A Whole Week Home From College

A whole week home from college.

In less than a week, our college student daughter is coming home…for a whole week! We haven’t seen her for seven days in a row since she left for college in August! We have seen her for a couple of days here and there…two football weekends, one day when my husband visited when he passed through town, and she has been home for two quick visits. But soon, she will be here for a whole week! In fact, she will be home for a little more than a week! And we can hardly wait.

Back in September, I booked her ticket on American Airlines to come home Saturday. But then, two days ago, she called me and said she wants to come home earlier. My first question? “Don’t you have class Friday?” She told me her Friday class has been canceled. I kept her on the phone while I looked at the American Airlines website. We discussed flight times and finally decided she could come home on an afternoon flight Thursday for only $99 more than we paid for the original ticket. Sold!

Seriously, y’all, I was so flattered that she wanted to spend more time with us. Anyone who has college-age kids will tell you it’s fun when they’re around again. I told her I was excited we are going to get to spend some extra time with her. And that’s when she said, “Oh, well, yes…but I’m going down to Columbia, South Carolina, with friends Saturday morning for the South Carolina game.”And that’s when I realized she isn’t coming home early to spend more time with us. She is coming home early to go to the University of South Carolina! I laughed out loud, because of course that’s what she wants to do!

I remember what it’s like to be 19, so I’m happy she gets to go visit friends in South Carolina with friends from home! I loved going to football games at different schools with friends when I was in college, so I get it. Will we, her parents, be offended when she wants to spend every evening with her friends? Nope, not one bit. In fact, I hope she will bring them here to gather at least once or twice. We love the energy they bring into our home, and I love preparing food for them…grilled cheese sandwiches, avocado toast, or even a late night breakfast.

But I also realize that, because she wants to go to South Carolina for a day or two, she is still coming home earlier than she originally was, and that’s a bonus for me and my husband! We are so excited! Of course, at the end of her stay, I’m sure I will be writing about how little time we actually got to spend with her! And that’s OK too, because we just want her to be happy and healthy. Spending time with her friends in Charlotte will be good for her. When she returns to Charlotte from South Carolina Saturday night, I will be here, ready to feed her (and friends) when she gets home.

Plus, I’m sure she will sleep a lot. Our daughter who has never been much of a sleeper will need to make up for lots of lost sleep while she is here. Sleeping in a twin bed in a dorm just isn’t the same as sleeping in a queen bed at home. I remember that too. There’s nothing quite like sleeping under your parents’ roof, with your dog in the bed like old times. She will sleep soundly knowing her daddy will bring her coffee in bed in the morning, and I will call her down for a hot breakfast shortly thereafter. Just like her last visit, we will have all her favorites at breakfast: scrambled eggs, grits, hashbrown casserole, bacon, biscuits, and Conecuh Sausage (again, if you’re not familiar with this, you want to try it. It’s from Alabama, but they carry the original sausage at most Publix stores. See the Conecuh Sausage website here). Some mornings, she might want avocado toast too. And she will get it if she wants it.

We are excited for her to arrive Thursday. My husband can hardly wait to go pick her up at the airport…a job he has already volunteered to do. I will ask her what she wants as her “welcome home” meal, and I will have that ready when she arrives. Of course, she’s likely to eat and run…or as my late friend, Wendy, would say, “chew and screw,” which means the same as eat and run. She was from Boston, and I don’t know if that’s what other people say there, but I think it sounds funny, so I say it occasionally.

Now, we just play the waiting game. My husband started his countdown today, telling me she will be home in just five days!

We are excited!

***Feature photo from Charlotte Business Journal***

I’m Happy to Be 55

I’m happy to be 55.

I have been 55 since May, so no, I’m not celebrating a birthday. Well, maybe I am…I try to celebrate every day, to some extent. I’m having a glass of bubbly as I type…in the middle of the day, with lunch…that counts as a celebration, right?

And as I sit in a restaurant in Charlotte, awaiting the arrival of my friend, I eavesdrop and type. Yes, I will admit I’m eavesdropping. It was totally accidental at first, but then I realized I am likely hearing what I sounded like 16 or 17 years ago.

At the next table are three lovely women, all of whom clearly have young children at home. I know this, because they are talking about breastfeeding, playgroups, diapers, and toddlers. Seriously, listening to them, I’m thinking of what I would have sounded like at lunch or playgroup with my friends, Wendy, Jenn, Lauren, Neill, Suzanne, Kris, Myndi, and Jennifer back in the day. Same stuff, different moms. Time marches on.

