Adjusting Our Sails

It was a busy, whole-family kind of weekend. All of our kids were under the same roof again, an occurrence that grows increasingly rare with each passing month as they move further out of childhood and become more settled in their adult lives.

Brad came home on Friday night and it was so good to see him. We learned a while back that plans for his wedding have been put on hold. It was a shock to everyone, and I needed to see for myself that he was still doing okay. We’ve all been pretty sad. I’ve had a particularly hard time knowing my son is dealing with a broken heart and there’s nothing I can do to fix it. And on the flip side of the coin, I’m trying to come to terms with the fact that his fiance, someone I had already considered one of “ours,” may not ever really be one of ours. I miss her.

It’s been a difficult learning experience. I keep reminding myself that no one is immune to the hurts and disappointments of life. My kids, like any of us, will learn and grow from their challenges. Although, as their mom, I’ll never stop wanting to shield them from the truly painful stuff. I keep wishing I could fast-forward my son through the most hurtful times and into easier days. Unfortunately, I can’t. As for me, I just have to keep reminding myself that they are young. He is strong. And everyone has to figure out what they want in life. If this isn’t right, better that they figure it out now than later.

It felt good to wrap my arms around my boy, all six foot whatever of him, and tell him in person that I love him. This weekend was time well spent. Brad is okay and we made the most of our time together. We ate – a lot! Kids at home means I want to cook – a lot! Big breakfasts full of stuff requiring maple syrup and bacon on the side, goodies for snacking, and dinners with more food than we can possibly eat in one sitting.

A wish for ice cream on Saturday afternoon turned into a family trip to the locally famous Nelson’s, where most of us had never been before. At Nelson’s, flavor choices are plentiful and portion sizes are enormous! The line of customers snaked out the door and we soon learned why. It was worth the wait!

Inside Nelsons

Kacey being the only non-first-timer, advised us to order nothing larger than the child size ice cream. Here’s Brad with his child size cone.

Brad Ice Cream

I saw a man with what must have been a regular size cone. There were at least six scoops of ice cream stacked above to top edge of the cone. I don’t think I need to explain why Kacey and I split a child size cup.

While at Nelson’s I realized we were experiencing a rare photo opportunity. “Quick, get all together,” I encouraged the kids. “I want a picture.”

Cooperation was minimal as Kacey desperately tried – and failed – to get Jake to put down his malt and smile. And while she warned me not to put any of the failed photo attempts on the internet, she did admit that this one was kind of funny. I’ll take that as permission to post just this one.

Dang Kids

The weekend included “guy time” at the Game Fair, time with old friends, big dinners, and playing with the dogs. Dacotah and Lucy soaked up every bit of attention they could elicit from their dog-loving people. We watched She’s Out of My League … again. It’s become tradition to watch this movie every time that Brad is home and compete to see who can remember and recite the most lines. We all hung out in the driveway Sunday afternoon, shooting hoops, soaking up the sun and watching Brad wash his truck while neighbors wandered in and out of the driveway to say hello.

The weekend was fun, if not a little bittersweet. Our sense of “normal” has changed a little bit. But if I’ve learned anything over the past few weeks, it’s that we’ll all be okay, as long as we have each other.

Celebration in the Rain

The weather has been fierce this weekend, bringing torrential rains and powerful winds. While we were out of the house, running some errands yesterday, the wind ripped the canvas canopy right off the gazebo on our deck! Oh, well. We needed a new one anyway and I found a replacement online a while ago. I just never ordered it because we didn’t need a new one that desperately.

June is graduation season though, and I was feeling bad yesterday for those whose parties were scheduled for this weekend. Our neighbor, Maria was celebrating her high school graduation yesterday afternoon. Maria’s brother, Luke graduated three years ago with Kacey. His party was the same weekend as Kacey’s. I remember that weekend well. We had a Friday evening celebration at our house and the weather couldn’t have been more perfect. Then came Saturday and it rained steady and heavy for two days straight. Luke and many of Kacey’s friends had to improvise on their outdoor party plans while the rain refused to let up. Maria’s mom reminded me that her oldest son, Charlie’s graduation party five years ago took place in the rain as well.

