The Almost Empty Nester

Saturday, May 20, 2017

She's Home

I'm still trying to wrap my head around it, but The Girl Child is headed home from her first year at college. I can honestly say it feels like a mere few weeks ago we drove her to school and left her there, a piece of my heart staying with her. The Hubby flew to get her and they're driving home right now.

I'm glad I can say that it gets easier, but I'd be lying if I said I’m 100% over this whole Almost Empty Nest thing. I’m not even close. I can see now that until Thing 1 and Thing 2 leave, and even for a while after that, I’m going to be adjusting to this.

And that's okay.

I hate to say this, but I've been disappointed in the lack of understanding I received this past year. I began to feel that people's response to me saying I was sad my Girl Child wasn't at home anymore was either a "Oh, I’m sorry" from those who still have kids at home (and wouldn't understand so that's cool) or a pat on the head from those whose kids are in their 20's and they're on the other side of the sadness. I've met only a choice few who hug me and say they love me and just listen. I adore these people.

Don’t get me wrong. I'm not upset with those who have responded otherwise. I get it. I really do. But I am trying hard to be sensitive to others like me. Moms who struggle with the change and sometimes just need a shoulder to cry on or a listening ear.

I think the biggest lesson I’m learning is that there really is no finish line on this. I imagined that as soon as the last kid is gone, I'd be sitting there sipping a yummy beverage with The Hubby, the two of us toasting a job well done - and we very well may do that - but I can see now that the relationship with my kids will forever be changing. It always has, it's just more noticeable now with them having their own lives. 

I'm excited to have The Girl Child home, but I know that this summer will look different than the last. She's a grown woman with her own life. Yes, she's living under our roof for a few months, but she's lived without our daily help for almost a year now. This changes things.

And we all know how I feel about change.

But I’m learning. I'm seeing the positives in the changes. Our conversations are so rich, full of insight and wisdom and life stuff. Not that they weren't before, but even with all it's drama, high school life is different than college. There's quite a bit more for her to handle.

And I’m happy to say she's handling it beautifully. I could not be more proud. She's adulting like a champ. The woman who will walk through my door in a few days will not be the same as the girl who left eight months ago. And quite frankly, I’m not the same either.

But, she's home. And I’m going to soak in every moment. I'm going to embrace the changes, and thank God that I get to have this precious person in my life and call her mine.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Slow Simplicity

I've been having trouble with my hip. It has slowed me down. And I don't like to be slowed down. I have a friend who says I'm a shark because I never stop moving. He jokes that he's never seen me actually sit down, at least not for more than a few minutes. And he's right.

But sometimes things like trouble with my hip slow me down. And I'm learning to see the importance of that. 

I'm embracing the slow simplicity of my life. 

I've mentioned in previous posts that my daily schedule changed quite a bit recently with my boys going to online school. No more carpools, no more getting up super early, no more crazy afternoons. I was listening to a friend of mine recently tell me about her schedule. I sat and listened and said nothing. She took my silence for what it was - I couldn't commiserate with her anymore because my world has simplified. She teased about hating me and we laughed over it. 

I'm also seeing what's important and what is not.

Spurred by various things I've been reading lately, I sat down about a week ago and literally wrote in my Bullet Journal what was a priority in my life. If something didn't fit into the five categories I have, then it got tossed. It's been fascinating to see how much smoother my days go, how the ebb and flow of my schedule is not stressful. I'm still getting a lot done, I'm just not stressing. It's huge

I'm enjoying the slow simplicity of my days.

By prioritizing, I'm seeing what goes and what stays. By making things go, I have more time for what stays. And it's a learning process. I had to re-work things again when I saw that I had put one category higher than another and it really needed to be the other way around.

I was able to get away with The Hubby last weekend, just the two of us. We had a lovely dinner with a gorgeous view. We went on walks where I used my new camera and actually stopped and took in the beauty around us.

I'm adjusting to slow and simple. And I'm finding I like it. A lot. 

Friday, March 24, 2017

All That We Love Is Fine

A few weeks ago I had my sister guest blog here. It was a letter to her sons a year after one of them went through brain surgery. She has four boys - my amazing nephews. I love them as if they were my own.

