We Miss the Elves

We miss the elves.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then I went down the rabbit hole.

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

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

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

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

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

Last Minute Holiday Gifts

Last minute holiday gifts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

I’m Such a Smart Empty-Nester

I’m such a smart empty-nester!

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

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

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

Wrong…wrong…wrong.

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

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

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

That was just last weekend.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

College Students/Adult Decisions

College students/adult decisions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mom, We’ve Been in an Accident

“Mom, we’ve been in an accident.”

Those are words we don’t want to hear…ever.

Recently, the night before I was getting off a Caribbean cruise to return home to Charlotte, I received a phone call from my daughter saying those words. The next words were “I’m ok, and [driver friend] is OK, but [college friend] might be a little hurt.” My head started to spin. I just sent my daughter off to college a little over a month ago. She had called me in the middle of the cruise and asked me to get airline tickets for her and a friend to come to Charlotte over the weekend, so I did. And ten minutes after they landed, they were involved in an auto accident. Another friend from high school was driving.

I was happy to hear that two of the three were OK, but I was worried about the third.

My daughter calmly told me the people from Life360, a phone app, had called her immediately to tell her they detected she had been involved in a crash, and the police had been dispatched to the scene. To learn more about Life360, click here. I highly recommend it. Our daughter said the person at Life360 asked if they needed medics, and she asked them to send them, because one friend might be injured. Our daughter seemed fine when I was talking with her, but I could hear her friend from college crying in the background. It was breaking my heart. And to top it off, my husband was at the beach in another state with a friend, and I didn’t have real phone service, so I was having to make all calls using FaceTime and WhatsApp through Wifi…spotty at best. I asked my daughter, “Do you want me to call a mom to be with y’all?” She immediately answered, “Yes.” One name came to mind. I called her via FaceTime audio, and she was on it. As soon as I told her the situation…I was out of the country, and my daughter had been in an accident…she said, “I have my keys in my hand and I’m on my way.” Fortunately, she lives near where the girls were, so she could get there quickly.

I then called the college friend’s mom and explained to her that the EMTs were checking her daughter’s elbow and head, and the girls were in good hands. Ultimately, the EMTs decided the girls could go on to our house. I explained to her that my friend would be arriving soon to wait with them and take them home. Once there, my neighbors would check on them right away and periodically till I could get home the next day. Fortunately, my very calm, very responsible 25-yr-old nephew and his girlfriend were in town for a concert, so they would be at our house all night, and I would be arriving the next day. My daughter could call any of our neighbors at any time for anything. And I was explaining all this through FaceTime that was spotty, but it got the job done.

Thank the Lord.

After I had contacted everyone I knew to contact, I could sit down and think. I called my husband once I knew everything was handled and told him the news. I started with, “She is OK, but Milly has been in an accident.” I hung up the phone and finished packing. But honestly, I didn’t sleep that night. We were scheduled to arrive in Miami at 7:00am, and my flight home was scheduled for 3:15pm…a long wait. When I arrived at the airport at about 10:00, I went straight to check-in and asked if I could be moved to an earlier flight. Lucky me, there was one seat left. The flight wouldn’t leave till 1:25pm, so I went to the American Airlines Admirals Club to wait it out and distract myself with college football. And of course, while I was there, I called my nephew to get updates on the girls…hoping they were still sleeping…and they were. I spoke again with the mother of my daughter’s college friend, knowing I would want as much information as possible if I were in her shoes. She said she really wished her daughter would wake up, so I called my nephew and asked him to go in to wake them and ask the friend to call her mom.

When I arrived home, I could finally breathe. I hugged everyone and looked over the girls, who appeared fine. Their smiling faces told me they were feeling well. My nephew and his girlfriend left for the concert soon after I got home, and the girls asked me to drop them at a favorite restaurant in Charlotte’s South End…just like old times.

And I was thrilled that something seemed normal. Normal is good.

It was the first time I had relaxed since the “Mom, we’ve been in an accident” phone call. After dropping them off, I rushed home and took a shower. My nephew and the girlfriend came home from the concert, and I cooked them a late night breakfast before going to pick up the girls at a friend’s house at about 1:00am…just like old times. And after we got home, I crashed right to bed and slept better than I’ve slept in a long time.

I can tell you this: you do not want to receive a call from your child saying he/she has been in a car accident. I felt helpless. But I heard from all sources, including both friends who were in the accident with her, that my daughter was a champ through the whole thing. She kept the other girls calm and handled things with the police and medics. I am proud to hear that and happy to know she was able to help her friends.

