This blog is a surprise Mother’s Day “card” for Carmen Gendebien. Thanks for coming along for the ride!
When New York City native Carmen married second-generation farmer Blake Gendebien, the couple left urban life to move back to northern New York and buy a farm neighboring the one where Blake grew up. They joined his parents, Peter and Sharon, to create an expanded Twin Mill Farms in Lisbon and have treasured the opportunity to provide a childhood deeply connected to nature for their three sons, now ages 11, 12 and 14.
Blake vividly remembers the couple’s transition into parenthood 14 years ago. It was not without its challenges, but they were fortunate. “It was extra-special watching Miles come into the world after Carmen had been on bed rest for nearly 80 days,” Blake recalls. “I remember loading Miles into the car for the first time to take him home. I couldn’t believe it was real, but Carmen was ready and confident. She seemed like she knew what to do. I tried not to let on how unsure I was!”
“Carmen is an amazing mother,” her husband says. Like many moms, she juggles it all. “She takes care of the three boys and myself,” Blake explains, while also running Wholesome Glow, her own farm-inspired skincare products business and spa, as well as devoting countless hours to the cancer support nonprofit, the Jules of Life Foundation, the couple established almost a decade ago.
Although he is also a very involved parent, Blake is often extremely busy with the demands of the farm, so Carmen shoulders most of the carpooling to school, sports and after-school activities while also managing her own business with six employees.
Growing up in New York, Carmen’s own childhood was quite different from her sons’. Her parents, who had immigrated from Cuba, worked very long hours as a building super and night janitor. While Carmen still appreciates the city, “she loves raising our family together on the farm,” Blake says. “The open space and the pleasure of watching our boys grow up in the country on a dairy farm is a dream come true.”
Once a year, the city comes to the country when the Gendebiens host a large July 4 picnic and many of Carmen’s family and friends travel up from her old neighborhood to enjoy the farm. “There are people from Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Cuba and Ecuador,” Blake recounts. “It’s crazy fun with lots of salsa dancing. It’s a blessing for our boys to see all of the diversity.”
That sense of fun is one of the things Miles, 14, appreciates about his mother: “I love how she dances in the kitchen to salsa,” he says. She’s also practical and patient, adds 12-year-old Truman: “I love how she goes on long walks with me and helps me solve my problems.” And she’s warm and loving, too, says Noah, 11: “I love how she snuggles with me and rubs my back every night before bed.”
Every Mother’s Day, Blake takes a photo of the boys under the pink flowering, crab apple tree. “It’s a great way to track the boys as they grow from year to year,” he says. And as for all mothers, seeing her sons growing up happy and healthy is the best Mother’s Day gift of all.
Love for Mom
Six Special Mother’s Day Ideas (or for any day … and you don’t need a lot of money!):
1. Volunteer some time or make a small donation to a cause she cares about.
2. Plant a small fruit tree or flowers, like bulbs, that will return year after year.
3. Offer to help clean out a closet, organize family photographs or sort through recipes with her.
4. Put together a small book of things you appreciate about your mom. Illustrate it with drawings, photos, or collaged art cut from magazines.
5. Go for a walk, country drive or hike with just mom. Give her your undivided attention.
6. Cook her a special meal. It doesn’t have to be fancy. If you cook it just for her, it’ll be special.
Here are a few easy recipe ideas to get you started: