Tulip Time in Michigan

For the first time in our 23 years of marriage, Hubby and I took a day trip — just the two of us! Yep, beieve it or not, we actually left the kids home — on purpose.  They wanted to come, but we didn’t want them to.  We finally decided it was time to cut the apron strings/purse strings and spread our wings to once again enjoy a little time alone as a couple.

Honestly the thought of spending an entire day alone with Hubby seemed a bit scary. Sure we have spent more time together in the past two months since his “retirement” than we have probably spent together in all the years we’ve known each other, but a day trip without the kids, without interruption, without any distractions…this was something totally new to us both since before we had kids.

We had talked about taking an actual vacation, but every time we do, we include the kids. We are not at a point yet where we feel comfortable leaving them home. Comfortable is probably the wrong word here because we really like vacationing with Zeb. Grace on the other hand is a whole nother matter. She doesn’t want to vacation with us anymore. Being nearly 20, she thinks she has out-grown us. It will take her some time, but a few years down the road I’m sure she’ll see the error of her ways, but for now, she has made it clear she is not interested in traveling with “the parents.”

I’m not that disappointed in the fact Grace doesn’t want to vacation with us, but Hubby and I are not comfortable with leaving her home alone. Yes!!!! We are THOSE parents! Those over-protective, double standard, backward, living-in-the-past, over-bearing parents that don’t believe in leaving a 19/20-year-old girl home alone. (Nevermind the fact that I moved out on my own at 18 –this is MY daughter we’re talking about, not my mother’s daughter!)

Anyways, Hubby and I have therefore decided that we are going to enjoy some alone time by taking things a day at a time, rather than weeks. And to begin this transition into being “a couple” rather than “a family” we chose to begin our adventures with a day trip to Holland, Michigan for the 2016 Annual Tulip Time Festival.

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Holland, Michigan is only a three-hour drive (not to be confused with a three-hour tour as Gilligan experienced) from our home.  I have lived here in Michigan all my life and believe it or not, I have never ventured more than an hour or two from home in our beautiful state. Hubby and I are going to work on remedying this.

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The Holland Tulip Time Festival is always at the beginning of May and runs for an entire week. This year they are celebrating their 87th year of offering fabulous entertainment, events celebrating their Dutch heritage, and hundreds of thousands of — yes, you guessed it — Tulips! Actually they boast to have over 5 million tulips planted throughout the 7-mile radius of town and after visiting just a few of the attractions, I’d have to say it must be closer to 6 million!

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Hubby and I didn’t want to begin our trip tired or stressed, so we opted to leave at 7 a.m. with an ETA of 10 a.m. Even with us hitting some morning rush-hour traffic, we managed to arrive in Holland a few minutes after 10 and headed right to one of the hubs of excitement, the Trolley Tour Booth. This hour-long tour was supposed to be one of the highlights of the festival. Unfortunately, when we arrived at the ticket booth we were told that the tickets were already sold out for the day. Apparently they sell out nearly as soon as the booth opens at 8:30 a.m. and there are no pre-ticket sales on the internet or anywhere else for that matter.

Although disappointed, a friendly woman dressed in Dutch clothing quickly presented me with a Tulip Time brochure which highlighted all the days events and she suggested that we visit Windmill Island as an alternative. She assured me we would not be disappointed. Grateful for the brochure and advise, Hubby and I drove the 5-minutes to Windmill Island and parked our car.

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Windmill Island Gardens was everything we hoped for and more. It was truly an authentic Dutch experience complete with windmill tour, hand-painted carousel, Amsterdam street organ, tons and tons of beautiful tulip gardens, a tropical conservatory, Dutch shops, and of course food. It was $9 per person to enter the grounds and then we were able to wander around all the attractions for free. Food and souvenirs were extra, but otherwise it was a better deal in my opinion than the trolley ride we were not able to take. The trolley was $20 per person and only an hour-long. We spent two and a half hours at the gardens and enjoyed every minute.

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Before leaving the gardens we stopped by the food tent to see what “authentic Dutch” food was. I was disappointed to find that basically the main food seemed to be Pigs in a Blanket. This was not something we’d driven 188 miles to eat. Instead we opted to eat at a local restaurant. By that time we were so hungry we were not in the mood to search for other options of authentic Dutch food. Perhaps next year.

After lunch we headed to 8th Street which seemed to be the “Main Street” of the Tulip Festival. There we watched hundreds of children and adults in Dutch clothing perform the Street Scrubbing and then the Crown Motors Volksparade which featured every local schools marching band in the area as well as tons of floats.

One of the most unique aspects of Holland would have to be the wooden shoes that so many of the people wear. I asked one of the locals if these were worn any other time other than during the festival and he told me that I’d be surprised how many times throughout the year they are worn because of all the activities that center around their Dutch heritage. One of the marching bands even wore them throughout the parade. In talking with one of the City Councilmen, he confessed that the shoes are not comfortable in the least.  In fact, he had on four pair of socks and his feet still hurt. Such dedication! And they aren’t cheap either. For a pair in one of the gift shops it was $60. I guess if you take into consideration that they would probably last a VERY long time, that’s not too bad, but I think I’ll stick with my Sketchers.

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It was a fun-filled hour of music, conversing with the locals, and enjoying a perfect afternoon.  By 3 p.m. however Hubby and I were ready to head home. With a three-hour drive ahead of us and having spent several hours walking around in the hot afternoon sun, we were looking forward to getting home and taking a nap.

It would be entirely possible to make a weekend or more of this festival, as we did not see all the attractions that were around or see much of the city itself, but for us, escaping for a few hours from the demands of home was enough. We arrived home by 6 p.m., took a nap, and then headed to the gym to unwind a bit. The gym was Hubby’s idea, definitely not my first choice, but it was still just the two of us, so a nice ending to our first day trip and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

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Why Is It So Hard Letting Go?

Back about seven or so years ago I boxed up all my homeschool supplies and packed them away in the basement. That’s not to say that I stopped homeschooling, but the supplies I finally put away were the Pre K – 4th or 5th grade stuff. This amounted to nearly 30 plastic bins of stuff.

