Am I Doing it Right???


My sixth-grader is hard on himself. When I sit down to help him with his homework, the first thing out of his mouth is, “I don’t know if I did it right.”

When I start to read aloud a rough-draft essay of his, he’ll cry out, “Oh, stop reading. It’s total crap.”

A few days ago, I was talking on the phone to my younger brother. We were chatting about his darling 18-month-old – a mellow, sweet, smiley little guy who rarely cries. My brother was lamenting the fact that he wasn’t sure whether he and his wife should be focused on the picky eating, the potty training, or moving him into a big boy bed. “I don’t know what the right thing to do is, ” he confessed.

I didn’t have an easy answer for him, because the truth is, I don’t know what he should focus on. It’s hard to know. There is no – one – right answer. I question my own parenting multiple times a day. But, I look at that sweet mellow baby he’s raising, and I tell him, “Whatever you’re doing, just keep on doing it. You’re definitely doing something right.”

I don’t have a lot of patience for repeating myself when giving instructions to my kiddos…especially when it involves chores or behavior that are expected on a daily basis.

Instead, I tend to hang signs with instructions and reminders on them so I can simply point to one when my children’s forgetfulness sets in.

I don’t know if this is the right way to handle things. Maybe I’m passing on my addiction to Word Docs and Excel spreadsheets instead of actually communication instructions. I don’t know but my littlest one has taken to the signs and has started adding his own addendum to them. Here are a few examples….


The 6-yo, complete with diagram in case you didn’t understand the note.


The 6-yo and my personal favorite – “jeezus-crice.”

Clearly, something is sinking in for him.

Recently I happened to be perusing my teen’s tweets. C’mon, admit it, if you have a teen you do it too. One of her tweets said: “I love my mamaa.” Yes, yes, I realize that her tweet could simply be a “Your Mama is…” joke but I’m choosing not to look at it like that. I read that and thought, “Well, hopefully, I’m doing something right.”

And this morning, my “so so hard on himself” sixth-grader, said to me, “Mom, my teacher really liked my rough draft. I’m not worried about doing the final draft now. You were right. The hard part is just getting something down on the paper.”

And that is the hard part. Just getting something down on the paper. Just making a decision – not knowing whether it’s the wrong one or the right one.

I sometimes wish…actually I wish for this quite often…that someone would roll out a scroll before me. As that scroll unwound like a path in front of me, I would clearly see all the “right” decisions I should make. I could simply skip down that path and check off the “right” decisions as I go.

“Have that second cup of coffee today. It won’t make you jittery.”
“Send your eldest kids to a sleep-away camp this summer even though they’ll fight you tooth and nail.”
“Go to that writing conference despite the heavy ticket price.”
“Continue to limit your teen and tween’s texting despite their complaints.”

But unfortunately, there isn’t a scroll that rolls out in front of me. It rolls out right next to me. One decision at a time. Right or wrong. {sigh…}


I find that cooking is also a series of decisions. We constantly second guess ourselves in the kitchen. Did I add too many onions? Is the meat cooked to the proper temperature? Does it need more salt? Do I have to soak the beans? Can’t I just use canned?

I recently made Ribollita – a traditional Italian soup recipe for using up leftover vegetables and bread. The name translates into “reboiled.” Sometimes with these classic dishes, I worry about whether I’m making it the right way. Is this how it should taste? Is this what it should look like? I took a chance and made it for the first time for a group of women who were over for dinner a few weeks ago. I also served two other soups I’ve made multiple times with positive results. I gathered in my mind everything I knew about making soup and about combining flavors. I consulted various recipes. Consulted with a friend who makes ribollita often. Then, armed with the knowledge that I personally possess, I set about making this soup, never sure if I was doing it right.

When I put it out for the gals to enjoy I was smiling, but inside I was nervous. What if they hate it? Of the three soups I served to my friends, the Ribollita was their favorite.


