Muddy Memorial Day Weekend at the Cabin

The weather forecast showed a significant chance of rain. We tossed around the idea of staying home, but in the end we chose to go regardless. We don’t go to Mark’s parents’ cabin nearly often enough. We need to go more often, not just for R&R but because lake properties require upkeep. Much of the work falls on Mark’s younger brother because he’s able to go more often. We have to pitch in when we’re available. And besides, rain or not, I needed to get away from this house.

Saturday morning arrived with sunshine at home. The forecast for “the cities” was very summer-like and we knew we were heading for less-than-favorable weather conditions for our long holiday weekend. We were packed and we were going. Kacey and Connor were coming with. Mark’s parents were going to be going too, as was his younger brother and family. We hit the road at eight o’clock that morning.

On the road, we saw signs that the summer vacation season had arrived. While we traveled, we were joined by all makes and sizes of campers and SUVs packed full with the fixings for a weekend away.We rode behind trailers hauling boats so big we couldn’t see the vehicles that towed them along the highway. And by the time we got to Hinckley which is still an hour away from the cabin, rain began to fall. Along the way we saw evidence of the rain that had fallen in the past few days. The distance between houses grew longer and my gaze lingered on the long driveways between those homes and the highways. Many of the driveways were under water in places. Ponds stretched well beyond their obvious normal boundaries.

We were the first to arrive. We unpacked our stuff and emptied the contents of the cooler into the refrigerator. We relaxed in the living room and watched a movie while we waited for the others. We had lunch before anyone else showed up. And when they finally arrived, the cabin came to life. The nieces and nephew were excited to see Kacey and Connor. They didn’t care about the rain which continued to fall all day on Saturday. The water was rising to meet the dock that the guys just put in last weekend. Mark and Steve stood on it with hands on hips and debated. The rain let up for a while and soon the two of them and Connor were in the water. Mark and Steve wore chest waders. Connor wore a pair of shorts and braved the not-very-beach-like temperatures. With tools in hand, they raised the dock up another notch on its posts.

Have I mentioned the mud? Oh my, the MUD! The cabin is surrounded by tall, old trees that provide so much cover that the grass only grows sparsely. You can imagine what an abundance of water does to the yard and the long driveway. Three year-old Ryan, running around with his new-found playmates from the cabin next door was soon covered in it.

Saturday night we fell asleep to the sound of rain pouring down on the cabin roof.

The sun came out Sunday around noon and stayed for a good part of the day. The kids fished and played in the mud. The water in the lake rose again. Mark and Steve hauled two-by-fours and tools down to the dock and nailed the dock sections together with the boards to keep the sections from pulling apart under the pressure of such high water. Sunday night we played cards and watched the rain come down again in sheets. We fell asleep again to the patter of raindrops on the roof. They lulled me to sleep when I climbed into bed around midnight and I don’t remember hearing the storm let up before I drifted off. On Monday I awoke to sunshine and a thick layer of fog covering the lake.

It wasn’t quite the weekend I’d wished for. I had hoped there might be a boat ride or a chance to sit on the dock and soak up the sun or even sit on the deck and watch the goings-on out on the lake. I thought I might take Lucy out exploring. The rain and the mud prevented most of those things. But it wasn’t all for naught. The cabin is truly a cabin. It’s not a lake home. It’s a small, old place with a mish-mash of furniture. There isn’t a lot of physical space, but there are places for many to sleep. There’s a big, old table where we all eat together, a hand-me-down from Mark’s great grandparents’ farm. Preparing meals is so much more enjoyable when it’s a team effort, as is the clean-up afterwards. There are old books and toys and games that seem inviting simply because they’re different from what is at home. And there are playing cards. We always play May I. I remember trying to learn this Rummy game over twenty years ago and thinking I’d never keep it all straight. Now I’m a force to be reckoned with and Connor is quickly learning to compete.

