Weekend! Come back! I wasn't done yet…

I need more weekend. Mine flew by too quickly. None of the usual weekend chores were tackled. But sometimes a weekend like we had is worth it.

Saturday was consumed by my best friend’s renewal of wedding vows ceremony/going away party. I was enlisted as the official event photographer. Have I mentioned that my best friend is a professional photographer? Yeah. No pressure there. I told her I don’t do people pictures. I do flowers and other such things. Things! Not people. She said not to worry. As long as I could get the poses and such and convince everyone to smile and look at the camera all at the same time, she could fix whatever I mucked up with lighting and such.

As it turned out, I did alright. I took about 300 pictures. (Ah, the joy of digital!) And I got some pretty good ones too. She was happy.

The reception/going-away party was also a big success, if the headache with which I greeted the day yesterday was any indication. I got out of bed around 10 a.m. when Brad called home to wish me a happy Mother’s Day. I felt alright while talking with Brad for about 20 minutes; just a little tired. After I hung up the phone, the “icky” started to set in. I went to find some Tylenol and went back to bed until about noon when I felt significantly better.

It was about that time that my kids greeted me with some beautiful Mothers Day cards and a couple of planters filled with Gerber Daisies. They are gorgeous! I love Gerber Daisies.

From then on, the day was pretty lazy. It was beautiful outside after a windy, cold Saturday. We visited both the moms and then I wrapped up the day by going to Gina’s to transfer pictures from my camera to her computer. We watched a slide show of photos from both the ceremony and the party, which was held in the banquet room at…you guessed it! The bowling alley! Along with all the posed and nicey-nice shots, Kacey managed to take quite a few of us bowling. Yes, someone decided we should bowl. Until two in the morning. Gina was wearing a wedding dress, mind you! I was slightly dressed up as well. That didn’t stop us! Nope. Not at all. I’ll share some of those pictures eventually; just as soon as I have a chance to do some cropping and editing.

Of course, all that sleep I got yesterday morning plus the fact that I was back in bed quite early last night means I was awake well before the alarm clock said I needed to be this morning. And that left me time to actually write this morning! Not a bad way to start the day! I should try this going to bed early stuff more often!

Happy Monday!

Da-Na-Na-Na-Na-NAH! You say it's your BIRTHDAY!

Da-Na-Na-Na-Na-NAH! It’s my birthday too-oo-ooo! Yeah!

Yeah, I’m singing to myself today.

Thirty-Thirteen. That’s how old I am today. Yes, it’s my birthday! And I’ve decided to go back to being in my thirties, so thirty-thirteen it is!  (I stole that refusal-to-age concept from Rock Chef, I think… Rock Chef, wasn’t that you?) Really, though, I’m not embarrassed about my age. I’m happy to keep moving forward and really have no desire to go backwards.

There’s nothing special planned for the day. I’m not into having a huge celebration in my own honor. I’ll be happy just to have dinner at home tonight, AT THE TABLE, with the family. And it would be nice to get a phone call from my son whom I haven’t seen since August. Brad, if you happen to read this, CALL YOUR MOTHER! It’s my birthday and I can be demanding today if I want.

Mark gave me a present when he got home from work this morning, even though I already bought something for myself last week and told him it was his gift to me. Last week’s gift is an external hard-drive for my laptop. Isn’t Mark romantic? :-) I guess he didn’t think that was a very good present, so this morning he presented me with a gift card for Victoria’s Secret (which will be easily spent on some new perfume or other such goodies) and some Godiva Chocolates. YUM!

This morning I had my teeth cleaned. No Cavities! WOOT-WOOT! And no gum disease either. ROCK-ON! And the dentist decided the little bump on my tongue was because I bit it, not because my tongue is getting tongue cancer. (Do I know how to celebrate, or what?) Next, I’m off to volunteer at school for a couple hours, then maybe have lunch with my friend afterwards.  And if I really want to party, I’ll tackle the mountain of laundry and go grocery shopping! WOOT-WOOT!

Da-Na-Na-Na-Na-NAH! We’re gonna have a GOOD TIME…..

He must have a mutated gene

My parents are preparing to make their annual migration to Arizona. Those lucky retirees get to escape Minnesota before Old Man Winter settles in for the next few months. They make their departure on Tuesday.  Dang, I’m going to miss them.

My sister, Cory decided that a going-away party was in order. And so we all gathered at her home last night for the celebration. There was a LOT of food. Too much food. I pigged out on Cory’s homemade guacamole before we even ate dinner! The food was simple but good. Food always tastes better when shared with the people you love, doesn’t it?

