Posts by Kelly Mattei

I grew up in Alabama but have lived in Charlotte, NC, for almost 20 years...longer than I've ever lived anywhere. My husband and I have a teenage daughter and three dogs. We love to laugh, and fun is the name of our game.

Tasty Junk Food Finds

Tasty junk food finds.

I’m not normally a Walmart shopper. I don’t handle crowded stores well. I’m more of a Publix kind of girl.

However, today my daughter texted me from school that she needs something in particular for her school spirit week wear tomorrow. I’m all about spirit week, because I remember how much fun it was when I was in school. It’s especially fun for the students at her school, because they have a stricter dress code than we had in school. When they have an opportunity to dress for comfort, they do it. In fact, today is pajama day, and you can bet your sweet bippy she took full advantage of that. In fact, I surprised her by taking her a smoothie for lunch, and when she met me to get it, she said, “It’s amazing how much better I can concentrate in school when I’m comfortable in my clothes.” I get it, but you can’t wear pajamas to school every day.

So after I dropped off the smoothie, I went to Walmart…just for her.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m one of those people who can’t just walk in and buy one thing. I guess it’s my attention deficit disorder, but things catch my eye, and I have to investigate…and well, one thing leads to another.

Today, after I had the item I needed, I walked past the frozen foods and saw the ice cream aisle. Because Walmart is known for having “exclusive” ice cream treats, I decided to check out the offerings. And I was so glad I did! Or maybe I shouldn’t have been so glad, because I found something yummy: Blue Bell Bride’s Cake Ice Cream. It’s almond flavored ice cream with cake pieces and amaretto flavored cream cheese icing swirl. I wasn’t sure about the “amaretto flavored cream cheese icing,” but I should have just trusted Blue Bell. I bought it, of course, and opened it as soon as I got home…heavenly. What I really love is that the flavors aren’t too strong, but it’s delicious. If you like ice cream and wedding cake, try it…you won’t regret it. Seriously…run, don’t walk.

Blue Bell Bride’s Cake Ice Cream

Because I was near the refrigerated area, I decided to walk over and get some pimiento cheese. I’ve written before about Palmetto Cheese, a brand of pimiento cheese spread made in Pawley’s Island, South Carolina. I prefer the jalapeño flavor for a little extra kick. But that was not a new find.

Palmetto Cheese

The new find in the same aisle? Texas Pete’s Blazin’ Buffalo-Style Chicken Dip. Holy smokes! I have always loved Bufflo-style chicken dip, but I had no idea Texas Pete’s made their own! I’ve loved Texas Pete’s products for a long time, but I really started loving them in 2002 for an odd reason: I read the obituary of Mildred Garner, the widow of Thad Garner, the founder of T. W. Garner Foods in Winston-Salem, the parent company of Texas Pete’s. See the obituary here. I know, an obituary is a weird reason to like food products, but read it…Mrs. Garner was my kind of people! I especially loved the part about people recalling “the sight of Mildred driving the family’s red Austin-Healy, holding an umbrella against the rain, smoking a RJR cigarette, and changing gears successfully.” I can’t help it. I love a good obituary. And yes, it made me love Texas Pete’s. But until today, I had never had the Blazin’ Buffalo-Style Chicken Dip. I didn’t even know it existed! So I purchased it, brought it home, and enjoyed it with some Tostitos chips. I only ate a few bites, but suffice it to say…it’s good stuff!

Texas Pete Blazin’ Buffalo-Style Chicken Dip

After picking that up, I found myself back in the frozen foods, and I spied something I used to buy all the time: De Waffelbakker’s Frozen Pancakes. Call me lazy, but it’s a lot easier for me to make frozen pancakes in the microwave than it is for me to make them on the stovetop. When our daughter was little, she loved them, so we kept them on hand all the time. In fact, my late friend, Wendy, thought I was crazy when I offered them to her son one time, saying, “I make homemade pancakes for him. He won’t eat those microwave ones.” We had a good laugh when he proved her wrong and announced that “Miss Kelly makes the best pancakes ever!” Wendy just rolled her eyes. I can hardly wait for my daughter to come home from school, so I can offer her some pancakes!

De Waffelbakkers Buttermilk Pancakes

I also purchased some cookies that weren’t so great. I had high hopes for them, because they had a giant picture of the Pillsbury Dough Boy on the package. When I was a little girl, I thought the Pillsbury Dough Boy was the cutest little character. Too bad the soft-baked cookies didn’t live up to the packaging.

Yes, I brought all those things home and tried a little of each. Fortunately, I had a spinach salad for lunch, so I didn’t feel terrible about the fact that I had tried all that junk.

I guess it was one-stop shopping for me today…something for our daughter to wear for Safari day tomorrow, and a whole bunch of junk food for us to share.

Your Moms are Watching

Your moms are watching.