At the cabin, I can watch movies without guilt that some other chore should be getting done. I can read to my heart’s content. I can stay up late and I can sleep late. (This is a good thing. Mark’s family members are night owls and late sleepers anyway. Anyone up before eight o’clock best get out the door and down to the dock to catch Sunnies and Perch while waiting for the rest of the family to greet the day.)

We didn’t get to swim or go for long walks. We didn’t get to go for boat rides. But I got to play with the cutest three year-old I know. We took a ride around the lake and looked at docks under water and waved at other weekenders who were doing their best to enjoy the weekend in spite of the weather. We visited the dam to see how high the water was, officially. We walked around a bit and enjoyed the window of sunshine that Sunday brought with it. I got to enjoy family and live simpler for a few days. When we left on Monday morning the sun was shining, but we heard that thunderstorms came around again not long after we pointed the truck back toward home. And it was good to get home to the sunshine and let our feet dry out again.

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The House Where No One Stays

I had a dream last night that someone was hitting golf balls at our house. I kept hearing the thumping sounds and when I looked out the window I could see colored golf balls bouncing off the siding and the roof of the garage. I went outside to see three young boys in the yard next door, practicing their golf swings. I asked them to please stop hitting golf balls at my house. I was afraid they’d break windows. But they just laughed and kept golfing. Their mother came outside and said in a not-very-authoritative voice, “Now, boys…”

I think I know why I had this dream. My friend from down the other end of the neighborhood was walking by earlier this week and stopped to talk. She told us about her crazy next-door neighbor who calls the city to report those who leave their trash barrels out on non-trash days. He calls my friend constantly to complain to her that her dog is barking, even when her dog is in the house and not barking. We live in a neighborhood full of dogs! Dogs bark! What does he expect?

I think I had the dream, not just because my friend told me about her cranky neighbor, but because we are getting new neighbors and I am nervous.

No one stays in the house next to us. It’s a nice enough house with pretty decent yard. But it’s a starter house. It’s not that big and it only has two bedrooms. The kitchen is really small and narrow. You know how everyone likes to hang out in the kitchen when you have company. It’s not fun having a small kitchen.

We’ve been really lucky. We’ve had great neighbors in the house next door. First there was Dan and Julie. Julie left and eventually Dan remarried another Julie. They were great. We became good friends. They started having kids. Their little boy, John was Kacey’s age. Then Julie got pregnant and they decided they needed a bigger house. They didn’t move that far away and we promised to stay in touch. We did for a while, but then our lives got busy and went in different directions and… well, you know.

After Dan and Julie left, Dean and Ellen moved in. They were great and we became good friends! Ellen got pregnant and soon Baby Caitlin joined the family. A few years later, Abby came along. Our kids were always running next door to help Dean with yard work or bake zucchini bread with Ellen. When Caitlin and Abby grew up enough to run between the yards, they would come ring the door bell to ask if Kacey would come out to play with them. Kacey was “too old” for the girls, but she was always willing to make chalk drawings in the driveway with them and eventually she became their favorite babysitter.

A house just three blocks away went up for sale. Dean and Ellen looked at it on a whim and the next thing you know, they were moving out of the house next door. We promised we’d still get together for impromptu summer suppers on the deck but… well, you know. At least we still wave when the other drives by.

After Dean and Ellen left, Kevin and Kelsey moved in. We were getting old. Kevin and Kelsey weren’t too many years older than our oldest child. But they were great and we became good friends. A couple of years after they moved in, Kelsey got pregnant and soon Ethan joined the family. We always seemed to catch up with Kevin and Kelsey as we were all returning home from work for the day. It was always fun to coo and smile at Baby Ethan. He grew up over the winter last year and this spring he was running and talking. On any given day, I could look out my family room window and see Ethan in his toddler crouch in front of my water fountain, washing the landscaping rocks. Lately he’d taken to peeking in the lower level windows to see if I was around and willing to come out so he could “drive” my car or play “dunk” in the driveway with the basketball.