This might sound like a lot of stuff, but my situation was not typical of a homeschooler. Having a son with Down Syndrome I tried anything and everything when it came to teaching him. If one workbook didn’t work, I bought another. If one manipulative didn’t hold his interest, I found others to try. My home was better equipped with teaching materials than most public school classrooms.

With the addition of our new freezer in the basement, although I made a space for it, I decided it was time to start parting with my homeschool materials. This would free up some much-needed space and get rid of lots of clutter. Even though the bins were stored out-of-the-way, having them still gave me a sense of clutter. I justified holding onto all this stuff by claiming that perhaps some day Grace might want to homeschool her children.

Grace is 19 and although she likes the idea of homeschooling her children someday when she has them, she is a very different person than I am. I wouldn’t say she is lazy, but she isn’t motivated either. I had a long conversation with her recently about this and I can see that she is pulling away from the homeschool choice already because she doesn’t want the work or responsibility that goes along with it. I can understand her point of view, as many times I was overwhelmed with the homeschooling aspect of our lives, but at the same time I wouldn’t change those years for anything. This will have to be a choice for Grace to make and if she does decide to do it, she will do it her way, not mine.

So over the long weekend I began pulling out a few bins of teaching materials and taking pictures of them to put up on Craig’s List. As I started sorting through the hundreds (and this is no exaggeration) of workbooks I have, I found myself setting aside certain ones that I remembered really liking. These were in the keep pile. The rest went in the sell pile, which was substantially bigger.

I posted five ads/five items in three categories each and then decided that perhaps a bulk ad advertising just “Homeschool, Teaching and Teacher’s Resources” would be better. It would be tedious to list each item individually.

Bright and early yesterday morning I received a phone call from a woman who saw one of my ads. She wanted to come by and take a look at everything I had. I asked her what she specifically was interested in and she said “EVERYTHING!” My heart began to race. I was thrilled or something, I wasn’t really sure. I told the woman that I would pull out more bins for her to look through and see what she was interested in and we made arrangements for her to come by later in the morning.

A few hours later the woman and her four little girls were seated in my great room looking through binders of workbooks, boxes of puzzles, stacks of books, and bin after bin of manipulatives and teaching aids. I have everything priced to go. workbooks are from $1 to $3 depending on the size of the binder they are in. All of my workbooks have had their bindings removed and been put in either a binder or file folder for easy copying, no writing in them whatsoever. Wood puzzles were $1 for small to medium and $2 for large. Books were $.25 each for readers – but I didn’t even bring up the 1000 books I still have in the basement. Manipulatives were from $5 to $15 depending on how much I know I paid for them which is at least 3.5 times those prices (teaching materials are not cheap).

The woman filled six boxes with stuff and ended up spending $200. Zeb and I packed the stuff away in her car and she asked me to contact her again when I pulled out more stuff. In all, I probably had pulled out about 1/3 of what I have. She didn’t buy everything, but she took nearly every workbook, quite a few puzzles, several stacks of readers, four different types of sorting, lacing, manipulative type sets, a videoscope lab, and bug collection.

After she left I sat on the couch looking at the empty spaces in the great room holding my money. It was a weird moment. I was happy to see my stuff going to a home where it would be used, but at the same time, there was this funny feeling in my stomach.

Hubby came home shortly after the woman left and was very excited that we’d sold so much. His excitement encouraged me, so after he left for work again a few hours later, Zeb and I once again headed into the basement to pull out more bins. I finished clearing out one storage room (another five bins) and then we went into the pantry and pulled another seven bins from there. I brought everything upstairs and began sorting through everything.

This time, as I sorted through all the workbooks though I noticed something, the pile to “keep” was increasing three or four times faster than the “sell” pile. Very quickly I had four bins of workbooks that for some reason I just could not part with. This was not to mention the four boxes of file folders in the basement I’d already eliminated from the selling option before even bringing them upstairs.

I stopped!

Why was this suddenly so hard to do? Why was I holding onto even one of these workbooks? It’s not like I’m going to use a Pre-K Numbers Workbook or Second Grade Math text-book, and even if there were ever an occasion for me to use or need such a thing, there is no reason I couldn’t go online and pretty much find anything I needed.

Still, that funny feeling in the pit of my stomach was turning into an ache and then an anxiety-ridden struggle. I want the extra space and all the clutter gone, but after watching that woman walk out of here with so much of my “stuff” that I used for so many years with my children, I feel an emptiness that is choking me.

Probably the best thing to do would have been to just take the bins out of storage and get rid of them without opening them, but I couldn’t do that. I had to organize everything again, make sure everything had every piece, and even clean some things. Touching every piece brought back so many memories and thinking of these gone is really hard.

So, this is what my great room looks like this morning:

It looks like -- No words! Just a MESS!

It looks like — No words! Just a MESS!

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These are just some of the workbooks I have. There are two more bins of ones to sell and of course the bins I have hidden away in the office.

These are just some of the workbooks I have. There are two more bins of ones to sell and of course the bins I have hidden away in the office.

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I have five other accessory-type charts for this thing!

I have five other accessory-type charts for this thing!

I can't even find my coffee table under all this stuff.

I can’t even find my coffee table under all this stuff.

I don’t know what to do. I am so afraid of regretting getting rid of all this stuff — but at the same time, it’s only stuff! Hubby pointed out to me when I began pulling all this out that it would be nice to make some of our money back on all this stuff, but as long as I got what I wanted from it, donating was an option. If I do donate it will have to be to a school for special needs children because that is where I would really like to see this stuff utilized, although I don’t know that they would even want it. Just giving it away and not knowing that it will be put to good use is not something I’m comfortable with right now. Getting rid of it period is not something I’m comfortable with right now.

I’m not sure if I should email the woman who was here yesterday to come by or contact another person who emailed me last night about my ad. I bet I could sell every one of my workbooks, even the ones I have locked behind the office doors, but how can I do this?

