Graduation Evokes Memories

Graduation evokes memories.

My daughter graduated from high school last year. It was an exciting and scary time. Everybody talks about the excitement, but it seems not many people talk about the fear. I remember 18. I remember graduating from high school. I knew where I was going to college, but I didn’t really know what it would be like. I had visited the campus many times for cheerleaders camps and football games, but I didn’t really know what it would be like to live in a dorm with a roommate I didn’t know. There is such a thing as fear of the unknown. That didn’t mean I wasn’t excited. I was very excited to be going off to college. I was excited to make new friends. I was excited that I wasn’t doing “13th grade,” which is what we call it when people go to college with lots of their friends from high school. However, I didn’t really know what was ahead of me.

When I look back at pictures from this time last year, I remember my daughter and I were preparing to attend her college orientation. Yes, I had to go to orientation simply so she wouldn’t look like an orphan. Apparently, parents going to orientation is popular now, unlike when I went in the 80s. Do I need to remind you that I drove myself to orientation without my parents? I drove without GPS or a cell phone. I just looked at the map before I left and figured it out. We came home from our daughter’s orientation and tried to enjoy the summer, but even though I don’t think of our daughter as an anxious person, there was trepidation. She was looking forward to everything college life offered, but wondering what to expect, and it showed itself in tears and agitation.

All that freshman year college stuff is behind us now. I look at my daughter’s friends who are preparing to go to college, and I remember what it was like at my house last year. She was nervous. She was scared but wouldn’t admit it. She was fearing the unknown a bit. Therefore, I am reminding parents that it’s not all rainbows and confetti. Going off to college is a big deal. I feel like our daughter learned more in her first year of college than in any other year since toddlerhood. I’m not even including the academics! I mean she learned more about life, in general. She developed more problem-solving skills. She developed more time-management skills. She learned more about taking care of herself and her friends. She learned about living away from home. And she survived it! She not only survived, but she thrived!

And you know what? It’s stressful for them! They might not process it as stress, but the stress is there, and it takes a toll on their bodies. They often live around a lot more people than when they are home, so all kinds of germs are passed around. They end up sick. My daughter had strep throat for the first time since she was a kid. She had the flu for the first time since she was 11. She had a horrible skin infection that started from a heel blister. She was in a car accident. All of that = stress. I’m no psychologist or counselor, but I could see the effects of the stress.

What I’m telling you is you should be happy and excited about your child’s college experience. At the same time, know you are going to get those phone calls. “Mom, I’ve been in an accident.” “Mom, I think I have a fever.” “Mom, should I go to the doctor about this wound on my heel?” You’ll be far away, so you can offer guidance, but you’re not there. They have to actually take care of business. And you know what? They will.

In most cases, they will pull themselves together and get things done. Most of them will make it to class on a regular basis. Most of them will weather the storm. Some of them might not make it academically the first time around, but does that mean they are doomed to failure? No. I have a friend who failed out of college our sophomore year. She went back a few years later and graduated before going on to law school and graduating at the top of her class. Another friend had a 1.6 GPA at the end of his first semester of freshman year. He buckled down the next semester and succeeded at Duke, going on to medical school.

Just remember: we have to trust them but guide them. If at first they don’t succeed, they can try again. They are going to have missteps along the way, and they will learn from them. Just like Elon Musk told the world after a recent failed rocket launch; he reminded us SpaceX will learn from the mistakes on the failed launch and apply that knowledge to the next one.

Keep smiling, moms and dads. Sometimes, they just need to see we, the parents, are calm. It’s a bit like taking a child to the pediatrician when they are sick. Often, the parents just need reassurance. Many times, that’s what our college-age kids need too.

Congratulations to all the 2023 high school graduates…the ones who are going to college, the ones who are taking a gap year, the ones who are learning a trade, the ones entering military service, and the ones who are going into the work force! I celebrate them all! It might sound like I’m only celebrating the ones going to college, but that’s certainly not the case. I’m simply drawing on my own experience. But if your child is entering the workforce or entering military service or taking a gap year or going to trade school, you’re worrying about them just the same.

Fasten your seat belts, moms and dads. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Comfy Summer Clothes for Moms

Comfy summer clothes for moms.

I don’t know about every other person in the world, but I have different “types” of clothes. I have “real” clothes for daytime…the ones I wear to meetings or lunches with friends. I have “real” clothes for evening…the ones I wear to dinner or parties. And I have my “comfy” clothes…the ones that are just comfortable and work well for vacation too. Here are some comfy things I have found recently for summer. If you see me running errands, cheering on a baseball team, on a tour, or if you drop in at my house, this is what I will likely be wearing.

