Enjoy Memorial Day Weekend

Enjoy Memorial Day Weekend

When I was a little girl, Memorial Day weekend marked the start of summer for me. School usually got out around Memorial Day, and I had the extra bonus of having a birthday at about the same time, so I loved the end of May…still do! And this year will be no different.

I have written before about how we need to remember the reason we celebrate Memorial Day…to honor those who lost their lives defending the very freedom we enjoy every single day. I have written about how my parents always made sure, when we were gathering with friends and family, that we remembered the meaning behind the day.

Does that mean it can’t be fun too? I like to think those who lost their lives would be happy to see us enjoying the freedom they made possible. We tend to have a pool day at our house. Sometimes we have friends over, and sometimes we don’t. Sometimes, our daughter invites friends over, and sometimes she goes somewhere else. This year, we will be fortunate to have some houseguests over the holiday weekend, and we are excited to hang out in the pool, cook out, and relax.

In fact, I’m ordering a few things from Amazon to help me be sure we have fun and stay safe at the same time, and if you order today, you can probably get them in time too! Even if you don’t want them for Memorial Day, these items can be great all summer! My new necessities for starting summer with some fun (and safety in mind):

  • Fun Boy Mesh Floats. I love being outdoors, but when it’s really hot, I need to be in the pool. And I don’t mean I need to be floating on top of something. I need to have some of my body actually in the water. These inflatable mesh floats from Funboy are perfect for relaxing and staying cool. Priced at just $39 for a mint colored or yellow one, and the pink ones are $41 each. Or you can get two pink ones or two mint ones for under $67. I just ordered two pink and two mint. They’ll add a little color to the pool and keep us all cool. Of course, on Saturday and Sunday, the weather isn’t likely to be cooperative, but it’s supposed to be pretty warm Monday. Purchase here.
  • Backyard Blast. When our daughter was a little girl, she and her friends loved to set up a Slip n Slide in our yard. They could play for hours. I even participated a few times. Personally, I think sliding water play is fun for all ages, so when I saw this Backyard Blast heavy duty waterslide for adults and teens, well…I had to have it. We haven’t tried it yet, but it’s 75′ long and 12′ wide! Priced at $159, it’s not cheap, but since it’s “heavy duty,” I hope to get lots of fun out of it. It gets good reviews. Purchase here.
  • Nerf Water Products. Nerf is a name we can trust in water toys, but there are so many to choose from! A good SuperSoaker battle is always fun, but Nerf also makes refillable water balloons for younger kids, and even ride-on floats for on-the-water battles! See what they offer here. The possibilities are endless!

  • Fun in the Sun Toys. In fact, there are lots of summer fun toys out there: Bubble machines, bubble wants, reusable water balloons, beach balls, splash pads…fun stuff to keep everyone cool and keep everyone moving! These toys are great for kids of all ages…including those like me who will be turning 56 this weekend! Amazon will ship quick and free if you have an Amazon Prime account. Check them out here.
  • Sunscreen. You have to stay safe in the sun! Sunscreen is essential. There are lots of different brands to choose from. Personally, I prefer Coppertone lotions when I’m going to be outside for a while, because they smell like my childhood. Other times, I like Hawaiian Tropic oils, because we used them when I was a teen, and it reminds me of some happy times. I do not like sprays, because one of the first ingredients listed is often alcohol, so while it’s easy to apply a spray, it actually dries out your skin! Not good. To purchase Coppertone lotions, click here. To purchase Hawaiian Tropic oils with different SPFs, click here. (You might have to scroll down a little.) And remember to protect your lips, which can burn fast. We use Coppertone Sport Lip Balm with SPF 50. Purchase here.
  • Hawaiian Tropic After Sun Products. Don’t forget you’ll need something to soothe your skin after you’ve been in the sun. In our house, we swear by Sun Bum Cooling After Sun Gel. Purchase here. They offer lots of products to choose from: lotions, gels, body butters.

Summer’s almost here! Let’s be ready for some fun! Happy Shopping!

Basic Travel Outfits for Women

Basic travel outfits for women.

I have always loved travel. I love hopping on a plane with my husband, my family, or with friends and heading off to somewhere fun. But first I have to get there. Right out of college, I was a flight attendant for a hot minute. When you work for an airline and travel on an employee pass, there is a dress code. Traveling on an employee pass, I was required to dress professionally, and that set a tone for me. Therefore, I like travel clothes that look good but give me some comfort. You won’t see me on an airplane in athletic shorts…or shorts of any kind. You might see me in joggers, because they’re comfortable, and I can dress them up. As summer gets closer, more people travel, so I have some recommendations. Here are some travel outfits I love:

Wide Leg Jumpsuit. As I scrolled through Instagram a few weeks ago, I came across a wide-leg, short-sleeve jumpsuit perfect for travel. It has a v-neck, and it also has some spandex, meaning stretch, so it’s more comfortable on long flights. It comes in a variety of colors, but I prefer the darker colors. I have ordered this in several colors, but the black is my fave. It’s great, because the v-neck is flattering, and the wide legs make it easy-fitting. At just $35.99 (yes, you read that right), it’s a great buy. Pair it with a cute jacket for some dimension. I love to add a scarf for a pop of color; it can also act as a lightweight blanket on a chilly flight. To purchase this fabulous piece (picture below) from Amazon, click here.

