Category Archives: Boys

Joe (go to) College

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Did you happen to see this article in the Times Union recently?  I’m sure lots of folks feel gratified by their decision to reside in one of the successful suburban districts which are considered to be the best in the region.  Me?  I’m left with more questions than answers by the conclusions drawn and I want more information.

  • How many of the students attending those schools immediately after graduating high school, complete their programs in either two or four years?
  • How many of the students attending 4 year schools graduate from that same institution in 4 years?
  • What is the median household income in each of those school districts?
  • How about the average educational attainment in those same households?

I may be in the minority here, but I’m not overly concerned with whether my children go to college immediately after high school. And I’m not talking about the trendy “gap” year either.  If higher education is the logical step on a path leading to a long-term career, what I’m curious to know is this: how many 18 year-olds truly know what they want to do professionally for the rest of their lives?

On a recent evening, the teenaged Lilly boys and I had an interesting conversation about college – getting in, being successful, and paying for it.  In my mind, college isn’t a prolonging of the carefree days of high school with the added benefit of being away from home and playing beer pong.  It’s a serious and expensive investment.  Why take that on when you’re 18 unless you are either

a. incredibly motivated or
b. able to take advantage of an opportunity to attend a school with a substantial scholarship?

My route to college, and ultimately a Master’s Degree, was not direct.  After leaving high school in my senior year, I worked full-time and supported myself. At the age of 21, I tentatively dipped my toes into higher education by taking a couple of night classes at the local high school in the village where I lived.  The following year, I moved to Albany and began studying full-time.

Do I regret not taking a more traditional path to college?  Not at all.  If I were to do it all over again, the only thing I would change would be to have taken even more time to have traveled.  I wish I had taken my hospitality skills on the road and spent some time waitressing in resort areas where I could have made bank while experiencing new sights.  For me, the important thing about having a college degree isn’t about when you start earning it, it’s more about when you finish it.  What do you think?

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Filed under Boys, Education, Schools

Good morning, heartache

My middle son is going through a phase which I am calling his “asshole phase.”  Please, hear me out on this.  He is a smart, social, funny and athletic kid and I love him dearly, but he is having a very difficult time understanding that “with great power comes great responsibility.”  As a parent who remembers high school as a time of not necessarily applying myself, I am empathetic to a certain extent, but when I consider the advantages he has compared to what was available to me, my indulgence of his laziness starts to dry up.  Time to figure it out, my friend.

Possessing the myriad of gifts and advantages he has, yet not using them, has prevented him from fully participating in sports this spring.  This should be his third year playing lacrosse, but instead of suiting up and getting on the field, he’s sitting on the bench because of academic probation.  I am so appreciative of the fact that there are academic requirements for extracurricular participation.  It prevents me from dropping the hammer and once again being the “bad cop.”

Today is the last day of his freshman year’s third academic quarter and he has failed to submit his outstanding work for the past 10 weeks of school.  Looks like he’ll continue to be a bench warmer rather than an active participant in his chosen spring sport.  C’est la vie.  It hurts my heart to see him not achieving all he is capable of, but at least I don’t have to worry about him getting hurt physically, right?

As the middle guy struggles with time management and fulfilling the expectations and responsibilities which come from growing up, my little guy is taking steps away from me.  This morning, as I parked my car to walk him into school, I noticed his friend walking down the block, solo.  I pointed out his buddy and asked Quinn if he wanted to walk into school with just his friend.  He quickly said yes and happily joined his classmate for an independent “big guys” walk to school.

I got back in my car, pleased that I would be uncharacteristically early for work.  Before I turned the key, though, I took a moment to watch my baby walking away from me and felt a squeeze around my heart.  He’s growing up soo fast!  I paused, thinking about how parenthood at times feels like a series of nearly physical exertions – sometimes we push from behind, other times pull from ahead.  As I drove away from the curb I glanced over at Quinn at the same moment he turned back to look at me.  We both smiled.

