College Applications. See? I made you sweat.

image credit freeimages/iprole
image credit freeimages/iprole

I remember all those years of back-to-school shopping buying those hard cover composition notebooks. And then, my oldest son graduated to the spirals. Wide rule.

The wide rules were harder to find; it seemed as if those college-ruled spiral notebooks were everywhere. I smiled to myself knowing it would be years and years before he was ready for these grown-up books. Heck, he still had fat pencils.

Time sped by faster than I could have ever imagined and even faster than the strangers at the grocery store told me it would.

Andrew and I strongly believe that college is a wonderful opportunity to grow up and find your passions. We always hoped our three sons would go and we started saving with a 529 state savings plan when they were very small. We’ve been consistent in letting them know that we hoped that’d be college-bound some day.

Some day crept up quickly and before we knew it, Davis took the PSAT exam at school. It was 10th grade and we were petrified to start thinking about what was coming next. He was a self-starter and assured us that he was doing the SAT Question of the Day – every day. He let us know that he intended to take the ACT exam, also.

We encouraged him early to find his passion and in 10th grade, he began taking studio art in addition to his challenging AP and GT coursework. He loved expressing himself visually. Encouraged by his teacher, he found a summer program at Maryland Institute College of Art. It was hard work. But it sealed the deal. By his junior year, on the AP Art track, it became clear to us all that he wanted to pursue an art degree. But what we learned was that the resources to navigate that path were a lot less available than a traditional academic path. And we had no idea where to begin.

Somehow – probably through our school’s attentive guidance department – we found out that there was an informational session in our county for students interested in pursing visual and performing art. We learned so much and talked to representatives from art colleges and liberal arts colleges with art programs. I think that was our biggest challenge – which to choose? Art school or a school with art? How to decide? What we learned – together – was that there are pros and cons and lots of good choices. We also learned to open our minds.

And then, the real work started. Davis started a list of schools to consider and began creating a cohesive (and fabulous) portfolio. At the same time, he took the SAT and, soon after, he took the ACT. He worked with an incredible coach to hone in on his school choices and on his essays.

Oh, the essays. I was so intimidated by the essays! Article after article (and maybe I should have stopped reading so much) told of the perils of a not-so-great essay and went on to describe what a good one actually was. His coach was amazing though and, after a couple re-starts, his essay brought me to tears and also made me smile.

My husband took him to visit schools to the north. I took him to one to the south of us and to Chicago. Divide and conquer. Of the 8 schools he’d decided to apply to, we visited 5. We just couldn’t swing the time or money to see the others.

Here’s the thing. I was overwhelmed by the process. I was freaked out that my baby was going to leave and that all these details needed to be managed and that there was so much to do. But, HE managed it. He studied. He wrote and re-wrote his essays. He worked his butt off to get his portfolio ready and he set up Skype and in-person portfolio reviews with his first choice schools for input. He filled in the applications and got teacher recommendations. HE applied for college.

I was over-the-moon proud knowing that he was ready for the responsibility of GOING to college. And I was proud of him for getting into the 8 schools he chose to apply to. I can’t resist telling you that a couple of them were extremely competitive.

His decision process once he had the acceptances was easy – well, easy to get to 2 schools. I asked him just the other day (he’s a sophomore now) if he thinks he made the right choice and he thinks that he did. I think that he did, too.

Our middle son is wrapping up his essays and will be applying to 6 schools within the next couple weeks. It was a lot less daunting the second time around, but it was completely different. Our third will be applying next year. I feel confident that that will be different, too.

All a long way around to say that the college application sounds really scary, but it doesn’t have to be. Letting your teens lead the conversation is a great start. Getting great advice from a coach, the school counselor, and other terrific resources is helpful.

Don’t Freak Out! Trust me, it does NOT make it easier.

You can do this.

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post for SheSpeaks/Kaplan Test Prep. I received compensation to write this post, and any opinions expressed are my own, and reflect my actual experience.

Creating Quality Time With My Son and a Power Sander

table

Originally published July 15, 2014 at the fabulous TueNight.

I love junk. I like old stuff. Interesting shapes. Putting together odd combinations and using items for something other than what they were intended to be used for.

I was also an obsessive flea marketer and garage saler before it was considered stylish. (Is it considered stylish?) I was an upcycler before upcycle was a word.

My husband, Andrew, is an enabler like no other. He humors me on early weekend drives while we follow signs to the next sale or as I pull out my phone to scope them out using iGarageSale and Garage Sale Rover. My teenage sons? They tolerate it. Sometimes.

