Thursday, March 2, 2023

Homemade Tortilla Chips

 Have you ever made your own tortilla chips?  They're actually so easy to make and so good!

Fresh tortilla chips resting on paper towels.

All you need is some kind of oil for deep frying...I use beef tallow...and corn tortillas.  After that you'll need a candy thermometer, a pan, and something to get the hot chips out of the hot oil.  (If you have a deep fryer, that is even that much easier.)

Pulling a batch of tortilla chips out of the oil.

Cut your tortilla chips into six pieces (like a small pizza).  Then heat the oil in the pan to the "deep fry" temperature on your candy thermometer and put some tortilla pieces into the oil.  Then you let the pieces cook to the desired color and pull them out of the oil, and let them rest on something that will absorb the grease like some paper towels or a brown paper bag.  Salt and eat!  That's it!  So easy and so good!

(If you use beef tallow, you can reuse the melted tallow--just let it cool a bit and put it in a glass container and store in the refrigerator until the next time!)

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Love Where You Are Right Now

 One of the greatest lessons I've learned over the years is to figure out how to love where you are right now, even while acknowledging all of the imperfections in your life.  Look, I freely acknowledge that I am wired to be an optimist, but still, it takes practice to see the ways in which your life is good, even as you're wondering how you're going to pay your bills this month or worrying about the decisions your adult child is making or the bigger questions like, will you ever get out of your apartment and buy a house or should you make a career change.  (In case you're wondering, for us getting out of an apartment and into a house took a LONG time!)  Daily life can beat you down and loving where you are despite the pressure, is challenging at first.  It's a muscle you have to flex regularly, so you can default to looking for the positives in life when they're hidden under layers of burden and true concerns.

In my previous life, I had a boss who told me that she always asked herself, "If this is as good as it will get, how good can I make this?" And that question and the sentiment that arises out of it has stuck with me all of these years.  I have incorporated that way of thinking into everything I do.  This doesn't mean you're not striving to accomplish some big goals, but rather, that you look at your "right now" through a lense of appreciation and with your attention directed towards optimizing your current situation.  After years of living this way, I have come to believe that this recognition of the many ways our lives are currently good paves the way for us to see opportunity when it comes our way.  

Using our own life as an example. as I stated previously, it took Superman and me a long time to move from our apartment to a house.  We had already had two of our three children and we had been together almost ten years.  But that didn't mean I wasn't trying to make our apartment home as lovely and warm and welcoming and efficient for a family of four as possible.  I wasn't waiting until I "had a house" before I "made a home" for our family.  I also wasn't waiting until I could be a SAHM before I did these things.  Nope.  I was working long days with a brutal commute and I still felt fortunate.  I felt fortunate that we had an apartment that opened onto a grassy area for our boys to play, that we had apartment managers who looked out for us, that we had two bathrooms (seriously--so great!!) and two parking spaces.  There were so many lovely things about our apartment life and I look back upon that time with great fondness.  We weren't waiting for a house to start our real lives.  We were making the best of where we were then, even as we were working towards the next big thing.

Put another way:  If you're always looking to tomorrow to start your "good" life, you're never going to see the power you have to make the life you have now a good one.  You have to look around and be able to say, "I like 'this' about my life."   When you've acknowledged all of the aspects of your life that you DO like, then you can turn your attention to the things that you DON'T like from a perspective of opportunity.  You have to take a moment to stop and appreciate what you have accomplished thus far and really recognize those legitimate accomplishments.   Only then, will you be able to turn your attention to those aspects of your life that are next in line for action.   There will always be work to be done, improvements that can be made, and that is okay.  What's important is to balance that reality with appreciation for the moment you're in right now.

