Empty Nest

The Way It's Supposed to Be

Big things happening!

Somewhere . . . out there along I-80 today . . . these two are heading to Denver.

To live.

As in . . . moving away.


They're really excited about it.

And, well, I am, too.  

Because this is what parenting is all about . . .

Letting go.

Sending off.

Watching them launch. . .

into their own lives.


We're going to miss having Brian live (fairly) nearby.


But we're so excited he's heading off . . . into a new life all his own!


Best of luck to you, Budd-0!

Sweet Child O' Mine

Soundtrack for today . . . 


When my sweet child was still a baby child, we lived across the street from a park . . . and on the other side of the park was an elementary school.  My sweet child used to stand at the picture window in our living room every morning and watch (with great fascination) the school buses coming and going.

Erin 9 months copy

I used to look at that fuzzy little head and smooch those chubby baby cheeks and think it would be a million years before she'd leave me and go off to school in one of those buses.

And I wondered how I would bear it.

When the time came (much sooner than the million years I imagined), I did bear it.

And I just kept on bearing it, as that sweet child swirled farther and farther out into the world.

Her world.


She came home for a visit last week, my sweet child.  

So grown up.

So independent.

So . . . just where she ought to be -- living her own life . . . her own way!


Still.  She'll always be that . . . sweet child o' mine!



The Latte Boy

A catchy-tune kind of way to start your day . . .


This summer, Tom and I are complete empty-nesters.

Erin lives in Pittsburgh now, and. . .

Brian stayed on campus for the summer, doing lab research full time

Last Friday, summer research came to an end -- and to commemorate the occasion, there was a poster session and lab tour.


I dropped in, along with my Mom and Dad, to see what Brian had been up to in the lab for the last 8 weeks.  Brian enjoyed explaining his work to us (we tried our best to understand*).


And then he gave us a comprehensive tour of his lab . . .


and showed us all kinds of nifty equipment!


Signs like this . . .


were everywhere!  So . . .


we obliged.

It was great fun for us to see where Brian's been spending most of his time this summer!


Not ALL of his time.

Because he also works here . . .


Yep.  Brian performs chemistry in a traditional lab setting by day, and caffeinated chemistry as a barista by night!


Brian, the Lab-Latte Boy. . .


We love him, we love him, we love him!



* Tom, the only other chemist in the bunch, was on his way home from Portugal and had to miss the poster session.

Closing a Chapter

The summer before Erin started high school, we made a sudden and unexpected move (thanks to a large pharmaceutical company who will remain nameless. . . ) from our comfortable home in a Grand Rapids suburb . . . to (then unknown) Kalamazoo.

What do you do . . . for your 14-year-old kid who is looking forward to starting high school . . . with her friends. . . in a familiar place. . . with her friends . . . where she wants to be . . . with her friends?

Why, you tell her she can decorate her new room ANY WAY SHE WANTS!

And, then. . . you don't bat an eye when she chooses THIS:


Yeah.  It was pretty hideous.  Bright yellow walls, sponge painted with neon purple and bright teal (which, I seem to remember may have been called "Lagoon Blue").

But, heck.  We had fun together, sponge painting those bright splotches all over the wall.  We both have happy memories of creating this . . . masterpiece. . . together.  (Even though it looked like, well, clown-barf.)

And, as it turned out, our new life in Kalamazoo was pretty darn good.  Erin had a great high school experience.  She made new friends, did some pretty amazing things, and made it through her high school years in fine form.

Erin with ducks
One of Erin's senior picture proofs; the photographer, Jeff Mitchell, took several shots in her room. Great idea; great way to remember her space! Because. . . things change.

And the walls in her room didn't look so bad, either.  Erin's personal style (at that time) was to cover the walls with pictures and posters and mementoes and do-dads.  You could hardly even SEE the  loud walls for all the . . . stuff. . . she had tacked on top of them!

But, then. . . she was gone.

Those walls, once they were empty of the do-dads and photos and posters; once they were bare . . . just screamed!


UGLY!  We are UGLY!  (Hideous, some would say.) We look like CLOWN-BARF!!!!

And yet . . .

