Purple Nails, Leftovers, and Traditions

Alli and Captain Crunch are back in Texas.

I am here with purple nails and leftovers.

I love my purple nails. After 2 days, I do not like leftovers. Nothing much is left now but a glob of cranberry sauce and some stale rolls. I’m thinking the birds will enjoy the bread and maybe I’ll get creative and add the cranberry sauce to my yogurt ? Lord knows I would die of guilt if anything went to waste!

I hope all of you who celebrate Thanksgiving had a wonderful time with your family and friends and enjoyed an extra long weekend. It was great having Alli home for this, her first visit since she left for college.

I shouldn’t have been, but I was surprised at the emotional homecoming at the airport. Larry was ready to go early, and we were indeed there very early.

Dadda, waiting anxiously at the airport

We sat in the waiting area for a good 45 minutes before I received a text from Al that her plane had landed. Between that moment and the 10 minutes it took to get from her gate to the waiting area, several texts passed between us. My leg was doing that jumpy thing. I couldn’t stop smiling and giggling, and Larry was on his feet looking over the crowd to try to catch a glimpse of our gal.

THERE she is!!!

Where? What’s she wearing?


Oh,  I see her!

But wait. What is she doing? Is she crying?

Indeed. Alli was bawling her eyes out, moving faster the closer she got. Then boom, she was in my arms for a huge embrace. Both of us were crying. I was so involved at the moment that I don’t know, but I suspect Larry was choking back some emotion in a manly way.

Sweet Homecoming - airport

I guess I was blind to just how homesick Alli really was. When I think about it, she has never been away from us for more than 2 weeks at a time. She has not only been away from us for 3 long months, but she’s also been living a thousand miles away. She probably feels that distance thing more than I do. To me, not seeing her for this long, it wouldn’t matter if she was 10 miles or a million miles away. And, she’s so confident and so independent  that I forget that she is human and has normal emotions like everyone.

She was so excited to see our home again. She sat in “Bessie” (her Honda.)  She ran through the house, looked at her room, and had a sweet reunion with her Bella Bunny.

Bella Bunny, happy to see her Alli home

Both of them were glad to see the other. I helped her unpack and we talked the whole time.

We had lunch together. We lingered at the table and she told me about her friends and her school and classes and instructors and how it was hard not being able to come home much.

Since Alli was not home for apple season, a time when the 3 of us go out to Breeden’s Orchard and pick, then come home and bake, she and her Dadda made an apple pie.

Alli and Larry making apple pie. Yes, those are indeed 1955 metal cabinets covered in magnetic poetry!

She was only home a few hours when she was off to her friend Jean’s house. I was prepared for this, and it didn’t bother me at all. (Thank you, listserv parents of older college students!)

Thanksgiving came in all its glory for me at 4:50 am. I got that giant turkey ready and in the oven. Those who know me know I have fowl repulsion. I can hardly deal with pulling out all those innards and putting that bird in the pan. Yuk. But, I am happy to say I worked on my turkey phobia this year by carving and removing the meat from the framework, all by myself. Thank you. Not that I wasn’t gagging as I did so, but I did it! Baby steps.

One thing I love on Thanksgiving is to be in the kitchen, cooking, while the parade is on the TV in the next room. Al was home from her friend’s in time for the parade, and was piled up in a chair with Bella Bunny, watching. Some things are constant. These are traditions that we never planned.

See, I was one of those moms who read all the child-rearing books. I learned that having family traditions gives your child a feeling of belonging. I did some crazy things while trying to begin traditions. For a few years, we celebrated each solstice. We went out at midnight on solstice and had a toast to our favorite things about each season. At Summer Solstice, we toasted with Kool-aid. At Winter Solstice, we toasted with hot cocoa. I know. Go ahead and laugh or roll your eyes. I still think it was a cool idea…

So, bottom line…traditions are what happen to you while you’re busy making other plans. (Sorry, John Lennon (RIP) for messing with your words.)

