Finding Summer in My Own Backyard

Saying YES to summer hasn’t looked like I thought it would. More pool time, like I promised. We’ve been good at that. We haven’t done quite as many Campfire Wednesdays as we hoped but we’re working on it. We seem to be spending A LOT more time with one another, which is so rad I can’t even begin to tell you. But…I have become really attached to my own back yard.

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I’ve never been known for my green thumb or even wanting to have a green thumb. But this suburban orchard I’ve inherited has been both overwhelming and so damn good for my soul. But did I mention it’s a little overwhelming? Oh good. Because it is a little overwhelming at times.

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PLUMS

Apricots and plums are coming out of our ears. I’m not mad about it. But I’m learning a lot this time around since it’s our first season with all of this…abundance. There are things that I’ll do SO different next year. We also know a little bit more about trimming down the right way and parsing down the fruit so it’s even better quality. The fruit is delicious. But I think with even more TLC and knowhow, we’ll have better success with ALL of this!

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I almost can’t even explain the joy I have had going out in the backyard in the morning to pull fruit from the trees in our yard. Or sharing our abundance of apricots and plums. I’ve never really experienced it in this way. I mean, I’ve never had my own suburban orchard. So there’s that.

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Last week, after a particularly frustrating day, I came home from work in a pretty foul mood. I was so relieved to be home. Even if I did announce as I walked in that I wasn’t cooking dinner. (It happens.) (I’m just not going to talk about the frequency that it happens.) With leftovers from the previous days and hosting family, I got it in my head that a fancy cheese plate was the only answer. Sure, I could’ve just dumped all the packages and ingredients on the counter, but taking the few minutes to make something nice for myself was a luxury that made all the difference in the world.

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The four of us found our way out to the backyard with the “fancy” cheese plate and any leftovers we could find and had the most delicious and relaxing evening you could imagine. It soothed the soul after a crummy day. The kids read or we talked or listened to music. Sarah stopped by with jam (that will literally knock your socks off) made from our suburban orchard fruit! (No really. You have to try this)

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We sat there laughing and talking. We maybe finished a bottle of wine. I was so bummed when it got too dark, I wanted to stay out there all night long.

But it was the perfect lesson to saying yes to summer more. It doesn’t have to be a “fancy” cheese plate. (Although, three nights in a row last week, I just couldn’t say no to them.) It made a world of difference that I just took a few minutes to make it special. It was enjoying my own backyard and being (SO!) grateful for what I have and for the amazing people in my life. THAT is what makes summer so magical. And if I can take those few minutes as often as I can, this summer is already winning it all.

 

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(Yes. We are totally going to keep talking about the apricot pepper jam that Sarah made with the apricots. I have put it on EVERYTHING. Just thinking about it now makes me so happy. Stay tuned, folks.)

 

updates and school supplies and saying goodbye to summer

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It’s the fourth day of school and I guess I’m just glad Ramona doesn’t hate it.

I feel bad for her. She’s met a couple of friendly kids, but it’s still so new. It’s not like they’re super close best friends. She eats lunch alone because she doesn’t know anyone well enough yet. You want to break a mama’s heart? Tell her that her kid eats lunch alone. And then top it off with listening to this kid tell the story of how nervous she is as she walks into each class wondering if she’s always in the wrong class. (So far, she’s been in the right class.) (Thankfully.)

My brain knows that it’s going to be fine. She’s going to make friends. She’s going to have wonderful experiences. Switching classes won’t always be so nerve-wracking.  She is going to be great. I know this. But my heart hurts because she’s lonely and she’s scared and it’s so far outside her comfort zone.

And, hey…since my heart is already living outside of my body, when is it going to get easier to say that Beezus is going to be a junior in high school when she goes back on Thursday? JUNIOR. Because, each time I say it, I almost don’t believe my own words. It just sounds…weird. And not possible. And weird. (This may also be compounded by the fact that her sixteenth birthday is this week. Probably.)

This school year is already killing me a little. And one of my kids isn’t even back to school yet.

I need to stop trying to hold on to summer so hard. I need to jump into this school year with a better attitude and not be so resistant to change. But I really don’t want to. I don’t. I’m not ready for the rigid schedules and practice times…and holy crap I hate homework. I just really, really do.

But I know that my kids need me to be all in. Because even if I don’t verbalize to them how much I hate this, I know they can feel it. I KNOW it. And that’s not fair. Because even if I wish I could just hold on to them and hold on to summer just a little bit longer, they have to be ready for all that the new school year throws at them. And my moping about it isn’t going to do any of us a bit of good.

