A Different Mother’s Day

A Different Mother’s Day…

It’s almost here. We’ve never made a gigantic deal about Mother’s Day at our house, but we do celebrate it. My family usually goes out for brunch on Mother’s Day. We don’t do big gifts or anything, but my husband usually orders flowers or one of my favorite treats. We  normally have the freedom to make a reservation where we want to dine. But not this year.

Honestly, I look at Mother’s Day the same way my own mother used to look at it: I’m just thankful God let me be a mother to my daughter. There is no job more difficult or more rewarding. The job description is always changing, and I love it. I really do. When I was in my twenties, long before I was a mom, I thought having a child was not important to me. One of my coworkers, who had two children, once said to me, “It’s the meaning of life.” And she was right. My daughter teaches me a lot more about love and life than I teach her, I’m sure, and I love growing with her.

I always tell people motherhood gave me an opportunity to have a third childhood. My first childhood was my real childhood. Then, college was the next one. And once I had my baby, when I was 33, I got to start enjoying another childhood. She will be going off to college in a couple of years, and I’m sure I’ll enjoy that too! My neighbor, when she came over for social-distancing cocktails on the patio last week, told me and my daughter, “My daughter’s time at The University of Alabama were the best four years of my life!” She loved visiting her daughter in Tuscaloosa and got to enjoy another “childhood.” Motherhood is a great experience.

No one enjoyed motherhood more than my own mother. This is my third Mother’s Day without her in the world. I won’t cry this year like I did that first one, but I still miss her. I’ve just found ways of coping with the fact that she’s not here anymore. Lots of times, during this pandemic and isolation, I have wondered what she would have thought of it. Since she was a nurse, she would have known the importance of social distancing, but she wouldn’t have liked it. My parents were always big on “living life.” They loved the movie, Shawshank Redemption, and one of their favorite quotes from the movie was, “Get busy living, or get busy dying.”

Since this isolation started, my brother and I have speculated about what our parents would have said about the disease and the stay-at-home order. Neither of us truly knows what they would have said, but I know I would have spent a lot of time on the phone with them talking about it.

Unfortunately, I don’t have my mother. I can’t call her and ask her about it this Mother’s Day…the Mother’s Day in the age of COVID-19. If you still have your mother, think about that…once they’re gone, you can’t call your mom to ask her about a recipe or a story she told you about her life or how to handle a sick child. And I can’t ask mine what she thinks about COVID-19. I know it sounds like a little thing, but I’d love to know her thoughts on it all. In the 1950s, when she was in nursing school and studied in Louisiana for a while, she was exposed to tuberculosis and leprosy, both infectious diseases. Sure, they were infectious, but as a medical professional, she did what she needed to do to help the people. Later, when I was in elementary school, she worked for the health department and had to visit an area that reportedly had several cases of tuberculosis…a highly contagious respiratory disease. I would love to hear her opinion of the whole COVID-19 crisis….but I can’t.

This Mother’s Day will be different. That’s for sure. Because we can’t go out for brunch, we will likely cook at home. Sure, it will be different, but we will make it fun. It’s supposed to be a beautiful day, so I’m guessing my husband will cook on the grill. I’ll give him a grocery list today. Since the high is supposed to be around 70, we’ll have lunch outside. I won’t require my family to spend the whole day doting on me, but I will enjoy some time with them. Gifts? I don’t know if they will shower me with gifts, and it’s just fine if they don’t. I’m just thankful we are all healthy and can spend some time together.

This Mother’s Day, I’ll be thankful for my healthy little family. I’m thankful my own parents gave me a good life. I’m thankful for my brother and nephews…my cousins, aunts, uncles. And I’m thankful for great friends.

I’m just thankful. God bless mothers.

 

I Never Wanted to Homeschool

I never wanted to homeschool.

Seriously…never. It never, ever crossed my mind in a serious way. There were times I thought, “If we homeschool, we can go on vacation all the time! We can educate our daughter on the road!” And I know that works for some folks. But for me? Nope, nope, nope. I love my daughter, but we don’t need to be together 24/7.

Yet here we are, in the middle of a pandemic, and homeschooling is the only way. I’m not officially homeschooling, because she is still signing in to her school website and having remote video “class” and conferences with teachers. Thank God. We just returned from “spring break,” during which our trip was actually canceled, but we had a break nonetheless. And now school is starting back.

Lucky for us, our daughter is 16 and a sophomore in high school. She is old enough to figure it out herself. In fact, I have been receiving emails from her teachers about remote learning, and every time I see one, I think, “Really? Don’t y’all tell us to be ‘hands off’ when they get to high school?” Why do they suddenly want us to be hands on?!? I know the students are home, but my daughter needs to drive this bus herself. I never know what her homework is, just like my mother never knew what my homework was in the 80s. That is entirely her responsibility.

When my daughter was in third grade, another mom approached me at school one day and asked, “Is your daughter ready for the Bunnicula test?” I must have looked at her like she had three heads, because I responded, “What the heck is a Bunnicula?” Apparently, it was a book they had read, and they were having a test on it that day. For a brief moment, I wondered how the other mom knew they were having a test! I had no idea, because even when she was in third grade, I didn’t help with homework. I didn’t help her get or stay organized. I didn’t help her with her homework at all. It was all up to her. That was her job…just like it is now. I know…I know…some of you will say that was a little too hands off. Trust me, I am a very present parent in every other way, but I have always believed she needed to learn how to do her schoolwork the same way I did…without any help from parents. I remember when she was in sixth grade, I sat down with her and taught her my secret method for studying for tests, and she has thanked me a million times since. I’ll offer guidance. But helping with daily homework? I’ve never done it.

She knows she can come to me for guidance when she needs it. I will always provide support and guidance. As recently as this morning, I reminded her that she needs to stay in close touch with her teachers. She needs to email or conference with them pretty regularly, even if she doesn’t feel like she needs help. She needs to keep the lines of communication open. That’s my advice for the day. That’s how I help her with her education.

