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photos:
1) my beamish boy, 8 years ago when we were good friends
2) spot the tattoo
3) no mas!

Last night as I pulled in the driveway I felt a pang in my heart when I noticed the white Christmas lights on in my son’s upstairs bedroom window. I turned the lights on when he went back to school so his room didn’t look so cold and empty. I really miss him. And I don’t. We are both happy, doing good work where we are; me in Ann Arbor and he in Chicago. But still there is a pull on my heart.

My son started his freshman year at DePaul University in Chicago. He lives on the Lincoln Park campus but takes the El to take classes downtown (13 floors above the Barnes and Noble on the Loop) a couple of days per week. On those days he says he eats breakfast overlooking Chicago as the sun rises. It makes him happy.

The summer before he left was neither fun nor pretty for us. So many fights. Go ahead, join the other hundreds of friends who told me not to take it personally, that he’s just separating, that he will come back. I know all of this. But it still hurt. Deeply.

And when he turned 18 at the end of July he announced he was going to get a skull tattooed on his bicep.

I said, not a skull.
I said, not yet.
I said, wait until you’re 26 and your frontal lobe is fully developed.
I said, wait until you’ve made friends at college.
I said, a skull on your bicep says, f-you! I’m a tough guy and I want to fight you!
I said, okay, get a tattoo but not something that is so negative and scary and visible.

He said, yes a skull, yes on my bicep.

I said, NO.

He said, you have no say, I’m eighteen and can do what I want.

I said, I’m paying for you to go to college so I think I do get a say.

My husband said, don’t tell him we’re not going to pay for him to go to college.

I said, that’s not what I said.

My son got his badass tattoo the week before he left for college.

I didn’t speak to him until two days before he left when he came up to me and hugged me and said, I love you mom.

I said, I love you too, dummy.

He said, whose the dummy who wouldn’t talk to her son the week before he leaves for college?

I said, whose the dummy who got a skull tattoo the week before he left for college?

He said, my skull tattoo is amazing.

So he got a tattoo. No one died. But as a friend noted, after having had the same experience with his daughter, something shifted. Something broke.

Looking back, I think it’s okay. I likely did something that broke my childhood relationship with my own mother at some point. Like when I would blare Elton John’s “The Bitch Is Back” when she intruded on my teenage life. Or any of the millions of other transgressions I made against her.

Now, I have a wonderful adult relationship with my mom. I hope I will be able to have a similar relationship with my son one day. In the meantime, I am getting better at not taking his transgressions so personally.

His first week of college my skull-tattooed son had a Discover Chicago immersion class where they visited different neighborhoods, learned about their histories, ethnicities, etc. He texted me one day and said, three of my four professors have tattoos, I don’t feel so special.

When he was home for break he was talking about getting another tattoo. I said, well I would be okay with that one, pointing to our refrigerator where I had posted a paper heart with a banner baring the word “MOM”. My daughter had made as a label for a gift for me.

He said, that’s actually one I was thinking of getting.

Oh my beamish boy. I hope no more tattoos, but I’m keeping my mouth shut this time.

everywhere and nowhere

July 16, 2014

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photos:
1) our finnegan, november 11, 2001 – july 8, 2014
2) she decided in kindergarten that she wanted a pug and she wanted to name him finny. i’m not sure her dad and i knew what a pug was. took her two years to convince her dad.
3) one of five million photos of finny and his girl
4) puppy brothers: small and young
5) puppy brothers: one still young, but big, the other still small, but old

Last week we lost our faithful companion of twelve and a half years. It was heartbreaking and we are still heartbroken.

We loved that little dog. Every time my daughter saw Finny, she would say, “Finny is so cute. SO cute.” Every time my son saw Finny he said, “Mom, look at how cute Finny is!” and I would say, “Yes, he is cute,” while I continued to make dinner, or check my email. “No, mom you have to LOOK. Mom look! Look at how cute Finny is!” He would persist until I would finally turn and look and affirm. This happened always, forever, multiple times a day, whenever they would see their “puppy brother.”

My husband, who didn’t want a dog, was the one who stayed up with Finny his first night in our house, when he was so, so tiny. And he was the one who, last week, woke me up at 2am to say he was taking Finny to the emergency vet. The kids went with him. I came later when he called me to tell me that we had run out of options.

Finny always wanted to be right by my side, probably because I was the one who fed and walked him. He cried if I went to bed, or the bathroom, or upstairs, or downstairs without him. I went to sleep with him at my feet and woke up with his head next to mine on my pillow, his fishy breath blowing in my face. Gross, I know.

