They Said I Do!

Our baby girl is married!

Chesney was a gorgeous bride, absolutely radiant. Farm Boy was so handsome, literally beaming every time he looked at his bride. I felt as if I might burst with the joy I felt for my daughter and new son-in-law.

Also, can I just say? My family cleans up nice!

Oh, how I prayed about this day, and not just the usual prayers for a young couple committing their lives to one another. I stacked prayers on top of prayers because while planning a wedding can be stressful during the best of times, no one could have imagined a year ago when they were engaged, what it would mean to do so during a pandemic.

Last spring after having already set the date, the venue informed us that due to the pandemic it now had to operate at a lower capacity. Lucky for us it’s a large venue and our guest list fell comfortably below those restrictions. Many guests declined their invitations from the start, but we were happily surprised that most others were still willing to attend. We worked with the staff at the venue to plan extra spacing between tables, making use of both the upper and main levels. We planned to seat guests either by household, or small numbers of those in the same bubble. The invitations stated that everyone should plan to wear a mask and we bought extras just in case, along with a multitude of hand-sanitizer.

Their wedding day would surely look different than what they’d dreamed, but Chesney and Farm Boy handled themselves with immense grace and patience (with just a few tears shed) along the way.

But as the November wedding date loomed closer, the impact of COVID-19 was rapidly increasing in our state. Three days before the wedding, our governor was to announce new restrictions. I sat on the edge of my seat the afternoon of the press conference, waiting to hear whether this would require us to cancel with only three days to go, or if we could somehow go forward. All along the way, the venue held us to the scheduled date, because as they explained, they were still allowed to be open. And we truly sympathized when the owner explained that if they rescheduled or refunded everyone who asked, they would go out of business. Long ago I told my daughter that while we’d already invested significantly in this wedding, money isn’t everything. If they wanted to cancel, we’d figure it out. Jack and I maintained this stance even now, but Chesney and Farm Boy decided to just roll with things as best they could.

As it turned out, there would be new restrictions for weddings and receptions, but not until just after our event. Still, I didn’t feel good about things. The governor had simply drawn a line in the sand. On the date of this wedding, we could gather a couple hundred people together in an enclosed space. Just a short time later it would no longer be allowed. I could not stop thinking about how the virus didn’t care about dates. People would still be at risk at this wedding. And in the days just ahead, upwards of forty guests called to tell us they weren’t coming. Some had already been personally impacted by the virus, others simply didn’t feel safe coming. At this point, I’d have been happy if our immediate families could just be there, but a good number of guests weren’t backing out. I felt like we were on a freight train racing out of control.

I’ve always been champion worrier, but now I was experiencing true and severe anxiety. That evening after the governor’s announcement, my brain kept reminding me we were being selfish to forge ahead. The remaining hours of that day dragged on for me and I lost the ability to focus on anything else. I began to feel a burning sensation in my chest which traveled up my throat and into my mouth. I was convinced I had the virus and I can’t describe the devastation I felt at the thought of missing my daughter’s wedding day. I frantically searched online for locations where I could be tested, but without displaying any of the typical symptoms, I couldn’t get a test before the wedding day. I kept all of this to myself until I burst out crying, telling Jack my worst fears.

Jack assured me I didn’t have the virus, but I didn’t believe him. I couldn’t sleep that night and woke up in the morning with the burning feeling still raging in my chest. Then I had a revelation … and took something to ease the effects of heartburn. Voilà! I quickly felt so much better. I had literally worried myself sick.

I felt a bit less anxious the day before, and on the day of the wedding I forced myself to pack my anxieties away in a dark corner of my brain. While my fears never truly went away, I’m happy to say that I was able to rejoice in and fully celebrate my daughter’s wedding day.

In the end, the number of guests who attended was just over a hundred, about half of the number we’d invited. People were really good about keeping masks on. We had to forgo hugging and handshakes, which was hard for a hugger like me. Some people left right after the ceremony, and some as soon as they’d finished dinner. Some of us still danced and it was FUN! But the whole thing wound down by around ten o’clock. Those who stuck it out told us how much fun it was, how good the food was, how happy they were to help us celebrate this amazing event.

Most importantly, my prayers were answered ten-fold. In spite of it all, my daughter got to marry the love of her life. The newlyweds were truly happy. I’ve said something to Chesney and Farm Boy many times throughout this year, and in my toast at the wedding reception, I said it again. If Friday the thirteenth is suspicious during a normal year, in a year like 2020 when we celebrated their wedding day, it can only be a magical day filled with blessings for the years ahead.

Coping, Cooking, and Missing My Kid

We’ve started our spring yard clean-up. It’s taking forever.

Jack’s workday begins at 5:00 am, so he’s home by mid-afternoon while I still have a good hour or so work. Every day, he pokes his head into my “office” and says hi, then goes outside to “do yard work,” which is code for “hanging out with the neighbors.” I can see Jack through the front windows. There’s rarely much actual work happening. Instead, I hear the loud conversations he carries on across the yards with the neighbors. They keep an appropriate social-distance and yell back and forth to one another. Jack will be out there for hours, with all of the necessary tools close at hand; the lawnmower, the leaf blower, work gloves, etc. Still, other than my corner memory garden, no yard projects seemingly ever reach completion.

I can’t really complain. We have friendly, good neighbors. And everyone has to find a way to cope with staying at home. Jack has found his. Work a little. Chat a lot. Do it all again the next day. I mean really … what else have we got to do?

Me? I’m walking. Every day around lunchtime, I go outside and head toward the nearby walking path. My neighbor-friend joins me and for thirty minutes we walk, share work stories, talk about the good books we’re reading, or ponder the complexities of life before we go back home to finish the workday. This is what gets me through these days. Sometimes I walk after dinner as well, earbuds in with an audiobook streaming from the Audible app on my phone. It helps me breathe and minimizes the sense that the walls are closing in.

Now I need something to spark my interest in cooking again. Actually, it’s not the actual cooking that bothers me. I just haven’t planned meals very well lately, and without a plan, cooking feels like such a challenge! One of my weekend goals is to spend time sifting through recipes and deciding on the week’s dinners. Also, I had an Amazon gift card burning a hole in my pocket (reward for participating in my company’s wellness program,) so I ordered an InstaPot. I’ve heard great things, so I’m hoping this will bring some life back to our meals. InstaPots not being considered an essential product though, I’ve got a couple of weeks to wait until it shows up on my doorstep.

Another weekend goal is to see my youngest. I’ve been extra-specially missing her this week. Our oldest son, Jaeger has stopped by a few times to pick up his mail that still comes to our address. He just moved in with his girlfriend last weekend (YAY!) so maybe he’ll officially file a change of address soon! Middle son, Ryker is living here, so I’ve been able to stay well connected with my boys. But I haven’t seen Chesney in person in … over a month? Six weeks? Feels like forever. We text a lot, call sometimes, and FaceTime now and then. I still miss her. She sent me a great picture this week though. Her transition to farm girl is coming along well!

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We’re going to try to connect this weekend, halfway between here and there. Farm Boy’s chores and the weather might dictate whether we manage to pull this off. But if all goes well, I found a park that looks good for us to have a nice social-distance picnic or a leisurely stroll.

Weekend to Weekend

2019.10.20_2bLast Saturday and Sunday were brilliant weather days, and left me with such an immense feeling of gratefulness and contentment. Clearly, this is my time of year! With Jack off on a hunting trip last weekend, I got the house cleaned and in order, and then spent Sunday afternoon fulfilling a promise to bake cookies with the little guys from next door. We had agreed on “after lunch,” so when my doorbell rang at 8:50 am Sunday morning,  I was taken by surprise. I pulled the door inward, only to find E standing on the front step beaming hopefully and asking if I was ready. I gently asked him to come back later, after I’d made a trip to the grocery store and when I’d be more prepared.

E and Little J later showed up at the agreed upon time with a friend in tow, the little guy from the other next door. Not long after, Big J and yet another neighbor boy came knocking at the door. Apparently Little J had told them I would only allow three boys to come bake with me, but Big J thought he and his friend would chance it and I welcomed them inside. I hadn’t planned on hosting a party, but they were all (mostly) so polite, and the house was filled with their laughter as they made jokes about pumpkins and underwear. As I watched them sneak candy sprinkles and dabs of frosting into their mouths, mix the frosting colors together, and generally make a big mess, I realized my patience has grown significantly since I was a young mother. We had a great time and everyone took home a plate of Halloween cookies.

After last weekend’s picturesque days, this past Monday arrived bringing with it an all-day rain and chill, along with a heavy dose of the Monday blues. The rain began to subside on Tuesday, but clouds and cold remained. By Wednesday, the sun returned and I took a break from work to go outside on my lunch break. A friend and I took two laps around the pond, kicking through a blanket of dry leaves and inhaling deeply the crisp scent of autumn. It’s the time of year that I always wish desperately would hold on just a bit longer. Driving home from the office on Thursday, I marveled at the explosion of color all around me. It wasn’t just the leaves on the trees. Even the air seemed tinged with a golden hue.

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View from my parking spot at work

It’s such a bittersweet time of year. The landscape will soon be gray and still, the temperatures encouraging a reluctance to leave the house. And like every year at this time, I’m contemplating ways to enjoy the outdoors so that winter doesn’t feel so depressing. I’ve been considering cross-country skiing, though I’ve never done it and have yet to get serious about finding some equipment.

