Adventures in Imperfection

There Goes my Heart

I should have recognized what was going on when the frenzy emerged last week. Days filled with excessive cleaning, organizing and rearranging. Evenings spent dead heading flowers, demolishing weeds, cleaning out personal e-mail files and packing up boxes of stuff I don’t use any more.

Clean, purge, organize, numb. Repeat.

I’ve learned that when I get into a cleaning furor, it has less to do with the outcome and more to do with what’s causing it.

It started with a complete and violent removal of all the corn rows I planted. The raccoons decimated most of it anyway, but common sense (and good gardening practices) would have left the rows until early fall. The decision to pluck the rows came the moment after I finished organizing old photo albums and computer files.

I should have recognized the early signs of something, but I continued with madness.

After the corn rampage, I decided to put in a stone path. With limestone slabs plucked out of the creek bed and heavy manhole covers my hubby found on a job site. It required muscles, heavy equipment and absolutely no brain energy.

Dig, move, arrange, numb. Repeat.

In times like these, I turn into the kid who puts off studying for a huge exam or finishing a midterm project. I can’t work until the pencils are sharpened and arranged, the desk cleaned off and the t-shirt drawers reorganized.

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“Filed” by color and graphic genre. Is it me, or do you hear angels singing?

After the stone path, I cleaned out the garden shed(s), stirred the compost, fertilized the roses and grabbed a box of apples from the neighbor to keep me busy.

Pick, crate, peel, numb. Repeat. 

So yeah, you’re probably getting the feeling that something is going on here. Don’t worry about me and don’t be concerned that it took place all in one day. It was a masterfully crafted 7-10 days of mindless activity.

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Despite the obvious numbing practices (we all pick different ones, don’t we?) I’m really in a good place. Still just as happy and blessed when I wrote “Life is Good” last week. Just going through something that every mama has gone through at one point or another.

The day the baby heads to high school.

When did this happen? He was this dude yesterday.

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Now, he’s this dude today!

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I’ve been a HUGE baby about this. There were no tears (on either side), but there was pouting. A LOT of pouting. And no “first-day Facebook.” Not only did I not want to see my baby walk down the drive to the bus, I didn’t want to see all of my other adoptive kiddos doing the same thing.

Denial, avoidance, bury my head in the sand. Repeat.

But, that’s not very productive is it? Before I started to spiral down a stupid staircase with a pity party at the bottom–I decided to do something about it. I spent the first (and second) day talking and texting my other mama friends. Cuz, that’s how we do in the village, right? Trade recipes, send inappropriate eCards and come clean with those who are going through the same thing–laugh, cry and avoid the numbing that doesn’t serve any purpose. It’s such a comfort to share similar feelings and expressions with other moms who know:

I can’t believe how fast they’ve grown

Where does the time go?

These four years are going to fly by

He took a 60 minute shower this morning and he came out smelling like…a grown man 😦

Ugh. He didn’t even let me take his picture!

It feels like he was just at kindergarten

And, then my favorite: There goes my heart

Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. ”
Elizabeth Stone

Ah. So true. Never have I ever felt love so physically and viscerally as I do for my kids. The pit in the stomach, the achy heart and the pain that a part of you leaves every time they walk down the drive, get in a car with someone else or drive their own.

But, that feeling is a blessing right? As a parent, all our lives are spent working, teaching, coaching, praying and hoping that our children will turn into compassionate, intelligent and independent spirits. It’s such a gift when that happens, but a gut-punch to witness it firsthand.

Thank goodness I have an awesome baby daddy partner to get me through these mama-times. Always practical and forever balanced, BD reminds me that these milestones are happy times. He reminded me when Tanna left for college and he’s doing it now with Dane wandering (*gulp, lost?) in the high school hallways. He reminds me that the passage of time is a GOOD thing and, if we’ve done our job half-way okay, we get to watch them make strides and follow the stone path that takes them from our snuggly warm, safe home to the big wide open world that waits for them.