Now when I get up in the morning as I head to the bathroom I hear him whine for me to come back and lift him off the bed, as he often does. In less than a second I realize the whine can’t be from him because he is no longer here: it’s a squeaky door, or the air conditioner or my husband’s snore.

We see him out of the corner of our eyes, and then instantly recognize that it’s not him, but his tan cushion, or a bag, or something else of similar color or size. He is everywhere, and nowhere.

My son came home the other day with his usual bounce in his step and cheerfully told me about his day and then headed down the hall and stopped. “Oh,” he said, startled. “I was going to find Finny.”

My daughter wants to keep his toys, cushion, even his hair around the house, as is, at least for now. She explained a theory, that if the sun explodes, we on earth will have 8 minutes before everything is gone. She feels this way about Finny: that she only has a limited amount of time before so much of him, our memory of him, his presence, all of him, is gone.

I know it will get better; maybe sooner than we are ready for.

resolutions

January 15, 2014

resolutions

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photos:
1) back hallway to the nat sci (natural sciences building) auditorium. i was showing my daughter around campus to her classes and had to take her down this ancient and somewhat creepy hallway, because i love it.
2) one snowy day, cold day my husband made blueberry buckle for the neighbors
3) the wonderful organ and organist at the beautiful and historic michigan theater, my favorite place to see films. art films, no commercials and an amazing pre-film organ concert
4) there was a fire down the street from us on main street, the photo is so ugly but i found the remains of this concrete and cinderblock building shocking. it used to be a pizza place that i disliked, beer coolers were the main feature of the place and it had a very macho vibe to it. i don’t think it did much business
5) my sassy sister (not a great photo of her). she may or may not be making a snarky face about a her mug christmas gift. this is the photo that shows up on my phone when she calls me. makes me laugh every time.
6) my dog on my daughter’s leg (she took the photo!)

It is mid January and I am still thinking about new year’s resolutions…which is about right for me. I have a hard time keeping up.

I have never made new year’s resolutions before, but this year, I wanted to give it a try. I have been looking for a thoughtful, comprehensive way to think about goals for 2014. But as I skim article after article on this topic, maybe thoughtful is not what I want after all.

Some articles on new year’s resolutions include 20 question inventories about the past year: “What surprised me this past year? What disappointed me this past year?” My house was generally a mess, which was disappointing, but no surprise. I don’t have the time, memory or attention span for such an inventory.

Other articles provide lists of possible areas/resolutions to consider when making resolutions. I like the lists in this article on personal goal setting because, in addition to considering the normal fodder for resolutions such as finances and weight loss, it includes areas that to me are equally as important such as artistic, education, and public service. (I found this article about lifetime, LIFETIME!, goal setting to be very intimidating, so I’m just using her list, not her process.)

Going through these list I realize I have many, many things I want to work on this year, including finances, competing in a triathlon, reading more, thinking about a product or products for an etsy shop, learning how to make videos, being a better parent, my professional life and what I should be doing to prepare for a job change, socializing with friends more, helping my mom more, keeping up on my blog and keeping my house cleaner…GAhhhh! This resolution business just sets people up for failure!

So I’m going to follow the advice of Natalie Houston in her article, Pick One Thing (published in the Chronicle for Higher Ed, but really applicable to all.)

Houston keeps it simple: pick one goal, define a small action toward the goal, keep track of your success, get support. For myself, if I make steady progress on that goal, I will start on another goal, but not until progress has been made on the first goal.

My first goal is preparing for an outdoor triathlon. I picked that as my first since I have already started making progress on this. I am saving money for a bike. I am in my second triathlon training class at the Y and am signed up to do the indoor Y-tri in March (15 minutes swim, 15 minutes indoor cycling, 15 minutes on the treadmill). And I’m pretty good about keeping up with my exercise plan. So I think I can add another goal.

My next goal is to work on keeping my house cleaner. I believe that housekeeping is overrated for sure, and our house is never (never, ever) going to be featured on Design*Sponge. We all work too much to make this a big focus of our lives, even our big kids work very hard at their academics and are busy outside of school. But somewhere in the past few, mad, years we have crossed the line from messy to gross. Embarrassingly gross. Something has to be done.

My sister in law recently posted on Facebook this 45-minute daily (DAILY?!) speed housecleaning routine. For my first step toward my goal of having a cleaner house, I thought I would give it a try…with modifications. (Daily…haha.) First modification: I will not be making my own housecleaning cleansers/products.

The author’s ability to do all on her list in the 45 minute time is likely because she has 45 minutes of uninterrupted time in her home, which I never do. Last night I made the mistake of leaving the bathroom door open 4 inches while I brushed my teeth before going to bed. First it was my dog crying outside the door for me. His eyesight is so bad he can’t see that the door was open.

