The things that stay with you

I’m having one of those weeks as a parent that aren’t so fun. We had to have a hard conversation with one of the kids about commitment and effort. We all walked away feeling a little beat up afterwards. (Though I’m sure said child feels like the parents did not feel bad at all… I probably would have felt that way were the roles reversed.)

The lingering after affects involve a bad attitude, curt responses and some definite snark. One of those snarky comments surprised me and made me think “THAT’S what was taken away from our conversation???” THAT wasn’t the intent. And as a communicator I can’t get that out of my head – I must not have communicated clearly enough. (Or we acknowledge that I was communicating with a teen and that’s a whole different animal.)

And then I got to thinking…. what are the things that stayed with me from past constructive criticisms?

There’s always going to be a filter when people are trying to tell us how to do something better. It’s hard to take criticism. The times that I’ve been able to do so with grace have been good learning experiences. The other times (the many other times), still make me angry. Sometimes angry at myself. The ability to learn from criticism and make positive changes is a hard lesson to learn and like many of life’s hard lessons, it often has to come from a parent first.

But that doesn’t make it any fun for any of us. I need a drink…


A college visit to my alma mater

My oldest is a junior in high school and we’ve encouraged her to be proactive about her college search. We’ve taken all the kids to college campuses whenever we’re nearby for “unofficial” visits. We think that the more colleges you see, the easier it will be to know when you’ve found the right place for you. After all, college is a place where you will grow both academically and mentally. It is the place where you will start to forge your own path and create your own identity – all of that is an important part of the college experience. That’s why I think it’s important to find a place where you can comfortably explore and grow.

Two years ago my daughter was all about going to college far, far away (oh the words that my teenage self uttered came back to haunt me many times). But when faced with the realities of paying for college, she came to realize that staying in-state is best. We are lucky to live in a state with many good, world-renowned universities – and it’s hard to beat paying in-state tuition for that kind of education.

Over the past year she and I have started going on college visits. I want her to have plenty of time to explore, re-visit and learn what colleges have to offer her. But last week was a first. Last week, we visited my alma mater: Indiana University.


My 17 year old self did not want to go to IU – to an in-state school with so many others from my high school. (and my 17 year old daughter has those exact same feelings) However, once I saw the campus I knew that it would be okay. It’s a beautiful place. Big and sprawling. Filled with thousands of people from all sorts of diverse backgrounds. Meadows, creeks, bridges and arboretums are all a part of daily life walking to class. As are hearing different languages and meeting new people. A school as big as IU is not for everyone, but it was a great place for me to take my first steps into adulthood.

I don’t know yet if it will be the same for my oldest, though she did indeed fall in love – even though she wasn’t expecting to, in fact was resisting the thought. As I watched her walk around campus on the very same paths that I walked so many years ago, I had the weirdest sensations. I remembered so many of my thoughts and feelings of that age and knew that I never, ever considered what it would feel like to lead my daughter around that campus. To look around and see how she fits in and how many opportunities are surrounding her. To sit down at Nick’s and have a beer while we talked about what she wants to do next. (Well I had a beer, she had a lemonade.) My college looks a whole lot different through these eyes.

Lately I’ve felt like I’ve crossed into a new parenting phase. My youngest will leave elementary school this year and I very much feel as though I’m officially the parent of older kids now. I’ve left the fun, busy, exploring days of parenting young children behind. I’m entering the fun, busy, awe-striking days of helping my kids find their paths. It’s pretty cool.

Of thoughts and writing

I’ve been missing free writing each morning. I’ve never been very good at keeping a paper and pencil journal but I was pretty good about writing here for years. I had a few people read along with me – which is fun –  so now, after ignoring this blog for months (and months) I think I’ll try to get back to writing each day.

I owe my kids some birthday posts so I’ll try to get to those soon. I might also start posting some recipes again because I’ve found myself using my blog in the kitchen when I need to remember a favorite meal or two. It’s easier to find recipes on here than in my messy recipe binders! In the meantime I’m going to try and write at least a few times a week. Just like before, I’ll be writing whatever comes to mind – running, ranting, raising kids…

Another blog that I enjoy (Runninghood) is also trying to get back in the writing habit and she is focusing many of her posts on gratitude and intentions. I have often written about small moments of gratitude but I don’t think I’ve written about intentions. Not large scale intentions – just intentions for my day. I really like the idea of starting my day focusing on good things and clear intentions:

This morning I am grateful for…

  1. Blue skies and warm sunshine (they rarely feel as good as they do after a long cold winter)
  2. A day with plans to see a friend

My intention for the day: to act with focus. I’m taking two days off this week for college visits with my oldest and the to-do lists each day this week have been mighty ones. I need to stay focused and productive so I can really enjoy the next two days and a busy weekend after that.


Running & distance… or not the distance

I’ve trained for and run two marathons. I completely understand the focus and hard work it takes to get to that finish line. I know all to well how all-consuming 26.2 miles can be for months at a time. And I wholeheartedly believe that reading articles and hooking up with other marathoners can be a HUGE support system during training. HUGE.

But when did all the running blogs become marathon blogs?

Why did people stop talking about running just for the joy and strength of running? What ever happened to running WITHOUT a training plan? Where are the runners who are out there logging miles, getting stronger, putting their all into the miles but not racking up 16, 18, 20 mile runs?

