April 24, 2016

Our first prom attendee

Laddie attended his first prom last night.  The experience with all the additional bells and whistles, post proms, prom pictures, and prom houses was new to Coach and I.  The appalling price of a tux reserved for two consecutive weekends was a bit of a shock to us as well.  The second weekend rental is necessary because next weekend he will dress up once again to escort the delightful girl he is dating to her school's prom.  Two proms in 6 days.  Of course he had originally informed me that her prom was the Saturday after his.  It wasn't until we were in the midst of posing for pictures that I learned the actual date.

Everyone looked beautiful in their fancy duds.  Once the kids had smiled for enough photos to fill an album, her mom began to review their prom packet with me.  I had just met these lovely people, and they were poised and ready to share their detailed prom packet for the prom Lad will attend at her school next weekend.  It was impressive.  A vision of the simple flyer Laddie had tossed on the counter appeared in my mind, but I had no copy to offer his date's mom.  Our oldest doesn't communicate with us much.  He keeps us on a need-to-know-basis.  We frequently shuffle around at the last minute trying to dig up the info that we need at the last minute, because we are A. clueless and B. busy.  The info that he brought home was lumped in with mounds of overlooked paperwork scattered in with the rest of my kitchen counter clutter.  I was unclear what laddie had shared with his date.

I tried to concentrate on this packet brimming with information.  Was it protocol to produce such a document?  I interrupted Mrs. Prom-date-mom after a minute.  Something wasn't jiving.  The date.  Laddie had told us his second prom was taking place on a Saturday, but the packet listed this popular senior milestone on a Friday.  I doubted the packet would lie.  I tried to conjure up an image of my huge dry erase board on the kitchen wall.  Oh, that was it.  Friday was not a problem, but Danny would be competing in an important water polo game the following morning.

Mrs. Prom-date-mom handled the mix up with grace.  I assured her we would figure something out.  My mind whirled though.  This group of kids planned to sleep over at his date's house.  In the morning after breakfast, they would depart for a cottage in Michigan.  I was relieved that the prom packet referenced the fact that one of the kid's adult cousins would be serving as chaperone.  Now we had to organize transportation for him from his away game to this prom house.  Embarrassing.  His date had a prom packet.  We had nothing but the wrong information for her dance and only a bit of fuzzy details about the night ahead of them on our end.  Oops.  

After we said good-bye, I raced home and dug up an informative far-cry-from-a-packet flyer and texted a photo of it to Mrs. Prom-date-mom.  Did she know her daughter wouldn't be arriving back to the school parking lot until 3:30 am?  Based on how forth coming Laddie was with details, I doubted his date knew the night would prove to be such a late one.  I cringed as I imagined her parents' reaction when they received my text.

Coach instructed Laddie to text us once he returned by bus to the school parking lot, so we had an idea of what time he would be arriving home after driving his date to her house about 20 minutes away.  The text arrived at 3:30 am.  After a frustrating struggle to go back to sleep, I decided to plop in front of the computer and work until I felt drowsy again.  About 20 minutes later, I heard the garage door go up.  We had worried that Lad would be too tired to drive home, so I was relieved.  Our first prom experience ended safely. 

Because sleep evaded Coach as well, he shuffled out to the kitchen in his boxers.  A few minutes later he moaned about why it was taking Laddie so long to get in the house.  He opened the door and flickered the garage lights.  Next we heard the familiar loud creaking noise as the garage door made its descent.  Unfortunately, Laddie failed to enter the house.  'He just drove away!' Coach shared in a loud whine.  I raced out to the kitchen where Coach was calling and texting our oldest son.  No response.  Could he have heard of a party somewhere?  Did his date leave something in his car?  Coach asked me if I had Lad's best friend's number.  Hoping I wasn't waking him up, I texted his friend to see if Laddie had headed over to his house.  Nope.  He was indeed sleeping until he got my text.

I emptied the dishwasher as I listened to Coach question what could be wrong with our kid.  At last I could see a car driving down the street from the kitchen window.  It looked like Laddie's car.  Coach asked me if I was sure it was him.  Based on the fact that our neighborhood doesn't see a lot of traffic at 4:45 am, I went out on a limb and assured him it was our kid.  Garage door went up.  An exhausted Laddie appeared.  He seemed surprised to see our droopy faces hanging out in the kitchen.

His phone died.  He had been too busy digging around under the seats to locate his wallet to notice the garage lights flickering.  His date had tucked his bulky wallet into her purse for safe keeping, and he forgot to retrieve it from her.  A snap-chat with his ipod from the driveway aided him in communicating with her and they met half way to exchange the wallet.  It all added up. 