College football is my favorite sport. Sure, it can bring out the good, the bad, and the ugly in people, but it is my very favorite sport. I look forward to football season every year. It’s fun, and it brings back lots of great memories of my childhood, my high school years, and especially my college years.

During college football season, we watch a lot of games at our house. Every Saturday, we somehow manage to get showers, have meals, and get some exercise before, between, or after games. But no matter what, during college football season, we find a way to watch football all day and night on Saturdays.

We love a good football game. And we love crowd shots. And most of the time, we get a good laugh at the antics we see on the television screen. Students at ESPN College Game Day, holding signs behind the commentators…trying to get on national TV. I always think most of them just want their mamas to see them. I can only imagine my own daughter at College Game Day, holding up a silly sign…and if she got on screen, she would likely call me to see if I spotted her. If we’d had cell phones when I was in college, I feel sure I would have done that.

During games, we see students with painted bodies, spelling out the names of their teams. Or maybe they have just painted their hair. Or maybe they are wearing some outlandish outfit, trying to get the attention of the camera operators. It’s almost always good-natured, and we laugh. I always hope their mamas see them and get a good laugh out of it too. When I was in college at the University of Alabama, I had a friend who told us that, during televised Alabama games, her dad would call her mom into the room any time there was a crowd shot, so they could look for their baby girl. He’d yell, “Vonnie! Vonnie! Crowd shot! Crowd shot!” I don’t know if they ever spotted their daughter in the crowd, but they tried!

But occasionally, things turn ugly. It turned ugly during the Tennessee/Ole Miss game in Knoxville yesterday. Anyone who knows anything about college football knows UT fans hate Lane Kiffin, the current head coach at Ole Miss. He was the head coach at UT for a hot minute in 2009 before taking a head coaching job at the University of Southern California unexpectedly and leaving UT in the lurch. He coached at USC for about three years before being fired in the middle of a season; the firing took place at the airport, immediately after the team had flown back to Los Angeles after losing to Arizona State. Kiffin didn’t even get a bus ride back to campus.

Subsequently, Coach Nick Saban, of the University of Alabama, took Kiffin in. Saban is known for what we refer to as the “Saban Coaching Rehab,” because he takes in coaches that might have trouble getting jobs after a failure somewhere. Kiffin became the Offensive Coordinator at Alabama and was quite successful with the offense, but his off-field actions and his mouth often got him in trouble with Saban. He eventually took a head coaching job at Florida Atlantic University for a few years before taking the job at Ole Miss.

All this is my long way of giving you the history behind why Kiffin was not welcomed warmly in Knoxville Saturday. And I get it. However, it’s one thing for a fan base to hate a coach, but it’s another for them to get out of hand…and they did. Late in the game, after a questionable call went Ole Miss’s way, incensed Tennessee fans began throwing debris onto the field…cans, mustard bottles (why did someone take mustard to a game?), water bottles, and even a golf ball. Some of the debris hit Ole Miss cheerleaders, and the golf ball hit Kiffin. Don’t get me wrong. I know all the Tennessee fans were not participating. ***My daughter and I visited the University of Tennessee several times over the past few months, and we found their students and employees to be gracious, lovely people.*** I’m sure there are lots of Tennessee fans who were embarrassed by the other fans’ behavior, but it seemed mob mentality took over.

Here’s the thing: don’t you think there were probably some moms who saw their kids behaving badly when the cameras panned over the crowd? Did those fans not consider that? No one wants to disappoint their mama, right? I can only imagine how angry I would have been if I’d seen my daughter throwing things onto the field! She would have received a phone call from me immediately. And she would have regretted it right away.

The general rule at our house is to think before you act. It’s the rule, but just like everyone else in the world, we don’t always follow the rule. Many times I have said to my daughter, “Before you do something, consider whether you’d want me to see you do it.” Considering throwing debris onto the field? Think about what Mama would say. Considering doing shots of Fireball with your friends? Think about what Mama would say if she walked in and saw you. (I never, ever approve of doing shots, because of the danger involved.)

The world may never know exactly how things got so out of hand at Saturday’s game, but I’m guessing the participants weren’t remembering that their mamas might be watching. If they had even thought, for one second, that their mamas might see them, I have a feeling they wouldn’t have thrown stuff onto the field…no matter how they felt about the call or how they felt about Kiffin. My guess is that there are some angry Tennessee mamas right now.

As for Lane Kiffin, I understand why folks don’t like him. Personally, I find him amusing and colorful, but I know everyone doesn’t. He has a sarcastic way about him, and he says some crazy stuff. Before the Alabama/Ole Miss game this year, he said to Jamie Erdahl in the pregame interview, “Get your popcorn ready.” That was it…his words of wisdom before a “mic drop,” which was actually a headset drop. Ole Miss ended up losing the game, and Kiffin became a meme. In the week that followed, lots of folks had various kinds of popcorn delivered to the athletic office at Ole Miss. Alabama fans aren’t perfect, but that is the way to handle Kiffin. Don’t throw stuff onto the field. Just beat him at his own game…on the field and off.

