Category Archives: daughters

“Autumn…the year’s last, loveliest smile.” ― William Cullen Bryant

I seriously love autumn.  I love the crisp mornings, sunny days, and spectacular colors!  It’s been a wonderful summer, and I am feeling blessed.  Daylight savings time ended yesterday, so the days are getting shorter.  Now it’s time to start counting the reasons to be Thankful, because Thanksgiving will be here soon.  My mom has already started Christmas shopping, and time is going by so fast it’s hard to slow down and enjoy the moments.  But it has been a glorious time to be in the mountains. 

Saturday afternoon after a couple of quick rain showers

Yesterday was a great day.  We had NO plans, so stayed in all day.  J loves Sundays.  He sits down in front of the NFL RED ZONE at 1:00, before the first game starts, and basically stays there until he shuffles to bed and falls asleep watching the last game.  I get football by osmosis: based on what he yells, I pretty much figure out what happens.  But I can’t watch the Red Zone.  I call it football for A.D.D.  You start watching one game, and they suddenly switch to another one when you look down to check your email…I just can’t keep up. But it makes him very happy.  The leaves up here peaked about a week ago, and we’ve had a couple of rains this week so they are all coming down.  I love the way the roads look when the leaves have just fallen. 

I spent my day reading, catching up on TV shows on my ipad, and starting a new painting.  I hope I’ll be able to capture the glorious colors I saw last week.

 We celebrated my young girlfriend’s 50th last week in beautiful Callaway Gardens! 

Dressed all in pink for dinner…we don’t like to call attention to ourselves at all!
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It was a glorious crisp fall weekend, and we had so much fun relaxing, freezing our tuccas off while biking around the property, and seeing the beautiful gardens and butterflies.  We wanted to go dancing, but the metropolis of Pine Mountain, Georgia didn’t really offer anywhere to go, so we cranked up the music and danced in the parking lot!

 We never saw another guest anywhere around, since we were in between seasons, so we kind of had the place to ourselves.  And then we went inside, changed into our pjs, and continued the dance party.  Maybe since most of us are over 50 we should act more like our age, but what’s the fun in that?

Must have been a really heartfelt song!

The horticultural center with our awesome volunteer tour guide

 J and I FINALLY played golf.  It rained so much at the beginning of the summer (over 100″ before the end of July!), and J was still recovering from ACL surgery, that this was our first time of the year.  I wish I could say I played well, but I didn’t suck as much as I thought I would.  It was a beautiful day, and we had a blast.  Hoping to play a couple more times this week.

 We were invited to a friend’s sister’s house to watch the Trick-or-Treating in Brevard.  They actually close her street and it is absolutely crazy!  I miss those days. 

A live pony!!  How cool is that?

Speaking of Trick or Treating…no trick or treating in college, but parties every day of the week!  My little activist H went dressed as one of her heroines…Rachel Carsen.  (For those of you, like me, who don’t know who she was, click on her name for more info).

 She and her friend J also dressed up as Sam and Suzy from the movie “Moonrise Kingdom“.  She told me she bought the red dress and sewed the collar and cuffs on them herself.  Who knew she could sew?

So it’s goodbye to autumn, and hello winter!  Snowmass has had almost 60″ of snow since September!  It’s going to be an amazing season! 
**I went to a party this weekend and was asked to bring appetizers.  Since they eat no dairy, grain, sugar or legumes, I was lost for ideas.  I took an awesome Cauliflower puree that was delicious, and had no legumes whatsoever.  I also took my Broccoli Hummus, which does have garbanzo beans, but it is so amazing I keep eating the leftovers by the spoonful!  I’ll post the recipes tomorrow.

Six things I wish I’d known before sending my daughter to college

It’s hard to believe, but summer is basically over.    H starts her sophomore year of college on Tuesday after Labor Day, but is already on campus, welcoming incoming freshmen.  Last year she went backpacking for her freshman Orientation Adventure, and most of the kids in her group are still her closest friends.  This year she will help lead a backpacking/kayaking trip on Catalina Island.
I’ve been thinking about this time last year.  We spent two days helping her move in to the dorm (which involved carrying a lot of boxes and making multiple Target runs, but not much unpacking, because SHE wanted to do it herself).  That was the first surprise.  I had imagined helping her unpack, putting away her things in an organized manner, hanging pictures, making the bed, etc., but in reality, she had imagined finally being able to make her own decisions about all that.  She was patient with us at first, but when I kept pulling things out of the boxes and placing them where I thought they’d go,  she finally said, between her teeth, “MOM, I’ve GOT it!”
So after a couple of meals with her, where she was obviously biding her time until she could escape to go meet her new friends, we realized it was time to go.  So we kissed goodbye, took a couple of last photos together, and watched her walk away.  Second surprise…I didn’t cry!  I actually felt excited for her and honestly, a little relieved.  We had raised an incredible young woman who was ready to take on the world, (or college, at least), and I was proud and excited for her.
I know there are lots of parents out there who are dropping off their kids for their first year away.  Whether there are younger kids still at home, or if the nest is emptying, there are many changes in store.  As the parent of an only child, it was a tremendous change for me.  Here are some of the things I learned or observed after my only child left for college.


