Well hello again little blog

Well hello little blog. I have missed you.

Here I am sitting on a train from York to Edinburgh watching the beautiful late autumn colors roll by.

This time just over a month ago I would be nearly at the end of my work week, juggling too many balls. Instead I am on a three-week adventure to connect with my British heritage of early dark and late sun-rise, dazzling Christmas lights and the promise of snow.

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Those of you that have followed this blog will know that I made the decision to go back to work full-time about 9 months ago. Best work place, amazing vision, the genuinely nicest people. Yet circumstances have led me to reluctantly put that aside (at least for now) and go back to a slightly altered version of my life for the last couple of years.

Turns out just when you think you might be able to commit yourself fully to work, things don’t always go according to plan – now there’s a surprise.

The catalyst was one of our dogs developing diabetes. Diabetes for a dog is the same as Type One diabetes for a human. there is no managing it with diet, it’s straight onto twice daily insulin injections and a pretty intense schedule of working with your vet in the initial period to get the dose right.

It is not an exaggeration to say this changed our lives over night. The injections have to be given as close as possible to 12 hours apart, food must be measured, walks must be strict and the possibility of a diabetic crash lingers closely in those first few weeks.

My wonderful workplace said I could bring him into work with me as he couldn’t be left alone. He was a very popular visitor to the office as he is very cute and loves people. Deep down though I knew this wasn’t a long term plan as he was slightly stressed by the process and it was hard to juggle taking him to various meetings.

So with heavy heart I resigned my position but we developed a two day a week position that meant I could look after Bosco, and still contribute in the form of important but not so urgent projects that needed to be bought on line.

However this catalyst became a domino on the move and I found myself weighing up work with all the other things going on in our lives – a house renovation, travel, my husband’s very full-on job, the birth of yet another precious grandchild and the announcement that there was another due early year. All good things but all that meant that something had to give.

Unlike many  people I am in the weird position of not having to work unless I want to,  so for me the question is nuanced and in some ways more difficult. I have had  several other grandmothers say that if they didn’t have to work, they wouldn’t. Yet we work for other reasons than just the financial ones and that made my decision hard. I like working, making a difference, being part of something bigger than myself, workplace banter, even wearing ‘work’ clothes. But I kind of knew as I went through the praying and thinking process, that for this season it made sense to step down for a time –  maybe permanently – I don’t know.

That was just over four weeks ago and my life has been full of  getting used to having a pet with diabetes, hanging out with our children, their little ones, my friends,  and appreciating all this  in a way I didn’t before I worked full-time for the last eight months. Also time spent catching up on all those things that don’t get done when you are both working full-time!

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Which brings me up to now. The amazing  trip  I am currently on was planned while I was working but I have been able to extend it for another week now I don’t have to fit it into annual leave.

And it is ‘I’ and not ‘we’ as it is a trip to the cold dark  Northern hemisphere winter (spurred by the  promise of a visit to a friend and the desire to see what Christmas is like over this side of the world) that did not appeal to Wayne so he graciously suggested I do it by myself – but more of that in my next entry.

It is a very big solo adventure for me!

 

Is it that time of year already?

I have been a little envious of all those people who have managed to blog through the Christmas and New Year period. Finally today I feel like it’s time to sit down in front and write something and it’s January 11 already!

Maybe it’s something to do with our summer Christmas. We have spend most of the last few weeks down at Waihi Beach with our extended family. While there was a rather large amount of lazing round and doing nothing, the beach always seems to make it difficult to sit down and be disciplined!img_3784

We trialled  some new traditions this year (well potential traditions) so our children didn’t have to juggle spending time with both us and the in-laws on Christmas Day which is getting more and more complicated each year, especially now there are grandchildren as well.
I’m very happy to report that we successfully celebrated Christmas down at the beach house with everyone on December 27. It took a lot of planning and logistics (how to fit in and feed 17 people and accomodate 5 dogs and a cat being the most pressing.

December 25 was a little odd. We decided that the four of us already at the beach would treat it as if it wasn’t Christmas yet so just had a delicious breakfast of French toast and then watched Christmas movies and read everyone else’s FB updates.