And as I listen to them, I remember what fun times we had as moms of young children. Sure, we were exhausted most of the time. We dealt with various kids’ illnesses…stomach bugs, colds, flu, other viruses and bacterial infections, like strep throat on my daughter’s 4th birthday. But we, the moms, helped each other. We had great fun at each other’s homes, swimming pools, parties, playgrounds. We had lots of fun every time we gathered.

These days, our group of moms is older and fewer in number. Wendy passed away 4 1/2 years ago, breaking all our hearts. Lauren, Suzanne. Myndi, and Jennifer moved away but still stay in touch. The rest of us…me, Jenn, Kris, and Neill…well, we get together for dinner sans kids now! We always gather on Wendy’s birthday and the anniversary of her passing…we want to keep her memory alive. Sometimes, we plan a dinner for ourselves for no reason. And earlier this year, when Wendy’s kids were in town, we even managed to get a bunch of the kids together. But usually, it’s just the four moms gathering for dinner…and drinks! Because we can drink now without worrying that it will affect breast milk! We don’t have to worry that we will have to pick up kids somewhere, because most of them have gone off to college!

When we had little kids, we loved life. As I mentioned, we were exhausted. Oh, we were tired. But we were happy. We made great memories for our kids and ourselves, and we made some fantastic, lifelong friends. It was a great time of life.

But as I listen to the sweet moms at the table next to me, I am especially thankful that I am 55. I am thankful that my daughter and the children of my friends are adults…well, they’re adults living on our dime, but they can vote! I am thankful for all those years of fun with them at playgrounds, amusement parks, Wiggles shows, and more. I am thankful for the times my daughter thought I was the smartest, most beautiful mom on the planet.

Unfortunately, she no longer thinks I am the smartest, most beautiful mom on the planet. But she does think I’m reasonable. She knows I’m seasoned. She knows I give good advice. And she knows, most of all, that I love her dearly.

I’m 55, and our daughter is 19. It seems that I’ve always thought that, no matter what age we are, we think we are the perfect ages. So yes, I am smiling as I eavesdrop on the table next to me, but mostly I’m smiling that we have made it this far. I am thankful for every single day and every lesson we have learned along the way. I’m thankful for my “empty nester” status. I’m thankful to have a daughter who is happy in college. I’m happy I don’t have to wait for school holidays to go on vacation. Im thankful for all the knowledge I have acquired along the way. And I’m happy my daughter is coming home in a week for Thanksgiving break! And I hope we, meaning all the ladies like me who are 55, have lots more days, more fun, and more lessons ahead of us.

I’m thankful for those ladies at the next table, for making me realize how grateful I am for this stage of life.

Thank God I’m 55!

Holiday Gift #3 for 2022: Pajamas

Holiday gift #3 for 2022: pajamas.

Stick with me.These are not the pajamas your grandma gave you.

We get excited about pajamas at our house. Why? Because if we’re home and finished with everything we have to do for the day, we are in pajamas. Call me crazy, but when I am home, I like to be as comfortable as possible. If I get home at 4:00pm, and I know I won’t be going out again, I put on my pajamas. So don’t be surprised if you ring my doorbell at 5:30pm and I open the door wearing PJs.

Because I think lots of Americans spend lots of time in pajamas, I’m listing pajamas as my #3 holiday gift for 2022. I am all in with three brands: Bedhead, Roller Rabbit, and Vineyard Vines.

My personal favorite? Bedhead Pajamas.

I have been wearing Bedhead Pajamas for 20 years. Back when I first discovered them through a friend’s shop, I purchased poplin and flannel pajamas, but Bedhead seems to have evolved. They now sell wonderfully supple, soft, jersey-knit pajamas, and I can’t get enough of them. And they have PJs for the whole family! Something else great about them? On their website, they have lots of sale items, and I take full advantage of that. Don’t get me wrong; they are absolutely worth the full price, which ranges from $98 to $120 for men and women’s PJs. If you opt to purchase their latest and greatest styles/prints, you will be happy to pay the full price, because these PJs retain their shape and softness, and they are made to last.

But if you want to give some quality pajama gifts this holiday season without paying full price, check out their sales on the website, where you will find women’s and men’s PJs starting at just $39! My college-age daughter loves shorty pajamas, and several of their shorty sets are priced at $49. I should add they are all super cute too! Personally, I prefer their classic stretch jersey sleepshirts, some of which are offered for $39 on their sale page! I have three of them already, but I will be receiving some more for Christmas this year. In fact, they have already been purchased and wrapped…just for me! After I had my gallbladder removed earlier this year, I lived in my Bedhead PJs for several days. When friends visited after my surgery, I didn’t mind greeting them in my Bedhead PJs, because frankly, they are cuter than lots of my normal clothes!

