My so-called empty nest


Dear Wendy,

alt="IMAGE-empty-nest-revolving-door-after-the-kids-leave"It seems a little bit strange to be writing about the empty nest when my youngest kid is sitting next to me playing Sims on her computer, but summer’s almost half over, and the new school year is only a month away.

Last year at this time I remember musing about my first year with no kids living at home—Adrian had been living on his own for about 10 years, Rachel had finished her first year of college, and I was feeling kind of cocky about having survived that dreaded first plunge into childlessness.

Well, temporary childlessness.

Because, as I now know, they come back. That was actually Lesson 1: this whole “going away to college” thing isn’t the real thing. Sure, we call it “the empty nest,” but it’s really more like “the temporary lull.” The real empty nest will happen in a few more years, when degrees have been handed out, jobs and first apartments acquired.

I know this, but I’m not thinking about it too hard. Call it denial, but I prefer to think of it as “living in the moment.”

Empty nest, full nest

Right now we’re in the revolving door stage, at least with our youngest child.

Our year has a particular rhythm now: we spend the summer preparing for the new school year. In early September we drive to Toronto and drop Rachel off at her college. This is a happy-sad time for all of us, and tears are usually involved.

On our return home, everything is suddenly intensely quiet, until Mitchell and I have time to adjust back into our “home alone” routine. But we quickly relearn what it’s like to live as a childless couple again—cooking for two, planning our days around our own schedules, running the dishwasher every couple of days. Of course, we see Adrian a couple of times each week, but he always returns to his own place afterward.

In October Rachel comes home for Thanksgiving weekend, which is always insanely hectic and much too short; then it’s a longish haul until her December break. We have a full month together, and then she’s off again, this time until mid-February, when she’s back for study break; Easter is usually about 6 weeks later; and then we’re making the trip to Toronto once more at the end of April, to bring her back home.

You see what I mean about the revolving door, right?

Right now, we’re in the middle of the pre-back-to-school planning stage, thinking about all the things we need to do before September: courses must be chosen, mountains of laundry must be washed, haircuts must be scheduled (because seriously, when you find a great hairdresser, you don’t mess around with that).

Rachel only has about 10 days left in her summer job (interning at an architectural office), and we’ll be off on a camping trip for a few days, and then it’ll be time to get packing in earnest.

For now, I’m enjoying the temporary chaos of having our youngest at home, but these days it seems that no matter whether she’s here or not, I’m aware that it won’t last long. Change, it seems, really is the only constant.





Touring the British countryside

Dear Readers,

Wendy is off gallivanting around the British countryside, and asked me to post this as a warning to the locals on her behalf. Since I’m a dedicated sister and only a little bit jealous, I agreed. So here goes:


We left London in the early evening by car, to Lower Slaughter in the Cotswolds.


Driving up to Slaughter…sounds ominous. Not really.

On arrival, we enjoyed a relaxing 7 (7!) course tasting menu at the Manor.


The Manor: pretty much as grand as it sounds!

Next morning we walked to Upper Slaughter. Truly the tourist guides are not lying when they say these are the most beautiful villages in Great Britain! (By the way, in case you’re wondering about the odd name, it turns out that “Slaughter” has less to do with bloody murder, and more to do with the Old English name for a wet land ‘slough’ or ‘slothre’ [Old English for muddy place] upon which it lies.)


Despite its odd name, Slaughter has been named one of the most beautiful towns in England.

Up next: the Lake District

On our way we stopped at the Brontë parsonage museum. I practically wept to think I was standing in the same spot where Charlotte, Emily and Anne wrote their masterpieces.


Wendy and Lars and Emily and Anne and Charlotte

Continuing with the literary thread, we went to Hill Top in Ambleside to look at Beatrix Potter’s house. It is exactly as it was when she died. Her will stated it must not be modernized and I’m here to tell you, her wishes have been acknowledged and granted.


You can just imagine Peter Rabbit hopping through the gardens here.

Off to Scotland tomorrow, as it’s time to pay our regards to Robbie Burns and Nessie!




