Happy Mom

Happy Mom.

Call me crazy (you wouldn’t be the first). When our daughter was a toddler, a local amusement park made me a happy mom during the spring, summer, and early fall months.

Carowinds is a Cedar Fair amusement park in Charlotte known for its gigantic rollercoasters. Most moms roll their eyes at the thought of going to Carowinds, but not me. Carowinds saved me.

My husband and I first took our then 2-yr-old daughter to Carowinds on his 40th birthday. I had driven past the park many times and seen the rollercoasters. I will readily admit that I love rollercoasters, so Carowinds looked like a fun way to turn 40. I love a song by David Wilcox called Top of the Rollercoaster that was a metaphor for turning 30. Personally, I think it can be a metaphor for any of the big birthdays. You can hear it on Apple Music or listen to it here. My husband didn’t think Carowinds sounded like fun, but I talked him into it, and afterward, he was glad I did. No, we didn’t get to ride any rollercoasters that day…we had a toddler with us…but we had a great time! He rode the little boats with our daughter. I rode the little cars with her and the helicopter ride. We rode the Dora Train and yelled “Swiper, no swiping!” at the appropriate time. And our daughter laughed and laughed. And we all went to what we referred to as the “Dora Show.” It was a live show in the kiddie section of the park…based on the Dora the Explorer cartoon show. At the end, we all did the chicken dance with the rest of the crowd, and we laughed! It was a great day, and even though my husband thought he didn’t want to turn 40 there, he has great memories from that day.

My husband’s birthday is in May, and after we went on his birthday, I realized Carowinds would be a fun place to visit regularly. I just didn’t realize how regularly we would go.

We got season passes for all of us, and one morning in June, I got up and took our 2 1/2 year old daughter to Carowinds by myself. After we entered the front gate, I rented a stroller. The park’s strollers had steering wheels, and even though the steering wheels controlled absolutely nothing, our daughter enjoyed thinking she was in charge while I was pushing her around the park. And after that visit, I realized we were both happy there. No, I didn’t get to ride rollercoasters, but back then, the park was owned by Paramount, so some of our daughter’s favorite cartoon characters were roaming the park. She loved seeing Dora the Explorer, the Fairly Oddparents, Little Bill, and the characters from Spongebob Squarepants! Oh, we have so many pictures of her with them! She also loved riding the little rides in what we referred to as the “kiddie” section of the park…swings, a little rollercoaster, the boats, the cars, and the Dora Train. And she loved seeing the Dora the Explorer show at least once on every visit.

As for me, I loved being outside with a happy child for a few hours every day. Yes, I said every day, because after that, we visited every day that we were in town and weather permitted. With the season pass, it was a cheap way to spend a day. Sure, the food was pretty expensive, but we often had lunch right there in the park…always having French fries. She had at least one Icee on every visit, and sometimes, she enjoyed a frozen lemonade. I walked miles on every visit, pushing the stroller and chasing a toddler.

We went so often that Mr. Bob, the usher for the Dora the Explorer show, knew us. Seriously, we would walk in, and he would greet us like old friends. In fact, after we had seen the show 20 or 30 times, Mr. Bob would tell her, “If anyone doesn’t show up for the show today, we can let you stand in for them, because you know the whole show.”

Sometimes, our friends from our toddler playgroup would go with us, adding another element of fun.

We were, quite possibly, the best customers at Carowinds for several summers (yes, several summers, because we were regulars for several years), and I was a happy mom. I got out in the sunshine without worrying about my child in a pool! I got exercise with my happy toddler accompanying me! We played games (one summer, sometime between age four and six, she climbed the wiggly rope ladder to win a gigantic, stuffed purple dog!).

As she got taller, she could ride bigger rides…eventually the giant rollercoasters…new adventures for us to enjoy together!

And we made great memories. Seriously, I would not trade those summers for anything. They were some of my happiest times. I love being a stay-at-home-mom, but I didn’t enjoy being stuck at home all the time. I loved getting out with her on a regular basis, and Carowinds was an easy way to keep both of us happy.

Yes, Carowinds made me a happy mom.

To see more about Carowinds, click here.

Honeysuckle

Honeysuckle.

I just returned from running some errands, and as I approached the back entrance of our neighborhood, I saw the perfectly ripened yellow and white blooms! Honeysuckle! Big bushes of it!

Back when our daughter was a little girl, she and I would watch that area every year, waiting for the honeysuckle to appear. But we didn’t dare approach it too early. From my childhood, I knew we needed to wait until it was just right…wait until it’s bursting with nectar and the fragrance is overwhelming. A few years ago, though, someone mowed down all the honeysuckle, and I haven’t seen it since…until recently. A few weeks ago, I noticed the first sign of it…the yellow buds…and I thought, “Is the honeysuckle really coming back? Just before our daughter goes off to college?” Since then, every time I drive past, I open the car window to look and sniff…and today, after an afternoon shower, it smelled perfect.

I had never really thought to investigate the honeysuckle habitat before today. For some reason, I always thought it was a southern thing, but after a little research, I learned it is definitely not just a southern thing. People all over the world use it for its medicinal purpose, and lots of people make simple syrup from it. I have never done that, but I’m up for the challenge!

When I was growing up in Alabama in the 1970s, we watched for three things as summer approached: lightning bugs (fireflies), backyard or roadside blackberries, and honeysuckle.

We knew summer was almost here when we saw our first lightning bug of the season. To this day, at the ripe age of 54, I still look out into the trees around our house as summer is approaching…watching for the first flash of a lightning bug. I haven’t seen one yet this year, but I’m watching. When I was a little girl, we would catch them and put them in Mason jars…poking holes in the top of the jar so they could get oxygen. We never kept them for longer than an hour or so, and we always released them. It was just fun to see how much they would glow in a jar.

As for the blackberries, at one of our houses, we had a big blackberry bush in the back corner of the yard. We would watch for the blooms and then wait for them to ripen before picking, but I only picked right on the leading edge of the bush. They were full of “stickers” (briars), and there was no way I was inviting that pain…not even for blackberries. I was also under the impression that snakes liked blackberries, so I was afraid of that too. I guess I thought the snakes wouldn’t hang out on the leading edge of the bush. If there were more ripened blackberries on the interior limbs of the bush, they went untouched by me…they likely rotted if no one else picked them, because I wasn’t sticking my arm in there to get them.

And then there was the honeysuckle…a sweet little treat that packed a lot of happiness and sunshine. We would go to the honeysuckle bushes/vines in our neighborhood and search for the ripest blooms. We knew the really ripe ones had the sweetest nectar. We would find the perfect flower and pick it whole…making sure to get the calyx (the little green bud that connects it to the stem). With the flower in one hand, we would pinch just above the calyx…not all the way through…just enough to break the edges. We’d then slowly slide the “style” (female part of the plant) out of the flower by gently pulling. As the end of the style approached, we could see the glorious nectar, or “honey.” Once we saw that little drop, we’d stick it to our tongues and taste the sweetness of summer! And that is the glory of honeysuckle! It’s a childhood treat.

As I mentioned before, when our daughter was a little girl…probably about four years old…I showed her how to get the honey from the honeysuckle, just as I had learned as a little girl. After that, she and I would invite neighborhood friends to walk up to the back entrance with us, sharing the glory of the honeysuckle with those who had never had it before. Hopefully, some of them remember how to do it.

Our daughter is not home tonight, but you can bet tomorrow, after brunch, we will be walking up to the honeysuckle at the back entrance of our neighborhood. It’s Mother’s Day, after all, and I can’t think of a better gift than spending time harvesting honeysuckle with my 18-year-old daughter who is headed off to college 450 miles away in August. I think Mother’s Day is the perfect day to revisit the honeysuckle. For a little while, we will relive some precious moments from her childhood.

Happy Mother’s Day!

I’ve Already Graduated from College

I’ve already graduated from college.

When our daughter was in third grade, she came home one afternoon and asked me to help her with a math problem. She didn’t ask for help often, and I was happy to oblige. I sat down and worked with her, showing her how to do a problem. When I finished, she just looked at me and said, “That’s not how my teacher does it.” I said, “Well, that’s how I do it. I won the math award in high school…I know what I’m doing.” Again…”that’s not how my teacher does it.” My response? “Then ask your teacher in the morning. I have already passed third grade math.” And honestly, that was the best response for lots of reasons, the main one being that I don’t know how to do “new math.”

It reminded me of my mother when I was in school. I remember asking her for help with geometry, and her response was, “Honey. I don’t remember. That was 30 years ago. I’ve already passed geometry.” And with that, she turned back to continue watching Dynasty, because what Krystle Carrington was wearing was important. At that point in my life, I guess I thought moms retained every bit of math knowledge they had acquired in school. I guess I expected her to be able to recall the Pythagorean theorem on demand…30 years after passing her geometry class. My daughter has not asked me for math help (or any other kind of help in school) since. I guess, if she needed help along the way, she asked a classmate or a teacher.

And now, she is finishing high school in the next few weeks and preparing to leave for college! Exciting times at our house! She is enrolled, but she has lots of things to do before she can go off to college.

Back in the 80s, when I was applying to college and preparing to leave, I did it all. I don’t remember my parents helping me at all. Sure, they paid for everything, but I did all the legwork. I remember brochures and packets coming in the mail from different colleges and universities. My mother put a bag in my room to deal with that. Every day, after the mail arrived, she would bring all the brochures and packets up to my room and drop them into the bag. Every now and then, I would weed through the information and throw away the information from the schools I wasn’t interested in. When I applied to colleges, I simply asked her for checks to mail with the applications. I wrote the checks, and she signed them. I’m not even sure if she knew which schools the checks were going to. And that was OK, because I was the one going to college. She had already graduated from college.

Now, as my daughter is preparing to leave for college, I have joined some Facebook parent pages for her university, which is also my alma mater. I have written about the parent pages before. They are annoying, to say the least. Moms asking how to send baked potatoes to their kids’ dorms. (Not kidding.) Moms asking where their kids should park. (Not kidding.) Moms asking about tutors for their kids. (Not kidding.) Moms asking how to do their kids’ schedules. (Not kidding.) Moms asking how to drop/add classes. (Not kidding.) Rarely, there is someone who asks a question or shares information that is useful.

Why did I put “not kidding” behind each of those items I listed? I will tell you why: because those are all things the kids should be handling themselves. And do you know why? Because they are the ones going to college. Fortunately, my daughter hasn’t asked me to handle anything for her (I don’t have any login information for her student account). She likely knows I would say, “That’s something you need to figure out like I had to do when I went to college. I’m not going to college; you are. I’ve already graduated from college.” Does it mean I don’t care? No, it means the opposite. It means I care enough to let her do it herself. She needs to learn to solve her own problems. She needs to know how to get her own questions answered. She needs to be responsible for herself. I have full confidence in her, because I have let her figure things out for herself for a long time. Heck, it’s easier for them now than it was when we were in college! Now, all the information they need is on the website!