The crowd arrived and as always, it was organized and fun chaos. I was very happy to have my parents with us. We grazed all day. Pranks were pulled. Alli decorated the tree she puts up in her room.

Alli the Red Nosed Reindeer, decorating the original Crew family aluminum tree

Alexander, our token little kid sang us a couple of songs while he signed them with American Sign Language.

Alexander the Great Nephew, singing and signing a little song

We played a new board game, and most of all, we laughed pretty much all day and night to the point of tears. This is what I love about our gatherings.

Game time!

And here’s the deal about our family on the holidays…there are usually 17 of us each year. Seven are not actually family members. Our dear friends and family have been around each other so much over the years that we consider our friends, our family.

Natalie, Alli and Alicia -Friends, like family

Black Friday was super media hype this year. I do not like to shop at all. End of story. Unfortunately, my child loves to shop. And she knows how to talk me into stuff I don’t like…namely shopping on Black Friday.

She had me out of bed the day after Thanksgiving at 7:15 to go to Urban Outfitters, her favorite store. Don’t get me wrong. I love to spend time with my child. But I just really don’t like crowds or shopping, or being up that early the day after a holiday. When we walked into UO, the checkout line was snaking through the aisles, as was the dressing room line. SO many people! I felt a panic attack coming on. As Alli perused the racks, I held her place in the dressing room line and realized I knew the people in front of me. Then Alli came up and knew the people behind us. It was a reunion. Right there in the middle of panic attack hell. I began to feel better. Once Alli took over my place in the dressing room line, I moved on to find the end of the mile long checkout line. I was not the only parent being used as a place marker. Comforting, it was. While waiting, I thought how I love Urban Outfitters stuff myself, but most of their clothes would not fit this middle-aged woman. Then it came to me…UO should open stores for “the older set” and call it Urban Cowfitters ! But I digress.

We were out of that mass of humans and merchandise mania in less than 2 hours and were on our way home when one of the funniest events of the weekend occurred…While stopped at a busy intersection, here came a giant, 10 foot inflatable Frosty the Snowman thumpity thump thumping down the sidewalk. Behind, was a heavy-set man chasing after Frosty. Every time he’d get close, another gust of wind would take Frosty away.  He (Frosty, not the man) bounced and rolled down the sidewalk then took an abrupt right turn and crossed 5 lanes of traffic to the opposite sidewalk. We died of laughter.

Look at Frosty Go!

As has always been our tradition, we decorated the day after Thanksgiving. The weather was great and we spent a lot of time outside, preparing The Crew’s Gaudy Christmas. It’s really not that bad…but funny. Nothing really matches (sort of like our furniture) and yet, it’s so “us.” Perfect, same color lights would just not fit our personalities at the home place. Give us some multicolored lights, some blinking, some not, and a small herd of attic dwelling reindeer, and a silly HoHoHo sign, and lit candy canes and a homemade wreath.

You get the picture.

Larry, putting the herd out to graze.

And about traditions-some have to change eventually. For the past 20 or so years, we have gone to a tree farm to cut our Christmas tree. This year we decided to buy one that was already cut, and give the Boy Scouts of America our money. I was a bit concerned about this change, (You know how I don’t do well with change!) but it was perfect.

Gisele and Alli at the tree lot

Alli spent another night out with friends for a big reunion. These gals go to school all over the map- Tennessee, Texas, North Carolina, Chicago, and have not seen each other in 3 months, and still they are like sisters.

Jean, Annalee and Alli - another reunion

She hung out a day or two around the house and just relaxed. We got to meet one of her friends via Skype. She went on a long walk with me and Bella Bunny in the sun. Larry cooked her one of her favorite meals, and I made cookies and brownies and packed them in tins for her to carry back for her friends. We chatted, watched a movie, and like when she was little-she asked to do my nails.

Nail painting bonding time! Yipee!