The past week seemed sluggish after the previous week’s travels to Madison, and yet also felt a bit whirlwind-ish. While I returned to the routine of going to my own office, the workdays were hectic, in addition to the fact that Chesney’s life is changing course quickly. All I can do is sit back and watch. Her job interview went well. She was offered the position and she accepted. She moves out next weekend already, and starts the new job on the fourth of November. I can almost hear a clock ticking in the background during the hours we spend together. I’m so very happy for her, and yet still want to put the brakes on her time at home. She’s my dinner cooking partner almost every evening, and my go-to person for conversation of all sorts. We share the same weird sense of humor and taste for t.v. shows that offer an escape from the often dismal stream of world and local news. We encourage each other in our efforts to be healthy and share a mutual adoration of the family dog.

As news of her engagement, new job, and pending move spreads, she tells me that many people ask her how her mom is taking it. “Not great,” she tells them, and we laugh each time she conveys another of these exchanges. She’s kidding, sort of, when she’s says I’m not handling it well. I’m not desperate that she’s leaving and there’s never been any question in my mind that my kids would all someday leave the nest. Still, I’ve made no secret that I’m a bit saddened at the idea of not seeing her every single day, and I do love having her at home. But we both know that if she were to remain at home indefinitely, neither one of us would be completely happy about it. Her time has come to spread her wings. And it’s probably time for me to spread mine again as well.

This morning I awoke long before the sunrise. I tried to go back to sleep, but with Jack’s elbow in my back, and the rumble of his snoring filling the room, it was not to be. I start most mornings with a workout I choose from an at-home program I joined last March. It’s my habit to tackle it before I do anything else each day. So still yawning, I changed into my workout clothes, figuring I’d get it done in time to have coffee with Chesney a bit later on. I’m in the midst of an eighty-day program and just finished the first third of it yesterday. Today was supposed to be a rest day, but I felt the need to stretch out, and decided to try a yoga routine from the library of options. While the stillness of the night encompassed the rest of the house, I rolled out my yoga mat and pushed play on a beginner’s course.

Lucy tends to be an early riser too, especially if she hears me moving. I filled her dish with kibble, waited for her to finish, then let her outside and back in again before settling down on my yoga mat. As the recorded program walked me through some initial breathing exercises, Lucy sat square in front of me, trying to lick my face and making me laugh. I knew I wouldn’t master my breathing this way, but I couldn’t help reaching out to stroke her fur and give her a kiss. As long as I was sitting in the cross-legged position, Lucy continued to try to look into my eyes, and kept resting her paw on my knee. She finally gave up when I moved to get on all fours to do the cat and cow positions. She lifted herself up onto the couch then, settling into her morning nap on a blanket that had been left strewn there the night before.

As I finished my “practice,” the household began to come alive. I made some protein pancakes for Chesney and myself, the only ones who regularly eat breakfast. Jack got up and quickly left to go help a family member with a yard project. Chesney left for work, reveling in the fact that it’s the last Saturday she’ll have to spend at work from now on. Ryker, ever the night owl, remained sleeping in his room. (Nope, the nest still won’t be empty as long as he remains a full-time resident, though it will be much quieter. He’s rarely here except to sleep.)

For now, at least until mid-afternoon, the house is mine and the weekend is here. Two whole days to catch up, catch a breath, relax and take whatever these days may bring.

Season of Change

Fall has hit its prime around here. I can’t count the number of times I’ve paused this week to take note of the absolute stunning beauty of this time of year. While driving to and from Madison this week for work, I spent the nearly four-hour drive marveling at the expanse of trees lining the highway, the rural landscapes boasting a chorus of red, orange and gold. As much as I might complain about the Minnesota winters, this time of year makes me so appreciative to live where the world looks so spectacular at times.

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My backyard view

The past week has been hectic with me being away from home half the week. I’ve been in my “new” job just over a year now and have established a pattern of going to Madison about every other month for in-person meetings with my team. I’ve had my ups and downs during that time, thanks in large part to the fact that I completely underestimated the challenges of being the sole remote employee. I’ve realized that learning to understand and work with other personalities can be a hurdle when you’re not in the same physical space every day. And I’ve had to learn to speak up about my workload and ability to handle more. There was a brief period of time in which I was anxious, losing sleep, and questioning whether I belonged, but I’m happy to say that I’m in a pretty good place now.

Upon arriving home from Madison Wednesday evening, tired and ready to unwind, I came through the door to find that once again, my little buddies from next door, E and Little J had just arrived and were looking for me … and hoping for some dinner. Thankfully, Jack had found a rare inclination to do some cooking during the past few days and at that very moment there was homemade vegetable beef soup simmering on the stove. The aroma of it had my mouth watering, but I wasn’t so sure E and Little J would eat it. I told them they were welcome to have supper with us and cautioned them about what was in the soup. “I like vegetables,” E insisted. “Me too,” said Little J. I was wary, but invited them to have a seat.

Jack and Chesney had just started eating before I’d come home. E and Little J scrambled up onto two open stools at our kitchen island while I ladled the soup into bowls for them and myself. I found some crackers in the cupboard for the boys, sure that they’d need something solid once they realized they didn’t really like the soup. But I was impressed when each of them polished off their bowls and asked for more. When they’d had their fill, it was the crackers that hadn’t been finished.

