Weathering the Winter

I’m starting out by commenting on the weather. AGAIN.

This winter just seems to drag on, an endless cycle of cold and more cold. It gets to me. I wish it weren’t so, but I seem to be one of the many who are seasonally affected. I made a promise to myself to do everything possible to fight off the doldrums this winter and I’m doing okay with it. I’ve given in to the allure of hibernation a morning or two. And I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t mopey and cranky now and then.  Old habits die hard, but I’m working hard to keep trying to change them.

breakfast cupsHaving a house full of family helps. Last weekend, all of the kids were here and we enjoyed the usual stuff – playing with the dogs, watching movies, eating food that’s so good, even if it wasn’t good for us! I tried out a new breakfast recipe while they were here and it was a hit! Eggs, sausage, cheese and hash browns – all in one. Yum!

Agg2There are lots of other ways to brighten the gray days, for instance, seeing a face I don’t often get to see in person. I had the pleasure of a visit from Agg last week! Agg’s work brings him to my vicinity now and then, so this is actually the second time we got to connect. Mark and I had a nice meal with him at a local place and we got to spend a couple of hours talking about work, football, kids, family, Agg’s travels and the winter Olympics. We had a great time!

And we booked a winter vacation to Florida. Mark and I have never taken a winter vacation in all the years we’ve been married. When the kids were younger, there was just never enough time or money. This year, we finally realized we were in a position to go somewhere warmer than here. Florida, here we come! It sure helps to have a change of temperature and scenery to look forward to.

It’s impossible though, to fill every day with big, exciting events to keep the blues at bay so I’m trying to remember to focus on the  little things that make a difference. Kacey signed us up for a color run in July, so I’ve got motivation to try to resurrect the runner in me, who was never a great runner to begin with. Maybe having a goal like the color run will help me improve.

I’m doing yoga a couple of times a week, as soon as I wake up. It makes both my body and mind feel good.

I have bowling with the girls every week and with other couples every other Saturday – always a fun time, even when my game isn’t up to par.

I’m also trying to remember to just live more. A friend posted an article on Facebook - 22 Habits of Unhappy People. I recognized a few of my own tendencies. One of them is not following through on the things I say I want to do or plan to do (using my camera, volunteering.) Another unhealthy habit was labeled loneliness. I don’t generally tend to feel overwhelmingly lonely, but because of the design of my life and my husband’s job, there are a lot of days, nights and weekends when I’m alone. I often appreciate the time I have to myself. It’s a good time to think, write, read or catch up on chores that need doing. But I also might sit alone in front of the television when I could instead connect with a friend or family member. I tend to find it easier to just stay home in the quiet rather than go to the effort of reaching out to a friend and planning something social. But when I go to the effort, I’m never sorry. I have to remember that interacting with others always lifts my spirits. And that lift seems to stick with me long after we’ve parted ways.

This weekend, I invited friends to come over and play cards after Mark came home from work Saturday evening. It wasn’t a late night, but we all had fun and lots of laughs. I’m cooking with real effort this weekend- an all day beef broth-making, soup-simmering affair. I’m rarely at a loss for words on this blog, but for some reason, tend to hang in the background when it comes to Facebook. I always appreciate those who post Facebook updates that are inspiring, funny or just invite conversation. I stepped outside my box this morning and posted something simple about myself and what I was doing today. I was rewarded with comments and conversation from girlfriends near and far. I need to do that more often! I’m going to go do some things for my parents today, take my dad shopping, and get out of the house for a while, even if it is still cold and more snow is on the way.

The winter days will pass, more quickly than it feels at the moment. Warmer days are coming. Life is good.

Quiet House

Lucy's chairFor the past month, the house has been so full of energy and activity. With Kacey home from school on winter break, there was never a dull moment here. We had frequent visits from her friends who would hang out here to watch movies and play games. Lucy reveled in all of this company and endeared herself to whomever it was that came through the door. Connor was here almost daily, watching football or hockey with Mark and eating whatever there was good to eat.

I loved coming home from work to find Kacey in the kitchen preparing dinner for the family. What a treat! And there was never a shortage of conversation, silliness and laughter.

