Archive for the ‘Fall’ Category

The Last First Day of High School

download

When I first quit my job to stay home with my kids I had big plans. Being with my kids was my only job and I was going to make the most of it. Those warnings about “appreciating the time with your kids because it goes by so fast” were not going to be lost on me!

I learned, rather quickly, however, that it’s really hard to appreciate EVERY moment, like the ones when, sleep-deprived and delirious, I would curl up on the floor of my younger son’s bedroom, praying that my mere proximity to him would help him drift back to sleep at four in the morning. I wasn’t trying to wish away his babyhood but, at that moment, while he giggled and babbled at me through the slats of his crib, clearly not going back to sleep, I would silently repeat the mantra, this too shall pass.

Then there were those mind-numbing days when we would make our daily park/library/grocery store circuit, desperate to fill the hours before bedtime. Soon they will start school full time and I will finally be able to get things done, I would think.

Once they were in school I longed for the days when they would be able to do their own homework without my nagging, take care of their own things, and eventually be able to drive so I could skip the carpools and late night pick ups. Just this summer, for instance, as I waited up—again—for my youngest son to get home, I caught myself thinking, once summer is over and he is back at school I can finally go to bed before midnight.

This too shall pass…

And then it did.

And now summer is over and it’s my youngest son’s last first day of high school and I’m wondering what happens when this passes??

What happens to me when my nest is empty?

When I dropped him off for the first day of his senior year of high school I thought I was simply sad because it had all gone by so quickly; he would be heading to college next year and, given his uncommunicative nature, I would probably rarely, if ever, talk to him. But then, when I realized that at this time next year I will have no one left to drive to school (or pick up after or make dinner for or dote on…), my unease grew rapidly. Suddenly I was faced with the prospect of doing whatever I want with my time and I wasn’t sure what that was supposed to be.

In my rising panic I turned to my good friend (who also happens to be a therapist) to help me deal with my immediate need to calm the f**k down. Christina Jones, LCSW, suggested that I view this new phase of my life as a time to figure out who I am today and who my “future self” can be.

“What if you see this as an opportunity to discover who you are now and accept that it might not be who you used to be, even as a mother?” she asked me.

I could tell this was not going to be a quick fix.

“You can never really go back,” she added, “But you can take who you’ve been – in every chapter in your life – and figure out who you are now. That can be exciting.”

Hmmm…exciting, terrifying, anxiety provoking, all of the above?

This isn’t the first pivot I’ve had to make. When I decided to go from full-time lawyer to full-time mom, I went into a bit of spiral, as well. I would joke that I was a “retired lawyer” instead of admitting that I was a stay-at-home-mom – I simply couldn’t let go of that persona even though it was my idea to make the change. It took me a while to let go of who I had been—or thought I was—and to come to terms with the idea that my focus had shifted and continued to shift with each new phase in my and my family’s lives.

And here we are again; new phase, new focus.

This time, as I plan my next act, I will try to be more mindful of the passing days and try to embrace even the moments that can’t end fast enough. In a year I will be a “retired stay-at-home-mom,” and who knows what else. Maybe “the mom who has to nag her college graduate son who moves back home for a year to save his money while he works before grad school”?

This is very exciting.

 

 

Advertisements

College Trippin’ – Beyond the Guidebooks

images-1.jpg

Four years ago I took my oldest son on his first set of college tours—eight schools in five days. That’s a lot of schools in a short period of time and I normally wouldn’t recommend it but I brought reinforcements – no, not Valium – friends.

Touring schools with friends in tow was not a suggestion that I found in any of the “Parent’s guide to college tour” books stacked next to my bedside but I was happy that I stumbled on something that helped me preserve my sanity and preserve my son’s enthusiasm for the process.

Throughout this lengthy and often frustrating process. I picked up a few more tidbits that I will share with you if, like me, you are heading into college tour season for the first, second or tenth time:

  1. If you can, bring along a friend or two  – it’s a great way to divide and conquer.

If I had to plan that first trip alone I would have bailed after the first attempt to secure an information session at two colleges on the same day. You have to plan the most logical path among the schools and then make sure that you can fit into the appropriate information sessions and tours. Then there’s the car rental, the hotels and the meals to plan. There were three moms and our respective boys on this particular trip and each one of the moms provided a necessary skill: one was the designated driver, one was the navigator/scheduler and one just got shit done.

2. Go to a sporting event…

Or to a concert or a shopping or out for a fabulous local meal. Whatever you do, do not make the entire trip about visiting the school or your child will never, ever want to go beyond the first campus. We went to a concert in Indianapolis, checked out the ‘honky-tonks’ in Nashville and found a taco place near the beach in LA. Find activities that your kid likes and add them to the schedule so they can see what’s available around and beyond the school.

3.  What I learned from our mad morning routine.

If you know you are running a little late for the campus tour don’t bail – just jump in (this means a little late – like 5-10 minutes not 30). The first few minutes of the tour is usually filled with picking up materials (which you can grab later) and a lot of logistical stuff like background about the college, size of the student body and a lot of details about the school that you probably already know because if you are touring a school you have done a little homework on it (right??). Sometimes, it’s better to take that extra five minutes to drink your much needed latte and have your kid inhale a breakfast sandwich (see #9 below). Sure, one of the other parents glared at us as we ran towards the group waving our Starbucks bags and trying not to spill our coffee but he was also the parent who asked how many books were in the library and if the coffee bar had cappuccinos so… (Just remember to be respectful during the rest of the tour and unwrap your food away from the group – crinkly paper bags are highly distracting).

4. As for the tour guides, just because they trip and fall doesn’t mean the tour will be a bust

What you’ve heard before is true: a bad tour guide can ruin the school for your kid. The best tour guides were the ones who were enthusiastic about the school but not so happy that they scared your kid off. Seriously. This can happen. We flew two hours to tour a school my son was interested in but within the first few minutes he wanted to leave. “I don’t want to go to school here,  Mom. The tour guide is way too happy.” One tour guide spent most of the time talking about the party he was at the night before and told us that you could blow off classes because the classes were recorded. I was not amused and even my kid was frustrated by the lack of substantive information.

On the flip side, we had a great tour guide at Occidental College in LA. The guide took us everywhere and spent as much time talking about his classes as he did telling us about the great local food scene, the quick bike ride to the beach and the impressive line-up of bands that perform on campus (that made our kids’ ears perk up). Seriously, we three moms agreed that we would go to school there if we could. The fact that our guide tripped while walking backwards did not diminish anyone’s enthusiasm.

5. It’s better to self-tour then to get stuck in a bad tour.

Never be afraid to cut your losses and flee – or at the very least hit the admissions office and grab a map. If you aren’t seeing what you want during the formal tour, by all means, go off on your own and let your kid explore. Self tours are also great when the school may not be high on your kid’s list but you are in the neighborhood or if you can’t fit in a formal tour. Some of the best experiences that my son had was when he was able to explore what he wanted at his leisure. 

6.  Talk to people other than the tour guide and the other kids in the tour group.

Some of the best information we got was from students who were walking around campus. Of course, it took our then 17-year-old boys a few prods (ok, shoves) to get them to talk to people but after a while they were able to ask random students about the social scene, the teachers and the best places to find tacos.

7. Go off the grid

If you are traveling with athletic kids make sure you see the athletic facilities. They may not be gunning for an athletic scholarship but they will probably want to use the fitness facilities or the athletic fields. Likewise, if you have a bookworm, look at the libraries. If you have a computer geek look for the computer science equipment. Just ask for what you need. These buildings/facilities/equipment aren’t always part of the tour but if they are important to your kid make sure you check them out. This can make or break your kid’s decision.

8. Eat

If you attempt to drag – I mean, take – your child on a college tour and he or she has not been properly fed you will regret it. Approximately 10 minutes into the tour your normally polite child will become a holy terror without some sort of snack/lunch/10-course meal (depending on the kid). A latte will not cut it – you need fuel. These tours require stamina – how else will you or your child be able to take in the non-stop information being spewed by the tour guide or survive the barrage of inane questions asked by well-meaning parents.

