Tag: seasons of life

My house is full and my stress runneth over

In the past, I’ve blogged about the empty nest syndrome. Many of my readers commiserated with the heart-wrenching transition to this phase. What about the refilled nest syndrome?

Yes, I just made that up. It could be the no more silence syndrome. Or the where did all my food go syndrome. Perhaps the overflowing laundry basket syndrome suits it even better.

No more silence

My favorite sound is silence. I know. I’m strange. Silence soaks into my soul and opens my mind to creativity.

Computer games, friends and girlfriends, movies until 2am – none of these promote peace and quiet. They can make falling to sleep difficult as well.

I especially loved hosting friends when the boys were younger. I loved knowing where they were and what they were doing. I enjoyed interacting with the people who filled the kids’ lives. I’m not saying that’s changed, but I’m older now.

When I’m tired, I lock myself away in my room with a book. Mostly because I want to wear PJs after 9pm. No one wants to see me in such attire.

I won’t even mention the brotherly arguments (they both can’t be RIGHT – but each of them is certain they are). I will say they’ve gotten less frequent.

I can only pray for an internship for my youngest. Then I’ll at least have the daytime to permeate myself with solitude and get my creative work accomplished.

Where did all the food go?

Men eat. All the time. It’s hard on the food budget and requires more menu planning on my part.

“There’s nothing to snack on” is the phrase I hear most often. My response, “Go buy something then.” Yeah, that goes over like a Nerf ball in a vacuum.

I am a leftover for lunch kind of gal. I was raised on leftovers and this was before the invention of microwaves (which make reheating so much simpler). I will cook extra so I can have lunch for the next day or two.

First off, the more you cook, the more these men think they need to eat. You make six pork chops for four people (there should be two left), and the bottomless pits absorb those extra two. “That was my lunch for tomorrow” does little to curb their appetites.

Secondly, those late night game and movie sessions work up an appetite. That extra plate of chicken and rice – ready for the microwave – passes for a midnight snack (in the absence of chips or crackers).

This one is irritating because I never discover it until I open the refrigerator at lunch time, dreaming of that plate of leftovers, salivating in anticipation. Where is it? There isn’t even an empty dish (until I check the boys’ rooms).

Overflowing laundry basket

It’s amazing how quickly I adapted to running two loads of laundry every Saturday. Yep, only two. Except when I changed the beds.

Four people translates into a minimum of six loads. Six loads that only I can move to the dryer and only I can fold. I’m not sure how this works. No one else hears the musical chimes signaling the end of the cycle, I suppose.

No, I haven’t folded their clothes for a decade or more. I put them back in the laundry basket and set them in their rooms. My oldest folds them and puts them away before he goes to bed that night. My youngest uses the basket as a dresser and his dirty clothes get piled on the floor beside it.

Needless to say, the door to his room remains closed.

And there’s more

I personally love the “Are you making us lunch?” query on Saturday afternoons. You can imagine the response when I answer with, “I thought you were making me lunch.”

My oldest son will take me to Taco Bell if he thinks I’m serious. The younger one looks at me like I’ve lost my mind and cooks something disgusting – Top Ramen noodles, for example – with a blithe offer to make me a package, too. Yeah, if I wanted to load up on fat and sodium.

I know this sounds like I’m complaining about having my boys living with me. I’m not. I love having them around, and I’m glad they feel comfortable enough to spend so much time with us.

They bring energy to the house. Translation: peace and quiet get exchanged for stress and activity.

For those of you on the other end, the kids moving home for a while, what’s your take on the situation? Parents, what other changes did I forget to mention?

Life is Like a Dining Room Table

Life - waiting to happen
Life – waiting to happen

I freely admit I’m no Forrest Gump, but I must say that dragging a solid oak table and ten chairs in and out of the house a few times makes me think. And once you get a writer thinking – look out – an analogy is on the way.

When reflecting on uses of this table, it occurred to me that our daily life and the seasons of our life can be seen in the variety known by our dining room tables.

Daily Life Reflections

Unlike many families in our eat-and-run culture, I ate dinner at the dining room (or kitchen) table. When we were kids, my sister and I also wolfed down our Captain Crunch and Apple Jacks at the kitchen table before walking to the bus stop.

A dining room table is a place for family togetherness. In our home, dinnertime serves as a moment for the four (or three or even two) of us to sit together and discuss daily events.

“How was your day?” The dining room table might reply, “I sat in a dark room staring out the front window. It was lonely until the cat came and scratched one of my chair legs and then curled up on a seat for a nap.” Have you had such a day?

“What did you learn at school today?” “What happened in your world today?” “Are we having chicken again?” It might not be a deep, philosophical exchange but it keeps us in touch with each other.

If you’re like my family, the dining room table is in the dining room and gets used for everything except mealtime. That’s a statement about our daily life, too. What we expect occasionally happens, but most of the time we live in the flux of the unexpected.

Our dining room table:

  • Collects an assortment of junk – mail, books, games and a quick look at my recent garage sale woes reminds you our life resembles this
  • Can be about fun and games – this is where the two, four or more of us gather with cards, Apples to Apples, Monopoly, etc. – life has some fun times, too
  • Invites friends and family to sit and stay awhile – have you ever noticed how everyone lingers even after the food is gone? Some moments of life should be savored
  • Can be covered or bare – some occasions merit a formal tablecloth, while others are happy to see the oak finish. Depending on where we are and who is around us, we might choose to cover our hurts or expose them

Seasonal Comparisons

Needing refinishing: When the boys were little, we had a booster chair that you hung off the side of the table. Needless to say, bowls, spoons and cups became drumsticks on the drum of the tabletop. It didn’t take long until the varnish peeled away.

When our kids are little, time is an elusive imp. There are never enough hours in a day to accomplish our to-do list, not if we want to sleep anyway. This season of life stretched like eternity when I was in it.

Using all the leaves: Whether for birthday parties, game days, dinners, or a hang-out for the neighborhood kids, we needed a table with more than one expansion. This was a joy to me because I wanted to know who my boys hung out with.

This season stretched, like the table with all the leaves inserted, through all the school years. It meant extra trips to the grocery store and a house more cluttered than clean, but it kept the mama table content.

Adding more chairs: Even as our kids aged, we needed more chairs at the dinner table and for holiday dinners. Friends from college or old high school buddies spent time around the table – mostly for D and D or LAN parties. Good thing we had those ten chairs.

Inevitable fact of life: kids grow up. They go to college and move away. They find a special someone to join with, starting the seasons anew. Our table has yet to see brides for our handsome princes, but both of them have serious attachments and those girls have a place at our table.

Storing the leaves: If you pull this beautiful oak table all the way open, there’s room to store one of the heavy leaves. The other one generally leans against the wall in the entry closet. They’re close at hand, ready to host a gathering of family or friends, but most of the time, a more intimate arrangement prevails.

I’ve spent a few posts mourning and delighting in this phase of empty nesting. I’m reminded anew that even though that table is solid oak, it requires attention to stay beautiful. The same can be said for marriage.

Too often we focus our time and energy on the children and our spouse becomes that stranger in the bed beside us. If that’s the case, the close quarters brought on when the table size is reduced can feel uncomfortable.

What sort of dining room table are you sitting at? Think of a benefit for your current stage, it will be gone soon enough (unless you’re an empty nester – we hope that one stretches for another 40 years).