Tag Archives: fear

We’re froggin’ it, Mom.

Please read the back story about this watch at the end of my post.

I began checking my watch around 6 on Sunday evening. I knew the drive should take about 5.5 hours without stops, add in the bladder needs of 6 teen girls and 1 adult female and I figured anytime between 6 and 6:30 the phone should ring. Roughly 7 hours earlier I had waved goodbye to both C and A as they headed north to help repair homes and work with children at a Native American reservation. It was the first time both girls would be gone for more than a night…at the same time…giving my husband and I exactly 5 nights and 6 days to test out the “empty nest.” And, we had plans to enjoy every minute alone. We just needed that “got there safely” call to come through to let out our breath and turn our focus to each other.

“They should be there anytime,” I told my husband at about 20 minutes past 6. I tried to conceal my pacing and busied myself in the kitchen. I was beginning to feel anxious, which does not help in the romance department. I double checked the voicemail. No message. I paced some more. Ring, phone, ring! And then, almost in direct answer to prayer, the phone rang.

I dove across the table  casually answered the phone with a “Hello, honey!” only to have my eardrums pierced by the high pitched squeals of 6 teen girls confined in a van while amped up on the entire double batch of chocolate chip cookies I had sent along for the journey. My daughter was rambling at lightening speed and in a tone that I’m pretty sure only dogs could hear.

“Whoa…what? Slow down. You’re where?”

More screeching and garbled giggles and cryptic noises that sounded like words but in an unfamiliar language.

“C, slow down,” I implored.

“Mom, we’re feeling froggy. We got lost and we’re still about 2 hours away. We ran out of gas in the middle of nowhere and there was a gas station but it was closed so we had to pull over and ask a farmer and his wife if they had some gas and they did so it’s all good. We just wanted to let you know we won’t be there for about another 2 hours and not to worry.”

In the background, one of the other girls screeched, “OMG, it’s a dead deer!” which created  a shrill so loud I’m surprised the windows didn’t blow out.

Now, the only way to get the full impact of the first 2 minutes of this call is to gather together with 5 friends, suck on some helium, and record the passage verbatim. Then, play it back on double speed.  However, in the interest of your hearing, I don’t recommend it.

But, I digress…

Once I began to peel away the facts; lost, middle of nowhere, out of gas, ALL the cookies, I began to suspect I was being punk’d. I casually went along…”Uh-huh, middle of nowhere. You missed a turn. It’ll take another 2 hours before you get there. Farmer gave you enough gas to get to a station. Okaaaay…. Can I talk to A?” (My younger and very serious daughter who would never pull a prank like this.)

A gets on the phone and restated everything her sister had squealed. My stomach dropped. They had genuinely gotten lost and were now driving through the middle of nowhere. They had honestly run out of gas. And, they were really not going to get there until almost sunset. From somewhere in the background I hear, “Thank you for the cookies! They saved me!”  I think it was the young girl who had just gotten her braces off and had laser surgery on her gums only 2 days earlier. I immediately wondered if they shouldn’t begin rationing the remainder of their food and drinks– just in case they get lost again before finding the reservation set somewhere on 2.2 million acres of Wyoming wilderness. I ask to speak to C again.

“Are you all OK?” I ask, even though they’re obviously more than OK–they’re on a sugar high of epic proportions.

“Ya, Mom. We feeling froggy. Ya know. We’re froggin’ it.”

I thought back to the previous Sunday’s sermon. On the large screen behind the pulpit was a picture of a frog. Our interim pastor, in her slight Louisiana drawl, asked the congregation “Do we know what it means to FROG?” (Little did she know that the answer was plainly and prematurely displayed behind her.) Collectively, we snickered before she went on to explain that the acronym comes from St. Jude’s Hospital, where the little patients are given t-shirts with a frog on them and reminded to FROG: Fully Rely On God.

Slowly, I begin to let out the breath I didn’t even realize I’d been holding. My daughter again reassured me they were all “feelin’ froggy”, which is really all I could ask for of my girls and myself at that point. Immediately, I could see the blessings in the unplanned adventures of their day; the extra time for the girls to bond, the farmer and his wife who happened to be sitting outside as they drove by and just happened to have some spare gas, the laughter and the squeals of youth, and the chance to FROG.

C promised to call again when they safely arrived. I thanked her for calling and hung up the phone. “This is a test. This is only a test,” I thought. This is what life will be like far more often than not from here on out. Situations I can’t control as they move further and further from our nest. I promised myself that I would learn to FROG better, just as they are during their week away.

I served our dinner plates and turned my attention to my husband. With soft music playing and the lights dimmed, we raised our wine glasses and toasted each other and our two awesome girls. We were feeling pretty froggy, too.

How about you, are you feelin’ froggy today? 

About the watch: Knowing that I am a long time Kermit fan, my sister gave me that watch last month before my husband, girls, and I all headed out to California to take care of some family estate business. She thought it would bring me a smile if/when things got tense, and smiles it did bring me. Often. I mean, it’s Kermit, who is always “foot loose and fancy free.” How could I not smile when I looked at his little green face? Little did I know Kermit would come to offer me an important daily reminder, for which I am so grateful.