My family can be kind of… strange… at times. Really, it’s my brothers, Jim and Craig who are weird. Certainly not Cory or me. (Don’t worry, Cory. You’re dead-on imitation of the Mick Jagger chicken dance, complete with chicken lips isn’t considered weird at all! You just keep stickin’ that butt out and strutting! And everybody LOVES my Chubby imitation!) But it’s this weirdness that can and often does make our family gatherings fun.

During the party, the little kids mainly hung out in the lower level of the house where there were toys and a television. The adults stayed in the upper level, holding polite conversation and/or trying to see who could do the best imitation of Go Go Gophers and Tennessee Tuxedo while Mom rolled her eyes and shook her head with an ever-so-slight hint of a smile on her face.

Product Image Schylling Voice Changer ToyWe were knee-deep in politically incorrect cartoon impressions and reminiscing about the time when we were young and were supposed to be getting ready for church when Mom yelled at Jim and Craig because Craig, dared by Jim, was running around his bedroom naked and wearing nothing but a football helmet.

Suddenly, the youngest of the kids, Josh appeared with what appeared to be a child-sized megaphone. Holding it to his mouth and pointing it dangerously close to Craig’s ear, he spoke into it, but the sound that came out the other end was a far cry from Josh’s voice. He sounded like a miniature Darth Vader. The toy was a voice changer!

Soon, a second voice-changer was produced and for the next hour, we took turns trying to produce the creepiest of voices. The main entertainment was provided by Jim and Craig as they sung old Billy Squier and Queen songs into the voice-changers.  Little Hannah later came and confiscated one of the toys from her dad, Craig and before we knew it, she and Jim were arguing with one another through the voice changers.

But the *highlight of the evening came when Craig felt a bit of flatulence coming on. (Which happens quite frequently. Where there is Craig, there is flatulence.) Everything suddenly seemed to be moving in slow motion as I caught sight of Craig, sitting on the couch, voice changer in hand… my mouth had forgotten how to form words and I couldn’t find my voice to protest as he lifted his butt-cheek and his hand guided the voice changer to… to… you know… yes… there…

All other conversation came to a screeching halt as the sound of the Darth Vader fart filled the room. A collective groan was heard as I fought back the urge to vomit. No one wanted to play with the voice changer anymore, even after an attempt to sanitize it with Clorox wipes. Mom must have been SO proud.

Please… tell me you have weird family stories too!

*”highlight” is to be taken with a grain of salt.

TGI Monday!

I am so glad it’s Monday. Seriously. Did you ever have one of those weekends? I just did.
 
Things started out mellow enough. I got up early on Saturday, showered and took Kacey to school so she could take the bus with her team to a volleyball scrimmage. Then it was back home for me and time to get on top of the weekend cleaning. I had a good start, but got sidelined when Mark called me downstairs to look at the PC. Something funky was going on with it and a virus warning kept popping up and preventing access to the internet. But the warning wasn’t coming from the anti-virus service to which we subscribe, Norton. After running a virus scan through Norton and finding nothing, I tried removing the offending program to no avail. Finally, I made use of Norton’s online chat service to get some help. I spent a couple hours chatting with “Aswathy,” a very polite and diligent technician, getting the infected program removed as well as getting a PC tune-up. And yes, it cost me. I think this is the second time I’ve had to pay a substantial cost beyond my annual subscription fee to have something removed by Norton. Does this sound fishy to anyone else?
 
So only some of the cleaning got done, but I sloughed off the rest in favor of going bowling with Jake. Lord knows I can’t turn down an offer to go bowling anymore. I’m an addict. And Jake and I had a GREAT time in spite of the fact that he kicked my butt. HE should be the one playing on a league! My time there wasn’t in vain though. I got some tips from Mattie, the owner of the bowling alley and hopefully will get my act together in time for this weekend’s tournament.
 
BrianSo, on to Saturday night. There was a get-together at the home of some friends of ours, Joe and Julie. This end-of-the-summer bash featured Joe’s new band, GPU (Ground Power Unit. I guess it’s an aviation term. I have no idea what it means, but it sounds cool, doesn’t it?) Though we’ve known Joe for many years, we never knew he was a drummer. When I asked him why, he said, “Because you’re not really a drummer until you’re in a band and I haven’t done this in twenty years.” Joe said he was excited about the band. He said their lead singer was a guy who auditioned for American Idol, Season 8. Apparently he didn’t go on to earn fortune and fame, but he was pretty good.
 