2019.10.16 (2)After dinner, the boys found the markers and paper that I’d added to the stack of games and cards I’ve begun to keep on a shelf in the living room for the times when they stop by. They settled themselves back at the island and went to work on the big sheets of white construction paper, remnants from a long ago school project that Chesney found in the game cupboard. Whenever I ask the boys about school, they’re most enthusiastic about art class, and I’m beginning to see why. They both exhibit a real sense of creativity, and Little J especially has a serious knack for drawing. On Wednesday evening, he composed pictures of Jack, Chesney and me. I tried not to laugh when I saw the likeness of myself. I’d like to think I don’t look nearly as old as he depicted me, but regardless, I was impressed with the detail. While he was working on it, Little J had said he needed to put glasses on me. I mentioned that I only wear them for reading. The finished product showed me holding something in my hand. When I asked about it, he said, “It’s a book!”  The drawings took a place of honor on the refrigerator, and the boys beamed with pride.

The following night, the boys were back again and hungry when I returned home from a hair appointment. I wasn’t nearly as ready for them this time, so I stirred up some pancake batter and we ate them smothered in syrup with a side of apple slices. Little J liked my habit of smearing peanut butter on the pancakes first, and then drizzling them with syrup. He ate at least four pancakes, and after dinner, he wanted to draw again. This time he produced a rather disturbing character that looked like something out of an adult horror movie, complete with an ax in hand, dripping with blood. Still … his talents were evident. For obvious reasons, I chose not to display that one on the refrigerator.

While I realize that by letting the boys spend time with us, we’re filling some gaps in their lives, they probably don’t understand they are filling one in ours. They bring variety, laughter, and innocence to what can sometimes feel like a stale and aging routine. The older I get, the more I realize that one of my needs is to take care of others (even though I might complain about it in some aspects of my life.) That is the gap that the boys fill for me. And especially as I think about how quiet the house will become as Chesney makes plans to move out and begin her own life, I know that I’ll welcome the boys’ presence all the more. 

Speaking of Chesney, things are moving quickly. It’s only been two weeks since she got engaged, and already she’s had a phone interview for a job in Farm Boy’s town. She and I spent Friday evening shopping, in search of something new to wear for her in-person interview tomorrow. If she gets the job, she’ll be leaving home much, much sooner than I’d anticipated. While all of this is somewhat bittersweet for me, I’m so happy that her life is gaining traction and moving in the direction she wants it to go. These past few years have been very happy ones with her at home again. She’s my best friend and such a source of joy and laughter. But now it’s her time to forge a life of her own and this will bring a whole new variety of happiness, I know. It is definitely a season of change around here.

And all of a sudden…

As I write this, the sky is dumping fine grains of snow to the ground here in Minnesota. On October 12th. This is a bit too early for my liking and I’m holding out hope that this is a fluke thing and the real fall will return again before winter truly sets in. But considering this, it’s no wonder I often find myself marveling about how quickly time passes. Then again, I guess it all depends on where my mind is focused, because at other times, life feels like stream of dull routine that seems to bleed slowly from one day into the next.

Not long ago, feeling tired of viewing life as stale and rote, I jotted down some goals intended to keep me invested in things that would improve my mind, body, spirituality, and relationships. The neighborhood dinner we hosted a week and a half ago was the result of a goal to spend more time with people and doing things outside of my own household. (The dinner was a huge success, by the way. The lasagna was a hit. Little Man next door who seems to like nothing but Pop Tarts and soda ate two pieces and took leftovers home.) We took a vote to keep doing it. Next time I get to relax and just be a guest.

My other goals are aimed at trying to spend some time in the Bible at least a few days a week, working out at least five days a week, and writing one to three days a week. Three out of four ain’t bad, right?

Last weekend, daughter Chesney’s boyfriend of nearly four years, Farm Boy spent the weekend here with her. Saturday was another day in a long line of rainy, cold and/or generally miserable days. But when the sun rose on Sunday, the weather was exactly as the weatherman had promised … a picture-perfect fall day with a clear, blue sky. The sun’s golden rays beamed brilliantly down to the ground, and the trees rejoiced in their autumn colors. Chesney and Farm Boy suggested we all go to the apple orchard. This played nicely into my goal to get out of the house and do something interesting more often, so it was easy for me to agree. We decided to visit a quaint little family-owned orchard that we’d discovered and enjoyed last year. When we arrived, Jack steered the truck past the old farmhouse and down a muddy dirt driveway to a grassy and soggy “parking lot” in back. We then trekked our way back toward the house to the orchard festivities along with a throng of other fall revelers who had similar thoughts to enjoy the pleasant weather while it lasted.

