Home Alone

I experienced an incredibly strange phenomenon last week. I was home alone. For the entire week. I haven’t had the experience of being home alone for an entire week since…um…whoa! Never! I just realized I’ve never been home alone for an entire week in my life! That can’t be right. Lemme think…

Grew up in a family of six.
In college I had roommates.
After getting my first job, I shared a house with two other twenty-somethings.
Moved briefly back home with the family before getting married.
By the time my hubby started traveling for work, our daughter had been born.

So wow, I’ve never been home alone for an entire week. Interesting…

Well anyway, I ended up home alone because my hubby left on a business trip, and the kids were both at high-school church camp together. I had been alternately dreading and anticipating the week. I was certain it was going to feel really weird having no one to care for and no one to talk to except myself (and the dog). But the idea of freedom from any commitments, and the time to do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, just sounded so…wonderful.

At first, my days were fairly typical. I went through my usual morning routine, and worked on clients’ writing projects throughout the afternoon, just like always. The only differences being that I was able to make a gratifying dent in the dreaded “pile.” (You know the “pile,” right? That massive pile of papers that always stacks up because you keep shoving more papers on top of it waiting for time to get to them.) And I was able to dedicate more time to my creative writing projects. I even surpassed my goal of 3,000 words for the week, adding 4,600 words to my work-in-progress novel.

But aside from those few differences, my days were pretty normal. After a couple of days of this it struck me, “Hey you’re doing it wrong.” I needed to start thinking outside the box. To recognize that I didn’t need to conform to any set routines. To grasp the unfamiliar concept of: I can do whatever I want, whenever I want.

Suddenly, I began to enjoy the ultimate flexibility I had in my schedule. If I felt like goofing off in the middle of the day, and doing all my writing at night, I could. If I wanted to talk on the phone for hours, eat junk all day, work through dinner, and watch a movie until 2:00 a.m., I could. And so I did! It was very freeing that way. That was the good part.

But I’ll confess, it WAS a little lonely. The times that felt the strangest were the evenings and dinner time. I’d notice how quiet the house was then. I found myself talking to the dog a lot. And making him answer me in the ridiculous baby voice my daughter and I use. Then I’d respond again, then he would, until I finally realized I was having an entire conversation with myself. (Not a good sign!)

I started to relate to the Tom Hank’s character in Castaway, when he discovers “Wilson,” the volleyball. Although, I felt marginally better knowing my “Wilson” was an actual living, breathing creature.

When my week alone came to an end, I reflected that although I had been lonely, I hadn’t felt quite as lonely as I’d thought I would. I think it’s because I knew my days were numbered-- that my time alone would only last this one single week. If there hadn’t been an end in sight, I probably would have felt very differently.

On Friday, it was time to pick up the kids from camp. I was so glad to see them! So was “Wilson” who insisted on coming with me for the ride. So now I’m readjusting back to normal mode once again. Making dinner. Keeping regular work hours. As I write, I can hear sounds of movement from upstairs and the T.V. is on in the family room. Someone comes in to talk with me, or to ask me a question. The sounds of life in the house. The sounds of my family. My week home alone was cool. But I really do like having these folks around me. Good stuff.

Man Voices...

As those of you who follow my blog know, I've mentioned how freaky it is listening to the voices of my son and his friends. How they seem to have suddenly changed from boy voices to man voices overnight--with none of that squeaky in-between stuff that I expected. Well check out these 14- and 15-year-old Italian boys singing in some truly ultimate man voices. (PG-13 warning on the the lady host's attire! Could she be any more lowcut!)

Mommy, He's TOUCHING Me!

My 17-year-old daughter just made her brother cry. Real, blow-his-nose, tears-dripping-down-his-face crying. And not because she pinched him when I wasn’t looking, nor because she called him some awful name. It was because she wrote him an incredibly sweet, heartfelt letter about how much she loves and appreciates him, and hopes to become a better sister to him than she has been in the past. I know what you’re thinking and no I’m not dreaming.

Ashleigh has returned, from her recent mission trip to Guatemala, a changed young woman. More aware of the blessing her family (and particularly her little brother) is to her.

Once upon a time when Joshua was born, Ashleigh was initially curious, then annoyed with her new brother. Suddenly attention was being diverted from her 2-1/2-year-old cuteness to his adorable baby new-ness. I’d catch her “patting” him in such a way as to make me wonder whether she was truly patting him in love, or smacking him in irritation.

There was a brief smooth patch in their relationship when Joshua reached his toddler years. During that window of time, Ashleigh could pretty much get her little brother to do anything in exchange for the honor of playing with her, and having her undivided attention. Joshua adored (and still does) his big sister. Dress him up like a girl. Paint his toenails. Order him around. He was a willing accessory in her games of make believe.

I looked on smugly, certain they were going to be the rare exception and actually escape the whole sibling rivalry thing altogether. (Hark, dost thou hear the evil laughter in the background here?) Then…

KA-BLAM! It hit.

