Rainfall and Slow Down

I’m making it a long weekend.

All of the kids will be home by tomorrow night and spending the weekend. We’re celebrating birthdays. Brad’s 25th was in March, Jake’s 23rd in April, and Kacey’s 21st  is coming up here in May. Geeze, how can my kids be getting so old when I’m still such a spring chicken?  ;-) Both boys, when asked how and when they wanted to celebrate, seemed embarrassed at the thought we might still celebrate their birthdays! But both were agreeable to celebrating the next time we were all together. So here we are. And while we’re at it, we’ll add Mark’s and my 26th wedding anniversary, which was yesterday, to the reasons to celebrate.

I’m thinking of making it a breakfast party on Saturday morning. I typically eat a responsible breakfast, like oatmeal and a banana, or yogurt and blueberries. But when it’s a kids-at-home weekend, all diets are off. Everyone seems to love when I make a big, old-fashioned breakfast. Waffles, pancakes, eggs, sausage, and/or bacon are all welcomed at these meals. I think I’ll try to find some fun breakfast recipes for Saturday morning’s birthday breakfast.

Oh, and my mom and dad just celebrated fifty years of marriage! We’ll be celebrating that too, on Sunday with a family brunch at a local restaurant.

Besides having a chance to get things done at home, I’m grateful for the break from work. I love my job, but the pace has been frantic lately. I said to one friend/associate that I felt like I hadn’t seen or talked to her in days, even though her desk is only a few yards away from mine. She agreed, saying there has been an uptight atmosphere around the office lately. Good things are happening all around, but there never seems to be enough hours in the day to do all that needs doing. Most recently, my small department was brought in on an important pilot project that has given us the chance to help our parent company. We have a short window of time to do a lot of research, but it’s been fun and has also been extremely educational, giving us some new knowledge that will prove invaluable to the work we do with our own clients. Yesterday, I finished the main part of the work for which I was responsible. It feels good to take a break.

It’s been raining here since last Sunday, almost non-stop, and seriously heavy at times. The lack of sunlight is a little depressing, but at least the grass is greening up and colorful flowers are sure to be popping up around the neighborhood in the very near future. The back yard has become a marsh and I think Lucy is getting tired of squishing around in it, but the birds don’t mind getting wet. Last weekend, I could hear a Finch singing his heart out in the Maple tree out front. He was soon chased off by a pair of House Sparrows who proceeded to destroy a nest that had survived the winter in the tree. Meanies!

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It’s still raining and doesn’t look like it will be quitting before the weekend is over. I guess I don’t mind if it continues while I take a couple of days to prep for all the weekend activity. There’s an old saying, Make hay while the sun shines, but I’d rather play when the sun is around. I do my best work when it’s not.

Life Lessons of the Job Market

A few weeks ago, Jake lost his job at the bowling center. Actually, several of his co workers lost their jobs as well. So did several people who worked at the bowling alley where I bowl, which is owned by the same group. Seems there was a sort of sweep going on. Maybe the owners were trying to cut down their payroll, since it seemed to be the long-time employees who were cut. Jake had worked at his place since it opened more than four years ago.

Jake was completely taken by surprise and hurt by the loss of his job. He has a good work ethic and it seemed to me that he was always at work. If someone called in sick, Jake covered. When there were snowstorms that prevented other employees from getting to work, the one who lives only blocks away – Jake – was called to cover. He worked extended shifts. He worked holidays. He was one who could be counted on to drop everything at a moment’s notice if he was needed at work. His immediate supervisor had been grooming him for a position as manager of the bowling desk. Jake was already running one of the bowling leagues and he wanted to get promoted. To lose his job was a complete shock. I was heartbroken for him.

He was at a loss as to what to do next. Mark and I talked with him. We talked about whether he wanted to give school another shot. He’d been thinking again about an auto mechanics program at a local tech college. We talked with him about his options, maybe applying for school and getting out there and applying for other jobs. Sort of cover all the bases and then decide which way to go. As hurt as I was for my son, in the back of my mind, I knew this was a good learning experience for Jake. He’s not one to leave his comfort zone. As long as things were going along just fine at the bowling center, he would likely never think to consider there might be something better for him out there.

Jake’s shift at the bowling center was typically 5:00 pm to 1:00 am, so I saw little of him. He left for work most evenings just as I was returning home from my job. And because he worked late, he slept late in the day. When he would finally get out of bed, typically after noon, he was always quiet and sullen. His end of any conversation usually consisted of the least number of words he could get by with, or even just a grunt. Whether it was the hours or the atmosphere at work, it was clearly not good for him. And one of the first things I noticed a few days after he’d stopped working there was that Jake was a “real” person again. He actually communicated in whole sentences and even found a sense of humor. I enjoyed this new person he was becoming. And it was nice to have him join us for dinner and see him on weekends again.

