Meanwhile, over here

Geeze, it’s been a while!

Mark and I spent last weekend at the lake cabin of our friends, Paul and Megan, along with a bunch of bowling friends. The weather didn’t quite deliver the sunny, warm, jump-in-the-lake kind of weekend I was hoping for. It was cloudy, cool and spectacularly humid. We spent most of Saturday sitting out on the deck wearing sweatshirts, enjoying cocktails and either participating in or watching the ongoing bean bag tournament. Later in the evening, half the group got cabin fever and headed off to a nearby casino. The other half of us sat out in the screened gazebo, listening to the breeze blowing off the lake through the trees and playing music from our phones through some impressive bluetooth speakers. I got nominated to be deejay when the previous deejay’s battery had drained on her phone. Turns out I have a good collection of music, universally appreciated among drunken bowlers. So if I ever need to make a little money on the side, there’s that.

Last weekend also saw the return of Kacey to college. Now the proud owner of a brand new to her 2004 Impala, she happily made the hour and a half drive back to school all by herself, which made me nervous. Her driving over the past few years has been pretty limited and rarely has she traveled any distance all alone. BUT, having recently given up my habit of obsessive worrying, I had to keep reminding myself not to, and to have faith that she would be safe. And she was. Arrived all in one piece and everything. Which I knew the moment she arrived since I made her promise to call me the moment she arrived. Before even getting out of the car. She’s a good kid. She complied with my motherly demands, even if they were a bit demanding.

Coming home after the weekend of fun was a little more disappointing than a normal coming home after a weekend of fun. My baby girl wasn’t here to come home to and I missed her already. She just brings light and life into the house. For the first few mornings this week, Lucy poked her head into Kacey’s now uninhabited bedroom. She’d grown used to the morning routine of jumping up on the bed and then once her girl was coerced out of bed, getting a good cuddling on the living room floor. The quiet takes some getting used to, but I have to say I don’t miss the long strands of her hair that seemed to eternally inhabit the bathroom floor!

So for excitement this week, I got five stitches removed from my head. I wish I had a super-impressive story to go along with that statement, but I don’t. Cyst removal. And can I just say that when sliced open, the head bleeds a lot!

OH! And I won tickets to the Renaissance Festival at work this week! Four of them! A coworker offered them up through an email contest he devised. He invited us to reply with a number guess between 1 and 500. The guesser of the number closest to the one that had been predetermined would win. The number 333 appeared in my head and without skipping a beat, I sent my reply. AND I WON! I haven’t been to the Renaissance Festival in about twenty years, but I remember it being a really unique and fun experience. I can’t wait to go again!

Tomorrow I’m working half a day and then joining Mark in an annual celebration of the wind-down of summer. If anyone’s looking for us, you can find us at the Minnesota State Fair where we’ll be eating ridiculous quantities of foods on a stick and doing vast amounts of people-watching. I’ll try to report back with pictures, if not of the people, for sure of the food!

The First Day of School Club

All over FaceB00k, people I know are posting First Day of School pictures. I see cute kids with clean, bright, new shoes and colorful backpacks. I see smiling faces full of the hope and promise of a brand new school year.

We’re done with those days here. And I totally don’t miss shopping for x number of notebooks and specifically colored folders. I don’t miss searching for washable markers and the box of 48 crayons, (not the box of 64!) I’m glad I no longer have to buy anymore of those hundred-some dollar graphing calculators or the required number of boxes of tissues per kid.

But seeing all those pictures on FaceB00k…

Kyle’s first day of Kindergarten

Cali’s first day of middle school

Logan’s last first day as an elementary school student

Well, it all just made me kind of miss the days of sending my kiddos off to school and knowing they’d be back home at the end of the day to have dinner with the family and fall asleep later on in their bedrooms just down the hall.

Even when I went back to work and had to leave the house before they did, Mark and I somehow managed to take a first day of school picture of each of them on every one of their first days of school.

Hovering around on FaceB00k today, I began to feel a little left out.

I texted my “baby” girl, and said, “Everything on FaceB00k is fist day of school pictures. I feel left out.”

Within minutes, she answered to my need. My “baby” girl, a third-year college student living on her own in an apartment just off her college campus, sent me that annual photo I’d been missing so much.

Kacey 7th day of school

It was actually her seventh day of school picture, but I applaud her for her efforts and the way she accessorized to make it look as if she really was heading off to a day of school, even though I knew darn well she had pretty much put her day of school behind her by the time the picture was taken. But I was able to join the club on FaceB00k and show off at least one of my kids.

Is it any wonder I love this girl so much?

Three Friends and Their First Apartment

It’s hard to believe the summer is winding down already. It always goes by too fast, but I think it seemed especially short this year due to the snow that was still falling in May!