Some kids might welcome your help with unpacking and moving in.  Not ours.  She wanted us to carry the heavy stuff and that was about it.  We teetered on the edge…It was so hard for me to pull back and let her unpack on her own.  We also caught ourselves giving last minute “advice” which I’m sure sounded to her like Charlie Brown’s teacher, “Wah, wah wahhh wahhhwahhhh”.  But it was evident to us when it was time to leave, so our goodbyes were loving, genuine and quick.  H’s roommate’s mom ended up staying TEN DAYS after moving her daughter in, and not surprisingly, roommate’s transition to college was difficult, tearful, and she transferred away the following semester.  But DO turn around and catch a glimpse of her walking away…and remind yourself that this is what you’ve raised her to do…spread her wings.


Your communication with your child will definitely change.  They are navigating their new world filled with new responsibilities, new friends, and new distractions and most likely, telephone calls to mom and dad will not be on the priority list.  And when they do pick up the phone to actually make a call, it’s usually to vent or ask for specific help, like how to refill prescriptions or to please send them their favorite cowboy boots that they left at home.  When you’re aching to see her face, it’s easy to make a quick Skype call at night while she’s online, and you can get the visual fix of her smiling mug.


When they do call in a tizzy because they are having a seemingly horrible problem, whether it’s relationship, academic, friends, or some other meltdown, and you instantly put yourself in “Mommy Saves the Day Mode”, slow down, listen, ask questions, and let them get it off their chests.  Nine times out of ten, they’re venting, and as soon as they hang up the phone, go skipping off with their friends without a care in the world.  This was really difficult for me.  I was the problem-solver.  Anytime she had a problem, I wanted to figure it out, and show her the way.  The first couple of times I tried to do that over the phone, she became defensive and exasperated, and finally said, “Mom, I don’t need you to give me any advice, I just want to get it off my chest.”  Not that you will never get involved…when she had a nagging medical problem that she kept complaining about but wouldn’t actually make an appointment with a new doctor, I had to step in and convince her to take care of it.  But it’s actually very satisfying when you see your child navigate through a problem herself.  That’s when you realize you are not the Coach anymore, and gladly become the Cheerleader.


Your child is legally an adult, so the grades will not automatically come to you.  You also will not be able to call her doctor to find out about her health.  The grades thing was a pretty big adjustment to my husband; since he was the one paying the bills, he felt like he should be getting her “report cards”.   And speaking about paying the bills…the statements will come to your child.  So the communication between you and your child will be important in those aspects.  I would recommend having an understanding with your child before dropping them off at school about what your expectations are.


Flying home after leaving H in California my mind was jumbled with all kinds of memories, fears, hopes, and worries.  Watching her walk away from us to her French placement exam, I didn’t see a young woman going to college, I saw the 5-year-old I dropped off at Kindergarten, who told me that she was afraid but was going to “Face her fears”.  That became a mantra throughout her life, and I realized I needed to follow her lead.  I thought about my fears of losing control over her life, losing her in my life on a daily basis, and reminded myself that this is what we raised her for.  To be strong, independent, and her own person.  Then, miraculously,  I felt a huge relief.
Suddenly, I realized something that I hadn’t thought of amid all the planning, packing, and worrying.  I was going to have the freedom to do things in my life that I wanted to do…travel, take classes, read, and spend time with the wonderful guy I married.  We are living the life we dreamed of for the last few years, and even though I miss her,  it’s a pretty darn good life.


I think this is the last thing that really hit us.  And it didn’t really hit us until this summer.  During  spring final exams, when she was exhausted, stressed, and sleep deprived, we got a few more phone calls than usual.  She was SO excited to be coming home, to see “mommy and daddy”, and to sleep in her own bed.  Then she got home, and I think that lasted about 36 hours… during which she probably slept about 24.  She texted and skyped and spoke with her friends scattered all over the country, did the obligatory dinners with us, then, after three weeks of family togetherness, flew up to the Catskills for her summer job as a camp counselor.  After the job was completed, we had four days together before she happily left to go back to school.

She drove from Colorado to school in California with a friend…big step for Dad!

 J and I realized that even though “home” is with us, it’s not where she needs to be right now, and it’s a good thing.  She is discovering so many new things, about herself, about the world, about other people, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

This year, I have some of the same feelings.  I still miss her.  I still think about her and wish I could see her face more often.  But now that I know what to expect, I have no worries whatsoever about what the year will hold…for all of us.

Staying busy when the nest is empty!

Have you seen the Toyota Venga commercials?  The ones where the parents are out living an active life while their grown children are worrying about them as they age?  This one is my favorite…

Ever since we dropped H off in California for college,  I get the sympathetic head tilt, “So, how are you?” about once a day.  And you know what?  I really am doing OK.  Surprisingly, even to me.   I expected this was going to be much more difficult than it is proving to be.  Not that I don’t get sad.  I do have those moments…moments of missing her as a little girl, when she adored us, and never wanted to leave us, not even to go to sleep at night.  I also have lots of moments when we’re experiencing something that I think she would enjoy, and wish she were here with us.