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67 thoughts on “There Goes my Heart

  1. I cried the first day of school but then the emotion seemed stuck inside of me until I read this. I numb with organizing/cleaning too, and if you look at my messy house, you can tell I must be doing ok! But the way these kids keep getting older is so unexpected. Mine are 4 & 5 and it wasn’t long ago that I thought they’d never sleep through the night, feed themselves or wipe their own tushies. It felt like they’d be like that forever and now that they’re learning independence, I’m exhilarated and terrified all at the same time. I’m going to go finish my cry now. xxoo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hope your cry was cathartic and cleansing…the video finally helped me get my last few tears shed and put away.
      You’ll chuckle at this. Remember the little printable I shared with you this week? I hung it front and center on Dane’s bulletin board while he was at school. He came home yesterday and took it off immediately and crammed it into his desk. When I asked why, he just said, “That’s for later when I need it. But, thanks mom.”
      Funny…I noticed it front and center sitting on his desk this morning.
      Okay…maybe I have a couple more left to shed.
      Hugs and kisses to you and yours, Karen. xo

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  2. My parents are in Hawaii right now dropping off my youngest sister at college. This is the first time in 32 years they’ll be alone in the house, and both of them are feeling it big time. When the minutiae of our lives are happening, we forget that one day these things won’t be happening, and we’ll kind of miss them.

    As the oldest in my family, I will say the kids do come back around again. I went off to high school and college, but there is a turning point where I boomeranged back to my parents. My relationship with my them is obviously very different than it was before because I’m an adult now, but it’s a better one in my opinion.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Love your perspective, Jen. I’m the oldest in my family, too and remember seeing how hard it hit my folks when the youngest moved away–college, marriage and babies. WOW. A blink.
      Isn’t it just the best to have an adult relationship with your parents? I see that with my folks and my oldest, 20-year old daughter. All fun stages even if they are wrought with a little extra emotion.
      I said it yesterday and I’ll say it again. SO great to see you back. I have missed your heart, your snark and your words. xo

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  3. Oh MMT, I could feel through your words. Something my OCD self would do – organize, purge – all to avoid and numb. My youngest starts kinder in a few weeks and I’m having some of these same feelings. I’m happy one moment (more me time!) and the sad the next (what the heck am I going to do without my little shadow?). Thanks for sharing. It helps to know we’re all in the same boat. Oh, and love the path and t-shirt drawer – um, ahhhmazing!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yikes!! The youngest moving onto another milestone.
      And, I’m right there with you on the happy-sad stuff…sometimes just a minute apart, right?
      Thanks for the kind words Chenoa, and the reassurance we are all in the trenches together.
      xo
      PS: Don’t be too impressed with the t-shirt drawer…it may have lasted through the night into one morning 😉

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    1. Hello B!
      I’m so sorry if this made your heart hurt. No matter how old we get or THEY get, we will always be parents first. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. Sending virtual hugs to you and your daughter. Xo

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  4. Lovely Michelle…
    and such a gorgeous boy!
    I spent a few hours with my son yesterday. he brought me a iced chai latte and talked about life as if i was his friend (when i could not help but say something motherly I started “ok, this is a mom thing to say but…).
    He’ll be 22 next month and needs a new comforter for his bed so I suggested I get him that for his bday.
    I miss the legos, and the pokemon cards, the bday parties and the bounce houses.
    Yet, this young man is…really just swell!
    And our relationship is coming back together in new ways again after having gone through so many iterations with him.
    That’s what we do…it’s such a dance, this kids growing up thing.
    But they must, and we do join them eventually.
    a clean house and a new garden path seem like little bonuses to me!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “It’s such a dance.”
      Oh. I couldn’t have described it better myself. Balance, delicate steps, timing…so true!
      I’m sure you do this, too but I often think about my bloggy friends when I write these things. YOU were in my mind this morning for a couple of reasons 1) I was envious of your quick write and edit process and 2) I wondered about your son! Ya know. And here you are, telling me about your awesome day and swell young man. I can hear the love and pride in your words and it made me SO happy 🙂
      Thank you, Michele xo
      PS: It would be so wrong to claim I have a clean house. Instead of scrubbing toilets and doing laundry like I should have been, I was organizing junk drawers and magazine baskets. All worthwhile, but really doing very little for the outside appearance of clean. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. When my oldest left for college, the tears just ran without any way to stop them. I homeschooled him, you see, and knowing that now he will be on his own, was so hard. Yes, it is good that the passage of time does move on and that they grow into what we show them to be. You’ll be alright 🙂 maria

