Summer Wind Down

Well, summer was sailing along just fine and I was just perfectly happy with it. And then one day it happened. That little nudge that change is just around the corner.

I remember not all that many weeks ago, I would wake up to the songs of the wrens singing their little hearts out while they perched on the railings of our deck out back. I could sit outside under the canopy and just listen to their pretty little songs. If the windows were open, the melody would float in through the screens. Then the wren babies came along and all the wren parents did anymore was scold us for being in the vicinity. And shortly afterwards, the birds all moved out and all the singing and scolding was done.

There was mostly quiet from the backyard for several weeks. Then I woke up early one morning and heard the trill of … crickets? Maybe? I don’t remember hearing that hum during the early summer mornings. At night, yes. But not in the morning. I was intrigued, and listened happily to the chorus for a few days before I realized – it’s a sign. Of fall.

Then came two straight days of gray skies and rain. The temperatures dropped way down. For those couple of days, I traded sleeveless shirts for sleeves and sweaters. It was a shock, especially considering we’d just been in the nineties not too many days ago.

So yeah. It’s that time again. My kiddo has been gradually packing up her stuff. She’s made a few weekend trips to the house near school where she’ll be living this semester. I came home from work one day earlier this week and saw a couple of big plastic storage bins on her bed, packed with clothes.

“Stop packing,” I said.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I kind of have to go.”

2015-08-16She’s right. I mean, I’m going to miss having someone at home who likes to help me cook, who keeps us pretty well supplied with baked goods, and who’s generally willing to do the dreaded grocery shopping with me. Particularly, I’m going to miss having her here to help motivate me to go to the gym on the three mornings a week that my other gym buddy isn’t there. (Really. I found muscles this summer I didn’t know I had!) I just hope I can self-motivate to keep up this habit!

But, I mean … she does leave a lot of shoes in the entryway. And her room does get kind of messy now and then. And when I’m crabby, she has this habit of calling me out on it. Also, she takes a lot of selfies and sometimes I don’t realize she’s taking them on my phone. So,I guess it might be good to have a chance to miss her for a while.

Yeah. It’s time for her to go back to school. She leaves this weekend and she’s excited. Anyway, it’ll be good that she’ll actually graduate in a few months after all this time spent studying and learning.

Yep. I was getting kind of tired of her being around all the time anyway.

Mo Movin’

2015-07-24Woke up this morning to rain and thunder. Tired. I was awake in the middle of the night for a while and it left me feeling groggy when the alarm went off. I got up anyway. I had plans to go to the gym with Kacey this morning, so no going back to sleep for me. And it paid off. There are perks to being an early riser. I mean, besides feeling good about working out. This sky, as we were leaving the gym, for one thing.

I’m on vacation starting today. I didn’t realize how much I needed it until yesterday at work, when I found myself happily tying up loose ends and looking forward to a few days away from it all.

I thought things would slow down after we got my parents moved into their new house last week, but there’s been a steady to-do list ever since. We went over one night last week so that Mark could install a new kitchen faucet. On Monday this week, I brought dinner over and ended up running an errand and doing a few chores for Mom and Dad. There have been a few surprises with the new house, and this week a new refrigerator was delivered. So last night I was there moving food from the garage refrigerator into the new one in the kitchen.

My parents’ move wasn’t the only one happening this month. Kacey is making the transition from college apartment to a house off-campus for her final semester of school. She’s been moving things in stages while she’s home for the summer. Last week, she and Mark took care of the big stuff – the bed, desk, futon and such. Last weekend, she and I went to the apartment to clear out the last of her clothes and incidentals, and do the last bit of cleaning before fully vacating the apartment. We made a spontaneous stop at Minnesota’s Largest Candy Store along the way. We exercised restraint and only bought a small container of saltwater taffy. And maybe just a small bag of Sugar Babies for me. They’re not as good as I remember.

Since Kace was the last of the group of roommates to clear out of the apartment, we got to sort through abandoned kitchen stuff, and throw away all the things that everyone else had left behind with the thought that someone else might want it. She’d been instructed to throw away anything that wasn’t hers or she didn’t want, so we hauled bags of trash to the dumpster along with an abandoned night stand that we left next to the dumpster, in case someone else might want it. As a bonus, my daughter is now the proud owner of a full set of cookware, a full set of flatware, a brand new wireless router and a North Face jacket.