And do it in the right way…remember, your mama might be watching.

***I’m definitely not knocking the University of Tennessee. My daughter and I both have friends who are students there or are alumni…and they are all lovely people…some of the best people we know, in fact. This kind of debacle could happen at any sporting event in any city.***

Keep Them Happy with Breakfast

Keep them happy with breakfast.

Our teenage daughter often has lots of friends over at a time. Sometimes they arrive hungry late at night. Sometimes, they need a big breakfast after they wake up. Same with visitors from out of town…we need to feed them!

When it’s just a few people, I don’t mind being a short-order cook. Want your eggs scrambled medium? You got it! Want two eggs sunny-side up? I can do it! Toad-in-the-hole? I can even do that like a pro!

Classic Toad-in-the-Hole

But when it’s a crowd, I do not want to be a short-order cook. I would be a terrible cook at a Waffle House, because there is no way I would be able to keep up. For those times, I take a different approach. For crowds, I plan ahead.

Last weekend, my daughter had twelve friends over after the Homecoming dance at her school. I knew they would arrive hungry, so I planned ahead. On the day of the dance, I made a grocery store run and stocked up on all the things I would need to feed a hungry crew. Feeding a crew is something I love to do, so I was probably singing as I strolled the aisles of the grocery store!

That evening, my husband and I went to a local country club, where our daughter, her date, and all their friends had gathered for pre-dance photos. They were a good-looking, happy bunch. They didn’t get to have a Homecoming dance last year, because of COVID, so I think they really appreciated the opportunity to have one this year. They were excited to dress up and excited to be together. I was excited to get to take photos of her final high school Homecoming. After all the parents acted like paparazzi for a while, the kids all went inside to dine, and the parents all went on about our evening.

When I arrived at home, I started preparing. Yes, I was excited. A good hostess would have all her fine china out, but there was no way I was going to stay up washing dishes in the middle of the night, so I used paper plates and plastic flatware. Sorry, Martha Stewart…I know I’m a disappointment. I got those out and set them at one end of the island in our kitchen…the island would be acting as my buffet for the evening.

Next, I pre-assembled two giant breakfast casseroles. There were quite a few boys in the group that was coming to our house, and since I grew up with a brother, I know how teenage boys can eat. I got the casserole all put together and stuck them in the refrigerator. They are the kinds of casseroles you can pre-assemble and cook later, so that’s what I did. I also made sure everything else I would need was within reach. I then texted my daughter and asked her to text me about an hour before they headed our way.

She did as I asked, and when she did, I put the two casseroles in the oven. Then, about 20 minutes before they arrived, I cooked the grits on the stovetop, cut up the fruit and put it into a bowl, and plattered the bagels near the toaster oven, in case they wanted to toast them.

When the kids arrived, everything was ready. When I invited them to come into the kitchen and serve themselves, they did. And I was thrilled to see them pile the food on their plates. Fortunately, my daughter’s date happily handled the toaster oven duties, so that cut down on some confusion. I spooned up the grits, and the kids served themselves the casseroles and fruit. And they ate…and ate. In fact, they mowed through the bagels and wanted more, so I started making my “special toast.” I could give away the secret on that, but that’s one secret I need to keep.

The first secret I will share, though, is about grits. For the record, instant grits are OK in a pinch, but real southerners cook real grits. I prefer mine with some butter and cheese added. For this particular event, I purchased Quaker brand Old-Fashioned Grits. I cook them on the stovetop according to the package directions and then add the butter, Colby Jack or Cheddar cheese, and salt at the end.

The second secret I’m happy to share? The breakfast casserole recipe, because all moms should have this recipe on hand. It’s great for a bunch of teenagers, but it’s great for holidays and family gatherings too. It’s super easy and can be pre-assembled. Enjoy!

Here’s my recipe that serves 12 (unless some of them are teenage boys, and then you need to make two casseroles!):

HASHBROWN BREAKFAST CASSEROLE

Ingredients:

  • 30 oz pkg of Ore Ida shredded hashbrown potatoes
  • salt and pepper
  • 12 eggs
  • 1.5 cups half and half or heavy cream
  • two cups cheese of choice, grated (cheddar, colby jack, or pepper jack)
  • 2 cups Smithfield cubed ham (or preferred meat)
  • optional: Rotel original tomatoes and chilies

Directions:

Grease a 9 x 13 casserole dish and preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a mixing bowl, mix shredded potatoes and ham, then spread in bottom of greased casserole dish

In another bowl, mix eggs, half and half, cheese, salt and pepper (to taste), and optional can of Rotel.