And for men, the pricing is similar for regularly-priced sets and for sale-priced sets! They even offer PJs for kids, with normal priced items in the $40-$50 range, and sale-priced items starting at just $11!

You can see the Bedhead website here.

But I also recommend Roller Rabbit PJs. They also offer comfortable, well-made pajamas, and I have lots of friends who are big Roller Rabbit fans. My daughter loves their shorty sets too. And just like Bedhead, Roller Rabbit offers PJs for the whole family, priced in the same general range as Bedhead. My only issue with Roller Rabbit over the years has been availability. They are so popular that it can be difficult to find what you want in the sizes you want. It might just be that I don’t check the website often enough, but today, I had difficulty finding any shorty PJs in my daughter’s size. But if you can find the size you want, you can know they will be a hit with the gift recipient! I’d venture to say most of my daughter’s high school and college friends have Roller Rabbit PJs.

You can see the Roller Rabbit website here.

And last, but certainly not least, I recommend Vineyard Vines pajamas and loungewear. We were introduced to the brand’s PJ and loungewear offerings a few years ago by a friend who gave our daughter some of their lounge pants for Christmas. They were cute and comfy, and we were sold immediately! In fact, right after she received those, I had to go out and purchase a couple more pairs, so she could wear them every night! After that, I got some for me and some for my husband, and we still love them! We wear them as PJs but also as loungewear inside the house and outside when we are sitting by the firepit in the evening. Again, just like Bedhead and Roller Rabbit, they are well-made, comfortable, and they are offered in great patterns/prints.

You can see the Vineyard Vines pajamas and loungewear offerings at their website here.

It’s a safe bet that pajamas and loungewear from any of these brands will make the folks on your Christmas list happy this year! Keep in mind that Christmas is 6 1/2 weeks from the date of publication (Nov 8). Get busy shopping for the best selection!

***Feature photo from BedheadPJs.com***

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Holiday Gift #2 for 2022

Holiday gift #2 for 2022.

Quick recap: my holiday gift #1 post featured bags by Baboon to the Moon. See the post here.

As the holidays approach, I’m taking stock of things I see and things I love…things I think will make the perfect Christmas or Hanukkah gifts. The second item I’m featuring this year is a fire pit from Solo Stove. I actually mentioned this item in a post last holiday season, but because we get so much joy from our Solo Stove fire pit, I’m featuring again this year. It would be a great gift for Dad or even for Mom, if she likes to spend time outdoors in the evening like I do. Or maybe you have a college student or other adult in your family who lives in a house and likes to entertain?

We have the Solo Stove Bonfire 2.0, which is their most popular size of fire pit. According to the website, it’s perfect for backyards, and I can attest to that fact. My husband and I have cocktails or coffee out on our patio…just the two of us or with friends…almost any night we are home, and in the fall, winter, and early spring the Bonfire 2.0 is the perfect smokeless fire pit to keep us warm. It is about 19.5 inches in diameter and heats about 5-6 people. We love the warmth and ambiance it offers when we are out there stargazing, and we love that, when our daughter is home, she and her friends enjoy gathering around it too.

With a chrome finish, the Solo Stove Bonfire 2.0 is attractive and useful. Plus, because it’s not too big, it’s easy to clean…easy to dump the ashes. Always wait till there is no sign of heat or fire before dumping the ashes. We usually wait till the next time we are ready to use the fire pit to empty the ashes. That way, we know we won’t be inadvertently starting a fire in the garbage can, in the yard, or anywhere else.

Is it actually smokeless? For the most part, yes. My husband would not want to use it if it created a smoky fire. He hates the smell of smoke more than anything. When I first purchased the Solo Stove Bonfire 2.0, he was skeptical. And when I first built a fire in it, it seemed like a fail. It was smoky…at first…but once the fire took hold, the fire pit did what it’s supposed to do, and we had a smoke-free fire. However, because my husband gets nervous about burning ashes flying through the air from wood fires, we went in a different direction and purchased Duraflame logs to burn in the fire pit. I was skeptical, but after I realized how easy they are to light, I was sold. And the fire with the Duraflame, because it doesn’t require smoky kindling, starts out smoke free.

Solo Stove makes several different sizes of fire pits, so if you think the Bonfire 2.0 is too large or too small, there are other sizes that could work for you. Their Ranger 2.0 fire pit is 15 inches in diameter, so it’s a little smaller, so it’s most portable. For a larger fire pit, they offer the Yukon 2.0, which has a 27-inch diameter, making it more easy to accommodate up to 13 people!