We lucked out weather-wise with all three of our kids’ graduation parties. But this is Minnesota, and the weather can be unpredictable. Any outdoor celebration has to include shelter, either from the hot sun or in case of rain. That’s why most outdoor graduation parties here are centered in the garage and include a few portable canopies set up around the yard.

The weather didn’t put a stop to Maria’s party, although the wind took out the large canopy that had been set up in her family’s back yard. The rain couldn’t keep guests from coming to celebrate with the guest of honor. We all just squeezed into the garage or house. And we had fun! Graduation parties like Maria’s give us a chance to reconnect with old friends. Many of us in this neighborhood have children of similar ages. We were all so tight when the kids were little, coordinating play dates and keeping in close touch. But as the kids grew up, as they tend to do, they expanded their interests and circles of friends. Our kids sometimes moved in different directions, and without the play dates to keep us in touch, we parents connected less as the years went by.

I love the photo collages at graduation parties and seeing the timeline of a graduate’s life. Maria had photos galore and a digital slide show too. I clearly remember when Maria’s parents and two brothers welcomed the addition of a sweet baby girl to their family. I remember that Brooks and Dunn’s version of My Maria was Maria’s mom’s favorite song back then. And now that “little” girl is heading off to college! Her photo memories were filled with pictures of her with her friends, family and many of the kids from the neighborhood. They made me smile and brought back memories of my own. They made me marvel at how quickly she seems to have grown up and reminded me how fast time passes us by.

And we got to reconnect with old friends. Even though our kids have grown up and gone in different directions, we all remain connected. We all seem to be tied to a larger circle of people in some way. Many of Maria’s friends’ parents have other children who went to school with or played sports with our kids. The weave of relationships grows larger as the years pass by, yet keeps us connected even as we move on to the next phases of our lives.

With the heavy rain and chill in the air, I didn’t think we’d stay at the party long. But we encountered so many old friends and neighbors, we were there for hours. Hugs were exchanged. We listened to each others’ stories and caught up on the goings-on in everyone’s lives. We talked about our kids – their experiences, good and bad with college. We talked about upcoming marriages, and the loss of one of our friends last week at a much too young age. We talked about figuring out how to adjust our lives as our kids move out of childhood and on to lives of their own. We comforted each other with shared experiences as our parents grow older. There was so much conversation inside the three-car garage, it was sometimes hard to hear. But what struck me most was the genuine warmth in the eyes and smiles of our friends and neighbors as we reconnected again. Many of the people we saw have moved out of our daily lives since our kids left grade school, or since their sports teams played their last games, yet we conversed as comfortably as if we saw each other daily. The laughter we shared and the closeness we felt reminded me that even though we no longer see each other on a regular basis, we’ll always have those moments in time to bring us back together when we happen to cross paths again.

The sun eventually peeked out from behind the clouds and the rain subsided long enough for the crowd of guests to find some breathing room, meandering out into the driveway and front yard. Evening was closing in by then. It was time for us to be on our way.

I rarely regret growing older. Times and celebrations like these only further remind me that growing older, though it has some pitfalls, also has so many rewards. Congratulations to Maria. My wish for her and for every graduate is that they’ll enjoy the days and years ahead and feel the same rewards of time as I feel right now. Life is a gift. Make the most of it!

Rain and Shine

Yesterday morning arrived with rain, rain and more rain. And thunder. Lucy really doesn’t like the thunder. I woke up to find her on the bed, plastered against me. She was willing to venture out of bed when she heard me ask if she wanted to eat. Of course she wanted to eat! But going outside for what has become our regular morning run? Out of the question.

(That was alright with me, too. I wasn’t too fond of the idea of going out and trying to run in the pouring rain anyway.)

