Day 18: Employed!

Dear friends,

parkseed2

Parker and friends shoveling seed in the hazy grain elevator.

Today my boy got a job. So on this 18th day of a month of Thanksgiving I am grateful for gainful employment for the youngest member of our family.

It’s not Park’s first job and won’t be his last but should tide him over until he leaves for college. During the summer he worked long hours for good wages, hauling hay for a handful of local farmers and shoveling seed at a nearby grain company. I’m proud to say he saved the majority of his earnings and has a bank account Kate salivates over.

But when hay season ended in early September, he found himself unemployed until today.

Starting next month, he’ll be a cook at a new Buffalo Wild Wings franchise that’s opening in our town. Score! Our family loves wings. We cook them frequently and go out of our way to try new wing joints whenever we’re traveling. B-Dubs (as the teenagers call it) is one of our favorites. Given the local restaurant’s kitchen staffing, I can’t imagine we’ll pass up many opportunities to eat wings made by our favorite cook.

Pass the hot sauce, will you?

With gratitude {for paychecks and a new excuse to eat wings},

Joan, who celebrated Parker’s announcement by making his special request for supper — biscuits and gravy (hey, when it’s good, it’s worth having two days in a row!)

Days 16 and 17: Just this.

Dear friends,

This consumed my last two days:

kate

Kate was home for the weekend and both SweetPea and I relaxed in the comfort of her presence.

We cooked, we ate, we talked, we napped, we watched television, we cleaned, we celebrated Mr. Mom’s birthday (a couple of days early) and we shopped — all in a single weekend. It was just what this mother hen needed to reconnect with the chickie she misses most.

And — it was a warm-up for next weekend, when I’ll travel to Oklahoma for this big event.

With gratitude {for a much-needed mother-daughter recharge},

Joan, who indulged her little chickie’s special request for biscuits and sausage gravy and was told by everyone who ate them they were the best ever

biscuit

Day 13: Cover your eyes!

Dear friends,

If you have a child or a grandchild in college, chances are your loved one’s college has a “confessions” social media outlet.

I know a little something about both university life and social media and more than I ever wanted to know about the kinds of things college students “confess.”

The trend started on Facebook several years ago, but it appears to have moved on to Twitter. The confessions are anonymous and range from crushes; to one-night-stand regrets; to run-of-the-mill complaints about roommates, parking, cafeteria food and stupid professors; to attention-seeking posturing; to age-old and pedestrian Greek rivalries; to obvious cries for help from young adults in distress; to deviant (or alleged deviant) behavior. It’s simultaneously boring, laughable, painfully familiar, and horrifying.

If you wish to preserve your faith and hope in the next generation, cover your eyes should you ever encounter a college confessions channel. If you’re a parent paying tuition, just don’t go there lest you stop payment on your check.

I accidentally stumbled across the confessional Twitter feed from Kate’s college when one of Kate’s friends retweeted a superficial compliment mentioning my daughter by name. I subscribed to the feed and have regretted it ever since because I find it utterly depressing most days and prefer not to think about the darker and/or shallow side of a rite of passage I long ago survived.

But today, a confession appeared in my feed that both surprised me and bolstered my diminishing hope in millennials. It simply said:

(My daughter) is a beautiful girl, inside and out.

I’m her mother, so of course I agree with the observation, especially on the inside part. But after days of posts about drunken parties and boorish behavior, it was a tiny ray of hope in a bleakly indulgent, privileged, overwrought morass of post-adolescent anxiety.

I’m not one to press my luck, so I immediately unsubscribed. Always go out on a high note, I say.

With gratitude {for the seemingly sweet and thoughtful soul who took the road less traveled},

Joan, who — not surprisingly — avoided the Animal House bacchanalia at her alma mater and, therefore, has no interesting collegiate stories around which most confessions are built

Day 11: The Sportsman.

Dear friends,

park

On Day 11 of this month of Thanksgiving, I can’t help but reflect on our home’s favorite sportsman.

Parker is the only 18-year-old male in our home and, as such, is by far our family’s finest athletic specimen. He runs a 21-minute 5K without practice, dunks basketballs with little effort, contorts his 6’7″ frame into amazing twists and flips off the high dive, and has a wicked (and frightening) tennis serve.

But it’s his talent at motorsports that really makes us pause. He’s only been riding since we moved to Missouri, but Mr. Mom says he’s a natural.