Then it was my son coming to comfort my dog, “Mom, look how cute Finny is! Mom, no LOOK! You have to look! Oh look again! He is resting his chin on my leg. He is so cute. Mom, mom, look, LOOK!”

I love my son, and my dog and I am glad that my 16 year old still wants me to look…I’m just saying, I can’t get 5 uninterrupted minutes on my own, not even to brush my teeth. Still, I have to start somewhere…

I WILL be posting on my housekeeping progress. So you have that to look forward to…haha.

Do you have new goals for the new year? Or good ways to approach a new year? I’m listening!

greetings from seattle

October 1, 2013

greetings from seattle

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photos:
1) homemade birthday crowns
2) tiny tap and ballet shoes…i love that little tummy
3) my nephew’s room…i miss this
4) nutcase (bike helmet) in the evening sun
5) the pink and purple trappings of a three year old pwincess

Guess what…It’s raining in Seattle.

I’m here visiting my little sister and her family. I adore my 3 year old niece and 5 year old nephew. (I adore my sister too!) They are such amazingly capable little people. I spent some time building with Lego with my nephew, and we looked at all of his pokemon cards—things I used to do for hours and hours when my son was his age.

This morning I drove my niece to pre-school and felt so privileged to be doing so. In the car my niece gave me the run down of the instructions of tasks to complete upon arrival: coat and backpack in her cubby, then I sign her in, then she washes her hands and uses the potty, then she gets her name card and puts it on Ms. Judith’s chair, then I read the board to her, then she follows the instructions on the board.

So much to remember! But she helped me through it all. Did I mention she is three?!

My sister told me one day my neice came home and said, “MOM! Do you know we have taste bugs in our mouths?!” My sister asked, “Taste bugs, or taste BUDS?” My niece replied, “Taste BUGS!”

There is so much I miss about my kids being little, the funny stories, the Lego building, reading to my kids at bedtime, problems that can be fixed with a band-aid or hug or book.

But there is a lot I forgot about that I don’t miss…the lack of sleep, (I heard my sister up at 2am this morning, and then again at 6am when she got up for the day), the relentless Saturday schedule of extracurricular activities (though in truth I love going to my niece and nephew’s activities, but I did skip the soccer games in the pouring rain).

I don’t miss the whole process of packing lunches, getting backpacks ready, making sure kids have used the bathroom, have their gym shoes packed, are buckled into their car seats. I don’t miss the evening schedule of making dinner, cleaning up after dinner, getting the kids bathed, in their pajamas, read to, in bed on time, doing the laundry, feeling badly that I didn’t have enough one on one time with each kid and then starting it all over the next day. I forgot how hard and exhausting it all was.

The great thing about being an aunt, is that you get the good parts, without the exhausting parts! I will so miss my sister, and these two little people when I leave. I still have a hard time thinking that it will always be this way…only seeing them once or twice a year. Likely not seeing them again until summer, or maybe next year. The thought of it pulls on my heart strings.

Also pulling on my heart strings… I miss my own big kids! My son just got his license before I left and my daughter was just finishing her transfer application to the University of Michigan. I miss their faces and their own funny stories from the day, though my daughter is still making me laugh every day through texts and emails.

settling into fall…

September 15, 2013

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photos:
1) while I was “watching” a movie with my kids, my son was using my ipad to take photos of our puppy resting his chin on my son’s shoulder…I laughed when I saw this one…at least my mouth wasn’t open…
2) my mother’s kitchen floor…my sister and I call her house “the sanctuary”…I feel taken care of there and her floors are always clean.
3) a praying mantis on a window down the hall from my office

A few random photos from the past month. Most of my photos are on my DSL camera, which is not with me today. But since I wanted to get back into posting, here are some random ones that I have with me.

Life has been intense, as life will be this time of year.

I squeezed much into that last week of summer: had a visit from my dear friend Cath, then a spontaneous trip up north with her and my daughter, applied for two jobs and had calls to interview for both, worked to get ready for a new semester at work, engaged in negotiations to get my son’s crazy high school schedule set (he’s taking classes at 3 schools again, including our local community college), and sadly attended a funeral for my dear neighbor’s mom.

And here we are. My kids are back to school, work has picked up and become more intense, the weather had changed to fall, the football season is in full swing in this college town, we celebrated my mother’s birthday last weekend and will celebrate my husband’s tomorrow and I had my two job interviews with the end result that I’m staying put at my current job and am even more grateful for it! More on all of that another time.