Look at this picture...isn't the sunset gorgeous?  If I'd stayed focused on the chore of shoveling the driveway yet again, I wouldn't have looked up and seen this gorgeous post-snow sky.  Of course, my photo doesn't do it justice, but trust me, it was stunning.  We're so lucky that the proposed construction in the field behind us continues to be delayed, keeping our view so beautiful.  (It's been proposed for the 17 years we've lived here...I'd say we've been more than lucky!!)  But look a little more closely.  Do you see it?  One of my dogs was so happy to be outside after the snow stopped, he had the zoomies and made an exuberant loop-the-loop pattern in the snow and circled the firepit chairs numerous times.  How can you do anything but smile when you see that manifestation of joy so clearly there?  Anyway, snow is forecast for the entire week and there is no doubt I'll soon be grumbling about shoveling that driveway AGAIN, but this beautiful moment reminded me of how much I love where I live.

Bottom Line:  That saying "life is what you "make" of it" doesn't just refer to what you're doing, it refers to what you're thinking about what you're doing and "life" is right now, not tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Still Making This Old Favorite, but I've Updated It...


Still warm!!

When we found out we were gluten intolerant, the joy went out of cooking for quite a while.  Basically, everything I used to make for my family was wheat based and finding new options was much harder 12 years ago than it is now.  Fast forward 12 years and we're still not fans of most store-bought gluten free options, so we've really upped our baking skills to meet our new reality.  Still, there were a few of our favorites that happened to be naturally gluten-free and they have stayed in the rotation to this day.  One of these keepers is Amish Baked Oatmeal.  I first blogged about this recipe in 2010, and it is still in my rotation, so there is that!

Fresh out of the oven.

Since those first days, however, I've slightly modified the original recipe with the addition of another egg and a teaspoon of cinnamon.  This is the version of the recipe I use these days.

Amish Baked Oatmeal

1 1/2 cups quick cooking oats
1/3 cup packed brown sugar 
1/2 cup of milk (I've made it with water when I didn't have milk!)
1/4 cup of butter - melted
2 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Pinch of salt (I use 1/8 teaspoon)

1.  Preheat oven to 350F.  Grease an 8 x 8 pan.

2.  Mix all together in one bowl and then pour into your greased 8 x 8 pan.  

3.  Cover and place in refrigerator overnight (remove cover to bake) or leave uncovered and bake immediately for 30 minutes at 350F.  (If you leave the cover on when you bake it, it is too soggy.)

4.  Top with berries or eat plain (we like it straight out of the pan).

Honestly, this is a quick and easy addition to your breakfast or dessert rotation. (It's also really great for those afternoons where you just want something sweet, but don't want to each junk and you don't want to make a big mess.)   The 8 x 8 pan is a nice amount for a couple or for a small family.  Also, this is NOT an expensive treat to make, so if you're on a tight budget, this is definitely something to try.

Monday, February 27, 2023

Never quiet.

Superman and I have always had animals...even before we had kids, we had cats.  We got our first dog when Buttercup was three or four, and since then, we've always had dogs, too.  Throughout the years, we have also had birds, hamsters, rats, a chinchilla, and fish.  They have always added to the chaos and joy in our home and in our lives.

The past few years have been hard where our animals have been concerned, as well.  That was to be expected, if we had ever really thought about it:  the animals you get when your kids are little will be old when your kids leave the nest.   We didn't think about it, though, and the losses of the past few years made the transition to empty nesters even more bittersweet.  We've lost four animals in the past two years. It felt as if we were losing more of our family with each loss.

Beans went first in 2021.  She declined quickly and, while not a nice cat (hey, some just aren't nice), I was sad for her decline...she was only 12 and we had gotten her when she was six weeks old.  Wasn't she beautiful?

Majestic Beans 

Sam-I-Am passed in January of 2022.  He was our last link to our lives in So Cal.  He was born in the carport of our California home and moved with us the next year.  He was just shy of 18 when he died and he lived an amazing life and was cool until the very end.

Sam-I-Am was always irritated by us.

My sewing room cat Clementine disappeared in May 2022.  We suspect strongly she was taken by an owl.  My heart broke with this loss because she was just three years old and was the sweetest cat ever.  She was definitely my cat...this loss was brutal, to be honest.

My little Clementine--sweetest cat ever.

Finally, our beloved Lucy Lou died in July 2022.  She was almost 16 years old and was the most loyal girl ever.  She taught me to love dogs.   Fortunately, she declined quite quickly...she was still going for walks two weeks before she died...but man, this one was hard.  You know they can't live forever, but still...

