Joe and the Cuties

Work is making me want to pull my hair out. That’s both good and bad. Good – because it means things are happening and that I am fortunate enough to have a job that helps pay the bills and offers the added bonus of challenging me. Bad- because I don’t think I’d look good without hair.

My brain has no chance of rotting in the currently challenging environment, although at the end of many days, it does feel like it has turned to mush.

I’m not really complaining about my job. It’s just that sometimes it stresses me out and I’ve had more than my share of headaches lately and I have to remember to take a few deep breaths and just carry on and that everything will be fine.

One thing – or rather – one person who keeps me going is Joe. Joe has quickly become one of my most favorite coworkers. Joe is the calm and confident yet modest one. Joe is the smart one who is able to think things through and figure out the difficult details when the rest of us think there’s no clear answer.

And Joe gets me. I may have told him one too many times that sometimes, when the discussion becomes too technological or the subject is simply beyond my knowledge, or something just doesn’t make sense, my brain just shuts down.

So yesterday, during a team discussion, Brenda posed the question, “So, when I’m in the document, am I actually in the document?”

I just so happened to catch Joe’s eye at that moment and he was looking at me with eyebrows raised, and I knew it. He was fully aware that the conversation at that very moment was moving forward without me. He knew it. I knew he knew it. It was a bonding moment.

What kind of question is that anyway? “When I’m in the document, am I actually in the document?” What the hell?

Joe says he’s a geek at heart and he’s proud of it. Today he told us he was glowing because he knew the meaning behind a particular acronym.

“Glowing,” I asked? “Over an acronym? Brenda and I complimented your new haircut this morning and you didn’t glow over that, but now you’re glowing over an acronym?”

Joe takes our teasing in stride. He’s a good egg.

But the best thing about Joe is his subtle sense of humor. He slips in these quiet little remarks and a split second passes before you realize that he’s just made a joke.

Today was a particularly pressure-filled day. We ended up eating our lunches in the conference room while continuing work on our project with the very near deadline. Joe was explaining about the clementines he’d been eating today and all week long. Some of them were very tasty, he said, but some of them were just awful.

“What brand are they,” I asked?

“I don’t know, but they’re not Cuties,” he replied.

“I was just going to ask that,” I said. “I don’t like Cuties. I’ve had bad luck with Cuties. I can’t remember the name of the brand that I do like.”

“I’ve never had trouble with the Cuties,” Joe said.

For a moment, I thought that was the end of the conversation, and then the humor in his statement struck me and I looked over at him, unable to hide the smile on my face.

“Tell your friends,” Joe said with a smile.

That’s exactly the kind of remark that keeps me from getting too overwhelmed at work! I don’t know what I’d do without Joe. He helps me remember that nothing is impossible and when we work as a team, we can accomplish all of these challenging tasks we have on our plates.

Everyone should have a Joe in their office!

That’s Game

National Softball Tournament – Days 2, 3 and 4

Originally, I had thought I would detail each day of this last tournament of Kacey’s softball career. And while I could describe each game the team played; the wins, the losses, the highs and the lows… now that it’s all over and done, I don’t think those are the things that will stick in my memory in the years to come. Suffice it to say we had every bit as much fun in Omaha as I had hoped, the girls and parents alike. There were some losses and there were some wins. We watched some of the very best softball our girls have ever played. All those years of practices and games, all those years of learning to anticipate one another’s next move came together and the girls played in a way they’re never going to forget. I am so very, very proud of them.

Years from now, there are things I’ll remember more than the individual wins and losses. I’ll still hear the way the girls cheered each other on… “Come on, kid! Wait for your pitch! You can do it!” I’ll hear the nicknames they call each other, Al-Ro, Jae-Fae, Hae-Rae, Sheebs, Svetlana, Meg-Babe, Abbers, Hannah B, Ja-Mol, Dee-Pur and Kacey… I’ll remember all of her nicknames. They called her Sticks, or Moo, or Eleven or most recently, Angel. But mostly I’ll remember the name they called her most, KaceyMeece! Just like that, they’d say it, KaceyMeece, with such emphasis on the last part and such affection in their voices.