I have a rule that I try to hold myself to: Once something is brought up from the basement to get rid of, it doesn’t go back down. This has served me well when getting rid of other things, so when it wasn’t sold it was either thrown away or donated. There is no way I can leave my great room the way it is. Something has to be done, just what?

At the moment I’m at a loss. Grace made me a fresh pot of coffee, the weather is rainy and humid, but supposed to get cooler sometime today, and Bell needs to get out for a walk before I’m brought up on charges of dog neglect because she’s been homebound for so long because of the heat and humidity. I think I’ll get dressed and take her for walk to clear my head, come home and have a fresh cup of coffee, and then maybe my perspective will clear — and for this, I am trying to be Simply Grateful.

Morning Thoughts – All Grown-Up and University Bound

I’m sitting here this morning, in bed, after getting up at 5:45 to pack Grace’s lunch for college, counting the hours until it is supposedly going to start raining. The temperatures have been well into the upper 80’s low 90’s for what seems like weeks (actually only about two weeks) and the humidity is unbearable. I have been locked away in the house afraid to even open the doors for fear of being consumed by the heat.

Rain is predicted for later today and with it they are promising cooler weather, lower 70’s actually and for the next 10 days it looks like the air conditioner will get a much-needed reprieve. Even though, I can’t get motivated to do much of anything today.

I was inspired making Grace’s lunch this morning though. I am definitely a morning-type person. Getting up early doesn’t bother me, as long as I’ve gone to bed at a descent hour, gotten enough sleep, and am not woken by an annoying alarm clock. I by no means like to stay up late. I go to bed no later than 10, but more often than not, earlier than that. In fact, most nights I try to get up to my room and into bed to relax by 8, of course the family isn’t so cooperative. Falling asleep is easy; staying asleep, well that is an entirely different matter.

It takes me all of 10 minutes of watching television in my room to calm down and start drifting off to sleep. Come 1, 2, or possibly 3 a.m. though, I wake and toss and turn for an hour or three, fall back to sleep and then wake again right before 6:00. If I need to get up any earlier, my alarm is set, but I just hate that ringing in my ear, so whenever it is set, my internal clock will typically wake me a few minutes before it rings.

Anyway, back to Grace’s lunch. Yes, I make lunch for my college bound daughter. Actually though for the past couple of years she wanted to be “independent” and make her own. About a month ago however she came to me and sheepishly asked if I would be willing to make/pack her lunch as well as dinner (just one day) to take with her to school each day. This is her first semester at a University, as she completed her Associates at a local community college and she is nervous about how this is going to be more stressful of an endeavor. I told her I would.

Not making her lunch while she was working over the summer or when she went to community college did bother me a bit. Letting go of something as little as that shouldn’t really be a big deal, but it was. After having her home for so many years and making her lunch day-in and day-out, the transition I knew was just the beginning of her independence.

Her asking me to make her lunch again was a subtle reminder that although a woman, Grace is still my little girl. She still needs me. Albeit she only needs me on her terms, but at this point I will take what I can get. All too soon she will be off and out in the world leaving poor ol’ ma sitting home waiting for her to call and share her life with her (very melodramatic here!).

As I pondered what to make her for lunch this morning at 2:30 as I waited for my second round of sleep to commence, I decided to make her something really good…something that she would never take the time to make for herself. Isn’t that what a mom is supposed to do?

With Grace my options were pretty much anything and everything, because even when she did pack herself lunch and snacks, it mostly consisted of prepackaged stuff that she could just quickly toss in a bag with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and go. That isn’t my style.

I have been making Zeb’s lunch for the past two years that he’s been going to school (homeschooled him up until then) and only on days when I absolutely had nothing else to send with him, did he get something prepackaged. There are a few things he does like that are prepackaged — fruit snacks, pretzels, etc., but really I try to stay away from most others.

Grace’s schedule is a bit different from Zeb’s when it come to school though. Although today I only needed to make her one “meal” (lunch), she is going to be at school from 7:00 until probably 3:00. This leaves lots of time in between breakfast and lunch and then lunch and dinner where she is going to want something to eat. Snacks are an essential part of her day even when she’s at home. How she can eat so much, so often, and be as thin as she is, I’ll never understand. I just think about eating the amount of food she does and I put on weight.

So here’s the rundown for the food she took today:

Morning Snack: Mini Cinnamon Bagel with Cream Cheese

Mid-Morning Snack: Fresh Fruit (watermelon and grapes)

Lunch: Taco Salad (I bought a food thermos to keep things warm and used it today to keep the taco meat hot, made a salad with cheese and vegetables in it, and put tortilla chips, salsa, and sour cream on the side) — a hot meal. For dessert she can eat more of the fruit, as there was quite a bit I sent her or she has a couple of homemade cookies.

Mid-Afternoon Snack: Carrots, Radish, Cucumber, Yellow Pepper and Broccoli with homemade ranch dressing.

Of course she also has fruit snacks, veggie straws, granola bars and a few other “just-in-case-of-an-emergency” type snacks packed in the cooler in the back of the car should she still get hungry. All the comforts of home, but not at home.

After I packed everything for her and told her what the rundown was for her food options, she squealed and said, “Everyone’s going to be so jealous. I’m going to have the best lunch. And if anyone wants to trade, I’m going to have to say ‘No, mine’s better than yours!'”

Yep, she’s in college — university actually, and yet she still gets a thrill out of competing with everyone as to whose got the best lunch. Probably because she never got to do this as a kid because she never went to public school. That’s okay, it made me feel good that she was so happy.

Grace told me that her boyfriend has to make his own lunch and he is definitely going to want to share hers, and if he’s nice to her, she just might share with him, but if not…

I like having the opportunity to do something special for her. It takes some of the pressure off of her to be an adult, gives me peace of mind that she is eating healthy, and at the same time affirms that I am still needed–something that every mom needs on occasion, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

 

Not Just A Garden Hat – It’s So Much More

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Last Sunday Grace surprised me with a much-needed, practical gift for Mother’s Day – a garden hat! Now Grace typically will buy or make me something every year for Mother’s Day, but this particular gift truly touched me.

