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?

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.

Retreat

Retreat. It’s a word I never want to hear unless someone is telling me to run from a bear, as in, “Retreat! There’s a bear!” Chances are I will never hear that, since I never put myself in a place where bears are…but that’s a story for another day. Today, I’m talking about retreats.

Years ago, a friend invited me to join her on a “ladies retreat.” I’m sure I asked her to repeat the question, because I couldn’t have heard her correctly. I was thinking, “Clearly, she doesn’t know me well. If she did, she would know I think the very idea of a ladies retreat sounds like Hell on earth.” No joke. Very little sounds worse to me than women going up to some little camp in the mountains, sitting around talking about their feelings. Yuck. I don’t mean to be offensive. I know some people love that stuff. I’m just not one of them. The last thing I want to do is be holed up somewhere with a random bunch of women. Don’t get me wrong. I love my friends, but I’m picky about how I spend my time. My time is valuable, y’all, so I’m choosy about who I spend it with. The older I get, the pickier I am. I barely have enough time to spend with my real friends. I’d much rather pick some fun stuff to do with them than go on some “ladies retreat.” It’s just who I am. No excuses.

For years, I’ve believed “retreat” is just another word for “mandatory, forced fun,” which doesn’t sound like fun at all. I hear about people going on work retreats, church retreats (***those were actually fun when I was a teenager and they were co-ed***), ladies retreats, and my personal favorite…a retreat for students at school. Nothing says “mandatory, forced fun” more than a school retreat.

Our daughter is starting her senior year in high school. She has endured more than a few school retreats. And when I say “endured,” I mean it. I’m not talking bad about the school. I’m just saying she has her mama’s genes…she hates the idea of “retreats,” too. We also hate the word “mandatory,” and it seems that’s always attached to a school retreat. I wish I could remember which grade was which retreat. One year, they went to a YMCA camp. Maybe 5th grade? I don’t remember, but I do remember that I volunteered to chaperone overnight, which meant I got to sleep on one of those horrible plastic-wrapped, thin, noisy camp mattresses in a cabin with a bunch of girls. It was not fun. It was fun spending time with the girls, but the sleep quality was nothing short of miserable. One girl in the bunk next to mine tossed and turned and tossed and turned, and because of the awful plastic mattress, I heard every toss and every turn. Eventually, I whispered, “Is there a problem?” No answer, but the tossing and turning stopped. Soon thereafter, I fell asleep, but every time someone moved, I awoke in a panic, because I thought someone was falling out of a top bunk. Fortunately, that didn’t happen. But one night was enough for me. It was enough for my daughter too. The next morning, she begged me to take her home with me, but she had to stay for more activities. Poor kid. I felt terrible for her, because I wouldn’t have wanted to be there either.

Because I went on that trip, I never had to do another one. I was off the hook, but our daughter wasn’t. She’s like me…she loves not camping. And that’s OK! Give me a nice hotel with room service any day of the week, but please don’t ever ask me to sleep in a cabin, a tent, or an RV. We simply aren’t those people. The next year, when the “retreat” rolled around, she was begging me not to make her go. We were sitting in her bed two nights before. She was already dreading it. I was explaining that she had to go. You know…”it might be fun!” I knew she didn’t want to sleep in a cabin. And while we were talking, I noticed a nasty-looking bump/wound on her knee. When I said, “That looks like a staph infection to me! You might not have to go if it’s a staph infection,” she couldn’t believe her good luck! I circled it with a Sharpie, to see if the redness grew overnight. I’m sure she prayed for it to be a staph infection that night. The next morning, the redness had expanded outside the Sharpie circle, so I took her to the doctor, and the doctor confirmed it: staph infection. She prescribed an oral antibiotic and ordered her to stay home from the retreat. Success! Who knew she’d be so happy to have a staph infection?!?

There was another retreat the next year, and maybe the next year. I have trouble keeping up with all the mandatory, forced fun. And then today, she had her senior mandatory, forced fun…a day trip (in the rain) to a local camp, where they had a book talk about their mandatory (ugh) summer reading (for over an hour!) before having lunch (she ate Oreos) and swimming in a “lake.” I should also note here that we don’t do warm, brown water, as in lake water. On the rare occasion, I have had to get in a warm lake, but generally speaking, it’s not my thing. I don’t mind it up north, where the lakes are cold, but in the south, the brown water just feels like it’s teeming with bacteria and snakes…lots of snakes. No, thank you. (No offense to the lake lovers of the world. It’s just not my thing.) As I’ve heard before, “I’m outdoorsy in that I like having cocktails on the patio.” That’s a joke, of course; I like outdoor activities…just not in warm brown water.

