Grace arrived home from her grand adventure in China on Thursday night riding on the wings of a few miracles: some crazy mishaps getting to the airport, an impossible-no-way-she-could-make-it connection in LAX from an international terminal to the seemingly-miles-away Southwest terminal going through customs, etc. She miraculously made it and then proceeded to fly through our first massive monsoon storm of the season (the air has been heavy waiting for it for weeks), lightening filling the whole sky and pouring rain en route to pick her up at the airport.

But we got there and waited in great anticipation:

(Lu was already asleep and Dave had a church meeting so they missed that hoopla.)

Grace made it HOME, and with all those miracles in her wake (did I mention she survived a typhoon in China too??), you can imagine the jubilation to finally get that girl in our arms at the airport, Claire jumping in hilarious fits of excitement when Grace first came into view: a bright light amidst a sea of other tired travelers:

(That video just makes me happy.)

Bo wriggling out of Elle’s arms to wag her body with glee (yes, we brought Bo the airport with us, not the brightest idea…but look at her:

(We like her.)

She knows “her people,” that’s for sure!

There was so much excitement in the air as stories spilled out and the stress dissipated, no matter all the unpacking and repacking we had ahead of us for the few hours closing in on us before we left the next morning.

We said a prayer of gratitude when we got to the car, all luggage and girls accounted for, ready for the merge from one adventure in China to the next adventure of starting off her college career on a little island in the Pacific.

Elle’s arrival a few days before was much less rocky, a drive from Utah all by herself listening to audible books and podcasts, pulling in the driveway in Ted (the truck) as smooth as butter right before Lu and I arrived hot and sweaty from our daily ride home from school through the oven of a desert afternoon. The house was alive with excitement to see her too, of course.

There is something about having college kids home that almost makes my heart ache, so heavy with love and gratitude to have them home mixed in with melancholy that you know they have to leave again, and you don’t know quite how to situate yourself and your emotions to do that in a seamless way.

She rode bikes with us to school:

Soaked up those little sisters:

And then Grace came home for that one whirlwind night where we unpacked and repacked and tried to sleep for a few hours before we got literally only five minutes the next morning with all four girls reunited, Claire off to school, then Lu:

And then headed right on back to the airport again.

Maybe it was the lack of sleep or maybe it’s the emotion that comes with parenting in general including hints of Lucy’s house-of-cards triumphant introduction to junior high dangerously shifting mixed with the fact that I was going to miss my little girls at home and mostly that I’m taking my third child to college that got me fussed up, but I hit a breaking point at the security check at the airport that morning. They flagged Grace’s carry-on bag where I happened to mistakenly stick a big bottle of her expensive hair stuff, and told me I’d have to throw it away.

Yes, that was the breaking point: the point where I found myself crying over an oversized airport trash can trying to salvage at least a little bit of that hair stuff into a carry-on size container. That, randomly, was when it all came crashing in on me that I have to do this again: this business of letting go. And also this raising-an-adult business. This unchartered territory I’m trying to navigate that feels so foreign and stiff and rusty in comparison to those younger years I feel like came so naturally to me. And then I question: did it really come naturally or did I struggle with that too?

But there we were on the plane, my girls and I in an exit row that Dave painstakingly situated for us (he came a little later since he has to leave directly for China from there), all three eating melted KitKat bars Elle had stashed in her backpack left over from her birthday. I’m going to have to pull up my bootstraps and let my children go.


And it’s going to be ok. But that knowledge somehow doesn’t make it any easier.

Today they start school, those girls of mine on that island far, far away.

There is something so comforting about the fact that they are there together, it is true. They are so excited and I’m so excited for them. But I left part of my heart there with them, that’s for sure.

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  1. Hi! I was hoping to send you an email, but the email link on your website does not give an email address. I was wondering if this was perhaps an oversight on the new format? It could absolutely be an error on my part. Just wanted to check. 🙂

    1. My email is sepphotography at gmail. I don’t think there’s an email link on here. Fair warning is that I’m pretty horrible at emails but I do love to hear from readers and will try to reply!

  2. Oh boy, I am feeling this one. My oldest son is on a mission, I send my second son off in 62 days and my third son will be just one year after him and I feeling it all slipping through my fingers like water. I can’t keep a hold of it all and my heart is breaking. How do I let them go? How do I not hover and protect when they need to stumble and fall and pick themselves up? My oldest just found out that ISU is pulling his athletic scholarship because their budget got cut and so who is the logical choice to axe…well the one and only kid serving a mission currently. It is so heartbreaking for him and now we are navigating college choices again. It’s all so painful because it will be ok.

