Happy Birthday to me!

I celebrated 47 wonderful trips around the sun yesterday. We had a busy weekend, mostly involving driving and waiting at the car place for tire changes. Nothing exciting, but also somehow still fun. Friday I drove down to WPI to pick up Lex, brought him home, picked up Eve, then we went to the high school’s production of Curtains: The Musical. It was fantastic and hysterical. Lex was happy to be there and all his theater friends were happy to see him again. We brought two cars so I could go home while the kids socialized, but in the end they went home before me because I was socializing! LOL.

Saturday morning I took the kid car to the tire place and waited for four hours (FOUR HOURS!) in a freezing cold tire place for them to put snow tires on the car. Clearly I waited too late in the season to do this, but in my defence I did start calling around in early October and everyone was booked through December, so…. anyway. Towards the end of my long wait, Lex and Eve showed up with a mug of hot tea for me, and plans to run some top-secret errands (that Lex repeatedly reassured me were not bad errands).

Saturday afternoon they surprised me with beautiful flowers, presents, and a table display. 🤗 I opened presents Saturday afternoon while Lex was still home. Then Eve and I drove him back to WPI. Eve hadn’t had the chance to see his dorm room yet, and also she love car trips with me. We left around 4:30pm, when it was almost dark, so it felt like a super long drive in the dark, but really it was fine and we were home by 11pm.

Sunday, my actual birthday, Eve made waffles for breakfast and angel food cake for dinner. I went to an adorable wine bar / cafe in town with a fellow librarian I haven’t seen in many months. It was super nice to catch up with her. When I got home Eve had cake ready and we watched a Great British Bake Off together, then I joined a Discord video chat with my college buddies.

Overall, it was a great birthday weekend! I’m happy to be 47 and starting another trip around the sun. 🌞

Happy Halloween, Eve has returned!

Eve had a great flight home. She left Gothenburg at 6am Sunday morning and arrived in Boston at 3pm. She had an easy layover at Charles de Gaulle in Paris, and arrived 20 minutes early at Logan.

Alan and I drove down to pick her up, then swung over to Worcester to pick up Lex so we could all go out to dinner at the classy Olive Garden. :)

Things got a little silly when we dropped Lex back off at school.

Today I took Eve to my library to see all the Halloween decorations. Our office manager is SUPER into Halloween and decorates a ton. Almost every day when I go into work I see new decorations added. I was told yesterday afternoon that EVERYONE dresses up at the library and that the office manager is strict on that. So I did my usual black outfit and witches hat. Eve dressed up in whatever she found in her closet. We visited the library, walked around town a bit, then I drove her home and returned to work. Guess what?! The office manager is out this week and hardly anyone dressed up! Just a few of us. Sigh. Next year though, I’m gonna plan ahead and have a good costume. And be 20 years younger and 100lbs lighter and full of energy and creativity. LOL.

While I worked, Eve had a burst of energy and made cookies, bread, dog biscuits, pasta, homemade cheese sauce, and handed out Halloween candy to the handful of kids who made it to our house.

Eve is happy to be home and has been talking nonstop since Sunday. LOL. She’s been on a pretty high high. She’ll start school again next Monday and hopefully the low lows don’t come too quickly. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy the highs and the hugs and the nonstop verbal monologue!

She’s coming home!

In a big turn of events, this beautiful human is heading home!!

On Tuesday I got an email from her Rotary coordinator in Sweden. He said they were having a meeting on Wednesday and asked that we be present for it. Alan and I logged in to the meeting Wednesday morning to meet with Eve, her host dad, her youth exchange coordinator, and a higher up in Swedish Rotary.

The goal was to talk with Eve about what’s going on and address issues they each were having with the exchange. Eve was unhappy with lots of things, her host family was unhappy with her eating habits (apparently they had dealt with anorexia in the past and were feeling triggered), and her Rotary folks were unhappy with her lack of participation in Rotary activates. We had a good conversation, resulting in Eve saying she really just wants to go home and the Swedish folks saying they don’t think the program is working in this situation. So it was decided — she’s coming home!