Today, she rode the bus to and from the “retreat” with her classmates and tolerated the mandatory, forced fun. They rode home on a hot bus filled with seniors. I did the math. Statistically, at least a few of them must have COVID. There were 140 kids on buses. (Yes, the plural of “bus” is “buses.” “Busses” would be kisses. If you doubt me, click here.) Praying there isn’t a giant outbreak from the mandatory, forced fun.

The good news? The “retreat” is over. Thank you, Lord. And now we proceed with her final year of high school.

So, if you ever plan a “ladies retreat,” please don’t invite me. It won’t hurt my feelings.

Obsessed with Charcuterie

Obsessed with charcuterie.

A friend and her husband came over for cocktails on our patio last week. I told her beforehand that I was going to make us a special summer cocktail, and she said she would bring a charcuterie board. I told her it wasn’t necessary, but secretly, I was excited about it!

I’ll get the cocktail information out of the way first, because I know you’re wondering. Back in March, I traveled to Miami with my teenage daughter and some of her friends for Spring Break. A friend of mine met us there with her daughter, and a good time was had by all. On the last night of vacation, we dined at a restaurant called Ocean Grill at The Setai. The atmosphere was lovely at this beachside restaurant, and when I looked at the drink menu, I was thrilled to see a Frozen Bellini. Of course, I ordered it, and it was fantastic. I remembered that when I was thinking of cocktail recipes, and I looked it up. I found the recipe at orwhateveryoudo.com. You can see it here. I went exactly by the recipe, but when I served them, I added a little more ginger ale when I added the prosecco…just to sweeten it a bit more. And they were almost as good as the ones at Ocean Grill.

So my friend and her husband arrived with a giant charcuterie board in tow! I couldn’t believe it when she walked in! She had made a lovely arrangement of cheeses, meats, crackers, fruit, and chocolate. Wow! I couldn’t dig in fast enough! We sat out by the pool, enjoying our Frozen Bellinis and the charcuterie board (and watching the parade of coyotes!).

And as usual, I became obsessed.

My friend told me Crate & Barrel has a large assortment of charcuterie boards, but I didn’t have time to go there last week, so I ordered one from Amazon. To see the one I ordered, click here. While I waited for it to arrive, I went grocery shopping. My friend said she gets great ingredients at Trader Joe’s, which is just around the corner from my house, but I can’t bring myself to go, because the parking is so bad, so I went to another local grocery store that has plenty of parking. I wandered around the store looking for the perfect ingredients…cheeses, crackers, bread, nuts, meats, fruits, olives, and chocolate.

As usual, my life should be a sitcom, because here’s what happened: I got home with all the groceries and put them away. My husband and I decided to go for a walk. We often go for walks in the evenings…usually just two miles, but it’s something we enjoy. We got about a half mile from our house when one of her friends drove up. I asked, “What are you doing here?” And she told us she was on her way to our house. What?!?! Apparently, our daughter was still out with other friends but told her friend she could go on to our house. No big deal, but we cut our walk short, got into the car with her, and went back home. It was then she told us two more friends were on their way. We love having our daughter’s friends over, so that was absolutely fine with us.

The other two friends arrived and promptly announced they were hungry. One asked, “Do you have any pepperoni and cheese?” They know I usually keep that as an easy snack, so I got out some of the pepperoni and cheese I had purchased for my soon-to-be-made charcuterie board. Another one opened the pantry and grabbed the nuts and crackers. The third girl? She grabbed the prosciutto and mozzarella I had purchased. My husband, knowing I had just purchased everything for the board, just looked at me and laughed. The pepperoni supply was completely depleted, and the cheese? Well, there wasn’t enough left to work with.

I didn’t even get to make my planned charcuterie board, but I was thrilled the girls enjoyed everything I had purchased. There’s nothing I love more than having my daughter’s friends over. Young energy is a good thing. I remember when my own mother loved seeing my friends arrive at our house. Even when my friend, Angela, came over to her house when we were both 50, my mother thought the laughter we shared was the greatest sound ever. Since our daughter is a teenager, I totally get it now.