Back in the good ol’ 1980s, if we had questions about college stuff, we had to search through the university catalog. Or get the university phone book and make some calls to get answers. If we were wondering about where to order a baked potato to have delivered to our dorm, we had to find the yellow pages and look it up. Only, we couldn’t look up “baked potato delivery.” We had to look up restaurants and search for one with an ad for delivery. We also had to have some idea of which ones offered baked potatoes. Or we could walk down the dorm hall asking people if they knew where we could order a baked potato…that often worked. But back in the 80s, our moms were not ordering food to have delivered to us. No way. Honestly, I’m not even sure my mother knew the name of the dorm I lived in freshman year! No joke.

All this also makes me think about something that happened when our daughter was about six years old. My friend, Wendy, and I had taken my 6-yr-old daughter, Wendy’s 6-yr-old son, and my twin 6-yr-old nephews to Great Wolf Lodge one weekend. When we took them to dinner, my daughter was holding her own plate, but standing next to me at the buffet. Wendy’s son was holding his own plate but standing next to her at the buffet. I looked around for my nephews and saw one at the prime rib station, asking the server for a slice of prime rib. The other one was navigating the salad bar on his own. When we sat back down, Wendy and I talked about how awesome it was that they handled it all on their own! I called the nephews’ mom the next day and said, “Wow! They handled the buffet like champs!” And I still remember her response. She said, “That’s what happens when parents ignore their kids. They become self-sufficient.” I laughed, because I knew she didn’t really ignore them, but she didn’t baby them. They handled things for themselves at six! And I learned a valuable lesson. l didn’t ignore my daughter, for sure, but I let her handle things on her own. Those same nephews are off to college this fall too, and I feel sure they can handle anything that comes their way.

When we get my daughter moved into the dorm in August, I will feel pretty sure she can figure things out. She can handle it. She has always been a decision-maker. She is like me; she can make a decision…it might not always be the best one, but she can make a decision, and that is a life skill. Why can she make decisions? Because I have always stepped back to let her make her own decisions. I might present the facts before she makes it, but she makes her own decisions. I’m proud of that, because “the road of life is paved with flat squirrels who couldn’t make a decision.” If your kid is about to leave for college, and you haven’t let them make life decisions, you have a few more months to let them practice, so they don’t become a flat squirrel.

I’ve already graduated from college.

Why I Drive to the Game

Why I drive to the game.

Yesterday, my daughter’s high school lacrosse team had a game 125 miles away in Durham, North Carolina. Her school had a bus taking the team, but as always, I drove my car too. When I was talking to a friend, she asked, “If they can go on the bus, why do you drive up there?” There are lots of reasons…

  • I have one job. Seriously, I have one job. I don’t work outside the home. I manage parts of the household, and my husband manages other things, but we have a very nice lady who cleans our house for us. So seriously…I have one job…to take care of our daughter. It is a job I have always taken very seriously, and for me, it is the single most important job in the world. I said “for me,” so don’t come at me if you work outside the home and think I’m judging you. I’m not that person. Again, for me, this is the most important job I could ever have. I’m not a helicopter parent or tiger mom. I looked up “7 Signs You Might Be a Helicopter Parent” on WebMD, and I don’t fit the description. You can see the article here. I readily admit that when our daughter was younger (elementary school age), I did call a parent after lots of issues (#1 on the WebMD list), but there were lots more times I told our daughter to handle things on her own. I learned a valuable lesson from that call and taught our daughter some key words and strategies to use when fighting her own battles…even practiced using those tactics with her. The six other items on the “7 Signs…” list do not apply. I’m definitely not a helicopter parent. I encourage her to take chances. I let her make her own mistakes. She makes her own decisions. And I’m definitely not a tiger mom, which is defined on Wikipedia (yes, I know I shouldn’t cite Wikipedia, but their definition is accurate on this one) as a “strict form of parenting, whereby the parents are highly invested in their children’s success.” I’m not that mom. First, I’m not strict. I encourage fun and living well. I want her to have academic success, but mostly, I want her to have a good life. So no, I’m not a helicopter mom or a tiger mom. But I’m trying to do my one job the way I want to do it.
  • My daughter wants to get home quickly. Again, I have one job. Our daughter doesn’t even ask me if I’m going to the away games, because she knows I’m going. I know she wants me there so she has a faster, more comfortable ride home. I remember being a teenager. I remember how important my social life was to me. I understand why she wants to get home. And honestly, I understand why she doesn’t want to ride home on a school bus. Don’t get me wrong. Our school has nice buses and super-nice bus drivers, but it’s nice to ride in your own car. If she wants food on the way home, I’ll stop for her. If she needs a bathroom, I’ll stop for that too. I remember when she was riding a team bus years ago and texted me, saying, “I need to go to the bathroom.” I said, “Tell the coach.” She didn’t want to tell the coach. I think she eventually had to tell her, and they stopped, but she was embarrassed. She’s never embarrassed to tell me she needs to take a bathroom break.
  • I want to see every game. I think I have only missed three or four games in her entire sports career…since she was four or five. Any missed games were due to valid reasons…my husband’s brain surgery, my mother’s emergency surgery, running a team errand…and once I missed a field hockey game, because I simply needed to get out of town with a trip to California after months of being home during the COVID pandemic. Of course, I missed seeing her cheer at some high school basketball games, but only because no spectators were allowed during the pandemic. I watched the games on the livestream, though.
  • She’s only a high school senior once. I have been saying this for years. I remember when she was eight years old and wanted to go to the Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards. My husband thought I was nuts when I mentioned it to him, but I explained to him, “Come on. She’s only eight once.” And we went to the Kids Choice Awards in Los Angeles that year and a few more times too. Some special event has come up every year for her, and I catch myself saying, “She’s only 11 once” or “she’s only 14 once.” Now, I’m saying, “She’s only a high school senior once.” And honestly, this is the end of her sports career. She won’t be playing a college sport. I will never get to cheer from the sidelines for her again. I am savoring every moment.

