Thursday, April 12, 2018

California Dreamin'


On New Years Day, I discussed with close friends how Spring Break 2018 is likely the last time our family of four will vacation together. Kahley is studying abroad next spring, and when she's a senior I highly doubt she's going to want to spend her break with those who require a 10:15 pm bedtime.

I seriously considered a cruise. It would be good for the kids to see other countries and explore the edges of their comfort zones a bit, not to mention the fixed cost. But based on our quick honeymoon nearly 25 years ago, I'm not a fan of the herding and lineup components. "MANDATORY safety talk! Pick your dinner time! Wait in this line to board! Wait over here to disembark! Stand there to come back aboard!"

Ick. Not to mention hundreds of people in close quarters. Hello, norovirus.

I'm always and forever a fan of Southern California, but I've traveled to Orange County at least six times. Would another trip to the golden state prove ho-hum? The kids really wanted a beach vacation in warmer weather, and they chose California over Florida. So with Florida out and the cruise option losing steam, our friend Rick highly recommended San Diego. "Hollie, the girls and I went there several years ago. Hands down, it was our favorite vacation ever. With your kids at the age they are, you're going to love it."

San Diego won, and I'm so glad it did. Our stay proved the perfect balance of relaxation with mild adventuring, and toasty afternoons in bathing suits followed by sweaters and jackets in the evenings.

Memories from this trip that make me smile -

Playing volleyball with Jake on the ocean beach. I'm not so spry anymore, and I might have mentioned to the family that I once played on the varsity volleyball team in high school. I might have repeated it 23 times just to be sure everyone got it.

While we played, a drama unfolded nearby leaving Tony and Kahley wondering if they should call homeland security. A family with three or four boys lounged nearby, and the boys buried one of their brothers in the sand, complete with just enough water to cement him firmly into the beach. The littlest hooligan dumped sand all over his face, while another waterboarded him with buckets of ocean water. The kid was positively hysterical - I would have been looking for murder! At least when the CIA tortures prisoners they use fresh water. Oh and the parents? Sitting nearby, drinks in hand, 100% unconcerned.

Walking. Biking. Running. If you want a healthy lifestyle, move to San Diego. We enjoyed walking along the Sail Bay boardwalk every morning, then strolling back on the ocean boardwalk while we sipped hot coffee and nibbled on decadent pastries (hi, vacation). I clocked at least 7 miles every day; sometimes even more. We hopped aboard the bikes that came with our house, and explored even further than our immediate surroundings. A bike is key in San Diego, and the good news is that they're a dime a dozen.

Touring the USS Midway.
Fairly high up on Mr. Musky's vacation bucket list, I think we're all glad we climbed aboard the ship, walked through the entire exhibit, and learned a little something new.
We certainly have a newfound appreciation for our midshipmen and the tight quarters they live and work in on a daily basis.
San Diego is definitely a military flight town, so guess what movie we watched one night? Hell yeah, Great Balls of Fire. Top Gun is just a little bit better when you're watching it in town, sipping on a glass wine, with the windows open and the salty air wafting through gauzy sheers over the windows.
And that volleyball scene? We enjoyed watching our own personal version of twenty-something males play on the bay beach a couple of days. #sixpacksarenice

We visited San Diego's world famous zoo, toured the city on the Old Town Trolley, and ubered to La Jolla to check out low tide. Guess which was my favorite? The one that cost us zilcho!
I could have spent the entire day on the coast of La Jolla, but our guys aren't super into that.
I'll be back someday to sit there, meditate, journal, peer into a few more tide pools, soak in that gorgeous Cali sun, and hang out with these fellas.
I love a sandy beach, but the rocky ones offer so much exploring and intrigue.
I'm not done with La Jolla quite yet.
Nor is my girl. I could tell.
Perhaps my best memories of this trip will be the quiet ones as a family, watching the sunset, along with just a smattering of others enjoying the view.
Can you spy the yogis? And the passed out dude?
From the first night we arrived we were on the beach minutes after unpacking, and we walked back several nights after dinner to unwind as the the sun sank into the horizon.
Mr. Musky entertained us as he attempted to master the waves.
Did I mention that San Diego can be chilly in March? He was freezing. If you want blazing hot sun then go to Florida or the desert. But if 65-70 mild degrees and making your kids bust a gut is your jam, then San Diego's it.
The bayside beach might be the most underrated locale in the Mission Beach area. Our rental home sat all of 30 steps from this beach, and since the buildings blocked the chilly breezes it warmed up quite nicely. We walked out there with a beach chair and a beverage in hand, and easily went back to the house to reload or grab a book.
Turns out there's an equal amount of kiddie torture going on over there too - we watched a gaggle of brats whipping sand in one another's faces while hurling insults back and forth. My kids would have been drug by the ear to their rooms if that were the case back in the day. Today's vacationing parents must be way more chill than me!

