Feeding Frenzy

photo-4“Do you think bluebirds overeat?” I asked Greg.

We’ve been trying to attract bluebirds for years, and this is the first year we’ve been successful. We have five eggs in a house in our backyard. I flipped open the front of the house and took  this picture with my phone when Momma and Poppa weren’t around.

The parents have been so busy building the nest and now keeping the eggs warm. The mother bird actually pulls feathers out of herself so she can press her warm belly up to the eggs to help them incubate. You can kind of see that on one of the pictures below.

And the father is bringing the mother bird worms galore. Greg is doing most of the reading and studying on what and how much to feed them, but we are going through A LOT of worms (bought from our local bird store). When the babies hatch, it will be even more.

It’s the first thing Greg does when he comes home from work–go and refill the feeders and put out more worms. He whistles when he adds the worms, trying to train the bluebirds to come on command. Yesterday we thought it had worked, as they swooped down just as he whistled. Today they didn’t, so maybe it was a coincidence.

Feeding is such a big part of parenting. I remember when our son was such a picky  selective eater, that the only way I could get him to eat breakfast was to make muffins every morning. Now I’d love to say they were made from scratch with wholesome, healthy ingredients, but they weren’t. It was Betty Crocker all the way. He went for long stretches where he’d only eat blueberry muffins. Then it would be chocolate chip muffins. And we’d have our lemon poppy seed muffin months. I made muffins for years, but I never minded. It was a clear-cut thing I could do that was generally helpful. Usually parenting is so complex, you have no idea if you’re doing the right thing–you’re truly winging it.

I have been so blessed as Greg has been 100% involved in the whole parenting process. (I can’t imagine how single parents do it.) I couldn’t ask for a better partner.

One of my good friends just told me she and her husband are expecting their first child. I’m so happy for them! Parenting is full of the kind of joy you simply can’t explain to people who haven’t had kids. But it’s also hard and kind of scary.

Feeding is the easy part. I miss making muffins.

Letting go is the hard part.



Letting Go, Again

The house is quiet. No guitar or banjo strumming. No pool balls knocking around. We drove our son back to college this afternoon. It took two cars because he has so many instruments! I realize I don’t worry about him nearly as much as I used to, and that is a huge change for me. Now it’s just a gentle tug of the heart, knowing that he’s doing what he’s supposed to be doing, and a big part of that is leaving the nest.
Seeing as how I haven’t been able to get my thoughts together enough to write a coherent blog post for weeks now, I thought I’d share some of Greg’s writing. This is a post he wrote the summer before our son went to college. We had just returned from summer orientation.
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Spreading His Wings
All across the country this summer, parents are accompanying their offspring to college orientations. These programs are designed for parents as much as for students, giving us practice at the next step in “letting go” of our kids.As a psychologist, I have counseled many families in making this transition. I have frequently used the metaphor of birds building a nest, raising their young, and then watching them leave the nest.A few years ago, we had a pair of robins build a nest on the basketball hoop right outside our breakfast room window. We watched the entire process unfold over a few weeks. It was bittersweet as we watched the youngsters fly away. The last one seemed determined to stay in the nest, but ultimately, he too found his wings.

For two steamy days this June, my wife and I accompanied our son to the University of Missouri. We tromped around campus in large groups, with parents and students separated for some programs, reunited for others.

It was hard to believe that, in just 8 weeks, this would become our son’s world. We alternated between excitement and anxiety. We flashed back to all the milestones over the past 18 years.

We attended programs on alcohol and drug abuse, student privacy rights, health issues—each session reminding us that our child is now considered by others, to be an adult. This same child had rarely even spent a night away from our home.

As the day was winding down, we felt some trepidation as our son would be spending his first night in the dorm. Both Barb and I felt unnamed and ambiguous emotions, but we did not speak about it, not wanting to bring forth these feelings.

As we walked with our group toward Jesse Hall, we noticed a tiny, seemingly helpless creature on the sidewalk.

This baby robin looked like it had a serious case of bed head. Its wings were small and undeveloped. It squawked at us and clearly did not even know how vulnerable it was. Barb looked at me and asked, “Shouldn’t we do something?”

I remembered reading that the mother bird stays nearby and may even continue to feed the little one.

