So, last weekend we went up to ND to watch my eldest son, Buddybug,  graduate from college.

My big boys: Jon my now ND sophmore & Chris, our graduate

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, as they say….

Because, that’s how it plays when you travel long road hours with cars stuffed full of family. That’s how it plays when you have a relatively rigorous event schedule and many different ages and stages along for the ride.  That’s how you start rethinking strategy for next time and consider the benefits of babysitters for smalls…..but I’m getting ahead of myself.  So much.  This past weekend was so much.  I can only do the bullets, I can’t be eloquent or profound or witty…it’s all a flashing jumble, it’s own mental slideshow with quick cut editing. And the only way I’ll ever remember the details of it is to kinda chronicle it here.  Fair warning, this is my scrapbook edition post.

Thus, in no particular order, may I present: Graduation 2011.

  • predawn packing of the car with sleepy cranky children
  • twelve year old wakes up feeling sick.  Perfect timing, of course.
  • wild seven year old Little Man hurtling, hollering, down the driveway…because that’s just what he does sometimes, and before we can catch him.
  • cranky teen daughter yelling about obnoxious brother
  • angry neighbor, woken by sibling drama under his window.  Because we like to start our crazy weekend road trips with a bang…
  • Mortification by parental types, ok, me
  • hitting the road, little man still so wild he has to change cars even before we get on the main road; meaning, outta mine & into dad’s, Plan B
  • settling into a long day o’ driving, two cars, separated oil/water unmixable sibs, pandora on the radio
  • settle into house rental, quick change, meet graduate to hug and eat

Waiting outside DeBartolo Auditorium for the music department concert, a tired bunch

  • Zip over to music department concert
  • More wildness from the smalls as ever optimistic dad puts us dead center in auditorium
  • Mom panics quietly but not graciously
  • Mom wrestles (as discreetly as possible) small boys, stuck in the row, whispering cosmic “I”m sorry’s” to all the other parents in the auditorium…for the duration of the program
  • The music was amazing, such talented graduates
  • Chris’s Chopin piece, as ever, is amazing….
  • I can say that as the mom
  • But it’s totally true

Playing Chopin, beautiful

  • His hands move so fast it’s almost blurry
  • Where did that kid come from anyhow?
  • Car dead bright and early Saturday morning.  Perfect.
  • Plan C, swapping cars
  • Saturday department luncheon outside on a perfect day
  • Thanking the professors, meeting friends
  • Dutifully tripping while carrying plates, because I’m just graceful like that (saved them tho!)

Horsing around w/ Marta

  • Quick, needed, confession before Mass, fast walking through rain with my girls to arena to make Mass in time
  • The Baccalaureate Mass is just lovely, even though it’s in the basketball arena and we are in the tippy top seats, I don’t care. It’s lovely.

    Waiting for the Baccalaureate Mass

  • The small boys are good! It’s a miracle!
  • I blink back the tears at the Alma Mater, knowing I have tomorrow’s commencement to get through too.
  • Pick a day, pick a day to cry . Blink. Blink.
  • Dinner, all fancy and a risky but successful endeavor with a family of one of Chris’ closest buddies
  • sheer exhaustion by all, living on the edge of the knife…..

Trying to get boys to rest in afternoon, gearing up for long night

  • Me and Hannah sick overnight, perfect
  • Sunday morning, the big day, my son is graduating, neither his dad and I can quite believe it and yet, here we are.
  • Swift triage with tired sick kids on Sunday, another one down (Little Man, not so wild now) delegating babysitting after all and revamping logistics…Plan D
  • Football stadium is sunny, not a cloud in the sky despite dire predictions – yay!
Yeh, it was sunny, hot and great up at the top of the stadium
  • hot sun, high seats, still a great view of a field of grads
  • A perfect morning, special ordered it seemed
  • It’s done.  My son is a graduate.
  • It’s all perfect.
  • Post morning gig: quick swap of babysitters and venue for diplomas, time for a picture and hug of my graduate, when did he get SO tall?

  • Saving seats in basketball arena again for the afternoon segment of festivities
  • graduates process in, happy, lighthearted, grinning waving like Olympians, fun to watch
  • girls arrive just in time with dad and grandpa, we settle in to listen to 800 graduates names be read
  • My tall son walks across the stage, no trip, no falter, only a calm happy smile.  Perfect.
  • I holler, loud, because that’s my boy.
  • He stays and stands on stage at last with a few of his friends for the closing prayer.

