Thursday, August 16, 2018

The Empty Nest: Observations from My First Year

We put the Man-Cub on a plane for Hawaii today. Actually, we put him on the first of several planes to Hawaii. Why, in this modern age of Airfare Wars, we can’t manage a direct flight without having to hock a kidney is beyond me, but, I digress...

…so, the Cub is now on his way back to school. I am trying, mightily, to resist the urge to cry, as well as telling myself that, despite the fact that he and his friends rented a house sight-unseen, he will be fine. The fact that they have no furniture, small appliances, or general kitchen equipment does not necessarily mean that they will be sleeping on the floor whilst starving to death, nor does the fact that they have no means of transportation necessarily mean that they will be forever stranded. They are, after all, college students, and, never was there a more resourceful population; I should know, I once counted myself among them.

So, he’s going to be fine. He’ll manage to feed himself. He’ll get as much sleep as can be expected of a college student. He’ll utilize public transportation and will develop super strong calf muscles from all the walking he’ll have to do. He’ll continue to pull good grades, and, he’ll enjoy himself while furthering his education. No doubt.

And, where does that leave me?

Back in an empty nest. Although, to be honest, with the Cub living in Neighboring City with Queen B this summer, I never really had him back in the nest for more than a night at a time, so; the withdrawal should be slightly less painful this time.


Which, makes now the perfect time to reflect back on how I survived the past year. A quick glance back through my archives indicates that I was really, really anxious about a number of things this time last year, so; I’m going to break this down into categories that address the things about which I was most concerned.

The Man-Cub’s Safety: Leaving my baby on an island thousands of miles away was stressful, which, is why I demanded daily Proof of Life from the Cub. His frequent texts, Facebook posts, Instagram photos, calls, emails, and Snapchats combined into the lifeline that tethered me to my sanity. In the interest of staying sane; I require the same Proof of Life this year.

Social Life: If you’ve read this blog for any amount of time, you know how intertwined my social life was with that of the parents of both the Man-Cub and Queen B’s friends. I had a lot of concerns about how we were going to stay connected without sporting events to attend together. Luckily, several of their nests were also emptying, which meant that we were in it together, so to speak. We did have to make a more concerted effort to get together, but, we managed.

Porch Night continues to provide an opportunity for us to gather, and, I’ve introduced new folks to the group; mainly new co-workers whom I now consider friends. Hugh and I have also hosted dinners for friends, seen a lot more movies in the theater, and dined out together more frequently than we were able to do when we were chasing volleyball, basketball, football, and baseball teams across the state.

I maintained an alumni position in the Booster Club, which meant that I got to enjoy all the perks of membership without the stress of shuttling an athlete to and fro, including free admission to games, another awesome free t-shirt (as an aside, what does one do with all of those t-shirts in an empty nest? It seems sad to think of donating or otherwise getting rid of them. Maybe I’ll take up quilting?), and opportunities to hang out with other adults. All of which is to say:  I fared better, socially speaking, than I feared I might.

What to Do with All My Time: This was also a major concern for me. I spent twenty-two years focusing my time on the kids and on our family. And, while I have always pursued my own hobbies, time with the kids came first. With no more kids in the house, and, with Hugh devoting the majority of his free time to officiating, I have been able to work on projects at my own pace. I have yet to catch up on the kids’ scrapbooks, but, I’ve restored old furniture, sharpened my photography skills, tried new recipes, made more time to read for pleasure, and, taken up bird-watching, as evidenced by the numerous posts on this blog related to the birds that visited my feeders this year (I’m…not sure this is a good thing).

I also focused a lot on my health; I started walking, I joined the gym, I started paying attention to what I was eating, and, I made an effort to avoid things that are bad for me. I’m actually really proud of how far I’ve come in regard to my health, but, that could be a post all on its own (and, it probably will be).

If I’m Not a Mom, What the Hell Am I: This was, perhaps, the biggest concern I had. Roughly half of my life has been spent parenting. I ROCK the parenting. Ask anyone what my super power is and they will say “She’s a great parent”. So…what now? What AM I? Well, I guess I’m still a mom. I mean, I parent from afar, but, I still parent. I’m available when the kids need me, and, I am trying to give them the space they need in order to continue to grow.

But, what is my purpose? I still have no idea.  I’m giving thought as to who I want to be when I grow up, however, and; I have to believe that the answer is just around the corner. In the meantime, I’m learning a lot about myself, opening myself up to new experiences and, giving less attention to the things that don’t really matter to me.

General Positive Side Effects of the Empty Nest:

-We save a lot of money on gas and food. I suppose tuition and room and board counter the effect of that savings, but, it’s still worth mentioning.

