Monday, June 24, 2019

A Week in the (VA) Life

My husband and I are about to head north for most of the summer.  Starting less than a week from now, we will be staying at his childhood home on Lake Champlain, spending time catching up with extended family on both sides and managing our "Oyster Haven" VRBO rental located three miles down the road from the Pearl homestead.

I am looking forward to a couple of relatively relaxing months spent by the lake with my best guy--especially since we did something wild and crazy a few months ago...we fulfilled a lifelong dream of his and bought a boat.  And we didn't get just any old boat: we got a big pontoon "party barge" that fits a whole slew of people on it at once (which is key these days, with our growing brood).  This summer, we'll be breaking it in without our passel of grandkids, since our four oldest sons all have to save their vacation time to drive out to MI for their youngest brother's wedding in September.  Wait, that's not completely accurate; actually, our firstborn and his wife and five kids are planning to come up for a week or two, since he is now a commercial pilot and can commute to his job from anywhere, within reason (like his dad).  But for the most part, it will just be the summer of Papa and Grammy, the summer of my guy and me.   (You know, as in "the summer of George."  Do you remember that Seinfeld episode?)

It's going to be a little weird, however, being away from all the kids and grandkids for most of July and August.  I've gotten so used to spending time with them on a regular basis.  And I have to admit, I might experience a wee touch of separation anxiety!

My husband and I haven't really made any friends since we sold our NH home and moved south two years ago to live closer to our married sons--who by some miracle all ended up settling within spitting distance of each other here in Northern VA.  It's hard, at 60-ish, to start anew--especially if you're shy and/or introverted (lucky me, I'm both!).  You don't have the built-in paths to meeting other adults who are in your season of life that school and sports provide when your kids are growing up.  We're friendly with a few folks at church, and with the nice young neighbor who mows our little patch of lawn each week.   But it's hard to imagine us forming any deep friendships here, the kind that happen over the course of living in one neighborhood with the same people for decades.  I joined the Altar Society at our new parish, hoping that would make me feel more connected to our new community.  But the truth is that I am often either out of town (in Upstate NY) or busy (babysitting or visiting with grandkids) when the group has meetings or activities, so I haven't been as active over there as I would have liked, and I haven't gotten to know any of the other members really well yet.

The bottom line is that these days, our grown sons and their lovely wives are our best friends.  We enjoy spending time with them and their children more than anyone else--and we see them often now, without having to get on an airplane to do it, so our life here is blessedly full.

Last week is a great example of just how full it is, actually.  Let me show you what it was like, day by day.

Our oldest son was on a trip, so his wife and five kids came over in the afternoon to go to the pool in our neighborhood complex.  My husband was home, and he was going to give swimming lessons to the girls (aged 4 to 8).  We got the kids in their suits, slathered on the sunscreen, packed up the towels and other paraphernalia, and walked over.  It's not far, but it was oppressively hot and it seemed to take forever.  When we got there, the lifeguard told us the pool was closed for a half-hour, because they'd heard thunder not too long before.  There were about 20 minutes left to go, so we decided to wait to see if there would be an all-clear soon.  A few minutes into the wait, more thunder.   That meant the clock was reset and there would be 30 more minutes of waiting.  Such disappointment for the girls!  We decided to head back home and play in our little plastic pools.  The 6-year-old complained, "That will be boring!"

But actually, it wasn't.  It was fun.

On Tuesday, my husband left for a four-day trip.  That evening, I went over to son #3's house to help him and his wife paint their basement, which was formerly a man cave/craft area, but is now going to be an awesome playroom for their growing family.  (They have three kids 4 and under, with a fourth on the way.)  By the time I got to bed, it was well after midnight.  I slept over, so at about 6:30 the next morning I got to enjoy couch snuggles with some of my favorite little peeps--G-Man, Princesa, and Rosita--before heading back home to babysit for son #1's wife while she went to an eye appointment.  (I was too busy painting and snuggling while I was on the sleepover to take pictures.)

Our oldest boy's gang enjoyed playing in the basement while their mom was at her appointment in the morning.  (Our basement is going to get finished off, finally, in the fall; but even in its rough state, our grandkids love playing down there.)

While they were at our house, I had my granddaughters try on the flower girl dresses they're going to wear in their uncle's upcoming wedding.  (The two girls on the end are wearing dresses previously worn for the weddings of our other boys, spruced up with lace boleros and lace at the hem.  The twins in the middle are wearing their First Holy Communion dresses, repurposed with cranberry ribbon to match the bridesmaid dresses.)

