Archive for the ‘humor’ Category

College Trippin’ – Beyond the Guidebooks

 

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?

 

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Why You Couldn’t Pay Me Enough To Go Back To High School


 

I was flipping through channels on television the other day and came across the movie, Never Been Kissed, starring Drew Barrymore as a 25-year-old newspaper reporter who returns to high school for a story.

It’s not a horror film.

Ok, not really but it could be considered one by some because, really, who on earth would want to relive their high school days??

Don’t get me wrong. I actually liked high school when I was there. I had friends I really liked, classes I enjoyed and an all around good experience.

I still wouldn’t go back.

Even if I could go back knowing everything I know now (like, boys are not worth that much energy at that age and you should really only be friends with people who make you laugh), I still wouldn’t do it.

On the other hand, I’d go back to college in a heartbeatYou would think that college would be wrought with so much more pressure than high school, with the whole what are you studying because when you leave here you need a job to support yourself but I found that most people found their college experience to be a bit more liberating.. College was a time when everything seemed possible. We had the freedom to study whatever we wanted, to figure things out without 24/7 parental supervision, and to be who we wanted to be without feeling like we were under a microscope (even though, of course, no one was paying attention to anyone but themselves during high school).

Maybe it was the high school I went to or the school that my kids attend but at least for me, these are the top reasons why I would never, ever, even for a few million dollars, go back to high school:

  1. Being surrounded by people who have undeveloped pre-frontal cortices, aka being surrounded by people who do stupid shit all the time but can’t help themselves.

  1. Algebra
  1. The boredom of taking the same classes Every. Single. Day. 180 days of Chemistry? Ugh.
  1. Taking classes that you have to take instead of taking classes that interest you. There are so many cool classes offered at my son’s high school—glass blowing! Shakespeare’s Literary Traditions! Forensic Science! Multi-variable calculus (Ha! Totally kidding. See #2 above)—but he won’t be able to take any of them. Between his high school’s requirements and the classes that colleges expect you to take in high school there is no room for the really out-of-the box electives.
  1. High school dances. First, there’s the anxiety over who to ask or whether you will be asked, then there’s the ridiculous need to ask your date creatively because NO ONE just says, “Hey, do you want to go to Homecoming?” anymore; then there’s the cost to attend a party that no one likes because, let’s face it, the dance is boring; and, of course, there is spending the entire evening with someone who you said yes to a month before the dance but now you can’t remember why you agreed. (See #1 above for a possible explanation).
  1. Having to wake up really early every day to go somewhere you would rather not be for at least another three hours (hmmm…that sounds a lot like a bad job).
  1. Gym class in the middle of the day where you have to run laps but there’s no time after running to shower. Seriously??
  1. Cliques, Mean Girls and Social Climbing. It starts early and often but the best part (or the worst depending on your perspective) is one’s clique or status in high school is sooooooooo irrelevant after graduation. If we could only get our kids to believe that.

 

How about you? Would you go back to high school if you could? Why or why not? What would you add to this list???

It’s Official: I’m Useless-ish

I’ve become irrelevant.

No, really. Apparently, when I wasn’t looking, my children grew up and they no longer need me.

A good thing, I know, but still.

See, last week my youngest got his license. Finally! I thought as I sat in Hell’s waiting room the DMV. No more days broken up by a kid’s schedule. No more trying to finish work, clean the house, run errands and prep dinner during the two hour window between shuttling back and forth to practices or during the surprisingly short block of time between morning drop off and afternoon pick up from school.

And, most importantly, no more late night pickups from friend’s houses!

Yay!

I would finally be able to don my pjs before 10 pm and not have to worry about running out in said pjs and being pulled over by a cop who would assume that I had been drinking or that I stole the car simply because I look like a vagrant. No silk robe or adorable short sets for me. No, my choice of sleepwear consists of a ratty old pair of shorts, a faded t-shirt and a Mickey Mouse sweatshirt I stole from my brother in high school. Pair that with my drooping sleep-deprived eyelids and my mop of hair and you can understand my fear of being mistaken for a drifter.