-My evenings are a lot more relaxed; I’m not rushing home from work to throw together dinner just so I can rush out of the house for a game, school conference, awards banquet, Booster Club meeting, parent meeting, etc. Instead, I get to decompress with a workout or watch a trashy television show before making dinner. And, when Hugh is on the road, I don’t even have to worry about the dinner part-I just forage in the fridge for whatever sounds good.

-I do a shit-ton less laundry and far fewer dishes, and, the house actually stays clean.

-I have almost exclusive use of the remote control.

-I don’t find empty food packages stuck back in the pantry, fridge, and/or freezer.

-I don’t have to consult the family calendar before scheduling something for myself, especially when Hugh is on the road.

-I spoil the pets. Well, mostly the dog, but, still.

-The house is calm and quiet.

General Less Positive Side Effects of the Empty Nest:

-The house is calm and quiet.

-Sometimes, I miss feeling needed.

-Obviously, I miss my children. They are such good kids and I actually enjoy their company.

-My blogging content has tanked. Major bummer, but, when you write a “Mommy Blog” (God, how I hate that term), it kind of runs its’ course once the kids are no longer, you know, kids.

Anyhoodle…what’s on the agenda for the next year as an empty-nester? A lot more of the same, I’m sure; more relaxing, more quality time with family and friends, more attention spent on home and health. More opportunities to try new things. More traveling; I would really like to go somewhere major in the next year.

I also hope to do less; less worrying, less stressing, less putting energy into things that aren’t worth the effort.

In short, I survived the first year without succumbing to the dreaded Empty Nest Syndrome (apparently, it’s real, folks!) and, while I don’t know that I’ll ever truly stop missing my kids, I can appreciate the advantages of having our house back to ourselves (without giving specifics, if you know what I mean. You know what I mean).

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Whut Up, Buttah Cup?

We are rapidly approaching the end of summer, and, I feel like we have missed the vast majority of it. An unfortunate series of mechanical issues kept us from enjoying the lake (the wheels fell off the boat trailer-like, literally, and, the refrigerator in the motorhome went kaput. Do you have any idea how expensive a new motorhome refrigerator is? Hella expensive, that’s how), and, with the Man-Cub and Queen B working such long hours, we weren’t able to schedule much family time.

I’m bummed, for sure (I’m also afraid that this is what the rest of our summers are bound to look like now that the kids are grown).

The weather hasn’t exactly been the greatest this summer, either. Even if we had managed to get the boat on the lake, we would have most likely been fighting the wind. Just this past weekend, a micro-burst blew through Petticoat Junction, tossing the furniture around my porch and bending several of my large sunflowers almost to the ground. It also picked up the neighbors trampoline and dangled it in the power lines for a while before depositing it right back in its’ original position in their yard. Had they not witnessed the event, they would have been baffled as to why their trampoline was bent all to hell. Or, I could have just shown them the pictures.


On the bright side, we did get to watch the Man-Cub play baseball almost every Sunday this summer, so, despite the wind, I managed to get a decent tan on my legs while cheering him on.

I also got to watch the Cub trim Mom’s lilac bushes while we were in Mayberry for the Rodeo Princess’s bridal shower (he drove down a couple of days before us to help Mom with some chores around her house).

When I was growing up, the annual trimming of the lilacs was my Dad’s job (although, when Dad did it, it was more of a butchering than a trimming; story for another day); every year, either in the spring or summer, he scaled the ladder, clippers in hand, and creatively cursed his way through the job.  With his new buzz cut, it was amazing how closely the Cub resembled a young version of Dad from behind. Or, it may have been the cursing. Either way, the Cub was not amused at my gawking.

On an entirely different topic, I have been having a devil of a time finding something to wear to the Rodeo Princess’s wedding in a few weeks. And, sadly, Queen B has been of no help, as evidenced by the following series of text messages that we exchanged recently.

Since I will be photographing the event, I need something that is both flattering and comfortable but that won’t require me to wear heels. I know that’s a pretty tall order for appropriate wedding attire, but, I am optimistic that such a beast does exist.

I mean, a girl can hope, right?

And, that's what's up, Buttercup.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

It's a Jungle Out There

Queen B and I got back from Mayberry yesterday and I immediately set about storing all of the crates, galvanized steel serving pieces, tablecloths, and other party paraphernalia, which, led to several closet over-hauls and a general organizing spree that hadn't happened in the house in recent memory.

Now, more than ever before, I see the need for that yard sale that I keep telling myself I am going to have. You know, someday.

Anyhoodle, I didn't really get a chance to check out my garden yesterday, except for turning the water on and off. Which explains why, when I went out this morning to see what weeding needed to be done, I was slightly taken aback by the sheer amount of growth that happened while I was in Mayberry (two days, people! I was only away for two days!)...

