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Sunday, August 31, 2014

It's my mom's birthday

Nine years ago tonight was the last visit I had with my mom. It wasn't a conventional birthday celebration at all. There was no cake, no presents, no candles to blow out. It was nothing like our usual birthday bashes...but that was because my mom was reaching the end of her life.

Nine years ago tonight, I sat with my mom for the last time. I held her hand. I painted her nails. I talked to her. I told her that I would always love her and miss her...but that if she needed to stop fighting for her life, I could let her go. I told her I would be OK, that she had raised me well and made me strong enough to survive whatever life would throw at me. I told her that I was happy and safe, married with kids of my own. I told her stories, reminded her of family memories, was rewarded with a gentle squeeze of her fingers on my hand that let me know she could hear me even though she was beyond speech. At a little past midnight, I heard her draw her last breath and then go peacefully. I will always believe my father was there to greet her as she passed...just as I believe he was the one who insisted I get out of bed to check on her seconds before her passing. I felt their presence keenly that night...and they still touch my life, even after all these years. My mom in particular is a strong presence every day. I miss her still...always will...but her gifts are with me. They sustain me as I strive to raise my own kids, to be a good mom, a good wife, and a good person.

I made spaghetti sauce today, Mom. I used tomatoes, peppers, and herbs from our garden. I filled the house with the rich scent of summer and love. As I stirred the sauce, I remembered coming home from school to the same aroma in our house when I was a girl. I remembered you listening to me, to the trials and tribulations of my school day. You always managed to make your cooking seem like time set aside just for you and me! To this day, I associate cooking for my family with the deepest kind of love.

I felt you at my shoulder today, teaching me still, lifting me up even after all these years. I'm so grateful for your strength, your love, all that you passed on to me. I'll keep trying my best to do as well by my own kids.

Happy birthday, Mom.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

What we did on our summer vacation...

It occurred to me several months back that we might be getting to the end of our opportunities for a vacation with our whole family. After all, with 5 teenagers who are in college and high school, carving out family time takes a herculean effort and a lot of foot stomping. Our kids have their own schedules now, school commitments and summer jobs, friends that they don't want to leave, social groups and activities, etc. By next year, who knows if we'll be able to pull off a family adventure...but we did manage this year!

For our family trip, we went to Chincoteague Island in Virginia. Why? Because Mom got to pick, that's why. I figured if I was going to drag our whole clan of bored, cranky teens off on a road trip in our van, it might as well be to place I really wanted to go. I've always wanted to see Chincoteague and the wild ponies of Assateague, especially during Pony Penning week. (Ever read the book Misty of Chincoteague as a kid? I did...and I never forgot it. ) The island also offered something for the rest of the crowd, too...beautiful beaches, a lighthouse, awesome nature hikes, kayaking, riding lessons, crabbing and clamming, boat rides, great seafood, and the best ice cream and fudge just down the street. The house we rented had 5 bedrooms, 3 baths, and a big yard for playing soccer and lacrosse. It also came with bikes, a kayak, and a family of ducks that came to visit every day. Even with all that, it still took a few days to pry the kids off of their electronics and get them outside...but after a while, we all managed to embrace island life and have fun. Here's some of what we did in pictures:
I had to buy loaves of bread for the ducks...worth every cent!

Finally got the gamers off screens!
Tanya got Mama and the babies to eat from her hand
Even my oldest boy wasn't too cool for the ducks

Then there was my favorite part of the week...we got to see the Saltwater Cowboys (AKA Chincoteague volunteer firefighters) herd the ponies down Main Street to the fairgrounds for the annual auction of foals and yearlings which takes place only at the end of July each summer. Wild ponies of Assateague Island swim the channel and then parade down Main Street on Chincoteague? I've only wanted to see this since I was about 8 years old and I was close enough to reach out and touch them. Pretty darn awesome!

The girls got to take riding lessons at the Pony Center on ponies that were once on Assateague...very cool!

Tanya on Teaguer

Kate on Misty's Morning Glory

The boys went crabbing and clamming just down the street from our house; some of the locals taught them what to do and they came home with their catch to add to dinner!

Dad and I went hiking on Assateague, we toured the lighthouse with our girls, and we all went to the beach. I did a solo walk on a marshland trail very early one morning, so beautiful and peaceful! Also caught sight of a bunny hiding in the grass...can you find him?

Loved the week we spent here...and now Craig and I are looking at properties on Zillow and wondering if this might be a good place to retire some day. Hmmm...