EMPTY NEST

bird-nest-eggs-blue-158734.jpeg
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Entering my office last week I noticed a circular mound of grass on the ground. Upon closer inspection, I eyed a spiral mass of dried flowers and feathers, a bird’s nest. Tiny beaks had laboriously sewn and molded a home for their young. Now it lie empty and abandoned. It was literally an empty nest. Mine, on the other hand, was anything but empty.  It was the BULGING NEST!

What is the correct term for an empty nest that isn’t ever empty? Once children graduate high school and leave for college the common phrase is that you have an “empty nest.” Our daughter has flown the coop but our three sons keep flying right back. I think they take turns coming home to ensure their father never lacks a playmate.  My husband weeps when they leave. He says I’d fuel the Greyhound goodbye if I could.  It’s not that I don’t love my family, it’s just that I enjoy the peace, cleanliness, and not having to do incessant chores.

Our home might never be empty because we have the fun house on the water. Maybe it’s because my husband will cook nearly anything for them. Maybe it’s because I will wash their laundry. I don’t know. But this summer, for example, I’d drive home from work to find at least one son and his friends lifting weights in our garage while blaring base for our neighbors’ enjoyment. Or, a crew would be headed to or from the boat on the river. Weekends ensured many of their friends also spent the night. Couches spawned bodies on Saturday mornings. Some were expected while others just spontaneously arrived.  For this reason, my husband started calling our house Motel 6. Yep, we’d leave the light on for you!

light sign typography lighting
Photo by Gratisography on Pexels.com

 

As much as I’d like less noise, privacy and a tidied home, I’ve been warned not to wish away all the flurry of activity. My older friends say I will one day miss it all. Borrowing a saying from my father in law, I counter, “it sure would be nice to miss” it. With fall semester beginning, my husband gets teary talking about our boys heading back to school. Me? I think I will be fine. I look forward to missing them.

close up photography of bird nest
Photo by Evelyn Chong on Pexels.com

The Circus of Life

 

pexels-photo-2337777.jpeg
Photo by Vidal Balielo Jr. on Pexels.com

Someone once said “parenting is only hard if you care.” I must have cared too much. If my angst wasn’t obvious on the outside, it was FULL THROTTLE on the inside.  I fretted over every.  single.  detail.  Circumstancially, we had four children under the age of two. Four were in diapers at ONE TIME. Sometimes things were insane (more like frequently to be completely honest). Ofcourse I got some help (with child care and the counseling sort). But despite the “circus of life” our family has lived, I am finally seeing a positive outcome- the fruits of our labor are sprouting!

We are still actively parenting, don’t be fooled I think our job is complete.  But a recent family gathering shed light on how far we have come.  Mind you, structured chaos was where we started but fine young men and a young lady were what I saw this weekend. Our daughter brought home her first “suitor” (male friend with serious potential) and the entire family was present.  She actually WANTED us all there to meet this person.  I was so shocked that I even questioned her decision.  I was a little afraid we would embarass her with our Type A, boisterous behavior.  Worse, I feared her father’s inquisition of this criminal, I mean boyfriend.

Turns out, by the time he left, I had the epiphany that all went pretty well overall and that if he got scared off, it wasn’t because we weren’t kind, open and accepting.  Our family is super loud (check).  Our family is upfront and open (what you see is what you get).  Our family is accepting and warm (we don’t care your race or religion- in fact, the more different, the more interesting). Our family is there for each other (we might rip each other to shreds occasionally but we show up for one another).  There are no secrets (no skeletons in our closets, we parade them).

diamond
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

At first I chided my husband to watch his mouth, excessive questioning, and tendency to put a plate on the ground for the dog to lick.  I just knew that would send this guy packing.  I couldn’t get rid of the 5 rescue animals either so just went with all of it.  The first night was rough and my husband accused me of trying to create a diamond out of coal in my backside.  (Go ahead and laugh, it’s probably partly true.)  However, tensions and pretensions eased throughout the weekend and finally her friend was able to joke he was moving his flight up.  I knew things were cool then.

Our three sons were amazing.  One even spoke so highly of his sister that I teared up. They all attended everything we wanted (doesn’t happen enough) and behaved very well.  They were actually being respectful of their sister.  None did what they joked about prior like wrestling him (they are triplet males, wrestling is their love language) or challenging him in weight lifting. Talking about making a mama proud!