  • Loose Cropped Pants. Love these linen pants for casual summer days. Easy to wear with the tshirts below. Priced under $20, they’re inexpensive and good-looking. Click here.
  • Loose-Fit V-Neck T-shirt. I have this one in several colors. It’s loose, but not too loose. I like that it just skims my body instead of clinging to it. Looks great with the pants above or with the skorts below. And the v-neck is flattering. Priced under $25. Click here.
  • Comfy Colorful Shirt. I love colorful shirts that can be casual or dressy, and I have found one I love on Amazon. It could even work when I go to lunch with friends on a hot summer day. Or I could lounge around home in it too. It’s $46…great price. Click here.
  • Loungewear. The set pictured below is about $25, and it’s super comfortable and good-looking. My daughter has it in one color, and I have it in another. Click here for that set. For other loungewear, click here.
  • Half Sleeve Loose Fit T-shirt. Again, it’s loose fit but not too loose…skims the body, and the half sleeves provide coverage for upper arms. And looks great with the pants above or skorts below. Click here.
  • Columbia Summerdry Skort. Columbia makes quality outdoor wear, and I love this skort in all colors. Click here.
  • Avalanche Ripstop Cargo Skort. Another cute skort option. I like the slight a-line shape of this one. Click here.
  • Baleaf Skort. A little stretch makes this one extra comfortable. Click here.
  • Comfy Colorful Dress. I love a colorful, lightweight summer dress, and I found one on Amazon I love. It comes in multiple colors. Dress it up or down. You’ll want to wear it every day. Priced at about $50, I want one in every color. Click here.
  • Sorel Women’s Slingback Heel Sandal. I have always been a fan of sporty sandals, but I hate flat ones. These give me a little lift in the heel and look cute too. Offered in four colors, they’re priced at just under $200, so they’re not inexpensive, but they are great quality. Click here. Other Sorel sandals, click here.
  • Saucony Cohesion 13 Running Shoes. I love these shoes. They come in several colors. Sure, Saucony has made more generations of these since the 13th, but I love this one, so I will be buying them as long as I can. Priced at under $50, tjhey are great running/walking shoes. Keep in mind, they might seem a little stiff at first, but they break in fast. Saucony makes great shoes. Click here. Other Saucony options, click here.

  • Turkish Towels. OK, so they’re not clothes, but Turkish Towels are great to have around during summer…to take to outdoor concerts or for beach or pool time. They’re lightweight and do the job without absorbing water or extra sand, and the ones I like are priced right at Amazon. They’re even light enough to use as a wrap, if you need one on a chilly night. If you haven’t tried them, it’s high time you did. Priced at about $17, they are a bargain. Click here.

Summer’s almost here! Let’s get ready! Happy Shopping!

College Dorm Move-Out (and what you’ll need)

College dorm move-out (and what you’ll need).

In less than a week, I go to move our daughter out of her freshman dorm. Anyone who has experienced this knows how I feel right now. It’s hard to believe she has finished a year of college. Less than a year ago, we were experiencing excitement and fear over the fact that we were all entering new phases of life…she as a college student, and we as empty-nesters. Now, here we are, ready to bring her home for summer. And anyone who is planning to go move their son or daughter out of a freshman dorm knows what else I’m feeling: How are we going to get her out of there?!?!

Here’s my plan and what I plan to take to make it easier:

  • Encouraging daughter to get rid of stuff early. That’s my first plan of action. I tell her every day: take out a few items you don’t need and throw them away. Does she hear me? I don’t know, but if I get there, and there’s a bunch of junk to toss, I’m not going to be happy.
  • Moving bags from Amazon. I shipped moving bags to her, so she can start packing up anything she isn’t going to use again. I purchased heavy duty ones from Amazon. You can purchase here. I used some of these for move-in, but stupidly, I brought them home with me. I will take them with me, but she needed some to start packing early, so I ordered the same ones. They’re awesome.
  • Collapsible wagon. When we moved her in, the university provided volunteers and giant bins. That won’t happen at move-out. They honeymoon’s over! I highly recommend a collapsible wagon. Amazon offers a multitude of choices. Pick one here. You can roll out a lot of stuff in a collapsible wagon, and because it’s collapsible, you can still fit it in your car to bring home when you are done.
  • Hulken Bags. These tote bags on wheels have become necessities at our house. They fold flat, so I keep one medium-sized one in my car at all times, in case I have a lot of things to bring in when I get home. My daughter has a large Hulken, because she is likely to have more to carry from her car in the dorm parking garage to her room. They roll on wheels, and they’re easy to pull alongside or behind. I cannot stress enough how great these bags are. If you can get one or two, get them. Starting at about $89, they’re an investment, but we have found we use them all the time. Purchase the medium in silver here. Or see other Hulken sizes/colors here.
  • Large Nylon bags. OK, you could use garbage bags instead, but for me, it’s important to keep garbage and “good stuff” separate. I have made the mistake of throwing away a garbage bag full of “good stuff,” thinking it was garbage. Therefore, I only put garbage in garbage bags. Plus, I feel like large Nylon bags are more sturdy. Get two for less than $10 here. You can use these instead of the moving bags or in conjunction with them.
  • Cleaning supplies. If you purchased cleaning supplies for your student when you moved him/her in, they likely still have some. Double check. You’ll need a Swiffer Wet/Dry Mop, sponges, Windex, Clorox Wipes, and maybe Bathroom Cleaner. If you don’t want to take them with you, click on the name of each above to purchase through Amazon and ship to your child, so it’s all waiting for you when you arrive.
  • Garbage bags. You’ll need them. Get them from Amazon here.

