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!

Thanksgiving 2022

Thanksgiving 2022

It’s our first Thanksgiving as empty nesters! We made it to Thanksgiving! Actually, we have thoroughly enjoyed our empty nester status, but you know we were thrilled our baby girl could come home for a whole week! We are counting down to her Christmas break (starts December 9), when she will be out of school for a whole month! I don’t dare say we will see her for a whole month, because I’m sure she will want to visit with friends…and we are cool with that!

But here we are, having survived most of the first semester. After Thanksgiving, she just goes back to school for “dead week” and finals week before returning for the next break. Here’s where I should tell you, contrary to what some some moms say on the Facebook college parent pages, “dead week” does not mean they walk around looking like “the walking dead” or “zombies.” Well, at her university that’s not what it means; I can’t speak for others. Some parents have said on the parents page, “They study so hard that they look like zombies.” For 95% of the students, I’m saying that is not true. What it actually means…and share this with your friends…is that professors cannot issue new assignments during the “dead week” before finals, and they cannot have tests during that week either. Some professors might opt to have class, and some might not. Some have review sessions, and some do not. Some give extra credit for attending that week, and others do not. The week is meant to be a study week.

I can assure you that when I was at the same university as my daughter in the 1980s, I did not walk around looking like a zombie during dead week. No way. Did I use my time wisely and study all week? I’d like to say I did. Oh, who am I kidding?!?! No way! I had lots of fun during dead week and started studying for finals at the end of the week. I was even known to go out during finals week. [Gasp!] If I looked like the walking dead during dead week, it had nothing to do with studying too hard. If I looked like a zombie that week, it was because I had too much fun the night before. Not gonna lie. Don’t get me wrong. I studied. I just studied efficiently. I kept up in my classes. I met with professors when I didn’t understand a concept. I was a good student. OK, I was a pretty good student. But I got the job done, and I had a great work/life balance. I didn’t work all the time, and I didn’t play all the time. Fortunately, I had parents who understood the importance of enjoying college life, and as long as I “took care of business,” I could play all I wanted. And I did.

Now our daughter is trying to have a work/life balance her freshman year of college, and at Thanksgiving 2022, we are thankful she seems to be thriving. It’s hard to believe just six months ago, she was feeling a little unsure about her decision. She was thinking of another school she had considered. She was thinking she had made a mistake in choosing her university. She had just graduated and was entering the summer before college. It was a painful time in our household…lots of tears. I took her to orientation in June, and she was a mess. We got through it when I promised her she could transfer at any time if she didn’t like the university. However, I had no doubt in my mind that she would like it. I think she just needed to know she had options. Soon after school started, I received numerous texts saying, “I love it here!” Transferring is never discussed. We survived the summer of ambivalence, and here we are now…almost through the first semester!

And that, my friends, is what I’m celebrating this Thanksgiving! I’m thankful for my daughter’s happiness at her college home. We relax a little knowing she is happy. Is every day perfect? No. Does she have some stress with studies? Some. But is she making memories that will last as lifetime, just like I did? You bet! This year, we will have or own little Thanksgiving celebration at home. We had considered going out but decided to stay in and enjoy the food that is stacked in our refrigerator. I’m hoping friends and neighbors will stop by later in the day, when we are enjoying cocktails on the patio by the fire!

Happy Thanksgiving! And if, like me, you’d like to relive the WKRP in Cincinnati Turkey Drop, click here. It’s an all-time favorite that I must watch at least once every Thanksgiving season. “As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly!”

This,Too, Shall Pass

This, too, shall pass.

It is a reminder that we are likely to move beyond problems or things that bother us…that the only constant is change. It was a phrase my mother lived by. Since her passing, one of her dear friends (who is also my friend) has offered up this gentle reminder to me on a regular basis, always adding my mother’s initials behind it or saying “a wise person once told me…”

It is meaningful throughout life, but I find it is especially meaningful in dealing with my college-age daughter and her friends. Sometimes, things that happen in their lives seem like a big deal to them, but we, as older, more experienced adults, know things will get better, and the current situation will be long forgotten.

