Gifts for the Graduate

Tis the season for graduation announcements to arrive in your mailbox as young men and women begin a huge change in life!  You have the high school graduate who is leaving childhood behind and the college graduate ready to take on the world.

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Besides receiving several announcements, this was a year in which we sent out a few for our own high school graduate.

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We’ve been asked no less than 30 times what would be a good gift idea for MacKenzie as she is leaving high school behind and moving off to college in August.  So I thought it would be fun to put together a few ideas that you can use for celebrating and gifting your own graduates.

1.  Money.  I know, not very personal, but if your graduate is going to college in any form, money is needed.  They can use this for books, supplies, or even put it towards decorating a dorm room should they be going away.

2.  Gift Cards.  Yes, once again, not very personal but very useful.

Gift Cards

For example gas gift cards are perfect for a graduate whether they are commuting to school or living away from home on campus.

Department store gift cards.  These are awesome for high school and college graduates alike as kids will be looking to make a wardrobe change leaving behind the clothes of their teenage years or looking forward to a business wardrobe.

Restaurant or movie theater gift cards.  I went away to college 25 years ago, and while a lot has changed, being broke in college has not!   I appreciated the treat of leaving campus for supper or a movie upon occasion and I’m sure that has not changed at all for any student.

Bed, Bath & Beyond, HomeGoods, TJ Maxx, etc…. gift cards.  These are perfect for the student decorating their dorm room or their own apartment for the first time.  From bedding to wall art these are invaluable.

Barnes & Noble gift card.  So many college campuses have a B&N on them or use them as an option for students to purchase their textbooks.  This would definitely be appreciated!

3.  A bicycle.  Oh yeah.  This is the perfect gift for a high school grad who will be living on campus when they go to college in the fall.  Not only will they save gas, it’s a means of getting to class on time and exercise.

Well, maybe something a bit more mature ....

Well, maybe something a bit more mature ….

And don’t forget the lock!

4.  Anything monogrammed.  Of course this is more fitting for a young lady, but it would be something that would definitely make her smile.  From a duffel bag to an infinity scarf in school colors to a throw pillow or bath towels, options are limitless for ideas to make a girl smile.

Love this duffel!

Love this duffel!

5.  AAA Membership.  Just for a year, but if your graduate will be on the road a lot this would be perfect in helping them (as well as Dad & Mom) feel a wee bit more secure on the road.  They don’t teach kids how to change a tire in school, so if you haven’t done that yourself, this would be a real plus.

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6.  Picture Frames.  Simple, yes and practical as well.  What better way for a young person to keep their memories close than to display them.

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  And speaking of memories, a Shutterfly gift card is an awesome way for the graduate to make a book highlighting their senior year or print off pictures for those frames.

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7.  Looking for sentimental?  How about a quilt made from T-shirts representing all those memorable events from high school or college?  Check out this one my mom made for MacKenzie.

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Needless to say she now has a list of teenagers wanting their own.

Another sentimental gift idea.... This is one of my favorite gifts to give!

Another sentimental gift idea…. This is one of my favorite gifts to give!

8.  A high quality backpack, computer bag or briefcase.  Perfect for the grad heading off to college or the college grad stepping into the corporate world.

9.  Treat the recent grad to a trip to the salon.  A new “do” to leave your teen or fraternity days behind is a great gift to give.

10.  Gift baskets.  You can’t go wrong with a reusable basket full of bathroom/grooming supplies (shampoo, soap, razors, shaving cream, etc…), a laundry basket ( or monogrammed laundry bag) with detergent, dryer sheets & a book on how to do laundry, a bread basket with useful kitchen gadgets and towels, or a school supply basket filled with Post-it notes, Sharpies, highlights, a day planner, lead pencils, pens, college ruled notebooks, etc….

All of these are fabulous and useful for just about any recent graduate.

Hopefully a few of these ideas will inspire you as you try to come up with gift ideas for the graduate in your life.

I would love to hear your suggestions for gift ideas!

