Onward Ho!

I’ve been sort of lamenting the fact that Thanksgiving week has passed us by already. Normally, by this time of year, I’ve got my mind all over Christmas. But having had most of last week off to prepare for the family Thanksgiving, and then reveling in some well-earned down-time afterwards, my focus just didn’t stray that far ahead.

Not to mention, it was a rare long weekend during which all three of my kids were at home. I love how cozy everything feels when they’re all under the same roof. Meals and conversations are so much more lively than usual. And my grown kids are such better friends than they ever were in their younger days. We watched movies together (or more accurately, we fell asleep in front of movies.) We played with the dogs and laughed at their antics. Lucy just loves when Dacotah comes to visit and they’re pretty much attached at the hip the whole time.

Someone suggested on Friday that we put up the Christmas tree, but no one was motivated enough to go haul all of the Christmas boxes out of storage until Saturday. I’m not sure why, but it feels like Christmas is barreling at us too quickly this year, and had the kids not been so enthusiastic, I probably would have procrastinated with the decorating altogether. But since, as I mentioned, all three kids were home, and since that won’t happen again until Christmas is already here, the tree went up and so did all of the decorations around the house. The kids each have a huge box of their own ornaments, received as gifts throughout the years. Our fully decorated tree has so many memories attached to it! And truth be told, once we got started, I got in the spirit. It does feel pretty festive around here now.

Logan came barreling into our front yard on Friday, all bundled up in his snow gear and calling at the top of his lungs for me to come see the inflatable penguins and Santa Claus his dad had put up in their yard. We all gladly slipped on our boots and jackets to go out and accommodate our little friend’s request. He ended up playing coy with Kacey and getting her to chase him around in the snow. He’s such a cutie!

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Kacey took some time to go celebrate milestone birthdays with friends on Friday and Saturday night. Mark and I had our bowling league on Saturday, and both Brad and Jake came to watch us for a while. Brad’s  buddy, Joe met up with him at the bowling alley and they hung out while we bowled. They’ve been pals since they were six years old, but don’t see each other much anymore now that Brad lives a few hours away. It was great to see them “yucking it up” again just like in the old days.

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Mark’s dad was moved to a hospice facility this weekend. He had some really bad days last week in the hospital as different treatments and medications were tried in order to provide him some relief from his pain. It was so hard to see him in such bad shape, and I honestly wondered if he’d continue to be with us from one day to the next. His doctor finally put a stop to the things that clearly weren’t helping at all. The hospice facility is a beautiful place and now that he’s no longer subjected to drastic treatments, he seems more clear-headed, more like his normal self. It was almost harder for me to see him looking so “good” and still know that he’s dying. But it was good for the kids to see him that way before everyone left again after the weekend.

So I guess it was more than just a reluctance to go back to work that had me wishing I could slow down time and stop the coming days from arriving. But it’s just not possible.

Anyway, reality was calling – and I know myself too well. Too many more aimless days at home and away from routine would have me going a little stir crazy. And there’s something to be said for the rhythm and productivity of the office. Even as I was wishing for more of the kind of time I’d had all weekend, I knew it would be good for me to get back to work. And it was. Work is the place where I can test the limits of my brain and feel like I’ve really got something to contribute. How lucky am I?

Besides, if I didn’t have to get up before the sun, I’d have missed this today.

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Spoiled Rotten Dog

The me ten years ago so would have yelled at the me today for allowing this to go on. This is not good for her health, not to mention the begging it is sure to encourage. I should remind Mark that when Lucy up-chucks by the back door, it will be his responsibility to clean it up.

Of course, I try to keep Kacey in the loop with the canine antics at our house. So I sent her the video. She wasn’t pleased.

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I told her I was only trying to protect her teeth. She called me a fun-sucker. Probably was true of the me back then. The me now is most definitely not a fun-sucker. It just gets a little easier to relax when the kids are all grown up and the only one left to spoil is a four-legged cutie.

Have you hugged your chiropractor lately?

I did. I saw my chiropractor this afternoon and instead of the usual handshake, we hugged. I have to admit, it felt a little awkward. Usually he just shakes my hand. But I have been seeing him now for over eleven years, (we figured out this afternoon.) And we have socialized outside of our doctor-patient relationship, so we do tend to be a bit comfortable and casual around each other.

Thing is, the hugging took place at a wake I attended for my coworker’s father-in-law, who also happens to be the father-in-law of my chiropractor. So I guess the hugging was appropriate, considering there were sympathies involved and such.

Strange, small little world I live in at times, isn’t it?