If there is one thing that Alli loves more than shopping and clothes, its nail polish. When we moved her to college she had, and I do not kid you, a whole small suitcase of nail polish. Well, I rarely paint my nails, but if Alli has ever asked, I usually allow her to. She did this once, right before we attended a party one summer when she was about 5. She painted my toenails bright red (or what my friend renamed, Blood Red), and since she was still learning how to decipher between nail and actual flesh, I basically had red polish all over each toe. I wore flip-flops that day. I can’t tell you how many people did a second glance at my feet, thinking I had an accident with a Weed Wacker.

Many times I proudly wore polish all over my nails and fingers, just because it was a sweet gift from my child.

Alli- Thanksgiving hiking trip, 1997 -Great Smoky Mountains National Park

I’m thinking I want to wear this purple polish until it comes off on its own. Maybe it will last until Alli’s home in December?

Besides, I think she took my nail polish remover back to school with her.

I am proud of Alli for packing up, arranging a ride to and from the airport, and maneuvering her way through SAT and BNA on her own. And it’s true what everyone said…There is some new maturity to my child. I think I heard birds tweeting around our heads – there were no arguments!  And, she actually left her room and bathroom the way she found it (“Like a good Girl Scout,” she said.)

– Libby Lu

P.S. The leftover cranberries mixed with vanilla yogurt were not bad at all!


Captain Crunch and The Turkey Await!

I had a huge response from my last post on our open adoption. Thank you for reading and sharing our story in hope of helping others.  I had planned on posting about the transracial aspect of our adoption before National Adoption Month ended, but I have decided to wait until January.  I don’t want adoption to become what my blog is about. Besides, I will run out of things to write about after 2 posts, and everyone will be tired of hearing about it.

It’s been 3 months since I have seen my child.  Skype helps, but wow, I am giddy knowing Alli will be home soon, live and in person! I have already warned her that I will be making a fool of all of us at the airport.

She’s good with that.

This is a landmark time in our new adventure as empty nesters and for Alli as a college student in a distant land. Well, really a distant state. It seems we have all done well, but I think this break and visit will be just in the nick of time. Our Alli is homesick, tired and ready to come home and recharge. And I’m really missing her!

We have had warnings from parents of older college aged kids that we are not to expect her to be around much on this, her first break at home. So, in my head, I’m only planning on seeing her on Thanksgiving Day and on Friday, when we traditionally get a tree and decorate for Christmas.  I also hear that it’s good, even if they are off with their friends during most of their visit, just knowing they are close by, sleeping under your roof.

One of the most positive things we have been told is that we will notice a maturing in our child and their thinking and behavior after only a few months of college.

It gives me visions of Alli helping me cook and do dishes, and of no arguments.

And of little birds tweeting around our heads…

Well, I know the old folks at home have done okay these 3 months. We did not have nervous breakdowns. And we learned that for the most part Empty Nest Syndrome is a myth. Or at least we’ve been kept busy enough for it to stay away this first semester.

We had a triple date with our fellow newly empty nesters at our friend’s home back in early October. We compared notes on raising older teens and the whole going off to college and quiet home experience. It was great group therapy.

Larry and I also attended the empty nest party at Alli’s high school. It was for the parents of the class of 2011 and what a wonderful time we had. Honestly, it seems that most of the other parents and their daughters are all doing well with this huge change.

For this, I am grateful. And as this season of Thanksgiving is upon us, here are a few other things I’m grateful for:

-Alli’s humor and determination, and the fact that she can be home for the holidays

-Larry’s honesty and goodness

-My Dad’s love of the little things in life

-Mom’s constant smile

-My brother’s way of playing with words

-Bella Bunny’s joyful spirit

-Our comfy, safe home

-Our big old trees

-The bird’s song

-The fact that my recurrent nightmare of having to fill in for the chick singer in Larry’s band has never come true

The turkey is thawing in the fridge. I’ve been to the store to get some of Alli’s favorite items that I know she will like to have when she gets home.

Captain Crunch is waiting in the cupboard.

And we only have 1 day, and 15 hours to go. Look out Nashville International Airport! It’s party time!

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you,

Libby Lu