Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Starting early with the last

Just to clear up any confusion: Rebecca is not a senior. She just started her junior year. She has two more years at home before she flies the coop like her brother and sister before her.

Why do I feel the need to make this pronouncement? Because there’s been a slight misunderstanding about her age. Several people have asked about any impending college plans. Others have asked her how it feels to be a senior. These questions caught her off-guard, understandably so. And when she asked me why so many people thought she should be shopping for dorm room decorations, I had to admit that it was all my fault. 

My darn watery eyes got me good.

There was no clue it was coming. I was telling the parents at our church’s homeschool co-op meeting about a new year-end celebration. It will be a special night where we’ll see student artwork, selected readers’ theater scenes, hear kids perform memorized passages, hand out yearbooks. In addition, I said, it will be a great opportunity for us to recognize any seniors. That, my friends, is all it took. Caught me completely off-guard. In front of all those parents (friends, thankfully) I teared up. And I couldn’t get it together. I had to stop talking before I’d finished telling the parents the particulars of the new night, tossing out, “I’ll send y’all an email,” as I left the front of the room.

Normally I cry at the beginning of the senior year. Which makes sense – I’m gearing up for the fact that one of my children will be leaving. Getting used to the new normal and all that. (For what it’s worth, I must say, the new normal never feels normal. Do you get used to cooking for one less or the quiet house? Yes. Does it ever feel normal? Well, not yet.) Crying at the beginning of the junior year… that does not bode well for dear Rebecca or my tear ducts.

Sorry, Rebecca. I’ll do my best to keep it together. At least until your senior year, when the tears will make just a bit more sense. 

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

My new best lunch buddies

Who knew the key to gaining entry to the lives of college students was a crock pot full of pulled pork?

Well, actually, everyone knows free food will get college kids’ attention. And I used that knowledge to my advantage this summer to get to know the college students performing with Amy in the summer theater program in Mt. Pleasant.

Not knowing my college-kid’s friends is a bummer. One of my favorite parts of being a mom has been knowing my kids’ friends. So when my oldest two unceremoniously up and left for college, I realized how much I hated not knowing who they would talk about when we’d chat.

Well, thankfully, Amy’s school is only an hour from us and I have been able to get to know a few of her friends as we've visited or seen shows, but I don’t know them well. So when Amy told us she would be staying at school and working with 11 of her friends this summer I realized this was my chance to really get to know some of her people. All I had to do was show up armed with a crock pot, chips and cookies.

Now, cooking for college kids once a week this summer was not on my to-do list. (Cooking for my own family once a week isn't exactly on my to-do list.) But once Amy and I talked about me bringing dinner to the CMU Summer Theater students once a week, I realized the upside to getting to know her friends far outweighed the downside of grocery shopping. And cooking. Man, I am over cooking…

Anyway, once a week for five weeks this summer, I hauled up food from DeWitt to Mt. Pleasant. The first week I did a sandwich platter. Not. Enough. Food. It was crock pot city after that.

Five lunches. In hindsight, it’s really not that much. But during those five lunches I got to know each of the students by name and a little about them. Once I saw a little too much of Zach G., because he came to lunch in his costume, which was boxer shorts, but I was in the green room so what did I expect?

It seemed only fitting that we’d spend the last day of summer with our favorite group of new friends. Sean, Rebecca and I took up pulled pork, chips, carrots, grapes, cupcakes and brownies. We had dinner with them this time and it was really fun to see them again. We’d spent time with them in Mt. Pleasant, on Beaver Island, and in Whitehall. But we finished like we started, in the green room on CMU’s campus.

To Amy, Katie, Tyler, Zach, Allie, Anthony, Will, Emily, Dani, Claire, Zach and Lainey, thanks for sharing part of your lunch breaks with me. You are totally worth cooking for. Love y’all! 

We love because He first loved us. I John 4:19

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Seventh time’s the charm?

Seven drop-offs. We've done seven college drop-offs. Four for Michael, three for Amy. And while I didn't end up nearly comatose at Wendy’s this past Saturday after drop-off #7, which is what happened after drop-off #1, I must say it was no barrel of monkeys.

But it’s hard to be sad when the girl is doing so well. We left her in her new place with wonderful friends (hey Midge!). She’s enjoying her studies and is looking forward to the various extra-curricular activities that come with being a musical theater major. I mean, how selfish would I have to be to want her back home. With me, her mom, who’s loved her all the days of her life.

Okay, I’m a little selfish…

We've got one more Amy drop-off and then four for Rebecca. Maybe by the 12th I'll have this “new normal” thing down.

Here’s to the girl’s junior year. And a belated happy 20th birthday. Amy-girl, you’re a joy! 
We celebrated an early birthday with everyone at a Lansing Lugnuts game. 
Junior year - new room. 
I forget that it's impossible to get them to just smile at the camera.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Summer Olympics Random Thoughts

Seems like this is a really, really good time for an Olympics – our country could stand to rally around something. We’re so divided… Thankfully, I think we can agree that cheering for world-class athletes is a good thing.

