Thursday, August 25, 2011

The new normal

Aidan is at college.

We moved him into his dorm last Saturday -- which was actually a bit fun. Met his roommate (nice kid, quiet, a bit OCD, as evidenced by the fact that he had his shirts hanging in the closet organized in rainbow order, i.e. Red, Orange, Yellow, etc.). We took the roomie to dinner at an Ethiopian place, which he was game for, but he ended up not eating much. Wasn't sure we got off on the right foot, but I think it turned out okay.

Sunday was pretty tough for me. Aidan took off for the dorm about 3pm, and of course I was too choked up to say much. Bjorn told him we were proud of him and knew he was going to do well, then off he went. And off I went to the bedroom where I cried for a little while, then slept for about 2 hours!

So ... the week has been weird. We definitely miss Aidan a LOT. I did okay on Monday until evening (the time he's normally home), then had a bit of a cry. Woke up Tuesday morning in a VERY bad mood, missing Aidan, feeling acutely the shift in my identity from being the 24/7 Mom to being the long-distance Mom. I was so depressed, and just decided I was going to give in and let myself be a Depressed Empty Nester, but God had other plans.

I opened my Jesus Calling devotional book for the day, and this is what it said:
Entrust your loved ones to Me; release them into My protective care. They are much safer with Me than in your clinging hands. If you let a loved one become an idol in your heart, you endanger that one -- as well as yourself ... When you release loved ones to Me, you are free to cling to My hand. As you entrust others into My care, I am free to shower blessings on them. My Presence will go with them wherever they go, and I will give them rest. This same Presence stays with you, as you relax and place your trust in Me. Watch to see what I will do.

Well, then! I guess God knew I was going to need that exact devotional on that exact day and had the author write it and assign it to that day for me! It really helped. I definitely still miss Aidan, and sometimes I think, "Okay, the experiment is over, it's time for him to come home now." But even with the sadness and the sort-of grief that he's not right there in his armchair on his computer at the end of the day every day when I want him there, I know this is how things are supposed to be right now. It's a freaking tough adjustment, but God is walking with me (and with Aidan, and with Bjorn) and showing us all the way.

It's been an interesting week for Aidan, too. His first day of classes was yesterday, and his second class started with the professor walking in and saying, "This class is going to teach you to question everything you've ever learned." And one of the first two readings they were supposed to "question" was from the Bible. Aidan was really annoyed by it. I'm not doing it justice in this writing, but it sounded like the professor was definitely anti-Christian. So Aidan decided to drop that class and take a different one. I know he would have been okay in there, he would have probably been able to stand up for his beliefs, etc., but it's much better to not have to deal with a situation like that if it's possible to find an alternative. Since the specific class wasn't required (it was an "undergraduate studies" course -- he has to take a certain amount of those, but the specific ones he takes are up to him), then he felt it was better to just find something else he wouldn't mind as much. I'm very proud of him for making that decision and taking that initiative on his own!

I think it's going to take me a long time to adjust to what the Empty Nest means for me, as I mentioned above. That whole "long-distance mom" thing means my identity is no longer as strongly rooted in the "mom thing" as it used to be, and that's difficult for me. I don't know what's next for me, so I'm in a sort-of holding pattern while I wait for God to show me where I go from here. Obviously I'm still here for Aidan when he needs me, but it's a different kind of "here" than it used to be, so there's a lot of space to fill now, as it were.

Anyway, I don't think I'm doing such a great job of telling all this, but it's oddly very difficult for me to write about it! It's soooo deep and also pretty emotional in many ways, and that's why I haven't even attempted to write about it until today.

Well, Aidan will be home on Saturday, so it will be interesting to see what our interactions will be like now that he's had a little "freedom."

Can't wait to see him!

Friday, August 19, 2011

T-minus 22 hours and counting

Tomorrow is the day. "MD-Day" -- Move to Dorm Day. And then Sunday is "D-DAY" -- "Dorm Day". The difference is that Aidan will move in tomorrow afternoon, but come back home with us and spend the night and most of the day Sunday, then he will head off to stay on Sunday evening.

I have meant to write so much more as these days approached, but I've had a number of health things come up, and then it's just been darned hard to even think about anything to do with Aidan without tearing up and becoming all weepy.

I'm trying to comfort myself with the lovely, exquisite knowledge that UT is only 45 minutes from home, that he can come home any time he wants to, that at least for awhile he'll be home most weekends (unless he comes up with some kind of extracurricular interest that meets on Saturdays, in which case there will be much weeping and gnashing of teeth on my part). I know we are truly blessed in that sense, that there are so many parents whose kids are going off to different towns, different states to college. I am SO grateful we're not heading to Chicago! If we were, I think at this stage I would be looking for an apartment there, because that is just too darned freaking far away.

But I like having Aidan HOME. I like that his room is just a few steps down the hall from ours. I like waking up in the middle of the night and knowing he is safely tucked in his bed just those few steps away. I like coming in from shopping and having him ensconced in "his" armchair in the living room, laptop on his knees, bopping away to some Japanese pop song in his earbuds. I like hearing, "Mom, when is supper?" and "I'm ready for bed now," (the latter to let us know it's time to go up and pray with him before he goes to sleep). I like hearing his laughter erupt into a quiet room as some webcomic tickles his funnybone, and I love it when he wants to share that comic with me.

I love when he wants to show me his favorite anime series, when he wants me to connect with something that is important to him.

I love the way his smile lights up the room, how just hearing his voice can chase away the demons of depression that sometimes swirl around me, especially when I'm feeling physically unwell.

But it's time to let go. It's time to lengthen the silver cord that connects my heart with his and let him go out into the world as he is supposed to do. It's time to let him begin to fulfill whatever plan it is God has for him. Going to UT is the first step in that plan, and I will not stand in God's way no matter how much I want to throw my arms around Aidan and hold onto him with all my might, keeping him here with me.

God has blessed us with an amazing young man, a young man who loves Him, who cares about pleasing Him, a young man who has so much promise and potential and so, so much to give to the world. We have brought him to this point with God's grace and His wisdom, and now it's time to launch him out into the waters of life, into the great plan God has for him, and trust that God will keep him safe and honor all that we've poured into him.

Will I cry? You betcha I will! I already have, copious amounts, and there will be copious more to come. But it's time. My heart and my soul and my head tell me so. And so I must let him go.

Come Monday morning I may actually breathe a sigh of relief -- not because I'm glad Aidan's gone (Lord knows that would never be true!), or because he's off doing what he's supposed to be doing. But this has been a L-O-N-G couple of years since he became a junior in high school and it hit me in the face that he would be leaving home soon. A long couple of years spent dreading the day he would move into his dorm at whatever university he ended up being led to. I've cried a lot of "anticipating" tears in these last two years, and I've stubbornly dug my heels in against the rush of time as the day grew nearer and nearer, trying to slow things down, to appreciate every moment while all three of us living in this house was still the normal way of things. For the last two years I wouldn't let myself say, "I can't wait for summer (or winter, or whatever) to be over," because when summer or whatever was over, D-day would be that much closer. Come Monday I can finally say, "I can't wait for Autumn!" without stopping myself and saying, "Wait, no, then THAT DAY will be closer!"

It's a small consolation, but I'll take it.

And, anyway, Jesus has been very gracious to me with His grace, and I know that He will continue to grant me exactly the grace I need to get through each and every day as an Empty Nester. I have a window decal on my car now that has a little UT longhorn on it and the words "Texas Parents," (as we are official members of the Texas Parents Organization.) It makes me feel proud to know that we're the parents of an amazing and wonderful college guy, a Texas Longhorn. We've outgrown high school and we've moved on.

I hope any of this post made any sense. It's hard to write from a heart that's overflowing with all kinds of emotions and have it come out the least bit intelligible.

I'll write again after D-Day and let you know how it went ...

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Don't think I can do it

Let's see ... in less than a week Aidan will turn 18. And in less than a month he will be officially off to college.

And I don't think I can do this.

I thought maybe it would help that he's had a full-time job this summer, so instead of being here with me all day every day all summer, it's been more like the daytime period will be when he's at college. Except that I know he's coming home in the evening, and I know he'll be sleeping in his bed each night.

I had a hard time when he went for Freshman Orientation and was gone two nights. I used it as a practice run for the Fall ... and I didn't like it! It just seems so wrong that suddenly we're down to ONE room in the house being occupied with family at night (if you don't count the cats). It feels empty and sad and ... yeah, wrong.

It doesn't help that I'm having the mother of all mid-life crises. I can't write, and I don't want to scrap, I'm stuck with this stupid neck brace, and I'm bored out of my skull all day, every day. I don't have much stamina, and don't have the health to work or volunteer anywhere right now (took a shopping trip to Target yesterday to buy all Aidan's dorm bedding, and it nearly killed me). And I am feeling old (I'll turn 49 in December), and just don't see what the purpose of my life will be once Aidan's gone off to college. I know he'll still need his mom "out there" in his life, but my days of constant, active mothering will be over.

One could argue that those were over once he went to 1st grade and didn't need me every second of the day, but those of you who know understand that, just because your kid isn't at home doesn't mean you're not still mothering in some way. I guess I'll still be doing that to a point even after he's off at UT, but this is a MAJOR "letting go" and I need to keep that in mind. No more e-mail monitoring, or computer activity monitoring. None of that.

And Aidan and I are so close. He'll be sitting there on his computer and start laughing, and I know that's my cue to ask, "What?" And then he'll tell me something funny he just read or watched. He's done that constantly his whole life ... hopefully that means he'll miss me when he's sitting in his dorm or at the library reading XKCD comics or looking at I Can Has Cheezburger or something, and he'll want to share it with me and the only way he can do it will be via facebook or Twitter, no eye contact, no hearing Mom laugh. (Darned tears!!)

So, no, I'm not ready for this, and I won't ever be, and I hate it.

And one day he's going to want to go to JAPAN, and what will I do then??

Ugh. Lord Jesus, You can come back now. The sooner the better. Please.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Graduation Day, part 2

Well, I survived it.

And overall it was an amazing, beautiful, fantastic day.

Started out with the School of Rhetoric (i.e. High School) Awards Ceremony. Aidan garnered a few awards, including "President's List" honor roll (grade average of 95-97 for the first three quarters), got a silver medal for his grade on the National Spanish Exam, Spanish 1 level (which was amazing since he didn't even start the class until the second semester), and a gold medal for his grade on the National Latin Exam, was chosen the Molecular Biology Student of the Year, and was recognized for being a National Merit Finalist with a beautiful Lucite plaque/trophy (too thick to be a plaque, but not exactly a trophy ...) And he was officially announced as the Salutatorian, but we've known since last year he would have that honor.

Then they have a special Senior recognition, in which a member of the junior class reads a tribute they've written to a member of the Senior class. That's always fun, and the young man who wrote about Aidan nailed him pretty well (nailed in the sense of accurately defined him, not made fun of him). Aidan got to keep a written copy of what the junior said, so that will go into his keepsake stuff!

As the ceremony ended and the head of the athletic department got up to give the closing prayer, I suddenly choked up -- I realized how much I was going to miss this awesome school, the whole wonderful Christlike atmosphere of the place, the love and the encouragement of the faculty and staff, all that. And this was the last day we would be associated with it in a direct sense. *cry*

Then we had graduation rehearsal and went back home.

I don't normally reprint emails I've sent someone in my blogs, but since I'm tired and don't want to have to write everything out twice, I'm going to paste here the graduation description I already sent to a friend this morning, maybe adding a few things along the way ...

Graduation was awesome. I LOVE Aidan's school and the way they personalize everything. With 11 kids in the graduating class you can do that.

I was incredibly thrilled that my mom was able to go see Aidan graduate. Her health is just not good at all, and she's not able to go out and do a lot of things away from the house, especially a sort-of monumental thing like a ceremony or service or whatever. But God granted his beautiful mercy to Mom yesterday and she was able to come with Daddy and share in Aidan's big day along with us and Aidan's paternal grandparents, who came out from Arizona to be part of the celebration.

Aidan's Salutatorian speech was so good, and it was SO totally him. It was about how, although people often say "High school is the best time of your life," he certainly hopes that ISN'T true, because he hasn't even begun to do and be all the things he wants to do and be. He sees high school as a springboard, with college giving him and his classmates this whole brand new opportunity to go out there and expand on who they think they are, etc. It gives you a chance to reinvent yourself. It's certainly not a new theme for a high school graduation, but the wording and delivery were totally Aidan and beautifully done.

I don't remember if I told you anything else about how their ceremony works, but they have the parents come up with the student before they get their diploma. While we're walking up they read the "charge" we wrote to our student (I'll post that at the end), then they say the student's full name, we hug/kiss/shake hands/whatever with them, then they leave us, walk across the stage and get their diploma, then the student leaves the stage from that end and we walk back down the way we came -- opposite sides, intentionally symbolic of them leaving their parents and going out on their own.

Of course there's a keynote speech (they chose one of their English teachers to give it), and the headmaster gives his speech. Our headmaster was recovering from prostate cancer surgery, so this year is was a video from him. He chose the theme of "perseverence" for this year's class, and I thought in the middle of the speech it kinda turned into a downer ("You will go through suffering in your life ... you will lose your job, a treasured and important relationship will end, some of you will divorce, some will get cancer ..." -- I thought he could've said "may" instead of "will" with those last two!!). The message was important, that suffering and difficulty refine us and make us more like Jesus, but some of the wording was a little weird for a high school graduation, or so I thought.

But overall it was just beautiful and awesome, and I didn't need ONE kleenex (although I did get close a couple of times)!! In fact, when they called our name to walk up to the front with Aidan, God totally pasted this huge smile on my face and I couldn't stop smiling! I actually got worried people would think I was looking forward to getting rid of Aidan! lol (My mom said I just looked proud; I hope that was the impression I gave!) And then it was over, we had a nice reception in the cafeteria, and we went home.

And about an hour or so later I looked over at Aidan and thought ... oh, my gosh, he looks like a YOUNG MAN, not just a "teenager"!! He's grown up!

I went to get ready for bed, then, and I just lost it. Bawled my eyes out. Had to have Bjorn come in and put his arms around me. Thank goodness Aidan and Bjorn's folks had already gone off to bed! I would say it was just that the whole day crashed down on me (I was certainly physically exhausted by that point) but I've been teary all morning, too. Ugh! I hope I get over this or it's going to be a weird summer.

Don't know how in heaven's name I'll survive the day we drop Aidan at his dorm and drive off. But a year ago I didn't know how I would survive yesterday, either, and God gave me the grace I needed to get through it, so I'm counting on Him to get me through that day, too.

In the meantime I'm going to pray really hard for Jesus to come back first! ;-)


Here is our Charge to Aidan that was printed in the program and read as we walked up to the stage with him:

Aidan, you have amazed us since the minute you entered this world seventeen years ago! It was clear from the start that you had a bright, inquisitive little brain. It’s been a such a fun, incredible ride raising you, watching you navigate interests and talents until finally discovering that One Thing that just clicks with you, that gives you so much joy and is so clearly a God-given gift in you. (We should have known you’d grow up to be a linguist from the way you used to study our faces when we spoke, as if you were trying to figure out how we got those sounds out of our mouths, and how those sounds seemed to fit together to actually mean something!)
And we know it’s going to be just as wonderful watching you become the man God wants you to be, a man after His own heart. We are so excited for you as you begin this next phase of your life. Knowing how much you love God and are committed to Him gives us great peace as we launch you out into the wide world.
“We are not in charge of how you live out the faith, looking over your shoulder, suspiciously critical. We’re partners working alongside you, joyfully expectant. [We] know that you stand by your own faith, not ours.” (2 Corinthians 1:4, The Message)
So, Aidan, Exsisto existo , prodeo quod victum! ["Arise, go forth and conquer!" -- which Aidan would know ...]
We love you!
Mom and Pop

Friday, May 27, 2011

Graduation Day!!

Well, it's actually here -- Aidan's Graduation Day. I have about two minutes to blog about it, so most of the actual Graduation Day writing will be tomorrow or later ...

I'm making today a positive day in my head. Celebrating the amazing pre-college academic career of my wonderful son. Rejoicing in the many ways God has guided us, guided his teachers, guided him through these last 12 years (almost 18 for us!). Praising God for giving us the incredible privilege of raising this young man who is just truly the neatest kid on the planet.

When we say our farewells at UT on the day we drop him off for his first semester there, I will bawl like a baby (hopefully not until we get back in the car). Today, I'm really going to try NOT to do that. I'm going to keep my focus upbeat, on the good stuff, not on the "oh, this is the last time my baby will be a part of this school," or when I look at his three-year-old picture up on the screen alongside his senior portrait during the ceremony, I'm going to do my darnedest not to think "Oh, my gosh, that was just yesterday! Where did the time go???" (There was enough of that during the Senior breakfast yesterday morning when we watched the slideshows of the kids' pictures from infancy through this year!)

Might be best not to even look at the pic (except it's an awesome one!)

Anyway, so many things happening today, including the Upper School Awards Ceremony, graduation rehearsal, pre-ceremony pictures, then the ceremony and the reception afterward. It's going to be a crazy-busy day, but a good one, celebrating with Aidan and God!

(And why did typing that make tears come to my eyes? Oh, darn ...)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

One month

It's just one month from graduation. Technically that was yesterday (graduation is on May 27), but yesterday was full of "stuff" and I didn't feel like writing.

Like a headache.

Like two movies.

Like watching live streaming of the tornadoes in the South, courtesy

Like Mythbusters.

So it sounds like I might have done a good job of avoiding the topic, but one of the movies I watched was Toy Story 3.

When Toy Story 3 came out in the theaters, I made a vow to myself that I wouldn't see this movie. Possibly ever. At least until I had young grandchildren and that Dreaded Day was far off in both directions -- Aidan's well behind him, theirs well ahead.

But I'd seen a documentary about Pixar the night before and wanted to watch Toy Story 2 ... except that Netflix didn't have it on their Watch It Now list, so I decided I'd just go ahead and do TS3, having completely forgotten that it was about a 17-year-old boy about to go off to college.

When it started and I realized, I almost turned it off. But I thought, no, I can do this, I can be tough and watch this movie. It's only a movie, after all, right?

Well, I survived it. I cried a lot, though. It was a good movie, but I seriously wouldn't force any of my friends who are parents of the Class of 2011 to watch it. It did help knowing that Aidan wouldn't be caught dead playing with any of his old toys at this stage in his life, even if he was "saying goodbye" to them and helping another child get to know them. It's not who or where Aidan is in his life right now. Of course, I hold his old toys to be incredibly sacred, so there would have been no "You decide what to keep, what to put in the attic, and what to throw away," going on with me. I'd be afraid he'd get rid of the ones I wanted to keep! lol

Seriously, when Aidan goes to UT, I will not be making him purge his room. It can stay just like it is for now. He'll be coming home fairly often, anyway (so he says, and I'm counting on that!). I might do some re-organizing and straightening, might actually get his three Perfect Score on the National Latin Exam certificates framed and hung. But no purging!!

And what was with that mother, letting her son drive off to college by himself? Why didn't she go with him to help him get set up and settled in? Don't all parents do that? Heck, I don't care if UT is less than an hour's drive away, we're going with Aidan to see the dorm, get him settled, etc. Whether he likes it or not! lol

So ... yeah. One month until he graduates from high school. I think it's going to be a rollercoaster ride, to be honest. I thought I was doing better, thought I was prepared, but ...

I know, Lord. One day at a time.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Hook 'em, Horns!

Okay, I confess, I have been woefully remiss in keeping up this blog. Partly that's because I've been doing a fairly admirable job of living in denial and finding other things to fill up my thoughts so that I don't dwell on the fact that Aidan will be leaving home in four months!

What has filled my time? Well, my fictional blog has taken up a lot of it. Pain and suffering have taken up some. And just the general day-to-day stuff we all get busy with when we're living our lives.

Of course, the reminders that college is coming have been there, sometimes taking over our lives so strongly that I just think, "Can we please just get this over with and go on with life???"

We recently came through the Making a Decision wars. Don't ask me to go into details, it's been pretty rugged, especially once the financial aid offers came back from both U Chicago and UT and were both spectacularly lame. The lack of a free-ride offer or any other remotely decent help freaked Bjorn out, so we had a week of panicked scrambling while he tried to see if there were other schools Aidan could apply to, preferably that had National Merit scholarships available (since Aidan qualifies). It got complicated and nasty.

Blessedly, God prevailed and guided Aidan to an answer -- and we are now the proud parents of a future University of Texas Longhorn!! Still have no idea how we'll pay for it all, but I am definitely trusting God to make a way.

We have SOOOOOO much relief since that decision! Now I can relax a bit knowing Aidan won't be way off in the Midwest, but just down the road close enough to come home on a whim if he wants to. On his own, and yet not so far off that he can't get pretty immediate help if he needs it. And he's really excited, too. He'll be in the Liberal Arts Honors College -- hoping to get into one of their two dorms. He's been calculating how many hours he can test out of (at one point he said he thought he could test out of 15 semester hours!).

He does need to be working a little harder at getting private scholarships. That's not easy, as so many of them have qualfiers he doesn't fit (things like having to have attended a certain middle school, or be majoring in specific subjects, or whatever). We fall into the all-too-common crack of making too much money to qualify for most financial aid, and yet we really don't have the amount the F. Aid people think we do to spend on school (did they not look at our bills and expenses?). Aidan is willing to take on loans (I can feel Dave Ramsey shuddering now), but we're hoping to keep that kind of thing at a minimum. And, of course, he's willing to get a job to help out.

So now we can concentrate on just enjoying graduation and this special, heartwrenching-yet-exciting transition in all our lives!

Okay, that's not entirely true. First I'll be concentrating on having neck surgery, a three-level fusion operation that will hopefully eradicate -- or at least greatly reduce -- the pain I've been having. I've got all kinds of stuff going on in my neck -- degenerative disk disease, bone spurs, compromised spinal cord, kyphosis (instead of being shaped like a shallow backwards "C" my neck is almost straight, with actually a tiny bit of forward curve) -- and it's causing a lot of pain, so the doc is going to remove three disks, replace them with bone grafts to open up the space in there for my spinal cord, screw on some stabilizing plates and remove the bone spur that is likely to cause some issues in the near future. It may happen as early as tomorrow (I'm supposed to find out in a half hour or so), or it may not be until next Friday (April 15), but either way, I am praying for God's timing. I had to postpone it once (it was supposed to be April 8) because I had a bout of diverticulitis, of all things!

If I do have to postpone it again, I will just put it off until after graduation -- I don't want to still be in Recent Recovery mode, I want to be able to enjoy it. I will have to wear a neck brace for up to six months, but I don't mind so much having that on during the ceremony, I just want to not be feeling rotten and have no energy. At Aidan's school, it being super small (11 kids in his graduating class!), the parents take part in the ceremony, so it's very important to me to be able to do that. This is why I really hope I can get the surgery done this week -- that gives me over a month to get over the immediate post-recover stuff, plus I won't have to fear getting one of the Please Kill Me Now killer "neck-graines" I can get. (Had one this week, lasted for three days, still have some residual pain from it, so, yeah, DO NOT want that to be a possibility for graduation week!)

So ... now we have our direction. God has been teaching me a lot about trusting for each day alone, not trying to get everything all worried-up and solved for tomorrow. Mostly I'm learning. Sometimes I lapse, but He's going to get me through all of this, I have faith in that!

Onward to the Empty Nest ...