Mothers & Daughters · taking kids to college · Uncategorized

Off to college . . . one last time


Tomorrow marks the 13th time I’ll send one of my kids off for another year at college.  Thirteenth!!  Not that I have 13 children, of course, but 3 kids times 4 years each plus an extra year just for luck (or to finish up, as it were). It’s gotten easier as the years have gone by, but it still always makes me feel a bit melancholy.  As much as I don’t think I could live through those “little kids at home” years again, I’m looking with sad eyes at the backpack-laden little ones getting off the school bus in my neighborhood.

For all the first time sender-off-ers out there, my heart goes out to you.  Thankfully I’ve never known the actual pain of someone stabbing me in the heart with a sharp object, but that’s a bit of what it felt like the first time I went through this process.  Somehow or other my husband always seemed to be away on business when it was time to bring a kid to college, so I have done it alone a bunch of times.  Most of the times, actually.  It’s probably a good thing, though, because I turn into a lunatic as soon as I start driving away, my college kid waving at me in my rearview mirror. It’s probably best I’m alone.

Leaving Maria up in Savannah at SCAD about did me in.  That was my first time doing this.  We had a nice last couple of days together, getting her moved into her dorm.  We stayed at a lovely local hotel, had dinner at “The Chart House” overlooking River Street.

Oh, did I mention that her roommate was a very scary girl?  She had a flickering light above her bed that said “Bate’s Motel.” (This did not help to calm my already frazzled nerves.) But Maria was so determined that it was going to work out OK.  I tried to believe it too, as I looked at the finished product before me:  One dorm room – half with Bible verses on the wall in pretty calligraphy, the other half with horror movie posters and the aforementioned neon light.  Half with pastel colors and flowers, the other half black.  Half of the clothes hanging in the closet colorful and happy, the other side, again, black.  All black.  Not even a hint of steel gray or navy blue.  You couldn’t find two more opposite personalities.

The anticipation of the “good-bye” is the worst thing ever.  You don’t want it to happen, but you know it’s going to and that it’s going to hurt and you just want it over with.  I can still see her standing in the parking lot as I drove away.  I bust. a. GUT. trying not to cry in front of her.  I think I managed pretty well, too, as did she.  But as I drove back down to South Florida that day, I bawled my eyes out. I’d regain my composure, only to lose it again shortly thereafter.  Like when I got off of highway 16 and on to 95.  Bawled.  Then I calmed down, but then got out of range for the Savannah radio station, so I again, bawled.  Next, crossing over the border into Florida, bawled.  Each step marked being farther away from my daughter.  I had to stop at least three times at gas stations or rest areas to rinse off my contact lens because they got so cloudy from my tears.

I didn’t wear eye makeup for two weeks.  I knew I’d just cry it off anyway.

Maria grew to love her college. And that made me happy.  And then it was time to do it all again with Sean.  And a few years later, Teddy.  The first time bringing each of them up to Florida State was also a tear-filled event.  Wasn’t I just taking them to preschool?  How did this happen so fast?

I can’t speak for Dads, but Moms, I’m telling you to go ahead and cry.  Cry in the aisles of Publix.  Cry on your way to the mailbox.  Sob on your neighbor’s shoulder.  Wail to the guy making your sandwich at Subway.  Let it all out.  I promise it will get better and that “heart hurt” will soften after a while.  College is such an amazing time for them.  The last hurrah before entering the real, adult world, never to go back.

Wish me luck! Tomorrow is my last time down this road.  Lucky 13. I may need to only stop once to clear off my contact lenses!



Grandmotherhood · Mothers & Daughters · Parenting · Uncategorized

Pearls from an Older Mom

My darlings: Sean, Teddy & Maria – circa a really long time ago



It’s the eve of my 28th Mother’s Day as a Mom.  My work here is pretty much done.  My two oldest offspring are married and my daughter is a mom three times over.  My baby is 22. At 6’4″ with a full beard, and deep bass voice, he doesn’t look or sound much like a baby anymore.  Each one has turned out to be a wonderful, hard-working, funny, intelligent human being, and for that, I’m extremely grateful.  Not that I’d take much credit; there are a lot of things I’d have done differently, now that I’m a (ahem) “well-seasoned” woman of five and fifty years.  Here’s what I’d like young Patti to know . . . .

  1.  Worry less about what other people think.  I could spend the rest of my life writing about this since it has been such a stumbling block for me. Instead, I’m leaving it at that.
  2.  Teach important stuff more.  I feel like most days I had all I could do to just keep everyone alive.  The thought of actually teaching my kids important principles that they could look back on and say, “My mom always used to say . . . . . ” and then fill that in with some really profound concept, just didn’t happen.  I have a lot of friends right now that are right in the throes of raising their kids.  And they are doing such an incredible job. The things I hear them say they teach their kids . . . I never came close to that.  I managed to keep everyone fairly clean, fed, clothed and loved.  But no profound teachings came from my lips.  I feel like I was more of a “custodian” and less of a “teacher.”  Nothing wrong with custodians.  I just wish I would have been a teacher.
  3. Whoopdie-fricken-doo if the kids are always at your house and rarely at someone else’s.  When the kids were little, it seemed like the neighborhood gang ended up at our house a lot.  Or even when they were really little, it seems like playdates occurred at MY house far more than at someone else’s.  I would get quite severely bent out of shape that the child-sharing wasn’t perfectly even.  Yup.  In a perfect world, you’d watch someone else’s kids and then they’d watch yours.  Even steven.  Get over it.  If it isn’t like that, big hairy deal.  Your kid has friends to play with and you get to  be a part of it.  In about three minutes, they’ll be graduating from high school so just relax and enjoy this time.
  4. Don’t try to fix everything yourself.  How are they ever going to learn how to figure out things for themselves if you fix everything for them?  So they’re sad sometimes.  So they don’t finish first sometimes.  So maybe they lose a lot.  Maybe they get into trouble and have to pay the consequences.  Parents naturally want to make everything alright.  Everything is not alright.  People need to know how to take care of themselves.   It’s called being an adult.
  5.  God’s way is ultimately the way to go.  This ties right back up there with number 1.  Who cares what other people think?  Doing what you know is right in God’s eyes will many  a time elicit eye-rolls and tongue-clucks from others.  To quote myself: Whoopdie-fricken-doo.  If they don’t understand and do things another way, stick to your beliefs.  Fight the feeling to “fit in.”  God has entrusted those particular little people to YOU and you need to shut out what the rest of the world is telling you what is right and listen to the voice of Truth.

In closing, I’ll just add I didn’t bomb this job completely.  But if I had to do it all over again (and I couldn’t, I’m just way too tired for that) I’d heed my own “older self” advice. Maybe that’s why grandmas are so smart.  They practiced on their own kids and can put better skills to use on their grandchildren!   Wait, did someone say grandchildren??  Here are the sweet things that call me “Maga.”


Happy Mother’s Day . . . . if you’re a mom of human kids, kids that bark or meow, or have had a hand in mothering others’ kids . . . . may you feel loved and appreciated!

Mothers & Daughters · Parenting · Uncategorized

It was the best of days, it was the worst of days . . . .


The day after Christmas.  When you’re a kid, it’s the worst day of the year.  It’s SO LONG till Christmas Day again.  When you’re an adult, and I have to say specifically a female adult (cuz that’s what I relate to), it’s the best day of the year. Because it’s SO LONG till Christmas Day again.  I think if you turn down the TV, turn off the music and stick your head outside your door, you’ll hear a sweet rush of air.  It’s not a cold front moving in, even though as I sit here in 80 degrees, I wouldn’t mind, but it’s the tired, relieved collective sigh of women all over America exhaling after feeling the weight of their household’s happiness on their shoulders for the last month, finally lifted.  My sigh of relief isn’t as heavy this year, as my kids are grown now, but I so remember feeling that huge sense of relief when all the presents were opened, all the secrets revealed, all the stockings – emptied. Everyone was pretty happy.  Happy enough.  Maybe they didn’t get every single thing they asked for, but they were still well-compensated.

Ah, to be a kid again.  Filled with hopes and wishes and absolutely no feeling of responsibility for anyone else’s fulfillment of hopes and wishes.  The thing about childhood is, you can never go back.

So to all my fellow-adult-females out there, I say “Good work!  Now, relax!”  No more Elf to move, stockings to stuff, presents to prepare, roasts to roast to perfection.  No more cookies to decorate, Pinterest posts to parallel.  No more “out-original-ing” someone else’s super-original-something-or-other.  Take 11 months off!  (Or until the next birthday in your household . . . but no pressure.)




Mothers & Daughters · Uncategorized

Grab someone’s face today.

Here I am . . . home, or am I . . . merely “back?”  It feels like “home” when I’m in Wisconsin, but then again, home has been South Florida for the past 17 years.  At any rate, I’m writing this to you from my kitchen in hot, sticky, humid, pretty-darn-mildewy Florida. But enough about the weather, I wanted to encourage you to grab someone’s face today!  Before I go any further, please enjoy this sweet pic of Winnie grabbing her own face:Face-grab Winnie

I’ve had a couple of face-grabbing experiences over the summer and it occurred to me it was something pretty special.  I wish I would have done more of it in the past and am convicted to grab more faces henceforth.

I just spent a few weeks in my hometown of Washburn, Wisconsin (probably the best place on earth) and spent a good bit of time with my 92 year-old Mom.  She lives in an assisted living facility there where she is looked over by a wonderful staff.  Want to see a picture of her?  Here she is just after we went out for a “stroll” (stroll is in quotes because it involves me pushing her in her wheelchair.  Not exactly level streets, mind you.  It’s an effort to push her up the street and then a task to make sure I don’t lose my grip when we’re headed back down.)  She loves fresh flowers so we picked a sweet little posey.

GG with flowers
Lookin’ like a movie star in her shades.

It’s not really easy to hang out with my Mom.  She’s very hard of hearing, so you have to shout and you can count on having to repeat almost everything you say 3 to 4 times.  God forbid you want to ask her something that requires discretion; speaking in a hushed tone is not going to work with her. And it’s hard work getting her in and out of a car (you can actually hear her bones knocking against each other in her knees. Oh, the thought makes my stomach flop) but she absolutely loves to “go for a ride,” so struggle we did, so she could enjoy the beautiful summer.

Something else my Mom loves is to hear my sister and me play the piano.  I should add that my sister, Chris (Chrissie to me) is really good at playing the piano and I’m just . . well, I like to say I’m “pretty good at being a fairly average piano player.”  There’s an out-of-tune piano in the dining room where my Mom lives and several times we’d play and our Mom would sing along.  We’d go from “Amazing Grace” to “Beer Barrel Polka” just like that!  (Honestly, in Wisconsin The Beer Barrel Polka is considered a sacred song, I think.  I’m fairly certain even the most devout church-goer would not be offended by a rousing round of Roll Out the Barrel, even at the most reverent of moments!)

When it came time to say good-bye to my Mom for the summer (she “walked” Kevin and me to the door when it was time to leave), I got down in front of her to hug her and give her a kiss. (I’m getting teary-eyed just thinking about this – every year I wonder if this is the last time I’ll do this.)  She grabbed my face in her hands and looked straight into my eyes and told me how much she loved me.  After a summer of being exhausted from strenuous walks, listening to bones crunch and shouting in her “good” ear, that all went away in that single face-grabbing moment and all I knew was my Mom loved me.  I felt like a little girl.  Of course, I cried as we slipped out the door,  still feeling her cool hands on my cheeks.

Flash forward a bit to just a couple of days ago.  My daughter, Maria, was dropping me off at the airport to come home . . or . . back.  I had just had a complete meltdown with Winnie (Olive was napping so she was spared this mess) on the kitchen floor as we said good-bye to each other.  Winnie feels her feelings very strongly and lets it all out – I love that about her.  But, man, when she cries and says, “I don’t want you to go, Maga!” and throws her arms around my neck, I’m completely undone. But I had recovered on the 30 minute ride to the airport.

As we were pulling up to the drop-your-person-off area, I spotted another Grandma getting dropped off by her daughter.  This Grandma was little farther down “Maga Road” than I (I noted her grandkids to be about 8 and 10 years old).  As we got my bags out of the back, I looked over to my “sister in Maga-hood.”  She had properly hugged the kids and now was saying good-bye to her daughter, her daughter a bit older than my own.  She had her daughter’s face grabbed in her hands and was telling her something up close.  The daughter was crying and I so wanted to know what her Mother was telling her. It was a sweet moment and I felt a bit ashamed being the voyeur, but  I’d like to think she was telling her daughter to hang in there!  “You’re doing a great job with these kids!  I know it’s tough, but just keep at it.  They’re going to be grown-up before you know it and you’ll wonder where on earth the time has gone.” Things I should say to my own daughter more often as she’s in the throes of child-rearing right now.

So let me do that right now!  I’m doing a virtual face-grab – to my own sweet Maria and any other Mama out there who’s wondering if there’s life after toddlerhood.  You can do it!  Maria – you are the sweetest, most gentle soul I know and those girls are beyond blessed to have you as their Mother.  I know there are more trying moments than easy ones right now and you’re wondering if or when on earth your kids are going to “rise up and call you blessed.” (Oh, that Proverbs 31 woman and her to-do list!!)  Just keep on keepin’ on!  You can’t even imagine the rewards coming your way!  *smooch*  (A face-grab is best followed up with a kiss.)

In closing, I’d like to sing this:  “Oh, give me a home, where the small children roam, where the Barbie’s and toy horses play!  Where seldom is heard, a discouraging word, and the dishes stay dirty all day!”

I love you Mom.  I love you Maria. Considered both of your faces grabbed!