College Fall Break

College fall break.

This morning, I walked into a local breakfast place and literally ran into a girl my daughter went to high school with. I was surprised to see her, because she is supposed to be in college hundreds of miles away. I’m sure I audibly gasped before giving her a big hug. She quickly explained that she is home for fall break and asked, “When is Milly’s fall break?” I replied, “She doesn’t get one.” Her eyes widened and she asked, “What? I thought everyone did!” Well, my daughter doesn’t.

When we moved her into college, I knew she wouldn’t get a fall break. I had already looked ahead at the academic calendar for fall, and I realized that while she doesn’t get a fall break, she does get a full week for Thanksgiving, which I think is ideal. I thought nothing of it. Why does anyone need a fall break, anyway? It never occurred to me that she might need it! Did we have those extra days off when I was in college? I don’t remember.

But she does need a fall break.

As it turns out, it’s midterm exam season, and she is worn out. She was sick with the flu last week. She is ready to come home and sleep in her own bed for a few days, but she doesn’t have a fall break. I’m going down to the football game this weekend, and I thought that might be enough to carry her through to Thanksgiving, but no…she wants to come home for a weekend visit.

So yesterday, I purchased her an airline ticket to come home next weekend. After completing the purchase, I said, “Maybe I should just stay home this weekend, since you’re coming home next weekend?” She said, “No. Please come to the game!” That’s all it took. As soon as I heard those words, I knew I was definitely going. Done! As parents, we know that as our kids get older, every minute with them is valuable, and if she wants some time with me, I’m taking advantage of it. So I’ll be leaving Friday. I’ll return to Charlotte Sunday, and next Friday, I’ll pick her up at the airport in Charlotte. She’s needing some Mama and Daddy time…and that’s OK.

She simply needs a reboot. And she needs to sleep in her own bed. And she needs some of her favorite foods…Mama’s grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup, some roasted veggies, cake batter popcorn (recipe here) and some homemade mashed potatoes…not all at the same time, of course. I’ll be going to the grocery store next Wednesday to make sure we have everything I need to make her favorites. And we will sit outside and have a charcuterie board for dinner Saturday night before she goes out.

I have a friend who has a daughter who is a sophomore at another college, and I vividly remember her telling me that when her daughter was a freshman, she would come home occasionally, and she seemed most excited about sleeping in her own bed. In fact, my friend said her daughter made “snow angels” in her bed the first time she came home from college, saying, “I’m just so happy to be back in my BIG bed!” Those twin beds in college dorm rooms are adequate, but who doesn’t love their own big bed in their own bedroom at home?!? Our daughter has slept in a queen bed in her own room her whole life, so I’m sure she is excited to sleep in her own big bed, with her own blankets and her own sweet dog, who misses her terribly.

So no, she doesn’t get an official fall break. She won’t get an extra two days off to come home, but we will create a fall break for her. She will be home for about 52 hours (the same amount of time I was in labor with her, by the way…don’t ask), and we will try to make it as special as possible. We will try to make her comfortable. We will give her lots of hugs. We will prepare all her favorite foods. And we will just love her. There’s no doubt in my mind that we will be happier than she is that she is home. We are thrilled to have a weekend with her…which will really be just a few hours that we get to see her, but that’s OK. There will be lots of hugs.

And she just called to tell me we will have a bonus! A friend is coming home with her! We will have lots of extra laughs, and I am going to call the friend’s mom right now to find out what her favorite foods are!

They just didn’t want to wait till Thanksgiving. We will welcome them with open arms and help them “reboot” to finish out the weeks till Thanksgiving. Sometimes, college students just need to be loved.

Come home, baby!

College Homecoming

College Homecoming.

Lawn decorations on sorority row. Tailgate tents on the quad. Grills smoking. Families and friends gathering. A parade through campus. Band playing.

All these things contributed to a festive atmosphere when I went to the University of Alabama this past weekend for Homecoming. It had been a long time…10 or 11 years…since I had traveled there for Homecoming, but I was so happy I went this year!

When I was in college, we got dates to every football game, so it was always fun, but the Homecoming game every year was more exciting…more festivities, more excitement, more parties. It never occurred to me then that “Homecoming” was actually a time to welcome back alumni. I just thought of it as the football team was coming back for a home game after an away game. Thinking of “alumni” was just not on my radar. And with good reason…I was young and self-centered, just like most young people.

The fact that Homecoming is really for alumni hit me after I had a child. Taking her to the Homecoming football game in 2011 was the perfect opportunity to showcase my alma mater to her. And as anyone who has ever visited the University of Alabama knows, it is a beautiful place…worthy of showing off. My daughter was just seven years old at the time, but she loved football…not much choice in my family…you either love football, or you’ll be miserable during football season, because watching football is what we do. So when she was seven, my daughter and I went with my friend, Angela, and her daughter, who was nine years old at the time.