It feels like Kacey just came home from her second year of college, but already yesterday we were moving her into the apartment she’ll call home during her junior year. Even before she moved out of her dorm last spring, she was making apartment plans with her roommates. For the past several months, they’ve discussed furniture, kitchen supplies, who would get which room and how they would decorate. All summer long at our house, various items have been added to the stockpile of apartment furnishings – my old set of dishes, coordinating bathroom accessories, bedding and wall art. In stark contrast, Connor and friends moved into an old house just off campus without bothering to first figure out whether their queen sized box springs would fit up the staircase. (They wouldn’t.)

Kacey’s roommates this year include her longtime best friends, Andrea and Haley. It makes me happy that these girls have stuck together through thick and thin. So often, I hear that high school friendships don’t last and it’s the college bonds that tend to stick. Kacey has made new friends in college too. Good ones. But she and Andrea have been pals since Kindergarten. She met Haley in their middle school years when they played on the same softball team. I think it’s a testament to the strength of their friendships that they are navigating their college years together. I guess they took their old Girl Scout song to heart.

Make new friends,

But keep the old.

One is silver

And the other, gold.

Kacey and I met up with the other girls and their parents yesterday morning and began to make the apartment homey. Thankfully, Mark and Connor had hauled the bed and desk down earlier in the week, since Mark’s work schedule would keep him from joining us on move-in day. All Kacey and I had to do was assemble the bed frame, box spring and mattress and the heavy work was done. I then helped her hang and organize her clothing and arrange the bedroom just so.

And she was thrilled with her bedding! Don’t ask me about the bedding! Okay, ask me! …Kacey found and fell in love with her new bedding set earlier this summer, but didn’t open up the package to really check it out until several weeks later when we realized that the comforter was really thin and cheap. The receipt was long gone and the store’s return policy would only give us store credit for 15% less than the current sale price of the set. Since she really loved the pattern, I decided to get creative. We went to Ikea and purchased a down-alternative comforter. Then I took the original comforter and opened up the seam and ripped out the cheap, thin filling. I stitched up the seam again leaving an opening big enough to insert and remove the white comforter as needed. The cheap comforter has been turned into a nice, warm one and it didn’t cost much to improve it.

apartment 1

Coordinating wall decor

Coordinating wall decor

We all took a break for lunch. Moving in is hard work and everyone was famished, so we went to Jake’s Pizza for a little sustenance and down-time. The chicken alfredo pizza was delicious!

Photo courtesy of Andrea's dad, Dave!

Photo courtesy of Andrea’s dad, Dave!

After lunch, Andrea’s parents, Shelly and Dave had to head back home to take care of their new puppy. Haley’s mom, Sheila and sister, Hannah were heading home too. Pictures were taken to commemorate the momentous occasion.

apartment 3

Andi, Haley and Kacey – friends forever!

Kace and me

Kace and me

While the other parents headed home, Kacey and I made a quick trip for a few groceries and after hauling them into the apartment, it was time for me to say goodbye. I was proud of myself for not crying. After all, I’m really going to miss having that kid around every day. I love coming home to hear stories about her day and the way she comes to me for advice or just makes me laugh. While I was in Bayfield, I bought her a little tea light holder embossed with wording that says she’s not only my daughter, but my friend. In return, she made me a photo collage with pictures of the two of us and words that state, A mother is a daughter’s best friend. In our case, it’s true. And that’s why I’ll miss her so much. And that’s also why I would never deny her this experience. She’s grown up to be such a good person and her zest for life and learning will only help her continue to grow.

 

A Weekend with the Family

One nice thing about the kids growing up is that they’ve realized they actually like each other. Kacey had plans to come home from school on Friday for the weekend. The school year will be done in only one more week, but Connor had a job interview on Friday and they both decided to use the trip home to move as much stuff out of their dorms as possible before the semester is officially over. Before they came home, Kacey texted me to make sure this was the same weekend that Brad and Heather were coming home for a visit. I confirmed that it was. I like that it is important to her that her visits are timed to coincide with Brad’s.  There were a lot of years when I wondered if my kids would ever get along.

I took the day off from work on Friday. I wanted to get the house cleaned up, do the grocery shopping, and have a nice dinner waiting on all the kids when they arrived home. I thought I might sleep in a little bit on Friday morning but no such luck. My body has apparently developed an internal clock that awakens me early even when I don’t have to be up.

018Oh well. Figured I might as well get started on the day’s chores as long as I was up. And the weather made it easy for me to be stuck inside being all domestic and such. And the day was not without excitement. The new street light was installed across the street in Neighbor Bob’s yard. Now Mark can stop leaving our house lights on all night long in an attempt to compensate for the lack of municipal lighting that resulted from the demise of the previous street light. (Boy, the things you miss being stuck in an office all day!)