We come over all teary-eyed

Dear Readers,

Happy Birthday, little George!  We get a little misty and teary-eyed, looking back at his first royal year:

Who doesn’t love a good wedding?  Especially when the groom is the one making all the decisions, including choosing the venue, the decor and, most important for brides, the dress.  There’s actually a show about this, called Don’t Tell the Bride.  To see an earlier version of this show, we offer you this snippet from Stuart times:

We’re sure those of you of Scottish descent will be crying tears of a different sort when watching this.  Bob Hope died 11 years ago; he killed the Highland Fling many years before that.

Wiping tears from our eyes, we remain,

Karen & Wendy

Are you ready for the empty nest?

Dear Readers,

Yes, it’s still summer, but for many families it’s a time of flux—if your offspring are heading off to their first year of college, you’re probably wondering what it’ll be like, how you’ll cope, and what your new role will be.

It’s a huge life transition, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

You’ve spent the better part of the past two decades raising this person, teaching him or her how to cope with life…and now that they’re about to leave, there’s often a feeling of panic. Will they be able to deal with all the new challenges that independence brings?

And what about you? You’ve invested a huge part of yourself in being a parent. How will that change when your kids are no longer living under your roof? How will this huge transition affect your sense of self, your relationship with your partner, your sense of place in the world?

Big changes are afoot, and you’re right to be thinking in terms of “now what do I do?”

To help you prepare, emotionally and in practical terms, we’ve put together a list of blog posts on life just before, during, and after the empty nest. From Jackie DeMuro’s musings about this last summer with her daughter at home, to Sharon Greenthal on the emotional realities of the too-quiet house, to Carpool Goddess on what to buy for your kid who’s moving into a college residence…and yes, even a couple of our posts—one on what it’s like when they leave for good, and one on making a plan when your child has a chronic illness—we’re pretty sure you’ll find what you need here.

Like all our Saturday lists, this one is made on Listly, so you can vote items up or down, add comments, and even add posts of your own, or from other sites, you think should be part of the list. In fact, we hope you do!

On your way to the empty nest

KarenWendy Irving On your way to the empty nest

KarenWendy Irving | 10 items | 43 views

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  1. 1. Being Comfortable with the Quiet of an Empty Nest

    Being Comfortable with the Quiet of an Empty Nest

    One of the most challenging things when your kids leave home is being comfortable with the quiet of an empty nest. Despite a fundamentally good marriage, there are hours...days...sometimes longer when my husband and I don't have much to say to each other.

  2. 2. Yarn and an empty nest

    Yarn and an empty nest

    I wandered into a yarn store the other day. I had no business in there, really. I don't knit and it's been at least 30 years since I crocheted anything. But it was so inviting. Out of nowhere, I was struck with thoughts of my kids who are all busily, productively, living their lives.

  3. 3. Making Ghandi Proud

    Making Ghandi Proud

    I was so happy when my daughter, the always delightful Fangette, graduated from high school last week. Finally. All the bullshit was over. Or, so I thought. She's home this summer. She's working here and there at her movie theater job, but she's home more than she's not home.

  4. 4. Empty Nest: the final stage? - After the Kids Leave

    Empty Nest: the final stage? - After the Kids Leave

    Dear Karen, I've been giving some thought to your letter last week about the revolving door of the empty nest. As you enter one stage, I seem to be exiting, so I feel 100% qualified to tell you what you have to look forward to in the next year, after she Rachel graduates: She will leave one day, suitcases packed, perhaps a U-Haul idling in the drive with all her furniture, and she will not come back.

  5. 5. Kids Going to College: Getting Your Heart and Head Ready

    Kids Going to College: Getting Your Heart and Head Ready

    Lisa writes: When we published a post last summer about our kids going to college, we thought we had missed a most important moment and had one only chance left, when our youngest leave. We were wrong. Parenthood has two big transitions, when our children arrive and when they leave.

  6. 6. Am I Over Empty Nest? Who Am I Kidding...

    Am I Over Empty Nest? Who Am I Kidding...

    My son Rob surprised me last weekend. Showed up Friday night when my husband and I were out having dinner, about to go the fantastic Artosphere Symphony. I became a mess. Crying. Introduced him to the waiter. " This is my son. He works in Conway. I didn't know he was coming ".

