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photos:
1) loving my chocolate milk
2) surfer, pacific ocean, golden gate park near sutro bathes
3) yellow mushrooms, noe valley farmer’s market
4) gold fish and yellow boots, japanese tea garden in golden gate park
5) my new skirt

We have had some hard weeks this month. We are still missing our puppy. My mother-in-law is in her final days. And we are dealing with some hard, worldly, issues with one of our children. It is a situation that has grown from a place of goodness and caring, but has put our child in a potentially dangerous and situation. It is a situation that makes me long for normal teenage issues like drinking, sex or breaking curfew. We have been up late many nights lately having long and intense family talks. But at least we are talking. (My advice to you as a parent is to not raise caring and sensitive kids who want to save the world.)

When I am tired at the beginning of a swim workout and have a wave of dread wash over me thinking about how many more hundreds of yards I have left to swim, I tell myself to focus on the 50 yards I am currently on: to concentrate on form; to concentrate on the pleasure of moving through the water; and to just take one lap at a time. It always gets me through the workout.

I am trying to apply the same focus to each day of this hard time: focus on what I can do today; try to set a goal and try to break the problem down to get to that goal; focus on efficiency rather than wasting so much energy on anxiety and worry; and make sure I exercise and laugh, because endorphins always help. As I tell my children, we will get through this. All will be well.

I cannot say that I am happy this week, but there have been things that have lifted my spirits. The top three have to do with chocolate…for its medicinal qualities?

1. Almond Joy ice-cream. Coconut ice-cream infused with almonds and big chunks of chocolate, now available and our neighborhood Washtenaw Dairy ice cream store, an all too convenient 10 minute walk from my house. I’m not a huge ice cream fan, but I find myself with a specific craving this ice cream. No, I’m not pregnant.

2. Small, portable cartons of chocolate milk. They don’t require refrigeration, though they are best cold. I love them after exercising…and with my lunch…and as a late night snack and…No, I’m not pregnant.

3. Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt and Almonds. I have a Ghiradelli bar right next to me as I type. I have never liked dark chocolate, though I know it’s much better for me than milk chocolate. It turns out if you add a heavy does of salt and almonds to dark chocolate, it’s not only palatable, it’s wonderful. (I also like the dark chocolate and sea salt Kind bars.) No, I’m still not pregnant.

4. My kitchen floor is almost done and looking great. My husband has been working his *** off sanding, staining and finishing this ancient pine floor. The project started last November when we bought a new dishwasher that would not fit under the counter, even though it was the same dimensions as the old one. We ended up ripping up the flooring, which needed replacing anyway, and found 3 layers of linoleum on subfloor. Then there was black paper and goo that had to be scraped off of the floor. We discovered not so bad pine flooring that we thought we might paint. Once my husband had it sanded we decided to stain and polyurethane. Now about that harvest gold counter top…

5. Being outside always makes me feel better. My daughter and I took a long bike ride together this week, I swam outdoors at least once, I walked to and from work on some days. This Atlantic article on brain function and exercise, and being outside says being outside and exercising (and the big O for ladies) also increases brain function:
Gym workouts and sunbathing do more for your brain than crosswords and Mozart

6. My first trip ever to San Francisco was great. We packed a lot in in the few days we were there. Including my friend’s participation in the Escape from the Rock duathlon. The food, the shops, the nature, the culture, the easy transportation…I can’t wait to return.

7. The Google Maps App and the Uber Cars App. Both Apps made getting around San Francisco easy and stress free. Uber cars are controversial in some cities because they compete with cab drivers who say Uber drivers are unqualified. Uber drivers have to pass some driving and written tests, so I’m not sure if the cabbies’ claims are founded. I like Uber cars because I don’t feel like I’m getting overcharged because I’m a tourist. You can get a fare quote ahead of time, they let you know ahead of time if it is a high traffic time when fares are sometimes increased, and by how much they are increased. There is no tipping (tip is included), the cars arrive quickly, it is automatically charged to your credit card and they have lots of special offers—first ride was free for us.
Google Maps gives great and specific information for using public transportation and walking.

8. Boden’s printed cotton skirt in Papaya Geo that arrived this week (see above)

9. The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics
, by Daniel James Brown

I’m almost finished with this book, but don’t want it to end! There is a movie being made of this. It’s being touted as the Chariots of Fire of rowing. Here is a book trailer I found (have never heard of a book trailer before).