Pour egg mixture over potatoes/ham in baking dish.

Bake uncovered for one hour or till eggs have set.

Serve immediately, offering sour cream and salsa as toppings.

Not One Prairie Dress

Not one prairie dress.

Last week, our teenage daughter had her final high school Homecoming dance. When she was a freshman, it was quite the ordeal. All the girls in her grade were so excited to finally be attending a high school dance, and the boys were on the deal. They started asking early, and the girls started shopping early.

Oh, it was quite the ordeal. There is nothing like dress shopping with a 14-year-old girl. We ended up purchasing lot of dresses and returning most of them. We kept three. We had one altered…the one she really wanted to wear. I don’t even remember what it looked like, because on the day of the dance, she decided to wear a different one. The one she opted to wear was a dress I had purchased on a whim. She didn’t like it on the hanger, but apparently, when she put it on the night of the dance, she loved it. The problem? She was getting dressed with her friends at a friend’s house, and the dress had not been altered to fit. Her friend’s mother ended up pinning the dress to fit her. I think I still owe that mom for that. It was a cute, light blue, tiered dress…age appropriate and not just like everyone else’s.

Her sophomore year, they had a Homecoming dance, and I did not approve the dress she picked. I’ve never been one for gratuitous cutouts in dresses, and the one she picked without my input had cutouts at the waist. No offense to the folks who love cutouts in dresses. I just don’t. But her sophomore year, she wore a fitted red dress with cutouts. Usually I think cutouts look cheap, but I have to admit she did not look cheap in the dress. I was looking at it with a mother’s eye, and it passed the test. It fit her perfectly, and I thought she looked really pretty.

Her junior year…no Homecoming…thanks, COVID.

And this year, her senior year, I had absolutely no input. She works at a boutique in town, so she does all her own shopping. About two weeks before the dance, she said to me, “I’m going to wear a leather dress.” Ugh. That did not sound appealing to me, but I didn’t argue with her, because some battles just aren’t worth it. When she came home with the dress, she called me upstairs to zip it up, and I was shocked! I loved it! It fit her like a glove, and even though a leather dress sounds like she should be carrying a whip, it didn’t look that way at all. She didn’t look like a dominatrix. It was absolutely appropriate. I should have known it would be tasteful. It was a chocolatey brown “pleather” dress with ruching in front and thin straps. And I thought she looked beautiful.

In fact, there were lots of fitted dresses in her Homecoming dinner group. Remember the Little House on the Prairie dress trend from last year? I wrote about it here. It was a trend that drove me crazy. Why was everyone dressing like Laura Ingalls and Nellie Oleson?!? It was not a good look then, and it will never be a good look. Unless you’re wearing those dresses for religious reasons, you should bypass that “style.” I wore it in the 80s, and I have lived to regret it. There wasn’t one person who looked like she had purchased her dress in the Oleson’s Mercantile store. There wasn’t one girl who looked like she had stepped out of a Holly Hobbie book or DVD. Remember Holly Hobbie? Not a good look for the modern girl.

I’m certainly not saying it’s a good thing they didn’t have Homecoming my daughter’s junior year, but I’m glad I didn’t have to see them in those awful prairie dresses for a school dance. Maybe they wouldn’t have worn them. Maybe they would have ignored that style. I feel sure my own daughter would not have worn a prairie dress, since she turns her nose up at them every time she sees them, but would other girls have worn them? The world may never know.

I’m just glad I didn’t see any this year…not one prairie dress.

Eighteen Years Ago

Eighteen years ago.

Eighteen years ago, I was in the hospital, awaiting the birth of our one and only daughter. Her original due date was October 11, and I loved the thought of 10/11 as a birthday, because right out of college, I was a flight attendant for a while, and one of my favorite planes was the L-1011. It sounded like the perfect birthday to me. And honestly, October 10 sounded good too…10/10. It’s also former NFL quarterback Brett Favre’s birthday. Don’t ask me how I know that, because I don’t know how I know…I just do. I have been a football fan all my life, and he is one of my favorite quarterbacks. (Joe Namath is my absolute favorite.) So sharing a birthday with Brett Favre was pretty cool. Obviously, neither of those worked out.

Three weeks before she was born, my husband and I went out to dinner at a local restaurant. We were discussing how we had no idea what day our baby would actually arrive when the waiter delivered our appetizer to the table. As he placed the plates in front of us, I noticed he had October 12 written on his hand. As he walked away, I said to my husband, “Do you think that was a sign? He had October 12 written on his hand.” We had a good laugh. Little did we know then…

She was born on a Sunday night at 10:31pm…after I had been admitted on Friday at 7:00pm to be induced. Don’t do the math. It’s frightening. There had been a doctor checking on me for two nights, but when the next doctor arrived on Sunday night, he was ready for our daughter to be born. He knew I was exhausted and offered to do a C-section, but I said, “We could have done that yesterday. If you think she’ll be born before midnight, let’s just get this done.” And we proceeded without the C-section.