I spent a good part of the morning sitting in my pajamas on the living room floor, with Lucy planted solidly in my lap. I wrapped her up in a beach towel that was lying around, used previously to dry Lucy’s fur after a romp outside in a much lighter rainfall. She seemed to like being wrapped up and being in my lap. So we sat and listened to the rain patter against the windows and the thunder rumble in the skies. We sat until my legs went numb. Eventually, Kacey brought out her fleece blanket, which Lucy also loves. She laid it out so that Lucy could stretch out on it, but Lucy seemed to still want the safety of my lap.

On alert for another clap of thunder

On alert for another clap of thunder

Relaxing only slightly

Relaxing only slightly

Eventually I was allowed to extract myself and go about my business. Lucy stayed curled within the safety of her towel and the blanket for the duration of the thunderstorm.

The heavy rain eased up eventually, but the skies continued to drizzle off and on throughout the day. I had a graduation party to attend, for my friend and coworker, Shannon’s daughter, Emily. Thankfully, Shannon and her husband have a double-deep, double-wide garage and so the guests were all able to take shelter from the rain at the party tables set up inside. Many of my former coworkers, some retired, some laid off a few years ago, were there. We had a big hug-fest and caught up on each others’ lives. It was a great time in spite of the rain.

This morning, wouldn’t you know it, the sun shone brightly from a clear, blue sky. I always feel a little bit bad for those whose graduation parties get rained on. But it’s the risk you take when planning an outdoor party this time of year. And in the case of Emily’s party, the gray skies and rain didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits one bit.

Personally, I can’t complain about the rain. We went a little gangbusters with our vegetable gardens and potted plants this year. A good rain means I don’t have to wander around the yard with a watering can or garden hose, trying to make sure all my plants stay hydrated. A quick look around today proved that my veggies and flowers are grateful for yesterday’s rains.

Not only are the plants happy, but the rain brought the temperatures down just enough to be perfectly comfortable. Not too warm. Not too cool. I’m in my seasonal happy place!

In which I learn that what I want is not always what I need

We are now smack dab in the middle of our three-day weekend and I am loving it. And I have to say this because I didn’t expect to love it.

My husband is working this holiday weekend. And this is not all that unusual. If you know us at all, you know it’s not uncommon for Mark to work weekends. His job requires it of him, every other weekend, holiday or not. This is our norm and for the most part, I am just grateful that he is gainfully employed and able to help keep a roof over our heads, put food on the table, and help the last of the three kids get through college.

Obviously, I would prefer if Mark could enjoy every holiday at home with his family. I don’t feel quite whole when he’s not with us on these special occasions. I tend to feel a bit sorry for myself when it seems like most everyone I know is with their families, celebrating, or relaxing, or escaping everyday life … and we’re not.

I expected to feel let down this weekend. I expected to feel alone and a little bit bitter. Because my husband didn’t have to work this weekend. He chose to work.

Yes, there was a slight lack of communication in which he forgot to discuss this choice with me until it was too late to undo it. And I didn’t have the chance to tell him how much I would hate him making that choice.

I hate to admit this, but I … tend to … maybe be a little bit of a …

grudge-holder.

There. I said it. I’m a grudge-holder. (Hey. Everyone has a fault or two that needs continuous work. This is mine.) And if this weekend ended up being miserable for me, it would have been my own doing. But I made a pivotal choice yesterday morning when Mark’s alarm clock went off at 5:45 am.

As I lay there in bed, trying to go back to sleep, feeling disgruntled about being awakened on my day off, on my holiday weekend, I realized that returning to dreamland was not going to happen. It’s not in my early rising make-up to go back to sleep once I’m awake. Still, I thought I should have at least had the chance to continue sleeping past my norm.

Go out for a run, I said to myself.

I don’t run anymore, I reminded myself.