Does it mean I think every parent should be driving to away games? No. In fact, I am very much in the minority on this. I just love watching her play, but I also just love watching sports and competition. It’s what I grew up doing. My parents would stop at any sporting event anywhere. Random high school track meet? Yep. Random tiny college baseball game? Yep. We watched sports all the time, so it’s just what I do.

Tonight, we don’t have a lacrosse game to drive to, but I did just discover the Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards are on at 7:30! Seriously! While I was typing, a commercial for the KCAs came on! I don’t know what our daughter’s plans are for tonight, but I’ll be recording the KCAs for us to watch together later! It’s a tradition. It’s what we do.

And that’s why I drive to the game. It doesn’t mean I think other moms should do the same. It’s just what I do.

Forever Friends

Forever friends.

We never really know who will be our forever friends, do we? I have had friends in my life I thought would be forever friends, but for different reasons (sometimes my fault, sometimes theirs, sometimes no one’s fault), it didn’t work out that way. For the most part, we just never knew the last phone call would be the last phone call. Or the last lunch would be the last lunch. We just drifted apart for whatever reason…moving, new responsibilities, life. No matter what, they all had some effect on my life. I have learned something from every friend in my life.

But my 18-yr-old daughter is visiting a friend in Pensacola, Florida, this weekend, and I think they are going to be forever friends. I can’t explain why I think it, but I do. Something about these two…a bond formed outside of other friendships, maybe? They support each other all the time. They have each other’s backs all the time. And they have similar interests (they’re both athletic, fun, and funny). They talk, I think, almost every single night via Facetime. So many nights I have walked into my daughter’s room to wish her good night, and she is talking with this friend. It makes me happy.

In 2014, when my daughter was 10 years old, we had a place on the Alabama Gulf Coast. That summer, because we knew she wouldn’t be willing to do it later, we decided to spend most of our time there…at the beach. Our daughter was playing club soccer, and at that point, she was very into it. Her club soccer coach, upon hearing we would be at the beach for the summer, suggested she find someone to practice with there…or even attend a camp there. So I did what moms do; I enrolled her in a camp and also enrolled her in some regular training sessions.

The camp I signed her up for turned out to be on the Naval Base in Pensacola. That Monday morning, bright and early, when we arrived, she looked out at the field from the car and said to me, “Mom, it’s all little kids.” She was right. It looked like a lot of six and seven year old kids. We had arrived early, so we had time to sit in the car and talk while we scanned the field. After a few minutes, I spotted a blonde girl who appeared to be about my daughter’s age, and I said, “There’s a girl your age!” She didn’t waste any time; she jumped out of the car and ran straight to the girl on the field. I stayed for the session but didn’t watch all the training. I walked around the area for exercise while she played, but I noticed when they had a break and walked back over to the sideline. My daughter came running over, her new friend in tow and introduced me to Lindsey. Even after knowing each other for an hour, they were already acting like best friends!

The camp was a one-week camp. Our daughter wasn’t feeling well one of the days, so she missed. Another day, it stormed, as it does on the Gulf Coast. But when she was there, she played soccer with her new friend at the camp. The last day was cut short by another storm, and soon after starting, the skies opened with torrential rains. We all ran to our cars to escape the downpour, and the rest of the last day of the camp was canceled. We left without getting contact information for Lindsey, because everything had ended so abruptly. It was fun while it lasted.

The next week, I took our daughter to the first of the weekly soccer training sessions. It was just going to be two hours a week on Wednesday mornings. So that Wednesday morning, I drove her to the field. And when we arrived, she looked out at the field and said, “Mom, it’s all big kids.” I couldn’t believe it. She was right. They all appeared to be over 13, and she was just 10. We sat in the car and talked about whether she wanted to do the training or not, and after a few minutes, I saw a minivan pull up behind me, and three kids tumbled out…two older kids and a girl who appeared to be our daughter’s age. I said, “Look! That girl is about your age!” She looked back and excitedly said, “It’s Lindsey!” And she couldn’t get out of the car fast enough! She jumped out with her soccer bag, and the girls embraced happily before going out onto the field.

After that, Lindsey visited us at our place on the beach, and the girls bonded. Whenever we visited the beach after that, they hung out. Two girls who lived 500 miles apart became best friends…having been brought together by soccer…with a little nudge from God, I think. Eventually, Lindsey visited us in Charlotte a couple of times, and last year, she vacationed with us in California. I’m not sure if her parents know it yet, but the girls are planning for her to vacation with us again this summer…maybe more than once!