10. My husband showed me THIS amazing kickstarter invention. I made a small donation to the campaign so I can receive 100 of these next July. Just in time for my son’s 18th birthday.

Hope you have a good week: 50 yards at a time my friends.

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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…

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a day in my life: torturing the pets

photos:
1. Dandelion, trying to escape from the pool
2. Escape attempt 2
3. A rescue? Can you hear him yelling, “hellllllp me!”
4. Finnegan gets upset when I pay attention to Dandelion
5. Finnegan gets upset when he is carried away toward the humiliating new pool
6. Dandelion’s usual pose: A prickly ball.

It was a beautiful Saturday here in Ann Arbor. My husband is staying with his parents this weekend to help care for his mother with Alzheimer’s disease. We will be spending some time there this weekend and sometime at my mother’s house. We are indeed the sandwich generation, but how lucky we are to live close enough to our parents to help if and when they need it.

My son was gone all day at his new job, mowing lawns. He is 15, too young to work most places. Part of me feels like he will have his whole life to work, maybe this is too soon, but I see how proud he is of himself. He seemed pretty happy when he came home, so I guess…

This morning I went for what I call a run, most others would call a trudge. Afterward, I met some friends for lunch at No Thai! (the owner’s name is No). Not my favorite restaurant, but it’s a tradition with this particular group. No Thai! is in Kerrytown, the busiest place in Ann Arbor on Saturday mornings Spring – Fall. It seems as if all of Ann Arbor is at the farmer’s market, and/or Zingerman’s Deli. It felt good sit outside in the sunshine, with friends, in the midst of it all. After that it was home to plant basil, tomatoes and nasturtiums while the pet torturing took place.

I am not the pet torturer. Usually, I am the one being tortured by the pets. My dear doggie, Finnegan, will sit outside the bathroom door and cry as if his heart is broken, never to heal, so full of grief is he at having a closed door between us. You say sweet. I say annoying.

My daughter was the pet torturer today. I recently tried to replace Finnegan’s cracked Tubtrug pool (no, I don’t get reimbursed or sponsored by this or any other product, but I LOVE these Tubtrugs). They only had smaller-sized Tubtrugs at the store, but I was certain Finny would fit. My daughter was dubious. She was right. He sat in it once today and water spilled out along with rolls of his flarb. He looked humiliated, hopped out and would not go near it again….until forced later, by my daughter.

My daughter was cleaning her hedgehog’s cage and thought Dandelion might like a swim. Dandelion does swim, but he did not seem to enjoy it. He doesn’t enjoy much. It was nice to see his face for a change. And his wee little legs and feet!

Dandi’s swimming adventure only lasted a minute. My daughter will stick to bathing him in the sink in warmer water, which he still hates.

Next she decided to try Finny in his new pool again. Do you see the look he was giving me over her shoulder as she carried him to the too-small pool? The same one Dandi was giving me when he was being lifted out of the cold water, “Help me!”

catching up

May 14, 2013

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photos:
1) the best birthday package
2) birthday heart from my 15 year old son, clean kitchen included
3) My dear mom and my dear sister Jen

Back from my blogging hiatus. I hope. Something had to go. I have been away from most of the past 4 weekends.

My dear sister from Seattle was here for a too short visit. Our family spent a weekend with my daughter for her birthday at the end of April. I had my final exam for my photography class. You roll your eyes, but there was a great amount of technical information to learn, such as the electromagnetic scale and length of the color waves that is viewable to the human eyes (400 – 700 nanometers in case you were wondering).

Then it was my birthday. Guess what was in the package from my amazing friend Cathy? A vintage red purse and a Catherineholm fondu pot! As I told her, I hugged them to my chest when I opened them! That woman! I have to be careful about what I post on my blog!

The night of my birthday my husband and I went to the simulcast of “Wait! Wait! Don’t Tell Me!” a nerdy NPR radio show that we love and have seen live several times. I came home to a giant chocolate chip heart-shaped cookie/birthday cake, made by my 15 year old son. Even more of a gift– he cleaned the kitchen when he was finished! Yes, my son cleaned the kitchen after baking. What?! Who is that manchild?!