I was excited to see and hear the band, as well as see Julie, who I don’t see often enough. Guests were asked to bring their own lawn chairs, beverage of choice and a dish to share. And so we did. We carpooled with friends, Bill, Tammy, Paul and Megan. Upon arrival, Tammy produced a bottle of our new favorite drink, UV Blue vodka. I passed on the beer we had brought along in favor of the vodka-lemonade that was offered me. I held the cup while Tammy poured the alcohol. The first time around, I dictated how much vodka she poured and made sure it was a responsible amount. Too bad I didn’t pay such close attention when my drink was refilled by Tammy a while later. By this time, the band was playing, and we were all seated on the front lawn and driveway watching the band perform in the garage.I was enjoying the music. Tammy turned around from her seat in front of me on the front lawn and proceeded to pour vodka and lemonade into my cup. Drink number two was substantially stronger than the first and by the time I finished it, I was feeling no pain.
 
Thankfully, Megan had agreed to be the designated driver because most of the rest of our little group were getting pretty happy too. Another group of guests at one point asked Tammy to take their camera and snap their picture all together. They’re going to be surprised when they look at the picture and see five smiling idiots hamming it up in the background of their photo.
 
More Cowbell

More Cowbell

I know I talk about having a few beers now and then, but I know my limits and rarely exceed them. Saturday night was one of those rare occasions when I exceeded them. I laughed a lot, and danced without a care. So I didn’t do anything too crazy. At least I didn’t get up and start playing the cowbell with the band, like some people I know. I woke up Sunday morning, early, not necessarily hung over but feeling a little sluggish. I went back to sleep until 10:30. I felt like I was dragging the rest of the day. I’m too old for this stuff! I gladly parked my butt in a chair and watched Kacey’s team play softball for a couple of hours, but other than that, I accomplished nothing. I ended up calling it a day by 9:00 last night and woke up this morning with renewed energy. We had a great time Saturday night, but I’m not in a hurry to do that again!

 
I’m really glad it’s Monday!

Party at the Lake and Pictures

The softball team party at the lake turned out to be fun in spite of the weather. I left home wearing shorts and a tank top. It was warm with a slight breeze and sunny when we left our driveway. One hour later, when we had arrived at our friends’ cabin on Long Lake in Centuria, Wisconsin, it was cloudy, cool and windy. Thankfully, we had thought to bring along sweatshirts.

It stayed cloudy most of the day with a few breaks in the clouds now and then; enough to provide us with a few short-lived bursts of sunshine and warmth. Unfortunately, there were also several bursts of rain throughout the day. This didn’t stop the girls from going out on the boat, tubing, jet-skiing or having fun in spite of the uncooperative weather.

All of the kids wanted to go tubing. A group of dads took charge of the boats and hooked up the tubes. I was thinking about the fact that I would freeze my butt off in the water on a day like yesterday, but the kids weren’t intimidated. With two tubes hooked up to each of the boats, the dads managed to haul bunches of kids around the lake all at once. Afterwards, the girls had great stories to tell of sailing across the water, hanging on for dear life and getting dumped into the lake. Their smiling, laughing faces were priceless.

IMG_0437 by you.

While the tubers were out doing their thing, the rest of the parents piled onto our hosts’ big pontoon boat and took a tour of Long Lake. We marvelled over the various cabins and the ones that were too nice to be referred to as “cabins” and discussed the pros and cons of being the owner of a lake home. It would be fun, but there’s a lot of work involved and I can barely keep up with my own house, much less own an additional place! Still, I wouldn’t mind having one myself.

The wildlife on the lake seemed so tame. Maybe they are used to sharing their space with all of the human residents at the lake. We saw several loons up close and I regretted leaving my camera behind. When we returned to the dock, we watched an eagle land in a nearby tree and then dive toward the lake, swooping down to catch a fish and taking flight again to go enjoy his dinner. It was amazing!

The rest of the day was spent warming ourselves around a bonfire and enjoying lots of food.  The kids took turns jumping on a trampoline that sat in the lower part of the yard, their screeches and laughter providing background noise to the conversations that were taking place.

Not long after the kids left the trampoline to go find some other adventure, we heard more screeches and laughter coming from the lower part of the yard. It seems it was “girls’ weekend” at the cabin next door. A group of late forty-ish looking women had been sitting out on their deck, listening to music, drinking, singing (badly) and laughing like crazy. Some of the women from that party thought that the trampoline looked like fun. They decided to give it a try themselves. And let me tell you, there is nothing quite so funny as drunk women on a trampoline!

IMG_0449 by you.

IMG_0445 by you.

IMG_0446 by you.

All in all, we had a great time at the party. It was a fun way to end such a wonderful season. Can’t wait for next year!

IMG_0427 by you.