But we raised her to be independent, and to go after her dreams. The fact that she is at a college she adores, taking classes that inspire and motivate her, meeting people she enjoys, and becoming the person we always knew she could be, is everything I could ask for.  Sure, I would like to be a fly on the wall and observe her every moment, but since I can’t, J and I are staying busy.  I discovered that when we’re doing new things, or experiencing things outside our comfort zone, I don’t think about her every minute.

Spending extended time in Colorado and North Carolina is something Jeff and I have dreamed about for many years.  It wasn’t until our nest emptied out that we were able to do it.   Well, that and the internet, fax machines, email, etc.  We started this summer trying to do all new hikes that we hadn’t done before.  As we became more acclimated to the altitude they became longer and more strenuous.  Last month I bought a book on 14ers around the same time my friends from Nashville did Mt. Elbert while here for a short visit.  I mentioned it to J, and he said, “Are you crazy??”  Every time we did another long hike, I’d mention it again.  J’s responses started becoming less negative.  Finally, when we finally made it to Buckskin pass (after two failed attempts), he checked the weather report and decided that if we were going to do it it would have to be Saturday.  We made a trip to Ute Mountaineer in Aspen to pick up the supplies we didn’t have (tarp in case of rain, water purification tablets, weatherproof matches), and Saturday morning we were up before dawn to make the hour and a half drive to Leadville.

The drive over Independence Pass was magnificent, and our jeep was able to make it to the farthest point at the trail head so that we only had 8 1/2 miles to hike, instead of 12 1/2.  J was battling some lower back pain (we worked at a Habitat house the day before and he was doing a lot of bending over, sawing cement board), Rosie had been limping early in the week, but both of them were pumped up with anti-inflammatory and had rested the day before so we were all ready to go.  After about 1/2 mile of meandering through the trees, the incline started.  We were at about 10,300 feet at that point, and had 4100 feet to go over a period of 4 miles.  It didn’t seem like it would be that difficult, but I was wrong.  From the very beginning, I sounded like a freight train, sucking in air to get enough oxygen to take another step.  But I looked down and took small, slow steps behind J.  As the trees got thinner, the trail seemed to get steeper.  When we exited the trees, the mountain loomed ahead.  I must admit, it didn’t look that steep, or far, but each step we took the summit seemed to look farther away.  Little did I know, that when we reached that false summit, another one arose in the distance.

First False Summit 13,800 feet

We paused as we reached the first summit to put on more clothing.  The temperature drop was pretty severe and the wind started kicking in.  So we kept going…tiny steps forward and up.  When we reached the SECOND false summit, we still had another 100 yards of elevation to go, but it didn’t take that long.  Suddenly we were there…along with a pretty big crowd of people!  There were a couple of areas where there were rocks stacked up to create a really nice wind screen, but they were already taken, so J and I found a rock to sit on.  I pulled out my windbreaker because it was really cold!  J shared his trail mix with the puppies, who still seemed to have lots of energy left!

I looked around, and even though the haze in the valley from the Idaho fires kept the view a little less crisp, I was overcome with awe.  From the highest point in the Rockies, you can look down on Leadville to the Northeast, the Twin Lakes (which look like triplet lakes to me) to the East, 14,336 foot La Plata to the South East, and 14,421 foot Mt. Massive to the North.  It was spectacular!  With all the crowds I had no problem finding someone to take some pics of both J and I.

In front of Mt. Massive-14,421 feet

Twin Lakes

In front of La Plata -14,336 feet

We hung out for awhile, chatted with a few people, and decided to get started on the walk down. The doggies had fun playing in a little patch of snow as we started the descent.   I (wrongly) thought it was going to be a piece of cake, but descending 4100 feet over 4.25 miles was BRUTAL!  We were very glad when we finally reached the car.  When I pulled my phone out in the car there was a text from H, congratulating us!  I had sent her a text from the top.  I have to admit, I did think about her a few times on the walk up…mainly wishing she was with us.  I know she would have loved it, and since she had summitted Mt. Shasta a couple of years ago (but started at a much lower altitude so it was a much tougher climb), she would appreciate it. But…I wasn’t sitting at home, staring at Facebook, wishing she would post pictures, or call us, or skype.  We were out, living life, and hopefully, that’s exactly what she’s doing as well. 

The view on the way down!

Aaaaaand She’s Off!!

Last week we helped H move into her dorm room…in CALIFORNIA!  She picked a school the farthest away from home she could!  It’s a great fit, and she is thrilled to be there, so we’re truly happy for her.  But it’s such a strange feeling, to go from having her here to NOT having her here.   Buying her the one way ticket to California was the first time it really hit me…I’m not going to be in her daily life any more.

She is reveling in the independence of college.  I’ve talked to her a couple of times, mostly when she needed some kind of information, but once she called just to check in.  She sounds ecstatic.  Which makes this so much easier.  

But move-in day/parent orientation was hectic and emotional.  At least on my end.  She had just returned from a 3 day orientation adventure, backpacking at 11,000 feet.  There were 8 other freshmen, plus a couple of upperclass trip leaders, so she was able to get really close to a few like-minded kids right off the bat.  We missed all the planned parent activities because we were lugging boxes from the mailroom to her room, and making a few Target and Bed/Bath and Beyond trips.

