Friday, July 21, 2017

Grateful Friday

Today I give thanks for...


Everyday life. The dailiness of summer days. The little things. My people and places.


My guys.



My boys.




Our yard and all the happy blooms. I had to replace my hanging baskets last week because they weren't doing well. My go to strepto carpella were sold out when I went to the nursery in June and so I picked something I wasn't all that excited about or familiar with. I was thinking that I'd have little luck finding something decent mid-summer, but there were some beautiful baskets on big sale. 



The blooms in my house too. I am especially fond of my growing collection of orchids, which I love not just for their beauty, but also their adaptability, resilience and thoughtfulness to bloom long and time again.



A loaf of challah and all its delicious possibilities.



My books. I finished Winton's The Riders. Someone recommended it as the best book they've ever read. I cannot second that or give it more than a 3 out of 5, but I don't regret reading it. I'm halfway through Love and Trouble, and anxious to start The Bright Hour.




Lunch with the girls this week. It was a long work week and their company (along with the homemade chips with bleu cheese) eased the toil.

Mike took a couple days off this week for himself. He's participating in a golf invitational with my brother and having a blast.

A fun weekend ahead and a 3 day work weeks for the rest of the summer.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

You Only Live Once


YOLO. It’s what my 16 year old son said to me the other night when we were having a discussion about his work and spending habits, which are or should be directly related. I can’t deny this even while I strongly suspect we live many lives. It’s true we’re only granted one crack at this one life so yes YOLO from rooftops and mountain peaks, but just don’t fall off. Capisce?

I beg you to try and convince a 16 year old that You Only Live Once is not a license for constant bacchanal living. A 16 year old with the freedom that comes with a new driver’s license, the entitlement of unencumbered summer days, the defenselessness against mounting testosterone and adrenaline, and the credulous confidence that he knows more and better. It’s not an amusing conversation, but it sure is critical.

I think we spend too much time sheltering our kids from the hardships in life and the not so fun realities of adulthood that we’re in essence cheating them of character building experiences and potent rites of passage. You don’t turn 18 and poof! become a mature adult who is suddenly able to budget, prioritize, delay gratification, and show up to work on time in a clean-pressed shirt with a well-balanced lunch in hand.

Let kids be kids. Isn’t that the charge-leading mantra? We must protect them from conflict with friends, disagreements with teachers, unfair expectations of coaches, the demands of bosses and the fake news the media spews. They shouldn’t worry about the fact that the $150 shoes or the $1200 car insurance payment for their 9 months of driving this year weren’t in the budget this month. God forbid they find out you really don’t have a money tree in the yard and are struggling to save as much as possible for college, which seemed so far away and is now clearly visible in the purview, and your own retirement, which you cannot even fathom. Don’t let them hear you complain about your job, your state of mind, or them.

Last summer I insisted that Teddy get a checking account. He resisted. I couldn’t figure out why it took until August for him to accompany me to the bank for a debit card. Then it dawned on me. He didn’t want easy access to his money because he didn’t want to spend his money. We’ve encouraged saving since he was a little shaver and we’ve successfully raised a big saver. Yes, job well-done, but no. He wanted mom and dad to keep funding his social life. It’s still very difficult for me not to hand him money every time he goes out. I’m stuck in that mode of wanting to make things easy for him even while I know all that does is delay the ache and burn of growing up. All it does is cheat him.

Against my better judgment, I put a summer stipend in his account. Judgment askew because he’s working an average of 8 hours a week and playing golf for about 40 so obviously he could be putting more skin in the game. He has a friend who worked long hours 19 of 20 days in the last 4 weeks. He’s got many friends who’ve never worked an hour in their lives. I convinced myself he’s on the right track, and he is with room for improvement aplenty. I’m always looking for the right time to nudge and prod as well as those teachable moments that groom and enlighten and hopefully take root. I argued that a stipend would encourage him to prioritize and budget…too make choices.

Back to that conversation. He came home jazzed after a day of golf and a 75.  While I made him dinner and after he recounted e-v-e-r-y shot of the day, he proclaimed that he knew just what he was going to do with a healthy portion of his summer stipend. I was all ears of course. He professed that he would be going to Erin Hills to golf again and wasn’t that a great idea! A rich golf binge was not exactly the choice I had in mind. For a split second, I thought about not saying anything at all. It’s his money now. Except I’m his mother and so I had to chime in and say that I didn’t support that decision. Part of the problem is that he didn’t need the allowance so this influx of cash feels like an opportunity to be frivolous, and yes, I knew and thought of that before I made the deposit. Here’s where the YOLO came in along with a rather unconvincing story about a rotund, bald, cigar smoking chronic golfer he was paired with that day who told him that is exactly why he’s a habitual course rat: YOLO. Teddy also argued that he has no future in bagging groceries, but he may have a future golfing and so technically he’s working while he’s playing. I had to give him a little credit for that one.