So things have been busy, as you might guess from the lack of any posting around here. Kacey came home from school for the weekend, mainly to see the dentist on Friday. (And as far as I know, there was no hugging involved there.) Lucy was thrilled to have her “sister” home. Got herself a little spoiled-rotten pampering, she did.

Can you see how big Lucy's smiling?

Can you see how big Lucy’s smiling?

I was pretty happy too. I sure miss that kid when she’s away. We had a big weekend breakfast together and I let her spend some of my money on a new dress for a wedding she’s attending with Connor this coming weekend. Course, I found a little something(s) for myself too. Retail therapy is much more fun with Kacey!

Since Kacey had plans with friends on Saturday night, I accepted an invitation from my sister to go to karaoke. You remember my sister? The one with the musician husband who is in several bands? Yes, that one. So my brother-in-law hauled along a couple of his band buddies and they awed everyone in the bar with their vocal talents. There may be photographic evidence of my sister and I belting out something by Captain and Tennille, but any and all photographs were declared banned from Faceb00k and the internet in general. Amazing what a few beers can do for your confidence, even while you remain fully aware that your singing abilities are just not that great. Good thing people in karaoke bars tend to be a little drunk. Also, they love when someone sings poorly. Makes it easier to follow and fail just as miserably! I did everyone a service!

OH! And I got to meet Jake’s new girlfriend on Saturday. It’s too early to say much about that but initial impressions are really, really good. She made him buy new jeans. I like her already!

Work is … uh … busy. Over the last couple of weeks, there’ve been a few instances of skipping lunch, arriving early and staying late. I haven’t made my lunchtime trek around the pond in at least a week! I’m not complaining. I love my job as much as always.  At the moment, I’m just juggling multiple big happenings and deadlines demanding attention all at the same time.

I’m sure glad to be surrounded by such great people in the office, though. One of my responsibilities is to monitor several of our websites to ensure the content stays current. Part of that job is to make sure that expiring forms are updated when new versions are issued. But for reasons beyond my control, I’m not always on the receiving end of announcements of new forms. So then I have to remember to go out and look for updates. It’s not the greatest system. I have a techy teammate who’s created a few processes in the past to automate certain aspects of my job and make my work life so much easier. So I had this idea about the forms and thought I’d just give it a shot. I asked him if, in his bag of magic tricks, he had a way to create an alert system to read the expiration dates on the forms and send me a heads-up. It only took him a day or so. He stopped by my desk yesterday, walked me through a few things on my computer and there it was. My own personal alert system. I told him he’s a rock star. Hopefully that makes up for all the times I tell him to speak to me in English (not database, code or some other technology language,) and to stop getting frustrated with me already because I don’t speak geek! Really, though, we make a good team. I tell him he doesn’t communicate well with me. He told me I’m demanding. I said that makes me his work wife, to which he said, “I could do worse.” I’m grateful for him.

Just another couple of days and another weekend rolls around again. I’ll be ready for it!

Weekend with Brad

Every year, from late September through early November, Mark makes some time to go on a few bird hunting weekends. It’s been this way for as long as I’ve known him. When my boys were little guys, they couldn’t wait for the day they could go hunting with Dad. As they grew up, those annual hunting weekends with Dad became tradition.

Now my boys are adults and they still love to hunt. Brad is an avid outdoorsman through and through. This comes as no surprise. I cut out his horoscope from the newspaper on the day he was born. It reported that he would be a lover of the outdoors. He fishes all winter and summer long, but when the middle months start to fade away, it’s hunting that takes over all of his spare time. Brad’s been hunting for weeks already. There was “early goose” season and some dove hunting. Now duck opener is fast approaching.

Mark was checking in with Brad by phone a week or so ago and asked when we were going to see him again. Brad said he thought he could take a break from his huntsman activities to make a little trip home for a couple of days. He and Dacotah came home this past weekend. Of course, Saturday and Sunday went by all too fast.

We try to do too much when he’s home. See the grandparents. Spend time with his friends who still live in the area. Visit with the neighbors. Eat a meal together. Watch a movie. Make time to play race and chase and fetch in the back yard with Dacotah and Lucy. This time, Brad also squeezed in a jaunt to a nearby gun club with a couple of buddies to shoot trap. Or skeet. I forget which. Doesn’t matter. We also included dinner out together before he came along to watch us bowl in our Saturday league.

