Tag Archives: parenting

Writing my son’s college essay (in my mind)

Dear Prospective College Admissions Officer -

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter. I can only imagine how many of these letters you must read and how difficult it must be to evaluate potential students from mere words and numbers on a page. Since neither words nor numbers adequately describe my oldest son, maybe I can offer some assistance?

To satisfy the need for percentiles and numbers of measurement, let me offer this – he was 5.5 weeks premature and, at one time, weighed less than 3.75 lbs. His father and I were advised that he was at risk of never recovering from the health challenges he faced and that, even if he survived, he might never walk. He crawled at twelve months and finally walked at 17 months. He was a willing participant in speech, OT, PT and special education services beginning at the age of 18 months, never complaining about the demands made upon him, the leg braces he wore or the frequent doctor’s visits.

Early in my son’s elementary career he was diagnosed with ADD and prescribed medication, which he continues to take. In the ensuing years, his dosage has been adjusted but he has also developed coping mechanisms and skills to increase his self-control and capacity to stay on task. His study habits and commitment to academic endeavors are remarkable and his grades in recent years reflect his strong work ethic.

While standardized tests are not my son’s strength, his passion for history has clearly been documented in his mastery of the NYS Regents’ exams in history. While his math and science scores have not been as stellar, I couldn’t be prouder of his decision to retake state exams to improve his transcript, despite his guidance counselor’s assurances that the importance of the grade ultimately was negligible.

My son has tackled the college search process with realistic independence, researching academic requirements and offerings, along with campus activities and opportunities. He has scheduled his own campus visits and participated in the process with excitement and enthusiasm and welcomes the new opportunities which will be available to him on campus.

In addition to his interest in history and government, my son is curious about the world.  He is an experienced traveler and witnessing his response to some of the world’s wonders has been one of the most rewarding gifts of parenthood.  He truly is one of my favorite travel companions and his choices, in terms of foreign locales to visit, have broadened my world immensely.

In closing,  if you’re looking for a student who shows their worth when they are faced with a bubble sheet, your institution may not be the right one for my son, but, if you’re seeking students who demonstrate their abilities when faced with challenges, my son may be exactly who you want to join your academic community.  Like his father and I, you’d be lucky to have him.

 Sincerely, a proud parent

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Filed under Boys, Education, moms, Schools

The multiculturalism of crepes

DSC_0002My youngest son goes to a magnet elementary school in our neighborhood. The latter fact is more the reason he attends that particular school than the arts and humanities centered curriculum, but we do enjoy many of the activities based upon the school’s theme.

This week the school community’s marked their Third Annual Multicultural Celebration. My son came home very excitedly to share that his class would be representing France. After a visit from a French college student, he was obsessed by the thought of making crepes as our contribution to the event. The sound of his voice repeatedly saying “crepe” in an attempted French accent, convinced me that this was an idee fixe that deserved to be indulged.

After a tedious remarkable number of suggestions from my 9 y/o with regards to how to make crepes (the batter must be made the night before cooking, beer is a necessary ingredient…), I located a reasonably simple recipe on Epicurious. Late Wednesday night, after closing the Wine Bar, I stirred up a triple batch of the recipe and went to sleep with a clear plan – and conscience.

After school, I hit up the store for a medium sized jar of Nutella and, upon arriving home, immediately got busy heating up two nonstick sauté pans. I brushed the hot pans with melted butter and got into the rhythm of working two pans, while also peeling and chopping a few apples to cook with brown sugar and cinnamon for an alternate filling.image

The process was satisfyingly quick. In barely an hour, I had approximately 40 filled crepes, divided into two dishes with about twice as many Nutella ones than apple. I dusted the crepes with powdered sugar and we were on our way.

The event (and the crepes) was fantastic. The number of nations represented on the incredibly laden tables was mirrored by the audience in the multifunction room. The smells and flavors were rich in a way completely unrelated to any world currency. It was positively heady. I am so lucky to live in a city where my children have the opportunity to attend school with such a culturally diverse population. C’est magnifique!DSC_0004

 

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Filed under Albany, Boys, Cooking, Education, Events, family, Food, Local, Recipes, Schools

Hot compressing my dog’s scrotum, an unexpected delight of pet ownership

Not quite the view with which I have become familiar.

Not quite the view with which I have become familiar.

How’s that for a title, my friends?  It has a certain dramatic flair, yes?  Before you start to worry that you, by not offering your pet this service, are being a neglectful pet keeper, let me tell you how we arrived at this point.