Their meeting and formation of a friendship is one of my favorite friendship stories. In the fall, they are both off to college. No, they aren’t going to the same school. Mine is going to the University of Alabama, and Lindsey is off to Ole Miss. They’ll be just three hours apart, so I see lots of road trips in their future.

They’ll likely still Facetime regularly, though not every night, but I feel pretty sure these two will be forever friends. God put them in each other’s path for a reason.

Moms After Christmas Day

Moms after Christmas Day.

We made it! Moms of the world, we made it! We got through Christmas Day!

No, this doesn’t mean we don’t celebrate the real reason for the season. It doesn’t mean we aren’t grateful. It doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy the holidays. But moms, in most families, take on the lion’s share of the “burden” of making Christmas Day happen in our homes…and we wouldn’t have it any other way!

When our now-18-yr-old was ten years old, she came down with the flu on the afternoon of Christmas Eve. We were ice skating with friends, and suddenly, she wasn’t feeling well. We left immediately and went home, but when I discovered her fever kept going up after taking meds, I took her to Urgent Care just before they closed. She had flu. It was Christmas Eve. She still believed in Santa, and Santa (me) had some work to do that night!

I took her home and put her in my bed, and shortly thereafter, the nausea kicked in. We were up all night till about 6:30am, when she finally fell asleep and Santa (me) could jump into action. Fortunately, that year, I had prepared well ahead of time. I had wrapped all the Santa gifts in advance and put them in a giant black garbage bag in the game room upstairs. I sent my husband up to bring that down, and as soon as our daughter fell asleep (for a total of 30 minutes!), I dashed out to the living room and put the gifts out…just like Santa would do!

But isn’t it that way for most moms? At the holidays, we just have to find ways to make things happen. Burn the turkey? Pull out some frozen chicken pies from the freezer. Forgot to buy milk for a recipe? Call the neighbors and rush over with a cup to pour some from their refrigerator.

And invariably, we purchase and wrap all the gifts. I looked at all the beautifully-wrapped family gifts under our tree this year and realized I had wrapped every single one! Not only that, but I had also purchased every gift! I had spent countless hours shopping online and in local stores, trying to find the perfect gifts for friends and family. And the gifts were all neatly wrapped with beautiful handmade bows (I have a little talent) and placed carefully under the tree. Nope, there wasn’t a wrapped gift for me. My gift was the expensive vacation my daughter and I took right before Christmas…and it was the perfect gift for me. So every gift under the tree had been wrapped by me. And all those stocking stuffers that magically made it into the stockings? Also me. This year, somehow, I had been prepared. I had everything wrapped and ready to go a week before Christmas!

Of course, as things go, there were a few hiccups. I didn’t have time to go grocery shopping when we got back late on Christmas Eve, so on Christmas Day, we had refrigerator and cupboard surprises! Whatever was in there is what I prepared. Chicken/Bean Soup? Yum! Beer Bread? It was gone in two hours…the whole loaf! Chicken Pie from the freezer? Check! Grilled hot dogs? Yep. Chips and my fabulous Fiesta Party Dip? Everybody loved it!

There were gift hiccups too. Our daughter had opened all her wrapped gifts, and afterward, she asked, “I guess you didn’t get a chance to get the stuff from Lululemon?” Panic struck. Had I remembered? It didn’t really matter, because I know she isn’t “doing without,” but I needed to know what had happened! Had I completely forgotten? Or had I ordered it and forgotten what I had done with it? I thought I remembered ordering from Lululemon, so I said, “Let me check.” I grabbed my phone and checked my email, where I found that I had, indeed, ordered from Lululemon…and it had been delivered! I excused myself and went to the room where I had done all the gift wrapping. And there I found the package from Lululemon, still in the shipping package…just as it had arrived. I took it into the living room, where my family was waiting, and I acknowledged my error, but at least I had the goods from Lululemon! I wasn’t completely crazy! In a few minutes, our daughter asked about a necklace she had requested. Hmmm. I knew she had sent me a link. I checked the email again and found that, indeed, I had ordered the necklace. But as I read the email, I realized it wouldn’t arrive till January. Whew! In the overall scheme of things, though, the daughter would have been fine without the Lululemon stuff and the necklace. Her life wouldn’t be any different with or without them. She knows that. I’m sure she just kept expecting to find them, since she had sent me the links, just as I asked her to do. I was glad she had asked! And thankfully, at least I remembered to order them, even if I couldn’t remember what I had done with them!

Various friends dropped in throughout the day, and because I enjoy a good cocktail with friends, the Mimosas (prosecco or champagne + orange juice) and Poinsettias (prosecco or champagne + cranberry juice + a splash of Cointreau orange liqueur) started flowing pretty freely. I played bartender and brought out snacks while we all talked and laughed. We even played a silly game I found online called Merry Dissmas, and we laughed even more! And there’s nothing else I would have wanted to do. It was great fun.

Of course, between the cooking, laughing, talking, and game playing, just like most moms do, I picked up all the wrapping paper (with some help from the hubby and daughter). My husband flattened all the boxes and took them out to the garage. Since we had just returned from vacation twelve hours before we opened gifts, I unpacked suitcases and did a few loads of laundry. But I have to give my husband credit: he cleaned the kitchen really well.