And if there are things your child will not be using again, consider whether you really need to bring it home. Your child might have some stuff to store locally for next year. If that’s the case, get it arranged now! And if there’s stuff they don’t want to keep at all, the best thing to do is donate it to a local charity instead of bringing it home, but there will be some things you simply need to throw away. Every time I talk to my daughter these days, I say, “I hope you’re throwing out what you don’t need!”

I’ll give a report after the move-out…what we refer to in our family as “post-game wrap-up.” Good luck, Moms and Dads! I suppose we should pat ourselves on the backs for surviving freshman year.

College Gear For Freshmen Families

College gear for freshmen families.

As we approach high school graduation, seniors are making final college decisions. Our daughter graduated last year, and at her high school, they have “College T-shirt Day” every year. It’s a day all the seniors wear shirts showing which college or university they will be attending in the fall. They take a big group picture, and it’s fun to see where everyone will be going. If students didn’t get t-shirts when they visited their future colleges, they need to get them now.

Even if their schools don’t have T-shirt Day, it’s a good idea for them to get some gear for school spirit. It’s also fun for the rest of the family to get in on the school spirit. I have friends who are all in on the school spirit for their kids’ colleges. My own daughter goes to my alma mater, so I already had some fan gear, but I have to admit that I likely accumulated more after she decided to go there. I also have to admit we probably went a little overboard getting gear for her before she left.

There are lots of places to stock up on fan gear, including the university or college bookstores and souvenir shops when you visit. However, if you’d like to shop from home, Amazon has its very own “Fan Shop” where you can purchase all types of gear for lots of colleges and universities that have sports teams. Last year, I encouraged my daughter’s friends and their parents to check it out, so now I’m telling everyone else. You can shop the Amazon Fan Shop here. When you get to the Amazon Fan Shop page, you simply choose your team (or school) by clicking on “choose your team,” then clicking on NCAA, and then clicking on the college or university of your choice.

Last year, our daughter had to have a t-shirt that clearly showed her college choice for T-shirt Day, so we started with that. She also wanted a hoodie or two and a couple of crewneck sweatshirts. Oh, and don’t forget the sticker for the back window of her car. That was important too. In addition to the student’s fan gear, lots of dads like to get collared shirts and t-shirts with school emblems on them, and you can find lots of those at the Amazon Fan Shop too. Also, keep in mind that, if you plan to attend any sporting events in a stadium or arena, many require that any handbags are clear. You can find clear handbag options for moms and daughters with school logos at the Amazon Fan Shop as well.

This is an exciting time for families and their soon-to-be college students! Start accumulating gear now, before your student has T-Shirt Day at school and before they go to summer orientation, if their college does that. No matter what, it’s fun to have some school fan gear to wear during the summer too. Amazon is a one-stop shop for fan gear, and if you have an Amazon Prime account, shipping is often free.

Happy shopping!

The College Facebook Parent Pages Revisited: Advice for Freshman Moms

The college parent Facebook pages revisited: advice for freshman moms.

Oh yes, the college parent pages….sometimes it’s the best entertainment of the day. Sometimes, I simply cannot believe what I read from other parents. And yet, rarely, I do get some valuable insight and/or information. Today, a mother of an incoming freshman had a good question:

If you could give any advice/suggestion to a parent of an incoming freshman, what would it be?

Oh, I could think of several things, but I haven’t typed a response to her on the page yet, because I really don’t want to offend anyone on there. I will tell you the things that came to my mind, and then I will tell you the answers from other parents. Personally, I think it’s a good time for this advice, as the parents and students are just starting the high school to college transition process.