Those days are over!

So imagine my surprise when my son got his license and drove away from me for the first time and my first thought was: Wait! What? Driving you everywhere and bitching about it is my job!

Just like that. After 16 years as a chauffeur my services were no longer needed. I’d been unceremoniously let go.

Wow.

The running joke in our house is that I am constantly trying to get fired from this mom gig. When I cook a mediocre meal or I forget to wash someone’s favorite shirt I beg my family to fire me. “I’m just no good at this job,” I say. “Go ahead, fire me. I’ll be ok.”

But I didn’t really mean it.

I read somewhere that our job as a parent is to make our job as a parent unnecessary. We are supposed to give our kids all of the skills they need to do all of the things we do for them so they can go live productive adult lives and not need to call us to figure out how to boil water. (That’s what YouTube is for).

You teach them things, like how to read, write, use the bathroom on their own, cross the street, organize their homework, feed themselves something (anything!) and do laundry because you want them to be free of you and a little part of you wants to be free of all of that crap, too.

Be careful what you wish for.

I don’t think it matters if you are a stay-at-home mom, a stay-at-home dad, or a mom or dad who works full time or part time, most parents just want to take care of their kids. They want to nurture and dote on their kids and part of doing that is by doing things for their kids. However, when your kids no longer need you to do things for them it is both gratifying (Yay! Job well done!) and bittersweet (Who will I read a bedtime story to now??).

I’m, of course, not talking about the mind-numbing or gross stuff that they eventually can do on their own (believe me, I never felt nostalgic for the diaper changing days) but the stuff that is occasionally fulfilling. Like driving them around. As their private driver I felt my kids were safe(r) if I was driving. I also had the best conversations with my kids while driving since they did not feel the pressure of having a face-to-face conversation. And, (probably the best part) I could eavesdrop on carpool conversations. For whatever reason, kids forget that you exist when you are the driver and they talk about things they would never, ever normally say in front of you.

Sigh. Those days are over.

Now I will just need to be satisfied with my new, pared down job description. My job has been streamlined not eliminated entirely because it’s feeding time at our house (otherwise known as lunch) and as I write this my 20-year-old son just asked what there is to eat.

I guess I’m not completely irrelevant after all.

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Bye, Mom!

 

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Thank You All You Mothers

After 21 Mother’s Days as a mom and far too many to mention as a daughter and daughter-in-law, I’ve realized a few things about the day. Perhaps I’m alone in these thoughts, perhaps not. Let me know.

  1. Mother’s Day has an apostrophe because it’s supposed to be about honoring one’s individual mother so…it should really be about my children “honoring” ME, but it never is, which is fine. Really.
  2. Handmade cards from your younger children will always be better than the store bought ones you get when they are grown. Not that I don’t appreciate all of them but, c’mon nothing is better than these:
  3. 98% of girls will gush about their mothers on social media but only 1% of boys will do the same. As the mother of boys I know this is true and it’s fine. Really. No, I swear.
  4. If you wait until the last minute to order flowers for your mom they will cost four times as much and they will look like this:IMG_2977
  5. If you have children who play sports there will be multiple games scheduled on Mother’s Day (but, shockingly, none on Father’s Day).
  6. You will never find the perfect last-minute gift for your mom if you look at web sites that scream: “Mother’s Day Gifts Your Mom Actually Wants!” While I appreciate some of the ideas, my mom has never wanted a unicorn head, at least not that I know of and certainly not for Mother’s Day.
  7. Most moms I know don’t want any gifts for Mother’s Day anyway; all they want is time — either with or without their kids depending on how old the kids are. When my kids were little, for instance, I really, really, desperately, could not wait for some time by myself but, alas, my kids had other plans. They LOVED spending time with me on Mother’s Day. It was all Mommy, it’s your day and we are going to the park and out to eat and we are going to play baseball and take a walk and make a craft and, and, and. So, I played along and took time off on another day. Now that they are older, of course, all I really, really want to do is spend some time with them, which I get to do, but it’s not quite the same. Sure there are hugs and meals and some conversation (they are 17 and 21 years old so I don’t expect much by way of conversation) but what I wouldn’t give for a little bit of Mommy, Mommy, Mommy (just a little bit boys, in case you are reading this).
  8. And finally, I’ve figured out that Mother’s Day is really a day to be grateful for all the mothers in your life. I am so grateful for my own mom, of course, but also for all of the women who have taken care of me and, especially, all of the women who take care of my boys. I know that I am not the only woman who feeds my boys, worries about my boys and would step in and mother my kids as needed. In case I don’t say it often enough – thank you.