And if you’re wondering about pricing, the Ranger 2.0, at the time of writing, is on sale at the Solo Stove website for $199, a savings of $100 off the regular price. The Bonfire 2.0, the one we have, is on sale for $239, a savings of $160. And the Yukon 2.0 is on sale for $439, saving the purchaser over $300 off the original price. To see the website, click here.

Because we enjoy our Solo Stove fire pit so much, this gift goes in the category of “highly recommend.” You can’t go wrong with it, and if you do things the easy way, like we do, and get the Duraflame logs, it’s super easy to have instant warmth and ambiance on your patio any time you want it.

But I don’t know how long the sale will last, so if you’re considering it, go ahead and purchase it now! I believe the recipient will think it’s a great gift, and they will thank you for years to come!

Happy shopping!

Senior Prom

Senior Prom.

It’s a tradition that has been popular in the United States since the 1930s. For those who didn’t know, “prom” is short for “promenade,” which is defined as “the formal, introductory parading of guests at a party,” according to mentalfloss.com. I know proms were definitely popular by the 1950s, because my own mother, whose nickname was “Doll” because she was so tiny, was a prom queen at her high school in Alabama. I remember my own high school proms in the 1980s with fond memories. And now, it’s time for our daughter to go to her senior prom.

Our daughter was lucky to even have a prom last year. The previous two years, prom was cancelled because of…you guessed it, COVID. But last year, when our daughter was a junior, our school made a real effort, even in the middle of a mask mandate, to make sure our kids had a prom. (If I ever complain about our school, I need to also remember how hard they tried to make things better for the kids during COVID.) It was outdoors. I didn’t get to see it in person, of course, because here in Charlotte, parents don’t go to the “lead out” like they do in some areas. I am actually glad about that…no offense to those who do…but I don’t feel like I have any business at my daughter’s prom. We go take photos at a club or someone’s house beforehand with a group, and groups of couples go to dinner before going to the actual prom. That’s the norm here, and that’s what they did last year. The kids were so excited to feel somewhat “normal” again last year, and our daughter and her beau had a great time and made lovely photos and lasting memories.

This year, things are much more normal. They are gathering for photos and dinner beforehand and going to an actual indoor prom! So exciting! I’m just thankful she is having a “normal” senior prom. She’ll make memories just like we did back in the 1980s…except there won’t be as much hairspray as there was in the 80s. They will take lots more photos than we did, because they have smartphones. They might even take some silly videos or make some TikToks. In fact, in 2022, the girls won’t have big hair, but the boys will. The dresses will be more revealing now than they were in the 80s…back when we covered our bodies in as much fabric as possible. I still don’t know how we got dates wearing all the baggy clothes we wore. Wow…it has been a long time since my senior prom. They will have fun, I’m sure, but really…the prom itself is just the excuse to get dressed up, get photos, and go to a party afterward, I think. They just enjoy being together…just like we did back in the 80s…so that’s still the same.

I hope they will remember to stop and take mental notes throughout the evening…just enjoy the moment. It’s a memorable occasion. Everyone who goes to prom remembers it. They might not remember lots of details, but everyone will remember who they went to prom with. They will remember what they wore. They might remember where they had dinner. They will even remember some funny things that happen. Because it’s an emotionally-charged night, it’s a memory that gets imbedded in their long-term memories. I’ve written before that I learned a lot about long-term and short-term memory when my husband had brain surgery. Big emotional events land in our long-term memory, because of the emotions attached to them. It’s why we remember where we were when someone dies. It’s why we remember where we were when we fell in love.

It’s not just a big night for the students, though. The senior prom marks the end of an era for parents too. Since my husband and I have just one child, this is the end of the high school line for us. And it’s the first time our daughter has ever trusted me to pick a dress for her. That’s a memory in itself!

I hope they all have a great time. I hope they all have a safe night and make good decisions. I hope they make some great memories to look back on when they’re my age. I hope they’ll enjoy this big event together, because these seniors will be going in different directions soon. Many of them have been in school together since they were four or five years old. Life is changing! Those little kindergarten students I remember from 2009 are finishing their stint at their independent school and moving on to college…many in different states!

Good times…senior prom.

Ready for the New Year?

Ready for the new year?

I don’t know that I’m ever actually ready for a new year, but most years, I am ready for New Year’s Day, and this year is no exception. I think different cultures have different traditions/superstitions for New Year’s Day, and growing up in the American South, I have a few of my own:

-“Rabbit! Rabbit!” I make sure to say this at some point on the first of every month, preferable first thing in the morning. But let’s face it, most mornings, when I first wake up, I don’t know what day it is! Lots of people say “Rabbit! Rabbit!” on the first day of every month for good luck. Apparently, rabbits are considered good luck. I tried to find an explanation online, and I found an NPR episode in which Martha Barnette, an etymology author, says the phrase dates back to at least the early 1900s. Some folks believe rabbits are good luck because of their fertility, which can be associated with new beginnings. Whatever. I just do it, because I’m always welcoming any good luck that comes my way! But it seems especially important on the first day of the year!