My advice/suggestion to the parent of an incoming freshman:

  • Don’t put anything on the Facebook parent page that could, in any way, embarrass your child. Stop and think before you post. You don’t need to help Little Johnny find a girlfriend. In fact, Little Johnny likely doesn’t want the whole world to know that you still call him Little Johnny.
  • Let your child figure it out! This one is important! College is a great transitional time in life. If the parents are supportive, it can be a smooth transition from childhood to young adulthood. However, if you always help Little Mary make her schedule or find a roommate, she will never learn these skills for herself. Do you want Little Mary to be dependent on you her whole life? I started college in 1985, but I remember it very well. I also remember that, other than writing the checks, my parents didn’t help me with it. They didn’t help me make my schedule. They didn’t help me find friends or roommates. In fact, I’ve said before that I’m not even sure they knew what I was majoring in at the time. And that was OK, because 1980s parents were way cooler and more laid back than 2020s parents. Be like 1980s parents…let the students figure it out!
  • Be happy if, when you visit for a football weekend or other busy time, your child doesn’t have tons of time to spend with you. Be happy he/she has friends and activities that are important to her. Don’t get offended and do the “we traveled all this way” speech.
  • Sometimes, when our students think they won’t have any fun at an activity or on a weekend, they have the best time ever. My daughter once called me and said everyone was leaving the university for the weekend, so she might like to come home. I said, “That’s fine, but it’s not that long before your planned trip home. Try to find something to do, and call me back.” She thought it would be the most bring weekend ever. However, a friend from another school called and wanted to visit her, so she stayed for the weekend, and it was later declared “one of the best weekends ever.”
  • If your rising freshman student will be attending a university with big football, I, personally, would advise against taking the hardest classes they can take the fall semester (football season). I told my daughter, who attends an SEC big football school, “Take the easiest classes you can take that first semester. You will be adjusting to college life. You will be pledging a sorority. You will be going to football games and everything that goes with that. You want to adjust and enjoy it too, so take a light load.” Fortunately, she listened. And I know some parents might disagree with me on this, but I’m not giving their advice/suggestions. I’m giving mine.
  • And for the parents: if you’re going to be an empty nester when this child leaves, enjoy your time! Wow! People have asked me if I was sad when our daughter (an only child) went off to college. The answer is a resounding NO. I was (and still am) absolutely thrilled that she gets to experience life at a big university, complete with all the fun and distractions. I’m also glad I’m able to get out and enjoy the things I like to do without having to chaperone anymore. If you need more information about how to enjoy being an empty nester, there are lots of great books on Amazon. Click here.

I’m sure you’re wondering what other parents’ advice/suggestions were, so I’m going to share a few of those too (I did not write these myself):

  • Don’t worry when they cry and say they have no friends, or a friend hurts their feelings. Second semester everything changes and suddenly everything is in bloom!
  • Stagger visits. My husband and I plus other family and friends visited separately so our DD had lots to look forward to throughout her time there.
  • Get a tutor scheduled for any ‘hard’ classes BEFORE classes begin. Once you realize you need a tutor, it is too late!
  • The first year away from home will be the most difficult. Be mentally prepared for the inevitable feelings of homesickness. This bit of advice helped my DD more than I can tell you.
  • Prepare for them to be sick first semester. It’s just going to happen when you bring kids together from all over the country, living in close quarters and not eating or sleeping their best. Have a first aid box with over the counter remedies and have a list of phone numbers and addresses for local urgent cares in area with a plan on how to get there if needed. The student health center is great, but not always open for hours needed or can get backed up with appointments.
  • Know they are smarter, more resilient, and able to think for themselves more than we ever realized. I know all kids are different, but let them make a few “mistakes” along the way…such as over sleeping and figuring out how what dining halls serve what! If they get sick, let them know you are there for them, but they need to find a way to get to the health clinic! We have spent the last 18 or so years thinking and doing so many things for them. I know it’s hard to let go. But, they have to learn to adult and sometimes that includes choosing to do things in ways we wouldn’t. You will be pleasantly surprised at how awesome your kids are at Adulting if given the full chance! And trust me…having 2 daughters (1 has graduated and 1 is in her 2nd year) I have never not helped when they called asking, but I always encouraged them to first talk about ways to fix their issues before just swooping in to do it for them. They usually have the solution and didn’t even know it! Enjoy these last few months with your senior.
  • Send a meds box: Advil, flu meds, allergy stuff, thermometer, tummy meds . bandages etc.

There were more, but alas, there’s only so much room in this post. If you’re concerned that your rising freshman doesn’t have “adulting” knowledge, maybe help him/her with some books that contain useful information. Here are a few (and these could make great graduation gifts too):

  • Adulting Made Easy: Things Someone Should Have Told You About Getting Your Grown-up Act Together by Amanda Morin. Purchase here.
  • Adulting for Beginners – Life Skills for Adult Children, Teens, High School and College Students / The Grown-Up’s Survival Gift by Matilda Walsh. Purchase here.
  • The Manual to Manhood: How to Cook the Perfect Steak, Change a Tire, Impress a Girl & 97 Other Skills You Need to Survive by Jonathan Catherman. Purchase here.
  • Emily Post’s Etiquette, 19th Edition: Manners for Today. by Lizzie Post and Daniel Post Senning. This is a hardcover book that I think every young lady should have. Having it in hardcover form allows them to keep it forever and reference it often. My mother gave me one when I went to college, and I still use it for reference. Also makes a great graduation gift. Purchase here.