I remember we made our way around sorority row soon after arriving. The lawn decorations are impressive every year, and little girls love them, so we made sure ours got to see all of them that day. The lawn decorations are a lot different than when I was in college. Back when I was in school, the lawn decorations were as tall as the house! We had to climb on scaffolding to “pomp” tissue paper into giant chicken wire structures to show our spirit for Homecoming week…outside with music blasting till wee hours of the morning…boys helping us till wee hours of the morning. It was great fun in the 1980s, but now, it seems they do most of the “pomping” indoors, and the much smaller structures are placed on the lawn afterward. No more scaffolding…kind of a shame, because it sure was fun!

That Homecoming in 2011, we walked over to the quad and visited friends who were tailgating. We ate lunch in the alumni tent, and we ran into lots of people we knew from our college days. That is what Homecoming is about…visiting your alma mater to see people and visit with college friends you don’t see on a regular basis.

And this year, we did exactly that…spent time with friends we haven’t spent much time with over the last few years. I even managed to spend a little time with a friend I had not seen in 20+ years…one of the sweetest souls I have ever known. In fact, she is the very friend who told me after a bad breakup in my late 20s, “Just think! You get to fall in love again!” I reminded her of that when I saw her, and I told her how much hope it gave me after that breakup. Now, it’s what I have told my 19-yr-old daughter to say to her friends after they go through bad breakups. Because really…there’s nothing like that “falling in love” feeling.

We ended our Homecoming visit with a little tailgate time with a friend who had folding chairs that rock in her tailgate area. Not gonna lie…it was fun catching up with her, and it was hard to get up from those rocking chairs when it was time to leave! There’s something extra relaxing about a rocking chair…and I could have drifted off to sleep right there. But we needed to get moving, so I had to get up.

We didn’t stay for the game. We were spending the night at Angela’s house in Montgomery, and because we had a 90 minute drive ahead of us, we opted out of the game. We drove home on the winding road from Tuscaloosa to Montgomery, reliving the moments of the day…doing what we call “Post Game Wrapup” of our day. And while we talked about the fun of the day, we reminisced about college too. We had lots of good times at the University of Alabama back in the 1980s. That’s when Angela and I became friends, and we each remember different funny things that happened, so we laughed a lot on the drive.

We barely got to spend any time with our daughters, both of whom are students there. We saw her daughter for about an hour, and literally saw mine for a total of about five minutes! But I was happy…if she’s not clinging to me, she’s happy. I drove back up the next day to spend Sunday night in a hotel, so we had more time to visit. Then o came home Monday night.

It was a successful Homecoming. Yes, the team won the football game, and that’s definitely necessary for a successful Homecoming, but it was mostly successful because we got to see people we care about…people with whom we shared fun experiences in college.

And that’s what Homecoming is about.

Holiday Gift #1 for 2022

Holiday gift #1 for 2022.

Ten weeks until Christmas! I know! Time flies. Ten weeks ago, we had just moved our daughter into her college dorm, and she was fully entrenched in sorority recruitment. And now, in the same amount of time, we will be staring at Christmas Day. There’s a lot to get done before then…including Christmas shopping!

This year, I’m going to do things the way I used to do them; I’m going to get my shopping done by mid-November, if at all possible. And in keeping with that plan, I will share my 2022 gift suggestions starting now, and I will do it a little differently. I’m just going to post as things come to mind. Sure, I might post some as categories of things, but this first gift suggestion is something anyone can use. In fact, I have written about it before, but I’m even more adamant that everyone needs to have this item in their closet, because I love my own so much.

The item in question? Baboon to the Moon brand travel bags!

It has been just a little less than a year since I wrote about them the first time, but after owning one of their bags for over a year, I truly believe everyone needs to own one. Every now and then, I run into people in airports who also own a bag or bags from Baboon to the Moon, and every single person I talk to raves about them. When I was checking in for a flight recently, an American Airlines agent noticed my Baboon to the Moon carry-on bag and told me she has the same bag in a different color and loves it! Mine is a lovely shade of blue, and my daughter has one that is pink…both cute colors. Recently, as I stood waiting for a flight to board, I noticed the guy standing next to me had a Baboon to the Moon bag too, and I asked him how he liked it. He raved about his before noticing I had one too!

What can I tell you to convince you that these bags are must-haves?

The first thing to know is that every bag they make has a lifetime warranty. That’s important information as you go out on a limb to buy something you might not be really familiar with. What else? They are super sturdy, very well-made, and water resistant. And they come in lots of different colors, sizes, and styles.

My personal favorite is the Go Bag Mini (32 liter bag) because it can be a carry-on personal item that fits underneath the seat in front of you on most US carriers. I almost always fly American Airlines, and I have always been able to fit my Go Bag Mini underneath the seat in front of me. As with all Baboon to the Moon bags, it has a a sturdy zipper closure. On this particular bag, the zipper closure is on a flap on one side of the bag, making it easily accessible for the user, but when you’re wearing it as a backpack, it is completely inaccessible to others. It also has handles and straps, so it can be carried at a suitcase, a duffle bag, or a backpack. I prefer to carry mine as a backpack, because it leaves my hands free. Plus, wearing it as a backpack distributes the weight of the bag more evenly. It holds 1-3 days of belongings, but generally speaking, I use it for medications, a change of clothes, a change of shoes, a swimsuit, some PJs, a sweatshirt, and a giant portable charger…plus my crossbody handbag that I slip inside it while traveling.

