Back to Routine

It’s back to normal for me this week. I took some time off from work last week, giving myself a five-day weekend. It was nice and I got to spend some time with Brad during his spring break, but I always suffer a little when I’m out of my normal routine.

The kitchen remodel took up most of my time off. Thursday, the cabinets were installed. I’ve got a somewhat working kitchen again, which is a relief. It will be another week before the new counter-top, sink and faucet are installed and the new stove and refrigerator arrive. The old stove has been given away, but my microwave is back up and running. The old refrigerator is back in its place until the new one arrives. The guys that helped Mark install cabinets put the old counter-top and sink back on so I have running water in the kitchen again. It feels like heaven after washing dishes in the laundry tub and tripping over all the rearranged stuff prior to and during the installation. We’re doing as much cooking as possible on the grill and what we can’t, we do in the microwave. You can’t believe how incredibly sick of fast food I am, although I did discover an incredible place called Smashburger during our the time without cooking capabilities.

Brad, Heather and Dacotah left on Friday afternoon to visit with her parents before heading back to school. It was hard, as always, to say goodbye, but it was probably a relief for everyone. There were too many bodies in the house with half the kitchen packed into boxes stacked in the living room and all the work going on.

Product ImageThe bowling tournament fell through for me due to a few people backing out. I was fine with that. I needed the weekend to try to get the house back in order. The neighbors invited us over Saturday night for drinks and games and we had fun and got obnoxious. Ever play a game called Pit? It’s wild and crazy and loud. You better not be shy if you want to compete!

Today I was in an odd mood. The sun was shining outside, the house was quiet and I just felt unsettled. I did some cleaning and laundry, hoping it would help. Getting the house back in order usually relaxes me, but not today. I talked Jake into going bowling with me and we both had a couple of good games and a pretty bad game. Afterwards, I was still feeling…I don’t know…just not myself. I decided to hit the gym and go for a run. It’s been too many days since I did that. I got too caught up in the remodel and just never found time for it. The run did me good and surprisingly, considering I was out of routine, I did pretty damn good. It’s what I needed. I had to blow off some steam.

I enjoyed the days at home, but the stir-crazy is starting to set in. Back to work this week, and I’m looking forward to it.

Life is Crazy…But Still Good – March 19, 2010

(Alternate title: “Blah, Blah, Blah and the Week in Pictures)

What a week! How is it that individually, the days seem to crawl by, but collectively? Well, suddenly it’s Friday again already!

So much has happened this past week. Brad arrived home from school for spring break last Friday. Things just so happened to work out that he and I were the only ones home that  evening, so I took him out for a mom and son date night. We enjoyed dinner at Chili’s and a chance to catch up one on one. It was very nice to have that time with him.

Saturday morning, I finished packing up the kitchen in preparation for the removal of the cabinets. Emptying the cupboards was a good thing. Everyone should do this now and then. You’ll be amazed at what you discover:

Half of the spices have expired and can be thrown away:

The pasta has been making pasta babies in the back of the cupboard:

There’s a pig living amongst the wine glasses:

So… as much fun as it was to empty the kitchen of twenty-some years worth of kitchen stuff, I eventually took a break to attend the birthday party of my smart and handsome godson.

And then I met up with Jenelle!

And then later on Saturday, Mark and I went to our Saturday bowling league and I bowled out of my mind! I bowled a 166, a 143 and a 181. We beat our opponents and I won the strike pot! That’s right! I was the big winner of the $83 pot! Woot! Woot!

On Sunday, the kitchen tear-down began. As you can see, Jake is very enthused (not) to be participating in this project.

Brad was a trooper, considering this week was supposed to be his spring break!

During the removal of the cupboards, we discovered something interesting. There was a hole in the wall underneath the sink. At first Mark couldn’t think why that hole was cut. Then he remembered that when our home security system was installed, the installers needed to cut that hole to run some wiring. Upon further inspection in the hole, Mark noticed some electrical tape on the soil pipe. He removed the tape and found that holes had been drilled (accidentally)  straight through that pipe (by the installers of the security system.) The security system was installed 18 years ago, but we decided to call the security company anyway and see what they thought of the situation. They sent a representative out, and he took a look. He agreed it could only have been done by the installers, based on the placement of the wiring. He informed us we would receive several months of free monitoring as compensation for the cost we would incur to replace the pipe. Kudos to the home security company that starts with a B!