Miss Lucy Lou

I know a lot of people decide not to get any more pets after the pets they had when their kids were younger pass, but I just couldn't see doing that, despite the fact that we were also dealing with our beloved Honey having terminal bladder cancer.  She has far surpassed her six month prognosis and, at 14 months post diagnosis, is still living her best life. The tumor is still growing, though, albeit slowly and we know her time with us is limited.  Animals are a source of joy and life in a home, in my humble opinion.

Honey - she has big dog energy and the sweetest girl ever.

So, in June, while my heart was still hurting over Clementine's loss and I was grappling with Honey's cancer, we rescued Leo-Leo.  He's a two and half year-old little mutt who was in an abuse situation and is getting braver by the day.
Leo-Leo--tries so hard to be a brave boy.

At the end of summer, we adopted Olive and Georgia, a bonded pair of female cats who are about three years old.  We needed cats...the mice in the yard were waving to me as they went about their day's work.  Really.  My daughter started referring to me as Snow While because there were so many bold critters in our backyard.!!  Anyway, between our combined efforts, Olive and I have mitigated the mouse problem quite effectively and there is peace in the kingdom again.

This is Olive...Georgia is very shy.

Finally, in November, we adopted Miss Emma, another rescue in need of a forever home.  She was a special case and needed a special home and we felt privileged to become her family.  She's a fierce little thing who is going to rule the entire house when she's done.

Miss Emma - a backyard breeder mom dumped in a shelter, this girl is stealing our hearts.

So, there you have it.  If you're keeping count, we have four dogs (including Jack--not pictured), two cats, two birds (with no names), and possibly two fish (we will know in spring how many survived in the little pond).   Housebreaking through a snowy winter has been quite an adventure, but it has been a small inconvenience when contrasted with the happiness these pets bring.  The joy our animals bring to our lives is worth the pain of losing them when their time comes.   Our home is not very quiet and is never boring, and I wouldn't have it any other way.  

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Happy Birthday to Charming!!!

 I don't know how it's possible, but our first born is 32 today!  (Which really doesn't make a lot of sense, as I'm holding somewhere between 35 and 40 myself, soooo...) 

Happy Birthday, Charming!!!

This is from 1994...You were 3. 
Let's not talk about how long you've been running!!!

Saturday, February 25, 2023

"Transitions are hard" or "Reflections upon coming out the other side"

As you might be aware, for a few years now, my family has been in transition.  Heck, you might even be bored of the topic, but man, it's a big transition to go from active parenting of younger children to hands-off parenting of adult children.  I've mentioned some of it in my very sporadic blog posts, but I didn't even scratch the surface.  The last of our children left the nest within six months of each other and both of them are now married.  Superman and I became grandparents when Buttercup and her husband had a little boy last summer.  Valiant and his wife live across the country and Charming is across the state.  Family togetherness, at least for now, is a distant memory.

On top of that, Superman and I decided we couldn't say no to an amazing career opportunity for him, so he's traveling again.  When I tell you the nest is empty, the nest is EMPTY.  And yet, Superman and I seem to be busier than ever.  We have grand plans for our empty nest life and are pursuing them with a single-minded focus and we have a renewed energy as we pursue our goals. 

Swedish death cleaning was a huge help to this transition.  I know I posted about the ins and outs of Swedish death cleaning before, but I can't stress enough how good this was for us.  Letting go of the life that "was" makes room for the life that "will be".  We aren't holding on to the past in a way that limits our ability to embrace the future.  It has been so liberating to shed the detritus of those years, only holding on to the things that have true meaning.  Of course, we did hold on to some things, but only things that have meaning to us and that we think might have meaning to our children.  For example, it is lovely to see our grandson in a crib that was used first for my brother, and then for our own children.  It has been so sweet to see him in a playpen that has been in our family for more than 50 years.  (Seriously, buying quality and being resistant to "new and improved" has served us well.)  

