When I walked through the door on Friday after work, something was different. The dogs didn’t bombard me with their usual woofing welcome and happy dance. And I knew exactly why.
“HEY, TER!” Connor called out to me from behind the snack cupboard door in the kitchen with a voice ten times louder than was necessary. And he knew it. He’s such a goof.
“Hi, Conn,” I laughed as I came up the stairs. In the living room, my daughter sat with her legs crossed in a chair.
“H, Kace,” I smiled at her.
“Hi, Mom,” she returned. “Mom, this is Laura,” she said nodding toward the girl sitting on the love seat. I smiled and said hello to Laura. She was cute and friendly and I was happy to finally meet Kacey’s friend from school. I’ve heard a lot of great things about this girl. The dogs were clearly infatuated with Laura and I saw where all the furry affection was being directed.
I’m usually tired and lazy on Friday evenings after a long week at work, but having my daughter and her friends home gave me a burst of energy. The house felt happy and full. Soon Alex and Heather came through the door to join the party and the dogs were in their glory, thinking all of these visitors had come just to see them.
Their spring break begins in only one week, but the kids had good reason for being home this weekend. They had signed up for the Polar Bear Plunge on Saturday. They raised funds for Special Olympics Minnesota and now it was time to take a dip in frozen Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis. Of course, it’s not quite as simple as all that. A lot of planning went into the team’s costumes. Many teams dress up as movie or cartoon characters or come up with a theme. Kacey’s team decided to be The Patriotic Plungers. They put careful thought into coordinating their costumes. It’s amazing to me what people are willing to wear when jumping into a lake through a hole in the ice.
Connor has been taking the plunge for several years along with his uncle’s team. This year, he talked Kacey and the others into forming a team of their own. I thought we might go watch the big event, but it is a big event attended by hundreds of teams and who knows how many more spectators. Kacey has gone to watch Connor’s plunges in the past and she assured me that it’s a bunch of watching the team wait in line, and then when it’s finally their turn to plunge, it’s all over within minutes. She kept trying to convince me that it wasn’t worth the trip and that I might not even be able to get in position to take pictures.
Turns out her real motive was food. My daughter works hard to eat responsibly while she’s away at college, but when she comes home, she wants comfort food. And so do her friends. Last week in the cafeteria, there were cheese stuffed pasta shells. Each student was only allowed one, and as the friends were eating together, they soon learned that their pasta was a big disappointment.
Connor said to Kacey, “Your mom’s stuffed shells are so much better than this.”
And so Kacey texted me, asking, “When we come home for the weekend, can you make stuffed shells for all of us?”
I’m a sucker and I agreed. Stuffed shells and Italian sausage for five hungry college kids, as well as a husband and twenty-one year old… and some extra to bring to my mom and dad… is a big job. I stayed home to cook while the kids went to jump in a lake on a bright and sunny thirty degree day. I made Kacey promise to make sure someone took pictures of some sort and that they would be shared with me.
I spent the afternoon in the kitchen, cooking pasta, mixing the cheese mixture, stuffing shells and cooking sausage. By the time the kids were done with their plunge, they were starving. Their timing was perfect and they all gathered back at the house just as the pans of cheesy pasta were coming out of the oven. I made a big salad and some garlic bread to go along with it, and they ate until they were stuffed.
I wanted to hear all about the big event of the day, and the girls especially had lots to tell. They said that the shock of the cold water wasn’t nearly as bad as they’d anticipated. There were hot tubs for the participants to warm up in after plunging, though they were so full of people, they didn’t even get in one. Most importantly, they’d had fun, from the planning to the plunge. They were glad they did it.
Connor’s uncle got a great shot of the kids just as they were taking the leap.
Connor, Kacey, Chris, Laura and Alex taking the plunge
It makes me happy that my daughter is able to step out of her comfort zone and try new experiences, especially one that benefits someone other than just herself. Once Connor had her convinced to do it, she poured herself into the project, raising funds and coordinating the team theme. And maybe just as important, she had fun. I’m proud of her. I’m proud of all of them.