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Anyone who has had a child knows “the bag” the one that sits, at the ready, for days or even weeks waiting for the “big event.” The one that contained symbols of the new roles that husband and wife would be taking on — the first outfit, the knitted hat, the snuggly blanket, as well as all the mom stuff that the new mother would need while she was being overwhelmed by those first hours of motherhood.

Here’s that bag for me.

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It’s a great bag that my sister bought for me for the baby shower. It not only still exists but it has taken many journeys with our expanding family over the years. Somehow, it seemed appropriate that the bag that brought everything to the hospital when he was born should be the bag that went with us when we delivered TJ to the next big phase of his life. And so, “the bag” accompanied us to Burlington — a symbol of what had been and what was yet to be.

We were off, truck packed and the five of us enjoying a ride through the mountains to TJ’s new home for the school year. It didn’t take long for us to get him unpacked and for him to turn the contents of  those boxes, foot lockers and duffle bags into his new digs. By the time we returned with lunch in hand and perishables for his new fridge, he had transformed the stark space into a very comfy spot, very “TJ”.

Everyone says that saying goodbye and leaving your child at college is hard, but the goodbyes weren’t very different from goodbyes when we’ve dropped the boys off elsewhere. Hugs and small talk. Last minute thoughts, a heartfelt “I love you”. Despite the admonitions from everyone including the parking attendants “Mom, no crying!” when we first pulled in, there were no tears. I am very proud of TJ and all that he has accomplished. He deserved to enjoy that day without a blubbering mom in the background or the foreground and I delivered. What was difficult is the coming home to TJ not being here. When we pulled into the driveway, my thought was “oh TJ’s home” when I saw his truck sitting there…only to realize that “no, he wasn’t home, that’s just his truck”.  So, the long and short of it, is while TJ got the “no tear” send-off from his mom, the rest of the family hasn’t been so lucky since we’ve been home.

I’m mopey, I admit it. No one but another mom understands that it’s hard to share your life and for the better part of a year, share your very body with another person occupying the same space without feeling sad that things will never be the same. Will things be different? Yes. Will things be better? Maybe. Will you be proud of your child and their accomplishments? Absolutely.

But your family will never be the same configuration and chemistry and you will never be the same person as you were when you got in the car for that ride to college. We all know it’s coming. It might as well be printed on that bag that accompanies you to the hospital for the birth. It’s implicit in the very definition of parenting. The process of promoting and supporting the physical,emotional, social, and intellectual development of a child from infancy to adulthood. From the second we are “officially” parents at the birth, it is a process of independence, of teaching another human being to be self-sufficient and in so doing, tearing yourself away from that person that you have created.

Leaving TJ at the door to his dorm, there was not a cell in my body that wasn’t happy for him and confident that Tom and I had done the best job we could in the preceding 18+ years in preparing him for this next journey. There wasn’t a part of me that wasn’t swelling with pride at the young man he has become. At the same time however, there are just as many cells yearning to freeze time and protect the familiar part of my life.  In the days that follow “drop off” there will be adjustment…contrary to the “how to” books, it won’t be so much for the college student as for the college student’s mom.

P1090417Last night were inductions for the National Honor Society at the high school. I am very proud to say that my oldest son was among those that were inducted – yet another stop on the road of mom tears of pride in the final weeks of his senior year. While others on the stage may have reveled in the honor, for TJ it was particularly sweet moment, one that was a long time coming. That moment on that stage represented a lot of hard work on his behalf, a lot of learning how to advocate for himself and a lot of anxiety and stress.