  7. 7. Empty Nest: Life Beyond Parenting - Now What?

    Empty Nest: Life Beyond Parenting - Now What?

    Right now, in homes across the country, college acceptance letters are sitting on kitchen tables. Your own children may be deciding where to go to college. Excitement is high, but the reality is also bittersweet. Why? You know that there will be an empty chair at the table.

  8. 8. Shopping for College & Getting Ready For Move In Day - Carpool Goddess

    Shopping for College & Getting Ready For Move In Day - Carpool Goddess

    Congratulations, your child is going to college! Now you must face the task of shopping for the dorm room. It is a special time for parents and their college bound kids and a wonderful opportunity for more bonding as they're headed out the door.

  9. 9. Health crises and the college student - After the Kids Leave

    Health crises and the college student - After the Kids Leave

    Dear Wendy, Well, Rachel's departure for college didn't go exactly as planned. We'd intended to set out on Sunday around noon, take a leisurely drive down Highway 401 (hahaha...

  10. 10. Advice For Parents Facing An Empty Nest

    Advice For Parents Facing An Empty Nest

    When stay-at-home mom Sharon Greenthal's youngest child left for college nearly four years ago, she decided to grab life by the horns and reinvent herself. She talks about the opportunities for parents once their kids fly the coop.

View more lists from KarenWendy Irving

Have a great weekend, and catch you tomorrow for our weekly video roundup,


Karen and Wendy

No BlogHer for us…again!

Dear Readers,

Well, another year has come and gone, and it’s time for us not to go to BlogHer again.

You might recall (if you’ve been paying attention) that we managed to not go last year. Instead, we created our own home-made Big Bloggy Extravaganza. Here are some highlights:

Opening night at not-BlogHer

Upon arrival in our sumptuous suites (Wendy’s upstairs study, Karen’s office/wool storage room) we sat around drinking margaritas, painting our own toenails, and toasting one another while chatting on Facebook.

In fact, we noticed that the halls of one of our favourite Facebook groups were almost empty, so we went over there and held a rather long and somewhat incoherent conversation, just the two of us. It did get a little echo-y, and at one point we swear we heard crickets chirping, but we persevered.

This might have had something to do with the margaritas.

This year we’re thinking of changing it up: instead of hanging out on Facebook groups and watching the tumbleweeds roll past, we’re thinking of hitting the Twitter. You’ll find us there under the hashtag #NotBlogHer14…and it’ll be totally BYO Jello shots and toenail polish.

Friday morning freebies!

On Friday, we decided to hit the virtual Exhibits Hall, where we encountered our first swag of the conference.

“Swag!!1!” We squee!-d in unison.

Wendy generously put together a Selfridges bag loaded with a lint brush (genuine lint still attached), a half-used mustard bottle, a cat satellite collar, paper towel and some paper flowers made by Wendy’s daughter 18 years ago, as a winnable giveaway.

She photographed the whole thing on Instagram, and said it would go to the first attendee to claim it. By sheer coincidence, this happened to be Karen, who was thrilled to bits.

Freebies this year? We had to wrack our brains, but here’s what we decided: we’ll have a draw, and the lucky winner will get a smooch on the lips from our intrepid and much-maligned mascot, Buckminster K. Beaver. Bucky is totally up for this…he loves smooches.


If he’s good enough for the courtiers at Kensington Palace, he’s good enough for you!

And just because Karen’s daughter Rachel calls him “creepy” is no reason to turn your nose up. He’s really very sweet, once you get to know him. Come on, give a beaver a break!

Friday afternoon seminar

Last year….

Karen decided to present her award-winning seminar, “Laughing Our Guts Out: Fame and Fortune via Insane Childhood Reminiscences.” It was a huge hit, even though attendance was a bit sparse. To fill the seats, we rounded up our faithful animal companions—Maydeleh the loyal sheltie, Lyra and Blue the adorable ragdoll cats, Ralph the Siamese, and Stella the tabby.