9. Let your kid take the lead

You may fall in love with a school and wish you had gone there but, alas, that ship has sailed (maybe). If your kid has no interest, move on. You will find that it is really not worth the battle.

What would you add?

 

Like this post?? Please share!

 

 

 

 

Why Creating Family Traditions is a Bad Idea

photo

Hey, you, over there, taking the photos of your lil’ punkin in the pumpkin patch, put down the camera and step away from that cute family moment.

I’m doing you a favor here. You may think that this is the beginning of a great family tradition that will last a lifetime but really you are merely starting down a path that will lead to pain and misery.

Seriously.

Sure, right now it’s adorable to watch your 2-year-old try to lug that ten pound pumpkin and to see your daughter grinning from ear-to-ear as you lift her overhead to reach the apple at the top of the tallest tree in the orchard.

But right now doesn’t last forever…they eventually become teenagers and that’s when the fun ends.

The child who one day loved all of your family traditions will turn on you the next day and demand that you stop engaging in traditional family activities that bore them/embarrass them/make them hate you because you are making them participate.

Just save yourself the pain of one day trying to get your teenagers to go pick out a pumpkin with you or go apple picking or decorate the Christmas tree while sipping hot cocoa and listening to Christmas music.

They won’t do it.

“But you LOVE apple picking,” you will remind your 15-year-old and he will look at you as though the very idea of eating an apple is repulsive and you have lost your mind because he never, never, ever enjoyed that activity.

“Help me put out the Halloween decorations, please,” is met with: “Why would we put out decorations? We aren’t little kids anymore—mom.”

Last year I “threatened” (i.e. screamed for a good 30 minutes) to take away Christmas unless someone helped me decorate the tree; five minutes later the tree was decorated but it was shrouded by a cloud of disdain for all things jolly.

At that point I officially hated Christmas.

Eventually your teenagers’ contempt for your heart-warming family traditions—the traditions you lovingly developed to create routine and joy in their lives—will just suck the joy out of the season.

So what do you do when the family traditions you’ve created no longer fit your family (but you still want them – damn it!)?

You could:

A) Have every family tradition involve a gift exchange because, somehow, my family is still ok with the traditions of gift giving for Christmas and Hanukkah.

B) Wait until you have grandchildren and do it all over again while secretly waiting for the day that your child calls you in a huff because his kid won’t pick out a pumpkin without several friends in tow. (This, of course, is my personal favorite.)

Or,

C) You could just adapt.

Unfortunately, option “C” eventually wins.

Until recently, I never thought about not being with my children for a holiday but, of course, my husband and I did that to our parents once we started dating. We had to divide our time between events or, as was often the case once we had kids, trade off between families every year. We solved the agony of making three Thanksgiving stops by forcing everyone to come to our house but even that has changed, as our siblings have had to adapt to their own extended family plans.

But significant others aren’t the only ones who force changes on family traditions. Once my son left for college even something as silly as giving him a half-birthday cake on his half-birthday (one of my favorite traditions) turned into a logistical nightmare since it fell on a weekend and I couldn’t send a homemade half cake. I compromised by sending a half-dozen cupcakes from a local bakery but that turned a simple idea into quite a pricey event and, besides, it just wasn’t the same.

But what about when he studies abroad and isn’t home for Thanksgiving? Or what if he decides to stay for Christmas in his new locale? How will I manage to arrange for his favorite holiday tradition, hanging his stocking on his door for Christmas morning?

It just occurred to me that there will come a day when my boys will not wake up in my house on Christmas morning and their stockings will sit on the mantle, unfilled, as mere decoration, much the same way our uncarved pumpkins decorate our porch now.

“It’s what’s supposed to happen,” my husband just said to me. Clearly, he isn’t quite as moved by this as I am. 

Screw that.

I changed my mind. I’m not going with option “C,” I’m going with option “A” above. A little bribe, I mean gift, could go a long way.

photo

What NOT To Bring To A College Dorm (And a Few Things Students Couldn’t Live Without)

Around this time last year, just as the first Hello Kitty notebook hit the shelves at Target (signaling the start of the back-to-school frenzy), my older son and I started shopping for his dorm room.

