Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Good Things, August 2011

Summer has almost lost its luster for me, frankly.  Siblings are fighting (we're going on week four of no scheduled activities, and it's a bit much), friends and family are struggling, time is short but to-do lists are long, and when I noticed it was the last day of August and I hadn't done this month's traditional Good Things post, I didn't much feel like doing it, anyway.  But going on the theory that it's during challenging  times that we need to search out the good things the most, I forced myself to scroll back through this month's photos, prompting the obvious realization that even in the midst of this - in the midst of anything, really - there are always, always good things.  

(I'm not saying there won't be a more, shall we say, realistic post tomorrow or the next day.)  

So, for now:

Fancy hair after Fairy Camp.  (Yes, Fairy Camp is an actual Thing.)

Jemma wearing her fairy crown at the last day's tea.

Ruth Reichl's peach cobbler.

Finding teency, tiny toads at Mimi's . . .

 . . . and learning about habitat, predator/prey relationships, and disappointment when setting them free.

A cozy dinner with just my big girl one night.

This expression on Annie's face while playing math games.

Jemma wearing my bath robe in the middle of the summer for no reason.

An impossibly gorgeous day at the beach.

Sisters at the annual block party . . .

 . . . and best friends being silly in front of the fire truck . . .

 . . . and some of the neighborhood gang posing for the yearly photo.

Daily piano practice, tutu optional.

Dancing along to sister's music.

Watching the band practice on the football field.

Post-sprinkler peek-a-boo.

Matching towels.

Annie's creation of bathing suits for her bears, made out of (you guessed it) her bathing suit.

Spending a day where this river meets the lake.

Playing Ms. Pac Man at Art's Tavern.

Sun-kissed girl drinking root beer.

This spectacular stretch of Lake Michigan beach (Sturgeon Bay at Wilderness State Park).

Cousins smashed together in a carved-wood chair at Leg's Inn,

drinking Shirley Temples on the lawn that overlooks the lake,

(or maybe chocolate milk),

linking arms walking back to the car,

and - miracle of miracles! - all four of them looking at the camera at once!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Best Moments

. . . Of the last few days include:

-climbing to the very top of the highest dune in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park - with Annie, doing a monkey scramble right next to me - and then jumping our way back down to the water.

- watching the waves in Sturgeon Bay this afternoon, chasing my nieces on the shore, skipping stones, and swimming out deep with Annie.

- sitting on the deck late last night and drinking wine under the stars with Jason.

- a tough but gorgeous 8-mile run this morning along the bay.

- a picnic at North Bar Lake, complete with prosciutto and tomato sandwiches, lemon veggie orzo salad, fruit, shrimp, cookies, and Brewery Vivant beer.

- knowing in my brain that the back-to-school rush is going to be in full swing in one short week but feeling summer in my soul for a few more days.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Read Elsewhere: The Blessing of a Skinned Knee, by Wendy Mogel

"In my work with parents I encounter two general schools of parenting media philosophy:  the What the Hell, Everybody Else Is Doing It School and the School of Total Abstinence.  Both are a form of cheating. The first cheats your children out of protection against grim, overly sexual or violent images that bathe them with experiences they can't put into perspective.  The second school cheats them out of fun and fellowship because so much of grade school social currency is based on knowing what is going on in the media."

"Being present in the moment is perhaps more difficult for us today than at any other time in history.  Ironically, we use a myriad of so-called "timesaving" technological gadgets such as laptops and cell phones, but they do nothing to help us sanctify time because they, themselves, demand so much of our attention.  Moreover . . . we have a tendency to ruminate about our collective past and fret about the future, which adds to our difficulty in living in the moment.  We therefore have to make a conscious effort to focus on the present."

"The hidden secret in the community of abundance in which I live is anguish.  Unsure how to find grace and security in the complex world we've inherited, we try to fill up the spaces in our children's lives with stuff:  birthday entertainments, lessons, rooms full of toys and equipment, tutors and therapists.  But material pleasures can't buy peace of mind, and all the excess leads to more anxiety - parents fear that their children will not be able to sustain this rarefied lifestyle and will fall off the mountain the parents have built for them."

"I meet many parents who are trying so hard to be perfect parents, to make everything just right for their children, that they're draining away their pleasure in parenting.  They're too exhausted and too unconsciously resentful to enjoy the amazing show of childhood.  For these parents, every minute needs to count."

Go.  Read.  This.  Book!

Sunday, August 21, 2011


:: by the quote my friend Amy shared recently, something she saw on a sign in the half-marathon she ran recently that went:  "There will come a day when you can no longer do this.  Today is not that day."  I wish I could give a hearty cheer for Week Two of my own half-marathon training, but all I can do after Friday morning's seven-miler is stretch my left calf muscle and hope for better things this weekend.  And keep on running, being grateful that today I can still do this.

:: by the website Tastespotting, both to cook more and to push up the timeline for getting myself a dSLR camera, so that I, too, can take food photos like those someday.

:: by our impromptu family day at the beach on Friday, the one where we had planned to spend the day re-stocking at Costco and paying bills and running errands and washing the cars and mowing the lawn, but where we looked at the weather forecast and decided instead to pack up the wagon and head to Holland, where the water was 75, the air was 85, and we ate lunch and played tag and did underwater handstands and took long walks right up until we decided it was time to go out to dinner.  Which we did, with wet spots showing through our cover-ups and sand crusted to our ankles, at an outside table at New Holland Brewery, happy that our foursome can be together this way, Ichabod and Shirley Temples, burgers and cheese plate, pickles and olives, sunshine on our damp hair.

:: by this quote from Kelle Hampton's blog (are you reading her?  You should be reading her.):

"My mom says she has this dream every once in a while. She dreams that we're little again, and she's back in the days of rocking us, reading stories, holding our hands as we walk across streets to parks and picnics and little adventures. She says that when she wakes up, for one second she thinks we're still little and in her house, and that when she realizes we're not, there is a moment of heartache--this paralyzing reminder that those days are gone, and we have moved on. 

I think about this a lot. 

I know my mom is happy--that she has supported our independence and explorations away from home. I know that I will be happy, supporting their independence and explorations from home. But I also know that what I have right now--two little people who comfortably remain in the security of this sliver of time where they are ours--is fleeting. During adventures like yesterday where one is slung to my hip and one is holding my hand, guiding me toward where she wants to go, and little friends and friends' mamas are circled around us, I think to myself, "I'm going to miss this." 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Poof: They're Gone

While Annie was playing at a friend's house today, Jemma and I walked to the grocery store.  On the way there, we passed a house and I noticed a car in the driveway, its back tailgate open, full of bins of books, duffel bags, boxes, and a pillow.  Wow, I thought, someone is bringing a ton of books on their family vacation, and then I realized, no, it was probably a teenager getting ready to head off to college for the fall.

On our way back from the store, we passed the house again, and this time as we approached it, I could see the family of four, whom I have never met, standing in a tight circle in their front yard, arms around one another's shoulders, heads bent in the middle.  I have never met them before, and I couldn't hear what they were doing - talking, praying, not making any sound at all - but I am quite sure that I witnessed the very moment a family sent their oldest child off to college.

I was glad to have sunglasses on, because I immediately started crying.  I am crying, actually, right now, just thinking about it again.

Then we came home and made cake-pops-disastrously-turned-into-cake-balls and rocked a block party full of water balloons and fire trucks and dear friends, which is the only remedy I know for those tears.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Beaches, Peaches, Magic

"And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places.  Those who don't believe in magic will never find it."
-Roald Dahl