I had forgotten how small college dorm rooms are!

 But surprisingly, she fit everything she needed into the space.  She was adament that I not organize her things, so I did the jobs she assigned me…connected her printer, hang bulleting boards, and unpack and throw away all the boxes.  We had dinner together the night we arrived, and the last night we were there, and met her for a quick breakfast the morning we left.  By that time we were extraneous.  Not needed.  She was being very sweet, but it was obvious she was ready to fly, and we needed to leave so she could get started.  I noticed that we were the only parents walking their kid back from the dining hall, and realized it was definitely time to go.  So we had our last hugs in front of her dorm, and watched her walk away to take her French placement exam. 

Nothing is going to be the same.   I’m excited for her, but it’s hard to stop the worrying…I think about her constantly.  Where is she now?  Does she like her professors?  Is she getting enough sleep?  Did she lock her bike?  Is she meeting lots of nice people?  Is her bed comfortable?  After almost 19 years of living and breathing her every single day it’s hard to stop.   But we’ve raised a smart, kind, resourceful, outgoing young lady, and I do know in my heart that she will be OK.  That doesn’t make it feel any less weird, or hurt any less.  I miss going into her room at night just to watch her sleep.  I miss making her weird vegetarian/tofu meals.  I miss dragging her out of bed on the mornings she slept late (which was any day she didn’t have school!).  I even miss her rolling her eyes at me when I did something she thought was goofy.

I miss this…

But I’m staying very busy.  Going on long hikes with J and the dogs, volunteering at Habitat for Humanity, trying new recipes, and buying new art supplies so I’ll hopefully start painting again.  Maybe I’ll even start blogging more often than once a quarter!  This whole experience is kicking my butt, but every day gets a little bit easier.  Slowly, but surely, I’m quitting the helicopter mom business.  But it sure would be nice if I had a closed circuit camera there to keep an eye on her!

Summer, Friends, and Breakfast Pizza

I’m still here!!!  Whew.  The last 3-4 months have been a blur.  I won’t bore you with details, but in short, H is now a high school graduate!  The last few months of school for her were a combination of frantic studying, finding out which colleges she was accepted to, deciding where to go (which involved a few repeat trips on both sides of the country), planning an Operation Smile fundraising concert without much help, and graduation.  Combine all that with the inevitable “senior slide” and it made for a pretty tense situation in our household.   All I can say now is that I feel like I have my sweet daughter back.  When she took her last AP exam a week before school was out, it was like a fresh breeze was flowing through our house.  She exempted out of all her final exams so the stress of picking out a college and maintaining her grades was gone.  I can’t tell you the feeling of relief we all felt.

Graduation…the white gowns were lovely

  J has been dreaming and planning for the day after H’s graduation for the last four years!  I still can’t believe we’re actually living the dream.  We’re not quite ready for the whole shebang, which is making North Carolina our home base and downsizing in Nashville, but we’re able to spend a lot more time in NC.  We finally moved into our new house.  J likes to say it’s the home he’s going to die in, but hopefully not for a very long time!  H was in a little town about half an hour down the mountain where she was doing lifeguard training and orientation for being a camp counselor at Keystone Camp where she spent many summers as a little girl.  She had not seen the new house in quite a long time.  She called up one night because they had the night off and wondered if she could bring a few friends up for dinner.  Of course, I was thrilled.   I didn’t think I’d get to see her at all for a couple of weeks.   She used to love Lake Toxaway.  But in the last few years, being an only child in a retirement community with lots of old people and no teenagers is not fun.  She didn’t have a lot of expectations for the house because she didn’t think she’d have much use for it since she’s going off to college in California.  But when she came in with her friends, she was so excited, which in turn, made us ecstatic!  She even says that she would come here when she’s got a break from college!

Keystone Camp Counselors

After her orientation she had about three weeks to spend with us.  She had one friend from Nashville come up for a couple of weeks and it was so great to have that time with her, and see her relaxed and happy.  She had 9 Adventure Treks friends (the backpacking, climbing, camping trips she experienced the last two summers) come to the house for a long weekend “reunion”.  I was a little nervous about cooking for 5 boys, much less 10 kids, but it worked out great.  The kids were great, the food was consumed and they even cleaned up before they left.  Great memories!

Yes, I fed these guys for four days!
AT kids enjoying the Brown Trout, our favorite

 But by far the best part of my summer so far was a week of just the three of us.  H even wanted to spend time with us, which was a rarity a few months ago.  In less than two months she will leave the nest for a new college life in California, so I am treasuring these moments.  She never looked at a single college in the vicinity of Tennessee or North Carolina, so I am used to the idea of her leaving, but I think when we actually drive away after orientation I will be a basket case.  In the meantime, I am enjoying every moment I can get.

Hiking together…just like old times!

Rosie and Sugar love the lake!

Here’s a recipe for the breakfast pizza I made one morning.  It’s easy, pretty, and healthy, and I used to make it whenever Halle had friends over.  Her AT friends inhaled it before they made scrambled eggs and bacon (and cleaned up after themselves…a miracle!)