My oldest son just finished his freshman year of college. He’s an art major. He’s quiet and he likes his solitude. But I really wanted to figure out a way to spend time with him — something that involved a shared goal.

And then it came to me! This kid has the best taste. He’s always decorating his future home in his head, and I am often the delighted recipient of links to gorgeous furniture he’s found online, as well as unusually beautiful ensembles and fabulous homes. Plus, my son knows his way around tools. The natural conclusion was that we make a sofa table together. I’d been looking for one for some time and could not seem to find what I wanted. And much to my joy, when I asked if he would help, he was all in.

So one Saturday not long after, when my fabulous sister-in-law Liz asked me if I wanted to go barn sale-ing, I jumped at the chance. And I brought my son along, too. We took measurements for the table and started the hunt.

We found an old door at our first stop, which was a cute vintage marketplace called Sweet Clover. The piece was leaning unobtrusively against the wall with a $50 price tag. It had lots of personality, in addition to lots and lots of splinters. But hey, we have a power sander.

Fifty bucks seemed a little steep, especially in light of the fact that we were simply planning to take it apart and use a third of it, but before we even had a chance to haggle, the vendor told us she was pulling all her merchandise out that day and “how does $30 sound?”

It sounded great. Sold.

The door fit easily in the minivan and the three of us talked about what kind of legs it might pair well with as we drove home. We decided to order midcentury iron pin-style legs from eBay that night. And the next day, my son and I started disassembling. We pulled nails. We struggled to get the rusty hardware off. It wasn’t easy, especially since we wanted it to stay intact so we could put it back together once the wood was finished.

We sweat. We cursed. We cut wood. Together.

My son and I thought about finishes and tested different ones. We strategized and struggled. We cursed more. But we sure did laugh. And it’s amazing where the conversation can go when you’re not trying to make a conversation.

And did I say we sanded? Oh yes. We sanded and sanded and sanded. Then came the polyurethane and even more sanding. And more poly.

Then we put it all together.

The result was the best five days of my summer. We didn’t just make a table; we made a memory.

Bedtime stories.

Books

If you were to ask me what I miss most about my boys’ younger years, I’d be quick to tell you I miss bedtime.

No, not because the days were long and I was exhausted. (Though the days were long and I was exhausted.)

No, I miss bedtime because there is something magical about reading those stories again and again with a child. I loved the giggles and the drowsy eyes and the questions. I loved the cuddles and the long hugs. I loved the “one more thing” as I was leaving the room and turning off the light.

I loved transitioning from picture books to chapter books. I loved moving to young adult books. And then, they didn’t want us to read to them anymore. It was gradual. I don’t remember exactly when it ended.

But, I miss it so much.

I’ll tell you this, though. All my guys know the surprise ending of Dinsmore and none of them would ever stand on a swivel chair and they all know how to make Mrs. Peters’ birthday cake.

Before you brag.

photo credit http://www.sxc.hu/profile/MeHere
photo credit http://www.sxc.hu/profile/MeHere

We’re all really proud of our kids’ accomplishments. I know that I am.

I try (not always successfully) to temper my instinct to tell the world about the amazing things my boys do. And believe me, they do a lot of amazing things. I’m sure yours do, too.

A moment that reminds me to stop and think about sharing…

One day, years back, we were driving down the road in the minivan. All the boys were in the back. One of them (I’ll protect his innocence though you have a 33.3333% chance of guessing correctly) said he was going to solve the Rubicks cube and then about 30 seconds later it was done. Done! It was remarkable. He was clearly a genius.

A genius, I say!

He handed us the cube. We gushed. We blushed. It was remarkable. I was about to call my mother (on my very modern flip phone) to share the news of our prodigy.

And then we realized he’d peeled off the stickers and re-placed them.

And then. We were glad we hadn’t called anyone and bragged. But secretly we were really pleased at his life skills. That he figured out how to most efficiently reach his goal of having each side of that darn cube be color coordinated.

I have to say that he’s gotten quite good at solving the cube in the ‘traditional’ way. But there is nothing wrong with being a little scrappy in this life. In fact, I have big respect for people who can figure out how to problem solve.

So yes, we were still proud. Just different proud.

Ballet lessons.

credit to katagaci
credit to katagaci

Before you accuse me of living in the past, let me defend myself. Stuff just crops up in my memory. It’s not as if I think about this stuff all day long. I swear!

But after writing about the quiet girl, it got me to thinking about the boys.

The boys in fifth grade.