Is “world-class politicians” an oxymoron? But I digress...

I’m playing a little game with myself as I watch the gymnasts – how far into their routines can I actually see myself doing what they’re doing? For the floor routine, I’m generally done at first pose. For the uneven bars, as soon as they grab on, I’m out. For the vault, I’m pretty sure I could run up to it and jump on the trampoline-thingy and that’s it. But for the beam I’ve got nothing. That looks like the hardest thing in the entire Olympics, if not the world. How do those people walk on that thing, much less jump around and flip on it?

I’m not a participation trophy proponent, but I think anyone who finishes the beam routine should get a giant trophy, bouquet of flowers and a lifetime supply of chiropractic treatment.

There’s a 41-year-old woman competing in the gymnastics events. Forty-one. She’s only five years younger than I am! Which led me to wonder what could I do now, at 46? Is there something I could train for and compete at such a level? Race Walking? Badminton? Table Tennis? Nope. Nothing. But it’s fun to dream!

(That’s the thing about the Olympics – they feed dreams. Sometimes dumb dreams, but dreams nonetheless.)

The Summer Olympics bring back such great memories of the time the Games were in Atlanta. It was blazing hot and I was a million months pregnant with Amy but we soaked up the international vibes and felt so proud that our city was hosting such an amazing event.

That summer our TV was tuned to the Olympics non-stop. Michael was 2 and loved watching all the events, but was especially fond of Bob Costas. We didn’t realize the connection he had with Costas until we took him to Centennial Olympic Park, where there were giant screens broadcasting the TV feed. When they switched to Costas, his giant head appeared much larger than life and Michael screamed, “It's BOB!”

Now we yell, “BOB!” every time we see Costas. Every. Time.

Here's to twelve more days of Olympic madness. And just for kicks, yell, "BOB!" when you see him. Trust me; it's fun.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Random Thoughts: Summer Style

Amy drove with me to get Rebecca and we got to see
Abby, too! Great morning all around.
Rebecca is home from camp! No more couch for me - I slept like a rock last night in my own little bed!

We haven’t told her yet that she’s not allowed to leave again. Ever.

Dakota was very happy to see her. He followed her around yesterday, apparently forgetting the LAST THREE WEEKS when I fed him and threw his duck for him and slept on the couch for him.

Having a dog is not terribly unlike having a baby…

I find myself telling Rebecca what we did with the dog. I feel like a babysitter checking back in with the parent. So far it does not appear that we did anything terribly wrong.

Amy is also home after her time in CMU’s touring company. It’s good to have her home. And by, “have her home,” I mean, “sleep here.” She is one busy girl.

But now that she's home, I'm getting after-dinner concerts as Sean accompanies her while she sings. I'm happy to clean the kitchen with that kind of entertainment happening in the next room!

She's working on a particular song and she's told me the show it's from, oh, a million times. And even as I sit here typing I cannot remember what it is! I'm sure she'll love being asked again.

Michael is off on a business trip. My baby is on a business trip with a rental car and hotel room and expense account. Dang.

The most important part of the trip for him is, of course, the car rental. He and Sean spent a good deal of time talking about what he should try to rent. And if he ends up with a non-GM product, Sean said, “We’ll call it Competitive Vehicle Evaluation.”

As soon as he got the car yesterday, he sent these pictures:
I experienced Duffy Shame when I called it the wrong car. Oh my word. After 28 years with this family, how could I possible get this wrong? But just like his Dad has modeled over the years, Michael was gracious in my car-naming defeat:
In my defense, it looks a little like the Countryman... 

I was going to post a picture of the Countryman, but I just looked at it again and can see it barely resembles it. My shame grows.

I'm sure Sean and Michael will see this as a perfect opportunity to say we need to spend more time in dealerships. 

Guess I know what I'm doing the rest of my summer.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Dakota and my sleepless nights: a true story.

Rebecca has been gone for two weeks. Yes, that sounds like a long time and yes, it actually is a long time and yes, we miss her lots. But you want to know who really misses her? Like, so, so much?
Her dog. Her dog misses her so, so much.

Sean and I are doing our best to fill in the gaps for the poor, sad puppy. Each morning, I toss around his favorite toy duck for him to chase. Each evening, Sean and I take the dog for a long walk, where we end up carrying around a bag full of poop. I guess cleaning up our children’s poop just wasn’t enough; now we get to clean up the poop of one of our children’s pets…

As much as I detest carrying around that nasty little poop bag, there is something that is even worse that I have to do when Rebecca is gone: get up in the night with the dog. See, when Rebecca is home, the dog sleeps in his little crate in her room. Turns out, he won’t sleep in her room without her. So I put him in our room, thinking that would work. Two problems: first, he likes to see someone in the room as he's going to sleep, and he won’t sleep unless he is certain someone is in the room with him. Our bed is taller than Rebecca’s, so he can’t see that we’re there. Second, because he can't tell if someone is in the room, he roots around all night, straining to see if he can make out a human in his vicinity. He makes so much noise throughout the night that he wakes and keeps us up.

