Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Yummy summer eats.

See that? It's fresh zucchini from a friend's garden. I sliced it in long, thin strips ...

... added some of this ...

... and a bunch of this (extra virgin olive oil) and let the zucchini cook down to a nice, tender/crisp.

This was one of our side dishes for dinner tonight.

I could eat zucchini cooked like that for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

But I don't think my kids would appreciate that.

Alas, I must provide some protein.

Grilled burgers. Yum.
With a touch of salt and pepper and a couple tablespoons of A-1 Steak Sauce (just for kicks) added before I pounded out the patties.

I put them on whole grain buns to make myself feel better about eating red meat. Family history of heart disease an' all that. I took the smallest burger, too, so don't give me that look.

Here's the best part, all added to the burger:
A nice hunk o' sweet onion (of course).
A couple slices of fresh tomato from one of my tomato plants. Woohoo!
And fresh lettuce from my friendwiththeamazinggarden.

I. Love. Summer.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

We made it.

Tonight the kids will be staying up as late as they want to.

And tomorrow morning we will be sleeping in.

The craziness that has been our lives lately - lots of commitments, lots of driving here and there, late nights, early mornings - has finally ended, and it couldn't have ended on a better note. Today we attended our annual church picnic at the home of some friends and fellow church members who live on Hamlin Lake (a beautiful, popular inland lake, for my non-local readers). We had a pig roast, lots of great covered dishes and desserts, a wonderful outdoor service, and even a round of Kum-By-Ah. A group of us from Vacation Bible School sang a couple of songs from our "High Seas Expedition" week (during which I was too busy or too exhausted to take pictures - phooey), and the kids even got in a few minutes of fishing in the bayou before we left.

Other than Steve having to leave to go back to work in West Virginia after a wonderful visit - all 35 hours of it - it was a near perfect day.

This evening I sat down to take a break from cleaning house and started flipping through channels on the TV. I landed on Dateline. It was a special about how the recession has touched the lives of folks who were already poor, particularly in an area of southern Ohio.

I must have been overtired, because before long I was in tears.

I cried because I can't believe there are people going hungry in the United States of America. I cried because I understand the fear that comes with desperately seeking a job when there are none available, and wondering how long the food in the pantry and freezer will last. And then I cried happy tears because my family's life is so full and so blessed, and it was that way even in the midst of some pretty stormy times.

So while I am sad every time Steve has to leave again to go back to his job, and while I get a little sideways when I'm tired of parenting two children by myself (essentially), I praise God because we are blessed. We are fed and clothed and we have our home and each other. Our circumstances do not make life easy and perhaps are not ideal for a family, but we make it work. And while I feel overwhelmed at times when we have so much to do and so many places to go and people to see, I need to remember that it's much better than the alternative: having no one, or not being able to go and do and see.

This week will be a week of rest. The kids and I will be catching up on a few things around the house, but mostly we will be relaxing and enjoying each other (Ha! I can hope, right?) and I will be taking some time to reflect on the abundance of our lives.

Here's to enjoying the rest of the summer ... at a slower pace.


Monday, July 19, 2010

Stop the ride! I need to catch my breath.

I have been so busy lately, half the time I don't know whether I'm coming or going. This week is no exception. The good news is this week is the last of the crazy over-scheduled kind, so the month of August should be smooth sailing.

Psh! Yeah, right.

Anyway ...

Summer camp was a great experience for Sam. He's been talking about it since he got home Saturday. I am so excited for him that he had this experience, and I don't think it will take much convincing to get him to go again next year. Interesting note: he lost four pounds during the one week he was there. Those kids were on the move all day long, every day. Good stuff.

I managed to get away by myself for a couple of days to visit Steve in West Virginia. It was fabulous. Thank God for family members willing to watch our pets and our home and take care of our children while I'm gone. It was so good to come back to the comforts of home, but dang that's a long drive and man, I really miss my sweetheart.

While I was in WV I got to meet and have dinner with my friend Heather who I have been chatting with on-line for a few years. This was the first time we got together in person. It was a lovely dinner and we shared lots of laughs and Heather charmed the waiter to pieces.

And then she charmed her husband into taking our picture.

Oh, Steve and Heather's husband Mike were there, too.

Oh, and Mike is Steve's boss.

Details, details.

There has been much socializing on the homefront, too. The group of girlfriends I get together with on a monthly basis during less busy times of year finally managed to pull off a dinner together a couple of weeks ago. I had breakfast with my dear friend Sarah when she was visiting from Boston last week. Sunday the kids and I joined a group of friends/neighbors for their annual canoe trip down the Pere Marquette River. And somewhere in between all that, we've visited a local swimming hole with friends a couple of times, too.

So with all of this going on, why do I feel so out of touch?

I feel like I have been living in a bubble. Everything I do is about me and mine and I'd be hard pressed to tell you what's going on in my community on any given weekend. It's been weeks since we have attended church on a Sunday morning. Here I built this new deck on the house and I have hardly had a chance to sit out there and enjoy it. Shoot, I guess I don't feel too bad about that since it's been too hot to sit out there anyway and the deck will still be there in the fall when the weather cools off.

To top things off, today began Vacation Bible School at our church. This is my eighth year being a leader for VBS and every year brings new challenges and new excitement. Every year I am emotionally and physically exhausted by the end of VBS Week. Somehow I think the exhaustion is beginning to hit me already, though, after only one day.

More about VBS - and hopefully a few pictures - later this week.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

It was an eleventh hour decision.

Even after much coaxing and encouraging and a tour of the woodsy, lakeside spread with its cabins and arts & crafts building and basketball courts and archery area, our 11-yr-old son was left unimpressed and something less than wishy-washy about going to summer camp.