There were a lot of emotions at the meeting, and afterwards (in my case, anyway, I can’t speak for everyone else), but ultimately I think the right decision was made. Eve was not able or willing to make the changes necessary for the program to be successful; her host family was kind, but missing the siblings and connectedness to draw her out; she spent a lot of time alone; she was exhausted from her school-related internship; and everyone was worried about her eating habits. I guess I can take some of the blame for that one. :/

Eve spent the end of elementary school and all of middle school completely miserable. She hated her friend group and everything about school. Of course, Covid didn’t help… though in her opinion it totally helped because it allowed her to stay home and ignore the real world! We started the Rotary Exchange program in that mindset. In high school things slowly turned around, with last year being an awesome year in school. She had a new (old, better) friend group and enjoyed her classes – mostly. She was interested in traveling, but less interesting in escaping from high school. Now, in Sweden, she is miserable again. It has been hard to support her from afar in a situation so reminiscent of the past. I tried balancing support and distance, encouragement and hands-off, etc. Regardless, it didn’t seem to matter.

Once the decision was made, the tears were released, and goodbyes were said – the planning began! She is thrilled to be coming home. I am, of course, thrilled to have her back! I spent today coordinating Rotary approvals, flight arrangements, school re-enrollment, holiday travel plan changes, etc. All totally worth it so I can hug my favorite baby girl a million times on Sunday!! 🤗

Her Rotary coordinator her in the US sent her a very nice email today. He said:

“It will be natural to second-guess some things for a while. Decisions to go on exchange, decisions to stay or not stay; all very normal and expected when a decision like this is made. If these things cross your mind, please remember that success can almost never be measured with a calendar. If you have grown, learned new things and met new people, the exchange is a success and much more importantly, you are a success. The end date doesn’t matter as much. We look forward to welcoming you back and hearing about your time in Sweden.”

I thought that was very kind and I appreciate their support. I’ll be sure to tell them. 😊

Cakes at KAF

Rosy and two of her friends are in town this weekend. They signed up for a baking class at King Arthur Flour, and invited me too. :) We spent the day today (9am-5pm!) at the baking center, learning to make fabulous cakes. Some of us have had a little cake experience in the past, others there never made cakes before. We all had fun and came away with two delicious cakes each.

I invited my book club friends over to help us eat the cakes. Rosy and her friends put together a yummy charcuterie, and pot of tomato soup with KAF bread for dinner. It’s pretty awesome to have people show up and host a party at your house. :) I had a table full of people enjoying a good meal and tasty dessert. Happiness is.

All the feels

We had a busy week. Lex was home between A Term and B Term. He successfully finished his first quarter of college! He ended it with two A’s and a B. The B was in Calc III, a class that the FB Parents groups says is the most “NRed” class at WPI. “NR” means “not recorded” and is an option if your grade is too low and you don’t want it to count. I’m not sure if the credit counts or not, but Lex was pretty pleased with his B in that class.

He came home last Friday night and, at the urging of high school pep band friends, he went to the homecoming football game and played with the pep band. River went to pep band that night too and they all had a great time!

On Sunday we had our usual family chat with Eve, but this time all of us were in one place, sharing one screen, EXCEPT Eve who was on the other side of the ocean. It quickly devolved into tears. I’m not sure if it’s because we were together or not, but she was pretty miserable. She’s had a cold for awhile and medicine is weirdly limited there. They don’t have the standard go-tos, like DayQuil and Sudafed. She said even Tylenol requires a prescription. So weird. Her host family tells her she needs to eat more healthy (true) and bought her some decongestant that takes 6-12hrs to kick in. Weird. As I’m typing this I realize I should research why Sweden is so anti-OTC meds. I don’t remember that from almost 30 years ago! Super weird!! 😮 So she cried through that whole conversations. Everything is awful, everyone is terrible, she hates it all, and misses everything at home. Sigh.

Lex came to visit me at the library on Monday. I gave him a tour of the library that he hasn’t seen since he was four years old. No surprise, he didn’t remember the place! :) I got to show him off to my co-workers, then we got pizza at the pizza place next door and enjoyed each other’s company.

The week went on. My job is so low-key that I am quite often bored with *nothing* to do. I have cleared up both of my email inboxes. I went from 2K+ in my personal account and 8k+ in my school account (still active because I’m still doing the website work) down to 15 and 2 respectively. I didn’t read all the emails (of course!) but I scanned the subject lines and initial text as I deleted them. When I got to the March 2020 emails in my school account I noticed my heart rate increased and my breathing got shallower and faster. I literally had to close my email and step away from my computer for awhile. I didn’t come go back to the email until the next day. It was such a strange experience as all the memories from the school closure came flooding back.

On Thursday the boys had some friends over. Simon, Jonah, and Liv. They hung out, watched YouTube, laughed, ate, etc. All the things teens do and they were all happy to have Lex back for a few days. Part way through the evening I got a text from Eve saying it was hard to be away when all of her friends are hanging out at her house. True, of course, but I was surprised she knew. She said they were posting quotes and picture on Discord. I had to politely ask my house full of teens to stop posting on Discord for the evening. Eve and I continued to have a long, downer conversation via text, while I simultaneously texted with Joyce about her exchange student experience. Eve hasn’t directly asked to come home, but she was hinting at it pretty strongly. Sigh.

Eve texted me later that night and said her bestie, Simon, had sent her a bunch of love via text and memes. 💗

Follow-up conversations with family and friends have shown me that Eve is pretty positive when texting with everyone else. She’s saving the tears for me. Good, I guess.

Last night we (me and the boys) joined Rosy and two of friends at a local pub for dinner. The service was slow and the music was loud (but good!), and we all had fun.

We had another family chat today (since I’ll be busy tomorrow) and it was once again all of us here and Eve there. I tried having us all join from our own devices around the house, but apparently my broadband can’t support three independent video conference streams very well, so the conversation was choppy. We ended up consolidating on the couch with my computer. Eve said she isn’t bothered by our being together, but she definitely got more emotional after we gathered on one computer. We had a good chat though and I managed to end it on a high note with everyone happy and smiling. :)

Lex decided to go back to WPI today instead of tomorrow so that he has a day to settle in. So weird that WPI is now “home” and he needs that day to settle in there instead of here. It makes sense, but still weird. He packed this morning, after our chat with Eve, and we once again played the “waiting for the dryer” game. A perennial favorite (ha!) in this house. By the time the laundry *finally* got done, Lex was overcome with a wave of emotion. He was tired today and doesn’t generally do well with transition, but when it was time to get in the car he started crying and worrying and all the emotion came out. Way more then when we dropped him off in August! He said he was too tired, he didn’t want to back to dining hall food, packing was too hard, etc. We talked about how hard it is for vacation to end and the stressors of getting back to the “real world.” It’s so surreal to me that the “real world” is no longer here with me. Alan picked him up last week and brought him back to WPI today. It gave them some good quality time. Alan texted me hours later saying he just dropped off a happy boy at college. Whew! I sat down on the couch to read and promptly fell asleep for an hour. I think I was emotionally drained.

Rosy and her friends are in town for a lovely New England weekend. Unfortunately the universe said NO, and it has been raining the entire time. They spent the day exploring in the rain, then went back to their Airbnb for the evening. I was going to join them, but when I woke up from my nap I could not motivate myself. We will be spending all day tomorrow at King Arthur Flour doing a cake baking/decorating class, and then my book group will come over tomorrow afternoon to meet Rosy’s friends and help us eat four cakes! This afternoon I spent a weird amount of time sitting at my table, unable to get up and go hang out with her and friends, thinking about my messy house, thinking about socializing, thinking about kids, etc. I was just stuck. So I did the lame thing and bailed on socializing. (Sorry, Rosy!) Then I hand washed some dishes, folded the laundry, and swept the floor (my roomba is broken and the floor was long overdue!). Then decided to write a blog post. :) Above the laptop screen right now I see my couches that need vacuuming tonight (stupid pets) and a pile of TLC goodies for Eve that I need to ship as soon as I can find a box for them. I think I’m going to vacuum the couches, watch some TV, and crash.

I’m excited for cake baking tomorrow, and spending time with Rosy, her friends, and my book group. Then settling back into my new life on Monday with just me and River in the house. Plus the always needy pets, of course! :)

The teacher in my is dying to ask: How many emotions did you see in that text? The title said “all” of the emotions; did you see “all” of the emotions there? What other emotions can you think of?

The sane person in me says: Tessa, get a hobby! LOL.

Fall football at WPI

One of my besties from school accompanied me to a WPI concert this weekend, with a little football on the side. :)

When I first told her that Lex was going to WPI she got all excited because her sister had also gone there. When I said he was joining the marching band, she squealed (literally) and said she’d love to see him. She’s the music teacher and was instrumental in his musical career. I suggested a football game and she was all in.

Months later Lex is happily marching with the band and I am no longer at school. I texted her to see if she was still interested and she said heck yeah! It was a beautiful week all week, with just one rainy day, Saturday, football day. :/ I monitored the forecast obsessively and bugged Lex daily via text. The band can’t play in the rain, so all our plans hinged on that rain holding off. And it did! (mostly) It rained on the drive down, drizzled a little for the first quarter, then stopped. The band did the tunnel and played for the first half of the game. Then they did the halftime show as the wind picked up and the sky darkened. The forecast predicted an imminent downpour, so the drum majors (the band bosses) gave the band members the option of staying or going. A handful stayed, but most left. Lex was hungry and eager for Olive Garden, so he was happy to leave after halftime. We were happy to leave then too.

I loved having hours to catch up with my friend. I loved watching the band. I loved watching the band with a music teacher and former pep band member! She had so many good questions and observations that I didn’t even know to make or observe. I loved getting to see Lex. I loved that the rain held off enough that we got to see the band perform. Overall, it was a great Saturday!!

Leaf peaping with the parents

Mema and Tom came to visit last weekend. 🤗 We went to VINS to look at raptures and to Woodstock to look at quaint Vermonty stuff in the fall. I got to show them my new library and they got to meet my new friends. It was a good visit. 💗

Parking lot question

This is my car just AFTER getting a car wash too. Sigh. We need a better car wash around here!

I got out of the car in the grocery store parking lot today and an older gentleman started walking toward me, clearly about to talk to me. I prepared myself to answer questions about the Tesla. It happens on a somewhat regular basis, so I’m used to it. The guy walks up to me and say, “Excuse me, can I ask you a question?” I agree, hoping it’s one I can actually answer. He says, “What does the WPI stand for?” 😄 I told him and he said, “Oh, interesting. I thought it must be an Institute of some sort. Thank you.” Then he walks over to his wife and they head towards the grocery store. I don’t know why, but I thought it was really funny. He also had a pretty thick accent (German, maybe?) that added to the moment. The official parking lot score now is:

Tesla questions: too many to remember
Magnet questions: 1

Family Weekend at WPI

After six long weeks I finally got to hug my boy again!! And hug him I did!! LOL. He was warned and graciously accepted my (not-so)surprise hugs all weekend! 🤗

Alan and I drove down Friday night and met Lex on campus for dinner. We ate at one of the cafe on campus, then we went to a show. The VOX (theater group) put on a show called Something Rotten that was hysterical. We laughed all the way through!

After the show we brought Lex back to his dorm, then Alan and I drove to the sketchiest hotel EVER!! It was an Econolodge that seemed to also double as a homeless shelter and methadone clinic — best case scenario. It was AWFUL! The non-smoking room smelled like smoke, the beds felt like box springs, and I was pretty sure my Tesla would not survive the night in that parking lot. There was a big tent with some sketchy looking people in it, all lit up at 11pm. We didn’t even unpack the car! That was the night I discovered that I do, in fact, have standards in lodging. (Had I read the hotel reviews a little better I would have made a better choice. 🙄) We got back in the car and left! We drove down the road a bit and found a Hampton Inn. Turns out they are owned by Hilton and I have a Hilton membership, and we got a deal for night-of booking and it all worked out to be almost the same price as the skeezy drug hotel! Of course I can’t get my money back for the sketchy place, but at least I felt safe in the Hampton Inn. It was a pretty crazy experience, but we definitely made the right choice to switch hotels!

The next morning we met Lex on campus for brunch at his dining hall. Because it was Family Weekend they had dining tickets available for families. We got lucky though and there was a college kid standing by the line offering to use up his extra meal swipes on parents! He treated us to brunch so we didn’t have to pay! It was a pretty cool thing to do. Their meal swipes reset Saturday night and he had extras that would have just gotten wasted, so he treated 10 parents to a free meal. Pretty cool dude!

They had a whole bunch of random activities planned for Family Weekend, so we walked around and checked out some stuff. Nothing terribly exciting, but I loved just being there. We went to the bookstore and I bought him two shirts to hang in his closet and look at for a few months before maybe trying them on. I also got magnets for my car and the teen car, and some new hot cups since the lids for the ones I have broke last week!

Lex had some homework to do, so we left him for a few hours in the afternoon. Alan and I went to Lowes and Best Buy to get him a shelf and a webcam. Then we met back at his dorm to drop off the stuff and take him out to dinner. Dinner, of course, was at the Olive Garden! LOL. We video called with Eve while we were there. It was fun, but maybe not nice for her. I’m not sure. She said she was happy to talk with us and that she missed the Olive Garden.

After dinner we went back to campus to see a free movie, Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse. Friday night they had the movie on the quad on a giant inflatable screen, but on Saturday they moved it into an auditorium due to rain. It was a great movie! I would have prefered to see it on the quad (they have lots of cool Adirondack chairs on the quad!), but it was good in the lecture hall too. Apparently they do regular weekend movies on the quad or the lecture hall. They had free popcorn and candy available. It was fun.

Sunday morning Lex had marching band practice, so I slept in a bit then Alan and I got a great breakfast at little diner near campus After marching band, Lex had to prep for his Concert Band performance. They had three hours of band at Alden Hall. First an hour of Jazz Band, which Lex is in, but apparently there are three Jazz Band levels and level 1 (the freshman) didn’t perform this time, but will at future concerts. Then an hour of Concert Band, then an hour of Symphony. Lex is in Jazz Band and Concert Band. He said there are a lot of percussionists in Concert Band, so they didn’t all play in every song. Of the six songs they performed, he played in three. I might be a bit biased, but I think he was excellent in all three! :)

We chatted with him a little before Concert Band started and he said he wasn’t feeling too hot. It had been raining all morning and they did their marching practice in the rain. He thought that didn’t help with his overall well-being. He was feeling pretty ready to crash. After the concert, of course! He also has test on Monday that he was trying to prep for, in addition to homework due Monday. It was a busy weekend for him.

After the concert we checked in with him again. He said he was still feeling down (cough, sore throat, etc.) so Alan and I went to CVS and got him so meds. The campus health center is apparently closed on Sundays. Good to know for the future. I was texting with him a bit this evening and he said the meds were helping and he was looking forward to a Nyquil-assisted good night’s sleep.

I’m so, so happy we got to spend this weekend with him. I miss him (and he misses us!) and it filled my mommy hear to see him thriving in his new world. Now we begin the countdown to his week at home in October between terms! Then I’ll get to hug him all week!! <3

The one and only time I take just ONE photo, I get this “eyes closed” photo, but I’m going to share it anyway because we all look so happy. He wasn’t feeling great. We just brought him some meds and were saying goodbye before heading home. I think his eyes closed smile is fitting. 💗