Tuesday, July 16, 2013

finding joy in the ordinary



This past weekend I celebrated my birthday with my family.

Patrick drove back into town with his girlfriend Allie and Michael returned home on Saturday from his second stint as counselor at Camp Rec, and I was bubbling over at the mere thought of having our family together again.

Honestly, that was my best birthday present.

Us. Being all together again.

I haven’t shared it much here, but this has been an interesting summer for me. Interesting because Patrick stayed in San Luis Obispo taking summer classes and Michael has been gone so often that it’s ended up truly being

our first summer the boys haven’t been home much.

Which means that these glorious, warm days of summer have been tinged with introspection and growing pains as I grapple with my soon-to-be empty nest. Suddenly, it’s all become so real. The clean, empty bedrooms, the sudden quietness. And while these days have been good preparation for Jim and I, there have been times when I’ve felt like my heart was being squeezed. 


So I was pretty excited about this past weekend. Our plan was that we -- Patrick, Allie, Jim and I--would go downtown and be there when the buses arrived from Camp Rec. Then once Michael was done, we would go to dinner. And secretly, I couldn’t wait to watch all the counselors and campers get off the bus together. I’ve learned from Michael’s previous camp experiences that watching the reunion of campers with their families is sheer joy, not to mention the chance to see Michael with his own camper, a fifteen year old boy named Sully.

Unfortunately sometimes I get so caught up in the moment that I forget to take pictures. So I didn’t get a picture of Michael and Sully getting off the bus.

The first time I glimpsed Michael’s camper Sully, he had his teddy bear hanging around his neck and he was carrying a photo album that he kept putting into his mouth. Shortly after this they disappeared in the crowd.

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When we found them again, I noticed that one of Sully’s pictures had fallen to the ground and Michael picked it up and put it back into his album. Then he gave Sully a drink out of a sippy cup.

Michael had texted me earlier about Sully; he told me that Sully was basically non-verbal. He only knew three words, “Mommy”, “Baby” and “Come on.” And during his time at camp he needed to be pushed in a stroller because of his slow gait.

When he’s at home he requires 24 hour care so during his week at Camp Rec he was assigned to two counselors, Michael and another Jesuit High School graduate named Brian who wore a baseball cap backwards and was extremely outgoing.

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It was a 100 degree day and the sun was beating down on everyone…

but all around us there was happy chaos as campers waited next to their counselors for their family members to arrive.  There were lots of hugs and kisses by everyone.



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While we were standing around waiting for Sully’s mother to arrive a cheerful camper named Chad came over to show Patrick and Allie his picture. He pointed to his picture and Patrick and Allie where looking at it when he happened to see my camera.


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He immediately gestured for me to take a photo of him and Allie. And she jumped right into the photo with him.

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A few moments later I saw Sully’s mother walk up and immediately put her cheek next to Sully’s and she began to whisper softly to him. And to kiss his cheek. She was beaming at him. They were both so happy to see each other and I was so moved by this scene, the way she was talking to him with such tenderness, I forgot to take pictures.

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As we watched from the shade, she spoke with Michael and Brian, and seemed eager to hear about Sully’s experience. She looked so relieved and grateful that he had done so well.

I asked Michael later if Sully had struggled at all being away from his family and he said only once the first night.

Michael said he looked sad and he kept saying “Mommy.”

“What did you do?” I asked him.

“We tried to comfort him…after that he was fine.”

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Once the boys put the stroller and suitcase into her car, Sully’s mother asked to take a few photos of Sully with his counselors. She smiled and chatted with Michael and Brian until Sully began to pull her toward the car. He was ready for home.

Michael had heard that when Sully’s parents were told that he was accepted as a camper they cried because they were so relieved. Michael said he requires constant care and attention and he can’t imagine having a child that requires so much work. The more I heard about Sully the more compassion I felt for his mother.

Watching her interact with Sully made me think about how selfless the experience of mothering can be. I could relate to how elated she was for Sully, that he’d had a good experience. And that he’d been surrounded by kind people who treated him well. Who made him feel special.

In the end, isn’t that what we all want for our kids?


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Once Sully was in the car I saw Michael go over to say good-bye.

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I watched him smile and nod at Sully in the same playful way I used to when I would be strapping Michael into his car seat. Funny how I thought of that.



Then he bent inside and gave him one last hug.

After Sully’s Mom drove away I was aware of feeling so incredibly grateful.


It’s hard to explain, but all of a sudden I looked around and all I saw were blessings… I could tell Jim felt the same way.


“Hey Mom, is this going on your blog?”








*you can read more about Camp Recreation by clicking HERE.

in the meantime, I’m sharing this post at this lovely place:




Sharon @ Elizabeth & Co. said...

Wow Leslie, it's only 6 am and I'm already crying! Life sure has a way of putting things into perspective for us, doesn't it? But of course we need to be paying attention. And you have a lovely way of reminding us how important it is to pay attention. I had to scroll back and look at the expression on the face of Sully's mother - it speaks volumes about the love she has for her son. You certainly have some mighty fine sons there Leslie! Hope you had a wonderful birthday celebration! Being together is always the very best present possible!!!

Anonymous said...

Wow what a powerful post. I'm at a loss for words as I wipe away my tears. You must be a very proud mother.

Brandy~GreyLaneHome said...

Leslie what a heart tugger. You have really written a beautiful post and certainly captured a very special moment. My friend you have to be the best mom of the year. Every time you show us a glimpse into your sons, you also share what a great mom you are. They seem to be such wonderful guys. Thanks so much for sharing your family with us.