What ensued was a calm and productive conversation, and a little compromise too. I expressed that we want him to have lots of fun this summer and getting a job is not punishment, but rather preparation. I told him that YOLO is one thing in spirit and another in practice. It’s not permission to be irresponsible or piggy or short-sighted. I shared with him that he is saving not just for his walking around money right now, but also for when he’s in college. I don’t think we’ve ever told him that we won’t be paying for his spending, and it’s something he needed to hear. I suggested that he pick up some extra shifts to cover the cost of half the fee, and when he reaches that goal, he rewards himself with a trip back to Erin Hills. And I felt like Moses when the Red Sea parted or Franklin when the light bulb shined: it was a miracle and a revelation because Teddy thought that was reasonable. My 16 year old son agreed with me, and that may only happen once in my lifetime.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Grateful Friday

Today I give thanks for...

The feeling of accomplishment one earns after hard work. This weekend Mike and I deep cleaned 2 of our 3 cars, and it felt so amazing. Teddy’s been driving the van. It was starting to look and smell like a locker room and I couldn’t take it any longer. Believe me, if I could have I would have because he should have been the one taking on the task. I won’t be doing it again fyi. He knows this too and is aware that using my van is a revocable privilege. Mike pulled sharp weeds and I trimmed trees the next day. We were sweaty, scraped up and full of twigs and sap, but it was actually fun. Yes, fun.

And I'm only getting started.

My sun rash flared up after a full morning in full sun, but it calmed down after a couple days. I think I’ve finally turned the corner with my uv threshold.

Sunday mornings. These are some of my most cherished hours of the weekend. It’s such a treat to be the first one up. I sit in solitude with my book and my coffee and the day feels like it could and should last forever.

Broken River was good. I put Into the Water down after a few chapters.

Reaching that point in a novel where I want to read all the time even if I only have time for a page or two. I’m halfway through The Riders and fully invested in Scully and Billie.

Baking bread. I’ve become slightly obsessed with this peasant bread recipe, but it’s not necessarily the consumption of the end product although that is quite something…it’s the mixing of just a few ingredients, waiting for it to proof, smelling it bake and then seeing the smiles it evokes when you deliver it fresh and warm to someone you want to know how very much you think of them.

Michigan Gladiolas. This time every year, I buy them whenever I see them because they’re so stunning and their season so short.

I am a sucker for all the colors.

Trader Joe’s whole wheat pizza dough. Mike’s homemade dough is best, but this dough was nutty and wholesome and perfect for quick calzones after a long day.

Working it.

Calzones. I think they may be on next week’s rotation again. What we love about them is that they are made to order and unlike pizzas, they can all go in the oven at once.

T & L...personalized by pepperoni.

Photo contests. Candace and I dropped off our entries this week. It was a little adventure. We thought we were being piggy by submitting 6 and 7 each, but there were many participants with 35, which is the max. My thought is that if you have 35 photos you think could be award-winning, you ought to be taking pictures professionally. Only amateurs are allowed.

Lily’s having a fun time at acting camp.

Balance. She’s enjoying a summer with just the right amount of to dos. She has downtime sprinkled in between camps, activities, volunteer work, games and work. She has 3 new clients for her dog walking, flower watering business, and I’m so proud of her. I think I convinced Ted to pick up some more hours at work too after suggesting that he set a goal…something to save for, and work towards. 

Summer fruits. We’re all about the berries and cherries at Casa Wags, and I am crushing on plums too. Lily would eat watermelon for every meal if I let her.


Stormy skies. Fog. The chalky smell of petrichor when it rains. Waking up in the morning to skies like night.

 The Calling and the Calatrava.

Lake Michigan miasma.

The fog rolls in. 

 A night at the salon. Jess and I had piggyback appointments. It was a nice surprise. After we were finished, we had a spontaneous GNO.

 Red for the brunette (her) and white for the blond (me).

Tuna poke and goat cheese bruschetta.