How about the half marathoners? The no-way-in-hell-ever-gonna-run-a-race-with-marathon-in-the-title runners? The runners who are signing up for the occasional 5k or 10k just for fun? The don’t need to race, just want to run runners?

I’m not necessarily talking about the individual’s blog who is currently training for a marathon. That person’s blog is likely about more than marathons and just dominated by the topic for a few months. I get that. It’s good. I’m talking about the blogs that have become running publications (because that’s what they are – online publications with huge readership). And suddenly these publications are raising the marathon up to such heights that the rest of us (or just me) are left behind.

It’s certainly inspiring to read about a person lacing up and making the marathon go from a dream to reality. But I’m at a point where it would be inspiring to hear from someone who just likes running and isn’t slogging through a training plan. Someone who shares the joy of a trail run or the conversation they had when they took a walk break (gasp). I’d love it if my blog feed stopped having the word marathon in 50% of the titles.

Maybe I’m just being grouchy and I need to unfollow a few blogs. But I feel a little like the lonely voice in an echoing room… Hello?? I like to run too! Sometimes I train for longer races but sometimes I like to walk and swim and ride my bike. It would be nice to find something that talks about the casual exerciser who sometimes trains for big races but always wants to be healthy.

2015 Summer Adventure Report Card

TimeHop just told me that today is my 7th blog anniversary. What do you get for the 7th anniversary?? Chocolate & wine I hope. (I just looked – the traditional gifts are wool or copper… that’s so boring.)

I’m glad TimeHop gave me a little nudge this morning though because I do want to get back in the habit of free writing more regularly. I’ve been doing a lot of writing for work (A LOT) but I miss free form writing and think it’s a good exercise. And if anyone out there ends up reading it, well bonus for me making friends on the Internets.

Each summer the kids and I come up with a list of fun things we hope to do. This summer was particularly challenging with summer jobs, high school gym class, sports camps, sleepaway camps… Sometime in July I resigned myself to two realizations:

1. I wasn’t going to check everything off this year. (Not that I ever have, mind you.)
2. I was going to have to start doing things with whatever kids were home.

And so I started carving out time and asking the kid who couldn’t join us to choose which adventure she didn’t particularly prefer – in the hopes of not disappointing anyone too much by doing something they had been looking forward to. It seemed to work out pretty well.

2015 Summer List of Fun Adventures

1. Hikes: We had two specific hikes earmarked this year. One at Starved Rock State Park in Illinois and the Three Dunes Challenge at the Indiana Dunes State Park. We were 50% on this challenge but I’m hopeful that we’ll still get to those dunes before too much longer. It’s still the season of summer for a month after all!

We totally lucked out on our Starved Rock adventure. We’d had a ton of rain recently so the waterfalls were out in full force – very unusual for July. My oldest & I had an awesome morning. Definitely one of my favorite days of summer.


2. Mini golf at Zao & Valpo Velvet ice cream: Both new-to-us places and well worth an afternoon adventure. We even squeezed in a round of go cart racing while there. Based on how poorly J came into the final stop, I’m not looking forward to teaching him how to drive.


3. Brunch at Bartlett’s: I’m going to count this as a success because we were there on a Sunday at brunch time. However, they had a busy weekend and stopped their brunch menu early. Technically that means we didn’t get brunch. But we did have an awesome morning at the beach and my husband had a strong ride up to meet us. It was a great way to spend a Sunday.

4. Birky’s Farm lunch: We all enjoyed this last year so it made it back on the summer fun list. We didn’t make it though. Two of my kids did eat a Birky’s lunch at the county fair though so that’s a close alternative!

5. Pick peaches: This one is tough because peaches aren’t ready to pick until right before school starts. We didn’t make it but I do have this Sunday tentatively marked for a peach picking adventure!

6. Kayak and/or paddle boarding: OR BOTH!! We went to a new place in Southwestern Michigan and had a wonderful two hours on the river. We had a couple kayaks and a couple paddle boards so people who wanted to try both could swap halfway through. None of us fell in and we got to eat “burgers as big as your head” before heading home. Great day!


7. Go Ape park at Eagle Creek in Indy: I tried to do this but they didn’t have any openings on the day we could go south. Maybe fall break…

8. Meijer gardens in Grand Rapids: This one was a little ambitious of me to post on the summer fun list and frankly, I’m the one that wants to go – the kids don’t know anything about it. They are good sports, however, and I know they’d go along and enjoy it. Someday.

9. Trips to Chicago: Not as many as we’d like but we did spend the first day of summer vacation and the last day of summer vacation in the city. First day was Lincoln Park Zoo. This is becoming a bit of a tradition for us and it’s a fun one. Second trip was to Little Italy for our traditional last day of summer adventure. I love finding new places to explore in the city and we had a really fun day wandering the neighborhood, peeking in a few places, and eating some fantastic food.


That ended up being a far more successful summer than I would have predicted in mid-July when the list only had one sad little check mark. I’m looking forward to a few more fun adventures with the kids as summer turns to fall. And then I’m sure before I know it, we’ll be making a list for the summer of 2016. Time does fly in this busy house!