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Filed under Boys, moms, Schools

Down and dirty paella

DSC_0012Ever have one of those days when you’ve taken something out of the freezer to cook for dinner with an idea that becomes less appealing as the day goes on? Yeah, me, too. Earlier this week I took a pound of 16-20 shrimp and some thinly sliced chicken breasts out to thaw with a plan to make some sort of garlicky scampi with pasta. It sounded like just what I wanted at 6:00 a.m., but as the day progressed I reconsidered. I wanted something with more vegetables and some spice…

I did a quick search on epicurious using shrimp and chicken as my search terms and came up with a super simple recipe for paella that I knew would work, both in terms of ingredients on hand and Lilly boy preferences. In less than 30 minutes, dinner was ready to go in the oven and I was ready for a quick run. Not a bad Tuesday at all.

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I started with a chopped onion and a bag of frozen chopped peppers from my Field Goods service. Talk about easy – cut open the bag and toss it into the pan! When the veggies were softened, I removed them from the pan and sautéed the chicken, which I had cut into 1.5-2″ chunks, in the same deep pan. When the chicken was almost cooked through, using a slotted spoon, I removed it and put it aside.

Next, I placed about 3.5 cups of chicken broth (a combination of homemade and boxed) in the same pan and turned the heat up to high. When the broth was almost boiling, I threw in 1.5 cups of arborio rice along with about 1.5 t of smoked paprika. I turned the heat down to medium and stirred the rice every few minutes (while I changed into my running clothes) until it was al dente.

The final step was reincorporating the vegetables and chicken and adding the uncooked shrimp. I removed the pan from the heat, covered it and took off for my five mile loop. After returning home, I placed the covered pan in the oven at 300 degrees to warm through for about 10 minutes. Boom! A fast, tasty dinner which everyone enjoyed. If I had some saffron, I certainly would have used it, but I instead seasoned simply with salt and pepper to taste and spiced up my own portion with a delicious pepper jelly I had picked up in New Orleans.

This “recipe” is incredibly versatile – chorizo, leftover ham or chicken thighs could easily be swapped in for the protein choices I made. The flavor profile could be varied by adding beans and/or some hearty greens or trade the paprika for some fresh thyme or flat leaf parsley. Go crazy – it’s just dinner.

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Filed under Boys, Dinner, Food, Recipes, Uncategorized

Maple Weekend 2014

I don’t know about you, but I grew up believing that “pancake” syrup was all there was to drown my pancakes in. Based upon my middle son’s recent query about “Why is the number one ingredient in maple syrup water?,” I have to think that more must be done to educate children about the difference between pancake syrup and genuine maple syrup. Maple Weekend 2014 provided the ideal opportunity for a little lesson on the genuine article vs. that water-based, artificially colored and flavored bastardization known as “pancake syrup.”

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Last weekend, on a damp and cold morning, Quinn and I headed out to Berne to see the trees from which our syrup comes. The drive was full of sights for us to observe – cows and horses, heaps of lingering snow, raging creeks, and to discuss and, in case you were wondering, that boy has no interest in living in the country. Definitely a city kid.

We arrived at Mountain Winds Maple Farm in the late morning. While we weren’t the only folks visiting, Randy made time to take us on a little tour. Our footwear choice (rubber boots) was validated by the squishy earth and we confidently headed towards the little pumping station. This was where the tubing, working with a vacuum pump, initially collected the surprisingly clear and remarkably not sweet sap.

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Randy explained that the yield has thus far this season been very low since we have not yet had a true thaw to encourage a free flow of sap. Fingers crossed, a few days later that he and the other syrup producers are seeing a more impressive run as the temperatures have somewhat moderated.

From this first collection point the sap is sent to be boiled down, changing the percentage of sugar from approximately 2% to a more familiar 60+%. The rich amber color also develops as the syrup is concentrated and caramelized.

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We were lucky enough to nab his last gallon of syrup and have stashed it away in the basement as back up for the gallon we’re currently enjoying. In the DelSo, I use 100% pure maple syrup, preferably extra dark. I buy this delicious liquid, 2-3 times a year, by the gallon. It’s an investment at approximately $55, but buying in bulk definitely makes sense for my household where we eat pancakes or waffles or French toast at least weekly. In addition to this standard use of maple syrup, I frequently find myself reaching for the syrup dispenser to add flavor to root vegetables and other savory items. Delicious!

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When it is time for some more amber sweetness, we have options other than hauling out to Berne. Randy vends at the Bethlehem Farmers’ Market and also distributes through Farmie Market. In addition to syrup and syrup related products (cotton candy, syrup straws, hard candies, etc), he also sells farm eggs and fresh chicken.