I thought they were my good friends. They were popular, but not ‘too’ popular. One was tall and skinny and smart and funny. His friend? Not so tall and a little more solid. And also smart and funny. They were always together. Kind of like Laurel and Hardy. (Not to ruin the story or actually not even all that related but a little cathartic, he was a lot less funny when we re-met as adults. Or at least, he didn’t amuse me. At all.)

So, in fifth grade.

The tall guy. (And when I say tall? He was 6 feet tall in elementary school. Or at least that’s how I remember it.) So the tall guy comes up to me and says, “You need to ask my friend about his sister’s ballet lessons. He really loves his sister.”

And I cared about these guys. So I did. They were my friends.

“How are your sister’s ballet lesson’s going?” I asked about an hour later at recess.

“My sister doesn’t have any legs. I can’t believe you’d say that. I thought you were my friend.” And then he began to cry.

That was 1971. And I still remember the bile rising up in my throat.

It was months later that I learned he didn’t have a sister. Kids are mean. Just saying.

Take me out to the ballgame.

Camden Yards - Season 1
1992. First season of the Orioles playing at Camden Yards. And there we were, young (ish) and dating. I worked for an ad agency that just happened to have great corporate seats. And, evidently, I had weird Flashdance clothes.

As another year ends, I wistfully think about all the years Andrew and I have been together. So much has happened in 20+ years. The jobs. The moves. The babies. And of course, since the babies started coming in 1995, they’ve been our top priority. It’s been a lot of fun and a lot of work. I love where we are, but it’s easy to miss the cute little boys when I come across their early elementary school journals with daily (and incredibly cute) entries.

For example, here are 2 of the boys’ entries for October 24, 2005

{second grader} The Great Wolf Lodge was great! There was a arcade, a water park a wave pool, a splash pad and a water rock clime. When you got to the top of the rock clime it squirted out water. I almost finished Harry Potter 5. It is really good. (wgs note: really? He was a great reader but I really let him read that in second grade? oops. He seems okay, so maybe it wasn’t that big a deal. Remind me to ask him if he had nightmares from it.)

{third grader} This is what I did on the day off. I went to see my dad make a speech at the University of Maryland. After that, I went to Willamsburg, Virginia. It was a lot of fun! (wgs note: yes, he spelled a lot correctly! My boy!) The hotel had an indoor waterpark! It also had an arcade, a breakfast buffet and a hotel door decorating contest! The hotel was the size of a four story high mansion! That is what I did this weekend. (Okay, fine, he likes exclamation marks. I think it’s cute.)

{fifth grader didn’t have a journal that year. bet he’s happy about that right now.}

So what have we learned here? We have learned that I stop and read every piece of paper, every notebook, every everything when I clean my office. And, we’ve learned that I am way more sentimental than I often admit.

My boys are all in high school. AND they all spell and use punctuation pretty well. It’s so different being a mom of teenagers. So different. You – out there – yes, you with the little kids. It’s awesome; don’t be scared. But save all the reminders. You’ll be glad for it.

Like I am today.

1+1+1=3

Before I was a mother, it never occurred to me that I could have three sons that were so different. Truth be told, it never occurred to me that I could have three sons. But that’s not the point.

My guys. Each is pretty terrific, but boy, oh, boy, are they different from each other.

Sure, there are similarities. And yes, they have lots and lots and lots of traits that we call “Goldman” or “Scherer.” It’s funny to see my father’s mannerisms in my boys. Or my father-in-law’s. Because I promised them I wouldn’t embarrass them TOO much, I won’t go into too much detail here, but suffice it to say that the apples do not fall that far from the trees.

So here I am. With three big boys.

For those of you with little kids, let me tell you a few things that may frighten or surprise you.

  1. I hear the voices of men and then realize it’s my kids. Freaky.
  2. They still sometimes need me in the middle of the night. Case in point – huge nose bleed at 2am yesterday.
  3. It’s harder to kiss and hug a 6 foot, 150 pound kid than a preschooler. Sometimes, I end up kissing a neck or something and it’s weird.
  4. Huge kids still need to cuddle when their sick. They just make you a lot hotter and squishier.
  5. Even big kids thrive on a schedule and clear expectations.
  6. They eat a lot at this size. A lot.
  7. Dinner is never boring.
  8. They read and learn things that they can share with us. It’s fascinating and wonderful.
  9. When you lecture them, there’s a window of attention. Exceed it and you get the glaze. You know the glaze, right?
  10. With three, there’s always an odd man out. In our case, it shifts.. so it’s always a surprise.

I was with some young kids the other day and I got the twinge. You know the one. The I wish. The I remember. The wasn’t it special? 

But I wouldn’t go back.