So by the end of the day Thursday, the new kitchen was beginning to take shape.

This is my favorite part. There used to be a “peninsula” here. There was a good amount of space in the old cupboard, but the dishwasher was located right across from it and when the dishwasher was opened, you really couldn’t walk between the two. So, we ditched the peninsula and had a cabinet of the equivalent size made, turned itsideways and placed it against the wall as you see here. And there never used to be a cabinet on the wall above the peninsula, so with this new one, we gain a bunch more space. This one is going to have glass doors and I’m going to put the china and wine glasses in it. (Hmmm… how boring is my life when the placement of china and wine glasses makes the weekly “highlights” post?)

So, did I mention that throughout all the chaos this week, Brad’s girlfriend, Heather also joined us? And that her dog, Dacotah had come on Friday with Brad? Poor Heather came down with some kind of illness and I ended up taking her to the doctor on Thursday. She completely lost her voice, had a sore throat, a cough and a mega-stuffy head. Luckily, the doctor said it was just a virus and she’d be fine with a few OTC medications.

Dacotah kept us entertained with her constant curiosity over the cats, who early on decided that they weren’t taking any sh*t from the big black creature. It soon became clear that Dacotah was very afraid, especially of Tigger who didn’t hesitate to hiss and swat at her.

Dacotah also showed us how good she is at showing her toy bear who is boss by whipping him around the living room. She chased the reflection of her dog tags around the living room endlessly and proudly hauled her huge bone (a cow femur) all over the place. (You know she likes you when she drops that big slobbery bugger in your lap.) She showed us how she likes to carry Brad’s socks to his room for him when he decides to take them off. And she showed us how much she loves the new doggy hunting blind Brad made for her.

And to top off the week, Kacey was in softball tryouts at school all week-long. She really wanted to play on the varsity team this year and so, knowing there were two returning varsity catchers (her position), she made it clear to the coaches that she was  not trying out for catcher. However, during the week, some assistance was needed with a particular group, and she was asked to catch. She agreed, stressing again that she was not trying out for catcher. One of the coaches praised her on her skills as a catcher. She started to get nervous. She knew her chances of making catcher on varsity were slim. Thursday night, the team assignments were made. Kacey was informed that she made the B team and the varsity team. The B team needed a catcher and that’s where she was really needed. She was told she would have a chance to play on both teams, but she is the only catcher on the B team. She told me she knew that her chances of seeing much time on varsity were slim.

She was ticked off! And disappointed and sad. She came home and had a good frustrated cry. I hugged her. She talked. She said if she didn’t get a chance to play varsity, she wouldn’t get a chance to earn her letter, which was a major goal this year. I asked her if she wanted to quit. I was hoping she’d say no, and she did. I helped her see some of the positives in the situation. She’s a good catcher. She was needed. A couple of her other friends also made both the varsity and B teams. She could have been cut completely. I also reminded her that she gets a lot of favor on her volleyball teams and it might be a bit much to expect the same in softball too. By the end of the evening, she was taking things in stride again. Good girl. I  was proud of her and I told her so. She’s never had to accept this kind of disappointment before. There’s a first time for everything, and I think she managed it pretty well.

All in all, it was a really hectic, busy, emotional and productive week.

This weekend… BOWLING TOURNAMENT! That will be a ton of fun!

How about you? What’s in store for your weekend?

Life is Good – March 12, 2010

Good stuff this week…

Brad is coming home for a week-long break from school and he arrives tonight! I’m so happy! He’s bringing the dog, Dacotah with him. Girlfriend Heather will be joining us on Wednesday. My kitchen is a wreck. It’s going to be chaos around here and I don’t care! My boy is coming home.

At work, there was some rearranging of things,  thus making my little corner of the office a much less high-traffic area. This makes me happy. I like people but when they are constantly stopping to ask questions just because you are the person in closest proximity, it can get annoying.