Boxing Day was when everyone started to arrive, kids, spouses, grandkids, uncles and a great grand-mother and happy chaos ensued. When everyone woke up the next morning, it definitely felt like Christmas Day. We started off with our traditional waffle breakfast which we have not been able to do with everyone for years and then spent the rest of the day opening presents until it was time to attack  a Christmas feast of ham, turkey and smoked salmon. There was a mountain of presents under the tree! I have to say our family is very good at gifts. They don’t spend lots of money and don’t buy stuff that will be thrown away once Christmas is over but make or buy things that are perfect for the recipient. It was a lovely relaxing (if noisy) day and it was so nice for everyone to be able to just go to bed rather than driving home at the end of a long day. So much easier for the grandchildren as well as we just bundled them into bed as they got tired.

We even managed to get a family photo, dogs and all!

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Most people stayed a few days, and one of our sons and his wife stayed to see the new year in (and we had friends arrive for that as well so the house was still quite full). We had fun letting off some fairly spectacular leftover fireworks.

And then they were all gone. Christian went up with his older siblings to spend time with them before he heads back to the UK later in January so there were just three of us. I did heave a small sigh of relief that I was no longer preparing food for the hoards.

Days for the rest of the break revolved around the weather (sun = swim, cloudy = walks and books); what to eat (very important) and scrolling through various media devices.

But now I am back and at that exciting stage of planning a fresh new year. I have a few things that I am blue-skying at the moment. I think that will be another post though!

I know that 2016 has been a troubling year in many ways but for me personally it has been a very special one. We have welcomed a new grandson and spent 9 weeks on a glorious overseas adventure. Who know what this year will bring?

So somewhat belatedly, but very sincerely, I pray that 2017 will be a great year for you all.

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Nearly on the home stretch

After reluctantly farewelling Ireland we took the car ferry to Cairnryan we spent a very pleasant evening in a delightful B and B just a few minute from the car ferry. My first (and probably last) time ever staying somewhere with a  TV set into the bathroom wall, water-proof remote even!

Then a fairly long drive to North Dockenbush to spend a very quick day in York. We weren’t planning on making York a highlight, but we probably should have with the stunning York Minster and fascinating Shambles.

York Minster, one of the largest churches of its kind in Northern Europe, towers over the city. We were there on Sunday so its bells and those of the  also beautiful St Wilfred’s were pealing with joyous enthusiasm.

I had vaguely heard that The Shambles was worth visiting without really knowing what it was, so we dutifully Googled Mapped our way there and spent a very enjoyable hour wandering this crowded street with houses dating back as early as the 14th century. While now packed with tourists, the jostle and noise probably has some similarity to when it was a bustling market street.

 

Then on to Cambridge where we had a chance to spend four days with Christian, see his ‘dungeon’ digs for the year and be thoroughly entertained by the inrush of freshers for freshers’ week. Watching teenagers who had obviously never ridden a bike before negotiating the narrow streets, often with shopping dangling precariously from their handle bars (with I suspect with a beverage or two already consumed) was both entertaining and downright dangerous for the pedestrian spectator!

I love Cambridge. I love the fact that everyone cycles or walks. I love that the city is intertwined with the university. I love the individuality and beauty of all the colleges.  I love seeing that much maligned species “the youth of today” passionate and excited to learn. Observing  and listening to these young adults gives me great optimism for their generation.

For us it has been a huge sacrifice making the decision to let Christian follow his dream and study here but Im pretty sure its worth it. Already after a year here he has a world view  and experience that he wouldn’t have got if he stayed in NZ and he’s also making the most of every opportunity that comes his way. (Still sounds like a Kiwi though!)

We did a couple of days trips while here; firstly to yet another cathedral, this time at Ely. What a gorgeous town! We climbed the tower (vertigo alert!) which may not have been a good idea for me as by the time we got to the top of the last tiny flight of stone stairs I was fairly traumatised, but I got back down safely so  that was a good thing!

Then a visit to the delightful Audley End House, a (mainly) 17th century estate. With a fully working organic garden and the house beautifully restored to looking how it did at its heyday it was an excellent afternoon’s expedition. We had the added bonus of seeing the ‘Normans’ ride in as part of their journey to celebrate the anniversary of the Battle of Hastings.

Our trip now racing to its end, we headed down to London, dropping off our trusty and now very dirty hire car and keen to spend a week in that great city. We were still not really ready to go home!