Many times I’ve told her about a calculus class I had in college. I had a low A going into the final, but I had been meeting with the teacher two or three times a week to keep that A. And then I bombed the final…I don’t mean I made a C.  I bombed it. Back then, to see our exam grades before we left school at the end of the semester, we had to go see where they were posted outside the teacher/professor’s office door. After I saw my terrible grade, I entered his office, he said, “Oh, Kelly, you did not do well on the final.” I said, “I saw that!” I then asked him what grade I would get for the semester (the final was supposed to have a lot of weight). Instead of answering me, he asked, “What grade do you think you deserve?” I would have said a C. But seeing an opening, I returned the question, “What do you think I deserve?” He looked at me, very kindly, and said, “I give you B. You do good in long journey.” He was from another country…I don’t remember where…so he spoke in broken English, but he had the sweetest way of expressing his wisdom, and he was a very compassionate man. I thanked him profusely, and I was on my way. I have remembered his kindness for all these years…and when someone in our family works hard and meets a goal or accomplishment, I say, “You do good in long journey.”

That’s my long way of saying I worked hard to try to get a good grade in that class, and my teacher recognized that. That’s what I am encouraging my daughter to do right now. She has heard that story a million times, and as a teenager, she might not fully hear it, but one day, something will happen, and she will know I’m right.

So, while I’m sure her teachers and school are simply making sure I’m informed with those emails they’re sending me, I’m not getting into the fray. If she were younger, I might have to jump in with both feet, but in 10th grade? Nah. She can do this, and she’ll appreciate it a lot more if she does it on her own.

Homeschooling? It’s still not for me. That’s one thing I know for sure. I’ll be team mom. I was a homeroom mom many times when she was in elementary school. I volunteer all over the place. But I’m not planning to take the reins on this homeschooling.

She’s got this. She will “do good in long journey.”

 

You’re Wearing Work Pants?!?

***Before reading, please know I’m not complaining about my teenage daughter. I do not feel like she is taking advantage of me. I feel like she is a normal, healthy teenager who is trying to find her independence. It’s what teenagers do. It’s funny. Teenagers are hilarious to those of us who remember what it was like to be a teenager, and even though I’m 52, I remember it well! Teenage girls are funny creatures who think they know everything…right up until they figure out they don’t know everything. We all parent differently, and I choose to parent with laughter. I have rules, and generally speaking, she follows them.***

“You’re wearing work pants?!?!” Yes, my teenage daughter asked me this in her school cafeteria yesterday, because what do teenagers do when they’re not critiquing their mothers’ fashion choices? Isn’t that why we put in so much time feeding them, sleep training them, kissing their booboos, and helping them figure out life…so they can find fault with our wardrobes?!

I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for years, but I have volunteered at her school since 2008. She is used to seeing me there in jeans or slightly more fashionable clothing, but yesterday, she saw me in the school cafeteria in what she referred to as “work pants.” And there’s a reason I was wearing those “work pants”: I was working.

Recently, I started doing a little substitute work in the library at her school, which means I am actually on the payroll. Dressing for the payroll is a little different than dressing when you’re working for free. You can’t wear jeans. You have to look somewhat professional.  Most adults would not have looked at me and thought “work pants.” I was wearing black wide-leg pants (or slacks) and a blouse I thought was really cute…collared with stripes and a tie-waist. And heels. I wore heeled booties. I didn’t look like an old-fashioned “school marm.” And I didn’t look like I was going to repair her car. I didn’t look like I was going out to take someone’s temperature or represent someone in court. But apparently, I looked like I was at work, and she felt the need to call me out on it. It’s something she’s not accustomed to…and it surprised her!

I have written before about how my daughter is definitely a teenager now. Seriously, I’ve told y’all how she rolls her eyes when I sneeze…or talk…or breathe. And now…she doesn’t like my “work pants.” Or maybe she thought I was cooler than that. Y’all, having a teenager definitely keeps you humble. If you have children…especially girls…under age 12, enjoy it. Hug them. Feel free to sneeze, talk, breathe…because soon they will be critiquing your wardrobe.

A friend came over for coffee this morning, and we compared notes on our teenagers. Thank God we have each other, or we could really start to feel bad about ourselves! We could actually start to believe we always wear the wrong thing, say the wrong thing, and even walk “wrong.” And maybe we do, but we went 50 years without people feeling the need to tell us that…and then we had teenagers. My friend didn’t seem to mind that when she arrived at my house for coffee this morning, I was wearing blue pajama pants with pink flamingos all over them and a gigantic black hoodie with “Rollin’ with the homies” emblazoned across the front. She didn’t even care that I hadn’t brushed my hair yet! My friend saw me dressed like that and with bed head, no less, and she still loves me! But my daughter? She doesn’t approve of the “work pants.”

So at the end of the day, I took a few minutes to explain to my teenage daughter that I can’t go to work in the library wearing yoga pants or jeans. I can’t go in wearing a hoodie with “Rollin’ with the homies” across the front of it…and a picture of a pug smoking a cigarette on the back of the hoodie…I should mention that. It’s my favorite hoodie, and honestly, it’s the article of clothing that should really embarrass her!

Most of the time, though, she is kind and funny, and I love spending time with her. She loves getting my insight and feedback, and most of the time, she listens. She even thanks me for things I do on a regular basis. She’s a keeper.

It’s hard to believe in just 2 1/2 short years, that teenager will be going off to college…”good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise.” And then, one day, she will likely graduate from college and have her first “real” job. I hope I’m visiting her on the first day she goes to work, so I can make fun of her “work pants.” She will have long forgotten poking fun at my clothing choice, so I will catch her off guard just before she walks out the door. I’ll stroll over to her, wearing my very comfy PJs and bathrobe and drinking my morning coffee, and I’ll say, “You’re wearing work pants?” I will then bid her “good day” and remind her that I’ll be sitting around in my PJs drinking coffee, watching The Price is Right, while she’s out working in her “work pants.”