Amazon Essentials Joggers. Somehow, I got lucky and stumbled upon the inexpensive Amazon Essentials Joggers a year or two ago, and since then, I have accumulated a collection. While they offer a variety of colors, my entire collection consists of black joggers. They’re lightweight. They’re cute. They’re flattering, and most importantly, they are wash-and-wear…so easy! I know what you’re thinking: sweatpants. Sure, joggers can be considered sweatpants, but these can be dressed up, without a doubt. In winter, I wear them with cute ankle boots and sweaters, while in warmer months, I wear them with wedges. Priced under $20, these joggers are so inexpensive, you have to get them. Purchase here.

V-neck tshirt. I am pretty particular about my “t-shirt” type shirts. I like long sleeves, but they also offer this shirt in short sleeve version. I like a flattering v-neck. And I like for it to fit my arms but not hug my body tightly. I found one on Amazon that has worked for me time and time again. It works great with the joggers above or with the Miramar joggers below. Purchase it here

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Large scarf. I love a colorful scarf for “dressing up” an outfit. Years ago, I learned the “third piece,” whether it is a jacket or scarf, completes an ensemble…making the wearer appear more “put together.” It’s something I believe in, for sure. So when I’m wearing an all-black outfit, as a jumpsuit or joggers and shirt, I like to add a colorful scarf to break up the black a little and make me look complete. A large scarf can also help ensure I stay warm on a chilly flight. I found a couple of faves on Amazon that are pretty darn inexpensive. The first is a silk scarf that’s priced at under $20, and it measures 70″ x 35″…making it a good size. It comes in lots of colors and patterns, and you can purchase it here. For one that has a “cashmere feel,” and measures 78″ x 27″, click here.

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Rag and Bone Miramar joggers. OK, y’all, I’m giving away a big secret here. No joke, I have only shared this info with my closest friends, but here it is: I wear sweatpant jeans. Yep. Rag and Bone makes Miramar joggers that are printed to look like cute jeans, but they are really French terry sweatpants, and they look great! I’m not going to lie…at $225, they are pricey, but I love them. In fact, I love them so much that, over time, I have purchased two pairs in each color. They are 100% cotton, so you need to remember not to put them in the dryer when you wash them, but other than that, they are pretty easy. As joggers, they have elastic around the ankles, so they are great for lots of heights. I’m only 5’2″, and I love these, because I wear them pushed all the way down to the ankle, or I can wear the elastic underneath a little higher on my leg to make them look more cropped. These are truly some of my favorite travel pants. I can pair them with a cute top or blouse and jacket, and I look finished. No one knows they are sweats, unless they are familiar with the brand. To see the Miramar joggers on Amazon, click here. Another company, BLANKNYC offers something similar at a much lower price. I haven’t tried them (yet), but if you’d like something similar without the sticker shock, try them. The BLANKNYC version is priced under $52 in the lighter color (click here) or the darker color ($81) here.

Utility Shirt Jacket. I love a good utility shirt jacket, because it can add to so many different outfits. For travel, I have a few I use, but a favorite is definitely a Lucky Brand version. It’s olive green, so basically a neutral. I will wear it with all of the items above, and it’s offered in more than one color. It’s lightweight and well-made, and because it’s a neutral, it can be used in various ways with different styles of outfits, even dresses. Get yours here.

Blazer. If you prefer a more tailored look, a blazer might be the way to go. I have a few of these lightweight blazers from Amazon. Priced under $50, they won’t break the bank, and they’re comfortable and travel well. Offered in 15 colors, they make a great addition to any travel wardrobe. Get a few colors, and switch things up! Purchase here.

And this is when I tell you that, in order to keep these pieces from looking too casual, I never wear sneakers on planes. Personally, I prefer comfortable wedge sandals in spring and summer and comfortable boots or loafers in fall and winter. It’s just my way of dressing it all up and pulling it together. But by all means, you do you. And always remember that, if you are checking luggage on commercial airlines, you need to pack at least one change of clothes in your carry-on bag. I always pack a swimsuit in my carry-on too, if I’m going to a warm location.

Happy travels!

Easter Basket Stuffers

Easter basket stuffers.