Until a few days ago. Then he was all gung-ho about it and wondering when he would leave.

I said no. I told him there is some amount of preparation that needs to be done when a family sends a child off to summer camp, and those preparations could not be done in a matter of three days. He had plenty of time to make a decision when we discussed it three weeks ago. He had said he wasn't really interested, so the subject was dropped. This would become a teachable moment about planning and deadlines and decision making.

At least I thought so.

But what do I know?

The kid mentioned his plight to his uncle who happens to have a friend who happens to manage a nearby co-ed youth camp with his wife. The missus says, as luck would have it, there is plenty of room for another kiddo. The more the merrier.

So Sam, who has been drowning in a sea of estrogen lately, has been rescued. He has been needing some boy time, and that's a major reason why I changed my mind. Also, I went to camp myself as a child and I had so much fun and made such great memories, I couldn't deny my son of that opportunity.

I dropped Sam off at camp this afternoon. He will be there until Saturday morning.

Once we got his gear to his cabin it took him about 30 seconds to give me that look that says "OK I'm fine. Please leave." He wouldn't even let me take a picture of him. I suppose I could have taken one when Sam was invited to join in on a heated game of Stump Ball, but I decided that would be a good time for me to make my exit. I was so glad he recognized two friends from school and was quickly accepted into the group.

As I walked back to the truck alone, I turned to look back at the gathering of kids. This is my only son's first experience at summer camp and I wanted this moment to be imprinted on my mind. Sam was already into the game and he had a big ol' grin on his face. I could see this, even though Sam wasn't watching me leave and wouldn't have noticed if I had stopped to wave (I didn't) or was crying my eyes out (I wasn't) or ran to get out of there as fast as I could (not a chance).

As far as he was concerned I was already gone. I'm OK with that. I really am. A moment like that sure makes a mama have a very reflective day, though.

My little boy is growing up. Does it hurt? Nah. But it doesn't mean I don't already miss him.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Holy heatwave!

Baby, it's HOT outside.

And humid.

It's the kind of heat that makes my little girl's ringlet curls come back. Which is sort of cute because I miss those ringlets. But that's about the only fun thing about this heat. Otherwise, I am not a fan.

I've gotten much more tolerant of the heat as I've gotten older. Not that I'm old. But I remember when I was a kid and my grandfather painted a green mark at the 80-degree point on his outdoor thermometer. That's when he considered it comfortable.

I thought he was crazy.

Now I think 80 degrees isn't so bad. Except for on days like today when it's been pushing 90 and humid all week and the weatherman says "this heatwave is going to break on Thursday" so you wait with some serious anticipation for Thursday and Thursday comes and it's 78 and still humid and you'd swear it feels like it's 103.

This heat makes me cranky.

Or is it the humidity?


Thank God for air conditioning.

And pools.

And margaritas.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Best summer ever.

There was one particular summer during my college years that always sticks out in my mind as my best summer ever. It was the first year I was out on my own which meant lots of responsibility and at the same time, no major responsibilities. Steve and I were dating. It was a crazy hot summer. We spent lots of time at the river, swimming upstream then floating down to the landing. I hung out with friends every minute I wasn't working one of the four jobs I had. I sported a sweet tan.

My heart and mind have compared every year since then to that one amazing year. There have been many that turned out pretty awesome, but none that made me feel as free as I did or love life as much as I did that summer.

But this summer is coming pretty close.

It's been a long time since I felt so good about where I am in life. That's not to say life hasn't been good to me or for me lately, because it certainly has and I have definitely felt good about it and grateful for it. It's difficult to put into words how this feeling is a little bit different. It's not about our social status or our economic status, or about having minimal stress or having cleared lots of clutter from our lives. And because I am married and have children and a lot more responsibilities than I did that summer *cough*fifteen*cough* years ago, the things that make me happy are now very different. Now it's all about making memories with my children. I want them to look back on this summer and remember it as one of the best summers of their lives.

Shoot, who am I kidding? I'd be happy if they remember any of their childhood summers with a hint of fondness.

I remember certain summer days of my childhood that still influence how I interact with my kids. I loved those hot summer evenings when mom would tell us to load up in the motorhome and we'd pick up Chinese takeout (back when Chinese takeout was still new and fun in our small town) or pizzas and pop (back when Pizza Hut had those drink coolers they'd refill really cheaply - or was it free? - when you brought it in. Anyone remember that?) and she would take us to the dunes on Lake Michigan where we would eat, then run out into the water and swim until dad met up with us after work. Or there were the days when mom would pack lunches and all the beach gear and we would meet her girlfriends and their children at the beach and swim and play all day.

There is nothing like the kind of exhaustion you feel after you've been in the water and sun all day long. I still love that kind of exhaustion, and I love what it does to my kids. It's like a sweet, happy fog rolls in and everybody falls swiftly into dreamland a little earlier than usual, toes still sandy and hair still damp.

That happy dreamland is calling this evening and I can't wait to get there.

Today was a good day.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The deck: before and after.


Beginning deconstruction.
Goodbye ugly old railing!

New surface, new steps.
Building stairs leading to an uneven surface? That was interesting.


I'll have to sweet-talk my husband into removing the very big, very heavy chunk of old concrete that used to sit at the bottom of the old steps (seen on the right in the picture above). Also, at some point this summer I will add hand rails in those front corners. And eventually, someday, hopefully (please! please! please!) we will fill in the yard with some black dirt and plant new grass seed. Baby steps! For now I am more than happy with how this turned out and I have already enjoyed sitting out there and watching the kids play in the yard (now that the railing doesn't block my view from the deck).

Oh! And enough of the old lumber was decent enough to save and cut down to build a small porch outside one of the back doors. 

Maybe in a few weeks.

Like, after I've recovered from this venture.