Other bags they make? Several sizes of Go Bags, Go totes, crossbody bags, fanny packs, and day backpacks plus some packing/organizing bags. I have some of the packing bags, and I’m about to get myself one of their crossbody bags and a day backpack…Santa can deliver them to me at Christmas! My daughter has a Go Bag Mini, but I’m going to get her a Day Backpack for Christmas for our travels. When we are moving around big cities, it’s nice to have everything in a small day bag/backpack for hands free shopping.

And I should mention they offer their bags in some great colors. Right now they have some limited run colors that deserve your attention…neon and “submarine” colors. 40-liter Go Totes start at $149, while the Go Bag pricing starts at $159 for the 32-liter Go Bag Mini. Other Go Bag sizes are the 40-liter Small Go Tote and the 60-liter Big Go Tote, priced at $199 and $229 respectively. The 1.2 liter crossbody sling bag is priced at $40, and the 3-liter fanny pack is $50, while the 8-liter backpack mini is $89, and the 24-liter City Backpack is $119. Personally, I think any of these bags would make great gifts for the people on your holiday shopping list.

The best thing you can do is go take a look at their website here. Take your time, because there are lots of great colors and sizes from which to choose. Your more conservative friends or family members might like the darker, less flashy colors. But there are lots of fun colors for your friends and family members who like fun colors!

Just go ahead and add Baboon to the Moon bags to your holiday shopping list. It’s a great one-stop shop for almost everyone on your list! Keep them in mind at graduation time too! They make great graduation gifts!

***The featured photo is from the Baboon to the Moon website. Anyone who was a teenager or college student in the 80s likely thought it looked like an ad for United Colors of Benetton!***

First College Birthday

First college birthday.

If you’ve ever read me, you know our daughter is a college freshman. She experienced her first college birthday yesterday, when she turned 19. Let’s hope it didn’t set a precedent for college birthdays.

She called me at 7:00 yesterday morning, the morning of her birthday, saying, “I woke up a little while ago and can’t go back to sleep.” She is more of a night owl than an early bird, and 7am is way too early for her to just “be awake.” I knew something was wrong. Because I knew she had been coughing a sniffling a little for a couple of days, I said, “Go get the thermometer out of your cabinet. I feel pretty sure you are running a fever.” Moms know these things. She checked her temperature, and sure enough, I was right…she had a fever of 100.9…a legit fever. I knew she had a COVID test in her supplies too, because I had purchased them along with $700 of other medical supplies before moving her into her dorm, so I said, “Take the test real quick, just to rule it out.” As soon as she had the negative result, I said, “Take some Tylenol and go back to bed.”

Seriously, it’s hard for a college student to be sick in a dorm instead of their own bed at home…especially a freshman, but not gonna lie…it’s hard for the moms too. I wanted to jump in the car or on a plane and get there as quickly as I could. I asked, “You need a mommy hug! Do you want me to come down and get us a hotel room for a few days? I can take care of you!” I explained that since my husband was out of town, it would have to be the next day, because I would need to board the dogs and get things in order, but I could do it. She said, “Absolutely not. I will be fine. I’ll figure it out, Mom.” I guess I did something right as a parent…somewhere, somehow, I taught her to “figure it out.”

She called me a few hours later and said she was feeling better and had gone to her 10:00 class. I knew it was the Tylenol in her system making her feel better, so I explained to her that she was likely to “hit a wall” soon. It was time for the meds to wear off, so I told her what else to take at that point.

It was sad. She had big plans for her birthday. She managed to drag herself to the Big/Little Reveal at her sorority house that evening, but she didn’t feel like going out to celebrate. Fortunately, she has made some great friends since she arrived on campus two months ago, and they went out and brought her a cookie cake to celebrate her birthday. They had all planned to go out to dinner, but that birthday dinner was postponed. And my daughter texted me, declaring her birthday a “do over.”

I’ve had “do over” birthdays, so I get it, and seriously, shouldn’t we all have the right to declare our birthday a do over?!? I think her “do over” has been rescheduled for this coming Saturday night. In reality, that will probably work better for her and all her friends, since it’s a weekend. They won’t have to worry about staying out late, because they don’t have class the next morning.

But last night, she called me after surviving her sick-away-from-home birthday and said, “I’m going to watch a movie and go to bed. What should I take?” I told her to take some NyQuil, and she took it while we were on the phone. Laughing between coughs and sniffles, she said, “I never thought I’d be taking a shot of NyQuil on my birthday.” After taking it, she settled in to watch Sense and Sensibility, a movie I have been trying to get her to watch, because it is one of my favorites of all time. Emma Thompson adapted the screenplay from the Jane Austen novel, and she did a fabulous job…plus, she’s the star. It’s an incredible film. My daughter, I think, is very much like the Marianne character. I want her to watch it to see the similarities and how Marianne changes in the story. I knew she would fall asleep before the first scene was over, because she had taken the NyQuil, but at least she was willing to try to watch it. Maybe I can get her to sit down and watch it tonight without NyQuil. ***You can rent or purchase Sense and Sensibility (the one from 1996) at Amazon Prime here.***

I’m just glad our favorite girl seems to be on the road to recovery. Maybe the illness kept her from getting into some kind of trouble or accident on her birthday? I like to try to find “sliding doors” (a reference to a movie called Sliding Doors, starring Gwyneth Paltrow, and you can also rent this on Amazon Prime here) logic in things, meaning little things that happen to change the timing on things can change the course of life. She’ll celebrate her birthday with friends this weekend, and when I get to town in about ten days, I’ll take her out to dinner with some of her friends…or not, if she’d rather just the two of us hang out.