Nearly two weeks ago (Thursday, 9/25, the same day the real Jeter played the field for his final time) my Jeter was neutered.  The procedure went well and he returned home the same day of the event, a bit sleepy but in his usual good humor.  His recovery has gone well, other than some not so appealing drainage from the incision area.  Naturally, this became apparent to me when Jeter cozied up on my bed, my bed with the white comforter.  Two loads of laundry later…

Jeter seems to have found the area between his rear legs even more compelling than usual judging from the number of times I’ve had to correct his somewhat vulgar behavior.  The result of his excessive oral attentions?  A “hot spot” of sorts has appeared on what remains of his testicles, demanding a round of antibiotics and the aforementioned hot compresses.  Both three times a day, thank you very much.

His stitches have been removed and the wound, from the intimate view I have been afforded, is looking better.  His demeanor, fortunately, has been as lively as ever and I am reasonably confident that he hasn’t suffered any real discomfort.  That being said, I am probably even more eager than he is for a complete and quick return to his previous clean bill of health.  It’s not that our time together during his convalescence hasn’t been special, but I’m sure we’re both looking forward to his resuming his dog park activities.  It’s time for Jeter to get his foreplay time somewhere else.

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Filed under family, Observations, Random

I wish that I could be like the cool kids

Image: Echosmith.com

Image: Echosmith.com

Have you heard this catchy little tune by Echosmith? When it comes on the radio Quinn always ask me to turn it up “like a party” and he sings along to the lyrics:

  “I wish that I could be like the cool kids,

‘Cause all the cool kids, they seem to fit in…

I wish that I could be like the cool kids,

‘Cause all the cool kids they seem to get it.”

It breaks my heart a little bit each time.

Don’t you remember those kids? The ones who seemed to always have the right clothes and the right hair and could always say and do the right thing? Their shiny perfection made everything a regular kid did seem dull in comparison.

I wasn’t one of the cool kids. Although I had plenty of friends, I certainly wasn’t in the upper social stratosphere. Somehow I survived school, and even eventually went back to revisit those days for a couple of reunions – the 10th, the 21st (don’t ask), the 25th. What I’ve learned over the years, though, is we all have more in common than we ever would have allowed ourselves to imagine when we were fellow students. We each have strengths and weaknesses, parts which are attractive and some which are less appealing and successes and failures. We’re human.

Every September is a reunion for school kids. I want my children to understand that being one of the cool kids in school isn’t a guarantee of a lifetime of happiness. Summer experiences and growth have the potential to impact every child. Attitudes and preferences change and each new academic year is a clean slate of opportunity for everyone. Getting that is ultimately far more important than fitting in.

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Filed under aging, Boys, musings, Summer, Uncategorized

Travel school

The first time I went to Florida was in 1983. I was 17 and we drove in a Winnebago, leaving New York on Christmas Day. I think we were in Maryland before the ice on the driver’s window thawed enough for the driver, my friend’s dad, to be able pay tolls without having to open the door.

The drive south was all new to me – the slow pace of the fast food workers, the miles and miles of hype for South of the Border, palm trees and the gin we dipped into after we drank all of George’s Heinekens. While the weather was a bit of a disappointment, I saw so many new things it might as well have been spring. My world grew.

The flight to Florida which Quinn and I took was not his first plane trip, but it has been a few years since his last flight. The awe on his face when the plane took off was unforgettable to me and worth every penny I will spend on our Mom & me adventure. Once we landed, he was a great helper as we made our way to baggage claim and the correct carousel, retrieved our luggage, located the car rental company with whom we had reservations, checked in using their kiosk and picked a car.

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Despite the map app I used taking us a bit out of our way once we were on the highway, he remained excited and in good spirits. We decided to stop for a bite to eat, a couple of miles before we reached our hotel, and Quinn gave no argument about respecting my “no chain restaurants” policy. We came across a joint that looked promising and he had no hesitation at venturing into Andy’s Drive-in. It was classic and he soaked in the turquoise Naugahyde booths and squeeze bottle condiments along with his hot dog and milkshake. When we found ourselves needing a late afternoon pick me up the next day, Andy’s was his request.

Our hotel breakfast was buffet style and he happily made his own waffle. I encouraged him to start with only one waffle because he could always have more, but couldn’t put things back. We talked about not being wasteful and about other hotels he’d been to, the Embassy Suites in Alexandria with its fish pond being a favorite. We planned our day.

