A Father’s Day Experience

The only thing I remember about Father’s Day  when I was a kid was struggling to come up with a gift for my dad. The gifts were never very original and I’m sure, if my dad was alive today, he wouldn’t be able to tell you a single thing I gave him (all of those red ties and boxed DVD sets blend together after awhile).

Gift giving became a lot easier when I had kids because there was no greater gift for my dad than spending time with his grandkids. He was content just eating a meal with the kids and laughing at their antics or taking them mini-golfing and out for ice cream. Time was all he wanted and I know he remembered every minute of those days until the last.

I’ve always preferred giving (and receiving) an experience as a gift because a trip, an outing, or an adventure is far more memorable than something material (and really, who needs more stuff anyway). Besides it has been scientifically proven that you will be happier if you spend money on experiences not things and who am I to contradict science.

So in that vein I’ve asked a whole bunch of dads to give me their Father’s Day experience wish-list. Feel free to steal the ideas for Mother’s Day because why should dads have all the fun.

We share the same taste in music and love small live concerts so doing that is a treat.”

“An afternoon playing frisbee golf”

“…all being together for a meal when [the kids] are home from college is great. Especially when we hang out by the fire with friends or extended family.”

“Go for a long bike ride together now that she’s older and doesn’t need me to pull her in a Burley.”

“Playing music together in the basement.”

“Get tickets to the bleachers at Wrigley Field for a Cubs game”

“Lagavulin Scotch. Two bottles. One to drink, another for investment or for my kids to drink at my funeral.”

“Golfing together. Not just another golf shirt.”

“Cooking a meal together instead of going out again.”

“Building something together. I need to build a fire pit and I would love for my kids to help.”

“Take a weekend fishing trip together.”

“I’d love to run a ‘mudder’ race with my boys” (https://toughmudder.com/)


“Make our own beer”

“A night at a comedy club”

“Spend the morning hunting and the afternoon golfing”


“Go Kart racing and mini-golf”

Escape Room” 

“A day at the horse races.”

“Go to a music festival”

Now, go forth and plan your adventure.

As Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a Cornell professor who has spent 20+ years studying money and happiness noted, “We consume experiences directly with other people…And after they’re gone, they’re part of the stories that we tell to one another.”



Happy Father’s Day!




Necessity is the Mother of Independence

They say necessity is the mother of invention but I say it’s the mother of independence.

I’m convinced that if I had continued to work full time when my kids were little that now, at 17 and 21, my boys would, out of necessity, know to fill the soap dispenser with soap and not just add water. They would know how to heat up a can of soup, how to feed themselves something other than goldfish and cereal bars while they waited for someone else to prepare “real” food, and they would know how to shop for groceries.

Last week, in an effort to prepare my boys to enter the world without me I sent my oldest son to the store to buy groceries for dinner and he came back with among other requested things, a four pound, $9.00 organic onion.

A four pound onion!

In his defense, I didn’t specify the size of the onion I wanted; I just sort of assumed that after all these years of watching me shop and prep meals he may have noticed that mutant produce was not the norm.

But you know what they say about people who assume…

Yes, it is a little late for my 21-year-old to just be learning how to shop for groceries, but up to this point he has either lived in a dorm or a fraternity house where food is prepared for him or he has lived at home where I don’t like to send anyone out to buy groceries because, well, a four-pound, $9.00, organic onion. But now, my son is moving into an apartment and he will have to prepare some meals (or find someone to cook for him or get three jobs to pay for take out).

I could take him shopping and attempt to pass on my wisdom but I tried that with teaching him how to do laundry. No matter how many times I went over the steps to do laundry before he left for college he conveniently forgot how the whole system worked. Then, miraculously, when he was away at school and out of clothes he managed to figure it out with only minor damage to a couple of white socks.

See, necessity.

By the same logic, if I take him grocery shopping he will expect me to guide him – and by guide him I mean tell him exactly what to do but nothing will stick. If, for instance, I tell him to check for blemishes on the apples that we are buying he will look straight at me as if he’s listening and then pick up the first apple he sees and drop it in the bag. Only when he is shopping for himself and he has spent his own money will he really care that the banged up apple he just bought is riddled with brown spots and virtually inedible.

I don’t blame him. I didn’t start cooking until I lived on my own. Cooking was never a required chore at home – we owned a restaurant so someone was always cooking for us. Once I moved out I lived on salad bar salads from the local grocery store until I realized how expensive that was. Out of necessity I started “cooking” where I mastered the almost daily meal of scrambled eggs, a microwaved baked potato, and green beans straight out of a can. I’m shocked I didn’t develop scurvy from my limited diet but, hey, it was sustenance.

