empty nest, family, parenting, retirement

Seriously. Who Sped Up Time?

Since we’ve been married, we’ve lived about a decade in three cities.  My husband’s job has not taken us to exotic locations but across one country and into another.

The first decade – the baby decade – was spent in Edmonton, Canada.  Four of our boys were born there all at the same hospital.  I learned to be a mom there – from some amazing women.  It was home to West Edmonton Mall.  What’s not to like?  new-google-image-edmonton

The second decade – the young children decade was spent in London, Canada.  Yes indeed. There is a city in Canada called London.  I took my mothering job seriously and was so good at it.  I was the ultimate soccer mom.  Our youngest was born there – at home with a midwife.  Global_Twitter_Template_LondonOntario

The third decade – the teenage children decade – was spent in a small suburb of St. Paul Minnesota.  That is as exotic as we got.  I took everything I’d learned from Edmonton and London and tried to apply it to “St. Paul mom of teenagers” life.  It was hard.  It was busy. Still, I didn’t hate it.  My teenagers were busy and energetic and crazy.  I was crazy.  minnesota

I used that decade to not only take care of them but take care of me.  I went back to school.  Finished up my degree I’d put off for years.  Went from stay-at-home mom to working mom.  It was hard.

Slowly the kids started to graduate and move on to college.  Then weddings,  Then graduate school.  Some are still in college in some form.  I’m a navy mom now too. You already know I’m a grandma.

Our youngest graduated from high school a few weeks ago.  No fanfare.  No celebration. He graduated a semester early.  I’m going to be honest, he’s the least scholarly of our children (sorry honey – it’s no secret).  Still his brothers are baffled as to how he (of all of them) graduated early.   Apparently, it can be done.  When you really don’t like school – you can make it happen. You find ways.

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Yet another picture of the “young prince”.  #sorrynotsorry I paid a lot of money for this photo shoot and he’s not even having a graduation party or anything where I can show them off. 

That baby is leaving in a few weeks to go away to work in Wyoming.  He’s going to college out of state in the fall.  He’s hoping he’ll be able to stand school again by then.

So here we are.  All of sudden the nest is empty.  What in the world?  10 seconds ago it was chaos with five children.

I’m kind of excited about it.  I know, I should be crying in a puddle of tears.  I’m not.  I’ve worked hard for this empty nest.  Am I a bad mom because I’m not sad they’re all grown and gone?  I miss them.  Oh, how I miss them.  But I’ve done a good job.  We’ve done a good job.  What’s there to be sad about?

I’m looking forward to the next decade.  We’ve got some exciting plans in the works.  I’ll blog about that.

Tell me about your empty nest.  How’s it going?  What do I need to know?

family

I Worry and I Grieve, So I Blog

I worry.  I’m a worrier.  I used to worry about my children.  I still do but not as much.

They’re all almost grown and I don’t see them much. Their careers have taken them far and wide. My youngest is 18 and ready to fly the coop in a couple of weeks – off to Wyoming.  I still worry about him but it’s becoming less and less.

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Isn’t he handsome? He’s as good as he is handsome.  This week I cherish every picture and every moment with him.  Even when he’s being a bit teenager-ish

Now I worry about my littles.

Over this past, horrible week, I’ve felt some relief knowing that my youngest child will soon be exiting the walls of high school, forever.  He’s done.  That chapter is finished.   No more worries about sending him off to high school and then seeing a news flash that there’s a shooter there.  I won’t have to worry about that anymore.

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First day of school – I make him pose for this picture every year – he hates it. I can think of some parents that wish they had taken more pictures like this – even when their children were hating it.  I’m so sorry for them.  My heart breaks for them.

Wait a minute.  My oldest little is turning 3 in a few weeks.  That means that within a two years, he’ll enter public school. I’m sure his parents are already worrying about that.  

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Just practicing being at school – thank goodness.

But grandmas REALLY worry.  Maybe it’s because we have less control over situations with our grandchildren.  We can’t rescue them like we could our own children.  We can’t make important decisions for them.

Grandmas just watch from the sidelines – and hope and pray that they will be safe.  That’s all we’ve got.

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Just watching – from 800 miles away. Sometimes he sets me down on the floor so he can play – with me beside him.  I stare at the ceiling.  I don’t mind.  I can still hear him.

