Grand-parenthood awaits me. Our middle daughter and her husband are expecting our first grandchild, a little girl. Sugar and spice and everything nice. And we can’t wait.
But that’s exactly what we must do. Wait. So as the due date nears, we’re just hanging around waiting for our granddaughter to make her appearance. And to kiss those little toes that will fill these tiny little socks.
You know that old saying, “Good things come to those who wait.”
I’m having a hard time waiting for this good gift, this little blessing, from the Lord. But wait, we will. She will arrive when she is ready and Papa and I are more than ready to be her grandparents. We’re ready for our family to start connecting the dots.
“Grandchildren are the dots that connect the lines from generation to generation.” ~Lois Wyse
He brought a bright red sack full of Christmas stockings filled with goodies for our children who, of course, are actually adults.
Mama had to kick it into high gear and get the decorating completed and the gift shopping finished and she readily admits online browsing for gifts surely did help. That and a one night get it all done or bust shopping excursion with Papa.
But despite the whirlwind and flurry of getting an early Christmas ready and waiting, we succeeded. Shiny lights and wreaths adorned the exterior of the house. Garlands and candles and festive decorations bedecked the inside.
The Christmas tree flaunted its finery and stacked beneath it gaily wrapped packages awaited opening. The once empty bedrooms were ready for nestling in beds with visions of sugarplums dancing through heads. The pantry and fridge stood stocked and equipped for good eats and despite fighting off some sinus crud for a few days this week, Mama, with the help of Papa, prepared for a weekend of celebration.
One by one and two by two they arrived to celebrate an early family Christmas because of work schedules for the medical duo and travel schedules for the adventuring twosome and crazy busyness of new job and new home for the other couple.
First to arrive on Friday night was son driving all the way from a brand new home in the state on the other side of us with the grandpuppy in tow. Daughter-in-law would be picked up at the airport Saturday morning as she flew in from a business trip.
The second homecoming brought oldest daughter and son-in-law, tired from a long week at work and a long drive here yet excited to be together with the family before they leave on their grand adventure to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro and sightsee in Africa.
We snuggled with puppy, we chatted, we ate, and we howled with laughter all over again at the crazy holiday movie, Christmas Vacation. And we enjoyed each other’s company as we waited for the last couple, middle daughter and son-in-law, who arrived Sunday morning since daughter was in a friend’s wedding on Saturday.
Mama rose early on celebration Sunday to whip together a most yummy crock pot version of hot chocolate for breakfast and begin Christmas dinner preparations when the door opened and the last of my loved ones finally arrived.
There was much hugging and laughing and talking and it was one of the most relaxed Christmas celebrations I can remember for quite some time. We opened our gifts with exclamations of surprise and gratefulness, gathered around the dining room table for a simple but filling Christmas dinner, and topped it off with singing the birthday song to oldest son-in-law as it was his special day.
And all too soon, time came for departure.
We joined hands full circle and prayed for safety and well-being during the grand adventure taking place this month and for safe travels for all as two by two they left the homestead. Again we embraced and even shed a few tears this time.
As the door closed after the last couple departed, Papa and I gravitated to our usual spots in the family room. The quiet enveloped us once again here in the empty nest. For us, the family Christmas is over. Oh, we’ll still celebrate some more by attending Christmas Eve church service and taking time to contemplate the wonder of the most amazing Gift ever given to mankind on Christmas Day.
But for now, I’m left with a sink full of dirty dishes, loads of towels and sheets to launder, Christmas gifts to put away, torn and crumpled wrapping paper to dispose of, leftover food to eat…and memories. And for that early Christmas gift, I am most thankful.
“The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree: the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other.” ~ Burton Hillis
We gleaned Pinterest for weeks before the shower pinning more ideas for decorations, favors, and food than we could possibly manage but in the end, we found some adorable aspects that we incorporated into the event.
The evening party was held at my house the day after Thanksgiving and we had a bit of snow which certainly added to the wintry theme. Since baby is a girl, we decided to deck everything out in pink and white.