We have a volleyball-free weekend! I am SO tired of sitting in gyms all day long watching game after game after game. I love to watch my girl play, and she loves the game, but we parents need a break every now and then.

Jake was on spring break this week and therefore, he was relaxed and happy. Thursday morning, we played Name that Tune (and artist for bonus points) with our iTunes playlists. Jake has a love of music and his tastes are wide and varied. We have that in common. He’s got everything in his playlist from the current typical teenage pop stuff to Country, AC/DC to The Eagles to Steppenwolf to The Beatles to Rupert Holmes.

What?

You do TOO know who Rupert Holmes is. I was surprised Jake had this one:

Funny how much this song illustrates how drastically times have changed. Anyway, we had fun and laughed a ton playing this game.

Bring on the weekend!

Life is Good – February 26, 2010

It’s been a great week! We got a little bit of snow, but it was a very little bit. It just sort of floated around in the air for a couple of hours and there really wasn’t any accumulation to speak of.  Temperatures dropped for about a day, but then started to climb again. The piles of snow are beginning to melt and although I think we’ll probably get at least one or two more significant snowfalls before it’s all over, it gives me hope that spring is on its way.

Work is challenging and exciting again. I’ve blabbed enough about that already, so I’ll refrain from saying anything more.

I had a great time bowling and having lunch with Jake yesterday. Neither one of us was happy with our bowling, so we blamed it on the oil on the lane.

And remember Preacher Dave? I heard from him this week and he’s turning in the sign up sheet for the summer PBA Experience league. He wanted to make sure I was still “in”. I told him of course I was in. ‘Cause you can never have enough bowling!

Lazy Thursday

I had a lazy start to the day today. No alarm clock. No hurrying out of bed. It felt good. I needed that.

For breakfast, I made myself a peanut butter and Nutella sandwich on Country Hearth multi-grain bread, toasted, of course. I am a bread lover, and this bread is to die for!

Okay, I think I’ve hit a new low here on the blog when I’m describing my breakfast and singing the praises of bread… So as long as I’m down here, let’s talk about peanut butter. I’ve never bought natural peanut butter before. It’s pretty good. Not as sweet as my usual Jif, but good. Do all natural peanut butters have the consistency of baby poop? I swear, when I opened the jar and started stirring it up – because that’s what you do with natural peanut butter – you stir in the oil – my first thought was, “Baby poop.” Didn’t stop me from eating it though. It’s very tasty when combined with Nutella, which just seems sinful, but who could resist it? It’s spreadable chocolate and goes great on toast! (And shortbread cookies, I might add.)

Speaking of cookies, those Girl Scouts are evil. I currently have eight boxes of Girl Scout cookies in the house and I think I have six more on the way. It’s not that I want to eat them all. I just can’t say no to those cute faces when they give me their sales pitch and tell me how bad they want to go to Girl Scout camp. I went to Girl Scout camp once, even though I was never actually a Girl Scout. Not sure how that happened, but it was FUN!

So we have cookies. Lots of cookies. I’m going hide them and put them in the snack cupboard, one or two boxes at a time. Otherwise, Jake will eat three boxes a day. Not that it would affect him. The kid eats anything he wants and nothing of value and still doesn’t gain a pound. It’ll catch up with him someday though. I keep warning him.

I think I’ll take Jake bowling today. He doesn’t have class for some reason. He’s asked me a few times lately to go bowling with him, but I’ve not been able to take him up on the offer for one reason or another. My almost-19 year-old kid still likes to spend time with me now and then. I’ll take it. Today’s the day.

Cutie Patootie

My nephew, Ryan turned one year old this month. Kacey, Jake and I attended his birthday celebration on Sunday.

Ryan is SO adorable and he’s all boy! He has not only mastered the art of walking, but he’s got a pretty good grip on running. He looks quite comical racing across the living room with his fluffy little diaper butt filling up the back side of his little jeans.

Ryan looks amazingly like my Jake looked at one year, with his wispy blonde hair and huge blue eyes, not to mention a set of chubby, chubby cheeks just like Jake used to have.