After their mom returned and we had lunch at our house, we decided to try the pool again (fingers crossed!).  Without Papa, a former lifeguard and water safety instructor, there would be no formal swimming lessons; but we hoped to get in some good cooling-off time, at least.  I'm happy to say that the weather was perfect, the pool was open, and we all enjoyed a couple of hours of playing in the water (all but the girls' little brother, Simba, who is almost a year old; he is not a fan of getting wet!).

I had to get up early to make the 35-minute drive over to son #4's house, so that I could watch his 22-month-old triplets while he accompanied his wife to her morning OB/GYN appointment (which included the 20-week sonogram!).  Earlier this month, my husband and I watched the triplets for five days, while their parents went to Mexico for a wedding/well-earned vacation.  Those little monkeys were on their best behavior and we had a ball with them--but there were two of us to wrangle them at all times.  Being with them alone for a few hours really made me appreciate what a tremendous job their hardworking mom is doing; she's at home with them, alone--all day, every day, until our son gets home from work.  They are adorable--but into absolutely everything and they definitely keep you on your toes.

One of the wisest moves their parents made was to get this trash can that has a locking lid!

My husband returned from his trip in the morning, and in the afternoon, we watched our darling granddaughter Rosita at our house while son #3 and his wife took the older two kids to see Toy Story 4 at the little downtown theater where we live.  We decided to rent the original Toy Story to watch with her while her siblings were at the movies.

Can you stand it?!  How cute is she, sitting there next to her Papa?  With her little feet not
even reaching the end of the cushion!

When she got tired of the movie, we paused it for a bit and went outside to play in the pool.

Who knew that those cheap little plastic Walmart pools could provide so much quality entertainment?

As if the week hadn't already been jam-packed enough with all kinds of family fun, on Saturday our second-oldest son and his wife hosted a party to celebrate the two recent birthdays of two special people: their second son Jedi (who turned 2) and his Papa (who turned a lot older than 2).  Most of the family was there.  Son #4 was on call for work, so he had to stay behind and his wife came solo with the triplets.  (I think Braveheart was the perfect blog handle to choose for her, don't you?)  Also missing was our baby, who is currently stationed too far away from VA (but not as far away as Germany anymore, thankfully).  And son #1's wife was at a homeschool conference with their baby boy.  But otherwise, all were present.

Son #2 and Ginger have a huge fenced-in yard with a swing set and just about every outdoor climbing or riding toy a kid could hope for.  It is the most perfect yard for having a party, and it was a wonderful day that was enjoyed by all.  13 of our 14 grandchildren were there, and it was the best kind of chaos!

I started this post on Saturday, but finished it up on the Lord's day.  It's a funny thing...after writing earlier in the post that we don't have any friends here in VA yet, on Sunday night I realized that that might not be totally accurate.  As my husband and I were leaving 8:30 a.m. Mass, a dear older woman I met through the Altar Society came up to say hi and chat, and she affectionately grabbed hold of my hand.  She held onto it all the way down the aisle as we walked toward the door of the church, and she smiled at my husband and me as if we were the very people she was hoping to see.  God bless her, just that quick, oh-so-sweet interaction made me feel like maybe--just maybe--this newly adopted town of ours will really feel like home to us one day.

There were no visits with the kids and grandkids on Sunday.  My husband left for work that afternoon, and I have about a million little things to take care of before we start our road trip north when he gets back towards the end of the week, so I kept myself busy at home.

It's Monday now, and there is still so much to do to get ready for our trip.  Today was spent running errands, shopping, sewing (the last of the flower girl dresses, for 3-year-old Princesa), and driving over to say goodbye to son #2 and his family.  In the next few days, I plan to try to see the other families to say goodbye as well.

As Pooh Bear would say, how lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.  (Lots of somethings, actually!)


  1. It looks like a perfect week! However, I can't wait to see you and visit with you!

    1. I am really late replying to this--and so glad we are getting opportunities to visit over the summer!

  2. The girls saw me reading this and then of course I had to read it aloud to them, and oh boy did they enjoy it!!

    1. That makes me so happy. Love those sweet girls!

  3. What a full and wonderful life you have!! You are all so blessed to be so near one another! Enjoy your two months up north!

    1. Sorry so late to reply--yes, we are extraordinarily blessed! I'm enjoying a summer of boating with the best guy, visiting with my mom and sister. But I do miss my VA gang!

  4. What a busy life! I can tell from your words how much joy living near the grandkids brings you. You are so blessed. I hope you had safe travels north!

    1. Thanks for this kind message--I am very late in replying to the comments on this post! We are having a wonderful time in NY, missing our little (and big) VA people, but enjoying our time together. I'm glad that my husband and I like each other so much! The nest is empty now, but it is not sad or lonely.