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Friday, January 28, 2011

Mindless Chores for the Empty Nester

The cycle of life just keeps rolling along................yes, once again, our house is free empty of children.  Our youngest daughter returned for her spring semester of college and the empty nest part of our life starts up again.  It does seem to get a little better each time this cycle occurs, mainly because I have established a routine and stick with it. 

After the children are gone, I set about doing some awful, tedious chore around the house.  It should be a chore that is someone mindless so that as I am going about the work, I am quietly thinking about the time spent with my family.  I find that without this chore, I do not allow myself to just think about the Holiday break and all the activities and time I enjoyed (or not) with the kids.  Today, I cleaned out my pantry.  Good, mindless work.  It's perfect now...every label facing out, all cracker boxes closed.  Did I mention that I get a little crazy right after the kids leave?

Of course, now I am tired of dirty work and just want to veg out in front of the television.  Life usually slows down once the kids leave and I am beginning to like this aspect more each year.  It's not all a sad thing now when the kids leave.  So, enjoy doing that chore you have been putting off.  Next week, we will start thinking about improving our life with our significant others.  Yes, it's a regular part of the empty nester cycle!   

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Did You Have The "Fight Goodbye"?

Depending on the school your child is attending, they have either returned in the past week or two or are leaving this week.  For the empty nest family, this transition is always a little traumatic in one fashion or another.  For me, I am always sad and a bit weepy.  I become a little lethargic and get very little done around the house.  I want time to slow down so that I can cherish each lasting moment with my daughter.  But, then again, I am so excited for her to return to school and continue her education and all the fun that is also associated with the collegiate years.  We try to do small things together: have lunch at a new place in town, shop at Target for necessity items, get our hair and nails done....that sort of thing. 

But for many families, this is a tumultuous period in the household.  Most kids are more than ready to get back to their lifestyle and friends at school.  The rules at home seem foreign to them and having to answer to Mommy and Daddy is less than appealing.  And, they are tired and cranky.  So, often times right before returning to school, the child and the parents are at odds.  Words spurt out that are often hurtful, making this transition all the more difficult.  I remember this occurring more with my sons than with my daughter.  Secretly, I would wish for the moment they left the house and headed back to school.  Our arguments and fights were silly in nature, but neither side knew how to make them stop. 

I have read some articles on why this occurs and basically, the child sometimes needs to act in this manner to break the strong parental bond and become an adult himself.  And, most stated that the stronger the bond, the harder the transitions could be.  Well, that tidbit of information does not make it any easier to handle, does it now?!  But perhaps knowing that all over the world, kids are leaving and the homes are filled with anxious kids and anxious parents might be consoling to you....

Personally, I suggest trying to keep the drama as low-key as possible.  I believe your children will grow up to be responsible and happy people no matter what the transitions were like in your home.  But, you will be minus the painful memories.......and you'll be glad that you elected not to tell them they are lazy, messy people. 

Kiss them goodbye and hug them as hard as you want.  Don't forget to tell them that you love them even if their room has been left a shambles.  Tell them you are proud of the work they are doing at school, even if for the last 3 weeks they haven't left the couch and watching television 24/7 while you have been their cook, maid and personal ATM machine.  Show them what being an adult is all about.  It cannot hurt........................

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

House of Blues

There was nothing "blue" about our little jaunt to Las Vegas to celebrate my daughter's 21st Birthday.  Except for the uncanny selection of clothing from each member of our party.  The only true blue note was the fact that my middle son was not with us for the weekend. 

Oh and maybe our checking account is sad and blue due to the fact that spending a few days in Vegas is ridiculously expensive...even if you don't gamble! 

But it's hard to be sad when you see such big smiles on your daughter's face (more to follow soon). She is a delight.  21 years of happy, funny moments.  I thank God for giving me such wonderful children to fill my days and nights.  Even if some nights include staying up until 2:30 am, listening to hip hop so loud that the walls of the night club rattle!

Perhaps, I will be silly enough to share with you the moments on the Haze dance floor, after drinking so many vodka tonics ( 2 bottle's the rules!).  Just trying to do my part.  Or drink it all before the girls could....

All in all, it was a perfect way to spend a birthday with my little girl.  I would recommend it to nearly everyone...(more on this topic later).  Happy Birthday, sweet pea.  I love you!

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The End of Break is Near

The holidays are over and you have finally put away all the decorations and eaten the last remaining holiday cookies in the house.  The kids have used up their gift cards and are already thinking about returning to college.  Do you feel that empty nest loneliness coming on?  If so, you're not alone!  Well, I am hear to tell you that now is not the time to pout about the upcoming transition.  This is not something you can control.  What you can do is make a plan and try to stick to it. 

Your plan should include at least three out of five ideas listed below:
  • Pick a time to give your son and daughter some of that parental wisdom of yours.  
          They have been home for a few weeks and you have probably noticed some bad habits, like not flossing everyday or washing their dark and white clothing items together in hot water, and you want to help them with some worthy advise.  Just be careful not to sound too "preachy" or go on too long. I like to start off the conversation with "remember to..." as if they really knew not to throw their cashmere sweater on the floor and just had a lapse in judgment.  Instead of saying, you need to get those thank you notes out......try saying, "Your Grandmother gets such a big kick out of your notes to her, let's get them done today, OK?"  No ones likes to be lectured to, but we all can use gentle reminders of how to be nice and considerate of others.

          In years past, I did not take the time to point out certain topics with my children before they left for school and I felt I hadn't given them all I should have.  And it's hard to give parental suggestions in a text message!

  • Pick another time to tell them how enjoyable it's been to see them.  Of course, in between the laptop, their cell phones, their friends, their jobs and their sleeping habits, the exact amount of time you actually SAW them might have been minimal, but admit enjoyed having them around the house.  Telling them makes everyone feel good.  

  • Plan when you will see each other next.
          For some families, this is the next this case, spring break.  In our household, every time is different.  Maybe you are thinking that they will be home for spring break, when in reality, they have plans to go to Mexico or Florida with their friends.  Knowing ahead of time will cause less stress and emotional upheaval for you in the future.

  • Make an Appointment to Review Finances with your Children.
          No matter what kind of arrangement you have with expenses and money set-up, it is always good to offer guidance in this area.  Be sure to set aside individual time with each child, because they all are different in their approach to money.  One of your kids will have blown all the money he has received from generous family members this past Christmas, while the other still has his unused gift cards from last Christmas!  I find it best to sit in front of the computer and use tools such as Microsoft Money and homemade Excel spreadsheets while talking.  The evidence is on the screen!  Let's face it, most adults in this country could use this simple advise.  Our nation maybe wouldn't be in such trouble if we all did a monthly sit down to discuss our financial situations!  

  • Finally, ask how you can help them or be of any assistance.
          I have always been surprised when I ask them this question.  Once, one of my kids said they wanted to know how to shine their shoes.  One wanted to know how I make "those omelets" .  This year, one has asked me to help her find an inexpensive place for her to visit for spring break.  You will have completely different questions from your children, so try not to anticipate what they will ask.  Just enjoy knowing that you have had effect on your kids in surprising ways.

Before you know it, they will be hugging you good-bye and saying, "see you soon".  This year, you will feel better knowing that you have prepared them adequately for what lies ahead.  And you can sleep easier in your empty nest home, knowing that you stuck to the plan!
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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Seeing the World Through Arizona-Colored Glasses

Once again, calls from friends and family came in over the weekend asking how it feels "living in the wild west" due to the tragic events of a 22-year old, unstable, grammar-defending, pothead who decided to take his newly-purchased gun from the local Walmart store out and kill the Congresswoman with whom he had a beef with since 2007 and a group of innocent bystanders for good measure. (Look, stories like one this are hard to even make up!)

Well, my answer is: it feels awful..........

Awful, because once again, the devil lies in the details and are compounded due to the fact that they have occurred in Arizona.  And it seems, to plain and simple me, that all of Arizona's problems are interrelated.  Without jumping on some partisan rant here, I just think that our location just north of Mexico, such a poor and troubled country, has created a weird culture for the people of Arizona.  The illegal immigrants are more prevalent, the recreational use of drugs from Mexico, especially pot and crystal meth, is heavier and more accepted in the border states and the desire to own and use firearms is more accepted here, too.  With so many crazed individuals high on meth in town, who has time to track down all the black-clothed potheads running around town?! 

I remember when the whole Martin Luther King Day was a big issue here and we were pegged as problem state.  Most of us are transplants from other states and all of us had experienced far greater prejudice behavior in the other states and were frankly shocked.  Also, we were the only state brave enough, er stupid enough, to bring it to a vote. When it passed, I thought we might hear some good news about this great state  of AZ, but there was none...

In my opinion, everyone feels weird and uneasy about the people who have elected to cross the border illegally to work here because we understand how bad it must be to live in Mexico these days.  But in our hearts, we know the nation and our state cannot afford to just let everyone in, so therein lies the problem.  And no President seems to have the balls to tackle such an enormous we suffer.  And are the brunt of the nations' jokes and comments. 

We figure out how to make due...just like in the old wild west movies.  We are on our own and we are trying so hard right now to show that we are a loving and caring tribe to the rest of the nation.  We pray every day for Gabrielle Giffords and the innocent folks who have been injured or killed by this senseless act of violence.  And, all we ask is to try to put yourself in our shoes and to be understanding of our unique set of consequences.  
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