I couldn't quite bring myself to cover them.  It wasn't so much that I didn't want to tackle the project (although, well, there was that). . . but I just wasn't quite ready to let go of that last piece of . . . Erin!

And so, I used the room as a storage "place."  I closed the door.  And walked away.

Until this summer.  I got itchy  to create a space for me to do my work.  I was feeling a strong need to separate my "home office" from my "work office."  I knew I could be more efficient if I could keep my two computers* on different desks. 

It was time.  I needed to tackle the walls in Erin's old room.  (Because, really.  The clown-barf walls just don't work for me.)

It's been a long time coming.  There was the Thinking About It; there was the Finding Time For It; there was the Deciding On The Color; there was the Wall Preparation (and, trust me, it takes a long, long time to locate, and then fill, hundreds upon hundreds of nail and tack holes in clown-barf colored walls); and, finally, there was the Actually Doing It. 



Now that it's done,


it's been totally worth it!  I'm pleased.

(Jenny is Not Pleased because I made her get off the bed for the photos.  She is quite thrilled with her new available sleeping options, and didn't like having to move.)

I even painted the closets (biggest pain in the ass ever).


And here's that bookcase. . .


I still have some finishing to do. . . pictures on the walls, a valance over the window blind, that kind of thing.  (The fun parts, actually.)  It feels good to have a pretty, functional, "new" space in my house.  And, it feels good to let the old walls go. 


Although I must admit that when I came to the last square foot of clown-barf wall, I paused for a few moments with my paint roller in hand.  I took a minute to remember sponge painting the walls with my 14-year-old daughter; how we giggled and gossiped together, how wonderful it was to share that experience.  Happy memories.

And then. . . I painted right over it!

The memories remain.  The clown-barf does not.


* My personal computer is an iMac; my work computer is an HP Windows laptop.  It gets complicated.



Beginnings . . . OR . . . Finding the Linchpin

As I wrote on Friday, I've got a lot of "projects" going on.  These aren't life-and-death kinds of projects.  Just things I want to (or need to) do so I can function more efficiently in the world.  And feel better about my surroundings.  And, shoot. . . just so I can find things when I need them!

And so.

I dug in.

First, I made a list - "brainstorm" style - of all the various "projects" in my mind.


(I often think this way.  Just sort of free-form, topical lists where I can "think" on paper, and draw and highlight as the mood strikes.)

Right away, I could see that some of my "projects" (organizing my sewing/crafting room, for example) are really independent of all the other "projects", and can be completed on their own.  Some of the "projects", though, are totally dependent on other "projects," and require my completing pre-requistites  . . . first. 

For example, I want to finish setting up my newly-painted guest room/small office (formerly known as Erin's room). 

But, to do that, I need to move a bookcase (housed in Brian's room) into the new room. 

And to do that, I need to empty the bookcase. 

And to do that, I need to find a place for the emptied items.

And that . . .  dovetails into another "project":  Going through the "leavings" from Erin and Brian; sorting and re-packing the "savers", and readying those items for storage.

Which actually bumps up against another entire "project":  Re-organizing that portion of my house that we lovingly call "TinyTown." **

Clearly, it's a total Give-a-Mouse-a-Cookie situation. . .


I needed to identify the linchpin in my project plan.  I needed to figure out where to begin. . . so that everything else could start sliding into place.

And when I started studying my list . . . I could see where I needed to start.  And I amost cried . . . just sat down on the stairs and cried . . . when I realized that my  linchpin . . . was BRIAN'S ROOM!!!


Any of you readers who have/have had college-age boys know the depths of my despair.  And those of you who don't have college-age boys . . . well . . . their rooms-at-home are a frightening place.  They are, in fact, everything you might imagine/fear them to be.

Sure, their rooms-at-home only contain the Things-They-Left-Behind.  You know. . . the high school detritus; the childish items and random toys; the collections they can't bear to part with; that sort of thing.  (And, really, how tough is that?)

But there is also . . . other stuff.  Crusty . . . things.  Stains of unknown origin.  A summer's worth of empty Gatorade bottles tossed casually under the bed.  Hidden (ahem) magazine stashes.  Old teeth.  (Yes.)  Things you would rather not have to deal with.  But, because you are a Mother, you just do.