A fresh haircut and a new pandora station thanks to our hip hairstylist. 

Sweet little braid.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

weekending

the weekend was mostly relaxing for me.
i watched softball, read, puttered in the kitchen and the yard, and went to bed early after good long days.
Lily played a lot of softball and ted played many holes of golf.
she had 4 games, 1 of which was the all star game so yea!
she represented her team on the mound and at first, and was cheered on by quite a section of family…her loyal and true fans.
he played erin hills on saturday with a group of friends and then at the club sunday with another.
when i suggested he pick up another shift at work, he informed me that was not a good idea because he’s working on more important things like his golf game.
he said this with stone-faced seriousness, and i have proof.
jess witnessed it and all i can say is that his la ti da life costs coin.
oh and currently he’s averaging about 8 hours a week.
we no longer refer to the life of riley at casa wags.
we say the life of ted.
so jess and lils spent friday together, and then jess and i spent friday night drinking good wine and eating crappy chinese, but the company and the grapes made up for the mystery meat.
we are so finding a new chinese joint and i’m sticking with the chicken always and forever.
mike made us calzones on saturday night and they were deliciously perfect not only because i knew exactly what was in them.
he’s the dough boy/pizza man of the house.
he also grilled some tasty fajitas for sunday dinner. 
i made bread twice…4 loaves…1 for us and 3 to share, and a batch of ice cream that there’s zero chance my kids would part with.
summer weekends really are the very best and it’s just so sad that they have to end at all.











Saturday, July 8, 2017

Weekending/Grateful Friday

I’m grateful for the long holiday weekend we spent with family and friends over the 4th. My only complaint: it wasn’t long enough. That, of course, is the age-old and oft-told story of summer weekends. Alas, there are a few other stories to tell from the last week of merriment and togetherness.

Friday we braved the crowds to sit 5 rows from Paul as he performed 25 of his greatest hits. He even played Me and Julio twice. At 75, he still puts on quite the show. His voice is enduringly clear and strong. The best part for me was reaching for my dad’s hand during a song. I don’t remember which, but it doesn’t matter. Do you know how long it’s been since I held my dad’s hand? It made him feel good. I know because he told me the next day. I also loved dancing with my brother to Proof, and singing and swaying with my guy along with Still Crazy After All These Years. Music is memories: past, present and future. That night is in the vault. Forever.



Teddy and Lily have their own stories to tell from that night. Jess sent me a picture of the two of them taking batting practice in the yard. He had a little time between a baseball game and a night out with friends and he chose to spend it with the girls. Lily took Jess out for a birthday dinner, and then Jess took her to a movie. Neither one of them recommends 47 Meters, yet they both spoke highly of the girl’s night out. I’m lucky to have a close friend who makes time for my children because they have their own special memories together. She’s part of the tribe. We all need a tribe.


I was up early Saturday with enough time to make bread before Candace arrived. We had plans to walk and then mount some photos we’re entering in a contest. As we wrapped things up, the peasant bread was hot out of the oven so we enjoyed it with a cold chardonnay. Lily helped us polish off the loaf. It was the perfect late afternoon lunch after a little collaboration. We sent the other loaf home with Candace to enjoy with her hubby. Bread is meant to be broken together…shared. So are afternoons and ideas and encouragement.

I made another batch to take to a friend’s that night. We scored an impromptu invite for drinks on their patio and I’m glad we said yes even though we were a tad tired. We laughed and reminisced and actually finished a few conversations for once. It’s always so easy to be together that it’s a wonder we don’t do it more often, but then I realized that lately we have been…we are. It’s all about that saying yes, making precious time for whom and what’s important. She’s my oldest friend and there’s a reason we’ve made it through the years better and stronger and still speaking.


Sunday I woke and baked more bread. Yep. It’s true. I also made tater skins and jalapeno poppers before we headed north for a couple days at Windmill Beach. When we arrived lakeside, it was clear that the wind shifted. We had to change out of our bathing suits, put on sweatshirts and cover up with blankest. It rained and so we scraped plans to swim for competitive board games. No worries. The rain moved on and the fog lifted in time to bbq dinner.  We played a ping pong round robin and the boys had an indoor putting competition before we set of some fireworks and finally called it a night after another good and full day.


Monday morning we set off on a walk along Marine Drive and then up to the old cemetery.