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Monday Morning Reality

  It’s funny how often you see where a “mommy” post has gone viral.  It may be something dealing with the silliness of toddlers, the craziness of childbirth or the exhaustion of a momma.  It may be a letter to a daughter or the value of raising a good teen boy…..

But in all of those posts, I never seem to read the reality of raising three teenagers.

So, I’m going all “Mommy Blogger” for you today and sharing a wee bit of the craziness, frustration, emotion, and pride that is my life.

Never once in a “mommy blog” have I read where someone’s son got ISS (In School Suspension) for singing “If your Happy and You Know it Clap Your Hands” in Algebra class.

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Nor have I read where that same boy found himself in ISS three weeks later for making mischief on a school bus while on his way to the tech school.  And to say that same boy spent another day in ISS for eating a sandwich stolen by another boy (it’s on video that he was guilty only by association) from the table where food for underprivileged kids is kept would be unheard of…..

But having your 15-year-old come out of his bookworm shell and assume the role of class clown & mischief maker does happen whether you like it or not.

Birthday date with Bradley ... we went to lunch and the movies

Birthday date with Bradley … we went to lunch and the movies

But it’s amazing how that same boy, finds a passion for cooking and creating food in the kitchen making this Momma wonder if she has a budding chef on her hands.

And that same boy might also take on the role of jock and decide to trade in his baseball bat & gloves and soccer ball he played for 8 years to roll around on a mat with stinky, sweaty boys while his Momma screams like a mad woman from the stands to “TAKE HIM DOWN!!”

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That’s my reality.

My reality is also a lump in my throat & chills down my spine every time I see him dressed in his Air Force JROTC uniform.

AF JROTC

AF JROTC

So is this bedroom he deemed clean before he left for several weeks to work hard, building houses in Tennessee with his uncle.

Lookie what Im going to clean while the boy is out of town!!!

Lookie what Im going to clean while the boy is out of town!!!

No post I have ever read prepared me for the day when my 16-year-old daughter made a 180 degree turn from tomboy to princess; and from living in the shadow of an older sister (who is an overachiever) to becoming Miss “Let me see what else I can do” in a matter of months.

Madeline's 16th birthday just after Varsity lacrosse tryouts

Madeline’s 16th birthday just after Varsity lacrosse tryouts

Nothing remotely prepared me to have this same former tomboy chosen as a spokesmodel for a local photographer and stylist.

Photography by Jennifer Rae Grimes

Photography by Jennifer Rae Grimes

 I was in no way prepared when she tapped into her creative gene discovering an outlet for her frustrations in the form of art which lead to many trips to Michael’s and Hobby Lobby as well as an invitation to take ART II HONORS for her upcoming Junior year.

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Madeline’s version of “Lily” artwork for her bedroom.

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Pink flamingos

And when this same girl threw away the track cleats and soccer ball for Lacrosse sticks, making the Varsity squad her first year out, we prayed for the safety of ever player she came into contact with.

Number 6 is a beast!

Number 6 is a beast!

The penalty box was like a second home while this Momma screamed from the stands, offering the referees her glasses and questioning their ability to officiate at least two three four times a game.

In the penalty box......

In the penalty box……

In the penalty box again....

In the penalty box again….

But the pride that comes from having a 16 year volunteer to spend two weeks at a youth camp for handicap children asking absolutely nothing for herself “because they need her”….

And the fact this girl can rock can rock the 80’s better than I did?

1980's day for spirit week .... channeling Oliva Newton John

1980’s day for spirit week …. channeling Oliva Newton John

That’s my reality.

So is celebrating that “C” she managed to pull in Algebra II.

And no post I’ve read ever prepared me for the emotion of having your firstborn complete her senior year of high school.

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No where was I warned that she might turn in her basketball shoes and color guard costumes to pursue Figure (bodybuilding) Competing.

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Nor did I ever read anywhere that senior year could quite possibly send a Momma to the insane asylum as the idea of taking THREE AP classes seemed like a good one in theory despite Momma’s misgivings.

The ulcer received by that same senior gave Momma a brief “I told you so” victory.

