Sunday, June 30, 2013

2 day pass

friday we had 2 all star games so we had to divide and conquer.
while coach was coaching t. bone's game,
i went to cheer on miss bit.
so did all the grandparents and aunt jess.
you see it was her first time playing on the little league park outside our major league field.
that is sort of big league.
especially when you are 8.
team lightning was rained out.
I do think.

thunder! thunder! rain! rain! come on lightning! win this game!

we weren't going to let a little rain spoil our night.
we decided to gather for dinner at the restaurant on the premises.

i love how seriously she is studying her menu when she knows without a doubt that she will order chicken tenders with ranch and ketchup!

While we waited for our food, grandpa and miss bit went for a stroll around the stadium.
the big story they returned with was how grandpa saved a little bird trapped in the corridor.
my girl thought it was hilarious that the little bird rewarded grandpa's kindness by promptly pooping on him.

miller park

after dinner, we all went exploring.
it was very cool to be alone in the stadium checking out the nooks and crannies.
it ended up being a really fun night in an interesting way.

we came home to find that t. bone was able to finish his game despite numerous rain delays.
and that his team won.
also that he went to sleep at a friend's house.
no surprises there.

saturday morning felt like fall and was welcomed in a lazy way.
quiet solitude until t. bone came home from practice and within 30 seconds had invited over friends.
you don't like being alone do you?  I asked.
duh! was his answer.
all day miss bit called and wondered the whereabouts of her neighborhood bestie.
when she finally reached her she asked with complete exasperation, where have you been all day?!
she was squealing with delight when she discovered they'd be able to spend the rest of the day together.
and they did.
they're still upstairs asleep.

by the time i set out for a walk yesterday, it was a beautiful, breezy 70 sun shining degrees.
i finished the year of magical thinking.
i liked it, but i'm ready for something a little lighter.
today it looks to be another beautiful day for a walk.
i'll start sense and sensibility.
as i recall the dashwood sisters do not disappoint.

coach spent much of the afternoon preparing his baby back ribs.
jess joined us for dinner.
they were mouthwatering.
so good that my meat loving miss bit ate 5!
of course she didn't touch her potato, corn or cole slaw.
which explains how she was able to eat 3 smores!
it was the perfect summer night to gather round the fire toasting marshmallows.

the best smores are made with dark chocolate almond bars or peanut butter cups.

tonight we'll gather with a group of school/baseball friends for what i am sure will be another wonderful night of good food and drink and fun.
summer is good.
life is good.

miss bit just came down and said, guess what time we stayed up until? 1:30!  we watched a movie on my i pad on netflix.
i didn't even know she had netflix.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Saturday Morning

It's a lazy one.  Slow to evolve.  A cool, grey, windy put on a sweatshirt morning. It's a James Taylor, John Denver, Jim Croce morning.  A little Simon and Garfunkel too.  A sing along morning.  It's a two cups of coffee morning.  Coffee with extra cream.  It's a sourdough toast morning.  Toast with extra butter and maybe a little cheese on top.  It's a go back to bed under the covers to read morning.  It's the best kind of morning.

Grateful Friday

Today...or yesterday seeing as how it's 12:40 a.m....I give or gave thanks for...

Clouds.  The skies have been phenomenal the past few nights.  tonight Miss Bit declared, They look alive.  Really alive!  The thing is...that's it, exactly.  Pulsing...thriving...morphing.

All stars.  Yes, plural.  Tonight we had two.  Thanks to the clouds only one game was played.  It will be rescheduled with much anticipation and excitement. The other game was a win.

Now Coach will be able to attend Miss Bit's first all star game.

Fans ala grandparents and aunts who come to cheer on the player and take pictures even if all they get is a tailgate and a secret back lot tour of the whole ball park including Bernie Brewer's slide.

Loved ones who huddle under umbrellas at the ball park even when there's no likelihood of a game.

My pastel pink seersucker skirt.  To me it speaks quintessential summer. I wore it for the first time today and I noticed the little spring in my step.

Crispy fried eggplant washed down with a glass of Montepulciano at a favorite restaurant.

1/2 birthday celebrations.  When your birthday is December 27th, you really get a lackluster celebration.  Everyone tends to be all celebrated out so this year we celebrated...or are in the process of celebrating T. Bone's 12 1/2.  I really think we are on to something here.

Baby bunnies.  Our yard is full of them right now.

When I asked Miss Bit to rate the nanny, she gave him a 10!  Then I asked her what she thought T. Bone would give him, and she said, He'd probably give him a 9 1/2 cuz he's all judgey you know?  Miss Bit is spending the most time with S. as T. Bone is often out and about with his band of boys.  This week he took her to her favorite nature center to pond, out for lunch and also to see Monsters University.

When polled, she first gave summer so far an 8-9.  Then sensing my satisfaction, she decided to change her mind and gave it a 6-7.  I'm  protesting that score.