I spend a lot of time in the spring and throughout the summer and fall working in the garden.  Most of this time is spent alone and usually I try to do the work when no one else is around.  I like the solitude, but also I don’t want the gardening to take away from my time with the family.

Gardening is “my” thing.  I hate to ask for help or assign chores in the garden because this is something I wanted — not Hubby, not the kids, just me.  They do reap the rewards from the garden, but still, they would probably be just as happy if I were to buy what I grow at the Farmer’s Market.  Because of this, I try to keep my gardening to myself.

On occasion I am forced to recruit a bit of help.  Perhaps there are bags of mulch that I just can’t lift or maybe I need help spreading a tarp to cover seedlings, and then the troops will come to my aid. Other than when absolutely necessary though, the family is kept in the dark about how much time and effort goes into the garden — or so I thought.

For all the gardening I do and all the time I spend out in the garden, I have to plan my time out there very carefully. Being allergic to the sun, intolerant of the heat, and a sufferer of sinus issues there are only certain times of the day I can work in the various areas the gardens are set up in.

Mornings have to be spent on the west side of the house in the tomato gardens where the sun stays hidden behind the house until about noon. Early afternoon can be spent on the patio when the sun slips behind the house and I can work on the potter’s bench and with the plants in pots outlining the patio. Late afternoon the sun slips behind the house and the east side is shaded so I can work where the cucumbers, peppers, peas, and spinach are planted.

The one area though that has sun all day is the main garden at the back of the yard.  Unless I get out there before 6:30 in the morning, which can be done but typically isn’t, I am forced to work in the sun.  In order to do this, no matter the temperature outside, I wear long pants, long sleeves, and dark sunglasses.  Still, with all this covering, my neck and face still get sunburned and I end up feeling sick after only 30 or so minutes out there.

I’ve tried wearing hats while working, but they either blow off or just shade my forehead a bit.  They were more cumbersome and tedious than they were worth.

Mother’s Day morning Grace ran down the stairs with a bag in hand, excited for me to open my present from her first.  I couldn’t image what she’d gotten me in such a large bag.  When I tore through the paper I found a wonderful new garden hat.

This hat has everything a gardener could want.  It is big so it will cover not only my head but will shade my entire face and neck.  It is floppy so the rim can be brought down even farther to shade my eyes in the brightest sun.  It is light and airy so my head doesn’t get hot and sweaty.  And best of all, it has a strap!  No blowing off in the wind for this baby!

I couldn’t believe it.  For all the effort I put into keeping my gardening to myself so it doesn’t intrude on the family or become a thorn in their side, Grace still managed to see I was struggling to work in the back garden without getting sick. She saw that gardening was something important to me and not something I would let a little sun poisoning or heat stroke stop me from doing, and found the one thing that would help make it possible for me to work even on the sunniest of days.

It amazes me what a difference something as simple as a hat can make — and I’m not talking gardening here. I know   my family loves me and appreciates what I do, but it’s thoughtful little things they do to remind me they are paying attention to what I do that touches my heart.  Grace showed me with her gift that she truly KNOWS me and UNDERSTANDS what is important to me.  I’m not just the person responsible for making dinner, doing laundry, cleaning house, walking the dog, or being here for the families beckon and call. She sees what I do, even when I try to keep it from her, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Stalker Mom

Well, I can now add Stalker Mom to my never-ending list of roles I play as a Simply Grateful Housewife.

Grace is going to her boyfriend of 3+ months house this afternoon to meet his parents for the first time, to watch movies, and have dinner.  I met her boyfriend when he picked her up for their second date back several months ago, he has hung out at our house several times, had dinner here twice, and typically picks her up here for their dates.  He lives about an hour from us and because of the distance and the fact he lives in a rural area with dirt roads, we did not allow Grace until today to venture to his domain. The roads are clear, the sun is shining, the temperatures in the 40’s, perfect weather for a country drive.

Still, this whole “meeting the parents” thing is strange.  Allowing my daughter to go to a “boys” house just seems so wrong.  Yes, I live in the dark ages when it comes to my little girl.  I am old-fashioned and Hubby and I are quite protective and strict when it comes to how often and where she sees The Boyfriend.  Even though she is 18, legally an adult, we have made it clear that as long as she lives under our roof (yes, I have turned into my mother!), our rules prevail.  Thus far, there have been no complaints.  I guess the thought of having to fend for herself in the real world is worse than having to check in with mom and dad on occasion, keeping us informed as to where she is and what she is doing, and being home at a descent hour.

A few weeks ago, The Boyfriend told Grace his mother had cornered him and told him she wanted to meet the girl he’d been spending time with.  I can completely understand this.  Although different with sons than daughters, I think every parent is curious to know who their child is spending time with.  Yes, I do believe in the old double standard. We had to meet The Boyfriend before Grace’s first official date (the first time they met, they met in a public setting, as they’d met on an on-line college website), so we did not meet him until their “second” date which was their first “official” date.  Confused?  Well, it doesn’t really matter, we met him before we allowed Grace to get into a car alone with this would-be stranger.

Since then, they have gotten together about once a week on average, but talk/text continually on their iPhones. Things are so different from when I was dating.  I don’t recall talking to my boyfriends so much.  Well, since there was only one boyfriend — now Hubby — I guess perhaps I’m not such a good example, but we rarely ever talked on the phone.  We talked to arrange our next date and then talked when we saw each other.  We got together about once a week for the first six months and then more often as our relationship got stronger and we became more serious. Grace is content with this once a week arrangement, but the continual texting  makes me think that things are more serious than she lets on.  But this is just a mother rambling on…

Anyway, before we agreed that Grace could go out to The Boyfriend’s house to meet his parents, we asked where they lived.  Being an hour away, should anything go wrong, we wanted to know what she was getting herself into.  First we got the city, then the address so we knew EXACTLY where they lived.

