Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Some Women Glisten; I Sweat

You know that saying, "Women don't sweat, they glisten?" Well, I'm here to tell you, I do not glisten when I'm outside in this humidity. My hair is wringing wet, and rivers of sweat run down my back and gather at my waistband. When I am overheated, my face turns bright red. There's no soft, rosy glow here; I'm full-on red-faced. Add a lawn mower to the picture, and it's not a pretty sight.

There's no kind of sweat like mowing-an-Illinois-lawn kind of sweat. Lordy, I have never been to an equatorial rainforest, but I'm thinking I've come close to duplicating the experience in my backyard while pushing a lawn mower. My headband gets soaked, my shirt gets soaked, and my face gets a mottled red and pink when I finally finish mowing the lawn. 

Chicagoland has had a lot of rain, which means the grass has grown steadily since last week, but because of the precipitation, I hadn't been able to get to the yard work until this morning. The grass was so tall it took longer than usual to get the job done because the blades were bogging down with the heavy weight of the grass, and the engine kept sputtering to keep the blades spinning, and frequently it just conked out.

At the moment, I'm sipping an ice-cold Diet Pepsi in our office with an oscillating fan at my back. The can of soda has beads of condensation collecting on the outside, and contains pure refreshment for me inside. These little pleasures are absolutely delightful when contrasted with how I felt outside. I'm trying to dry off a little before jump in the tub to wash all of the dirt and tiny pieces of grass off my legs.

I can see our backyard from the window, and there is so much grass piled up out there, it looks like a hayfield just waiting to be baled. Any takers? It's not alfalfa or barley, but maybe someone has a horse who'd like to feast on some sweet Kentucky blue grass. Thank goodness we don't have a bagger on the lawn mower; I would have had to empty that thing WAY too many times. 

Once I got over my fear of losing toes or putting my eye out with flying debris, I found I actually enjoy cutting the grass. I like watching my progress, and I'm one of those people who likes cutting it on a diagonal. I even alternate which way the diagonal goes each week. Yeah, I'm one of those. I like the smell of freshly cut grass. And I REALLY enjoy a cold drink ,and sitting in front of the fan after I get the job done.

Sweating is really the only thing I hate about mowing. Too bad grass mostly grows in the summer. As this season inches its way toward autumn, it makes me realize that my grass-cutting days are numbered, and so are the hot and humid ones. HUZZAH! No more sweating for me for awhile!

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Sierra Does All the Things, Chicago-style

It's 4:00 in the morning on Saturday. Rainwater is rushing through the downspouts, and I've opened the front door to listen to the storm. The Weather Channel tells me there is a light rain falling. I guess it depends on who's telling the story. There is standing water in our cul de sac, and it's raining cats and dogs out there. 

How I love the rain, except today, the weather is making me nervous because today is a faire day. Many of you know, Chuck and I go to the Renaissance Faire in Bristol every chance we get during the summer, and today is our day to take Sierra to the faire for her first time. 
We might need sturdier parasols for today.
Worrying about the weather will do me no good, but from what I hear, rainy days have the potential to be some of the best days at the faire anyway. I have never experienced one, but Chuck has. He says the crowds are thinner, the weather is cooler, and there are pictures to be taken that we wouldn't see on an ordinary summer day. I will just enjoy this moment for what it is, a lovely summer storm, and determine to make the best of this day with our girl in Bristol.

Did I mention our daughter is here? What a delight this week has been. After getting our youngest settled at college in Utah, we flew Sierra back to Chicago with me from Salt Lake City. We've been busy doing all the things one should do when visiting Chicago.

If her Snapchat is any indication, Portillo's hotdogs are the bomb.

We've eaten all the things, and of all the things we've eaten, Giordano's deep dish pizza, Graham's Sk√§lies ice cream (Think chocolate, caramel and coconut. SWOON.), and El Zarape's Mexican food, Sierra's favorite food is  still Portillo's hotdogs. Go figure. 