The next day it was back to my daughter in Wisconsin to pack up her dorm room. Before leaving Ann Arbor, I went to pick up a rental van and was asked if I remembered to renew my driver’s license, which expired on my birthday, the day before. No van for me. Still haven’t renewed that license. Yikes. So we packed up my Prius, and what couldn’t fit we had packed and ready to go for my husband, who (new plan) would now be renting a van midweek, when he had planned to travel to get her anyway (after her last exams). While in Wisconsin my daughter and I drove an hour to meet my friend Cathy for lunch. I wish I could see her every weekend.

Back to Ann Arbor. The photography class ended. (A on the final, A- in the class. Gah! A MINUS?!) Two days later my daughter returned home. Hooray! My mother got in a car accident, not her fault. Her dear car which was old but low miles and pristine condition was totaled. Airbags deployed and she is fine.

Then it was mother’s day which included too short of an overnight with my mom, and too quick a visit with too few siblings and their families, shopping for teenager clothes (gah!), taking the dog to the vet, and a too short visit with my mother in law. Mother’s day weekend also included– white steamed pudding with raspberry sauce (made by husband), a peanut butter and chocolate cheesecake (made by mom), blueberry pie (made by husband) and lilacs— which are finally out and smell like the start of summer.

The last month also included nights volunteering at the Ark, an attempt to exercise more and oh yes, work— my busiest time of the year at work. I won’t sleep well again until my summer programs end on June 28.

Next up? Renewing my driver’s license. Helping my daughter find a summer job, and helping my son decide on how he wants to spend his summer (in addition to his volunteering at a zoo). Helping my mom get a new car—a team effort with her and my siblings. Putting my dog on a diet. Working on my flower beds. Exercising more. Maybe I’ll clean my house and do laundry one of these days! Oh yes, then there’s work…

In the spaces in between, I plan to blog…though it may be about how to get my whites whiter and how to get a pug to lose weight…That’s my life. And I’ll keep it, but I’ll understand if you need to move on in order to stay awake…

what now son?!

March 29, 2013

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what now snotty son?!

photos:
1. my boy at 4, he looks just like my sister
2. my boy at 6
3. my boy 15, who will now not let me take and/or publish photos of h
im

When my kids were little I remember commiserating with a friend about parenting a toddler.

You may be familiar with the frustrations of toddler logic:
If is see it, it’s mine.
If it touched it, it’s mine.
It I want it, it’s mine.
If its yours, it’s mine.

Her advice was, “Just make sure that when someone walks in on you dealing with your toddler, it’s clear which one of you is the toddler.”

Oh how these words have been echoing in my head as I parent my teenage son. He frustrates me so much sometimes…I’m not sure it would be clear to someone walking in on us arguing, who is the teenager and who is the parent.

We are taking a photography class together two nights every week at the community college. We now keep at least one seat between us so we don’t get into any more arguments during class.

I am sure just my presence- that I exist- often drives my son up the wall. It’s the way I felt about my own parents at his age. I remember blaring the Elton John song “The Bitch is Back” when I was mad at my mom. I’m sure it was prompted by her telling me to clean up my bedroom. What a brat I was. (Sorry mom! You know I adore you!)

My friend Suzanne’s daughter is a junior in college and her daughter, with whom Suzanne has a great relationship, recently said to her, “I don’t know why I couldn’t stand you when I was in high school. I really don’t understand what my problem was.”

I do get it, this need for independence. I think it’s tricky for my son because I know he actually likes his parents. He has told me that he likes taking the photography class with me…though I never would have guessed that by his snarky behavior toward me during class. But I get that too.

Last night I was trying to help him format a paper for school and he was frustrated and stressed with how much more work he had to do. He has some crappy word processor on his computer and I was trying to help him figure it out.

I told him there was likely a formatting window, like there is in MS Word, where he could just put in his parameters, and he wouldn’t have to “eye” it. He told me in a mean and snotty way that I didn’t know what I was talking about, that he WASN’T using MS Word! There IS no formatting window!!! His subtext: You’re an IDIOT and I hate you.

Guess what I found a few minutes later. The formatting window.