Eventually, mostly out of boredom, I expanded my meals to include things like baked chicken and pasta with jarred tomato sauce (doctored, of course, with a splash of wine and some dried oregano because I’m fancy). Once I had kids, cooking became even more important because kids need food multiple times a day.

Now, I know plenty of people who never cook; they buy their meals prepared from the grocery store, they order in, they eat cereal. But I really believe that cooking is a necessity for kids who, like my son, do not have unlimited funds. He also eats about six meals a day, so you can see the problem.

So, this summer, as I wait for the shove of necessity to kick in, I will keep sending my sons to the store (probably with much more specific instructions – maybe even pictures!) and I will continue to prattle on about food prep with the hope that something sticks (Wash your hands! Never leave anything on the stove if you leave the room! Always salt tomatoes!)

I will also challenge both of my boys to master the following really, really, simple recipe. If all else fails I will challenge them to find the areas in the grocery store with canned green beans and potatoes. Scurvy be damned.

Pasta with Bacon and tomatoes (or Spaghetti all’ Amatriciana if you want to impress someone)



3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
12 ounces good bacon sliced into little pieces or cut up with a clean kitchen scissors (not the scissors you would use to cut open a package – the one I gave you for the kitchen)
1 small red onion (small!), outside skin removed first, then cut into thin-ish slices and then cut again, in half, to make ½ moon shapes

3 cloves (not heads, just cloves) garlic, (remove papery skin first), then slice
3 to 4 shakes (or 1 1/2 teaspoons hot red pepper flakes)
2 cups jarred tomato sauce (preferably Rao’s Marinara or whatever is on sale)
1 pound spaghetti
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese


  1. Fill a big pot with water, add 1 tablespoon salt and bring to a boil over medium heat.
  2. While the water is boiling , combine the olive oil, chopped bacon, sliced onion, sliced garlic, and red pepper flakes in 12-inch saute pan (not the pan for eggs; the bigger one).IMG_0227
  3. Place the pan over low heat and cook until the onion is soft and the bacon has cooked off most of its fat but it’s not too crispy. This should take about 10 minutes, be patient.
  4. Drain all but 3 or 4 Tablespoons of the fat out of the pan (use a large spoon to spoon it out but don’t pour the fat down the sink! Put it in a bowl and wait until it cools then dispose of it in the garbage).
  5. Add the tomato sauce to the sauté pan, turn the heat up and bring the mixture to a boil. Once it boils, lower the heat to a simmer and let it cook for about five to seven minutes (again, be patient you are letting the flavors blend).
  6. While the sauce simmers, cook the spaghetti in the boiling water until the pasta is a little firm and not mushy. Don’t believe the time on the box cook it for about a minute or two less.
  7. Drain the pasta and add it to the sauce. Toss the pasta to coat.
  8. Divide the pasta and serve immediately, with some freshly grated parmesan or pecorino cheese.




Who Needs “Siri” When You Have “Mom”

My family doesn’t have Amazon Echo or Google Home. They have me.

I, apparently, know everything. Just ask my family (oh, wait, then they will have to ask me so that wouldn’t work).

I am amazed at how much my family thinks I know. I should be flattered because – obviously – they think I’m brilliant. Why else would they ask me things they can easily find out on their own?

For example, recent requests included:

“Mom, what’s this flower?”

“Hon, when are the kids done with school?”

“Mom, how do you heat up a can of soup?”

I, like any good digital assistant, dutifully answered:


“May 4 and June 7.”

“Pour the can in the small pot and heat on low.”

The thing is, other than the last question (which, by the way, is a topic for another day) I had to look up the answers. I don’t know flowers (after a failed web search I had to ask a friend about this) and I seriously have not memorized my kids’ schedules so why does my family ask me questions when they know I will need to look up the answers? More importantly, why do I actually look up the answers??!

Often, as I’m looking for answers to one of their questions it occurs to me that my children and husband could be doing this themselves. It’s not like I’m hiding the electronics. But by the time I remember that I’m not supposed to be enabling my children (or my husband for that matter), I’m already three Google searches deep into answering their questions and I realize it will probably take longer to lecture them then to give them the answer. Besides, if I say, “See that mini computer also known as a phone attached to your hand? It has the answer to your question; just look it up” chances are they will NOT look up the answers to their respective questions; they will simply avoid the question.

Really, it’s true. I’ve tried it.

For instance, it took me a while to figure out the daffodil answer so by the time I responded my son had moved on. My husband’s request for the kids’ schedules was similarly ignored when he decided not to bother with a possible trip in June and just planned for July because no one is in school then. (Little does he know there’s an entirely different schedule for summer but he didn’t ask and like Google Home, I don’t volunteer answers).

