The Sparrow Perched and Flew Off Down the Lane.

It was a bit of a panic helping my youngest daughter, Lily, leave home again.  Her big sister, Zoë, came by to do a necessary last minute repacking of an overstuffed suitcase hours before the flight was to depart.  Lily was exhausted, and wired – finishing a work project while simultaneously debating her travel outfit and fixing a turkey sandwich in an effort to avoid plane food on the eight hour flight. She hadn’t packed her toiletries, had to call her cell phone provider for overseas coverage, and was still debating over which photography equipment to bring.girls packing

When you don’t know what to write, but feel compelled to say something the tried and true advice is to always write from your heart .  I’ve been dealing with confused emotions by writing stories since Miss Simon’s grade four class, but once I had kids – four of them – taking care of them, mothering, and managing a home was the other thing I did – along with the story writing.  Some of my most intense, pleasurable days occurred when the words and ideas poured out of me while I was working amidst a buzzing household of six people.  As a young mom I formulated a plan to adhere to a schedule of a three hour block of writing time that could happen between two school bells – the morning bell and the noon time bell, even when I still had little Lily at home busy at my knees with a box of toys.   That schedule might have been do-able, but when I was really in the zone, I’d whip my kids up some lunch, push them back out the door (ours were neighborhood schools) and let Lilly sit on my lap when she got bored with Mommy’s insisting she was going to stop typing soon …very soon.IMG_1801

IMG_1558

We’d rush to piano lessons or a baseball diamond with me still rewriting the story in my head.  And I know more than once I told myself I’d stop once the rice pot came to a boil, but instead the rice would burn and finally I would say, “Okay, okay, Mommy’s back”, and I would return to all that family and household management. And so the years went by until the kids started to leave.  Zoë, the oldest, went off to university when I was just forty-three, the age some women have babies at now.  Cole and Hudson soon followed their big sister with ambitious travel and school plans.  Lily was just seventeen when she finished high school so we naturally assumed that we’d have a kid in the house for a while.

Our kids are close, tight knit, a little band of connected individuals.  That makes me happy.  Proud even.  But Lily felt so close to her siblings that when three of them wound up on the west coast, Cole and Zoë sharing a house while attending two different universities, and Hudson a ferry ride away, Lily decided she belonged on the coast too… and so the nest emptied just like that.  It wasn’t exactly a smooth transition and more than one of those kids had us all on high alert from time to time making their way in the wide, wide world.  Still most of the interruptions and interferences to writing became of my own making . Yet at times like these, with school bells part of the distant past, and kids on work paths and in their own homes and apartments, I miss working amongst the chaos of their noisy lives.

fountain

Staring out at the autumn colours in my back yard, I’m amazed at the deep pink and violet sweetpeas still clinging to the tall vines.  I think again of the wise older neighbor two doors down, who told me when I was blue about my kids leaving that they would come back.  I doubted her words,  but in fact they have all four returned to perch here now and again.  Lily, the most travelled, spend this summer, caring for the house and yard while I was away at our cottage.  Turns out she has quite a green thumb and was more diligent about watering and weeding then I ever was.  I returned in September to share time with her and a garden that was still showy with the blossoms from her organized efforts. During the weeks when we were all here Lily would often come home after we went to bed, and leave for work before we were up, but on some level, through our slumber her dad and I were aware of those sounds of a young adult with us again.

With the wonders of technology I already know that Lily’s walking through a neighborhood in London, England today.  She’s carrying on with her life and I’m carrying on with mine.  I watch a little sparrow land in the golden leaves of the apple tree and fly off down the lane and feel just a little melancholy.  It will be their dad and I again, passing the winter evenings together, eating our late night popcorn alone. Before we fall asleep we’ll imagine each kid in their place, including our Lily, home for a while and now far away.  I am now the neighbor woman that tells you – don’t be too blue – they do come home to perch. xo

