Category Archives: Parenting

Between Sunset and Sunrise

I survived. So far. I may or may not have cried the whole time they loaded the cars. I may or may not have cried half way there. I may or may not have cried most of the way home.

I did not cry in the dorm. I helped him move with all the appearances of a sane mom. I didn’t sob while we were there. I only shed a tear as we said goodbye.

It was a good day. It was easier than before because it is a familiar school and because Oldest Son and his wife were there with us to help him navigate. We’ve been to this place before, we know how to move into a dorm, we know what to take and how to pack and unpack. That was all good and easy. His room is “just like I imagined it would be” according to Youngest Son. It is ready to go, down to the pictures on the wall. We have never left a dorm with a kid that settled. And his roommate is a known. A good friend from high school who is also in band. In so many ways this is easier. The other two boys went potluck and we are 50/50 on how that turned out. Youngest Son is a step ahead with a fellow band member and friend.

It was a really hard day. So much harder than before because this move carries so much more change than one kid moving. Just like the birth of our first son moved us into a new season in our life together, this youngest ushered us out of that season. In the course of a day, that transition we have seen on the horizon for a few years now happened. That thing that was looming, is.

As we drove out of town, past the Konza Prairie with the lush rolling hills and vast skies, we saw the most breathtaking sunset. The intense colors, the movement of the clouds, the warmth of the sky were stunning. So symbolic of that season coming to a close in a blaze of glory like a God-painted sunset. It was beautiful and somewhat fleeting. I wanted to pause right there and soak it in. To hold onto it as long as I could.

20160814_202659But sunsets are fleeting. No matter what you do, eventually the sky will turn black and the stars will be left. And then comes the darkness before the hope the next sunrise brings. It can seem like a long and daunting night. It is dark and cool and lonely. It feels empty and a bit crushing.

I know the sun will rise again and it will be beautiful, when I am ready to notice it. The colors will be vibrant and the anticipation will lift my spirit, waiting, watching carefully to see the new day and all it has to bring. But the night, it’s hard.

I am reminded of the time after my dad’s death. The sadness was overwhelming. And yet I was reminded many people have gone through the same thing. Some much younger than I, some much more traumatically, some much more painfully. My experience was not particularly unique. And yet it was the first time for me. It was the only time in my life I will lose my dad. Just as this is the only time in my life I will send my youngest off to his first college dorm. It is hard. It is raw and painful. And yet people do this all the time, and survive. I will too.

My curiosity today is how do we allow ourselves to honor the sadness, accept the change, take time to grieve what used to be? I am truly grateful that I have had the opportunity to take my kids to college. That I have had the joy and honor of getting to walk with them into adulthood. I know not every parent gets to this point. I know they are on a great path and going to experience amazing things. They will each make a good difference in our world. I am excited for that! I look forward to seeing what they accomplish, where they go, who becomes center to their life. That is all good and right!

It is also and right for Mom to take some time to experience the darkness of the night. To be in the place in between. It is OK to feel dark and sad and maybe a bit scared. My heart is tender right now. I feel like I should have some kind of warning beacon for those around me. Be gentle with me for a while, my heart is a bit beat up.

I will be OK. Just give me some time to adjust to the quiet.

 

 

 

 

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On the Precipice

There are times in your life when you realize, you are at a junction, a turning point. When life is about to change in big and irreversible ways. There is a certain sense that washes over you and makes you take pause and think deeply.

The first time I remember this happening was when I got engaged. I was so excited, and yet realized life would never be the same. It was a good change and I was most definitely happy. But the truth was, life would change. That in between time of anticipation is rather daunting.

The same thing happened as we neared the end of our first pregnancy. And our second. And our third. Life was about to change drastically. All joyous and happy changes, but yet a touch of mourning for the life that you are leaving behind. The freedom you had before children giving way to the joy of watching all their firsts. Wondering how you could possibly love another child as much as you do the first. (It is possible!) Never regret, but reflection, and a bit of sadness.

Like the time between getting a contract on a house and closing. The in between can be brutal. The anticipation of what’s to come, the hint of second guessing choices, the excitement of the change.