And recently, Kevin and Kelsey decided they needed a bigger house. They put theirs on the market, but didn’t have much luck. We were secretly happy. We didn’t want them to go. For a while it looked like they might just settle in for a while longer, but then an offer came on the house and they accepted. The closing was coming quick and they would be out of the house by the end of May. We were bummed. No more chatting with Kelsey in the front yard after work. No more laughing and chasing Ethan. No more watching Kevin lift Ethan up to the basketball net so he could dunk the ball. No more watching Ethan grow up next door to us.

The closing was today. Kevin, Kelsey and Ethan are officially moved out. We’ve promised to stay in touch…

The new neighbors arrived tonight. They didn’t stay long and all I really saw was their car in the driveway. I don’t know if we’ll be lucky enough to get good neighbors yet again, but I’m hoping. I didn’t see any little boys with golf clubs, so that’s a good sign anyway.

Runner

Early morning sky

I’ve always been an early riser. I especially love when I’m awake early enough to see the sky come to life.

Lately I’ve been going outside a few mornings a week to run. I gave up running over a year ago because I just couldn’t figure out what it was that I was supposed to like about it. It certainly wasn’t the lack of stamina or the side aches. And that runner’s high thing? Never felt it. So I quit. Recently I began feeling that I wanted to give running another try, but I didn’t know if I’d be any more successful this time around than the last time I tried to be a runner. It’s been a couple of weeks now and I’m doing it. I’ve found a route that I like with an even mix of uphill, downhill and level stretches. I’m not fast and I haven’t conquered great distances, but there is no doubt. I am running!

I checked the pedometer after the last run I did and it said I went three and a half miles. I’m happy with that. I haven’t mentioned the running much to anyone, mostly because I was afraid I would only be reminded again that I just couldn’t do it. But I talk to Joe at work about it. Joe finished the Twin Cities Marathon last year and he inspires me. Joe says he runs simply because he enjoys the physical act of running. I found that intriguing at first, but am starting to get what he means. Joe is very encouraging too. He suggested I read a book he just read and loved, Born to Run. He said it is sure motivate me to run even more. I’m putting it on my to-read list.

Another coworker who is an avid runner overheard Joe and me talking one day. I was telling him that I’d run enough times and with enough success that I thought it justified buying a new pair of shoes.  Our coworker asked what we were talking about. Joe hitched his thumb toward me and with a big smile on his face, simply said to her, “Runner!”

I was sort of surprised and wanted to argue with him, but I realized that if Joe thought I was a runner, maybe it was true.

So I guess I can admit that I’m a runner. And I look forward to going out while it’s still dark outside, with just a hint of dawn on the horizon. And by the time I get back home, I can take a few minutes to sit out on my deck and enjoy the exhilaration of the run I’ve just finished while watching the sky bring on another day.

The Week in Cell Phone Photos (and some video!)

It’s been an eventful week!

Miss Lucy Pie got herself a new pool. The story behind this is that I wanted to give her a bath one day when she came in with muddy paws. I tried to put her in the bath tub but she was having nothing to do with it. She leaped out of my arms before I could get her in and took off running as far away as she could get. Later, I had the idea that maybe a kiddie pool was the answer. And it was. On Sunday, after this video was taken, Lucy willingly let Kacey give her a bath in the pool.

Mothers Day and Kacey’s birthday fell on the same day. I’ve pretty much fallen off the cooking bandwagon, but wanted to make a birthday dinner that I knew my baby girl would enjoy. And she did!

Cheese-Stuffed Shells

Yum!

My kids gave me the coolest gift for Mothers Day! A customized cell phone cover. I’ve been looking for a new cover, but couldn’t find one I liked. This one? I love!

Lucy has laid claim to the area under the pine tree in the back yard. She loves to hang out there. It seemed a fitting place to put the garden stone my nephew, Matthew made her for Christmas. (He made one of these for all of the family dogs! Isn’t he creative?)

Lucy Pie’s Lounge

Belinda and I ventured out of the office Tuesday at lunch time. The food trucks travel around downtown St. Paul in the summertime and we walked to Mear’s Park to see what was good to eat. We found Lamb Gyro wraps – basically a gyro in a wrap instead of in flat bread. And they were delicious!