One roll of refrigerated pizza dough
Lowfat cream cheese
Lite Cool Whip
Assorted fruit (Berries, Bananas, Kiwi all work great, but use your imagination)
Cinnamon Sugar (I make my own so I can adjust the amounts of cinnamon and sugar)

Roll out the dough onto an ungreased nonstick baking pan.  Sprinkle with Cinnamon Sugar.  Bake at recommended temperature until very lightly browned (don’t let it get too done or the pizza will be too tough and hard to cut).  Slide out of baking pan onto cutting board to cool.

  Mix about 1-1 1/2 cups of Cool Whip with a half cup of cream cheese until spreadable.  Spread onto cooled pizza crust to the edges.  Slice fruit as desired and layer over cream cheese mixture.  Sprinkle with Cinnamon Sugar.  I usually slice it into squares for serving.

Focusing on “Firsts”, not “Lasts”

Last week we spent fall break in California, looking at colleges.  At this point in H’s college search, we’re narrowing the list down, instead of adding to it.  There were six colleges she was strongly interested in before the trip, and afterwards, there were only two.   

One thing I learned about California…specifically the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas.  They don’t have enough roads for all the cars.  Seriously.  Driving  the 45 miles from Santa Clara to San Francisco took almost three hours.  The last 90 minutes were spent crawling the last 10 miles.  Luckily, we finished up our marathon driving with a day and a half to relax (aka:  shop) in San Francisco, and fit in a couple of nice meals. 

Since we realized the last three times we were in San Francisco we ate at the same places (Boulevard, Slanted Door, Bix), we tried a couple of new places.  Chaya, a French-Japanese brasserie at the Embarkadero, that we loved.  Warm and intimate, with amazing sushi and a nice wine list.  It was a really nice evening. The fact that we were able to stay awake throughout a leisurely dinner made it even better, since that morning we started in Los Angeles, then toured U.C.  Davis, Santa Clara University, and survived the marathon drive to San Francisco, so we were exhausted.

Crunchy Tuna at Chaya… bad photo, incredible dish!

 The next night we walked around the block to Fish and Farm, which although it didn’t have the ambiance we felt at Chaya, had unbelievable food.  Even the salted butter for the warm rolls was superb!  Fish and Farm serves locally sourced Seafood, Meat and Produce, sourcing most from within a 100 mile radius.

Pan Seared halibut with heirloom tomatoes at Fish and Farm

 Even though neither of these places were on the “top 100” list of San Francisco restaurants, they would have topped most restaurants in Nashville.  The Nashville restaurant scene is getting better, don’t get me wrong, but I think there are only a small handful here that serve consistently good, unique, and local or organic food. 

But back to the college search process.  It’s all very exciting, looking at great schools, in great cities, with great academics…but it’s a nerve-wracking process for all of us.  With the common app, it’s a little bit easier to apply to multiple schools, but when the pool of possible colleges and universities gets so big, it gets overwhelming.  H really wants a school with smaller class sizes.  She loves being able to get to know her teachers, and doesn’t relish the thought of being in a class with 150-400 students.  But on the other hand, the small schools often don’t have the breadth of opportunities, and since she changes her mind about what she wants to study about once a month, she would like to have multiple choices, in case her first choice doesn’t end up being her passion.

I’ve been impressed with how thoroughly she has researched her possibilites, and her enthusiasm for exploring all aspects of the decision.  She has narrowed her list from 14-15 to 7 schools.  From Washington, DC to California, she has pretty much covered the United States with choices.  Anything but in the south, or close to home, which I’m O.K. with.  I don’t know if it’s because she’s an only child, or because she has traveled extensively, and lived in the same city her whole life, but she is ready to fly.  When the applications finally get sent, and the acceptance/rejection letters arrive, it will definitely get interesting.  Right now, even though I am trying not to be a helicopter mom and let her drive through the application process, I know I will be relieved when the last “submit” button is pushed. 

But I am trying to relish these days.  Everything is the “last time”.  Her last “first day of school”, her last Friday night football game, her last ACT test, her last homecoming, etc.  She’s decided to do senior spring break with her friends this year, so for the first time, we’ll do spring break separately.  That means we had our last “family spring break” last year without even knowing it!  When J and I hiked Little Green Mountain in North Carolina this morning, we realized the next time we hike and play the alphabet game (a tradition we had with H for years) will probably be with our grandchildren.  But instead of focusing on “last”, I’m trying to focus on “firsts”.  The first time we let her stay home overnight alone, the first time she makes her own meals,  the first time she moves away, the first time she comes home for the holidays.  We will have many “firsts” ahead.  The first time she brings a boy home will be exciting (hopefully!), the first time we drive away and leave her in her dorm room will be…I don’t know?  Sad? Exciting? Both?

Preschool graduation

senior photo

Last night we met a few new couples whose children are out of college: working, volunteering, or attending graduate school.  Listening to the pride they had in what their children are doing made me realize that we are not going to be finished parenting our daughter when she goes to college.  Her choices and her possibilites are endless, and it will be so much fun to experience all her “firsts”, even if from afar.  There is no way to explain how fast the years feel like they’ve gone, and I’m sure one day when she has her own family she’ll understand why I am so melancholy these days, but I feel so blessed and fortunate to be experiencing it all. 