Not that I wasn’t aware, but it really hit me yesterday that this was my last weekend with her before break came to an end. Kacey was still sleeping when Lucy started barking at a dog and its owner taking their morning walk outside on our street. She made enough of a ruckus to wake up Kacey. Kacey came trudging down the hall from her bedroom, trying to scowl at Lucy, but a smile snuck through instead. I wasn’t too sorry.

“Can’t you just not go back to school?” I fake pouted and nudged her as she found herself something to drink in the refrigerator.

“Um, yeah,” she said agreeably. “As long as you don’t mind me living here until I’m forty.”

“I don’t think I’d mind,” I said.

“I think I would,” she laughed. Really, I was relieved she felt that way. Good to know she’s got enough ambition to want to create a life of her own outside of this house.

Kace and Chase

Kace and Chase

This morning Kacey and Connor attended his baby cousin’s baptism and first birthday party. I puttered around the house, waiting for Kacey to return. I didn’t want to go anywhere because I knew that almost as soon as she was back, she would pack up her things. And then she and Connor would be on their way back to school. I didn’t want to miss my chance to hug her goodbye. She was back by early afternoon with stories about how adorable the baby was. She got to spend time too with Chase, Connor’s little brother. She always has fun with Chase. I think he likes her pretty well too.

I helped her pack up her stuff. There was a lot of stuff to pack. A girl apparently needs a lot of stuff for a whole month at home. There were a couple of duffel bags, a tote bag, a back pack and a giant, reusable Ikea bag. We laughed when she said she hoped Connor had room in his car for all of her stuff in addition to his!

As it turned out, there was enough room, and they were off. A couple of hugs, a couple of I-love-yous, and the car was backing out the driveway. I closed the front door as they drove away and the house felt immediately subdued. The water, heat and grocery bills will probably go down this month. That’s little consolation.

I know she goes to school fairly close. It’s not like we go months without seeing each other. She spends weekends at home pretty frequently. We text or call each other almost daily. I almost shouldn’t miss her when she’s away. But I do. I just love having her here.

When we were packing up Kacey’s things and I was looking at all those bags of clothes and accessories, all I could do was wonder how many more times I’ll be able to enjoy having my girl home for winter and summer breaks. She’s a college junior this year. Next year, she’ll likely get a job near school and her ability to come home on weekends and during breaks could be much more limited. Who knows? In the very near future, she may end up staying in her apartment over the summer instead of coming home. In not too many years, her own life will be taking off. And that’s what I want for my daughter. But until then, I will continue to love having her here, as often as she wants to be. Home always feels more like home when my kids are here.

Lucy’s Fun Weekend


We always tell her she’s so pretty. I hope she doesn’t get conceited.

Lucy sure was happy to have Kacey home for the weekend. It was the icing on the cake after Lucy had spent the entire past week palling around with Mark, who had taken some time off work to go hunting. Except he didn’t go hunting.  Instead, he did chores around the yard, while Lucy followed him around. And he spent time at his parents’ house doing some chores there too, with Lucy in tow. Lucy loves to go visit Grandma and Grandpa. Knows exactly where the treat cupboard is and how to sucker the grandparents into giving some to her. After treats, Grandma and Grandpa will be sure to shower Lucy with attention and tell her what a good dog she is. They’ll encourage her to go upstairs to look out their bedroom window where she might spot a deer in their backyard.

Kacey came home just in time to take over where Mark and the grandparents had left off in the dog-spoiling department.

Our dog is so spoiled! Did you ever get that sense from the things I’ve written about her? Just in case there was any doubt, I kiss Lucy’s head every morning when I wake up and she comes to tackle me with affection. I snuggle with her and say, “G’morning Sweat Pea! How’s my Sweet Pea?” She nearly wiggles out of her skin and smacks me repeatedly with the vigorous wagging of her tail. (As much as we love her, there’s absolutely no doubt she is pretty fond of us too.) I kiss her head and nuzzle her before I walk out the door for work each day, saying things like, “Mommy wuvs you! Yes I do. Be good girl!”

I’ve been known to hug my dog and tell her, “Lucy, you’re the cutest dog in the whole world! Yes you are!” And then I’ll ask her, “Who loves you the mostest? Huh? Huh? Who loves you best? Huh?”

We all know that the answer to these rhetorical questions is “Mommy,” but when Kacey’s around, she insists on telling Lucy, “Kacey loves you the most! Don’t let her tell you different, Luce!”