Then there is taking the last kid to college. All the same emotions, the fears, the anticipation, the reminiscing, the hope, the guilt, the confidence. As one of my favorite authors, Jen Hatmaker would say, “we have all the feels here” and then some. I find it interesting that an event can be so contradictory, so emotion filled. But it seems to be a theme in life and growth.

There is much to look forward to – I have started my Empty Nest Year 1 Bucket List. I can’t wait to do all the things on that list. (I might even add -Get back to blogging – to that list!) Things we have put off doing for years or just weren’t an option when the kids were home. We have plans to attend lots of College marching band performances (aka football games). We have a trip planned and are working on a girls weekend, and couples weekend away with friends. It is exciting and freeing and going to be so much fun! We’ve put in a lot of hard work to get here. We did our parenting job and so far it appears we did a decent job. (The proof of good parenting is not immediate- it’s really a bit of a crap shoot. You do what you think is right and years later get glimpses of what worked and what missed the mark or was completely forgotten.) This is our time. Our chance to remember who we were as a couple. Way back in the day. And figure out who we are together today, sans kids. It is good!

And yet there is the hint of melancholy, the tear just about to fall. It has been 22 years since we have lived alone together. By far, most of our adult lives we have had these men in our home. We loved the noise, the chaos, the tension and laughter. We were good as a family, together, every day. I’m going to miss those interactions. I will miss hearing about their day, knowing their schedules and daily activities. Hearing about who they are spending their days with. It is right and good. They are supposed to leave home. I get that. They will be fine. We will be fine. I will be fine. But this is another one of those moments when I stand on the precipice of change. Change I asked for (‘cause who wants their kids to live at home forever?!), but change none the less.

Tomorrow will be a sad day. And a happy day. I will cry. Maybe a lot. And I will laugh, definitely  a lot. I think it is the right thing to do to honor all those feelings. To embrace the sadness and let the tears roll. To laugh together and make our own plans to fill the free time we are about to have. And hey, we have kittens so that’s almost the same, right?

Post Script: After I wrote this, I got to thinking about when Oldest Son left for college. I remember sobbing as I wrote. It was so hard. I went back and read the post. Made me tear up again and laugh too. Second Son’s departure was indeed as painful or more so than Oldest. I just couldn’t write during that time. I can tell you in a couple of days if Youngest Son’s truly was easier or not.
What I hadn’t even contemplated when writing that post, was having Oldest Son get married! A whole other range of emotions! (And, yes, I like her a lot:)!)
Yes, I deserve some kind of grace for having this much change in less than a month! And wine. I deserve wine!

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Filed under Family, Goals, Intention, Legacy, mom, Parenting, Senior Year

Not a Dreamer After All

I used to fancy myself a dreamer. A possibility thinker. I remember the ambitions I had as a teen. I was going to move away, to bigger and better things. Blaze my own trail and leave a lasting mark on the world. Maybe international business? Live abroad? The skies were wide open and the possibilities were endless.
Somewhere along the way, my world shrunk. The ideal became a little less lofty and I started to think more about what is attainable. I began thinking in terms of what was reasonable and realistic. Sort of the “Let’s face it you’re never going to…” mentality.
Somewhere along the way between the world-is-your-oyster high school years and the middle-aged, near-empty-nester year, I became a realist.
Maybe it was becoming a parent, or buying a house or some other step of adulthood that changed me. But it’s ok. For me. It’s ok to think practically, to be realistic about the future.
However, I think it does my kids a disservice when I can’t embrace their dreams. When I burst their bubbles with my “realistic” views on life. It limits them. It squelches their creativity and instills doubt.
In my effort to paint an honest picture of life, to give them a realistic perspective on what the grown up world is like, I take away the option to dream. The freedom to dream the big, hairy, audacious dreams. The ones that scare the bejeebers out of you and excite you at the same time.
I have only recently come to realize this about myself. I have a dear friend who lets her kids dream. In fact she supports their dreams. And prays for their dreams. Even the big, unrealistic, pie-in-the-sky dreams! I admire that. And yet I don’t do it.
It’s hard to shut off the logical, ordered, down-to-earth, focus-on-what-is-realistic part of my brain and engage the dreamer again.
We all need to dream! Especially young people. There is a great, big, world out there and the ability to envision yourself changing it is priceless. Without the belief that you can make your dreams come true, what do you have? What pushes you, drives you and makes you revise that idea/paper/design one more time? What makes you reach a tiny bit farther, try that move one more time, reach out to one more person?
We must be able to dream.
We must be able to create and nurture our own dreams without doubt standing behind us whispering in our ear.
I don’t want to be the doubt for my kids. I want to be the voice in their head that says, “If this is what I really want, I’m going to make it happen!”
So go, my sons, dream really big dreams! Imagine, what if…! Put your heart into your dreams, work your 10,000 hours! Become the expert you want to be!
I believe in you!

