The house is blessedly quiet this morning. It’s not that my heart is two sizes too small. It’s the endless repetition of the same 14 songs. By this point in the month you’ve likely already been sent to Whamaggedon many times over or heard the strident opening bars of Mariah at least 27 times.
If all you want for Christmas is something a little different, we’ve enjoyed these playlists the last few days and given ourselves a break from many of the usual songs.
I’m looking forward to baking many (many) cookies next week and hoping KUTX runs their weeklong holiday mix again to accompany me in the kitchen.
I recently learned an important parenting lesson from Olive Garden. No, not from the overcooked pasta or undercooked bread sticks. Rather from Cecilia’s mere fascination with the restaurant. She really likes the pasta there. Or the idea of the pasta there. I can’t explain it. It’s sort of drives me crazy that she likes it so much. We go to many better establishments. Michelle makes homemade pasta. Heck, Ce’s eaten pasta in Rome in the shadow of the Colosseum. Why does this place have such a hold on her?
And then I realized I didn’t need to have an opinion. Just like the unlimited salad and breadsticks, Gary might bring them to the table, but I didn’t need to eat them. It’s possible to not have an opinion. I didn’t need to turn faux-grotto columns and reheated sauces into a thing or let it upset me. Why was I letting the mediocre alfredo provoke me? I shouldn’t.
I could curb my emotions. Who knew the OG could pack in the life lessons just as much as the calories? A good reminder for any Dad and a good reminder for the upcoming Thanksgiving week when we gather and inevitably rub elbows with friends and family who have different opinions. Don’t get mad. Tame your temper. Think of the Olive Garden.
It was a jolting revelation to get an email reminder this week for Cecilia’s upcoming high school information night. As if my birthday wasn’t enough of a nudge that time was clearly accelerating.
By the end of the calendar year, we’ll have a high schooler. Yikes! Michelle then pointed out that we first met when she was just five years older than Ce is now. I put my fingers in my ears and ran out of the room.
After 45 years, if I could go back and give my younger, Cecilia-age self some advice it would be learn these four phrases and use them often: “I was wrong.” “I’m sorry.” “I don’t know.” and “I need help.”
No need to complicate things. Simplicity leads to wisdom.
Here’s my annual birthday list of things I was grateful for last year.
There’s no time to waste. On to Saturday!
We are rounding the bend toward the end of the year, a time for gratitude, reflection, family, parties, small talk, and… stress. The happy holidays can quickly be derailed by trying to do too much, or spend too much, or see too many people.
The silver lining? If you fall into this trap, it’s a very predictable tradition. It happens every year.
In a world where there is a constant battle for our time and attention, we need proper (digital and interpersonal) boundaries to support our health.
Like a lot of parenting, the solution can often be misconstrued. Especially by teenagers. Setting boundaries is not about being overly strict or mean, it’s about knowing yourself, and knowing your kids, and being aware enough to know what is good for your family and what ultimately might be self-destructive.
TL;DR: To control your life, control what you pay attention to. Your attention determines the experiences you have, and the experiences you have determine the life you live.
There are certain things a parent should be expected to pass on to their kids. Team allegiances. Curiosity. Respect. Proper flash card study habits. Lawrence Welk on lazy Sunday afternoons. An irrational love of Prince. The basic underpinnings of a happy life.
Parents should be careful however, not to pass on their fears. Fear is the killer of inquisitiveness. Kids are largely innocent. For better or worse, they just don’t know. Fear colors that curiosity with something darker. I might be afraid of heights. Or small spaces. Or pre-teen Disney stars. But that’s me, not them.
Cecilia survived jazz improv camp. She even let it slip she might go next year. I played trumpet for eight years and never soloed. I might have been afraid, but she’s not.
Father’s Day eve was a dishwater gray day, all day. In truth, I don’t mind a drizzly day once in awhile. There’s less pressure to wring every ounce from the day. I take it as a personal invitation to slow down. Mow the lawn tomorrow. Maybe read a book. Definitely take a nap.
These hard-earned nuggets of fatherly wisdom are, of course, lost on my children. They just want me to stop talking in front of the TV and maybe, could you hurry up toasting those Pop-tarts?
What other indignities did I endure yesterday? Let’s find out….
I wasn’t planning on posting, or even finding, two back pocket recipes so soon, but this recipe is so good and so easy that we’ve made it twice within a week. I’m struggling to think of anything beyond a slightly soggy bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch or a steaming bowl of 69-cent high-sodium ramen that is as easy or as quick to get on the table for a week night dinner.
Pasta and beans is not something we traditionally throw together here in America often, but you will see it all the time in Sicily. It really did remind me of sitting on the family’s farm (Michelle’s father immigrated from Sicily) and eating the bowl of pasta and green cauliflower they served for lunch. That’s still a taste memory that I can call up almost at will. Never mind the great pizza we had in Rome or the fish by the coast, it’s that bowl of pasta that something still sticks in my mind (and taste buds).
One other thing occurred to both of us as we each polished off seconds for the second time in a week. These also taste like adult Spaghetti O’s. In a very good and elegant way. There’s something about that rich tomato paste sauce, oil and pasta that must have been hard-wired into our brains as latch-key children of the 80s.