Wasn’t Jake a cutie?

I’m such a sucker for babies. More than once, I reached out and snatched Ryan into my arms as he was running full force past where I was sitting. Then I’d talk baby nonsense to him and blow zerberts on his rosy little cheeks until he belly laughed with joy. He’d pretend to want to escape the mad-zerbert auntie, but then would not-so-subtly jam his chubby little cheek right back against my mouth, grabbing handfuls of my hair and throwing his head back in laughter .

Ryan’s gifts included bunches of the cutest clothing and lots of noisemaking toys. He really wasn’t interested in opening his gifts, though. He was content to pluck the bows off his packages, then examine them thoroughly and do his best to rip them apart. In the meantime, his 5-year-old sister, Ellie, made sure the presents were opened.

One is such a wondrous age. Spending time with Ryan made me miss those baby days with my own kids. Time flies… too quickly sometimes.

Of rain, ice and temporarily misplacing one of the kids

Mark’s alarm clock went off at six o’clock this morning. He was due at work in one hour.

Mark’s morning routine is simple and quick. He doesn’t putz around the house the way I do before work. He just does his thing and goes. He got dressed and brushed his teeth, tossed on a jacket and headed out to the garage in his typical morning haze. He started up the truck and backed out. It was immediately clear to him that the previous day’s forecast of rain had been correct. It had most definitely rained, and in addition, the temperatures had dropped, transforming our driveway into a down-hill skating rink. A mild panic settled over Mark as the truck slid sideways down the icy driveway. The mild panic soon transformed into an intense panic as the truck slid past the spot where Jake’s car is normally parked. The car was not there.

I can only imagine what crossed Mark’s mind as the realization hit him that our son had not come home from work last night. It is not uncommon for Jake to work until 1:00 a.m. and we are usually sound asleep when he gets home. We’ve often joked about how we sleep like the dead and our kids could come in at any hour of the night and we’d be none the wiser. Even when they wake us to tell us they are home, I rarely remember it the next day. I’m sure the joke suddenly didn’t seem funny at all as Mark thought about the fact that Jake had never returned home the previous night and we had never even noticed. Where was Jake? Had he gone home with a coworker by chance and maybe fallen asleep? Was he lying in a ditch somewhere? (And why do the ditches always get blamed when someone doesn’t get home at night? How did ditches get such a bad reputation?)

Mark’s truck slid to a stop at the end of the driveway and he reached for his cell phone, dialing Jake’s phone as quickly as he could. After a few rings, Jake answered his phone, sounding groggy.

Hello?

Where are you???

In bed….Where are you?

In the driveway.

Oh. Why are you calling me?

I was worried because I thought you didn’t come home last night. Where is your car?

It was icy when I got off work. I couldn’t get the car up the driveway, so I drove it over to Nanna’s house. I parked in her driveway and walked home. (Nanna’s house is a block away.)

Oh. Okay. Go back to sleep.

Several hours later, I awoke lazily after a good night’s sleep, totally unaware of what had transpired in the early morning hours. The house was still quiet. Deciding to go to the gym first thing, I put on some workout clothes and tiptoed upstairs so as not to wake anyone. As I passed the living room, I heard the quiet sound of the television and noticed Jake sleeping soundly on the love seat in front of Saturday morning cartoons. Next, I noticed a series of Post-It notes stuck to the kitchen doorway (which has become the family message center as of late.) On the notes, in Jake’s writing, it said, “I tried and tried to get the car up the driveway, but I couldn’t. It was too icy. It’s parked in Nanna’s driveway.”

Clearly, Mark had never seen the note.

I peeked out the living room window, through the yards that separate my house from my parents’ house. Their driveway is just barely visible from my front window in the winter, when all the leaves have fallen from the tree in my front yard. There was Jake’s car, just where his note said it would be.

Assuming he had just had trouble falling asleep in his own room, as he often does, I left Jake in the living room and slipped out of the house, only learning of his temporary misplacement later, when Mark called and relayed the story to me.

I’ll bet Mark starts doing bedroom checks in the early morning hours before he leaves the house from now on!