I did sit down with the girls over breakfast and told them they should reflect back on what had happened and what they had learned from it. I said, “I’m sure you learned just how quickly your life can change. No one goes out expecting to get into a car accident, and it can absolutely change your life in seconds.” The driver of the car they were in was not at fault, but accidents happen. Thank God they were OK.

And I will tell you what all mothers know: they are always our babies. Their pain is our pain. And it’s a lot harder to deal with from hundreds or even thousands of miles away. Sometimes we just need to put our eyes on them, and I was so glad I could do that fairly quickly.

They flew back last night and made it to their dorm without incident. I was able to sleep.

Normal is good…

College Nesting?

College nesting?

Nineteen years ago, we were eagerly awaiting the arrival of our daughter. She was due on October 11, so in August and September of that year, I was in full-on “nesting mode.” Anyone who has ever expected a baby knows what I’m talking about…that need to get every detail squared away before the baby arrives. Back then, we read all about it in What to Expect When You’re Expecting, so we weren’t surprised when we found ourselves lining drawers and washing everything in sight.

Fast forward 19 years, and I find myself doing the same thing.

Why am I “nesting” for my soon-to-be college freshman?

Why am I nesting for my soon-to-be college freshman? It had never occurred to me that this could happen, but a couple of days ago, as I packed up some IKEA bags with dorm bedding, lighting, and other items, I realized, “I’m nesting.” Unfortunately, I haven’t ever found a book called What to Expect When You’re Sending Your Child to College, so I don’t have any reference. Sure, I have called my friends who have college kids and asked them about it. They all assure me that what I’m doing is perfectly normal…that it’s a way of dealing with the transition. I just wish I could see it in writing somewhere.

Is the transition going to be easy? No. I am beyond excited for our daughter. She is going to enjoy the full college experience at my alma mater. Sure, there will be days she is stressed out or even homesick, but hopefully, I will be able to talk her through it. Or her friends will distract her. Or she will get busy and forget about homesickness. As for me, I don’t know who will talk me through it. I will miss her like crazy. Will I be able to handle it? Yes, of course. No, I’m not planning to move to be near her college. In fact, I have three big vacations planned for the month following her departure. If that doesn’t help take my mind off it, nothing will.

But that’s why this whole college nesting thing happens…for the parents. Any good parent is likely a little worried about their college bound kid. I’m not worried about her handling the school work. She will figure that out. I know, too, that she will make new friends quickly…especially since she will be living in a dorm. It’s more of a concern about her spinning her wheels trying to get everything else done. I know she can and will do it, but my nesting instinct is making me prepare everything I can for her room. Cold/nausea/pain medications? Check. I don’t want her to have to run out to look for meds if she is feeling poorly. Cleaning supplies/vacuum cleaner? Check. I have no idea how often she and her roommate will clean the bathroom in their dorm room, but I want to make sure the tools are there. Laundry supplies/clothing prep? Check. I have packed a stand-up steamer and laundry supplies, including Static Guard, a wrinkle releaser, an on-the-go spot remover, and a small sewing kit. Basic school supplies? Check. Having a few things in advance won’t hurt. Bins and organizers for the room? Check. They likely won’t be used as planned, but they have them if they want them.

I know she and her roommate will need to go out and get more things after we, the parents, hit the road. It will give them an excuse to get out of the dorm for a little while. Do I think they will end up doubling up on some of the things I have carefully packed and organized for them? Yes, because they won’t even look at a lot of the things I have packed. They won’t even realize they already have rubberbands and paperclips. And that’s OK.

Whether they use the things I have packed or not, I will know I sent her off prepared for most things. She might go out and look for Band-Aids for the blisters on her heels even though I packed them in a medicine box for them. And again, that’s OK. I know those Band-Aids are there for them. That’s why I’m “college nesting,” just like other parents are all over the country right now. Sure, it’s for them, but mostly, it makes me feel better about her departure. By focusing on mundane tasks, I am not focusing on the fact that this child (adult?) I have nurtured and loved for almost 19 years is flying the coop.

She is leaving us and will never live in our house again on a permanent basis. I think that’s the fact I am trying to process while I’m preparing her for the next school year. We are proud parents. We are happy that she is moving into this next phase of life, and we are excited about what it means for us too. But it’s going to be a transition, for sure.

I guess I should get busy packing up some clothes for her today.

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.