Maintaining the Connection

It’s Saturday morning, the first weekend of the school year, and I’m sitting in the kitchen,  doing the crossword puzzle, waiting for H to wake up.  I just realized I’ve been doing this almost every morning for the last 16 1/2 years.  I feel like my day doesn’t start until  she’s awake.  Typically, on the few days that she doesn’t have to wake up early for school or some other activity, we let her sleep in.  Theoretically.  But I usually can’t just go on and do what I need to do until she gets up.  What is up with that?  When she’s out of town, it’s not as bad.  I will go ahead and do whatever I have to do, but until I get a text or phone call from her, I’m still on edge.

I’ve been really sentimental and emotional lately.  Even catching glimpses of “Bethenny Getting Married?” on TV will make me tear up.  Seeing the usually bitter, acerbic Bethenny Frankel get all mushy and gushy about her new baby daughter takes me back to the wonder and the profound love that smacked me over the head when H entered our world.  I wonder if it’s this bad when people have more than one child.

These intense emotions are being exacerbated by the fact that my sweet, loving, sensitive almost 17-year-old daughter is experiencing some normal bouts of moodiness.   Last night, we were at a party, and she was at the Friday night football game with friends.  We had not seen her much all week, since school had started, and Friday we saw her even less.  She left for school at 7 a.m., went to her Friday volunteer job after school, and ran in to take a 5 minute shower before leaving to get ready at a friend’s house.  When she texted me that she was home, I couldn’t wait to leave our party to get home and talk to her for a few minutes before she fell asleep.   (I know, I know…get a life, mom!)

Anyway, we came home about an hour later, and I went upstairs to chat with her.  She had a different idea.  When I think of it from her point of view, (long week, emotionally drained, needing to decompress)  I completely understand, but it was still difficult for me.  She was in her bed, watching some mindless TV, and I came bursting in wanting to hear all about her night.  She did NOT feel like sharing…just didn’t have the energy.  I reverted back to childhood and kind of stomped off, then she felt guilty and apologized.  Not the outcome I had imagined or wanted for the evening.

When I reach WAYYYYY back into my memory of being a teenage girl, I remember the need to establish some freedom and autonomy from my mom.  I needed to assert my independence from my mom,  but still needed the connection… although I had no idea how to do it.  As a result, I know I pushed her away.  So there was that give and take that I’m experiencing now.  She pushes me away, and then when I go away, she tries to pull me back in.  She experienced an incredible growth this summer from her experiences at Adventure Treks,  Operation Smile, and Design Camp at NCSU.  She is discovering things about herself, and in an effort to develop that sense of self, she feels the need to rebel a little against my control.  I know that…my common sense tells me I need to let go a little bit…but my emotional side keeps fighting back. 

We’re making some progress.  The good part is she’s developing a really good connection with her dad.  They walk the dog together, or have lunch together, and she is telling him more now than she did as a young girl.  I do bite my tongue many times when I want to ask for more details than she gives, and try to keep my tidbits of “advice” which she always sees as criticisms, (are you going to wear that?  I like your hair better this way, etc) to a minimum. 

In other words, when she pulls away, I’m trying not to pursue as hard.  She does always come back.   Every now and then, when the stars align, I am in her bedroom when she feels like talking, and we have some wonderful discussions and connect in a way that gives me hope for the future.  I think she reaches out when I don’t push so hard.

So my hope for this school year, is that she continues to find out more about herself…her goals, her dreams, and who she wants to be.  The only way that is going to work is if I let go.  Not all the way.  Just more than I have in the past.   We will always be bound together, but I’m going to give her some slack in the rope.

Still here…

I know I post this sight quite a bit, but the summer view of the quiet lake showing the perfect mirror image is so beautiful!

Yes, I am still alive. I am sitting on the balcony at our lake house in North Carolina, reading and relaxing before the weekend of July 4th activities begins. This is the first July 4th that we haven’t had houseguests, so we’re actually being a little more social than normal. Parties tonight and tomorrow night…we’re starting to meet more people up here. Since we plan on this being our home in a couple of years, it’s nice to finally start to make connections. For the first few years, it was such an ‘escape’ for J and I, that we liked the fact that we didn’t know anyone. We were able to just fly under the radar, come in and do things we wanted to do without any social obligations. But that would make for a pretty lonely existence up here. We’ve met people playing tennis, at the club, and at “music on the mountain”, the monthly pot luck get-together on top of Mt. Toxaway. We always take Rosie, our black lab, who serves as a wonderful magnet for new people.

H hasn’t had much luck meeting kids her age. We’re having better luck just bringing friends with us, or having families with friends her age come visit. We brought three friends right after exams were over for five days, and last weekend some dear friends came up with their daughters and a friend.

The problem with that is that when we’re here for weeks at a time, it’s hard to get kids up here for a few days. So, she just hangs with us, sleeps late, plays tennis, walks the dog, and signs up for every camp she can talk us into. She’s now in the snowy mountains of northern California, backpacking, ice climbing, rock climbing, rafting, and camping for a month. I was just reading about her upcoming hike to the summit of Mt. Shasta…it’s a serious thing! They’ve had record snowfalls and still have tons of snow there. So in addition to worrying about her staying warm and making it to the top of the mountain, now I have to worry about avalanches and accidental luge-like falls down the mountain.