Parker spent last weekend competing in the Hillbilly Grand Prix, a well-known off-road motorcycle racing series. He took 5th place in his category, Class C Sportsman. (I know nothing about it, but Mr. Mom says it’s a step above the rookies and purely recreational riders, and a step below the money class.)

Mr. Mom competed in motocross for years until he gave up motorcycles for drag racing, so he knows quite a bit about the sport. He taught Parker to ride and figures he’s a fair judge of his skill. When he says he’s impressed by Parker, I take it seriously.

Of course it helps that Mr. Mom is turning our acreage into a motocross wonderland. Here’s Park trying out two new logs jumps Mr. Mom built.

http://instagram.com/p/f58wjAqhkG/

Watching a young man compete at something he loves in the prime of his life is — for this mother — as mesmerizing and alluring as Greek mythology. Like Hermes, the beautiful boy of my daydreams slays athletic obstacles, escapes danger and seduces those who would detour his aspirations. Who needs lore when the lionhearted is right under your roof?

With gratitude {for the beauty, grace and fearlessness of young manhood on full display},

Joan, but you can call her Athena of Textile Artistry

Day 5: Buddy!!!!!

Dear friends,

If you’re of a certain age and pop culture sensibility, the name Buddy (spoken with great enthusiasm or followed by multiple exclamation points) refers to a particular elf of the overgrown variety. Of the looks-like-Will-Ferrell variety.

But in our home, we squeal with glee about a different Buddy.

cakeboss2

I’m talking about Buddy Valastro! The Cake Boss!!!

You may recall that CupKate and I went all the way to NYC (Hoboken, actually) to meet Buddy and visit his bakery. His pastries were beyond compare, but Buddy was nowhere to be found.

Turns out, though, Buddy is going to Tulsa. Which is precisely why the best part of my day yesterday was buying VIP tickets for Kate and me to meet him at this event.

It will be a perfect prelude to Thanksgiving and I can’t wait! I’ll drive to Kate’s college and pick her up on the Sunday before Thanksgiving, then we’ll drive on to Tulsa for a dinner out and an evening with our favorite pastry chef and reality television show. I’ll head home the next morning and, 24 hours after that, she and her teammates will head to our house for Thanksgiving break.

It’s all kinds of awesome. And just the delight of planning it made for the best Monday in a long time.

(Especially a Monday on which my biorhythms are still adjusting to the time change and I’m cranky.)

With gratitude {for Monday surprises and mother-daughter junkets},

Joan, who’s pretty sure Buddy will think Kate and I are the coolest mother-daughter fans he meets on his entire tour

Parkie Park.

Dear friends,

Park

Today my sweet boy turns 18. I don’t know where the time went but it sure offered lots of surprises, challenges and delights.

No parent wants to admit it, I suppose, but you can’t help but compare one child to another. Once you have two or more children on deck and you get your sea legs, you eventually learn that the inevitable comparison is fine as long as you allow each child to find his or her place in the family without excessive relativity.

Kate has always been calm and composed, bordering on stoic. Two and a half years after Kate’s arrival, Parker blew into our lives like a sudden summer storm. He kicked up all kinds of dust and, by comparison, we found him impulsive, intense, headstrong, and — once we decided to admit it — wildly entertaining.

As a toddler, we nicknamed him Park the Shark because he was always in motion, gliding through our home, watchful for any opportunity to exploit a moment of uncertainty or chaos to his advantage. Kate mothered him from the beginning, which meant Mr. Mom and I often found ourselves in the role of amused observers, wondering how this unique and captivating creature found his way to us.

Over the years, he’s mellowed considerably. But he’s still the family muse, wit, and impossible-to-stay-mad-at moppet, albeit a very large and very hairy moppet. Last weekend, Kate surprised him with an early birthday present and he climbed on her lap (all 6 feet and 7 inches of him) and gave her several exaggerated hugs. He could get away with murder in our family and his three enablers are well aware of their susceptibility to his charm. (Don’t believe me? Talk to his father who purchased the boy a very expensive motor bike for his 18th birthday.)

No matter how much he grows or matures, he’ll always be Parkie Park to his mother, the woman who once wrote that his electric blue eyes are “the lapis pools of my undoing.”  As downfalls go, I’ll take my fetching boy any day.

With gratitude {for the pleasure of the unexpected, the unpredictable, and the thoroughly bewitching power of a son},

Joan, who’s still mourning the loss of her baby’s curls

parkcurls2

and who hopes her little daredevil chases all the thrills on his bucket list

snow

The Mayor of Dork City.