Sunflowers With Smiles said...

Lovely story, I need to grab a tissue too!...Such a wonderful experience for your son to do what he is doing for Sully too! I would be very proud!

Sarah said...

Leslie, you have me in tears. What incredible young men you have raised. I know Sully must have had an awesome experience. Thank you for sharing this post.
Yes, we should all take joy in the ordinary!
Happy Birthday to you!

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

Dear, dear Leslie!

I saw you on Carol's post this morning (such a kind post!) and meant to come by here to say hello; I've been cleaning house with the air conditioner on since we are having such hot weather outside! So needless to say, I got busy. But here I am on a break, and here you are. First of all, thank you for your visit and thoughtful response to my blog post, and I can see HERE that you have been on a similar wave length of balancing out things. I just came home to Minneapolis after a week-long visit with my family in Los Angeles/Orange County. It is there that it struck me that balance between high and invisible dreams and the reality of every day life is an important equilibrium to work out. FAMILY IS OF UTMOST IMPORTANCE and the every day workings of circumstances. It all sums up to the extraordinary, and that's what poetry has taught me.

You have an outstanding family dynamic and I know that each day has taught you so much....and that each day will continue to shed even more light on how precious your life is.

Thank you and stay COOL! It is so humid out there today!!! Anita

Anonymous said...

You have no idea how touched I am by this post, Leslie. I needed to read this today. Thank you so much. Sometimes, I think your posts are gifts from heaven.

Leslie said...

Leslie.. this brought me to tears. You must have felt so many different emotions. How wonderful that your family had this heart warming experience. The part that made me tear up was watching the Mom. Having raised two kids (age 22 and 24), I understand the range of emotion that WE (as Mothers) feel with all that happens .. or does not happen with our kids. Raising a normal (whatever that is!) child is difficult enough, I can't imagine having a child that's challenged emotionally or physically.

Thanks for sharing this event with us.

Elizabeth@ Pine Cones and Acorns said...


I have tears in my eyes reading this post. You must be so very proud to have raised two healthy, intelligent bUt more importantly compassionate young men.

Often time young men and women get a bad rap as being selfish and entitled. Your beautiful boy has shown a level of compassion that I believe has made an impact on sully and his parents. How wonderful for his parents to know that their child was not only well taken care of but thT was with two counselor s that shoed him compassion, understanding and love.

Thank you for the reminder that " to the world you may be one person but to one person you are the world."

I hope that ou are beaming from ear to ear, your boys are wonderful men and and a test image to both you and your husbands values, teaching and love.

Have a great night, Elizabeth

Dayle ~ A Collection of Days said...

Oh, Leslie ... tears are rolling, for so many reasons. For Sully, for his mom ... for Sully to have such a place to go where caring souls help him along, and for the caring souls who do just that ... and for their moms.

See? I'm just a blubbering mess now.

Unknown said...

Such a sweet reminder of how lucky we are to have those ordinary moments.....

What a wonderful job you've done as a mother, to give your son the gift of compassion.

You are truly blessed.

And happy belated birthday.

Daniela @Frugal Aint Cheap said...

beautiful post in so many different ways. You are a gifted writer

Highpoint Circle said...

What a wonderful son you have. A friend of mine once told me that when I felt sad at the moments of my child growing up to remember that some children never get that chance--either mentally or through disease. It was profound and it helps a lot when the heart hurts because of the growing up of a child.

Monica said...

Happy Birthday sweet friend - thank you for the early morning gift :). xo

Unknown said...

Hello Leslie~I'm having so much fun catching up on my favorite blogs now that I'm back home. This post touches me deeply and what a wonderful experience for your son to have this experience in life. I'm a School Psychologist and one of my assignments is with students with similar disabilities as Sully. Sharing time with my students is a gift every day. By the way, Happy Birthday! Mine was the 15th. Love a summer birthday. :)
Lovely post! xx, Heather @Stylemindchic

Vickie @ Ranger 911 said...

A good reminder to us all to be grateful for life's little moments. You have a wonderful son. Happy Belated Birthday!

I still get a lump in my throat whenever our girls leave after a visit. It takes me a day or so to adjust to the empty nest once again. Thank goodness for cell phones and email!

Donna@anangloinqu├ębec said...

I missed this post but so glad I am catching up. Camp was one of my fondest childhood memories. I absolutely loved going to camp and wish every child could have that experience. I think it is wonderful that your son gets to have that experience. The compassion and understanding that is developed in these times is truly irreplaceable.

Lori said...

Can I just say that everything about this post made me cry then smile at the wonderful son you have raised to be so gentle and caring. Sounds like a summer of change for you Leslie ~ sending you a big hug from the East coast this morning. xoxo

Pam Kessler said...

I am so happy that I popped over to see what you had been up to! Camp Rec sounds just like the kind of camp that my son goes to. You have no idea how much it means to me that my son can do something as normal as just going to camp. It's something that every kid should do. Thank your son for me for being a counselor! I think it's every special needs mom's dream for their child to have "normal" friends to hang out with.

Richella Parham said...

This post brought tears to my eyes! Thanks for giving us a glimpse into these special moments--the photos of Sully and his mom are just amazing. Please thank your son for his service! Bless you for raising such wonderful young men.

Sue said...

What a wonderful post. Thank you so much for sharing the pics of Sully and his mom. I can not imagine the joy she felt that her son had had a good camp experience.
Your son's compassion will be his greatest strength in life ~ you are both blessed.

thistlewoodfarm said...


What a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful post! Thank you for sharing your heart and making us feel like we were right there with you!

Happy day!

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