-Black-eyed Peas. A few years ago, I returned home from vacation late on New Year’s Eve, and I had not had an opportunity to go to the grocery store to prepare for New Year’s Day. Lucky for me, I had a can of black-eyed peas in my pantry. I can’t imagine what made me purchase canned black-eyed peas, because I prefer to cook dried ones, but the canned variety will do in a pinch! In my family, and across the American South, it is believed that eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day brings good luck and prosperity. Even when I was a little girl and didn’t care for them, my parents made me eat a spoonful of black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day. According to Modern Farmer, black-eyed peas came to the US on slave ships, and slaves planted them in their gardens. The same source says the Union Army took everything edible when they raided the south, but they didn’t take black-eyed peas. They were looked at then as “poor people’s food,” but after the war, they became popular all across the south. Some people in the south believe they represent coins. And some southerners cook them in Hoppin’ John, a southern rice dish. Personally, I love them…especially on New Year’s Day. I purchased them early this year…dried ones that I will start cooking early on New Year’s Day, so we can enjoy them in the afternoon. As for a recipe, I don’t make Hoppin’ John. I just soak the peas before I boil them with Goya pork seasoning and salt. I throw in the spinach, and while I normally try to keep them healthier, I’ll likely throw in some pork for New Year’s Day.

Greens. In the south, when most people say they eat “greens” on New Year’s Day, I think they mean collard greens or turnip greens. Some folks mean cabbage. I’m the outlier…I eat spinach on New Year’s Day. It’s still a green, and it’s iron-rich. I just can’t bring myself to cook turnips, cabbage, or turnips in my house, because I remember how our house smelled when I was growing up and Mother cooked greens. Collard greens, turnip greens, and cabbage taste good, but they smell rancid when they’re cooking. I can’t do that to my family, so we have spinach. Of course, I’m the only one who eats regular sauteed spinach, so I have to mix the spinach with the black-eyed peas. Greens represent money. And who doesn’t want more money in the new year? This year, I might add some extra spinach, in fact! And remember the year I had canned black-eyed peas? I was also lucky enough to find canned turnip greens in my pantry (Glory brand is seasoned really well).

-Pork. I don’t care what kind of pork it is, everyone who doesn’t have a religious exemption should eat a bite of pork on New Year’s Day. All my life, I’ve believed eating pork on New Year’s Day brings good luck, because that’s all I’ve ever heard. I looked into the reasoning, and according to thespruceeats.com, it’s considered a sign of prosperity in some cultures because “pigs root forward.” I guess that means we will continue to move forward if we eat pork. When I was growing up, my mother would cook a ham. My family won’t eat a whole ham, so I just purchased a couple of ham steaks to prepare on New Year’s Day. I’ll throw some of it in the black-eyed peas for seasoning. As for the preparation of the ham steaks, I will just cook them on the stove top in a skillet with a little butter and seasoning.

Cornbread. My parents used to make thin, fried cornbread when I was growing up. I’d never be able to do it. There was skill involved, and it was delicious. My cousin, Patti, still makes it, but I need a special brand of fine cornmeal that I can’t find in Charlotte. I’ll get Patti to bring me some next time she comes to town. Interestingly, the fried breads are round, which would be great if I could make them, because round foods are considered good luck in some countries. We used to eat it till we just couldn’t eat any more. I’ll make cornbread, but it will be regular baked, buttermilk cornbread. Why cornbread? Apparently, because of the golden color, it represents gold. I see a theme here. Southerners seem to want luck and prosperity in the new year!

-Champagne (or prosecco). Yes, I have bubbly not just on New Year’s Eve, but also on New Year’s Day, because it’s a celebration, after all. I have always believed we should start the new year on the right foot…celebrating. And bubbly goes great with all the foods listed above. And if you don’t like the foods listed above, it’s a lot easier to wash them down with bubbly!

Clearly, my traditions, except “Rabbit! Rabbit!” are all based around food! The good news for me is that these are some of my very favorite foods. For my family, though, it’s not one of their favorite meals, so they’ll choke down a few bites. We’d normally have lots of leftovers, but my nephew and a friend are coming to town this year, so I know they’ll help me eat it. I’ll have some pickled onions on hand, too, because they go so well with all of these foods! My mouth is watering just thinking about it!