It was a lovely trip down memory lane and also a loving farewell when I scanned in all of our analog photos (so many photos in boxes...I thought they'd never end!) and then combined them with all of our digital photos and placed them on a thumb drive for the each of the kids.  This is their history to keep and maintain as they see fit.   I felt lighter and a little buoyant as I shipped off all of their belongings and then gifted them all these photos.  But it also really cemented a thought for me:  Memories are so personal.  All of those baby pictures that bring a smile of remembrance to your face are of a time that the subject of the photo doesn't even remember...those are YOUR memories, not theirs.   You can't really know what is a treasured memory or a treasured belonging for your adult child.  Anyway, I digress...this project is all done and handed off to the next generation and our home is now more reflective of the journey to come rather than looking back at the life that was.

I read a blurb somewhere that said the majority of your parenting will be done to adult children and that is the stage we're in.  I know it sounds as if we've washing our hands of our children, but that is far from the truth...we just truly respect that they are living their lives now and we have confidence in their ability to do just that.  We raised them well and they're all very competent, capable individuals in their own right. Our "job" is done and we've happily handed the reins to them and we are enjoying watching the paths they choose for themselves.  

So, there it is.  We've made it through the empty nest transition and come out the other side.  We feel energized and excited to see what the future holds, and I think this blog is going to come back to life now that I don't have to worry about infringing on teenagers' privacy. (That was a big consideration for me once they were of an age..,I didn't want post things that could potentially make them feel their privacy had been violated.)  Heck, I might even open it up to my adult children to contribute to because, it is, after all, the Nagle5 News and I no longer speak for all of the Nagle5.  

Saturday, May 21, 2022

"Swedish Death Cleaning" also known as "Your Kids Don't Want It"


Have you heard of “Swedish Death Cleaning”?  If you haven’t, I urge you to do a quick search and read up on it, but basically it is the idea that you go through all the stuff you’ve been holding on to for years so that when you do die, you haven’t left a mess of stuff for your family to sift through.  The process forces you to acknowledge well in advance of your absence that your children aren’t going to want all of your stuff and you have the responsibility (burden? chore?) to dispose of it appropriately.  This is NOT Marie Kondo’s “does it spark joy?”…no, this is, “Will it spark joy for the people who have to deal with it when I’m not here to deal with it myself?”  It’s really a game changer and really can be tackled by anyone, at any stage of life.


Let me back up, though.  This journey started BEFORE we became empty nesters.  Our neighbors moved from a home where they’d lived for two decades, where they’d raised their family and, while I expected there to be a lot of stuff, I was actually stunned by the sheer volume of stuff that came out of their house and it just kept coming.  I was simply stunned.  Yes, they’d lived in their house a few years longer than we had lived in our, but still.  Did I have that much stuff filling the unseen corners of my home?  That was the moment I started looking at my own house and the things that filled it through new eyes and started getting rid of stuff.  The question I posed as I looked around a room?  Would I move this stuff?  Seriously, do I like it enough to pack it up and lug it to a new home?  As you might imagine, the number of times my honest answer was,  “Um, no,” was high.


We all have so much “stuff” these days and it can easily cross into too much stuff.  Take your kitchen, for example.  How much stuff do you have in your kitchen?  How many appliances do you have that you NEVER use?  I have a milk shake maker…I am lactose-intolerant and I don’t like milk shakes!  (My husband loves milk shakes, however, and won’t let me get rid of it, even though he has never used it…we inherited it and WE HAVE NEVER USED IT!)  Bundt pan, anyone?  And when, exactly, was the last time you made a bundt cake? 

Do you have a springform pan?  When was the last time you actually made a cheesecake?  Also, how many cookbooks do you have?  Do you ever actually open them and look for a new recipe to try?  Do you see where I’m going with this?  Why do we have all of this stuff?  What exactly are we saving it all for?