I tried to ask a few prom related questions.  'Was it fun?  Did his date enjoy the night?  Did she meet enough people from his group in advance to feel comfortable?'  He begged me to stop with the prom inquisition and let him get some sleep.  He was heading to an indoor water park with his buddies the next morning and he wanted some sleep.  (Most dates weren't going to the water park hotel).  I was unsure whether or not Coach and I had gathered sufficient details about this after prom fiasco, but I surrendered and we all went to bed.

I suppose I will have to wait several years for the girls to attend prom before one of my offspring decides to fill me in on the actual dance.  Maybe by then since there will be less kids living in the house, the kitchen counter will be uncluttered and orderly.  All prom related flyers will be neatly arranged on the top of a pile.  I'm assuming we will be a bit more focused on the few kids left living under our roof.  We will be all about the details.  Perhaps we will even be the parents distributing an informative prom packet . . . but, I highly doubt it.   

April 17, 2016

Prom lingo

Prom house.  This new terminology has been added to the prom scene since I was in high school.  This prom weekend necessity denotes the house where all of the friends from one group assemble the day after prom to continue to celebrate together.  For some groups this might translate into a rented lake house or cottage, a group of hotel rooms at an indoor water park, or some other desirable location.  Chaperones are optional.   If the group includes at least one organized female student, then a packet of pertinent information might be printed and distributed in order to keep everyone in the loop.

Prom pictures.  Although snapping photographs of high schoolers decked out in formal-wear has always been part of the pre-prom procedure, today it's a definite 'thing.'  Parents and interested family members gather in a predetermined location where food and beverages are offered, a beautiful backdrop exists, and an official photo shoot unfolds.  Unannounced hoards of parked cars line the streets in these unsuspecting neighborhoods where residents, unfamiliar with prom festivities, walk out of their house and discover unprecedented numbers of cars have descended on their quiet streets.    Bedazzled couples arrange themselves in various poses:  long lines, just guys, just ladies, specific friends, and individual couples.  After spending small fortunes on their dresses, tuxedos, flowers, tickets, limos, manicures, hairdos, and post prom activities, the students tolerate their personal paparazzi with ease.

Of course before any of the actual day-of festivities occur, the students are faced with creating an unusual and unique 'ask'.  Ages ago when I was in high school, students asked one another to prom.  It was tradition for a guy to ask a girl, but even in the 80's that wasn't necessarily the only approach.  Nowadays the way a kid invites his or her date to prom is almost as important as what college he or she has selected.  (OK, that might be a slight exaggeration, but there is a lot of focus on the elaborate invitations).  A swimmer might coerce his speedo clad swimmer friends to write the all important question across their chests and appear unceremoniously in her math class.  Renting billboard space, spelling it out on her lawn, singing it over the loudspeaker at a school sports event, or delivering a pizza box with the question inside the lid are not out of the realm of possibilities.  Usually the kid has troubled himself to conduct extensive research to be sure the answer will be a yes.

Some schools have gone the extra mile to insure a safe evening for prom goers.  At Laddie's high school, and I'm assuming many others, there are committees of parents who work all year to raise funds to offset the cost of post prom.  Couples depart for prom by bus.  Bags are inspected before bus boarding is allowed.  No returning to cars, or leaving prom early via another form of transportation.  Prom ticket sales at these schools include a small added up-charge to a post prom event.  Options include heading home at 11 pm from prom, or heading to the next portion of the night (post-prom) where the couples are chaperoned in a safe albeit wonderful venue.  By the time the students return to school by bus, they are exhausted and ready to call it a night.  A brilliant plan to keep the kids safe, and parents relaxed.

With our first of many proms on the horizon, I braced myself for the big night.  As the big day approaches, I couldn't help but wonder if there would be any new lingo that I would need to file under new prom terminology.

April 10, 2016

How to raise an adult

I'm reading a book that my therapist lent me called, 'How To Raise An Adult.'  (It's true, writing a blog can be therapeutic but at times I seek more reliable help).  I'm still waiting to discover why he suggested this book to me.  So far I have very little in common with the parents the writer encounters.

Homework:  There are detailed stories about parents who do their kids' homework, or constantly check their kids' grades online.  The alarming anecdotes weren't new to me.  I've witnessed plenty of over involved parents mishandling their kids' school work.  I can't imagine carving out time to investigate each of my kid's progress at school on a regular basis.  I rarely get involved in my kids' homework.  I ask them if they have completed their homework before they go outside to play or invite a friend over.  If they say 'yes', when in fact they haven't -then I expect they will find themselves up a creek with their teachers.  My kids' homework pages fail to suck me in.  I don't fret about what's coming down the pike in terms of large assignments.  Checking over their completed papers isn't something I concern myself with either. 