Weekly Link Recap, Ending 4/8/23

Weekly link recap, ending 4/8/23. Click on the item name to go straight to the corresponding site page of items I posted this week. To read the piece about the items, click on the TITLE of the piece. Thank you!

*Each week, I will post a recap of any links I have shared in any posts during the week prior. Happy Shopping!*

WHAT TO PURCHASE NOW FOR A DORM ROOM

HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATION GIFTS 2023

WHOA DOUGH EDIBLE COOKIE DOUGH

BASIC TRAVEL OUTFITS FOR WOMEN

What to Purchase Now for a Dorm Room

What to purchase now for a dorm room.

My daughter will finish her freshman year of college in less than a month. It’s hard for me to believe she is 1/4 of the way through college. I remember my own college days so well; I’m so happy she is getting to go to the same awesome university and have her own experiences. We feel pretty seasoned now that she has survived freshman year in a dorm, and soon we will be moving out all the stuff we took for her when we moved her in. So while I’m thinking about it, and since you have time to prepare now, I’m going to make some suggestions on necessities. Seriously, I know graduation festivities (ugh) are upon you, but start purchasing and ordering now, and you’ll have less to do as your college freshman’s departure approaches. These are just a few items I recommend purchasing early, before everyone else jumps in, and they’re sold out.

Mattress Topper. I never met a dorm mattress I liked. Goodness. One would think they could find a way to improve those things. I was a freshman in 1985, and I daresay my daughter’s freshman dorm mattress is no more comfortable than the one I had way back when. We knew that would be the case, so we invested in a quality mattress topper. There are lots of them out there, but we opted for the Sleepyhead brand. Our daughter’s dorm room has a twin XL bed, so we ordered the Twin XL 3″ Topper from Sleepyhead. She loves it. Priced at over $300, it’s not cheap, but they do offer a 20% discount for students. I don’t think I was aware of the discount at the time I purchased, but I will tell you, it’s probably the best $300+ I’ve ever spent. Our daughter loves sleeping in her bed, calling it “cozy and comfy.” In fact, because she will have the same type of bed her sophomore year, she will get another year out of it. Check out Sleepyhead on Amazon here.

Stand-up Steamer. I think people thought I was crazy when I told them I was getting our daughter a stand-up steamer to take to college with her, but it is one thing that definitely got used…and it’s so much easier than ironing! Our daughter participated in sorority recruitment as soon as she arrived at school, so I knew she would need to steam out her dresses before she wore them. We couldn’t have her showing up all wrinkled! She tells me she has used it countless times throughout the year for steaming formal dresses, cocktail dresses, and anything else that was overly wrinkled. We opted for the a Rowenta model. You can see it and purchase it on Amazon here.

Bankers Box Smooth Move Wardrobe Boxes. These stand-up boxes are more for the move-in, but they were big helps with our daughter’s hanging garments. They have a bar across the top on which to hang the clothes, and they hold a lot of clothes. We only used one, and our daughter took a lot of clothes with her. When we arrived in the dorm, we simply lifted the hangers off the bar and moved them straight to the closet bar…super easy. For about $32, we got three bankers boxes. We gave one to a friend who was going off to college too, and saved the third one…might use it for move-out. You can purchase here.

Swiffer Sweeper 2-in-1 Mop. I don’t know how often this item has been used, but you will want to run it through the room before you set everything up. I hope our daughter and her roommate have used theirs, but if they haven’t, I’ll have a new-ish Swiffer when I bring her home! Just get it. It will make you feel better knowing your child can mop the floor if he/she chooses or needs to! Get it from Amazon here.

Velvet Hangers. I know how easy it is for a college student on the go to grab a shirt and just snatch it off the hanger on the way to class. Hangers go flying, and other items fall to the bottom of the closet. That doesn’t happen with velvet hangers. They have added a lot of organization to my own closet. I purchase Zober non-slip Velvet Hangers in Ivory. Just trust me on this one. Shirts don’t get horns in the shoulders. Dresses hang nicely and don’t fall off the hanger and into the floor. Get them at Amazon here. You’ll think you won’t need many, but start with 200.

And I’m going to repeat some move-in essentials from a piece I wrote recently:

Hulken Bag. I ordered two. My daughter has one at college, and I have one at home, but I will take mine down with me when we move her out. They simply make moving lots of items easier. We got large ones. Get them here.