I think it’s safe to say she will remember her first college birthday…the one that included taking a shot…of NyQuil. She was sick on her fourth birthday too…strep throat…and it made a lasting impression. I took her to a Disney on Ice Show, even though she had strep, because we weren’t going to be around anyone…and she threw up all over herself while we were there. She still talks about it. That one was a “do over” too.

Making memories…somehow those “not so great” birthdays make an impression.

Writing My Way Through Tough Times

Writing my way through tough times.

If we live long enough, we all experience heartache at some time or another. It might be in the form of a breakup, or it might be in the loss of a loved one. I experienced a few breakups as I grew up, just like most everyone else, but my first big, real heartache was when my daddy was diagnosed with and eventually died of pancreatic cancer in 2006.

He was officially diagnosed in February of that year, and he died on October 2 of the same year. Today is the 16th anniversary of his death…a tough day for me, and a reminder of the heartache I managed to survive. I suffered. It was the most painful thing I had ever experienced…losing my daddy. I was the mother of a toddler, but I was afraid I was losing my mind. I made lots of plans, because I thought I needed to stay busy. I ran myself ragged. But I learned.

When my mother fell ill 11 years later, my friend, Angela, who has also lost her father, said, “Get ready. It’s going to be tough when you lose her.” I vividly remember turning to her, saying, “It’s going to be tough, for sure, but I feel like I learned something when Daddy died. I feel like I developed some coping skills.” And after Mother passed, I learned I had, in fact, developed some coping skills. I had learned not to run from it. I had learned from my experience with Daddy’s death that I needed to just drop out of the world for a little while and process it. So that’s what I did after Mother died. I have written about it before. I literally gave myself permission to recover quietly and cancelled all plans and went to bed for a month. Don’t get me wrong. I was functional. But I didn’t feel like being social, so I wasn’t. I did what I needed to do for our daughter, but for the most part, I stayed home. And after a month, I “pulled up my bootstraps” and rejoined the living.

For Christmas that year, I had received a gift from a friend. It was a book called My Future Listography: All I Hope to do in Lists. When I received the gift, I thought it was cool, but when Mother died five days after Christmas, the book took on more meaning. It’s a journal, of sorts, and it’s part of a series of Listography books. Each one contains lists to fill in, and this one is full of lists about the future. Examples of some of the lists: What countries do you want to visit? What films do you want to see? What fictional characters would you like to hang out with? But after Mother died, the book became good therapy for me. Sounds crazy, but it gave me things to think about in the future. It made me see past the state of gloom I was in and look to the future. It really helped me move through the grief. It helped me realize that the act of putting my thoughts out there could help me heal. To order My Future Listography, click here.

And because of that, I started my blog. Writing things down…or typing them, in the case of the blog…was therapeutic! My Future Listography had brought me through the initial trauma of losing my mother, and writing the blog helpted me continue to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Since losing my Mother on December 30, 2017, I have given copies of My Future Listography to lots of friends when they have been going through tough times…breakups, death of a loved one, or even new empty-nesters who are having a hard time. Sometimes, they look at me like it’s a weird gift, and maybe it is…but several times, people have called me later to tell me how much it helped them keep putting one foot in front of the other…keep looking toward the future. We know time helps with heartache, but knowing there is life ahead of the heartache can help too. When someone is in the middle of grief or heartache, they aren’t necessarily thinking about the good things ahead, but this journal can help them see what the future might look like.

I have a friend who went through a terrible breakup two years ago, and I gave her a copy after the relationship ended. There’s something about a relationship ending that can seem particularly dismal. It can feel like everything you believed about someone was wrong…a lie. Later, we realize that’s not always the case; sometimes, there are just extenuating circumstances that cause relationships to end. And as with my friend, sometimes we need to be reminded that there is a bright future ahead. She called me months after the breakup and told me the journal of lists had helped her. Now, I keep a few handy to give as gifts, because you never know when someone you love is going to experience something bad.

Sometimes, we just need a reminder that better things lie ahead.

Teen Wardrobe Controversy

Teen wardrobe controversy.

Recently, one of my favorite psychologists, Lisa Damour, the author of Untangled (see the book on Amazon here), posted something on Facebook about how to address your preteen/teen daughter’s wardrobe choices. And wow! It stirred up some controversy on her Facebook page! I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, because everything seems to stir up controversy these days. Below is what she posted. And you can listen to the relevant podcast here.