Next week I'm on holiday.  Staycation mostly.  Scary and liberating,

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Blog Break

I've been on a bit of a blog break.  It's not that I meant to stay away from this space it's just that I was too busy driving the white taxi, busing tables and sending and responding to messages with regard to who was in my charge and where my two charges were at any given time.  Tuesday morning was completely sucked up by texts, e mails and phone calls coordinating children's schedules numerous not my own.  There were times that both phones were ringing or buzzing or flashing.  I am serving meals in shifts, making countless pitchers of lemonade, and having serious flashes of deja vu as I drive a strikingly similar route at least a dozen times a day.  So I'm waiting to feel the lazy days of summer I keep hearing about and dreaming of.  What I hear is: Mom can so and so come over?  Mom can I go to go to so and so's house?  Mom can I do such and such with so and so?  Mom!  Mom!  Mom!  I admit that I have fantasized about changing my name.

I'm now lovingly referring to my work as Spa Nicholas and am seriously reconsidering my planned vacation next week. 

I kinda remember waxing all poetic a couple weeks ago about how this is their (kids) summer...their time...their break.  I mused about how their fun and enjoyment trump any and everything else.  Apparently, I need to drink some more of the kool aid I'm constantly mixing because I'm already starting to see the seismic-sized faults in that line of reasoning.

Don't get me wrong.  I am pleased as punch that they are digging summer.  I love seeing them happy.  And they are.  Blissfully so.  Miss Bit has completely muddied her shoes in pursuit of countless frogs and the cutest petite turtle.  She's always playing outside with this friend or that.  She's all about the wonderful variety of popsicles, water fights and baseball just as long as she doesn't have to play first base.  T. Bone is living and breathing baseball.  I'm sure he's dreaming it too.  When he's not at the field, he's at the pool.  They've consumed their weights in ice cream, and scarcely spent a still moment.  Electronics have been severely neglected as have chores and summer reading records.  They've played so much Monopoly they know all the rents by heart.  They are so exhausted by the end of the day that they fall asleep on the couch or are asking to go to bed.

So it's good...all good.  I just have to stop talking the talk and instead walk the walk.  And yes...drink the kool aid too!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Grateful Friday

Today I give thanks for...

A beautiful week of weather.  No humidity, no bugs, little rain and lots of sun, a light breeze.  Picture perfect.

Summer vacation is off to a stellar start.  Miss Bit enjoyed her first week of camp at the nature center.  She couldn't wait to pond every day.  T. Bone looks forward to his basbeall clinic each afternoon.  They are just the right amount of busy.  I've yet to hear the dreaded I'm bored.

Impressive report cards from both kids.  He never earned less than an A all year.  Not one B.

Grandma and Grandpa bought her these snazzy new shoes last weekend.  They thought they would be perfect for ponding only she doesn't want to get them dirty so she's wearing an old pair of Crocs.  I get it.

Summer fruit.  The produce guy wasn't kidding when he said that these plums tasted like candy.  They do.  I mean...they did.

Miss Bit recently asked me if I thought she was a tom boy.  My response was something about how she was a well rounded young lady.  To that she said, "No Mom, really I AM a tom boy!  I like bugs and frogs and being outside."  And I guess I can't argue with that.

This summer staple : the tomato sandwich perfected by grilling whole wheat sourdough filled with ripe tomato slices and slabs of swiss cheese.  More nice than naughty!

Ruzzle on the I Pad.

Boggle and Monopoly at the dining room table.

Sweet smelling butterfly bushes.

Feeling the weight of these words from The Year of magical Thinking: A single person is missing for you, and the whole world is empty. And then also how this was not my experience.  My experience was that there were so many angels here on earth.

Summer movie releases.


(Backyard) Baseball...

Hot dogs...

No apple pie though!  Just candy bar cookies hot out of the oven.

A quiet evening at Casa Wags.  Both kids were out and I was able to check out and watch a movie with Coach.  I was in the midst of an allergy attack, which is much more than a sneezy, runny nose for me.  I didn't use my Epipen, but I did read the instructions.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


These are the things I learned today in no particular order of importance or occurrence:

It was wise to opt for the extra hour of sleep this morning.  I was having a captivating, exciting dream about Chicago.  It was more like tropical Hawaii than the windy city, and I was just so plussed that I could take a 90 minute drive instead of a 12 hour flight to partake in the beauty.  See why I didn't want to wake up?  I would have most likely used that hour to blog.  I almost always blog in the morning from the vantage point of the day's potential.  Now I sit here at the end of the day with a glass of wine instead of a cup of coffee and the perspective of what has happened, not what might.

70 degrees is the perfect temperature.  Not too hot.  Not too cold.  Completely comfortable.  Beautiful bliss.

More is the merrier and an even number is best.  T. Bone had 3 buds over today and there was never an odd man out or an utterance of We don't know what to do.

There are literally a million games you can play with a ball, and every single activity can be made into a competition.

Boys love to eat and drink lots of lemonade and Gatorade.

A plain old Oscar Mayer wiener is really delicious once in awhile.  They are best boiled and then served on squishy buns with ketchup, cheese and pickles.

Miss Bit is the most delightful and helpful sous chef I could ever wish for.  Today she peeled and chopped all the carrots for chicken pastina soup.  She mashed bananas and mixed the muffins from beginning to end.  She happily mixed a huge pitcher of lemonade and then served the boys with a smile.  She set the patio table for lunch and helped clear after.