Over the years, I have encountered parents who get their undies in a bunch over big tests, involved tasks, and group projects.  They freak out over teacher expectations.  I've overheard them quiz other homework-obsessed parents at social functions as to whether or not their offspring have completed something weeks ahead of schedule.  Mini has a friend who has called her before to ask for homework help.  Afterwards Mini scrunched her face up in a tight, confused knot.  'Why was Freaky Friend's mom telling her what to ask me?' she wondered.  'Did she also do the back side of the page?  Was she able to use the chart in the book to answer the additional worksheet?' Mini proceeded to imitate Freaky Friend's mom.  I've encountered this mom fretting about how her high school son couldn't take the free bus to school.  It didn't allow him enough time to get to his locker before his first class.  She ended up driving him to school every day.  How about if Freaky Friend's brother figures out how to march into the office and explain his transportation struggles?  Nuts.

College preparation:  Parents who concentrate so much energy on getting little Johnny accepted to a top notch college is another focus of this book.  Again, not us.  Coach and I plan to send all of our kids to college, but we hope that they find a school that offers a good academic program balanced with their other interests.  Our top concern is the school's affordability.  Some of our kids are more academically motivated than others.  The good news is that there is a college available for all of them.  Of course, we have limited experience because we have only prepared for our oldest to attend college in the fall.  Over the past few years, we may have encouraged Laddie to consider strong extra curricular choices and challenging classes in order to impress colleges, but there were limits to what he had time for and what he was interested in.  The kid is who he is, so we avoided jumping thru hoops or arranging special opportunities to present him as a genius with future Nobel Peace Prize aspirations. 

A few months ago I cringed when I crossed paths in the grocery store with a mom named Ms. Bucks.  Her son, Big Bucks Junior, had attended grade school with Laddie.  This is a woman who once demonstrated incredibly poor taste at a school picnic when our boys were in about 6th grade.  Ms. Bucks' older daughter was interested in becoming a physical therapist.  She brought the topic up to a group of moms that we were chatting with because she knew that Coach was a PT.  Ms. Bucks said to me, 'Well, Gigi wants to become a physical therapist, but my research shows that the salary cap is around $60,000.  Is that true?  That isn't a very substantial form of income.'  It took all of my strength not to describe how our rather large family was surviving by the sheer generosity of friends and the aid of food stamps.  Ms. Bucks stood there expecting me to reveal how we were getting by.  She was blind to the fact that she had just outed my husband's paycheck as being crappy.  In the same breath she revealed that this undesirable pay scale would never satisfy her daughter's expensive taste. 

Now she approached me and began to question me about where Laddie was going to college.  Our sons go to different high schools, and we don't socialize in the same circle (shocking), so I hadn't seen her in quite awhile.  'I don't know yet,' I answered flatly.  The last thing I needed was her commenting on Laddie's small school choices, but later I decided that it looked like I had something to hide.  'Big Bucks Junior is headed to Michigan State,' she quipped - but she was clearly not done.  'That's been his dream since he was in grade school.  He's very excited.  Of course, it's nice that they gave him an incredible package too.'  I wondered if I should alert the grocery store staff to a potential clean up in isle 5 . . . before I puked?  Why didn't I have the nerve to ask if Big Bucks Junior had learned in high school how to make eye contact when conversing with adults?  My son may not be headed to a big 10 school, but he already knows how to communicate with adults.

Ironically I bumped into her again on Monday in the same grocery store - different isle.  We had just returned from visiting the two schools Laddie is trying to decide between.  I'm excited about the colleges Laddie has narrowed his search down to.  Either would be a good fit for him.  Coach and I still wish he would play water polo at a school in Pennsylvania, but he is more interested in football. The two schools in Iowa are closer to home, so the logistics will be more manageable.  Anyway, I marched right up to Ms. Bucks and told her which schools he was deciding between, that he would be playing football, and that we wished he would consider a career in water polo.  After all, I added, 'He's an outstanding water polo player.'  Two can play, but since I am not blind to her agenda - I felt that I won.

I'm not done reading the book yet.  While I consider myself an old school parent capable of avoiding over parenting pitfalls, I know there are modern, unhealthy bad habits and trends that I have fallen into.  Perhaps the author will touch on my issues at the end of the book.  Maybe there is a chapter that covers how not to care what other mothers (like Ms. Bucks) think about you and your kid.  I suppose I should read ahead before my next grocery visit. 