And honestly, I love doing everything for Christmas Day. I love shopping. I love wrapping. I love trying to find something to please the recipients of the gifts. And just like most moms, I love doing everything I can do for my family. It’s part of what makes it a Merry Christmas for me. I hope I’ll get to keep shopping, wrapping, making bows, cooking, tending bar, and everything else for Christmas Day for many years to come.

It’s what moms do.

And on December 26, after Christmas Day is over, we rest…unless our kids are still small, and then there’s no rest for Mom.

Facebook Memories: A Gift to Ourselves

Facebook Memories: A Gift to Ourselves.

I joined Facebook in 2009, because a friend from high school “invited” me to join. At the time, I didn’t think much of it. I friended a few people, and then I realized I needed to get my mother to join, because it was an easy way for me to share photos of my then-five-yr-old daughter. I had no idea what an effect it would have on life, in general.

Here is where I am the first to admit that Facebook can be a giant “time suck,” as one friend calls it. I choose to call it a “time bandit,” because it steals my time, and when I look up, I’ve lost minutes or even hours of my life…to Facebook.

At the same time, it’s a good thing. We get to communicate with friends from lots of different stages of our lives. I’ve mentioned before that Facebook connected me with a friend who lived across the street from me when I was a toddler. It connected me with kindergarten friends I never dreamed remembered me after I moved away in second grade. It connected me with friends from the school I started attending in second grade and left after fourth grade. And it connected me with friends from high school and college, jobs I had over the years, and new friends I’ve made along the way. It’s a gift.

But there’s one part of Facebook that I truly consider a gift: Facebook Memories. I love Facebook Memories. I love that, every day, I can open my Facebook account, click on “memories,” and I can see things I’ve posted from years past. Today, for example, when I opened my account, the first memory I came across from one year ago was a photo of a space heater. I had posted it, telling my friend I had purchased new heaters to put at our feet while we visited in the garage. Yep, it was a sign of the times…the pandemic forced me to visit with friends in the open garage. The next memory, also from 2020, was a photo of a Christmas gumdrop tree, something nostalgic from my childhood that was clearly nostalgic for other people too, judging by the comments. The next post? One of my favorites of all time: a video from my daughter’s eighth grade basketball season…a girl on the team hit a buzzer beater to win the game 33-31 (yes, 33-31, because it was middle school girls’ basketball, after all) and a celebration ensued! As I continued to scroll, I came across a photo of me with a group of friends at the Good Friends Luncheon in Charlotte in 2016…a great cause that raises funds to help kids and adults in need. From 2013, there is a photo of me and my cousin before the ACC Championship game here in Charlotte. His team, the Florida State Seminoles won that year…great memory! Below that are a few pics from church basketball league in 2012…our daughter was nine. And then there are photos from 2010, when I took our daughter and some of her friends to a Christmas party at the country club. Lots of great memories! And every one of them made me smile. A gift.

Later this month, I will get to “re-live” Christmas memories…pictures of the Christmas tree after “Santa has left the building,” photos of the joy on our daughter’s face on Christmas morning, pictures of vacations during the holidays, photos of gatherings with friends, and so much more.

Every day, after I scroll through my Facebook memories, I want more! But I always have to wait for the next day…and often, another gift…another great memory…another smile.

For all its faults, Facebook, used correctly, is a gift. I will keep adding memories to it for as long as I can! And hopefully, along the way, I will have at least one smile a day.

Mother/Daughter Popcorn Cakes

Mother/Daughter Popcorn Cakes.

When I was growing up in different places in Alabama, Mother made sure we had some traditions. They might not have been the same traditions that everyone else had, but we had traditions. Sure, we decorated a Christmas tree every year…well, till we became teenagers and lost interest in it…leaving Mother to do that by herself. On Christmas Eve every year, we drove around town, wherever we lived, to look at Christmas lights. And every year, as we drove around on Christmas Eve, I worried that Santa would skip our house, because we weren’t tucked safely into our beds. I remember the anxiety I felt. And every year, we made certain foods. One thing we always made was what we called Marshmallow Cakes, but other people called them Popcorn Cakes.

As an adult, after I got married, I started making the Marshmallow/Popcorn cakes at my house. And after our daughter was born and got old enough to help, she helped me make them every Christmas. We kept one every year and gave others to friends and neighbors. It was just something fun to do, and the results were delicious: an ooey, gooey, crunchy, sweet and salty, colorful, fun treat. If you’ve never had a Marshmallow/Popcorn cake and are wondering about the ingredients, here are some: popcorn, butter, marshmallows, M&Ms, nuts of your choice, pretzels…in fact, you can add almost anything you want, but those are the things we use. You can see how to make them here.

Photo from cookiesandcups.com

I’ve loved them for years, and they are relatively easy to make, but occasionally, they can be a little messy. So this morning, when I was watching TV, I was thrilled to see a lovely mother-daughter team in Florida making Popcorn Cakes at their own company called Popilicious! And theirs are really pretty, because they drizzle them with frosting and sprinkles…something I never thought to do! You know what I did after I saw them…I had to check out their website. Turns out they have cakes, popcorn pops, popcorn Christmas trees, and popcorn bites! They even take custom orders for game days, birthdays, and events.

And guess what I did next! I placed an order for a few Popcorn Cakes and Popcorn Pops…and I can hardly wait for them to arrive. They will definitely be here in time for Christmas, and I will give them away to friends and neighbors. Well, I’ll give most of them away. I plan to keep one cake for my little family to enjoy with any guests we have over the holidays. And we plan to have lots of guests…feel free to drop in for some Popilicious Popcorn Cake!