Party at the Lake

It’s a beautiful summer Saturday (so far.) I woke up shortly after five o’clock and went out for a run. The sky was just beginning to lighten up and I got to watch the sun come up over the horizon, turning the sky behind the farm fields a gorgeous glowing pink.

It was quiet outside today. Very quiet. If there was any traffic noise from the nearby freeway, I failed to notice it. The birds seemed to be in hiding. The killdeer who usually screeches at me to steer clear of her nest was nowhere in sight. I didn’t see my friend, the egret hanging out in his pond; just a lone mallard taking flight. One little robin made her presence known from her perch atop a speed limit sign.

I had a better run today, along with a better attitude than I’ve had lately. I took the advice of my friend at work and as I neared the usual end of my run, I turned the opposite direction and kept running even though my body was tempted to call it quits. I managed to add maybe three-fourths of a mile to my usual distance. It’s a start. And it felt good.

Today’s plan is to attend a party at the cabin of one of the families from Kacey’s softball team. The cabin is on Long Lake in Wisconsin, about an hour’s drive from home. We’re celebrating the end of a great season. Kacey made a bunch of white chocolate and chocolate dipped strawberries to bring along. She says they are all of the girls’ favorites. I tried a new snack recipe – Butter Ranch Pretzels. From the sounds of it, there’s going to be enough food there to feed an army.

So far it looks like a picture perfect day for boating, swimming and picnicking. We’ll see. The forecast calls for a chance of rain, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the rain never transpires. Some of the families and girls are planning to spend the night, including Kacey. Mark and I aren’t campers and don’t have a tent, so we’ll just come home this evening and sleep in our comfy bed, well protected from any potential rain.

Brad has gone off to spend the weekend with the girlfriend again. Jake picked up an extra shift at work and so he won’t be joining us either. He’s more interested in making money, but he seems to really like his job, so I won’t complain.

I’m off to get ready for the big day, but before I go… Have you seen this video? Apparently this couple was married just a week or so ago, here in St. Paul and the video of their wedding procession has become an internet hit. The story behind it is in the St. Paul Pioneer Press today. I couldn’t stop smiling the whole time I watched it. So if you need something to lift your spirits, this is it. Enjoy! And have a great weekend!

Two down. One to go.

Jake & Grandparents by you.We did it. We managed to pull off a successful graduation party.

I was awake before the crack of dawn on Friday, the day of the party. I wanted to try to sleep a little later, but my mind was too busy and wouldn’t allow it. I gave up at five o’clock and went out for a run and blew off some steam. The humidity was high and I came home drenched, but feeling like I had relieved some of the pressure.

Thankfully, Brad’s girlfriend, Heather was here. She had arrived Thursday night, insisting she wanted to help prepare for the party on Friday. She was a godsend, doing anything she was asked and then some. The poor girl was exhausted by the end of the night, having gone above and beyond the call of duty. Since she and I share a love of clothing from Express, I thanked her the following day with a gift certificate for the store.

We did, however fail in the photo-taking department. Kacey was charged with the job of party photographer, but she kept returning to tell me she wasn’t sure what to take pictures of. I suspect she was really having trouble asking people to smile for the camera. (She’s an introvert, like her mom and not so outgoing in social situations.) I finally told her she was free from her duties, thinking I’d grab the camera later, when I had a chance. Sadly, the chance never presented itself. So we got a couple of pictures of Jake with his grandparents, and that is literally all there was. It makes me a little sad that there weren’t more, but what can I do?

The weather forecast initially called for rain, but the day was beautiful. We did get a slight, gentle rain around 8:00 pm, but it only lasted about fifteen minutes and didn’t put a stop to the festivities. Everything came together, as I knew it would, in spite of the fact that I had been feeling mildly panicked all week long. Most of the people we invited showed up. We probably had about a 95% turnout.

Jake was a charming guest of honor. He greeted all of our guests with a hug or a handshake and I marvelled at the way he could hold his own in an adult conversation. I guess I still think of my kids as… well… KIDS, instead of the adults they are growing up to be. It was heartwarming to see him so happy and smiling.

The food was plentiful. In my panic, I ended up making additional batches of pasta and sauce in the eleventh hour. It wasn’t necessary, but the kids are happy for the leftovers. And not only was the food plentiful, but it was a big hit. People kept asking where we bought it and seemed impressed when I admitted that I made it. My only regret is not having had someone to help in the kitchen. For about two hours, there was a rush of people coming through and filling up their plates and I couldn’t work fast enough to keep everything filled. Next time, I’ll hire someone to do it. My good friend, Megan arrived after having first been at her niece’s graduation party. She kicked me out of the kitchen and insisted I go mingle with our guests. When I returned to check on her, she had not only successfully kept all the food replenished, she had tidied up, washed empty containers, loaded the dishwasher and wiped down counter tops. I’m so lucky to have such awesome friends!