To read further tales of Candace Allan’s go to http://www.amazon.com/Text-Me-Love-Mom-Girls/dp/1771800712

rose airport

A hug that lasts until Thanksgiving –

It’s the strangest thing, having written this book over too many years of my kids coming of age. (What does that mean ‘coming of age’, really?) And odd to have made it through another ‘stage of parenting’ and to have detailed it all – the first big good-bye that had to last until Thanksgiving, and with the next kid – the debate over the ‘gap’ year, which wasn’t really a debate at all – at almost eighteen he’d made his decision – he was going to be a liftie, then counseling  another one, who’d never even gone to summer camp, through hating residence life while considering an ashram instead, and finally, giving up managing the fussy youngest, who defied management, on an Italian exchange.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  Somehow the four of them guided each other, and I learned to lose my hold on them all, eating grilled cheese with their dad in a too calm house.  Now Text Me, Love Mom – Two Girls, Two Boys, One Empty Nest (the book) is out there and I hope it will ease parent’s apprehension about sending their progeny into the wide, wide world. Love to hear your thoughts.  Did it make you hold on tight to the child you also have to say the first long goodbye to?  Are you going to buy it for your mom so that she can see what sketchy situations other people’s kids get in and out of? True, I’ve hovered and helicoptered but there are days when their journeys have lifted my spirits and I’m optimistic that the book will lift yours, too.  It’s available from Iguanna Books and all your favorite online book sellers. IMG_1561-1

TEXT ME, LOVE MOM – the book is out!!

It’s Happened! – Text Me, Love Mom – Two Girls, Two Boys, One Empty Nest is available from all your favourite online booksellers or from:

http://iguanabooks.com/books/text-me-love-mom-print-edition/
http://iguanabooks.com/books/text-me-love-mom-epub-edition/
http://iguanabooks.com/books/text-me-love-mom-kindle-edition/

Shea's art
My four kids have moved out into the wide, wide world. Now I’ve been the recipient of the text that said simply, “Mom, I’m lonely.” Or the more practical, “How much milk do you use to scramble two eggs?” much preferable to the famous, “Mom, it’s all gotten sketchy. Can you help?” There has also been the late night text, “Mom, you awake?” before taking part in a long conversation from the dark living room.
Back up you kids, I want to run through that all again. Except for that bit, oh and then there was that other adventure we could give a miss too, and of course, the time Lily ran away. I’ve wrapped it into a heartfelt tale of letting go when you really want to hang on tight. If you’re getting ready to send off an offspring, or are anticipating that – Text Me, Love Mom – Two Girls, Two Boys, One Empty Nest is the book for you this summer (or your friend…or your mom or …) The book was written through bouts of apprehension, strict counseling, and therapeutic laughter as I tried to satisfy my deep need for correspondence by tapping into my phone, “Text Me, Love Mom.”

Text Me, Love Mom – the book is coming!

better nestI’m so excited to tell you that Text Me, Love Mom – Navigating (Not Stalking) First Flights From the Nest – the book, will be available this summer of 2014 from Iguana Books. I can hardly wait. The painting on the cover will be the art work of my daughter, Shea Proulx.

Our four kids left home in quick succession. Not enough time passed between Zoë, the oldest, moving away to attend art school and Lily, the baby, running off to another city at just seventeen to test her independence.
In this age of bubble wrapping our kids, letting go of them isn’t easy. Text Me, Love Mom – Navigating (Not Stalking) First Flights From The Nest is the story of four artistic characters who queue up to leave the family home at a rapid pace. The media would have us believe that we have overindulged, overprotected and generally, now that parent is a verb, over-parented our kids. I was able to stay connected and endure their flights from home with the aid of satellite communications, during this anxious time of back and forth texting, calling, consoling, and applauding that goes on as everyone in our family got their bearings again. Text Me, Love Mom – Navigating (Not Stalking) First Flights From The Nest offers an opportunity to contemplate and laugh over the perpetual trial and error of another stage of parenting.
So excited to share.

Phone-less in San Francisco

In response to reading melancholy blogs from parents experiencing  withdrawal from kids gone away to college and university, I promised to re-post a couple of those learning curves of my own.   So here is PHONE-LESS IN SAN FRANCISCO

Seven P.M. on a Sunday night my twenty-year-old daughter calls,  obviously near tears.  “Someone stole my phone,” she cries.  “I feel so cut off without it.”

But she is on a phone, one the cell company she’s been dealing with, has given to her.  Born in 1959 myself, it takes me a minute to catch up.  It’s not the phone, it’s the information in the phone.  “I feel like I have to start over meeting people, making contacts.  I feel so alone again, Mom.”

“Honey, honey, I get that you’re upset.  But those people will call you.  You’ll get your numbers again.”

“Mom, it doesn’t work like that.  I’ve done this enough to know lots of those people were never going to call me.”  What she’s done enough, is move around, this daughter of mine.  This is the third time in her young life that she has by choice surrounded herself with absolute strangers – situations where she had to work to have even a single friend.  From our home in Calgary, at age sixteen, she bravely did a high school exchange in Rome, Italy – isolating herself further by having to learn Italian.  Her siblings went to school on the west coast, but she headed east to Concordia University in Montreal.  Now, trading another cold Canadian winter for a foggy one, she was taking part in Concordia’s school abroad program by doing a year at SFSU in San Francisco.  “People here have their own friends.  I’m the new one.  I have to call them,” she explained further.