By exactly I mean Hubby and I Googled the address and took a tour of their neighborhood, seeing exactly where they lived, complete with satellite photos of what their house looked like. Technology is wonderful. What? Were we so wrong?  We have no idea if these people are cannibals, serial killers, kidnappers, who knows?  Of course I’m being overly dramatic, but hopefully you get where I’m coming from.

Grace was appalled. Why? In this day and age, with the influx of available resources to check out would-be suitors, I think this was definitely the mildest of stalker tendency actions.  We could have done a complete background check, had a private investigator follow The Boyfriend around to make sure his intentions were honorable, or used a tracker app on his phone to do our own investigating.  Yep, I watch far too many criminal television shows and am a bit paranoid when it comes to Grace, but thus far, our actions have kept her safe.

We concluded that going to The Boyfriend’s house was acceptable, as long as the parent’s were home.  Wow!  I really have become my mother.  Oh well, it worked for them because I don’t think I turned out too bad, so I guess being a little like my own parents isn’t so bad — just don’t tell them this.

Grace didn’t stay appalled long and quickly got over Hubby’s and my “Stalker” moment and joined us in seeing where she was going and what the house and area looked like.  Actually Grace is more of a stalker than us.  Before she agreed to meet The Boyfriend for the first time, she stalked him on Facebook, Googled him, and check him out on the campus website where he goes to college.  Perhaps the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, which in my mind is a good thing, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

 

Proving Myself – Breaded Parmesan Lemon Chicken in Lemon-Butter Sauce

Why is it when Grace tells me she likes something that she ate at a restaurant or friend’s house, my mind begins to race with how I can possibly top what she just had?  I mean it’s not like she goes out all that often or is begging her friend’s parents to invite her over for dinner, or for that matter doesn’t get a home-cooked meal every night that she usually raves about or at the very least eats without complaint. Why does it somehow make me feel that I have to prove myself just because she enjoys eating someone else’s cooking?

Thinking about this makes me consider the possibility that perhaps I’m afraid of being replaced.  This is an inevitable reality of parent/child relationships.  Eventually she is going to no longer depend on me to cook for her every night and either do her own cooking or have someone else cooking for her.  At some point in time she will no doubt have in-laws that will have her over for dinner and she will probably rave about her mother-in-laws cooking. This is only to be expected.  Does this mean though that I am supposed to be happy about it?

Everyone needs purpose.  Everyone needs to feel needed.  Making dinner for my family and making something that they would rather have than going anywhere else, has satisfied both of these needs for about the past 22 years now. Giving that up, even when it’s part of the normal evolution of parent/child relationships is difficult for me.

Do I sound needy and insecure?  I suppose as a parent I shouldn’t be either of those, but honestly I can’t help it.  By trying my best to duplicate, if not top, what Grace has enjoyed somewhere else, I somehow gain a false sense of security that I’m not losing my little girl.  Silly, I know, but on the bright side of things, the family gets to try a new dish which on occasion turns out to be a hit.

This morning Grace was reminiscing about her best friend when she was a little girl, that she no longer has contact with.  As with many childhood friendships, they grew apart as they grew up.  Surprisingly, it wasn’t the friendship Grace was missing, she was remembering a chicken dish that her friend’s father would make every time she was there for dinner.  He’d found out she really liked it, so whenever they got together and she stayed for dinner, he made it.

As expected my mind went to work.  I asked her what dish he’d made for her.  She told me she wasn’t really sure but it was a breaded chicken that had a lemony taste.  Okay then, lemon chicken.  I could do that.  Why not?  Although I’d never made this dish, I was sure I could figure it out.

Grace gave me very little to go on as far as how to make it, other than it was breaded with bread crumbs.  I did a bit of research, settled on three recipes that were all different and went to work.  This is what I came up with.

Breaded Parmesan Lemon Chicken with Lemon-Butter Sauce

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  • Boneless/Skinless Chicken Thighs
  • 1 Cup Flour
  • 1 tsp. Salt
  • 1 1/2 Cups Seasoned Bread Crumbs
  • 2 tsp. Garlic Powder
  • 3 tsp. Lemon Pepper
  • 4 Eggs
  • 2/3 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • Olive Oil
  • 1/2 Cup Butter
  • 5 tsp. Minced Garlic
  • 3 Tbsp. Parsley
  • Juice of 2 Lemons

Combine flour and salt in large plastic bag. Dredge chicken thighs in flour mixture.

Combine bread crumbs, garlic powder, and lemon pepper in plastic bag.  In large bowl, beat eggs.  Add parmesan cheese to eggs and stir till well combined.

Remove chicken thighs from flour mixture and coat with egg mixture and then dredge through bread crumb mixture.

Heat olive oil in large fry pan and brown chicken on both sides.  Remove chicken from pan to oven-safe dish.  Place chicken in oven at 350 degrees while making sauce.

In fry pan that was used for chicken, melt butter.  Add garlic, parsley and lemon juice.  Cook until garlic is fragrant and sauce begins to boil.

Remove chicken from oven and transfer to pan with lemon-butter sauce.  Cover and cook on medium-high heat for 20 minutes or until chicken is done.

Did my version of lemon chicken taste like what Grace remembered?  Not quite.  Grace raved about it, told me it was excellent, but confessed it did not taste like what her friend’s father made.

Does this matter?  Not really.  I got a great new recipe for all my insecurities that the family truly loved and Hubby proclaimed it was “company worthy.”  That made my efforts worth it.  As for trying to top what Grace so enjoyed…well, at the moment that doesn’t seem all that important.  Maybe I just needed to prove to myself that I can make something comparable.  I can’t really explain it.  What I do know is I’m satisfied that I have a new chicken recipe that Hubby can’t stop talking about, Zeb wants me to make for his next birthday, and Grace has given notice that all “leftovers” are hers, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

 

Careful What You Wish For — Driving Independence

For 18 glorious years I enjoyed the title of “chauffeur” for my daughter Grace.  Up until her 18th birthday, she really had no interest in learning to drive or getting behind the wheel.  Some of this might have been because Hubby and I instilled in her how expensive it was for insurance and driver’s training, but for the most part, she never even thought about it.  Surprisingly, many of her friends too did not jump at the chance to begin driving at 16.  Two out of three of her friends also waited until they turned 18.