A few days before, my friend Pam helped me craft a cutie patootie snow girl made out of newborn diapers. We thought she turned out great! She graced the gift table which sported a background of white and pink tulle with snowflakes and icicles hanging from it with fishing line.
Oldest daughter and I constructed a garland for the fireplace by stringing cord and attaching baby socks with tiny clothespins. Then we added Epsom salts to Mason jars to look like snow and inserted white votive candles inside the jars. Daughter also created a festive Baby, It’s Cold Outside sign on a canvas covered with chalkboard paint to be the focal point on the mantle.
Since it was an evening party, we kept our refreshments simple: chicken dip with crackers (Ritz ones had snowflakes imprinted on them), French vanilla cupcakes with pink icing flavored peppermint and snowflake sprinkles, veggies and dip, white chocolate covered pretzel rods, white cheddar snow ball snacks, meringue cookies, and an assortment of pink and white candies.
We set up a hot chocolate bar with an amazing, rich crock pot recipe. Toppings included whipped cream, mini marshmallows, cinnamon, mini chocolate, toffee, and crème de menthe chips, sea salt caramel and chocolate fudge syrups, crushed peppermint candy, and pink, white, and chocolate sprinkles. Oldest daughter made cute snowflake stirrers to add to the festivity. We also served a pretty pink cold punch as well.
We played two short games – trivia questions about pregnancy and babies and guessing the top 10 most popular names for baby girls in the current decade when baby will be born, the 80’s when my daughter was born, and the 50’s when baby’s grandmothers were born.
Game prizes were usable items for winter (tube of hand lotion, lip balm, packet of hot chocolate, a glass jar candle with holiday scent, and a snowflake ornament) all dressed up in cute gift bags we decorated.
“Burn this tea light on the night, once the stork has made its flight. With a flicker of the flame, please say a prayer with baby’s name.”
Blessed by the generosity of family and friends while opening their presents for baby, I think this gift of life that will join our family this winter became even more of a reality for my daughter. But the most moving moment of all was when she opened the last gift.
My mother, my children’s grandma, loved making handcrafts and quilted, sewed, knitted, and crocheted. She passed away 15 years ago after a battle with cancer and of course, we miss her still especially during family gatherings.
Before Mom died, she crocheted a few baby afghans for future babies that would join our family. I tucked my share of them away for such a day. So I wrapped one of those lovingly made afghans in a box and added a note explaining that Grandma made this before she left us to wrap her future great-grandchild in her love.
It may have been cold outside for this baby shower, but love warmed us all during the party.
“Winter must be cold for those with no warm memories.” ~ Unknown
My 30 days of thanks giving are winding down and the countdown to Christmas will begin soon. If you’re a steady reader of Mama’s Empty Nest, you know that family means the world to me as I do write about my loved ones often.
I consider myself ultimately blessed to have a close-knit, loving family – don’t get me wrong, we’re certainly not perfect and we have our squabbles but we love each other enough to work things out and forgive one another. I realize many folks can’t say the same. For those who struggle with family situations, my hope for you is that you find caring, supportive folks who will love you within the family of God.
Not all of our immediate family is able to venture home for Thanksgiving Day tomorrow. Many miles separate us but love binds us together and I pray it always stays that way as our family grows and increases.
I’m grateful for the loved ones who will be around our dining room table tomorrow, including one of son-in-law’s buddies who can’t be with his own family clear across the country. And I’m so thankful all of my family will congregate to celebrate Christmas together before oldest daughter and son-in-law leave on their grand adventure to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. (They are top left in the photo above taken two years ago; middle daughter & son-in-law who are expecting our first grandchild are top right; son and daughter-in-law are bottom left, and of course, the two who started it all – Mama and Papa – are bottom right.)
And for now, I’m thankful for a house full of people I love and the opportunity, God willing, to all be together again for Christmas.
“You don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them.” ~ Desmond Tutu
Many little girls dream of the day when they become mothers. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t.