 

Make Time

Busy, busy, busy…we all lead busy lives. Sometimes, we’re busy sitting on our butts watching TV, but we all claim to be busy all the time.

This morning, I took a break from busy. About a week ago, a friend I haven’t seen in a long time sent me a message asking me to meet for coffee. We checked our calendars and decided today would be the day. So at 9:15 this morning, I met a friend at Cafe Moka, a cute little coffee shop in the Waverly shopping center in South Charlotte. Apparently, I was the only person in Charlotte who didn’t know about it, because it was hoppin’! You can see the website here.

This particular friend is sweet and funny, so I was looking forward to seeing her. When I arrived and saw her smiling face waiting in a little nook of the coffee shop, I smiled. At that moment, I knew this was something I needed…to catch up with a friend I haven’t seen in a long time…really catch up without distractions, and it was great.

A few days ago, my husband was going through some old photos on his phone, and he came across some from summer of 2008. They were pictures of our daughter with her preschool friend…and there, in the third picture was the daughter of the friend I was meeting for coffee today! My husband texted the pics to me, so as soon as I arrived, I showed them to my friend. She enjoyed looking through them and then said, “I have no recollection of this!” The pictures were made at Carowinds, a local amusement park (see the website here). We ran into my friend and her daughter near an attraction that is no longer at Carowinds…small convertibles on rails that the kids believed they were really driving. Even though they weren’t really driving them, they were a vision of the future.

And now we are officially in the future. My friend’s daughter is now a senior in high school, driving a real car and preparing for college. My own daughter just got her driver’s license two weeks ago…driving herself to high school in a real car instead of waving as she drives past me in the cars on rails at Carowinds. Time flies. And that’s exactly why we need to stop and “smell the roses.”

Time passes so quickly that we often forget to stop and spend some time with the people we care about. Sometimes, I look at my calendar and see the things I need to do instead of the things I want to do. In reality, we need to put forth the effort to do some of the things we want to do and spend time with some of the people we want to see.

But today, I put forth the effort. Today, I enjoyed a little time over coffee with a friend. And it put a smile on my face for the rest of the day…just what the doctor ordered!

 

 

 

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Favorite College Care Packages

I had lunch recently with a friend from college. She has lived just about 45 minutes from me for years, and we didn’t even realize it till about three years ago. Last month, we finally went to lunch after talking about it for a long time, and now, we’ve decided to make it a monthly thing. She has four children, and her oldest is a freshman in college. She told me she is putting together a Halloween-themed care package to send him, including lots of his favorite little treats, and it reminded me of care packages my own mother used to send me…over thirty years ago, when I was in college. She was really good about sending boxes of fun, silly things, and sometimes, she would just send something as simple as a sweatshirt or a pair of fuzzy socks, but it always made me smile.

These days, it’s easier than ever to send care packages, and I’ll get into the easy ones later, but Mother used to send me things she had bundled herself, and those care packages were hard to beat. Don’t all college students love to get mail and packages? Sometimes, she would send small packages just for me, and sometimes, she would send a bigger bundle for me and a roommate. Here are a few examples of things she did:

  • Halloween Care Package in October. It included silly Halloween socks, the kind you get in the Dollar Spot at Target; my favorite Halloween candies; a few favorite snacks (chips, cereal bars, etc); plastic spiders; rubber snakes; glow-in-the dark plastic teeth; wax teeth; Halloween hair ties; Halloween t-shirt (you can get some pretty inexpensive ones in Walmart and Target); and if she were sending it now, she would have definitely included some gift cards to local eateries.Exam Care Package. At the end of November, she would send a big box as a care package for final exams. She would include lots of favorite snacks: Toastchee Crackers,Microwave Popcorn, Chips, Breakfast Bars, and some favorite candy. She might also include a MadLibs book…great stress-relieve entertainment for silly college students. A couple of People and Us Magazines were good for taking a break from studying. And she might have included some silly childhood toys like YoYos, Jacks, a Gyro-Wheel, an Etch A Sketch, and even a Wooly Willy…see below. Oh…and temporary tattoos…always fun. Squirt guns were a big hit! Childhood toys were always fun, because they were good for a laugh. Friends from all over the hall would take study breaks and come to my room to play with those silly toys.
  • Winter Care Package. In late January, she would send a Winter Care Package that included cheap gloves for me and my roommate, warm socks for both of us, cheap sock hats, a warm sweatshirt for each of us, packages of powdered hot chocolate, cheap ear muffs, and maybe some travel magazines that showed sunny destinations.

You get the picture. As the year progressed, she tried to put together thoughtful bundles. Sometimes they were all very similar, but she would include just one or two special items for a holiday….like those packages of Valentines you get in elementary school…she knew it would be fun for us to tape those on the doors of friends on our hall.

And after I graduated from college and moved to Atlanta, she would still send me care packages. My favorite was one she sent to me and my roommate in December. It was an Advent calendar in a box. The days weren’t on it, but there were two of the same wrapped gifts for every day of Advent, and she had the gifts numbered. I wish I could remember everything she sent. On the first day of Advent, we opened Christmas stockings. We didn’t have a fireplace, so I think we just hung them on the bar. The next day, we likely opened…you guessed it…socks. Big fat candy canes might have been day 3. Light-up antlers might have been day 4. Lights to hang in our apartment could have been day 5. You get the picture. She wrapped anything Christmas-themed she could find and put it into the box. 

Nowadays, though, if you don’t want to take the time to put together a care package, you can simply order online and have them shipped to your student. Simply go to Amazon.com and find regular care packages, but if you want themed packages, simply input what you’re looking for. I entered “Halloween Care Package” on the Amazon search, and I got several options. You can see them here. Another option is a monthly subscription to care packages through College Care Packages…see their options here. I have also found a fun company called Hip Kits that puts together care packages for college students, and they are a little different than the ones on Amazon. See Hip Kits here. 