I’m still totally obsessed with making charcuterie boards. I will make another trip to the grocery store later today. I know my daughter will have friends over at some point this week, and I will be prepared with a beautiful charcuterie board. It will have all those same ingredients I know they love, and hopefully, they will devour everything.

I will stand back and smile while trying to think of new ingredients for the next charcuterie board.

The Best Part of Weekends

The best part of weekends.

Weekends take on different meaning throughout life. I remember when I was a little girl, weekends meant going to the “candy store” on Saturday morning with Daddy after watching cartoons. As a kid, weekend nights didn’t mean much, except I might have slept over at a neighborhood friend’s house. We might have stayed up to watch Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show on a Friday night…and maybe even The Midnight Special with Wolfman Jack. When we were elementary age, my parents would drop us off at the movies on Saturday nights. They went out for date night while we watched a double feature.

As a teenager, weekend nights meant high school football games or basketball games, school dances, movie dates, or just hanging out with friends…maybe staying out till midnight at a party.

College weekends were all about the parties and sporting events…staying out till all hours. Good times.

As a parent, when my daughter was a baby, weekend nights were no different than any other night. We knew we would be up early the next morning, because our daughter woke up early. As she became a toddler, we might get a babysitter and go out to dinner with friends, but the greatest thing about weekend nights was knowing we could sleep in (a little) the next day.

As she got a little older…elementary and middle school age…she developed her own social life and had things to do on weekends. We became her own private Uber, and we were OK with that. We enjoyed taking her where she needed to go and where she wanted to go.

And then she got her driver’s license. She doesn’t need us to drive her around anymore. She goes out with friends on weekends. They go to parties. They go to sporting events. They will go to concerts now that live music is starting up again. They just go. They have a lot of fun. And when the night is over, she and her friends often have group sleepovers. Sometimes, six or eight of them will sleep at our house. And we are thrilled to have them.

The best part of Friday and Saturday nights these days is seeing all those teenage girls piling into our house after a fun night. They are always hungry when they arrive. Sometimes I order pizza, but the most fun is cooking breakfast when they come in. Last night, I had a total of six girls here, so as soon as they arrived, I asked, “Who wants breakfast?” All of them were hungry, so I scrambled a dozen eggs, cooked bacon, and made enough toast for all of them. One girl wanted grits, which was fine (I love grits too), but I told her they would have to be instant grits. I wasn’t going to cook real grits while I was trying to get everything else ready. She was fine with instant grits.

And while I cooked, they sat around the kitchen table, laughing and talking. They showed each other TikToks and talked about old times, and they laughed about things that had happened during their evening out.

I worked like a short-order cook and listened to their silly stories and their funny giggles. They asked me questions about when I was a teenager, and I told them funny things that happened. They love hearing about the 80s almost as much as I love listening to them all sit around laughing together.

I love that they are making fun teen memories, and I hope late night breakfasts at our house will be locked into their long-term memories.

Soon…in just one year…they will all be off to college. They won’t be in Charlotte on weekends anymore. My weekends won’t be filled with teenage laughter anymore. Of course, there might be weekends when some of them are in town at the same time. On those weekends, I sure hope they will have a group sleepover and let me cook them breakfast in the middle of the night while they sit around laughing.

But until then, I’m going to savor every weekend night they are here. I will continue to cook late-night breakfast for them, and I will enjoy the laughter. It’s the best part of the weekends.

Target Saved Me

Target saved me.

Almost 18 years ago, I had a baby. I was completely clueless. I had never taken care of a baby. I had never spent much time around babies. And somehow, I got the baby who didn’t require much sleep. Our pediatrician assured me I wasn’t doing anything wrong…I just got a baby who didn’t sleep. God does have a sense of humor. I love my sleep. He knows that. But He found a way to make me learn to live without sleep. The joke was on me!

Staying home all day with a baby who doesn’t sleep makes for a long day. When she was several months old, after the worst of the flu season had passed, I made a real effort to find places I could go with the baby…places I could waste lots of time. The best place I found? Target.

Yes, way back in 2004, Target saved me. I found I could put my baby in the stroller and spend hours in Target. She was happy, and I was happy. She was seeing new faces, and I wasn’t stuck at home. It was what I referred to as the “Target effect.”

The “Target effect” kept us going for a long time. I could take the baby there in the morning and spend time outdoors in the afternoon. Or if it was raining, we might put in extra time in Target. As our daughter grew older, Target entertained in different ways. We could have snacks (with Icees!) in the snack bar. We could wander through the toy aisles. So much fun in one place! It was especially awesome in winter! In fact, even after she started school, we would go to Target most afternoons after I picked her up , and we would get Icees and popcorn. It was a great opportunity to do a “post game wrap up” of her day.