No where have I ever read about an already over-commited child stepping up (without being asked) into the Momma role to take care of her Mom by changing bandages, emptying drain tubes, and even shaving her legs after she had major surgery.

I never found a post that fully prepared me emotionally for the time I let this girl of mine board a bus at 5:00 AM with 25 other kids bound for New York without me chaperoning for the first time in her life….

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Or my heartbreak because she chose NOT to go to the senior prom because it was a waste of money she would rather spend on workout clothes.

I did want to see her all dressed up…..

But then there is that moment when you get an invitation to the French National Honor Society induction ceremony and the notice that your girl is one of only 32 Honor’s graduates in a class of 500 kids and she earned the Health Sciences scholarship…..

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And as she walks that stage this Momma yells with all her might, “THAT’S MY GIRL!”

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Yeah, that’s my reality.

From our cruise in November 2014

From our cruise in November 2014

And I adore every minute of it.

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College Road Trip (or three)

I would love to say my lack of posting lately has been due to an influx of clients at the gym or that I am off having way too much fun, but the reality of my life right now is I have a high school senior.  Not your average everyday high school senior, but one who is an overachiever,  extremely determined, a wee bit OCD, and making me a little nuts at the moment.

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Not really sure where she inherited those traits, but I seem to recall a senior year similar to this one several years back.

And a little throwback here.... Audley and I during our senior years.  His 25th reunion was this year and mine is next.  It's crazy that our oldest is now a senior.... This was just yesterday!!

And a little throwback fun …. Audley & I during our senior years. His 25th reunion was this year and mine is next. It’s crazy that our oldest is now a senior…. Seriously, This was just yesterday!!

While Madeline and Bradley are patiently awaiting their seasons (ROTC, wrestling and track), MacKenzie Grace is keeping me plenty occupied with the season of senior year.

So far we have ventured to an academic dinner in Greenville where a representative from Harding University (a private Christian school) in Arkansas flew out to meet and talk with her about school.

We have also traveled ourselves, taking road trips to Auburn University (who doesn’t offer her major, but is her favorite place on earth),

MacKenzie Grace's happy place

MacKenzie Grace’s happy place

Samford Hall at Auburn University

Samford Hall at Auburn University

Faulkner University (where she was given the opportunity to shadow an Athletic Trainer on the sidelines of a football game)

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Helping treat an injured football player at the Faulkner game

Helping treat an injured football player at the Faulkner game

and most recently to the University of South Carolina, where my child walked away saying her last choice of school just became her first.

On the campus of the University of South Carolina in downtown Columbia

On the campus of the University of South Carolina in downtown Columbia

Seriously, A Gamecock?

Seriously, A Gamecock?

{I think the Marble Slab Creamery on campus won her over.}

Always the foodie

Always the foodie

So far she has been offered a $16,000 scholarship to school in Arkansas, and a $3,500 scholarship Faulkner University, but seeing how she is in the top 10% of her graduating class, carrying a 4.6 GPA, in Beta Club, Student Leadership, Mock United Nations & Jr. Civitans, the University of South Carolina has a whole lot more to offer financially, including free Grad school if she completes her undergrad there and passes her national boards to become a certified Athletic Trainer.

So after a whirlwind month of traveling and interviewing and applying, we play the waiting game.

Who will accept her (she has one acceptance already), who will give her the most bang for her buck, and who is willing to win her over with the best academic offerings?

Audley and I made the decision a long time ago that when it came time for college choices that we wouldn’t make the choice for our kids.  We are more than happy to offer advice, but when it comes to where they will excel the most and feel they will be at home, even if it’s 11 hours away in Arkansas, we won’t interfere.  Now that time is actually here for our first, I am a little nervous, but I am confident that the right choice to fit her goals and dreams will be made.

As a proud mom, I’ll share her decision when she makes it!

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Simple Sweet Sixteen Soiree

I’m not sure when it happened, but this little ray of sunshine ….
turned sixteen this month.