A Holiday Village

A holiday village.

Today started as a a standard Saturday morning. I got up at about 8:30 and prepared breakfast. OK, so I don’t do that every Saturday, but I should. Our daughter had a 10am lacrosse game, so I wanted to make sure she had plenty of energy…scrambled eggs, bacon, grits, and “special” toast. (I’ll post info about that later.)

After breakfast, she got dressed quickly and left for the field. After loading the dishwasher, I slapped on a little makeup and threw on some comfy yoga pants and a sweatshirt before going to the field with my husband. The girls won their game, and we all headed home.

As soon as our daughter got home at about 11:25, she told me she needed to get cleaned up before going to a Secret Santa party, but she had to stop and purchase a gift on the way. I felt my pulse quicken and my blood pressure rising, because I knew she would have to drive 20 minutes to the party. There was no way she could pull it all off.

I asked her, “Do you want me to run to a boutique and get a gift? You could stop by there on your way to the party and get it from me.” She agreed that was a good plan, and I was off to the boutique…showerless and in the same yoga pants/hoodie I had worn to the lacrosse game…clothes I shouldn’t have even worn to a Saturday morning sporting event, and I definitely shouldn’t have worn them to a boutique. But there was no time to change. I had planned to take a shower after the game, but that could wait.

I arrived at the boutique and immediately found a gift. Just as I was taking it up to pay for it and get it wrapped, a friend of my daughter’s walked in. I knew she was shopping for the same party, and she knew why I was there. She then very graciously offered to take the gift to the party so my daughter wouldn’t have to make an extra stop. Wow! Things were coming together!

When I got back to my car, I called my daughter and told her she could go straight to the party, because her friend was taking her gift.

My morning had not gone as planned, but disaster had been averted! It had taken a village, but it had all worked out. Of course, as a mom, I was the only one who still needed a shower.

I posted about it on Facebook, and one friend said, “Kinda makes you worry that she’ll be fine on her own at college next year, doesn’t it?” Indeed, it does. But I can’t get too crazy about it, because I was the same person at 18. And I went off to college, and somehow, things worked out.

I was lucky I found a supportive village in college pretty quickly. I made great lifelong friends, and I’m sure they can all tell stories of rescuing me in different situations, just like I can tell stories of rescuing them in different situations. That’s how bonds form, right? And it’s how memories are made in college. Every time I spend time with friends from colleges, we talk about shared experiences…and often the stories involve disasters we averted!

It made me realize that next year at this time, our daughter will be having Secret Santa parties at her university. And I find myself hoping she finds a good village there…a holiday village that helps her…and a village in which she will help others. When she needs that last-minute gift and can’t get it, I hope someone will jump into action for her. And when a member of her village needs help carrying lots of boxes from the parking lot to her dorm room, my daughter will help her. It’s what makes friendships.

We all need villages to help us raise our kids. I thank the Lord every day for the village that helped me get our daughter to 18. I talk often about how I don’t know how I would have survived without my friends in our toddler playgroup. They have been a part of my village for a long time. We all need villages to help us with those last-minute items. We need villages when we’re sick. And yes, we especially need villages during the holidays…like the one my daughter had today.

I hope when she gets to college hundreds of miles away from me, she finds her village.

I’m Proud of You, Mom

“I’m proud of you, Mom.”

Recently, I finished a big volunteer project…you know, I was working for free for weeks on end (months) when I could have been eating bonbons in the pool. It was a big project, no doubt…an athletic awards show for my teenage daughter’s school. I’m not complaining, of course. I worked with some awesome people and made some new friends. It was definitely a group effort, as lots of other parents and school staff pitched in. There were a few times I’m sure I was quite snippy with my family, because of the stress I was feeling, but we made it through!

Our daughter is finishing up her junior year at her much-loved independent school in Charlotte. She started there in transitional kindergarten, and now, we are entering the summer before her senior year. It’s hard to believe she’s going to be a senior. My husband and I are just enjoying the ride. We have loved every age as our daughter has grown. It hasn’t always been easy, but big picture…life with her is definitely an adventure. She is an only child, so she doesn’t get away with much. We don’t have any other kids distracting us. And I’ve always warned her that I’m likely to have done anything she tries to get away with. I’m likely to realize when she’s up to something. As I’ve always said, “You can’t bull***t a bullsh***er.” Forgive the language, but nothing seems to get the point across as well as that does. Has she always been perfect? No, but neither have we. All the little mistakes we make along the way (as teens and as parents) are part of who we are. I have a great relationship with my daughter. We talk. We hang out. We respect each other. Of course, there are times I embarrass her, but isn’t that just part of it?