I’ll hear Kacey calling from behind the plate for the throw to come home, “Cut four! Cut four!” I’ll remember the clang of the bat as they hit the ball. I’ll remember the slap of a glove as the ball landed smack in the pocket. I’ll remember the way the coaches communicated the signs to their players and the way they believed in these girls, saw their talents sometimes long before the girls found those very talents within themselves. I’ll remember blazing sun and the dust from the ballfield swirling in the air and I’ll remember huddling under an umbrella when a game went on in spite of the rain.

In my mind, when I think of the days when Kacey played this sport she loved so much, I’ll remember her face, with a look of determination or excitement or simple happiness at being in a place she just loved to be.

In the years to come, when I think back on these days, I’ll think back to a group of girls who became more than team mates. I’ll remember girls who became best friends and who loved one another like sisters, sometimes even getting under each other’s skin like sisters. I’ll remember the weekly team sleep-overs that continued even until they were long past the age of sleep-overs.

My daughter has such an easy-going manner and a talent for putting people at ease. I can’t help but give some of the credit to her involvement in softball. She had to learn to be a team player. She had to learn to accept differences in others and she learned to be a positive and effective leader. Softball helped Kacey learn how to get along with others.

My dad recently remarked to my sister, “I know you kids think that all these sports your kids play are really important, but they’re really not.”

Growing up, I wasn’t given the opportunity to play organized sports and I know my dad simply has no idea how valuable they can be in a child’s life. But I do. I know that softball was very important in my daughter’s life. I know there are times I was less than enthusiastic about getting up at the crack of dawn to get my kid to an early game, or about sitting through games in the cold, the heat or the rain. But now it’s all over, too soon, as I’m finding too many things are in my life these days. And I will never be sorry that so much of our time was dedicated to organized sports. They’ve taught all of us valuable lessons and given my kids so many skills that will help carry them through life.

In the end, I was able to be there with my girl, to watch her do something she loves, right to the very end. And when that final loss knocked them out of their very last tournament as a team, the girls weren’t the only ones with tears in their eyes. I was glad for the sunglasses I had on.

I’m sure Kacey will play softball again. There are intramural teams at college and adult leagues in many communities. I won’t be surprised if she finds a way to play the game again in the years to come or even coach a team of her own someday. But in my mind’s eye, I will always see her as she was this summer, smiling, laughing, cheering and playing ball with this very special team.

National Softball Tournament – Day 1

Well, we made it to Omaha. Six hours in the truck with Mark driving and nothing but his damn 80s music on the radio. I refrained from changing the station (not without great effort,) as he believes the driver rules the music. There was a volume war for a while there in which I’d reach over and turn it down and he’d use the controls on the steering wheel to turn it back up. Kacey and her friend, Haley sat in the backseat, with iPods and earbuds and cell phones, oblivious to the war going on up front. Regardless, we arrived safely and on time.

We got settled in our hotel rooms. The organizers of this trip were smart. They booked rooms for the girls to share so that the parents could have their own rooms and some peace and quiet.

Last night we went to the opening ceremonies and parade. The park in which this celebration was held was pretty inadequate for the size of this event. There wasn’t nearly enough parking. And it was 102 degrees outside, so none of us were disappointed when it turned out to be a fairly short-lived event. We were melting out there. The girls marched in the parade with all the other teams. The national anthem was played and that was that.

 

After opening ceremonies, we all headed back to the hotel. Everyone had dinner and then we gathered in the community room where parents and kids spent the night playing Catch-Phrase. The favorite comment throughout the game quickly became, “Know your audience!” after one too many players offered sketchy clues such as, “Abby got these for Christmas from Uncle Rich one year…” The game grew more hilarious with each round and our laughter grew louder. I finally called it a night around midnight and hit the sack. I’m not sure how much longer the rest of them lasted.

I woke up this morning to a noise I couldn’t quite identify. With Mark still sleeping I crawled out of bed to investigate. The noise seemed to be coming from the unused bed next to the one in which we were sleeping. Suddenly, it became clear what the noise was. Plop, plop, plop.