She flies home and has four days with us before going to design camp for a week at North Carolina State University, then one night before going to a leadership conference for Operation Smile. Then she’ll have six days before school starts. Something tells me those six days will be spent reading the three summer reading books she hasn’t done yet, and completing the projects as well. So much for a relaxing summer. J didn’t want her to do the last conference, because he thought it was just too much time away from us, but finally recognized her desire to be around other 16-year-olds, and relented. She might decide hanging out with her parents isn’t as bad as she thinks, after the whirlwind of activities…or not. It’s all good. I miss her like crazy, but if she was here I’d just be dragging her out of bed before noon every day and bugging her about her summer reading. What fun is that?

As a rising 11th grader, she is spreading her wings. As we begin to let the rope out a little bit, there are lots of emotions that accompany it. I’m proud of the decisions she has made, and is making so far…her choices in friends and activities. I’m trying not to be a ‘helicopter mom’…letting her make mistakes and learning from them. That’s hard for me. I have typically been one of those, swoop-in-and-fix-things kind of mom. We’re lucky that her mistakes have (so far) been minor, and affected mostly herself. She’ll make more, and become a better person for it, of that I am sure. I have to bite my tongue, sometimes literally, to avoid nagging her about her summer reading, her eating habits, what she wears, how she fixes her hair…all things that really don’t matter in the large scheme of things, and things that drive H crazy. When she does the eye-roll, or the “mo–ooomm”, or the silent treatment, it’s usually because I’ve gone a little overboard in the motherly “advice” (or as she sees it, “smothering”) When I am successful at keeping my mouth shut about the little things, we have incredible times together. Before she left on her backpacking trip, we played golf, tennis, hiked, watched movies, and cuddled together. I’m so glad we did. She’s going to have an incredible time while she’s away, but hopefully, she’ll remember the good times we had before she left.

The Every Day Memories

I’m not the only one in my family who’s been hit hard by the pollen in Nashville this spring. For me, it has aggravated my asthma to the point that the medication doesn’t seem to be doing anything to help. I can’t run more than a mile without chest pain that feels like a truck is parked on my solar plexus. For J, it’s allergies. He’s walking around sounding like a dog choking on a bone…a dry, hacking cough, and sinus congestion that makes him feel terrible. His snoring has escalated to decibels that rattle the windows. On a good day (without pollen), he snores, I nudge him, he rolls over and stops for a little while. Usually that happens 2-3 times per night, and I can fall asleep in between the snoring, and hopefully stay asleep most of the night. But now, he is snoring on his back, on his side, and even when he falls asleep sitting up. He’s waking himself up several times a night. And when I try to nudge him to turn over, his attitude is, to say the least, not very accommodating. Last night he decided to sleep in the guest room so both of us could get a good night’s sleep.

I was sitting in bed, reading, when H came downstairs and said, “Daddy is worried that you might be lonely. Can I sleep with you?” I thought about it for half a second, but pulled the covers back, patted the bed next to me, and she jumped in. I turned off the reading light and snuggled up next to her, a smile on my face. Memories of moments from her childhood, when she had nightmares, or couldn’t sleep, or just wanted to be with us, when she’d walk into the bedroom and ask if she could “cuddle” for a little while. She’d wiggle in between us, put one little hand on me, and the other on J, and the “little while” often turned into all night. I usually didn’t sleep well on those nights. When she was really little, I worried all night that I’d roll over and wake her up. As she got older, and more accustomed to sleeping alone in a queen sized bed, sleeping with her growing limbs all over the place became like sleeping in a bowl of spaghetti. I was constantly lifting arms and legs off my chest and putting them back in her space. So as she got older (and so did I), I felt we all needed a good night’s sleep more than she needed to “cuddle”. So we started sending her back to her bed. It wasn’t until last night, when I woke up in the middle of the night with her 16- year-old LEG (yes, her leg) smacking me in the face, that I remembered just how much I loved those everyday moments. On those nights when she was snuggling in next to us, J would reach over her head, rub my hair and we’d both look at each other and H and smile. Everything was alright. We were together.

I take lots of pictures of my family. I have boxes and books full of photos from special moments. Vacations. Recitals. Graduations. Birthdays. I don’t have so many of those regular, forgettable moments. The times spent together doing nothing special. The naps together, jumping in the McDonald’s play area on a Tuesday afternoon together, reading at night before bed, brushing teeth together, weekday meals together at the table in the kitchen, watching TV, walking the dog, picking out groceries, wrapping gifts, packing lunches, shopping for a new backpack, playing the ‘alphabet game’ on a family hike together, taking a temperature when someone’s sick, wiping away tears when a friend disappoints you, the list goes on and on. It’s those every day moments that I treasure more than the special occasions. The ones I wish I’d taken more photos of. Every once in awhile the camera would be conveniently sitting nearby when something happened and I’d take a photo…H taking photos with her first camera, H and J falling asleep while watching TV, J teaching H how to shoot a free throw. I will always remember those moments when I see the photos. But those other moments, the ones I didn’t photograph? I’ll remember them when I least expect it. When she’s not around. When we have a typical mother/teenage daughter argument. I remember washing her hair in the bathtub with the “Baby Bop” cup pouring water over her head to rinse out the shampoo…”Sprinkle, sprinkle, sprinkle…RAIN!!!” I remember thinking she was finally eating a cheeseburger (even when she hated meat from the time she was a little girl), and then seeing the pieces of meat sprinkled on the floor around her chair. I remember her walking out on stage at a show at Opryland when she was 3 years old and standing front and center while the show continued to go on and she smiled the whole time, thinking she was supposed to be there. I wish I’d had a camera then. But those memories are as sharp as any photo could ever be. I just never know when I’m going to see them.