Our baby girl was a beautiful baby with a head full of dark hair. She weighed 7 pounds, 7.7 ounces, which they officially rounded up to seven pounds, eight ounces. I should have known something about her personality when we got her home. She would not sleep. She would not be quiet.

Some things never change. She has never been a sleeper. She is always busy. She is always on the go. She simply doesn’t sit still. It wore me out when she was an infant and a toddler, but after that, I took full advantage of it. When she was two, we never stayed home anymore. During the summer, we went to a local amusement park almost every day. It was somewhere we were both happy, because we were outside and interacting with other people. I had (and still have) great friends with kids the same age, so we all got together almost every day. And we traveled. I would throw her in an umbrella stroller, strap a carseat on my back, throw my carry-on into the basket underneath the stroller, and get on planes to visit family or just go somewhere. I remember pushing her through the airport with a car seat strapped on my back and hearing people say, “You go, girl!” Or one said, “Wow! You are a real woman!” I got things done. I wanted to travel, and my husband didn’t always want to go with us, so I just made it happen.

And that has never stopped. I learned a long time ago that if she got fussy as I was dragging her all over the country, all I had to do was throw some food down her throat, and she could keep moving with me. Now, she’s two or three inches taller than I am and in way better shape than I’m in, so I have to keep up with her when we travel! I try to make sure we make as many travel memories as we possibly can before she goes off to college next year, because I know she won’t want to go with me so much anymore. And that’s OK. I want her to be independent.

The way I see it, we have 42 more weekends before we drop her off at college next fall. We have another Thanksgiving week, Christmas holidays, one more spring break, and a summer before she flies the coop. If I subtract some of those weekends for things she wants to do without us, we’re down to about 36 or 38. Sounds crazy that I’ve counted, but I want to make sure we take full advantage of this time. I’ve planned a little trip for Thanksgiving, and she and I are doing a spring break with her classmates. I haven’t figured out what we are doing over Christmas break yet, but I’m working on it.

She is eighteen today. As of today, I no longer have access to her medical records without her permission. (I need to get her to get a notarized HIPAA form done, so if she gets sick and lands in the hospital, I can get information.) That baby who could do nothing for herself now does most everything for herself. She is eighteen, so she can even leave the country without my permission…alone, if she wants. Of course, she would need money from us, so I doubt that will happen without our knowledge. She even said to me recently, “As soon as I turn 18, I’m taking Life 360 [an app] off my phone.” I replied, “That’s fine! You’ll need to buy a phone, though, because your daddy and I actually own that one, and we want Life 360 on it. Oh, and you’ll need to buy yourself a car, because without Life 360, you’re not driving the one we own.” We had a good laugh!

I can’t believe it. We have come a long way! I remember when she turned one, I thought, “Wow. I survived a whole year with a baby.” It wasn’t easy. Lots of folks thought I was a lunatic, because they all had sleeping babies. Some of them later actually had babies who ran and jumped and climbed and dodged like mine did, and then they had a new appreciation for what I was dealing with. Yes, she nearly killed me that first year, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. That first year seemed crazy long, but the next seventeen seem to have passed in a flash!

Eighteen! How did that happen so fast?!?!

Compliments? From a Teenage Daughter?

Compliments? From a teenage daughter?

In March, I took my daughter and a couple of friends to Miami for Spring Break. They were juniors in high school, and they were thrilled to get to go somewhere fun after all the COVID vacation cancellations. I didn’t require them to spend lots of time with me, but I did require them to go to dinner with me. Other than that, they had free time in the resort and on the beach.

On the third night, we all got dressed for dinner. I got dressed in my room, and they all got dressed in the room they shared. When it was almost time to call for an Uber, I emerged from my room, dressed and ready to go. And it was then that I heard words from my daughter that I rarely hear, “Wow! You look so fashionable!” The dress I was wearing was a cute, leopard-print number with a v-neck and bell sleeves. I thought it was cute, but I was surprised to hear she thought so too!

Go ahead and laugh. If you’re a mom of a teenager, you know those fashion compliments are rare. No matter what we wear, it’s a “mom” outfit. Many times, I’ve worn something and asked her if I look OK. I remember one time in particular last summer when we were in California. I asked her, “Does this look OK?” We were about to leave for dinner. She looked at my dress and said, “Yes! You look so cute! I mean, I wouldn’t wear that dress, but it’s great for a mom!” I had to laugh out loud. And honestly, I took that compliment for what it was and ran with it. You know why? Because I am a mom. I am a 54-yr-old mom of a teenager, and I don’t think I’m supposed to dress like her. I’m supposed to wear clothes that are a little more “mature” than the clothes my 18-yr-old daughter wears. And trust me when I say America wants me to wear clothes that are more mature than the ones she wears!