Webster’s dictionary defines “tenacity” as the quality or state of being tenacious. “Tenacious” is defined as persistent in maintaining, adhering to, or seeking something valued or desired. TJ exhibited those qualities many times over in his pursuit of membership in the NHS. You see, last year, he was invited to apply but declined membership despite the fact that almost all of his close friends and classmates were admitted. On appeal, he was told by the selection committee that he would have to work harder and demonstrate the qualities of character, leadership, scholarship and community service that were required for membership and if his grades were acceptable, he would be invited to apply again the following year. While I personally respectfully disagreed with the committee’s decision to deny his appeal last year, he took their words to heart and did something that I am proud to say, I don’t think I personally would have done. He got down in the trenches and worked along side his friends who were members of the NHS and attended and participated in almost every NHS activity that the chapter held. He got up early on a weekend morning to bake pies for food baskets, moved turkeys for the same food baskets, helped make the food baskets and spend a whole day driving around Rutland County to deliver them. He participated in their other fundraisers as well and did his best to prove that he was worthy to be considered among their ranks. This year, when the selection letters were sent, he received his letter. He applied once again for admission and once again, he was denied admission. He was devastated. He was simply told that he did not have a “majority” of the committee’s vote. Undaunted and once again showing character far better than his mother and beyond his years, he wrote the following letter to the committee respectfully asking them to reconsider his application.

To whom it may concern,

            Being aware that I have not been accepted into the National Honor Society this year, I, Thomas Heffernan, write this letter in hopes of presenting my case. Being denied acceptance the previous year, I have re-applied after a year of working hard to prove myself as deserving of admittance. I have worked fervently with the current NHS members and advisor to attend as many functions as possible, working around my part time job and numerous AP classes, in order to help the organization, as was asked of me when I was not accepted last year. The letter I received after being rejected suggested that I prove myself as deserving of acceptance, through furthering myself in the categories examined by the committee including:  leadership, service, and character. Working around my job and academics I have managed to, in my opinion, strengthen myself in these areas. In the area of service I continued membership in our school’s Key Club organization, as I have since sophomore year,  totalling over 15 hours of community service attributed to this group. In addition to this I attended numerous National Honor Society functions such as apple pie baking, the NHS fundraiser dance, food basket preparations and food basket delivery, and carnation assembly and delivery. I did this in an attempt to demonstrate my leadership, as I prompted other members who were not admitted to help at many functions, I provided my own free time in order to service the NHS, and I also feel that my working so closely with the National Honor Society after being rejected admission speaks highly of my character; specifically taking into account that I have spoken with many of the current senior members who have told me that they would not have the same level of respect towards the organization I hold had they not been admitted. Despite my rejection from the NHS last year I was able to get admissions to amazing schools such as Rochester Institute of Technology, Villanova, Northeastern University, Boston University, University of Vermont, and others; thus at this point my admission to the NHS holds no title for me to put on a college resumé, but would allow me one pleasure I would greatly appreciate which would be to walk with many of my close friends at graduation as a member of the same organization. I have worked extremely hard this year to put anything I may have done to offend the committee, or those who scored me, in my past, as I hope many are able to see, and to further myself as a person and be a paragon of the values of honesty, trustworthiness, character, and integrity I hold dear. Taking the advice I received from both Madame Sullivan and the committee to heart I put my best foot forward and gave myself up to display my worth to the National Honor Society and I truly hope that it allows me to be granted admission during my final year at Mill River High School. I appreciate that you have taken the time to re-review my application and give me a second chance to demonstrate what I have learned over the past year, I eagerly await your response.

                                                Sincerely,

Thomas J Heffernan

Tom and I have tried very hard to teach our boys to advocate for themselves and to respectfully push forward for what they believe they have earned and when they perceive they are not being treated fairly. Having a mother who is an attorney they understand that they will not always win, but they always must try. There are two sides to every story and sometimes the story someone is presented with is not an accurate portrayal of the true facts. I am very proud to say that when I read this letter, it brought tears to my eyes and I told my son that no matter the decision of the faceless committee that would decide his fate, to me and his father and to those who do truly know him, we are very proud and feel as if any rejection was the association’s loss. To give you an idea of what was going on at the time, this letter was written while he was in the midst of studying for four Advanced Placement exams. He met with the NHS advisor to review the reasons for being rejected and took that information to heart while writing this letter.

So, you see, while others on the stage last night were proud and happy as well they should be of this accomplishment in their high school career, for our son it was a hard fought battle where he learned more than the attributes of scholarship, leadership, service and character. He learned what it’s like to succeed and demonstrate that you are worthy against adversity. He has learned more than many of his fellow classmates because of this experience. The lessons learned and the experience will follow him throughout the years to come.