Jake began to submit employment applications at various local businesses, and only a week later, a friend of ours called Mark asking if Jake would be interested in a job. Our friend is with an engineering firm that does concrete testing and he had given Brad a summer job for two years when he was home from college. He was offering Jake the same type of work, entry-level with a chance to learn new skills. What amazing timing! What a great opportunity and how fortunate for Jake to have a job come looking for him! When we mentioned it to Jake, I could see how shaky his self-confidence was and he was reluctant to commit. But we talked for a few days and he finally called our friend to find out how to apply for the job. He then filled out an online application and began the wait.

A couple of weeks went by and I began to get nervous. Maybe his application hadn’t passed the first requirements. Jake called to follow up and was told that he was still being considered and should hear from HR soon. And he did.

The interview was scheduled and I talked with Jake about how he wanted to dress. This is a company that does work on construction sites. When Brad worked there, his daily attire consisted of his oldest, most worn-out jeans, grubby t-shirts and sweatshirts and a pair of steel-toed boots. The son of some other friends of ours had also interviewed for a job there recently and had dressed casually. At Jake’s old job, he had worn black dress pants and a uniform shirt. He thought he would just wear his black pants but felt he needed to get a “decent” shirt. I agreed it was a good idea.

I went shopping with Jake and asked him what he liked. He picked out a very nice dress shirt and I suggested he go try it on. On his way to the fitting room, he stopped by a rack of ties and said, “I think I should get a tie too.”

“Okay,” I said. “Pick one.”

He picked up a few and asked which ones I thought matched the best. When he went to try on his new shirt, I browsed through the dress pants, thinking how he could use a new pair anyway. When Jake came out to show me the shirt, (which looked great on him,) I asked if he would try the pants too. He did and came back out looking not like my usual, scruffy 22 year-old son, but a very sharp young man. I was so impressed with him and told him so. And as long as he was going the whole nine yards, I suggested a new pair of shoes to round out the outfit.

Jake was all set for his interview. I was pretty sure he wasn’t expected to dress in business attire, but I wasn’t about to discourage him from making the best impression he possibly could. On the day of the interview, he dressed up and went to meet with our friend, who jokingly asked Jake, “Did your dad make you dress up for this?”

Jake assured him that Mark had nothing to do with it and the clothing was completely his own choice. The interview went well and Jake was offered a job. It is a summer job, yes, but with potential to learn a lot and possibly to stay on if he is needed. Either way, it will be a great opportunity for Jake to break out of his comfort zone and learn to trust that he is capable, intelligent and has strengths to contribute in the work environment.

He has just finished his first week at his new job and seems to be reveling in the new experiences. I like this new person I see in my son. He’s more confident. He’s happier and already more mature than he seemed just a couple of short months ago. He even greeted the day before noon on Saturday, taking advantage of the beautiful weather to go outside and pamper his car.

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Jake spent the remainder of the day helping me do chores and some much-needed spring yard clean-up before he went to hang out with his friends last night. He made a great day even better for me.

It’s hard to remember when in the midst of such disappointments, that it is often the means to a better end. It was difficult to imagine on the day he lost his job, that it would ultimately be the best thing for him. I think he and I both learned from this experience and I hope that it enables him to more easily balance the difficulties that will inevitably face him as he moves forward in life. But for right now, I just want him to have some time to enjoy this time of learning and feeling successful. I am so proud of him!

The Poop Egg

My kids, even though they are grown up, still like to carry on certain family traditions. Maybe it’s because they’re becoming adults. Maybe their sense of nostalgia is beginning to kick in already. Regardless, it does my heart good to see them willingly carry forward the family traditions.

In the weeks preceding Easter, Kacey reminded me several times to pick up extra eggs and a dye kit. She wanted to color Easter eggs with her brothers when everyone was home for the holiday weekend. And in spite of our sadness over the loss of our little Bella, we were doing our best to celebrate Easter. And staying busy helped keep our minds off of our heavy hearts.

Kacey and Connor cleared the table on Saturday afternoon. They spread newspaper and got out the coffee mugs, one for each dye color. Connor put a dye tablet in each and then measured the vinegar and water. When he and Kacey sat down to start working on the eggs, I heard her say, “We need to make sure we get some colorful eggs done before Jake starts mixing up the colors with his poop egg!”