Anyway, I digress.  The point is, watching (and helping) our neighbors move, I was motivated to get rid of a bunch of stuff even before the kids moved out.  But that was only the beginning…


We were one of those families that held on to a lot of stuff “for when the kids moved out”. They each took what they wanted and left the rest behind.  Yep, you read that correctly: a bunch of stuff “for the kids” was left behind when the kids moved out BECAUSE THEY DIDN’T ACTUALLY WANT IT.    When they had the option to take it or leave it, they left it.  Your children aren’t going to value the same things you do because, wait for it, they aren’t you.  They grew up in a different era than you did and they have different taste and different priorities.  Think about it.  When was the last time you heard of anyone wanting the family china?  I know of people who are desperate to get someone to take one of the MULTIPLE sets of the china they’ve inherited because they can’t bear to sell it or give it away because it meant so much to Aunt So and So and it was so nice of them to leave it to them.  Their kids don’t want it, their siblings don’t want it.  Life is different now and china doesn’t hold the same significance for this generation that it did for previous generations and all the hoarding in the world isn’t going to change that.  Combine this with the fact that modern households already have so much stuff and you can see the beauty of Swedish Death Cleaning.  With this process, you have to get real and you have to make hard decisions.


The questions are:  Why do I have this?  Do I use or do I just want it? Will/do my children want it? If I’m “saving it for them”, why don’t I just give it to them now?  There are no wrong answers.  It’s the process that matters.


So, how did it work for me?  (When in doubt, I did double check with my kids before getting rid of something I really thought they could use.)  The easy stuff first:  Firstly, any furniture that the kids didn’t take with them when they moved out and that we didn’t love or have a use for was donated.  This included art that was not currently on the walls and various other decorative items I seem to always have waiting in the wings. 


Then, we got rid of “family with kids stuff” that didn’t get taken…board games we weren’t fond of, extra bikes, camping equipment, sports equipment, etc.  My husband even gave away his RC car to a kid who was thrilled to have it.  (During this part of the process, one of my kids did actually want the camping equipment we were getting rid of, so score one for Mom.)  Still, all of this was pretty easy to deal with because we weren’t talking a lot of emotional attachment to the stuff we were going through.  Not really attached to “Disney Monopoly”, you know?  This part of the cleaning was much more a process of considering, “does this serve a function in our current phase of life?”    The same went for a lot of files I had kept over the years.  Stuff like paperwork for the purchase of our first house and tax returns for 30 years…why leave those for anyone to deal with?  Also, I didn’t really need my kids pre- and post-orthodontic photos any more.  Nor did I need their curriculum paperwork (as a homeschooler, I did need this stuff until they transitioned to college and the “official” records would suffice).  I scanned the stuff I wanted to keep and shredded everything.  (My file drawers have so much room!)


Next, I tackled my sewing room and this is where it got harder, partly because I still actively sew and partly because, “hey, I might use it!”.  Still, I got rid of patterns I was never going to sew, because I’ve learned more about sewing what I wear since I bought them.  I got rid of sewing books that had disappointed or just weren’t helpful to me.  I even got rid of some fabric that I just didn’t like and knew I wasn’t going to use for anything.  I feel I made some progress here, but I think as long as I am sewing, this room will be a work in progress.


Then came the emotional, tug at your heart strings stuff.  The photos and other keepsakes, like stuff animals, yearbooks and various kids’ keepsakes.  Additionally, I had somehow become the repository of a bunch of stuff from various family members and I didn’t want punt it down the road for my kids to deal with, so I dug in.  First things first, I taped up empty boxes for each of the kids and filled them with sentimental items I had saved over the years.  Mickey Mouse ears, check.  Cute baby t-shirt, check.  Art that was sent home from school, check.  Each kid got boxes of varying size, depending upon whether I’d off-loaded any of their stuff to them earlier.  (Charming’s box was pretty small, because as my oldest, I’ve been handing his stuff off to him for years!)  All in all, this was pretty straight forward because I’d been pretty organized throughout the years.  It was time for me to well and truly say goodbye to this stage of life and by handing these items off to the kids, I was doing just that.  So, I packed it all up and shipped it off to the rightful owners.  My children can decide for themselves if some art something or other is still special to them or it isn’t and if it isn’t, then they can get rid of it.


Additionally, I have a cousin who does genealogy and I sent stuff to her.  (She was thrilled.)  I have a half-brother who should have all of the stuff associated with his father’s family that had somehow ended up in my house. (Bet he’s not so thrilled, but I’m sure his wife is, so there is that.) This stuff was sent to the people who should be the keepers of their heritage, rather than having it tucked away in boxes in my closet.  It felt so good to send it on its way, knowing it was going where it belonged.