By late afternoon, the house was clean and the kitchen was well-stocked with food that would appeal to hungry young people. I had a big batch of chicken chow mein cooking when they all arrived home right around dinner time. And except for Jake, who fell asleep after work due to still making the adjustment from night owl to early bird, we all enjoyed a nice meal together at the kitchen table.

Later on, we decided to watch a movie together in the living room. Long before it was over, Brad, Heather and I had fallen asleep and only woke up long enough to go to bed for the night. We all start our days before the sun rises. There comes a point in the evening where, if I’ve stopped moving, I’m probably falling asleep. Apparently the same holds true for Brad and Heather. Mark had a good laugh at our expense. Easy for him to laugh! He doesn’t get up early unless absolutely necessary!

The weather changed over from snow to freezing rain on Friday and then to just regular old rain, gray skies and a chill on Saturday. I made pancakes for breakfast and tried mine Heather’s way – with peanut butter and maple syrup. They were delicious! The weather made us people feel lazy, but not the dogs. Lucy and Dacotah raced and chased and played tug-o-war in the back yard with the doggie frisbee until they were completely wiped out.

On Saturday night, Mark and I had our bowling banquet for our Saturday league. The kids were probably getting sick of hanging out with us old people anyway, so it was good that we got away for a while. And considering that I felt like my game had really suffered in the second half of the season, I was surprised to learn that I’d earned some awards! I was recognized for achieving:

  • a 225 game
  • a 500 series
  • 75 pins over average
  • the league high women’s average of 153
  • the women’s high game of 247

All in all, it was a fun night and we enjoyed good food and good company. Most of our bowling friends were going to continue celebrating after the banquet ended, but we called it an early night so we could get back home to spend more time with the kids. They had a little celebration of their own while we were gone. They’d found some good steaks in our freezer and cooked them on the grill. They added some baked potatoes and veggies and enjoyed a nice dinner themselves.

Sunday morning was lazy. Brad, Heather and I were up early (as usual.) The dogs know which people to wake up when it’s time to start their day. We sat in the living room watching t.v., sipping coffee and showering the dogs with attention. Before long, it was noon and time for Brad and Heather to head back to Fargo. We said our goodbyes just as the sun was coming out of hiding and the air was beginning to warm.

Kacey would be home a while longer. She helped us clean up the gardens in the back yard and install some fencing around them to keep Lucy out – because she refuses to believe that the gardens are not a part of her domain! It had warmed up so much since Friday’s snow that we were out in t-shirts and Kacey and I had bare feet! Our next door neighbors were outside too, enjoying the sun and doing some gardening in their own yard. Their new family member, Gracie was outside and Lucy was anxious to get to know her. Gracie was a little shy though.

Gracie 2While we got our gardens all neat and tidy, Lucy chased up and down the fence trying to get Gracie’s attention. Gracie began to warm up and I’m sure they’ll be great friends soon enough!

We had an early dinner and Kacey’s ride came to pick her up. We hugged goodbye and the house got quiet again. Brad and Heather plan to visit again in a month. Kacey will be home for the summer by the end of the week. Lucy was sad to see them go, but I think the break will do her good. Clearly she wore herself out!

001b

 

Feels Like Spring Break

Lucy Sunglasses

Lucy is so happy to have Kacey home, she even puts up with being forced to wear sun glasses!

It’s break time for the college kids and Kacey is home for the coming week. I’m happy. I like having her home and not just because she bakes goodies and thinks to empty the dishwasher when it’s full. She brings sunshine into the house. She is so immersed in her life right now, growing, learning, exploring her world and learning who she is. And she talks to me about it. I never grow tired of hearing her stories. A whole Saturday morning can pass by before I know it because we are so busy talking.

I know I’m a lucky mom to have a daughter who is willing to be so close with me. And with the boys being so grown up; one living on his own in another state, and another who still lives at home but is rarely around, Kacey’s visits home from school feel like a breath of fresh air.

With Kacey home, we’ve had lots of visitors. Connor, of course, is here a lot. And their friends come by to hang out often. They’re good kids. Polite, energetic, and all with a good sense of humor. They’re fun to have around. Even Jake stuck around the house for a while yesterday to enjoy the little “party” that was going on in our living room.

The weekend was a busy one and it seemed to fly by. So I’m glad that Connor suggested we go bowling this afternoon. Mark and I agreed to take him and Kacey to the bowling alley. When we first arrived, the lanes were all full but the attendant at the desk assured us it wouldn’t be long before some of the guests would be finished and there would be lanes available for us. We decided to wait in the bar and ordered burgers for our dinner. As the four of us sat around a small table enjoying our food, I thought what lucky parents we are that our daughter’s boyfriend asks us to hang out with them! Connor and Kacey sat and talked with us about school, their friends, plans for next year and living off campus. They talked so much that we had to wait for Kacey to finish her meal before we could go bowl. She laughed and joked, “Sorry. I talk too much!”