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    1. Hi Maria,
      Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing your kind words and encouragement. It was so hard when my daughter left for college, too….so far away and on her own. That said, I just love the relationship we have now and am so thankful that I had her the years that I did. I loved your description of the passage of time…it made me smile.
      Thank you again for stopping by.
      Michelle

      PS: I just hopped over to your site and I’m so intrigued. I may have to pull out my sewing machine for something other than mending and hemming!!

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    2. Oh, boy, do I know how that feels. Like Maria, I homeschooled my only kid until the day he went off to college. That first year was the hardest thing I ever had to adjust to. He’s 25 now, out of college, with good friends and a wonderful job doing what makes him happy. Couldn’t ask for more than that. And somehow we moms do adapt.

      Love that quote by Elizabeth Stone — so absolutely true!

      I also agree with Victoria about how great the relationship can be once the ENS wanes. The Boy still wants to come home now and then just to spend time with us. He also still comes home for a hair cut. (He has never had his hair cut professionally; he seems to prefer my unprofessional free cuts!)

      Love the photos of your boy. Not sure how he survived the first year hauling a backpack that huge!! 🙂

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      1. Hi Mary,
        I always love hearing from you!
        It looks like you adjusted just fine and raised an incredible young man in the process. What you described with your son–his happiness, a job he likes, good friends and a trip home for a haircut…we couldn’t ask for anything more, right? I see my own college-age daughter excited and wide-eyed as she moves forward with becoming a nurse and setting her course. It’s everything I could have wished for her and more.
        Thank you for making my day and helping me realize (like so many other great parents have done on this post) that we survive and our kiddos are better for it.
        The little boy with the big backpack is one of my favorite pictures. I’m pretty sure its why he has all these man muscles!!
        Thank you again, Mary and have a great weekend!!
        Michelle

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  6. Without question, this wonderful post couldn’t have come at a better time for a lot of us whose children are entering high school this year. On Monday, I walked my son to the practice field for his first official day as a freshman Viking football player, at the school from where I graduated and have also been covering sports for the newspaper the last 15 years. Such a surreal moment visiting places that have become second nature… yet suddenly for the first time through the eyes of a parent. It is definitely a bitter-sweet moment, heavy on the sweet.

    Thanks for voicing what so many of us are feeling, Michelle. Oh, and if you’re still needing busy work, my back yard is a disaster 😉

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    1. Hi Ned (I thought you were in Mexico!)
      I love your bitter-sweet sharing. It must truly be surreal to be walking through your old stomping grounds–just in his shoes this time around. I can’t wait to read your stories and hear about your next set of adventures as it relates to your son. In fact, I may need to subscribe to Siuslaw news just to see how the Vikings do! And true, these days are heavy on the sweet 🙂
      Michelle

      PS: As far as your back yard is concerned…I thought you were gonna hop over and borrow the mower. That thing eats Hibachis like a snack!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I do remember your “freak out” at the end of the year. The twins graduated just a few days after mine. I think it’s so cool that they have each other to navigate the hallways…that’s gotta help. My kiddo is doing fine, but feeling a little small in the sea of students. He’s a funny and resilient kid, so I know he will be fine. Thanks for stopping by, TD. I’m so stoked to see you again 🙂

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  7. Michelle, I had to take a rest after reading your post, hahaha. I was exhausted. Btw, what a brilliant idea using the manhole covers as stepping stones. It looks great. ➡ Parenting is the hardest job, requiring intense focus — taking up a good bit of our gray matter real estate. After two plus decades of brain wiring to guide and meet their nees, suddenly all those pathways are “just there”, idle, and not much needed anymore, hence “empty nest syndrome”. Add to the mix, the oxytocin that is still flowing and it can be a difficult transition to say the least.