Portillo's red hots, a.k.a. hot dogs, Chicago-style.

I think Portillo's cake came in second place in the food category.
When Sierra tried Speculoos cookie butter, she said, "Darn you, Mom. Darn you. Darn you. Darn you." Gingerbread-flavored cookie butter is more amazing than you might think.

Yes, it's that good.

We've laughed at all the things. Chuck and I took Sisi to American Science & Surplus. That store has everything you never knew you needed, and almost anything you might secretly hope to find; useful things like pump and spray bottles (we bought both), and educational things like life-size skeletons and internal organ models, and the most ridiculous things like Carl Sagan finger puppets and squirrel underpants.

We've seen all the things. Of course, we took Sisi to Chicago proper. We  rode the train into the city, and did a walkabout. We saw the Crown Fountain, Navy Pier, the Chicago River, and of course, the Bean. 

The three of us went to Cantigny Gardens, and Sierra and I went to work with Chuck on Friday to see the Chicago Botanic Gardens and Lake Michigan. 

The Bean, a.k.a. Cloud Gate in Chicago.

The yellow sofa of Cantigny Gardens.

Chicago Botanic Gardens

We've touched all the things. (If you ever watched us walking through a store, you'd understand. Our hands have to touch EVERYTHING, in search of the softest things.) We've smelled all the things. It's that time of year when pumpkin spice EVERYTHING is on the shelves, and we are in heaven. 

T.J. Maxx is a shopper's dream-come-true for all of the things of fall.

We've DONE all the things. Sisi even had a photoshoot while she was here. She was a model for a photo session we did for a friend in Wisconsin. Of all the things we've done, I've loved our quiet moments most, just sipping coffee, working on faire favors, and sitting by the lake.

Lake Michigan

This week has been a whirlwind, and today will be the highlight of many fun-filled days in a row. Last month, Bridger enjoyed the ROYAL TREATMENT at the faire; today it's Sierra's turn.

You never know what you'll find at thrift stores, but I was loving the stained glass windows
at the Hi-Hat Consignment shop in Geneva.

Today we will not think about tomorrow. We will not let our thoughts go there because today is our last chance to wring all of the goodness out of what's left of our week together. Today we will live in each moment as it comes, and savor every second we have. Today we are together, and today is all that matters.
Mama Llama loves her Llama Llama.

Friday, August 19, 2016

It Takes a Village

"It takes a village to raise a child," and the town of Bristol, England (a.k.a. Bristol, Wisconsin) is no exception. Each weekend during the summer season, Chuck and I have the privilege of visiting the Bristol Renaissance Faire. We witness firsthand the interactions of the adults who supervise the little ones at the faire. 

Sometimes the adult is a nurse of a household in Bristol or at the noble's court; sometimes a trusted friend or relative, but more often than not, the children are with their actual parents. The mothers and fathers of Bristol have a host of trusted friends, aunties, uncles, and cousins who willingly watch over their little ones. 

It's not always easy to tell at first glance who the legal guardian is, and who is posing as one. After awhile, Chuck and I figured out who was who. We love photographing the interactions of the youngsters with their Bristol family members. The mutual affection is obvious between faire family members, whether they share DNA or not.  

The Bristol Renaissance Faire family is a tightly knit one. You will see from the photographs; sometimes it is hard to tell who is the parent, and who is en loco parentis. You might be able to distinguish the relationships in the pictures, but it's harder than it seems.

The village of Bristol is lucky to have so many citizens who take the job of childcare seriously. And the children are the luckiest of all, spending their summers growing up in such an amazing place.

Thank you to all the moms and dads who have encouraged the photographers at Bristol with your kind words and praise. And thank you for allowing us to capture these precious moments with your children. It is such an honor.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

A Walk in the Dark

Each weekday morning, I spend part of my morning talking to Chuck during his hour-plus commute to work. I like to walk and talk while he drives and talks. He leaves home at 6:00 CDT, and this morning, that meant I left our little house in Utah at 5:00, MDT, which is black dark-thirty in the rural town of Joseph.