Ugh!

It should have been fun—all the possibilities! But my son had very little enthusiasm for the process and I had very little patience.

Thankfully we don’t have to do it again. But, if I did, I would have done it a little differently.

I still wouldn’t have let him shop alone, though. If I let my son pick out what he “needed” for his dorm room the list would have looked like this:

  1. Food
  2. TV
  3. Xbox
  4. Mini fridge

He would never have thought about buying sheets (“I’ll just take the ones off my bed at home!”) or a shower caddy (“What’s a shower caddy??”).

Of course, not all kids would be as clueless…but it helps to have a parent tag along and it helps to have a plan.

I’m here to help with that plan.

I polled my older son’s friends, their parents, and my friends to find out what worthless items they purchased for dorm rooms—items that seemed essential or items that were on a list somewhere as a “Must Have” but were never—and have never—been used by an actual student.

What not to buy/pack/bring:

  • Too much clothing – specifically, according to one mom, “The twenty button-down shirts that my son HAD to have but never wore.” Two words: no space.
  • Too much formal clothing – If you are in a fraternity or sorority or you have a major where you need to make formal presentations, you may need a suit jacket or a couple of dresses – you won’t need multiple suits, several dress shirts or five dresses and four pairs of formal shoes. See above: no space.
  • Too many shoes – Again: no space.
  • Real plates, knives, forks – use disposable. I know, I know, you are worried about your carbon footprint but, according to the kids, “you will never, ever clean the dirty plate/fork/knife,” and well, that’s just gross.
  • Printer – “They take up a lot of space and there is a print room in every building.”
  • Plastic cleaning gloves – Ok, I admit it. I packed these, and, not surprisingly, they returned home, unopened at the end of the year.
  • A vacuum – If you don’t already have one, don’t buy one. Someone on the hall will have one that your kid can borrow for the two times he actually vacuums.
  • Laundry basket and a laundry bag – No room for both. Bring a collapsible laundry bag.
  • A lot of hangers – “Extra shelves—maybe—would have collected more clothes,” according to one mom.
  • Bulky luggage – pack clothes in collapsible bags or use heavy-duty garbage bags for transport.
  • A Panini press or any other kitchen appliance – save it for an apartment.
  • An iron– this one depends on your kid. One boy swore by it. “College dryers tend to make clothes incredibly wrinkly,” he explained. While another girl said that she never took hers out of the closet.

Now for what the kids couldn’t live without:

  • A foam topper and mattress pad. My son’s bed was at least 6 inches higher than his roommate’s and seemed obnoxious to me at first but my son said it was the comfiest bed he has ever slept in.
  • A fan – Remember not every dorm has air conditioning.
  • A collapsable storage ottoman – Storage AND extra seating! Items that pull double- duty are always helpful.
  • A 6-ft. power strip (or two). Who knows where the outlets will be.
  • Portable speakers – “I couldn’t live without [them]” and “We were always moving around but still wanted to listen to music.”
  • Garbage bags – “Lots of garbage bags.”
  • A mini hot water kettle – Most kids, my son included, thought this was really useful “to make tea, ramen, oatmeal, hot chocolate, etc.”
  • Light bulbs – “You may get a desk lamp but they don’t give you light bulbs,” one mom reminded me.
  • Plastic storage bins – Perhaps not as many as I bought for my son but he did use them to keep things stored under his bed (again probably not in the way that I would have organized them – I mean who puts the snacks with the playing cards?? There should be a separate bin for games, right??).
  • Extra toilet paper.
  • Can opener/bottle opener.
  • Mini fridge.
  • Head phones.
  • Some wall decorations. Emphasis on some.
  • Extra sheets and towels – NOTE: this one actually made both of the lists above. One mom said they were useless as her son never broke out the second set, while my son used all three (yes, three!) sets of sheets but never washed them until Thanksgiving – he just stripped off the dirty sheets and threw them under the bed. Whatever it takes to get them to use clean sheets, right?
  • A plunger – “I lived in a suite-style dorm and shared a bathroom with three other freshman guys.” Enough said.