    But — if you didn’t just live for your kids — having you whole identity wrapped around parenthood, the transition will be much easier, and you can spend more time with your partner and yourself. As you know, my daughter and I are very close, but I must say that our adult relationship has been vastly rewarding and more than made up for that ENS period. No, they no longer need you to wipe their butt, clothe them and put food on the table when they leave the nest. There are benefits — lots of benefits once ENS wanes. When they come to visit, you KNOW they are there to see you — to be with you. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yep, Victoria. You know!
      Isn’t it funny how this is the second time this week to talk about oxytocin?!?! I’ve read so many fantastic and encouraging words…it makes my heart so happy.
      And the manhole covers. If you only knew how long I’ve look for some! There are so many beautiful kinds (City of New Orleans and Shawnee Co are two favorites). BUT, you can’t find them for less than hundreds of dollars AND most of the time they aren’t even legal to own. I finally resigned to using vintage heater registers filled with shiny pebbles. Then, just a few weeks ago, Scott helped out on an abandoned laterals site and found 5 of them for me. All from Wisconsin. Very cool! Woops. Can you tell what I get excited about these days 🙂

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  8. Ah, I feel your pain. My baby starts high school on the 25th, and it feels a little strange. I haven’t been productive and organized anything though (that would actually be kind of nice if I worked off sadness/stress/anxiety that way…so kudos to you). That song is so perfect. When the kids were little, time seemed to go slow, but then it starts exponentially getting faster and I blink and my babies are gone,

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It certainly is bittersweet isn’t it? Hubby just went to pick up Dane from football practice and I’ve been pacing the floor for an hour. Just ready for him to be home, give me an “it’s all good” smile and eat some dinner!
      I’ll be thinking of you next week…it’s nice to know we have great people in the same boats. As always, I love hearing from you Char. Thank you!! xo

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  9. Pssst…Michelle…don’t let any of the guys know this, but, when my pair of urchins each did the big step up to High School, I did the lump in the throat AND got all proud (to cover the teary bit inside). AND, when they finally left home, it was worse.
    Yes, it’s a process we all go through, but I thought it was one of those mother, child bonding things and you poor darlings had it hard BECAUSE they ARE a part of who you are. Someone forgot to tell me that I would also get very attached as well.
    At least your being understanding, even though the poor house and garden are getting an earbashing (poor things 🙂 ), but I will tell you that eventually this cycle of change will bring you into a good place, even though at this age, for them, brings their own problems (ie girls! lol), so enjoy the little break as they become more independant.
    Just think, the house and garden won’t even need an end of summer re-arrange for the winter now, will it 🙂

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    1. You struck an important chord, Mark. Certainly, empty nest woes are not reserved just for mama birds. It might even be more difficult for daddies because it’s hard to be the strong father figure if you’re crumbled in a pile of tears. I know it hit hubby hard when sis went away and it will when our youngest does, too. All in cycle of life that’s full of fun, but bittersweet milestones.
      I always appreciate you stopping by because I know you’ll have something kind and inspirational to share. Thank you, my friend!

      PS: hubs just gave me a hard time as I sat twiddling my thumbs in the house tonight. He said, “Hmmm….garden stuff is all done, isn’t it?” I’m caught up till October 🙂

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  10. Wow, you are a garden slaving son of a gun. Yes, those are sad times when the little ones leave Mama. I guess they just settle a little deeper in your heart and keep you warm at night or during lonely times. Great post – very heartfelt. Thank you.

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  11. I know this feeling! And then the shipping them off to college. And then the graduating of college. Sam is starting middle school this year and for some reason that’s setting of the Mama emotions, maybe because I know how fast it goes from there now lol

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    1. Way too fast, right??!?
      Dane is my Walking Dead watching buddy. I’m already dreading the days when we are watching it in different towns 😦
      Sam will do great! That spunky little gal is made to rock middle school. I can’t wait to hear the Sammisms surely destined to come! Xo

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  12. Michelle, I think I’ve told you this before… I am not a crier. But never have I shed more tears while reading than I do when reading your blog. It should go without saying that the tears are a good thing, you have a magical way with words, my friend!

