Category Archives: family

Freeing up some boundaries

Last weekend in our uncharacteristically balmy May weather (in February) my 12yo son got a text from a friend. They were playing basketball at the elementary school (within walking distance) and wanted him to come out. So out he went – that’s nothing new really, the elementary school has been within his play boundaries without an adult for a few years now.

Next thing I know he’s wandering around with this same group of kids and walking to McDonald’s and to another neighborhood school to play. He asked before he left. He texted to keep us updated. His adventures were all within 1.5 miles of our house and we live in a small town so I wasn’t worried for his safety since he was with a group. (I mean not any more worried than is appropriate when talking about 12 year old boys and their sometimes goofy behavior.)

It just seemed awfully sudden that I have three kids that can now wander about at will.

My 15yo got her driving permit a couple of weeks ago and we’ve been doing lots of driving practice. She’ll be eligible for her license at the end of the summer so by next school year she’ll be reaching out to new boundaries on her own as well.

As I type this my 18yo and her friend are driving down to Bloomington for the weekend to hang out with friends and experience some college life. (Go Hoosiers) That’s the farthest she’s driven on her own; though with college around the corner, it seems an appropriate boundary to free.

All of these new adventures seem appropriate to me. At the same time they feel like someone threw a glass of cold water in my face. My kids are more like young adults than kids. They are spreading those metaphorical wings everyone talks about and strengthening them to fly away. But it seems like just yesterday that they were like this…

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Who taught them to be so adventurous anyway?!??!


A parent of older kids

I’ve really felt a shift in parenting in recent months. I’m no longer the parent of young kids. I don’t do crafts, plan elaborate activities for a rainy afternoon, or take my kids to see children’s plays. I don’t go on popsicle walks or puddle walks or to story time at the library. I don’t pick up legos and doll clothes at night. My kids don’t need to hold my hand and sometimes they even go on adventures without me.

I am the parent of older kids. We go to the library and each wander our own way until we come together to show each other our selections. We go out to eat more often. We go on dunes hikes and long bike rides. I stay up late at night waiting for everyone to get home.

It’s different. Not bad mind you, just different. Part of me misses all the little kid action but more of me is enjoying all the new adventures I can now do with my kids.

For Mother’s Day we went on a short trail walk and out to lunch in a nearby Lake Michigan beach town. At lunch there was a table next to us with a younger family – three little kids. It made me smile to watch them all clamor for mom’s attention – both because those days are golden and because they are so tiring. I smiled because I was sitting at my table with a beer and older kids who can cut their own food and don’t need to announce something to me every 30 seconds. It’s a good phase of parenting for sure. Still… I knew that mom was going to have kids crawl into her lap later that day and ask to read a book. And I miss that.

So after lunch when we walked down to the beach and this immediately happened…. well, it made my heart happy to see that my older kids are still kids at heart. (even if they don’t ask me to read aloud to them anymore)


A belated birthday interview for my 14 & 1/3 child

If there’s one thing that illustrates the hectic, crazy fast pace that my life has held over the past few months it’s this: I didn’t post a birthday interview for my daughter when she turned 14. (Cue up future therapist bill and add this to the list of injuries done to the middle child.) Oh I’ve thought about it from time to time but I never had the time to sit down with her and start writing. So as we approach her first day of high school, I decided this could not go on any longer.

Way back in May, I took my newly 14yo someplace that was new to both of us: a tattoo parlor for her biggest birthday gift – a cartilage piercing in her upper ear. We kept the birthday fun going with a fun dinner and painting class night. As is now tradition, she got to celebrate her birthday for a second time later in the month with her grandpa and uncle who share the same birthday month. Her other gifts reflected her sense of style and personality – everything from knit beanies to converse high tops to funky jewelry.



She is still the most stubborn child in the house but she’s opening herself up to some new experiences. The year she was 13 she ran the Sunburst 5K, went canoeing, walked Mackinac Bridge (with FAR LESS complaining than her first time) and hiked in the Great Smoky Mountains. She challenged her clarinet abilities with an advanced selection for the state music competition. She took on a huge task of patience when she made her mother’s birthday dinner: homemade ravioli soup. And she voluntarily and cheerfully woke up early on a weekend morning to cheer for a friend of our family who was running her first marathon.


People at our church know Miss E quite well. She is still an altar server and also plays her clarinet during some Masses – even when it means going to Mass twice the same weekend. She made her confirmation this year as well and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a face glow so much with the Holy Spirit. Before we left the cathedral, she even managed to snag a selfie with our new Bishop. She was a music leader for Vacation Bible School. She was active in the church youth group. And she was the narrator for our church’s Passion play.