When it's 70 degrees you can simmer stock and make chicken pastina soup.  And since 70's during the day usually mean 60's at night, soup will taste and feel quite good.

Some of the best conversations happen when we are dicing and stirring side by side.  Today she asked me who taught me to cook.  I credit a few wonderful women and a man or two in my family with sharing their secrets and passions too.  Almost all of them are passed on.  She wistfully said, "I wish humans never had to die."  I knew she was feeling the loss of the missed opportunity to cook beside Rosie, Aunt Helen and Nanny, and to connect with them.

I miss them all too.  Viscerally.

It is always a good idea to keep a secret stash of frozen cookie dough ready to pop in the oven.  It is completely the way to woo 12 year old boys.  Well...really boys of any age.  Girls too.  I overheard T. Bone's friend, who is a welcome regular at our house, telling the other boys, "Mrs. W. makes the best desserts.  You have to have her marshmallow pie.  It is like the best!  THE best!"  I never get tired of baking when I know it is appreciated and most importantly...enjoyed.

My kids have some of the nicest friends.  Good kids.  No...great kids.  And not just because they compliment my cooking.

If you aren't going to eat at the dining room table, it's perfectly OK to leave the game of Monopoly for later in the day or week.

If you have other things to do, it's OK to ignore the dust bunnies and unfolded laundry.

Dirty dishes are never OK.

Stock the garage fridge with popsicles and then don't keep tabs on them.

Listening to music instead of the television is more inspiring and uplifting.

It's great to have a plan and even better to know and very much accept that the plan can and will change.

Always.  A-L-W-A-Y-S make time for exercise.  Today I squeezed in my 4 miler between drop offs and pick ups.  It wasn't when I planned and I almost relented because of that, but I know myself.  I am a happier, healthier person in every way when I get my sweat on.

I can shower and get out the door looking somewhat respectable in 20 minutes.

Ask for and graciously accept help.  They are called friends for a reason.

Wildflowers are often the prettiest.  Weeds can be beautiful too.

I find joy in seeing my kids happy.  Pure.  True.

The things that make them the happiest are really quite simple and ordinary.

There is something to learn from everyone we encounter every day.  Those we encounter are blessings or lessons.  It really is that simple.

If the little voice in your head is telling you means something.  Listen.

I love where I live and I love my life.

I am blessed.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

two day pass

the two day pass in one word was....da da da
yep, it was a weekend of innings, rankings, sunburns and rain delays.
it's ok though because i kind of very much enjoy watching the tournament team play.
these boys are usually on opposing teams when they meet, but for a few tourneys each year, they all get to play together.
and they play together so well.
except a little less well this weekend.
yesterday they lost their first game, but they weren't crying in their gatorades no sir e.
they were all making plans for the rest of the day : play dates and tee times.
they love the game, but not more than they love life.
these friendships are more important than wins.
my saving grace with the quick loss was saving a little money on refreshments.
miss bit would have spent 2 weeks worth of allowance in 2 days on snow cones.
and grandma and grandpa would have obliged.
so i guess the savings would be grandma and grandpa's.
suddenly we had a free afternoon.
mostly free.
coach napped until he had to ready for tryouts for another team.
i read on the patio.
if you cannot have a lazy sunday morning, i recommend a lazy sunday afternoon.
i had time to finish my book, which was a letdown because i forgot it was the first in a trilogy.
i was ready for some answers and this first book was all setting the scene.
we gathered for a late evening father's day dinner that pleased the kids as much as coach.
mozzarella stuffed meatball grinders and salad with homemade italian vinaigrette were on the menu.
coach liked his gifts.
(tigger liked them too.)
too bad he (tigger) cannot work the weed wacker.
thanks to all the baseball, the weeds are the ones winning.

Monday, June 17, 2013

On My Mind Monday

Peace comes from the acceptance of the part of you that can never be at peace.  It will always be in conflict.  If you accept that, everything gets a lot better.

Josh Whedon
Addressing Wesleyan University


Very zen of him I have to say.  I've been reflecting a lot on self-awareness and self-acceptance.  Trying to understand why I do, think, feel the way I do and then owning the action, thought or feeling.  Embracing it even.  There is a very real sense of peace in that.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Grateful Friday

Today I give thanks for..

The cricket carcass in 3 pieces on the kids' bathroom floor.  It means the cats caught the loose bug after Big Ben changed her mind about eating it and spit it out.  Then said bug ran away only to escape in a heating vent.

The end of the school year purge is complete.  The notebooks, projects and leftover supplies had taken over the kitchen table over the last couple days.  I always hem and haw over what to toss and what to keep thinking that maybe they'll finish this workbook or that.  Then I found the bin I filled from this same time last year.  I hadn't opened it in a year.  Not once.  Not for a thing.  And that realization prompted me to recycle it all save for the art pieces, some writing samples and a few prized projects.  I felt positively giddy and my kids...well they were all smiles too.  Go figure!

Reading through T. Bone and Miss Bit's journals.  Some of the entries had me in tears.  Funny tears and sweet ones too.  Those I kept, of course.