It’s not too late! If you’re just now trying to figure out Easter Basket stuffers, you’re in good company: me. I just finally ordered Easter stuff today. Yes, I still put together an Easter basket for our 19-yr-old daughter and one of her friends every year. For years, our daughter’s friend has spent the night at our house the night before Easter, and every year, the bunny brings them baskets. Even though they are college freshmen this year, they will still get baskets. In fact, as long as I am able to do it, they will get baskets from our Easter Bunny.

Try to shop local whenever possible! I have purchased some items from local boutiques in Charlotte like Paper Skyscraper, The Buttercup, and more. The Buttercup has some great Easter items for younger children. They are located at 1035 Providence Road in Charlotte, and Paper Skyscraper is on East Boulevard.

Target also has some good Easter basket offerings, but they’re getting pretty picked over by now I haven’t had the opportunity to go there, so I sat down and started ordering online.

Today, I ordered a couple of baskets in the girls’ sorority colors. They are in the same sorority at different schools, so those baskets will match! I ordered them from Amazon, and they are actually baskets for “gamers,” but I thought they could actually use the baskets in their rooms, because they don’t really look like Easter baskets. See the Easter baskets offered by Amazon here. You can see and purchase the one I purchased here.

And then I went straight to Easter basket stuffers. I purchased Easter candy at my local Walgreens, but I wanted to get the girls some things they could actually use. Even though a garden gnome seems like a strange Easter Basket stuffer, I got them each one, simply because I got them gnomes a couple of years ago. Purchase the one I purchased here. And see Amazon’s other gnome selections here.

Since they are both first-year Kappa Kappa Gammas, I thought it would be fun to incorporate that into their basket items too.
They love sweatshirts, and I found some cute sorority Comfort Colors sweatshirts. I needed them to arrive in time for Easter, so the pickings were slim, but I found these. To find similar ones for your daughter’s sorority on Amazon, click here. Just be careful to be sure whatever you order will arrive in time for Easter if you want to include it in the basket.

Additionally, I got them some Jojowell Shower Steamers that come 21 to a package in seven different scents. Each package is less that $25, and these steamers can make a shower feel like a spa! They come complete with two mesh bags and two suction cups for hanging the steamers in the shower. To purchase them, click here.

What else are they getting? How about some matching pajamas in their sorority colors? Yes! They get very excited about PJs every year, so they will be expecting some kind of pajamas, but the sorority colors will be a surprise! See the ones I purchased here. To see other cute PJ options on Amazon, click here. Or purchase some at your favorite boutique or retailer.

Because they loved Nickelodeon, specifically the show, iCarly, I got them both some XL iCarly t-shirts. They’ll laugh, and honestly, they’re likely to use them as pajamas sometimes. Last year, I gave them some iCarly Kooky pens, so this will carry on that theme. You can see the Amazon’s selection of iCarly t-shirts here. There are t-shirts for various Nickelodeon shows on Amazon here.

I also got them some acrylic glasses they can use in their dorms or in next year’s apartments or sorority houses. They can never have too many plastic or acrylic cups that they don’t have to worry about breaking. See the large selection on Amazon here.

And don’t forget the plastic Easter eggs! Sure, you can get the standard plastic Easter eggs, or you can get some that are especially cute from Amazon! I found some that I will fill with chocolates and other candies, because what’s an Easter basket without colorful Easter eggs?!? See the cute ones I purchased here. Or if you’d like something different than what I bought, you can see a huge selection here.

I know some of you might have younger children, so your Easter basket stuffers will likely be different than what I’m getting. If you have younger children, there is a whole section on Amazon that’s just for basket stuffers of all shapes and sizes. You can see them here.

But order right away! You don’t want to be left with an empty basket on Easter morning!

She’s Returning to College

She’s returning to college.

Our daughter is returning to college for the second semester of her freshman year. In just 36 hours, our blissful month of having her under our roof will end. She and my husband will load up her car and start the 450 mile drive back to her university. She will drop him off at the airport before she goes to her dorm. He will fly home…without her.

And our house will be eerily quiet…again. It will be as quiet as it has been for the past few months, since we dropped her off in August. That dorm move-in is a distant memory now. Remember all the planning? Remember all the boxes of dorm supplies and decor stacked up in my foyer? I can hardly remember it now.

She survived first semester. With medical emergencies, the flu, late nights, lots of fun, lots of new friends…she survived. Not only did she survive, she thrived. Our girl was made for the big college atmosphere. It’s her happy place, for the most part. Don’t get me wrong; there were occasional tears. If you have a child leaving for college next fall, just know there will be tears. Sometimes they just have to get through the tears to get to the good stuff. I have told our daughter that in many late night phone conversations. If we didn’t have the bad, we wouldn’t appreciate the good. It’s absolutely true. The good seems so much better after you experience the bad. If your child calls you crying from college, remind them and yourself of that.