Sweet 16.
{I remember 16 …. It was a good year.}

Because of relationships both here and back “home” we decided to have two parties; a simple sleepover here with three of her closest girlfriends and then an old-fashioned BBQ with her friends and family at my parents house in Tennessee.It was a lot of work, but a whole lot of fun and everything turned out perfectly for this milestone event.

To help keep things simple and stay within our budget I planned both parties to have the same color scheme (pink & green), which saved a lot on decorations.  We also utilized much of what we already had including serving pieces, tea-light candles, diamonds, christmas lights and scrap lumber from my parents little farmette.

Here is just a little peek at how it came together and all turned out.

First up was a sleepover on MacKenzie Grace’s actual birthday.  Simple and girly all was fitting perfectly for her.

MacKenzie Grace is crazy about anything that sparkles & shines or dangles, so we incorporated a lot of that into her sleepover decor.

Madeline & Audley hanging up swirly, twirly decorations from the ceiling.
Fresh flowers, tiaras, faux diamonds, candlelight & balloons all added a little celebration flair to the festivities.
Pink lemonade was the perfect accompaniment to her party.
A dining room full of girly girl fluff!

Working against the horrible South Carolina humidity, I managed to make her cake fairly close to what she wanted.  My icing did not want to set up at all!

Cake & a little candy for the sweet loving teenage girls.

Dinner was was simple sliders with traditional burger toppings, baked beans, chips & salsa.

Easy, peasy.

That’s the name of the game!

A few of her favorite things!
Our fun-loving and beautiful birthday princess!
The cake must have taste pretty good …. they ate most all of it.

And after an entertaining game of truth or dare, karaoke along with manis & pedis, these girls settled in for a night of movies and laughter.

It was good, clean fun that you really can’t beat!

Party number two was a BBQ in Tennessee.  While we have lived all over the southeast, our roots belong in Tennessee & Alabama.  That is home as my children have spent most of their lives there.  “Home” means so much to them as they have lifelong friends who have always been special to them and remained true no matter where we have lived.  It is also where most of our family resides which makes visiting very special indeed.

Planning things from a distance can be a challenge, but my Momma was an awesome partner.  My father’s birthday was also to be celebrated at this second party so it was going to be big!

We had over fifty RSVP!

Once again I kept the menu simple, ordering BBQ from one of our favorite places in Alabama (Mud Creek BBQ).

Seriously, Southern Living needs to feature these guys.  They are a Tennessee Valley legend.

{They have good fried catfish, too.}

Momma made baked beans and I made homemade guacamole, peach salsa and tomato salsa.

We also ordered mustard slaw from Mud Creek.

{No BBQ sandwich is complete without it.}

Drinks were also kept simple and consisted of tea, lemonade and water.

Fresh squeeze lemonade…. my Momma is awesome!

I have learned over the years that a good party is not necessarily the quantity of the food, but most definitely the quality that will leave people talking.

FYI:  When setting up a buffet, ALWAYS place your forks and napkins at the end!  There is nothing more awkward than trying to balance fixing your plate and holding on to extra accessories.  The end of the line is a perfect place for them!

Daddy & Audley “built” our little party space which was decorated with twinkle lights and Chinese lanterns.

from my Instagram account

Colored tablecloths and simple centerpieces of floating candles & lime slices in Mason jars completed the space.

From my Instagram account

We kept the cakes simple as well …. nothing is refreshing as a Dairy Queen ice cream cake on a humid, Southern summer night!

Momma took care of ordering the cakes … thankfully Daddy has a good sense of humor!
Dad trying to be all prissy like his granddaughter …. I love his silliness!

 MacKenzie Grace truly loved sharing her party with her Pop!

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1) the birthday girl was all smiles; 2) Blessing this milestone in life; 3)my beautiful Momma; 4) MacKenzie Grace & Summer (friends since pre-k); 5) my madeline & her bestie, Mallory

From start to finish, It was a perfect night!

from my Instagram account
Don’t you just love twinkle lights?!

I mentioned earlier MacKenzie Grace & her bond with lifelong friends.

It’s a bond that goes way back!

I’m linking up with Foodie Friday this week.  Stop on over and see what everyone else is serving up!