Going halfsies with Coach when I could not decide what to order even if after doing so we both wanted the whole burger.

A new summer haircut.  I said, Cut it all off, but leave enough so I can still put it up.  She did.  I'm so happy.

Finally perfecting my Caesar dressing.  Blend one large egg, 2 T. Dijon mustard, 2 cloves of chopped garlic, juice from one lemon, t. salt and t. pepper.  Then pour 1/2 c. of EVOO in as blending until thickens.  Stir in 1/2 c. fresh grated Parmesan.  Anchovies purely optional and to taste.

Impromptu guests for Sunday night dinner.  It was nothing fancy except for that Caesar salad with the homemade dressing, fresh baked croutons and aged Parm. 

Tis' the season of graduation speech wisdom.  The tidbit that's staying with me is from Jonathan Safran Foer's address at Middlebury College.  He said, I worry that the closer the world gets to our fingertips, the further it gets from our hearts.  Me too.  That's why his words struck a nerve.

A reliable, energetic childcare provider.  He was just as sweaty as the kids when I walked in the house after work yesterday.  Today he and Bit explored the Audubon and went out for lunch.  T. Bone had other plans for the day.  When I told S. about next week's agenda, he was giddy.  I think he likes this job!  I would too.

Good chi and strong intuition.

When you meet someone and you just know right away that you like him/her, and also when someone you already know and like says something that makes a light bulb burn bright in your head.

Dinner with girlfriends Saturday night.  All I had to bring was the wine.  Before we knew it, we talked and talked into the start of the next day.

Friends who are easy to be with.  No pomp, no circumstance, no masks, no bull*#@!

My verbena plants are reflowering after somebunny ate all the pretty and obviously tasty blooms.

Time for a workout this afternoon.  It is extremely difficult for me to be motivated at the tail end of the week, but I pushed myself today and it felt great.

Baseball tourney this weekend.

A mostly favorable forecast too.


Coach...the #1 Dad!

My Dad...the salt of my earth.

My FIL... a man of wisdom and wit.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

School's Out!

This morning I woke to such a glorious day.  Really...glorious is the only word to describe the brilliance of the shining sun, the greenness of the growing grass and the perfect late spring almost early summer breeze.  I made a mental note to self : this is really the textbook perfect day...quintessential in every aspect.  It just happens to be the first full day of summer vacation so despite the fact that my weekly obligations change very little this time of year, it feels so much easier and relaxed.  And I don't have to wrangle kids for the next couple days so it is.  Camps and activities commence next week.  Depending on my mood, that is both a good and a bad thing.

Early this morning I was busy on my computer and enjoying my mug of coffee when Miss Bit appeared looking rather refreshed after only 8 hours sleep.  She's usually an 11 hour girl.  For her this day is the equivalent of Christmas morning.  The excitement and anticipation make sleep elusive and truthfully unnecessary.  She's ready for another day just like yesterday save for the smashed finger.  Oh and the bruised ego after I suggested she was being a tad bit dramatic about said finger.  She's calling my bluff though and feigning uncertainty over whether or not she can play in the softball game she's been anxiously anticipating since her last game a week ago.  I knew it was risky to suggest we call 911.  There was half a chance she'd take me up on it.  Whew!

I picked her and her most cherished friend up at lunchtime yesterday and took them out for a celebratory end of school year feast.  We talked of picnicking that morning, but the day had gone from fair to somewhat foul and eating outdoors seemed rather unappealing.  I was about to suggest the art museum cafe followed by a little masterpiece tour by moi, the docent, but the girls buckled in all smiles and with minds made up.  We were destined for fast food chicken tenders and french fries.  Ugh!  And custard. OK.  I realized that it was folly to even offer my idea, and I quickly summoned my inner Julie McCoy.  I am working on fully accepting the fact that I am merely cruise director for the next 12 weeks, and that it is T. Bone and Miss Bit who will be setting the itinerary.  After lunch, we stopped at the park so the girls could explore.  Nature may rate even higher than art in my book so I was content.  Just as soon as I took a seat under a voluminous tree canopy, I could see the light dancing between the leaves.  Clouds parted and the sun showed up as if on cue.  I held the to dos at bay while I watched the girls enjoy their first afternoon of happy freedom swinging, frogging, and just being silly 8 year olds.  I could feel their joy so that it almost seemed like my own.  It is a way.

T. Bone was still curled up in his dark, cozy cave of a room when I left for work hours later this morning.  He was up earlier than usual yesterday.  So early, in fact, I had to send his breakfast along for the commute.  He requested cinnamon buns and I could only oblige, or rather indulge, despite the time crunch.  Thank goodness for plastic plates and a secret stash of BW3 wipes.  He was meeting a friend before school, and then after their noon dismissal a band of 6 boys rode bikes to a creamery to celebrate the end of sixth grade with double scoops.  I knew before he told me : chocolate chip cookie dough and peanut butter cup.  They spent the rest of the afternoon in perpetual contest and motion.  This fact was confirmed when I inquired after the half moon eye lids he was wearing during dinner.  A half pound burger put him over the edge into complete darkness.