    So, too bad I did not read this in a more timely fashion, I would have started feeling better before I wrote yesterday’s post! Geez, I am crying harder now as I type. I guess what you’re writing is a lot of the ground floor problems I am experiencing, and I guess I don’t possess enough self-awareness to realize it. Which is why you, and all of my blogging friends, are so miraculous to me: you help me figure things out.

    You see the daughter I wrote about yesterday? She is my oldest, and starting high school in a few weeks. The son? My youngest, and he is starting middle school in a few weeks. So big changes in this household, and it is only by reading your post that I realize this is most likely the heart of the issue.

    So, if today I was writing a post, it would list you as today’s miracle, thank you 🙂

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    1. Awewwww…..wow, I’m so honored.
      When I read your post yesterday, I remember thinking…”yep, there goes her heart.”
      I still love what Michele wrote about this being a “dance.” The trick for me (in life and dancing)…do I lead or follow?!
      We get each other through these things, right? You’ve been my miracle more than once 😉
      Love you, sister!

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  13. I know how that feels. Like Maria, I homeschooled my only kid until the day he went off to college. That first year was the hardest thing I ever had to adjust to. He’s 25 now, out of college, with good friends and a wonderful job doing what makes him happy. Couldn’t ask for more than that. And somehow we moms do adapt.

    I love the Elizabeth Stone quote – so absolutely true!

    I also agree with Victoria about how great the relationship is once the ENS waned. The Boy actually comes to visit fairly often because he WANTS to spend time with us. And he still comes home to have me cut his hair. (He’s never had a professional cut; he seems to prefer the free unprofessional hair cuts I give him!)

    Love, love, love those photos of your boy. I’m amazed he survived the first year of school hauling the giant backpack. 🙂 xox

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  14. When he goes to college, can I bring you to my house? It could use some serious work.

    I’m proud of you for recognizing your own patterns and realizing that you’re burying your head in the sand. Kudos for such self awareness!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Katie!
      If only my house were still clean today. Amazing what a week back in school will do for dust and dog hair.
      Thank you for kind words, though you give me more credit than warranted. NEXT time, I need to recognize what’s going on earlier and just stop the madness then. Though, I usually do get nice, organized spaces out of the neuroses.
      Have a great weekend!! 🙂

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  15. The time moves so quickly. When I look back, I am thankful that we laughed as much as we did. I’m thankful for the time spent and I’m thankful there’s going to be plenty more of it.
    Hang in there Mama.

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  16. Oh, bless your heart, Michelle. While I can’t say much to this type of heart stretching, as I haven’t experienced it, I can say that these types of moments really put things in perspective. They help us to anchor into our sacred places and whisper our deepest truths.

    Blessings to you in these moments.
    And blessings to you always.

    Heart,
    Dani

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    1. Hi Dani!
      It always makes my day to see your pretty, smiling face show up in my notifications.
      One of the first things I remember reading about you was “having a mother’s heart.” Your kind words here and always signal that to me loud and clear.
      “They help us to anchor into our sacred places and whisper our deepest truths.”
      So beautifully written, Dani. You have a light that shines like a bright beacon and I feel so honored that you shed it on me, too.
      xo Michelle

      PS: I see you have a new post sitting on your site. I can’t wait to hop over and read it later today!