My sister said we need to be on a reality show. I find our unscripted reality frequently hilarious. As someone once said, “You can’t make this stuff up.” But we have stayed together and we love each other, even when it has not been easy to do.  The “Circus of Life” the Turners lived, live and will live is worth the ticket price.  I’m in.

two white and red admission tickets
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

THE CHRYSALIS

yellow and black butterflies cocoon
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Eyeing a monarch butterfly flutter about colorful blooms is a majestic sight.  The butterfly is a symbol of our Creator’s handiwork and His mysterious attention to detail. Their humble origin, as a tiny, hidden egg is forgotten as they morph from unsightly caterpillar into one of the most gorgeous creatures on earth. Their life cycle also draws a parallel to parenting.  Parenting involves A LOT of the following: resources, patience, and restraint. Those are also vital for the survival and maturation of a butterfly. Once the life cycle is complete, the adult monarch launches off to find its own way in the world exactly like our children.

Being a parent to four young adults, I have had my share of struggles.  I was once told that being a parent was only difficult if you cared. Maybe at times I overly cared.  It’s the marathon race you never finish.  The paycheck you never cash in.  The prize you (at times) wish to return.  If Michaelangelo painted “The Agony and the Ecstasy,” I am living it out in human form. Can I get an amen?

The butterfly’s life cycle, like parenting, goes through stages.  Its first stage, the egg, is our children during the elementary years.  It is easy to define and execute your role as parent and you have relative control over the life of your child.  By the second stage, or the caterpillar phase, your child gets heavily involved in sports or activities. You provide all the resources and assistance available to give your child as much opportunity as possible. By the pupae or “chrysalis” phase, your child is an adolescent or young adult being influenced moreso by peers and developing their own ideas.  This is where things get tricky for parents.  How much to intervene?  When to and how?  How much advice do I give/ withold/ force?  Do I respect my children’s privacy or invade like a Nordic Viking?  This is the crucial phase when helping can actually hinder.  Just as a chrysalis must be left alone so it can work its wings to push the pupae open and gain strength, our young adults need room to work their “wings” to gain strength.  Sadly, helping a chrysalis open cripples their ability to fly.  Watching an adolescent struggle is physically painful for a parent, however, not intervening may be the best parenting we can provide.

Observing my own child struggle, manage difficulties only later to realize success is the sweetest of parenting victories.  Too bad for the mama monarch- she doesn’t get that satisfaction.  She’s gone as soon as she lays the egg.

 

animal beautiful biology bloom

Fluffy Ate the Easter Bunny!

Easter is coming soon after Lenten season and celebration of our risen Savior will be at last. It also brings with it plenty of interesting family memories. We have accrued a few that will surely be passed down through the family annals.

The tradition of dying real, hard boiled eggs is a mystery to me. I’ve never escaped the ritual nor come away with anything but discolored fingertips every Easter morning. However, it’s a tradition and the Turners don’t ask questions, we just do. On one Easter eve many years ago, my husband hid all the colored eggs INSIDE our house. There were almost three dozen and I was a bit upset to find dye on way more than the eggs. Plus, someone needs to REMEMBER where they were hidden, right? A belated found egg could result in an unwelcome stench. The following year I begged, pleaded, and nearly cried to have them hidden outside in the childrens’ play-yard instead. Their dad reluctantly agreed and all were hidden safely outside the night before. Unforeseen circumstances had it that a raccoon must have been watching and grinning nearby because on Easter morning, only two eggs could be found and many shells laid scattered. No one sided with mama after that so all future eggs were hidden back INSIDE our house once again.

On another Easter occasion, we had a parent’s nightmare. The family dog, Fluffy, was big, fat and named after the three headed Rottweiler off Harry Potter. He was loving and tolerant of childrens’ antics but a demon when it came to small rodents or cats. So, luck would have it that bright and early on Easter morning, Fluffy had just so happened to chase, catch, and kill a bunny RIGHT OUTSIDE our home. Neither us parents noticed until too late and the boys saw the evidence. One then cried, “Fluffy ate the Easter Bunny!!!” It was a gruesome sight and difficult to explain it wasn’t THE Easter Bunny but just happened to be a rabbit he caught. Those four young, sad, quizzical faces will be imprinted in our minds forever.