Letting Out the Rope

Someone very wise once told me that parenting is like having a very long rope. That as our kids grow up, we let out the rope a little bit at a time. We might have to pull it in a little bit, but we never completely let go. As the parents to an only child, J and I have held onto the rope pretty tightly, but we’re finally starting to ease up, and let go-a little bit.

Ten years ago, J and I took H skiing for the first time. She was in first grade, and up until that point, we were afraid she was not going to be athletic at all. Sure, she played soccer, but that was just an excuse to get together with her friends and most of the time, she had no idea what she was doing. Once, she got her foot caught in the soccer goal netting while playing goalie (in between looking for four leaf clovers). I remember the first time she played when the weather warmed up, and she ran to me afterwards, saying, “Mommy, I don’t like to sweat!”

It was a few years before she realized that she DID like to sweat, and even more years before she became a human punching bag on the basketball court, so we were afraid that she might not like skiing. J hadn’t been able to ski for several years, due to his avascular necrosis in his hip (a long story, two hip surgeries and years of rehab). So we took a babysitter with us, in case H got cold, or didn’t like ski school, so that we could ski uninterrupted. We went to Beaver Creek, which has one of the best ski schools (if not the best) in the country. We bought lessons for H and the babysitter as well, along with lift tickets for all four of us for the week. The first day, I was more nervous than H, who only said, “I hope I meet a friend in ski school.”

Luckily, she did meet a friend, and even more luckily, she LOVED skiing! We told her she had to do at least level 7 in ski school (the black diamond club) before she could learn to snowboard, because we were afraid that if she started snowboarding she’d never learn to ski. Fast forward to today, she’s in 10th grade and even though all her friends were going to the beach for spring break she wouldn’t think of not going skiing. She’s already focusing on colleges in Colorado so she can ski on the weekends.

Snow skiing is the one sport we can all do together. J is a beautiful skier, since he grew up skiing up North. I started later in life, and until I was a senior in high school had only skied in Gatlinburg, TN, so I really didn’t have nearly as much experience as J did. Luckily, even though I don’t have the form or the beauty of his technique, I can hang with him. The first year we took H, we started a tradition of picking her up from ski school riding up the lift to the bunny slope to take one last ride down together. As the years went by, H became a great skier, and we were able to spend whole days on the mountain together. You couldn’t erase the smile on my face.

Skiing is by far my favorite vacation. I love getting up, making breakfast, and jumping on the lift to spend entire days together. We’re physically active, outdoors in the most beautiful mountain setting, laughing and joking, and most of all spending a whole week together, just the three of us. I also love the evenings…the après ski scene…bonfires, live music, and wonderful restaurants and great wine for dinner.

When H “graduated” from ski school, we thought about taking a friend with us, but at that point, she didn’t have any close friends who skied at her level. None of us wanted to sacrifice time on the blue and black runs to ski with a beginner, so unless we met another family there, it was just the three of us. We’ve always felt pretty lucky that she wanted to spend that much time with her parents. At first, J would start skiing, H would follow, and I would stand there and watch for a minute or two, just happy and loving the sight of the two of them zig-zagging down the hill. Then I would take up the rear.

Now, J starts, then H flies by him, and has to wait at the bottom for the two of us. She’s an amazing skier, and doesn’t have the “Oh, my God, I’m going to kill myself” feeling that we do. So it was inevitable, that she would get tired of skiing with us. It might have something to do with the cute lift operators, but this year, for the first time, she would start skiing with us, and after a few runs, ask if she could head off by herself. As J and I spent most afternoons skiing together, just the two of us, it was almost like old times. Almost…but in the back of my mind I never really relaxed, until she would let herself in the door around 4 or 4:30, red-faced and eager to talk about all the double black diamonds she’d tackled by herself, and the people she met on the lifts.  Being close to a ski mountain is one of the key goals  she has at this point for where she wants to go to college.

We’re letting the rope out more and more these days, and even though I know we’re pretty overprotective, I’m still anxious every minute she’s away from me. She’s driving by herself to more and more locations-school, volunteering, sporting events, social occasions, and although my life is a little bit easier now that I’m not the taxi driver I once was, anxiety now takes its place. The sweetest sound in the world is the “beep-beep” of the door opening when she comes home. Now I understand why my Mom always tells me to drive carefully, even now, at 49 years old. We can let go, but we can’t stop worrying.