Our ceiling was dripping onto the bed. I put a wastebasket beneath the flow of water and Mark reported it to the front desk. They said they suspected a problem with their new ventilation system and all the rain that fell overnight. They didn’t seem too concerned until a second leak appeared. We were quickly moved next door to a new room.

Today is a quiet day. It’s raining and the girls don’t play until 5:00. The temperature has dropped more than 20 degrees so I’m hoping the rain lets up and the girls have some great games tonight!

P.S. I’m glad I don’t live here. I think I’d spend a lot of time being confused.

 

 

Now adding “shoplifting” to my list of accomplishments.

That’s right. I shoplifted.

From Target. One of my favoritest stores even!

It was unintentional, of course, but I suppose what it officially boils down to is that I am a shoplifter.

I’ve been away from this blog for a long time and this is what I come back with. Shoplifting.

It’s just that I have been preoccupied with being a softball mom and a sports photographer and an amateur fundraiser. See, Kacey has had three softball tournaments in three weekends. And work has been really busy. And my parents’ brand new computer had issues on which I spent hours and hours of time trying to fix before I gave up and told them to call Geek Squad. And the softball team is going to Nationals in Omaha this week. (Leaving tomorrow, actually.) An unplanned trip like a national tournament is kind of an expense. So we did fundraising. I ran the all-you-can-eat pizza fundraiser and we did pretty good in the area of profits. And overall, we raised about $2500 between fundraising and donations to make the trip and spend half a week in Omaha as a “last hurrah” for our softball girls because this is it. The team disbands after this. This will be the last time I ever get to see my girl play organized softball. So we’re going out with a bang.

Boring, huh? So the shoplifting story is all I’ve got. You know, every once in a while how you have one of those “weird thing that happened to me today” kind of stories to tell? This is mine.

I was at Target last night with Mark picking up a few things. Before we checked out, I saw a tote bag on clearance. I’ve been needing a new tote bag to carry back and forth to work with my lunch and books and various other necessary stuff. This particular tote bag looked appealing and it was crazy cheap. I didn’t give it much thought and tossed it in the cart.

At the checkout, we got the new guy. I knew he was the new guy because his employee badge said something to the effect of “new guy” only in more professional words. And he was a talker! He wanted to know how we felt about the hundred degree weather and 90% humidity. I said at least it wasn’t 20 below with snow on the ground. This reminded him of the time he was working at Little Caesar’s Pizza during a blizzard and how he lived about 15 minutes away from his job, but that it took his room-mate three and a half hours to come pick him up when he was done with his shift (because he didn’t have a vehicle of his own at the time.) So basically, he told us he wasn’t complaining about the heat.

He was a funny guy. His Target employee khakis were about six sizes too big for him – and I am NOT kidding! Six sizes! And he had missed a belt loop and I was fascinated by the fact that those pants managed to stay up while at the same time I was listening to his very animated story. He was a total goof ball, but he had personality and I liked him.

Upon arriving home, I noticed that he had not removed the paper stuffing from the tote bag I’d just bought. I joked to Mark that I could have stuffed other merchandise in that bag and nobody would have been any the wiser. I had other errands to run, so I left my Target purchases on the living room floor for the time being.

Upon my return home again, I noticed my new tote bag and decided I’d better pull out the paper stuffing so I could put my work things in it. I unzipped the bag and found…

MINI SKIRTS!

Two of them! And some paper stuffing. But more importantly, MINI SKIRTS! Mini skirts that I had definitely not chosen for myself. And they were ugly skirts at that.

I gasped and pulled them out of the bag, then brought them to Mark.

“I shoplifted,” I announced with my hand covering my mouth and eyes wide open.

“What the heck…?” He didn’t finish his sentence.

“Remember when I said the kid at Target didn’t pull the stuffing from my bag? Well, if he had, he would have found these mini skirts and I would have been arrested for shoplifting!”

“Do you want me to bring those back tomorrow,” he asked? (Clearly he did not recognize the magnitude of the situation and had no concern for my potential criminal record.)

“Yes please,” I said. “Bring them back. And don’t tell on the kid.”