See you at Maple Weekend 2015!  Don’t forget your boots.

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Filed under Boys, breakfast, Events, Local, road trips, Spring, upstate New York

On the edge of 17

From last year's trip to Europe.

From last year’s trip to Europe.

It’s been almost 17 years since I became a parent. Impossible. When my water broke 5+ weeks before my due date, I remember feeling more excited than nervous, confident that my baby would be healthy and hearty. The unusually warm temperature (a record, it turned out) seemed a positive beacon and I went to the hospital with an easy heart and only a light sweater for warmth on a late February day.

My son’s early arrival was my first lesson in parenting and it was a bit of a challenge for me. After conceiving in my first month’s attempt and enjoying a very easy pregnancy, I was shocked to be completely lacking in control when it came to when (now!) and how (c-section) he would make his entrance. My world shifted and I scrambled to hold on.

I don’t think it is possible to predict how, or how much, having a child will change a person. Finding the balance between placing child(ren) in the center of our universe, while remembering the importance of retaining our own identities and independence demands grace and poise, not necessarily my strengths. It’s a strange thing sometimes. While I love being recognized as so-and-so’s mother, I often find myself hesitating when I sign my name on a note I’ve written to my children. Identifying myself as “Mom” still feels remarkably new, even after 17 years in the role.

Prior to becoming a parent, I had imagined all of the things I would teach my child – how to walk, speak, read, swim, travel… What I hadn’t really considered were all the things I would learn about myself from my children. I now know I can be incredibly patient, fiercely protective and relentlessly organized. On the less positive side, I’m critical, inclined to blunt sarcasm and often guilty of doing too many of the household tasks myself without demanding some effort from the boys. It’s probably a control thing.

Ultimately, though, what I find most fascinating about being a mom, is witnessing my children learn who they are as individuals. It is absolutely amazing to see the unique creatures that have been created by using the same genetic contributions. Seeing my oldest son evolve from a premature, critically ill infant into a strong and healthy young man has been remarkable.  As he marks his 17th birthday, I recognize that we both began a new life that February afternoon in 1997.

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Filed under aging, birthdays, Boys, family, musings

The ten best things about a new puppy

  1. All the Lego pieces, now defined as “choking hazards” finally get picked up from the floor.
  2. I get to hear my big boys’ “talking to a baby” voices.
  3. A puppy helps a house be a home.
  4. Naming a pet is a wonderful collaborative family decision.
  5. All 5 of us (1 mom, 3 boys, 1 male puppy) have been outside.  Together.  In February.
  6. Puppy breath, duh!
  7. House training is evolving into a family project.
  8. The boys find him even more mesmerizing than their PS 4.
  9. Having a baby in the house brings out the nurturing mommy in all of us.
  10. A new puppy reminds us that our hearts can always expand to make room for another.

    The newest Lilly

    The newest Lilly

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Filed under Boys, family

The Beatles, my boys and a birthday

If I think back on music from my childhood, The Beatles  immediately come to mind.  They were definitely the soundtrack of many car rides in my memory.

Freshman year of high school, I remember the painful decision of which album to pick – the Red One or the Blue One.  I don’t remember which I ultimately chose.  I know I loved it.

When my oldest son was born, 5+ weeks early, I didn’t have a pediatrician, nor did I know a single lullaby or nursery song.  Or so I thought. Doing the new baby rock and walk, I found myself humming Beatles’ songs, sometimes even murmuring the lyrics.

My first digital camera had a memory stick that held about 8 images or a seconds long video.  There was a mini movie of the oldest 2 Lilly boys singing their hearts out to Hey, Jude, including all the Judy, Judys and a perfectly timed and heartfelt “Ow.”  I have no idea where that memory stick is and it doesn’t matter. I’ll never forget that moment.

My youngest child turned nine today on the very same day that marks 50 years since The Beatles invaded America.  Perfect synchronicity.  Quinn’s love for The Beatles is pure and relentless, just like him.  He hasn’t yet tired of discussing the tragedy of George’s cancer or John’s assassination.  He knows the words to countless songs and when he doesn’t, he enthusiastically makes up his own.

What remains inside of us is a wonder only second to what, in fact, comes out.
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Filed under aging, birthdays, Boys, family, favorites, Music