Kacey was excited for me to see her new digs. She’s moving in with a group of friends who have been living in the house already for the past school year. The apartment was nice, but the house is … well. The apartment was nice.

I was a bit taken aback at first sight of the house. The carpet was icky and there were a few holes in the walls. LED lights were strung around the ceiling in nearly every room, and the decor included Starbucks marketing posters and cutouts. But having a son who lived in a college house for a couple of years, I remembered what college houses are like. And remembered that I just have to not think about it too much. And the more things we hauled into the house, the more it grew on me. Here’s a snapshot of the kitchen. I resisted the urge to do the dishes.


You keep a volleyball in your kitchen too, right?

Twice, Kacey told me I wasn’t allowed to come down the basement. So of course, I followed her down the stairs after the second warning. It wasn’t as shocking as she apparently thought it would be to me. I told her that her dad and I had a basement like that in the duplex where we lived when we were first married. Old houses have basements like that. Dirt floor. Stone walls. Dark, damp and musty.

Roommate A.J. had followed behind when I made the trek to the basement with Kacey, apparently wanting to see my reaction to the place she didn’t want me to see. As Kacey plunked a box of stuff on an office chair that was sitting randomly near the washer and dryer, he tried to warn her, “Wait! No! Oh, you put that on the haunted chair!”

I’m not sure why the chair is haunted. I’m sure I don’t want to know. Really, my biggest concern was the visible slant of the entire house. I told Kacey to make sure she positions her bed so that the blood won’t rush to her head at night when she goes to sleep.

I’m probably exaggerating just a little bit about the unlevelness of the house. And she’s excited about living in her new place. It’s really only new in the sense that she’ll be officially living there. Roommates Beth and Megan gave her an unofficial house key some months ago already. A.J. was moving out of the main floor bedroom that will now be Kacey’s and is relocating to the upper level with Austin, where the boys will have their own kitchen. Kacey assures me that the girls’ kitchen will be much cleaner once she and Megan return in the fall. And A.J. told Kacey he wanted to vacuum before she moved in to his old room.

He wanted to vacuum. I told her I liked him. All hope is not lost.

We left the house that day before Kacey had a chance to get her new room put together. We were hot, sweaty and tired after numerous trips to and from my car that was packed to the gills, and hauling belongings up a set of steps to the front door. But the hard part was done. And now, you can understand why I’m so happy to be on vacation for a few days!


Until the past few days, it’s been a relatively warm fall. But this morning, as I was out driving around, I really felt the shift in seasons. I had the heat on in the car. I noticed other vehicles that obviously hadn’t spent the freezing night in a garage. Windshields bore scraper tracks and still held remnants of the overnight frost. I passed a runner in long pants and long sleeves, with gloves and a headband to cover her ears. I saw a man on a riding mower in his front yard, mulching leaves, bundled up in a heavy, red and black plaid flannel shirt, a knit hat on his head.

But it’s not just the weather that’s changed. Another of my kids’ lives has taken an unexpected turn and I’ve been worried.

Kacey spent last weekend here at home. On Sunday evening, she drove back to school while I went off to see a concert with my sister and niece. After the concert, as we were just pulling into my sister’s driveway, my phone rang. It was Kacey.

“So… guess what,” she said in a slow, sort of flat voice.

“What?” I asked, hesitantly.

“Connor and I broke up.”

No! I didn’t know what to say and I felt just awful. We’d only recently learned what it’s like to watch one of our kids suffer a broken heart, and I wasn’t ready to see it happen again. I asked her if she wanted me to come be with her, but she insisted I stay home. “I promise, I’ll be okay,” she said, sounding a little shaky.

Four years they’d been dating, since their senior year of high school. They’d come through so much together, in particular, the death of Connor’s mom. I think that brought them closer than most kids their age would otherwise have been. And maybe because of that too, Connor was like one of our own. He spent endless days hanging around at our house. A few nights too. He’s been a part of our family celebrations and vacations. He ate countless meals here and was comfortable enough to help himself to snacks and drinks. He is in bunches of our pictures. Kacey so often referred to him as her best friend. And so many times, he’d make reference to “when Kace and I get married.”

When. Not if. As young as they still are, (they’re only twenty-one,) I guess I’d sort of come to think too that it would eventually be true.

