joy.love.family.

Summer has nearly come to an end and oh how August has flown by! After over two months of my kids being anywhere and everywhere; rarely under the same roof, I finally had three of them at home all at one time! The calendar however was a significant and daily reminder of two of their upcoming departures. So for two full weeks for my daughter and then one more week for my son, we would cross off the days until they would be leaving for college, heading out into the world on their own.

The days seemed to pass so quickly, just like the summer. Before I knew it, the count for my daughter was in single digits and my heart just wasn’t ready to let go. My most recent high school grad, my late night Netflix watcher, I was not quite ready to let my baby girl leave. I know she is more than ready to take this next step to move out into the world and take it by storm, this mom’s heartstrings just didn’t want to be cut quite yet.

But, against all attempts to avoid, they have been cut and I am happy and excited for her as she starts her new adventure! We had a lot of fun moving her in and she let me help by putting up her pictures and nick knacks. Her brother and younger sister were able to be there as well, along with a good friend of both my older children, thus making it a family affair indeed!

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We walked across the UNL campus and had lunch together, laughing and sharing the last precious moment before the dynamics of our family once again changed. Walking back across campus was a bit quieter, even somber. Then as my two children who would return home with me told their sister goodbye, the hugs were hard and long and it made this mom’s heart happy to see how much they love and would miss one another. Then came our goodbye; and it was not so much that I didn’t know what to say, it was that I couldn’t find the words to say it, to say anything. As I hugged her and held her close, I simply whispered “be amazing”. Then I looked her right in the eye, our faces nearly touching and told her once again, that I loved her.

She headed up the sidewalk and around the building; I backed out of the parking space and drove away. Tears brimming in my eyes, but as promised; my son had plugged his phone in and had his music playing. To keep my mind occupied, he had told me. It worked, for the most part, with only a few silent tears falling. Nothing like the sobbing that I have done, at least a half dozen times in these past few weeks. So, I made it home in one piece and was then entertained by numerous Snapchats as she let me know how her day and evening was going… battling the heat as she was auditioning for Marching Band. She was certainly settling into her new element.

Sunday morning arrived and after church I checked in with her; she was still busy with rehearsals, awaiting her actual audition. Her audition time arrived and then it was the long (only 3 hours, but that’s too long!) wait for the roster to be posted. She texted me a little after 8:00pm that she had not made it, I could sense her sadness and certainly felt my own. She was still going to be able to be active with the band as she had already been chosen to be a part of the Big Red Express Pep Band that will perform for the Women’s Volley Ball and Men’s Basketball this upcoming year. As we chatted throughout the evening, she asked me if I was disappointed. I told her NO, I most certainly was not, I was sad… but so very proud of her making the effort, of actually trying! Besides, just like she had said herself, she would have next year. So instead of Band Camp, she has had this past week to settle in and get acclimated to campus, take a road trip to visit a friend in Iowa and just enjoy herself before classes start this coming Monday morning. My social butterfly has flown away, but she has already shown that she will do well as she moves forward. She will not only survive, but thrive in her new environment.

Next up to leave is my son. I am excited to share that he is ready to begin his second year in college with a new outlook on who he is as well as college life itself. My quiet, more introverted son had a bit of a rough first year away from home and as much as I wanted to intervene, I knew I needed to stand back and let him walk on his own. I let him know I was there for him, that I loved him, and if he needed anything… but I knew I couldn’t hover, I needed to let him figure it out on his own. Allow him to be the man God was directing him to be. It took him a bit longer to see what that was, but last spring things really started to take shape for him. He felt directed, led… he had purpose.

He came home and even after a rough start to college life, he was excited about what lie ahead and did the footwork to make things happen. He got his position as a Camp Counselor and spent the next 8 weeks investing himself in the lives of others, allowing God to work through him and to help grow into an amazing person. My son became even more awesome in my eyes this summer. I am so proud of the direction he is moving towards and excited to see what might lie ahead.

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Moving day with him was just yesterday and it was a wonderful day to say the least. I woke Jessie up a bit early so the two could say their goodbyes, as she could not come with us as she was finally back in school. Before we headed down the road for his sophomore year at UNK, he helped me drop off his little sister’s flowers that she was entering in the state fair. Then we were heading west and ready for a new year. We arrived on campus and it was more than a bit crazy! Last year he was able to move in early because of one of his scholarships, and just last week with his sister it was again a small number of students as it was only band members. This was my/our first experience of Move-in Day on a college campus when everyone was moving in! A 30 min unloading time didn’t really give you much time when you spent the first 10 minutes in lines and filling out paperwork. We managed to get everything unloaded (in not too much over the 30 minutes) and then we were ready to unpack and set up his room. In order to approach school a different way this year, he opted for no roommate, thus hopefully less distractions. He has a great room at the end of the hall, which too should prove to help keep the noise and distractions to a minimum. We had to get creative with the extra bed and desk as they had to remain in the room. We made it work and in the end, he had a great space that he can enjoy himself in and still do what needs to be done. Then it was off to grab lunch before I would once again drive away one child less than I had arrived. After one last trip to his dorm room, he walked me to my car and gave me a big hug. I hugged him back and just like his sister, made the purposeful effort to make sure we made complete eye contact when I told him I love you!

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I cried a bit more on the drive home than I had the week previous, but to my defense, I was in the car alone… and that’s rough! As I drove along the tears were a mixture of sadness and joy as I thought about the summer with my son, the time spent together, and the movies we enjoyed. Watching him come out of his shell… seeing him smile on a regular basis. These are the things that warm this mom’s heart. I had made bread last weekend after taking his sister to UNL and after she made a surprise visit home not even 48 hours after leaving, taking two loaves back with her. I delivered one to the State Fair Monday evening and left the last loaf with him yesterday. He texted me earlier today, saying, “The bread is amazing! Thank you.” I told him thank you and that I hoped the judges thought it was amazing too!

Last night was the first real night with only one child in the house. We spent the evening re-watching last season’s Master Chef Junior and made Brownie Popsicles! We also snapchatted with Kayleigh and ended our evening watching a movie. I’m sad to report that we both fell asleep on the couch. I tucked her in right where she was and moved myself off to bed.

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Our lives will be so different now. Only one school schedule to contend with and learning to cook for two will be interesting and a bit difficult to get used to. I have always had a houseful of kids with lots of activity. To think that just 3 short years ago, I contemplated Foster Care after my oldest child headed off to college because I didn’t know what I would do with myself. Last year after my son left, I started to change my mind. And just like some of my dear “motherly” friends had earlier told me I would; I am enjoying the quiet. I have more quality time, which includes quantity time to spend with my family and friends. For example, a couple weeks ago, I was able to drive to Omaha to see my oldest daughter and spend the day with her. It is an added blessing that she and her husband are now only two hours away instead of eight, making such visits a possibility. This also only puts her an hour away from his sister while she is a college. I see, lunch dates and shopping sprees in their future.

It was over two decades ago when I first learned I was going to be a mom and once the initial shock and fear went away, I have been able to spend nearly every day enjoying being a mom. It hasn’t been easy, nor at all as I may have planned. Mr. Right was Mr. Wrong and after that I continued to struggle as I tried to build the type of family society expects to see. But what I finally learned, and fortunately I did so fairly quickly; is that sometimes the unconventional is OK. Sometimes, unconventional is the better way for a given situation and it changes lives. As some may already be aware, I grew up in an extremely dysfunctional household and in doing so was taught that certain behaviors, even when wrong become acceptable. You allow them to take place because you just don’t know any different. That’s just the way life is and you have to deal with it. What I eventually discovered on my own (and with God guiding my way) is that children really do learn by example and if I allow someone to mistreat me, or my children then they will look for people in their lives who will treat them how they have learned to be treated.

By raising my children alone (along with the help of a surrounding village) and showing them what a strong, healthy and happy person is and that you can be that sort of person on your own. I gave them a chance for change, the opportunity to break the cycle. I taught them, hopefully showed them, that you can be happy even if you don’t have a significant other to share your life with. I know that my children, especially my daughters understand the value of loving themselves and being happy with the girl/woman that looks back at them in the mirror each day. I know that my son, having grown up in a house full of girls (poor boy) that he knows how to treat women with respect. Do I wish I had someone to share my life with, to share my family with? Yes, one hundred times yes! But I have shared so much more with my children. So much more than I can truly explain. There is a saying about single parents, it goes like this:

Being a single parent is twice the work, twice the stress and twice the tears but also twice the hugs, twice the love and twice the pride.

It most certainly is and I wouldn’t change one single moment of the last 20+ years, because they have been filled with overwhelming joy, love and family.

Until the next moment,

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