Moving Bags. These are similar to the Ikea moving bags, but I ordered from Amazon, because I thought these were a little bigger and sturdier. They worked great for move-in, and I expect them to work great for move-out too! Get them here. (Keep in mind: these sell out during summer, as families stock up on them, so get yours early.)

Collapsible Wagon. We got one of these for our daughter when she was returning to college after the holidays. It was an easy way for her to get everything from the parking garage to her room. Get it here.

Versacart. This is one my aunt told me about, and it’s awesome! She calls it her “old lady cart,” but it does the job! She uses it to bring in groceries or any packages from her car. Get it here.

Stick with me, moms of future college students, and I’ll provide you with all sorts of helpful ideas over the next few months. Start shopping now! And please use my links above to purchase! *I may be compensated for some of the items I suggest, but I wouldn’t suggest them if I didn’t believe in them!

***Featured photo from sleepyheadusa.com

Graduation Season

Graduation season.

Y’all, I’m just glad I don’t have a high school senior graduating this year. I went through that “fun” last year, and honestly, it was exhausting. I know. I know. Lots of people love it. As a southern lady, I’m supposed to enjoy it, but I don’t.

In my opinion, there are two kinds of people in the world: the ones who love ceremonies and those who hate ceremonies. I belong in the latter group. Just like I hate meetings for meeting’s sake, I hate ceremony for ceremony’s sake. I am the person who skipped my own college graduation. Yes, I graduated from college, but I just didn’t feel the need to participate in the “pomp and circumstance.” It seemed so time-consuming, ridiculously formal, and honestly, a little bit corny. While some of my friends were participating in the ceremony, I was hanging out with other friends at our favorite watering hole…raising toasts to each other for getting the job done! Even when I got married, I wondered why we were making it into a spectacle? Why couldn’t we just get married at the courthouse and go on about our business? I didn’t lol need an audience to see me get married. I would have been just as married without the audience. It was a source of great tension for me, and honestly, as grateful as I am to my friends and family who were there, I would have rather gone to the courthouse.

My attitude toward all things “ceremonial” is why I could hardly wait for my daughter’s high school graduation to be over last year. It seemed like “much ado about nothing” to me. Here’s my stance on high school graduation: you’re supposed to graduate from high school. It’s not some grand accomplishment, except under special circumstances. Yes, there are situations in which high school graduation is a big deal, but my daughter graduating from a college preparatory private school in Charlotte, North Carolina? Well, the way I see it: she was supposed to graduate. But all the ceremonies? Senior supper? Baccalaureate? And more? I could have skipped them. I wouldn’t have been heartbroken if she had said, “Let’s leave for vacation early and blow this popsicle stand.” She did enjoy the private parties leading up to and after the event, and I did too, so there were some good things about it…getting to spend time with friends, having a reason to get together, etc. I do love a party, just not a ceremony.

However, I guess I’m in the minority on this, because it seems lots of people get very wrapped up in the graduation ceremony thing.

Today, on Facebook, a friend was posting pictures of her second child in his graduation gown. He’ll be graduating from high school in a few weeks, and she is sad to see the end of his high school career. That’s another way I’m different: I didn’t let the door hit me in the butt on the way out of my daughter’s high school. I was so grateful it was over! I was running as fast as I could! I was ready for that to end. But here’s what I wondered after seeing my friend’s post: How do parents muster up the excitement for their second, third, and fourth children’s graduation? I feel like I learned so much the first time around, and I feel like it would be even less of a big deal to me the second and third times, but since I’m the mother of an only child, I might be wrong?!?

Here’s what I mean: with your first child, many parents think every single stage of childhood is important. If I had a second and third child, I can tell you, I would be much more relaxed about elementary school…and maybe even middle school. Don’t get me wrong. I was never the mom who knew what her child’s assignments were…ever. I always thought school was her job, not mine, but it was very important to me that she take elementary school and middle school seriously. Maybe that’s why I have one child. Maybe God knew I’d be a slacker about school stuff with any subsequent children. I feel sure I would have said, “She doesn’t have any random days off from school in October? Eh…doesn’t matter; she’s only in second grade. We’ll take that long vacation in the middle of the school year anyway.” I actually remember sending her to school in kindergarten or 1st grade with a terrible cough. I thought it was important for her to be there. I received a call from the school nurse, with whom I had become friends, telling me to “come get your daughter.” When I got there to pick her up, I explained to the nurse that it was just a residual cough from a cold she had the previous week. She didn’t feel badly. The nurse said, “Keep her home until that cough is gone.” And I did, but I sweated it a little bit, thinking elementary school was so important. You know what the nurse, who had grown children of her own, knew that I didn’t know? My daughter would be OK even if she missed a week or two of elementary school.