As she got older, we added other places to our go-to list. Carowinds, a local amusement park, became our favorite place in summer. We got season passes, and I could push her around in the stroller for a few hours a day…with her climbing out to watch live shows or ride rides or play games. We would have lunch in the park and work up a good sweat. Good times! In fact, she would be heartbroken when the park closed at the end of the summer (and secretly, I would be heartbroken too).

Sports Connection, a local place with video games, bowling, inflatable trampolines, and a snack bar, became a favorite when she was elementary school age. I could relax in the snack bar and watch her move around the building with friends. Other places on our list were Gymboree Play and Music, Charlotte Nature Museum, and any splash park or swimming pool in summer.

We were also fortunate to have great friends in a very active “playgroup.” Originally, we met once a week, but as the kids got into toddlerhood and elementary age, we met almost every day we were in town during summer months.

I should probably write a thank you note to Target and all those other places for saving my sanity during those early years. But I owe a really big thank you to the lifelong friends I made along the way. I don’t know how we would have managed without our awesome playgroup. It was made up of moms from all over the country. We were from different backgrounds, religions, and political beliefs, but we developed incredible friendships that are still alive and well today.

Now that our daughter is entering her senior year of high school, I feel sure I will be calling on those friends to keep me sane again! Too bad our favorite Target got rid of the in-house snack bar. We could have survived our kids’ senior year together by having Icees together right there.

Quality Time with Your Teenage Daughter

Want to spend time with your teenage daughter?

Yesterday, my 17-year-old daughter texted me from a friend’s house, “Can we go to Ulta later?” I responded soon thereafter with, “Anytime today is fine with me. Just let me know.” I didn’t want my response to sound too excited, but I was.

I had been waiting for this day for quite some time. Our daughter started driving in 2019, and if you have a teenager who drives, you know that once they start driving, quality time together can be hard to come by. But I had an ace up my sleeve…my Ultamate Rewards points. I’ve been reminding her for a few months that I have lots of points, but she has to go with me to cash them in, because I have to show ID to use them. I’ve used my points before, but this time, they accumulated over a greater amount of time, and I had more points than ever.

I’m big on rewards systems. I have a credit card that gives me great points for purchases, and I love to combine that with other rewards, so I’m getting points in two places with every purchase! I signed up for Ulta Rewards a few years ago. I shop there anyway, so I might as well get points for shopping I would do anyway. If you’re not familiar with Ulta, it’s a store that sells cosmetics, skincare, and haircare products, and the stores near me also have in-house salons. When you shop and give them the information for your Rewards account at checkout, you get points. The base level is one point per dollar spent, but once you’ve spent $500 in a calendar year, you become a Platinum level member, and you start accumulating 1.25 points per dollar spent. Spend $1200 in a calendar year, and you reach Diamond level to start earning 1.5 points per dollar spent.

All these points add up to free money (100 points = $3 off, and 2000 points = $125 off)…and it happens more quickly than you would think, if you’re smart when you shop. By “smart,” I mean you should check the Ulta app for special deals…and activate them on your account…every time you shop Ulta. Often, there are brands on which you get two times points, three times points, or even five times points. And in your birthday month, shop Ulta and get 2X points, a free gift, and a $10 coupon. At the highest level, Diamond, you also get a a Diamond Gift (not diamonds, but something else), a $25 services reward, and free shipping on all online purchases over $25.

If you think you’d never reach Platinum or Diamond status, you might surprise yourself. There are lots of items you might be purchasing at other stores that you could be purchasing at Ulta and getting rewards for it. Shampoo? Get it at Ulta. Need a new hairdryer? Get it at Ulta. (I just purchased the Dyson Airwrap Complete System after several friends recommended it, and just that purchase alone would put you into Platinum Status with Ultamate Rewards. You can see the Dyson Airwrap here. It’s very pricey, but my friends assure me it’s worth it.) Need nail polish? Ulta. Need cosmetics? Ulta. (They even carry higher end brands like Laura Mercier and Lancome.) Need perfume or cologne? Ulta. Need skincare products? Ulta. Think about how much you spend on your hair, makeup, and skincare over the course of a year…you could be getting Ultamate Rewards for those purchases. For more info on Ultamate Rewards, click here.