That being said, Grace was chomping at the bit on her 18th birthday to get out and get her driver’s permit.  She took the entire day off work so we could be at the Secretary of State’s office as soon as they opened, and then she was off and running practicing her driving every chance she got.

Upon leaving the Secretary of State’s office June 3, 2014, Grace confidently proclaimed she’d be returning in 30 days to get her license.  Well, 30 days came and went, as did 60, and then 90.  What ever happened to 30 days?  Well, let’s just say that Grace’s idea of good driving and mine were somewhat different.  At 90 days when she went through three red lights in one week, I’d pretty much given up on her ever getting her license.  This meant Hubby had to get involved.

Until that point Hubby had driven with her probably twice.  The first time being the day she got her permit and the second time being when she needed to be dropped off at work and asked to drive there.  Hubby pretty much didn’t like having to get out of the car to switch spots and let’s be honest, he just is not the most patient of people.  Thus, the role of driving instructor fell to me.

At 90 days however, I gave up.  Obviously driving instructor was just not a role that I was cut out for.  I sent Hubby out with her and told him not to return until she was ready to take her driving test.  Of course this didn’t happen overnight, in fact not in the next 30 days, but by the end of October between Hubby and I, we got Grace to a point that we felt fairly comfortable she would be safe, as would the other drivers on the road. The end of October Grace passed her road test and got her driver’s license and immediately wanted out of the house and out on the road.

This has been a transition that I have truly enjoyed.  I thought I was going to miss being “chauffeur” after all, Grace and I spent many hours together in the car sharing stories, singing along to the radio, dancing in our seats, and doing some serious bonding.  I was afraid that her independence would mean a drifting apart between us.  Not at all!  In fact, for me this has been very liberating, things couldn’t be better.

Grace has the car practically every day during the week to go to work in the mornings and then to school in the evenings.  This leaves me home-bound, which is a welcome change from the constant running around I had to endure before.  I love it.  I’m a homebody anyway, but being able to legitimize being home-bound is great!

Grace on the other hand…well, let’s just say the thrill of driving has lost it’s luster.  Every morning as she opens the garage and heads out to the car, she complains about how cold the seats are in the morning.  Every afternoon as she is heading out to the car to leave for school she complains about not wanting to have to walk through the parking lot to get to class.  And every time I send her out to fill the gas tank, as she is the one using the gas, she complains about how cold it is outside.

WOW!  Funny how she never complained when I went out to the car in the morning and started it a little early, flipping on the seat warmers, so we wouldn’t have to drive to her work in the cold.  Amazing how she never gave it a second thought about how nice it was to be dropped off at the door for her college classes, and let’s not forget about not having to find a parking spot.  And isn’t it strange that all those years I got out of the car to fill the car with gas and Grace just sat in the passenger seat texting her friends, the cold outside was not an issue.

Such is life!

Truthfully, I do miss the bonding we used to do when I was driving her around, but as with all relationships, this mother/daughter relationship had to evolve.  Now we bond when she comes home and complains about work, school, traffic, parking, or all the crazy drivers out on the road and I get to sit back and marvel at it all.

Independence is good.  I’m sure Grace wouldn’t trade her new found independence, but it’s nice to see her finally appreciating what she no longer has — although if you ask her, things are much harder for her than anyone else — ever, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.  (Oh to be 18 and know everything again — NOT!)

Michelle Chamuel Concert In Ann Arbor

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As my children get older, I find that I derive more happiness through their happiness than when pursuing my own interests or dreams.  This may not be true 100% of the time, but for the most part, when Zeb and Grace are happy, I’m happy too.

A couple of months ago Grace found out a favorite musical artist of hers, Michelle Chamuel, was coming to Michigan to perform a concert in Ann Arbor.  Ann Arbor is about an hour and half from our home, but I told Grace we would definitely make the trip.

This morning at 9:30 Hubby drove Grace, Zeb, and me to Ann Arbor so we could be among the first people there for the concert.  Arriving a little after 11:00, we parked and headed straight for the stage.  The park in front of the stage was already quite full, so we positioned ourselves on the curb just to the left of the stage.  As the street began to fill with people, Grace and Zeb left Hubby and I on the curb and headed towards the stage.

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For nearly three hours Zeb and Grace stood in front of the stage watching.  They watched the sound-check, the opening act, Michelle’s performance, the encore, and then, the icing on the cake — the meet and greet.  Yes!  Grace actually got to meet Michelle, have her sign her shirt, and even take a “selfie” with her.  She was so nervous, but when it was her turn to meet her, Michelle admitted that she too was nervous.  Grace was on Cloud 9.  Next, it was Zeb’s turn.  Michelle took his shirt, signed it, and was sure to tell him to be sure to iron the signature or it would come out in the wash.  Finally, she let me snap a picture of the two of them.  How great is that!

I am not much of a concert-goer.  In fact, since the Michael Jackson concert tour of 1985, I haven’t been to a concert.  Back then, yes I am going to sound like an old fuddy-duddy here, but back then concerts did not seem anything like what the youth of today have to contend with.  My vision of concerts these days consisted of drugs, booze, foul language, and inappropriate behavior all of which is glorified in the loud, nearly indecipherable lyrics and actions of the performers.  Sure I know my parents said the same thing about the music of my generation, but they were just disconnected from the reality of the situation — right?  Nevertheless, after today, I am going to have to revise my thinking.

Michelle was genuinely real.  She was down-to-earth when interacting with her band and stage hands, cordial and friendly with the crowd — truly connecting with them, and her music was refreshing.  Grace shared many of her original songs with me prior to the concert which were all very good.  And we both enjoyed her performances on The Voice a couple of seasons ago.  Not that having a 46-year-old appreciate her music is any indication of how good she is, but being able to connect with more than one generation has to say something.