I may have to resort to buying my own school supplies. I love a new notebook to fill and the perfect pen to go with it. And it just might be the thing to pull me out of summer and into this current space of being a mom to a sixth grader and a (sigh) junior in high school. It’s time for me to be excited for what’s in store for both of them. And for me. For all of us.

If I’m too busy holding on to summer, I’m going to miss everything that’s happening right now.

We still have a few more days until Beezus heads back to school and we’re also getting ready as we celebrate her sixteenth birthday. There are a couple of Campfire Wednesdays to look forward to and a few other family gatherings to enjoy. So I’ve kinda given myself this week to phase out of my summer mindset. But I’ve also reminded myself that Ramona needs more structure and more focus to make sure that the start of the school year isn’t any harder than it already is.

A little balance? Yeah…I guess that’s what we’re looking for. Or really, a slightly more balanced wibble-wobble.

If there even is such a thing.

our summer

I can almost see the light at the end of the tunnel. The busy season at work. The all things moving and unpacking and settling in to the new house. We have a little break in most sports-related things.

But unfortunately, this also brings the ending of summer and lazy evenings and no homework. It’s time for us to go back to school shopping and figuring out new schedules and routines, especially in the new area. We have a new school to figure out…nerves are out in full force. We need to reevaluate our routes to work and to the school that didn’t change. There is drop-off and pick-up to worry about and fret about.

I mean…and then there’s just the regular life that keeps going on and on.

This isn’t new. This happens every year. I get very overwhelmed and anxious as we head into fall and a new school year. I feel regret for all the time I’m not able to spend with my kids because of the busy time at work. I worry about the upcoming school year…getting used to new teachers, expectations and schedules. Plus, there’s just so much to DO. It’s pretty much impossible to get everything done. But before I get lost in a sea of “what-ifs” and wishing some things could’ve been different, I want to remind myself of all the things that meant so much to me. I want to document the summer memories and traditions we started and loved, even when everything else was catawampus.

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The Move

Moving is hard. It’s hard to move away from a neighborhood and people you love and adore. It’s only 20 miles away, but it seems so far sometimes. And packing, and unpacking. And I haven’t even wrote about all that needed to be done to the house before we could move in. All the work we still have to do to clean up all the different messes the previous owner had made. But you guys? I love our new home. It is everything that I never thought I would ever have. My kids love it. The Dude and I love it. Paisley even loves it. (I can tell. I think.) I have this great space for the people that I love. We’ve already hosted several family events and get-togethers. I can’t help it…I absolutely love it. Which is good. Because that first mortgage payment is probably coming out of my account as I type this.

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Get-Togethers

One of the best parts of this summer is how much time we’ve spent with family. My sister was in town during the week we moved in to the new house. We had family visit from Mexico. It feels like we haven’t stopped with events and what-not, but it’s been amazing. Exhausting, but amazing.

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New Blogging Adventures

After all these years of quietly blogging and writing, I had never ventured to any sort of blogging conference. But this year, I actually went to two. I need to sit down and actually write about them, but for now I’ll just tell you that I’m so glad that I went to each of these conferences. Both events fell at the worst times to be heading to the Bay Area, but it all worked out.
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I also had the chance to work with and meet up with the lovely people from SodaPop PR and Tillamook and also attend the Sunset Magazine Celebration weekend. I had a blast meeting and getting to know so many wonderful people. These people are so wonderful.

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Sports

Both of my kids had great softball seasons this year. Ramona had a wonderful regular season and then had a great run on the All-Star team. She did so great!! Beezus has done great with her high school team, and had a dang good season with her travel team. It was a lot of fun to watch both girls push themselves and to improve and grow. We honestly had a blast. And having wonderful parents on both teams was a HUGE bonus.
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Trip to UCLA

Back in June, we made a whirlwind of a trip to cheer on our dear, close family friend as she graduated (with honors, I might add) from UCLA. We had such a great time celebrating her accomplishments. So proud of her! I’ve been celebrating her accomplishments since she graduated preschool, and I have loved being there for all these big milestones! And, I’ll be honest, I was surprised at how beautiful the UCLA campus is. It’s STUNNING. So glad we were able to tour the campus and see the sights.

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Giants Game

Yes I realize they’re dead last right now and they kinda suck. But damn, we had good seats and had an absolute blast.

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Campfire Wednesdays

Here’s the thing: Campfire Wednesday saved my summer. From my parents’ backyard, I felt like we experienced summer even when the deadlines were looming, the move was happening, and the stress was ridiculous.

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I love my family. I love hanging out with my family. And creating this summer tradition was everything I needed to feel like we actually did have some fun this summer. I hope to enjoy a few more before we have to put away the marshmallow roaster sticks. Because I love everything about it and I’m not ready for it to end.