As I settle back into this more rigorous, but predictable schedule, I hope to be back to blogging more regularly! xox

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08.03.13 whats making me happy this week

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photos:
1. first tomatoes
2. photo my daughter used for a screen saver…on my unsuspecting husband’s laptop.
3. finnegan cuddling up with our smelly shoes
4. my sister’s handwritten (love) recipe and the last of her bean and rice salad
5. cornflake marshmallow cookies
6. hibiscus
7. mid century library staircase
8. dr. who phonebox cake

What a week! Home from a trip to visit my brother’s family in Virginia, my son’s 16th birthday and too short visit from my dear friend Cathy. In addition to all of that BIG happiness, here are some little things that are making me happy thing week:

1. Our first tomatoes from our garden make me happy!

2. My daughter, who makes me laugh a lot, makes me happy. (Also we fight a lot.) You can see (above) the kind of desktop photos she puts on any unattended laptops when she has the chance. She was recently sitting across from me as we both “worked” on our laptops. She laughed aloud and said ‘This meme reminds me of you.‘I tried to login to my iPad, turns out it was an etch a sketch and I don’t even own an iPad, also, I’m out of wine.’”
Do you think I’m a good role model?

3. My puppy. He likes to sleep among shoes. I think because they smell like us. Lucky for him, my family provides ample opportunity for him to sleep among smelly shoes!

4. Summer salads. I love them for their use of produce, freshness and mix of flavors. Three of our staples include my sister’s bean and rice salad pictured above, Giada De Laurentiis’ Mediterranean Farro Salad and this panzenlla salad.

I also tried this tomato and watermelon salad from shutterbean.com and it was like eating a big bowl of summer!

5. Speaking of shutterban recipes…tracy’s Cornflake Marshmallow Cookies are pretty amazing. In fact they are too amazing. It will be awhile before I can make these again because they are so darn good, both baked and raw! I made one batch one night and then immediately had to make another the next day and then I had to make myself stop. So, so yummy.

6.The hibiscus are finally blooming in this part of the world.

7. Libraries make me happy, particularly this mid-century modern one pictured above, where I spend my time when my son volunteers at a zoo about an hour away from our house.

8. Comedian Jim Gaffigan. We just saw him at Meadowbrook Theater, near my mother’s house. He has two stand up specials on Nextflix and just published a book called, “Dad is Fat.”

9. The Dr. Who phone box cake above that my daughter made for her friend who loves Dr. Who.

When my daughter delivered it, her friend’s 11 year old brother, who loves my daughter, asked her, “Wanna look at baby animal pictures with me?” Yep. That’s how we grow our men in Ann Arbor. Love.

10. And speaking of growing men. I am excited by this new project by Jennifer Siebel The Mask You Live In, about the very restrictive and destructive models of manhood that our society presents to our sons. If you haven’t seen Jen Siebel’s Miss Representation, about girls in the media, please see it. It’s not just for women, or parents of daughters. We showed this on our campus last year to a large crowd of male and female students and there was clapping and cheering at the end by all genders. See it. Please. It has a hopeful ending!

11. These capri yoga/active wear pants my sister sent to me. At first I thought they were Lulu Lemon, because my sis is all about Lulu Lemon and because they were so quality…but no, they are from Old Navy! = affordable! I love them. She says they are her favs.

12. Something about the song Royales by Lordes makes me happy…it’s a great workout jam. Turn it up…even louder. I know I will be sick of it in a month…

13. Also this song, We Are Flowers sung by Eef Barzelay from the band Clem Snide).

14. It makes me happy when a story stops me in my tracks, transports me, and then haunts me for days after, as happened when I heard Ron Rush read his short story, “Something Rich and Strange,” from his collection of short stories Nothing Gold Can Stay.

Happy week to you! Watch Jim Gaffigan on Netflix, he will make you laugh!

discordant and antsy

July 21, 2013

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photos:
1) size 11 watershoes left on the patio
2) the cottage, looking in from the front porch
3) the cottage, inside looking out onto the porch where the men are playing a game over breakfast
4) the cottage, doggy doorstop
5) a stealth photo of my son cuddling finny as we watch television in the basement
6) too many days of this weather
7) finnegan finally gets a properly-sized pool

This summer has felt…discordant…just off in some ways. Parenting teenagers has been tricky. Schedules are feeling like tectonic plates grinding against each other. My expectations for everything I will get done in the summer are always too high and unrealistic. In fact, it feels like I am able to get less done during the summer because schedules and needs are unpredictable. And I am antsy for a new direction, one that involves creativity.

Today I am home alone. My husband and daughter are up north at my husband’s family cottage. My son is working all day. So I will try to make progress on a long list of tasks.

Hope your summer is feeling more settled than mine and that you are not, like me, feeling a little panicky about August lurking around the corner…