Red Letter Day

I do not do mornings. I am not a morning person. Neither is my daughter, yet for five years, every summer, nearly every weekend; we did mornings, early mornings as we would get up, jump in the vehicle and head to that weekend’s softball tournament. For softball, we would do mornings…

However this week, we had to do an early morning, the first in some time as we had to get up early to head off for New Student Enrollment (NSE) at UNL. An unlike our previous early summer mornings; where she would put on her uniform and pull her hair back into a ponytail and I could put on my favorite ball cap, before heading out the door. On this morning we had to get up, get dressed, perhaps put on a little makeup and try to look presentable for the day. I can’t remember the last time I had been up at 5:00am, and I’m hoping I don’t have to see it again for quite some time. It was a quiet drive, unlike when traveling to a tourney, where the radio would be playing and she would be all chatter as we talked about the upcoming day. This drive was different, the radio still playing – but just a different feel in the car as we quietly drove along. It was different; we were on our way to prepare her for leaving, to help equip her to be able to step out into the world (or at least college), on her own.

Once close to the University, we followed the trail of cars into the parking structure and then the lines of students and parents as we all walked over to the Student Union to begin our day. Go here to sign in. If you have one dot on your name tag go here, if you have two, go here. If your dot is red, if your dot is blue – you get the picture. A quick 30 minutes and our “special interest” meetings were done and it was off to the initial morning greeting and explanation of the day. This is where it was further confirmed, what we had realized the night before viewing sample schedules; that our day would be apart. Not a big deal, but both of us had viewed this as another day to spend together, just the two of us before she flew the nest in August.

My morning consisted of 3 – 40 minute sessions on the topics of my choosing. Just helping us, as parents understand what our young adult child needed, or would be experiencing their first year of college. There was also an entertainment session where upper classmen involved in NSE performed skits with various college scenarios (oddly told through the eyes of Disney) that were indeed entertaining and allowed me to briefly forget how early I had gotten up that morning, or that the summer cold I felt starting just a day or two before was starting to kick my butt. Then there was a group session with other parents from the same “college” as our child. There were a good number of us with children perusing Education in various forms and while at lunch I was able to visit with some different couples who were sending their first or second child off to college and viewed my third child as making me “an old pro”. I had to chuckle, and explain to them that even though this was child number three, it was my first experience going through any NSE. My oldest, I explained had gone to school out of state, my second child and only son, basically told me I didn’t need to attend (boys). So even, though I had two other children in college, I was a bit of a first-timer with this particular experience. Having three kids in college this next fall was a bit of a wow factor, but became truly “cool” when I explained that I would have a student on each of the three major Nebraska campuses (UNK, UNL, and UNO). Someone also mentioned how “expensive” 3 college students sounded, I proudly explained that they all had scholarships and were attending college on their own merit and hard work. Adding that I was a single parent and they all knew from a very young age, that mom wouldn’t be able to help pay for college. That in order to achieve that goal; they would have to work hard to get there themselves. I know that even if I was more finically sound, I would not pay for their college. Don’t get me wrong, if they need help while they are there, I will do what I can to help them. One thing I offer to them is that while they are in college, I will help them with their phone and car insurance. These are two things that they pay for themselves as high school students. But, because I understand that they may have classes that require more studying; there will be activities that they will be involved in that may make it harder to work even a few hours part-time; I will help them in the small ways I can, encouraging them to continue working hard to achieve their goals.

After lunch, we took a short tour of the campus, visiting the mainstay places our students, the incoming class of 2018 would be frequenting. It was a beautiful day to be out and about, wandering quickly across the campus. Our tour guide was energetic and enjoyable; it was obvious she truly enjoyed being a part of the NSE team as well as being a Husker. Our final stop was again an entertaining one as some more NSE team members performed for us in “Who’s Line” style a few final comedic “college” situations. Although their Irish Drinking Song needed some work, I can’t stop chuckling about taking a “selfie” with a nearly dying squirrel. After a short survey, we were finally reunited with our impending college students, who had spent their day in similar fashion, including getting officially signed up for their first semester classes.

My daughter and I walked back to the parking structure and she shared with me some of the more interesting moments of her day. She shared that she had gotten all signed up for her classes, including the fact that one of them was at 8:30am twice a week. This is given a bit of importance as she will be finishing up with marching band practice at 8:20 on those mornings. Sounds like those first few weeks might be a bit interesting as she learns what will be the quickest way to class following rehearsal.

We then headed out to find a fast-food drive thru to grab a drink before heading off to complete our other task for the day. Next stop was a local tattoo shop for her first tattoo. This is something she has been waiting to do; but I told her she had to wait until she was 18 before she could get one. In all actuality, upon reaching 18, she certainly didn’t need my permission anymore, but I shared with her that I would like to go with her, if she didn’t mind. She had shown me some different ideas over the past few months and finally settled on just a simple tattoo with 3 bird silhouettes. I have a tattoo of my own and have also design the next one I want to get. So I played with her idea, adding her life verse (walk by faith, not by sight) among the flying birds. She liked my idea and we brought it along with us on our little adventure. The shop we went to (she did her own research of places in the area, reading reviews and even talked to someone who had received their tattoo from this establishment) had a “walk-in” artist available so we stopped in without an appointment. We literally just missed getting into to see this particular artist as someone arrived about 10-15 minutes in front of us. They asked if we could come back at 7:30pm (mind you it was only about 4:45 at this time, and my cold was really starting to wear on me) for an appointment with one of their regular artist. While waiting nearly three hours, wasn’t ideal, our time schedules just don’t mess up too much these days. She works M-F babysitting until roughly 4pm, often working at Pizza Hut one or two of those evenings immediately following. If she isn’t working at Pizza Hut, she is helping with her younger sister’s softball team, or actually umping a game. Saturdays are for friends, as they well should be. I work M-F as well, so… we stayed in Lincoln to wait for the appointment.

We drove over to a shopping area and I was able to find a pair of jeans for $12.00 (saving $45) and a cute top for $6 more. Then we went to an early supper after literally driving around the downtown area for 30 minutes trying to find a parking spot! I finally caved and just pulled into a parking garage (ended up spending a whole $1, as we were there for less than an hour). My daughter introduced me to one of her fave places to eat in Lincoln, Raising Canes. It was wonderful! She told me about a vegetarian friend who actually eats chicken when he goes to Raising Canes; and I learned why – YUM! We enjoyed our meal, including some “spot-on” lemonade and then it was back to the business at hand; her first tattoo.

The artist had took, my very small and not so great “image” and put it together a very presentable and wonderful image that was just what my daughter was looking for. Before long she was lying on her back and she had me take a series of Snap Chat videos to send to some of her friends. We laughed with the guys in the shop and they commended her on how “tough” she was being considering it was her first tattoo. I am so thankful I have the relationship I do with my daughter that she would not only value my opinion about such a topic, but want me to be a part of it with her. As we drove home, we talked more about our day, laughing about the skits and it was nice to hear the starting bits of excitement in her voice as she approaches this new adventure in her life. Although my “social butterfly” she is also my homebody and while I know she will thrive in college, I know she is a bit nervous about finding her place, her nitch along the way. That is why I am so excited for her involvement with the band and all the new people she will meet, as well as the places she will have opportunity to travel to.

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I will miss my daughter immensely, I think mostly because we have spent so much time together these past few years. All that time traveling to and from softball games, tournaments and practices just allowed us to bond differently than I had with her older siblings. Not to mention that we spend many a night up until nearly midnight watching Netflix, just spending quiet time together, not always saying much, but just enjoying one another’s company. I will miss her quiet company, watching as she sends often ridiculous Snap Chats to her friends or shares her most recent tweets. I often comment that she is so much like me (at her age), only without the fear. I see in her all the things I wanted to do, but was just too afraid to act upon. She speaks her mind, honestly and often bluntly; but because she is passionate and believes what she believes. She often says she was born in the wrong era, and that too might certainly be true. What I do know is that she loves the Lord, and she loves children; and that she is going to be a wonderful teacher one day. Thus allowing her sometimes unbridled passion to move her forward in life to accomplishing her goals and dreams.

Until the next moment,

And then there was one…

A lot has happened in the last 4 years..

grad-carrie   2011 – High School Graduation 

 

wedding   2012 – Wedding

grad-guy   2013 –  High School Graduation

grad-kay       2014 – High School Graduation grad-carrie2    2014 -College Graduation

As I sit here and look back at the past four years and all the accomplishments my three eldest children have accomplished. I am in awe of what they have done. They have all graduated in the top third of their class and due to a lot of hard work, they all received scholarships that have and will continue to send them through college. Which brings me to the fact that I have a college graduate! I am still so in awe of that one… only having gone to a tech college myself, I am so proud of all my children for taking the necessary steps to move forward in their lives and making college be a BIG part of that! So having one of them already receive a degree is so wonderful and awesome for me to even think about. A proud mom moment for sure!

And as child number three is living her last summer at home, I am brought to the realization that I still have one sweet child at home, my tag-along as I like to call her. The plan had always been 3 kids, all who would be out of the house before I was 50. Then roughly 13 years ago, when my current graduate was in Kindergarten, I discovered that God had a different plan for me. I had already been a single mom for a little over 5 years and struggling to say the least. What was I going to do, how was I going to make it work. I’ll save that story for another time, but it was in the later moments of that pregnancy that I understood my life was intended for more that I realized and although the first couple years were not easy in any way shape or form, God was shaping me… molding me to be who He needed me to be. Who that was has changed a bit in the last decade, but mostly in strength and confidence. The small changes are simply qualities that I have been able to pass on to my four children, most often by example.

Do they know struggle? Yes. But, because they do they also know perseverance, and what it means to trust and rely on God to get you through. They know that if you can battle through the tough stuff, you can come out stronger. And when we allow ourselves to cry over disappointments and we become more compassionate and understanding. They, as well as myself have learned to understand that our plans are not always His plans. It is then we must learn to trust and have faith in the path He lies before us.  To pray about the things we just don’t understand and then to quietly listen for His wee small voice. To be a living, breathing example of Him to all we meet and interact with. Knowing that they take this mindset with them into this world… another proud mom moment indeed.

My tag-along has mixed feelings about her sister heading off to college, with two other siblings already being gone. Cause even though they tease and torture her (as only normal older siblings do) she knows they love her and it was partially because of this I have allowed her to get a cell phone a year earlier than her siblings did. She will be in 6th grade this fall and they all had to wait until 7th grade. The advantages of being the “baby” I guess. 😉 This way she can text or call any of them when she needs to talk… when she has exciting news to share. I want them to stay close, to share their moments no matter where they are.

So as this summer is starting and will soon be winding down, I will continue to soak up the moments that my children share with me. Especially their time, I will joyfully enjoy their presence. I am so blessed that they are all (just recently), close to home and I can see them rather easily. I am also blessed to know that they truly do care about each other and have each others back when needed. Life is too short… we all learned that a couple summers ago. Enjoy every moment, share what makes you laugh and love those who are capable of loving you back. Allow God to show you who needs you to love them as well.

So as I adjust from being a mom of 3 under 3; to a single mom of 4; to a nearly empty nester with just 1 child in the house, I will continue to trust and rely on the God who has already brought me through so  much. I hope that with His guidance I can share these moments with you as well. The laughter, as well as the tears. The triumphs and the losses, the later which often teaches us the most.

Until the next moment-