We are going out to dinner with some friends tonight, and when my daughter got home from cheer practice, I met her at the door to remind her to run upstairs and get dressed quickly. But she stopped dead in her tracks and said, “You look so cute!” Again, I took it and ran with it. I’m wearing some very faded camouflage pants that I purchased at a thrift store for $10 years ago. And tonight I paired them with a cute black blouse and suede wedges. It’s comfortable, but most importantly, it get two thumbs up from the teenage daughter…a rare feat, indeed!

The funny thing is that I bought the pants, like I said, from a thrift store (Buffalo Exchange) several years ago for $10. The daughter was with me when I purchased them and said she could not believe I was going to wear pants that had touched someone else’s crotch. I explained that all the germs from the previous owner would wash right out, but I could tell she was still gagging a little. I’m sure she doesn’t recognize my pants as the thrift store pants. And I think I likely paid $25 for the shirt from Zara several years ago too. The shoes? Well, they are cute suede wedges I wear all the time…and they are, without a doubt, the most expensive part of the whole ensemble…but they aren’t terribly expensive. It always seems to work that way, though. I could wear an expensive designer piece, and the teenage daughter would likely say it looks like something an old woman would wear…which, at 54, I am likely an old woman in her eyes! But I put on a thrift store outfit, and she acts like I’m the most fashionable mom in town!

This weekend is her senior year high school homecoming. The kids will gather for pictures Saturday night somewhere, and the parents will stand around like paparazzi. I will need to make sure I wear something she approves that night. Ugh. It’s an occasion I’d love to get her stamp of approval, but since those are so few and far between, I will settle for just a “you look good for a mom.”

That still counts as a compliment, right?

The Passport Arrived Today!

The passport arrived today!

On September 7, I wrote about taking my teenage daughter to get her new passport. We went that morning. Because her previous passport had been issued when she was younger than 16, it was only valid for five years, and it was time to get a new one. Today, October 6, the new one arrived!

Because I have had so many questions about the process, I’m going to share some tips:

  • Before you schedule an appointment, download and print the appropriate application forms. You can find those here.
  • Make an appointment. You can make an appointment here. If you are renewing a passport, an appointment is not necessary; you can renew through the mail with forms from the website. However, if you are “renewing” your child’s passport and the last one was a five year passport, you must schedule an appointment for a new passport. It can be confusing, but you will not be able to make an appointment if you click “renew.” You must click “new passport,” and you can opt to get the photo at the appointment or get a photo at a local CVS or Walgreens before you go.
  • When you go to the appointment, take at least one check with you. They prefer payment by check, and I took two with me, because rarely do I write a check correctly the first time. It’s always good to have a backup check…just in case.
  • If your child is 16 or 17, he/she is eligible for a ten-year passport, but they must have proof of parental awareness. They can take a notarized letter stating they have your permission, or better yet, you (one parent) can accompany them on the appointment…and that is absolute parental awareness.
  • Passports for children under 16 (five-year passports) require permission from both parents. It’s easiest if both parents go to the appointment with the child. If both parents cannot attend, double check the US Passport website for directions. You can check that here.
  • US citizens 18 and older are eligible for ten-year passports, as are 16 and 17-yr-olds with parental awareness.
  • Take all necessary documents with you, including the completed application and old passport, if it’s for your child. You will need to provide several proof of citizenship documents. Examples are listed here. Make two photocopies of each document and take those copies with you, as well.
  • A photo ID will be required, as well…either for the applicant who is over 18 or the parent’s photo ID. I made copies of mine and my 17-yr-old daughter’s ID and took the actual IDs, as well.
  • If it is at all financially feasible for you, opt for the fastest service possible. When the agent who was helping us asked if we wanted to expedite, I told her we wanted the absolutely fastest service possible…and we received the passport four weeks later. Our total was about $188.

Good luck! And if you have questions, most of them can be answered on the US Passport website here. If you’re lucky, you’ll have your/your child’s passport in hand pretty quickly!

Moms Stick Together

Moms stick together.

My daughter, a senior in high school, was just accepted to my alma mater, and we have paid the enrollment deposit. Next fall, she will be attending a university that is 450 miles away from home…450 miles away from us! But thinking about it doesn’t cause me great stress, for a number of reasons. One reason is that we live in Charlotte, a hub city for American Airlines. We can hop on one of five or six daily flights and be by her side pretty quickly. Another reason? I’m familiar with the surroundings there; there is some comfort in familiarity. The main reason? I know lots of people who live pretty close to the university who can act quickly to help her if needed. There is a lot of comfort in that.