My littles are going to grow up in a world much crazier than the world this momma is about to leave behind.  That makes me worry.

I don’t have answers to the world’s problems.  I don’t hate guns.  Some of my children are very responsible gun owners.  They are good people who have learned about guns, know how to use them and keep their guns safely secured with a number of systems I don’t understand.  If they want guns, they should have guns.

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These two cuties LOVE their guns. They took me with them once.  I didn’t like it.  The guns made me nervous.  I won’t carry a gun.  But they have worked hard to have those guns and they are nerdy careful with them.  So careful.

My diet of donuts and chocolate and french fries is more likely to kill me than a gun will.

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My DREAM birthday cake – a cake of donuts. Dreams really do come true but sometimes not until you turn 50.

Still, I worry.  I worry about crazy people who go into schools, or malls, or stadiums, or hotel rooms –  that want to hurt my littles.  Maybe I worry because I was involved in a terrorist event a while back – The Boston Marathon Bombing.  I’ve seen what evil can do.  I was there.  I was running. Oh – and there were NO guns.

I’m tired of hearing the fighting and bickering – with no solution.  “It’s Trumps fault”.  “It’s the NRA’s fault”. “It’s the FBI’s fault”.

Whatever, people.  I don’t care whose “fault” it is.  Unless you have a real solution – keep your DAMN mouth shut and quit pointing fingers.

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The Blame Game.  It doesn’t help.  It fixes nothing.

I don’t know the answer.  I don’t have a solution.  This is not an easy problem to solve.  Parents and siblings and friends are grieving.  Grandparents are grieving.  The blaming and pointing fingers aren’t helping them in their grief.

Can’t we all just get along and quit being so nasty?  No wonder people are crazy enough to shoot children.  We have such great role models of decency and respect –  in our faces – everyday (that was sarcasm).  Try a little kindness.  Be a little more thoughtful.

This country needs a momma-grandma-bear to put everyone in time-out. Then maybe she can stop worrying.

 

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Traditiooooon ….. TRADITION!!

I can hardly, rarely, ever say or think the word “TRADITION” without a few bars of Fiddler on Roof’s Tevye singing “Tradition” running through my head.  It’s practically impossible for me.  Because tradition is a big deal.  It’s the thing of family solidarity.  It’s what brings us together.  It’s what helps us keep our “balance“.

And so, for your viewing pleasure, here’s the link to TRADITION

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… “and because of our traditions, everyone of us knows who he is and what God expects him to do“.  I love this.

Traditions become a topic of conversation at Christmas time.  At the company “Holiday Party” we are often asked, “Do you have any family traditions?”  To which I can readily answer “Why yes we do”.

Our traditions and have changed over time.  The traditions we kept with young children like putting out milk and cookies for Santa on Christmas Eve are no longer recognized.

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Some traditions are diehards – must do – can’t miss type of traditions like reading the Christmas Story from the Bible on Christmas Eve.

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Also White Christmas.  That’s a must.  At least it is for me.

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One of our favorite traditions has always been The Annual Gingerbread House building night.  Every year I would buy the little kit and everyone would gather around to make it.508a354e-2bcb-48c0-844f-039c4d9e94c2.jpeg55F6B280-22C2-4F0E-9040-757115B4A6AB

Such innocence.

Sometimes we’d keep it for display and sometimes we’d give it away to a family that needed a little extra Christmas spirit.  BUT we ALWAYS, ALWAYS made one.  It’s TRADITIOOOOON.

Over the years, however, it’s gotten a little more elaborate – often involving a competition with our best friends down the street.

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The Burrow versus Stable Scene

How do you judge which Gingerbread house is better when you have the teeny tiny stable scene versus the home of the Weasley family – AKA The Burrow from Harry Potter?

The Gingerbread creations began to take on whole new meaning … and mess!

These creations were often (thankfully) undertaken while I was at work – once the big boys got home from college.  This particular creation was pretty much an EPIC FAIL – but fun was had by all during the creation.

But it got crazier.

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There was no sleep the night this one was made.

That year the judging between the two families was done by the Grinch himself!

This was last year’s Gingerbread House.  For some strange reason, I had the mistaken thought that adding daughters in law to the mix would perhaps tame the TRADITION somehow.  And it did … sort of.