So yes, I’m recommending Popilicious without having tried them yet. I like supporting mother-daughter businesses, so there’s that, but I also like the fact that something I used to make with my mother is readily available to those of you who have never had a marshmallow/popcorn cake. See their website here.

I’m still going to get out all the ingredients to make some of my own marshmallow/popcorn cakes with my daughter. Now that she’s 18 and very independent, it is especially fun to go back to some old traditions. It brings us together, and when we are working on something together in the kitchen, we get in some good talk time. So it’s really not about what we’re making as much as it’s about doing something together.

She will be off to college next fall, so I’m cherishing all these moments we have together. Yes, I expect her to come home at the holidays next year, but I know there is a big chance she will want to visit friends in different cities for part of the holidays too. That’s OK. We’ll still make a popcorn cake or two…and chat about anything and everything.

Holiday Gifting 2021(Part 2): Give the Gift of Memories

Give the gift of memories.

Who doesn’t love nostalgia? Just last night, our daughter sat on our bed with us as we shuffled through lots of old photos. We showed her photos from our wedding. She laughed at photos from when we were dating. She really laughed at old hairstyles from the 1970s and 80s. She couldn’t believe how much she favors me in some ways and how much she favors my husband in other ways. We showed her photos of family members…grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins. And she really loved looking through pictures from her own childhood. We did all this while she was wearing my old Zaxby’s Chickenflage tshirt, a silly shirt I ordered when Zaxby’s was doing a funny promotion. It made me laugh at the time, but she loves the tshirt and didn’t even realize it was “chickenflage” (lots of little chicken shapes) instead of regular camouflage till I pointed it out to her.

Nostalgia isn’t just about photos. It’s also about objects. There are objects that remind us of different events in our lives or places we have visited. Because of that, it can be fun to put together a gift of memories for someone we love. Here are some ideas:

  • T-shirts. I love tshirts and hoodies. I have a collection of tshirts that has my dresser bursting at the seams, and I have a collection of hoodies that has taken over my closet and part of the guest closet in our house. Last year, I came up with the idea of giving my husband tshirts from places we have visited together. I had to do some eBay shopping, and in some cases, I had to contact retailers in different cities or resorts, but I did it. I boxed up t-shirts from different Caribbean islands we have visited together. I added a t-shirt from an Eagles concert we attended several years ago…and a Sade concert tshirt too. I ordered tshirts from bars we’ve visited in different parts of the country. I ended up with a total of ten or twelve tshirts, and I wrapped them all together in one big box. When he opened the box, he seemed a little confused, but then he realized he was looking at memories, and he loved it! I have to admit I was pretty proud of myself for that one.
  • Objects. It’s no secret that our daughter and I have a favorite hotel we like to visit in the Los Angeles area. A few years ago, a book was published documenting the 100-year history of the area around the hotel. Featured on the cover? A beautiful photo of our favorite hotel. And inside? Lots of information about the history of the hotel and its various guests over the years. My husband knew how much I would love it, so he ordered it for me and gave it to me for Christmas. I was absolutely thrilled! But someone could give me a coffee mug, a beach towel, or a sweatshirt from the hotel we love so much, and I would be thrilled with that too! If you know someone who has a favorite hotel or resort, call the property gift shop! They might be able to make your shopping easy with a bathrobe, book, holiday ornament, or another trinket that represents the hotel/resort.
  • Painting. You don’t always have to commission a painting to bring back memories. I once stumbled upon a painting of the Fairhope Pier in a thrift store in Charlotte. I purchased it and gave it to my mother as a holiday gift. It cost me $5, but it was worth a lot more than that to her! It brought back memories of days long ago when we spent afternoons on the pier. Additionally, for many Christmases, I gave mother a “painting” of her grandchildren. I would take a photo and use an app to make it look like a painting, and then send it to canvasondemand.com to have it printed on canvas and framed. She always loved them! See canvasondemand.com here.
  • Photo book. Who doesn’t love looking at old photos or photos from a fun year or vacation? Shutterfly has been one of my very favorite websites for years. I have stored thousands of photos on the Shutterfly website since our daughter was born eighteen years ago. We have ordered our holiday cards from Shutterfly every year, and I have lots of photobooks from Shutterfly…documenting vacations, birthdays, years, special events, and more. We have given them as gifts to friends and family, and every time, those gifts are well-received. See Shutterfly.com’s photobook options here.
  • Stoney Clover Locations Patches. I have a duffle bag I purchased at one of my very favorite resorts a few years ago. At the time, I thought my daughter would look at me like I was crazy after I purchased it, but she loved it! I haven’t let her claim it as her own, but this year, I’m giving her one like it for Christmas. Through Stoney Clover Lane, I have ordered a duffle bag, and I’m going to adorn it with destination patches from the website too. I will start with places she has visited, and I can add more later when she visits different places. I think it will be a big hit! The patches can also be used on jackets or makeup bags, and all of their patches are not travel related. There are patches for all kinds of interests! See Stoney Clover Lane’s offerings here.
  • Memory Keychain. I stumbled upon these at Etsy accidentally, but I love the ideas! The first one I came across is a photofilm keychain. At $18.99 plus shipping, it’s a great price point for a memory gift! It looks like a roll of film/negatives that can be extended to show multiple photos. You can see it here. Another one I found looks like a viewfinder you might purchase at an amusement park, and it might contain a photo of you at the scariest part of the rollercoaster. But this one holds whatever photo you pick! You can see it here.
  • Other photo gifts. In fact, Shutterfly.com offers lots of photo gift ideas, from blankets to coffee mugs to totebags and personalized water bottles. A few years after our daughter was born, Shutterfly moved their headquarters to the Charlotte area, and my husband joked that it was to save money on shipping things to our house. At the time, I had to be one of their best customers. I was always purchasing photos and gifts to send family in faraway places. To see their gift offerings, check out the shutterfly website here.