Courtesy of Lisa Damour’s Facebook page

If you have ever read anything I have written, you know I am the mother of a teenage daughter. She’s 18 now…almost 19…and a month into her freshman year of college. She has always been a “real” teenager. She likes to have fun. She likes to spend time with friends. She likes to laugh. She likes to go to parties. Somehow, between all the fun, she manages to do the things she is supposed to do too. Thank the Lord.

She’s the perfect daughter for me, but does that mean she’s perfect? No. I’m not the perfect mother or a perfect person, either. But somehow, we survived the middle and high school years. Does that mean we never disagree? Nope. We disagree. When she was younger, we even disagreed occasionally about wardrobe choices. And just like Lisa Damour, I tried to find a way to say things nicely. Was I always successful? No. Sometimes, I probably said things like, “You look like a hoochie mama.” I know. Not kind words, but they got the point across, and chances are, they probably started a “discussion.”

Even when she was four years old, she had a mind of her own. This is not a story of which I am proud, but it happened. One Sunday morning, as we were getting ready to go to church, I said to our daughter, “Pick out which dress you want to wear.” She argued, “I don’t want to wear a dress. Everyone else doesn’t wear dresses to church.” You know what I said next. “Well, I’m not everyone else’s mother, and we wear dresses to church. Now, go into your closet and pick which one you want to wear.” Her dresses were beautifully organized (back then) and hanging in an orderly fashion in her closet. I followed her into the closet, where she promptly and defiantly touched each dress with the tips of her fingers, while saying some things I won’t repeat. ***Here is where I need to tell you my husband had a brain tumor at the time and because of it, lacked judgment on when and where to say things. He had no filter.*** I’m not kidding. I was horrified (I knew where she had heard it), but I also found myself about to laugh. I made a quick decision to ignore the obvious ploy for attention. I turned my back for a moment before turning around and asking her, “Did you pick a dress?” She did, and I never mentioned the offensive language to her, because I didn’t want it to get any attention. I did, however, tell her preschool teacher (at our church!) the next morning when I dropped her off…gave her a heads up that my daughter, my sweet little 4-yr-old daughter, might teach her classmates some new words. Lord, help us.

We didn’t have much wardrobe controversy for several years after that. I had given up on ruffles and bows long before…when she, at 1 1/2 or 2, declared they were “for babies.” I did manage to get her to wear a hair bow for picture day in Transitional Kindergarten, but only because I told her she could take it out immediately after pictures, which she did. In third grade, on picture day, she didn’t want to look prissy. That was a bit of a battle. We finally agreed, much to my dismay, on a blue t-shirt with a sequined pocket. Sadly, it’s the picture that appeared in the school lunchroom on her checkout page every single day when she made a purchase…all the way through senior year…that damned blue shirt with the sequined pocket.

When she got to middle school, I’m sure I had to veto some ensembles, but not likely because they were skimpy…just not appropriate for the occasion, whatever it might have been.

Then along came high school. She got taller, and the clothes got smaller.

The shorts got shorter and tighter. The shirts got tighter and shorter. The heels got higher. It happens. Frankly, I probably would have been more worried about her if it hadn’t happened. And yes, there were times I had to stop her at the door and say, “You’re not wearing that.”

Some people think we shouldn’t expect our girls to be responsible for what other people think of how they dress. I get it, but I’m not one of those people. I think there is a time and place for everything.

When our daughter was in high school, if she wanted to wear short shorts and a crop top or tube top, that was fine…as long as she is just hanging out with her friends. She didn’t need to walk into better retail establishments dressed like that. She didn’t need to go out to dinner dressed like that. She didn’t need to meet parents of dates dressed like that. It’s simply not appropriate, and I don’t think it gives off the impression she wants to give in those situations.

She’s in college now, so I only get pictures after the fact. I have no say-so. I have no opportunity to nix an outfit choice, but so far, I’ve been pleased with the photos she has sent me. Generally speaking, she knows what is appropriate and what is not.

Come on. Let’s face it. What we wear does say something about us. Every time I get dressed to go somewhere, I am very aware of what I look like. Sometimes, I am dressed like a casual mom, and I know it. Sounds silly, but jeans and a gingham shirt are not going to a fine dining establishment. A comfy, cotton dress? That’s not going either. Sneakers? Nope. I can wear all of those to the grocery store, a sporting event, or for running erands, but if I’m going to a fine dining establishment, I want to dress like I know what I’m doing.

Even when I go to the doctor, I tend to try to dress up a little. It’s about respect, right? I don’t have to be a beauty queen, but don’t we all know people get treated with a little more respect when we look like we have made some effort to look our best? I can’t speak for everyone, but if I look good, I feel good. It’s just the way I roll. If I’m dressed sloppily, I tend to feel sloppy.

So yes, I have been known to stop my daughter from walking out the door dressed in certain ways…when she was younger. Don’t get me wrong…I’m pretty easy going. But if her date’s parents are coming over or picking her up for dinner, she needs to look like she wants their respect. I think this is what school dress codes are all about…teaching kids how to dress appropriately, but most schools don’t seem to care anymore. Later, when our daughter goes for a job interview, she needs to look like she has some self respect.

If you don’t respect yourself, how do you expect others to respect you?!?