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Filed under Advice, Family, Goals, Legacy, Parenting

For What it’s Worth

A coworker had to leave work early today because her 4 year old was sick. Not sick-sick, but the “school” insisted she be picked up since she had been to the bathroom 4 times with diarrhea. Understandable. The mom was frustrated. Leaving work meant no pay. That means less rent money. She was a bit exasperated. Understandable.
But I so wanted to say, “embrace this moment!”
Go home and hold that little one in your arms. Cuddle her and tell her stories and listen to her breathe. Be present in this moment. Shut out the world; the rent, the job, the fact that she wasn’t running a fever and just hold her. Put your jammies on and pop in a silly movie or better yet, grab her favorite books and read.
And soak up every detail of that little one. Soak in her smell and the way her hair gets in her eyes and the quirky way she describes things. Be present in this moment and commit the memory to your heart.
For one day, one day that seems so far away, she will be too big to sit on your lap. She will be too busy to take time to read with you. Her life will grow bigger and bigger. She will become the confident person you raise her to be. And one day that confident young adult will spread her wings and go her own way.
And though you are so proud of who she has become, every now and then, you will wish you could have a “sick day” with her again. A day to shut out the world and just be.
Life with young ones is hard. And it is so easy to get distracted by the demands of life. But remember, those little ones are only little for a very short time. The blink of an eye.
I know you are exhausted, worried and a little overwhelmed. I have the luxury of speaking from somewhere near the other end. Many things seem clearer when you are looking through the lens of time.

Mason 22
For what it’s worth, I don’t regret one single moment spent cuddling my sons. Not one.
I don’t regret the days we spent in our pajamas or the lunches on the living room floor.
I don’t regret the silly stories they told again and again. In fact, I wish I had listened more carefully.
I don’t regret all the sick days or even all the puke I cleaned up!
Just a little perspective from a mom who’s been there.

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Memories of Dad

Thinking of Dad so much. Here are the words I shared at his funeral. Thankful I did it and thankful I captured my thoughts at the time. Writing is so cathartic for me.

The last time I stood here with my dad was 23 years ago tomorrow when he walked me down this aisle to give me away as I married my husband Dan. I find comfort in saying goodbye to Dad in this place that holds so many good memories for all of us.
I’ve always cringed at eulogies or speakers who get up at a funeral and wax poetic about their perfect loved one. It always leaves me wondering about their weird habits or strange quirks. I promised myself that given the opportunity, I would tell the truth. Just like dad. He didn’t really sugar coat things. You always knew where you stood with Dad.
So here it is.
I have an amazing Dad. But he was a unique guy.
He has longer finger nails than any woman I know. I didn’t realize how odd it was until friends started asking. It always made me chuckle a bit when someone would say, “um…your dad has really long finger nails…”. Yup, he does. And wouldn’t you know it, I did not inherit them!
Dad liked a lot of strange foods. Who remembers being offered pickled herring? Nasty stuff and he loved it. And my sweet, generous mom stifled her gag reflex many times to make him beef or chicken liver.
I was a teenager before I found out not everyone had orange juice with their pizza. But we did. And when we have mom’s amazing cinnamon rolls, dad dunks them in his orange juice. And so does Scott.
But I think the strangest might be the pickled beef heart. According to my unofficial research, we may be the only family in the world that ate it!
Dad also came up with some crazy inventions. Like the side by side bicycle so a blind person could ride a bike. I know some of you looked at his inventions and thought, what the heck?
But what I saw in those was creativity and optimism and possibilities and potential. That’s what my dad was really about. Seeing a problem and immediately dreaming up a solution. Working through all the scenarios in his head and developing a way to make something work.
He had hope. He believed in potential and had the ability to imagine impossible things, especially when it comes to designing. Like a ramp for the scooter, a 3 stall garage or a theater in the church. He always had an idea in the hopper. And he believed in his ability to make it happen.
Anyone who knew Dad knew he had a generous spirit. Dad was a helper. From tools to trailers – dad would loan whatever he had to someone in need. And he was generous with his skills, talents and expertise as well. Just looking around the church you can see the physical impact he left on this congregation.
I will miss picking up the phone to describe the sound the car is making and get his thoughts on what might be wrong. I will miss being able to call him when I’m lost and have him point me home. But I am at peace knowing his body is now whole. And I believe he is telling a story to my uncles as they all sit around a workshop or piece of machinery.
Dad loved my mom fiercely. From the days when he pursued her as a teenager through the really lean times and the good times. He loved her until the end, always taking care of her.
I see my dad in each of my brothers. In Doug’s quiet contemplation with the wheels always turning, in Phil’s take care of business take-charge attitude that comes when something just has to get done and in Scott’s honoring of our past, respect for where we have come from and how we got to where we are.
Today, I can’t help but think what an amazing witness my dad gave to everyone he met. Micah 6:8 says …And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
Well done Dad.
A life well lived.