There was a food stand, a band, areas for photo ops (of which we took advantage,) and there were chickens and goats in large pens. Visitors were allowed inside with the chickens and we laughed, watching young parents encourage reluctant toddlers to approach the curious chickens. Down a small hill, just beyond the animal pens and a make-shift store (a garage in reality) was a large pumpkin patch. We strolled down to the patch and perused the pumpkins, looking for the most likely candidates for carving. Upon making our selections, we decided to first pay for the pumpkins and take them back to the truck, before moving onto the apple picking.

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The orchard offered rows and rows of trees, bursting with ripe apples. Jack sent Chesney and Farm Boy toward the rows of Honey Crisp trees while he and I went a bit further to see what other varieties there were. We tasted a few and picked some before heading back in the direction of where we’d left the kids. Just as we walked past a particular row, I heard my daughter’s voice call out, “Mom!”

IMG_8685We turned and headed down the row toward her. Farm Boy was holding a nearly full bag of apples as Chesney said to us, “Guess what!” Before we could guess, she pulled her left hand up in front of her and it took only a split-second for us to notice that the sunshine was sparkling brilliantly off of her hand!

Knowing full well what I was looking at, I’m not exactly sure why I exclaimed, “What is that??? Is that an engagement ring?” My eyes brimmed with tears of joy as Chesney nodded, Farm Boy beamed, and Jack and I took turns hugging each of them.

While we spent a weekend at the cabin last July, Farm Boy had sought Jack’s permission to ask for Chesney’s hand in marriage. An old-fashioned boy he is! No wonder I love him so much! He had said he wanted to propose to her down on the dock with the lake in full view – one of her favorite places. It didn’t happen that weekend, or the next time we were all there together. For a while, we waited in anxious anticipation for him to pull the trigger, and then I guess we just stopped thinking about it so much.

I hadn’t thought about the pending proposal at all last weekend, and then all of a sudden there it was! My baby girl is going to get married! We couldn’t be happier! She and Farm Boy clearly adore each other and he is so good to her. I couldn’t ask for a better man for my girl.

And also … my baby girl is going to move out. I mean, not right now. But eventually. Not like I didn’t know this would happen at some point, but it’s been almost four years since she graduated college and moved home. She’s been here ever since. It’s been longer than I thought she might be here and I have loved every minute of it. Every day I thank God that we have such a close bond, that she enjoys hanging out with me, and that we just get each other. When she moved away to college it was hard for me. Really hard. But I got used to it. I guess I’ll just have to get used to it again.

However, I was not prepared for everything to start happening so quickly. First came the proposal. And it’s been no secret that Chesney and Farm Boy have been looking for a home to share … probably closer to his parents and the family farm where he’ll continue to lend a hand for the foreseeable future. That’s about an hour away. Still, the engagement just happened last weekend, and, in my mind, Chesney moving out again was still someday away. Until the middle of last week when she was offered a phone interview for a job with a company in the town where Farm Boy lives. Yes, I know it’s just a phone interview which may or may not transpire into a job offer. But still.

Chesney and I chatted one day this week about all of the looming plans and possibilities. She mentioned that Farm Boy had said he knew she was going to cry when she had to leave her mom and Lucy Pie. Just hearing her say that brought tears to my eyes and I told her I couldn’t talk about it anymore just then. Jeez, I love that kid! I always envisioned her living within fifteen minutes or so from me. I imagined calling her up on a Tuesday and saying, “Why don’t you come have dinner at home tonight.”

Well, you know what they say … Tell God your plans and watch him laugh. Yeah, I know. I’m getting way ahead of myself here, already living in some perceived future instead of just being in the moment. Besides, I’m well aware of my tendency to be a bit dramatic. An hour away is really just an hour away. Some people drive that distance to and from their jobs every day. Still, I told Chesney that when she and Farm Boy find a place of their own, they should be sure to have some space for me. Even a couch. I’ll be visiting frequently. Chesney said Farm Boy had already stated as much. Again … it’s no wonder I love him so much. He gets me too.

Jack, of course is taking it all in stride. And on the flip side of my tears, I thought about the fact that as much as Chesney is one of my most favorite people to be with, because she lives in my house and I love hanging out with her, I’m less likely to make social dates with friends. If she and I are engrossed in conversation as we often are, I don’t make time to write, and I don’t read as much as I might otherwise. I guess that in the years since she’s been back home, I constantly think that I should make the most of her presence before she’s no longer present in my life every single day. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. But as parents, it’s our job to push our kids out of the nest and watch them fly successfully into lives and worlds of their own. And maybe … just maybe in this perceived future I’ll enjoy a little bit of quiet and time to focus on my own stuff. And probably … our times together after Chesney moves out will be that much sweeter.

Just last night, Chesney said to me, “You know you’re going to have to hang out with Dad more when I move out.”