I will be having to remind myself of that over the next few weeks, as we adjust to a quiet house again.

Our house has felt like our house again for the past month, while our girl has been home. We had her friends in and out of the house at all hours. Many times, I was up at 2am, making grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup for a gaggle of friends. I’m not complaining; I loved every minute of it. Some nights, I was picking her up from a friend’s house or a party in the wee hours of the morning. After the murders at the University of Idaho, I wasn’t real keen on her taking an Uber. That horrible crime was a reminder that a background check is just a check of what someone hasn’t been caught doing or hasn’t done yet. It’s scary to think young girls all over the country hop into the car with strangers all the time, right? So while our daughter was in Charlotte, I was her personal Uber driver if she needed me. *Say a prayer for the families of those University of Idaho students.*

Did my husband love the late nights? No. It drives him crazy to have to stay up past midnight. He leads a very structured life, and if the timing gets messed up, he’s not happy. I’m a total vampire who flies by the seat of my pants, so in my world, I love the chaos. I love spontaneity. I love getting in the car at 1:30am to pick up our daughter and friends to bring them back to our house. I love standing in the kitchen, in my pajamas and robe, preparing food for them after they get here. And I’m going to miss it.

Will we get to bed at a reasonable hour every night? Yes. Will the amount of laundry I have to do decrease exponentially? Yes. But honestly, I will miss the extra laundry. I will miss watching the clock as we wait for her to come home. I will miss the late night talks in her room. I will miss watching football games with her.

I will miss her.

Thank God we have some vacations coming up soon, so we won’t be in this quiet house. Before we know it, she will come home for a visit. If she doesn’t, chances are I will hop on a plane and go see her one weekend soon…just because I miss her. She’ll need a Mama hug, and I’ll need to see her face to make sure she’s OK.

I keep reminding myself that in just four short months, she will be home for summer. We will take mother/daughter trips again. She will likely want to visit friends in different cities, and that’s OK too. We will just be happy to have her here when we can. Just having that to look forward to will keep us going. Well, that and some fun trips.

Meet us in the Bahamas, but bring your own snorkel gear!

We Miss the Elves

We miss the elves.

I know, I know. Every parent who is having to deal with The Elf on the Shelf right now is wondering why they ever bought into that commercialized bit of Christmas.

Seriously, how many times will you forget to move the damn elves during the season? I remember many times our daughter would come downstairs in the morning to find the elf in the same spot as the day before. She would ask if it had lost its magic. “Oh, no honey! It was just really foggy/stormy/cloudy out last night, and he couldn’t make the flight safely.” I had to think fast, and I couldn’t let the panic show on my face.

Other times, I would wake up in the middle of the night and remember I hadn’t moved the elf. I would get up, try to wake up enough to be creative with a “hiding place,” and stumble back to bed…cursing the elf the whole time.

And then, the elves multiplied at our house! She teceived them as gifts. Or she asked them to bring friends. When all was said and done, we had SIX elves visiting our home, and that meant I had to move all six of them every night. (I know…I know…I’m crazy to have allowed it.) Not only that, but I also had to get more creative after she heard about other friends’ elves that did more interesting things than just sit in the Christmas tree. Keeping up with the Joneses was real where the elf was concerned. She didn’t want to think Santa sent her a lame elf (or elves!).

Seriously, it got out of hand. Those damn elves were leading better lives than I was: writing all over the vanity with toothpaste, bungee jumping from the stairs, bathing in Christmas M&Ms, coming in on a wrecking ball, drinking Karo Syrup, trapping each other in cake domes…oh, to be an elf! And the notes and “surprises”! They brought little trinkets. They wrote her notes in their special elf handwriting. My brain had not been that creative in years, but I made it happen. Honestly, I became an overachiever where the elves were concerned, and I’m sure all her friends’ parents hated me for it. I don’t blame them. I hated that I let myself fall into the trap of that level of insanity after seeing others post on social media, but I did it.

I thought about all this last night, because my daughter, who is now 19 and a freshman in college, was hanging out with friends and texted me, “Can you send me pictures of the crazy things my elves did?” I searched through years of pictures and found some to send her. She sent back lots of laughing faces, lots of “Lol” and lots of “wow.”

Then I went down the rabbit hole.