As for the soup question, well, if I hadn’t reflexively given my son the answer or if I had told him to read the back of the can (like I should have!), he would probably have given up and eaten a cheese stick (which would have solved his hunger issue but, seriously, READ THE BACK OF THE FREAKING CAN!)

I think it might be too late to change our ways. I needed to nip this in the bud when they were little (or, in the case of my husband, when we were dating) but everything took soooooo long when my kids were young. If one of my boys asked, “Mommy, what kind of flower is this?” when he was six years old and I responded, “I don’t know. Let’s look it up,” the process of finding the answer would have taken a good 30-60 minutes of haphazard, child-directed searching and I am not a patient person.

This, my friends, is known as a lack of foresight…or stifling independence, or shitty parenting, whatever you want to call it.

But now, if I keep answering their questions will they ever learn to find the answers on their own? Will they care? Should I just buy them a Google Home and be done with it??

The thing is, unless we can use “Mom” as the voice prompt for the digital assistant I’m not sure my family will know how to get it to respond. Then they will just ask me to ask Alexa…

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Prom + Drama = Prama (in case you are new to this)

What happened to high school Prom?

It used to just be a dance in a high school gym decorated by the pep club; a night that never lived up to the hype generated by Hollywood movies like Pretty in PinkTen Things I Hate About You, Valley Girl, etc. – typical tales of star-crossed lovers and romantic reunions. Now prom has reached a frenzy once reserved only for weddings—but without the gift registry…at least for now.

Today’s prom involves party buses with TV screens and dancing poles that take the students to urban hotels for catered dinners followed by club-hopping after the dance.


If your child, like mine, is smack dab in the middle of Prama Season I feel for you, but if your kid isn’t quite there yet, you may be able to help stop the madness.

Here is my list of the Five Ridiculous New Prom Traditions. Feel free to add to it. I’m sure there are things I don’t even know about yet.

1. Let’s start with the point where the craziness begins: the “Prom-posal.” Yes, that’s an actual thing. In fact, March 11 is National Promposal Day .

I kid you not. (It’s also National Worship of Tools Day so there’s that)

I know boys who have choreographed flash mobs, girls who have asked someone via the Jumbotron at the Chicago Bulls game and someone who used the loudspeaker at school to sing a request to his date. There are even companies that will help with the planning.

What’s wrong with just asking, “Do you want to go to Prom with me?”

Would someone really say no to a potential date who asked by himself instead of singing it, posting it, splashing it across a screen or having a celebrity ask for him? If the answer is yes, then what happens down the road when a marriage proposal comes your way? Are you going to be disappointed when it’s just a simple, “will you marry me,” and not a sunrise ask on a mountain top with Ed Sheeran singing quietly in the background while being streamed via Facebook Live??


2. Then there’s the cost. WTF? You could feed a small country with the money that is being spent on this dance. My kid will be shelling out a lot of money (his own – let’s be clear) for dance tickets, a tux rental, a corsage, and a limo. On the plus side, at least he isn’t getting a spray tan, a manicure, a pedicure and an updo – as far as I know.

3. The extras. The pictures! The limo! The after party! The pictures should be taken in a spot with an appropriately breathtaking backdrop. The limo, excuse me, party bus needs to have flashing lights, music, videos and room to dance for the hour-long drive to and from the party venue. The after party, well, that needs it’s own paragraph. See #5 below.

4. The actual dance (or, as the kids call it, the worst part of the night). My mom was reminiscing about decorating the gym and serving punch and cookies at her prom ala Grease.


That’s never going to happen again but do they really need to drive 45 minutes to a hotel in the city for the dance? I guarantee there is somewhere in the ‘burbs that could accommodate the party without forcing a trek into the city. (But the party bus is one of the best parts, Mom!) Why can’t they just take a page out of the original Footloose and host the dance in a barn across the county line! (Wow! There really are a lot of prom moments in movies and, wow, I’m really showing my age.)

5. And, finally, there is the after-party. Yes, there is an after-party in addition to the picture pre-party, the party itself and, often, the day after party. The after party used to be just hanging out at someone’s house but now there are all-ages dance clubs, comedy clubs and boat parties with DJs to continue the fun. In Manhattan there’s even a company that caters to the after-prom party set.

All of this for ONE NIGHT people!!

It’s a slippery slope.

You’ve been warned.


Where do you draw the line? Can you if you aren’t footing the bill?

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Life Lesson: Teen Dating

Dear Sons –

I know we’ve talked a lot about dating before (even when you didn’t ask my opinion) but I wanted to give you your own handy-dandy written “Guide” in case you are ever wondering what I would tell you and I’m not around. Call it, Mom’s Guide to Dating.

