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Laissez-Faire

I really didn’t know who to call. Normally, I can share anything with Mags, but I wasn’t sure she would understand the anxiety I was feeling. Edie and Gail would probably resent me for not being elated and Sarah might burst into tears. I wondered if I knew Chloe well enough to tell her I was late. My cycle is never late. I keep track of it on the kitchen calendar with coded symbols that only I understand. But I surely was three days late. Too soon to visit the doctor but not too soon to panic. I felt bloated too. I took the children to the club and kept my baggy t-shirt on the whole time we were there. Later, I was cranky with Steve.

Chloe must have seen me sitting on the back steps smoking and came over to sit with me. I wasn’t my usual happy self but she didn’t press. In fact, she got up and walked away. I saw her pull her shears out of her apron pocket and start to cut some flowers from her garden. I was a little upset at her lack of caring until she returned a few minutes later with a bouquet that she handed to me. She had somehow taken a long green stem, stripped it of its leaves and woven it into a tie to hold it together. I took it from her and inwardly berated myself for reacting so selfishly when Chloe went to do something nice for me. I talked a good game about letting life happen but knew that being pregnant would replace my school plans with more years of diapering. The children were already in school, our life had an ease to it after years of work, and I was headed backwards. That sounded harsh even in my head. On the other hand, another baby would be okay; I loved my children. I could probably go back to school in a couple of years again. Or give it up and just be a good mom to three great kids.

I looked over at Chloe and gave her a very weak smile. It was then I realized Chloe’s superpower. She didn’t judge. She just let me be happy or sad or in between. I asked her what kind of flower the large one was because it was so unfamiliar. She waited a half-second and chuckled a little. I like her laugh and I knew something smart was coming. According to Chloe, it was a laissez-faire flower. That sounded familiar but I still didn’t get it. Chloe poked me in the arm and we got up and I went inside.

I pulled down a crystal vase for the bouquet. I still didn’t know what Chloe had been trying to tell me, but just like that beautiful flower, I would find my place with this concern. I put the vase on the dining room table and set it carefully for dinner. I have pretty things and need to use them and keep a beautiful home. If there was a surprise coming, the time to enjoy life as much as possible was right now. Time would take care of my other worries.

Ready Aim Shoot

The highlight of the neighborhood every summer is our block party. It’s open to everyone on Calista Court but there are infiltrators from nearby streets that are drawn to our fun.  W don’t kick them out because it’s good to get to know everyone who lives in our division. Since we live in the center of the street, most of the events are set up right in front of our house. It does require Steve to hose down the street the day after, but any excuse to hang out with a hose and water works for him. Harold always joins him to remove any lingering spills and they can talk for hours out there.

Judy Anne was coordinating the party this year with help from a committee of other neighbors. Everyone had received a flyer with all the pertinent info in their mail slots. Chloe had picked up my mail from the floor behind the front door slot and cared for Snowball while we were away, so I read the block party news when we returned. A couple of new events had been added that the children would like. The sidewalks would be the site for chalk drawing and Zettie Louise was breaking out her archery target for the older kids. That was probably the mysterious project that Junior was helping her with.

The dessert contest was still fruit based. I was worried about the effects of hot weather on my Bananas and Strawberry Pudding Icebox cake but I was still committed to the challenge. My last one unfolded nicely and Steve loved it. Daisy ate all the whipped cream off the top and followed that by eating the strawberries. It wasn’t so pretty in the eating stage.

The morning of the party was cool and sunny and as soon as the sawhorses were in place blocking the street, the men starting putting up the tables, signs were placed and the obstacle course was set up. Zettie Louise mounted her target on the flatbed of a truck parked in the center of the street away from the food. A genius idea; the arrows would be caught in the truck if they didn’t hit the mark. After the morning work was done, the guys returned home to shower and dress. I had purchased new Bermuda shorts for Steve and me that matched – baby blue. He wasn’t crazy about the idea, but went along with it because our shirts didn’t match.

