of a friend, we knew we had made our match when she turned to me, finding out that I baked all my own bread, and asked, “Do you have a favorite bread book?” I mentioned Peter Reinhart, she countered that she and her husband had (gasp!) met him, and….our friendship was firmly under way in its own right.

Today we saw each other at a mutual friend’s house. At the first moment that it was just her and I in the room, she turned to me, a gleam in her eye, and said, “Ok, tell me. Tell me what you’ve been cooking, please! Everyone else looks at me like I’m crazy when I ask that but I know you’ll understand.”

And understand I did. So we talked Korean pork buns and bacon drippings and Sriracha sauce and quiche and Julie Child (of course) and so on and so forth. We talked about simple ingredients, cooking techniques, lacto-fermentation, homemade pickles. We waxed poetic. We may have even drooled a little bit.

And I didn’t worry for a second that she thought it was weird that I’ve kept my pet wild yeast starter in the fridge for over a year now.

I love the thought of our conversations as these conspiratorial whisperings. The fact that I know and she knows that, of course, the week revolves around not the days of the week, but how many hours that piece of meat needs to marinade. That of course we own tart pans and cheesecloth and bamboo steamers. These are all necessary tools for–not our trade–our passion.

I think we’ve hit it off. Karen, will you be my friend?

Aug 10

Fun with friends

Anna and I had the opportunity to meet up with another one of my friends (one of my friends that is “in the computer” as Anna says). How amazing that I can arrive at the house of someone I have never seen face to face, pull up a chair, and chat so easily. We had never met, Aimie and I, and yet we have, in a sense, given that we’ve “known” each other for four years or so (online).

Anna and Georgia took to each other like long lost best friends, playing and playing and playing for hours. Anna cried as we pulled away in the car, “but she is my FRIEND! I don’t WANT to leave!!!!!” heartbreaking? Or maybe just a good excuse to visit again soon.