My brother-in-law visited recently. In the midst of us trying to get ready to go to dinner and beat the traffic and crowds, he stopped and said, "Hey. Everything we love is fine. All the kids are good. We're good. Let's just relax."

Sound advice. And a comment I've been thinking about quite a bit since he said it. I'm not sure if I'm a product of my generation in that we are programmed to go, go, go, or if it's my wiring as a forward thinker, mover, always ready to get on to the next thing instead of embracing what's right in front of me.

The Hubby and I were talking about it later. We both mentioned how my sister and her family had gone through the tremendous stress and uncertainty of the months during my nephew's surgery, as well as the summer before having to evacuate their home because a fire raged near their community.

This is real stuff of life, people. The stuff that makes you see what really matters.

All that we love is fine.

I hate to admit it, but it's all too easy for me to get caught up in thinking that what matters is making sure we miss the crowds when we go to dinner, or not go through the stress of traffic. But really? Come on, Lara. Piddly, little, nothings are those things that don't deserve one moment of thought or concern.

I've been thinking a lot lately about priorities. I even sat down and wrote out in order what really matters, numbering things from 1 to 5. In my Bullet Journal I use, I wrote in the first page the order of what matters to me in life. So now, as I write out my daily To Do list, I number things. What is most important? What is least important? In only a few days I can see how much this is changing my thinking. The little things remain little, the big things I give time and attention to.

All that we love is fine. 

A picture from a stroll I took on Sunday with The Hubby. :) 

Our pastor has been preaching on Matthew 6:21. Where is my treasure? What do I value most? These are good questions to ask, and also good to be brutally honest when I answer them. I try to ask myself all the time, "What is the goal?" Is the goal to have a perfect day? Nothing going wrong? Skip through tulips from sunup until sundown? Maybe, but that's not realistic. At all. Is my goal to have kids that never mess up? Also highly unrealistic. I'm not perfect. Why should expect that of them?

Would it really be all that bad to get stuck in traffic on the way to dinner? Irritating, maybe. But on the whole, no big deal. And if I choose a good attitude, I could see it as more quality time with the people I'm in the car with. The ones I love.

Because all that I love is fine.

And that's where my treasure is. That's what truly matters.

Friday, March 10, 2017

There Is No More

I walked with a new friend the other day. We connected in Bible Study over mutually questioning whether or not we were doing all we could/should be doing in a day. (I'd like to say right here and now that I broke up with the word "should" years ago, but it still tries to have a relationship again every now and then.) 

Anyway, we talked about the basic ongoing struggle as a mom to realize our value when the world goes Mach 2 and we are able to, or choose to, go at a slower pace. To the Mach 2 world, we can look lazy. (Another word I loathe). But we don't want to operate on what others think of us so we chatted about that too.

The bottom line is, we doubt our value when we wonder if there is more. 

And I've decided that there is no more

There is what God has placed in front of me today. And I am enough. All that I do is enough. Who I am is enough. 

I'm reading a book right now called A Millions Little Ways by Emily P. Freeman. I'm highlighting so much of it the pages look as if they were meant to be yellow instead of white.

"We are not trying to become a better version of ourselves. Instead, we begin to uncover the person whom we have forgotten we already are."
I honestly cried when I read that line. It was as if a two ton weight was lifted off my back. I am always striving for better, for more. When who I am, what I have, all I do, is enough.

We live in a world where it's easy to see pretty much everything people are doing. As my brother-in-law says, "We are all our own PR department now." Man, do I agree with that. It's easy to think that our neighbor's efforts to better the world are more important, more noble than how we care for our family and home. Or that our simple act of taking a friend a meal when they're sick pales in comparison to the next person's grand gesture that got hundreds of likes on Instagram.

"But there is a difference between embracing your smallness in the presence of Christ and feeling like a nobody in the presence of others."

Am I doing now what I'm supposed to be doing? Yes. Even if my pace seems slower than the rest of the world? Yes. I may have an Almost Empty nest, but I'm still raising these kids. And it's enough.