So he brought them back to Target and explained to the manager what had happened. The manager wanted to know who had checked us out, but Mark said he didn’t want to try to identify the kid. After all, we don’t want to send him back to Little Caesar’s where there are blizzards.

And all’s well that ends well.

Anyway, next week I hope to be back to blogging with my usual schedule of semi-regular updates and getting reconnected in the blog community. I really hate being disconnected.

In the meantime, please remember to check your bags before you purchase them, lest they contain stolen goods and you become a perp and get tossed in the clink. Something like that could really put a damper on your day.

YOU. ARE. WELCOME. :-)

The Love of the Game

I’ve been busy taking pictures of Kacey’s softball team in action. This is nothing out of the ordinary for me, but recently, I’ve stepped up my efforts. The coach asked me to take pictures. He wants close-ups and action shots; several of each player. His plan is to make a photo-collage poster; his end-of-the-season gift to each girl. Since the team will disband at the end of this season, his hope is that the poster will provide happy memories for the girls long after they’re done playing ball together.

Today was a hot one with temperatures reaching 93 degrees. The girls played in the Tri-County tournament and I was all over the place with my camera and managed to get anywhere from six to twelve good shots of each girl. I’m not going to post all the photos here today because the photo collage is supposed to be a surprise for the girls. If I post them here now, it won’t be much of a surprise for Kacey so I’ll just post one. It’s a shot I took of the coach’s daughter as she was on deck and preparing for her turn at bat. She had no idea I was shooting her at that moment. I love the look on her face. It’s the same look you can see on any of the girls faces at any given time. It’s a look that tells you how much they love playing the game.

Girls Day

I slept forever last night. Today was the first day in ages that I didn’t have to be somewhere or do something and I took advantage. I let myself stay in bed after waking up at six o’clock and even fell back asleep, soundly, for a couple more hours.

All of the boys were gone today. Mark and Jake went to work. Brad left last night to spend the weekend fishing with a buddy. So I let myself enjoy a lazy morning until Kacey woke up. I cleaned the kitchen while she had her breakfast and told me stories and made me laugh. We listened to music and sang along and talked about what things she needs for her dorm room this fall – a small television, an area rug, a laptop, and a fish. I disagreed that a fish was a collegiate necessity. We talked about softball – how much fun she has with her team mates  and about the upcoming national tournament we’ll be attending in Omaha in a couple of weeks. We talked about Connor. His birthday is next weekend and she wants to get him something special. I really like him. I told her so.

Throughout the morning, her cell phone buzzed with text messages from friends, as it usually does. I found myself hoping that there were no plans being made that would take her away from me for the day. Luck was on my side.

She suggested we go shopping and I think I surprised her when I dropped everything and said, “Let’s go to Gordmans.” (We love Gordman’s!)

We spent a good hour wandering around the store, looking at clothes, smelling perfumes, trying things on. We bought her some jeans and some crazy socks that didn’t match each other.

...kind of like these...

We bought me some shorts and tanks and we bought a pair of black basketball shorts for Jake to replace the pair that I constantly swear I’m going to throw away because they’re so worn.

We came home and watched a movie together. Well, actually, she watched the movie. I sort of watched the movie and tried to catch up reading blogs. While the movie played, she tried to convince me to make this rum cake I’ve been planning to make.

“I don’t want to make a cake right now,” I said. “I’m like three weeks behind on my blog reading.”

“And whose fault is that,” she asked?

“Softball, out-of-town tournaments, fourth of July weekend, Nana’s computer, work…”

“And how can you make more time for all the things you need to do,” she asked?

“I just need more hours in each day.”

“Well that’s not gonna happen,” she said, “so go make that rum cake.”

She makes me laugh. I didn’t make the rum cake. Her friends came calling and put an end to our time together, which was okay. She needs time with her friends too. And we had a great day together.

Another Great Night at the Bowling Alley

I bowled last night.

I had so much fun!

Neither of these things should come as a surprise to you by now, so I’ll just move on to the details.

First of all, I had a great night! I was bowling way above my average, with a high game of 193. And I beat my very skilled opponent, Jeff in three out of four games. Jeff has a 180 average. I have a very lowly 134 average. He was very gracious about his losses too. A night like that makes it easy to have fun.