To be honest, Kacey does love Lucy pretty intensely. I might have a slight edge with Lucy’s favor, only because I’m here to take her out for walks and share my apples with her on a daily basis. Kacey has the disadvantage of being away at college much of the time. But when Kacey is here, she spoils her dog. She’ll sit cross-legged on the living room floor for the sole purpose of letting Lucy come sit in her lap and be petted for as long as she wants. She’ll stretch out on the floor in front of the t.v. with her fleece blanket, knowing Lucy just loves to come cuddle on a fleece blanket.

Also? Kacey teaches Lucy new games, such as “find the treat.” This is a really impressive game, I have to say.

Lucy knows where her box of treats is stored, and when Kacey opens the closet door to get one, Lucy follows close on her heels, wondering, I’m sure, whether she’ll be asked to sit, speak or shake. It all begins when Kacey tells Lucy, “Sit.”

Lucy sits.

Kacey says, “Stay!”

Lucy stays.

If they’re playing “find the treat, Kacey then walks slowly down the hall toward the three bedrooms while Lucy watches her disappear into one of the rooms. She sits. She stays. But her body quivers while she fights the urge to take off after that delicious treat before she’s given the okay! Meanwhile, the treat is stashed into some hiding spot in a bedroom while Lucy patiently waits. I watched this game unfold last weekend and was seriously impressed that a dog who does not understand the command, “come,” knows to sit and wait for her treat to be hidden. I was also seriously amused to see that Lucy wanted that treat so badly that several streams of drool fell from her mouth as she watched for Kacey to return and give the command to “go get it!”

Really. Like five streams of drool. But she stays. And she waits for Kacey to give her the go-ahead. And then she goes off to find her treat. It could be behind a door, under a bed, or tucked in a corner. In less than a minute, Lucy tracks down and devours her treat.

Late Sunday afternoon, it was time for Kacey to go back to school. Lucy watched as she packed up her clothes and as I packed up food to send with her. Lucy’s disappointment was evident as Kacey hugged her, said goodbye and went out the door.

I felt bad for Lucy on Monday morning. Kacey was back at school. Jake left for work early. Mark went back to work not long after Jake had gone. Soon it was my turn to leave for the office. Lucy laid at the top of the stairs, looking at me with sad, sad eyes. I told her I was sorry and gave her extra kisses and behind-the-ear scratches.

Monday was a long day for Lucy. But all was forgiven as soon as I came back through the door after my work day. I knew it because when I walked in the door, Lucy bulldozed me and licked me to death. Life with a loving dog. I wouldn’t have it any other way.


My Girl is Home

Kacey is on “Fall Break,” which means she gets a Friday off from classes and came home tonight for a long weekend. I love when Kacey’s home and not just because she was standing in the kitchen cooking when I came in the door from work tonight. Gosh, it’s nice to see someone else in the family doing the cooking once in a while!

It’s been a few weeks since she’s been home and I’ve missed her. Even Jake, who may or may not come out for food on occasion, surfaced from the depths of his room. He came into the kitchen as we prepared tacos for dinner, all Mr. Social and personable.

“Can I help with anything?” he asked.

“What? Who are you and what have you done with my son?” I asked. Okay so I didn’t really, but don’t think it escaped my attention that he willingly came to the kitchen to converse with other family members. AND OFFERED TO HELP. (Seriously, it’s going to take me a while to stop marveling over that one.) I told him he could go to the refrigerator and find the shredded cheese, sour cream, and taco sauce. I’m pretty sure he set the table too while I wasn’t looking. Will miracles never cease?

Kacey comes home and breathes life into the usual routine. She tells stories that have me laughing before I’ve even heard the punchline…

So the other day, I burped in my room and it sounded weirder than usual. And then I heard Andi and Haley laughing in the other room and I was like, “Uh, did you guys actually hear that? And they were in hysterics and I was like, “Um, excuse me?

And so then Andi asked, “Have you ever burped in public and it came out louder than you expected…?”

It cracks me up that they actually discuss these kinds of things! I love that they do. All too soon they’ll have to be grown up and serious. Their opportunities to contemplate bodily functions will be much more limited in the near future.

I love having Kacey home because she agrees with my opinions. Mark and I have had an ongoing discussion about whether meals should contain a variety of color. This began one evening when we were eating leftovers. We had Chicken a la King on biscuits. Mark wandered to the refrigerator and pulled out some leftover cauliflower.