Last Friday, at a high school football game, I was chatting with the mother of another senior, and she told me her son is interested in the same school, but they are hesitant for him to go there, because it’s so far away! A six or seven hour drive! I reminded her that we can be there quickly on American Airlines. And then I told her what every mom really wants to hear: I have lots of friends in the area who can be there to help with just one phone call, and I’m happy to make introductions. Moms like to know their college-age kids have someone to help them if they need it. Sure, they’ll be eighteen years old, but people need support systems…even at my age, I need a support system. When I told my friend that I know other moms and dads there who will be happy to help, I could see her relax. “Really? That makes me feel so much better,” she said.

One thing I’ve learned from being a mother for the last almost-18-years is that moms have to support each other. We have to stick together. We have to help each other.

Three years ago, my friend, Wendy, passed away after a long battle with various forms of cancer. I had met Wendy through a toddler playgroup right after my daughter turned one. Today is her 50th birthday, so I’ve had her on my mind. I posted something on Instagram and on Facebook about her birthday, and all our playgroup moms commented. One of them sent a text saying, “Thinking of Wendy today and that always makes me think of you all and the playgroup that saved my life and enriched my girls’ childhood. Love you all.” And she wasn’t exaggerating. We were all first-time moms when we met, and we truly saved each other. We started as a weekly playgroup but went on to become best friends, support systems, confidantes…we saved each other, for sure. With toddlers, life can be lonely, but our weekly playgroup turned into friendship so strong that we gathered almost daily. It saved our sanity and gave our kids a support group too!

All our kids went on to different preschools, kindergartens, elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools. They’ll probably all go to different colleges. But along the way, they’ve always known that core playgroup was rooting for them. They might not get together regularly, but they’re still friends. They know who they really are. They know their childhood would not have been the same without each other. And along the way, the playgroup moms have added other support systems, but we still know we have each other…no matter what.

I know our kids have learned a lot from us (and vice versa), but I hope that, along the way, they learned the importance of finding and maintaining a good support system. They saw their moms supporting each other, propping each other up when it was needed. I like to think they know that, no matter where they are in college, if they need someone to call, they can always call one of the playgroup moms. They can even call one of the playgroup kids…the ones who are almost adults now. And I hope they share that support system with other people who need it.

Don’t we all feel like that mom who is concerned about her son being 450 miles away without a support system? Don’t we all like to know there is someone we can call or someone our children can call in an emergency, or if they just need to talk with someone?

Two weeks ago, a college friend I haven’t seen in years texted me, telling me she was afraid her teenage son might be stranded in the Charlotte Airport and asking me about hotels near the airport. There is no way I would have let her teenage son go to a hotel, and I’m sure she knew that, but she didn’t want to impose. I texted her back, saying, “I don’t live too far from the airport. If he is stranded, call me, and I will bring him to our house for the night.” Another friend in Ohio had called me two weeks before that, asking if I could pick up an Ohio friend’s daughter at the airport and keep her for the night if she missed her connection. Of course I could! I was flattered to be asked! And you know why?!?! Because I want to be part of someone’s support system. I certainly would have called on those friends to help my daughter if needed!

So yes, we moms have to stick together…especially the moms of high school seniors who are preparing to go off to college. I’m putting it out there now: if your child is going to college in or near Charlotte, put me on your list of people to call in an emergency. I’ll always help.

Serendipity

Serendipity.

A couple of weeks ago, I flew to Birmingham, Alabama, with my daughter and a friend. We flew out of Charlotte on a Wednesday night and flew back Thursday afternoon. We were visiting a college. On the return flight, I traded seats with my daughter’s friend, so they could sit together. Often, I dread finding out who is sitting next to me on flights…someone who is coughing, someone who has body odor, someone who brought their own smelly food onto the flight…but this time, I was lucky. As soon as I saw my seatmate, I knew she was cool.

And I was right. We started talking before takeoff, and we didn’t stop chatting till we got off the plane. She was a cute little pregnant lady (in her 30s), and as luck would have it, we have friends in common! She went to high school with my next door neighbor’s children, and I even know her aunt and uncle! When we landed in Charlotte, we parted ways. I texted our friends in common and told them how cute she is, and I followed her podcast Instagram (@itssportssis). She and her sister have a sports podcast…very cool. I’ve listened to one episode, but I need to listen to more…these chicks are pretty awesome.

Today, I met a couple of friends at Cafe Monte (it’s a personal favorite; see the website here) in Charlotte for brunch. One friend we hadn’t seen in a while, because she moved to High Point, but she was in town, so we got together and chatted for a couple of hours. When we stood up to leave, I turned around and saw a familiar face at the table behind me…my friend, Sarah…the one from the plane! The one with the podcast! Yes, I called her my friend, because I think of her as a friend now.

What luck! I like to call it “serendipity,” which is defined as “the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.” It was complete luck that I met her on the flight after trading seats with my daughter’s friend…and it was complete luck that I ran into her again today…serendipity.