Those four words, “This, too, shall pass,” can be applied in lots of different instances…especially short-term annoyances…most illnesses, most disagreements, homesickness, heartbreak, or an unexpected difficult setback…and many more.

I went online to do a little research on the saying and found that Abraham Lincoln used a longer version of it in a speech at the Wisconsin State Fair in Milwaukee before he was elected President of the United States. According to abrahamlincolnonline.org, he recounted a tale of an Eastern monarch:

It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence, to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words: “And this, too, shall pass away.” How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction!

I especially love Lincoln’s observation…”How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction.”

Somewhere along the way, it became, “This, too, shall pass.” Words to live by, I suppose. Throughout my own life, because I heard it from my mother, and because I have the good fortune of still hearing it from her friend, I have found comfort in those four words. Or sometimes, I have been reminded to check myself! When my daughter was an infant and would not nap, I was exhausted all the time. Many times, I had to remind myself, “This, too, shall pass.” But even in good times, when she was snuggled up to me as an infant, I also had to remind myself that she wouldn’t want to do that forever. It helped me live in the moment.

Even as we enjoyed the glow of our home after our daughter arrived home for the Thanksgiving break yesterday, I had to remind myself that the moment would pass. She was excited to be home. She was excited to eat her favorite foods. She was excited to talk with us. We are still enjoying every moment, but tomorrow, she is going to visit a friend at another university for a couple of days before coming home for a few days and then, returning to her own university. This great joy we are experiencing is short-lived. It is a reminder to live in the moment!

The sadness we will experience after she leaves? Well, that will pass too, as soon as she calls us to share a funny story from school. We will still miss her, of course, but we will rejoice in her happiness, just as we suffer in her pain…like all good parents. Our daughter is a piece of our hearts living outside our bodies…we tend to feel what she feels. Its true empathy. I truly believe my own empathy grew after having my daughter…not just for her, but for others. But that’s a discussion for another day.

Now, I find myself sharing those words of wisdom with my daughter on a regular basis. Spending extra time studying for a difficult class? This, too, shall pass. Homesickness? This, too, shall pass. Freshman joy? This, too, shall pass. (Live in the moment.) Heartbreak? This, too, shall pass. Extreme sadness or happiness? This, too, shall pass. Even confusion about her own emotions…this, too, shall pass.

The only constant is change.

Personally, I tell myself “this, too, shall pass” on a regular basis. Even after each of my parents died, I knew the grief would never go away, but the immediate feelings of hopelessness would pass. The loneliness would pass. Eventually, good memories would take over. And I was right.

As the holidays approach, I find it especially meaningful. There are lots of emotions that accompany this time of year, not just for me, but for lots of people. I feel a sense of loss, because my parents are no longer here, and I lost my mother during the holidays. I also feel a sense of joy, knowing we will have our daughter under our roof for a while. Enjoy the good times as much as possible, because the high is temporary. Weather the bad ones…hang in there long enough, they will pass too.

Both emotions are temporary…

Even though she has been gone for five years, my mother’s four words still resonate in my mind, “This, too, shall pass.” They even helped me when I was deep in grief after she passed. Thankful for a sweet mom who shared her wisdom with me.

*

A Whole Week Home From College

A whole week home from college.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We are excited!

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

I’m Happy to Be 55

I’m happy to be 55.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank God I’m 55!

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.

Visiting Our Daughter in College

Visiting our daughter in college.

This past weekend, I went to visit our daughter in college. If you have read anything I have written lately, you already know she is a freshman at my alma mater. In fact, you probably know she participated in sorority recruitment and pledged. You probably know she had a medical emergency soon thereafter, and soon after that, she was in an automobile accident while I was out of the country. That was a couple of weeks ago. I would say it has been a couple of quiet weeks since, but I don’t want to jinx it, so I’m not going to say it.

I arrived in Tuscaloosa (she goes to the University of Alabama) Friday evening and checked into the hotel, prepared to go to the football game against Vanderbilt Saturday. We do not have season tickets to the games, because we usually only go to a game or two a year, but I do have connections to get good seats, so I scored some club level seats for four of us…my daughter and a friend, me, and my friend, Angela.