I started texting her elf stories. I told her about the time she came running into the kitchen just before Thanksgiving Day (when the elves are supposed to arrive) with an elf in her hand. I’m not sure how old she was…maybe six of seven? She had gone into my room to look for something in a drawer, and she had found an elf. “Mommy! Look what I found in your drawer!” I was standing at the stovetop preparing dinner but looked down to see her holding the elf up for me to see. Somehow, I thought fast and replied, “Wow! He must have known you would look in there today, and he was just waiting for you to find him!” Her eyes widened! She bought it hook, line, and sinker! She replied, “I guess so!” And the elves got an early start (ugh) that year…lucky me (insert eye roll here).

Another year, on Christmas Day, she seemed a little sad…unusual for Christmas Day. She was eight, and she should have been excited and happy the whole day. Finally, in the afternoon, I asked, “Honey, are you OK?” Immediately, the flood gates opened…her bottom lip rolled down as her chin quivered, and tears rolled down her cheeks. “I miss my elf!,” she exclaimed. My heart broke. My sweet little girl thad been holding in those emotions all day. I could have been stern. I could have followed the elf rules, but I didn’t. I hugged her. I comforted her. And then I said, “There might be a way to get him back.” Call me a sucker if you want, but personally, I love knowing my child is full of so much love. That year, her elf had taken on the task of replacing some of her “babies” (stuffed animals) that had been accidentally thrown out while we were having her room painted. She appreciated what that elf had done for her, and she loved her elf for it. Who was I to say the elf couldn’t come back? Surely, there was a way?!? I said, “Here’s a little secret: since it’s still Christmas Day, you can make a wish on a Christmas candle, and maybe the elf will come back.” I’m still patting myself on the back for this one. My husband brought us a Christmas candle, and I sat down on the sofa with her, telling her to close her eyes and make the wish before blowing out the candle. Then close her eyes again and slowly count to ten, just to help the wish. Whatever…I was winging it, OK?!? While she slowly counted to ten after making the wish, my husband scampered quietly into our room, got the elf out of a drawer and placed him on the dining room table. When she opened her eyes, I said, “Maybe the elf will return. He might show up in an unexpected place.” Of course, she couldn’t resist the urge to start searching. When she found him on the dining room table, it was sheer joy! Her Christmas wish had come true! Since the elf had returned on a Christmas wish, she was allowed to hold him (against the Elf on the Shelf rules), so she settled in on the sofa to watch a Christmas movie with him. I told her she had 30 more days with the elf, but he wouldn’t fly back and forth to the North Pole, and had to leave after those 30 days. She agreed 30 more days would be enough…and it was.

The elves were popular at our house for several years until one day, she simply said, “Mom, I know the elves aren’t real.” In some ways I was happy. I wouldn’t have to remember to move them! I wouldn’t have to find creative places to put them! I wouldn’t have to wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat when I realized I hadn’t done anything with them! I wouldn’t have to lie about the fog/storms/clouds. At the same time, my heart broke a little. Sure, my life would be a little easier because she didn’t believe in the elves anymore, but it would be a lot less fun.

Now that she’s 19, the elves no longer come around. One moved to a new home when a neighbor melted her daughter’s elf on a lamp and was in a desperate search for a new one. We had one that matched hers, so we let her have it. Our daughter didn’t believe anymore, so it was nice to know we were saving another parent from a meltdown. Now, we look back on the elves with fondness. And honestly, they make good stories.

We miss the elves…not enough to bring them back, but we miss them!

Last Minute Holiday Gifts

Last minute holiday gifts.

We are getting down to the wire. If you still have gifts to purchase but don’t know where to start (or finish), we have suggestions.

Shop Local. It’s always important to shop local, and I did a lot of local shopping this year. Your local business owners always appreciate your business, but they especially appreciate it when inflation is crazy and prices are soaring. Don’t forget, they are having to pay more for the items from their suppliers too. If you don’t know about local boutiques in your area, ask around. Or if you live in Charlotte, you can check out the Charlotte’s Got A Lot website. They have compiled a lengthy list of local places to shop for everyone on your list. You can check it out here. I checked out their list and got a few ideas for my husband and daughter. Then, I passed along some ideas to friends…straight from the Charlotte’s Got a Lot list. If you don’t live in Charlotte, you might be able to find a similar list for your town. My personal favorite local shops are The Buttercup (great for women/young ladies/neighbors/friends), Paper Skyscraper for whimsical gifts (and stop in for lunch at Thai Taste next door when you go), Charlotte’s for women, Swoozie’s for fun gifts for friends and neighbors, and though it’s not really a shop/boutique, I love purchasing sports tickets or sports merchandise for local teams…the Carolina Panthers (available through Ticketmaster or at the Panthers store in the stadium), Charlotte Checkers hockey tickets/merchandise, and Charlotte Hornets tickets/merchandise.

USA Today List. USA Today published a list just yesterday of some last-minute gift ideas, and it includes gifts for everyone on your list. Prices range from below $100 to over $1000, but you’re likely to find something that will work. Get busy looking, though, because the longer you wait, the less likely it will get here in time. See the USA Today list here.

