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

A Sensitive Journey

She made more meals than could ever be calculated; prepared rooms, snacks, desserts and more desserts for visits spanning every season and most holidays. She unwrapped and then swaddled in love each of my babies upon first look. She set up fold out couches and makeshift beds as we brought home one, then two, then three and even four kids. She allowed the dog in the house when we all knew it was a big ask. She cleaned toothpaste laden bathrooms and washed so many sheets after each visit. My mother-in-law never complained. Not once. She provided, cared and loved for years on years.

Her body betrayed her some months ago when a little stroke in her brain caused some not so little problems with her memory. That short-term memory is kind of a big deal, and as Kalie (my sister-in-law), her husband, Kevin and I sort it all out (we don’t exactly know what to sort out, or even really how to sort it out), we partner as a team to help the one we love navigate the days in her own apartment 15 miles from Kalie, 600 miles from us. (Though she alternately travels with us to our home as we step into guiding her in this tricky ground.)

Sometimes she’s quite cognoscente of her lapses, sometimes she’s not. But always she’s afraid of being a burden. Daily she enjoys the company, puzzles, walks, dogs to scratch and meals to share ~ but lingering somewhere is a desire to not be in the way. It’s a difficult battle to win. I try to put myself in her shoes, how will I feel if my children one day help me navigate my days? How will I feel purpose in days like this?

Over all those years, each time I arrived at her house, I exhaled and rested while she worked and took care. I left with a soul and body that had experienced an intermission. This is what I want to give her now. It’s all rather complicated and sometimes tricky when you kind of need but don’t really want. When you believe you can because you don’t really notice the gaps and holes.

This journey through life is to be made together, in grace. We were created for relationship, sometimes that means baking bars to later pull out of the freezer and making up the couch, sometimes it means enjoying someone else’s soup and letting others swaddle you in a love that you paid forward over lots and lots of years. And sometimes it might just feel backwards and uncomfortable, but always we hope it feels like love.

on a journey with the ones I love,
sheri

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.

Momma, You’re Doing a Good Job

Momma bird 2015There’s a new momma in my midst and I’m so excited to be watching her closely, encouraging her along the way. This little bird created a home for her babies right outside my bathroom window; it’s been such a treat to keep an eye on her. I open the window each morning
s l o w l y,  as to not scare her, greeting her each time I see her, saying things like ~


“Good morning, momma, you’re doing a good job.”

“Hello sweet momma, you’re awesome.”
“Hi momma, your babies are beautiful.”
“Hi again momma, it’s just me, don’t be afraid.”
“Hey there momma, how brave you are!”
“Hi momma, you’re beautiful.”
“Hey momma, I see you sitting on those eggs, caring for your babies.”

Then before bed I tell her good night and  s l ow l y  crank the window shut. She has no idea what I’m saying or even that I care for her, but I talk to her nonetheless, care regardless, and watch her as she protects, feeds and raises future flyers.

baby birds 2015Recently a big storm was brewing, I kept wondering how I could protect her; the shrub is not full of big summer leaves just yet, leaving her wide open to the elements. The idea of big rain drops pelting down hard on her made my heart  hurt a little. I understood an umbrella would blow away and anything I did would just scare her anyway. (I really tried to think of ways to protect her!) My concern for her increased, though I knew she was created to withstand storms and such.

This morning I walked away after greeting her and suddenly wondered how many ways am I the momma bird to God? I wonder how often He greets me but I do not understand. I wonder how many times He sees storms coming, desires to protect me but knows that is not necessarily His job, how often He looks at me and tells me I’m brave, awesome, beautiful and doing a good job ~ but I just don’t understand the message. I’m considering how often I miss His encouraging words as I sit on my nest, watching over and taking care of the future flyers put in my charge, within (and now outside) of our nest.

If you’re a momma sitting on your nest and you’ve ever wondered if anyone notices you – know that someone does. If you take a pelting as you shield your little ones, know that God has His eye on you ~ I find strength in that. If you think you’re not enough, God says you are. The days you believe the voice that says that you are lacking in looks, know that your Father says, Hey my girl, you are beautiful. When we feel weak our Father whispers You are strong. Being a momma is tough stuff some days, joyful others, lonely occasionally, sad sometimes, fulfilling often. I believe my God sees me and speaks words to me that are above my understanding. This sweet little momma bird has me searching His word afresh, wondering what those words might be and has me listening a little more closely.

To the Mom Whose Son Just Knocked on My Door

shoveled drivewayYou’re doing a great job raising your boy.

As we both know, it’s yet another ‘no school’ day here due to some snow that fell yesterday. My husband is out of town so I was gearing up to go shovel my driveway when your son knocked on my door. He looked me in the eye and politely asked if he could shovel my driveway for $10; a very reasonable amount, not an “entitled” amount. He seemed as if he was truly looking to serve others and earn a little money doing it. I said “Yes!”

When he was done he (and maybe his little brother?) came to the door again, I thanked him for shoveling and handed him $15. He was just so thrilled with the extra $5 and enthusiastically thanked me, looking me in the eye again. So, I just wanted to tell you how polite and helpful your boy was today. You’re doing a good job.

 

If You Give a Mom a Minute

If you give a mom a minute, she might gaze out the window as she washes the breakfast dishes and she’ll notice how filthy with splatters the window over the sink is, so she’ll decide to wash the window.

When she’s finished, she will realize the screen is even dirtier than the window, so she’ll pull that out and scrub that clean. Then when she puts it all back together she’ll notice that the wood surrounding the window is grimy and dull so she’ll get out the special wood soap and wash that too.

When she sees the bucket of water outside she’ll decide she should wash the dining room screens too. She’ll probably notice the windows and the wood that goes with those screens is icky too, so she’ll work to clean all of that as well. When she sees how clean and shiny those windows are, she will notice that the other windows and screens and wood in the house reveal that spring cleaning never took place, so she’ll wash those too.

When she’s on the patio washing all those screens she will notice how dirty the patio is so she’ll get a broom and sweep that up. When it’s all swept up she will realize it would look even better if she were to spray it clean. Then she will remember she has a patio in the front of her house that also needs to be swept and sprayed. While outside she will notice the dog poop in her yard. She will go to the garage to get a bag to clean that up.

When she walks through the garage she’ll see the ladder golf game that fell apart the other day so she will get in her car to drive to the store. When she gets in her car, she remembers the dog beds that need to be returned to Target. After she completes the return she almost walks through the store “just to see” but realizes she had spent $168 there the other day so she will quickly turn and leave.

When she gets home she will decide to load her car for her trip the next day. When she opens the hatch she will decide to vacuum the sand that is everywhere. Once that is clean she might decide to vacuum the dog hair in the backseat too. Then will probably notice the dog slobber on the windows, so she will want to wash those too. Since the back of the car is clean she will likely clean the front seats next. When she goes to put the dog seat cover on the seat she will realize it smells really bad, so she will decide to put it in the washer. But the washer will be full of her son’s laundry so she will move that to the dryer first.

When she finally moves the dog cover to the dryer and takes her son’s dry, clean laundry upstairs to his room, chances are she will close his window, and if she does that she will realize that she only cleaned the windows on the first floor, but….she will just go to bed.

If you give a mom a minute, she might just stretch it into an entire day!

This post was originally published over here.

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 Moms.FW.com)

Staying on Vacation

I almost didn’t come back from our recent trip. The first part of the trip was dedicated to time with our son, but the second part of our time was just for Kevin and me. We stayed in an a-m-a-z-i-n-g hotel on the beach, which is where I decided I could live. Although the beach was fantastic, and the pool on the roof of the hotel was out of this world, it was the room service that had me wanting to stay (well, and the guys at the pool and beach who brought us towels and drinks).

The first evening I accidentally left the shower door ajar a bit and water soaked the bath mat. I tossed it into the tub planning on wringing it out later, but when we returned from dinner it was magically gone and a fresh mat lay by the shower! Also, the bed was turned down, the radio was playing and a fresh plate of cookies sat on the night stand. It was as if caring, cleaning fairies happened upon our room twice — each and every morning and evening.

Another morning I left the ironing board out because the iron was still hot. Upon returning to the room it was put away — this on top of an abundance of fresh towels being left each day in our room. I began to think — in many ways (too many ways) this is the life my children experience, fresh towels magically appearing in the closet, groceries purchased each week, dishes done, dogs walked and so much more. I began to think — maybe I’ll just stay. Of course the hotel bill would add up to quite an extravagant amount — which led to me to also realize I am w-a-y underpaid for all the services I provide back in my real life — where I am the caring, cleaning fairy who visits all throughout the day.

When we did eventually return home, one of the first things I heard, separately, from each of our children, was an acute awareness and great appreciation for all that I do. Eight days was a lot to keep it all going on their own (note: our children are 21, 19 and 17 — so no worries, we didn’t leave toddlers home alone!). For dinners they said they did cook one night, ate leftovers, grabbed fast food and hit a graduation party. The kitchen was always a mess — they were stunned at how quickly dishes pile up.

We returned to a clean house, fresh flowers in vases all over the house and a new appreciation for all that it takes to run this hotel. I’m so grateful for the time away to be pampered, but home truly is my favorite place to be. Now if only I had a pool guy … well, and a pool.

(This post originally appeared here.)

A Very Sweet 16

This sight makes my heart happy. The table and chairs are empty now, but just a few minutes ago they held eighteen girls all here to celebrate Erin turning Sweet 16.


Ten years ago, when she was six, she wanted a tea party with triangle sandwiches and pop in a tea pot. She asked her friends to wear dresses and she provided hats, gloves and boas for the luncheon.

 


This year she wanted a sit down dinner with her favorite pasta dish and homemade bread. She again requested that her friends come in dresses to her birthday dinner – and they all did. This year she also requested no gifts, she really, really just wanted her friend groups to come together and have fun for one evening, that was the gift she wanted. How did she so quickly get so mature?

At some point after dinner, dresses were exchanged for shorts and t-shirts and the whole gaggle of them ran off in bare feet on a scavenger hunt. Each group started with a birthday candle and were to knock on doors and “trade up”. The group that came back with the best trade would win. The girls had so much fun, and now we have a chair and ottoman sitting in our front yard! Who gave them that?!

It is now late and little candles light the table that they have gathered around once more, and I hear laughter. So. much. laughter. It makes my heart happy. I see girls with heads together on the trampoline, girls at the table playing some sort of word game, my husband getting a fire started. I see a little girl in a wide brimmed hat and while gloves, and I hear burping as she and her friends drink too much pop, and then laughing! So. much. laughing.

This mom thing…it just makes my heart happy.