I had forgotten about the poop egg and Kacey’s mention of it made me smile. Every year since the kids were little, Jake has made it his mission to use every single dye color on a single egg. At times, this resulted in drastic and beautiful Easter eggs. Other times? Well… that’s how the name poop egg came to be. This year’s egg was not artistic. It was poopy. But the Easter egg bounty wouldn’t have been the same without it.

Poop Egg

The eggs were finished in plenty of time for Easter, not that anyone ate a single one of them. I don’t care. My big kids coloring Easter eggs at the kitchen table is a happy memory from an otherwise difficult weekend.

We had brunch with my extended family on Easter Sunday. It was a typical, loud and frenzied celebration. When it was over, Brad and Heather went back home, stopping by her parents’ place on the way. Kacey and Connor went to his family’s Easter celebration before they went back to school. Mark went back to bed to get some sleep before working the night shift and Jake disappeared. I put my comfy pants and sweatshirt on and Lucy and I settled comfortably in the living room in front of the t.v. for the remainder of the day.

And that’s when the loss of Bella really hit me. I had myself a good cry for a while. Lucy never left my side. I’d like to think she knew I needed her comfort. And maybe she did. But I knew she was just exhausted as well. She was worn out from a weekend of running and playing with Dacotah.

Lucy Tired

As for the Easter eggs, I used them to make potato salad to have with our dinner tonight. I didn’t use the poop egg, though. Somehow that just seemed wrong.

And as for the poop egg-maker, he’s 22 years old today! Happy Birthday, Jake!

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Well, that was FUN!

The guest bedroom is vacant again and the house is quiet for the first time in four days. Brad and Heather have packed up and headed back home again. A new year has begun and after more than a month of preparations and celebrations, it’s time to start getting back to routine.

It was a full and happy long weekend at our house. My family was a bit scattered over Christmas, but the New Year’s weekend provided the perfect opportunity for all of us to gather together. We celebrated our Christmas on Saturday and it was wonderful. We had nowhere else to go, no other obligations to worry about. We made it all about us. I told the kids I would make whatever they wanted to eat. Turkey dinner? That amazing lasagna we all love? They requested hors d’oeuvres and made it easy on me. Gifts were shared. A particular wish was granted for each. Each of the kids received a Mad Bomber hat. No one requested one, but everyone loved them. They put them on and Lucy barked in confusion at the strange furry things on their heads.

Warm winter wear

Warm winter wear

Happiness and good cheer was abundant!

Brad was happy with his new goose decoys.

Brad was happy with his new goose decoys.

Kacey had a smile even though she wasn't feeling so well.

Kacey had a smile even though she wasn’t feeling so well.

Jake enjoyed a tall glass of chocolate milk.

Jake enjoyed a tall glass of chocolate milk.

I love when all the kids are home. We do things to feed the soul, things that slip by the wayside in the midst of our daily routines. We make big, hot breakfasts and eat together at the table. We lounge around and watch movies and play with the dogs. We talk to each other and remember how good it feels to be together.

I’ve not adjusted easily to the fact that my kids have grown up and are beginning lives of their own. I’ve often missed the days of knowing they were all safe under my roof, of knowing they needed me and that I was there to protect them. But this weekend, a sense of understanding and acceptance came over me. It came with the sweet sound of my boys talking to one another, ribbing each other, with good nature in their voices. At 21 and 23 years old, they are coming to accept one another for both their differences and their similarities. I listened to their conversation from the kitchen, not wanting to interrupt. I waited for something to break down as always seems to happen. I waited for one to move away from the other in frustration, but that moment didn’t come. My boys have grown up and I think I like it.

We took time to sit back and relax, but there was also much to do. Brad made time to get together with a long-time friend whom he hadn’t seen in much too long. I too carved out time to be with my best friend who was in town for a few days. New Years Eve was coming and the party was at our house this year. Kacey was a godsend. Because of my still-aching back, (pinched nerve, I think) and knowing that I get a bit crazy as I prepare to entertain, she made herself available to do whatever I needed her to do. She’s growing up too, and that means I miss her a lot. But I am really proud of the adult she has become.

We had such a good time, and as expected, it all went by too fast. The Christmas tree is still up and I think I’ll leave it until next weekend. It’s so pretty and I’m in no hurry to take it down just yet.

I tend to get the blues after the holidays have passed. My focus before the holidays gets so centered on being with family and the happiness and fun that the holidays bring. It’s hard to go back to the same old same old. And I’ve realized that I feel the worst when I have nothing to work towards and nothing to look forward to. So maybe some resolutions are in order – nothing too rigid – just some things that need continued improvement.