Don’t roll your eyes.

Here goes:

  1. Don’t be an asshole. You heard me. If I find out that you are treating your significant other badly I will personally kick your ass.
  1. Don’t be a doormat. This is not the opposite of being an asshole. Don’t always give in to your significant other just to keep the peace. If she wants to see Star Wars and you want to see Inside Out make an argument for why you should pick the movie this time. Or compromise – there’s nothing wrong with compromise. If she insists that you always give in – move on. Don’t sell your soul.
  1. Move forward at a mutually agreed pace. No one should dictate how quickly a relationship progresses. Both parties need to be comfortable.
  1. Laugh – a lot. Not at her (or at anyone, for that matter), but with her. Remember, if you guys can’t laugh at the stuff that makes each of you smile – move on.
  1. Don’t let Hallmark be your guide for gift giving. I personally hate Valentine’s Day (as you know). Your father has not been allowed to give me a gift on Valentine’s Day for the 25 years we’ve been married. Sure, for a few years he tried to give me flowers the day after Valentine’s Day but, no…just don’t. One caveat: if the person you are dating LOVES Valentine’s Day or Sweetest Day or any of the other made up holidays (yes, I’m holding back a comment) you should acknowledge the day with something (just remember that the florists jack up the prices on Valentine’s Day so don’t blow a paycheck on a dozen red roses – especially if she is demanding them). Remember, it’s the thought that counts.
  1. It’s the little things that matter. I swear.
  1. Find someone who likes to do the stuff you like to do (but not necessarily everything you like to do – see #8 below). Your dad and I bonded over Chicago Blackhawks hockey, horse racing and eating out. It was a great place to start.
  1. Have separate interests (this is not the opposite of #7, above). Remember you are separate people. I do know couples who do EVERYTHING together and haven’t killed each other – yet. These are the outliers. It’s good to have separate interests – it gives you something to talk about and something to share – occasionally – with the person you are dating.
  1. DO NOT alienate your friends (make sure your girlfriend doesn’t alienate hers either). I lost many a friend over the years to the “I’m dating someone and I need to spend every waking moment with him/her because that’s what couples do.” Ugh. If your dad and I didn’t have our friends around I’m not sure if we could have been together this long. Sure, your dad and I do a lot together but I also like going to the theater (he only like musicals), running (he HATES running), dancing (he can’t dance), and overanalyzing just about everything (he has no patience). Similarly, I have zero interest in playing poker in Vegas, watching European soccer and skiing. That’s what our friends are for.
  1. Apologize when you do or say something stupid. No one is perfect and mistakes will be made. Just don’t make it a pattern of do-something-stupid-apologize-later. Then you are just being an asshole (see #1 above). Also, if you are dating someone who is stuck in that pattern – move on.
  1. If your relationship has run its course have a face-to-face conversation. No ghosting, no break up texts, no social media announcements – I don’t care what the media or your friends say is the norm nowadays. Anything short of a face-to-face conversation makes you a jerk. Yes, it will suck; yes, she may be really, really pissed; and, yes, you will potentially be hurting someone but eventually, when the scars have faded, at least she won’t be able to say you weren’t honest and respectful.
  1. Be honest, respectful and kind. Always.



What would you add? What do you disagree with? Let me know!


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Bad Parenting Behaviors to Let Go of in 2017

So, here we are, almost in February and I’m still contemplating what I want to work on this year. Not that I’m keen on resolutions. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever kept a New Year’s resolution and yet, I can’t stop myself from making them.

I have a problem with someone telling me what to do or not to do, which is weird, I know, since I’m the one making the resolution. There is something about saying out loud, “I will not eat sugar,” that causes me to make a beeline for the candy drawer.

Finally, however, I think I’ve come up with a couple of things that I can get behind in 2017; two bad parenting behaviors that I can let go of this year and feel good about: not doing everything for my kids and not talking about them with other people.

Let’s start with the second one first.

I will not talk about my kids with other people.

You might think it’s odd that I have chosen not to talk about my kids with other people when I write a blog about my kids and share it with other people. Believe it or not, I write very little about what happens to my kids and when I do I tend to have their blessing. I’ve tried to make this blog about my bad behavior, because, well, I often suck as a parent and I want to be held accountable.

What I want to stop doing this year is sharing information about my kids that I know they won’t want me to share with anyone else but I do it anyway because I’m venting to my friends. Let’s face it, parenting is not easy and sometimes you need to talk about your failures or your kids’ bad behavior with someone else.

My advice? Choose your audience and your stories carefully.