Also, I managed to go all four games without hurtling my own self into the lane. So that was good.

But of course, the fun usually has more to do with the people than the game itself, as was the case last night. The guys we bowled against were a fun group and there was lots of banter and good-natured teasing.

At one point last night, Dave was explaining something to me about his last frame… how he threw the ball, and where it went and how it hit the pins. Dave is very analytical about his bowling. He practices and takes notes on what works for him and what doesn’t. He reads articles about bowling online and he knows all of the bowling lingo. As he spoke to me, he said something to the effect of “buffing out on the left side.” I nodded in agreement to show Dave that I understood what he was saying to me.

When Dave walked away to take his next turn, I looked at Dan and said, “You know, sometimes when Dave talks to me about the mechanics of bowling, I just nod and try to look like I know what he’s talking about, even though half the time I have no idea what he is talking about. Like right now, for instance. I’m completely clueless as to what was buffing out on the left side and why.”

I must have the understanding look down to a T, because I seem to get away with this quite easily.

Dan laughed and said, “I know. I do the same thing.”

“I mean, I know I should be more knowledgeable about the game,” I said, “but I’m just not. I just don’t care. I just like to throw the ball and figure out how to get it where I want it to go and improve my scores. And drink beer.”

“I totally agree,” Dan said.

“Remember last week,” I reminded Dan, “when that guy Harry was watching us warm up and he told me I could pick up my spare by throwing across the 10 board?”

“Yeah.”

“He totally believed I understood his advice, I think, but to be honest, I couldn’t tell you where the ten board is. Only I didn’t want to admit it to Harry. I don’t know where the first board is or how many there are altogether,” I told him.

“I know! Me either,” Dan admitted. “I’m like you. I’m just here to have fun.”

Dan is 18 years younger than me, but we get each other. We have the same sense of humor. I went to take my turn, and when I returned, Dan was laughing so hard he had tears in his eyes.

“What’s so funny,” I asked?

“While you were bowling, I was watching you and Dave was talking, only I didn’t realize he was talking to me at first. So then I pretended like I had been paying attention all along and knew what he was talking about. He started looking at me like he expected some kind of answer, so I just said, ‘Um, yeah. Well that was a long time ago.’ And then he just stared at me with that deadpan look of his and said, ‘You weren’t even listening to me, were you?’”

So then Dan and I laughed until we were doubled over and both crying.

Maybe that’s not as funny as I thought it was. Maybe the beer made it funnier. Regardless, there is fun to be had at Preacher Dave’s expense. Mostly, it’s so fun because Dave is always in the dark about how much he makes us laugh. Sometimes he’s just so funny without even knowing it. Dan, in an out-of-the-blue kind of way, informed us that his wife had just gone to one of those passion parties and he was anxiously awaiting for her purchases to be delivered.

“What’s a passion party?” Dave asked with a completely straight face.

Dan snorted.

Dave looked at me.

I looked at Dan, then back at Dave whose face still didn’t register any sort of understanding.

“It’s a… PASSION party,” I said slowly. “You know, one of those home parties where you invite your friends over and the demonstrator shows the product line? A PASSION party? Passion,” I said with finality.

I waited for the word “passion” to sink in to Dave’s brain and hoped it might register what kind of products might be sold at these parties.

Dave stared at me with a blank look in his eyes.

“Oh for god’s sake, Dave,” I said. “They sell sex toys at these things.”

Dave’s eyes lit up with excitement. “They have home parties for that now? How do I get invited to one?”

Sometimes you might never guess that Preacher Dave is an architecural engineer with lots of smarts and stuff.

Dan and I could not answer as we were doubled over in laughter again.

Somehow I think the bowling would not be nearly as fun if I didn’t have Preacher Dave and Dan for my bowling partners.

 

Jake has a girlfriend

Since he is 20 years old, this may not seem news-worthy. Have I ever mentioned how extremely shy my middle child is? This is news-worthy. Of course, the fact that I’m publishing this information in this blog-like manner could be quite embarrassing for Jake. Since he doesn’t read my blog, we don’t have to worry about that.