 

 

Top Five Things That I Miss About College

Image result for college

I just spent family weekend at my oldest son’s college and boy, did I notice the age gap between college kids and me. I don’t usually feel old; I usually think I’m around 23 until I try to stand up too quickly and I pull something, but spending the weekend with a bunch of college students was eye opening. Let me clarify, it wasn’t so much that I felt old as it was that I felt that college was such a long time ago. It made me think about how different I was at that age and how I took certain things for granted back then. I don’t mean just the freedom of limited supervision or weekly quarter beer nights. I mean the less obvious things that you don’t realize won’t be available to you until after you get a significant amount of distance from those college years.

After my weekend I realized that these are the things that I miss the most:

1- An unobstructed view of the future. College kids think they can accomplish anything and they feel that they have all the time in the world to do it. Nothing is impossible in their minds. I miss that perspective. Now, as I approach my 5th decade (slowly, dragging myself there, actually) my perspective is colored by my experiences and, unfortunately, that “color” can be limiting. When you are in college obstacles do not exist. When you are 50, obstacles – whether real or imagined – are far more likely to be a deterrent. Take the issue of time. To me, time is short. At this point in my life if I realize that something is going to take 10 years to accomplish I am far more likely to ask, “Do I really want to be doing this when I’m 60?” But when I was a 20-year-old, five to ten years in the future was nothing. Just a blip on a time line. 

2- Access to learning. There is so much to know and the thought that there is somewhere where you can spend large chunks of your day taking in all that information is mind blowing (and, no, sitting on your couch and searching Google for info is not the same). Of course, when you are in college it doesn’t seem nearly as exciting as quarter beers and no parental supervision but from my view now, it’s the greatest thing ever. I wish I took advantage of that more than I did.

3- Which brings me to my next point: knowing everything. Despite the very real possibility that college kids are not taking in the vast amounts of knowledge that are available to them, they are still SO MUCH smarter than the rest of us. As I get older I know that I know very, very little. I no longer have all of the answers. But, college kids? They know EVERYTHING and the strength of their convictions with which they will let you know that they know everything is impressive. I want to tell them to wait until they are in their 40s when they realize that they really know nothing, but they wouldn’t believe me anyway, because, to them, I really do know nothing and they do know everything!

4- Fewer responsibilities. Even working and going to school while in college didn’t seem as heavy a burden as being a parent to two kids, a daughter to an aging parent and a citizen of this world. Being a responsible 20-year-old is completely different than being a responsible 49-year-old.

5- Energy. I don’t just mean the ability to stay up past 2 am then bound out of bed for an 9 am class (although I am a tad wistful about that), I mean the ability to absorb a lot of info, have a busy social life, work hard, dream big and do it all with energy to burn.  Seriously, if I could just have a tenth of that energy back…

My wish for my kids is that they can appreciate all of this now, while they are young, but they won’t. Hopefully they will use all of their energy and freedom to learn a lot and accomplish great things. I also hope that one day, when they finally realize that they, too, know nothing they will be surrounded by college kids who remind them of their limitations…and they will smile.

What would you add? Is there anything you miss from your college years?

