If you are just joining us, this is the story of my sandwich life, sandwiched between raising my 2 daughters and "caring" for my parents, who actually do a lot more caretaking of us, than the other way around.
When summer approaches, all you can think about is how everything will slow down, especially in Texas with the weather so hot, you have to temper your activities to avoid overheating, so naturally you slow down.
With summer there is:
No more school.
No rushed dinners so you can get all the homework done, lunches made, and breakfast planned, much less uniforms washed and dried, any special supplies needed, and then going to bed at a reasonable time so everyone can get up and start the cycle all over again.
This school year brought a tremendous change in the time it took to get to school. the elementary school was at the end of our block and then I drove a mile to work and back again.
This year school was close to 20 miles away, then 20 to work, then 20 back to school, and then 20 miles back home.
Needless to say I was ready for a break from the drive so I could return to my one mile drive to work and home again.
Somehow instead of slowing down, it seems like our summer has been at an ever faster pace.
School was barely out when my older sister Lisa arrived with our two nieces for what is becoming our annual trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico.
We each were allowed only 1 suitcase, as we had all downsized our cars, but when you have six women traveling together, one suitcase isn't quite enough, so I ended up with a small "princess" suitcase that was Grace's when she was 6 and even then, it took some tactical maneuvers to make them all fit.
We got to Fort Worth, thirty miles into the trip, and I think we were tempted to just stop there, as the remaining long hours of driving seemed insurmountable, but we pressed on.
Thank goodness for inventions like portable DVD players and MP3 players to get you across Texas. Yes, they missed all the scenery, but so did we when we were growing up.
And even worse for our parents was the four of us, hanging over the front seat, whining about how much longer it was.
We finally made it and we enjoyed staying where we did last year at the Rancho Jacona, about 15 miles outside of Santa Fe. The property is made up of quite a few casas surrounded by a working farm, providing plenty of area to roam, animals to feed, and beauty to behold.
While I would have been satisfied to just sit there, we made trips each day to see some of the surrounding areas. The most popular of these was our trip to the Taos area where we met up with one of Lisa's husband's old friends. He is running a horseback riding service (?) at the Taos ski slope, and while we did not come prepared to ride horses, he did allow each of us to mount and be led around. The area was beautiful and it was surprising to all of us as to the amount of snow still on the ground.
Each of us had a turn and about the time we were going to call it quits, the horse that Darcey, my niece was riding, got spooked, and kicked up somewhat, but Darcey held on like a pro. It scared me to death! OK, not literally, of course. The guys in charge of the horses said she had a natural talent to have survived that and still be in the saddle.
On the drive home, I'm not sure if we had more laughs or more miles.
Somewhere around Ranger, Texas, Lisa asked Annabel if she could have chosen her name, what would she have chosen.
Without a bit of hesitation she announced she would like to be called Oliver Twist! From there it all went downhill, and our last 2 hours in the car, reached the point of hysterical laughter, which kept me awake to get us home.
The second week of summer break, Gillian and Darcey, my nieces, stayed with us.
My nieces are my younger sister's, who died three years ago, in the house we now live in.
For them, staying here can be emotional. As a means to "shield" them from difficult memories, all four girls sleep on the floor together in the living room.
Since I hope to have the girls here for most of the summer, I was motivated to find an alternative this summer. I got a platform bed that would hold a second bed underneath and then bought a set of bunk beds. But just because I had all this planned out didn't mean it happened quite that way. While I can shovel huge piles of dirt and mulch, taking apart and moving sets of solid wood beds takes a little more than I can do, so it took some coordinating to get it all here, but first we had to move a BUNCH of stuff out to fit the new things in!
This led to the girls taking pictures of some of the better items and putting them on a virtual garage sale, with hopes to raise enough money to go to Bahama Beach. They set up a back drop and staged each item along with the prices. Gillian loves a task like this, but she knows how to spread the work among everyone, and they work together beautifully. A lot of companies could learn lots from Gillian's management technique.
While we were tearing their bedroom apart, trying to get rid of some things, and set up the new things, I got a call from a friend in the neighborhood with a big request.
Now I'm not really sure how the conversation started but I understood she was in a pinch trying to find a place for a girl from China to stay while she attended a music school. This girl did not know English and she thought that having Annabel around would help. Next time I will ask more questions, but I said yes so this child would have a safe place to stay for her one trip to the states. I did panic over the idea of what to feed her as I recalled the struggles when both Annabel and Grace first arrived and trying to find anything they would eat.
At the last minute everything changed and I ended up with a girl from Philadelphia, who is from China, but has spent very little of her life there. Her parents sent her to the states when she was 2 years old to live with her "Irish" relatives. I'm not sure how many times the parents got to come to the states, but she only got to go home a couple of times. Now her family has relocated here.
She has only been playing the viola for six months and piano a little longer, but is quite amazing at what she can play.
The group of students makes the whole thing even more interesting, there is a group from Russia, most of whom do not speak English, 2 kids from Brazil, who speak Portuguese, several from Mexico, who speak Spanish, and then some Asian students from Cleveland and Plano! It is like a small United Nations! There is one boy who can speak a little of all the languages and played the role of translator for all, but he has been sick, so there is a lot of acting out to try to explain part of what is happening.
Today I took a vacation day, as my parents volunteer on Thursdays, and I hated to leave them home all day. Even though there has already been 2 1/2 weeks of summer, I think it was the first day my girls and I got to spend time with just us.
We had a great day seeing the movie Karate Kid, getting Annabel's watch fixed, Grace's charm bracelet fixed, the license tags finally on the car, and Annabel to her tutoring. While I thought we had the evening off from our guests, without even needing to pick up, all of that changed during the day and we were dispatched to bring as many as could fit to a dinner. While I should have dropped them off and run, I hated to leave the hostess trying to feed our mini "United Nations" without help. By the time the evening was over, I had taken two students from Mexico to stay with a new family, delivered a young Russian boy to the family keeping him, and then returning in time for our guest to return from a concert, and us all finally getting home about 10:00.
Hmmm, this summer is getting complicated! And we still have ten more days of our guest!