Jake has a girlfriend!

Not surprisingly, this information did not come to me by way of Jake himself. That would be too easy. No, Jake doesn’t talk about stuff with me. Or any of us, for that matter, unless it is to question the whereabouts of the t.v. remote control or anything  potato-chippy in nature. And he rarely brings his friends home. He goes to their homes. That probably works out for the best since my home is generally overrun with Kacey’s friends. Anyway, the point is, Jake and his life are pretty much a mystery to me.

Yep. Jake is my quiet kid and I constantly find myself wondering what is going on inside his head.

So how did I come by this precious piece of girlfriend information? Let me just say that it is very useful to have a daughter who can’t help but tell me things. Having a daughter who is not FaceBook friends with her brother, but who shares common FaceBook friends with her brother is highly helpful. Having a daughter who was hanging out with one of Jake’s FaceBook friends and couldn’t wait to dish the goods played a big part in the obtaining of the new girlfriend information.

I was simply minding my own business last night when Kacey sent me a text message.

Jake has a girlfriend. It’s FaceBook official.

My completely loving and motherly response was, “No way!!! Who?”

The few known details were exchanged, at which point I advised Kacey that I was going to creep on FaceBook and see if I could see her picture.

I creeped on FaceBook. This is perfectly acceptable mom behavior. If it weren’t, FaceBook wouldn’t exist. Right?

She’s a cute girl. I’m happy for him. I don’t always feel like Jake has enough feel-good things happening in his life. This is good.

Of course, you should not let the fact that I have a soft spot for Jake lead you to believe that I would handle this situation delicately. When Brad came home, I immediately shared the news with him.

“Jake has a girlfriend!”

“No way” he said. “Is her name Melissa? He was showing me how his phone broke the other day and I saw that he got a text from Melissa.”

So when Jake came home from work yesterday evening, I nonchalantly called him downstairs where Brad and I were sitting. I asked normal mom questions.

“How was work? Was it a slow night? Are you going anywhere tonight?”

All was going well and Jake didn’t suspect a thing until 3.2 seconds had passed in which Jake had not even a chance to answer any of my questions when Brad turned to me and very dramatically pleaded, “Mom! I can’t take it anymore! … Jake? Do you have a girlfriend?”

Jake blinked at me, speechless.

“Is her name Melissa?” I asked.

More blinking.

“How do YOU GUYS know?” he demanded.

“If you don’t want us to know, you shouldn’t put your relationship status on FaceBook,” I said.

“You’re not my FaceBook friends.”

“True,” I said. “However, we have our sources.”

“No you don’t.”

“Yes we do. Kyle told Kacey and Kacey told me and I told Brad. When do we get to meet her?”

“Mom, we’ve been together for like five days.”

“So, not tonight then?”

“No. Not tonight.”

The whole conversation was all painfully uncomfortable for Jake. My other two kids bring their significant others around without a second thought. One of them is so comfortable that I had to issue a no-spooning-while-watching-television-at-the-cabin-where-grandpa-will-see-you-and-highly-disapprove-and-probably-yell-at-you warning. Jake didn’t even want us to know he is interested in a girl!

Geez, he acts like he has reason to be embarrassed or something! I can’t imagine why…

We Interrupt this Summer…

…for a much-needed blog update!

Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve written anything, as I have been reminded several times recently. (Thanks, Blog Buddies for worrying about me.)

If I’ve been too busy to write, it’s only because I’ve been trying to soak up every moment that I can this summer with the ones I love. It seems like the words “empty nest” appear in my thoughts on at least a daily basis. I think them and  I find myself saying them, all the time. I’m probably driving others nuts with my obsession about it. It’s no secret that the thought of an empty nest is nothing I look forward to with any sort of enthusiasm. In fact, in my entire parenting career, I’ve never faced a phase in life with such reluctance.

So if I’ve neglected my blog recently, please forgive me. It has taken a back seat to what is likely the last summer when all of my kids are home, under the same roof with me.