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Grace told me today was the best day of her summer — even her life.  Granted she is only 18, but don’t take her comment lightly.  She has a list of people she wants to see in concert.  This list has only two people on it.  Number two is Pink.  Can you guess who number one is/was?  You guessed it, Michelle Chamuel.  Also, at the beginning of the summer she made a “Summer Bucket List.”  On that list she had — Do something truly amazing, experience something new. Grace told me on the walk back to our car that this was fulfilled today and far exceeded her greatest expectations.  She had wanted to put on her list Meeting Michelle Chamuel in person, but thought she was dreaming too big.  Even that which was thought to be out of reach came true today.

The thrill and excitement Grace felt was contagious.  I was so happy for her that I felt I would burst.  Her happiness made today one of the best days of all our lives. The best part was that we were able to share this experience as a family. Hubby and I stood in the shadows watching as Grace and Zeb enjoyed the concert and then relived every moment of it through Grace as she regaled how much she loved every minute of it — especially getting to meet and briefly talk with someone who she has come to admire as a person and an artist.

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With all the tabloid horror stories and nightly news casts reporting suicides, drug/alcohol abuse, and other degenerate behavior, it is nice to know that there are still artists out there who have stayed true to who they really are and not fallen victim to outside influences. I am so happy that we were able to share the gift that Michelle Chamuel brought to Ann Arbor today and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

 

A Hair-Raising Experience At Great Clips

This morning I need to start the day by spending a few minutes writing a rant. Last night Grace and I had an experience that I can not come to terms with as of yet. I thought that by letting it rest for the night, sleeping on it if you will, I would somehow feel better, less upset, but alas it is not the case. I still feel very angry. Be it the “don’t mess with a mama’s cubs” mindset or pure unadulterated justification in feeling like I want blood — I have to get this off my chest. Writing for cathartic reasons has been somewhat helpful in the past, so here I go again.

Last night Grace decided that she wanted to get her hair cut. She has wanted it done for some time now, but with her work schedule, she has very limited options as to when she is available to go. We do not go to a “salon” where you make an appointment. We try to get away with spending very little in the way of haircuts and yet for the past 16 years that I have been taking Grace for haircuts, this has never been an issue. (Yes, she’s 18 but the first couple years I let her hair grow out.)

For the past four or more years we have gone to the same shop, a Great Clips near the grocery store we frequent three or four times a week. It was convenient, yes, but at the same time we have been very fortunate in having friendly, satisfactory service without incident. That is, until yesterday.

There are several people who through the years have remained a constant at this location so when we’ve dropped in for a haircut, most of the time we’ve had the same people cutting our hair. On occasion there were new people who with the luck of the draw we ended up with, and we either put them on the list of those we liked or would avoid. If no one that we liked was available when we showed up, we would ask for the schedule of one of those we did like and come back another time.

Last night when we arrived the woman who cuts my hair was there, but the person that Grace really liked was not. Still, there was a woman with very long beautiful hair, a new person, cutting hair and Grace decided that if she got her, she would be fine with that. As it turns out, that is exactly who she got.

I have always tried not to hover when Grace gets her hair cut, even when she was much younger. I believed in allowing her to cut her hair the way she wanted. There has only been one time that she regretted what she had done, which took two years to completely remedy, but for the most part she knows what she wants.

Grace showed the woman a picture of how she wanted her hair to look after it was cut and the woman told her that it was no problem. Watching from my seat in the waiting room, I noticed how this woman just whipped Grace’s long hair into sections, dragged a comb through the tangles and began to cut — and cut a lot. Before she got to the second layer of hair I couldn’t contain myself and walked over.

I hate to embarrass Grace in public at all so I tried to be very diplomatic in my comments. I prefaced my comments by telling Grace that I had to pull the “mom” card and make a comment before the haircut went much farther. I told her how short the back layer was, reminding her of the little incident that devastated her four years ago when she got it cut short. She told me it was fine. I apologized for interrupting and went back to my seat.

The haircut continued and I watched as this woman used a razor to cut several layers of hair, a tool which I know from experience is not the most pleasant. Then I watched as the woman used the razor to trim the ends of the hair on the back of Grace’s neck. She was quick and what I considered rough, but before I could say anything, the haircut was over.

Grace was very happy with the new style. She had about five inches of hair cut off the back but it tapered down long in the front. Very stylish. Trendy as Grace put it. We paid and left.

The moment we were in the car Grace began complaining about the woman who cut her hair. She told me that she thought the woman was going to pull all of her hair out. She’d been poked in the eye so many times that she thought for sure she was going to have a black eye, and the razor thing she did was like torture. I told her that this was definitely going to be someone we put on the list of stylists we were not going to allow to cut our hair.

Once home, Grace wanted to style her hair, but decided to shower to wash off all the hair this woman had managed to get completely down the front and back of her shirt. When she got out of the shower she came downstairs complaining that the back of her neck felt like it was on fire. I pulled up the hair on the back of her neck and there along the entire base of her neck was a red line. The woman had cut her completely along the back of the neck. This wasn’t a little nick. It wasn’t just a scratch. This was almost as if she’d been sliced.

Immediately I got some alcohol and put it on the red mark. Grace screeched. I blew on it to sooth the sting and repeated with more alcohol.

Needless to say, I was livid. What type of person does this? This wasn’t some sort of mistake that a hairdresser makes. A mistake is an occassional scratch or nick, not a five-inch slash across the neck.

Now I absolutely hate confrontation, but when it comes to my kids, there isn’t anything I won’t do. I immediately went to the computer and got the phone number for Great Clips and called. The woman who cuts my hair answered the phone. I told her who I was and explained to her what had happened. I told her that I didn’t want anything, but I thought they should know. She agreed and told me to hold on because she was going to get the manager. The manager got on the phone and I relayed the story to her, telling her how rough the woman had been and about the cut completely along the nape of Grace’s neck. Again, I reiterated that I wasn’t looking for anything other than I felt she should tell this woman what she had done. I also explained to the woman that we had been coming there for years without incident and had always been satisfied, but this was not a good experience at all.

