Bluebird Day

I received hard news from my boss on Friday: a coworker, a senior manager I supported and was mentoring me a bit, was found dead in her home.

For this and various other reasons, I desperately needed a good day, a smooth day when I didn’t have to worry about a million things and everything just moved…easily.

Today delivered and I seriously lucked out in every way. Truck and trailer are both roadworthy, sealed, organized and basically as good as they get. Flash loaded more or less willingly (I’ve mostly accepted that he’ll load cause he’s a good guy and not because trailering is fun or neutral for him), and I got zero traffic up to Washington.

I had managed to snag a mid Monday lesson with a new trainer, Rebekah L., And boy both she and the facility she trains out of were definitely worth the drive! The sun was shining and it was warm enough for Kade and I to have a picnic lunch in the grass while we relaxed from the drive.

Rebekah is the first new trainer I’ve introduced myself to in years, and this time with my own horse! My main goal for the spring is to get Flash and I to a solid, well matched place, so we can pick up from there when I come back from pregnancy recovery in August. Might as well make the most of our arena time while we’re stuck there, and today’s outdoor arena was just… breathtaking. I don’t go for hyperbole much, but the sun was shining, the views of the hills were beautiful, and the footing was fantastic. I just wish it were a tad bit closer and we’d be there all the time!

Flash trailered well, relaxed while we waited and I tacked fuzzbutt up, and only called once to the horses all around him. He had a few opinions under saddle, but nothing to budge even my out of fitness butt. Rebekah gave me one main pointer that I was desperately needing-carry your hands! Huh, so that’s why I lurch forward at the posting trot, my hands were way too low!

Flash and I have tons of work to do, but there’s a well trained, happy partner under his blonde, cookie hogging exterior and I’m more excited than ever to bring it out. Good boy Flash, very good boy 🙂

Money Diary

Recently I’ve discovered the a new site targeted towards my age group, Refinery29, and their “Money Diaries” section. Basically, you spend a week in the life of someone, tracking their spending and peeking into their daily lives. I’ve been pouring over these fascinating stories, and decided to do my own. Now that we’ve purchased a house, we really need to watch our pennies more than usual, with so many projects large and small we can now work on instead of ignoring when we were renters.

I started on Monday, but to keep these posts bearable I’ll post one a day. This will also “trick” me into writing more!

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Morning dog walk view, a block from my house

Day One: Monday
5:30am: My son returned home from his trip to visit family with his grandparents back East yesterday, so I add gently waking him up to the morning routine. I walk the dog around our new to me neighborhood (we just moved in to our newly purchased home on the street my husband grew up on). While my husband, not a morning person, readies himself and the kid for the day, I feed the dog, make coffee with the Keurig, turn off the sprinklers (we’ve been enduring a weird heat wave for the past week in the PNW) pack myself a new mix of peanut butter, honey and Greek yogurt with an apple and Irish cheddar cheese for lunch. I hand a bowl of cut fruit to the kid as I try a new breakfast: two eggs, cheese, and sausage crumbles in a mug, cooked in the microwave. By 7am we’re out the door, dropping the kid off at daycare on our way to work together (we work for the same company and we’re saving about $200 a month by carpooling).
12:15pm: I like to take late lunches, since my boss doesn’t micro manage me at all. Today I’m snagging face time with one of the site managers I support, while he juggles phone calls and an audit, so he buys me lunch at the small cafe in our building. I make myself a hefty sandwich and snag some chips, chowing down while watching him cover for three of his people (one on maternity leave, one recovering from surgery, and one on PTO).
2:45pm: It’s the beginning of the month, so most of our bills are due! We are still jugging clearing out our formal rental house and getting settled in our newer and larger house, so we’re paying utilities for two places and that’s a crunch. A majority of our bills are on auto pay as most larger companies offer a discount if you do, so I pay what isn’t, including our power/water bill (supplied by our small town’s co-op utility company) of $103, and garbage disposal ($47 every three months). I also forward our mail via USPS’s online service, $2. $152
5:30pm: Home, after picking up the kid. I let the dog out while the kid changes for his swim lessons, we grouse about the heat while discussing dinner (my husband is 90% the household cook as I only do breakfast foods), and unpack one of a zillion boxes we still have to go through. We’re off to swim lessons by 5:45, and while our son swims we sit in the SUV with the AC blasting and discuss life, the universe, and everything.
6:45pm: Home, tired, hot, and anything but hungry. I whip up sandwiches for myself and the kid, husband makes scrambled eggs that he tosses after tasting the bad milk he used to make them, then makes a second batch. The kid is overtired from jetleg and his first day back at daycare in over two weeks, so we’re all tucked in bed by 9pm.
Daily total: $152

 

Namesake

Lately it feels as if I’m paralleling my namesake, Jamethiel, more than ever, in terms of the level of crazy this year has held.

(For those who don’t know, I’m named for the main character in a beautiful, convoluted, complicated, epic fantasy series The Chronicles of the Kencyrath. The author makes George RR Martin seem a speed writer; my mother first picked up the series as a young girl, and now that I’m raising my son the series still isn’t finished).

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Life is unusually charmed; husband newly hitched, house pretty much ours (signing all the things next week!), a job that suits me pay and temperament wise, steady riding and weight creeping off, no broken bones on the kid yet this year. I’m not yet 30, and in the space of a season I’ve hit a ton of the major life milestones. Marriage, house, career job…I’ve already covered the kid part, though I need to rededicated myself to the raising v. keeping alive and in clean clothes mode we’ve been in as the school year draws to a close.

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But as my namesake does, I must test things, push and prod and question the limits. It’s not a wonder then, that I’ve embraced, made my internal peace and found a smart direction for that testing part of my nature. As I’ve settled ever more seriously into the domestic bliss or at least settled happiness life I’m carving out with my boys, I seek just a piece of release and fun and crazy, those questing things I gave up for Kade when most of my peers were out doing the weird, the stupid or the ill advised.

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That I’m juggling both at once-settled happiness and pushing the details-perhaps suits me more than it should. There are the inevitable doubts, fears, questions and cautions, but so long as I embrace the fun and not the rest of it, I should hope it provides the stress relief I seek, not the drama or complications.

I’m referring, of course, to endurance riding. (You thought I meant gambling or skydiving or something didn’t you?) This was supposed to be my year for my first 50 mile ride; I’ve paid dues to both PNER & AERC; I’ve ridden at least four times a month since January. I’ve got my camping and riding gear organized to the nines, and can toss stuff in the truck and be ready to take off in a half hour flat, kid and dog included!

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Between the new job being temp to hire (no paid vacation time) and buying the house, both my ability to take Friday’s off and the funds for rides has evaporated. My focus is shifting; from endurance as a “get it done now!” activity to horse riding as stress relief, at least until next season. Moving, painting, setting up a pantry,  epoxy for the garage floor, dog door, cleaning out the rental, all the other little projects to make this house into our house will take any spare cent and mental space for the immediate future.

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This is both a little disappointing and also freeing, as was my earlier revelation that horse camping without the endurance ride part is relaxing. Endurance is about miles, yes, but also the details, from tack fit to how many miles to training gaps. Now that my day job and personal life is jam packed and an actual endurance season is off the table, I have more time to use those detail oriented skills on setting myself up better for endurance, rather than “just” chugging through conditioning miles.

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I can focus on riding a good horse, relaxing either in a group of friends or just me, the horse and the dog. I’m building a solid relationship with Ray, who pushes me just enough to be a better rider, while leaving me happy when I’ve put him up with an extra treat for his efforts.  There will always be tack fit, gear and other things to futz with. There’s also other things I can try closer to home, like cattle sorting or Competitive Mounted Orienteering, wine or poker rides.

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“An hour spent in the saddle is never wasted.”

 

Always the right choice

We’re heading out of town for the upcoming holiday weekend, on a long awaited family trip to Victoria. I told the new husband that I’d be responsible and stick close to home to help him do adulting stuff, like cleaning, packing and yard work.

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Alas for him, I’m a horse girl, so of course I still managed to fit in two rides on two different horses! A cooler evening ride with Ray and Cyrus went off without a hitch, resulting in happy horse, happy dog and happier rider. A fast canter with my new shorter stirrups had me grinning ear to ear and longing for more, though I returned in time for my trainer to capture some awesome shots.

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The next morning I was lucky enough to be offered a Kiger Mustang and a solid ride with a pack of friends. I can’t even tell you how in love I am with this spunky horse, ya’ll. It’s always a bit nervy to be mounting a horse I’ve never seen before, but my friend introduced me as “a super confident rider”, so I had to live up to it!

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Flynn has now set the bar impossibly high for all other horses to follow. He’s a former pack horse who did a section of the PCT, whose owner decided he’s too forward to be relegated to following. My grin on Sunday never wavered, and I was often reduced to giggles, just like I am with Jokker and his antics.

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I proudly proclaimed that I had a new understanding for horse thieves as we gaited around Whipple Creek, no posting on this cute guy required! Once again I love my Barefoot treeless saddle, the only adjustment needed for it to fit Flynn was possibly a crupper, as it did slide up on his shoulders on the steep downhills.

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Much as I’m finally in a comfortable spot with Ray and I love being able to ride out alone with him (curtailed for the immediate future due to a cougar siting at our local trails), I can’t wait to hook up with the spunky mustang again!

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Riding Keeps Me Sane

So much has happened in the last month it’s crazy to even try to type it out.

A quick & dirty review:

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I went on the first camping trip of the season, over to Sisters and rode three times in two days, all on Ray. By the end of the trip, I was riding Ray bareback three miles while Cyrus chugged along behind.

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I left my state job, after a bare six months (fresh out of trial service in good standing meant I was permanent with the state, so leaving was a big jump!)

I got freakin’ married! Three weeks in and we still don’t have our rings due to ordering them so late; I haven’t changed my name on anything official yet due to our upcoming trip to Canada; and yet, things feel subtly different but we’re still…us.

I started a new job at which my name proceeded me. I left my state job to work for an old manager at a different company, and everyone here has mentioned how well my boss has spoken of me and how excited he is to have me on board. It’s temp to hire so not ideal, but the pay is so much higher, the career path so much easier to see, and I get to kick ass doing what I do best; assisting a safety group to be the best, most efficient and well organized team in the biz. That I can now carpool with my new husband since we work for the same company is just another added bonus.

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But, with change comes stress, and I’ve never been accused of managing change in the most mature way possible. For the month of April I lost almost 10 pounds due to basically not eating or sleeping overmuch. I’m not kidding! We went out with a big bunch of friends to Fuddrucker’s and I ate maybe a quarter of my meal.  I only ate one piece of pizza at a friend’s house, yo. When has anyone known me to eat less than two pieces, no matter how sucky the pizza? I mean, pizza, c’mon.

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The trip to Sisters and then my next ride on Ray, a solo jaunt to our normal stomping grounds that we can access straight from the barn has worked wonders for keeping my head screwed on straight. I went 7 miles with Cyrus trailing along, almost on a loose rein the entire way. Ray did try to pull a few wimpy “Can I go back to the barn” half turns, but sticking to him at Sisters gave me the calmer confidence I needed to deal with these without getting worked up over them, and we had a fantastic ride. I’d ask him to trot or canter at the speed I asked for, then we’d stop, eat and wait for Cyrus to catch up. I was once again alone in the woods with a very good horse, a very happy muddy dog and sunshine.

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My new job is ten times the amount of responsibility and people I effect, but I don’t have to listen for Code Greens or wonder if a friendly hello will tip off a patient. I can put my headphones on and chug through my day, hip deep in some of the things I nerd out over. My friends are coming down this weekend to pick up Ray & I so I can play tour guide at one of the best spots for conditioning and trail rides nearby, and I can’t wait for the heat wave and miles under sturdy hooves (please don’t lose any shoes between now & Sunday Raymond!)

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How many words for cold?

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Actual mother fucking icicles hanging off my college library roof.

I hate the cold. I spent part of my childhood in the blissful, baking, dry heat of Arizona, just north of Phoenix. I survived five whole stinking cold, snow bound winters in Vermont, and ran back home to more temperate Oregon at the first chance (that hard long winters seemed to have followed me back is a moot point). I remember learning new curse words for the temperatures that froze my nose hairs, made breathing a chore, and turned my eyes Ice King Blue in the middle of February. My muscles still recall hefting a stupid sledgehammer, breaking ice in the cow troughs and carrying buckets of boiling water down to the barn, or freezing to the metal chains used to hook up the draft horses to the forecart. The first time my kid went outside after he was born, we were wrapped in roughly eight layers of wool and silk, and still I was convinced my brand new baby would get frostbite and I’d fail at the whole mothering thing five days in.

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I hate cold, ya’ll. I also hate running. I’m about as graceful and flat footed as a rhino, only without the boner creating horn. I sweat as if I’m sitting in a sauna and I run with my head tilted a little to the side, doing to having a huge glasses lens prescription for my right eye as a little kid. Give me a horse or a bike to ride, hands down.

However, when you add cold and running together, my hate for both cancels each other out. I don’t sweat, there is no-fuckin’-body out to see me juggling my fat butt down the street, and I push myself to keep running (slow as a herd of fucking turtles ya’ll) so I don’t freeze to death. Oh, and the even more secret ingredient to my new goal to run six insane times a week? Cyrus the World’s Best Jogging Partner!

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Thanks to pesky things like work, house chores, commuting, eating food, being a parent kinda sorta, and stupidly being farther away from the sun during these months, Cyrus and I are getting our run in during the coldest, darkest part of the winter night…roughly between 7pm and 9pm. He not only keeps my sad ass pace super easily, he makes me feel better about the whole endeavor because running=more of a dog workout=dog sleeping peacefully on the couch all day while we’re gone and not chewing up the house. I’m such a good dog mom, ya’ll!

As a last thought, endorphins do make it easier to write…since I haven’t even cracked 6000 words of NaNoWriMo 13 days in, time to get cracking! Request: If anyone has some really good names for alien species, toss them my way? I can only rearrange letters into vaguely Swedish sounding names so often….

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This adorableness will never get old!

Giggle Attack

I spent my Sunday in the best way possible: Ignoring the bittersweet feeling of being dragged out of bed way too early for a weekend to drop Tom off at the airport, bound for business in South Korea. Instead I headed to the woods and giggled my way through a 12 mile ride in the woods on my favorite spotted pony, the incomparable Jokker.

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With the possibility of the last endurance ride of the season in three weeks, Foothills of the Cascades in our backyard, we focused on elevation and enjoying the single track trails which will be closed to us as soon as the really wet weather arrives to usher in winter. We spent a perfect few hours heading up…up…down up down up switchbacks giant hill lean forward step up walk down aaaaaand back up. It’s such a wonderful feeling to be able to tack up and just ride; Vicki’s been nice enough to let me leave all my gear on Jokker’s saddle, so I don’t have to fiddle with everything each time I get to ride him.

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During a rest break at the very top of the hills I crinkled open a Rice Krispie treat, a guilty ride day pleasure which Jokker couldn’t help but have a very strong opinion about. His opinion boiled down to the same as a toddler’s, “How DARE you not share woman!” I spent about five minutes laughing so hard I had to actually work to stay in the saddle as he kept tossing his head up for a bite, while Jokker’s dam KC jiggled with her normal Arab mare impatience to be moving forward.

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On the way back down we stuck to the logging road, where I was able to sit deep and really stretch Jokker out as we tried to catch up with KC and Vicki, faster and far in front as usual. If you’ve met him in real life, you’ll first notice the spots, then his size…or vice versa. Either way, the boy has a canter that truly cures all ills…and I feel privileged every time I’m able to ride him. Foothills, give us a dry year, and don’t have any rocks with our names on them!

 

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Stressed Out

Today’s post is brought to you by the six year old’s current favorite song, “Stressed Out” by Twenty One Pilots. He informed me of this as we drove home from our favorite burger place, Mike’s in Oregon City, all the windows and sun roof open to the mostly smoke free, blessedly cool night air, singing at the top of our lungs to the dusky sky.

Wish we could turn back time, to the good old days
When our momma sang us to sleep but now we’re stressed out

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It’s been a stressful first week; trying to find a routine to settle back into, our backyard of the beautiful Columbia River Gorge is on fire, ash is falling from the sky,  Tom’s work is going through changes, and I started with a new department to discover a bombshell; the manager who hired me is out for a month long FMLA leave, with three days of training! I had a few more interviews and still no bites outside of OHSU, so looks like I’m settling in for a few more months at least, at which point something’s gotta give.

But it would remind us of when nothing really mattered
Out of student loans and tree-house homes we all would take the latter

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So many others have written about the very real grief about the fire in the Gorge; all I could do is echo them. I’ve had the privilege to have worked, travelled through, camped, hiked, and photographed that beautiful, carefully protected area for half my life. Kade’s been visiting there most of his young life, including several hikes, even the haul up to the top of Multnomah Falls! He’ll never quite remember it’s full glory, but we’ll help with the efforts to restore it to health.

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What more needs to be said at this point, while the fire still burns and we wait to see if some teenager’s lives will be upended by their stupid choices and the actual witch hunt out for (unreasonable) blood? We can mourn the loss of such of treasures, the tragedy of such choices and their impact without ruining lives. We can take time, a pause to reflect on what the actual best course is from here, not howl our anger at the universe.

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A good caramel milkshake and a dance party at full volume with the kid helped set things to rights, and there is at least one thing to look forward to: A dog! The landlord approved us to adopt a boxer, so now we’ve just got to scrub and rearrange every corner of the house, tell an uncomprehending Wilson a thousand times he’s not an only pet anymore, purchase a bunch of stuff and wait for the right dog for us to be found. So if anyone has some dog gear I could snag for cheap, let us know, it’d be a huge help!

We used to play pretend, give each other different names
We would build a rocket ship and then we’d fly it far away

 

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Yesterday

The song I’m turning to most recently to keep my spirits up is “Yesterday”, from Imagine Dragons. It has just the right combo of upbeat musicals and slightly somber vocals that matches where I am about now.

Here’s to my future

Here’s to my yesterday

Here’s to change

Oh, here’s to my yesterday

No tomorrow without a yesterday

Here’s to my future

Goodbye to yesterday

I’ve had close to twenty interviews for various administrative positions in the last few months, and exactly zero offers. My cover letter and resume are impressive enough to get into the room, but not enough to reach the final offer. As one can imagine, it sucks large to know I can do a kick-ass job, but not be able to convince people of that.

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On the other hand, training is picking up. I spent a weekend in heaven, riding no less than four different horses, and working with riders and their horses in six different riding lessons. I spent two full days on horseback or in the barn, helping horses or their riders with various issues, strength building, saddle fit, and helping people be more comfortable with their horses. I found a better bit for a young mustang; reminded a beautiful palomino that standing is preferable to being bugged about moving; saw a smile bloom on a rider who finally found a comfortable trot out of his large Quarter Horse gelding.

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I made a joke to Tom that clearly, the universe is trying to tell me something…but we all know how unreliable the universe can be. Building a business is hard, let alone a horse based business, in these times when fewer and fewer have the money and time for such a money and time intensive animal. Pesky adult things like insurance, regular non-equine bills, and a child starting up with sports and swim lessons and whatever else he’ll grow to be interested in to find money for also need to be accounted for.

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I have a decent base to start from, however. A supportive partner with a solid, decent job; a happy go lucky kid; a lifetime of experience with varied horse pursuits and training philosophies, from Pony Club to working draft horses to kid’s camps. I have a good handle on my own strengths and holes as a rider and horse person (don’t ask me much about nutrition, ask a vet!) I have a much better sense of business, of organization, of customer relations than fresh faced college me ever could.

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The path forward isn’t clear, and rejections sting, but I’ll keep plugging along at it until something gives. A steady paycheck has something to be said for it, although being home to send Kade off to school and pick him up is a large draw for me right now, just being available when he needs us. I have the feeling first grade is going to be a bit tougher than kindergarten was for the short blonde dude, so I’m really hoping/planning for the time we can bring a dog home to give him a friend, a playmate, a warm shoulder to lean on when the parents just can’t understand. Wilson is a very good cat, but he’s still a cat, and I’m a firm believer in the right kid/dog combo. Plus, it’s hard to sleep in or give into laziness with a talkative dog that really needed a walk an hour ago singing in your ear at 5am…though it’ll be interesting to see if “dog needing to pee” or “cat DEMANDING to be fed NOW” wakes us up first!

 

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The Big K

Today was Kade’s first day of kindergarten. So naturally we woke up late, in an apartment stuffed to the brim with 90% of our stuff in boxes, no ‘perfect’ outfit picked out or picture worthy lunch packed, nor had Tom or I adequately communicated to each other what the morning would look like. My emotions were scattered all over the place, between the stress of Kade’s first day, moving, my job, having Tom home for the first time in a month…Tom was merely tired & in need of a good cup of coffee, but I’d packed the sugar away already, girlfriend mistake #1 for the day.

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Our two block walk from our new house to Kade’s school, Eccles Elementary (where one of the teachers remembers teaching the various Morse children back in the day) was accomplished right on time by some miracle of pre-packaged food & excitement (Costco is my BFF). Kade’s backpack is almost as big as he is, even though it’s the smallest I could find. Our conversation on the drive down informed me he misses his best friend Max, but that he’s a friendly little dude who will be fine with a bit of support through this huge upheaval in his normally mostly predictable life.

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I did grab a few pictures, in which he refused to smile cause dude, this is all weird & strange & not normal. Not five minutes later, he marched right into his classroom, put his things away, & announced to his teacher Mrs. Merris, “I know how to write my name by myself!” which is what he spent his time doing until Tom could tear me away.

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We walked back to the new house alone, mental gears switching from parent to adult, to sign the rental lease & give Tom a chance to meet the landlord & actually see the place his sister had luckily noticed for us a few weeks ago. It’s not perfect-it’s old, barely bigger than our apartment, the stove is also weird & old, & the landlord is naturally leery of my hope for a dog, but it’s workable, & Tom’s finally home, back in the town he grew up in. We’re two blocks from his sister & Kade’s cousins (whose classrooms are on either side of Kade’s), across town from his parents & grandparents, two blocks from school, with a huge yard to play in, plant raised beds, hang a hammock in the trees.

Tom sees the practical; we need yard maintenance equipment, to fit all our things in the house, when can we pick up the U-Haul, where’s Wilson’s cat perch going to live, & getting all the utilities switched over before he leaves again, returning to California as that’s where his employer has work for him right now.

I can see, as near as possible for us, what I’ve always hoped for Kade, surrounded by family in a small town, a certain kind of stability I didn’t have until much later, a chance to grow roots & know our neighbors names-what Tom himself grew up with. I hate that choices & circumstances make this Kade’s sixth move in five years, but hopefully the last for quite a while!

Now I’m in professional adult mode, considering my first of many commutes without my chatty little dude along to balance out the frustrations over getting cut off in traffic once again, & impatient to hear how the day went for the kid I managed to raise up healthy & safe this far.

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