There are street lights here, on some streets anyway, but with the full moon, I was encouraged to walk on the semi-illuminated streets. While we talked, I told Chuck about a time in my life when I went running four miles every day, just over the hill from here. 

Each morning I would get up at four to run before going to the elementary school to teach. My favorite weeks to run were always during the full moon. There were no street lights once I crossed the highway on the Brooklyn Road, just a long, lonely dirt lane with a few houses scattered on either side of the road.

One morning in particular sticks out in my memory. 

Snow had fallen the night before, and my run that morning felt like such a gift. There was a full moon reflecting off the fields covered with snow, and the dirt lane nearly glowed with moonlight. During my brisk run,  I filled my lungs with the cold, fresh air, keeping my wool cap pulled down tightly over my ears. The sound of my running shoes hitting the ground was muffled as my feet landed in the fresh powder. My breath puffed out in little steamy clouds that kept my face moist and cold. Everywhere I looked, the earth was covered with snow. It was hard to wipe the smile off my face during that run.

This morning was different, of course. There was no snow; it is still summer, after all,  but the air had cooled during the night, and there was a slight breeze when I left the house. The stars sparkle like diamonds in the eastern desert sky, in spite of the bright moon in the west casting its glow over the townof Joseph. I bravely set out for my walk, and told Chuck I just hoped everyone's dogs were locked up for the night. (The scars on the back of my leg from an unfortunate incident with a Blue Heeler are a reminder that not all dogs are friendly.) Luckily, I only had a minor panic attack just as I passed my neighbor's house, and realized their dog was running up behind me, but he ducked into his driveway, leaving me to walk the last hundred yards to my house alone. 

There is much to be grateful for today. I'm glad I feel so safe in this little town, even in the dark. I'm thankful for full moons, and knees that are holding up despite the gloom and doom prognosis of the orthopedic surgeon. I'm so glad to have a husband who likes to talk to me on his way to and from work. I'm happy that our youngest was sleeping soundly in his bed. While I'm not exactly thrilled that he just spent his last night at home with me, I am happy he is so excited about starting college. 

I will smile through this day, knowing I still get to see Bridger throughout the weekend. Tonight I will be joined by our daughter Sierra, and tomorrow we will drive to Saint George to join Dylan and Jamie for the weekend. Focusing on all of this good stuff will help keep the teary mommy thoughts at bay. Life is very good; I'm thankful for all of the reminders prompted by my walk in the dark.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Not Gonna Cry

Boxes are stacked by the front door, full of sheets, towels, shoes, toiletries, camping gear, and who knows what else. Closets and drawers are being culled. Every last moment of summer is being accounted for as Bridger gets ready to leave for college. He's spending most of each day with me, and squeezing in important things like jam sessions with his old band, soaking at the hot springs, and hanging out with his "bros." I'm making his favorite foods. We're watching old movies. Sigh. I can hardly believe our youngest child is ready to leave home.

And yet. He has been preparing for this his whole life. It's time to release my hold on him, and let him go. It makes it a little easier for me because he is so excited for this next phase of life. Watch out world; here he comes, and he's ready.

Monday morning Bridger picked me up at the airport, and we enjoyed a yummy breakfast of waffles at IHOP, and then we shopped for apartment basics. We took Sierra to lunch, and for a moment, I just enjoyed the blessing of having two of my kids together at once. 

While Bridge and I were shopping for anti-perspirants, shampoo, hand soap, and laundry detergent, we must have smelled at least half of the inventory of each item at Walmart. Scents are very important to us both. As my patience began to thin, I realized this child is so much like me. We share a love of things that smell good. I just have to accept the fact he has taken fragrance appreciation to the next level, and is even more selective than I am. He just smiled when I told him I'd created a monster. He's a monster who likes things that have yummy scents.

Yesterday he was playing an original piece on the guitar. His acoustic music is so soothing, and I love his compositions. 