By the end of this summer, my baby girl will be moving away to college. Granted, Kacey won’t be too far away. Her school is just over an hour away. But anywhere she is that I can’t see her smiling face on a daily basis is too far for my liking.

By the end of this summer, my oldest will be moving back to school, with plans to stay until he graduates. That means he plans to take classes straight through next summer with the hopes of graduating by the end of next year. And I don’t hold out much hope that Brad will return home after that. He’s pretty serious with his girlfriend and it’s fairly obvious they’ll be forging a life together as soon as he gets out of school.

Thankfully, I have a middle child with no immediate plans to take leave of the nest. So far, Jake is content to keep living at home and that’s just fine with me. Even though he drives me nuts at times with his housekeeping habits (or rather, lack thereof) he allows me to keep putting my mom skills to good use.

I used to always say that I was glad I started having kids so young because when they grew up, I’d still be young enough to enjoy life and travel and enjoy my hobbies, etc. Now I look at friends my age whose kids are still years away from leaving the nest and I’m jealous.

This summer, I am trying hard not to freak out over a less than tidy house and dirty laundry growing to mountainous proportions. Instead, I’m turning my back to things that, in the big picture, aren’t so important. There will be plenty of time later for a clean house and an orderly laundry room. I’ve always wished I were more creative in the kitchen, but these days, I’m focusing on being happy that we can share a meal together, even if it is a take-out pizza. There will be time for expanding my culinary skills later. Right now, I’m enjoying the last days of my children’s adolescence, and that’s all that really matters.

So last weekend, I took Kacey and two friends to an out-of-town softball tournament. The weather was miserable – windy, cold and rainy. They won some and they lost some and came home without any medals. But that didn’t matter. On the drive there, listening to the three friends talking, teasing and laughing … pardon me for sounding like such a dork, but… it just filled my heart with joy. I love that my daughter has such true and close friends. It’s obvious how much they truly care about one another. And they are so silly that their laughter is absolutely contagious. I haven’t had such fun in a long time.

Weekends are for tournaments, and weekdays are scheduled with regular season games. Yes, that’s a lot of softball for one small summer, but we signed on for this because she loves it so much and we love to watch her play. So after work, you can find me sitting alongside a ball field, cheering on my girl. Brad seems to have found his sense of brotherly love for his sister and he often joins us at the games. He’s an adult now, though he’ll always be my boy. It’s fun having him around to talk to and seeing how much he’s matured.

When there aren’t games to attend, the house is often filled with the kids’ friends. I try to give them their space, so if the hang-out spot is upstairs, I try to be downstairs or vice versa. They are such good kids. They are fun to have around, and none of them is shy about talking with us. The girls especially love to tease Mark, and though he tends to have a sort of grumpy bear personality at times, he can’t help but crack a smile at their teasing and play along with them.

Of course, the summer hasn’t been all fun and games. Life is just busy. Work has been busy. My parents have needed some help around the house lately. And of course, there is summer bowling league on Wednesdays! Can’t forget that!

The Fourth of July weekend rolled around this year before we knew it. For a rare occasion, Mark’s work schedule left him free to enjoy it, and so a trip to his parents’ cabin was planned. Not surprisingly, my boys had other plans, but Mark and Kacey wanted to spend some time at the lake anyway. Several of Mark’s family members would be there and Kacey wanted Connor to come along. It’s a small cabin with one bathroom and creative sleeping arrangements. There were 13 of us in all for the weekend, and in spite of the fact that I inwardly believed I’d be miserable, we had a great time. I slept. A LOT. And I read. A LOT. And we had a gorgeous day on Sunday and spent it in the water, swimming, water skiing, and tubing. At the end of the day, there was a fireworks show out on the lake, and we took a couple of boats out and watched the fireworks from the water.

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The weekend was really just what I needed, and even though I had a great time, there were several moments I found myself fighting back tears – for all the times we gave up opportunities like this because something else (probably work-related) seemed more important. We can’t get those times back. Now the whole landscape of my life is changing and it feels so bittersweet, even though I keep telling myself it will be just fine.

So if I’m a little more scarce than usual this summer, don’t worry. I’m just busy making sure the precious moments don’t pass me by.