The Cave Cafe – I highly recommend!

And after work on Tuesday, B and I enjoyed a little happy hour with some current and former coworkers! FUN!

Mmmmm…. BEER!

File this one under the not really funny, except it is category. My mom broke her toe and ended up having to wear one of these boots. How did she break her toe? She was helping my dad put on the boot that he’s required to wear for his own foot injury. (Dad’s boot is much bigger than this one.)

The fashion at my parents’ house

And the happiest ending possible to my week … Kacey is home from college for the summer!

Now to figure out where to put it all until next fall!

Happy Friday, everyone!

Celebrating Moms and Daughters

On my mom’s side of the family, the “boy” cousins outnumber the “girl” cousins ten to six. Growing up, I didn’t get to know most of my cousins all that well, except for Becky. Becky is a month older than me and she’s the “oops” baby of her family. My mom was herself an “oops” baby, which meant by the time she had  us kids, there was enough of an age gap between us and our cousins that we were never all that close.

One of the benefits of growing older is that such age gaps begin to close. For the past several years, each time there is a family gathering, the bond between the cousins seems to grow stronger. My oldest cousin is fifteen or more years older than me and he’s been a grandpa for several years. “Oops” babies seem to be a trend in this family. My oldest cousin’s youngest child is just a year older than my youngest child. And I love that because having children of similar ages is a one of the things that ties us all closer together.

Lately, the girl cousins have been proposing that we start a tradition of girl-cousin get-togethers. It always seems like a great idea when we’re together, but when we go our separate ways, life gets in the way and these girl-cousin parties never seem to transpire; that is, until this past weekend. Well over a month ago, my cousin, Jean emailed all of us girls and proposed not just a girl-cousin party, but a moms and daughters and daughters-in-law and granddaughters party in honor of Mothers Day. Last Saturday was the day it all came together.

It was a gorgeous, warm day and we all gathered at Jean’s house for brunch. Everyone contributed a salad or dessert. There was much hugging and talking, laughing and reminiscing. There was plenty of picture-taking and story-swapping. My mom was feeling well and it was great to see her together with all three of her sisters, enjoying her family who she doesn’t see often enough. It was one of those beautiful times that reminded me what a  precious gift family can be.

Moms, daughters, granddaughters, great-granddaughters and one great-grandson!

My beautiful mom and her beautiful granddaughters

Mom with all of her daughters, daughters-in-law and granddaughters

My beautiful Kacey and me

Me and my favorite (and only) sister!

Dad’s Surgery

My parents stopped over one evening last week. They paid the appropriate amount of attention to the dog first, then got to the point of the visit. Mom asked if I was busy at work.

“Yes,” I said. “I mean, sometimes. One week I’m overwhelmed and the next, not so much.”

Then it occurred to me to be suspicious. “Why?”

“Dad’s having surgery on Friday.”

I looked at my dad. I looked at his foot. He’s been wearing one of those boots for foot injuries lately. (Long story.)

“Not on his foot,” my mom said. “He’s having a parathyroid gland removed.” (Believe it or not, this is related to the foot. Another long story.)

“So,” my dad said, “we were wondering if you could take us to the hospital on Friday for my surgery.”

Details were then shared. It was actually considered a minor surgery. Shouldn’t take long. I could probably be back to work by lunch time. I would have to reschedule a conference call to make it work, but I said I thought I could manage it. My dad said if I couldn’t get out of work, they could ask my brother. Apparently he only works until 10:30 on Friday mornings.

I promised to do my best to work things out and would call them from work the next day. As they left, I wondered two things. Why did they ask me to drive? My mom can drive and she’s familiar with the hospital. And if my brother only works a few hours on Friday anyway, why hadn’t they asked him? But I didn’t ask. My parents had asked me. They must have had their reasons.

I was able to rearrange my work day. Promised my boss I’d be in as soon as I could get my parents back home again and I’d work half a day. I called my parents to let them know. They were happy.

