Do you take a fall break? I have been noticing from reading other blogs that I am in good company with others who do. After all, there is the Seasonal Clothing Exchange project and cleaning and baking and just taking time to enjoy the fall weather, if you do have fall weather where you live. Sometimes the school work just has to be set aside to accomplish such tasks.
I did do all of these things on our break and more, which is why it turned out to be a little longer than expected. You see, my mother turned 80 this month. While I had hoped we could get away for a visit, it wasn't until a cousin organized a joint birthday party for her and two other relatives that I knew we really needed to get there. I was not at all sure I would make it, based on how I felt most of my first trimester. After quitting Zofran two weeks ago it took about five days until I felt well enough and confident enough that I could make the 12+ hour trip to Oklahoma and survive 4-5 night of motel living. But I did, so we made our hotel reservations and drove out of Minnesota's dreary cold and rainy weather.
My mother has two cousins (who are brothers) with October birthdays - one turned 80 and the other 90. It was a surprise party of sorts - each thought the party was for the other two! My mother had no idea we were coming, can you tell from this expression?
All of our family attended: my two brothers, my sister and all of mom's grand kids.
Each birthday honoree explained the photos on the posters made for them and it was fascinating to hear the life stories of two octogenarians and one nonagenarian.
I just have to say that my mother's 90 year old cousin (on the left) is a complete hoot and thoroughly enjoyed joking with the kids. He is an accomplished woodworker as well and brought wooden spinning tops for the children.
The next day we met my mother for Mass and drove around my hometown. It is quite comforting in some ways to revisit the environment in which you were raised and humbling in other ways. The place where I would have most liked to enter into again was our old church, abandoned after it was deemed "structurally unsound". A new contemporary church was built, a controversy that caused a huge rift in the parish, even though they did have the decency to re-use some of the stained glass windows and all of the stations of the cross.
When we drove past the corner of the old church I was shocked to see that the church was GONE! Leveled. Steps leading up to an empty lot. I was too shocked to even take a picture, but here is what it used to look like:
The rest of Sunday was happily spent meeting an old friend and her husband for lunch, swimming with the kids, my sister and niece, and taking my mother out to dinner. For some reason I don't have pictures of that day either; sometimes I guess I don't want to ruin the moment with the interruption of the camera, but just want to keep the memories safe in my heart. The friend we met was one I have known since elementary school all the way through high school. We were in band together and part of a little group of friends that ate lunch outside under a tree. Now that's a photo I do have if I can figure out how to scan it in:
My friend Stephanie is on the right in the back row. I am on the right sitting in the front row. I am still in touch with a few friends in this photo, some through Facebook and one much more personally. Two of the girls were foreign exchange students. I still exchange Christmas cards with the one from Japan! Stephanie and I were just so happy so see one another happily married (finally!) and to sense so much of the same heart and soul in one another still intact.
Monday morning after a quick tour of the city in which I attended college and had my first teaching job we headed down the turnpike for a side trip to Fantastic Caverns. They were indeed filled with fantastic formations!
One more night in a hotel and we were crossing the border back into Minnesota, finding the weather to be exactly the same as when we left: cold and rainy.
The rest of the week was busy with unpacking and laundry, lessons and errands. We joined some friends on Thursday to make a frosted sugar cookie rosary and on Friday we cleaned out the girls' room (again) and filled an entire trash bag with Pack-Rat's stuff. My dh's grandmother turned 80 something and we had yet another birthday party to travel to on Saturday, this time only a few hours away. While we were out that way we stopped in a museum to see the Kensington Runestone and Big Ole. Vikings territory indeed.
Of course you may have heard that the weather here worsened over the weekend. The rain turned into snow. This really isn't funny to me - the leaves are still green! The grass is still green! Our tomatoes have yet to ripen! And there is more on the way!
We only accomplished two days of seat work in our two weeks off so tomorrow we will have to get back to our normal routines. We are praying for an Indian summer so we can enjoy our usual fall pleasures - pumpkin patch, fall nature hikes and apple orchards.