Who doesn’t love a good memory? And chances are, you can find a memory gift that’s not stuck on a cargo ship off the coast of California. Happy shopping!

Eighteen Years Ago

Eighteen years ago.

Eighteen years ago, I was in the hospital, awaiting the birth of our one and only daughter. Her original due date was October 11, and I loved the thought of 10/11 as a birthday, because right out of college, I was a flight attendant for a while, and one of my favorite planes was the L-1011. It sounded like the perfect birthday to me. And honestly, October 10 sounded good too…10/10. It’s also former NFL quarterback Brett Favre’s birthday. Don’t ask me how I know that, because I don’t know how I know…I just do. I have been a football fan all my life, and he is one of my favorite quarterbacks. (Joe Namath is my absolute favorite.) So sharing a birthday with Brett Favre was pretty cool. Obviously, neither of those worked out.

Three weeks before she was born, my husband and I went out to dinner at a local restaurant. We were discussing how we had no idea what day our baby would actually arrive when the waiter delivered our appetizer to the table. As he placed the plates in front of us, I noticed he had October 12 written on his hand. As he walked away, I said to my husband, “Do you think that was a sign? He had October 12 written on his hand.” We had a good laugh. Little did we know then…

She was born on a Sunday night at 10:31pm…after I had been admitted on Friday at 7:00pm to be induced. Don’t do the math. It’s frightening. There had been a doctor checking on me for two nights, but when the next doctor arrived on Sunday night, he was ready for our daughter to be born. He knew I was exhausted and offered to do a C-section, but I said, “We could have done that yesterday. If you think she’ll be born before midnight, let’s just get this done.” And we proceeded without the C-section.

Our baby girl was a beautiful baby with a head full of dark hair. She weighed 7 pounds, 7.7 ounces, which they officially rounded up to seven pounds, eight ounces. I should have known something about her personality when we got her home. She would not sleep. She would not be quiet.

Some things never change. She has never been a sleeper. She is always busy. She is always on the go. She simply doesn’t sit still. It wore me out when she was an infant and a toddler, but after that, I took full advantage of it. When she was two, we never stayed home anymore. During the summer, we went to a local amusement park almost every day. It was somewhere we were both happy, because we were outside and interacting with other people. I had (and still have) great friends with kids the same age, so we all got together almost every day. And we traveled. I would throw her in an umbrella stroller, strap a carseat on my back, throw my carry-on into the basket underneath the stroller, and get on planes to visit family or just go somewhere. I remember pushing her through the airport with a car seat strapped on my back and hearing people say, “You go, girl!” Or one said, “Wow! You are a real woman!” I got things done. I wanted to travel, and my husband didn’t always want to go with us, so I just made it happen.

And that has never stopped. I learned a long time ago that if she got fussy as I was dragging her all over the country, all I had to do was throw some food down her throat, and she could keep moving with me. Now, she’s two or three inches taller than I am and in way better shape than I’m in, so I have to keep up with her when we travel! I try to make sure we make as many travel memories as we possibly can before she goes off to college next year, because I know she won’t want to go with me so much anymore. And that’s OK. I want her to be independent.

The way I see it, we have 42 more weekends before we drop her off at college next fall. We have another Thanksgiving week, Christmas holidays, one more spring break, and a summer before she flies the coop. If I subtract some of those weekends for things she wants to do without us, we’re down to about 36 or 38. Sounds crazy that I’ve counted, but I want to make sure we take full advantage of this time. I’ve planned a little trip for Thanksgiving, and she and I are doing a spring break with her classmates. I haven’t figured out what we are doing over Christmas break yet, but I’m working on it.

She is eighteen today. As of today, I no longer have access to her medical records without her permission. (I need to get her to get a notarized HIPAA form done, so if she gets sick and lands in the hospital, I can get information.) That baby who could do nothing for herself now does most everything for herself. She is eighteen, so she can even leave the country without my permission…alone, if she wants. Of course, she would need money from us, so I doubt that will happen without our knowledge. She even said to me recently, “As soon as I turn 18, I’m taking Life 360 [an app] off my phone.” I replied, “That’s fine! You’ll need to buy a phone, though, because your daddy and I actually own that one, and we want Life 360 on it. Oh, and you’ll need to buy yourself a car, because without Life 360, you’re not driving the one we own.” We had a good laugh!

I can’t believe it. We have come a long way! I remember when she turned one, I thought, “Wow. I survived a whole year with a baby.” It wasn’t easy. Lots of folks thought I was a lunatic, because they all had sleeping babies. Some of them later actually had babies who ran and jumped and climbed and dodged like mine did, and then they had a new appreciation for what I was dealing with. Yes, she nearly killed me that first year, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. That first year seemed crazy long, but the next seventeen seem to have passed in a flash!

Eighteen! How did that happen so fast?!?!