Saturday, August 4, 2012

Sixteen Candles

Ahhh, Sixteen Candles is the name of my favorite movie of all time. I still know every word to the dialog by heart and still love watching it. At the time (although I was only 14 when it came out), I could absolutely relate to the story of a high school girl who had a crush on an "untouchable" senior (in my case, it was Clayton Montgomery, the place kicker on the Pompano Tornadoes football team). I was that girl as a freshman (Sam was a sophomore). The most important difference between the movie and my life is that Sam got the guy...I did least not that guy (nor any other guy until I was a senior myself (and, uh, he was a sophomore)!)

My first car
My Sweet 16
My baby girl is turning 16 in just a few days and I can hardly believe it. I think back to where I was at 16. I was a junior at Ely High School (wishing I was a junior at Pompano Beach High School - read on...). I had been working at Kay-Bee Toys for a few weeks already with several of my best friends. I didn't have a boyfriend, but I'm pretty sure that I had crushes on at least four guys whom I would never have a prayer of dating. But, I had great friends, a great family, and a sweet black 1983 Toyota Celica that my dad bought me for my birthday with the condition that I'd have to learn to drive a 5-speed. Incidentally, it was actually my sister, Melanie who taught me how to drive it - my poor dad couldn't handle the frustration of dealing with a 16-year-old girl who kept stalling the car. ;D One thing that has always stuck in my mind is the fact that on my 16th birthday, I was picking up my birthday cake from Publix (surprise) and the cashier said to me, "Your life is going to fly by from this moment forward." I didn't believe it, but it was 100% true. Where DID the last 25+ years go? I have no idea. 

My sweet baby girl
The last 16 years have certainly gone by in a flash. This time 16 years ago, I thought I still had a month to go before I became a mom. Alana had other plans! She was headstrong from Day One. She knew what she wanted and she knew how to get it. Her determination even prompted me to sing the following lyrics to the tune of 'The Macarena':

Screams like a banshee 'cause she don't wanna
Sleep all night like a big iguana.
When it's time to feed her, you better wanna.
Hey, it's Alana!

At seven weeks, she developed colic
Cried so much, made her mom an alcoholic.
Gonna buy her a a one-way ticket to Botswana.
Hey, it's Alana!

Mrs. Tarney and her "assistant"
In spite of many sleepless nights early on, I did love my baby girl! :) She was such a sweet girl! Sometimes when I look at Alana, she morphs into the five-year-old who insisted that she was her Kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Tarney's assistant. She has always been too smart for her own good. I remember going to Kindergarten Round-Up at Norcrest Elementary when she was still in preschool and asking the principal about the Gifted program. He looked at me as if I was "another one of those Lighthouse Point moms who thinks her kid is a genius" and told me that most kids don't qualify until at least third grade. The first few weeks of school, Alana's teachers knew that I wasn't blowing smoke. Miss Alana had a little something special. She was tested and qualified for the Gifted program as a Kindergartener. I'll never forget her first "presentation" before a group of parents and teachers at the PTA meeting. She got up in front of the crowd like she owned the place. The principal (who had previously questioned my perception of Alana's abilities) looked at me and said, "Wow! If she's like this now, you're in trouble when she turns 16!" Yes indeed, Mr. Vesey. Yes indeed.

One of my favorite pictures!
Truth be told, Alana has never been a problem. She has always gotten good grades (she is currently a straight 'A' student and I hope that she can maintain her GPA with a full load of AP classes AND a job this year). She makes the most of tough situations. Two years ago, she was one of only a few kids who did not get into Pompano Beach High School. Admission is based on a strict lottery system, so in spite the fact that she had straight 'A's and 5s on her FCAT, she couldn't go to PBHS.  At first, she was upset. I was devastated. This was the high school from which I should have graduated, had the school board (including our current Property Appraiser who is still sticking it to me nearly 30 years later) not voted to close the school in 1985, following my freshman year. My mom graduated from Pompano High, HER mom graduated from Pompano High, I SHOULD HAVE graduated from Pompano High and I really wanted Alana to have a chance, but luck was not with her. (Perhaps because her mama was born on Friday the 13th?) In true Alana fashion, she gracefully accepted the situation and willingly agreed to at least "try" the Broadcast Communications Magnet Program at Deerfield Beach High School and reapply for Pompano High in the winter. You know what? She LOVED DBHS and never wanted to try and get into PBHS again. She really enjoys the magnet program and is doing great - she's going to be the Managing Editor of the school newspaper her Junior year! Ironically, some of her friends who did get into Pompano High have changed schools because they weren't happy - some even go to Deerfield High with Alana. :) 
Always my little mermaid

Alana has never really been in any serious trouble. She has been...let's say..."on the outskirts" of bad situations, but she has always made the right decision, even when her friends may have made the wrong ones, and for that I am eternally grateful. It really proves that she is a leader and not a follower, which brings me to the number one trait that I admire in my daughter: an incredible sense of self esteem. 

Alana has been self-confident from the time she was a little girl. She has never been afraid to get up in front of a group of people and speak (I would still be terrified). She has always been confident making her own decisions (I will question myself till the cows come home, make a decision and then be convinced that I made the wrong decision). Although she has battled her weight for most of her life (as I did in my adolescence), she's never let that hold her back. She has been working very hard, trying to eat healthy and exercise, and she has lost weight and gotten much, much healthier. But she knows that she is just fine ANY way she is. A couple of weeks ago, she told me that she was going running with her friend. I asked her if she was going to be able to handle it (it was in the 90s with 95% humidity and I, for one, am not a runner). She looked at me and said (gesturing to her body), "Do I not look fit and fab?" As if to say, "Mom, REALLY? Come on!" I LOVED it! :D I often think that if only I possessed that sense of self-esteem, I really could have gone places! ;)

Alana's first car
In just the past few weeks, several of Alana's best friends also turned 16 and got their driver's licenses. Suddenly, our chauffeur duties are starting to lighten up. Just like my parents did for me, Rob and I bought Alana her first car for her 16th Birthday. Thanks to a  little help from my parents, she ended up with a very NICE car - a red 2009 Volkswagen Jetta that she named "Ariel" after the Little Mermaid. (Incidentally, I suggested "Joan" and she was not amused.) She's been driving it and getting used to the feel of her new car. She loves it (the night we drove it home she told me that the car is "literally perfect.") and I love seeing her so happy! On August 13, she will take her driving test. Rob and I wonder once she has that new bit of freedom if we'll ever see her. Probably not much...

Birthday Princess - Age 2
Do Alana and I always get along great and agree on everything? No, we most certainly do not! Alana's (extremely) loose interpretation of "clean, neat and tidy" drives me crazy. I've learned that, "I WILL!" often means "I have no intention of doing that, so I'll just put it off in hopes that you will forget and stop asking me to do it." We tend to get snippy with each other from time to time (as most females do). But, when it comes right down to it, my Alana is beautiful, she is strong, she is smart, she is self-confident and I'm so proud to call her my daughter. 

I love you Lani K! May your 16th Birthday be the sweetest so far and may every birthday after be even sweeter. I love you! <3 

With love and aloha for my girl ~ Nancy

My beautiful 16-year-old Alana
(with Devin Oliver of 'I See Stars')

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