Parenting college students, I read somewhere, means learning to say goodbye again and again and again. But that’s only true if it also means saying hello again and again. With Thanksgiving so late this year, we just saw Caroline and Frank, and expect to see both of them again within three weeks. Then we’ll have each of them home for about three weeks, with overlapping breaks. Teresa can’t wait. She’s had her first couple of months of being the only child at home, and I don’t think she thought it was terrible. She did get nearly unlimited parental attention. But she also got dragged around on parental errands and outings more than she otherwise would have. When her brother and sister are home and someone needs to run to the store on Saturday morning, she’s far more likely to be able to stay in her PJs and not leave the house. Conversely, there are also more late nights when her older siblings are home: staying up to watch the next Marvel superhero movie with Caroline (we started over the summer and still have a long way to go) or sitting around the table playing cards (including one round of Go Fish, because why not?). There’s also more late-night talks, grocery shopping and laundry — lots more laundry — when the older kids are home, meaning it wasn’t a good time to go a day without hot water, a plumbing problem that hopefully won’t be repeated over Christmas. Having the older kids around for the Thanksgiving weekend also gave us a chance to celebrate Frank’s birthday with him, and to start decorating for Christmas. There are lights up around the dining room windows now, and at least five Nativity scenes on display, along with assorted Santa statues and angels. The stockings are hung on the window frame, since we don’t have a fireplace, but no tree until we get much, much closer. So now we have lots of good things to anticipate as we wait for Christmas: Caroline and Frank coming back home to make our family complete, decorating the tree and baking cookies and other sweets, having a few days off to all spend together, the giving and receiving of presents, baby Jesus coming back to the main Nativity scene (and the only one where baby Jesus can actually be removed). Caroline and Frank, meanwhile, have final exams, and final papers and final projects to complete. Now we have a couple more weeks to stock up on food and laundry detergent, get more decorating done, and also spend time in prayer. Prayer in repentance, in praise and in thanksgiving. Prayer for effective studying and successful semesters. Prayer for safe travels and a safe, productive and happy year to come.