I responded, “No, he’ll be okay.” Silently, I repeated that to myself.

Long Days, Short Summer

Gretchen Rubin said, “The days are long but the years are short.” That’s how I feel about this summer. Some of the days dragged for me, especially dealing with more pain than usual (see my post Tiny Dreams). But now I don’t know where the time went. Everyone is back in school and fall is near.

Despite the pain, there are definitely fun times I will remember about this summer. I feel a little silly sharing them–they’re not exciting things like going on vacation or anything like that. But they mean something to me.

* Watching the HBO series, Flight of the Concords, as a family for the third time. It’s hard to describe the show’s appeal; you’d probably either love it or hate it. The series revolves around a pair of folk singers from New Zealand as they try to achieve success as a band in New York City. It’s off-beat and quirky. I love it that we all three laugh out loud through every episode. (Well, I’ll be honest. Greg did fall asleep once.)

* Turning a large walk-in closet in the basement into a makeshift recording studio for our son. We pinned old comforters all over the walls and had blankets lining the ceiling. A folding chair and old table for his laptop, plus his guitars, mandolin, banjo, harmonica, ukulele and some other new instruments ordered off the Internet (a melodica?) made for a cozy space. It was pretty insulated, but occasionally I’d hear some random clapping wafting through the vents. I’m so happy our home could be a place where he could create his own wonderful (also off-beat, quirky, and make-you-smile) kind of music.

*Spending lots of time sitting on the covered patio just watching the birds and hearing the neighborhood kids playing. I really embraced just being, and didn’t worry that I didn’t “accomplish” much of anything this summer (see my post Busy Be Gone).

I’d be tickled pink if you’d like my self-compassion Facebook page–you can click here. You can also follow me on Twitter by clicking here. I’m turning into a social media junkie 🙂

Here is Gretchen Rubin’s heart-warming one-minute video, The Years are Short.

Because You Gave Me a Name

Anyone who has been following this blog knows I’m obsessed with all things Kelly Rae Roberts. I don’t think she’ll mind me posting this Mother’s Day card because I’m always telling people to visit her blog and buy her inspiring, soulful artwork! For local readers, Southbank Gifts carries many of her things. I actually bought this card for my mom, but ended up not giving it to her because I couldn’t part with it (I should have bought two). You probably won’t be able to read the words, so I’ll repeat them below.

Card by Kelly Rae Roberts

because you held

hope for my life

even before I was born.

because you gave me a name,

and a beginning to a

beautiful life journey.

because you taught me that

kindness really does matter.

Thank you, Mom, for all of the above. I couldn’t have said it better.

Becoming a Person

A few weeks ago, a friend wrote, “Don’t Blink” on her Facebook page when her son turned twenty. She told new parents that, however cliché, it’s really true: time passes all too quickly and your little one grows up in the blink of an eye.

Today it’s my turn. It’s my son’s birthday, and he’s turning twenty. I remember when he was an infant and his Aunt Judy visited. She would gaze at him sleeping in his crib and say that he was growing so fast–“He’s becoming a little person.” I thought it was a funny thing to say at the time, but today it makes complete sense.

Somewhere along the way, my baby boy became a full-fledged person. He doesn’t like me to write about him, which I totally get (and I hope I’m not crossing a line here). I think it’s enough to say he’s become the kind of person I would totally want to hang out with, even if he wasn’t my son.  And for that, I feel immensely blessed.

Although it’s tempting, I don’t take much credit for the way he’s turned out. I’m not saying that in a self-deprecating way—I certainly believe Greg and I have been good enough parents. But I’ve known other great parents who did all (or most of) the right things, too, and their kids got lost along the way. Most of us do our best to love, protect and guide our children, but there are so many factors outside of our control.

Carl Rogers, widely considered as one of the most influential psychologists in American history and the father of “humanistic psychology”, wrote a classic text called, On Becoming a Person. In it, he describes his ideas about what a rich and full life entails. He writes: “This process of the good life is not, I am convinced, a life for the faint-hearted. It involves the stretching and growing of becoming more and more of one’s potentialities. It involves the courage to be. It means launching oneself fully into the stream of life.”

So here’s to stretching and growing and courage. And here’s to launching our kids out into the world.

May they be safe; may they be healthy; may they be happy; may they be free of suffering.