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.

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!

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.

A Mother’s Work is Never Done…

A mother’s work is never done.

This week started out so great. I took my “sweet escape” with my friend to Miami for dinner at Nobu, and we had the best time! The day after we returned from that fun adventure, I took my daughter on a college visit. We have done a few, and she didn’t really want to do anymore, but I told her we were going, because some people had gone to a lot of trouble to schedule this tour, and we had a great time. We flew home Thursday night, feeling good about everything we had seen. College visits are one of the great things about motherhood. I love them. I’ve been doing unofficial college visits with our daughter every time we were near a university or college over the years, and we have done a few official visits. This was the last official college visit I plan to make as the parent of a prospective student. We are enjoying the college admissions process, but we are happy to have all the official visits under our belts. We came home on a high.

And then, Friday morning, things took a bad turn…

My daughter went to school in her cute little cheerleader uniform, excited about the Friday night football game. She left home at about 7:30am, and at exactly 9:30am, I received a text from her, saying she wasn’t feeling well. She was experiencing nausea. I responded, “Go see the school nurse.” Our daughter had lots of fun plans for the weekend, and I knew she wanted to tough it out, but when she called me a little while later, I knew she needed to come home. She had been to see the nurse and gotten some Tums, but she was feeling worse. I instructed her to go to the nurse and tell her she needed to come home.

She fought the good fight, but she was home at about 11:00am, and she went straight upstairs to her bed. And soon thereafter, the real nausea kicked in. Thank God she made it home before that started happening! It was a loooong day, to say the least. I didn’t know if she had a stomach bug or food poisoning, but either way, it was a long day. It’s hard to be sick, but it might be harder to see your own child sick like that. I did everything I knew to do…encouraged her to sip Gatorade, wiped her face and neck with a damp washcloth, rubbed her feet, prayed with her, stayed with her, encouraged her to try to sleep it off. We finally called the doctor, who prescribed some anti-nausea meds, and after taking them, she fell asleep till the next morning (yesterday). I was so thankful she wasn’t “hugging the porcelain throne” anymore. She was on the road to recovery, but I made her stay in bed most of the day yesterday. Her body had to be exhausted. I was pretty tired too, after staying up most of the night with her, which I was glad to do, because she is my baby, after all. A mother’s work is never done.

All day yesterday, my husband and I watched college football. My team won…barely…but a W is a W. We watched other games and relaxed all day. Our daughter crawled into bed with us last night and watched a game before retiring to her own bed for the night. I slept really well after being up most of the night before.

And then…

This morning, at about 6:30, I heard my husband jump up and run to the bathroom. The stomach bug had struck again. Man…the hits just keep on coming! We have managed to get his nausea under control somewhat, and again, I’ve worked hard keeping his drinks fresh, keeping a damp washcloth handy, rubbing his feet, and encouraging him to try to sleep it off, but now that I know how contagious this particular virus is, I’m not getting anywhere near his face. I’ve been washing my hands so much for the past three days that they’re starting to crack! I ran the dishwasher on extra hot this afternoon, and I’ve washed all the towels and washcloths in hot water. I’ll be moving them to the dryer soon…on high heat. These germs must die!

Our daughter went out for a little while this afternoon, but she wasn’t gone long. She called me and said she was on her way home. When she arrived, I met her at the door with a fresh cup of Gatorade and helped her get upstairs to her room. She is simply exhausted. I went to the nearby 7-11 and got her a Coca-Cola Slurpee. There’s just something about a Slurpee (or an Icee) that makes us feel better; she has believed since she was a little girl that Slurpees/Icees cure all ills. When she was a little girl and not feeling well, she would ask, “Will you go get me an Icee/Slurpee?” I dashed out and got her one every time. A mother’s work is never done.

I’m praying the husband starts to feel better in the next couple of hours. And I’m also praying I don’t catch this bug. Oh, it’s terrible. I’m even eating bland foods, just in case…grits have been the staple of my diet today. There’s very little I hate more than a stomach virus.

I’ll be sleeping in the guest room tonight, in hopes that I can bypass it! Yes, I slept in the bed with my husband last night, but I have a pretty strong fan on my side of the bed, and I hope it was blowing all his germs in the other direction. We shall see!

One thing I know for sure: when our house is rid of this horrible bug, I’ll need another “sweet escape.”

Friday Night Lights

Friday Night Lights…Not an original title, obviously. Chances are, you know I’m talking about high school football. More specifically…high school football in Charlotte, North Carolina. Not exactly what I consider a hot bed of football. North Carolina is more of a basketball state. But we sure had fun at a high school football game in North Carolina last night.

It was the first home football game of the season. Growing up in Alabama, I always loved the first home football game of the season at our high school. Total excitement and anticipation. I vividly remember the big win our high school team had in the first game of my senior year. I was a cheerleader, and we had cheered through two miserable seasons in the previous years, but that first big win of my senior year was foreshadowing of a great season to come. Our team ended up playing well into the playoffs…up to the semifinals…before losing to the eventual state champion team. Last night, it felt much the same at our daughter’s high school. After last year, when fans were not allowed to attend the few games we had, this was a welcome change! It was a fun excuse to get out on a lovely Friday night and celebrate something together…namely, a big win for our high school team. I like to think we were celebrating the win, but we were also celebrating the opportunity to be together. Whole families came out to the stadium for some good, old-fashioned fun on a Friday night, and it was electric!

