Getting Through the First Goodbye


All over Facebook and Blogland I see mothers of freshman students breaking down as they leave their babies on college campuses for the first time. And I wince for them, feeling the pain, just as when I see one of my kids getting a shot that I know will be good for them in the long run.

I was right in the midst of all those feelings last fall. I didn't know how often I would see or talk to my daughter. I didn't know how much I would know about this new life she was building and where I would fit into it. I think that's the biggest fear of moms at this stage. How will college life change our relationship with our kids?

What I found out pretty quickly though is that absence truly does make the heart grow fonder in this situation. Being away made her enjoy and really want to spend her breaks and vacations with us. We've had a lot fun together this year and I can see that we're on our way to that long awaited parenting promised land of friendship. 

College brought about other positive changes in our relationship as well. I learned that she makes a lot of good decisions on her own and she learned that her parents often have good advice. I got used to not knowing what she was doing all the time and she started sharing more about her activities. I gave up and let her spend her money without as many questions and she discovered that budgeting is important. I started to let go and she reached out. 

This stage of life brings a lot of changes, but they're mostly good ones. Once you get going, it really is satisfying and amazing to see your kids take off on this new adventure. 

So when freshman year comes, cry and hug and bemoan that your baby has grown up. I fully intend to do all that next year when I drop off my son. But also know that you're going to like many of the changes college life brings!


Why I Don't Want School to Start

Any of you who know me in real life are probably shocked to read the title of this post. Marie doesn't want school to start? That doesn't sound like her at all!

And it's true, that doesn't sound like me. I'm usually counting the minutes until the first bell by this time each summer! But this year I'm not quite ready to see summer end. Oh, I'm definitely ready to hear less bickering, but I'm not ready for...

No more sleeping in. Our bus comes waaaay too early at 6:17. Seriously, it's still dark part of the year at that time. Summer mornings are my friend. 

Less travel. This summer we've gone some fun places and the school schedule puts a damper on our adventures. 

Two girls entering middle school. That's scary. Girl drama in middle school is no joke and the thought of going through all that again makes me want summer to stay a little longer. 

Evenings filled with homework and sports practices. Need I say more? It's going to be hard to see the dinner hour shrink and all that busyness settle in again. 

And this...

My son is a senior. Freeze time and let's stay right here. I thought it would be easier to go through it the second time, but I'm already feeling sentimental at every sappy commercial and Facebook post. Finding an old photograph moves me to tears. It's not going to be any easier to let go of this guy than it was my oldest daughter.

Yes indeed, summer 2015 was an especially good one and I'm sad to see these loves of mine go back to school.




Congratulations, Dad!

Tonight I went to my dad's retirement party. It was fun to gather with my parents and their friends and celebrate. We're so happy and proud of him. It's a joy to see him enter this new chapter in life!


But just like most big transitions, impending retirement has its happy and sad parts. My dad described it as bittersweet. He said he's happy to be finished working, but it's a little disconcerting to think of the clock running down on your life. As his daughter, I refuse to entertain such thoughts all the while understanding exactly what he means. 

So Dad, let's talk here about only the happy things I imagine for your golden years!

I'm looking forward to getting to know you in a different way. I've always admired what a hard worker you are, but it will be nice to see you relaxing more often. 

I think it will be fun to see you and mom travel more and hope we can even travel places together. 

I'm happy you'll be able to pursue your hobbies at your leisure, instead of trying to fit them in during the evening or on the weekends. 

I'm looking forward to seeing my kids spend more time with you. I want them to enjoy more fishing. I want them to have more memories of swimming, playing tennis, and Christmas shopping with you. I want them to see you cheering them on at games and school events. 

I think you'll garden more and do house projects and spend time with the dog and be going so many places and doing so many things that you'll wonder how you ever had time for working!


May these years of retirement be blessed with people, activities and things that bring a smile to your face!


Role Reversal

Role reversal. You hear about it when your kids are babies and you can't comprehend it. Their dependence is so complete and you can't imagine there will ever come a time when they will try to "mother" you. Then they start to grow and learn the word no, thereby showing they have minds of their own and won't always be under your control. But still you think, I'm the parent and older, so naturally I'll always be the one just a couple steps ahead of them. Fast forward another few years and you get a text like this...


Okay, I don't know what to make of this because I'm only barely 43, and apparently already unable to dress myself appropriately. I mean I honestly can't think of a time in my life when I've been planning to meet new people and I've said to myself, yes this is the perfect occasion for workout clothes. 