Please don't misunderstand me. Every effort to better our community, our world, is worth it. But for myself, I need to not get caught up in the comparison game or I start to think there has to be more and I lose my focus on what is.

There's a scene in the movie As Good As It Gets where Jack Nicholson's character stops in the waiting room at his therapists' office. He looks around at everyone and says, "What if this is as good as it gets?" Great movie. Great line. But it's not what I'm talking about.

I'm not talking about a ho-hum existence that's wrapped up in only things about myself. I'm talking about embracing what God has put in my life right now, throw my energy and resources into that, instead of always thinking I should be doing more. Something different.

There is no more. If I'm honest with myself, I don't need more. But the incorrect tapes in my head say otherwise. They say I could volunteer here or give more of my time there. Why?  I know deep down that all I'm doing is enough, but why won't I believe it? Embrace it?

It's time to re-program the tapes in my head with truth.
It's not about me. "If I sink hard into God, he will buoy my soul on top of the water."

I won't always be doing the same thing. (My nest will empty) "I don't believe there is one great thing I was made to do in this world. I believe there is one great God I was made to glorify." 

Be myself. Right now. Right where I am. "I can't imagine anything more dangerous to the enemy of our hearts than people who know who they are."

That last line gives me chills. I want to know who I am in Christ. I want to be that person. I want to get up each day and live for him, knowing that I can make a difference in this world for Him in a million little ways.

What about you? What is the "more" in your life you'd like to let go of? Or what do you love about your day that you want to embrace more?

*All quotes are from Emily's book. :)

Friday, March 3, 2017

The Good Parts Of Change

Thing 2 and I went to visit The Girl Child this past weekend. It was super fun. Not only did we get to hang out with The Girl Child, I got to spend a lot of one-on-one time with Thing 2. That's tougher than it seems when you have multiple kids, especially twins.

When we got home, I was talking to The Hubby about our trip. I relayed all the funny things that were said and done, but also the poignant moments and comments made. Most of all, it was fascinating to step back and watch the two of them together. All three of my kids are close. They are best friends and each other's advocate.

But as I observed the two together, I saw how each one had matured and changed over the past six months and how that mixed with who they've always been. How they tease one another, the private jokes they share now mesh with the adults they are becoming, the maturity that comes with time and experience.

I feel as if I'm coming out of the fog of sadness I was in for months when the Girl Child first left. But after this trip, I see that this journey to an empty nest will ebb and flow just like every other part of motherhood. I came home mourning the fact that we will never be just the five of us ever again. Yes, we will be close, but the kids will fly and create their own lives - as they should. But all of us under one roof, functioning as a unit just us? Those days are gone.

But the days ahead are full of joy and laughter as well. I know it. New memories to make, and at some point, most likely, new people as well as the kids marry and have children of their own. Our family will grow and that's great with me. My mama heart has room for more precious moments to tuck away and keep in my memory.

Friday, February 24, 2017

A New Vision

All three of my kids have gone to the same school since pre-school. The Girl Child graduated from there. Thing 1 and Thing 2 have also been there since pre-school, but just this past semester decided to leave and try something new.

I wasn't able to talk about it with many people because we wanted to handle the situation just right. There were lots of factors and feelings and relationships at stake. So we kept it quiet while we prayed and made the decision. They are now doing an online charter school. It's different from homeschooling in that I am not teaching them a darn thing. Which is good. I'd definitely be a liability instead of an asset.

On the whole, it's a new vision.

A new way of doing our day. A new way of doing our whole life, really. And it all has happened quite close to the time The Girl Child left for college. To say I've been a crazy mix of emotions is an understatement.

So far, it's going well. Awesome, really. They have a laptop they work from and they meet with their teacher every two weeks. They have a separate teacher for each class and talk with them via email, phone, or virtually.

It's a whole new world. A whole new season.

A world I am really beginning to enjoy. Instead of getting up at six in the morning, I can start my day around eight. Instead of carpool and tons of driving, I only have to go somewhere when we have an appointment or errands to run. I have the boys at home with me and we all work at the kitchen table together in the mornings then go and workout or do our day. I love it.