If you don’t respect yourself, how do you expect others to respect you? That’s my message to her. Fortunately, this is not a conversation we have had much in the past couple of years…mostly when she was a young teen.

So yes, I agreed with Lisa Damour’s post. Not everyone did, and that’s OK. We all have our own opinions, and that’s what makes the world go ’round.

I’m Such a Smart Empty-Nester

I’m such a smart empty-nester!

Want me to tell you how much I know about empty nesting? Here’s how smart I am: I know absolutely nothing…nada…diddly. But the fact that I realize I know nothing about it makes me absolutely brilliant.

Remember when your kids were toddlers? You had survived the whole newborn and infancy thing, and so you felt pretty confident going into toddlerhood? And then, BAM…your kid knocked you right back into reality with a tantrum…or climbing up the stairs on the outside of the rail (it happened)…or pushed another kid down…or hurled a plate of food across the room.

Well, empty-nesting is a lot like that. Just when you move your kid into his/her new dorm or apartment, you think, “Wow! I got this! I am a pro! My kid is officially launched into adulthood, and my life is my own!”

Wrong…wrong…wrong.

What they forgot to tell you when you brought that child into the world is that your life will never be your own…never, ever again.

My husband and I were stupid enough to think we would get our daughter moved into college, and everything would be rainbows and confetti afterward. Nope. We could not have been more wrong. Soon after we dropped her off, she developed an infection where she had a heel blister, and because the doctor was afraid it would move into her Achilles’ tendon, she had to get an antibiotic injection, take oral antibiotics, and use a topical gel. Crisis averted. That was our first gut punch letting us know how stupid we are.

Soon thereafter, we went on vacation to the Bahamas thinking everything was great. We came home, and I had gallbladder surgery. I took a week to recover, and then, I went on a cruise with a friend from my college days. We had a great time. And then…the last night of the cruise, I received a call that our daughter had been in a car accident. Everything ended up being fine, but wow! Things were not going as expected.

That was just last weekend.

My husband and I had planned to leave this Tuesday to go to the Bahamas again but canceled the trip when we received a call that the resort restaurants were closed till November 1. At first, I was annoyed, but then it looked like Hurricane Fiona was going to move through the Bahamas this upcoming week, and I was glad we had canceled.

Here is the thing: we thought empty-nesting would be a walk in the park, but every plan we have made has been changed somewhere along the way. So I finally realized something: the only constant is change.

If you want to have a good empty-nesting experience, prepare to be flexible.

If you want to have a good empty-nesting experience, prepare to be flexible. That vacation you have planned? It might not happen, and if it does, you might have to come home early to help your newly launched child with a problem. Sleeping well at night? Don’t expect it to last. You’re likely to get at least one jarring late night call. Think you know where your college-age kid is all the time? Bahahahahaha…think again.

Here is how you will know you are a smart empty nester…

You will know you are a smart empty-nester when you realize and can admit to all your friends that you have no idea what you are doing and you likely won’t ever know. If we could have just admitted this freely when our kids were toddlers, we would be a lot better off. If I could have just said all along that I am learning on the job (as a parent), and I am an absolute novice, I would have looked like the smartest parent in the history of the world.

As it is, I had to learn that I don’t know a damn thing.

If you’re going to be an empty-nester soon, hold onto your hat. Enjoy the ride, because you will never know what is around the corner…just like when your kids were infants, toddlers, elementary school age, middle schoolers, and high school students. Admit it. You were and still are as clueless as I am.

The sooner you can admit it, the smarter you are.

College Students/Adult Decisions

College students/adult decisions.

Oh, it’s the Facebook parent page for my daughter’s university again! A parent posted that her son stopped going to class after his computer broke. They are four weeks into the semester, and she is getting him a new computer, but he seems to have given up. The mom doesn’t know what to do to motivate him, and she wonders if maybe she should just cut the losses and bring him home.

Of course, there were lots of suggestions. Some said, “Rent a laptop from the library.” Others said, “Maybe he’s not really ready for college.” Quite a few said, “Maybe you should encourage him to get back in the game. It’s early.” And then, someone said, “When do we let them start making their own adult decisions on their own?” That one made me think.

When do we let them start making their own adult decisions on their own?

That’s a tough question. Should we allow our college students to make their own adult decisions with no input from us, their parents?

The first thing that came to mind for me was, “I’m paying for it. I’m paying a lot of money for our daughter’s college education, so yes, I have input.“ I can have an opinion, and I can tell her what I expect from her. I make no bones about it. Our daughter is very social, so even before she went to college, I stressed to her that while her social life is very important, she has to take care of business first so she can stay in school to enjoy the social aspects. Does that mean she remembers that conversation? Not necessarily, but I ask regularly, “Are you taking care of business?”

Another thing that came to mind about “allowing her to make her own adult decisions on her own” is that I don’t always make adult decisions on my own…and I’m 55 years old! When I was in college, I regularly got my parents’ input about big decisions. Heck…until my parents were dead, I regularly got their input about adult decisions! And now that I don’t have my parents, I often turn to my spouse, other family members, or friends. I get lots of info and do my research before making big decisions. And you know what? I don’t want my college-age daughter getting all her advice or input from other college-aged people. I have always told her it’s good to get input from friends, but she needs to remember their brains aren’t fully developed either. They don’t have any more life experience than she does! I have stressed that she should come to me for advice, because I have a lot more life experience, and I always have her best interest at heart.