We went out for an impromptu dinner once we were a family of four with an unexpected free night.  Coach cancelled practice thanks to derecho.  Suddenly it seemed like the only thing to do after spending the day dropping kids off and picking them up and never really prepping dinner.  I also had a hunch that if I was sick of chicken...the rest of the family was too and times ten.  So we drove North into the eye of the mounting storm, to relative peace : food cooked for us to order.  Miss Bit gleefully ate her second serving of chicken tenders for the day and we let the kids share a slice of their favorite Milky Way pie despite the fact I had just taken a pan of cookie bars out of the oven before leaving.  Something tells me they'll get eaten.  We toasted another great academic year, 3 months off and our soon to be fourth and seventh graders.  Too soon!

So after a rocky start yesterday : drive by breakfast, forgetting to take Miss Bit's end of year photo in our every year place almost resulting in driving home to take the picture, my girl forgetting her sneakers for field day causing me to drive right back to school, drive through lunch, driving rain, driving...driving...driving, it ended up all good, and that is all I can ask for.

I'm gearing up for a summer of shuttling.

Monday, June 10, 2013

On My Mind Monday

by Katrina Kenison
You think the life you have right now is the only life there is, the one that’s going to last forever. And so it’s easy to take it all for granted — the uneventful days that begin with pancakes for breakfast and end with snuggles and made-up stories in the dark. In between, there might be a walk to the creek, a dandelion bouquet, caterpillars in a jar. Countless peanut butter sandwiches, baking soda volcanoes, and impassioned renditions of The Wheels on the Bus. Winter’s lopsided snowmen and summer trips to town for cookie-dough ice cream cones. Cheerios poured into bowls, fingernails clipped, cowlicks pasted down with warm water. Nose kisses and eyelash kisses and pinky swears.

Of course, I worried. I thought if I didn’t carry my four-year-old back to his own room after a bad dream, he would sleep with us forever. I thought, when one son refused to share his favorite puppet, it meant he’d never play well with others. When my first-born cried as I left him at the nursery school door, I believed he would always have trouble separating. Sometimes, out in the parking lot, I cried too, and wondered why saying good-bye has to be so hard, and if maybe I was the one with the problem.

“All the flowers bloom in their own time,” my 85-year old-grandmother said when I confided my fears. Of course, she was right.

There were disappointments — teams not made, best friends who turned mean for no reason, ear aches and strep throats and poison ivy. A cat that died too soon, fish after fish gone belly up in the tank. But mostly, the world we lived in, the family we’d made, childhood itself, felt solid, certain, enduring.

What I loved most of all was a boy on my lap, the Johnsons baby shampoo smell of just-washed hair. I loved my sons’ kissable cheeks and round bellies, their unanswerable questions, their innocent faith in Santa Claus and birthday wishes and heaven as a real place. I loved their sudden tears and wild, infectious giggles, even the smell of their morning breath, when they would leap, upon waking, from their own warm beds directly into ours.

For most of us, the end comes in stages. Baseballs stop flying in the back yard. Board games gather dust on the shelves. Baths give way to showers, long ones, at the oddest times of day. A bedroom door that’s always been open, quietly closes. And then, one day, crossing the street, you reach out to take a hand that’s always been there — and find you’re grasping at air instead, and that your 12-year-old is deliberately walking two steps behind, pretending he doesn’t know who you are.

It hits you then: you’ve entered a strange new territory, a place known as adolescence.

Arriving on these foreign shores, you feel the ground shift beneath your feet. The child you’ve loved and held and sacrificed for has been transformed, en route, into a sullen, alien creature hunched over a cereal bowl. And you wonder where you went wrong.

The thing is, you can’t go back and do one single minute of it over. All you can do is figure out how to get through the rest of the day, or the midnight hour when your mind keeps replaying the last argument you had with your tenth-grader, and wondering: How can I do this better?

Slowly, you begin to get the lay of this unfamiliar landscape, just as it dawns on you — the life that once seemed like forever has already slipped away. The old routines don’t work anymore. Instead, every day now, it’s like you’re learning to dance all over again, with strangers, spinning faster and faster. Holding on, letting go.

You do what you can to keep up. You fill the refrigerator, drive, supervise, proofread, and fill the refrigerator again. You negotiate curfews and car privileges, fill the refrigerator, confiscate the keys, set new limits. You celebrate a part in the school play, a three-pointer, a hard-earned A-minus. You fill the refrigerator, and you fill in every bit of white space on your calendar: SAT s and ACTs and SATIIs, playoffs and performances and proms. You ignore a bedroom that looks as if it’s been bombed, write lots of checks, try not to ask so many questions. You fill the refrigerator, count the beer bottles in the door. You willingly give up the last ice cream sandwich in the freezer, buy pizzas when their friends come over, keep the dog quiet on Saturday morning till you hear feet hit the floor upstairs. You learn to text, and to pray.

There are many nights when you trade sleep for vigilance. You become an expert in reading the rise and fall of a phone conversation muffled behind a door, the look in their eyes as they walk through the room, the meaning of a sigh, the smell of a jacket, the unspoken message behind the innocuous, “Hey mom.” “Hey,” you say. “Hey, hon.”