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Top Five Things to Know About a Newborn

I’m not around many soon-to-be or completely new parents much. Although our neighborhood is filling fast with young families, by the time they move to the ‘burbs they usually have at least one preschool or school aged kid in tow. But today I got a peek into the mind of a soon to be new parent when my dentist told me about his plans for his new role as a dad.

He knows I write this blog so he asked me what advice I would give him. At the time nothing really important came to mind. To be fair I was also drooling a bit and I’m not sure when I spoke that I was actually articulating words since my mouth was so numb but I did come up with one piece of advice – when you change your newborn boy’s diaper make sure you cover his penis or you will get sprayed.

I thought that was pretty useful information!

But now, several hours later (although still numb and drooling) I’ve come up with a few more the things that I wish I knew when my oldest was a newborn. To be fair, I probably knew all of this – I’m sure some well-meaning parent told me but I either forgot what they said, I thought I knew better, or I didn’t believe them.

Just in case my dentist wants to know, though, here is my list of the top five things I wish I knew when my kids were babies.

  1. You will not consistently sleep through the night while you have kids living in your home. I knew the first few months would be tough but eventually we would reach that magical point when the baby would “sleep through the night.”  Well, yea, he slept through the night.

And then he didn’t.

There were nights when he was teething, or stuffy, or scared or just wide awake for no apparent reason at 3 am. And then they become teenagers. Not to freak you new parents out but I don’t remember what it’s like to fall asleep and wake up in the morning without interruption – and my youngest is 15.

  1. If you are a type “A” kind of person, learn to let go. You cannot control what happens with a baby (see teething, stuffy, scared above). I did not know this. I like to control things. I was positive that I knew best and I could get my kid to comply.

I was wrong.

For instance, I thought my kid should sleep because I said so:

Me (to Baby #1 at 8-months-old who is awake at 2 am): Shhh! Go to sleep.

Baby #1: bursts into fits of giggles

Me: (sobbing) This is not funny! It’s dark out! It’s time to sleep!

Baby #1: giggles more

 And then I had my second kid:

Me (to Baby #2 at 8-months-old who is awake at 2 am): I’m just going to sleep on your floor with my earplugs in. You do whatever you want in your crib.

Baby #2: bursts into a fit of giggles

Me: (curled up on the floor) zzzzzzz

  1. Which brings me to my next point: your first kid is like an experiment. You won’t know what you are doing. No matter how many babies you have been around you will not know what you are doing with your first child. BUT, you will figure it out…eventually. This will only become apparent if you have another kid or two.
  2. Don’t read too many books or consult too many websites. Even if you don’t know what you are doing, too much information can make you crazy. I had to laugh when my dentist mentioned that he needed to get another book to read for the weekend because he just finished his copy of If You Read This You Will Be the Perfect Parent or something with a similar title because really, the only reason you read these books is because you want to know everything before the baby comes. You truly believe that armed with ALL of this parenting knowledge you will be able to deftly handle every situation that comes up and you will be the “Perfect Parent.”

Ha!

Sure, I read What to Expect When You are Expecting and What to Expect the First Year. I considered the latter my “bible” and consulted it for everything from the step-by-step instructions on how to bathe the baby (this made my mother laugh so hard she actually left my house) to what a normal baby’s temperature is (hmm, same as an adult’s). The more I read the more I thought I was doing something wrong. I found, after the fact, that the best books to read were the ones that were humorous. Like The Girlfriends’ Guide to Pregnancy and Go the F**k to Sleep.

  1. Parenting requires humor. Sure, parenting is serious business. But it’s also not. Watching your toddler walk the dog (or the dog walk your kid) is funny. So is your 5-year-old making you breakfast or your 7-year-old singing like Justin Timberlake. Even tantrums are funny (really, they are, especially if you join in and act like a toddler, too). Just remember: if you don’ t have a sense of humor you will never survive the teenage years…

What would you add to the list? What do you know now that you wish you knew when your first kid was a newborn?