As for the quality time with my teenage daughter, it was great. She met me at the store, where I was waiting outside so we could walk in together. We each grabbed a shopping basket and moved around the store together, separating when necessary, but coming back together to discuss purchases throughout our visit. I asked about concealers, and she asked me about bronzers. We consulted the app to see which items came with free gifts, just in case anything we needed or wanted would get us something extra. We talked. We laughed. I will admit it was more fun to shop for cosmetics when we could sample them in-store, but things still aren’t back to “normal” for that yet. We had fun anyway, and it was an easy way to spend time together. I find my daughter sometimes chats with me more during an activity, and shopping is a good distraction for free-flowing conversation.

At checkout, we got a lot of free cosmetics using my points and even had some points leftover for another visit. We walked out to our cars together and stood in the parking lot talking for a while before leaving. I know it sounds silly, but it really was quality time. If you have a teenager daughter who drives, you get it. We have family meals together, but sometimes we need mother/daughter time.

Thanks, Ulta, for the quality time with my daughter (and the free stuff too)!

The High School “Lasts” Have Begun

The high school “lasts” have begun.

Our daughter is finishing up her junior year in high school. As any mother knows, life with kids is full of “firsts” and “lasts.” It starts with first smiles, first teeth, first words and goes on to first time riding a bike, first day of school…on and on.

At some point, though, we start having “lasts.” Often, we don’t even realize we have had a “last” till well after the fact. There’s the last time you had to actually feed your child, the last time you tied their shoes, the last time you helped them bathe, the last time you brushed their hair, the last time you read a book aloud together…the list continues to grow. A big one for me is the last time I actually carried my child. Fortunately, when our daughter was five or six, I had a friend who told me she always picked up or carried her daughter if she asked (same age), because one day she wouldn’t want her to. Based on that, I carried our daughter or picked her up any time she asked. Eleven years old and she wants me to carry her on my back through an amusement park? You bet! Unfortunately, I didn’t realize when the last time I carried her was actually the last time, but because I had always gladly carried her, it wasn’t painful when I realized she didn’t ask anymore. Honestly, if she asked me to carry her on my back today, I would…and she is 17.

My friend, Linda, told me years ago, when her son was in high school, that she totally didn’t realize it was the last time she would drive her son to school when it was the last time. He got his driver’s license one day, and he was off to school alone the next morning. She said to her husband, “But wait! I didn’t realize that was the last time I would drive him!” It really bothered her. She is long past it now. Her son is in graduate school in Scotland, so she has had lots of “lasts” that were bigger than that.

The “lasts” add up over time: the last day of preschool/elementary/middle school, the last time I actually drove her to school, the last time I actually had to drive her anywhere, and more.

I’m thinking about this, because today, I paid tuition to her independent school for the last time…for her senior year of high school, which will start in August. I’ve been paying yearly tuition since 2008. As soon as I hit the “send” button on the bank draft, I sat back and thought, “that was the last time I’ll do that.” Sure, I will be paying tuition of a different kind, for college, soon enough, but I just paid tuition for my daughter’s 14th year at her present school (she started with transitional kindergarten before kindergarten), and it felt weird to know I will never do it again.

My husband and I talk about “lasts” often, since our daughter is entering her senior year in fall and will be off to college before we can blink. There will be last sports games, last volunteer opportunities at school, and there will even be some people we will likely never encounter again after she graduates.

We sit on the patio with cocktails some evenings talking about how different it’s going to be when she departs for college in just over a year. And we try to enjoy the moments we have with her. Often when she gets home from sporting events or hanging with friends, she will come sit outside with us…it’s valuable, meaningful time for us…and one day there will be a “last” for that too. I hope we will recognize the “lasts” as they occur, like I recognized the last tuition payment today, but I’m sure there will be some that just pass right by without my realizing it. I won’t be able to get a photo to save as a memory of every “last,” but I hope I will remember to get some. I’ll try to get a photo of her last first day of school at her present school. I’ll try to get photos of her last sports games, last time she drives to high school…anything I can think of.

She’ll be flying the coop before we know it. While we are excited for what lies ahead of her (and us), we want to make sure we remember these days. We want her to get out and spread her wings wherever she chooses to go to college (tuition payments to a different place) and live her best life. We just want to enjoy every moment she shares with us.

Now that I’m feeling sentimental, I wonder if I should get a screenshot of that last tuition payment?!

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.