Then came the photos.  So many photos.  So many pre-digital camera photos.  Boxes of photos and boxes of negatives.  Here is a painful truth for you:  You know how you’re absolutely in love with your child and you just take photo after photo after photo of the child being absolutely adorable while its sleeping or sitting or eating?  Yeah?  Well, actually, no one is going to want to sift through 600 photos of the same child at the same age doing the same thing (which we know is just sitting there being adorable) in slightly different positions.  Man, I was in love with my kids and when I went through the photos, I was immediately transported back to that time and my heart swelled with the love I have for those children.  But guess what?  Some of them were still crappy photos and we didn’t need 600 of them.  Sooo, I set about the task of curating the photos.  I was brutal.  I didn’t give a photo a second chance.  If it went in the toss pile, it stayed in the toss pile.  I was hard-hearted and I THREW AWAY PHOTOS OF MY PRECIOUS CHILDREN.  There, I said it.  I threw them away!  But the ones I kept were the good photos, the ones my children will be able to show their children someday, the ones that will make THEM smile in remembrance.  I am also doing the hard work of scanning the photos I’ve retained into the computer and labeling them with names and dates so the details won’t be lost.  I’m doing the same with the photos I’ve inherited, while I still remember who the people in them are.  When I’m all done scanning everything into the computer, I will send each child a drive with the complete collection.  Photos of them, their siblings, their ancestors, their previous homes, their fun vacations, the works.  They’ll each have them all and again, they won’t have to try to sort through this stuff on their own.


I still have work to do.   I have tackled the kitchen a few times already…I still have that darned milk shake maker.  I have some children’s books I need to pass along to my youngest.  I still have holiday decorations to go through (seriously…I’m not creating a winter wonderland for my kids at Christmas any longer, so I don’t actually want this many decorations.)  My goal is to make it so that there are no closets full of stuff I haven’t looked at in years, no surprises in trunks or bins, no cupboards I’m afraid to open.  I really want to know exactly what we have and why we have it.  


The way I see it, this is not really about preparing for dying, it’s about living deliberately.  There you have it:  my take on “Swedish Death Cleaning” or as I think of it, “Your Kids Really Don’t Want It”.

Friday, May 13, 2022

Where Everything Has Changed...


After almost two years, our empty nest life has become our new normal.  To be honest, it took a while to settle in.  So many aspects of all of our lives have changed over the past two years and, frankly, it has been a challenge for all of us.  It was hard to find steady ground at times during this period and what we ended up with at the other end doesn’t look anything like what we would have imagined, if we’d actually slowed down enough during the child-raising years to imagine the empty nest years at all.  When you’re in the throes of active parenting, all of your decisions are filtered through the lens of “what do the kids need?” and when that time comes to an end, it is startling and uncomfortable.  Your role in the world has suddenly been redefined.  We have found ourselves at a bit of a loss at times, as we try to figure out what we “want” to do, rather than being driven by what we feel we “need” to do.  It’s a muscle we haven’t flexed in more than 30 years and it took us a while to get comfortable using it again.  But, two years in, we are definitely getting the hang of it.  We’ve spent money on the house doing projects we had put off for years…we’ve spent money on ourselves, because, hey, we can!  We’ve even travelled a little.  But those are the external representations of the shift our lives have taken and those are the easy parts.