Is it Wine O’clock Yet? Awesomesauce!

Every year the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) adds new words to its online dictionary. This year’s crop was very exciting for me because the word “hangry” (meaning, “bad tempered or irritable because of hunger”) made the cut and, about four years ago I used that word in a piece called, Feeding the Hangry.

Four years ago! I was so ahead of the curve on that one!

I immediately told my kids how cool I am.

Never one to allow me to bask in my coolness, my younger son informed me that other cool words also made the cut, like “rando,” as in “a person one does not know, especially one regarded as odd, suspicious, or engaging in socially inappropriate behavior,” and “mkay” as in “to invite agreement, approval, or confirmation,” (in other words, “okay” spelled with an “m” instead of an “o”). Then there was “beer-o’clock” as in the right time to start drinking beer and “melty” because, apparently, melted is too difficult to write.

Not only did I not feel cool anymore but, I started to become very worried about my children’s use of the English language in the future.

I’m all for making up words. In fact, it’s one of my favorite things to do as I get older and I can’t remember words when I’m speaking. Just the other day, for instance, I suffered from a total brain fart. I couldn’t remember the words: real estate broker. So I went with “thepersonwhoputsyourhouseonthemarketwhenyouaretryingtosellit.”

Thankfully most of my friends also suffer from “old age brain” as well (see what I did there? I coined a phrase) so everyone can figure out what I’m talking about or at least not make fun of my new words.

But sometimes, made up words should have a short shelf life. Unfortunately with the advent of the Internet (one of 1974’s new words) new words crop up often and get passed around and, unfortunately, they never seem to die.

Don’t get me wrong. I understand the need for new words. Before text-messaging evolved in the 1980s there was no need for a word that described sending a message via text. Hence the need for a new word. Similarly, Goldendoodle dogs didn’t exist until the 2000s so that’s when the definition of Goldendoodle became relevant. Once they became a breed they were given a name.

Those words actually refer to something specific and definable. The word “fur-baby,” as in “a furry pet,” is neither specific nor definable. Call it your dog or your cat or your hamster. Or, call it your fur-baby. But does that word really have to be included in an archive of current English usage like the OED?

Well, yes.

According to the Oxford Dictionary website it does. It is also one of the top 5 most popular words in the U.S. as of today.

Right up there with:

-Awesomesauce

-Swole

-Butthurt and, my favorite,

unthaw – which now has a new meaning. The new definition as set out in the OED does not mean to freeze something. It now means to thaw. So, what’s with the “un” which means to negate?

At this point I don’t even know if I’m using real words in this post.

The interesting thing is that the tag line for the Oxford Dictionary’s webpage is: Language Matters. I assume that means that they are discussing matters of language instead of trying to tell us that the language we use makes a difference, because, if that is the case, then the word “swole” should not be a word. You know why? Because we already have the words, “swell” and “swollen.” SWOLE IS NOT A WORD!

But, apparently it is.

Rly!

In fact, it has, according to the peeps over at OED, been used so much as to demonstrate “continued historical use.”

WTF!

According to Fiona McPherson, senior editor of the OED’s new words group, in an interview with The Telegraph, new words are only added to oxforddictionaries.com after they “have been around for a reasonable amount of time and are in common use.”

Which means that enough people in the world have been using the term “cat café” (“a cafe or similar establishment where people pay to interact with cats housed on the premises”) to warrant the term’s inclusion in the dictionary.

Now do you understand why I am worried for my children and my children’s children??

Thankfully, words do fall out of fashion. For instance, the 1950s brought us the words aerospace, brainwash, artificial intelligence, do-it-yourself, and decaf but it also brought “Nowheresville” and “noshery.” Similarly, the 1990s gave us emoticon, gastropub, carjacking, and World Wide Web but also gave us “geeksville” and “poptastic.”

So there may be hope…or not.