Amazon. No, it’s not shopping local, for sure, but sometimes you just need Amazon. My mother used Amazon for lots of her shopping when she was alive, because she just didn’t get around real well. Even if you can get around well, you might find that time is not your friend, and you just need to get something now. Amazon has a section on their website called Very Merry Deals, where you can find popular discounted items that can be shipped to your home or to the recipient’s home in time for Christmas. But do your Amazon shopping now! You can see their Very Merry Deals here.

Gift Cards. It sounds cliché, but if there are any college students in your life, they love gift cards. You can purchase gift cards to just about anywhere in Harris Teeter, Target, and CVS. My college-age daughter loves gift cards from Starbucks, Panera, ChickFilA, Netflix, and Amazon, but I’m sure there are others that are popular. As a freshman, our daughter has a dining plan through her university, but sometimes, she just wants to eat what she calls “real food.” That’s when gift cards come in handy.

Experiences. If you have an amusement park near you, it might be possible to purchase season passes or gift cards for someone on your list. Call ahead to find out. Movie passes make great gifts too. Maybe there is an attraction in your town that’s fun for someone in your family. We have the US National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, and it’s fun for the whole family! A gift card there can mean hours of fun! Or give the gift of travel! Charlotte is a hub airport for American Airlines, so a gift card on American Airlines could be a great gift for someone who could fly out of here or fly into Charlotte to visit! See their gift cards here. Delta offers them on their website too. You can see theirs by clicking here.

Some Things Never Change

Some things never change.

Growing up, I lived in a few different small towns in Alabama. I was born in a different state but moved to Alabama as a baby, and the first small town we lived in made quite an impression.

When I say it was a small town, I mean it was a small town, but at the time, I didn’t realize just how small it was. Downtown always looks big to little kids, and this one was no exception. Every year as a little girl, I looked forward to Christmastime. This tiny town would have a Christmas parade with Santa joyfully waving at the tail end of the parade. Downtown was decorated every year with what I thought were beautiful decorations on each pole in the downtown area. I moved away from there when I was seven years old, but in my mind’s eye, I can still see the Christmas decor.

Yesterday, as I scrolled through Facebook, I came across some pictures of a small town Christmas parade. It was, in fact, the same small town. I flipped through the pictures, looking for Santa, and there he was…atop a fire truck at the end of the parade. It made me feel nostalgic, and it made me smile. Some things never change…a small town is still hosting a Christmas parade, complete with Santa. I did notice one difference, though. I remember the parade being a daytime parade when I was a little girl, but this parade was a night parade with illuminated floats. Still, it was a sweet reminder of my childhood. It also appeared the parade might have been interrupted by a train passing through town, as the tracks go right through the middle of the town.

I guess every small town has its own traditions. We moved from there to another small town that was more of a community without a proper downtown area. I don’t remember any kind of community-wide Christmas celebrations there, but that might have been because we were close to a bigger city where we could drive into town and enjoy holiday festivities.

After that, we moved to yet another small town that had its own holiday decor in the downtown area and an annual Christmas parade. The parade was a big deal every year, and it seemed everyone in the town participated in one way or another. I remember wondering who was going to watch the parade, because it seemed almost everyone was involved in the festivities in some way! But every year, the spectators came out to see every local group that participated: high school marching bands, little league and high school cheerleaders, dance troupes, dance schools, convertibles with beauty queens perched atop them, restaurants and other local businesses sponsoring trucks or cars decorated for Christmas, and yes, Santa…always at the end of the parade, waving joyfully to all the girls and boys.

We have raised our daughter in a bigger city, Charlotte, North Carolina, and I absolutely love living here. However, occasionally, I think she has missed out on some of the joy of living in a small town…like the small town Christmas parade. Don’t get me wrong. She has experienced Christmas in different ways in the Charlotte area. When she was a little girl, we would go to Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens to see the lights (and Santa) there. We went to Winterfest at Carowinds Amusement Park to see the lights (and Santa) there. We visited Santa regularly at our club and at the local mall. We did lots of fun Christmas-themed things. But she never went to a small town Christmas parade, and she never had the opportunity to participate in a small town Christmas parade with her cheer team or dance class.

The good news? She has no idea that she missed that experience. Maybe I will drive her through some small towns this holiday season so she can see how it’s done. We still have a couple more weeks. I’ll get excited about it too, because some things never change.

Car Trouble on the Way Home

Car trouble on the way home.

