The Day My Son was Married

(The wedding was almost three months ago and I’m just now beginning to record the experience of our son getting married. I have sort of held and treasured that day in my heart. The photographer’s photos recently came in and I sat looking through them for days, refreshing the joy from that day in July. Over these few months I have loved watching my son become a husband, and I love having a daughter-in-law!)

The heart feels intensely what words attempt to capture. My mind sees images of days gone by, but not forgotten. Even now my hand can still feel his once small hand in mine, and my ears, if strained enough can almost hear his little boy voice. The days with my boy were so good; well, and sometimes kinda hard. The days were sometimes  l o n g , yet also they seem swept away in a flash. The time I had to grow him up was not enough, but also, it was enough. Raising him up to let him go was a little bit of everything.

Our fist official mother-son date was when he was 3, our most special mother-son dance was when he was 23.  It’s been a wonderful life being his mom to this point, and a most amazing and beautiful transition in our journey took place 89 days ago. This  summer our boy, who is now a man, took a most lovely, beautiful woman as his wife. To have and to hold, from that day forward til the end of their time on earth. I used to take his hand and walk him around the block, but this day I took his arm and he walked me down the aisle. I took a seat while he stood tall and strong, beaming, watching and waiting for the woman of his dreams to walk down the aisle to be joined to him forever.

Look how he looks at her

It was a holy moment. Watching him watch her, knowing she was now his number one was a moment I will treasure. But it wasn’t bittersweet, it was simply sweet. I wonder if intentionally raising “future adults” was the key; my perspective was always “Don’t raise kids”. I understood there was a limit to the time I had and I worked to steward that well. I wasn’t perfect, in fact, so far from it. I didn’t handle a multitude of things very well in my season. But also I did. I got it right more often than I got it terribly wrong. There were Legos and puppies, kisses and slammed doors, football and wrestling, end of the school year parties with couches on the front lawn. We had trampolines and late homework, sibling squabbles and secrets, car accidents, Sprite-spraying-everywhere spills, and all. summer. long. basement slumber parties with the Fresh Price and Nanny. We had a little bit of everything. And now, on this most special day, the fruit of all those growing up years and experiences was standing tall and independent just a few feet away, and my body could hardly hold my heart.

Love captured here

I don’t believe I’ll ever forget our mother-son dance. I couldn’t tell you if anyone was in the barn watching or not (pictures say there were), what I can tell you is for those few minutes I held this boy once again, looked into his eyes and sang to him once more. It was another holy moment.

When God granted us this boy, it was for a time. The Lord knew Zach would leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife.  I kind of believe the wedding prep and many celebrations all along the way were a part of preparing, not just for this incredible summer day where he wed the girl of his dreams, but to offer a season of transition to let him go with arms wide open.

The Happiest Couple

The words here are intended to capture the intensity of my heart in this most amazing season. Trusting that in days gone by I’ll still see images of us playing with cars, reading, walking, dancing and transitioning him from my boy to Claire’s husband at the party of the century!

Such good times


Click here to listen to I’ll Let You Go, by Jessica Allossery ~ our Mother-Son dance song.

The photo at the top of this post is from their private”First Look”. Look again…his eyes and heart are for her, and she can hardly hold her love for him. Releasing him to her, and this kind of love, was literally what I had prayed for since he was two years old. What a prayer answered!

He’a always been a note writer

New Chapters of a Favorite Book

It’s been eight years since I wrote these words about our first one leaving the nest for college. It’s that time of year for many of you so I thought I’d drop these words here today. I’d LOVE to hear about your experience of leaving your son or daughter at college ~ leave a comment to share ❤

Original post August 31, 2010
It’s time to report that everything did not change on August 14, 2010.

If I felt everything changed the day she left for kindergarten, then surely everything really would change the day Courtney, our first born, left for college. The sadness I discovered when she climbed onto the bus for elementary school surely would not compare to the grief I would walk into as she left for college.

