Reflecting on the first child leaving for college

I’ve been sitting and pondering a lot over the past week. I’ve been trying to properly evaluate my feelings regarding the life change of Anna leaving for college this past week. This wasn’t something that came on quickly nor was it unexpected. However, it is certainly requiring adjustment.

I didn’t cry when Anna started Kindergarten. I didn’t get teary-eyed when she started driving or graduated high school. All of these events were expected life moments that every child is expected to complete. I was extremely proud of her (and of us) for getting to to that point in her life. I’ve felt the same in regards to her choosing a college and moving out of the house.

However, when your oldest child moves away from home for the first time, it feels different. Over the past couple years, she has been so busy with school, work, and other activities, there were many days when we just barely saw each other.  Yet, it surprised me when it first hit me that she was really gone. More on that in a bit.

Our schedules were not in-sync at all over the past week. We couldn’t do the traditional “move in” to the dorm. However, we really had the best of all worlds. Linda and Anna moved all of her stuff on Tuesday, but then returned home. (A roommate was already moved in because of band camp, therefore making the room available). I was working, so I wasn’t able to help with this move.

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Anna then left for college on her own on Friday because she  had a mandatory 5-minute violin audition for orchestra. It didn’t make sense for her to drive 2 hours for a 5-minute ordeal and drive back; therefore she went by herself (again, because I was working).

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The family then drove over to see her on Saturday morning; we were able to take her to lunch and get the traditional pictures of parents with the kid in the dorm room.

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Unfortunately, she had to learn a life-lesson on her first few days away from home. Because she only had 5 minutes of business on her first day away, she drove another 90 minutes away to another college to visit one of her best friends. She stayed up way too late and ate way too much ice cream. When we arrived on Saturday, she was sick to her stomach and didn’t feel much like hosting the family. We pushed through her illness to visit all of her classroom buildings on campus, went to lunch, and installed a carpet remnant on the dorm room floor. She was miserable the whole time. Just as we were about to leave to go home (so she could get some much needed rest), she rushed for the dorm bathroom and began vomiting. I always feel so helpless when my child is vomiting – not much you can do until it’s all over. Amazingly, she stepped into the hallway with a big grin and a bounce in her step – she suddenly felt all better. She now asked to go get french fries at Vista Drive Inn. Oh, to be a college student. (lest you think there was alcohol involved with her sickness, I can’t even get her to drink a soda because she doesn’t like the taste).

Linda did her best to not have any crying episodes through all of the past week, but she admittedly did have a couple brief spells of misty eyes. I had a heaviness in my heart knowing that she was leaving, but I wasn’t really all that sad. However, it really hit both of us quite hard on Sunday evening. We went to Mass – a service where Emily plays piano and Anna sings and plays violin. We’re busy all week long, every week – but we almost always attended Mass every weekend as a four-person family. It was very clear that we were a three-person family at Mass now. Stupidly, I pointed this out to Linda just before Mass started and then we both started bawling. Just then, the teen music director (and Anna’s voice teacher) had stopped to check on us – finding us bawling, which just about set her off, too.

Each day has become easier. It helps that we can text and Snapchat with each other with ease. She’s been doing well – and even posted an awesome selfie of her first day of college. We’re proud of her and are looking forward to going back to see her soon (it’s a good thing she’s in the same place where we go to watch football games all season long). Go K-State – EMAW!

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Vacation to Niagara Falls

Before everyone resumes school, we headed off for our summer vacation – finally a place that none of us have ever visited. Linda has made sure we have spent our summer vacations visiting iconic places around the nation (Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, LA, Nashville, etc). However, we were looking for a place none of us have ever visited. Buffalo, NY and Niagara Falls beckoned…

We flew in to Buffalo and promptly made our way to Duff’s Famous Wings to get some Buffalo Chicken Wings (one of the 2 purported origins of Buffalo Wings) . Of course, I paired it with a nice pint of Yuengling brew – from America’s oldest brewery.

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Afterwards, we went to Delaware Park in Buffalo to hike around and view a Japanese Garden – a beautiful walking trail.

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We hung out in Buffalo and stayed at Chestnut Hill Farm House, a bed and breakfast on the southern edge of town. The place was a remodeled 165-year old farm house. We enjoyed a wonderfully spacious room with a side room for the girls and a patio off our bedroom.

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We woke up Sunday morning and attended Mass at one of the local Catholic churches. It’s always amazing that one can attend Mass in another state (or even country) and it will be very similar to the home church. We then returned the Bed & Breakfast to enjoy the promised breakfast – a french toast casserole and assorted fruit.

One last thing to do in Buffalo before heading to Niagara Falls was to tour one of the Frank Lloyd Wright houses there. This was built in the early 1900’s for Darwin Martin, a millionaire who had worked his way up from selling Larkin soap door-to-door in NYC to being the senior accounting executive for the Larkin Soap Co. It was a fabulous tour. Unfortunately, no photos inside, so you only get these outdoor photos.

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After spending the afternoon in Buffalo, we loaded into the rented Chevy Cruze and travelled an hour north up to Niagara Falls, NY. We hiked for a while on the trail in the park. The first views of the falls were breathtaking – and we quickly took a group selfie to commemorate the arrival.

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We are standing on the USA side, right next to the USA falls with Horseshoe Falls in the far background and the tall buildings of Niagara Falls, Ontario behind us. We eventually got across the water (after an hour on the bridge, waiting to get through customs) and checked in to the hotel. The highlight of the evening, after a 20 minute walk back to the water, was a ride on the Hornblower boat into the base of the Horseshoe Falls to see them lit up with colored spotlights and view an impressive fireworks show just above us while floating in the water.

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The final and penultimate day was filled with a tour all around Niagara Falls via a tour bus and guide. This was definitely the way to do it there – we saw and learned so many things that we wouldn’t have without the guide. We enjoyed the time-honored Maid of the Mist boat tour and really got up and close to the falls.

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We spent time on land on both sides – up close and personal. It seemed you could hop the little fence and jump right in the water.

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We finished the day at the top of an observation deck which afforded a most spectacular view (second only to being at the bottom of the Horseshoe Falls). The view was truly amazing.

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Prior to our flight home, we had a bit of time to kill – so we stopped at a movie theater and watched the new “Ghostbusters”. What a fun weekend.

Weird Al Yankovic at Starlight Theatre

I have been a Weird Al fan for more than 30 years  – in fact, I lip-synced one of his songs for a talent show during my senior year of high school. Unfortunately, despite my devotion, I’ve never been able to see him live in concert. Linda saw him in concert in the late 1980’s when he was the opening act for the Monkees. When it was announced that he was touring with his latest album, I jumped at the chance to be able to see him.

I honestly grinned from ear to ear throughout the whole evening. To give you a sample of what I was enjoying, here is a compilation of clips I recorded throughout the evening (originally shared individually on my social media accounts):