YAWN!

Well, it seems I’m already failing miserably at my New Year’s resolutions. I’m not too worried yet. I’ve got 350 odd days to get my act together.  I’m doing alright with the gym visits. It’s everything else that kind of sailed right out the window as of about January 2nd.

I vaguely remember making a promise to myself to try to embrace the winter this year too, but about all I’ve managed to embrace is the joy of sleeping. I do love my pillows, blankets, body  pillow and comforters this time of year. If there’s nothing going on in the evening, I’ll start contemplating going to bed by about 8:00. And I don’t get out again until I absolutely have to. In fact, I got out this morning, saw Kacey out the door for school and then hopped back in to bed for another hour.

It was unbelievably cold here for a couple of weeks. It’s warmed up now. It was foggy with gray skies today. Everything is just covered in dirty snow. Call me crazy but I’d love it if we got a fresh dumping of snow to brighten things up again.

It’s not all bad though. I still have my Monday bowling nights to look forward to every week. And the wheels are starting to turn at work again, after about 18 months of doing next to nothing. I’m gearing up to get really busy in the next three weeks and I’m thrilled. I love being hair-on-fire busy at work. If I have to spend 40 hours a week there, I better enjoy it. Right?

And one less worry…Jake started school this week and he seems to like it. I’m not so sure he really likes the studying and homework part, but I think he’s glad to be back among his peers again. Having a semester off gave him a much-needed break, but I really think he was beginning to get bored. I’m seeing a positive change in him already.

So, that’s about all for now. YAWN. I gotta go. I think I hear the Sandman calling again…

Just kidding. It’s the laundry that calls. There’s no end to the excitement around here…

Volleyball Day

Yep. It’s that time of year. Kacey is playing volleyball again. Technically, she never really stopped. The school season ended and the winter team started practicing. They’ve practiced for the last couple of months, and today they had their first tournament of the season.

Kace and I were up before the crack of dawn and heading off to a local college where the tournament was being held. These games start early! The team didn’t look so good today though. They came close a couple of times but just couldn’t put it together. They lost every single game. I thought Kacey looked pretty good though. She loves volleyball and takes it very seriously. She gets frustrated when other players make careless mistakes or miss a play because they’re goofing off. At the level she’s playing, they’re supposed to take it seriously. It is about winning. She knows what she’s supposed to do, and sometimes she has to help others remember what they are supposed to do. It’s the reason she sees so much playing time. And she’s not perfect either and can handle losing now and then. But losing every game? That’s a little hard for her to take. She had some serious pouting going on when it was all said and done. Can’t say as I blame her.

During the games, I sat in the front row of the bleachers and I kept the defensive stats for the coach. Between games, while our girls were sitting or refereeing other teams’ games, I read a book. And I learned something while I read…

You should never sit in the front row of bleachers during a volleyball game, with your head down, and allow yourself to become completely immersed in a book. Why? I’ll tell you why. Sometimes those volleyballs don’t get hit back over to the other side of the net. Sometimes they get hit. Really hard. And the players in the back row – the ones whom you are sitting behind – miss the ball. And sometimes while you’re reading your book, with your head down, completely absorbed, you might faintly hear someone say, “Heads up! Heads up!” But it doesn’t register because you are so lost in the book you are reading. And then you’ll get hit in the head with a volleyball. And OUCH!

And also, after a long day of sitting on metal bleachers. Your butt will hurt. Bring a cushion.

On a more serious note, I found time to talk with some of the other moms. Quite by accident, we started talking about kids. Oldest kids and middle kids and youngest kids. And the topic of college came up. And it just so happens that these two moms I was talking with each have middle children who are very much like Jake. We talked about the struggles with school, the years of battling and pushing, pleading and helping, praying and hoping it will all be okay. They talked about how each of their kids had taken a little break after high school too, like Jake, instead of just jumping right into higher education. One of them has a daughter who graduated with Jake and is just starting school this month, like he is. The other one has a daughter a couple years older. She described her daughter’s struggles throughout her younger years. It was comforting to feel that bond. To know that other parents struggle with a child who struggles. There are other people who have kids who succeed easily and also have kids who have to work so much harder at all those things most take for granted. And the best part was hearing this mom talk about her daughter, the one who sounds so much like Jake, and the way she is making it. She’s going to school and she’s passing and she’s going to make it.