Easter morning pictures were somehow mandatory and I want to cold cock whoever said it had to be done. I’d force dress up the boys and our daughter would dutifully don her new Easter outfit. Then I’d attempt to stage a photo before we left for church. This was a necessity because it also became a tradition for our sons to roll down the green knoll outside the church in a pile each Sunday.

Somehow, we got through all the traditions and now we just attempt at dying eggs as there are less takers. I try to avoid the “duty of dye” and have relaxed all my Easter expectations. A little dye, unmatched outfits and the dreaded family pic are all in the past. Now I just wish to have all four home on Easter. A colorful jewel-toned egg would even be a welcome site peeking out behind a pillow.

REDNECK RIVIERA

I often refer to my children’s’ father as the Pied Piper. He’s the Huck Finn type and proved it when he relocated our family outside city limits to the river. He said this way we’d avoid HOA violations because we weren’t “neighborhood people.”

Our new home was actually an old fishing cabin on a sandy creek. It had been added onto multiple times and I’d swear there wasn’t one square angle in the house. Gold speck counter tops, a blue toilet and matching cast iron tub weren’t exactly swoon worthy. I also noticed Elvis -era red linoleum in corners, painted paneling and SEVEN sliding glass doors. It wasn’t my dream house by any stretch. The property, however, was beautiful and offered a sandy bank along a creek for the children to explore, swim and play. He’d always wanted to live by the water and assured me that the children would benefit. Longer rides to town, a fixer upper, and multiple safety fences had me thinking otherwise. Somehow he convinced me we’d one day fix it up and we made the move.

Adventures were weekly conquests and the children ate them up. An example was the “wave pool.” Their dad put layers of visqueen in the back of his truck and filled it with water. Then he put all the kids in the back and drove them up and down our bumpy, dirt road to simulate waves. We looked like the Beverly Hillbillies but the kids got a wave pool, by gosh.

Another method of his childcare containment was the boat. It became our playpen during winter. We’d bundle the kids up and put life jackets on and go on long boat rides. This was nearly every Saturday. This kept them contained and happy (as long as nobody pushed anybody off their seat.)

One of their favorite water activities was the slip and slide. This was created by 50 yards of visqueen and a quart of Dawn dish liquid. My husband would lay the plastic sheeting down a sloping hill and run water to it with an extension hose. Our kids, their friends and a few parents would run, dive, and howl with laughter flying down the hill. Occasionally, he’d add hay bales to avoid people sliding into trees. This ritual became a yearly event.

Trips to “the chards” were another pastime. Unique to our creek were clay potters a century ago. That left pottery shards and jugs discarded along banks and submerged under water. My husband would pile kids in the canoe and paddle them way up the creek. He’d tell them he’d give $50 to whoever found an intact jug. LOTS of pottery pieces, or shards, have been discovered over the years and maybe two full jugs. Those are some of his prized possessions proudly displayed in our home today.

River life has been great raising our brood. Lots of fun memories and yes, we did eventually remodel. I don’t miss the blue toilet and got rid of every sliding glass door. Elvis no longer reigns in decor either.

MR. TOAD’S WILD RIDE

I imagined it like a mini vacation- a blissful dose of much needed freedom. I planned to do several, long delayed projects and enjoy some desperately needed solitude. This newfound time wasn’t a special trip. It wasn’t a fabulous, new job either. My triplets were starting Kindergarten and I was the single, dry-eyed mama exiting the school.

Since our boys were identical, we chose to separate them into different classrooms, affording them personal attention and a chance to be their own person. Never in a million years would I have anticipated the opening of Pandora’s box. Unbeknownst to me, my boys’ schooling would become “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.”

It began with notes home, then extra practice work, then on to the dreaded phone calls from teachers. I decided I held what would be the record in Guinness’ Book of World Records for teacher conferences. By second grade, I had 9 in one school year. This so called “break” became my new job: speech therapy, psychometry testing, additional homework, dealing with school discipline for talking, and inadvertently, my feeling like some kind of parental failure.

Embarrassed by all the attention they got for being talkers and highly energetic, I seemed to begin each year apologizing to the teacher before anything happened. I became so engrossed with “fixing” them to match (even perceived) expectations that I lost being their advocate. To this day I regret it. However, they weathered it much better than I would have in their shoes.