I’m having a hard time knowing that this time next week, Ramona will officially be back in school and that our summer will be on notice. Beezus heads back to school the week after that, so I feel like we have so much to accomplish in the next few days. And by accomplish, I mean have all the fun possible. Be lazy. Swim more. Eat more s’mores and ice cream. We really have so much to do!

And I kinda can’t wait.

I Know Where the Summer Goes

It’s no secret that I’ve been pretty stressed lately. Summers aren’t too much fun for me. There’s just so much to do, not enough time to do it. Deadlines and to-do lists plus miscellaneous events and tournaments and practices. I’m a little worn out. Actually, I’m a lot worn out. Stress will do that to ya.

I am so grateful to my mom who just…handled everything yesterday. She just did. Hung out with my kids…even picked Beezus up from her last day of school. My sister joined in the fun with her three kids in the afternoon. So Ramona and two of her cousins were thick as thieves and ran amuck. Well, they ran around doing all the things that kids should do in the summer: trampoline, sprinklers, playing all day…only stopping to nag about being hungry or thirsty. While they were off playing, Beezus and the little bit (who is 2) hung out. They’re good buddies.

It worked out that my dad needed to drop his car off at the dealership after he left his office, so I left mine and went to pick him up. We chatted all the way to their house. The other night, he had started telling stories of stupidity. Well, things he had done when he was younger that were pretty darn stupid and it’s amazing he’s still alive. We continued the conversation…he added more stories and examples. It really IS amazing that my dad is still alive.

My parents still live in the same house I grew up in. We moved there when I was about 7, but most of my growing up years were at this house. When we got there, my mom and my sister were finishing up dinner. I felt pretty darn spoiled and so incredibly grateful. It’s amazing how nice it is to have someone else cook dinner for you every once in a while. Of course, I wasn’t much help at all. I kinda just sat there. I felt bad, but I was just so gosh-darn tired.

Since the evening cooled off so nicely, we decided to eat outside at the picnic table my parents have in their backyard. I ended up being thoroughly entertained by niece most of dinner. That kid cracks me up.

In the back of my mind, I probably assumed it would happen, but I didn’t even notice that my dad had built a fire in the fire pit until I heard the fire crackle behind me. All of a sudden, on a Wednesday evening in my parents’ backyard, it smelled like camping. But even better. My dad brought out all the fixins for s’mores. Because that’s the kind of gramps he is.

My dad has s’more making down to a science. He waits for the coals to burn down so that it’s perfect for roasting marshmallows. I like to break all his rules and light my marshmallow on fire. But since I’m usually not planning on eating actual s’mores, it works out for me. You see, I like to toast the hell out of the mallow and then pull off the outside, toasted layer. It’s like white trash crème brulee, my friends. The crystalized and crispy sugar is the business. Then, of course, you stick the marshmallow back in the fire and toast the hell out of it all over again. Repeat until marshmallow is gone. Or falls off into the fire pit because you let it roast too long.

My sister, my dad and I sit around the fire for quite some time. I stayed much later than I planned, but I can’t seem to make myself leave. The kids are in and out of the house, wanting 17 s’mores and being disappointed when we don’t give them that many. We talk and talk and tell more funny stories. My mom joins us after a little while. Somehow, we are discussing medical maladies and surgery stories. I think my sister’s ultimate goal is to gross my mom out. My brother calls at one point, wondering if I’m still at Mom’s. Him and his family are on their way home and thought they’d stop by if we were all here. I laugh and tell him that I should’ve left hours ago. He said he would take his chances. Surprise surprise, I was still there when they strolled out to the backyard.

I’m not sure how long we stayed out there. Someone stirred the fire up to try and generate some heat. We were all a little surprised at how chilly it got when the sun went down. And then, all of a sudden, my youngest brother was there too. The discussion turned to his wedding plans. At this point, I became very aware of how far two states away really is. Because having the four of us just happen to show up at my mom and dad’s makes you very aware that the 5th (and oldest, ha) sibling should be there, too.

It became too cold to stay outside. And, truth be told, it was exactly the push I needed to get my butt in gear and get home. But even as I had my kids get ready to leave, new conversations began and plans were made and more time passed. Once again, I wasn’t quite ready to leave, but I knew I had to get to all the things I had been putting off the entire evening. Reluctantly, I herded my children out the door and we drove home. My kids were exhausted, but they chattered most of the way. And I was content. An evening with my family was just what I needed. Of course there was still so much to do. But for a moment I let it all go. It’s amazing how you can put off dealing with the stress and deadlines when you smell like campfire and roasted marshmallows…and summer.

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