    1. We are in the same boat – down to two at home. Our oldest just got married in April, sent our next son on a mission to Tahiti on August 21st and dropped our one girl off at BYU-H on August 27th. Our two little boys (16 and 14) I’m trying to soak up and slow time down. But it’s gut wrenching, heart breaking and incredibly exciting and beautiful all at the same time to watch them soar! My days are filled with smiles of and tears. We need a “kids growing up support group” lol.

    2. Oh it is so hard to let them go, and I was pretty melancholy when I wrote this. I think I will always miss them but I do love this new stage so much as well. So much learning and growing going on! Heather, you’re right, it’s like everything is water slipping through our fingers. And you’re also right, it will all be ok! And Leah, I hope our girls meet each other! I’m with you on the beautiful and exciting part too. This motherhood gig is quite a journey! Good luck to you both!

  3. Oh my word a flood of emotions over here today!
    You re- opened for me a sweet time of taking our only daughter to Wellesley College. Our 4 years of a wonderful time of life. Hard stuff. Stretched me well and taught me lots.

    Thank you as well for the advice with the blog and helping me attach the new site to my reader.
    Thinking of you and your family in learning the dance of the new normal. My Grandma always said …
    Roots and Wings.

    1. I can’t believe it’s Grace’s turn!!
      My kiddo just went into grade 10 and how it’s hard and exciting to see them grow. The thought of letting her go literally fills me with dread.. maybe because budgeting has never been her strong point!! How have you prepared your college kiddos for this? I know you paid for your college ( i always remember that post about how you got your cheque book out and wrote that big cheque) I just feel like … aghhhhhh it’s coming lol

    2. Cin, love the “Roots and Wings,” and also that your daughter went to Wellesley! And Heidi, the college funding is so different for every family and every kid too we’ve found! BYU-Hawaii gives automatic scholarships for good grades and Elle has used that to her favor! Grace plans to do the same. We help with college because that’s what Dave has always wanted to do and after much research and discussion we decided that’s what’s best for us, but every family is so different and it works so many different ways as we found from polling lots of people! The key is to just figure out a plan together. Much easier said than done, but good luck figuring it out!

  4. Just did this. Sad tears, happy tears, letting go. It’s a mom thing. Have only one left in Middle School. So I get it. Hard and don’t let anyone tell you it isn’t! Keep us posted on all the good stuff your Hawaii girls do.

  5. HI Shawni :). First off, just reading about the crazy turn around at your house made me feel like a needed a spa day 🙂
    I”m a mom on the other side of this: one is married and getting ready to have our first grandchild. Our other daughter is finishing her residency and getting married in a couple of months. It was important to me to work during the kids childhood and with only 2 it was quite doable. I think that helped me a lot during the college years–I had a lot of things that were not related to my family. My good friend struggled because she didn’t really feel that she was mothering if she wasn’t “teaching” her sons things. Realize that you aren’t “letting go”. We hold them more tightly than ever and most of our teaching comes from sharing their lives. I cannot think of anyone I would want to spend my time with more than my 2 daughters. But it’s different. We are truly friends now. They are the funniest and most interesting women I know. But it is true that life is now their party. I am a beloved guest at their party, but I’m not the party anymore. They want to share the excitement of their careers, their discoveries , their woes. I’ve struggled some since I’ve retired. And I realize I need to get myself together because they are watching how I am dealing with my own life transitions. My grandmother was such a good role model when my grandfather died. My mother not so much. We don’t have the same quantity of time with them anymore and they certainly aren’t the captive audience they were when they were 8. But they see everything all the time and they love their freedom of choosing. I feel such compassion for you as you are slowly “retiring” from active duty :). I have found some meaningful volunteer work with the homeless in our city. I’m taking a class in history. I fantasize about learning another language. Try to rejoice that you have so many exciting chapters of the unknown still to come. Not everyone does.

    I’m also sorry about what sounds like the wobbling of Lucy’s school honeymoon phase. I can only imagine the heart ache you and Dave have with her struggles and the unknown. Keep saying the words: “I am a good mom. Human, not all powerful, but a really good mom”

    1. Thank you Lissa! I so agree, it’s so great to have many good things to be anxiously engaged in. I like the analogy of being a “guest at their party.” It’s the greatest thing ever to watch them grow and become. It’s all such good stuff but I think it’s ok to be melancholy for the days that they were all under my roof, chaos and all. That doesn’t cancel out how great this stage is though! All part of this grand motherhood journey for sure. How exciting to have that first grandchild on the way! That’s a whole new ballgame in and of itself! Congrats!

    2. What a beautiful comment Lissa – love how you are carving a path for your latest life transition. As hard as it is to let our children fly it definitely adds more margin to daily life and rhythms, and love hearing how you are filling yours.

      Shawni- love this post. Captures the muddled feelings we moms have and feels authentic. (Although I would be huddled in a corner if my life was even 1/200th as chaotic -24 hour China to Hawaii turnaround??!!- you obviously handle the coming/leaving like a pro!)

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