Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Five Things I Love About Fall and One Thing I Don't

Check out all of the slices at TwoWritingTeachers!

Well, hello, first Tuesday of fall!  Your gorgeous sky and cool breeze have me wishing I could spend the day outside, enjoying all of your glory instead of inside in meetings today.

In honor of today's glorious weather, here are five things I love about fall:

1.  Honeycrisp apples.  Yes, I know everyone seems to love these beauties.  I'm not a super-sweet apple fan, and honeycrisps are the perfect balance of tart and sweet.  When they're on sale, I load up and eat them at every meal.  It's a bit ridiculous, really.

2.  Lightweight sweaters.  My favorite days are when it's cool enough to pull a lightweight sweater on but warm enough to go without a coat.  The air seems fresher and lighter, somehow.  Perhaps it's because the humidity that makes Chicago summers so oppressive is gone.

3.  The new TV season.  I don't watch nearly as much TV as I used to, but I still get excited about the new TV shows.  I like seeing what's new and returning to fresh episodes of my old favorites.  Though it seems like there are always new shows to watch due to all of the cable channels available as well as web-only shows, nothing seems as good as those first few new shows in September and October.

4.  The Anderson's YA Literature Conference.  This is an annual weekend for my friend Sarah and I to get away from our busy lives for a day and meet up with friends old and new and talk books.  If you've never had the opportunity to attend this event and you live within a few hours' drive of Naperville, Illinois, you should definitely try to come.  Anderson's is one of the largest independent bookstores in the area, and they bring in amazing authors for the day.  I've had the opportunity to talk to some of my very favorites because of this event.  Eventually, I'll have to start bringing my daughters.

5.  My electric blanket.  I know... I know... why would I love my electric blanket?  My bedroom is FREEZING and my Land's End electric blanket is soft and fuzzy and warm.  The best part is the dual control, so I can have my side cranked all the way up and my husband can have his completely turned off.  It's the BEST!

and the thing I don't:

Ugh.  Squash.  Right now my CSA boxes are loaded with the stuff.  Spaghetti squash.  Acorn squash.  Delicata squash.  Soon we'll have butternut squash and even the dreaded pumpkin.  Every fall I try new squash recipes, hoping I'll find the one that will make me change my mind.  So far, no luck.  The only way I'll really eat squash is in butternut squash soup.  Of course, I'm the only one in my family who will eat it, so I never make it.

So there you have it.... five things I love about fall and one thing I don't.

What's your favorite thing about fall?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Family Dinner

When I became a parent 12 years ago last month, I set a goal to have dinner as a family every night for as long as we could make that possible.  For the most part, I have been successful.  Somewhere between 6:15 and 6:45, my daughters set the table, Dan turns off the TV, and we all sit down together to my favorite time of the day.

We have a couple of rules at our dinner table:

  1. No books. (I know... I know.....)  This rule is sometimes suspended on leftover night, because I just can't face leftovers unless I'm distracted.
  2. We use our good manners.
  3. No TV.
  4. You have to try everything, even if you think you won't like it.

My girls are great about three out of four of these rules.  Occasionally Abby makes fart jokes or shows her sister her chewed up food.  Sometimes Molly pokes Abby under the table and starts a fight.  But for the most part, we have a civilized dinner and we TALK!  I love hearing about what my girls learned that day - they know "nothing" is not an acceptable answer.  We share our favorite parts of the day and describe a problem we each had to solve.  I like to think that when we sit down to a family dinner, whether it's in our home or at a restaurant, Dan and I are reinforcing for our girls how much they mean to us and how much we value what they have to say.  I know I'm teaching them how to have conversations and how to dine in polite company that will serve them well in their futures.

This school year is the first time that we will not eat together TWO nights of the week.  Because of Molly's dance schedule, she must eat either before the rest of the family or after.  When this happens, I sit with her at the table, sometimes with my dessert, to talk to her so she doesn't have to eat alone.  I don't want her to feel left out of this important family time.  I'm sad that her busy schedule has interrupted our family dinners so soon... I was hoping to make it to high school, but I'm not in charge of the Y's dance schedule.

I keep telling myself that the other five nights of the week, I have my family around me, usually not complaining about dinner, sharing our trials and triumphs and just enjoying being a family.

I'm pretty lucky.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Pre-teen smiles

This, my friends, makes my day:
Those moments when I look over and see my 12 year old daughter genuinely, unabashedly, can't-smile-any-larger happy.  It seems sometimes like I'll never see that smile or hear that infectious laugh again as we enter the mother-daughter-love-hate-dance that is adolescence.  I know she loves me, and I she knows that I love her more than words can say.

And yet....

We push each other's buttons.  We make each other frustrated.  We don't always HEAR what the other is saying.

It's not a new story.  Moms and daughters have been doing this dance as long as there have been teenagers.  Intellectually, I know that this is normal... it is all part of growing up and becoming an independent person separate from me and the rest of the family.  Emotionally?  Well... that's another story.

SO.... everyday I try to think of a way to make her smile.  To hear that giggle or at least to avoid the dreaded eye-roll.  I think twice before I say something I might regret, and I try to temper the tone of my voice so she realizes I'm just trying to make conversation, to learn about her life and her day, and not nag her about her laundry or her homework.

I want to enjoy these 12-year-old moments so that in the blink of an eye when she is off at college I'll know that I did my best.

And that's the best I can do.