Yup. Probably not a bad thing either. Maybe he’ll take her place in the kitchen and begin to enjoy cooking dinner with me. One can dream, right? 😉

Never Too Old to Carve Pumpkins

As I grew out of my childhood years and into adulthood, I carried with me a belief that had been solidly ingrained by having witnessed the course of my parents’ lives (whether the lesson was intentional on their part or not.) And that is the fact that as we age, we stop making time for certain frivolous, silly activities. Maybe it’s because our children have grown up. Maybe there’s simply no longer time. Or is it merely that the heart is no longer in it?

But my life … and especially my own offspring are teaching me differently. I am grateful that my parents reinforced the value of hard work and managing finances responsibly. They made big sacrifices so that their children might have an easier go of it. Still, it’s sometimes hard for me to shake the idea that the majority of my time should be invested in serious and important endeavors. Fun and relaxation are luxuries to be enjoyed only when all of the chores are done. (But are they ever done?)

This is exactly why I’m so thankful for the example my own adult children provide. They all possess a good work ethic. (Whew! We did our job!) But all three of them also know the importance of breaking out of the everyday routine. They remind me that making time for play has a larger purpose, that it can strengthen relationships, and even provide the reinforcement sometimes needed to reckon with the challenges that inevitably come our way.

My sons love the outdoors. Spring, summer and fall can find either of them with a buddy, in a boat on a lake, with a line dangling in the water just waiting for the biggest fish. Or in a field, dressed in camouflage, watching for a flock of ducks to soar overhead. All three of my kids enjoy sports, and in the summer, my daughter can still be found on a ball field. After years of youth and traveling softball, she’s now spending time playing in the local adult league. Movies, music, or simply an evening spent ’round a bonfire with friends are all regular aspects of my kids’ lives. I admire them for this and I’m reminded to stop worrying and stressing so much, and make a conscious effort to relax once in a while.

Growing up, I think money was just so tight that after bills and expenses were covered, and monthly donations made to the church, there just wasn’t anything left over for much outside of the ordinary. (Except during the holidays! Christmases were always wonderful. Probably financed with a credit card and paid for during the next twelve months. Our parents were so good to their four children, even if we didn’t always realize it at the time.) I’m beyond appreciative that there was always a roof over my head, food on the table, plenty of love, and a constant effort to ensure that we went off into the world as prepared as we could possibly be. But the lack of extravagance often translated beyond that which cost money, and as a result, I don’t always easily relax. Breathe.  Have some FUN!

Last weekend, my husband and boys went on a hunting trip. Chesney and her boyfriend spent the weekend with me. She worked on Saturday, and it was generally a low-key couple of days, but I loved having them around. I tackled chores around the house after being away most of the previous week for work. Then I took the “kids” out for dinner on Saturday evening to a local bar and restaurant. They wanted Juicy Lucy burgers, and we found a spot with a good view of a television airing a football game. Some old friends from Chesney’s younger softball days ended up at the table next to us and we had a great time catching up!

Afterwards, I settled in at home to read a book with the t.v. on in the background when I soon realized there was something going on in another room. From my comfy spot on the sectional, I peered around to the kitchen to see these two twenty-five year-old “kids” with a big hearty pumpkin. The table was being prepped with a spread of old newspaper, knives, and spoons big enough to carve out oodles of pumpkin guts.

Pumpkins

She hates how her hair looks, but she’s always beautiful to me.

It made me smile to hear them contemplate their design, and the way they joked and laughed together as they worked on creating a Halloween masterpiece. Most of all, I was proud of them for refusing to ever be “too old” to revel in the spirit of this “children’s” holiday.

I love these two! They remind me that life is short enough as it is. Make time for a bit of fun and play.

I’ll be carving my pumpkin this weekend.

 

 

 

Easter. Happy.

This Easter brought another reminder of yet another new normal. Easter was my dad’s favorite holiday, and this was our first without him. I was doing okay until, while sitting at the Easter Vigil mass with Mom and some of the extended family on Saturday night, the priest acknowledged us and expressed his sympathies at the absence of my dad.  I guess it might be a while before we can get through holidays without a few tears.

Otherwise, this holiday weekend brought about the usual full house and chaos. It also brought with it some new realizations.

I’ve always enjoyed the holidays with my family. I love them particularly now that the kids are grown because our usual daily lives keep us mostly spread out in different directions. I no longer have the luxury of seeing my kids every day or spending endless amounts of time with them. It is these special occasions that bring us all back together again for a little while. It’s weekends like this one that bring me the most joy these days.

All of those years when I thought I couldn’t wait to have a little time to myself again, I never imagined what would make me happiest is to share every bit of my time and space with these people whom I love so very much.

Just a few years ago, I was quite certain what the future would look like for our family by now. This weekend, I realized how different our lives look now from the pictures I’d imagined back then. I’ve learned some things in the past few years about being too certain of tomorrow, and about holding on too tightly. I’ve been reminded that life is full of highs and lows, and that people come and go from our lives, whether by choice or because their time has come. Some days might be fantastically phenomenal. Others could bring heartbreak.