People we didn’t really expect to see showed up. It was so good to see friends whom we haven’t seen in a few years. There were plenty of hugs and promises to keep in touch better from now on. No one seemed in a rush to leave. The party officially ended at nine o’clock, but it was near midnight when the last of the guests finally departed. We were all mentally and physically exhausted but happy.

I have two years until Kacey graduates. I’m going to start preparing NOW!

I'm sweating the small stuff…

and I need to quit.

Seriously, why do we throw graduation parties for our kids? Wouldn’t it be easier to toss a bundle of money at them and call it good?

A word to the wise. When your son decides he wants stuffed manicotti at his grad party, and your husband suggests making grandma’s home-made spaghetti sauce, you should not say to yourself…

“Self? Wouldn’t homemade stuffed manicotti and Grandma’s sauce be good? Won’t everyone just love all your homemade food? What a great idea!”

No…Instead, pull your head out of your nether regions and just say no. And call a caterer.

Seriously though, I think I have the food situation under control. Gina (the best friend) came over Monday night and we did an assembly line production of stuffed manicotti. I cooked the pasta and mixed up the cheese mixture. She brought some kind of cake decorating tool that looks like a cookie press, filled it up with the cheese mixture and squirted the cheese inside the pasta. We got nine pans done Monday night and I made five more Tuesday morning. I hurt my shoulder filling all those shells. (Don’t ask.) And did I mention that I didn’t think that the manicotti would be enough pasta? I didn’t. I decided to add mostaciolli to the menu and spent the rest of Tuesday afternoon making ten pounds of meatballs and three batches of Grandma’s sauce. Everything is in the freezer and ready to just toss into the roasters on Friday. Now I just have to make a couple more batches of sauce for the manicotti. That’ll be easy enough. It’s just a matter of dumping some ingredients and adding some spices and cooking on the stove for a couple hours. Yes, that will be easy enough if I’m not in jail for killing someone first.

You might have guessed that tensions are running a little high around here.  Some of the big stuff that could have been done, oh… I don’t know… anytime in the past year, as opposed to leaving everything until the last minute… didn’t get done before this week. Divorce court, session two nearly happened last night over the hanging of some pictures. Alright. Nine pictures, to be exact. I’ll explain. There’s a wall in our entryway that has never been decorated to my liking. Using the grad party as an excuse to do all the home improvements that we’ve let slide over the years, I decided to take care of that wall. I had nine of my flower photos printed. I framed them and enlisted Mark to facilitate the hanging of all of these photos. Did I mention the wall in question is a section of wall over the stairway to the lower level? Did I mention this project would require the use of an extension ladder? Did I mention that I had a vague idea of the placement of said pictures, but no solid plan because I was sure Mark could figure out details such as spacing and measurements and patterns? I just may have set my expectations a little too high and let me just tell you it was a recipe for disaster when things were not happening to my liking. Thankfully, Brad stepped in with a great idea for the placement. Tempers cooled and pictures got hung to my liking. Crisis averted.

On the plus side, this house is going to see a level of cleanliness and organization such as it hasn’t seen in a couple of years, since the last graduation party. I wonder if I’ll learn a lesson from this and face the next graduation party in two years with a little more organization and planning?

What?

It could happen!

How do you like my new shirt?

It's a Royal Mail shirt! by you.I’ve been meaning to post a picture of myself in this shirt. It’s a very special shirt as it arrived all the way from England, a gift from my friend, James. How many people can say they are the proud owner of a Royal Mail shirt??? James also sent me a copy of the Rugby Observer newspaper and  an article from a magazine with some ideas about writing a novel. (Is that a hint?) Thanks, James!

If you have a chance, please go visit James’ blog, Them’smeprivatethoughts. James’ mom has been in the hospital for a while and her health is diminishing by the day. I’m sure James and his family would appreciate some extra thoughts and prayers.

I’m off work this week, trying desperately to prepare for Jake’s graduation open house this Friday. I’m preparing bunches of pasta for a crowd and as is typical of me, I’m panicking. Every day I worry about how much needs to be done yet and whether or not I’ll be able to accomplish it all. Mark and I nearly took each others’ heads off last night over the most ridiculous thing and I know it’s just stress. I also know it will all come together fine and it will be a great time.

I’ll write more when I feel like I have a chance to breathe.  In the meantime, the grocery store awaits my arrival….