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Filed under Family, Legacy, Parenting, Thankful

Would It Be OK?

Would it be ok if I just take a moment to pause? Would anyone mind if I stopped this crazy spinning life for just a few minutes, or maybe a few hours?
You see this little man is graduating high school very soon and I’m not ready for that. I don’t mean the food or the decorations or the celebration.
My little man
I mean my heart.
I think I just need a moment, just a little more time to talk with that sweet boy. To listen to a few more of his ideas.
It went so very fast!
I was so busy. There was so much to do each day. Diapers to change, laundry to be done, a job to go to, just so much that had to get done. I tried to be present in the moment. But the moments went so fast.
It seems just the other day he was the shy little guy who hid behind me refusing to talk to anyone but his dad and me. The little blond with that infectious smile who could melt my heart at the bat of an eye.
Just that quickly he’s graduating high school and I’m not sure I’m ready.
I want to hold him on my lap and listen to him telling me about his day. Watch him create things out of recycle bin treasures.
Suddenly he’s taller than me. Ready to leave home on a summer adventure. And I’m not ready.
So would it be ok, if we just stopped for a minute or an hour?
Maybe we could all have an extra moment to hold our babies tight. To breathe in their baby scent and squeeze those little boy cheeks. To look deep into those blueberry eyes and tell them we love them soooooooo much!
Just for another minute.
DSC_0591g-001

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But Wait…There’s More

I got a text from Oldest Son tonight.

“So we picked an apartment.”

My response?

“Ahhh!!!”

What I really wanted to say is, “Wait, just hang on a second. I forgot to tell you some things.”

Lots of things actually. Things like deposits and renters insurance. Utility deposits and the cost difference of gas verse electric heating. The importance of reading the fine print before you sign anything. I suddenly felt apprehensive, like when we first left him with a baby sitter. Or when you drop them off at their first overnight camp. Did I remember to tell him…

I think that’s the hallmark of parenting; always feeling like there is more to teach. More life lessons to share. I know  I continue to learn from my parents, the lessons just come differently. More of me asking and less of them telling if that makes sense.

The reality is, he’s a smart kid. Actually, he’s a smart man. He’s 20 years old. That happened when I blinked. He is smart, and grounded, and responsible. There really isn’t anything to worry about. And I’m not so much worried as maybe awakened; brought back to reality. I think back to how terribly hard it was when he left for college. How I was so happy for him, but really unsure of how I would survive with him gone from our daily routine. I survived and we settled into a new normal. He does his thing and we love having him come home every few months.

I guess this was just one more step on his journey to creating his own life. It’s all good. He will be fine.

The bonus is I have three sons! That means I get three chances to do it right:). Next up, Middle Son heads off to college in the fall. And then I learn to have kids at different colleges with different schedules and a long ways apart. And we will go back to having one son at home. Youngest Son has never been the “only child” in the house. What will that be like?

Life is again changing at break-neck speed, just like when we went from a couple to a family of 5 in 4 years and 4 months. It will only take 4 short years to go from a family of 5 to empty nesters.

Life it is a changing.

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