And so.  I did.



Not pretty.  But clean.  And tidy.  And dusted.

It's a start!  (And the bookcase got moved as well!)


** I'll tell you about TinyTown some other day.  (I'm sure you can hardly wait. . . )



Movin' Out


This week, Carole's got us . . . movin' out!  Hit it, Billy!


I've had my share of moves over the years.  Across town and across country.  I've moved myself with U-Hauls.  I've been "moved" by relocation companies.  And I've depended on the kindness of friends and relatives to help me move.

I've been in one place now for nearly nine years (and that last move came compliments of a relocation package with packers and movers and unpackers, even), but my kids have not.  I've moved kids in and out of dorm rooms and campus housing too many times to count, and last summer, I helped Erin move to Pittsburgh.


So.  Yeah.  I'm qualified to address this particular Ten on Tuesday topic.

My Ten Tips for Moving (with input from Tom):

  1. Sort through your stuff before (or even as) you pack.  Get rid of ANYthing you don't want to deal with in your new place.  This is your Big Chance!  Thin out.  Have a garage sale.  Donate to Goodwill.  Recycle.  Just don't move something you don't need or want!  (And if you have professional packers move your stuff, just know that they will pack EVERYthing you have.  Even full trash cans.  Everything.)
  2. Get familiar with your new place BEFORE you move.  It's great if you have the time (and luxury) to paint or change out the carpet before you actually move in, but, at the very least get in and measure windows, check whether or not you need to bring a shower curtain with you, and have some idea about where you want to place your big furniture and belongings.
  3. Designate a "safe spot" to hold the items you want to bring with you to have immediately when you move in.  During our last move, for example, we desginated the bathtub as the spot to store things we didn't want packed into the moving van (medications, documents and records, overnight bags, tool kits, etc.).  When you're in the midst of a move -- with other people pitching in to help or moving you -- it's a good idea to have one central location to store things you DON'T want to lose track of!  Your "helpers" will know that one spot is off limits.
  4. Treat your movers well (whether they're professionals you've hired OR your friends and relatives)!  Feed them.  Provide water or Gatorade.  TIP THEM WELL!  They'll be so much more willing and helpful if you do.
  5. Create a tool kit of those items you'll need at hand while you're moving and unpacking -- and keep them with (or near) you all the time.  Tape measure.  Box cutter.  Packing tape.  Markers.  Water.  Toilet paper.  Clipboard/note paper.  Pen.  Cell phone.  Screwdrivers. 
  6. Locate local fast food and chain restaurants you can trust right away!  When Tom and I first moved to Michigan, we had to eat at "Clock Fine Foods" (the "Fine" was a stretch) for three days straight because we couldn't find more standard fare for awhile.  (Of course, this was in the pre-GPS days and internet days. . . but still.  Find your best options right away.)
  7. Once your "stuff" is "in" -- set up and make your bed firstBefore you do any other unpacking.  Because it's great to be able to settle in to a comfortable (and civilized) place to sleep when you finally get to turn in for the night!  (And, really, who wants to make up a bed when they're hours beyond bedtime and emotionally drained?).
  8. Set up your electricity, cable, and internet services in advance of the move so they're set up and ready to go on moving day.
  9. If you're moving yourself, be sure to rent a dolly.  It's totally worth the extra (minimal) expense.
  10. Relax.  Try not to get too overwhelmed.  It will all sort itself out.  Eventually!

How about YOU?  What are your best moving tips?


Join the fun!  Sign up for Ten on Tuesday here.

Calgon! Take Me Away!


Habits die hard!  Carole is on vacation this week. . . and there is no official Ten on Tuesday topic.  I seem to be stuck in the format, though, so I've decided to go solo this week.

Remember this commercial?