And for some other unique care package ideas, go to Etsy.com and enter “care packages,” and you’ll get lots of unique results. Click here to see some of the options.

Also, don’t forget restaurant gift cards make great surprises for college students. Sometimes, too, I’ll just Venmo a little money to college students I know, and when I do, I say it’s for WAM (walking around money) and I add the emoji of the person walking plus the emoji showing a bag of money.

 

When I was in college and in my 20s, any time I left my parents’ house, Daddy would give me some “walking around money,” which we also called “WAM.” If you aren’t familiar with the Venmo app, it’s time to get with the program. It’s super easy to send money to friends/family with Venmo. If my daughter picks up the tab for her friend at Starbucks, the friend will send her $5 via Venmo. Get it?

But no matter what little happy surprise you choose to send your child…or someone else’s…they will be grateful. College is fun, but it can be stressful, and it’s always fun to receive a package or some walking around money.

Game Day Snacks

It’s football season! Finally!

In North Carolina today, the sky is a little more clear, and the wind is a ever so slightly more dry. Maybe it’s a cold front moving in, or maybe I’m imagining it, but since today is National College Colors Day, I know it is officially football season.

I love all kinds of football…high school, college, professional…well, I don’t really like to watch bad, messy football (like that Florida/Miami game last week), but I will even take that over no football at all. I get it from my mother. The woman loved football. Interesting that the start of football season usually falls around her birthday. She is gone now, but I know she would be excited if she were here. In my house, you had to like football. You also had to like to watch baseball and basketball, or you were going to be watching television alone. We watched sports year round. I don’t watch baseball and basketball like I used to. I still like them, but I just don’t watch them much anymore. But football? Bring…it…on!

And with football, there are gatherings of friends and families. Where there are gatherings, there must be food. I’m not talking tailgating…that’s food on a whole different level. I’m talking football gatherings at home…like the one I’ll have this weekend when Alabama plays Duke in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game. I’d normally go to that game, but my teenage daughter has big plans for the weekend, and I didn’t really want to go without her.

So here are a few of my favorites to serve at football parties at home:

  • Cheeseburger Mini Meatloaves. This is a recipe from my very favorite source, Hungry Girl. I’m an avid follower of on Instagram, and I subscribe to the emails and check the website regularly. These Cheeseburger Mini Meatloaves are simple to make and require only a few ingredients. You won’t believe you didn’t think of these yourself. I’ve served them several times, and every time, they disappear quickly, so make a few batches. See the recipe at hungry-girl.com, here.

    retina_hungry-girl-cheeseburger-mini-meatloaves-20170220-1619-32204-3223

    Photo from hungry-girl.com

  • Toasted Pimento Cheese Rounds. Super easy to make. Purchase a sliced French loaf at your local grocery store. Spread your favorite pimento cheese spread over the rounds. Crumble a few pieces of cooked bacon over the top. Pop into the oven at 325 degrees, and remove when cheese is bubbling. You can add a small 1/4 slice of tomato to the top or not. I prefer Palmetto Cheese brand (see it here), and I like the jalapeño pimento cheese for an added kick.

    pimento-cheese-palmetto-cheese-wisconsin-dairy_02

    Photo from pimentocheese.com

  • Veggie Dip. I love the flavor of dill in a dip, and I’ve found a great recipe for a veggie dip. It contains onions and dill, and it’s fresh and tasty. It’s just a few ingredients and super easy…but super tasty. Get the recipe here. Serve with your favorite raw veggies. I prefer carrots, broccoli, and cucumber slices.
  • Herbed Parmesan Popcorn. Popcorn is always a good snack for game days, but sometimes it’s fun with a twist. I found a recipe for Herbed Parmesan Popcorn that’s easy to make…notice a theme here? I don’t do complicated recipes. I’ve served it twice, and both times, it was well-received. Get the recipe here.herbparmpopcorn_jimfranco1-2
  • Seasoned almonds. My friend, Mary Ann, introduced me to some gourmet, seasoned almonds recently, and I haven’t been able to stop eating them. I think they are great to have in bowls around the room for a ball game. Made by Blue Diamond, I find them in my local Target. My favorite flavors are the Pink Himalayan Salt and the Rosemary. I like the Garlic, Herb and Olive Oil ones, but I have a feeling I will love the Black Truffle flavor too! See the Blue Diamond website here. You can purchase them in grocery stores, or you can order directly from Blue Diamond via the website.

And if you’re not up for preparing your own game day snacks, I recommend picking up from these two places:

  • Chick-Fil-A. I wrote recently about the Chick-Fil-A One app…don’t forget to use it if you pick up a tray of nuggets, chicken strips, cool wraps, mac and cheese, or cookies. And you must order in advance! I do all my ordering through the app, and I get those valuable points too! My person favorite for game day? A nugget tray with Chick-Fil-A sauce, a fruit tray, and some chocolate chip cookies. They’re always a hit. See the Chick-Fil-A website here.
  • Zoe’s Kitchen. I love Zoe’s. I discovered it when we moved our little family to Alabama for a couple of months in 2006, when my daddy was sick. Everything they offer is delicious. Their hummus tray is great for gatherings, and I love their pita trays too…a different kind of sandwich tray with a Mediterranean flavor. And if you just need some side items, I highly recommend their slaw and potato salad. See their website here.

There you have it…my recommendations for game day snacks. Let’s get this football season started! I can hardly wait for lots of games to be on every weekend.

Are you ready for some football???

College Orientation for Parents

I’m not poking fun. My child won’t be going off to college for three more years, so please don’t think I’m poking fun at students or parents, but I have a question:

When did colleges start having orientation for parents?

Like I said, I’m not poking fun, but when I went off to college orientation…way back in 1985…my parents didn’t go with me. In fact, I don’t recall seeing any parents there, and I certainly don’t recall any orientation sessions just for the parents. Of course, my memory could be failing. My parents felt college was my adventure.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with it. It just seems strange to me. Going off to college is a rite of passage for lots of new high school graduates, and to me, it was part of growing up. It was the beginning of more independence. It was something I did on my own. I don’t mean I paid for it. Nope…my parents paid…but they didn’t go to orientation with me.