How many of you have done this? Your kid is driving you bat-shit crazy and you run into a friend and proceed to offer too many details about your kid’s latest exploits thinking there is some sort of “mom code” that will prevent your friend from relaying the info to her kid who just happens to be your son’s or daughter’s good friend.

Next thing you know, your kid is pissed at you – as he or she should be – because the story you told has made it’s way back to your kid but with all sorts of embellishments.

It doesn’t matter if the story you told was totally benign or you thought it was just a funny story to tell your friend. It doesn’t matter if it was relayed exactly how you told it or whether the story made its way through a group with new and completely fabricated details (as these stories tend to do). Your kid feels betrayed and you feel like crap.

So, yes, I will be working on this behavior this year because last year I let my kid down and that really did suck.

I will not do everything for my kids this year

When my kids were little and I chose to stay at home with them I felt that it was my job to wait on them hand and foot and stifle their independence.

Oh, wait, that wasn’t the plan.

No, the plan was to stay at home to take care of them and be around to watch them grow. The problem with that plan was that I felt guilty about being a stay-at-home mom and I felt like the only job I had was to take care of the kids and the house. If someone else was doing those jobs what was I doing all day??

No one saddled me with this notion (except, maybe Hollywood and the media’s distorted images of women’s roles and my own upbringing, but I digress).

Every time I thought about passing on the laundry duty or forcing my kids to cook dinner I wondered what I was supposed to be doing in the void of activity. Eating bonbons? Watching TV with my feet up on the ottoman thumbing through magazines? Writing??

The problem, I realize now, was not with the job but with the job description that I had written.

Instead of thinking that my job as a mom was to cater to my boys’ every need, I should have recognized that my job was to help my kids become independent, capable adults who could handle their own cleaning/feeding/scheduling.


Nearly 21 years into this parenting gig and I finally figure it out.

Obviously, I didn’t start out wanting my kids to be needy and dependent and, for the most part, even with all my failings, they are pretty capable (if I’m not around, of course). But now it’s time to let go of the guilt and rewrite my role. I will call my new title: Director of Creating Independence. I’m sure my kids will call my new role: Tyrant.




What parenting behaviors do you hope to work on this year?



It’s the Holiday Season and, Really, Whoop De Doo* Because Well, Ugh.

I’ve asked around and it feels like there’s an epidemic of apathy this holiday season. It doesn’t matter what holiday is being celebrated it seems like everyone I talk to is trying to wish the holiday season away as quickly as possible.

All of a sudden Christmas and Hanukkah are days away and I am scrambling and stressed and wondering how the hell it’s the end of December already. I blame the mild temperatures in Chicago, where I live, for tricking me into thinking that the usual snowy holidays were months away instead of weeks. Or maybe it was the Chicago Cubs’ World Series win that made me feel like the end of the world was fast approaching so why bother with the gift shopping. Or maybe it’s just the news.

All I know is that I have a shopping list that needs to be dealt with, a closet full of presents that need to be wrapped, a stack of Holiday cards that need to be addressed and mailed, and absolutely zero motivation to tackle any of it.

What’s a girl who usually loves the holidays to do?

I’ve checked in with other folks who are feeling the madness and asked them how they are putting the “Happy” back in Happy Holidays. Before you go to your room and stay there until January 2 you might want to try some of these ideas first.

  1. Buy less stuff. In other words, stop shopping now. I need to stop looking at gift lists. Every time I do I find another thing that would be perfect for only $25.00! Do you know how quickly a bunch of useless $25.00 gifts add up? Ridiculous. Just stop.
  1. If you’ve already done most of your shopping try a trick that works well when you are preparing for a trip. Travel experts agree that if you lay out all of your clothes when you are packing you can usually put away half of what you thought you would need and still have too much. It’s the exact same thing with presents. Right now, put all of your purchases on the floor and return half of them.
  1. Plan an experience instead of buying more stuff. Fewer boxes, better memories.
  1. Skip the holiday cards if you haven’t made them or bought them already. You could send something to the relatives who never see your kids but do you really need to send one to all of your kids’ friends? One friend just posted a picture on social media of the holiday card she is sending to her far-flung family and friends. Another friend is opting for Happy New Year cards instead. If all else fails and you still want to send a card you could pull a Julia Child and send out Valentine’s Day card.
  1. Find time to spend with family that doesn’t involve gift giving. Watch a movie, cook together, play a game, go for a walk.
  1. Volunteer. You’ve probably heard it before but helping others really helps put the stress and the excesses of the holidays in perspective.

Wishing you all the best for this holiday season!


*This is an actual song made famous by Andy Williams minus the “ugh” part

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