Well, since you agreed to run the Color Run with your daughter in seven short weeks, it might not be a bad idea to start again, my damn self said to me.

Fine! I’ll get up and go outside, I replied to myself. But I’m not running. I’ll just take Lucy for a walk.

But actually? I did run. Lucy wanted to run. Actually, Lucy always wants to run. And if there’s anyone who can melt my stubborn tendencies, (besides my daughter,) it’s my dog. So we ran. And it was good.

The sun was ablaze and the sky was a gorgeous blue. Flowering Crab Apple trees were in various stages of bloom all along the way and I breathed in deep, enjoying their floral fragrance. My legs weren’t in as bad of shape as I thought they would be and neither were my lungs. And Lucy was my motivation to keep going when I thought I couldn’t. By the time we came back home, I had a new attitude.

After our run and a good drink of water for both Lucy and me, I enjoyed a big cup of coffee with creamer and sat down to write. More therapy for my now significantly less bitter self.

Both Jake and Kacey were up early, and when Jake said, I’m going to make us some Belgian waffles, that sealed it. There’s nothing I love more than a hot, unhealthy breakfast with my kids on a lazy morning. Jake mixed up the waffle mix and I started some bacon in a frying pan. I ate too much bacon and the waffles didn’t come out of the iron in one piece, but it was all delicious.

Later, Kacey helped me do the minimum of cleaning we felt obligated to get done around the house. We watered our new vegetable plants out in the gardens, (we’re hoping to grow our own salads this summer,) and pulled Lucy’s pool out of the shed and filled ‘er up. Then we played with our crazy, adorable dog and laughed as she splashed in and out of her pool and ran circles in the yard under the warm, spring sun. Dogs really know how to revel. I could learn a thing or two from Lucy.

20140524Lucy

When Lucy pooped out after so much activity, we marveled at how cute she was, all curled up and sound asleep on the family room loveseat. Kacey and I headed back out to the patio table on the deck and  “did” our finger and toe nails with some bright pink polish. My coworker, Nick was getting married in the afternoon and Mark and I were going to the reception after he got off work. Thought I might give my fingernails a rare coat of polish to go along with the dressing up I’d be doing for the occasion.

As we sat outside soaking up as much enjoyment of  the day as we could, me polishing Kacey’s nails, she said, I just love this weather. It makes me so happy.

I said, Me too, and I thought, I really am happy. And here I had been all ready to be a pouty mess.

What a gift the day, and my kids had turned out to be. I was all prepared to be in a funk for the weekend, but instead had followed my instincts to make the best of what I had. And it did turn out to be the best. I think every day about how fast the timeline of my life is moving and I realize that I can’t afford to let the precious moments slip away while I dwell on things that aren’t all that important in the grand scheme of things. Even the wedding reception turned out to be more fun than either Mark or I expected. There was one of those photo booth type of set-ups, and my coworkers and I got in on the fun.

NickWeddingThe rest of this weekend promises to bring more picture-perfect weather. Our good friends, Paul and Megan have invited us out for a night of walking and dining in downtown Stillwater tonight, (historic and fun place). And Mark and I have had a long-overdue conversation about his choice to work. We both agree we should have had a more solid discussion about his plans. And I can now see that he was only trying to do what he thought was best for his employer, his work life and for the family. (After all, there is some serious holiday and overtime pay involved.) I can’t fault him for being a dedicated employee and trying to take care of us. He thought he was doing a good thing. And as a compromise, he will not be working on Monday, Memorial Day after all.

I really couldn’t have asked for anything more. This weekend didn’t turn out like I thought it should, but still, somehow, it has been everything I needed. Sometimes I’m my own worst enemy. But sometimes, I win the battle against myself. Perspective. It’s all about perspective. And choosing the right one. It’s a lesson I have to keep on learning.

 

Mothers Day

This one's in the kitchen.

This one’s in the kitchen.