I was alone in our renovated, too big house, when she’d called.  Her dad had taken two of our nephews to an early hockey game.  The weather outside was shifting, from a Indian summer to light flurries.  Earlier I’d been in the yard pulling down sweet pea vines and raking leaves, and wishing I was cooking a Sunday dinner like some of my friends would be, for kids who stayed in the city for jobs and school.

“What are you doing right now, Mom?” she asked quietly.

“Missing you guys.  Dad’s gone to a hockey game.  I was going to make toast but the breads gone moldy.

“Mine too,” she said.  “My bread’s gone bad, too.”

“I guess we need each other to finish a loaf of bread,” I said, from where I watched the sky turn dark outside the living room.

“Yeah, we do.  I miss you guys so much.”

“You’ll get your numbers back, Lily.  You’ll run into people.  And some friends will call.  It just seems bad now.  I’ll email you Zoe’s and Hudson’s and Cole’s and your cousin’s numbers.”

“Will you do it now?”

Of course, I told her, yes, I’d do it right away.  And I would add a note to her email, about how brave she was, and how I knew the next time we talked she would be okay again, having found her friends.

Blog, by Blog, by Blog – Until There Was A Book

Both of my daughters have struggled through long distance relationships with boyfriends.  Our eldest daughter, Zoe, was away starting university in Vancouver in her lonely (with roommate but no big family) apartment and she and the guy she’d left behind pined for each other through long distance phone calls – until it just didn’t seem like the right mix.  My youngest daughter, Lily, was later off on the opposite side of the country discovery Quebec and Montreal and devotion to studies in a little studio while working her way into, and out of, a relationship that started long distance – and ended that way.  Both girls tell me long distance is hard.  Their dad and I did it too, decades ago, so I know that’s true, but sometimes  you get lucky.

It is fall, the trees are golden, the sun is warm and all my four kids live away now.  I miss them the most Sunday afternoons when their dad and I consider a bike ride or a drive in the country with not much thought to Sunday dinner.  I come from the tradition of Sunday dinner and if any of them are home I try to do it up right.   I’m okay now – after their long and gradual departure from our too big, too quiet nest.  And now we’re the ones engaged in long distance relationships.  I have friends who are melancholy because their kids have just recently left home for places in the city.  And I’ve been reading September blogs from women – strangers to me, who are pining for their recently departed kids.  For both types of parents, who I know reminisce for a September of  grumbling about buying kids new gym shoes or calculators, and the morning chaos of getting a family out the door, I’ve decided to re-post my first few ‘letting go’ blogs.

I set up my wordpress blog two years ago while I worked at writing a book about all the crazy ways my kids left home – four kids – four different pursuits – one stunned mom.  I was still pining over the firstborn’s swift departure, and only starting to see the humor in the second’s being held at the Canada/U.S border with all his belongings in a plastic garbage bag, at the same time confused about whether it would be a positive or negative for our third child to enter an ashram, when our youngest, a sensitive homebody, left to spend five months in Italy.   It is about how during all that our family of six, learned to disconnect, discovered independence,  (sometimes scaring the crape out of both parents) and how we all found new ways of being close.  Text Me, Love Mom – Sending Your Kids Into The Wide, Wide World – the book is finished.  To go with this ‘kids leaving home’ season I’ve decided to look back at the days when Zoë, our eldest of four was first living away from us – over the mountains, beside the ocean – far from our home, and I was afraid she would fall in with west coast nudist, vegans, (which she did) and never look back….

IS THERE A PATCH FOR THAT?

So we had our babies young by today’s standards.  While mini-SUV’s stuffed with our peers offspring were trucking between Sunday music recitals and vogue over-the-top children’s birthday parties – my husband, Will, and I had already survived hip hop concerts in our basement and read the riot act at a host of eighteenth birthdays for young-adults-gone-wild.  Of course, I didn’t feel that young.  While my same-age friends were doing espressos to make it through the day, after getting up in the night with the little one’s bad dreams and winter colds, I needed a daily fix of latte and chocolate cake because one of my kids hadn’t returned a phone call in two days and another one would be calling incessantly because the road trip he was on had gotten a little sketchy.