Also, with a second or third child, I likely would have rarely volunteered for anything. It’s likely I would have thought, “My work is done. I’ve done all this once; I’m not doing it again.” Would people have thought my second and third children were motherless children? Maybe, but anyone who had any older kids would have known I had done more than my share the first time around. I was room mother almost every year of lower school. I volunteered everywhere I possibly could. If I’d had second and third children, I might have just slowed down outside the school and pushed them out the car door as I drove off to meet my friends for brunch with Mimosas. Not really, of course, but you get my point.

To all you parents who have children graduating from high school this year: Congratulations. If you don’t have anymore children who still need to graduate from high school, I say, “Congratulations on earning your freedom!” I don’t mean freedom from your child. I mean freedom from the constraints that school puts on your life. And if you enjoy all the “pomp and circumstance” that goes with the whole graduation thing, more power to you! Lots of my friends love every minute of it.

There’s a reason they do all those various ceremonies, but it’s not for people like me!

Also, if you have a child or children leaving for college in the fall, start gathering dorm essentials now. Here are some things I recommend to make move-in a little easier:

Hulken Bag. I ordered two. My daughter has one at college, and I have one at home, but I will take mine down with me when we move her out. They simply make moving lots of items easier. We got large ones. Get them here.

Moving Bags. These are similar to the Ikea moving bags, but I ordered from Amazon, because I thought these were a little bigger and sturdier. They worked great for move-in, and I expect them to work great for move-out too! Get them here. (Keep in mind: these sell out during summer, as families stock up on them, so get yours early.)

Collapsible Wagon. We got one of these for our daughter when she was returning to college after the holidays. It was an easy way for her to get everything from the parking garage to her room. Get it here.

Versacart. This is one my aunt told me about, and it’s awesome! She calls it her “old lady cart,” but it does the job! Get it here.

Don’t Pick Up the Shoes

Don’t pick up the shoes.

I saw a Facebook post today on a page called Alabama News and Comment. It’s a page from the news division of Alabama’s Radio Station, 101.9 Fox-FM. It appears to be a station out of Birmingham. Don’t ask me how I got to the page, because I have no idea. It was one of many squirrels my brain chased today. And this time, I ended up on Alabama News and Comment, reading a piece about a woman picking up her husband’s shoes. You can see it on Facebook here.

My husband picks up his own shoes, so I don’t think I have ever had to pick them up for him, but it made me think of my parents.

My parents were married for 45 years before my Daddy died. He was young, just 68, and died of pancreatic cancer. Many times, though, during his retirement years, he would take off his shoes in the living room and leave them underneath the coffee table. I’m guessing he usually carried his own shoes to the closet, but it was something I never gave any attention at the time.

And then, in 2006, Daddy died.

We did what families do. We supported each other for a few days, and then my little family returned to Charlotte to resume our lives. We settled back into real life. About a month later, I decided we needed to go visit Mother; she’d had time to rest and recuperate after months of caring for Daddy, and I thought she needed company.

Upon arrival at my parents’ home, I saw Mother standing outside waiting for us, but I didn’t see Daddy. Of course, I didn’t see him, because he had passed away a month before, but his absence hit me hard. I got out of the car with tears streaming down my face, and Mother said, “I should have warned you how difficult your first visit back would be…your first visit without him here.” She knew, because she had lost her own Daddy. It had never occurred to me how the absence of Daddy would take my breath away. But it did.

We all went inside and sat down in the living room, and that’s when I saw Daddy’s shoes under the coffee table. I looked at them, and I looked at Mother. Her eyes met mine. I didn’t even have to say anything. She simply said, “I can’t move them.” I cried again, but I understood. Seeing those shoes where Daddy left them likely made her feel a little like he was still there. It was a small way of tricking her brain into feeling like Daddy was still there…a comfort. As I read the piece on Facebook today, my brain went straight to that time, and I thought, “One day you might want to see his shoes in the living room.”

Life is like that. Sometimes the things we never think we will miss are the very things we miss…or even the things we find comfort in. When our daughter was a toddler and didn’t sleep well, many times I would have to go upstairs and lie down with her. My husband and I shared a doctor at the time (a mistake I won’t make again in this lifetime), and when he was at the doctor, he mentioned it in passing to “our” doctor. The next time I was there, she opted to lecture me about how bad that was for me and for our daughter. It angered me greatly, because frankly, I thought it was none of her business, and soon thereafter, I found another doctor. What did I know that the doctor didn’t know? I knew we all parent differently, and I knew myself far better than she knew me. I knew, in my infinite wisdom, that one day, I would be sad when my daughter didn’t want me around as much. Was it a little inconvenient for me to spend a half hour upstairs helping our daughter get to sleep? Yes, but I loved every minute. And guess what…she’s a freshman in college now who doesn’t need me to help her get to sleep. *Many times, I have wondered what kind of communication that doctor has with her own children…if she has the same great relationship with hers that I have with mine. I actually feel sorry for her and for her children. I know mine trusts me, and some of that trust might just go back to those nights she needed me to be there while she fell asleep.*