Mothers Day, for me, came last weekend when the kids were all home. Just having them all under one roof was enough for me, but they came bearing gifts too – a couple of plug-in scent warmers and a bunch of different wax scents. My sister had one at her house on Easter and I was ooing and ahhing over it. I must have been really excited, since the following weekend, my sister gave me one of my own – a cute ceramic owl just like hers. And then the kids, not knowing about my sister’s gift, gave me two more for Mothers Day. The house is now smelling lovely and fresh as I try out the various fragrances in various rooms.

So today was a quiet day. It started out slowly. I was awake early, when Lucy came bounding up into the bed to let us know she was ready for her peeps rise and shine. But since Mark got up to feed her and let her outside, I decided to allow myself the luxury of going back to sleep. It was, after all, Mothers Day, and I am a mother. Thought I might allow myself a little pampering for the occasion. When I was finally done sleeping an hour later, I allowed myself a leisurely cup of coffee as I read some blogs and played with my new Pinterest account, a form of social media which I have been avoiding to this point but have now been happily sucked into. I’ve been busy pinning recipes!

The sky was a bit overcast today, but the air was warm. Lucy spent all morning roaming the fenced back yard and keeping an eye on the squirrels and birds, not to mention the many people passing by on the neighborhood path. Later on, Mark took her out front with him while he worked on some chores and she took in the activities of the neighbors and neighbor dogs across the street. It was such a beautiful day, I thought I’d go join them and enjoy some time outside too.

On the front step

I recently put a chair out on the front step and I sat down to relax and read a magazine, but Lucy had other ideas. She thought she should sit with me too.

I found time to bake a batch of banana bread in the afternoon and while it was in the oven, we walked over to my parents’ house, bringing my mom a pot of flowers for her front porch. Kacey arrived home from a weekend adventure and later on, she, Jake, Mark and I went to Mark’s parents’ house bearing an identical gift for his mom. We enjoyed a summer dinner of sloppy joes, various salads, fruits, veggies and dips with (almost) the whole fam damily. Before we left, I got a phone call from Brad wishing me a happy Mothers Day and he told me all about his weekend fishing adventures.

And just like that, another weekend comes to a close. All in all, it was a pretty good one!

 

Sunshine and Bovines

Lucy came to wake me up at 5:30 this morning. I patted the mattress to let her know that a few more ZZZs were in order and she was welcome to join me. She respectfully declined but allowed me another hour of sleep before coming back at 6:30 to see if I was then ready to greet the day. I could see daylight seeping in the windows as I looked down the hallway. It was time to get up.

We were expecting clouds and rain this weekend, but this morning showed no signs of either. I slipped into some yoga pants and a t-shirt and pulled on a hooded sweatshirt before saying the words to Lucy. I still needed to brush my teeth, but I couldn’t resist the thought of her prancing around my feet in excitement and the way she begs me to hurry up.

Wanna go for a walk?

As the electric toothbrush hummed in my mouth, Lucy danced and pranced around me. She nudged against my legs and whined with joy. I found a pair of sunglasses for myself and coaxed Lucy into her harness. As soon as the leash was clipped on, Lucy tugged me out the door and through the garage before the garage door was fully open.

And we were off. I’m not sure why I call it a walk. It’s more of an adventure in hanging on while Lucy runs, tugs, pulls, chases squirrels, sniffs all the smells and stops abruptly to mark her territory. I read an article yesterday that said if you’re serious about getting a workout, you shouldn’t take your dog along. Whoever wrote that article never met my dog. We definitely burn some calories when we go out exploring.

Anyway, it was a great morning to be out in the neighborhood. We crossed paths with five runners, three of whom appeared to be high school kids (probably in training for the Track team.) Each of them waved at us and offered a friendly Good morning as we passed by. Such a simple gesture, but it sure makes me smile when others reach out in that way. Camaraderie among the morning people!

