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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Fresh Air!

Three days ago at this time we were getting a snow storm! It began around 11 in the morning while Hubby and I were at the gym and didn’t let up all afternoon. Then it turned into freezing rain and things got really fun out on the roads.

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Where did that come from? It wasn’t in the forecast and with predictions for temperatures in the 70’s by the end of the coming week, who’d have thunk?

Well, that’s Michigan for you!

Anyway, after a few “too chilly to set foot in the garden” days, today I finally broke out of the house and headed to the garden to get my hands dirty. It was glorious. I spent nearly two hours planting a few bulbs, turning over the new designated pea garden, and watching as Bell rooted around every nook and cranny in the backyard as if she’d never been out there in her life.

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Bell rootin’ around.

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Everything seems new and exciting to Bell.

Hubby was at the gym with his man-friend, Zeb was at the gym with Gramps, and Grace was still at school. Finally — time to myself.

Those couple of hours out in the fresh air truly cleared the cobwebs from my head, reset my perspective, and improved my mood tenfold. The weather is only supposed to get better as the week progresses and I plan on making sure I get outside at least an hour each day — by myself. This might require getting up a little early, or perhaps sneaking out when no one is looking, but no matter what it takes, I’m outta here.

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The new pea garden in progress.

Hubby came home before I finished turning over the garden I was working in and wanted to know why I hadn’t waited for him. Okay, now I could have answered him in several ways, reminding him about how the garden is my “thing” and for the past two years I have done all the gardening by myself. Granted this wasn’t necessarily because I wanted to do it all by myself, but with him working pretty much 24/7 away from home, there was really very little time for him to dedicate to gardening. Plus, when he was home, I certainly didn’t want him to have to work. We had to spend some time together after all.

But, rather than bringing anything up that might make him feel bad I just smiled at him, gave him a kiss, and told him I was almost done, he could help me finish tomorrow and then I could plant the peas. Still, his guilt was palpable and this really bothers me. I don’t want him to feel guilty about me gardening or anything else that he wasn’t around to help with. I enjoy being outside with my hands in the dirt and know he really doesn’t. He thinks now that he’s quasi-retired, he should be doing all the things he was never able to do before. I keep telling him he doesn’t need to, but at the same time don’t want him to not have any purpose. Everyone needs to be needed.

This is just yet another bump-in-the-road on our journey as we adjust to his retirement. For so many years I’ve been responsible for everything here at home, asking for help only on the rarest of occasions. It was how things had to be. I didn’t always like it, but after 23 years of it, I had to come to terms with it or go crazy. I did the “going crazy” thing the first few years of our marriage and didn’t really like it, so I finally came to terms with it. Now I’ve got that same choice again.

I can either come to terms with Hubby needing/wanting to help out with things around here or I can go crazy. So, have I learned from past experience enough to forego the “crazy phase” and skip right to the “coming to terms” one?

Doubtful.

With the promise of warmer weather and lots of fresh air in my future though, maybe I won’t stick with the “going crazy” phase as long this time and perhaps transition into something like a “simply irritated” phase instead. But then again, this is the Simply Grateful blog, so that wouldn’t be very sporting of me, would it?

Anyway, it was beautiful here in Michigan today — the weather was perfect, the sun was shining, Hubby was home nearly all day — and for all these things I truly 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.

 

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!)