So I’m resolving to get back into a good routine at the gym. I’ve been a slacker of late. I got sick over Thanksgiving weekend and I let it keep me out of the gym for more than a week. That chest cold hung on for weeks and even when I got back to the gym, there were days I just gave in to the urge for an extra hour of rest instead. And then came the back pain and there were days I couldn’t get out of bed without assistance, much less go run on a treadmill. It’s eased up now, and I think getting these muscles back to work will help heal me completely. And once that happens, I want to just push myself harder than before and get into better shape.

Last year I resolved to cook more and eat better. I made some improvement, but I’ve still got a long way to go. As I began to improve my cooking skills I realized that I needed better tools in my kitchen. I’ve added some cookware and better utensils and they deserve to be put to use. So I’m going to work on better meal planning and learning to say no when Mark says, “Should we just order a pizza?”

I don’t want to set unrealistic expectations, so I only have two other resolutions. Read more. Write more. These are two things that bring me serious fulfillment. They deserve more effort.

So while it is hard to say goodbye to my kids as they go back to their lives, I’m not going to dwell on the sadness it brings. I’ll look forward to the next time and while I wait, I’ll give myself things to work toward. But today? I’m dedicating today to some serious lounging!

Lucy Lounging

… and so is Lucy …

 

Happy New Year, all!

Sibling Love

One of the best things about my kids being grown up is that they actually appear to like each other… most of the time.

Brad graduates from college on December 14th. The whole family and Connor have been planning to attend the ceremony and celebrate with Brad. But last night, Kacey had to break the news to Brad that Connor won’t be able to make it after all.

 

I guess they haven’t completely shed their habit of picking at each other! :-)

Just the kind of holiday I was hoping for…

Another Thanksgiving Day has come and gone. We spent the day itself with most of Mark’s family at his sister’s house. Not surprisingly, we ate too much. There were a few highlights to the day. I got to hold and play with the newest member of the family, our great-nephew, Mitch. I enjoyed an apple cider and bourbon drink before dinner and a slice of chocolate pecan pie afterwards. And as the festivities ended, big, sticky, wet snowflakes flurried down from the sky. I still have this sweet picture in my mind of Mitch in his mommy’s arms as she stood on the back porch. He gazed out into the world, watching in wonder as he witnessed his very first snowfall.

Later on back at home, Heather paged through the day’s newspaper and pulled out the sale ads. I heard her teasingly ask Brad if he wanted to go shopping at Target when they opened up at 9:00 pm. Brad’s not interested in shopping any day, much less willing to battle crazed bargain hunters on Thanksgiving night. But after Heather continued to tease him about taking her shopping, I got the sense that she really wanted to go. And when I asked her if she was serious, she admitted that she and her mom and sister always do the crazy Black Friday shopping thing. I felt bad that Heather was not only missing her own family, but sacrificing a family tradition to be with us. I contemplated volunteering for the excursion. There’s a Target store practically out my back door, so I asked if she wanted me with her. She was thrilled!  I’ve never done this kind of shopping before and can I just say? … Holy Schnikeys!  If I ever do that again, I’m wearing combat boots. Some lady rammed me in the heels with her shopping cart. For what, I’m not sure but I hope it was worth it. But Heather got the things she was looking for, so it was worth it in my book. Definitely an adventure!

The rest of the weekend was much more relaxing. I slept in each day. I think the chest cold that set in on Friday morning contributed to that habit. Kacey, Heather and I did a little more shopping. We cooked dinners and ate late and watched movies in the living room to which I fell asleep. On Saturday, we put the Christmas tree up. The kids had such fun decorating it. They’ve each got a big box full of ornaments given to them each year by various relatives. There’s no room on the tree for all of them. With each ornament that was pulled from the boxes, there was a memory to accompany it. They were being silly together and it was so good to listen to their laughter.

My only real goal for the weekend was to get a picture of all of us together. As the kids have grown up, it’s a rare occasion when we’re all together. I told the kids that I didn’t really care how they were dressed as long as they were neat and clean. While we waited for Mark to come home from work on Saturday night, Heather asked for a picture of her, Brad and Dacotah.

Brad, Dacotah and Heather

So then, Connor decided that he should have a similar photo with his dog and girlfriend.

Connor, Bella and Kacey

And then we still had some time to kill, so I made the boys pose with their dogs.