Jake starts community college tomorrow and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to being worried about him. Brad accused me yesterday of holding Jake’s hand too much. The comment made me angry and all I could do was walk away from him. How do you explain to one kid, to whom everything comes pretty easily, who thinks you just favor and coddle and baby another kid? How do you make him understand how much it hurts to see your child struggle and fail? How do you make him comprehend how many failures, how many looks and words of disappointment it takes to make a kid stop believing in his own ability? He’ll never understand that what looks like babying and hand-holding to him is a form of support I need to give. He doesn’t know what it’s like to not believe in yourself. He doesn’t know how it feels to be so afraid of failing again that you hesitate to even try. It doesn’t occur to him that Jake’s sometimes arrogant attitude is only a way of masking insecurities. It hurts to see Brad holding this against Jake. I just hope some day he will get it, maybe just a little bit. Maybe someday these two boys can actually be friends with one another.

Long, Cold Weekend

Christmas came down at our house this weekend and was packed away for another year. It felt kind of good to get things back to normal. All those decorations and the tree start to make me feel sort of claustrophobic after a while. And to think I was feeling the post-holiday blues just a few days ago.

I got lots accomplished over the long weekend. The house is really clean. I did a bunch of organizing. Got the laundry all caught up. I washed the rugs in the entry way and decided they’d seen better days when I found most of the rubber backing in the dryer’s lint trap afterwards. So we went off to find new rugs and found some that met with my satisfaction. On a whim, Mark and I stopped at Seasonal Concepts to see about buying a new Christmas tree. Ours is probably ten years old and it has seen better days. For the past couple years I’ve been wanting a slim tree, and one that isn’t such a chore to put together and take apart each year. They still had lots of them in stock and had them marked down to about a quarter of the original prices. I found one that seemed PERFECT, only to find out that all they had left was the floor model with no box. Since it was one of the pre-lit kind and the salesman said the lights had pretty much been on since before Thanksgiving, I passed on it. I guess I’ll try again next year and just spend whatever it takes. It would have been nice to get it at the bargain price though.

With all the chores pretty well caught up by Saturday, I found myself needing to get out. It was too damn cold to spend any amount of time outdoors, so I ended up over at my sister, Cory’s house where we watched a movie. She had just picked up New in Town, on DVD. The movie stars Renee Zellweger and Harry Connick, Jr. as well as Joe‘s look-a-like, J.K. Simmons. It was a pretty cute chick-flick which I’d heard nothing about prior to watching it. In the opening scene, there’s a little house in a snowy neighborhood, and Cory exclaimed, “Hey! That looks like a Minnesota house!” You know why it looked like a Minnesota house? Because it was! The story takes place in New Ulm, Minnesota and makes great fun of Min-uh-soh-tah and its inhabitants. The Minnesota “accent” was greatly exaggerated and gave the impression that all of the residents of this fine state are hokey small-towners with names like Blanche and Stu, who spend their time scrap-booking, ice fishing, making tapioca pudding and attending Friday night fish fires at the local VFW. And while I was tempted to be offended, it was just too funny not too laugh.

Yesterday I hit the gym in the morning to run a few miles. You can tell that the New Year’s resolutions have kicked in because the place was packed! While I ran, I watched Kitchen Impossibleand started getting a bug to reface my kitchen cabinets. And replacing the counter tops. And the stove. And the refrigerator. And my husband better not even think about arguing with me on this one. It’s time.

In the afternoon, we did some family bowling and the amateur, Kacey, pretty much kicked all our butts except for one game where I did the butt kicking. That girl has a mean straight ball! Jake was none too thrilled to get beaten by his sister, using his old bowling ball!

This morning, I woke up to temps of ten below zero. Predictions for the week are highs of ten above, at best. Throw fashion out the window. I’ll just be focusing on staying warm!