If my daddy’s death taught me anything, it taught me that life is not a dress rehearsal. We have to live now and enjoy the little things. When our daughter was a toddler, I would pick her up and carry her in my arms any time she wanted. My friend, Jennifer, and I believed (since we had only children) we should do that, because one day we wouldn’t get to carry them anymore. We wouldn’t know when it was the last time, so we did it every time. No, I don’t remember the last time I carried her, but I know I carried her on my back multiple times after she became too heavy to carry in my arms. And if she asked me to carry her today (she’s 19), I would. You can bet on that.

And as much as it annoys me that my husband can’t resist the urge to open the curtains on the window on my side of the bed, I know that, if something happened to him, I’d likely miss having to go close those curtains when my side of the room starts to heat up from the sunlight.

Enjoy the little things…even the little annoyances.

First College Parents’ Weekend in the Books

First college parents’ weekend in the books.

My husband and I got home last night after a whirlwind Parents’ Weekend with our freshman daughter at my college alma mater. Whew! We were exhausted when we got home, but we remarked several times that it was totally worth it to get to meet all her college friends and their parents…all in one place. At her university, there is a parents’ weekend in the fall, during football season, for all parents of children at the university, and in the spring, sororities and fraternities have their own parents’ weekends…usually spread out over February and March. We didn’t go to the all-school parents’ weekend. It’s just way too crowded, and I feel like it would be a little like going to Target on a Saturday, meaning all those people who aren’t normally there don’t know their way around and just create chaos for those of us who do know our way around! Therefore, we just did the sorority parents’ weekend. I have friends whose sons and daughters are in different fraternities and sororities, so I had heard how awesome these events are, but this weekend, my husband and I got to experience it for ourselves.

We were a little tired going into the weekend, because we scheduled poorly. We arrived home from a Bahamas vacation late Thursday night and had to get up Friday morning to go to Tuscaloosa. We opted to drive there this time, because we had some things to take with us. It’s not a short drive…about seven hours…but we loaded up the car and took off, caffeine in hand.

Honestly, I don’t remember even having a parents’ weekend when I was in school! Maybe we had it? It seems like we had something like a parents’ brunch, but I don’t think it was like the parents’ weekends they host these days. I don’t know. Maybe I just don’t remember correctly. I can tell you this: it’s certainly a big deal now. There were activities all weekend! Parties, parties, and more parties! We loved it, and we are grateful for the opportunity to get to know lots of people in our daughter’s life…and have lots of fun too! Sororities at Alabama have over 400 members each, so imagine how big these parties were! If 400 girls attend and bring two parents (some bring one, and some bring step parents), you’re looking at potentially 1200 people or more! It’s insane, but it was well-organized.

Mostly, it was fun to see our daughter in her element. She is a freshman, so this was our first sorority parents’ weekend experience. The best part of the whole thing was seeing how happy she is and how much she loves her friends. I watched her talking and laughing with her friends and thought, “Some of these girls will be her friends forever.” I know that, because I still have lots of my friends from my sorority days 30+ years ago. Yes, we actually stay in touch. We actually get together. We talk on the phone and follow each other on social media.

A couple of years ago, we were having drinks out on the patio with our next door neighbors, whose daughter went to the University of Alabama too. Our daughter was out there with us, and we were wondering aloud where she would go to college. I threw out some of my favorite college memories, and our neighbor talked about what a great time her daughter, Payton, had at Alabama. In fact, at one point, she exclaimed, “Payton’s four years at Alabama were the best four years of my life!” We all laughed, because when she started the statement, we expected her to say they were the best four years of Payton’s life, but she even enjoyed it as a mom!

After being there this weekend, I see why, and I feel sure that, if all goes according to plan, our daughter will enjoy her college years as much as, or even more than, I did. It’s hard to believe anyone could enjoy it more than I did. I often say I have had three childhoods: my real childhood, my college years, and my daughter’s childhood (because I got to relive all those joyous, fun moments). I took full advantage of the fun, no doubt. I certainly hope she makes as many wonderful, hilarious memories as I did in the 1980s!

If you haven’t experienced parents’ weekend with your child at college, I hope you will go into it knowing it can be an absolutely enriching experience, and you are likely to make some fun memories. Is there anything more heartwarming and fulfilling than seeing your child happy and loved? That’s what we felt this past weekend. We felt the love and happiness she is experiencing, and we came home happy (and exhausted).