But as the saying goes, life goes on, and with it comes new possibilities, new people to love, and so many new reasons to have hope.

Our Easter photos this year don’t include some people who just a few years ago I’d thought would be in all of our future pictures. It hurt for a long while after they’d gone. I often wondered what went wrong, and how things might have been different. I sometimes wished I’d had some magic power to make things go the way we’d have wished, to avoid all the hurt.

But time heals, and as new people join us on the path of our lives, I realize this is how it goes sometimes, and all we can do is love and support each other through all the ins and outs of life.

Chesney’s had someone new in her life for a few months now. I got to meet him a few weeks ago and liked him right away. I liked how respectful he was of my daughter, the quiet affection he showed her, and they way they made each other laugh. My mom got to meet him too. As soon as he told her he was from a farming family, Mom instantly loved him. How could she not? She grew up on a farm herself.

After that first meeting, Mom asked me what I thought of Chesney’s boyfriend, and I told her I liked him, but I wasn’t going to let myself get attached so quickly this time around. I learned the hard way how much it hurts to love the people your kids love, and then watch them slip away.

The new boyfriend came to spend this weekend with Chesney and celebrate Easter with us. I was nervous beforehand. Would an entire weekend be too much too soon? Would he feel crowded in our small house with all of these people and two rambunctious dogs? Would our weird-and-craziness make him uncomfortable? Would our dysfunctional extended families scare him off?

All that worry was for nothing. The kid showed up on Friday evening and settled right in as if he’d known all of us for ages. He seemed happy to meet Jaeger and Ryker, and in fact, made fast friends with Jaeger. They’re already making plans to go fishing together. And Jack’s intimidating father act melted away almost instantly. The boyfriend survived introductions to all of the extended family and handled like a champ all of the teasing Chesney’s uncles dished out.

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I can’t keep saying I’m not getting attached. What I’ve seen so far is a wonderful young man who I’m thrilled is a part of my daughter’s life right now. He makes her happy and that makes me happy. I’ve decided to let myself get attached. I’m not afraid anymore. If there’s one tough lesson I’ve learned over the past couple of years, it’s that tomorrow isn’t promised. We have to throw caution to the wind and embrace what’s in front of us today. Anyway, I’d rather feel happy at the risk of getting hurt, than sit numb on the sidelines for fear of it.

Besides, there was no question about getting attached when the boyfriend got in line behind my daughter to hug me goodbye as they were leaving after a very full and fun weekend.

That sealed it. As long as he’s around, he’ll be treated as one of my own. 🙂

Celebrating 75

I’ve felt all knotted up lately. I’m not sure why. There never seem to be enough hours in a day, never enough days in a week. And I’ve just felt … I don’t know. Quiet. Moody. Tired. Not sad, but not enthusiastic about much either. I needed something.

I think it was my kids.

Last weekend provided a perfect excuse to call them home. My mom, their Nana turned 75 last Friday. My sis and I planned a party in her honor for Sunday afternoon. I asked the kids (the two not currently living here) if they could come home for the party. Both Jaeger and Chesney said they could. Ryker just needed a reminder to keep his Sunday afternoon free, as I expected him to join us at the party too.

Jaeger came on Friday night. Dacotah, of course, accompanied him. She came barrelling into the foyer after their four-hour drive, leaping around all of us, tail wagging fiercely, and rubbing against legs while looking for attention from anyone willing to give it. Lucy was elated to have a visit from her favorite canine friend as well as her “big brother.”

Jaeger was awfully quiet that night. He said his stomach was bothering him. I worried it had more to do with his recent break-up. It happened right after Christmas, and he hasn’t been in touch with us much since then, other than to let us know it was over. He’s not much of a talker, and in the past few weeks I’ve struggled to find the words or opportunity to offer some comfort. They had dated nearly a year. I know he’s hurting. I hurt for him. But there’s just not much I can do. He just needs time.

Saturday morning, Jaeger surfaced from the spare bedroom and plopped down on the loveseat in the living room. Turning the television on, he surfed channels until he found one of his beloved fishing shows. While he watched pro-fisherman pull Bluegills through holes in the ice, I made bacon and pancakes in the kitchen. We chatted a bit while he waited for the food to be ready. After breakfast and after cleaning up the kitchen, I joined him in the living room, settling into one of the big comfy chairs. He hoisted himself off the loveseat and wandered over to me. He bent over and just hugged me, holding on for some time. I rubbed his back and said, “I love you.” He mumbled into my shoulder, “I love you too, Mama.”

My 27 year-old son is still my little boy sometimes. Maybe he needed me too.

Little Guy from next door rang our doorbell in the afternoon. When Jaeger answered the door, Little Guy’s face lit up.

Hey!” he shouted. “I missed you!”

“You did?” Jaeger laughed.

“Yeah,” Little Guy said. “I didn’t get to see you last time!”