She hung out in Chicago multiple times, took her first cab ride, and got to see Blue Man Group. She joined the high school marching band and has already marched in not one but two parades. She competed in both the Spell Bowl and Academic Super Bowl teams at school. And for the first time in a long time, she did not forget her lunch on the first day of school.



She’s the one child that I know always has a lot going on in her mind. She fills notebooks with poems and stories and thoughts. She reads so fast I wonder if it’s by osmosis. She is caring and kind. She is a champion for those who are the slightest bit different. Best of all, she is true to herself. I love listening to her – even if it is a challenge on those days where she has so much to say and speaks so fast it’s like she’s afraid she’s going to run out of time to say it all.

These are a few of her favorite things from the past year:

color: periwinkle blue (In fact, she would like to dye her hair this color.)
food: lobster ravioli from the fancy Italian restaurant we went to in Chicago on the night we saw Blue Man Group
dessert: homemade red velvet cake with homemade cream cheese frosting
part of school: Sigh… Social Studies class. Because I like to learn about that kind of stuff.
sport: tennis – to play but I really like watching hockey
thing to do: Oh this makes me sound really lazy: watch Netflix or YouTube
game: Ticket to Ride
tv show: How I Met Your Mother on TV. My current favorite YouTuber is Tyler Oakely… or John Green… or both!
movie: Annie
song: Fly Away by Five Seconds of Summer
book: Harry Potter – still… “always” for those Snape fans out there
restaurant: Station 21 – I like to order their mac & cheese
time of year: Fall because I like to wear big sweaters and the leaves are so pretty.
animal: An owl.

What did you request for your birthday dinner?
Homemade mac and cheese. And then homemade red velvet cake with homemade cream cheese frosting. (editor’s note: her mom was busy that day!)

What is something that can always make you smile?
My friends

What do you want to be when you grow up?
A writer Can I add princess too? The coolest princess who writes the best books.

If you could go anywhere on vacation, where would you go?
Rome because of the mythology and history and food… I’m ready to go!

What do you love about your family?
Let’s start with J… I like him because he always finds the positives in things which helps me see the positives. I like hanging out with K and talking about random things. It’s fun to talk with her. I like to listen to music with Dad. And I like to talk about books with mom.

What were some of your best memories from this past year?
Oh Smoky Mountains were awesome! I loved getting to spend the night and see a show in Chicago – that was a lot of fun. I really liked finishing middle school. Being done with middle school is very nice. I loved the school band trip to Great America.

What are some of your wishes for this year?
I would like to survive high school. I would like to not completely ruin my GPA. I want to make new friends. I want to read lots of books and watch lots of movies.

Each year I interview my children on their birthdays and write a post about their year. My hope is that someday these musings will spark special memories. Search for ‘birthday interview’ over there on the right to read previous posts.

sweet sixteen

Do you remember when you turned sixteen? It was like a rite of passage – one that you hoped ended with your parents handing you the keys to a car. I didn’t get a car for my 16th birthday and (spoiler alert) neither did my eldest. Now that you have to wait until you’re at least 16 1/2 to get your license, it makes that gift of a car just a quaint notion.

What did she get for her birthday? A number of things that reflect how she likes to spend her time: a gift card to the local coffee shop where she likes to hang out with her friends; a large stuffed animal to hug when she finds time to nap on the weekends; money to replenish her diminished bank account. We helped her check something off her bucket list by taking her to the city and going to the 94th floor of the Hancock Tower to tilt over Chicago in a large glass box:


She’s a little more daring than she used to be. Though I still see glimpses of her younger self in her need to know as much as possible about a situation before leaping in. The past year she has crossed another one of those invisible lines of childhood. I wasn’t expecting it to happen this year but she’s definitely more mature, more aware, more of a young adult than a child. Of course, as with most teens, she still bounces back & forth as can be evidenced by looking at her messy room and affinity for pretending rules don’t apply to her. (At least I hope those are things she grows out of.)

This year she survived her first high school swim season; earning her first varsity letter as a scholar athlete (which means she got good grades while doing it). She hopped in the car with me on a whirlwind, one-day, 8 hour road trip to meet her new cousin. She listened to live music and explored Nashville on spring break:


She spent a lot of time with friends (as much as possible). And while with those friends she watched the sun rise over Lake Michigan, went bowling, bruised her big toe so badly we thought it might be broken, went on bike rides, and met her new boyfriend Peter Pan:



She held down her first job this year but still found some time to go on a few summer adventures with her mom. We toured the campus of IU Bloomington. We went canoeing. We went blueberry picking. We visited Chicago and wandered around in search of a larger than life macaroni noodle for my macaroni & cheese lover:


We took another trip to Mackinac Island (one of her favorite places). She went to her first homecoming dance. She was an all-star cheerleader on a very cold day as her mother conquered another marathon. She spent Thanksgiving on top of a mountain in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. And I think she’s ready to go back to the Smoky Mountains for more hiking any day.