For those who don’t know, it’s commonplace for freshmen girls to have dates with freshmen boys for the football games at Alabama. Our daughter had a date for Saturday’s game, so I knew I probably wouldn’t see much of her before the game, and I might not see her much during the game either. In talking with some other parents before the game, I discovered lots of parents don’t know that. One mom said she couldn’t believe she had traveled all the way from Virginia to see her daughter, and she was barely spending time with her. But I was prepared. I knew that would be the case. Heck, I barely saw her when she was still living at home! Plus, I remember college. I remember just wanting to be in the thick of things. I loved my parents, but hanging out with “old people” when I could be having fun? That was not on my agenda. It’s not on my daughter’s agenda either!

And as my friend, Lauren, says about our daughter, “The wind wasn’t blowing hard the day that apple fell from the tree!” Honestly, I had fun in college, but our daughter is a lot more fun and less reserved than I was. She just flies by the seat of her pants, and she doesn’t want to miss a thing. So was it a big surprise to me that she didn’t want to spend every moment with me? Not at all.

Truly, I decided the trip down to Alabama was really for my own peace of mind. She didn’t care if I visited or not. Do some parents get their feelings hurt by that? I’m sure they do. But I told our girl in advance that I didn’t expect her to spend a lot of time with me. I told her I wanted her to do what she wanted, but I’d love to have a meal or two with her.

Here’s the funny thing: I am absolutely thrilled that she didn’t want to spend lots of time with me. You can think I’m crazy, but let me explain. It goes back to the old “no news is good news.” If she doesn’t want to spend a lot of time with me, it means she is happy where she is. It’s not that she doesn’t care about me. It means she is so secure in the knowledge that I love her that she feels free to do what she wants. I’m cool with it. I think I wrote once about something I heard Dr. Lisa Damour, a well-known author and psychologist say. She compared the world to a big swimming pool, and the edge of the pool represents parents. Our kids dive into the pool (the world) and swim right out. Sometimes, they get tired or scared, and they swim back over to hold onto the edge of the pool (parents) for a few minutes. But soon, they’re swimming back out to the middle of the action. That’s my daughter in the world right now…except she isn’t swimming over to the edge very often…and that means she is feeling pretty confident about her swimming ability!

Before the game, my daughter and her best friend were with their dates at their fraternity house. I was visiting friends in other places on campus. I had “transferred” two digital tickets to my daughter, so we didn’t have to wait for her to go into the stadium. Angela and I went to the stadium a little while before game time, and at about kickoff, my daughter and her friend came strolling into the club…starving. So they grabbed some food from the buffet and sat down with us for a few minutes before going to their game seats, where we joined them a little while later. At halftime, they announced they were going back to join their dates, and we didn’t see them again that night. Our team won, and we left the stadium happy. The next day, we all had brunch together, and after all the fun had died down Sunday night, she went out to dinner with me and then came over to the hotel and watched a movie with me, snuggled up in bed, just like old times.

All of this is my long way of saying that if you visit your child at college and he/she doesn’t spend a lot of time with you, say a prayer of thanks. Be thankful that they are so happy where they are and so comfortable in their relationship with you. Be happy that they are out swimming in the middle of the pool all by themselves! There will still be times they need to swim back to the edge, but it’s not today.

I’m saying my prayer of thanks right now.

*If you’re interested in reading some of Lisa Damour’s books, you can purchase them on Amazon here.*

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?!?!

Preparing for Launch to College

Preparing for launch to college.

Boxes are piling up in the foyer of our house…Amazon, Nordstrom, Bed Bath & Beyond, Neiman Marcus, Target, Walmart, Zappos, more Amazon…you name it, we have it. Seriously, the foyer is starting to look like a warehouse. And it’s all because we are preparing to send our only daughter off to college to start her freshman year.

She moves in the first week of August. Are we ready? Well, we don’t have everything she is going to need. But I guess we are as emotionally ready as we will ever be. Who knows? We likely won’t know until we drive away from her dorm. I’m sure there will be tears at some point. Will we cry in the dorm room? Will we cry over dinner after we get everything moved in? Will we cry in the car after we leave? Or will it be a delayed reaction? Maybe we will cry after we get home and see her empty room? I have no way of knowing, but I will gladly answer all those questions after the fact.