Think about it. What are college students like? There are some who do their schoolwork and work toward an educational goal with no distractions or interference. That’s not my child, and honestly, I don’t want her to be that student. There are college students who quickly find a good balance; they enjoy some social time while working hard in school. There are those who play a lot, and the academic part is secondary. And then there are all kinds of students in between.

My daughter falls somewhere in the balance/having fun category. The first semester of college is quite an adjustment! And since she is at an SEC school, football season is a big deal, and she pledged a sorority, which does take some time. I want her to have fun. That’s why I encouraged her to take the easiest classes she could this first semester, so she can learn to manage her time and become accustomed to college. It can take a while for them to learn how it all works! I remember! By my sophomore year, I knew how college worked, and I had a system for “taking care of business” while still having a good time. I think some kids jump in with the hardest classes they can take freshman year, and for some of them, it causes problems/stress. They need some guidance. Mine’s not taking the hardest classes, and she might not even need my guidance, but I “check in” regularly, and I always remind her that I am always ready to help.

She’s almost 19 years old. That means she has less than one year of adulthood experience. Would you hire a lawyer who had one year of experience and no mentors? No. Would you want a surgeon who had one year of experience and no assistance? No. I’m not expecting my almost-19-yr-old to make all her own decisions. In fact, she’s going to get my input whether she wants it or not right now.

So when will I allow her to make adult decisions on her own? She makes some of them on her own every single day. But the big decisions? Personally, I don’t think she really wants to. As long as my husband and I are on this planet, she can come to us. And if it’s something I know nothing about, I will encourage her to go to someone with more knowledge…no doubt. Will I make all her decisions for her? No way. But if I think she is making a bad decision or needs my help, I will let her know it…even from 450 miles away.

I’ve said it a million times…no matter how old they are, their still our “babies.”

College Move-In

College move-in.

It’s behind us. We got our daughter, a college freshman, moved in 11 days ago. My husband and I loaded all her stuff into two automobiles and drove 450 miles to her college to move her in. One car stayed with her, because the college she is attending allows freshman (almost encourages them) to bring their own cars. The actual move-in wasn’t bad, because the school brings in student groups and hires others to help with the process…lots of helpers. They actually take everything up to the rooms in big bins (see feature photo). It’s amazing! Everything was in the room within minutes. Of course, we had to put everything away.

The day after we moved her in, my husband flew home. I stayed in Alabama (she is going to the University of Alabama) to visit family and friends who feel like family for nine days while our daughter participated in the legendary Alabama sorority rush. Bid Day, when the girls receive their invitations to join sororities, was yesterday. I took some photos of our daughter with her new sorority sisters and scooted out of there…partly because the day is about her, not me…and partly because it was hotter than three blue Hells, and I was melting.

Today I drove the 450 miles home, feeling good about where she is.

At about the 350 mile mark, I received a text from her asking if something looked “concerning.” I was about to stop for gas anyway, so I looked at the photo and didn’t think it looked too bad. It was a photo of her heel, but there was a Band-Aid on it, so I couldn’t really see it very well. Fast forward a little while, and she was calling me to tell me she was going to the doctor. Apparently, she was in a lot of pain…and she has a really high pain threshold. During rush, she had worn some new heeled shoes that rubbed a bad blister on one heel…and then it became infected…and the photo she sent me didn’t do it justice. Ugh. Let me add here that the shoes were new and expensive, and she is telling me she will never wear them again. Maybe she can sell them?!?!

The doctor was pretty alarmed when he saw it and ordered a penicillin shot, an oral antibiotic, and an antibiotic ointment, explaining that there is very little skin tissue in that area, and infection could damage the Achilles tendon! I had never heard that! How many heel blisters have I had in my life?!?! How did I not know that?!?! We are praying it will look better in the morning.

Fortunately, she has a fantastic roommate who has been very supportive and helpful. Plus, she sent me a video of my daughter getting the penicillin shot…her first shot ever in her “fanny.”

Our daughter hasn’t even started classes for her freshman year yet, and she has already had her first medical emergency!

The way I see it, she learned some valuable life information. First, she learned that an infected heel blister can turn into an infected Achilles tendon, which is a bad problem to have. It can even cause sepsis…a serious medical issue. I’m proud she took action and nipped it in the bud before it got worse! Secondly, she learned where to seek medical help in a pinch near her college. Thirdly, she learned another valuable lesson when she texted me asking for my social security number. I texted back, “Why do they need that? I don’t give that out all Willy Nilly.” She texted that the doctor’s office forms ask for a parents’ info, since she is under 19. What?!?! She sent me a picture of the form, and I saw she had already entered her own social security number and was waiting for mine. I said, “Scratch out your social security number so none of it shows. Then walk up to the desk and tell the lady I won’t give you mine.” She did, and the lady told her, “No big deal.” I called her then and explained that doctor’s offices don’t need your social security number. Never give it to anyone except government entities, accountants, the university, or banks. There are some exceptions to that, but not many…and only give it when absolutely necessary.