Before you know it, you’re in the homestretch of high school — and face to face with a truth you should have known all along: this time of parents and children, all living together under one roof, isn’t the whole story after all; it’s just one chapter. Hard as it is to live with teenagers, you can’t quite imagine life without them.

And yet this time of 24/7, zip-your-jacket-here’s-your-sandwich mothering by which you’ve defined yourself for so long, is coming to an end.

So, you remind yourself: Learn the art of letting go by practicing it in the present. Instead of regretting what’s over and done with, savor every minute of the life you have right now: A family dinner. You and the kids, all squeezed onto the couch to watch a movie. A cup of tea in the kitchen before bed. Saying goodnight in person.

If motherhood teaches us anything, it’s that we can’t change our children, we can only change ourselves.

And so, instead of wishing that the kids could be different somehow, you try to see, every day, what is already good in each of them, and to love that. Because any moment now, you’re going to be hugging a daughter who’s turned into a woman. Or standing on tiptoe, saying good-bye to a son who’s suddenly six-feet tall, and heading off to a college halfway across the country.

They leave in a blur — packing, chatting, blasting music, tearing the closets apart in a desperate last-minute search for the gray sweatshirt or the Timberland boots. And then, too soon, they really are gone, and the house rings with a new kind of silence. The gallon of whole milk turns sour in the fridge, because no one’s home to drink it. The last ice cream sandwich is all yours. Nobody needs the car.

You look at your husband across the dinner table, which suddenly feels way too big for two, and wonder, How did it all end so fast?

The bookshelf in my own living room is full of photo albums, nearly twenty years worth of well-documented birthday cakes and holidays, piano recitals and Little League games. But the memories I find myself sifting through the past to find, the ones that I’d give anything now to relive, are the ones that no one ever thought to photograph, the ones that came and went as softly as a breeze on a summer afternoon.

It has taken a while, but I certainly do know it now–the most wonderful gift I had, the gift I’ve finally learned to cherish above all else, was the gift of all those perfectly ordinary days.


This is a favorite memoir of mine.  Today I'm reminding myself : be. here. now.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

A Mary Oliver Morning

Like clockwork, Tigger tried to rouse me with the birds this morning. He does what cats do.  He walks all over me - all 14 pounds of him, stands on my bladder and my boobs, paws at my face and then when none of that works, he resorts to chewing on my hair.  This morning I actually felt badly for the boys because we were low on food so I was rationing them this week.  Their special diet (obviously not low calorie) finally came in yesterday, but I hadn't opened a bag or topped off their bowls.  That's why I was pretty certain they were starving.  So I forced myself to leave my cocoon to save them.  (We're all drama queens in this house.)  Then to my surprise, Miss Bit was up.  Well, down really - lounging on the couch.  I was even more surprised to find that she opened their food and filled their bowls (She filled the food bin and then sealed the bag too.)  My Bit, she's a keeper.  And those cats...the only thing they were starving for was affection, yet they're keepers too.

Like clockwork they are back to bed now.  It's fine though because I'm sitting here in a quiet again house save for a little Mozart.  Miss Bit is at softball practice and the boys are still soundly asleep.  I looked up to see the doe on cue helping herself to some branches moments ago.  She's so beautiful.  I love watching her.  We haven't seen her fawn for days.  This worries me, but I'm hopeful that she is leaving her baby bedded down in the bramble nearby.  I have to think this way or else my heart gets too heavy.  But the realist in me knows that not even a deer mama would leave her helpless baby alone in the woods.  Cue the Mary Oliver.  Her words are louder than Mozart right now.  This invitation is running through my mind:

Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?

- Mary Oliver
The Summer Day; New and Selected Poems 1992

As much as I dislike geese, I find myself stopping as I round the lagoon to admire them this time of year.  The parents flank the babies like soldiers.  They bob their heads, hiss and herd the fuzzy goslings to the pond and away from me : the intruder.  I marvel at how they have doubled, or maybe tripled, in size in the past two weeks. I wonder what it would feel like if my children grew that fast, but I know because my heart is aching just imagining the possibility.  Again, I hear Mary Oliver. I always hear her in these solemn, soul-expanding moments.
to live in this world
you must be able
to do three things
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go

-Mary Oliver
New and Selected Poems, Volume I

I started listening to Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking this week. I'm always drawn to it on the library shelf and then strongly repelled by it once I get it home, yet I have checked it out countless times.  I spend enough time consumed by grief.  I don't need to take on someone else's has always been my rationale. It was all I had to listen to the other day so I did, and I must confess that I am loving this memoir in spite of the fact that it had me in tears mid-walk.  It is my nature to feel things deeply and my core.  Her words so poignantly spoke to my own pain and even through the heartache. Yet I could feel my soul sing as I looked out on the scenery before me with such grateful eyes.  I had this breakthrough.  I felt the heart of my grief, I welcomed it and then I made peace with it.  Yes, I grieve for loved ones lost, most painfully my Mom, but also for every bit of this fleeting life that is here right before me now.  To have been so close touched by to acknowledge its existence and accept its persistence. It will be a reality for each and every one of us we all know.  I don't think it scares me. I know it saddens me.  It saddens me to have to leave this behind because this is beautiful.  It really is.  To be alive, is a privilege whether you are deer or goose, or man or woman. And as incongruent as it seems, to accept death, is to fully engage life.

we are imperfect mortal beings, aware of that mortality even as we push it away, failed by our very complication, so wired that when we mourn our losses we also mourn, for better or for worse, ourselves. as we were. as we are no longer. as we will one day not be at all.