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Who was I kidding?

When my first-born was around 10, I was hit by the thought that she was (likely) about halfway through her time under my roof. It felt like I had been punched in the gut.

Thoughts of the empty nest days clearly began long before I started writing this blog. With every thought, the knot in my stomach grew just a bit tighter. Then, I had an epiphany. I figured if I just write about this journey, anticipate the emotions, plan my reactions, embrace this time, I could breathe through this transition like a woman in labor.

Who was I kidding?! Lamaze breathing, I’ve discovered, really only works in the labor and delivery room where an epidural is available on demand.

Roughly 27 days ago, I escorted my older daughter to the airport to begin a month-long leadership development/exchange student adventure. Three flights and a little over 30 hours of travel later, she would touch down in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. At the security gates, I sent her off with a kiss and a hug. Secretly tucked in her carry-on was my heart. I know, because it didn’t start beating again until I received this brief email 48 hours later:

Dear family,

Hi. I am here and safe. The plane ride was boring and I just read
until the last flight when I slept. So that is about it. I just wanted
you know that I am safe and I'll see you next month.

Love,
C

P.S. Just incase you hear I did get sick in China but I'm fine now so
DON'T worry about it. Love you all.

I read her words quietly that first Saturday morning; her younger sister and my husband still in bed. It was my dessert to savor for just a bit without sharing. Like a rusted old factory machine starting up after years of quiet, my heart pounded its way back into a regular rhythm. Then I re-read, “I did get sick in China…”

Who cared for her? How sick? What kind of sick? Is she better? Did it require medication? Was she sick on the plane? Who cared for her? How sick? What kind of sick?

You get the picture…it was a bad song, on repeat. I emailed her back, trying to sound calm and casual enough she wouldn’t “cut me off.” It went like this:

Dear, dear C,
Thank you SOOOOO much for letting me/us all know you are there and safe. 
Long plane rides can be very boring, but I am glad you got some rest on the last
flight. I am sorry you were sick in China, and I hope you are feeling better now.
I would imagine you were probably exhausted!
I hope you have had a fabulous first day there and that we get at least
another "check-in" from you.
Know that we are thinking of you and are all very excited to hear about
your many adventures. 
Love you so very much,
Mom, Dad and L.

What you just read was the (at least) 4th draft of my hysteria-removed reply.

That first week flew by. We kept in regular contact, exchanging brief notes about our days. Though I let her know I was thinking of her, I consciously refrained from writing the words, “I miss you.”  I feared making her feel homesick or somehow clouding her journey with guilt. And, I feared losing myself in a state of worry over things I couldn’t control. I remember thinking, ‘With email, this won’t be so bad.” I also had another child here that, for the first time in her life, got me all to herself, and I didn’t want to taint her/our month of fun/memories/growth.

At the end of her first week, she traveled on one of the few paved roads out-of-town, leaving behind the capital city and regular internet access. I have heard from her only once in almost 3 weeks–another brief email when she arrived in the next town:

Hey. Just wanted you to know that I'm here and safe.
I'm having a great time and taking SO many pictures.
Lots of love and I hope you're having fun camping.
Hope to hear from you soon,
~C

The emails that first week had helped, a lot! It’s been a very loooooong 3 weeks since her last contact. She left this town last weekend, is now living in a ger camp, witnessing the Nadaam Festival and is unlikely to email before she gets on a plane this Friday (her time, tomorrow night mine!) She’ll face another 30+ hours of travel before she is back in my arms. “Back in my arms”…I really like the sound of that.

Nonetheless, I am so very glad for this past month. It has given all 4 of us a chance to grow in ourselves and in relationship with each other.

My older daughter will (presumably) come home more self-confident having accomplished something she wasn’t sure she could do, with memories that are solely hers, independent of the family. I have also read in her emails how much she missed and truly values her family. All first steps in branching out.

My younger daughter, by her own admission has grown in her self-confidence and has opened up more with me and her dad, creating a tighter bond among the 3 of us. Though very close with her sister, she is discovering who she is outside of her big sister’s shadow. She has been a delight to share this special time with, and it is clear she is ready to have her “Sissy” and best friend home.

Perhaps more than ever, my husband has become aware of just how quickly time is passing and that this “test run” will soon be a part of our regular reality. To me, he feels more engaged and open despite the fact he kept his emotions (around C’s absence) guarded. He is a daddy that has missed his little “Boo-boo.”

And I have grown… grown in relationship with my younger daughter, my husband and myself. As often as I thought of my older daughter, I didn’t let it cloud my time with my younger one. I wanted to be sure we had a special time with special memories of our own to share when her sister returns. Though her sister wasn’t here to “entertain” her, I made sure I maintained time alone with my husband, keeping our relationship on track. As for my internal growth during this past month–well, I’m still sorting through that pile of ups and downs. Perhaps, a post for another day.

But for today, as much as I am thrilled my C had this chance to test out her wings in this big world, I am really glad she is returning to my nest for a little while longer.

Now, to resume breathing…