Over the years, I have embarrassed her at least a million times. I’ve even written a piece before about the countless ways I embarrassed her on a trip to Boston a few years ago. I’ve grown accustomed to her sighs and groans when I do something that embarrasses her. Greet people we encounter? She’s embarrassed. Ask too many questions? She’s embarrassed. Wear something she doesn’t like? She’s embarrassed. Seriously, it’s not difficult to embarrass a teenager.

Last Tuesday, my big athletic awards show project finally ended. In normal times, the show is live in the auditorium at the school. Seniors and state championship teams are honored. Parents are in attendance. All those folks are shoved into the auditorium, shoulder-to-shoulder, but this year, we couldn’t do it that way. In fact, we had to come up with a “hybrid” plan to present to the administration. In the end, we pre-recorded the show and had a “screening party” for the seniors on the football field…with a gigantic, inflatable screen…drive-in movie style. Only seniors, coaches, and the parents of seniors were allowed to attend. Sadly, I think some people were upset they couldn’t go, but we couldn’t do more than was approved by the administrative team. However, anyone else who wanted to watch could simultaneously watch the “broadcast” from home online.

I was at the field for hours the day of the show…getting things ready beforehand, staying for the show, making sure everyone picked up their awards and got photos afterward, cleaning up. l didn’t even look at my phone for hours, but at 11pm, when I got into my car, I checked my phone and saw a text message from my daughter. Apparently, she had been watching the show at home. The text message, which she had sent at 9:38pm, said, “This is really good. I’m proud of you, Mom.” I was exhausted, but that message made it all worth it. Tears welled up in my eyes as I started the car, and before I drove away, I texted her back, “Sweetest message ever. Thank you.”

Who knows when I’ll hear/read those words from her again, but if I never hear/read them again, I will always remember that moment when I saw her text. I had complained and fretted about the preparation for that show, but those words in that text from my teenage daughter made it all worth it.

Be a Good Memory

Be a good memory.

Our daughter had her junior prom last weekend. Yep, even in the pandemic, her school found a way to pull it off. It was outside on one of the athletic fields, but in the pictures, it appears to have been beautiful. Lights were strung tent-style across the field, and a live band played in an area overlooking the field. The prom-goers all wore sneakers, and from what I’ve heard, everyone was pretty happy to be together at a real event.

If you have a teenager, you know they do things a little differently than we did back in the 1980s. Now, the girls gather at one place to get dressed together. And then they gather with their dates at a photo location…sometimes a park, country club, or someone’s really beautiful yard. Parents gather to take photos, and then the prom-goers go to dinner somewhere before going to the actual prom. In truth, the actual prom seems to be the least exciting part of the evening. That’s not a slam on our school. I hear it from kids everywhere…all over the country. They say the prom is the reason for getting dressed up, but the fun part is the before and after.

Because, yes…there’s an “after.”

This year, some of our daughter’s friends and their dates came to our house after prom to hang out in the game room together. When I told my husband we would be hosting, he was not a happy man. He is a man who likes his routine, and that includes going to bed before midnight. He actually said to me, “They’ll be gone before midnight, right?” Ummm…no. I had to explain to him that, no, on prom night, all bets are off on curfew. Again, he was not happy. Clearly, he doesn’t remember his youth as well as I remember mine. I suggested he go to a hotel, and he looked at me like I had fourteen eyes.

Lucky for me, later that day, we saw one of our neighbors, a mother of four. She has three grown children (all out of college, and two of them are married) and a fourteen-yr-old. She has seen it all. And for years, teenagers were in and out of her house at all hours of the day and night. My husband was standing there when I told the neighbor about his apprehension about the party, and she had the perfect response. She said, “We used to host those parties when our kids were in high school, and now I love it when I’m at weddings and baby showers for their friends, and the friends say to me, ‘My best memories from high school were at your house.'” I turned to my husband and said, “See? We want to be a good memory for these kids!”

What could he say to that? It was at that moment that he agreed it was OK to have them over after prom. After some prodding by me, he also decided it would be a good idea for him to check into a local hotel for the night. If he had stayed home, he would have been “in my ear” the whole time, trying to get me to go check on the kids every half hour. I was not going to do that…no way, no how.

Prom night came, and our daughter went over to a friend’s house to get dressed with friends. Later, I rode to the friend’s house with another mom to take pictures of all the prom couples. After getting some pics, we all left, and they had dinner before going to prom. By the time they arrived at our house after prom at around 11pm, I had pizzas, cheesy bread sticks, and desserts waiting for them in the game room. All went well. I cooked breakfast for them in the wee hours of the morning, and I finally got to bed around 4am…but I was happy.