I remember the first time the new feelings hit me. It was the spring break of her junior year; she and I were at the college for a visit. The day was sunny and exciting, how fun it was to be doing this with her! My parents had not taken me on any college visits, so this was new territory and I felt so blessed to offer her this experience. Then I glanced at her walking beside me and my chest suddenly felt tight and slightly crushed. It came out of nowhere; my throat constricted, my eyes welled up and the first wave of a grief-like feeling crashed into me.

Those feelings hit at random times over the sixteen months, but waves came more frequently those last few weeks before the move. One day while on the patio by myself a big one hit out of nowhere, it  felt like my heart skipped a few beats and I had a sharp intake of breath, tears sprang to my eyes and I felt deep sadness wash over me. Not sure what to do with these new feelings, I intentionally spent little time thinking of the upcoming moving day. But the calendar kept moving toward it.

The day we moved Courtney was beautiful and the college had the whole freshman moving day thing figured out. There was an unmistakable air of excitement. We got almost everything up in one trip, laughed so hard as she and I tried to figure out how to make the lofted bed! Even as I helped, I tried to stand back as she figured out where to put her items in her tiny space (so hard for a mom who loves to organize). It came to be time for lunch, then we met her lovely roommate, went off for a Target run, back to the dorm for last touches and then the good-byes. She was excited, comfortable, and confident. She had dinner plans with Katie, her friend since second grade, and I was feeling stronger than expected.


Then her baby sister wrapped her arms around her neck and about broke in two. Oh, oh, oh, ohhhhh…tears sprang to my eyes. . .but unexpectedly grief stayed at bay. Her big 6’2″ little brother wrapped his arms around her – practically engulfing her. I felt such a pride swelling within me at these sibling relationships; we did it, we helped this trio cultivate strong love and deep bonds. And grief stayed at bay.

Even when her dad pulled her in for a hug I was okay. When I wrapped myself around her I just knew in my deepest parts that she would be fine. I was not saying good-bye, as I wiped tears I understood I was saying hello to this amazingly, wonderful young adult daughter of mine, and new chapters were about to unfold.

I credit God with granting me strength for those moments and the ones that followed. The drive home was quiet as Erin & Zach took in the new dynamic that would unfold at home as the three musketeers became the two amigos. It was good for me to be one who was strong and confident in the knowledge that we would all be not just okay, but indeed we would all be good.
To be sure…I miss her in this house. I miss her in my daily life.I wonder about her more times than I could count in a day. And in all of that, it’s still good. We parented toward this. She is making friends, being responsible, becoming independent. Everything did not change, but many things did and will. But it’s rather like discovering your favorite book didn’t end, there were many more chapters captured in volume two. . .and you just discovered volume two. . .and you can’t wait to see where the story goes.
(August 31, 2018…this one who blazed the trail graduated, got her first job and 401K. She moved to Naperville, IL and is currently living and working New Orleans, LA. Being a mom is an incredible adventure and we are more resilient, elastic and brave than we think we might be, so be encouraged moms (and dads) everywhere – we can do this!)

Lasts and Firsts and Taking it All in

Christmas 2015 7Christmas break is still going at our house, which means two college kids remain here and we are enjoying the company of my mother-in-law. It’s slowing coming to an end though, Courtney has returned to her apartment and job and Kevin went back to work, making me aware of these dwindling days.

The other night after going to bed, I crawled back out, tapped on Erin’s door and climbed into bed next to her; sometimes a mom just feels like she needs to cuddle her baby, even if her baby is 18 and a college student. My intention was to stay for just a bit, but when she fell asleep in my arms I couldn’t leave; I woke up next to her in the morning light and my heart was full.

Christmas 2015As I walked through the next day I felt like I had experienced a gift ~ and hoped it wasn’t the last time that would happen, but wondered if it was. Sometimes the many “firsts” we get to see when they’re little hide some of those lasts, so we don’t even realize we missed the “last”. But my awareness of lasts is heightened in this season, and I took that one in…just in case.