When they reached about the ages of 6 and 4, it seemed like they quarreled over every little thing. Who got to brush their teeth first, who got to hug the dog first in the morning, who got the “good” chair. And I absolutely could not stand it when they’d start fighting. I know the much-quoted parental advice on sibling rivalry is to “just let them work it out.” But I had a really hard time with that—especially when it came to name calling. No “S” words (“stupid”) or “D” words (“dumb”) on my watch!

As soon as I heard an unkind word or the start of a fight, I was in their faces, often forcing them to play the Compliment Game where I’d immediately sit them down and have them give three compliments to each other. The compliments had to be about qualities they genuinely admired in each other, and could not be something superficial like “I like your shirt.” After the first couple of times, this “GAME” drove them nuts.

“No, puhleeeze mama! Not compliments again!”

Other times I would shriek in frustration. “Stop it! Be nice to each other. Once daddy and I are gone you will only have each other!”

To be totally fair, their relationship wasn’t completely contentious. They had their occasional good moments. Like when I’d catch Ashleigh reading books to Joshua in the middle of the afternoon. Or when he’d share a last treasured piece of candy with her. But more often than not, if they weren’t busy doing something else, they were annoying each other.

Then, over the next decade, so slowly and so subtly I was hardly aware it was happening, their relationship changed—is changing. Now at 17 and 15, they are evolving into not only siblings, but friends, right before my eyes. And it is so cool!

All it took was a two-week mission trip to Guatemala.
And over ten years.
And nagging parents drilling it into their heads.

Yup. Seventeen years, parental nagging and a two-week mission trip. Cool, eh?

Quote of the Month

"You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don't try."

~ Beverly Sills ~

Image by: Holly Bowne

Unaccompanied Minor

Monday we took our daughter to the airport to fly to Guatemala on a mission trip. ALONE. Her first mission trip. Her first time flying alone.

We didn’t even let our kids do sleepovers until they were in the fourth grade. We didn’t allow them to watch PG movies until they were nine, and PG-13 movies until they actually WERE 13. Now we’re letting our daughter travel to a tiny Central American country. By herself!

Logically, I know she’s 17-1/2 years old. I know she’ll be a senior in high school next year, and after that she’ll head off to college and onto new adventures of her own. Logically, I knew I was going to miss her.

But I think, without realizing it, I’d been suppressing certain thoughts and feelings. And they all bubbled to the surface when we checked her in at the airport and I discovered that I would not be permitted to accompany her to the gate and onto the plane.

My hubby flies a lot for work, so he’s got some fancy schmancy card that allows him (& us when we travel with him) to sail through shorter check-in lines, and sit in comfy clubs nibbling on snacks and sipping ice-cold beverages, while the regular non-fancy-schmancy-card folk have to herd like sheep through endlessly long lines and stuff.

So once we’d checked her in, my hubby confidently requested guest passes for me, our son, and himself, so we could accompany our “unaccompanied minor” through the airport.

“Sorry, no.” we were told. “We can allow only one adult through.”


“But we have a fancy schmancy card! And she’s an unaccompanied minor traveling far, far away, to a scary place for TWO REALLY, REALLY LONG WEEKS.”

“Sorry, no.”

We spoke to a manager. We carefully re-explained the situation.

“Sorry, no.” (Yeesh! Did these people take Jim Fay’s “Love & Logic” parenting classes or what?!)

“You’ll have to say good-bye here,” I was told.

It wasn’t until that very moment that I realized how precarious my emotions really were. I warned them that if they didn’t let me through I’d throw a tantrum. Unfortunately for them, they didn’t believe me. I burst into tears. But those cruel, heartless airport personnel didn’t care! Nope. They made me say good-bye right at the entrance of the BIG, STUPID airport.

I had to stand off to the side, like the shunned, while she moved with her dad through the security check and then ultimately disappeared from my sight. Swallowed up by the crowd.

I felt incredibly deflated.

My son could have accompanied his sister, since he’s a “minor” too, and therefore not considered a security threat like my five-foot-tall self was I suppose. But he sweetly offered to sit with me, trying to entertain me with his cool iPod Touch games for an hour while I pouted. As I sat there wallowing in self pity, I felt even worse when I realized this is only a taste of what it will be like just one year from now.

I remember somebody once telling me that God made kids grow into teenagers so that by the time they leave home you’re ready for them to leave home.

But I confess, so far it’s not workin’ for me. I like hanging out with my teens. When I think about Ashleigh going off to college, it’s going to leave a really big hole that I can’t imagine filling right now. And when it’s Joshua’s turn…oi! I can’t even go there!

I know this is the whole point behind raising these kids we’ve been blessed with. Helping them to have the confidence to step out and carve their own special niche in the world. But when that time really comes, I now have no doubt; it’s going to be incredibly hard to…say good-bye.

Image by: The Shane H