I couldn’t sleep Sunday night and didn’t do much better Monday night. I kept imagining the worst, my daughter unable to smile, crying. She didn’t seem to want to talk, so I texted her frequently in the following days just to check on her. She’d respond, but not surprisingly, her words were much fewer than usual. I asked her to come home again for the weekend and she first said she was thinking about it, then later confirmed she was definitely coming home. I planned to spoil her rotten, try to help her start healing from the hurt. I bought a couple of fun movies to watch and stocked up on Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.

Kacey’s last class of the week is on Thursday mornings. She planned to drive back after that class and would be home when I got back from work. Thursday felt like the longest day in the world to me. I just wanted to come home and take care of my daughter. When I finally got here, she and Mark were in the kitchen, having just returned from picking up Chinese food for dinner. Kacey was talking and laughing with her dad and I experienced such an immense feeling of relief. Laughter! I hadn’t imagined she’d be capable of laughter. Still, I went straight to her and wrapped my arms around her. She hugged me back tightly, and laughed again, assuring me, “Mom! I told you I’d be okay. I’m fine, really.”

“Yeah, she’s fine,” Mark agreed absently as he unpacked the cartons of food from a plastic bag.

I looked from Mark to Kacey and asked her if it was true. “Are you? Are you really okay?”

“Yeah,” she said! “I mean, I’m gonna be a little sad for a while, but this wasn’t really a surprise to me, or anyone else.”

“It wasn’t?”

“No,” she said. “Connor and I have been in different places in our lives for a while now. Maybe  somewhere down the road when we’ve both grown up a little more, our paths will cross again. But right now, this is probably what’s best. He was the one who made the decision to break up, but I didn’t exactly fight him on it.”

Um. Okay. I hadn’t even considered my daughter would be in such a healthy place.

“So…,” I said. “You’re really okay? I mean, you sound so much better than I thought you’d be about this. So, are you going to date other people eventually?”

“Not for a while, ” she said. “But, I mean, yeah, of course.”

I felt like such a weight had been lifted! I thought my baby girl would be beyond consolation and here she was doing the best thing I could hope she would do in a situation like this. Clearly she’s got a great sense of self. She knows who she is as an individual. And her self-worth isn’t tied to her being one half of a couple.

All week long I’d been praying for her, for comfort, for strength, for healing. And now, all I could do was pray, “Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you!”

We were laying on the living room floor Thursday night after dinner, she and I, watching one of the new movies. I couldn’t help but keep looking over at her and checking to be sure she really was okay. Finally, she caught on.

“What?” she laughed at me.

“I’m just so proud of you.”


“Because you’re being mature, and handling this with such grace.”

“Don’t get all weepy on me now, Mom,” she laughed.

“Can’t help it,” I said, wiping a tear that had escaped.

She is just everything I could ever have hoped for in one of my kids. She’s doing it all so much better than I ever did. She has an amazing ability to embrace life, have fun, know what’s important, and still not take things too seriously all the time. Sometimes I wonder where she came from. She certainly didn’t get this stuff from me – someone who has been as dysfunctional as I’ve been in the course of my life at times. I guess that’s what we all want as parents, though. To see our kids manage at least a little bit better than we did.

All I know is that I’m so very grateful – that she’s okay – and that she’s my daughter. She is such a gift to me!

And life will go on. Seems like she already knew that.

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!

Color Me Happy

It’s Color Run day and I’m ready!

Months ago, Kacey asked me to sign up for the Color Run with her. And although I had long ago decided that I was not a runner, I agreed to do it, if for no other reason than my favorite girl wanted me to. We’ll be joining Kacey’s friend and former softball teammate, Shelby and her dad, John who is the girls’ former softball coach.

Color Run 2014

Early in the year, I thought, “Well. I should start getting ready for this thing.” But I didn’t. January, February, March all went by and I didn’t run. Then the cold weather, snow and slush finally subsided. The sun started coming up earlier and the temperatures grew warmer. The thought of running outside as opposed to in they gym gave me the motivation I needed.

Lucy Pie was more than happy to help me get back into a running groove. If not for her habit of practically dragging me along each day, often helping me to keep running when I might otherwise have stopped, I don’t know that I would have gotten back into it. Gosh, I hope I can do it without her.

005bI’m ready for some fun! Wish us luck today!



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!

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.