Here’s another thing that happened this week ~ after two weeks of vacation Kevin needed some shirts ironed before he returned to work (wife fail: I don’t do his ironing), his mom said she would be happy to iron his shirts. As I watched her put shirt after shirt on hangers for her son I wondered if she was having a mom-moment; caring for her son in this way. As I’ve sat at dinner and listened to Kevin thank God for his mom’s presence I am cognizant of their mother-son relationship, and also grateful they have the opportunity to be together like this, and hope this is a glimpse of my future. (Yesterday as I put a pair of pants on Zach’s bed, I decided  to iron them for him since I had the iron out anyway. As I did that I wondered how many more times I would iron something for my son, and smiled as I thought of Verona ironing Kevin’s shirts.)

Christmas 2015 3In this season of change ~ so much change, I’m also encountering some “firsts” as I experience some “lasts”. Zach and I went for pizza and a beer at our local brewery the other night. We’re planning a visit to Minnesota soon to meet the girl he is dating and his core group of friends. I’m going to visit Courtney for a weekend and she is looking forward to showing me around her town and sharing her life there. Erin is planning to study abroad in Spain this summer ~ all firsts.

I love being a mom ~ parenting these kids with Kevin has been the greatest joy of my life to Christmas 2015 4this point ~ and ~ things are shifting. So I’ll take in those hugs, cuddles, and give the shoulder massages my kids love. I’m working to embrace the paths we are walking in, and walking towards. Five months ago we were living in the same house, today we live in four different states – that’s a lot of change, and that was just the beginning, there is more to come.

As I consider my loving mother-in-law ironing her son’s shirts, going out to dinner with just him, lingering with him over coffee, I am reminded the role of a mom remains even as her purpose transforms.

The Baby is at College and I’m on the Couch

Zach and Erin Aug 2015We took the baby to college.
The baby.
To college.

Curiously it was not as hard as I had expected. Maybe it was because I’ve done it twice before, or because she’s attending the university from which her sister just graduated, or because when it came down to goodbye she had a hard time, which propelled me into “strong” mode. Whatever the reason, I was caught off guard by the relative ease of the day and the absence of tears on the drive home.

Then ‘the day after’ happened and I was caught off guard again. The quiet of the house, the knowledge that she wouldn’t come bursting through the door with lots to talk about, the new reality that she wouldn’t snuggle up to me at the end of the day left me feeling empty.

Though the ‘To Do’ list is longer than ever with our move just around the corner, by mid afternoon I cleared my evening calendar and by six o’clock I was the couch with a blanket and pillow and stayed there until it was time to climb into my bed.

This sending to college causes emotional confusion. I’m over the moon to receive the texts that include “having a blast”, “happy!” & “making connections!” I’m so proud of her and confident she is ready, and believe it’s going to be a fantastic year. AND at the same time it’s difficult to take in the emptiness that weighs down my heart, the change is so abrupt. So for the second night I found myself climbing onto the couch, and sinking into the quiet and comfort it offers. My internal GPS is whispering that I’m off course and it’s trying to find it’s way. I suspect I am recalibrating to this new season, and the couch has offered a place to park and wait.

I read the article I was the sun, and the kids were my planets. Beverly Beckham described exactly what I am feeling. Exactly. If you have sent a child to college then read that article. Seriously. I felt less alone and less confused. I sent it to my husband, giving him the words I could not string together.

When I was first pregnant I spent incredible amounts of time on the couch, my body had a really hard time with the pregnancies, so when I read these lines — To grow a child, a body changes. It needs more sleep. It rejects food it used to like. It expands and it adapts. To let go of a child, a body changes, too. It sighs and it cries and it feels weightless and heavy at the same time.

When I read those words I understood; my body, that holds my mind, my soul and my heart needs a little recovery time. This is just part of the process. And it’s all going to be OK.

I find that each phase my kids enter becomes my favorite – I’m confident that is the direction I am heading.

We’ll get there, fellow momma’s traveling this road…we’ll get there.