Ms. McPherson believes that including slang words like “bants” (to banter) and “weak sauce” (“something that is of a poor or disappointing standard or quality”) isn’t “really about dumbing down, it’s more creative ways that people are using language.”

Great, next year all of our words will be creatively missing vowels.

NBD, rght?

What Do You Do With 40-Year-Old Baby Teeth??

Why do we parents save our kids’ childhood mementos? Are we saving it all so we can occasionally rummage through the boxes and reminisce or do we plan to give it all to our children when they are older?

If you agree with the latter, consider this scenario:

Many, many years in the future you hand your grown daughter a box of her lovingly preserved childhood mementos. You await for what is sure to be a squeal of delight as she sifts through the treasures.

Then she screams and slams the box shut.

“Ew! Are those my baby teeth?!” she yells. “That is so creepy! Why would you keep those and why would you think I would want them??”

Hmm. Not quite the reaction you were expecting.

Quickly, you rip the box from her hands before she can see her umbilical cord encased in plexiglass. Clearly she won’t appreciate that either.

A friend of mine recently relayed a similar story to me (thankfully, without the preserved umbilical cord bit) after her father handed her an envelope that contained her 45-year-old baby teeth. This naturally got me thinking, if we are preserving out kids’ keepsakes for them, shouldn’t we put more thought into what they may actually want to see in 40+ years?

With that, I decided to purge my home of random crap, I mean, mementos. I sorted through all of it with an “everything I am saving for my kids may eventually become theirs” lens because really, will my kids ever want this:

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or this:

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During my purge I came across some gems that I am certain my kids will NEVER miss after I toss them out:

A newborn diaper (unused, of course, although I bet someone, somewhere saved a used one). I must have kept it to show that my kid was—surprise—once the size of a newborn.

27 toddler size shirts (yes, 27!). I’m sure that when I shoved those clothes in a corner of my closet 10 or 15 years ago the memory of my boys in those particular shirts was probably too strong to let me part with the clothes. Now I have no idea who wore what.

Results for standardized tests from grades 4-8. WTF was I thinking? Did I think they would need them to apply to college??

Two musical recorders from 4th grade. I didn’t like hearing them play the recorder in 4th grade why would I want to hear it ever again?

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Report cards from kindergarten through high school. Ok. I’ll admit, I got distracted sifting through the earlier report cards because, let’s face it, no teacher will ever again tell me, “Your child is a gift!” or “He brought a smile to my face every day!” Those reports I kept, the rest got recycled.

Artwork. As much as my husband would have liked, I did not take photos of all of our kids’ artwork to eventually be made into an album. I am still working on assembling the first year of my 19-year-old’s baby book so clearly I am not an album maker and, for the record, neither is my husband. Besides, how many of these can I look at:

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Now, I’m not a total ogre. There are definitely many things (too many things) that I will hold on to whether my kids want them or not: photos, playbills from performances, newspaper clippings, a lock of their hair, handmade cards they wrote that still make me a little teary, their beloved books, and, of course, some old toys.

I will NOT toss out all of their toys.

My mom gave away all of my Barbie dolls and accessories when I left for college and I was devastated! In her defense, my parents were moving and I hadn’t touched them in years, but I didn’t care. At the time, I wailed dramatically about how all of my childhood memories had been taken away and what if I had a daughter who would want those toys and blah, blah, blah. The reality was that the one Barbie I did manage to salvage was gleefully dismembered by my boys within minutes but still…

So, just in case my boys hold some deep, perhaps irrational attachment to more than just the few stuffed animals, Lego creations, Thomas the Tank Engine trains and Matchbox cars I’ve decided to keep, I let them sift through the piles of stuff I was preparing to toss and asked what they wanted to save. Surprisingly they wanted nothing, especially not their teeth. “My baby teeth??” my youngest asked. “Why? That’s so creepy!”

Go figure.

What out of the ordinary childhood mementos have you kept for your kids?

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.

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

Get A Job!