 

 

 

Still learning to let go

I just read an article on the Washington Post -“Trying to raise a teen in a terrorized world.

Heartfelt words from a mum about  saying goodbye to her 18 year old as he goes off on a three week trip to Europe. In other generations mothers have had to say goodbye to their 18 year old for more traumatic reasons, but that doesn’t make her concerns less real. She says “I have spent these past few weeks wrestling with the question of how I am supposed to parent him toward independence at a time fraught with so much violence and fear.”

Having Christian spending three months by himself in San Francisco as a 19 year old I completely emphathise with her. I waste a lot of time worrying about things that might happen to him – and this week something did. Mind you it was something that could have happened to him anywhere.

He came off his bike cycling to his internship and banged his head and broke his finger (I did say to him a while back that maybe learning to ride on the 13898171_1389214644429271_1206160372_o.jpgother side  of the road might not be a good idea…)  Fortunately it was early in the morning so no cars were involved. Might not sound like much but when your youngest is overseas by himself and having to negotiate hospitals and health insurance (and now specialists as it is needs to be looked at further), it’s very hard to sit tight. And it’s not even as if he will come back home to get things sorted out – he will have to then negotiate the NHS once he is back in the UK.

My husband reminds me that our boy turns 20 later this month, and that in the scheme of things it’s not so bad. But this is the first time he has hurt himself without me there to help him. And he is without his girlfriend, who stayed on the phone to him from the UK the whole time he limped to the hospital (too scared to call an ambulance as he wasn’t sure of the cost).

I can’t do my normal mother hen routine. I can’t offer anything more practical than FB Messenger phone calls (thank-you Facebook for making that so easy.)  And I can pray – which I am. Fortunately we will be with him in 8 days – bringing NZ chocolate and TLC and probably some mother hen behaviour. And I finally get to see that famous bridge!

I guess now is one of those times where our attempts to parent him towards independence are put to the test. As he moves from teenager to young adult I am so proud of him and his resourcefulness.

Yet I still worry and wish he was here, not there. I need to remind myself that God is there with him and looking after him. I have to keep learning to let go. There are well-quoted words from Elizabeth Stone that I also came across today, that to parent is “to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”

So true.

How do we do it?

So yesterday we said goodbye to our teenage son and his gorgeous girlfriend as they  headed back to the UK  after spending Easter with us. Way harder than leaving him at Cambridge University in October last year.

They arrived earlier this month on the morning his sister had her baby boy  in the evening. And  we have had just over a month of our family basically spending  every possible moment together. So much eating and laughing and connecting! We are a close unit so to be together has been amazing but to say goodbye yesterday has was very very hard.

I have spent the last 24 hours tracking their plane back to the UK all the way from NZ and have just had the FB messenger post that they are safely ‘wheels down’. I know for them that they are back in their other home and that the rest of the year holds excitement, challenge and adventure.

We have our house back to ourselves – and it is already quieter (and tidier!). And I  miss them so much already. A lot of tears last night after we farewelled them. I realised  this is different to sending him off on a holiday or an OE. He is studying and making a life on the other side of the world. He isn’t going on a holiday – he’s going back to his other home. As is his girlfriend (not the right  word for such an important person in his life). They are carving a significant path together at a very young age – watch this space for these two!!

And so to the title – how do we do this as parents? Letting our baby adults leave the nest, fly away – to other cities and countries. Wondering if they will be OK, remember all the things we told them and taught them. Airport hugs and goodbyes. Spoiling them while they are home. Grabbing any moment to chat with them about important things. Still being a slightly nagging parent…

I know that our experience is probably a minor one on the scale of letting them go. We have already  been inundated with messenger alerts and they only landed 30 minutes ago. (Let’s hear it for flight tracking apps). And we will see our boy in San Francisco when we visit him on his internship in August and he will be home for Christmas.

And how do they do it? They will miss out on what is going on here, just as much as we will miss out on what is going on there.They  leave behind three nieces and nephews who won’t remember this visit. Well one of them might 🙂

As we left the airport yesterday we realised this is our new normal – saying goodbye to our youngest as he heads back overseas, but we know that he will always come back at least for a while and for now that’s something to hold onto.

