Life is Good – January 22, 2012

It was warmer this morning when we woke up. Twenty-two degrees! Lucy and I decided to go for a walk since it’s been a while. We headed out before sunrise and it was so quiet and peaceful. Did I say we walked? Lucy likes to run. She made me run a little bit too. It wasn’t so bad. I might try that again sometime soon.

There’s a temple along the route we took today. It looks really pretty in the pre-dawn morning.

Later in the morning, Jake and I went to the bowling alley. I have a friend who is not only a phenomenal bowler, she’s a bowling coach. She runs clinics to help others learn to bowl better. I nagged her for months to run a clinic at our bowling alley, and so she did. We spent three hours figuring out what we were doing wrong and what we were doing right. We practiced drills and honed our new skills. I am amazed at how much I didn’t know going into this but I’m excited to start working on improving my game. And it was really fun having Jake along with me. He keeps to himself too much sometimes, but we have our love of bowling in common. I’m really glad I convinced him to come along with me.

After bowling, it was time to return Kacey to school. Her long winter break is over. She wasn’t happy to be leaving Connor. Connor wasn’t happy to see her go. I was feeling sad she had to go back. But I keep reminding myself that college is a good thing for her; the right thing. As much as I love having her around, she has to grow up. We picked up her friend, Matt and brought him back to school too. They chatted and laughed in the back seat while we drove. I was glad Matt was there to take her mind off the sadness of leaving Connor.

It rained most of the day, so the roads were sloppy and a bit slippery. But we made it back to school safe and sound. Kacey’s good friend, Caitlin was already there and waiting for her. They were happy to see each other, which made it easier for me to drive away. My sister had come along for the ride, so I had some fun company on the drive home, making it hard to feel too down.

Besides, I give Kacey two weekends before she’s back home again. And I’m not complaining!

Life is good!

 

Fingers Crossed

I have a kid who I worry about, maybe more than the others. My middle child. My Jake.

He had such a hard time in school. I’m talking about Kindergarten right through his high school years. We did everything we could to try to help make it easier for him, but he was just one of those kids who didn’t do well in a standard classroom setting. I think back to those years and I remember “lost” or forgotten homework, battles at the kitchen table over homework, worrying … constant worrying. I think about the years of summer school and the expensive tutoring we paid for. Could’ve paid for a year of college with that tutoring money.  There were compassionate teachers who loved him and encouraged him through the tough times. There were teachers who I still can’t think about without getting furious all over again. They made my son feel as if he was worth less than his peers. There were times that my child told me he “knew” he was stupid. It broke my heart to see him struggle the way he did. But he worked hard. He found the drive within himself and in the end, he put the push on and graduated from high school. On time. With very acceptable grades. I was so proud of him, especially because he had to work so hard to accomplish it.

After high school, Jake took a little break. We agreed to let him take a breather from his education. He worked and allowed himself to relax for a while. But after one semester at home, I reminded him that he had to pick some sort of direction and work towards it. He registered for classes at the local community college.

Let’s just say that didn’t work out so well. And he hasn’t been in school for the past year and a half.

Jake is a hard worker. He has a job at a bowling center. Not a bad job for a 20 year-old guy. They rely on him there. He’s one of the “go-to” guys. They know if they need someone in a pinch, Jake will drop everything and be there for them. He’s moved up a little bit and earned a little raise. He started out in the arcade and laser tag area. He’s moved up to the bowling desk. He helps manage some of the leagues. He does a little maintenance on the lanes. Sometimes it’s after 1:30 a.m. when he comes home, tired, with oil from the pin-setters staining his uniform shirt.

I still worry about him. A lot. People are always telling me, “He’ll find his way.” He’s a good kid. He’s polite. A little introverted. Charming when he wants to be. People tell me, “Not everyone figures out their direction in life right away. Give him time.”

I know. But I still worry.

Lately Jake’s been wanting to buy a car. He already has a car. He doesn’t want to get rid of his car. He just wants another one. A ’99 Mustang.

“… to work on,” he tells me.

“We already have three vehicles here,” I tell him. “We don’t have the kind of garage or enough driveway or yard to keep so many vehicles.”

The bottom line, I told him, (and I hated having to say it, but it needed saying,) is that he is twenty years old. He is living at home. People who have two cars to their name don’t live in their parents’ houses without a plan for the future.

“And besides,” I asked, “What kind of work do you plan to do? You don’t know enough about cars to do work on them.”

“Well, I might want to take some auto-mechanics courses,” he said. He has a buddy whose dad is completely into cars and he’s spent some time hanging around there, getting a feel for what it’s all about.