Obviously, this list is not exhaustive and it will depend on your kid but remember, most dorm rooms are about 12 x 14 feet – for two people!

Less is more, people.

IMG_1858

What would you add to this list? Let us know.

Pathetic 48-year-old Mom Wanders Around Apple Orchard Alone! (or What I Did On My Kid’s Day Off of School)

Autumn, “the season formerly known as my favorite,” is just not the same now that my kids are older.

Before I had kids autumn was amazing: apple picking with my husband seemed so romantic, driving through a picturesque little town to take in the dazzling fall colors was a highlight of the season, and there was nothing more fun than finding the perfect costume for a Halloween party. Then, once I had kids, everything fall-like got even better – and adorable!

Is there anything cuter than a toddler at a pumpkin patch,

photo

Or a little kid in a furry Halloween costume trying to sneak a piece of candy,

photo

Or hoisting your baby up as he reaches for the perfect apple at the top of a tree in an apple orchard?

photo

No, there’s not.

Kids are adorable in the fall.

Sulking teenagers are not; nor, as it turns out, do they want to participate in those fun, fall festivities – especially not with their parents.

I found that out the hard way.

See, I love apple picking – any fruit picking, actually. My dad would take us miles out of our way if he saw a sign that there was fruit to be picked. We would head home with crates of strawberries, peaches, apples – anything we could pick that was in season.

I loved those days.

When I had kids I tried to recreate those moments as much for myself as my boys. Every September, from the time that my oldest was about six-months-old we would go apple picking. We would come home with so many apples that I would eventually get sick of anything apple related. But that didn’t matter because it was about so much more than just apples.

It was shared family time and the boys loved it (well, I’m not sure about the six-month-old but, boy, was it cute!). Post-picking we would savor warm cider donuts, pick out pumpkins to bring home and put on our porch, and even enjoy a pony ride!

photo

Every kid’s dream!

Until they are 14-years-old, apparently. Who knew?

This year, at the first hint of cooler temps and falling leaves I felt the pull to head to the nearest orchard and fill a bushel with apples.

“Who’s with me?” I asked my family enthusiastically.

Nothing.

“Come on!” I said to my one and only teen who still lives at home. “It’ll be fun!”

“Can I bring a friend?” he asked.

“Sure! The more the merrier!” I said.

I’m an idiot.

(Note: When your teen asks if he can bring a friend (or two) that means that he will not be spending any time with you. Bring your own friend – just saying.)

I, of course, didn’t know this as I planned our outing. I was still optimistic. I had visions of the group of us rambling through the apple orchard searching for the as yet untouched tree dripping with apples, it’s limbs sagging from the weight of the perfectly ripened fruit. I imagined that my son, his friends and I would see this tree from afar and get giddy at the sight of it. We would rush to the tree and fill our bags to the brim with the most perfect apples – stealing a bite or three of one of the apples and sighing with delight.

This is how it actually went down:

We got to the orchard and they went ahead without me.

I let them go because I realized, as we piled out of the car, that my son wanted to be with his friends. Sure, I could have tagged along but no one would have a good time.

So, I let them go.

But I still wanted to find that damn tree with the perfect apples! I could have gone into the store and simply bought a bag of apples but it seemed silly to have driven all that way and not, at least, walk into the orchard.

As I trudged through the apple orchard – alone – carrying my little plastic bag I tried not to look too creepy while families with young children walked by. I figured if I looked up and down every row it would look like I simply lost my group not that I had been abandoned. The last straw was when the guy driving a tractor full of apple pickers yelled out to me, “Where’s the rest of your group? Did they leave you?”

Pathetic.

All was not lost, however. I did find my perfect little tree full of apples and I filled my bag to the brim. I even got my warm cider donut – which I ate in the car, by myself, while I waited for the boys.

I think I’ll skip the pumpkin patch this year.

 

 

Like this post? Please share!

 

%d bloggers like this: