Because it was such a cool summer, it’s hard to believe fall is here. Although, the leaves seemed to stay green longer than usual, I noticed the other day some on the trees in our yard have turned and a few are drifting down into the yard.
While the sight of leaves on the ground always makes me feel a little blue, my daughter, Ellen, age 6, was delighted when she saw the ground under one of our ash trees littered with yellow. She ran over to the tree when we were on our way to the garden and examined them to see if there were leaves enough to rake up into a pile.
There are not enough yet, but that will change in the next few weeks. The ash trees, while beautiful when the leaves turn, are the first ones to lose their leaves. They’re also the last ones to leaf out in the spring. I guess I just have to enjoy them during the short season they’re on the tree. Or even better, I can adopt Ellen’s attitude; have fun playing in the leaves when they’re on the ground.
One of the great things about living on a farm is being surrounded by beauty 365 days a year. Every day there’s something lovely to see and today it was the fog. It wasn’t an intense fog, but more of a haze that hung in the air in certain areas.
When I went to feed the horses, for example, the three were shrouded in wisps of white. It was the stuff of horse photo calendars, but alas, I had a bag of garbage in one hand and was holding a dog on a leash with the other, and the camera was in the house. By the time I finished feeding the horses the sun had burned off most of the fog that was hanging above the corral.
Just before I left the house for work I was treated to another postcard scene. The fog was hanging between the tops of two groups of trees on the east side of the house, filtering the morning sun that was shining through it. I didn’t get a chance to get a photo of that either, because, I was busy getting the kids off to school.
Photos or not, scenes like this morning’s are an inspiring way to start the day. I’m looking forward to seeing what awaits me tonight.
Though, I liked school when I was a kid, I never was excited to go back in the fall. I loved summer vacation and spending my time riding horseback, playing with the neighbor kids and cousins and just, generally, being outside. My own kids are pretty much the same. While they enjoy school once they get back in the routine, they don’t look forward to the thought of sitting in the classroom.
But whether we want to or not, this month we have to think about school. Junior high football practice started last week and we also registered our kids for school. Tonight is orientation at the high school. In Larimore, where my kids attend school, there’s no middle school. Elementary school is K-6, then the students move to the high school.
While I’ve learned the ropes at the elementary school, having a child at the high school will be a new experience for me. I’m sure things have changed in the 32 years since I graduated from Larimore High, so I’m looking forward to hearing how things work. I’m still not looking forward to the end of summer vacation, though.
One of my co-workers asked me yesterday if my husband, Brian, and I planned to go out to dinner after we got home from work. She knew that our three children were at camp so we had some free time on our hands in the evening. I told her "no," that instead of dinner we probably would work on some outdoor chores.
That’s exactly what we did. I mowed lawns with the riding lawnmower and Brian mowed weeds with our rotary mower that is pullled behind the tractor. When we finished our respective mowing jobs we went to check out the garden and found that there were a lot of vegies and raspberries that needed to be picking. I spent the next hour filling two plastic grocery bags with beans, zucchini and beets while Brian picked bowlfuls of raspberries.
By the time we finished it was about 8 p.m. so we headed indoors to eat supper. Before I sat down to eat, though, I wanted to start cooking the beans and beets so I could make refrigerator pickles with them and spent the next half hour taking the ends off of the beans and washing the beets. At 8:30 p.m. I finally sat down to eat a sandwich. By the time we finished with supper and straightened up the kitchen, the beans and beets were done cooking so I made a vinegar/sugar mixture to pour over them and cleaned up the kitchen again.
It was 10 p.m. by then, so I headed to bed, knowing that my 5:30 a.m. wake-up call from Rosebud, our daughter Ellen’s golden retriever, would come all too soon. Before I fell asleep, though, I was thinking about how much our evening resembled our pre-children days when we would get home from our day jobs and spend all evening working on inside and outside projects without any interruptions.
My reflection didn’t make me long for the "good old days," though. Raising our three children is the best project we’ll undertake and anything else suffers by comparison.
Being a parent is filled with "firsts" and yesterday marked another one. For the first time, our children went to camp. We dropped them off at Kamp K.A.C.E. , (Kids Against Cancer Everywhere) near Detroit Lakes, Minn., where they will stay for five days. The camp is for kids with cancer and for their siblings. The staff at the camp includes doctors and nurses so we know that Ellen, our daughter who has leukemia, and her brothers will be in good hands.
The week will be filled with fun activities such as swimming, sailing and a trip to a water park so I know they will have a good time. They’ve all had a tough year and deserve to have a good time without any worries, so I’m very happy for them. Though, it will be the longest time they’ve ever been away from home all three seemed fine when Brian and I dropped them off.
Our house is too quiet without our children and I miss them. I keep telling myself It’s a little taste of what life will be like in 12 years when Ellen graduates. I’ll be 62 by then, so maybe I’ll be ready for it. For right now, though, I prefer the activity and sounds of their voices and I’m looking forward to Friday when we pick them up.
Though, I have a fear of grasshoppers, reptiles, such as toads, frogs and snakes, which make some people squeamish, have never bothered me. It’s a good thing because during wet years at the farm there are a lot of toads and frogs hopping around.
Mowing the lawn during those summers takes extra time because I spend a lot of time doing toad relocation. While the frogs jump quickly out of the way of the riding lawnmower, the toads are slower and I have to get off of it and move them to safety. They seem to like huddling up against the sides of buildings and next to the lilac hedge where it’s cool, so I’m extra-cautious when I mow by them.
My children like to catch both toads and frogs, not because they need to be relocated, but just because it’s fun to take a close look at them. Its’ also a challenge to catch the frogs which are slippery and can jump high and far. Toads are easier to catch, but harder to see. The springtime is a good time to find them because they are coming out of hibernation and when I’m raking leaves off of the flower beds I’ll often uncover them. If one of the children sees one, he or she will yell "Toad alert" and the siblings will come running to see it.
My son, Thomas, spotted a big toad yesterday when our family was taking an evening stroll around the farmstead. The toad was hopping into the wildflowers next to our farmstead grove and fortunately made it under cover before our dogs saw it. Otherwise, we would have had to perform a rescue mission.
Since my daughter Ellen was diagnosed with cancer last summer, I’ve become more aware of other people who have some form of it. Ellen’s illness has taught me first-hand how much it means to have the support of family and friends.
My family and I have appreciated all the prayers, kind words and the benefits people have hosted for Ellen this past year. The dedication people have had to raising funds for Ellen’s medical expenses have been appreciated as well.
This evening our family is helping out at a benefit for a Grand Forks woman who has breast cancer. The Red River Runners group in Grand Forks is sponsoring a 5K walk-run for Denae Grove. Registration for the walk-run is at 5:30 p.m. and the race begins at 6 p.m. The event will be held in Riverside Park in Grand Forks and my husband, Brian Gregoire, a member of the Red River Runners, I and our three children are helping pass out the food being served at the event.
We’re all looking forward to being a part of an effort to help someone else. Stop and say hi if you’re at the event. We’ll be the family with a couple of guys with shaved heads. Ellen’s hair has grown back, but Brian and our son, Thomas, are continuing to shave their heads. Brendan has a little hair, but not much. He plans to get a fresh shave soon. Ellen and I have pretty good heads of hair. Hers came in wavy and with blonde highlights. Mine remains brown and straight.
Today I went into work late because I have an interview that will run into the evening. Going in later was a bonus because I got to catch most of Ellen’s t-ball game before I left for work. It was a beautiful morning to watch her play; while the temperature was still in the 50s for the game at 9 a.m., the sun felt warm. There wasn’t much wind which made it even more pleasant to be outside.
The game itself also was great. Is there anything much more fun than watching little kids play t-ball? They have a blast whacking at the ball and most of them couldn’t care less whether they get an "out" or make it to the plate. Heck, some of them don’t even know where first base is. One little girl had to be accompanied by her coach to the base.
Many of the kids don’t take the defensive side of the game very seriously, either, and spend their time gazing at the clouds, studying their shoelaces or visiting with the other team members when they’re circling the bases. The kids on the other team ran merrily around Ellen, who was standing squarely on third base, during the first innning. I gently told her after the innning was finished that she should stand a bit off to one side so she wasn’t in the way. She nodded happily, then went to take her turn at bat. At that age coaching is an easy job. Young children have no egos and are simply eager to learn how to do things right.
Ellen’s babysitter met me at the game shortly before it was finished and I reluctantly headed for my car. I know that before the season is over, though, I’ll be back in the bleachers. Ellen likes having her mom in the stands and I’m happy to be there.
I thought I’d give one last "plug" here for Relay for Life which starts at 5 p.m. today. The event, which raises money for cancer research and honors people who have or had cancer, is put on by a lot of dedicated volunteers and I hope the cold weather doesn’t deter people from stopping by. A lot of work has gone on throughout the year for fundraising and Relay teams are working hard today to ready their tents and put out their luminaries.
The Herald had a great story today on Brittany Dvorak, an amazing 14 year old girl from Grand Forks with A.L.L. leukemia. Her team, called "Team Brittany," will be next to the Herald’s team at the Relay in University Park. Brittany has raised $2,000 for her team and invaluable awareness of Relay for Life. She’s a couragous young woman who is an inspiration to her family, friends and people who haven’t met, but have heard or read about her.
I’ll be heading out to the Herald tent in a couple of hours to meet my husband, Brian Gregoire, and, Ellen Gregoire, our 6 year-old daughter who, like Brittany, has A.L.L. Ellen will have her Air Buddies puppy Rosebud with her. Both of them would be happy to meet Herald and blog readers, so stop by if you have a chance.
For several years now I have been part of the Herald’s Relay for Life team. I had relatives and friends die from cancer so raising money to find a cure for the disease was a cause I wanted to support.
Finding a cure has become even more important to me during the past year since my daughter Ellen, now 6, was diagnosed with leukemia. A year ago today my family was with her at MeritCare in Fargo as she had surgery to implant a port and begin her initial chemotherapy treatments. I missed Relay for Life last year because we brought Ellen home from the hospital during Relay weekend and she was feeling very ill.
I’m happy to say that, overall, Ellen is now doing much better. Her hair, which she lost from the intense chemo treatments she had in the early phases of treatment, is growing in thick and wavy, and more importantly, she feels good most of the time. She still has some "down" days when she catches viruses that are going around or when her chemo treatments (which she will continue for another one and half to two years) make her feel crummy, but, for the most part, she is full of pep and keeps busy playing with our dogs, playing t-ball and keeping her brothers in line.
Tomorrow, June 5, Ellen will be at the Herald’s Relay for Life tent at University Park with Rosebud, the "Air Buddies" golden retriever puppy, she received from the production crew of the Disney movie Santa Buddies. We plan to be at the tent for a couple of hours beginning at 4:30 p.m. so if anyone wants to meet and photograph a movie star, bring your camera and come by and say "Hi." Ellen would love to meet, you, too.