They did go with me when I moved into the dorm my freshman year. They wouldn’t have missed that, and I wouldn’t have wanted them to miss it. But as soon as everything was moved in, we went to lunch, and they were on their way home. They didn’t want to stick around long enough for there to be any tears. Things have changed since 1985, and like I said, I’m not knocking it, but it seems like an interesting step… backward.

Trust me…when my daughter goes to college, I’ll be one of the parents participating in the parent orientation sessions, because I will feel like a terrible parent if I don’t. I don’t want to be the only one who doesn’t go; I don’t need to get those dirty looks and whispers…I get enough of those now, and she’s not even in college yet! But why did colleges feel like they needed to start having parent orientation sessions?

I don’t have an answer. I don’t even know when it started.

When we were kids, we ran all over the neighborhood all summer. We were outside from the moment we got up till the neighborhood street lights came on…and sometimes later, if we got permission to play Kick the Can at a friend’s house. We loved playing Kick the Can in the dark…hiding behind trees, dashing about and trying not to giggle. We rode our bikes for miles a day. We went to different friends’ houses. And guess what? We didn’t even have cell phones! Not even a bag phone! Those things weren’t around yet. To find us, our parents had to go outside and call our names, or they had to call around to various friends’ houses, or they had to drive around the neighborhood.

It’s not that way anymore. We’ve all been told our kids will be kidnapped if they play outside. We think they’ll end up in the emergency room if they are left unsupervised.

Is the cell phone to blame?

Starting in the late 80s, people really starting getting cell phones, and the cell phone became more and more popular and sophisticated as time went on. Unlike any time before, we could all call each other anywhere, anytime. And with smart phones, we can now see where people are at any time. I have the Life 360 app, and I can see where my daughter’s phone is all the time. Does that mean she is with the phone? Probably…teenagers these days go nowhere without their phones. But don’t be fooled…there are ways to get around Life 360.

I know one teen who downloaded Life 360 to his iPad and removed it from his smartphone.  While he was out and about with his cellphone, his iPad was safely tucked away anywhere he wanted it to be, so it looked like he was where he was supposed to be. It’s true. If you want to keep tabs on your child’s whereabouts and you pay for the cellphone, you might want to check that.

Parents know the whereabouts of their children…even college students…all the time. I thank my lucky stars every single day that my parents couldn’t always see where I was! Yet, I want my daughter to have the Life 360 app on her phone. Even when she goes to college, I will likely want her to have the app, and I will likely check it from time to time.

But will I want to go to parent orientation sessions at her college? I doubt it. I hate “mandatory” meetings…always have. If you want me to come to a meeting, invite me like it’s a party…and maybe give away prizes…and I’ll be all in. I especially hate meetings that are a waste of my time. Why do I need to know about her college or university? As far as I’m concerned, I’m supposed to move her in, pay for it all, visit occasionally, and talk with her regularly. I’m not calling for everyone to boycott parent orientation sessions. Some folks probably love the idea. I just think it’s strange that it wasn’t considered necessary for so long, and now, college has become a family affair.

By the time our daughter does off to college, if things keep “progressing” the way they have been, parents will have to go to class with their college freshmen for the first week of school.

Good luck to all of you who are attending parent orientation sessions this summer. God willing, I will be doing it too one day…but I don’t think I will like it.

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Don’t Worry, Be Happy

Vacation can do a mind and body good. I just returned from a few days on the beach, and I feel rejuvenated. I felt worry-free for a week…almost.

But before we went, my teenage daughter was about to drive me crazy checking the weather. Every time I turned around, she was checking the forecast for our destination, and she kept announcing to me that it was supposed to rain every day of our vacation. Finally, after days of hearing it, I said to her, “Keep checking the weather if you want, but knowing the forecast isn’t going to change it. There’s nothing we can do about it, because we are going.” She knows I’ve preached a million times about worrying and how it can just eat you alive. She knows we shouldn’t worry about things we can’t control.

In my youth, I was a worrier. Somehow, in college, I managed to change all that. I don’t know what happened, but at some point, I realized all that worry was just a big waste of time and energy. Truly, if there’s nothing I can do to change the outcome of something, I should turn over all that worry to God. In fact, worrying is sinful. We are supposed to cast all our worries on the Lord. That’s one way to stop worrying…realize it’s sinful.

If you’re worrying about something you can control…like an upcoming college exam…stop worrying and do what you can to control it. What can you do? Study! Meet with your teacher! Become prepared. If you are prepared for something you can control, then worry should go out the window.

My daughter got into the car one day after school and told me she was afraid she had messed up a test she had taken that day. She had a pained look on her face. I looked at her and said, “Stop worrying about it. It’s done. There’s nothing you can do about it now…let’s celebrate the fact that it’s over.” She laughed, but she knew I was right. I’m not always right…many people will tell you that…but on this matter, I was right. We went to get ice cream to celebrate the fact that the test was over.

As for the vacation, once we got there, my daughter stopped checking the weather. We had mostly beautiful, sunny, worry-free days while we were there. In fact, I can’t think of anything vacation-related that worried me. I did have a couple of aggravating moments when our accountant kept messaging me about tax-related stuff…not what I wanted to discuss while I was on vacation. I’m thinking my husband should have asked him to wait till after I was home. I’ll need to remind him of that next time.

Other than the tax stuff, I could have been walking around singing, “Don’t worry, be happy.” I was very happy, and somehow I’ve managed to be very relaxed even after returning home. Since we were in swimsuits most of the day, I haven’t had tons of laundry to do. I’m still in vacation mode, in fact.