We had a great time bowling. Connor has really figured out the game and threw more strikes than the rest of us combined. Mark has begun to take his game a bit too seriously and kept getting mad at himself for not throwing perfectly every frame. But Kacey, Connor and I kept cheering one another on, and began to make a silly noise – WOOP! WOOP! WOOP! – every time someone bowled a strike or picked up a spare. I’m sure Mark consider it embarrassing, but we didn’t care. After all, we were in the bowling alley. Very little is considered strange in the bowling alley. And if you’re not having fun… well, you’ll just end up getting mad at yourself for not bowling like a pro! We bowled three games before calling it a night and heading home. It was fun and a great way to end the weekend.

Every time Kacey is home from school, I find myself wondering how long before she stops coming home so often. I wonder, as she continues to become the adult version of herself, how many more times I’ll enjoy the luxury of a lazy Saturday morning with her, eating big, hot breakfasts at the table and talking so easily about everything and anything. How long before she won’t be willing or able to spend a Sunday afternoon running errands and shopping with me? While I hope and pray for her to have the life of her own that she dreams of, I don’t want it to come too soon. So I treasure these times while they’re still here.

Go Jump in a (Frozen) Lake!

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.

Polar PlungeTheir 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

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.

Life is Good – 2/2/2013

Life is GoodIt’s that time of year that I knew would inevitably come, when winter feels as if it’s been here long enough already and there’s no end in sight. This kind of winter is what I know, gray days and bone chilling cold at times. It’s not the season itself that really bothers me so much. It’s what I let it do to me. When I can’t seem to stay warm, I slow down. I stay inside, doing still and quiet things, like reading books or watching movies. My motivation  to get these muscles moving fades away. I can’t seem to get enough sleep.

These aren’t bad things, when I allow them in moderation. And lucky for me, I always seem to recognize when enough is enough. And this has been that week.

I’ve been guiltily joking about falling off the exercise bandwagon lately. Sure, there were contributing factors in the past couple of months – varying illnesses and a back strain that left a weeks-long ache in my hamstring muscle. But those things have long subsided. I said I couldn’t run outside. It was either too cold, too icy or too snowy. And as for the treadmill in the nice warm gym, it was getting boring. And the gym was packed with new bodies anyway. I felt crowded by all of those enthusiastic exercisers hell-bent on honoring their new year’s resolutions. And each day that’s gone by without any attempt by me to keep my body strong has gradually added to my pile of guilt. The guilt became too much this week, but I knew I needed something new, something to make me enthusiastic again.

I’m exploring the world of yoga! Thank you, Cable T.V. for your on-demand fitness programs that are tailored for everyone from beginner to advanced. I am once again starting the day in a healthy way. And don’t worry. I’m not giving up running – just taking a little break.

The good mojo seems to have worked its way into my work life this week too. I’ve found myself steadily busy and productive, just the way I like it. There’s been no word from the CEO about the headline contest, but he did send me another assignment yesterday. Seems he wanted a press release for a new product that’s up and coming. He gathered all of his thoughts and ideas on the subject and spewed them into an email which he then sent to me. He asked me to give it a good work over and “tighten it up” and I found myself with company approved time to just sit and write.

Brad Diploma 2Things are all good with the family. Our winter laziness has at least inspired Mark and me to do a good amount of home cooking, which feeds right into my ongoing goal to eat better.

Brad received his college diploma this week and sent me a text message to let me know. “Turns out I graduated after all,” he said. The day of graduation, he was joking that he might be cutting it close and wouldn’t know for sure until days or weeks after the graduation ceremony. I never doubted it though, and I told him so.

Kacey texted me several times this week from school. Once was to let me know that two of her friends had mentioned they were craving some soup that I’ve made on several occasions. It’s nice to know that my cooking skills are adequate enough to generate requests for a repeat performance.

Kacey also texted me to let me know she and her friends have signed up to do the Polar Bear Plunge – a fundraiser to support Special Olympics Minnesota athletes. Kacey and her team will be gathering pledges and in order to collect on them, they’ll be taking a plunge into Lake Calhoun on March 2nd – which means they’ll be taking a plunge into a hole cut into the ice and dipping into the frigid water! I think they are brave, and I am proud!

And I actually saw Jake this week and spent time with him for about an hour, while he was wide awake and in good spirits. He’s been working a lot, so time with him is often hard to come by.

And this morning, after a long, dreary, cold week… it is still cold, one degree outside as I write this. It was snowing as I left work yesterday afternoon, big, fluffy, lazy drifting flakes. The snow continued into the evening and left the landscape clean and fresh. It’s the weekend and the sun is shining.

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Temperatures are predicted to rise up into the teens today. It’s better than single digits. I’ll take it. Life is good!