I wondered if he could see the hope welling up inside of me. I latched onto that sliver of possibility and went with it. He has always loved cars. When he was nearing his high school graduation, I had tried to get him to consider going into auto-mechanics. He thought he needed to pursue a college degree and shunned the idea at the time.

“Well…,” I said. “If you’re serious. Maybe this is something we could talk about.”

His face lit up, but I cautioned him that there would be some give and take in this deal if his dad and I agreed to consider it. I told him that he couldn’t just say he was going to enroll in classes, then get the car, then fail to follow through with enrolling in a program. I told him I wanted to see him make the effort. Research schools. Find out costs and when he could register.

It’s been a couple of months since the Mustang discussion first came up. Yesterday afternoon, Jake called me to say he was on his way to take a tour at a school. He had spoken with a guidance counselor about admissions requirements. He was taking charge of this. I was impressed!

When I came home from work, he wanted to talk about things. The first thing he wanted to talk about was buying the car. Red flags went up for me.

“Jake,” I said. “I don’t want to sit here and be convinced that you should buy the car. Tell me about the tour and your plans for enrollment. Tell me about school! I don’t want you thinking you can run out and buy a car just because you toured a school. And if you do get the car, you need to know that the agreement comes with stipulations. If you fail to enroll, or drop out, the car goes.”

“Mom.”

“Yeah?”

“I know this isn’t just about a car. I work with a guy. He’s 41 years old and he works at a bowling center for nine dollars an hour. He rents a place because his parents won’t let him live in their house anymore. He can’t afford to do anything fun. Mom, I don’t want to be that guy.”

(I think I heard angels singing at this point.)

“Okay, honey,” I said. “Tell me about the car.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I don’t know if he’ll get the car. It’s been for sale for a while and is still available. Not a great sign. I still don’t know where we’d put it. But if this car is the link to helping my son make a future for himself, we’ll figure it out.

If this keeps up, I’m totally going to get fat.

So there’s this thing in my kitchen that I’ve barely noticed before now.

I thought it was just a place for the kids to put clean dishes when they unload the dishwasher and they don’t want to bend down to put things away all the way into that cupboard nearest the floor. Bending down is hard work, you know.

Turns out, you can actually make food on that thing!

I also discovered this vast collection of books that sit on a rack in the kitchen.

Turns out these books contain instructions for making food that tastes good and doesn’t start out as something frozen that gets heated up in a microwave.

In fact, as it turns out?

I?

Can COOK! 

I know. I was as surprised as you are.

It was a rather cool day today. Perfect day for making lasagna, I thought.

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And so I did. I made lasagna! And I’m just going to be honest. It was phenomenal! There was so.much.cheese in this recipe. Can’t go wrong with lots of cheese. There were three kinds of cheese; one pound of mozzarella alone! The recipe said I should shred the mozzarella cheese, but HELLO! Why would I do that when I can buy it already shredded in a handy plastic bag? Yeah, I know, you food-snob types are thinking I just compromised the integrity of my lasagna with the pre-shredded stuff, but let me reiterate. Phenomenal!

How do I know? Because Jake ate it. And he even said out loud that it was good. And he said to make sure there were leftovers for him to eat when he got home from work. So there you have it.

Tell me this doesn’t look good:

Maybe you need a closer look?

And yes, this cooking thing is totally a ploy to lure the kids back home when they get sick of that nasty college food.

And I know you’re drooling now, so here’s the recipe. Go make your own.

Conversations with Jake

I keep my cell phone on my desk at work every day, turn off the ringer, and set it to vibrate. If my family needs to talk to me, I have them call or text my cell phone. If I’m in a position to respond, I will. If not, they can leave me a message.

This afternoon, my cell phone buzzed. I could see it was Jake, and I wasn’t overly busy, so I answered.

Jake: Hey, Mom!

Me: Hey, Bud. What’s up?

Jake: Where’s Dad?

Me: At work, why?

Jake: What time did he leave?

Me: I don’t know. Probably two o’clock.

Jake: Well he wasn’t home when I woke up at ten fifteen either.

Me: Oh, that’s right. He switched his shift today. He would have left home at ten.

Jake: Oh. Okay.

Me: Why? What do you need?

Jake: Nothing. I was just wondering. Hey, there was something else I wanted to ask you too.

Me: What’s that?

Jake: Who sings Come on Eileen?

Me: Ummm… (humming)… Hmmm hmm hmm hm. Hm hm hm hm hmm hmmm. Hmmm hmm hm hm…. DEXY’S MIDNIGHT RUNNERS! Riders? No. Runners. Dexy’s Midnight Runners.

Jake: How do you spell Dexy’s?

Me: D – E – X… just look it up. That’s what Google is for.

Jake: Okay. Hey. Who sings Aeroplane?

Me: Aeroplane? I don’t know. How does it go?

Jake: I don’t know.