My mother was a worrier. Daddy, not so much. I like to think I’ve broken the familial cycle of worrying passed down by my mother. My brother certainly isn’t a worrier. Generally, we’re the kinds of people who “cross that bridge when we come to it.” We just don’t sit around worrying about what could happen, what people think, or negative outcomes. Sure, I worry about my daughter, and if there are health issues with anyone in my family, I worry about that, but I had an uncle who once explained it this way: worrying doesn’t change the outcome of things. If there is something that is out of my control, and I find myself worrying about it, I give myself ten minutes to ponder it. After that, I hand it over to God and forget about it.

Wise words from my uncle. Personally, I like that approach, and it’s the approach I choose to take. Don’t worry, be happy. And if you are having trouble with it, download Bobby McFerrin singing Don’t Worry Be Happy to your playlist and enjoy. It will help.

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She’s Our Favorite Child

Just this week, when I told someone my 15-yr-old daughter was an only child, I got that look. That “poor thing” look. I’ve seen it several times over the course of her life. I’ve even had people say weird things. “Oh, she must be so lonely.” “When you die, she’ll be alone.” “When you die, she’ll have to handle everything herself.” “When you get sick, she’ll have to take care of you.” “She’s stuck in an adult world.”

Really? 

First of all, I believe our only child is pretty well-adjusted. I spent her early years making sure she was well-socialized…and many of her peers were/are only children too. Her preschool teacher once told me, “If I didn’t know she is an only child, I’d never guess it.” If we go on vacation and she wants to take a friend, she can. She can invite people over whenever she wants. We have an open door policy at our house…all friends are welcome. Getting ready for a school dance? Come on over! Snow? Come on over! Bored? Come on over! No invitation necessary…

She has never told me she is lonely. I know people who have lots of siblings who are way more “lonely” than she is.

She has never seemed jealous of her friends who have siblings.

She plays well with others.

She is happy most of the time, but she is a teenager, so she has her moments.

She relates to girls and boys well.

And no one can convince me that having siblings would make her life any better than the life she has right now.

My mother was an only child. My husband is an only child. Mother was a happy person. My husband seems fine with it.

Did we intend for her to be an only child? I don’t know. At one point, we considered having another child. I was 38. But then my daddy was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and I knew I would need to help Mother as his illness progressed. I decided being pregnant while helping them wouldn’t be a good idea. The first three months of pregnancy had not been easy for me…migraines, nausea…I knew I couldn’t help them if I were sick.

And honestly, I didn’t want to push my luck.

We knew we were fortunate to have her, and we said, “One and done.”

Has she ever said she wished she had siblings? When she was about four, she mentioned it. I told her, “You’ll need to share your toys.” She was OK with that. “You’ll have to share your mommy.” No dice. That was a dealbreaker for her. She said, “I don’t want a brother or sister.” Of course, we had already decided she would be an only child, so she wasn’t actually making the decision. I was 40. We were having the time of our lives!

As for her having to take care of us when we’re old and dying, well, we can “get busy living or get busy dying.” I can’t sit around all the time thinking about that. I choose to live life to its fullest. Hopefully, we will all live a long time, and hopefully, my husband and I will have the wherewithal to know if we need to go to assisted living.

But till then, we are going to enjoy her, and hopefully, she enjoys us. We know the world doesn’t revolve around her, but our little family is important to us. Providing her with the tools she needs to navigate the world is important to us. She’s growing up, and we want to enjoy our time with her. She will be off to college in three years. Three years…hard to believe. We have plans to enjoy her while she still lives with us full time. We have vacations to take. We have colleges to visit. We have people to meet with her. We have new things to experience with her. We have things to teach her. We have memories to make.

And no matter what…she always knows she’s our favorite.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Favorite Holiday Gifts 2018, Part 7: Teens/College Students

Everyone knows how difficult it is to find the perfect gift for a teenager or college student. After talking with a few of them, I’ve compiled some gift ideas at a lot of different price points that I hope will help. So, here we go: gifts for TEENS AND COLLEGE STUDENTS.

College Sweatshirts/Hoodies. My teenage daughter, who is a freshman in high school, and her friends love college sweatshirts, and it doesn’t really matter which college it is! Of course, most teens have favorites colleges, but the teens I know wear hoodies from schools all over the country! Sometimes, I see a college hoodie on sale somewhere, and I buy it, just because it will fit her. I regularly check Fanatics.com to see what they have, but I’m sure there are other sites too. Prices at Fanatics.com for men’s college hoodies (it’s what they prefer) start under $15. Check out their offerings here.

 

Lululemon Leggings. Teens and college-age girls love these things. Heck, moms love them too! They’re pricey, but they will be very well-received, because students can live in these things! It’s a constant request at my house. Whenever our daughter gets some extra money in her hand, she loves to spend it at Lululemon. She has learned, though, to buy them when they’re on sale. They’re shorts are popular too. And their sports bras…apparently, the best ever made. Prices for full-length leggings start at $98, but there are usually some on sale.

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Customized Starbucks Cup. We all know teens and students love their Starbucks. Mine doesn’t even drink coffee, but she loves those frappucino drinks. They also love things with their names on them. Things aren’t like they were when we were young, when almost everybody could find their names on those pre-personalized bicycle tags or stickers: Kelly, Jennifer, Mary, Joe, Michael…you get the point. Now, names are more unique. CoffeeTime Designs on Etsy offers personalized cups for hot drinks here at $7.99.  Funkytime Weddings offers cold drink personalized cups here for $11.47.

 

Keurig.For those college students or even high school students who like coffee, Keurig makes an awesome single-cup coffee maker, and it’s priced at just $49.96 at Walmart. It comes in several different colors. You can pick it up in the store or order online here. Just make sure you order some K-cups from Amazon or pick them up in your local store.

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Mini Fridge or Portable Fridge. Everyone knows teen boys and men can eat a lot. Teen boys eat all the time. They need a fresh supply of food and beverage on hand, whether they live at home or in a dorm. Girls love to keep their favorite cold beverages (and sometimes snacks) on hand. These two fridges are great for boys and girls, and both can be purchased at Walmart. One is a portable fridge that holds up to 12 cans ($49.99). Plug it into your car or home outlet. Great for tailgating! The second is a true mini fridge ($79.99)…perfect for a teen’s TV room, bedroom, or dorm room. Purchase here.