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  17. Hey Mamma joy – so glad I was able to drop by here tonight – this post was so timely for me because we helped our first born son move into his dorm room last weekend – quite a big time for us too – and I enjoyed this post extra because of where we are – and love how you tied in the stone path again at the end – and it looks like it came out nice. cool project….
    and love the shot of the t-shirts –
    anyhow, hope you have a nice rest of the summer ❤ and be in touch mi amiga 🙂

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    1. ***SQUEAL****
      Hello, dear friend! You have been on my brain lately and am so glad to hear from you today.
      Oh my goodness…the dorm move! I went through that 3 years ago and remember it vividly. I hope that all is well with you and your family and that you are enjoying the last tatters of summer.
      The path did turn out so pretty. I added solar lights and torches. It looks like a magic forest at night. Dane and I hung out down there last night until the mosquitos ate us up.
      Again, so great to hear from you. I miss you!
      Michelle

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  18. Can’t say that I know how you’re feeling, Michelle, but I sure as hell know you will look back at this some day and smile at how many ups and downs you and the kids have been through and how these circumstances only brought you closer together. You are, after all, MAMA Mick Terry.

    Love you!

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  19. In soccer, there are no timeouts. It’s like that in parenthood. You have to wait for those chances the ball goes out of bounds to catch your breath. And realize your baby is now a sophomore. That next year, two will be in high school. That in a few weeks, the youngest will reach double digits. They don’t understand how we feel. They won’t, until they have kids of their own.

    I kiss my girls on the forehead a lot. The middle girl said “why do you always have to smile at me and kiss my face?”

    “When you have kids, kiddo?” I tell her. “Then you’ll know why.

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    1. Hi Eli,
      What a great analogy with truth-filled words. No timeouts and very few water breaks!!
      The thought of you kissing your little lady atop her head made me smile from ear to ear. My mom told me that her greatest pleasure is seeing me be a mom to my kids. I’m sure you and I will feel the same way some day.
      Thank you so much for taking the time to stop and comment. You rock!

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  20. I feel this so hard. I have five kids, from 28 to 6, and it never seems to get any easier. One is off to college today as a matter of fact. I look at my 10 and 12 year old children and notice the growth, physical and otherwise, and wonder where those little people went. The ones who thought I hung the moon. I think they still do but just won’t admit it. But they will…someday. Hang in there, Mama!

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    1. Dear Sandy,
      Sending you hugs as another leaves the nest. I love what you wrote and feel your kind words deep inside my own heart. I have NO doubt that your kiddos still think you hold the moon 🙂
      Thank you for taking the time to stop and read. You have a post sitting in my email that I’m dying to get to. I know it’ll be fantastic…I saw chocolate in the title 😉
      Xo

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  21. Touching, M. Oh, I’m not far ahead in the pack but am following close.

    “He took a 60 minute shower this morning and he came out smelling like…a grown man” LOL. WAAAAAhhh.

    With each bittersweet milestone, I remind myself that the developmental mileposts my son so naturally achieves…someone else is praying for. Like my friend with her autistic boy.

    And ahhh….you are one organized queen. Gee, I’d hire ya to help me w/ the !@#??? I call my house.

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    1. Hi D!
      Ahhhh….I love your paragraph on milestones. So true! In fact, many times I’m hesitant to gush on my kiddos too much because I know that there are women who struggle with infertility, miscarriages, developmental delays or lost children. I can’t even imagine their pain, so I truly do count my blessings every day.
      You always have a way of making my day, making me smile and making me think.
      As far as my house is concerned….well, I could certainly use another mental crisis if it meant that my toilets would get scrubbed!!!

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    1. Oh my, tell me more! How are you handling it?
      I know we are supposed to let them go and be thankful for indepedence, but I’m admittedly still fluttery even three years after my first born flew the coop (who also happens to be a daughter).
      Sorry about hitting you right in the eye…I can feel your mama vibes from here!
      xo

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  22. Thanks for this. Inknow it’s from last year, but it rings true for everyone who is at this stage of life. We just got a form the other day to register our “baby” for school. It certainly doesn’t seem like it’s been 4 years (almost 5) since he was born! Thanks to aEli for sending me this way. Chances are good I’ll be writing about the passing of time, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello!! It’s always so nice to see you here. And yes, you know about this passage of time all too well don’t you? I’ve been gone for several days, so I hope to get caught up on my reading and see what you’ve been up to!
      Thank you for taking the time. xo

      Liked by 1 person

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