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Gingerbread House 2016

Look at the beautiful little Gingerbread Village.  So peaceful and calm – that is until the REBELS rolled in and the battle ensued:

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… oh boy …

…. and turned the place into a bloody war zone.  I mean SERIOUSLY?!?  Is nothing sacred anymore?

Well, take heart my friends.  The tradition has now extended to my children’s children.  It’s sweet and tender.25289572_10154920682901555_4661012489584801745_n

I had a gingerbread kit all ready to go to send to this cute family but they beat me to it.  This TRADITION is important to them and it does a grandma’s heart good to see it continuing with the next generation.  All is well.

As for this year’s Gingerbread House – apparently construction begins on Friday when our #4 gets home from college.  He has already spoken with his brothers about it and plans are being drawn up.  Who knows what they’ll come up with this year.

Are you seeing any traditions continue with YOUR next generation?

Christmas, family

Christmas Gifts – Don’t Get Crazy

It’s time to start talking Christmas.   We probably should have started talking about this a few months ago but here we are.  By now, I hope your Christmas shopping is well underway.

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(FYI:  This is NOT my tree or gift pile!) 

I’ve made good progress on everyone – everyone that is, but the littles.  On one hand, they are super easy to buy for but on the other hand, what on earth could a two and one year-old possibly need?  If there was a year where we could probably get away with very small gifts, this might be the one.

Nonetheless, buying Christmas gifts for grandchildren is different than for your own children.  It seems that there might be some sensitivities surrounding it.  For example, grandpa found a “kitchen” that he thought would be a great gift for the littles.  It was huge!  It was expensive.  I said absolutely not!

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… and these two cuties are NOT my littles

I feel like it’s not our responsibility or our place to outdo the parents – which is an easy thing to do when the parents are just starting out and have a mountain in student loans.

I just might have some backup on this philosophy.  Here’s what I read over at Grandparents.com:

From the moment Dorothea Hover-Kramer’s oldest grandson asked her for a bike, she dreamed of Christmas morning — and the look on the boy’s face when he’d find the shiny two-wheeler under the tree. Still, she says, “it was kind of a big present, so I thought I’d run it by my daughter [the boy’s mother].” Her daydream was quickly dashed. “My daughter said, ‘No, we’ll get him the bike.’ I said, ‘He asked me for it,'” says Hover-Kramer.

Hover-Kramer was disappointed, but she backed off. “As a grandparent, I’ve learned to be the peacemaker and accommodator,” she says. Her daughter and son-in-law bought the bike while she chipped in for the accessories, including a helmet and a lock.

I totally understand this scenario.  I would definitely be the one wanting to buy the new bike.  But really – is it my place?  I think it’s good to ask permission to buy such a gift.

Here are some other ways gift giving can go – again from Grandparents.com:

  • They ask you to buy a big gift, but you can’t afford it
  • They demand you run your gift ideas by them
  • They forbid you from buying certain toys
  • They ask you to go easy, but you had big plans

Do any of those sound familiar?  I haven’t experienced this yet but with 5 children, their spouses, and any number of grandchildren, I’m anticipating every one of those scenarios at some point!

So grandmas tread carefully.  It is Christmas but take it easy.  Let mom and dad be the hero – unless they ask you to step in.

We’ll be keeping it simple this year.  Maybe a few books and some Hot Wheels cars. I am working on a fun project for them but shhhhh… it’s a secret.  Something from my own children’s childhood that I think they might enjoy.  This might be the only year I can get away with a sentimental gift as opposed to a gift from Target.

Grandmas – tell me what you think.  Is it tricky for you?

 

 

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Grandlittle #3 – It’s A …

Oh – I just can’t stand to keep a secret any longer.  It’s a …

GIRL!!

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Sherry and Lauri – you were right!  And so was Audrey over at Minnesota Prairie Roots.  (check out her blog – it’s one of my favorites).

She’s arriving in APRIL.

As soon as my we found out, I was immediately told that I could NOT go shopping.  Too late, I already have a drawer full of of baby girl clothes that I’ve been collecting for quite some time.

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Pink Suckers for these cuties – they’re getting a SISTER

The boy streak has ended – it was 7 in a row for this family.  Ten if you count my husband and his two brothers (no sisters).

Needless to say we are over the moon excited.   Truth be known, boy or girl – we would still be excited.  Another little to love.

 

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Super Visit with the Littles

Phew – when did life get so hectic?  Practically no kids at home and yet still no time.  I definitely had more time as a stay at home mom to five little boys than I do as a working full-time and mom to one (at home) … or have I just forgotten.  Nonetheless, I’ve got some catching up to do.

Part of my busy-ness included a trip to see the littles.  It was just so lovely.  We did virtually nothing – as recommended by our Go Grandma followers:

Kristy B. (Minnesota): O. loves it when Grandma & Papa to get down on the floor and play and read to her!

√ Reading

I packed these two new books which were a hit!

I dare you to try to read “Love You Forever” to your littles without getting teary.  I. DARE. YOU.

There was so much “get down on the floor playing too”.  The most precious words ever:

“Gwama … you want to pway wif me?”

Music to my ears.

“Yes  …. yes I certainly do.  Which garbage truck can Grandma play with?”

It was so much fun.  We drove miles and miles of garbage truck around their little apartment.

MacKenzie H., (Minneosta):  My very energetic parents always try to do something new with my kids. Something they’re scared to do or I don’t have time to do with them (or don’t want to 😂) they’ve taught all my kids how to ride a bike, taken them to restaurants to try new food like sushi, challenged them to learn the monkey bars.  This has created so many rewarding memories for them that have nothing to do with “things”.

The littles are a bit too little to do anything very new quite yet but we did enjoy some puddle jumping.

I get it.  When you’re a young mom with two littles – going outside and getting all wet and cold in puddles and then trying to clean up after that is just way too much work.  Puddle jumping – now that’s a DREAMY job for a grandma.

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Yes – this little is wearing running shoes.  Don’t judge.  His coat is super cute though.

Shortly after the puddle jumping adventure – we went straight to TARGET to buy these puddle jumping boots.  DYING!  I love them so much.

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Kelsey M., Minnesota:  My mother-in-law does lots of fun things with all the kids together, but she also does individualized “dates” with each grandkid when she visits so that everyone feels really special.

Yep – I plan to be THAT mother-in-law.  I am sooooo looking forward for the individualized “dates”.  For this visit, we had to settle for a YouTube dates at 6 AM while mom and dad got a few more minutes of rest.
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We had such a fantastic visit.  It came and went too quickly as usual.  But we got the BEST surprise every while we were there …

Grandbaby #3 – coming in April!!

Will it be a BOY or a GIRL?

Comment below – boy or girl and I’ll feature the winner in my next post!

 

 

family

Sending Packages – PART II

Gosh, life gets so busy sometimes.  It’s a good kind of busy but it’s taking my time nonetheless.   I’m looking forward to the day when I can move from what has to be done to what I want to do.  Is there such a day?

Time to finish my thoughts on sending packages.  Mostly they center around gratitude. When we receive something in the mail, I’m sure our first thoughts are to thank the sender.  But life just somehow gets in the way despite our best intentions.

I mentioned in my last post that my littles used to get a lot of packages from their grandma.  They did outgrow the desire for candy-filled packages, but I also wonder if grandma got burned out from sending packages with no gratitude in return.  My fault – I got busy.  I had good intentions and I was grateful for her kind attention to my children.  It’s just that there were five of them and my husband was gone on business and it was … a lot.

So many thank you cards bought but not sent.  Cute notes made by the children that I never got around to mailing.  Phone calls that should have been placed but instead I put the kids to bed early so I could get those clothes washed or the dishwasher unloaded. ALISONHARDCASTLE105

I’ve heard mothers and mothers-in-law commenting that they “never get a thank-you” when they send gifts.  Well, grandmas, I don’t think those children are ungrateful – I just think they’re moms are darn busy and you’ve forgotten what that’s like.

It’s hard being a mom.  It’s exhausting.  You’re lucky to put a meal other than chicken nuggets on the table let alone pen another thank-you card.

Those daughters and daughters-in-law are not ungrateful but they kind of get a bad rap sometimes.  They’re trying hard.  Many of them have to work full-time and then come home and work full-time some more.  It's tough being a working mom

So let’s lay off the gratitude guilt.  Be grateful that they are spending the time reading bedtime stories to your littles and maybe even taking a little rejuvenation time for themselves.  They’re grateful.  They know you’ve spent time and money.  They appreciate it.  They’ll show you that gratitude as they lovingly care for your littles – for every waking moment of their day.