Friday morning, I picked up my parents and we headed downtown, earlier than I usually leave for work. We checked my dad in at 6:45 a.m. Then the checker-inner person said that my dad should go to pre-op and my mom should accompany him. I should go to the surgical waiting room and expect to see my mom in a half hour or so.

Two hours later, my mom joined me and my dad was taken in for surgery. She said they had to do all kinds of things related to all of his various heart and diabetic and kidney conditions. They had to ask him all kinds of questions before he was finally ready for surgery. We didn’t expect it to be very long, but two more hours passed before the surgeon came out to tell my mom that all went well and my dad was in recovery. He said Dad would be in recovery about an hour. The pager they’d assigned us would flash when my dad was moved to a room and it was okay to go join him.

An hour passed and we were not paged. My mom went to check in with the checker-inner desk people. A man there said they were very busy and that my dad had not yet been moved to a room. He said my dad was in line behind one other person, but neither could be moved until some other people were moved out for surgery. I asked if he thought it might be a half hour? An hour? More? He really had no idea. He promised our pager would flash as soon as we could see my dad. I sensed a case of serious surgical over-booking. I emailed work and told them I might not be in at all.

Two and a half hours passed. We were hungry, but avoided going to the cafeteria because we kept thinking, “Any minute now…” We spent the time talking about this, that and everything.

My mom mentioned that she had planned to just take my dad to the hospital on her own, but that Dad had insisted they should ask one of their kids to accompany them. My dad said he wanted to ask me. My mild annoyance at having to rearrange my work schedule melted when I learned this. I half smiled at the realization that Dad had insisted on me. My mom had been perfectly willing to manage this on her own, but my dad had been telling others that Mom wasn’t comfortable driving downtown and that was why they had asked me to drive them. Mom wasn’t thrilled, but I thought it was kind of cute.

“Dad’s always been a sucker when it comes to you,” Mom said.

“Well, he has to be,” I said. “I gave him a body part.”

“Yes, but even before that,” Mom said.

“Has not!

“Yes he has. You were always his little darling.”

I had trouble swallowing this. I guess when I think back to childhood, I tend to remember the tough times, the teenage years when I couldn’t seem to do anything right and when doing wrong meant suffering through one of Dad’s interminable lectures in the kitchen. And believe me, I got my share of lectures. But once I began to think past those times, I told my mom that I did remember Dad giving “horsey” rides on his leg while he sat at the kitchen table. I remember climbing up on his lap and asking for a sip of his beer. He always said yes. I remember him stretched out on the living room couch in the evenings and letting me snuggle up next to him, resting in the crook of his arm while we watched Adam 12 or Emergency!

Maybe he did have a soft-spot for me. Funny how I never believed it. And about this time, it occurred to me to start worrying. My dad’s minor procedure had now taken us long past the point of when we expected to be going home. Mom checked on him again at 2:30 and they finally told us that Dad was in a room and we could go see him.

He didn’t look like he’d just had a minor procedure. He looked like he was in pain. He looked slightly out of it. And he was very nauseous and vomiting frequently. I was worried, but there was a nice nurse there who helped him get comfortable.

At 3:30, it was clear that my dad was not leaving soon. Having eaten only a half a granola bar and a fun-size candy bar all day, I was hungry. I asked my mom if she wanted something to eat. She admitted she was hungry too, so I went to the cafeteria to get us some sandwiches and chips. We left the room again for a bit while the nurse took care of my dad. We ate at a leisurely pace and talked some more. She said she was glad that Dad had insisted on me taking them to the hospital. It would have been a very long day had she been all alone all that time. We saw Dad’s surgeon leaving for the day and he waved goodbye to us as he headed for the elevators. Finally, after 5:00, my dad was released. And while I was happy we could finally go home, I was nervous. My dad insisted on bringing his barf-bag along for the car ride and I prayed all the way home through rush hour traffic that he wouldn’t have to use it because if anyone barfs in my presence, there’s a pretty good chance I’ll be joining in the festivities.

Luck was on our side. We got home barf-free and my dad was feeling better by the next day. And I never did make it in to work, but it didn’t really matter to me anymore.