Dear friends,

So I told you all about those keyrings I made over the weekend? And how I put them all in the mail to various and sundry surprise recipients?

Turns out, I got the surprise.

You see, I made keyrings for Kate and her Russian roommate, Kris. (Remember the ones with tennis ball fabric? Instead of a label with the word “love” like the one I showed you, I stitched on their names. I didn’t photograph them for my blog post because I didn’t want the girls to be tipped off.)

I wrote a card to Kate telling her I missed her and to give Kris my love; I carefully wrapped the keyrings in tissue paper and twine; then I sealed the whole thing up in a padded envelope and dropped it in the mailbox.

And as soon as I let go of the package, I had a sinking thought: Kristina’s keyring said “Chris.”

I cursed.

Then I texted Kate to say she was getting a surprise with an “oops” and she’d understand when she saw it.

I’ve spent the last two days fretting over my brain’s misfire. Am I suffering from quilt-induced exhaustion? Am I getting early-onset dementia? Am I the Mayor of Dork City? And how in the world did I make such a mistake and then realize it the moment I let go of the package (but not a second before)?

I’m actually a little frightened. Today I typed a Tweet and used the word “worse” when I meant “worst.” The other day I typed “to” instead of “too.” My job involves a lot of words so I’ve got to get back on my game.

Turns out, though, sweet Kris — who seems to tolerate the quirks of Americans quite well — was still thrilled. I told Kate to return it so I could fix it, but “Kris” wouldn’t let go of “Chris.” In fact, she Tweeted this photo with a thanks for “the cutest keyring ever.”

chris

With gratitude {for scoring high on style even though I flunked international relations},

Joan, who will never again express disdain when the barista writes “Jone” on her Toffee Nut Latte because if the Russian college student can be gracious, shouldn’t she?

On balance.

Dear friends,

ballet-dancer1

I saw a Tweet today that said “You can have it all — just not at once.”

It was immediately followed by this blog post from my friend Sizzle, who was reflecting on the one-year anniversary of the purchase of her first home, which prompted my own reminiscing about the four houses Mr. Mom and I have called home. Each of our houses was in a different city; each holds unique and special memories for our family; and each was perfect (despite its particular deficiencies) for the season of our lives in which we dwelled under its roof.

We have lived in a big-city, post-War cottage with loads of charm; a plain-Jane, suburban 70′s special; a majestic, turn-of-the-century “mansion” on a brick-paved street in the center of my beloved hometown; and a modern and spacious Ranch situated on a scenic Midwest acreage. We’ve clearly had it all (or most) over the course of 20+ years and I’m reminded that all of life is lived “on balance.”

Not long ago I counseled a young colleague who was fretting about “work-life” issues. I shared with her some of the lessons I’ve learned as a working mother and wife and I advised her not to think she could find equilibrium on any given day. I told her that over time I’ve learned to look for “balance” only when contemplating the entire span of my life because in any given hour, any given month, even in periods as long as a year or more, my life has been decidedly off-kilter.

I think about the many years I spent ungodly hours at the office and commuting long distances. I think about the three-year period I completed a Master’s Degree and did absolutely nothing but go to work and go to class. (I even “cancelled” Thanksgiving the year I wrote my thesis. Mr. Mom was a saint during those years, by the way.) I think about the years I fretted I would never again pursue a personal interest beyond raising my children and I thought “Hobbies? What are hobbies?”  I think about the entire year I selfishly focused all my energy on losing weight and getting fit for my impending marriage. (I did look ravishing in my wedding dress, only to get pregnant and gain 50 pounds six months later.) I think about the weeks I spent lying on the sofa eating buttered crackers in a depressed state because Kate had left for college. I even think about recent weeks when I’ve become a crazed and obsessive quilter, rushing home from the office each evening to pursue my latest project into the wee hours of the morning.

Maybe you’ve got a secret for achieving perfect (or even relative) balance on any given day. If so, please share your wisdom! I suspect, though, that most of us do what we must do in the moment we must do it, and find our search for balance fruitless unless we set our gaze on a very long horizon.

And you know what? I wouldn’t change a thing about my life. (Except maybe I would save more and spend less, but good lord, who wouldn’t?) I’ve been blessed with so very much and I suspect so much more is coming my way, including interesting and invigorating new friendships in our (still) new town, new hobbies, new career opportunities, new family members (grandchildren some day?), and certainly new opportunities to grow and learn through the pain and challenge that inevitably beset every soul on earth.