I just love this time of year and having the chance to be awake and outside during the early part of the day. Non-morning people won’t get it, but there’s just something about being outside before the day gets into full swing. The suburban noise hasn’t yet begun but there is so much sound to enjoy, like the singing of birds. The grass is covered in dew and it glitters under the rays of the morning sun. It reminds me of  a Robert Frost poem, which I’m sorry to admit I would never know if it weren’t for S.E. Hinton.

Grass in the morning sun

“Stay gold, Ponyboy… Stay gold!”

Lucy and I even got to say hello to the cows today. I don’t know if the neighbors bordering the farm feel the same way, (certain country smells and all,) but I think we’re really lucky to have a bit of rural life right in the midst of our neighborhood. Actually, we owe our thanks to these farmers for the fact that we have a neighborhood to call our own. We now live on what used to be a piece of their farmland.

Anyway, the cows don’t often hang out so close to the path, so it was a rare treat to see them this morning.

Cows 2It is definitely a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

Happy Weekend

The weekend went by too fast, but I knew it would. It’s always like that when the kids are home. And we had a lot to squeeze into just a few days.

Since Connor had fraternity responsibilities and couldn’t come join us for the weekend, and since I still don’t have my new car, therefore Kacey still doesn’t have her “new” car, that left me to go pick her up from school on Thursday afternoon. I didn’t mind the hour and a half drive to and from, since I knew she would entertain me with stories while I drove us back home. I was laughing so hard I was crying over a story involving Kacey’s friend, Laura and free tampon samples at the gym!

While we drove, Kacey also shared her worries over finding employment for the summer. She had applications in at several businesses, but hadn’t yet heard from anyone. Then, as if on cue, her phone rang, and it just happened to be a job offer, the one she really wanted. She accepted and later told me she felt like a huge weight had been lifted. The next day, she heard from two others and had to explain she had accepted a position already. And when she’s not busy working her “real” job, there are two families wanting her nannying services anytime she might be available. When it rains, it pours!

I spent Friday getting the house in order and preparing as much food in advance of the weekend as possible. Brad and Heather arrived around midnight on Friday, but we were all exhausted after a long day and headed to bed not long afterwards. As we said our good nights, I told them all to plan on birthday breakfast in the morning. And before hitting the sack, I put the crock pot on.

Morning greeted us with the aroma of eggs, sausage, peppers and onions. My crock pot breakfast casserole was looking good!

Birthday breakfast 1

And Emjay’s Company French Toast did not disappoint either. This overnight French toast bake was a huge hit with the family and I will definitely make it again. Although I think my teeth actually ached a little when Jake poured maple syrup all over his carmely double portion! It certainly didn’t need any additional sugar. It was delicious as-is.

Birthday breakfast 2

We were all in a bit of a food coma after that big breakfast. The dogs soaked up all the attention they could while the kids let their stomachs settle.

Birthday weekend

Birthday weekend 2The rest of the day was spent doing whatever the kids wanted to do. Mark and Brad took Brad’s shotgun in for repair. We checked out tool boxes for Jake’s new truck at a few places. I took the girls shopping at a few of the favorite girly places. It was fun! On Saturday evening, Mark and I went to our Saturday league’s bowling banquet while the kids took the dogs along on a visit to Grandma and Grandpa’s house.

Sunday morning there was a steady parade to and from the shower. My parents were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary and we were all trying to make sure we were dressed, shaved, made up and had our hair just so in time for brunch at the Lake Elmo Inn. Luckily, some of us are early risers, and we managed to be ready in plenty of time.

The brunch was wonderful. My parents had reserved the sun room for their guests. The day was beautiful and there was plenty of sun and warmth as we enjoyed our time with each other as well with as aunts, uncles and a few cousins. It was so fun catching up with the extended family we don’t seem to see nearly often enough. There was a lot of happy chatter and many hugs were shared. My parents looked so happy to have all of their loved ones around them on such a special day.

So today it was back to the daily grind, for all of us. Too soon. I miss them all already and can’t wait until we can be together again.