“Want some of this?”

“Eew, no,” I said, crinkling my nose.

“What? You like cauliflower.”

“I know,” I explained, “but it’s too much white food.”

He laughed and said he didn’t get it. I said we couldn’t have white vegetables with a white main dish. It’s important for food to have a variety of color. He shook his head like I was crazy, but tonight when I mentioned I wanted the “yellow” taco shell instead of the “white,” he was reminded of my food/color hang-up and started to make fun. Kacey put him in his place and said how it was important for meals to have contrasting colors (and weren’t the tacos just so colorful?)

She’s my kid for sure.

A trip to Target for three things turned into an hour-long excursion, mostly because we just kept wandering around the store talking, telling stories, looking at things. I put on a turkey hat that I found in the dollar section and she scolded me, “Mother! No! Take that off. Someone we know is going to see this. Put it back.”

And even though she pretended to be appalled, she couldn’t stop laughing.

I love that cooking a meal can be fun with her. I love that a trip to Target can be fun with her. I love that she’s home for the next three days.

And so the Wedding Years Begin

My kids have great friends. I have often thought this and am always grateful that they are surrounded by such good people. A few of those friends have been there all along, sticking it out through the years and along the road of life as they grew up together with my kids.

Justin is one of those friends who has come and gone through our house for many years. He’s been Brad’s friend since they first played baseball together, probably around the time they were in middle school. When he and Brad attended the same high school, their bond grew stronger. Their friendship intensified over a mutual love of the outdoors and countless fishing and hunting trips. They grew even closer when Brad stood by Justin’s side as he and his family endured the loss of Justin’s older sister, Katie to bone cancer when she was barely beyond her high school years. There was that horrible car accident they somehow survived with just a few scratches and bruises. And there were the college years when they went in different directions, but still held tight to their friendship.

Justin is one of those friends we just can’t help but love. He has been a true and loyal friend to our oldest son. And we got to see him this past weekend! I sat in a bright, pretty church on a sunny Saturday afternoon, looking upon a young man standing before family and friends. He was gazing in absolute adoration at the young woman, Jenny, to whom he was about to be wed. He was glowing with such happiness that it brought tears to my eyes.

It was the most beautiful wedding, not only because Justin and Jenny were so clearly meant for each other. They not only celebrated their new life together, but honored the memory of Justin’s sister in their ceremony by making her an honorary bridesmaid. As the congregation stood waiting for the wedding party to process, a cousin first came forward with Katie’s bouquet and placed it in a vase on the altar. Justin stood in his place at the front of the church, remembering Katie and unable to fight back the tears. All of us who knew Katie’s story were in tears at that moment, watching Justin and remembering with him. But a few minutes later, after bridesmaids and groomsmen (my son included,) were in their places, Justin’s tears turned to tears of joy as Jenny’s dad brought her to Justin’s side. Later on at the reception, there were happy memories and toasts, dancing, and an air of pure celebration.

There aren’t many weddings in my memory where such love and joy seemed so tangible. It’s hard to believe that Justin, the “boy” we’ve come to know and love, is old enough to be married. But he is. He’s found his soul mate and I couldn’t be happier for him. Brad had such a good time being a member of the wedding party and he and Heather danced the night away at the reception.

It was such a memorable occasion, one that left some of us hoping for a very similar, very special kind of day in our family’s near future!

The First Day of School Club

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

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

But seeing all those pictures on FaceB00k…

Kyle’s first day of Kindergarten

Cali’s first day of middle school

Logan’s last first day as an elementary school student

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

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

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

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

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

Kacey 7th day of school

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

Is it any wonder I love this girl so much?

Still part of their lives

Having a husband who has worked rotating shifts for all of our married life, I’ve learned to deal with managing on my own. His work schedule pays no mind to weekends, evenings, special occasions or holidays. We consider it a bonus when he gets to be around for these things. Our family and friends know the routine. When he’s not there, the question is always the same. “Mark working?”

His “weekends” often happen during the week. His off-time can happen during the day, when most of the rest of us are at work. We spend so much time dealing with life without each other, that when we retire someday, we’ll have to relearn how to deal with each other.