Connor & Bella, Brad & Dacotah, Jake and Lucy

And then we realized that before Mark got home from work, we should probably figure out where we had room to take a picture of seven people in this little house. Kacey thought it might be cool to get one of all of us sitting on the half flight of stairs. It quickly became obvious there was no way seven adults were going to fit in this space. So someone called out, “Roller Coaster!”  And … yeah …

Jake seems to have missed the Roller Coaster memo…

But in the end, we did manage to get a picture of all of us together.

Kacey, Connor, Mark, Jake, me, Brad, Heather

Which was nice, since no one could manage to behave themselves for long.

Oh well! If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!

Oh, yeah! There’s one for the Christmas card!

Obviously, we had fun. It was exactly what I was hoping for this Thanksgiving holiday!

My Boys

My boys have grown up. I write a lot about Kacey here, but lately Brad and Jake haven’t made many appearances. Days often pass when I don’t cross paths with Jake at all. Days, sometimes a week will pass when I don’t hear from Brad. Today I got to see Jake and I got to spend time talking with both of my boys.

Brad is getting ready to finish college in North Dakota. Next month, the whole family is going to attend his graduation. I’m so excited, but Brad acts as if it’s not that big of a deal. It is a big deal! He’ll be the first in our family to earn his college degree! That’s huge! He didn’t even want to “walk” for graduation, but Heather and I insisted he should go to his graduation.

“I guess so,” he finally agreed. “I mean, I’ll only get to do this once.”

Brad called me today to let me know he’d be going hunting this weekend. No matter how big he gets, he still calls me to let me know when he’ll be going away for the weekend. He knows I’m a worry wart and just like to know where he is. You know… Just in case.

Brad loves to hunt. I mean LOVES. I knew from the time he was a toddler that he was going to be an outdoorsman. He has always been fascinated with wildlife and the outdoors. He was casting a fishing pole like a pro by the time he was three years old. He hunts and fishes every chance he gets. Last time he was home he told me he had a great dream about a flock of geese flying over him as he sat watching from a hunting blind.

“You probably think I’m crazy, dreaming about hunting,” he said to me.

“I don’t think you’re crazy,” I said. “I think you just have a passion.”

“Mom, I practically eat, sleep and breathe hunting,” he said. He wasn’t telling me anything I didn’t already know.

We’ve started asking Brad when he thinks he’s going to ask Heather to marry him. We all just love her and want her to be an official member of the family. Brad says we should let him graduate first and get a full-time job before we start putting such pressure on him. I suppose he has a point.

Brad comes home for a long Thanksgiving weekend this month and I can’t wait. We don’t get him for Christmas. It’s Heather’s family’s turn to have them. But we get them back again over New Year’s so it all works out.

Jake works evenings, so even though he still lives at home, sometimes I don’t see much of him. I see evidence of him … his whiskers on the bathroom vanity after a shave, the ever-present cereal bowl in the kitchen sink with a few bits of Apple Jacks still floating there. He often leaves for work just before I get home. And when Jake gets home from work, I’ve usually been sleeping for several hours already.

But this morning, I heard Jake get up and move around. This was strange. Jake doesn’t get up that early even when he’s had a full night’s sleep. I was finishing getting ready for work and went to investigate. I found him wrapped up in his comforter, laying on the love seat in the living room and watching t.v.

“What’s up,” I asked him?

“Grbl mmbl mmm,” he said.

“What,” I asked?

“Grbl mmbl mmm.”

“Sorry, honey, but what?”

“Don’t feel good,” came his muffled reply from inside the comforter-tortilla.

I managed to find his face in a small opening and he did feel warm. It didn’t occur to me that a 21 year-old might not appreciate his mom checking for fever, but he didn’t complain. I suggested he should think about calling in sick to work.

“Can’t,” he mumbled. (He may seem lazy at home, but he’s got a good work ethic when it comes to his job!)

I had to leave for work and I passed out doggy-hugs as I always do and then leaned over to kiss Jake on the head too, as long as he was laying there. Again, he didn’t complain and I got a little case of the warm fuzzies for being allowed to express affection to my “little” boy. I’m sure the dogs were thrilled to have Jake to hang out with while I left for the day. Jake is so good to the dogs. He plays with them and loves them up and they just love him.

As I was leaving work this afternoon, my cell phone rang. It was Jake, calling to confirm what dates he needed to request off work for Brad’s graduation. After confirming the dates, I asked how he felt and he said his body hurt.

“Where are you calling me from,” I asked?

“From work,” he said. So he went after all, just like he said he was going to.

“Well, maybe you should tell your boss you’re probably contagious and see if he’ll let you go home,” I suggested.

“Can’t,” he said.

And I let it go. I felt bad for Jake, but at the same time felt a sense of pride.

I’m so lucky to have such good “boys.”