My chris, third from left

  • Ahh, here they are, those tears, watching my boy
  • Annnnd the Alma Mater, and my boy linked arms with his friends, on the stage, stepping out of one part of his life, and into the new
  • I blinked, gulped and smiled bigger….because that’s my boy up there.
  • Pictures after, hugs, congratulations to friends and families
  • More pictures, more waiting
  • Marta meltdown in the parking lot, it’s all too much
  • Recovery, but not so deftly managed by mom, price will be paid, I swear I hear the bells tolling…..
  • Easy dinner at his choice; favorite local pizza place
  • exhausted bedtime, hard night of dealing with kids and fall-apart from all too much: time mood emotions changes no routines close quarters
  • Monday morning comes early, long day ahead
  • Marta very worried about car and finals Tuesday and long drive ahead
  • General post event crankiness abounding
  • Tom crawling  under car to whack the fuel tank, per mechanic’s advice to try to get car running
  • hours fiddling with car and stalling kids, antsy to go
  • Success! Hero. Car is idling and loaded, kids scramble in, we are off
  • Three blocks in, my car dies, I push it to right lane (a guy got out to help after a few mins, yay)
  • Lurched car to dealer, left for repair
  • teen girls needing to leave bags at dealer and cram in one car to go get the old volvo, ..what plan are we on, anyway?
  • more drama from teens, son is tired and sad from goodbyes, and we have to leave him too, plan D
  • drive home is fraught with storms and danger and hours of extra time
  • tense hard long scary driving
  • Home again.  Finally.  A new form of family, one with a young man, all done with his main block of schooling.  As parents, we have done our part in educating one kid, all the way through…how did that happen?

It was a wild weekend.  Even so, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.  Wild horses, wild boys, broken cars, sick kids couldn’t have kept us away.  And they didn’t. Because my first born son? He graduated from college, he ran the race and finished well.

Congratulations Buddybug.  We are SO proud of you.



>The Boys are Back in Town!


 Well, almost…

Tonight, if all goes as planned.
Read that again, my boys are coming  home from college tonight!
I’m so excited.  I am, I am just pleased as punch that they are coming home tonight (No, that phrasing doesn’t date me at all….jeepers!).

They are driving home together after classes tonight, hopefully the weather will clear and they will get in safe and sound.  Most of the kids will be asleep I think.  I might be too.  But I will wake up, and hustle downstairs and hug them tight, grinning and maybe blinking back a tear or two.  How do I know? Because just typing that they are coming home makes me blink back a tear or two (It’s been a tough week or so, I’m just so pleased to get all my kiddos, my big guys, back in the house altogether)

So, I am prepping the house for thanksgiving.  I’m giving myself permission to kick Martha Stewart and her looming pressure ghost of insane perfectionism right OUT of my house and instead focusing on making this a calm happy peaceful thanksgiving, big family style.  The first part of that is a little quiet time this morning to set up the dining room and the boys room, maybe make a little something good for them to eat when they arrive.

Because my boys are coming home!
And I am counting my  blessings.

>When your boy comes home.

>It’s a happy week.….and I’m a happy mom.
because my boy is home from college, for the week only, but I’ll take it.

 Here is what you remember when one of your son’s come home again, these things that so easily you forget in the hustle and crazy of everyday life:

That it feels so good to hug him, to feel him solid and sure and there; instead of crackling over a dropping cell phone connection or a glitchy skype feed.

That you never do expect to feel that blink of tears,
or that gasp of recognition, “There he is!”
just because he’s walked into your kitchen with a big eager grin.
That that big grin and quick step to hug you means everything.

That he looks good – that he’s growing up even as you can see the small changes now, in your kitchen, but that it is settling on him well.

That  you really think its a great dance to see the hubub of siblings all talking at the same time and twisting around each other to get plates and milk and it doesn’t matter that it’s late and the kitchen is getting messy again and the windows are dark and it’s way past bedtime.
That standing around the kitchen counters and between the bags and stalling bedtime is just the best thing to do on a late Sunday night, when a boy comes home again.
That you really really enjoy watching him eat cake and soak in the hubub of his house, again.

That you love to cook for your kids who love to eat.
That is a treat to cook a Halloween supper a week in advance; upon personal request.
That brisket cooking on the stove is a smell of love and happy.
And that homemade chili and cornbread, pumpkin pie and goofy little mini wrapped hotdogs wrapped mean home.

That even bandaging him up, now all big and growing up as a man, is still a privilege and a way to be a hands on mom {and he is kind enough to ask me to do it}.
That bandaging up his elbow will make me think of all the reckless hurts he’s had, that I’ve bandaged, on this daredevil boy and maybe make me blink hard for a minute.
That making the house a home for this week is important and it’s not only for this boy, on his return…..
But it’s important for the family.
It’s important for his brothers and sisters to see that welcome and that soaking right back into the family.
It’s for me.
It’s where the joy is…in the small things…the things that matter in that quiet sink in sort of way.