I remember when the kids were little, trying to manage the house on my own while also being solely responsible for diaper changes and feedings. A few years later, I was trying to navigate play dates and game schedules for the three kids while trying to figure out how to get the grocery shopping done. I remember wondering if I’d ever experience quiet again or have time to sit down and read a book to my heart’s content. Of course there were perks to his crazy schedule, like having him around during the days when I ran a home daycare. It was nice to have the support of another adult while living amongst all those little ones!

Now I sometimes wonder why I was in such a hurry to have life all to myself again. Sure, it’s nice to wake up on the weekends and have the luxury of sitting with a cup of coffee, reading, or having time to write. But more often than not, I find myself missing each moment when I’d hear the sound of a bedroom door opening and a sleepy-headed, pajama-attired little body would come greet me with a morning hug. I miss making hot breakfasts and watching them eat together at the table. I miss hearing the dialogue of The Sandlot as it played on the living room television for the hundredth time. I miss having a little one cuddle on my lap and twirl my hair in a little finger. I miss being needed.

Brads big fishThey’re off living their own lives now. Two of them are out on their own, a couple of hours or more from “home.” One of them is still under the same roof, but living his own life just the same. The moments of pride that were once about an impressive play on the baseball diamond, are now focused on things like Brad’s job promotion that was earned only months after starting his first “real” job after college graduation. It’s knowing that he’s building a life that allows him to balance responsibility with the things he loves to do in his free time.

Jakes FishI used to marvel over the fact that eight year-old Jake could tell you the name of every NASCAR driver and the number and sponsor of his car. I used to beam when others would comment on how fast he could run from one end of a soccer field to the other. Now I find happiness in the fact that he’s found a job that he loves, one that fits his personality and makes him proud. He works with his hands and gets to drive to different job sites from one week to the next and he loves it. And I guess I don’t mind too much that he still “lets” me wash his dirty, smelly work clothes.

Kacey Vikings CampKacey was a little girl with what seemed like a million baby dolls and Barbie dolls. She was constantly invited to sleepovers with her little girlfriends. She loved making art projects and had a personality that was a combination of athlete, social butterfly and scholar, making her just a really well-rounded kid. Now she’s in her third year of college already, and not surprisingly, embracing it to the fullest.

Now, another holiday weekend is upon us. Mark is at work for this one. The “away” kids didn’t come home this time. The quiet feels strange. Years ago, even if Mark was working, the kids and I would find something to do; whether it was a gathering with extended family, or a trip to our favorite beach and park. I wasn’t quite sure what to do with myself this weekend. My sister, my friends… they all have spouses with “normal” work schedules or still have younger kids at home. I wasn’t up for hosting a party with extended family without help from Mark or the kids. Besides, our extended family get-togethers have kind of fizzled out recently, unless it’s a major holiday. And I’m okay with that.

I had all this time on my hands and no obligations. So when Kacey said, “You should come visit me,” I readily agreed. The drive is less than two hours. There were still a few things here at home that she decided she needed for her new apartment near school. I could bring those to her. I could bring her some of the leftover kebabs I’d made on Friday night. I could bring her some fresh garden tomatoes and cucumbers, and the favorite tank-top that somehow ended up in my stack of clean laundry before she left.

So I took her up on the offer. I woke up early on Saturday morning and packed the car with things to bring to her. I tossed in a case of bottled water that I’d bought for her. She’s a college kid without a car and as yet, still without a job. As her mom, I love to help her with the little things like that. I arrived just before 11:00 and took her and a hungry Connor out for breakfast/lunch. Then we went to the mall where they introduced me to Scheels, a store with a huge variety of athletic clothing, fan gear, shoes and outdoor equipment. We browsed around and found things that caught our attention but didn’t buy anything. Then we went to Target to pick up a few things, including some light-blocking curtains to hang over the window and mini-blinds in Kacey’s bedroom. Apparently, this was one of her most pressing needs so far.

The domestic activities were too boring for Connor. He went back to his house while Kacey and I got creative with some Command hooks and a tension rod back at the apartment. She’s not sure her lease allows her to screw things into the walls, so we played it safe. And I have to say, the end result was aesthetically appealing as well as highly functional. “Now I can sleep in past sunrise,” Kacey happily announced.

Afterwards, I treated my girl to groceries and some kitchen supplies. She and her roommates have realized how difficult it is to function in the kitchen without a liquid measuring cup, measuring spoons and a colander.