I was driving my younger son and his friend to soccer practice when they both started lamenting how busy they are this summer. My son’s friend is starting driver’s education as soon as soccer ends because, as he explained with a touch of sarcasm, “I can’t have one day with nothing to do.” My son groaned in sympathy. “I know,” my son added. “I don’t have a single day off this summer.”

Insert eye roll here.

I have no sympathy for this complaining. First of all, taking driver’s ed and playing soccer were my son’s requests, not mine, (as if I want another teenage driver in my house!) and, more importantly, he was complaining about being bored two days after school was out!

It would be great if he could have one of those idyllic 70’s summers. I can picture it perfectly: he would yell up the stairs in the early morning to say goodbye to me, the screen door slapping behind him before I can react. Then he would head to his best friend’s house on his bike and they would wander the neighborhood picking up other friends while looking for something to do, eventually following the railroad tracks to find the body before Keifer Sutherland and the other greasers could find it.

Oh wait. That’s the movie, Stand By Me.

All kidding aside, I wish he could have one of the carefree summers of my youth.

But he can’t.

They no longer exist.

Unless we parents collectively decide to yank our kids out of ALL activities my son will be home—alone—playing video games and watching YouTube videos, all day, EVERY DAY while his peers continue with their extensive summer plans.

This trend is not going anywhere especially if you factor in the get-into-college-summer-resume-building frenzy of activities that all high school teenagers seem to be involved in.

My son is a rising high school sophomore and according to the Internet (where everything is true) my son should be on a service trip in Guatemala or working on a novel or starting a company in our garage (although that would be nice…).

With nothing but soccer and driver’s education on his agenda, his college admissions resume will be light.

There go the Ivy’s.

Julie Lythcott-Haims, the author of a new book, “How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success” and author of The New York Times article, “What’s Your Teenager Doing This Summer? In Defense of ‘Nothing” wants parents to take back summer. She encourages parents to jump off of the get-into-a-good-college bandwagon and let “summer feel like summer again.”

She believes that free time will morph into time spent “cooking, biking, building models, drawing, talking to Grandma, reading books from the library, keeping a journal, feeling bored, making money mowing lawns or washing cars, noodling around on the piano or the guitar, learning how to drive, going for a swim, daydreaming in the hammock, lying on the grass staring up at the clouds.”

Hmm…I don’t know many teens who would fill their days daydreaming in a hammock or talking to their grandparents. I know my kid wouldn’t.

Don’t get me wrong. I agree that teens should not spend their summers padding their high school resumes but should they really spend their summers doing nothing?

I have a better idea: let’s tell our teens to get jobs.

Not an “internship” at a family friend’s company but a real job. Preferably an annoying job with a bad boss, mean customers and a lot of responsibility.

This works on so many levels. Not only will your teen have some activity to fill his days but, if you, or your kid, care about the whole resume-building exercise, he will develop skills he would never develop if he was on a 3-week trip to the Galapagos Island with a staff to help him navigate the experience.

Maybe, because I’ve been through the get-into-college rodeo already, I recognize that the over-priced, completely scheduled, 2-week summer service trips and the full-time internships that Lythcott-Haims mentions aren’t fooling any admissions counselors.

What stood out on my older son’s resume wasn’t his two-week trip to a tropical paradise to tag turtles (yes, we were those parents) but his summer jobs as a baseball coach and a camp counselor for nine-year-olds. Talk about developing communication and problem solving skills! And those were just the skills needed to deal with the parents.

But, and this is important, he didn’t get those jobs with an eye towards his high school resume; he took those jobs to make money and because he likes kids. The rest (the experience, the learned skills, the connections) was just a bonus.

So, when your kid asks to go to Hawaii for three weeks to help the dolphins or you feel the itch to sign your kid up for one more learn-to-code class, hand your son or daughter the Help Wanted section from the local paper instead.

Then start planning your trip to a tropical paradise with the money you will save.

What are your teens doing this summer?

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