OH! What now son?!!
(I didn’t actually SAY that, but I THOUGHT it. And he knew it. See, what I mean about not being able to tell who is the teenager? )

This negative interaction went on until I finally said, “Forget it. You’re going to treat me like this while I’m trying to help YOU? Nope. I’m going to bed.” A few minutes later I heard him meekly call down the hallway, “How do I make a citation?” My reply, “Google it.” And I went to bed.

I felt badly lying in bed not helping him when I know he needed help. I knew he was stressed and frustrated, and none of us are at our best when we are stressed and frustrated. But trying to help seemed to only fuel his frustration, and mine.

He and I both need to figure out how to better handle these situations. Sigh. Is it possible to teach your teenager who both loves and hates you how to treat people civilly even when they are completely stressed out? And when I say people, I mean me.

Luckily his ever-patient father arrived home and helped him with the rest of the paper.

My son is a really good guy. He is funny and loving. He apologizes when he should. He marches to the beat of his own drummer, which I admire. He is dyslexic and dysgraphic, so school can be challenging—but he works hard and does very well. He loves learning. He is comfortable with himself. He is comfortable with people of all ages, races, and backgrounds. He still gives his grandmother and aunts and uncles full-on, sincere hugs when he sees them—often towering over them while doing so. I do adore this man-child.

It is tricky business parenting a teenager, and I imagine it is trickier business being one. I supposed if my biggest challenge with this kid is to get him to treat me better when he is tired and frustrated and needs my help…I have it pretty easy.

But I’m not sure that is my biggest challenge with this kid.

My biggest challenge is how I react to his behavior…Ugh. More wine please.

lockdown

February 23, 2013

lockdown

Yesterday we learned via robo call that our daughter’s college had an emergency and it was on lockdown. I don’t even have to describe the images that came into my head. You know the images.

I texted her, “Please call me when you can.”

She replied, “I can’t. I’m so scared.”

With no additional information, we, and she, and her fellow students and professor, had no idea what was going on. They only knew it involved a gun.

The incident turned out to be less threatening than we were all imagining. Someone just a block off campus, not a college student, had threatened to shoot another and was locked in his apartment. The police were trying to get him to come out, which he eventually did.

While I think I did pretty well in crisis mode, I felt like wailing and gnashing afterward. How do I protect my daughter, and my son, in this crazy world? How can I care and comfort her in such a situation from so far away? I wanted her home. I wanted her here where I could protect her. I wanted to impose my own lockdown.

But even at home, I can’t protect her from these situations. When she was a freshman in high school we had another robo call about her school being in lockdown. This was not at some college in another state, but at her sweet little high school in downtown Ann Arbor, just a 10 minute walk from my office, in a relatively safe and comfortable community.

A robber who was holding up a jewelry store downtown had run from police toward the area of the school. That time we received good information throughout the crisis via more robo calls. We knew what the situation was. We knew the police were immediately inside the school with tracking dogs (the police station is about 3 blocks from the school) and we knew when the lockdown was lifted when they found no robber.

We also learned after the lockdown was lifted, first via text from our daughter, that someone in a dance class noticed a man’s feet sticking out from behind the curtain of a storage area. As the teacher tried to get the students out of the room, the robber realized he had been discovered and yelled, “I don’t want to hurt anyone, I just want to get out of here.” The students stood aside as he bolted from the classroom and the building. (He was found shortly after hiding, wrapped in insulation, under the porch of a home.)

I can’t protect her from everything. If she is going to live in the world, if she is going to do meaningful work in the world, if she is going to change the world for the better, then she will have to live, LIVE! in this sometimes-dangerous world. Keeping her under my wing safe from all that is scary and hard would just make for a miserable person who is unable to cope as an adult. So, no home lockdowns.

My comfort in these lockdown situations is that in both cases she was not alone; she was with friends and with kind strangers. Some of the strangers are now her friends. Yesterday she and her classmates were in it together. They shared information; she shared her jolly ranchers. They tried to make each other laugh. They took care of and comforted each other.

Our children are not alone and it’s best for them, and for us, to learn that they can find strength, comfort and compassion in the people around them, and in themselves. All of the love and safety we have provided them when they were young, they can find and cultivate in others as they get older.

I will always drop everything to try to comfort and to be with my children when they are facing a crisis, now and 40 years from now. But I am learning that I will be part of a bigger support team, with members who will be right by my children’s side much more quickly than I can be.