We earned my brother’s famous breakfast burritos. Then we headed down to the beach to do a little grass pulling. Working up a sweat proved smart because Lake Michigan’s 60 degree temps were actually tolerable. Lily got in and stayed in most of the afternoon. The rest of the day went like this: beach walk, cocktails, cribbage, bon fire and then we were all warmed up and showered in time to enjoy Mike’s grilled chicken wings and the gloaming from the deck. Ted had to head back to town in the morning to work and play baseball, but he was back in time for bbq chicken and more ping pong.



I woke at 3:45 on the 4th. The reach was already blazing orange as the sun made its way up over the horizon. I must admit that the show lured me in. It was far grander than any fireworks display so I sat in awe until 5:18 when the sun fully emerged and night gave way to first morning light. Watching the birth of a new day never gets old. It’s always holy. Then I went back to bed until I smelled my brother’s jet fuel coffee. On this clear morning, we walked along the beach marveling that the water felt warmer. We decided to head home mid-day since the boys left early for golf. In route, we stopped at a farm and for some fresh picked strawberries and sweet snap peas. Lily munched most of the way home, and before dinner and after Teddy returned all but a handful of the berries remained. We played a couple games of Clue on the patio before dinner. Why I ask do people like this game? Mike made us delicious ribs for America’s birthday. Teddy went out to see fireworks while the rest of us watched the sky all around us light up from the coziness of home sweet home and fall asleep after but a few pages.


I slept like a baby, but was up early Wednesday morning for a girl’s day with Lily. Mike was back to work and Teddy was…golfing. Where else? We opted for a more relaxing day so we traveled across town to see The Book of Henry. We both liked it a great deal. It was sweet, sad and scary all at once. We stopped off at Panera for lunch the best part of which were the baguettes that accompanied soup or salad and so when we came home, I promptly took a nap. A 2 hour nap! I woke refreshed and ready for the night. Jessica  brought the wine and I scrounged together quite a respectable dinner given that I had no plan and bare bones groceries. We enjoyed Balsamic Grilled Chicken, Pasta Aglio Olio and Caprese Salad. The third time was a charm with the chocolate ice cream…it churned into rich and creamy perfection. We had one fail at the lake (2 if you count the fact that we forget the ice cream maker the first night) and another the night before because the crock wasn’t frozen and it was over-filled. We also enjoyed a spirited game of Apples to Apples, an old family favorite, before calling it a night.

And the truth is that I didn’t want the night or the extra long weekend to end, but now here we are at the onset of another weekend and I’m feeling rather great and full, therefore, grateful.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Grateful Friday

Today I give thanks for...

Summer is off to a great start. While it's true that the schedule looks a little intimidating with all the various games, tournaments, camps and such, so far everyone is where they should be when they should be and enjoying it too.


I'm pretty sure that Ted's golf pass has already paid for itself. He averages 18 holes a day and that's a conservative average.


Lily had a fun overnight with Grandma and Grandpa. They went on a boat trip in Lake Geneva, ate out and went shopping. Oh, and this time Catman didn't tear through the screen door to into the woods and away from her.




Lily and I are keeping busy with activities and outings, and slowly checking things off our summer bucket list. We spent a fun morning at one of our favorite places: Shalom, and a rainy day creating in the kitchen putting some of her new skills and techniques learned at cooking camp to use.

We fed all the animals. The raccoons especially loved the marshmallows we smuggled in. The bears too. Shhh.

 The baby arctic fox was the sweetest.

But the baby bobcat was a real close second.

We made her favorite vinaigrette, peasant bread, a roasted chicken and ice cream.

Ted pitched a complete game the other night leading the team to a victory against our arch rival.


Lily made the all star team and she's loving softball. She says yes to every invitation to sub, and pouts when games get rained out, which has been often.


We're getting acquainted with our new ice cream maker. She made a delicious pineapple mint sorbet and then we made an easy chocolate with our Droste cocoa. We're bringing it to the lake this weekend with hopes that there are still berries for picking at the nearby farm because fresh strawberry ice cream sounds perfect.


An extra hour of sleep in the morning without the hustle and bustle of wrangling tired tweens and teens. The morning feels so luxuriously long that I find myself lingering over a few chapters and then driving along the lake to work and then rushing so as not to be late. I'd really like to start working out in the morning to free up the evenings.



A walk with a friend at the start of my day off. We walked along the lake under broody skies that opened up just as we finished.







My goofballs.



A full weekend ahead. Paul Simon tonight and then Windmill Beach for some family fun in the sun.

A week off.