Before he came home for the weekend, I asked Brad if he wanted to go to the Renaissance Festival on Sunday. I’ve been there a time or two in my life, and really enjoyed it, and a few weeks back, I won tickets at work for this year’s event. Mark and I haven’t been there, probably since before Brad was born, so that’s over 25 years. Our kids have never gone. The Renaissance Festival is kind of a big deal around here so I wonder if I deprived my kids of an important experience by never taking them. I always meant to. Maybe we were just always broke after an annual trip to the state fair, or busy with soccer, football, activities and back to school. Whatever the reason, we never took them.

I always tease Brad that he’s a redneck. If it involves guns, professional sports or fishing equipment, he’s in. So I figured the Renaissance Festival was a little out of his comfort zone. But he willingly agreed to go, and as we drove there on a beautiful Sunday morning, I was describing what I remembered of it. The festival employees dress in costume and speak the language. Many festival visitors will also dress up. As you come through the gates and look around at the shops and attractions, you feel as if you’ve stepped back in time. He was pretty curious by the time we arrived.

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We had a great time. My take on the festival was this. Everyone is a little bit unique, some of us more than others. And if you like to really revel in your uniqueness, the Renaissance Festival is your place. Many of the costumes were elaborate and impressive. Tall, black leather boots, vests, sashes, swords and dresses with revealing bust lines were the norm. A few costumes were just strange, having nothing to do with the Renaissance. (Pretty sure Mexican capes and sombreros, and Dorothy of Kansas/Oz were not typical of the era.) Whatever the case, costumes or not, it was festive and joyful.

The weather was perfect – sunny and just cool enough to be really comfortable. We enjoyed a few different foods, the best by far being the cream puffs. We watched a Tortuga Twins show. Their sign said the performance was rated PG and it was. Lots of thinly veiled references to boobs and body parts and plenty of sexual innuendo. We laughed so hard! It felt really good to laugh like that, to see my boy laugh like that. He’s had a rough few months and I think he might just be starting to turn the corner toward some kind of normal again. Driving home from the festival, I marveled at how quickly the years have passed. Not so long ago, he was just a little boy learning what kind of person he was to become. And now, he’s this caring, kind, amazing man.

I  turned around from my spot in the front passenger seat to smile at him and his head was tipped back into the corner between the back rest and the car door, He had rolled up the fleece jacket I’d tossed into the back seat and was using it for a pillow. By the serene look on his face, I could tell he was asleep and there for just a moment was my little boy again. Just a cat nap later, he was awake again and Brad the man was back.

Early Monday morning was here all too soon and Brad and Dacotah were heading back to North Dakota, Brad needing to get back in time to go to work. If we’re lucky, he’ll be able to come home for Thanksgiving.

I don’t care how grown up they are. It always feels more like home when my kids are home. And it’s always bittersweet when they leave again.

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!

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.

Twenty-One

I’ve been referring to my offspring as young adults for quite some time. They are, after all, in various stages of grown-upness and responsibility. Brad is living on his own, working full-time and engaged to be married. Jake continues to live at home (and I’m grateful that he does,) but works full-time and just purchased his first new vehicle. Kacey just finished her third year of college and is preparing to start her summer job next week.

Yes, my kids have definitely grown up. And it’s official today. My baby is twenty-one years old today! It’s hard to believe how quickly the time has passed. I still remember that day twenty-one years ago, when Mark was driving me to the hospital and based on my two previous experiences, I was preparing myself for another twelve to eighteen hours of labor. Then we arrived at the hospital and thirty minutes later, I was holding a baby girl in my arms.

Having only been a mom to two little boys to that point in my life, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I just knew I was in love with her from the moment she arrived. I dressed her in frilly, pretty dresses just until she was old enough to move around on her own and it became clear she needed durable clothing. She had two brothers to keep up with, sand castles to build, climbing to do and bikes to ride. As she grew up, she grew to love playing sports and she also displayed a thirst for knowledge. She loved school and for many years, she would tell anyone who would listen that she wanted to be an art or phy ed teacher when she grew up.

She has always loved to be involved – in almost any kind of activity. She mentored younger kids in high school, was a youth leader at our church, and babysat the littler kids in the neighborhood. She went to school dances and played volleyball, softball, soccer and basketball. There were hundreds of sleepovers to have and to go to. Her social nature helped form the bonds of strong friendships. She loves her friends and they love her.

And so do I. She’s my best friend and the world’s greatest daughter. And she’s twenty-one today. Of course, there are plans to celebrate with her friends later on this evening, but she gave her family the honor of taking her out for her first celebration – for dinner – and her first legal drink.

Kacey and Me on her birthday

My baby’s all grown up now. And I’m officially old. (Not that it took her twenty-first birthday to make me realize that!) Happy Birthday, Kacey!