Trying to be sneaky, I recorded his private jam session with my cell phone. He noticed, stopped playing, and gave me that look. You know, the look that says, "Seriously? Can't I do anything without it being documented?" My eyes pleaded with his to understand. He went back to playing, and I resumed recording. And my throat tightened in that oh, so familiar way, and I felt tears threatening to spill onto my cheeks. I blinked them away, and relaxed into his music. Every single moment feels so bittersweet. 

Photo credit: Chuck Bennorth

I'm not going to cry. I'm not going to cry. I keep telling myself this, but what I have to admit is I am desperately trying to hold it together until I have to drive away from him at Dixie State. I can't promise my eyes won't brim with tears until then, but I am determined he won't have to see me ugly cry. 

Not gonna cry. Nope. I'm not gonna cry...

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Things I Miss; One Thing I Never Will

Living my life in both Illinois and Utah has been an adventure. For almost two years, I've racked up the frequent flyer miles, allowing me to live with my husband most of the time, and making sure I get time with my children. Chuck has been so supportive and patient through it all. 

When I leave Illinois, I miss Chuck terribly, but I know that we will stay in touch as much as possible; texting, calling, and messaging. I love being married to this man, and I love our life in Illinois. (I miss you right now, Handsome.)

Yesterday as the Frontier jet was flying over the Rockies on my way to Salt Lake City, I contemplated the many things I miss about our home in Utah. First of all, it goes without saying, I miss my kids. Thank heavens for SnapChat, Instagram, texting, and Skype. It's not the same, but it helps soothe this mama's heart. 

My babies: Dylan, Sierra, Bridger
I miss listening to Bridger play his guitar. I miss weekends in Saint George with our married kids Dylan and Jamie. And now that Sierra is back in Utah from California, I miss our girl time; shopping, talking, and laughing. So, yeah, I miss my kids. A lot.

Another thing I miss is the arid climate of the southwest. In Utah, I can fix my hair in the morning, and it will stay that way all day long. When I towel off after showering, I feel clean and dry all day long. My freshly laundered jeans air dry in just a few hours. I LOVE the dry desert air of Utah.

Seeing the Rockies from the plane window made me realize how homesick I've been for the mountains. I love hiking and driving through them. I love the red rock slot canyons and aspen trees, and the mountain peaks and valleys. Be-UTAH-ful is what Utah is. 

There is really only one thing I do not miss. Do you know what a goat head is? How about a puncture weed? My friends in Utah are nodding in agreement; my friends in the midwest and southeast are puzzled. 

Tribulus terrestris is  a devil plant, well-suited to dry climates, requiring very little water to thrive. Once the cute, yellow blossoms fade, the little green buttons that looked so harmless while forming, start to extend huge, spiky thorns, and then they drop off the plant, scattering themselves all over the ground, laying in wait for unsuspecting victims.

I stepped on a dozen of these little monsters last night running out to the car barefoot. (I have an aversion to shoes, which, in hindsight, is most unfortunate.) Puncture weeds are strong enough to flatten bike tires, and certainly sharp enough to inflict great pain upon us of the bare feet tribe. Goat heads are worse than stepping on Legos, folks, because you have to pluck them out of your feet when the thorns sink into your tender flesh. 

All night my foot throbbed, and this afternoon, I discovered why. One of the thorns had broken off in the sole of my foot, and had taken up residence. Bridger worked removing the thorn with a needle and tweezers. I Googled suggestions for splinter removal, and one of the more ridiculous tips is what I ended up trying. I cut a small slice of potato, and secured it to the bottom of my foot with a bandaid. I was feeling pretty gullible, and not very confident, but we waited about an hour, and then, voila! Bridger was able to remove the goat head. Go figure.

Lesson learned: don't go outside without shoes in Utah. 

Puncture weeds are not something I will ever miss. Ever. Utah has many enticements for me, but the noxious weeds are not part of them.