Kids, Dogs and Chaos

We had a family wedding to attend on Saturday, so all of my kiddos returned to home base for the weekend. We awaited Brad and Heather’s arrival on Friday night and wondered how it was going to work with three dogs in the house, but not to worry. Dacotah and Lucy got reacquainted easily. Then Dacotah and Bella sized each other up and decided they could deal with one another just fine. All was well.

We did a decent job of juggling shower times Saturday morning. At one point, Kacey, Heather and I were all sharing the mirror in “my” lower level bathroom. But we were all dressed and ready in plenty of time for the wedding. Everyone looked great! You’d think I’d have managed to take a family picture while we were all spiffed up, wouldn’t you? I didn’t. Oh well. Sometimes I’m so busy trying to get pictures that I miss half the fun of an event. So we’ll just chalk this up to me enjoying the event for a change. Besides, I did manage to get some shots of the kids on my iPhone camera.

love this shot of Brad and his godson, Ryan. Ryan is such a bundle of energy and so full of personality! Can you tell?

Just one of the many faces of Ryan!

What really made me happy was watching Jake interact with his cousins and family friends. Long story, but my best friend, Gina and I have mutual extended family, so she and her family were at the wedding and reception too. Gina’s beautiful, oldest daughter, Kirsten happened to be without a date. So did Jake happen to be without a date. Kirsten joked to Jake that they could be dates for the night. She did her best to get him out of his shell and onto the dance floor but he just couldn’t make himself do it. He’s so shy sometimes! But she had him smiling and blushing! It was wonderful to see him smile so much. I don’t see Jake’s smile enough.

Jake got his share of attention from the younger girls too.  Gina’s youngest daughter, Maddie clearly had a little crush on Jake and every chance she got she was climbing up in his lap, talking to him and running her hands over his buzz-cut hair. Jake tolerated this attention with more patience than I’d thought him capable of. Every time Gina and I would look over and see Maddie clamoring over Jake, we would laugh and I’d say, “Poor Jake!” Gina would say, “He’s adorable!”

He is. I wish he realized it too.

He didn’t want me to take this picture, but I managed to coax a smile out of him anyway!


Kacey and Connor

Brad and Heather

Brad, Heather, Kacey and Connor danced the night away. Mark took turns dancing with Kacey, his nieces and his sisters. I even managed to get Jake on the dance floor for one slower song. It was a good time!

We finally called it a night and headed home. The kids stretched out all over the living room in front of a movie. I was too tired to stay awake. Bella, Lucy and I headed off to bed.

Bright and early this morning, the dogs were awake and ready to go outside and rough-house a bit. While the dogs played, Brad wanted to know what was for breakfast. A big, hot breakfast is a rare treat, usually reserved for times like this when the house is full and busy. We decided on French toast and I enjoyed cooking it while Brad, Heather and Mark waited at the table for the first steaming slices to be ready for eating. I made stacks of French toast and we all ate until we were full. Eventually, Kacey decided to greet the day and came to the table to claim her share as well. Jake? Well, he’s the late sleeper, so I didn’t even count on him. I figured he’d eventually open his eyes and when he did, he would eat breakfast or lunch, depending on how late it was.

After breakfast, the girls and I went off to do some shopping, leaving the boys home to watch their hunting shows and football games. By the time we came back, Connor had joined the fun. The kids, hungry for lunch, descended on the kitchen once again, reheating leftover taco fixings and spaghetti and meatballs. Funny how food is always such a big part of family gatherings. It seems like someone is always eating, snacking or drinking. When everyone is home, I’m constantly rinsing dishes, wiping off the table and tidying up the counter tops. Funny, but at times like this, I don’t seem to mind so much.

Sunday is always my least favorite day of these family weekends. Sunday means it’s time for kids to leave home again and go back to school. And that means less chaos and fewer messes, but it also means all the happy conversation and joking and laughter fade away. I don’t mean to rush the days along, but I can’t wait for Thanksgiving when I can have this all over again.

Can’t we just stay here a while longer?

I love summer. I love coming home from work while the sun is still bright and warm and knowing it’s going to stay that way for several more hours. I love that on these days when my husband and son have already gone off to work by the time my work day has come to an end, I know that the house won’t be quiet for long. Kacey’s work day is ending and she’ll soon be coming through the front door.

I want to do all my cooking on the grill on these warm summer evenings. Everything is so easy and tastes so good when it’s been cooked on the grill. Tonight I scrubbed up a few potatoes, left the skin on and sliced them thin. I chopped a small onion and then a home-grown green pepper. Don’t green peppers smell good?  And the home-grown kind smell so much better than the store-bought kind. I made a foil packet for all of these veggies and tossed in some butter, then put it on the grill. By the time Kacey came home, the pork chops were just going on.

I sat out on the deck tonight in the only patch of shade available under the canopy. The air was warm, but not uncomfortable and the smell of dinner drifted over from the grill. Mark just refilled the bird feeders and the birds were feasting. I watered the flowers in their pots. I sipped a light beer and  listened to the sounds of traffic. There are plenty of motorcycles to see out on the road this time of year. Sometimes I think I’d like to be riding on the back of one of them.

I’ve had lots of girl time with Kacey lately. I’m soaking it up and trying not to think about her leaving for school again in a few weeks. She sits on the deck with me and tells me stories about her summer job. She’s a good employee and they like her at work. She works in a file vault with many people of other nationalities. Her boss, Dawitt has a soft spot for her, I can tell. He alternately teases her and tells her what good work she does. He says, “Kacey, you go college. Come back. I kick out old lady and give you her job.”

“Which lady,” Kacey asks?

“One out front at desk. I kick her out. She crabby.”

Kacey joins in on Dawitt’s joke. “Send her to the nursing home,” she says!

“I not say it! I not say it,” Dawitt laughs as he walks away.

I love talking to Kacey. She knows who she is and she likes who she is. I love that about her. She embraces all of the experiences that come her way. I always say I could never work in a file vault. There’s a reason they hire college kids as summer temps for that job. No one wants to stay there forever. But Kacey admits that although she might not want to deal with files for the rest of her life, she enjoys the office environment. She embraces the challenge of the work. She likes to do a good job. I feel like she’ll make her way. She’ll make the best of what comes her way and she’ll climb her way to the things she finds really fulfilling.

Lucy is happy to have Kacey home too. She gets twice the attention when Kacey is around. After dinner, they play on the living room floor with the tire toy and we laugh at how silly our dog is.

Connor is pretty likely to come around on these summer nights. If he doesn’t come for dinner, he’ll be here shortly after. Sometimes he and Kacey hang around the house and I enjoy their silliness and laughter. Sometimes they go off to find something or someplace more entertaining than home. But I like that they come and go through the door often during these summer days.

I was just thinking how summer will start coming to an end soon and how much I’ll miss it. But I just realized that as much as I love the long days and warm temperatures, the birds and the blue sky and the grill, it’s not summer that I’ll really miss so much. It’s them that I’ll miss.

I Love this Messy House

Ugh, I had to go back to work today. It’s so hard to go back to work after a four-day weekend and celebrating Christmas and eating sweets and all that fun stuff. And the hardest part of going back to work between Christmas and New Years is how quiet it is. All those other smart people thought to schedule vacation time between the two holidays and all I can think is how much I wish I were at home, sleeping late and lazing around in my pajamas too!

Okay, it really wasn’t all that bad. I sort of thrive on routine, and as much as I hated the sound of the alarm clock this morning, I knew it would be good for me to get back at it.

These last few days have been great though. I just love having my kids home. Yes, so technically, Jake is always home because he lives here. But he’s not actually around much. And that really hasn’t changed just because the holidays came through. So we’ll have to work on having some quality time soon.

But Brad and Heather have been here. They arrived on Friday with Dacotah dog and it has been so fun having them home. We’re all battling for shower time and the house is rather untidy with all the extra activity, but I don’t care! We talk and hang out. We eat together. They made an awesome vegetable-tortellini soup for all of us for dinner tonight. We played Words with Friends and cracked up when I played the word pubes over a triple word score. Brad yelled at me for use of a dirty word. I said if the game lets me play it and gives me sixty points for doing so, I’m going for it.

Lucy has fallen in love with Heather and also thinks that Dacotah is her sister and new best friend. Poor Lucy is going to be so sad when these guys leave tomorrow!

He loves her too!

"Can my friend and I go outside???"

And Kacey is home too. I get to keep her until January 22nd! I love seeing her face when I come home. Love the random text messages and phone calls I got from her during the day today. Love the fact that we can lounge around on Saturday mornings drinking coffee while I listen to her stories.

And Kacey being home means Connor comes around much more often. I am not complaining!

The fun-loving duo!

A few years ago, you couldn’t have convinced me I’d be happy to walk through my living room and see it cluttered with laptops and iPods, phones and discarded pairs of socks, half-drank water bottles and television remotes. The thought of two dogs shedding all over my furniture and floors and slobbering all over the patio door would not have been met with enthusiasm. And yet, here I am, sitting in the midst of a messy house, the kitchen cluttered, with kids and friends coming and going, and so much going on there’s no hope of keeping up with it all.

And I love it. I’m going to miss this when life goes back to “normal.”

Favorite Days

No work for me today. I have a lovely four-day weekend ahead of me. But I was up early with plans to meet my workout buddy at the gym for our five a.m. workout.

Just as I was getting ready to put on some shorts and a t-shirt, I thought to check my cell phone for any messages. Sure enough, there was one there, and sure enough, it was from my buddy. Her little boy awoke with a fever so she was taking a necessary pass on the gym.

I decided to take a pass too. As always, Christmas seems to be sneaking up on me. I think I’ve done a good job of enjoying the season. I’ve celebrated the spirit of Christmas all month-long, and still, somehow, it is upon us and it feels too soon.

Between Mark and me, we’ve got a good amount of family and so our Christmas celebrations span the course of two entire days. Christmas Eve is spent with my relatives, Christmas Day with his. And it’s my turn to host the Christmas Eve festivities. And somewhere in-between all that, we want time to spend with our kids. Just us and them. I was worried there for a while. Between Mark’s and Jake’s work schedules and the family obligations, it seemed like we might not have that chance this year. But it all worked out and I am so grateful!

I have so much to do. We’re having lasagna for Christmas Eve dinner and I want to get it pre-prepared today. I think three pans should do it! The peanut brittle (which I was planning to make the other night, but didn’t) needs to be made. I wasn’t planning to bake cookies this year. There just never seems to be enough time and I figured that was one thing we could easily do without. And then my mother-in-law requested that I bring cookies on Christmas Day! Good thing Kacey is home from school now and loves to bake! She’s been knocking off a batch or two for a couple of days now as well as wrapping as many presents for me as she possibly can while I’ve been at work.

Did I mention the wrapping? Yeah, I’m sort of a last-minute wrapper too. Thank God for Kacey! She’s been wrapping away and putting Post-It Notes on each gift to tell me who they are for. I need to tie the ribbon on each (because I had some crazy idea that instead of the easy-peasy stick-on ribbons, real ribbon would be a fun change of pace!) It was too much to expect Kacey to tie the ribbon to my liking, so I have lots of ribbon-tying and gift-tagging to do.

I spent all last evening wrapping presents for my kids and Heather and Connor. And the house needs cleaning. And there are still some things to pick up from the grocery and liquor stores. And Brad comes home tonight with Heather and Dacotah dog. And… and… and…

It’s going to be chaos. Lucy Pie isn’t going to know what to do with herself with all of her people at home for the next few days and lots of visitors. There is so much to figure out and so much to worry about and so much to get done.

And yet… these are my days. My favorite days. We’re on the cusp of Christmas. My kiddos will all be under the same roof again. My parents are home for Christmas for the first time in… what… four years? I’ll get my wish – to have some time with my family, all together for a few hours for the purpose of being with just each other.

Three days from now, I’ll look back over these days and wish they hadn’t passed us by so quickly again. So right now, I’m going to try to remember to stop and appreciate every moment while I’m in it. These are the best days of the year. These are my favorite days.

Party at the Lake

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Life is Good – June 4, 2009

Jake Graduating by you.His demeanor on graduation day was nothing short of joyous. I know that’s to be expected for most high school graduates, but even his sister noticed it. And siblings aren’t generally prone to caring enough to notice each other’s emotional well-being.

I volunteered for a couple of hours at his Senior All Night party and caught a glimpse of him here and there. Most of the time he was surrounded by girls and the smile never left his face! Maybe it was the girls. Maybe it was his new found freedom. It didn’t matter. It occurred to me that I can’t remember the last time Jake seemed so completely relaxed and utterly happy. It’s as if he has finally broken free of his educational chains. I remember feeling that way after graduation. I didn’t struggle with my studies the way he did, but throughout my high school years, I felt the weight of conformity and a  lack of self-confidence hanging over my head. I remember feeling like I had grown wings when I graduated. I was free to be whomever I wanted and to do whatever I chose. I can only guess that he is experiencing similar feelings of having a weight lifted. It makes my heart happy to see him this way. He hasn’t made a decision yet on what comes next, but considering all that he’s been through to reach this point, I’m not pushing yet.

Jake’s graduation would have been plenty to keep me on cloud nine, but it gets even better. My sister and her family arrived back in Minnesota this week and are getting settled in their new house, a mere ten minutes away from me. I am ecstatic! After having to settle for being approximately seven hours away from each other for the past several years, this seems almost too good to be true.

Ironically, she and I harbored a pretty good hatred of each other all the years we were growing up. Then the minute we became actual grown ups, it was as if a light had been switched on. We began to realize we had a lot in common and that we were lucky to have each other. Having my sister gone so far away the past few years made me feel as if a piece of me was missing.

I used to spend much of my free time with her and her family. The phone used to ring and it would be my sister, asking me to drop what I was doing and come over or go shopping. And I would. I took for granted that she would always be there for me when I needed her. When she moved to Illinois, I felt as if I were suffering from withdrawals. I would drive down the road near her old house and for a moment, think about swinging by before I’d remember they were no longer there. Now they are back, and like it or not, I’m afraid they’re going to have to get used to me dropping in again when I happen to be in the neighborhood.

Amidst such huge blessings this week, you might think the simple pleasures would escape me, but they haven’t. Each day that I feel the warmth of the sun on my skin; each day that I have the chance to feel the soft, green grass against my bare feet; I feel such contentment. The gardens are blossoming, some with home-grown vegetables and others with colorful flowers. The sun arrives early and hangs around until well into the evening. I feel as if the outdoors are beckoning me out of the house. The beauty and warmth of the spring fills me with such a sense of calm and peace, I can’t help but be happy.

Once again, it is clear to me, life is good.

Hey, Hey, Hey, It's a beautiful day!

What an absolutely perfect day to be off work! Temperatures are going to be in the eighties today!

I got up early and went for a run. Let me rephrase that. I tried to go for a run. I wasn’t very successful. I wonder if I need to start over and start training again as if I were a brand new runner? Anyway, it was so windy this morning, I felt like I was pushing against a brick wall. It’s been a week since I’ve run at all. The chiropractor suggested the break, but to be honest, I don’t think it’s the running that’s causing my back pain. Maybe it is just stress. Lord knows I excel at worrying. The pain hasn’t been as bad as it was last week, but it’s still lingering. I’m just going to keep trying various stretches and exercises until I get a grip on it. At least today I got out and moved, even if the run turned out to be mostly a brisk walk.

As for the rest of the day, you know that I have a love affair with the sun, so I am going to make every effort to get my chores done early and get out there and soak up some rays. This skin needs some color! The back yard needs a good clean up too after the long winter, so I can kill two birds with one stone. I spotted some hyacinths blooming in the corner of the yard. Things are coming to life again. I think I hear my camera calling!

I’m so excited about this day that I’ve been hearing this old seventies tune playing in my head all morning. Yes, I know it’s “Beautiful Sunday,” but in my mind, today it’s “Beautiful Sun Day!”

(Somehow, this cheesy video is not what I pictured while hearing the song in my head. Have a good laugh!)