No way.

So this summer? Overnight camp for two in the mountains. Leadership camp for one in Wisconsin. Driving lessons for another. College visits and essays and portfolios to review.

Keeps me on my toes.

I may have said this recently, but it’s worth repeating.

I love my life.

A lifetime of friendship

Today, I went to one of my oldest friends’ son’s Bar Mitzvah.

She and I have been friends since 4th grade. She came half way through the year. From Wisconsin, of all places. She even had a Wisconsin license plate on her wall in her bedroom.

Wisconsin is very far away when you are 9 years old.

We became fast friends. We often dressed alike, as little girls do. And, in my mind, we looked exactly the same. Twins. Nevermind that she had long blond hair, gorgeous blue eyes, and long legs.

We looked exactly the same.

Life is funny. People move, change, marry. And move some more. Babies are born. Time goes by. There are tragedies and joys.

And it all comes rushing back as I watch her son become a bar mitzvah. He’s a handsome kid. He looks so confident today. So ready.

I remember when she and I were his age. So curious and ready to grow up. I remember going to Great Falls with her family and taking pix of her little brother acting silly. I remember her long gray wool coat. I loved that coat. I remember a ketchup squeeze container that her family had that looked like a pig. (Why a pig?) I called it Jeff. (Sorry, Jeff.)

In the powder room at her house, all this cool Westinghouse stuff hung on the walls. It fascinated me.

And then there’s the time she spent at my house. Lots of time.

And then we grew up. She moved away. I got married. She came back and bought a condo. I got divorced. She became a nurse. I started my career in advertising. She met a guy and moved away (but not so far) and I met a guy and moved far away.

So of course there are a thousand details in between, but what strikes me is that I can’t imagine not seeing her son become a bar mitzvah, just as she saw my sons reach the milestone.

Old friends. There’s just nothing like ’em.

So long. Farewell.

This was a big day for me. A big emotional day.

I don’t know why I’m weepy. Really, I don’t. Surely it’s not because of the sappy 8th grade slide show which ran for THIRTY SEVEN MINUTES and yes, I did time it.

This was my third 8th Grade Farewell. The first one was emotional, I admit. (Though the long slide show was not my thing then, either.) The second one? Our kid was in Jazz Band and they were rocking. Big time. So that was fun. But the slide show? Still way too long and sappy for my taste.

So tonight. Tonight, our next kid was in Jazz Band and they were rocking. (Sense a theme here?) And yes, the slide show was way too long and sappy for me. But this year was different.

First of all, this kid was the Bandmaster. He stood confidently and led the Jazz Band with Isabelle. They were incredible. I was kvelling. And then, he played his tenor sax and I was blown away. Not just because I’m him mom, but because I could hear the growth in his music. He stood there tall and proud. With his Fedora and his green shirt and yellow tie and he was just…

Big. Mature. Serious. Funny. Charming.

But me being proud of my baby is not the point of this post. So what is?

I’m a little emotional (okay, a lot but don’t judge me).

These sorts of milestones make me look back. To take stock. to remember. I know it’s super corny, but it seems like just yesterday that I’d take my 3 little boys to Target at 6:00 am so that Andrew could sleep in on Saturday after a long week of work (he’d do the same for me on Sunday). I’d get that cart with the 2 red seats attached to the cart for my toddler and preschooler and the seat in the cart for the baby and I’d walk up and down every – single – aisle – in Target. We walked through the shoes department. The women’s clothing. The workout clothes. The detergents. The toys. The hardware. Sheets. Appliances.

SLOWLY. Because, you know, I didn’t want to go home for at least 2 hours. That’s a long time in Target when there’s really nothing on the list except killing time.

And it was worth it. Because as I cruised the housewares, I daydreamed of the next morning. The morning when I got to sleep in the quiet, empty house and Andrew got to figure out how to occupy the 3 boys under 4 for a couple hours.

Ahhhh. Sleep. So delicious. The unattainable. Tomorrow. If I could just wait until tomorrow.

But now, as I look back with my boys at 17, 15, and 13, I just want to say one thing:

It was totally worth the lost sleep.

I’m grateful that I remember every minute of the road to now. And I’m grateful for such happy and loving sons.

I’m not saying there’s no fighting or (ahem) issues over here. But we have a pretty amazingly, awesome life. And I wouldn’t trade anything for my guys. They are the joy of Andrew’s and my life.

Though it’s emotional that they’ll all be in high school next year and that I can see the future where they’ll all be gone, I’m a happy and proud mom.

Just let me cry a little bit and I’ll be okay.