Little Guy’s always been rather shy, so it was fun for all of us to see his raucous display of affection and excitement. He seems to have grown up so much over the past couple of cold months. He turned four years old a few months ago. He’s gaining confidence, and getting pretty comfortable with all of us.

We were leaving to go out to dinner, so we had to send Little Guy back home, but did so with promises from Jaeger to play Wii bowling with him the next day.

Chesney came late Sunday morning. It was good to have my talkative, sunshiney girl back in the house. Jaeger teased her about why she hadn’t yet brought her new boyfriend around. She said she needed a week for mental prep first. I said I needed time to prime her dad to act like a normal human being first. Chesney agreed wholeheartedly. Don’t want to scare the poor guy off!

20150221bThe party on Sunday afternoon was nice. All of Mom’s kids and most of her grandchildren were there, as well as her oldest sister, and family from my dad’s side. The food was good, the presents were nice, and there were some beautifully sentimental birthday cards for Mom. And bonus – everyone managed to get along decently. I think Mom had fun.

We also accomplished a nice family picture, only after several takes in which the brothers made bunny ears, made goofball faces, and each pretended to put a finger in the other’s nose. Some people never grow up. Maybe that’s not always such a bad thing, though. I’ll take fun immaturity over boring and stuffy any day.

It was great to have all of my family together again for a change. I wish we’d had more time. It’s never enough. And it was hard to say goodbye when it was time for Jaeger and Chesney to leave again. It always is. But I’m so grateful to have had a couple of days with them. They were just what I needed.

Weekend with My Girl

Waterfall

Chasing (frozen) waterfalls

Chesney came home this weekend for a short but fun visit.

She’s good at staying in touch with me while we’re apart. She regularly sends me conversational texts and silly picture messages. But it’s not the same as having her here at home. Some face-to-face time with my baby girl is exactly what I needed!

She arrived home Friday evening, just in time to sit down for dinner with my mom and me. Her timing couldn’t have been more perfect. It made Mom very happy to see her granddaughter. With a family that produced so many grandsons, Mom’s got a special place in her heart for her three granddaughters. And she is openly proud of Chesney.

Chesney’s true reason for coming home was that she’d made plans with some girlfriends for Saturday night. They were going downtown to see the World’s Toughest Rodeo. The girls’ true purpose wasn’t to see the rodeo, but to see the Granger Smith concert afterwards. I had no idea who he was, but Chesney showed me a YouTube video and I could see why the girls wanted to see him. He’s young, talented and good-looking.

After all was said and done, Chesney said she had way more fun watching the rodeo than she’d expected, and the concert was just okay. Something about the sound and setup making for a less than impressive concert experience.

During the remaining hours of her visit, Chesney and I got caught up. It was great to be able to just sit back and listen to her stories. Life through her words feels like such an adventure, (although that could be because my life now has such a rigid and not very exciting structure!) There were stories about the joys of living in a college house, and of being sick and having a roommate dote on her until she felt better. There were tales of a weekend trip to a local park with frozen waterfalls, stories about going “out,” and the challenges of working in a retail store in the mall. She’s always got a positive attitude and I just sit and marvel at her ability to march head on into whatever life brings her way.

As we sat in the living room late Friday evening, each curled up in one of the big comfy chairs, she mentioned she might need a “plus one” for my niece’s upcoming wedding in May. It didn’t click with me. I reminded her that her cousin had let it be known that if you aren’t in an established relationship, your wedding invitation won’t include a “plus one.”

“Well how long constitutes an established relationship?” She asked.

Ohhhh… The light bulb went on! So she is seeing someone. They started out as friends last fall and things have been evolving since then. In the last few weeks, they’ve decided they are more than friends. It made me happy to see the way talking about him made her smile. He graduated college last spring and already has a good job. He’s from a farming family and is the youngest of seven! Sounds good to me so far! I don’t know if he’ll be attending the wedding with her, but either way, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this relationship is good for her and continues to go well.

Saturday morning, we went out for some retail therapy. Shopping is always fun with my daughter, and we scored some great end-of-season bargains. She got a cute new pair of boots and I got a sweater I’ve had my eye on for some time, but hadn’t been willing to pay full price. Both ended up being more than half off! I do love me a good bargain!

Gabbing

Jack telling an apparently intriguing story

While Chesney went out with the girls on Saturday night, Jack and I went out for a pre-bowling dinner with a bunch of our league mates, and then proceeded to get our butts kicked on the lanes. Personally, I bowled over average. But our team just couldn’t put it together for a win. Still, we had fun. Our opponents were very social and we spent all three games talking, laughing, and cheering each other on. Some were more talkative than others. We had to keep reminding Jack when it was his turn because he was always wandering off and gabbing with one person or another.

This morning, we all slept in a bit, and then Chesney made us some yummy breakfast burritos before she packed up and headed back for her afternoon shift at her job.

The time goes way too fast when she’s here, but I love every minute of it!