The Wisest Christmas Gift

With kids who truly lack for nothing,  we decided to do Christmas in a completely different way two years ago. Instead of shopping for presenTs we chose presenCe. We purchased plane tickets and signed a rental agreement for a house in Arizona. Courtney, Zach and Erin were 20, 18 and 15 years old when we told them time together was the best gift we could bestow on them for Christmas. We stayed home to attend Christmas Eve service, enjoyed our traditional late night feast of hors d’ourves, slept for a few hours and then early Christmas morning we left on a jet plane for warm weather, sunshine, a pool and seven glorious days together.

It felt a little risky, but it also felt a lot right.

To be transparent we did give a few small gifts, mostly stocking stuffers, but their biggest and most important gift was in the form of a simple but significant envelope ~ a letter letting them know they had each been gifted 5 Wisemen for 1 year. “Back in the day” families lived so much closer to each other making a way for natural influence and more opportunity for grandparents, aunts and uncles, even neighbors and friends to be very involved in the life of a family. With that missing today we came up with the idea of “wisemen” traveling with our kids for a year ~ keeping with our theme of presenCe instead of presenTs!

We wanted to give our kids voices that didn’t belong to us; voices that could be trusted and perspectives that were different. So we created a list of people we wanted to speak into our kids ~ specific voices for specific reasons. We wanted them to have wise friends and family who would spend a year talking to them about life and work experience, integrity, faith, character, struggles, triumphs and more. We know there is much to be discussed about relationships, friendships, social media, pressures, college, marriage, humility and strength. With our transient culture, the proliferation of social media (which promotes many good things but also some a significant amount of superficial sharing), with feeling like Christian faith is being attacked and mocked in the media, and inappropriate language and conversations being overheard on a daily basis at school and at college, we believed this was one way we could speak goodness, value, belief, faith, character, integrity and more into Courtney, Zach and Erin. We also thought this was an intentional way of bringing adults directly into their lives for real relationships.

Here’s the thing we also knew ~ people are busy, which is why we spread it out. We approached five people for Courtney, five for Zach and five for Erin. We asked them if they would consider entering the life of one of our kids in a very intentional manner over the course of the new year. We asked them if they would email, call, or meet for lunch or coffee 2 to 3 times during that year. With 5 people reaching out to each of them 2-3 times a year, that would be at least 10 to 15 conversations with other adults who cared about them. That my friends, is quite a gift.

Each of our kids received a specific person who could talk to them about their future careers, someone who would meet them where they were on their faith journey and walk with them.  They each received one extended family member, as well as one person who I felt was put on our hearts for each particular child. Lastly they each received the gift of a dear friend of mine who has been in our lives for many, many years, I chose her because as our kids were turning the corner of adulthood I wanted her voice to go with them, linked more directly to them instead of just through me. It was quite a year – there were lunches, very early morning coffee dates, Skype times, notes and cards in the mail, texts, conversations, mentoring, walks and more. As a parent it was incredible to watch other really good adults pour into our kids.

I told our kids I was writing this article and asked each of them what they took away from, or appreciated about, the year of the Wisemen. Zach, now 20, said he liked that it put mentors in his life, he said he got a lot out of things that he was taught, but his big takeaway was the importance of a mentor in his life. Courtney, now 22 appreciated knowing that people of influence in her life, people she thought highly of and looked up to, were thinking of her and had committed to guiding her. Erin, now 17, says “Having other adults cheer me on in life was meaningful. Also as a kid it can be hard to create relationships with adults, even though we want to, so it was beneficial to have a catalyst for these relationships that we could develop.”

The wisest Christmas gifts we ever gave was the gift of wise men and women to walk a little more intentionally alongside our kids. It seemed a good time to write this – as we scurry busily around during this season it’s good to be reminded that what we truly need most isn’t all the presenTs under the tree, it is the presenCe of others in our lives.

When Your House is Under Your Dorm Room – A Different Perspective

Zach guest blogs today to tell his perspective of living at home while going to college ~

When I decided to stay home for my first year of college my parents worked hard to make sure that it didn’t feel like another year of high school. This took a lot of changing, but the main thing for me was realizing that I needed to accept both sides, that I was now a college student, but also living at home. So I knew that my freedoms would expand, but I also lived in my parent’s house.

The first thing was changing my room. I had originally decorated my room in elementary school, so it was ready to do some maturing. It was important to pack up all the small stuff that I wouldn’t have taken to college with me anyways, because I didn’t want to feel like I was living in the same environment that I had since I was a child. A new room allowed me to feel like I was actually transitioning from high school to college, even if it was the same room I had had since I was four.

Another important thing for me to do as a commuting student was to get involved at school. Although IPFW was not my first choice I knew I had to make the most of my time to make sure I didn’t have a bad experience. I made sure that I lifted in the weight room on campus, I joined the wrestling club, I played intramural flag football, and I attended each and every free food event provided by the school. Every one of them. Even if that meant being late to class. Free food is that important. This helped me to feel like I was a part of the college atmosphere, so that every minute not spent in the classroom wasn’t spent at home.

The rules around the house were good too. They allowed me to have even more freedom, with the understanding that I still lived at home. I was able to have friends over at any time; this helped for those night that I was up late studying, as well as those nights where I hosted Madden tournaments because class didn’t start until 11 on Thursdays. My parents allowed me to have the freedoms of being a college kid. There were nights where I told them that I didn’t know if I was going to come home or if I would spend the night at a friend’s house, and all they asked was that I let them know. There were nights where I was out longboarding with friends downtown until 3am without any questions about what I was doing, because there wouldn’t be if I went away to school. These were freedoms that I did truly enjoy, because I could feel like I was away at school, even if I still lived at home.

A few things didn’t go as planned, but they were things I had to adjust to because I was still living at home. There were days that I was asked to get up early to take Erin somewhere, and I knew that if I was off at school that wouldn’t have happened, so why did it now? But it was because I did still live at home, and I still had to contribute. Or where the “letting us know where you are going” turned into “please put your schedule on the calendar” and that wasn’t a problem, it just wasn’t what being away at school would be like, but then again, I didn’t go away to school.

Overall the year went really smoothly. I had a lot of fun, made a lot of new friends, and enjoyed living at home for one last year. It was a perfect transition phase, and that was because my parents were willing to change how they treated me so that I could truly feel like a college student.

Read the original post, When Their College Dorm Room is Upstairs…in Your House, here.

When Their College Dorm Room is Upstairs…in Your House

When our son, Zach,  turned down his first choice of universities to accept a scholarship from a college in town, I considered how to help him still have the college experience while still living at home…sleeping in the bedroom he had been sleeping in since he was four years old. Here is what I came up with to give him a little feel of dorm living while still living under our roof.

Zach's Room 2011

The first thing I suggested was that Zach go through his room and remove ANYTHING he would not have taken to college. That adorable picture of him and me when he was two – box it up. The dresser knickknacks accumulated over the years, and the books on the bookshelf from younger years – box those up too. I provided him a plastic tub so he didn’t have to get rid of anything, just box it up now and go through down the road.

We gave him some funds to purchase new bedding, and then we sent him to Lowes to pick out paint for his “dorm room”. We had him paint his own room – giving valuable experience in wall prep, taping, painting, cleaning brushes ~ as well cleaning paint from the carpet! He received a mini-fridge for graduation, so that came up from the basement storage area and went in his room as well – which he kept stocked all year with an abundance of chocolate milk, Gatorade, and Coke! He and I picked up a small corner desk to give him a study space. He decided he wanted his own TV, so off he went with some of his graduation money and purchased one. Slowly but surely the space was transformed, looking less like his old room and feeling a more like a dorm room.

Lastly his dad and I sat down one evening with Zach and went over the Dorm Perks & Rules. Here they are:

  • We offer free Wi-Fi!
  • We offer free printing!
  • Quiet hours after 11:00 PM on weekdays.
  • All friends are welcome to come over anytime – may have to work with your sister on reserving the basement.
  • You don’t have to ask us if you can go anywhere or do anything – but letting us know would be respectful.
  • When you come in late, come in quietly.
  • We are not a co-ed dorm  :)
  • We are an alcohol free dorm – except for the RA  :)
  • We are a drug-free dorm – no exceptions  :)
  • Unlike other dorms, we are open over winter, spring and summer break – you are welcome to stay over these breaks!
  • We do not have a healthcare facility on site, but we do offer free healthcare!
  • We will offer you a $20 weekly gas stipend – if you had gone away and lived on campus you would not have the added financial cost of driving to and from campus each day.
  • We offer an all inclusive meal plan, with options available 24 hours a day – totally free to you!
  • You will be expected to voluntarily contribute to a minimal level of house chores weekly. This includes bringing the garbage to the curb.
  • On occasion, (but not often) you will be expected to pick up or drop off your sister.
  • In the winter, you will be expected to sometimes help shovel snow.
  • We will expect you to communicate to us if we are not being respectful of your need to have study hours.

Most of this was tongue in cheek as you can see, but it seemed important to lay out what was in our heads so no one was guessing about what was expected. Since we had never done this before, we said we would schedule an assessment of the Perks & Rules in 6 to 8 weeks. Scheduling it was important so that if things weren’t going so well we already had a plan to address it, and if things were going well, it would be a quick meeting.

Zach’s freshman year has come to and end – I believe it went pretty well, but I have invited him to be a guest writer here on this topic later this week so you can hear his perspective as well. I am sure there are things he experienced that we could have done better, and because  I love sharing things that go well as well as learning through things that don’t go well, I have asked him to share openly and honestly.

I admit there were times I had to intentionally remind myself that he wouldn’t have to answer to us if he lived away at college, so I made efforts not to ask a lot of questions. I wasn’t concerned about him making crazy choices that were going to derail him so I tried to change my verbiage from ‘What time will you be home?’, to ‘Have fun!’ He had to experience more freedom if he was going to feel good about living here, so I had to shift what I expected of him.  It wasn’t natural to let go so swiftly, but it was important to the process so I worked at it.

Univeristy-of-MinnesotaDuring his freshman year, Zach applied for and was accepted into a program that has given him the opportunity to transfer (on that scholarship!) to his number one university. In 10 short days we will get in the car and drive him to his next dorm room – 10 hours away. I have a feeling I’ll have to intentionally work at a lot of new things very shortly.

Summer 2014
Summer 2014


Time at the Lake

Every Fourth of July used to be spent at the lake where my mother-in-law, Verona, and her husband, Red, live. Both of them, previously married, had four children each, when I entered the picture all of his kids were married and had children of their own. When we got together each Fourth it was one big blended shindig that sometimes lasted for three days! There was the annual parade, boat rides, swimming, paddle boating, tubing, jet skiing, lounge chairs tied together in the water. We also had endless food, overflowing coolers, bonfires at night, portable cribs, baby swings hanging in doorways and towels stretched out on the dock for sunbathing. It was magical.

Babies kept coming, his grandkids began having children, schedules started to get crowded and it seemed we just couldn’t all get there each year. If you could make it, you went — whoever showed up had a blast.

Eventually the boat was replaced with a pontoon, the jet skis were sold but the magic continued — just in a different way. Picnic baskets were loaded and eaten on slow rides around the lake, we still went to the parade, washed our hair in the lake, walked in the woods, still had more than enough food and a sense of community that was fulfilling and calming.

Over the last 25 years it’s gotten harder for our family to get there each and every year, and this summer our vacation time is just so squeezed. There are summer jobs, practice schedules, and with Kevin and I still living in two cities, our calendar has been full to the very brim. It was tempting to cancel our plans this year — but alas we did make the  l o n g  13 hour trek to northern Minnesota a few weeks ago.

The last two times we’ve gone, it’s just been our family and Kevin’s brother’s family who’ve gathered with Verona and Red at the lake — smaller and different, but wonderful weekends ensued, especially this year. There was no boat, even the paddle boat was gone, but we managed to still have a lot fun down at the lake. We went to the parade, made our annual walk to the ice-cream store, stayed up late playing games, laughed ‘til we cried, counsins connected, we spent hours in the screen porch and ate too much awesome food.

I knew I would write about how valuable it is to make time to come together. That value seems to be ever increasing because the supply of time seems to be so low. Because this wonderful place I love had recently been put up for sale, we knew this was likely our last Fourth of July at grandma’s house — so we made the most of it. We came home saying it was one of our best times at the lake.

What I loved was that the feeling was the same, even though the experience was so different from all those years ago. There used to be almost 40 of us there for the Fourth, this year there were 12. It was different, and yet it met the desire to connect with our bigger family in ways that just slow our souls down. As we drove home I felt beyond grateful we had protected the vacation plan to go to my mother-in-law’s. I was thankful our kids Red ~ Summer 2014had taken days off of those summer jobs, and that Kevin took time away from his job at a time when he likely wasn’t sure he had that time to give due to mounting projects and deadlines. July 3rd – 6th, 2014 was priceless.

July 17th Kevin’s step-father passed away very suddenly.

And so very quickly the end of an era is upon us, one that spanned over 30 years. I will be ever grateful for the memories that fill my soul; time at the lake with grandma and grandpa, the big blended family that just kept growing, a place that represented peace, love, calm, joy, fun, happiness and so much laughter. I don’t know what the future looks like now, but then I didn’t know how our time at the lake would evolve either. What stayed consistent through all the change was that we came together. Now it will look different yet again, but as long as family is at the center, I’m confident it will remain magical.

I will always be grateful that through my 20’s, 30’s and 40’s I had plenty of time at the lake.
More of time at the lake


A Story of the Seasons of Summer

Once upon a time summer was kicked off with a trip to the ice cream store. Each last day of school a mom threw a big party with lots of kids running around eating hot dogs, playing hide-and-go-seek and burning school papers in the fire-pit. Her kids would have a summer-long slumber party in the cool of the basement where they seemed to endlessly watch old episodes of The Fresh Prince of Bel Aire and The Nanny. There were slip-and-slides, sprinklers under the trampoline, and homemade popsicles – followed by lots of late night movies, endless bowls of popcorn and much sleeping in.

It was an amazing time, and the mom was full and happy.

Then suddenly (or so it seemed) one summer, the oldest girl, who was more of a young woman at 22, didn’t come home because she had a job in another city. The next oldest, a son, was working part time, dating a great and wonderful girl, and spending lots of time with many excellent and fun friends. The baby, who was now 17 years-old, got up early to drive herself to meet her cross country team for morning runs. Also, she was now making summer fun for the young ones in her charge as she babysat for moms who had little ones the age she used to be.

The mom realized that although it was still summer, she was in a new season of summer, so she texted and Skyped and Facetimed with her daughter in the other city. Sometimes they would even drive to see each other, because it was summer…and they could. The boy, who knew he was leaving for a college 10 hours away in a few short months, gave his mom extra strong hugs – and the mom exhaled and soaked in them. They replaced slip-and-slides with bowling, lunches and bike rides in this new season, and it was good. This mom knew with all her heart that her baby girl had one more year at home before she too left for college, so the mom was even more intentional as she spent time with her – even looking her in the eyes more as they went about their, no longer endless, days of summer.

Summer had changed, but…

It was an amazing time, and the mom was full and happy.

(This post was originally published over here at

I Wanted More than Just Getting Along

Erin & Zach“Go to bed!”
“Talk quietly.”
“It’s late and your sister has school in the morning!”
“I’m serious; you need to go to bed!”

Late night hushed voices and loud laughter have sent me upstairs to quiet these children of mine so many times over the years I’m sure I could not count the steps I’ve climbed or the times I’ve uttered the words above. But this weekend was different.

EastBlog 4.22.14er weekend brought Courtney home from college and the late night voices were floating through the house again. As they’ve gotten older, and these times when they are together are dwindling, I can feel the switch from mild irritation and concern for enough sleep, to a tender heart, grateful for these sibling relationships that are still being grown and nurtured.

Good sibling relationships were of high value to me from the very beginning. While growing up I dBlog 4.22.14 (2)idn’t feel intimately connected to my sisters or brother, and I had a longing for that to be different for my own kids. So I was shocked when toddler Courtney began knocking baby Zach over just as he was beginning to learn to sit up all by himself! That alone sent me to a parenting class to figure out what to do! As they got a little older I also found myself at a parenting workshop to learn what to do about sibling rivalry. I knew I needed to learn how to draw them to each other instead of me constantly separating them.

I’m no expert, but here are a few things I’ve learned along the way ~

When they are yoOn a tripung jealously can look a lot like mean. I learned that engaging Courtney in a level of care for Zach was part of the solution to her knocking him over. She was less likely to want to hurt the one she was caring for. This meant letting her feed him his dinner (which also meant being patient because this also meant the process was messier and took more time!) I also let her help me bathe him and assist wCourntey loved to read to Zachith a change a diaper here and there. The other part of the solution was making sure she and I got some alone time without the baby – she needed to be assured that she still had her very own place in my heart, independent of that new baby who seemed intent on sticking around!

I learned quickly (well, after the sibling rivalry workshop) that to encourage cooperative playtimes I needed to play with them or play a game with them so they would experience a fun time together. Once those feel good brain chemicals were off and running they had a much easier time transitioning to playing without me. The goal was for them to learn to lean on each other for fun; my job was to show them that was possible.

During this time period I would set the stage for a good time. Sometimes I was down for a tea party, but my kids  l o v e d  tea parties, and blog 7I just didn’t have it within me to attend each and every one. Plus – I wanted them to develop friendships with each other – independent of me. That meant I would set up tea parties for them, call them when it was ready and then exit the room. A big box arrived and the next day I gathered markers and crayons for them and left as they transformed that box into a car that carried them to grandma’s house 600 miles away! I also found a clean and organized playroom promoted play much more than the chaotic mess we sometimes left it in.

Trip to Grandma's (again!)As they got a little older and one of them was involved in a sport, school play, band or choir performance, we went as a family and we all encouraged, watched for, and applauded the one participating. (I believe that might seem more of a challenge today with smart phones and tablets at our disposal, it seems easier to hand the other kids devices to keep them quiet and occupied. But learning the life skill of waiting patiently and supporting your sibling – even at the cost of a little boredom is important to developing relationships. This also gives developing brains time to develop without constantly needing a ping.) We also always got ice-cream in celebration of the one who was in the play, band or choir concert – we would each let the star know just how great they had performed!

The other area that was vital to them developing their own relationships was (and is) learning to resolve their own conflicts. Let’s face it; no relationship is sustainableat the zoo if it collapses whenever problems arise. My oldest possessed natural abilities in this area so I’m not sure I can take a lot of credit. I remember one day when they were driving their cardboard car to grandma’s house, Zach wanted to take his big stuffed dog, Courtney said no and he walked away and said he wouldn’t play. She stepped back and I watched her consider and ponder, she really wanted him to play with her, so she sacrificed what she wanted to keep him engaged, the dog got stuffed in the car off they went on their adventure! (He was 2, she was 4 ½) It’s not easy to know how to navigate tricky conflicts but just being aware of the need to teach negotiation, taking turns, selflessness and asking “how can we solve this problem” may be helpful.

We’ve have had lots of people comment for many years on how well our kids get along, I promise you, we didn’t do it all rightJune 2012 and I’m certain we did plenty wrong. You don’t have to do what we did, you probably have some incredible ways you are developing your own children’s relationships (please share through comments!). But this weekend as I listened to our almost 22 year old sharNovember 2013e something important with her 19 year old brother, and as the almost 17 year old displayed her dismay when she discovered that while she was out with friends Saturday night the rest of us had gone out to dinner, as they laugh and play, and talk late into the night I thought it was time to share some of what we did to intentionally foster these friendships that just keep growing deeper.

Late Saturday night, upon hearing the hushed conversation, I climbed those stairs, though I had already given and gotten good night hugs. I sat on the bed opposite Zach playing together still (Dec. 2013)and Courtney and shared in a wee bit of the conversation, and then I gave one last hug and left the room as their conversation went on and on…independent of me, just like I hoped all those years ago.