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!