Often we return from vacation feeling heavy, like we’ve gained weight because we’ve overindulged. I’d like to think that at least some of that weightiness is the result of information and knowledge we’ve learned from our travels. Skills like navigating through an airport and along new highways, how to spot a place where the locals have been eating for almost 60 years and knowing how much is enough.  As Mohammad said: “Don’t tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you traveled.”

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Filed under Boys, travel, vacation

Some Girls

image: amiright.com

In the sweet old country
Where I come from
Nobody ever works
Nothing ever gets done.”

There was a summer a long time ago, in the mythical (to some) town where I grew up, when it seemed that the Rolling Stones’ album “Some Girls” was in constant airplay. It didn’t seem possible that so many good songs could all be on a single piece of vinyl, but they were.

When I look back at that particular summer, it seems like I spent a lot of time hanging out in a gas station right in town. Those were the days when gas stations were places where the bays were devoted to car repairs rather than being set up as mini markets. There was an office with a big desk, a cash register, a phone which rang a surprising number of times a day and an old (even then) soda machine that had been jerry-rigged to dispense nips of beer instead cans of cola. I absolutely cherish these memories.

Over the years, the gas station was owned by the fathers of two different friends, I still am uncertain of the order. One of those fathers lost his child, my friend, to a motorcycle and a sense of invincibility decades ago. The other is now close to being lost to his daughter, and his other children, at what still seems to be too soon. It’s made me sadder than I ever imagined.

You should know that fathers were a bit scarce amongst my friends and me. Many of them were absent in one way or another, something we never explicitly questioned or discussed until years later. This particular Dad, though? This man was present. I came to know him and the quiet and amused manner in which he accepted me, always made me feel comfortable in his presence.

Although it has been many years since those days, I’ll never forget them. Time passes and life changes. It all becomes much less simple. Parents get divorced, they get sick and a future without them to look to guidance and validation becomes imminent. The memories though, the feelings of happiness and appreciation that can be summoned by a song on the radio, will be there always.

Some girls are really lucky.

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Filed under aging, family, friends, relationships

Trains, boats and buses

imageThose of you who have children know that a big part of parenting seems to revolve around  transportation. Like us, kids have places to be and must get to them. Whether it’s sports practice, school events or to social activities, we, as parents, are usually on the hook to drive them to where they need to be. At what age do we begin letting them get there on their own? What about when where they want to go is more distant than just a couple of miles away?

My oldest son has always had a remarkable sense of direction. When he was still preschool age I began to rely upon him for help while driving, asking him which way to turn. He’s always been obsessed with transportation, particularly trains, yet, as a city kid he has no interest in getting his driver’s license. I’m fine with that, trust me. Last year, on our first day in Amsterdam we bought 24 hour hop on/hop off passes for the canal boats. After we boarded the boat we consulted the map to determine which stops we should take and quickly determined we were interested in doing different things.

After a quick discussion, Liam and I decided to split up for a couple of hours. He would remain on the boat and loop back around to visit the Maritime Museum and I would get off at the next stop to troll through one of my favorite flea markets. We’d been in Amsterdam for less than 18 hours and were without cell phones, but I was confident that he could, in case of an emergency, find his way back to the hotel. I clambered off the boat and watched it depart, thinking that his Dad would be mighty pissed if this venture didn’t go well…

But, of course, it did go well. My 16 y/o and I met at the designated spot essentially on time and all was well. I was definitely a little apprehensive, but I knew I had to give him a little independence, even in the vice capital of Europe, and I didn’t regret it. You’ve got to start somewhere, right?

There have been other occasions when I’ve trusted the boys to get somewhere on their own. When Griffin was 13, I put him on the bus at the Port Authority to ride out to the Meadowlands to meet friends for a Jets game – on Thanksgiving afternoon. The ride home caused me more anxiety, particularly after my son disregarded the instructions to wait inside for me and instead was walking around 8th Avenue. We figured it out.

Liam has taken the train solo to NYC, switching lines at Poughkeepsie to arrive at Grand Central Station. Griffin’s latest triumph was making his way from Albany to the ferry dock in Woods Hole, via Boston. These forays can definitely be a little anxiety-inducing, but I know that teenagers need to learn to navigate their way through the world and I’m much more comfortable giving my kid a ticket to ride than a license to drive.  You?

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Filed under aging, Boys, family, road trips, travel