The manager apologized for the poor service, thanked me for calling, and hung up.

I didn’t feel any better. I don’t know what I expected, but I was still angry, hurt, and truly wanted blood. I don’t know what I want out of this situation, but for some reason I am just not happy with a mere apology. Getting our money back isn’t going to change what happened. Actually, nothing can change it, but I am angry and still stewing about the whole situation.

This morning when Grace got up she told me that her neck was still very tender and sore. I lifted up her hair and this is what it looks like:

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Absolutely despicable. I know that we won’t go through this again because that woman will NEVER have the opportunity to cut Grace’s or my hair ever again and yet I am don’t feel any better.

I am waiting until it gets a little later this morning so I can call Hubby, he’s working a 24-hour shift, and tell him about this. I know that he will probably say something wise and comforting to make me feel better or suggest another course of action to resolve this situation. For now I am sitting here in the backyard, enjoying the morning sunrise, listening to the birds singing, and trying to calm myself down enough to start canning some pickles.

It is a beautiful day, the humidity is supposed to dissipate by noon, the sun is supposed to shine and the temps are going to be in the upper 70‘s to low 80‘s. Deep breath.

My garden looks wonderful in the morning shadows and I look forward to harvesting more cucumbers and tomatoes later in the day. Grace is safely at work, sharing her experience with all her co-workers, Zeb is at school, and Hubby is probably still sleeping. I have almost four hours before I pick Grace up for lunch, enough time to get the pickles made and perhaps hang a load of laundry out on the line.

Deep breath. Bell is sleeping between my legs as I calm myself here on the lounge chair on the patio. It is a gorgeous day and despite the tension I feel and the lump in my throat I still am — Simply Grateful — or at least I’m trying.

Driving Back The Hands Of Time

Now that my children are pretty much not “children” any longer, I look back at the ups and downs and realize that the downs were never that bad.  Sure there were days when screaming, crying kids could get to me, but there was never anything that I found to be completely and utterly unbearable.  Dirty diapers, snotty noses, and catching throw-up were just part of the job.  Crying babies, toddler tantrums, and bickering siblings was the music that filled my days.  Friendship hardships, unwanted admirers, and girlfriend woes reminded me how difficult growing up can be.

Through all of this I grew and learned about parenting, about my children, and about myself.  At times I struggled, but I always knew that somewhere down the line — this too would pass.

Recently, however, I have begun to wonder if I am going to get through the current “stage” with Grace.   I don’t  know if I have it in me to get through teenage driving.  Absolutely, without a doubt, I hate this stage of parenting.  It is stressful, scary, and bitterly unfair that I am forced to sit by and watch as my little girl grows up, spreads her wings and drives away.

Well, she hasn’t exactly driven away and she hasn’t exactly spread her wings, but she is growing up and with that comes driving, and I hate it.  I hate it, hate it, hate it.

That being said, Grace is doing much better in her driving.  I rarely have to flail my arms in distress as she takes a turn at 35 mph.  I no longer press my foot deep into the carpet, searching for the brake on the passenger side of the car.  I haven’t yelled for her to “STOP,” not even once in the past week or so.  Of course, my arms might be too exhausted to flail, the bitter truth that there is no brake on the passenger side of the car might have hit me, and my voice might be too hoarse to yell, but she is getting better.

There are some thing however, that I don’t think I will ever understand.

1.  Why is it that when Grace drives 50 mph, it feels like 90?

2.  How come it never seems that she is going to stop in time before plowing into the car in front of us?  Yet she stops in time.

3. Why is my heart racing from the moment Grace asks me if she can drive until an hour or more after we are safely home?

4.  How is it she did not hit that car that was in her blind spot when she switched lanes?

5.  How is it possible she always manages to turn the steering wheel the wrong way when backing out of the driveway?

6.  How am I ever going to be ready for her to take the keys and drive away without me in the car with her?

Is it so wrong of me to want complete control when I am in the car?  I have never had much of a problem when Hubby drives.  Sure I can be a backseat driver on occasion, but let’s be honest here, on occasion he really needs my help.  Yet with Grace I am in a constant state of panic when she is driving.  Is this ever going to ease up or am I doomed to be an emotional wreck until she passes her driving test and waves goodbye to me as I watch her drive away? Yeah, like I won’t be an emotional wreck at that moment!

This is by far the hardest thing I have ever had to do as a parent, and lucky me, Grace hates driving with Hubby, so guess who gets to do it all?  Yep, that would be me.  But I really wouldn’t have it any other way.  I am so glad that I am able to be there every moment with her — as stressful and agonizing as it can be.

It has been two months since she got her permit.  She declared upon getting her permit that in 30 days she would have her license.  Now she has a goal of September 30th.  My goals are far less generous.  I’m thinking maybe October or December of say 2016!

So, here I sit propped up by pillows in my bed, with Bell at my feet and Grace by my side, grinding my teeth as I go over todays driving adventures in my head.  She did really well.  Probably the best she’s ever done.  She changed lanes, went through three round-a-bouts, parked the car twice, made several left turns, merged into traffic, and got us home safely without incident.  I couldn’t ask for much more, except for her to be little again so I could drive.

The whole while Grace was behind the wheel, I could not get the image of her strapped in her car seat, safe and secure, out of my head.  It’s been years since those days came to an end, and yet they feel like yesterday.  Sitting in the passenger seat, watching her manuever through traffic, I was proud and at the same time sad.  Time presses forward.

I’m not sure if it’s the growing up and gaining independence or the raw terror driving with a teenager invokes in me, that makes this so hard.  This definitely calls for taking life a bit slower, enjoying every moment I can, and appreciating the quiet time I am sharing with Grace right now.  For the moment — this moment, she is still my “little girl,” and for this I am — Simply Grateful.