Congratulations TJ – we are so very, very proud of this accomplishment because we know how hard you worked for it and how much it truly means to you.

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It is so hard to believe that TJ will be graduating in a few weeks, making prom even more tear jerking. I warned him that this would be the first of many tear filled events for his mother over the coming weeks.

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To make a special day even better, it was a historic event in the Heffernan house. It marks the first and last time that all three boys attended the same prom. Here is Tyler and his date

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And last, but not least, Tim with prom date.

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Eighteen years ago today, my world changed drastically and permanently. I woke, a little earlier than 6 a.m. and went to the bathroom. Nothing unusual about that since most very very pregnant women do that multiple times a day. On this particular morning though, my water broke and we were off to the hospital to bring our first child into the world- whether we were ready for it or not. The kid that decided he might be ready to take a glimpse at the world about 4 months prior, putting me on bed rest for the remainder of my pregnancy, stuck it out past his due date of March 30th and past April Fool’s Day. He outlasted every other baby in the childbirthing class that I was so confident we would not finish. And, it would seem by the length of labor, that this child was in no particular rush at that point to make his appearance, since he arrived almost sixteen hours later at 9:47 p.m.

tj1As soon as I saw his adorable face, everything that I had felt up to that point and all the pain that I had endured for the previous hours were all gone….a distant memory. It was so very hard to believe that this little human being belonged to us and we created him. We walked into the hospital that morning a very apprehensive couple and would leave 24 hours later, a family. It is so very, very unbelievable that in the blink of an eye (or so it seems) 18 years have flown by and today, that little baby boy is now a grown up young man.

Photo Credit: Trena Bevier

Photo Credit: Trena Bevier

Dearest TJ,

No matter how grown you become, you will always and forever be my baby. You gave me the best gift of all …motherhood –when you came into this world. You made us a family and it has been amazing to watch you grow through all these years and see you become the handsome, witty, intelligent young man that you are today. It is so hard to believe that you are 18 today. I remember the day you were born as if it were yesterday. I know that the future holds wonderful, incredible opportunities for you and you will rise to every occasion that is presented to you in the years to come. You make your father and I very, very proud.

Happy Birthday!

All my love,

Mom

Join me in wishing my very first baby a very, very happy 18th birthday!

Yesterday, we officially entered a whole new world. While we knew it was going to happen in some fashion, still it is exciting and scary all at the same time. Our oldest son got his first college acceptance. To say that he was excited is an understatement. While we had no doubt that he would be going to college, the where is always a question. During this past summer he spent a month taking a summer college class up at University of Vermont. He fell in love with Burlington and the university and clearly would be very happy spending the next four years of school there — and if all goes well the length of medical school there too. While there are many more on the list waiting to be heard from, this is special because it is proof to him that he is worthy of college and to get your first acceptance at the place that you like, well — that’s even better. Will he wind up there? Time will tell. (Well money too, but that’s another story).

A whole new world just opened up for him and we are very proud. A whole new world happened for us too — and I suddenly feel very old. Very proud but old.

Where did the time go?

Seems like only yesterday he looked like this –

My beautiful picture

Our church, a small community here in Wallingford, was kind enough to decide to celebrate the confirmation of its five young members. Through a lot of hard work on many people’s part, on Sunday the newly confirmed enjoyed a special mass in which they participated, the May crowning where TJ was given the honor to crown Mary (maybe he was just the tall one) followed by a delicious brunch for everyone in the parish hall. It was a delightful morning despite the rain and many thanks to all those who thought enough to celebrate the newest adult members of the parish.

The young gentlemen in the picture was a First Communion recipient and wonderfully included in the celebration!

The first of our three boys was confirmed last night. As luck would have it, he was the last candidate out of over 65 which gave the Bishop a nice opportunity to chat with him and gave my son a great case of “everyone is watching me”. In any event, it was a beautiful ceremony. The best line, of course, of the night came when we were taking pictures with Bishop Matano and he learned that the other two boys are right behind the oldest for confirmation. His reply: “I’d better go home and eat my Wheaties”. The boys loved it.