The audience barked and/or meowed enthusiastically throughout her presentation, though, so Karen felt very appreciated.


“Yeah, yeah, whatever. We were promised cookies. Where are the cookies?”

We Instagrammed them, and now they have 492 followers—approximately 300 more than we have.

After the seminar, we decided to hit the trade show floor. Since we couldn’t make it to McCormick Place, we decided to do the next best thing: cruise the aisles of the largest grocery stores in our respective cities, waving our martini glasses in the air and yelling, “Fill ‘er up, Joe, we need another drinkie!”

To simulate the experience even more fully, we randomly sampled delicacies from the stores’ shelves…that is, until the managers apprehended us and threatened to ban us from their establishments for life.



“I know this is the fruit department, make me another daquiri, stat!”

How could we top this?

Oooh, tricky. We had to think hard, but we decided it was Wendy’s turn to give the Saturday keynote, and Karen’s turn to applaud.

And that’s why Wendy will be giving a talk titled, “Drunk on Aisle 3: The Hidden Perils of Getting Sloshed in the Grocery Store.

We know many bloggers will be riveted by her story of personal sacrifice and the extraordinary ends to which she was willing to go, just to get fodder for our blog readers. She really is a trouper, if she does say so.

We tried to get the arresting officer to contribute, but he hung up when he heard who was calling. We can’t think why—we offered him a byline, and everything. People are strange.

The private party!

We’d heard that all the really cool bloggers were hosting private parties in their hotel suites, so we both took a bottle of our favourite cough syrup and locked ourselves in our own bathrooms. We donned party hats, toasted one another via webcam, and threw shredded toilet paper round the room. In lieu of confetti, you know.

To liven things up, we decided to hire a male stripper. Okay, actually this was just Ralph, and he didn’t strip so much as lie on the floor and beg for tummy rubs. But he was male.

Okay, he was formerly male.


Hang onto your garters, ladies–we have a special act coming up! Yes, it’s the one, the only Raphonzo the Magnificent!

For this year’s private party, we’re thinking of making it extra private: it’ll likely involve Skype, funny hats, and cough syrup. We can say no more, because then we’d have to invite everyone. You really can’t be too exclusive when it comes to this kind of thing. Sorry, but we must maintain standards.

All wonderful things must come to an end

Did we mention that before we left on our Virtual Bloggy Extravaganza, we scoured our wardrobes for just the right outfits to bring along?

As everyone knows, these Big Bloggy Blasts are all about the wardrobe…and the manicures, pedicures, haircuts, chin lifts, brow tweezings, and Spanx. Don’t forget the Spanx.

We wanted to really capture the spirit of the thing, so every hour on the hour we’d drop whatever we were doing and run back to our rooms to change outfits. Yes, it was stressful at first, but really, what price beauty? And of course, we had to Instagram each wardrobe change, because…well, just because. It’s what you do.


This meant that by the time the Saturday night gala rolled around, we were well nigh exhausted. But we’re troupers, so we retired to our rooms for a quick blink of shut-eye, a relaxing bath, and then one final change of outfits.

That’s when tragedy struck.

We opened our suitcases and realized, to our everlasting horror, that we had run out of clothes. What to do, what to do? We fired up our webcams and put our heads together to come up with a plan. And here’s what we decided: the only outfits we hadn’t already worn on the conference floor were our dressing gowns…so we decided to unilaterally declare that the gala would be a pyjama party.


Clad in dressing gowns, fuzzy slippers, and clutching our cocktail glasses firmly in our right hands, we sallied forth, heads held high.

Of course, we’ve learned from last year’s experience.

As much fun as that impromptu gala PJ party was, Karen got a little carried away with the cough syrup, and Wendy kept losing the tie on her robe…things got a little strange by the end, and we’re thinking it’s a good thing the memories have blurred with time.

This time, we think we’ll just unilaterally declare that the entire Great Bloggy Non-BlogHer Extravaganza should have a firm dress code: pyjamas only, from start to finish. Yoga pants may be worn, but that’s as formal as we’re willing to get.

Now, who’s with us? Come on, don’t be shy! You know you want to….


Karen and Wendy (and Bucky)


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