Archive for August, 2011

Going Away to College Year Two

Sunday, August 28th, 2011

When our daughter, was home this summer after her first year away at college, it was much more like hosting a really messy houseguest than having a member of the family living with us.

Actually, this was a good thing – not the messy part – but the sense that she had developed into much more of own person while she was apart from us. But that’s only half of the reason that it felt different having her home. The other part of the equation is that during the time she was gone, Steve and I had begun to be less consumed with being exclusively parents and more interested in learning how to be better partners in our marriage.

This was a conscious effort on our part because last spring when we were thinking about Valerie coming home, although we were looking forward to spending time with her, we knew it would be better for all of us if we didn’t immediately fall into the old routine of getting sucked into whatever angst or drama might be going on in her life at the moment. Or her getting caught up in our world.

As the summer progressed, it became apparent to me that having Valerie home wasn’t going to be all that hard because her attitude about being here had changed. Part of that was because before she left for college a year ago, we had packed up her room. All the gymnastics medals, souvenirs, and books that she wanted to keep but didn’t want to take to school with her were boxed up in anticipation of putting our house on the market and eventually moving.

So she came home to a room but it didn’t really feel like her room anymore. She didn’t have the type of experience that you see in the movies when the adult child moves back home and the parents haven’t changed a thing, all the stuffed animals are still on the bed and favorite dolls are still adorning the shelves.

And the way Valerie approached living here for the summer showed to us that she identified more strongly with her life in Southern California than inPetaluma. She never fully unpacked and moved her stuff back into the closet. She lived like had checked into the Extended-Stay Rustad Hotel.

Except for one thing; hotel guests don’t generally leave their art supplies, shoes, gym clothes, notebooks, library books, jackets, clipboards, receipts and pay stubs strewn throughout the lobby. After all, Valerie is still a teenager and having an opportunity to tweak your compulsively neat mother by spreading your stuff throughout the family room, kitchen and hallway is just too fun to pass up.

It’s a bittersweet time. We know that we won’t ever have the same type of closeness with her that we had when she was younger. But we also know that when we gave her that last hug and waved to her as she drove her packed-to-the-rafters Volvo down the street that she is going back to where she should be. And that is true for us, too.

Separating from Summer

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

You may have noticed this in yourself, too…that sometimes emotions come out in unusual ways.

Steve and I had just started out on the two hour drive to visit some friends in Mendocino on Sunday. Jennifer Lynn, 15, had stayed overnight at a friend’s house and her sister picked her up after we had already left for our outing. So before we lost cell phone reception, I thought I would give her a call to ask her if she and her friend had gotten any sleep or if they stayed up till dawn watching “Arrested Development” on Netflix.

Jennifer and I chatted for a few minutes and then I told her that when we got to our friends’ house in Elk, I would call her and give her their landline phone number. Jennifer responded with a puzzled sounding “Ok.”

She was probably wondering what this was all about given that I have generally ignored her and she had fended for herself for most of the summer. My typical comment to her was along the lines of “You can figure out something on your own for dinner tonight, right?” Or “Have fun at ‘fill in the blank’s house.’ I’ll pick you up before Labor Day.”

So now why was I acting all over-protective? Like I needed to make sure she wasn’t missing me too much and that she was able to get her own snack of Goldfish and turn the TV on all by herself.

Steve had to remind me, she’s in high school for goodness sake!

It turns out, that it was really just me experiencing some separation anxiety. I wanted to be able to stay connected to Jennifer because it meant I didn’t have to say goodbye to summer and some really nice times we have shared as a family.

I felt a little twinge in my stomach every time I remembered that Valerie was leaving on Wednesday to drive to Orange for her second year of college. And even though saying goodbye this year is easier than last, it’s still hard to see her go. I’ll really miss the six pairs of shoes she always left for me to trip on at the bottom of the stairs.

But it’s time for her to go back to the life she is building away from us. And in the meantime, Jennifer will probably forgive me if I get a little weird and want to tuck her in at night.

Short but Sweet

Sunday, August 14th, 2011

With our house on the market this summer, taking the time and money to have a real vacation just wasn’t going to happen. So instead, we took advantage of living an hour away from one of the most scenic cities in the country to make trips into San Francisco and act like tourists for a day.

No Passport Needed

Our criteria for what makes a good vacation is pretty simple: park once for the day and then walk, plenty of opportunities to stop and have a snack, a wide variety of people for people-watching while we’re enjoying our refreshments, and window shopping that isn’t the typical mall merchandise.

San Francisco Centre has given us many successful outings that filled the bill for everything we want in a vacation day. But today, our daughters were interested in going back to North Beach, an area of the city that we had briefly visited once before with them. I think it was the smell of pizza that permeates those few blocks of San Francisco that was drawing them back.

I’m not the superstitious type, but it always seems to be a good omen for the day when we drive into the San Francisco and overcome one of the major hurdles of every visit to the City: finding a place to park. True, it wasn’t free and wasn’t on the street, but happening upon a parking garage that charges less than your mortgage for the day, seems like a gift. We found a great one just off of Columbus on Filbert.

Steve snapped a photo of us in front of Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral on Washington Square. Hey, we could be anywhere in Europe in that photo, right? But even better, we speak the language and we don’t need to worry about the exchange rate.

The highlight for the girls was spending time in City Lights Bookstore. Steve explained the significance of the store that is now an official historical landmark. I know my daughters who are steeped in popular culture would disagree with me, but the 1950’s beatniks look a lot like today’s hipsters. Skinny pants, black horn rim glasses and definitely an attitude of “cooler than thou.”

One of the reasons for going back to North Beach was so Jennifer could check out “Therapy” a boutique on Grant Ave. that she had gotten some earrings at the last time we were there. She was so happy today when she found a couple of back-to-school tops that she loves. I’m old, but I remember the feeling when you know you look cute when you see that hot junior guy in your math class the first week of school.

For me, the best part of the day was the food. A really great latte in Cafe Trieste, yummy pizza at North Beach Pizza, followed by a cup of gelato that Steve and I shared; half coffee flavor and half whisky. I don’t even like whisky but somehow when you add enough cream and sugar, even gasoline probably tastes good.

Steve declared it a perfect day. Perfect weather, shopping, eating and strolling. And everyone we encountered along the way was so friendly. It may have been a short vacation but it was a great one.

Doing the Limbo

Sunday, August 7th, 2011

We received a solid offer on our house about three weeks ago and now we are waiting for the bank to let us know if they will work with us on the deal or if they want to punish us and ship us off to debtor’s prison.

So for the time being, we’re in limbo. The good news is that that because moving isn’t a sure thing, I don’t have to start packing up the household yet. Just keep the lawn mowed, try to not put any more dings in the paint, and hope that the roof stays on.

The bad news is that the longer the process goes on, the more possibility there is for the deal to fall apart.

Since no amount of worry will make any difference in the outcome of whether our house sells or not, I’ve been grateful for the distractions that I’ve written about in my recent blogs. There was my recent visit to the promised land (i.e. Salt Lake City) and my on-the-job training as a bartender at NHRA at Infineon”¦I hoping to have my over-the-shoulder shaker move ala Tom Cruise perfected by the next time we volunteer at the end of August.

Getting outside of ourselves and doing things that are different than our typical routine — which for me is falling asleep as soon as I sit down on the couch at 9:30 at night and for Steve is continuing to sit in front of the computer — is helping us to keep positive and put aside the anxiety during this time of uncertainty.

So in keeping with that approach, we had a lovely couple over for dinner last night. I realize that entertaining like this may be no big deal and a regular happening for a lot of families. However, for us, it’s easy for us to keep our noses to the grindstone all the time; it’s the loosening up and having a good time that is hard to do.

When I told our teenage daughters that we were having people over for dinner on Saturday night, they looked at me with that “You guys actually have friends who are attractive and aren’t social retards like you?” kind of expression. Yes, get used to it gals, your mom and dad are breaking out of their shells.

Who knows, before this house sells we might go wild, have a couple of beers and go out dancing ’til 10:00.