- Joan Didion
The Year of Magical Thinking

So I have to believe that I finally succumbed to this memoir of grief for a reason.  It's simply time.  I'm ready to accept that it's not just about my's about me.  It's about my life as much, if not more than, my death.  And I also choose to believe that the battery died as I stood watching those vulnerable geese and their protective parents for a reason.  It was time for pause. Quiet.  The universe was talking and I was listening, and those are the most beautiful moments to be alive.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Grateful Friday

Today I give thanks for...

Friends who don't bat an eyelash when they invite your daughter to dinner and she orders all the things she loves on the menu.  Miss Bit ordered steak, which came with rice and veggies, and then also a side of udon noodles because they are her favorite and that is what she does when we go out for hibachi as a family. Thankfully, she only ordered one Japanese soda.

Taking it day by day.  It being everything.

I finished listening to Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict just as I received notice that Sense and Sensibility is waiting for me at the library.  Skip this Rigler read if it catches your eye on the shelf.  I couldn't wait for it to end!

Beautiful strepto carpella that are twice the size they usually are.  I bought the last 3 at the nursery.  Believe me...I took that as a sign because I was late getting there this year and that is exactly the number I wanted.

A drive along country roads with the windows open.  I definitely have this longing for more space and fewer people.

Skirts and flip flops.

Miss Bit helped her Dad do yard work all day Sunday and she didn't complain about it, in fact, I dare say she enjoyed it.  T. Bone enjoyed golfing with his uncle.  Take from that what you will.

Miss Bit has started wearing deodorant.  She doesn't need it yet, but it smells good and she's all about that.  I had to break it to her that she only needs to apply it once a day.  She had a hard time grasping that old too much of a good thing rule.

Today is the last Friday of school.  I'm ready for a change in routine as much as the kids are.

Jess is on her way over for palomas on the patio.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Last Minute Lessons

This is my last Wednesday before summer vacation starts.  Funny, but today it feels more like fall.  Odd, but the workload for both kids is amping up not winding down.  Teachers are trying to fit in every last nugget and morsel before advancing them and then setting them free for 12 weeks.  I just spent the last hour helping Miss Bit write a slogan/ditty for Idaho.  It's her individual part in a group social studies project she's stressing over because a. her group is monkeying around and not taking this project seriously b. Miss Bit tends to take projects too seriously, and c. she's in serious decompress mode with less than a week left of school.  She was much relieved after our song writing session, yet still she worried that her group would reject her catchy idea.  All I could tell her was to remain calm and then give the other group participants the opportunity (and necessity since there are only 5 days left of school so time is running short) to present other ideas.  I warned her that some tweaking was likely at the very least.  I confessed that I never was a big fan of the group project.  Even in graduate school,  I was too often paired with either the control freaks who want to do it all or the do nothingers.  I'm not sure which is worse.  I stopped short of telling her that the dynamic of this school microcosm is very much a reality in all facets of life.

T. Bone was up until at least 11:00 last night.  He was working on the finishing touches (I'm being kind here) of a poetry project.  He's had this assignment for weeks, and yet last night he was scrambling to eke out two more poems.  We had a rare mom/son date last night for dinner, and after he quickly penned a very cute and clever poem about our pizza.  It is easy for him, but where he excels in ideas and execution, he struggles with time management.   My argument was that a long-term project should be complete days in advance.  I contend that complete means published as in printed and bound.  His argument was that if our printer wasn't problematic and our IT guy (Coach) hadn't been at a baseball game with friends (how dare him), it wouldn't have been an issue. I struggled to let him struggle.  I wanted to troubleshoot after I schooled him in all the ways his timing and thinking were unacceptable, but I mostly just stayed on the couch deep breathing and pretending to read my book.  I thought about 6th grade orientation in the fall.  The team implored us to let our kids take responsibility for their work and projects.  Their being the operative word here.  They begged us to let them fail if they didn't complete something, and to suffer the consequences of incomplete or shoddy or late work.  I understand that logic, yet how I struggled to see (head in hands) and hear him (sigh, sigh) struggle.  But I clearly heard those pleas from the beginning of the year made by teachers who understand the value and worth of personal responsibility.  I cautioned him that his project may be late.  I suggested that maybe he'll do things differently next time to get his desired outcome.  That was not at all what he wanted to hear. He wanted me to support his excuses and offer solutions.  It may have taken me all of 6th grade to learn it, but I know now that tough times often yield tremendous growth no matter your age.