My yellow zucchini and butternut squashes threaten to overtake not only the garden, but, the potting station, composting barrel, and dog kennels as well.  However, I won't complain about what they are producing.

I counted twelve butternut squash in various stages of growth, with numerous blossoms on the vines; I see a lot of butternut squash soup in my future (and, butternut risotto, butternut squash raviolis in sage butter, roasted butternut, etc., etc.).

My sunflowers are also doing well, which means that I will be able to try brining and roasting seeds this year. I have no idea how one goes about brining and roasting sunflower seeds, but, no doubt Pinterest will have my back.

One thing is certain, I will need to invest in a safari helmet and khaki vest, because, if the garden continues to grow like a jungle, I want to look the part.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Check This One Off the Bucket List

Item number 2 on this summer's bucket list was to throw a kick-ass bridal shower for the Rodeo Princess and I can definitely say that I nailed it!

Well, we nailed it, Queen B and I, along with a generous assist from my mom.

We held the shower in the breakfast room of a local historical hotel, and, while the lighting was far from desirable, it was manageable. All of the items that I have been collecting for the shower since, oh, I don't know, May? Yes, probably May; came together beautifully, including a set of eight mason jars that I had commissioned with the couple's initials on to use as vases.

Man, those jars! What a pain! I ordered them months ago, yet, they shipped mere days before the shower. In fact, Queen B and I had to lay in wait for the mailman to deliver them to the store mere minutes before we were set to leave for Mayberry (I wasn't stressed. Ok, I was totally stressed). But, they made it, and, the Rodeo Princess can use them as drinking glasses after the wedding.

The food was also a huge hit; the bride had specifically requested lemon flavors (her favorite), so we did a lemon cupcake as well as lemon tartlets, along with mini Black Forest trifles, a fruit salad with poppy seed dressing that was served in waffle bowls, French macrons, and, a veggie platter to cut the sweetness (and, for the non-sugar eaters such as myself). We also did an old-school sherbet punch as well as fruit-infused water (which the bride raved over).

The last sweet item on the menu was a custom-labeled candy bar that we sent home with each guest as a party favor.

The games that I had planned for the shower were also a hit, and they kept the party rolling along in between food and watching the Rodeo Princess open her gifts.

Queen B and I gifted her with a sign to use at the wedding as well as in her home after the wedding...

When the last gift was opened, we took a few group photos and then said goodbye to our guests.

This morning, I am recovering from being on my feet all day yesterday. Queen B and I need to get on the road back to Petticoat Junction (she has to work later this afternoon), so I better wrap this up, and, like I said, check it off the bucket list!

I am going to OWN this list!

Friday, August 10, 2018

This Friday Favorites Brought To You by Foods That Start With the Letter P

Our trip to Mayberry was uneventful; an uneventful trip is a favorite, for sure.

As soon as we arrived, we jumped right into full-on shower preparation mode, which means that we slaved over three batches of buttercream frosting, searching in vain for the perfect shades of burgundy and rose gold with which to make the frosting roses for the lemon and vanilla bean cupcakes.

We failed in that endeavor, but, the end results were deemed Good Enough, and, while not being the color we were going for, the frosting certainly was delicious, according to our panel of expert taste-testers: Queen B, the Man-Cub, The Rodeo Princess and Her Intended.

In keeping with the theme of the day, I will point out that all four of those kids are among my favorite humans on the planet.

Other favorites worth mentioning this week include the ah-may-zing grilled pizzas that Hugh and I made a couple of nights ago.

"My" pizza was a Margherita pizza made with olive oil, freshly pressed garlic, sliced fresh mozzarella, Roma tomatoes and basil from my garden, and a little dash of salt and pepper. "Hugh's" pizza was made with spicy pizza sauce, pepperoni, shredded mozzarella, and fresh oregano from my garden.

As I said before, they were both amazing. The only way to follow up something that delicious is with grilled peaches grown by one of my co-workers, topped with frozen Cool Whip (Sugar free, since I am still off the sugar).

Sooo dang yummy.

The grill has been our go-to appliance for cooking extraordinary meals this summer, the bonus of which is that I don't have to do the actual cooking, just the prep work. Also, there is generally less clean-up (and all the mamas said Amen).

That's it for today; I have a fruit salad to make, lemon tartletes to fill, mini Black Forest trifles to construct, and a banquet room to decorate before greeting an unknown number of guests with old fashioned sherbet punch and a smile on my face.

As an aside, people who don't RSVP to invitations when RSVPs are clearly requested? NOT A FAVORITE.