Freshman move-in day is a day she will remember for the rest of her life. She already knows her roommate, but she will make lots of new friends on the very first day of dorm life…just like I did back in 1985. I have written before about my first college friends. You can see that here.

My friend, Angela, whose daughter is a junior in college (fortunately, at the same college where our daughter is going), tells me she didn’t cry when she left her in the dorm the first time. However, she did cry after she got home, and she occasionally still cries.

This whole “preparing for launch” thing is real. It’s a lot these days. When I went to college as a freshman in 1985, I feel like I took the bare minimum…linens, towels, enough clothes to last me a couple of weeks, some shoes, toiletries, an alarm clock, photos and posters to hang on the bulletin board in the room…and that’s about it. I wasn’t abnormal for the time, I don’t think. But wow, times have changed.

Now, you can look online and find all kinds of dorm decorating ideas. Girls decorate their dorm rooms with lots of stuff: pillows, rugs, lamps, curtains, extra shelving, headboards…all kinds of stuff. Fortunately, my daughter’s roommate’s mom is an interior designer. Yay, me! When I first talked with her on the phone, she told me, “I can do this in my sleep.” Thank you, Lord! It wouldn’t be left up to me! No one wants me to decorate a room. I think there are two types of people: the ones who see surroundings, and the ones who see faces. I am the latter. You could ask me right now what color the walls are in different rooms of my house, and I wouldn’t be able to tell you. In fact, I am working in our guest room right now, and even though I have been in that bathroom numerous times over the last few days, I couldn’t tell you what the cabinetry in there looks like. Is it white? Is it black? I’m not sure.

But back to the dorm…

The roommate’s mom and I agree that the girls’ room should not be so stuffed with extra things that it feels claustrophobic. It’s a small dorm room for two girls…two XL twin beds, a desk, two wardrobes, a refrigerator/microwave combo, a vanity area, and a bathroom with a shower. Obviously, we need to outfit it with the basics. They’ll need a shower curtain, a bath mat/rug, linens/bedding, towels, hangers, clothes, and their personal belongings. We have added some bed pillows, headboards, two throws for the beds, a rug for the bedroom, curtains, a couple of lamps, a few wall hangings, laundry bags, under-the-bed shoe storage compartments, a stand-up steamer, a vacuum (for the rug), Clorox toilet wand, and a table to put between the beds for the lamps. We aren’t taking extra shelving. We just want them to be comfortable, and I think they will be.

But for now, I am feeling a little overwhelmed by the boxes in the foyer. I just walked into our daughter’s room and told her we need to go through the boxes to see what is “keep” and what is “return.” She just looked at me. I’m sure she feels overwhelmed by the boxes too. Looking at the ever-growing stack of boxes, it seems like a daunting task to open them and make decisions right now.

Last year, I purchased lots of big, blue IKEA moving/storage bags well in advance of this endeavor. A friend told me to purchase them early, because by the time I realized I needed them, they would be out of stock. So they’ve been in a closet just waiting to be used. And tonight, we will carry some of them downstairs to start sorting through the boxes. We will start packing the “keep” items in the moving bags, and we will start putting the returns in my car for me to transport to the store, UPS, or FedEx…wherever they need to go.

I need to get out my checklist and start checking things off. There are checklists all over the internet. I found a helpful one on the Colleges of Distinction website. You can see it here. Some of the items we definitely won’t need, so we will redline those items, but then we will finish collecting all the other items we need and getting them packed. We also have to remember we must be able to fit it all in the car when we go! Sure, we could ship things ahead to the university post office, but honestly, that just sounds like a bigger pain to me, because I’m sure parking would be difficult, and there will be lines to stand in. No thanks. We will simply have to figure this out with the space we have.

Am I dreading the process? In a word…yes. But I’m not dreading it because we will be leaving our daughter behind. I’m dreading it, because we actually have to get all the stuff there and into the room. Even though we are trying to take a somewhat minimalist approach, we will have lots of “stuff.” Once the stuff is in the room and put away, I’m sure I will dread the actual departure without our girl.

Preparing for launch to college is no joke.