The next day, after everyone left, my husband returned home from the hotel, asking how the night had gone. I told him all about it, and I thanked him for letting the kids come to our house. I thanked him for letting our house “be a good memory” for these kids.

I hope that one day, when I’m attending the weddings and baby showers of these same kids, they will turn to me and say, “Some of our best memories from high school are from your house.”

For the Love of Tres Leches Cake

For the love of Tres Leches cake.

I wish I could remember my first very bite of Tres Leches cake. I can’t. But I remember my last bite of Tres Leches cake, and I look forward to the next one! If you’re not familiar with Tres Leches cake, you should be. It’s also referred to by some people as “milk cake,” because as the Spanish name suggests, it is made with three milks. It’s a sponge cake that is soaked in three kinds of milk: evaporated milk, condensed milk, and heavy cream. Just thinking about it makes my mouth water. It’s popular in Latin America, and I have seen lots of different versions of it. I don’t know if it varies geographically, but I have seen it with cinnamon added to the top, with caramel added to the top, and sometimes, with fruit added. My favorite? Plain old Tres Leches…and give me a good cup of coffee to go with it.

Tres Leches cake is very popular in Mexico, Cuba, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Puerto Rico. If you can find authentic Cuban or Mexican restaurants in your area, you might be able to find Tres Leches cake there. I just got back from a trip to Miami for spring break, and while I was there, I had Tres Leches a couple of times at a couple of different restaurants. I definitely miss that part of Miami! Surprisingly, I have just discovered I can get Tres Leches cake in my local Publix grocery store here in Charlotte! Wanna know the real surprise? It is actually good…really, really good! OK, if you live near a Publix, you know they do almost everything well. I have never been disappointed when I have ordered from their deli or bakery. Why would I be surprised their Tres Leches cake is good?

Publix sells it in a little plastic clamshell container. I could hardly wait to get home with it. When I did, I I had to serve it to myself the way it has been served to me in in Cuban restaurants…I poured the milk mixture around it on the serving plate, just so it could soak up a little more milk.

The first time I ever had Tres Leches served with the milk actually puddled around it was at a Cuban restaurant in West Palm Beach earlier this year. My friend, Linda, has a place in Vero Beach, and when I told her I’d be driving through the West Palm area, she told me I absolutely had to stop at a restaurant on Old Dixie Highway called Havana. She said, “When you step inside, you’ll expect Ricky Ricardo to come walking from around the corner.” (If you’re offended by that, please stop following me. She meant it felt like an authentic Cuban experience.) I loved Desi Arnaz (apparently, a lot of women did), and I appreciate everything about Latin culture, so I was excited. I’ve written before about this restaurant, and I think I said then that the Tres Leches cake there is what dreams are made of. No joke. I might need to go back to West Palm just for that cake…puddled in a sweet, three-milk mixture…and accompanied by a cup of cafe Cubano…that’s Cuban coffee. If you’ve never had that…it’s another experience…frothy azucar and crema (sugar and cream). It was the perfect accompaniment to the best Tres Leches cake I have ever had.

So with my Publix cake, I truly think I improved it by pouring the three milk mixture around it. It made it feel more authentic to me, and it was delicious. I should also mention here that I don’t like cinnamon and caramel on my Tres Leches cake. When we were in Miami last week, I asked a Cuban gentleman about that, and he turned up his nose at it too. Apparently, he thinks cinnamon and caramel have no place in the Tres Leches world. We are on the same page. I was glad to know I wasn’t the only one who doesn’t like that added touch.

I’m sure there are places in Charlotte to find better Tres Leches cake. I just need to get out and search for them. (I’ve included the top five from Yelp in a list below at the bottom of this page.) Till then, I’ll stick with the Publix Tres Leches, and I’ll keep soaking it in the three milks on my own. Give me a call, and you can come over and have some too! I’ll get some coffee ready too, but it won’t be Cubano. I don’t know how to make it.

***If you’d like to visit Havana Restaurant in West Palm Beach, it’s located at 6801 S. Dixie Highway. The takeout window is open 24 hours! Yes, 24 hours! But the dining room opens at 5pm daily. You can check out the menu on their website here.***

Yelp’s Top Five Tres Leches Cakes in Charlotte:

  1. Manolo’s Bakery, 4405 Central Avenue, Suite O
  2. Suarez Bakery, 4245 Park Road
  3. Suarez Bakery and Barra, 1115 N Brevard St in Optimist Hall
  4. La Poblanita Mexican Restaurant and Candy Store, 1925 Westinghouse Blvd
  5. Odalys Bakery, 6407 South Blvd