The freedom in our schedules is my favorite part. I'm going to visit The Girl Child soon and Thing 2 is going to go with me. We don't have to worry about missing school, he's doing all his work before we go. As stressful as it was during the time we were making this decision, I can see now God's hand in it all. I can see that although change is difficult, it can be very very good once I accept and go with the flow of what's new.

What are you having to view differently as a parent right now? 

Friday, February 17, 2017

A Letter From A Mama's Heart

One year ago this week my nephew, Brady, had brain surgery. At sixteen years old, the doctors found a cavernous malformation that needed to be removed. Over the course of a month or so, he was in in the hospital, in pain, unable to see most of the time, struggling with dizziness, and with an unsure future.

My sister never left his side. Not once. She didn't take breaks longer than a walk around the hospital to get outside for a few minutes, and refused to go across the street to the hotel for a full night's sleep. She slept in a pull out couch, of sorts, beside Brady's bed. Many nights she barely got rest because he was up in the night sick or the sounds that come from a hospital corridor kept her awake.

She recently posted a letter to her sons (she has four total - Brady is #3) on Facebook, recounting that experience and giving them advice for their futures. I asked if I could post it here and she gave me permission. It is a letter from a Mama's heart and one of the most beautiful things I've ever read.

*Brady is recovered, back in sports and school, and is doing fantastic. :)

"A year ago today..." Since January 15th of this year, we have been saying this quite a bit at our house. Remembering everything from the ambulance ride that started a journey that Brady had no idea he would be on, to celebrating a whole day of not throwing up, to an aborted surgery, to a ten hour day in the OR and many days, weeks and months of Brady working to regain strength and function.
Thanks to social media, these memories are popping up almost everyday now with pictures and lengthy descriptions. I am moved to tears often as I click on all the beautiful comments and encouragement, some that I am seeing for the first time! It has prompted me to write a brief list to Brady and his brothers as we celebrate and reflect on the journey and miracle of the past year. 
1. Understand and know the love of your Heavenly Father and Savior that gave everything for us! This truly gives unexplainable strength and peace to face the challenges of this life. This was on display with you Brady everyday at the hospital.
2. Seek out, cultivate and cherish a community of Christ followers. At a time we were so depleted, I have never felt so full and so rich. Meals, visits, PRAYERS, hundreds of posts with reminders of God's promises, encouraging scripture and love. The only way to explain this peace over you Brady is the huge number of prayers being lifted up on your behalf.
3. Family is a treasure. Families have history, memories, loyalty and an unconditional love and bond. There is also great value in extended family. We were so blessed to experience this with family from near and far constantly by Brady's side.
4. Marry someone that stands on the same foundation because when life starts shaking, you want to be standing on the same solid ground! You will need a life partner that is directed by His Holy Spirit. As dad lovingly took the computer away from me one night in the hospital as I sobbed reading that this bleed may result in walking with a cane forever and double vision that may never go away, dad held me and told me that Brady and our family could face whatever was in front of us. He wasn't making that up, he was speaking truth knowing that we had the Lord regardless of what was ahead. This is also the man that I sat with in an office with the doctors as they explained every step of surgery and all the things that could happen. There is no one else I would rather be with than your dad.
5. Have insurance - you never know what life holds for you around the corner!
6. Invest in and care for people. It is worth the sacrifice of time and money. We have been the recipients of this and I cry now thinking about all that people did for us. I think of all the people giving up a whole day to sit in a hospital waiting room and many did that twice! The trips back and forth to Denver to see Brady, the countless gift cards and meals. All of it meant so much!
7. You won't understand the love your parents have for you until you are a parent but just be reminded that no one else on earth loves you more and even as you grow up and launch out of our home, we will always be your biggest fans, we are for you, always here for you and think you are amazing.
Maybe all this is not appropriate for Facebook and in fact I am going to have to show this to Brady and Dylan because they don't have Facebook, but we shared so much with all of you last year, it made sense to now share these thoughts a year later. Filled with gratitude to the Lord and all of you!