It really made me sad though because we had such a great evening together just the two of us.  We chatted about summer, played the jukebox and sang along to the Beetles, and strategized Blokus in reverse with our cheese/sausage/roni/extra cheese.  Then we pretended to play practical jokers, and just imagining the stunts we came up with was almost as funny as performing them.  Thank goodness because I didn't want to get up and sing karaoke for the restaurant, or open the window for him so he could throw his soccer ball at an unsuspecting biker while yelling fore or catch.  We were having so much fun that he decided he wanted to come to Miss Bit's softball game to which I consented not wanting our time together to end.  And here we were angry and disappointed in one another and ourselves at the end of it all.  He didn't return my I love you when I sent him up to shower after telling him he'd have to figure it out in the morning.  But he came back down after he was clean and calm to tell me he thought he could finish it in study hall.  He devised a plan and it seemed plausible.

Then he asked, Mom are we all right? 

 I said, I'm all right, are you? 

 I'm good...are we good?  I love you, T. Bone finally admitted

 We're good...I love you too, I said.

And I do.  I love him...I love much that I want to give them the world, but it's only my job to help them navigate it.  At times, it's painfully difficult to sit back and watch them tussle with themselves or with others, but every attempt at conflict stocks their own tool chests with the devices they need to trail blaze their own paths.  Sure sometimes I lend a hand and often an ear.  I give advice, make suggestions, and offer guidance, but in the end I can only show them and tell them and then they must do...they must be.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Family Table

I'm here early on a Sunday up before the rest of the house. I like it this way : the first hour if I'm lucky...few minutes if I'm less to enjoy my coffee in the holy solitude of a still sleeping house.  My perkiness this morning is likely due to the cooler, cloudy day and the fact that as DD, I imbibed in two less glasses of wine than normal last night.  We had dinner over the river and through the still mostly mosquito-less woods at my dad and step-mom's.  There was a calm in the storm that rained on our party as promised.  The reprieve was long enough for my dad, who was channeling his inner Bobby Flay, to grill dinner.  He had aged rib eyes all week and they were gorgeous.  He also went round to stores and yard sales looking for some must have device for cooking with convection on the grill.  The guys all gathered around the grill to watch him (and also maybe to ensure he not burn down the deck and then the house).  I love the way they hold court with cold beers around the hot grill.  You can just feel the testosterone as you smell the meat searing.  My Dad offered the kids an alternative entree, but they both were quick to claim a steak.  They know what's good for them, and Miss Bit is a consummate carnivore.  She polished off as much if not more of her hunk of meat than anyone else around the table.  Of course, pretty much all she ate was meat though!  She was thrilled she could cut her own steak and with her butter knife.  Yes, it's true...they were that tender and still my dad was talking about the asparagus I recently served topped with a poached egg.  That old poached egg trick gets them every time.  I'll admit it's memorable and delicious and decadent and it takes the ordinary to a company worthy level.

But this post is not really about steak or poached eggs, oh but that's an idea.  It's about breaking bread together and sharing toasts.  It's about remembering and creating new memories so many of which are made around the family table.  Last night T. Bone confessed that he used to go to the bathroom with a napkin stuffed with vegetables on his will not eat list and flush them.  He claimed to have devised that plan after hearing about the sometimes hours long stand-offs my dad and brother would have over colorful things grown in the ground.  The story goes (and this is true) : my brother would only eat corn.  Corn with butter.  Sometimes my dad  would serve something green or orange or red, and we would listen to Hooked on Classics two or three times through waiting for my brother to eat his daily dose of vitamins and fiber. He would not.  The phone would ring unanswered relentlessly as my friends would call and call.  I missed so much gossip.  My dad would get up to flip the record...yes record.  It would turn dark out and still he would not budge.  Eventually my dad would  retire to the kitchen under the guise of starting clean-up, and I would inhale my brother's vegetables, and the vegetable stand-off would be settled for another night.  Still it's a fond memory even if I never want to hear Hooked on Classics ever again and still get wide eyed when my brother feasts on Brussels sprouts, spinach and broccoli!  It was a family ritual to gather around the dining room table at the end of the day to reconnect.  Not in front of the tv, not at the kitchen counter, not at a fast food table.

The story that will live on from last night will likely be grandpa slurping down a Junebug for 2 bucks.  The men and boys in the family love a lucrative eating challenge.  For the right price, they will eat almost anything. Grandpa said it was better than the steak, and the kids giggled and guffawed and squealed gross!  It's a moment I'm sure they won't forget.  I'm pretty sure that's why my dad did it too. Recently, he shared with me that he's disappointed an opportunity for a week in NYC at the holidays was not going to come to fruition. It was a long shot and I shared the many reasons this was probably for the best.  He wasn't swayed by my sour grapes.  He just said, Oh but it would have been so cool.  Do you know what would have been so cool about it?  T. Bone and Miss Bit would have remembered it forever.  They would always remember being in Times Square on New Year's Eve and they would remember it because of me.

T. Bone just came down.  The first thing he said was, Do you think Grandpa chewed that Junebug?

He just proved my point.  You don't have to go to NYC to make memories.  Some of the best, longest lasting are made right at home around the family table.