Me: Can you sing a little bit of it?

Jake: No.

Me: Hum it?

Jake: No.

Me: Then look it up. That’s what Google is for.

Jake: Okay. I think it might be The Red Hot Chili Peppers, but I’m not sure.

Me: Just search it on iTunes. You’ll figure it out.

Jake: Okay. See ya later.

Me: K, bye.

And then I returned to my fascinating and gratifying world of work. I was diligently creating a user guide for our website. Approximately a half hour later, my cell phone rang again. It was Jake.

Me: What’s up now, Jake?

Jake: I’m smelling gas by the stove. Not a lot. Just a little. (Ongoing problem. We’re working on this. Steve the G.E. appliance expert said he smelled no gas, but I swear, it’s there. I’m calling someone on this to come check it out.)

Me: I know. I keep smelling it too. I’ll have Dad look at it again tonight.

Jake: Okay. There was something else too.

Me: What’s that?

Jake: The kitty wants to say hi to you. Hold on.

Cat: MEOW

Me: Which cat was that?

Jake: It was Holly. She wanted to say hi.

Me: Okay. Thanks. And as much as I appreciate it, I really can’t be spending my time at work, on my cell phone, talking to cats. Even if her days are numbered.

Jake: Okay. See you when you get home.

Me: K, bye.

Hey, he’s nineteen. If he’s actually willing to talk to me, I’ll take it. I won’t dictate the topic of the conversations. But I do draw the line at talking to the cat.

Life is Good – April 2, 2010

I have no photo to offer today. Things have been so chaotic around here that I haven’t even had a chance to take pictures lately. It’s a shame too, because the weather was absolutely gorgeous yesterday here in Minnesota. Our temperatures were in the high seventies and I even donned my flip-flops for the first time this year!

So things are still crazy in la casa de Terri, due mainly to the kitchen remodel project which is threatening to send me over the edge. I have to constantly remind myself that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. (Though Kacey recently informed me that due to the struggling economy, and in an attempt to conserve energy, the light at the end of the tunnel has been turned off until further notice.)

The past few days have been the worst days of the remodeling adventure. There had been a temporary restoration of order in the kitchen, but then came the installation of the new counter tops. In addition, Mark started ripping out the old hardwood floor. The table, chairs and any other kitchen items that I find necessary and convenient were shuffled all over the house. Early Wednesday morning, as I was attempting to get out the door for work, I found myself searching high and low for my insulated lunch bag and my vitamins. Thursday morning, Mark began installing the new hardwood floor bright and early. Our friend, Paul came to help out. The place was a mess. The sound of an air-nailer and pounding hammers continued throughout the day. I felt in the way and aimless, so I got out of the house and ran some errands.

When I returned, they were still working fast and furious and I still felt useless, so off I went again. I found myself at Barnes and Nobel, which always has a therapeutic effect on me. I recently (finally) finished reading Pillars of the Earth and LOVED it! This is probably the best book I have ever read. So there was no question what book I was seeking in my trip to the bookstore. The sequel, World Without End was sitting on the shelf, calling my name, just waiting for me to come pick it up. Who was I to argue?

The guys worked well into the late evening on the floor installation. In spite of the noise they were making, I decided to go to bed and was actually able to go to sleep, for a few hours anyway. Midnight rolled around and suddenly I was wide awake. I decided to tiptoe into the kitchen to see how much they’d accomplished and much to my surprise, they’d completed about three-fourths of the floor! The new refrigerator and stove, which had previously been sitting in the living room were now in their proper places. A sense of order is slowly but surely returning. Maybe today, I’ll actually be able to unpack all of the kitchen belongings and place them in their new homes!

This weekend promises to be a full one. Not only is it Easter weekend, but today is Jake’s 19th birthday! He’s been desperately wanting an iPod touch, so one of my escapes yesterday was a trip to Target to pick it up for him. He’s been nearly crawling out of his skin in anticipation, so I didn’t make him wait for his gift. I gave it to him and let him start enjoying it right away. And I was rewarded with one of his rare but heartfelt hugs and a sincere thank you.

This week also saw the return of my parents from their winter home in Arizona. It is so good to have them back. They arrived late Wednesday afternoon and I walked over to their house as soon as I felt they’d had enough time to get their bags inside and get somewhat settled. I spent a wonderful evening sitting around the kitchen table with Mom, Dad and my sister. We talked and reminisced about friends and neighbors from “the old days” when my siblings and I were growing up and it was such fun.  Mom and Dad had an uneventful winter, which is always good news. No health scares, to speak of and they returned home to very warm and welcoming temperatures. The whole family will be gathering at Mom and Dad’s on Sunday for brunch to celebrate Easter and their return home.

Life is Good!

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?