So today I remember the beauty in the red pot simmering on the stove,
in the bowl of apples,
in the bandages,
and in the folding of clean shirts.
And I see it fresh, for a moment, in the heart of this home, his home, that he returns to with a grin and a sigh and a “It’s really really good to be home.”

Yeah.  It is.

>Going, going….

We are going.
We are going tomorrow to take my son to college.

 He is going.
He is, in many but not all ways, moving out.
Why yes, tear did just spring to my eyes, just typing that, thank you for noticing.

(this is eldest, one of those goodbye’s that we’ve done many times..)

And I kept and keep thinking that since this is boy number two, meaning second time, that we’ve done this…it should somehow be easier.
But it’s not.
Not at all.
But,  he’s ready.

 He’s excited to go and we are excited for him and the big adventures he has ahead.
His dad and I think he is gonna fly, soar and maybe set the world on fire.

We are not quite ready for the house to be so quiet, ok, not that it will actually quiet…but there is a difference, a tangible physical difference of presence or lack thereof in the house when the college kid(s) are in school.
We are not quite ready for most of our talks to be on the phone or the occasional skype.
I am not quite ready to not see him for a long time.
So, I’m  not gonna think about that.
And I’m  not gonna think about how coffeedoc kind of grieves after the boy(s) go.
But he does.
But life is awfully busy happening in our house too, so we will focus on that.

Today we prep for the long hot drive tomorrow.
We pack up my big old car.
We do a last load or two of laundry.
We change the oil and fill the tank.
Tonight we have a double party: going away and pre-bday party for tom.
And then I have to watch him hug  his sibs goodbye and try very very hard not to break down and cry in front of them.
Because tomorrow we are going.

 Tomorrow  he is going, going….going to take on the world.
And we will laugh cry and cheer him on, the whole way.

>Suddenly: Last Summer

>We are here.
The last real summer.
And it’s a doozy.

I am talking about this last summer with my Booboo, my Jon (I can still call him that, mom privilege).
He is a graduate now, all 18 and big and prepping to head off to college.
And while you might think, “Oh, there she goes again, being all maudlin and melodramatic,” and you would be right to a degree………
This summer is different.
It is rare and precious.

And, kinda excruciating.
And, kinda exhilarating.

Yes, he will be home again, on breaks and next summer too.  But it will be forever different, changed in tone, tempo, tenor.  Some of those changes are great steps forward, and important, necessary and even welcomed by us all.  But even so, change is hard, and even when he comes home for extended weeks in the summer it will be different.  It’s irrevocable.  That’s part of the process.  I know it. He knows it.  We all know it, and can feel it pressing on the edges.
It’s there, rushing toward us – too too fast.
But also, on those hard angry fussy hurting days, in it’s own way it’s too slow.
Especially too slow for my son, who is simply twitching right out of his skin to break loose and head off into his own life.
But, maybe, just maybe some days, also a little tiny bit too fast for my son…who loves summer and needs a bit of time to prepare himself for this big change….then again, that might just be ME.  (Oh, right.)

He needs us still, and will.
But he doesn’t, and shouldn’t as much, also.
Besides, there is work to be done; work that IS being done.
It is important work, but oh, it is the hardest work there is.

(Yup, I look just like that, feather-version…..yup yup…ahem.  
Maybe some of those hard days tho, we both do.)


The unconscious prep to start into a new life, and the classic process of parting those ties a bit: it’s textbook.  But, often the process finds itself played out in the short fuses and loud or hard arguments over often stupid things or stupid misinterpretations.
My husband asks me, “Why do you let him push your buttons? Just shrug and hold the line.” But it’s not so easy for me.
One, because I stink at doing that.  I am like one of those phones for toddlers or elderly where the buttons are enormous, to aid in their ease of pushing.  That’s me, easy buttons to push all over.  Especially here, I guess.  Tom/Coffeedoc’s right, of course.
Two, because often it’s me pushing my son’s buttons to a degree, having expectations that might not be utterly fair.  (Ok, I’m just saying, it took a lot to admit that…..ouch).  
This work is being done mostly by Jon and me, the family and dad too a little,  but the hard work…it’s the two of us.
We have to ease out of this tightly knit together life we have into a new stitch of knitting.
A looser stitch, no less strong, but even so, it has to be unraveled a bit to retie it anew.
Not far.
Just a bit, and with a new pattern.
Stronger even.

But right now, those unforeseen, loud or angry and/or frustrated misunderstandings are very hard.