I set up my chairs out front and gradually everyone in my group brought theirs out also to form a good semi-circle viewing area. I brought out two extra so Chloe would feel comfortable. I had found new red, white and blue webbed chairs and thought they would be appropriate for either France or the States, so Chloe could choose where to sit. I knew Steve would make Frances hang with the men at the grilling area.

First block parties can be intimidating. As the neighborhood guys started their grilling tasks, the beer keg was tapped and the glorious smells of summer barbecue started. Everyone brought out their side dishes and desserts. Judy Anne danced around the tables adjusting and directing the food placement. After I put out my food, I sat down with Daisy behind me drawing on our sidewalk. Chloe, Frances and Marie Claire came out and joined us. Steve came by and stole Frances away and I reached over to get a drink from the cooler. Steve had iced down my favorite selections of pop from Friel’s. That was when I noticed a second cooler and opened it to find pale pink wine swimming in ice water. I usually have some special drink selected for the party but was lazy this year and didn’t plan ahead. Chloe reached over and deftly opened a bottle and tossed the cork back into the ice water. Chloe had supplied the special beverage. She let me know that ice water was the secret to great chilled French wine. Chloe pulled wine glasses from her bag, poured the pretty liquid and handed me a glass just as Mags, Sarah, Edie and Gail came walking up. They had all brought their own wine glasses. Apparently, I was the only one unprepared. We toasted Judy Anne as she flopped down into an open chair. With everything in place, another block party began. Some strangers from around the next block checked it out and we encouraged them to stay and have fun. Daisy and Marie Claire rode the obstacle course on their bikes and decorated our sidewalks. Junior worked the crowd playing archery with Zettie Louise. Steve and the men cooked and we all ate well.

My dessert didn’t win any prizes and it was pretty sloppy looking after a few spoonfuls had been removed. But Chloe had a Tart Tatin that everyone raved about. The hot food was great and the men had simmered some bratwurst in a big pot on one of the grills. So smart. The old me might have been disappointed that I didn’t go to the trouble of selecting a special drink for the day or presenting a beautiful dessert. In truth, everything worked out without my planning well. In fact, that apple dessert Chloe made went perfectly with the wine. I should let go more; maybe not frequently, but just enough to let something unplanned happen. Who knows what could happen if I planned less?

Coming Home

On the way home, I picked up a few groceries that would get us through the next day. I made sure there were good non-perishables before I left but needed a few cold things to start the morning off right. The downside of going away was coming back. The next morning, I had small mountains of laundry sorted in the utility room and Snowball, our cat, was using one to nap on. Daisy was outside with Marie-Claire, who was filling her in on what her dolls did while Daisy was away. Junior had run down to Zettie Louise’s house as soon as we returned. She must have let him know telepathically that she wanted his help with some important matters, so he got up early enough to eat a quick breakfast and run out the back door.

Instead of sleeping in, Steve got up, grabbed his clubs and headed to the club for 18 holes of torture. He looked pretty happy when he left and he surely deserved this chance to play golf. With everyone out of the house, I could play the music I liked and work on the laundry without rushing. I opened the window over the sink to let in some cool air. I even stopped to pet the cat, who looked at me quizzically since I was sitting on the floor next to the laundry. The trip had given me permission to slow down, and not live up to everyone else’s expectations.

After a break for lunch with Daisy, she left again to go over to Chloe’s. The house was quiet again and I decided to practice my dessert for the Block Party. I cleaned the strawberries and made the custard, taking time to let it thicken. I sliced the bananas right before layering them and wrapped up the whole dessert to chill. I could unfold it later as a special dessert.