She’s fun to talk to. She has a sarcastic sense of humor that amuses me greatly. She has so much opportunity in front of her. It’s exciting to watch her start to forge her own path (and slightly terrifying too if I’m being honest). She’s my first-born and, while I’ll always cherish my tucked-away newborn memories of curling up around her to take a nap as the winter sun streamed in the window over us, I adore watching her become the person she’s meant to be.

These are a few of her favorite things from the past year:

color: grey or blue or maroon… I like them all
food: mac and cheese
dessert: banana cream pie
part of school: I’ll say tech drawing to switch it up this year and answer with a class. I’m also a fan of English.
sport: hockey
thing to do: hang out with my friends
game: fooseball (a repeat answer from last year)
tv show: I need more than one: Friends; How I Met Your Mother; and That 70s Show – those are my top three (thank you Netflix)
movie: I watched Dirty Dancing for the first time this year and I really liked it.
song: ONE?!?! Oh my goodness… My jam lately has been “Shut Up & Dance” by Walk the Moon
book: Eleanor & Park
restaurant: Panera (hello, mac & cheese!)
time of year: I’ll say spring because that’s when it starts to get warm again.
animal: Bear… I liked seeing one in the Smoky Mountains.

What did you request for your birthday dinner?
Well that’s obvious: macaroni and cheese. And I surprised everyone with my pick of banana cream pie. (which was a delicious made-from-scratch creation if I do say so myself)

What is something that can always make you smile?
A good knock-knock joke

What do you want to be when you grow up?

If you could go anywhere on vacation, where would you go?
Rome because I’ve learned about it this year and it seems really interesting.

What do you love about your family?
They are a little goofy and can often make me laugh. That’s cheesy but I’m saying it anyway.

What were some of your best memories from this past year?
Disney World! The whole year was good really. Time with my friends. Bowling. I did a lot of swimming and that’s really all I can remember.

What are some of your wishes for this year?
I want to get my driver’s license. I’d like to get good grades. I’d like to learn how to juggle. Oh! And I want to learn how to knit something besides a washcloth.

Each year I interview my children on their birthdays and write a post about their year. My hope is that someday these musings will spark special memories. Search for ‘birthday interview’ over there on the right to read previous posts.

Another adventure achieved

It’s appropriate that I took my kids on a new adventure over Thanksgiving because I am so very, very thankful that I’ve been able to take them…

  • hiking in the Colorado mountains
  • scrambling around the cave dwellings of Mesa Verde
  • driving through the Painted Desert
  • exploring the Grand Canyon
  • viewing the vistas of the Pacific Ocean
  • experiencing L.A. traffic
  • enjoying the wonders of the Hoover Dam
  • sightseeing along the Vegas strip at night
  • climbing Bryce Canyon
  • scrambling the rocks at Arches National Park
  • wandering along the trails and dunes of Lake Michigan
  • walking across the Mackinac Bridge
  • biking around Mackinac Island
  • to the top of the Arch in St. Louis
  • learning in Chicago’s great museums and parks and zoos
  • splashing at the top and bottom of Niagara Falls
  • exploring countless battlefields from both the Revolutionary & Civil Wars including Yorktown & Gettysburg
  • back in time at Williamsburg
  • living in a beach house on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean
  • climbing the rocks of the Badlands
  • underground in amazing caves like Mammoth Cave & Cave of the Winds
  • viewing Mount Rushmore
  • exploring Devil’s Tower
  • hiking the trails and canyons and geyser paths of Yellowstone
  • tramping up and down the trails of Glacier National Park and driving along the one-of-a-kind Going to the Sun Road
  • rafting down the Snake River in the shadow of the Tetons
  • scrambling up to the top of a lava cone from a long ago volcano at Craters of the Moon National Park
  • whitewater rafting in West Virginia
  • canoeing, kayaking, hiking & exploring in countless parks
  • and more that I’m sure I’m forgetting…

And now I can add living on top of a mountain in the Smoky Mountains; exploring the valleys of Smoky Mountain National Park and its highest peaks.




We’ve been on some amazing adventures and we’d probably like to revisit many of them again. However, the beautiful trails of Smoky Mountain National Park will always be towards the top of the list. I was worried about the logistics of our mountain Thanksgiving. It turned out to be awesome. Our families of 10 crowded around the table to eat our favorite holiday dishes. We played lots of games. Took a few adventures. And created memories we’ll have forever.

That’s a lot for which to be thankful.