TJ and Tyler were invited to a sweet sixteen party for three of their friends on Saturday. TJ was escorting one of the birthday girls. The party was “dress to impress” formal.

Here’s a few pictures of the boys all dressed up…… pretty handsome, don’t you think?

So…who was it that TJ was escorting?

They make a cute couple….but no.

Again, another cute couple, but Emily has a few more years before she’s celebrating Sweet Sixteen (and for that my brother is, I am sure, quite grateful).

No, TJ was escorting his friend, Maddie to the party.

Not the greatest of pictures, but hey, they were in a hurry to get inside!

Last night we were treated to the culinary delights cooked for us by TJ and his friend and classmate, Dustin. The two had to create a French dinner, consisting of appetizer, entree and dessert and serve it to us. We had delicious cheese puffs, chicken tenderloins roasted in apple cider, carrots with apples and chocolate banana custard for dessert.

Kudos to the chefs, the dinner was delicious… and my kitchen was returned to its pre-dinner state which was a nice treat.

After a day of writing donation request letters, we were surrounded last night by even more letters, except these were the varsity kind. It was the Winter Sports Awards Ceremony at the boys’ school. Our oldest, TJ was on the varsity snowboard team which is quite the honor being a freshman. Vermont is one of only two states in the country that even has varsity snowboarding as a sport. Since he was on the Varsity team he was of course entitled to receive his varsity letter. Big deal to a high school kid and of course bigger deal to the parents of a high school kid who were pretty darn proud. So where, you may ask, did this whole Varsity Letter thing come from?

The history of the Varsity letter supposedly began with (can you guess?) Harvard. In 1865 its baseball team started sewing an old English letter “H” onto grey flannel shirts. The team wore the shirts for games. and if a player was especially good at an important game or scored a significant amount of points, they were permitted to keep the shirt. About ten years later, the Harvard football team began incorporating the “H” letter on their uniforms.

It was quite the nice change from the letter writing I had been doing all day. Then I jetted out of there for the youngest one’s final rock climbing competition. His middle school team came in third place for the season.

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Today was a monumental day here at the T’s house, 3+ years in the making. Oldest son was scheduled to get his braces removed today. He was more than ready, since he had seen his brothers and many friends in and out of braces while his mouth was still “under construction”. Part of it was due to the fact that he had an an ankolose baby tooth that required surgery to remove and then more finagling with his bite to preserve the space. In a good mood, he let me snap this picture on his way into the orthodontist this morning.

 

 

 

And this picture when he came out from the orthodontist’s chair about 45 minutes later.

He was pretty darn happy and pretty darn committed that while I could snap the pictures, I was not allowed to take his whole face, just his teeth. 14, oh boy, the concessions we moms must make. He left the orthodontist’s office armed with two packs of (sugarless) gum and a note to go back to school. He seemed pretty happy.

Watch out Uncle Billy and Uncle Lou – there’a new kid on the block. This morning, out of nowhere, our oldest TJ announced his desire to make crepes. You see, my not-so-little-anymore son who is taking a course on cooking and taking French has found there is this wonderful room in our house from which all sorts of good things can come – the kitchen. Last week, he baked 100% from scratch, an angel food cake glazed in chocolate for one of his friends who was having a birthday (when I say from scratch, I mean he had to wrestle the eggs from the chickens at 8 o’clock at night since he was short a couple). This morning, he stated that he had to cook something French for French class and since he loves crepes, that was his pick. He tried to lure me into this but I steadfastly repeated that it seems to only be the men in our life that have a way with crepes and, having tried my hand at it before, had no desire to even be the lovely assistant on this one. With admonishments to make sure that the kitchen didn’t look like a bomb went off in it when he was done, he set off.

He pulled up the computer and a recipe from it and set out. While I do admit that our dog was sitting with bated breath on every flip, the kid didn’t do a bad job. His brother and his friend gobbled them up. I ventured back into the kitchen armed with a camera to record the event for posterity.

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