From Empty Nest to Full House

Our youngest is only a year from graduating. Between school, work and an active social life, he's seldom home. Since our three older children flew the coop years ago, my husband and I have been enjoying a taste of freedom as "almost" empty nesters. I cook less, nap more and I get to spend unlimited time in the garden. Even better, there are plenty of uninterrupted Cialis moments bringing spontaneity back into our lives. My husband and I are rediscovering each other after 30 years of marriage, and suddenly, it's 1984 all over again.

Until karma came knocking at the door.

My oldest daughter was offered a job transfer with the opportunity to move back to her hometown. A month later, she arrived on our steps with a toddler on her hip and a moving van in the driveway. The quiet serenity I'd grown accustomed to disappeared before the first suitcase was unpacked.

Gone are the days of sharing a leisurely cup of coffee over the morning news. My husband and I now sip our daily elixir while watching Chuggington with our granddaughter sandwiched between us on the couch.

And the changes don't stop there.

The living room that I kept as clean as a showroom floor is now littered with stuffed animals, a toddler trampoline, a plastic princess slide and a talking choo choo train. I'm having flashbacks of raising four kids with enough play equipment in my house to run an amusement park. I'm trapped in the Land of the Wee People where there are tiny little tables, tiny little chairs and tiny little toys cluttering my home.

My life has become one long déjà vu as I stress about spilled apple juice, gooey tabletops and curious dogs choking on Lego blocks. There are glass rings in the shape of an Olympics symbol on my fine wood furniture and unidentifiable stains that resemble a Rorschach inkblot test on my couch. These mishaps are a sharp reminder of the twenty years I spent with a roll of paper towels in one hand and a spray cleaner in the other.

I've learned that 8:00 p.m. is the witching hour for small children when the dreaded word "bedtime" is uttered. It automatically sets off a siren that can be heard six blocks away. It's the battle cry of every rebellious toddler waging a war against sleep. My granddaughter is no exception, and the high decibels of her nightly tantrums make my ears bleed. This sets the dogs on edge, and within minutes my home sounds like it has been overrun by a pack of howling coyotes.

Extra people in the house also means that my garbage bin looks like Mount Trashmore, the laundry pile is the height of Mount Kilimanjaro and the dirty dishes in the sink are stacked higher than Mount Everest. My home has been transformed into a mountain range.

I'm dealing daily with unpleasant odors that permeate the air, but I'm not sure if the smell is from my flatulating pugs or a diaper gone wrong. Pretty soon I'll need to invest in a gag-o-meter to determine the culprit of stink.

Other changes include a second refrigerator in our spare bedroom for our daughter's organic groceries. She prefers clean eating. The irony of this is not lost on me since all my children lived by the five second rule whenever food fell on the floor.

The extra stress from all the changes in our home has caused my husband to gnash his teeth down to the size of corn niblets, and just yesterday I noticed that my night guard is now sporting new holes.

I may be on the verge of a middle age meltdown, but in all the chaos, I've found magic. It comes in the form of a little girl's laughter when she rushes into my arms after her morning waffles and plants a sticky kiss on my cheek. It's there, at the kitchen table, when I share a glass of wine with my daughter as we giggle and gossip into the wee hours of the night. More importantly, there's magic behind every "I love you" and every embrace.

I miss the freedom of an empty nest, but I wouldn't trade it for all the sticky kisses in the world.