This summer, suddenly, is about time together that is so good that it takes my breath with wonder at this great young kid/man who is smart and funny and good, deeply good.
Then, we both turn around and we are simply aggravating each other and stepping on land mines that blow up in our faces.  Ouch.
The swings and shifts are hard.
And that is so typical, it seems…of a mom and her boy, who is heading off to college, out of the house, into the world.

Suddenly…it’s the last summer.

>Best Kind of Surprise!


He’s back! Already!

Pic of {sleepy, crying, woken up} overjoyed mom with my college boy!
{hey, it was almost midnight people, cut me some slack!}

Buddybug was supposed to come home tonight (Saturday) from college for fall break. He was catching a ride from some friends, (thank you W kids! and we’ll settle up the gas money I promise). Being college kids after midterms, they were going to have fun and socialize last night and sleep in and drive today. So, no expectations here of seeing my boy until later tonight. But that’s ok, because I was already working on the pies which needed to be made in advance to set up (graham cracker cream, his favorite) and making plans for cooking up a storm; getting ready.

Well, last night was homecoming for the high school, a late game this week because as Booboo put it: they wanted a win for homecoming so had to “import the team from Iceland.” As usual, I had fallen asleep waiting for the guys to come home from the game. As usual, I was awakened with a large boy diving down for a goodnight hug. But it was Buddybug! “Hi Mom!” I woke with a jolt, and a cry and many hugs! Best, best surprise! He beat his Dad and brother home too, just.

He surprised us all!

So I did what any mom would do:

I fed him pie.

>Writer’s Block


No, not getting much done, lots of procrastination…
We are having writer’s block here.
The kids at least, in all different ways.

It is the Week O’ Book Reports in our little homeschool. Some public school have teacher ‘in-service’ days. We have “teaching in-service’ days where we do intensive focus on some hard stuff. Almost always: the dreaded book report. There is much wailing and gnashing of teeth…..and the kids don’t like it much either. Ok, kidding, mostly. It’s a time of high drama and I remember how much I hated essays and reports until I learned that it is like a puzzle and let that whole perfectionist side go and realized that writing is editing (unless you’re blogging…kidding, mostly).

So we girls will hang in and keep plugging away at it; revamping those outlines and retyping those drafts, mom’s red pen at the ready. It might be a long week…
Turns out, we are not the only ones with writer’s block. Buddybug too, has writer’s block: songwriter’s block. Now, as the mama, I shouldn’t probably point out that he is in midterms and shouldn’t really be worrying about writer’s block…..ahem. But then again, as he and his roommate and pals have determined the source of his lack of lyrics:

Not too long ago, Steph and AJ figured out why I have this lyric problem.
It’s kind of a threefold reason: I’m not in love, I don’t hate anyone,
and I don’t spend my free time tripping on LSD.

I think I will be just grateful they are all so smart. It’s not much help for his sister’s this week, but gives me one more reason to be grateful for this great kid, erm, young man.
And I would post a link to his music, but it usually makes me tear up and also I can’t figure out how to do it and lastly, back to his writer’s block, I don’ t think I can post cover’s without copyright legal gobbledygook. So, it’s just pics. You can hum along tho’!

>Hunting we will go

>College hunting, that is.

So Booboo and I just got home, late last night, from a whirlwind college scouting trip to Providence College.

We are exhausted. But it was a good trip, just me and my boy and we had fun. We gathered a bunch of info to start building that college search base: which ones did he like, which ones will fit best? Seeing them in person, it all gets a lot more real, real quick: easier to visualize, easier to make choices, put together pieces of the puzzle that is choosing a college.

I love the town of Providence! He liked it too, it’s a fun place. {Although he pointed out, it’s much faster, more intense up here. I laughed and said, yup.} It makes me want to go back to college and stay there: PC, Brown, RISD (oh, if only I had the talent to get in there, I never would have wanted to leave!). Great fun. We had good food and two long days.

But it was time out of time for me, and for him.

These college hunt trips are so special and with a faint tinge of bittersweet around the edges for me. It gets very real, very fast. These are waning days with my son at home. And we both know it. And it’s thrilling and daunting for both of us.

So we sit out in the sun, having an easy yummy lunch before we head back to the airport for the long trip home (and boy, was it a loongg trip home: Philly airport connection, ’nuff said!). And we talk, and we laugh, and I listen to him and look deeply at this young man beside me, handsome and funny, goofy and bright, full of ideas and dreams. And I close my eyes for a minute and lift my face to the sun and breathe deep. Life is so good and we are so blessed with this special son; now and as he ventures forth into his new adventures, all too soon.
So, yeah, we are both tired from our trip. But it was worth all the delays and travel crazies. One down (well, two officially), some more to go as we carve out the time. Now we have some good info for the journey. His big journey, coming down the pike.