 

Long Distance Friendship Lamp. These are just awesomeness. Purchase one for yourself and one for your best friend or loved one who lives far away. Or maybe give two to your college student, so she can give one to a faraway friend. When you touch the lamp to adjust the hue in your home, it adjusts your friend’s lamp as well, letting them know you’re thinking of them! I love it, because I think it’s important for us to let folks know when we think of them. Priced from $85 to $170 at Uncommongoods.com here.

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Portable Lap Desk. You can go to Amazon and find lots of different lap desks, no doubt. And I’m not hooked on one particular one, but I do believe teens want one that’s big enough to hold a laptop computer. When I was in college, lap desks were frequent gifts between friends, and we used them…a lot. Lap desks are great for middle school, high school, and college students. Personally, I could see my teen sitting in the swivel chair mentioned below…with a lap board, doing homework in her room. Pictured below is one that starts at $17.32, purchased through Amazon Prime. You can purchase it here.

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Sports Blankets. Everybody needs a good blanket sometimes. For the young sports fans, blankets emblazoned with their team logo are great gifts. My daughter has an Atlanta Falcons blanket we use all the time…in the car, at sporting events, just hanging out at home. Whether your sports fan loves college or NFL football, baseball, or basketball, there are lots of different team blankets at Fanatics.com. With prices starting under $20 for some blankets, it makes a great gift for them at a great price for you! Check them out here.

Faux Fur Throws. For the teens/college students in your family who would rather stay warm without thinking about sports, West Elm has a wide assortment of faux fur throws starting at just $49. They’re beautiful, soft, and warm! Check them out here.

 

Weighted Blanket. A-maz-ing. While we are talking about blankets, these are good for stressed out high school and college students. Weighted blankets have been proven to help users sleep. The weight of the blanket has a calming effect. Students are known to have a little stress in their lives…exams. This could change their lives. There are lots of different ones out there, but the only one I’ve ever used is the Calming Comfort Weighted blanket, which you can purchase here. Prices start at $129. I’m getting one for my daughter for Christmas. Other brands can be purchased through Amazon.com.

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Personalized Stationery. Everybody needs it, and lots of us love it. I have a friend from college, Lori, who recently opened her own Etsy stationery shop called Proper ID Please. She has personalized notecards in 94 different designs. Each set contains 12 notecards, and they are priced at $20 per set. She can have them ready to ship in 3-5 days, but get your order in early for best selection! Order here.

LL Bean Boots. Honestly, these are classics. They never go out of style. LL Bean Boots were great when I was in high school 30+ years ago, and they’re still great. But order as soon as possible, because they make them to order, and sometimes, there’s a backlog. They’re great for men/women/boys/girls…everyone on your list. Prices start at $100, so they’re not cheap, but they are well-made and can be worn forever. See them here.175064_1914_41

Patagonia Black Hole Duffle. I discovered this awesome bag last summer when my daughter went to Iceland with a group. The most popular one is their 60L bag that sells for $129. It’s durable and roomy, and it’s water repellant. Lots of mesh pockets help keep packing organized. This is the best in the business. Great for outdoor travel, and it’s a great carryon too. Shop it here.

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Longchamp Bags. You’ve seen these in other lists, but I can’t stress enough how useful they are! Teens and college students love these, because they are lightweight, functional, and durable. They come in lots of shapes and sizes, so check think about function: shopping? overnight? weekend? And the colors! They come in so many colors! Shop them at Nordstrom here.

 

Spikeball Set. Apparently, this is a popular competitive game that was featured on Shark Tank, and students love it. I haven’t seen it in person yet, but several people have told me how much their teens love it. Activity and competition are good ways to work off stress, so if you have a stressed-out student on your hands, this could be a good distraction. When I was in college, my friend, Angela, and I played Yahtzee for stress relief. This would have been fun too. Priced at $59.99 on Amazon, it includes free shipping for Prime members. See it here.

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Magnetic Dart Board. Back in the day, we just used pointy darts. I’m sure my mother reminded us regularly, “You’ll put an eye out.” Just like Spikeball, darts are a good stress reliever. These aren’t pointy, though. These are magnetic, removing the risk of putting out an eye (for the most part). Amazon has these priced at $29.98, which is a bargain. Order here.

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Hammock (and stand). For the past few years, teens have loved ENO hammocks. Prices for them on Amazon.com start at $27.99. (Click here.)These hammocks are lightweight and easy to hang. My daughter and her friends often hang theirs in trees around the park in our neighborhood and hang out. But I you don’t have trees around your house, you can purchase a stand for the ENO, and if you purchase one made by ENO, they are priced at about $249. (Click here.)But if you’d like to get a hammock chair with stand for less, you can get it from Wayfair here for $111.99, including the stand.

 

Shower Caddy. Y’all remember living in a dorm…the small room, the roommate, the noise, the fun…and the community bathroom. Oh, the community bathroom. Remember having to carry all your shower stuff down the hall for a shower? Well, lots of college students are still doing that now, so they need shower caddies! You might be thinking, “My student already has one.” Well, yeah…but think about it: a shower caddy gets wet, so it needs to be replaced regularly. Pottery Barn Dorm has some great shower caddies, with prices starting at $14.99. Some are even eligible for personalization. Check them out here.

Crocs. I know, you thought (or maybe hoped) these had gone by the wayside. Well, for a while, they did, but they’re baaaaaack. Nobody ever claimed Crocs were attractive, but they are durable and useful, for sure. My teenage daughter and her friends started wearing Crocs again last year…to the pool…to the beach…and in the shower at camp or in dorms. Crocs come in lots of different colors, so find out the recipients favorite color first, but this is a gift that will get used. Pricing for Crocs starts at under $15 on Amazon.com. You can shop their Croc selection here.