We chatted for a little while, and I told her I hoped she hadn’t come down with the stomach bug that had fallen on my family after that Birmingham trip. She said she had been fine, so we decided my daughter and her friend must have caught it from someone they sat near on the flight. My husband caught it from my daughter, so we know it was contagious and not something they had eaten. I then introduced Sarah to one of the friends I’d just brunched with. I pointed out to them that they, too, have people in common, since my friend also knows Sarah’s aunt! I told Sarah I think we were just destined to be friends; there is no other explanation for our serendipitous meetings!

It reminded me of another serendipitious meeting I had four years ago yesterday. I had gone to Panera Bread with my then-14-yr-old daughter and some of her friends after school. We had walked all the way through the restaurant to get to a table…passing every table along the way, I’m sure. When our order was brought to our table, my daughter’s cookie was missing, so I had to get up and walk to the pick up window to ask for the cookie. When I did, I saw a familiar face…a friend from college…someone I likely hadn’t seen since 1989 or 1990! Instead of approaching immediately, I walked over to a wall opening, a sort of window that overlooks the dining room…it was right next to her table. I poked my head through and just smiled. My college friend noticed, and we had a delightful reunion right there in Panera Bread. She lives in the Atlanta area…what are the chances I would run into a college friend from Atlanta in a Panera in Charlotte?!?! Serendipity! (Today is that friend’s birthday, so Happy Birthday, Suzanne!)

I love when things like that happen! You never know who you’ll run into!

For now, I’ll be shopping for baby gifts for my new friend, Sarah, who is expecting a baby girl in January. She’s a Virginia Tech fan and big sports fan, thus the podcast, It’s Sports Sis. Give that a listen, and I’ll find a cute Virginia Tech themed gift.

Mammas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be…

Mammas, don’t let your babies grow up to be…

Songwriters Ed and Patsy Bruce wrote a country song titled Mammas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys back in the 1970s, and Mr. Bruce released it on his album in 1975. (For the record, I prefer to spell it as “mamas” instead of “mammas,” but that’s how it’s spelled in the song.) The version I’m more familiar with was recorded and released by Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson in 1978. I’m not a big country music fan, but for some reason, I’m familiar with that song. The song lists a whole host of reasons mammas shouldn’t let their babies grow up to be cowboys. You can hear it here.

I don’t recall anyone telling me, when I was growing up, that they wanted to grow up to be a cowboy. I remember my daddy saying that when he was little, he wanted to be a cowboy when he grew up. Western movies were all the rage then. But one day it occurred to him that his daddy was a cowboy…running a farm…and as soon as he realized it, he knew he didn’t want to be a cowboy. He didn’t want to do what his daddy did when he grew up. I’m sure he had mad respect for his hardworking daddy, but he didn’t want to follow in his footsteps that way.

Recently, I flew home from Miami on American Airlines, and I found myself seated next to a lady who works for a department within the federal government. I didn’t get her whole name, and I don’t even know her official position, but she told me she majored in Criminal Justice. My own daughter had expressed an interest in that at one time, and I said to her, “What are you going to do?” I don’t even remember what her response was, but I forgot about the conversation and moved on, thinking that was probably just something she said on a whim. But in talking with the lady on the plane, I began to second-guess myself. She had majored in Criminal Justice and loves what she does! I shouldn’t have been so dismissive of my daughter’s desire to major in Criminal Justice. It’s her life! She gets to decide what she wants to do with it, and maybe she knows something I don’t!

When I got home, I went to my daughter and apologized for poo-pooing her idea. We had a long conversation about her future, and I told her I had just gotten a reminder that it is her future, after all. She can major in whatever she wants, but we need to discuss, so we can make sure she gets all the information she needs before deciding on a major. She needs to understand what kinds of careers she can have with what kinds of majors. She needs to make an informed decision. And I was reminded of that once more just two days later, when we met with the assistant dean of a division of a university we visited. He talked with her about who she is and what she enjoys, and he suggested some majors she probably didn’t even know existed…and the careers that go with them.

It’s a big world out there with lots of opportunities. For me, I think I have realized it’s important that I help our daughter decide what she wants to do, but I don’t tell her what she can and can’t do. That’s for her to decide. It’s her life.

That being said, if she comes to me and says she wants to be a cowgirl when she grows up, I won’t tell her she can’t, but I might discourage her for any number of reasons. She has ridden horses but doesn’t have a whole lot of experience in that department. And there aren’t a whole lot of cowgirls in cities. I just don’t see her living in a rural area, so the cowgirl life could be tough for her in, say, the greater metropolitan Los Angeles area…or New York…or Chicago…or even Charlotte, for that matter.

She’ll be off to college next year, and who knows what she will major in or how many times she will change her major? I just want her to do something that helps her become a contributing member of society while being able to take care of herself.