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Sophie and babies

Life Got in the Way

Despite every good intention to get into a blogging rhythm, life has got in the way in a BIG way, in a good way. This week has been one of those momentous ones and I am only now stopping to catch my breath.

A week ago we welcomed our youngest back to NZ for an Easter break. It was so hard to

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Enjoying the beach after a UK winter!

wait out that final week. And then imagining his plane winging all the way around the world – although thanks to Flightradar I could pretend the little plane on the map actually had him and his girlfriend in it). Wondering if they  would successfully navigate the perils of LA transit (always a stressful exercise), and then finally get to see them emerge through the arrivals gate. Coming from the English winter they are very pale skinned beings at the moment! They have started to remedy that pretty quickly by an emergency trip to their favourite beach.

If that wasn’t enough to make it a very good week (especially as we kept it a surprise that Sophie was coming as well) all this on the same day our new grandchild was booked to start making his or her way into the world.

Only a week after posting about the fun of choosing a mountain buggy with our daughter  here she was diagnosed with a complication that didn’t affect her but could potentially affect her baby very seriously. This put her on a countdown to being induced early. What a scary week  as she and her husband walked the line between keeping the baby in as long as possible and keeping it safe.

This is when you realise your children(these people that you still worry about whether they can remember to mow their lawns, eat properly or put the rubbish out) have become adults and that they are calmly and capably running their own lives – when they deal with the hard stuff, when things don’t go as they planned, but they stop and take a breath and then go with the new reality.

After a week of blood tests and monitoring, the decision to induce was made and our first grandson was born safely just over two weeks early, on the evening of our son’s arrival home.  I was very privileged to meet him when he was seconds old. And  all of the siblings and their partners were able to meet their new nephew only hours after he was born. (Don’t think delivery suites are set up for large family visits!) What a lot of joy and excitement – a seriously momentous day!

And now there is a new member of our loud and chaotic family. So tiny and perfect, unaware at this stage of how many people love him (he is very blessed to have a big family on both sides), unaware of  besotted grandmothers and grandfathers, unaware of how long he he has been hoped for, unaware that he has already been pronounced “cousin” and gently held by our  three year old grand-daughter.  I am however profoundly aware that he has turned our daughter into a mother, her husband into a father and changed their lives forever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Empty nest?

At the interesting  and definitely enjoyable stage of life we find ourselves, we often get asked about what it’s like having an empty nest, especially as our nest was such a big one!  ‘Empty nest’ to me is quite a negative phrase and always seems to be accompanied by images of forlorn nests slowly falling apart, tufts of baby feathers the only reminder that this nest once was full of bustling life and energy. We even describe it as  Empty Nest Syndrome  and there is a lot written about it, much of it dire.  I’m certainly not saying that this isn’t a difficult and challenging time as we learn to let our children go – but the connotations of an abandoned nest don’t help.

The analogy breaks down pretty quickly too – don’t most birds build a new nest every year? Do the newly flighted fledglings come back for dinner/budgeting advice/free laundry/more dinner? Do the adult birds visit the nests of their children to check out their eggs and chicks?

Our adult children and our one remaining teenager are definitely carving out their own paths – spouses, houses, babies, overseas study –  but our home is still full of people coming and going. Lots of celebrations and family dinners with those living in the same town as us; endless FB messenger conversations, photos,snapchats  and videos with the teenager and his girlfriend so many miles away in the UK.

This weekend we hosted 40 people for a baby shower for our daughter  and son-in-law  (It was more of a full-on party as the guys were all invited too. As our son-in-law said – it’s his baby too!) We  got to talk to  some of their friends we had not seen before, or had only said a quick hello to at church. It was a wonderful occasion, helped by a beautiful Auckland afternoon – community being extended and strengthened, lots of laughing and connecting, toddlers staggering around, new babies being admired.

The last thing our home felt like yesterday was an empty nest. Yes today the house is very quiet (just me and the animals) but I know that this nest isn’t empty, isn’t forlorn, and hasn’t lost its purpose as a hub for our family. While part of me misses when they were young and I was essential to their lives; another bigger part of me loves being the parent of adults. I don’t want to spend the next few years mourning the loss of one facet of parenting, huge though it was, and risk missing out on the richness of the next phase.

So I’m looking for a new analogy to describe a family where the children  have left home – something more positive than the dreaded empty nest. Anyone got any ideas?

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