So I have resorted to putting his crate in our family room, facing the couch. And I then sleep on the couch.

Yes, people. I am sleeping on the couch so that the dog and Sean can get some sleep.

I have not been this tired since Rebecca was born and I was up in the night with her. A human child. Which was understandable. But now, I'm up in the night with a dog...

Am I counting down the days until Rebecca returns? Yes. Yes, yes, yes. Six more nights and I can finally get back to my own bed.

New Duffy rule: Rebecca may no longer leave the house for more than 16 hours. Ever.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

For the ‘rents

I originally started this blog to keep family in the South updated on our adventures up north. The blog has morphed a bit into other topics over the years, but sometimes you gotta get back to your roots. With that in mind, I bring you, “What We Did Over the Weekend with Amy!”

The CMU Summer Theatre tour made its way to Beaver Island, a quaint place off the west coast of the Mitten. At the last minute, Sean got Friday off, so we quickly planned an overnight to see Amy and the rest of the company. In addition to getting a surprise day off, Sean got a surprise car to drive for the weekend, and even bought me a hat to go with it:
I have never in all my life worn a baseball hat. But it served the purpose and I must say, I enjoyed not having to worry about my hair!

There are only two ways to access Beaver Island: ferry or plane. The ferry takes 2 ½ hours. The plane? Fifteen minutes. I will make any excuse to fly any day, so we opted for Island Airways. I booked our tickets via email and had to give our weight… that almost pushed me to the ferry, but I was assured it was a secure connection and the information wouldn’t be published anywhere so we forged ahead with the plane.

Now, the only other time I had to give my weight to fly was in Africa, so I knew this wasn’t some jumbo jet we’d be taking. I didn’t however, expect to sit quite so close to the pilot: 
After a successful and incredibly short flight, we landed on Beaver Island and hailed a taxi. To be clear, we hailed the ONLY taxi on Beaver Island. She drove us to the Beaver Island Lodge, our home away from home for the night. Can’t recommend the Lodge highly enough. It is right on Lake Michigan. We listened to the waves all night long! The décor is stuck in the 80’s but we weren’t there for the décor - we were there to see the girl. We were a four-block walk from the theater, so we set out to find it and her.

Since we were a little early to meet her (shocking, I know), we stopped to rent two bikes. There wasn’t a lot of time we could spend with Amy so we thought we’d ride around the island and see what we could see in-between her breaks. The first thing we saw was rain. Rain on us, rain on our bikes, rain, rain, rain. But as quickly as it came it passed over and we saw sunshine and blue skies the rest of our stay.

We got to the theater which also serves as the hangout place for the island. They have free Wi-Fi and a computer for public use. They also have the island’s radio station, WVBI, and I thought if I ever wanted to resurrect my radio career this might be the place I could start.
Two giant banners hung in the windows of the community center: Welcome Birders! If only we had Rebecca, our bird-lover with us! Apparently Beaver Island is a hotbed of bird activity. People head to the community center to log bird sightings:
We finally found the girl, took her for a quick dinner, then she was off to work again. We had an hour to kill before the show, so we rode around the island. Got back in time to see the show in the most adorable 100-seat theater. Which made for a lively conversation that continues to this day: How can we build a theater?!
Anyway, the show was great, we got to hug Amy’s neck quickly after, then she went back to work and we went back to our room.
Saturday she wasn't available until lunchtime so we took to our bikes again. There are so many bike paths – all you outdoorsy people would love it. We met up with Amy at lunch, took her to Daddy Franks, which is just as adorable as it sounds, and she was off again.
We couldn’t stay to see Saturday’s show because we had to get back for Sunday morning's church service since Sean was scheduled to play piano. Those who go to church with us will feel our pain, because as soon as we landed on the mainland we got word that church was cancelled due to downed trees and power lines… We tried to get back but we’d missed the last flight and the ferry wouldn’t get us there in time. So we headed home in the Camaro.

At my friend Carissa’s suggestion, we made one last stop on the way home: Cops & Doughnuts. Good thing that place isn’t around the corner – those doughnuts were insane.
I’m so glad we decided to go see her! Great to catch up, even for a bit. And we love seeing her work, on and off stage.

Those considering a trip to Beaver Island should definitely go – it’s a charming little place. It’s rustic and perfectly suited for those who love water sports and biking and being outdoors. And, of course, for those who love theater!

The view from our seat on the way back.

Here's a view of our takeoff. As we were still in the air, I sent this to my Dad, a former Delta pilot, and his first reaction was, "That's real flying! I didn't know they could take passengers with only one pilot." I didn't even think about that! But for the rest of the flight I was trying to figure out if I could land that sucker...