April 5, 2016

Finding the right high school crowd

Laddie's high school career is winding down.  He has narrowed his college choice down to two schools.  Coach and I don't think he can go wrong.  We believe each option would prove to be a good fit for him.  Now that he has eliminated all but two avenues for college, I wish a crystal ball would appear to help us determine where he would be happiest.  Would one location lead to more lasting friendships?  Oh, if only we knew.  This process causes me to reflect back on my high school experience.  I'm assuming that this is the case because I so vividly recall searching for the right group of friends in high school.

My first few hours as a high school student were dodgy to say the least.  Moving to a new area just as high school started forced me to seek new friendships.  Finding com-padres in a sea of new people led me down a path that ultimately felt like a process of elimination.  After narrowly escaping hanging out with a girl fixated on sea monkeys, I continued my quest for a group of friends that would fit well with my interests and personality.

The next couple of girls who adopted me into their incredibly small circle weren't right for me either.  They wore so much eye makeup that had my sisters crossed paths with them they would have tossed the label 'hard' in their general direction.  At lunch one day I saw a pack of cigarettes in Aleisha's purse.  I couldn't hang with girls who smoked!  I was a goody-goody thru and thru.  What next?  I assumed there would be a happy medium somewhere between the sea monkeys and the cancer sticks.

A few weeks into school, I explained my predicament to Jessica during Algebra class.  As a student at an all girls Catholic high school, I had happily discovered the benefit of not having boys in my classes.  I felt more comfortable being myself and breaking out of my shell.  Living without a shell in high school was key, especially if I wanted to get to know my peers.  Kids in my Algebra class became familiar with me simply because I assumed the class clown role.  My math teacher appreciated my humor.  So long as I participated in a legitimately academic way, she encouraged me to add a few funny comments to the class dialogue from time to time. 

Jessica agreed that I needed to ditch my current lunch situation and we hatched a plan.  I spent the majority of my lunch period the next day ducking into a bathroom stall in the academic corridor.  I hoped that Deb would give up waiting for me, so I wouldn't feel obligated to walk with her to lunch and eat with she and Aleisha.  Jessica vowed to wait outside the bathroom for me until Deb had vacated the area.  She fished me from the stall with an all-clear sign and we began to eat together regularly.  I suppose there was a better, more mature way to handle the situation, but I didn't know how to say, 'I'm not going to hang out with you two anymore.'  Avoiding them seemed like the best solution.  This was high school after all.  Uncool perhaps, but as a straight laced teenage girl I excused my response by envisioning the pack of cigarettes in Aleisha's purse.  What else could that lead to?  Not my proudest moment, but back then there weren't any adults looming in the hallways utilizing the current popular catch phrase:  'Make good choices.'  For me, this was the best choice possible.   

After becoming acquainted with various girls, I continued to adjust who I socialized with as the year progressed.  I hardly think of myself as a climber, but starting from scratch in a brand new town meant I had to conduct research on cliques by myself.  I remained friends with Jessica and managed to branch out a bit.  Most of the girls I gravitated towards were slightly nerdy, good student types.  They all exhibited a strong sense of humor.  I steered clear of big hair, flashy wardrobes, and designer purses.  The likelihood that I would gel with that crew was not very likely.

In homeroom about a month after freshman year began, I witnessed a calculated practical joke.  A girl suggested to Fozzy that she tap an unsuspecting girl on the shoulder and ask her about her little sister's dance lessons.  A crowd of girls gathered incognito across the room aware of what was about to take place.  Fozzy played along by asking Jenna how her little sister's dance lessons were going.  Jenna slumped over her desk perfectly on cue.  Her shoulders shook as if she were crying.  Fozzy glanced around in a confused state.  'My little sister has no legs,' whispered Jenna.  Fooled by Jenna's impressive acting skills, Fozzy tried to explain herself.  She apologized profusely for two minutes until Jenna burst out laughing.  The relief Fozzy exhibited was palpable.  I wasn't involved in the sting, but I witnessed it unfold.  The victim in that memorable little charade became my closest high school friend. 

Gradually I discovered that it was possible to be friends with more than one group of girls.   Over my memorable high school years I encountered all sorts of other students thru my involvement in art club, the positions I held on student council, and a short lived basketball career.  Perhaps my status could best have been described as a floater.  Not a sea monkey floater, mind you.  Just a floater.  We anxiously await Laddie's college choice.  We hope he will not sink, but float.