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Privacy Pop Bed Tent. Personally, I think this is a great idea for kids or teens. It provides privacy and can provide seclusion for siblings who share rooms or or sleep better in a cozier space.They come in sizes ranging from toddler bed to king bed, and they come in a variety of colors. Easy to install, they fit right under your regular mattress, and they come in a variety of colors.  Priced from $119 to $199. Purchase here.44075242744702p__1

Charm Bracelet. High school and college are the perfect times for a girl to start a charm bracelet. It doesn’t mean they have to wear it, but it’s a great time to start collecting mementos from places they’ve traveled. After my mother died, I found a charm bracelet from her youth with lots of charms from places I knew she had visited, and it made me feel connected to her. I don’t wear it, because I’m afraid I will lose it, but I have it. Unfortunately, I never started my own charm bracelet, and I wish I had. It would be fun to have charms from special times in my life or places I’ve visited. You can get charm bracelets at lots of places, and you can get them in gold or silver. I’m listing two in sterling silver. Right now, Kay Jewelers has a heart charm bracelets on sale for about $60. At Tiffany & Co, the ever-popular Heart Tag Charm Bracelet starts at $310 in sterling silver.

 

BACtrack S80 Pro Breathalyzer OR BACtrack Mobile Pro A breathalyzer is a great gift for a college student, and honestly, some might like it for a teenager. As much as parents want their kids to make good decisions, we all know they don’t always do that. If you have a son, daughter, niece, nephew, or friend who imbibes, this might be the perfect gift to help them make good decisions. I’ve listed two, because both get excellent ratings. From what I can tell, these are the best ones out there. Just look at the two, and decide which one is best for your recipient. The BACtrack S80 Pro is priced at $129 (on sale from $149 at time of writing), and it has been tested by and meets the requirements of the DOT/NHTSA for a personal breath alcohol screening device. The BACtrack Mobile Pro, priced at $99,  has other features, working with your app and cell phone. It even estimates the time at which your BAC will return to 0.00. To learn more and/or purchase, go to the website here.

 

PBTeen Groovy Swivel Chair. Teens and college students often love a little extra seating in their rooms, but they don’t want conventional chair or don’t have room for them. These Groovy Swivel Chairs come in different colors and fabrics, and they are a fun alternative to regular chairs and bean bag chairs. My daughter likely will be getting one this Christmas…what a comfortable place to study and do homework! Prices start at $279 for the faux fur chairs (on sale right now) and go up to $399. Check them out here.

 

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Smart TV with Roku. If your college student (or teenager) doesn’t have a Smart TV, it would make a great gift this holiday season. A Smart TV with Roku doesn’t even have to be connected to any cable or satellite service. They can stream movies and shows straight through Roku with a Sling subscription. They can also watch Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and several other streaming services through the Smart TV. Of course, there are lots of different versions on the market. I found them starting at $169 at Best Buy for a 32″ TV. To check at Best Buy, click here. 

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Amazon Fire Stick and Echo Dot. I mentioned this in my favorite gifts for travelers, but they’re great for teenagers who already have televisions. The Fire Stick will enable them to stream shows and movies without cable or satellite service, but they will need Wi-Fi. In my previous post, I mentioned the $39.95 deal for the Amazon Fire Stick with 2nd Gen Echo Dot, but now they’re offering a special deal on the New Amazon Fire Stick with 3rd Gen Echo Dot for $59.95 (regular price $99.95), in stock at Amazon on November 26. Purchase now as a bundle from Amazon, and they’ll send it when it’s in stock!. Your teen or college student can plug the Amazon Fire Stick directly into the HDMI of their existing TV, and use the Echo Dot in conjunction with it. Get it here.

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Experience Gifts. I’m always telling people experiences are more memorable than things, and they make great gifts! Maybe you have a teenager or college student who has always wanted to skydive or indoor skydive. Maybe they’ve wanted a racecar experience or rafting experience. There’s a website that can sell you the experience, but if you know of an experience off the top of your head, maybe you contact the place directly. I know we have a new company coming to Charlotte called iFly which offers indoor skydiving, which I’ve wanted to do for a long time. They offer gift cards in various dollar amounts. Or maybe you purchase someone a gift card from experiencedays.com, and they can choose their own experience from their offerings. See experiencedays.com here, and iflyworld.com here.

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Sled. This one is a tradition at our house. Every year of her life, our daughter has received a sled from Santa for Christmas, and as far as I’m concerned, that will continue as long as I can do it. She has quite a collection of awesome sleds now, so when it does snow once or twice a year in Charlotte, she is always prepared. In fact, sometimes we just have ice instead of snow, but that doesn’t stop us! (I say “us,” because yes, I go sledding too.) We have had a lot of luck with Hammerhead sleds, so this year, she will be getting a newer version of the same type sled. These sleds are lightweight, durable, steerable, and most importantly, fast. You know what they say, “Kid tested, Mother approved.” It’s not cheap, coming in at just over $177, but if you can spend it, it’s worth every penny when it snows. You get a lot more that $177 of fun out of this thing. There are some less expensive versions on Amazon too. If you want to see this one, click here. Amazon will ship it to you for free, if you’re a Prime member.

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Cash is king. Not gonna lie. Teens want what they want, and we don’t always get it right. I don’t even try to buy clothes and shoes for my daughter anymore. And sometimes, they just want cash so they can get exactly what they want. While it seems impersonal, teens and college students love cold hard cash. But to make it even more exciting, do what my sister-in-law does: wrap it up. And I mean wrap it up. Start with an envelope. Then wrap it in a ball of plastic wrap. Put that ball in a box. Wrap it in newspaper. Put it in another box…and so on and so on. Keep it interesting! Make that package as complicated and big as you can make it!

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Stocking Stuffers. For more ideas, please refer to my stocking stuffers post. There are lots of good ideas on there for young people too. You can see that post here.

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Teenagers and college students are tough customers, but hopefully, you’ll find some things here that will go over well with yours. We want them to have a Merry Christmas too!

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