Our daughter is a senior at an independent school. She started school there when she was four years old, entering at transitional kindergarten, a kindergarten readiness program. She has grown up there. And this year, her senior year, is the first year she has been a cheerleader for football. She played varsity field hockey for the first three years of high school, but opted for a change this fall. She has been a basketball cheerleader for two years, so she wanted to try cheering for football…this is her first experience cheering for football…and she is loving every minute of it. The team started the season with two away games, so the girls were looking forward to the opportunity to lead a home crowd in cheering for the team. And last night, they did a great job.

The football team did a great job, ultimately winning by a large margin. I’d be lying if I said I knew the exact score, but I know we won by a lot. There were some exciting plays for both teams…long passes, big tackles, turnovers, big runs. I love football in almost any form, and our team did not disappoint. The concession stand crew was working hard, just like they used to do pre-COVID. The pep band showed up in full force. The dance team put on a heck of a halftime show. And we all cheered our team on to victory. The elementary-aged students were happy to be together in the stands. The families were thrilled to catch up. It was exciting to hear the familiar voice of our announcer on the loudspeaker. It was awesome to feel “normal” again.

Many of the students in the crowd and on the field have grown up with our daughter. I was talking with her transitional kindergarten teacher in the stands, and we reminisced about the time…way back in 2009…when a little boy in the class broke his shoulder blade at the end-of-year class party. At 6 feet tall, that little boy is no longer a little boy. The broken shoulder blade healed quickly, and he is a now a handsome young man on the varsity football team. Many of those TK students are still at the school…graduating with my daughter in May. The two other senior cheerleaders started in kindergarten with our daughter in 2009. Almost all the senior football players have been at the school since kindergarten…all except one, a young man who entered the school in ninth grade and quickly endeared himself to his classmates. He’s a superstar on the field and in the classroom.

As it turns out, Friday Night Lights can be fun no matter where you are…Alabama, Western Pennsylvania, Texas, West Virginia, or even North Carolina. FNL looks much the same in Charlotte in 2021 as it did in Alabama in 1985. I’m just glad it doesn’t look like it looked in 2020!

Cooking For The Family

Cooking for the family.

We have a small family…my husband, our daughter, and myself…that’s it. Yet it seems we are always going in different directions. I’m fine with that, because that means we are all still out there enjoying life. We regularly sit down together for meals, but more often than not, they’re not homecooked meals.

Go ahead. I hear it now…tsk, tsk.

I used to cook regularly, but something changed at our house. As our daughter got older, she became more picky (at least it seems that way), and my husband, well, let’s just say he doesn’t eat what I cook. It’s not that I’m a bad cook. It’s that his eating habits are different than most. And that’s OK, but I’m not preparing meals that way. If I did, I’d be preparing the same thing day after day, because that’s how he eats. Again, that’s OK, but I eat like a normal person. I eat a variety of foods. In fact, aside from organ meat, mollusks, and ocean bottom feeders, there’s very little I won’t try, and there’s very little I won’t eat. I am always trying to think of things my daughter and I will both enjoy…and I think I’m on to something.

Recently, as I browsed the produce section of the chain grocery store nearest my house, I came across something I’d never seen before, Steam It! Potatoes from Nature’s Way Farms. Yes, there’s an exclamation point there on purpose, because that’s how it appears on the front of the bag. They offer different types of potatoes you can steam in the bag in your microwave. They don’t even have to be refrigerated, so they can be stored in the pantry instead of taking up valuable refrigerator or freezer space! You can see the website for Nature’s Way Farms here.

Yesterday, I cooked a Mississippi Pot Roast in the Crockpot. If you’ve never had Mississippi Pot Roast, I highly recommend it. It’s an easy family meal that is delicious. You can see the recipe here. I know some people who add carrots and tomatoes directly to the slow cooker with their roast, but I don’t like to do that. I don’t want my potatoes to taste like meat, and I don’t want my roast to taste like potatoes. So, at mealtime, my husband had whatever he is eating this month, and I stuck the bag of red potatoes in the microwave for eight minutes and served them up with the roast for me and our daughter.

In truth, I was expecting the potatoes to be rubbery and tough, like so many things are when cooked in the microwave, but I was pleasantly surprised! They were delicious! And they were perfect with the roast, even though I think our daughter ate more of the potatoes than the roast…I’m just happy she ate something! In fact, they were so good that I could likely make a meal out of a bag of the potatoes sometime. Maybe take them out of the microwave and cut them all up, adding bacon bits, cheese, butter, maybe even some broccoli and sour cream. It would make a great meal, and it would seem like I had put forth a little effort!

I’ve already gone back to the store to purchase more of the potatoes, and this time, I got some of their steam-in-bag sweet potatoes too! I have never met a potato I didn’t like, so I’m thrilled to have found these gems! And I’m encouraging everyone I know to purchase them, so they will keep selling them in our local grocery stores!

If you’re wondering what’s for dinner at my house tonight, I don’t know what the entree will be yet, but I feel pretty sure one of the sides will be Steam It! Potatoes. Here’s a picture:

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)!

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.