Kacey was so gracious and grateful for the purchases. She’s so responsible and careful with her money, but I remember living on a shoestring budget. It wasn’t fun. As her mom, I was the one who was grateful that I could do these small things for her.

They’re all growing up. They need me less and less, which ultimately, was the real goal. But I’ll always want to do things for them when I can. It helps me to feel that I’m still part of their lives, even as they learn to fly on their own.

My day with my daughter went by too fast, but I’m happy we had it. The remainder of the weekend stretches ahead and I’ll fill it with chores of my own, and some relaxing activities too. Maybe I’ll finally paint that old water pump and milk can I’ve been wanting to put out in one of the gardens. Yep, this stage in life has its perks too!

Three Friends and Their First Apartment

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

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

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

Make new friends,

But keep the old.

One is silver

And the other, gold.

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

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

apartment 1

Coordinating wall decor

Coordinating wall decor

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

Photo courtesy of Andrea's dad, Dave!

Photo courtesy of Andrea’s dad, Dave!

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

apartment 3

Andi, Haley and Kacey – friends forever!

Kace and me

Kace and me

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



Lucy was pawing at the side of my mattress this morning before six, very near where my face was still laying on the pillow. She whined repeatedly in this obnoxious way she has that sounds like an exaggerated lawn. In Lucy-speak, this means, “You’re late for our walk. Get up.”

Lucy doesn’t understand the concept of weekends.

Since I was now awake with no chance of falling back to sleep, I got dressed and went to find the leash. The weather took a nice turn overnight and the morning air felt good without the intense humidity that had been hovering for most of the week. When we walk, I let Lucy decide which way we’ll go and this morning she took us to the west. (I use the term “walk” loosely. Lucy has one speed and it is “intense.” Walks with Lucy are a workout!) We passed the farmhouse up the road, but there were no cows out this morning. (Lucy is fascinated by them.) So we continued along the familiar path, me listening to the birds chirping and admiring all the summer flowers, and Lucy sniffing trails of scents along the way.

It occurred to me that just a few short years ago, on a summer day like this one, my weekend wouldn’t have been such a blank slate.  A few years ago, I’d have been knee-deep in my kids’ stuff.  On those Saturday mornings, I would likely already be on my way to a ball field with Brad, Jake or Kacey and their baseball or softball gear in tow. I got to thinking about how often Mark’s weekend work schedule kept him away from things like that. I sometimes resented the way it made me feel like a single parent. And then I remembered how, in spite of  my resentment, it always turned out to be so much fun hanging out with the other parents, cheering on our kids. In those years, I got to spend time watching my kids be happy,  just being kids, forming the bonds of friendship and doing things they loved to do. We were lucky to be able to have that.

Those were good times and as I walked this morning, I was really missing the days when the weekends were all about my kids’ lives. I remember the way I used to struggle with being away from home for so many hours of the precious weekend and not getting things done; things like keeping the house perfect or being able to grocery shop leisurely whenever I felt like it. I remember a sense of always trying to squeeze it all in and never quite managing it all. I used to wish for more hours to balance the kid stuff and my own responsibilities. But now I realize, there is never enough time to do it all and really, it doesn’t matter. Those weekends had a way of making me stop for a little bit to take a break from the routine of life. They made me quit worrying about everything and forced me to take time to enjoy the good stuff – relaxing and having fun with friends and my family. Now that the kids are grown up, Mark still works a lot of weekends. Saturdays and Sundays are sometimes quiet, sometimes a little lonely. Sometimes I think I’d like to be rushing out of a messy house again, trying to make sure we made it to the ball field on time and wondering when I’d get the laundry done.

Team Mates

As Lucy and I walked the last stretch toward home, I heard voices behind me. Two cyclists breezed past us and then one of them shouted, “Hey!” He squeezed the brakes and made an ungraceful u-turn, calling out to his friend to hold up. Under the helmets, I recognized Dan and Kent, two dads of  a couple of Kacey’s earliest softball pals. When the girls were very young, before their high school years came along and took them in separate directions, we were all, girls and parents alike, very close friends. A lot of people came and went from our lives over the years of sports and activities, but Dan and Kent and their families were some that held a special place in our hearts. Dan, in particular, was very closely involved in his kids’ lives. His daughter, Angie and Kacey were really close for many years and Kacey spent a lot of time at the home of Dan and his wife Judy. Dan’s family had a strong religious faith and Kacey not only played and hung out with the family, but they often took her along to their church. They were a good influence on my daughter. Kacey often remembers the good times she had with Angie and remarks how much she misses those days.