Tuesday was a long day for our family. I took my husband to the airport in the morning to catch an 11:00 flight to Birmingham. Our daughter had finished her first semester college finals and was ready to come home for the holidays, but since her school is 450 miles away, we didn’t want her to ride alone. Therefore, my husband was flying down to make the drive with her. I know some folks will think that’s crazy, but I don’t care. Even our daughter protested, “Really??? I can drive alone!” If purchasing an airline ticket for my husband would create a hardship for us, I might have considered letting her drive home alone, but it’s a long drive for anyone, and well, you never know when something will happen. Our daughter is a great driver with lots of driving experience, but because I have been stranded on the side of the highway before, I know how scary it can be as a woman…especially a young woman. Yes, she has a AAA Automobile Club membership, and she has roadside assistance for her car through the manufacturer, and all of that makes me feel better, but I just don’t feel good about the possibility of her being stranded on the interstate highway. My husband doesn’t either, so that’s why he flew down to drive back with her.

She picked him up at the Birmingham airport at about noon, and they started the 6-hour drive back to Charlotte. Over the past couple of years, we have decided that, because of the road construction and heavy truck traffic on I-85 between Charlotte and Greenville, South Carolina, it’s easier to travel on I-20 and I-77 between Birmingham and Charlotte. Its a slightly longer drive…20 minutes or so, but it’s just a more peaceful drive. Well…usually it is.

After they had passed through Atlanta, my husband noticed a vibration in the car that was just too much to continue. The tires were not inflated properly. They were showing various pressures, so when he called me, we decided that might be the issue. He decided to stop at a tire store in Conyers, Georgia, to try to get the issue resolved before continuing. Thank God they stopped when they did. It took a couple of hours to get the issue straightened out…rotation, weights, and alignment…but eventually, they were back on the road. I even suggested they might stop at a hotel and just come home in the morning, because in addition to the fact that it was getting late, there was also a heavy fog settled over the Carolinas. They would have none of that; they both wanted to get home.

At about 11:30pm, they turned into our driveway. I went out to greet them as soon as they parked. They were exhausted and hungry, since they hadn’t stopped for food anywhere along the way. We all came in, and I made grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup for them before we all turned in for the night.

I was just thankful they had arrived safely. Yes, it was a long trip for them and a long day of worry for me, but they made it. I also said prayers of thanks that my husband was there with our daughter, so she didn’t have to deal with all the issues alone. I would have been driving to meet her somewhere if he hadn’t flown down to ride back with her, and I would have been terrified for her. It’s a good lesson. If you ever question whether you should go help your child with something like a long drive, err on the side of caution. I’m not even a particularly cautious mom, but when it comes to long drives, I am.

Now, we are enjoying the holidays and preparing for another drive, as my daughter and I are traveling to Charleston with friends tomorrow morning. I’ll be riding with my friend, and our daughter will be driving herself and the daughter of said friend. We are meeting some friends who are flying in from Ohio, and we plan to enjoy as much shopping and dining as we possibly can over the course of a few days!

Stay safe out there!

Wrapping Paper

Wrapping paper.

Every year, as Christmas approaches, I meet a friend at Paper Skycraper in Charlotte to find stocking stuffers and wrapping paper. It’s a tradition. We pick a day, and we know we will enjoy a leisurely lunch at Thai Taste before walking next door to Paper Skyscraper to shop ’til we drop. Seriously, I always walk out with way more than I planned to purchase.

For those who don’t know, Paper Skyscraper is on East Boulevard in the Dilworth neighborhood of Charlotte. According to their website, they have been open for more than 30 years. I have been shopping there for more than 20. I moved to Charlotte in 2000, and I remember going there with a friend soon after moving here. They have lots of fun gifts and lots of quirky gifts. If you decide to go, know in advance that this is not your grandmother’s gift shop. It’s full of sexual innuendos and f-bombs…even on some of the wrapping paper! One thing is for sure, you will laugh a lot while you’re there. If you can’t get into the store, you can shop some of their items online here.

Our designated day to shop together this year was last Friday afternoon. We met at Thai Taste first. I had the Pad Thai with chicken and medium spice, and she had the green curry dish. (I seriously considered ordering the curry dish to take home for dinner. It looked that good.) We had just ordered when another friend called us, and we immediately asked her to join us. She was only about five minutes away, so it worked out perfectly, and our duo became a trio! We enjoyed a lunch and lots of laughs before strolling over to Paper Skyscraper. You can see more about Thai Taste here.

As soon as we walked into Paper Skyscraper, I saw one of the light-up ceramic Christmas trees we all had in the 1970s. I wanted it, but I resisted the urge to purchase it. I didn’t even check the price, because I knew if I gave it too much attention, I would have to have it.