It seems my kids now think I don't know how to talk, dress, or conduct myself. I'm forever being cautioned to not show too much enthusiasm, not to talk too loudly, and not to draw any undue attention. I'm told when and how I can sing, never to dance, when and how to spend my money and what to cook. I'm informed which things I'm requesting matter and which ones are silly and ridiculous. They bristle at my questions and take offense if I express any doubt about their directives. My children are founts of wisdom no matter their level of experience or knowledge on any subject.

I've heard from parents a little farther down the road that I will regain some of my competence as my children age. Until then, I'll keep riding this out listening to the do's and don'ts of my five quasi dictators. I'd laugh at the irony of it all, if only I was allowed to show mirth of any kind! 



$5 Fun

I'm always looking to change things around my house. New projects or major purchases can get expensive and stressful after awhile though. That's why I love it when I come across little changes that bring a big smile. 

Like potting these houseplants! I hadn't gotten any new ones in at least ten years, but I was in Walmart for some groceries and the nursery section just called my name. 


Getting a new kitchen rug in front of my sink. And the best part is that it was almost free because I had to use up some Kohl's cash. Yay!


Garage sale finds. This little bench was only $5. It was stained an oak color when I bought it, but a fresh coat of paint brightened it up. Now it's a little extra seating in my kitchen. 


Your turn. Have you found something inexpensive that brought you a little joy recently?


Goodbyes and Graduates

Eleven years ago, I walked into our local elementary school with my first and third graders. I had an almost two year old toddler and was pushing infant twins in a double stroller. We were quite an entourage to say the least! We were new to the school having recently moved and wondered what to expect. And honestly, after a whole summer at home I was a little shell shocked and ready for anyone to give me a break!


Yesterday, those little twins in the stroller graduated from fifth grade at that same elementary school and now my time there has come to a close. In a world where public education so often gets a bum rap, I want to say that this school gets it right. 

My kids received an excellent education there surrounded and supported by many loving teachers and staff. I will really miss it this August when I don't have any little ones to walk in on the first day. 

With elementary school ending, we say goodbye to so many rituals and rhythms that make up these childhood years. Class parties and seasonal crafts, room moms, bulletin boards, theme days, recess, and field trips. Late start times, short bus rides, dropping in for lunch, and watching class programs have come to an end. I know middle and high school bring their own advantages and perks, but elementary school is a sheltered special time in the life of a child. 

Fifth grade graduation has marked the beginning of a new era for each of my kids and we are excited to once again embrace what's ahead. These girls are ready for the increased independence and freedoms of middle school. They're looking forward to trying new clubs and new sports. They'll continue to grow and change immensely over the next several years, but I know they'll always hold a soft spot in their heart for Edmondson Elementary.




7 Ways to Fail at Family Dinners


They say eating dinner together makes you stronger as a family. I hope so because right now I would say only about half of our family dinners are actually pleasant experiences. The rest of the time we operate somewhere on the scale between teeth clenched getting through this the best we can and no one started crying or yelling so it's a success. 

Want to have a enjoyable family dinner? Don't do any of the following...

1. Mix younger and older kids at the table. Pretty much impossible to avoid if you have more than one kid, but try your best. If you live with teenagers, there will almost never be a meal where they are not annoyed, embarrassed, or tortured by the very existence of their younger siblings. They will grow out of it, but in the meantime, it's like walking a tightrope. 

2. Serve leftovers. There will either not be enough to satisfy everyone or it will be a food that someone hoped they might not see for a few weeks. There's just too much room for error.

3. Try to hurry dinner. No matter what the age, kids move slower the more they realize you're in a hurry. Do they usually blow through their meal in five minutes? Plan on thirty if you need to leave early. This will also be the night they spill something. 

4. Make the amounts on the plate uneven. It doesn't matter if it's a good food or a bad food, they will be looking around to see who got more macaroni and cheese, or who had to eat an extra sweet potato. And you will hear all about the unfairness.

5. Serve a food they don't like. Your unpleasant experience will begin as soon as they ask what's for dinner. You're making that just because you know I hate it. Yes, I am. I keep a list of what you hate and try to make things on that list as often as possible. 

6. Insist on table manners. We have been trying to teach manners since our kids were in highchairs, but seriously some nights we have to just let it go. I can repeat again, use a fork, or I can focus on the dinner conversation and hope that they aren't still eating that way at their wedding. 

7. Sit certain people next to or across from each other. There is a delicate seating arrangement that usually brings the most harmony. Messing with this balance comes at a cost. 

So are family dinners even worth the effort? Yes, because sometimes the stars align. Sometimes the mood is just right and we do have great conversations. We linger a little laughing. There's a fellowship and connection that's sweet. So sweet that it erases the memory of all our dinner failures...almost.