Ribollita Soup
Course: Dinner, Soup
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: one big pot-full
I personally love this recipe just as written below. As with any soup, it always tastes better if made the day before. This recipe is a great way to incorporate kale into your repertoire as well as to use up leftover bread. And no, you don't have to use dried beans, you can use canned, but the dried beans are less mushy. And speaking of mushy, a few of my family members preferred to add the bread at the last minute so it wasn't quite so....soggy. I believe it's a texture issue. 🙂 Also, if you can't find fresh basil, you can use canned tomatoes with basil already them*. BTW, sometimes I've soaked the beans overnight and the next day I have no time to actually make the soup. I've then drained the water and used them the following day with no problems.
  • ½ pound dried white beans (cannellini, Great Northern) OR 3 15-oz cans of white beans, drained and rinsed
  • Kosher salt
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ⅓ pound pancetta, diced
  • 2 cups yellow onions, peeled and diced, about 2 onions
  • 1 cup carrots, peeled and diced, about 3 carrots
  • 1 cup celery, diced, about 3 stalks
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup white wine (or red, whatever is open)
  • 1 (28-oz) can diced tomatoes (or whatever canned tomatoes you have around - whole tomatoes, puree, w/basil, etc.)
  • 4 cups Lacinato kale leaves, coarsely chopped, stems removed and discarded
  • ½ cup chopped fresh basil (*see note above)
  • 8 cups chicken stock
  • 4 cups sourdough or Italian bread, cubed and crusts removed
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  1. If using dried beans, put them in a large bowl and cover with cold water by 1-inch. Cover with a towel, put in the fridge, and let soak overnight. Drain and rinse, when ready to use.
  2. In a large soup pot, heat your olive oil. Stir in your onions and pancetta and sauté for about 8 minutes.
  3. Add in your carrots and celery. Sauté another 8 minutes.
  4. Add in your garlic, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Sauté one minute.
  5. Add in your wine. Let simmer and reduce for about 4 minutes or until the alcohol has evaporated.
  6. Add the tomatoes, kale, and basil (if using) and cook another 5-7 minutes over medium heat. Stirring occasionally.
  7. Pour in your chicken stock and your drained beans. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 40-45 minutes. Check the beans for doneness. You may need to simmer another 5-10 minutes. (If using canned beans, add them after the first 30 minutes of simmering and continue to simmer another 15 minutes or so.)
  8. Taste and check your seasonings. You may need to add a bit more salt.
  9. At about 35 minutes of total simmering, add in your bread cubes and let simmer the last 10 minutes which is the traditional way to make ribollita. Or, do like our family and sprinkle the bread on top of the soup just before serving.
  10. Spoon into bowls and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
So delicious. A complete meal in one bowl. Easy on the dishwasher. Enjoy.




  1. I’ve raised 3 kids (21, 23, 25) and I must say, I wasn’t sure if I had done the right things until just recently. When my 21 year old foodie called me to tell me she got a job working at Morimoto Waikiki and cooked the line alongside the Iron Chef himself. When my son in Manhattan closed his first deal at his new job and sent an email to say he wouldn’t be the man he is today without our role modeling. And when my oldest son, who struggled academically, was promoted to manager and head trainer at his restaurant and told he has the best work habits of anyone there. It’s when they become adults that everything you worked on with them for 20 years really begins to shine! And yes, I think cooking is a bit of the same.

    • Ah, Michele, thank you for sharing from the “flip side.” Sometimes it’s hard to see the forest for the trees. I hope I can share a similar story in a few years. I love that your kiddos are following in your foodie footsteps. Thank you for stopping by!

  2. Kathleen says:

    OMG! I laughed so hard at the note & picture from your son about the toilet…I thought I was going to wet myself.
    It is so nice and comforting to know that we all worry that we aren’t doing the “right” thing(s) – but, there are days when I do get glimpses that some of it has sunk in and it makes me smile and a little sigh of relief escapes me.
    I think your advise to your son about the hardest part is just getting the first draft down on paper and then it is easier is great…we just have to do that with our children, just get some standards out there and keep working and changing as we go.
    Some of it will be right and some won’t, but at least they will know that we care enough to try, because we are their mothers and we love them no matter what.

    • Kathleen, I love what you say here:

      “Some of it will be right and some won’t, but at least they will know that we care enough to try, because we are their mothers and we love them no matter what.”

      Makes me tear up. Thank you for that…. xo

  3. Carrie I have stopped myself from writing as many notes as I used to a few years ago but you’ve got a great rationale for putting them up. You don’t have to repeat yourself! I would like to show my six year old your six year old’s note. Very smart.

  4. Carrie,
    I love Will’s note!!! Too funny. I think you do a lot of “right” things. Thanks for another great story and recipe!! xo

    • You are so welcome, Kandi! Wish I could put up some of the “notes” of the 12 and 14-yr-old…but they’d have my head.

  5. Papa Bear says:

    As Michele put it so well; when they become adults you will know…… All we wanted was to have our kids become caring and loving individuals. All three of you have done just that! We sit back and watched how you raised your kids and what they are becoming. We watched as you and your sister have given so much of yourself to others – you do us proud.

  6. I love the Dinner Table Creed response note — adorable!!