So she had a day of learning two days before her first college class.

I’m sure she hasn’t thought to look at a map of the university to find the classes she will be attending Wednesday. Maybe she doesn’t need to do that. Maybe GPS will get her there.

And in the very little downtime I have had since I got home nine hours ago, I have answered texts, emails, and phone calls from people checking on me since I’m now an empty nester! Several have asked if I am emotional. No. I’m not emotional, but I think it’s because my brain has been occupied! I’m trying to make sure she is OK, and I’m also preparing to go on vacation! My flight leaves in 30 hours, and I have lots to get done before I leave. One thing I need to do is sleep. But I also need to make sure our daughter is OK before I get on a plane to fly another 800-1000 miles away. I’m already wondering if I need to delay my departure by a day. I will check with her in the morning and make her send me photos of her injury.

While I may be an empty nester, I’m still her mother. I still want to make everything better for her. I still want to make sure she is happy and healthy. But I’m proud that she, with the help of a fabulous roommate, handled this situation. She learned some valuable lessons today, and while I wish she were healthy right now, I’m just glad she was smart enough to take care of business.

To all my fellow mothers taking their kids to college, I say, “They are going to be OK…and we are too!”

***Feature photo from UA News Center, University of Alabama.***

Pre-Departure Breakdown

Pre-departure breakdown.

The daughter leaves in three days. I haven’t had a breakdown. My husband hasn’t had a breakdown. In fact, our daughter only had a minor sniffle earlier today because she is going to miss her friends.

But something wicked this way comes…

I can feel it in the air at our house. I’m a little tense. She’s a little tense. And she is trying to squeeze in as much time with her friends as she possibly can. She slept at a friend’s house last night and came home long enough today to pick which clothes she wants to pack…or maybe I should say she picked which clothes she wants me to pack for her. And that’s OK.

After she dashed out to spend time with her friends again, my husband said, “Wow. She doesn’t want to spend time with us as much as she wants to spend time with her friends.” I told him, “That’s normal. In fact, I would be worried if she wanted to be with us more than she wants to be with her friends right now.” He looked surprised, so I explained further, “She knows we are here for her. She knows we always love her. We are the sure thing. But her friends are all going in different directions. I’m glad she wants to spend time with her friends.” And he got it. The fact that she wants to be with her friends means she feels secure in her relationship with us. It’s a good thing. We should actually be flattered by it.

It’s like when a kid behaves perfectly well in public but then gets home and acts like the spawn of Satan. My mother used to tell a story about 4-yr-old me. She said she took me somewhere, and I acted like a perfect angel, but when we got home…I was mean and fussy. She finally asked me, “Why do you act like this at home?” My 4-yr-old answer? “Where else can I act like this?” And she got it. She said, “Nowhere, honey. Just here…where we love you.” She knew I felt secure enough at home to have the breakdowns and act a little out of sorts. I knew she would love me no matter what. And that’s what our college-age daughter is feeling right now. She knows we will always love her no matter what, but she is trying to cement her relationships with friends before she leaves.

So yes, she teared up a little earlier, telling me she was going to miss her friends. She then told me, as we were packing her clothes, that one friend texted her earlier that she had a full-on meltdown about leaving for college. I think our daughter knows it is going to happen to her too. She had a fearful look in her eye. And I reminded her that she is going to be OK. She will, in fact, love it once she gets there and gets through the initial jitters. She laughed and said, “I feel like I am going to sleepaway camp. I guess it’s kind of like that.” I said, “Oh, honey…it’s so much better. You’ll have a brand new dorm room with a great roommate and your own bathroom. You’ll have lots of new friends. You’ll have lots of boys to meet…they don’t have boys at sleepaway camp.” She laughed. She knows I’m right.

She also remembered that I said I would like for her to stay there till Thanksgiving, so she can become a part of the community, and she asked, “What if I want to come home one weekend?” I laughed and said, “Honey, you know I will get you home if you need to come home.”

She can always come home.

I reminded her of something that happened when she was on a group trip hiking across Iceland a few years ago. They were near a volcano, and the guide told them it was due for an eruption. Apparently, she also told them that air traffic is halted for a month when the volcano erupts. (I actually remember that happening 10 or 12 years ago.) Another girl on the trip panicked and ran to their tent (yes, a tent…ugh). My daughter followed her in there, and the friend said, “We could be stuck here for an extra month if it erupts!” And my daughter replied, “Don’t worry. There is no way my mother will let that happen. If that volcano erupts, she will find a way to get us out of here. She knows people.” I laughed out loud when she told me that after she returned home from Iceland. But she wasn’t wrong…I do know people…people who could have “extracted” her from Iceland in no time. And so today, when she was saying she might need to visit home before Thanksgiving, I assured her she can always come home. But if it’s just homesickness…try to stick it out, because she will enjoy college life a lot more if she becomes a part of the community, and you can’t do that if you’re running home all the time. Make college your home.

So with three days left before departure, I feel pretty sure a meltdown is on the horizon. The question is…will it be my meltdown or hers?!?!