Dan and Kent and I chatted for a few minutes this morning, remarking on how our girls have grown up and how strange it seems that they are adults now. We told each other, “Say hi to everyone for me,” and soon they pedaled off again. Lucy had worn herself out and I was smiling at the chance encounter with our old friends. Funny, I thought, that I had just been thinking about those years and those friends, and suddenly, there they were. I wondered… there’s a word for that…

And this brings us up to speed

Summer is in full swing here. We’ve had two weeks of sun, heat and humidity with the occasional thunderstorm mixed in. I love to slide into my car after eight hours in an office where the air conditioning works too well. For just a few minutes, I welcome the feel of the car’s heat surrounding me like an oven. As I drive out of the company lot with the windows rolled down, the hot air washes away and the car’s air conditioning kicks in. Feels good!

Mark continues to carry on the A/C battle at home, although I think it’s just become a joke to him now. We’ll watch the news and hear the weather man say, “Tomorrow is going to feel like a hundred!” Then Mark chimes in. “Should we turn off the air?”  I think he just does it to get me riled up and hear me yell, “Don’t you DARE!”

The summer days are passing by too quickly, as they always tend to do. In the nine days since I’ve documented any bit of my life here, much has happened.

My dad had a short hospital stay and while he was there, my mom took a pretty good fall. Both are better now, but in the midst of it all, there was a good amount of coming and going to check on everyone and make sure all was okay.

Gina came from Ohio for a visit and we were able to squeeze in some much-needed, much-missed girlfriend time. It felt so good to catch up with my best friend. There’s nothing like the feeling of talking endlessly about everything and nothing with the person who has known you so well for so long. She’s recovering well from her bout with breast cancer. She looks and acts more like the old Gina than she has in a long while. She and her husband are building a new house. Her kids are doing well and she seems happy. I still miss having her in close proximity, though. Fourteen hours distance from my best pal is just too much for my liking, but I am happy that things are going well for her.

Brad and Heather came home for the weekend. They had hardly been here an hour when the doorbell rang. It was Brad’s old baseball coach. Mark had run into him the night before and mentioned Brad would be home for the weekend. Coach came by to reconnect with one of his favorite players! Over the weekend, we also squeezed in a trip to the farmers’ market on Saturday morning and a graduation party in the afternoon. Brad managed a fishing trip with his high school buddy, Joe. And we all enjoyed a visit from another of his high school pals, Justin. Justin is getting married in September and Brad has the honor of being a member of the wedding party. Justin and his fiance, Jenny came to have pizza and catch up with everyone. I went to bed long before the kids were done visiting.

On Sunday morning, Heather joined her girlfriends in the local Color Run 5K. After the run, Brad met up with Heather and friends for pizza at Cosetta’s. While they were out of the house, I enjoyed some quiet time with “the girls.”

Dacotah and Lucy in a rare still moment...

Dacotah and Lucy in a rare still moment…

Sunday was a beautiful day and I spent some of it doing “activities.” Activities is Heather’s way of describing sun-worshipping. Brad has declared that none of us should purposely sit in the sun. “I don’t want any of you developing Melanoma!” he says. But after enduring snowfalls into the month of May this year, I sometimes feel as if I’m still thawing out. I can’t help but want to soak up a little bit of sunshine and Vitamin E. Not too much; just a little – with some sunscreen. And as soon as the kids were back from lunch, I moved out of the sun and under the shade of the canopy to sit with the family around the patio table. We snacked a little bit and laughed a lot until it was too warm to sit outside any longer. By late afternoon, it was time for Brad, Heather and Dacotah to head home again.

We still have some fun stuff ahead of us this summer – a weekend at a friend’s family cabin, our annual vacation in Bayfield, Wisconsin, and the Minnesota State Fair. Of course, the fair marks the unofficial end of summer, so I’m not looking forward to that too much just yet. The long, snowy winter is still too vivid in my mind. I can sometimes still feel the cold in my bones. So I am just taking this summer one beautiful, warm day at a time.