This week. . . could be me!  Here are Ten Reasons I'm Ready to "Lose Myself in Luxury":

  1. Erin is home for a couple of days before she begins her graduate studies at Carnegie-Mellon.  We're having a grand time -- but there are lots of things to do (like. . . Shop for Stuff and Eat Out.  Things poor grad students can't do on their own).
  2. Brian is leaving for Hope today.  He has different standards for packing and clearing out than I do, not to mention. . . priorities.  Enough said.
  3. There are about 8 pairs of shoes (none of them my own) currently clogging the mudroom doorway.  (Size 13s take up a lot of space.  Just sayin'.)
  4. I have been doing laundry - almost constantly - for 3 days.
  5. A college friend of Brian's has been staying with us.  While he is a delightful guest . . . my family room looks like a frat party exploded.  Can there really be only two of them?
  6. We are in a high state of Search Mode.  As in, "Mom have you seen my _____________?"  (Fill in the blank. . . cell phone, dorm bedding, sunglasses, Pull t-shirt, etc.)
  7. I have made at least 8 trips to Target and Bed, Bath, & Beyond over the past week.
  8. There is never a clean glass in my cupboard.  Not one.
  9. Tom had to hide his Gatorade in our bedroom.  (Most parents have to hide liquor.  We resort to hoarding Gatorade.)
  10. I am knitting lace.


Yes.  Lace.  Now. 

I'm currently at the half-way point of the Cladonia shawl lace section.  I was feeling pretty smug about it, too.  Half-way.  No disasters.  No rip-backs.  (Except for the feeling that the colors may end up a little more . . . Witch-at-Halloween than I had intended.  I was hoping for a light, fun, "party" kind of color combination; but the black is . . . well, blacker than I had expected; and the pink is more purple-y than I had realized; and the green? It is as neon-y as I expected.  We'll see how it all comes out.) 

But then, last night, I sat on my knitting and pulled the needle out of about 25 stitches.  Not too bad.  Except . . . some of it unraveled into rows below.  That took a while to sort out.

And then, this morning, while assessing last night's damage in the light of day, I realized I have been knitting the even (wrong side rows) . . . backward!  I forgot to read the chart from left to right for the wrong side.  I wondered why my lace seemed to have a different texture than expected.

So.  I'm just pondering right now.

Calgon!  Take me away!



The Kids are Alright

Soundtrack. . .


I've always been the kind of mom . . . who likes and appreciates my kids at whatever age they ARE.  Although I have many happy memories of their babyhoods and childhoods and adolescenthoods, I'm never wistful about "days gone by."  I never wish to return to the days of diapers or kindergarten or middle school (really not the diapers. . .).  I just like being a part of my kids' unfolding lives. . . at every stage.


That said, I can express, with total truth, that Tom and I had no trouble adjusting to The Empty Nest earlier this year.  We love the kids.  We like it when they come home.  But.  We like having our own routine, living by our schedule, only doing 2 or 3 loads of laundry each week.  We've become accustomed to knowing where the remote controls are. . . being able to find a pair of scissors when we need it . . . only running the dishwasher a couple of times a week. . . actually planning to eat leftovers AS ANOTHER MEAL. . . never running out of milk.  That kind of thing.

So it's a bit of an adjustment when the nest fills up again. . .  and I have a recurrence of my Worst Laundry Nightmare. . .


and it quickly becomes apparent why I can never find a clean glass (let alone a pair of scissors). . .


(Brian is on "Dishwasher Patrol" . . . but his standards are, well, different from my own.) 

My mudroom hallway has become an obstacle course of footwear. . .


and my family room has taken on that "man cave" look only appreciated by college boys ("What's wrong with it, Mom?").


The funniest thing, though, is that. . . I never SEE the kids (except at dinnertime). . . I just see their detritus.  Because they are really vampires.  They sleep all day (until dinnertime) and stay up all night.   Brian stays in the "man cave" playing "Black Ops" (and other equally loud games) . . . or goes out with local friends.  Erin misses her boyfriend and spends all her time in her room on her computer.


Even though her boyfriend is at home in Florida and she is at home in Michigan, thanks to the interwebs, wi-fi, and Skype, they can play games together, watch movies together, and chat together ALL of their (waking) hours!  It's almost as good as being together (except. . . not. . . as Erin so poignantly explains).

It's good to have them home for a time.  The kids are alright!  (But their . . . stuff?  It's got to go!)