Steve came back looking hot and tired. A true golf warrior, he told me  what he was going to work on when he played tomorrow. That man knows how to plan. After he showered, he made us cocktails and we stood in the utility room drinking and folding the laundry. The cat’s pile was finally loaded and Snowball walked away miffed. Chloe called and asked if Daisy could stay for dinner and overnight so I brought over her p.j.’s and stuffed friends. I was glad to see Chloe and she laughed when she saw how tanned I was. Chloe told me a proper French woman never got any sun. I pointed to her tanned arms and she laughed at herself. I told her that I would be over in the morning to talk and she could make me some fancy French coffee while we visited. We both grabbed each other’s arms and air-kissed each other on the cheeks. It had been a long time since we had done that but it signified how hard it was to be away from each other. In a year, Chloe and I had become good friends. I knew that I was happy to see her but my reaction even surprised me a little.

The following morning, I made breakfast for Steve and Junior and they both left for their jobs – Steve to golf and Junior to Zettie Louise’s. I cleaned up the dishes and walked across the yard to Chloe’s. The girls were sitting at the big wooden table under the chandalier in the dining room. Chloe had fully set the table with good china and silver. The girls wore large pastel hats with long strands of pearls over their nightgowns. There was a place set for me and I sat down to join their fancy breakfast. I apologized for not dressing appropriately and the girls giggled. Chloe came into the dining room with a large platter of breakfast foods. She placed the platter down and returned a moment later with a beautiful tray of sweets. What a feast! The girls politely waited to be served; I think Daisy was taking her instructions from Marie-Claire. Marie-claire has lovely manners. Chloe lifted her beautiful coffee pot and poured hot coffee into my cup and into her cup. For the girls, she took the creamer and filled half the cup before floating some coffee on top. So, this was how the French indoctrinated their youngsters. Chloe offered lumps of sugar to the girls and they both giggled as they daintily stirred. It was a beautiful breakfast filled with pleases and thank yous.

Life is funny. A couple of days ago, I was sipping coffee from a mug on the porch of the lakehouse. Yesterday, I was sitting on the laundry room floor drinking coffee with the cat as my companion. Today, I dined at the finest French cafe. I wonder what was going to happen tomorrow!

The Lake is Growing Up

With a few years of lake visits under our belts, Steve and I have started talking about how we feel about having a vacation home of our own. We both love our home in Monterey Park with our friends nearby, good schools and its proximity to Steve’s work. But seeing how Junior and Daisy have matured each summer at the lake is very easy to spot from year to year as they improve their swimming, fishing and fire-building skills. Every year, some small change that I didn’t notice at home seems very obvious at the lake. The little muscles on their arms and legs impressed me this time. Junior’s maturity in difficult circumstances was news; even Daisy was more proactive in helping Steve make a fire. Previously, she would have sat back nervously and moved forward only with an adult close to her. My children are shedding their “little kidness.” What would this mean to me and Steve?

When the children were really babies, it seemed like all my time was tied up with caring for them. Their safety and needs always came first. I can remember after Junior was born, I didn’t change out of my nightgown for a few days because I was afraid not be right there for him if he needed me. Now, on the rare occasions when he bellows out for me, I sometimes tell him to lower his voice; I need to stop that.

I like the tradition of our lake trips. What started out as a great perk from Steve’s boss,Buck, has allowed us as a family to make great memories together. My intention with this trip was to actively make memories for all of us. Pictures of all of us, little mementos of our activities, even some little stories will help me keep these treasures as we all grow up. Even Steve and I have fallen into our own lake rhythm and the rush of the work days disappeared. I wanted the days to be less structured this time to allow for new opportunities to just pop up. But it would be okay for nothing to happen also.

On our last night, we had a long, funny diner with multiple courses and lots of celebrating. Earlier this week, I gave everyone blue construction paper ribbons to make for each other as awards. I instructed the children on the procedures in toast-making and brought out cold sparkling cider for us to read our toasts to each other. I wish I had thought to record it, but took pictures instead. Next year, I am going to bring a tape recorder.

The morning we left, Steve walked us all down to the dock where we all sat down together quietly. He had made coffee for himself and me and hot chocolate for the kids. We watched the morning birds, bugs and fish in the water. The sun was up but not high enough to be hot and a light mist made the water sparkle. At one point, a giant crane flew past us with a fish in its mouth and we all made sounds of awe. We were a family all experiencing a moment in time. That memory will be ingrained. After a while, we said our sad goodbyes to the lake but Daisy brought the smile back to our faces when she added, “See you next year.”

The trip home was unhurried and there was giggling and stories galore. I began to understand that as we talked, we were reinforcing our thoughts on what we will remember about this trip. As I focused on the faces of my happy family, their voices drifted away. Having our own place for vacations might become an option in the future, but anywhere were all went together in the future would result in amazing memories because we had figured that part out already.

A Boy and His Hat

There are loyalties in life. I prefer a specific brand in ketchup, peanut butter and cigarettes, but I wouldn’t say no to another brand if that was all there were available. The same is not always true for little boys and their current favorite ball caps.  Junior has to be told sometimes to remove his hat in the house, at the table and before sleeping. It resides on his night stand for easy access and is always on his head throughout the summer. He sweats in it, wears it for luck and status, and to keep the sun out of his eyes. Basically, it tells his friends everything they need to know about his current favorite sports team. Granted, the hat changes from season to season or year to year as the sporting seasons come and go. Junior’s team doesn’t have to be a winner, it just has to be his. Steve sometimes wears a ball cap but he tends to wear free ones he gets from work or golfing events. He wears a hat when it is hot or he is working outside. I guess they both don’t mind that they wear previously sweated-in caps. Boys are icky that way.

The lake has some inherent dangers which we discuss with the kids on the way up. First aid kits are always packed so that I don’t use up June’s supply and what to do if you see a big creature is always a hot topic. I refuse to answer questions about elephants and tigers because I just can’t see that happening. The danger I didn’t think about was the wind on the lake. It was very blustery when we left the dock for our boat ride and picnic. The cooler was packed, extra towels and clothes were in a duffel bag and the kids had life preservers on. Sadly, Junior’s hat was not glued to his head. I heard him yell and looked over in time to see it blow off his head and disappear into the water. Oh no! His favorite hat sunk faster than the Titanic. There was no use in stopping to even attempt to find it. Junior’s face looked crushed. He sat back in his seat and bit his lip a little. This is one boy who needs a hat. Daisy sat next to him but he pulled away from her and folded his arms and looked broken.

One of the hardest parts of being a parent is alleviating disappointment for children. Life is somehow unfair at the worst times. When we slowed down at the gas dock, I told Steve what happened. He told me that Junior would get over it. When we dock for gas everybody has a job. I usually jump off as soon as Steve gets next to the dock to pull the ropes up to the cleats. The kids like to get off and run up the long dock to the store to say hello to the dock master, Sam. But Junior didn’t want to get off the boat and sat there as Steve started to pump the gas. I followed Daisy up to the store to see what she was up to. In the store, Daisy was busy emptying out her little pink purse, spilling a couple of crumpled bills along with change all over the counter. Sam was counting her money and pulled $2.50 off to the side. Sam told Daisy to pick out whatever hat she wanted off of the display. She smartly overlooked the hats with fish and pointed to a dark blue hat emblazoned with a tiger on it and Sam pulled it down for her. Daisy scooped up the rest of her loot and ran out to the boat, presumably to give it to her brother. It was a sweet idea but I wasn’t sure how open little Stevie was yet to a new hat so soon after his big loss. As I signed for the gas, Sam handed me back Daisy’s $2.50. He told me that he couldn’t resist Daisy’s desire to make her brother happy again.

When I got back to the boat, the kids and Steve were ready to go but the hat wasn’t on Junior’s head. Daisy didn’t seem upset by this so I didn’t say anything. We left for our boat ride, stopping at a favorite little island for a picnic on the beach. It was really hot now that the wind had stopped and the kids ran in and out of the water while we sat on the blanket. We all played a game of water tag that Junior invented. The rules include the fact that if you leave the water, you are automatically “It.” We stayed in the water a long time and I never got tagged.

As we headed back, Steve asked Junior if he wanted to drive the boat. Daisy and I settled into our seats and held on in case there were rough waves ahead. We have experienced Junior’s driving previously. Happily, Junior’s driving had improved since last year. He stood with his shirt off holding onto the wheel with his little tanned muscles, only veering off as he tried to shade his eyes from the afternoon sun with one hand and then the other. Eventually, he reached into his back pocket and pulled out his new cap. His two-handed steering improved the course and he smiled.

When we returned to the dock at the house, Daisy and I started to gather our belongings. When we got close to the dock, Junior hopped out first and pulled the ropes to tie the boat up – a first for him. He held Daisy’s hand as she got off the boat and they walked up the dock together. There will be disappointments in life for sure. But it turns out that our kids are loyal to each other’s brand.

Inevitably, A Little Rain Must Fall

When we have a rainy day at the lake, Junior is the first one to break into the game closet. June stocked it with games for her family when they were younger and there are card games, old fashioned board games and puzzles. After breakfast, the children are able to entertain themselves for a couple of hours until lunch. Daisy sometimes asks Junior to help her during games even when they are competitors. That’s trust.

Knowing that there is always a cool wet day allows me to plan for a hot soup and sandwich day to counteract the weather. While I prepared the soup, Steve snoozed off and on in front of the fireplace. We only made indoor fires when it rained and I imagined it must be nice in the fall to have it available. After lunch, the kids needed some different entertainment, so we all played Bingo and charades. Winners choose the next game and Steve and Daisy won the last game of charades, so it was their choice. Steve suggested we all sit around the fire and read. My insides were clapping but I wanted to see the children’s reactions. They were both initially excited to get paid to read when Steve suggested it previously. He reminded Daisy and Junior of his offer and knew that I always packed books on trips for them. In addition, there was a small corner bookcase that had books and an old atlas available. We had never really explored its contents before, so Steve suggested we start there. Steve pulled a couple of pillows onto the floor and the children followed him over to the bookcase. Steve sent Junior to bring some flashlights. For the next couple of hours, the three of them sat cozily in that corner pouring over maps, reading excerpts of books and poems and giggling. It was fun to experience as I sat in the corner of the sofa reviewing a textbook for one of my next classes.

Later that afternoon, I made hot chocolate and we all sat out on the porch listening to the thunder and watching the lightning. I wondered if this would become a forever memory for the kids. I knew it would be for me. After dinner and a rousing game of Fish, I put the children to bed. Steve stoked the fire and moved the sofa closer to the fireplace. I fixed some hot toddies and put them on a tray with brownies that I baked that afternoon. We cuddled up in front of the fire and watched the flames jump around and crackle. I told Steve how good he was with the kids and how much I appreciated his keeping them busy while I read my textbook. Steve acknowledged that he had a lot of things he wanted to do with the children but didn’t want to overstep my plans. I had no idea that I had taken over to the degree that he didn’t feel comfortable jumping in with the children. Strangely enough, Steve said he realized that if I could feel competent enough to take over grilling, he could certainly spend any time he chose with his children. I had no words to say; I had mistaken his silence after the burger event to his being put out but he was really just thinking through something he hadn’t faced before.

I reminded Steve that we made a good team. Parenting really takes two at its best and childcare duties can be seen as women’s work. Steve said that he definitely wanted to be a better dad than his own. Steve said that his dad would never have sat with him on the floor on pillows. Fatherhood was definitely evolving, along with motherhood. I felt as if Steve had created another memory for me that day. We were both changing and I knew that we would stay on the same path with the children. I enjoyed the possibility of adapting to the continuing changes of our modern world. As we approach the last years of the 1950s, life is still improving. Change never bothered me too much, but uncertainty sometimes makes me think twice and plan.