Finally, by 6th grade, we had a group of teachers that decided the Turner Triplets weren’t going to have a bad year as their last at the school. This special group of teachers banded together to create a supportive team approach to managing the entire grade’s testosterone and energetic demands. I thanked God profusely for that year of support, love and good-hearted teaching they received. I’m forever grateful for that last year in elementary school because middle school proved to be a beast of its own (but that’s another story).

IF MAMA AIN’T HAPPY

Recently I was in the middle of chaos- literally.  I looked around and my house was overrun by 5 indoor, rescue animals and 4, college-aged children (including extra friends) on holiday break. I couldn’t decide what drove me more crazy, the animals or the people. I finally decided it was the people because the animals didn’t argue and could be put outside.

Around the same time, our family attended our daughter’s college graduation out of town, completed an 11 hour family road trip in a van (mostly peaceful) and had Christmas (also mostly peaceful). Unfortunately, I also got really sick. This contributed to my bleak outlook.

I felt everything going awry and prayed, “Lord, this is too much. I just can’t do anymore.” Then I found out a friend’s child had a complicated surgery and a close, older friend fell and dislocated her shoulder. It seemed things were going from bad to worse. I kept doing my devotionals, however, and felt a message forming. It said to quit looking AROUND at circumstances and instead to LOOK UP to HIM for peace. I was accustomed to circumstances dictating my emotional state. I knew emotions were a terrible barometer, but was nonetheless bombarded by them. I kept telling myself, “It’s only a holiday break, I can do it.” But when week 3 of the holidays became week 5, I started begging God for relief.  Instead, a son decided to have oral surgery and another son invited guests over for a football party but wasn’t even home. That’s when my hinges came unglued.

The saying goes, “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”  Some sage was spot on with that statement. That night, I cried to my husband that being in my home made me miserable. I couldn’t clean up, pick up, or put up with one more minute of disrespect. It didn’t help that on New Year’s my sons and friends decided to light fireworks on our deck leaving scorched marks and burned holes into cushion seats. It was time for this holiday to end!

Clinging to fragile hope and force disciplining myself to read the Bible kept me from storming off.  I felt like God was saying, “Stop looking around at circumstances.  You know they will change.  You have to have HOPE in ME and not in how things appear.” The reason I felt the message so clearly was because it came at me from multiple sources. (When repetitious messages come, I have learned to listen.)

Our sons are all back to their respective schools and we got our daughter off to her first post college job. We are down one animal and I can keep the cat out. It’s quiet. It’s peaceful. It’s more tidy. I feel more sane. In this quiet moment I am still reminding myself to look up and not around.

TRIPLE THREAT

img_1170.jpg

The cordless phone lies in pieces on the floor. Another broken item, I thought silently. One more example of a lack of self control, an immature temper tantrum. I couldn’t get on to the perpetrator or lecture anyone, however. I couldn’t punish them either.  Why? Because it was me, the mom.

Reaching a boiling point was an ongoing issue for me rearing my brood. Somehow, it seemed the extreme would occur and I’d be past my limit and explode.  My triplet sons seemed to make a sport of it too.  The only proof I have is that a large smile would erupt on their faces when I’d charge like a mad bull or start “raging” as they like to call it. Because then I became the problem, not them.  It was an interesting tactic on their part and it took me years to adapt.

When the boys were 3 year old preschoolers, I was barely done feeding and dressing them and their sister when it happened. Three sopping wet, muddy bodies appeared when it was time to load up. I burst into tears, undressed them, and began the laborious process all over again.  I also called their dad to come get them because mommy was losing it (again).  Why did I not send them wet and muddy to preschool? Because I believed it would reflect poorly on my parenting.

Occasionally I’d take all 4 children shopping.  BIG mistake! I somehow repeatedly forgot they couldn’t be captive that long.  Wanting so desperately to lead a “normal” life, I’d set myself up for failure. Thinking I could handle it, I’d get two grocery carts and put two children in one and two in the other.  I’d push one while pulling the other.  I’d also restrain the child from standing in the lower part of the cart by using a belt from a life preserver or by adding piles of groceries on top of him. (One goes to extreme measures when determined.)  This tactic did not stop Houdini-like escapes or hair pulling, however.