Oh, when I was young, I played with dolls and pretended to be a mommy to them. I had tea parties with my dollies and did all the usual little girl play acting. But when I thought of my future, which I must admit wasn’t that often, I didn’t envision myself becoming a mother. No, I imagined my future self as either a famous actress or a well-known best-selling author.
And I have become neither. But the best accomplishment I’ve ever achieved and one that I will never, ever regret is becoming a mother. Growing up, my own mother instilled in me that I needed to go to college and become ‘something.’ Mom never worked outside of our home and she was a wonderful mother taking care of us three girls, cooking and baking the most delicious food, and turning our home into a lovely sanctuary.
An only child, Mom also lovingly cared for her own parents in our home until they passed away. She was generous, devoted to her family, and homemaking really did seem to make her happy particularly when she used her artistic talent in sewing, crocheting, and making beautiful hand-made quilts.
Somewhere along my path to becoming an adult, whether it was a nudge from my own mom or just a sign of the times – the late 60’s and early 70’s – I embraced the idea that I did not want to become ‘just a wife and mother’ like my own mom. I used to proclaim that I aimed for one goal – to be a career woman. I wasn’t interested in getting married, and for anyone who listened, I added that my vow certainly did not include having children.
What I did not account for in my made-up scenario of life is that I would meet and fall head over heels in love with a young man during my junior year of college and I would gladly become his wife three years later.
Still I entertained thoughts of not having children. Looking back now, I really cannot pinpoint why I had made that decision in early adulthood. But four years after I married my husband, it happened. I discovered that I wasn’t really suffering from an intestinal bug that made me nauseous and prompted early morning trips to the bathroom, I was pregnant – with child.
I was shocked and unprepared and the timing certainly wasn’t ideal. My military husband was slated for an overseas year-long unaccompanied (meaning no wives along) assignment and would be leaving soon. Up to this point, our lives seemed great since we both enjoyed our careers; we were saving my earnings; we had a great social circle of friends; and we did pretty much what we wanted to do when we wanted to do it.
All of that came screeching to a halt when an Army doctor gave me the good news. Since the baby was due when my husband would be out of the country, I panicked. How could I bring a baby into the world alone, far away from not only my husband but my family and their support as well?
We solved the dilemma by preparing for my husband’s PCS (permanent change of station) by moving out of our on-post housing, putting most of our belongings in storage, and moving me to temporarily stay with my folks while my husband was stationed on the other side of the world. My parents eagerly welcomed me home and they were amazing as they helped me adjust to the idea of motherhood.
A week after Christmas, my own mother held me as I sobbed inconsolably in an airport restroom after kissing my husband goodbye for the next year of our lives. As she hugged me and stroked my head, my wise mother whispered, “You need to stop crying now. It’s time to think about the baby.”
And she was right. As foreign and surreal as it seemed because I wasn’t even showing yet, there was a new little life growing and developing inside my own. I felt the baby’s first fluttering move on Christmas Eve while sitting in church but it all still seemed so unreal.
It was indeed time to think about my baby.
It was time to really grow up. Time to put aside my wants, my desires, my thoughts about myself and my sadness over being separated from my husband, and think of someone else. Someone who would be solely dependent on me. My child.
Thirty plus years have come and gone since that day. When I brought that first new little life into this world, I never imagined the intense love I would feel for that child. My child. The day my firstborn was placed in my arms, I launched on a new career path – motherhood. My husband and I together decided that the best thing for our family was for me to be a stay-at-home mom.
I kissed my former career goodbye and I’ve never regretted that decision. My outlook on motherhood completely changed when I became a mother myself. With each child born – and there were two more gifts of life – my joy and blessings increased and so did my deep love for my children.
A couple of years ago, each one of my grown children married (all in the same year!) and now I am Mama to six adults instead of just three. My love for my ‘children’ just keeps blossoming and growing and extending way beyond what I ever envisioned.
And now I am an empty nest mama. Somehow time flew past in a whirlwind and our house, which once was so full of noise, toys, and childhood mayhem is neat, orderly, and quiet. And yes, I must admit, it’s also lonely from time to time.
Change. That’s what life always brings. And now it’s time for a new change.
This girl…this girl with her wide-eyed dreams…this girl who never thought she was capable of being a mother…this girl who cherished motherhood more than a career…this girl who watched each of her fledglings soar out of her nest…this girl who is sometimes astonished at the middle-aged lady who looks back at her from the mirror…this girl…is changing again.
This girl…is going to be a grandmother!
“A house needs a grandma in it.” ~Louisa May Alcott
That’s how we usually think of the word dialogue. It’s a conversation between two people, an exchange of ideas, thoughts, opinions, or stories.
Both people not only talk, they also both listen. Otherwise, it’s a monologue. If you guessed that this week’s photo challenge is dialogue, you’re right. There are as many ways to interpret that theme as there are conversations that can be discussed about it. But I’ve chosen to be literal with my interpretation.
Papa and I have one son; he’s our youngest. Over the years, we’ve had too many dialogues with him to count. When he was young and his dad traveled often with his job, son and I carried on lots of conversation filled with love and hugs. When he became a teenager and started spreading his wings of independence, he and I often clashed during our discussions and butted heads as well. But Papa and he could always have calm, rational consultations together.
Our son has grown into a fine godly man and we are grateful that he has a strong faith in God. Son excelled in school and college, landed a successful career as a mechanical engineer, and completed his masters degree in mechanical engineering. He demonstrates maturity and responsibility and is happily married to a beautiful, inside and out, young lady who we’ve welcomed into our family with love.
As our son matured, I noticed his conversations now tend to be more meaningful with his dad and he often asks Papa for advice. And isn’t that the way it should be? Shouldn’t a man feel close to his father, desire that manly mentorship, and want to spend time in dialogue with him? Each time we visit with our son, I am reminded of this. I watch the two as they huddle together discussing life and other topics of conversation.
Recently, our son and daughter-in-law moved from the state on one side of us to the state on the other side of us because of a temporary job assignment and we visited them in their new location. As we discussed with son which weekend to visit, he related that there was one place in particular he wanted to take us to, a place he knew his dad would enjoy.
So we trotted off to the local military museum where both son and father were interested in every aspect. As I meandered around taking photos and chatting with daughter-in-law, I often looked behind me to notice son and father deep in conversation over some display they were viewing. And I have to say that seeing them in dialogue warmed my heart.
They continued another form of dialogue when they excitedly decided to try the flight simulator together. Their roles were easily defined – son was the pilot, dad was the gunner. They trained briefly before they entered the simulator capsule and emerged from their ‘flight’ later with huge smiles and thumbs up, even after rolling around and being turned upside down a few times. They worked together in perfect unison, maneuvering their ‘fighter jet’ and ‘shooting’ down nine enemy planes in their few minutes of flight time. The attendant told them the average take downs only totaled three, so they obviously worked well as a team, and came close to the record for the day.
Dialogue. It’s about more than just conversing. It’s about listening. It’s about caring. It’s about connecting. And yes, it’s even about loving.
“The most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention…. A loving silence often has far more power to heal and to connect than the most well-intentioned words.” ~ Rachel Naomi Remen
Apparently a plague is abundant across this great nation of ours and there is a movement to rid ourselves of this curse once and for all.
I’m talking about Dad pants. You’ve no doubt heard of Mom jeans, those kind of jeans that no one but a mother (and a very unfashionable one at that) would wear. I may or may not confirm that there might be several pairs of those hanging in my closet.
But now we have to worry about Dad pants too. I recently watched a tongue-in-cheek ‘public service announcement’ which at first made me chuckle but then caused me to contemplate. Cleverly disguised as a PSA, it really was an advertisement for Dockers® pants. If you haven’t seen it yet, you can check it out by clicking here.
Now, I’m not hyping those particular pants nor am I getting paid to mention them here in my blog, but Dockers®, if you’d like to send a few dollars along to me, I won’t refuse. I won’t deny that there are a couple of pants branded with that name hanging in Papa’s closet here in the empty nest. But my intention isn’t to get you to run out and buy those pants in order to jump onto the #Stop Dad Pants band wagon.
I’m just simply using their slick advertising gimmick as writing fodder. Viewing this commercial around Father’s Day (another marketing savvy point), reminded me of the three men in my life who have worn Dad pants.
When my father-in-law and my own father were young boys, they were short pants called knickers. If that sounds strange to you, consider that my father-in-law was born before the turn of the century – not this one – in the late 1890’s. Yes, you read that correctly. And my own father was born prior to 1920. Back then, those short pants were worn by boys until they reached around the age of 12 or so. They then graduated into long pants. This kind of signified a rite of passage – moving from childhood into manhood.
It might seem silly to us today, but it’s part of our history and was the cultural norm back then. So why am I writing about pants, short or long? Here’s my point: any male can don a pair of pants and call himself a man. Just as any man can impregnate a woman and call himself a father. It happens thousands of times every day.
But it takes a special man to wear Dad pants. Wearing Dad pants means a man loves his wife and children beyond measure. He’s willing to labor tirelessly to provide for their needs and well-being. But a real Dad provides more than just monetary or physical support. He guides his children using a balanced degree of love and discipline to teach them right from wrong. He proves that even though his work is essential and it provides support for his family, the importance of spending time with them and demonstrating his love and care are a priority.
To me, wearing Dad pants signifies that a man puts away his childish and selfish acts, truly becomes a man, and sacrifices for the good of his family. He becomes an example of integrity for his children. He leads them with faith and wisdom as building blocks, guides them with morals and character, and helps prepare them for the days to come. He encourages his children to have courage to strive for their goals and be successful, yet reminds them that the love of God and family are what’s most important in life. And he leaves a legacy for his children to pass onto their children.
I’m very thankful that I have had three such examples in my life – my own father, my father-in-law, and my husband – the father of my three children. All three of them wore their Dad pants well. Those pants may actually have been wrinkled and slouchy like the pants in the commercial, but these three men clothed themselves with responsibility, wisdom, and love for their families. All three of them proved to be a good example to follow, a well-loved and well-respected father.
It saddens me that not all of us are blessed with a father who has his Dad pants on. Some men never accept the responsibility of being a father, and their children suffer because of that. Some lose their fathers when they’re young and they suffer too. That’s what happened to my own dad. His father died when my dad was just a baby, but that didn’t prevent Dad from becoming an exemplary father himself. Instead he stove to be the best dad he could be and he was.
My father and father-in-law are both gone now, but every Father’s Day I remember them with thankfulness for the wonderful fathers they proved to be. And I watch in gratitude how my children show their love and respect for their own dad.
This Father’s Day, Papa was treated to both a delicious Sunday lunch at a new Mexican restaurant and a home-cooked dinner when we traveled to visit middle daughter and son-in-law, but the real gift was that our adult children wanted to spend time with him – with Dad. That made him happy and I witnessed his smile each time his cell phone rang with more greetings of “Happy Father’s Day, Dad!” and expressions of love and gratefulness from the ones who couldn’t be there.
I hope my son and sons-in-law someday decide to don their own Dad pants, and when they do, I pray they fill them wisely and become real fathers. From all indications, they’ll rise to the challenge even if their pants are wrinkly.
“It is easier for a father to have children than for children to have a real father.” ~ Pope John XXIII
As if turning the big 6-0 isn’t scary enough, something startled me this morning so much that I actually jumped and emitted a little shriek. Today is my birthday. And yes, I’m now officially entering my 60th decade.
All weekend long, we celebrated my milestone birthday. Our two daughters and one son-in-law traveled back to the empty nest to treat ol’ Mom to a special time. And we did have a fun-filled weekend together. We missed the other three but that thing called work sometimes interferes with plans.
Alas, all good things must come to an end and yesterday afternoon, my beloved ones departed for their trips back to their own homes. Papa and I stood on the deck and watched them pack up their cars to leave, waving and blowing kisses and projecting “I love you”(s) in the air as they drove up the driveway.
We walked back into our now quiet empty nest. After all the activity of the weekend, we seemed at a loss for what to do. I grabbed the unopened Sunday paper from the coffee table and quickly made my way through it. Papa logged onto the laptop and cleaned out his emails.
We ate a simple dinner together in the stillness of the evening. Hubby ventured outside to water the flowers and his garden. I settled down with his Kindle catching up with The Count of Monte Cristo where I left off earlier this week.
We loaded the dishwasher, watched a little television, and then called it a day for the night. Cool, crisp air wafted in our bedroom windows and that made it easy to drift off to dreamland.
This morning I awakened, refreshed and happy to see sunshine, and I thought, “I don’t feel 60.” And you know what? I don’t!
I was still lounging in our comfy bed (it is my birthday, after all!) while hubby showered and prepared to head out for work. When he stopped to kiss me goodbye, he casually announced, “Oh, there’s a man in our closet.”
What??? After he repeated himself once more, I came to my senses and realized exactly what he meant. As a joke for older daughter before her marriage, her bridesmaids gave her an inflatable man doll for her bachelorette party. Not surprisingly, she left him behind here in the empty nest.
But he seems to keep reappearing in the strangest places, especially when older daughter and her hubby are home for a visit. Oldest son-in-law is a hoot and a bit of a prankster. He cracks us up with his sense of humor and funny antics which is one of the things daughter loves about him. She tends to be pretty serious and he makes her laugh.
And he makes us laugh too. But this morning, he made me shriek. Quite often after they’ve been home, we find bachelorette party man somewhere in the house outside of his usual hiding spot stored with those things oldest daughter has no space for yet.
This morning, party man was in our master bedroom closet. Propped up against the clothes with my shirt and my shoes adorning him! And even though my husband had warned me that there was a man in the closet, that fellow surprised me so badly when I opened the closet door and flicked on the light that I actually flinched and squealed. And then I laughed so hard, I practically cried.
Is turning 60 really a scary birthday? Nah, it’s funny. Really, really funny. And I thankful for it.
“You don’t stop laughing when you grow old, you grow old when you stop laughing.” ~ George Bernard Shaw
It was a full Easter weekend at Mama’s Empty Nest even if it was only 2/3 full. Notice I choose to view the nest 2/3 full instead of 1/3 empty since four of the six faraway loved ones flew (well, drove) back to the nest to celebrate Resurrection Day with us.
I confess that often I’m a bit envious of those families whose grown children live nearby them. They get to spend all holidays and even regular old every days together whenever they want. When our three were young, Papa and I lived far away from our families and we missed celebrating holidays often with them. And now, with our three strewn across three different states, I find myself in the same predicament.
Our grown up girls and their spouses managed days off and long drives to spend some good quality family time together with us this Easter weekend. Since we haven’t been together as a family since Christmas, it truly was cause for celebration even though son and daughter-in-law would not be here.
We talked and we ate. We laughed, we ate. We played games, we ate. The girls made Easter favors; the guys helped Papa drag out the outdoor furniture and then had their usual target practice. And did I mention we ate? We curled up in the family room and watched “Saving Mr. Banks” together and we ate some more. And then we celebrated our Savior’s victory over death at our church where Papa and I were narrators for the Easter Cantata.
What a glorious weekend! Even the weather cooperated and we enjoyed two sunshine-filled warm days. We broke out the ladder golf game and ate lunch outside on the back yard deck.
All too soon, time arrived for them to leave and drive back to those other states where they reside. Papa and I stood on the deck waving goodbye as each car pulled out of our driveway. We walked back into our quiet home and started cleaning up the kitchen, loading the dishwasher, tidying up.
Afterwards, we plunked down in our usual spots in the empty family room. Papa fired up the laptop; Mama turned on the TV to watch The Amazing Race. But our day of joy wasn’t over yet. The phone rang and our empty nest felt complete when we heard our son’s voice wishing us a Happy Easter.
Family love fills my tank. Time spent together is the fuel, whether it’s in person or on the phone. And believe it or not, life is full in our nest even when it’s empty.
“Circumstances and situations do color life, but you have been given the mind to choose what the color shall be.” ~ John Homer Miller