Man or Beast

Thanks to our cave ancestors, men sometimes cook, especially if the cooking is done outside. The grill brings out the long buried need of the average man to burn pieces of captured meat. In the case of my family, I wanted to cook burgers at the lake on the outside grill. I prepped all of the necessities, forming burgers from my homemade mix of finely chopped short rib and chuck meat. I developed the recipe over many years and friends have commented on how delicious my burgers were without knowing about my secret mix. It took extra time, but was completely worth it. The sides were my equally delicious potato salad, corn of the cob and chilled watermelon.

While completing the prep work in the kitchen, I took a break to go outside to start the grill. Being a former girl scout, I can make a decent fire. It never missed my notice that we were taught fire skills without the benefit of boys around, so they probably never knew we had them. As I waited for the briquettes to heat up and turn white around the edges, I sat back, smoked and enjoyed a glass of adult lemonade. The adult lemonade had some vodka in it and lots of lime wedges. I used lemon slices in the prepared kids lemonade version so everyone would know the difference. Plus the kids won’t touch anything with green in it. Steve and the kids returned from the lake and I told the kids to go inside to hang up their bathing suits and change before dinner. Steve sat down with me and helped himself to a drink from my glass while poking my briquettes.

I left to go inside to finish my work. Once the burgers were ready, I buttered the buns and set the table. By that time, the kids were available to help with the chores and came outside to grill the burgers with me. They described all the fun they had on the boat and a large snapping turtle that swam close to the dock. Daisy was concerned about her toes being bitten off when she next dangled her legs in the water. Junior told her that he would watch if it came near. Their arms and faces were warm and tan and Daisy’s curls looked golden in the late afternoon sun.

When Steve joined us, I was standing at the grill getting ready to flip the burgers. He asked to hold the metal spatula and I asked why he needed it. He explained that he was “ready to take over” and I told him that I was alright with the cooking. Steve stood silently next to me watching my work. It looked like he didn’t know what to do next. I told him that he could relax.

Dinner was delicious and we took the watermelon out on the deck to spit some seeds. Junior was a good spitter, and between giggles, Daisy spat a few also. When it was my turn, I got lucky and one of mine went really far. I noticed that Junior had used his entire body when he spat, and repeated what he did. Junior was proud of me and clapped. Steve decided that he could definitely spit farther than me and joined us. He asked for a practice spit, but Daisy pointed out that no one else got one, so he huffed a little and let his seed fly.

After that, I returned to the kitchen for clean up. There were a lot of dishes and when Junior and Daisy came in to help, but I asked them to get the campfire snacks out first. Soon, the marshmallows, graham crackers and chocolate were all laid out on a tray and the kids went outside to gather sticks. Steve came in for another drink and stood for a minute while I washed the dishes. I asked him if he wanted to help and he silently starting drying. When the kids came in to tell him they had found enough little sticks, he tossed down the drying towel and left to start the fire in the pit. I knew that Steve was probably upset on my refusal to hand over the spatula to him to finish cooking the burgers, but I just couldn’t help myself.

Steve seemed in a better mood while we toasted the marshmallows and kept a great fire going. I took the kids inside to get ready for bed and they quickly fell asleep from all the fun they had on the lake. I joined Steve outside carrying a tray of cocktails with a bowl of his favorite snack mix. We sat quietly for a few minutes, mostly due to exhaustion. He asked me why I wouldn’t let him cook the burgers and I told him that he may not have noticed that I was able to cook them as well as the next guy.

What Do You Intend To Do About It

Before leaving for the lake, I thought about how to make it a better experience for my family. I wanted to make memories. And not just for the children. We have been super lucky to have the chance to spend time together at Buck and June’s beautiful vacation home for a couple of summers. I know that Steve works hard for Buck and sometimes treats him better than the other managers but Steve makes Buck’s life easier by taking on the harder assignments. The employees respect Steve and he gets results by treating them fairly.

Looking back at the pictures developed from our last lake trip, I wanted to remember to pose the kids in the same place every trip to account for their growth. There are very few pictures of me as a child and when I look at them, they remind me of the event that prompted the picture taking. I knew we would have formal pictures taken for graduations and school pictures every year, but everyday life was somehow missing. My intention was to take more pictures to document our life at the lake. I was planning on placing these pictures in a separate album and place little mementos of the trip in the album too. My hope was to prompt more memories for the kids later and maybe even preserve some memories for Steve and me along the way.

Although it seemed a little like creating a team jersey, I bought shirts in matching colors for the four of us. I have worn matching outfits with Daisy previously but she has become too big to want to match her mother. Daisy has a streak of independence that may make her teenage years difficult for me. But I think I will be able to handle her.

I was hoping that I would find someone at the restaurant at the lake to take a family picture of us. Or maybe some pictures of us eating ice cream at the parlor. I intend to take sunset shots too but will pose one of the kids on the dock before snapping. Junior even has a favorite tree he climbs to look out from that I have never bothered to take his picture in and that would be a keeper!

Creating experiences may seem a little contrived but I am going to think of it more as capturing our life. I can knit the pictures with scraps of items kept from the trip and make some memories. At least, that’s my intention. If it works, I can share my album with the girls to get their opinion.

Best Laid Plans

Our much anticipated trip to the lake was coming up quickly and I was trying to make all of the arrangements. With Steve off work for three weeks, we decided to use some of that time at Buck’s lake house and enjoy a few days at home. I volunteered that Steve could then play golf everyday he was home; I knew he would really enjoy that before returning to work. He reacted as if the thought had not occurred to him and agreed that his game could use some work. That way we would be back in time for the annual block party also; an event I really enjoy. It’s always fun to see how the children have grown from year to year and the conversations are always lively as we sit and watch the obstacle course, grilling and adults maneuver through the buffet. We were having a fruit dessert competition this year. I had chosen a recipe that I wanted to make but I always like to practice a few times before the event. My instinct was to be bold this year and try something different – an icebox cake. If the weather isn’t too warm, all will go well, but I wanted to experiment with the time needed for setup to get the best results. I already make a very good custard because I take a very scientific approach to the time needed to thicken it. I don’t look at the timer; I just know when it has become thick enough to hold. I was going to start my first practice recipe tomorrow and make another up at the lake to test the difference.

In the meantime, I was pulling out suitcases and looking for my lake list to make sure that I packed everything. Nights are a little cooler and the bugs always bite me the most, even when I don’t wear cologne. It must be my skin. I needed to pack extra sweatshirts and throws. The extra throws make it nicer to sit around the fire pit after sunset. The kids already know that it is their job to find sticks for the fire when they arrive at the lake; remembering the sticks always reminds me to pack extra matches. The matches make me remember the ingredients for wienie roasts and the special mustard that Steve likes. The hot dogs remind me to get frozen lemonade concentrate because I just don’t want to spend all day squeezing lemons. The lemonade remind me to pack gin and lots of lime. The gin reminds me to pack aspirin. I wonder if I still need a list? My philosophy is to pack enough to keep the runs to the grocery at a minimum.

While helping Daisy get ready for bed, I was counting how many nighties she had in case I wanted to get a few new ones. I asked Daisy if she was looking forward to the trip and she told me that she really needed a vacation. “Needed” was not the word I associated with Daisy and a vacation, so I asked her to tell me why. Daisy shared with me that there was so much for her to do that she needed some quiet time to spend with her books and toys. I wasn’t aware that she felt so stressed by her current schedule of life experiences. I sat down on the bed next to her and let her know that I always felt better after letting my batteries recharge too.

Daisy’s confession made me approach our upcoming trip differently. I wanted to build in some down time and might not plan every day so carefully. We could all use some days where we chose to fish, swim, hike the woods, play cards, or not. There would be lots of things that we would do together, but if someone begged off to do something more important to them, then so be it. I told Steve about my decision as we crawled into bed. He liked the idea and asked me how I felt about building the fire some nights or driving the boat. I thought for a moment before telling him that I would do those tasks  if he cooked some meals, cleaned up after everyone and bathed the kids every night. He sighed loudly and understood my point. I guess there is a balance to planning every day; I’m sure we would come to a compromise on how everything would get done. We always do.

Take Ten

I could feel myself hurrying. Instead of my customary habit of moving steadily from room to room picking up errant articles that had somehow found themselves out of place, I was making more of a mad dash, probably missing most of the offending items. I woke up a little later than usual and thought that I had to make up for that extra ten minutes of sleep. Although I have a lovely alarm clock, most days I wake up automatically. My body was used to a certain rhythm and had always been this way. Plus, I have a terrific aversion to lateness. Probably more of a guilty mind issue, but nonetheless, being late made me angry. If I could maintain that anger at myself, there would be no problem, but I am prone to take it out on the next poor soul in my path. I quickly replaced the items in their correct homes and returned to the kitchen to make breakfast. Strangely, Junior was sitting at the kitchenette still in his pajamas. I thought he might be sick and started to feel his forehead. He brushed my hand aside and told me that he was just “taking ten.” I asked him what that meant. He went on  to tell me that he was just taking a ten minute break before he dressed.

I glanced over at him while pulling out the eggs and bacon. He seemed to be just sitting there very calmly. I made some juice and checked the flame under the percolator. I popped four pieces of bread into the toaster and pulled out the butter and jam. Junior was still sitting. Remarkable. I was running around earlier like a chicken without a head and he was just sitting. I felt a little like I lived on a different planet. I asked him what his plans were for the day and he told me that Jack Frost was going to join him as they trooped through the nearby woods down to the creek. Visions of laundry entered my head. Every few weeks, the boys went to the woods and did boy stuff. I never participated in that kind of thing growing up but they always came home with jars of silt and minnows, new rocks and small trinkets. I offered to pack some lunch and Junior thanked me as he got up to presumably go to his bedroom and dress.

A few minutes later, Daisy came into the kitchenette, dressed but looking sleepy. She slid into a chair and asked for some juice. I kissed the top of her head and filled her glass. Daisy was a little slower at waking up but sunny in disposition after breakfast. I think she has too many loved stuffed animals in her bed with her and they keep her up. Apparently, some of them talk to her at night. Nothing scary, just annoying. I had Steve’s breakfast all ready when he came into the kitchen and he sat down and opened the newspaper after kissing my cheek. Steve is not a big talker in the morning, but after reviewing the front couple of pages, he folded the paper and started eating. I gave Daisy her plate and she slowly spread jam on her toast. Junior came into breakfast and I placed his plate in front of him. I made sure he had plenty of food so he wouldn’t get hungry on his hike. Steve asked the kids some questions about their plans for the day and how they were doing on their summer reading while I packed Junior some lunch. I placed extra crackers in the brown bag in case he took a break and needed a snack.

I have noticed one thing about the breakfast habits of my family. While they eat, they start to pick up the pace and move faster. Steve downed his last long drink of coffee after finishing his food, Daisy pushed the bacon pieces that she didn’t want to eat to one side of her plate and Junior took less breaks between bites. They all finished about the same time as if in sync with each other. I quickly snuck a note in Steve’s briefcase before handing it to him while he kissed the children good-bye for the day. Junior took his lunch bag and a canvas bag of secret supplies to meet Jack and Daisy suddenly remembered that she had promised Marie-Claire that they would play puppets this morning. Daisy apologized for leaving me all alone and gave me a little kiss on the cheek before running out the back door. There really were no apologies needed. I had decided that I was going to take Junior’s lead and “take ten” this morning and sit at the kitchenette with another cup of coffee. There was plenty of time to get everything done later.