My friends made their way to the area full of fun gifts in the side room, while I made my way first to the wrapping paper. I am obsessed with their wrapping paper, and like a child, I didn’t want someone to walk away with some paper I might want. I found lots of lovely paper. I’m not a wrapping paper snob, but I do like quality paper. I always know I can find it at Paper Skyscraper. They have lovely rolls of Christmas paper and some funny ones too. Plus, they have sheets of beautiful wrapping paper made from recycled materials. When I say it’s beautiful, I mean it’s beautiful. I picked up a few rolls of paper and put them in my hand basket. I picked eight or ten sheets of recycled wrap and put that in my hand basket, and I made my way to the other side of the store to meet my friends. What I hadn’t considered was that, with all those rolls of paper sticking out of my basket, I was likely to knock things off every rack along the way…and I did. Fortunately, I didn’t break anything. After rearranging the basket, so I didn’t knock down anything else, I was able to continue shopping with my friends, who had been smarter than I was and waited till the end to get their wrapping paper. After an hour or so of shopping, we all left with lots of stocking stuffers, gifts for friends and neighbors, and wrapping paper.

I now have a lovely assortment of wrapping paper and have been wrapping gifts for the last couple of days. I love wrapping gifts. It’s very relaxing. Aside from the Paper Skyscraper wrapping paper, I also have some I ordered from Zazzle. Our daughter will be quite surprised when she sees it, and I’m sure she will think I’m totally crazy. It’s personalized wrapping paper with family photos on it. You can order it from Zazzle here. It can add a little fun to your gifts! I have wrapped lots of gifts, and they are piling up in the keeping room off my kitchen.

If we would only get our Christmas tree up, I would have somewhere to put them!

***Also, see great wrapping paper at the following retail stores in Charlotte:

The Buttercup, 1035 Providence Rd

Swoozie’s, 4722 Sharon Rd Ste G

Paper Twist, 2902 Selwyn Ave, Ste A

Back Home Ballers

Back Home Ballers

When I was growing up, there were young people in and out of our house all the time. Likewise, when our daughter was growing up, we had young people in and out of our house all the time. And then, this past August, she went to college, and our house became a lot quieter. She came home once in September and once a few weeks ago, and we got to see one or two of her friends, but now that Thanksgiving is upon us, they’re all home from college, and there is so much activity! It has been like a revolving door of friends since she got home, and we couldn’t be happier! If you have seen the SNL video titled Back Home Ballers, you know where I stole my title. If you’re not familiar with it, you can see it here. And if you’re a parent of a college student, you get it. Your husband is probably the “valet,” carrying bags up and down the stairs. At our house, I’m the mom who just went to Costco (or Publix, in my case) in anticipation of the college student’s arrival…and hopefully, there are lots of friends dropping in too! And the students themselves? Well, they are just enjoying every minute of the attention and preferential treatment.

I remember my friend, Angela, visiting me at my mother’s house when I was in my forties. I had gone down to Alabama to visit with Mother for a few days, and lucky for me, Angela lived nearby. One particular trip, Angela came over, and we were playing “Heads Up” with our smartphones, laughing and poking fun at each other. We talked and laughed and talked and laughed some more. I remember Mother saying, “Having y’all together here makes me happy. Y’all bring fun energy into my house.” I heard her, but I didn’t fully understand what she was saying.

Now I get it.

Now I understand what mother was feeling. I feel energized with all these friends of our daughter in and out of the house. I’ve been to the grocery store four times in anticipation of their visits. Normally, I do not enjoy the grocery store, but this week, I have enjoyed every minute of it…practically skipping and dancing down the aisles! I have tried to purchase all their favorite comfort foods, because I want them to feel comfortable and a little nostalgic. We have a few more days before they all head back to college, so I hope to prepare a few more meals, snacks, and desserts before they leave. My refrigerator is still bursting at the seams, so they need to come over as often as possible to eat all that food! The benefit for me? While they hang out in my kitchen, laughing and talking, I absorb their fun, positive energy, and I get to laugh a lot! Good times.

Last night, in fact, a few friends were here, and we stayed up well into the night laughing and talking…even crying some too, but it was good crying. I have watched these young people grow up! Obviously, I have known my daughter her whole life, but I’ve known most of her friends since they were five or even before that! We go way back…lots of history there. Now they have new lives at their universities spread across the country, so there was lots to cover there too.

I have even been able to drive my daughter and some of her friends to the homes of other friends…and even pick them up late at night! Many of these college students are home without their cars, because they have to fly back and forth to their universities. Our daughter doesn’t have her car here, so I almost feel like I used to feel before she was old enough to drive! Yes, it was aggravating sometimes then, but now I’m the mom driving late at night with a big smile on my face! I’m just so happy! That is my life right now! It’s real, y’all.

And you know what? I’m loving every minute and trying to lock things into my long term memory!

*Feature photo from NBC’s SNL* I wish I had thought to get our daughter and a group of her friends to pose like this!

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