On balance, life’s been good to me (and apparently Joe Walsh) so far. Why crave it all when every single bite is so uniquely flavorful?

With gratitude {for discovering that perfect balance is a rather silly notion except in bike-riding and ballet},

Joan, who invites you to leave a comment about the season of life you’re experiencing right this moment

In the nest.

Dear friends,

nest

Kate came home last night. When she and Mr. Mom drove up just as the sun was going down, my shoulders relaxed a little and I couldn’t help but sigh in relief. I gave them both big hugs in the driveway and thought about how lucky any mother is to experience a homecoming of loved ones.

We spent the evening hauling boxes, unpacking, and listening to her funny college stories — all four of us plus her boyfriend, Jake, and her dog, SweetPea, piled on her her bed as if it were a life boat and we might drown if we left her side.

I couldn’t be more content to have her back in my nest for the summer. I hope we’ll make time for all kinds of fun, like watching old episodes of West Wing, going on float trips, participating in our annual girls weekend, making shopping trips to St. Louis, and engaging in any other activity that sparks our mutual interest during the glorious 90 days of summer she’ll spend in Missouri.

Kate’s looking for a seasonal job and enrolling in two summer classes, so her schedule will no doubt be tight. Still, just the opportunity to cook a few of my special “Sunday Suppers” while she’s home will satisfy this hen’s need to fuss over her chicks. Oh, and I hope to finish her quilt so she can go back to school knowing there’s nothing better than a mother’s love in which to wrap oneself tightly.

By the way, we had a fabulous time in Phoenix. Kate’s team lost in the “Round of 16″ but they gave the #3 team in the nation a run for their money in a very competitive match. Given the ordeal our girls have been through, I’d say just qualifying for the National Championship was a victory. They only lost one player to graduation, so they’re a young team with a highly promising future.

As you might imagine, I took a ton of photos during our four-day trip.  I won’t bore you with a travelogue, but I will share with you this favorite from the tournament awards banquet:

teamphoto

With gratitude {for my favorite girls, tennis, travel, vacation time with family, and all things summer},

Joan, who would love to hear what you’ve got planned for your summer

Tough love.

Dear friends,

I’ve got tennis fever. It’s that time of year so I can’t do anything but spread my disease to you. Forgive me, won’t you?

Here’s the first cool thing I want to share:

n

My girls won their match 5-0 last weekend and now they’re headed to the Sweet Sixteen in Phoenix.

So am I, by the way. My plane ticket is purchased, my rental car is reserved and my hotel room is booked. I’ve done everything but pack my bags, which will happen on Sunday. I leave on Tuesday, and the girls start play on Wednesday. They will play every day until they lose.  I will scream loudly every day until they lose, or until I fry in the Phoenix sun, which with recent highs of 100+ might come sooner than one thinks. Either way, I’ll be in heaven even if the temps feel like hell.

Did I mention MY GIRLS ARE GOING TO THE SWEET SIXTEEN?!!!!

Oh, sorry. I’m suffering from a kind of Tennis Tourette’s and I can’t stop blurting it out.

Here’s another cool thing: My boy’s doing pretty good too.

We’ve lost track, but he’s won something like 12 straight matches. Recently, he served 11 aces in a single match. At 6’7″ tall, his serve is formidable. His doubles partner is about the same height, but weighs a good 30 pounds more than Parker. To say they are an intimidating duo at the net is an understatement.  I’ve heard tell some of their opponents are skeered. Don’t blame ‘em a bit.

The other day, one of his less experienced teammates was so awed by Parker’s serving display he later asked “Has anyone ever returned one of your aces?” I don’t mean to poke fun, but we sure got a belly laugh out of that one. You see, by definition, an ace is an UNRETURNED serve.  (So the answer is no.) You gotta love the kiddos that are working hard to learn the game.

While I’m in Phoenix following Kate’s team in the National Championship, Mr. Mom will be home following Parker’s team in District and Regional competition. Both are rough assignments, but we’re the kind of parents that don’t shy away from the hard jobs.

I know they’ll thank us some day for our tough love.

With gratitude {for two kids who make me proud every day to be their mother, not because they happen to be terrific tennis players, but because they happen to be terrific souls who also play my favorite sport},

Joan, who resisted the headline “by the time I get to Phoenix” because quoting Glen Campbell ages her more than she cares to admit

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 614 other followers

%d bloggers like this: