Thursday, August 27, 2015

Not the Empty Nest but the Green Bridge!

Great memory of Giverny--April 2007

My youngest child left for college last week.  For 26 years I have devoted myself to my children. Now they are all gone and I am left with the empty nest.  I have been contemplating the empty nest this week--In the silence.  By myself.  You see, my husband still leaves early every morning, as he has done for years.  And the house is quiet just like it has been for years.  But then it stays quiet.  Just me,
myself and I--and my lonely dog in the quiet house, visualizing an empty nest.  And it is depressing.

Don't worry.  I don't sit here all day.  I haven't been crying for days as some of my friends have reported doing.  I haven't binged watched bad TV or eaten myself sick on chocolate or Doritos, but I have been tempted to.  And I have been thinking about that damn empty nest.  And the empty nest is too damn depressing.  It looks dead and lonely.  I feel the need to rescript the empty nest because I just can't go there anymore.  So I have come up with a new visualization.  Instead of any empty nest, I prefer to think of this transitional time in my life as Monet's Green Bridge.

Monet's impressionist paintings have always inspired me with their peaceful, colorful and timeless qualities.  Monet was able to create breathtakingly beautiful, memorable art, by painting version after version of simple haystacks, floating waterlilies, skittering clouds.  Monet's home in Giverny, France (just outside of Paris) is a place where the artist brought his visions to life.  He planted mixed varieties of flowers in bold color groupings and had a Japanese Style green bridge constructed.  He grew the famous waterlilies and created a trellised hallway of flowers--ushering each season in a new color explosion.  He obsessed over his gardens because they brought him great joy and allowed him to draw inspiration for his art.

I have visited Monet's garden.  The place is as magical today as it was back in the late 1800's.  The famous green bridge crosses a small, lazy river.  And when you are standing on it, you see the artist's palette of gardens showing off in all their glory, decorating the river banks for as far as your eye can see.  It is one of the most beautiful sights I have ever encountered.

My garden of children may be grown, but my life is far from over.  I want to take inspiration from Claude Monet.  I prefer to think of this time in my life not as an empty, lifeless nest but as the transition of one garden to the next.  I want to think of nests as full of nurturing mama birds, laying their eggs, feeding their young and nudging them into the sapphire sky to take our breath away.  And I choose to think of this time in my life, not as an empty, deserted, used up space--but a colorful and stunning bridge to a new horizon.

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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Importance of Extended Family!

Childhood is a precious time to make lasting memories.  Parents, it is truly a gift when you share your children with others.  Aunts, Uncles, Cousins and Grandparents all can expand your children's life experiences and teach them valuable lessons about getting along with others and looking at things differently.

We recently had the honor of having my soon to be fourth grade niece accompany us on a weekend getaway.  She was such a wonderful guest, and we enjoyed that special time when we got her all to our selves.  By coming a long with us, she got to be in the spotlight, away from her talkative, older  brother...and we got to focus on her.  While we were playing in the pool one lovely afternoon, a large loud, Italian family complete with cousins and grandparents, aunts and uncles came to swim.  It was a joy to watch them playing and laughing and enjoying their time together.  It made me reflect on how these extended family times are so important to the development of your children.

Family time reinforces family ties.  If you don't emphasize the importance of family when your children are young, they will most likely not look to connecting with extended family members when they are grown.  This is such a missed opportunity.  Family relationships model love.  Family members are truly the people that you can count on for support in the difficult times of your life, and we all have difficult times.  Relationships with grandparents offer your children a chance to experience unconditional love and acceptance. And although all of these relationships have their trials, they teach your children about life.  Life has trials.  We don't always see eye to eye.  That is okay.  We can still love each other even if we look at things differently.  These are valuable lessons.

I know not all family relationships are healthy and positive ones.  But sometimes it truly is petty differences that separate us from one another rather than serious issues.  Do some reflecting on the relationships you have with your extended family members.  Are you too judgmental and stubborn about small things to allow these relationships to work?  Maybe come at a troubled relationships with less defensiveness and take baby steps to restore it.  Think of the value of the relationship from your children's perspective.  Could you be the catalyst for mending a broken relationship that you all could benefit and grow from?  If so, take the first step.  Reach out with a phone call or note.  Set up a short visit.  Remember that these relationships are not just about you, but about your children and the future relationships that can truly mean a great deal in the years to come.  Life is too short to ignore your family relationships.  When things are messy and difficult, be the bigger person and do what you can to make amends.  Nothing is more important than family.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

A High School Graduation Letter to my baby...

Earlier this week, my daughter asked me to run an errand with her.  She needed a new pair of shoes.  Now I have been buying various pairs of shoes for four kids for countless numbers of years.  Everything from soccer cleats to running shoes, tap shoes to prom shoes.  When I think of the number of pairs of shoes, the number must be in the hundreds if not thousands...but these shoes caused me to reflect.

You see these shoes are to be worn at her high school graduation.  And she is my baby...the youngest of four.  And so I paused to think about all of those shoes!  The white high top baby shoes that helped them all learn to walk, and supported them as they attempted those precious first few steps.  Sandals that kept their feet cool in summer months and winter boots that protected them from our fierce midwestern winters as they walked to school.  Wellies for the rainy weather in London during our brief but amazing year abroad.  Sport shoes of every size and color--soccer, baseball, football, basketball, lacrosse, running, and dancing.  Boots for horseback riding, Sneakers for cheerleading,  Dress shoes for church, or at least a clean pair in good repair (a mom can hope), and of course flip flops for the beach or pool.

But these shoes needed to be different.  She was asking for platform shoes, because her graduation is to be held on the football field of her high school.  She needs platform shoes to support her as she makes her way across the grass and up to the stage to accept that diploma.  No girl would want to be sinking into the soft spring lawn on spiky heels as she is carefully stepping into her future.  So stylish platform shoes are the perfect shoe solution.  And I am here to serve it up, one last time.  I am here to go with her and help her and guide her, just as I always have been.  But I know these times are precious and few.  I recognize that soon she will be leaving me for her new life in college, where she will make her own decisions and run her own errands and pick out her own shoes.  So Claire, this post is for you:

Dearest Claire:
 (aka Mcgee, Claire Bear, Baby, Coo Coo, and all of your other silly names)

Your dad and I, and sisters and brother realize you are all grown up--our baby is now a young woman, and you have done us proud!  You are beautiful, kind, smart, hardworking, funny,  and have incredible insight.  Your love for your friends, family, grandparents, dogs, horses, pickup trucks and the outdoors has touched us all.  Your ability to make us laugh, and remember to enjoy the simple pleasures in life is unparalleled.  We all know that petting your dog, or looking at the stars or sharing a breakfast with your dad at Corner Bakery give you immense joy.  This has taught us all to be better people by reminding us what is truly important.  You have a talent for finding and keeping amazing friends, and an ability to work hard and accomplish goals that others might have never attempted.  

Your dad and I hope that you will forever think of us as your new shoes--Platforms, that are here to support you in every way as you walk through life with confidence, on your path to wherever life leads you.  You are such a blessing to us and to everyone in your life.  Enjoy these next few days, and relax in the knowledge that God has a plan for you, and it is guaranteed to be beautiful, just like you.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

A Letter to our Preschool Students!

Dear Sweet Five-year Olds:

Not too very long ago, when you were mostly 4 and a half, it began. Miss Julie and I put the final touches on our colorful and cosy room; books were in the book corner, your beloved Legos stored neatly in the drawers, yellow pencils with bright orange erasures waited to be held in your little hands, colorful scissors waited to be pinched between your fingers.

"Make the scissors bite like a shark" we would remind you throughout the year.  "Go choose a book from the book corner" or "let's all work together to clean up our room!"  The echoes of our incredible year together keep bouncing through my mind.

Miss  Julie and I were so eager to meet you and begin our journey together. We had so much to teach you, and the year stretched ahead like a ribbon of highway disappearing in the distance.  So how have we reached the end of our year so quickly?

You have been the most incredible group of students.  You have challenged and stretched Miss Julie and I more than we ever imagined.  We have learned so much from the twelve of you, much more than we ever expected! 

Your curious minds--Zander, Peter and Owen's questions at circle time about dinosaurs or meteors or carnivores!  Your abilities to grasp BIG ideas--Jack on religion, or Lucia on global awareness.  Your kindness and compassion for one another--Beau, Landon and Veronica, doing all you could to make Ava feel special before she moved away. Your enthusiasm for trying something new--Nathan and Franco, who embraced every learning activity and encouraged others to do them same.  Or your complete ability to live in the moment and fill the room with laughter and kindness--Emily and Ava!  All of your stories and questions and jokes and giggles have filled our room with so much fun and filled our hearts with wonderful memories.

All these lessons we hold dear in our hearts, as we say Goodbye and Thank you.  You all are amazing, bright, compassionate, curious, and wonderful children who will be a gift to your kindergarten teachers and beyond.  Thank you to your dear families for sharing you all with us this year, and know that we are better teachers today because of all of you!

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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

It is imperative that you give your child this...

Free Time!  Children need free time.  They need time to play.  They need time to go outside.  They need time to interact with other children--siblings and friends. They need time to 

They need free time.  They need to experience boredom and learn to combat it with imagination.

Give your children the gift of free time.  Put the electronics away.  Resist the temptation to sign them up for every club, class and activity.  There is value in free time.  Don't forget this.  You are giving your child a gift if they have some time to just PLAY!
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