Once a sitter had them during nap time.  I use the term “nap time” loosely because it was more for me.  However, we knew they needed a break from each other, so we had them go in their rooms to play or read quietly. Inevitably, they were like magnets being pulled towards one another. Their doors would open slowly and they’d creep towards another’s rooms. One afternoon, a sitter was unaware and found all three boys in one room with a mattress barricaded against the door.  The boys were 4 years old and incredulous at times.

I prayed for patience a lot back then which I found out was one of my biggest problems. I was gaining patience alright but it was because of the inevitable, “can’t make this stuff up” incidents which occurred on a daily basis. So maybe it’s true you have to be careful of what you pray for. They are adult children now (isn’t that an oxymoron?) and I pray for their safety instead since I don’t want anymore patience.

George Bailey & Me

3B0A67E0-7A70-4313-BD46-6921584C4623-e1545416577973.png

“Why the heck does it have to be SO HARD?!?!” I wailed to God that Christmas Eve.

Once again, wanting a loving, Christmas Eve family experience, I attempted to force the concrete square through the circular opening and failed. We were all dressed up and driving into town to attend Christmas Eve services. The children were in their early teens by now. I thought surely we can do this! However, my anxiety was at a fever pitch and my tolerance was shot. Five minutes on the way into town, loud arguing was beginning in the back seat and I just couldn’t handle anymore fighting. So, I did what any rational parent would do. I turned the car around, drove myself back home, got out and told my husband to take them to church by himself. How kind of me. And that saint of a man did.

Back inside the house, I poured myself a huge eggnog and put on “Its a Wonderful Life” to distract myself. I fussed at God, “Why would you allow it be so hard if you know I am trying?” All of a sudden a near audible thought ran through my head, “The journey is worth it. I sent my Son into the world knowing He’d be rejected and crucified by man, but sent Him anyway bc His life on Earth mattered. Your journey is worth it too.” I nearly fell off the couch. This jolted my mindset just like George Bailey’s in the movie I was watching.

Ever since that moment I’ve quit expecting things to be easier. I realize it’s not about comfort or lack of conflict. This life is a gift with all the good, bad and ugly. It’s a process. But if God loves me enough to send His Son even though He knew we’d reject and crucify Him, I suppose I can handle some conflict and difficult circumstances myself. Praise the Lord for His infinite goodness where a worn out mama can belly ache to Him and He will answer our prayers- just like He did for George Bailey in the movie “Its a Wonderful Life.”

BAH- HUMBUG!

Christmas Eve was always action packed with high expectations. Somehow, I’d blissfully forget each prior year and repeat the same, self defeating cycle. This ritual was like going to war but forgetting you’re going to lose. It involved dressing four children in holiday finery and attending Christmas Eve church services. It was our family tradition, mandatory, and we’d do it…NO MATTER WHAT.

Early in the afternoon I’d begin the bathing and dressing process with the beautiful, clean clothes, nice shoes and all. Of course, the boys didn’t care and proceeded with their obligatory wrestling (albeit inside the house). By 5:30pm I’d be ready for a nap but still had to forge ahead to get kids in car seats and unintentionally get my Scrooge on. I had no idea I was increasing my own blood pressure, stressing out my poor husband and forcing energetic children to do the near impossible.

Ever since I could remember I promised myself my family would be together, have traditions and celebrate Jesus. It was very important to me that my family be what I wanted so desperately for myself but didn’t have since childhood- a loving, stable, Christian home. That idealized dream met my rambunctious family and we’d be deadlocked year after year.

Nonetheless, one particular year, before the Fire Marshall determined we were cramming our church way over capacity, my family sardined in like everyone else. We stood in the back near the entry of our sanctuary and tried to hear the message and participate. I really wanted to feel peace and engaged in the worship, but HELLO!?! four youngsters standing through a long service isn’t conducive to meditation. Recognizing my young sons weren’t able to take much more, I decided we’d go into the adjacent alter servers’ room so they could move a bit but I could make out what was going on. Well, that idea was met with….”let’s try swinging these long candle snuffers around!” So, I exasperatedly said, “No matter what I do, I’m not going to be able to enjoy this service am I?” One son stopped, glanced my way and said, “Well, you put us in a losing environment.”