Life is a journey and all that.  But during what part of the journey was it easiest to deal with colic and a latent thumb sucker, and when have we learned all the skills necessary to convince a sixteen-year-old that they have to take pure math and that all the kids who say they’ve had sex really haven’t?  I was only forty-two when my oldest daughter left our chaotic home in Calgary.  I can see now that I was guilty of stalking Zoë with emails and phone calls, though it’s hard to believe I had time for stalking while still immersed in patrolling two teenage boys’ covert activities, and being a choir-mom for my youngest.

I had all these cooing babies that became boisterous teens – to fill our home and hearts and consume my time, patience and energy.  For years and years, I had never thought much about them moving out and how my heart would deal with that.  It was what was supposed to happen – the launch from the nest.

Zoë found her way to leave home with her copies of Love in the Time of Cholera, Harry Potter, and Dragon Quest gone from the shelves, her colourful collection of shoes gathered up from the closets, and the vanilla scented products stripped from the bathroom.   Were my parents just as stunned and confused to have a child slipping out of their grasp and away from their influence?  The media would have us believe that we have overindulged, overprotected and generally, now that parent is a verb, over-parented.  Could this explain why I suffered from the jitters when one by one, all too quickly, my children dispersed and I desperately wished I could visit my local pharmacists and buy a patch to help ease me off them.   What, I wondered, would be released for not NRT (nicotine replacement therapy), but rather CAHRT (children at home replacement therapy)?   A chemical that could create the sound of their cell phones chirping incessantly, or of the front door creaking and them downloading a movie at two a.m., or produce the irritation caused by the sight of their chaotic rooms, or imitate the sensation of pleasure when one of them slowed down long enough to wrap their arms around me in a hug?

An astute observer would recognize that, though I was attempting to pull myself together, I was unable to concentrate on a task and was lumbering back and forth from one activity to the next.  Bewildered, I felt like a mother bear I had seen in a film whose cub had been taken away too early.  She had rolled her head from side to side, and clumped through the forest in a distressed fashion.  Learning to deal with my first strayed cub my heart pounded, my sleep was uneven and I couldn’t concentrate to complete a task.

My kids say I could start my own lending library with my vast collection of parenting tomes, yet there was a void of information to guide me through these turbulent times, starting with the spring day that I scrunched up the envelope so I could see through its window that my daughter had been accepted at a university across an entire mountain range from home, until I realized I had worked myself out of a position with which I was damn comfortable.

They left home in the order they were born.  Not enough time passed between Zoë, the oldest, moving out and Lily, the baby, phoning from a crowded European city to tell me how hard it was to find a place to cry out loud, the way she preferred to cry.  Back up you kids, I thought.  I want to run through that all again.

I DO, I DO – Wedding Do’s and a few Do Not’s from a Recent M.O.B

T’is the season of summer engagements and mid summer weddings.  All four of my twenty-something kids have been invited to witness and celebrate friend’s nuptials on hot afternoons and long summer nights.  Because love is clearly in the air I’m re-posting the bit I so eagerly wrote after my eldest daughter’s sweet, romantic – but not entirely perfect wedding.

…The rose petals have settled.  The five hundred photos have been printed.  The gorgeous dress awaits the cleaners with bits of grass and twigs in its elegant bustle. Though we never thought of it as a destination wedding per say – our eldest daughter and her groom choosing to be wed on a coastal island three and a half hours from their Vancouver home involved some degree of strategic planning. Let’s say “it was an adventure” and I do love an adventure. though there who didn’t quite see the ‘fun’ in not being able to get off the island the day after the nuptials because of a  unseasonal storm that kept the ferries from traveling the rocking seas.

I started out a bit lonely in my stretch as a mother-of-the bride. ie. a MOB, but by the time I hung up my MOB dress –  (elegant, classy and reserved and not sexy, loud or scene stealing ) –a few friends had joined my ranks as MOB’s themselves and were asking if I could jot down a few bits of advice.   Of course, every journey is unique, and the journey involved in helping someone else plan a wedding, will be as distinct from this as apples and oranges, or rather as a six layer marzipan topped fruit filled cake extravaganza compared to a tray of fanciful butter-cream topped floral cupcakes.

The first step is finding the venue.  To do that you need to determine your number of guests.  Everything follows suit after that step has been taken.  Zoë and her guy’s wedding was on a weekend in late Sept. because of booking issues, though a wedding during the summer or on a long weekend would make it easier for guests to attend.