In my opinion, no one is really talking about for the internal changes that come along with your empty nest.  (Trust me, I’ve searched!)  Conversations with many friends at the same stage of life confirm this—no one talks about this transition in any meaningful way.  It’s always “Oh, I can hardly wait for these kids to get out of the house” or “Oh, I never want them to leave me!” or my favorite, the “I can hardly wait to be a grandma so I can babysit”…none of these were me.  It seems as if the middle ground of your children actually growing up and leaving the way they’re supposed to and how that will make you feel isn’t really talked about. It’s loss and guilt all wrapped up in one tidy package. Let me explain:  The first year all of my kids were gone from my daily life, I missed them. I missed them terribly.  I missed their friendship, I missed knowing what was going on with them, I missed the frenetic energy they brought to my days, I missed knowing what I was supposed to be doing with my time…I missed it all.  When I’d go visit them, I’d be sad to leave…still feeling an active sense of loss for what had been and where I fit in the world.  But, as time passed and my life settled into new routines and patterns, I found I didn’t feel that active sense of loss any longer.  I didn’t worry constantly about their relationship woes or their finances or whether they were “safe”.  I was able to trust in the parenting job we’d done, knowing that we had raised perfectly capable individuals who knew how to reach me if they needed me.  The fact that they didn’t NEED me was a testament to the job we did as parents and that was a good thing.  Honestly, it was liberating to be free of all of that responsibility, until the guilt hit.  Why didn’t I miss them?  Why wasn’t I worried about them?  Was something wrong with me because I had cheerfully moved along?  Why didn’t I want to just “help them out” when they faced a challenge?  Was I just a selfish person now?  And as for the “grandma babysitting part”?  Is it terrible that I feel when my children have children of their own, those will be their children, not mine? That I will help out as I see appropriate, but that it is NOT my responsibility to provide for the child?   That I don’t want to be a daycare provider?  See what I mean?  No one talks about all of this stuff.  Seriously.  No one prepares you for this part, but it is part of the process.  Eventually, I concluded that it was what it was.  That there are no “right” answers…that empty nesting is as varied as families and that I didn’t need to feel guilt for what my relationship with my adult children evolved into.   Letting go, for me, is going to look different than it does for other empty nesters.  I really truly feel as if I’ve handed the reins of their lives to my adult children and I’m charting a new course. I’m still married to their faither, so for me, that means rekindling an established relationship and letting in grow in new directions and that is where a lot of my energy goes these days.  Other empty nesters might remain fully engaged in their adult children’s daily lives, but that’s not me.  Yes, I’m aware of the interests they have, the milestones they’re chasing, and, I like to think, some of the challenges they’re facing. Other empty nesters might love the feeling of racing to their adult children’s rescue at the hint of a hardship coming their way, renewing their sense that they’re needed, but I’m not that parent.  I like knowing that they’re on their way and that they’ve got this.  I don’t actually want them counting on me to live their daily lives.  Other empty nesters might long for the day when they can immerse themselves in their grandchildren’s lives, but that’s not me.  Of course, I want to be part of my grandchildren’s lives, but I don’t want to be a daycare provider…I want to visit and play and then give them back to their parents.  Parenting small children is hard work and, honestly, while I absolutely adored that time of my life, I’m also very much done with it. 


As it stands now, Superman and I are looking towards our future together.  Our children are scattered across the country these days, and really aren’t close to each other as they navigate their adult lives, something we didn’t really see coming.  They’re each very different (which we did know) and their paths reflect this.  Charming is living in Seattle and is an author who has published two YA novels.  Valiant is married and working in CyberSecurity on the East Coast.  Buttercup is also married and busy preparing for the birth of her first child this summer.  (See?  The grandparent questions were definitely relevant.)  For the short run, at least, there will not be the big family vacations we kind of/sort of envisioned.  Each of them is forging their own path and I am proud to say they are all thriving.  When we part from them after a visit, we are ready to head to our home and leave them to theirs, having the glow of a lovely trip to hold us over until the next time we get together.  I think this is how it is supposed to be.  We are now looking to our lives, just as they look to theirs.


This whole empty nest thing has been a journey of a few years, full of missteps and heart aches, as well as happy and fulfilling times.  We’ve gotten to know our children as the adults they have become and we have gotten to know the people we have come to be, after 30+ years of marriage and parenting.  If your life is a novel and your childhood chapters make up Part One, the chapters where you are the main character and everything is about your journey to adulthood, then the pairing up with someone and raising children chapters make up Part Two, where your focus is on your home and your children and helping them grow up and that is good, but it is not the end of the story.  It’s a big part, but it is not all there is.  What we’re looking towards now is our Part Three, where we look back fondly at Parts One and Two, but look eagerly ahead to the first few chapters of Part Three.