In the end, San Diego proved the perfect vacation destination for this time in our lives. Given that another 15 inches of snow is on its way to the Northwoods this weekend, we will be back, and maybe these rugrats will even be able to leave their demanding jobs and lives to join us for a few days. I sure hope so.
Until then, I'm California Dreamin'.

XOXO,
Jen


Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Advice to a 16 Year Old Boy

Today I opened our shared drive looking for a recipe from my grandmother for Pork Chops in Mushroom Gravy Sauce. It involves a couple of cans of sludge, er...condensed soup...and I want to create an updated, healthier version of a traditional favorite.

That is, if heavy cream can be considered healthy.

If you want to see how it turns out, check back with Apéritif Friday in a few weeks to see if my 2018 version becomes blog worthy.

In the meantime though, in searching our files for the recipe, I came across a document titled "Jake Advice." Ironically, I've been thinking about penning some words of wisdom for him in the coming months to share before he embarks upon that life-altering experience known as college life. I shared some advice with his sister a few years ago, and in the spirit of trying to keep things equal for the second born who naturally gets the shaft when it comes to parental attention (I'm the baby of the family myself. I know these things. Where's my baby book, Mom?), this is one thing I'll follow through with.

However.

Today's distraction leading me down the rabbit hole proved worthy of sharing with you all. In the fall of 2016, Ms. Hornik, Jake's junior year AP English teacher, asked the parents to complete a little homework assignment as they studied Hamlet by William Shakespeare. She encouraged us to read a passage between Polonius, a concerned father, and his son, Laertes, who is headed off to Paris. Polonius shares some sage advice with his son, and Ms. Hornik asked the parents of her students: "What advice would you like to share with your son or daughter today?"

God love you, Shakespeare, for your timeless soliloquies. I can just see Laertes rolling his eyes while his concerned father drones on like the teacher in a Charlie Brown cartoon. Mu wha wha wha wha...

Fellow Gen Xer Parents know exactly what I'm talking about.

I geek out over these types of requests and take them very seriously. I read and reread the advice from Polonius, then surely made good ole Will shudder with my own words to my modern-day teenager. That's all right. I love this kid and can't wait to see what happens next with him.

October 30, 2016

Dear Jake:

As Polonius provides unsolicited advice to Laertes prior to his departure to France, I’ve been tasked with providing you some advice at this time in your life. You’re on the cusp of great things, and sometimes a little Mom nag in your ear can’t hurt.
  1. Don’t be an asshole.
  2. If something feels wrong in your gut or in your head, it probably is. Avoid it.
  3. You’re laid back and chill. Use it to your advantage in stressful situations. Calm other people down. They’ll come to you as a natural leader because you know things aren’t life or death – until they are life or death. Then you’ll be the one to administer the Heimlich or call 911.
  4. Influence people by debating passionately. Not by fighting. If you have to fight with someone to see your side of the argument, you’ll never sway them.
  5. Smile. Yours is heart melting, and you’ll win hearts-a-many just by crinkling your eyes and turning up the corners of your mouth.
  6. Be open to new ideas and new ways of thinking, at least until you’re 30.
  7. Push yourself out of your comfort zone and take some risks. Even if it means you fail. You’ll never know how awesome something might be unless you try.
  8. I love that you’re comfortable at home doing the things you love, but challenge yourself to engage socially with others. You’ll have to do that for the rest of your life, so you might as well start now.
  9. Be the one to make plans. Ask a friend to hang out. Go to the movies with someone. Invite some buddies over for a video game tournament.
  10. When all else fails, revert to # 1 and everything else will fall into place as it should. 

In closing, as cheesey as it sounds, I personally love Polonius’ final word of advice. “This above all: To thine own self be true.” There may be no better words of parental wisdom ever written to a child, except this:

Don’t be an asshole.

I love you,

Mom