Zoё printed the guest’s addresses on clear labels with a lovely cursive script.  She researched the etiquette on handwritten  vs. printed envelopes and found both are considered acceptable.  She had the foresight to print up copies of the sheets of labels for shower thank-yous, wedding invites and wedding thank-yous and had them on hand over the months. 

Oh, we’re big fans of all those glossy wedding magazines – a friend coined the term ‘wedding porn’ for them – for their addictive, seductive qualities causing an  – I need to see more and more of those over the top dresses, those exotic veils, the juicy center pieces, the stunning bouquets – reaction to them.  My daughter definitely borrowed ideas from them – an example being purchasing ballet flats in her wedding colours to peek out from under her dress. It lent a surprising and sweet pop of colour to catch glimpses of her fanciful magenta flats .

One of the easiest additions to the fun was little bottles of bubbles we ordered from a Canadian company (weddingfavours.ca) that came with optional labels with the couple’s names on them.  Guests of all ages (seriously) loved blowing the bubbles after the ceremony and during the couple’s first dances – they gave the celebration a joyful quality (the photos, too).  I surprised the bride and groom with inexpensive retro match books with their names and wedding date printed on them – from the same company.

About registering.  Guests really do like to shop from a registry BUT Zoё found that they didn’t do it until quite close to the wedding date.  The bride and groom registered early and then found many of the items were seasonal and not available when their guests went to purchase them.  They registered at a large department store and a popular more modern kitchen and bath shop.  Young people shopped at the first, and older people at the second.  I’d recommend registering or updating the registry closer to the wedding date.

Here’s an annoying point – people of all ages (who should know better) don’t RSVP!  We had to chase down responses.  I think older people (relatives) thought we knew they were attending – true- but maybe what they aren’t accustomed  to because this wasn’t the case ‘back in my day’ is that we gave them a choice between a meat entree, a fish entree and a vegetarian (which I was surprised to learn is the common practice these days) and had a space for guests to indicate special diet requirements (again not done in my wedding era) so we wanted to get the card back.  Accept the idea that you will have to hound people for responses.

Zoё created a  seating plan which involved her own art all over the large chart – (as did the invites and thank-yous.)  She was attempting to arrange where guests would sit early on, but now she recommends leaving  a space of time five days before the wedding to make the seating plan.  Once older guests said they were coming, they were committed, but young people canceled right up to the last week putting the seating plan out of whack.

Aside from the weather and incredible scenery– an entire day of gorgeous sun during a week of rain and coastal storms – the most talked about ambiance of the wedding was the musical selections of the DJs.  They played the crowd like a book.  It was 80’s and 90’s tunes that had everyone, young and old, on their feet dancing the warm autumn night away.

We were advised to not let people wait too long for the cutting of the cake or the garter and bouquet toss – lots of older people are waiting for those events to happen so that they can retire for the evening.  Speaking of cake – another little endorsement –Zoё ordered stunning and life-like sugar paper butterflies and had the resort’s chef decorate the  wedding cake with those, from a company called SugarRobot – off the etsy.com web site.

We all agreed that we were glad we never pre-determined when to close the bar.  We decided to close it when it appeared that people had enough to drink.  A few complained half-halfheartedly, but they were the ones we were cutting off and the rest were happy on the dance floor.

My final bit of advice, I’ve always thought this – I think that the bride and groom should go away on a honeymoon for a least a few days RIGHT after the wedding.  It is so chaotic and stressful in the days leading up to the big event and so nice for them to go just be calm and happy together – even if they are planning something else in the future.

My daughter and I both like to entertain and looked forward with delight to the chance to plan and carry out a wedding.  I advised her that she had to enjoy the process because the day itself would pass in a surreal blur.  A dear friend who runs a wedding planning business  preeminent tip was this nugget – the purpose of the day is to celebrate the ceremony. The reception, dance, and dinner are important, but don’t overlook the fact that everyone is there to witness your wedding ceremony, so put thought and time into it – making it unique and special to the two of you with personal music and readings or poetry.

The most sage piece of advice from another young bride was simply – ‘remember to have fun’You’ve been planning and thinking about this magical day for so long, stop worrying (leave that to all the people you’ve hired or friends you’ve delegated, or your mom) and really enjoy your day with your groom and everyone that came to celebrate this exhilarating occasion with you.   Brilliant advice – that.

To read the book about all four of my kid’s with their rock star mentalities and the chaos of family life as they hop from one adventure to the next go to http://www.amazon.com/Text-Me-Love-Mom-Girls/dp/1771800712

* photos by Chris Stash